Terence McK burbles intriguingly but also a bit suspiciously about
which apparently he invented soon after
messing around with the I Ching in 1971. However, contrast the faux innocence
with which he deprecates himself in the first three minutes as "an Irishman" just
fooling about, amazingly stumbling on a timescale which ends on the very same month
and very same day as the Mayan calendar he knew nothing about ...with the
section on this
page which claims McKenna found his first timescale ended in November 2012
but later on he retrofitted it to coincide with 21st December 2012. Not the
impression we get in the little video talk. Naughty Terence.
Alarming photograph: how
moments of imminent doom feel to nervous types like me. Zdravko alerts me to a
nasty dispute between angry acolytes of Chomsky and some unfortunate linguist who
thinks he has found a language
with no subordinate clauses. Finish a book I bought and started a decade ago:
Talizmanok' ('Talisman Magic') by Richard
Webster, translated to Hungarian by Balazs Kecskes. This is a working guide, well
explained in steps, to creating magic squares both as mathematical amusements and
for purposes of divination or protection. Though he covers some other systems, he
mainly draws on Indian tradition, where the magic square (rows, columns, and diagonals
adding to the same number for a given array) is called a yantra, a specific kind of
mandala. Much fun to be had, needing only pencil & paper and a little time.
Wake in glorious sunshine on Carolyn's sofa, warm under a couple of blankets.
flat is where Jessica is staying while in town.
Mr McKenna, his nasal lilt here fed through a ghastly talking mask of the High Seventies psychedelic
album-cover variety, sums up in just nine minutes why he thinks DMT trips are such
a special type of drug experience, different from any other. Meanwhile, the clear tones
of Alan Watts, Buddhism explainer, (I've never heard his voice before) calmly sets out
the old idea, vaguely parallel to but unlike McKenna's drug-based viewpoint, that
the self is
Meet Jessica again to discuss
A shop in
London with ideas above its station. Meet Tim by evening on business. If you
were photographing Kate Moss at the Ritz in Paris, you probably would make her
stand on the mantelpiece at some
Finish Sound-Studio Zita's Michael Wood book
Domesday Quest' about, intriguingly, what William the
Bastard's detailed Domesday survey of the assets of England in 1086 can tell
us about preceding patterns of taxation and land cultivation in Saxon, Viking,
and Romano-Celtic areas of England through the six or seven centuries leading up
to the Norman conquest. Only after finishing the book did Wood's name come back
to me as that of a then-young historian presenter of a BBC TV series on Dark
Ages England I saw in the 1980s. He does a good job of showing how actual history
is done: by trying to compare different scraps of textual evidence such as
land bequests, tax documents, notes surviving from court statements; seeing
where they overlap; and trying to trace persisting patterns through successive
centuries revealed by this mosaic of evidence, however thin. A couple of quiet
mentions about the by-today clearly wasteful county-border changes and decimalisation
of English money in the early 1970s show he feels, as any historian must, sad regret.
Completely unnecessary vandalism to what was a living fabric of continuity
between past & future.
In the evening, find some interesting 10-minute talks by a rather serious man who has
written about narcissists, the psychiatric type de jour. This one is about
narcissists", people seeking the reflected glory of
a narcissist they "serve".
Tea & cakes with Jessica,
back in town after 8 years. She is now not only a film-maker, but a trader of
houses. She has useful ideas about selling my house.
Listen to one of Terence McKenna's early-1990s
talks again. He was a good raconteur.
At one hour forty minutes he slides from being an open-minded reader of hermetic
history to John Dee's Enochian alphabet, to 1950s CIA interviews, on to a very
funny & interesting after-dinner
anecdote about one of his DMT trips. A terrific set of semi-humorous speculations
about how octopuses think & communicate at two hours forty one minutes is very
stimulating. This emerges from a slightly dodgy theory of his about spoken languages
requiring "a congruence of internal dictionaries", and he insists on mistakenly
"octopi" with false erudition. On the other hand, his enthusiasm and curiosity are
wonderfully infectious. A sadder close to the whole recording has him ranting
at around three hours fifty minutes about the vital urgency of population limitation.
Despite being a clever & open-minded man, he is convinced people haven't thought
through the virtues of depopulation and the nature of capitalism, whereas in fact he
is the one who hasn't thought through demography or economics. The twenty years after
this talk turned out to have fewer wars than all century with fewer
people starving, fewer shortages, and more of the global poor rising to health and
material self-improvement than ever in history. "Let's go to one
[child] and save the earth,"
he says, self-assuredly, unaware that right as he spoke sharply rising
populations all over the world were becoming more affluent, more civilised, and more
peaceful. Not something the DMT elves explained to him it seems.
"It would be a very interesting world where
populations were dropping" he says, having just failed
to even guess at the growing welfare burden of caring for an ageing population this
entails. Strongly assertive blind spots like these arouse second thoughts about his
reliability on the topics he seems more informed and thoughtful about. It also
undermines his claim that the psychedelic experience brings humility.
Couple of beers with Mr Saracco,
whose hand is now healing after a freak accident at a ten-pin-bowling alley.
In the afternoon at a shopping arcade (This one is helpfully called 'Arcade'
/ 'Arkad') meet IT Attila. He challenges me to a game of
Morris, which apparently Hungarians call 'Mill' ('Malom'). He draws the board
out on a page of his exercise book, and we play with coins for counters. He
tells me he wrote a script in QT to solve the problem of fitting the most
queens on an empty chessboard so none can take each other. Later,
scrambled eggs across town with Nationalism Bea.
In the evening at Sound Studio Zita's, she recommends
website about languages. Rest of day do sound recording, from 9am to 7pm at a
studio. All afternoon I wear a chemical-protection mask. This is so as to sound as
muffled as a virtual-reality character in a sci-fi film set inside a quantum machine
Another old Zappa song - what
would call a melody with (almost) no melody.
Contrary to the extreme American assimilation credo that anyone can become
anything, equally extreme Zappa says no, on the contrary, you are fated to remain
you are. Contemptuously expressed as ever. Not so far from some radio shows by
the Goons, also clear from this tunelet how much of Zappa is vaudeville or music
A sweet image for what books do.
The web seems to be crammed with long sound files of Terence McKenna talks in
days of yore. This one here is over seven hours of the great sage, chortling away
in one of his monologues about psychedelic mushrooms in the history of the human
species. While undoubtably a broadly-read man, Terence is unfortunately not
deeply-read enough for the majesty of his historical claims, and the first sign of his
unacknowledged Rousseauist faith in or yearning for noble savages pops up at 11 minutes
in. Very much a public thinker for post-1960s hippies, he is entertaining and his
speculations are stimulating. A bit of an Alistair Cooke for a later generation,
instead of musing away about peculiarities of a large industrial country across the
Atlantic, he updates his listeners about the quirks of primeval forest people from
humanity's deep past. McKenna
describes the Garden of Eden incident as "history's first drug bust", arguing
persuasively that The Fruit of The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil sounds
very much like a hallucinogenic plant or fungus such as the psilocybin mushroom which
gives its takers experiential insight, a new perspective on life, and in some sense (as
a worried Jehova remarks in Genesis) makes humans who take it like unto gods. Yet
already with his second big idea - that primeval mushroom supplies started to thin out,
and less & less frequent festivals entailed storing dwindling supplies of dried psilocybin
fungus in jars of honey, causing over a thousand years a mushroom religion to gradually
become a fermented-honey alcohol religion - McKenna emerges as a man who doesn't let lack
of evidence stop him from unfurling bold, thrilling guesses. His whiny, nasal voice has a
hypnotic insistence which pulls the listener in. A sing-song lilt helps him to stroll down
sentences, and there is artful combination of long clever-sounding words and slang. He
describes Descartes' experience as
a young man fighting in the Thirty Years' War at Ulm as him being sent "to kick some ass"
in Eastern Europe, relates Descartes' dream revelation that he was instructed to work on
the superstructure of materialistic science by angels, and casually drops in
that Ulm was later the birthplace of Einstein. The sly effect of mixing words like
'mycological', 'polymorphic', 'perturbation', 'heterodox'
with newer hip-to-the-scene terms like 'kick ass', 'drug bust', 'shot its wad' and
also cosily old-fashioned slang of previous decades like 'malarcky', or 'whole
caboodle' is to intellectually flatter his audience & emotionally snuggle up
to them at the same time. This old story-telling technique of mingling archaic,
high-falutin' words with rowdy street humour is a way of bamboozling listeners much
favoured by Irish writers and speakers, and McKenna brings his Irish American identity
into the story. He describes the spirits of the psychedelic plants as akin to Gaelic elves,
he mocks his own provincial US "Catholic choir-boy" upbringing, and he opposes Celtic
earthiness with English coldness, to the approval of his audience. For example, Celts &
Czechs are peoples (he says) comfortable with mushrooms, they pass the mycological test.
Whereas the fungus-hating English are apparently more likely to say "Put it down, you
don't know where it's been." The overall effect is charming and quite intoxicating - which
he might think of as a good thing (at least under the guidance of the right toxins).
However it involves huge amounts of what mathematicians dismiss as 'handwaving',
which translates as breezily asserting you've proved something when you haven't.
Nonetheless, his speculations are fun, and his reminiscences of the effects of various
drugs on him interesting. There is a fascinating section about how one forest people's
intoxicant gives the taker not just any old synaesthesia, but the vivid impression of
seeing sentences of language he or someone is speaking as three-dimensional structures,
like intricate little machines with jewelled movements.
other tape of his is four and a half hours. He has read Frances Yates on
Renaissance, and seems able to stay off the topic of
psychedelic stimulants for longer stretches of this shorter set of talks. Here he takes
aim at European Christianity's concern with guilt, the Fall of Man, and Original Sin,
contrasting it with the liberating expansiveness of hermetic magic in the mediaeval and
early Renaissance periods. He has the bold suggestion that dating by 17th-century scholars
revealing Hermes Trismegistus to be centuries newer than previously assumed damaged the
magical tradition so decisively that this was what allowed science to take centre
stage philosophically from the 1650s to the present.
A long thin cardboard box of four neon light tubes is still leaning upright against
the wall outside exactly halfway between my front door and Neighbour Nikola's front
door a few feet down the landing. It's been there six or seven days now.
Curious tale of how programmers regard their own. The
disappearance of a Ruby advocate known as _why.
Quite a long time since I heard this
song. Now I listen to it again, it
almost sounds like a kind of country & western music for maths students.
Saturday streets basking almost baking in hot sun. Actually too hot for my thin pullover
when I go out. I pop into a corner shop I don't usually use, finding myself at the till
behind a slim yet curvy girl, perhaps half-Gypsy, with blonde highlights. She is trailing
a relatively unbratty, well-behaved four or five-year-old boy. I say hello to the girl.
She turns round cheerfully and looks me right in the eye, declaring she knows me from
somewhere. I tell her that either yesterday or the day before yesterday she & I were
in another shop when... She remembers before I finish. It was at the Ulloi street shop
about three streets away from here and two nights ago. She had brassily asked "Whose idea
was it to put this chewing gum stand here at the till?" (A 24" x 18" grid of white-wire
shelves holding lots of flavours of chewing gum that blocks most of that shop's till
area.) The son of the Egyptian owner sitting on a stool in
one corner had sleepily owned up it was his idea. The perky little blonde had then told
him how obviously daft it was to block the till area like that. Back at the sun-filled
shop today, Saturday morning, she looks me in the eye again, nods and says firmly
"Day before yesterday."
She then relates this story of two nights ago to the easy-going Hungarian man, perhaps late
20s, at this shop's counter. Chat turns to the general chore of minding a 24-hour
shop like this. "I've even heard of armed robberies at night round
here," she continues chirpily, talking both to me and the shop manager.
"Oh here too," he replies with a weary smile.
"No!" she chuckles.
"Oh yes, a couple of times," he goes on with a mild
half-shrug, "I just tell them to sod off and they do."
She clucks sceptically, yet clearly delighted at the story.
"No, really," the man at the till nods, looking
extremely laid back. "I've got one of them on film."
"How?!" she squeaks.
"Oh, I took it off the security cameras here," he
murmurs, pointing at the ceiling while fishing out a mobile phone from a pocket. The
Gypsy-looking blonde & I hunch together to peer at the little screen of his iPhone or
Android phone. Swiping two fingers, he casually pulls up a snatch of CCTV footage and we
see him there, alone in this shop at night, mopping an empty aisle. Screen
right, a bulky male appears in the doorway, pointing a handgun at him. We see our shop
manager, back to the camera, leaning on his mop conversing with the man with the gun. A
couple of times he turns his back on the robber and starts mopping again, and we can see -
though his face is just off the image edge - the bulky man with the hand gun carries on
talking from the way his body & the gun keep moving slightly.
After about forty or fifty seconds, the man with the gun goes away.
Ten or eleven days since I took
photograph of Tarot cards laid out in a mandala shape on the floor, following
instructions in Jodorowsky's book.
Clear landlady's desk and bring it back into action over by big window. 2nd chair
now painted a
sort of tzatziki green (Slightly eerily, Margaret Thatcher
smuggles herself into the photo, picture right). Give or take a final sand-down and
one or two last licks of paint, Chair 2 complete.
Peruggi will see you now.
Get more things done.
Cloud looms over houses.
Very like those corporate ads that wish to imply some Godlike insurance firm or
biochemical concern will dominate you benignly.
the very few pictures on this multi-artist
illustration & photography website
where a girl is allowed to be a bit pretty & feminine. Elsewhere on the site, a host of
gaunt, leggy, English-looking mannequins with very short haircuts do ridiculous or
vaguely nasty things like bathe in custard or eat an ice lolly shaped like a kitten.
If she has long hair, then she'll be a drawing, not a photo, and there will be
some blood, snakes, or other macabre element in the picture. Do all these art students
prefer the grotesque so as to stand out in a crowded marketplace, or does it reveal
a fear, even hatred, of beauty? Perhaps just a dislike of girls.
Regina & I do more work on
Not sure if these are trees, but
Women with hollow faces? Owls wearing boots?
Here you are.
Adorable: Dutch artist makes
Lovely warm sunshine. Talk to Regina about
book cover. Finish attaching
back to chair.
Yesterday, or the morning before, I wake out of a dream so vivid it is actually
boring, in which I am one of several analysts in a conference call about the
silver market. More like 2 weeks ago one of the landlady's chunky tall glass
tumblers finally exploded inside the kettle, ending an epoch where I boiled eggs
inside her tumbler inside my kettle. After months of heat-stressing, it broke
neatly into three pieces without the slightest trace of an extra splinter,
though I did wash the kettle out carefully to be sure.
Today, meet Buttons
Sylvia & Gabriella for tea again, discussing possible joint work and learning
that a year or so ago elegant Gabriella made a bag for herself, got offered
cash for it, and so drifted into designing and selling women's bags alongside her
film job. There's me thinking those stories were never really true. She & I go a
distance by trolleybus together, discussing detail moulds & craft materials.
Bizarre Forbes list of jobs they seem to relish being phased out.
No. 18: Florists?
Over at Franc's for dinner
Sylvia at Italian Institute for tea, bumping into Gabriella.
Friday. Get paid. Scrambled eggs with Nationalism Bea, green tea with Sound-Studio Zita.
How to get people to vote you in for a second presidential term if you are a Kremlin
apparachik? Perhaps target voters too
young to remember your Soviet-era secret-police career.
By night finish a Tarot book of mother's,
The Tarot' by Leo Louis Martello. This is a curious book
because it presents itself as something very ordinary & humdrum. He briskly tours
through the 78-card pack, with a page (and a cringe-making little rhyme) for each
card, and seems to say that all swords are bad, and all cups, wands, and pentacles
are good. The book comes with no author photo, and he
styles himself the kind of Tarot writer who tells you that if you see the
Chariot card upside down, you might need to take your car to get repaired at the
garage. These very facile, daytime-TV-style readings (the Queen of Pentacles is a
flashy showgirl type, probably more into luxury than love) seem to fit a man who
is not just content to be a witch and write about witchcraft, but is even
a flamboyant American
witch, the type who founds a public lobby in the 1970s called the Witches'
Anti-Defamation League and gets Wicca established as a mainstream denomination. It
all sounds quite glib, though him spending a year in Morocco in the early 1960s
researching the Tarot only half suits this image. He mentions his grandmother
& great-grandmother being witches in Sicily in the introduction. One or two remarks
- such as the High Priestess being the highest card in the pack in the view of
"adepts in the Old Religion" jar with the parlour-game flavour of most of
it. Might be one of those odd texts where an insider feels obliged to hide lots of
meanings according to the occult principle that harmless superficial knowledge
can be disseminated freely, but that important stuff needs to phrased opaquely so
that only wiser folk will spot it and look more deeply. However, if that means the book
is in some clever code, then I failed to decipher it.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com