Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Apr 28 2014

Eva Nox

Published by under Personal

evaA long time ago, I had an account with Livejournal.  That’s where most of the content in the Commonplace section originates from.

One of my friends on LJ was a woman, a few years younger than myself, who went by the name Evalux. I have zero recollection of why she friended me, though looking back, I see we had a few shared interests: Dreams, Writing, Hello Kitty, Dead Can Dance, Tattoos.   No mutual friends between us, so, again, I’m at a loss.

We weren’t necessarily close, though I do recall we had at least a few interesting conversations – dreams, spirituality, the occult.

She worked in the adult film industry.

I never saw any of her films. I never asked about it. It wasn’t an area of interest, in terms of our acquaintance, other than I found some of her descriptions of the behind the scenes aspects of the industry to be fascinating.  I remember one or two industry shutdowns, due to HIV scares, and her writing about them.

In September, 2005, she’d gotten a day job – working in an office.  She hated it.

I knew she wanted to write.

That post was the last thing I saw her write.  Nothing afterwards.  Again, we weren’t super close, but I did like her as a person.  People fell off of LJ all the time, so I thought nothing of her disappearance.

Yesterday, out of the blue, “Eva Lux” popped into my head. I decided to Google her, to see what she was up to, these days.

And, that’s when I found out that Leticia Lynn Blake (“Eva Lux”) had died of a heroin overdose a few days after that post.

Leticia had always seemed to me someone who had demons. There were spells of darkness, as I recall. Yet, I was hopeful for her with the day job (even though it seemed like a difficult re-entry).

She was 32 when she died.  I was 35 at the time.

And I just found out yesterday.

I’ve been online in some form or another since 1992. I have made a tremendous number of friends online.  Some I am still in contact with, others have gone on with their lives (or, in Leticia’s and a few others’ cases, their deaths). The Internet giveth, and the Internet taketh away.

I think we sometimes forget that there are actual people behind the screen names and social media profiles. Real people with real lives, and real problems.

The flipside to this, of course, is that if I’d happened upon Eva Lux, from one of her films, I probably would not have considered her to have the rich and complex inner life that I knew she had.  This is not necessarily a statement on pornography, but perhaps on what our preconceptions about someone who makes or stars in pornography are.

“Why would someone do that,” we ask ourselves.

People have their reasons, and it’s not always money or drugs.

I have no interest in holding Leticia up as a poster child for the “Dangers of Porn.”  I don’t know what drove her to heroin, and I don’t particularly care.

I do know, that with her, there were hints of greatness that I’d hoped would one day outshine the reputation that comes with her chosen profession.

Alas, that was not to be.

Godspeed, Leticia.

I hope you have the peace you sought.

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Apr 08 2014

An Old Story…but absolutely true.

Published by under Personal

It was a stark and dormy night.

Basically, due to circumstances I won’t even begin to go into here, my junior year of college started with me homeless. My housing had fallen through to abovementioned complications, and I needed a place to live.

I went to school in rural Pennsylvania. I’m not going to tell you exactly where, as I’m sure I’m opening myself up to all sorts of lawsuits by even mentioning names. In any event, the bit you do need to know is that this particular part of Pennsylvania has the second highest incest rate in the United States. No shit. If you’ve ever wondered what the Deep Ones looked like in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, I have a pretty good idea.

I got the last available apartment in town. It was in a building that I later found out that my father had dubbed “The Tenement” (he had also gone to school in this town). There were five windows missing when I moved in. This was my first apartment. I will never forget it. I rented the apartment from Beverly B____. When I told people who I was renting from, I’d get the same reaction each time. People would shake their heads and smile at me.

Local legend has it that Bev’s mother never paid to have her delivered, either. I guess at that point, you can’t exactly “reposess” an infant and put it back. But I digress.

As much as I loved Kathy Bates in the movie version of Stephen King’s Misery, I have no choice but to believe that the character was based on Bev. Bev would disappear for days on end. My roomie and I could only figure she’d “gone to her laughing place”. Incidentally, Bev’s place smelled like a year’s worth of used pantyhose. That’s the only way I can begin to describe it. She was a large, greasy woman, missing a few fundamental chromosomes.

The day that I moved in, there was no electricity in my apartment. There was also no running water in the kitchen, and no shower. After 3 days of knocking on Bev’s door (her place was joined to the apartment building), I still was unable to find her to get her to throw the main breaker switch in the locked basement. I was coming back from class on the third day, and to my surprise the apartment building was surrounded by police cars, and several cops were pounding on Bev’s door. I grabbed the nearest undercover-narcotics-officer-along-for-the-bust and asked him what was going on. “Oh, Bev’s going in for tax evasion again.” I informed him that they were not taking her anywhere until she turned on the electricity in my apartment. He asked me with a rather bewildered look on his face if I was renting from her, and how long I’d been without power. I told him, and he just laughed. Fortunately, they made her turn on the power before they hauled her in.

Not long thereafter, Bev’s maintenance crew descended on the apartment building to begin repairs. Now around this time, I had also watched John Waters’ Pink Flamingos for the first time, and was amazed at the similarities between the people in that film, and the people I was dealing with in regards to the apartment. The maintenance crew consisted of a woman my roomie and I nicknamed ALF. For Alien Life Form. ALF had a chin that stuck out 8 inches (I’m not exaggerating) from the front of her face. ALF also had a daughter named Porky. Now lest you think we were being mean, that’s what ALF called her. I have no idea what her real name was. The third member of the crew was someone we dubbed “Crackers the Dog Boy”. All he did was woof. I never heard a single word come out of his mouth.

The repairs on the apartment were promptly ignored by the crew in favor of re-painting the trim at the bottom of the walls. Never mind that we had no shower. Never mind, that it was October, and we were still missing 5 windows. Never mind, that we had no running water in the kitchen, and had to do our dishes in the tub. Never mind, that the guy down the hall did not have a functioning toilet or shower, and had to use our bathroom. Goshdurnit, if that trim didn’t need painting! And more painting. And more painting. And even more painting.

I remember one day, Bev came knockin’ on our door, asking me if we’d heard any noises the night before. We hadn’t. According to her, Crackers The Dog Boy had been “prowling up on the roof trying to see her nekkid, and she had just gotten out of the bath, and slathered herself up with Vicks Vap-O-Rub!”

Even more disturbing, was that ALF kept trying to set me up with Porky. “Porky likes you. She thinks you’re cute.” *shudder*. But the kicker, was the day that Porky didn’t show up. “Betcher wonderin’ where Porky is!” ALF asked me. (“No, not really”, I wanted to reply). But before I could respond, came the words that haunt me to this day. “Porky don’t go outdoors no more. She’s afraid of rocks.”

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Mar 13 2014

tl;dr (New World Odor)

Published by under Personal,politics,psychology

It’s 2014, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our humanity, and the ability to see the (beautiful) complexity of each other’s souls.

I’m not entirely sure we ever had it, truthfully, but things seem to be hitting a fever pitch lately.

The short version is that interactions, discussions, debate, social discourse have all become about zero-sum games.

Zero-Sum Game:

A situation in which a gain by one person or side must be matched by a loss by another person or side. –The Free Dictionary

People and situations are being reduced to their most convenient (not even basic) components. We can’t even agree to disagree.

I’ve become fascinated by blind adherence to ideology, of late. Why are each of us so certain that we have the “right” answers, and everyone else is wrong? In a move that I’m sure will piss off at least a few people, I’m going to point my finger equally at the Right, the Left, Vegans, Feminists, Fundamentalists (of any religion), Integral Theorists, CSICOP, 9/11 Truthers, Tea Partiers, White Supremacists, Marxists, Fascists, Anti-Fascists, Libertarians, Objectivists, Holistic NewAge types, Anti-Vaccine people, and more.

Just because I haven’t included your particular paradigmatic belief system in this list does not make you automatically immune from what I am saying.

There is nothing sadder, in my opinion, than someone who not only claims to have all of the answers, but adamantly refuses to read or explore ideas beyond their limited worldview.

I don’t claim to have any answers, let alone “all” of the answers. I also read a lot on a variety of subjects.

The Truth!

The Truth!

Today, I got sucked into an argument with a 9/11 Truther.  I should know better.  I really should. There is nothing I can say or do that will convince him that I am anything other than one of the “sheeple.”  Because I’ve read a good chunk of the source material he’s referring to and remain unconvinced, he can only reply with

oh yeah cause it best to just eat doughnuts and scratch your dirty ass then know what your country is up to. The old “I don’t want to read or be informed of anything I have a latte chilling on the side board” argument. shallow waters evaporate quickly.

"You, for one, should welcome your new overlords!"

“You, for one, should welcome your new overlords!”

The main problem with this (besides the fact that I tend to avoid donuts) is that there’s an underlying assumption that if I just read this one thing, or just watch this one video, my mind will be blown wide open, I will see the light, I will finally realize that my entire life has been a lie.

What I find sad/entertaining/smh-inducing is that the minute someone challenges the merits of an argument, questions an assumption (or, hell, even asks a question, period), the average truther will respond with exactly this kind of rage-intensive ad hominem attack.

This tactic generally happens with fundamentalists of any ideology of belief system, by the way.

Not too long ago, I read Michael Barkun’s A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (now in new, revised form!).

Aside from the obvious – that Barkun is really a shill for the New World Order (NOT) – the book offered some fascinating insight into how this sort of fundamentalism coalesces.

(Apologies for the long quote)

“[Colin] Campbell argued that cults emerge out of a supportive social and ideological environment, which he called the cultic milieu. This cultural underground encompasses [James] Webb’s concept of rejected knowledge, but is broader in two ways. First, it includes ‘all deviant belief systems,’ not merely those that find their way to occultism, though the occult remains a major component of the cultic milieu. But that milieu includes not simply beliefs and ideas but also their related practices, ‘the collectivities, institutions, individuals and media of communication associated with these beliefs.’…

“The cultic milieu is by nature hostile to authority, both because it rejects the authority of such normative institutions as churches and universities, and because no single institution within the milieu has the authority to prescribe beliefs and practices for those within it. As diverse as the cultic milieu is, however, Campbell finds in it ‘unifying tendences.’ One such tendency is its opposition to ‘dominant cultural orthodoxies.’..The very oppositional situation of the cultic millieu makes it wary of all claims to authoritative judgment. Its suspiciousness makes it intrinsically receptive to all forms of revisionism, whether in history, religion, science, or politics.

If disdain for orthodoxy is one trait of the cultic milieu, another is its fluidity. Ideas migrate easily from one part of the milieu to another, their movement facilitated by both a general receptivity to the unorthodox and a communication system of publications, meetings, and (more recently) interlinked Web sites. According to Campbell, ‘the literature of particular groups and movements frequently devotes space to topics outside its own orbit, including reviews of one another’s literature and advertises one another’s meetings. As a direct consequence of this individuals who ‘enter’ the milieu at any one point frequently travel rapidly through a variety of movements and beliefs and by so doing constitute yet another unifying force within the milieu.'” (pp. 25-26)

Stigmatized Knowledge:

“The domain of stigmatized knowledge claims may be divided into five varieties:

  • Forgotten Knowledge: knowledge once allegedly known but lost through faulty memory, cataclysm, or some other interrupting factor (e.g. beliefs about ancient wisdom once possessed by inhabitants of Atlantis)
  • Superseded Knowledge: claims that once were authoritatively recognized as knowledge but lost that status because they came to be regarded as false or less valid than other claims (e.g., astrology and alchemy).
  • Ignored Knowledge: knowledge claims that persist in low-prestige social groups but are not taken seriously by others (e.g., folk medicine).
  • Rejected Knowledge: knowledge claims that are explicitly rejected as false from the outset (e.g., UFO abductions)
  • Suppressed knowledge: claims that are allegedly known to be valid by authoritative institutions but are suppressed because the institutions fear the consequences of public knowledge or have some evil or selfish motive for hiding the truth (e.g., the alien origins of UFOs and suppressed cancer cures).

“Stigmatized knowledge appears compelling to believers not only because it possesses the cachet of the suppressed and forbidden, but because of its allegedly empirical basis. Some stigmatized knowledge appears to rest on nonempirical or antiempirical foundations – for example, knowledge claimed to derive from spiritual entities channeled through human intermediaries. To a striking extent, however, stigmatized knowledge rests on asserted empirical foundations: those who make the claims explicitly or by implication challenge others to test their facts against evidence…Yet the version of empiricism that operates in the domain of stigmatized knowledge has its own peculiar characteristics.

“In the first place, stigmatization itself is taken to be evidence of truth – for why else would a belief be stigmatized if not to suppress the truth? Hence stigmatization, instead of making a truth claim appear problematic, is seen to give it credibility, by implying that some malign forces conspired to prevent its becoming known. A presumption of validity therefore attaches to stigmatized claims, which greatly facilitates the flow of such claims through the cultic milieu…

“At the same time that stigmatization is employed as a virtual guarantee of truth, the literature of stigmatized knowledge enthusiastically mimics mainstream scholarship. It does so by appropriating the apparatus of scholarship in the form of elaborate citations and bibliographies. The most common manifestation of pedantry is a fondness for reciprocal citation, in which authors obligingly cite one another. The result is that the same sources are repeated over and over, which produces a kind of pseudoconfirmation…the multiplication of sources may leave the impression of validation without actually putting any propositions to the test.” (pp.  27-29)

I’ve noticed this trend not just in the Truther movement, but in the other areas I’ve mentioned above, as well.

Look, I get how exciting it is to believe that you’ve magically solved the riddles, that you can see through the Matrix, and that you’re one of the Enlightened Ones.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Really.  And, more importantly, I’m honestly impressed with your desire to learn, and your (albeit limited) use of critical thinking. To quote the character Twist, from Spaced, “I really see what you were trying to do.”

But unless you turn that critical thinking onto your replacement paradigm, you’ve only traded one master for another, one dogma for another – The King is Dead, Long Live the King.

Perhaps?

Perhaps?

I’ve read a good chunk of 9/11 literature. I’ve seen just about every variation of Loose Change. I think there are some legitimate questions. But the answers provided to these questions lead me to further questions, which people seem to panic and get defensive (if not hostile) about when I ask them.

But if your ultimate goal is to “tip us towards the Light” (whatever that means), then you’ll have to be patient with me, and understand if I (and several million others) remain unconvinced by your arguments.

I’m waiting for proof.  Innuendo, guilt-by-association, and credibility-stretching connections between people and events aren’t enough.

You have yet to convince me. I’m sorry.

Finally, I would like to add that I am again, curious, if the insistence of fundamentalists that others join their cause is to give them a better sense of security in their beliefs. Safety in numbers.

So, in the meantime, I’m going to go back to “scratching my dirty ass” and drinking my latte.

You can keep the donuts.

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Feb 13 2014

paths

I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that -in for a penny, in for a pound- I’ll probably never stop searching for meaning, for answers, for gnosis, and for ways to find them.

When I was an undergrad, and active in theater, I wound up writing an extensive paper on Jean Genet, focusing on his plays: The MaidsDeathwatchThe BalconyThe Blacks, and The Screens.  At the time, most of the authors I was reading could be summed up as “any combination of gay, criminal, and/or an addict” (Burroughs, Genet, and Charriere were all in heavy rotation, as well as others I’ve since forgotten about). I haven’t read Genet since the late 80s, but have recently reacquired a good chunk of his work. I’ll probably revisit him at some point in the future (currently reading Melmoth the Wanderer by Maturin, and loving it). My final paper on Genet for my second semester of History of the Theater was probably about 15-20 pages about Genet’s idea of “Theater as Ritual” which is an idea that resurfaced for me towards the end of my time in grad school.

Namely, in terms of Antero Alli’s ParaTheatrical Research.

I haven’t worked with Alli (though if I could go back in time, I would have considered this as a possible portion of my grad-school studies), but I’ve gotten to know him a little bit via Facebook. Interesting fellow. You really should check him and his work out.

In any event, I’m not writing about Alli, or Genet here, ultimately, but rather the quest – the need to touch that-which-cannot-be-named, to understand. One of my favorite quotes from Lon Milo DuQuette in The Magick of Thelema (1993) sums it up for me:

“The Magician does not necessarily want the burden of existence lifted from his shoulders; he wants to understand why he is carrying it and where.”

In fact, I used that quote as the opening salvo of my personal statement in grad school.

For a while, as I’ve written throughout this site, I was very interested in Crowley, the O.T.O., Thelema, variations on T.O.P.Y.,  and Chaos Magick.

These days, I find my interests to be much quieter.

One stream that I’ve become very interested is the traditional practices of my ancestors. My great-great maternal grandfather, Albert Hunter, was a Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-wow practitioner. I’ve also been quietly looking into Rune systems as well, and become interested in plant lore, and still have an immense love and respect for dreams and dreaming.

All of this, while working a 9-5 (okay, 8:30-4:30) job, and raising a two year old son.

In fact, part of the reason I’ve become interested in these traditions (and, honestly, I’d say they’re supplemental to my interests in “higher” magick, rather than replacing them), is to pass these traditions on to him. The day will come when he asks us “Mom, Dad, what do we believe?” and I want to have an answer for him.

A little while back, a group entered my awareness. I know none of the players involved, and the literature is prohibitively expensive. On the surface, however, their interests seem to be along the lines of where my own are right now. I have no idea how to make contact, or if I even want to make contact. My experiences with groups tend to inevitably end in disappointment.

That said, I hereby affirm my intention to at least read what literature of theirs that I can come by (and, let’s be honest, when your major texts are going for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, there are .PDFs to be had until other printings surface), and determine whether it continues to appear to be a good match.

One sign, I suppose, was that upon contemplating them last night, I was reminded of The Xenis Emputae Travelling Band. Last night, I loaded their discography onto my iPad, to listen to at work today. This morning, I found that Phil Legard (the main force behind XETB), posted a piece yesterday about a quasi-mystical horseman’s guild from the 19th century (fascinating reading, actually), specifically remarking about the use of a magickal “toad bone” to control the horses.

He provides references to a few works about the toad bone, including pieces by Andrew Chumbley.

Sometimes the universe winks back at you.

I should clarify that I would not call my current interests “Wicca” – I have no use for Gardner, nor his school.

Ultimately, I believe, we all need to find our own ways – our own paths, but they can and should be rooted in those of our ancestors.

If my son rejects all of this, I am totally fine with that.

If, however, he has an interest, then I want to be able to be the best resource and facilitator I can be.

But in the end, this is for me.

It is what I need to do.

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Nov 12 2013

Witch Way

A piece at The Blyssful Witch crossed my path this morning: The Whitewashing of Witchery in American Neo Paganism – The Taming of the Witch.

The author writes:

To understand witchcraft we must descent into the darkness of the deepest oceans of the mind. In our efforts to avoid facing the realities of human evil, we have tamed the witch and made her comic, dressing her in a  peaked cap and setting her on a broom for the amusement of children at Halloween.

Thus made silly, she can easily be exorcised from our mind, and we can convince our children-and ourselves-that ‘there is no such thing as a witch.’

But there is, or at least there was.

I am weary of the weak witch; that watery individual who lurks on the fringes of occult studies and Crafting, proclaiming to take the ‘higher’, moralistic road and for the sake of acceptability and temperance, decides to ignore the history and origin of Witchery in its true form.

The ‘menace’ in the Craft has been taken out and replaced by bland mediocrity; a mouth with no teeth, a religion and practice with no bite, no fervor, no sting and no power.

We are pale, insipid reproductions of the Wise Women and Cunning Men of our past.

How far we have fallen.

This arrived at precisely  the right time for me.  I’ve been undergoing a prolonged case of reluctance.

This reluctance was born out of a sense of betrayal that took over my life in 2008-2009.  This reluctance made me over-reliant on approval of others who either don’t understand, will never approve, or are apathetic. What I somehow forgot in the process is that this is fine.  I don’t need their understanding, I don’t need their approval, nor do I need them to even care. My avoidance of speaking and living my truth has become detrimental to myself, and is decidedly not the example I wish to set for my son. I can no longer afford to let “what will THEY say?” be a concern.

The Blyssful Witch continues:

The white washers have replaced the fear of hell with the fear of ‘karma’ or the three-fold law coming back to bite you in the ass.

They have replaced Christ and the Virgin Mary with the Lord and Lady.

They have replaced ‘love thy neighbor’ with ‘harm ye none.’

Not much difference really. What a fucking sad state.

To quote Peter Grey, “Modern dazed paganism often makes this mistake, choosing to take the palatable aspects of an imagined past and from the fashion an escape into an unrealized fantasy…In order to protect cherished beliefs that have been proved false, we often cling to fantasies…Modern pagan witchcraft… is beginning its arc of entropic decay of locked empty postures and meaningless gestures.”

(The Peter Grey quote is from his 2013 book Apocalyptic Witchcraft published by Scarlet Imprint – note to self: track down a copy).

This has been my biggest beef with just about every “spiritual” system I have come into contact with during my time in California – or at least most of the practitioners of them.  There are four powers attributed to the Sphinx: To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Be Silent.

I will simply say that there is a lot of noise.  A LOT.

As Lao Tzu once said: “Those who know, don’t tell. Those who tell, don’t know.”

There is a line between “shaman” and “showman.”

When your weekend “shamanic” workshop includes a session on how to read animal entrails, then I’ll consider attending.

I am no longer interested in determining who is a huckster and who believes their own bullshit.  Both are equally frivolous pursuits.

It is time to move forward.

Am I giving up on Consciousness Studies and Dream Studies?  Hell no. But I am reclaiming and redefining them on my own terms.

I have a few ideas for projects, including one that doesn’t really have a name or a clear set of parameters to it – I only know it by what I am being called to read (mostly things that Those-Who-Would-Make-Me-Reluctant would hate if I thought for a moment they even knew what some of it was) as background material. 

The Blyssful Witch writes:

I will not be lumped together in the stew of acceptability and mediocrity that has been simmering on the back burners of modern paganism for the last few decades.

Nor will I, though I’m not talking about just paganism here.

I will not bow to gods that have no power and a practice that has no teeth.

Nor will I.

It’s time to push back.

It’s what I do.

“Serenity is a problem / When you get this close to Heaven / But you really want to see / The wonders of the underworld”Jhonn Balance

 

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