September 13, 2018

The Need to Challenge Power





The Harvey Weinstein revelations shown a light on one of Hollywood’s dirty “open secrets” and kicked off a huge barrage of allegations against other stars. The ripples continued far beyond Hollywood to reveal a whole array of predators in business, politics, and in between.

The wary chalked the initial onslaught up to false allegations made by grudge holders and opportunists, even though allegations made through official channels are held to a very high standard making false allegations both exceedingly rare and very harshly punished, very harshly punished. But unless there is something seriously wrong with you, the sheer number of people affected is disturbing and upsetting.

In the aftermath, our conversation has been all about men and masculinity. And I get it. I do. What the #metoo movement has done well is show us how many women have been victimized in some form by men. If you spend any time at all on social media and have women in your friends list, especially women under a certain age, you can’t help but see how many of them are angry, afraid, and distrustful of men. And that needs to be addressed by everyone, including men.

But the conversation I’m not seeing is the conversation about power — and that is the conversation we need to have because that’s the only way to stop the Weinsteins of the world.

We need to talk about power because we’ve allowed ourselves to suffocate under a system of unfettered and unchecked power that has not only produced unprecedented inequality and suffering, but also created an entire class of people who believe they can do whatever they want to whomever they want. Our entire culture now so obsesses over and venerates these figures that as a whole, we’ve traded the future of our society for the false promise of someday sitting at the fancy table. Not to mention voting one into the office of president.

We need to talk about power because Harvey Weinstein knew he could get away with his crimes, he got away with his crimes, and he kept getting away with crimes because he had the power to get away with his crimes. The thing no one seems to have paid attention to is that Weinstein’s crimes were an: “open secret.” Seriously stop and think about that–OPEN SECRET. Consider exactly what that means–OPEN SECRET. Not an open secret among men, but an open secret amongst everyone in Hollywood. That means men, women, straight, gay, black, white, Asian, Latino, pick a type of person it doesn’t matter what you pick because everyone knew what was happening and no one fucking did anything and that's a failing of our society.

And why didn't anyone do anything? Power.

Weinstein pressured, harassed, and assaulted women because women were his thing and that was how he exercised his unchecked power. It could have just as easily been kids (like Jerry Sandusky or ex-Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert). Or men (See Kevin Spacey). Or drugs. Or violence. Or hunting endangered animals (pick any number of rich, privileged assholes). Or humiliation. Or any number of other terrible and degrading things.

Part of this has to do with the very nature of capitalism. Forget whatever narrative you're telling yourself now about crony capitalism or whatever you want to call it, there is only capitalism and this is exactly how it function. It creates an extremely unequal relationship between persons, puts profits over people, and breeds suffering. This is doubly true of late capitalism when corporations have taken over the government like a parasite in order to cannibalizing our entire social safety net. 

And it is a system that let’s predators thrive. It’s easier to prey upon another person if the predator can identify them as something lesser or there is something already one-sided about the relationship that gives a disproportionate amount of control to one party over the other. It’s why serial killers choose the victims they chose. Capitalism needs this power dynamic in order to function. This innate inequality found under capitalism becomes even greater when you dominate the industry your entire city runs on.

Make no mistake, one of the chief reasons why Weinstein’s depravity finally saw the light of day is because his stock fell and he stopped being the Guy.

It is for this exact reason that we saw the flood of accusations that followed — if accusations are finally sticking to the big dog…And this is why you need to understand that if Weinstein were still making the big deals and rolling out the hits, he’d still be assaulting women and no one would be doing anything. (Look how quickly all the allegations against Bryan Singer and Joss Whedon vanished.)

This inequality gets notched up again when the different systems of power bleed together and the checks on that power are stripped away. This is why a head of an industry can freely dominate his company, his town, local politics, federal politics, and international events. It’s why no one blinks anymore when a business CEO who was appointed to a governmental position to regulate and police their own industry, leaves their appointment to return to the very industry they stripped of oversight. It’s why you see journalists who socializing freely with the very people they’re supposed to be objectively covering. It’s why journalists don’t even recuse themselves when their spouse works for the people they’re supposed to be covering. It’s why NBC tried its damnest to bury the Weinstein story. And it’s why Weinstein got away with being a monster for as long as he did.

Over two hundred and forty years ago we fought a war based on the radical notion that we do not need kings or nobles, and now we’ve allowed a new noble class to arise. We’ve allowed immense wealth, power, and, in many cases, political offices to pass along family lines. And we shower these people with adoration as if it was their own hard work that got them born to the right family, all mostly for the hollow promise that someday we may have some immense success of our own, built on the backs of our brothers and sisters. And this is a class that looks out for each other — not you, not me, not us but each other. Weinstein donated big money to the Democrats. You think they were clueless as to the nature of their benefactor? This was an open secret, remember?

Let’s stop for a moment and consider why people don’t do bad things? At the most basic level, there’s the internal, right? I’m talking about that combination of a person’s conscience and the nature/nurture cocktail which produces someone who actively considers right and wrong, considers other people, and whose behavior is naturally checked by feelings of guilt/remorse.

The next level is all consequence. And it’s a big level because not only are there people who have no conscience at all, but, as human beings, we have the ability to rationalize and justify anything. But it is this fear of consequence that keeps a lot of people in check. The consequence can come from a higher power, parents, friends, society, law enforcement, losing some kind of standing, or be purely monetary. In most causes, for most people, it’s some combination of those working together.

But for this class we’ve allowed to arise, there is no consequence from anyone or anywhere. And without consequence these people do whatever they want.

Harvey Weinstein harassed, groped, demeaned, and assaulted women for years and no one did anything because he made the studio gob tons of money, he was in charge of a machine that bestowed money, power, and fame. We cannot use the very structures that allow monsters with no conscience to hold power to reign those monsters in. You cannot use the structures who by their very existence kept these men in positions where they answered to no one and faced no consequences to prevent them from exercising their worst desires. So capitalism will not stop this. The magic angels of the free market will not stop this. Capitalism functions on profit. Profit over people. Profit over morals. Profit over happiness.

You see this time and time again. When a corporation does actually fire one of their long-time predators, the firing comes only out of corporate self interest and only when the cost of keeping that asshole outweighs the amount of profit the monster generates for the company. This is why Bill O’Reilly was able to remain at Fox so long despite the company shelling out millions a year to buy off his victim’s silence.

Have you read the horror stories of the people who worked for Weinstein? If not, you should. Because Weinstein did not make any of this happen on his own. He wasn’t the monster born in our popular consciousness and gritty entertainment, lurking in the bushes, stalking women quietly, and planning a blitzkrieg attack. He wore a suit and worked in a office and had power lunches and forced his assistants to make hotel reservations for his sexual assaults.

One of the seldom talked about reasons there is such push from on-high to keep wages stagnant, health care virtually unaffordable, and college something you’ll be paying off for the rest of your life isn’t because any of those things are unworkable or destroy the economy–it’s because those things keep you quiet, they keep you compliant. They keep you working at a job that treats you like shit. They keep you working for a boss who’s an outright monster. And they're part of a culture that tells you to keep you mouth shut and be thankful you have a job.

If you and I are on equal footing, then there is reason for us to work out our conflicts in ways that benefit us both. Not so in capitalism. The history of the labor in the United States is often downplayed or outright forgotten -- especially as it concerns women. But every right you have as a worker, someone fought for, someone bled for, and someone died for–including the right not to be abused, groped, or assaulted. Those were not given to you out of the kindness of the boss’s heart. They were not brought about by a liberal sprinkling of free market fairy dust. Those were not won by a hastag or a seminar on how to improve administrative practices.

Everyone in Hollywood failed these women but none moreso than SAG-AFTRAOne of the main causes that drew women to labor unions, and even saw the creation of women only labor unions (like the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in the 1840s), was to make known and specifically enforce a woman’s right to work without being harassed, groped, or assaulted by her supervisor or coworkers. But because of the system we have in place, because of the power we've allowed to be removed from the hands of the people, because of our blind adoration for the wealthy and our corporate paymasters, the monsters do whatever they want.

So, yes, we do need to be talking about masculinity. But the real conversation should be about power, because the only way for us to not fail more women, more children, and more men is to challenge power.


* Originally appeared at Disinformation.com

September 11, 2018

The Soviet Who Saved The World




56 years ago on October 27, 1962, at the tail end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov prevented nuclear war….

But let’s do a bit of lead-up first because when you understand how we got there, you understand how we got here…

World War I is the breaking point for the long-suffering Russian people. In February and November of 1917, a pair of revolutions removes the Tsar from power and leaves the Bolsheviks in charge of the country. Under Lenin, Russia signs the treaty of Brest-Litovsk to pull out of WWI and then works on setting up a federal government with the aim of reorganizing the empire into a social democracy.

This kicks off the Russian Civil War. On one side is the Red Army (the Bolsheviks), on the other is the White Army (mostly pro-monarchy, pro-capitalist, and supported by an Allied military force that includes troops and munitions from the UK, the US, China, France, and Italy). Caught between the two are the Green Armies (peasants who were tired of being everyone’s victim).

Meanwhile, other parts of the former Russian Empire (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) break away, form their own sovereign states, and engage in their own internal conflicts.

When the Russian Civil War eventually grinds to a halt, the country is devastated. Millions are dead from purges, fighting, and starvation caused by widespread famine. The economy is crippled. Lenin is near death and Stalin has taken power.

Stalin begins a program of forced, rapid industrialization to kickstart the economy and muscle the backward country into the 20th Century. He reverses the “World Communism" doctrine Lenin and Trotsky supported (for communism to succeed you need global revolution, otherwise capitalist forces will crush you) to institute his socialism-in-one country policy, and then keeps his head down until WWII.

Obviously, this does not sit well with the capitalist interests in the West...

Push forward to WWII. The United States and the Soviet Union emerge from World War II as two dominant but ideologically-opposed superpowers. Harry S. Truman gives us the first of many budgets dominated by massive military spending, all to maintain our prestige on the world stage and “protect" the Western powers from the global threat of Communism.

In 1947, Truman signs the National Security Act into law and creates the CIA. The agency is flush with cash, given virtually free reign, and tasked to begun the culture war that still influences your perception about actual leftwing believes and policies. Over the following years, the agency engages in everything from mind control experiments, to deposing foreign governments, (see Guatemala in 1954, Haiti in 1959, Brasil in 1964, Uruguay in 1969, Bolivia in 1971, Chile in 1973, Argentina in 1976, El Salvador in 1980, Panamá in 1989, and Peru in 1990), to influencing public opinion on art, and pretty much every other dumbshit idea they could fund -- all while not caring about mass murder as long as it’s the enemy being killed

Japan controls the Korean Peninsula from 1910 until the last days of WWII. The Soviet Union, per their agreement with the US, declares war against Japan in ‘45. Their forces liberate Korea north of the 38th parallel, while US forces liberate south of the parallel. This results in two separate governments, each believing they are the legitimate government and each supported by foreign superpowers.

This blows up in 1950 when North Korea invades the South, kicking off a conflict between the two halves that quickly brings international intervention: the US and a coalition of UN forces side with South Korea, the Soviet Union and Communist China ally with the North. The brutal conflict lasts for three years before ending in a bitter stalemate. It also has another effect -- reframing the Vietnamese battle against French colonial forces into a Cold War struggle that eventually pulls the US into the Vietnam War.

As the Korean War is ending, the Cuban revolution is getting started. This conflict lasts from 1953 through 1959. As soon as Cuba falls, the United States is determined to oust Castro and his communists from power. America is against communist and its spread, so the thought of a communist country that close to a national border is inconceivable.

So, near the end of his presidency, Eisenhower has the CIA draft a plan to oust Castro. When Kennedy later signs off on it, the CIA recruits, trains, and sponsors a group of Cuban exiles named Brigade 2506.

On April 17, 1961, Brigade 2506 invades Cuba. They fail spectacularly. Once it’s clear to the world that this is a US-backed operation, Castro takes personal command of Cuban Forces, Kennedy buckles and changes his mind about air support, and Brigade 2506 is completely routed in barely 3 days.

But the United States isn’t done with Cuba and Castro knows it. In 1975, the Church Commission substantiates 8 assassination attempts on Fidel Castro occurring between 1960-1965. Fabian Escalante, the man responsible for protecting Fidel, estimates the total attempts and schemes–from Eisenhower through Clinton–at 638. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel asks Cuba’s trade partner the Soviet Union to place nuclear missiles on the island to deter future invasion plans.

Krushchev agrees to Castro’s request only after the US places Jupiter ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy. At this time the Soviet Union lacks rocketry capable of carrying a nuclear warhead from their territory to the US. Placing missiles in Cuba means the Soviets won’t have to rely on submarines and bombers to deliver a strike in the event of nuclear war.

Krushchev greenlights the Operation: Andyr to place missiles, bombers, and mechanized infantry on Cuba.

The mission doesn’t remain secret for long. The US has flown U-2 spy planes over Cuba since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and quickly detects the Soviets. Washington calls an emergency meeting. The Joint Chiefs want nothing short of a full-scale invasion of the island, Kennedy doesn’t, and they argue over several alternate options before agreeing on a naval blockade of the island. And the world holds its breath for next two weeks…

On October 27, while Kennedy and Khrushchev work to reach an agreement two things happen: a U-2 spy plane flown by Rudolf Anderson is shot down over Cuba, and the USS Beale spots an unidentified submarine.

When the Navy ship begins dropping practice depth charges as warning to encourage the sub to surface, Captain Valentin Savitsky is convinced World War III has started. His sub has been dispatched as part of a flotilla to protect Soviet transports to Cuba. One of the Beale's blasts knocked the air conditioning out, sending temperatures over 100 degrees.

Ten more US ships quickly join the Beale.

Panicking since his sub has received no contact from Moscow for days. Savitsky believes a first strike is called for. He orders the ten kiloton nuclear torpedo (in terms of power, just shy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) to be readied and aimed at the USS Randolf, the carrier leading US forces. The protocol for firing that weapon requires the Captain and the Political Officer to both agree.

And they do.

However, thankfully, in this one particular instance Vasili Arkhipov gets a vote.

Arkhiprov is described as modest, soft-spoken, and amazingly calm in a crisis.  He is already considered a Soviet hero, having distinguished himself the year previous during the K-19 sub incident -- when the rushed-to-production nuclear sub developed a leak in its coolant system, the entire crew was irradiated and only the quick thinking of the engineering crew, who managed to improvise a new coolant system, prevented nuclear meltdown and a global catastrophe. 

On the sub, Arkhipov has been acting as Savitysky's second-in-command; however, in terms of the entire Soviet Operation, he commands the flotilla. And his vote is no.

Arkipov correctly argues the charges are a signal to rise and identify, not an aggressive act of war. He insists there are too many unknowns to assume the two nations are now in direct military conflict. Savitsky isn’t convinced but Arkhipov refuses to change his vote.

If the Russian sub had fired and vaporized an aircraft carrier, it would have triggered an immediate response from the other US ships and activated the Single Integrated Operational Plan.

When Eisenhower took office in 1953, he inherited Truman’s massive military budget. Ike believed such expenditures were wasteful and cut Truman's budget by $5 billion. He thought it was possible to reduce the number of conventional forces but still maintain military prestige while protecting the country and its allies. However, he did support the doctrine of massive retaliation (even though the Soviets did not have second strike capabilities in the 1950s) as a deterrent.

The US Military’s plan for a nuclear response called for a sickening orgy of godlike destruction that would have dropped a combined 7, 847 megatons of nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union, China, and all Soviet-allied states.

To put that into perspective, the two bombs the US dropped on Japan at the end of WWII had a combined explosive power of 35 kilotons.

Let that sink in for a minute.

35 kilotons versus 7,847 megatons.

Our massive strike would have triggered a response from the Soviet Union and its allies. Luckily for the entire world, Arkhipov was on board the B-59 that day 56 years ago and held his ground. Even as temperatures continued to rise in the damaged sub and US ships continued dropping charges, he didn’t budge.

Savitsky finally agreed with his commander. The B-59 rose to the surface, identified itself, and charted a course back to the Soviet Union. The Americans, meanwhile, didn’t know the B-59 was carrying a nuke until decades later.

Now, we find ourselves in a sickeningly familiar world. We’re allowed ourselves to be ruled by a group of elites who kneel at the feet of corporate masters while leading us all over the globe into war after unending war all for the sake of profit. The propaganda machine rolls ever onward, resurrecting old enemies to direct focus away from real domestic issues and the malfeasance of both parties. Terrible foreign policy again threatens to push us again toward global conflict.

So the question is, do we finally challenge these entrenched and self-serving systems of power or do we continue on, same as always, hoping the next time we’re standing at the brink of global destruction that there is an man as calm and as sensible as Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov to save us.

* Originally appeared at Disinformation.com

September 10, 2018

The Great Beast and the Buddhist




The man who taught Aleister Crowley magic was the same man who helped bring Buddhism to the west, yet you’ve probably never heard of Charles Henry Allan Bennett.

Allan Bennett was born in London in 1872. Bennett’s father was a civil engineer and passed away when he was still a child. His father’s death and Bennett’s severe asthma meant that Allan grew up both sickly and in severe poverty.

Despite his impoverished upbringing, Bennett was educated at Hollesley College and trained as an analytical chemist. Unfortunately, his poor health made it difficult for him to keep steady work.

Bennett was raised a Roman Catholic by his widowed mother, but rejected the faith at a young age. In 1890, when he was around 18 years old, Bennett experienced, what he would later describe as, shivadarshana, a yogic term for a deep trance state where the individual experiences the destruction of the universe and achieves union with the god Shiva. Shivadarshana is one of the stages of samadhi (meditative consciousness), which you’ve probably heard more frequently referred to as right concentration, the final step on the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. (An easier way to parse this experience for those interested in Western mysticism would be “crossing the Abyss”) This incident, which we know little about in terms of details other than what he related to Crowley, had an immense impact on Bennett.

Trying to understand this experience is probably what lead him to join The Theosophical Society in 1893 and undoubtedly what helped send him on the path toward becoming a Buddhist monk.

Whether she was a charlatan or not, the impact of Helena Blavatsky’s Western Occult cocktail served with an Eastern mysticism chaser cannot be stated enough. Not only did her work introduce Eastern ideas to a wide Western audience, but among indigenous peoples it sparked a revival in their own religions. Buddhism was dead for hundreds of years in India until 1891. And Mohandas Gandhi was quite vocal about how it wasn’t until he was introduced to Theosophy while living in London, that he ever thought about practicing Hinduism, let alone questioning what the Christian Missionaries had told him: that his religion was nothing other than superstitious nonsense.

In 1894, Bennett joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. While he never had the same impact on the group as some of its members, he was well known for his supreme concentration, his knack for practical ceremonial magic, and his specially constructed wand whose parts could be changed as needed for different workings.

Along with George Cecil Jones, Bennett was one of Crowley’s first magical teachers. When Crowley initially met Bennett, Allan was living in a dilapidated tenement slum south of the Thames. The living conditions were so terrible that Crowley promptly invited him to room with him at 67/69 Chancery Lane.

Allan’s impact on Crowley was deep and profound. While roommates, Bennett introduced him to the use of mind-altering drugs to induce altered states of consciousness. The Beast would expand on Bennett and S.L. Mathers’s work on the Hermetic Qabalah for his own Liber 777. And Crowley’s seldom discussed concept of Magical Memory comes directly from Bennett’s later writings aimed specifically for Buddhists.

Other than his first mountaineering instructor, Bennett is the only significant person in Crowley’s life that he did not later attack or defame in either public or private writings. Crowley had only positive things to say about Allan, even within his private diaries, calling him “a tremendous spiritual force” and “the noblest and gentlest soul that I have ever known.” He described Bennett’s mind as “pure, piercing, and profound.” Despite being written five years after their last meeting, he dedicated his poem “UT” to Bennett. And, perhaps most telling of all, Crowley would later say that in all his years of studying magic and the occult Bennett was the rarest of breeds -- a man who wasn’t interested in gathering power but in finding enlightenment.

Mathers, however, eventually tired of Bennett and the two had a falling out over “orientalism.” In 1900, Allan traveled to Sri Lanka, hoping the change in climate would alleviate his many health problems. There he found employment with the Solicitor General, a man named P. Ramanathan, as a tutor for his sons. Boring enough on the surface. However, to occultists the Honorable Ramanthan was better known as Shri Parananda, a Shavite yogi and the author of commentaries on the life of Christ, which put forth the notion that Jesus was in fact a composite figure created from several different people, including a Hindu holy man whose yogic aphorisms were attributed to Jesus.

Crowley visited his friend in 1901 and received instruction in yoga. Later, that same year, Bennett joined a local Buddhist Sangha (unsurprising that this should happen there–the Buddhist revival that began in India in 1891 was lead by a Sri Lankan named Anagarika Dharmapala) before making his way to the city of Sittwe (then called Akyab) in Burma. There, in the monastery of Lamma Syadow Kyoung, he took the monastic vows and the Dharma name Ananda Metteyya.

Officially, Bennett is considered to be the second Englishman to be ordained as a Buddhist Monk of the Theravada tradition. George Douglas, who was ordained in 1899 or 1900, was widely considered to have been the first. There are conflicting accounts as to Douglas’s fate, some reports allege he died a mere 6 months after his ordination and others that he relocated to Sri Lanka where he lived quietly.

Most research now points to an Irish migrant worker named Laurence Carroll as the first westerner to be ordained. Though he later squabbled with Bennett in the press, Dhammaloka (Carroll’s Dharma name) is mostly forgotten today. Instead of spreading the Dharma, Dhammaloka focused most of his time and energy on attacking Christianity, Western and colonial influence in Burma (this would see him convicted of sedition), and being a harsh proponent of the Vinaya (the monastic rules handed down by the Buddha).

Bennett meanwhile, with the help of some wealthy Burmese Buddhists, began working to bring Buddhism west. He founded the Buddhasasana Samagam, the International Buddhist Society, sometime around 1902, began editing and publishing Buddhism: An Illustrated Review in 1903, then founded The Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1908. Until near the end of his life, he divided his time between Burma and London working to spread Buddhism in the UK as much as his health and the generosity of his benefactors would allow.

Unfortunately, the climate of Burma did not improve Bennett’s severe asthma. By 1908, he was suffering new health conditions endemic to the tropics. Finally, in 1914, he traveled to England for the last time. While there he met with his sister and hoped to travel with her to California but was denied a VISA due to the start of World War I. Stranded in England, Bennett found it impossible to keep his monastic vows due to the practicalities of modern life in London, so he had no choice but disrobe. He managed to continue teaching and lecturing on Buddhism until his death in 1923.

Why then does Bennett remain such an obscure figure? I think there are a couple of reasons. While I’ve heard Bennett described as mysterious, I don’t think that’s true. In this modern age, most of us, with very little effort, generate a lot of info that’s easy to find. You want to know what your high school girlfriend had for lunch last Wednesday? No problem. That’s not true for those who lived in the past. Unless the person was well-known or intentionally sought out the lime-light (like Crowley), the further back in time you go, the more difficult it becomes to find any information. This becomes twice as hard with someone like Bennett who spent most of his life poor and with little possessions.

While I do think Bennett has gotten lost in Aleister Crowley’s long and black shadow, I suspect it’s mostly due to how Buddhism has been presented to make it more palpable to Westerners drunk on the illusion of their superior intellect and who, despite claims otherwise, have never been able to fully escape the tyranny of a monotheistic worldview -- even as they take others to task over their faith. These changes make Buddhism more acceptable to Westerns and also, as capitalism is our civic religion, make the Dharma easier to monetize. 

Walk into your local bookstore and look at the section on Eastern religions. Odds are it’s mostly Buddhist books and odds are those books are about mindfulness, how to be happy, and other self-help topics. But good luck finding anything else. In the West, Buddhism has been purposefully portrayed as a slurry of relaxation techniques and proto-psychological therapy with a mix of philosophy and self-help. 

This is, I think, quite clear from a quick search of the magazine for Western Buddhists. There is only one article on Allan Bennett at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. It presents Bennett as the answer to a trivia question. It glosses over Theosophy (never mind there would have been no 20th century Buddhist revival without it), The Golden Dawn, and Crowley in a single sentence. Though Bennett wrote about things like the role of devotion and the miraculous in Buddhism and carefully described meditative techniques for plumbing past lives, the sole article frames Allan’s motivations as the sort of things that would send you or I to the gym and to see a therapist.

This is Buddhism in the West. There can be no mention of anything that might make it feel like a religion. Buddhist cosmology and eschatology are only good for anime. Tulpas and the Diamond Vehicle are acceptable only in the context of Twin Peaks' muddy mysticism. And we like the Dalai Lama as long as he’s a leader in exile who irks China, reminds us to be kind, and never mentions that his role as head of a theocratic government in exile is based on controlled powers of reincarnation.

And thus poor Allan's Bennett's dangerous journey around the world to search for enlightenment in the face of a great suffering, instead becomes the story of how sickly Allan Bennett made the dangerous journey around the world just to, you know, be happier and healthier...So, don’t forget your mindfulness t-shirt on the way out. And we do accept credit cards.

* originally appeared at Disinformation.com

September 5, 2018

Last of the Disinfonauts




Was completely surprised that Disinformation shut down a couple weeks ago. Sorry to see the legendary counterculture site disappear but proud to have been one of the last Disinfonauts.


May 26, 2018

Evil Genius: The Pizza Bomber




I don’t know who all remembers this case but Netflix has a new documentary series that covers it in some detail and it’s compulsively watchable. Everything about the case is all so crazy and populated with such brilliant but broken people it feels more like fiction.

* I will however give a word of warning: the first ep has police footage of the bomb exploding. It’s not gory but it’s very disturbing.

May 8, 2018

Favorite Science Fiction TV: Blake's 7




Blake’s 7 was created by Terry Nation, who’s probably best remembered as the man who created The Daleks for Doctor Who. The show concerns the exploits of political dissident Roj Blake, who commands a small group of rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Terran Federation that rules the Earth and its many colonized planets. The Federation uses mass surveillance, brainwashing and drug pacification to control its citizens.

Blake is arrested, tried on false charges, and deported to a remote penal colony. En route, he and fellow prisoners gain control of a technologically advanced alien spacecraft. Blake and crew begin a campaign to damage the Federation while pursued by Space Commander Travis—a Federation soldier—and Servalan, the Supreme Commander and later Federation President.

Though marred by way too low of a budget, the top-notch writing and weighty themes clearly provided the inspiration for later shows from Farscape to Firefly, Cowboy Bebop to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. And it wasn’t until Rogue One that mainstream science fiction ever again acknowledged that trying to overthrow a totalitarian empire was dirty and dangerous, a tight-rope walk that required making hard choices.

May 7, 2018

Cosmic Aggressions





In higher ed, we talk a lot about something called microaggressions—everyday unconscious verbal and nonverbal slights, snubs, and insults that communicate hostile and negative messages to marginalized persons.

My newest Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story came from wondering how that concept would manifest at Miskatonic University.

Read “Cosmic Aggressions” in the Walpurgisnacht issue of Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror.

April 25, 2018

Space Jesus




I’ve never liked the idea of Superman as Space Jesus or Space Moses. To me a big part of Superman has always been a story about an immigrant. (Kal-el becomes Clark Kent as if he went through Ellis Island.) 

I think you can understand a lot about those early Superman stories where he fights common criminals and the occasional mad scientist or robot when you parse it that way. Siegel and Shuster were two sons of Jewish immigrants. And the one thing that Jerry Siegel never talked about is the death of his father...when he was only 17, Mitchell Siegel was shot and killed by a robber at his second-hand clothing store.

April 24, 2018

Superman the Musical






In honor of my favorite character’s 80th birthday, I’ve thought about re-watching basically all of the Superman stuff I own and posting my thoughts....especially on some of the rare stuff like the 1975 ABC musical...

April 20, 2018

Superman Turns 80






The Man of Steel turns 80 this year. And tomorrow Action Comics releases it’s 1000th issue. Superman is unapologetically my favorite comic book character. Yes, even here and now, in this age of the cynic, the contrarian, and the naysayer, he’s my favorite. Even in what feels like an endless sea of Batman fans, he is still my favorite.

Why?

Harlan Ellison said it best when he wrote:

"If one of the unarguable criteria for literary greatness is recognition, consider this: In all of the history of literature, there are only five fictional creations known to every man, woman, and child on the planet. The urchin in Irkutsk may never have heard of Hamlet, the peon in Pernambuco may not know who Raskolnikov is; the widow in Jakarta may stare blankly at the mention of Don Quixote or Micawber or Jay Gatsby. But every man, woman, and child on the planet knows Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Robin Hood... and Superman. 

“He is more than the fanciful daydream of two Cleveland schoolboys. He is the 20th-century archetype of mankind at its finest. He is courage and humanity, steadfastness and decency, responsibility and ethic. He is our universal longing for perfection, for wisdom and power used in the service of the human race. 

“Of all the literary creations of American fiction, Superman, after all these years, born of a ‘dispensable, disreputable’ genre, is the only one that seems certain to get Posterity's nod. And that is because, simply put, he is our highest aspirations in human form."

March 14, 2018

March Update




Between the day job kicking my ass and my wife having a uveitis flare-up, I've neglected the blog in particular and social media in general. However, I do have another piece up today at Disinformation, a story in next month's Lovecraftiana, and some Shane Stevens news to report soon.



February 23, 2018

Spring is Coming




Had some personal things come up. The brutal cold destroyed our pipes and meant I had to have the plumber out twice to do extensive repair work. That was immediately followed by some car trouble. But I have a lot on the way soon: new fiction, new non-fiction pieces at Disinfo, and some Shane Stevens news.

January 8, 2018

New Adventure Story Available





I have an adventure story in the current issue of the much underrated Broadswords & Blasters.

“The Lady and the Gunsmith” is verse one of my love song to the work of Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo), while Leon D'esme, my androgynous spy, is inspired by the real life adventures of the Chevalier d’Eon, a trans spy for France.

D’Eon was a decorated soldier, sword master, ambassador, skilled mimic, and spy for the Secret du Roi who infiltrated the Russian Court by presenting as a woman. Years later, after returning for political exile in London, d'Eon demanded to be identified as a woman. By the King's order, d'Eon's pension was increased to fund an entirely new wardrobe for the master spy--women's dresses especially tailored to not get in the way during fencing exhibitions and contests.

Check it out here. Hope you dig it (because I have more stories featuring the Chevalier d'Esme) and take the time to review the entire issue because there is lots of good stuff there.
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