Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Mysterious Force That You Know So Well

My first unambiguous encounter with life-force energy occurred in my teens. I'd taken a fairly high dose of LSD, and was watching my friend's cat, which was stalking peacefully about at the other end of the room. Then something moved me to point at the cat, with a lazy, flicking gesture. This stuff, like light but all bent and twisted like lightning, came out of the tip of my index finger and arced across the room, hitting the cat. It looked exactly like the stuff that came out of the hands of sorcerers in Doctor Strange comic, those kinked, glowing arcs of energy exchanged between battling wizards.
It would just have been a drug hallucination but for the effect it had on the cat. It jumped two feet in the air and leaped out of the window. I was concerned for it (I've always loved cats) and went over to look out; it was tearing off across the yard. Later I discovered it was fine. The movement I had made was slow and easy, not abrupt enough to startle the cat.

Those Doctor Strange panels were depictions of energy magic. Energy magic is one of the great paradigms of magic, one of the basic ways of thinking about so-called magical effects. Within that idea, wizards seek to project or block energy to heal or harm, to rearrange energy internally for health and strength, to use energy to carry enchantments.

A few years later, when I had started disciplined magical work, a friend and I were standing,  discussing energy projection, which neither of us was sure he had experienced. He said something about using the voice. I said, 'What, like HUH?' The HUH was a rapid exhalation, a huff of breath; my friend fell over. He got up, said 'You bastard!' and we laughed about it. We'd both wanted an experience of projecting energy, and we'd got one!

This energy is a central part of many traditional systems of healing, martial arts and spiritual awakening.

From Chapter I-1: A brief history of magical energy

Looking at the great traditions, we see an intimate connection between life-force and breath, to the extent of finding words for breath which also double as words for life energy or spirit. In Greek, we have pneuma, in Chinese qi or chi, in Sanskrit prana, in Hebrew ruach, in Latin spiritus. The latter leaves a trace of this double-concept in modern English: it's not hard to see the connection between the Latin root of 'inspiration', both in its physical, objectively-observed sense of drawing in breath, and in its more commonly-used interior meaning, of a very special mental condition.

In the modern age, the most extensive systems of life-energy work survive in the Hindu teachings on pranayama, and in the Taoist disciplines of qigong / qi gong. In the word 'pranayama', the prana part refers to life-force and the -yama root means death or control; so pranayama means 'control of breath or life-force'. Qigong means 'breath/life-energy work'.

Teaching about prana or qi permeate many aspects of the esoteric teachings of those traditions. In the Hindu tradition the control of prana is central to Kriya Yoga, Tantric sexual alchemy and the healing knowledge of energy centres in Ayurveda, to mention just a few areas. In Taoism, consciousness of and control of qi is essential in Tu-na breathwork, esoteric martial arts, acupuncture, sexual alchemy and the energy magic of qigong.

So we can see that vitalism, the idea of a universal life-energy, forms an important feature of esoteric traditions. It is a consistent ingredient of what has been called the Perennial Philosophy, the teachings that form an intellectual underpinning to traditional worldviews. Further, we can see that vitalism has been deeply intellectually unfashionable since the rise of the scientific worldview. It is the radical reductionism of even healthy scientific thought (let alone fundamentalist scientism) that has rendered life-force a redundant hypothesis, sliced off by Occam's Razor because it seems we do not need to distinguish the activities of living things quite so sharply from the inorganic substrate of the world - DNA is, after all, 'just a chemical'.

This puts the sceptical practitioner of martial arts or energy healing in a strange position. When you have experienced real life-energy adventures, like the above, or like the ones you have no doubt had if you work esoteric martial arts or energy magic, you have no doubt that these techniques work to produce a sense of something which feels and behaves very much like life-energy. So the traditional notions of life-energy become the most obvious, the immediately-comprehensible articulation of what you are experiencing.

David Lee will be presenting a day-workshop on Energy Magic next month. Details at:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review of EPOCH by Peter J. Carroll and Matt Kaybrin

EPOCH - Esotericon and Portals of Chaos, by Peter J. Carroll and Matt Kaybrin, pub. Arcanorium College.

This book has taken me some months to review. Partly because of its sheer size and scale, but also because it represents in some ways a summation of Peter Carroll's total contribution to magical practice and history. So it really made me think about what was important and what wasn't about this man's extraordinary work.

I've known Pete Carroll since 1979, from meetings in the Sorcerer's Apprentice coffee mornings in Leeds. I was one of the founder members of the first IOT group in West Yorkshire, begun in 1980 and centred on the village of East Morton, where Ray Sherwin had a house, and where Pete Carroll lived for a while. So we go back a long way, and his work, particularly Liber Null, has often inspired me. Not only that, but nothing has yet come along to replace Chaos Magic as the forefront magical current; its history is the history of contemporary magic.

EPOCH consists of a large, beautifully-produced book and a deck of large cards. The latter are stunning. They are not just as a divination pack - Matt Kaybrin described their unusual lamination as 'Chaos Magician proof' - in other words, these are wipe-clean tools for use in the, ahem, liveliest temple.

The book lays out a sophisticated psychocosm, with three levels to it, quite like Qabalah, especially the ideas behind the first two sections - Elemental Knowledge and Knowledge of the Self. The Pentagram of the elements forms the equivalent to Malkuth, and the Octa-star, the eight Planetary spheres, replaces the Ruach of the Tree of Life. With the third section, instead of the Supernals (Carroll rejects completely the traditional notions of Awakening) we have Forbidden Knowledge. This has to be the most anti-traditional psychocosm ever, a triumph of radical materialism.

The Elements section is the least original part, and contains much that is rehashed from Carroll's early books. Much of this is good and useful stuff, like the comments about the relative usefulness of unreliable divination and unreliable enchantment, and if you don't possess Carroll's earlier works, then here you are.

The book starts getting into some more original areas with the deities of the Octa-star. These are attributed to pairs of planetary influences. This is a nice idea, for making a very tidy scheme of invocation. There are also some excellent treatments of  previously-little-celebrated deities, including Lucifer, Ma'at, Apophenia and Pareidolia. Another useful feature of sticking gods into your big-scale psychocosm is that it enables you kind of 'stand outside' the gods that permeate your local culture. Like Jahveh still, to some extent, does; I like Carroll's comment that belief in such a monster is massively counter-intuitive and counter rational - this fits in exactly with what C S Lewis said, about being a Christian because it was so irrational.

The problem I have with this scheme though is, of course, that other people's attributions are bound to feel arbitrary, at least in some cases. For instance, I get that Vulcan is Mercury, but also Jupiter? And Osiris, as Saturn-Jupiter? Surely Saturn-Sun?

A quote from p140:
'Elemental Magic deals largely with the natural world here on Earth, and Planetary Magic deals largely with the Human Condition, but Stellar Magic addresses the possibilities of the Trans-Human Condition.'

It is with the Stellar Magic section that Carroll really gets into his stride. Using the cluster of suggestive fictional ideas known as the Cthulhu Mythos, he explores alien gnosis, the deep physics of magical action and the Faustian bargain on which our civilization is built. Basically, Carroll shows us how to frame the Cthulhu Mythos as a magical framework for Faustian-Promethean work: the mastery of consciousness, biology, spacetime, entropy and impermanence, nano- and femto-physics. This is the modern version of the age-old dream of overcoming death and temporo-spatial limitations. Of course, this is not the first time anyone has constructed a menu for Promethean endeavour - remember Timothy Leary's SMI2LE formula - space migration, increased intelligence, life extension? But this is probably the first time anyone has taken these bright-dark dreams and articulated them into a system of magic which revolves around forbidden knowledge.

The visualizations in the Necronomicon pages have the dark, SF glamour that Carroll is sometimes very good at. Here's a sample from the Azathoth evocation. (A pentachoron is a pentagram folded into a 3-D representation of a 4-d object, looking like a tetrahedron with another vertex in the middle):

'To evoke Azathoth the magician repeats the incantation as many times as necessary whilst visualizing the Triconorbis sigil of a vortex swirling within a triangle.
'If possible, the magician should try to expand this vision into that of a vortex within a tetrahedron and then to transform it into an omni-directional vorticitation within a pentachoron...'

I love the idea of the Elder Gods being dangerous powers we have always wanted. This is far and away the best Necronomicon, qua grimoire.

That covers the individual sections; now I'd like to talk about the psychocosm itself.

One of the things I was initially uncomfortable about in this book was the presence of such a massively-inclusive scheme. It looked like a closed system, the open-ended metasystem, of Chaos Magic having been left behind, allowed to set, to congeal into a single subset of all the possible systems subtended by the CM way of thinking. If you have a metaphysical  system that is essentialist, in other words says that essence precedes existence, then you have a top-down system, and closure is inevitable and healthy. If you work with a bottom-up system, like (good) science or Chaos Magic, then any closure is inevitably ad hoc, viewed as temporary in the bigger scheme of life because it is bound to be, and supposed to be superseded by another system all too soon. Also, when an open-ended philosophy such as Chaos Magic starts to congeal into systems, it is generally a sign of fundamental decadence, because it is not the most creative part of the human mind that loves closure and neatness, but the lazy part, and this beautiful pattern, this elegant subset of open-ended enquiry might get mistaken for Chaos Magic.

Then it occurred to me that this book is surely in some way intended as a rounding-out of Carroll's entire corpus of magical writings. In the introductory chapters he makes a good deal of the work of Mathers, in particular the expanded Qabalistic Tree of Life scheme, into which he packed Levi's Tarot attributions, elements and tattvas, angels and even John Dee's Enochian System. The EPOCH psychocosm is intended as a replacement, based on Carroll's Quantum-Neo-Pagan metaphysics, for Mathers's scheme, the latter based on Platonic-Pagan-Monotheist thought. Thus, the book is intended to mark a cornerstone of a new way of thinking about magic and the universe. This is Carroll's Magnum Opus, in terms of Big Thinking.

Looking back over Carroll's published achievements:
- Liber Null gave us the two principles of Chaos Magic;
- Liber Kaos included Chaos Magic Theory, (now presented as part of QNP), the first truly materialistic theory of magic;
- The Psychonomicon gave us the 8 Colours of Magic. This has proven an invaluable simplification of Planetary Magical attributions, making the latter much more usable for off-the-cuff 'emergency' magic.
The CMT stuff may yet be seminal, though of course it is by no means certain that Carroll will be credited with these ideas. Take the case of Lionel Snell and Johnstone's Paradox: in 1974 Snell, writing as Angerford and Lea, wrote SSOTBME, in which he demonstrated that, if VR could ever be sufficiently sophisticated for us to be living in it, then the odds are that we are already doing so. This is now claimed as an original insight by Nick Bostrom and others. Just dig up a paper on this - such as - and you will find no reference to Lionel Snell's work.

Surely the most important of these innovations is the first. Carroll revolutionized magical writing with this single, simple idea. Liber Null is one of the 3 or 4 most important books to be written about magic in the 20th century. It is a blend of joyous anarchic experiment in a genuinely serious, romantic quest for real, demonstrable magical powers. At the other end of Carroll's output to date we have the realisation of a complex, inclusive psychocosm.

A few quibbles.
The first is a reprise of Carroll's tendency to construct straw-man arguments.
An obvious one is a seemingly-deliberate misunderstanding of Crowley's Aeonics in the crudest way possible. Surely Carroll has read Crowley enough to realise that he doesn't say that the Aeon of Isis meant that women ran everything. Not only that, but in shooting down this false-image of Crowley's Aeonic scheme, he is impugning the ancestor of his own.

This isn't the only swipe against Thelema. In the Choronzon chapter he writes: 'The Thelemic HGA hypothesis always leads to a sense of having a driven soul, or a true will ... and to it justifying any means and thence to violence and death.' I'm glad my relationship with what I sometimes call my Angel does not do anything of the sort.

Crowley needs character assassins like a dog needs fleas, but Pete goes on to compare Mathers in glowing terms with AC. This is odd; Mathers contrived a bloodless, cerebral set of attributions, based on Levi's lining-up of the Tree of Life with the Tarot Trumps and on Cornelius Agrippa's massive compilation of occult lore. Mathers and Bennett had done the world a favour by boiling down the endless symbolic tangles into Liber 777, a mere set of tables that reduced the Renaissance qabalah to an empty filing cabinet of ideas.

Crowley took this dry, Masonic intellectualism and streamlined it. He picked it up from Bennett and recognized the centrality of altered states to the success of magic with his 'energized enthusiasm'. In other words, he supplied the fuel for Mathers's elaborate gilded carriage. This insight, the necessity of an altered state, becomes half of Pete Carroll's brilliant summing up of the two irreducible necessities for doing successful magic, an ESC or 'gnosis' and a shift in belief. With the ultimate streamlining of Liber Null, a committed and intelligent beginner can do basic magical training in under a year.
However, having said that, Carroll's adulation of Mathers becomes less puzzling after you've read the book: Carroll is reaching back to the last time anyone made such a vast psychocosm.

Some final points:
You will probably want to take or leave Carroll's historical interpretations; his lex talionis approach to politics does show through.

There's a factual error (of sorts) on p82: in referring to ancient Egypt, we are told that 'animal sacrifice did not occur'. I suggest Mr C read up on Bubastis - - selling cats as stuffed effigies for religious tourists rates below sacrifice in my book.

In conclusion: did it make me want to do magic? Yes it did - the Stellar stuff. Did it make me think? See above. Buy it or not? Definitely buy it; this is an extraordinary work by any standards.

It is in fact fair to say that it is a great book. In the future, when people talk about Peter Carroll, if his present books are what we have to go on, two books will stand out: Liber Null, because of the daring simplicity of its central ideas. Nothing can be greater than such simplicity. But in second place, this book. So if you only ever buy two books by Peter Carroll, make it those two.

By the way, I love the title - lots of Clever Points for that! Acronyms have always been close to the Chaoist heart - I remember a certain Fra Corvus coming up with a servitor instruction system called BASIC - Basic Servitor Instruction Code. Then we had CHAOS - Constantly Hagiographizing Austin Osman Spare, and finally CARROLL - Cusp-Aeon Retroactively Reifying Octarine Logic Language.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Review of 131 by Julian Cope

131: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel by Julian Cope. £14.99

The marvellous Julian Cope has written a novel! And it has:

A spectacularly vile Bad Guy cult leader. A road trip through Sardinia (131 is the number of Sardinia's only highway). A guide and driver, beautiful and wise, who delivers classic rock-n-roll cars. A protagonist we are introduced to as he is shitting his pants on an aeroplane.

The first few pages tell us we are in the hands of a first-person narrator with all the tick marks for rock-n-roll excess: a burned-out druggie rock-star / football hooligan called Rock Section. Sixteen years before, at a big footie match, Rock and his hooligan mates were imprisoned, and some raped, by the bad guy's cult, resulting in one suicide and (at least) one mental collapse. So Rock is visiting Sardinia to force himself into a final confrontation with the bizarre motivations of the evil gang who did this.

As if this isn't enough, there is entire other layer to the plot, taking place around 10,000 years ago, when there was still a land bridge between the British Isles and mainland Europe, a young heir to the throne of Old Tüpp travelling through a  landscape of twisted language, elder gods and sacrificial imperatives.

This novel displays an extraordinarily deep and bizarre mix of spheres of knowledge: rock-n-roll, drugs, megaliths, prehistory and the old gods are areas I expected Mr Cope to have good knowledge of, but football hooligan antics and soft drinks addictions came as a surprise. This richness generates a texture which is somewhere around Gravity's Rainbow meets Avant Pulp.

I liked the book a lot. It was a compulsive read, and has some very likeable features. For instance, the Bad Guy, Barry Hertzog, bases his cultic ideas on the xtianity of C S Lewis. It does rather seem that Cope and I are of a single mind when it comes to this man's work: pure evil.  

The book is nicely made, a solid paperback, and you get maps at each end: Sardinia with important sites at the front, and a mad, hallucinated Ancient Western Europe at the back.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Truth required about Tinnitus cure

As someone with long-term tinnitus, I was curious when this turned up in my spam folder: Reverse My Tinnitus, by Dr. James Phillips and Alan Watson. It was a heavy spam attack, at least 6 copies in a day. I opened it, and it was one of those enormously irritating videos that promises to tell you something but spends many minutes simply repeating the same assertions. Eventually of course we get to the kill zone, where we are told that it's a diet plan to stimulate the production of antibodies that cause remyelination of the nerves responsible for the problem. The ebook that tells you how to do this costs $39, and the buyer is threatened with price rises if he or she does not buy it immediately.
So far, we have something which stinks of a scam - the high spam level, the aggressive 'I'll wear you down' marketing, and the absurdly high cost of a book which is supposedly based on mainstream science.
So I sat down at the keyboard and googled for reviews of this book.
Guess what? All 6 links on the first google page that claimed to be reviews were actually plugs for the book. Including one called 'Is Alan Watson Scam?' (sic) and even one called Reverse My Tinnitus Reviews Expose Dr James Phillips. Which does nothing of the kind.
Of course, these signs in themselves do not prove it to be a scam, but if it isn't, then I've never come across any product marketing which creates such a strong impression of scamming!
Next step was to look at Dr Phillips's publications. He certainly has an impressive list of papers on neural damage and neuronal sheath studies. He seems to be the real deal.
So, the fact that someone such as Dr Phillips, who seems to have nothing to hide, allows his name to be associated with this desperate hard-sell, does rather indicate that the good doctor regards the 'cure' as at least harmless, and maybe with some potential for effectiveness.
So, does anyone out there have any idea of the truth behind these claims? Anyone with any knowledge of Dr Phillips? Anyone yet found a genuine, honest review of the book?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Review of Svengali: Secrets of Influence, by Romulus

Svengali: Secrets  of Influence, by Romulus, pub. 139pp. Available from

This is a book about the magic of charisma and influence. Starting from the central idea that there are four basic ‘Svengali’ archetypes, it consists of a section on each of these four, in which the author records conversations with two or three exceptional exemplars of each type. It ends with a section summarizing the techniques that Romulus learned from his interlocutors.

The first section is called The Black Book: The Book of Power, and features Don Juan Del Domino as the archetype of this kind of power, the kind which dominates.
The second is The White Book: The Book of Healing, and focuses on the powers of Rasputin. The third, The Golden Book: The Book of Wealth, uses the exemplar of Hassan-i-Sabbah, and the fourth is The Red Book: The Book of Attraction, attributed to Salome.

This is a very lively and readable book, with a touch of the magical travelogue, taking us through an almost James Bond universe in which citizens of the world meet to speak of magical secrets over port and cigars in lavish houses with collections of great art. It is a book that leads you subtly, by telling stories. What I have said so far could give the impression that it is a ramble, but it is not. It is concise and full of ideas which anyone interested in the ways of power would do well to heed. This kind of style, when done well, is superior to bare theory and conclusions, because it is a living narrative that engages the reader’s imagination, making us believe that these feats are possible.

In the final section, the Exercises, the techniques mentioned in each Book get remixed so they are associated directly with each of the four archetypal types. There is a lot of material here, some of which I shall investigate in due course. Romulus’s selection and presentation of some the techniques shows clearly the process of ‘NLP strategies’ emerging out of much older magics, such as the use of verbless sentences to trigger internal states.

One thing that occurred to me: is this book’s underlying scheme that of the Four Elements?
Hassan-i-Sabbah – Wealth – Earth
Rasputin – Healing – Water
Don Juan del Domino – Power – Fire
Salome – Attraction (Influence) – Air

I checked with Romulus and no, the scheme is adapted from Vajrayana Buddhism and the four practical activities of the Bodhisattva:
·Black is Earth (Wrathful Practice),
·White is Air (Pacificatory and Healing Practices),
·Gold is Fire (Wealth and Increase Work),
·Red is Water (Attraction Subjugation  Practice)

What are the downsides of the book?
I think it’s fair to say that he is reaching a little with the Salome material, compared to the techniques in the other three sections, but this is not surprising – after all, Romulus is a man, and this is very much ‘women’s secrets’. Overall, it has to be said that the quality of magical information divulged is very high.
The only other thing – I gather the next edition will have been proof read, which it very badly needs. Isn’t PoD great, new editions follow any time they are needed!

In conclusion: Buy this book and read it, if you are at all interested in charisma and influence, in the wiring under the board of personal power, something we can all recognize, though few can project it.  

Monday, 5 August 2013

Review of Monsanto vs The World: Monsanto, GMOs and Our Genetically Modified Future, by Jason Louv

Monsanto vs The World: Monsanto, GMOs and Our Genetically Modified Future, by Jason Louv. Pub. Ultracuture,,
Book mini site:
11,000+ words, $3.02 ebook, $4.49 paperback

This is a cross between a book review and some propaganda for the resistance to Monsanto, which this book is a part of. As such, I shall treat the book as a set of resources for information and action.

It opens with a thorough breakdown of the appallingly corrupt arrangement that President Obama signed into law in March 2013, which can enable the planting of GM crops even against judicial rulings.

Then we are introduced to Monsanto, their history of producing weedkillers and the infamous defoliant weapon Agent Orange. The death statistics, both Vietnamese and American from the latter make grisly reading. Louv mentions the generous campaign donations Monsanto made to a variety of political campaigns.

Louv then introduces genetic modification, focusing on the most controversial kind, transgenic, where genes from widely differing organisms are combined, such as animal or bacterial genes being introduced into plants. Some of the failures of the exalted claims made for transgenics are mentioned.

One of the more sinister aspects of GM crops from the point of view of human health (which, as we shall see, is not the only issue with GMOs) is the introduction of herbicide resistance genes, making crops resistant to herbicides used to kill the weeds around them. This means that more herbicide chemicals will get into the food chain, and into our bodies. Unlike the crop, we won't have the gene to resist the toxin, so we will get toxic effects. There are apparently already reports of this happening, as well as trials which show carcinogenic effects from Monsanto's herbicides.

A possible threat, this time to agriculture and the ecosystem at large, is gene transfer, in which GM genes migrate into other organisms, such as herbicide-resistance genes appearing in weeds which grow in fields of traditionally-produced crops.

Even with apparently benign crops, there are great dangers. Once a farmer has stopped using the seed from last year's harvest and is dependent on some company for the higher-performance seeds he is now using - which will be sterile, so he has to buy them every year - he is in hock for all time. This is of the most worrying aspects of the GMO world. An example is Golden Rice, a GM rice variety engineered to produce large quantities of Vitamin A. Critics 'have suggested that the benefits of Golden Rice are minor compared to the threat posed to farmers who will have to submit to the policies of the seeds' patent holders'

In light of Monsanto's persecution of opponents and investigators ( is just one example) their acquisition of notorious mercenary outfit Blackwater is particularly chilling. As more than one commentator has noted, this is getting like a badly-scripted dystopian SF film.

Louv looks at the toxicity to wildlife of Monsanto's agri-poisons. One issue which has helped bring the entire Monsanto mess into the public eye is their pushing of neonicotinoid insecticides, which overwhelming evidence links to the mass die-offs of bees in recent years. This horrific threat has even raised the ire of Putin's Russia:

Monsanto's arrogant rapacity is given another creepy post-apocalyptic twist by the announcement that bee-size drones are being developed which may be used as pollinators in place of bees when the latter become extinct. 'Daddy, what happened to the honey bees?' 'We poisoned them, son.'

Louv covers some features of third-world resistance to biotech, including the Indian farmer suicides, and moves on to the 'revolving door' between government and biotech companies. He references the studies showing that GM crops do not produce the promised great yields, and examines the evidence that GMOs could cause direct harm to those eating them.

There is little hard evidence for such harm, but even if GMOs were shown to be completely harmless in themselves that would not vitiate one bit the host of other reasons for subjecting them to much stricter control, not to mention clipping the wings of arrogant companies who care nothing for farmers or the environment.

The book gives advice on avoiding eating GMOs. For a pocket-size list of companies to avoid, check out 

Like I said at the beginning, this is not just a book review, and as such I have nothing negative to say about any book that contributes positively to the struggle against the rapists of the ecosystem. I would though respectfully suggest to Mr Louv that he start to offer the ebook version free of charge, so it can fulfil more widely its function as a resource for agitprop. Further, I'd suggest that he treat the book as a continually-evolving document, almost like a wiki, where contributors can help update the information in it by sending in links to news items, protest events and so on, keeping up to date with the latest horrors. That could become a resource for people fighting legal battles against the Monsta.

Hopefully, this little book will have some impact on the appalling ignorance of the US public. Europe and the third world have so far led the world in protest. This just shows the power of American media - the public have been tranquillized by lies. Come on, America wake up and catch up!

Considering the issues from the point of view of what outcome would be best, what we have to remember is that our opponents do have some right on their side. Some aspect of what they are doing is good. So people will recognize that and, even discounting the believe-anything-idiot level of public approval, there are also informed positions of approval of genetic manipulation.

There can be little doubt that GM has some great potentials. This means that people will support it with intelligence and passion. Which means we have to consider what we are working towards here, not just shoot from the hip on the basis of revulsion at Monsanto's rapacious, irresponsible behaviour.

For example, let's take a look at the best-known use of a transgenic organism - the production of human insulin. Before GM, diabetics had to use pig insulin, with all the problems that injecting a protein from another mammal can cause. Then the present system was devised, in which human insulin genes are snipped out from the human genome and transplanted into the bacterium E. coli. This bacterial-human combination produces perfectly good 'human' insulin. Would anyone want to go back to the bad old days of pig insulin?

Of course, adding a human gene to a bacterium which is going to be kept in a fermenting flask all its life is not the same as producing a transgenic plant which will then be sown out in the world, for the ecosystem to take its chances with. Therefore any problems with transgenicity are a matter of context, not the fundamentals of the technology itself.

The problem then comes down to the behaviour of biotech companies. Extreme secrecy and aggressive sneakiness, let alone the acquisition of private armies, argues that they are up to no good, on a very large scale. They need drastically restricting, and it does seem that our elected governments cannot be relied upon to do that job, if we look at how easily Obama signed away the rights of the American public.

On the other hand, a government powerful enough to bring them down right now would be a very scary organism.

We have to rely on overwhelming public opposition, prolonged and trenchant. Total, unbending insistence by the vast majority of the population might just give weak and nominally-democratic governments like USA the balls to bring GM under strict, publicly-accountable control.

What models do we have for this level of public outrage? What kind of baseline attitude might give the public a chance of forcing their governments to instigate proper controls? I think we are looking at an attitude of disgust, the sort of utter, visceral loathing that most people reserve for death camps. That emotion will probably quite naturally follow continued exposure of the behaviour of rogue biotech firms. That might just give us a chance of living in a world where most of the global food supply is neither contaminated nor owned by 2 or 3 companies, a world where bees still exist, a world where farmers can save their own seed for next year. A world where the ecosystem has a future.

No!Monsta! : Say NO! to the Monsta!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Review of a pointless film

The Wicker Tree

I've just seen a film so crap my companion and I just ended up laughing at it. So I thought it was worth reviewing on that basis. And to warn off any fans of the genuine article.

The reason I got this film was because it's supposed to be a sequel to 'The Wicker Man'. I am of course referring to the original 1973 film, not the American remake, which I have vowed never to see, because it can only be a cheap and tawdry imitation of a truly great film. So I felt like I had to watch this, even though it was, apparently, widely rated as rubbish.

And, make no mistake, the nay-sayers were right - it is a steaming pile of cack.

The laird in this film runs a nuclear power station. He is descended from Lord Summerisle, but that's the nearest this film gets to having any Wicker Man DNA in it. His poorly-managed nuclear site has rendered the village sterile, and sacrifices are conducted to restore fertility. The stupid villagers, instead of lynching this creep, take part in elaborate rituals in which two American missionaries are captured. The young man is fucked then eaten and the young woman feted as May Queen then stuffed and mounted. There is more than one mention of Celtic religion, so this film can be taken as an egregious and pathetic insult to the latter.

The depiction of living heathenism is sloppy and half-hearted. This is a film that doesn't know what it wants to be. Unlike in the original WM, where the horror is not the point, in this film it almost is, except there's really no point at all. The village conspiracy seems to be modelled on the excellent Hot Fuzz, and there is an element of schlocky absurdity which shows the influence of the OTT-to-the-point-of-silly element in modern horror films since Evil Dead. In other words, it could have made a reasonable OTT comedy, but its nerve fails on the couple of occasions when it gets near that edge. Like a mildly hilarious moment involving a dead cat, and a super-tacky virtuoso performance of the 50s christo-schmaltz hit song 'Deck of Cards'.

Oh yes, the music. The original WM is a feast of beguiling traditional and neo-traditional folk that holds together a depiction of another world. It is a truly astonishing use of music which succeeds in creating a different reality. The Wicker Tree? The music is mostly rubbish, and they obviously didn't spend much on it.

They didn't even bother thinking the plot through. At the end we realise that the seed of the captured missionary has succeeded in impregnating the woman who seduced him. So it was only the men who were sterile. Wow, the women could have avoided the considerable trouble of capturing and killing a couple of good looking missionaries and instead simply had a night out at a club in a neighbouring town. Then gone home and lynched the self-confessed Mr Burns character.Yes, he actually compares himself to that archetype of banal evil. Give me strength.