Oliver Sacks: Bad Ass

Great profile of Oliver Sacks from The Smithsonian magazine:

It’s easy to get the wrong impression about Dr. Oliver Sacks. It certainly is if all you do is look at the author photos on the succession of brainy best-selling neurology books he’s written since Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat made him famous. Cumulatively, they give the impression of a warm, fuzzy, virtually cherubic fellow at home in comfy-couched consultation rooms. A kind of fusion of Freud and Yoda. And indeed that’s how he looked when I spoke with him recently, in his comfy-couched consultation room.

But Oliver Sacks is one of the great modern adventurers, a daring explorer of a different sort of unmapped territory than braved by Columbus or Lewis and Clark. He has gone to the limits of the physical globe, almost losing his life as darkness fell on a frozen Arctic mountainside. He’s sailed fragile craft to the remotest Pacific isles and trekked through the jungles of Oaxaca. He even lived through San Francisco in the 1960s.

But to me, the most fearless and adventuresome aspect of his long life (he’s nearing 80) has been his courageous expeditions into the darkest interiors of the human skull—his willingness to risk losing his mind to find out more about what goes on inside ours.

I have a feeling this word has not yet been applied to him, but Oliver Sacks is a genuine badass, and a reading of his new book, Hallucinations, cements that impression. He wades in and contends with the weightiest questions about the brain, its functions and its extremely scary anomalies. He is, in his search for what can be learned about the “normal” by taking it to the extreme, turning the volume up to 11, as much Dr. Hunter Thompson as Dr. Sigmund Freud: a gonzo neurologist.

Full Story: The Smithsonian: Why Oliver Sacks is One of the Great Modern Adventurers

Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation Triggers Hallucinations

You don’t need psychedelic drugs to start seeing colors and objects that aren’t really there. Just 15 minutes of near-total sensory deprivation can bring on hallucinations in many otherwise sane individuals.

Psychologists stuck 19 healthy volunteers into a sensory-deprivation room, completely devoid of light and sound, for 15 minutes. Without the normal barrage of sensory information flooding their brains, many people reported experiencing visual hallucinations, paranoia and a depressed mood.

“This is a pretty robust finding,” wrote psychiatrist Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge, who studies psychosis but was not involved in the study. “It appears that, when confronted by lack of sensory patterns in our environment, we have a natural tendency to superimpose our own patterns.”

Wired: Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation Triggers Hallucinations

Hallucinations weren’t considered madness in middle ages

Mind Hacks shares this excerpt from Hallucinations and Their Impact on Art:

What is more curious to the contemporary man is that the medieval description of insanity does not include hallucinations; and the experience of possession (passivity phenomena) is not described as occurring concurrently with or as part of a visionary state.

In Western Europe from AD 500-1500, people who heard voices or saw visions considered themselves, and were considered buy their contemporaries, to have had an actual perceptual experience of either divine or satanic inspiration. They were not considered mad and were not treated as such. Hallucinations (fantasmata) were only considered mad when combined with trickery (prestigiae).

Mind Hacks: Hallucinating sanity in the middle ages

Software simulates effects of schizophrenia

While only someone afflicted with the mental illness can know what it’s like to be at the mercy of delusions, an interactive computer technology called Virtual Hallucinations is allowing others to experience a snapshot approximation.

Link (via Post Atomic)

Discordian Music

this being 5/23 it seemed like a good day to kick back and listen to some discordian music (there’s plenty of catch-all discordian links here if you’ve yet to encounter discordian thought. or not thought. or thought that is both not & not not at the same time.)

So Madghoul’s contributions are in purple. Another friend(Lefty, aka ‘daughter of chaos’)’s comments are in salmon. (This turned out to be a bit more complex than I originally thought and I had to call in back-up)

l: so what is discordian music
l: whats one good example

w: I don’t know – anything that’s pro-discordia – like the KLF or Mr. Bungle
w: eris inspired stuff

l: skinny puppy?
l: atari teenage riot?
l: butthole surfers?

w: yeah they’re all good ones

m:What do think about throwing Skinny Puppy into the mix? They have that hard techo-industrial edge that seems Erisian inspired. I’ll leave that one up to you.

w: I’d say king missle & tism.. crash worship

l: tism for sure
l: what about uuhhh
l: you know who tism sounds like to me is ……
l: dread zepplin

What I found interesting is the first band both M & L thought of: Skinny Puppy.. Cevin Key and Nivek Ogre‘s upcoming album “The Greater Wrong of the Right” has the underground salivating.

KLF is only the tip of a discordian juggernaut that most recently has manifested as Blacksmoke, whose hard industrial sounds are a far cry from classics like “Doctorin’ the Tardis” and “3 A.M. Eternal.” As “The K Foundation” these timelords published The Manual on how to get a number one hit in England, which, although dated, makes for an interesting read. Along with Negativland, they pushed at the edges of copyright law. They also burned a million quid, and filmed it.

Alternating between rock, goth, and semi-industrial, the discordian inspired band Tapping the Vein presents a mythical epic that crawls through the skin in a subtle yet tranquilizing way, before ripping you to a new reality.

Rabbi Haywire plays let’s-have-fun-with-instruments while giving traditional musical conception the middle finger. Once compared to a harder Jack Off Jill, Haywire is more a spawn of the “anti-muzak” tradition of Throbbing Gristle. Her music disorients in a way to destroy your basic knowledge of auditory contentment.

A more refined version of discordian girl style can be found in the music of the Kidney Thieves. Their Zerospace cd was enough to give a friend of mine hallucinations while he was dosing off on our near cross-country trip last year. They recently released a recontruction/deconstruction of their first cd: Trickster.

Jack Off Jill, though now disbanded and often thought of as nothing more than angry chick rock, presented a meddley of Erisian, screw-the-norm, music with their cd Clear Hearts Grey Flowers, turning anger into flippant protestation against hierarchical society and a stagnant reality in true discordian fashion.

Going back a bit now, there’s the very strange sounds of Genesis P-orridge & Psychic TV, the discordian element coming through most clearly in works like “Towards Thee Infinite Beat” or the work he’s done with the industrial-tribal act Pigface. Another seriously tribal experience, certainly the most incredible concert I’ve personally attended, is Crash Worship.

Also check out the discordian hip-hop stylings of Noah 23 and the other releases out of plaguelanguage (and don’t miss the ginsberg sample in his track Magnesium Viper)

(As for me, I intend to spend the day downloading and listening to the 23 tracks of Latent Chaos , unless someone has another musical suggestion..)


Trip Magazine seems to have run its course in the print environment:

“There are just a few more of issue 10 left, the VERY LAST issue of Trip Magazine! Order your signed collector’s copy today! Featuring Afro Celts, The Bad Shaman, Drug Geeks, Erik Davis, and more!”

There have actually been some pretty enlightening articles posted on the web site, including a first person account of tryptamine hallucinations, so you might want to check it out.

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