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Tibetan Buddhist robots and Pauline Anna Strom’s space music star in ‘Ether Antenna,’ a DM premiere


 
Pauline Anna Strom is a San Francisco composer. Blind since infancy, Strom says she felt like “a loner and a heretic” growing up Catholic in the South. During the Seventies, she moved to San Francisco, where she heard Tangerine Dream, Eno and company on FM radio and was inspired to experiment with synthesizers and a TASCAM four-track. (DM is reliably informed that, despite all the other changes to the city, she still resides in SF with her long-lived iguana, Little Solstice.)

Strom’s music is not for the disco. At once soothing and disorienting, it’s her means of sailing in the timestream, conjuring up the frozen past and the (apparently) populous future. Her first release, 1982’s Trans-Millenia [sic] Consort, took its name from Strom’s time-traveling alter ego, according to the press materials for the new retrospective of her recording career (such is its futurity, it comes out tomorrow):

She believed that humanity was confined by its inability to access the people of the future, therefore suffering in a kind of group solipsism. Designing a world of music that rooted itself in all times but the present, Strom’s alter ego, the Trans-Millenia Consort, became a musical activist for triggering this state of heightened consciousness.

 

Pauline Anna Strom (photographer unknown, used with permission of Archie Patterson’s Eurock Archives)
 
Strom’s first LP has inspired a new film that also mixes the familiar unsettling and the unsettling familiar: Ether Antenna, set in Nepal. There are no human actors, only robots portraying incidents from the lives of Avalokiteśvara and Shakyamuni Buddha. A five-minute excerpt from Ether Antenna, set to music by Pauline Anna Strom, appears at the bottom of this post, and the director, Michael Candy, kindly agreed to answer a few questions by email.

It strikes me that the prayer wheel that appears at the beginning and end of Ether Antenna is a kind of robot, and that Tibetan prayer flags are automata, too. Why do we find machines in a 1,200-year-old religious tradition?

The idea of automata originates in the mythologies of many cultures around the world. It’s almost an obvious outcome of a technology-enabled civilization; as digital automation continues to penetrate our daily life, it’s easy to overlook the analogue counterparts and machines that have made modern living possible.

A few years prior to my residency, I traveled to Ladakh and spent a few weeks exploring the Indian Himalayas. One of the most striking things as a (foreign) engineer was to find ancient mechanical infrastructure still functioning and valid in society. It’s like, none of those complex folding walls, trap doors or snake pits Hollywood seems so fond of would ever function without a good amount of oil and snake food. But here, in this ancient mountain range, you can find and touch a several-hundred-year-old spinning drum embossed with text and with the flick of a finger have it praying for you; some even use water, wind or solar to complete their eternal journey clockwise.

Nowadays you can’t catch a taxi in Kathmandu without a plastic solar powered prayer wheel whirling away on the dash. For me, these are simple machines doing man’s spiritual bidding—to pray; ether machines keeping you connected to the cloud, from a time when people actually knew where the cloud was.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.09.2017
08:11 am
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The unhappiest place on Earth: Grisly images from Thailand’s ‘Hell Garden’
10.24.2016
09:30 am
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Statues in the ‘Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden’ in Thailand. Photo by Darmon Richter.
 
Located about 60 miles outside of Bangkok there is a massive “garden” full of statues engaged in grisly situations that would make Hieronymus Bosch blush. The scenes are meant to depict the consequences of straying from the path of Buddhism—such as abusing alcohol or drugs and having loose morals. The bottom line is that at the end of your life (as a Buddhist) if your “bad deeds” outnumber your “good deeds” you’re fucking screwed. And in the case of some of the depictions in the Wang Saen Suk “Hell Garden” getting “screwed” could be quite literally what happens to you in the afterlife. Yikes.

In Buddhism “Hell” goes by the name “Naraka” however it’s not a place where poorly behaved Buddhists end up spending eternity cavorting with the devil, but a place where the deceased must reside until all of their illicit actions (or “negative karma”) has been exhausted. In some cases inhabitants of Naraka must swap out their human bodies for those of animals that have been selected depending on the nature of your crime or bad behavior. So if you’re a criminal that is prone to starting bar fights, then you’ll turn into a duck. The offence of “corruption” will earn you the honor of sporting a rabid pig’s head instead of your own human one. But these Incredible Mr. Limpet sounding punishments pale in comparison to the true horrors that are depicted within the confines of Wang Saen Suk and its stoic misanthropes.

The Buddhist vision of Hell includes over a hundred different “levels” that are both “hot” and “cold.” And those unfortunate enough to find themselves within one or the other are tortured in specific fashions such as being impaled, frozen, burnt by scalding liquids or roasted in ovens. Throughout the Wang Saen Suk these types of gruesome scenarios are on display along with explanations as to why the sinner must pay the specified price for their misdeeds. Despite its appropriate name, the words “Hell Garden” barely seem scratch to the surface when it comes to graphic scenes scattered through the garden of genital mutilation, disembowelment and worse.

My heart is about as black as they come, but the photos you are about to see even pushed yours truly a bit over the edge. That said nearly every image in this post is positively NSFW (and then some).
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.24.2016
09:30 am
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Buddha hairstyle knit cap
09.06.2016
10:44 am
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So I discovered these Buddha knitted caps through the site Everlasting Blort. I clicked on their “via” link and was led to a Japanese website that sells them. Google translate wasn’t much help, to be honest. From what I understand they come in several different colors: grey, red, navy and ivory.

There’s really not much else I can tell you about these wooly caps. I *think* you order them here. It looks like they won’t be available to ship until November or December. (Don’t quote me on that.)


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.06.2016
10:44 am
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Let Leonard Cohen give you a fascinating primer on Tibetan Buddhism
01.14.2014
09:27 am
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Cohen
Cohen in Buddhist regalia
 
Celebrities and artists discussing religion is always a tricky business. Fame tends to be a of a very worldly nature and often threatens to cheapen the subject, or distract from the gravity of spiritual matters. This can go doubly awry when westerners project their exotic fantasies on Asian religions—the fantastic book, Karma Cola, by Gita Mehta is an insightful look at the phenomenon of American and European “pilgrims” traveling to India, hoping to find enlightenment. (Since people are people, anywhere you go, many of those pilgrims were defrauded by fake yogis—India’s snake oil salesman and televangelist swindler equivalent.)

However, Leonard Cohen’s narration of the 1994 documentary pair, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life and The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation, is both understated and dignified (with the first film featuring The Dalai Lama himself). Cohen, who was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk in 1996, is staid in his narration of Tibetan Buddhist theory and practice, but the films are neither dry nor academic—a scene with a man in a hospice dealing with his own mortality is particularly affecting. I have to say, I initially just checked this out looking for something on Cohen’s Buddhism; what I found was an extremely respectful and compelling documentary, devoid of voyeurism, and mindful of the humanity of its subjects.

The series in its entirety is divided into five segments below, four being about 20 minutes long, with a two-minute clip in the middle.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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01.14.2014
09:27 am
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The ancient Buddhist roots of industrial music
05.17.2011
05:37 pm
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Moscow-based artist and musician Alexei Tegin shifted from his experiments in electronic and industrial sounds toward the traditional ritual music of ancient Tibet. Tegin began exploring the roots of Tibetan Buddhism and the ceremonial practices of the pre-Buddhist philosophy of Bon and gathered like-minded artists to form his group Phurpa (named after a Tibetan ritual dagger.)

Employing various instruments, including drums, cymbals, gyaling oboes, dunchen and wandu horns, Phurpa is keeping an ancient musical tradition alive and introducing it to the West.

Tegin’s evolution from industrial music to ancient drone seems a perfect transition. The soundwaves of the human voice when amplified in the cavities of the throat, mouth and larynx is an awesome instrument, a virtual chest shuddering roar. The grinding of the spheres.

Overtone singing and incantation converge in a hypnotic, powerful resonant roar in this Bon mantra.
 

 
More Phurpa after the jump…

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Posted by Marc Campbell
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05.17.2011
05:37 pm
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John Burdett’s Bangkok Trilogy
08.01.2009
03:15 pm
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Now that there’s no such thing as journalism any more, I get the feeling that fiction is increasingly taking on a greater importance as one of the few places where people can get an un-corporate-filtered view of what’s actually going on in the world. It’s fiction that can say the things that non-fiction can’t, and which also isn’t burdened by things like “objectivity” or non-involved narration. Increasingly, I find myself turning to modern fiction?

Posted by Jason Louv
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08.01.2009
03:15 pm
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