Monday, May 31, 2010

BP oil disaster and complicity in a system

I'd like to flesh out an unpopular thought that I expressed on Twitter (which was then ported over to Facebook) the other day, in a way that isn't hamstrung by 140 characters.

The initial post was this:
Here's an unpopular thought: everyone bitching about BP should, instead, get rid of their car and only use them infrequently.
Of course, there was a great deal of outrage at the implication that I wasn't demonizing BP. I acknowledge that in 140 characters, caveats are hard to provide, but it should simply go without saying that I am not sticking up for BP by saying this. Of course they're very much if not wholly responsible for this particular disaster. (Though let's not forget about Haliberton among others.)

My point is simply that "giants" like BP wouldn't exist in the first place if there wasn't a demand for it, or they would at least have a different business model. And the fact that all of us - myself included - don't see ourselves as in some small but cumulative way propping up the mess that we're in, then we're really just pulling the wool over our eyes. Every time we buy something made with petroleum, every time we ride in a car, we're supporting it.

Now, to this, there are two obvious reactions:
One: "how do you expect me to get by in this society without these things?" This is a fair point, but it's also the real crux of the problem. Our society is sick; it demands that if we want to participate we have to play along with a game that makes a lot of money for certain people while at the same time bringing about pollution, indentured slavery of various kinds - take a look at the effects of the the food industry in third world nations sometime, not to mention the fact that they are rich in natural resources and yet the people benefit little from it - and on and on. Most of us, again myself included, are domesticated and we simply would not do well truly "off the grid," so we play along, maybe we make some paltry efforts to try to assuage ourselves of the feeling complicity, and go about out our lives on the micro- level. My point is that, nevertheless, these actions have a cumulative effect.

In a capitalist society the only message that will speak loudly, from the bottom up, is if a massive chunk of the population suddenly took an action that cut off the revenue stream of the powers that be. You can be assured that, in that case, they would find another way to try to provide goods or services in a way that we'd pay for it. And do any of you really expect a bottom down solution, when companies such as these have the kind of power that they do? If anything, these days, it appears the government is beholden to them, not the other way around. (Though the government does have the military, which I guess could even the score at the end of the day, even against the private armies corporations have slowly been gaining access to...)

The second reaction is that I'm being sophistic, since I'm making a point with no likely solution- it isn't likely that this kind of shift is going to happen, and most people argue that if they give up their car, farm their own food and stop buying petroleum products (among other things), everyone else still will so what difference does it make. (And who wants to be a subsistence farmer, anyway? We're all too soft for that. I certain am.) Another fair point. And yet again it still doesn't change the fact of the matter.

We're on a collision course, folks. We just don't know what with, yet. We have to wonder, how big of a disaster do we need before we really change our way of life in a fundamental way? With as much momentum as it has at that point, can it happen at all?

I spell this out in much more detail, and I think more articulately, in several chapters of The Immanence of Myth), so I'd rather not get into cannibalizing that material here any more than has been done in previous posts. I'd simply like to make my point clear. As I later said: I acknowledge that some of my actions - all of them culturally "acceptable" - make me to some extent complicit in the raping of the planet.

All I'm asking is other people admit the same, or take the drastic measures necessary to do otherwise.

In other words, it's the hypocrisy that drives me nuts. If you're propping up the system even just by doing what is culturally expected of you, you're still propping up the system. And to an extent, that's okay. We all have to live and most of us don't have the time or energy to consider a complete overhaul of that way of life when most of us are just struggling to get by. I'm doing it too, but let's be fucking honest about it. Yes?

(P.S. To all those people I've seen saying that "Obama should have fixed it by now," I've really got to ask- do you expect him to throw on a pair of speedos and dive to the bottom of the ocean?)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mankind Is Obsolete - cover remix contest

Originally uploaded by agent139
Spent most of today working on a cover design for Mankind Is Obsolete's cover remix contest... good opportunity to keep my PS chops from getting totally rusty. I've been spending most of my time lately writing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Y Announcement

It is with deep regret we announce that Y, the trans-Atlantic co-production with DPRGRM, Mythos Media and FoolishPeople has been postponed. The event, scheduled for July 22nd-31st 2010 in London has been pushed back due to scheduling conflicts. We apologise to everyone who have been looking forward to Y for so long.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dialectic of Communism and Capitalism

This is an aside I've decided to axe from the actual IoM text, but I did think it was an interesting thought, so I wanted to share --

Civilization has more requirements than just this one. As groups or nations increase in size, a sacrifice must be made, either on the part of the individual or the group. This has been the crucial dilemma, the Gordian knot, that civilization has wrestled with since its inception, and it exists in a microlevel within cultural, artistic, and corporate endeavors. There is no right answer, but, no matter what society or time we live in, we all must live with the repercussions of our answer. Though admittedly reductionalistic, the contrasting examples of Communism and Capitalism demonstrate this point well. To that point: Capitalism leads to a failure towards the good of the group for the needs of the individual, whereas the opposite is true with Communism. The form of Capitalism we are speaking of is best exemplified by the Corporate Capitalism which grew out of 1950's Post-war optimism in America. It would appear that European socialist Capitalism is of a slightly different sort. As it is relatively young, it is difficult to say what fruit it will bear. Most interesting, if we are to look at these two systems as the opposite ends of a dialectic in a Hegellian sense, the ultimate outcome of either, at their most extreme, is fascism, even if the face of Corporate (that is to say, Capitalist), and Communist fascism appear different. The conflict between Capitalism and Communism is like the warring of two different personalities; both with virtues and flaws, but both only able to see the vices of the other, and their own virtues. To truly understand the character of a person, a nation, a religion, we need only look to their demons, their outcasts, and their enemies.

Friday, May 14, 2010

James Curcio: Interview with John Wisniewski

(This was an interview that was conducted a year or so ago, meant to go into publication elsewhere but it never made it. So I thought I'd share it.)


Through his work, James Curcio is able to create a mind-altering style of writing, which merges fantasy and reality in a unique way. In this talk James speaks about the creative process, his music, writing, and myth making. -John Wisniewski

What was the subject of your first writings?

It's probably a cliché, but there's that advice that gets tossed at most beginning writers: "write what you know." It doesn't mean you need first-hand experience of it, though it helps - but the underlying emotions, thought-process, whatever it is... that has to come from your experience. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, myths... they all speak to us because they resonate directly with our experience. Now, I can't assume that something that is informed by my experience is going to resonate with everyone. Fact is, it won't. But I think there's a fair chance it'll hit some people in unexpected ways.

So I started from my experience, and though I'd like to think every project I work on is different from the previous - sometimes vastly so - that's a common thread. "Write what you know" might be the only common rule I did follow writing that book, by the way. I'm talking about my first novel, Join My Cult! (published by New Falcon press in 2004.) I broke a lot of rules, and I think some of that worked and some of it was a complete disaster. But the parts that worked did so in a sort of brazen, maniacal way that I probably couldn't do now. I've moved on to other things, and my approach is always changing.

I guess you could say Join My Cult! is a 'coming of age' story for those of us who came to self-awareness in a culture that exists without a myth, and so had to try to build our own myths. Maybe that's always been the case in some way, though there's something especially alienating about modern, capitalistic society.

When did you begin that story, and what inspired it?

Like most sixteen year-olds, I took myself and everything around me far too seriously. It's a certain strength to that age too, it gives everything so much damn gravity and importance. But it also leads to endless posturing... and really, really long monologues. I wrote a sort of journal about a trip to a mental hospital. That's where the story begins and ends.

Later, maybe at the age of nineteen or twenty, I returned to that text. But at that point I realized that it was part comedy, and started reworking it. I think it struck a chord with some people because a lot of us have been that alienated teenager. You're smart enough to start processing abstract concepts, but too inexperienced to know any better when it comes to clinging to ideals. Though it's childish and all that, there's something for all of us to learn from the cause of that adolescent angst, even if how we likely dealt with it was well... adolescent. It is something for us to remember, and try to bring back into our lives as adults. If you don't you could very well wind up serving the very machine you railed against as a kid.

I worked and reworked Join My Cult! for several years, and ultimately it was published. I still think it could use better editorial... but I guess it isn't an easy text to edit.

Could you tell us about Aleonis de Gabreal? His writings are often quoted in "Join My Cult." What other writings have inspired your writing?

Actually, Aleonis de Gabrael is fictional - he is kind of the teacher within, and an idealized form that the character Alexi has of himself. A lot of characters appear in this story who exist inside the minds of other characters, though they might be portrayed as external. This is one of the many reasons that it can be a particularly confusing read if you want everything to make sense in a linear way. Nietzsche wheels himself into a Denny's at one point to pontificate, and give a warning to those around him, which of course no one either understands or heeds... Much as Nietzsche himself did. I figured, it is a story, why not give all of these things equal reality? After all, what makes one thought or sensation real and another unreal? External and internal is a matter of perception, which we can play with in literature. In a story you can jump from one person's mind to another, which is not something we regularly do otherwise. But people who couldn't get past that won't get more than a chapter in. Which is fine, I didn't write that book for everyone. In many ways I wrote Join My Cult! for myself. I don't write everything for myself, but that one was a purgative, transformational form of psychotherapy.

Other writers who have inspired me... this would be a really long list. I honestly wouldn't know where to begin- different authors or works came to me at different times, a lot of times it was pretty serendipitous. When I was writing Join My Cult!, I was steeping my brain in James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, Carl Jung, Frederich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, Aleister Crowley, Carlos Castenada, Robert Anton Wilson, Joseph Campbell... many others but those come to mind.

When I came to my second novel, Fallen Nation, I was working off of many of the myths and stories of Dionysus, especially Euripides' play The Bacchae, and Lilith, and a lot of other mythological motif's, worked on top of my own experience... but I was also on some level probably influenced by Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman - mostly authors who cut their teeth on graphic novels or comics.

Fallen Nation cover
Something often happens when I'm working on a project...I'll be wrapping it up when a friend turns me on to a writer, or a book or a movie - and it'll be like, "fuck. This is really similar to what I'm doing." At least in one way or another. I'm not sure if inspiration can happen retroactively, but it sometimes seems to.

Your writing has a dreamlike-quality and can be nightmarish at times. How do you go about writing in this style? Is it improvised or do you plan out each chapter, seeing it as a film script might be viewed?

Again, this really depends on the project. Join My Cult! was a palimpsest - layers added on top of layers. There was no forethought in terms of the plot, only afterthought, rearrangement, re-writing, re-interpreting - beginning that process over. This is incidentally the kind of process I used when producing the album subQtaneous: Some Still Despair In A Prozac Nation. There are tracks on that album where the original "underpainting" tracks were pulled away entirely, so you hear people's reactions, or reaction to a reaction, but not the material they were reacting to. Those underlying sketches became superfluous. It gives it a kind of dreamlike, meandering quality, that I think you either really like or simply don't get. Again, that's not an approach that's right for all projects, but it's something I wanted to explore specifically with those projects.

5x7" promo for subQtaneous

Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning was intentional. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish, what the plot arcs would be - I charted it all out in Viseo as a series of flow charts before getting much writing done. Then I wrote the key scenes and narratives as the mood struck me, pieced them together in order, and then brought them all together and sanded off the edges. After some reflection I decided that it still wasn't right, and I went back to the drawing board, I mean really went back to the drawing board. The result was Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End ... 

As a result of the different processes you get different end results. I think your process should be picked based on what the intention of the project is. Also, as you grow as an artist, your repertoire grows... by that I mean the processes and techniques that are available to you.

I also do my best brain-storming for writing in the state between awake and asleep. When I'm working on a writing project I will often meditate, or simply let myself relax to the point of slipping off into sleep, after having asked myself a question. Sometimes it'll just be an image or something even more ephemeral, a fleeting feeling. But if I can capture that in my notes enough to "tag" that state of mind, then when I'm sitting down to really get to work, I can look at my notes and gather inspiration from that collection of "tagged" shards or impressions. You can imagine, a lot of my notebooks seem a little schizophrenic.

Usually, I do this when I'm at a point with a story where I simply don't know where to go next, or how to deal with a problem that I'm feeling with a passage or character. Then, more often than not, the solution will present itself in that twilight state. The trick of course is to bring it back up, rather than slip off into sleep, because you'll lose it.

I also really enjoy writing scripts, I suppose there is a cinematic quality to how I write stories, especially recently. Join My Cult! would never translate well into that format, but I recently completed the screenplay adaptation of Fallen Nation, and I honestly think it works better than the book did...

Do the cults in Join My Cult! and Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning exist?

This ties into what I'd call "myth building." In a sense yes, and in a sense, no. With Join My Cult!, there were times when there were groups in various cities, and going by various names, which were directly connected to the story. But the title was meant to be ironic, and the fact is that when any group of people get together, when they share similar beliefs, they become a cult of sorts. Which isn't to say they're all going to go out like Jim Jones' crew. Fallen Nation is a little bit more hypothetical. But like I was saying earlier, it still all comes from "real life." Whatever that is.

You've been involved in a wide range of musical projects as well. How do you incorporate so many different styles into your music? Is the process of creating different in your music than in your writing?

I'm not sure how to directly answer those questions. The styles that appear in the projects I work on has to do with my inspiration and influences, but also those of the collaborators involved. That process is alchemy, plain and simple. Right now I'm in the process of recording the album Murder The World with Marz233 (previously of Elektroworx), Johan Ess, Scott Landes (of Mankind Is Obsolete and Collide), and William Clark. We all have very diverse backgrounds and influences, the end result is the alchemy of that- and the push and pull that happens during the production process. We're presently trying to work out the vocals; we've had a hard time finding the right vocalist for the project.

It's all about the process for me. The same end result might be enjoyable, inspirational, terrifying, or downright horrifying to different people. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what the audience is going to think.

Nothing Is Sacred - early design
So the specific process is unique project-to-project.  Working in so many different mediums, I recognize that my strength has become about arranging the big picture. I'll never be a virtuoso - that requires a constant one-pointed meditation, a kind of single-minded dedication that I have neither the time nor interest in. One year I might do a lot of writing, another year might be spent working directing the production of a graphic novel or an album. I get antsy when I'm stuck doing the same thing for too long, though I make a point to see everything through that can be seen through, circumstances allowing.

Maybe I'm also afraid of typecasting myself. Heaven forbid one of my projects really blows up, that would be great but there's always a danger there too. If you have success with one thing everything gets evaluated in comparison to that. You'll get fans who will be downright offended, or worse, if you do something different the next time around. Everyone wants you to put out some kind of reiteration or reassemblage of the same material - especially if you're getting pressured by a label or a publisher with a shrinking profit margin. In my opinion, if you hit gold with something, that can be a sign to you that it was the right place and time, but that place and time can't be reproduced. You always need to move forward. There are artists who I think get that, like David Bowie. But so long as the end result of the process - the product - is given absolute value, and so long as it's commodified, you're going to mostly have sugar water posing as myth.

This is one reason I've mostly worked on independent productions. I'll admit another reason is that most of what I've worked on is far too bizarre and demanding, from the perspective of mainstream culture, for a major to invest in. I've been working a lot on scripts lately, for comics, for independent films, and struggling to get them fully into production. It's really a tough needle to thread. I'd certainly love to see what kinds of myths we could build with larger budget productions, but not if they're going to be hamstrung by execs that don't understand what we're about.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

sacred art

Duy Huynh (eggxaltation) #TwitPict on Twitpic
Duy Huynh (eggxaltation)

When I was in Asheville with my wife Jazmin, we saw a wide assortment of clearly mythological pieces of art. (That I keep seeing examples of this outside the sphere of my personal contacts only further amplifies my sense that there is a resurgence of this approach to the creative process, at least in a conscious sense.) Some of these were like miniature altars or sacred objects, involved various pieces of found objects, re-constructed elements, miniature books, personal relics, and so on. This got us to thinking about building our own- not by way of forming a derivative current, but simply as a way of exploring a particular idea.

Aleta Braun (lunar series) #TwitPict on Twitpic
Aleta Braun (lunar series)

Daniel lessig #TwitPict on Twitpic

    Jazmin found a number of $.25 books at the local library and this served as a jumping off point. 25 does not immediately have a significance to me, but it is the square of 5, and that has many symbolic meanings. We chose to focus in on the heirophant, the throat chakra, and the Fibonacci sequence, mostly to serve as a jumping off point for what these objects are to become. One can get fixated on the symbolism and use it as a strict metric rather than a loose guide. This can be constricting. As you fixate in on such seemingly arbitrary things, you may begin to notice things- for instance, the ideas behind the throat chakra, of taking the root power from the first and third chakras and expressing it upon the world, is something we both need to work on. So right away this becomes not only an exploration and meditation, but also a means of attempting to take a first step towards making such changes in ourselves.
    The more you work with the objects themselves, in constructing and assembling them, the more opportunity you are given to infuse it with personal meaning, which is the ritual element. That is really where the power in ritual lies; the repetitive nature of it that can occur in large organizations, where people parrot the same motions generation after generation, leeches it of its power. The sacred is turned inert, the gold becomes ash. It is turned profane.
    Of course, some artists build objects like this and then say they can't possibly sell it or even display it later because it means too much to them. However, I immediately think of Tibetan sand paintings, mandalas that require an incredible amount of skill to build and which are destroyed no sooner than they are completed. Such things become aesthetic rather than sacred objects the moment they are completed. At that point, they may reflect some of their meaning - or even different meanings - to an audience. They may inspire, as the pieces that we saw in the galleries we went to did for us. But their sacred purpose, the process of creating them, has already been spent. The artist moves on.

(More in my Twitpic feed.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Initiation Part 3: Making Do Without A Guide on RS

"The actual lesson provided by hallucinogens seems relatively simple: let go. Hey look, the walls are bleeding. Let go. I'm fifty and my life is a wreck. Let go. That hawk headed God has giant tits and it's starting to unnerve me. Let go. If you hold on, it can become a demon, and if you let go, it becomes bliss."
Reality Sandwich ran the third and final piece on initiation today:
Initiation Part 3: Making Do Without A Guide

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


You may notice that a number of images and items are missing presently. (Or maybe you didn't. Maybe you're smoking crack and somehow got here through a google search for "thai lady boy crack whores." What do I know?)

That's because the content I've kept at is presently in hiatus, and the host I had for seems to be temporarily or permanently down. That'll hopefully change sooner than later.

In the meantime, enjoy that crackpipe.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

P Emerson Williams Bundle

Thee Brad Miller did a nice rundown of the work of a "mythical artist" (like a unicorn) I've collaborated with on many projects:


Purchase the Bundle HERE
(For more click post title)


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