Post Tagged with: "William S. Burroughs"

Here’s a William S. Burroughs audio documentary featuring Iggy Pop, John Waters and more

Here’s a William S. Burroughs audio documentary featuring Iggy Pop, John Waters and more

BBC radio is running an audio documentary on William S. Burroughs in celebration of his 100th birthday, which was February 5th:

Iggy Pop reflects on Burroughs’ extraordinary life with close friends and artists that felt his influence. Contributors include James Grauerholz, Will Self, Victor Bockris, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Genesis P-Orridge and John Waters.

Full Story: Burroughs at 100. It says “two days left to listen” at the bottom of the page, so hurry!

(via V. Vale)

February 20, 2014 Comments are Disabled
Contemplative Computing: Lessons From Monks About Designing The Technologies Of The Future

Contemplative Computing: Lessons From Monks About Designing The Technologies Of The Future

monk-with-phone
Photo by Beth Kanter

I wrote about Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s new book The Distraction Addiction for TechCrunch:

“The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body,” William S. Burroughs once said in a Nike commercial, of all places. But things haven’t worked out that way, at least not for most of us. Our technologies are designed to maximize shareholder profit, and if that means distracting, confusing or aggregating the end-user, then so be it.

But another path is possible, argues Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his new book The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul.

He calls the idea “contemplative computing.”

Contemplative computing, Pang writes, is something you do, not something you buy or download. He does mention a few useful-sounding applications, such as Freedom, which will block your Internet connection for a set period of time, and full-screen text editors like WriteRoom and OmmWriter (my personal favorite is FocusWriter).

These tools, along with applications like RescueTime and SelfControl, are great — but they’re meant to treat the symptoms of a digital environment designed to distract you. Pang points out that OmmWriter was, ironically, designed by an online ad agency to help keep its copywriters from being distracted.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Lessons From Monks About Designing The Technologies Of The Future

Also: Watch for Pang on the next Mindful Cyborgs podcast!

August 17, 2013 0 comments
Technoccult Interview: Wilhelm Reich Comic Book Biographer Elijah Brubaker

Technoccult Interview: Wilhelm Reich Comic Book Biographer Elijah Brubaker

reich panels

Elijah Brubaker is the writer and artist of Reich, a biography of Wilhelm Reich in comic form. Reich (1897 – 1957) was an Austrian psychotherapist known for his theory of character analysis. He fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and came to the U.S. where became obsessed with orgone, which he claimed was a universal energy. He also began developing technology based on orgone, including the orgone accumulator, which he believed could cure cancer, and the cloudbuster, which he believed could make it rain. He was eventually arrested for medical fraud and died in prison.

Reich is published by Sparkplug Books and is available in fine comic shops or directly from Sparkplug. You can read the first few issues online here.

This interview was filmed back in 2008 for Technoccult TV, but the audio and video were too corrupted for release. I managed to transcribe most of the interview, so here it is at long last.

Klint Finley: So you do a comic about Wilhelm Reich, were you involved in Reichian therapy before you started the comic?

Elijah Brubaker: No, I wasn’t involved in the therapy at all. I had read about Reich kind of anecdotally through William Burroughs. And he just seemed like this cool crazy guy, and he’s a great thing to talk about to your friends who don’t know about him. I just like to talk about esoteric bullshit at parties. My interest kind of grew after I read several biographies of him and I started looking at him as more of a person, so my interest comes from the compassionate part of it now. It started as “Ha ha ha, there’s this crazy quack” Now I feel like I’m a crazy quack too.

That really shows in the comic. You don’t vilify him or idolize him. It’s a really human portrayal of him. I think it’s generally sympathetic towards him, was that your intent?

Yeah, just today I was reading the back of a biography of Ayn Rand. And there was a pull quote on the back that said that the people who lionize her and demonize her equally do a disservice by dehumanizing her. That’s how I feel with Reich, he’s such a controversial figure that people don’t really look at him as human anymore, he’s just this series of events that happened or a series of ideas. They either agree or disagree and everyone has a strong opinion about it, but it’s not coming from a very humanistic point of view I guess.

How long did it take you to research it before you started on the comic?

I did strict research for about a year, and then I said “I’ve just got to get something on paper.”

Were your reference materials particularly difficult to find?

Yeah, at first. This book, Wilhelm Reich vs. USA, was pretty hard to find. I actually found it at the library, and I kept checking it out and checking it out and finally found it at Powell’s. I don’t read German. I would like to find some of the papers that he wrote that are only in German, but that would be sort of pointless right now.

Do you do any original research, like interviews with family members or people who knew him?

I wish I could. No. I started out thinking this was going to be a much smaller project. I would still like to travel around and find whoever I could to talk about it now. Originally I thought this would be a way for me to practice cartooning, essentially, of telling a true story in the most truthful way that I thought I could.

Did you expect it to be so long?

Well, I deal better with long works. So yeah, I thought it would be like 300 pages, but I didn’t think that I would have a publisher. I thought I would print like 100 copies and give out to friends.

Have you heard from any Reich experts who has taken issue with any of your portrayals?

Not that has taken issue, but I recently got an e-mail from a person that was at a conference on orgone and pulled out my comic and showed it to everyone. Everyone was really skeptical but semi-supportive.

The e-mail was essentially “Please don’t think mess this up. Graphic novels are a big deal these days and you have the potential to do our work some harm if you portray this in the wrong light. No pressure though!”

Well, it’s one of the most flattering things written about him, so it seems like it could do his work a lot of good.

Well, it’s still early in his career, I’m sort of interested in how people feel about how I deal with some of his more controversial views, his ideas on aliens and what not.

So you haven’t gone through any of the therapy at all, just as research even?

No.

Seen an orgone accumulator?

Yeah, I’ve seen an orgone accumulator, but they weren’t… I don’t know if anyone builds them professionally any more, but the person who owned it was the person who built it.

Are there any ideas of his that you’ve come to accept now, or that have affected you?

Well, since starting working on the book I think about sex in a lot less uptight way. I can actually talk about things in an open matter, where before it was like “teehee, he said the word erection.” I’m still a pretty uptight guy, I’m not going to talk about free love or anything like that.

Other than just freeing of my own language, I don’t think I’ve really adopted any of his teachings or whatever you want to call it.

I’m not exactly part of the anti-psychiatry movement or anything like that. But I’ve never been to therapy and I’m not looking to.

So you found out about Reich through William S. Burroughs — how did you find out about Burroughs?

You know, I can’t really remember. I think Naked Lunch was a book that my brother had in his apartment, just because it was a strange book and my brother likes strange stuff so he kept it around to show his friends. So one day I stopped by his apartment and didn’t have anything to read so I just picked it up. It’s not a narrative in any sense of the word, it’s almost just a collection of jokes or something. But I really gravitated towards it because everything I had read was just straight forward plot stories, and this had no plot and was just dirty and gross and was this guy’s entire brain smashed up. Ever since then I’ve looked for artists that do a similar thing, where it’s just self-expression whether you like it or not. I can’t say that my stuff is even close to that, but I hope that I’ve learned a little bit from that type of sensibility.

That actually makes sense looking at your work, that it would have been influenced by Burroughs, just the psychological aspect of it.

Right. I also like his unapologetic paranoia, because I’ve always felt a certain amount of “they’re out to get me.”

You have a really distinct style, how long did it take you to develop that, where did it come from?

I’ve always had an interest in that 20s era Weimar German Expressionism sort of stuff. And just through looking at George Grosz and Otto Dix and stuff like that, and trying to see what they were doing. I just sort of stole ideas from this person and that person.

You’re also working on a biographical comic on serial killer Billy Gohl. Why was his story so interesting?


I’ve always liked the idea of a serial killer as a boogey-man sort of thing. And Billy Gohl, there’s no movie about him, he’s not in popular consciousness yet.

His story is interesting to me, because he was accused of a hell of a lot more murders than he actually took part in. He was a braggart and a loud mouth. He said he cannibalized a man in the mountains one year.

Gray’s Harbor, Washington at the time was this rough port town where people would go missing all the time. The Christian population of the time looked down on the fact that he had a bar. Fights would break out there and they’d blame Billy Gohl.

He was made a representative of the sailor’s union and he was responsible for watching sailors’ belongings while they were out at sea. If they didn’t come back he was in charge of distributing the goods however he saw fit. Finding the families and everything. Chances were he’d usually just keep it. So his stories were “Oh this sailor I didn’t like, I just killed him and took his stuff.”

And people would show up floating in the bay. I think there was one year where the was just a little under 200 people found floating in the bay, and they referred to them the “floater fleet.” And Billy Gohl was eventually accused of every single murder that happened there, thousands of people over the time that he was living in Gray’s Harbor.

He was eventually convicted of two murders, one of which the court decided he didn’t even actually pull the trigger, he just convinced the other guy to pull the trigger. I don’t know how the legal wrangling were over that.

I think it’s a cautionary tale about how being a loud mouth and talking what a terrible person that you can be. Eventually you’re going to try to prove that and you’ll find your justice.

What’s your favorite work of your own?

Reich is the thing that I’m most proud of. I think the stories in Papercutter are a little bit more aligned with my sensibilities, I think I’m having more fun with those stories, but I think Reich is a more fulfilling story.

See Also

My wife’s intro to Reich and alternative psychology

Brubaker interviewed by Wizard Magazine

William S. Burroughs dossier

January 17, 2013 0 comments
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 2: Pandrogeny

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 2: Pandrogeny

Part two of my conversation with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Part one is here.

Klint Finley: Can we talk about Pandrogeny?

Sure.

You already touched on male aggression earlier, but just for any of our readers that — I’m already pretty familiar with the project — but for anyone who isn’t maybe you could talk a little bit about the original intentions.

It’s funny as time goes by and you get older it gets harder and harder to answer things because you see all these links and all these parallel pieces of information, and parallel things that have happened in the past that have led to these points. And you can also start to see potentially where they may be going. So it gets harder and harder to answer things lately. But, in a way, it all goes on from what we were just saying with TOPI: we were really focusing on behavior and breaking that.

And then we came into the USA in exile and we met Lady Jaye in New York. And the very first day we were together she dressed me in her clothes, put make-up on me, decorated my dreadlocks with Tibetan trinkets — which she didn’t even know I knew anything about. And it was just very crucial for us to immediately go into mirroring each other. And the initial impetus came from insanely powerful love.

We usually explain by saying: people will say, “I wish I could just eat you up.” Well, we really wanted to eat each other up. We were really frustrated that we were in two bodies. We wanted to literally be able to just get hold of each other, crush ourselves together and then be just one consciousness in one body or just one entity in any form.

January 10, 2013 1 comment
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 1: TOPI Status Update

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 1: TOPI Status Update

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Photo by Seth Tissue / CC

Klint Finley: How’s the new TOPI going? What’s the status?

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Actually, it’s rather gratifying. You’ve probably been to the Ning. And there’s that world map at the front which shows where there are active people and it’s almost obliterated the world map at this point. So whilst the activities are still somewhat limited, and directionless to an extent, what it does demonstrate to us is that there is still a serious appetite, curiosity, need for some of the ideas that we put into hibernation for a while from the TOPY with a Y. There was always the plan to have T-O-P-I, the One True Topi Tribe. That was always part of the strategy from the very beginning. But the first decade of T-O-P-Y, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, was… not the kindergarten exactly…. but that was sort of a filtering process to reconvene the idea of magic in a contemporary, demystified way in public culture. And that was almost too successful and we actually ended up in exile as a result of the threat that was perceived by the British establishment.

Ironically, they attacked us when we had already said that we were going to disband that version and become nomadic. The last thing we sent out to people was printed on what you send wedding invitations on, it was gold embossed card and it just said “Changed Priorities Ahead, TOPY Nomads.” Which was actually a sign, a street sign. We were driving along the road coming back from looking for a big house, a community headquarters in the north of England and there were road works going on and there was this big sign that just said “Changed Priorities Ahead.” And it was one of those moments where we went “That’s exactly what we were hoping to do.”

So the intended idea there was that we were closed down, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, in the hope that those who had really started to comprehend on their own, in their own way, what we were trying to say – which was to bring people around to using an intuitive personalized version of magic – to get those individuals to understand that we were a non-hierarchal, non-Masonic, post-”museum of magic” network.

In other words, a lot of people did their 23 sigils and then they would sometimes write and then say “What happens now?” and we would just say “That’s it. You don’t get a prize. You don’t get a new instruction. You don’t suddenly have a special title. If you’ve not figured out how to really discover and express your true desires by now then you’re never going to get it. Most people did understand that but there were some that expected a prize and were disappointed.

So we had reached the point of dismembering it and deconstructing the ten year project and the next step was to find a location to then go into the One True Topi Tribe. We looked at an old hotel in the north of England, we looked at the farm in a place called Arbor Low in Yorkshire, which actually had a stone circle on the grounds of the farm, which is where we used to have the TOPY Global Annual Meetings over a long weekend and we would camp out and we would do rituals outside in the stone circle. It is a beautiful place. So we were seriously looking at different locations. And then we, meaning myself and my family, decided to go to Nepal to do some research and to work with Tibetan Buddhist monks that we had come to know. And then come back and built the One True Topi Tribe but as you know that got interrupted by the British government.

So we went into hibernation and then Thee Psychick Bible got published. And during the next few months after that was published, we started to get lots and lots of e-mails and letters and meet people at concerts and events. They were saying, “We really want to know more about this. Why is isn’t it still going on?”

June 27, 2012 9 comments
Selections from The Dream Manual Artist Michael Skrtic – Technoccult Interview (Part 2)

Selections from The Dream Manual Artist Michael Skrtic – Technoccult Interview (Part 2)

Dream Manual Now tell me what I am here for

Selections from the Dream Manual is an “aesthetic grimoire.” On one level, it’s a collection of cut-up texts by Bill Whitcomb (occasional Technoccult guest blogger and frequent commenter) accompanied by collage paintings by Michael Skrtic for each line of text. On another level, it is a collection of excerpts from the employee handbook of the Ministry of Dreams. On both levels, it’s a remarkable and engaging work. As Antero Alli writes in his foreward, “Look at them as meditation portals to the cinematic dreamscapes of the Other Side, or if you prefer psychological terms, the Unconscious (and naturally “other” to the conscious Ego). Or, if you side with the Australian aborigines, the Dreamtime.”

You can learn more about it, and preview it, here. You can buy it from the publisher here or from Amazon.com.

Part one of this interview can be found here.

I found it interesting that everything right down to the typeface in the book is meaningful. Can you talk a bit about that?

Yeah. It’s all about packing. Density is what it is. It’s symbol density. How much can you pack into each page, each image, and each combination? If you start with the text, you got some very plain, random text that Bill assembled Burroughsian-style. He was assembling lots of text ala Burroughs and Gysin. He made these little stanzas that were just starkly beautiful, but were rather plain in and of themselves…they’re just sort of…pronouncements, but if you start with those and you start stacking images, so that the words couple with the images. Some years after the original dream manual was created Bill created the magical alphabet called the Alphabet of Dreams for another purpose. And as I was painting these things, the first paintings, I thought “Well, hmm, the Alphabet of Dreams.” I needed a textual element. Originally, I was thinking about sort of lettering the text comic book style on the paintings and then thought “Wait a minute, if I grab the Alphabet of Dreams which has these runic…each letter has an association.” In typical Bill-manner, each letter has two or three pages of associations, colors, days of the week, and astrological signs. So I thought that if I just transliterated Bill’s original text into the Alphabet of Dreams, I could use that as a pictorial element. It stacked another layer of symbolism on top of just the images coupled to the text. As we built this thing, we just kept packing and packing to point where, as you say, even the fonts Pentagramm and Pentagraf are based on a five-point star. The idea is that all this should act on you in a beneath-the-consciousness sort of way. Indeed, everyone we’ve been able to get to look at it, to play with it, to really read and experience it, has been totally blown away. Most recently, my neighbor who doesn’t read much – he works with the Forestry Committee in Sweden – his family are farmers. He has absolutely no interest in any odd occult stuff, but he read it from front to back and has been asking questions. He thinks this is completely fascinating, so even unlikely people seem to open it and get immediately lost in all the layers of symbols and meaning in it. You’ve got the text layered on there, and there’s that lovely little bit of foreword matter, and some of those strange line drawings that are placed about, and then the final end-piece. I think that’s one of the most interesting parts of the book – that last piece where we listed the image sources. All of these things came from airline magazine, or French fashion magazines while I was travelling through France or postcards from Tokyo. That just ties it to the rest of the world. Finally, as we were assembling the book, Bill wrote these really lovely descriptions of each of the paintings. Not just a dry description, but sort of a poetic description that provides you another route through it. In a way, I think Bill and I were both heavily inspired by the Dictionary of the Khazars. The Dictionary of the Khazars is really a sort of hypertext novel.

That was mentioned in the introduction. When was that published?

You know, it would have to be the early 80’s. I could actually check if you want, but it’s upstairs.

I can look it up online.

I’m sure there’s even a hypertext version these days – a true hypertext version.

Dream Manual I Could Use Your Help

As Antero Alli points out in the foreword, you and Bill avoid the question of what dreams are and what they mean. Do you have an opinion on that?

At different points in my life, I’ve had different answers with different degrees of certainty. I don’t know what dreams are. I’ve had prophetic dreams. I’ve had dreams that seemed just totally weird. As I was learning to speak Swedish fifteen years ago, I used to dream about John Wayne talking to me about Swedish. It’s a combination of prophecy, and processing daily actions, and you mind spinning loose and just relaxing and fantasizing, like watching TV, I think. No. I have no definitive answer about what dreams are.

Since you’ve just finished this seven year project, what are you going to do now or what are you going to do next?

There are two projects I’m working on right now that are totally unrelated or maybe they are, in an odd sort of way. I’m working on a children’s book called “When Gaia Dreams the World.” I’m doing the text and images for that, but that’s sort of in outline stage at the moment. At the same time, I’m working with Bill Whitcomb on the “The Hard-Boiled Tarot.” It’s a Tarot deck which uses modern popular culture genres like Weird Science, True Romance and Thrilling Detective Stories as suits. Like Selections from The Dream Manual, both of these projects deal with the dreams and stories we tell ourselves about the world around us.

Back to part one…

February 24, 2011 0 comments
Selections from The Dream Manual Artist Michael Skrtic – Technoccult Interview (Part 1)

Selections from The Dream Manual Artist Michael Skrtic – Technoccult Interview (Part 1)

Selections from the Dream Manual Try This Experiment

Selections from the Dream Manual is an “aesthetic grimoire.” On one level, it’s a collection of cut-up texts by Bill Whitcomb (occasional Technoccult guest blogger and frequent commenter) accompanied by collage paintings by Michael Skrtic for each line of text. On another level, it is a collection of excerpts from the employee handbook of the Ministry of Dreams. On both levels, it’s a remarkable and engaging work. As Antero Alli writes in his foreward, “Look at them as meditation portals to the cinematic dreamscapes of the Other Side, or if you prefer psychological terms, the Unconscious (and naturally “other” to the conscious Ego). Or, if you side with the Australian aborigines, the Dreamtime.”

You can learn more about it, and preview it, here. You can buy it from the publisher here or from Amazon.com.

Part two of this interview can be found here.

Michael currently lives in Sweden, but is a true citizen of the world. I caught up with him by telephone to talk about the Dream Manual, his relationship with Bill and what he’s working on now. Tune in next week for part 2 of this interview.

Klint Finley: What possessed you to undertake this process of creating a collage painting for every line of Bill’s original Dream Manual?

Michael Skrtic: The Dream Manual appeared first in 1984 or 1985 in a magazine called The Negentropy Express, which was an APA (an amateur press association) by the Society for Creative Thought. I was one of the founding members of the Society for Creative Thought and I was immediately taken with Bill’s original text and the original short little collage things that he did to accompany the text. It sort of followed me around since then. In the early 90s, I had just moved to Stockholm and I was looking for a project. I thought, ah, I know what I’ll do, I’ll colorize Bill’s original collages, so I blew them up and I colorized a couple of pages, and then I got involved with something else. Fast forward to 2003. I had a new studio and I’d just finished painting strange diagrams on the floor to get the mojo right, so I started thinking about the Dream Manual as a possible thing to do. I started looking at it and realized that I actually could – that’s basically it.

I started thinking about all the places I’ve been, collecting collage material. I’ve been collecting collage material for many, many years. Each of the Dream Manual images has touchstones to everywhere I’ve been and all the other images I’ve gathered, so I started putting them together to see where I’d end up. That’s how it started. It took seven years of work from the second time I started. I started painting and spent about six years painting and another year with Megalithica Press getting the book ready for publication. That’s the physical story of the Dream Manual.

Selections from the Dream Manual cover

What states of altered consciousness did you employ while creating the collages and paintings?

None. [laughs] I was drawing on a rich reserve of that. But, painting is an altered state of consciousness. I have a very active style of painting, so I’m standing up and I’m sorting through hundreds and hundreds of images just stacked up in front of me. I’m going through these processes of, in a way, accreting the paintings. I’d step into my studio – which is a magical workspace – and start sorting pictures and to see how they would go with different paintings. Often, I was working on three, or four, or five paintings at once. It’s definitely an altered state of consciousness. It’s a magical state of consciousness. It’s sort of like meditation in motion – I guess that’s how I’d classify it.

Did you have any interesting dreams while creating this work? That you can tell us about?

You know, that’s a hard question because I have really interesting dreams all the time, but nothing really stood out. After I was done, there have been a couple of occasions where I felt, as we were creating the book, we were sort of opening a doorway to the Ministry of Dreams. The Minister of Dreams as a character and the Ministry of Dreams as an imaginary place became quite real during the period we worked on these things. Bill and I would talk three to five times a week during the time when we were working on the Dream Manual project. He’s on the West Coast, as you are, so I would get up at five o’clock in the morning and I’d go paint for an hour and then I’d call Bill and we’d talk for half an hour. I’d have morning coffee with Bill after I’d done my painting and he’d have his tea in the evening with me. Sort of a Nokia moment.

So you were in contact with him every day while you were working on this.

Basically. Four or five times a week. A lot. We’ve actually spent more time over the telephone than we have face to face over the time we known we’ve known each other. We’ve lived together a couple of times in Florida and in Texas, but most of the time we’ve spent with each other has been incorporeal.

Dream Manual Realized

Did you meet through the Society for Creative Thought?

That’s kind of funny. We’d heard about each other for two or three years before we actually met. I was living in Tallahassee, Florida. It was the beginning of the 80s and I had started a group on campus called the Pagan/Occult Discussion Group. We we’re trying stuff out. We were a bunch of people who had read a lot and were experimenting. It started as a discussion group, but that lasted about two meetings, until we said, hey let’s try some stuff. Bill was living in Thomasville, Georgia, about an hour north of Tallahassee, and a lot of the people in the Pagan/Occult discussion group knew Bill. So, for about two or three years, we had been hearing about each other. We finally met at a very strange party and both of us had the same reaction, namely “Wow, I’m supposed to meet this guy?” We were mutually unimpressed with each other.

Shortly thereafter we met again, and this time hit it off. He used to climb through the windows at night on weekends. That was
his favorite mode of entry to the house. He’d get done with work in Georgia and would drive down to Tallahassee and, usually on Friday night about one or two morning, I’d find Bill climbing through my window.

Onward to part two…

February 17, 2011 0 comments
Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz – Technoccult interview

Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz – Technoccult interview

David Pescovitz
Photo by Bart Nagel

David Pescovitz (aka Pesco) is an editor of Boing Boing, research director with the Institute for the Future, and editor-at-large for MAKE. Perhaps the most mysterious of the Boingers, Pesco joined me by instant message to talk about his lifelong interest in the weird and wonderful.

Klint Finley: How did you get involved with Boing Boing? Were you a contributor to the original magazine?

David Pescovitz: I read Boing Boing when I was in college in the early 1990s. When I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and started working at Wired, I met Mark because he had just started as an editor there. Mark took me downstairs to meet his wife Carla Sinclair who was running the ‘zine out of a basement office. We quickly became very close friends and I started writing for the print ‘zine. From there, we took it online and the long strange trip continued. Back then, the print ‘zine had maybe 10,000 readers if that. Now the blog has 5 million.

A journalist once asked Timothy Leary what people should do after they “turn on.” Tim said, “Find the others.” Every day, I feel incredibly fortunate that Boing Boing helps me do that.

I’ve noticed that most of the time there’s something about the occult on Boing Boing, it’s posted by you. Sometimes Mark, but mostly you. How did you get interested in the occult? What attracted you to it?

Well, I’ve been interested in weird phenomena and fringe ideas since I was a child. I was always looking up Bigfoot, UFOs, and telekinesis at the library. Now, I realize of course that the Occult doesn’t necessarily connect to those things, and those things don’t necessarily connect to each other. But in my head at least it’s all related as a curiosity about the strange.

Yeah, I think that’s how it starts for a lot of people. It was exactly the same way for me.

Much later, I discovered Robert Anton Wilson and Cosmic Trigger became a port of entry for me. Or maybe a “port of exit.”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a practicing magician or are you just interested in the history, the culture, etc.?

The latter. I find the history, the “characters,” and the aesthetic to be fascinating. I guess I’m a bit of a poseur in that regard.

It reminds me of something that Rudy Rucker once said about the psychedelic side of the early cyberculture. He said he liked reading about people’s drug trips, and hearing what they learned, but didn’t have much interest in taking drugs himself.

That’s how I am now, actually. I tried a lot of magical experiments over the years, but now I’m mostly interested in history and how ideas from the occult have ended up penetrating science and other areas.

Exactly! The historical connections between science, technology, art, and the occult are fascinating. In many ways, it seems that people were using different metaphors to describe the same amazing, wonderful things.

I could be wrong, but it seems like occult related posts on BB have actually increased over the past couple years – you had Mitch Horowitz guest blog there, for instance. Has this raised any eyebrows, elicited any significant negative response?

My interest in the subject, in any subject, ebbs and flows, probably based in part on the people I encounter in the “real world.” And perhaps it’s been flowing again recently.

Boing Boing is a group blog, and we have as many opinions as we do contributors. We usually don’t discuss what any of us are going to post about, and we certainly don’t judge what each other may be interested in at the moment. The only filter I need to have when determining whether to post something is if it’s interesting to me.

Now, we also post a great deal about traditional science on Boing Boing. And are often critical about organized religion. So some commenters who may be Rationalists or Skeptics (note the capitals) might experience a disconnect when a post about James Randi is followed a few days later by an essay by my friend Jacques Vallee. But in my opinion, that perceived dissonance is part of Boing Boing’s magic. Or rather, magick. ; )

As my friend Jody Radzik of Guruphiliac pointed out to me, Boing Boing as a whole appeals to the full spectrum of “geekdom.” And that spectrum includes scientists, conspiracy theorists, hardcore rationalists, diehard skeptics, New Agers, Forteans, paranormal investigators, cryptozoologists, etc. And I appreciate that diversity!

And while there may not be enough evidence, in my opinion, to support a far-out idea that someone is presenting on Boing Boing, I still enjoy pausing for a moment and saying “What if?”

What is the most far-out, fringe or incredible idea that you think might actually be correct?

From the very first time I encountered Jacques Vallee’s idea that we’re living in a Control System, and also read similar ideas from John Keel, Hans Moravec, Rudy Rucker, and others, I’ve always gone back to that notion whenever I want to blow my own mind.And this was decades before The Matrix.

Could you elaborate on that idea?

In recent years, mathematicians, phlosophers, and physicists like Nick Bostrom, Ed Fredkin, Stephen Wolfram, Seth Lloyd, and others have explored the idea that we’re living in a simulation or that the universe is a quantum computer.

Now, I don’t pretend to understand the physics or math underlying these theories, and I recognize that they are just theories and difficult to prove, but the very fact that so many brilliant people from a variety of disciplines are seriously asking these questions delights me to no end.

You’re the lowest profile of the Boingers. You don’t have any books that you’re promoting on the site, or anything like that. Do you have any books or anything like that coming out?

I don’t have any books in-the-works at the moment. I’ve written several proposals over the years, but was burned out on the ideas by the time I finished the outline. To me, that’s a good sign I haven’t found the right topic yet.

Also, I’m happily busy with my other work outside of Boing Boing, as a research director at Institute for the Future.

The Institute for the Future just finished up its 10 year forecast, correct?

IFTF does a 10 Year Forecast every year. Each year, my colleagues look at the technological and societal trends — from demographics to disease, sustainability to science — most likely to have a large impact on the way we live.

I’m not directly involved in IFTF’s Ten Year Forecast research program, as my work is more focused in the Technology Horizons program.

Are there any interesting trends you’re researching now that you can tell us about?

Actually, my research in the last year or so is related to what we just discussed about life in a “control system.”

My colleagues and I were exploring what a world might look like if “everything is programmable.” As we have access to more data about ourselves and our environment than ever before.

Sensor networks, bio-monitors, pervasive computers, and a host of other new technologies have given us unprecedented insight into the chaos and patterns underlying our world. Once we understand what the data means, we can act on it. We live in a control system and are developing new techniques — from social software to gene therapies to geoengineering — to tweak the dials and see the results in real-time.

And so we’re using genetic engineering to reprogram DNA, drugs to reprogram our brains, digital media to reprogram our social networks, etc.

Pesco with a Dreamachine
Above: Pesco with a Dreamachine

So instead of a control system controlled externally, we’re building a control system of our own design?

To some degree. More that it seems useful as a metaphor, to look at the world through a computational lens. And that metaphor raises huge questions and dilemmas, of course.

How do you make sure it’s not just an elite group that knows how to do the programming? What unintended consequences might emerge when you start fiddling with the knobs of reality?

That reminds me of Burroughs’s idea of the Reality Studio, which reminds me that you’re a fan of Burroughs – would you say his thinking has influenced your own, or do you just find him interesting?

Indeed, Burroughs and Brion Gysin both had a big impact on me. Burroughs’s notion of Control and finding ways to derail it are tremendously provocative. And I think their work with cut-ups predated much of the language of media used by MTV, Madison Avenue, and even the hyperlinked Web.

And as a futurist, I have to love this Burroughs quote: “When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.”

Burroughs also had a terrific sense of humor, of course.
I have art by both Burroughs and Gysin hanging above my desk and it inspires me every day.

Whenever I start to feel a bit too complacent I end up thinking of Burroughs’s writings about control. That usually fires me up a bit.

He was a master at shifting your perception with just a single sentence.

Vale of RE/Search Publishing once told me that Burroughs advised him to always look up a lot when you’re wandering around a city. It’s amazing the things you can see by just looking in non-obvious places.


Pesco on The World as a Wunderkammer at TEDx SoMa

June 15, 2010 4 comments
21C Magazine is back with Apocalypse Noir

21C Magazine is back with Apocalypse Noir

21C

21C is back with new material, plus archival material by or about Hakim Bey, William S. Burroughs, Erik Davis, Philip K. Dick, Ashley Crawford, Mark Dery, Verner Vinge, William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Jack Parsons, Richard Metzger, Genesis P. Orridge, Kath Acker, JG Ballard, John Shirley, Robert Anton Wilson, Iain Sinclair, Terrence McKenna, Buckminster Fuller, R.U. Sirius, Timothy Leary, Bruce Sterling and more.

Sadly, in 1999, the company went bust, somewhat ironic given that 21•C in that form never made it into the Century after which it was named – the 21st. 21•C stalwart Mark Dery and I made some attempt to resuscitate the title early in the new millennium to no avail.

Yet many of the ideas and issues raised in the original magazine continued to arise, and with them perpetual queries as to how to get copies of the original articles, a nigh impossible task. With the prompting of two other 21•C stalwarts, Darren Tofts and Murray McKeich, it was decided to resurrect a core selection of articles in an archival on-line format. With Mick Stylianou’s wizard like help this was fairly painless. It didn’t take long to decide to add new material and it is hoped that new issues will be posted at semi-regular intervals.

This inaugural on-line issue takes as its theme Apocalypse Noir – the trend toward the apocalyptic, or at the least extremely dark – in contemporary writing. If earlier 21•C’s tended toward the darker aspects of cyberpunk, then the newer crop of writers have given up any pretense of a happy ending. Good luck!

21C Magazine

(via Alex Burns)

April 28, 2010 0 comments
Lost and the occult introduction: 23

Lost and the occult introduction: 23

lost numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42

There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of the ABC television series Lost. Lost is sprinkled with references and allusions to the occult and esoteric secrets. Perhaps the most explicit reference is the use of the number 23. Since the release of the Jim Carrey movie,the significance of that number has become widely known.

But Lindelof and company started sprinkling the number throughout the first season, over 2 years before the movie. The number comes from Robert Anton Wilson, as Lindelof has confirmed at various times, including in this Entertainment Weekly interview:

My father was into the Illuminati and the number 23, so he was a big reader of Robert Anton Wilson. So there was some intentionality behind it, but we had no idea, no grand design behind the Numbers. But suddenly, the No. 1 question stopped being ”What is the Monster?” and went to being ”What do the Numbers mean?” This isn’t to say that the Numbers don’t mean anything. We just had no idea it had this potential to get totally out of control.

And also on this Maybe Logic Academy page, quoting from the Chicago Tribune:

But for Damon Lindelof, co-creator and executive producer of the ABC drama Lost, “It is a good lucky number. The first thing I do when I get to Las Vegas, every time I go, is I drop $50 on the number 23. It hasn’t hit yet, but one of these days…”

Lindelof has been fascinated by the 23 enigma since his childhood and has made the number part of the mysteries on Lost.Jack Shepard’s seat on doomed Oceanic Flight 815 was in Row 23. Twenty-three passengers from the tail section of the plane survived the crash. And the number is among Hurley’s winning lottery numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 that end up bringing him and the other survivors bad luck.

Though Lindelof said the number 23 is often purposely used on Lost, he sometimes is just as surprised as some fans when it pops up. Conspiracy or coincidence? It’s a perfect illustration of the 23 enigma.

Who was Robert Anton Wilson? And why is the number 23 significant?

robert anton wilson

Robert Anton Wilson was an author who researched and wrote about, amongst many other things, the occult and secret societies. He is perhaps most famous for his Illuminatus novels and his non-fiction Cosmic Trigger series. I think any fan of Lost would especially enjoy reading the first Cosmic Trigger book, Wilson’s autobiographical detailing his “stranger than fiction” life.

One of Wilson’s fascinations was the number 23. He discovered it by way of two other writers: James Joyce and William S. Burroughs. Wilson claimed Joyce was fascinated by the date April 23: the day Shakespeare was born, and the day he died. Burroughs became obsessed with the number after the following bizarre incident:

In the early ’60′s in Tangiers, William Burroughs knew a certain “Captain Clark” who ran a ferry from Tangiers to Spain. One day, Clark said to Burroughs that he’d been running the ferry 23 years without an accident. That very day the ferry sank, killing Clark and everyone aboard. In the evening, Burroughs was thinking about this when he turned on the radio. The first newscast headlined the crash of an airline plane on the New York-Miami route. The pilot was another Captain Clark and the flight was listed as Flight 23.

Wilson, and later his readers, began compiling more and more 23 synchronicities. Here are a few from Fusion Anomoly:

W is the 23 letter of this alphabet. The symbol for that letter is two points down and three points up.

The human biorhythm cycle is generally 23 days. One measures a circle beginning anywhere.

It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate through the human body.

The human body has 46 chromosomes, which are paired, in somatic cells. Generative cells have half this number, 23, which is the number of chromosomes each parents gives to human

23 Axioms in Euclid’s Geometry.

The Knights Templars had only 23 Grandmasters. Jacques de Molay was the 23rd and last of the Templar Grandmasters.

23 is the first prime number in which both digits are prime numbers and add up to another prime number.

There are many, many others. Here’s another lengthy list. And here’s a list to uses of 23 in the show.

And 23 is just scratching the surface. We’ll be looking at Lost’s references to the occult, secret societies, conspiracies, utopian engineering, mad science, underground culture, numerology, geomancy, alchemy and more. Keep watching this site, or subscribe by RSS, for more occult secrets!

January 31, 2008 10 comments