Tuesday, December 30, 2008
"Terror marketing, or toxic marketing, is one area of negative psychological triggering that works when the target demographic has developed resistance to mass-marketing techniques. In some sense, all black metal relies on toxic marketing. Most horror films use toxic marketing, and a great example comes from the 1990 film Crazy People, in which an advertising executive places an ad for a film called The Freak with a tagline that states "This film won't just scare you, this film will fuck you up for life." While fictional, there are plenty of advertisements nowadays that use essentially the same fear-based marketing to reach a demographic that ignores more typical advertising." (In fact, here's a recent example of Terror Marketing copywriting, done by Wes.)
Friday, December 26, 2008
A New Year For Us All - From the www.MythosMedia.net team.
Amidst all of the turmoil that has occurred both in the US and abroad in 2008, many of the media giants are stomping around blindly. There is no better time for truly independent groups of artists, musicians and myth makers to band together to collaborate, share and grow their myths. This is why Mythos Media formed in 2006-2007, and it remains our singular goal. The time is ripe now, but we need to meet each other halfway.
The purpose of this message is to alert you to what we have been doing over this past year, and what we look to create in 2009. The days of purely passive media are through. Sure, everyone likes to unwind and watch a movie from time to time, but always existing in that state of consumption leaves people shut-down, and isolated. This is why social media is exploding, even if major corporations are trying to turn the Internet into an ad-laden, vapid wasteland.
We all need stories that we can participate in, and a framework for us to collaborate and create work together. This is our goal moving forward- not only building our own myths but creating a sandbox for you to build your own as well. We believe static media like books and DVDs are merely entrance points into interactivity, collaboration, and the creation of new myths in the future, using technologies that are still being refined even as we speak. We hope you join us.
--James Curcio, Christmas Eve, 2008.
See the full, unabridged State of the Union, with tons of free books, music and more, go here: http://www.mythosmedia.net/content/2008/mm-12-08.html
Including: Lives of Ilya with Tara Vanflower, and the audiobook chapter read by Jarboe, Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, a full, some re-issued re-masters of early Choronzon and Veil of Thorns material as well as some more recent releases, free 256 kbps release of subQtaneous: Some Still Despair In A Prozac Nation, the Art of Memetics, and sneak peeks at many up and coming projects.
Monday, December 15, 2008
There is a story of the Chinese sage Zhuangzi that goes:
"Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things."
Though on its face this may seem an almost childish idea to most, if you have ever experienced a lucid dream, or if you really pay any attention at all to your inner life, you may come to realize that there is truth to it. What is more, there is a real terror that can accompany realizing that the ground we stand on, at least figuratively speaking, is not solid. All experience is simply experience, whether it involves balancing your checkbook or talking to the monk levitating above a colossal, marching procession of cymbal-crashing frog men.
Many movies have dealt with this idea. (The Science of Sleep and Vanilla Sky are the first two that come to mind that do it any justice, but there are many more.) However, few have done it with such a brilliant flare for the surreal as Satoshi Kon's Paprika. Like his previous film, Perfect Blue (review here), the animation is top notch, and the script solid, though even the best animes tend to be a little stilted in translation. He also utilizes many of the same techniques in both movies, including breaking that fourth wall nearly every scene. In the case of Paprika, these techniques are being applied for a different purpose, and I would say they are done somewhat more gracefully.
(Read full article on TLA Attacks The Movies.)
Friday, December 12, 2008
Many have commented that Blagojevich's $4500 bail is something of an outrage, amidst so much financial corruption. However, this misses what I think is really going on here. Society pays lip service to certain moral codes, but often rewards something more akin to barbarism. The fact that we need a government at all is ample proof of that- if any of you are familiar with Hobbes' Leviathan, you know where I'm going with that.
The "oversight" provided by government creates an infinite regress when corruption sets in, as it always does. That is, you have people overseeing that something is done properly, but then you need people to oversee them, and people to oversee those people. You have different groups within the same government listening in on each other, and an inordinate amount of money and energy wasted on these different agencies - all rife with varying amounts of corruption - trying to get a leg up on the other.
From time to time, however, a whipping boy is necessary in the name of those morals that we pay lip service to. This is nothing new- in fact many Pagan societies ritualize this "whipping boy" in various literal ways, or translate it directly into the bloody sacrifice. (Though in most of those cases the sacrifice has to be pure / virginal, not an exemplar of the corruption that embodies business-as-usual within the society.) At the moment, it happens to be that guy whose name I find really painful to pronounce, or even type out. Blog-o-whatever. But if, after eight years under Bush, you think the buck stops there.
And if you are thinking to yourself, well that's interesting James, but this has little-or-nothing to do with independent media... well, you're right.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Yet again, I discover that elements of the hypothetical future that we dreamed up for Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning are bleeding into reality.
"Keep your shoes and belts on: Waiting in long airport security lines to pass through metal detectors may soon be a thing of the past.--from CNN
Security experts say focus is shifting from analyzing the content of carry-ons to analyzing the content of passengers' intentions and emotions.
"We are seeing a needed paradigm shift when it comes to security," says Omer Laviv, CEO of ATHENA GS3, an Israeli-based security company.
"This 'brain-fingerprinting,' or technology which checks for behavioral intent, is much more developed than we think."
Nowhere is the need for cutting-edge security more acute than Israel, which faces constant security threats. For this reason, Israel has become a leader in developing security technology.
Several Israeli-based technology companies are developing detection systems that pick up signs of emotional strain, a psychological red flag that a passenger may intend to commit an act of terror. Speedier and less intrusive than metal detectors, these systems may eventually restore some efficiency to the airplane boarding process.
One firm, WeCU (pronounced "We See You") Technologies, employs a combination of infra-red technology, remote sensors and imagers, and flashing of subliminal images, such as a photo of Osama bin Laden. Developers say the combination of these technologies can detect a person's reaction to certain stimuli by reading body temperature, heart rate and respiration, signals a terrorist unwittingly emits before he plans to commit an attack.
With these technologies, the emphasis is on speed and seamlessness. Ehud Givon, CEO of WeCU, envisions a day when a passenger can breeze through a security checkpoint in 20 to 30 seconds.
Although traditional security profiling can discriminate by race and religion, security experts say behavioral profiling is more fair, more effective and less expensive.
WeCU has received grants from the Transportation Security Administration within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which hopes to implement a system to pinpoint internal threats such as airline employees intending terrorist acts.
Once these technologies are in place, a passenger may pass through a security screening without realizing it. For example, passengers could use an automated check-in system or gaze at a screen with departures information without realizing they've just been exposed to the words "Islamic jihad" written in Arabic.
These stimuli, explains Givon, will intrinsically elicit some sort of biometric response -- whether the passenger knows it or not -- that can be picked up by WeCU's strategically placed sensors.
"I believe that we introduce a new layer in security," Givon says. "This is something that couldn't be done in the past: finding the connection between a certain individual and the intent to harm."
The Orwellian-sounding startup has gone further to develop a system that detects a passenger's behavioral intentions by scanning their every step, literally. While walking around certain parts of the airport terminal, a passenger may not realize he has stepped on a "smart carpet" filled with hidden biometric sensors.
The technology is still under development, says Givon, who believes it will be strong enough to pick up biometric information from a footstep. If a passenger is wearing heavy hiking boots, for example, WeCU will rely on biometric sensors combined with video and thermal biometric imaging to detect malicious intent.
Another option from WeCU is a "smart seat," or cushion full of hidden biometric sensors that could provide a more detailed read on someone sitting in an airport waiting area, Givon says.
While the technology sound like something from a James Bond flick or even "A Clockwork Orange," Givon insists that passengers will not find the techniques intrusive. "We don't want you to feel that you are being interrogated," he says.
Givon is negotiating contracts with airports worldwide and believes his company's technology may be implemented as soon as 2010.
Nemesysco, another Israeli-based technology company, believes the key to a person's emotions and intentions lies in their voice. The company's patented LVA, or Layered Voice Analysis, technology can pick up verbal cues from a passenger who may pose a threat.
Unlike a polygraph test, which checks for lies, Nemesysco's systems work as an "emotion detector," says Nemesysco CEO Amir Liberman. In other words, it's not what passengers say, but how they say it.
Nemesysco's devices use a series of patented signal-processing algorithms that can differentiate between a "normal" voice and a"'stressed" voice. If emotional stress is detected, officials can determine if the passenger should be taken aside for further questioning.
The system works on the premise that all voices have a certain frequency, and any deviation of that baseline frequency can indicate stress.
Liberman says it takes approximately five to 10 seconds for their system to capture a "normal" voice in casual conversation, which establishes a baseline. Their system then measures changes from the baseline voice that signify an increase in stress, excitement, anticipation, hesitation or other emotions that can indicate a potential terrorism threat.
A computer processes the voice patterns and then flashes words such as "high risk," "medium risk," "excited" and "highly stressed." Through his system, Liberman says, he "can see what's going on in your brain."
Versions of Nemesysco's system already have been successfully tested at Moscow Domodedovo International Airport, where officials used it to target criminals and drug traffickers. A version was recently implemented at another major international airport which Liberman declined to identify.
Layered Voice Analysis also has been used to test for insurance fraud and on the TV program "Big Brother Australia."
Layered Voice Analysis has limitations, including the inability to trace the vocal patterns of a person with a speech impediment. But the system is more effective than current security measures, claims Liberman, who believes a terrorist currently can pass through airport security with explosive material "that can take down any plane."
In fact, many experts express little confidence in the current state of airport security.
Philip Baum, London-based editor of Aviation Security International magazine, says would-be terrorists could easily slip through security checkpoints, even with new regulations that check for liquids.
"The archaic system of an X-ray machine and metal detector cannot pick up other potential threats posed by passengers," Baum says. "I can have a ceramic weapon or chemical weapons and walk through an archway metal detector and it won't be picked up. Yet we have huge faith in these metal detectors that can only pick up one substance."
Laviv, whose consulting firm focuses on securing mass transportation systems, is equally skeptical.
"It is possible today to hijack an aircraft using only five or six able-bodied passengers who are well-trained in Kung Fu fighting," he says. "There is no technology in place in airports to detect a threat like that.
"The question is, should our desire be to look for each and every threat agent, rather than focus our efforts on identifying the [violent] intention of the passenger?"
Monday, December 01, 2008
This coming week I will be recording with a group headed by Joseph Matheny about modern myth-making, many of whom I've had the pleasure of working alongside over the years. (To my knowledge the present line-up will be Joseph Matheny, Wes Unruh, Anna Young, John Harrigan, Lucy Allin, and P. Emerson Williams.)
The final result will run on the G-Spot in coming weeks. Check it out, or subscribe to that G-Spot feed to continue to receive this independent media podcast.
In preparation for that I am compiling a "selected works" free pack of the art / myths I have produced, to be released via torrent alongside the podcast. I've suggested my cohorts do the same.
Here are some of my thoughts on the importance of myth, and how, though myth-making techniques are changing, the underlying function and importance remains at the fore-front of the human psyche. (Immanence of Myth, early fragments PDF)
Worth checking out- as the new paradigm for books continues.
Why am I allowing you to copy the book for free? And why is Yale University Press letting me? To understand why I am doing it, watch this video by Jesse Dylan. And if you want to understand why it makes economic sense to my publisher, read this short article.
The Public Domain.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Inspired by the alternative beauty pageant "Miss Catwalk Tragedy" this 134 page, full color 8.5" x 11" collection features some of the country's top alternative photographers and a few promising newcomers.
- Lithium Picnic
- Kyle Cassidy
- Jeff Cohn
- Scott Church
- S. Jenx
- And many others! (See full credit list on the purchase page.)
Look for an interview on Alterati.com with photographer S. Jenx about this collection in coming weeks, covering what inspired him to curate this collection, his own photographic process, and knowing us, probably a lot more.
Monday, November 17, 2008
(Photo by Matthew Cooke.)
In my opinion, Collide’s recent release, Two Headed Monster, is both a culmination and a departure from their past work. Though it may remain in the same rack in the record store (those still exist, right?), you can feel that a maturation has taken place.
Contrary to opinion, maturation of this nature doesn’t simply come with time. As many artists prove, you can create and re-create the same thing for a lifetime, if you so choose. There is a deceptive, almost infinite freedom provided by working on projects exclusively in the studio, as much of Collide’s previous work has been. Sometimes those boundless 3 a.m.-in-the-studio possibilities can become a creatively stagnating trap. I’m happy they managed to avoid that trap, instead creating a thickly-textured, lively album that stands up to many listens.
As some of you probably already know, I’m not a fan of regurgitating the experience of listening to an album in an attempt to entice you into buying it. (Though as that goes, the Fearnet.com review was pretty good.) Rather, I leave it to you to check it out, and form your own opinion. The process that created a work is always most interesting to me, so I am happy that I had the chance to talk to kaRIN and statik about how this album came into being…
James Curcio: The first thing that stood out to me on this album was that it seemed to be more collaborative than your previous work. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it feels to me that Collide really took a step forward in that regard, and several others. After so many years with the two of you primarily working as a “two headed monster” (as it were), what was it like opening the songwriting process up to other band members and contributors?
kaRIN: The primary song writing for Collide is still primarily Statik and myself. Over the years, we are just trying to evolve as much as we can and not make the same songs over again. We were very lucky to have gathered up some great live players, so the live influence and the fact that all of our live members contributed to each of the songs is definitely evident on Two Headed Monster.
(Read the full interview on Alterati.com.)
"Science bears a clear parallel tomilitary organisation and the instrumental application of armed force in that its practitioners are always attempting to extract ‘patterns’ from ‘noise’, to find regularities in the fog ofFrom http://twitter.com/brainsturbator
randomness, to uncover the ‘laws’ governing the behaviour of nature, to reveal the hidden order behind its apparent chaos."
The Scientific Way of Warfare: Science and the Management of
Techno-social Systems of Warfare (PDF).
Thursday, November 13, 2008
If you're curious about what we'll be offering, or just want to gripe about my use of obnoxious colors- as always, feel free to inquire.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
"Editors’ abstract. As with other new modes of conflict, the practice of netwar is ahead of theory. In this concluding chapter, we suggest how the theory of netwar may be improved by drawing upon academic perspectives on networks, especially those devoted to organizational network analysis. Meanwhile, strategists and policymakers in Washington, and elsewhere, have begun to discern the dark side of the network phenomenon, especially among terrorist and criminal organizations. But they still have much work to do to harness the bright side, by formulating strategies that will enable state and civil-society actors to work together better."
The use of "bad guys" and "good guys", used so liberally throughout, is rather comedic. However, the central premise is sound.
Also of particular note:
Why have the members assumed a network form? Why do they remain
in that form? Networks, like other forms of organization, are held together by the narratives, or stories, that people tell.
The kind of successful narratives that we have in mind are not simply rhetoric—
not simply a “line” with “spin” that is “scripted” for manipulative ends. Instead, these narratives provide a grounded expression of people’s experiences, interests, and values.
First of all, stories express a sense of identity and belonging—who “we” are, why we have come together, and what makes us different from “them.” Second, stories communicate a sense of cause, purpose, and mission. They express aims and methods as well as cultural dispositions—what “we” believe in, and what we mean to do, and how.
It really doesn't matter- so far as I can tell- that Obama is half black. The fact that it does matter just shows how far we have to go.
What does matter is that he's intelligent, and, despite being a politician (and all that comes along with it), he is also an able statesman. How much that matters is yet to be seen. The work has just started- and I do not envy his job. Talk about first-day-on-the-job pressure, at least in January. The entire world seems to expect a miracle.
That's all I feel like saying about politics right now. The Collide review is on slight delay because though my iPhone claimed to download the mp3s, they're not showing up in my playlist. And I won't be home for 4 days...
Palin was apparently a nightmare for her campaign staff to deal with. She refused preparation help for her interview with Katie Couric and then blamed her staff, specifically Nicole Wallace, when the interview was panned as a disaster. After the Couric interview, Fox News reported, Palin turned nasty with her staff and began to accuse them of mishandling her. Palin would view press clippings of herself in the morning and throw "tantrums" over the negative coverage. There were times when she would be so nasty and angry that her staff was reduced to tears.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Next week- supposing I can finally kick the plague that's been ravaging my innards- I'm going to be writing a review of Collide's recent release Two Headed Monster. It'll run both on Alterati.com and Greylodge.org. This album has been three years in the making, and as you may have already heard, showcases Danny Carey from Tool and Dean Garcia from Curve, as well as the members of the live band they assembled.
Video for Euphoria, off of Collide's previous album.
Before then, however, I wanted to give a shout out to an ex-bandmate and good friend of mine, who happens to be a member of that live band- Scott Landes. The fact of that matter is that oftentimes the headliners steal all the oxygen from the room- which isn't to say that it isn't warranted. (My respect for what kaRIN and statiK have done aside, I won't deny an almost fanboy-ish love for Danny Carey's drumming.)
However, in this case the other members, who often get referred to in the reviews as "the live band," are all talented musicians in their own right. Who knows the names of the band that played with Tori Amos when touring for Little Earthquakes, or PJ Harvey's bandmates on Rid of Me? (Don't check with Google. I'm just making a point.) This is a fault purely of the press- and the simple bottom line of what sells tickets and records.
I don't know the other members of Collide's band well enough to talk about them, though Kai Kurosawa's muscianship is clearly impressive. However, having known, worked with, and on several occasions lived with Scott, I wanted to share a little of that, and some reflections of my own work with him and how he influenced me- before jumping into a review of Collide's album on its own ground.
I first met Scott in 98 or 99 during my Sophmore year at Bard College. Our mutual friend Jim introduced us, and he promptly blew me away with the intensity of his playing- and in the process snapped at least one of the strings on the Mexican strat that I owned at the time.
From that point on, we began a many-year long collaboration which oftentimes veered into the obscure or plain bizarre. Scott got me to take music more seriously- it was hard not to, what with how passionate he is about it. He would literally stay up all night playing until his fingers bled. (And then keep playing.) One part of what motivated me to take Jazz harmony and music theory classes was so that I could keep up with him on my chosen instrument at the time, bass. On the other hand, I'd like to think that I helped him learn to take music a little less seriously. Oftentimes, we would have absurd jams so ridiculous that we'd fall over laughing. These first meanderings took the form of Bile Shower, a truly awful concoction which was a great deal of fun to create, and which wreaks pain and havoc upon whomever has the poor sense to subject themselves to it.
This did eventually lead to more serious projects, such as Babalon, but throughout I would say that there's always been an underlying comedy in most of the work we've done together, even those which got more production attention, like subQtaneous. (Here is a live recording of Waiting and a demo of Save The World, two of my favorites from what we recorded with Babalon).
After Babalon broke up, Scott joined forces with Collide, and a little while thereafter, with Mankind Is Obsolete. I had MKIO stay at my apartment several months back, when they were still on their colossal year+ tour, and got to briefly reconnect with him and meet some new faces. Here is a band operating completely without a label, living out of a van, playing gigs varying in size and grandiosity from Warp tour dates to some people in a corn field. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 of my review and interview with Mankind is Obsolete from last year before they hit the road.)
Living off of tuna and celery and playing music every night. It just goes to show that though the days of excess Guns N' Roses got to experience might be gone, if you are committed enough, you can hit the road and find an audience.
I've been involved in several musical projects since Babalon, and some studio work with Scott since. However, I've yet to meet someone with his singleminded passion, dedication and drive for the art. It is truly a rare thing. If you have the opportunity to see him perform with Collide, Mankind Is Obsolete, or any other bands that he chooses to work with, I highly suggest you take it. I always look forward to seeing him on stage, or having another opportunity to collaborate.
Look for a review of Two Headed Monster next week.
(As a final note to the Fallen Nation readers out there- yes, the character of Cody was based- in part - on Scott.)
Friday, October 31, 2008
In this very special edition of The GSpot, Joseph Matheny talks to Raymond Salvatore Harmon about the special release of his movie, The Philosopher's Stone on Greylodge as a torrent to be followed by a "Press to Play" version being released on Altertube.tv and Pilotlite.com, and then a podcast edition to be released on Alterati, Greylodge and Pilotlite. Joe and Ray discuss art on the fringe, how Ray came to film making, the Chicago art scene, and why the economy means nothing to artists working on the fringes.
(Check it out on Alterati.com.)
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This past year has held a lot of changes and challenges for me. I broke up with my girlfriend of five years, (see? I told you I'd finally mention it publicly- no details though guys, LJdrama is so 1998), I'm working a full-time day job, I've put my non-or-little-paying creative projects on hiatus until I figure out what benefit I was actually providing to myself or others with them, I broke my almost year-long healthy streak with nearly two months of constant sinus infections, I'm gearing up for a move though I'm not 100% sure where to yet. And I'm falling in love.
Also, that was a really long sentence. Sorry about that, guys.
So, if you were actually wondering why the Fallen Nation audiobook is on hold, or why I haven't been running so many G-Spots lately, or so on, this is pretty much it. It's not that I've taken myself totally out of the game- I yam who I yam- but I realize I need to pull in a bit for a while, and not overcommit as I have so much in the past. Build a base, and then make decisions about where and how I want to spend my time and energy.
I am, however, completely open to suggestions from the peanut gallery on this matter, though I (as always) reserve the right to completely ignore everyone. It does help to know the things that I've done that have had an effect. So far Join My Cult! still seems to be in the lead on that account, if the number of "you changed my life!" emails from strangers is the metric. This is something I might have to work through in therapy someday. Or perhaps you all need therapy.
Until next time...
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A word of advice to young writers out there: beware making your first a hallucinogen soaked, satirical, non-linear, generally plot-less nightmare. One day you might look back on it with a feeling of Jager-hangover nausea, and yet find that it continues to generally outsell later work that in your estimation better deserves the light of day.
Maybe at some point I'll do some colossal re-write of Join My Cult! and Fallen Nation for larger distribution. In the wake of some curious legal battles within the publisher of the former, re-gaining those rights would be easy. ("Easy" might not be the word, they've already been granted.)
More likely I'll run off to Thailand and say to hell with this writing thing.
In the meantime, for those of you who have read Join My Cult! but not the sequel- pony up. I don't even make a profit from those sales. I'll just sleep easier knowing there are people out there who still enjoy a plot along with their anarchy and group sex.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
US researchers said they are able to selectively erase memories from mice in a laboratory, raising hopes human memory afflictions like post-traumatic stress syndrome can one day be cured.
"Targeted memory erasure is no longer limited to the realm of science fiction," the research team headed by Joe Tsien, from the Brain and Behaviour Discovery Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, said in the new issue of Cell Press magazine.
Great. One more things for schizophrenics to freak out about. I'm totally investing in aluminum foil.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"To switch metaphors, let's say that we are witnessing the two stages of a tsunami. The current disappearance of wealth in the form of debts repudiated, bets welshed on, contracts canceled, and Lehman Brothers-style sob stories played out is like the withdrawal of the sea. The poor curious little monkey-humans stand on the beach transfixed by the strangeness of the event as the water recedes and the sea floor is exposed and all kinds of exotic creatures are seen thrashing in the mud, while the skeletons of historic wrecks are exposed to view, and a great stench of organic decay wafts toward the strand. Then comes the second stage, the tidal wave itself--which in this case will be horrific monetary inflation--roaring back over the mud flats toward the land mass, crashing over the beach, and ripping apart all the hotels and houses and infrastructure there while it drowns the poor curious monkey-humans who were too enthralled by the weird spectacle to make for higher ground. The killer tidal wave washes away all the things they have labored to build for decades, all their poignant little effects and chattels, and the survivors are left keening amidst the wreckage as the sea once again returns to normal in its eternal cradle."
(Read full post on clusterfuck nation.)
Monday, October 20, 2008
My stomach still hurts from laughing. This weekend I saw Doug Stanhope at the Trocadero theatre, and I got exactly what I asked for- raw truth and bitterness,
served by a drunken lunatic.
Here are some of the thoughts I had when I first encountered his work. They still hold true, and I'm not a fan of regurgitation...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Oct. 13, 2008 -- Vocal cords were overrated anyway. A new Army grant aims to create email or voice mail and send it by thought alone. No need to type an email, dial a phone or even speak a word.
Known as synthetic telepathy, the technology is based on reading electrical activity in the brain using an electroencephalograph, or EEG. Similar technology is being marketed as a way to control video games by thought.
"I think that this will eventually become just another way of communicating," said Mike D'Zmura, from the University of California, Irvine and the lead scientist on the project.
"It will take a lot of research, and a lot of time, but there are also a lot of commercial applications, not just military applications," he said.
What's more scary? This tech winding up in Army hands, or in the hands of advertisers?
Friday, October 10, 2008
Modern Collective Unconscious by Amos Lassen
"Fallen Nation" is a trip like none you have ever taken. Paranoia is common, dreams haunt, and ends mean beginnings. The book explores modern culture and pays attention to hidden effects such as complacency, popular cynicism, and lack of diversity, escapism, and irony. The characters search for a better and more humane way of living. Several try to reform the obscure nature of what reality is and while doing so, they are forced to look at their own selves and the way they think and function.
It seems to me that the book is about becoming more individual and losing the belief that we all want to be like everyone else. Curcio shows what will happen if the infrastructure of our world crumbles. He gives no answers because there are none. This is a novel about warfare between and within cultures and knowing which battles are to be waged and which not.
Curcio's writing is unique and special and really fun to read. He is not always easy to understand but, once read, he brings us great rewards."
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"I'd like to share a film with you that I think is, on the whole, highly underrated. "Too clever by half," as a friend of mine put it. That film is Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
But before I discuss the movie directly, let me unpack the idiom. Many people seem to feel that if something is "too" clever, "too" smart, it's an affront to their common sense, an assault upon their salt-of-the-earth dignity. I don't know if this belief carries across cultural boundaries, but it seems endemic enough in the states that it even determines the results of elections. The Republican party has made this issue a corner-stone of their assault upon the "liberal elite," a fact well recognized and explored by Sorkin's own "too clever by half" drama, The West Wing.
I'm not entirely sure when being witty became a negative, frankly I don't care. Maybe this just makes me another member of the "liberal elite." But if you're not offended by self-aware satire and snarkiness, you'll likely find Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang one of the most entertaining, funny movies you've seen."
(Read review on TLAblog)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
So, the bailout goes down in flames, the Republican pundit and talk show host talking point handout sheet directs the right wing media droids to hammer speaker Nancy Pelosi over the failure of this plan. They obediently proceed to do so in spite of the fact that the house republicans were instrumental in scuppering the plan to which the democrats had characteristically conceded . Alex Jones has been foaming at the mouth in a most entertaining way as a protest on Wall Street and over a hundred other locations on Friday goes pretty much unreported. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index was down 8.7% and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) 9.1%. The Dow closed down 777 points (7%!). Is this God showing his opinion of our actions as Rosh Hashanah was about to begin at sunset? Happy New Year.
Read article on Alterati.com.
Monday, September 29, 2008
For me, the process began about a week ago. I was told that we will be unveiling a new review blog, angled towards our gay male market. After much deliberation in the editorial and marketing departments, I was presented with the name of the new blog: “Homo Pop.”
Now when you’re presented with something like this as a designer, your job isn’t to make copy suggestions- it’s to “make it work.” (Project Runway can’t sue me for just saying that, right?) I’m not ashamed to admit that at first I was stumped. To the writer, and to the designer, the blank page is terrifying. You pace, think you’re nowhere, call your friends and ask for their condolences on your impending demise, appeal to higher powers that you don’t believe in, and then suddenly- you have something. Hammer it out in a flurry, and pass out in a pool of your own sick"...
(Read full article)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
“It’s French,” she said turning around and sitting back down. She looked passed him for a moment remembering how the name had rolled off Lux’s tongue.
Melisande, my little honeybee…
It was important to live under false pretense in those days. A name could be a death sentence and Lux had crowned her thus…Melisande. It was a good memory; those few years of peace before it all erupted in a bloodbath. She could still see his flaxen hair, his black eyes and that devilish grin as he leaned in to kiss her again.
Lives of Ilya was written by Tara Vanflower and narrated by Jarboe. Soundtrack music by Tara Vanflower.
The Lives of Ilya illustrated novel is available now from Mythos Media and Amazon.com.
Listen to part 3
Monday, September 22, 2008
Joseph Matheny talks to author Nick Belardes, in this second part of a recent interview. They discuss the legend of the Lords of Bakersfield and Nicks novel about the subject, The Lords: Part One. Also, music by Bakersfield bands Lost Ocean and The In Denials.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Viral marketing. It's become a buzzword that most people don't understand, but more corporations are getting hot under the collar when they hear it. "I don't know what this thing is Bob, but the kids love it!"
And if you haven't heard the term before, or don't know what it is... Well, I'm not going to explain it to you right now. I've worked on "viral" campaigns, so maybe at some point I'll bite off a large enough chunk of time to spell out some of the techniques... Probably not. (Another well considered piece of advice from a very successful marketer that I know: most people who have had some success at this don't have the time to explain how to do it. Those who do are often trying to reveal their MARKETING SECRET: pay attention to them, and give them money. SECRET REVEALED.)
Be that as it may, there are an increasing number of viral campaigns going on now, many of them funded by large corporations. Just yesterday I saw an ad on Myspace which read "CHOKEmate - satisfy your need." And which was laid out to look like some kind of horrific dating site ad. On Myspace, these are common, so I gave it little thought- except for the name. Was this some kind of auto-erotic asphyxiation thing? The hell?
I finally got curious enough to actually click on the damn thing, which I never do. And sure enough- it's a promo for the upcoming movie CHOKE, (based- somehow?- on Chuck's book.)
Good? Bad? Indifferent? Well- in a sense the ad worked. I had already seen an ad on TV and was vaguely aware the movie was coming out. I clicked on the ad, and now I have 2 points of contact- I am reminded that the movie exists. Now, based on the usual formula, I need to talk to my friends about it.
And here I am blogging about it. You see how this works?
Heaven help us.
Friday, September 12, 2008
(Though I'm not going to do you. So don't ask.)
I empathize with the amount of attention, pressure and possibly out-right threats you are getting to give birth against your will and I understand that at your age, you may go through with it no matter how much you don't want to. Either way, you have inspired me to try to make a difference.
Even if you cannot take my offer, I will still use my money or money donated through this page to pay for at least one abortion for a disadvantaged teenage girl each year for the rest of my life in the name of your mother. And in my will, I shall have a good portion of my estate turned into the Sarah J Palin Abortion Fund that will help girls from all walks of life from destroying their lives and our natural resources by having children.
You are not alone, Bristol. There are many of us out here who care.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Old City Cafe must put crack in their iced coffee. I can drink strong coffee from the machine here in the office all day, fucking nothing. One iced coffee there, and I feel like Wotan just fucked my skull with a lightning bolt.
On that note, back to work with me. SEO is an evil that does not sleep...
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
For those of you who don’t know... Classic porn actor, Tom Byron contributes to popporn.com via a video feature called SHITTY ADVICE WITH TOM BYRON in which we send made up, silly, goofy, sex-related (or not.. having Tom answer financial advice could be pretty damn funny) questions to Tom who then films himself with young women answering the questions… with hilarious results. Think of him as the Dear Abby of porn… but a lot less hairy.
Anyway… we need more questions for Byron!
If anything pops into your head please send your questions back to me or Tom Byron will hunt you down and ass-lick you to death.
Feel free to forward this on to friends but send your responses only to me so we can protect everyone’s sexual secrets.
Send them to me at jamescurcio at gmail dot com.
Drag sorry ass to work in the middle of a thunderstorm. Fittingly, my iTunes insists on only playing Portishead and Massive Attack. Feeling a predictable level of emo by the time I walk in.
("Run outta crisps and feelin' a bit... emo?")
Turn on the machine. Log in. Run Outlook, and sift through the days emails.
It's an email from one of the programmers, asking if I can look at making a new CSS class. And she sends me a page as an example. OK, better check out the page...
Agh. Another day at work.
Oh yeah. You're welcome.
Monday, September 08, 2008
For those of you who haven't bought tickets yet, I suggest you do so. This year's event looks to be bigger and better than last, including luminaries like Dennis McKenna, Antero Alli, Paul Laffoley, musical performances, and a lot more.
If that wasn't enough, "famous on the Internet" James Curcio will be there. Presenting an audio installation, as well as possibly a workshop. I am also working on lining up a special late-night treat for all of you- I'll make an announcement if it goes through.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I am slated to co-run a independent media production workshop at Esozone this October in Portland OR, and possibly some other things. I am very much looking forward to seeing people there who I haven't seen in a year, and to meet new people.
However, I'm slightly less than breaking even lately- so I'm a little stumped about how I'm going to swing airfare. So it was suggested to me that I start a donation fund to help towards that goal.
Caveat: I have no expectation of you helping out. If you want to throw in something to go towards the airfare, I appreciate it.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Read the full review.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Some of you may wonder why I'm not at Comic Con. Well yes, part of it is because it is #*$&*@#*-ing expensive, at least if you intend on having a good time. It is a roving mob of walking advertisements. It is... well, to be honest, none of those are the primary reason.
The primary reason is that I've been doing conventions for a couple years now, and I've learned that I really enjoy - no, love - networking at these things. I love moving from artist to artist and sharing tales of victory and woe, (and some scotch to boot.)
Here's the problem: I have met many thousands of people at these conventions. Thousands of people who are eager to hear back from me, who want to keep in touch, who want to pitch something to me, who want to hear my pitch, who give me the "please don't stop talking to me, I might have to talk to the crazed guy standing behind you in the wolverine costume" look, who exchange business cards with a grin.
Now, I am disturbingly scrupulous about writing every single one of them back. Seriously, I have an unholy ability to look through a pile of business cards as thick as my thumb and recall the conversations I had with each person- often while drunk, no less. However, no one else seems to share my unholy power. Which isn't to say that they don't necessarily remember who I am, the fact is that the vast majority of them never write back. And by vast majority, I mean pretty much none of them.
So, unless if I am there with a paid-for booth, or I am looking at it as purely recreational, though it might still be a tax write-off, I can't personally write it off as a legitimate investment. I'd love to be convinced otherwise, but it seems to me that these conventions are primarily a scam on the part of the big companies who place their promo ads and trailers, and of course those people selling you your overpriced soft-drinks. How many other events do you pay top dollar for, so that you can be advertised to. What a brilliant racket. Networking? If only.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The voices you will hear in this soundtrack will be the voices inside the actor's head. The rest you will just have to imagine- or better yet, get your ass to the event.
Also, after the Terra Extremitas event in Amsterdam, we will be providing you with a version of this soundtrack with the actors lines added- which may or may not have video, depending on how the filming at the event goes. Enjoy!
Writing: James Curcio, Jason Stackhouse.
Production & Art Direction: James Curcio.
Music: P. Emerson Williams (Choronzon, Veil of Thorns), James Curcio, Scott Landes (Collide, Mankind is Obsolete), Jon Siren (Mankind is Obsolete, Hate Dept).
(Built in player should stream the mp3, it is also available for download on this page.)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
That's not what this post is about, so I'm not going to belabor that.
No, this post is about being so bored - existentially, even - that I'm considering staying up all night. Which doesn't even make sense, I realize, unless if you too can hit that point where suddenly you're so bored - uninspired would be an even better word - that you couldn't possibly sleep no matter how hard you tried. And my schedule is so fucked at this point, I figure why not?
Actually, this post isn't about that either. But it's closer to my point by a number of degrees.
To pass a little bit of the time, I've decided that I will share with you some of the things that I want to do before I die. There, that was the thesis.
Most people have these Hallmark hopes and dreams for this list. I don't know, something-something World Series (is that something you Win? I haven't watched a full game of a sport on TV since I was just post-gestation), see the (insert expected landmark here), etc. None of that for me. I could care less if I see Mount Rushmore before I die. If I won a trophy for a sport, the only thing I could think to do with the cup is drink out of it. ("Just pour the mocha in here, that's fine.")
No, the things I would like to experience before the "oh shit, I'm about to die" realization followed by an eternity of being the rest of the universe (and not me), are much more random. You may call them impractical. Most of them certainly not good ideas, and some of them may very well kill me or get me a disease in the process.
But who wants to be a healthy corpse?
This is in no particular order.
1. Have something that I create reviewed (ideally favorably though I'll take what I can get) in a location with massive distribution that does not have the words "occult" "conspiracy" or "counterculture" anywhere within the entirety of the publication / show.
2. Fear And Loathing, International. I would like to do this after I've knocked off a couple of the others, as it would most likely either end a) with my death or b) with a prison sentence that I'd want to kill myself to get out of. This mission unpossible: get together my most bizarre and unusual friends. If this means traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to gather them up, so be it. Acquire a copious amount of hallucinogens, and a veritable bevy of prostitutes, none of whom speak the same language as us or each other. Replacing sleep with chemicals, document the almost certain straight arrow shot to hell that ensues on the Internet. If necessary, add to this cocktail those drugs which provoke increased sexual urges, gambling, and sleep walking / driving / etc. Remove the word "no" and the thought "this is probably not a good idea" from our collective physical and mental vocabulary. Demand chaos, and expect nothing less.
3. This is an old one, and one of the less probable ones. (I'm not even sure if it's possible.) I have always- since I was a child- wanted a silverback gorilla in a pin-striped suit that I could train to teach solitaire and refer to as "my bouncer." Though back then he was my bodyguard. But I think bouncer is better. Seriously, you will never need violence when you have the threat of a grouchy silverback gorilla just a room away. (A grouchy silverback that almost certainly sucks at playing solitaire.) I'll grant this is something one "has" rather than "does"- just don't say that to the gorilla. He is no one's bitch.
4. Create something that I feel truly happy with- at least for a week- without that itching, burning, gnawing that I can do better. (Or was that caused by #2?) This feeling is probably to be enjoyed with a full-bodied wine or beer. Maybe some lambic. And a friend or two who can sit there quietly and bask in contentedness with you without asking you what you're going to do next.
5. Milk yaks with Jillian somewhere in Tibet, churn butter from the milk, and demonstrate that google was right, and it is both nutritious and delicious.
Actually, this one isn't very important. A better one might be: kidnap Jillian. Avoid the authorities.
6. Spend an entire week with at least two people that I find incredibly sexually appealing doing nothing but having sex, eating, massaging, imbibing uh... those things which may enhance or intensify the experience... and very occasionally, sleeping. Granted, I've done it before but it was definitely worth repeating. Activities such as swimming are also allowed, but anything not immediately related to the potentially gratifying experience of being physically present in a body (e.g. anything that glows on a screen) is right out. We simply don't enjoy the possibilities nearly enough.
7. Writing, co-producing, soundtrack production, etc for a feature length film or similarly "immersive" project. Though nice it's not the credits that I care about, it's the experience. I want to do something that intense with a team of people that are every bit as dedicated (obsessed) with the production as I am, and with the funds to actually fucking do it right.
8. Get to watch Christie come into her own and get healthy along the way.
9. Finally, possibly most important and least likely. Spend a month in a beautiful location with the people I care most about without any of us once thinking about a project, work, financial stress, or any element of success or failure- just living. This is obviously only truly possible after some of the others have already been fulfilled.
Do you see the common theme here? Most require an inordinate amount of money. I need to get on that. (But the last one doesn't, you say. Bullshit. Not having to think of such things is the most expensive of them all.)
One final thing, I'm not entirely kidding. This is probably why the Universe doesn't want me to get famously wealthy. Because I would do these things. And if I don't get the opportunity to check at least some of them off the list I will return to this Earth a vengeful ghost.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Let us start this piece of wild conjecture with a supposition: you, like myself and many of those I know, have been aware for some time now that some kind of storm has been brewing in America. There is no arguing that the past eight years have sped up this process, but this pattern is not one that is unique to one administration. It is a pattern woven within the very fabric of Western civilization.
Let's be blunt, the mantle once held by Rome has simply passed on to a variety of Empires, from the Catholics to the the British, and most recently, to the United States. And like every other nation that has carried this banner, one must fall so that another might rise. (By the way, don't believe that the Empire lives on here in the States? Take a look at the architecture of our capital buildings. Why, what culture was it that the Romans so often aped?)
It is not entirely fair to call this martial spirit “Roman,” for as I said it has manifested across cultural and temporal boundaries with such regularity that it seems that what is present here is not only an archetype, but a biological imperative that operates in our neurology and endocrine systems every bit as much as in the memetic structure of the culture. This is not to say that it is an imperative that is universal, nor is it one that must be expressed in this form, but nevertheless it does, as this cultural program or complex would otherwise have ceased to express itself long ago.
Without undue elaboration, there are certain traits which embody this cultural program: patriarchy, commerce and industry as goods unto themselves, martial might and vigor used to spread the cultural myth far and wide through conquests, at the same time adopting harmonious forms, self assurance to the point of hubris, and most notably: the myth of the individual, which is a myth that never developed in the East except as an import from the West. None of this is to say that because of this common form these various civilizations are not different in equal ways, each with many other unique nuances, as there are countless ways which the United States is unlike Rome, and it is in fact only in the what I would call the underlying galvanizing myth of the society that this similarity resides. Additionally, it is obvious that cultures can exhibit some of these traits without embodying this “Roman” archetype. It is a character which, much like any of us, is constructed of generally the same parts, but when put together, has a unique, distinct and undeniable presence.
It would be sheer speculation to predict what the future holds for the U.S., but let's consider some of the basic facts available at this moment: the U.S. economy and value of the dollar is on very unstable ground, in part due to the idiocy of rolling thousands of default prone subprime mortgages into the investment packages and rating them AAA. But with all the hysterical news this has gathered, equally pressing are the results of climate change, which in ecological span of time is banging on our doorstep as we speak. Though argument can continue seemingly indefinitely about whether there is “climate change,” it is fact that at an alarming rate national disasters are sparking up in one location and then another, crippling the already taxed production capabilities of this country in virtually every industry. This is moving hand-in-hand with the effects of pollutants and untested chemicals will almost assuredly have effects on the safety of our future food and drinking water, effects which in the decades to come we can only speculate at. Tied into all of this, we are locked into a full-blown addiction to fossil fuels for the production of energy which, at this point, provides the entire backbone of our infrastructure, even our daily survival. Attempts to replace the heroin of oil with the methadone of other energy sources have been, thusfar, fairly superficial, and in some cases (as with ethanol), detrimental as a result of the other factors at play. We increasingly outsource to other countries, and the “giant sucking sound,” that Ross Perot suggested was heard as a result of NAFTA. (Who knew that someone so funny looking could be right? Certainly not America.)
This is only an incredibly cursory, even provisional, list of the factors at play, the singular point is to demonstrate some of the trends leading towards future realities which will have an effect on each and every one of our lives if they play out synergistically.
In the life-span of human civilization, it has been the East that has led the West, not the other way around. (Side-line note: Who owns an increasing minority share of our countries debt? China.) The only members of our waning empire who may reap true benefit in this brave new world are the outsourced international companies, many of whom are raking in billions in profits from the conflict in Iraq which was arguably manufactured for that very purpose.
In recognition of the facts precipitating this storm, apocalyptic mythology is bound to take hold, and surely it is a virtual pandemic. I am fascinated by elements of apocalyptic mythology, as is readily apparent in my creative work, but rather than proselytizing for the end-times, instead let's consider a very stern question: what the fuck are we doing?
By we, I mean you, me. Such global concerns as national or international market crashes and ecological disaster may seem out of our grasp, but all I see in the people around me is a business-as-usual sleepwalking state, where we follow the established patterns, many of us struggling harder and harder simply to make ends meet. At what point will we all wake up? At what point should we have a plan that involves something more than duct tape, some bottled water, and a couple cans of Campbell's Soup?
Cultural trends such as the “green movement” never seem to evolve further than the cult of the brand these days, casual and cursory lifestyle changes offered for the honor of claiming membership, usually resulting in minimal change of the status quo. The little changes make us feel better about ourselves, but though a good habit recycling plastic bottles does not change the situation.
Let's suppose, just for a minute, that all of this doomsaying is actually true: we actually do have to change the way we live our lives, and fast, if we want to weather this storm. We have to build communities, work locally and through the net, buy up land, and utilize it to the best of our abilities- at least until the possible eventuality that “buying” land no longer becomes necessary. Establish trade relationships with individuals who you can share with, as if the network you are building was a medieval village. (At least have the benefit of penicillin and the Internet. But do you know how to manufacture penicillin?) Learn what needs to be learned to maintain the quality of life that we have grown accustomed to, and at the same time come to realize which of those was never actually all that important.
Yeah, yeah, we've all heard the sustainability talk before. I've been a part of several experiments of this nature, and I have witnessed what I'm sure you expect: excessive concern regarding petty drama, an inability to maximize personal strengths and minimize weaknesses through self-knowledge or management, even though it should be common sense that if Fred is an excellent cook and can't build things to save his life, don't give him a hammer. Hierarchical politics, reaching the absurd point where individuals will viciously fight over who has the “majority share” of something that isn't even worth anything yet. If every member of a would-be community or network is unable to get out from under the heel of the grinding financial realities of living hand to mouth, it is virtually impossible for them to plan ahead, form a group and establish an operational plan that attempts to deal with the hurdles we expect to face, and grow their plan into physical reality.
Aside from these complications, it is surprisingly difficult to transition from our capitalistic upbringing to a community-reliant mentality. The day-to-day constantly sucks up all the energy and resources that were supposed to go towards building and sustaining a more conscious, conscientious way of life. We've been taught not to trust our neighbors. We live in an alienated, fractioned culture which can no longer even conceive of “community” without a sneer, or without the urge to try to sell someone something they don't need. There can be no community when there can be no trust between its members, and we are a decidedly untrusting and untrustworthy society.
America, what will you do when you go to Walmart and the doors are closed? (And yes, I realize that they are probably one of the international corporations that is positions to weather this storm thanks to their judicious application of pure evil. You get my point.)
It seems to me that this storm is brewing relatively quickly, and yet all of us are moving in slow motion. Let us hope that this is just misinformed fear-mongering, but supposing it isn't: we all need to pick up the pace, or, in the words of James Maynard Keenan, “learn to swim.”
I think that last part is worth taking note of. This is relevant in the history of the civilizations, sure, but it is also relevant in our own personal histories. For every thing invoked, another thing banished. For every road taken, another that was not.
This came about in a free-flowing conversation that I've had by email with Rudy Rauben recently. (Really, it's been ongoing for months. It just flares up and then goes away. Not unlike a hemorrhoid, I'm told, but this is much more pleasant. The conversation begins with the "interview" linked above, and continued from there.) This has mostly been some early brainstorming for what might become a new comic series or graphic novel- though I wouldn't look for it in finished form anytime soon. The soil needs some tilling yet.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Despite the exciting creative possibilities posed by new media in regard to myth, they do not come without a price. The danger presented by the presence of myth in modern media is paramount. Though the propaganda of Fascist mythologies such as those of Nazis or the U.S.S.R. serve as the clearest example of these dangers, they exist in more subtle forms in the media produced by modern Capitalist states. Though media is ostensibly the watchdog of the government, both the government and media agencies of the Capitalist state are behooven to international corporations and their interests. As we already explored, the contextual nature of truth makes myth in media a potential form of national or even international coercion. The story of American politics and News media between the 1960's and the present serves as a cautionary tale of such possibilities.
There is no ensuring that mythological images, and the powerful psychological forces that they represent aren't being used by corporations for benevolent purposes, though they invariably present themselves in such a light. This myth of benevolence presents itself on a National level as well. American culture in particular has a need to present itself as a benevolent superpower, leading the rest of the world into an Enlightened era of growth and commerce. This is not unlike Britain's Empire, upon which the sun never set. In both cases the hubris exhibited was not merely of capacity, but more importantly, more catastrophically, it represents the rigid and wholesale self-congratulation of a myth that has so overshadowed reality that the two share nothing in common.
However, many countries integrate elements of America's capitalism without bringing its culture along with it. Samuel P. Huntington explores this fact in great detail in his book The Clash of Civilizations, in which he provides both the myth of the New American Century, where we are approaching integration and the ascension of the American nation, contrasted with the myth held by most of the rest of the world, that America is in fact in decline and its contribution to the ascension of other nations and state unions will take the form of the co-opted systems of commerce and government we developed. These systems will nevertheless grow in truly unprecedented ways within non-Western cultural soil.
This amalgam presents some very interesting possibilities for the future of Asian capitalism, though at the same time we mustn't forget that in times past, Asian nations seem to have no cultural fear of appearing tyrannical, though no more or less so in reality. Thus, we will likely see the myths of the brand developing in unexpected ways as the various elements of these cultures blend and come into conflict with one another, and it is unlikely that these forms will be clear of malevolence and oppression.
Tara Vanflower (Lycia), Jarboe, Eva O (Christian Death), and many more!
New York, August 22: Lives of Ilya release party. Rosetta, Balboa, North, Inswarm.
Order the full color illustrated novella on Amazon.com. (Note: the author bio information in the Amazon listing is incorrect on their webpage. We are working on having this corrected.)
Friday, July 11, 2008
By James Curcio.
A quick look at the marketing for films, books and music shows the profound value that mythology has within the modern marketplace. This role is made more pervasive – and potentially beneficial or dangerous – as a result of the proliferation of instantaneous and virtually limitless communication mediums. Myth is so entrenched in the nature of business that it is often overlooked within the advertising rhetoric, however, the building of a mythology is the centerpiece of all effective branding.
Demonstration of this fact clearly requires an understanding both of the function of myth and the function of a brand. Prevalent misconceptions in both of these cases has clouded what should otherwise be a self-evident thesis, so the purpose of this brief white paper is to identify these misconceptions and clarify the position.
Myth is difficult to explain in a top down manner: it is not merely a story, for some stories are myths while others are not; it is not merely the beliefs of a people retold in stories or other media, because here again retold beliefs can be devoid of mythic resonance. Because of this complexity, for the time being let us define a few of these basic qualities through a quick backward glance at the function of myths past, before turning to ways that these qualities may or may not be applied within the modern business world.
The myths of the past, it is commonly held, were erroneous explanations for the way that the world is; fanciful stories, which, though colorful and interesting curiosities, surely bear no particular use to our “modern” lives. This interpretation mistakes the thing (fanciful stories and the accompanying art, etc.) for their function. As was later re-discovered by an expansive list of preeminent scholars and authors, including Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and the like, these myths do not explain the world, rather, they explain our place within it. Thus, it is not a universal static truth that myths represent, but instead a personal, cultural one. It is commonly accepted that mythology served a central role in the lives of humans up until a time when science and industry somehow stole away our myths. Though patently untrue, this belief itself serves as a myth which allows us to establish a place within history for ourselves. It is an internal narrative that defines us in Enlightenment terms. This is another role which myth serves: it defines who we are, and defines where we are in time; what role we serve, and what the nature of that role is. To the actor, the central question is often “what is my motivation?” The myth is our motive, or at least, it gives it voice. It may be encoded in any medium, but its defining characteristic is its psychological function.
When looking at stories, movies, or any other form of media, we may then ask- what qualifies as a myth? Perhaps first we should look at how we define anything. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein explained the nature of meaning in language as a case of “family resemblance.” For example, sisters and brothers, mothers and daughters, and so on, can all share certain traits, not others, and yet be considered part of the same family. This, he proposed, was the nature of linguistic definition. Without this concept, we cannot properly define a game, for by any static qualifier certain activities which all of us consider games would be ruled out.
This concept of definition contradicts the Aristotelean concepts of categories which most of us are still used to, where a thing is either A or B, and cannot exist as an amalgam of many different potentially contradictory components, often occupying a space somewhere between these various “pure” concepts. However, without a recognition of this fact, it is impossible to properly identify the various elements of myth at work within the diverse industries of the world today. We then lose site of how these elements can function in a piecemeal configuration, for example with elements of mythological thinking occurring within a seemingly unrelated milieu.
Granting these complexities, we may be led to wonder how myth functions in the world of business and industry. The function of a brand is to bring the story of a company to its market. When you look at a logo, read the copy on the back of a label, or watch an advertisement on television, it is commonly believed that the intent is to sell the product to you. Of course, in a sense, this is true. But what is actually being sold is the myth of the company- what that product or brand represents. The myth of Lexus doesn't sell you cars, it sells you luxury. Thus, it is of utmost importance for advertisers to understand the function of myth every bit as much as script writers. Like all other forms of myth, when accomplished successfully, the myth of a brand also brings with it a form of community. For example, witness the success of Apple's branding: those who identify as “Mac users” do so with an odd sense of pride, as if they are bucking the system by sharing in the aura of coolness that radiates from their stylish gear. Every element of this is mythological, including the system that they are bucking, represented by the doltish PC anthropomorphisized by John Hodgman in their recent advertising campaigns. (This general concept is explored at length in James B. Twitchell's book Ad Cult, containing many worthwhile thoughts on the mythological machinery of corporate advertising.)
As the business guru Peter Drucker demonstrates in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, the marketing of a product is not a function of selling it, it is instead the means of fulfilling a need. In other words, the function of business itself is the fulfillment of human needs; the more ubiquitous the need, the more easy the marketing of that product will be if handled properly. The reason Lexus sells you luxury, rather than a car, is that, within the social apparatus of most industrialized nations, everyone needs a car. Lexus is identifying the niche of people with that need who they wish to call their own, and they are doing it through people who self identify with, or idolize, the myth of their brand.
As we have already explored, myths also fulfill a human need, experienced around the globe and throughout the history of our species: the need for meaning. The cultish following associated with certain properties is the result of this “mythic demand,” provided through characters and often fictional worlds which represent aspects of our inner psychology. To the fans, these worlds are often every bit as real as the phenomenal world of the everyday. Series such as Vertigo’s Sandman comics, or Serenity, which appeared first as a Fox television series, then a graphic novel and movie when the series was canceled, are examples of how the development of a general world and context in the mind of an audience can provide endless storytelling possibilities. They also demonstrate that the success of these stories are not based on the medium. This is of course quite apparent to anyone who considers the recent success of various comics franchises' almost overwhelming storming of Hollywood. Without which, surely Marvel wouldn't be able to afford to have their own film production studio, nor would San Diego's massively popular Comic Con be showing such a wholesale recognition of the mythic power of their media franchises, regardless of the medium that it is presented in.
The success of any media brand demands that it serve as an effective myth: whether Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Lost, to the true fans, these shows represent a pantheon with psychological, even ethical or cultural, significance. Further, one cannot overlook the Star Wars franchise; what began as a low-budget movie specifically steeped in mythic archetypes, has spawned a multimedia empire that today encompasses novels, comic books, television shows, video games, and a dizzying array of toys and ancillary products. In the case of the first three movies, the connection with myth was more than implicit: George Lucas was a friend of Joseph Campbell, and based the cosmology of the Star Wars world on the heroic cycle outlined in his books. These ancient traditions were simply made relevant to the concerns and aesthetic tastes of the modern age.
About the author:
James Curcio has been consciously dedicated to the production and analysis of modern myths since the age of sixteen, and subconsciously arguably since birth. This exploration has taken the form of collaborative novels (Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning in 2007, Join My Cult! in 2004), essays on myth and culture (The Immanence of Myth, presently in development, "Living The Myth," Generation Hex 2004, "Hillbilly Tantra" in Magic On The Edge in 2005, and "Dying Gods" in Lemon Puppy, in 2003), Internet "round-table" musical albums and podcasts,(subQtaneous: Some Still Despair In A Prozac Nation in 2005, Babalon's Descent in 2001 and posthumous Dreams And Reflections in 2005, Bedtime Stories With The Antichrist in 2004-2005 and The G-Spot in 2005-2006), and various art and media collectives. Most recently, he is co-founder of Mythos Media.