ACCELER8OR

Sep 21 2012

Use Your Hallucinations: MONDO 2000 In Late 20th Century Cyberculture (Preface) (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #30)

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Here then, for your Friday MONDO, is the preface for the book in progress, Use Your Hallucinations:  MONDO 2000 in the Late 20th Century Cyberculture

 

Listen up, youngsters, and citizens of any territory located anywhere within reach of normalcy, and I’ll tell you a story that’ll blow your little minds.

Way back in time; as the decade of the 1980s was turning into the 1990s; way back before the days of Facebook and iPhones and Sexting and Siri and Twitter  — before even the Web and WiFi and the dominance of electronic dance music; way back when the fax machine was considered revolutionary, the Cold War was just winding down and your typical New York Times reporter had never even heard of the internet — there appeared the strangest magazine ever to make its way onto mainstream newsstands all across America and the world.

Called MONDO 2000 — the magazine took the just-then-emerging future of digital culture, dangerous hacking and new media; tossed them in the blender along with overdoses of hallucinogenic drugs, hypersex and the more outrageous edges of rock and roll; added irreverent attitudes stolen from 20th Century countercultures from the beats to the punks, the literary and art avant gardes, anarchism, surrealism, and the new electronic dance culture— and then, it deceptively spilled that crazy Frappe all out across really slick, vaguely commercial looking multicolored printed pages with content that was Gonzo meets Glam meets Cyberpunk meets something else that has never been seen before or since… but which those of us who were there simply called MONDO — as in, “Yes, the article you submitted is definitely MONDO.” Or, “No. This isn’t MONDO.  Why don’t you try Atlantic Monthly?”

We called it “a beribboned letterbomb to the core address of consensus reality.”  Briefly, and, in retrospect, unbelievably, it became the flagship of the new culture; the new world that was being created by the onrush of the new technologies.

What sort of perverse imps could generate such madness on the printed page and carry it all the way to the cover of Time magazine in three short years?  Well, back in the day, in those cultural places where the hippest and sexiest and most revolutionary insiders and outsiders whispered to one another of escapades out on Shasta Road in Berkeley (where else?), California, the home of the MONDO 2000 Queendom; the antic and, most likely, certifiably insane culture around MONDO was almost as legendary as the magazine itself.

Here then, is the story of that magazine and the people who lived it.  It’s the story of the early days of the new digital culture — and so you’ll bump into the likes of Craigslist Craig Newmark, Virtual Reality legend Jaron Lanier, the Beats’ only futurist — William S. Burroughs, and industrial music’s only major pop star, Trent Reznor (just to drop a few, among many, tantalizing boldface names).

And, deeper inside the MONDO world, you’ll marvel at the stories of magical and/or tragical and/or laughable extravagances — drugged excesses, boundless cosmic ambitions, dangerously illicit activities, inexcusable amoral strategies, ultraprovocative artifacts, extreme paranoia, swelled (acid)heads experiencing borderline celebrity, and a grand Fuehrer Bunkeresque denouement.

And, just to bring it all back home and make it a wee bit relatable, you will also find herein stories of those things that happen in ordinary lives; fatal and near fatal car crashes, financial losses, fistfights, love affairs and breakups, unwanted and unexpected competition, accusations, work done or not done, careers made or lost; friendships that lasted or didn’t — and people who want to remember it all and several who wish to forget.

I’m the person who got the whole thing started by first publishing a small psychedelic periodical called High Frontiers in 1984.  This, then, is partly my memoir.  But in true MONDO style, I’ve thrown it into that blender with comments from other participants who were interviewed either by myself or by Simone Lackerbauer, Morgan Russell or Tristan Gulliford; and outtakes from the magazine itself along with some of its printable memorabilia.

Finally, while the telling of the story is mine; the story, in some sense, belongs to Alison Kennedy aka Queen Mu. Although she didn’t join the effort until about a year into the High Frontiers experience — she was the Publisher, Queen and Domineditrix of MONDO 2000 and the only one who remained throughout and to the bitter (and it was bitter) end.

So take off your google goggles; drink your goddamn second-rate store-bought energy drink, roll up some of that medicinal weed and set your twitter feed to Shock and Awe.

Aug 10 2012

Acceler8or Editor Turns 60! In Shocking Development, Everybody In The World Sends Him A Dime

Half a lifetime ago, I flew from JFK to the Oakland airport with the intention of starting the “Neopsychedelic Wave” — by starting a magazine, a rock band and a political organization of some undetermined nature.  Now that the world is a gassy utopia full of happy starchildren sucking peace -and-love lollipops on space colonies for all eternity, you can thank me.

Ummm…  well, so this is a moment of self indulgence and here are a few of my favorite things by me or about me on the web…

photo by Eve Berni

Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project

The Tyranny of Hip  (1993)

TechnoSurrealism  (1998)

R.U. Sirius Show: Neil Gaiman Interview (podcast)

Future Mutations: Interviewed by Reality Sandwich

Mondo Vanilli: IOU Babe (album)

 

 

 

Mar 30 2012

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 2 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

“This was, for me, the meeting that rang true as an energy exchange and creative chaos event, where so many contacts and ideas and plans surfaced or were born, that I consider it on par with what must have happened in Socrates/Plato times, in Gottingen early in the 20th century with the physicists (Bohr etc.), a once in a lifetime creative fire.”

 

As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

I should add here that some of Luc’s impressions of how Mondo functioned as a business are just that… impressions.  Some aspects were slightly more conventional than he perceived… but that’s part of this project — differing perceptions and memories are part of the narrative.

R.U. Sirius

New Edge
The term New Edge — as in bridging information technology and new age — is a phrase that kind of developed between me and John Barlow and was first used in print in the Ego2000 magazines I published in the Netherlands, and was later used by the Mondo crowd. In the new edge; hacking, virtual reality and alternative (psychedelic) reality came together with the new age ideas of ecology, sustainable ecology, self-development and body awareness. The MONDO 2000 User’s Guide to the New Edge by Rudy Rucker, R. U. Sirius & Queen Mu, came out in 1992 (HarperPerennial). Funny enough, there was no connection with the Bhagwan/Osho  movement. Osho died in 1990 and was a major alternative movement — or with TM (Marahishi).

The new age folks in those days were a bit anti-computer — a kind of neoluddite stance — and certainly didn’t see computers as spiritual and psychological self improvement tools. The New Edge obviously did. The great amalgam of the Web information exchange hadn’t happen and movements developed still more or less independently. The internet at that time was limited (text only… the WWW-internet really started happening in 1993). I remember Barlow at the first (and last) New Edge Conference in Amsterdam that I organized in May 1993 as an evangelist preaching the WWW revolution, validating and appraising the then half-underground pioneering work of Rop Gonggrijp and the Digitale Stad. That I-Conference, in itself , with Lundell and friends, Barlow, the Extropy  and Boing Boing editors (Max Moore and Mark Frauenfelder), Werner Pieper, St.Silicon, Captain Crunch and many others was again an amazing meeting of the high-tech counterculture luminaries of the time.

The convergence, or rather the undercurrent of psychedelic consciousness in the computer scene in the 80s and 90s was not an isolated phenomenon, I have interviewed many luminaries  — like Philip Glass and John Allen of Biosphere 2 — who admitted that LSD or other highs had given them the inspiration for breakthrough work. Stan Grof, the Arica people, the whole new age movement with Esalen (Big Sur) as a focal point was (unofficially) very aware of the potential of the psychoactive substances. XTC and other more chemical entheogen concoctions were coming up in those days. The Shulgins were of course pivotal in that development.

The Mondo crowd was more than familiar with what happened in the psychedelic world, they were the spider in the web. It was of course R.U. who had the best connections with the likes of Leary and McKenna; both flagbearers in the psychedelic movement and both with good contacts in Europe, with Albert Hofmann and Werner Pieper (Grune Zweig) and Fraser Clark and Rupert Sheldrake (and the Huxleys) and the Beckley foundation in the UK. I met Terence and Leary many times, drove the Shulgins around Europe, stayed at Tim’s house, met very interesting people there and was with him at his house some months before he died when was already was very ill.

Tim was a hyper-optimist, always positive and stimulating new ideas and projects. He had his theatrical side. I accompanied him on some of his lecture tours, going from venue to venue, where he was often acting clown-like and over-the-top on stage. In private, and at his Hollywood home, he showed his other personality. He was a great host; had an immensely creative mind and was always open to the new, the hip, the different. He had early seen the importance of information technology as a broad tool and predicted the Cold War would end because of the exchange of information. He developed —  still in the Commodore 64 days —  psychological computer programs, a category that Bruce Ehrlich (Eisner) of the Island group called Mindware. His work in that direction was groundbreaking, but alas the development of mindware has kind of stopped. Here and there, the game industry comes up with psychological profiling and sometimes biofeedback, but the category kind of died out. That is, as publicly available tools, the whole profiling trend with Google and the social networks and the security industry is applied psychology, fishing and mining data like search patterns, contact links for patterns and indicators that predict commercial or other (deviant) behavior.

Tim was very positive and stimulating, when in early 1990 I suggested a VR-conference in Amsterdam. He was enthusiastic, promised to come but also supported my plan/idea about writing a book — at that time conceived as a kind of conference book, and promised to write and send some chapters. He actually did and this convinced and pushed me to actually produce the Virtual Reality book that came out later in 1990. Some of the visits to Tim were with Barlow. I remember we went to LA with Linda Murman and found Eric Gullichsen there, demonstrating his VR gear. Leary was a pioneer thinker and evangelist of how psychedelics and esoteric paradigms fit in with high tech and personal computers. He was well ahead of the world there. The Mondo connection gave him the possibility to spread that insight (or should we say belief) to the world. Tim was, at the end of the eighties, no longer seen as a serious scientist or even opinion leader, but through Mondo he got connected again to at least the mainstream counterculture. There, Mondo was pioneering the spider-approach or what is now called the starfish model of open connectivity (The Starfish Concept by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom). Everybody was equal (until the editing pencil of Queen Mu that is) and although there was a lot of internal struggle (relationships and money usually), towards the external world there was great openness.

Tim Leary was not only a keen observer; he was an optimist, saw a postplanetary future, and can be described as an technologically informed utopist. He believed — and this is were the new edge definition comes up — that technology was the bridge, held the promise for human salvation and happiness. Psychedelics were part of that bridge, but so was  technology like computers, smart drugs, life extension, brain machines, mindware. Although we were all influenced by science fiction, and the SF writers were part of the scene, I personally had some connection with SF author and IT-columnist Jerry Pournelle who also lived in LA. We believed that what is formed in the mind eventually would yield a reality result. The progress in IT was only possible because there were dreams and visions. All the great inventions came from people who dared to dream, the computer interface is a great example.

I remember a trip to Las Vegas with Linda Murman and Barlow. We visited Leary on the way from SF via LA, did the Consumer Electronics Show with its gadgets, new electronic wonder-things and some VR demo-ing; the Jan Lewis foot-massage press event in the Landmark hotel across from the Convention Halls; and on the last day bought some cheap watches. We then drove back via Death Valley and took some acid when we went over Daylight pass. In the mood of the moment, we then buried those watches in a ritual attempt to forget about time and tried to get over the Sierra’s passes to the coast. This didn’t work, as they were barred because of snow, so we had to go all the way north past Mono Lake (an impressive salt lake) and up to Lake Tahoe and then back to SF. Barlow, stoned to his ears, tried to cross over before, turned off the car lights in order not to alarm the cops and we drove, in a snow-ridden landscape, in the dark on those mountain road. It was fantastic. We thought we saw UFO’s, discussed the world and then suddenly Barlow stopped, seemingly for no reason. He turned on the lights, and at about 50 yards there was a chain over the road, obviously to prevent cars to cross the mountain pass there. But I will always remember that moment, for if Barlow would not have stopped, we would have hit the chain with maybe fatal results. Was this LSD, God or just luck?

Ars Electronica September 1990; Linz
see also http://90.146.8.18/de/archives/festival_archive/festival_overview.asp?iPresentationYearFrom=1990

The Austrian city of Linz had a yearly festival around electronic art — much of it about video and video art, but in 1990 virtual reality was the big thing. The spielmeister was Peter Weibel, who brought together a set of people in a setting I have not seen since — even the much acclaimed TED conferences didn’t bring this kind of creative change agents together. Virtual Reality was already there — and in the USA — as a research and innovation trend in the late eighties — becoming a fashionable thing.  I had seen quite a few demo’s, like the session early January 1990 with Eric Gullichsen at Tim Leary’s Hollywood house. There was a lot of talk; a lot of competition; the big ones like AutoCad and the small upstarts like Sense8 (Eric Gullichsen); Vivid Effect from Canada, and of course, Jaron Lanier, who defended his rights to the word Virtual Reality. This was done mostly by his somewhat deviant wife of the times who was also a guest at my party in 1990 and then took some LSD with Barlow, really scaring my kids when playing out their weird trip in my downstairs salon.

Although it wasn’t made part of the press releases and business plans to attract seed money for VR research, psychedelics played a major role in VR development, oftentimes one experimented with the systems using various substances; also sex (Ted Nelson coined dildonics) was part of the VR fascination. Virtual Reality was seen as a major breakthrough, as the psychedelici realized that this was a way to demonstrate that reality is a construction of the mind and a great tool for psychological (re)programming. This was one of the reasons Leary was so interested, here was potentially a technological drug, an electronic psychedelic.

Linz was an event that has shaped the development of VR, but also the development of Mondo and the New Age movement. It brought together the writers (SF), the techies (developers), the hackers (Chaos Computer Club), the entrepreneurs, the thinkers, the artists, the counterculture press and a couple of real change agents, like Barlow. Later I learned that even people from a whole different realm like Ra Uru Hu, a maverick astrologer who received or imagined the Human Design System, would become a great inspiration for my thinking in later years.

This was, for me, the meeting that rang true as an energy exchange and creative chaos event, where so many contacts and ideas and plans surfaced or were born, that I consider it on par with what must have happened in Socrates/Plato times, in Gottingen early in the 20th century with the physicists (Bohr etc.), a once in a lifetime creative fire. I went there, because some of my friends went there, and found myself amidst the great technominds of that time, but also the literary geniuses and artists. The program itself I hardly followed, but talking with participants, speakers and messing around with the demo equipment, it was an impressive time. I was familiar with many of the speakers and luminaries there, via my Mondo connection, my own publications, my work with brainmachines and my visits to the USA. So I joined the dinners and informal meetings; sitting in very Austrian pubs and places around the Linz market. It was a feast meeting all those people, participating in their discussions and getting inspired about the possibilities of this new way of using and integrating computers and information technology. There were interesting meetings, like with Morgan Russell, an early Mondo dropout who had some rights to the title and later (from Vienna or Hungary I believe) obtained archives and copies of Mondo.

The list of speakers and participants read like a Mondo 2000 article list, with Jaron Lanier, Warren Robinett, Brenda Laurel, Marvin Minsky, Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Jeffrey Shaw, and many, many others like Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder, de Vasulka’s (video pioneers), Richard Teitelbaum, Ivan Sutherland, Scott Fisher, les Virtualistes, Erich Gullichsen, Vivid (Vincent John Vincent), Chuck Blanchard, Scott Fisher, Ron Reisman, Derrick de Kerckhove (M.McLuhan Institute), Rudolf Kapellner, Ernst Graf, David Dunn, the Dutch Bilwet people and also Terence McKenna. Terence and Leary were the acknowledged leaders of the psychedelic movement. Both were well within the Mondo tribe and since Linz, Barlow and Leary started their tours and performances together. I remember how fiercely Barlow attacked Minsky and his meat computer approach. There was the deeper spiritual touch that wasn’t on the program and went mostly unnoticed, but in private conversations all the luminaries familiar with psychedelics expressed their deep spiritual roots, which didn’t surprise me, but enhanced my interest in the whole movement. Quantum Physicist Nick Herbert, later a good friend of mine, was in the program book, but I don’t remember him being there, and when in Amsterdam at my 50th birthday in 1999, he claimed that was his first visit to Europe.

The Ars Electronica festival had presentations, paid tickets for presenters, and awarded prizes like the NICA’s, but they always seemed to have gone to the wrong people. The real change agents were other people and although Linz made this annual festival a kind of hallmark event for the city, with a special museum around it, recently extended, and a Futurelab, I have a feeling they never reached the impact of the 1990 event again.

As I was planning a VR event later that year, I started producing a book about Virtual Reality somewhere in 1990. A few copies were for the party with Leary and Barlow and the famous VR-garden party at my house, basically bringing together all the relevant articles, although translated in Dutch, obviously nobody would give me permission for an English publication. This book, however, is really still the best collection of relevant material about the early VR-thinking and contains many contributions, but also illustrates my main focus always has been “a bit is only information if it bytes” meaning that information is more than data and that our present mountains of digital data have little meaning if they don’t bring real change. In that book many ideas and suggestions about the use of computers and information technology were written up, some so outlandish they have not been realized even today, like the ego-processor unit next to the CPU, GPU and also the general notion of Information as a new religion pops up there.

The VR event did happen, a few weeks after Linz and apart from Leary’s appearance in Paradiso (jointly organized with Ben Posset) the most important meeting was the garden party afterwards in my house. Many people came to Amsterdam after Linz, and they all assembled at my Hilversum house. Barlow, Leary, Lanier’s wife, les Virtualistes, the Vivid people (Vince and Sue), Dusty, many local luminaries like Simon Vinkenoog; quite unexpectedly Ted Nelson showed up… this was the party of my life! Everybody was totally relaxed, everybody mixed and I remember that I was actually watching the crowd form behind the trees in my garden, moved to tears. later I have met people in the USA, who told me that they were once at a party in the Netherlands, that was so impressive and stimulating, they remembered it ten, fifteen years laer. Who the host was, they didn’t know, but they did remembered the place, the people, the atmosphere.

Europe

In Europe, there were cyberactivities here and there. The hackers kept busy and had large scale events in Holland (thanks to Rop Gonggrijp cs), some virtual reality events; of course, the New Edge Amsterdam conference in 1993 with Barlow, Max More, Mark Frauenfelder, Lundell, Dusty Parks and many others, there was activity everywhere. I published Ego2000 in 1990. Wave, from Walter de Brouwer, followed in Belgium in 1994 (he has been quite an entrepreneur and figure in cyberspace since). In England good old Fraser Clark was the zippie man. He eventually spent some time with the Mondo crowd in Berkeley. Mondo as such was not widely distributed in Europe, but the cognoscenti knew about it, and through the New Edge Conference in 1993 most of the cyberactivists and hackers came together and mixed. The digital city folks and their crowd, including Mediamatics, Bilwet and de Waag developed and became a scene in itself, quite influential, but relying on government subsidies. Their focus was more on community and art and applied technology, less on the philosophical and esoteric. I myself was more involved with the Ruigoord community and my publishing and entrepreneural activities (for IT-magazines and Ego2000, for my Egosoft shop, my software activities (MSX) and later for the television channel). This did bring me all over the world, also to Japan where I had some contacts with Joey Ito and Kay Nishi. I traveled to Tibet, Nepal and India and usually connected with the alternative scene and writers there.

Mondo compared to other magazines

Apart from the obvious Wired, there were new age magazines and gadget magazines, but the convergence in Mondo was quite unique. Of course there were also hacker magazines and Extropy and Boing Boing, but as nobody really made money, there was no competition, more a camaraderie. As a professional publisher with quite some staff in those days in my Amsterdam operation (some 20 plus) I was amazed at how Mondo operated. They had some administrative people, notably Linda, but I never figured out how sales and acquisition were happening. It was mostly personal contacts I presume, but then I had little daily operational involvement. The Wired people were far more commercial, lied through their teeth about their success, which at a publishing conference in Zurich kind of got debunked publicly. They were not very ethical, but who is in big time publishing? Ad-selling is like that. Many people (Negroponte was also a shareholder and columnist) I assumed (wrongly, Rosetto has pointed out) that Eckhart Wintzen was a private shareholder and used his public company’s ad-budget, he obviously was proud to be involved in some way) used Wired for ego-boosting. Barlow once remarked, in a Wired Video, that media were not about informing, but about selling eyeballs to advertisers, I wonder if he wasn’t poking fun at Wired then. I never liked Wired. It was too material; too hard. Maybe this is because I turned Louis Rosetto and Metcalfe down earlier, but I never trusted the Wired approach and in the end their great plans of going public failed because of those reasons and finally the magazine was sold to a big time publisher, Conde Nast. Jane was a great human contact talent. She made this September 1990 garden party at my house a real success, but I couldn’t afford to hire her longterm. Of course many or in fact most contributors to Mondo ended up writing for Wired (and were paid, something Mondo couldn’t do).

Mondo, on the other hand never really was run as a business. It was a hobby; a social engineering venture by people with not so much interest or ability in the competitive world of publishing. Alison spend her heritage (and a lot of energy and talent) on the project. There were sponsors and benefactors, but Mondo was more an art project than a business. The same was true for my Dutch publication Ego2000. We made seven or eight issues and never made money. As the owner of the Sala Communications corporate structure however, it was my prerogative to have a hobby publication and it fitted well with my little Amsterdam cybershop Egosoft and my interests in what happened in the USA with Mondo. The editorial in Ego2000 covered roughly the same subjects as Mondo. I, of course, interviewed many of the Mondo contacts, added local content and articles, my travelogues, meetings all over the world, my hero’s of the time, it was obviously an ego-document. Kyra Kuitert was my main editorial assistant and we had fun making it, nobody asked nasty questions about cost or income. I had the money, the same as with my television channel Kleurnet a few years later. It was my thing and who would stop me, as long as the general Sala Communications corporation (I had shops and many other activities, digital picture library activities, computer shows and publications) made money, who cared? For me, work never was work It was personal development mixed with fun and a chance to meet interesting people. The enormous list of TV interview and programs from those days speaks for itself.

What remains of the Mondo spirit twenty years later is an interesting question. The cyberculture of gadgets and IT-connectivity has become mainstream, the future of Mondo then is a reality now in many respects. Mondo was fundamentally politically incorrect and fearless, now most media are all about fear. The new age has become a movement of fear (health, environment, 2012), not of hope. Society has lost much freedom, traded for the post 9/11 fake security that really hides the police state and the war on people. Freedom and Security have become opposites, not the Plato span of horses with a common goal, profiling the new and sneaky discrimination tool. Cyberspace is not the new democracy Barlow hoped for, but more and more a repression and consumerism tool.

Mondo was a magazine for freethinkers, made by freethinkers and there was a period of about 5 years (1990-1995) that this had a real effect, but then the mood changed, the war on people (war on drugs) intensified, the status of the US as a world opinion leader went down with ever more negative news, eclipsing in the 9/11 situation. Progress since then has been in the technology, internet, mobile computing and multimedia, but what really great music, art, literature or films have we really seen? What new science has evolved? We are stuck, captured in the rational and logical thinking, cut off from the spiritual and in a dead-end alley as far as science, environment and social justice are concerned. The financial crisis is not the result of manipulation by the banks and the system. We, the people, and our greed (hence the focus on the material because of our deep fear and lack of hope) have caused the crisis. The banks and institutions have just provided the tools and instruments. We have lost and cut off the contact with the “other,” the unseen, the irrational, the metaphysical.  We’re busy fighting our fears with our smartphones, social networks and hoping to find a solution in the digital bits. The chance we had to resize our worldview, to accept the adventure of not knowing; of not being safe and thus really learning has been handed over to the always-on security of our smart phones and our monitored world that will eventually lead to stagnation and loss of entrepreneurial initiatives. We are less creative, less daring, and as I personally confront this trend in public appearances and in publications of many kinds I am very disappointed that even the so-called spiritual and cultural leaders of our world are more concerned with their personal ego and maintaining their circles of influence than with new opportunities and vistas.

History now

Energetically, the Virtual Reality wave of the 1988-1994 period has died out. VR is now a technique used in engineering and the medical field but has not reached the wider society (it had some nasty health issues like now 3D) and the IT industry has focused on getting IT everywhere, all-the-time and always on. The adventure of merging and combining new technologies, new thinking, out-of-the box thinking, convergence of ontological views (i.e. the psychedelic) has stopped, we are all high tech neoliberals now (we think forgetting 2/3th of the world population). Mondo was positive, open, while mainstream media mostly have become closed, less pluriform, more politically correct. Mondo was a horizontal magazine, working from the premise (psychedelically inspired) that there is no ultimate truth, no general reality, there is individual truth and reality we can share and enjoy. This more horizontal paradigm does find its way… it’s now very noticeable. I think the (as yet not recognized) changeover from vertical (screen) computing to horizontal touch computing (tablets and pads tilted the interface fundamentally) will have a profound effect on hierarchical organization to come. It’s hard to keep the boss/subordinate model going when discussing things over a pad and with close finger-contact.

The internet has changed the world, and only Boing Boing has remained from those Mondo times. Wired is a gadget-oriented quasi-intellectual mainstream publication, and the Mondo crowd has spread out. Tim, Terence and many others are no longer there, and I am amazed that it took only fifteen years before the academic world started to be interested in what they now call late-century cyberculture and spirit. We will see how accurate and valid they will portray the Mondo and New Edge movement.

Mar 28 2012

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub.”

As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

R.U. Sirius

 

Mondo 2000 has been, for me, a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art. I believe the magazine and the scene were at the root of the development of the late twentieth century cyberculture and have helped bridge the gap between the more traditional new age (fairly conservatively focused on eastern traditions, health and body; somewhat negative and Luddite about technology) and the computer/information wave.

My involvement with the actual magazine was limited, I sponsored with money and was international distributor (paying in advance helped to print the magazine). My involvement with the people of and around Mondo was what was most important for me, those contacts opened a door into the world of cyberspace, cyberart, psychedelic (ontological) philosophy, design and counterculture. The Mondo scene was where one would meet the great alternative thinkers and writers. They were easy with their contacts and networking; opened many, many doors for me and I am very grateful for what I took home — not so much in material things, but in thinking for myself. Mondo inspired me to publish a similar magazine in Dutch, called Ego2000, and has been a source of contacts and new ideas for my activities in the nineties. Apart from writing and publishing. this encompassed my broadcast television station in Amsterdam. This Kleurnet channel (colored net) produced some 8000 television programs between 1995 and 2001, covering a wide range of subjects, many with a similar focus and taste as to what Mondo offered.

Mondo 2000 was a focal point where the counterculture, psychonauts and mind-researchers met, physically in Berkeley, and at various events in SF and elsewhere. They met in person, but also communicated via the then emerging email and budding internet communications of the times such as The Well. It united the greatest out-of-the box thinkers and change agents of the era, but was not a commercial success. Money to pay the printer had to be found every time. Lack of commercial talent and financial savvy hampered its development so that the newer Wired was able to capture the flag of the cyberculture. Wired was more of a hit, but remained more gadget-oriented and lacked the heart and zeal of the Mondo initiative. Funny enough, founding publishers Louis Rosetto and his partner Jane Metcalfe (after their Electric Word venture in Holland) contacted me in early 1990 to ask for funding for a new magazine in the US, which later became Wired (1991 trial, 1993 first issue). Jane was a great networker and organizer and I actually employed her for a while. She set up the seminal September VR-party in my house in Hilversum, near Amsterdam. I always considered Wired as overly commercial and not so ethical and was proven right when Wired tried to go public and failed because their data were not very honest, to say the least. While many contributors wrote for both magazines, the Wired-Mondo dichotomy; the difference in focus taught me a lot about the soul, the root energy of a venture, how the initial thrust kind of shaped its future. Wired in a sense was a cheap market oriented venture, it lacked the quality and integrity of the Mondo format.

In the early Eighties (1982) I started my computer magazine publishing company, after working as a launch editor and roving reporter for Pat McGovern of IDC/IDG, before that being employed by Fasson, Bruynzeel and Philips. As a then new journalist (I never trained as such) I travelled extensively to the USA, as the rise of the home computer (Commodore, MSX, Apple, PC) was partly a European thing with English makers like Sinclair, but obviously the USA was the motherlode for computernews. I went to shows like the NCC, the Comdex and the CES shows, often in Las Vegas, where I hooked up with the Californian crowd of computer journalists, afficionado’s and hobbyists. Those were exciting years, the computer spread from the highbrow DEC/IBM scene to the home, hobbyists became involved, the Commodore 64 opened a new world of low level ICT. I rode that wave with magazines, end-user shows (PC Dumpdag), books and even a retail operation. I was familiar with computers already during my studies (Physics at Delft University and Economics in Rotterdam), in my early career followed trainings in Industrial Engineering and was groomed by Philips for an executive commercial position in telecom in a year-long worldwide training program. When the personal computer emerged, I jumped in with a 16 KB Philips P2000 unit I used for my first books about home-computers, computer games and programming and then gradually developed my publishing and writing activities in telecom, the home computer field and later in more general ICT. I am happy I went through the rigorous mathematical and physics programs at university, because it taught me to think straight and systematic; this being in line with the slight Asperger syndrom behaviour I sometimes display. Apart from that I have always read extensively and my journalistic and media skills were acquired and learned by doing and supported by some guts, I was always in for a new venture.

Homebrew computers

In my travels for the computer press I met people like Lee Felsenstein, Jan Lewis, Mary Eisenhart (Microtimes), and of course Allan Lundell, Amara Angelica, Saint Silicon (Jeffrey Armstrong) Dusty Parks and friends. We were hanging out together; meeting at the computer shows in the press rooms. We joined the insider parties at these events with what then were budding entrepreneurs like Gates and Philippe Kahn (Borland), and opinion leaders like John Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle. I felt part of the new wave of ICT for the masses, but as an insider. I wasn’t only a journalist and writer, but invested a bit, started trading computers and basically used my publications to get in touch with interesting people. This is something I have always done, even my Kleurnet TV station was a kind of front, a mousetrap to catch the inspiring and interesting ones, the change-agents, the mavericks.

However, in those days it was all very straight; computers, ICT, business, the alternative wasn’t on my mind, but I was connected. This all changed in 1989. I got in touch with new age thinking, had some deep and life-changing personal mystical experiences and opened up to the  alternative side of computers, like brain machines, mindware (Bruce Eisner’s focus) and saw the much broader horizon opening with multimedia, pictures, video. There were visits to Xerox Parc, contacts with fringe scientists, hackers, game-developers… I realized that the days of alphanumeric number-crunching were over. Another notion that dawned upon me then was that data and information are not the same; “a bit is only information if it bytes” was the keyphrase I used and use to make that clear.

GHC

Then around the first big Hacker Conference august 1989 in Amsterdam (Hack-Tic/Paradiso),  I was approached by my friend Allan Lundell (his book Virus was just out… and the famous Captain Crunch — John Draper — was there too) who proposed to me that I support a new magazine which was to be called Mondo 2000 and showed me a mockup. It looked fantastic, desktop publishing really applied to creative publishing, in color, with visual effects that were, at that time, revolution in action. At the closing day of this conference (The Galactic Hacker Conference/ICATA) we had a party at my house in Hilversum (25 km from Amsterdam), where many showed up. The hacker folks, the Chaos Club people with Wau Holland, the local hack and Digitale Stad luminaries like Rop Gonggrijp and Caroline Nevejan came. It was a nice party, that cemented many connections made at the hacker conference, which was in itself a major networking node in the pre-internet times (we had some email, but no web then). Allan and I dropped acid, sitting in the bathtub of my house. We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub. Allan has some video from that party.

Locally this GHC stemmed from Hack-Tic and resulted in what later became XS4all and De Digitale Stad, but I personally had little empathy for what then was labeled as technoanarchistic hacking and focused myself on the USA and international side of things. However, this GHP brought together ‘the crucial network’ as Caroline Nevejan describes this and certainly influenced the cyberculture and cyber-counterculture. She, in a way, sees this as a consciously staged and orchestrated process, bridging the incommensurability (see 1962 Thomas Kuhn ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’) between participants. I tend to see it more as an autoconspiracy (again a notion Barlow inspired), an energetic exchange that fits the times and the place, and kind of inevitable happens. Maybe this is because I always more liked less staged parties and the mixing of people, ideas and disciplines that can then happen, more the be-in philosophy (Michael Bowen 1967). We come together because we had to, and for an outsider this might look like a conspiracy, but it is more a play. There usually is a spielmeister or facilitator, who sets the stage, but does not know or plan the outcome. This all of course has to do with my understanding of time, future and energy and how things come to pass,. The malleability of reality and the laws of nature is a major issue in my further work and development.

These events, like the GHP and the 1990 Linz Ars Electronica were pivotal events. The people that mattered in what later was coined the new edge movement met and started to make it happen.

Mondo

As a result of meeting the Mondo people in Amsterdam and my promise to help them out financially, somewhat later in 1989 I went to the USA, partly because of my regular visits to computer shows and Silicon valley as a journalist/entrepreneur, but also to renew contact with Lundell and the Mondo crowd. That late summer many things happened in my life. I discovered spirituality and had some amazing mystical experiences, got in touch with the Esalen new age crowd and began to see computers in a much wider and more spiritual context. Before, I was already interested in what computers could do for psychology, like with brainmachines and even started a small shop called Egosoft. There I was selling all kind of mind-enhancing devices, the early smart drugs, and all kinds of brain-tools, hypnotic audio, isolation tanks, even some magic mushrooms — stuff that was totally legal then. But in the late summer of 1989, there came the interest in the more esoteric, even the mystical aspects, like in techno-paganistic work of Marc Pesce (the VRML guy) and how information is a dimension in itself, related to consciousness. These thoughts and notions have kept me busy ’til today, with Infotheism and the legality of Cyberspace still on my mind. Information in that sense is a path, the Silicon path, as in the Silicon Brotherhood Creed from 1989 (see adendum).

In the USofA

In the USA that autumn I got more in touch with the Mondo house and the Mondo crowd, even stayed there for some time. I wasn’t so much working on the magazine but just being helpful, paying for the first Apple Postscript laserprinter, for food and many things — as cash was rather scarce in those days.  R.U. Sirius did have the most amazing collection of weird psychedelics.

It was an old house, above a creek and fairly complex of structure, with offices and rooms tucked away here and there. Alison Kennedy aka Queen Mu and Ken aka R.U. Sirius were living there. Jas Morgan was running around and the whole house was full of rubble, books, stuff, ideas, notes and half-worked articles. Mu and R.U. then were in a strange quasi-relationship. There were lovers and would-be lovers (a guy kind of lived in a van outside); many guests and some people working on the magazine. One of them was Linda Murman, then with Allan Lundell, who did some admin and money chasing. I had a great time there, not doing much apart from sending editorial articles back to my magazine staff. I remember that as the place was messy, even filthy, with rubble everywhere, I tried to clean here and there.

One day I decided to clean out the big fridge in the kitchen, and kind of put aside or in the bin the weird little packages there that I thought were just old pieces of meat or something. This caused a panic, as there wasn’t only a bear’s penis, but also spider venom and a few other outlandish ingredients, related to Queen Mu’s work/hobby. Anyway, I met amazing people there, among them John Perry Barlow, whom I liked and had many and deep conversations with. He had an apartment on Potrero hill in SF, but his family was living in Wyoming. One day he went to visit them. I hitched a ride across the bay, and then our conversation was so animated, that I stayed with him (I could always take a train back was the idea) for the whole trip, some 15 hours through snow and ice, to his family house in Wyoming. I flew back after a nice meeting with his wife and kids. On my 40th birthday, the Mondo people, always in for a party, especially as I was paying for the food and drinks, threw a great birthday dinner for me. Timothy Leary, Barlow, Claudio Naranjo and his wife (Enneagram); the weird professor of Asian religions that Queen Mu was more or less married to (a great dinner entertainer), R.U. Sirius , Linda and some more.

There was a catch, however, as Mu, in her role as grand witch, had secretly decide to match/couple me to Linda. As I was not very experienced with psychedelics at that time, the kind of concoction they half-jokingly slipped me caught me by surprise. Before that summer I had never taken anything, only one toke of a marihuana cigarette when I was 16 or so.

Her recipe in a way worked, I ended up with Linda in bed and for the next few months that was it. She had a house in Boulder Creek, full with Allan’s stuff and took me there. As I had no car, I was kind of stranded for the week out there. I remember how I sifted through Lundell’s gear. He was a writer for electronic and AV magazines, not a great organizer, but assembled the most extensive collection of video gear one could imagine, most lying around in the Boulder Creek house on the hill or stashed in a shed outside. I cleaned out a lot of rubble, read, and watched video’s (no web then!). Sometime in the spring of 1990 I decided to go back to Holland and pick up my activities as publisher. My company kind of ran itself, while away, I just wrote articles and editorials and emailed (complicated procedure in those days with modems and 12kbps connections) them, for the computer magazines we produced, In those days there were magazines for specific machines like Commodore, Atari, PC-DOS, MSX and one about general computer news.

I was (at that time and still) an outspoken and somewhat obnoxious journalist, publisher and entrepreneur and I made money in ICT, and therefore I was a bit the “enemy” of the alternativo’s in the Dutch hacker scene. When the hackers sold out for big money a few years later (Xs4all), I felt they had betrayed their original creed. I however always believed their stance was worth protecting, and the Silicon Brotherhood Creed at the end of my Virtual Reality book (written in 1990, but this creed evolved in and from meeting with Lundell in 1989) acknowledged the importance of the deviant, the alternative, independent hacker).

Barlow was, in those days, a good friend and inspiration. He spent quite some time in SF. We travelled and tripped together, he got me backstage at the Grateful Dead new years concert, we visited trade shows and discussed the world, copyrights, God and psychedelics. His thinking inspired me a lot. I had used so many of his ideas and visions in my VR book, that I decided to put his name on the cover too. We differed in opinion in some ways. I never sided with his belief that copyrights don’t matter, that information should be free. His Cyberspace Independence Declaration/Manifesto was, in the context of his EFF work, a great statement and has been very influential; one of the few articles that really address the need for clear cyberspace rights and laws. It was, at the same time, somewhat naive, expressing a belief in the power of information and freedom that didn’t reckon with the traditions and forces concerning copyrights and the fear of institutions and governments for total freedom. I think Barlow was also inspired by Leary’s Declaration of Evolution (1968). The whole subject of cyberspace rights, legislature and freedom has been the subject of many articles I wrote in Dutch, also in the context of Infotheism and my personal notion of evolution as “a remembrance of the future” and what DNA is (an antenna into the future).

Sacramento 3220

The San Francisco scene in those days had (for me) two poles. One was Henry Dakin’s outfit on Sacramento 3220 (Henry’s Playhouse full with nonprofits and a secret Apple multimedia lab, the SF-Moscow Teleport, Jack Sarfatti and, later, Faustin Bray). The other was the Mondo House, up the hill a bit in Berkeley. Henry was a humble and softspoken millionaire, heir to the Dakin Toys fortune but fascinated by the alternative; be it waterbirth, East-west bridging, dolphins, new physics (Jack Sarfatti), Damanhur or psychedelics. He facilitated so many and was so helpful in organizing, promoting and financing the new, the different, the small and great innovators, I always liked him and his gentle approach. He was easy, slept in the back of my Egosoft new-edge shop in Amsterdam. He was an inspiration for me and many.

The Mondo house, with Queen Mu in charge and at the purse (and the editing!), was a different story. More egocentric, Mondo wasn’t about helping the world. It was an ego-statement by what my kids called catch-up hippies, flippo’s obsessed with the new, the different, who saw the potential of the new technology, as a mind changing and world changing tool. The spirituality that Henry Dakin lived was part of the Mondo culture too, but more as a tool, an experience, as part of the psychedelic awareness, the transcendental in action. Of course the house was full with esoteric art and books. All present were very well read. With people like Claudio Naranjo (enneagram), Barlow and Jaron Lanier around, philosophy and spirituality were part of the daily smorgasboard of discussions and exchanges, but not in a formal way. Although all had some deeper understanding and awareness of the mystical, the transcendental or deep contemplative was not on the agenda. Many had (had) contacts with Alan Watts or John Perry and the beat-generation poets like Ginsberg were not far off, but Mondo was more worldly than that. It made connections with the New Physics crowd via Nick Herbert (and Fred Wolf); dabbled in whatever was new in arts and music, but kind of stayed away from the health scene, the new age body work, Gaia folks and soul searching. But there was enough; the connections from Mondo with what was happening in the Bay area and beyond were fascinating. I really laid the foundation of my network there, which became the basis for my later work (writing, television, esoteric studies) and inspires me till today.

Counterculture

Before Lundell and friends made me aware of Mondo and got me involved, I was familiar with the technological side of things, the ICT industry and its outgrowth into brain machines, mind technology, but was not really hip to the general counterculture of those days. I was more a new age person with an ICT interest. Of course when I got to the Mondo house, I caught up. I have seen and read the earlier publications that R.U. was involved with — High Frontiers and Reality Hackers, but those were more traditional in appearance and layout. It was Mondo (and of course Bart Nagel and Heide Foley who made that jump in layout perspective happen) that really opened up to PostScript and the integrated layout possibilities that so markedly made Mondo 2000 a new wave in publishing.

When the Mondo people asked for support, I donated money to help print the first issue, as did John Perry Barlow and I also subsequently helped out here and there with some funds and became international distributor, not with much success. It came down to preordering and prepaying for some 800 issues (and that helped to get it printed anyway) every run, and having them shipped to some distributors in the Netherland and England. However, I never made money out of Mondo and ended up with serious stacks of Mondo’s, still in my cellars.

As R.U. was not only a keen observer and gifted writer, he also supplied all kinds of things to the Bay area cognoscenti and therefore had a real interesting network. Psychedelics were the not so secret but illicit link between the various subworlds of art, literature, music, new age and technology. Morgan Russell, R.U., Queen Mu, St. Jude (Jude Milhon/Hippie) were all broadly interested, but in different directions, with different networks and it was this convergence that was the hallmark of Mondo. They covered the whole gamut of alternativity, with a distinct “highness” underlying the meetings, events and discussions.

As this was the Bay Area and Silicon Valley was close, the link with the computer industry was easy and logical, There was the money and the excitement, in those days everybody looked at the new possibilities, whether it was in music with synthesizers; in broadcasting with digital media; in entertainment with the emerging computer games — and virtual reality was definitely the magic potion that would free us from the limitations of space and time, the ultimate trip, the electronic drug. Most of the people involved had a sixties background, although there were also the catch-up hippies like myself, who missed out on but were fascinated by the likes of Leary and the Zeitgeist of the sixties.

Part 2 will be published Friday, 3/30

Adendum

The Silicon Br/otherhood :

` We acknowledge the Silicon Path ‘

By Luc Sala and Allan Lundell
Hilversum, August 14, 1989

The computer and information technology, with the word Silicon as its main symbol, is one of the identifiers of the 20th century. This has challenged some to explore its possibilities beyond the mere superficial, utilitarian aspects of it. In arts, media, psychology, Artificial intelligence, consciousness projects, religion and creative crime, new applications are discovered and new interactions mapped. As has happenend in the history mathematics, the quabala, martial arts, building technology etc., such powerful new knowledge is first applied to the relatively mundane fields of economics, warfare and the suppression of people before one acknowlegdes and then explores the transcendental possibilities.

All through the ages people have concentrated on parts of the reality to gain access to the greater or even ultimate reality in themselves and the perennial wisdom of our species and the earth, our Silicon Mother Goddess.

The computer offers us new, and at the same time, age-old, possibilities of concentration and expansion, of communication and isolation, ego-discovery and letting go, that are largely untapped. Those who are now so deeply involved in the computer are, even unconsciously, part of a new tradition, the Silicon Path.

Now we, the initiators, explorers, guardians and even exploiters of the Silicon awareness revolution are concerned about its uses and abuses, and above all, acknowlegde its potential for growing awareness and human transcedence. We owe today’s hackers and whiz- kids, and ourselves, the opportunity to follow the Silicon Path, becoming the magi(cians) and mystics of our times. If the computer is nothing but another way to get in touch with the ultimate reality (and what else could it be), it needs some `small’ br/others to safeguard that path.

 

 

 

Feb 06 2012

Smart Drugs & Nutrients In 1991 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #5)

By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years).  Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it… with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect.  As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well…  recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, ‘Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…’ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ‘Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day.’ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to  be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ‘Well, I’m beyond that.’

“The hipster crowd backed away. ‘I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types not “hippies,” mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients— some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing.  Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected.  People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, so don’t blame the contributors below if it bothers you.  Blame yourself.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine,Piracetam,Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids.  Any experiences you would like to share for publication?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#1 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:26 PM)

Yesterday, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Focus* plus a packet of *Go For It*.  This translates into a big dose of choline and Phenylalanine, plus cofactors.  I felt a big lift and worked for many more hours than usual.

Today, I spoke with a nutritionist at UCSF who assured me that no scientific evidence exists linking amino acids to psychoactive effects.  I also read several scientific papers asserting that the effects of nootropics such as piracetam have not yet been conclusively demonstrated.  Am I experiencing a placebo effect?  Also, I recently went to a party where various smart drugs were served to a hip, young, club-hopping crowd.  I wonder if these mild forms of recreational pharmaceuticals will capture their interest.  Tonight, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Be Your Best*, which contains arginine, and then went to the gym and played two hours of basketball.  I didn’t notice much of an effect.  Perhaps a little extra perspiration.  I also have ten piracetam tablets hanging around and am waiting for an appropriate moment to take them. I understand that they should be followed up with regular doses.  Comments?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#4 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 02 May 1991 (10:07 AM)

My understanding is that Dirk and Sandy license their name to a variety of retail companies.  *Focus* appears to be identical to *Memory Fuel* and *Go For it* is similar to *Rise and Shine*  I have noticed no effects on my libido.  I have noticed an appetite suppressing effect.  I only at one small meal yesterday, which is highly unusual.  This morning I am drinking *Rise and Shine* and *Memory Fuel.*  The experiment continues…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#5 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Thu 02 May 1991 (12:12 PM)

Nootropil/Piracetam works works WORKS!!!  Order it from  InHome Health Services  Box 3112  2800 Delemont  Switzerland.

Tell the nutritionist over at UCSF that, unless your dead, EVERYTHING IS PSYCHOACTIVE!!!

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#8 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Fri 03 May 1991 (01:41 PM)

.. the story is for Rolling Stone.  I would still love to hear about any experiences with smart drugs.  I suspect that there are some dedicated users out there.  The scientific evidence I have read so far seems inconclusive.  Piracetam and Hydergine definately have some effect, but the exact mechanisms are unknown and the effects vary from person to person.  Some feel nothing, some are blown away.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#13 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Sat 04 May 1991 (11:29 PM)

The measurement for intelligence is slippery, memory less slippery but a little wavy nonetheless.  I know pyschoactivity when I experience it though.  Can’t testify to the long term effects of this stuff though.

Smart Drugs are about to get alot of media-this year’s “virtual reality”.  & I think that smart drugs will come closer to living up to the promise & the hype, particularly if people go for Piracetan.  Remember LSD.  Chemistry is a most awesome kind of technology…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#14 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Sun 05 May 1991 (10:34 PM)

I just spent a day in Santa Cruz with John Morgenthaller, who very generously went through his files with me and pulled some of the papers cited in his book.

We picked up three college-age hitchhikers in Santa Cruz today.  All were clean cut students who used recreational drugs regularly– the war on drugs hasn’t done so good down there

I guess.  We asked if they would be interested in smart drugs.  All of them said they wouldn’t take them without a recommendation from a friend.  An anecdote, in other words.  It’s not scientific, but its how we decide.

I also did Vasopressin for the first time today.  It had a definate, but subtle, effect.  My dose was fairly small.  I suspect this is going to be one of the popular ones.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrient

#mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#46 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 06 Jun 1991 (10:47 AM)

Question: How does Vasopressin work.  I had the pleasure of four big squirts courtesy of R.U. and now I’m curious.  It was a very pleasant experience.  I know it’s a synthetic pituitary hormone, but why should that make me happy?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#77 of 633: Flem (flem) Sun 13 Oct 1991 (06:57 PM)

I bought some Vasopressin from Interlab.  It works best for me when I am burnt out.  It doesn’t do anything if I’m already alert.  It burns my nostrils and smells like burnt matches.  I can’t wait to get more.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#108 of 633: Judith Milhon (stjude) Wed 22 Jan 1992 (11:27 PM)

i keep asking myself, is dilanting making me more creative, or is it just my imagination? why are all you non-epileptics doing dilantin? i have my own ideas on this, but the literature is so VAGUE. anecdotes are sweet, but can anybody sum up their experiences in the abstract, so i can understand them?

I think that dilantin focusses my attention while maintaining the latitutde and depth of that attention, unlike most stimulants.

I think that dilantin gives me an emotional detachment from tasks and events. hoop-la: it’s not an anti-depressant, but an anti-neurotic.

Anybody have any ideas on this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracetam

After much talk about the Placebo effect, I lashed out…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#113 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (12:14 PM)

I’ll repeat myself again.  I’ve been taking drugs *seriously* for 25 years now and I know how to tell genuine psychoactive effects from wishful thinking.

See back when I bought that clump of rat shit in the park in Cambridge in ’68 we didn’t know from a placebo effect.  We called it “getting burned.”  I’m not a mark, I’m extremely skeptical and I find this no-nothing dismissiveness … well, exactly what it is.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#114 of 633: Eugene Schoenfeld (genial) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (03:06 PM)

Ken with drugs like cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, DMT, even caffeine, the effects are so distinct that virtually all users note the effect. Among the so-called “smart” drugs, only vassopressin and the ephedrine(or other caffeine-like compounds) consistently produce notable effects, according to reports posted here on the Well(except for your reports).

I know you are aware that anecdotal reports are suspect because they don’t eliminate the placebo effect. That’s why scientifically valid studies are useful. Also, when one has a vested interest in a product, judgement is affected. Another reason for impartial trials.

So, what is the evidence that “smart” drugs have an effect, apart from the stimulants? You FEEL that they do? Come on, Ken, you’re smarter than that.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#283 of 633: magdalen (mdln) Thu 23 Jul 1992 (10:43 PM)

I think I fall into the ‘smart drugs, dumb users’ category, myself… my experimentation has been quite limited and very random.  The interesting thing about this approach is that it’s much like a double-blind test.  I ws taking L-Phenyalanine without much of an idea of what it was supposed to DO; it just seemed like some generic smart drug to try.

I turned into a raving, seething, foaming at the mouth bitch for about five days before I connected my moods to the L-pheny.  I haven’t taken it since, though I have found that L-Cysteine is a pleasing accompaniment to long evenings of hardcore partying (like I said, I’m a dumb user), and it’s nice to take some the morning after as well with my first cup of coffee.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 285 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Fri 24 Jul 1992 (10:53 AM)

I *like* raving, seething, foaming  at the mouth bitches.

 

This being Mondo, the talk turns naturally to LSD

 

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 423 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 01 Dec 1992 (02:02 AM)

A friend of mine took 1/4 hit ie 25 mics a day for awhile and found it useful.  After about a month though everything started to seem too… um *significant* and he stopped.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#437 of 633: magdalen (mdln)  Fri 04 Dec 1992 (01:08 PM)

I used LSD as a study aid through my last two years of high school, and found it to be quite effective and, much more importantly, entertaining in that role.  I’d do 1/4 to 2/3 blotter hits as a ‘pick-me-up’ and then wander off to English class, or say write a six-page essay on _Heart of Darkness_ on a full hit.  Admittedly, this was public high school and I probably could’ve passed the courses by turning in fingerpaintings, but I found LSD to be most compatible with Humanities work.

I’ve also been known to use the sub-tripping acid technique in theatre rehearsals, both as an actor and as a director, with absolutely wonderful results.

Problems only arose when I’d try this with a batch I hadn’t yet sampled.  I remember taking the tiniest sliver of a hit to get me through an all-night pasteup session when I was editor of my school paper.  Around midnight, the editor starts fully tripping!  Yikes!  The staff was staring at me as I spent fifteen minutes absorbed in playing with a roll of Zip-o-Line…

thanks to Gary Wolf and Eugene Schoenfeld for permission to use their words and to two other friends for permission to use their words as well.

Jan 29 2012

Robert Anton Wilson Talks To Reality Hackers Forum (1988 — Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #4)

By 1988, High Frontiers was a somewhat more smoothly functioning operation.  We’d given up — for the moment — on trying to get out more than 2 issues a year, but we were running a very dynamic and well attended local lecture/community gathering series called Reality Hackers Forum at Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley, putting on one program almost every month.  Queen Mu would whip up an extraordinary “Trifle” — this amazingly rich densely layered cake dish with home-whipped whipped cream, so the events — which, if I remember, seated almost 100, had a homey vibe.  After each talk, we would have a group discussion.  I’ll always remember one guy saying: “I can make backups of my files but I can’t make backups of myself. I want to solve that problem.”  These days, that’s almost a transhumanist cliche and subject to much debate but back then, it just sounded way edgy and cool as hell.

I can’t remember if having RAW give a lecture titled “The CIA-Vatican-Cocaine Conspiracy” was his idea or ours.  I think it was our idea based on the fact that he’d written about it somewhere and we thought it was interesting.

Although he was no longer really a staff member, Lord Nose was still a pal to us all and he somehow got the assignment to pick Bob up from the airport.  Now, Nose didn’t tolerate anyone smoking in his car and Bob was a smoker’s rights militant (a fact that would later cause his column to be dropped from Mondo … not my idea, but that story is for later.)  So Bob got into Nose’s car and lit one up and Nose asked him to put it out.  I don’t recall how that standoff was resolved, but (like Nose’s lungs) I heard about it secondhand and that Bob was peaved.

But after he visited with some friends, it was a jovial RAW who showed up at Julia Morgan Theater for a talk that was at the top of his game.  He didn’t follow the script very closely, but it didn’t matter — it was big mind-stimulating fun for all. Some fragments of the talk — which will be included on the Mondo 2000 History Project Website when it’s made public — are presented below.

In the first recording, Robert Anton Wilson tries out a little bibliomancy with Finnegans Wake, and discusses the connections to European history and psycho-linguistics

Listen to the audio now:

 

Download Robert Anton Wilson discusses Finnegans Wake

The second recording features a spirited question-and-answer session about conspiracy theories, Operation Mindfuck, the Vatican, and reprogramming your own brain.

Listen to the audio now:

 

Download Robert Anton Wilson – Conspiracy Q&A

Jan 24 2012

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #3)

 As I close in on the evolution of Mondo 2000 History Project book content to the point where I have to consider what the final thing will be — it becomes clear that it will be about 1/3 collective memoir; 1/3 my memoir and 1/3 scrapbook.  The challenge is to have all of it somehow fitting into my grand (or perhaps grandiose… apparently candidate Gingrich now think grandiosity is something to brag about politically and who am I to argue.  Well, actually, I would argue were I to take the time… but grandiosity in art/artifice can on occasion strike paydirt) scheme to have it all somehow fit together and read like a very dense and complex novel (but who would believe in these characters?)

In this context, some of the work involves me retrieving origin stories from my past to illuminate the influences that brought me to High Frontiers and eventually to Mondo 2000 and the cyber counterculture.

Recently, Boing Boing had me contribute to their marvelous weeklong tribute to Robert Anton Wilson — and only as I sat down to write something for them, I remembered that “The Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson trip” was at the unfinished top of my outline of things I need to write for the book. I had put it off as a big challenge and had moved on to other stories and observations.

I originally imagined that this entry for the book would be largely about the philosophy or Reality Tunnel that some call the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm.”  I would — of necessity — interrupt a narrative flow that leans towards storytelling to explain ideas, since the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm,” more than anything else influenced the magazine I wanted to create.

But as my story about discovering the Illuminatus Trilogy emerged for the Boing Boing contribution, it became clear to me that I needed to explain my fascination with Leary in a somewhat similar style — ultimately merging the two stores into one short section of the Mondo book.

And it was while thinking about my initial fascination with Leary that this entry took a dangerous turn towards “confessing” my mid-70s fascination with famous pariahs…  outcasts from outcast culture. I have a touch of trepidation about presenting these thoughts in these knee jerk times… that people will think I’m speaking to today’s politics rather than the complicated and sometimes contradictory impulses that motivate activity  — and also wonder, often, if I’m going to be telling the MONDOids the stories they want to hear — or if I should care about it.

As to the stuff about Leary maybe being “a fink,” yes… I leave it hanging, as it will always be hanging.  I would say, though, that one of my favorite moments in Mondo history was when I began editing the conversation Leary had taped with William Gibson  (not knowing it would ultimately be transcribed for print) and came across Tim casually talking about being thrown into “the hole” in a Minnesota Prison because the feds were dissatisfied with his testimony about the Weather Underground. (You won’t find it in the linked segment, but you will find it in the magazine… if you have a copy.)

Anyway, for your reading pleasure… a possible fragment from the Mondo 2000 History Project book, tentatively titled “Use Your Hallucinations: A History of Mondo 2000 and the Cyber Counterculture.”

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years.  From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come.   Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm.  As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”  Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds.  People were either bitchy; or in retreat — smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.)  David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say — as I do at the opening of this book — that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally) but original persona.  His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment.  While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain.  To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary…  all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping out the 1960s.  I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture.  It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me.  During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile.  At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert — who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison.  And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement.   This was very depressing.  But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held.  Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a  “science faction” book.  Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself.  My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing.  I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

[ insert Robert Anton Wilson section here ]

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim.  The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new.  The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque proto-transhumanism came in 1977.  It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But the town’s bookstore was open.  I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out.  And then I read them again. It all resonated.  It all made sense to me.  It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed!  These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future.  The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment.  Was I crazy?  Was I wrong?  By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary?   Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.

 

Jan 13 2012

Remote Control: The Interactivity Myth

As I quietly (now, less quietly) prepare to integrate my Mondo 2000 History Project into Acceler8or for 2012, I present former Mondo Managing Editor and author of our “Slacker Factor” column, Andrew Hultkrans reading something corrosive to a room full of marketing professionals. With a little effort, you can find the rest of the panel

I recommend also following along for the rest of the panel… (look below the video) as Andrew reappears and it gets interesting.

Here’s one other sample.