January 2007


Via: The Library of Congress

110th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 393

To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent the favorable treatment afforded combat pay under the earned income tax credit, and for other purposes.

Follow the link to read more details on the proposal.

From NPR Morning Edition, November 22, 2006

NPR’s series examines our perceptions of history, novelist Robert Harris speaks with Steve Inskeep about how the history of Rome is reflected in our modern-day world. Harris sees parallels between the time of Rome’s transition from republican to imperial rule and the challenges the U.S. faces now.

Click ‘Listen‘ to hear the seven minute commentary.

Related:  “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” an essay written in 1978 by Philip K. Dick in which he extrapolates how we may still be living in 50 AD.

“I must admit that the existence of Disneyland (which I know is real) proves that we are not living in Judaea in 50 AD. . . . Saint Paul would never go near Disneyland. Only children, tourists, and visiting Soviet high officials ever go to Disneyland. Saints do not.”

-Philip K. Dick

Best known as a club drug, ketamine seems somehow able to jolt people out of severe depression. New Scientist investigates in the following well-written article.

“FOR MANY, it was a huge, obvious effect,” says psychiatrist John Krystal. “One of the patients said, ‘Don’t give me those old medications, I want this again’.”

Krystal, a professor at Yale University, is talking about the time he gave seven severely depressed patients ketamine, a mind-blowing drug developed as an anaesthetic but better known as a club drug. It was a long shot, but the results were astonishing. Though most of the patients found the ketamine experience itself unpleasant, once it wore off they had a far better feeling: the disabling and suicidal depression they had lived with for years had vanished.

Krystal’s pioneering experiment happened in the late 1990s, but now researchers at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland, have repeated the study and the results have got psychiatrists, neuroscientists and drug companies buzzing. An antidepressant that acts in hours rather than weeks …

——

That’s why the ketamine results are creating such a stir. “This is a hot topic and people are very interested in it,” says Lisa Monteggia, a neuroscientist specialising in depression at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The implications are huge.” “It’s very intriguing,” agrees Lee Schechter, director of preclinical depression and anxiety research at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Princeton, New Jersey. Research on rapid antidepressants is now “an area of focus within the industry,” he says.

Via New Scientist
Previously posts on Animam Recro:
Ketamine: Possibly fastest-acting antidepressant ever tested
Another Ketamine Antidepressant Article

I watched the State of the Union Address yesterday and couldn’t stop staring at the screen. It wasn’t President Bush who captivated me but the speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi, who managed to blink at least once per second for an entire hour. She also seemed to be clenching her jaw a whole lot. Her eye blinking was so drastic that I couldn’t help but look at her whenever there was a shot of Bush, who she stood behind. I’m no psychiatrist so I can’t say what’s going on with her, but it certainly doesn’t seem normal.

UPDATE:

Video: Entire President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address

Back to Home

Psychologists and anthropologists have typically turned to faith healers, tribal cultures or New Age spiritualists to study the underpinnings of belief in superstition or magical powers. Yet they could just as well have examined their own neighbors, lab assistants or even some fellow scientists. New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge.

These habits have little to do with religious faith, which is much more complex because it involves large questions of morality, community and history. But magical thinking underlies a vast, often unseen universe of small rituals that accompany people through every waking hour of a day.

The appetite for such beliefs appears to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and for good reason. The sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, and helps soothe everyday fears and ward off mental distress. In excess, it can lead to compulsive or delusional behavior. This emerging portrait of magical thinking helps explain why people who fashion themselves skeptics cling to odd rituals that seem to make no sense, and how apparently harmless superstition may become disabling.

—–

For people who are generally uncertain of their own abilities, or slow to act because of feelings of inadequacy, this kind of thinking can be an antidote, a needed activator, said Daniel M. Wegner, a professor of psychology at Harvard. (Dr. Wegner was a co-author of the voodoo study, with Kimberly McCarthy of Harvard and Sylvia Rodriguez of Princeton.)

“I deal with students like this all the time and I say, ‘Let’s get you overconfident,’ ” Dr. Wegner said. “This feeling that your thoughts can somehow control things can be a needed feeling” — the polar opposite of the helplessness, he added, that so often accompanies depression.

—–

Only in extreme doses can magical thinking increase the likelihood of mental distress, studies suggest. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are often nearly paralyzed by the convictions that they must perform elaborate rituals, like hand washing or special prayers, to ward off contamination or disaster. The superstitions, perhaps harmless at the outset, can grow into disabling defense mechanisms.

Via The New York Times

Five Storytellers Bring The Amazon Jungle To NYC With Their Experiences Of Healed Illness, Mystical Insight and Spirit Guides Through The Brew Called Ayahuasca.

While shamans in the Amazon have accessed Ayahuasca’s gifts for centuries, only recently have spiritual seekers in the U.S. become aware of this sacred drink. Hear the stories of five Westerners who encountered miracles both thrilling and terrifying through Ayahuasca. How can cosmopolitan urbanites cope with this destabilizing concoction?

Featuring:

* Daniel Pinchbeck – author of Breaking Open The Head: Psychedelics and Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl

* Jamye Waxman – sexplorer, Playgirl advice columnist, “Sex and Spirit” podcaster

* Nat Bletter – ethnobotanist, explorer, herbal healer, author of Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, on the psychoactive effects of chocolate

* Bill Kennedy – actor/storyteller and ayahuasca guardian

* Jonathan Phillips – founder of the NYC Gnostics, executive editor of Souldish.com

Admission is $10.00. Refreshments will be served. Q&A To Follow The Speakers

The Ayahuasca Monologues will convene in the cutting edge, tech-and-cultural venue EYEBEAM, located at 540 W. 21st St. between 10th & 11th Avenues in New York City.

“Ayahuasca is a visionary potion used by hundreds of tribes from Brazil to Ecuador that is reaching out to the modern world in a time of ecological crisis,” declares Daniel Pinchbeck. “It’s time to come out and get shamanized.”

For more information email michael@souldish.com or check out http://souldish.com/monologues. Via Disinfo

Major plug for one of my favorite new blogs: Drugs and Poisons. The site features short introductions to a multitude of pharmaceuticals. Good information to have in this day and age.

I must admit that I was under the wrong impression about the meaning behind the slogan coined by Timothy Leary. I do not advocate his approach to psychedelic drugs, because it was often reckless. Nonetheless, here is his explanation of ‘Turn on, Tune in, Drop out’.

Leary explained in his 1983 autobiography Flashbacks: “Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. ‘Tune in’ meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. ‘Drop Out’ meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean ‘Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity.”

What made me write this article? Well, just an hour earlier I read a blog entry in which an author was comparing 4 different people – a sex addict, a God addict (Christian), an alcoholic and a yogi (3 hours of yoga a day). He came to the conclusion that since those 4 people were attaining a feeling of wholeness, happiness and togetherness through their pursuits; that it is wholeness, happiness and togetherness that we all need in order to be satisfied as human beings. It is an interesting notion.

I am aware that we very often do not feel whole, happy and together and that it is painful. We never really meet the goals that we set for ourselves, we never really measure up to what we perceive ourselves to be capable of. We attach ourselves, we judge ourselves, we always strive for more. That is the reality of a Western lifestyle and it becomes more and more obvious as a person grows up.

Now, there are numerous ways of temporarily breaking through this state – among them the numerous addictions that have been pointed out by the author of the blog entry.

Alcohol is a depressant – it takes away certain functions of our mind while being consumed – among those the feelings of emptiness, fear, paranoia. That is why it gives us the illusion of being whole and happy. After the intoxication ends the feeling returns even worse than it was felt before and it takes a couple of hours to get back to starting point from which the only road is to drink again. Been there, done that.

Sex is the easiest tool of losing yourself in an action. The same way that a professional sportsman enters a zone in which nothing else exists than the acitivity that he is doing, the person who is having sex can lose him/herself in the activity. Sex is the easiest way of attaining this temporary higher state of consciousness. It also calms you down after the point of orgasm – orgasms releases endorphins and raise serotonin levels. Once again though, sex will not give you a permanent state of wholeness, happiness and contentment.

Belief in God and yoga are different – rather than being tools to the temporary attainment of happiness and wholeness, through the continuous practice the practicioner attains them semi-permanently, for as long as he continuously practices and believes in his practice. He does not only feel whole while practising – rather his whole life becomes the practice and the feelings last.

So, there are temporary, semi-permanent and permanent ways of attaining wholeness. Those temporary methods are known to us all, semi-permanent ways too. Yet, many people feel it impossible to enter the semi-permanent states as they believe that belief in God is an uninformed jump in logic and a lie, while yoga is a strange pursuit for those who are too weak for the gym, or female. These people are partially right in that the belief in God is a jump in logic – there is no proof for the existence of God except for personal experience. Yet, they only need to be shown glimpses of higher states, whether through psychedelic drugs, meditation, prayer, yoga, spontaneous experiences, psychological turmoil, release of addictions, aesthetic beauty, near-death experiences or other ways, and they change their opinion. Why is that? I have been a witness of a lot of people questioning the non-existence of ‘something divine’ or at least ‘the inexplicable’ and it is often-times very beautiful to witness. And no, it is not self-delusion.

Ever wondered why the hippie or the yogi is happier than the investment banker? I guess that getting high on happiness works better than getting high on money, stress and adrenaline. Yet a combination of both brings more potential growth.

 

To return to the first question I asked – what is the meaning of life? Well, I don’t think that the meaning of life has anything to do with what I have been writing about so far. In order to feel happy, content and whole it is not enough to intoxicate yourself – almost all my friends have taken this path in order to alleviate the feelings of alienation, confusion and indecisiveness that all young adults feel, yet they are still unhappy and report feeling empty and depressed. Maybe it really is worth it to put some work into understanding yourself better and working out your issues.

 

But the meaning of life – I don’t worry myself with the global and transpersonal meaning of life. I am happy to quote my friend with whom I had the pleasure of spending New Years with. He said: ‘You have to love – everyone, everywhere.’ I laughed at the time (as he was lying on the floor unable to say anything else and repeating his message of love every 20 seconds – for 2 hours) but to be absolutely honest, loving yourself and everyone else is not a bad meaning of life. As to the personal meaning of life – well, you are the only one who can give yourself a meaning to life – what you do, and what you set out to do is the meaning of life that you have (un)consciously given yourself. Be careful what you wish for.

 

If you have to do something in order to achieve happiness then it is not happiness that you are achieving. Happines is in the here and now.

In other words: If you have a goal set as a prerequisite for the attainment of happiness, ie. ‘I will be happy when I’m rich’, or ‘I’ll be happy when I make some friends’, then the attainment of that goal will not bring you happiness. It will not last – but find out for yourself. The trick is to be happy with what you are and have, right now, right here.

Robert Anton Wilson died early this morning.

From his final blog post on January 6:

“Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.”

Several months ago I posted about pyramids discovered in Bosnia. Well, some believe the hills are natural, not man made. Issue 6 of of Sub Rosa magazine features a descriptive article on the proclaimed pyramid.

“To cut to the chase: Between the two of us we could find no human-constructed pyramids in or around Visoko”
-Sphinx geologist Robert Schoch and anomalies researcher Colette Dowell report from Bosnia

There is much controversy surrounding the dig. Several archeologists have claimed that Osmanagić, who spread the idea of the hills being pyramids, is leading a smear campaign. He may be “planting evidence” and lying about those who are participating in the project. More information can be found on the Bosnian pyramids wiki.

Welcome kids! Put on your thinking caps and your Skepti-X goggles! It’s another fun filled episode of ‘Ego Trippers’.

Pat Robertson, US televangelist, founder of numerous organizations and corporations, including the American Center for Law and Justice, Christian Broadcasting Network, the Christian Coalition, Flying Hospital, International Family Entertainment, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, Regent University, and host of The 700 Club- has received a message from God.

It has been revealed to the major public voice for conservative Christianity in the United States that America will be attacked in the second half of 2007.

“I’m not saying necessarily nuclear, the Lord didn’t say nuclear,” Mr Robertson said on his television show The 700 Club. “It’ll be mass killing, possibly millions of people, major cities.

“The evil people will come after this country and there’s a possibility, not a possibility, a definite certainty, that chaos is going to rule.”

Mr Robertson told viewers they should not be afraid because “if you get blown up or something, you go to heaven; that’s the worst thing that will happen to you”.

I certainly hope no one gets “blown up or something”- you’d think God would have a slightly more articulate message. It seems to me the ultra-conservative Christians are losing ground and need a little fear-mongering to get people back in line.

Also- In May 2006, Robertson declared that storms and possibly a tsunami would hit America’s coastline sometime in 2006. Robertson supposedly received this revelation from God during an annual personal prayer retreat. He also claimed on his website that he can leg-press 2,000lb, thanks to an energy drink he once promoted.

Remember:

The televangelist: “I think what God meant to say…”
Bill Hicks: I have never been that confident.

“A fascist state needs to operate in conditions of perpetual fear. Have you ever noticed how the world has been in constant crisis since World War II?”

I went to my local supermarket to purchase a few odds and ends, when I noticed something very peculiar. While pondering my purchases, walking down several isles, I must have heard at least 9 incredibly annoying pop songs blasting over the speaker system. “What’s so strange about that?” you may ask. Stores worldwide use pop hits to keep customers in their stores, perhaps taking advantage of the positive associations most people have with such music. I won’t go into a deep psychological analysis of how these things work, basically psychology combined with marketing. In short- if playing pop music wasn’t advantageous to the stores, it wouldn’t be on.

What made my last visit to the supermarket different from the previous several hundred ear-splitting, nausea-inducing experiences was the rate at which these songs were played. I was in the supermarket for at most 4 minutes! Paying closer attention while waiting in line, I noticed merely the chorus of each pop hit was played once. They’re mixing the songs! I heard Enrique Iglesias fade to Will Smith, fade to Venga Boys, fade to Christina Aguilera, in nearly a minute and a half. Looking over to a man in the line adjacent to me, I saw a shared expression of confusion, disgust, and bewilderment. There was a slight moment of mutual empathy, not unlike two strangers spotting each other across the two sides of a torture chamber. Ok, I’m over-exaggerating, but you get the picture.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is “why?”. No really. Why? Did someone listen to ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys and think, “this is good but it needs a little something, lets fade it to Gwen Stefani, and then to N’Sync for its full mind numbing effect”? These songs are engineered to be catchy. And it all started when a few men in business suits noticed the purchasing power of teenagers, as the popularity of a man named Elvis Presley grew. If you’re interested in more info, I’d recommend the wonderful book ‘Teenage Nervous Breakdown: Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age’ by David Walley.

Returning to my prior question- Are the pop tunes not catchy enough, and so must be split into 20 seconds samples for full auditory bombardment? Or is it the contrary? Are people sick of hearing that same pop song from 8 years ago and need only short reminders to facilitate a full shopping experience? Most likely only the supermarket’s marketing surveys have an answer, unfortunately something we aren’t privy to.

One final question remains. What happens when you expose an individual to songs which are engineered to grab and hold one’s attention, while changing said songs approximately every 25 seconds? Customers aside, what about employees who are exposed to such an environment for a period of 8 hours, 5 days a week? And if an experiment were created to replicate such an environement, would it pass the APA Ethical Guidelines for Research with Human Subjects?

And

How’s your attention span doing lately?

Well, ladies and gentlemen – in the face of wikipedia most of my literary endeavours seem ultimately pointless. Judging by the sheer amount of information that is quoted, sometimes outright stolen from wikipedia – whether it is quoted by bloggers, employees, or even journalists – I have to say that wikipedia has won the information war. The only reason why I do not feel sour about wikipedia’s monopoly on information is that wikipedia does put a lot of effort into being impartial – any one-sidedly spun account usually gets very quickly challenged and an effort ensues to correct the information and provide the most balanced account. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how a community informs and keeps on updating information – now compare this balanced version of information sharing with the way that all media spin theirs – whether it is CNN, Times, or even BBC. Have you ever wondered why people who read particular newspapers have very definite and unchallengable opinions on politics, usually in line with the particular direction of spin that the newspaper they read produces. Hence radicals read radical literature, liberals prefer liberal media, anarchists anarchistic, religious people religious literature – now imagine that these people chose to shift their focus and read the opposite of what they believe. Would it change their opinions? I have tried similar experiments on myself and yes, I can be molded to change my views. Care to try yourself?