Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2020-11-12T12:00:17Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com November 12. http://ranprieur.com/#a919d51f0efed2e84c0c175fae16c0abad7a7f32 2020-11-12T12:00:17Z November 12. Even farther off the usual subjects, today I want to recommend a wine and review a movie. We try a lot of under $10 red wine, and to my taste, a Portuguese blend called Colossal Reserva blows them all away. It's smooth, balanced, full-bodied, and stays good a long time after opening.

My favorite film of the 2010's is The Witch (2015). Every October we watch a lot of horror movies, and when we watched it last year, it stuck with me for days afterward. So this year I rewatched it, and it's not a horror film -- it's an art film: slow-paced, meticulously crafted, with top-notch acting and a radical personal vision. The writer-director, Robert Eggers, went on to make The Lighthouse (2019), which is even more stark and ambitious, and right now he's filming a Viking revenge saga called The Northman.

The Witch is about a Puritan family, in 1630's New England, who are exiled from their fortified town and make a farm at the edge of a spooky primal forest. Spoilers follow... Where a normal horror film might keep the audience in suspense about whether witches are real, we find out right away, when a baby vanishes and the next shot is a hunched figure carrying it through the forest. And then, where a normal movie would have a balanced conflict between the two sides, the overly moral Christians and the amoral forest creatures, The Witch gives us a total curbstomp by the baddies. The family fails to score a single point, except against each other, falling into suspicion and conflict as they're destroyed.

The protagonist, a teenage girl named Thomasin, is the most sane member of the family, and the first one the others blame when anything goes wrong. That's something a lot of us can relate to, being around crazy people who are hostile to anyone who doesn't share their insanity. Also, it was the first big role for Anya Taylor-Joy, who's been in everything lately, including the very highly rated show The Queen's Gambit. Her acting is fine, but the remarkable thing about her is her look, with eyes almost impossibly large and far apart. If humans really do turn into elves, that's what we'll want to look like.

November 9. http://ranprieur.com/#bd256288f72bbbf0da3a5cd1f08a244451b86844 2020-11-09T21:30:42Z November 9. Writing about politics and society is seductive but exhausting. I'm taking the week off. Today, some woo-woo links. The Big Study is a blog by a veteran paranormal writer, and this summer he did an impressive eleven-part "Summa Faeryologica". You might want to start with part one, but I started with part eleven, because it's at the top and the most interesting, and worked my way down.

I see a lot of room for cross-pollination between paranormal researchers, and scientists focusing on the increasing evidence that there is no third-person reality. The latest book on that subject is The Case Against Reality by Donald Hoffman. If reality is 100% first person, if our senses are like desktop icons for an incomprehensible world of interrelating perspectives, then it should not freak us out when reliable witnesses defy consensus reality.

More examples in this recent reddit thread, What was the strangest moment in your life that you still can't explain upto this day?

And three posts on the psychonaut subreddit. A decent collection of trip reports, How many have met god(s)? What did your learn?

When I was a child I fell asleep, woke up inside a womb, was born, lived an entire life, died and woke back up in this life. It's rare, but other people have independently reported the same kind of thing, and the comment thread links to this report of a ten year alternate life in a near-death experience.

This report is more psychological than metaphysical. Without drugs, just through emotions:

Suddenly, my vision changed and I was inside my body for the first time in my life. I remember looking at my hands and thinking: omg I am a human too! I have a body! ... When my relative came into my room, I felt separated from them for the first time. I could think and choose what to say, I no longer reacted and no longer cared so much about how they perceive me. I did not feel connected any more to anyone. I felt fully inside myself, and other people were other people, with their own thoughts and problems and personalities.... I felt really good and I remember thinking "so this is how everyone else feels, this is what it's like to be human."

The comments are like, cool, you had a trip. But I take it at face value: we're all walking around assuming that everyone experiences reality the same way that we do, but there are radically different ways to be human, and we only find out if we can somehow shift from one to another. What this person reports, feeling starkly separate from other people, is how I feel all the time, and I'm always trying to get in a "flow" of something outside myself.

November 6. http://ranprieur.com/#972d65704890b3fcd83c7ca2c0a727dad172d1fd 2020-11-06T18:00:04Z November 6. Some lighter stuff for the weekend. Can You Tell a Trump Fridge From a Biden Fridge? It's photos of the insides of refrigerators, and it's surprisingly hard to tell. Overall people are right only 52% of the time. So we're less different than we thought.

And some music. This Spotify playlist, Radio First Termer 69 FM, is an actual playlist from an underground DJ in the Vietnam war.

Dolly Parton's Jolene, slowed down, sounds way better than original speed.

And a nice video of a beautiful, spiritual song from 2010, Roky Erickson - Forever.

November 5. http://ranprieur.com/#3b4d62ab12a370039f594cd8917ccdc0dd51d84e 2020-11-05T17:50:23Z November 5. Some good news from the election. We've all heard about Oregon decriminalizing hard drugs, and also, Massachusetts has passed a strong right to repair law, opening up high-tech car data.

But the big surprise is that Republicans are doing better than Trump. He's hanging by a thread, while they picked up a bunch of seats in the House. We've been told that he's carrying the party on his back, that they'll fall apart without him, but it turns out, if they didn't have such a flawed candidate, they would have kicked Biden's ass.

Why are Republicans doing so well? Partly it's because the cultural left has gone too far. I heard about an academic speech code where "grandfathered in" was declared ageist. But I want to focus on the economic right and left, and I'm not claiming any timeless definition of "right" and "left", just looking at what they mean here and now.

This is America, so both sides will say they stand for freedom, but neither does. The right wants you to be forced to serve the more powerful, and the left wants you to be forced to help the less fortunate. Both sides will claim morality, but really it's about personal preference. Do you feel better about serving the powerful, or helping the weak?

Or, to be truly free, in a left wing society you have to be at the bottom, and in a right wing society you have to be at the top. Which of those do you aspire to? Or which do you think is more realistic?

I've been thinking about John Rawls, probably the most influential social philosopher of the late 20th century. His big idea is that a society should be judged by the quality of life of its worst-off member. If the left is failing, it's because their idea of minimum quality of life is about industrial comforts, rather than feeling alive. Quoting Vachel Lindsay, from 1909:

Let us enter the great offices and shut the desk lids and cut the telephone wires. Let us see that the skyscrapers are empty and locked, and the keys thrown into the river. Let us break up the cities. Let us send men on a great migration: set free, purged of the commerce-made manners and fat prosperity of America; ragged with the beggar's pride, starving with the crusader's fervor. Better to die of plague on the highroad seeing the angels, than live on iron streets playing checkers with dollars ever and ever.

Election day, 2020. First, adding some detail to yesterday's post, here's a post I made in 2009 about property, against the concept of non-occupying ownership, and suggesting a distinction between sustaining and extractive ownership.

Eric comments:

My current reading of 'Right' vs. 'Left' is that both serve the primacy of property, but the Right sees no reason to restrain coercive hoarding, while the Left has some notion that ownership quantities should not exceed some arbitrary ratio. No wonder the Right is more effective -- they are following their undiluted core principle, while the Left holds most of the same principles, but just wants to restrain them a little.

I agree... and yet, why should we even care if one political faction is following core principles more purely than another?

Our whole culture has fallen into a bad head-space about public policy, and it happened through two mistakes. First, the mechanisms of the state have been turned into a performance, a show, which we call "politics". Second, we look to that show to give meaning to our lives.

Put them together, and the actions of the state now follow the rules of myth-making, instead of following the practical interests of the people. That's why rural Americans enthusiastically support a TV host who reflects their culture back at them, while cancellation of farm debts is not even on the radar.

That's why social thinkers who should know better, like me and David Graeber, have critiqued the Democratic party for not having a compelling vision. I've deleted yesterday's final paragraph, because I don't want politicians to be for anything that's dumb enough to be inspiring on television.

The duty of politicians is to boringly arrange the mechanisms of the state to serve individuals and small groups pursuing their own peculiar visions. Mass media has made that impossible. Enjoy your civil war, America.

November 2. http://ranprieur.com/#8e5fa5d53c8c9b05c366a1560ab10e966d6a814b 2020-11-02T14:20:01Z November 2. Posted last week to Weird Collapse, a poorly written and important article, Can too many brainy people be a dangerous thing? There are actually two things going on here. The first is that too many people are being trained in head skills, for sitting in offices manipulating abstractions, when we need more hand skills, for repairing the infrastructure, and emotional skills, for service jobs and de-escalating conflict.

Everyone knows we never use the algebra and geometry that we have to learn in school. I wish I could have taken a class in horticulture, or plumbing, or reading microexpressions. The closest thing schools have, to formal instruction in social intelligence, is sensitivity training based around left wing identity politics. It's a good start. But racism is a subset of classism, treating different categories of people better or worse, and I've never heard of anti-classist training.

That brings us to the second thing the article is about: too many people are being raised to feel entitled to have power over others. And that's something that happens in families. I remember in high school I wanted to take wood shop, because I really liked lathe working in middle school, and my dad made a rare intervention, and said I had to take electronics, because wood shop was low class.

My generation was the first in American history to be poorer than our parents -- and since then every generation has been poorer by a wider margin. But at the leading edge of that decline, I just assumed that because I was "smart" (good at manipulating abstractions), one day I'd be rich. That's why, at age 20, I was a standard evil libertarian. Then when I figured out I was going to be poor, I changed my politics to favor reforms that would make poverty tolerable.

But some people don't. When they see themselves slipping in status, they can't imagine a world where it's okay to be at the bottom; instead, they want to make sure there's always someone below them who they can drop power on. If a bigger monkey can hit me, I should be allowed to hit a smaller monkey. And that's why the political right surges in failing economies.

On a tangent, I wonder what the "right" would be like if they could finally let go of domination. If they quit glorifying "property" as a way to preserve and extract wealth, if they quit defining wealth as a way to make other people do stuff they'd prefer not to do, if they didn't think wearing a uniform should give a person more right to use deadly force, what would be left of the right? Mostly stuff I agree with, like favoring the informal over the formal, and fun over safety. I always say my most right wing opinion is that they should bring back lawn darts.