Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

As stressed in previous posts on the topic, Burning Man is whatever you make of it. It is a place to lose yourself and find new selves amongst the dust and ashes. Some people go for the music and dancing, a few brave souls are there to fight in the Thunderdome, others go for spiritual reasons. I go for a mixture of the above and the below. This post is going to be about finding spirituality in the dust of the Black Rock playa. This year’s Caravansary is going to be ripe with opportunities for growth, as long as you are open to them. To begin I would like to borrow from Ron Feldman, Ph.D., a religious scholar and writer I met at a previous Burning Man. Quoting from his piece Sleeping in the Dust at Burning Man,

“The Talmud says, ‘Three things are a foretaste of the world-that-is-coming: Sabbath, sunshine, and sexual intercourse’ (Talmud Berakhot 57b). In various ways, all three of these tastes of the messianic era are to be had at Burning Man, the weeklong festival that takes place in late August near Reno, Nevada.”

Burning Man definitely has the sunshine covered. Not just the sun, but also the moon. Both sun and moonrise are very dramatic on the playa due to the natural geographic features, it tends to extend twilight a bit and give things and otherworldly light. The surreal feeling is only made more intense by the ritualistic howling at the moon upon nightfall, a time honored Burning Man tradition increasingly forgotten. As the sun and moon are both important symbol for numerous faiths and spiritual practices this is a major plus no matter what your beliefs are. Sexual intercourse has its own important role in spirituality, most notably in tantric meditation and yoga practices. It would seem, after reading Ron’s piece, that all of Burning Man itself is a Sabbath, a separate place in time and space for the sacred to happen, outside of the everyday world. The Playa isn’t just a Sabbath for Jews and other followers of the Abrahamic faiths, it’s a sacred place for everyone of all faiths or lack there of (it can also be a great place to find your faith, in self or something higher than).

I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist, but now I primarily identify as someone poly-spiritual, embracing many faiths. A major component of my current spirituality is the belief that spontaneity and serendipity work together to bring us omens and gifts from the universe (possibly through quantum entanglement on the sub-atomic level…a topic for another post). My first burn I camped with a coffee camp, one morning while serving coffee I happened to meet three people from a Nichiren Buddhist camp. Burning Man is a crucible for serendipity, it loves to bring people together who need to meet. Last Burn I met two brothers I grew up with from my time as a Nichiren Buddhist, we haven’t talked in years and  they just happened to camp across the road from my friends. That small thing, a choice in a camp site, has now rekindled a friendship.

Another major component of my spirituality these days is alchemy, and there is a whole village dedicated to it, Sacred Spaces. This camp hosts classes on alchemy, yoga, tantra, sacred dance, and more. The alchemy village also has some pretty awesome music going on every night, generally with a bit more of a tribal sound than the generic wubwub dubstep you hear broadly across the Burn.  I am definitely a fan.

So whether you are out there for the music, out there for the Sabbath, or just to talk to people about God Burning Man has a place for you. The Playa is a big enough desert for everyone to coexist without even needing a bumper sticker to tell them so. And really, we’re better off for it. The world could do with less Priuses driving around sporting more bumper stickers than the number failed Nader presidential campaigns. Burning Man is certainly great for the lack of cars, which also adds to the spiritual element. Everywhere you go out there feels like a pilgrimage, especially in a bad dust storm. You are living in the present, in the scene, without barriers like cars or cellphones to keep you distracted. Nothing cultivates a deep sense of spirituality faster than dwelling in these Zen moments where you are connected to what is happening around you.

For many westerners that may be as close as we ever get to meditating in our daily lives. Burning Man can be a time to meditate on life in very active ways, it all is a matter of what you welcome and allow into you while there. You will certainly be welcoming a barrage of dust onto your person and into your being; otherwise it will be a rough Burn. Speaking as someone very OCD about dirt, it is easier than you think to be at one with the dust. Embrace it, do a dust angel in it, do whatever you need to be okay with it. Like in Dune, know that the dust permeates all things out there, you will sleep in it, eat it, and breath it.

You will become the dust. The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” comes to mind. We all will become dust together, Burning Man just serves to bring the transient nature of all things to the surface of our consciousness through the physical act of burning things. Once Burned the Man, Temple, and other art pieces are gone forever; just like the artists who made them will be gone to dust in time. Just like the cities they hailed from, and our very planet on a long enough time scale. Like mediation, this idea of all things coming to an end may be hard for westerners to handle. Many of them come from a religion that tells them their soul is eternal and will live on in Heaven, or they may embrace a materialistic culture that teaches them to ignore death to consume more in the present. The Sabbath at Burning Man helps undo these wrongs that have been done to the collective human conscious.

Stay tuned for another upcoming post on spirituality at Burning Man, reviewing the book The Electric Jesus.

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Hey readers, I’ve recently begun wondering if my blog might be too diverse in focus for my readership and I am debating limiting my focus on this blog and starting another one for other posts or possibly something else. As a person who has many focuses in life and does many things I wanted a blog that reflects that, but I worry people might feel spammed with posts that are not relevant to their interests (you are here for DIY but I just keep posting about politics, or vice versa).

Here is your chance and your place to tell me what you come here for and what you’d like to see more of. You can choose up to 3 options on the poll and even add your own options if I missed something.

This year’s theme for Burning Man has been announced, and it is Caravansary. If you are like me then your first thought was probably, “what the hell is a caravansary?” Quickly followed by the realization that it is a very tricky to pronounce word. A caravansary is a type of walled inn with a large central courtyard that was built along the Silk Road to protect caravans at night from marauders. You can think of a caravansary as a man-made oasis; they offered the same level of protection in their stone walls that an oasis saw from the harsh climate of the desert itself. Caravansaries and the Silk Road were crucial to the flow of information as they served as meeting places for all sorts of people from every corner of the globe, the crossroads.

Now, if you are like me, you probably then realized that this theme doesn’t really add much to the event like previous themes have. Burning Man has had themes for art since 1998, but the art-theme area of the website gives no hint as to the purpose of these themes nor their goal. Perhaps I am off base in assuming the themes are meant to modulate the event to make it somewhat different every year. Sure, Burning Man is always totally different, yet always the same, but the theme offers participants a filter or locus through which to view the event, it points us in a direction and says “go.”

Past themes, like Green Man, Metropolis, Cargo Cult and American Dream have forced us to re-examine our relationships with the environment, our cities, ourselves, and likelihood of realizing the American Dream. While Burning Man is always a leave no trace event, thus environmentally conscious, Green Man took it to new levels with art pieces like Crude Awakening. This was a giant oil derrick which showed humanity’s worship of oil which ultimately erupted into a mushroom cloud of fire when nearly 3,000 pounds of propane and jet fuel were ignited at weeks end. While that might not sound terribly green it is equivalent to “the amount of energy consumed in the Bay Area in one minute” and since the Bay Area was on vacation that week at Burning Man I imagine it balanced out. So while past themes have provided direction to the event in addition to the existing matrix of Burning Man laid out in the Ten Principles, this years theme does not.

Let’s break down this year’s theme. A caravansary is an inn where people from all over the world would get together, drink, swap stories, and perhaps swap more than that in gifts, trade, and lovemaking. By default, in order to be at a caravansary, you were on a pilgrimage of sorts or you worked at the inn. If you have never been to Burning Man let me do a quite comparison for you. If you are at the Burn you are on a pilgrimage of sorts or you work for Burning Man/the Government (“the inn”). Burning Man itself is a caravansary protecting inhabitants from the harsh Black Rock Desert that surrounds, it is our oasis in time and space in a vast sea of dust. Within this grand caravansary there is arranged a smaller assortment of taverns, bars, inns, and lounges, nearly all having some sort of inner courtyard to offer weary travelers repose.

While I am rather underwhelmed by the theme, because it is basically saying “this years theme is Burning Man,” I am similarly impressed. I was forced to learn a new word and I’ve already had my consciousness expanded thanks to my initial opposition to the theme. Sometimes what sounds utterly moronic at first proves to be the best idea imaginable and Burning Man is a great place for testing the bounds of imagination and idiocy. I am also impressed by this year’s Burn because instead of placing the Man ever higher from the desert floor on huge structures, making him ever less ADA accessible, he is returning to the floor of the desert as a MASSIVE effigy.

So how is Burning Man a grand caravansary? And if it is what sort of folks go there on pilgrimage to trade ideas and craft a collective narrative?

Well, there are these kinds of people…

Burning Man – Fun for all ages, old and young.

There are there sorts of people too…

Sometimes a dance floor at Burning Man just looks like a forest of fuzzy coats and furry top hats. This can be both wonderful and very disorienting if high on drugs.

And yes, they’re out there too…the infamous sparkleponies.

A wild herd of sparkleponies have appeared. Not always female, know a sparklepony by their sass, ass, and magical ability to vanish whenever it is time to do work.

Burning Man is representative and inclusive of everyone, including the aforementioned stereotypes of sparkleponies, people wearing furry coats, and naked old people; honestly, they make the event what it is, God bless the sparkleponies and shirtcockers. Past the usual stereotypes and tropes, Burning Man has a lot of techies. Hordes. It’s like SF moved to the desert for a week. The Burning Man census reveals this to be true, showing that over a third of participants still come from northern California, mostly the Bay Area. Most participants identify as being white/not a person of color; the question has been asked in different ways in different years yielding different results.

There also are retired army generals, like former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who was hanging out at this last Burn in conversation with John Perry Barlow (an EFF founder and Grateful Dead lyricist) and Larry Harvey (the main co-founder of Burning Man and its informal mayor). It sounds like the start of a joke; a Dead-Head,  a retired General, and the founder of Burning Man all walk into bar to sit down for a drink. It would be funny if it wasn’t real and didn’t have major significance. The usual belief is that Burning Man is only a place for the fuzzy hats and that clean-cut Good-Ol’ Boys would scarcely want to go let alone be accepted there. Only he did want to go there, no one is forced to be there other than the police and Burning Man staff who provide the crucial infrastructure to keep the event functional and safe. Not only did General Clark go to the Burn he also was accepted and given a rather warm welcome.

Everyone knows that world-class DJs are at the Burn every year, such as Junkie XL, Paul Oakenfold, Beats Antique, and The Crystal Method, but many people don’t realize that non-electronic artists also go to Burning Man, they just aren’t performing yet. P Diddy was sighted around this last Burn as well, sporting a stylish pink parasol. Hopefully P Diddy will join the vast legion of performers who gift their crafts to Black Rock City every year. As previously stated there are hordes of techies at Burning Man, this includes the God-child of all techies, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is not alone, he is joined by the whole cast of The Social Network, including the identical Winklevoss Twins and Dustin Moshkovitz. Moshkovitz wrote a great piece about why the presence of techies and plug and play camps should be embraced rather than spurned. I still have mixed feelings about plug and play camps, but much of the bad taste has been cleansed from my palate. Some people need a very sterile environment in order to enjoy the Burn, sometimes for valid medical reasons; who is any one person to deny them that experience? I’m not that guy and I don’t care to meet him.

Mostly you find lots of people like me. We dress however the hell we please regardless of where we are; I wore a three piece suit many days this last Burn, then other days I looked like a “steampunk hobo wizard” to quote a friend. People like me do work, often more than our fair share because we recognize that without someone doing work Burning Man doesn’t happen. People like me are kind of artists, maybe writers, often wearing many hats at different times filling many different roles in camps and in life. We’ll gift you things at the Burn unprompted and without any expectation of return, the way any true gift should be given.

The only people who are not welcome are asshats like Krug champagne who either cannot read, can’t be bothered to read the rules, or worse of all read the rules and think they are exempt from them. Burning Man makes it very clear that you are not to exploit the event for marketing or promotional reasons; this isn’t your photo-op to make your brand seem edgy. Krug thought it would be in the Burner ethos to have a huge invite-only champagne party out on the Playa, exclusively to take promotional photos. They then felt it would be neighborly to leave the place trashed; isn’t that one of the Ten Principles? Oh wait no, it’s not “leave it trashed,” it is leave no trace. Way to go asshats. Some Burners did come by to help clean the mess up, but it wasn’t their mess and that really wasn’t fair to them, but then when is life ever really fair? Burning Man often teaches us, sometimes brutally, that life is not fair (see the yearly ticketing melee).

All things said and done, I love Burning Man as much as ever and would love to make it back out there this year, though I worry about the chance of that given massive medical bills. People complain every year about the theme, how it’s not like it used to be, and how it used to be free, etc. Nope, it’s not how it used to be, no one is driving over tents in the night or shooting guns in city limits. Nope, it isn’t free either, but there are bathrooms provided and other services (an awesome medical system with 3 major locations in the city). Burning Man used to embrace anarchy more than it does today, now it is radical self expression that is embraced. I prefer what it is today, a temporary experiment in city building and the world’s largest living art museum/gallery, and I for one love being part of that grand social experiment in the most famed caravansary of our time.

I live in a piece of history, within a piece of history. My house was constructed in the early 1900’s by Peter Leonard, a residential contractor who was very active building homes in what is now known as the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. Peter’s son got ownership of the house in 1936, and at some point afterwards it was occupied by none other  than Senator Diane Feinstein, but that is only hearsay I’ve yet to substantiate. This home, one of the earliest real houses built in the wild Outside Lands of SF, when first built stood among a sea of sand dunes and a shanty town of horse-drawn railcars converted into homes. Layers upon layers, history is like an onion. As my house as its own hidden history so does my neighborhood and both are quite fascinating.

Outside Lands Music Festival takes its name from this rich history that dates back to the Gold Rush. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s these Outside Lands were the subject of many court battles, ultimately becoming part of San Francisco in 1866. Five years later the land that became Golden Gate Park was surveyed and work on the park began, to be completed nearly a decade later in 1880. The park was meant to be a pleasure ground for the people of SF and that has not changed much, and Outside Lands is certainly keeping that history alive. I was a bartender at last year’s Outside Lands and it was easily the most fun gig I have ever worked.

Soon the dunes of the Outside Lands gave way to a Victorian steampunk paradise; a small wild west shanty town transplanted onto the windswept sands of San Francisco. While horse drawn railcars ruled the day during the mid-19th Century, by 1883 all horse lines had been converted to steam, cable, or electric. The tipping point was in 1895, when the Market Street Rail Company ran an ad in the SF Examiner selling railcars for $20 a piece ($10 with the seats removed). So it was that Carville by the Sea came into vogue along with the trend of living in converted railcars, which gave the suburb its name.

Welcome to the rough and tumble rowdy and bawdy suburb, Carville by the Sea.

The prior year, 1894, saw the Midwinter Fair come to Golden Gate Park; this was one of the SF World’s Fairs. This fair gave birth to the world famous Japanese Tea Garden. If you’re interested there is one confirmed Carville house still standing (inside the house). I love the comparisons of early 1900’s hipsters to early 2000’s ones in that last link, as it is totally true; Carville was largely a bohemian artist enclave. While much has changed in SF, some things have never changed (here’s looking at you fixie bikes and repurposed housing).

1894 Midwinter Fair – DeYoung’s Delight

Carville was around for about two decades before the massive 7.8 magnitude quake that devastated SF in 1906. My house had just been completed before the quake hit. I can imagine Peter and his wife, huddled together with their child for safety somewhere in the middle of the very solid house he built. Aerial photos from 1906 show my house still standing strong, just like it is today after another huge quake in 1989.

Carville by the Sea, circa 1906 (the year of the quake).

By 1910 Carville began to lose much of its quirky, esoteric charm as the old car-houses were either ripped down or planked over to hide their roots. At the time this was looking on as improving the community and was celebrated with fireworks, today we’d call it gentrification, followed by another much more rapid round during and after WWII. This finalized the Sunset’s present day reality as a sea of tract houses dotted with islands of apartments and small shoals of Victorian homes, leftovers of a layer of history buried below the sands of time. The fierce Pacific winds still blow non-stop, propelling sand at violent speeds into skin and against stone, threatening to consume the land that humanity has encroached upon. This ever changing yet still quirky and bohemian neighborhood is my home, and I could not ask for a better one.

If you’re still craving some more Carville history check out FoundSF and the excellent book by Woody LaBounty. For some more photos you can head over to Invisible SF.

Note: You may have noticed I took great care not to mention my address or provide any incriminating information enough to out where I live exactly. This is because I believe in practicing locational privacy. Be smart and do not give out personal info like phone numbers or addresses publicly.

Continuing where yesterday’s blog leftoff, here are some famous examples of stories, myths, historical and religious figures who conform to the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: The first 6 are all historical/religious but then I go on to movies/books and I’d hate to ruin a plot for you without warning you first.  Specifically, I discuss Stranger In A Strange Land, The Lord Of The Rings, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Heracles with Cerberus.

1. Hercules/Heracles – Hercules is the Roman adaptation of the Greek hero Heracles, son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, making him a demi-god. Heracles is most known for twelve trials he had to endure, one of which was going to the underworld to capture Hades three headed dog Cerberus. Going to the underworld of Hades is a figurative death Heracles passes through in order to best his labors and recover his sanity while achieving immortality. The purpose was not becoming immortal, that was merely a side perk, the main goal was atoning for slaughtering his children after he was driven mad by Hera.

Baby Achilles takes a bath in the River Styx.

2. Achilles – Another Greek hero, Achilles was also demigod like Hercules. Instead of being immortal like Heracles, Achilles was invulnerable to harm everywhere on his body other than his heel, creating the metaphor Achilles heel. His mother baptized him in the river Styx, the river of the underworld, which granted him immunity to harm everywhere except his heel, where she held him. Ultimately he died in the Trojan War, that grand battle to bring home the beautiful Helen of Troy to her native Sparta. Many warriors fought in this battle, some died; the cunning Odysseus, both Ajax the Great and Ajax the Lesser to name a few of the best known. Of all the many heroes mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, the only one better known than Achilles is Odysseus himself who is a main character in both books. Achilles has gained eternal glory through his death for himself but more importantly for Greece.

Jesus Christ, Superstar!

3. Jesus – Jesus Christ was potentially a real person who lived in ancient Mesopotamia, born in 1 anno domini (AD). There is much dispute over whether Jesus was real or is myth, and the belief that he is the son of God. I believe he was a real man, likely not a pale Anglo white man. He was a religious philosopher of sorts and also had a stripe for politics, this won him few friends with the Romans who just loved crucifixion. Jesus preached a new way of doing things and shook things up in the social order which annoyed those in power. Jesus is said to be the son of God, the product of a miraculous birth, sent to earth to be killed to man’s sins, only to be reborn and go to Heaven. The story of Jesus is a perfect telling of the major steps in the Hero’s Journey.

Buddha under the Bodhi Tree.

4. Buddha – Buddha was a real flesh and blood man before attaining enlightenment, a prince from the Himalayan foothills named Siddhārtha Gautama. Unlike Jesus, there is no dispute about his existence, merely differences in opinion on the nature of his divinity and enlightenment. Buddha means “enlightened one,” and contrary to the beliefs of some there is not one Buddha but countless. Anyone can become a Buddha, an enlightened one, given the right environmental factors. For Siddhārtha, he needed to meditate under the sacred fig tree, now called a Bodhi tree in honor of the enlightenment achieved beneath its boughs, like a religious Sir Isaac Newton. Buddha does not physically die during his Hero’s Journey, but his ego is allowed to die. The death of the ego is a central to many Buddhist sects and The Buddha was the first to demonstrate how this can be done and why it is desirable. That was The Buddha’s glory.

President John F. Kennedy

5. John F. Kennedy – President John F. Kennedy was America’s youngest President until Obama, our first non-Protestant President, and a brilliant statesman/playboy. He was a real American hero on many levels who did a lot to advance civil rights and was an early advocate for wave-powered electricity, just to same some of his glorious exploits. He was tragically assassinated during his first term.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr

6. Martin Luther King Jr. – Like JFK, Martin Luther King was assassinated for shaking up the present day politics. MLK and Malcolm X both occupied crucial roles in the civil rights movement, aided in a political capacity from JFK. Martin Luther King was a preacher who was instrumental to the success of the American civil rights movement, most known for his legendary I Have A Dream speech.

Rodin’s “”Caryatid Fallen Under her Stone,” a central piece of the allegory in the book, and an allegory for Mike himself.

7. Michael Valentine Smith – Mike is the main character in Stranger In A Strange Land, perhaps the most famous novel by Robert Heinlein. Mike is about as blatant a Jesus allegory as one can be without the Church coming after them for copyright infringement. A Muslim character even eludes to him being The Prophet reborn. While one can read a Jesus allegory in Stranger there is much more to the story than that. In the end of the book, Mike is martyred, not on a cross but in his own way and that is his death on the Hero’s Journey. But as anyone who has truly grokked the book knows Mike cannot really die, no one ever really dies as long as something has grokked them.

Gandalf, The Grey

8. Gandalf – In the Lord of the Rings there are several heroes who die but the one who best embodies the Hero’s Journey is the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf fights the Balrog in Morea and in the process is killed only to be reborn as the more powerful Gandalf The White. His death empowers him to further glory along his Hero’s Journey. Other heroes also die along the way, physical deaths, spiritual deaths, and perhaps even some deaths of ego.

Ed and Alphonse Elric.

9. Alphonse Elric/Edward Elric – In the anime Full Metal Alchemist both brothers experience various deaths along their journey, in both series and in the movie as well. Alphonse actually dies before the series even begins but his soul is brought back to the living world at the expense of his brother’s arm which is Ed’s first death, from there it continues until you wonder how either character keeps sane. Before all of that, the death that portends all others is that of their mother, her death is the catalyst that literally makes our heroes into the men they are destined to become.

I hope you all had a good Christmas. While I am not Christian myself I take time off for my mother’s birthday on the 24th and time with my extended family on the 25th. In case you are curious I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist and my current spirituality is that combined with Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism, alchemic philosophy, and smatterings of the Abrahamic faiths. Though I do not believe in Jesus as the son of God and that December 25th is his birthday, if you are a Christian, I imagine you will feel a pretty strong affinity for the sentiments in this blog regarding Jesus (this truism applies to him rather strongly).

The other day I was thinking about the phrase “the hero must die,” and how it kind of is a truism. A truism, if you didn’t know is a statement so obviously true that it needs no further explanation, though it has varying degrees of meaning. The term dates back to the early 1700’s, making it an invention of the enlightenment era.

The first truism I’m going to briefly dissect is the timeless phrase known to writers world-round, .” I cannot find an exact date for the first usage of this truism, but it is likely to be rooted in the ancient Greek’s conception of the Hero’s Journey, a story archetype. The archetype can be broken down into 8 stages, one of which is death. Though different people have different interpretations of the stages in the Hero’s Journey the death of the hero is unanimous, though it is not always a physical death. Sometimes death takes the form of other types of loss, a spiritual or economic death for example. The entire Hero’s Journey, all the death and loss, is in pursuit of what the ancient Greeks called kleos, which means glory or fame and also is the name for a song or poem that conveys glory. Kleos is “both the medium and the message of the glory of heroes.” For the ancient Greeks, the concept of glory was a very altruistic concept done for the good of the many not the good of the hero.

Stages Of The Hero’s Journey

  1. Miraculous conception and birth
  2. Initiation of the hero-child
  3. Withdrawal from family or community for preparation
  4. Trial and Quest
  5. Death
  6. Descent into the underworld
  7. Resurrection and rebirth
  8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement

This was originally meant to be one post but it had become large enough where I have to make it two posts. Check out the second half which profiles 9 Hero’s Journeys for you, from every age of history and many different cultures.

I’m not talking about portabello mushrooms stopping world hunger. Nor am I talking about magic mushrooms making people hallucinate that they are saving the world. This post is about the myriad of fascinating solutions mushrooms, mycelium, and fungi offer to problems presented to mankind. While many of our problems are our own doing, mushrooms may be needed allies  to undo the damage.

You may be suffering from what mushroom researcher Paul Stamets refers to as mycophobia,  and now you may find yourself wondering, “how can mushrooms save anything? Get a job hippie.” This is regrettably a normal response for many when you begin a discussion with mushrooms can save the world. My love of mushrooms came from Paul’s amazing TED talk, go watch it then continue reading this blog.

You watched it now? Good.

Mushrooms have had more time to evolve than nearly anything else still living, they can do cool things like eat radiation and alter the weather, but that’s not all. Paul has six revolutionary ways mushrooms can save the world: cleaning up oil spills, cleaning up toxic waste, pest control,  biofuel manufacturing, and as a new generation of antibiotics. Most recently, it was shown that mushrooms form a natural Internet that all of the plants in the world are hooked into.

You may be thinking that a new generation of antibiotic drugs isn’t worth worrying about yet. If this is you, then you must have been living under a rock to not have heard about all the drug resistant bacteria running rampant and killing people uninhibited. If that doesn’t tickle you maybe a cure for small pox to help prevent biological warfare is more to your liking. Even if you aren’t worried about small pox everyone can do to be a bit healthier with better disease resistances, and it seems like the Reishi mushroom can do just that, maybe even cure cancer.

It is hypothesized that Jesus was a shaman, of sorts, who dolled out psychedelic mushrooms and mold to his followers to aid in his miracles. Clark Heinrich, the author of decade old book on Magic Mushrooms Religion and Alchemy, attests that Jesus used the fly agaric mushroom in conjunction with bread, like rye, who’s mold displayed ergotism. I first learned about rye bread and ergotism when I was 13 and ate a very special sandwich; that tuna sandwich remains my only LSD experience to this day (more truly LSA, a precursor to LSD). I do not recommend anyone trying to hallucinate in this manner as it is very risky and unpredictable if you will die or merely hallucinate. You’d be safer and better off eating psilocybin mushrooms.

Psilocybin has a lot more to offer than religious revelations, research shows that it can make you less depressed. The Multidisiplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (better known as MAPS) is at the forefront of research on psilocybin, MDMA, cannabis, and even more exotic things like ibogaine. Aside from helping relieve feelings of depression and other mental disorders, psilocybin also shows promise as a way to lower our socially imposed inhibitions allowing us to expand our consciousness. Perhaps that was Jesus’ greatest miracle and the real fruit of knowledge was actually a fungus.

Despite all these benefits that can lead directly to more happiness, not everything is perfect with psilocybin; bad trips can happen. I feel like most bad trips are the result of not being properly prepared, with psilocybin this includes preparing for feelings of “ego death.” Having experienced people shrooming with you and a baby sitter can help immensely. There are also people working to provide MAPS to safety from bad trips. Reading that MAPS post reminds me of my own personal harm reduction story with mushrooms, which happened at my first Burning Man. It was about 2am and an Australian man wandered up to me from an art car and said he had just been given mushrooms and it was his first time. He went on to say that he wanted to wander off into the darkness of the open desert alone, with no lights and no water. Over the course of a cigarette I gave him a light, some water, and directed him back towards his camp and away from the dangers of being high in the dark alone (getting hit by a car, for one). We need more people at festivals and concerts making sure everyone is tripping safely and responsibly. As a bartender at festivals I often risk reprimand from my bosses for giving out water or ice; I personally view charging for water at music shows as criminal, or something that should be. Having gone to many raves and seen the effects of people overheating firsthand I understand better than most how water can save lives.

Mushrooms can also save lives, with their amazing antibiotic properties and unique abilities to make formerly uninhabitable lands inhabitable. Mushrooms are the reason life was ever able to come to land due to their processing of rocks into soil allowing for the first plants to grow, creating the oxygen rich atmosphere we have grown to depend on. Prototaxites was a prehistoric plant that most scientists agree was a giant fungus, but recently an alternate view has been proposed that it was a liverwort. Mushrooms may also hold the keys to purifying our soils and air through the projects that Paul Stamets was working on. Paul isn’t the only revolutionary TED Talk about mushrooms, check out this one by Jae Rhim Lee.

Her project, the Infinity Burial Project, is a unique new approach to death and the ceremony of death. Jae has created a suit laced with mycelium that she will be buried in that will consume her remains and process the myriad of toxins that build up in a human body in the course of a life. This is the alternate she proposes to cremation, which pours those toxins into the air, or burial which has many other issues associated with it. Jae’s idea still allows for open casket funerals too. My favorite part is that it forces people to think about their death before it happens, something many Westerners never do. I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist and have since read much about Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists strive to live a life in harmony with death, rather than in fear of it like many of us in the West. This mushroom burial suit is one amazing tool to help cultivate a death consciousness in the West.

You may have noticed me posting lots of photos. You probably don’t know that I went to the Academy of Art University in SF briefly for photography, or that graffiti has been my muse since before I could work a camera. Specifically, the graffiti along the Caltrain and BART tracks here in the Bay Area is what got me into photography. At this point I have about a decade of photos if you include my really old ones from my crappy film camera (not 35mm, a point and shoot).

I am working on a graffiti art book that is a history of Bay Area graffiti. This post includes some of the finished shots, not sure if and when I will get around to posting more. These photos were taken in 2008, I did not record the month but I would guess it was in the fall, by the overcast skies. These are my photos but the art is not mine, the art belongs to the countless graffiti artists of the world. I want this book to be a record of the amazing works they have constructed for our pleasure in the most uncanny and ephemeral of places. The beauty of graffiti art is its zen nature, it exists by creation and destruction. Without the constant painting over of old graffiti we would never get space for new works, thus it must be temporary, but that doesn’t make the loss of good work any more bearable. Someone, in this case me, should preserve the work before it is lost to the sands of time. That is why I am working on my book.

All praise to the artists.

The Maintenance Man

Narwahl

 

Fuego 64

 

Doorway

Don’t Wake Sleeping Dragons

Kulture Soldier

A Taste Of Oakland

In the stanza about Emma Goldman the word read is pronounced in the past tense (phonetically red), this is meant to be a play on words but I worry it may not read well.

Sup B (Anonymous)

Red and Black 

Red is the color of passion.

The kind of passion that spills onto the streets,

In a paroxysm of rage or a gush of blood,

The parting kiss of a billy club.

Black is no color, it is a shade.

We cloak ourselves in its cool shadows,

Covering swaddled black-blocked masses,

We stand united against the police state.

Read is what we have done to Emma Goldman,

To Marx, Kropotkin, and scores more.

Read is what they did not do to our letters and pamphlets,

Detached in towers of gilded ivory.

Black is what they will do to the images they dislike,

To the actions, thoughts and people too.

Black is what we cannot let happen to our memories,

They must be held for their crimes against life.

Red is the color of love.

The love for all beings united in struggle,

Even those not deserving of love.

We all suffer, we all face hardships.

Black is the refreshing shade of a desert oasis.

Sheltering all those who don its penumbral armor.

Even cops who dispense billy club kisses,

Stand strong in dark sunglasses, in funereal black.

Red and black are the color guard and shaded cloak of our people,

Find them wherever there is tyranny and rally to them.

PhotoPoem – Atlas Shrugged

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Art
Tags: , ,

Second photo-poem, “Sorrow” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

Sorrow-Myspace

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas shrugged and with a rush I feel the crush on my shoulders.

Unbearable, burdensome, barbaric weight.

Weight that no one man should be asked to bear,

The weight of the world which belongs to us all.

 

And why anyways should a man be tasked with this burden?

Are woman only good at bearing with the hips?

Ancient misogyny projected through mythology,

Atlas was the first douchebag kicking sand on the beaches of antiquity.

 

As that is so, why do we idealize this man so much?

We build temples honoring him where his disciples work their pecs.

When lost you ask him for directions, even though he doesn’t go anywhere, ever.

Hell, women even write books singing his praises for shrugging off work.

 

And now, I am stuck with that weight,

A weight which no one man should have to bear.

All because one other man shrugged off the duty given to him.

If we all shrugged off responsibility, where does it fall?

 

And when it falls, is it a hard fall, tumbling down to shatter the earth?

Or is it a slow fall like a feather, suspended animation trapped in air?

Maybe when it falls it lands like a thunderclap, lightning splitting sky,

Blinding our eyes, obscuring where responsibility really lies.

 

The responsibility for this world is inside each of us.

It is the sum total of the sins and graces of our forebearers.

Now it is our time to claim ownership of our lives,

Or be condemned to commit their same comedy of errors.

 

The reason this responsibility cannot be bore by one person,

Is because the mess we’ve made can never hope to be cleaned up alone.