Mike’s Prattle


Archive for May, 2006

Joe R. Lansdale – Electric Gumbo; David Madsen – Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf

Posted by Mike on May 30, 2006

Joe R. Lansdale's Electric Gumbo is an anthology created expressly for the Quality Paperback Book Club. I ended up purchasing it because I couldn't find any info on line about its contents. As it turns out it's an anthology that includes his The Drive-In novel, a number of short stories that are all in High Cotton, two essays and two novellas/novelettes, The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-Out Found in a Harlequin Romance and On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks. The essays are about drive-ins and also about low budget horror movies and are vaguely interesting and funny, particularly the sidetrack into religion being an inspiration for horror. The two long works are split in the middle, Romance is a rather predictable (I'd say how, but it would be a spoiler) and tame mystery for Lansdale, while Dead Folks is far more typical and gruesome, featuring what seems to be recurring motifs for Lansdale, a perverted Christianity and a determined bounty hunter. It, I believe, originated in a collection of zombie stories and so has a definite Romero-ish, apocalyptic feel.

David Madsen's Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf was a completely different sort of book that mainly dealt with orthodoxy vs heresy in a totally bawdy manner. It takes place in the era of Luther, Rafael, Michelangelo and Pope Leo X, who is portrayed as a Pope with nobility and quite human desires. Peppe, the Gnostic dwarf of the title, narrates a story of human pain through a historically turbulent time, in fact if anything at all slows the book down, it's the occasional historical digression. Although they're fascinating, they interrupt what is generally a compelling narrative. Gnosticism is covered and the impending breakup of Christendom through the actions of Luther, but the heart of the story is simple, the love of Peppe for a woman condemned for heresy and her father's increasing madness and desire for revenge. The book spans decades and includes a freak show carnival, several detailed digressions on gnosticism, and a tragic ending that turns happy at the very end. An amazingly human book altogther.


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Random musings

Posted by Mike on May 27, 2006

Starting to feel like I'm on the right side of the parabola this week and want to thank my friends for phone calls, PMs and e-mails of support of late. I so wish I could be far less cryptic with the part of the story that sings with synchronicity, because there's been a pretty amazing side to the recent clusterfuck that I so wish I could go into, because it makes my 23 sightings seem like they came from a random number generator. But I don't think I can type that much. One thing is for sure, heavy anxiety and stress seems to be more rampant than ever, I heard from two good friends who are also taking major knocks on the chin of late. All very Saturnian.

The best part of being human again is being able to concentrate on reading fiction, and I'm head deep in two really great books, David Madsen's Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf and Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffmann. The former is a bawdy romp during Medici-ruled Italy during the reign of Pope Leo X, alternatively hysterical and poignant, while the latter is a surreal, prose-intense literary work that is dazzling with imagination. I'm also spending a little time finishing off a Joe Lansdale collection called Electric Gumbo, which happens to include The Drive-In novel, and most of the stories in the High Cotton collection, leaving me with an intro, two essays and two novelettes I hadn't previously read. The essays were fairly interesting, and I'll get to the novelettes as soon as I'm done with the second one. I also started reading the first book in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, which seems quite amazing so far. Anyway, so much for trying to finish a bunch of books before I started new ones, I think I've about doubled the pile.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get back to Outer Music posting pretty soon, and starting to listen to CDs people have sent me to review or rate, including Stangefish, Eccentric Orbit and (np) the new Underground Railroad. I've also been asked to do liner notes for a certain reissue, so I may not be able to stay away from music writing after all…

Posted in Books, Esoteric, Music, Outer Music Diary, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Edward Whittemore – Quin’s Shanghai Circus

Posted by Mike on May 22, 2006

This has been the one book of fiction that has been my companion through a very dark period of life. I'm not sure any sort of hyperbole and praise can really encompass the experience of reading it. It's scary to think this is Edward Whittemore's first book because the skill involved in every facet of the writing process speaks of a veteran. It charts the journey of a man whose encounter with fate sets him on a mission to find out about his parents, but ends up charting an epic whose reach spans the whole range of human experience. The characters are astonishing, a range of larger than life figures whose lives are woven like a mosaic through time, all except the relatively prosaic protagonist whose calm exterior provides for a late book payoff of incredible proportion. Ths story is so far away from the typical sentimental stringpulling one finds in so much popular art of the modern era that to try and say anything meaningful on its observations of the human condition is impossible. It's incredible to think this isn't even supposed to be his best book because there's no rating scale to encompass this.

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One of the great conspiracy theories

Posted by Mike on May 19, 2006

I ran across these pages researching on Google. The book (which can be found in the second link) is the most convoluted Illuminati conspiracy I've ever seen. What I found first was the 7th chapter (which strangely enough doesn't seem to be identical to the same chapter found on the second link below), basically how high-level Illuminati adepts use the Cabala for mind control. The result is one of the funniest explanations of the system I've ever seen. Some gems:

  • The four elements are "air, water, wind and earth."
  • "Mt. Qabbalah is a figurative mountain in the Cabala."
  • "The Shekinah rules the Cabalistic Tree of Life. This is not the Shekinah of God Almighty, but from the self-proclaimed "father of light" Lucifer."
  • "The reason all these following items such as Trees of Life and goddesses are placed into slaves is because THESE SLAVES ARE PART OF HIGH LEVEL SATANISM." 

So that's why I'm so tired, I have a night job!


Don't miss your chance to learn about the evils of the Wizard of Oz (apparently short for Osiris) too!


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Posted by Mike on May 18, 2006

Wanted to rearrange some bookshelves, only to find out I had caught a serious mold infestation on my bottom shelf that abuts the laundry room on the other side. I probably saved most of the books on that shelf, but I lost a Janny Wurts trilogy (probably would have never gotten to it), 4 Jack Vance books (fortunately ones I'll probably be able to replace eventually), and a couple Zelaznys (both common). On the other hand I managed to find a $5 bill in one of the undamaged Zelazny books. A lot like having the universe kick your ass up and down the block and then give you a consolation prize. Sigh.

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The only thing more pernicious than 23

Posted by Mike on May 18, 2006

Well, besides WordPress losing my blog entries. >:0 80s pop music being played in Sacramento restaurants and supermarkets. It's the karmic backlash from people who say "I like all kinds of music except rap and country." That these songs still exist and cause festering earworms is a grave problem. Apparently someone forgot to decapitate them, stuff them with holy wafers, and bury them 10 feet underground.

We now return you to our irregularly scheduled cryptic yammering.

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Views from the Chrysalis I

Posted by Mike on May 14, 2006

Lately I feel “in between.” So I thought I’d start writing something for a number of different reasons. One is sort of a ruler, to measure where I’ve come from. Another is I’m asked fairly frequently about the more esoteric posts in this blog and I’ve been bouncing back and forth on what I want to say or not say. I guess in a way this will act like a little autobiography of my personal and spiritual development.

I grew up in a household that was fairly unreligious until about when I was 11 years old. My parents both converted to Southern Baptism at around the same time and the rest of my family (my brother and I) followed suit as young kids must do. As most people know Baptists are among the most fundamentalist and literalist of Christian denominations and like many new Baptists, born-agains tend to be quite strict. Another important feature of this part of the religion was the need for proof in the way of apologetics. These were books and reasoning strategies meant to demonstrate that the literalist, inerrantist view of the bible was scientifically valid. Real. My father’s shelves were full of these books and I was at a very young age when my reason started conflicting with what I was being told. For a while these apologetics assuaged my crisis of faith, but even that young I was having difficulty. What I do remember and will always take forward from this experience, was my father’s exhortation to follow and seek the truth. This has been probably my primary motivation for my entire life since. I had several experiences where some crisis in life returned me to the faith of my youth, only for me to find emptiness in it. The message I got was I needed to go back to church and get right with God.

When I was young and still living at home I lived near a neighbor who was into the occult. From him I was introduced to lucid dreaming, astral projection, and a number of other “dark arts” that intrigued me as a child in the same way that fantasy and science fiction did. Of course at the time, this stuff terrified me, I had grown up hearing that these sorts of esoteric ideas were evil or satanic. I remember as a youth going by the occult section afraid as hell even to look at any of the books, for fear of being led to the dark side. Now all of this exists sort of in the background of life itself, for the most part music was my incredible passion, I played it, listened to it, wrote about it from the time I was in my teens. In fact the first time I stopped playing in a band was due to one of those “back to the old faith” experiences, but it was about a year later when I met a friend who would end up being the vocalist in the second incarnation of the band and another woman who would end up being my girlfriend later on, but who introduced me to the world of astrology, runes, tarot and other occult ideas.

Skipping all the band melodrama, I ended up leaving maybe about a month after I started dating the above person. I had walked into a swirl of typical new age beliefs, my favorite of the time being “turn off your rational mind.” It was a system where anything goes, if somebody saw an angel, you better believe they did. During this time my girlfriend even paid for a magnetic reader at some new age shop, who boldly acclaimed we were two lost souls finally coming together, soulmates and the like. But at the same time, she gave me a book on runes and I started meditating on these. My first initiation ritual was in 1997. I ended up meditating on about a dozen of these runes with alarming effects, including a major increase in my dream life, including my first actual lucid dream. My progress crashed when we broke up and in many ways this world had crumbled for me.

I spent the next two years exploring the diehard worlds of atheism and skepticism. I learned at this point that biblical literalism was basically a leaking sieve. I explored the literature intensely, I became entirely skeptical and then what they call zetetic, skeptical of skepticism. I feel I’d hit a wall. While the scientific viewpoint struck me comfortably in terms of the physical world, I’d had too many prior, strange¬†experiences that kept making me wonder about other levels of existence.

In 2003, I had another deeply personal experience that started making me look back at my journaling activity. I’ve kept a journal of all my meditations and dream experiences since 1997. During this time, I had one of the most profound and strange mystical experiences. I don’t talk about it much but I’m happy to call it an overactive imagination for the purposes of the physical world. At the same time, I started working with the tarot again, although at this point I was fairly clueless about it.

Not soon after I became attracted to the work of Aleister Crowley. He’s one of the most reviled men of his age, a person of legend and mystique who was said to be one of the great ceremonial magicians. I couldn’t keep away from his writing. Although it was complex and confusing, so much of it spoke to me. I couldn’t possibly describe the philosophical process of this, but it led me to see a counselor who was a specialist in people leaving their own religions. I only spoke to this person once, but it was generally because I was starting on a path contrary to everything that had come before. Crowley was skeptical and analytical in a way I had never expected from anything occult or esoteric, it wasn’t enough for you believe what you had written, the continual exhortation was to do the work. And of course I was still petrified.

[Edit 11/27/07: Soon after these posts, I decided to more or less move away from discussing the esoteric on my blog. Hermeticism, like everything else in the 20th century, is undergoing transformative change at a rapid rate, meaning issues of secrecy are a lot more fluid than they used to be. To date my coming in terms to these changes meant less that I wouldn’t discuss the subject, and more that I wouldn’t discuss the effects the study of the subject has had on me personally. Even though I originally had a part II of “Views,” I deleted it as too much of the writing was discussing how the study affected me personally. One of those understandings, as I saw it, was that the hermetic viewpoint and the practice of mysticism and magick is something that affects the practitioner on such a personal level that the details of those effects would be almost entirely lost on anyone else and would personally degrade the experience. To date, the central experiences that changed my life are experiences that I wouldn’t and couldn’t relate to anyone and in the realization of this, I realized, if only in part, the importance of being silent. Which is why this article now ends at my discovery of the work of Crowley, despite thelema not being my end destination.]

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Liber Resh vel Helios

Posted by Mike on May 9, 2006

Liber Resh Vel Helios

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a modest update

Posted by Mike on May 8, 2006

In my current condition, everything has altered. I started working with esoterica probably around late 1997, but it's only in the last few years it has gotten serious. And then it's only until the last few weeks where it has gone way off the map. It's weird because everything I was, the music and book collector, the happy hermit, the avid reader, I'm not really sure who that person is anymore. A chrysalis. I suspect the impending butterfly isn't a critic.

I spent most of the last weekend deep in the Work. I've had some extraordinary experiences in the past, but I don't think I've ever had so many so frequently in such a short period of time. The responsibility of this is terrible. There's still this part of me that feels like a scientist in a laboratory whose experiment was a rousing success and who wants to go running out of the building waving the results around. But everything ends with the Sign of Harpocrates and, painfully, so must I.

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A pertinent article

Posted by Mike on May 1, 2006

For the few friends who are aware of one of my current (ahem, coffee) struggles, this article is about as close as I can get to explaining, without getting personal, the larger picture. Yet again, something uncannily arrives when the need is great.

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