Saturday, August 23, 2014

Managing Reality with Albert Camus

Graham Greene once stated that 

"Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation."

I admire the life and work of Albert Camus, and share much of his way of thinking, which I later learned possibly relates to the similarities of our experience; his being of a 'French / Colonial Algerian background', while I came from 'British / Colonial Indian background'.

Therefore our thinking would always be from the perspective of that of an "Outsider", a "Stranger" if you will. In primary school, when we studied French, we were all given a French name [tagged onto a badge on our blazer lapels], as we had to speak in French for the duration of the lessons. It was a name similar to our own, so Philip became Philippe, Peter became Pierre and Ali became 'Albert'. Our French teacher, who was from Marseille, was a very kind woman. She explained that she thought of me as her little "Albert Camus". I didn't know who this Camus bloke was then. So for a while, 'Albert' became one of many of my nicknames or 'Cassius' [after Cassius Clay, the boxer], and a more pleasant one, than some of the other names I was called, mostly related negatively to my skin colour, which was different to the others around me.

Being a child, and 'different', is very tough, but now, in my fifties, I realize it made me understand much more about this reality, than if I fitted into the class like the rest of the sea of white faces, now faded into the sepia, that colours our memories of days now passed.

I only understood the significance of the nickname, Albert [pronounced 'Al-bear'] years later as I read Albert Camus, and grappled with the thoughts and writings of this Goalkeeper, Writer and Thinker.

I owe a debt to my French teacher for making me seek out who this Albert Camus bloke was, and flattered that she thought that the little boy who sat quietly in the back of the class alone, was her little 'Albear', a boy who didn't say much for fear of ridicule by some unpleasant members of class who enjoyed poking fun at 'the stranger' and hitting him; the boy who was different to everyone else, the boy who hid behind his books for protection; the boy who immersed himself in reading, trying to come to terms with the situation he found himself in - a stranger in a strange land.

Albert Camus' writing and thinking expanded my way of living with my deep consciousness, and therefore altered my thinking over the years.

I admire people [in my case, writers] who have the ability to alter your cognitive process, to challenge your conditioning, to make you grapple and come to terms with the fact that 'all is not as it seems', because often as children, we are conditioned into thinking in a particular way. To alter the neural pathways, one has to have read, and grappled with the concepts and ideas of those gifted with the ability to decipher what I term 'the situation', the place we find ourselves in, trapped on this rock in 'space / time'. It is thanks to those [the writers, the thinkers] who can examine 'the situation' via deep cognitive thought, and elude to it being nothing but a 'probability cloud' in a reality as random, as it is perhaps manipulated.

The manipulation and artifice around us, may not be all bad, for some people it helps manages the anxiety that this place creates, a situation held together by thought and mathematics, and managed by the ability to realize the grand absurdity of it all, and therefore to laugh in the face of the randomness, that is our lives.

Some people cannot live comfortably when confronted with their lives being either meaningless, or random, and with little or no control, for it can be interpreted only as a cloud of probability, which like a raging sea, can turn malevolent. It would be a digression too far, if I debate the lucidity of my growing belief that free will is an illusion we have created cognitively, to help comfort us, from understanding that perhaps our lives hold no purpose, or meaning when contrasted against the cosmic scale of events, which we too have turned into an illusion, we term "time" as a "flow", instead of what it now appears to be.

I'm smiling as I ponder, if you are enjoying my cut-back on posts on FB, the expressing of my views, and of my thoughts, of just another conscious observer of 'the situation' I find myself in. I say this in the manner of one who revels in the absurd. It often takes a goal-keeper to do this, as like Camus, the goal-keeper, he spends an inordinate amount of time watching, waiting, observing, and above all else thinking.

Without observation, and then the interpretation of the signals ['thinking / cognition'] there can be no reality, nor can one prepare for when the ball is fired in our direction. Reality is not solid, and it is not singular, but plural, depending on the context that you pull it from.

Is it no wonder I became an avid reader of crime / mystery fiction, because sometimes I view this reality, this 'situation' or cloud of probability, as a mystery, and due to the dark side of human nature, sometimes a crime. Though the comfort of crime / mystery fiction we get a break from the random nature of reality, and build a cocoon, a blanket, a delusion, that we have and can exert control; when the reality is we're just protecting the goal, watching and observing, thinking - for when the ball comes at us, we need to stop it hitting the netting behind us.

Here's a documentary that is as insightful as it is interesting, about the man we know of as Albert Camus, always the Outsider, the Goalkeeper observing reality from the edge of the stadium, alone and protecting the goal - The Stranger, the man with a past that was as Colonial as it was introspective.

Remember, when reality turns malevolent, relax and understand the absurdity of it all and that you are not alone, for we are all strangers clinging to the belief that we have significance in this place, because it is hard to face the thought that perhaps we have not.

I've left a few words [above] from two blokes I admire, one shares my birthday and rocked the Casaba, the other bloke [amongst others] taught me to think in an existential manner.

They both could be the same person; so did Strummer pose his image to look like Camus, or did Camus create Strummer's image by his thoughts and writings, affecting Strummer when he read them?

When I see the link between 'belief systems' and 'death', the question of 'meaning' and 'purpose' come to mind, as does the role of 'cognitive delusion' we deploy in our thinking, as well as what others have indoctrinated into us, and the media present to us a possible reality?

As the "world" continues to perplex us, due to the insanity of humanity, and the random nature of 'this place', 'this rock' we appear to inhabit, some of us understand that elements of the delusions that we are told, or believe in, are manufactured, coping mechanisms, or reasons to live, and of course reasons to die.

Both the will to live, as well as the will to die are equally valid, as is the coping mechanism we call writing and reading. I view the process of writing as the 'legitimization of thinking / cognition', and a method we have to prove we were here.

The caveman scrawled animal fat and minerals on the cave walls, to prove they existed, but also the start of distractions, depictions, illusions of reality, and 'the arts' were formed.

Reading is more interesting. I consider the act of reading as the pursuit to find out if our own thinking is aligned to the reality we perceive via our holographic consciousness, created by our cranial apparatus, the method we diffract our sensory inputs through our mood, our experiences, our prejudices and urges.

It is also useful to give us the illusion of control in a reality that is random and far from benign - a distraction.

But I could be wrong as it is difficult and takes effort to fight your programming, and discriminate all that is 'delusion' from all that is 'real', when artifice merges the two. What makes it worse is we lie to ourselves and are complicit in creating our interpretation of what we believe 'this' all is.

For some ignorance is bliss, as deep thinking and exploring the edges of your consciousness is hard work. I do a great deal of thinking while driving, as well as my bouts of solitude when I explore my mind, and my observations of 'this place'.

At the close of Planet of the Apes, Dr Zaius said to Taylor [Charlton Heston] as he headed off with his mate Nova into the Forbidden Zone "Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find"

My belief is that in the end it's all absurd, so we need to cloud our mind, our consciousness with laughter, humour, family and companionship. These are my coping mechanisms, my will to live.

So may I wish you good cheer, and remember your companionship is something I value highly, as you all make me think, for without cognition, we're just another lump of meat consuming and scratching our skins in order to prove we exist.

We all battle the thoughts that are termed "mortality salience", and these intensify as we age; because despite what the Holy Men tell you, no one knows where we came from, or where we're headed following our time trapped on this giant rock, in an insignificant corner of 'space / time'.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Weird and Cosmic World of Thomas Ligotti

I know I am a little late to the party, as many of us thanks to a prompt from Nic Pizzolatto of True Detective fame have been exploring the work of the mysterious Thomas Ligotti and other purveyors of weird / cosmic fiction. Though I had heard of Ligotti, I hadn’t  read any significant  horror fiction [apart from the usual suspects] for decades. In my youth I was an avid reader of weird fiction thanks to my love of HP Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Robert McCammon and many, many others.

My recent enthusiasm for True Detective made me go back to my early reading, as well as catch up on the weird and cosmic end of the horror genre. Of particular interest has been Ligotti’s non-fiction work THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE
If one were to compile a list of contemporary American pessimists, the list would be short, though Thomas Ligotti's name would likely be on it. To most who are familiar with his work, Ligotti is known as an author of horror fiction.

His 1986 debut Songs of a Dead Dreamer immediately set him apart from his contemporaries. Filled with dark, lyrical prose, it displayed an unabashed appreciation for the tradition of the Gothic. It was composed of short texts that were difficult to categorise, and that barely contained narrative and plot.

When it was published, Songs of a Dead Dreamer stood in direct contrast to much horror fiction of the 1980s, characterised as it was by slasher-style gore and violence, and a more brutalist approach to language. Ligotti's writing, by contrast, tended more towards an effusive, contorted prose that revealed almost nothing – though each of his pieces was steeped in a sombre, funereal mood more reminiscent of the ‘supernatural horror’ tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. All the horrors – the real horrors – remained hidden in a stark, unhuman nether region beyond all comprehension, and yet instilled directly in the flesh of the narrators or characters.

In a career that spans almost 30 years, Ligotti's work has remained committed to this tradition of supernatural horror and, given the trends, fads, and wild mood swings of the horror genre, such a commitment is an admirable anomaly. Which brings me to Ligotti's most recent book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Ligotti fans may find this book puzzling at first. For one thing, it is not a work of horror fiction; for that matter, it's not a work of fiction at all. But to call it a collection of essays or a treatise of philosophy doesn't quite do it justice either. Ligotti does comment at length on the horror genre and on a number of authors, from Anne Radcliffe and Joseph Conrad to Poe and Lovecraft. But Conspiracy is not just a writer's personal opinion of other writers. Similarly, Ligotti does spend much of the book reflecting on pessimism, reminding us of the freshness of grumpy thinkers like Arthur Schopenhauer, while also pointing to more obscure or forgotten thinkers, such as the Norwegian philosopher and Alpinist Peter Wessel Zapffe. But Ligotti's approach is much too eccentric and uncompromising to be considered academic philosophy, and as a book Conspiracy is unencumbered by reams of footnotes or jargon-heavy vocabulary. Finally, Ligotti does address a number of topical issues in Conspiracy – research in cognitive neuroscience, the natalism/anti-natalism debate, global warming and over population, transhumanism, Terror Management Therapy, the popularity of Buddhism, and the self-help boom, among others. But the aim of the book is not simply to be topical, nor to present a ‘pop’ introduction to a difficult topic.

So then, what kind of book is Conspiracy? It is first and foremost a book about pessimism; but it is also a pessimistic book. While it contains critical insights into the heights and pitfalls of pessimist thinking, it also contains stunning indictments of our many pretentions to being human: ‘As for us humans, we reek of our own sense of being something special’; ‘What is most uncanny about the self is that no one has yet been able to present the least evidence of it. Conspiracy constantly hovers around that boundary between writing about pessimism and simply writing pessimism, and nowhere is this more evident than in Ligotti's own brand of pessimism, which is at once uncompromising and absurd:

Read More from Eugene Thacker here

After a silence from publication for a decade, which he explains here, including a harrowing medical emergency, Ligotti published The Spectral Link a slim volume consisting of two stories Metaphysica Morum and The Small People [each about 50 pages in length] which I found very unsettling, almost like being in a lucid nightmare. Ligotti describes these two stories as -

As with many, if not most, of my stories, “Metaphysica Morum” is autobiography exaggerated.

The narrator of “Metaphysica Morum” harps on my euthanasia fantasy, except for him it is in connection with longstanding emotional problems having a source beyond the natural. For some people, all experiences of an intensity far surpassing that of ordinary life provoke a need for expression. Another dimension or level of reality opens up, and they begin ranting to a purpose. A few may propound visions as in the biblical Book of Revelation, horrible visions whose author must have felt an insatiable need to make believable and find credence in his readers. Some believe these visions and give them credence; others do not. Which of these postures is assumed could not possibly concern the scribbler of these visions. He has seen. That is enough. This is the state of the narrator of “Metaphysica Morum” and conveying such a state, as I’ve said in interviews and essays, is what supernatural horror fiction does better than any other kind of literature.

I’ve written things in the wake of a previous work, and I think “The Small People” was one of them. It really hit me all at once, and I barely had to think about it either structurally or thematically. “Metaphysica Morum” derived straight from my hospital episode and “The Small People” indirectly. After writing the former story, I was still in an elevated mood from my surgeries. And if I could keep writing, I thought I could keep my elevated mood alive. And only in an elevated mood can I write about the worst. Only in a good mood can I reflect upon what’s in store for me, such as the hospital episode, without fear of overwhelming my consciousness. Only in a good mood can I think about my existence or existence itself without thinking about wanting to be euthanized by anesthesia. I believe this is how it is for many people, though I can’t say how many, and if I claim it is a great many then I would be derided by those for whom this is not how it is. In any case, I think it’s safe to say that the carryover from my hospital episode was more literal in “Metaphysica Morum” than in “The Small People.”

Read More from Thomas Ligotti here

I find that I can only read Ligotti in small doses, due to some of the unsettling atmosphere his work creates in my consciousness, and though a writer of poetry, short stories and the occasional novelette, his work packs a disturbing punch. Most of his work is out of print, so it’s a little expensive collecting his earlier work, but well worth it – if you like the ‘cosmic end’ of horror genre, and also your world-view to be questioned, then Ligotti is a writer you should explore.

Recently I acquired the Ligotti collection The Nightmare Factory, a collection that showcases a vast array of some of his most disturbing fiction, opening with the truly unsettling tale ‘The Frolic’.

A WARNING – ‘The Frolic’ though far from gratuitous, is a very distressing tale that concerns child murder and is very unsettling and is the only fiction from the pen of Thomas Ligotti that has been filmed, and there is a link to view this creepy 20 minute film below.

Wonder Entertainment released a special collector’s edition of Thomas Ligotti’s short story “The Frolic” in a book that comes bundled with a DVD — a 24 minute adaptation of that story directed by Jacob Cooney. Get it soon, because this product is limited to 1000 copies, and there are signed editions available. Remarkably, this is the very first cinematic adaptation of Ligotti’s work — and I must say, it’s an excellent treatment, co-scripted by Ligotti himself, intensely directed, and well-acted.
In my Goreletter reviews, I try to shine light on (mostly independent) “print” books because I feel that other media already get plenty of press and attention. At first I didn’t want to review The Frolic here because it is a new film, but the truth is this edition is more of a multimedia “story event” than your usual DVD release. Here you’ll get a full-blown celebration of the short story in a perfect-bound paperback which features not only a “newly revised version” of “The Frolic” (which originally appeared in Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer), but also an eyebrow-raising introduction by the author, the complete screenplay for the adaptation by Ligotti and his screenwriting partner Brandon Trenz, and also enlightening interviews with everyone involved with the production of the film. Indeed, the book is everything that would normally appear on a “special features” section of an ordinary DVD, but here the printed word is so well-respected that it truly celebrates Ligotti’s mastery as a storyteller above all.
In a nutshell, the short story itself is about the chilling effect a child killer named “John Doe” has had on his prison house psychologist, David Munck. The killer, who justifies his actions by claiming he steals children away to some unearthly place so they can “frolic” together, disturbs Munck at the core, chipping away at his “objective” scientific worldview and replacing it with the supernatural. This foments into sheer terror when Doe refers to a “Colleen” during an interview — a name that sounds a lot like his own daughter’s, “Noreen,” a name Doe couldn’t possibly know. Ligotti does a masterful job of fracturing Munck’s world, from his faith in science and his career to his family relations, and much of the horror of the story comes from its inevitable, unstoppable conclusion.
Read More from Gorelets Here

This is a 2 minute trailer for The Frolic – if you wish to dip your toe into Ligotti’s dark imagination -

Though I would recommend reading the story before viewing the movie, which is available online here, but remember my warning, ‘The Frolic’ is not for the faint of heart -

And here’s a documentary detailing the making of The Frolic

And finally a reminder, it's all a flat circle folks, we hope you have a safe ride

The Death of a "Comedian"

This morning I woke to the news on BBC Radio 4 that Robin Williams passed away. A sadness rippled deeply into my consciousness.

There are many obituaries, eulogies and celebrations of this great man’s life in the print, visual and digital media – all far more eloquently written than I can pen this morning.

All I can add are the thoughts of Albert Camus from his work ‘The Myth of Sisyphus'

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. 
This is how Camus' essay collection The Myth of Sisyphus starts, when it was first published in 1942. The central essay is the eponymous portrait of the mythological figure of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was one of the wisest men on earth, extremely skilled in trickery and the founder of Corinth. After deceiving the gods, Zeus banished him into Tartarus, a prison-like waste land beneath the underworld. Here, Sisyphus endlessly rolls a rock up a hill, just to have it roll back to start anew. A Sisyphean task became synonymous with senseless work that man has to do nowadays. From the beginning on it is the very clear tone of the book, that the value of life is most important issue.
Read more from the Camus Society here
I would also add a page from Alan Moore, David Gibbons and John Higgins [from the Watchmen Graphic novel] that came into my mind as I listened to the sad news. My consciousness digested and ruminated upon the significance of the death of this remarkable comedienne, and I felt sad.

Robin Williams made many of us laugh, and ponder upon, ruminate upon the absurdity of life; and for that, his presence in our lives [and therefore his own life] held meaning.

RorschachI heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world”

Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up."

Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor... I am Pagliacci." 

Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

True Detective Obsession

This feature contains spoilers – read with caution

With only a few minor issues, I consider TRUE DETECTIVE to be a ‘picture perfect’ crime thriller; combining existential philosophy, gothic horror, and serial killers into a tale of troubled men, investigating a very troubling series of killings along Louisiana’s coast in a post-Hurricane Katrina world.

The genesis of TRUE DETECTIVE comes from literature professor and writer Nic Pizzolatto who took a big risk in life, something that must be admired. Nic wrote a novel entitled GALVESTON a few years ago. It was critically acclaimed including praise from Shutter Island’s Dennis Lehane. The problem was it didn’t sell well, and was not published in the UK, but is now available as an ebook from Little Brown for Kindle and other platforms. As a debut novel, Galveston is an excellent crime-thriller, but also very dark and a perfect antidote for those suffering from withdrawal symptoms due to the end of TRUE DETECTIVE.

Following Pizzolatto’s disappointment that his debut novel Galveston didn’t sell well, his literary agent mentioned that a colleague asked ‘can this writer, craft a screenplay?’ Pizzolatto stepped up to the plate, resigned from his academic tenure and packed his family up and headed off to Los Angeles. He managed to get a job writing screenplays for the US remake of the Danish TV thriller THE KILLING [for AMC] and speculatively worked on his own original screenplay TRUE DETECTIVE. The submitted scripts provoked a bidding war, due to the unusual nature of the narrative structure, with HBO winning out against AMC and many others.

If you’ve read GALVESTON or watched TRUE DETECTIVE you’ll realise that Pizzolatto was influenced by Vince Gilligan’s BREAKING BAD. However what makes TRUE DETECTIVE a “game changer” in terms of TV crime-fiction, is its background in the gothic, and the weird. It is far from a conventional serial killer drama, for it combines existential philosophy, and ponders upon the true nature of consciousness and reality, referencing writers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Emil Cioran, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre among others – with the cosmic horror of Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, John Langan, Simon Strantzas and especially Howard Philips Lovecraft and the curious collection of stories THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W. Chambers. During my teenage years, I was [and remain] an avid reader of the subgenre, ‘weird fiction / cosmic horror’ from writers such as Robert Bloch, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, William Hope Hodgson, Ambrose Bierce amongst many, many others.

The Wall Street Journal and I09 were the first, to realise that there was more to TRUE DETECTIVE than just a TV Cop show, as the influence of ‘cosmic horror’ was very evident -

This is a detective show, but the echoes of the bleak tradition of weird fiction don’t stop with Ligotti or Lovecraft. We learn in “True Detective” that the murder victim, Dora Lange, had said she had met a “king,” and that she kept a diary in which she mentioned “the Yellow King” and “Carcosa.” These come from Robert Chambers’ 1895 collection of weird stories, “The King in Yellow,” in which several of the stories are connected by a fictional play, about the titular ruler, which drives to insanity whoever reads it. (Chambers, likewise, took Carcosa from an Ambrose Bierce short story.) Chambers’ writing inspired Lovecraft’s work on what came to be known as the “Cthulhu Mythos.” Lovecraft even co-opted parts of Chambers’ mythology to include in his monstrous pantheon of “gods” and otherworldly locations.

I often joke that my eccentricity [and my interest in the existential nature of reality] is related to having read Robert W Chamber’s 1895 collection of weird stories [collected as THE KING IN YELLOW] as a teenager. Some of these peculiar stories reference a forbidden [and fictional] play THE KING IN YELLOW; that if read, makes the reader insane, such is the disturbing content of the narrative.

The KING IN YELLOW was a huge influence on HP Lovecraft on crafting his “Cthulhu Mythos.” Lovecraft referenced his own forbidden [and fictional] work the dreaded book “The Necronomicon”.  It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City". Among other things, the work contains an account of the ‘Old Ones’, their history, and the means for summoning them.

Apart from the weirdness, TRUE DETECTIVE features stunning visuals, an amazing title sequence [featuring the cult band HANDSOME FAMILY track ‘Far from any Road’], eclectic soundtrack, outstanding acting performances, edge of seat narrative and cinematography that takes your breath away, like the single-shot 6 minute sequence of the attack at the stash house in the “Projects” with Ginger and The Iron Crusaders that closes episode 4 – click here to view but have the Valium handy as it will shred your nerves.

Much has been written about the Rust Cohle character, played magnificently by Matthew McConaughey and his nihilism / pessimism about the human condition. It is obvious that Cohle has read, and is an advocate of Thomas Ligotti’s non-fiction philosophical work THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE.

When interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Pizzolatto stated -

I read “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race” and found it incredibly powerful writing. For me as a reader, it was less impactful as philosophy than as one writer’s ultimate confessional: an absolute horror story, where the self is the monster. In episode one [of "True Detective"] there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers. Which, of course, you got.

The philosophy Cohle promotes in the show’s earliest episodes is a kind of anti-natalist nihilism, and in that regard all cats should be unbagged: “Confessions of an Antinatalist,” “Nihil Unbound,” “In the Dust of this Planet,” “Better to Have Never Been,” and lots of Cioran were all on the reading list.

This is before I came out to Hollywood, but I knew that in my next work I would have a detective who was (or thought he was) a nihilist. I’d already been reading E.M. Cioran for years and consider him one of my all-time favorite and, oddly, most nourishing writers. As an aphorist, Cioran has no rivals other than perhaps Nietzsche, and many of his philosophies are echoed by Ligotti. But Ligotti is far more disturbing than Cioran, who is actually very funny. In exploring these philosophies, nobody I’ve read has expressed the idea of humanity as aberration more powerfully than Cioran and Ligotti.

Read the full interview with Nick Pizzalotta here

Having read Thomas Ligotti’s THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE, I found it most enlightening, but must issue a warning – it should not be read by anyone suffering from clinical depression, because it reveals much about our plight as beings with a “deep consciousness” which is a blessing as well as a curse, because from our consciousness springs what we term Mortality Salience [or ‘Terror Management’]; as well as living and being aware that the random universe we inhabit is far from benign in nature. It also examines strategies to cope with the deep consciousness we’re bestowed with.

Such is the acclaim for Nic Pizzolatto’s work that HBO have given the green light for a second season, though it will feature different characters and a different storyline. Some viewers were so wrapped up in the ‘weirdness’ that they were perturbed at what they considered a ‘routine serial-killer’ riff in the conclusion. Perhaps they expected Childress and the Tuttles to reveal themselves bestowed with tentacles and originating from an alien dimension? I however was not disappointed as Rustin Cohle’s flashbacks such as the flashing lights when he was driving, the birds making the spiral or the universe opening above Carcosa to me was enough to indicate the ‘weirdness’ or if you prefer, the residual effect of drug use when he was an undercover police operative.

I have only two minor issues with TRUE DETECTIVE, and they are minor when contrasted against the 8 hour ride, and both relate to the last episode.

[a] When Martin Hart is asking one of the black cops if he’d like the call when they uncover the killer, the black cop address Hart “..hey white man….” This piece of dialogue was jarring and totally out of context. But this is minor when compared to every other line of dialogue from Pizzolatto, so forgiven.

[b] The clue of the ‘green ears’ and the paint was a little too stretched in logic for me in tracing Childress’ abode Carcosa, but again a minor point.

Two other observations that bother some viewers [but not me] where –

[a] Not all the loose ends were wrapped up, like the influential Tuttle family seemingly getting off the hook. But hey, welcome to reality, life is rarely wrapped up neatly in a bow, and yes the rich and powerful often get away from their evil deeds, sometimes.

[b] Some people couldn't cope with the complexity of the story, the time zones, the density of the narrative, the sexual imagery, all making it hard work to watch the show. This for me was actually a major plus point. I love narratives that provoke thought, not just a mindless array of action and explosions, and narratives that make the reader / viewer work for their entertainment, gaining enlightenment on the way. 

Though Nick Pizzolatto seems to realise, that it was perhaps the weirdness in TRUE DETECTIVE that lured and obsessed many of the viewers; me included as he stated in this interview when the show closed -

I don't know where you are in working on season 2, but has any of the reaction to this season informed what you're doing with the next? 

Nic Pizzolatto: It's informed exactly one thing. It's that I realize I need to keep being strange. Don't play the next one straight.

Can you tell me anything at all about season 2? 

Nic Pizzolatto: Okay. This is really early, but I'll tell you (it's about) hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system.

Finally, you wrote this entire thing in a vacuum, as someone relatively new to television, not knowing how it was received. And the show comes on, and people go nuts about it, they are penning raves, coming up with elaborate theories about the Yellow King and Lovecraft and everything else. How did it feel to see your creation being received in all of these ways? 

Nic Pizzolatto: I felt like, look, it's all good, and I really mean that. To me, that is what it means to connect and resonate with people. It means that they are going to project onto the work. There's never been anything I didn't love that I didn't connect with on a personal level because to some degree, I projected upon it. That said, I think I've made clear that my only interest in the Chambers stuff (Robert W. Chambers wrote "The King in Yellow") is as a story that has a place in American myth. And it's a story about a story that drives people into madness. That was mainly it. Beyond that, I'm interested in the atmosphere of cosmic horror, but that's about all I have to say about weird fiction. I did feel the perception was tilted more towards weird fiction than perhaps it should have been. For instance, if someone needs a book to read along with season 1 of "
True Detective
," I would recommend the King James Old Testament. I wouldn't tell anyone to go buy Robert Chambers. It's not that great a book. Joseph Conrad and William Faulkner I think are in there far more than Chambers or Lovecraft. But again, I guess I hope that these 8 chapters, once the totality of it is evident, it might provoke a re-evaluation. But if it doesn't, I'm very happy with the reaction we've had. It couldn't have been better. I'm just surprised by it. I remember talking to you three months ago and having to convince you: "This just sounds like every other show," "I know, I know." And now my wife read a comment the other day that said I live out in the desert, and I run some kind of cult. (laughs) I don't know what I can say about that. I think this show answers everything it told you to ask. The questions it didn't tell you to ask are questions best left to one's self.

Read more here about Nic’s thoughts now that season one of TRUE DETECTIVE has run its course, burning itself into our psyche and what lies ahead in season two.

The series concluded with a wonderfully melancholic song ‘THE ANGRY RIVER’, specially commissioned for the series, which HBO released as a video, which choreographs the dark lyrics of T Bone Burnett to some startling imagery.

Though we must issue a ‘spoiler warning’ in case you haven’t seen TRUE DETECTIVE [and are waiting for the DVD release] as the video contains elements spliced from all of the 8 episodes.

THE ANGRY RIVER by “The Hat” [featuring Father John Misty & S. I. Istwa)]
Music by T Bone Burnett, Rhiannon Giddens and Gabe Witcher
Lyrics by T Bone Burnett
Produced by T Bone Burnett

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Existential Risk and our Ticking Clock

Risk Management, and awareness of 'Existential Risk' is something that interests me, and should interest everyone.

A decade ago, I read Martin Rees' [our former Astronomer Royal] book 'Our Final Century' [re-titled in the US as 'Our Final Hour'], and also Nick Bostrom's work on 'Existential Risk' and his 'Simulation Argument', as well as the 'Singularity theory' from Vernor Vinge [before the Millennium]. 

These theories, debates, axioms are actually interlinked, and my view of them is rather depressing. With thousands of scientists working in the world, Moore's Law being valid [ie Computer Technology doubles every 18 months], technologies are converging, and some of this convergence will [and have] lead to major technological innovations, some which may lead to a singularity, or a major structural change in what we "see around us", and could lead to what is 'trans-humanism', or perhaps indicate that the fabric of reality is a simulation, with past, present and future co-exiting in a flux. This also leads to another dilemma, ie have we free will? If not then all this theorising is irrelevant, as the future[s] are set as solidly as our past[s]. The reason for the plural is that it is also highly likely that our reality is one of an infinite number, if multiverse theories are to be considered valid.

The major problem to this is that we may never reach that stage ['trans-human'], due to 'existential risks'. These could be external, eg Major Meteorite collision with Earth, an Accident eg Major Viral Outbreak, or intentional cause like a Nuclear War. Thus scientific convergence will fuel the path to either [a] Trans-humanism or [b] our destruction. 

The 'simulation argument' is also related. If we are living in a simulation, it may well be positioned and programmed to observe, either [a] or [b]. So even if we are living in a simulation, there is no getting away from 'existential risk' or a 'technological singularity' that will change us radically, akin to a 'singularity'.

One such change was the discovery and exploitation of Oil / Gas at the turn of the century - ie hydrocarbons as an energy source [and in Pharma, Food, Plastic et al]. So I consider the time period we are traversing to be a fascinating one, but one also loaded with existential risks, many fueled by the convergence of technologies.

If you are old enough, you will be aware of the 'Doomsday Clock' and its implications. Let's hope that as humanity, we understand how we got to this position, and not destroy ourselves, intentionally or inadvertently. If we do enter a trans-humanist phase, let it be for the better of all of us.

It would be a monumental shame if all this development of humankind [that has got us to this point in our history] were for nought, because we couldn't understand what is at risk, a risk that is far from being purely existential.

Here's some links if you are interested in these thoughts and what they pose to humankind, today -





Monday, December 23, 2013

“I’m accustomed to a smooth ride” by Ali Karim

The title theme of this essay [or digression] comes from the lyrics of the track ‘The Obvious Child’ taken from Paul Simon’s African inspired album ‘The Rhythm of the Saints‘. Its significance will hopefully become apparent if you have the patience to read this [occasionally self-indulgent] essay to its conclusion.

The purposes of this essay?

[a] I find that writing my thoughts down helps align and organise my thinking therefore reduces the burden these thoughts place in my mind, and helps make sense of reality.

[b] Some who have the patience and interests in what a 50 year old businessman, scientist and voracious reader has learned about reality and is still learning – may find some insight, agreement, disagreement within my thought process, to provoke their own thinking, and perhaps make them smile.

[c] I think Walter White [aka Heisenberg] from Breaking Bad summed it up well at the close of the final episode – I did this for me.

I consider my eccentric nature attributable to my voracious reading, listening to music and viewing films that make me “think” and contemplate; as well as related to my childhood, growing up on the grounds of mental institutions due to my father being a psychiatrist [now retired].

Some of my observations and insight may be familiar to some of you who follow my stream of consciousness on Facebook, and also in my book reviewing. Other digressions are new thoughts committed to paper and screen, in an attempt to rationalise them into some form of context.

It’s perhaps best to read this, when you have time, and a glass of Scotch in your hand.

I’m on day 3 of an unprecedented 14 days leave over the Christmas holidays, as my business goes on a winter shutdown. I now have plenty of time to think without distractions. This year the whole family will be spending it at our home in England, and not going to Dublin which is wonderful. I spend so little time at home with the family due to the rigorous demands of business [living during the week in the East Midlands], and what with our two eldest at University – this is a real treat for everyone to be home for Christmas.

I feel my internal energy levels rise as my biological battery recharges, as I take time to explore my thoughts, and re-booting my internal operating system.

As a counterpoint I have a staggering array of books to read, both for pleasure as well as professionally for The Crime Writers Association, being involved as a literary judge. I also have a stack of DVDs to chose from and I may well do some of my own writing.

As I have aged I have reduced patience [or inclination] for ‘general / small talk’, as I have found resonance and solace with Jean-Paul Charles Sartre’s infamous saying ‘Hell is Other People’. I recall as a young student, a tutor once told me that as we traverse the educational process, depending how far we travel, the narrower will be our spectrum of interest. This statement I have found to be true. At 16, in the UK we did ‘O-levels’ for which I studied 9 subjects, then at 18 it was narrowed to 4 [actually 5] for me, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, General Studies and a year of Advanced Mathematics. Then for my Degree it was one subject – Applied Chemistry [combining Organic, Inorganic, Physical, Analytical and Industrial Chemistry]. If I had continued for an MSc or Doctorate, then it would be a tiny aspect of that one subject.

In my twenties and thirties my thinking had been tamed into one that logic and the principles of science were applied to manage my perceptions; influencing my thinking. The result of all this, created or at least shaped the way I viewed the reality that surrounded me.

Now at fifty, an honest assessment of my thinking reveals that the only real interests [and thoughts] I have; ones that I am keen to explore relate to [a] my family [b] trying to understand [and make sense of] the reality around me and how it is constructed and presented [c] reading and writing about crime and thriller novels, and their writers, editors, publishers [d] Chemistry, which is my profession and something that I am good at and [e] my friends, whom I am privileged to have many [all to greater and lesser degrees]. These shape my world view.

So for the next two weeks, without the rigors of managing a complex business in a truly fucked up economy, I am free to devote my time and mind to what I rationalise as the fundamentals that drive my personal biological operating system, ie items [a] to [e]. One issue is that I have narrowed my ‘interest-net’ due to age. I have little time for random interactions with random people, or small-talk, hence I find that the people I want to interact with, share some, many, and in a few cases, all my own thoughts, are on Facebook.

Considering that my interests are now [1] very narrow [2] the people that share some of my interests are scattered around the world and [3] none of us have much free time to interact and [4] I feel I have found my place in the world and have nothing to prove or impress anyone with, nor the requirement for receiving the acceptance or approval that a child craves from his parents or his / her peers  – hence why I have such an attraction to Facebook.

People say Facebook is a real time-suck. So? What else were you planning to do from your own pack of “interests / needs” that make your own internal / biological operating system work? I agree that FB does take up a lot of time, but without it one would never be able to keep track of what, and who we term friends.

Happiness is a curious concept for those who think about it. Happiness is not constant, it waxes and wanes like the tides pulled and pushed by the influence of the moon, ie influenced by the forces of an external source. One of the external sources that influence the shifting of our moods, and therefore our happiness is our family, another are our friends. So for those who are time constrained, with a narrow bandwidth of areas that stimulate, low tolerance for small-talk that is outside our bandwidth of interest [and with that pool of family and friends that are scattered geographically], then Facebook is one small way that can assist in the happiness area.

With two weeks off, at home with my family, my books, films, and no desire to meet people in a random manner [due to a slim chance of meeting anyone with shared interests], I’m reading books, viewing films that stoke and recharge my internal operating system, and of course I’m using FB for keeping in touch with my friends, so I don’t cognitively isolate myself. A number of my FB friends are writers [many physical friends too], and as they often work in isolation, they too use FB as a way of connecting to people with shared interests.

So without further ado, I’d like to put some of my thoughts, my examinations of reality into context like the rhythmic drum beat in Paul Simon’s ‘The Obvious Child’ so that the words ‘I’m accustomed to a smooth ride’ makes some form of sense. The act of committing them to paper or a screen, helps me dissect how my own mind works, and these are observations that have taken decades of experiencing reality to take shape. They also indicate to me how bloody clueless I was when I was younger.

Some people feel age, and all the problems that relate to age are awful. I take the converse view. It is a true privilege to age for two crucial reasons [a] many do not make it to old-age as Reality is random and dangerous, many not living into old age as a result and [b] as we age we see things in a more enlightened manner, because of all the things we’ve observed, the situations we’ve seen, read about, and thanks to the conscious mind’s ability in pattern recognition, we see the world and the traces of evidence that there maybe some form of design. It is debateable if that design is intelligent, one issue being what we define as intelligent is as complex as the reality that surrounds us.

The Line between Bravery and Stupidity is Diffuse

The business I planned in 2002 started trade on the 8th of October 2004. I took great personal risks setting up the business, and I am not being melodramatic in revealing that it nearly cost me my life, such was the financial and professional risk I took on. I have discovered that the line between bravery and stupidity is a diffuse one, and sometimes an element of stupidity is important in creating bravado, something that can assist when the walls are crumbling. It takes sheer bravery and bravado from allowing the implosion of the wall, and therefore the dream from collapsing.

Next year the business I help set-up, and manage will celebrate its tenth anniversary, with a turnover a little below £10M [~$16M]. I now only own just short of 3% of the business, but am glad as being a small shareholder in a profitable, technologically advanced, and growing business [that with my team, I manage] is far, far better than being a big shareholder in a business that is insolvent.

During the darkest days of the set-up, when my back was so close to the wall I felt the brick dust against the back of my neck - with debts mounting up, and my personal liabilities weighing me down like a ball and chain shackled to my ankles – I was in a bad way. If someone had come up to me and said they would take the company over, and release me from my debts [and most crucially] my financial liabilities – but it would cost me my right arm, I’d have replied immediately, and without pause or deliberation saying ‘thank you and pass me the fucking hack-saw’. You see I proved that Fredrich Nietzsche was correct, when he wrote that ‘the thought of suicide gets a man through a difficult night’. The emphasis is on the word – thought, I hasten to add, even if those thoughts were as vivid as the reflection of my face in the mirror.

I have often pondered over the years why I took such a huge and life-changing risk, and I have come up with these key answers.

[A] Despite outwardly stating that I did this to provide long term financial security for my family, as well as illustrating that the son of an immigrant can add benefits to his Country [Great Britain, a place I love] by contributing to the economy and employing people – the truth however was contained in what Heisenberg said when he’d finished his job ‘I did this for me’.

[B] At my age I realised that my greatest enemy is myself. When I planned the start-up, I was fully aware of the adversity and danger that was ahead of me if I were to go into business. The real issue was how would I live with myself if I chose not to take the hard path, because as I aged [and without the benefit of foresight, but coupled to a vivid imagination] I would live the rest of my days in the desolate land of the ‘what if’, knowing I was weak and did not take the chance [aka opportunity] I discovered. This would rot at my soul, because when we ‘imagine the future’, the inherent human condition is for optimism so I would have always believed [rightly] that I could carve a successful business from scribbles on the back of a pack of Marlboro, into reality. That thought could be one that would trigger my demise, and so I thought at the time ‘buckle up, it’s gonna be a rough ride’, and it sure was.

Retaining my sanity in business during the start-up, and then later when the mighty Lehman Brothers fell [starting the ensuing economic turmoil that still echoes around stock markets today], and the usual issues businessmen face in today’s fucked-up economy – is my passion for reading crime thrillers. They not only distract me from my problems, but also have over the years changed my thinking. A love detective fiction has made me adept at problem solving, thinking imaginatively and making me paranoid in identifying the problems [and solutions] cognitively, as well as gaining insight into human nature, as doing business with people is as complex as the motivations of protagonists and antagonists battling between the covers of a crime thriller.

Viewing the world as a giant fish tank

Let me tell you a story of the cod fish. At the turn of the century cod fish were in much demand on the east coast of America. News of this tasty fish spread across the country all the way to the west coast. There was however a problem. How could they get the fish across the country and still keep it fresh. They tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means at the time. When it was prepared it turn out to be very mushy and lacked flavor. Then someone decided to ship the fish live turning railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod fish arrived they were still alive but when they were prepared they were still mushy and tasteless. After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish. This time when the cod fish were put in the tanks they’d place a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast in those giant tanks. This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The catfish kept them fresh, nipping at their heels.

We all have and need catfish in our lives to keep us fresh.

It is up to you to decide who, and what are the Catfish in your own lives as you swim through the giant fish tanks we term reality or existence. At times of stress when you feel the teeth of the Catfish at your heels, it is easy to feel angry at the stress caused by them chasing you continually.

The intelligent will realize that we may not enjoy the company of the Catfish in our lives. Many times you may well consider your loved ones as one of the many irritating Catfish in your lives; our bosses, wives and husbands, our parents, our children and our friends – who make us who we are.

But to remain, agile, fresh and motivated in the areas that are truly important in our lives, like it or not, we should understand the importance of the Catfish that surround us, and what they do for us.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding it hurts."

I would like to share some thoughts which were prompted when I learned of the passing of the Anglo-Irish actor Peter O’ Toole. This dragged out a distant memory from my childhood; and one that made me think deeply, and one that changed the way I view the professional and personal problems I confront, and overcome.

As a child I watched David Lean’s 1962 film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ which featured the late Peter O’ Toole, several times. This was due to my father’s enthusiasm for this film, probably due to him always thinking he looked like its co-star Omar Sharif, and he told me that Sharif’s character was named Sherif Ali. I always thought he named me after this character, though he denies it.

I would like to share a few lines from the movie that influenced my young and developing mind. Following seeing the film for the first time, my father explained the significance of the scene when Lawrence extinguishes a match between his thumb and forefinger, without flinching. He explained like Englishman T E Lawrence who lived and worked amongst the Arabs [becoming an Arab]; I would find myself an Indian living amongst the English, and like Lawrence I would have to overcome many obstacles to become one of them. 

Sometimes there would be difficult challenges to overcome, but I would have to be stoical, embrace the adversity and not show pain, weakness but work through them and in so doing, it would make me strong. As a child I looked up to my father and so his words echoed in my mind as I tried to understand what he meant and the significance of the burning match between Lawrence’s fingers. My father was trained as a psychiatrist, now retired and as eccentric in his thinking as his eldest son, even when he was a young man.

The astute understand the axiom that doing anything worthwhile is hard, and at times painful. Some cope with the pain of change, while others don’t. The ones that succeed understand that the management of reality exists principally in the mind. The outcome of any adversity rests firmly in how we view the problem, and the wider ramifications and context of the problem and the ability to smile though the rain.

In the lead up to last years Ridley Scott film “Prometheus”, the Australian actor Guy Pearce [playing Peter Weyland] references David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in a remarkable viral video.

“T.E. Lawrence, eponymously of Arabia but very much an Englishman, favoured pinching a burning match between his fingers to put it out. When asked by his colleague William Potter to reveal his trick, how is it he effectively extinguished the flame without hurting himself whatsoever, Lawrence just smiled and said”

 "The trick, William Potter, is not minding it hurts."

As a young kid, that scene resonated in me as I realized that my Father and TE Lawrence were right, as successfully overcoming challenges often depends on this principle of “not minding that it hurts”.

Later in life as I read German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, I realised that part of his view of life was based on this concept, though he expanded upon it. Nietzsche detailed that we should embrace, even look forward to challenges and adversity as the act of overcoming them makes us stronger, which became the mantra ‘What does not kill me, makes me stronger’.

The lesson being that the ups and downs of reality [and our lives] can be managed by the mind, and we must never allow adversity to overwhelm us, instead harness it - because if it were easy, any idiot could do it.

The reality we view is Holographic and only exists when observed

I have always been interested in science and the arts and their inter-relationship, from childhood, the concepts of accepted wisdom via logic as well as the more esoteric referenced by the moods that wash over us. One concept that has always fascinated me since I first read it, is the question ‘Does a falling tree in a forest make a sound if there is no observer present?’ I grappled with this for many years always concurring with what some quote as accepted wisdom ‘of course it makes a sound’. That was the case until several years ago when I started reading about ‘The Observer Effect’, or ‘The Hawthorne Effect’, and the critical nature of what brings existence into reality. It is now accepted wisdom that reality does not exist [and can not exist] without the presence of an observer. The solution to the falling tree dilemma can be addressed by two empirical experiments, and a physically real one –

[a] Understanding the duality of the existence of matter when one observes or chooses not to observe the Cat that Schrödinger put in his box, where the cat can be either alive or dead, or both at the same time.

[b] When a tree falls in a forest, the movement of displaced air molecules, dust and objects such as foliage will make a sound if there is an observer with a tympanic membrane [ie ear] or microphone for the displaced air molecules to hit and make vibrate and record the evidence of the falling tree. Failure to have an observer [could be a human Observer, and Animal or a Microphone] with the membrane at the moment the tree falls will result in no sound as the air molecules have nothing to strike and record the evidence of the falling tree. The air molecules hitting the ground or other trees, foliage does not count as they are not observers.

[c] The duality in nature of a stream of mono-chromatic photons passing through the ‘double slit’ proves that the observer is crucial in determining the reality of there being two possible states - wave or particle; which if we go one step further into Quantum Theory, shows that fundamental particles are of a wave nature, until observed – when they become what we term particulate. This may well bridge string theory and dark matter, and why the universe appears to be composed primarily of nothingness. This is proven when we take observation of fundamental particles, or even atoms, as what we term the whizzing electrons are everywhere, circling the nucleus, until the precise moment they are observed, then they appear in one specific place, until the observation is finished – when they are everywhere again, hence the energy of the wave nature of the particle becomes a physical presence – matter at the point of observation.

So nothing can exist unless it is observed, therefore the reality you experience around you is influenced by you, so there is credence in the adage ‘you create your own reality’. This however must also be tempered by the random nature of reality also, because like the collision of sub-atomic, fundamental as well as not so fundamental particles in the macro scale – as there is entropy and disorder. In your reality, this is due to the interactions you have with other observer’s realities [the people that surround you] that you interact with.

What does this mean to me?

It means I am careful [as one can be] with the people I interact with, as their observation of reality merging in areas of my own observation can change, or modify my own worldview. Though because we have so many interactions like those whizzing electrons, there will be unplanned collisions and therefore the ground we walk upon is not truly solid or firm in places, so we have to be wary of the cracks and fissures that traverse our world view and therefore our path in life.

Experiencing reality first-hand vs. watching a film or reading a book

The world [or reality] around you is far more complex than we’ve been lead to believe or taught. One concept that perhaps is hard to accept but logic proves it to be correct is the internalised hologram that our mind constructs from the sensory data it receives from our senses [and referenced and contextualised with our past experiences, our prejudices and our moods] is what we perceive as reality. Therefore the reality we experience is influenced [and some say created] by ourselves, and so therefore there is no fundamental reality, instead of rocky solid ground, it is in fact akin to the sands of a desert, ever shifting by the wind or the tides waxing and waning by the pull of our Moon.

Studies of the brain indicate that there is little difference in experiencing reality first hand, to that of experiencing it through the lens of a film or the prose of a novel; the synapses spark in the same manner. Though I would add that the experience of reading fiction, is far more rewarding than experiencing fiction as a film, though much more effort is required to read. This is why in my opinion fewer and fewer people read, as opposed to switching on a film or TV, because with a film, part of the work the brain has to undertake is done by the film maker, the visuals and audio are presented to us, so we sit back and allow our brains then to contextualise the sounds and images with our own inner prejudices, and our own life experiences; however the downside is that the experience is rarely as profound as the act of reading a very well written and engaging novel. The reason why reading is so much harder and ultimately more rewarding is that we take the words from the page and our brains have to work hard to convert them into the holographic representation that we term a form of reality. The most imaginative have brains that can vividly create the alternative reality, and the imaginative reader can then reassemble the words into a hologram and experience it as if it were happening in front of them. This also leads to a few strands of thought that as a book reviewer I concur with. The really good books can put the reader into a trance state, hypnotise them so they continue reading and the hologram takes on the shape of a lucid dream. When in this state, we get grumpy when we have to take breaks from this type of book as the reality we have constructed via the writer can be so powerful that it becomes more interesting than what we term ‘the real world’ we experience first hand. My own experience has been that reading great novels has allowed me to escape, provided me with insights and reduced my need for holidays, for within a really good book is a holiday from myself and my own reality. And perhaps most crucially, reading allows me to experience reality from a different point-of-view or context, and challenge my own thinking.

As the brain interprets the reality we perceive first hand in the same manner as the reality we perceive second-hand by the act of watching a film or reading a novel, except that reading is harder and uses more brain energy in constructing the hologram, but again the additional effort will reward more than sitting and watching a film. Reading also keeps the mind exercised and challenged and enhances our concept of empathy to our fellow human.

When viewing reality look for signs of the Artifice

I’ve always believed that much of what we perceive as reality is at best influenced by those amongst us with wealth and power, and at worst is a construct, an artifice. If you look back through history you will see the hands of manipulation at play, and hidden by the machinations of ‘Bread and Circuses’ and the modus operandi of the magician, long sleeves, an attractive and scantily clad assistant – all to misdirect the observer. Previously I mentioned the importance [and essential nature] of the observer in making the reality into what we experience. So by extending this logical augment, we can see that the reality we perceive can be manipulated. This manipulation is all around us, and now an industry - Public Relations, Perception Management, Lobbying, or even conditioning in educating our children into conforming to an agreed value system. Those who delve beneath the surface, the veneer of reality do so at their own peril because in the words of Dr Zeus to Taylor and Nova at the conclusion of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ “If you are seeking the truth by venturing into the Forbidden Zone, I warn you, you may not like what you find.”

Clues to the ability of humans to be fooled into believing a manipulated reality are all around us from the work of Edward Bernays, through to the extreme systems of governance such as the Nazis of the Right Wing and the Communists of the Left Wing, through to the experiments carried out by Dr Stanley Milgram, the Stanford Prison Experiments and understanding the term Propaganda.

I have long since explored the various events that some term as conspiracies while other use the term conspiracy theories. Some of these events or postulated explanations of these events are clearly silly, while others much more sinister. One common theme that occurs by those shocked by some of these events, is to ridicule those who ask questions. It’s a common defence when the questions challenge a belief system or call into query the people with power and influence and when a sinister agenda is revealed.

Studies reveal -

……it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 – a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan – was indisputably true. The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11: “For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.”

In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist – a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory – accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it.

Read More from Veterans Today Here

The problem is that as we grow we are conditioned into a belief system that is constantly reinforced anything that contradicts our world view is perplexing, and our instant reaction is to ridicule, as the people with power and influence need their agendas to be forwarded [and covertly, hidden in plain sight in many cases], besides the majority would have difficulty in handling the truth.

As a counterpoint, a remarkable chilling independent Horror / SF film from Canada that was released earlier this year, and imaginatively titled The Conspiracy is worth viewing, as it also puts an interesting point about governance of the masses in a chaotic and dangerous world –

The one common method of discrediting conspiracy theories is ‘and how could so many keep such a huge secret?’, and ‘I prefer cock-up theory’ – I would retort with these comments

[a] Keeping a secret is easy when you control the media and compartmentalize the truth in levels, and have enforcers who can create accidents or threaten the families at the core. An example is ‘The Manhattan Project’ or the Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany.

[b] Life is never black vs white, as we have shades of grey, so within any conspiracy there will be cock-ups, which makes the conspiracy now a conspiracy theory, and the seams visible to those who are interested to explore beneath the veneer.

[c] There is also disinformation out there to discredit real conspiracies by tarring them with the brush of the ones planted as disinformation tools.

I am not going to discuss the conspiracies that I believe are not theories here, because there is an even more sinister possibility, and one that many of us are starting to believe in. More worrying than the man-made artifices that merge into our perceived reality, are indications that the construct[s] or artifice[s] around us may not originate from Earth.

Many of us now believe that the reality we experience is engineered, a construct or what many term a simulation. This is nothing new for people who have viewed the film ‘The Matrix’ or ‘The Thirteen Floor’ or ‘Dark City’. The work of Nick Bostrom and his simulation argument is a most interesting one that these films allude to.

Bostrom’s argument is lucidly detailed at his website and I would urge you to explore the content.

Best summed up -

ABSTRACT. This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The chilling side of the simulation argument lies in the belief of the following crucial axioms –

[a] That Humans enjoy escape and the deployment of simulations be they 3-D Films, Computer Games, Satellite Navigation Systems, training programs et al

[b] Moore’s Law is valid ie technological advancement doubles every two years, hence the march of technology is not linear but exponential and in a few years our computer games may well feature avatars who are unaware that they are trapped in a digital prison.

[c] If we wished to make a simulation of reality to study or escape to, we would lean toward the ‘highest’ end, not a ‘basic’ one like the stone age village, where life expectancy is low and medical advances limited.

This would indicate, that perhaps we would view a simulation that details the later days of mankind.

Though even more perplexing is a possibility what David Cronenberg explored in his film eXistenz, where an advanced civilisation discovers that when entering a virtual reality game that is a simulation, that within the game is another simulated reality game, and entering that one reveals that within that game / reality is yet another one, and so the rabbit hole is so deep that each time a civilisation creates a simulation, that the inhabitants of that simulation have created one of their own, and to quote Kurt Vonnegut, and so it goes.

I would also point out that many scientists are working on [and some say they have empirical proof, via measurement of cosmic rays] the theory that the universe we find ourselves in is actually a numerical / mathematical simulation. Remember that earlier I indicated that the act of the observer or the act of taking a measurement makes reality -

Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi, Martin J. Savage [9 Nov 2012]

Observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid are explored. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. Using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide, we assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. Among the observables that are considered are the muon g-2 and the current differences between determinations of alpha, but the most stringent bound on the inverse lattice spacing of the universe, b^(-1) >~ 10^(11) GeV, is derived from the high-energycut off of the cosmic ray spectrum. The numerical simulation scenario could reveal itself in the distributions of the highest energy cosmic rays exhibiting a degree of rotational symmetry breaking that reflects the structure of the underlying lattice.

Others believe that our observable universe actually exists as a holographic projection from what we term an Event Horizon, the point of no return that edges a singularity, such as a black hole.

BBC Horizon featured a most interesting program exploring the nature of reality, which is accessible for those without a scientific background, and is accessible here, and highly recommended. Though in an earlier documentary [entitled Time-Trip] from the BBC, scientists postulated how a Time Machine could be built. This is truly a fascinating documentary very accessible and archived here. The chilling conclusion in a roundtable debate, features a very startling conclusion - rather than humans building a time machine, we had Nick Bostrom indicating [with agreement from his fellow scientists] that it is much more probable that we would build a simulation, and travel to recreate a time period. I would concur with this, as depressing as it appears, time is not real, but an illusion we’ve created to measure events as they unfold, and that time is not a constant, and does not flow [as in conventional belief] like a river, but exists as ‘the moment’. This theory has its opposition but many have difficulty seeing how time fits in with both classical and quantum physics, as it actually is not required for the functioning of the mathematics that binds reality.

However our former Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees of Ludlow offers a sobering thought. Rees when presenting the 2010 Reith Lectures indicates that we may never fully realise the nature of the reality we are experiencing due to our own cognitive limitations –

Some of the greatest mysteries of the universe may never be resolved because they are beyond human comprehension, according to Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society.

Rees suggests that the inherent intellectual limitations of humanity mean we may never resolve questions such as the existence of parallel universes, the cause of the big bang, or the nature of our own consciousness.

He even compares humanity to fish, which swim through the oceans without any idea of the properties of the water in which they spend their lives.

“Just as a fish may be barely aware of the medium in which it lives and swims, so the microstructure of empty space could be far too complex for unaided human brains.”

Rees’s thesis could prove highly provocative to other scientists, especially those who have devoted their careers to understanding such mysteries.

And so finally, many of these thoughts to me seem to relate to our Moon, and for the reasons why? Let’s consider the ridiculous concept -

The Moon is Artificial

So all these ideas in my mind have a link to our moon, and like scientists before who postulated that the world was a sphere and not flat [which was at the time the considered wisdom] were subject to ridicule. At my stage in life I do not worry about ridicule in my belief that the moon is artificial. My fascination with the moon started [like many] watching the Apollo landings as a child, [and we won’t debate the veracity of these alleged manned landings or the significance of the Van Allen Belts here] - and most recently reading Who Built The Moon by Christopher Knight and Alan Butler. The first two thirds are very compelling and strongly researched, however I am at odds with the last third, mainly their conclusion as to who built it. I conclude that the moon is artificial but can not allude as to who or what built the damned thing or placed it in our orbit.

What many don’t realise is that without the Moon life on Earth could not have evolved, as the Moon control the oceans, tidal flows that oxygenate the ocean, allow the amino acids to combine and recombine into DNA. No Moon would result in stagnant oceans and no life on Earth. What perplexes me is its unbelievably amazing orbit keeping Earth in the Goldilocks Zone, the low surface heat capacity, the abundance of refractory metals such as Titanium, Chromium, Vanadium etc, high levels of Nuclear Fusible Helium-3 isotope, the massive diameter but very shallow craters, the Moon is older than the Earth, the Moon’s density is many times lower than the Earth, and potentially hollow - I could go on, the anomalous nature and origin of our Moon is not understood, though the abundance of He-3 and refractory metals have got the Chinese sending robotic missions, with the Indians not far behind.

Michael Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov of Soviet Academy of Sciences published an article entitled "Is the Moon the Creation of Alien Intelligence?" which I have copied below, and should provoke interest, as it is as valid today as it was in the 1970s


by Mikhail Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov

Although people long ago began to wonder whether the "canals" on Mars were the creation of cosmic engineers, for some odd reason it has not occurred to look with the same eyes upon the peculiarities of the lunar landscape much closer at hand. And all the arguments about the possibilities of intelligent life existing on other celestial bodies have been confined to the idea that other civilisations must necessarily live on the surface of a planet, and that the interior as a habitat is out of the question.

Abandoning the traditional paths of "common sense", we have plunged into what may at first sight seem to be unbridled and irresponsible fantasy. But the more minutely we go into all the information gathered by man about the Moon, the more we are convinced that there is not a single fact to rule out our supposition. Not only that, but many things so far considered to be lunar enigmas are explainable in the light of this new hypothesis.


The origin of the Moon is one of the most complicated problems of cosmogony. So far there have been basically three hypotheses under discussion.

HYPOTHESIS I. The Moon was once a part of the Earth and broke away from it.

This has now been refuted by the evidence.

HYPOTHESIS II. The Moon was formed independently from the same cloud of dust and gas as the Earth, and immediately became the Earth's natural satellite.

But then why is there such a big difference between the specific gravity of the Moon (3.33 grammes per cubic centimetre) and that of the Earth (5.5 gr.)? Furthermore, according to the latest information (analysis of samples brought back by the U.S. Apollo astronauts) lunar rock is not of the same composition as the Earth's.

HYPOTHESIS III. The Moon came into being separately, and, moreover, far from the Earth (perhaps even outside the Solar system). This would mean that the moon would not have to be fashioned from the same "clay" as our own planet. Sailing through the Universe, the Moon came into Earth's proximity, and by a complex interplay of forces of gravity was brought within a geocentric orbit, very close to circular. But a catch of this kind is virtually impossible.

In fact, scientists studying the origin of the Universe today have no acceptable theory to explain how the Earth-Moon system came into being.

The Moon is an artificial Earth satellite put into orbit around the Earth by some intelligent beings unknown to ourselves.

We refuse to engage in speculation about who exactly staged this unique experiment, which only a highly developed civilisation was capable of.


If you are going to launch an artificial sputnik, then it is advisable to make it hollow. At the same time it would be naive to imagine that anyone capable of such a tremendous space project would be satisfied simply with some kind of giant empty trunk hurled into a near-Earth trajectory.

It is more likely that what we have here is a very ancient spaceship, the interior of which was filled with fuel for the engines, materials and appliances for repair work, navigation, instruments, observation equipment and all manner of machinery... in other words, everything necessary to enable this "caravelle of the Universe" to serve as a kind of Noah's Ark of intelligence, perhaps even as the home of a whole civilisation envisaging a prolonged (thousands of millions of years) existence and long wanderings through space (thousands of millions of miles).

Naturally, the hull of such a spaceship must be super-tough in order to stand up to the blows of meteorites and sharp fluctuations between extreme heat and extreme cold. Probably the shell is a double-layered affair--the basis a dense armouring of about 20 miles in thickness, and outside it some kind of more loosely packed covering (a thinner layer--averaging about three miles).
In certain areas--where the lunar "seas" and "craters" are, the upper layer is quite thin, in some cases, non-existent.

Since the Moon's diameter is 2,162 miles, then looked at from our point of view it is a thin-walled sphere. And, understandably, not an empty one. There could be all kinds of materials and equipment on its inner surface.

But the greatest proportion of the lunar mass is concentrated in the central part of the sphere, in its core, which has a diameter of 2,062 miles.

Thus the distance between the kernel and the shell of this nut is in the region of 30 miles. This space was doubtless filled with gases required for breathing, and for technological and other purposes.

With such an internal structure the Moon could have an average specific gravity of 3.3 grammes per cubic centimetre, which differs considerably from that of Earth (5.5 grammes per cubic centimetre).


The most numerous and interesting of the formations on the lunar surface are the craters. In diameter they vary considerably. Some are less that a yard across, while others are more than 120 miles (the biggest has a diameter of 148 miles). How does the Moon come to be so pockmarked?

There are two hypothesis--volcanic and meteoric. Most scientists vote for the latter.

Kirill Stanyukovich, a Soviet physicist, has written a whole series of works since 1937 in which he expounds the idea that the craters are the result of bombardment of the Moon for millions of years. And he really means bombardment, for even the smallest celestial body, when it is involved in one of those fastest head-on collisions so common in the cosmos behaves itself like a warhead charged with dynamite, or even an atomic warhead at times. Instant combustion takes place on impact, turning it into a dense cloud of incandescent gas, into plasma, and there is a very definite explosion.

According to Professor Stanykovich, a "missile" of a sizable character (say 6 miles in diameter) must, on collision with the Moon, penetrate to a depth equal to 4 or 5 times its own diameter (24-30 miles).

The surprising thing is that however big the meteorites may have been which have fallen on the Moon (some have been more than 60 miles in diameter), and however fast they must have been travelling (in some cases the combined speed was as much as 38 miles per second), the craters they have left behind are for some odd reason all about the same depth, 1.2-2 miles, although they vary tremendously in diameter.

Take that 148-mile diameter crater. In area it outdoes Hiroshima hundreds of times over. What a powerful explosion it must have been to send millions of tons of lunar rock fountaining over tens of miles! On the face of it, one would expect to find a very deep crater here, but nothing of the sort: there is three miles at the most between top and bottom levels, and one third of that is accounted for by the wall of rock thrown up around the crater like a toothed crown.

For such a big hole, it is too shallow. Furthermore, the bottom of the crater is convex, following the curve of the lunar surface. If you were to stand in the middle of the crater you would not even be able to see the soaring edge-- it would be beyond the horizon. A hollow that is more like a hill is a rather strange affair, perhaps.

Not really, if one assumes that when the meteorite strikes the outer covering of the moon, this plays the role of a buffer and the foreign body finds itself up against an impenetrable spherical barrier. Only slightly denting the 20-mile layer of armour plating, the explosion flings bits of its "coating" far and wide.

Bearing in mind that the Moon's defence coating is, according to our calculations, 2.5 miles thick, one sees that this is approximately the maximum depth of the craters.


Now let us consider the chemical peculiarities of the lunar rock. Upon analysis, American scientists have found chromium, titanium and zirconium in it. These are all metals with refractory, mechanically strong and anti-corrosive properties. A combination of them all would have envitable resistance to heat and the ability to stand up to means of aggression, and could be used on Earth for linings for electrical furnaces.

If a material had to be devised to protect a giant artificial satellite from the unfavourable effects of temperature, from cosmic radiation and meteorite bombardment, the experts would probably have hit on precisely these metals. In that case it is not clear why lunar rock is such an extraordinarily poor heat conductor--a factor which so amazed the astronauts? Wasn't that what the designers of the super-sputnik of the Earth were after?

From the engineers point of view, this spaceship of ages long past which we call the Moon is superbly constructed. There may be a good reason for its extreme longevity. It is even possible that it predates our own planet. At any rate, some pieces of lunar rock have proved older than the oldest on Earth, although it is true, this applies to the age of the materials and not of the structure for which they were used. And from the number of craters on its surface, the Moon itself is no chicken.

It is, of course, difficult to say when it began to shine in the sky above the Earth, but on the basis of some preliminary estimates one might hazard a guess that it was around two thousand million years ago.

We do not, of course, imagine that the moon is still inhabited, and probably many of its automatic devices have stopped working, too. The stabilisers have ceased functioning and the poles have shifted. Even though the moon keeps that same side turned towards us, for some time it has been unsteady on its own axis, on occasion showing us part of its reverse side which were once invisible to observers on the Earth--for example, the Selenites themselves if they made expeditions here.

Time has taken its toll. Both body and rigging have disintegrated to some extent; some seams on the inner shell evidently diverged. We assume that the long (up to 940 miles) chains of small craters formerly ascribed to volcanic activity were brought about by eruptions of gas through cracks appearing in the armour plating as a result of accidents.

No doubt one of the most splendid features of the lunarscape--a straight "wall" nearly 500 yards high and over 60 miles long--formed as a result of one of the armour plates bending under the impact of celestial torpedoes and raising one of its straight, even edges.

The Moon's population presumably took the necessary steps to remedy the effects of meteorite bombardment, for example, patching up rents in the outer shield covering the inner shell. For such purposes a substance from the lunar core was probably used, a kind a cement being made from it. After processing this would be piped to the surface sites where it was required.

Not long ago astronomers discovered variations in the gravitational fields near the large "seas". We believe the reason to be this: the Moon's dry seas are in fact areas from which the protective coating was torn from the armour cladding. To make good the damage to these vast tracts, the installation producing the repair substance would have had to be brought immediately beneath the site so that it could flood the area with "cement". The resulting flat stretches are what look like seas to the terrestrial observer.

The stocks of materials and machinery for doing this are no doubt still where they were, and are sufficiently massive to give rise to these gravitational anomalies.

What is the Moon today? Is it a colossal necropolis, a "city of the dead," where some form of life became extinct? Is it a kind cosmic Flying Dutchman?

A craft abandoned by its crew and controlled automatically? We do not know and we shall not try to guess.


So may the Existentialist Man wish you, your families and friends a very good Christmas [or what ever winter festival you celebrate], and now that the winter solstice has passed, an excellent 2014. For those with challenges ahead, may you gain strength upon overcoming them as Fredrich Nietzsche indicated when he said ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

And when it comes to your thinking, and the ability to look beyond your programming, you may have to decide whether you are going to take the red or blue pill.

It may depend on what Paul Simon sang indicating that your preference may impinge on if you are accustomed to a smooth ride, because some of these thoughts will give you bumps, but who said reality would be easy?

I'm accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost it's bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep through the night
Some people say a lie's a lie's a lie
But I say why
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?


I'm accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost it's bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep through the night
Some people say a lie's a lie's a lie
But I say why
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

And in remembering a road sign
I am remembering a girl when I was young
And we said these songs are true
These days are ours
These tears are free
And hey
The cross is in the ballpark
The cross is in the ballpark

We had a lot of fun
We had a lot of money
We had a little son and we thought we'd call him sonny
Sonny gets married and moves away
Sonny has a baby and bills to pay
Sonny gets sunnier
Day by day by day by day

I've been waking up at sunrise
I've been following the light across my room
I watch the night receive the room of my day
Some people say the sky is just the sky
But I say
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

Sonny sits by his window and thinks to himself
How it's strange that some rooms are like cages
Sonny's yearbook from high school
Is down from the shelf
And he idly thumbs through the pages
Some have died
Some have fled from themselves
Or struggled from here to get there
Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls
Runs his hand through his thinning brown hair

Well I'm accustomed to a smoother ride
Maybe I'm a dog that's lost his bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep the night
Some people say a lie is just a lie
But I say the cross is in the ballpark
Why deny the obvious child?