Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the Literary Review's Bad Sex award 2007

Contest heats up for Bad Sex awards

" ... Ian McEwan may have been passed over for the Booker, but he may yet end the year with a gong in his hand. Although the climax of On Chesil Beach revolves around the fact that it is, in fact, an anti-climax, it is enough to garner him a nomination for the Literary Review's Bad Sex award.

He is joined on the longlist of what the organisers call Britain's "most dreaded literary prize" by Jeanette Winterson with a passage about robotic sex from The Stone Gods; Ali Smith for Girl Meets Boy, and Gary Shteyngart with an athletic description of his crass hero from Absurdistan bedding one of his many conquests ("Her vagina was all that, as they say in the urban media - a powerful ethnic muscle scented by bitter melon, the breezes of the local sea, and the sweaty needs of a tiny nation trying to breed itself into a future").

The late Norman Mailer makes a posthumous appearance with a passage from The Castle in the Forest in which the male protagonist's "Hound" is described as "soft as a coil of excrement". More poetic bawdiness is on offer from Christopher Rush's life of Shakespeare, told in the Bard's "own words", and his maritime-themed description of coitus with Anne Hathaway, in which "I clung like a mariner to her heaving haunches, the deep keel of her backbone dipping and lifting through July, through the green surge of growth ... Our vessel ran shuddering onto the rocks, a wave of wetness ran through us, the air was rent with screams and I became aware that the bank on which we lay drenched and grounded was journey's end, love's end, the very sea-mark of our utmost sail."

Now in its 15th year, the prize, which only targets literary fiction, aims "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it." The winner, who will be announced on November 27 at the In & Out Club in London, is awarded a semi-abstract statue representing sex in the 1950s and a bottle of champagne, if he or she turns up.

In 2005, Tom Wolfe was one of the very few recipients to fail to attend; he later criticised the judges for failing to recognise the irony contained in the winning passage from I Am Charlotte Simmons. Last year's winner was Iain Hollingshead, whose award was presented by the rock singer Courtney Love. Previous presenters have included Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Sting and Germaine Greer. ... "

 
 
also see: Bad Sex Award 2007 shortlisted passages
 
 

Norman Mailer Posthumously Wins Bad Sex Award

November 27, 2007
By Kimberly Maul

The winner of the dreaded Bad Sex Award was announced today at the In & Out Club in London: the late Norman Mailer, The Guardian reported. Mailer's The Castle in the Forest beat out seven other shortlisted titles, all with cringe-worthy sex scenes.

"Then she was on him," Mailer wrote on the offending excerpt from The Castle in the Forest. "She did not know if this would resuscitate him or end him, but the same spite, sharp as a needle, that had come to her after Fanni's death was in her again. Fanni had told her once what to do. So Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement."
 
"It was the excrement that tipped the balance," said Philip Womack, assistant editor of the Literary Review, which judges the annual prize, according to the Guardian. "That, and the line about Alois [the male character] being 'ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety'. That was pretty awful."

The award was launched in 1993 by Auberon Waugh, who was then the editor of the Literary Review, in order to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it." This is the first time the award has been given posthumously.

The award's shortlist, the Guardian reported, included Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods, Ali Smith's Girl Meets Boy, Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan, Clare Clark's The Nature of Monsters, David Thewlis' The Late Hector Kipling, Richard Milward's Apples, and Christopher Rush's Will.
 
~ link ~

experimental PTSD therapy with MDMA

" ... THE CAPSULES RESIDE IN A SAFE, armed with an alarm and bolted to the floor of Mithoefer's office, a 1950s-vintage cottage on the road between downtown Charleston and Sullivans Island. It's been tastefully remodeled to create a softly lit, high-ceilinged sanctuary in the back, scattered with art and furnished with, among other things, the ever-so-slightly inclined futon where Donna got crooked.

The elaborate security is occasioned by what is inside the capsules: MDMA, a synthetic compound that is a chemical cousin to both mescaline and methamphetamine. Unabbreviated, MDMA is a real mouthful -- 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine -- but it is far better known by its street name, ecstasy, millions of doses of which are synthesized in criminal labs from the oil of the sassafras plant. At one point, Mithoefer recounts, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, there to inspect the security arrangements, inquired about the therapist who rents the office adjoining the safe room.

"I guess they were concerned she might drill through the wall into the safe and steal the MDMA," Mithoefer says. "Though there's such a small amount in there, and it's so readily available on the street in such large quantities, I don't see how that would be worth the effort, even if she were so inclined."

Mithoefer became a psychiatrist in 1991, after a decade as an emergency room doctor -- he had found himself less interested in the bodily traumas his patients suffered than the psychological traumas that so often preceded their appearance in the emergency room. He's got that mellow, empathic vibe that they just can't teach at therapy school. He always seems moments away from a sympathetic chuckle, an understanding murmur or a sage observation. A fit 61, with a brown ponytail and relaxed dress code, Mithoefer has become the accidental point man of a movement to revive medical research into psychedelic drugs. His Food and Drug Administration-approved PTSD study that began with Donna Kilgore in April 2004 is now nearly completed, with 18 of 21 subjects having undergone the double-blind sessions. Two Iraq veterans with war-related PTSD, the study's first, are cleared to begin. Close behind are similar studies in Switzerland and Israel. At Harvard's McLean Hospital, researchers are set to evaluate MDMA therapy as a way to alleviate acute anxiety in terminal cancer patients. In Vancouver, Canada, the effectiveness of an ongoing program to treat drug addiction with another potent psychedelic drug, ibogaine, is under scrutiny. There is a proposal, based on case histories, to study the ability of LSD to defuse crippling cluster headaches.

All of these studies are directly or indirectly funded by a surprisingly robust organization whose roots stretch back 40 years to the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. Before Harvard lecturer Timothy Leary started channeling aliens and urging college kids to turn on and drop out, an intense cadre of doctors and researchers had come to believe that psychedelic drugs would revolutionize psychiatry, providing those with a wide spectrum of psychological problems -- or even just ordinary life difficulties -- the ability to, basically, heal themselves.

But Leary's bizarre career, which morphed from doing research on psychedelics to cheerleading their widespread abuse, obscured whatever medical potential the drugs may have had. Instead, authorities focused on the risks, and often exaggerated them. Richard Nixon famously called Leary "the most dangerous man in America." After a slow start, regulators and legislators cracked down hard. Millions of dollars in enforcement efforts were unable to end abuse of psychedelic drugs, but they effectively stamped out sanctioned research into their healing potential.

A small group of psychedelic researchers and therapists willing to break the law continued their work clandestinely. A much larger group did not flout the law, but waited in the wings and is now emerging. Experience had convinced these therapists that psychedelics, along with significant risks, had potential for even more significant benefits.

This may have been especially true of MDMA.

Mithoefer states the case in an article he wrote for a book of scholarly essays, Psychedelic Medicine: Social, Clinical and Legal Perspectives:"The reported results [of early therapeutic use] include decreased fear and anxiety, increased openness, trust and interpersonal closeness, improved therapeutic alliance, enhanced recall of past events with an accompanying ability to examine them with new insight, calm objectivity and compassionate self-acceptance."

In short, a therapist's dream. Or is it a hallucination?

THE PROMISE OF A BLOCKBUSTER TREATMENT, one that doesn't just address symptoms but defuses underlying causes, is a particularly seductive vision right now. A report issued last month by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine emphasizes the uncertain effectiveness of current PTSD treatments, and the urgent need of returning soldiers who will suffer from it.

To a non-scientist, the very preliminary results of Mithoefer's study would suggest that MDMA might be just what the doctors ordered. Of the subjects who have been through both the MDMA-assisted therapy and the three-month post-experiment follow-up tests, Mithoefer reports, every one showed dramatic improvement.

But scientists are a cautious lot. "It's potentially nice to hear those things," says Scott Lilienfeld, an associate professor of psychology at Emory University. But until results are statistically analyzed and peer-reviewed for publication, "you can't really judge them. The plural of anecdote is not data." Especially with a drug that has considerable risk, Lilienfeld cautions, it pays to be skeptical.

A.C. Parrott, a psychologist at Swansea University in Britain who has devoted a large part of his career to studying the dangers of MDMA, is far more than skeptical. "MDMA is a very powerful, neurochemically messy and potentially damaging drug," he says. The government "should never have given it a license for these trials. Certainly I would not give it a license for any further trials."

But one of the nation's premier PTSD researchers, Roger K. Pitman, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, disagrees. Morphine is a powerful, potentially damaging drug, Pitman says, "and we use it to treat the pain of cancer patients. Sound medical reasons should trump."

Current treatment for PTSD is "partial at best," he says. "There's a lot of room for improvement, and we need to be looking for novel treatments."

Though Pitman calls the MDMA study "a fringe hypothesis" -- "I've never heard anybody talk about it at any PTSD meeting I've ever attended in 25 years" -- he also observes that, based solely on a description of the preliminary results, "this seems worth further study. A lot of new ideas meet with rejection and skepticism, and we need to be careful not to be prejudiced against something just because it seems wacky. If it has a 5 percent chance, or even a 1 percent chance, of being effective in treatment of PTSD, it's worth pursuing." ... "

~ read full article... ~

The Ghosts in our Machines

" ... Since the early days of the phonograph, telephone and camera, there have been reports of unexplained phenomena associated with our communications devices. German physics professor Ernst Senkowski coined the term "instrumental transcommunication" (ITC), to refer to the use of modern technical devices such as audio recorders, radios, and televisions to communicate with realms outside of our known physical realm. Unknown to most, a huge body of experimentation and scientific study has taken place in this area.

ITC is best known in its most basic form, electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) - when voices of unknown origin, generally uttering short, faint phrases, speak on audio recordings. EVP appeared occasionally on early phonograph recordings but became more widely known after showing up on personal tape recorders in the 50s and 60s. In the 60s and 70s, it became popular in Europe to capture EVP voices on home tape recorders. Samples can be found all over the web, and EVP is often employed for a plot twist on ghost-hunting TV shows.

The levels which ITC has reached, far beyond EVP, are, surprisingly, little known. There is a large body of clear, well documented, scientifically observed audio, video and text transmissions from beyond that have been received through telephones, radios, televisions, computers, fax machines, and a custom-built device called the Spiricom. I will briefly touch on a few key developments in the field, from documentation at worlditc.org, and offer some of my own results.

Marcello Bacci of Grosseto, Italy began receiving spirit voices through his vacuum tube radio in the 1950s. To this day, he holds sessions at his home where visitors are often addressed by their departed loved ones, through this same radio. In addition to spoken voice, he has also recorded choirs singing.

In the late 70s, Americans George Meek and William O'Neil developed a device called Spiricom which established the first known instrumental two-way conversations with the beyond. It was a combination of radio technology with a tone generator that, after much iteration over years, allowed O'Neil to speak with his contact on the other side, Dr. George Mueller, a deceased NASA scientist. Mueller's came through as a robotic sounding voice-modulated tone, similar in sound to the vocoder used in pop music where a human voice is combined with a keyboard or guitar sound. Hours of conversation were recorded and a few files are available at worlditc.org.

German Klaus Schreiber pioneered video ITC. In the mid-80s, he experimented with a technique whereby he would point a video camera at a TV set and feed the output back into the set, creating a feedback loop. The resulting visual randomness would sometimes form into indisputably human faces. At times it formed recognizable ones like Albert Einstein. In 1994, Adolf Homes received the first color picture transmission, directly to his TV set. It was an image of EVP pioneer Friedrich Juergenson and was received at the same time as a printout on Homes' computer, which read:

"This is Friedel from Sweden. I am sending you a self-portrait... The projection since January 17, 1991, has been in the quantum of spacelessness and timelessness. All your and our thoughts have their own electromagnetic reality which does not get lost outside the space-time structure... Consciousness creates all form..."

Maggy Harsch-Fischbach and husband Jules Harsh in Luxembourg received the most mind-boggling ITC transmissions known. They started with EVP, as is often the case, and moved on to achieve radio contacts. In 1986 they began to be addressed by a high-pitched synthetic sounding voice. When asked for a name, it offered "Technician", and it revealed itself to be the facilitating energy behind their transmissions. When asked "who are you?” the response was:

"We are what we are. It is difficult to explain to you, but I am not an energy being, not a light being, I was never human, never an animal and was never incarnated.... neither am I God! Humans make the mistake of imagining god as a single person. You know the picture of two children walking across a bridge. Behind them is a being that protects them. This is what I am to you, but without wings. If you insist on giving me a name, call me technician. You already confused me with a human technician at the beginning of our esb [Eurosignal Bridge] contacts. Yes, I am a technician but in a different manner than you imagine."

Ernst Senkowski, a physics professor and former military radio specialist, worked closely with the group and analyzed the experiments from a scientific perspective. In 1987 he wrote: "The possibility of faking or manipulating the voices or television pictures for the involved lay people is practically zero...[The material] is convincing and forms new steps whose significance for most people is inconceivable and points far into the future!"

The Luxembourg contacts continued into the 90's and included hundreds of phone calls, television images, computer files, and faxes conveying messages and images from the afterlife. INIT, International Network of Instrumental Transcommunication, was formed by experimenters in Europe and the United States. Conferences were held and simultaneous contacts in different locations took place. This positive alliance was thought to strengthen the "contact field" as it came to be known. Sadly, it was difficult to maintain harmony in a group spread across the globe, trying to find their way in this strange new field. Infighting ensued and relationships were damaged. The amazing contacts received by the members of INIT ceased in the late 90s. Results of that level have not been heard of since.

While there are currently no reports of faxes from beyond, there is a great deal of interest in ITC, and the Internet is an ideal medium for publishing results. Marcello Bacci continues to receive radio contacts. Mark Macy, a founder of INIT and unofficial American ambassador of ITC, is doing interesting work using photography and a device called the Luminator.

One of my favorite ITC messages was sent to the INIT group by nineteenth-century chemist Henri Ste. Claire and speaks of the purpose of ITC: "It is our job as well as your job to set fire to minds – to set fire to minds in your world, and in that moment to try to master time." ... "

'Has first evidence of another universe been seen?'

 By William Atkins    Sunday, 25 November 2007
 
Astronomers announced in August 2007 the discovery of a large hole at the edge of our universe. Since then, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton and colleagues have claimed it is an “unmistakable imprint of another universe beyond the edge of our own.”
 
 The article entitled “Astronomers Find Enormous Hole in the Universe” discusses the August 2007 discovery of the hole. It is located at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory website.

Dr. Laura Mersini-Houghton is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).

The hole is estimated to be almost one billion light-years across, where one light-year is about 9.5 trillion kilometers (5.9 trillion miles) and is located within the constellation Eridanus.

The Mersini-Houghton team states that the hole is another universe at the edge of our own universe. Such an explanation, if true, would be the first experimental evidence of such an exo-universe, or a universe outside of our own universe.

Several teams of astronomers have used data from the NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to make examinations of this large hole. The hole first showed up in images of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, the radiation left over from the formation of the universe (what we call the big bang).

In images made by WMAP back in 2004, the volume of the hole showed up as being of a colder temperature than surrounding volumes of space because of less energy being ejected from the region.

The hole is not actually devoid of matter, only has far fewer galaxies and galactic clusters than normally found in a comparable volume of space. It is estimated that the hole has about 20 to 45% less galaxies than normal, which contributes to it being colder than other volumes of space.

Not knowing how far away the hole was located astronomers then began looking at the Sloan data to make comparisons with galaxies. They found that the hole was about 900 light-years across and about 8 billion light-years away. This hole is the largest one ever found, and is difficult to explain, with current models of the universe, as to why it exists. Standard cosmology theory says that such a large void in space is exceedingly unlikely.

Several teams have made claims at to the explanation for this hole. Some cosmologists say that large hole in space is a “topological defect,” a large knot in space.

The Mersini-Houghton team, however, says it is another universe at the edge of our own. They looked at string theory for the explanation. In string theory, 10500 universes (or string vacuums) are described, each with unique properties. They contend that the largeness of our universe is due to its vacuum counterbalancing gravity. This counter-gravity of the vacuum keeps our universe very large (rather than shrinking due to gravity)—larger than the other multitude of universes. The team says that smaller universes are positioned at the edge of our universe, and because of this interaction they are seen by us.

The team predicts that another giant void will eventually be found. The already found void is in the northern hemisphere. They contend another one will be found in the southern hemisphere.

Cosmologists are mixed as to the conclusions from the Mersini-Houghton team. Some call it very interesting, while others call it very speculative. Future tests will be made that will probably validate or reject their conclusion.

This article is based on the New Scientist article “The void: Imprint of another universe.” [subscription required]. It is a very interesting article and, if you have access to it, should provide you with some very thought-provoking reading.

~ link ~

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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