CategoryInterview

Excerpt From Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate By Amanda Sledz

Cover of the book Psychopomp by Amanda Sledz

“Psychopomp”
A chapter from the novel Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate

Buy the book from the author here, from Powells Books or from Amazon here.

Lola, get out of bed.
It’s time to measure your standards.

The Official SAT Guide For Absolutely Everyone was pocked with portraits of thumbs-up enthusiastic sweater-decked white people. Endorsements from Ivy League colleges in bold-faced type offered assurances that somewhere in the page flipping Lola’s brain would flush electric. SCORE BIG TODAY! It demanded with caps lock ferocity. The antagonism of the fiery font left her terrified to perform otherwise.

Lola decided to ignore the taunts of the front cover adorned with individuals unfamiliar to her, and turned to the back cover to hunt for the token black or Asian or multi-racial friend positioned on the manicured lawn beside people in Polo shirts, laughing about their collective conquer of the universe. There. Perfect teeth, hand jammed into the pocket of pants likely called trousers, navy blue sweater knotted at his muscular shoulders, charmed and chuckling alongside the descendents of his former masters.

Oh, fuck this.

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Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Al Billings

Many Technoccult readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” I recently talked with Al about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary the Pragmatic Dharma movement and the secular mindfulness movement, and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.

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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?”

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Vice’s Hamilton Morris Interviewed on Hallucinogenic Fish [Guest Post]

sarpa salpa fish

In 2006 two men cooked and ate a fish which they had caught in the Western Mediterranean. Minutes after ingesting the fish frightening visual and auditory hallucinations began to overcome them. These intense visions lasted 36 hours. The fish they had caught was a Sarpa Salpa. A species of Sea Bream which is commonly found off the coast of South Africa and Malta and can induce ichthyoallyeinotoxism, a condition also known as hallucinogenic fish poisoning.

I recently learned that Vice columnist Hamilton Morris is assembling a team to capture and analyze a live sample of Sarpa Salpa. Morris is a writer and filmmaker and expert in anything psychoactive. In his column for Vice, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, he mixes his subjective experiences with insights into pharmacology, neurology and chemistry. In one column he traveled to the Amazonian jungle to have the secretions of a “shamanic” frog burnt into his arm. In another he traveled to Haiti to be dusted with the voodoo “zombie” poison Tetrodotoxin. He is currently working on a complex research project about extremely obscure information related to psychoactive mushrooms.

I e-mailed Hamilton to find out more about his trip.

Stephen Baxendale: Do you have any theories on what causes the fish to be hallucinogenic?

Hamilton Morris: The sea is a rich source of halogens. Scientists have found a variety of marine iodo-tryptophans and chloro-tryptophans in compounds like the plakohypaphorines and some amazing sponge derived tryptamines, like 5-bromo-DMT, which has been demonstrated to have “antidepressant-like” activity in rodents and is possibly psychedelic in humans. It seems that many of the sponge derived tryptamines are of microbial origin and same is true for more complex compounds like TTX and probably the byrostatins. So I think it is likely the fish ingests some kind of a microorganism that biosynthesizes the compound, which may behave as a classical serotonergic psychedelic or may have some messier deliriant effects, based on the case reports either could be possible.

Do you plan on ingesting the fish yourself?

If I have positively identified the species as Sarpa salpa I will carefully ingest it, starting with 1µg of fish and incrementally increasing the dose.

Do you think consuming hallucinogenic fish will ever catch on as a recreational drug?

Well it was already popular in the Roman empire so it’s really a question of whether it will make a comeback.

For more information:

Wikipedia: Hallucinogenic fish poisoning

Hamilton Morris’ Vice column

Stephen Baxendale is a writer from Liverpool, England. He specializes in lowlife literature and fringe journalism

Photo by Steven Van Tendeloo / CC

Notes from a William Gibson Q&A Session (9/08/10)

These are my notes from William Gibson’s Q&A session after his Zero History reading at Powells Books in Portland, OR on 9/08/2010 (here are some photographs from the evening). I thought initially that most of this would come up in other interviews, but I recently reviewed my notes and realized that although some of it has come up elsewhere, some of it is either unique or unusual. So I decided to type up my notes.

Gibson started off saying “Powells is the best book store in the world. It’s not even a book store, it’s a genre all to its own,” before reading the first chapter of Zero History. After the reading he said “The reason I write opening chapters the way I do is to get rid of all the people who won’t ‘get’ the book. They’re all fairly easy to read after the first chapter.” He then opened up to questions. Most, probably all, of these answers are incomplete – but close to direct quotes from larger answers. I didn’t ask most of these questions and didn’t get down the exact questions asked.

Q: What’s next?

Gibson: I have no idea. I have to have no idea. I know no one believes me, but I never intended to make trilogies. When I was learning about writing, I was told that trilogy was a long novel with a boring middle published separately. I think the books could be read in any order. I think I would be interesting to read these backwards. But maybe that’s too advanced.

[of course now he’s said that his next novel will probably be about the future]

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m not a globe trotting writer/researcher. Wherever I happen to go usually ends up in the book. For example, I happened to go to Myrtle Beach a few months before I wrote the book and I thought it was suitably weird.

Asked about predictions.

I’m not interested in the sort of sci-fi that does or doesn’t predict the iPad. I’m interested in how people behave.

Asked about the intelligence communities in his books

I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone “Tom Clancy” but what you find is that you have fans in every line of work. How reliable those narrators are I don’t know, but they tell a good story.

Asked about humor in his work.

Neuromancer was not without a comedic edge. My cyberpunk colleagues and I back in our cyberpunk rat hole sniggered mightily as we slapped our knees.

But writers can’t have more than two hooks. “Gritty, punky,” sure. “Gritty, punky, funny” doesn’t work.

I asked him about the slogan “Never in fashion, always in style” because I read that slogan on his blog and never found out what company that slogan actually belonged to.

Aero Leathers in Scotland. But they weight too much. You wouldn’t tour in a WWII motorcyle jacket unless of course you were on a WWII motorcycle. [Gibson reportedly wore an Acronym jacket on the Zero History tour]

Asked about Twitter

Twitter is the best aggregator of novelty anywhere. There’s more weird shit there than anywhere. It’s the equivalent value of $300 worth of imported magazines for free every day.

Asked about hypertext/electronic media and how it is changing his work.

The book is a cloud of hyperlinks. You can Google any unfamiliar phrase and you will be sort of walking in my shoes, going where I did in my research. The links are there, and there’s even some easter eggs.

I’m not sure what question this was in response to

I large part of my narrative comes from growing up in a particularly backwards part of the south, which had a particularly spoken culture.

Asked about his favorite contemporary writers

[Anything by Iian Sinclair, Zoo City by Lauren Bach, Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, which he found “wounding.”]

Asked about the punk influence on his work.

It wasn’t the Sex Pistols, it was Waylon and Willy.

Asked what sci-fi influenced him.

Certain sci-fi that never had much impact on the mainstream of the genre. My novels have had very little impact as well. If you don’t believe me, go down to a sci-fi specialist shop. Cyberpunk has become a descriptor – cyberpunk albums, cyberpunk pants.

Asked about cyberpunk’s legacy.

Anything with a manifesto ends up looking silly.

Asked what he thinks of the post-cyberpunk writers, Cory Doctorow et al.

I think the original cyberpunks were a little thin on the ground.

See also: William Gibson dossier.

Technoccult Interivew: King City Artist/Writer Brandon Graham

King City cover by Brandon Graham

King City by Brandon Graham is a comic book about a guy named Joe and his cat Earthling in a far future metropolis run by spy gangs and evil sorcerers. It’s full of weird drugs, black magic, luchador masks and oddball humor.

This month Image Comics published a collection of all 12 issues of King City, which was originally serialized from 2007 to 2010. After a battle with testicular caner Graham literally gave his left nut to finish the book. He’s now working on Prophet for Image and Multiple Warheads for Oni Press. I caught-up with him to talk about Moebius, graffiti, technology in science fiction and more.

Brandon Graham

How many details about the city were conceived in advance? Did you create maps, or list of facts and details about the world the book takes place in, or did you just make it up as you went along?

I had some rough ideas about the characters but I pretty much made up the city as I went along. I was always trying to base places off of somewhere I’d been. I think of Joe and Pete’s place in the 2nd half of KC as being in Seattle’s China town. The diner where Pete meets Exiekiel to get information about the alien lady was me trying to draw a diner in Queens.

King City Board Game

King City, to me anyway, has a very spontaneous feel. I imagine you just making up each page as you went along, packing them with as much detail as possible. Or did you have a more structured plan for each issue?

I had a real rough structure for everything but I try to allow for a lot of drawing what I’m in the mood to draw. And I usually lay out the book in 4 or 5 page chunks as I go along.

It’s nice to just follow your mood with a page and try to find new ways to stay interested in what you’re doing. I like to think about what’ll be fun to draw on the next page forcing me to speed up on what I’m doing because I’m so excited about what’s next. And then there’s days where I’m just not thinking about what comes next and I’m just having fun making lines on paper.

King City appears to take place in the far future, and there are references to certain technological advances like nanotechnology. But in some ways it seems really low tech – I’m not sure we ever see anyone use a cell phone or the Internet. For example, Anna seems to have no way of reaching Joe or Pete remotely, she has to walk to their apartment to find Joe. Did you consciously decide to avoid having the characters use certain technologies or was this  just the way the story worked out?

Yeah, it was on purpose. I avoid certain things like cell phones or the Internet or anything too modern that would seem dated really soon. I was trying to make it feel like it was happening now but with all the sci-fi fantasy elements I felt like throwing in. Excluding all the crazy sci-fi-ery, the technology is probably at the technological level of the early 1990’s because that’s about what I can wrap my head around.

I think a lot about different eras of science fiction and how they portrayed the future. The sci-fi that reflects modern technology seems sleeker and smaller, and it makes sense but it doesn’t look as cool to me. I’m a big fan of the look of big clunky utilitarian 70’s sci-fi. But maybe KC is “20 minutes in the future” of 1992.

Brandon Graham "The Long Goodbye"
Graham’s tribute to Moebius

King City actually reminds me a lot L’Incal by Jodorowsky and Moebius and other old European sci-fi/fantasy comics. Moebius recently passed away, can you talk about his influence?

Yeah, Moebius is probably the artist whose work has influenced me the most. Him and Howarth, Shirow and Barlow. I like the Incal all right, but I’m really obsessed with the work he did alone.

I feel like he took a lot of the freedoms American underground comics were doing in the 60s and pushed them to a whole new level adding all kinds of elements from science fiction novels and really creating something new.

I’ve always been so impressed by the joy he seemed to put into everything he did. His comics read like he’s having a great time working on them and the nerve in some of the stuff he pulled off is fantastic. How he’d allow himself to change a character’s look so dramatically in the middle of a story or jump from something completely serious to the ridiculous. I could go on forever about all the elements of his work and his life that have impressed me.

I know you haven’t done graffiti in a long time, but did being involved in the graffiti scene in Seattle as a kid affect the way you perceive the urban environment? Do you think you’d draw cities the same way if you hadn’t been a part of that?

Yeah, I think it definitely affected how I think about cities, certainly the way you interact with your environment when you’re running around drawing on it. It’s nice to be able to fuck with the world around you – changing signs or just writing a response to an ad directly on the ad or having to draw something to fit on the surface you’re drawing on.

Bigger than that, I think graffiti really influenced how I think about the scene I’m in.

Can you expand on that?

The graff writers I was around really pushed the idea that the culture has to be treated with a fair amount of respect. You’re expected to know the history and you have to earn your place in it.

I think the comic industry gets dirty because people make the excuse that it’s a job. For me it’s that if it’s where I’m going to spend my life then I want to make it a scene that I’m proud of.

The pillars of hip hop influenced you when you were younger – what, outside of comics, influences you now?

Still a lot of hip hop, I think in the last couple years the wordplay in rap has really driven a lot of what I put into my stuff.

I think I’ve been really influenced by some of the authors I’ve been reading. Robert Heinlein’s way of rethinking the way future relationships work and his whole out look on life being so different from mine. I’ve been influenced with how William Gibson structures his books and certainly the way Haruki Murakami writes about food and music.

My misses Marian has been a huge influence as well. She’s coming at art from a much more fine art/literary way of looking at it than I was used to. She’s really good at challenging my ideas and helping me think about what it means to be a life long artist and how I talk about art. A big thing I learned from her early on was the idea of talking about the quality of work not from a “this is the best” but rather “this is my favorite”.

Prophet cover by Marian Churchland
Prophet cover by Graham’s wife Marian Churchland

Given the amount of improvisation in your work on King City, how different is it to be a writer, instead of an artist, on Prophet?

The whole approach is pretty different. It puts a lot of the weight on the guy drawing it, plus we go back and forth on the layouts and script. I do the text after the art is done so there’s lots of room to improvise.

I think it uses the same skills that I use in my solo work but it feels like a different animal.

Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham

Other than Prophet what are you working on?

My main thing is Multiple Warheads that’ll be coming out later this year from Oni press. It’s a fantasy comic set in a fictional Russia. and I’m putting together an 80 page book of my sketches.

See Also

The Comics Journal’s interview with Graham

Inksuds’ video interview with Graham

Graham on what it’s like working with Liefeld, and the matter of how women are portrayed in comics

Technoccult TV: Hacktivists Peter Fein and The Doctor

In this video I speak with Peter Fein and The Doctor of the digital activist group Telecomix, which worked to keep the Internet available in the middle east during the Arab Spring by providing dial-up Internet access and even using fax machines to send information into Libya. The Doctor also works on the wireless mesh darknet project Project Byzantium. In this interview we talk about what Telecomix does and why it matters.

This interview has been a long time coming. It was conducted at Contact Summit in October, 2011. It was recorded at the end of a long day and we were all pretty tired. Please excuse the background noise, this was the quietest place we could find.

See also:

Forbes article on Telecomix

Ars Technica’s article on darknets

An idea for solving the distance problem in wireless darknets from acrylicist

My lists of “government-less Internets”: Part 1 and Part 2

Technoccult posts on decentralizing the Web and/or Internet

Technoccult Interview: Joe Knucklehead Talks About the Occupy Movement, Faux-Populism and More

American Knucklehead

American Knucklehead
Art by Trevor Blake

American Knucklhead has quickly become my favorite podcast. It’s hosted by a local Portland college drop-out turned bowling alley equipment technician who goes by the name of Joe Knucklhead. Joe’s somehow managed to drift from Ohio through the mountain west and on up here to Oregon during his life, and has picked up a lot of observations about the state of the country and the people who inhabit it. Every two weeks or so he speaks his mind – just the perspective of your average American Knucklehead. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me this week.

Klint Finley: Thanks for taking time to talk to the liberal media Joe. Why don’t you start by explaining who you are and why you started a podcast, for those who aren’t already familiar with your show.

Joe Knucklehead: My name’s Joe and I’m just a regular shmoe that works in a bowling alley in Portland. I started to podcast because it seemed to me that a lot of things were starting to get a little hinky in the good old USA, and I had a few ideas about how us knuckleheads might fix ’em.

You live here in Portland, best known as a place full of anarchists, tree huggers and trust fund hippies. But if I’m not mistaken, you’re from what Sarah Palin once called “The Real America” – Ohio. How different is Portland from the rest of the country?

Well, a lot in someways, and not at all in others. That ambiguous enough for ya? Portland is different in that it seems a lot more tolerant of a wider range of opinions and behaviors. Where I grew up in Dacron, Ohio, it was a pretty homogenous population, and they didn’t take to weirdos too well. If you’ve ever seen Heathers you’ll know what I mean.

On the other hand, knuckleheads abound, and most folks want pretty much the same things; a chance to earn an honest buck, shelter, safety, a future for themselves and their families.

Well, I’ve noticed that if you get outside the inner Portland bubble – which is where I happen to live – and get out to the rest of the city it’s a lot less “hipster.”

Yeah, that’s for sure. There are hipsters and hipsters.

But what do you think? Is there anything to this red state/blue state divide – or urban vs. rural?

Y’know, I’ve seen studies that showed that red state/blue state voting patterns correlate amazingly well with population density. People in higher densities tend to be more “tweetery” – the higher density makes ’em have to deal with a variety of other ideas and opinions. That’s one of the reasons Portland is relatively progressive, I think.

You’ve been talking a bit lately about the Occupy movement. There’s this online counter-movement of conservatives called the “53%” who claim to be subsidizing the Occupy movement via taxes. They say that the protesters need to “stop whining.” What do you think about this – is it a real populist sentiment, or just more divisiveness?

Naw, it’s a total PR ploy. The guy that dreamed it up, Erick Erickson, is a woofer blogger, CNN talking head, and radio talk show host. I’d say he’s been amazingly effective at providing a pointless distraction.

I talked to one of the organizers of Occupy Portland in the last show. He was very eloquent in dismissing the 53% movement as a divisive right-wing talking point.

Well, sure Erickson dreamed it up – but all those people sending in their pictures can’t just be paid actors can they?

Sure, they could be paid actors or just liars. Don’t trust the Internets!

OK – maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive. It’s pretty easy to whip up anti-Occupy sentiment by resorting to old prejudices and bigotry. Things are scary right now, and people can behave oddly when they’re scared. I’m sure the Occupy movement seems real scary to plenty of Knuckleheads out there.

Yeah, the right wing talking heads have convinced people that the Occupy movement is all about communism. I was just at Occupy Wall Street last week and even I was surprised at how level headed and non-socialist it was. The organizers spent a lot of the time I was there talking about how Occupy to support local small businesses.

Yeah, Occupy Portland seems pretty broad-minded, too. The way the conflict with the Portland Marathon was handled was pretty impressive. They came to an amicable agreement, and both sides were pleased with the extra attention. Synergy, friends and neighbors!

I talked to a league bowler who’s been coming into the alley for years. he ran in the race, and I thought he’d be carping about the “hippies” at the finish line. Instead he said they were really great – applauding the runners as they came in.

It seems they’re really interested in pitching a big tent and creating a platform for people to discuss how best to address the issues we’re facing as a country. But do you think there’s any room for the Tea Party and Occupy to form an alliance, or are they too culturally different? I know the Tea Party has a certain amount of establishment support, from Fox News, the GOP and so on, but it does seem that there’s a legitimate grass roots element there that could lend its support to the goals of Occupy.

I think that’s the next logical step – although sometimes logic don’t play too well in Peoria. Still, I hope that the Knuckleheads in both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement will realize that there’s a lot of common ground, and that the extremists are better off on the margins. Perhaps this group could be mobilized to create one or more new parties – I don’t have much hope for the two parties we have now.

It seems that when anyone starts talking about wanting to improve our economic situation, the right wing response is to accuse those tho speak out against economic injustice as having a sense of “entitlement.” Entitlement has become a dirty word. But really – do you think the average American deserves better than what we’re getting?

There’s a big difference in having a sense of entitlement and wanting a level playing field. It seems that things for the average Knucklehead have gotten worse over the last two or three decades. Wages remain stagnant while the costs of education, healthcare, and so forth have really gone through the damn roof.

OK, we’ve so far in this interview we’ve been pretty friendly to liberals. What message would you like to send the liberal readership? What should liberal elitists like me know about knuckleheads like you?

The main problem I have with tweeters is that they get too focused on pet causes and issues – usually with a maniacal zeal that turns off Knuckleheads like me who aren’t totally on board with that particular pet issues. Right now, I think everybody ought to stick with a wider view. Let’s look at the forest, and we can obsess over individual trees later, huh?

What do you read, watch or listen to keep up with current events?

Everything that the Alaska Quitter does! I usually get my news from mainstream media websites: CNN, Reuters, AP, the Onion. Sometimes I can hoark a copy of the Economist from a friend.

Has anyone approached you about doing a “real” radio show? Have you talked to KBOO?

Hadn’t really thought of it. I did college radio before I got kicked out of Ohio State – it was a blast. That’s what I like about the podcasting – also I don’t have to do something like pull a weekly shift in some godawful 3 a.m.to 6 a.m. slot – the horror, the horror…

Technoccult TV: R.U. Sirius and Richard Metzger Interview

I interviewed Richard Metzger and R.U. Sirius last week at Contact. We talked about the Occupy movement, what it’s like to start a new publication today and whether tools for free speech have room for improvement.

I apologize in advance for the audio quality – I didn’t have a windscreen for my microphone, so things get pretty noisy when the wind picks up.

R.U. Sirius was the co-founder and editor of the influential cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000. He also ran for president on the Revolution Party ticket in 2000 and has worked for publications such as Wired and H+ Magazine. He recently started a new online publication called Acceler8or. He’s also working on an open source history of Mondo 2000. My previous interview with him is here.

Richard Metzger was the co-founder and creative director of Disinformation, where he served as the host of the online show Infinity Factory and the Channel 4 show Disinfo Nation. He’s now the editor and host of Dangerous Minds. My previous interview with him is here.

Technoccult Interview: Douglas Rushkoff On Kicking the Consensus Reality Habit

Douglas Rushkoff
Photo by Johannes Kroemer

“Are you a practicing occultist?” was the first question Douglas Rushkoff asked me when I met him at the Webvisions conference in Portland, OR. It’s not a typical question for a keynote speaker to ask a journalist he’s just met at a technology event. Then again, Rushkoff is not a typical keynote, and I’m not a typical journalist. After all, I’d just introduced myself as a writer for ReadWriteWeb and Technoccult.

“No, not anymore,” I told him.

“I’m thinking about starting up again. I feel like I’ve been fooled by all of this,” he said, gesturing around the room.

“All of what?” I asked him.

“Consensus reality,” he told me. He went on to talk about the vitality that practicing magicians like Phil Farber and Grant Morrison have. We chatted a bit longer about our common interests, and made an appointment to meet up for an interview. I talked to him about some of the themes of his new book, Program or Be Programmed, and the Contact Summit, which he’s co-organizing with Venessa Miemis and Michel Bauwens. You can find that portion of the interview at ReadWriteWeb. Then we got into stuff that fits better on this site.

Rushkoff is disappointed about how technology is being used today. He describes feeling of computer networks in 1991 as being like taking acid – there was a sense that anything was possible. In Cyberia he wrote that the only people that would be able to handle the new information reality would be psychedelic people and kids. He expanded upon the notion that kids would just inherently get cyberspace in Playing the Future.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Rushkoff admits he was wrong about kids just getting cyberculture. He says recent studies have found that younger Internet users are more likely to fall for hoaxes or believe incorrect things they read on the Internet. Young people are less critical, not more.

Meanwhile, technology has become more about control than about liberation from consensus reality.

“When Video Toaster for the Amiga came out everyone was really excited,” he Rushkoff said. “We believed that we could use it to create deeply alternative states of consciousness using lights and colors and things.”

“Today, those technologies are used by companies like Fox News to make you pay attention to what they want you to pay attention to, or to make your eye fall on a particular ad. Stuff like that.”

But he says if you know how the program works, you’re less likely to be hypnotized by it. “There’s two ways to experience magic,” he says. “And I don’t mean stage magic.” You can either experience it as a spectator, watching a priest or guru. Or you can participate. “Having a guru will only take you so far,” he said. “You have to become the guru.”

But it’s not easy. Rushkoff admits he’s been having trouble participating in magic these days. “My sense is that the suppositional conditioning that I’ve undergone – making a living, raising a kid, keeping a house in working order, paying a mortgage – I’ve expended a lot of energy in less efficient ways,” he said. “I’ve become less trusting of the more subtle ways of influencing the world around me.”

“Part of that is because the stakes are higher,” he said. “I’ve got a real kid, a real wife, a real house, a real bank account, a real mortgage. When it was just me, the stakes were lower. It was just ‘Will I get this book deal?’ and ‘Will I get with this girl?’ Not expending that energy in the conventional ways wouldn’t lead to catastrophic failures.”

He said he hasn’t reached a point where the stakes are lower. “I’ve just gotten to a point where this is no longer working for me. Too many of my day-to-day concerns are not consonant with the way I want to experience the world. It’s about maintaining security, avoiding death and getting things done.”

He says he’s not interested in performing rituals or ceremonies. Instead he said “I want to maintain a greater availability towards pattern recognition. A greater sensitivity to the subtle effects of my actions.”

He wants to spend more of his time and energy connecting with people and “Being and experiencing myself as part of the unfolding of reality.”

So what stands in the way?

“The cultural things in my life and how I relate to them are all fairly rigid – marriage, schools, etc.” he says. “But unless you find an intentional community, it’s hard to feel that balanced. But I feel it can be done.”

I mention that Grant Morrison seems to pull this off. “Yeah, but he’s childless,” Rushkoff replied. He explains that he’s worried that if he goes off the deep end, he’d end up with some fucked up kids. “I don’t know if that’s because of society or what,” he says, pointing out that society has certain expectations from parents and childhoods and your children can end up being the victims of your choices, even if it’s not fair.

I told him that I don’t have kids, but society still limits what I can do. “Right, money is a big limiting factor,” he says.

“It’s like Bill Hicks said,” I replied. “‘You think you’re free? Trying going anywhere without fucking money.'”

“Yeah, not everyone can move out to the woods, and have solar panels and all that. It’s just not sustainable.”

I told him about EsoZone, and how part of my intention for it was to create a sort of urban Burning Man – a semi-autonomous zone that people could bus or bike to, instead of something way out in the desert away from civilization.

“Yeah, and that’s great,” he said. “But it’s temporary. It’s like acid. When you come down, the question is always ‘how can I make this last forever?'”

And it’s at that point that someone from the event came over and told him it was time to get ready to go on stage and we had to part ways before I could get to the other questions on my list about localism, alternative currencies, etc.

But I’ve been thinking about this last point – how do we make these special experiences last forever? Part of the point, I think, of these sorts of shamanistic experiences – whether it’s Burning Man, or drugs, or fever or lucid dreaming or whatever – is that they are temporary but that you can take something of value away from them and apply it to normal, every day life.

I relate to Rushkoff’s experience, even though I’m childless. My day-to-day concerns are meeting my deadlines for work, making sure I have enough money in the bank for rent, my conference travel schedule, the best types of dish washer tablets and whether my wife and I need a new coffee maker. I’m considering buying a subscription to Consumer Reports, and what sort of retirement savings account is best for me.

Did we learn nothing from our experiences that we can bring back into our day-to-day lives? Are there really no options between being square or living on a commune?

I for one choose not to be believe that.

Since this interview, I made it a point to work less and to spend more time with friends. Even before the interview I’d been realizing that I didn’t do much actual socializing on social media. Twitter and Tumblr are participatory, but not particularly social. I use Facebook mostly as a way to send and receive invitations, and as a sort of back-up e-mail system. I want to spend more time connecting with people, and I’m doing my best to do that.

But there does seem to be something else that’s missing. As we parted ways, Rushkoff told me to feel free to e-mail him if I came across anything that I thought would help him in his situation. I chuckled, saying that it’s the exact same situation seemingly everyone is in.

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