Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Monomyth: An Easter Egg in the Matrix

The Video Game of Digital Life

“The unreal is more powerful than the real.
Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it.
Because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last.
Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die.
But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.“
— Chuck Palahniuk

Image courtesy of artida / shutterstock

Storytelling: Programed in Your DNA, Written in Binary

Truth is far stranger than fiction.  And so, it should come as no surprise that scientists have hypothesized that our universe as we know it is a vastly complex computer simulation, not unlike the one found in the Matrix movies.  However, what is noteworthy is that for the first time there is now a way to test this hypothesis.

In addition, recent experiments have discovered a viable method of encoding digital information using DNA.  One gram of organic matter can now reliably hold more than one million CD's worth of data.  Right now, the process of encoding and decoding information like this is prohibitively expensive.  But we can do it right now.

What could an intelligence hundreds of thousands of years more advanced than us be capable of?

What if the genetic code of every living organism on Earth is far more than just a blue print for life, but is serving as a massive biological hard drive?  What if all living things are components of a biological archive of information on an ungodly scale?

From the beginning of human history, big existential questions have always lurked in our subconscious minds. Who are we really?  What purpose do our lives have?  Is there a greater meaning to existence?

F-Bombs - What Had Happened Was Episode 6


What Had Happened Was is a grumpyhawk collective podcast co-hosted by grumpyhawk (that would be me) and Benjamin Combs. In this "week-in-review style" show, we cover and comment on stories with a tech, science, weird, or strange sort of angle. Visit grumpyhawk.com to see and hear more from the collective.

Welcome to episode 6 of What Had Happened Was. We'll be discussing life threatening flapjacks, a gel that could save your life, more poor decisions by federal judges, how a mop sink caused a ruckus, and the possibility of pay per channel television on today's episode: "F-bombs"

Show Notes:

  1. School in Essex bans triangle shaped flapjacks after pupil is hurt - The Independent
  2. The gel that stops bleeding instantly - Boing Boing
  3. The 2045 Project
  4. NY judge says running a search engine for news is a copyright violation - Boing Boing
  5. TN lawmakers confuse mop sink for Muslim foot-washing sink - The Tennessean
  6. Verizon FiOS TV channels: Company wants to shake up the industry - BGR
  7. WWE CFO talks Premium channel - Youtube

[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Question of Art, Aesthetic, and a Body of Work

From An Interview over at The Dharma of Don talking about writing, publishing, and everything in-between! (Check out his blog) 
Don: The Words of Traitors is published under Mythos Media which is your imprint, if I am not mistaken. What other houses have you published under, and have you succeeded with Mythos Media where you felt you struggled with branding under your own name?
.
The Olde Occult Daze
James: My first book was released through New Falcon Press, who published Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Aliester Crowley, Israel Regardi -- it was because of them I think that I got branded an "occult author" although that isn't really entirely accurate. I've worked on several books since then that have been released by Weaponized, which is a UK based imprint.

You will see most of those books also on the Mythos Media website. We are a brand but it isn't restrictive in the way a traditional publisher might be. For instance, several of the books with the Mythos Media imprint have other publishers, and the film we worked with was through another production house. Mythos Media at the moment is about 90% projects that I've been heavily involved in, but that isn't a rule either.

So there's essentially two things that help me decide what I want to bring in, aside from sheer circumstance. The first is the basic definition:

Mythos: (n) A story or set of stories relevant to or having a significant truth or meaning for a particular culture, religion, society, or other group
Media: (n) Tools used to store and deliver information.

That's probably the one thing we take literally. Mythos also originally meant "by mouth," it is that which is conveyed culturally, as opposed to logos. Any form of media, any story could theoretically come on our radar.

So then there's the 2nd question, which is whether it fits in with the others as sort of counter-culture media. In other words, would they make more sense being listed with a major publisher, or is it a story that would likely show up on prime-time TV? If so, then it's probably not Mythos Media material. There's a bit more about the history of the project on the About page. ( http://www.mythosmedia.net/p/rather-than-avoiding-unsettling-unusual.html )

Band Photo for "EgoWhore"

Don: Can you tell us about your publishing process and how you made decisions on The Words of Traitors? I'm particularly interested in why you chose the size you did, the paper quality, and the type of cover.
James: The print size was a very conscious decision, based on the standard for art books -- though it's within several millimeters of standard magazine size as well. It's funny to me that the standard for our supposedly least and most disposable print media are almost the same, but most standards are historically arbitrary, anyway.



That decision was arrived at as a result of the nature of the art. A lot of it includes dioramas that quite frankly are only fully revealed in their detail at poster size -- I've been running an art show for Words of Traitors that includes canvas prints at 16" x 20" and 20" x 24" size, as well as some of the originals, some of which were larger than that.

A GONZOMENTARY?!
There's no way that it would work at standard paperback size. If it could've made any sense I would've liked it to be even larger than A4, but 11" x 17" is really only feasible if it's hardbound.

What else was intentional... Well, I wanted to make a book that was more about the book itself rather than just the text -- in other words, a book that wouldn't translate well into Kindle format. It's kind of a reaction against the trend, in that way. Not all of my books are like that, certainly, but it was what made sense to me for this one.

I was actually pretty happy with the interior print quality, and that was something of a surprise. I was afraid it was going to be too glossy. It was printed by Amazon directly, and that was the part of the process I had no say in if I wanted to get it out. Paper stock and print process isn't a choice, and full color is so incredibly expensive that at $29.99 our cut is a smaller % than any of our other books. That's how it had to be -- our Indiegogo campaign raised about 1/3 of the goal, so we had to cut back -- a lot of people might have just pocketed the money and said "We'll put it out later," but that's just not how I do things. It did mean that we had to consolidate as much as possible, and it did restrict the scope of what was initially planned.

The full process involved in the book, though. That would take a lot more time and space than the average reader would probably want to take. A single piece of art in the book might have gone back and forth between myself and the artist many times before it was finished. For other pieces, I took art that was sent to me, printed it out myself, and worked it into collages or dioramas that included art I'd made, lit and photographed that, brought it into Photoshop, did a lot of digital painting with the Wacom tablet, and then maybe I'd blend it with one of the textures I'd made.

But I will say that like several Mythos Media projects before, it began with an open call to the internet, as well as to those I've worked with before, in terms of you know, here's a new project we're working on, here is the concept, do you want to collaborate? So there's always an opportunity for new blood. And it starts there...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Help Us Produce The Fallen Nation Audiobook


Print $16.99


eBook $2.99

The Deets!

Rather than crowdsourcing, we're trying something similar... but different. If we sell 100 copies of Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End (or more) in April, we will produce an audiobook of it, with an original (or creative commons -- indie) soundtrack.

Talent will be announced if it happens. They'll be awesome. We swear.

We may crowdsource to make the production even more splendiferous. But we will do it. If you buy 100 copies, it WILL HAPPEN. And we mean either version. eBook or Print version. You choice. Don't care. That's how badly we want to do this thing. but we have to substantiate the time.

Tell your friends.

Buy a copy for your 5 year old son (they will be totally twisted by 16, trust us. TWISTED.)

April.

GO!~

We will be counting.

Deadline May 1

Monday, March 18, 2013

She comes from the West with flowers in Her hair...

"Santa Muerte...hears prayers from dark places...She was sent to rescue the lost, society's rejects...She understands us, because she is a cabrona like us. We are hard people and we live hard lives. But she accepts us all, when we do good and bad." 
- Hayde Solís Cárdenas, a 65 year old street merchant and devotee of Santa Muerte in Mexico City (Source: On Mexico's Mean Streets, the Sinners Have a Saint, New York Times, March 26th, 2004)
A beautiful woman has come to the United States, she comes from the West with flowers in her hair, through the auspices of a growing devotional tradition spreading across the Americas. Santa Muerte, Saint or Holy Death, has made Her public debut after over two centuries of quiet mediation in matters of love and fidelity. As a previous piece on Modern Mythology mentions, word of Her emergence is roaring in from a diverse array of mediated messages and personal accounts. As elusive as ever, even in the light of social media's invasive reach, Our Lady of Shadows remains a delicate mystery.  

She comes willingly to those with no hope, who have been turned away from all official recognition, operating outside the boundaries of orthodoxy, and She is of a most practical, and efficacious nature. In the midst of sex scandals, economic upheaval, institutionalized violence, income inequality, a culture of rape, a surveillance state (whose patron, Our Lady of Perpetual Surveillance, has yet to make a true public debut,) extreme weather and increasing distrust in official organizations, devotion to Her has threaded throughout the disaffected populations of the Americas. Various numbers are offered for how many devotees She currently has, but no one knows for certain due to the nature of Her worship being on the margins, and the possibility of conflating numbers due to the shock value of Her iconography and politicized nature of the media around Her.

Ambiguous Origins

Santa Muerte is ambiguous in translation by the time She reaches the English speaking media, meaning Saint or Holy Death depending on who you are talking to. This ambiguity leads to some interesting hermenuetics on Her proper place in the Christian pantheon. 

Historically She has been associated with love magic, specifically prayers to return wandering husbands, and in broader conceptual terms, as “Holy Death,” She is the embodiment of Christ’s reconciliary death on the cross, having parallels to traditions which venerate the Good Thief.  Some have commented that she is the "dark side of Mary," but this is only true in terms of the Passion narrative, where Holy Death provides the exit from the natural world which the Holy Mother gave entrance too, in other respects Santa Muerte is quite distinct from the Marian tradition. She is called, at times, Santa Sebastiana, St. Sebastienne, and Doña Bella Sebastiana,Our Beautiful Lady Sebastienne, after the patron Saint of Holy Death, St. Sebastian.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Queer? The Ugly Hetero White Male American

Let me start this article by saying that I am well aware of the apparent irony of a supposedly hetero- white male talking about the alienation, abuse and suffering they have had to undergo as a result of at least some of those things.

But that is precisely what I am about to do.

It may even strike you as absurd, or offensive. But it is the truth--the truth that I've lived through anyway--and I think that feminism and many other -isms won't be fully accurate or balanced without taking into account the fact that we are not the labels that are used to define us. This is acknowledged by much post-modern feminisms, but not without being couched in so much self-referential critique and obsession with the Other, that gender, sexuality, and identity itself becomes a morass of guilt. No matter what one is, what it desires is wrong.

Heteronormativity?
Does it matter who took the picture?
Who is watching it? 
I refuse to accept that. I am pro-choice in far more ways than the one. I am pro-slut, for anyone that wants it. Pro-celibacy. Pro- anything that doesn't involve derailing someone else's train.

I have spoken before in several articles about the abuse I underwent as a young boy on account of a sort of gender policing. I don't want to rehash all of that, except to say that this is when I started to realize that I wasn't at all like the other people that were defined so broadly as "hetero white males." I don't take this as a point of pride anymore, though maybe I did as a teenager. Being different or queer (vs. the established cultural norms, whatever they may be) is something that I'll embrace if it's a part of my truth, but it's not something to embrace in and of itself.

This queerness also has its inherent questionability. Maybe I'm just a "typical dude" after all. I've always been wired to prefer triads or communal sexual structures in and out of the bedroom, a supposedly "typical hetero- male fantasy," although the reality of it, which I've lived more often than not, is nothing like that fantasy. (Except maybe on steak and a blowjob day.) That is what is family to me, and I tend to feel very lonely when I'm without a family or community like that. I spent years fighting against who I was, only half admitting it, being made fun of by (probably jealous) friends, until I finally realized that I had to accept who and what I am and own it one hundred percent, privately and publicly. My wife helped me with that, thank God, because it's an incredibly difficult thing to do.

All the particular challenges would be quite different if I'd happened to be born female, in which case I'd just be a poly lesbian and no one would think a thing of it beyond the baggage that comes along with being that different shade of queer. (Lavender rather than lime green, perhaps.)

In other words my queerness would be inherently accepted, as opposed to confusing people. Like, how the fuck can a white heterosexual male be queer, right?

I don't know... but I am. I don't identify with "dude" any more than I identify with being a cow. If we must use labels, then they are like clothes, some of which fit better than others. Some itch, and some give us a rash. I'll wear polyamorous jeans, but a dude hat is right out. The real question is: clearly my sex is male, so why does the male belt never seem to make its way around my waist?

This is precisely the point: we all are given baggage in this culture--full of clothes, apparently--at least if we allow ourselves to carry it and try them on. Many things weren't up to us, but we can at least both acknowledge who we actually are, labels be damned, and stand up behind it proudly and tell those that'd judge us just what they can do with that judgement.

Go naked.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Santa Muerte: Encountering Death


By M.G.
"Popular in Mexico, and sometimes linked to the illicit drug trade, the skeleton saint known as La Santa Muerte in recent years has found a robust and diverse following north of the border: immigrant small business owners, artists, gay activists and the poor, among others - many of them  non-Latinos and not all involved with organized religion... The saint is especially popular among Mexican-American Catholics, rivaling that of St. Jude and La Virgen de Guadalupe as a favorite for miracle requests, even as the Catholic Church in Mexico denounces Santa Muerte as satanic, experts say." - ‘La Santa Muerte gaining in popularity in the U.S.’, Associated Press
A friend of mine, (of dubious character but capable of remarkable scholarship), once told me that the more marginalized a people, the more powerful their magicks will be. If true, few figures must be more powerful than Santisma Muerte, the death saint of Mexico.

A grim but widely revered figure, the cult of Holy Death is increasingly popular in this impoverished land whose very notions of law and community are daily threatened by underworld gangs and entrenched government corruption. Slightly resembling the Hindu Goddess Kali in her attributes, the affectionately nicknamed 'bony lady' is alternately described as either a nun who committed suicide after being abandoned by her lover, the Virgin Mary’s shadow aspect, or an Aztec underworld goddess returned to the modern age.

Whatever her origin, this Grim Reapress is always depicted using European imagery of the skeletal and undead. Her chief icons, the owl and the human skull, underscore her nocturnal, necromantic nature, yet she manifests in peaceful white-robed forms as well as terrible aspects clothed in a darker hue. Her devotees claim that just as death comes to all humans rich and poor alike, so to will Santisima Muerte accept devotees from all walks of life, including persons whose lifestyles fall outside the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church's approval, including gays, sex workers, and those in criminal trades as well as those who fight them.

Although woefully gringo in my ethnic background, I have had the opportunity to visit some of the better known botanicas in Brooklyn and my native Philadelphia. Latin Folk Catholicism is a colorful, incredible stew of African, European and indigenous spiritual influences, with saints and powers reputed to provide help with any worldy (or not-so-worldly) problem.


Devoted to death (another gringo analyzing this topic).


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Human Demonology: Occupy Daath, or The Missing Protagonist

Satan Inc.

We may have reached a point where no choice or action can lead anywhere but mayhem, genocide and ecological apocalypse.

Why not buy from a big-box, low-rent retailer and fund human trafficking and forced labor? To get billions from point A to point B without resorting to walking or biking requires accepting environmental devastation, endless war and propping up dictatorial regimes. Mountains of Appalachia are leveled to provide the energy I'm using to power the laptop on which I write this. You are able to get online and read this because legal and moral crimes were committed. At the same time, behind all these things that make the way we live possible are the best efforts and innovations of millions of good people who do much to make life on earth better. Everyone drinks deeply from the same pool of atrocities. The picture all this makes varies with every map drawn of the territory. What the individual sees of their own self depends on which map they locate the “you are here” point. There is no master patter that can be laid over the landscape that can capture every aspect of the territory.

Bottom line, it is all myth in both the pejorative and philosophical sense.

Oftentimes, when trying to uncover the mythological underpinnings of our culture, the emphasis is on narrative and where character comes in. Attention can often concern itself on the question of from what protagonists and villains are made and how to make the greatest number identify with the one intended to represent the desirable behavior and thoughts. Entertainment "news", which has adapted so well to the web holds up the people in the creative industries behind whom the most cash has been spent. Reality shows and talent competitions perpetuate that hoary old Hollywood trope of the person in the street being discovered and plucked from obscurity. Cop shows with their tortured and earnest protagonists, the characters sketched out in most detail. The criminals get the most compelling and dramatic interactions with the intrepid heroes. The officials from higher up the law enforcement may be foils to "lone wolf" officers a la Dirty Harry, or the entire system could be represented as an occasionally squabbling, but unified family united against the criminals and the press, as in the original Law & Order and its myriad spinoffs. Generally, the victims, who represent neither law breakers nor law enforcement are props to kick off the plot so the real drama can proceed. This last group is where we find most of the population, helpless, at the mercy to the fates but for the authorities and their weapons and surveillance capabilities.


...the Cop Show has only three characters--victim, criminal, and policeperson--but the first two fail to be fully human--only the pig is real. Oddly enough, human society in the eighties (as seen in the other media) sometimes appeared to consist of the same three cliche/archetypes. First the victims, the whining minorities bitching about "rights"--and who pray tell did not belong to a "minority" in the eighties? Shit, even cops complained about their "rights" being abused. Then the criminals: largely non-white (despite the obligatory & hallucinatory "integration" of the media), largely poor (or else obscenely rich, hence even more alien), largely perverse (i.e. the forbidden mirrors of "our" desires). - Hakim Bey – Boycott Cop Culture 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Underworld of the Periphery: Countercultures of the Future


Those that just don't fit, the underclass or outcast, those of the periphery, the counter-culture -- these are popular topics around here, and for good reason,

"Peripheries are often border zones where peoples or things are thrown into unexpected contact, hybrid spaces yielding new possibilities for social and cultural organization."

Think of the musical genres, poetic innovations, and linguistic creoles of the Caribbean; or think of the social “margins” or the “queer periphery,” where disenfranchisement and stigmatization give rise to relatively free experimentation in social practices and cultural life. Though centers may seem more advanced or more privileged than peripheries, decisive change and innovation often begin at the fringes. Yet the very tendency toward difference and transformation out on the margins often meets with a violent reimposition of norms from the center: Soviet tanks rolling into Prague, or the Janjaweed and Sudanese military sweeping through Darfur, or the police descending on Stonewall.
There must be a place where this power may, to borrow from these spatial metaphors, centralize, without fearing this kind of backlash from those who would be the center, after all it is often the demigod who descends to the underworld that doesn't want the keys to the kingdom. "You can have it!" they cry, but the dispossessed nevertheless seek solace in the company of other lone wolves, were-wolves, or beings of both worlds.

This site is such a place, even this post (or the links in it) doorways to ideas that might germinate, and as always, help you "find the others."

The countercultures of the future are already being born and are parts of the future’s new markets. 

It can therefore be an advantage to know what to expect from them. They stand up against greed and religion, burst the boundaries of biology, and expand the idea of anarconomy still further. We bring a translated excerpt from the new book Modkultur – fra undergrund til bundlinje (Counterculture – from underground to bottom line).
Present-day countercultures differ from those of the past in one important way. In the past, if you were part of a counterculture, you were in all the way, and it was unthinkable that you could also be part of another counterculture. In the England of the 1960s, you could be mod or rocker, but not both. The hippie culture from the late 1960s involved a strong identity – one which didn’t immediately combine well with other countercultures like e.g. the equally colourful gay culture. This is not how it is today. The number of countercultures has grown immensely, but it isn’t unusual to be part of several and to form your identity from an unique blend of the countercultures and subcultures you choose to be part of. Many young people are situals – individuals that like social chameleons change surface identity according to the situation they are in. One and the same person can easily be goth, trekkie and vegan, and still also be part of the live-action role-playing circuit.
Many things suggest that future countercultures will be even more complex in a future where the entire world is connected via a ubiquitous network of wireless internet and virtual worlds. The critical mass of individuals needed to make a counterculture viable and vibrant does not have to be limited to any particular physical location, but can be spread all over the world.

[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]

Monday, March 04, 2013

Free eBook of Chasing The Wish comic!

Produced in close collaboration with the late Dave Szulborski, the comic tied together his previous, massively successful ARG Chasing The Wish, with an ARG that was running simultaneously with the comics production and release called Catching The Wish.

Dave was posthumously named the World's Most Prolific ARG Producer by Guinness World Records 2012 Gamer's Edition.

Peter and I are happy to share this comic with you, free, in memory of Dave's creativity.

FULL BOOK 1 (PDF)
FULL BOOK 1 COVERS (PDF)

Chasing The Wish comic credits:

Written by: Jason Stackhouse with James Curcio.

Based on the ARG by Dave Szulborski.

Art: P. Emerson Williams, Jessika Kaos, James Curcio. 


Falling in love with Kali

By William Clark

It was on the night January 8th, 2000 that I fell in love with Kali. Despite having no previous introduction to Hinduism, I was graced with a vision of her which completely changed the course of my existence. Ever since that evening, I have sought to transmute my life into an offering for that black goddess who I saw dancing within my heart.

Traveling to India immediately became a top priority of mine. I found myself heading there within two years of my darshan (“divine vision”) and will undoubtedly be visiting this country again and again for as long as I am able. During this time, I have immersed myself in the study of Indian culture and religion, focusing primarily on the state of West Bengal where Kali enjoys a particularly exalted position of popularity and reverence. I have acquired a comfortable grasp of the Bengali language and my passionate interest in the folk music of that region has led to the attainment of some specialized knowledge in that area as well. While back home in the USA, I decided to spend some time learning the basics of field recording and photography in order to document the ongoing pilgrimage which has become the central pivot of my existence. During my last visit to India from 2011-2012, I began developing www.kalibhakti.com as a way to share my journey with those who might wish to come along for the ride.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Orpheus and the Underworld

A long piece today from newtopiamagazine on the various incarnations of Orpheus through history:
For generations historians believed that western civilization began in ancient Greece. Today historians have the evidence to support the testimony of the ancient Greeks themselves, that other cultures, especially the ancient Egyptian, gave Greece important inspiration and key ideas about religion. But thanks to the works of Plato and Aristotle, the comedies of Aristophanes and the tragedies of Aeschylus in many ways we can still view ancient Greece as the flashpoint where the inferno of the western world began. We can also look to Greece for the earliest known significant counterculture in western history.


[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]

Friday, March 01, 2013

Tideland (Movie Review)

by James Curcio
(First run on Alterati.)


It can be easy for us to forget just how surreal and terrifying childhood really is.

Like in adult life, the fantasies that we invent allow us to interact with a chaotic world that is beyond our control, and often beyond our understanding. They can protect us from trauma, and serve as an intermediary between our inner world, of dreams and emotions, and an outer world.

This kind of ‘magical thinking,’ roleplaying, and fantasy is considered healthy for children. Without it, we would have a difficult time forming opinions, or indeed, cogent selves.

However, with adults, these fantasies are often considered delusions. They aren’t real, we say. But who is to say that what we experience is not real, or that something isn’t real simply because it isn’t what it appears to be? And is the line between childhood and adulthood, as it is commonly considered, the transition from fantasy to reality? Where does one begin and the other end, and what do we lose when we cross that foggy bridge?

In his movie adaptation of Tideland, Terry Gilliam brings us gracefully into the world of Jeliza-Rose, where we are forced to confront many of these difficult questions.

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