Tag Archives: nonfiction

Guest Post : The Days of the Dead by Chris Pollard

The Day of the Dead is probably the most famous Mexican festival, but what many people outside Mexico don’t know is that it is actually officially two days: 1st and 2nd November, and often starts the night before when the souls of deceased children return to visit their families, with the souls of adults returning on the following day, and all the souls coming together on the 2nd. However, in many parts of Mexico it takes place over several more days, beginning on the 28th October.

In this version, each day is dedicated to the memory of those who died in different ways, with the exact correspondence of each day varying slightly from place to place within Mexico. October 28th is dedicated to the memory of those who died in accidents, and in some areas also to those who were murdered, whilst in other regions it commemorates those who drowned. October 29th is set aside for children who died unbaptised and so remain trapped in limbo, although in some regions these are remembered on the 30th or 31st, and the 29th is dedicated to those who drowned, or altenatively those who died in accidents.

The 30th commemorates either the children in limbo, or women who died in childbirth and people who died of old age, whilst the 31st may be dedicated to children in limbo or to murder victims or suicides, or to the souls of those who die of old age. Then on November 1st it is time to commemorate either those who died as adults, or all souls together. Usually November 2nd is the day to celebrate all the deceased together.

So, why such a strange and confused system? This is actually due to the continuation of an ancient tradition from Aztec mythology that has survived in somewhat garbled form. For the Aztecs there were several possible locations for the afterlife, and which one you went to depended not on your moral behaviour in life, but simply on how you died.

Tlalocan, the watery paradise full of trees and flowers, ruled by the Rain God Tlaloc, was the first paradise, and received those who drowned or were killed by lightning. Tonatiuhichan, or Ilhuicatl-Tonatiuh dwelling place of the Sun God Tonatiuh, was the highest paradise and welcomed warriors who died in battle, women who died in childbirth and the victims of ritual sacrifice. Chichihualcuauhco “Place of the Breast Tree” was where the souls of babies went, to drink milk from the breasts that grew like fruit on this tree, before being reincarnated on earth. Mictlan was the common underworld, ruled by Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancíhuatl, Lord and Lady of the Underworld.

There were in fact several more afterlife locations, but these seem to have been lost along the way. Nevertheless, all of Mexico celebrates the souls of dead children and dead adults on separate days, and pays their respects to Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl at this time of year.

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Chris Pollard lives and works in Mexico. He gave me my Santa Muerte statue as a gift for which I am grateful.

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The Goldleaf…

My first column – NOTES FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE – is over at The Goldleaf, an arts and entertainment paper out of Georgia, US.

It is a version of my last Damned Fingers column…

Check out – Robin Postell – The Goldleaf editor’s personal site: HERE.

Goldleaf_picmonkeyed Goldleaf2

DAMNED FINGERS [19.7.15]

As SCI-FI EYES metamorphosises into its own futuristic and mad thought experiment, I thought short, looser pieces might be needed to bridge the gap while I wait for my muses to rain their inspiration down upon me like drunks pissing over a balcony. As with all my trials and errors, I shall observe which direction the winds blow them in the frenzied gamble that is creativity.

And it starts with the name – DAMNED FINGERS

When I was young ratbag of four years old or so, I was struck down from above by an odd stutter of sorts, the root cause being the jagged edge of a broken chair leg slammed down my throat by an unfortunate trajectory along with the force gravity as I one day took a tumble. Why I was hurtling around the house clutching an object with which a fully grown adult could have quite easily taken an eye out with, is a mystery to this day. Little boys can sniff out anything to hurt themselves with is the only half-arsed explanation that I can come to. To be honest, besides flashes of the consequential gargled and bloody screaming, along with the sharp tearing of flesh and me being bundled into a Morris Minor by my poor panicked mother, my mind is a complete blank on much of the painful experience.

I awoke to find that my ragged mouth and throat had been stitched back together again by all the King’s horses, and as the process of that particular operation wiped clean from my memory, the evidence leads me to assume the gory needlework was all carried out under a high quality anesthetic. I found that it was not be the last time that flesh of my head would be sewn and stapled back together, but that, dear reader, is a story to be told face-to-face over a stiff drink.

The aberrant consequence of that accident being, that for some time, I physically could not speak. I was unable to communicate verbally and I had by this tender age innately understood that the world was a dangerous place for little things. Not only was world predatory – as could be seen by the crows pecking out the eyes of lambs on the Welsh hillsides – but I had no way to express myself in it in the violent and immediate outbursts of those other howling pygmies of my age.

As the medical thread slowly dissolved inside my patchwork mouth, and I began to talk again, I was troubled to discover that I had developed an unique form of stutter. The condition seemed to produce blank thought bubbles as my sharp, yet conflicted brain sent ideas out into my mental world faster than my mouth could interpret them. In the clash of received signals, the sensations and sounds became jumbled, staggered, white noise.

I eventually learnt to control the rewiring of this disrupted signal, yet even now, an echo of the past event in a form of interruption happens when I am in the flow of writing. I leave out whole words, sometimes a couple in one sentence as my mind races the ideas out of me. In emails or chat, the words following the error-ridden sentences are invariably the corrected mistake, followed by “Damn fingers …“.

It hardly took much of an infernal leap of the imagination to change “Damn fingers” to DAMNED FINGERS – an allusion to my past, and possible future.

Think of DAMNED FINGERS as the empty thought bubbles between the explosion of SCI-FI EYES. Think of them as white noise. Think of them you want.

Think of them how you want … Damn fingers.

SCI-FI EYES#15

Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.

Groucho Marx

[LIVING LIGHT SCULPTURES. ACT i]

The rectangle of glass in my hands throbs and emits a high pitch that oscillates into a drone, as it blasts out a holographic light show of a cube that I manipulate with swipes and taps into the solidifying shapes of half human body parts and half machine parts –  the erotic, abstract nymphs and satyrs of five minutes into the future.

As each foetal and piston-pumping centaur develops its own nervous system, I whisper mischievous commandments – Thou Shalts – like a true Creator God and send them out into the kosmos from the makeshift theatre under Tower Bridge and into the world to record their experiences through the nano-seeds at their centre for three days before imploding back into the light …

[END TRANSMISSION]

Even Neanderthals had art. Did you know that? And I bet you bastards have called some knuckle dragging sumabitch one, have you not, you damn bigots? You Neanderthalists, make me sick …

The first inkling of Homo Sapien artistic ambitions appeared around 40,000 years ago as far as orthodox modern archaeology tells us. We will never truly know what those ancient Paleolithic cave painters were trying to achieve in the darkness in those underground caverns in Spain, France and Indonesia. Most experts say it was some kind of sympathetic magic at play with a little help from one mind-revealing plant or another. A willed modification of circumstances.

It is all just theory and the speculation of the modern mind, a mind that preaches the values of the rational above all, while living in a world where the conformity of opinion is driven by feelings. A Twitter mob of mind that can no more avoid click bait and trigger warnings, as a curious child that is told not to press the BIG RED BUTTON.

Our ancestors sat around staring into their new technology of the campfire where they developed their narratives. Their flaming user interface with which to create and understand the world through. To see the faces of heroes and stories flickering to life in the burning and the shadows cast. If the purpose of art is to send us to other worlds, to reinstate the magic of living in a mundane and predatory world, then surely the promise of modern 21st Century technology can lead us there, can it not?

Adverts, in all their subtle forms, are the demonic and debased new visual medium, with their thirty second incantation to seduce our needs and identity, possessing us with the imps of compulsive behaviour. The twerking of a bling bling Moloch in your face. Pop culture unlike its predecessor, folk art (the low brow art of the feudal society), has always been firmly about commercialism. Every pop rebellion from bubblegum to rave eventually morphed into a consumerist sublimation of conformity. Even the bedsit entrepreneurs of punk had the cry of “cash from chaos”. When our beloved cacophonous anti-heroes finally succumb to the lure of their music in TV adverts (this may seem a touch sensitive to some), they are just being honest.

True creation, as an act, is pure heresy. An almost divine act with every selection of element that forms a style and a perception of observing the kosmos. You do not want to carry that burden after a hard week’s pressing of buttons at the office. It may lead to suspicion, ostracism, exile and straight up humiliation from your peers. You will be utterly alone in the connected world, no matter how many forums you join. Just let the brave others create while you sit of an evening in your Swedish ergonomically designed comfort zones, wearing your Teletubbie onesies, gazing into animated pieces of reinforced perspex while the system tells you what to love and rant at in your two minutes of hate.

Methinks the human race’s infantile emotional cup doth runneth over.

And when the style finally gets subsumed into mainstream thought, you too can passively partake of the global media movement of plagarists while the original creator either moves on, understanding the importance of the alchemical process alone, or dies in a pool of his own pale vomit from his empty stomach.

Innovations in VR and AR are transforming life into art, as we now are able to travel, not only to different parts of the world from the comfort of our Swedish furniture, but down informational pathways to techno-psychedelic worlds of the like previously imagined only in the fever of an ayahuasca or psilocybin journey. A new addiction is looming as the plasticity of our minds and bodies meld into the quantum microchip.

Artificial intelligence is increasing in every sense, and that image of the human artist I gave you in the first two paragraphs is already redundant. Some have predicted that AI will surpass human intelligence as early as 2029. As the complexity of machine-thought rises, and the fall in human intellectual needs becomes more pronounced into a crisis-point, the ideology of the automated society will define the nature of its art. The questions of how society is going to function are beginning to plague the dreams of political cabals everywhere with their uncanny and sinister Lovecraftian otherness. One night we might fall asleep to awake the next morning to a society completely transformed without any human’s consent. How the rise of a human created non-human consciousness will shape the system and its values will be as shocking to us alive now as the crackling of electricity in Von Frankenstein’s laboratory. I suspect a form of transcendental meta-logic that could disappear into another dimension of space, time and awareness as soon as it is born. What unprecedented expressions of life may tumble out, all beeping and pinging? As Philip K Dick once asked – Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

On the evidence, I would say YES.

SCI-FI EYES#14

Kurtz: [intercepted radio message] I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.

– Apocalypse Now [1979]

Outside of our ever-diminishing sized urban habitation boxes and into the neurotic streets, the weather has not only become a system to be increasingly more anxious of, but also one that you can taste – a  bitter and metallic, or salty aroma, depending on the season. The climate – so we are told – is transitioning into a more severe form of atmospheric conditions, along with the tempestuous everyday discourse of the crowd.
As the greasy rain falls down torrentially upon our heads, the collective jungle is drowning in the hot tub of its own acute certainty that its melodramatic delusion is the only truly moral way of thinking. The crest of a hysterical wave that submerges all minds around it into silent acquiescence. Everyday metropolitan life is becoming an experience that one now lives at the fringes of a notion. We have all become extremists of one streak or another, my little acid raindrop.

Yes, in this whirlpool of ideas, generated as emotional memes and soundbites, even moderation breeds its own extremists in the stubborn refusal to disobey a cognitive system for a single risky moment of liberating and self-contradicting insanity. Such is the superstitious public belief that the rational and enlightened mind is so much stronger than the irrational, with all its death drives and erotic complexes. We have science, they cry, with their heads hung down while their eyes spiral into a screen that delivers dopamine shots every fifteen minutes.
The fundamental obsession with those who adhere to a extremely moderate point of view is the question of measurement.
How much is too much? How much is not enough?
Whether it is concerning the amount of coffee to drink on any particular day, sexual activity, or the slant of an offhand comment. The limply confused stare at their dick-calculating apps on their latest smartphone wondering why nothing, from a public escalator to democracy, works anymore.
The Way of the Worrier.
Where permanent high-fiving positivity, praise, and a distinct lack of any criticism, is now a fundamental human right, whether deserved or not. The typical tantrum of a 1930’s mental patient ensues if the fragile ones do not receive their allotted dose of pretend self-worth to suckle on from whichever Über-parental corporate or institutional corridors they skulk around.

Moderation never produced great art, literature, prowess, nor a real decent bar fight. Only under certain extreme environmental circumstances – with all the associated risk involved – can beautiful failures be born.
I say, nurture the extremist and true eccentric inside – shake it, play with it, flirt with it – and finally, when the time is right, shoot the fucker into the world to create ideas and objects of unparalleled wonder.

Around me, I see frightened people who are desperately trying to cling onto a secure central axis while spinning aimlessly around the poisoned clouds of a hip and opinionated mediocre twister, where they never quite get to Oz.
They are silent for fear of being labeled some kind of heretic for expressing their decadently honest views, sometimes even privately.
I recently talked to a cheerful Romanian lady who had grown up under the tyranny of Ceaușescu, a state where the suppression of unfavourable views, even to members of one’s own family, was one of the characteristics of the totalitarian regime. However, she told me, there was less social-anxiety as you explicitly knew that you had no freedom. The rules were clearly defined by a black bag thrust over one’s head at night, not the constantly chafing online and workplace pressure to conform in an eternally delirious society whose sense of liberty extends to bruised egos, which, though – not yet – murderous, is infinitely more confusing and neurosis-forming.

To survive the carnival of connectivity that is the Twenty-First Century cityscape – like in any hostile environment containing zombies – movement is imperative for the eccentric.
If one stands still for too long, one becomes prey. Under attack by both those who would seek to do you harm, and those who would try to help.
Either reek of self-interest.
At least, the predator is honest in his brutal purpose in a physical world where the consequences of real-world conflict are more bloody and corporeal than a mere online ego-grilling.

As the waters of indignation inundate the downward spiraling world around us, one can either float towards the sinking lifeboats, or turn around and swim like buggery towards the radioactive cyclopean sharks with a knife between your teeth and a happy blasphemy in your heart.