Archive for April, 2012

3 New Dossiers: Process Church of the Final Judgement, Amber Case, David Cronenberg

3 New Dossiers: Process Church of the Final Judgement, Amber Case, David Cronenberg

Three new dossiers are up:

The Process Church of The Final Judgement, the 60s cult.

Amber Case, the cyborg anthropologist.

David Cronenberg, the body horror film director.

April 30, 2012 0 comments
Reproducibility Project Aims to Replicate Published Psychology Studies

Reproducibility Project Aims to Replicate Published Psychology Studies

Great news:

If you’re a psychologist, the news has to make you a little nervous—particularly if you’re a psychologist who published an article in 2008 in any of these three journals: Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, or the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Because, if you did, someone is going to check your work. A group of researchers have already begun what they’ve dubbed the Reproducibility Project, which aims to replicate every study from those three journals for that one year. The project is part of Open Science Framework, a group interested in scientific values, and its stated mission is to “estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the scientific literature.” This is a more polite way of saying “We want to see how much of what gets published turns out to be bunk.”

Chronicle of Higher Education: Is Psychology About to Come Undone?

April 29, 2012 0 comments
Male Writer Tries to Imitate Male and Female Fantasy Novel Poses

Male Writer Tries to Imitate Male and Female Fantasy Novel Poses

Jim C. Hines as Conan

Fantasy author Jim C. Hine tries posing as both male and female characters from fantasy novel covers. His conclusions:

  1. Men on book covers are indeed posed shirtless in ways that show off their musculature. However…
  2. Male poses do not generally emphasize sexuality at the expense of all other considerations.
  3. Male poses do emphasize the character’s power and strength in a way many (most?) female cover poses don’t.
  4. When posed with a woman, the man will usually be in the dominant, more powerful posture.
  5. Male poses do not generally require a visit to the chiropractor afterward.

Jim C. Hine: Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers)

Jim C. Hine: Posing Like a Man

See also:

A contortionist/martial artist says he can’t imitate that female fighting pose from comic books

Escher Girls: Redrawing Embarrassing Comic Book Women

April 28, 2012 1 comment
Old Genesis P. Orridge Interview by Phil Farber

Old Genesis P. Orridge Interview by Phil Farber

This is an old interview with Genesis P. Orridge conducted by Phil Farber and published in Paradigm Magazine in 1996. Orridge talks about hir exit from the Temple ov Psychick Youth, the purpose of TOPI/The Process/Transmedia, and more. Lots of interesting stuff in this interview, which I surely must have read when I was 15 and hanging around The Process mailing list.

On sigils as a way of cutting up behavior:

One of my ideas was that if you did magickal ritual or sigils, in a way you were cutting up your normal behavior and expectations and programming, just as Burroughs and Gysin and people had done cut-ups with language. Just as Burroughs would say you cut up a book to see what’s really there, if you cut up your own social imprinting and take yourself into other dimensional realms, do you also see what’s really there inside yourself? Do you really learn the most detailed and scarily honest version of what you really are made up of, and can you then engineer your own character and behavior pattern from inside back out to become what you wish to be?

And I would say, yes, slowly. One of the basic things is that there is a cumulative effect of anything. Any ritual done with sincere commitment and repeated with honor and sincerity over any long period of time appears to have a cumulative effect. The orgasm appears to be a very powerful portal for transferring messages to areas of the consciousness or the DNA structure, which then continue to amplify the will. These things seem to happen. There seems to be a cumulative effect of a positive relationship with synchronicity.

On the Internet:

We’re going to invade the Internet and cyberspace as far as we can. One of the theories that we’re working with is that there are four brains. DNA, if you like, is the first brain, and we call that the Nanosphere. Then the individual human brain is the Neurosphere. The group consciousness, the social or tribal brain, is the Kaosphere. Then the Internet and all the computers which are, in a sense, at the moment a whole. Literally a whole brain is being built, it’s not a metaphor for a brain, it actually is a brain. We call that the Psychosphere. What we’re really thinking about is when you plug in and go online, you’re plugging into all the brains of all the other people who’ve been there, some of those people being psychotic and paranoid, some of them being into control, and some of them being very benign. But it is not implicitly benign. Taking that further — this is just a TOPI/Process/Transmedia interpretation — we suggest that when enough people believe in something, it becomes a deity. At a certain point it can separate from its source and have an agenda of its own. It can physically or psychically manifest separate from its source, which is originally the human brain. That’s what’s going to happen with cyberspace. We’re building a god, but we’re building a god with the flaws and the gifts of everyone on the planet almost, at this rate — millions of people — with no real unified agenda and no real dialogue about what the psychic and neurological and social and economic effect really will be of that acceleration and separation of this larger brain. It will be the first all-encompassing and contrived and constructed brain so far, that we know of.

Genesis P-Orridge on Magick, Sex and Cyberspace

For more on Orridge check out our dossier.

April 27, 2012 0 comments
Vice’s Hamilton Morris Interviewed on Hallucinogenic Fish [Guest Post]

Vice’s Hamilton Morris Interviewed on Hallucinogenic Fish [Guest Post]

sarpa salpa fish

In 2006 two men cooked and ate a fish which they had caught in the Western Mediterranean. Minutes after ingesting the fish frightening visual and auditory hallucinations began to overcome them. These intense visions lasted 36 hours. The fish they had caught was a Sarpa Salpa. A species of Sea Bream which is commonly found off the coast of South Africa and Malta and can induce ichthyoallyeinotoxism, a condition also known as hallucinogenic fish poisoning.

I recently learned that Vice columnist Hamilton Morris is assembling a team to capture and analyze a live sample of Sarpa Salpa. Morris is a writer and filmmaker and expert in anything psychoactive. In his column for Vice, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, he mixes his subjective experiences with insights into pharmacology, neurology and chemistry. In one column he traveled to the Amazonian jungle to have the secretions of a “shamanic” frog burnt into his arm. In another he traveled to Haiti to be dusted with the voodoo “zombie” poison Tetrodotoxin. He is currently working on a complex research project about extremely obscure information related to psychoactive mushrooms.

I e-mailed Hamilton to find out more about his trip.

Stephen Baxendale: Do you have any theories on what causes the fish to be hallucinogenic?

Hamilton Morris: The sea is a rich source of halogens. Scientists have found a variety of marine iodo-tryptophans and chloro-tryptophans in compounds like the plakohypaphorines and some amazing sponge derived tryptamines, like 5-bromo-DMT, which has been demonstrated to have “antidepressant-like” activity in rodents and is possibly psychedelic in humans. It seems that many of the sponge derived tryptamines are of microbial origin and same is true for more complex compounds like TTX and probably the byrostatins. So I think it is likely the fish ingests some kind of a microorganism that biosynthesizes the compound, which may behave as a classical serotonergic psychedelic or may have some messier deliriant effects, based on the case reports either could be possible.

Do you plan on ingesting the fish yourself?

If I have positively identified the species as Sarpa salpa I will carefully ingest it, starting with 1µg of fish and incrementally increasing the dose.

Do you think consuming hallucinogenic fish will ever catch on as a recreational drug?

Well it was already popular in the Roman empire so it’s really a question of whether it will make a comeback.

For more information:

Wikipedia: Hallucinogenic fish poisoning

Hamilton Morris’ Vice column

Stephen Baxendale is a writer from Liverpool, England. He specializes in lowlife literature and fringe journalism

Photo by Steven Van Tendeloo / CC

April 26, 2012 8 comments
Being Weird is Great

Being Weird is Great

In case there are any younger readers out there, this is right on:

With as serious a tone as I could muster, I said “Listen to me, okay? What I’m about to say is something I want you take in and think about and really hold on to.”

He nodded. “Okay, he said.”

“This isn’t just conversation, this is important,” I said. “You listening?”

He nodded again. “I’m listening,” he replied with a look that convinced me that he was.

I took a deep breath. “Right now, you’re in high school in a small suburban town,” I started.

He nodded.

“Everyone you know looks the same and acts the same,” I explained. “They may dress differently from each other or belong to different crowds, but they’re all the same. Hipsters, brainiacs, jocks, so-called ‘geeks’ — they’re all so caught up with not being left out that they’re changing who they are to fit in with whoever it is that will accept them.

“When you show up and you’re not like that, it scares them,” I continued. “They don’t know what to do with you, because they have no idea what it’s like to think for themselves. So they try to make YOU feel like the loser, because there’s more of them doing what they’re doing than there are of you. In such a small group of small minds, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

“To them, you are weird,” I said. “But weird is good. No, screw that — weird is great! Being weird to someone just proves that you are being you, which is the most important thing you can ever be. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with them. They can’t understand what it’s like to be themselves, much less what it’s like to be you.”

He smiled a little. “You really think that?” he asked.

I laughed. “Dude, look at me!” I said. “I’m 300 pounds of ex-football player covered in cartoon and comic book tattoos, who builds websites and tours the world talking to people about his anime cel collection. Trust me, I know all about being weird.”

Joe Peacock: “That’s Why You Don’t Have Any Friends.”

This is all true. In fact, as you get older you’ll meet more people like you – maybe not exactly like you, depending on where you live and where you work, but similar people. In fact, as you get older it will start to become more difficult to keep yourself from living a bubble of people who think and act like you do.

I think Bruce Sterling’s 1991 talk at the Computer Game Developers Conference is also relevant to mutants of all ages:

Alienated punks, picking up computers, menacing society…. That’s the cliched press story, but they miss the best half. Punk into cyber is interesting, but cyber into punk is way dread. I’m into technical people who attack pop culture. I’m into techies gone dingo, techies gone rogue — not street punks picking up any glittery junk that happens to be within their reach — but disciplined people, intelligent people, people with some technical skills and some rational thought, who can break out of the arid prison that this society sets for its engineers. People who are, and I quote, “dismayed by nearly every aspect of the world situation and aware on some nightmare level that the solutions to our problems will not come from the breed of dimwitted ad-men that we know as politicians.” Thanks, Brenda!

That still smells like hope to me….

You don’t get there by acculturating. Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the muse of the odd, don’t read Shakespeare. Read Webster’s revenge plays. Don’t read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where he’s off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats. If you want to read about myth don’t read Joseph Campbell, read about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You didn’t come here from nowhere. There are reasons why you’re here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous.

April 25, 2012 1 comment
History of the N-Back Training Exercise

History of the N-Back Training Exercise

Dan Hurley wrote a lengthy New York Times piece covering the origins of the n-back training exercise, which purportedly improves fluid intelligence in those who practice it daily:

The study, by a Swedish neuroscientist named Torkel Klingberg, involved just 14 children, all with A.D.H.D. Half participated in computerized tasks designed to strengthen their working memory, while the other half played less challenging computer games. After just five weeks, Klingberg found that those who played the working-memory games fidgeted less and moved about less. More remarkable, they also scored higher on one of the single best measures of fluid intelligence, the Raven’s Progressive Matrices. Improvement in working memory, in other words, transferred to improvement on a task the children weren’t training for. [...]

When Klingberg’s study came out, both Jaeggi and Buschkuehl were doctoral candidates in cognitive psychology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Since his high-school days as a Swiss national-champion rower, Buschkuehl had been interested in the degree to which skills — physical and mental — could be trained. Intrigued by Klingberg’s suggestion that training working memory could improve fluid intelligence, he showed the paper to Jaeggi, who was studying working memory with a test known as the N-back. “At that time there was pretty much no evidence whatsoever that you can train on one particular task and get transfer to another task that was totally different,” Jaeggi says. That is, while most skills improve with practice, the improvement is generally domain-specific: you don’t get better at Sudoku by doing crosswords. And fluid intelligence was not just another skill; it was the ultimate cognitive ability underlying all mental skills, and supposedly immune from the usual benefits of practice. To find that training on a working-memory task could result in an increase in fluid intelligence would be cognitive psychology’s equivalent of discovering particles traveling faster than light.

New York Times: Can You Make Yourself Smarter?

Hurley mentions one unpublished study that has failed to replicate the n-back results, but otherwise it is still holding up in tests. However, you should always be weary of the decline effect.

But really, the biggest drawback is probably that it’s hard to get people to start or stick with the n-back. I’ve known about for years now and still haven’t done it.

April 24, 2012 0 comments
ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.

Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.

But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

ProPublica: No Forensic Background? No Problem

Remember as you read this that people are being put to death, or put in prison for decades, because of the testimony of forensic experts.

See also:

This post rounds up a lot of past coverage of Hayne and the situation in Mississippi.

Combine bad forensics with the psychology of false confessions and what do you get? A recipe for sending innocent people to prison.

April 23, 2012 0 comments
The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

Long piece from Foreign Policy about the FBI’s attempted infiltration of the “Patriot Movement” during the 90s:

Despite the fact that PATCON was set up as an intelligence-gathering operation, no evidence has emerged to date that information from the operation came into play during the bombing investigation, despite the links between some of McVeigh’s contacts and the organizations targeted.

The dilemmas of PATCON point toward current debates over the use of infiltration, particularly in cases such as the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim communities in New York, investigations predicated on the need to collect intelligence rather than build prosecutions on specific criminal activities. The value of the intelligence collected by PATCON is unclear in the final analysis. The only PATCON targets ever prosecuted were already under investigation by the Army, and none of the specific terrorist plots alleged in the FBI’s records ever came to fruition. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the worst act of right-wing violence in U.S. history was in contact with several targets of the FBI’s investigation but apparently flew under the radar.

Foreign Policy: Patriot Games

(via Innovation Patterns)

See also:

The Paranoid Center

Democracy Now guests on right wing populism and Tiller

April 22, 2012 1 comment
Quit Your Passion and Take a Boring Job

Quit Your Passion and Take a Boring Job

So many of these blogs seem to be written by people who work in their pajamas or by people with no opportunity cost to blog (they’re either financially independent already or stay-at-home parents). These are both great things, but I don’t hear much from a Joe Sixpack schlub with a 9-to-5 like me. Instead, there’s a lot of Tim Ferris-type noise about how us poor saps who go out and punch a clock are the suckers. [...]

I realized that the job I loved so much was actually destroying me. I was living an emotional roller-coaster ride every day. The stress was incredible because of the constant mood whiplash. Most importantly, I realized I had become entirely cynical of the whole public school enterprise. That’s when I knew that I had to get out. [...]

It took some painful life lessons and some hard financial times to learn that doing what you love is, in fact, absolutely not the paradigm we need to follow as individuals or a society. Instead, get out there and grab what affords you the most opportunities to be the best overall person you can be.

Get Rich Slowly: Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job

See also:

Is Getting Paid to Do What You Love All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Towards a Socially Conscientiousness Lifestyle Design Movement

April 20, 2012 0 comments