Sunday, August 31, 2014


I have so much on my mind, and there is so much going on, that I can hardly organize it into coherent thought, let alone into a credible, unified blog post. 

GAZA: This is what Religion does to people. If you take either side in the conflict, you are part of the problem. If you look at the photographs and see “demons” in the clouds of destruction, you are part of the problem. Demons didn’t do this: humans did. Both Israel and Hamas are so far in the wrong that they need God himself to come down out of the skies and say, “You two BRATS had better knock it off right now, or I am gonna give you both a spanking that you will NEVER forget.” — Although, would they heed it, if it happened? They might crawl off into their separate corners to lick their wounds, but they would still be harboring hatred for one another. I say again, This is what Religion does to people: it creates whole populations who can never forgive, never forget, and worse — never move on.

FERGUSON: This is what Capitalism does to people. Fergusen is chilling enough if you believe that it’s an isolated incident, but I don’t believe for one nanosecond that it will be an isolated incident. Police brutality is up alarmingly nationwide. Armed military “exercises” are occurring, with little publicity, all over the nation. Local police departments are being issued with Military weapons and assault machines. The one percent have actively begun arming themselves against us. Instead of doing right by the people who work for them, instead of doing right by the nation, they are digging in their heels. At the same time I’m terrified of what will happen if it does come down to armed revolution, because think about it: the only people with guns in this country are the crazy right-wing loony-tooners, the working Republicans who have been enabling the very wealthy to get away with this crap all along. If they take up their arms it will get very bloody, and the rest of us won’t stand a chance.

Meanwhile, production of the Tarot deck is in progress, and I’m more concerned than ever about taking this gamble in our fractured, fragmented Culture. You try to do good work that will make people happy, then you throw it into the cultural well and wait to hear a splash that never comes. That’s been my experience so far, at least. With the mainstream book and music publishers now so far out of the loop and so vary far out of sync with the culture — the merger of Penguin and Random House is nothing less than an apocalyptic event in the literary world, and I’m alarmed that no one has even seemed to bat an eye over it — and more and more and more artists, musicians and writers taking things back into their own hands, the public’s attention is divided in about a million different directions… and this is a problem that goes way, way deeper than just one artist, or a bunch of them, trying to make a living off of what they do well. Our attention is so divided, we are so distracted, that we cannot effectively present ourselves as a unified body of people, as a unified culture… and this is exactly what the one percenters want, it’s something that they can take advantage of to keep us in line, to allow them to hang onto their vast wealth and amass all the more.

And with all this happening, this deepening global war of The Few vs. The Many… all I really want to think about is the new season of Doctor Who. It’s my little cultural hole that I can crawl into to hide out from the rest of the world, an oasis in a world of war. The Doctor is the last true old-style hero that we have left, an Individual who stands for the values of Intelligence, compassion and respect. 

In this truly cataclysmic world, you try to find meaning where you can… and end up just as distracted as everyone else.

— Freder.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Are What You Make

Although for much of my life I could not have put it into so many words, or for that matter could not have understood the rationale behind the feeling, I have always believed that that The Creative Life — whatever that means — comes attached with a kind of moral responsibility. So-called “creators” of irresponsible, vacuous, or degrading “art” have always outraged me all out of proportion to the value (or lack of value) in their work; to the point where I come off looking kind of kooky simply because all I could do was explain why I found a book or a film or a piece of art objectionable — not why I was so outraged by its very existence. 

Prime examples would be people George Romero, or Eli Roth, or the people behind the Saw movies. I never wasted even a minute of my life watching their movies, and still I was infuriated by their very existence,

Now I think that I understand. I’m learning, you see, that the world is made of thoughts and emotions, as much as atoms and molecules — maybe more so, because it is thought and emotion that shape the atoms and molecules.

Everything that we bring into the world, no matter how small, has consequences upon the world, and the culture that we live inside. This means nothing less than that, as a creative person, you are responsible for what you bring into the world. 

Movies are not just “movies.” Movies are real in the sense that they have an impact on the people who watch them and on the culture as a whole. Like everything else in the world, movies and books and all kinds of art give off vibrations that impact everything around them. Didn’t you feel kind of dirty while you were watching Stardust Memories or Batman Returns? Take that to the next level: a vile, inhuman and outright anti-human movie like Hostel reaches out into our culture whether we want it to or not. By the mere fact of its existence, by the energies that went into its making, it pollutes our culture and the world and turns us all down a darker path whether we are directly impacted by it or not. 

This is why I have always said and felt (not always knowing why, though usually being scoffed at by others for believing it) that someone like George Romero has an awful lot to answer for. In his case, it’s not only his own films that he is answerable for (although they are bad enough), but also the scores of imitators more or less consciously ripping him off with their legions of movies about ghouls (and let’s start using the right word for these creatures, please: a zombie is something entirely different. What Romero made movies about, in his own words, are ghouls) splashing the screen not just in blood and gore but with feelings and vibrations of supreme ugliness.

No culture can endure, for long, the ugliness that these kinds of movies bring into the world. 

It’s not “just a movie.” When you watch a movie like that, your thoughts and emotions are being directly affected, directly infected. Your entire being is being abused, and altered by that abuse.

I’m not saying that artists should only do “nice” work. But when depicting the dark side of our nature, you need to be responsible about it. In my novel See Them Dance I created a whole host of monstrous creatures and let them, for a couple of chapters, run riot. But I never created a monster without creating a competing force for nobility capable of putting them down. 

This is the purpose of Evil in art: to show that we have the capacity to rise above it. The “art” that I’m speaking of creates Evil for it’s own end: as a goal in itself.

What I am learning now is that every thought that we have — Every. Single. Thought. — comes with consequences attached, affects our reality in either beneficial or harmful ways. 

People have reacted to me with scorn when I try to point this out. I actually had one person say to me, emphasis his, “It’s only entertainment!” — As if the whole concept of someone finding entertainment or pleasure in images of other people being tortured to death was not appalling all by itself. 

Free speech doesn’t allow you to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, and it doesn’t allow to you to be irresponsible. We accept this as a fact in our physical lives — why can’t we accept it in our emotional lives, in our art? The act of making these movies brings negative power into the world, and the people who watch them as entertainment are allowing themselves to become magnifiers of that power. We are seeing the impact of it in our culture.

You are responsible for what you bring into the world: and for what you consume. Just as poison kills the body, the art of poison will kill the mind and soul. 

Maybe this is why The Addams Family have always been my favorite people: they are creepy, they are kooky, they are altogether ooky — but they bring love and family devotion into the world, not hatred and hostility and death. In the words of the transvestite “mother” in the rock musical Hair: “Be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do — just so long as you don’t hurt anybody.”

Depravity hurts, even when it’s “just” in a movie. Depictions of Depravity are the same thing as Depravity itself. It’s not a victimless crime. The whole culture is damaged. And while we can’t license or govern these people out of existence, we can do one positive thing to begin cleansing our culture right now: we can stop giving them our money, our time, our attention, and our bodies as amplifiers of the degeneracy that they are pumping into world. 

— Freder.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mellissae Lucia, Artist, Adventurer, Creator of the Oracle of Initiation, and all-around nice person, recently talked with me about the Kickstarter process for her series on fundraising campaigns. The result is here! While you're there, check out her visionary Oracle of Initiation.

-- Freder.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Magical Thinking

I am one of those confused persons who doesn’t know what he believes, but knows what he doesn’t believe. As an example, I don’t believe in Fairy Stories about a bearded old man who sits up in the clouds, and who takes a personal interest in the affairs of each and every one of us, whilst he is being serenaded by angels. 

On the other hand, there are things not to be believed in, but known. And I know as surely as if it was established scientific fact that there is more to the world, more to the known universe, more to life than meets the eye: and much more than we the living can ever hope to comprehend. This is exactly why the minds of man come up with mythologies, to explain the unexplainable. And while I’m interested in mythology as a subject, I can’t be brought to believing in the gods of the established modern religions any more than I believe in Thor, Zeus or Cthulhu.

Nestled in the realm of the unexplainable is the mystery of our own minds, and the still-unscientifically-defined power that our minds wield in so many different aspects of our lives. 

My mental landscape was, for a year and a half or thereabouts, in the best condition that it ever had been, but by the early part of this year it had begun to teeter. Then came the devastating (not too strong a word) blow that I took at the personally disastrous Maine Comics Arts Festival in early Spring, surrounded on both sides by a flood of death, death and more death in the family, and the increasingly emotionally taxing business of life; by last week, in the wake of my Pandy Bear’s death, I had fallen so low that… I won’t say that I hit rock bottom, but you don’t want to get any lower than where I was. 

While doing research for the new tarot book I discovered a fascinating periodical called New Dawn, and while I don’t believe everything I read there, I do find almost every theory that it discusses to be fascinating on its own terms, real or not. (The writing, by the way, is largely not in the category breathless and unthinking belief, but simply of asking questions and examining potentials). So many possibilities, and sometimes imagining the mere possibility of the possible in this wild uncharted place we call life is an enlightening end in itself… just reading about theory of mind is likely to change your way of thinking, whether you believe it or not.

And a few days ago, the imaginative thought occurred to me that I was under active psychic attack: which attack was having excruciating physical consequences in addition to the damage it was doing to my thinking and my moods. It would be too dramatic for me to believe that I was being attacked by an outside force, by an entity or, in the language of religion, a demon with a mind and will of its own. But it’s eminently believable that the attack was coming from a part of my own psyche.

I dreamed last night, vividly, and with continuity across disturbed periods of sleep, that I was being mentally attacked by a crazed performance artist who had the power to alter every aspect of the world. This person was neither male nor female, but took on, at times, the aspects of both. The dream began with my mother and other close friends coming under the influence of this exotic and powerful artist. There was to be an exhibition of her work: and while attending this so-called exhibition (which involved no displays of paintings or things like that), I suddenly realized that every person in attendance, including myself, was a part of the exhibition, and that everything I did was orchestrated according to her plan, even when I defiantly refused to co-operate. I walked out of the event and shucked off the costume I had forced to wear (a leather jacket, in part); but the artist came after me, and soon the entire world began to change around me, at his whim: the harder that I tried to escape his “art,” the more elaborate it became and the more it entrapped me: as an example, the field I had come into turned into a shopping mall that had no escape: it literally folded and unfolded around me as I sought for the exit. In the end, the only escape I had was to wake up.

So — since I’ve already stated that I don’t believe in demons, and since I have always believed that all of the characters and settings that appear in a person’s dreams are aspects of their own psyche, the message that I was creating my own prison, my own entrapments seems more or less obvious.

The dream came after a roughly thirty-six hour period in which I could feel myself letting go, in which I metaphorically and literally began to start taking some deep breaths, in which the excruciating physical pain that I had been experiencing for nearly a week began finally to abate. I stopped taking all the things that I had been taking, unsuccessfully, to mask the pain and allow me to walk without wanting to scream or cry. I began programming my mind with positive statements. Today I am walking normally without pain, and taking no medicines of any kind. 

I don’t believe it’s a cure-all and I do believe that it’s something that has to be consciously maintained. A cycle of depression and self-loathing seems to feed itself very well, thank you very much, but feelings and thoughts of a positive nature need to be constantly reinforced by exercises from without. When I stopped doing that — that’s when I started to teeter. And so I made myself vulnerable to Events. 

And the Events have been horrible, I must say. This really has been a god-awful year. 

It’s time I started fighting back.

To be fair, I think I come by it honestly: the psychical inheritance I get from my father’s side of the family is one of religious mania, depression, alcoholism, tragedy, austerity and possibly Asperger’s. It is almost purely Swedish and Polish, and all you have to do is watch a single Ingmar Bergman movie to know that Swedes are the product of long, dark winters. Thank Agon that I’m balanced out, at least a little bit, by mother’s creative spirit and her much more colorful and positive family history, which is included, but not limited to, Germanic, Italian, Scots, and British roots. Whereas on my father’s side I am evenly divided into two shades of black, on my mother’s I am very much a brightly colored mongrel. 

I have a boatload of tools to aid the mind in its search for the positive, including but not limited to books, mental exercises, a couple of indoor fountains, and some lovely iPad apps that are genuinely calming in their effect. I haven’t used them in some considerable while. Time I fired up the engines once again and set my mind on a different course.

— Freder.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Where Do i Go?

I guess it's my curse that I can't stop thinking about the future. Worry about what should happen to my kitties if anything should happen to me has been bleeding me since the day Pandy Bear died. And then, this evening, I am haunted by the horrors of having to go back on the job interview circuit.

I have never learned how to answer the question: "Do you want this job?" -- or its incestuous cousin, "WHY do you want this job?"

When the fact is, and I do not consider myself unlike anyone else in this, I don't. The fact is, our capitalist society insists that I must be a whore and suck cocks to keep a roof over my head.

I don't even understand why employers ask this question. Do they honestly believe that anyone would find their life's fulfillment doing work that would bore a halfwit, in the service of a bunch of suited corporate bastards?

The honest answer is, "I have bills to pay and I need to keep a roof over the heads of me and my kitties."

 -- But that's not what they want to hear.

They want to hear that you aspire to nothing in life other than slapping corporate logos onto golf balls.

The real fact of life, when you get into that territory, is that I am so over-qualified for those positions that they should be getting down on their knees and BEGGING me to work for them

Hah -- like that would ever happen in anyone's lifetime.

The truth is they they want you to feel INFERIOR, they want you to feel UNWORTHY, because that's how they DOMINATE you.

And I just don't think I can do this anymore. I'm 56 years old and I have reached a stage in my life where I won't be dominated by the kind of human roaches who work in middle management. It's why I did what I did to get the fuck out of Colby College and out from under the heel of the insufferable Dominatrix who called herself my "boss."

This life is simply not working out for me. The things that I think I do well -- nobody wants those things, this has been made very clear to me now. I can't stop thinking about the future, and wondering what in fuck's name I'm going to do to keep a roof over my head.

A year and a half ago, when I was in therapy, the woman who ran those sessions, whom I adored from afar, said to me, essentially quoting Joseph Campbell, that I should follow my bliss.

And I didn't say this to her, because I knew it would fall on deaf ears -- "Yes, but...

"Yes, but, if i do that, and if I FAIL, then I will be in a worse position than I was before. I will be lost. I will be dead soon."

She wouldn't have had an answer for that. Psychologists deal in pipe dreams.

-- Freder

Monday, August 4, 2014

Forward into the Past

Capote and Hollywoodland, but especially Capote, have almost renewed my faith that it’s still possible to make  good, serious, unsensational movies for grown-ups in a town that has whole-heartedly taken up the tentpole, so to speak, of the blockbuster. We used to call it the “summer blockbuster” because, in the manner of Star Wars and Jaws, the two single movies that changed Hollywood forever, it was thought these pictures would only perform in the summer when young people are out of school. In fact, they perform well year-round, as Lord of the Rings proved, if it hadn’t been proved already.

I like these big “tentpole” movies and always felt growing up that fantasy and SF were under-utilized genres by Hollywood. There was a time pre-Star Wars and pre-computer when they were simply too expensive to make, and fantasy on the order of The Wizard of Oz was essentially a dead genre. This was the heyday of the little movie and the great auteur directors, and without it people like Woody Allen would never have become the great cinematic heroes that they became. Here’s the thing about Woody Allen: he’s become such a master craftsman that even when he’s working on a completely misguided and wrong-headed piece of tripe like Anything Else (his attempt to pander to the youth audience by re-making Annie Hall in teen drag), he’s still capable of making a movie with a basic level of quality that makes it hard to ignore.

In those days Woody was turning out a classic every year, Lucas released something called American Grafitti (still his best movie, by a long shot, despite a more or less damaging re-cut that he performed on it a few years back), people like Kubrick and Frankenheimer and Altman and Ingmar Bergman and the great, I think under-rated George Roy Hill were still active. Peter Bogdanovitch made a little picture called Paper Moon that was dead-on perfect, easily belonging on any reasonable person’s top-ten list. Even Marty Scorsese took time off from his gangsters and made Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, one of the very few of his movies that I can watch (the other being the dazzling Hugo).

It was a great, great time to be a movie fan, even if you wanted the occasional fantasy now and then.

Now it’s just the opposite, the screen is positively stinking with big budget, serious-minded fantasy pictures, comic-book pictures, and don’t get me wrong, some of them are great. The first Iron Man movie is, I think, the best comic adaptation ever barring Superman I and II, the first Captain America and Thor are right up there, John Carter was a spectacular (and again under-rated) adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs that took something like fifty years to get to the screen. 

But why do we live in a world where everything, absolutely everything has to be either / or? Even the very few “little dramas” that are getting made have some kind of a High Concept behind them, a showy gimmick to draw in the rubes, as if all movies are now sideshow attractions, and the ones I’m going to talk about now are no exception. 

Still, Hollywoodland and Capote somehow made me feel like I was in the ‘seventies again… and for me, that’s a good thing. 

Just about the only thing I didn’t like about Hollywoodland was the bleached dry, parchment paper color scheme that saturates the picture. I know that the filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of the past — but I lived through part of that time period, and I know what it looked like, and it didn’t look like raked sand. 

Which forces me to admit this: although I normally can’t stomach his presence, Ben Afflek actually manages to evoke the manners and presence of George Reeves, the lightweight actor who, much to his own frustration, found success as Superman on television in the late 1950s. He seems to have worked hard to get it right. Even under a fake nose, he looks nothing at all like Reeves, and yet somehow Reeves gets through.

The story of course concerns itself with the circumstances of Reeves’s death by gunshot in the bedroom of his home, during a small party. Was it a lover’s-quarrel accident, a murder or a suicide? — the facts could support any of these; we are shown all three possibilities and allowed to draw our own conclusions (although the picture does draw conclusions of its own). Adrien Brody — who as far as I know has never given a bad performance, even in Peter Jackson’s stink-bomb remake of King Kong, here plays a fictional private detective investigating the case more or less on his own hook, more or less finding his clients as he goes. Diane Lane, always worth watching, plays the wife of a studio enforcer who “kept” Reeves for many years as he tried to find a path into Hollywood, while Bob Hoskins is dirty-down-damn brilliant (and almost unrecognizable) as her not-at-all jealous husband, whose whole approach is “if you make my wife happy, you’re OK, but if you make her cry I’m gonna have you killed.”

The details of Reeves’s later life unfold slowly in flashback form as Brody investigates the case. And the truth is, there’s nothing new or daring about any of this… it’s just a very well-made, well-played little investigative journalist movie, with real sadness at its heart, despite the crazy-goofy-but-true High Concept that it’s hung upon. 

Capote, on the other hand, is on a whole other level of quality. Yes, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman really does seem to channel Truman at times, and gives an oscar-worthy performance if there ever was one, but the entire cast is bang-on perfect here, especially including Chris Cooper, Clifton Collins as Perry, and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. 

What we see here is Capote’s making and unmaking, both at the same time. He is revealed as a man with a genuine double nature: almost supernaturally caring and empathetic on the one hand (and it’s genuine: not something put on for show, but a real sympathetic connection with and interest in the people he meets from all walks of life) and on the other hand a rapacious snake-in-the-grass who will stop at nothing, including manipulating the events of a murder trial, to get what he wants: and who then who hates himself for having gotten it. 

The Truman Capote of his later life, the man who never finished another book, and who behaved the way he did at parties and on talk shows, who died relatively young of alcohol and drug abuse: the birthing of that man is presented in detail here, and I felt that I understood him for the first time. 

With its lovely, stark camera work and the aloof manner in which it approaches the story, Capote could almost have been directed by Woody Allen in his Interiors phase. The film is treated not as a biopic but as a drama (almost a thriller) with another drama at its heart. I found it haunting, deep and immersive; only the gimmick, the real-life High Concept behind it, differentiates it from the great films of the ‘Seventies. 

— Freder
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