Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss (2015)

, 21 Apr 2018

Sidewalk oracles are simple and fun ways of gathering intuitive information to help you navigate life by posing a question to the Universe to get guidance on any matter or let the Universe get you some items of information about matters that concern you.

Moss is a storyteller, a wonderful speaker, and has the virtue of mixing entertainment with academic and practical knowledge through his personal journey as historian, journalist and shamanistic dream-work master. His style is unique, and mixes chit-chatty sort of writing when he narrates episodes of synchronicity, with an erudite knowledge of folk culture and mythology and more serious writing when deals with those.  Personally, I like the way Moss uses antiquity Greek-derived words to describe intuition and divination; it's something unique to him, and his chosen semantic field gives an elegant varnish of luxury antique to his writing.

Synchronicity is something difficult to explain if you haven't had a direct experience of it. In this book, Moss is able to define and describe synchronicity in a way that is easy to understand by lay readers, so they get to know how synchronicity manifests and how it feels. Moss calls synchronicity kairomancy,  making magic by seizing special synchronistic moments, and includes any form of divination you might want to use.

Moss provides readers with a historically sound and beautiful contextualisation of synchronicity, not as something 'invented' by Jung, but as a concept that is intrinsically linked to very ancient cultural beliefs from around the world. Thus, "A wall around Jung Tower" is a voyage to the China of the Tao and the Book of Changes (I-Ching), to Australia and the Aborigines' dream culture, to the Native Americans cultures, and to the Nordic realms of the Wyrd.

Section three contains the twelve 'rules' of kairomancy: 1/ You attract what you believe, feel or think. 2/ Oracles speak best when you have a query or worry in your mind but aren't looking for anything specifically or focusing on it intensely. 3/  The law of spiritual gravitation or attraction. 4/ We live in a conscious universe where everything is alive, connected and spirit. 5/ Pay attention to recurrent themes, symbols, images and events that keep popping up in your life. 6/ Coincidence multiplies when we are travelling. 7/ For every setback there is an opportunity, sometimes the breakdown comes before the breakthrough. 8/ Called or not, the 'gods' are always present. 9/ Our paths constantly interweave with those of numberless possible parallel selves and the spirits of the land. 10/ Marry your field, i.e. your creative force, whatever that might be. 11/ Dance with the trickster, that power that open doors in life when we need to change and recover our sense of humour to counterbalance any over-controlling ego-driven agenda. 12/ The way will show the way. There is also one oath for the kairomancer: being open to new experiences; available to set aside and step out of boxes; being thankful for secret-hand shakes and surprises; and being ready to honour our special moments by taking appropriate action 

Section four is the core of the book, seventeen side-walk oracles, which can be summarised as follows:
1- Play Sidewalk Tarot. Pose a question on which you need  guidance, chose a frame time, the number of cards you want to get or let the Universe decide on how many, and see what pops up. One card is enough, though. Anything that enters our field of perception any of our senses is considered a card in play. It might be a recurrent sound, smell, logo, dream, or event. 
2- Walk a dream. Take the images of any dream significant to you and see what happens in hour awaken life that comments, highlights, or brings meaning to the symbols or stories from your dream.
3-Keep a journal, totally secret, in which you note your synchronicities, odd happenings, symbols unique to you, dreams, serial events, patterned findings or events, items of personal superstition, and so on. You'll be able to use it as your personal oracle deck and as a repository of information to consult with.
4- Listen to the first sound that comes from silence or the shapeless noise in a street, and see what they tell you.
5- Bibliomancy -- open any given book, at random, and blindly put your finger on a line in the page, and see what that line or paragraph says and how it relates to your query or your life.
6- Play with shelf elves, i.e. pick up those books that appear around you, fall on you, you stumble upon, and notice those that disappear, and see whether the title or the book itself help you with your queries. 
7- Notice your chance encounters, see how your energy relates to that of those people, and if something shifts in you when you have them close.
8- Notice your slips of tongue, screw-ups, typos, and memory lapses and see what they are trying to tell you.
9- Notice which song is playing in your head or you are singing over and over, and how it makes you feel, what it says about your mood and life. Change it consciously if it is not helping you. 
10- Notice any déjâ vu moments, already dreamed moments and already lived moments, record them and see what followed each of those moments.
11- Imagine that your feelings, worries and troubles are a real person knocking at your door, open it, and establish communication wit them and decide whether you let them in, out or send it elsewhere, what they are trying to tell you, what you want to tell them, and so on. 
12- Notice a situation you have already been in life before and apply what you learned from the past to avoid making the same mistake.
13- Be aware of which superstitions or omens you believe in personally and don't disregard them. When they reoccur, note them down and see what happens after the event. 
14- Listen to your body (your gut feeling, changes in your energy), notice and record any relevant episode that follows. Develop your own code of positive and negative body signals.
15- Participate in a dreamwork circle to share your dreams and get feedback on them, so other people can help you decode those symbols or dream fragments that aren't clear to you. You can play the game with anything, like some serial events, weird happenings, a synchronicity, and so on.
16- Create a card deck with synchronicities, dream fragments, odd events, funny stories, coincidences, the song line that is in your head. Then shuffle the cards and ask the oracle for guidance. You can play it in group or individually and apply similar rules to those used in dream circles.  
17- Write a message or letter to a person close to you whom you haven't seen in a while and want to talk (it is OK if is not a close person, too) do not send it, and see if the person contacts you, come across you, and gets the message in your letter.  

There is a tendency amongst New Age writers to trivialise synchronicity, so readers get that this is a sort of 'small world' coincidence, nothing remarkable to write about. I believe that many of the examples that Moss gives in this book help readers to see what synchronicity really is. However, at times the examples he uses are also so generic and trivial.

I found sections five and six enjoyable but totally unnecessary, I would rather have a short and sweet book than one with too many examples.  "On Other Planes" is a collection of personal examples of synchronicity while flying. They are really great for a live event, for a blog or newsletter, for a book that already has many examples before getting here, not so much. The same can be said of section six, with endless examples of the fox as archetype of the trickster, sometimes not clearly related to sidewalk-oracling at all, at least to me.

Just a note. Masaru Emoto experiments on water, which Moss mentions in the book, were heavily criticised by the scientific community, so ignoring what the flaws of the experiment were, it is just biased writing.  

Overall, this is a short enjoyable book, well structured and very practical, with a superb introduction on synchronicity and personal stories galore, perhaps too many. 

Descender Vol. 4: Orbital Mechanics by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen (2017)

, 10 Apr 2018

Descender 4 is what I expected the story to be when I read the first volume, but took a while to get to. It has paid off sticking to the story because, by now, we have enough context and know the characters well-enough to get fast action without us asking, what what what?!  This volume is indeed action-packed, very engaging and entertaining, with several cool twists, and even a sexy scene.

The overall tone of this volume, as the others, is a mix of very elegant whites, light blues, bright red, dark greys and purplish pink. Nguyen's style mesmerises because of his virtuoso use of watercolour and naked pencil to create futuristic images that have a very cinematic feeling. His rendering of close-ups of human faces is also wonderful. One of the things I liked the most in this volume were those pages in which three different vignettes show parallel action related to three different characters happening in the same page, very cool and cinematic.

The lettering is also great and helps bring to life and give a voice to different kind of characters, and creates a very distinctive ambient noise.

The Kindle rendering of the book is very good, with awesome quality details. The digital vignettes are glorious, with the texture of the paper quite noticeable; in a way it is like having the original vignettes in front of us, almost touchable.Double tapping individuates vignettes and allows readers to swipe between them effortlessly. However, the individuation of the vignettes is not enough at times to read the small letter and, so pinching out solves the problem. By the way, there seems to be a faulty vignette, with most of it missing, as it the image of that only vignette had not downloaded, which is very odd; a bug? 

Overall, this is the volume that got me hooked in the series.

Descender Vol. 3: Singularities by Jeff Lemire & Dusting Nguyen (2016)

, 8 Apr 2018

I wasn't sure whether to buy this volume due to the many non-enthusiastic reviews I've seen around, but I'm glad I did. I found some of the events and characters in the previous two volumes a bit unpolished, not well profiled, superficial, a bit silly, but once I read this volume, they all make sense. This is a flashback in time for each of the main characters, in separate chapters, and also a multi-time flashback for each of them, so we get to see and know from where they are coming from. To me that's was the right thing to do to give the story soul and psychological depth. Even the annoying Driller the Killer makes sense once we read the chapter devoted to it in this book.  As a stand-alone volume might not be worth buying, but if you are reading  or intend to read the whole series, this is a must.

 I am always mesmerised by Nguyen masterly drawing and water-colouring. It is a total delight to see each of his vignettes, no matter what he's painting, faces, landscapes, outaspaces, details, anything.  I resented, though, some of the imagery, which was too familiar and associable with characters I've seen in the old Star Wars and Totall Recall movies.

I love the lettering used in this series. Very creative and audible, if that can be said.

The Kindle rendering of the book is excellent, with awesome quality details. Double tapping individuate vignettes and allows us to swipe between them effortlessly; however, some of them do not automatically seize to the preferable reading size when there are vignettes with small lettering, but pitching out each vignette solves the problem.
Overall, very enjoyable, and I loved the story between Effie and Andy.   Also, very short and a bit pricey. 

Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life's Magic by Mike Dooley (2012)

, 6 Apr 2018

Leveraging the Universe is a quite a cool book for a LOA book. It has many of the teachings of the genre, less BS, but a lot of magic. Dooley mixes principles from the LOA (effortless manifestation) with 'old school' advise (take action) on how to get from where you are now to what you want. It is a win-win advice, a safe position for any author to stand on, and for any reader to act upon. The middle way is the wiser way. Old adages never die and never lie.

The book is well structured, and Dooley's writing style is fresh, enthusiastic, approachable and enjoyable. Each chapter ends with a key summary of the main points discussed therein, something extremely helpful to re-read or revise the book without having to go through the bits that don't really matter. There are some exercises and journaling required, just if you want, to help you decide what you want and on your plan of action.

One of the things I like the most in this book is that Dooley himself anticipates some of the queries and apparent contradictions the readers might come up with, so what he says feels congruent and organic despite its apparent incongruities. Clever!

I especially liked how Dooley defines happiness: "True happiness is not contingent upon things happening in your life. Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is an appreciation for life itself, for yourself, for where you are, no matter where you are." (p. 167).

> We are all one and interconnected.
> Thoughts became things, so you better manage your thoughts and put them on the right things, because if you think in a certain way, you will act and feel in a certain way, and will have a certain energy around you, all of which has a direct impact on the way life unfolds for you personally. Your thoughts create your experience, so deliberately monitor your thoughts, weed those that don't serve you, and grow that will help you get what you want, see things the best possible way and uplift you. If you do, you will see 'miracles' happen, and things change dramatically.
> Your beliefs and feelings also create your thoughts, so the best way to change your thoughts is to work on your belief system, and change those things that don't support you.
> Monitor what you say, as words are the manifestation of your thoughts. Watch and wash your mouth!
> Nothing is wrong with you because you are not there yet. You don't have to focus or linger on what brought you here or how you will get there. Everything works in the end. Even if not realistic, it sounds truly uplifting and motivational to me.
> Take action, keep going, take tiny steps so that you don't get overwhelmed but are still moving. Do all you can, with what you have, from where you are and the magic of life will unfold. Be patient and persistent. The fact that you can't see results doesn't mean you are far from them, you could be really close, steps away.
> Focus your attention on the things you would love to do, want to do, not on those that you should, must or might. If you know what you want to do, go and do it, otherwise do anything. Give yourself a deadline and take tiny steps consistently. Do something, do your best, and remember that some negative experiences will turn to be blessings in disguise.
> Where you are is never who you are. A statement to frame!

>> The book is unnecessarily wordy and repetitive. Really, if you put all the summary points of the book together, you have everything you need to know to understand Dooley's message.
>> Some of Dooley's trademark "Notes from the Universe" might sound great if arriving via email in a weekly newsletter, however, I found that, at least for me, they were not necessary or added anything to the book.
>> Dooley loves the world "fulcrum", which he uses a lot throughout the book. I found it pretentious.
>> Dooley says that invisible limiting beliefs, even if possessed, need not ever be discovered to navigate beyond them. I find that also uplifting. Actually, liberating. Any professional Jungian psychologists will tell you that it's extremely difficult to unearth your limiting beliefs, and even you do, it's even more difficult to change the effect they have on your life. That is, unless you go under therapy. So, what the heck, you have a license to focus on what you want and forget about the trauma of the past. I mean, I guess unless you really really had some real trauma.
>> Dooley's main point is in this book is that thoughts create your reality, but Prentice Mulford said that in his book Thoughts are Things in 1908!

An enjoyable read overall. It has wise advise, albeit not original, but it is more of my liking than many other LOA books.

Sacred Signs and Symbols by Sherrie Dillard (2017)

, 5 Apr 2018

I usually love Dillard's approach to intuition, psyching abilities and the magic in our real life. I have read three of her books and found them not only a great read, but very good to explain themes that aren't straightforward in a very knowledgeable, sensitive and understandable way. Unfortunately, this book has been  a disappointment as I find it rushed, unnecessary long, and messy at times.

The first part is an introduction to symbolism, the importance and significance of symbols in different cultures, and the sort of symbols you can find and 'who' sends them. It is a very basic good introduction for people who know nothing about symbols and want a bit of contextualisation. This section is also a bit simplistic, so if you are really interested in symbols and symbolism start by reading anything by Joseph Campbell and Jung's Man and His Symbols.

The second part is the core and the best of the book. It is devoted to what Dillard calls "The Living Oracle", an intuitive system to gather information so that you can reply to personal queries which help you navigate life, especially when you are at a crossroads in life. The Oracle relies on the interconnectivity of the whole Universe, of which we are all part, and that nothing is separated from us, the ripple effect works at all levels; the Universe as a whole is all connected and living in a time-space continuum in which present and future are all accessible and, in a way, coexisting. This interconnection makes possible to tap into it to get answers to your queries.

Dillard presents us with different techniques to gather information, turn it into symbols and interpret them in different 'spreads'. All what she says about gathering intuitive symbols, how to make queries, the sort of queries you make, are valid, and I have experienced them to be right on point myself. One of the most important items of advice she gives is that

" To become aware of the guidance that you are seeking , it is necessary to let go of the way that you want the answer to come to you and be open and receptive to the many ways spirit communicates". (loc. 102)

The Living Oracle, is like a tarot card spread made out of symbols you gather outside in real life, your neighbourhood, for example. You make a query, say, should I take this job? Go out for a stroll, and see what things, odd, unexpected, repeatedly, are you drawn to or pop up from nowhere. Then you put them together as if they were puzzle pieces, and interpret them as a cluster. Your answer will be there, it will resonate with you clearly, and you might get an aha! moment. Even if you don't trust the results, you will be able, later further down in time, to see if the answer was spot on or not. 

A good part of the Oracle is synchronicity. I have experience the magic of it in my life many times, but I found that some of the examples used in the book trivialise synchronicity. I believe that other examples would have been more revealing for those people who don't know anything about or haven't experienced the magic of it.

The third part, which covers most of the book, is the dictionary of symbols, mostly common urban symbols. Each entry is short and sweet, but I found that none of them resonated with me. I felt this was a stir-fry of Dillard's personal symbolic associations and information you find in generic dream or animal dictionaries. Nothing wrong with that, if the dictionary was for herself. There are universal and personal symbols, but even the former can be tinted by our personal attachment, or lack of, to them. For example, green might be a beautiful positive colour for some people as it reminds them of new beginnings, spring, and the heart Chakra, while it might be a negative colour to others because they associate it with toxic waste, supermarket discount adds, and their nasty father's fav jumper. Dillard, of course, knows that, and, in fact, she explicitly says:

"You may need some help to further interpret it. If this is true for you, consult the glossary for additional insight. If the glossary interpretation does not seem to make sense, interpret your concern, question, and current situation symbolically and look at how the meaning of the sign describes or connects to it." (loc. 1398)

So one wonders why, then, the need to present a book with half of it devoted to a symbol dictionary that might not resonate with many people, me for example. 

The further reading area is useful, some classics were there, but others like Campbell or Johnson were not, but good enough for the general public.

The book is beautifully edited for Kindle, with links to the contents index at the end of each chapter (so handy!), and no typo on view, all things that I truly enjoy and don't take for granted. And what a gorgeous book cover! 

 Dillard is a deeply spiritual and religious person and, therefore, her work relies on Spirit. She's not dogmatic or preachy about anything, but if you aren't into angels, ascender masters and the like and don't believe in the afterlife, and still want to develop your intuition, you might want to go other authors that have no spiritual varnish but offer similar ways of gathering intuitive information: Laura Day, Lisa K, Marcia Emery for example. If you are really spiritual and religious, this book will especially resonate with you. You might also want to check Robert Moss's work, who has been presenting similar exercises for decades, lately in his book the Sidewalk Oracle, and has a more shamanistic playful approach to it.

Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book by Jomny Sun (2017)

, 4 Apr 2018

There are graphic books that enchant because of the quality detailed artwork, others because they have one's favourite characters in them, and others because they are like an entertaining movie that one truly enjoys and cannot put down. However, sometimes one come across books that we love despite not having any of that, books that one loves because they are fresh and refreshing, funny and full of wisdom, all at the same time.

The alien in this graphic novel is like a small child with poor literacy skills to whom the world around has never been explained except for a few generic facts, and who discovers it on its own. Its clean eye notices the idiosyncrasy and contradictions of human nature without any judgement, just puzzlement at times. Sadness, happiness, personal identity, and the fear of the unknown are some of the themes posed to the reader throughout this comic. My favourite characters are the egg that wants to be a frog (an analogy for so many existential quests) and Nothing(ness) and its God-like wisdom. The texts are naive, witty, hilarious at time, sweet and wise; the book ends with the cute alien's travel log, which contains some philosophical witty tweets to ponder about. The drawing is simple, purposely child-like. I thought that the book feeds on some premises we can find in some of the stories in Lem's The Star Diaries.

The Kindle edition was not good, at least in my tablet. Images could not be zoomed in or out, and neither was the lettering. One can use double tapping for vignette individuation, but since there aren't vignettes in this comic, what one sees is the letters augmented a tiny bit. Despite that, some of the texts are very difficult to read without a magnifying glass.

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert & Scott McKown (2010)

, 1 Apr 2018

This book has been in my must read for a while, mostly because of the high ratings, as I had never read anything by Gaiman. Unfortunately, after this one, I won't be buying anything else by Gaiman.

 The best thing about this graphic novel is the concept behind it, the time-travel alternative historical setting, and the fact that a bunch of known and loved super-heroes are put there. However, I struggled (even forced myself) to finish the book, because I got bored quite often, and annoyed at the pretentiousness of the whole story, the uninspired writing, and lack of tempo. I expected the ending to make up for the previous shortcomings, but alas, it was totally anti-climatic. The story has little action and is mostly a bunch of characters plotting for 200 pages; if you like plotting stories, this is your book! Some of the historical settings are clichéd and full of trite depictions of nations, as well. Most importantly, I could not empathise or sympathise with any of the self-absorbed stilted characters, totally anti-heroes, except for the sweet girl Virginia and for Roojzan, just because he's hot :)). In fact, I would had exterminated the whole bunch if I had super-hero powers myself. Let's be fair. The story was not bad at all, it is just that it was not good either.

 The artwork was good, though: rich atmospheric colours and chiaroscuros, wonderful landscapes and great face close-ups; I especially loved the images used at the start of each chapter, which are among my favourite in the book. The lettering was classic overall, with a few different fonts used when Thor or the the Germans speak.

That was my experience with this book. If yours is different and you really enjoyed it, good for you!