Monday, December 28, 2009

the myth of aging

There is an idea bouncing around in my head today that require a little more space than a twitter update to explore.

I'm going to do something that is probably in poor taste- I'm going to explore these ideas as they occur to me, without forcing linearity as I've been attempting to do - with mixed success - in my IoM essays.

This thought-web is about our youth obsessed culture. (When I say "our" I specifically mean what's broadly called "Western Culture,"  though I admit that term is less and less useful especially as various elements of different cultures continue to intermingle on a micro- level. Still, it's all we have, even if I feel a slight pang of guilt every time I use the term, especially in essays intended for print.)

This long tangent aside, it's clearly evident that commercialism has really latched onto the exteriority of
youth. But why? Ours is a culture of the surface level, and of the eye, which only perceives surfaces. (Alan Dundes has an essay about this final observation that I highly recommend, discussion of it would take us further off-topic. Seeing Is Believing is the name of the essay.)
huh. what?

This has produced a simple duality- one is either "young," or "old."

I see this in my own life, almost upon the very stroke of turning thirty. Certainly, my friends mean it partially as a joke, "oh, you're old now!" But there is always some truth, some sublimated observation, hiding underneath such jokes. There is no real  possibility for adulthood, for a continuum or gradation of aging. (In a society where most of us live into our 70s, 40 can hardly be  considered "old.")

In an exteriorally focused culture, a culture of surfaces, physical material and the sensations provided are valuable. Status is perhaps the most intangible good considered in the most extreme view of consumer culture. However, it is represented best by material goods, the expensive watch, for instance, which signals one ability to buy an unnecessary luxury item to potential mates, but does a whole lot less. (Not that the absence of utility is the only vector to consider such things along- art, too, generally has little practical value.) The sexualization of youth follows a similar line, even as it butts up against the Christian plates of our ideological geography. I am the last to deny there is a certain appeal to the sexual energy of youth (I'm talking about early twenties, you freaks.) However, in the fact that those attributes are the only pattern that sexual attractiveness can adhere to- especially for women- we see the outline of a cultural psychological imbalance.

The values afforded by aging don't fit into this schema of physicality. Though some people do not change with age, merely experiencing the accumulated detriments of their inflexible habits there is also a possibility for increased self knowledge, wisdom. Many traditional cultures revere the elders for this reason, although it is a double-edged sword- the elders are the most likely to strictly enforce the mores of their day, thus creating a certain a-temporal quality in all such cultures that put the elder in exulted positions.

Youthcentrism provides a certain progressive bent. That can't be considered negative, even despite the repurcussions of the myth of  progress (one of the ideas I'm exploring in Pretty Suicide Machine.) It is a contributing factor in a growing problem within  our culture- generations of manchildren and womenchildren, who latch onto infantalism and all of the negatives that come along  with childhood - including a complete lack of regard for repurcussions or whether a decision will actually yield desired results - simply because youth is so exhaulted within our cultural mindset.

The wisdom of aging is traded for the deterioration of the body. Certainly, there are choices we can make to stall this process. But there remains some truth to the saying "youth is wasted on the young." The height of the physical body does not match the height of the spiritual or psychological self. It comes then as no surprise that age should be abhorred so much, especially when considered in concert with the Western fear of death. However, it is our myths that make this process terrifying, and our myths that create the simple duality of "young" and "old."

At 31, I am neither young nor old. I am an adult, finally self-aware enough to begin taking responsibility for my actions, and make decisions with enough experience to be able to better guess the ultimate results of those decisions. This comes along with detriments- I am beginning to see the accumulated results of my habits, and my body is beginning to get less resiliant, (especially in concert with a chronic illness), but I see decisions I can make to begin reversing some of those unwanted results, and can at least take a shot at accomplishing my goals, rather than being lulled into helplessness by the obstacles.

I don't know if I'll actually attain any of my goals. I'm also not sure if it matters. What matters is our choices, not the obstacles that stand in the way. It may be a cliche, but only because it is so often said but rarely heeded. There is no immortal goal, no accomplishment that will long outlive us in a geological or even historical sense. But that isn't what life is about.

What do you think?

(Side note: aging NEVER has to mean losing a sense of play. In fact, it can mean what we want it to mean, aside from the biological necessities and imperatives.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas: Evolve or Die

Merry Christmas to all of you evolving humans out there. Your striving is beautiful, even in failure.

To the rest of you fuckers: you are taking up our oxygen. Some resources are non-renewable. They're sacrificed for the sake of our growth. And if it isn't growth, then it's wasted, like all those buffalo slaughtered and left to rot on the plain.

My point: this coming year, do something new, think about things in a new way, do something you've done before in a way you haven't before, explore, challenge yourself. If not you do a disservice to yourself and humankind.

The results are less relevant. The attempt is everything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Suicide Machine Myth

As I promised on my twitter, here is an early version of one piece of a 3 part essay that I'm working on for the Immanence of Myth. Clearly, the structure still needs work, and a lot of the references are missing, but the basic ideas are now all there. (Also note: some of my notes are in this text as it is a draft-in-progress. FN means footnote. Ref means reference needed, etc.)

Read article on Reality Sandwich

Monday, December 07, 2009

Immanence of Myth anthology: personal essays

The first submission deadline I set for the Immanence of Myth anthology is coming up in a couple days. (December 10th.) I've already received some good submissions, and some that I think will be good after some editorial. However, I've received very few pieces that actually deal with your experiences of myth in life. I could see these working written as fiction, or as personal essays. So I'll hint at what I'm looking for with these, and extend the deadline.

Material for the third and final part of this book (tent. ent.: personal mythologies) are best kept short and somewhat anecdotal, exploring how the ideas in your life have affected the events of your life. Tone counts for a lot here, moreso than an academic essay. Shoot for 750-2500 words.

Beyond that it is hard to detail the contents of what will "work" for this kind of essay, as all our experiences differ. I'll know it when I see it, and you'll probably feel it as you're writing it.

Have them to me by March 1st, 2010. jamescurcio at gmail dot com

If you have material for one of the other parts of this anthology, but haven't been able to get it ready in time, you can also use this opportunity to get it in.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

post-modern marriage myths

I know I don't talk much about my personal life on my blog, but there's something coming up that I wanted to explain and discuss. As some of you may know, I'm getting married next autumn. Immediately, all sorts of things spring to mind, people have so many presuppositions about marriage that it makes me want to call it something else entirely. The word is fine, what it actually stands for is fine, but all the baggage drives me insane.

On its face, marriage is a partnership contract between two people. That's it. The nature of that partnership is as much up to those people as anything else about our lives: what we choose to wear in the morning, eat, how we want to spend our lives, etc. It means that two people are choosing to be partners in the ongoing drama of life. Though there's no good reason that it can't be more than two people, that's how the law paints it. And there is some precedent to the diad as a strong bond- just look at chemistry. On the other hand, we'd be pretty fucked without some of those three pair bonds, like say H 2 O.

Regardless, this is the law as it presently stands, and as it so happens I presently have one partner, not two. We are fed a bill of sale along with this basic agreement that does not necessarily follow. It may, if you choose for it to, but your marriage is ultimately what you make it to be. It does not mean you will take no other lovers, it does not mean that you will have children, or own a home together, or that you need to buy a diamond ring to seal the deal. It doesn't mean the bride will wear white, or that there even needs to be a grand expensive to-do where everyone you can think of is invited. (In our case, this is true except #2, which is undecided for the foreseeable future, and #3, until we can amass enough money to rectify the situation and have our library recording studio art studio king sized bed giant bathroom lovenest with kitties and maybe chickens if Jaz gets her way.)

Everyone is unique in genetics, upbringing, and that essential, indefinable quality that makes a person who they are and no other- so the same is true in the partnerships we forge. Compromise, communication, and individuality make strange bedfellows at times but they're the essential elements of any marriage. The specifics are unique- but we're given a one-size-fits-all image of what marriage is, what it means. There is no need. Make it as unique as you are. Love your partners for their uniqueness, why should we bend it to fit a mold?

A friend of mine had a costume wedding. He was an astronaut. If you knew him you'd understand why this was such a great expression of their wonderful peculiarity. And if your ideas and your partners ideas about marriage are irreconcilable, that may be worth looking at.

My take on marriage is this: Take in life together, and love, and lovers if you so choose, put the pleasure of your partner on an equal level with your own (that's where compromise comes in), and try to enjoy the ride.

This also leads into a push-button topic these days, that of gay marriage. I think what I've already said should very clearly demonstrate where I stand on this issue. (The fact that my mother has identified as lesbian for some time makes this even more pressing, and there is no good reason whatsoever that she shouldn't be able to engage in a partnership with whomever she chooses.) The government sanctions a partnership as a legal contract. It has no right to stipulate the gender or particulars of that contract, any more than it has the right to dictate the one and only way I can engage in business with a publisher. Further, marriage is not only a contract, but anything beyond that simple agreement - to engage in the process of living as a unit - rests outside the boundaries of governmental and cultural critique.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Immanence of Myth - anthology - progress update

It's been a little while since I posted to this blog - there have been holidays, and a week or so of my life was pretty well consumed by Dragon Age. (FTC disclosure: BioWare didn't pay me to plug their game. And I'm kind of sore about it, to be frank.) My laptop died, which further has cut down on my workflow as there are certain tasks I like to do when I'm not pinned down to my desktop, and blog posts are one of them.

However, a replacement laptop is on its way, I beat Dragon Age, and Thanksgiving is over, so I'll soon be out of excuses at least until Christmas. (Web design work notwithstanding.)

I'm presently fine tuning my introduction for Immanence of Myth, which I feel continues to approach readiness for editorial by half. (Following Zeno's paradox, it'll never actually arrive, but at some point as a writer you throw up your hands and say "good enough!"). After that I have four or so other pieces to continue working on, so... "Eye Of The Tiger" and all that.

I am also beginning several interviews for the anthology with artists that I feel do work that is mythic, touches on myth, etc. Right now these include Laurie Lipton, John Harrigan, David Mack, and several others. I have decided that I will be running these on Alterati when they are finished so you can get some sneak peeks. If you would like to do a written interview with me and think you qualify - or we've talked and you fell through the cracks, please drop me an email.

I will also be posting here soon about the status of Immanence of Myth submissions. The first deadline I set is almost here. December 10th. From the look of it the first part of the book should be fully booked, (especially if I receive all the pending submissions that I know about), but I don't have enough instances of personal mythology. So I'm going to take some time fleshing out exactly what I mean by "personal mythology," and create an extended deadline for people who want to work on pieces for that section of the book.

This is from the intro rough draft, and will hopefully begin to explain what I mean:

We will be exploring this subject from many angles, through articles, essays, and interviews from a variety of people actively engaged in mythic work and research. Though I've done gone through an editorial process with contributing authors, and editorial involves some amount of re-writing, I've attempted to preserve their ideology rather than make sure that everything coheres into a single system. As you will quickly discover, that approach would be entirely contrary to our very position. 
    As this exploration proceeds, we will move from a distant and rather abstract view of myth as an existential dimension to increasingly specific instances of personal myth. Much as with the experience of a painting, at twenty feet, ten feet, five feet, and close up, our experience may be completely different. It may seem that the painting even changes forms, as you'd see with an impressionist like Monet. This issue of scale or granularity is one that I'll deal with more in this introduction. The methodology and format will also shift to match our ongoing change of perspective. Keep this shifting of scale in mind as you read through this book, as it should provide a frame of reference. I devised this approach in an attempt to deal with many issues that arise when dealing with something so abstract as mythology. This is doubly true as in many ways we are attempting to completely re-consider the subject.
    So at the outset let me say this: let's propose that everything we know about myth is wrong, or at least, subject to re-interpretation. Mythology is itself a myth. Admittedly, this is putting the cart before the horse, but it is the only way that we can resurrect what so many seem to consider dead.  

More soon! Stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Exhuming the Corpse - Immanence and Myth

Just a fragment of a piece I'm working on right now of Mr. VI's (for the Immanence of Myth anthology),

"Where can we begin a genuine discussion of immanence in myth? Do we engage the tools of analysis on the dissection table of academia? Or perhaps it is best not dealt with in sterile light, being rather an arcane synthesis, a syncretism.

If myth is something long dead, a corpse exhumed with philosophical disinterest, then please consider this work an attempt at necromancy. But if myth is considered something dangerous; full of falsities, dead ends and mazes luring the unwary into a fugue of superstition, then consider it a whispered pass-phrase into another world: the world beyond the wallpaper. A world that recognizes the real is in the effect rendered, rather than in the thing symbolized. Conflicting fictions drive Holy wars. How is a history born of spilled blood unreal? How is it meaningless, even if all the Gods are just shadows cast on the wall by finger puppets? Myth is not dead, nor is it false; it is living, and misunderstood."

I'm liking where this project is headed already. Still a month left for open submissions. (Specific exceptions will be made.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Myth Images - Prints

I've made a number of my pieces available as prints through Deviant Art for people who don't live in the immediate area. I looked at the cost of photo paper, ink, shipping, and of course time, and it just didn't make sense to set up sales for people outside my immediate area without using a third party.

These are priced for fairly minimal profit. My material goal with these to be honest is to break even with it on materials for local printing (my time, and the time of people I've worked with, isn't even factored into that consideration.)

The real goal is to get some art in your workspaces or living rooms. So order one. :)

(Photo prints are the cheaper option, art prints are far more expensive. The photo prints are archival quality.)

bacchante #2

bacchante #2
Originally uploaded by agent139
One of the pieces I worked on tonight. The original photo is from a shoot from way back in 2001.

This is about 8 hours of post-production work in. I think it just needs some minor touches at this point though for all I know I could wake up tomorrow, look at it, and wonder WTF.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Krampus and Nyssa (comic)

I recently completed a comic script for a first issue I plan to produce in 2010 2012. I've kept this mostly under my hat - it'd ruin the story to share the script with everyone, and this one takes a much more sparse approach than some of my past work anyhow. The story will be told as much with picture as word, if not more so. No spoilers, I want to tell the story the way it is meant to be told.

But I did want to talk a little about some of the inspiration for this story. Maybe it'll help to continue to show what I'm talking about in terms of how myth informs art- especially when you get around to actually checking out the comic, if you do.

My first thought with this script was that I wanted to tell a dark Christmas tale. I wrote it around Halloween, and it seemed that doing something moody for Halloween was just too damned easy. But I didn't want to use any of the Santa Claus cliches, nor did I want to participate in that Hallmark figure. Christmas has a darker past, and Saturnalia has a certain warm fuzzy place in my heart (especially after several absinthe saturnalia parties...) However, the Saturnalia festival is too similar to the Dioysian festivals of the Greeks, in many ways they serve the same cultural function, and I'm already doing enough with that in the Fallen Nation material. So where to start?

As you may or may not be aware, Saint Nicholas was originally said to be accompanied by an Incubus. This in itself is a bit peculiar- an Incubus is a male Succubus, though in many cases it is said these beings can change gender, and are one and the same. What an odd consort for a gift giving saint! It gets stranger. This being, called the Krampus, is said to torment young boys and girls, beating them with a switch, chase them, and otherwise terrify them half to death. He is generally personified with a long, almost snake-like tongue, black, white, or red skin and fur, and a face that isn't even fit for radio.

Even more interesting, there is a day, December 5th, which is commemorated in some places by the "running of Krampus," when men dress up as this horrific creature, and run around whacking children and maidens alike. I'd like to mention that the possible sexual overtones in the latter case are fully evident in more recent (1950s- ) Krampus art. So yeah, one day a year, Uncle Bobby or whatever dresses up like the devil and beats girls with a switch.

At the same time, I had been playing around with a story about a loner that works at a video rental store, and who makes up fantasies about the store goers- and who eventually becomes obsessed with one particular girl. These two blended together nicely, I think. I won't ruin the story for you with any spoilers, but this is where the story began.

I hope you check it out when it finally becomes available.

Update: See Mythos Media. This appears in the illustrated collection Words of Traitors, and Nyssa #1 to be published December 2012!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lilith The First Eve

This is a concept piece done between myself and Daniele Serra. It's for a movie that is still in pre-production. Available in print form for now on Deviant Art.

About Lilith:

Lilith has two faces: that of the stealer (and devourer) of babies, and the seducer of men. The former is a myth that arises for women, the other is how this energy interacts with man. This is focusing on the latter. Originally, Lilith was not one but a fairly terrifying legion of Sumerian and even pre-Sumerian desert/air demons that eventually got codified into this new form, especially by the Jews.

There's a fair amount of Jungian analysis on the symbol in "Lilith the First Eve" by Siegmund Hurwitz.

All that said, I've always had a thing for red heads. So it's been a naturally appealing image for me to explore.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Musing on Psychedelics


Just trying to get your attention.

While many people extol the virtues of psychedelics in many of the circles I've run in, mostly in opposition to the parroted rhetoric of the mainstream culture, I think it's simply meaningless to propose that a substance is inherently good or bad. The statement doesn't even make sense. Psychotropic chemicals have a variety of effects, most of which are not really understood, on a nervous system and consciousness that also exists more in the shadows than the light. The question of their use is whether exploring these uncharted waters is worth more than the risk. What could be a more American pursuit than blindly using a little of that Manifest Destiny machismo and plunging forward?

(Of course, that's a myth of America that's mostly been replaced by another one. The modern one has more to do with various overreactions to fear.)

Oh well. On my way home from the farmer's market today I found myself mulling over this, and thinking back on the discussion about this topic the Gen Hex authors had at Alex Grey's CoSM (recording here if you want to check it out). And as my thought process leapfrogged around, as it does... it occurred to me that the actual lesson provided by these chemicals seems to be relatively simple. It's the same basic lesson you see in the Bardo-- let go. Oh, hey look, the wall is bleeding. Let go. I'm 50 and my life is a wreck. Let go. That hawk-headed God has giant tits and it's starting to unnerve me. If you hold on, it can become a demon, but if you let go, it becomes bliss.

And once you really get that, you simply don't need them anymore. Though you can get to the same place by doing yoga all day. Sure, you'll lose it all the time and get caught up in God-knows-what-thing that won't matter in 100 years anyway. You'll do that because you're human and that's part of the experience of being alive. But in the back of your mind now, you have that spot you can fall back to, that place where you learned you can fall back from anything and observe a sensation from the outside. And if you think that sounds like a defense mechanism we all (maybe) heard about in Psych 101, that's because it probably is. Like all defense mechanisms, dissociation is only pathological when it is out of control. Otherwise, it's one of many tools.

Chew on it and let me know what you're left with. I'm going to make some tea.

(By the way- For a modern adaptation of some of the ideas in the Bardo, I suggest Jacob's Ladder. Spoiler alert: the whole movie is the process of him dying, it's all internal mythology.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Clash of Civilizations and Primacy of Ideology

As I continue working on my first chapter for IoM, I hit on something in passing in a paragraph that I'd love to have dealt with by another contributor. I will likely deal with it some myself in a later section I have planned, but this is worthy of serious consideration:

"...At the same time, in the case of those myths that do resonate with the multitude, the anxiety that underlies the wholesale exchange of the profane for the sacred produces a throwback to the "old time religion." The mythic aura of a yesterday that never existed drives such cultural movements as we see demonstrated in the movie Jesus Camp. This reaction cannot be restricted to one ideology. As Samuel P. Huntington explores in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, the coming world conflicts will be driven along ideological and cultural fault lines. The extremists driving these conflicts are borrowing from mere echoes of myths from thousands of years ago, catalyzing existential fear, hate, or desire. This alchemy produces poisonous splinter factions, fundamentalist groups that produce many of the illnesses our cultures otherwise exhibit in concentrated form. Far from being in the minority, these “splinter groups” have been responsible for much of the history of the 19th and 20th century that has made its way into the books, whether we are speaking of rise and fall of communism, the second world war, or the ongoing strife in the Middle East. Though exploring this in depth would take us far afield, it is worth noting that the mythologies utilizes by these groups have all been repurposed myths, whether we speak of the selective use of scripture by Muslim or Christian fundamentalists, or the more bizarre relationship between National Socialism and occultism, which underlined the rise of the Third Reich. These are generally culturally inert, but have the potential to overcome the whole of a culture in crisis times, as the Nazis did after World War I. However, myth as a whole cannot be considered a result of such use. Nor can myth be "killed," in any event. It can be a healing as well as destructive force."

Myth of Progress (in progress) 2.0

Oftentimes the direction of a thought process occurs across various social networks, these days.

The other day I posted this to twitter:

@agent139 So long as our civ is driven by the myths of progress, & the industry that follows it, psych desire will stripmine ecological capacity

This was ported over to Facebook and it triggered a reaction from a friend, ""Myths of progress"? Go throw your computers and devices in the river, while your at it, toss in your clothes (also products of development and technology). Oh, and stop going to the doctor, next time you get a broken bone you just walk that shit off like a man."

This point is actually well taken, but follows (I think) from the first definition of myth I list in the IoM editor's intro that Reality Sandwich ran earlier this week. A myth like "progress" or "individuality" represents not a single belief but a complex belief structure, often with levels of strata that can be hard to excavate. Calling it a myth is no slight; however different results follow from different cultural complexes, different myths.

I'd like to explore this issue more, and hopefully expand on it in greater depth in one of my articles in the book.

My reply:
Every myth has positive and negative effects. The Enlightenment gave us a new license on science, it also brough about new possibilities for global conquest (& war)- science itself gave us both penicillin & the bomb. (Many other things too, you get my point.) If a myth of individuality & progress wasn't embedded in our culture, something else would be- which would yield its own +s & -s.

In my opinion there's a particular problem with marrying progress (a teleological obsession- towards goals / ends) with the myths that come along with capitalism. But that's going to take half a book for us to explore.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Immanence of Myth introduction on Reality Sandwich

Reality Sandwich ran the editor's introduction I'm working on for Immanence of Myth:

"James Curcio is currently collecting submissions for an anthology entitled The Immanence of Myth (click the following link for submission guidelines). In the article below (a version of the anthology's introduction), he lays out the ideas that will frame the anthology -- particularly concerning the evolving role of mythology in our post-industrial, highly technologized, capitalist society."

Read the full article now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Felix culpa: fortunate failures as creative process

When working on a project in any medium, it has often been observed that - to a certain extent - the tools dictate or at least direct the end result. This is something that is often met with a sneer by purists, "Oh, I can tell that such-and-such was made in such-and-such application!" or "I know how they did that in photoshop," as if to dismiss the end result entirely if you can decode how that result was technically arrived at.

There's a certain comedy in that, but what I'd like to get at is beyond that- looking at the actual comedy of errors that, for me at any rate, oftentimes dictates the direction a project is going to take. For instance, when developing a design in photoshop, or when implementing it in CSS, there are countless opportunities for "mistakes" - dictated in regard to your initial intentions - to guide your hand. You may set up a class on a div, and check it out in a browser and discover that it did something totally different than you had hoped, or you may apply a filter when producing an audio track, with similar results. Sometimes, those results are undesirable, and you backtrack. But other times, it drives things in a completely new direction.

That for me, is creativity. Not the intention that got you started in the first place.

The control freak in us screams that the results must always match the intent. However, I have always found serendipity a much more thankful muse, and a very dynamic connection with both the chaos that actually dictates life as well as our own subconscious. I rarely get the results I set out expecting or intending, and so it is with life as well. It is equally constricting to set out with a particular "sound" in mind, or even- well, this applies to everything, doesn't it? You set out on a journey, you take the first step with a clear intent in mind- the rest are reactions to what is, when viewed from the present moment, blind uncertainty.

Can you embrace the random and dive in, or will you try to control the end result? Which is better? Which is more liberating?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Interview on Kult ov Kaos issue 1

Here is an interview I did early this year for a little web zine, I enjoyed it and thought we covered some interesting topics once it got going, even though I feel like interviewers have mostly been asking me the same questions the past couple years. (Rather than providing links throughout, you can find many of these projects on my portfolio site.)

Saint Natas: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you come from? Who were your major influences?

James Curcio: I wasn't raised by nymphs in some mountain glen or something... I grew up in and around Philadelphia, spent most of my adolescence in the suburbs. My Mom was a lesbian artist, we moved around a lot.

I really couldn't tell you who my influences were in such a general sense. I spent a lot of time, especially in my early youth, reading books. I got picked on a lot for that at the time - you know, other kids would be chugging Mountain Dew or whatever it was they were doing, and I was mainlining philosophy and Sci-Fi. The caffeine excess - that came a little later. I was always looking for something different, I don't know if it's a symptom of suburbia, but there was always this feeling that there had to be something more out there.

Thankfully, I was right.

SN: I first came across your work as a member of the Babalon band. Can you tell me a
little bit about that project? How did it come together? Who was involved? What was it about? What was the experience like? How did it end?

Babalon Band pic c. 2003.
JC: Babalon's first incarnation was actually a somewhat poorly conceived music project that I put together in my final year of college for the integrated arts department. I say poorly conceived, because we were fusing all of these genres and approaches to music together in a forum that didn't necessarily make sense for it - and though some of us had plenty of past band experience, we were still trying to find our voices - together, and separately. Out of that, an artist and music collective formed. In it's heyday, if you want to call it that, we had two audio visual studios, and quite a band of freaks in the "regulars" that would pop in at all hours of the day and night. As often happens with such things, it started to ramp up and there was either the possibility for it to break forward or fall apart. It fell apart, at least so far as I was concerned. So my wife - at the time - who had been the singer of the previous Babalon incarnation started talking with Scott, the guitarist, who was living in Los Angeles. We started a long - distance music project that became Babalon's Descent. And as we wrapped that project, we decided to move out to Los Angeles to work with him directly, and make the band a full - time thing. It was a pretty big commitment, and quite a leap to make. We dropped everything.

I don't know. The story behind Babalon is really elaborate. I'm not sure how to attack it in this format, though I've been asked these questions in plenty of interviews. I don't mean to dodge out, but the truth is that the experience of putting this together, and its painful dissolution, heavily informed Fallen Nation. That book might not be based on Babalon literally, but the ideas are all there. And so are the experiences. I'd like to think that reading the book would be more interesting than hearing me ramble on about the past.
1/2 of HoodooEngine Chillaxing.

SN: What else have you been up to musically?

JC: I've done a couple of studio albums since Babalon - subQtaneous, which wound up becoming a pretty colossal effort... Subq was a collaborative concept album. I must've brought in over thirty musicians when all was said and done. It's a pretty unique effort, maybe too unique for it to ever really catch on in the US. Like a really funky lambic. I played bass with elektroworx for a while, we opened up for Front242, considered going on tour, and wound up breaking up instead. Laid down some drums for a Veil of Thorns release, and have done a lot of music work for various podcasts_ as you know, the crew I work with have this habit of creating original or semi-original material for the audiobooks and podcasts we do.

Right now, I'm working a bit on a tongue-in-cheek, really heavy project with Marz233
from Elektroworx called Hoodoo Engine. Scott Landes - the guitarist from Babalon -
will likely lay down some stuff too if he can find time from the crazy tour schedule he has going with Collide, Mankind is Obsolete, and the Kidney Thieves. If we can find the right front-man, we're planning on making our first release "Nothing Is Sacred." It's really just a place to put our frustration, honestly. That's very different from what we were doing with Babalon or any of these other projects. Every project needs to be unique, and has to have its own intent, its own life span. I can't tell you which will really get feet, that's as much up to fate as it is up to me.

SN: The next thing I came across, a few years ago, was the book, Join My Cult!, published by New Falcon. Tell me a little bit about the idea behind the book and what you'd like your readers to walk away with after reading it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dionysus in Fallen Nation

I blended many existent myths with my own personal experience (and a dash of humor) in writing Fallen Nation. As an example, I'm excerpting a short section from Chapter 3, which was inspired both by a dream I had and a short myth about Dionysus being captured by some sailors. ("Once, while disguised as a mortal sitting beside the seashore, a few sailors spotted him, believing he was a prince. They attempted to kidnap him and sail him far away to sell for ransom or into slavery. They tried to bind him with ropes, but no type of rope could hold him..." In some versions of this myth he turns into a lion and unleashes a bear onboard, in others he moors the boat in place with ivy and turns the sailors into dolphins.)

Brown water spurted out of his mouth, splashing to the grungy deck beneath him. He could place himself even before his eyes opened. The sharp scent of salt on the wind, the sound of seagulls wheeling overhead, the perpetual rocking; how, he didn’t know, but he was on a boat.

Dionysus lay helpless on the deck, his arms and legs mostly bound, looking up at the wheeling seagulls and three of the dirtiest men he had seen in his life. They spoke to each other gruffly but easily.

“Th’ bastard’s gonna live, looks like,” said a scratchy, thin voice. Dionysus cracked open a stinging, briny eye, to see a man in a stained wifebeater kneeling over him. The rubbing of rough hands rattled like dried corn husks in his ears as they bound him with waterlogged rope.

“Can’t be too careful,” another said as he pulled the knot tight, his voice a deep baritone. Dionysus could only see a massive tattooed arm from his position. This one was both larger and stronger than he. He was fat but there was probably a lot of muscle under there.

The rope biting into his wrists slowly dragged him out of the haze. He was already trying to gather as much information as he could in hopes of devising an escape. “…If he survived God-knows-what out there, he’s probably slippery as a’ eel, he is,” the man continued.

Coughing dryly this time, Dionysus stared incredulously at them. “I’m nearly drowned, and you bother to tie me up?” But not to kill him, apparently. It was hard to contain his temper, even though he was clearly in a position where tact was called for.
“Well we can’t be too careful, like I says,” the first man said casually, still rubbing his hands together. “You’re a young, pretty thing once yer cleaned up a little…Probably nimble, we’ll get somethin’ for ya down on the docks or at the market. More than a round at Gullespi’s, more than likely. We’d be idiots to go and kill ourselves a nice trade like that.”

Dionysus tried to sit upright but only managed to wriggle around on the deck. Feeling sheepish, though surprisingly calm, he finally asked, “listen if it’s all the same to you, could one of you help me sit up?”

“Right,” the third said, sliding his boot under Dionysus and prying him into a seated position against the rust-streaked walls of the cabin.

“That’s a little better…I guess. I mean relatively speaking…” The three of them looked at him blankly. He reminded himself to try to stick to monosyllables. The sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon, lighting up the water a rich, shimmering gold. Purple shadows hid in the troughs of the waves that gently lapped at the barnacle-encrusted sides of the vessel. He could easily guess at the time, if he knew what the time of year was, or where the hell he was.

What he saw on the horizon crushed any hope of that. Windmill-topped skyscrapers jutted straight out of the sea, raking sickly swirling clouds with their jagged tops. In the canals between the buildings he thought he spotted sailboats traveling back and forth. A city in the ocean? What was this, Atlantis?

Then he remembered why he wasn’t concerned. Because I’m dreaming. And when I am awake, he remembered, I am also dreaming. Sort of. Waking and dreaming are just two different worlds. I am a Demigod, and though my body can die, my essence is eternal…Well that’s a lot off my chest. So, where the hell am I?

As he sat thinking to himself, the three men went down on their haunches and inspected him more closely, as if he were a trophy fish. By the sound of it, they intended to sell him somewhere. Some sort of slave auction, probably. Boy were they in for a surprise.

“Can any of you tell me where I am? When my…boat sank I um, lost my bearings,” Dionysus said. He wasn’t thinking very well on his feet but luckily this bunch weren’t Mensa cardholders, either.

“Yeah that’s New York over there,” the fat one said, pointing at the partially submerged city. “Were you on a merchant ship from ’adelphia, or what?”

Dionysus was pulling a blank, he simply didn’t know enough to improvise a convincing story. Instead, he stared out over the waves silently. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. Of course New York City was familiar to him, and so the silhouetted skyline on the horizon was also familiar. The water was a new addition, but he was dreaming, after all.

He pondered how this could be used to his advantage. It was highly doubtful they realized they were dreaming. Why play on their terms? What if the ropes binding him were actually snakes?

Start with the sharp bite of the coarse fibers. He wriggled his wrists against the restraints, ignoring the burn, imagining instead the unmistakable, paradoxically dry slickness of snake scales.

It was even easier than he had expected. The ropes pulsated and loosened. A vermilion ball python slid from his wrists and zigzagged towards the sailors, who stared dumbstruck at the miraculous spectacle before them. Wreaths of ivy curled up over the sides of the boat, seemingly from nowhere, and moored it in place with a sick groan. They were tossed into the cold black waters below. Dionysus gazed up at the seagulls wheeling above.

This time, gravity would not tether him. He jumped, and never landed

You can pick up the full book on Amazon. It makes more sense in context, I swear.

The Appearance of the Horned God / Dionysus in True Blood

There seems to be a lot of confusion circling around the use of the horned God in conjunction with Dionysus and the Maenad in True Blood- the most recent outcropping of this meme in mainstream media. This should be neither a surprising nor a new connection, although the Christian association with the devil falls more in line with the bastardization that occured with most heathen (e.g. non-Christian) mythologies after Christianity lost its Gnostic edge, and turned from a revolutionary cult to a traditional one. Would it come as any surprise that in fact the "horned God" and the mythic image of Jesus have a great deal in common?

Dionysus is commonly billed as the "God of wine," however, it is the intoxication that wine brings that is more closely linked to Dionysus- it is the means by which mortals can touch this divinity, though merely drinking wine doesn't bring you to him any more than holding a guitar makes you a guitarist. Wine is also commonly a metaphor for blood, (think of Jesus at the last supper), and this too is a useful key for understanding his "divine madness." Dionysus is not the "God of wine" so much as a god of divine intoxication, creativity, a force that smashes all social order, imposed rules, and restrictions. The wrath of Dionysus is only incurred, in the original sources, when it is restrained, or when he is not properly respected.

Looking at the additional meanings of his epithets - the other names he has been known by - also provides some insight. Zagreus, Sabazios, Tammuz. All of these make connection with air/thunder Gods like Zeus, who in the Greek rendering of this image is his father, even though his Mother's identity changes depending on the story. Zeus is also identified with the bull, as is Tammuz. Additionally, all of these images save Zeus are slain and resurrected gods. Note this: "...Some scholars, beginning with Franz Cumont, classify Jesus Christ as a syncretized example of this archetype."

Yes, Osiris, Tammuz, Dionysus, Orpheus, all re-appear, in a modified form, in Jesus Ben Panther - Jesus Christ. (Note also, the panther and leopard are sacred animals of Dionysus.)

There is much more on this topic in the notes I've gathered for the forthcoming Immanence of Myth book, though they are certainly in need of updating. Some of the background on some of the personal experience that led me to study this particular grouping of myths is in this post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

True Blood: Dionysus, the Maenad

The appearance of a maenad, and the bacchante, in popular culture through the HBO series True Blood has been entertaining me lately, although it also points out to me just how ignorant mainstream America seem to be to mythology, or perhaps how much it has permeated my own thoughts. For instance, I'm always a little shocked when people don't have any clue what a maenad is. (This certainly doesn't apply to many people that I know, who also seem to realize that even if you're not interested in myth for philosophical, religious or occult reasons, they are a necessary knowledge-base if you want to write or really produce art of any kind.)

Though people that read Kerenyi (etc) might accuse True Blood of various historic and conceptual inaccuracies of "the Maenad," I'd flip them the finger for missing the point. Borrowing from myth to serve a story is well and good, but it has to be adapted not only to the narrative necessities of the piece, but also to the time and place of the story. In other words, it has to be modernized. This might be the most attracting factor of this series, that it borrows from a vast array of myths, tosses them into the same world together, and streamlines them for pop-culture consumption. I've been involved in projects with similar intentions myself, though those never managed to gain the benefit of the financial backing necessary to bring them to the market. Such is the fickleness of the media industry.

This also further demonstrates the fact that you needn't be truly original in a work for it to be successful, and a work - a book, an episodic series, a movie - can serve as a gateway to new knowledge even in the process of "watering down" for the sake of the story and the audience. I've gone on rants before about how artists overrate originality, when quality of "traditional" elements like character development and successful blending of existing forms and genres are so much crucial to producing "good work."

I hope the show leads some people to explore more about the Dionysus myth, or the entire pantheon that exists inside of the symbol of this single God. He is full of different aspects, and the show tends to gloss over a key element. Even traditionally the maenads / bacchante tore people apart with their bare hands. In Euripides' The Bacchae, Pentheus' mom slaughtered him and touted his head around on a pike without realizing what she was doing. However, they gloss over what actually unleashes his ire. I've seen little in original sources about the need of a blood sacrifice to sate some urge in and of itself; it is as I said usually vengeance against those who try to uphold an unnatural order - specifically a patriarchal one. Dionysus is an agent of nature, which is traditionally characterized as both female and pure chaos. (Nor is this a connection limited to Greek Mythology. e.g. the Babylonian Tiamat or the many other "devouring mother" forms of the goddess archetype. Dionysus himself is clearly not female, but he is commonly referred to as "bi-valent" or "bi-natured," which aside from the commonly observed overtones of bisexuality applies more to an implication of symbolic hermaphradism. It's also fairly evident that often it is the agents of Dionysus- the bacchante, the maenads- who generally do the "dirty work.")

The patriarchal gods represent the social order, and Dionysus is the son of Zeuss, though his mother changes depending on the origin of the myth. So while they're playing Maryanne as a villain, which works just fine for the purposes of this story, it'd be even more interesting to see these two forces (patriarchy and order, matriarchy and chaos) come into direct conflict, not to mention wiping clean the stigma that chaos is bad, let alone evil. This is more what I tried to focus on in Fallen Nation, though I clearly toned down the blood frenzy because that didn't serve the purposes of that particular story.

Each story brings out different elements of a myth. Addendum: I've commented some in past posts on this blog about Dionysus, but based on the interest this post appears to be getting, I'll look to make another post (or series of posts) about the "horned god."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Death, Rebirth, Initation... and experience.

It is often easy for the reader to lose sense of the real-world dimension behind abstract analysis. Perhaps this isn't so for scientific inquiry (I wouldn't know), but certainly all of my own nonfiction work - no matter how abstract on its face - was informed or triggered by real world events.

However, it would be odious to us both if all of these connections were always spelled out. I'd like to give just one as a route of entry to conjoined subjects of initiation, death and resurrection.

My sophmore year of college at Bard, I had what should have been a fairly minor surgury. Shortly after the procedure I came to, high on morphine and spitting up blood. For no particular reason that I can find - maybe it was the morphine - I began ranting at nurses and doctors alike about death and resurrection being a central monomyth. I immediately realized that, though we could say this is a common theme in Osiris, Orpheus, Jesus and Dionysus (for instance), it was reductionistic to say they are therefor the same. They tried to increase the dose, but it didn't keep me from finishing my thought before I lapsed again into unconsciousness. My recovery from the surgery had complications and took longer than it should have. During this time I started researching these myths, and meditating on the general topic. This eventually informed the writing of my second novel, and like everything else that gets into us, it is really hard to say after a point how different we would be if we hadn't of had an encounter with an idea at a certain point in time.

I quickly discovered I was certainly not the first to draw a parallel between these myths. However, most of what I came upon fixated on how these myths or dieties were further elucidated by the shared concept of death and resurrection, initiation and mystery. They focused on the myths themselves. I was far more interested in turning this on its head, only dealing with the mythic images as they related to these themes. They had developed in mythic form, I believe, because these are common experiences for all of us, and they are transformative ones. We can all gain knowledge from near-death experiences, and their ecstatic analogs. This experience can be gained through "gaming the system," as it were, which is one part of the function of mystery-school initation, as it contrasts with initiations that serve the primary function of indoctrination. In other words, we can have a near-death experience without necessarily being literally close to death. What is important is the psychological letting-go that occurs here, and again, which occurs in ecstatic trance as well. As we continue, keep this emphasis in mind.

(Very rough draft form of these are in the IoM PDF.)

Defining "Natural Science"

While I'm thinking of it, I should mention that there is a core difference between the position that Rushkoff makes in the article I recently linked to, and the methodology of 1000 Years Of Nonlinear History. Rushkoff proposes that "economics is not natural science." In the way that he frames it, I am prone to agree. However, 1000 Years of Nonlinear History depends on the idea that all human activity- and that includes economic- is a part of natural processes, and they can in fact be understood through metaphorical "engineering diagrams" that go beyond a loose analogy. And to this point as well, I completely agree.

That may seem like a contradiction, but the issue is that both arguments are framing "natural processes" in a different way. In Rushkoff's case, if I can put words in his mouth, I believe he's assuming "biased" = "un-natural." Whereas Manuel De Landa seems to take a broader view, all processes are natural processes, and all of them can be understood through larger and smaller scale analogs, though of course in the process of changing scale one can discover that the territory completely changes. (The world would be quite strange if the principles of quantum mechanics applied to our scale / frame of reference. There's a lot of interesting thought on the topic of scale and how it relates to perception in Hofstadter's I Am A Strange Loop, if you're interested.)

The interjection of bias (which occurs, in one form or another, as a byproduct of every perception, almost as smoke results from a fire), doesn't render something unnatural. However, taking "natural science" as a specific discipline, Rushkoff's thesis again makes sense. Both are (potentially) true. Words are such slippery things.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fragments on the history of Antimarkets / Capitalism

The theme of the past day for me seems to center around the history of capitalism. This has popped up in the several books I am muddling through (I mostly have time to read during my daily trolley/subway commute), and then this morning, while trying to wake me up, I happened upon an interesting article by Douglas Rushkoff that touches on the subject by way of discussing how our interests structure our discoveries and indeed the basis of what we consider real let alone valid. The point Rushkoff makes, and it's well made, is that scientists and mathematicians are biased to support the worldview of our economy as if its a given because thats how they make money- by showing how to game the system. However, that bias makes our economic system seem like universal, natural law. I would like to point out that this is not a bias exclusively unique to economics. Regardless, it creates a feedback loop between the "authorities" that re-enforce the system, and the people managing the system itself. Kind of an echo chamber.

There is some extent to which I let serendipity direct the progress of my research; books that people hand to me, things that I come upon online- all the information that we process is sorted based in part on the information we've already been exposed to, it predisposes us, as does our intentions at that time and a million other variables. There are several ways these tidbits fit into what I'm already working on, but I'll leave that for later.

On to these tidbits-

"Credit represented one more form of autocatalytic or turbulent dynamics that propelled preindustrial European cities ahead of their Eastern rivals, eventually enabling Europe to dominate the rest of the world. Credit (or, more exactly, compound interest) is an example of explosive, self-stimulated growth: money begetting money, a diabolical image that made many civilizations forbid usury. European merchants got around this prohibition through the use of the "bill of exchange," originally a means of long-distance payment (inherited from Islam); as
it circulated from fair to fiar its rate of return accrued usuriously. (This disguised form of usury was tolerated by church hierarchies use to the many risks of the circulation the bills of exchange involved.)

--1000 Years of Nonlinear History.

Then, from the Rushkoff article:

The economy in which we operate is not a natural system, but a set of rules developed in the Late Middle Ages in order to prevent the unchecked rise of a merchant class that was creating and exchanging value with impunity. This was what we might today call a peer-to-peer economy, and did not depend on central employers or even central currency.

People brought grain in from the fields, had it weighed at a grain store, and left with a receipt — usually stamped into a thin piece of foil. The foil could be torn into smaller pieces and used as currency in town. Each piece represented a specific amount of grain. The money was quite literally earned into existence — and the total amount in circulation reflected the abundance of the crop.

Now the interesting thing about this money is that it lost value over time. The grain store had to be paid, some of the grain was lost to rats and spoilage. So each year, the grain store would reissue the money for any grain that hadn't actually been claimed. This meant that the money was biased towards transactions — towards circulation, rather than hording. People wanted to spend it. And the more money circulates (to a point) the better and more bountiful the economy. Preventative maintenance on machinery, research and development on new windmills and water wheels, was at a high.


Feudal lords, early kings, and the aristocracy were not participating in this wealth creation. Their families hadn't created value in centuries, and they needed a mechanism through which to maintain their own stature in the face of a rising middle class. The two ideas they came up with are still with us today in essentially the same form, and have become so embedded in commerce that we mistake them for pre-existing laws of economic activity.

The first innovation was to centralize currency. What better way for the already rich to maintain their wealth than to make money scarce? Monarchs forcibly made abundant local currencies illegal, and required people to exchange value through artificially scarce central currencies, instead. Not only was centrally issued money easier to tax, but it gave central banks an easy way to extract value through debasement (removing gold content). The bias of scarce currency, however, was towards hording. Those with access to the treasury could accrue wealth by lending or investing passively in value creation by others. Prosperity on the periphery quickly diminished as value was drawn toward the center. Within a few decades of the establishment of central currency in France came local poverty, an end to subsistence farming, and the plague. (The economy we now celebrate as the happy result of these Renaissance innovations only took effect after Europe had lost half of its population.)


The second great innovation was the chartered monopoly, through which kings could grant exclusive control over a sector or region to a favored company in return for an investment in the enterprise. This gave rise to monopoly markets, such as the British East India Trading Company's exclusive right to trade in the American Colonies. Colonists who grew cotton were not permitted to sell it to other people or, worse, fabricate clothes. These activities would have generated value from the bottom up, in a way that could not have been extracted by a central authority. Instead, colonists were required to sell cotton to the Company, at fixed prices, who shipped it back to England where it was fabricated into clothes by another chartered monopoly, and then shipped to back to America for sale to the colonists. It was not more efficient; it was simply more extractive.

The resulting economy encouraged — and often forced — people to accept employment from chartered corporations rather than create value for themselves. When natives of the Indies began making rope to sell to the Dutch East India Trading Company, the Company sought and won laws making rope fabrication in the Indies illegal for anyone except the Company itself. Former rope-makers had to close their workshops, and work instead for lower wages as employees of the company."

I've been thinking about this in the back of my mind most of the day, but I seem to be fighting with a sinus thing yet again so I'm not the most clear-headed at the moment. Conclusion is that you either need to enter the game through having enough money to work with compound interest and investment, accept that you will be someone's indentured servant all your life, or build your own trade network and accept that most likely, if you are ever truly successful, you will be shut down or attacked by the powers-that-be as posing a threat to their way of life simply because you provide an alternative to their credit monopolies. (Certainly, if you gather the means to defend yourself from such incursions- as the founders of this country did- you would be even more likely to be branded as terrorist.)

This final scenario was one of the premises I was playing with in fictional form in Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning.

A shitty game. Anything beats option #2.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Dual Definition of Myth (cont)

The fact that the word "myth" has become synonomous with an untrue belief belies an underlying shift in our epistemological focus over the past several thousand years. To generalize: we have become, as a culture, a great deal more concerned with verifiable facts and less concerned with the existential truths which have a different relation to fact. This progression ties not only into the Enlightenment focus on rationality and the scientific method, but, perhaps more pervasively and certainly more recently, we can see this following from the needs of industrialization. Fundamental business principles rely on actions that are easy to reproduce, and which produce similar if not identical results with each reptition. This promotes an economy of scale that is absolutely necessary for so-called big business.

The dual meaning of myth comes almost as a by-product of this worldview, and provides a certain cultural insight that we will be exploring throughout the Immanence of Myth. In its proper sense, myth has no necessary relation to fact because it relates to our interior and psychological rather than external, physical selves. This is not to say that the former has no bearing on the latter. Far from it. That the inner and outer life appear as mirror images of one another, separated by what appears to be a vast divide, is another issue that we must contend with. (in Deconstructing Our Myths.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Are Here: Corporate Mono-Myth

A thought stemming from a twitter conversation with @eve11, not ironically tapped out as I sit here working on marketing materials for yet another porn (or, ok. yes it is.):

It's the initiatory or transformative function of a story that (at least in part) makes it a myth. This is one of the places corporate mythology fails, since the only sanctioned activity within its bounds is consumption or production. That mono-myth has overrun all else in our culture, not the "hero" (with a thousand faces.) Within this framework, I only have "value" based on what I can consume or provide for consumption. Though these things are an obvious necessary element of life, they are the exclusive focus of the first chakra in the Kundalini model of psychic awareness: a worm that exists purely to eat through one end and shit out the other.

(Also note to self, look at this)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Immanence of Myth: Anthology guidelines

Immanence Of Myth To Be Published by Weaponized July 2011

For recent posts and updates on this project, click here


Mythos Media is seeking submissions for the (tentatively titled) anthology Immanence of Myth. This project came about through my own experiences, notes & essays on the subject, but I have decided to open the floor to contributors to increase the scope & breadth of the book.

This book will likely be broken into three sections: a deconstruction & analysis of "myth" as a concept, some forms of modern myths, and a section dealing with personal myths & experience- how myths (your own or others) have transformed or affected you. (see below)

The premise of this book is that myths actually have an essential function in our daily lives, as a meaning-creating method of interpreting our experience, rather than being an "untrue but regularly held belief" or a fanciful story from a bygone era. We hope to redefine this idea in section 1 & provide unique examples in section 2 & 3:

For section 1 we are looking for essays that explore the concept of myth outside the "box" of one particular worldview. This can include analysis of existent myths but we are not creating an annotated bulfinch's, and those examples should be used to support your central thesis.

Section 2 - articles on modern mythology, for example in media (movies, TV, literature, Internet), pop culture, and corporate/brand use of mythological techniques.

For section 3 we are looking for personal-essay style encounters with myth. (We may also consider short fiction if it serves the same purpose.) These can be humorous, dramatic, or anything in-between but should not be journal entries-- in other words, you have to provide the reader a means of understanding how myths have affected you, and how the reader can understand their own lives through a mythic lens.

We will also include a shorter section of interviews with artists that have mythological themes or approaches in their work.

In all cases, cite your references, and please proofread & spellcheck your work.

Submit your work as a Word or Open Office document.

- We will be releasing this anthology through Mythos media and the new Pilotlite. The first edition will be made available as a free PDF and a (not free) POD hardcopy. We will push this through several online channels but each contributor should also promote it to their network of contacts. If this effort is successful we will push it to in-store publication.

- Your work will be published nonexclusively, meaning you can publish your submission (as submitted) at a later date with someone else if you so choose. If we partner with any publishers in a later edition we will insist on the nonexclusive use of your work unless you say otherwise.

- Submission does not ensure acceptance.

- Your submissions will be edited. The editorial process will vary somewhat depending on the need of the piece, but will always include an edited copy sent to the author for their own revision. We would like to keep the back-and-forth to two passes at most. In any event, we hope that you see it as a collaborative process. Please don't submit if you feel uncomfortable about your work being revised.

- Though we maintain final say on what gets published in this anthology, you will also have the opportunity to OK our revisions. Our goal is to come to a final piece that all parties are happy with.

- We are not maintaining a strict guideline on length. Shoot for between 1500-7000 words per piece.

- The first edition will be unpaid and available to contributors at the base printing cost. If possible we will offer a flat rate on later editions if the 1st edition does well but this can not be assured.

- We are presently planning on laying this out in magazine format, and will also be looking for art to accompany the text, especially later in the process.

- Please include a 250-500 word bio with your submission.

Publication date July 2011

SEND SUBMISSIONS TO: jamescurcio AT gmail DOT com

An early version of the Editor's intro was run at Reality Sandwich. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Miopia, myth and analysis.

Pasting up some thoughts I jotted down last night. These often come to me right before sleep...

It's an often recognized fact that two things happen when you focus your attention on the study of a particular concept:

First, you see it everywhere. This is exemplified in the concept of a meta-narrative, whereby reality is reduced to a simple principle like the subversion of subliminal sexuality (Freud). These provide an often useful insight into an aspect of reality while at the same time distorting reality around the contours of the concept. What conceals often also reveals, and the inverse is also true.

Second, you likely deconstruct your core concept to such a point that it ceases to mean what it does for everyone else. For example, "will" to Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, or Crowley: their ideas of "will" in all three cases go so far beyond what is commonly meant by the term that many so-called lay-people will easily mistake their actual meaning. ("Lay-person" in this sense means someone who is simply not familiar with a sufficient whole of their work or worldview, which is actually requisite to understanding a core principle like this.) Similarly, this word "will" does not lead to the same concept in all three cases, but rather is a sort of key to a unique thought process for each.

I am fully aware of both of these factors in my ongoing exploration of the concept of "myth." Rather than attempting to escape them through the posture of "scientific analysis," which itself biases outcome, I do my best to embrace them simply to see what comes out on the other side as a result of the process-- the process of inquiring into a concept such as this one likely loops back on itself time and again, and in that process unravels any hope of being understood in a particular instance without a preconceived familiarity with the whole. An entire book could be written on "myth" or even "hope" or "alienation," and if written by different people the results would vary greatly: this itself is a recursive principle of what myth really is. As a result there is a danger of doing a great deal of work that is only valuable to its author. I don't believe this to be the case, as more remains similar about us than dissimilar in the big picture, but even if it is I'm willing to accept that in this work, if not in my fiction, art-- in the myths that I create themselves, rather than the analysis of the process that is going on behind it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Dionysus and Spiritual Exile

Yet another fragmentary thought that fits into one of the sections of Immanence of Myth-- this one related to the concept of "spiritual exile" that I work with towards the end of the notes I presently have assembled, which is something of a synthesis of personal observation, Campbell's statements on the subject and Buber's I-and-Thou. However, the solution I see to this problem is different, though how to bring it into modern society without it destroying the already threadbare fabric... I don't know.

The Dionysian impulse is the solution to our spiritual exile not through escape, as in the mystical formulas which come from traditions that helped to invent spiritual exile in the first place, but through re-entry into the body-- not as a suit of flesh bearing consciousness but as consciousness itself-- no distinction, no division, expressed in the outpouring of a present that is so intensely alive that it devours, overflows, consumes.

That this state is only attained through extreme excess in our lives demonstrates nothing more than how ingrained our spiritual exile-- that is exile from the manifest reality-- truly is. Whether and to what extent this alienation is cultural or a biological symptom of our curious self consciousness is somewhat irrelevant.

A bit of relevant material from the IoM notes on this subject:
...This idea of estrangement is particularly worth highlighting.56 Though Christianity ostensibly did away with the need of a Priestly caste to act as an intermediary between man and God, this ideology was quickly brushed under the carpet as the Catholic church rose to power. Thus the early Judaic idea of estrangement or exile remained – along with this growing belief that the physical world itself was a sort of purgatory from the union with God. This myth obviously germinated in the cultural soil of a people who were constantly being kicked out of their chosen homeland(s). This belief most likely begins with one of the oldest monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism, which originated somewhere between the 9th and 11th centuries BCE in or around what is modern day Afghanistan, oddly simultaneous with the roots of Judaism as well.

In these early monotheistic traditions, God took the role of an absolute Other, which makes a genuine relationship impossible: communication depends on commonality. To the average individual, this relationship continued with the older tradition of patriarchy; God became a father-figure so elevated that we could only follow his commands, but never understand him. Jewish mystics, however, recognized that a
God of this sort can only be intelligently spoken of as a “not,” to identify him as any actual element of being would be to limit him by caging him within our own mortal realm. The Jewish mystical system of Kabbalah in many ways is an intellectual means of making elements of the divine accessible, without limiting “his” essence, at least on paper. However, while there may be many other merits to this system, like the empty logical gesticulations of the Christian scholars to follow (such as Boethius, St. Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas), these intellectual or linguistic games change nothing.

To attempt to relate to this absolute, estranged Father-God, one can only cry up to the heavens in hope of a response that cannot come but through an intermediary – half divine himself – thus sharing part of our essence and part of his. It is of course in response to this need for an intermediary that Jesus, historic figure that he may be, took on the mythic resonance of an age, simultaneously adopting many of the elements of the male agrarian regenerative Gods that the Israelites had discarded. As the Christian cult grew from its early days into an institution, (most notably after the Council of Nicea and subsequent Nicene Creed), their leadership developed many political tools out of their myths. An example of this is original Sin, and as a result of the historic and mythic resonance of this belief, we have this “revolt against nature” which has been with us for the duration of Western Civilization. This is not a linear progression but rather a series of feedback loops, which moves temporally in one direction, but with resonances that can cross cultural boundaries, even inexplicably occur simultaneously in geographically disparate locations.

Read a book with Dionysus as the protagonist.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Vote with your money

The most powerful vote you get in this society is with your $: don't look for "deals", look at sustaining the business models you stand behind.

Though in a less black and white sense you can also vote for one business over another who are equally "conscientious", but where you prefer the methodology or even aesthetic of one over another. My point is we should think less just about the immediate personal benefit (this costs less here) and more about the systems we are sustaining and starving.

An example that comes to mind... there was this awesome cafe with a mini free library, essentially, hookahs-- an awesome place to hang out in what was otherwise a cultural wasteland. But it died because people would buy one coffee & stay 8 hours, whereas at starbucks people buy & leave, buy & leave. Everything about the business, from architecture on out, is constructed to re-enforce this model. You can say the biz model of #1 was flawed, but put the emphasis on the consumers consciousness of their participation in a system, and the resposibility becomes ours.

In other words, if we live in a corporate cultural wasteland, it's only because we have collectively chosen for it to be so, albeit in a passive, seemingly unintentional way. It is the aggregate of seemingly tiny choices that often determines the large-scale changes. The purpose of marketing is ultimately to fulfill consumer need- biz acts to make all elements of the process homogenized & easily reproducable because then it is easier to predict & strategize-- but that only works when human behavior is predictable. This makes cultural homogenization a benefit from a corporate standpoint-- and this ties into a sub-topic of the marketing takeover of the counterculture but that we will return to on another day...

All of this is toppled if individuals are unique, unpredictable & think for themselves. So those traits are poison from the standpoint of big biz sustainability. But for the sustainability of humanity, & the planet--- see where I'm going?

I'm disinterested in showy protest that accomplishes nothing. real change is accomplished through the cumulative, day-to-day actions of everyone.

This is a topic that comes up in the presently fragmented notes and essays I'm currently calling The Immanence of Myth (PDF).

A quote from a relevant section on the topic:

All products and their associated myths, (people in advertising speak fairly openly about developing the “story” of the brand, which is the brand's myth), have to find a home within the lives and thoughts of the market. If people demand organic products, companies will meet that demand. Though the proliferation of Yoga, organic food, specialty food products, high quality imports, and the like are being supplied to an increasing degree by the “evil empire,” it is also a sign that consumers have much more power in their hands than they realize. In fact, within the market framework, they have all the power. They just don't realize it, and often don't seem to have the willpower or where-with-all to wield it.67

(FN 67 Along with that power, of course, comes a responsibility that most consumers are unwilling to take on. For instance, though it is perhaps easy to complain about the quality of Hollywood movies today, if people stopped going to see them, Hollywood would very quickly work to develop a new formula. If people recognize that, good or bad, within a capitalist society your dollar is possibly an even stronger form of “voting power” than what is exercised in the voting booth. How many “green” Americans complain about Wallmart and then go there the next day?)

Instead, many people live as shills to various corporate myths because they quietly choose to. If your life revolves around how the shoes you wear define you as a person, or which line of body spray is most likely to get you laid, you’ve turned yourself into a patsy. The only way out of this cycle for the consumer is to
take control of their choices. The only way out for the myth-maker is to create, and forget about trying to be original.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


More information will be made available shortly about Murder The World, Inc. We are currently in the studio preparing a completely overwhelming sensory experience for you- our first album, Nothing Is Sacred. This is a taxing process that involves copious amounts of drugs and self-abuse, so bear with us and check out the album when we're done if we don't all OD on cough syrup and fermented yak semen or invoke a wrathful demon that replaces all of our bodily fluids with nutella. (Thankfully we got most of our drummer's material before he left this Earth. RIP Thor Thorsson.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Carl Jung and the absence of myth

I came upon a passage in Jung's autiobiography (Memories, Dreams & Reflections, which I named our little Babalon 1-off demo after) so serendipitously that I feel the need to transcribe it here.

It has equal relevance not only for my past work but one of the fundamental issues I've wrestled with the majority of my life. If anything it is this very problem which has driven me time and again back to the subject of myth, it is what I am again shooting at with the Immanence of Myth, though I feel I am shooting at a hidden target while blindfolded, and to make matters worse the target is moving around on me. But nevertheless it is the same target, and that is the psychological and cultural problems posed by the absence of myth. To many they seem an idea in the background, at the most of secondary importance. For me it has always been an issue of primary importance, to such an extent that as I said it is possibly the fundamental catch 22 that seems to underlie my life, at least from age 16 to the present. I have seen these traits in many of those who have walked aside me at least for a time, as well as, at times, in myself. (Which is to say, I don't think this passage is about me but rather prophetically touching upon a cultural/psychological crisis that he -- and many others -- have seen coming for a long time.)

So, to the passage:

"...It is obvious that in the course of his practice a doctor will come across people who have a great effect on him too. He meets personalities who, for better or worse, never stir the interest of the public and who nevertheless, or for that very reason, possess unusual qualities, or whose destiny it is to pass through unprrecendeted developments and disasters. Sometimes they are persons of extraordinary talents, who might well inspire another to give his life for them; but these talents may be implanted in so strangely unfavorable a psychic disposition that we cannot tell whether it is a question of genius or fragmentary development. Frequently, too, in this unlikely soil there flower rare blossoms of the psyche which we would never have thought to find in the flatlands of society.

...Among the so-called neurotics of our day there are a good many who in other ages would not have been neurotic- that is, divided against themselves. If they had lived in a period and in a milieu in which man was still linked by myth with the world of the ancestors, and thus with nature truly experienced and not merely seen from outside, they would have been spared this division with themselves. I am speaking of those who cannot tolerate the loss of myth and who can neither find a way to a merely exterior world, to the world as seen by science, nor rest satisfied with an intellectual juggled with words, which has nothing whatsoever to do with wisdom.

These victims of the psychic dichotomy of our time are merely optional neurotics, their apparent morbidity drops away the moment the gulf between the ego and the unconscious is closed. ... The spirit does not dwell in concepts, but in deeds and in facts. Words butter no parsnips; nevertheless, this futile procedure is repeated ad infinitum."


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