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.