Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mr H. Closes the Covers of Giornale Nuovo

Brought to my attention by the always alert and stimulating Jahsonic, Giornale Nuovo, one of the best things on the net, has come to an end.

I began this Giornale five years ago today, and feel like today is as good a day as any to end it. This last year my enthusiasm for weblogging has subsided, and I prefer to make a clean end to it now, rather than allow it to suffer a slower demise by neglect. Comments will be disabled at the end of the month, but I intend to keep everything on-line for at least a couple more years.

There is a stunning wealth of erudition and imagery on the site. If you have yet to experience the Giornale Nuovo, I urge to to set aside a few hours for amazement.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thirsty dogs lapping at a water bowl: Antarctica vs. Iraq: Interview with a Contractor

[ source ]

[ source ]

An absolutely beautiful interview with a contractor in Antarctica and Iraq. One of the best things I've read in a while:

From Antarctica vs. Iraq: Interview with a Contractor:

Strange events blossomed without scripts in a landscape of decay, dirty machines, and whiskey-soaked mustaches. Men were piled into old military tents on the side of the mountains far from the heart of the town. It was the only place I had been where at night you lulled yourself to sleep pretending that the noise of a half dozen men whacking off was actually a group of thirsty dogs lapping at a water bowl. As cum-soaked socks hit the floor with gentle thuds, the heavy breathing was followed by the click of zippos and I would grab my blanket for comfort in the darkness. We had stepped back in time to a place that you would never bring your mom or your sister—a primate working class culture in the harshest of environments. Like a small town out of the Twilight Zone, or one of those old "Weird Tales" comic books, anything seemed possible.

[...] All the little things that originally made McMurdo strange and matchless were either eliminated, copied, collected, or reprinted over and over. Abnormal became normal and everyone thought they were so crazy. And it is those practiced "I’m so crazy" looks that still haunt me when I think about MacTown.

Second reason: Raytheon. Raytheon came in and started a slow evolutionary process that took the town and put it in a Petri dish as an experiment. With microscopes, management was forced to sit around in white coats looking for the viruses and discolorations. These coats would have collars with chains that extend to the mother ship where reports were expected at least five times a day. Someone in Denver who drove home in a Lexus with an "I Brake for Penguins" bumper sticker would control the puppetshow on the ice. This Someone in Denver would stop at BlockBuster Video on the way home and rent the latest Robin Williams movie. This Someone in Denver liked Home Depot and decided that McMurdo too could be run like a corporate giant. A new level of idiocy had reached the ice and it became not unusual to find yourself watching a video on "How to Walk Correctly", or being forced to sign a contract disallowing the use of the word "vagina".

[...] I began to hold semi-decent conversations with the several mannequin heads in my room. I had shaved my eyebrows off. I was drinking liquid morphine with someone named Big Hand George. A pair of panties belonging to my friend’s girlfriend lay under my bed as a reminder to my rusted morals.

[...] I have swam in Saddam’s swimming pools and hung out in his palaces, I have shook hands with Bush, lifted body-filled caskets onto trucks with a forklift, built boxes for the KIA (killed in action), have been in over 80 rocket and mortars attacks, have lived in a tent with over thirty insane truck drivers, watched helicopters blow up insurgents. I have shot big guns, have rode in big tanks, have flown in a big chopper as it attacked ground forces, have been rocked by car bombs, have been involved in underground booze operations, have mingled with the Iraqi and Afghan People, have been to cat houses and bars in the red zones, have sang "Blue Suede Shoes" in the middle of Kabul in front of a bunch of locals, have said goodbye to somebody and ten minutes later they were dead, have worked with soldiers from all over the world, have lived with a porn-crazed Iraqi who is part of the new forming government, have seen Saddam go in and out of court, have watched bullets pound the wall directly above my head as I smoked a cigarette, have watched them pull bloated bodies from the Tigris, have ran from camel spiders and snakes, have done road trips across Afghanistan in a pickup drinking Heinekens purchased from Afghan soldiers, and have been introduced to local warlords.
Thanks, Seth

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Death is the Future: Quae caret ora cruore nostro?

War porn. Footage of training exercises with the paradoxically named Minigun. The predictable Carmina Burana [ thanks elberry ] and heavy metal. And similar to porn, the repeated loops of the "money shots". Extensions of time, slow motion ecstasy, the desire to approach zero, the still point. And the fury of axiomatic intangibility that lurks in the heart of all calculus. What cannot be possessed must be destroyed. With rage. With vengeance. One imagines Achilles in his helicopter, in his Wrath, in his Rage.

Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, "I pray you by your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead."

Achilles glared at him and answered, "Dog, talk not to me neither of knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me, as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be, though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up."

Hector with his dying breath then said, "I know you what you are, and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you at the Scaean gates."

When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades, lamenting its sad fate that it should en' youth and strength no longer. But Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, "Die; for my part I will accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods see fit to send it."

- Iliad, Book XXII, Butler trans.

‘Anger’ is the first word of Western literature. ‘Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles’ is the opening prayer of Homer’s Iliad, but in the original Greek, the word mhˆnin, ‘wrath’ or ‘anger’, comes first, in the place of emphasis. The anger of Achilles is the central theme of our civilisation’s first and most powerful epic.

- Excuses for Madness, M.F. Burnyeat

War is conducted by the blind justice of necessity - nemesis. Master becomes slave and slave becomes master; it is only a question of time, a time deprived of the future. "For those whose spirits have bent under the yoke of war, the relation between death and future is different than for other men. For other men death appears as a limit set to the future; for them, however, death is the future (...) Regularly, every morning, the soul castrates itself of aspiration, for thought cannot journey through time without meeting death on the way." (A...) Thus, thought is immobilized in the present. War turns people into living corpses (still living, living in the "still"). The unbearable, never-ending, and always-beginning pain presents them with the only possible vision of deliverance. It appears:

...in an extreme and tragic aspect, the aspect of destruction. Any other solution, more moderate, more reasonable in character, would expose the mind to suffering so naked, so violent that it could not be borne, even as memory. Terror, grief, exhaustion, slaughter, annihilation of comrades - is it credible that these things should not continually tear at the soul, if the intoxication of the force had not intervened to drown them? The idea that an unlimited effort should bring it only a limited profit or no profit at all is terribly painful (...) If the existence of the enemy has made a soul destroy in itself the nature put there, then the only remedy the soul can imagine is the destruction of the enemy. At the same time the death of dearly loved comrades arouses a spirit of somber emulation, a rivalry in death. (A...)

The passion of injured time is the desire for extermination and suicide. Here, moderation is foolishness. A realm beyond force does not exist.
- Simone Weil – Love and Language by Piotr Graczyk [ pdf ]

Roof of the Rex, ground zero, men who looked like they'd been suckled by wolves, they could die right there and their jaws would work for another half-hour. This is where they asked you, 'Are you a Dove or a Hawk?' and 'Would you rather fight them here or in Pasadena?' Maybe we could beat them in Pasadena, I'd think, but I wouldn't say it, especially not here where they knew that I knew that they really weren't fighting anybody anywhere anyway, it made them pretty touchy. That night I listened while a colonel explained the war in terms of protein. We were a nation of high-protein, meat-eating hunters, while the other guy just ate rice and a few grungy fish heads. We were going to club him to death with our meat; what could you say except, 'Colonel, you're insane'? It was like turning up in the middle of some black looneytune where the Duck had all the lines. I only jumped in once, spontaneous as shock, during Tet when I heard a doctor bragging that he'd refused to allow wounded Vietnamese into his ward. 'But Jesus Christ,' I said, 'didn't you take the Hippocratic Oath?' but he was ready for me. 'Yeah,' he said, 'I took it in America.' Doomsday celebs, technomaniac projectionists; chemicals, gases, lasers, sonic-electric ballbreakers that were still on the boards; and for back-up, deep in all their hearts, there were always the Nukes, they loved to remind you that we had some, 'right here in-country.' Once I met a colonel who had a plan to shorten the war by dropping piranha into the paddies of the North. He was talking fish but his dreamy eyes were full of mega-death.

Michael Herr, Dispatches [ via ]

It is well that war is so terrible;
else we would grow too fond of it.

--Robert E. Lee, U.S. general.
Said to another general during the battle of Fredericksburg (1862).

I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us.

- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thinking the Unthinkable - Heidegger BBC Documentary

Excellent documentary on Heidegger. Biographical examination that skirts over The Work and focuses on the conundrum of his Nazi political affiliations. Sublime Zapruder-esque footage of Heidegger at the Acropolis in 1962. Heidegger's nephew watering his grave. Discussion of his suicide attempt after the war. Relations with Hannah Arendt. Commentary by George Steiner, Richard Rorty, Gadamer, et. al..

Via Best Free Documentaries

Previously mentioned here in the entry Being and Time: Heidegger and Todnauberg

Buddhabrot: Do Not Filter Out the Non-Escaping Trajectories

From Wikipedia: Buddhabrot:

The Buddhabrot is a special rendering of the Mandelbrot set which, when traditionally oriented, resembles to some extent certain depictions of the Buddha.

The Buddhabrot rendering technique was discovered and later described in a 1993 Usenet post to sci.fractals by Melinda Green.

Previous researchers had come very close to finding the precise Buddhabrot technique. In 1988 Linas Vepstas relayed images of the Buddhabrot to Cliff Pickover for inclusion in Pickover's forthcoming book Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty. This led directly to the discovery of Pickover stalks. These researchers did not filter out non-escaping trajectories required to produce the ghostly forms typically reminiscent of Hindu art. Green first named it Ganesh, since an Indian co-worker "instantly recognized it as the god 'Ganesha' which is the one with the head of an elephant." The name Buddhabrot was coined later by Lori Gardi.

Animated 4D rotation and zooming on the Buddhabrot

See also:
The Buddhabrot Technique - Melinda Green
Fractal Buddha - Lori Gardi

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Skull on Mars: Incredibly Very Much Like

From Mars Humanoid Skull?:

The above 4-way split screen image says a lot about this evidence. Of what portion we can see of it, this object looks incredibly very much like an anatomically correct humanoid skull or perhaps a humanoid statue head sticking out of the ground staring sightlessly upward from its dark empty eye sockets and its general position suggests an unseen body laying on its back under the ground. Note the anatomically general size and shape, the forehead, the empty socket dark eye holes, the bone bridge between the eye holes, the nose projection, and the beginnings of one side of the mouth. Information just not to be ignored.

The only gloss I have is to drag out the ironical Nietzsche quote:

I'm afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.

cf. UBUWEB: Francis E. Dec

Worldwide, as a Frankenstein slave, usually at night, you go to nearby hospital or camouflaged miniature hospital van trucks, you strip naked, lay on the operating table, which slides into the sealed Computer God robot operating cabinet. Intravenous tubes are connected. The slimy vicious Jew doctor simply pushes the starting button, based upon your Computer God brain on the moon which records progress of your systematic butchery. Your butchery is continued exactly, systematically. The Computer God operating cabinet has many robot arms with electrical and laser beam knife robot arms with fly eye TV cameras watching your whole body. Every part of you is monitored, even from your Frankenstein controls. Synthetic blood, synthetic instant-sealing flesh and skin, even synthetic electrical heartbeat to keep you alive are some of the unbelievable Computer God instant plastic surgery secrets. You are the highest, most intelligent electrical machine in the Universe.

Thanks to J. Gorvetzian, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Friday, October 05, 2007

FringeWare Redux: From a Fringe Into the Lion's Den

There is no reason to fear them;
it is what lurks there that you need to fear.

I once worked at a place called FringeWare in Austin, Texas. What I said then in an article by Brad King:

FringeWare has created a place where anything goes, where they, as the weirdest freaks of all, make it safe for alternative ideas to come together; a place to get information from the closest source possible. "[FringeWare provides] the notion of the temporary autonomous zone (TAZ) -- an arena that tries not to put too much of a spin on information," says Deese's assistant Scot Casey, who has been involved with FringeWare since back in the Europa days. "This is what [author and philosopher] Hakim Bey talks about. Immediacy. Get right up there close to it and check it out. Don't just trust what you hear about something."

The following was sent to me via a neighborhood list in response to several muggings. Of course, I immediately noted - and was amused by - the use of the word "fringe." Out of context, and reapplied to what FringeWare was once working towards, it fits all too well. [ Read attacked, mugged or raped in intellectual terms - for the most part. ] It's kind of funny how beautifully Hakim Bey it comes off as in re-context.

Fringe Areas: Where it's most likely to happen

Fringe areas are places "in between." And it is here that criminals usually operate. This is where you are most likely to be attacked, mugged or raped.

It isn't until you begin to consciously look for them that you begin to see how many you pass through each day. A fringe area is not inherently dangerous, which is why we don't normally notice them. There is no reason to fear them; it is what lurks there that you need to fear.

Fringe areas are usually places that you pass through on you way to and from the crowd. In the middle of the crowd, there are too many people for the criminal to operate safely. Too far from it, there is nobody for him to attack. At the fringes, there are enough people going through that the criminal can find victims, but not enough to effectively hinder him.

The main thing to remember is any fringe area is transitional. It is a place that we pass through on our way to something else from something (e.g. from a crowd to your car). This is a large part of why we don't notice them; We are focused on getting somewhere else or on something other than what we are doing. It is that focus on "elsewhere" that the criminal exploits to successfully develop what he needs to attack you.

The best example of a fringe area is a mall parking lot. There are too many people in the middle of the mall for the criminal to be successful. And by the time you are in your car and driving away, you are beyond his reach. A parking lot, however, meets the criteria he needs. There are enough people to find a victim, you are out of reach of immediate help, he can still get to you *and* he can easily escape after he has mugged you.

You don't need to be paranoid about entering a fringe area, but you have to look around when entering one. Things that are "out of place" in fringe areas carry far greater weight than they would in other circumstances. Developing the habit of scanning a fringe area is a critical component of creating your Pyramid of Personal Safety.

As we often say, "You don't want to walk into the lion's den, so the trick is to recognize when an area has turned from a fringe into the lion's den"

Monday, October 01, 2007

I drink honey from my skull.

From Sadhus: The Great Renouncers:

Shaivite sadhu drinks from his human skull bowl. A picture of Shiva can be seen behind him. Although the practice of taking all of one's food and drink from a human skull is rare nowadays, certain sadhus, particularly the Aghori sub-sect, still hold to it as a daily reminder of human mortality and as a challenge to transcend the duality of life and death. The Aghori subsect was founded by Brahma Giri, a disciple of Gorakhnath and are strict followers of Shiva. These ascetics remain naked and often wear a rosary made of bones around their neck and carry a human skull in the left hand and a bell in the right hand. Their sectarian tilaka, forehead mark denotes unity of the Hindu triad. Generally, they are recruited from the lower castes.

Rajasthani Baba by Eli Shams.

In Aghori philosophy the cremation ghat is very important. Many Aghoris come to the place and pray to God. So they come here, do their own rituals, and I do my duty of making fires. There's no difference, no dispute. Aghoris never take the meat off bodies in front of people. They steal the flesh when the family of the deceased is distracted, sitting on the steps, taking tea. The whole body doesn't always burn and turn to ash, some flesh remains and it floats in the river, so they take this and eat it. Some Aghoris want to take the skull to use for different kinds of rituals and to drink out of. There's never a dispute. I don't give them the skull, but I don't try to stop them taking it because they are doing prayers and having magical powers, I cannot oppose them.

Sometimes I've seen them taking the body parts in the nighttime, but the families don't see. Taking the flesh is part of getting magical powers. So people seeing them taking flesh don't oppose them because they know they're doing their practice, and for fear of being cursed. The Aghori is Hindu and the family is Hindu, so morally, the family supports the practice.

Lesley Branagan: Are the Aghoris ever drunk or crazy when they do come and try and take the flesh?

Jagdish Chowdury (translated): Yes, it's true; they eat flesh and drink pee also, like they are crazy. They do many activities. We watch them and think they are dirty, but they don't think they are.

[...] Lesley Branagan: Tell me about these skulls, Because you're sitting on the bench with skulls mounted on a stick on either side of you. Where did the skulls come from?


Lalli Baba (translated): This skull is from a lady, this one is a man. Somebody collected them from corpses in the river, and brought them to me, and I paid money for them. The skull has power. When people come and disturb me, I throw the skull at them. I don't want to be disturbed, but if people have problems, I want to fix them and do good things.

Lesley Branagan: Are some people scared of you, because yesterday I saw many people down the bottom staring at you, while you sit up here with your skulls on either side. Are they scared of you?

Lalli Baba (translated): When I put the dust on people's foreheads, their mind is becoming shanti, shanti, peaceful.

Lesley Branagan: So do you see yourself as an Aghori? Are you an Aghori?

Lalli Baba (translated): I don't want to be defined as an Aghori or not. I don't eat human flesh, I don't drink alcohol because it affects the mind. I take tea, nothing more. I drink honey from my skull. I am vegetarian. My way of living out the Aghori philosophy is different from other Aghoris.

Lalli Baba: I am also a little bit kapalik. You have fever, I take mantra, and your fever is coming in my body...

[ source ]

"Ghora is darkness, the darkness of ignorance. Aghora means light, the absence of darkness. Under the Tree of Knowledge is an Aghori, a follower of the path of Aghora. He has gone beyond ignorance thanks to the Flame of Knowledge which billows from the funeral pyre. The funeral pyre is the ultimate reality, a continual reminder that everyone has to die. Knowledge of the ultimate reality of Death has taken the Aghori beyond the Eight Snares of Existence: lust, anger, greed, delusion, envy, shame, disgust and fear which bind all beings. The Aghori plays with a human skull, astonished by the uselessness of limited existence, knowing the whole world to be within him though he is not in the world. His spiritual practices have awakened within him the power of Kundalini, which takes the form of the goddess dancing on the funeral pyre: Smashan Tara. He is bewildered to think that all is within him, not external to him; that he sees it not with the physical eyes but with the sense of perception. The Flame of Knowledge is that which preserves life, the Eternal Flame, the Supreme Ego, the Motherhood of God which creates the whole Maya of the universe and thanks only to Whose grace the Aghori has become immortal."