Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities, a short set in The Machineries of Empire series, by Yoon Ha Lee is a breezily written, as I understand, prequel that tells a bit of backstory about an interesting main character from the other novels in a richly developed future. The language is simple and not at all complex, so this short is an even quicker than expected finish. But, on the whole, the universe in which the story takes place has a beautiful complexity of culture and conception that proves ultimately this is worth more than the sliver of time it took to read.

The cultures of this fiction appear to be based on many social and aesthetic norms within various Asian nations, so if I were more versed in the history and those cultures then I may have recognized more analogy to the real world than I did just well-done fiction. It occurred to me while reading this that my personal immersion in Western and American culture, although I’d certainly claim to be at least cosmopolitan, helped to create a sense of otherness and alienness to the particulars of the story which I might not have felt otherwise. I wondered about the reverse of that experience for readers of sci fi from the East with so much of the science fiction futures that I’ve read have been my Western and American authors. Kinda obvious now that I’ve thought it, but I’m not sure I’d pondered that so specifically before, as I had while reading this. It occurred to me perhaps the world-building might not seem quite as inventive and novel for a reader within those cultures that seem represented in allegory.

It’s short, quick, cheap, and interesting. Plus, after reading this short, I’m certainly more interested than I was to read the full novels in the series. So, well done, author! Well done.

I made 2 highlights.

Legionnaire

Legionnaire, book 1 of the Galaxy’s Edge series, by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole is Generation Kill in space. In spite of the science fiction setting, the particulars are thinly veiled allegory for recent military misadventures, with all the usual suspects and situations. The danger didn’t quite reach the Hidden Fortress level of impossible-situation plot-twists, but it was an entertainingly constant chaos of complications.

For me there was cringingly uncomfortable racist overtones to the description and conception of the main alien species, with the double whammy of being both Innsmouth-look-ish (which for me added a whole other genre can-of-worms by reference) and clearly Middle Eastern inspiration, on the planet where the action takes place, but if you can get over that, or accept it as littérature vérité, the rest is a pretty strong and stirring story about the common (hu)man trying to survive a vertically-integrated perpetual-motion military-diplomatic clusterfuck.

The epilogue felt wildly out of place to me because that little story-within-a-story went completely wibbly-wobbly Flash Gordon science fantasy pastiche. I’m not sure how that bodes for the rest of the series. I hope that was just an anomaly. Otherwise this was a solid first installment in a series with promise for worthy visceral commentary on recent global political-military history through a very thinly-drawn distancing lens of uncomfortably-close-to-real fiction.

I made 7 highlights, but 3 of those were notes about errors.

Witches of Lychford

Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford starts out weakly, with what felt like a complex fictional world only superficial developed and told in a rather pedestrian way. I had to go back and check to be sure this wasn’t intended to be a YA novel. But, it develops some fun. It’s kind of like an episode of Buffy, but without the effervescent dialog. The overall story is about a small town facing a big box retailer’s attempt to move in, but this happens in a town with both a paranormal history and a band of nascent defenders, further the big box campaign turns out to be orchestrated by the Big Bad. The titular witches, although not explicitly itemized, interestingly to me, includes a witch, a skeptical new age shop owner, and a new vicar. There’s some interesting themes about finding various faiths in the face of catastrophe and evil. Half way through I wouldn’t have been interested in the sequel, but in the end I enjoyed this enough to be curious. All in all, Witches of Lychford is not as engrossing or developed or thoughtful as Heuvelt’s HEX by lateral comparison, but it was a good enough for a bit of quick escapism.

Paul Cornell Witches of Lychford

I made 28 highlights.

Theoretical Animals

I picked up Gary J Shipley’s Theoretical Animals because a quote from something else Shipley wrote related to Cyclonopedia Studies came up in a conversation so I wanted to check out a full work by him. I got this one because it was an inexpensive short ebook. This turns out to be literary performance art; it has merits but also isn’t for everyone. In editing something, I suppose, there’s a choice whether to fine tune and sharpen the story into a concise narrative or to go the other way and obfuscate and bloat the shit out of it. Don’t get me wrong, both have merits; but Shipley picked and stayed his particular course for this one. For this story, with interesting reflections for me of Farmer’s Riverworld in that there’s a kind of artificial stream of humanity stuck in a mysterious situation, Shipley went for obfuscation. There was lots of interesting turns of phrase, though the vocabulary was not dense; but the story, for me, got lost in a generally unsuccessful experimental outcome. On the other hand, this may be of timely interest to those watching the remake of Westworld, as it has a certain trippy theme of who’s a real human among those stuck in an artificial world … but with more cannibalism and bodies floating in the waters of this Lethean hellscape.

Gary J Shipley Theoretical Animals

I made 89 highlights.

The Assassin’s Road

I’d actually read Kazuo Koike’s and Goseki Kojima’s The Assassin’s Road, volume 1 of Lone Wolf and Cub, with a cover by Frank Miller, back in the late 80’s. I had a friend that introduced me to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, and ended up checking this out as well, probably due to the cover; but I’d also actually already seen one of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies years before.

I was trying to think of a good way to describe the main character in Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub series, and of course it’s pretty obvious to me that there’s a reflection of Dark Knight here, which probably explains the attraction for Frank Miller and perhaps some influence as well. The main character is an über-mench who outsmarts, out-fights, and out-darks everyone he comes to face; and he’s got hidden tricky gadgets. Cub is even a parentless side-kick who sometimes helps out in a minimal and comedic way.

But, either way, whether there’s an overall similarity for you as there is for me, the specifics are the story. The main character is an anti-hero. He doesn’t really start that way, but it sure turns out that way as this volume progresses. He’s a mary-sue of appearing to be an anonymous underdog but turning out to have been a better prepared and better skilled veiled personage than anyone that mistakes his reserve and self-control for weakness instead of cold and tempered steel revenge. He’ll fuck you up, son. He’ll also let you die if you’re a complication or not worth his notice, so that sucks for you. He’s a right shit at only putting effort into getting to his goal, and you’re in the way today which means it’s your time to die. He’ll stand by while that happens because you’re not important to his story. You got what you deserved, apparently, for being meaningless in his scheme of things.

I don’t know if the language in the original Japanese was compelling, but it’s pretty minimal and not a reason to pick this series up. The story is good, the art is better, but the dialog is underwhelming in translation. The dialog services the story and plot, but that’s about all. It’s not literature, at least, not in English as it appears here.

The art is surprisingly minimal and folksy, but really does something amazing about providing details of environment and expressions; simplicity that provides complexity. There’s plenty of those peculiar moments of non-action action that I love much in other Japanese art and anime, and seems only to be found delivered with confidence there.

All in all, a worthy reputation was earned by this work of art, and I find myself with renewed interest in the following volumes, which I didn’t ever read, as well as not only my beloved Kurosawa movies, but also interest in even re-approaching things like Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, which I also read one volume of and then lost interest, I know not why.

Where is this Eight Gates of Deceit? Looks like a ritual! I want to go to there. Someone needs to write this ritual so I can go to it.

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1 Eight Gates of Deceit

Hey, I wonder if O-nibawan (meaning Spy, or “government-employed undercover agents established by the 8th Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751). They are sometimes described as ‘ninja’.”) is where Obi-wan Kenobi’s name comes from?

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1 O-niwaban

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1

Her Scales Shine Like Music

Pleasant language pleasantly written, with a few pleasant word surprises, and an interesting future world built quickly in Her Scales Shine Like Music, a short by Rajnar Vajra, was worth reading, though the very end left me slightly underwhelmed as it didn’t feel quite right to me. Seemed to me that the very end would have been more interesting and thought provoking and possibly poignant if ………(spoiler: hover over to reveal)……………….. so as to leave me feeling and wondering more than it did.

Rajnar Vajra Her Scales Shine Like Music

I made 4 highlights and noted 2 errors.

The Sons of Osiris

The idea behind this little ebook-only release is pretty awesome. This little ebook-only release is a fucking embarrassment. This ebook is part of a series Weiser Books put out a few years ago that was a combination of re-packaged, but notable and not readily available, public domain material selected by Lon Milo DuQuette and several Freemasonic side-degrees selected from a private collection, each with a little intro essay by DuQuette. But, it is completely plain that whomever was responsible for producing these at Weiser Books didn’t even bother to so much as glance at the text between simply running source pages through an OCR and quickly pasting the unchecked output into the template for the series.

I picked up several of these, mentioned them on the library blog when they came out, but I have not read any of them after slogging my way through a couple that revealed the trouble was endemic to the series, not just one book in it. I only made three highlights in The Sons of Osiris: A Side Degree. Two were errors that made me laugh aloud, and the third was a particular point in DuQuette’s introductory essay that is of note. This specific book isn’t unreadable, but it is so riddled with enough errors that it hurts to read.

First off, they didn’t even fill in the placeholder text on the copyright page. I mean: they didn’t minimally put in even that much effort.

Originally published as (or excerpted from) [insert original author, title, publisher, and year]

In the introduction, which I presume was not written for this book specifically, and vaguely recall appears as the introduction in another side-degree issue in this series, Lon writes:

What is of primary importance is that the master key to the initiatory method itself becomes a permanently installed fixture in the individual. Once we have learned the process of becoming something greater than we are, we can and eventually will, apply that same alchemy to ourselves to achieve the supreme attainment.

Now this has to be a curious statement that has stuck with me and percolated. The suggestion here seems that it isn’t the Mysteries, the specific content of an initiation, that matters so much as the experience of mystery and the internalizing the overall initiatory process as a lesson. It’s not the content, but the experience of the structure; and internalizing that meta-level of initiation. Lon said something in one of his in-person classes that struck me similarly as an odd thing when, I don’t have my notes at hand at the moment to be more clear or to phrase this how he said it, he suggested that learning the Kabbalah was about getting the ego self out of the way with busy work so it didn’t get in the way of the Work. That and this seem to me to be similar. Isn’t it odd in ostensibly extolling Kabbalah in a class about Kabbalah, Lon says learning Kabbalah isn’t about Kabbalah per se and in talking about initiation Lon says initiation isn’t about the initiation or the particular symbol and meaning system internal to the initiation per se; rather, both are about the meta-level effect of either giving the self busy work so it doesn’t get in the way or of having the experience of the initiatory method which one can internalize. The latter reminds me of something I’ve been known to say about the initiation experience being a way to become comfortable with the uncomfortable experience of not knowing, meaning that there’s a meta-level benefit to the experience (which, I’ve suggested, one wouldn’t get from just a reading of the script or, moreover, ever get from the experience if one read the script beforehand); but, there’s more to this that that. If I ever do an interview for the library with Lon, this will be something I’d love to discuss with him. But, it’s something, if even the only, I’ve felt was a great takeaway from this book and I’ve had in my thoughts ever since.

Then, buried under the bulk of not-at-all amusing textual and formatting errors, I still laugh when I think about Zeus and his “frank incense”.

ZEUS.—“Now spray him with the frank incense of the gods.”

I see and hear Laurence Olivier in full Clash of the Titans costume booming this line out and it just totally cracks me up. Another thing that I imagine from this is some awesome Rocky Horror style audience participation in these side degrees. There’s a little voice in the audience of my imagination that calls back “Don’t laugh!” or “Don’t call me Frank, Shirley!” or something each time I recall this mistake in the text.

Weiser Books hasn’t even corrected a mistake in the Amazon detail text, and this ebook was released in 2012. It’s been like that for years. Obviously, no one has looked at this either, so, you know, par for the course.

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris Amazon detail

Apparently no one gives enough of a crap to fix even that, flapping in the wind for all who might otherwise be tempted into purchasing the book to see, let alone to have done it well in the first place. Furthermore as far as I can tell there’s never been an update to the text of the book itself either. A quick glance at the current “Look Inside!” for this book displays this exact same error I highlighted still on the first pages. I can’t bring myself to look further lest I relive the horror because, it turns out by page one of the preview text, it’s even worse than I remember. They didn’t even fill in the copyright year placeholder for their own cover!

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris look inside

This is just an awful disappointment, and as much as the source material could be of fun for people to read; there is no way I can recommend this book to anyone. And, unfortunately, this is not the only book I read in the series with egregious errors. There’s another book in the series with many more errors than this one. I’m embarrassed for Weiser Books and embarrassed for Lon Milo DuQuette as his name is attached to this series.

Wish I had access to the source material, in the private collection from which this was curated, so I could put it up on the library because I’d actually proofread it. These side degree rituals are actually of interest both in and of themselves but also something that local bodies of Whatever∴ Whatever∴ & The Other Thing∴ could put on for fun and enjoyment in a local body or something.

But, no. Don’t bother with this edition unless you’ve a strong stomach for dealing with extremely distracting copyediting errors.

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris

I made only 3 highlights, all mentioned above, and submitted 60 corrections.

Lost Horizon

I’ve seen the Lost Horizon movies, both 1937 and 1973 versions at least a couple times, but for some reason I’d not picked up James Hilton’s actual 1933 novel. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Of course, this is a classic that introduces mysterious Shangri-La. The book’s framing story sets up the sense of verisimilitude for the narrative in a fun way, provides an instant sense of discovering something through the obscuring mists of memory. The framing story also gives a good sense of longing for what was lost and the sense that the quest is ongoing for everyone, to some degree, no matter how lightly touched by the experience. I felt there was an noir quality to it. There’s essentially a detective story here that unravels a mystery but I was surprised how amusing I found the dialog in places.

I was a bit uncomfortable with the main protagonist and another plot element fulfilling the white saviour trope twice. And there’s an under-developed escape from sexism in the coda that feels like a bit of a let down to me. I mean, it’s a solid story per se, but I guess I feel it doesn’t really rise above the time it was written in some particular aspects. In others, such as the voice and tone of narration and dialog, I felt surprised by how modern it felt to me in spite of being written over 80 years ago.

The philosophical underpinning of Shangri-La should be amusing to those familiar with other quasi-religious abbeys, and while it doesn’t dive into “Fais ce que veulx” territory, there’s another different sense here of interest to those, like me, who ever wondered on which word the emphasis falls in the phrase “all things in moderation”.

“If I were to put it into a very few words, my dear sir, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excess of all lands—even including, if you will pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself. In the valley which you have seen, and in which there are several thousand inhabitants living under the control of our order, we have found that the principle makes for a considerable degree of happiness. We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest.”

and

“I can only add that our community has various faiths and usages, but we are most of us moderately heretical about them.”

Lost Horizon is a good casual read, but becomes a welcome addition to the list of remote mountain / travel spirituals with Franz Hartmann’s earlier (both in terms of being written in 1910 and in having been read by me just recently) With The Adepts, perhaps John Uri Lloyd’s 1897 Etidorhpa and, no doubt, plenty others that come to mind, more or less contemporary, such as René Daumal’s unfinished 1959 Mount Analogue and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 The Holy Mountain.

James Hilton Lost Horizon

I found a lot of interest here as I made 152 highlights.

Nightmare Abbey

As I read Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, published in 1818, I kept seeing this story in my mind’s eye as a darker Dahl, Tim Burton stop action, Fallen London thingy. It felt like one of those modern period pieces. Surprisingly modern to the point of seeming anachronistic to the setting and the period in which it was actually written.

I quite enjoyed the story for itself but also I went a bit highlight crazy on this one because of all the fun thoughts Peacock had about his Romantic friends and milieu, especially Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley & al.

There’s a wonderful sense of bedroom farce absurdity here with the comedy of slamming doors in the face of attempts by the main characters to hook up in some combination, though amusingly the idea of a plural arrangement as a solution to the conundrum is actually contemplated, though dismissed. The whole is only more delicious in that it hides a glimpse of how contemporary society, and Peacock, saw the Shelleys.

I enjoyed the author having a fun poke at friends, society and culture around him. And, there are plenty of amusing little digs at the aspirational political science of the age, which at that time was quite heavily flavoured with active and contemporary Illuminati and Rosicrucian groups.

“He began to devour romances and German tragedies, and, by the recommendation of Mr Flosky, to pore over ponderous tomes of transcendental philosophy, which reconciled him to the labour of studying them by their mystical jargon and necromantic imagery. In the congenial solitude of Nightmare Abbey, the distempered ideas of metaphysical romance and romantic metaphysics had ample time and space to germinate into a fertile crop of chimeras, which rapidly shot up into vigorous and abundant vegetation.

He now became troubled with the passion for reforming the world. He built many castles in the air, and peopled them with secret tribunals, and bands of illuminati, who were always the imaginary instruments of his projected regeneration of the human species. As he intended to institute a perfect republic, he invested himself with absolute sovereignty over these mystical dispensers of liberty. He slept with Horrid Mysteries under his pillow, and dreamed of venerable eleutherarchs and ghastly confederates holding midnight conventions in subterranean caves.”

And there is some solid satire about the method of groups like Weishaupt’s Illuminati, which was a contemporary movement when this was written, in spreading the Enlightenment through authoritarian, even paternal, means and structures.

“Knowledge is power; it is in the hands of a few, who employ it to mislead the many, for their own selfish purposes of aggrandisement and appropriation. What if it were in the hands of a few who should employ it to lead the many? What if it were universal, and the multitude were enlightened? No. The many must be always in leading-strings; but let them have wise and honest conductors.”

Of course, the spreading Enlightenment triggered much larger and less controlled revolution ultimately than such organizations could actually manage. But, for those interested in such things as I am, there is plenty of material like this in the rest of the work to find this an amusing and enjoyable experience.

I picked up the free version of Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, so I didn’t get the advantage of reading a critical essay about the allegorical nature of the characters. You should get a critical edition, or do some reading online, to get the full flavour of the biting satire and commentary.

Thomas Love Peacock Nightmare Abbey

I made 180 highlights and submitted only 15 corrections, mostly formatting issues.

Off to Be the Wizard

I picked up this series over a year ago but accidentally waited to read Off to Be the Wizard until after it had not only been revised but also upgraded to Kindle-in-Motion, which includes additional art and animation by Liz Pulido, and I quite enjoyed that added bit of flair.

Shades of both reality-in-a-simulation Matrix and humor-behind-the-magic-curtain Myth-Adventures, the story follows what happens when the main character discovers one ultimate secret about reality, and the silliness, with occasional seriousness, that ensues. I enjoyed the idea of technical reality manipulation and time travel, exploring the necessary implications and complications, the setting and situations, and the well-developed characters in dialog; and am pleasantly excited to check out the next installment … but find myself hoping that the subsequent books are upgraded by the time I get to them.

Scott Meyer Liz Pulido Off to Be the Wizard

I made 77 highlights.

Doriana: Succubus at Large!

B L Lacertae’s Doriana is a sequence of three shorter stories about a succubus on vacation, undercover as a librarian, who accidentally becomes a dominatrix for kicks … as one does. I loved the worldbuilding, snarky tone of the main and diabolical character as narrator, and occasional self-aware self-deprecation breaking the fourth wall. Most of that was in the first part, and I could almost recommend stopping there. The second part was almost entirely simple erotica with barely any of the fun narrative frame. The third part finally warmed up to a welcome return to the narrative frame of the main character, and a suitable escalation. A quick and dirty quickly dirty read, with a fun and funny framing story that was the actual worthy part in and of itself.

B L Lacertae Doriana

I made 33 highlights. I didn’t keep track of errors, but there were some.

The Mindful Geek

I picked up The Mindful Geek by Michael W Taft because Al Billings was talking about it. After finishing it, I feel like up until now I’ve been lied to about the purpose, techniques, and outcomes of meditation. I mean, that’s okay, but, if you’re not seriously into meditation and already have had this epiphany long ago, I can recommend this is as a great practical compelling introduction to revolutionize something you probably think you already know about. I feel like my understanding of the purpose, techniques, and outcomes of meditation has been revolutionized.

You can pick up a free copy of this book, and find downloadable audio of the exercises, at the author’s site The Mindful Geek. After reading the book and awkwardly doing the exercises on my own with half an eye on the text, I made a playlist of the audio files. I shuffle the playlist when I set aside time, so I get a random exercise each time I sit during daily practice. But, the important point is that the book and audio files are all free. Check them out, and consider enhancing, or adding this to, your daily practice.

The amply supported discussion of the outcomes for mindfulness meditation described by Taft are grounded neurobiological improvements in concentration and depth of the complex interconnections between physical human sensations, thoughts and emotions. The crux is that Taft details how mindfulness practice has been shown to actually and practically grow the part of the human brain that allows for greater focus and deeper, broader human experience. This is entirely different than the outcomes I have heard espoused in the past. This is an entirely more welcome outcome than I have heard espoused in the past. This revelation alone is enough to recommend this book.

I admit most of my experience has been with the idea that meditation was a tool to clear the mind of thoughts. The techniques outlined by Taft in this book are clear and concise methods to practice focus and depth with thoughts, emotions and feelings. This isn’t mindlessness practice. This isn’t a practice to stop the mind. This isn’t a practice of body hate or combat to kill sensation or volunteering for deliberate extended body torture. This is a set of practices that increase skills with and capacity for focus and depth with one’s mind, body, and emotions.

Even Crowley when talking about “awareness, one-pointedness, mind-fullness” in On Concentration still suggests, and frankly kind of muddling what Hatha Yoga actually was as a precursory practice to prepare the body for and not the same as meditation, “to stop the mind altogether. That is Yoga.” And suggests the idea is to “sit down in Asana to quiet your mind.” However, the discussion of focus in this volume seems to me quite in line with other supporting statements that come to my mind about concentration and focus.

“Your nail must be hard, smooth, fine-pointed, or it will not move swiftly in the direction willed. Imagine then a nail of tinder-wood with twenty points—it is verily no longer a nail. Yet nigh all mankind are like unto this.”—Liber CL, De Lege Libellum

This further revelation of the practical neurobiological outcomes of this practice for me is even more important, I think. The outcome of increasing depth and breadth of being human potential for thought, sensation, and emotion revealed here should hearten every practitioner. But, specifically, as part of leading toward an overall clear, concise and unobfuscated practice of sex magick, the outcome of strengthening the neurobiological capacity for focus and sensation should be obviously desirable.

“Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein! But exceed! exceed!”—Liber AL, II, 70–71

Taft has offered here a practical discourse that is quite literally and precisely “the method of science, the aim of religion”, a phrase familiar to readers of Crowley material and here reified. All obfuscation and frou-frou of superstition is keenly stripped from the nitty-gritty details and a case is made clear that practical application of the techniques will bring about outcomes worthy of one’s work.

I was surprised to connect the discussion in this book to New Thought. If one ignored the cruft and superstition, New Thought’s admonition to breathe deeply and engage in positive thinking are, interestingly to me, quite well supported by the practical techniques and proven neurobiological outcomes discussed here.

Another thing I found myself thinking about is a personal hypothesis I’ve long had that damaged people are more interesting, and tend, I think and feel, to be the only people worth talking to. People who have not struggled, not faced hardship and setback, seem to me to be exquisitely boring and useless. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that the inward facing reaction to strife, the self-examination and inherent reflective practice of hardship in life might be seen as a practice of mindfulness and that creates, as discussed as an outcome of mindfulness practice, an actual neurobiological depth of capacity for thought and emotion and sensation. That which does not kill us, actually does (with apologies to Nietzsche and The Cure) make us stronger; bigger and sleeker and wider and brighter.

Michael W Taft The Mindful Geek

I made 84 highlights and submitted 39 corrections.

Dear NSA

Dear NSA by Harmon Cooper is a collection of more or less purely insane short stories. Stand outs “Pedo Drew” and “Feeding Governor Christie” are worth the sticker price alone for sheer amphetamine wackiness, but there’s more! These are quick reads that have rapid fire internal pacing. Basically, this is a series of fitful indigestion-fueled dreams of a pre-therapy John Cleese funny-walking through your brain.

Harmon Cooper Dear NSA

I made 38 highlights.

The Weirdness

The Weirdness by Jeremy P Bushnell is a terrific twisty toboggan ride of a read. Good thing the author is an instructor because this is a well-crafted writing masterclass in fun fiction.

The protagonist is jerked through a shocking, surprising character arc. There are fun plot twists that change everything. There are several bites of fine, healthy wisdom folded within this narrative confection, but also mixed with some zesty flavor grains of good surreal absurdity. Fun little nods to actual esotericism are just enough chocolate sprinkles on top, but not too much or too literal. The main antagonists have Zelazny’s Amber-level meta-capability compared to the protagonist, and yet, somehow, like Heinlein’s Job, the hero soldiers on through hell, food-service hell, even public-speaking hell, and back, and all with a tidy satisfying aftertaste beyond.

Jeremy Bushnell The Weirdness

I made 69 highlights and submitted no corrections for this book.

The antagonist as a limitation to dialogue

Some things just seem to keep coming around; like a bad penny.

I’m not entirely sure when I first ran into the book “Antagonists in the Chuch“, by Kenneth Haugk, but I do know where. It must have been some time close to 1995 when Isaac Bonewits posted “Dealing with Religious Jerks“. I read this review in which Isaac wrote:

“If I had read this book 30 years ago, many, many mistakes might have been avoided and Neopagan Druidism would be much further along in its evolution. In fact, if this book have been read by most of our ‘old timers’ three decades ago, our community would be easily ten or twenty times its current size and far more effective at influencing the mainstream death culture. Tens of thousands of lives — and species — might have been saved and the environmental crisis significantly slowed down. Instead, we spent literally millions of hours fighting unending battles with antagonists inside our own community who never intended to ‘fight fair’ because what they really wanted was the attention we gave them and the joy of destruction for its own sake.”

It was a couple years until I actually picked up a copy of the book, but I regretted waiting for so long. In fact, I note that it was almost a decade ago, in April 2001, when I finally picked it up, but I also know that it sat in my stack of “to read” books after that for a while before I actually read it; but this clearly places my reading of the book prior to my return to college where I studied dialogue in earnest. This book, then, is a forgotten influence on my work since then, one which I did not directly include in my thesis but which had been part of my thinking.

While the book is definitely within the context of congregational Christianity, a tradition which I do not find speaks to me personally; even the parts which are explicitly Christian, such as the section of quotes from the Bible, is interesting to a certain extent. But, the overall effect of the work on me was to give me another name for something which I’d recognized to exist, and by having language with which to speak about the phenomena it becomes easier to see those phenomena in the first place; and, it becomes more possible to develop conscious and intentional responses to times when I’ve been confronted by those phenomena.

To a certain extent, I have to admit that I’ve felt like a bit of a Cassandra because of my awareness of this sort of thing. Being able to see and name a thing for myself leads to a feeling of disconnectedness with those around me about whom I find myself wondering, “Why does no one else see this happening?” And, I’ll also admit that I’ve grown exceedingly tired of dealing with this phenomenon when I run into it, especially within groups that haven’t yet developed strong personal and structural responses to such phenomena. This is an example of the overall, deeply disappointing, cycle of lowered of expectations which leads to attrition within groups. For me, in many ways, I’ve found myself responding to what seems like a deafening silence in response to naming and identifying the phenomenon with an increasing willingness to find something else to do with my time. Instead of tilting at windmills within groups that seem to not respond, I admit that I have more often of late taken a pessimistic path of somewhat selfish cost-benefit analysis, and simply chosen to confront the phenomenon to the point where I feel doing more is futile and there’s probably something else more personally satisfying I can do with my time, and then tarry no further.

Still, this topic sure does seem to keep coming up for me. Just two examples will suffice to suggest that this has, for some reason, been something that has been on my mind for as long as I’ve been mindful.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I must have been shown the animated Animal Farm a bazillion times. Okay, maybe not that many times, but for some reason that film was de rigueur. My take away from that film was quite a strong influence on my thinking, but for some reason it didn’t seem to be the same as other people; and it finally occurred to me what was going on. I reflect on this a bit, back in 2006, in “Why do the bastards hate Animal Farm so much?“:

“But, when I was a kid and the schools kept showing the animated ‘Animal Farm’ I didn’t get the message that community was bad. I got the message that the selfish, evil bastards can ruin community for the rest of the animals.”

Ostensibly, the reason I kept seeing that film in school was, I imagine, that I was to understand that Communism didn’t work. But what I got from it was that communism did work, but that Communism didn’t because it was a broken form of communism, one that had been hijacked by bastards. So, be on guard! (Yes, I’m looking at you Capitalism.)

Fast forward to my undergraduate studies at The Evergreen State College, and the continuation and expansion of that work which culminated in my Master’s thesis, The Fifth Principle of Dialogue as an answer to a specific project:

“As a student and practitioner of Dialogue, I have constantly explored the question of how can we cross our thresholds to meet with the inimical other for the purpose of creating peace. Through my exploration of this question, I have developed a unique theory of dialogue that includes a definition of dialogue as an archetypal process that occurs in an enabling space and that has a set of observable phenomenon that emerge from that process.” [via]

I’m not entirely sure I ever integrated the notion of Haugk’s “Antagonist” into my work, but I have no doubt that it was an influence. Where I speak of the Unwilling Autonomous Principle, I realize that in my own thinking I include this idea of an “Antagonist”, which is to some extent like my interpretation and extension of Rosenberg’s “Jackal” as an archetype in my model of dialogue.

“The Jackal is that Other we are willing to engage and is willing to engage with us. Even though the Jackal may not be able to be compassionate and connected, the Jackal is willing to engage, the Hyena is not. The Jackal may take bites out of each and every Giraffe but will stop feeding when it is full, when needs are met. The Hyena will take bites from every Giraffe that it meets and will continue eating until there is nothing left to eat, including attacking the Jackals. The Jackal has authentic needs that can be met by the Giraffe archetypes in order to build a bridge between them. The Hyena archetype refuses to peacefully engage even if all efforts are made to satisfy its needs.

If the project of crossing thresholds into enabling dialogical space is to engage with our own Other, then staying with the safe intramural conversations in the Giraffe herd is not enough. If there is any hope for progress toward dialogue, the Other must be engaged even if that Other will consistently take a chunk out of every Giraffe. But it cannot be the point of the project to place us in suicidally dangerous places, pointlessly offering ourselves as a free meal to the Hyenas, because this also ends the project as surely as if it were not begun at all.” [via]

I’m not sure whether I managed to fully satisfactorily signify the “Antagonist” as either “Jackal” or a kind of hybrid, a “Hyena in Jackal costume”. But Haugk’s notion of the “Antagonist” is someone who, while unwilling to engage in actuality will constantly act as if they are willing to engage in order to satisfy their needs at the expense of others.

These inimical others are the most dangerous, because they are not just lurking about outside of our social groups and structures, but rather are actively hunting. These others are violently predatory toward our constructive social groups.

Paradoxically, as such things often are, these seriously dangerous organizational psychopaths are actually very often well thought of by those with whom they interact. The natural camouflage of these predators is such that they often appear to be the center of attention, and appear to be charismatic members of the social group.

Much like the apocryphal, prototypical serial killer, they seem to have adoring fans everywhere. And, that’s one of the most surreal things for anyone that finds themselves confronted or attacked by these predators within social groups. There is constantly this sense of the bizarre at the difference between one’s own experience and the way these predators seem to be seen by the group. One constantly feels like the protagonist in John Carpenter’s “They Live”; that everyone is blind to the true nature of what is going on around them, that they are surrounded by monsters and being manipulated into docility to ease their eventual slaughter or use as a pack animal (and yes, that’s a weak joke about being made into an ass, or moreover being made into the butt, or something to do with getting screwed there).

As they say, the first step is to admit that you’ve got a problem. The first step to dealing with the existence of those who would damage social groups from the inside without any remorse, beyond the way a predator mourns when all the easy pickings are devoured, is to recognize that such people exist.

Being able to recognize the existence of these “Antagonists”, these inimical others that are quite literally hunting us down from within (or perhaps to break my own metaphoric structure these are a kind of social parasite; dare I even say vampire? And not the fluffy bunny carrot sucking kind. Don’t even get me started on sparkles!), is not enough. Beyond the really, truly transformative experience of being able to name the phenomenon, as expressed by Bonewits above, and therefore validate the experience of that phenomenon, it is also necessary to respond to the existence of those phenomena. It would be nice if merely seeing that “Antagonists” exist was enough to, like some comforting fairy tale, magically dismiss them, but unfortunately what is required is an actual active daily practice of banishing.

In the conclusion of my thesis, I observe:

“I believe that meeting the inimical other is made possible through the practice of dialogue. This practice is for the purpose of human growth on a collective level, and to transform the self, others and the world.” [via]

And, indeed, this practice of dialogue is an intentional practice of both intra- and inter-personal transformation which has many possible similarities to the personal transformative practice of magick. There is need for a daily practice, a consistent commitment to the project. There is also a need for engagement within some kind of tradition, or within some kind of social group; after all, while I do admit to the possibility of internal dialogue, it is the external variety which is the more germane, or to re-use one of my invented terms “Relephant” [via].

It is in developing a social system which is adapted to respond by individuals invested in a fundamental social bond, in recognizing “an inescapable, essential connection between people that is bigger than any of us” [via]; in this is the foundation of meeting the challenge of “Antagonists” as a limitation to dialogue. But, it is also essential to recognize that the implication of not developing an adaptable social system is to be at the mercy of those who will, no doubt, happily take advantage of every opportunity to feed off of the essential vitality in any group in which they are allowed to hunt for food, or in which they are allowed to suck, for several meanings of that term.

It may in fact be possible, as I suggest in my thesis, to develop systems within organizations, founded on personal willingness and ability, to develop enabling dialogical environments where confronting inimical others is both possible and constructive; but, doing so very likely will require a strong dynamic archetypal engagement, one which may require intermediaries, mediation of one kind or another. But, it may also require something which I didn’t fully develop in my thesis, and about which I’ve apparently only spoken about in passing elsewhere: enclaving [Look for “enclave” or “enclaving”: see, also, et, et, et]. But, in essence, it may be necessary, not to abandon the project of crossing our thresholds, but to be willing to exclude when necessary those that stand in the way of dialogue in order to have any hope of progress:

“Dynamic balance within dialogical space as part of the dialogic process includes the notion of balance between inclusion and exclusion, a dynamic balance between collective and autonomous principles. This is one of the qualities of the boundary between the circles of engagement. Including the truly inimical is something that can be fatal, so exclusion is an essential function of creating a boundary at the edge of a dialogical environment. In my thinking is the notion of ‘enclaving’ where groups determine their useful and necessary boundaries. But, it’s also essential to the overall dialogical environment that these boundaries, which create enclaves, have the possibility for permeability. It is not necessary to take in the inimical, but it seems necessary to have an open invitation to those willing, and moreover to those that become willing in the future as the dialogic process builds and then permeates the surrounding larger environment, to come willingly into a more interior circle of engagement. Further, it also must remain possible for a group to hive itself off from a larger group when the larger group does not offer an enabling dialogical environment.

Thus a sub-group choosing to enclave with those actually willing can become the catalyst for future change in the larger group because they’ve excluded disabling or inimical entities, until such time as it becomes possible to re-cross their group boundary to further, ongoing inclusion. But, even if it does not happen obviously that further inclusion becomes possible, in the meanwhile the emergence of dialogue can create change in the environments within and without the circles of engagement.” [via a response to a comment]

So, it turns out that I’ve ended up recommending Haugk’s “Antagonists in the Church” to people I care about in every social group I’ve been in since I finally picked up a copy and read it. It is a very quick read, but I think it has the potential for catalyzing some very important conversations within organizations, and perhaps also the potential for helping to develop an environment in which true dialogue can emerge.

While I admitted to a certain loss of faith, if you will, in the necessity for the project; I have had recent occasion to have the seemingly surreal experience of having a social group, in which I was heavily invested but from which I had distanced myself due to disappointment, suddenly have, if you will allow the unexplained irony, a “come to Jesus” moment with Haugk’s book. Apparently, the book has spread like wildfire and it seems that the topic of “Antagonists” will be included within several of the internal organizational development structures of the organization in relatively short order. Huz-freakin-zah!

I had one long time member of that organization echo in a private conversation with me the sentiment expressed by Bonewits, saying “If only I had read this ten years ago, so much pain could have been avoided!”

So, I’ve recommended this book to people in every organization I’ve been in since running into it, and now I’d like to recommend it to you, and to the people in whatever organizations you are in. There’s something that is both seriously validating that comes from reading this material, but also, I hope, and moreover, contained within is something that will catalyze your next step toward both personal and organizational change.

Antagonists in the Church by Kenneth Haugk
Augsburg Books
January, 1988
ISBN: 0806623101 (ISBN-13: 9780806623108)
Paperback, 192 pages

the information being presented

The material represents a diversity of ideas spread across time, culture and tradition. It is better to present these ideas without hiding them in order to get a better understanding of them. Sometimes this better understanding means also taking into account cultural contexts of where and when and by whom these ideas appear.

So, it is possible to find something on my site which can offend just about anyone. However, I do endeavor to present information that we deem to have redeeming value within the overall theme of the site for the student or researcher. Which is to say that I do not present information with the intention to offend, but that some information I present as important within the scope of the site may offend some.

It can sometimes be hard for people to understand that presenting information does not imply advocacy for that idea. So, to be clear: the opinions and, yes, sometimes even the facts presented on the site do not necessarily represent the opinions of either myself or maybe even anyone but the original author. On the other hand, maybe it does. One of the purposes of the site is to advocate that the information I present is accessible, and to that end I try not to editorialize over or obscure the original information.

I read banned books. I believe in open access to information. I celebrate ideas, even those with which I disagree. I hope to challenge but it is not my aim to offend. Sometimes that just happens, and usually says more about the person that is offended than it does about the information being presented.

Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo at Sekhet-Maat on Sept 16th at 7:30pm

I’m helping to organize this event, and it’s going to be great. Richard Kaczynski, author of the newly revised and expanded Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley, is coming to Sekhet-Maat Lodge 1409 SE Stark in Portland for a lecture and book signing on Thursday, Sept 16th at 7:30pm (Doors open at 6:30pm).

This will be a free event!

For more information: Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.

About the Lecture

This fascinating and informative lecture will begin with an overview of the life of Aleister Crowley and then the audience will have the unique opportunity to select which parts of Crowley’s interesting life they are most curious to discuss in depth (poet, painter, mountaineer, occultist, etc). Richard Kaczynski will be able to cover as many of these special topics as time allows. This will then be followed by a book signing where attendees can have their copies of Richard Kaczynski’s newly revised and updated Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley and other books signed by the author.

About Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley

“Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo: the Life of Aleister Crowley is the one biography that is absolutely necessary for anyone who wishes to know more about one of the most creative, seminal, and misunderstood figures of the last hundred years.” —David Tibet, founder of Current 93

“This is not only the most carefully-researched, detailed, and informative biography of Crowley yet written but also a remarkable insight into the nature of magic itself.” —Ronald Hutton, author of The Triumph of the Moon

The name “Aleister Crowley” instantly conjures visions of diabolic ceremonies and orgiastic indulgences—and while the sardonic Crowley would perhaps be the last to challenge such a view, he was also much more than “the Beast,” as this authoritative biography shows. Perdurabo (the magical name Crowley chose when inducted into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) traces Crowley’s remarkable journey from his birth as the only son of a wealthy lay preacher to his death in a boarding house as the world’s foremost authority on magick. Along the way, he rebels against his conservative religious upbringing; befriends famous artists, writers, and philosophers (and becomes a poet himself ); is attacked for his practice of “the black arts”; and teaches that science and magick can work together. While seeking to spread his infamous philosophy of “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” Crowley becomes one of the most notorious figures of his day. Based on Richard Kaczynski’s twenty years of research, and including previously unpublished biographical details, Perdurabo paints a memorable portrait of the man who inspired the counterculture and influenced generations of artists, punks, wiccans, and other denizens of the demimonde.

Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley - lecture & book signing with Richard Kaczynski - Thu Sep 16, 2010 e.v. - Sekhet-Maat Lodge

King Dork is Partridge to Andromeda Klein’s Scooby

A while ago I read and reviewed Andromeda Klein, and one of the things I mentioned was that I was going to read King Dork, Frank Portman‘s first book. Well, I did.

My Andromeda Klein review has recently been re-published in Sekhet-Maat‘s journal Lion & Serpent V. 15 n. 1, so I’ve been revisiting this and realized that while I did, in fact, read King Dork, and even made notes for a review after; I didn’t actually do a matching review.

Okay, maybe not “matching” so much as musical chairs.

But, wait, before starting this, I think it’s important to set the mood. You should be listening to the right kind of music as you read this review, and, frankly, while your read King Dork. So, you should have prepared a playlist. Be sure to select some post-punk. For this review, I’ve selected for you some samples from the Best of the Mr T. Experience, Frank Portman’s group, and can also suggest a Mr T. Experience station on your Internet radio of choice.

And, really, you’ve simply got to have the MTX track “Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend” in there somewhere. Okay?

King Dork is the story of Thomas Henderson and his struggles to find his place in the world in and out of high school through the lenses of music, sort of, and The Catcher in the Rye, sort of. Yeah, he’s a wannabe rebel without a tune. But, he’s working on that.

Look, by now there’s been plenty of other reviews for this book, so I’m going to just talk about what I want to talk about. Instead of just going over the story I’m going to talk about other things, however I will say KD is a better book that to me is not quite as good as AK. Don’t get me wrong about this, because I really liked KD a lot, but I’m glad I read AK first. I think KD reads easier and feels more solidly written and speaks in a voice more grounded.

That’s not to say that both aren’t grounded. I find this groundedness to be one of the best parts of both these books and that they are both quite essentially real. I made a comment in my AK review about possible connections to the Wold Newton universe (and, there’s even internal cross-over between KD and AK), but on reflection I think that the passing and silly suggestion of moving these stories into the world of the pulps would seriously be a disservice to the essentially real nature of these two narratives. Although wild and wonderful, there’s really nothing in either of these books that couldn’t be some person’s non-fictional lived experience. That’s especially important, for me, for AK, but it’s also true of KD.

(The most implausible thing for me across either of these book was the library in AK being full of weegie books that has survived in a so very complete and unmolested form for so long, but even that I can, kind of, conceive of existing in the real world and, at least, in any case, it’s not, no matter how unlikely, an entirely impossible thing that required a complete conceit. Yeah, I know, it’s not that the geeks win … I’ve got to allow myself some necessary illusions, right? Moving on …)

But, hey, check this out: KD has a dénouement, or maybe for KD more appropriately a coda, which kind of wraps it all up; the absence of which in AK makes me wonder if this was something the publisher demanded in KD. I think this is part of what makes KD more readable and smooth, but also is interestingly less idiosyncratic in comparison. It seems a bit like a bizarro Clockwork Orange, where the retrospective ending got added instead of lopped off.

Well, KD sure seems to be more popular …

… ah, and there’s the rub, innit? I mean, KD is kind of a romantic comedy. (And, whereas Buffy asked what if the cheerleader kicks ass, AK sort of asks what if then Buffy died, and kinda skips to Season 6?)

I made such a big deal out of AK not being an orphan in my other review, that I have to get this out of the way. King Dork is an orphan, of sorts, due to his dad being dead. But, KD doesn’t really have super powers … or does he? (Compared to my life, he sure seems magical.) But, no, really, I’m getting distracted from the fact that my point here is to back-peddle, so … I think it’s great and awesome that AK isn’t an orphan. I’m slightly miffed at how formulaic KD is, as a loser boy who turns out super cool and gets the chicks; but, you know, I’ll get over it. Frankly, I identify more with AK and I wish I were more like KD; but, you know, I want to be both, really.

So, KD is pretty heroicly the outsider, reading this first book made me realize again how awesome it was to have the main character of AK be a woman, and moreover a woman engaged in magick in a real way. I know this post was really supposed to be about KD, but I’ve already blurred the two and I can’t pass up this chance to hit the high note in the refrain about how wonderful AK is. There’s still a lot of explicit and implicit misogyny in ceremonial magick and it’s important to point that out, but also to celebrate, in order to recover and reveal, the often hidden work of women. Yeah, yeah, I know AK is fiction, but it’s part of an important trend of telling women’s stories. There was a post over on Plutonica a little while ago that also points some of this out, and it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored; I’ve also certainly noticed what seems like coded (and, honestly, sometimes completely open and plain) misogyny in the way that some ceremonials talk about witches, for sure, and even in the way those two terms seem inherently gender segregated. (At the same time, it’s important to recognize that some of this expression is about the larger cultural context, not always inherent in the specific system, in which those expressing it are in, and so sometimes, but not always, a symptom not a disease.) AK is a woman, fictional to be sure, doing magick, moreover ceremonial magick. (I don’t know, but it’s also something interesting that like both Starhawk and Moina Mathers, this woman is also of Jewish descent. Why do these things seem to colocate? Is it an exotification filter?) Even within the realm of fictional stories, so very often the main protagonist is male. There’s been a strong recent trend in stories featuring Sheroes, for example Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy and the extensive series of Tortall stories by Tamora Pierce, in which AK participates by virtue of her gender; and it’s a good thing that we’ve moved not away but to include more than just the boy who would be king or jesus in our current cultural mélange of metaphor and myth.

KD is a hero of course. He gets more action in the couple of months covered by the book than I did in my entire high school career, and let us not even mention the state of my life now, okay? No reason to end this in tears, after all. Yeah, that’s a sad thing to admit, I suppose: even the fictional KD gets more action than I do.

But, as much as KD is a hero to the geek in me, AK is more dear to my heart. I think it’s really quite simply down to the interiority of AK, which speaks more to my own experience and my experience of my thoughts in the world. I have to admit AK feels more real to me; but, KD is a more grounded read. But, here’s a thing: the more or less ease of the read seems to reflect the interior confidence of the character through whose voice each story is told. In AK, the narrator is essentially uncertain with her own self, and struggling through the exterior world in order to find her inner strength. In KD, the narrator is essentially confident of his interior life, but is struggling with finding a place in the exterior world that reflects that inner confidence. These seem to directly reflect stereotyped cultural gender identity norms of expectation and experience. So, I actually find the differences in voice as they appear through the text as I’ve read them to be reflective of the characters themselves, and some really important exploration of culturally defined gender as it is displayed in identity formation for each individual.

There are wild similarities wildly made in my mind between these two books, like the characters and quirks were tossed into a bingo hamper and spun around. I suppose that’s one reason that I’m finding myself talking about both at the same time so much, but …

… parental invasive-compulsive disorder, mysterious death, duplicitous sidekick, disguised girls, hyper-dysfunctional mother, kinda-cool father figure, vicious school environment, special-effect laden bully comeuppance, mystery message, character with twisted word problem, topical obsession by main character, a hospital visit near the climax, a bit of mistaken Satanic Panic …

… you know, to sum all that up: they both are about teenagers in high school.

As similar as the two are, in a kind of mixed-up fairy tale kind of way, there are marked differences. And here’s the crux of it as it seems to me: where AK was seeking connection and meaning through interiority, KD is yearning for connection and meaning through exteriority. About the interiority in the one versus the other, I have to wonder if that’s reflective of a gender stereotype somehow; but, I already talked about that.

Okay, so now check out the covers. See the hand-drawn “suicide” King of Hearts sans mustache only partially revealed on KD. Now, check out the tarot card on the front of AK. Hearts are equivalent to cups. So, KD is represented by the King of Cups to AK’s 3 of Swords. (If you’re inclined, chew on that for a while, and then come back. I’ll wait.)

The illustration of KD as the King of Hearts on the cover actually contains several interesting symbols which are meaningful to the story without really giving anything away without having read the story, which was one of the points I made about the AK cover. In the old decks, the King of Hearts was Charles, and thus Charlemagne. Charles is Tom Henderson’s middle name. In Alice in Wonderland, the King of Hearts is merciful but childish. Being sans mustache, as opposed to the actual appearance of the King of Hearts, points out pre-pubescence and youth, or at least the ascension of youth to the trappings of adulthood. And, a Suicide King is topically relevant to the story.

Also, if it weren’t for the back cover text revealing the relevancy of Catcher in the Rye, the cover would be pretty brilliantly subtle on that point.

Now the whole deconstructed book cover for the book cover thing I noticed for AK makes more sense, right? It’s another theme, another cross-over echo between the two. I hope future books from Frank Portman keep it up, and don’t drop the theme for a re-design and break what I now see as an awesome aesthetic for something “more marketable”. Bah! and Blah! I say. (Yes, I’m looking at you, US editions of Winter Wood. You make me cry, you!)

Oh, one thing I know is going to sound pedantic, and inevitably dorky; but I have to take exception to the way that “D&D” is called “D and D” in the book. It’s a silly thing maybe, and maybe that is actually how the kids are doing it these days; but it’s “D&D” damnit. (And, I can never manage to suppress a giggle when the Dialogue and Deliberation community calls itself “D&D” …)

Swear to gods, I want KD and crew and AK and crew to meet. I can’t decide whether I’d rather they coöperate or compete. Maybe it can be like a mirror, mirror Partridge Family meets Scooby-Doo, bus to van and group to gang, snapping fingers, snapping fingers, in Zombieland?

Image used with permission of Travis Pitts
[flickr,imagekind,threadless]

From a post on the Telstar Logistics corporate blog

Only, there’s so many similarities with a twist between these two books that it’s more like some rock-opera about a time when the Mystery Machine drove past the Misery Machine …

… and with perfect comedic timing, and a double take shaking of heads and rubbing of rummy eyes, forced to ask, “was it an illusion? an hallucination? or … the beginning of the best mirror-mirror crossover story arc ever?!” And, “um, hey, isn’t that the same actor in both?!” And, “Sure, of course, Buffy/Daphne, but, damn, Willow/Velma sure is hot, yeahs shir!”

I find I desperately want to read the story which pits the 93’s against the Chi-Mo’s in a race to unravel a magical, mythical, musical mystery where they ultimately, gloriously team up in a battle against the machinations of a murderous conspiracy between the Black Brothers of the P∴M∴R∴C∴ and the diabolical minds behind elevator music and boy bands. Maybe they can be rivals across a couple of books, or at least one, before they team up and form the Justice League of Angst? (Say, what’s Joss Whedon up to these days, anyway? Oh, right, Dr. Horrible 2. Yeah! But, also darn.)

Look, I’m being silly again with the suggestions. But, like the awesome first segment in Shaun of the Dead, there’s a way to go places grounded but through a lens. Both KD and AK have threads of core mystery within the tapestry of these stories, and there’s a way to ask “what does it look like in real life?” when exploring esoterica, like AK did; while still being fun, like both do.

See, I want my Scooby Doo with some ambiguity, because there’s no freakin’ way that those junkyard Rube Goldberg disguises and machinations would have actually fooled anyone as completely as the gang was constantly, unless something very interesting was really going on; and, I don’t need to have that explained, and even prefer it have a bit of that unknown remain in both process and result. As for Scooby, I suppose I don’t mind some scientific rationalism in my mix as long as it is neither all there is nor is it just plain dumb.

So, I don’t really mean to suggest to change the essential groundedness of either. I just mean, this is the stuff I found myself thinking about. And, the real point is: “Please, sir, can I have some more?”

And, as long as I’m on the topic of comparing, as a parting thought, I can’t help but noticing that KD is contained in both King Dork and Andromeda Klein; but in a reversed reflection (a relefection? anybody? anybody? can I keep it? huh? can I?), as if what was plainly revealed in the first is hidden and concealed in the second, or to be cute about it, “half known and half concealed” (Liber CCXX, I, 34). (And, since I mentioned Scooby Doo, seriously, Velma’s initials are VD. I mean, really … that’s just messed up.)

Oh, and, the appearance of Sam Hellerman in both books is a hint of possible things to come … maybe in the forthcoming King Dork Actually … or, I should be so lucky, volume 2 of Liber K? Oh, I’ll settle for the Will Ferrell movie adaptation of King Dork, fo’ sure (and, if Ferrell is the dad, pb-pb-pb-pb-pb-pblease, can Anna Friel be the mom?) … for a while; but, I’m looking forward to more. (Or, you know, maybe like Lt. and Mrs. Columbo … they both have a series where the other never appears but they end up mentioning each other in funny anecdotes?)

Anyhow, one thing is for damned sure: I need to join a band. I have a strong feeling a song is coming on. And, while I’m in the garage with my band, you know, coming up with cool band names until we learn to play something … pick up King Dork and revel in the rebel once again.

King Dork by Frank Portman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
February, 2008
ISBN: 0385734506 (ISBN-13: 9780385734509)
Paperback, 368 pages

Red Book porn

A little bit ago, I promised a preview of the copy of Jung’s Red Book I’d received. So, here’s a gallery of opening the box, and a family photo of Jung’s Red Book, Mao’s little red book, a presentation copy of The Book of the Law, and a rock from the Red Rocks in Sedona, AZ. It’s so nice when everyone comes together like that for the holidays!

And, here’s some Red Book bibliomancy, in the form of several passages found by somewhat random selection:

“The years, of which I have spoken to you, when I pursued the inner images, were the most important of my life”

“Given the unpublished copies in circulation, the Red Book would in all likelihood have eventually entered the public domain.”

“There can be few unpublished works that have already exerted such far-reaching effects upon the twentieth-century social and intellectual history as Jung’s Red Book, or Liber Novus (New Book).”

“The spirit of the depths too my understanding and all my knowledge and place them at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical.”

“One laughs about it, and laughter, too, is. Do you believe, man of this time, that laughter is lower than worship? Where is your measure, false measurer? The sum of life decides in laughter and in worship, not your judgement.”

“Everything odious and disgusting is your own particular Hell. How can it be otherwise? Every other Hell was a least worth seeing or full of fun. But that is never Hell. Your Hell is made up of all things that you always ejected from your sanctuary with a curse and a kick of the foot.””

“You thought that in the East you could drink from the source of light, and catch the horned giant, before whom you fall to your knees. His essence is blid excessive longing and tempestuous force.”

“Magic is a way of living. If one has done one’s best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place.”

“At which the serpent curled up, gathered herself into knots and said: ‘Do not ask after the morrow, sufficient unto you is the day. You need not worry about the means. Let everything grow, let everything sprout; the son grows out of himself.'”

“In the Pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is fruitless to think about the Pleroma, for this would mean self-dissolution.

Creation is not the Pleroma, but in itself. The Pleroma is the beginning and the end of creation. It pervades creation, just as sunlight pervades the air. Although the Pleroma is altogether pervaisive, creation has no share in it, just as wholly a transparent body becomes neither light nor dark through the light pervading it.”

“This is a God you knew nothing about, because mankind forgot him. We call him by the name ABRAXAS. He is even more indefinite than God and the devil.

To distinguish him from God, we call God HELIOS or sun. Abraxas in effect. Nothing stands opposed to him but the ineffective; hence effective nature unfolds itself freely.”

“The simple is cruel, it does not unite with the manifold.”

Annotated picture of Jung's Red Book family.
Annotated picture of Jung's Red Book family.