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A young Steve Buscemi in ‘Borders,’ 1989 TV doc about the philosophy of Robert Anton Wilson
12:22 pm


Robert Anton Wilson
Steve Buscemi

In 1989 an hour-long movie called Borders about Robert Anton Wilson, author of The Illumnatus! Trilogy and the Cosmic Trigger series, was produced for public TV (WGBH Boston was one of the production companies behind it). The movie, directed by Merrill Aldighieri and Joe Tripician, is a blend of dramatic and documentary elements that also occasionally includes charmingly rudimentary computer graphics.

The first few minutes of Borders is an extended scene involving Ted, who is possibly a scientist named Ted who is doing something to subvert the company he works for—something like that. Whatever it is, his lack of integrity is enough for his girlfriend to leave the weekend house he has lined up for them. Unfortunately, we never find out what Ted’s situation was all about, because we’re never shown a second sequence to flesh out the promising start.

At first blush, the title Borders seems inapt for a documentary about a figure whose intellectual reach is as impressive as Wilson’s, but in short order its true significance becomes clear. As Wilson says, in his life he has passed through many conceptual borders—leaving the Catholic Church for Trotskyism, only to abandon that for agnosticism—and integral to his thinking is the project of detecting, decoding, and resisting the various “borders” that mankind erects for itself to keep up separated.

Early in the program Wilson expands on this idea:

Borders are a basic mammalian territorial imperative. All mammals want a territory, and they claim it by making excretions that make a topological outline, that’s the territory they claim. That’s why your dog pees on every tree when you take him for a walk. That’s the way the dog is marking his territory. Chimpanzees mark their territories with excretions too. The difference between human beings (or domesticated primates) and the other mammals is we mark our territories with ink excretions on paper—land titles, peace treaties, and so on. Every national border in the world marks a place where two gangs of domesticated primates fought until they were exhausted, and then made a territorial mark. That’s how national borders are created. We don’t throw excretions at each other like the chimpanzees, we throw chemicals and bombs and so on, but it’s basically the same mammalian process. The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Trading cards of some dangerous minds, deep thinkers & radical intellectuals

For those with an interest in big ideas, these trading cards from should fire up your neurotransmitters.

Between 2000-2001, a set of twelve trading cards was released monthly via David Gauntlett’s website This original set of cards featured theorists (and their concepts) from the world of social and cultural theory, gender and identity, and media studies. The first out of the pack was British social theorist Anthony Giddens who devised the theory of structuration and wrote the book on The Third Way. This was followed by theorist Judith Butler whose book Gender Trouble argued that “biological” sexes were just as much as a social construct as gender. Then came the great controversial French thinker Michel Foucault with his ideas about sexuality, gender and power structures. The deck included some interesting choices like artists Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George and concepts like Postmodernity and Psychoanalysis.

This official set of twelve trading cards was thought by some to lack a few key players and its release inspired various academics, students and alike to produce their own cards. These additions included Karl Marx, Carl Jung, Simone de Beauvoir, Edward Said, Germaine Greer, Walter Benjamin and Marcel Duchamp.

Described as “Creative knowledge you can put your pocket™” these cards can be used to play a game of trumps—in which players can match strengths, weaknesses and special skills. For example, Foucault’s special skill of happily rejecting old models and creating new ones, might not quite beat Duchamp’s ability to confuse the hell out of everyone.

The full set is below—but if you want to own a set of these super brainy trading cards (and who wouldn’t?) then deal yourself in by clicking here.
#1 Anthony Giddens—British social theorist.
#2 Judith Butler—American philosopher and gender theorist.
#3 Michel Foucault—French philosopher, theorist, philologist and literary critic.
More thinkers and some big ideas, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
William Burroughs: Scans of his porn mag articles

Humanity’s underrated. It’s one of my tenets. It’s easier to indulge the negative than give press to the creative, the good and the generous. The other day, my colleague Martin Schneider wrote a fine post on William S. Burroughs’ connection with Wilhelm Reich and his orgone box. By its source, Martin’s post reacquainted me with Burroughs writings for porn magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

Years, ago I had a friend who owned two pristine copies of one these skin mags. He prized these editions not for any titillation but for Burroughs’ articles contained within. I recall one was on Scientology. The other I think was on space travel.

Martin’s link led to a cornucopia of Burroughsian materials. That one individual (Jed Birmingham) has spent so much time carefully sourcing and scanning Burroughs’s adult magazine work for others to read/access/download was another confirmation of humanity’s good points.

Before Graham Masterton was better known as an author of best-selling horror fiction, he was deputy editor of “gentleman’s entertainment magazine” Mayfair. Started in 1965, Mayfair was modeled on the hugely successful Playboy magazine. The canny Masterton wanted Mayfair to be a similar mix of quality writing, top notch interviews and classy erotica. One of the best things Masterton achieved with Mayfair was to commission William Burroughs to write for the magazine.

Masterton had corresponded with Burroughs from the time the Beat writer was living in Tangiers. When Burroughs relocated to London, Masterton visited him in his cramped attic apartment to enquire if he had anything suitable for the pages of Mayfair.

From this meeting in 1967, Burroughs contributed a regular column for Mayfair under the heading “The Burroughs Academy.” The gig allowed Burroughs to write about his personal preoccupations (Scientology, sexuality, mechanisms of media and political control) and test out various ideas (drugs/space travel) in the magazine’s pages between 1967 and 1969. It also supplied him with a steady income so he could write his novels.

Mayfair was primarily sold in the UK. It had a limited circulation which meant most of Burroughs’ fans missed out on his monthly bulletins. They were eventually gathered together in (an equally hard to obtain) edition Mayfair Academy Series More or Less.

But it’s thanks to Jed Birmingham over at the Reality Studios that we can read Burroughs’ articles (though by no means comprehensive) as they were originally published in magazines like Mayfair, Screw, Swank and Wildcat.

Below are scans from Wildcat that published an extract from Burroughs’ novel Junkie, plus an interview from Swank. There are also the first four Burroughs Academy articles and one short story from Mayfair. More can be viewed/downloaded here.
More readable scans of Burroughs’ skin mag articles, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Just a bunch of art holes making an exhibition of themselves

Bruno Zhu / New Scenario.
Finding somewhere to exhibit new artwork can prove difficult. The galleries dictate what is of value and what will be exhibited rather than the artist or the consumer. Artists Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig of New Scenario have devised a radical new concept for exhibiting art work that breaks down the walls of the gallery space.

Their suggestion is quite simple: Imagine if the body was a museum—then there would be seven galleries in which to exhibit artwork.

These galleries are the mouth, the ears, the nostrils, the navel, the anus, the genitalia.

Barsch and Hornig gave themselves and five other artists one orifice or hole in which to exhibit a new piece of miniature art. The resulting images were exhibited online (due to the nature of exhibiting pieces) and at the ninth Berlin Biennale under the title Body Holes.

They chose different body shapes and sizes to help the viewer identify with the images. Their ultimate intention is to “normalize and de-stigmatize the body” freeing people from any “cultural , political and sexual perceptions.”

The images chosen here avoid the more NSFW photographs or artworks posing in genitalia featured in Body Holes—but you can view them here.
Rasmus Hoj Mygind / New Scenario.
Yves Scherer / New Scenario.
More Body Holes, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The voyeuristic photography of Miroslav Tichý

Some time ago I read an article in a Sunday supplement magazine about a street photographer in Czechoslovakia who wandered around his hometown of Kyjov taking pictures with a homemade camera. The photographer was an old man, with long unkempt hair and a Santa Claus beard. The article described this photographer as a “master voyeur” and because of his appearance suggested he was a dirty old man—Charles Bukowski with a weird contraption for a camera. The appraisal was perhaps a bit unfair—low class journalism to luridly frame the story of an artist whose work should really have been better known. I clipped the story, one to be filed away for future use, but lost it somewhere in my endlessly peripatetic lifestyle. Indeed, I had almost forgotten all about this strange man and his beautiful photographs until I chanced upon a blog by Rob Baker which thankfully reacquainted me with the life and work of Miroslav Tichý.

Tichý was born in Netice, a village in Moravia, on November 20, 1926. He was one of fourteen children born to the local tailor and his wife. He was a bright kid, excelled in languages and a great talent for art. In his late teens he enrolled for an arts foundation course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He was considered a talented draftsman and was highly popular with his fellow students. This short happy time starting in 1946 changed dramatically with the Communist coup d’état two years later. Roman Buxbaum a young friend of Tichý described what happened next:

After the Communist takeover in February 1948 drastic changes took place at the Academy. Respected professors and assistant professors were quickly thrown out. Instead of drawing women models, the students were forced to draw workers in overalls. Tichý refused to draw them. It seems that the political crisis overlapped with a personal crisis, and the young artist succumbed to both. He stopped working and spent his time walking about Stromovka park in Prague, and avoided his friends. He quit the Academy and had to do his compulsory military service.

Stalin’s brutal dictatorship of the country led to a series of purges that destroyed the lives of anyone who did not submit to Russia’s Communist party rule. This all had a devastating effect on Tichý. He refused to conform which led to his being sent for treatment at the Opava psychiatric clinic.

After Stalin’s death, Russia’s new president Khrushchev denounced much of what his predecessor had done and though there were signs of a “thaw” little changed in the Soviet rule over Czechoslovakia. Tichý returned to live with his parents in Kyjov. He began drawing and painting again and exhibited some work at an exhibition in Brno in 1958.

At the start of the 1960s, Tichý made his opposition to the Communist rule more apparent by growing his hair long and no longer trimming his beard. Every day he dressed in the same worn at the cuffs and torn at the knee black suit looking like a down and out boozehound. His image was the opposite of the hunky, masculine worker of Communist propaganda. His appearance deeply irked the Czechoslovakian authorities. Tichý was repeatedly intimidated and arrested by local police—but he still refused to give over his independence to the state. He was unbowed and described himself as “a samurai” with his sole aim to destroy his enemies.
An older Miroslav Tichý on his hometown streets.
During the 1960s, Tichý started taking street photographs with an old field camera he had inherited from his father. He continued to draw and paint and was still very much a thorn in the local authorities’ side who arrived at his parents’ door the week before May Day every year to take him away so he would not offend the eye of any Communist dignitaries.

The invasion of Russian troops to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 forced Czechoslovakia further under the Communist rule. The country became more authoritarian and oppressive. It meant Tichý became was more isolated and an easier target for the authorities. He lost his studio. Much of his work was tossed during his eviction by the housing cooperative. The eviction traumatized Tichý and he found it difficult to continue painting and drawing.

Instead Tichý concentrated on photography as his means of expression. He wandered around his hometown streets, surreptitiously taking photographs of women with his homemade cameras. His style was the polar opposite to the sharp, clean, overly-idealized propaganda of his Communist overlords. His work was dreamlike, opaque, beautifully composed and realized. His life seemed chaotic. He was “the prophet of decay” as Roman Buxbaum described Tichý in a visit to his home:

Disorder seems to be his agenda, not because of laziness or an inability to tidy up. Rather, it is his intention. When the visitor has finished looking through some book or at a photograph and returns it to Tichý, he or she will probably hear: Throw it on the ground! Other laws apply here. The world of chance and chaos constitutes a ferment in which material matures, immersed in the depths of Tichý’s ocean, to be brought back to the surface, but changed and worn by time.

Tichý is a reactionary in the truest sense of the word. While Yuri Gagarin was conquering outer space, Tichý was making cameras out of wood. He put himself into reverse, moving backwards against the ideology of progress. A genuine reactionary, and a very effective one, because unlike the Five-Year Plans he achieved his aims. The Stone-Age photographer was the embodiment of an insult to the small-town Communist elite. He became the living antithesis of progressive thought, of the Marxist theory of history moving in a straight line.

Technically-speaking, his photographs are deliberately enhanced by “mistakes” and stains from a haphazard processing of his film prints, which were done mostly in bathtubs and buckets (“A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.”) Tichý would shoot up to 90 photographs a day, go home and then develop and print them. Each would be printed only one time, cropped with scissors, drawn and painted upon, perhaps. Some were framed by his hand.

The police continued to harass Tichý. They tried to arrest him for being a voyeur—taking photographs of women walking the sidewalk, working in stores, sunbathing in parks. But the police could find no evidence and no one supported their allegations—so Tichý always walked free.

More on Miroslav Tichý‘s photographs, after the jump…


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Essential Paul Laffoley’ is the most mind-boggling coffee table art book of 2016 (or any year)
04:12 pm


Paul Laffoley
Douglas Walla

Okay, okay so although I could probably definitely be accused of bias—the volume in question here is about a dear friend of nearly twenty years and edited by another close friend of exactly the same vintage (plus I blurbed it)—I strongly feel that the recent University of Chicago Press book The Essential Paul Laffoley: Works from the Boston Visionary Cell edited by Douglas Walla is a “document of seismic cultural importance.” I’m quoting myself here, but fuck it: I’m right.

When Paul Laffoley died last November at the age of 80, he left behind a vast archive of mind-boggling, awe-inspiring work. Huge paintings, elaborate drawings, models, handwritten journals, architectural blueprints, sci-fi inventions, essays. He was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, although few people are aware of this fact. An eccentric genius to be sure, but a true Mount Olympus-level genius is what he was, make no mistake about it. This isn’t merely my opinion, it’s more a matter of objective fact. In due course—and I’m certain of this—the rest of the world is going to figure it out, too. I say this in all seriousness: The man was the Leonardo of our time. History will bear my bold statement out. (If you disagree, you just don’t know what you are talking about. See what I did there?)

But don’t worry, in the coming years the human race is going to figure this all out—of this I have complete confidence—and The Essential Paul Laffoley: Works from the Boston Visionary Cell will be the cornerstone of all future academic scholarship about the man, it’s both “Paul Laffoley 101” and the graduate level course in one volume. It was put together—a product of pure love and admiration—by the world’s #1 undisputed authority on the great artist’s work. Over the course of the past three decades, Paul Laffoley has been represented by Douglas Walla at Kent Fine Art in New York City. In a career going back to the 1970s, Walla has worked with artists like Francis Bacon, Richard Artschwager, Dorothea Tanning and Llyn Foulkes. He’s brokered deals for Giacometti’s, Picabia’s, Richter’s, Duchamp’s and even a few Rodins. In the cutthroat business of the New York art world, you couldn’t find a finer man than Doug.

The world isn’t always kind to the type of eccentric individual that Paul Laffoley was. History will record how very lucky he was to have met Douglas Walla when he did because otherwise he might have died in obscurity, instead of seeing vast museum-level surveys of his work mounted in London, Berlin and Paris during the final years of his life.

I sent Douglas Walla a few questions via email over the weekend and he sent them back to me this morning

Richard Metzger: How long did it take to prepare the book? 

Douglas Walla: The short answer is 27 years.

When I made the first studio visit to Paul’s Bromfield Street studio—the Boston Visionary Cell—in 1986, he was already working on Thanaton III. The lettering as such was not yet added, but it was certainly well underway.  I arrived at 10 am, and Paul immediately launched into a major—and almost trance-inducing—meditation on the manifestations of the painting. The next thing I knew, it was 2:00 pm, and thinking I had a plane to catch back to NYC at 6, I said, “How about that other painting?”  He simply said, “I’m not done yet” (meaning he wasn’t done with his explication of Thanaton III). So flying home, I thought, I need to do a book.  As a postscript, Thanaton III appears in the book published in 1989, but the lettering still had not yet been added.

I returned with a tape recorder, and I recorded “The Dream as the Initiation” which became chapter one of The Phenomenology of Revelation.  In all, between Paul, myself, and Jeanne Marie Wasilik, we recorded about 25 hours of dialogue with Paul, and that was edited down to eight chapters that would become the first book on Paul for which I acted as photo editor vetting the subjects touched upon, and Tony Morgan took a free hand in designing the final publication.

In the process, I developed a template we called a “thought form,” believing that the understanding of each individual work would be enhanced by a linguistic text plate to help the viewer more easily see what Paul was thinking. A complicated caption.

After the book was finished, I continued to work with Paul over the next twenty years compiling a thought form for each work we discussed.  So the archive progressed, and we paid particular attention getting good photography for each work, in that there was mounting interest in READING the paintings as they appeared in reproduction.

Paul and I collaborated for over 25 years building this archive, with the hopes of printing (analog) a catalogue raisonne of his work, and not placing it on the internet. I had the misfortune of posting 80 entries several years ago only to have it all copied, posted to another website unknown to me, and having the carefully edited texts violated and changed, and having his work reduced to collage, snippets, montages, wallpaper, etc.  So a book stands as a valid authority on the topic of Paul’s work without alterations by others.

Richard Metzger: How many additional paintings and drawings didn’t make the cut?

Douglas Walla: In that Paul never kept records of what he finished, when presented with the invitation by the University of Chicago Press to publish a monograph on Paul, I realized that a “Complete Works” book was almost impossible. There would always be other works coming to the surface, although I would state that only about 10 such works have come to my attention in the last decade. The format that was workable, conceptually as well as intellectually, was The Essential Paul Laffoley chronicling 100 works. 

What was left out were many of what Paul termed “nudes,” which were paintings without text. Further, there were commissioned works such as Hank Williams, and the Elvis series which do not appear, and many of the architectural three dimensional models he made which were in disrepair.  There was also Rubaiyat (75 sketches) that I only became aware of after death, and his uncompleted tarot deck which he worked on to the end, along with what would have been a major work entitled The Garden of Earthly Death.  There were ten large scale canvases unfinished at his death, and approximately 27 paintings that were unsigned, untitled, undated and never shown, all of which are omitted from the publication.

Richard Metzger: How would you describe your relationship with Paul? Obviously you were his gallerist and representative for decades, his close friend, his patron and #1 fan—you not only told the world about him, you actually invested a lot of money in his career, publishing his book when he was a complete unknown and so he that wouldn’t have to work and could produce more work. I’ve never said this to you before, but I always saw you as being the father figure in the relationship. Despite Paul being many years older than you, there was something childlike about him. The way you looked after him always seemed very paternal to me, but I want to hear your take on it.

Douglas Walla: The thing we all learned about Paul was his extreme generosity in terms of patience, good humor, and intimidating intellect.  Always pushing the outside of the envelope so to speak, I was endlessly challenged and stimulated by our association. He was a friend, and a pleasure, and gracious.  As his physical health began to deteriorate (and I think I was in denial that he was on a path to his final congestive heart failure), I became his travelmate certainly by 2009. When he injured himself in 2001—he fell off a ladder—I became his medical proxy sorting through extremely complicated medical issues concerning his diabetes and the impact it had in devastating his cardiovascular system.  Of course one of his legs was amputated. So by 2009, I tried to get him to all the things he longed to see and visit including Neuschwanstein, Dornach, Eiffel’s Apartment at the top of the Tower, the Space Needle—his bucket list. 

The only thing on that list he never saw was the completed book.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Fascinating vintage promo film on the making of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

In 1964, Stanley Kubrick wrote to Arthur C. Clarke.  He told the science fiction author he was a “a great admirer” of his books, and “had always wanted to discuss with [him] the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie.”

Kubrick briefly outlined his ideas:

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.

The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.

A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Clarke liked Kubrick’s suggestions. A meeting was arranged at Trader Vic’s in New York on April 22, 1964, at which Kubrick explained his interest in extraterrestrial life. He told Clarke he wanted to make a film about “Man’s relationship to the universe.”

The author offered the director a choice of six short stories—from which Kubrick picked “The Sentinel” (published as “The Sentinel of Eternity” in 1953). The story described the discovery of strange, tetrahedral artefact on the Moon. The narrator speculates the object is a “warning beacon” left by some ancient alien intelligence to signal humanity’s evolutionary advance towards space travel.

Over the next four years they worked together on the film—two of which were spent co-writing the screenplay they privately called How the Solar System Was Won.
Director and Author.
Kubrick and Clarke decided to write a book together first then the screenplay. This was to be credited: “Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, based on a novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.” It turned out slightly differently as the book and screenplay were written simultaneously. While Kubrick made the film “a visual, nonverbal experience,” Clarke widened the story out, explaining many of the events Kubrick left open-ended. The director wanted to make a film that hit the audience “at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

In an interview with Joseph Gelmis in 1970, Kubrick described the genesis of both the book and script:

There are a number of differences between the book and the movie. The novel, for example, attempts to explain things much more explicitly than the film does, which is inevitable in a verbal medium. The novel came about after we did a 130-page prose treatment of the film at the very outset. This initial treatment was subsequently changed in the screenplay, and the screenplay in turn was altered during the making of the film. But Arthur took all the existing material, plus an impression of some of the rushes, and wrote the novel. As a result, there’s a difference between the novel and the film…I think that the divergences between the two works are interesting.

Clarke was more direct. He wrote an explicit interpretation of the film explaining many of its themes. In particular, how the central character David Bowman ends his days in what Clarke described as a kind of living museum or zoo, where he is observed by alien life forms.
The director on a sound stage at MGM Studios, Borehamwood, England.
Kubrick was less forthcoming. Though he did share some of his thoughts on the meaning and purpose of human existence in an interview with Playboy in 1968:

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfilment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Similarities between shots and designs in ‘2001’ and Pavel Klushantsev’s ‘Road to the Stars’ (1958).
Kubrick involved himself in every aspect of the film’s production—from costume and set design, technical specifications, the requirements of specially designed cameras, to the building of a 32-ton centrifuge used to create the interior of a space craft. Kubrick was greatly influenced by Pavel Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars from 1958—and exploited many of the designs, crafts and ideas featured in that film.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Capitalism’s operating system has gone off the rails: An interview with Douglas Rushkoff
12:51 pm


Douglas Rushkoff

In his latest book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity (Portfolio/Penguin), media/technology theorist and PBS documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff asks “Why doesn’t the explosive growth of companies like Facebook and Uber deliver more prosperity for everyone? What is the systemic problem that sets the rich against the poor and the technologists against everybody else?”

Rapid technological improvements have created unforeseen societal chaos and this change is just starting to pick up speed. Our economic operating system—the “program” at the heart of Capitalism itself—is deliriously out of control. The economy no longer serves the human race, just a tiny elite sliver of it. The rest of us, whether we realize it or not, to a certain extent toil on their behalf. Think about it: How did the Waltons become the richest family in America, amassing a collective fortune of around $150 billion, if not by siphoning off a micropayment from every single gallon of milk, bottle of shampoo or box of Hostess Ding Dongs sold there? Bud and Sam Walton might have started Walmart, but all their offspring did was win the lottery at birth.

If you think that sounds predatory—and it should—just wait until you get a load of what the big technology firms have in mind for us…

I asked my friend of some twenty years some questions over email.

Richard Metzger: You write how the operating system of capitalism is obsolete, creating vast spoils for a select group of lucky human beings who are more or less basically leeching off the rest of mankind’s activities, and in a world of increasing automation to make things even worse. What’s the new book’s diagnosis of the modern economy?

Douglas Rushkoff: That sounds like a pretty good diagnosis to me. Or I suppose those are the symptoms? The underlying problem is not a disease, however. It’s not that corporate capitalism has been corrupted by greed or even by the startup economy of digital businesses. The system is working precisely as it was designed to.

It’s just that the transfer of value from people and places into capital used to happen a bit slower. And our companies tended to do it to other places more than to us. So in the 1400’s, British East India Trading Company might have enslaved thousands of Africans or taken land from the people of the West Indies - where today it’s Walmart bankrupting our towns and Uber extracting labor from drivers.

So now, the extractive power of expansionary, growth-based capitalism has been turned against us. The same sorts of companies are growing, but at the expense of all humans - not just those we can’t see. And the startup economy does all this a whole lot faster. A company goes from zero to a billion in 24 months. And it only does that by abandoning its original goals of helping people do something new, and instead adopting scorched earth policies toward its own markets.

That’s the real problem: companies that want to be around for a long time need to keep their markets - their customers and suppliers and workers - healthy and viable. Once companies are in control of venture capitalists, that’s no longer the goal. They haven’t bought the company to own it, but to sell it. They only need their markets to survive long enough to get to the exit - the IPO or acquisition that lets them cash out.

In the process, the company can use its war chest of investment capital to regulate the marketplace in its favor, or undercut the prices of the competition. It’s not about doing business; it’s about selling the company.

Okay, if that’s the diagnosis, then what’s the remedy? Is there one?

There’s not a single remedy. That’s the one-size-fits-all ethos of the industrial age: figure out the solution, then scale it universally! (And make a ton of money in the process.) Rather, the solution set will be as varied as the people and communities of our planet. The first step is to remember that human beings retain their home field advantage as long as they stay in the real world, on planet earth. We are the natives here - the corporations and technologies and business plans are all invented alien. That’s part what the SF protesters mean when they lay in front of the Google buses.

The way to reduce the power of the companies extracting value from our economy is to begin transacting locally and laterally. Do as much locally as you can. See your town or city as the economy. If there’s people with needs, and people with skills, you have the basis for an economy. You just may need to develop an alternative means of exchange, such as a local currency or favor bank.

Of course that doesn’t replace the entire economy. People look at a suggestion like that, and they immediately thing I’m arguing that cash, banking, corporations, iPhones, and automobiles go away. We can’t help but think of things in apocalyptic terms. But all I’m suggesting is that we balance out even just a little of our Walmart or Amazon purchases with some more local, small-scaled value creation and exchange.

The other remedy is for those developing new technologies or applications not to accept so much venture capital. They still think that getting a lot of money for their idea is the best way to build it. But it’s not. The more money you take, the less control you have over the future of your company. When you take in VC, you have already sold your company to someone who doesn’t care about your app, your customers, your employees, or your mission. Kiss it good-bye. They only care about selling your business to someone else - to the next round of investors - and that means plumping it up. You will be forced to pivot from whatever you wanted to do, to something they think can let them sell the company. It doesn’t even have to make money - it just has to destroy a market and claim a monopoly over what’s left. 

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
CONSPIRACY: 1979 Supertramp album cover reveals Freemasons ‘pre-knew about’ 9/11

Of all the 9/11 conspiracy theories floating around out there, this one’s my… favorite.

According to the fellow in the video below, which was influenced by a post on a David Icke conspiracy forum, the Masons were behind the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. They left clues about their (long) planned event on the 1979 Supertramp album Breakfast In America.

According to the video, Supertramp financier Stanley August Miesegaes was a Mason who used the cover art of the best-selling Breakfast in America album to reveal details about a planned “event” against the World Trade Center.

Supertramp financier, Stanley August Miesegaes—according to the video, that *could be* a masonic pendant around his neck. A correction at the beginning of the video indicates that the theorist isn’t certain if Miesegaes was indeed a 33rd degree Mason or not. Just to, you know, clear that up for y’uns!
The video offers evidence that the iconic album cover is a bit of “predictive programming,” a notion popular among conspiracy buffs that our overlords embed messages into pop culture in order to psychologically prepare the general population for certain events. Apparently Breakfast in America was to be the subliminal mental lubrication citizens would need two decades later to accept the tragedy of 9/11. This evidence includes the cover’s depiction of the New York City skyline as seen from an airplane window. CHECK. A waitress posing as the Statue of Liberty holds a glass of orange juice over the center of the World Trade Center, indicating the color of the fireball that would tear through the buildings.  CHECK. Just above the World Trade Center, if you hold the record up to a mirror, you see that the “u” and “p” from “Supertramp” resembles the numbers “911.”  CHECK.

The fateful event was to take place in the morning of September 11—breakfast time in America.


Furthermore, the words “super” and “tramp” are synonyms for “great” and “whore,” which indicates the Great Whore of Babylon, a figure from Christian mythology, with Babylon also mentioned as a place of evil in the Book of Revelation. And if that’s not proof enough for you, why the back cover has yet another illustration of a plane flying above the twin towers.

All in all, it’s a pretty compelling case that “somebody pre-knew about it,” right?


Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘The Silence of the Angel’: Paul Klee’s notebooks are now online

“Art,” Paul Klee (1879-1940) once observed, “does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” It’s a fair description of Klee’s rich and diverse body of artworks produced during his forty year career. Just looking at his phenomenal output of some 10,000 artworks tells a fairly accurate history of Modern Art, as Klee adopted, studied then discarded the ideas and forms of the twentieth century’s major artistic movements—Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstraction and the Bauhaus school.

Klee became a great artist, and was also a poet, writer, composer and musician, but he could have been just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill traditional painter had he not had a startling epiphany in his early twenties, circa 1900. He was studying painting under artist Franz von Stuck in Germany. Klee excelled at drawing but was deeply frustrated and dissatisfied by his lack of aptitude as a painter. He felt unable to express himself, to move beyond mere reproduction. One day, he was browsing through his old belongings in the attic when he chanced upon paintings he had made as a child. There in front of him was what he was desperately trying to achieve—immediacy, vibrancy, and color.

Klee later wrote:

Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in there having it! The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us; and they must be preserved free of corruption from an early age.

It changed his approach to painting and so began the career of one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists.
‘Steps’ (1929).
Everyone’s seen a Klee painting—they’re forever appearing on greeting cards or postcards or posters. His work is ubiquitous because he kept developing and changing as an artist while maintaining a very personal vision. When collected together in a gallery, the variety and power of each of his paintings demands close attention “like reading a book or a musical score.”
‘Park near Lu’ (1938).
During his life, Klee wrote down his theories and ideas about art in various notebooks.  In particular two volumes of lectures he gave at the Bauhaus gymnasiums during the 1920s—The Thinking Eye and The Nature of Nature—are “considered so important for understanding Modern Art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting had for the Renaissance.”
Pages from the ‘The Thinking Eye.’
If that wasn’t grand enough of blurb for a book jacket, the renowned art critic, anarchist and thinker Herbert Read (1893-1968) declared Klee’s notebooks as:

...the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist – it constitutes the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton’s in the realm of physics.

The reason these notebooks are so valuable is perhaps best described by Klee himself who claimed when he came to be a teacher he had “to account explicitly for what I had been used to doing unconsciously.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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