Posted by midiguru on March 16, 2013
After being away from the computer for a couple of days, I return to a big dose of crazy-making news clips, all at once. (And I haven’t even glanced at the bulletins from CPAC. I’m scared to.) As upsetting as these bits are, seeing them all in a compressed space of time makes it easier to notice the common thread that runs through all of the stories.
Rachel Maddow has new details on the Sandy Hook shootings, and lets us watch the freshman senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, try to lecture Diane Feinstein on the Second Amendment. Since Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 following the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, it’s pretty clear Cruz picked the wrong antagonist, but apparently nothing is going to stop him. He thinks it’s just peachy for us all to own high-capacity automatic rifles.
Saving the lives of children doesn’t interest him. Unless, I suppose, they haven’t yet been born. Once they’ve been born, just mow them down. Ted will give you a medal.
On the other side of the aisle, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York grills some generals about the entire failure of the military justice system to deal with rape. She tries to get the generals to say that justice hasn’t been served, and they duck and weave and tap dance to avoid admitting it.
Over in North Africa, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is forthrightly opposing a U.N. resolution that attempts (toothlessly) to prevent violence against women. Apparently these guys don’t even give a moment’s thought to how vicious Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 10, 2013
Many years ago, when I was editing Chick Corea’s column for Keyboard, he suggested to me that I really ought to read Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard. I wish I still had the note Chick sent; at some point along the way, I must have tossed it.
I did in fact pick up a copy of Dianetics at Chick’s suggestion. I read about 20 pages. All I remember about it, after more than 30 years, is that Hubbard started out by redefining some ordinary words to mean entirely new things. Or possibly he just started using the words in new ways without bothering to define them. Technically speaking, it was gobbledygook. Its main appeal, it seems to me, would be to people who are desperately seeking answers to life’s deeper questions but lack the critical thinking skills that would let them sort out which are the good answers and which are the nonsensical ones. Assuming there are any good answers, which I think is very questionable.
Call me a seeker. Today I’m reading Journey into Consciousness, by Charles Breaux. It purports to reveal connections between Tantra and Jungian psychology. At first glance, it seems more sensible than some books on such subjects. That’s why I brought it home from the library. But as I dig deeper, it begins to remind me of Dianetics. Not in its details, mind you, but in the fact that you’re expected to take as factual a bunch of stuff that is neither defined nor adequately explained.
According to Gautama Buddha, Breaux tells us, “All life is in flux, and trying to establish something solid and permanent leads to suffering. Feeling attached to Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 10, 2013
My friend Marco steered me to a critique of Dean Radin’s book The Conscious Universe, and I have to admit that the critique (though at times very silly) scored a few direct hits. Not having a degree in statistical analysis and not, moreover, having access to any of the original data Radin cites, I’m in no position to say yea or nay with respect to whether telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition exist. Radin seems to make a strong case, but the accusation he levels at skeptics — that they’re only seeing what they want to see — applies equally to him.
The statistical data is provocative, first because there seems to be quite a lot of it and second because none of it is very persuasive. That is, if telepathy is real, it seems odd that it would be so difficult to demonstrate in a clear way. The statistics pile up, but even if they mean what Radin thinks they mean, they all show a very slight effect.
This may be because the scientists are designing their studies badly. The telepathy experiments Radin describes uniformly use senders and receivers who have no special bonds to one another, and the data they’re supposed to send and receive is of no special emotional significance. If telepathy exists, those are not the conditions under which we would expect it to show up! Quite the contrary. Indeed, most of the anecdotal material about supposed telepathic communication, which of course we can’t duplicate in the laboratory because it’s anecdotal, concerns Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 8, 2013
I’d like to think the religions of Asia provide a level of awareness that seems rather conspicuously to be missing from the religions that originated in the Middle East. Hinduism and Buddhism are more appealing to me than Christianity (to say nothing of Judaism and Islam, of which the less said the better).
But possibly the grass is just greener on the other side of the fence. On using the Web to learn a bit about Tantra, I’m finding myself baffled. It’s not just that the authors of these texts use a bunch of unfamiliar terms. They seem not to be interested in defining the terms in a way that anybody could make sense of.
Before too long, I discovered that the practitioners of Tantra still (in the 21st century) sacrifice goats and other animals in their temples. Okay, never mind. I’ll look into some other tradition. I don’t care what kind of alleged ancient wisdom you’re hanging out with; if you’re killing animals to make your gods and goddesses happy, your ancient wisdom is a crock of shit, and that’s the truth.
Still, researching other cultures and their spiritual practices is probably worth doing. Somewhere along the path, being a musician, I noticed a link to a page on Indian music for meditation. Hmm — maybe knowing about that will give me a handle on the larger subject matter. Unfortunately, the nameless author of this page slathers it on pretty thick.
“Music has been used as meditation music since the very dawn of civilization,” we’re told, “because it balances the human organism through its rhythmic pattern of tones, which are generated in a harmonic relationship with each other.” Hey, I’m a musician. Can you tell me about the rhythmic patterns Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 3, 2013
There are all sorts of things wrong with Christianity. Proselytizing is a vicious conspiracy that destroys indigenous cultures. Attempting to prevent the teaching of science in public school is nothing short of criminal. And can we talk about women’s rights and gay rights? But that’s old news, and not worth rehashing. Today I have something more basic in mind.
It seems to me that the taproot from which most of the deficiencies of Christianity have sprouted is that it’s an authority-based religion. The individual believer is, above all, expected to obey.
This was also true of the Judaism from which Christianity sprang. Moses came down from the mountain not with suggestions, not with recommendations on how to live a good life. No, they were commandments. Written in stone, just in case you missed the point.
The book of Leviticus, a contemptible piece of slime that is still in the Bible, though nobody pays much attention to it any more, is full of things that the Lord God ordered the Israelites either to do unfailingly, or not to do on pain of being stoned to death. Charming fellow, the Lord God.
From its beginnings, Christianity proclaimed Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 2, 2013
The accusation could fairly be leveled at me that I don’t much care how I look. My socks usually match, and I do comb my hair, but nobody is ever going to mistake me for a fashionista. (On one recent occasion I discovered that I had arrived at the gym wearing mismatched tennis shoes, but that was strictly an anomaly.)
Nonetheless, I do iron my shirts. Or rather, I try to.
I own an implement that is reputed to be a steam iron. It was made by Black & Decker, who are better known for their table saws. That may be part of the problem. What it actually is is not a steam iron. It’s a steam-plus-intermittent-gouts-of-hot-water iron. Or, for short, a steam-and-peepee iron. In between bursts of steam, it dribbles (and occasionally spurts) puddles of hot water onto whatever garment I’m attempting to flatten.
After ironing my shirts, I have to hang them up to dry. Once in a while I have to wring them out and iron them again.
But that’s not the worst of it. I’m sincerely baffled that no one has invented an ironing board the same shape as a shirt. Getting a shirt to lie flat on the ironing board while ironing it requires three hands — one to wield the iron and two more to keep the shirt from scrunching up, sliding off onto the floor, or both at once.
Possibly the fact that my shirts were sewn in factories in China, India, and the Philippines by low-paid women who harbor quite justifiable grudges against American white men has something to do with it. The shirts usually bunch at the seams. They also bunch in places where there are no seams. I suspect voodoo.
I haven’t given up yet. I even iron the collars. But if you see me wandering around town someday in my pajamas, you’ll know why.
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Posted by midiguru on February 26, 2013
Discussions of telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition tend to be dismissed as so much New Age crystal-gazing. As it turns out, though, the scientific evidence for these phenomena is overwhelming. The only people who doubt that such things really happen either are ignorant (probably because they’ve been misled by self-appointed debunkers) or have a strong vested interest in a hard-headed “scientific” world view that not even physicists believe in any more.
This week I’ve been reading a couple of very interesting books – The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin and Morphic Resonance by Rupert Sheldrake. I recommend them both. Together, they unveil some very provocative possibilities.
Radin provides an overview of decades of meticulous experiments designed to verify (or disprove) the idea that telepathy, precognition, and similar phenomena are real. Be prepared for a crash course in statistics — this is not a book of impossible-to-reproduce anecdotes about Aunt Greta’s dream that her dog had died. There are graphs.
What Radin doesn’t do is provide a theory that might have the power to explain the phenomena. He dips his toe in quantum physics to the extent of talking about non-locality (which is an interesting and highly suggestive topic), and also examines the psychology of skeptics in considerable detail, but he pretty much leaves it up to you to draw your own conclusions.
Sheldrake has a theory. His book is mainly concerned with biological phenomena such as embryo development and instinctive behavior; telepathy isn’t even listed in his book’s index. Nonetheless, his theory of morphic resonance provides Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on February 24, 2013
The term “voluntaryism” has popped up a couple of times lately. This seems to be a new term for libertarianism, but perhaps lacks the leave-well-enough-alone facet of the libertarian ethic. If true, that makes it even worse.
Libertarians, for instance, tend to support decriminalizing the possession of drugs — and I applaud them for it. That’s a sensible position. A strict interpretation of libertarianism would also support the idea that a woman’s decision to have an abortion is between her and her doctor, and the government should butt out. I’m pretty sure a lot of libertarians have to grit their teeth while agreeing to that one, but it certainly falls under the umbrella of individual freedom, and libertarians vigorously support the idea of freedom.
In some other areas, libertarianism is blindingly stupid, but dogmatic adherence to the doctrine of personal freedom does have its sensible moments.
Voluntaryism may lack the sensible moments. We’re not sure yet. The ideas that I’ve heard from voluntaryists, to date, are: (a) No minimum wage should be set by law, because the negotiations between employer and employee are a private matter, and not one that the government has any legitimate interest in controlling. (b) Welfare payments should be abolished. All charitable giving should be voluntary. Government-administered welfare programs are charitable giving “at the point of a gun.” That is, if you decide Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on February 17, 2013
Remember bookstores? Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s I used to browse in small indie bookstores and pick up quirky but provocative books, some of which are still on my shelves. Yesterday, moved by an obscure impulse, I pulled out Inner Visions, a 1979 paperback by Nevill Drury. I’m pretty sure I bought it because of the chapter on the Tarot.
I don’t remember a word of what’s in the book, and it’s not clear I’m going to sit down and read it this month. What prompted me to mention it was the misguided optimism in the Introduction. When Drury was writing this book, the term “counter-culture” could still be used, and with a straight face. Experiments with psychedelic drugs were taken seriously by intelligent people. In the Introduction, he mentions the album covers of Roger Dean, notes “the relationship of the fantasy art on record sleeves to the electronic inner-space music which it often represents,” and suggests that “these forms of modern music represent one facet of the contemporary reaction against scientism and the search for what [Theodore] Roszak has termed the visionary sources of our culture.”
The question I’m asking myself is, what happened? How did a cultural movement that seemed to promise a change for the better get so thoroughly derailed? Why, today, do we roll our eyes and cringe with embarrassment when we encounter Drury’s enthusiasm for magical consciousness and “a truly open-ended cosmology”?
What happened, for starters, was Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on February 16, 2013
Today I got into one of those annoying and unproductive discussions on Facebook — a disagreement with a complete stranger. It started with the question of whether a Christian florist (by which I mean, a Christian florist of the bigoted asshole variety) should have the right to refuse to provide flowers for a gay wedding, or whether the florist should be required not to discriminate as a condition of doing business.
As nearly as I can determine, my antagonist in this little debate was (a) in favor of equal treatment for homosexuals, (b) opposed to government sanctions of almost any kind. He raised the specter of California’s Proposition 8, and asked whether I support the right of the people of California to legally deny marriage rights to gay couples. To him, this is an example of the government mandating a moral principle, something he feels shouldn’t be allowed.
But this is not as easy a question as it seems. In each case — enforcing gay rights or forbidding them — the government is essentially stepping in and making moral decisions that are then binding upon individuals, so I can certainly see that there need to be limits on what the government can or should do. After mulling it over, I think a productive way to approach such questions may be to make a distinction between public morality and private morality.
A Christian of the bigoted asshole variety certainly has a right to cross the street in order to avoid coming into proximity with a gay couple that is holding hands, or to refuse to rent a room to them in his home. The right to avoid gay people is a private right. Likewise, a church is Read the rest of this entry »
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