« February 2004 | Main | April 2004 »

March 31, 2004

we made a week's worth of history

Nice. Last Saturday's event ended up at the top of "The Mix", the SF Bay Guardian's weekly list of the top 5 events in the Bay Area.

Sounds about right. I wonder how they grade the events, though. Does anybody know?

March 30, 2004

temporarily autonomous pleasure domes

Well, Saturday evening turned out to be pretty cool. The (drum roll) Live Thelemic Ritual with Kyron and Koyote turned out to be definitely worth the price of admission (what was the price of admission, by the way?). Koyote, enveloped by a long cloak/robe, administered an ecstatic ritual very vaguely suggestive of a Gnostic Mass to a mostly bewildered, but eventually surprisingly responsive crowd.

The whole thing was complete with candles, incense and holy wafers (soy crackers); red ceremonial wine and... well, and "manna from the gods", in the form of little colored candies, each of which resembled a tiny phallus — yeah, a phallus, OK? Don't ask.

They had me distributing paper cups to people before the ritual, so that — ideally — everybody could participate by drinking wine when the time came. I was surprised (not really, but a bit) by the resistance I encountered. Everybody was so fucking dubious over whether they should accept an empty paper cup, I felt like I was handing out Communist Party membership forms outside an elementary school in the 1950's. Oh wait... maybe I was.
Anyway. To be fair, some people (like 2 or 3) actually got up and walked across the room to get their very own Thelemic-ritual-booze-drinking-device(tm). Thanks, folks! When you don't have a rod up your ass, it really does help. Keep it up! You have nothing to lose but your chains — it was, after all, free wine.

Eventually, Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome — with its riveting, lavishly voyeuristic aesthetics — made its entrance, and the chamber was immediately dressed in an otherworldly mood. Behind a line of electronic instruments, Kyron was playing some of his best stuff to date (it was a rare lone appearance, I should say... which might have had something to do with it). Meanwhile, the ritual was starting to groove, and — having already dealt with the requisite Banishments — the wafers were now being offered to select members of the audience; and wine was being poured for all those that had been reckless enough to (gasp!) accept an empty paper cup from a stranger.

Koyote, while vibrating some arcane babblings — immediately echoed throughout the room via the magic of concealed wireless mics — was working on getting the crowd worked up, with some success. But it was Arlequin, after entering the room with her two-faced mask, who truly reached the objective: through gentle coaxing, she induced several people to get up and start dancing to Kyron's music and around Koyote, enacting a spontaneous ritual right under and alongside the one in Anger's movie. Later, Craig Baldwin was shocked to find out that we had never seen most of those people before. He was convinced they were our friends.

Often, the borders between what was happening on screen and in the room with us were blurred; sometimes they disappeared completely. As I was trying to shoot the event with Kyron's camera — under prohibitive low-light conditions — I did my best to capture both sides of the reality we were experiencing... Art and Life going on at the same time, and often it was hard to tell which was on screen and which enveloped us like context around a sentence.

It was all wonderful to witness, though I was so busy scrambling to get a shred of good footage in almost total darkness (at least, from the camera's point of view) that I was unable to join the dancers and wine-drinkers. Not that there would have been enough wine for me, so probably my staying out was a good thing for everybody else. Amongst the whole mess, Inauguration's images seemed perfectly at ease, in resonance; almost fulfilling some unique sub-destiny of being used themselves as a ritual tool. Adam from Initiations was there, absorbed by unbridled paratheatrical processes till the very end of the ritual. It seemed that several individuals were able to explore interesting inner spaces — judging by the outside manifestations, at least. Others abandoned themselves to the Dance, partaking of the ecstatic energies that were being raised and shared.

I was left with a warm afterglow, something hard to define, but like an "inner smirk". I anticipate the next occasion to cause something similar to happen, hopefully maintaining it for longer than just the duration of a movie. The evening was crowned by locking ATA's doors after cleaning up and walking across the street with the others to join Craig for margaritas. That was a whole experience in itself, but the story is for another time. Maybe over some more margaritas...

March 27, 2004

off to Other Cinema

How very appropriately synchronistic. Shortly after the last few meetings of Erik Davis' class, one of which was supposed to end with a screening of Kenneth Anger's Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome but didn't, here it is -- showing tonight at Craig Baldwin's Other Cinema:

Our most popular theme night is reprised with a jewel-box of brilliant pebbles and two magic mountains of musical majesty. For the 50th anniversary of Kenneth Anger’s oneiric Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome, Kyron (J.C. Mendizabal) re-scores this lysergic Bacchus rite with a dark-wave of sonic shamanism, whilst Koyote performs a live Thelemic ritual!

Obviously Baldwin, being who he is, had to acquire an original film print of the movie, one more reason why this is going to rock way beyond anything we could have achieved on a TV at CIIS. Hopefully some folks from class will show up for the occasion... Plus, I have the good fortune to count Kyron and Koyote as my friends. It will be cool to see what they can, uh, conjure up tonight.

As Erik said, I'll be there unless snatched away by aliens.

March 25, 2004

CRUX: a paratheatrical video document by Antero Alli

I've recently had a chance to view CRUX, a video document by Antero Alli.

82 minutes of raw, intense, personal images (along with Alli's running commentary) chronicle a five week long ritual, culminating on August 11 1999, day on which a rare interplanetary configuration — known by astrologers as a Grand Fixed Cross — took place.

"A great time to plan a ritual", Antero observes at the beginning of the documentary. And not just any ritual, but one focused on the archetypal symbol of the crux: "The word crux" Antero explains, "is a mountaineering term for the most difficult passage on the way to the top of any mountain. This tough passage is called the crux because if you get through it, you can reach the top of the mountain. If you can't get through the crux, you have to return to base camp, or get stuck in the crux."

This image describes in detail what the seven participants to this ritual have had to face. By leading the group through a series of ritual triggers, Antero aimed at inducing each individual to find elements that could lead them to discover their crux. The key question here is: "What am I living for?". Of course part of the challenge implied by such a question is actually answering that question, finding what is one actually living for right now, rather than what one would like to be living for, thinks/feels/believes to be living for, and so on. And this, in turn, implies being exposed to certain realities about oneself that are not always easy to bear.

Even the idea of passing the crux — so that the top of the mountain may be reached — offers no consolation. One might reach the top of the mountain or not, and Alli takes pains to warn that there are no guarantees of trascendence, and surely none of self-improvement. Yet the seven ritualists faced the challenge and undertook a process that promised no rewards, just the discomfort of more self-knowledge and self-awareness. There's always something special about any group of people that congregates for this purpose, and — judging by the video — this group was no exception.

Each of the seven found a name to capture an essential quality that would define his/her own "character" throughout the duration of a ritual. This simple act became part of the magic of the ritual, allowing the "actors" (so to speak) to step up their commitment towards fully becoming the "character" — the character really being a more raw and uncompromising version of themselves. In the consecrated — yet honest and unrestrained — space where the ritual was held, the participants were able to fully unleash their idiosyncratic manifestations and allow them to collide with each other. The unremitting search for one's own crux provided the context, while the interactions (at times very intense, and even resulting in diametrical clashes) proved to be a very rich subtext.

The video delves deeply into each participant's inner world, so strikingly brought to the surface by the self-questioning nature of Alli's ritual technology. We take a look at the personal history of the ritualists, their life conditions at the time of the ritual, their personalities, their identifications. Antero's pointed questions lead them to expose those essential qualities that define each character, allowing the camera to record moments of intimate honesty. As we get to know the seven, it is often striking how appropriate each character's name is. We have — to mention just some — Proof, who's looking for the teorem that will explain her to herself and to the world; the intellectual and elusive Slippery, or the edgy and unconforming Scatter. Left alone in the same room, in the same ritual, these profoundly different individuals will collide, interact and confront each other, each absorbed in the attempt to find precisely what they are living for.

This video demonstrated to me another application of the paratheatrical medium I've participated in. I was struck by the intensity reached at times by this group, and the quality of intimacy that, perhaps partly because of the small number of participants, can be sensed in these rituals. It was also interesting to note how using the crux as a central symbol didn't fail to raise the bar of conflict, bringing in sharp contrast different emotional attachments to the meaning of the cross. This even though the symbol was clearly being used well beyond its religious and cultural implications. It's a deep one, folks...

I appreciated visiting the inner worlds of the seven ritualists and taking such a candid and honest look at them, although I would have liked to witness more of the actual rituals themselves. Then again, as I understand it Antero has already covered those processes in detail in other video documents, which I haven't yet had occasion to see. At any rate, I continue to be fascinated by the strange and ineffable meaning that these rituals seem to hold for those that are willing to explore them, and I still wonder about their potential to mutate into subtly life-changing experiences.

In the search for a certain kind of miraculous, paratheatrical work can be a precious ally, connecting us as it does with the curious amazement that can be found in honest, unmediated interactions with other free beings as we each strive to be true to our own sources. The call of such naked immediacy I find both insidiously enticing and vaguely scary. I'm not surprised: considering the saturation of mediatic filters through which many of us experience reality today, restoring to full use "the least mediated of all media" — the body — can be an especially radical and shocking gesture.

As we gradually externalize our very Central Nervous Systems and advance steadily towards final amputation (in the McLuhan sense), experiences such as those encountered within paratheatrical "rare areas" become increasingly rare indeed. The struggles and efforts faced during the rituals, while apparently thankless, might be one way to keep practicing the fundamentals that make us human; one way to maintain continuity as we are hurled into a posthuman world, to continue chasing the ephemeral, miraculous and cryptically meaningful presence of Soul. For some of us, it's worth a try.

NOTE: To learn more about paratheatrical work, check out Antero Alli's Paratheatrical ReSearch site. You can also read these notes detailing my experience in Antero's latest paratheatrical lab, Initiations.

March 24, 2004

William S. Burroughs: The CREEM Interviews

Via Jeremy Hulette's blog, Nothing Is True, comes a link to this '78 and '79 interview with Uncle Bill on CREEM, the legendary "rock 'n' roll magazine for the people". Enjoy!


The first time I met literary iconoclast William S. Burroughs (1914 – 1997) was on a Saturday afternoon in February 1974 at A Space gallery in Toronto where he was doing a reading. Afterwards, I asked if he would autograph a photo that I had brought of himself standing next to David Bowie. "You oughtta get Booey to sign the other half," Burroughs drawled as he signed the space over his head. As it turns out, Bowie did sign his half of the photo later that July while he was recording the David Live album at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. But that’s another story for another time.

quantum immortality reprise

MadGhoul's editor, Michael, has let us know that he's completed a more detailed research essay about the interesting theory of Quantum Immortality, which he had mentioned before.


Somehow, despite my better judgement, I found myself entangled in a web of scientific inquiry that I never thought plausible. I've learned that the more you study and the more you research, you come under the realization that all science - in fact, all reality - is nothing more than a philosophical system of objective truths. These truths, of course, mean nothing unless put into experiential context, thus making them subjective.

Read the whole thing here.

The Hallucinogenic Way of Dying

Via Sophists.Org comes this article — culled from the LA Weekly — detailing a quite interesting contribution to death and dying studies.


Almost as soon as Dr. Charles Grob secured approval to study the effects of psilocybin on Stage IV cancer patients, he faced another challenge, one nearly as formidable: recruiting 12 participants. Unlike so many other experiments in radical cancer treatment, Grob's does not offer a cure; he merely hopes to find that psilocybin, the most potent of the many compounds in psychedelic mushrooms, ameliorates a dying person's fear of death. The study targets patients relegated to "palliative" treatment, people with metastatic cancer for whom there is no reasonable hope for remission. It is a segment of the population, says the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine – which put out a call in 2001 for "novel" approaches to palliative treatment – largely ignored by medical science.


Again via Invisible College, a link to an interesting article referencing Gematria and combinatorial mathematical systems in general. It is part of The Ineffable Ten Dimensions — the whole site looks like it's well worth reading.


There are three specific types of combinatorial systems. In mathematics, these three types are called permutation, combination, and variation. Each begins with a limited number of items, a set of things. In permutations, the positions of these things are shuffled within the whole set, as in an anagram. For combinations, one can take out any number of elements from the set and put them together in a smaller group. Variations are permutations with repetitions allowed; in variations, one can permute to infinity. certain questions, themes, and comparisons arose. Why are permutations of abstract symbols so often linked to creation, whether divine or artistic? What is it about permuting letters or numbers that leads to mystical experience? Is this experience born out of the creative transformation that occurs or out of the meditative activity? What role can the computer play as a stand-in for this process? What is the qualitative difference between permutational systems that are intentionally driven, and those systems that are manipulated with chance operations?

March 12, 2004

Humanity Hacking

Via the excellent Invisible College blog comes a link to these musings by Paul Hughes:


Sometimes when I am in deep meditation I get the strong feeling of a higher intelligence speaking through me, through human culture, as if we are being hacked, used, programmed by something else. As Mark Pesce has said,

We don't use memes, they use us.
For example I have entertained/experienced the possiblity that we are already being hacked by the machines we created. The Matrix allegory speaks clearly here, except I'm not so sure that its a bad thing. And of course we hack the machines - a symbiosis. But more curious is that this advancing technology was started by human minds, many of which could have been hacked by something else. By what or by who is the question. It's no secret that many of the pioneers of the PC revolution were psychedelic explorers, and Terrence Mckenna [sic] has gone so far as to postulate that human language itself is an alien artifact planted in us by psychedelic mushrooms. I think it would be arrogant of us to dismiss this lightly and without further investigation.

Do read the whole thing.

March 06, 2004

quote of the day

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

— C.S. Lewis

who cares about the RIAA?

Just what I wanted to read:

Hello and welcome to Comfort Stand Recordings, a not-for-profit community driven label where all releases are free for download with artwork and liner notes. Having no business model or profit motive we strive to bring you recordings that we find interesting, compelling and downright enjoyable. Everybody needs free music...

Indeed. Check them out right here.