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Elon Musk * Ashley Vance (2015)

Not my usual kind of literature. Heck, I do not even have a category for a biography. I read an article about Elon Musk (1971-) best known for owning the Tesla factories, and how this man thinks differently from most people. A friend had just read this biography and by way of variation in reading, I decided to give it a go as well. I did not exactly read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future in one take. During holidays (after finishing other books that I brought) I read quite a part of the book, but after that it mostly acted as ‘time-fill-up-reading’. The book is not bad or boring or something, but not as groundbreaking as some suggest.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. He had an adventurous father and an equally adventurous uncle. Also his youth was not too easy. Musk was a nerd and the whole school knew it, so he was picked upon often. Musk also was an avid reader. So badly even, that after he finished the entire local library, he just started to read encyclopedia. What is more, he remembers everything that he read. Also in his early days, Musk developed a perseverance that is almost unprecedented.

Having fallen in love with computers and his self-taught coding, Musk rolled into projects in the early days of the internet. Two of the most notable were his ideas to make some sort of online Yellow Pages with inbuilt navigation, the next was an online bank. Musk would oversee completion of neither project, but he did make a lot of money of them. (The banking project would become Paypal without Musk.) This money allowed Musk to pursue his much further-reaching ideas. read more

David Lynch * Thierry Jousse (2010)

My girlfriend bought this little book for my birthday. It was first published in 2007 in the French series “Cahiers du Cinema” and is now available in English (and Spanish) and the series are called “Masters of Cinema”. The book is a biography of David Lynch putting his films in the perspective of his life and of course saying a few things about the films themselves. Instead of trying to explain the stories and themes of films such as “Lost Highway” or “Mullholland Drive” Jousse sees these stories as a Möbius strip. An interesting thought. Overall the book is a nice read with many images and a complete filmography including films that Lynch produced or played in.
2010 Phaidon, isbn 2866425731

Pagan Resurrection * Richard Rudgley (2006)

Pagan Resurrection

“Pulp” is a word that kept flying through my head when reading this book. I ran into it cheaply, the description of pagan groups in the present day made me curious. The author starts with describing the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung “far from being a dispassionate observer, had been an active had been an active participant in the pagan revival” (p. 275) Jung saw Odin as an archetype and predicted two “Odinic experiments”. Following this idea, Rudgley starts with describing some old concepts, strange theories about the hollow earth, ancient and modern rune yoga, the rise of Nazi Germany, serial killers, Tolkien, the American white-power movements and towards the end a few pagan groups of today to close off with a few concepts such as the Web of Wyrd and Ragnarok. Rudgley manages to see the “Odic force” in all of this, throws a whole lot of rapid conclusions on a pile while trying to debunk modern myths such as The Spear of Destiny. Way too long descriptions of the content of books such as The Coming Race of Edward Lytton or The Turner Diaries of William Pierce, the ideas of (proto-)Nazis such as Von Lists, Kummer or Willigut and followed by wrapping up a subject in three lines. It is not that the book is a completely boring read. The information about the Wandervögel and similar groups of the time, the weird ideas of a few ‘occult Nazis’, groups that I never heard of like Stav, etc. are interesting in a way, but the grounds of the book are so far-fetched, the author makes a few such strange remarks, conclusions and mistakes and the writing style as a whole, makes this book nothing more than the enormous amount of “popular scholarly” literature like that of Baigent and Leigh, Ravenscroft, etc. that people love to read with the popularity of Dan Brown. If you want to learn about modern paganism, this book is not for you. If you want cheap literature for on the beach, you could consider this book.
2006 the random house, isbn 0712680969

David Lynch Decoded * Mark Allyn Stewart (2007)

I am not in the habbit of reading the many books explaining the work of David Lynch, but somehow the description (and price) of this one caught my attention. Fortunately the title of this little book is slightly pretentious. The writer not so much unravels the work of Lynch, but rather points towards themes, Leitmotiven and especially: symbolism. Throughout the entirity of the work I must add by the way. Stewart discusses all Lynch’s major films (including “Dune” and “The Straight Story”) and discusses different scenes to explain how Lynch uses certain themes all the time and how he shows the viewers what is going on. Stewart does not explain the stories of each film, but he has some interesting ideas about some of them. Contrarily, like I said, the writer investigates the films to show how Lynch’s works point towards things, returning themes so to say. Two things I must add here. First: Stewart takes it that the readers of his book are very familiar with the works of Lynch. Do not expect him to describe a scene to make you remember when “Henry in Eraserhead did this and that”. Another aspect of Stewarts assumption about his readers is that this book is one big “spoiler”. In the first lines of his text about “Twin Peaks”, Stewart reveals who killed Laura Palmer. Therefor This booklet is not an introduction to Lynch; do not read it when you have not seen all of Lynch’s work at least a dozen of times. For the seasoned Lynch-fans there is plenty here. Stewart makes connections between films, points to details I have missed and his theories are quite plausible. In the process he sometimes gives an interpretation of certain storylines which makes me have to think over the film and the cross-referring makes the films come to life while reading. To give you an idea what we are talking about: the colour blue points to a secret, electricity to the ‘other world’, a blown-out white screen to heaven; Stewart talks about duality/doubling and passways to ‘the other world’. These kind of elements can be seen in each film and Lynch uses them to give hints to his viewers. Stewart has found a lot of them and with his examples he shows how they work. The book makes a nice read and makes we want to start viewing the films again to see if it gives me clues about each individual work. Not badly done!

2007 AuthorHouse, ISBN 1434349853

High Priests, Quantum Genes * Michael Hayes (isbn 0948238291)

This is the first time that I receive a book to review. The publisher (“Black Spring Press”) sent me a copy of this book about “science, religion and the theory of everything”. It is Hayes second book, but I had not heard of The Infinite Harmony before, but then again, the books are not entirely ‘within my genre’.

The ex-hippie Hayes got a revelation when he started to study DNA. There is an 8×8 construction in it which he also found within the I-Ching. Further investigation proved that there are more numbers essential in nature, but also religion and mythology. This information Hayes worked out into a theory of everything, or a code. The “Hermetic Code” as he calls it and I suppose this is why I received this book to review. Important numbers such as 7, but in Hayes’ view more like 8, but also 22 and the earlier mentioned 64 can be found within everything, most importantly in music. 7 Notes (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti) and with the first note of the next an octave of 8. The writer speaks about heavenly music, a bit like Pythagoras’ music of the spheres. The “Hermetic Code” is much like the genetic code, but Hayes claims that the Egyptians knew about the ‘esoteric music’ code and also to other peoples than the Egyptians it was known. Thoth was the one to teach it though, which brought Hayes to the name “Hermetic Code” (HC). Since the magical square of Mercury (also mentioned in the book) is also 8×8, I can’t really blame him for this. I loose the writer a bit when he keeps speaking about “Hermetic theory” and the like, because he refers to the HC and not to Hermetism. Also (even though he probably underbuilt his theory in his first book) he is underbuilding a theory, but Hayes uses ‘his own’ (however he will say you he only rediscovered it) code as prove for other theories.

Here I have to tell you about the other aspects of the book, because the actual code is only a small part of the book. Hayes uses his code to link religion/spirituality with science, such as quantum physics, but also more radical theories. Mostly Hayes moves within the spheres of writers like Colin Wilson, Robert Temple, Michael Talbot, Graham Hancock and the like; writers who investigate the things that ‘accepted scientists’ refuse to investigate and have wild theories to explain strange things from the past and the present. Also Hayes uses a lot of pages to write about the building of the pyramids with its massive blocks of stone, electrons / protons / quarks / etc. or the hologramic brain. He mostly collects ideas of others and tries to underbuild these with his HC-theory. Just an example. Some writers have claimed that the use of the Egyptians to make their art and build their temples was some kind of knowledge of sound-waves which they could use to lift stones and drill marble. Since the HC is a musical code (The Infinite Harmony was not for nothing subtitled musical structures in science and theology)……!

Many of Hayes’ ideas have been slumberingly present since his hippie-days when he experimented with LSD. Later when he read books of the spiritual masters Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. He combines the ideas of these two, but also Hindus, yogis and concepts in worldwide religion with new discoveries of scientists and ideas of writers such as those in the previous paragraph. This results a bit in a recapitulation-drill (even though I am not familiar with this kind of literature, I knew about most ideas) with his HC as red-line. Sometimes Hayes looses the track a bit, but the result is interesting. I don’t agree with the writer everywhere, nor do I follow his every theory, but the basis of his ideas closely resemble my own, I just came to the hypothesises another way.

So, if you want to read about new findings in science, radical theories for things yet (officially) unexplained and hear a theory of everything, I suppose you can get this book and read it.

De 96 Luchtboogfiguren Op De Sint-Jan * Ronald Glaudemans (adr. heinen 2004 * isbn 9077721126)

The Sint Jan (Saint John’s) cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch) in the Netherlands is one of the biggest Dutch cathdrals. There has been a church since 1220, but the gothic church only appeared after 1380. The cathedral is famous for its double bows which prevent the high walls from collapsing under the pressure of the roof. In contrary to most other gothic churches, the builders of the Sint Jan decorated the bows with 96 small statues. During the renovation started in 1859 all of the medieval statues have been replaced. This work was mostly done by the young Lambert Hezenmans (1841-1909). For many years many people were of the opinion that Hezenmans did a lousy job, the new statues supposedly looked nothing like the originals. Glaudemans found out that this is highly exaggerated. A few of the original statues (of which only a few survived) that were unrecognisable were replaced, on some Hezenmans got carried away with his fantasy and some others were slighly altered, but in most cases Hezenmans stayed close to the originals.
The statues can be found outside of the building, so they are exposed to sun, rain and wind. When walking alongside the cathedral, you can see the statues, but always from the back and they are of course high up. This 97 page booklet has photos of all of the statues with a description and sometimes a possible explanation and a proper history of the church and the restaurations. There are different groups of statues, some depict professions, other monsters, deformed human figures or figures playing instruments. Some people say that the statues have hidden Masonic symbolism (Freemasonry came forth from ‘operative masonry’ in the Middle Ages). Some statues are obviously symbolic, but I am not sure about the overtly Masonic symbolism. For ‘artistic reasons’ (or because of copyright?) the photos of the statues are mostly small and the person who did the layout of this book, made the two lines with photos (above and below on the pages, the text is in the middle) in squares, so the photos are often cut in four. Some pages have a larger photo. For the rest the booklet is very well printed and fairly informative, so it is a nice buy about an interesting ‘phenomenon’. If you want an idea of what I am talking about, go to www.sint-jan.nl and then click “interactief” and “fotoreportage”.

Versteckspiel, lifestyle, symbole und codes von neonazistischen und extrem rechten gruppen (2002/5)

Since both my musical and ‘spiritual’ interests are under the suspicion of ‘antifascists’ who write about them in their publications, I am fairly familiar with those publications. Mostly just for finding out what they have to say, but also a bit of being curious what else they write about. And this brings us of course to a few points with this kind of publications. First, since they often put things very black and white, so for the audience that they aim (similar thinkers I presume) there are hardly nuances between different subjects / scenes. Then again there are ‘subjects’ who also read this literature in order to be able to do the same in the other direction. And then there is the grey area of vaguely interested people (on either side of the spectrum) who can use this kind of publications to get ideas.

There is a film called “Hideaway” which in Germany is known as “Das Versteckspiel”. In this case I think the title of this publication is better translated as “hide and seek”. The brochure has a long subtitlemeaning “lifestyle, symbols and codes of neonazistic and extreme right groups”. It is published in the form of a well printed A4 size magazine in full colour. Just released is the fifth printing (the first was in 2002) which is revised and updated. I’m not totally sure, but I think that the first pressing had 30.000 copies and the rest 5.000 per printing, which means that by now 50.000 of these brochures are on the market! I suppose it is mostly meant for people working with youth groups in order to make these youth-working able to recognise ‘hidden symbology’. This is exactly where the title refers to. Supporters of ‘far right’ ideology are not so easily recognisable anymore. Clothings styles make cross-breeds with other styles, such as urban- and streetwear. Also there are symbols that they can no longer use so they changed them a bit. First only the ‘initiated’ know what the symbols mean, then authorities find out and the symbols change again: ‘hide and seek’. Obviously there are not many people walking around with a swastika, I think you can even be arrested when wearing it. There are other symbols that are no longer allowed or at least, not allowed in a certain context. Over the years a large and complex system of ‘new symbolism’ came up, such as clothing brands (for their history, style or logo), symbols that where (mis)used 60 years ago, or symbols that get a new meaning (such as heathen symbols or originally neutral brand-logos). These symbols are explained and put in the historical and current context. A good part of this publication is dedicated to number symbology. An example: since the “H” is the eight letter of the alphabet, clothing with the number 28 (“AH”, Adolf Hitler) and 88 (“HH”, heil Hitler) are popular among certain groups. Since 88 had become well-known it is now refered to as “2×44” or “87+1”. Other number-symbology is spoken about too. Also groups/organisations and music styles are spoken about and towards the end publications.

Most clothing and symbolism, etc. seems to come from the skinhead scene(s), but the music section also shortly speaks about neofolk and Sinnober is among the publications. In the neofolk section Death In June and Der Blutharsch are named as extreme right bands, but the scene in general comes “partly in the neonazistic spectrum” however it “lets the borders become thinner”. I agree with the quotes. Von Thronstahl is named under the “neue Deutsche Härte” music style and the “Identität Durch Musik” project that Von Thronstahl is part of (or founded?) is spoken about. Only mentioned are Rasthof Dachau and Genocide Organ as industrial bands.

So what about recognisabilit? Many of the subjects spoken about are (I think) from the skinheadscene(s). I am not familiar with it or them. In the music scenes where I find my music, there are hardly any of the clothing brands or symbols that can be found in the brochure, but a few are. The ‘iron cross’ (“not necessarily an extreme right symbol”) became popular when Der Blutharsch used it as a logo. Runes are popular too and of course the ‘black sun’ from the Wewelsburg which has an unmistakable nazi background (the others were misused, this one was invented by them). Pagan symbols are used too. Not much is said about the wearing of uniforms or uniform-like clothing, however in the beginning is mentioned that neonazis try to look more neutral by going up in other scenes, such as the neofolk scene.

Did I find something new? Well actually I did. I had no idea that pagan symbols were and are misused on such a large scale. A while ago I experimented a bit with printing my own shirts. I used a very stylistic Thorshammer (which seems to be popular in groups on both sides of the spectrum) that was found in Iceland , but people see a swastica in it (symbolically not incorrect, but I hadn’t noticed it myself), but another shirt has an Irminsul in a circle. According to the brochure this same depiction is was used during WWII as symbol of the “Ahnenerbe” and nowadays it is the symbol of the “pagan-German Art-society” (whatever that is). Also the Celtic triskel is unfortunately used a large scale (a replacement for the swastica I presume) which is too bad.

So then what about this brochure? It looks good, it is rather informative, not too black-and-white and most of all: it is cheap. More even, it can be entirely found online (click on the cover above). On the website are instructions how to get a copy. When you live in the Netherlands you can also get a copy from the AFA. After reading the website or obtaining a copy of the brochure you will know what to stay away from, what is in the grey zone or (if you are a naive as some people in the scene) what to buy. Oddly enough the brochure gives hints or directions where some items can be obtained and there is even ‘reference kit’ with a lot of card, photo’s, sheets, etc…

Symboliek In Extreemrechtse Jongerensubculturen (2006 alert! / kafka)

Alert! and Kafka are two Dutch antifascistic organisations. Kafka is an investigation group, Alert! is mostly concerned with a periodical. The June 2006 volume of Alert! is all about “symbolism in extreme-right youth-subcultures” and is sold as a brochure. I know these group(s) because ‘my interests’, both musical and ‘philosophically’, are under their watchfull eye. I check their webpages every now and then to see what is it that they discovered this time. A couple of years ago, I ordered their first (?) symbolism brochure, a pile of black/white photocopies. Not too long ago I ordered the German “Das Versteckspiel” (reviewed elsewhere) and this one is more like a little book, the Alert! issue is more like a magazine. The two volumes are quite alike, but the Dutch crew focussed more on the Netherlands. There are two nice, surprisingly realistic and understanding articles in the magazine, one about the “gabber” subculture and one about skinheads. The history of “gabber” is fairly good. As you may (or may not) know, “gabber” is a hard form of techno that started in the Netherlands, got exported as “gabba” or “hardcore”, quickly raised towards a highly commercial peak, collapsed, but recently slowly raises again. The “gabber” looked used to be a shaven head and expensive sportswear, but nowadays the skinhead look with army boots, bomberjacks, etc. is popular. Skinheads then. This scene seems to have its roots in immigrant cultures in the UK, but later became more of a leftish workers-class culture, but a politically extreme section split off and that is what we nowadays mostly know as skinheads. Informative articles.
Then there are of course many symbols, number- and letter symbols, symbolic clothing, etc. explained in the magazine. Much is also present in Das Versteckspiel. The writers mention where the symbols are used, and only here and there the ‘neofolk’ scene is mentioned. Correct in my opinion, but the same writers who seem to find neofolk not interesting enough for this publication, keep making a big fuss over concerts. Generally speaking I am happy to notice that almost none of the symbols written about are used in the neofolk scene, so the few that are used would be more offensive in another context than they are at concerts.
A nice reading for those who are interested what is ‘really’ ‘extreme right’ symbolism, how it is used in the Netherlands and in what kind of cultures. The publication has exceeded the usual pointed-finger and accusation mentality, which makes it an even better read. Just so you know what some people use to convey messages to others and what may be things to stay away from!