Model Milda Bubblys & Designer Jacqui Millar
Painting: Yorgo Alexopoulos
By Remy C.
"Erik Davis does not
give gold-plated seminars on how to best manipulate Generation
X in a new marketing campaign for Volkswagen."
From a review of Techgnosis on Amazon
On Friday June 1st 2001 I got up at 6AM. I won't quote Brian Greene. I get up at 6 AM all the time. As a matter of fact I always wake up with the sun. I like to let the dawn light stream through my window. I just like to go back to sleep all too often... But on that day I had to catch a train.
I live in suburbia, the woods really. I don't much like taking the train into New York City at 7 in the morning. I once heard a comic joke it's like looking into poor people's backyard. It's not funny. Actually it's quite sad. All these people in suits and ties, making hundreds of thousands of dollars at the expense of their fellow man. That's the cattle you ride in with on the Express to Grand Central. I'm the only one getting sneered at for reading the New York Post. Populist thinkers not welcome onboard. I guess unless you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal you don't belong. Private car!
I was invited to a conference, quite by accident. I vaguely remember Paul Laffoley mentioning something about it months ago. In one ear, out the other. Then Wendy Tremayne, who had helped promote Disinfo.con while she was at Green Galactic told me about it. I logged on the Sputnik website, saw a lot of people I wanted to hear and meet, so I contacted the organizers. After a couple of emails, I was in. I must have said something interesting.
Then a few days later I forwarded them a press release about a Disinfo event at a new bookstore downtown owned by Soft Skull Press and I got back this awkward email from the organizers asking me if that's what I was all about. I had not really read the release. I just assumed what was of interest to Disinfo was of interest to manTRANSforms. It wasn't so. Reading the email I had forwarded more carefully I noticed it was quite kinky fetish in nature and I understood I needed to stay on my toes. I worked it out and my invitation stuck.
So I'm on the train looking forward to the event, hoping they won't turn me away at the door for something else I might have said or done that didn't fit their agenda. What was their agenda? That's what I wondered. Sputnik is a market research firm. Their clients read like a who's who of corporate America. But the speakers were at the cutting edge of the technological and spiritual subculture. You would not catch the two together unless they were paid to be there.
I had quite a few reasons for wanting to attend. Not the least of which being I'm trying to launch a green fashion magazine. But the main reason was to finally get a chance to meet up with Joe Firmage face to face. I'd been on his trail ever since he went public with his UFO convictions, trying to spare him the same fate that usually befalls people, wealthy or in the public eye, who take that risk. Although I've been networking with colleagues gravitating his orbit, I never got through the email barrage personally. He opted to set up a fortress of filters around himself after the media onslaught which resulted from his revelations. A knee jerk reaction really. He had an epiphany. He wanted to share it with the world. Then, much like Whitley Streiber, was taken back by the weird ink. He wasn't ready for all the negative criticism, the trial by fire, the hazing, the third degree, the test of the metal. That's what happens to people living in Ivory Towers. They always underestimate the power of journalists to be sick puppies and cut to the bone in their quest for truth. The press always feels the best and quickest way to bring things to light is to dissect the corpse! Maybe not always the wisest modus operandi.
I get to the church on time. An old Jewish temple south of Houston in the East Village next to a very loud and lively school playground. It's the home of the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts. I check in no problem. Introduce myself to the organizers and get handed a bag filled with goodies, from Bach remedies (good), to Japanese 5S soaps and shampoos far from organic, an ingredients list worthy of Procter & Gamble (bad). On the many screens surrounding the room plays "Moksha", a documentary by Swami Avikal about the gathering of a million Yogis at the foothills of the Himalayas, a film I would actually like to watch head to toe sometime.
The room fills up. I look for familiar faces. Our three hostesses, Janine Lopiano, Joanne DeLuca & Mary McGuinness, walk on the stage in triangular formation and read from little cards as an edit of KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI play on the screens, a mix of spirals in nature and architecture, from the microscopic to the fractal, blended together by Philip Glass. Quite moving if somewhat intangible, as nothing is really revealed about the purpose or motive of the event they have spawned. Little children with violins replace them as if to ask the audience for a return to innocence.
As Brian Greene takes the podium I wander off downstairs to the lounge where I can organize my day and still listen to his presentation on the monitors. I'm taken by surprise by how little personal experience he has with all the energies he describes. This is a man who has probably never taken the Kool-aid acid test or read The Doors of Perception. He comes from the generation after Tim Leary, the Just Say No generation. The generation that never experimented with drugs as a sacrament or an initiation. The generation that was made to believe drugs were just for kicks, and excuse to party, to get wasted. He's like a deaf man talking about music. He knows all the notes, all the scales, all the symphonies, but he's never actually heard them. There is no awe in face of the divine spark. It's nuts and bolts. He's analyzing the temple walls but can't hear the Gods beckon him inside. I feel for him, and later that morning I get a chance to at least make the wisest suggestion I could think of; Read Gurdjieff! Or Walter Russell for that matter... I'd be curious to know, if indeed he takes me on, if it will affect him the way it has changed the lives of countless other physicists and mathematicians who got lost in a maze of dry formulas.
I slip into the Courreges inspired futuristic space fashion designer Jacqui Millar and co-founder Mark Bromhead created for Idealogue. The bio says: "positive reality environmentalist". I like it. We talk about hand held devices and space colonization. Her models lend a strange 1964 World's Fair nostalgia as it clashes with the traditional eastern mood and decor, arcing us back to a time when Disney and General Electric still wanted us to believe the atom was our friend. But all that could be techno-fixed with a single clean and unlimited energy source, a technology many feel is being suppressed by the powers that be. Just take a look at the TLC show Star Fleet about the X-prize if you think civilians aren't going into space anytime soon. Dozens of serious space tourism companies are now in business. NASA can't stop them. The next VIP room will be the Space Station.
Throughout the course of the morning I was handing out copies of Peter Lindemann's update on the state of free energy research. One of the organizers got curious and wanted to make sure I wasn't an updated version of the UnaBomber, so she forcefully asked me for a copy: "Can I see what you are handing out to our speakers, just to make sure everything is on the up and up?" I was running low on copies, and I had already emailed the text a few days before to everyone at Sputnik. The paranoia was a bit awkward. Wasn't this event supposed to be about free exchange of ideas and information? But where was the literature table? Where was the mailing list of attendants? Usual offerings at gatherings like these. I felt wise to keep my leafleting to a minimum from then on. I was beginning to get a clearer picture of what was in fact going on.
The major corporations have lost touch with a large segment of the population. They were broad sided by the immense amount of popular support demonstrations in Seattle received around the world. A bit like when the CIA didn't see the Berlin Wall coming down, even though millions of Soviet kids were itching to buy Ozzy albums! Corporate types always felt "Globalization is a good thing, right?". They didn't get it. So when they were made to understand things were moving too fast, they had to start thinking about sending out professional youth oriented survey teams into the field to gauge the situation and apply some damage control. I guess Sputnik is one of those firms, one of the smarter and brightest I might ad, but still a tentacle of the Octopus. Like I told the organizers from the start, what manTRANSforms was doing is a bit like playing Robin Hood. It's bad money doing good.
I really enjoyed Lorie Eve Dechar's presentation. You could feel she was only getting started when her time ran short. Her job description is exactly what the doctor ordered for Brian Greene, creating synergy between body, mind & soul. She guides people into becoming hormonal superconductors. We shared in common a curiosity for Chinese text. I had met her over tea earlier and she explained to me how the Chinese in antiquity had no word for the color green and how some early Asians may have in fact been colorblind. I found it all the more interesting that indeed the development of color recognition in the human eye is a rather new evolution. It seems the range of human vision is expanding all the time, as more rods and cones in reticular formation line the back of the eye and connect to the brain. It's something we decided to look into further. If anyone has data on this please get in touch...
The highlight for me was the work of Bruce Odland & Sam Auinger, both of whom I had never heard of before. They are sound artists who discovered something really simple, and great things are always simple. They brought it on with the audience in a really subtle and gradual way. They had rigged a PVC pipe on the roof of a van with a mike stuck a third of the way inside and aimed it at the play ground across the street. At first they just let us hear the sounds of children playing and screaming muffled by passing traffic... Then they switched over to their magic microphone, and all a sudden, much like a Pat Matheny album, what was common or even annoying had become surreal and soothing, like water down a stream. I would have listened to it forever, and that was their point. They have been commissioned to set up dozens of such permanent sound sculpture exhibits by cities all around the world. I can't wait to get some of their CDs to listen to what else they have cooking in their sound lab. I re-called how Wilhem Reich and Trevor James Constable use the same type of PVC pipe to make it rain, and how Kate Bush even made a video staring Donald Sutherland out of it called "Cloudbusting". Trevor James Constable even writes that he ties such pipes to the roof of his car and drives around smoggy streets to clean up the pollution in the air. Could the harmonic effect used by Odland & Auinger also give credence to these, I do admit, a bit hard to believe claims? It wouldn't hurt to do a few tests and find out if indeed the movement of the air in these pipes does something else besides sound really cool!
We break for lunch. I had brought a Zone Diet power bar. Tasted awful. I should have sprung the $6 bucks for the terrific looking sandwiches they were serving. Instead I went to the Kinko's up the street to replenish my supply of Free Energy subversive propaganda. We reconvene. That's when I got a real shock! Charles Platt introduced Alex "Sandy" Pentland. Now unless you keep a close tab on the EV press, let me make a long story short. Charles wrote a brilliant article for Wired magazine about this amazing bunch of guys who are building electric dragsters and getting mighty close to blowing the doors off the old fashion kind, already winning many quarter mile races pit against standard liquid fuel. The problem was he got most of his information from Electrifying Times, the EV mag I work on published by Bruce Meland, which is kind of the unofficial mag for the National Electric Drag Racing Association. And guess what, Bruce didn't even give it a mention in his list of credits and resources. So I go a bit miffed. I got in touch with him and asked if he could contact Wired and ask them to print a rectification about it. All he wrote me back was: "Write to firstname.lastname@example.org." Since I had never written a letter to Wired before, I really took offense because I thought he was dissing me by telling me to write a rant to Wired. I didn't take it lying down. I started an online campaign to put pressure on the guy to do the right thing. When I finally realized email@example.com was the actual email address to send letters to the editor at Wired, it was too late to turn back. What Charles Platt later wrote back to me was an even better reason to keep rattling the guy's cage:
"I do not give a fuck if Bill Gates uses an electric boat. Do I make myself clear? You are a very annoying person. In fact I regard you as the kind of person who damages the concept he is trying to promote. If you had been the first and only person I contacted regarding electric vehicles, I would have dismissed the whole field as being probably the ravings of a wacko. I did my bit for the "EV future" by writing an article about it. Since then, I have moved on to other topics, because THAT IS MY JOB. Just because EV is the most important topic in your life, does not mean it is the most important in mine. Frankly I don't much care if electric vehicles are mass-marketed next year, next decade, or never. Cease trying to impose your values on other people, and PAY ATTENTION when someone tells you to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Incidentally, other EV people have apologized to me about your behavior. They find you an embarrassment. They feel that you are not helping the field with your attitude; just the opposite. Are you aware that this constitutes abuse of service on most ISPs? Probably it would be grounds for termination of your account."
Incidentally, Wired did eventually publish my letter, and I left Charles alone after that. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. I bring it all back up here because, face it, his own rant to me is kind of funny to read again :) And I'm sure he will blow another gasket when he sees it posted here for all to see. Oh, come on. Grin! He went on to write another very good article about Cold Fusion, where this time he did aim the limelight at Gene Mallove, the publisher of Infinite Energy magazine. Charles isn't a bad guy, he's just a bit stodgy, and frankly he's one of only two or three people I ever had any trouble with online, Jerry Decker of KeelyNet being the illustrious other. I did catch up with him before he left manTRANSforms to hand him a copy of that covert FE update. His reaction: "Do they sell orgone boxes?" to which I replied "No, just Teddy Bears... you know, Teddy Bears are orgone accumulators." as I held my arms in a cuddle. I didn't volunteer to tell him who I was, I just let him walk away puzzled, dare I blow my cover as the most annoying person on the Internet!
Back to the program... Alex "Sandy" Pentland spoke about all the great things happening at the MIT Media Lab, but for some reason every time I go to their website, there never seems to be anything much to see there, let alone contacts for the staff. (Ah, yes, if you post your email address you might get an email from someone terrible like me.) It does seem like the Media Lab is resting on its laurels a bit. Most of the information Alex presented was quite dated. Many of these ideas are already being commercialized, and yet all he showed us were dated prototypes. Alex didn't have a single gray hair yet in the news snippets he showed to illustrate his presentation. I wish he would have used more current examples. Yes these things were developed at the Media Lab, but what now? The fate that befalls all ivory towers is to be washed away by the peasantry. They should have opened the process to outsiders a long time ago. Put this wearable technology into the hands of young fashion designers at FIT, Pratt or Parsons. Don't sit on it! I expect the new Media Lab they plan to establish in Asia is a timid, yet fresh attempt to initiate such a program. When someone in the audience asked: "You said in your presentation 'when you come to visit', did you mean it?" Alex blushed, took a pause, and honestly replied: "No!" to which Charles Platt interjected: "You can always visit if you're press!" The press aren't the ones with great new ideas who need the kinds of resources the Media Lab has at its disposal. Too many good ideas die on the vine because the people who had them did not fit the standard mold of academia or don't fit MIT's agenda... "cold fusion". Nuf said.
Jaron Lanier I'd seen on TV and on tape many times before, but never in person. He used the opportunity to demonstrate Eyematic. I never really understood all the commotion about virtual reality. It won't get interesting to me until it's as real looking as the best CGI animated movie like the upcoming Final Fantasy. I realize he's one of the pioneers who is bringing it to that level, but in the meantime, for myself, evolving the reality of direct experience, and the work I'm doing bringing about MIDI interactivity between lasers and sound systems for the Big Igloo traveling laserium project is where I would like to see the technology and the research be directed into. To me his work was kind of like putting the cart before the horse when it comes to applications. But now that I have his web address and I'm reading through his list of ongoing projects and the attractive simplicity of his home page, I get the irresistible urge to click all his link. He's got dozens of Real Player sound files there. I'm reading he's working on a collaboration with Terry Riley. "Rainbow In Curved Air" was everybody's favorite trip music. But fact remains the military has been VR's number one customer. It irks my sensibility a little. You can't substitute personal growth for technological wonderment or you're heading for a big disappointment. Of all the speakers I met at the conference he was the most difficult to connect with on a personal level. He has erected a bubble of proprietary secrets around himself which gives off a really bizarre aura. Unless you can demonstrate in a few seconds that you are on his level, whatever that is, you are dismissed like a contestant on the "Weakest Link". He reminds me of a young Robert Anton Wilson, but Robert has always been good with people. Robert has social skills. I think Jaron takes pride in having none! He's scruffy and proud of it.
Finally Joe! He's grown. Gone are the rumblings of a Christ complex which was all too apparent in his early interviews after he went public with his close encounter of the 4th kind. He opened the door and came face to face with all the people already inside like Jack Sarfatti, Linda Moulton Howe, and hundreds more. We've all been there Joe, it's OK... relax. He's toned down his rhetoric, and was downright avoiding of questions trying to steer him into that direction. He needs to get back on top of his industry. But the company he now keeps makes that difficult. He's been ex-communicated, a bit like John Mack. But not by everyone, not by those who know what he knows is not fantasia, in other words the military. There was a glorious slide up there illustrating singularity from a Hughes report about Revolution in Military Affairs which only an insider could obtain. They got to him. He now knows what a hot potato Free Energy really is and how he must thread lightly in the process of acclimating the global population to its reality. That's what Trilateral economics are for, a smooth transition that will not de-stabilize the balance of power and threaten the so-called free world. He says it loud and clear in the Summer 2001 edition of WIE magazine:
"You have to find a way to remove the motivations for people to do ill things with powerful technology. Because in an era when the price of a weapon of mass destruction drops to a middle-class income, when you are able to buy a vial than knocks out a city for $25.000, the whole question of security changes. You become dependent for planetary survival on the ethics of the individual and not on a global police force."
It's a gamble sitting on the fence and playing both sides against the middle. We're all doing it to a certain extend in the free energy community. It's the result of a need to know basis. The last thing we want is for a terrorist or an arch-enemy of America to get a hold of an FE/EM formula. But we also need FE to wean the world away from oil, coal and nuclear. How many years it takes us to get there, to a world made safe enough for FE, means how much damage to the biosphere will be reversed or restored. Imagine having all that on your conscience as you try to give a presentation about this super OneCosmos website you want to launch, and yet the whole world of e-commerce now sees you as a liability because you came into contact with things most people keep to themselves. My hat is off to you Joe, and we love you. Just know who your real friends are, and keep the faith. The day will come when billionaires will realize the subculture needs to become charity of the month... read the chapter on Cool Rich Kids in Bill Wimsatt's No More Prisons.
It's a miracle Paul Laffoley made it to the show. A couple of months ago he fell off a ladder and broke both his legs. An infection set in, much like what happened to famed conspiracy writer Jim Keith after a fall off the stage at the Burning Man festival. Paul has been languishing in a hospital bed ever since fighting to save his leg from amputation. His arrival in a stretch limo with his own private nurse was right out of James Bond. Peter Fruchtman, one of the original Greenpeace crew and a volunteer at the conference, told me it reminded him of Mason Verger played by Gary Oldman in the movie Hannibal. To climb up the steps of the church, they had to rig his wheel chair to a contraption that made him look like something right out of RoboCop. I would have shot a picture but my feelings were mixed between pity and awe. A visual memory sometimes can be more powerful than a photograph. But I did catch a quick click when Peter Giblin and Steve Napela assisted Paul to the stage. Peter who was one of the original Disinfo.com organizers and Steve Napela, who publishes Paul's artwork for Dilettante Press, swim in the sub-strata of cultural rebellion and dissent manTRANSforms seems so apprehensive about. Paul's appearance was very symbolic because he was the only official link between Disinfo.con and manTRANForms. He was the only speaker they had in common.
Paul is a brilliant architect, except in this day and age, the types of structures he would have us build illustrate the covers of science fiction paperbacks. Nobody dares build them for real anymore except visionaries like Paolo Soleri, who never really got a chance to finish his city Arcosanti either. Well, except maybe for a few lustfully mad sultans or Saudi kings... Paolo was the keynote speaker the next day. It's not often that he ventures far from his Arizona stronghold. Paul & Paolo's architectural aspirations deviate too much from the norm. MS co-founder Paul Allen did spend $120 million to erect his own version of the Rock & Roll Museum. The Experience Music Project in Seattle is a very strange building, but little more than a glamorized mall. It's a colossus video arcade, like Douglas Trumbull's MGM pyramid in Vegas. It's OK to exercise such creativity at World's Fairs and Disney-like theme parks, but in a real city, in real life situations, for real people? We need to loosen up a bit more as a species before we can stop amusing ourselves to death building million dollar movie sets that get scraped the minute the illusion is in the can and on the screen. It's starting to happen in Europe and Japan where movies like Bladerunner have reached cult status and are changing the way people live and work. I'm hoping China will grok the potential. But here in America we seem hell bent on making all our cities look and feel the same. Paul will likely never see his creations materialize in life-size three dimension, unless someone like Michael Jackson or Donald Trump hires him. But simply by virtue of his will, the path he has carved will open the door to a new generation of architects who won't be limited by straight jacket planning & zoning regulations, as well as the psychic restrictions imposed on them by AIA Freemasons. Architecture was meant to be fun, like a painting in motion, organic and wonderful. We want to re-build Baghdad and Shangri-La again! Please God let us.
After Paul was safely packed back into his limo again and sent back to Boston to make good on his 16 hour of freedom curfew, Steve, Peter & I headed for the restaurant where we had been told everyone from the conference had gone to. But walking up the steps we were stopped, and advised that the dinner was for speakers only. Considering all the trouble Peter and Steve had just gone to, it was a bit weird, and I started feeling guilty because I got the distinct impression they got turned away because I was with them. But it all turned out for the best. We discovered right next door a gallery opening most of the manTRANSforms folks totally overlooked, called Studio 101 hosting an exhibit for a fantastic French street artist named WK who has been ornamenting New York neighborhoods like a 21st century version of Keith Haring. He gave us all T-shirts, served us wine and had us sign his guest door!
Peter introduced us to his sister working as an AP on a movie set. I forget the names of the stars, but it was the big time. She handed me a protein shake which I really, really needed... Then Steve took us to see this mad light & sound art engineer Benton-C Bainbridge. We then sat down in a little Thai restaurant and re-capped. Peter described it best by saying the organizers were aggregating information and images to re-sell them. That's when I brought up this book by Daniel Harris called the Aesthetics of Consumerism which coined the phrase: "controlled non-conformity: Consumerism has created the perfect disguise for conformity: rebelliousness." Then Steve remembered another book called Commodify Your Dissent by Thomas Frank who later wrote The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism about corporate America co-opting the subculture to keep adapting to rising trends. Thomas Frank writes: "This Culture Trust (which manufactures culture) has co-opted the power of dissent by appropriating the language and symbolism of nonconformist youth culture, from hippie slang to grunge fashion; in other words, when the media markets rebellion, it becomes just another consumer choice." Abbie Hoffman once said: "America is in a state of perpetual revolution. It keeps absorbing them." or something to that effect. Read Adbusters! There comes a time when enough is enough, and real change can only happen if we hang on to our dreams and ideals in their pure form. Look at music today. The best and the brightest are so deeply buried into the equivalent of online abyss. They don't get there's little difference between a webpage a few hundred people see and a flyer posted on a lamp post. We need to reclaim territory and draw lines in the sand, or all our solutions will get watered down like so much wine at a French kid's birthday party!
I will probably make as many enemies as friends with this report. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Nobody ever accused me of not speaking my mind, right or wrong. Low key isn't my style. People will talk about Disinfo.con for years to come, but will they remember manTRANSforms? That's up to the organizers. Sputnik is planning a second installment in London in 2002 where their main offices are located. If they can use the platform they have created in New York to solve problems instead of creating new ones, by that I mean erecting new walls of elitist behavior, and milk... uh, network all those who attended, either as speakers, participants, volunteers or passive spectators, then they might generate momentum to build on their foundation, iron out differences, establish interactive forums, and make room for real transformation, not just the Coca-Cola version.
We later returned to the party, doubling as a launch for the new issue of Zing magazine, but the quiet middle eastern setting had made way for disco lights, loud music, balloon animals and a keg party. DJ Spooky performed on a podium in the center of the room. I love his music, but nobody was much listening. Everybody instead was trying to shout over the loudspeakers as you do in a crowded bar trying to connect with the people around you. It was all a bit too chaotic for my taste. My arm was getting tired lugging that tote bag everywhere. Where was the coat check room? So I shook a few hands, said hello and goodbye to folks I met and folks I knew, and ran out into the pouring rain (maybe that PVC pipe did the trick) to grab a cab back to Grand Central. I didn't have the energy to stay in the City overnight to attend Saturday even though a number of kind people offered to put me up. I was spent. (I'd love to hear echoes, if anyone has any.) Instead of catching the first train out I ended up browsing two hours at the incredible newsstand which moved from the old Pan Am building to gate 21 of the New Haven line, and stays open late. I took an immense whiff of what is happening elsewhere around the world, the kind of news you can only get in print, the kind of news few, if any, public libraries can ever afford to subscribe to, even the best University stacks. The kind of news less than a few thousand people ever get their hands on. The kind of news I thrive on.
I know I'm a media junkie sponge. Nobody else I know has ever absorbed more print in a lifetime. So I forgive people when they don't have the scope of information I draw on to reach my conclusions. If I could I would create a media that would bring as much info about the world to as many people as possible. That's the potential of the Internet. That's what Joe Firmage wants to do in his own way. That's what you must be doing if you got reading this far. We'll get there. We'll make the world safe and sane enough for FE, and we won't need to incarnate an eco-fascist Fourth Reich to make it happen. We just need to keep the faith and keep working like our lives depended on it. Trust me, it does... Otherwise one day they will knock on your door and ask you to follow them. That's the only recourse people of little faith have: "Force". The power of our arguments need to win the day. On the ride back I sat next to a woman who must have been 300 pounds, talking up a storm on her cell phone and munching on chocolate Twinkies. Then this couple behind me started arguing about headphones being too loud, almost coming to blows. I moved up a few cars and changed seat. We have our work cut out for us...
days later I had the flu. I think I'm about to become germ phobic like
Nikola Tesla or Howard Hughes. I'm going to stop shaking hands with people,
or start wearing fine silk gloves... But I kicked it in three days. Out darn spot!
(Sputnik is planning a second manTRANSforms conference in London for 2002)