MonthJune 2011

Alan Moore Interview on His Next Novel, Jerusalem

Alan Moore

The New Statesmen recently interviewed Alan Moore on the subject of his next novel Jerusalem. The article says it will be about next year, though the novel hasn’t been completed yet. Also, Moore may have a hard time getting it published since it’s 750,000 words – much longer than both A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Moore also talks about his theory of time – that we exist in a four dimensional system where consciousness moves backwards and forwards in time but everything else remains still. Much like his fellow comic writer Grant Morrison’s theory, or the theory put forward in LOST and by many occultists such Paul Laffoley and Michael Bertiaux.

Moore also believes that when we die, our consciousness has nowhere to go but back to the beginning. So we live our lives over, and over again. It’s an idea called eternal recurrence, originally put forward in Vedic religions, particularly Jainism, and later by Nietzsche. Point being, you should live a life you’d be willing to live over and over again.

New Statesmen: Alan Moore: “I’ve disproved the existence of death”

Here’s Moore reading from Jerusalem.

For far more on Alan Moore, check out the Alan Moore dossier

Photo by Fimb

Colton Harris-Moore Pleads Guilty, Looking at 5.25 – 6.5 Years in Prison

Colton Harris-Moore

The U.S. government now owns the story of Colton Harris-Moore, the gawky delinquent thief and burglar who will cool his heels in prison while a movie about his exploits as the “Barefoot Bandit” appears headed for a theater near you.

The 20-year-old Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to seven federal felony charges Friday in a plea agreement that recommends he serve between 5 ¼ and 6 ½ years in prison to resolve the federal aspects of his two-year crime spree, including the thefts of two airplanes and a boat and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm.

Seattle Times: ‘Barefoot Bandit’ pleads guilty to 7 federal charges, forfeits possible profits

He’s also up on 30 state charges in four counties.

Are Homophobes Actually Repressed Homosexuals?

Chris Cooper in American Beauty

Note: This article refers to a scientific study that has a small sample size and has not, to my knowledge, been replicated.

It’s a common assertion that homophobic men are actually repressed homosexuals. But does the hypothesis hold water? Psychology Today points to a study from 1996 that indicates that there does seem to be an association between homophobia and homosexual arousal:

One study asked heterosexual men how comfortable and anxious they are around gay men. Based on these scores, they then divided these men into two groups: men that are homophobic, and men who are not. These men were then shown three, four minute videos. One video depicted straight sex, one depicted lesbian sex and one depicted gay male sex. While this was happening, a device was attached to the male participant’s penises. This device has been found to be triggered by sexual arousal, but not other types of arousal (such as nervousness, or fear – arousal often has a very different meaning in psychology than in popular usage).When viewing lesbian sex and straight sex, both the homophobic and the non-homophobic men showed increased penis circumference. For gay male sex, however, only the homophobic men showed heightened penis arousal.

Heterosexual men with the most anti-gay attitudes, when asked, reported not being sexually aroused by gay male sex videos. But, their penises reported otherwise.

Homophobic men were the most sexually aroused by gay male sex acts.

Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?

(via Convergence)

Labeling/Rating System for Scientific Studies

Typically, science journalism covers new studies that have not yet been replicated with very little to indicate that this is really a fairly preliminary result. Sometimes these studies have very small sample sizes. Sometimes they’re sponsored by organization that have a vested interest in a particular outcome. Still, the findings get repeated as fact, sometimes to be contradicted later.

This can lead to a general distrust in science, as well as a confused public.

So here’s my idea: I’d like to create a labeling system, somewhat similar to the warning labels on video games and so forth, that could be used to provide some context for writings about scientific studies.

-Small sample size
-Medium sample size
-Large sample size
-Potential conflict of interest
-Unreplicated study
-Study replicated: *** Times

Once a system was worked out, I’d pay someone to design icons for the labels. The *s could be replaced with some sort of graphic.

I’d use the system at Technoccult, obviously, but release it to the public so that other bloggers and journalists could use it as well. Publications could put them at the beginning of articles about studies, or incorporate it somewhere into the design to tip readers of easily and prominently as to the status of the study.

Everything You Think You Know About Introverts is Wrong

Alone by Alejandra Mavroski

Carl King has posted a list of 10 myths about introverts derived from Marti Laney’s The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. There’s some interesting stuff here. Like King, I was never sure that I was an introvert before. I’m a social person. I like being around people. I like going to parties. I like to discuss my interests, even with total strangers. But I’m not good about approaching strangers, making small talk or any of the other things associated with being an extrovert.

Dispelling these myths about introverts has helped me realize that I am one:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

10 Myths About Introverts

Reason Is Used for Justification, Not to Determine Truth

Protagoras

For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment.

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists, some of whom say it offers profound insight into the way people think and behave. The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its April issue to debates over the theory, with participants challenging everything from the definition of reason to the origins of verbal communication.

New York Times: Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

(Thanks Bill)

This evolutionary psychology explanation is (like most evol pysch) speculative. Regardless of whether reason evolved “for” the purposes of argument, or merely reached a point where it was flawed but “good enough” we may never know. But I do think most people use reason more to defend their positions rather than to arrive at accurate positions (what does that mean for me, and my arguments?) To quote Michael Shermer in Why People Believe Weird Things, “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons” (via that Cracked article).

See also Systematic Ideology and Cultural Cognition.

PZ Myers on Alan Moore and Magic

A while back Cat Vincent asked why no atheists debated Alan Moore at the skeptics conference TAM London. I told Cat that I personally didn’t have much to debate with Moore.

Moore’s position, staked out in this essay on magic as well as the magic essay from Dodgem Logic 3 (which I think is a better version of the “Fossil Angels” essay, and extends the purpose of magic from art in particular to creativity in general), is that that magic is a process that takes place probably in one’s own mind and doesn’t confer the power to fulfill wishes. For example, in Dodgem Logic he wrote that using magic to try to get money handed to you was pointless. Instead, you were better off using magic to try to find some creative way to actually earn some money. He claims to have seen visions of gods, but admits they could very well be hallucinations. There’s not much room to debate a guy who says magic can’t fulfill all your wishes and that he could be tripping balls mad.

Biologist and noted atheist blogger PZ Myers seems to agree:

Moore has an affinity for a 2nd century oracular sock puppet, but he doesn’t worship it. He believes in magic, but he doesn’t believe in the supernatural. He also doesn’t like religion. I agreed with almost everything he said 100% (although he did speculate a bit about the absence of explanation for memory, which he thought was a mystery because there are no changes in the structure of the brain that last for more than a few weeks, which is total bullshit, and he wondered if the purpose of junk DNA was to store memories, which is bullshit on fire. But, OK, the rest of the talk was mostly fun.)

Moore is a writer, and his explanation was basically that the weirdness was to spark creativity; for instance, he talked about staring into a quartz crystal and seeing visions, but he was quite plain that it wasn’t supernatural, it wasn’t the crystal, it was his own mind generating and imposing ideas on what he saw. And that’s all right with me — it fits very well with how I see science functioning.

Pharyngula: Alan Moore at Cheltenham

Actually, I think if there’s anything to debate Alan Moore about it’s whether what he describes as magic is truly “magic” at all. But I’m not particularly interested in having that debate, and I doubt he really is either.

New Blog From R.U. Sirius: Acceler8or

Acceler8or

Editor of the late Mondo 2000 and current (?) editor of H+ R.U. Sirius is running a new group blog on transhumanism called Acceler8or. This post is a good introduction to the new site.

R.U. was also recently interviewed by Vice:

Do you think it is good that we’ve reached a point where anyone can say or write/make whatever they want and post it for the world to see?

It’s a huge, complicated, evolutionary step. The average person actually having a voice in the world!? Even if the value of that voice is minimized by inflation, it’s still a whole new relationship to the social. If things go well and life becomes increasingly participatory and open communication oriented, we’ll be figuring out the psychology and sociology of this for the rest of the century. It’s rough on writers, definitely. Our specialization has become the cultural oxygen.

So you think it devalues as well as democratizes?

Canadian internet seer Marshall McLuhan said that with every human enhancement comes an amputation. For an elite (when considered on a global scale) class of literate people, the diminution of power of real literary or even journalistic talent feels like an amputation. But for people who never had the opportunity to speak before, it’s the beginning of something else. Ultimately, we’ll give opportunity for more geniuses of expression to emerge.

Vice: Mondo 2000 and Gonzo Anthropology

(via Dangerous Minds)

This reminds me of what Jason Calacanis said yesterday at the ReadWriteWeb 2WAY summit: that writing as a skill in and of itself will no longer be enough. You’ve got to have deep expertise in a particular area. People will choose to read experts who aren’t great writers over great writers without deep expertise.

Polish-Style Book Cover Contest Winners

The Hobbit

Mocking Bird

500 Watts (formerly known as Journey Round My Skull) recently ran a contest for creating Polish-style covers for famous books.

The results are here.

Interview with Dennis McKenna at Boing Boing

dennis mckenna

Avi: What was your aim in turning to academic research on hallucinogens?

Dennis: For me, partly it was an exercise in self-redemption. I went to La Chorrera not really knowing any science, or really knowing very much about anything (I was 20 at the time) but thinking I knew a whole lot. The experience at La Chorrera taught me that I really didn’t know anything, especially anything about science. A lot of what we’d encountered at La Chorrera seemed to challenge all scientific paradigms. But rather than rejecting science outright I determined that I really should learn how to ‘do’ science before rejecting it. And so that’s what I did. I was also interested in the nuts-and-bolts aspect of what had happened to us. I committed the error that many people who work with psychedelics do, the notion that somehow ‘the trip is in the drug’. Of course it isn’t in the drug, it’s in the interaction between the drug and the brain/mind, and it’s mostly in the latter. But in some respects I thought if I studied the drug, how it works in the brain, and so on, that I might somehow arrive at an understanding of how it could elicit such experiences. Of course studying the drug alone will not do that; but I think that many neuroscientists still approach it from that perspective, which is why the picture of what these things ‘do’ will remain incomplete.

Boing Boing: Interview: Dennis McKenna

See the Technoccult dossier on the Brothers McKenna for much more.

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