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killer
  • 31082.0955

    Wasson explored a critical link between human and mushroom through language. A tour de force. No longer in print.

    Unlike its commonly known spawn, Huxley's orwellian synthetic superdrug, Soma is a word that originates in the Rg Veda, one of the first verse collections in Indo-European languages. It describes a god-like substance found on mountains that 'filters' the sun into visionary realms. Soma is the Noah's ark of the Rg Veda, a mystical concoction lost in time and translation, spoken of in hard to miss descriptives. Many scholars treaded before Wasson, assigning Soma's label to bhang (cannabis) or rhubarb (the verses describe it sometimes as leafless, almost always red) among many other possible botanical candidates, none have ever passed muster, except Wasson's take on it. Wasson deplores earlier discovery work and carefully constructs an argument that surmises the origin language of ours was begun in a religious practice led by priests that regularly imbibed mushrooms to achieve ecstatic states. The book cross references both the Vedas and other linguistic treatments of key words across the planet to give resonance to his arguments, plotting even the geographical movement of his adored supermyth mycodrug.

    By the end of Wasson's narrative, we're only 3/4 way through the book. What follows is a large appendix chapter of source notes, each entry a few paragraphs to a page long. To propel his argument, Wasson devotes considerable energy to proving his hunches. The appendix is its own mini novel: riveting documentary evidence in quick spurts; is copiously noted. His argument that the pivotal mushroom became a legendary flay-agaric (a killer of flies and bedbugs) as a twist of linguistic 'evolution' is brilliant. When he shows rational proofs of the fly-agarics lack of effect on flies, followed by western visitors' uses of the Soma mushrooms in eastern regions the 1700s, his patterns connect. Even the pathway from Soma to the Old Testament's Apple is analyzed. The birch tree, given the moniker tree of life among northern ancient languages, is both the source of Soma's red button-tongue mushroom and the primitive form of aspirin. Wasson tracks the religion's/language's spread from forest to forest of birch through an ur-literate time passing into literate.

    "The careful scholarship of the dedicated amateur mycophile R. Gordon Wasson reads like an exciting scientific detective story. Moreover, his willingness to pursue the quest through the wide range of linguistics, archeology, folklore, philology, ethnobotany, plant ecology, human physiology, and prehistory constitutes an object lesson to all holistic professional students of man."

    Weston La Barre, American Anthropologist

  • 31078.0706

    Lisa Miller uses Xanax and describes in New York Magazine a culture of fear endlessly popping chemical shields to a key mammalian growth mechanism: anxiety. A must-read for anthropologists, sociologists, and public health thinkers, a quote:

    "Xanax and its siblings—Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and other members of the family of drugs called benzodiazepines—suppress the output of neurotransmitters that interpret fear. They differ from one another in potency and duration; those that enter your brain most quickly (Valium and Xanax) can make you the most high. But all quell the racing heart, spinning thoughts, prickly scalp, and hyperventilation associated with fear’s neurotic cousin, anxiety, and all do it more or less instantly. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have risen 17 percent since 2006 to nearly 94 million a year; generic Xanax, called alprazolam, has increased 23 percent over the same period, making it the most prescribed psycho-pharmaceutical drug and the eleventh- most prescribed overall, with 46 million prescriptions written in 2010. In their generic forms, Xanax is prescribed more than the sleeping pill Ambien, more than the antidepressant Zoloft. Only drugs for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol do better.

    “Benzos,” says Stephen Stahl, chairman of the Neuroscience Education Institute in Carlsbad, California, and a psychiatrist who consults to drug companies, “are the greatest things since Post Toasties. They work well. They’re very cheap. Their effectiveness on anxiety is profound.”

  • 31059.0134

  • 31059.0006

    Speed up to the 2nd speaker, afterwards or before, read William D. Norhaus's Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong, a chilling, short essay about slow earth heating.

  • 31035.2129

     Malick's dunderheaded dinosaur moment of Tree of Life had everyone guessing, but the big mystery is how did everyone miss the obvious?

    Answer: humans are not trained in visual literacy; analogous visual metaphors are invisble to the general public. Reptillian 'mercy' vs. mammalian/proto-human 'cruelty.' Malick tries to outmanouvere Kubrick's ownership of consciousness by predating it, but his later gestures in ToL do not advance like Kubrick's, they fall flat. His visual slang is just that. The sun adorns vistas in human time and in geologic. In human time, the Christian mythology tries to outwit nature's but the joke is it shows up in the reptillian age. Ponderous thud or rank creationism, either way Malick comes off as a heavy handed rainmaker. He's out there whispering about the terror of urban sprawl, but he's also building Saturday Night Live sets on the verge of a desert. And to keep the mayhem paced, he's got midas-touch cutter Hank Corwin, trained first in music video. Every transition has been matched. Soothing, choral muzak slices ham when necessary (often). Even the actors try their hands at the instruments. When Pitt has to look moved by the Tocatta Bach he's peddling, he juts his jaw out, as if he knows how forced the idea is.  And despite all that whispered voice over underlining the action, the gestures start fizzling. They move internally. Into spokenness. And they fall literally (elevators, elevators...). Kubrick moves externally in Space Odyssey, at an escalating speed, into unspokeness. Malick wants to be Kubrick but he's really more a National Geographic-apologist pushing Freud's agenda: Hoses, feet, candles, and that upstairs nightmare, the attic that extrudes a house-form. Does it get anymore obvious?

  • 31030.1716

  • 31026.2039

    An unusual article from the Washington Post.

  • 31025.0010

    The X-47B, skychief without a human master. Lands on carriers.

    so who's accountable? from the L.A. Times.

  • 3109.0619

    Made as the radical underground began organizing into violent factions, Peter Watkins's Punishment Park is a window into late 60's extremism. Portrayed as a documentary, this fictional window into law-enforcement and justice showcases a brilliantly realized manhunt through desert terrain, with convicted extremists forced to run literally for their lives towards a 58 mile distant flag to escape sentences of up to 21 years for sedition. The deal is quite simple, make it to the flag and your sentence will be vacated. Told explicitly, with some threads well developed, others staccato (as if the crews lost their subjects), the film begins with the convicts' arrival at a makeshift court clearly outside the bounds of constitutional law, with a council of judges made up hastily from the locale status quo (California). A lone civil rights lawyer tries to add balance to the proceedings but is little more than a gnat in the face of a slowly moving elephant. It bears some resemblance to our current fears, the desert locale has an eerie nuance and the procedures seem to predict Guantanamo. Unknown actors provide pivotal performances. A cold satire of both sides. An early demonstration of hunting techniques by a policeman must be seen.

  • 3100.1601

    U.S. criminology appears simplistic compared to this network.

    "Here, he must show me. A proper execution requires planning. First, the Eyes study the target for days, usually at least a week. His schedule at home is noted, when he gets up, when he leaves for work, when he comes home, everything about his routines in his domestic life is recorded by the Eyes. Then the Mind takes over. He studies the man’s habits in the city itself: his day at work, where he lunches, where he drinks, how often he visits his mistress and where she lives and what her habits are. Between the Eyes and the Mind a portrait is possible. Now there is a meeting of the crew, which is six to eight people. There will be two police cars with officers and two other cars withsicarios. A street will be selected for the hit, one that can easily be blocked off. Timing will be carefully worked out, and the hit will take place within a half dozen blocks of a safe house—an easy matter since there are so many in the city."

    -"The Sicario: A Juarez Hit-Man Speaks" by Charles Bowden

    The New Year's Arsonist (resultant fear: don't stay inside)

    Sunset & Vine Shooter (resultant fear: don't go outside)