31 August 2005

Pyrrho’s Three Questions

via Tim Boucher
This is so relevant to me in my little Occult Design world that I need to save myself the trouble of typing by copy-and-pasting this directly from Tim's site. He is a brilliant and beautiful fellow, that Tim:—
I wrote about philosophical skepticism elsewhere, but I just noticed this great summation of it’s founder Pyrrho’s basic approach to thinking:
The proper course of the sage, said Pyrrho, is to ask himself three questions. Firstly we must ask what things are and how they are constituted. Secondly, we ask how we are related to these things. Thirdly, we ask what ought to be our attitude towards them. As to what things are, we can only answer that we know nothing. We only know how things appear to us, but of their inner substance we are ignorant. The same thing appears differently to different people, and therefore it is impossible to know which opinion is right. The diversity of opinion among the wise, as well as among the vulgar, proves this. To every assertion the contradictory assertion can be opposed with equally good grounds, and whatever my opinion, the contrary opinion is believed by somebody else who is quite as clever and competent to judge as I am. Opinion we may have, but certainty and knowledge are impossible. Hence our attitude to things (the third question), ought to be complete suspense of judgment. We can be certain of nothing, not even of the most trivial assertions.

A lot of people probably quail before the idea that we can’t ever really know anything. But the way I read Pyrrho’s philosophy is that either we can or can’t know anything for certain. But that’s not important. What is important is that it doesn’t matter. Once we stop worrying about who’s right and who’s wrong, and stop living life through an exclusively intellectual lens, we’ll experience a sense of peace and freedom.

ps — In a short while, I will be conducting an interview of Tim Boucher for the pleasure of me, myself, and I, as well as the mad legions of fans and devout worshipers he's developed online. I am mostly interested in his personal life, but he said no-no to that, so instead we'll be talking over some… stuff. I like stuff.

Can products have soul?

Michael Surtees, president of the Alberta North chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), has an interview with Halifax artist Jennifer Romita. The interview is in regards to a recent discussion that took place on the GDC listserv regarding depression, medication, and feelings that everyday people go through in light of the actions of Rick Tharp. (It's believed that Tharp committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. While not familiar with him before the event made the news, his loss is being mourned by many.)
MS: Can products have soul?

JR: No. This is one of the reasons we have branding. Some people believe they identify more with their favorite brands than with their own families or friends. I think people try to attribute soul-like qualities to products so they'll stand out in a saturated marketplace but in the end they are just products regardless of how the branding makes one feel. All I want is a product that does what it's supposed to when I need it.

I consider myself lucky to be trained in the area of visual communication because it's instinctive for me to pick apart everything in front of me on a store shelf. Of course my design training is a double-edged sword because I am sometimes charged with an advertising campaign to promote such things but since I primarily freelance I have considerable influence in the ethical direction of my work. In the end, I don't think branding is all bad but it is changing the landscape of our value systems and priorities in very big ways.

This is interesting, in that I agree from a design standpoint, yet am forced to half-disagree from a magical standpoint. (Do I ever feel uncomfortable using the word "magic.")

I am of the opinion that in our manifest realm — of which I am wont to refer to it as intersubjective, because it rings of a fractal metaphor… and I read about it somewhere — in our manifest realm, that only human beings have souls. And even then there is quite a bit of debate in esoteric circles regarding whether all humans have an active, conscious soul or if they're (sorry to use the cliché) more akin to robots, entrained to follow patterns and reactions to algorithms accumulated over their lives in which the emotion fear prevents them from exploring other courses in which to explore deeper meaning to life.

So no, in that regard, products, objects, goldfish, and, in my fractured opinion, even many people may not have a soul. They all, of course, embody the spirit of the ineffable, but until consciousness permits they are part of a cybernetic, reactionary system in which they have no control. Waking up, as it's referred to, is the act of becoming conscientious of one's limitations, exploring means by which to overcome those limitations, and experiencing shards of "divinity" through the wisdom garnered by becoming a tool of potentiality, a master of their own life.

On the other hand, and this is beginning to really embody what I want to work with on this blog, it is indeed possible to imbue or stain an object or beast (perhaps even of the human variety, if they're dead asleep) with a shard of your own soul. By doing so, you grant life upon an aspect of your own observer-created universe and, if you're learned, you can program it with a sort of occult algorithm in which to carry out tasks — objective, abstract, or otherwise.

These essences are plopped down in the myth and folklore of history (from the Jewish lore of the golem to the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings), and are today know by a variety of contemporary occult names, of which the Chaos Matrix has a listing of articles dealing with such: sigils, servitors, egregores, and godforms. Mark Defrates (aka Marik), an online writer of magical works, has much deeper looks into this field with two decent papers which I'd like to expound on at a later date:

Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms, Part I: Sigils
Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms, Part II: Servitors

A debate about consciousness could rage on for eternity. But if anyone cares to take the time before I get there myself, the knowledge is there. And trust me when I say the practice of creating sigils is very simple, then any reader here shouldn't have any hesitation about trying it out at least once. However, may I suggest that you begin by casting a sigil for something that won't conflict with the desires of your ego. The ego likes to muck about with one's magic. Even Marik, in the above essays, eschews the concepts of soul in favour of a postmodern interpretation of experience and reality. All I can offer from a personal point of view that there is most definitely a capacity for consciousness beyond that of the ego, but it requires a concentrated/relaxed mind to pierce its quiet subtleties. Few people spend any amount of time being lucid in this state of "quiet mind."

Marik obviously explores Austin Osman Spare, the artist sorcerer whom is responsible for most of today's current chaos magic paradigm:—
Spare developed a method of sigilising quite unique in the history of magick. He maintained that "Belief is the fall from the Absolute." In other words, belief as usually practised, was self-defeating because "we are not free to believe...however much we so desire, having conflicting ideas from first exhaust." The mind, conditioned by its cultural context, the universal consensual belief structure, voices from childhood, and many environmental factors, cannot allow pure belief, but always muddies the intention of the magician. Spare's genius was to develop a technique that took this into account and subverted the discursive mind. He said "sigils are the art of believing; my invention for making belief organic, ergo, true belief." He maintained that "belief, to be true, must be organic and sub-conscious," that in order for the magickal desire to be effective, it must become organic, and "can only become organic at a time of vacuity, and by giving it (Sigil) form."

Spare stressed not only that the sigil must be implanted in the sub-consciousness at the moment of vacuity, but that afterwards the magician must strive to forget the sigil and the desire from which the sigil was crafted. He wrote

"When conscious of the Sigil form (any time but the Magical) it should be repressed, a deliberate striving to forget it, by this it is active and dominates at the unconscious period, its form nourishes and allows it to become attached to the sub-consciousness and become organic, that accomplished, is its reality and realization."

Also on this note, I have been reading through some of the editorials published in the Swiss design book Super: Welcome to Graphic Wonderland (which wasn't worth what I paid for it, but pretty). Tirdad Zolghadr writes of his experience sitting in antipasto bar with two graphic designers; here is an excerpt of their conversation:—
«The letter bears no intrinsic relation to the sound it refers to,» says one of them.

«In other words,» he adds, «there is nothing that makes the sound A resemble the letter A, in any way.» … «The letter is abstract form.»

The Jewish kabbalists insisted that not only the words, but also the very letters of the Holy Scriptures were fragments of an infinite network of potential interpretations. Every textual unit was precious, containing, as they liked to put it, the Breath of Life, and every letter was numbered, with the various textual fragments adding up to ever new sums and subtotals cross-referring to one another in an unbounded melange of meaning. Here, much as the letter itself was God-given, its reading and significance was open.

«Arguably the opposite of what is happening today.» says the designer who has spoken last. «People can sense that form is a historical construct, but it remains a mere support, a crutch, a prosthesis for content. And content,» he adds, «content is secured and guarded by sementic dogma. By hermeneutic dogma.» He looks down, scrutinizing his snow-white Lacoste running shoes. He sighs. «By pop semantics and hermeneutic faith,» he says, sadly shaking his head.

This can go on for a long time, so I am happy to have it here. I believe that over time my thoughts will become much more lucid as I string theory and practice together between the two fields of design and magic. For now, I'll end this and leave anyone interested with an interesting look at piece on professionally casting sigils for clients: "Smuggling Sigils Across," by Aerosol.

Gnostics and liberals are bad people

via Enormous Fictions

Web typography

I came across Mike Davidson via New York-based Behavior, the badasses behind the redesign of The Onion's online edition. (They're also responsible for the AIGA Forums and some sexy work for HBO.) Anyhow, Behavior made use of Davidson's sIFR (aka Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), technology which provides the nice looking custom type headlines you see on sites like this one, Nike, ABCNews, Aston Martin, and others.

(Davidson wasn't alone, he and Mark Wubben worked along with a invaluable stable of beta testers, supporters, and educators like Stephanie Sullivan and Danilo Celic of Community MX, worked to completely rebuilb a DOM replacement method originally conceived by Shaun Inman.)

What sIFR allows one to do is deliver your preferred typefaces to viewers, particularly useful for maintaining consistency across print and www. It's a no-no for entire pages of copy, paragraphs, et al., and instead suggested for headlines, pull quotes, and other small swaths of text. In other words, it is for display type — type which accents the rest of the page. Body copy should remain browser text.
How it works

sIFR is meant to replace short passages of plain browser text with text rendered in your typeface of choice, regardless of whether or not your users have that font installed on their systems. It accomplishes this by using a combination of javascript, CSS, and Flash. Here is the entire process:

  1. A normal (X)HTML page is loaded into the browser.

  2. A javascript function is run which first checks that Flash is installed and then looks for whatever tags, ids, or classes you designate.

  3. If Flash isn't installed (or obviously if javascript is turned off), the (X)HTML page displays as normal and nothing further occurs. If Flash is installed, javascript traverses through the source of your page measuring each element you've designated as something you'd like "sIFRed".

  4. Once measured, the script creates Flash movies of the same dimensions and overlays them on top of the original elements, pumping the original browser text in as a Flash variable.

  5. Actionscript inside of each Flash file then draws that text in your chosen typeface at a 6 point size and scales it up until it fits snugly inside the Flash movie.

For more info, check the above links or here: Introducing sIFR: The Healthy Alternative to Browser Text.

30 August 2005

Name design

Perusing Snark Hunting, I came across an interesting site called Wordlab, which tags itself as offering "free naming and branding consultants and resources." It's a neat look at how the naming process works and has people playing with language in a way more akin to corporate poetry. Under their Name Your Band pop-up tool, my favourite was The Bum Chums. If I had a band, I would so name it that.

From there, I went to Igor International, a naming & branding agency out of San Francisco, California. Now while Wordlab may be fine for the upstart and small business, I'd suggest it over a professional naming agency about as quickly as I'd suggest buying a stock logomark over consulting and working with professional graphic designers.

Check out Igor's site, as it's very forthcoming with helpful information about their process and they offer a complimentary 74-page PDF on their firm's theory and practice towards naming and branding, entitled Building the Perfect Beast: The Igor Naming Guide to Creating Product and Company Names.

ps — Tim, perhaps this can aid you in your identity crisis there?

Flying Spaghetti Monster

via Wordlab
Pastafarians at veganza.org want the Kansas State Board of Education to teach Flying Spaghetti Monsterism as one of the theories of Intelligent Design. But it's unclear which of the various doctrines of this new religion would appeal to the good taste of the Kansas community.
There is a branch of FSM calling itself the Reformed Church of Alfredo, which anoints its members with various sauces according to the appropriate holy day. Alfredans believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster has a nemesis called the Baked Ziti Beast, which takes all that is good and noodly and turns it into a sordid, dry, casserole-like affair. Alfredans are taught to avoid ziti and its relatives penne and mostaccoli in all their forms.

Tom Cruise has not weighed in.

29 August 2005

Conclave Obscurum

I don't even recall how the hell I came across this Russian site, Conclave Obscurum, but he may be the occult design equivalent of me over there. Lots of occult images and symbols being used on his blog. And this is one of the most gorgeous sites I've come across in a while!

Design couture

Maziar Raein has posted an interested entry on Limited Language, dealing with how most designers are hacks in that they are not innovating in as much as they're replicating. I actually touched on this for a client, quoting Yves Saint Laurent in their marketing material as saying that "fashions fade, style is eternal." He has some brilliant quotes, and I will be definitely exploring this in the future on this site as I collect my notes on mask magic and apply them to haute couture and contemporary fashion.

Yves Saint Laurent is also well known for saying "A designer who is not also a couturier, who hasn't learned the most refined mysteries of physically creating his models, is like a sculptor who gives his drawings to another man, an artisan, to accomplish."

In this regard, graphic design's "models" are communication, semantics, and, if grasped, semiotics. Wikipedia states that:
Graphic design is the applied art of arranging image and text to communicate a message. It may be applied in any media, such as print, digital media, motion pictures, animation, product decoration, packaging, and Information_signs. Graphic design as a practice can be traced back to the origin of the written word, but only in the late 19th century did it become identified as a separate entity.

The fundamental principles of design are alignment, balance, color, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, proportion, proximity, repetition, rhythm, texture, unity, and white space.

Those listed principles are our tools, just as a seamstress utilises her thread and needle, and as a mason makes use of brick and mortar. I've tried touching on this before in entries (too lazy to look for them… wait no, here is one of many) and on Tim Boucher's site, too, I'm sure. Raein has put enough of a spin on this to allow me to look at it from yet a slightly different angle, yet again. My thinking on this was also inspired by watching My Architect, on Louis I. Khan, and how people would claim that he had managed to capture a greatness in his buildings, in his architectural designs. That "God was in the details," as someone said in regards to his work.

We are to work with context. If a designer is not capable of shifting context and learning to use context as just another principle, another tool, then they are not truly of the craft. It's easy to lay something out, but to capture that essence that YVS speaks of, the spirit that Raein may be looking for, this is our craft. We breathe life into the lifeless. And by doing so, we look into the face of the ineffable — of G@D? — in that we are magicians of a different order. By sculpting context, we can entrain users to imbue our design with life. If following at all by quantum mechanics or some fancy-schmancy sounding field like phenomenological existentialism, really any field to do with intersubjective observer-created realities, by the power to imbue the design with the life that others are led to lend it, do we not encroach closer and closer to the field of sorcery and shamanism?

In Raein's post, he speaks of a lecture he went to decades ago where Judith Williamson, of Decoding Advertising (1978) fame, "accuses David Simpson of deception and exploiting this group of people. In [his] notes from the lecture [Raein has] the gist of her point; [his] notes say 'She accuses him of deception. She insinuates that it is better to leave people in a deluded state rather than to expose them to a hoax and test their beliefs.' There [his] notes dwindle out. [He stopped] writing and start spluttering with disbelief at her assertions." (The lecture was a conference on Patterns of Belief in a Scientific Age held by the Institute for Cultural Research in London.)

Raein goes on to say:—
We are constantly attempting to define and distinguish ourselves from ‘those others’. The need to witness a UFO or the fantasy of being a character in a film is analogous to the need to be the hero of that story which is our own life. We recount to ourselves the implausible narratives that fulfil our need for the extraordinary. A storyline that demands all the external trappings of costume, accessories and is accompanied by a sound track kindly provided by a little friendly iPod.

The perpetrator of this illusion is the designer, be they fashion, product or graphic designer. Most designers have given up a genuine curiosity for the world around them and don’t even attempt to respond in a meaningful and poignant way to the issues facing them. Instead, they submissively reach for the latest contribution from the trend machine and adjust their ‘design’ by styling it. There are only a minority of designers who actually design, most of them have become stylists.

To be able to alter the world one has to be able to alter oneself. To be transformed through the touchstone of the wondrous insight is the consequence of a deep spiritual need. When life offers us this challenges we often fail to rise to the occasion and, faced with this miserable shortcoming in our character, we turn to the world for an answer.

He ends his post with "I am full of contradictions. I know I am deluded — especially by style — and even knowing this truth, it has not set me free."

This is a sort of wonderful moment for me in that I know I am not alone in my pursuit here and that there is, indeed, a way to approach the spiritual in design. Or perhaps this is the equivalent of a couturier and a seamstress? (WTF is the masculine version of "seamstress"?) I have long thought and wanted to shout out the difference between a graphic designer and a desktop publisher, but generally bite my tongue. Where do I fit? I dunno, I am still a troublemaker in my mind, but all in time as knowledge + experience = wisdom.

Trent, from Swingers, performs an exorcism

by Adam J. Silver, from McSweeney's

Baby, this is money. I'm swaying my big bear claws and dousing my magic demon potion on a brutal-looking baby who likes to party. She's just like this green goblin, and I've got her tied to the bedposts. I'm looking at my pagan potion and I'm thinking to myself, "How do I kill this goblin?"

Her head is doing twirlie-whirlies and she's smiling at how money I am. You know it's not so much me as it is the priestly garb I'm wearing. She's a freaky baby that is digging the outfit. I'm performing an exorcism in Georgetown, so guys like me gotta kick it old-school. And if that means I gotta wear all black with a touch of white, then so be it.

Fuck me, you say? Ahh-hahaha-ha-ha, you're right you want to fuck me, baby. Oh, you wanna play devil-worshiper games? We can play devil-worshiper games. I can be Damien. Look at this face. OK, this is your little mischievous, trouble-making Damien. Watch me pout. See this face? It's hurt, but it's not really hurt. It's thinking devious thoughts. It's thinking about deviant things to do to your filthy potty mouth.

My mother is a cocksucker ass-eating whore? I don't think you're qualified to be making those kind of observations, darling. No, I don't think you are. But here, take some more evil-cleansing potion, baby.

I'm doing my thing with the thing and whoa ... some kind of crazy devil-baby force pushes me through a window and I'm tumbling down this steep slope of steps. OK, fine, I'm the asshole? Yeah? I would never party with a demon child anyway. I'm out.

Waiting is another world

Not that I wasn't busy enough, but for the past many years I also worked as a waiter. I've worked in the low-end restaurants, such as those being mocked in the upcoming flic with Ryan Reynolds, Waiting, as well as fine dining, chophouses, and (yay!) just this weekend was my last shift. I am now free of the service industry! I still aid my roommate with private catering parties, but this is more high-end stuff that, so far, has been mostly for judges and lawyers. Aside from being one of the funnest industries to work in (all the sex, drugs, booze, and partying you can shake a stick at — that is, unless you're kitchen staff), and one thing we learn is the "server's smile." Essentially, we're all lying to you. We may even be genuinely friendly, but the reality we're presenting to you is so rehearsed, masterered, that I thank the gods for getting me into the industry. You learn fast how to flirt, apologise, thank, and, in effect, you learn to become a professional actor. We've had fights break out in fine dining establishments, dealt with psychos, had chairs thrown at us, been yelled at, complained of, and at the end of the day we walk out victorious and adapted to all sorts of events, as all this diverse human behaviour stops bothering us.

On Marginal Revolution, here are some statistics regarding tipping, (aka gratuity up here in Canada):
1. Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip.

2. Hotel bellboys can double the size of their tips, on average, by showing guests how the TV and air conditioning work.

3. Tipping is less prevalent in countries where unease about inequality is especially strong.

4. The more a culture values status and prestige, the more likely that culture will use tipping to reward service.

5. Tips are higher in sunny weather.

6. Servers can increase their tips by giving their names to customers, squatting next to tables, touching their customers, and giving their customers after-dinner mints. (query: how do lap dances fit into this equation?)

7. Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress's tips by 18 percent but decreases a waiter's tips by 9 percent.

8. In one study, waitresses increased their tips by 17 percent by wearing flowers in their hair. In general it pays to look distinctive albeit not freaky.

Also, in Fight Club, it was an ingenius stroke to include Tyler Durden as a waiter. In an industry where so much trust is placed on, essentially, all-night party people — people generally very well-educated in fashion, style, marketing savvy, culture, art, and what not — it is a industry that has mastered and uses daily manipulation. There is a restaurant called Earls that was started here in Edmonton in 1982, and has successfully grown to over 50 establishments in Western Canada, Arizona, and Colorado. The son of Earl Fuller, the man who started it all, is now responible for starting the successor to Earls fame: Joey Tomato's Mediterranean Grill. The food is decent enough, higher-end than most of your average casual dining. They constantly update themselves to be on top of trends. But their secret to success? Sex.

These places were built on extremely attractive female staff. Of the hottest girls in Western Canada, I wouldn't be surprised if more than half of them have all, at one time or another, worked at one of these restaurants. I would figure they're trained to seduce the customers (or hired for their ability to do so). They wear sexy clothing. And they are fucking hot, and in the case of Joey Tomato's recently, only just floating on the cusp of being legal in most cases.

Also, if you're not attractive, sexual, and a partier, you don't generally fit into the "Earls experience." It's widely known in the service industry that you got the shittiest shifts if you weren't fucking somebody at Earls, most usually management. Cocaine binges in the office. My friend, back when he bartended at Earls years ago, actually fucked his girlfriend in the office at Earls while I was there with him. I don't know how many of those tables got stains on them from staff, and customers are totally unaware that this is going on.

A reality upon another reality. The equivalent of a sexual Fight Club going on behind people's backs. In a way, it sort of reminds me of any well-structured subculture or counterculture. In essence, you have a very large group of people, all in the same general age group (18–34), which go through trauma together on a weekly basis (working weekends and taking it up the ass when you get crushed at dinner time), and everyone needs to be there to support one another. If one person drops the ball in a restaurant, the whole thing is capable of crashing down. And it does. More times than I can count I've seen staff break down and cry, hiding in the back while someone tries to coo them back to stability.

This is somewhat akin to some of the more peculiar cult branding strategies out there, as well as secret societies in which you are placed in a position where you are outside of knowledge and experience, and through an initiation — ofen traumatic in nature; to the initiate, at least — a psychological bond of family is created. Add a dose of sexuality in there and you have the makings of one hell of an pseudo-aristocratic power party going on. Definitely reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut in so many ways, or even Story of O in that restaurant staff become so immune to the power trips and attitudes of patrons, as O transcended the control of her masters via their control of her.

Oh, how I'm going to miss it…

28 August 2005

David Cronenberg interview in Toro

As I am working now to keep a more narrow focus on this site to pertain with, obviously, design, the occult, and a merging of principles from the two, I personally figure anything to do with director David Cronenberg will be pertinent in both cases.

For those of you living in my pants for the past few decades, "David Paul Cronenberg (born March 16, 1943 in Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian horror and science fiction film director, who has also worked as an actor. He is famous for creating the genre of 'body horror,' exploring people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the psychological is typically intertwined with the physical."

The new issue of Toro has an interview (link) with him and he's always been a figure of inspiration, à la Philip K. Dick, into the deconstruction of reality and the human condition. Here's a brief passage:—
Let's get back to [Cronenberg's new film] A History of Violence. It's about a man who has gone from a life of murder and practised violence — like you, he can kill a man with his bare hands — to running a restaurant in a small town; he's got a wife, a teenage son. All that dark stuff is behind him. Now, some critics would say that people don't change, that a bully in grade four turns into an adult bully, that an asshole in high school is still an asshole at fifty.

I know what you're talking about, but look at my children, for example. They surprised me. They have not turned out the way I thought they would at all. They changed while they were growing up. And if you thought you ever knew anybody, you thought you knew your kids, much more so than even your wife. But I also have the existentialist approach, which is that identity is a created thing. It's a willed and created thing, not just a given.

Really?

I can feel the assembly of my personality as I wake up each day.

But your mother tongue is still going to be English tomorrow morning. Your tastes in food and music and sex are going to be the same. How is that an assembled thing?

I'm choosing to assemble myself the same way. I could choose to assemble myself a different way. I think there are instances when people do that. Don't you ever find yourself saying occasionally, "God, he's really changed"?

I don't want to pry into your personal life but let me ask you this: Have you changed in any substantial way since you were in your twenties?

No. But that's because I like me.

5 MUST-SEE CRONENBERG FILMS
1. Shivers (1975)
A gory and strangely erotic film about a parasitic worm that transforms the residents of a bland Montreal high-rise into priapic zombies. Lovely final shot as the building itself excretes larvae-like cars to go forth and spread havoc.

2. The Brood (1979)
Imagine giving birth to creatures who act out your rage on the people who have provoked it — a wonderfully nasty film with killers in little snowsuits. Watch for a chilling scene where one of them clasps a banister with bloody fingers and scuttles away. Reviled by critics who should have known better.

3. The Dead Zone (1983)
Cronenberg is one of the few directors to understand that Christopher Walken has more to offer than bizarre diction and weirdness. Here, in an adaptation from Stephen King's book of the same title, Walken plays a life-defeated man with such sadness, such tenderness that you cheer for him even when he's hiding in a church balcony with a loaded rifle.

4. Dead Ringers (1988)
An extraordinarily creepy story about twin gynecologists, one a smirking womanizer, the other a sensitive weakling (both played by Jeremy Irons). What can one say except that when a gynecologist slides into drug addiction and then madness, imagine, for a second, being one of his patients. Note the colour of the gowns in the operating theatre. That's Inquisition red.

5. Crash (1996)
Based on the book by J.G. Ballard, about people who are sexually excited by car accidents and the injuries that result from them. Crash appalled many people but won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Chicago critic Roger Ebert got it right when he suggested viewers should substitute their own sexual preferences for those in the movie. Not a film, however, for the faint of heart.

Symbols from the Twilit Grotto Esoteric Archives

While perusing the tattoo journal INKEDBlog, I came across a link to the Twilit Grotto, an archive site of the Western esoteric tradition. This link takes you to a page full of graphics which may inspire both some peculiar, historical design or perhaps for any contemporary workings in which you can't find a particular glyph or symbol.

Pictured here (above) os the Holy Table, used by John Dee. It's been a while since I read any Enochian magic, but it's already inlaid with Enochian glyphs so I presume this came after he transcribed the sorcery down with Edward Kelley.

I wish I could get my hands on translations of all these traditional workings to vector file formats. I don't have the time to do it, personally. I know programmer and occult scholar Donald Tyson had worked on updating many, including the Enochian language and many sigils, to vector files. I have quite enjoyed Tyson's books in the past; his New Millennium Magic, now out of print, was one of the better books I'd read on the subject. I wonder if he'd be willing to share? It does not look as though he has a site up anymore, but this is the brief entry Wikipedia has on him (while on the topic of vector files and Enochian):—
Donald Tyson is an author of modern occult literature who has built a highly practical system of magic which delves into complex areas of the occult such as Enochian magic and sexual union with spirits.

Skeletal systems of cartoon characters

Check out all 22 of Michael Paulus's character studies here



26 August 2005

Overview of experience design companies

I've been getting really into the stuff going on in experience design lately, which was probably spurred by my interest in alternate reality games earlier this year and the time I spent researching the Melbourne phenomenon known as neurocam.

I just lifted this list from Putting people first, more so I remember to look into them all in time and have it readily accessible. I also snagged his links to add to the side of my own here so I can sieve through them over time.

The list of experience design companies is growing longer and longer, so Mark Vanderbeeken organised it differently to include location information (most UX companies are US-based still):—
Adaptive Path, San Francisco, CA, USA
Antenna Design, New York, NY, USA | Founded by Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger
Brand Experience Lab, New York, NY, USA | The company of David Polinchock
Creative Good, New York, NY, USA | Mark Hurst's company
Customer Passion, New York, NY, USA | Founded by Joseph Conrad Fletcher
ESI Design, New York, NY, USA | The company of Edwin Schlossberg
Experience People, West Chester, OH, USA
Experience Research, UK | The company of Richard Linington
Experientia, Turin, Italy | Mark Vanderbeeken, Pierpaolo Perotto, Michele Visciola, Jan-Christoph Zoels
Humanize Technology, Portland, OR, USA | The company of Lynne Duddy
Hydrant, San Francisco, CA, USA | Founded by Alder Yarrow
IDEO, USA, UK, Germany & Asia | Founded by David Kelley and Bill Moggridge
Interpix Design, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada | Founded by Murray Sanders
Nathan.com, CA, USA | The influential experience strategist Nathan Shedroff
New Experience, London, UK | Founded by Simon Rubens
OMC Group, Winslow, Buckingham, UK | Chris Lawer's company
Optic Experience Design, UK (?)
Spirit Softworks, Boulder Creek, CA, USA | Founded by Pabini Gabriel-Petit and Richard Petit
Strategic Horizons, Aurora, OH, USA | The company of Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore
Triibe, Sunland, CA, USA | A brand experience consultancy
True Matter, Columbia, SC, USA
Unlimited Options, Minneapolis, MN, USA | Founded by Kyle Coolbroth
Weatherhead Design, Seattle, WA, USA | Founded by Andrea Weatherhead, Diane Andolsek and Jim Dixon

Synchronicity in the age of infoze

I really need to pick up some articles or books on algorithms. What a beautiful science it is.

While checking out "glitch art" on Flickr, I came across this photo set entitled "Flickr coincidences." I'd be interested to see how algorithms and synchronicity study come together in the coming years. Not so much as déjà vu being a "glitch in the Matrix," as it were, but I like the idea of algorithms becoming the foundation for a new form of communication in which we can deconstruct symbols down to their semiotic roots, and begin to map out the synchronous ties that bind:—
Synchronicity is a word created by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the alignment of "universal forces" with the life experiences of an individual. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidences were not merely due to chance, but instead reflected the creation of an event or circumstance by the "co-inciding" or alignment of such forces1. The process of becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces is what Jung labeled "individuation." Jung said that an individuated person would actually shape events around them through the communication of their consciousness with the collective unconscious2.

Jung spoke of synchronicity as being an "acausal connecting principle" (ie. a pattern of connection that is not explained by causality).

Then add a little pinch of…
In mathematics and computer science an algorithm (the word is derived from the name of the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi) is a finite set of well-defined instructions for accomplishing some task which, given an initial state, will terminate in a corresponding recognizable end-state (contrast with heuristic). Algorithms can be implemented by computer programs, although often in restricted forms; mistakes in implementation and limitations of the computer can prevent a computer program from correctly executing its intended algorithm.

The concept of an algorithm is often illustrated by the example of a recipe, although many algorithms are much more complex; algorithms often have steps that repeat (iterate) or require decisions (such as logic or comparison) until the task is completed. Correctly performing an algorithm will not solve a problem if the algorithm is flawed or not appropriate to the problem. For example, a hypothetical algorithm for making a potato salad will fail if there are no potatoes present, even if all the motions of preparing the salad are performed as if the potatoes were there.

Different algorithms may complete the same task with a different set of instructions in more or less time, space, or effort than others. For example, given two different recipes for making potato salad, one may have peel the potato before boil the potato while the other presents the steps in the reverse order, yet they both call for these steps to be repeated for all potatoes and end when the potato salad is ready to be eaten.

Certain countries, such as the USA, controversially allow some algorithms to be patented, provided a physical embodiment is possible (for example, a multiplication algorithm may be embodied in the arithmetic unit of a microprocessor).

Here Be Dragons

From the white paper: "[Here Be Dragons is] an experiment in using emergent and genetic algorithms in generating virtual spaces. Through use of digital “genes”, Lindenmeyer (“L”) Systems, cellular automata and other procedural methods, users can navigate and interact with a world containing architecture and creatures that had no direct human designer. The landscapes and creatures use very similar algorithms, helping to create a coherency often lacking in less sophisticated pre-generated spaces. Procedural content itself offers a great amount of potential and interest in areas from simulation to game design."

Here Be Dragons has been doing the rounds online, mostly popping up on design and information architecture blogs. I've been very interested in it, but haven't really been able to put it into any sort of obvious relation to the occult or design. I mean, the elements are there, but my thoughts are still working with it in terms of abstractions. Language is difficult for me sometimes, me thinks.

(Here be Todd Furmanski's blog following Here Be Dragons dev, with more images.)

This experiment definitely has something to do with my last post, though. Teleology coming about in an evolving environment in which no designer is involved. Only algorithms based on nature.

Is this is a zone free of human definition and so-called Gnostic archons, growing on its own? Does this present the architecture for a "region" or interface in which humans can interact with entities beyond our normal sensate spaces? How do we ease an interface unto the "other side" so that we they can meet us in this middleground. Is it even possible?

Fuck yeah, everything is possible. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Who peers back at us from beyond

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how people place their own personal relativity on everything — their environment, other people, random phenomena to take place, et cetera — and I haven't really touched on teleology. If we're to put any amount of faith in the innumerable shamanistic societies that existed prior to today, they (and modern occultism) generally make the claim that there are intelligences beyond our immediate senses, entities that exist beyond our means to directly communicate with them.
Main Entry: te·le·ol·o·gy
Pronunciation: "tel-E-'äl-&-jE, "tEl-
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural -gies
1 a : the study of evidences of design in nature b : a doctrine (as in vitalism) that ends are immanent in nature c : a doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes
2 : the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose
3 : the use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena

There is a Flickr group called FACES that captures man-made items that resemble, obviously, faces. I am not sure if there will be an equivalent for designs in nature, which would more accurately fit the description of teleology, but this'll do for now.

Evolutionary theory fucking despises teleology, for good reason. Now I want to see if I can find any correlations between human projection of interpretation upon the universe — which is, in essence, always open for a new interpretation(?) — and the whole concept that there may be intelligences beyond our normal senses that peer at us from beyond the veil of manifest reality.

I've been having conversations on occult and design sites dealing with the concept of "not seeing the world as it is, but seeing it as we are," and I can see this prevalent in Western thinking and definitely the art world, where I would hope to see doors being opened into realms outside of the capacity for a human to apply their structure of a paradigm or gestalt in order to make some sort of sense of the "reality" being presented to them.

Perhaps this is akin to an "occult art"? It also reminds me of the way Clive Barker made use of the word Art in his Books of the ArtThe Great and Secret Show and Everville.

In Dr Joseph C. Lisiewski's book, Ceremonial Magic & The Power of Evocation, he gives a first-hand account of one of his demonic evocations. Not just any evocation, but one to manifestation. That is the purpose of his book, to bring forth entities from beyond the veil into the manifest for the user to interact with. Or, from a different perspective, to open the lid to the Great Machine and bring forth an interface for the user to access data, symbols, and lessons of a nature alien to everyday thinking. (I won't speculate on the different natures of the data offered by the different hierarchies of beings I've read of.)

EDIT — The initial reason I brought up Lisiewski was because his account describes an entity violently breaching into our world. It's as though its entire essence was searching for particles in which to articulate a form for itself in order to interact with our manifest realm, building for itself a symbolic structure in which to communicate with us and become part of an intersubjective dialogue. This would explain the use of particular parfums in magical rites and other elements, as all matter can be theoretically broken down to vibrational patterns. Of course, I am only a layman, but that's what I understand. Perhaps they're vibrations in accord with the "essence" or disposition of the noncorporeal intelligence?

If beyond the façade of the really real reality that we all bear, if there is a conceptual world undefined. A dreamscape. And the reason humans have feared and censured the occult and sorcery for so long has been because humans are uncomfortable with the notion of reality not being real. We're terrified that it's all just our learned and, mostly, pre-programmed concepts of what to interpret. As I've said before, the more paradigms one can destroy, the freer she or her becomes to interpret and reinterpret.

And is that what it takes to communicate with these intelligences from beyond? Not a context by which to contact them, but a lack of context by which to be free to experience what they have to offer? Lisiewski is adament in his book that demons are not "evil" but that they take on an illusory appearance by which we can interact with them because we so fear the same nature within ourself. They are of chaos and order, purely, and we fear that which is alien to us (the brain acts as a safety mechanism, fight or flight, nightmares, et cetera) and our value over an illusory ego prevents us from learning from them.

It also reminds me of tales I've heard and paintings I've seen of faerie folk and how people would interpret them as actually composed of the twigs, flowers, and what not from the environment in which people saw them. They are a part of the nature beyond human sense, so when they'd make contact the human mind would naturally wrap the elements around them that their incorporeal nature most closely "resembled" or had the nature of. Demons, on the other hand, and beings such as Enochian angels would be of such a disassociated nature to what we interpret as reality that they'd come off as fearsome monsters, and the brain would fight to reject them in almost any manner.

From a whole other perspective, it also reminds me of the Private Jack Bell's narration at the end of Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. Many people disliked the film, but I've always been affected by it in profound ways:—
What is this great evil? How did it steal into the world? From what seed, what root did it spring? Who's doing this? Who's killing us? Robbing us of light and life. Mocking us with the sight of what we might have known. […]

Oh my soul, let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes, look out at the things you've made. All things shining.

It's been my theory for a long time that we can't "return to the Kingdom of Heaven" or reach the Omega Point without all of us returning. Those intelligences beyond the veil that are closely associated with us need us to return, and we need them. But that is for another post entirely.

25 August 2005

New Gnostic wallpaper?

A little while ago, Jordan Stratford dropped some Gnostic desktop wallpapers for us to enjoy, and while I was writing that last entry I received a Flickr message from this woman named Mia. Other than falling in love at first sight, this stands out as definitely being the way I'd go in approaching my own personal "spiritual" wallpaper. Unfortunately, I am just too busy right now.

Photocopier fractals

I found a link to the portfolio of Noah T. Vawter via the Hi-Res! blog. Vawter states, "In Heinz-Otto Peitgen et al's The Science of Fractal Images, a theoretical method of generating fractals is described using a photocopier. It's more than a useful way to think about them, however. You can actually make fractals this way."

Definitely worth checking out, if not just to check out the coolest marriage of analogue office fun with Timothy Leary-inspired wallpaper patterns. The whole idea of fractals has aided me tremendously in my own personal symbolic and/or structural understanding of the universe. It's also eased my understanding of paradox, so I can feel at ease in neglecting ego as master. I found myself blabbing on the other day, on the MADE in Edmonton forums after I (surprise!) managed to offend some users by posting the Bonsai kitten website as a legitimate place to purchase good industrial design. Lo and behold, this is Alberta, so people are little behind here.

Greg Ball, a Western Canadian designer, contributor to MoCo Loco, and all-around good guy, started a new thread later on about the limitations of personal limits and boundaries, and how certain situations and "art" can be intentionally designed to explore the boundaries of so-called morals. What I came to realise is that if people don't react as they deem necessary when presented by something with symbolic significance, they must question themselves and/or suffer some sort of emotional or hopefully even an ontological turmoil.

The more turmoils they can go through, the more paradigms they can shift their perspectives and contexts through. The key is being able to maintain a balance between order and chaos, by allowing a new paradigm/order to be built up in the place of chaos to allow the person to gain their footing, catch a breath of fresh air, and see beauty or find love for a time. Then rinse and repeat, throw another turmoil at them, fracture their understandings, and destroy their values. Give them back ground to stand on. It could be the very same "ground" over and over, perhaps, because, interestingly, it'll be their own projection of relevance upon either object or environment that will change with every change in their own paradigm.

The boundaries are the prisons, the walls in which we live. Comfortably, perhaps, but prisoners nonetheless. The more walls you're willing to burst through, the easier it gets until you learn to just be, without barriers, walls… without being a victim of your own reactions to any sort of symbol.

I digress, but back to fractals as they are all these things and more: they are infinite and contained, formed out of chaos and presenting chaos contained within a beautiful form. Not a form as one would first imagine, but more like the algorithm.

And if what we know as conscious thought maintains our grasp of reality, all by the context by which we interpret it, sorta like when you look at a fractal pattern or the clouds in the sky and you interpret meaning out of whatever it is, you project reality. By grasping the power symbols have over us, we begin to seperate ourselves as willing victims.

Or as William S. Burroughs put it, Language is a disease, and consciousness its virus. At least, that's how I think it went. Which raises some more interesting questions about the nature of the virus and consciousness, neither dead nor alive, just algorithms playing havoc with the reality in which it is intertwined.

Rick Mercer has a blog!

Well you can't believe my happiness in learning that Rick Mercer, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, has a blog now. Oh Canadian politics was never so good… nor was interviewing Americans on national tv.
One of Mercer's trademark comedy routines on 22 Minutes was "Talking to Americans" in which he would travel to major American cities and conduct on-the-street interviews with average Americans regarding Canadian politics, the weather, etc., often with hilarious results as the subject's ignorance about Canada was illustrated. One famous example saw Mercer asking Americans' opinion about the alleged decision by the Parliament of Canada to reduce the number of seasons in Canada to only two: Summer and Dark. On another occasion he got the support of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in calling on Canadians to save the "National Igloo."

Mercer made international headlines in 2000 when he pulled a "Talking to Americans" stunt on then-presidental candidate George W. Bush. He successfully got Bush to answer questions about non-existent Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine" (a play on the real politician's name, Jean Chrétien). Bush was not amused at the time, though he would make a joking reference to this incident during his state visit to Canada in 2004. To be fair, Mercer also got Democratic candidate Al Gore to promise to visit the Canadian capital city of Toronto after his election (Canada's capital is Ottawa). (See the article on "Talking to Americans" for more information about this stunt.)


Online, Mercer is holding a contest to comp images of Alberta's own King Ralph. There are some gooders so far, I'll have to give my hand a go at it if time permits. There are Judas Priest Ralph, Wizard of Oz Ralph, and more. Anyone from Canada should find this more than a little amusing.

http://rickmercer.blogspot.com/

Stay

Checking out the new trailers, I came across Marc Forster's new flic, Stay. It first struck me as likeable because Ewan McGregor and Bob Hoskins appear in the trailer, both of whom I respect. then I saw Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling, two of my favourite actors. Interesting and very intelligent cast, so I am putting my money on Stay being one of the year's better films (director Forster also did Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball). Secondly, the beauty is that the director is German-born and the three leads are all of the Crown: a Scot, a Briton, and a Canadian. Gotta throw some hurrah! in there, eh?

Anyhow, after our Rocky Mountain escapade last week, we were listening to some old music that I'd not heard in a while… namely old Offspring, Bloodhound Gang, and other stuff. A few days later I went searching and found Filter's first LP in a box here, Short Bus. I haven't listened to this CD in many years, nor heard any Filter in nearly as long. (I ignored their later albums, none of which were as good as Short Bus.) I've literally been listening to this CD in my car straight for the past week now. Nothing else. Just Filter. It's running through my head. "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was the last song I heard about an hour ago returning from Café Select with Tara. And that was the very same track in the Stay trailer.

Doesn't mean much to anyone, really… but any peculiar synchronicity is worth taking note of. Especially when I had such an odd sense about the trailer while listening to the song and having the emotional tension of McGregor's character running amok in it.

I'll keep my eyes open for any other manifest similarities in the next while. It's no 23, but it'll have to do for me. ;)

24 August 2005

Chaos as a “brand in trouble”

While thinking about the new information-based marketplace and the state of what is oft-referred to as contemporary spirituality and the occult in today's world, I've come to realise one of the major forces I am going to have to approach: chaos and the Western perspective on it.

After watching Bin Laden score one against the United States, and countless years watching the U.S. score countless BOOMS against pretty much any other nation on the planet, we've come to see a huge contingent of the American populace embrace order. They're voting to give up liberties in exchange for security.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for stating, Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

It's peculiar to see that North America — the States in particular, according to their history — was so focused on a state of liberty, and such a dynamic struggle has arisen over the centuries between order and chaos.

And just to clear things up, libertarianism was born of anarchism when it was outlawed in Europe (heh, make a name change and no one seems the wiser today).

Wikipedia states that chaos is:
Chaos derives from the Greek Χαος and typically refers to unpredictability. In the metaphysical sense, it is the opposite of Law and Order: unrestrictive, both creative and destructive.

Χαος did not mean "disorder" in classical-period Ancient Greece. It meant "the primal emptiness, Space". It is derived from the Indo-European root ghn or ghen meaning "gape, be wide open": compare "chasm" (from Greek), and Anglo-Saxon gānian (= "yawn"), geanian, ginian (= "gape wide"); see also Old Norse Ginnunga gap. Due to people misunderstanding early Christian uses of the word, the meaning of the word changed to "disorder". (The Ancient Greek for "disorder" is ταραχη.)

An oft-made assumption is that the metaphysical Chaos is Evil and that Law is Good, however it should be noted these are different concepts, and it is quite possible for Chaos to be Good and Law be Evil. One example of this would be the story of Robin Hood, or the real-life world examples of oppressive governments and dictatorships being thrown off by freedom fighters.

Chaos is also used to refer to the earliest conditions of the universe, the unbounded space and formless matter that existed before the creation of the universe.

Chaos is a friend of people looking for opportunity, change, growth. Order is often used to implement these forward movements. The two are equally important, yet chaos is so often associated with the image pictured above: evil and dark.

Interesting to note that in Chinese mythology, Chaos (Chinese: 浑沌 húndùn) is the name of a god. Chaos is described as having neither eyes nor ears; when he once invited two friends to his palace, the two friends offered to craft two eyes and two ears on his face so that he could hear and see, but he soon died when he finally got his eyes and ears.

Does this imply that as sensate order is imposed, Chaos's natural inclination (its very own order of things) is to give way to an ordered and manifest reality? This could be echoed in the those that practice chaos magic. The senses are so intrinsically tied into the perceptions that drive the ego, and the ego plays such a huge part in our personal myths unfolding as we interact with reality. Or putting it in modern terms, by fucking up the user interface to the matrix, we are free to assemble our own code. We shall have to further develop this analogy in order to help clients to program their own subjective user interfaces. If reality is, in fact, akin to frozen light and this is all a hologram, by taking control of the projector (one's self), you can hack into the matrix and make changes as one would so please.

The beauty of this system is that the more effective the itnernal, subjective user interface becomes by personal programming, the more outside of the ego must be spent "programming" it. Divine inspiration and a commonality to others (empathy?) is found once one's focus is shifted beyond ego.

If I push forth and further develop this brand experiment, chaos must be taken into account. As pragmatic as possible, I want to eschew poetics and give people the tools to analyse the world of order they've build up around themselves. After review and analysis of the paradigm each person has created, they will be given the tools necessary to intuit and understand that there is potential beyond their established order.

The trick will be making a defined and supportive transition from the comforts of one zone of order — their accepted gestalts and relatively easy and peaceful worlds — to the shores of chaos. The tools necessary for them to take their first steps into the waters of potential will be an engineered/designed occult knowledge. Once in the throes of chaos, as their worlds shift, crumble, and remakes itself anew, we can offer no more service.

Upon their arrival into a newly formed paradigm (Robert Anton Wilson's reality tunnels), we can offer them further tools to work with the previous knowledge provided them, combining thus with their newly acquired experience within the realm of potentiality, and allow them to build a new order.

Rinse and repeat until chaos is your bitch and our clients can change orders around as readily as they change their shirts.

EDIT — After reading a quick blurb on Tim Boucher's site, I believe this entry should more accurately entitled "Chaos has a PR problem."

COLOURlovers

Firstly, they spell colour properly.

Great resource for colour pallettes and all sorts of love! They've been around for a long while, which just goes to show how much we can cotinue to learn about on any given day.

http://www.colourlovers.com/

23 August 2005

U of Manchester investigates OBEs with online survey

Psychologists at The University of Manchester are investigating the idea that out-of-body experiences, commonly thought of as paranormal phenomena, may in fact have their roots in how people perceive and experience their own bodies.

Around 10% of the population have an out-of-body experience (OBE) at some time, typically involving a sensation of floating and seeing the physical body from the outside. It isn't uncommon for people to have more than one OBE, and they may also occur as part of the wider near-death experience some report experiencing in life-threatening circumstances.

Despite the high incidence of OBEs however, there is still a great deal scientists don't know about the phenomenon.

The University of Manchester study, funded by the Portuguese Bial Foundation which supports the scientific study of the physical and spiritual nature of Man, will use an online questionnaire on body perceptions and experience to examine differences between those who have and have not experienced OBEs. The survey will also gather details on the different kinds of OBEs people have, to categorise these experiences more precisely.

David Wilde, the researcher running the project, said, "There are several theories as to why people have OBEs. A common link between them is the idea that in certain circumstances the brain somehow loses touch with sensory information coming in from the body. This triggers a series of psychological mechanisms which can lead to someone having an OBE.

"In this study we aim to take the theory a stage further, by looking at the way people see and experience their bodies, and how - through perfectly ordinary psychological processes - these images and experiences may create the impression of seeing their bodies from the outside."

The research team hopes to capture data from at least 500 members of the public from anywhere in the world. Both people who have had an OBE and those who have not are encouraged to take part.

The survey can be seen here and will be linked to from parapsychology websites across the world. It will be available for the next six weeks, and a summary of the results, which should contribute substantially to psychologists' understanding of the phenomenon, will be posted to the site in the autumn.

Link

The future of the market, the future of spirituality

As I research one of two business plans I am partnered to develop over the next two years here, I continuously turn up new and incredible ideas floating around online. And beautifully, I know they won't really hit the populace for years yet. Or until Google makes a new product/service out of it.

In an older piece on Kottke, Harold of Media Nugget suggested:
I'm beginning to think that feeds (and content tagging) should be the starting point, not an offshoot. Until now, our tools have produced web pages then feeds. I'm thinking we need tools that create feeds and then let us combine them into web pages.

I've been thinking of this on my own over the past few weeks. Communities need focal points, whether they be sites such as Flickr or Blogger, or pubs such as the Black Dog Freehouse or, for the international crowd, something like NYC's infamous CBGB. It could be a local café, a library (does anyone go to libraries anymore?), school, whatever.

To be able to streem RSS/Atom feeds into one congruent website, making use of topics or keyword searches to group similar articles together.

This fits in with the new experiment brand I am putzing with. I've dropped my moniker, Fell, and have been working with a few acquaintances of mine to contextualise the approach that would serve people the most. It started out as just a new approach to occult cum open source spirituality, similar to how Jordan Stratford approaches Gnosticism with the Apostolic Johannite Church and this very interesting site I found via Stratford's blog, called faithCommons. But now, especially after reading about the way interactivity is shaping up, the rumours of a Google operating system, desktop web servers, and such radical approaches to handling business as proposed in The Cluetrain Manifesto about mutual relations and freedom to not just work, but do, in the workplace (well, radical years minutes ago online… yet, sadly, it will hardly be considered in Alberta for, perhaps, another few years… or ten).

Obviously, this paints a wonderful new social model for interaction here, which will and is being embraced by the 21st century's movers and shakers, as a total antithesis to the Dilbert generation.

Slowly a spiritual approach is coming to mind, something to merge a similar libertarian wisdom of the self, practical methods of embracing spirituality, and empowering one's life in order to lay down the foundations for the next age of commerce — one that is much more libertarian and market-oriented.

If we take contemporary look at spirituality, no one wants to approach it because it's just not easy enough yet. And, of course, it's not like conquering oneself is easy per se, but the context upon which you offer themselves back to them, that is what can totally change the drive of an individual to better her- or himself. It has to be a part of live overall, not just one filament off to the side of their forward experiential momentum.

I like where the Johannites are going with their approach, but I fear that the stigma of "the Church" may impede on their growth. I also acknowledge that it's a personal journey and that was my primary interest in now getting involved with them (Stratford has a nice little study group getting up here). Also, as the occult opens up eyes, it is so burdened by garbage, egos, and a twisting of perspectives as being right and proprietary. It's as though its mission statement has to do with freedom and providing an open source approach, but proper design has not been implemented in order to create a simple and easy-to-understand approach for new people to get to a level in order to appreciate much of it. They often get muddied with such Loki-esque trickery to keep the mind occupied on matters that prevent one from truly exloring themselves.

Again for anyone that happens to read this, I apologise for any obscurity herein. I am using this partially as a sounding board and mental Post-It board for thoughts as I spurt them out.

But the more that goes into this, the more I can see it growing. If anyone cares to share in my wee comparison: if a Google can slay the Microsoft, perhaps a time for organised religion to get a fundamental (pun intended) lesson in creative commons is not too far off, either? Let's apply some of the theses from the Gospel of The Cluetrain Manifesto to organised religion here for a moment (thanks to Tim for throwing it up on his site recently):

11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

13. What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two.

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them. [Have you seen this Catholic Matrix parody?]

21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside the company.

I could obviously go on here. One last quote I think that hits home what I am thinking about here is the following: 31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"

If we can educate people to approach religion, culture, and essentially in the same manner — eradicate the fear of change — we can inspire individuals to treat experiences just as the online market treats suppliers.

20 August 2005

Jaron Albertin

Picture a swashbuckling pirate riding a woman on a horse, some spooky face morphing next to you in bed, broken mirrored images of a man chasing a woman with a camera, and a bad eighties exercise video—welcome to the mind of Jaron Albertin. The 25-year-old Canadian has been making his way into the video and art world by working with artists like Cut Copy and Circlesquare, as well as making commercials for Diesel. His work is unusual, and at the same time, wildly intense and artistic.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Albertin began working on video editing and solo projects on his own. Whether he was too cool for art school, or maybe just too smart to waste money on it, he is entirely self-taught. After his recent move to Toronto, Albertin teamed up with the guys at Soft Ctitizen to put together some seriously badass art. Since joining with them he has directed videos for Circlesquare, Solvent, Cutcopy, and ASCII Disko.

Albertin uses a distinct style of repetition in most of his work. "I mean if you think about it everything is a repetition. Life in general is a repetition," he says. "I'm very interested in repetition as a form of control in seeing." His video for the ASCII Disko song, "Strassen" took top honors in the Canadian portion of RESFEST 2003. The piece is an 80's montage of spandex and bright colors that proves to be simultaneously hilarious and smart.

Most of his videos produce a dreamlike-high atmosphere. The Cutcopy short "Future" mixes together a kind of broken kaleidoscope feeling with a split screen hand movement. It features a hot chick being chased by a man with a camera, and then engaged in a tug-o-war with herself. Albertin refers to the Diesel ad "My Dark Horse Is Horny" as, "a romantic dream of a heightened reality gone wrong." The ad follows a girl who falls asleep and awakens to find herself on the golden leash of a hairy pirate riding a horse along the beach. Cool shit, eh? Check them out on the website www.softcitizen.com.

When asked if Soft Citizen are a bunch of law-abiding, caring and peaceful Canadians. Albertin replied with, "yeah I guess." It turns out Soft Citizen is a killer Toronto production company working on digital video, film, and animation projects for artists and musicians all over. There mission statement goes a little something like this: "Music videos are our mainstay but our interests nuzzle cozily with short and long form films, gaming, drinking and spending your dad's Air miles on unnecessary jaunts to places we haven't been before."

When it comes down to it Albertin is just a humble cat, who happens to produce sick artwork. If he's not making videos or working on installations, Albertin is usually chillin' in Toronto and checking out hot new bands like Death From Above 1979 and The Arcade Fire. "In the last few years the Toronto scene has been awesome," says Albertin. "Lot's of good bands are popping up and coming through Toronto and Montreal. The art world is cool and there are a good number of galleries around." As for the future Jaron is working on a short film about instant gratification for Soft Citizen and then probably going over Europe to kill the scene in Berlin or something.

Check out www.softcitizen.com and see for yourself.

via Nylon (by Matthew Schlichter)

18 August 2005

What I learned in the Rockies (or “Fuck occultism”)

So I am back from my wee trip. At the last minute, we decided to head west to the Rocky Mountains rather than south to the Badlands. It was raining most of the trip, so we cut it down to two days rather than three.

After barbecuing, drinking, and hiking (not in that order), came Mark's birthday trip: I picked some psilocybin mushrooms from a friend on the way down, and they were some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

A few things of note took place while enjoying the mushrooms, namely my new interpretations of nature, the interesting conversation the spirit of the tree that was decimated by lightning had with me, the long time Mark and I spent rearranging coloured sticks and circles into new contexts, some questions I had for myself (and the coloured sticks later), and then the meditative experiences I had when we came down and were zipped up in our sleeping bags and tent as it rained away outside.

On the topic of nature, and reality in general, I had made some attempts to interact with the layers I could notice early on in my psilocybin experience. Later, I found myself interacting with so many different layers of context while in nature that I all was relative, everything was connected. Obviously, to put any of this into words really can't do it justice. And all of this may or may not have been by the articles on information architecture and sensate spaces, by Andrew Vande Moere (Centre of Design Computing & Cognition, University of Sydney), that I was reading on the way out of Edmonton. Essentially, what I came to observe is that everything is connected, that everything is alive, and it is only as alive as I observe it to be. Any context of life I settle on is just that: particular paradigm that I can enter and leave as easily as any room in any building.

On that note, I was venturing into the forest and came across a tree that had been struck by lightning at some point in the past. Its sap had boiled right out of it and it was blackened, the upper portion of it frayed and fallen down a small cliffside along the Bighorn River. The bark was alive with the same energy I could sense all over, as I have in the past during meditations, and although these mushrooms hadn't produced much visual psychedelia at all, a subtle aspect of the tree wouldn't stop moving and offered me a gift. Nothing material, but something to make up who I am. After some abstract communication between the tree and myself, it made it know than I should return back to camp, along a journey that would eventually change the course of my whole trip — which, in the form of language being used, was synonomous with time, moments, and my life, as well as the walk back to camp. I was very enthusiastic about my time with the tree, so I went back with Mark afterwards but we became more interested in the spider webs we came across in a dark mossy patch somewhere else. Whee!

For a good couple hours of the night, Mark, Jeremy, and I were rearranging these neon glowsticks into different patterns on the ground, in the dark. While Jeremy constructed boats and stick men, Mark and I managed to take it into a sort of Zen glow stick ceremony à la bonsai trees and tea ceremonies. We were fairly lucid, not "all fucked up" as many would presume. With every movement, the whole story the sticks were telling would shift. Out of possibly thousands of combinations we created, some working with more order, some with more chaos, we agreed upon about four or five as being perfectly designed constructs. By that, we had found perfect balance, colour combination, emotion, use of space, weighting, flow & direction, contrast, and not only all of that, but a perfect story that we could both really be at peace with. It was a state of mind that I am interested in re-experiencing now, as we joked that we would have no ieda how to recall any of the processes we were using to make this art the next day, nor could we ever explain it.

Unfortunately, at this point, we'd lost the camera in the tent somewhere (or more like, we hid it from ourselves in the tent so we wouldn't be running around with it in the rain all night). So there are no pictures of our few masterpieces, but I couldn't help but reference the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi (of which, his "Bird of Space" fetched US$27.4 million), Wassily Kandinsky's spiritual concepts in art, the I Ching hexagrams, shamanistic bone throwing, reading tea leaves, and Zen ceremonies. We had left ego behind and floated from one form to another — as expressed by our art that evening — from moment to moment. Such beauty, intuition, and empathy went into each movement of the coloured sticks that we were actively watching a story unfold as we wrote it. But it wasn't all us, depending on how the story would be unfolding and how we felt about it all, we'd allow more chaos in, and sometimes more order. No one was more preferable, it just changed the flow of the story and kept it alive.

After retiring to our sleeping bags, soaked, cold, but unbelievably conntent, Mark and Jeremy proceeded to fall asleep while I tried a light attempt at meditation. I arrived somewhere I've only ever seen in detail before but never had the pleasure of viewing from the point of view of a landscape: It's hard to explain, as though activation of the ājñā (third eye) over the course of the night tuned into a very definite plane upon which to view. I thought it may have been what heaven would look like, the realm of God, something processing countless amounts of information and data — beyond "data" — but with the flow and living expression of something full of energy, life, emotion, but more than all of these things. It was so much pure, and unbridled by any sort of humanistic contexts. Every point contained therein an infinite amount of other points, and they existed in these landscape as fractal nodes continuously turning in on themselves. Their edges defined them, like fractal barnacles sort of, and they would shimmer with every colour. What I interpreted as flowing rivers of matter, with more the movement of magma, but coloured white, green, and gold, would flow up near me, looking at me with millions of little golden eyes upon green skulled faces, upon the flow of this fractal barnacle structure that this realm had. I, too, could sense my entrance as an observer into this place, and that I was composed of the same sort of fractal material, as though matter could exist anywhere, but was tied here within a structure of infinite possibilities. Structure was maintained throughout by intent and will. Emotion was applicable to my interaction with the green skull-faced magma-river of barnacle fractals (that's a mouthful), but not of the egoistic sort that affects human beings so "personally," but more as a driving factor that tells a story of interaction and drives intention and will among this place. No offense could be taken in this place, only story, drive, and the dance of interaction among beings of energy. Which we all are.

I wish I could say it resembles an Alex Grey or HR Giger painting so everyone could know how I saw it, but it didn't. I've seen similar sorts of paintings of such things before, namely on the cover of an old edition of The Occult, by Colin Wilson, but it's long out of print.

Interestingly, I found the notion that this peculiar plane surrounded my and was an interface for my interaction with reality on many fundamental levels. But beyond its façade, the landscape between myself and the edge of the landscape was what made up my reality. Everything beyond was nonexistant, or at least not relative to this plane. (Keep in mind that my interpretation of dimension here is not akin to our understanding of everyday three dimensions.) I existed in this plane, and beyond it was simply infinite possibility, which became more "solidified" out of these fractal points as they began to make up a landscape for me to interact with my story upon. Even though, spatially in waking life, distance can easily be measured, here we are all alone but connected to any possibility that we can figure out.

And on that, I may be coming to be done with the occult. In my eyes, I see people chasing after knowledge without the experience, and that is hollow. It's like reading about sex without fucking. Like daydreaming about the good life without bruising a few knees and losing a few loved ones. I am sick of the trite and meaningless pursuit of the intangible, when, in fact, all people really need to do is learn how to just be. I will continue with my own workings, but I need no more texts or conversations about any of this. I have my own personal wisdoms built up over the past years, and no one can alter or change them now except for me.

We are all on our own journey, interacting with our own contexts and stories. I can only live by example and inspire those to enjoy their lives. I hope I can live up to these expectactions of myself, and if the tree was right, I am doing okay so far (my projection of God upon a tree?). Regardless, enough with theory. It's time to do.