10 August 2006

Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison, Virgin Comics

via Tales from the Bookcase Forest à la Alchemically Braindamaged

(The sound is shite, but a worthy watch for those interested in storytelling and the power of myth.)

Everyone with an interest in comics should take a good look at the serious initiatives behind serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Comics. Based out of Bangalore, India, Virgin is tapping the huge market for myth, animation, and new storytelling… all while eschewing the cliché Western stories and retelling the tales of the East.

With Deepak Chopra as a partner in Virgin Comics, and the likes of John Woo, Garth Ennis, and (seen here) Grant Morrison getting involved, we're seeing a refreshing approach to the genre. A beautifully potent genre for storytelling, at that. I wish it would pick up in North America.

12 July 2006

‘Imagining the Tenth Dimension’

In string theory, physicists tell us that the subatomic particles that make up our universe are created within ten spatial dimensions (plus an eleventh dimension of "time") by the vibrations of exquisitely small "superstrings." The average person has barely gotten used to the idea of there being four dimensions: how can we possibly imagine the tenth?


Visit the site and click on "Imagining the Ten Dimensions" under the Navigation sidebar. This will lead you through an interesting Flash overview.

In other science news, I came across this article (via Mind Hacks à la 3Quarks) entitled "Science and the Theft of Humanity." This American Scientist article bemoans the division of research into schools and traditions in modern universities as counter productive, and argues that the cognitive and biological sciences are now at the forefront of combining science and art practice.

I would probably argue philosophy has always had a similarly broad outlook, but the author argues that science is where the new action is. What does this imply for occultism in general?
…but while humanistic scholars have been presuming core facts about human nature, human capacities and human being, scientists have been getting to work. One of the most striking features of contemporary intellectual life is the fact that questions formerly reserved for the humanities are today being approached by scientists in various disciplines such as cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, robotics, artificial life, behavioral genetics and evolutionary biology.

Which reminds me of my post from April, A third scientific culture.

03 July 2006

Witchcraft ban ends in Zimbabwe

Thanks to Annan for bringing this to my attention!—
Zimbabwe has unbanned the practice of witchcraft, repealing legislation dating back to colonial rule.

From July the government acknowledges that supernatural powers exists - but prohibits the use of magic to cause someone harm.

In 1899, colonial settlers made it a crime to accuse someone of being a witch or wizard - wary of the witch hunts in Europe a few centuries earlier which saw many people burned at the stake after such accusations.

But to most Zimbabweans, especially those who grew up in the rural areas, it has been absurd to say that the supernatural does not exist.

In fact, it is not hard to find vivid stories about the use of magic.

continued via BBC News

29 June 2006

You heard it here first: DiCaprio is the new cool

I admit that if I were to immediately rove into making fun of DiCaprio, I'd be doing so out of a conditioned response. And that would make me +lame. But thinking back, he's held some pretty fucking wicked company and in all respect, he's done well for himself in his chosen profession. (Acting being one of the more spiritual crafts, imho.) I've seen reference to him in occult texts, as a friend to artists and other more underground figures and filmmakers you wouldn't expect him to.

DiCaprio has chosen to portray characters from life, from the living myth of the U.S., such as Frank Abagnale Jr (Catch Me If You Can), Howard Hughes (The Aviator), and Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries), and the film Gangs of New York. Today, I came across a link on Tales from the Bookcase Forest about Dicaprio's involvement in telling Timothy Leary's story:
DiCaprio to take trip for Leary biopic

Leonardo DiCaprio is set to turn on, tune in and drop out for his next project. The actor's Appian Way shingle has tapped Obie-winning playwright Craig Lucas and Timothy Leary archivist Michael Horowitz to develop a biopic on the counterculture icon as a possible starring vehicle.

DiCaprio, who knew Leary before his death in 1996, has been looking to develop a film on the LSD advocate for several years. The film will focus on Leary's life between his enrollment at West Point in the early 1940s and his escape from prison in 1970.

Lucas, who in recent years has worked outside the Hollywood mainstream, once worked as a frustrated studio scribe. The unconventional writer-director, who made his helming debut last year with the critically acclaimed indie "The Dying Gaul," penned such films as "The Secret Lives of Dentists" and "Prelude to a Kiss," which was adapted from a play of his.

The untitled Timothy Leary project is being produced by DiCaprio, George DiCaprio and Brad Simpson of Appian Way under their first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, and Hillard Elkins of Elkins Entertainment.

This comes on the heels of the news that DiCaprio and writer/director Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) are to take on Malcolm Gladwell's popular book, Blink:
How do we make decisions — good and bad — and why are some people so much better at it than others? That's the question Malcolm Gladwell asks and answers in the follow-up to his huge bestseller, The Tipping Point. Utilizing case studies as diverse as speed dating, pop music, and the shooting of Amadou Diallo, Gladwell reveals that what we think of as decisions made in the blink of an eye are much more complicated than assumed. Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, he shows how the difference between good decision-making and bad has nothing to do with how much information we can process quickly, but on the few particular details on which we focus. Leaping boldly from example to example, displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Gladwell reveals how we can become better decision makers — in our homes, our offices, and in everyday life. The result is a book that is surprising and transforming. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.

Read more on Blink in this Fast Company article.

26 June 2006

The Hierarchy of Customer Experience

Since business seems to be an interesting topic on so many's minds, I thought I'd post this illustration by Karl Long of ExperienceCurve (or via Flickr). I posted it elsewhere in response to a comment Klint made, but here it is for all.

Anyone wanna make occult analogies, please feel free. I try to blend all my thinking over the past years. But now, I am back to work…

24 June 2006

Again back to the occult, branding, and ad sales

Hmm, so I pop over to Fantastic Planet today and this, literally, is the first page I go to. Any search will load, in time, the entry page or the archive for the month, and this seems to a larger initiative in the online occult community as of recent: the need to make money to sustain oneself.

I'm not directly picking on FP, it's is a good and often popular resource for Gnostic thought, but it's made me think. The only time I see this many ads is on porn sites. But that is just it, the brand and consequent relation I make mentally from ads to porn, to irrelevant or wishy-washy. Not that FP's content is, but in an age of .3-second site interpretation from new readers, how many click-throughs is FP losing because of his presentation. And no, it's never the fault of the user. Everything that happens in life, particularly in magical circles, is the responsibility of the individual interpreting the events. Always.

And as for business models, there's witchy self-help publisher Llewellyn at the forefront of the business (imagine Oprah and your local Native American shaman make a baby that is raised by Wiccan hippies and starts a company), and others like Disinformation (the equivalent of a gay pride parade for the counterculture), New Falcon (whose lack of spell-check makes me question the care they put into their own work, however the books are often fabulous and some of my favourites), and now the online movement. Pop Occulture is doing a remarkable job organising efforts to communicate the message of the occult to the masses, and I've read numerous comments from fans of Tim's that have thanked him for helping them find him. (Oh, and congratulations to Tim on joining the 9rules Network!) There is a market of people looking to be exposed to a message that will helm them answer their questions. That is how any market works today. Key 23, too, brings about articles and essays, which are about a third of the time relevant and not too stereotypical of what I've come to expect from a fringe counterculture. But they've got the good will and brains to bring all the particulars of proper essays to one location to make for an easy find for n00bs.

Further, the geek I am, I'm reading Pursuasive Business Proposals, by Tom Sant, and in it he points something out:
What are "professionals," anyway? Are they merely people who do for money what amateurs do for fun? That may be true to sports and romance, but not in the business world. No, being a professional means something more, something rooted in the origins of the word. […]

A professional is someone who has mastered a complex body of knowledge and who can therefore guide, advise, and tutor others in that area. A professional is somebody who can and does profess.

In as such, I do give kudos to those at Key 23, Pop Occulture, and Disinfo.com, as well as the host of other bloggers out there doing their bit. The effort seems to be in re-interpretation of the esoteric into analogies and parables understanding by a contemporary audience. This is really all the occult is, and the hardest part about it: sharing information that, until now, was really fucking hard to communicate to others. Perhaps all occultists should be putting down their books and checking out information architecture, semiotics, and the study of ontology instead. It's the same thing, but people are actually making a living in those fields. But to profess, in today's age, communication must be precise, it really has to be concise and to the point. Of course, me being me, I am not the best example of this on this site. However, this site is just my mental diarrhea outlet and I have some other stuff in the works.

It's really not so different from the modern business world, particularly a business world readily rooting itself in communications. The new focus is on innovation, better business models, and, ultimately, in providing the best service possible for one's market. The power really does lie with the people now. Like many occultists, businesses seek to iterate new labels, new interpretations, in order to survive. Often, those drawn to the occult fall into it in the first place because the current system of labels aren't currently floating their boat to begin with. So, to survive (spiritually? intellectually? fashionably?) people turn to alternative viewpoints. Dogmatic vehemence in any practise will result in spiritual suicide, but the business world is not so different and with the way things are going, I'd be surprised if the business world didn't begin to find use in occult ideas sooner than later.

But will they find innovators, designers, and artists to create and utilise these methods and insights, rendering the current occult community someewhat moot in the social order of things. Or will occultists say Fuck that and, like the shaman, put their feet back into society and immerse… to emerge as the new innovators? To help others? To help themselves?

As Ramsey Dukes posits in Thundersqueak, what is everyone so afraid of? If you don't try out the enemy it's either your afraid that they're right and you're wrong, or if you're right all along you can learn their spirit and perspectives and bring it back with you to where you started: stronger and wiser because of such.

I just watched this presentation on entrepreneurship by Guy Kawasaki, any occultists out there may want to do the same. In comparison, if you're letting the money soak through the presentation of what it is we all enjoy, it'll tarnish the whole kit-n-kaboodle. But if you set out to change the world, as Kawasaki proclaims good start-ups should focus on, we might learn a thing or two.

Because, really, all the counterculture and occultism is, is simply another approach to trying to understand the world. Whether it's the best one is very much debateable in my opinion, but at the end of the day there are a lot of people that want to be successful, make enough to get by, and help others. While occultists may be focusing on problems too deep to be adequately acted upon by their current capacity for social interaction, many brilliant thinkers out there are innovating new ways (thinking magically and manifesting intent) and aiding their communities.

And if there's one thing I was told as a malevolent youth, it was that you can't help anyone else until you've helped yourself. Ponder this, and it might show us a side of occult spirituality that many aren't willing to acknowledge. I'm not saying everyone, but I'm throwing it out there from personal observation…

Watch the Guy Kawasaki video.

20 June 2006


Thanks to Geoff for forwarding me this gem!

17 June 2006

Steven Spielberg to explore gravity fields

via I Watch Stuff!
Though an exact plot has not yet been worked out, Steven Spielberg has announced that he will direct a film based on Caltech physicist Kip Thorne's theories of gravity fields:
Based on real science, the film will explore the mind-bending territory of black holes and gravity waves and touch on some of the hypotheses that Albert Einstein chased but never could prove.

The article also notes the other projects Spielberg has offered as possibilities for his next film, including Indiana Jones IV and an untitled Abraham Lincoln biopic. I'm hoping this means that we have at least a fifty-fifty shot of seeing a time-traveling Lincoln zipping through wormholes to free the slaves and stop Booth from shooting him. Either that, or Indiana Jones and the Proposed Theory of Gravity Fields.

13 June 2006

Stuff you don’t see in high school bio

via Cliff Pickover's RealityCarnival
Maybe it's because I am a visual person, but wow these are worth taking a look at. More following the link:


12 June 2006

‘SLC Punk!’

Some more Fell goodness for you today, in relation to the previous post, You are the only enemy you will ever have. In further retrospect, one of the best films I had the pleasure of seeing over the past few months was recommended to me by Kevin at The Lobby on Whyte Avenue (for Edmontonians reading this into eclectic cinema, check it out).

The film is called SLC Punk! (trailer here) and I was surprised I'd not seen it earlier. But for anyone who grew up part of a subculture, or who still clings on to the whatever vestiges they have left, this movie is worth seeing. The end was particularly good, imho. It touches on the community felt and perpetuated by subcultures in a sardonic and light-hearted fashion. Director James Merendino fuses elements similar to David Fincher's Fight Club, making for a pleasurable viewing experience (see: above clip). But mostly, it's a good coming-of-age tale… for ex-punks… is there such a thing?

In contrast, I went to see the French film Caché last week with a friend of mine. Now, I'm not one to prevent anyone from doing anything, but let me leave you with a friendly suggestion: use those two hours of your life doing something — anything — else. Masturbation would have been considerably more worthwhile (I was with good company, however).

You are the only enemy you will ever have

In a post entitled "Pavlov's Gods," Rev Max talks a bit about how Gnostics were persecuted and the small sects of previously persecuted Christians grew together and then, in time, ended up further persecuting and pretty much wiping out Gnostics altogether. Sorta like that awesome line in Munich where Jew Steve (Daniel Craig) and company are dancing and drinking wine at that outdoor café, and he blurts out in defense of their assassinations: 'Cause no one fucks with Jews! or something like that. But it was sweet. Now little does Steve remember, but Germany fucked with Jews. So have everyone else, pretty much. Except maybe the Inuit. (However, they're busy enough arguing with the Canadian government about being forced to teach Inuit children the theory of evolution in their schools. And personally, I prefer both the Jewish and Inuit versions better.)

Anyhow, let's take a little look-see at the Gnostics in light of their abstinence from partaking in the violence that is persecution:
Two millennia ago, Christians were routinely set on fire and put to the sword as casually as you and I might light a cigarette.

[…] a Christian faction called the "Orthodox" movement not only survived but flourished under persecution, eventually merging with the Holy Roman Empire and turning the apparatus of the imperial military against rival Christian groups.

Chief among the targets of the ascendant Orthodox faction were the Gnostic Christians, secretive mystics who had stridently opposed persecution and martyrdom all along. In short, the Gnostics refused to play the political power game and were rewarded with extermination.

Fast-forward 16 centuries. Most Christians today attribute the sudden disappearance of the Gnostic schools to flaws inherent in the Gnostic worldview. We are told that the Gnostics were privy to forbidden mysteries; that they "deserved to lose" because their teachings were "exclusive, elitist" and (worst of all) "esoteric."

Read between the lines of the Gnostic scriptures, however, and an amazing, alternate history stands revealed.

The Gnostics stood aloof from history because not because they were cowards but because they were wise. Even though they knew that they would lose their chance to gain power in the short run, they got to keep something even more important — their souls.

Interesting. And I agree. This non-partisan element also runs parallel to my piece on Japanese design practise, in regards to sloughing off elements of self-definition in favour of being "of the moment." And further yet: I am re-reading Thundersqueak, by Ramsey Dukes (writing as Angerford & Lea), and in it he speaks of a children's book called The Wishing Well, by Gerald Heard:
It was a parable about evolution, and began with a group of fish in prehistoric time being visited by an angel who gave them one, and only one, wish: that they could become whatever they chose. Over the aeons these fish evolved: first into land creatures, then mammals, and finally towards man. But the point was that this evolution was a gradual adaptation towards greater flexibility, it involved no specialising or extremes of function. However, at various points in time, these creatures used up their wish and became something else. Some, while still fish, chose to be fierce and voracious — to become sharks. At a later reptilian stage some of the creatures became snakes, others became birds. Later ones chose to be fierce as tigers, big as elephants, or to move in herds as buffalo, and so on. The final division before the present age was that some of the creatures, now hominid, opted to swing in trees and become apes. Those who had retained their wish, who still had the choice over their destiny, had evolved into men. All others had become specialists. […]

The same is true on the local scale of one lifetime. Anyone who specialises and becomes expert in some field, whilst a shining example in the eyes of the popular opinion, is in fact an evolutionary drop-out, a falling star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols:—
A new creation in particular, the new Reich for instance, has more need of enemies than friends: only in opposition does it feel itself necessary, only in opposition does it become necessary… We adopt the same attitude towards the "enemy within."

Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies:—
Resemble all that surroundeth thee; yet be thyself and take thy pleasure among the living.

This is that which is written — Lurk! — in the Book of the Law.

So ambiguity and "uselessness" become ideal traits, in a sense. Again, following a train of thought I was having with Georgina in this post, it brings up the power of being undefined. The hard part is the journey from social animal to that of a self-aware entity, and a major part of that is an acknowledgement that you are just a host for a greater experience being had through you. Dukes continues:
You dream of killing me? No, as George Orwell revealed in 1984, that is not enough. You wish to torture and brainwash me until I love you, until the rebel has become a supporter. For you recognise that the enemy is not in my body, but in my mind. But if the enemy is in my mind what happens when I am brainwashed and tortured? When my body's behaviour changes to please you, how can you be sure that it was the enemy that has suffered or been destroyed; how can you be sure that it is not merely a spirit that has been driven out? You have not hurt the rebel, you have merely caused it to vacate my body. The bird has flown; but at least you used to know, or believed that you knew, where the bird was. Now it is beyond your grasp. The bird has flown.

Now I can tell you one place where that bird is secure. It is secure in your own mind. […]

As a tyrant you will spend your life pursuing potential enemies. But it will all be in vain. For the enemies that haunt you, and the only ones you will ever recognise or comprehend, are those enemeies that already exist in your mind. Destroy the whole world and they will live on within you. Reduce me to an empty body and what will you have but an empty body? The bird will have flown back to its nest in your own mind. You are the only rebel there ever was.

This is applicable to all aspects of life; every part of life is a form of projection. You are the only enemy you will ever have.

11 June 2006

CGI meteorite collision simulation

The diameter of the meteorite is slightly bigger than the breadth of Honshu Japan. The collision point is located at the 3,000 km south from Japan in the ocean. The velocity of the meteorite is 70,000 km/h. Enjoy.

Thoughts of angles and angels

Aside from just absolutely adoring this band, The Knife, I got to thinking about my own actual process of thinking the other day. I was sitting over dinner with my friend, Steph, putzing over an idea I've been working on for many years, but just beginning to formulate a process by which to introduce it into the world. I've briefly spoken about it with Channel Null and Rev Max, but it seems more in order to flesh out the thoughts to the words. Steph was quick to point out the question of How, which is obviously one of the most important for any good design to work.

The video here, for their single "Silent Shout," was directed by Andreas Nilsson and drew on the work of 1930s German animator Oscar Fischinger and on Charles Burns's graphic novel, Black Hole.

What I find particularly interesting is the analogy I can make between my process of thinking — sorta what is going on my head — and the visuals of this video. Now, I would figure that magic and design have more than a few things in common, which I've touched on elsewhere, but I've always pondered how others form thoughts, how familiar they are with the process itself, and just how far from the resultant thought can they deduce the root effects. Through the years of my lazy meditations, I've become very familiar with the reduction of my analogies, in my mind, at least, to basic geometries.

Where I lack, however, and which I am again beginning to relive, is my attachment to emotions. A bit. It's not like I am a emotionally devoid husk, but I tend to not meddle in the everyday emotions of experience. But I can always seem to make geometric analogies to the events occurring in my life. The video above makes the association between the music and the movement of geometry, not unlike my process of thinking and ultimately visualising connections between phenomenon. It makes it usually easy to find kinks in ideas, and to draw sometimes sweeping observations. Sometimes I am wrong, but often it is that I lack the capacity to translate from my own thoughts to plain language for conversation.

After speaking to a designer friend of mine in Vancouver while I was there, I got the feeling that there are those that can see the designs, think in design, and then there is a large contingent that cannot. I am not claiming to be an astonishing designer, far from it, I have lots to learn yet, but I believe there is an upper-hand in being able to reduce analogies to their base forms. This resultant geometries should define the parametre by which the entire design process should flow. Colour, emotion, shape, tone, attitude… can all be deduced metaphorically to base geometries. (See: Colour theory according to Wassily Kandinsky.)

This should really lead to a deeper understanding not only of clients' needs, it defines that parametre by which all design for any particular project should proceed. And further, it introduces us to a more base understanding of the intelligence and realm by which preternatural entities, such as angels and demons, exist (whatever that means). (See: Who peers back at us from beyond.)

And on another note, I am truly curious about the etymology of the words "angle" and "angel," as most evocations of angels and demons are rooted in sigils crafted from particular angles that have subtler, esoteric connotations. The last trip we took out to the Rocky Mountains last year left me with some very intense experiences. Mark and I played with coloured rods for what seemed like hours, rearranging them into abstractions of image and shape, and while under the influence of psilocybin we continued a full on dialogue through the positioning of these rods.

I am sure I could make this process of thinking out onto a particular level of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, but what I am more concerned with is how to create a process of translation. Unfortunately, now that I think about it, this seems to be, by and large, the occult's largest issue it must overcome: creating pragmatic analogies that allow one to share esoteric knowledge with others.

Which ultimately reduces me to admitting I hate having to explain myself. Fortunately, sometimes, some people are worth it and drive me to figure out ways.

If you dig "Silent Shout," the video for their most recent single, "We Share Our Mothers' Health," may be seen via the link.

06 June 2006

High Priest of the Church of Satan on the CBC tonight

If you're visiting Occult Design from the CBC website, please feel free to peruse the rest of this blog or review some of the more pertinent material posted here, which is actually great food for thought (and not "Satanic"):

Worthwhile Posts Reviewed


Okay, to celebrate 6/6/06, George Stroumboulopoulos has a Satan-themed episode of The Hour on CBC Newsworld tonight, airing, as always, at 8:00 and 11:00 PM EST.

As an aside, I saw George posted this on The Hour website:
Zombie Slaves
Unbelievable. The story of a man turned zombie, turned zombie slave, turned man: The story begins in 1962, in Haiti. A man called Clairvius Narcisse was sold to a zombie master by his brothers, because Clairvius refused to sell his share of the family land. Soon after Clairvius "officially" died, and was buried. However, he had been later secretly unburied, and was actually working as a zombie slave on a sugar plantation with many other zombies. In 1964, his zombie master died, and he wandered across the island in a psychotic daze for the next 16 years. The drugs that made him psychotic were gradually wearing off. In 1980, he accidentally stumbled across his long-lost sister in a market place, and recognized her. She didn’t recognise him, but he identified himself to her by telling her early childhood experiences that only he could possibly know.

Happy 6/6/06

For those of you that know me personally — or care — there are more pics on Flickr there of my trip here to Vancouver. I'll be back in Edmonton later today and am looking forward to returning to Alberta. (Yes, Van is fantastic, but it's not home. Yet.) And speaking of which, I have to thank Mal & Age for taking me into their home and providing the most wonderful red carpet treatment; I had an awesome time. Thank you, both! xo

Malania & Age
Occult Design will soon return to its regularly scheduled programming.

02 June 2006

Petition to Support the Arts

Shafraaz forwarded this to me, worthwhile for any Canadians perusing this:
The Harper government's giveaway of $500 per child to support sports activities is glaringly unfair. Why sports and not the arts? Are those who spend a small fortune on giving their children music lessons, visual art,youth writing programs, dance, film & video-production (etc.), less worthy of support than hockey, soccer or other sports parents?

Children will benefit throughout their whole lives, as will the various arts organizations, by investing in the arts.

From the note I received:
"…arts organizations, by the way, do not pay salaries measured in millions of dollars as do the sports teams."

Please sign this petition at

Note: Don't forget to add your postal code in the required address field.

31 May 2006

‘Spirituality and Japanese Design Practise’

Just arrived in Vancouver this afternoon. (Wow, this city has changed!) Arrived to some good e-mails: am now a Professional member of the International Chapter of the AIGA, United States.

Also, I didn't think they would, but Ambidextrous, the multi-disciplinary design magazine of the Stanford Institute of Design (d.school), put the last piece I wrote for them on their blog for public consumption. Thanks, Wendy!

Check the article out here!

30 May 2006

Help me find Frater Achad in Vancouver

As some of you know, I will be arriving in Vancouver tomorrow. If anyone reading this knows or knows someone that knows the location of any of Charles Stansfeld Jones's (aka Frater Achad) artefact locales in the Vancouver area, I would love to hear about them. Some time ago I lost myself to some of his writings and the man was a freaking genius.

From Wikipedia:
In late 1917 Jones was arrested in a Vancouver hotel, where he had been behaving erratically. He was imprisoned on suspicion of being a draft dodger who was pretending to be insane. He was released after three days.

Kenneth Grant, writing in The Magical Revival, claims that on Jones' return to Vancouver circa 1930, he was wearing only a raincoat, which he proceeded to throw off, and then circumambulated the center of the city as a magical operation of some sort, earning himself criminal arrest and a stay in a mental institution. This story, which Grant may have had directly from Crowley, is in all likelihood a confusion of the 1917 incident with the "insanity" of Jones' 1928 baptism and 1929 confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church.

Too bad he lost his footing and went mad. I guess that's the risk we take with the nonsense that is magic.

Speaking of which, that has been on my mind lately. After speaking to some designer acquaintances with backgrounds in esoteric theology, and being aware of the history of Achad and the Qabalah, I've come to realise that much of the talk about defining oneself is about defining one's own path through the chaos that is the potentiality of the human transcendence, which is really a developing ontology of symbolic interpretations of one's existence. Anyone with any experience in numerology, gematria, the Arabic abjad, I Ching, or any similar sorts of systems will know that everything is interrelated. No big whoop-dee-doo once your used to the notion and have experienced its beauty. To be honest, I'm reduced to tears when faced with it. (Tears of joy, so shut up.)

But for some that lose themselves to the patterns, the connections, all that which might seem all-important, they seem to be missing one important element of their own development: none of it is important. And as Stanley Kubrick said:
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. […] However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

That "light" is the power we have to define our own path towards the next level of personal development. A passion, a dream, a goal, something to fight for. But the trick is, that development can only come out of the chaos of metaphorically destroying whatever came before it. That means you (or me). Getting too caught up in the wonders of the now — the you of any moment or time — can only get you so far.

We must always be willing to destroy ourselves in order to see what it was that held us together in the first place. And to end on one more quote, by Mamoru Oshii, the writer & director of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence:
Humans can only confirm that they are humans by reconstructing themselves into something else.

Bayer willingly sells pharmaceuticals infected with AIDS

This has nothing to do with the occult or design, but should be seen. I've been working on some stuff, so I will return to blogging shortly.

EDIT — After some discussion with professional skeptics friends of mine, I did some digging around to find more about this. It took place in 1981, but here is a further quote:
A division of the pharmaceutical giant Bayer in the 1980s sold a medicine to Asia and Latin America that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS while it was selling a new, safer product in the west, The New York Times alleged Thursday.

Cutter Biological wanted to avoid being stuck with large stores of a product that was becoming increasingly unmarketable in the United States and Europe, according to internal company documents obtained by the daily.

The company also sought to save money by honoring several fixed-price contracts with the old product, which was cheaper to produce than the new, safer blood-clotting medicine, the daily said other company records suggest.

"These are the most incriminating internal pharmaceutical industry documents I have ever seen," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, who as director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group has been investigating the industry's practices for three decades.

There is also a piece from Columbia University and The New York Times, but you need a log-in to read the latter so I'll just post it here for you:
Bayer Named In AIDS Suit
Published: March 18, 1987

LEAD: Bayer A.G., the giant West German chemical company, said today that it had been sued over its sale of hemophilia drugs that may have been infected with the AIDS virus.

Bayer A.G., the giant West German chemical company, said today that it had been sued over its sale of hemophilia drugs that may have been infected with the AIDS virus.

The news sent Bayer's shares tumbling by 12.50 marks, or about $6.90, to 292.50 marks, or $162.50, on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and pulled the whole market lower.

A Bayer statement said fewer than 20 patients who have been treated with the Factor VIII hemophilia drug have filed liability claims against the company charging that the substance was contaminated with the AIDS virus.

Factor VIII, which is essential for the treatment of hemophiliacs, is made from human blood plasma. The drug is produced by Miles Laboratories Inc., an Elkhart, Ind., subsidiary of Bayer, a Bayer spokesman said.

The liability claims, which were filed both in the United States and Western Europe, are still in a pre-court phase, said the spokesman, who requested anonymity.

He added that the drugs infected with the AIDS virus could have been produced by other pharmaceutical companies and not Bayer. But the Bayer statement did not deny that its product might have been contaminated in the past.

Since early 1985, Bayer has been screening all donated blood plasma for the AIDS virus, the company statement said, and the drug is now believed to be AIDS-free.

24 May 2006

Unified through the lowest common social denominator

Interesting. This is from last night, here in Edmonton. (Yes, the rest of the world has soccer, Canada has hockey.)

On the weekend, a friend and I were sitting at Café Select a few blocks down from the throngs of drunken sports fans and the literal block-long walls of riot police and paramedics maintaining a semblance of order on Whyte Avenue. My friend was quick to point out how disgusting the behaviour is, and we discussed it briefly with our waiter. I agree with her, but something is missing from the equation.

She pointed out that is was the projection of unity, expressed by the lowest common denominator: unification through the association of athletes, something to tie together the collective voice of a community. Not scholastic, artistic, humanitarian, or any other pursuit, but that of the so-called "jock." Really, no different from Romans watching gladiators two millennia ago.

But yet I can appreciate the force and power of the collective here (Hobbes's Leviathan coming to mind, even though I've not read it).

I am of the opinion that internet communities that build up around the likes of Slashdot, Digg, Boing Boing, et cetera, represent a new form of community. This is nothing new online, and has been discussed elsewhere at length. Smaller, more refined efforts and voices, more specialised individuals coming together under one banner or another, then disbanding till the next time.

Even though I can appreciate the force and am even in awe of the community by this display at the coliseum here in Edmonton, and want to see it flourish into the future, my friend is right, I believe, in that the mass is dying and we're moving away from such groupthink. This would imply that, as individuals, we refine more of who we are and through communications technology, are allowed the convenience of organising ourselves faster and in regards to much more specific events or causes.

Instead of a raucous crowd of cheering nationalists, we have élite cells consisting of specialists — a club thundering down versus the precision of a razor.

This makes me wonder about the so-called Thousandfold Thought as I've been pondering over the past while, as written about by R. Scott Bakker. The analogy also works for society versus secret society.

Sorry, this post is a bit vague. I find the video is quite powerful and there are so many aspects of it that I am contemplating in the back of my head, when I should really be dealing with some other matters here. :-)

EDIT — While the above video evokes respectable feelings of pride and admiration, thanks to Teri for posting the following on MySpace. These illustrate the madness that accompanies these "community events" (of course, liquor is involved). I'm not critical of the enjoyment of the game, hockey is but a catalyst to bring about this insane fervour across the whole of the city. It's the mentality that's been cultured and pretty much expected:

Here we see two jocks crawling across wires hanging across Whyte Avenue. What you don't get to see, however, is that when they fall, the crowd disperses and they smack the pavement pretty good.

And here, two girls flash the crowd. Fun, until one of them gets burned with pyrotechnics, aimed and fired at her from a metre or two away.

I know worse happens in other cities and parts of the world, but in this post's comments Rev Max puts it well:
projecting unmet needs onto mass spectacle as a means to fill and inner emptiness, for the little man crowd member to become important (via group action) the contagion of group violence, political rallies with floodlights and torchlit processions cause people to swoon, some sort of latter day mass ritual substitute political shamanism

like mysticism in the other direction, not ennobling but degrading

19 May 2006

1st Birthday

Well. I remember the first time I set up a blog, which was something like six or seven years ago. It was a LiveJournal site, right back when LJ literally just started out, before Six Apart bought them. Then, when I first started this blog, it was more of a joke by the name of Love Pretty, Hate Stupid. The great majority of the first entries were about sexuality, sex magic, and what not.

365 days. In this first year, my ideas and concepts about occultism have grown and shifted in many ways. I love the occult because it's a system of symbols, of learning to interpret, to explore the worlds within and without. That makes it perfectly fine to see the world one way yesterday, and another tomorrow. Through much work, I've come to become very comfortable in the today — as my friend Jason, Reiki master and poet, puts it: Being of the moment.

In 365 days I've met and discussed various topics, from design to the occult, and met numerous exciting and wonderful voices. I know I may not always be the easiest to get along with, but I'm more interested in stirring the debate and the process of learning than in my own ego, so I am also one of the first to apologise when I overstep the boundaries of others.

And after one year, it seems I begin a new chapter. I quit both of my jobs last week and am heading to Vancouver and Whistler for much-needed relaxing. Two partners and I incorporate our first company together in the coming weeks, a café-style pub tentatively called the Heart of Hundreds. I begin to focus more on my own freelance design work, rather than others'. I consolidated all my debt and was even allowed a credit card this year, the first since I buggered my credit back in college. My roommates and I are moving into a new house. Jennifer Emick, of altreligion.about.com, even posted a link to our humble blog and traffic spiked this morning. And my focus shifts from the spiritual to business: comfortable with my years-in-the-coming piety, I begin to appreciate the game of the business world more and more in all its regards. (I must be getting all growed-up, my subscription to the Harvard Business Review gets me quite excited now.) The wisdom I've garnered in the occult is easily translated to the business world with some work, it just takes some study and acquainting myself with the semantic of business. I find the game is the same in all systems, it's just the language and the façades of the symbols that change. I begin to see through the veneer and the structures of business are becoming ever more obvious to me.

I even broke my year-plus-long vow of celibacy last night (to the shock and awe of some)! Taking time off from the so-called pursuit of happiness and years of refining what I desire in friends led me to a woman that I immediately came to appreciate. Her knowledge of magic is practical and natural, she's smart, funny, confident and aggressive, doesn't mind that I am a bad dancer, her appreciation of Star Trek is tantamount to that of my friends, and it doesn't hurt that she's most-awesomely gorgeous. She even left her bruises upon my neck. Well worth breaking my vow for. Besides, we all know why rules were made in the first place…

Thanks to anyone and everyone that stop by to read what I've been typing. I don't know how pertinent it is, but I've received a few notes of thanks and I appreciate the community. Year #2 should prove even more interesting as I start to re-apply this next generation of experience and knowledge into practical matters!

13 May 2006

Chuck Palahniuk on living as a story that you’ve created

This is a clip from Chuck Palahniuk's documentary DVD entitled Postcards from the Future, featuring the Fight Club author. After speaking with my wonderful Kristin in Melbourne this morning, this video is for you. xo


via Technoccult

11 May 2006

The delusion of happiness

Stumbling on Happiness, a new book by Daniel Gilbert, proclaims that "more money … or a bigger house or a fancier car … won't make us happy … What gets us through life, evidently, is just the right amount of delusion — enough to fool ourselves into feeling relatively good about ourselves … but not so much as to exceed our own credulity." As Daniel writes: "If we were to experience the world exactly as it is, we'd be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning … But if we were to experience the world exactly as we want it to be, we'd be too deluded to find our slippers."

The phenomenon helps explain why it's "possible that Christopher Reeve believed himself in some ways better off after he became a quadriplegic, or that Lance Armstrong is glad to have had cancer, or that cancer patients in general tend to be more optimistic about the future than healthy people, and "that conjoined twins rate themselves as happy as nonconjoined people." Apparently, the only group not stumbling into happiness are the clinically depressed, who "seem less susceptible to these basic cognitive errors. For instance, healthy people can be deluded into greater happiness when granted the mere illusion of control over their environment; the clinically depressed recognize the illusion for what it is."

I disagree with the notion that they are happy or better off because of their accidents. It was the event which led them to a shift in perception, which leads them to new focuses — more often, directing more time to instrospection and following the paths in their life that lead them to happiness. I have the documents at home, but I believe the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, goes into how the perfect balance for optimal performance (including personal drive to accomplish and personal sense of well-being) comes from setting up challenges just increments ahead of our current set of ability to easily accomplish. It's about challenges. This may be overlaid onto the Hero's Journey, or monomyth, of Joseph Campbell, in that we all require stories and a process of growth in order to be alive. The metaphor of the autonomous people, the robots, the asleep, all the words artists, poets, occultists, and others use to refer to the vulgar masses of Others, is generally out of spite and because there is no relation of one's story and tribulations to the one making the accusations.

Through the refinement of focus, upon one's life, and the personal triumph of defining one's own path, comes something beyond happiness. This is a spiritual path, a wondrous aspect of the Great Work, the path of the mystics. "Happiness," the concept, is spoon-fed to Westerners to keep them complacent. Fear is a by-product of their fragile delusions being smashed against the wall, in essence an ontological anarchy which would allow them the freedom to think for themselves. In light of this, I say Fuck happiness. Embrace the full gamut of feelings that accompany the opportunity chaos provides!

I agree with Gilbert's delusion of happiness. As such, here is a great quote from Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, by William James:
Recent psychology … speaks of the threshold of man's consciousness in general to indicate the amount of noise, pressure, or other outer stimulus which it takes to arouse his attention at all. One with a high threshold will doze through an amount of racket by which one with a low threshold would be immediately waked. … And so we might speak of a "pain threshold," a "fear threshold," a "misery threshold," and find it quickly overpassed by the consciousness of some individuals, but lying too high in others to be often reached by their consciousness. The sanguine and healthy minded habitually live on the sunny side of their misery line; the depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in darkness and apprehension.

Does it not appear as if one who lived habitually on one side of the pain threshold might need a different sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the other?

08 May 2006

MMO funeral crashing

I have nothing to say to this, other than HAHA.

EDIT— Okay, I suppose I shouldn't presume that viewers will know wtf is going on in this video. An "MMO" stands for massively multiplayer online game, in this case it's World of Warcraft, which I am sure most everyone has heard of. Beginning in Asia, I believe, years ago, when a fellow gamer would pass on in real life, her or his mates in-game would hold a funeral for them. Since many of these friends you never meet in meatspace, it only seems fitting that you can grieve over the loss of someone you cared for online in one form or another.

What we see here is a funeral in progress, and an in-game "guild" — group of players — attacking those present at said funeral. And, in turn, slaughtering everyone at the funeral. Tasteless? Yes. Funny? Of course.

Why? you might ask. Well, I have no definitive answer. I can say, however, that if you're shocked at this behavious online, I want you to ponder this: We, of the postmodern ethic, grow in number. If you find this offensive, know that we are a representation of a natural development in the coming social tapestry that is slowly embracing children the world over. You will, in time, become the minority. It's time to adapt to whatever it is we find funny.

On that note, as I am sure the Buddha said in one way or another, Learn to laugh at everything and the world holds no power over you.

Tolerance? Why?

Well, I am happy Douglas Rushkoff said it, as it seems bleeding hearts all over will kick up a stink at the first questioning of the status quo. I've known many, and even lost friends, because of my so-called "anger" or "hatred." Fuck that. Maybe some of us just see through the ridiculous notion of everyone-is-equal and we base merit on one's actions, not on lofty ideals.

With leaders in the public eye like these guys, does anyone really have to wonder why and how stereotypes come to exist in the mind of the public? I mean, really. Further, as a fellow human being, I feel I have to step up just a little and take a bit of responsibility for these fucking idiots. We all come from the same monkeys, so I feel a bit obligated.

I think it's time to get serious about the role God plays in human affairs, and evaluate whether it's appropriate to let everyone in on the bad news: God doesn't exist, never did, and the closest thing we'll ever see to God will emerge from our own collective efforts at making meaning.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer see the real value in being tolerant of other people's beliefs. Sure, when beliefs are relegated to the realm of pure entertainment, they pose no real danger. So, a kid believes U2 is really a supergroup on par with The Beatles or The Who. That's *his* problem, and it doesn't really do a lot of harm to anyone except those of us who still stop by MTV occasionally to see what might be playing.

When religions are practiced, as they are by a majority of those in developed nations, today, as a kind of nostalgic little ritual - a community event or an excuse to get together and not work - it doesn't really screw anything up too badly. But when they radically alter our ability to contend with reality, cope with difference, or implement the most basic ethical provisions, they must be stopped.

Like any other public health crisis, the belief in religion must now be treated as a sickness. It is an epidemic, paralyzing our nation's ability to behave in a rational way, and - given our weapons capabilities - posing an increasingly grave threat to the rest of the world.

Follow this quote up with the rest of the post:
Faith = Illness.
Why I've had it with religious tolerance.

And his follow-up post/reply to e-mails:
The Testament, My Testament

As Sun Tzu threw out there:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The United States cannot know their enemy with ballistic missiles. Which is a reflection of their inability to know themselves. If they would truly know the passions of their "enemies," they would be able to define themselves in contrast, and vice versa. However, they do not. They live in fear and strike from afar.

In fact, I can't think of anything more dishonourable.

We are war, within and without. With every vulgar and condemning piece of myself I can excise, I may further refine — through reflection of myself — what it is with the world that destroys itself. Subsequently, my healing and initiation into higher revelations of the self act as revelatory initiations into realms of power over the world around me.

Art and the New Biology of the Mind

Columbia's recent "Art and the New Biology of the Mind" forum offered different perspectives on the relationships between science and the arts and with the process of visual perception. Many of the world's leading scientists addressed how new scientific discoveries offer extraordinary possibilities to re-examine human creativity, and give a clearer understanding of the ways in which we respond to the arts.

Opening Remarks

David Freedberg
Director, the Italian Academy, and Professor of Art History, Columbia University
Real Video (3:39)

Eric R. Kandel
Nobel Laureate and University Professor, Columbia University
Real Video (17:48)

Emotion and Consciousness

Antonio Damasio
David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience and Director of The Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California
Real Video (24:52)

Raymond Dolan
Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Head of Department, Institute of Neurology, University College, London
Real Video (26:33)

Vittorio Gallese
Associate Professor of Human Physiology, Università degli studi di Parma
Real Video (21:19)

Joseph LeDoux
Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, New York University
Real Video (25:07)

Vision and Aesthetics

Margaret Livingstone
Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
Real Video (28:01)

V. S. Ramachandran
Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, and Professor, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct Professor of Biology, the Salk Institute
Real Video (24:27)

Semir Zeki
Professor of Neurobiology, University College, London
Real Video (33:49)

via Columbia University

02 May 2006

Code, Culture, Imagination

Code, Culture, Imagination

by Florian Cramer

Media Design Research
Piet Zwart Institute
institute for postgraduate studies and research
Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam

Abstract: Executable code existed centuries before the invention of the computer in magic, Kabbalah, musical composition and experimental poetry. These practices are often neglected as a historical pretext of contemporary software culture and electronic arts. Above all, they link computations to a vast speculative imagination that encompasses art, language, technology, philosophy and religion. These speculations in turn inscribe themselves into the technology. Since even the most simple formalism requires symbols with which it can be expressed, and symbols have cultural connotations, any code is loaded with meaning. This booklet writes a small cultural history of imaginative computation, reconstructing both the obsessive persistence and contradictory mutations of the phantasm that symbols turn physical, and words are made flesh.

29 April 2006

‘New American Schoolhouse’

"Voices from the New American Schoolhouse explores life outside the usual educational box. Narrated exclusively by students, the film chronicles life and learning at the Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD which practices an undiluted form of freedom and democracy that turns mainstream education theory on its head. Filmmaker Danny Mydlack enjoyed unrestricted access over a two-year period to produce this candid and unblinking encounter with kid-powered learning."

28 April 2006

A third scientific culture

I admit, I am not a scientist. I am pretty far from adhering to any empirical truth. But that the humanities as a field of study could have avoided the implications of natural sciences and biology for all this time astounds me. By creating systematic ontologies by which to tackle their understanding of the world around them, they so often trap themselves within their own devices — limited by exactly that which they would deny in their pursuit of absolute knowledge. They deny the limitations of their perspective.

This "third culture" concept is great, though. I have not read Elster's book, mentioned below, so I dunno if it's more for novelty's sake, but the fuckers should just come out and call it what it may be, or become — alchemy:
Anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, disciplines that have based their autonomy on the claim that the system of social actions and human cultures is largely independent from their biological foundation, today make way for naturalistic research programs and the methods of the natural sciences. […]

It is remarkable that the discovery of a class of premotor neurons in the brain of macaque monkeys should seem to have important repercussions on our understanding the nature of human sociality. What does, after all, the activation of a cell of the nervous system of a monkey have to do with the intricacies of our social relations?

Beyond the fascinating arguments provoked by this discovery (*), this illustrates the changes that have taken place in the last twenty years in the relationship between the natural sciences and the humanities, that is “the two cultures,” defined by C.P. Snow in his famous 1959 essay. Anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, disciplines that have based their autonomy on the claim that the system of social actions and human cultures is largely independent from their biological foundation, today make way for naturalistic research programs and the methods of the natural sciences.

So, is a third culture possible, as defined by John Brockman, in which the natural sciences take part in making sense of ourselves and our actions? […]

Thus, the third culture can be seen as a multidimensional culture, where explanations originating in different disciplines combine together without cancelling one another. As yet another example, one might think of Jon Elster’s work on emotions in his book The Alchemies of the Mind, in which neurobiology, literature, and rational choice theory come together as vectors of a causative and conceptual explanation of what is involved in feeling emotion.

Is then a third culture possible? There is a strong temptation to see in these smoothly combined approaches a new path to knowledge, a pluralistic culture that weaves together a dense plot of facts and interpretations without the ideological burden of having to reduce the ones to the others or vice versa.

full article via Edge

Total Immersion’s ‘augmented reality’

This is a video from DEMO 2004 showing Total Immersion's D'Fusion technology, which was rumoured to be used in Nintendo's then-unnamed upcoming console, Revolution. (The Revolution has been renamed the Wii as of this week.)

All I can think of is… Vurt, by Jeff Noon. All thanks to Total Immersion and Nintendo!

Thanks to Scott, in Vancouver, for e-mailing me the link.

Even Bob Marley was spun for public consumption

Tim Manners, of Reveries Magazine, has an interesting bit on the grooming of Bob Marley for North American (and eventual world) consumption:
Bob Marley’s transition from “local hero to global legend” was the result of a carefully calibrated marketing effort that cultivated Bob’s reggae roots to grow a rock phenomenon, as relayed in a new book, Before the Legend, by Christopher John Farley, excerpted in The Wall Street Journal (4/27/06). Bob Marley was already 27 by the time he was “discovered” by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, which began as a Jamaican music but quickly transitioned to mainstream rock, where the money was. Chris immediately recognized Bob’s star quality, as well as the charisma of his bandmates, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. So he gave the group about $7,000 to make a record. The result was a reggae stunner, but Chris knew that it needed more of a rock sensibility if it were to sell to the masses. So, Chris asked Bob to join him in London to re-mix, overdub and otherwise rockify the tracks.

Chris started by killing two of the 11 songs, “because to me,” said Chris, “a 10-track album was a pop album. A nine-track album — that’s a rock album.” Who knew? Chris also doubled and tripled the lengths of some of the songs, again “to make it more like rock and less like pop.” As you might imagine, this tended to set Bob on edge. And you might think that Chris’s next move (bringing in white session musicians to bring a rock edge to the instrumentation) might have been the final straw for Bob Marley. But it wasn’t: “Race had divided his family. Race had divided Jamaica. Race had divided music. Race had divided the world.” Bob Marley “wanted to bring it all back together again … As a child, Bob had gotten into scuffles with bullies over his mixed heritage. Now, as a musician, he had turned his background into a marketing edge.” Thing is, the black-white collaboration was kept from fans.

Chris Blackwell wanted “to promote the image of a black group” and kept the names of the white musicians off the credits. He “realized white audiences wanted reggae that had the rough edge of rock. But they didn’t want black music that seemed like it was trying to pass for white.” He also rockified the group’s name from “Bob Marley and the Wailers” to simply “The Wailers” and when it came time for a group photo, threw a couple of black musicians who hadn’t even been on the record into the picture to make it look like more of a group. They did join the group after that, but the image was complete and the record, “Catch a Fire," won rave reviews. Bob Marley went on "to be come an international symbol of revolution and freedom." As Farley notes: "Their music made concessions to the marketplace. But they were so cool, so confident, that their credentials could not be challenged."

via Reveries Magazine

Love special: Six ways to woo your lover

EDIT — Fuck it, I am posting the article in its entirety. I believe they have a tendency to bust links after it moves from their front pages and make them subscription-only.

Just read this short piece on New Scientist, entitled "Love special: Six ways to woo your lover"; with more tips via the link:
We all hunt for the perfect chat-up line, but in reality, our body gives away a great deal before we open our mouth. It is estimated that when you meet a stranger, their impression of you is based 55 per cent on your appearance and body language, 38 per cent on your style of speaking and a mere 7 per cent on what you actually say.

So what can we learn from the experts? There are a number of actions that signal "I like you" to another person. Adopting an open posture (no folded arms), and mirroring another's posture help create a feeling of affinity. Most people are not conscious of being mirrored, but evaluate those who do it more favourably. And it is worth adopting stances that enhance your masculinity or femininity, such as placing hands in pockets with elbows out to enlarge the chest.

You could also indulge in a "gestural dance", synchronising your gestures and body movements with those of the object of your desire, such as taking a sip of your drinks at the same time.

A dramatic setting can kick-start your love life. Meeting a stranger when physiologically aroused increases the chance of having romantic feelings towards them…

It's all because of a strong connection between anxiety, arousal and attraction. In the "shaky bridge study" carried out by psychologists Arthur Aron and Don Dutton in the 1970s, men who met a woman on a high, rickety bridge found the encounter sexier and more romantic than those who met her on a low, stable one. A visit to the funfair works wonders too. Photos of members of the opposite sex were more attractive to people who had just got off a roller coaster, compared with those who were waiting to get on. And couples were more loved-up after watching a suspense-filled thriller than a calmer film. Why? No one is sure, but the adrenaline rush from the danger might be misattributed to the thrill of attraction. But beware: while someone attractive becomes more so in a tense setting, the unattractive appear even less appealing.

An experience that makes you laugh creates feelings of closeness between strangers. A classic example comes from experiments carried out by US psychologists Arthur Aron and Barbara Fraley, in which strangers cooperated on playful activities such as learning dance steps, but with one partner wearing a blindfold and the other holding a drinking straw in their mouth to distort speech. Sounds stupid, but love and laughter really did go together. You can read about it in "The effect of a shared humorous experience on closeness in initial encounters" in the journal Personal Relationships (vol 11, p 61). We suggest that the blindfold/drinking straw approach is best confined to the laboratory.

Psychologists at North Adams State College in Massachusetts have proved what Shakespeare suggested - that music is the food of love. Well, rock music, at least. Women evaluating photos of men rated them more attractive while listening to soft-rock music, compared with avant-garde jazz or no music at all.

Can you short-cut all the hard work of relationship-building by artificial means? People have been trying to crack this one for thousands of years. A nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin can make people trust you - an important part of any relationship - though there's no evidence yet to suggest it can make someone fall in love. And while we wouldn't suggest you try this at home, studies on prairie voles show that injecting the hormone vasopressin into the brain makes males bond strongly to females. Illegal drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines can simulate the euphoria of falling in love by raising levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, but dopamine levels can also be increased legally by exercising. Another neurotransmitter, phenylethylamine (PEA), is tagged the "love molecule" because it induces feelings of excitement and apprehension. PEA is found in chocolate and it, too, is linked to the feel-good effects of exercise. Overall, a swift jog could be more conducive to love than anything you might find in a bottle.

Any flirt knows that making eye contact is an emotionally loaded act. Now psychologists have shown just how powerful it can be. When pairs of strangers were asked to gaze into each other's eyes, it was perhaps not surprising that their feelings of closeness and attraction rocketed compared with, say, gazing at each other's hands. More surprising was that a couple in one such experiment ended up getting married. Neuroscientists have shed some light on what's going on: meeting another person's gaze lights up brain regions associated with rewards. The bottom line is that eye contact can work wonders, but make sure you get your technique right: if your gaze isn't reciprocated, you risk coming across as a stalker.

From issue 2549 of New Scientist magazine, 27 April 2006, page 46

via New Scientist

Illustrated Structure of Masonry

click image to enlarge

27 April 2006

Be genderless (and drink Campari)

via Boing Boing à la Miles of Yarn

Further look at the sound of language transcribed visually

Takeluma is a "sound symbolic, phonetic alphabet" by artist Peter Cho, and was his MFA thesis project (PDF) in the UCLA department of Design | Media Arts. vade was kind enough to pass this along to me, in response to some more in-depth conversations we're having about symbols.

To check out more on this sort of stuff, please check out A wee introduction to cymatics — the study of vibration — which doesn't shy away from esoteric concepts. I've recently also come across this interesting design article by Frank Armstrong, entitled "Hearing Type," which is available there on the AIGA site. From a qualitative perspective, Armstrong takes an analogous approach to typography and the four properties of sound or tone: amplitude, duration, pitch, and timbre.

26 April 2006

102 films that form our cultural vernacular

via Kottke.org

Film critic Jim Emerson recently compiled a list of 102 movies that you should see before you can consider yourself movie literate:
…they [are] the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They're the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat "movie-literate."

I have to admit, I've not seen most of these. I guess I have something to do this summer. Like Kottke, I am affixing stars to the ones I've seen. (31 32 of 102. Kottke had 40. Any of you?) Looks like I'm off to the the video store after work!

* 2001: A Space Odyssey
The 400 Blows

Aguirre: The Wrath of God
* Alien
All About Eve
Annie Hall
* Apocalypse Now
* Bambi
The Battleship Potemkin
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Sleep
* Blade Runner
* Blue Velvet
* Bonnie and Clyde
Bringing Up Baby
* Carrie
* Casablanca
Un chien andalou
Children of Paradise / Les enfants du paradis
Citizen Kane
* A Clockwork Orange
* The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
* Days of Heaven
Dirty Harry
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Do the Right Thing
La dolce vita
Double Indemnity
* Dr Strangelove
Duck Soup
* E.T. — The Extra-terrestrial
Easy Rider
* The Empire Strikes Back
* The Exorcist
* Fargo
* Fight Club
* Frankenstein
The General
The Godfather & The Godfather, Pt II
Gone With the Wind
* Goodfellas
The Graduate
* Halloween
A Hard Day's Night
It's a Gift
* It's a Wonderful Life
The Lady Eve
Lawrence of Arabia
* Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
* The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
* Metropolis
Modern Times
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Night of the Hunter
* Night of the Living Dead
North by Northwest
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Out of the Past
Pink Flamingos
* Pulp Fiction
* Rashômon
Rear Window
* Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
The Rules of the Game
* Scarface
The Scarlet Empress
Schindler's List
The Searchers
The Seven Samurai
Singin' in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
A Streetcar Named Desire
Sunset Boulevard
* Taxi Driver
The Third Man
Tokyo Story
Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
West Side Story
The Wild Bunch
The Wizard of Oz

25 April 2006

Ali G interviews Noam Chomsky


via Mind Hacks

Recent contemplations on causality

Sometimes you just need to sit and watch it in action to really appreciate the beauty of certain philosophies. The trick is, knowing what to look for. This video was a joy to find and it compliments some of the ideas going on here, Alchemy & Design, about inhabiting symbols and their power to affect us… and vice versa…

via The Huge Entity à la News.3Yen.com

23 April 2006

“Right In Two”

10,000 Days, the forthcoming album from Tool, is excellent. Definitely going to be one to purchase as soon as it's officially released (2 May, according to Amazon.ca). This may actually be my favourite album by them so far, though Ænima will always have a special place in my heart. I'll let everyone check out the lyrics and music when they purchase the album (or read them on Tool's website, when the album is out), but because I tend to break the rules occasionally in order to help out those not willing to, here is a look at one of the new tracks. Funny, I can't call it "animosity," or "feelings," but it deals with the angels' ________ over humans and free will. Not that many of us develop free will in our lifetimes, but it's a recurrant in certain occult lit. Here it is, "Right In Two":

Angels on the sideline,
Puzzled and amused
Why did Father give these humans free will?
Now they're all confused

Don't these talking monkeys know that
Eden has enough to go around?
Plenty in this holy garden, silly old monkeys
Where there's one you're bound to divide it
Right in two

Angels on the sideline
Baffled and confused
Father blessed them all with reason
And this is what they choose
Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground.

Silly monkeys given thumbs
They forge a blade
And where there's one
They're bound to divide it,
Right in two
Right in two

Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground
Silly monkeys give them thumbs
They make a club
And beat their brother… down
How they survive so misguided is a mystery
Repugnant dismal creature who would squander
The ability to live, to die, and have a conscience
Brothers live inside here

Cut it all right in two (×4)

Fight over the clouds, over wind, over sky
Fight over life, over blood, over prayer, overhead and light
Fight over love, over sun, over another

Angels on the sideline again
Been so long with patience and reason
Angels on the sideline again
Wondering when this tug of war will end

Cut it all right in two (×3)
Right in two

Right in two…

20 April 2006

Going back to school!

In case anyone gets to wondering, I'll be only lightly posting for the next five or so weeks. I am busy with a bunch of work for a resto-bar I am currently designing and some other freelance stuff. I am also enrolled in the "Chaos Magic in Business" course being offered by Robert Anton Wilson's Maybe Logic Academy. I'm very excited, as the class is taught by none other than Peter J. Carroll, one of the founders of the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT) and the man who coined the term "chaos magic." (This is also the order that denied my entrance due to a lack of group work. Darn isolation.)

Carroll's site, Specularium, can be found here. It deals with the concept of "three-dimensional time concealed in the data of fundamental physics." (And no, I don't understand a shred of it.)

19 April 2006

Watching the brain ‘switch off’ self-awareness

via New Scientist
18:00 19 April 2006
NewScientist.com news service
Gaia Vince

Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity — being totally absorbed in a task, a movie or sex. Now researchers have caught the brain in the act.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

The team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task — only becoming "human" again when it has the luxury of time.

Ilan Goldberg and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of nine volunteers during the study. Participants were shown picture cards and told to push buttons to indicate whether or not an animal was depicted.

The series was shown slowly the first time, and at three times the rate on the second run through. On its third showing, the volunteers were asked to use the buttons to indicate their emotional response to the pictures. The experiment was then repeated using musical extracts, rather than pictures, and asked to identify whether a trumpet played.

Allocating resources

Goldberg found that when the sensory stimulus was shown slowly, and when a personal emotional response was required, the volunteers showed activity in the superfrontal gyrus — the brain region associated with self-awareness-related function.

But when the card flipping and musical sequences were rapid, there was no activity in the superfrontal gyrus, despite activity in the sensory cortex and related structures.

“The regions of the brain involved in introspection and sensory perception are completely segregated, although well connected,” says Goldberg, “and when the brain needs to divert all its resources to carry out a difficult task, the self-related cortex is inhibited.”

The brain’s ability to “switch off” the self may have evolved as a protective mechanism, he suggests. “If there is a sudden danger, such as the appearance of a snake, it is not helpful to stand around wondering how one feels about the situation,” Goldberg points out.

It is possible that research into how the brain switches self-awareness on and off will help neurologists gain a deeper understanding of autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders where this functionality may be impaired.

Journal reference: Neuron (vol 50, p 329)