Monday, February 12, 2018

Polybius - The Video Game That Doesn't Exist

I remember playing some very strange arcade games in Columbus in the early 80's that had really dodgy graphics, but none that made you go crazy, though there were rumors...

Friday, January 19, 2018

Gnostic Themes in Blade Runner 2049

There are simple reasons why both Wallace and the old Tyrell replicants want the child: Wallace wants to be able to produce slaves faster than he can manufacture them, so those replicant slaves must be able to reproduce. It also bothers him that Tyrell knew more about bioengineering than Wallace. The replicants want the child because it is a sign that they are "real" people, despite being synthetic. The child is therefore a sign of hope. It is also a matter of keeping the child and the free replicants safe and free from anyone who would exploit them. They are escaped slaves, fighting for the freedom of all of the enslaved.
The Blade Runner movies make extensive references to Gnosticism, an early Christian heresy, as well as Milton's Paradise Lost. Philip K. Dick, the author of BR's source material, and Ridley Scott share an interest in this material.
Dick went beyond interest: in February and March of 1974, he experienced a series of visions that he spent the rest of his life trying to explain in his fiction and personal papers. Among the other fascinating information conveyed in these visions was the idea that modern times were an illusion, covering the fact that we are all living in a time loop during the Roman Empire during the time of the Book of Acts. We are, he said, trapped in the Black Iron Prison of this false reality. There is, however, someone trying to rescue us, who he called variously VALIS, Zebra, or the Plasmate, and who he identified as the symbiotic divine entity Christ who merged with the man Jesus.
The original Gnostics believed that Creation occurred due to the fall of an emanation of God called Sophia or Wisdom from a higher existence, called the Pleroma. Sophia, in her desperation, gave birth to the Demiurge, a blind, evil, sometimes lion-headed god/Devil who believed himself to be supreme, and who in turn created the physical world, trapping Sophia and the sparks of true Divine power that are human souls. However, the Demiurge lacked access to the true power of creation, and could neither create nor destroy souls within the created world, only sterile matter and lesser demonic spirits. The souls yearned to return to God in the Pleroma, and would come to escape the prison of the world through gnosis or knowledge of the Divine truth, which is actually a process of anamnesis or unforgetting.
In Blade Runner 2049, food and human substitutes are produced by Wallace, though the land (and the replicants) remain sterile. Wallace, like the Demiurge Ialdabaoth, is blind, leonine, a Devil who believes himself to be the new God. His name sounds like walls, the domain of Saturn/Cronus, the dark and grim father of Zeus, and the symbol of the prison. He creates beings he refers to as "angels" who cannot reproduce as humans do, and which may not have human free will or whose will is constrained (emprisoned), like Luv, who weeps at evil but serves loyally and cruelly nonetheless.
The Tyrell pyramid in the first Blade Runner, representing the Temple of the Presence, God on Earth, full of light:
It has been assimilated by the Saturnine Wallace Corp (background), imprisoning the darkened pyramid in 2049:
Deckard and Rachael, from the first film, produced a child, who might be K.
K is also "Joshi's Dog”. Does Joshi's Dog have Buddha nature, as the koan goes? Is he a real boy? He certainly has someone's real memory.
Among the other problems, most of humanity's records have been lost. Perhaps Ana Stelline, a memory artist with a celestial name, herself imprisoned in a sterile, though light-filled enclosure, can help K and the others un-forget. Can Sapper, Freysa, and the other old replicants (fallen angels) protect the child and redeem the fallen world? Who knows.

Monday, November 06, 2017

EP 040 Jason Fagone on Elizabeth Smith Friedman, Codebreaker

I used to see some amazing obituaries, often in British newspapers, detailing a remarkable life lived by someone who had worked undercover during WWII, escaped from Nazis, and gone on to live to a great old age. Frequently, these people were forgotten or never spoke of their adventures.

Elizabeth Smith Friedman, the subject of Jason Fagone's new biography, The Woman Who Smashed Codes, is one of those rare people, though her story begins with a search for the true author of Shakespeare, runs through two world wars, includes a stint fighting gangsters and rumrunners (and the jealousy of J. Edgar Hoover) and the foundation of the NSA, and ends with more Shakespeare. It sounds like a whole series of detective novels rolled into one, yet Elizabeth was a real person with an amazing story.

Enjoy this episode, and want me to keep making more?
Download, subscribe, rate and review on iTunes

Want to hear more like this?
Pair with Shava Nerad on using cryptography to secure communications or tales of derring-do with Adam Swartzbaugh.

Show Notes and Links

Jason's website
Jason on Twitter
Jason's Podcast

Monday, October 23, 2017

EP 039 Daniel Ingram on Meditative States, Paths, and Ethical Living

Daniel Ingram has a successful career as an ER doctor, but he's best known on the Internet for being a meditator and meditation teacher. He's the author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book, which I first read about over on Scott Alexander's blog Slate Star Codex here and here. Daniel made some waves in the dharma community by claiming to have attained enlightenment as an arahat.

On today's podcast, we talk about the different ways to assess that claim, what states and insights may occur on the way to enlightenment, and what to do if you get yourself into a spiritual crisis of one sort or another. We also talk about some of my meditative experiences and how to use a candle flame as a focus for meditative practice.

I feel as though I did not communicate well during the discussion of visualization practices in the last part of the interview. While it is certainly possible to get some level of visualization going within the first day of doing practice, the quality, detail, interactivity and stability of visualizations will also improve slowly over 90+ days of effort. That's about the period of time it took me to develop a fully zoomable and rotatable model of human anatomy with full motion inside my head. It's also the amount of time it should take you to get through the ngondro (preliminaries) of Vajrayana, some of the journeying techniques, Jung's active imagination, and the spirit contact models for various ritual magic systems. I think there's some neurochemistry behind this, specifically an upregulation of serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors, which seem to be connected to creative/optimistic thinking styles. These same receptors are involved in the visual effects of entheogens such as LSD and psilocybin. But that's a discussion for another day. The upshot is that if you think your visionary experiences are good at the outset, keep working for a few months and they will gradually get better.

Enjoy this episode, and want me to keep making more? Download, subscribe, rate and review on iTunes

Want to hear more like this?
Pair with B Alan Wallace on Dzogchen and Dudjom Lingpa or Ben Joffe on ngakpa and Tibetan traditional medicine.

Show Notes and Links

Daniel's website
Daniel on Twitter
His fire kasina site

The Dharma Overground forum

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From the Archives: Nerdcon Stories 2015

In 2015, the team behind the highly successful and popular Nerdcon video conference, led by Hank and John Green, created a writer- and reader-centric convention called Nerdcon: Stories. I drove up there at the last minute to see a slate of authors who might as well have been picked out for me. While I've seen a couple of the panels online, I don't think these two panel discussions have ever been published by anyone: Tropes, Misinformation and Stereotypes: How to Identify and Avoid Them When Writing Outside Your Experience, led by Mary Robinette Kowal, and No Pressure: How to Keep Creating Once You've Technically Succeeded (Writing After Success), led by Patrick Rothfuss. Nerdcon: Stories may have shut down, but it was a bold experiment.

Nerdcon: Writing Outside Your Experience

Nerdcon: Writing After Success