Showing posts from April, 2009


Back from a conference in Canberra. Thus no updates.

Something about the Knights of Reason tomorrow, hopefully.

So What Is Hypnosis?

You are getting verrrrry sleeepy. Maybe because you're reading this blog...

So what is hypnosis? This post is a bit longer, to do the topic justice.

The more serious analytical people debate the state versus non-state theories. And you will notice if you do any reading about hypnosis, in books or online, that it attracts the regular retinue of defenders of Reason, from the usual inquisitorial sceptic associations all the way through to Mythbusters. (I'll devote the next post to the Knights of Rationality and Reason.) As well as plenty of other loons of all persuasions.

Derren Brown in his Tricks of the Mind (below) makes the good point that one of the problems in talking about hypnosis is that it's like 'magic' - it's an overarching term that actually refers to a whole set of quite specific, practical and often separate activities. So just as a magician might work with cards or escapology or rabbits and hats, and each of those has its own set of distinct and often…

Hypnosis Again. Erickson.

Milton Erickson. The true Svengali.

Time to revist hypnosis. A bit of a passion of mine, and having dabbled with it for the past few years also something I now 'use' every day.

I scare quote the use because hypnosis really isn't at all what people think it is. It's not even what people who are skilled in its use think it is, in my opinion. As far as skilled hypnotists go, if we had to construct a world ranking, then Milton Erickson would be first and daylight, as they say, would be a long way back in second place. He's now dead, but the range of his understanding and technique was Bradmanesque, if you'll forgive the cricketing reference. And in fact most of the modern theories about hypnosis descend from Erickosn's work and study, because he dissected the phenomenon in an academic context as well as working in the field extensively. And really he made it possible in many ways for there to be a 'field' to work in.

Probably the major break Erickson estab…

The Humour of Dementia

I found this funny. I know it probably shouldn't be funny, and the people whose families have experienced Alzheimers may struggle to see the humour.

But dementia is one of those rich, forbidden veins of humour. Geoffrey Atherden's Mother & Son here in Oz being a case in point.

I'm curious why dementia can be so side-splittingly funny. Anybody have any ideas? It seems one of those questions which might answer something essential about the human condition. Bergson wrote an extended thing on humour, concluding generally (from memory) that humour is normally a clash of dynamic life with mechanical rigidity. (I must do a blog entry about how machines, robots etc. get such a bad rap by being called 'mechanical'.)

But it's something specifically about the absence of memory that makes this sort of thing funny, to some anyway. And maybe it's funnier when it's short-term memory that's affected - Iris Murdoch watching the Teletubbies towards the end of her li…

Boat People

William Bradley's 1781 Sirius, Supply & Convoy...Hyaena in Company, 1787. English ships bringing some of the first boat pe0ple to these fair shores. (Thanks to the National Library for this one.)

For some of the recent decades here in Oz there was a sort of unwritten rule in politics that you didn't play the race card. Although in fact that rule didn't apply for most of our history, and then when it did apply it didn't tend to apply in the bash-the-blacks north, where it's a sport between as well as at election times. Rivalling the crocs for the front page.

Of course John Howard's copy of the Marquess of Queensberry was missing a few pages. And that was probably a gaffe from some staffer, who didn't tell anyone. So we had a juicy old time between about 2001 right up to him losing the last election where the deep vein of xenophobic ugliness in Australians got a mighty workout, sometimes in dog whistling subtlety and sometimes in stunning plain view, like h…

League Tables. Benchmarking.

Two of the virulent strains of modern free market Darwinism are comparison and competition. Being the same thing really, you don't get proper competition unless people can compare what's on offer. Like the Rudd government's heroic grocerychoice website - here. Does anybody use this? It's pretty much useless anyway, with prices aggregated and averaged across enormous regions, so that it gives you no guidance at all in terms of which of your local shops have the cheapest gear. Unless chains have uniform pricing across all areas, which would normally be the antithesis of competition and red-blooded capitalism. And of course they don't, anybody who lives west of the divide knows that the free market is a lot less free if you don't have a metropolitan postcode. One of the lovely demonstrations of the fantasy of the free market is living in the country, where most of the food is grown, and having to pay twice as much for it, at half the quality, with the best stuff t…

Zeno and The Paradoxes of Motion. And why there's no such thing as movement.

Having sourced a picture of Zeno, which like all ancient Greeks mug shots is actually a bust that looks like every other bust of an ancient Greek (i.e. a bit like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments), I decided on a bow and arrow motif instead. For reasons that will become obvious, if they aren't already. Oh, and while this might be setting off all sorts of alarms in you along the lines of boring dissection of classical philosophy, it's heading somewhere very different.

Bear with me.

Zeno was said to subscribe to the philosophy of Parmenides. Parmendies is only known through one work (and bits of it are lost), which is mostly a poem, but then that was often the style employed even for works of science, in those days. For example Lucretius' On The Nature of the Universe is also largely poetry. In this scientistic age that relegates it to the realm of utter fiction, idiots that we are.

Parmenides was very big on oneness, he claimed that reality was always just one, unchangi…


One of those little miracles sitting right there in front of us everyday, which we miss because we're usually too busy in the soap opera of human relationships, is what's sometimes called holophonic sounds, or binaural recording. I came upon this when chatting to people about stereo photography, and wondering whether the same thing was possible for sound. They thought no, including Brian (May, guitarist from Queen who's a stereo photo nut).

But as it turns out it's not only possible to 3-dimensionalise sound in the same way you do with stereo pictures for images, it's much easier to do it with sound, and what's more the outcome is not just stereo, but holographic (or holophonic, because it's sound - phonic - rather than image - graphic). You simply use two microphones placed either in your ears or in the ears of a dummy with replica human ear shapes (see pic above), and when you play back what's recorded the sound is holophonic (i.e. completely 3D, as if…


I'm off for a few days away.

Shaw used to call Christianity Crosstianity, after it became a sort of S&M cult obsessed with the torture of Christ. Gibson's film, for example. Just proves that no matter who Jesus was, like everybody else you can't control what people will do with your name and life after you've gone.

For the non-believers it's the great pagan festival of chocolate.

I don't eat chocolate, so for me it's just a few days off with the wife and kids.

Magic Puddings & Magic Beans

It went a bit unremarked in the past week that Tony Abbott, the 'mad monk' of the Right of politics in Australia - a conservative Catholic who wears his faith pretty heavily on his political portfolios - brilliantly summed up all that was wrong with the government he was part of. Looky here.

Abbott notes that in the later years of the Howard reign of vengeful dullness: "The fact we could have lower taxes, higher spending and bigger surpluses for about five years - in other words, we could have a magic pudding - led some people to think that thrift, prudence, responsibility had somehow become irrelevant."

[The magic pudding in Lindsay's tale replenished itself automatically after being eaten.]

This from the party who all through that time and since have engaged in an orgy of soapbox chest-beating about their fabulous economic credentials and economic conservatism. People with a sense of history going back more than 5 minutes were not suprised that the government und…

Inanimate (Bloody) Objects

IS it OK to feel anger, nay RAGE, towards inanimate objects?

Like when you have one of those days where you get out of bed and stub your toe on the door frame, then bash your head on the cupboard door in the kitchen and drop the cup you're holding in the process, which smashes on the floor. Or there's only one decent show on the box, and that channel inexplicably goes off the air.

Having vented my anger on a few hapless walls and doors in my time (tall people always bash their heads), and then endured moralising sermons in the vein of tradesmen not blaming their tools, just recently I've wondered if this idea that all fault and blame has to fall on the animate klutz is fair and accurate. Obviously there are all sorts of implied ideas about agency here. But is it unreasonable or just plain silly to be angry with an object?

You can have fascinating discussions about whether agency resides only in the animate (answer - no, and it also makes a bit of a meal of the distinction bet…

Here Comes the Sun

(The Sun. All Worship.)

Wish I could get my head around copyright of images. I throw all sorts of things up here on the blog which I think are royalty-free, like the glowing beauty above.

The end of Daylight Savings (DS) this weekend. The sun-worshippers extended it by more than a month this year, and I've had the joy of utter darkness while fumbling about in the mornings getting ready for work. Normally we'd need to wait until winter for that privilege, but thanks to the growing cult of daylight we'll now have a month or so of more light in the mornings, and then back to black. My circadian rhythms are wreaking their usual havoc on sleep quality, they don't know which way is up. They're too dim to understand the genius logic of shifting waking and bed times arbitrarily twice a year, so that millions of precious dears can work the same insane slave days and still have some daylight to come home and mow the lawn in.

The same clever dicks trot out the same manurial sar…


Mammon. He's Back.

Disturbing signs in the great economic crisis debate.

We do tend to have moralists in charge no matter which way we vote these days. Now there's nothing wrong with morality per se, it's one of the cornerstones of civilisation. But it's like a belt, it makes all the difference in the world whether you're using it to keep your pants up or to auto-asphyxiate yourself.

Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd were chummily dissecting the evils of unfettered free markets in St Pauls yesterday, to the utter delight of the Bishop of London. Greed and otherwise unscrupulous behaviour are the root of the current mess, they say, together with lax regulation. Mammon is back, basically, as announced in the House of God.

Alas this is the same tired old distinction trotted out just about everywhere today, even in ruthlessly secular business. Every local school even has a 'value statement' to sit neatly on the wall next to its mission statement and vision. It's cen…