Monday, 27 March 2017

Katie Kitamura: Japanese for Travellers

They are both - the young couple and the train conductor - part of a Japan towards which I bear an intimate curiosity, a curiosity that travels in the company of a contrary hesitation.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Norman Ohler: Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany

"Everyone fresh and cheerful, excellent discipline. Slight euphoria and increased thirst for action. Mental encouragement, very stimulated. No accidents. Long-lasting effect. After taking four tablets, double vision and seeing colors."

Once not so very long ago
Sweet alcohol, that beast,
Brought warmth and sweetness to our lives,
But then the price increased.
And so cocaine and morphine
Berliners now select.
Let lightning flashes rage outside
We snort and we inject!

“injection as always.”

Kenzaburo Oe: Death by Water

I’ve noticed young women nowadays don’t appear to have any regrets about anything, or any awareness of the possibility that their present actions might be sowing the seeds for future regrets. That’s perfectly natural, of course, since they probably haven’t had time to do anything they regret. They seem to feel completely fine about everything: clean and true and pure of heart.

The dramatic axis of my play will be the ordeals of Meisuke’s mother, the woman warrior, but I’m envisioning a larger story as well: a narrative that would illuminate Japan’s historical conduct with regard to rape and abortion through this new performance piece.

“You're right. I'm the old man who wasn't able to become one of those fish (however many there may have been) swimming eternally in the bluish-green light of the grotto beyond the crack in the rocks.”

"The fact that Papa felt the need to fill the red leather trunk with all the papers pertaining to the insurrection seems to indicate that he thought those materials were too important (or too incriminating) to leave behind. It's as if he felt it would be disastrous for any outsiders to see what he was plotting, but yet he also put a flotation device in the trunk so the papers would eventually find their way back to us. At least that's what I believed for many years after he drowned. But why on earth would he set up an outcome in which his folly would be exposed?"

Monday, 13 March 2017

Rick Strassman: DMT: The Spirit Molecule

"There was the lightest feeling of a beckoning for me to follow something. It was like a light on the horizon, like two roads merging with the horizon. There were some eyes looking at me, friendly. They wanted to see who was there, and seemed to say that I would follow them later."

In my mind, MDMA is a mild drug. People who prefer it to the typical psychedelics tend not to do well when stressed, either by life or by taking more potent mind-bending drugs. MDMA is what I like to call a “love and light” drug, one that accentuates the positive and minimizes the negative. If only life were so simple.

Opponents and supporters of abortion rights may find fault with my proposal that a pineal DMT release at forty-nine days after conception marks the entrance of the spirit into the fetus.

They also may dismiss the proposal that DMT can allow our brains to perceive dark matter or parallel universes, realms of existence inhabited by conscious entities.

"I saw a man lying in a hospital room. He was naked with a person on either side of him, one female and one male. At first they didn't look like anybody I knew. They were perfect generic human beings. I recognized, in context, that they were me, you, and Laura. The way of knowing was totally different from this reality. I didn't know I was in a study of any kind. There was something wrong with him. He was there to get better. The hospital was a healing center. What was wrong with him was death. The naked person was dead. What killed the person was the stress from the DMT. None of my guardians or protectors made an appearance. They were out of the loop.

He was healed, more than healed. He was reborn. He got cured from death, healed from death. And then he became the creator of a whole universe. I gradually became more and more solid and moved toward my everyday presence. I watched the universe's creation down from fundamental mental energy to a vibratory rate to material things. I realized I was recreating the hospital and the room. As the world jelled more and more, I wanted to see it and asked to have the eyeshades taken off. I became fascinated with my fingers, like a newborn.

I've taught classes on how the universe is a construct of your own mind. And here it was happening. My attitude was different when I knew you were my creations. I felt as close to you as to my own son and daughter. I would have to say my experience was a classical death/rebirth experience. I had done it before, but never in the same way as with DMT. It was spectacular in imagery, texture, and atmosphere and had incredible lighting and effects. Boil it down and it's very, very classic. The 0.2 was harrowing—this was way beyond. I knew the boundary
beyond life existed. I never thought I'd be there, though, at such an early age. It's one of those things that old men talk about, like "once I got there." It's just the wrong place and time. I expect these sorts of things in the mountains with my friends in a more ceremonial setting."

"I felt the DMT go in and it burned in my vein. It was hard to breathe into it. Then the patterns began. I said to myself, "Let me go through you." At that point it opened, and I was very much somewhere else. I believe it was at that point that I went out, into the universe—being, dancing with, a star system.

I asked myself, "Why am I doing this to myself?" And then there was, "This is what you've always been searching for. This is what all of you has always been searching for."

There was a movement of color. The colors were words. I heard what the colors were saying to me. I was trying to look out, but they were saying, "Go in." I was looking for God outside. They said, "God is in every cell of your body. "And I was feeling it, totally open to it, and I kept opening to it more, and I just took it in. The colors kept telling me things, but they were telling me things so I not only heard what I was seeing, but also felt it in my cells. I say "felt," but it was like no other "felt," more like a knowing that was
happening in my cells. That God is in everything and that we are all connected, and that God dances in every cell of life, and that every cell of life dances in God."

Monday, 6 March 2017

Mark Fisher: The Weird and the Eerie

A weird object or entity is so strange that it makes us think that it should not exist. But by the very fact that it does exist means that it is us who are wrong, and that all of the personal rules we have previously used to make sense of the world are mistaken.

The feeling of the eerie is very different from that of the weird. The simplest way to get to this difference is by thinking about the (highly metaphysically freighted) opposition — perhaps it is the most fundamental opposition of all — between presence and absence. As we have seen, the weird is constituted by a presence — the presence of that which does not belong. In some cases of the weird (those with which Lovecraft was obsessed) the weird is marked by an exorbitant presence, a teeming which exceeds our capacity to represent it. The eerie, by contrast, is constituted by a failure of absence or by a failure of presence. The sensation of the eerie occurs either when there is something present where there should be nothing, or is there is nothing present when there should be something.

We could go so far as to say that it is the human condition to be grotesque, since the human animal is the one that does not fit in, the freak of nature who has no place in the natural order and is capable of re-combining nature's products into hideous new forms.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps the most famous example of a science fiction film which bucks this trend, resisting the positivistic pressure to bring the aliens out into the open. The enigma of alien agency is posed by the film’s totem, the monolith, which is something like the paradigm case of an eerie object. (Throughout the film, the feeling of the eerie is reinforced by the association of the monolith with Ligeti’s music, with its sense of awe and alterity.) The monolith’s “unnatural” qualities — its rectilinearity, its flatness, its opaque gloss — force the inference that it must have been produced by a higher intelligence of some kind. The logic here resembles a secular version of the so-called argument from design, which maintained that the functionality, purposiveness and systematicity of many aspects of the natural world compel us to posit a supernatural designer. There is little trace of the theological in Kubrick’s handling of these themes, and no attempt to positively characterise what kind of entity might have produced the monolith. The nature of the intelligence which has intervened in human history, and the purposes of this intervention, remain undisclosed. The film leaves us only some quite minimal resources on the basis of which we might speculate. In addition to the monoliths themselves, there is the simulated hotel room — unnerving in its very banality — in which, at the end of the film, astronaut David Bowman is prepared for his ambivalent transformation into the so-called Star Child. The hotel room might suggest that the intelligence wants Bowman to feel at home, though even if this is the case, its ultimate motives remain obscure: is it care for this human creature, so far from anything familiar, that motivates the construction of this dwelling place, or have these inscrutable intelligences calculated that this would be a better space in which to experimentally observe him?

We are now in a position to answer the question of why it is important to think about the eerie. Since the eerie turns crucially on the problem of agency, it is about the forces that govern our lives and the world. It should be especially clear to those of us in a globally-connected capitalist world that those forces are not fully available to our sensory apprehension. A force like capital does not exist in any substantial sense, yet it is capable of producing practically any kind of effect.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Sven A. Kirsten: Tiki Style

Sven A. Kirsten: Tiki Pop: America Imagines its own Polynesian Paradise

Tiki is the manifestation of exotic visions of island culture borrowed from tales told by American soldiers stationed in the South Pacific during World War II: trees loaded with exotic fruits, sleepy lagoons, white-sand beaches, and gorgeous people wearing grass feathers as they danced half-naked during all-night orgies of food and music. Americans seized these visions and incorporated fantasy into reality: mid-century fashion, popular music, eating and drinking, and even architecture were influenced by the Tiki trend.