Here is a short comic I wrote awhile back. It’s based on a weird experience Philip K. Dick, (a minor obsession of mine) talked about in various interviews. The art is by Ryan Thompson. Originally this was written for Arthur, but Arthur closed shop before the art was finished. I never did find a good home for this piece, so here it is now.
Captured By Porches, a great Portland micro-brewer is making a “D.I.Y. Magic” beer. I can’t wait to try it! It is going to be a very dark and whimsical IPA. Yum. Coming sometime this April! What I love about this place is it is a truly “Do It Yourself” company. Also they have delicious beers that pack way more flavor than most big company beers, hands down.
Unfortunately I don’t think Captured by Porches is available many places outside of Portland. They are truly a micro-brew, small batch brewery. I remember when they got their start here in Portland it literally began with the brewer himself selling beers out of his back pack at punk and metal shows that were happening around N. Portland, in basements, kitchens, backyards, and porches. He was at all the best underground shows. And it is in that spirit that this D.I.Y. Magic beer is being brewed. So look for it at readings and a few select taps around town.
But you don’t have to wait until my book readings to enjoy this small-batch and tasty and toothsome micro-brewery. They have a few different locations around town: I just discovered their “St. John’s Beer Porch” over on Lombard. It’s a great place to stretch out by the outdoor fire on a clear night and have a pint. I took this pic the other night while enjoying a fireside Mason jar of their Invasive Species IPA.
I just had coffee with my old friend Mark Rogers the painter. Afterwards I was looking at some of his artwork from his website, and I got pretty excited about it and wanted to share it here with you guys I think readers of this blog will appreciate his paintings.
Mark’s work is on display right now at the Pony Club Gallery in Portland and if you have a chance to check it out in person I highly recommend it.
The internet can’t do justice to how gorgeous these large oil paintings are in person. His current work has an interesting take on the little green men and UFO’s juxtaposing them with the iconography of pilgrims and earlyAmerican Protestant culture.
This alternative history calls to mind interesting questions and ideas about not only UFO’s but American history, religious iconography, and historical stories. It is art that is both provocative and fun as hell to look at!
Here is a piece that Mark is currently working on. Mark is an entirely self-taught artist. Which, I think, is the best kind. Too often would be artists (this goes for writers as well as visual artists) have their creativity stifled by too much formal training.
What is interesting about this juxtaposition of the UFO-ology and the pilgrim characters is it creates a paradoxical vision that ends up being much more interesting than either would be on their own.
A Demonstration in Psychic Summoning
Mark Rogers is an old friend of mine, we met back in college. But even if I didn’t know him at all I would say this artist is definitely someone to watch, and I am looking forward to where he goes with his strange visions next. (Also I really need to get one of these paintings to hang in my study!)
Glory, glory, glory, the sap bursts forth in the buds of March and bliss drips anew from the perennial architecture of our collective soul.
Exciting stuff to share—I’m going to be a guest on Coast to Coast A.M. The super popular radio show that talks about the paranormal, the occult, and other strangeness on April 7th. I’m on at midnight so feel free to call in and say hi. (I’ve been listening to a lot of Coast to Coast A.M. in order to get ready, what a show! I really love the recent episode with Jacque Vallee, and also the episode about how our universe is probably a holographic virtual reality projection . . . that would explain a lot.) April 7th also happens to be the publishing date of D.I.Y. Magic, which means it will be on shelves everywhere, woohoooo! If you just can’t wait until April 7th to get yr. mitts on it you can pre-order the thing right now on Amazon.com.
A few days later, on April 10th I will be kicking off my reading tour at Powell’s here in Portland, Oregon. This should be a good one folks! I will reading and then doing a panel discussion with three of the illustrators from D.I.Y. Magic! Jennifer Parks, Farel Dalrymple, and artist and musician E*Rock. We will be talking about inspiration and collaboration, and doing an audience Q&A afterwards. If you live in Portland please come and help me celebrate the launch of this book!
Let’s see, what else? I’ll also be doing readings in Seattle, Vancouver B.C., San Francisco, and New York. As well as a D.I.Y. Magic party at Floating World comics on April 25th. (More details on that later.)
I will also be telling a story at Tad’s Talks on March 16th, at Tad’s Chicken and Dumplins on the Sandy River. (Full disclosure: I used to work at Tad’s as a teenager. I was a lowly busboy. Once as I was clearing plates off a table, some customer, who wasn’t quite done with a bit of gristle laying on the plate actually and literally stabbed me in the hand with their fork!) Tad’s is beautiful and scenic, and the food is that good.
And most exciting for right now—because you can listen to it immediately— I was just interviewed on the podcast PDX Darlings. I talk with host Martha Grover about my upcoming book and also about what the process is like going from being an aspiring writer, to a first time published author. So I especially recommend this episode to those interested in writing. So download this, and wash those dishes, or walk the dog, or whatever it is you do when you listen to podcasts, and do it up!
“Include the knower in the known.”
— a voice heard by Julian Jaynes
One of the things that got me kicked off writing about magic was a talk I gave several years ago entitled: Bigfoot, UFO’s and Ghosts. My theory in this lecture, in a nutshell was that most varieties of paranormal experience are probably manifestations of the same basic phenomenon. This phenomena seems to present differently based on the culture and beliefs of the perceiver.
That’s right. I am arguing that Bigfoot.
Little green men from mars.
Are actually, basically the same thing. And always have been (not to mention stories from legends and fairy tales about goblins, genies, elves etc) Which, yes, I know that sounds batshit crazy. It is saying “let’s take this weird stuff that most people already don’t believe in and make it even crazier!” Ha ha!
(This idea is easier to grasp if you let go of that idea of these phenomena being sentient—attributing sentience to something we don’t really understand confuses the matter, because then we try to understand motivation and then we are already barking up the wrong tree e.g. “well, why do the UFO’s want to mutilate cows in New Mexico?”. Instead it seems to mimic sentience (when interacting with us), and we should remember that at one point trees, wind, streams, etc. were all accorded sentience. The point is we humans tend to anthropomorphize dynamic forces beyond our comprehension. I’m not saying the phenomena isn’t sentient either, I’m saying that is currently beyond the scope of our knowledge. What is needed is a sort of metaphysical Turing test.)
However just because something is weird doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The fact is that all of the knowledge we have today, that we know got it’s start as a weird, laughable theory that only a few people believed. All science starts as fringe science.
For example if you tried to explain Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity to people in the Medieval ages you’d probably be burned at the stake. If you tried to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to the same scientists who accepted Newton’s theory you would be a laughingstock. And yet now Einstein’s theories look tame when we are told of quarks, and super-string theory, and how physics seems to be pointing towards the existence of an infinite amount of real universes simultaneously existing within the multi-verse.
Wha!? The truth is cutting edge science is a lot weirder than anything believed by students of the paranormal.
One of the most fascinating developments in modern science is the idea that observing something can affect the outcome of that phenomena. We see this demonstrated in the double-slit experiment. it is also expressed in Schrodinger’s’s famous thought experiment involving the dead/undead cat. Observing an elementary particles affects how it behaves. Let me repeat that: science has shown that observing a phenomenon can affect how it behaves. Nothing is being done to the phenomenon except observing it. According to everything rationality and science has been built upon this should not be!
And of course once the act of observing reality has been shown to affect reality, well, that raises some very serious questions about the possibility of being able to authentically observe the truth about reality in the first place! In our search for the truth we might be tampering with the evidence, influencing the witness, just by asking the question!
It reminds me of an essay I once read about how nobody really knows what panthers are really like in the wild. Because to observe the animal affects it. You simply can’t get that close to a panther in the wild. It will smell you from a mile off and go hide. Sure you might catch a glimpse of it here and there, slinking through the trees, eyes glowing in the bushes, and loping away into the night etc. But that is not really the same as observing it in nature, when it knows nobody is around. Of course you can observe a panther in a the zoo, but that is likely to change it’s behavior too. My guess is that most panthers in zoos are like most people in prison: depressed. In other words panthers are a bit like elementary particles they change their behavior when being watched by a human.
What if the paranormal phenomena behaves in this same way—what if its behavior is affected by it being observed? Sure, this may raise as many questions as it answers. But thinking in these terms addresses many of the difficulties that have long plagued research into the paranormal. It greatly simplifies our model of the situation: which is what a good model should do. After all, it always seems that definite “proof” eludes researchers—the film of Bigfoot doesn’t develop properly, the ghost only visits when there are no witnesses, the UFO’s are always blurry in the video etc.
Science and skeptics scoff at that. And yet they tell us the exact same property is a tenet of modern physics (the backbone of all science). We can know the velocity of the particle or the direction but not both. This is a phenomena which limits what can be observed about itself. My point is that we seem to have the same property at play in observation of paranormal phenomena: it limits what can be observed about itself.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is sentient! Just as it would be a mistake to attribute sentience to the elementary particle. The limitation of what can be observed is a property not a desire of the phenomena in question (alternately it is perhaps a property of the nature of observation.) I’m afraid this theory does not provide us with any new answers. Instead it directs us towards new questions. What if the phenomena in question can, by definition, not be “scientifically” observed? What if that is the wrong modality through which to observe it?
What then is the right modality? I would say magic. If we are talking of something that is affected by perception then magic is the right tool for the job. As I discuss in DIY Magic: changing your perception changes your reality. Magic is the study of how to use this tenet. It is the practice of tweaking, bending, changing, ones reality by tweaking, bending, changing ones perception. It is as simple as that. What I am suggesting in regards to the study of the paranormal is that, if this phenomena is affected by perception, it is not enough to study it naively at its face value. Oh, what is Bigfoot up to in the woods? What are those little green men up to now? Don’t be silly!
We must study how our perception interacts with this phenomena. In other words magically not scientifically. We must include the knower in the known.