Other Miscellany
photo by Mike Cade. Portland, Oregon 2018

paying the angels


photo by Mike Cade. Portland, Oregon 2018

Paul Cezanne: Chaos

A Selection of Optograms from the Private Collection of Willia A. Abbotts

These retinal images—retrieved by a complex optochemical process that fixes the photosensitive pigment (rhodopsin) found in the rods of the retina—capture the last image seen before death.

Most of these optograms are believed to have been extracted at St. Albans County morgue during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Drew Zeiba: In Upstate New York, a DMT-Inspired Psychedelic Temple Rises

The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a transdenominational church and registered nonprofit—has been constructing the Entheon: “A place to discover god within.” The three-story windowless art space will be a temple to, among other things, original “visionary art” from the church’s husband-and-wife co-founders, Alex and Allyson Grey.

Winged “Angels of the Creative Imagination” punctuate the facade, interspersed between the larger “Godheads” that comprise the bulk of the outer walls. These Godheads “bear symbols of different world-wisdom traditions above each Cosmic Eye.” “DNA dragons” rise up from the corners of the roof to its center—liquid and vibrating creatures whose sides are a continuous double helix, a form that, according to a likely false urban legend, was discovered by British molecular biologist Francis Crick under the influence of LSD. Allyson’s “secret writing,” a script using a 20-letter unpronounceable alphabet, will run the upper edge of the Entheon and be guarded by sculpted “Angels of the Four Directions.” And these are just some of the building’s creatures and spiritual guardians.

Edd Gent: Are Exoskeletons About to Go Mainstream?

The idea behind exoskeletons, or wearable robotics, seems like a no-brainer. Marry the power of mechanical robotics with the ready-made smarts and adaptability of humans, removing the need to develop sophisticated AI to control your robots.

Reality has proven trickier. Humans work in fundamentally different ways than machines, so designing machines that conform to the way we move and to fit our soft and squishy bodies is difficult. And if exoskeletons are going to make life easier for humans rather than giving us an extra thing to worry about, they need to be unobtrusive, lightweight, and adaptable to a wide variety of body sizes and shapes.

That’s why, despite the first demonstrations as early as the 1960s, the devices still aren’t a regular feature on the factory floor—but that may be about to change. Earlier this month, Ford announced that it plans to roll out the use of exoskeletons made by Ekso Bionics at 15 facilities worldwide after successful trials in the US.

Jacob Phillips: Game Over

The exit is to be found within the game. It might, like an innere Emigration, involve staying put and working cleverly within the existing strictures of speech, yet envisaging the institutions of the future and carefully attending to the downfall of the present. A standing aside to work with the inevitable decay, perhaps, and accompanying the acceleration until the cliff-edge emerges on the horizon. Contrary to popular conception, the pseudonymous Twitter handle then promises not to be not merely symptomatic of the crisis of sincerity. After identity is politicized, the post-political is unidentifiable. Pseudonymity is then the first showings of the exit, because the one playing with it knows that he is playing. He thereby circumscribes the boundaries of the pitch, re-establishes rules by remembering that it’s a game. Exit will then mark the spot on which the cruciform ashes are to be drawn.

Jordan Greenhall: Making Sense of QAnon

…the world we have been co-creating for the past few generations has developed into “Wonderland”.

A land of affect, artifice, viscerality, and aphasia. Where it is much more important to “look presidential” than to be presidential. Where merely being on TV all the time is more than enough to “make you famous” and the more fabricated your presence, the more you appeal to the imagination, the better. How many of us know the Friends better than we know our friends? Or the goings on of the Kardashians better than our cousins or neighbors?


Oh, and make a mistake? Say something you regret? No worry, wait 15 minutes and everyone will have lost the thread in the great spectacle. Like Alice, we find that it is hard to keep track of things in Wonderland.

Justin Murphy: Some Personal Reflections on Jordan Peterson 

For anyone interested in contemporary ideological fragmentation, themes related to exit and escape from institutional oppression, the increasing social power of autonomous intellect relative to gatekeepers, it’s hard for me to see how you could find the Jordan Peterson phenomenon uninteresting and unexciting. I probably have a personal emotional bias insofar as I only recently went through a turbulent transition away from pretty hardcore, long-term SJWism. I’m not a Peterson fanboy but I also would be lying if I said that Peterson’s Stern Father persona did not strongly resonate with me — and help me — when I found him about a year before his meteoric rise.

For young urban people working to establish themselves in any one of the culture industries (academia, journalism, entertainment of any kind), current levels of SJWism are highly depressogenic, unless you’re in the subset of people temperamentally inclined to SJWism (often people already vaguely depressed). The transition from “I’ll say and do whatever will get me laid,” to “What should I say and do to make the next 50 years good, now that I’m not trying to get laid?” felt incredibly difficult when all I had to go on were deeply unhelpful myths that I had been socialized into believing. Peterson’s main messages are just an undeniably potent medicine for this type of socio-cognitive pathology. Peterson’s main message, for the millions among whom it resonates, very likely decreases depression — not severe clinical depression, but certainly the vague depressiveness (non-clinical or pre-clinical) that characterizes so many lives today. And I suspect that this vague depressiveness is a much larger problem for the prospect of social movements than severe clinical depression, because it suppresses a much larger quantity of human potential (in a much larger group) than severe clinical depression — and its much more tractable.

Robin Hanson: If the Future is Big

Yes, we should worry about the possibility of a big future decline soon. Perhaps due to global warming, resource exhaustion, falling fertility, or institutional rot. But this is mainly because the consequences would be so dire, not because such declines are likely. Even declines comparable in magnitude to the largest seen in history do not seem to me remotely sufficient to prevent the revival of long term growth afterward, as they do not prevent continued innovation. Thus while long-term growth is far from inevitable, it seems the most likely scenario to consider.

If growth is our most robust expectation for the future, what does that growth suggest or imply?

Xenopulsions in Twin Peaks

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