Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Story of a Transmedia Revolution: (Part 4) The Bookstore Apocalypse

Rise of the Zombie Publishers

At first glance, things look rather grim for storytellers—or authors, as they are commonly referred to today.  Bookstores are going bankrupt; traditional publishers are at war with their online rivals; pirated e-books are sailing the digital seas in record numbers; and of course, there are the widespread rumors of an impending reading apocalypse

"Paper or Plastic?"
(Which side of the publishing war are you on?)

-Photo by Peter Usagi

But even more disturbing than the current conflicts in the sale and distribution of published works, is a shift in how writing is viewed as a career.  According to author Seth Godin, if you're a writer, you have no right to make money anymore.  It's a little harsh, but he does have a very good point:
“Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word — over.”
Blogs are dethroning journalists, reality TV and YouTube are turning the everyman into celebrities, and thanks to Amazon and Lulu, now anyone can publish a book.  With so much freedom, and so few gatekeepers, publishing is starting to look a lot like cable TV: thousands of choices, but nothing worth reading.

Modern Mythology Podcast #3: Pornography of Cruelty

In this class we discuss many topics raised in The Immanence of Myth:
Pornography and the theatre of cruelty
Abu Ghraib and the subconscious of the United States
School shootings and the psychology of vicariousness

Direct download

This is just the second in a series of classroom recordings from SUNY Binghamton in conjunction with this digital humanities project.
Class with St Stephen and James Curcio.

Background recording by James Curcio, P. Emerson Williams, and Scott Landes. Interlude track is from Bradley the Buyer's Used Using People.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fairy Tale Journeys: Storytelling, Media & Framing

 By Mr. VI

Do me a favour and think about beginnings, would you?

Specifically, think about that moment, that gap before you start something new - the moment; that breath you take before you begin to speak, when you're moving thought into speech.or idea into movement.

Think about reaching out to grasp something, maybe picking up that mug of tea or coffee, or perhaps closing your hand around something and lifting it. Moving it from one place to another. Most of us us don't think about such things, which is why I ask it of you as a favour.

After all, there's a lot that you do without thinking, and I don't know if for you, the reader, it's simply habit or muscle memory that carries you through life. I don't know how you move when you walk, how the weight of your body feels as you plant one foot in  front of the other, how it shifts as you're increasing speed, as you're avoiding obstacles.

I don't know what kind of joy you take in getting to where you want to go, and I certainly couldn't guess how you'll feel after a day on your feet, doing all that you need to, day after day, minute after minute, hour after hour.

More to the point, I don't know what it's like to begin to walk, while your mind is on other things - to just blithely amble along. You probably didn't know either, until I asked you to think about it, as a beginning.

I asked you this favour because I don't know any of that, and nor will I ever do so. I can't go for a stroll, for a jog, for a run - there's no sidling, no sashaying; no hopping, skipping and jumping. No hopscotch, no tag, no home runs, no tries, no touchdowns.

I'm curious, you see. So do me a favour and think about beginnings, about the transition between not walking, and walking. Between silence and speech, and thought and action.

I can't walk.

Monday, April 23, 2012

No sympathy for the creative class

I don't usually post article stubs on Modern Mythology - normally this site features originally written content, which is why posts tend to come in flurries and then dry up for a while - but this article is really worth reading. I have little to add other than my agreement, as an independent artist living and working (sometimes with any pay) in the US.

It is worth reading, in its entirety.

Of course, those who continue to work in the creative class are the lucky ones. Employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how badly the press and media have missed the story. For some fields, the damage tracks, in an extreme way, along with the Great Recession. Jobs in graphic design, photographic services, architectural services – the bureau’s phrasing indicates that it is looking at all of the jobs within a field, including the people who, say, answer the phone at a design studio – all peaked before the market crash and and fell, 19.8 percent over four years for graphic design, 25.6 percent over seven years for photography and a brutal 29.8 percent, for architecture, over just three years. “Theater, dance and other performing arts companies” – this includes everything from Celine Dion’s Vegas shows to groups that put on Pinter plays – down 21.9 percent over five years.
Other fields show how the recession aggravated existing trends, but reveal that an implosion arrived before the market crash and has continued through our supposed recovery. “Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011. “Newspaper, book and directory publishers” are down 35.9 percent between January 2002 and a decade later; jobs among “periodical publishers” fell by 31.6 percent during the same period.
So why aren’t we talking about it?
Creative types, we suspect, are supposed to struggle. Artists themselves often romanticize their fraught early years: Patti Smith’smemoir “Just Kids” and the various versions of the busker’s tale “Once” show how powerful this can be. But these stories often stop before the reality that follows artistic inspiration begins: Smith was ultimately able to commit her life to music because of a network of clubs, music labels and publishers. And however romantic life on the edge seems when viewed from a distance, “Once’s” Guy can’t keep busking forever.
Yes, the Internet makes it possible to connect artists directly to fans and patrons. There are stories of fans funding the next album by a favorite musician — but those musicians, as well, acquired that audience in part through the now-melted creative-class infrastructure that boosted Smith. And yes, there have been success stories on Kickstarter, as well — but even Kickstarter accepts just 60 percent of all proposals, and only about 43 percent of those end up being crowd-funded.
Our image of the creative class comes from a strange mix of sources, among them faux-populist politics, changing values, technological rewiring, and the media’s relationship to culture – as well as good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bully and the Computer that Knows Your Feelings

By James Curcio

The movie Bully is hitting theaters on Friday, and it is making quite a stir.

The issue of bullying in schools has taken a surprisingly long time to reach a mainstream tipping point, considering its link to many of the school shootings that have destroyed countless people's lives, not to mention its presence in many of psychological makeups as adults. Some people are challenging its narrative as being too simplistic, overlooking all of the other ways in which bullying occurs in our society.

Be that as it may, it is here now. However, the public discussion on the topic has just begun.

Bullying is not just an issue facing schoolchildren, although in many cases the problem starts there. It is in our homes, our work-places. It is in our language.

That may come as a surprise to some. We all think we can recognize bullying, and certainly sometimes it is obvious: "I'm going to beat you until you can't walk."

Few would question that is an instance of bullying. But what about "I'm against abortion 100% . . but I hate to tell you what I think about these people ever being born"?

Or, "I'm not homophobic but I don't think being gay is right. But I know some of the SWEETEST gay people. Dang."

So much of our understanding of the sentiment behind language comes from inflection, context, and a variety of other cues that are stripped out of communication when it is just text.

Or are they? Plenty of bullying, harassment, or outright hate-speech occurs on Facebook, on Twitter, or in text messages. The sheer shrill volume of hate on the internet makes it seem that early detection of the sentiment behind such statements would be a valuable tool in the public discussion of bullying that is finally underway, if not a method to combat it directly.

There is, in fact, such a tool. There is a great deal of research being done in this direction in many domains, but the Beacon Initiative is putting it to use to track down bullying. What is amazing is that in their on-going beta testing, Beacon's software has detected all of the previous statements as instances of bullying. To do so, the software had to learn, and to go a great deal beyond simple keyword analysis.

It does this through sentiment analysis. Without getting too technical, your feelings can be “read” through the language that you use.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Philosophy Begins in Terror: Reflections on Loving and Living

Fragments & Notes 
(26, September 2011 - 14, March 2012)

1.  Countless times I've heard it said: love yourself if you wish to be loved by another. Now, as the essence and apotheosis of love is the ecstatic loss of self – in which the two are no longer one, without thereby creating any unity but co-mmunity – countless times I denounced this dictum as a diversion, or as naught but an incitement to narcissism.

As the fault of Narcissus lay not in self-adoration but in the neglectful self-abnegation arising of attachment to misrecognition, so I failed to detect that destructive, self-negating nature that lay  concealed – and was revealed – in my denunciation.

Self-loss without self-love is only death. Self-love is laughter of complicity with oneself.
Only this complicity can prepare you to let your heart be consumed in love.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Doing it for the Lulz – The Trickster Gods of the Modern Age

Trickster gods such as Anansi, Coyote and Loki are a universal archetype. They weave their mischievous magic throughout countless narratives, always ready to turn preconceived notions of right and wrong upside down. They challenge authority and cause us to question the rules of society. They are the anarchists, the creators of chaos and they cause the unaware masses to shake off their shackles and see what is really going on around them.
Tricksters live life to the extreme. They are seductive, unreliable and usually fond of drinking to excess but the Trickster gods never need to redeem themselves by changing their ways or participating in alcoholism treatments. It is precisely their ability to think outside the box and to challenge the societal norms that (usually) leaves the world a better place. They want to create fun and havoc for their own delights but it is precisely this ethos that pushes the boundaries and leads us laughing through times of great change.

The Trickster archetype in popular culture

The trickster archetype calls to that innate sense of fun within everyone and is constantly revisited throughout modern storytelling. Some of popular cultures most cherished characters such as Bart Simpson, Captain Jack Sparrow, Han Solo and the Cat in the Hat are all tricksters in their own ways, although modern rules of narrative dictate that they must eventually reign in their mischievous natures and find redemption through love and stability. Tricksters are more than a work of fiction, however. At this point in history there is a new generation of tricksters who are not only entirely real, they are creating their own unique narratives that are helping to restructure the world that we live in.

Hacktivist groups such as Anonymous are arguably the modern day equivalent of the ancient trickster archetypes. They are purely in it for the lulz, but their techniques have become an awesome weapon in the changing of political ideologies and the awakening of the sheeple. They are a real force to be reckoned with and have repeatedly made headlines with their off the wall approach and commitment to humor which creates maximum chaos for the ruling elite.

The Trickster as Hacktivist

The first known act of political hacktivism was the infamous WANK worm in 1989. The message “Worms Against Nuclear Killers” was proudly emblazoned across the login screens of HEPNET, DOE and NASA. Defined as the “non-violent use of legal and / or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends”, Hacktivism has been around for as long as the internet. There are a huge number of groups and individuals who are coming up with increasingly hilarious ways to ruffle the feathers of government agencies and big corporations.
Anonymous is probably the most well known of these hacktivist groups. In 2010 they attacked MasterCard and Visa as a protest against the company’s refusing payments to Wikileaks. They hacked the computers of the Tunisian government in January 2011 as a response to censorship issues and supported the opposition to the Egyptian government by hacking their systems too. In July 2011 they managed to breach the database of GMO giant, Monsanto and pledged vengeance for the company’s crimes against humanity which include supplying Agent Orange to the US government and their reckless introduction of pesticides and GM products into the environment.

October 2011 saw the takedown of over 40 child pornography sites and the naming and shaming of over 1500 individuals, something which the so-called authorities have long claimed was out of their ability to enforce. Most recently in January 2012 they took down the sites of both the FBI and the Department of Justice, in response to the controversial SOPA piracy legislation and the shutting down of file sharing site, Megaupload.

The age of the Hacktivist is only just beginning

Anonymous is more than a group or a movement. It is not simply a collection of activists or an internet terrorist cell as the authorities would have you believe. Anonymous, for the thousands of hackers who operate under the pseudonym, is a total way of life. It is a culture which is filled with works of art, music, values and aesthetics. It is about schadenfreude, the joy that comes about from the misfortunes of others.
The lulz are the essential key to the movement. It makes you laugh when otherwise you’d scream with despair at the wrongs that are everywhere you look. Throughout history the trickster is only found during times of trouble. When things were going well the trickster will look for mischief elsewhere. There’s little wonder, then, that at this point in time instances of hacktivism are steadily increasing. Whether you perceive their actions as immoral or for the greater good, the age of the Hacktivist trickster is only just beginning.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Thursday, April 05, 2012

On the Anxiety of Everything and of Nothing: Learning to let go

"Whoever believes in reason has to be able to excuse it as a believer excuses his god. After all, because not everyone believes in reason." 
Hans Blumenberg, Care Crosses The River

Is there such a thing as “anxiety?” Or do you transform an experience of your existence in a world, a life – neither entirely your own – into something to be possessed (by), grasped (by) – that you can at least perceive and know as an object. It is by turns a burden, an affliction, an essential part of your self, and finally, a threat: anxiety, does it not sometimes appear as a menacing, overwhelming force, from which there is no escape, that threatens the integrity of the “I” and the self you know?

And yet, it seems that anxiety has been so close and continual a companion to you – virtually ever-present – that it escapes you at the moment you wish to write. Anxiety, in other words, could just as well have been the object of Augustine's meditation on Time in the Confessions: “What this is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to a questioner, I do not know...” Perhaps "anguish is the horror of time” (Bataille) precisely the fact that “if the present is only time, because it flows away into the past... For it is, only because it will cease to be.... [and] that time is only in that it tend toward not-being.” [1] Like our existence in time, anxiety accompanies experience so closely that you know it without knowing precisely for what you take it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Musings on the Full Moon: Venusian Binds

April 6th, 2012/ 17 degrees Libra

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

It is no longer luxurious to be found amidst the thralls of destiny and purpose, as they demand lifetimes of sacrifice to be understood. Venus rules the fulfillment of our upcoming lunar wishes, and she demands focus for the brightest flowers to bloom this Spring.

Charge and clarify your dreams with permeating action. Mars, the eternal aggressor, makes you watch as he organizes your room with muddled distemper. You want to help, but you can’t—he wants you to feel the humiliation as he resolves your scattered values.

Staying inspired, your inner-Aphrodite cleanses herself in a nearby spring. She de-clothes near a waterfall, allowing the bitter stunning waters to fall close around her curves, nearing sudden ecstasy.

“Take charge of your wildest dreams and experience the finality of your answers,” Mars reminds us. Asking for clarification—the answer comes within profound commitment.

Though the waters remain cold, she cannot draw herself from it’s invigorating touch, locking her self within the dreams of an inspired singularity.

Jupiter offers wisdom, asking for your transformation to be steady and well thought out. His blessings are extended to the slow-moving Plutonian transformer, praying that the inevitable release happen with perceived grace.

Though Mercury is finally allowed to speak, he chooses to remain adrift. Gather around him, lest he make the slightest utterance, for his words will no doubt be filled with a rare and mediated wisdom. As he remains within the cosmic womb, he will continue to uncover deeper secrets. See what treasures he brings back from the Void.

Unexpected ideas may arise to support your divining inspirations. The value of your answers comes from within, and though they speak loudly, the god’s greatest intention is that you know yourself.

The lady removes herself from the waters, still emanating vibrations of the messages contained within them. She lay on the grass, in the sun, and remaining droplets begin to evaporate upon her skin.

“There is only room for perfection,” Mars reminds us again. “We are crafting the bodies and minds of the future.”

You will be gifted a vision—supportive of the propelling transformation taking place within the collective energies. You will recognize the importance of clarity, passion, and truth, and commit yourself to take pleasure in such pristine blessings.

Allow the beauty to manifest before you, and trust that the beloved Moon desires to grant us our wishes, turn our dreams into more dreams, and enliven the goddess within us. She has an infinite wellspring to support us with—it is her gift this month.

The light of our inner Sun is reflected in the sky, shining back down to us, so that we might experience the trueness of the all.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Myth of Masculinity: A Bloodied Nose Is Not Just Horseplay

By James Curcio

Your son may come home crying every day with a bloody nose, and with bruises, he may be trying to hide bursting into tears at the dinner table, or maybe he wet himself in terror after having rocks thrown at his head and his life threatened for the third day in a row. But boys will be boys, right? Certainly the worst thing a mother can do is jump in and help brand the poor child as a "Mommy's boy."

The fact is that yes, it is how they are. But no, it isn't OK. However, the underlying issue is not about a few rotten eggs or even bad parenting. It isn't about rough and tumble. Certainly boys and girls both will do plenty of that, and sometimes a bloody nose is just a bloody nose. It can be hard to tell, from the perspective of the parent.

The underlying issue is not the bruises. It is what they sometimes represent. It is about the society that we live in, top to bottom.

Alright, so this is a first attempt at an issue that is incredibly important not only to me but in fact to all men, across the world. It is highly underreported, and owing to its importance, I kind of fear that anything I write in a blog post will be horribly insufficient. I still have to start somewhere, so please bear with me. I am going to begin with what I know best, in other words, my personal experience, and talk about some pretty raw issues for me. I am speaking from my experience, and from my heart.

I have read a great deal of research about this issue, which I may share in a later post. But this post is about anecdotal evidence. It is about my life. 

Before I get into this... Some of you have noticed that I have some affiliation with an ongoing project of the Beacon Initiative, pertaining both to bullying and hate-speech. This is not a censorship tool. It is something very different. This post isn't about that, but this will explain my non-business reasons for being passionate about the issue of bullying, "drama," and hate-speech. We have some things in motion to bring this initiative to thousands if not tens of thousands of students in the near future, but I can't speak about that now, and, like I said. This post isn't about that.

The fact of the matter is, for all of the writing that gets done about the raw deal women can get in our society, and the gender policing that women are subject to, as well as the narratives provided for gay men, cross-dressers, transexuals, and so on, there is a huge piece of this puzzle that is left unspoken. It is quite noticeably absent to such an extent that I wondered for years if my personal experience was some huge aberration, and that added to the shame that I was trying to mask or play off.

I'll paint it fine: men, all men, are subject to extreme gender policing which can lead to bullying, mental and physical abuse of heinous levels, even rape and sexual abuse, if they don't fall in line with the gender identity narrative provided by the status quo.


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