About Michael Cunningham

End of the Game

Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga (1985)

hammerofthegods

‘Hammer of the Gods’ is the cult classic Led Zeppelin biography, famous for its unflinching portrayal of the band’s legendary exploits with groupies, orgies, violence, hotel destruction, black magic, and drugs. With this book, Stephen Davis captures the true spirit of the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” philosophy of the 70s and vomits it up on the curb for all to see. If you have an aversion to seeing the word ‘fuck’ in print, or to reading descriptions of groupies getting fucked by dead sharks and whipped by live octopi, then definitely do not read Hammer of the Gods. Wild offstage behaviour aside, Stephen Davis expertly documents the bands musical career from their Yardbirds beginnings right through to their tragic breakup after John Bonham’s death in 1980 and Page’s descent into a daily heroin addiction that lasted seven years. Stephen Davis covers the musical side of the Led Zeppelin saga very well and dissects each of the albums they put out song by song, and also details the set lists of some of their key live performances out of the 600+ they performed during 1968-1971 and their tours in 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1979. The author has updated the book since its original publication to include extra chapters detailing the post-Zeppelin days, up to and including their 2007 reunion concert; however, most of this material is boring and unnecessary (it mainly focuses on Robert Plant’s solo career because Page was too strung out on heroin and John Paul Jones was too much of a recluse for either of them to have done anything interesting) and I found myself speed reading the rest of it till I hit the finish line. Besides the boring new material (Part 3: Hammer of Robert Plant) the rock biography lives up to all its hype and made for a very entertaining travel read (I read it in Japan). I’ll close by recommending a couple of Led Zeppelin live albums to buy or download should your ears be unfortunate enough to not have met with their music.

The Song Remains the Same
How the West Was Won

* * * * 4 stars 

Continue reading

Prometheus Rising (1983)

PROM_RISE_TAPE Prometheus Rising (1983) by Robert Anton Wilson is a mind-blowing neuropsychological manual on how to reprogram your own brain. The book combines Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit model of consciousness, psychological imprinting and conditioning theory, Gurdjief’s self-observation exercises, Quantum Mechanics, Yoga, Cybernetics, Freudian psychoanalysis, sociobiology, psychedelics, Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics and much more to construct a strange but enlightening lens for viewing the world and our place in it. Prometheus Rising began as Wilson’s Ph.D. dissertation called “The Evolution of Neuro-Sociological Circuits: A Contribution to the Sociobiology of Consciousness” in 1978-79 for University Paideia, but in 1982 Wilson rewrote the manuscript for commercial publication by removing footnotes, adding chapters and exercises, sketching out diagrams and illustrations, and injecting plenty of humour. Oh, and he threw in a chapter on how to brainwash yourself and others titled ‘How to Wash Brains and Robotize People’.

Each chapter in Prometheus Rising sets up and explains in detail one of the Eight Circuits of the brain that governs our consciousness and moulds the ego or sense of self that we identify with. Drawing from Piaget’s Stages of Development, Wilson suggests that at different points in our life we are subject to a period of ‘imprint vulnerability’, which is when our brains are susceptible to rapid hard-wired learning that shapes all subsequent learning or conditioning. At these moments a certain thought system or behaviour is imprinted in one of the eight circuits. For example, Konrad Loranz found that the newborn gosling (baby goose) is vulnerable to imprinting a protective mother entity immediately after hatching. During this vulnerable period, anything roughly matching the genetic archetype will be imprinted. These experiments resulted in Lorenz having geese following him around thinking he was their mother, and he also reported a gosling that imprinted a ping-pong ball and followed it about attempting to nest with it and vocalizing to it as it would toward a real Mother Goose. Evidently, the fact that the ping pong ball has a round white body, like a Mother Goose, was enough to trigger the genetic imprinting process.

Wilson insists that the model is not to be taken too seriously and is merely a map that can help guide us, and often reminds us that ‘the map is not the territory’, or ‘the menu is not the meal’. The eight circuits, as outlined by Wilson are as follows:

1 – The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit – This is imprinted by the mother or the first mothering object and conditioned by subsequent nourishment or threat. It is primarily concerned with sucking, feeding, cuddling, and body security. It retreats mechanically from the noxious or predatory – or from anything associated (by imprinting or conditioning) with the noxious or predatory.

2 – The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit – This is imprinted in the ‘Toddling’ stage when the infant rises up, walks about and begins to struggle for power within the family structure. This mostly mammalian circuit processes territorial rules, emotional games, or cons, pecking order and rituals for domination or submission.

3 – The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit – This is imprinted and conditioned by human artifacts and symbol systems. It ‘handles’ and ‘packages’ the environment, classifying everything according to the local reality tunnel. Invention, calculation, prediction and transmitting signals across generations are its functions.

4 –  The ‘Moral’ Socio-Sexual Circuit – This is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences at puberty and is conditioned by tribal taboos. It processes sexual pleasure, local definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, reproduction, adult-parental personality (sex role) and nurture of the young.

The development of these circuits as the brain evolved through evolution, and as each domesticated primate (human) brain recapitulates evolution in growing from infancy to adulthood, makes possible gene-pool survival, mammalian sociobiology (pecking order, or politics) and transmission of culture. The second group of four brain circuits is much newer, and each circuit exists at present only in minorities. Where the antique circuits recapitulate evolution-to-the-present, these futuristic circuits precapitulate our future evolution.

5 – The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit – This is imprinted by ecstatic experience, via biological or chemical yogas. It processes neurosomatic (‘mind-body’) feedback loops, somatic-sensory bliss, feeling ‘high’, ‘faith-healing,’ etc. Christian Science, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and holistic medicine consist of tricks or gimmicks to get this circuit into action at least temporarily; Tantra yoga is cocnerned with shifting consciousness entirely into this circuit.

6 – The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit – This is imprinted by advanced yogas (bio-chemical – electrical stresses). It processes DNA-RNA-brain feedback systems and is ‘collective’ in that it contains and has access to the whole evolutionary ‘script’, past and future. Experience of this circuit is numinous, ‘mystical,’ mind-shattering; here dwell the archetypes of Jung’s Collective Unconscious – Gods, Godesses, Demons, Hairy Dwarfs and other personifications of the DNA programs (instincts) that govern us.

7 – The Meta-programming Circuit – This is imprinted by very advanced yogas. It consists, in modern terms, of cybernetic consciousness, reprogramming and reimprinting all other circuits, even reprogramming itself, making possible conscious choice between alternative universes or reality tunnels.

8 – The Non-Local Quantum Circuit – This is imprinted by Shock, by ‘near-death’ or ‘clinical death’ experience, by OOBEs (out-of-body-experiences), by trans-time perceptions (‘precognition’), by trans-space visions (ESP), etc. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc.

Prometheus Rising is a groundbreaking work that will make you rethink and reinterpret your belief systems and quite possibly transform your entire thought process from the ground up. If you dogmatically hold onto one map of reality then you might find the book confronting as it demands a flexible perspective. If this sounds like the book for you you can read it for free in pdf form here.

 * * * * * 5 stars 

Guide to Building Your Own Pedalboard

gormOver the years I’ve acquired a decent collection of pedals, and while it was easily manageable when I only had a wah and overdrive pedal, once the rest of them rolled in I found myself tangled in cables and power adaptors. I knew I needed a pedalboard but I also knew if I could afford one, I’d use that money to buy a new pedal instead.

Fast forward a few weeks and I happened upon a post at the harmony central forums about a guy who constructed a pedal board using a $10 shelf unit from IKEA. The shelf in question is called a GORM (who the fuck names these things?) and this cheap DIY pedalboard has inspired literally hundreds of people to create their own.

gorm pedalboard

the original GORM pedalboard

I will now share with you my own DIY odyssey with the Gorm pedalboard, and I hope it inspires you to do the same.

Continue reading

Cognitive Psychology: 7 Techniques for Studying the Brain

cognition

This post will be dealing with a more science oriented approach to psychology known as cognitive neuroscience, which is a  branch of psychology that involves intensive study of the brain as well as behaviour. The human brain is a lot more than a mass of grey goop; it is an extremely complicated organ consisting of a team of 50 billion neurons (each of which link up to 10,000 more neurons!) that work around the clock to control every thought, action, and perception we have. Your brain is responsible for literally everything you think and know about yourself and the world you live in, and is therefore the holy grail of psychology, as everything that is knowable has it’s roots in the brain. Even though we all have a brain, we are not born with an instruction manual on how to use it, or how it works. So we spend the rest of our lives letting it work on autopilot, outside our conscious control – do we control the brain, or does the brain control us?

Continue reading

A Collection of Zen Stories

zen enlightenment

“We gain enlightenment like the moon reflecting in the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew in the grass.”
– Dōgen Zenji

Man and His Horse

There is a story in zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

A Beautiful Goose

A Zen monk saw a beautiful goose fly by and he wanted to share this joy with his elder brother who was walking beside him. But at that moment, the other monk had bent down to remove a pebble from his sandle. By the time he looked up, the goose had already flown by. He asked, “What did you want me to see?” but the younger monk could only remain silent.

Zen Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Zen Dialogue

Zen teachers train their young pupils to express themselves. Two Zen temples each had a child protégé. One child, going to obtain vegetables each morning, would meet the other on the way.
“Where are you going?” asked the one.
“I am going wherever my feet go,” the other responded.
This reply puzzled the first child who went to his teacher for help. “Tomorrow morning,” the teacher told him, “when you meet that little fellow, ask him the same question. He will give you the same answer, and then you ask him: ‘Suppose you have no feet, then where are you going?’ That will fix him.”
The children met again the following morning.
“Where are you going?” asked the first child.
“I am going wherever the wind blows,” answered the other. This again nonplussed the youngster, who took his defeat to his teacher.
“Ask him where he is going if there is no wind,” suggested the teacher.
The next day the children met a third time.
“Where are you going?” asked the first child.
“I am going to the market to buy vegetables,” the other replied.

Continue reading

Zen Story: Publishing the Sutras

zen oxTetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras (teachings of Buddha), which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies – a tremendous undertaking. Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude.

After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task. It happened that at that time the Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting. Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto. The Japanese proudly tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.