Apr 14

Journalistic Standards Decaying like Gangrenous Limbs

Journalism is being eroded by the internet–in some ways. In other ways it gets some help: More data faster. If you’re smart about your web sources, and pick them for established repute, you can get quality journalism on the internet. But there’s a huge erosion of quality in journalism that moves like an out of control forest fire on the web.

Twitter is one factor–I’ve written about its tendency to be not only superficial but just wrong a lot of the time, yet it’s consulted by real news sources.

Another factor is the New Yellow Journalism. It’s not only yellow it’s jaundiced, it’s sickly like a patient in the final stages of terminal hepatitis C. For some reason headlines are wildly deceptive on the internet–though the stories may be more or less factual. The competition for fast “hits” leads to exaggeration in headlines and in the stories, and a tendency to repeat the sensational before it’s fact checked.

The “if it looks like a professional site it’s valid” misperception by web surfers has led to people taking all kinds of absurd sources seriously–Alex Jones is just one example of a bad source that can look kind of superficially legit.

The erosion factor that currently bothers me most is advertising that is disguised as a news article. You have to look pretty hard to see that it’s sheer advertising. Usually they have a site like Men’s Life and health or Morning Money that sound like legit sites but the first one is making non factual claims about its steroid-style supplement, and the second is pretending to be like an online Forbes while it’s misquoting Buffett so it can sell some bad securities. At the bottom of the fake article it says,”Editor’s Note: As a service to our readers, we’ve arranged for you get a copy of Michael Robinson’s full research package including his book that details everything you need to know about this…” With a link to a sales pitch.

Fake articles are found in the print newspaper too–though they have, printed on them, a warning that it’s an advertisement, somewhere. The fake articles on the web are far harder to identify. Something about the web destroys every last shred of fair-dealing in some people…

Apr 14

America the Memory Challenged

Is our national memory really so feeble? Will Americans forget, in November? Or when they vote will they remember that the Republicans paralyzed America by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, by refusing to sign off on a budget–that they threatened to shut down the country? That the President–that is, a Democrat–called their bluff and made them stop playing with people’s lives, with American jobs?

Will voting Hispanics and other immigrants remember that the Democrats have tried to enact the Dream Act, and immigration reform, and Republicans blocked these bills to help immigrants?

Will anyone remember the jobs bill that President Obama offered, that would have repaired infrastructure and created huge numbers of good jobs for unemployed Americans–a bill blocked by Republicans?

Will people who jeer that “it’s a two party system and they’re both alike” remember *any* of this sharp contrast? Will WOMEN remember that the GOP has again and again blocked a betterment of women’s rights in America? And will they remember that Senate Republicans just blocked a bill on equal pay for women?

Apr 14

Tweets from the War Room

Cell phones in the War Room. Nuclear war threatens. Top brass, civilian personnel watching the screens as in Dr Strangelove but now with smart phones, iPads, people unable to keep from texting, theyre addicted to it; unable to keep from tweeting too. “Whoa, first time in War Room during possible start up to major fireworks. Rockin’ but scary. Intense.” Or “Are those Chinese missiles? And is there lunch in here? Instagramming photo of hot lieutenant in tight blouse”. “Checkitout, situation got hotter, theyre saying Red Alert Highest Class stat. What regs re tweets?”

“Guy coming at me with gun drawn? #overreaction much?!” Security in War Room: “Highest security status requires instant execution to stop transmission of classified data out of War Room.” Bang, shoots tweeter in the head. Others start tweeting, “#gross headshot chill dude this isn’t walking dead” – That tweeter is quickly shot in the head.

Others are automatically thumbing texts. “You wouldn’t believe…are those missile blips? Better go to basement” – Blam, shot in head.

More tweeting. More shooting.

Apr 14

Marijuana: The Old Myths are Gone–and the NEW Myths are Here

For a long time there were many prevalent myths about marijuana, some of them spread by pot prohibitionists and uptight liars, some by “Reefer Madness”, some by scared school boards–and now there’s a NEW set of myths, spread mostly by the new generation of weed enthusiasts. The old myths were, it’s addictive like heroin, it’ll make you murderous, your baby will drown in the bathtub, your brain will fall out your ears or whatever, it will inevitably make you a snoozy layabout and it was likely to be a gateway drug to smack or crack; and so on. Oh and that’s it’s a nutty kwazy hallucinogen. All that stuff was bullshit.

The new myth is that marijuana can do no wrong and is always a good thing. The new myth, in fact, is that it has no downside ever, and that it cures many diseases. Since it clearly does have some medicinal value–its use for cancer patients fighting nausea and malaise, its use against inflammation, even indications it can help with some forms of autism–people make the jump in their minds that if it helps with some symptoms of cancer treatment or other symptoms, then it must necessarily cure cancer. They claim there are “studies” that show “pot cures cancer”. Well there aren’t, not real studies that show that, no. It’s useful but it’s not a cure-all. It’s not a panacea. It’s not an all-around miracle drug. It has great qualities and is better for you than heavy boozing but it also has some downsides.

Old hands at drugs know, most of them, that it’s probably not good to smoke a lot and drive, especially strong marijuana–it’s not as dangerous as being really drunk but it still screws with your reactions and perceptions, not good in driving. Old hands with pot also know, most old hands, that pot can have varied effects in various people; one guy gets relaxed and euphoric; another gets paranoid and dysphoric. They also know that there are many kinds of pot with many kinds of effects. They know that if you eat it in cookies or whatever it ups the effect, it really hits you and it may well be too much for some people and they will trip out in an unpleasant way.

There is I think SOME basis in pot’s negative effect on memory, especially on some people, and some indication that it can cause some people to be a bit prone to not getting their lives organized–at least I’ve seen that a good deal, and it’s pretty well known anecdotally. One *can* actually hallucinate on pot–I’ve done it–but you have to have done a lot of powerful weed for any hallucination to speak of… The point is the stuff will be LEGALIZED. Yes it will,in your lifetime. I support that. So let’s get REAL about it like grown ups instead of talking like we’re Cheech and Chong’s grandsons writing a paper for community college…

Apr 14

A Hard Day for People Who Care About Children

“John gets upset when he sees children abused. So let’s really mess with him today,” said synchronicity. First in my own town I see a young man and woman–Romany, I think, but I can’t be sure–with two very small children, at a shopping mall, holding a sign, need help to feed children. The guy has expensive looking shoes, and so on, but I don’t care about fake beggars–I care that they are using their children like this, that I saw them two months ago at Costco doing the same thing, that I heard them talking and know a hustle when I hear it, that he’s teaching the children this. It’s exploiting and harming them and no I don’t think they’re homeless but there are homeless families of course. If you were there, you would’ve seen the signs of professionalism, of con artistry.

Then I went to see my son and on his Oakland block there are small Hispanic latch key kids, left alone all day, no schooling, and the kids try to get attention by throwing things out the window so they can see them smash on the sidewalk. . .

Then I am on the way home and see a “missy”–that is an Oakland, California term for a street prostitute that is a child, as young as 11, more often like 13ish. I saw the most obvious fat ass pimp ever, talking to her. She’s dressed all whore. She was obviously no older than 14 tops. So I go around the corner thinking, this is too much, after all this–this at least I can report. Because Oakland is trying to deal with this missy problem.

So I want to get a better look at pimp guy, and I drive around the block, takes a minute to get around, I see her giving a guy head in a doorway, broad daylight, 26th and International in Oakland. I won’t go into all the details here but it was happening in a sick way too. So I get pissed off, pull over–and no I’m not an idiot, I don’t try and deal with it myself, I get Oakland police on the line and talk a dispatcher into taking it seriously, this girl is underage, and she sent two police cars pretty fast. I didn’t find out what happened. I’m okay with women being hookers if they’re over 18. I don’t recommend it as a lifestyle, but I’m not Captain Save-a-hoe, I’m Captain Regulate-the-hoes. And I’m Captain call this one in, that’s a child. It’s been a hard day for people who like children, in my part of the world. And yes I know it’s worse out there, in many places…but all in one day…

Mar 14

When Smoking Feathers from the Wings of Angels and Demons

All this talk of legalizing marijuana and the various types of medical marijuana, various effects of different strains, makes me feel it’s time to legalize “dangel ganja”. That, of course, is the street name for the material burned and inhaled when smoking feathers from the wings of angels and devils. I’ve been into it for years.

It’s a myth, by the way, that devils don’t have wings or that they have something like bat wings. No, they have wings with feathers, they’re just really oily, ill-smelling coppery red or black feathers, very very dark, whereas of course angel wings have gleaming white or burnished gold or platinum colored feathers. Obtaining the feathers of either entails risks unless you can find a place of combat between angels and devils, in which case you simply harvest them from the ground nearby (uninformed people often mistake them for bird feathers). They drift down from the combatants.

Anyway, the main point is, there is more than one sort of angel, more than one sort of devil, and the qualities of the high, or the medicinal effect if you like, relate to the type of supernatural being you are smoking. Naturally an archangel’s wing feathers will give you a more “heady”, intellectually objective state of mind; whereas you’ll get a kind of maternal glow from a guardian angel, and a standard vision-message angel provides a sort of peyote-like shimmer, with hallucinatory visits to sky castles. Feathers from the wings of a tempting devil tend to be very “body”, very sensual in their effects, especially when smoked in a good sized bong, whereas a torturing devil’s pinfeathers give a kind of meth/bath salts effect–you don’t want to use too much, or you’ll kill everyone nearby. The feathers from the wings of a war-fostering demon will put you in a fierce, resentful mood, so you’ll be patrolling the borders of your property with a shotgun. It’s a high but a paranoid one. . .

Of course the real epicure of dangel smoking mixes the polarities, a bit of archangel with a bit of war demon, combined with a goodly pinch of the feathers of a guardian angel to mellow you out. The result is difficult to describe. Get the proportions right and you’ll party deliciously; overdo one or the other and you may wake up two weeks later, if you come out of it at all, in a very secure psych ward. Everything in moderation. Stories about the dangers of dangel smoking are wildly exaggerated. Don’t drive while smoking the pinfeathers of a war demon–of course! But used in moderation dangel smoking can be deeply satisfying and only rarely fatal.

Mar 14

When They Find my Body in 2000 years

What will researchers think if they examine my exhumed remains in say 2000 or so years? “This is a male who died in his early 80s…No gravestone remains so we have no clear date or name…This was before land-use laws forbade bodies in graves…We see the remains of books in the coffin with him, crumbled beyond reading…traces of a shoulder tattoo on scraps of mummified skin hint at a relationship to an ancient spiritual lodge…In the teeth we see evidence that the fillings were replaced with neutral material, indicating some anxiety, common at the time, about mercury in tooth fillings, and perhaps indicating a personality prone to thinking about mortality, risk, and toxins. We see he was married, by the wedding ring; the skull ring on his right hand might indicate a membership in the “cult of Keith Richards”; we find a titanium disk in his spine indicating surgery for spinal stenosis; this and the shape of the spine, and fingers with arthritic deposits in a pattern common to keyboard users, indicates much time spent in a chair at a desk. The eye repair implants, circa 2033 CE, are of a kind that suggests much exposure to a computer screen. He may have been a programmer but the presence of books included in the coffin suggests writer or critic, or possibly a devoted aficionado.

“Also in the coffin is a damaged CD, which may be a song mix. Its contents are so far unknown. His coffin is high grade steel suggesting both some disposable income, at least in his family, and another hint at strong concerns about mortality. The traces of food found in the intestines analyze as partly lab grown artificial meat, indicating he may have been a vegetarian, refusing to involve himself in animal slaughter, but not a vegan; we also find very low traces of pesticides suggesting he preferred sustainable produce, again an indication of a personality with a strong concern about toxicity…

“And that’s it for this subject…oh, I’m receiving a transmission, something previously undiscovered has been located in the coffin. It appears to be a note scratched into plastic. In the North American language of the time it says, ‘Go stand in the rain and get rusty you robot bastards, and send in a real archaeologist.’ It is also pointed out that the middle finger of his skeletal right hand is extended in a way that suggests a popular gesture of insult of his time…It’s remarkable, it must be said, that he realized that his own race would be extinct, replaced by artificial intelligences in nano-charged carapaces like you and I. I salute his foresight.”

Mar 14

Me and GI Gurdjieff

To me, the Gurdjieff work has to be about the practice, about methodology, about the movement of attention within oneself, and toward the present moment, and toward the finer vibrations from the higher. The ideas can be over emphasized, in my opinion, to the detriment of actual Work; and actual Work is the real point. At its best it’s experiential.

Gurdjieff didn’t have to be right about everything. I doubt this exiohary business–enough that I’m not going to reach for the book to check its spelling–I doubt that the moon will ever be like the Earth, and the Earth like the sun, and so on. I take Darwin quite seriously and while he was not any sort of absurd creationist Gurdjieff didn’t seem to respect Darwin much (as witness Beelzebub’s Tales) …

I think that probably his “autobiographical” work Meetings with Remarkable Men is true…and not true, in places. Some of it is likely conflation of several events and places; some is sheer allegory; some of it happened. Paul Beekman Taylor’s newest book makes a persuasive argument that Gurdjieff probably never actually visited Tibet (though Taylor isn’t certain), and there’s no one who respects Gurdjieff more than he. Gurdjieff had his reasons for adapting bits of Hindu/Chinese “alchemy” into his system, for adapting neo-Platonism and Kircher into his system. I think he was exposed to many esoteric schools, like the Naqshbandi–but I think a lot of the Fourth Way is the product of his experimentation, his personal experience. His effort to find a way to set people free from the subjection that leads to war and needless human miseries…that could free humanity from “the terror of the situation”. And that way actually succeeds in providing, bit by bit, inner freedom for practitioners.

And that’s what matters to me. It’s why I’m a committed Gurdjieffian and it’s why I’ll have an enneagram on my gravestone some day.

Anyway, here’s a link to an article I wrote introducing Gurdjieff. http://www.darkecho.com/JohnShirley/jsgurd.html

Mar 14

The Poor Frustrated Invisible Creature Wants you to Know

I know, you weren’t particularly wondering what my newest novel was, those of you who didn’t already know–you weren’t going to ask. You were thinking about something else entirely. But a small translucent purple-black angel-like (but not angelic) figure, fluttering unseen over your head like an unnoticed black butterfly, has been trying to get you to read my novel DOYLE AFTER DEATH. So for the sake of that poor frustrated creature, I’m telling you about this dark fantasy novel, available as a paperback or ebook. And here’s the link to its place at the HarperCollins site: http://harpercollins.com/books/Doyle-After-Death-John-Shirley/?isbn=9780062305008

Mar 14

Fred Phelps In the Afterlife

“Westboro church founder Fred Phelps dies” – CNN

“Hello, Fred Phelps, welcome to the afterlife, I’ll be your directing angel.”
“You?! You’re an angel? You’re wearing a leather cap and some kind of leather underwear! That’s no angel! Where’s St Peter? You ain’t St Peter!”
“St Peter doesn’t actually decide who goes into Heaven and Hell, Fred, that’s a myth. My name’s Bruce. I decide where people go, in this plane. I get to do it for awhile–it’s my new job. Of course on the Buddhist afterlife planes, people get redistributed according to reincarnation, or bardo learning needs, and in the Muslim–”
“Muslim! Buddhist! They’re all in Hell burning with the fags!”
“Well, no, Phelps, not particularly–some are, though they’re not there for all eternity. Hell is ultimately just a state of mind. Anyway, Phelps, I’m assigned to decide which circle of Hell to send you to–later your state of mind might make it possible for you to rise out of it but for now, I think the sixth circle of Standard Christian Hell. You didn’t actually commit murder so the sixth should do–oh, *hi* Freddie! You look so hot in that white suit!”
“Who’s that? Another fag?!”
“Oh this is Freddie, Mr. Phelps–Freddie Mercury, in fact. I can’t help it, I’m proud to be dating Freddie Mercury himself! He’s in charge of the choir on our plane. He’s actually a Zoroastrian but he came over to our plane to live with me.”
“Bruce–I have to go to the Standard Christian Throne and see if Jesus has time to hear the choir before the AIDs victim reunion, just wanted to tell you I’ll be over there. Can I have a kissy-kiss kiss?”
“What the–you fags are going to *kiss* right in front of me?!”
“Mmm, I love that mustache, Freddie, never cut it off. See you later. Oh sorry, Phelps.”
“God hates fags! He does! He hates queers and lesbos and all that! I figure you’re some kind of test, to see for sure if I hate ‘em too! Well I do!”
“God hates….? She doesn’t hate gay people, Phelps! She’s a lesbian on many planes. On other planes she–”
“You are tryin’ to tell me God is a woman…a damn lesbian?!”
“Well gender is not exactly as defined with respect to a higher being, here, as on Earth–and even there, of course–”
“This is a test! I’ll kill you! I’ll strangle you, fag!”…..
… “Oh dear…you did strangle me! Of course you can’t kill me really, Phelps but…that does seem to be murder, or at least attempted murder. You’re going to a lower level of Hell I think…I’ll put you in the upper part of Dante’s seventh. But remember–hell is just a state of mind. There’s a demon down there who’ll take care of you…he’s so in the closet, poor thing, but he’s coming out now, and since it’s Hell I can’t really guarantee…however if you are nice to him we’ll take that into account. It’s out of my hands now! Off you go. I’m redecorating my place in the Many Mansions today and this is the end of my shift. See you in ten or twenty thousand years, Phelps.”
* * *
The End for 10 or 20 Millenia or so