MonthJanuary 2009

Travelogues and cloud computing

transglobal cloud

Jon Blake gives a run down of how he and Edward Wilson are pushing their travelogues around the web.

Full Story: Transglobal

Will the New Yorker fold?

Mere speculation, but this would be a huge hit to investigative journalism:

Conde Nast shuttered Domino earlier today and unless things turn around quick (don’t hold your breath), the magazine publisher will undoubtedly be looking to make more cuts. Could The New Yorker be next?

At first glance, you’d immediately assume no. David Remnick’s book consistently produces some of the best journalism around. Year in, year out, its assured multiple Ellie noms and a couple of wins. But the economics might end up forcing Si Newhouse to kill his baby.

The mag’s struggles to retain advertisers have been well documented. Earlier today, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan called it the company’s “Plutonium loser” for seeing its ad pages drop 26.8 percent over last year. (We would have gone with “Adamantium loser” but we quibble.)

The February 2 issue paints an even more dire picture. Checking in at 83 pages, it features — by our count — a mere 15 pages of ads, or roughly 18 percent. Five of those pages, however, are “house ads” for New Yorker or Conde Nast products, bringing the total paid ad pages down to 12 percent. That, my friends, is not good. Not good at all.

The question might be not can Conde afford to shutter The NYer but rather can the publisher afford not to.

From: MediaBistro

(via Steven Walling)

Related External Links

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 3: Esalen Institute and Physics Consciousness Research Group

Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf

From left to right, Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf lower right in 1974

From the Wikipedia entry on the Esalen Institute:

Esalen Institute is a center in Big Sur, California, in the United States, for humanistic alternative education and a nonprofit organization devoted to multidisciplinary studies ordinarily neglected or unfavoured by traditional academia. Esalen offers more than 500 public workshops a year in addition to invitational conferences, residential work-study programs, research initiatives, and internships. Part think-tank for the emerging world culture, part college and lab for transformative practices, and part restorative retreat, Esalen is dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of what Aldous Huxley called the “human potential”.

Esalen Institute was founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, and soon became known for its blend of East/West philosophies, experiential/didactic workshops, and a steady influx of philosophers, psychologists, artists, and religious thinkers.

One of the various projects of the Esalen Institute was the Physics Consciousness Research Group, founded to study time travel, ESP, consciousness after death, and other fringe subjects. Various people have made the claim that Physics Consciousness Research Group was the inspiration for the movie Ghostbusters. Jack Sarfatti, one of the founders of the Physics Consciousness Research Group, is a physicist and archetypal “mad scientist” – in fact, he claims to be the inspiration for both from Back to the Future and Egon Spangler from Ghostbusters.

MP3 Interview with Sarfatti on the R.U. Sirius Show.

Something of a memoir by Sarfatti that covers Physics Consciousness Research Group and its influence on Hollywood.

Update: How could I have forgotten Alex Burns’s classic article on Sarfatti?

Dave Gibbons interview plus new Dave Gibbons art

watchmen sketch

We would talk at great length every time Alan started to script an issue, he’d run by how he thought it might be broken down, then I’d give him my suggestions on that, and then based on the various thing we were talking about – we would both go off into reminiscences, and speculations about how we came through music to comics to childhood experiences to vague feelings about things – somehow we’d come back to the topic of Watchmen again, and this stuff, largely contextual and largely sort of, er, mood as much as anything, would find its way into the finished comic book. We just talked and talked a lot, and then Alan typed and typed a lot and I drew and drew a lot. And then John Higgins – I shouldn’t leave him out – he coloured and coloured a lot, and I very much would talk things through with him, and then just leave him to his own devices. I think good collaborations are like that; you have to trust what the other guy’s going to do, have him put into it, stir the pot, throw in what you’ve got and leave it alone.

Full Story: The Quietus

Plus: New Dave Gibbons art on Ain’t It Cool

Idea: geographic directory of Technoccult readers

So I was pretty relieved that you all aren’t clamoring for a Technoccult message board, since I don’t really want to moderate one.

But here’s another idea: a basic directory of readers organized by geographic location. It would have only the barest of profiles: name or handle, location, optional profile link, and space to add one or two more links (to Twitter or a blog or Facebook or whatever you want). Also an optional e-mail form, so that you can be contacted through the directory w/o displaying your e-mail address.

I don’t know of any off the shelf solution for this so it would have to be built from scratch. It should be simple but I wouldn’t want to get started on an undertaking like this if there’s not interest.

What do you think?

Esozone 2009 official announcement, plus coverage in High Times




EsoZone 2009: Power

October 9-11, 2009
Portland, OR

Logistics Director: Vin Al Ken
Stage Director: Nolon Ashley
Operations Director: Johnny Brainwash

Watch this space for more infos.

Plus: Esozone coverage in High Times (Maybe Rolling Stone next year?)

Cryptome’s web master John Young interview in Radar

John Young Cryptome

The closest Young comes to explaining to me why he created Cryptome is this: “I’m a pretty fucking angry guy.” He describes it as a public education project. But for every hard data point he offers, there’s the ever-present admonishment that secrecy corrupts everything. “We caution people, don’t believe anything we publish,” he says. “We’re totally untrustworthy. We may be a sting operation, we may be working for the Feds. If you trust us, you’re stupid.” It’s like a nihilist art project: Provide your readers with more than 40,000 files of data the government doesn’t want you to have, data that exposes the lies of the powerful, and then remind them that you can never, ever know for sure who is lying.

Reprinted at Cryptome

(via My Heart’s in Accra)

Radio Free Albemuth movie, starring Alanis Morissette, in post-production

Another Philip K. Dick movie is coming soon: Radio Free Albemuth, starring Alanis Morissette as Sylvia, Jonathan Scarfe as Nicholas Brady, and Shea Whigham as Philip K. Dick himself.

Official movie site

IMDB entry

(Thanks Joe)

WorldChanging: Why We Need a National Endowment for Journalism

The better alternative is to act now, before panic ensues, and actually change the way we think about journalism. Is it a product that corporations sell to us in whatever form is most profitable, and only as long as the money keeps flowing? Or is it something that we think of as a public good and value for its own sake?

If we choose the latter, we should urge the incoming administration to create a new National Endowment for Journalism – let’s call it the NEJ – a federal fund aimed at supplementing the free market for media and enhancing the aspects of journalism that contribute most to the public welfare

One simple idea would be to create an enterprise reporting fund where editors at existing newspapers (or radio stations, TV stations or websites) could apply for money to execute reporting projects they couldn’t otherwise afford, allowing them to pay for staffing, reporting expenses, travel abroad and production of in-depth international or investigative coverage.

The Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting has been funding reporting using this model on a smaller scale for several years with a lot of success (disclosure: the CLP received a Pulitzer Center grant last year for reporting on water scarcity in East Africa). Newspapers would keep the same means of distribution, but could grow their revenues by delivering an enhanced product at little additional cost.

Full Story: WorldChanging

See also: Towards new business models for professional media

Ioan P. Culianu: Eros, Magic, Politics and Murder Remembered

I was recently going through my books when I found a signed copy of “Eros, Magic, and The Murder of Professor Culianu” by Ted Anton that was given to me by a friend. For those unfamiliar, Ioan P. Culianu (or Couliano) was a professor of divinity at The University of Chicago. He also taught Romanian history. His most famous work was “Eros and Magic in The Renaissance” which was a study on how magic in the Renaissance was “a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imagination of his subjects. In these respects, Culiano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.”

Besides being a scholar of ancient magic and the occult (he worked frequently with Mircea Eliade and many other notable minds), he was an outspoken activist against the government of Romania. Born and raised there, Culianu later defected to Italy and eventually put down roots in Chicago. After Ceausescu was ousted, Culianu was forthright in insisting the new government staged a coup, and that the Romanian people were duped into believing they were headed toward democracy when in reality they were not. Of the previous government he said ”Why did we accept so much suffering without saying anything? Why did we permit ourselves to be robbed more than other people in the world…? This stain is more difficult to remove than that of original sin.” In a piece he wrote for an Italian news magazine called Panorama, he noted Romania’s history with dictators and aptly titled the article “The King is Dead. Watch Out for an Heir.” In this article he states that “all events that happen in our poor country are the repetition of some archetypes embedded in our religious history”, and that “Umberto Eco says that everything depends on what use one makes of symbols. The case of Romania shows that he is right. No sooner had the people forced the bloody dictator to leave the presidential palace than the government that was formed took the name National Salvation Front. They couldn’t have chosen a less fortunate label: the name calls to mind the fascist National Renascence Front, which was the sole party created by King Carol II in 1938 after he dissolved parliament and proclaimed himself dictator”.

On May 21, 1991, Professor Culianu was found dead in the men’s bathroom on the 3rd floor of the UIC’s divinity school. Detectives concluded that he died from one bullet shot to the back of the head at close range. None of his personal belongings were taken and no fingerprints or weapons were found. The police never found the killer, and assumed that because of the sketchy neighborhood the school was located in, that the murderer could have been a thug or a disgruntled student or acquaintance. Looking at the way it was done (with no money or belongings taken), where it was done (to kill someone in a bathroom in Romania is the ultimate “f*ck you!”), noting that his apartment was broken into and he was receiving threats before he was killed leave many believing that it was a professional political hit.

Professor Culianu is remembered as a magnetic individual who’s extensive knowledge of history, magic, religion, and the occult kept scholars, historians, witches, magicians, and those who read his work glued to his every word. Those who knew him personally or had heard him speak say that they sometimes felt as though they were “hypnotized” after being in a room with him. Author Jennifer Stevenson, who knew him briefly, had this to say:

“Well, you know, Culianu and I were not close.  I only knew him for about 3 weeks, spread out over about two years. My impression of him was of someone who would take infinite pains to charm you.  I always wondered what his agenda was, so I held back a little, but I did find him extraordinarily charming.  If he had lived, I might have entered a PhD program at the UoC just to work with him, although I need another degree like I need a hole in my head. (My husband says I have enough degrees to start my own thermometer.)

Later I came to the conclusion that he was one of those people pleasers who had made almost a religion out of charm; if you read “Eros & Magic in the Renaissance” (his book from University of Chicago Press) you understand what that meant to him and why.  His way of life, his friendships and personal habits, his areas of scholarship, all made up a single edifice, and magic was way down at the foundation–scholarly magic, practical magic, emotional magic, even sexual magic. The magicians whose work he studied were engaged in the colossal work of fusing all known sciences of their era and of all past eras into a unified field theory, a system that would make sense of everything and give man control of it all.

This is my opinion, who knew him a total of three weeks, and who have read his published work, including his fiction. An author friend of mine, told of my odd acquaintance with this man, said, “He sounds like a spy.” My grandfather, a supremely cynical newspaperman bred up in the yellow journalism world of the 1930s and later, would have said, “He believed his own bullshit.” Whatever your interpretation, persons who had only glancing acquaintance with him, as I did, were powerfully affected by his death. In my opinion he was a boulder in the stream of time.”

His knowledge of renaissance magic, Giordano Bruno and the art of memory have left an indelible print in the many volumes on the study of magic and the occult. And all those who currently study magic, symbols, media and memes are carrying on his legacy. It’s just too bad that there were no high tech means of investigating a crime scene back then. Maybe if there were, we would’ve found out “who’d done it”.

“Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu” by Ted Anton, Northwestern University Press, 1996.
“Eros and Magic in the Renaissance” by Ioan P. Couliano, The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
“Scholar’s Death Remains a Mystery” – The New York Times, January 17, 1993.

(Related: “Forces of Darkness” by John Crowley via Netcool. “The Astonishing Story of the Dead Professor” part 1 and part 2, via History’s Sideshow)

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