30 September 2005

Absolut Icebar

Absolut Icebar opens 1st October on Heddon Street in London. The spectacular ABSOLUT ICEBAR, in the heart of the capital, is unlike anything else in the U.K.: An environment of -5 centigrade, where everything, from the walls, bar, and bar stools, to the artwork and the "glass" that holds your ABSOLUT cocktail is made from crystal clear Nordic ice.

The bar holds only 60 people and after 45 minutes you have to leave. Customers must pre-book time slots. And for that experience a visitor will pay Ł12, which includes their first vodka cocktail. A refill costs Ł6. More information and booking on belowzerolondon.com.

29 September 2005

Brand is dead

James Surowiecki of The New Yorker finally iterated for me something I've been pondering for some time now. In an article for Wired (here), that people have had this whole brand thing bass-ackwards. He puts it in plain English: "Marketers looked at these companies and said they were succeeding because their brands were strong. In reality, the brands were strong because the companies were succeeding."

According to Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (who, for a fancy-schmancy firm, has what I consider to be a lame Flash site): Brands are dead, I think. We've seen this incredible journey that started off years ago with products. Products were invented to supply a benefit, a functional attribute to make you feel better. They morphed very quickly into trademarks, which is all about protection: Protect the manufacturer; protect the consumer. And then in the 1930s Neil McElroy at Procter & Gamble invented brands. And what were brands? They were based on what I call "ER words": whiter, brighter, cleaner, stronger, fitter.

Essentially a bunch of buzz was created over brand because the company itself was doing what it was supposed to be doing, and doing it rather well. Of course, Sony has a brand, Dolce & Gabbana, Apple, Wal-Mart, et cetera, but it's because they're leaders in their field. (Goes to show how a whole new context can be built out of elements of the immediate now, thrown together with some unique semantic. See: Y2K.)

Unsuccessful companies will be starved if their not innovating, in the name of the consumer.
This is all, of course, a bad thing for marketers. A brand is supposed to provide a haven from competition, offering what Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila calls insurance against missteps. But the disappearance of loyalty means that insurance is vanishing, too — which is great for consumers. When companies can't count on their reputations to carry them through, they're forced to innovate to stay alive. The erosion of brand value, then, means heightened competition — and everything we know about economics tells us that the more competition, the better off consumers will be.

Now I know there are the counterculturalists out there swashbuckling their way free of the consumer lifestyle, but guess what? It may be necessary. The faster we can figure out how to create a balanced social system in which equality is earned, we move closer to a libertarian state of responsibility. At least in spirit in mind. In our parents' and grandparents' eras, the lack of innovation and choice provided barriers in perception and opportunity. Does it mean that one brand of salt or cola can radically revolutionise the world? I don't think so. The best analogy I can make to the number brands and new companies out there is akin to the music explosion of the 1960s. Prior to that, those few companies offered the equivalent social and consumer vernacular as did Newspeak in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The more choices to shape one's environ, mental and manifest, the more variety in interpretation of one's life.
Five years ago, Sony charged 44 percent more for its DVD players than the average manufacturer. Today, Sony DVD players cost just 16 percent more than the average. And yet, even though the price of Sony's most expensive DVD player fell 60 percent between 1999 and 2003, CyberHome, maker of absurdly cheap DVD players, has knocked off Sony to become the biggest DVD-machine seller in America. Similarly, in the fashion industry, a stronghold of brand identity and obsession, prices fell an average of 9 percent between 2001 and 2003.

It's an interesting age where creative commons and international standards are being moulded for the betterment of the world, of technology, of ideas, and all the while designers and companies are forced to really answer to the subconscious of society, in its need for a wider interpretation of products.

I grew up sympathetic to Adbusters, too, don't get me wrong. But, by intuition, I left that camp. I believe that this painted context of consumer as gluttonous and corporations as insane entities is accurate to an extent, but on the other hand we must remember that is just one of many gestalts we could use to answer the problems at hand.

If we look at this from an occult point of view, taking a cue from the little I know of Steiner's ideas… or even Grant Morrison's, if humanity is moving forward — always evolving as a whole to embrace, incorporate, and process more knowledge — then a wider array of products is akin to a wider wardrobe or more expansive grasp of language or more time spent in different regions or countries around the world. Or more distinguishable trance states, for that matter. The more elements that are available to build up one's paradigms, the more paradigms we'll have co-existing.

The more paradigms we have co-existing, the more the analogy of the social prison construct can come tumbling down as we each define ourselves, differently, uniquely, and explore our own subjective views of the world in stronger contrast to those others in our environments. And someone may argue that this is all shallow, skin-deep, but as much as I'd be willing to agree — perhaps in the case of many individuals, some of whom I am sure we all know, those shallow goofy folk who dress up but think down — I must say this is the language and fashion of humanity. And for those still struggling to "catch up" with the developed nations of the West (which I take for granted, mind you, being a member), I can only figure that there is a myth and journey for them that is shaping their egregores, their group spirit, their aeon. And as the global community grows and embraces more and more, what I see written above about the power of the consumer leads me to believe that eventually everyone will be living on a more level playing field.

Hopefully what will come of this will be that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their goals. And while I believe everyone has the capacity to break free of the archons and the social constructs which they believe harbour them into jobs making minimum wage, doing shit they hate, this increased variety in gestalts will lead the way for those to truly shine that have it in them.

For those who do not, all the poseurs and the try-hards, or perhaps they're the hylics of Gnostic myth — just as the hapless victims of Neo, Trinity, and Co. were portrayed in The Matrix — those bound to matter shall die of matter. And I am sorry, I have yet to find a place for them in my heart outside of the deeper realms of my soul.

23 September 2005

NIN’s Gnostic “Right Where It Belongs”

A while back I noticed definite Gnostic tones on Nine Inch Nails' album, With Teeth. Though all of Reznor's albums have consistent existential themes, the last track on this album, entitled "Right Where It Belongs," is really quite peaceful and explores the concept of illusion and looking within oneself. This is apparently after bouts with alcoholism and suicidal tendencies over the past decade, a possible consequence of his rise to super-stardom:—
"Right Where It Belongs"

See the animal in its cage that you built
Are you sure what side you're on?
Better not look him too closely in the eye
Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?

See the safety of the life you have built
Everything where it belongs
Feel the hollowness inside of your heart
And it's all
Right where it belongs

What if everything around you
Isn't quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?

What if all the world's inside of your head
Just creations of your own?
Your devils and your gods
All the living and the dead
And you really are alone
You can live in this illusion
You can choose to believe
You keep looking but you can't find the woods
While you're hiding in the trees

What if everything around you
Isn't quite as it seems?
What if all the world you used to know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?

I've also noticed that "Only" eschews a dialogue with his audience and/or those around him in favour of a conversation with himself. He's seeing through the veneer of the Demiurge's world and into himself. In fact, I find it humorous that he's created a piece that the rest of "us" can listen to when, in fact, we are all seperated in the end. It's like a weird paradoxical loop, cuz I could see myself saying the very same things he's stating in this track:—


I'm becoming less defined as days go by
Fading away
Well you might say
I'm losing focus
Kind of drifting into the abstract in terms of how I see myself

Sometimes I think I can see right through myself

Less concerned about fitting into the world
Your world, that is
Because it doesn't really matter
(No it doesn't really matter anymore)
None of this really matters anymore

Yes I'm alone but then again I always was
As far back as I can tell
I think maybe it's because you never were really real to begin with
I just made you up to hurt myself
And it worked
Yes it did!

There is no you
There is only me
There is no you
There is only me
There is no fucking you
There is only me
There is no fucking you
There is only me

The tiniest little dot caught my eye and it turned out to be a scab
And I had this funny feeling like I just knew it was something bad
I just couldn't leave it alone, picking at that scab
It was a doorway trying to seal itself shut
But I climbed through

Now I am somehwere I am not supposed to be,
And I can see things I knew I really shouldn't see
And now I know why (yeah now I know why)
Things aren't as pretty
On the inside

22 September 2005

Hayao Miyazaki, first interview in 10 years

In his first public interview in a decade, Hayao Miyazaki speaks to Xan Brooks of Guardian Unlimited, in light of the release of Howl's Moving Castle. Interestingly, as an artist of accolade for over 40 years, he seems to touch on the attempt at heartening the masses of Japan (and the world). In these last few paragraphs he speaks pessemistic about the power of art to help heal the world. To be honest, Miyazaki is the last person I would expect to hear this from. His films are beautiful and magical things that have reached into me — Princess Mononoke in particular.

Read the full interview here, or check out this passage:—
His is a very serene and contented brand of fatalism. He talks about New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina and insists that the same thing will happen in Tokyo. There are a lot of water-gates in the city, and the river runs past his home. He smiles and taps ash from his cigarette. There are too many people in the world, he says, and too many wrong turns along the way. At the age of 64, he gives the impression that the planet is doomed but he'll soon be leaving it, and not a minute too soon.

"Personally I am very pessimistic," Miyazaki says. "But when, for instance, one of my staff has a baby you can't help but bless them for a good future. Because I can't tell that child, 'Oh, you shouldn't have come into this life.' And yet I know the world is heading in a bad direction. So with those conflicting thoughts in mind, I think about what kind of films I should be making."

Perhaps this is why he tells children's stories. "Well, yes. I believe that children's souls are the inheritors of historical memory from previous generations. It's just that as they grow older and experience the everyday world that memory sinks lower and lower. I feel I need to make a film that reaches down to that level. If I could do that I would die happy."

I ask if he feels he's managed that already and he chuckles and shakes his head. Nor does he feel that film can be employed as a force for good. "Film doesn't have that kind of power," he says, gloomily. "It only exerts its influence when it stirs patriots up against other nations, or taps into aggressive, violent urges."

This is a black diagnosis indeed. But then, inexplicably, Miyazaki's mood lightens. Perhaps it's the sunshine, or the cigarette, or the fact that the interview is almost over. "Of course," he relents, "if, as artists, we try to tap into that soul level - if we say that life is worth living and the world is worth living in - then something good might come of it." He shrugs. "Maybe that's what these films are doing. They are my way of blessing the child"

20 September 2005

Jason Salavon

Thanks to IGM of Pharos Review, an Edmonton expat, for stopping by and leading me to some interesting news — artist Jason Salavon in particular.

The images found here are the "result of digitally averaging every Playboy centerfold foldout for the 10 years beginning Jan. 1988 through Dec. 1997. The shroud-like image is yielded by a simple, custom process: point-by-point mathematical averaging. No special 'morphing' is used."

In others, we can see the ghostly mean presented from the entire graduating class of a high school from 1967 and 1988, and these video installations, The Late Night Triad, echoing the commonalities and found between late-night talk shows (as pictured above):
In this installation, from a broader series begun in 1997, 64 nights' worth of the major U.S. late night talk shows have been aligned and averaged using basic transformations. The result is a triptych of video projections with soundtrack, presenting an amalgamation of monologues which reveals the ghosts of repetitious structure and nightly activity.

The eye can't discern individual elements, there is no single person in his images, but we see the shapes and semblance of them. Certain predominant characters come about. And in contrast to the three presented in the late-night piece, when taking all the Playmates of an entire decade (120, give or take any specials they put out). Abstracting persons en masse like that takes away that human resemblance and leaves us with a shrouded piece of art which may in fact derive an emotional or more occult/intuitive sense from the viewer. I like pieces dictated by information statistics such as these. They remove the artist from the art and we're left with a message from an inhuman source, as interpreted by the viwer.

19 September 2005

John Maeda on experience as beauty

John Maeda, professor at the MIT Media Lab, is on a quest to study simplicity. In life. In design. In communication. It may sound simple, but so often in this world people want to confuse and baffle things — conversations, living spaces, lifestyles, emotions — by being the totally opposite of simple.

I believe that through Gnosticism and its subsequent teaching of myth as a way to understanding and exploring one's life, people can really begin to refine who it is they are… and more importantly, what they want to be. The more focused your intent, as in the occult, the more results you'll garner.

Maeda puts it:
What is beautiful to you?

I was recently interviewed by a German magazine regarding the beautiful objects that I own… I realized that ownership ceases to make things beautiful.

As I look for designed objects in my studio that "signify beauty" I find many examples, yet none of them are entirely beautiful to me. I find beauty in freshness and fragility — two qualities that the modern designed object is not allowed to possess. Once an object is acquired, it eventually becomes stale in your apartment; were an object to be crafted as to break upon the slightest touch, it could not be sold. For these reasons I find my beauty in nature, where every item has a purpose and a life cycle that is perfectly natural.

The moth: On a walk around my home, I saw this beautiful white moth dying on the paved road. The contrast between the whiteness of nature, and the darkness of manmade materials — combined with the two deaths — one of the moth, the other of the ground that lay beneath the pavement. This complex, yet simple moment of the lightness of life to soon vanish into the dark… rendered in a black and white palette represents the kind of beauty that cannot be owned, but only experienced.

18 September 2005


image by solios
I've been poring over the readings that Father Jordan Stratford has presented for his Gnostic readings workshop this weekend, and as I read the last piece I have here on the Demiurge I went a'searching for Ouroboros imagery. This whole "religion of the writer" is beginning ot make sense as I take it all out of literal context and apply it wholly, 100% to the personal involvement in the myth of one's own life. Classic Ouroboros imagery presents it as two beasts pursuing one another in circles, or the serpernt eating its own tail. This makes sense in that the serpent, being a representation of Sophia — knowledge — continues to devour itself as it grows.

Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.

I like this solios's modern look at Ouroboros as a representation of myth continuously building up the broader, more esoteric paradigms in the individual. I am going to write more on this to Fr Stratford here tonight, but essentially we start with a basic myth, not unlike the genesis of a character in a RPG video game. From there, we garner the experiences necessary via the journey (as presented by Campbell). As one's story continues to unfold, one continues to grow. Not necessarily "eating" the old self, though that is one way of looking at it, but I believe this makes for a better visual analogy as it shows the serpent of knowledge growing beyond the dimension (2D) of whence it came, continuously engendering more depth, dimension, validity. And in our case, perhaps from the prison of three dimensions, ultimately into that of a fourth, sidereal understanding…

My super power is that I can scare girls

Went to brunch on Whyte Avenue today and was walking around with Amanda and some friends. To make a long story short, I bought the wrong Mudvayne album which ticks me off, cuz I wanted any of them except for the one in particular I bought, and had a nice walk with Amanda & Co. in general. Later on, they went further on and I turned back to my car so I could get home and finish some work. On the way back, while I'm waiting for a light to cross the street, a cute woman approaches, mid-twenties, about 5'10" to 6' tall, give or take. She had on this cute blue skirt and a pink tank top. Resembled Scarlett Johansson with her sunglasses on. I checked her out subtly, as I would anyone I thought cute, and she went on across the street as the light turned, at a much faster pace than I.

She had to wait at the next crossing due to the light change, and zipped off ahead of me again, looking back occasionally. I wasn't sure if it was at me or not.

Further on, after peering back a few times, she decides to wait and cross the street to the opposite side than I. I pay little attention, but she does occasionally look back at me.

A few blocks up, I need to cross to the side she crossed to cuz my car is parked up and over that way. I cross, again trailing behind her yet again. She keeps looking back at me, more obviously this time, and then skips through traffic to get back to the original side the street… presumably away from me. As I approach my car and she zips on quickly, on the other side of the street again, she obviously looks back at me a few times. Then I vanish from her sight as I turn towards my vehicle.

I mean, I don't particularly stand out relative to Whyte Avenue. I was wearing jeans, a cowboy shirt, and just a basic pair of slip-on Naot footwear. Albeit I have something of a fat mohawk currently, and my nails are painted black… I'm clean cut and showered. I had the CD in my hand, no shank or anything. It essentially made me feel like I was some serial rapist she'd seen in the media or something.

It was a really odd sensation. We see ourselves in relation to how others treat and react to us. This was a particularly odd occurrence, but not the first time. A majority of the time people tend to forget me until they've met me a few times. My friend Jeremy didn't believe me when I told him, but over time he's introduced me to a number of his acquaintances and with every new occasion he has to re-introduce me cuz they don't recall. I pay it no mind as I'm used to it. I actually find it interesting as my general attitude and appearance isn't exactly what would normally blend into the quiet background of a bunch of Sears catalogue rejects hanging out at Bible camp on the weekends. I take some pride in my aesthetic, sometimes. But consistently, people tend to forget meeting me.

Also, as I am totally ambivalent about children, not caring one way or the other, and animals. But for some reason, kids and animals fucking adore me. Kids have followed me around in stores, hiding behind things and, giggling, peering out around corners to look at me. Perhaps they do it to everyone and I just log it in my memory more often? And my roommates' cat, Arthur, doesn't like anyone else but upon moving in he took an immediate liking to me, follows me around, and likes to watch me go to the bathroom. He literally waits for me at the bathroom door if he sees me heading that way. In the past, other people's dogs have often liked me that were well-known for not being the friendliest animals. Perhaps it's cuz I'm a Sagittarius?

Does anyone else out there notice particular reactions to their person? It's one thing to get odd reactions after conversing, as ideas can aggrivate or inspire others. Especially with the occult. But has anyone noticed any sort of unusual reactions from strangers? I also have no idea what was running through this Scarlett Johansson lookalike's head, so perhaps she had been accosted in college by someone resembling me? I have no clue.

16 September 2005


I find this clothing company, called deadwear, interesting in that they've chosen the imagery of sacrifice as the theme for their clothing design. Here is an example of branding, in that they've chosen a particular context in which to express themselves in the hope that others feel the same way and find a similar sort of relief or release or comfort in broadcasting to others via their style.

It saves time in that we don't require initial "ice-breaking" conversation, as we broadcast to the world certain traits and characteristics we're interested in. I know that nine times out of ten, that most girls approaching me in hoochie pants and some tummy-revealing top is not going to have much in common with me, so I don't invest the time or energy into getting to know her. Someone with a more reserved sense of style, confident in themself and uncaring towards popular trend, perhaps with a darker tinge of fashion sense that she may exhibit through her make-up or hair or whatever, that would draw my interest. And even then, more than half the time she's a fucking hipster, right?

Anyhow, what I'm saying is that style, brands, and any sort of tribalism is a necessary bane in today's information-rich world. The Molson Canadian brand is worth uncalculably more than the beer itself, cuz the beer is actually engineered to taste as little like beer as possible (I saw a documentary on it on CBC Newsworld, kind of interesting).

Problem is when individuals are victims of fashion or branding and they let the trends and brand names wear them. This is actually a good analogy for language and how it can imprison people to a particular paradigm. It takes some looking inward to develop an intuitive sense of one's own style, something that can be expressed outwardly to aid in the networking and growth of the particular social network that you desire, not dictated by what's popular or engineered by MuchMusic, VH1, Cosmo, and silly Hollywood movies.

Talking to Tim a bit recently, I see the occult brands a'cometh…

15 September 2005

Simple occult diagram

The initial concept for this was from either Donald Tyson or Ramsey Dukes, I think. More people need to think about this simple concept. Anyone that actually practices magic will understand how it fits in there. Those interest, might I suggest you read Marik's work on sigils and try one out for yourself. The results are astounding, and they're easy to do. Later, I'll edit a post dealing strictly with sigils — theory, practice, and results. For now, I need to get some work done and finish the readings Father Jordan Stratford gave me.

14 September 2005

How to disappear in America without a trace

Came across this today on Kottke. Entitled "Vanishing Point: How to disappear in America without a trace." Here starts the document:—

What follows is the result of an anonymous upload to The Skeptic Tank with a request that I, Fredric Rice, review and edit it for content and format so that a web page may be made from it. I've removed a lot of the irresponsible comments and added about a fourth of the text you'll see below. (Note: On 21/Jul/98 I added sections 7 and 8. I'll also add that everything you read here should be considered opinion and idle speculation. The contact information on groups and individuals who can assist you may be out-of-date so plan your disappearance accordingly. On 28/Aug/04 I added section 11 based on discussions I had with a desert hermit. 21/Jul/05 section 13 was added.)

I found some of the information provided to be interesting enough to agree to the request to post it. There are many good reasons to run and hide from people (or the government) just as there are many bad reasons. Please don't take the existence of this web page as any endorsement of any kind -- I've taken some care to remove the irresponsible nonsense and to add some words of reason to the text. Additionally I've provided a great deal of contact information for charity organizations which help feed and shelter people.

Here are the sections you will find:
  1. What I'll be discussing in this how-to essay
  2. Understand who or what you're hiding from
  3. Throw away yourself and build a new you
  4. Keep from depositing traces of yourself
  5. Keeping yourself hidden
  6. People and Organizations Which Can Assist You
  7. Employment: Food, Shelter While on the Run, While Underground
  8. Checkpoints on America's Highways — People Looking for you
  9. Summary
  10. Special note to Earth Liberation and Animal Liberation groups
  11. South Western Deserts as a Place to Hide / Squatting
  12. Freight Hopping — Riding the Rails
  13. Dropping off the Grid: Peace Corps, Others
  14. Montana Supreme Court Notes Ability to Track Everyone

12 September 2005

Sunday suicide attempt

photo by purplejavatroll
My friend and I were out biking around downtown yesterday and came across a man hanging from the railing of the High Level Bridge, which connects downtown to Old Strathcona and the University of Alberta region. It's a tall enough bridge, over the North Saskatchewan River. The cops told us the bridge was (obviously) closed. So we rode over a bit to a nearby park and sat with about 20 others and watched. A few guys had been already been there for about half an hour, and we sat down on a bench for another hour. As time went on, people — young and old — cracked friendly jokes about Hurrying up already or Silly, we all have bills to pay, and it became an odd community gathering where everyone was sharing in the delight of what I presume to be another's agony. There were even two or three couples cuddled up on park benches watching, as if on a cozy date at a drive-in theatre. As time waned on, I found myself wanting him to jump. One fellow on the phone was in disagreement with his girlfriend on the other end, "No, no, honey… I want to see him jump for sure, no, no, of course I don't want him to die, just for him to jump."

Myself, I didn't care either way. People die of every second of every day, I am okay with this. I try to acknowledge the fact that I can't predict my own demise and it may very well take place an hour from now. Of course, if I happened across a person in such a situatio where their life was in question and they'd premeditated taking it, I would offer my help, but it's not in my disposition to coerce them to continue living. I am sure others would disagree with me, as the police were there talking him in. As we watched him swing from railing, from hand to hand, back and forth, I could only wonder what sort of programming must be at work for his system to attempt suicide, but fail in its final execution (pun not intended).

But since we were forced to spectate (in contrast to being directly involved) — well, we all could have began yelling at him to jump, which was mentioned and joked at — I suppose any semblance of social morals was maintained and we let the police do their job peacefully. After the hour had passed, we were cold and hungry as we had intended to ride over into Garneau for lunch. So we got back on our bikes and took off. Only to run into the fellow up the tracks who runs the trolley, and he told us about the university student who was drunk with his friends and he inadvertently fried his head on the electrical thingie that the trolley runs on. This happened a few weeks ago, if memory serves? He and his friends, after drinking, thought it would be a good idea to break into the trolley tunnel.

Again this brings me to that quote by Kurtz (Marlon Brando), from Apocalypse Now, and how very applicable it is to everyday life: "Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared."

Why do we feel the need to be so distraught in the face of moral indignity. If the system is broke, of course we can try to fix it, but I feel no worse finding the spiritual humour in this show that is Life as it careens this way and that, from the individual all the way up to whole cultures. Didn't someone smart once say that laughter is the best medicine?

On that note, I would also feel the necessity to do my part and make an attempt at performing unction from afar if he did, in fact, jump. I'm not very good at it, but I try to do my part.

09 September 2005

Interview: Tim Boucher of Pop Occulture

Here it is! The moment everyone’s been waiting for, the Tim Boucher interview. Albeit a bit longer than expected (about a five-minute read), it’s here unedited for your reading pleasure. It was a pleasure talking to Tim, as always. Hopefully this gives you a bit more perspective into not only who Tim is and what he’s up to, but into what I believe represents an attitude and approach shared by many contemporary occultists. I know I share a lot in common with him, so this leads me to believe that we’re not as bad of people as they make us out to be. Enjoy!—

Fell: Just reading over your bio on your website, it provides some decent history on how you came to be so inquisitive. Running a site dedicated to “popular occulture,” can you explain some of the effects the website has had in acting as a mirror of yourself; if social discourse is, in fact, akin to peering into oneself, how has your reaction been thus far?

Tim Boucher: Well there’s a couple big problems with trying to peer into yourself in front of a lot of other people — namely that they are looking too. And they have their own ideas and comments about who you are, where you should go, etc. Sometimes it’s really awesome, but it can also be really frustrating. Mostly because well a lot of times when you try to fix yourself into a particular format of living, of art, whatever, it eventually doesn’t depict you accurately. At least, that is, if you’re growing and changing all the time — which I hope I am. The other weird part is that other people can get fixed on the outward form, the persona that you convey, and when you try to change it, there can be a backlash. I guess it’s because when you create a public persona, on some level, it’s not just a part of you, but a part of everybody who interacts with it.

Another weird thing related to that, I’ll get emails from people who have been quietly lurking on my website for months (or longer), and feel like they know me intimately. But unless you comment a lot or have corresponded with me for a while, chances are I have no idea who you are. And it can be kind of weird on a personal level to be interacting socially when the intimacy is so lopsided like that.

Anyway, the only reason I’m saying any of this is not ’cause I hate engaging people publicly — because I love it. It’s more to describe some of the thinking that caused me to put aside the “occult investigator” brand/persona I’d been working with for the past couple years. The image I’d created of myself wasn’t me anymore, and I had to change it. I’m really happy with where it’s going now, and want to thank everybody for comments, suggestions, arguments, and just sticking around for all of it. There’s lots more good stuff to come, too.

This is a good example of what can happen when one person becomes central to public discourse. That the image that you created “wasn’t you anymore,” it seems that an individual — perhaps yourself in this case — becomes wrought with what you become to them. The word “occult” comes from Latin occultus (hidden), most commonly referring to knowledge of subtle truths or wisdoms. Keeping with this (or a similar pursuit) and in the context that knowledge can help you mould your course in life, where do you wish to go with all of it? Do you find yourself heeding to your dreams at all?

Shit, this is pretty much the question that I’m struggling with right now, and that I have been for months. Where do I want to go with it? What do I want to have happen? I forget who I was talking about this with on or offline, but if you don’t know what you want, it’s surprisingly easy to not know when you achieve it. One of the things that I started to find interesting about certain definitions of magic(k) is that it has to do with figuring out what you want and then just doing it. I don’t know if that’s necessarily magical or whatever, but it’s very much what I need in my life.

Do I listen to my dreams? Oh hell yeah. Do I always know how to act on them? Not really. I’ve had a lot of quasi-initiatory dreams (shamanic and otherwise, I guess you could say) over the past few years, and mostly I take them as a sign that I’m on the right track. What that track is, I still don’t know. But I’m ready to find out. As I said a few weeks ago, I feel like I’m finally ready to get started for real. Not that I was just fooling around before, but maybe I was just getting warmed up for the main event.

It’s been often said in the occult that when people slumber, we dream of the gods, and we are, in turn, the dreams of slumbering deities. I know it’d be fruitless to ask you about the “what” you’re getting ready to start on for real, but if I had to guess I’d say this mirrored the beginning of the Hero’s Journey as put forth by Campbell. I think the whole point of all of this is simply to locate and prepare oneself for these so-called journeys, until you get routed to your own personal Mother of All Journeys. Unfortunately, from what I notice most people never get the opportunity to work up to the Mother. How do you see your life? In what context? As an adventure? As a series of conflicts? An hedonistic pursuit? Perhaps a context to put one’s life into (a board game?) can aid in the journey, as well as employ particular “gods” in your favour by sharing their predispositions towards life; how do you see yours?

Yeah, I tend to be really into framing my life according to various story-devices. For example, deciding to adopt the role of “occult investigator” gave me a framework (based on comic books, etc) against which I could act and study creatively. Again, it gets tough for me because I’m really restless, so I’ll end up picking up and dropping stories to help kind of guide me through life. But none of them end up sticking in the long run. Certain things are useful for a time. Like a couple years ago, I was really gung-ho on trying to hitch across country and live off the land and sleep in gutters and bus stations and stuff. And I thought about it and prepared for it mentally for months. But when I set out, I didn’t end up doing that at all. I stayed with a friend for a couple months and then ended up living with my brother for a while. Which turned out to be equally worthwhile. But the point is that the sort of dream-story I’d concocted for myself wasn’t fulfilled. And I realized the importance of it was more in what it did for me psychologically, the big inner change that it prepared me for.

Speaking of the Hero’s Journey and all that, it’s funny ’cause I used to think I was actually in the middle of it. But it turns out I probably hadn’t even started it yet, and was just sort of dreaming about it and living through it in my head. That’s, I think, the big danger of using these types of framing devices to understand your life according to. Is that it’s really easy to end up living inside the frame instead of the life.

Personally, I come from a magical background. You’ve inspired numerous people online to further explore alternative aspects of spirituality and sowed the seeds of many discussions. Some of your readers are involved in sorcery, some are not. I may be wrong, but I’ve also seen some hints left by yourself that you may be working yourself up to a level of comfort in your own understanding before heading down such a road yourself. At this point, what is magic to you? What would you hope to grasp of it?

Hehe. The phrase “I come from a magical background” is kind of funny just taken out of context by itself. But anyway, that’s been part of my problem with a lot of magick-type stuff over the years. A lot of it just sounds kind of, I don’t know, silly to me. At least when certain people talk about it. One of the awesome parts of having my site though has been gathering together people who *don’t* talk about it in a stupid way, and who have given me the opportunity to ask hard questions without feeling stupid or weird about it. Y’all know who you are in that respect.

I’ve finally worked through a lot of the hang-ups I had about all that magic shit before. Maybe not all of them: invoking demons, etc, kind of still gives me the willies. But I’m comfortable with talking about all this stuff and entertaining the “reality” (if that’s the right word to use in this context) of what people are doing with magic.

As far as “choosing a path” or devoting myself to a particular craft, it’s not happened yet. And I’m not sure if or when it will. I’m trying to be patient and not rush into anything for the wrong reasons. I’m trying to be quiet and listen to the signs that are unveiling themselves to me, in terms of the spiritual direction I’m supposed to take.

At this writing, the best I can do is tell you what I gravitate towards in terms of, I don’t know, resonance, or stuff that just feels more right to me. And it’s not ceremonial magick. The culture of people involved with it tends to turn me off, for one. Chaos magick has some neat media & cultural theory to it, but it doesn’t feel rooted enough for me to want to be a serious part of. I guess if I’m headed anywhere, it’s more than likely in the direction of things like hoodoo, folk magic/religious practices, or shamanism. These things seem more grounded to me somehow, and I like the fact that they aren’t afraid to aim towards making life better rather than like transcendent truth or whatever.

I guess a “magical background” does sound a bit pretentious, not to mention silly. Regardless, I like my pointy hat. And like anything, magic can be seen as simply a tool in perspective in order to learn more about oneself. It’s a nice idea that people can be unified under banners of a similar nature, whether social or personal interest, but thus far no organised efforts have been particularly successful at inspiring the Western world to live more spiritually, sans Oprah Winfrey and AD&D. Do you have any observations of the current state of the Western esoteric community? Any ideas on how to improve on it (not to imply you’re not doing your own good part)?

I’ve wondered about this type of thing a lot: “How can I get people to be more spiritual?” For me, I have come to the realization that what I’m really after though is to become more spiritual myself. The act of outwardly trying to influence others is sort of a projection of what I really want for myself. And it’s absolutely necessary to work that way, but once you start to see how much you’re projecting, it gets kind of funny. Throws you back on yourself and makes you be a lot more honest about what it is you really want and what’s the smartest way to get it.

As far as improving the overall state of Western esotericism, well people just need to fucking get off their high horses and talk to each other. It’s okay if this sometimes involves screaming and arguing, but that can’t be all it’s composed of. I think one of the biggest problems among various different groups is that we don’t respect each other’s personal experiences enough. Because we think we know better. Really, it’s just that our own experiences are closer to us, and thus more tangible. If everybody can recognize sort of provisionally that everybody else’s experiences are equally real — on whatever level — then I think that’s one of the cornerstones of starting good conversations.

Interdisciplinary stuff is going to be key also, I think. Right now I see all these different groups of people pointing towards the same thing, and using the same methodology, but they are by and large scared to talk to each other and draw strength and inspiration from one another. Take conspiracy theorists. Take Wiccans. Take anarchists, anti-civilization stuff and activists. Take the open source software community. Take Creative Commons. Take occultists. Take the Emerging Church. Throw them all together and they all want the same thing. They want to throw off outmoded control systems that don’t serve them. They all want the authentic human experience stripped free of all the bullshit. It’s all the same struggle, and there are other factions out there looking for the same thing. People have kicked around the idea of a sort of mega-church to unite all these banners under. I don’t know if we need that so much as we just need simple, open, honest and sometimes critical communication. I think the web is doing that though, but I think it’s only in it’s early stages, and what all of us are doing could very well blossom into something really amazing. I mean, it already has.

Interestingly, my friend just sent me the link to Pink Floyd’s short film, The Final Cut, in which an elderly man contemplates taking the life of himself and his wife. From what I can tell, the reasoning was that they had both chosen the easy lives of comfort, love, and mediocrity. According to what I understand of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhist philosophy: there is suffering, which is an intrinsic aspect of the human condition, yet the way out of suffering is to eliminate attachment and desire. Because the continued quest for knowledge and so-called answers are elements to satiate a thirsty self — perhaps the ego — do you consider other methods of learning, of being? Of letting go of your own suffering, which is in this case an aspect of your quest for understanding? An understanding of something fundamentally ineffable?

Mm, not totally sure what you’re asking here, but a few different things spring to mind. First, the suffering question. I’ve come to a point in my life where I “get” suffering. That doesn’t mean I like it, but it means that it’s part of what makes for a full and rich and beautiful experience of life. And even in situations where I’m really upset, I kind of perversely enjoy it on another level, because I know I’m really alive — I’m really out there doing it.

I’m interpreting your other question here as being, is the desire for knowledge a cause of suffering? If that’s the question then I’d say yes. But that’s no reason not to desire knowledge. And maybe it’s some weird addictive ego/intellectual thing to be relentlessly searching. I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying, but I’ve thought that before too. And there have definitely been times where I just sort of wished I could turn it all off and live like a “normal” person, whatever that means. You know, somebody who doesn’t worry all night about really arcane and quite possibly pointless shit. But hey, this is who I am, you know? Gotta play the hand your dealt to the best of your ability I guess. I like to think I’m doing a good job.

I totally agree. It reminds me of the tale of the scorpion and the fox, where the fox hesitantly gives the scorpion a ride across a stream on its back after making an agreement that the scorpion would not sting the beast. Once they hit the other side, the scorpion stings the fox. The fox, obviously a little distraught, asks the scorpion why, to which the little guy replies, “I am truly sorry, mate. It’s in my nature, yo.” I guess what I was trying to articulate was whether you find the struggles involved in this lifestyle of self-exploration worthwhile. Like others I know, I can sympathise with you when you say you wish you could turn it off sometimes. You’ve been making it clearer, especially with your recent “re-branding,” that you weren’t happy with what you were becoming. Any ideas or analogies as to what you are, in fact, becoming by “waking” yourself up?

Worthwhile? Oh fuck yeah. I’ve gone through some really hard times with all of it (and I’m sure I will again). But I’ve come to the realization life is supposed to be a challenge. Either way though, it’s amazing

As far as becoming, well I have been thinking a lot of the two currents that Rudolf Steiner talks about. With the Luciferian current leading people upwards towards liberation, towards pure consciousness, dreams, possibilities, fantasies, etc. And the Ahrimanic current leading towards manifestation, towards matter, towards limitation, and so on.

I have a feeling this is really common to people who set out on these paths of consciousness-awakening, and moving beyond “normal life.” Namely, that during the first stage of your voyage, you’re really obsessed with throwing off the chains, “waking up” and moving into limitless pure potential — stuff like that. Exploring the fantasties, and the liberating Luciferian current. And it’s really invigorating and opens up new vistas that you’d never even imagined before. I guess part of what I started to feel though was that limitless possibilities started to become a trap. In other words, that I always had so many ideas and possible options that I never did anything. Or rather, I could never really complete anything. Or at least not the really big projects I want(ed) to do. So I was trapped in this kind of floating state, all because I didn’t want to “limit” myself.

Now what I’m realizing is that limitations aren’t bad. They are what you use to create form. Edges, boundaries, borders. I was all about smashing those before, but now I’m starting to see the beauty in limitation and how it’s necessary to adopt it in order to manifest anything into reality. So that’s the direction I’m focusing now is getting myself to willingly accept limitations and make decisions that lead me into manifesting actual things into reality, instead of just this floaty world of whirring ideas. My plans for Pop Occulture basically include ramping up the brand name so that I can publish books by myself under it, and take on other small authors, as I see fit. Plus I’m going to push into magazine publishing. In general, I just want to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. That’s the direction I’m headed.

Even though people hate to admit it, you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. They’re not exactly cheap, so this way people have to carefully choose to represent themselves aesthetically to the world. Perhaps every decision one makes, depending on knowledge of oneself, can be attributed to a further expression of the soul. What kind of shoes do you own?

Hehe. Well, my pride and joy as far as footwear is concerned is my pair of black Carolina boots. They are basically motorcycle boots, although I don’t ride. I think the style is called an “engineer boot.” Actually, here’s a good photo of them, or how they looked when they were new. I used to wear those all the time, but this summer I’ve just really been wearing shitty $3 flip-flops from Old Navy. But I’m looking forward to rolling out the boots again as it gets cold. I tend to really like cold weather stuff a lot, hats, big jackets, etc. Maybe that’s just a Capricorn thing, I don’t know.

I read somewhere that Capricorns make good occultists. Are you uptight and rigid in your ways like other (stereotypical) Capricorns?

Yeah I’ve read that too. Capricorn horoscopes (or rather sun sign descriptions) always suck. The ones that don’t say you’re obsessed with money just say that you’re hard working. I think I used to be really uptight, but have been overcoming it. A major part of that was how I was raised as well though, I know that. I was just looking at some Capricon descriptions online, and was surprised/not surprised at all to see them say: “Without the structure of rules, restrictions, and values to guide them up the mountain toward their goals, they lose their way.” Which seems really accurate in relation to what I was talking about earlier about how I’m realizing limitations can actually be good for you. Or at least for me. I guess Saturn, Capricorn’s ruling planet has something to do with that too, doesn’t it? It seems like a lot of my stereotypical Capricorn tendencies are mitigated by my Cancer ascendant and Leo moon though. One of the most interesting things I often read in Capricorn descriptions though is that they tend to come into their own later in life than other signs. I’m only 25, but I’m starting to see that happen I think.

You read more than the average bear, but what are some of the most influential or important books that you’ve come across in your years?

I’ve been meaning to put together a reading list on my site for forever, but it always falls by the wayside. I can never think of all the ones I want to include though. Right now I’m re-reading Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction which a co-worker and good friend gave to me a couple years ago when I was leaving that job. Every Philip K. Dick book I’ve read has blown me away, obviously. But I talk about that often enough. There’s this one really brilliant book I wish I’d written called What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy which is just phenomenal for so many reasons. I love love love Marie Louise Von Franz who is the best introduction to Jungian psychology ever. The first book I got by here was very accidentally picked up The Grail Legend, which I think was a collaboration between her and Jung’s wife. Another great one by her was On Dreams and Death. Totally mind-blowing stuff. There are also books that had a big impact on me at the time, but I’m not as into today. Wilson’s Prometheus Rising knocked me for a loop about 3–4 years ago. Douglas Rushkoff’s Media Virus blasted my mind when I was in high school. I got into Bukowski and some of the Beats for a while, Gregory Corso and at least On the Road, though I don’t love a lot of other Kerouac. I was really really into fantasy growing up, especially stuff like Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, and Madeleine L’Engle’s trilogy that starts with A Wrinkle in Time. Plus, of course, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Those are all books my mom gave me at a very young age and which formed me in immense ways. Oh, also Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is totally awesome. Anyway, that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Yeah, Prometheus Rising was my first metaphysical kick to the junk, and I also have the wonderful Understanding Comics. I remember reading about Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy in Wired when it was released some years ago. I definitely understand where you’re coming from, which raised another question which I’ve been exploring on my own recently, too: are there any particular experiences — in contrast to the scholarly research — that you pursue to garner anything akin to holy or spiritual experiences?

I don’t know if this is going to sound stupid to some people, but I have to say that I think going out and drinking with friends is a really holy thing. Going out dancing, too. And I can see how that became the basis for sacramental rituals like the Mass. I mean, that’s all the Last Supper was really, friends drinking and carrying on. Not to say that I’m a huge lush or anything though. I haven’t even been doing that much lately. I’ve actually been laying pretty low for a while now, and focusing pretty exclusively on my writing and research. But doing that to such a great extent can get you pretty unbalanced I find. So I can feel myself shifting gears right now, getting ready to start new things, get out into the world more, and whatnot. My forty days in the desert are about drawing to a close, and I’m ready to join the land of the living again.

On top of all this, do you have a few albums or movies that have stuck with you over the years as important, perhaps metaphorically or thematically?

For the past few days I’ve been going nuts over this Cat Steven’s Best of album my brother got. That song “Can’t Keep It In” is really kicking my ass. I’ve also been really into this song “Telluride” by Tim McGraw, which I ripped off my girlfriend’s CD collection. I always grew up thinking country was cheesy, but now I’m able to see the beauty in Kenny Chesney and stuff like that. I was listening to that Bright Eyes album, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, really hard for a while. I’ve also been rediscovering some awesome John Denver stuff lately. Before that I was listening to Songs: Ohia non-stop for a while, and My Morning Jacket always comes back around. Lungfish, I can’t say enough good things about. Any and everybody, even if you don’t know who they are, go see them in concert if you have a chance: Lungfish. It’s a mystical experience. I always go back to classic rock stuff, like Van Morrison, CSN&Y, Neil Young, the Stones, the Band, Dylan, Derek & the Dominos. Can’t ever go wrong with most of that stuff. I was really into Biggie for most of the beginning of the summer. And before last winter ended, I was pretty into that Arcade Fire album. That covers most of this year. Mostly I don’t seek out new music. I just get it from friends, and it’s all more or less associated with those people in my mind. I don’t buy CDs anymore.

Batman Begins knocked me on my ass this year. The Last Temptation of Christ which I saw last week is now one of my all-time favorites. I love that story of the hero rising to the occasion. Standing favorites off the top of my head are also that Chinese movie, Hero, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation are all-time favorites. I really like Clint Eastwood’s movies, though I thought Mystic River was boring or overly melodramatic. Million Dollar Baby ruled though. I think I just like them better when he’s in it and directs. I have a bunch of his old stuff queued up in Netflix. I think Hang ’em High arrives tomorrow.

But I could go on and on about this type of shit, and probably bore half of you, and excite another half of the people, half of which I will turn off by my choices. But oh well.

Speaking of your girlfriend, how do you find your developing involvement in the occult has fared with your personal relations? Since this field is an exploration of one’s own spiritual ideology and, in essence, reality, as your paradigms begin to shift and evolve, how do you find yourself in situations where social norms and peers are based on your old perspectives and characteristics? Or have you had to deal with any of this yet?

Oh you mean that old feeling where you feel like you’re changing but that nobody else around you is? Yeah I’ve felt that a lot, and in some sense, it’s part of what kind of drove me into being more solitary lately, along with moving around a lot in the past 3–4 years. Being able to start over a bunch of times with a clean slate.

As to mixing occult and personal affairs, it’s a sticky situation. I think the best explanation of it is when I go out to the bar with friends or whatever, and people want to know what I do, it’s like I often find myself feeling like I have to dance around actually saying what I write about. I mean I know I don’t have to, but I just get tired of the blank stares and the inaccurate judgements people make — not only when you bring up the word occult, but even if you accidentally say “religion.” People have no idea what the fuck you’d be interested in that for.

And then there’s like the off chance somebody is interested in that stuff, and all they want to talk to me about are The Da Vinci Code, the “sacred feminine,” and What the Bleep? That annoys me to no end when I get cornered into a conversation about that stuff socially.

As to my girlfriend, she’s really accepting, and is into holistic medicine, but is an ardent Christian. She made a joke though about how if I walked into a church it would burn down. Which I think is just silly, and I’m always getting mad at her when she says she’s worried about going to hell. Ridiculous. She’s awesome though.

We’ll have to go for beers one day, geography permitting. I am content to know that persons such as yourself are establishing themselves and publicly exploring what is commonly perceived as the darker or heathen approach to spirituality. As much as I hate to use the term, idols are useful in that we all need to set the bar for ourselves and be inspired by those that have tackled such difficult issues prior to ourselves. Inspiration can come in all shapes and sizes, and you’re one I hope to see grow and expand, and perhaps one day a cult will erect a statue in your honour as anarchy spreads over North America and I hop from tree to tree in my +1 Adidas and pointy hat.


08 September 2005

Experience-related terms

via Designing Great Experiences
This is for myself, for later reference.

Towards a pragmatic occultism

I am working on a project in which I want to explore repeatable, pragmatic approaches to teaching people occultism. Firstly, it would need to be marketed in order to define the semantic of the "occult" as something easily digestable by the public. I'm not going to get into details, but it's been a lot of research and work, of which ideas dribble out onto this blog. In the meantime, I've come across some elements that will aid in this task. Unfortunately, I am not the best person at organising thoughts so, in time, I should possibly hire some engineers (Maria, you out there?), or possibly build an alliance with the genetic engineers at IlliGAL. I can trade them children I've kidnapped from the suburbs in exchange for their organisational thinking processes. Oh, how I adore order. I think I spend so much time swimming from one stream of thought to another, I forget how wonderful just streamlining is.

First off, via the always informative Putting people first, Hamburg, Germany is playing host to the newly founded Launch Institute's conference on empathic market sensing this 20–21 September:—
Launch Institute applies focused methodology and techniques that tap into the latent innovation potential of your organization to launch new products, services and business models that achieve measurable business growth. […]

Increasingly, innovative companies go beyond conventional market research to use Empathic Sensing techniques; thereby building upon voice-of-the-customer and observational “applied ethnography” techniques to dive deeply into how market place agents think and act.

Empathic Market Sensing helps companies to redefine their products, to discover new applications and businesses and to extend into services: (a) By innovative techniques for market understanding. (b) By participatory design and alignment processes that are well integrated into the overall innovation approach.

In case anyone is unsure, the great Wikipedia explains empathy thusly: the recognition and understanding of the states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others without injecting your own. This concept is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes."

I was about to type, "If only those in power could apply this regularly to their policy-making." Then I thought, wait-a-freakin'-minute, What if the middle class could regularly be updated on the stresses and shit that people "of power" have to put up with — from CEOs to politicians to archbishops (both honest and crappy)? It's so easy to criticise, especially those we have little understanding of. It's like when everyone says how shitty a movie is, then you finally see it and think it's awesome and wonder how that makes you different than your friends. Or a case in point, how much crappy the new Star Wars prequels are.

We have serious issues about eschewing empathy in favour of mass stereotypes. I also believe this is a major contributor to conspiracy theory. Those lacking a perceived aspect of control over their own lives begin to fabricate symbolic control mechanisms into aspects of life outside of themselves. (I don't totally dismiss all of it, however, as I guarantee you there are conspirators the world over. We all do it. But to what extent can an organisation contend with the spiritual fulfilment of the individual, that is where, I believe, grand conspiracies falter. No conspiracy is 100% perfect. In that, it just makes the Game of Life that much more exciting because it allows us all an opportunity to play. There is no winner, unless you turn inward.)

Anyhow, I digress as usual. Onto the magical sigil. Sociologist James Bowie has written a piece called "Logos by the Numbers," exploring the trends in adopting logomarks. He also looks at how the artistic and creative processes involved in designing a logo reconciled with the bureaucratic organisational context in which trademark-adoption takes place.

A logo is not dissimilar to a sigil in that they both convey subconscious elements to the viewer. A sigil is charged by an individual or small group of persons, empowering it on a more subconscious plane in which all humans are interconnected. In contrast, a company bombards the populace with a logomark until it's embedded itself (almost unnaturally) unto the group consciousness.

Through a clearly defined intent, the magician can construct sigila to represent particular desires or commands to be fulfilled. Starting with written intent, the sigil is then reduced through artistic method to something much more abstract and emotional. It is then charged using emotion and visualisation, then "cast" or projected into the sybolic abyss that exists at the edge of the the human ego. There, it retains a semiotic semblance of its initial purpose and, if made analogous to an algorithm, it spreads it subtle vibrations through the intersubjective matrix of our observer-created reality. Any oddities that arise in the completion of the sigil are artefacts waiting to be triggered attached to the ego of either the caster or the individual(s) which the sigil happens to affect.

A logomark, on the other hand, is carefully designed by what we can only hope are professional designers. It will embody and translate the poetics of a brand's message and the illusory façade that the corporate entity or individual would like to convey in order to inhabit particular characteristics relative to people. Certain cultures interpret colours to represent different thing over continued use in particular ways. (i.e. That we use red for "stop" is odd because the colour has always illicited a subconscious reaction in people to become active.) It is an attempt at breathing life into something lifeless. And, for some of the more intelligent designs and groups, the logomark is successful. People do lend them life, in relation to their own. They define themselves using brands. They feel secure using brands. And some people will kill over brands.

Unlike the golem of Polish folklore, however, it has not been imbued with the divine spark. A sigil is a sliver of the caster's will cast into the group mind. From there it creates its effect which is noticed as it manifests as, say, a streak of luck, synchronicity, or phenomenon. A logo, too, has no divine spark. It is lent the power it maintains by its users and viewers. Reminds me of that Nine Inch Nails song, "Happiness in Slavery," in that we are only prisoners if we believe it to be true. (Speakf of which, the Chinese, during WWII, found that only 1 in 20 people had the disposition of a natural born leader. These were the ones who would inspire others to revolt in POW camps. So they isolated them, put them in these neato boxes for days on end, and effectively turned them into vegetables, tabula rasa.) So, most people are self-imposed prisoners à la Philip K. Dick's "black iron prison."

William S. Burroughs said, "Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it 'creative observation.' Creative viewing."

This brings up the interesting notion of what happens when one grants a spark of divine light to a logomark? In the case of a sigil, one can "evolve" it into a semi-seperate entity from the caster, commonly known as a servitor in chaos magic. It is free of the basic commands or desires cast via a sigil, or the cybernetic mechanisms that I've read about being "programmed" into more complex sigila. It can make basic decisions and react creatively, from what I know. (Alas, my personal experience with servitors is very limited.) I have a copy of The Power of the Word, by Donald Tyson, but have yet to read through it. I've briefly perused it, and I believe within there is a chapter dealing with the aforementioned magic used in the creation of the golem, also known as a homunculus, as put forth by the alchemist Paracelsus. Also, I must more intimately familiarise myself with the Austin Osman Spare's The Book of Pleasure in order to work on proper understanding of the "alphabet of desire." In it, one is guided in the ways to develop a personal language akin to a magical language like Hebrew or Sanskrit (as in a previous post). This is an alphabet where each letter has true meaning, to you, and tied in to the fundamental vibratory nature of the universe.

Back to Bowie's article on "Logos by the Numbers":—
I discovered that the United States Patent and Trademark Office held a treasure trove of data about logos. In 1983, in order to allow for easier trademark searching, the USPTO created a coding system for trademarks in its records. Using this system, six-digit codes are assigned to trademarks in order to represent their graphical content. The first two digits of each code represent one of 29 general categories, including “Human beings,” “Scenery,” and “Geometric figures and solids.” The second two digits represent a division, or subset of a category. Each category contains its own specific divisions. For example, Category 06 (Scenery) contains five divisions, including 06.01 (Mountains, rocks, caves) and 06.03 (Scenery with water, rivers or streams). The last two digits of a code represent a section, with each division containing its own specific sections. For example, Division 06.01 (Mountains, rocks, caves) has four sections, including 06.01.01 (Cliffs, rocks, walls of rock) and 06.01.02 (Volcanoes). In all, there are 1,304 unique codes in the system.

If we could perform the necessary tests, using persons taught to develop their own alphabets of desire, could we not track and make further sense of such alphabets. Perhaps this is similar to a dream dictionary, but of a more refined and lucid methodology. Interestingly, Bowie also notes that the logos maintain strong similarities throughout the decades or corporate eras, embracing certain shapes and symbolism, and sloughing it off as industries evolve and the language of commerce further develops.
After accessing the records of the USPTO, I assembled a database of over 750,000 trademarks registered in the United States from 1884 to 2003. Using this database, innovations and trends in the design of trademarks can be tracked and dissected. For example, the rise of the swoosh element, concentrated among internet and telecommunications firms in particular, can be seen developing in the mid-1990s. Similarly, the trends toward the use of striped logos in the 1980s and elements such as globes and arrows in the 1960s become apparent.

I also recall from my ventures into the occult that what we know of as archons and gods can be seen through the semiotic nature of languages and how they evolve. Again back to Burroughs, he claimed language was a virus from outer space. If it is, in fact, a mechanism in which personal, relative realities can be controlled by placing the same limitations that words have on our own perspectives, then it is indeed a tool of creating prisons. (It can also be a tool for constructing order out of chaos, mind you.)

And now switching over to Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher best known for founding Anthroposophy, Wikipedia claims Steiner characterised history as essentially shaped by changes formed through a progressive development of human consciousness. The activity of individualised human thinking was seen as a relatively recent advance which led to the dramatic developments of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In his epistemological works, he advocated the Goethean view that thinking itself is a perceptive instrument for ideas, just as the eye is a perceptive instrument for light.

I begin to see a myth of fractal proportions being played out as we are ever-evolving. But back to the task at hand: towards a pragmatic occultism. I am done with this for now. I will continue to collect references in order to build a structure in the coming months (years?).

07 September 2005

Dune: Extended Edition

Teaching design… teaching occultism?

I hadn't been over to Social Design Notes recently, and just came across details regarding the teaching of design curricula worth remembering for when I approach my guest-lectures this autumn (one on contemporary occultism, another on purchasing proper design services for an entrepreneurial class). Any aid in organising the chaos that is my thought processes is a godsend.

Here are some aspects of from his post, "Teaching Design," that will make me sane, and questions "what a book of progressive design curricula would look like." As in a previous post dealing with the MIT Digital Information Design Camp, I am want to ascertain if its possible for me to structure a proper method to exploring contemporary occult education. All I really did was switch around some of the words in the previous post, but it initially helped me with the concept.
  • Using design research and problem solving methodology to address civic issues
  • Designing visual tools for public participation
  • Reading assumptions encoded in images, structures, and practices
  • Design for community building and advocacy
  • Using design to streamline civic processes
  • Issues on sustainable design and responsible printing
  • Methods of user testing
  • Multi-lingual design

It would cover media including:
  • Basic typography
  • Information design
  • Documentary or narrative design
  • Posters, graffiti, and street art
  • Transportation graphics and civic way finding
  • Mapping
  • Branding and communications design
  • Design for multimedia

Social Design Notes goes on, "It would integrate principles of cost-effectiveness, accessibility and inclusiveness, usability, environmental sensitivity, and technologically appropriate solutions."

He makes a strong case that people are in dire need of this sort of curriculum, and so do a few other articles regarding the mediocre state of design grads being popped out.

Now I wonder if it's applicable to the structure of a proper occult curricula? I sometimes wish I were born more left-brained. I supposed I need to work on that… meditation and smart drugs?

06 September 2005

Concerning magical parfums

Reading over a link on Mark Vanderbeeken's blog, Putting people first, led me to an article entitled "Smells Like Brand Spirit" on Fast Company's website. Scent is interesting in that I believe they'll find that they can create a more appealing (addictive?) experience for their customers by appealing to the olfactory sense.

On the other hand, these marketing dweebs are trying to categorise scents the same way they do, say, a catchy jingle or piece of fashion:
Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, was conducting a test of its new signature fragrance in its Samsung Experience concept store. Researchers waylaid shoppers leaving the store to grill them on whether they thought the scent was "stylish," "innovative," "cool," "passionate," or "cold," and, more important, whether the scent made them feel like hanging around the shop a little longer.

And then:
SonyStyle store has staged a preemptive strike in the odoriferous battle, with a shop scented with notes of mandarin orange and vanilla. "We wanted to add one extra dimension to differentiate our store from the rest," says Christine Belich, executive creative director of the SonyStyle stores, noting that the company is particularly interested in attracting female shoppers to its 16 mall locations. […]

The idea of using a signature scent as a brand identifier has been slower to catch on outside the fashion industry (where certain retailers, such as Victoria's Secret, have long used fragrance as part of the sensory environment in their stores).

This is all fine and good if you're that desperate for customers that you can't just rely on product innovation and providing services people truly care to make use of. To many, this ploy may sound hokey, but the marketing monsters may be touching on something here quite potent and — until very recently — had been forgotten about in Western culture, aside from the fashion industry and use in magical and religious rituals.
While vision is unquestionably our most powerful sense, when it comes to garnering an emotional response, scent is a much more powerful trigger. "Seventy-five percent of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell," says Lindstroem. "Next to sight, it's the most important sense we have." […]

According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors. What's more, people can recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months. […]

Dr. Eric Spangenberg, dean of the college of business and economics at Washington State University, ran a test in a clothing store in the Pacific Northwest to determine how scent affected customers by gender . He diffused a subtle smell of vanilla in the women's department and rose maroc (a spicy, honeylike fragrance that had tested well with guys) in the men's. The results were astonishing. When he examined the cash-register tapes, he found that receipts almost doubled on the days when scent was used. However, if he reversed the scents, diffusing vanilla with the men, rose maroc with the women, customers spent less than average. "You can't just use a pleasant scent and expect it to work," he says. "It has to be congruent." Similarly, he says, the fragrance has to make sense with the product or environment it's supposed to enhance: "When you go into Starbucks, you don't expect to smell lemon-scented Pledge."

In my lectures, I go into the writing of Diane Ackerman, in her A Natural History of the Senses:—

Smell is the most direct of all senses. When the olfactory bulb detects something — during eating, sex, an emotional encounter, a stroll through the park — it signals the cerebral cortex and sends a message straight into the limbic system, a mysterious, ancient, and intensely emotional section of our brain in which we feel, lust, and invent. Unlike the other senses, smell needs no interpreter. The effect is immediate and undiluted by language, thought, or translation. A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic because it triggers powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them. What you see and hear may quickly fade into the compost heap of short-term memory, but, as Edwin T. Morris points out in Fragrance, "there is almost no short-term memory with odours." It's all long term. This is why perfumes and incense are so powerful in magical rites and operations, as they are not polluted by the control mechanisms of language from memory and affect us on the genetic, primal level, tapping a power mostly long forgotten. A connection to nature and the primal forces of creation.

Early in our evolution we didn't travel for pleasure, only for food, and smell was essential. Many forms of sea life must sit and wait for food to brush up against them or stray within their tentacled grasp. But, guided by smell, we became nomads who could go out and search for food, hunt it, even choose what we had a hankering for. In our early, fishier version of humankind, we also used smell to find a mate or detect the arrival of a barracuda. And it was an invaluable tester, allowing us to prevent something poisonous from entering our mouths and the delicate, closed systems of our bodies. Smell was the first of our senses, and it was so successful that in time the small lump of olfactory tissue atop the nerve cord grew into a brain. Our cerebral hemispheres were originally buds from the olfactory stalks. We think because we smelled.

Ambidextrous Magazine, Stanford d.school

As I am in attempts to explore (in my own mind) ideas relevant and belonging to both esotericism and design, so has Stanford d.school gone and created a relevant magazine dealing with cross-disciplinary design, called Ambidextrous.

Perhaps in the coming months they will explore beyond just philosophy and psychology and someone may marry metaphysics with design? Perhaps I should get off my ass, do some research, and write a piece?

Anyone in the U.S. that cares to send me a copy, please do! Subscriptions are not currently available internationally. :-(
Ambidextrous Magazine is the design journal of the nascent Stanford d.school. It is a magazine for the wider design community, which includes engineers and ethnographers, psychologists and philosophers. Rather than focusing on promoting product, Ambidextrous exposes the people and processes involved in design.

Ambidextrous is a forum for the cross-disciplinary, cross-market community of people with an academic, professional and personal interest in design. The magazine is geared toward high subscriber participation and interaction. It is expressly designed to be informal, irreverent, and fun to read.

Margot Quan Knight

My roommate recently told me her stepfather is very concerned about her living with a "devil worshiper," and though she finds it all very humorous, it's something I've had to learn to live with most of my life. When I was younger I used to think it was funny that people had such a strong reaction to my involvement in the occult. Now I've dealt with the issues of censure, prejudice, and fear. In all regards, I wish I wouldn't attract such a negative view — even though my own personal disposition may be a bit wry and/or impish — my spirituality shouldn't evoke such a fear, distrust, and even hatried in people. My roommate's mother quite likes me, and she liked to compliment my design work when we met, but her stepfather was quiet and now I know why.

On that note, I have always had a huge fascination for why things rub us the wrong way. As a child, I used to thoroughly enjoy the works of such macabre artists like Clive Barker and HR Giger. As I grew older I pursued the subtler quirks and other elements that were the cause of distress among people: such as Diana Thorneycroft, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Chris Cunningham.

Just this morning I came across a nice interview on Pixelsurgeon with photographic artist Margot Quan Knight, where she tweaks reality to throw enough of a monkeywrench into perspective to throw people off and get her message across.

It kind of resonates with the song that came up earlier too: "Karsey Street," by Poison the Well. In it, they sample Kurtz (Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) speaking of horror: I've seen horrors… horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.