July 24, 2011

You Don't Need a Body to Have a Good Time

Out-of-Body Exploring: A Beginner's Approach

This book was written by: Preston Dennett, a former accountant who now "is a leading UFO researcher and ghost hunter, and has authored five books and more than eighty articles"(p.181) on paranormal topics.

What is in this book: A discussion of Mr. Dennett's out-of-body expereinces (OBEs), lucid dreams, and voyages "to explore not only the physical world, but the astral world"(p.xiv) Dennett get around to actual advice on how to have your own OBEs in chapter 12, and helpfully includes a three-page question and answer section about OBEs is at the end of the book. Mr. Dennett's book also includes transcripts from his OBE journals:

Out of Body
I am lucid! I feel a wave of sexual desire. I reach out and grab a lady's breast.
Dennett puts his experiences into context by citing the work of other OBE pioneers:

Vee Van Dam wrote that he had good enough control in the dream state to be able to create fully lifelike people with whom he could intimately interact. I also came to experience an increase in control, but I'm not sure if this was good news or not because now I was able to construct more elaborate scenarios and choose whomever I wanted to have sex with. That kind of temptation is hard to resist(p.103).
And he notes some of the challenges he sets for himself and experiments he performs in his nonphysical form:

I decide to see if I can sing the scale. I sing out loudly, Do-Re-Me-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do! It sounds great. I sing it again. I feel proud to have achieved my goal.(p.46)
Like all good scientists, his explorations are guided by a spirit of academic inquiry and a strict adherence to ethical principles:

I had a few inadvertent experiences during which my desire body took control and I invaded the privacy of women's showers.(p.171)
What is not in this book: Credible assurances that out-of-body experiences are safe. It's true that Dennett addresses the topic in the Q&A section of his book, but his answer is suspect:

"Not only are OBEs not dangerous, they occur to everybody every night. There is not a single reported case of anybody being physically harmed by an OBE. It is impossible to be hurt while out of body because you are nonphysical. Nor can you get too far away from your body, or locked out, or possessed."(p.170)
That's exactly what a possessed person would say when trying to convince us that he's not possessed. Also, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. When it comes to "reported" cases of harm, dead astral bodies tell no tales.

Would you recommend this book to Will Robinson? Absolutely. Dennett writes that "by going out of body, I was able to fly to distant locations, visit the moon"(p.xiv), so using it in outer space wouldn't be a problem. Dennett says that he experienced difficulty when learning about OBEs because "nobody warned me that integrating the dream state with your waking consciousness would lead to possible confusion and a bleed-through between the physical and astral dimensions"(p.155), but that robot that followed Will around was yelling warnings all the time, so he'd probably be okay.

Would you recommend this book to that girl in college who claimed she was a lesbian but just seemed really desperate for attention? Yes. She was big on experimenting, so she'd take right to Mr. Dennet's suggestions of experiments you can try while out of body:
  • "Saying your name while out of body is a fun experiment because you never know what is going to happen"(p.166)
  • "'Gaom-Raom-Om-Bour-Bu-Mama-Papa' Repeat this mantra while out of body. If you are able to say this while out of body or lucid dreaming, you may be surprised."(p.166)
Any one of them would be at least as productive as that 10-hour drum circle she led in the Student Union to protest animal treatement in Burma.

What was interesting about this book? The amount of violence that takes place in the astral world. Mr. Dennet relates the story of the time he was "Attacked by an Astral Bull"(p.64) and the following encounter:
Attacked by Homeless People
I am walking down the sidewalk when I see a small group of homeless people. They are dirty, gaunt, and dressed in rags. They are also looking at me threateningly. Suddenly, they atack me. They are pushing, pulling, ripping at my clothes.
Despite the danger, journeying out of body is an important skill to learn because eventualy everyone will be doing it. "Conscious out-of-body travel will become increasingly commmon among the general population. I think it's inevitable"(p.174, emphasis in original).

Out-of-Body Exploring: A Beginner's Approach by Preston Dennett (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2004, ISBN: 1-57174-409-6)

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July 6, 2011

The God Delusion

God's Debris
(free, available online)

This book was written by: Scott Adams, the creator of the controversial "Dilbert" comic strip, an aspiring restaurateur, and an accomplished puppeteer.

What is in this book?
*bong noises*
There is something about eyes that supports God’s inevitable reassembly.(p.72)
*bong noises*
When we feel the warmth of sunlight, we are feeling the effect of increased probabilities and, therefore, increased activity of our skin cells, not the effect of photons striking our skin.(p.88)
*bong noises*
If, as you say, our minds are delusion generators, then we’re all like blind and deaf sea captains shouting orders into the universe and hoping it makes a difference. (p.121)
*impact noise*

What is not in this book? Action. Or much of anything else, really.
“Then you believe we can only know things that have been tested?” he asked.
“I’m not saying that.”
“Then you’re not saying anything, are you?”
It felt that way.

Would you recommend this book to a chubby, singularity-worshipping transhumanist? No, because that would mean actually talking with one of them. However, parts of this book may resonate with them.
I will admit I’m not the life of any party. Whenever I try to inject something interesting into a conversation everyone gets quiet until someone changes the topic. I think I’m pretty interesting but no one else does. All of the popular people seem to babble about nothing, but I usually have something interesting to say. You’d think people would like that.(p.106)

Would you recommend this book to anyone? If I was cornered by a knife-wielding automaton of a human being who needed some kind of instruction manual for interactions with othersand he insisted that it had to be written by a cartoonistI would suggest that he read pages 105-114, the chapter on "Relationships." And I'd feel terrible about myself afterwards.

What was interesting about this book? The entire book's 132-page argument can be summed up in one sentence: The only thing for an omnipotent god is to do is kill himself, so he must have succeeded and we are the thinking bits left over that work towards the singularity that will rebuild him (so buckle up).
"God’s reassembly requires people—living, healthy people," he said. "When you buckle your seat belt, you increase your chances of living. That is obeying probability. If you get drunk and drive without a seat belt, you are fighting probability."(p.99)

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June 22, 2011

Bonus Material: Game Widow

Game Widow
-What’s with her right foot? It looks like she’s wearing heels, but her left foot is wearing a flat shoe. Why is she up on the ball of her right foot?

-What exactly is her left foot doing? Is she tapping her toes in impatience, or rocking on the ball of her foot and tapping her heel? If that’s the case, why are her toes off the ground? Wouldn’t that be incredibly uncomfortable?

-Is she wearing a bustle? It looks like her ass sticks out a full hand’s width from her spine, and/or her right leg doesn’t connect to her torso.

-What is going on with her left hand? The arm makes it look like it should be in front of her body. Are both of her hands so hideously deformed that they need to be hidden behind her body?

-Who actually stands like that, anyway? That’s some serious, cartoon-level impatience getting emoted right there.

The Game Widow’s missing head. Sure, you could say that they wanted her to be an everywoman, an amalgam of all long-suffering gamer spouses out there. I think that there’s more to it than that. I think that they’re trying to make it easier to objectify her, illustrating how gamers only think that two things in life are worth focusing on, games and sex. And the gaming element is such a large part of their life that it threatens to eclipse everything else.

The gamepad. Based on the structure of this book, their target audience can’t tell an XBox controller from a novelty dildo, (“There’s a little booklet included in most video game boxes with a list of vocabulary specific to that game, but if you don’t want to dig through game boxes, or if you’d like to understand the live or chat conversations scrolling by on game screen, check out vocabulary guides online”[p.104]. When it comes to slang words, “oftentimes, the ones that don’t sound scary, such as ‘frag’ and the other words for kill, are the ones that should get your attention if used in a regular conversation”[p.105]) so they need something that’s recognizable enough to say “video game” without calling out a specific brand. It’s also big enough to blot out the sun, and larger than the widow herself.

The title. This isn’t one of those books that parades its contents on its sleeve spine with a pointlessly elaborate subtitle like Game Widow: An in-depth exploration of video games, their creation, and the forces that drive people to forsake their families for them. It’s just the two words, making potential buyers ask questions like “Who is this game widow?" "Where is her head?" "Did her husband just get crushed by that enormous controller in the foreground?” and most importantly, "Does this mean she's available?"

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Bonus Material: Grand Illusions

I'm too lazy to transcribe the entire page, so here's the part where Grant argues why Planned Parenthood is rolling in cash:

Planned Parenthood Fees

You might be tempted to suggest that this argument says more for reform of the healthcare system than it does against Planned Parenthood. You are wrong. "The fact that despite all its grave faults and ominous foibles, the American health-care system is still by far the best the world has to offer, that it is the envy of physicians and technicians everywhere, and that it affords almost universal access and care doesn't seem to matter to the utopian reformers"(p.242).

Grant also makes an argument that Planned Parenthood is doomed because they had a "Flash Gordon Worldview" that was never fully realized. "The future that never quite happened was born of a pretentious spirit of modernism that is laughably passé today"(p.33). The weird thing is that he gets awfully descriptive when discussing someone else's vision of the future:

"A distant gleaming skyline soars up from the fruited plains through plump cumulous clouds to sleek zeppelin docks and mad neon spires. Roads of crystal unfold between the towers like an origami trick. They are crossed and recrossed by thousands of satiny silver vehicles like choreographed beads of running mercury. The air above the city crackles with remote radio-laser signals. It is simultaneously thick with ships: giant delta wing-liners, dragonfly-like gyro-copters, electro-magneto aerial cars, and vast hovering helium blimps. Searchlights sweep surreally across the horizon illuminating streamlined buildings ringed with bright radiator flanges.
Thronging the broad plazas of pristine marble below are the happy citizens of this jaunty utopia. Orderly and alert, their bright eyes are aglow with enthusiasm for their floodlit avenues, their shark-fin robots, their care-free conveniences, and their elysian prosperity. They all look wise and strong, striking a uniform pose of youthful health, energy, and cooperation.
It is a heroic world of fluted aluminum, slipstream chrome, lustrous Lucite, burnished bronze, and the unfettered dreams of progress.

Grant gets in some real zingers, insisting on referring to abortion clinics as "abortuaries." Regarding RU-486, he says that Planned Parenthood " brought excellent credentials to the task of sanitizing the public perception of pharmaceutical child-killing"(p.193). Then again, he also fails pretty spectacularly in a few places. There's his claim that "when that power is cavalierly couched in sluggardly bamboozlery it is all the more frightening"(p.195), and this passage:

" I was in town for a couple of speaking engagements. Several pro-life advocates, including the two men currently playing 'Eliot Ness' in the back seat of my 'getaway car,' had invited me to participate in their regular Saturday morning picket of a local abortion clinic. Such invitations for me are like the bite of a silk piranha."(p.13)

Silk piranhas aside, the Elliot Ness comparison is just sloppy. His friends are unarmed and wetting their pants in the back seat of a car that is fleeing from the bad guys while Grant is driving. (It should be noted that the bad guys are driving "an ominous and carnivorous pickup"[p.13]. That's right. Carnivorous) Grant would have been better off saying that they were "playing Bonnie to his Clyde," but he probably didn't want to invite the association with criminals (even though he had, in fact, removed property from the clinic). We know that this adrenaline-fueled chase totally happened for reals, because "certain personal, geographical, and architectural alterations have been symbolically altered […] but otherwise, the events and conversations are absolutely accurate"(p.366).

I thought that this quote was particularly funny:

"It seems this is the modus operandi of Planned Parenthood. There can be no challenge to its sacrosanct vision of the future. There can be no question about its revered formulas, its hallowed rituals, or its consecrated dogmas. The fallibility of its scientific and secular cultus simply cannot be countenanced civilly. Anyone who dares to contravene its sanctity is therefore mercilessly demonized."(p.56, italics in original)

Dr. Grant notes that "this book was especially written so that you could take whole paragraphs and even whole sections word for word, verbatim, and use them as ammunition in your testimony or presentation"(p.336). And you know what? I did.

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Bonus Material: Lessons in Depravity

There was too much in this book to work with effectively. Take a look at the back of the book:

That yellow crap on the left? When I find something quoteworthy, I put a post-it note on the page.

Croydon is the hometown of Kate Moss, noted for modesty and chastity, and sexual psychologist Havelock Ellis "Impotent for most of his life, he suffered from urolagnia (sexual excitement at seeing a woman urinate)"(p.66, parentheses in original source),

Dr. Williams' interpretation of the bible is fascinating. He relates the story of Noah's sons finding him naked, and says that "This incident shows the sin of the indecent look, and illustrates the principle of sexual modesty"(p.252). And he really has issues with women. "Because woman is created in the image of God, she has an inborn, innate understanding of the maternal role. This is seen in her desire to have children and also in an understanding that she should have children only within the marriage relationship."(p.268). Also, "God has placed within the conscience of womankind strong natural inhibitions to restrain them from abusing their gift of motherhood by giving birth outside marriage"(p.268).

Fortunately, "It is natural for the chivalrous man to protect a woman from physical danger; he defends a woman against the designs of brutish men"(p.259).

This passage was my favorite, for its "The end of times! Cats and dogs, living together!" hysteria:

"When modesty is destroyed, girls lose their innate protection against sexual lust. They lose their sexual innocence and appear to be sexually available; they become objects of pleasure, to be used and discarded. Casual sex becomes the norm and there are no restraints. Sex is no longer an intensely private matter between husband and wife, but a trivialized game, a plaything, something to give pleasure to lustful males. When boys lose their God-given chivalry, they lose respect for the female sex and themselves, and become sexual predators, who feel entitled to satisfy their lusts on the objects of their sexual desire."(p.262)

He tries to discredit AIDS-prevention programs. "In the 16 years [1982-1997] of the so-called epidemic [....] on average, there had been about 20 new cases of AIDS per year acquired by way of heterosexual intercourse within the UK. So the risk of children acquiring AIDS through sexual intercourse was so remote as to be almost non-existent"(p.239). So he's saying that 1) children only have heterosexual sex, and 2) the infection rate would have stayed exactly the same without the government's education efforts.

He's violently opposed to the sexual revolution, and blames the ills of society on "sexual revolutionaries":

"Sex education ideology demoralises sexual conduct, teaching young people in a climate that encourages promiscuity and homosexuality"(p.31).

"A theme that runs through this book is that the underlying objective of the sexual revolution is the demoralisation of sexual behaviour"(p.295).

I'm pretty sure his nonstandard use of the verb "demoralize" is supposed to mean "removed from a moral sense of right and wrong," but when I read it I always pictured sex education looking sad and sitting under a blanket on the couch, eating ice cream and wondering why it was such a failure.

"The story of sex education is a story that must put fear into the hearts of most parents"(p.294), and he provides scary examples:

"The book [written by Mary Stopes], which was supposed to be directed at married couples, was unique in that it described in explicit language the physiology of the sex act."(p.74) It was condemned by "a distinguished psychiatrist," and "members of the public were equally outraged. [....] A private letter enquired [of Ms. Stopes] whether it was the desire to put bank notes in her pocket that had made her write such a book."(p.75)

"Dr. Martin Cole, a genetics lecturer at Aston University and sexual freethinker, hijacked the debate on sex education films. [....] The film upset Mary Whitehouse who complained that Dr. Cole’s amoral approach was turning people into animals"(p.122) That’s right, the Mary Whitehouse, head of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association in 1970.

"The board game, Contraception, which has been developed in line with the Government’s sex education guidelines, is another enterprise for teaching children about contraceptives. [...] Children throw dice to move their counters, shaped like condoms or packets of pills, around the board. Players come into contact with various contraceptive and sexual health services, condom machines and family planning clinics"(p.2, and the game's website is here).

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

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Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston by Ernest Callenbach (Banyan Tree Books, 1975)

Ecotopia is a harrowing masterpiece of terror by Ernest Callenbach, a visionary who dares to explore the societal, technological, and moral damage that would be wrought by rampant marijuana usage and “environmentally friendly” policies run amok. Designed as a cautionary tale that horrifies responsible conservatives, it is set in a dystopian future where the imaginary country of Ecotopia (composed of territory in the Pacific Northwest) has seceded from the United States and developed on its own for several decades. The chilling narrative, written in the form of a reporter’s news dispatches and personal journal entries, follows the protagonist as he examines their perverse ideals and struggles not to be corrupted by them.

Facts about the original secession of Ecotopia from the United States are in maddeningly short supply, as the narrator claims to have “no time” to sum up historical events and instead visits the country fully formed. Who fired the first shot? What heroes arose to lead both nations to stability? The lack of information makes it equally likely that Ecotopia was founded by breakdancing aliens, time-traveling mormons, pirates with herpes, or space cats from beyond the crab nebula. We know that it was started by some crazy broads1, and that’s about it—although there are also subtle hints brought to light during the narrator’s discussion of trade agreements that indicate it may be a Japanese plot2 to undermine our country.

It’s difficult to say whether the book is hurt by this omission. Some aspects of the alternate history are ridiculously improbable, like the way that the United States faces shortages of important products3 after losing the Ecotopian territory, as if they wouldn’t just invade Canada. Despite this, the book is still able to describe some of the devastating effects on our country’s most beloved landmarks. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the early pages is the author’s description of the cruel devastation that has fallen upon Reno. That’s right, Reno4. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.

As you’d expect, Ecotopia is a country full of tree-hugging5, stinky6 potheads living in a giant Renaissance Faire7 full of insufferably self-important jerks8 who like to pretend that they’re artists9. Basic amenities like microwave ovens10 and kitchenware11 have taken a giant leap backwards, and people stay warm by lighting their own farts12. However, they have made some advances, most notably in the field of baby-killing13 and other areas that can be inferred by textual clues. For example, their precious wood must either be cut by saws made from rock or (magic, plant-based14) plastic15 or super-concentrated jets of body odor, because Ecotopia doesn’t have any metals16. The narrator also raves about the Ecotopian telecommunications system linking the entire country, which could only have been developed from spit and feces.

Ecotopians themselves are a study in contradictions, only able to reconcile their cognitive dissonance in a haze of bong smoke and body odor. Although everything in Ecotopia shuts down at night17, the narrator is encouraged not to take medication for his insomnia so that he doesn’t miss anything18. While Ecotopians claim to detest heavy industry, they had no problem seizing and operating industrial properties to build their nationwide railroad19. And even though they’ve resorted to desperately scavenging for pre-secession metal20, they still make sure that piles of war debris21 are neatly stacked in a junkyard so that the narrator can find them later as evidence that the U.S. tried to restore sanity to Ecotpia by force.

It’s no surprise that Ecotopian weed is legalized—actively spread by the government22—and available to the point where factories are booze-fueled pot orgies23 and even a broken bicycle is an occasion to pass a spliff24. The only people smart enough to devise a way of overcoming the country’s marijuana addiction are themselves kept docile and befuddled by joints and tinker toys25. At the same time, the government has completely outlawed all drugs designed to treat mental illness26, but that’s okay because no one in Ecotopia suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADD, or reefer-induced paranoia27.

Similarly, no one in Ecotopia wants to wield political power or impose their will on others. This means that political meetings are giant affirmation sessions where everyone gets a chance to talk about their feelings28. Instead of political contests, Ecotopians indulge their taste for competitiveness by participating in “war games,” although this may just be a ruse that keeps the men distracted while the women fight over who gets to run the country and have babies29. There’s no point in having either drive or ambition in Ecotopia because accumulated wealth is next to worthless. If you can’t spend it yourself, it reverts back to the state when you die30.

Minorities in Ecotopia are self-segregated31, with blacks retreating to urban centers32 where they can enjoy their malt liquor and spinning rims33 in peace. Sadly, no one bothers to dream that peaceful racial co-existence is possible, because the destabilizing influence of Ecotopia on international politics has kept Apartheid alive and well in South Africa34. The narrator still hopes that some kind of resettlement can be worked out by shipping all the minorities elsewhere, looking to Israel as an example of how well it can work out35. Meanwhile, Ecotopia’s complete lack of morals has led to the repeal number of criminal statues36, making the country a safe haven for drug dealing rapists37.

Callenbach spends less time discussing the citizens of the remaining United States, probably because they have changed very little in the absence of society’s more dangerous, drug-crazed radical element. We know that they share our hatred of recycling38, and are afraid of the dark—or rather, the “crime panic” brought on by the dark, as the narrator notes when thinking about Ecotopia’s unlighted nighttime streets39. (The remaining) U.S. citizens are also happy living under a totalitarian regime40 where they aren’t trusted with anything more dangerous than a pointy stick41, for good reason42. They have also taken a more moderate stance on environmental policy, choosing not to let the outraged shrieks of a vocal minority tie the hands of the business that keep their economy afloat43.

Callenbach’s skillful writing combines his prophetic warnings of liberalism run amok with prescient descriptions of modern American society, but his talent really shows when discussing the narrator’s slide into madness. The foreshadowing begins early44, but the narrator is unaware of his gradual contamination45, possibly because of his focus on the sexual frustration 46 that he keeps writing about47 in his personal journal. By the time he begins to notice the change in his attitude48, it is too late49. He is dragged into the Ecotopian war games (and tricked into thinking that it is of his own free will) as a pretext to subject him to abhorrent medical procedures that make his Ecotopian conversion irreversible50. The book ends with a letter written to the narrator’s editor back in the United States, but not before the completely unhinged narrator contemplates a scheme to abduct and convert his own children.


Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston by Ernest Callenbach (Banyan Tree Books, 1975)

Note: The material in parentheses appearing inside the quotes is part of the original text. My alterations are noted in brackets.

1. “Secessionists filched uranium fuel from power plants for the nuclear mines they claimed to have set in New York and Washington. […] Those damned women, managed to [take over]” (p.2)

2. “Medium of exchange would have to be yen, but this could be concealed from our public.” (p.147)

3. “Many Americans still remember the terrible shortages of fruit, lettuce, wine, cotton, paper, lumber, and other western products” (p.3)

4. “Reno a sad shadow of its former goodtimes self” (p.4)

5. “Once I saw a quite ordinary-looking young man, not visibly drugged, lean against a large oak and mutter ‘Brother Tree!’” (p.58)

6. “Her sexual odors are powerful. I lost consciousness of the hard floor beneath.”(p.52)

7. “I even saw a juggler and magician team, working a crowd of children—it reminded me of some medieval movie.”(p.12)

8. “The Ecotopian at the train ticket window simply wouldn’t tolerate being spoken to in my usual way—he asked me what I thought he was, a ticket -dispensing machine?” (p.10)

9. “One young artist went so far as to refuse even to give me his name, lest it be bruited about the world through my columns. ‘We’re like the Balinese,’ he insisted. ‘We have no “art,” we just do everything as well as we can.’” (p.135)

10. “Microwave ovens being illegal in Ecotopia” (p.18)

11. “Cooking pots have no stick-free plastic lining, and are usually heavy iron.”(p.21)

12. “A companion unit, a large plastic tank, is buried outside, and connected by two flexible hoses. This, it turns out, is a septic tank, which not only digests sewage but produces methane gas in the process, which in turn operates the heater!” (p.124)

13. “Abortion costs have fallen further, and the number per year has stabilized. The use of contraceptive devices now seems universal. (They are all, incidentally, female-controlled; there is no “male pill” here.)” (p.63)

14. “plastics are entirely derived from living biological sources (plants)” (p.77)

15. “another line of plastics development led to a variety of durable materials, which were increasingly needed in place of metals.” (p.77)

16. “metals became deliberately scarce” (p.77)

17. “Most Ecotopian streets are pitch dark at night—evidently their power policies have caused them to curtail night lighting almost entirely” (p.15)

18. “In Ecotopia it can be fun to stay up all night, you know” (p.97)

19. “[Ecotopia] took temporary advantage of the Boeing facilities to help build the new national train system.”(p.8)

20. “formerly worthless heaps of junk skyrocketed in value, and were hauled up from creekbeds, pulled out of vacant lots, unearthed in abandoned barns, and of course salvaged from scrap yards.” (p.77-78)

21. “hundreds of wrecked U.S. Army helicopters”(p.120)

22. “One of the riskiest experiments of the new government was to deliberately make marijuana a common weed. Not only were legal prohibitions ended, but free top-quality seeds were distributed, in a campaign aimed at providing ‘do-it-yourself highs.’”(p.161)

23. “I have seen a whole section close down without notice; somebody will bring out beer or marijuana, and a party will ensue, right there amid the crates and machines.”(p.159)

24. “If a bicycle loses a chain or has a flat tire, its rider is soon surrounded by five people volunteering to help fix it. As they do during many casual social encounters, someone will bring out a marijuana cigarette and pass it around; people joke, touch each other, and take turns helping with the work” (p.160)

25. “The atmosphere of the research institutes, considering the great national responsibility they bear, is surprisingly playful. There is a great deal of sitting around with coffee or tea or marijuana, and many projects seem to make constant use of children’s construction-set materials” (p.128)

26. “The Ecotopian medical profession went through the pharmacopeia after Independence and ruthlessly eliminated many tranquillizers, energizers, sleep-inducers, and other drugs such as cold remedies. In fact, they now license no behavior-control drugs at all.”(p.96)

27. “It is claimed that mental illness has shown a decline since Independence, but it would be extremely difficult to evaluate such claims because of the drastically altered circumstances. I can confirm, however, that Ecotopian streets are not enlivened by the numerous and obvious crazies we are familiar with in our cities” (p.144)

28. “A meeting has no formal agenda [….] there are no Robert’s Rules of Order, no motions, no votes—instead, a gradual ventilation of feelings, some personal antagonisms worked through, and a gradual consensual focusing on what needs to be done. Once this consensus is achieved, people take pains to assuage the feelings of those members who have had to give ground in order to achieve the consensus” (p.85)

29. “It appears, by the way, that women never participate in the war games […] Ecotopians prefer to focus women’s competitiveness in other ways: through contests for political leadership, through organizing work—at which women are believed to excel—and through rivalry over men to father their children” (p.74-75)

30. “Laws formalizing the forfeiture of of property by the owners, plus confiscatory inheritance taxes, were legislated. (Aside from personal articles, no Ecotopian can now inherit any property at all!)” (p.91)

31. ”Black separatist parties grew up to dominate the ghettoes of Oakland and San Francisco—having been strangled by the white suburbs earlier, the black population now wanted to control their own territory. After a long and bitter political struggle, the black areas (and also Chinatown in San Francisco) were officially designated city-states within Ecotopia.” (p.98)

32. “often referred to as Soul City”(p.99)

33. “a few private cars are still mysteriously tolerated, and people cling to certain symbols of the old ways: there is a brisk trade in high-quality Scotch whisky and other imported luxury goods” (p.99)

34. “and this admission that the races cannot live in harmony is surely one of the most disheartening developments in all Ecotopia” (p.101)

35. “One scheme, which is currently being debated, would relocate the entire black population in a new territory […] The political and economic problems posed are monstrous, of course, but such things were carried out in Eastern Europe after World War II” (p.98)

36. “’Victimless’ crimes such as prostitution, gambling, and drug use are no longer on the books” (p.86)

37. “amnesties were declared for prisoners whose acts would no longer constitute crimes. A few guilty of ‘sex crimes’ and crimes like loitering, drunkenness, and vagrancy were also freed.” (p.99)

38. “It may seem unlikely to Americans, but I observed that during our trip my fellow travelers did without exception dispose of all metal, glass, or paper and plastic refuse in the appropriate refuse bin. That they did so without the embarrassment Americans would experience was my first introduction to the rigid practices of recycling and re-use upon which Ecotopians are said to pride themselves so fiercely.” (p.7)

39. “Can’t tell why this doesn’t lead to the crime panic it would bring among us.” (p.15)

40. “Our Bill of Rights was incorporated into the Ecotopian constitution, though in its original form which would seem dangerously sweeping and unqualified to most Americans today.” (p.85)

41. “Government’s control over population seems to be primitive compared to ours” (p.3)

42. “we had tried it [a militia system] in 1789 and couldn’t make it work. (And if we tried it now the units would probably turn into gangs of armed looters!)” (p.121)

43. “of course the Ecotopian situation has allowed their government to take actions that would be impossible under the checks and balances of our kind of democracy” (p.18)

44. “I just hope I can preserve my own sanity”(p.10)

45. “I’m experimenting, trying to imitate them”(p.30)

46. “breast-shaped green hills”(p.9)

47. “A little trouble with the maid last night, when she thought I was taking liberties […] seemed to be giving me the eye, yet wouldn’t play”(p.15-16)

48. “Realize that my attitudes toward the place have changed a lot in three weeks”(p.94)

49. “It seems likely that different ways of life always involve losses that balance the gains, and gains that balance the losses. Perhaps it is only that Ecotopians are happy, and miserable, in different ways from ourselves.”(p.144)

50. “‘Now you have a little Ecotopian blood in your veins!’ (because of the transfusion during my operation)” (p.140)

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June 9, 2011

GUEST POST: Get Rich Without Trying

The following guest review was written by Unpleasantly Surprised, a gentleman scholar and respiration enthusiast.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

This book was written by: Tim Ferriss, a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, kickboxer, writer, health guru, polyglot, lifestyle designer, philosopher, tango dancer, blogger, horse archer, angel investor, and lifehacker.

What is in this book: Outsourcing. Ferriss recommends using the developing world to outsource your work away. He maintains that "getting a remote personal assistant is a huge departure point and marks the moment that you learn to give orders and be commander instead of commanded"(p. 119). It may have occurred to you to ask how much of your white-collar job is actually outsourceable. Ferriss responds, "It's a good question, but I don't want to answer it. I want to watch Family Guy" (p. 123), and proceeds to outsource this section of the book to two overseas workers. "The truth be told, it's a hell of a lot of work writing about not working. Ritika of Brickwork and Venky of YMII are more than capable of writing this section"(p. 123). However, he does address what to do if your boss is reluctant to keep you on the payroll while you dump your work on the developing world: "Learn to imitate any good child: 'Just this once! Please!!! I promise I’ll do X!' Parents fall for it because kids help adults to fool themselves. It works with bosses, suppliers, customers, and the rest of the world, too"(p.101).

What is not in this book: The examined life. Tim Ferriss recommends that you "develop and maintain a low-information diet"(p. 83), because "most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence"(p.83). He counsels his readers that "information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it"(p. 88). For developmental reading, Ferriss states, "I consume a maximum of one-third of one industry magazine (Response magazine) and one business magazine (Inc.) per month, for a grand total of approximately four hours"(p. 84).

Would you recommend this book to business majors? Most definitely. In college, Ferriss mastered the technique of whining his way to academic excellence. He explains, "If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice test in a given class, I would bring 2–3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion"(p. 91). This ensured that "the grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A"(p.91).

Would you recommend this book to someone who wins fighting games by using the same cheap ring-out move over and over? Yes. Tim Ferriss used this strategy in real life to win the gold medal at the Chinese National Kickboxing Championship. The distinction was earned by "using dehydration techniques [...] I lost 28 pounds in 18 hours, weighed in at 165 pounds, and then hyperhydrated back to 193 pounds"(p. 29), and manipulating the rule that, "if one combatant fell off the elevated platform three times in a single round, his opponent won by default. I decided to use this technicality as my principal technique and push people off"(p. 30). Ferriss laments that "it's hard to fight someone from three weight classes above you. Poor little guys"(p. 30).

What was interesting about this book? The Amazon reviews. Currently this book has 1,550 five-star reviews. As a point of comparison, Crime and Punishment has 425 reviews of the same rating. Thanks to the wonders of cheap Indian labor, Tim Ferriss may have engineered the most extensive astroturfing campaign in the history of the internet.

The Four-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss (Crown Archetype, 2009, ISBN 9780307465351)

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May 18, 2011

Stopping the Media Elite


Arrogance: Rescuing
America from
the Media Elite

This book was written by: Bernard Goldberg, a reporter and commentator who has seen "white media liberalism at its most hypocritical. I spent a lot of years with these people, and you have no idea what major-league phonies they can be"(p.91). While ideological disagreements may have prevented Goldberg from advancing his career at certain news stations that shall remain nameless, he’s not bitter about it. Of course, "there are times when I miss my old pals from network television news. I miss how those well-educated, sophisticated correspondents, who would sell their children into prostitution if it meant getting more airtime, still root for each other—to get hit by a bus"(p.221).

What is in this book: A remedy for the liberal bias currently afflicting the major news networks, written in a language that they can understand. And Goldberg is really good at speaking their language — so good that he earned an accolade from Andy Rooney: "Bernie Goldberg, he said, 'just has a great knack for being a jerk.'"(p.24). When recommending that news networks relocate from ultraliberal New York City to areas that are more in touch with the American public, Goldberg writes:
"Besides the Elvis Presley Birthpace and Museum and Elvis Presley Lake and Campground, there's the Tupelo Ballet and there is also the Tupelo Symphony. Admit it, you elitist snobs: In a million years you wouldn't have thought Tupelo [Mississippi] boasted either a ballet company or a symphony.
What about food? you say. There's enough in Tupelo to make the elites forget Manhattan in a Mississippi minute. Some Tupelo hot spots are Bar-B-Que by Jim, Heavenly Ham, and Harvey's Sweet Pepper Deli. And did I mention that there are three--three!--Pizza Huts in Tupelo?
This may seem like a mocking, sarcastic dig at the citizens of Tupelo, but Goldberg is only attempting to relate to sneering liberal elitists on their own terms. If you didn't realize that he was using this technique when writing “Mitchell [South Dakota]'s motto is ‘Mitchell More than Ever!’ I'm not sure what that means, but I could not agree more"(p.244), you’d think he was just being an obnoxious douche.

What is not in this book: "This book is not about proving the existence of liberal bias in the media, much less about the phony issue of conservative bias," because Goldberg covered that in an earlier book. However, it is sometimes necessary to revisit that proof to put his corrections into context:

"For the record: I have no problem with tough questions getting asked before a story airs. No problem at all. We ought to ask them all the time. But we don't. When the homeless lobby tells us there are millions and millions of homeless on the streets of America who look just like you and me, we put that on, even though it's wrong. When the gay lobby tells us that millions and millions of American heterosexuals who live in the suburbs are about to get AIDS and die, we put that on, even though it's wrong. And when feminists tell us the American living room becomes a killing field on Super Bowl Sunday, we go right ahead and put that on, too."(p.133)
Hopefully, things will get better now that someone has finally had the guts to speak out against the ingenuous assertions made by the powerful, well-funded homeless lobby.

Would you recommend this book to a woman? No. There is a “campaign launched by mainstream feminists and disseminated by their amen chorus in the media to establish that the lives of even little boys and girls need to be reshaped according to feminist doctrine,"(p.139) and our only hope is the element of surprise. "You want to know how bad it is? Most journalists I've spoken to over the years are in such a fog that they don't even think of the National Organization for Women as a liberal special interest group"(p.128).

Would you recommend this book to anyone who thinks that the U.S. may not be number one? Absolutely. "When an ABC News reporter offers the view that while, since September 11, terrorist has come to mean Islamic and foreign, 'many believe we have as much to fear from a homegrown group of antiabortion crusaders,' someone in the newsroom needs to stand up and say, 'Really? You really believe that many Americans think antiabortion crusaders pose as big a threat to Americans as Osama bin Laden?'"(p.298) Putting aside the issue that bin Laden himself is no longer a threat, it is essential that we question these kinds of statements; since September 11, 2001, we have seen anthrax attacks, a military base shooting, another airplane fatally crashed into a building, and at least two public assassination attempts (one successful), all carried out by American citizens. Anyone who thinks that Islamic foreigners are as much of a threat as Americans is seriously underestimating the capabilities of the greatest nation on earth (USA! USA! USA!).

What was interesting about this book? Goldberg’s examination of media’s coverage of James Dale, a scoutmaster who was fired for being gay. "The whole media discussion was basically dishonest from the start because it all but left out what the issue was really about: the concern that allowing gay scoutmasters to supervise overnights of teenage boys would at least increase the odds of boys being molested"(p.181). This refusal to acknolwedge the relevant issues is only made worse by the language employed by the news outlets, like the way they report on “pedophile priests” instead of “gay priests.”

"Why—as many liberals might ask—shouldn't reporters go out of their way to keep the vast majority of decent gay men from being unjustly stigmatized by the ghastly actions of a relative handful?
First of all, because they are journalists, not social workers or therapists, so their job is to tell the truth. Second, because the truth matters.
The truth is that our children are in danger, and we need to stop stigmatizing the people who want to call attention to it. "At the very least, many reasonable people can hardly be faulted for simply having doubts about sending their sons on an overnight with someone whose stated sexual preference is for males"(p.181), but this doesn’t go far enough. I’m sure that Bernard Goldberg will agree with me when I say that based on compelling evidence, we need to protect our children from contact with anyone whose stated sexual preference is for males. Maybe we can have teachers of either gender replaced by a specially produced line of androgynous robots.

Citation for Fostering Inter-Cultural UnderstandingSpecial Award: For his persistent attempts to bring the elitist liberal media types into contact with the realistic, down-to-earth residents of mainstream America, Bitterly Books is presenting Bernard Goldberg with the Salutatory John Lenin Lennon “Say I’m a Dreamer” Citation for Fostering Inter-Cultural Understanding. After his proposal to relocate various media headquarters to sites like Tupelo, Mississippi, Goldberg outlines a scenario where the two groups have a chance to share ideas and discuss opinions:

"When one of the media people says he's for stricter gun controls, he'll get the other side from one of his gun-loving neighbors. When one of the elites finds himself in a chat at the church social and says he's for 'a woman's right to choose,' his neighbor might say, 'Well, I'm pro-life; let's talk about it.' When one of the journalists says she's for gay adoptions, her new neighbor will say, 'I'm not so sure about that one; tell me why you're for it.'"(p.247)
It is every bit as heartwarming as it is impossible; this crazy pipe dream could never happen because everyone knows that liberal media elites become physically uncomfortable and wracked with spasms when brought within close proximity of a church. The only times you see them at church socials are when they’re ghoulishly canvassing the public for some background on their story about pedophile gay priests.

Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite by Bernard Goldberg (Warner Books, 2003, ISBN: 0-446-53191-X)

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March 21, 2011

Risky Business

Children at Risk: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family

This book was written by: Dr. James Dobson and Gary L. Bauer, who both long for a return to the 1950s, a simpler time when sluts were shamed, gays were in the closet, and only other white people were threatening us with nukes.

What is in this book: Proof of a vast conspiracy to warp our children and subvert our values. "Perpetual and pernicious exposure to rock music is responsible, at least in part, for many of the social problems now occurring among the young, including the high suicide rate, the reported willingness of young men to rape women if given an opportunity, and the moral undermining of the next generation"(p.71). But rock music is only the first step. "Rock concerts subject masses of emotionally needy kids to deafening noises, eerie lights, wild behavior, and godless philosophies. Like an elephant during the night of fire, an adolescent begins to lose his grip on reality"(p.6). These impressionable youths then become easy targets for fiends who want to "teach students that gay and lesbian lifestyles are no less moral than heterosexual relationships, and that they typically involve long-term monogamous commitments"(p.64). It's part of their terrifying mission to "seek equivalent legal status of families for homosexual and lesbian partners"(p.65). Some of the more dangerous elements will even recruit these children in their efforts to "oppose with vengeance any effort to teach, or even mention, creation as an explanation for the earth's beginnings"(p.66). After seeing these diabolical influences collaborate in an organized war on family values, "Can there be any doubt that the American Civil Liberties Union, National Organization of Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League, People for the American Way, political liberals, and others have joined forces to drive for final victory?"(p.118)

What is not in this book: Shrewd legal analysis. The authors assert that "The Dred Scott case excluded Blacks from the protection granted by the Declaration. The Roe v. Wade case did the same for our unborn children"(p.153). However, other journalists have noted that this comparison is problematic, partly due to the fact that no fetuses are willing to testify in congress or venture back into the womb to rescue their oppressed brethren. The book also describes a religion-based sex ed program where "The state superintendent's office ruled that the district violated state regulations because their material acknowledged only the traditional family, gave limited information on contraception, was written from the pro-life perspective, and was presented strictly within the context of marriage. It is difficult to believe that those time honored concepts should be declared illegal today"(p.56). This is like saying that the government hates tacos because it closed a Mexican restaurant for health code violations.

Would you recommend this book to Thomas Edison? Yes. "Stability in society is dependent on the healthy expression of our sexual nature. If this energy within us is siphoned off in the pursuit of pleasure; if it is squandered in non-exclusive relationships; if it is perverted in same sex activities, then the culture is deprived of the working, saving, sacrificing, caring, building, growing, reproducing units known as families"(p.59). Hopefully, we could convince him to build some kind of sex battery, or possibly a sex generator, to conserve or replenish this energy. The fate of society depends on it! Without drastic protective measures, the internet will lead us down a dark path from which we may never return. "Fewer people realize how incredibly addictive pornography is to most boys during early adolescence. One exposure at just the right moment can capture a susceptible young man on the verge of manhood. He then begins a masturbatory habit that feeds on ever more explicit and violent material"(p. 9, emphasis in original).

Would you recommend this book to advocates of non-traditional marriage? Only if I thought it could turn them from their ruinous course of action. "Studies show that the absence of the father expresses itself in male children in two very different ways; it is linked to increased aggressiveness on one hand, and greater manifestations of effeminacy on the other"(p.183). This can only lead to children ending up as gays, rapists, or gay rapists. Of course, "some opinion leaders point to broken homes, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and homosexual 'couples,' not as reasons for alarm, but rather as evidence of healthy family diversity and pluralism"(p.114). This advocacy has led society far from the way things used to be done.
"In 1960, out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a matter of shame. When it happened, couples often did a quaint thing—they got married, so that the child would have a name and the influence of the father. Girls who 'slept around' were often ostracized by their fellow students. A pregnant teenager was sent away to have the child rather than risk the censure of the community."(p.115)
And therein lies the tragedy of this normalization. Allowing any unwed teenager—be she a knocked-up slut or a victim of incest or rape—to hang around and flaunt her biology ends up harming not only the girl, but also the community that is forced to exclude and revile her.

What was interesting about this book? Its detailed map of the political landscape as influenced by lobbyist groups. "Today, there are few political and social movements as aggressive, powerful, or successful as 'gay rights' advocates. Homosexuality is no longer considered a dysfunction but rather an orientation or a 'sexual preference.' If you oppose homosexuality or condemn it from a moral perspective, you risk being labeled "homophobic"—a 'sickness' described as fear or loathing of homosexuality"(p.116). Fortunately, no one has developed programs to cure the sickness of homophobia that even come close to duplicating the methods or successes of the programs that cure homosexuality.

Children at Risk: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family by Dr. James Dobson and Gary L. Bauer (Word Publishing, 1990, ISBN: 0-8499-1280-6)

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