Saturday, 6 September 2014

Wising up the Marks - You Can't Cheat an Honest Man

As ever, with internet, I find it far too easy to discover how hard it can prove to have an original thought these days.

Reading William Burroughs today I suddenly made a connection between him and W.C.Fields.

The odd trigger?  One simple word.  Fields occasionally made an extremely un-PC reference to "a Ubangi in the fuel supply" - and in Junky I came across this:

"Did you ever have the good fortune to see the Italian master Tetrazzini perform?" Lee lit Mary's cigarette. "I say 'perform' advisedly, because he was a great showman, and like all showmen, not above charlatanism and at times downright trickery. Sometimes he used smoke screens to hide his maneuvers from the opposition—I mean literal smoke screens, of course. He had a corps of trained idiots who would rush in at a given signal and eat all the pieces. With defeat staring him in the face—as it often did, because actually he knew nothing of chess but the rules and wasn't too sure of those—he would leap up yelling, 'You cheap bastard! I saw you palm that queen!' and ram a broken teacup into his opponent's face. In 1922 he was rid out of Prague on a rail. The next time I saw Tetrazzini was in the Upper Ubangi. A complete wreck. Peddling unlicensed condoms. That was the year of the rinderpest, when everything died, even the hyenas."

The thought crossed my mind while reading some of the routines in Queer - which echoed the meandering tall tales that Fields drifts into at times - and of course the drawling voice which I heard in my head.  Did Burroughs borrow this from Fields?

They both displayed a misanthropic and cynical view of the world; we remember both as 'addicts'; they share a black sense of humour and a dislike for censorship, and both appear fascinated by con men, hustlers and other petty criminals - to whom they gave exotic names.

So I Google the connection, and find this:

Burroughs and Fields

William S. Burroughs & W. C. Fields: A Lover’s Quarrel With The World



Dr Benway?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bored now...taking a Facebook sabbatical...

I have enjoyed most of the phases and waves of the Internet so far, from making a website (now very old-fashioned, and in need of renewal) to writing blogs.  Only this blog and the collaborative one (Only Maybe) still seem to get updates from me - but I have decided that Facebook (fun though it is) steals too much time (and energy) right now - so I am going to take a break.
Facebook? We don't need no steenking Facebook!
Every time I get a hankering for exchanging trivia, I will have to spend an equal amount of time working on the autobiography.

“I'm exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out”

We'll see how that resolution goes.

Apart from having a couple of conventions to go to, I will also be helping run an online course through September / October, and just want to focus on those less ephemeral pastimes.

To think!  I only got on FB because of my job as a computer whisperer for the libraries.  I needed to sample the things that customers wanted to use, to see if they worked correctly, etc.   I started off thinking I wouldn't actually be using it myself.  I joined under a pseudonym.

Addictions are tricky things.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Work in Progress

Just shaping up some text for the Maybe Logic Academy sessions we intend to run in parallel with the 'Find The Others' festival, which accompanies the Cosmic Trigger play in Liverpool.

I have volunteered to moderate a couple of weeks, one on E-Prime, and one on the 8-Circuit Model.   I will use this blog to post the rough drafts.

WEEK ONE

Tools for Thinking   - To Be, or Not To Be

Language as a Virus

Much of RAW's work revolved around perception and 'belief systems', and most people use words to create their models of the world, which may (or may not) have a close match to the non-verbal 'reality' in which we live.  Other ‘languages’ include mathematical ones, music, art, dance, etc.

Although many cultures (and religions) consider humans somehow different from 'animals', much of our behaviours remain rooted in our primate nature.

We humans may prove unique in our development of a verbal language (although communication in some form pervades the animal and plant kingdoms).

The particular aspect of language that we will look at now relates to the human ability to pass messages down through the generations (Korzybski called this time-binding) and we can receive messages not just orally, as with most tribes, but through writing, which can store information indefinitely.

Unfortunately, such messages may pass on information accurately, or create distortions.

NLP (which owes a lot to Korzybski’s work) refers to deletion, distortion and generalizations, as ineffective ways to communicate.

War of Words

Korzybski spoke several languages, so seems far more likely to have understood how each language imposes a 'grid' over the world. He also worked as an engineer, and understood the precision of mathematics, compared to the ambiguity of words. People who only speak one language can easily mistake their verbal description for 'reality', rather than 'just one way of describing the world'.

In the 1930s, even the maths of Quantum Mechanics began to throw up strange results, undermining the old certainties of scientific language and creating paradoxes (when translated from maths to verbal language). Korzybski set out to 'clean up' English, to avoid the distortions inherent in each kind of language, and create a more rational or objective form of communication.

He devise a series of tools to help formulate the language to avoid ambiguity, and misleading implications, as he thought improvements in the way that we think could help eliminate prejudices, avoid the risk of war over belief systems, etc.

Some of those tools we have already incorporated into modern thinking: the hyphen to link things that language otherwise appears to separate (body-mind, space-time); 'air quotes' around phrases, etc.  You can check out “Science & Sanity” when you have plenty of time available to you.

Bob (and Alfred K) call two-value logic ‘Aristotelian’ – which does not allow any grey areas (the Excluded Middle) or the flexibility of Fuzzy Logic.  Mr K calls his work non-aristotelian or non-A, Bob calls it Maybe Logic.

E-Prime

David Bourland developed one particular aspect of the work, by suggesting the use of English without the verb 'to be'.  Specifically, the 'is' of identity and of predication.  So many arguments take the form of flat assertions: “There is a God,” the certain of which may well elicit in someone else “There isn't”.  The sea is blue; my favourite band is the best, and so on. Such two-vale logic offers little in the way of resolution, but to say “I believe in a creator god” at least owns that it is a personal belief, not a description of “the way things are.”

It can feel awkward at first, to use E-Prime (like learning any new language), and if you find it difficult to make the above distinction (the ‘is’ of identity and predication) then you may prefer to hunt down and eliminate all uses of the verb 'to be'. However, even Bob found it difficult to speak in E-Prime continuously, so when it proves too difficult you can always let yourself off the hook, in what we call E-choice, rather than struggle with alternatives.

e.g. How old are you?   I am 25.

Note: The spook of the continuous present (I am going) is not so important, as it is a quirk of English.
Je vais (French), voy (Spanish) = I go, I am going, I do go.   The use of the verb 'to be' as an auxiliary does not create big problems, just as “I have seen...” does not have anything to do with the possessive (to have).

Occasionally replacing 'is' can feel convoluted, just as writers, feeling bored with 'he said, she said', can get carried away with 'he emphasised, she shouted, he answered, she clarified, etc.'

Many objections got raised on Bob's course.  People complained about how it made the language longer and less elegant, that it sounded clumsy, etc.  In fact, many people resisted before even attempting the exercise (often the sign of a taboo).

On a more positive note

Sometimes the verb ‘to be’ gets used on purpose, particularly in advertising and propaganda:

Guinness is good for you.

This is your brain on drugs.

You will often find it used in making flat assertions [There is a God], or affirmations.[Don't worry, be happy]

John Lilly’s Beliefs Unlimited (a self-hypnotic script) contains lots of uses of the verb, and attempts to convert it to E-Prime proved difficult for me. 

 “What is believed to be true, either is true, or becomes true, within limits to be discovered through experience and experiment.”

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true either will result in accurate predictions now, or will later fulfil any predictions (?)

"In the province of the mind there are no limits."
The province of the mind does not appear to me to have any limits.

"There are no limits."
No-one has ever found the edge.

When asked about my translation attempts, Bob replied:

For ritual I think the Milton Model works
better than the Meta Model.

In NLP, the Meta Model tries to remove deletions, distortions, generalisations, etc – to improve the accuracy of the intended communication. E-Prime would fit here, as a useful tool.  Indeed RAW invented the word 'mosbunall' (most but not all) to soften the effect of generalizations.

The Milton Model, on the other hand, deliberately employs ambiguous language, allowing people to project their own ‘content’ into the material.  You can see why advertisers might prefer that.

In the section of Bob’s book “Everything Is Under Control” (note the ‘is’ in the title) called Language as a Conspiracy, he says this:

“The present author has written two books in E-Prime and finds it does tend to clarify, to de-dogmatize, and to make prose somewhat more scientific. Attempts to write the present book [i.e. Everything Is Under Control] in E-Prime quickly proved hopelessly baroque and created unreadable prose. You need the ‘is of identity’ to describe conspiracy theories. Korzybski would say that proves that illusions, delusions, and ‘mental’ illnesses require the ‘is’ to perpetuate them. (He often said, ‘Isness is an illness’)."

Exercise

Let's just treat it as an exercise for the week, to discuss the subject of language, communication and how we model the world, employing (as best we can) E-Prime.

Consider it a simple experiment (like not using the word 'I' for a week) – to raise awareness.

The original motto for the MLA forums offers an example:  “We only have one rule in this area of cyberspace - if you can't achieve tolerance, at least attempt courtesy.”
(Not “if you can't be tolerant, at least be courteous.”)

Further reading

William S. Burroughs

The influence of Burroughs on RAW remains one of the things we never got around to in the MLA - The 23 Enigma; authoritarian control systems; conspiracy; distrust of verbal systems and a preference for hieroglyphics or pictograms (RAW ran a course on The Ideogrammic Method); alternative calendars; non-linear writing and, of course, Cut-Ups, which Bob employed to describe drug and dream states in his fiction.

In this context, Burroughs actually studied with Korzybski, and promoted not only avoiding the 'IS' OF IDENTITY, but disliked the EITHER/OR (aristotelean) construction (right or wrong, body or mind, true or false), and use of the definite article "THE" (as in 'the universe', 'the way, the truth and the light', etc).

For more on that, have a look at WSB's The Electronic Revolution; "Journey through time-space" in WSB's The Job;

Robert Anton Wilson

As proof that E-Prime does not have to end up with inelegant language, Robert Anton Wilson wrote the whole of “Quantum Psychology” using E-Prime.  I doubt most readers feel aware of anything odd in the writing.  You can find the section about E-Prime online here, and it also contains exercises you might like to practice with. http://www.rawilson.com/quantum.html

The same chapter appears here, but with links to additional reading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime  Background reading in Wikipedia, including the whole matter of Korzybski's General Semantics.

This blog offers an amusing take on why some people get so angry about E-Prime:


WEEK TWO

The evolution of an idea – the 8 Circuit Model – "the latest model, not the last"

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model, that makes the existing model obsolete.”   Bucky Fuller


RAW often called himself a 'model agnostic' – in the sense that, using mental models as tools to understand things can prove very useful, but ideally you don't mistake your mental model for 'reality'.  The map is not the territory.  The model is not the mind.

He particularly liked the 8 circuit model from Tim Leary, which both Bob and Antero Alli expanded and added to.  Antero Alli still runs courses on the subject – with lots of practical work, too.

You will find the model explicitly referred to in both RAW's fiction and non-fiction, and, once familiar with it, you will also notice implicit references to it. Fnord.

In the Illuminatus Chronicles, Sigismundo Celine is aware of the first three ‘souls’ (from Aquinas, drawing on Aristotle) – the Vegetative, the Animal and the Human.  His initiations will supposedly open up the ‘fourth soul’ (connection to the NoMind) and no further distinction gets made).

Bob wrote those books with full knowledge of the later evolutions of this model, which teases out various other levels within that psychedelic ‘fourth soul’.

In these later models, a fourth level appears within the ‘terrestrial circuits’ – related to the pack or tribe, and the price we pay to feel part of the group.  It mostly gets described as including mating and reproduction, so naturally folds back to a new life, beginning again in Circuit 1.

For individuals who get out of that endless loop, the escape takes various forms, and other levels unfold as the individual follows that path.  This higher realm gets divided (in this model) into four other systems, whose attributes vary, their names have changed, and even the sequence doesn’t seem fixed and final.

In brief, the first circuit refers to the most basic spatial dimension, approach – avoidance, just as the plant reaches for the sun, or the amoeba avoids things it does not wish to incorporate so some things appeal to us, and others repel. The second circuit relates to the mammalian aspect of space, dominance – submission, finding our place (I’d say up & down, but Bucky Fuller considered those an illusion of beings living on the surface of a planet). The third spatial dimension, we know as left and right (sometimes they mirror each other, sometimes they seem different). This circuit is linked to the human, using both sides of the brain, and relating to language (in the complex form we have uniquely evolved), and the opposable thumb – our preferred way of considering ‘intelligence’. The fourth circuit relates to time, the tribe, our links to others, and the rights and responsibilities that go with that, including reproduction.

That fourth circuit appears far more limited than the ‘fourth soul’ of the Illuminatus Chronicles.  In this later model all those higher aspects of mind get teased out into four further circuits, which not everyone necessarily discovers. Ecstatic realization of the body-mind; thinking about thinking; the genetic adventure which may not yet be over; the Quantum Field, No-Mind, etc.

History of this model

Leary appears to have originally got it from 24 images relating to a Tantric map (you can read the story in What Does WoMan Want?)    He and Bob later elaborated on what he had learned, and they spent much time correlating information from other models (astrology, tarot, kaballah, etc).

In Leary's The Game of Life the 24 get divided into 8 'sets' of 3 phases - (reception, storage/integration/analysis, and transmission of information).  Exo-Psychology continues in that mode.

Generally, later work has ignored this complexification, and concentrated on the 8 circuits.

In fact, early on, in Neurologic,  (1973) Leary only describes seven systems.

Sometimes they get called 8 circuits, 8 systems, 8 channels, 8 modes, etc (RAW's own course he called 8 Dimensions of Mind, and based it on the sequence found in Prometheus Rising) – and although the model may seem to imply a hierarchy (e.g. 4 'terrestrial' and 4 'post-terrestrial' circuits), we could consider them all functioning simultaneously (like blood circulating, the autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, digesting, walking, seeing, etc) – but with difference degrees of conscious awareness, perhaps.

This one week could never prove enough for someone new to this model, so you will find links to useful reference material here.  It might work out better to focus on the 'lower' four circuits as we all have experience of them, and can observe them – the 'higher circuits' may seem more interesting, but not everyone has necessarily experienced them all. 

Feel free to play with this material as much as you like.

Antero Alli (on his dedicated course) suggested we create a set of ‘tarot’cards to carry around – you can make them up with collage, illustrations, etc.

If you look at these PDFs of Bob's texts you may notice that the 6th and 7th circuits were reversed in “Prometheus Rising” (1983) – which contains exercises for each circuit - and yet RAW had used the more common sequence in Cosmic Trigger (1977).  By 1990, he had re-aligned with Leary and Alli in Quantum Psychology – surely an invitation to play around with this model yourself.

When asked about the anomaly (by email) Bob replied:

Leary revised this model several times.
The version in Prometheus Rising contains a few revisions
of my own.
Scientific models often need revision.
The model in this course is the latest, not the last... “

Discussion about people's perceptions of the 'higher circuits' might prove a fruitful discussion point in a thread of its own – especially as they may appear more elusive in their characteristics. 

However, if we look at the basic 4 circuits (common to virtually everyone) we may find it easier to discuss the value of them as a model to help analyse our own everyday experiences.


Suggestions and provocations:

·         Read through the 24 brief Tantric descriptions (see link above) and see how they correlate with (or have inspired) the current model
·         Browse the Winner and Loser Scripts for each circuit, see if anything sounds familiar – especially if you are familiar with NLP, or like to use positive affirmations, etc
  • Make up a set of cards to note down details picked up here and there in the research, and for jotting down your own insights.
  • “The map is not the territory”.  Korzybski argued that ‘is not’ does not have the same damaging effect as using the word ‘is’.  Does that feel right? 
  • When using maps we need several other tools – we need to know the scale; the orientation; our current position (in relation to the map); and what the map emphasises - no map contains all the data, so we need to understand the features highlighted by any particular map – using the icons in the delightfully named ‘legend’ that goes with the map.
  • In Cosmic Trigger Bob dismisses astrology, more or less, but Antero Alli shapes all his work around that map, or model.  Do you have other tools/maps/models that  you find useful?
  • 1. The map is NOT the territory
  • 2. The map does not show ALL the territory
  • 3. One can make a map of the map





Saturday, 2 August 2014

No more ephemera or procrastination

Yeah, yeah, and write with simple words (not words with four syllables).

I have gone back to this blog because I simply stopped writing that planned autobiography.

Social media sure seems a tempting way to pass the time.  You can heckle The Olympic Games or defend The World Cup.  You can boo the politicians, and despair of the war zones.  You tip-toe through the possibility of posting something stupid that draws the trolls, or goes viral. You take inane quizzes (designed by who?) about which film star you look like, or what kind of animal you resemble).

As only a small sample of the people you know on Facebook (itself a tiny sample of the possible crowd) actually see anything you post, you end up working to a crowd of 80 or whatever.  Or you can fall into self-promotion to attempt to expand your fan/friend base.

If you are Ricky Gervais or Amanda Palmer (on Twitter) you get to have conversational exchanges with millions of people - so do you speak the truth, or polish one-liners, or just throw out provocations?

As a pseudo-Buddhist I appreciate how ephemeral all phenomena can appear...

I can't do this for now.  Nothing I say about Gaza will really speed up the resolution of the problem. I become a sub-editor of opinion - either trying to provide a wide-ranging and balanced set of links, or to narrow people's focus to my own take on things.

Crazy.

So, I prefer blogs as ways of storing some of my stuff (I can never find anything again in social media, they seem totally addicted to the moment).   And I don't really care if anyone else reads it.   I like the idea that I can just use it as a diary, but that friends can peer over my shoulder if they care.

"If you write as good as you talk, nobody reads you."  Lou Reed, dealing with a heckler on Take No Prisoners - a live concert album that cracks me up - Lou doing stand-up.




I might have to go stick that on, now, although some of his fans don't like it. 

See, in a blog I can wander around, instead of sticking to some kind of thread, or train of thought.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Re:writing

I did spend the best part of a decade writing blogs, because they felt like genuine finger-exercises in writing. I also did the NaNoWriMo challenge five times, just to see if I could generate long fictional content.

The distraction of Facebook is that it becomes a conversation, so rather than capturing permanent words, it more closely resembles idly sitting around talking in a Paris cafe, rather than being back in the garret, actually writing words down.

And micro-blogging seems even less relevant - lying around, generating sound-bytes or witticisms (like Oscar Wilde before going down to his cafe).


Dudley Moore: I'm writing a book. 

Peter Cook: Really? Neither am I. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I remember before Prohibition

Back in the 'good old days' you could start the day with coffee and a cigarette. The sugar in the coffee helped get you up to speed, and the caffeine kept you going. Who knows what the cigarette contributed.

Ever since the prohibition of "really dangerous drugs" had been enforced that kind of choice is no longer available.  I mean, who wants to break the law, and risk getting a police record, over something like that?

So today I have to start with a little hit on the kif pipe, fresh chopped, tamp it into the tiny bowl, one quick draw, then turn the pipe and blow the plug of burned kif into the fireplace.

After a snack of bread and nut spread, and a sip of water, I usually get out the coca leaves, and chew them into a cud, to which I add a little blim of quinoa ash to activate them. That usually gets me through the morning in the office, or at least to mid-morning break when I might refresh my coca leaves, maybe sharing them with the boss, after a nice hot cup of guarana.

When 'the sun is over the yardarm' I often unwind with a spliff or two, although if I have the evening off I'll probably go for some hash fudge or perhaps mahjoun, while watching the footie with some mates.

I still know a couple of people who could probably score me some lager, but it's often too much hassle staying in the supply chain for illegal drugs like alcohol and tobacco (apart from the risk of arrest, and possible effects on your career prospects). I've seen what happens to people like politicians who try to look street-wise by admitting to occasionally drinking alcohol at university, and then finding the stigma gets attached to them, as though they must have damaged their long-term judgement along with their credibility.  Everyone knows students consume hash and grass - it's part of being a young adult, but it is best not to confess to the really hard drugs, like drinking booze.

I have got a bohemian aunt who has her friends around for tea and cakes, but I didn't find the caffeine and sugar rush interesting enough to take the risk, and I felt uncomfortable around druggies when not joining in.  They'd be giggling and laughing, talking nonsense and apparently having a high old time, but I felt like an outsider.

Perhaps I was a bit cowardly to just go down to the nearest cafe for a hit on the vaporiser.

Of course, on a Friday night I might have my friends around to share a pot of mushroom tea, and have a laugh, but I couldn't take the paranoia of doing illegal stuff.

Ever since sugar was shown to be addictive, with no nutritional value and unwanted side-effects, (from rotten teeth to hyperactive kids) I have tended to stick to Natural Coca-Cola, since they left out the sugar and caffeine and went back to simply using Coca leaves.

Of course, there's still quite a large sub-culture of illegal drinkers, and even tobacco smokers (many of whom insist they somehow 'go together') but the punishment for possession (and particularly for supplying) has driven that scene underground.

It's amazing to think that not that long ago people openly consumed alcohol at weddings or handed tobacco out to celebrate the birth of a child.  Men who drive at 200 miles an hour would be handed a bottle of champagne to shake up and ejaculate all over the crowd (at least they didn't drink it).

In cop shows the police would retreat to a pub to discuss a case over a few drinks; politicians would be shown sharing a quick sherry in their office, and morose policemen would sit at home alone, listening to classical music while sipping beer. It's a little bit before my time, but apparently the whole country used to toast in the New Year with alcohol!  Hard to imagine, now.

Some people want to go so far as to air-brush these images out of films and television, so as not to influence young people into thinking that drinking coffee and tea, eating sugar, smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are somehow 'cool'.

I think that's going a bit far, myself, so long as they stick to legal substances like cannabis, mushrooms, coca leaves, etc - and don't abuse them.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Missing the point

I guess I knew that trying to ignore the creative and motivated act of novel-writing and just surf on the writing energy of the crowd, while compiling an autobiography, wouldn't really work.

I have patched together some bits and pieces, and done some thinking about it all, but this hasn't proven the same kind of experience as the previous years, which were frustrating at times, often exhausting, and didn't always end up with finished work to be proud of, but every time I did experience some kind of breakthrough on certain days. A character coming to life, an unexpected plot twist that started to write itself.  Those moments made the process worthwhile.

So I feel a bit of a cheat, really, as I have not sat down every day to seek those brief revelations, but have been also cutting and pasting bits that I had already written, stuff from Scrivener, and so on.

Still, it got me back into looking at the material again, so I can't consider it an entirely wasted month.