Power Crystals

A while back I received a review copy of “Power Crystals: Spiritual and Magical Practices, Crystal Skulls, and Alien Technology” by John DeSalvo Ph.D. With a title that diverse, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It certainly had the potential to fly far afield from reality, if you know what I mean. But I was intrigued, and I had never really read anything about crystal skulls before, so I decided to give it a try. Since you’re here reading this review, it’s safe to assume that I’m glad I did.

I’m blown away by the depth of research in “Power Crystals”. The first four chapters of the book are devoted solely to the quartz crystal; what it is, its history, psychic studies, and its use in healing. Personally, quartz is one of my favorites so I found this interesting reading. It is also in the beginning, when discussing psychic studies, where we start to see DeSalvo’s efforts to bring as much scientific study and reason into subjects that sometimes struggle to be defined by science.

Next up, the crystal skulls. How insanely fascinating was this section of the book guys? Wait, you probably haven’t read it so you don’t know yet. It was great. Again, it’s all about the detail. As I mentioned, I hadn’t really read anything about crystals skulls so the bulk of my knowledge was, “There are skulls out there. They are made of crystal. That seems to matter to some people.” Now I feel like I have a good understanding of these skulls and their allure. DeSalvo shares the skulls history and personal journeys, the attempts at scientific testing of the skulls, and much more. As far as I’m concerned, at this point I’ve gotten my quartz crystal money’s worth, but there is still more.

DeSalvo goes on to discuss scrying and meditating with crystals. Also, crystal’s use in magical rituals. He even includes The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram! Some time is even given to examining the belief in Atlantis and its denizens’ potential use of crystals and the alleged phenomenon of crystal alien implants. It’s hard to imagine that DeSalvo left any crystal role or use unexamined!

“Power Crystals: Spiritual and Magical Practices, Crystal Skulls, and Alien Technology” at merely a touch over 200 pages (and that’s including the index!) is an amazingly in depth resource for everything quartz crystal. Upon finishing it, I immediately wanted to start reading certain sections (cough, ahem, crystal skulls, cough, cough) again. It’s a fascinating and entertaining ride designed for both the new age spiritualist and the skeptic.

Wychwood’s Wychcraft

I’m not really a “beer” person. Don’t get me wrong, I like beer. I like it a lot. However when I imagine someone being a “beer” person I make certain assumptions. They’re someone who can drink an entire pint glass of Guinness. They know when a beer is “hoppy”. Overall, they just understand beer. Me, I just tend to know what I like. Mostly I like pilsners, lagers, beers described as “blonde” or “golden”, generally to help folks out I say I like “piss” beers. Although in defense of the beers I drink, they are NOT “piss” beers. (I wouldn’t recommend telling someone from the Dominican Republic that Presidente is a “piss” beer. It’s a good way to get punched.) I just thought I should let you know where I’m coming from before I introduce you to a beer I stumbled across that I thought many of my witchy and not so witchy readers might want to check out.

Whenever I have to haul my butt to Rochester, NY to see one of my specialists my husband and I always make sure to stop in at Beers of the World to do some shopping. I’ve gotten to try so many beers I liked, and didn’t, from all over America and the world! This last time while wandering up and down the aisles a beautiful bottle in the English section caught my eye. It was a brown pint sized bottle from Wychwood Brewery for Wychcraft Blonde Beer. It had an interesting label, a hard to pass up name, and it was a blonde, so we picked up a bottle to try.

It turned out to be a tasty, tasty treat. A touch sweet, not too bitter. A bit more interesting than my usual pilsners. The head brewer, Jeremy Moss, is quoted on the back of the bottle as saying, “A pale golden potion with delicate red hues, Wychcraft has a heady burst of fresh citrus aroma derived from three infusions of Styrian golding hops. A sprig of gentle warming malty flavour finishes with a dry biscuit note & a counterpoise of bitterness.”

When I went to the Wychwood Brewery website I discovered they are best known for Hobgoblin, which I have seen around a lot. I tried it years and years ago and didn’t care for it, but I find myself wondering how I’d feel about it now. Better still it turns out that Wychwood Brewery also sells branded clothing and gifts! I can’t tell you how delightful I find the idea of a Wychcraft t-shirt or pint glass that reads “Wychwood Brewery”. Of course for now I’ll settle for figuring out how to purchase another bottle before making another trip to Rochester!

A witchy beer t-shirt! I mean, a Wychcraft Beer t-shirt!

Revisiting Dr. Dee

Do any of you guys remember about a year ago when I talked about the opera “Doctor Dee”? Well for those of you who missed it, Damon Albarn (best known for his work with Blur and Gorillaz) joined forces with Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and an orchestra to do an opera about the Elizabethan era alchemist, occultist, and scholar John Dee. As a music lover and occult nerd I was immediately smitten with this bizarre idea and bummed that I wasn’t in England to see a performance. Then I learned that Damon Albarn released an album of the music titled “Dr. Dee”. It would be mine, oh yes, it would be mine.

It’s all the same players, Albarn, Allen, and the orchestra is the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. You find songs titled, “Edward Kelley”, “The Golden Dawn”, “A Man of England”, “9 Point Star”. The music is enjoyable and atmospheric. I had never noticed, until this album, how beautifully delicate Albarn’s singing voice can be. All of that said, this is definitely not a play it every day CD, or at least not for me. It’s not the right vibe for playing in the car while running errands, not for perhaps coming out of your computer speakers while trolling around Facebook. It’s not really pop. There is no rock. It is an opera, lightly sprinkled at times with a rock musician’s voice and sensibilities. None of that is to put down the album, it’s just something that should be understood if you’re considering picking up your own copy, which would be cool if you did.

Man I wish I could see Dr. Dee live! Take a look at this short video that shows clips of it being performed along with the reactions of those who saw it.

Here’s a music video for one of the more pop-ish songs from the album called “The Marvelous Dream”.

Why John Dee? Here’s a 7 minute interview Damon Albarn did with the Guardian about Dr. Dee.

Geek Month in Review: July 2012

By JB Sanders

Is it hot yet? I can’t tell…

Higgs-Bosun Explained
Confused as to what the Higgs-Boson is all about? Here’s a handy animation explaining everything. More or less.

The “British Atlantis” Found
So really what they mean is some underwater archaeologists have found remains of the civilization that existed on the land bridge between Britain and Europe 6500 years ago. Which is still really cool.

Light-Speed Baseballs
What would happen if you tried to hit a ball traveling at 90% the speed of light?

Self-Destructing Poem by William Gibson
More than 20 years ago, William Gibson helped create a poem called “Agrippa (a book of the dead)”, and it was included on a floppy disk (along with some art). After you viewed the poem, the contents of the disk, including the poem itself, were scrambled and unreadable. Now a PhD student is working on the problem, and before he could even work on the disk, he: compiled a disk image of the floppy, a System 7 emulator (Mac OS 7, that is), and most of the source code of the application which displays the poem. Now he’s sharing it online and offering a copy of every book Gibson wrote (NOT including the Agrippa poem) if you can figure out how Gibson did it. You have to show your work!

Movie Posters As If They’d Been Done 1000 Years Ago
You know, Medieval.
Warning: these will seriously warp your brain in amusing and baroque ways.

A Lamp Grown From Salt
Interesting idea in making new light fixtures.

Behind-the-Scenes Photos from Godzilla 1954-65
Because nothing gets your geek juices flowing like Godzilla pics. I’ll reserve the comments about guys in rubber suits.

Star Wars Figures Do the Movies
I know that sounds redundant, but in this case it’s Star Wars minis posed and shot mimicking famous pictures or movie posters.

Trojan Power Strip
It’s a power strip that hides a small computer inside, designed to “test” network vulnerability. Basically, you walk this thing into a company, plug stuff into it, and hack away.

Minecraft and 3D Printing
What’s not to like? It’s a six-minute video on the post-scarcity economy. And it’s way cooler than that makes it sound.

LEGO™ Robots and Wargaming
You probably already clicked on the link, but here’s the deal: it’s a slew of pictures of LEGO™ robots, which are being used to play a war-game. Anyone can play, they just need LEGO ™ robots.
Here are the rules:

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

Tonight a Comedian Died

“On Friday night a comedian died in New York. Nobody cares. Nobody cares but me.” – Rorschach “Watchmen”

On August 1, 2012 news sources began reporting the death of Abdi Jeylani Marshale, one of Somalia’s best known and loved comedians. While scrolling through Google News I saw the headline “Somali comedian who mocked Islamists is shot dead”. Long time readers know I’m a bit of an arm chair expert on Zimbabwean politics, but before you think I’m also some sort of Somali comedy aficionado, relax, I’m not that well rounded. Not too long ago the BBC News website ran a profile on Abdi Jeylani Marshale and how interesting/great it was that he was so successful when much of his comedy involved parodies of Islamic militants. (Sadly when I went back to the site while writing this I could no longer find that feature to link to here.) Having read that article recently, that headline felt like a punch in the gut.

At press time it was not known who was responsible for the shooting, just that he was shot in the chest and head several times by two men armed with pistols. Last year Marshale was threatened by the extremist group al-Shabaab which had forced him to go into hiding for several days.

For those of you who don’t know, Somalia hasn’t had a functional national government in 21 years. It’s why we’ve got those not so Captain Morgan-esque Somali pirates, and such. That’s probably why by the time I was done reading The Guardian article and went back to Google News the news about Abdi Jeylani Marshale had disappeared entirely from the World News section and was replaced with “Somali leaders back new constitution”. This is a HUGE deal, it means a new government can be elected later this month. However after that news broke it seemed like Marshale vanished.

I found it hard to get excited about Somalia’s constitution when a comedian had just died. Comedians should be off limits anywhere and everywhere; be it Andrew Dice Clay saying, “Hickory, dickory, dock,” in NY or Abdi Jeylani Marshale impersonating Islamic militants in Mogadishu. I don’t understand protesting comedians, sending complaint letters/emails to them, and obviously I don’t understand resorting to violence against them. There are loads of comedians that don’t float my boat, or that rub me the wrong way. Goodness knows there are a bunch of them that make fun of my “type” (or more accurately, “types”)! Guess what I do? I ignore them. Actually, I can’t think of any comedians I go out of my way to avoid. Am I just that damn easy?

Hardcore Zen Strikes Again!

I’m a big fan of Brad Warner. Getting to interview him back in 2011 was a real nerve wracking experience for me! The thing I’m learning with Zen Buddhism is that every person that explores it has to find someone that can explain things in a way that they can understand, and for me, Brad Warner is one of those people. Perhaps it’s because Warner drifts around the edges of my interests. Obviously I have an interest in Zen Buddhism and he is a Zen priest and author of books on the subject of Zen Buddhism. I am a huge music fan and Warner is involved in, or was involved in, the underground punk music scene. I’m a big geek about assorted things; he’s a big geek about Japanese giant monster movies. Warner actually lived in Japan and worked for Tsuburaya Productions. Eiji Tsuburaya, who founded the company, directed the special effects on all the classic Godzilla movies. Also, he swears a lot, which of course I do too.

Warner’s latest book, “Hardcore Zen Strikes Again!” revisits the early years of his website, the contents of which formed the basis of “Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, and the Truth About Reality”. “Strikes Again” even features a complete chapter that didn’t make it into “Hardcore Zen” called “The Whole Vegetarian Thing”, which was pretty fascinating. So I, like Warner, am confused as to why Wisdom Publications didn’t include it. Oh well, we get it now! Each essay gets an introduction and an afterword so that you’re given some perspective and additional context as to what Warner was thinking, or what was occurring, when the original website post was written. Considering there is sometimes as big as an eight year gap it’s refreshing to see how much or how little Warner’s views have changed with time.

Obviously “Hardcore Zen Strikes Again!” is wonderful for fans like myself, amused by fun facts (Did you know that originally Warner wanted to call “Hardcore Zen” “Sit Down and Shut Up”?) as much as new writing. That said, there is still something there for those looking for an enjoyable Zen read or an introduction to Brad Warner’s work.