Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Where the Key Was Found

Where the Key Was Found - digital assemblage - 2015, DS

"I experience synchronicity on a near-daily basis. I've come to view it as a sort of intelligence; I don't know if this is intrinsic to the phenomenon itself or an unrecognized aspect of myself. At the same time, it can seem quite mechanistic, like gravity or thermodynamics. I'm reluctant to commit to any grandiose uber-theories, as they all sound self-centered if not downright solipsistic.

Then again, maybe I really do play a central role in the universe. Maybe you do, too, but your universe is ever-so-slightly different than mine yet still sufficiently similar that we can agree on a common "reality" -- at least most of the time."

- Mac Tonnies via the Posthuman Blues post: Synchronicity: The Key of Destiny, Wednesday, March 02, 2005.

"I don't agree with everything Strieber says -- particularly his views on crop circles. But his inclusion of von Neumann's contribution is most interesting, if only because von Neumann was identified by Robert Sarbacher as a member of a classified UFO working group. In short, von Neumann's ideas underscore the probability that the UFO problem is vastly stranger than "mere" visitors from other planets; I think we're dealing with a process that promises to redefine our understanding of consciousness as well as challenge our sense of cosmic isolation."

- Mac Tonnies via an untitled Posthuman Blues post, Thursday, June 09, 2005.

"The domain of so-called "junk" DNA is also a good place to look for messages encoded by extraterrestrials. I think the chances of finding a biomolecular signal within our own genome are at least as good as detecting an intelligible radio transmission from an ET civilization."

- Mac Tonnies via the Posthuman Blues post: Rodent Social Behavior Encoded in Junk DNA, Sunday, July 10, 2005.

"It's true -- creativity isn't synonymous with depression. I'm probably guilty of helping perpetuate this myth. After all, I'm frequently angry and given to bouts of unbridled misanthropy. But it's not because of my creative life; if anything, the prospect of losing myself in a creative project (whether writing or reading a book -- and I consider the very act of reading an important co-creative endeavor) makes life bearable. It's not without its share of frustrations, but what isn't?

It's true, incidentally, that society isn't especially kind or forgiving when it comes to artists and intellectuals. This is indeed alienating, even daunting -- but somehow never as daunting as facing a blank sheet of paper (or, more often than not, the eggshell glow of a blank Microsoft Word template)."

- Mac Tonnies via an untitled Posthuman Blues post, Friday, May 05, 2006.

"I personally think our brains are extremely limited organic quantum machines, in which case there's no obvious reason they can't be improved upon. But if we're to become "hyperconscious," our definition of technology itself must mutate to encompass notions such as "quantum tantra" and related neurological states. If we can make this ontological shift, I predict our understanding of the "paranormal" will blossom, and that the curtain between consensus reality and liminal phenomena such as apparent alien visitation will fall."

- Mac Tonnies via the Posthuman Blues post: Consciousness and Advancing Technology, Thursday, August 25, 2005.

"The notion that we can hack reality with the assistance of mere organic chemicals -- known to shamans of "primitive" cultures for thousands of years -- is both staggering and empowering. If true contact occurs, I predict it will be most unlike that envisioned by exponents of "exopolitics" and "UFO disclosure"; dialogue with the "other" will be far more robust, infinitely more rewarding . . . and even more difficult to integrate with consensus reality than the sudden, irrefutable appearance of extraterrestrial spacecraft in our skies."

- Mac Tonnies via the Posthuman Blues post: Drugs, art and the aliens who lit our way to civilization, Thursday, January 05, 2006.

"I almost hate to propose it, but could we be dealing with "hyperdimensional physics"?"

- Mac Tonnies via the Posthuman Blues post: The key to the Pioneer anomaly?,  Monday, August 21, 2006.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Meet your new Alien Overlords!

Well, okay, in reality, its average size is about 4 inches and its sting is rather harmless... but, don't be fooled!  Mastigias papua (alias the Spotted Jelly) has an advantage that none could have forseen...

Of course, you realize the real purpose of this post is to remember Mac on his birthday. And featuring jellyfish seems to have become a tradition.

He'd have been 40 today... not that the numbers mean a whole lot. And, in Mac's case, well, I can't imagine him ever getting old anyway. In fact, chances are, although he'd probably like the jellyfish video, what he'd really like is something like this...

Cheers, Mac!

PS  The above video was found on "hakodatecm's" playlist where a whole series of them can be found. Originally, a few were posted on a Pink Tentacle page, which Mac had posted about here... with this comment: This sure beats "Godzilla." (!)

That Mac... :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Benign Robot...

A soulful robot... by KMNDZ.

... versus the not-so-benign robot. And, the response:

"Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and hundreds of artificial intelligence researchers and experts have signed a letter calling for a worldwide ban on “autonomous weapons.” The signatories say this new era of robotic and AI-equipped killing machines could set off “the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

(Hat tip to boingboing's Michael Borys & Xeni Jardin.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Karen "Kartott" Totten on Jeremy Vaeni's "The Experience"

Ceramic owl charms - 2014, Karen Totten - from Starry Road Studio

"Consciously or not, Kartott is describing a being strikingly similar to the woman supposedly encountered by abductee Antonio Villas Boas, whose experience is described here. Indeed, the pointed chin, exaggerated cheekbones and vestigial nose and mouth are commonly reported characteristics of ostensibly "alien" entities, and crop up with compelling frequency in the UFO literature. The visage has become synonymous with that of the "Gray," a commonly portrayed UFO occupant type with massive black eyes and fetal characteristics. (The Grays are often described as sexless or even robotic, stirring discussion that they're in fact biological robots or even genetically atrophied human time-travelers from our own ecologically impoverished future.)"

- Mac Tonnies via the May, 2009 Posthman Blues post: Do aliens smoke cigarettes?

"Of late, I have been exploring a number of alternate realties: ufos, ghosts, psychedelic phenomena. All seem to be pointing to some undercurrent of reality that we can barely tip our toe into. We mostly deny it, put it down to "imagination" or simple fantasy. We even deny our own directly experienced phenomena, shutting the door to a wider world. This seems driven by a larger culture intent on squashing all things mysterious, unknown or unknowable. We believe that because such experiences are beyond measure and simple human reasoning, they must therefore not be real. Yet they all seem to point to a more fully realized consciousness, a kind of multi-dimensional existence. Our everyday brain seems divorced from this, almost as if there is a wall in place between our everyday functioning mind and our visioning, dreaming consciousness."

- Karen "Kartott" Totten via her initial Postreason blogspot post, February 8. 2009.

"Jeremy and I touched on essentially the same point in our discussion: about how the framework of our culture and our day-to-day "real" (material, physical) life may have a good deal to do with how our paranormal experiences unfold. I think this may happen on several levels: global / cultural, where commonly shared motifs and archetypes of our larger culture are played out, and at the individual / personal level, where our own interior mythos is added to the "brew". This complex filtering may explain both the similarities on one level, and on another level, the individual idiosyncrasies and variability of high strangeness details."

- Karen Totten from her most recent (May, 2015) Postreason article: Myth Happens.


For some of us, "paranormality" - and/or the unknown "other" - has less to do with UFO sightings, alien abductions and ghost-hunting, and is more closely related to our inner journeys - our meta-conscious lives -  and our overall creative engagement with the world. In other words, there's two sides to the paranormal coin, if you will: the phenomenal side, and the esoteric side.... the vaguely empirical side, and the shamanistic, alchemical side. And, melding the two seemingly separate camps are the narratives.... those stories we've been weaving since the beginning of time to somehow describe what is, in fact, indescribable.

In the end we have no understanding of the world; just the inexplicable notion that there is a "solve" and, at some point in time, we will eventually apprehend it. Will we? Probably not. Whether the glittering "gold" is of the solid, mineral kind, or the amorphous, intellectual, emotional and spiritual kind, it is likely to always hang just outside our reach. In which case, the journey is everything; we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Mac Tonnies was kind of on the fence when it came to these two aspects of the paranormal. His book, "The Cryptoterrestrials..." was his attempt at a narrative, a way of weaving seemingly disparate "paranormal" aspects into a lump of something one could actually chew. But, even he was aware that his theory was merely one interpretation, and not the definitive "last word".

In the book, however, he sites several stories sourced from collaborators and cyber-friends, one of which - the story of the "Cigarette Lady" as related to him by "Kartott" - he made a point of posting on Posthuman Blues in March, 2009 (linked to above).*

So, I think he'd be just thrilled to know that his friend Karen Totten ("Kartott"), recently appeared on "The Experience" podcast - What are Experiencers Being Shown? - hosted by Jeremy Vaeni, discussing her Cigarette Lady experience, plus a number of other experiences which don't necessary fit seamlessly into the expected, paranormal box...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Flying the Anomalous Skies

UFO sightings map (click to enlarge)

"This map is based on data from the National UFO Reporting Center. It includes over 90,000 reports of UFO sightings dating as far back as 1905.

Each circle on the map corresponds to a reported UFO, with the size representing the number of UFO reports received.

For any UFO reported by at least two people, details of all sightings are available by clicking on the circle. More circles become clickable as you zoom in closer."
- Via Metrocosm's interactive UFO Sighting's Map website.

Created by Max Galka using data from the National UFO Reporting Center and the Mutual UFO Network, the interactive UFO Sightings map above (and it's website) give us cause for pause...

90,000 UFO sighting reports on just the U.S. of A. side of the equation? If you're getting the impression that the "anomalous" isn't quite so anomalous after all, you're not alone.

... but my guess is that you knew that already. ;-)

(Hat-tip to Reality Sandwich.)


And, just for fun, in some recent, related news:

The follow-up:

(Hat-tip to Tam B.)

But can we really trust someone going by the name of "Mr. Enigma"? ;-)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vale, Bruce Duensing (In Memory of a Beautiful Mind)

Photograph (above) - a still from Wim Wender's Wings of Desire (trailer)- and the videos presently on the sidebar (Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass, and Strange Angels by Laurie Anderson) were borrowed from Bruce Duensing's blog, A Transit of Contingencies. See quotes below.

"All of this brings to mind imagination and consequently concepts that have no form, which then brings to mind the invisible man who had to wrap himself in bandages to be seen. Going further down the rabbit hole, there has been a great deal of dialog and debate in the scientific community about the equally loaded language generically termed “life after death” which if you ponder this for a moment and the associations it brings forth, it’s as incoherent a framework as it is screamingly apparent that any sentient existence of ourselves beyond physical embodiment would have no resemblance to life as we know it."
- Bruce Duensing via The Voyages of The Dead, his last blog post on "A Transit of Contingencies".

"The spirit of life was in them: death can do nothing against the dawning light; death is but a cardboard mask soon consumed by fire. Behind the black flag - which is nothing other than an anti-flag - the garden of all possibilities is hidden, opening out infinitely to the sea."
- Bernard Roger; quote via A Transit of Contingencies' sidebar.

“It is living and ceasing to live that are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere.”
- Surrealist Andre Breton; quote via A Transit of Contingencies' sidebar.

"The transference of memory outside of it's utility has been a chief feature of ghost encounters as well as dreams. What connects them is the strange bandwidth of a call, like the hoot of an owl or a sigh or the modality of words that proceed communication...the bandwidth of emotional engagement in the dreams that are superimposed as realities and the realities akin to dreams where the twain meets being neither one or the other, unconstrained by descriptors and yet in the genetics of an art where one brush stoke is built upon another, remain visible as a pixel in a memory without constraints..the glue of emotional engagement to referents that span our demarcations..become a cellular superimposition in a waking dream on both sides of this  proverbial mirror more akin to art than science more reinvention than mimicry, the recreation of our inner realities, a play upon solids that are not solids, but brush strokes."

"Perhaps the dead view us as dead as much as we view them to be artifacts of memory put in their place as we dream we are something termed alive. File cabinets, reams of paper, language, islands, the waves of sound washing on the material making patterns of undeniable artistry that has no objectivity we can wrest from it. Reality is silent to the words we utter, yet we partake of this orchestrated art, to make images in the mind, to imagine what is not and to visualize it as a stick one end pointing to the devil, the other to Angels in a relativity of an art critic."

"In praise of the toys, in praise of the play of dreams wound on a mainspring by birds on the wing... never to return this way again. Then if we left all of this to the recycling bin, to the scrapyard of the impractical, I sense we will lose our sense of enfoldment, which as an attachment I have found is crucial to a life, perhaps more so than that ATM card we keep close at hand."

- Three separate quotes taken from several earlier posts on A Transit of Contingencies.

"We spend most of our existence in a dynamic of unconscious self-sabotage."

- Bruce Duensing quoted, via the June 16 Radio Misterioso  show, "A Tribute To Bruce Duensing – Life Is But A Dream". (highly recommended listening)


On May 23rd of this year, mathematician (and the subject of the 2001 film adaption "A Beautiful Mind") John Nash died. But, the world lost another - less celebrated - beautiful mind last month; that of Bruce Duensing.

Some of you may have known Bruce through his blog, A Transit of Contingencies (contingency referring to a future event that can't be predicted with certainty), or his earlier blog, Intangible Materiality, previously mentioned on PMB here, which had a tribute to Mac I listed on the PMB sidebar under "Other... Memorial... Links". (Note: for whatever reason, Intangible Materiality is no longer available to the general public, and this is unfortunate.)

Bruce had been a follower - and fan - of Posthuman Blues and mentioned Mac from time to time in the context of his own paranormal thought experiments. Having lost his son, Matthew, whom he mentioned often in his writings, Mac's early, unexpected death especially touched a chord...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seeing the Future: Clouds and Stars

3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract
(Photo Credit: Jonathan Williams and Paula Aguilera/Mediated Matter)

"MIT professor Neri Oxman has displayed what is claimed to be the world’s first 3D-printed photosynthetic wearable prototype embedded with living matter. Dubbed "Mushtari," the wearable is constructed from 58 meters (190 ft) of 3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract. Filled with living bacteria designed to fluoresce and produce sugars or bio-fuel when exposed to light, Mushtari is a vision of a possible future where symbiotic human/microorganism relationships may help us explore other worlds in space."
- Via the Gizmag article, World’s first photosynthetic living matter-infused 3D-printed wearable


Mac's memorial was always intended to be a time-capsule (as well as a tribute and a virtual touchstone), but I've generally lagged way behind on that aspect. Every now and then I'll notice things that might be posted, but I'm never impressed enough to bother. Today was one of those days when, in fact, three stories presented themselves - 2 via my emailbox and the third via my home page - and, well, three's the charm, so here I am again.

The first bit came as a link (from Tam B, over at HOTTC) in reference to this "wearable" prototype embedded with living matter. At first glance it seems like a cool idea, but then we learn Neri Oxman's prototype "emulates" a gastrointestinal tract complete with living bacteria (i.e., not for the squeamish).

Of course, why anyone would want to wear their guts inside-out, and wander around like a probiotic advertisement is a question for higher minds than mine, but, then again, what about those "living bacteria"? Call me an alarmist, but what if they suddenly escape and mutate? (Coming soon to a theater near you: "The Tee-shirt That Ate Los Angeles.")

In the same article, Gizmag features a 3D-printed sculpture by Oxman shown at a 2014 exhibit at London's Science Museum, entitled "Pneuma 2" (below).

This is your brain on mutated gastrointestinal bacteria.

"Pneuma 2" - 3D-printed sculpture - Neri Oxman
(Photo Credit: Gizmag/Stu Roberts)

Below is another 3D-printed prototype from the same exhibit: an aero engine. I'm not sure of its actual application, but it looks kind of exotic, and my guess is that if you somehow combined it with Pneuma 2 you'd create a working model of (Singularity guru) Ray Kurzweil's latest notion of a new and improved artificial brain...

Model aero engine made with printed parts.

"We have 300 million pattern recognizers in the neocortex by my estimate. That hierarchy we build ourselves, each of these pattern recognizers capable of connecting itself to other neocortexes, to build its hierarchy. We build that hierarchy from the moment we're born or before that. We're constantly building it, but we run up against this limitation of 300 million. We'll be able to extend that and think in the cloud."
- Via Big Think's Ray Kurzweil: Your Brain In the Cloud.


I'm not sure how Kurzweil's "brain" works (!) but, apparently his estimated 300 million or so pattern recognizers we already naturally create and possess are not enough for the job. Moreover, if we could somehow equip our new and improved (reverse-engineered) artificial brains with "cloud-based" extensions... we could, um, "think in the cloud."

Comment withheld.

But, let's say (for the sake of argument) that our minds already have "extensions"... ones that we, as a species, are unaware of. If so, where would this leave Ray Kurzweil's cloud? In any case, should the denizens of that cloud happen to succeed, they'd better equip their new habitat with some kind of firewall, because something tells me an advanced intelligence (or bacterial Morris worms of the mutated gastrointestinal kind) would have no qualms about devouring those clouds (and/or seeding them with all sorts of nasty little toxins).

Which brings us to story #3: contacting our alien overlords! Yes, indeed, if you've been hankering to "show and tell" with an advanced (or not so advanced) intelligence, now's your chance. Observe: NASA Pluto Probe May Carry Crowdsourced Message to Aliens.

Not a bad idea... provided you know your recipients... and that your "Message to the Stars"  is the sort of "message" The Aliens might appreciate. 

For instance, if we sent up something like Oxman's "wearable art" and it was eventually intercepted by a race of giant intestinally-shaped worm-like aliens (with eyes... but without one shred of a sense of humor), we might create a War of the Worlds... and then what?

And, so much for today's time-capsule...

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sign of the Times

"A Google search finds no other reference to the Willamette Valley Dream Survey. The number has in the past been affiliated with a summer camp operated by the German-language immersion program Sophie Scholl Schule, which operates in Beaverton, Portland and Corvallis. But a school official said the number was a Google phone account that the school no longer uses."

- Via Odd Willamette Valley 'survey' wants to hear your recent, weird dreams

Found in Portland, Oregon, and probably a scam, but cool nonetheless!

Have a Merry May Day!

(Hat-tip to Tam B!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Earth's Indigenous "Aliens"... and Our Convoluted Narratives

No, this is not a Hopi petroglyph! *
(click on images for enlargements)

"It may sound like the perfect plot for the new and upcoming series of The X-Files. But, it’s worth noting that this is a scenario that has surfaced on a number of previous occasions. In 2010, Anomalist Books published the final title from the late Mac Tonnies: The Cryptoterrestrials. Highly thought-provoking and deeply controversial in equal measures, the book focused on the idea that UFOs are not the products of alien races, but of very ancient, terrestrial people that dwell deep underground and who masquerade as extraterrestrials to camouflage their true identity."

From Nick Redfern's 2015 (Mysterious Universe) article: Roswell Slides and the Ant People.

"One of the most intriguing Hopi legends involves the Ant People, who were crucial to the survival of the Hopi—not just once but twice. The so-called “First World” (or world-age) was apparently destroyed by fire—possibly some sort of volcanism, asteroid strike, or coronal mass ejection from the sun. The Second World was destroyed by ice—Ice Age glaciers or a pole shift. During these two global cataclysms, the virtuous members of the Hopi tribe were guided by an odd-shaped cloud during the day and a moving star at night that led them to the sky god named Sotuknang, who finally took them to the Ant People—in Hopi, Anu Sinom. The Ant People then escorted the Hopi into subterranean caves where they found refuge and sustenance." 

From a 2013 article The Ant People of the Hopi by Gary David.

"The First People of Tokpela, the First World, were safely sheltered underground as fire rained down upon the earth. Volcanoes and fire storms destroyed all that was above them until the earth, the waters, and the air itself was all elemental Fire.

While this was going on, the people lived happily underground with the Ant People. Their homes were just like the people's homes on the earth-surface being destroyed. There were rooms to live in and rooms where they stored their food. There was light to see by, too. The tiny bits of crystal in the sand of the anthill had absorbed the light of the sun, and using the inner vision of the center located behind the eyes they could see by its reflection very well."


(Since posting this article two days ago, I happened upon Greg Bishop's latest radio show over at Radio Misterioso which, as it turns out is strongly related to the role of the story - and/or the "narrative" - and its relation to "paranormality."  I wish there was a transcript of Greg's and "Robert's" profound conversation, but, in lieu of that I can only recommend listening to “Burnt State” – The Story’s The Thing", if you haven't already. Had I listened to the show before I'd written this post, I would have surely mentioned it,  so I've updated the post to compensate for my unintentional omission.)

It's been a strange several months and, as for myself, after falling down a rabbit-hole (a sort of existential wormhole), I've become firmly entrenched in the mythology of the Middle Ages. (!) It began with a work of fiction I'd begun writing in January - also set in the Middle Ages - and then, thanks to the rabbits, dove-tailed into an exploration of medieval women's contributions to the arts. Now, you're probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with Mac Tonnies? Well, actually, medieval women aside, mythology is at the core of this post - as it was with the afore-mentioned fictional tale & the Trans-D posts - and, possibly with a little "narrative glue" (as Mac used to call it) I can tie a number of seemingly disparate threads into... well, one immense knot!

In any case, I've been avoiding the internet as of late and, so, it's of no great wonder that it took me a week to find Nick Redfern's article, Roswell Slides and the “Ant People”, over at Mysterious Universe. (Sorry, Nick!) His article brings up the topic of the Hopi Pueblo's mythic "Ant People," a benign subterranean race which rescued the Hopi from cataclysmic earth events in the First and Second "Worlds" of their history. This, in turn, led him down the Crypto trail - another sort of rabbit-hole - into Tonnies territory, specifically his compadre Mac Tonnies's Cryptoterrestrial theories outlined in Mac's posthumously published book... well, you know the book. The question NR asks is: might the Ant People actually have been bona fide cryptoterrestrials; that is, indigenous "aliens" who lived underground? From the descriptions it certainly seems possible....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 12 Update: Glitch Fixed

Thanks to the Powers That Be, the mysterious video problem I was experiencing on my blogs has been repaired.

To celebrate, I was inspired to upload something for your viewing pleasure. I spent about 4 hours searching through YouTube fractal videos looking for something beautiful, lush, cool, unique, under 5 minutes, with a soundtrack that wasn't distracting, irritating, or downright obnoxious.

I found two, possibly three... and all of them can be found on Truman Brown's YouTube channel. The one above is Afflux.

Thanks, TB, you don't know it, but you saved my day!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cat Island

"Cats crowd the harbor on Aoshima Island in the Ehime prefecture of southern Japan on February 25, 2015."
Photo credit: Thomas Peter/Reuters
(Click to enlarge)

"Aoshima Island is one of about a dozen "cat islands" around Japan, small places where there are significantly more feline residents than people. In Aoshima more than a hundred cats prowl the island, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in the quiet fishing village. Cats outnumber humans six to one on the island."

- Via the Atlantic article, A Visit to Aoshima, a Japanese 'Cat Island', Alan Taylor, 3/3//15

Every now and then I'm compelled to beam something up to Mac, and I couldn't resist this story. "Cat Island"? Made to order!

Thank you,  Xeni Jardin! :-)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mac's Original Website Restored

"I tend to think in the future-tense. I’m a skeptic, agnostic and existentialist; I perceive reality as a kind of consensual hallucination that forces us to define our sense of identity without recourse to faith or superstition."

- Mac Tonnies' introduction to his website

A very special thanks goes out to the ever-diligent Dana Tonnies, Danae... and, I believe, the amazing Mark Plattner (Mac chose his friends very well).

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dia(s) de Los Muertos

Catrina II - Photo Credit: Nick Chao
(Click to enlarge.)

"In our tradition, people die three deaths. The first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord, when our gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space we occupy slowly loses its meaning.

The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight.

The third death, the most definitive death, is when there is no one left alive to remember us."

"The Mexican flatters and woos death, he sings to her, dances with her, lifts his glass to her, he laughs at her. Finally, he challenges her, and in the challenging, death loses her power to intimidate him. Once he knows death intimately, death is no longer wrapped in a cloak of mystery or causes him to fear the darkness.

Once the fear of death has been defeated, the clutch she has on the hearts and minds of the living is lessened once and for all. Death’s morbid side is buried under music and remembrances, while skeletons laugh and dance and sing as Mexico celebrates life in its embrace of death.” 

- Two excerpts from Los Dias de los Muertos (the Days of the Dead), 2003, Judy King

Three Catrinas found here.
(Click to enlarge.)

Five years ago today, I started this blog... while I'm guessing I knew it was Halloween, I think the true irony somehow escaped me. That being said, Halloween remains, to this day, one of my favorite holidays, and one that I usually enjoy from a more or less Celtic perspective... spooky, stark and strange. But, here in New Mexico - where it currently still feels like summer - the day is translated into something entirely different.

Nothing dark or murky about the Mexican Day of the Dead (October 31- November 2). Dia de los Muertos - or, more appropriately, Dias de los Muertos - comes to us in vivid colors, elegant costumes, patterned sugar skulls, and bright golden flowers - specifically the Marigold, the designated flower of the dead.

Oh yeah, there are those skeletons (the Calavera)... but, these aren't the grotesque sort with wormy eyes, etc. In fact, they're often pretty women with frilly dresses, elegant head-dresses and elaborate face-makeup: the Catrinas, a personification of Death itself. The Catrinas harken back to the Aztec Lady of the Dead, Mictecacihuatl. According to legend, Mictecacihuatl was sacrificed as an infant before she became Queen of the Underworld, ruling over the afterlife with her consort, Mictlantecuhtli. They were both depicted as skeletons by the Aztecs, but, for the Aztecs, skeletons were seen as symbols of fertility, health and abundance. On the other hand, there is a darker side to these rulers of the Underworld. For instance, worshipers of the Lord and Lady of the Dead were known to practice ritual cannibalism.

Aztec statues of Mictecacihuatl and Mictlantecuhtli found here.

That Dia de los Muertos should happen to take place at the same time as other holidays devoted to death from around the world is, actually, not a coincidence. Wherever there was a strong Roman Catholic influence, the indigenous culture's Death Day celebrations, such as the Celtic Samhain, were merged into the Roman Catholic holiday of All Saints Day, and/or All Souls' Day - October 31 being All Hallows' Eve (Halloween).

Similarly, Los Dias de los Muertos - in the Roman Catholic tradition - is also celebrated for 3 days, but along different lines. On the first day, a children's altar is prepared to invoke the spirits of dead children. They are then invited to visit their living (corporeal) relations. The second day is when the adult spirits are welcomed. On the third day, families go the cemeteries to decorate the graves and tombs.

Morbid? Or, instead, a beautiful tradition? For sure, It is the antithesis of Halloween as we now know it, in which ghosts are something to fear and avoid. In the end, it comes down to the way in which we view death... is it the last day, or is it the next day?

Incidentally, I saw my first Catrina today... behind the counter at a plant and tree nursery nearby... In full costume and make-up. She was fabulous!

Sugar skulls: (left) traditional, (center) sugar skull art, (right) modern sugar skull

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Five Years

Ziggy Stardust (re-imaged)

"While I share many of Burroughs' attitudes and literary inclinations, I'm less certain why I feel a commonality with Bowie. Maybe because of his performance in "The Man Who Fell To Earth"; I feel an instinctual rapport with "aliens" of all sorts. It may be that Bowie is the closest thing to a genuine extraterrestrial that I'm likely to meet in this lifetime."

- Mac Tonnies via a 2006 Posthuman Blues post

"Burroughs occupied a central place in the underground pantheon. Both gay and a drug addict, he explored these aspects of himself through some of the most challenging and disturbing novels written in English. Bowie was his Gemini twin, a wrecker of mores who was reaping fame and fortune as the deranged but beautiful creature of pop music. Burroughs might have been looking for a way into the mainstream, and might have believed rubbing elbows with Bowie would get him closer. During their talk, Bowie describes the full mythos behind Ziggy, describing a race of alien superbeings called the "infinites", living black holes that use Ziggy as a vessel to give themselves a form people could comprehend. Burroughs countered with his own vision to create an institute to help people achieve greater awareness so humanity will be ready when we make eventual contact with alien life forms."

- Excerpt from: Peter Bebergal's Season of the Witch - How the Occult Saved Rock & Roll found, along with an interview with the author, in this (November 12, 2014) Quietus article.
(Hat-tip to Grail-seeker!)

"I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.'s
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I'd need so many people"

- Lyrics from "Five Years" - released w/ The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972David Bowie

It was no secret that Mac was a fan of David Bowie (although not necessarily as Ziggy Stardust), and that "The Man Who Fell to Earth" - both the film and the original Walter Tevus novel - made a lasting impression on him. I once posted a clip of the movie on this blog, and another post featuring a fave Bowie tune of Mac's (and mine): Ashes to Ashes (1980). Both videos were swallowed by trolls, however, and the posts removed.

One could argue that the extreme memes planted by David Bowie in the early 1970s - in the persona of Ziggy Stardust, the gender-bending alien rock god with the mismatched set of eyes - didn't merely predict the eventual popularity of UFOs, extraterrestrial life, Mars, and science fiction, but spawned it. Seriously. I could say "you had to be there" but, this isn't actually true. Case in point, Mac wasn't even born until several years after Ziggy first took the stage - and, by 1975 - Bowie had already morphed into the Thin White Duke. It's significant though that while Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, he entered the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (founded in Kansas City, no less) in 2013, along with J. R. R. Tolkien and H. R. Giger. And, judging by the full list of sci-fi luminaries, Bowie appears to be the only rock musician inducted.

As for the gender-bending... well, I'm not saying that Ziggy spawned the eventual societal acceptance of same-sex marriages, but I'm betting he inspired quite a few boys (and girls) to question which team they were, in fact, really playing for. (And, judging by the pretty thing in the video featured at the end of the post... well, yes, we see.)

Then again, maybe it's just that sort of synchronicity in which a series of oddly-related phenomena tend to arise at the same time, but, I'll let historians work that one out. My goal was to remember Mac on the 5th anniversary of his passing, which is, in fact, today...