Santa Fe: A Conference of Spies

Santa Fe: A Conference of Spies

by Dean Balsamo

Do you feel unappreciated at work? Have you been passed over or demoted because of your race, religion or gender? Are you getting divorced? Feel like getting revenge? Just like to break the rules?

… Work for a foreign ministry, military or spy agency?

….And handle classified information?

You  just might take the bait when the CIA officer who’s cultivated your friendship for the last few months or years—

Taking note of these kinds of “stress points” in your life-

Decides the time is right to “show a little thigh,” …promise to show you some goodies if you’ll show some of yours.

The “bait” is usually money. The play is primal—Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–entry points for a spy’s designs on the information you  possess.

The scenario above is drawn from a talk by a Soul Catcher—a CIA agent trained to recruit assets from foreign governments.

He was one of a handful of CIA veteran presenters at a recent conference on spies I attended in Santa Fe entitled:

Spies, Lies and Nukes

Inside International Espionage

(Plame with a “Soul Catcher”) 

Organized by rock-star resident Valerie Plame , the venue offered a rare chance for the general public to not only see and hear presentations by “legends” in the world of spies– but actually get the chance to talk individually with them during the meet and mingle portions of the program.

It was evident from the talks that seduction, optics, and the Art of Persuasion form the backbone of spy-craft. This extended to the structure of the conference itself – it was designed to create an empathic response on the part of those attending.

Not that most of the audience needed any special maneuvers to get them on board. There was a unique atmosphere to the event. These were spy Enthusiasts—many of whom I found out—had that Six Degrees of Separation thing happening…they were aware of the projects, knew the players and even participated in aspects relating to the things that were discussed.

The crowd was friendly. In fact the word that came to me was “fraternal”…like the Masons or the way my Dad and his comrades got together in the early 60’s when I was a kid

The contagious atmosphere was heightened by the fact we were holed up from 8-4 in a downtown hotel—with meals and coffee breaks –perfectly scheduled to allow presenters and audience to get to know one another.

The latter is what made this venue for me. I found the men and women I met were…just like us…except the life of the spy was their calling and a greater than normal sense of public service was their mission.

Talk about polishing your brand…if this had been an official CIA event designed to influence Americans about their work they couldn’t have found a better approach.

Listening to them give their presentations and panels –and most of all –getting a chance to speak with them —gave me the chance to see them as the individuals they are.

(some of the speakers)

Boomers are going to gag, but my attitudes about the CIA underwent a huge change. I no longer look at the agency as a monolithic entity sending automatons out on nefarious assignments around the globe.

While united on certain things – none of them believe Russian influence in our system is anywhere near the levels our media claims it is for instance– there were also plenty of divergent feelings and passions on display that countered the group-think image I had of the agency before the conference.

It was  a strange feeling for a person like myself– who over the years has delved into much of the so-called “conspiracy” literature and opinions from Left to Right about the agency’s activities.

I went home the first night thinking I’d been the subject of mind control—an operation designed to specifically create the feelings I now had.

But by the second day I was all in. It was fascinating to hear what those behind the scenes had to say about their objectives and roles.

Outside of Aspen, think tanks, and Fortune 500 level executives the general public just doesn’t come in contact with this milieu and its perspectives.

I came away from the event thinking that spying—when connected to those Maslow needs—is something that grows naturally from our DNA—wrapped around the thing that trumps everything — survival.

I had to do a mental balancing act. On one hand the presenters gave their takes on various events they knew from experience and agency lore— it was exciting and gave me a lot more confidence about the CIA and those who comprise it.

At the same time they did their best to paint the agency  in a positive light. They are spies after all. Dealing with the underbelly—the darker impulses driving the “moist robot,” or our Homo sapiens selves– has got to generate some moral dilemmas but as usual there’s always someone willing to take on tasks others find they can’t. A good thing.

The presentations covered a host of subjects from the aforementioned recruitment strategies to behind the scenes of the Cuban Missile Crisis to a discussion of the “rendering” or torture the CIA was tasked with doing after 9/11 to (of course) a discussion of JFK’S assassination.

The later talk was slightly disappointing because the presenter offered Case Closed by Gerald Posner as his definitive source on the subject. It’s a book serious researchers consider a whitewash of a “whitewash” as the speaker surprisingly called the Warren Commission.

But then his talk was one he had given  to some generalist society at Harvard—not an audience in Santa Fe.

Calling it the “The Single Shooter Theory” would have been more accurate in my opinion. And then say a panel covering the 5 top questions about the tragedy–which would naturally touch on the idea of multiple shooters.

But as usual at conferences and trade shows it’s the off-handed remarks and gossip that really ups the ante in terms of the take- a-ways from the event.

Things like: the presenter above explaining anomalies around Kennedy, drugs, and MKULTRA as products of the “rogue” culture of the CIA in the 50’s/60’s, Kennedy bringing his favorite mistress to the White House so she could be evacuated along with his family should a nuclear war break out with the Russians, yes Russia does train “sparrows,” women agents using sex to carry out their tasks, and…

the various theories about the agency’s activities– members of the audience shared with anyone who would listen.

In one case an elderly man brought a brief case filled papers outlining an ongoing litany of sins committed by the agency . Needless to say he did’t exactly have a crowd around him.

Thank God Plame handled the Q &A portions of the program like a press conference…at least how we normally envision them…

This being Santa Fe this part of the program could have gone off the rails –but she enforced a …save the diatribe…what’s your question …discipline that kept the conference moving.

(from a set here in Santa Fe–a TV series about the Manhattan Project)

If the presenters had a message it could be boiled down to two main themes:

One; Russians (or Chinese etc.) can do nowhere near the damage we do to ourselves –our own divisiveness does the main damage to our society.

And two; Nothing can replace “presence,” …agents embedded in countries around the globe… as the prime focus for intelligence gathering.

Valerie Plame and those she worked with to mount this special event deserve kudos for running it with both precision and heart.

As for myself I came up with a series of topics and themes to address in some future event and/or a TV series on Netflix, Amazon– the usual suspects. Some of those ideas follow below.

Rogue Culture: The CIA in the 50/60’s:

  • UFO’S, LSD, JFK, MKULTRA and AI/Robotics – what are the implications and dangers involved in working with hackers and things like Block chain and crypto currencies.

FBI-CIA Relations Through the years

What’s worked, what hasn’t?

The Art of Persuasion and Recruiting:

More about the techniques a “soul catcher” uses. They seem like useful ideas for business and everyday life.

The CIA and the Abstract Expressionists

Is the CIA responsible for creating the market for these artists—based on the way they used the artwork to show the world what a free society we have?

Sparrow and Spy

Discuss the Russian methods of using agents and sex. Talk about famous cases like Anna Chapman and Kristine Keeler for instance.

The Real Americans: Russian Activity in the 1980’s

Yes a shameless play on the TV program. I’m sure there’s a “hook” here.

I’d be happy to go over more with a producer, show runner, writer etc.

Thanks for reading.

Dean Balsamo

 

Mexico City: Images at an Exhibition

Mexico City: Images from an Exhibition

(Subject from the Zocalo, subjected to the author’s eye and hand)

Mixed media.

Tangents blur. Lost in footsteps and eye contact. Neurons leap out of the skull.

In a previous post about Mexico City (CDMX) entitled:

Mexico City Our Pilgrimage Paths,

http://arcaneword.com/mexico-city-our-pilgrimage-paths/

I call our recent trip there a “psychogeographical tour,” a type of wandering focused on capturing the historical psychic atmospheres found in unaccustomed places and especially foreign cities.

In this post I’m sharing the flavor of the impressions I came away with– by posting select images from an exhibition my wife and I are having at a Java Joes, a popular café here in Santa Fe. It’s up all of November.

The pieces start off as photos—- but through the editing process and mutli-media approach to treating them– they become a medium for channeling the residue history and culture have left behind.

Basically it’s all about the “vibes” one finds in leaving the usual tourist haunts whether the

Labyrinth streets of Cairo…

A ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul….

Or wandering nighttime streets of CDMX…

It’s all the same. You wander like a psychic sponge soaking up that certain something a place emits.

It’s subjective for sure. But never imagined by those who inhabit the place. As a visitor I’m free to free-associate and let the magic guide my impressions.

ON THE WAY TO TEPITO

The infamous Tepito neighborhood grows from the outer edges of the Centro Historico area anchored by the Zocalo—the huge plaza at the center.

Tepito’s known for all things counterfeit, contraband and illicit. And…”I coulda been a contenda,” even some prizefighters.

It’s something of a no-go zone for Gringos and most Mexicans alike.

One night we wander the blocks and blocks of streets housing manufacturing and warehouses.

It’s just us. And our tail—a dark figure that follows us from street to street.

Finally after the shot above we turn around and stare him down.

He slinks into the shadows of a side street as we head back towards the Zocalo where the Aztec dancers drum, clang bells and chant in some plea for a forever -return of golden gods and a Feathered Serpent.

PLAZA GARABALDI AND A FOLKSY PIMP

(Rain on the plaza)

Another night I find myself once again on the outskirts of Tepito—this time on the other side flanking the Alameda area where Plaza Garibaldi lies.

It’s famous for the music. Every night mariachi bands compete for the favor of the patrons in the pulgue and mescal joints lining the square.

Normally it’s pretty tranquil if a little rough on the edges. But about 2 months ago five people were dispatched here in a turf war between gangs when assassins on scooters carried out the deadly deed.

I grab a seat on a banco under some trees. And as soon as I lit my Spirit and began taking in the sights….

A 40ish looking man with a shaved head and hipster sunglasses like you’d see at a rave– came ambling my way. He was trailed by a man about the same age with a long face, crazy googly eyes and a laugh like a braying donkey.

I just sit. Nothing to be alarmed about. I’ll talk to just about anyone anyway.

The Folksy Pimp adopts the universal pose—a slightly hunched tilt to his body and open arms like he’s trapping game on the Savannah and a big friendly smile—that says, “I want something from you.”

“Polanco?” he says.

Meaning: the Beverly Hills area of Mexico City. Funny I would never have associated the travel-worn cotton sport coat I wore –with that area.

“No,” I say. And he immediately switches to English as most street hustlers worthy of the name can do.

We shot the shit about things. He was good at pacing the conversation. He didn’t come across as hungry or desperate. Finally in a low, guttural, conspiratorial voice he says,

“You want something freaky?”

He put special emphasis on the “eeeee” at the end. He sure knew how to make taboo-breaking sound tempting while dangerous at the same time.

“No not tonight. Gracias,” I answer. Then add;

“Hey take care.”

The Folky Pimp shifts his weight to one side and cocks his head to the sky…like he’s listening to some message from the heavens—and says:

“Take care. I like that.” Before disappearing into the sea of the plaza.

ROMA—MEXICO CITY’S EAST VILLAGE

(detail from a Roma building)

Since we stay in Colonia Condessa next door, we find ourselves crisscrossing Colonia Roma all the time. It resembles the East Village 20 years ago.

Its Mercado and the old time shops and manufacturing this working class neighborhood once depended on—contend with the kinds of things you see folks creating in Brooklyn and Portland.

   It’s ripe for graffiti and tagging—we weren’t disappointed. Besides my attraction to street art I document because it can disappear under a rival’s work or a city’s paint crew.

It was here we searched for the building where Beat William Burroughs had a performance go wrong and ended up shooting and killing his wife. The building itself disappears into the background.

But a half block away was Luz Divina, a beautifully realized portrait of the kind of thing that’s always made Mexico City a popular place for Surrealists.

(Luz Divina–Roma)

THE PRYAMIDS 

When someone mentions “the pyramids “ in Mexico City they mean Teotihuacan, la Ciudad de los Dioses…the old pre-Aztec digs about an hour out of the city.

(Psilocybin Pyramid–Pyramid of the Sun)

We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun there– the subject of the image above and below. It’s the 3rd largest pyramid in the world after Giza and one in Southern Mexico. And it’s a sight.

And what can say about a pyramid. Viewing these large structures brings out something primal, something that exists at DNA level as far as I’m concerned.

(Pyramid of the Sun–photo/mixed media)

So I let my imagination carry the day. Somehow that feels like the Mexican thing to do.

The images you see here are all available. Printed on good paper they retail between $35 and $50 each –post paid. Contact me for details at:

dean@arcaneword.com or 505.570.7325

 

Ye (Kanye) + Ideation Hub + Sneakers

Ye (Kanye) + Ideation Hub + Sneakers

chicago

Given our news cycle this is “ancient” history but I was waiting to see if anyone would delve into the ideas Ye (Kanye) presented in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago.

Unlike most in the media, when I live-streamed the meeting on Periscope, I saw a man in the midst of a creative fire ( a Kundalini experience?) who used Persuasion strategies—including the unforgettable “theater” …something great Persuasion often demands…to outline a series of proposals with a visionary flavor to them.

Of course our puny pundits– so good at stirring the pot but so bad at knowing what’s in it—displayed their usual lack of understanding.

Mesmerized by the “theater” and the on-going attempts of a man to free himself of the prison of the mind—all they could do was dismiss everything Ye said.

His statement about Time not existing? Well Einstein said the same thing with “Time is a persistent illusion.” And don’t self-realized Masters include the idea as a tenet in their teachings?

And who doesn’t want “fly” planes and cars or Stop & Frisk re-considered?

chicago underpass

But the thing that hit me was Ye talking about the Yeezy Ideation Center.

When I heard that….I had a vision of…SNEAKERS and…

A girl in Kazakhstan with SO Side Kicks from Chicago….

A Tunisian boy in the Belleville area of Paris with Blues—sneakers with an indigo cast –from St Louis…

And our son’s friend…researcher during the day…online curator of collectible sneaker designs at night–selling a pair of Hops—with their red-rust soles—out of Milwaukee –to a collector in Japan.

The brands are hypothetical but the potential to make them isn’t.

I can see Ye’s Ideation center established in cities throughout the Midwest with teachers and students working in an immersive environment –bringing sneaker designs to the table—developed in their own communities. It seems like a natural product growing from the communities hosting the creative hubs.

Milwaukee

My feeling is they wouldn’t have a hard time selling them– as anything associated with “urban” culture here in the US is enjoying some great momentum here and among youth cultures throughout the world. The movies Get Out and Black Panther are great examples.

The timing for getting a sneaker production ecosystem going in the Midwest couldn’t be better.

This week The Economist in an article entitled The Producers says this about manufacturing in the Midwest:

“ Industrial output is on a tear, and the last few months have seen the best run for growth in manufacturing jobs since the late 1990s.”

 They also say, “Jobs are moving geographically. Since the recovery started, the East North Central region, which includes places like Michigan and Illinois has captured a share of employment gains that exceeds its share of job losses during the recession.”

The magazine contrasts this with the East Coast, which has seen none of the gains in this sense.

Chicago Lake Michigan

With this kind of wind at Ye’s back and his Yeezy brand opening up an office in Chicago –it seems like a perfect time and perfect product to look at producing in an Ideation hub.

The sneaker project’s economies of scale could be positively impacted if Ye would use his persuasive powers on Adidas.

Right now Adidas has a Speed Factory in the Atlanta area. Its AI-driven processes, 3D printing and skilled robotics operators means …design to product…and shipping takes weeks instead of months and only several hundreds workers versus the thousands needed in an Asian factory.

Ye understand the process since his own designs go through it. What if he spoke to Adidas about doing a second Speed Factory in the Midwest?

It could handle both over-runs and special projects for Adidas. It can also manufacture the sneakers developed in Ye’s Ideation hubs. As Jobs said, “Real artists ship.”

All the elements seem to be there. And when you add Ye’s association with the products coming out of the hubs…you’ve got all you need to see the sneakers blow up around the world. If they’re branded in conjunction with Ye I don’t see how they can miss.

Milwaukee

Speaking about Brand …and it’s importance in marketing, it’s worth discussing what Ye brings to the table in this area because of the potential he has for doing any number of things….

Including running for President in 2024.

I know what you’re thinking…I’ve lost my mind. But as the last Presidential election proved…we’re in a new era of politics.

Spending the most money doesn’t guarantee you win.

The game has changed. And Ye has two of the most critical things politicians of the future will have to have in order to make a serious run at the highest offices:

Ye has a huge Brand. And he has a huge Social Media presence.

These are currencies with the most clout in today’s political landscape. If he continues to hone his skills in the Art of Persuasion he could be the person to beat if he chooses to run. If the general economic climate holds I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ye throw his hat in the ring. America should be ready to up its visionary prospects for the future by that time.

Dean Balsamo

 

CANNABIS ISRAEL MEDICINE

CANNABIS ISRAEL MEDICINE

If Enthusiasts can stop circling the wagons and if researchers can punch a hole in the Ivory Tower we could enter a Golden Age of Exploration when it comes to our ancient relationship with cannabis.

That’s the feeling I got after attending a recent presentation here at Santa Fe’s Temple Beth Shalom by Israeli expert Dr. Nirit Bernstein – one of Israel’s top researchers into cannabis as medicine— the Israeli focus on the plant.

Under the state’s auspices she’s out to prove cannabis can be used as what we typically label “medicine”….a substance that gives predictable results.

Cleverly entitled 50 Shades of Green, Dr. Bernstein was knowledgeable but also warm and engaging. As a speaker she paced her audience and stuck to the spine of her story: Israel’s concentration on cannabis as medicine.

The underlying theme unfolded as she spoke. Basically we have a plant that’s been a part of human life for 10,000 years— as number of ancient burial sites attest – yet science is only beginning to understand how it’s various properties act.

THC for instance was only discovered (by an Israeli researcher) in 1961. And although the plant has hundreds of elements, only relative handfuls have been studied from the standpoint of scientific research— because it’s been Scheduled for so long.

And as Dr. Bernstein said since we’re talking about medicine –a whole different dynamic is at play in the study of cannabis. The number one consideration from this vantage point is: Standardization. 

This means protocols have to be followed that others investigating cannabis are not bound by.

It was a stark take-away from the talk when compared to our Wild West approach here in North America—where the distinction between “medicinal products” and what we typically call “medicine” tends to get blurred with the influence of the recreational component.

She called the Folk Medicine derived tinctures of yesterday and today, tablets and balms etc. “Medicinal Products.” She didn’t put down all the testimonials we hear from people who have successfully treated medical conditions. She just drew a line between her strategies and our approach.

Because of our particular history Enthusiasts here–Amateurs in the original sense of the word—spearhead most of the research with strains, cultivation methods and propagation because unlike Israel –which began five years ago –official support for cannabis research has lagged behind.

Is one approach better than the other? Who can say? When you travel the world you come to accept that different cultures and countries have their own way of doing things.

In Cairo for instance, though it’s officially illegal…it’s all around you.

Israel is also concerned with the sane kinds of things regarding cultivation and usage but with a different set of parameters.

I think each side can learn from the other. For instance Dr. Bernstein comes to cannabis with an expertise we normally don’t see or hear about: Soil and Water.

She shared some of her insights. As in the case of growing inside…versus outside.

She seems to favor inside growing because it offers more of the kind of standardization you have to have with medicines–that’s its essence. The thrust of Israel’s work is finding benchmarks—stable indicators of the kind of actions to expect from cannabis as a medicine.

Inside plants tend to be manicured —the whole plant gets light— the buds from top to bottom have a consistent composition of cannabis elements. A definite plus if you’re growing it to use as medicine.

By contrast outdoor plants have an uneven distribution of light. The buds at the top have full potency whereas the lower ones—who receive less light— show a much greater difference in their composition.

And when it come to adding things to the soil for growth and pest control she pointed out that some substances can actually cause a REDUCTION in CBD and other elements we might want to see.

That’s why I liked her emphasis on using Botanicals in this regard. This is Israel’s preferred method of treating soil for their cannabis. It’s less likely to interfere with the plant’s production of beneficial products.

I don’t know much about Botanicals but it sure sounds more “pure” and “organic.” Definitely something cultivators could be looking at.

All in all with so many now getting access to cannabis and the means and methods to discover it’s properties in a deeper manner—whether gonzo bio-hacking and experimentation or research in the lab– it’s looking like cannabis is at the forefront of what the late/great Terrence McKenna called The Archaic Revival.

By Dean Balsamo

 

Robots and Gender

Robots and Gender

By Dean Balsamo

(Indigenous Warrior- Mexico. Museo Nacional De Anthropologia)

If the accusations, resignations and incidents of the last couple of years have taught us anything it’s that

Gender…matters.

The biological imperative we arise from— guarantees we Homo sapiens view everything with a male or female gaze.

Hell. We label everything from rock formations and cloud patterns to cars and cannabis as male or female. It’s an integral part of our relationship with the world. We can’t escape it. It’s built into our genes.

That’s why I found a recent article entitled It’s About Time To Talk About Robot Stereotypes by Matt Simon on Wired magazine’s website so surprising.

As a long time subscriber I’ve watched it sacrifice its outlaw steampunk attitude and climb on board the corporate Silicon Valley train. Now it’s all social engineering and virtue signaling.

https://www.wired.com/story/robot-gender-stereotypes/

The author makes the case for robot designers and those who use them—the rest of us—to avoid gender as much as possible when creating our robots.

He lumps our biological attachment to gender in with “social problems, ” that he hopes robot designers will help mitigate by removing as much of our legacy associations with gender as possible.

Further on he says, “Why go backwards? Why refer to gender norms from the 1960’s “ (what about the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s on up to the present day?)…

And says this about the process: “The struggle is against capitalism’s tendency to gender every product it can.”

So even though capitalism is only a few hundred years old he’s using it retroactively to explain the human race’s predisposition to gender?

Now we’re supposed to drop our associations with gender—driven by our biology just like that when it comes to interacting with robots—our future selves?

(from the author’s Sapien Suite. Mixed media on paper)

Granted we all want to mollify the more negative aspects of gender differences but c’mon is it really possible to treat robots as a blank slate at this point?

We’ve already sexualized AI. Our attachment to our phones already makes us “cyborgs” according to Musk. We’ve already put a gender spin on things

A more realistic approach comes from Randy Eady a futurist in Florida with a twin focus on developments in care-giving robots and human mind expansion.

Randy’s Profile Link:

linkedin.com/in/randy-eady-b0a97011

I recommend looking at his posts in my feed and on his Facebook page to get a feeling of where we’re heading in these areas. It’s clear from what I can see that even the care-giving robots are being designed with a serious nod to gender.

Studies indicate that using features we see as male, female, and animal on the robots –awakens more interaction and attachment on the part of the humans interacting with them.

You can’t “sell” the robot to Homo sapiens without gender. It’s the best entry point for getting humans on board with our Robot future selves.

Take a robot security guard for instance. Who’s going to be more effective at their job–the tall robot with broad shoulders, a deep voice and a mean glare or a doe-eyed, soft-voice robot with a demure manner and stature?

The need and drive for gender in robots is most clearly seen in the evolving sex bot industry built on the legacy history of the sex doll which they can’t ignore if they want to be successful. Can you imagine intimate relations with a sex bot without gender? The robot designers can’t.

And neither can David Levy the author of Love + Sex With Robots — one of the seminal books on the subject.

Reading it, I’m convinced as the author suggests, that by mid-century intimate relations between fem/male sex bots and humans will be commonplace in our society because the robot makers are following Best Practices in this regard.

And those are based on…. The Orgasm. The drive for sexual pleasure will make the sex bots irresistible to many humans as the various gender-related signs of attraction and affection become more realistic…more…human.

It’s as primal as that. The urge to imprint gender on our robots is inescapable. How do you overturn a legacy with a million years behind it—over night?

The biological meme that divides us into sexes acts something like a shape-shifter—carrying its design strategies even into the non-human robot.

Gender is our entry point into life and wherever life takes us. And the more pronounced the gender differences and more fine-tuned they become –the more successful will robot designers be in getting humans on board with them.

Ironically I can see our current society’s attempts to blur the differences between the sexes triggering an equally pronounced drive to create hyper representations of idealized male and female attributes in …our robots. Fantasies become embodied in the robot.

Will the robots replace the sexual relations we now (hopefully) enjoy with other humans? Maybe for some.

But for the majority intimate relations with sex bots will be more a way of adding a different sexual experience to our lives than replacing human contact.

Who knows…some of the traits and attributes we find desirable in our robots may even begin to surface again in our human-to-human relationships.

We can only imagine what Freud or Reich might have to say about the matter.

He Smashes through the Saga

like a Comet Through Butter

And writes his story

like pictographs on rocks

with his own piss.

 

MEXICO CITY: OUR PILGRIMAGE PATHS

Mexico City: Our Pilgrimage Paths

A psychogeographical (from the Situationist movement) tour of Mexico City exploring the history-charged atmospheres of its landscape.

Calavera, pyramids, cannibals, headless bodies swinging to a narcos tune.

No it’s not the Bardo. It’s the blood-drenched earth of pre-Conquest Mexico forever stamped on the people who occupy it.

That’s my take on Mexico’s fascination with the macabre. It can’t be helped—it grows from the land itself.

It’s what fuels Mexico’s fantastic sense of the monumental and the ability of its arts to work with epic themes and aesthetic excellence.

With things this primal no wonder Surrealists and the Russian Avant Garde were taken with Mexico City.

The psychogeographical pilgrimages we made to our sacred sites on a recent trip to Mexico City (or CDMX as the locals now call it) continually features themes around suffering, violence and bloodletting.

But it’s all good. The city takes on a new resonance when you dig a little deeper. We had a great time. The people we encountered were warm and welcoming—even street toughs I met. It was tranquil.

Aztec blood mingles with that of the Christ in a symbiotic understanding of what Campbell would call “Redeemer” cultures.

This was my second visit to Mexico City in the last five years. The first gave me the general lay of the lay of the land. The second deepened my understanding of the country’s mystique.

In Colonia Coyoacan—about 10 miles from the city center—we visited Frida Kahlo’s home/museo. It’s everything you’ve seen in countless articles over the years except for a “temporary” exhibit that rivaled a set in a B horror film or something by the Mexican director who did The Shape of Water.

It was a surprise as so many other things in this city are—like the Russian influences ( both modern countries date back to 1917) and some of the things we saw in the anthropological museum.

As you can see below:

A cold, sterile white-tiled wall, like something you expect in a morgue–was constructed as a backdrop for the braces—in all their creepy glory—which Frida wore most of her life after being impaled in an accident when she was young.

The story here is Diego Rivera stashed them behind a locked bathroom door, they were discovered, and now the museum shares them with the world.

Then we headed to a place I had long wanted to visit—Leon Trotsky’s home. It was the place he lived when an ax was buried in his head by a Spaniard duped into carrying out the assassination by a KGB agent who hatched the plan in Santa Fe, NM according a book about spies in our area published a few years ago.

Though only blocks away from Frida’s, few took the walk to the home of her one time lover. I wasn’t surprised to find it was located at the edge of the colonia next to a busy highway minus any of the refinement found in the rest of the area.

As a former Communist sympathizer in my youth, I still revere Leon Trotsky for the fact that he epitomizes the classic view of the worker-intellectual. I’m reminded of the Jewish relations of an old girlfriend in Los Angeles who lived by a similar credo back in the late 60s.

Although the grounds of his compound were pleasant—trees, flowers, sunny:

Picture of the author in Trotsky’s garden.

The inside was another story. Unlike the Trotskyites I knew in college and the ANTIFA of today– the house was Spartan. Left as it was when he died—the atmosphere that remains–reminds me of a large jail cell—minus marks of time on the walls or even pictures.

Gray. Austere to my senses. Cold and uninviting. It reveals a man who walked the talk. The only daylight entered through widows high up by the ceiling of the towering walls. Maybe he was trying to recreate the gray skies of the homeland he was exiled from.

The amazing thing to me is although this intellectual for the masses–who mobilized the masses when the Bolsheviks took control after the first and only free election in Russia—he didn’t act like your garden-variety fundamentalist.

He had a great love for art and its romantic associations —seen in his friendship with Diego and Frida. An unusual revolutionary fusion of sensibilities.

The next day we made the obligatory trip to the “pyramids” by which everyone means the Teotihuacan complex about an hour out of the city. Last occupied by the Aztecs–no one knows who actually built the man made mountains of the Sun and Moon and supporting temples.

You have to imagine the complex’s old days– rituals of beating hearts being torn out of sacrificial victims from structures decorated with figures of their sacred animals–because the authorities have removed everything of value. They make some of best examples available for viewing in the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia the magnificent complex of buildings in Chapultepec Park –housing artifacts –even replicas of temples—devoted the various indigenous cultures of pre-colonial Mexico.

Here we saw skeletons of sacrificial victims laid out in dirt—the way they were found at the ancient sites.

And the famous so- called “Calendar” stone of the Aztecs which is actually now known as a sacrificial slab where warriors were ritualistically killed. It’s the most popular place in the museo for Mexicans to take photos of themselves

But the most startling find here was…the cannibals. The museo has a diorama of cannibals feasting on another human being while children play in the background. I’ve never seen anything like this in a regular museum. The details in the depiction blew my mind. It’s both gruesome and fascinating—like a car accident you can’t look away from.

Cannibals feasting.

The final leg of our web of pilgrimage paths took us to 122 Monterey, an apartment building sandwiched between light industry and non-descript buildings in the Colonia Roma area…about a mile from our place in nearby Colonia Condesa.

This is the location of the apartment in which Beat icon William Burroughs—pulled a William Tell performance piece with a pistol and an apple on his wife’s head. It turned catastrophic when he missed. And killed her.

I knew about the incident but never knew where it happened until we found a small note in a guide book someone gave us. None of the Mexican people we spoke with had a clue about it.

The door at 122 Monterey.

When we got there we found no plague. No nothing about what had happened here many decades ago. Just a black door a workman was painting on a building that was for sale. That’s Mexico City.

Dean Balsamo

FREEDOM OF SPEECH 2 – PILING ON

While the President set off another shit-storm in his tweets about Google –for once he wasn’t alone–just the most visible critic.

In a previous post I looked at growing concerns around social media platforms

http://arcaneword.com/freedom-of-speech-2-piling-on/

and this week find various Media entities are also wondering about Freedom on Speech online.

According to a New York Times article earlier this week,  a 100 Facebook employees lead by a senior engineer formed their own page called FB’ers for Political Diversity after raising concerns about  the company’s overly left-leaning bias. They want to create a space for “ideological diversity” to combat the “political monoculture” they feel Facebook has created.

Elsewhere at least three major magazines–The Week, The Economist and MIT Technology Review–came out this week with articles examining similar themes concerning the degree of control Google and the other social media platforms have.

The Week’s editorial wonders if Google is ditching it’s original mission statement by looking at a return to China–and following that State’s directives around censorship of online activities–the very thing that Google refused to do when they pulled out of China on 2010.

And while The Economist article largely focuses on the competition Google will now have from China’s own homegrown search engines–it does wonder how Google squares their new desire to go back there –with their former stance of not cooperating with the Chinese State requirements around the banning and blocking of specific sites (like The Economists’ )

It doesn’t look like it’ll be any different in light of what Apple had to do earlier this year–provide all it’s I-Cloud data for Chinese citizens to a central state data center so the government has the same info.

The MIT article, Who needs Democracy when you have data?,  makes it clear China’s developing a Minority Report-styled future for it’s citizens. From the way it’s developing thus far you think all they need to do is add the DNA profiles and they can start sorting out undesirables before they’re out of the womb.

Basically China and social media platforms like Facebook that work with them–because you have to play to stay–are creating a huge demerit based system to rate its citizens on their trustworthiness and reputation–what the hell that’s supposed to mean.

But the State knows it when it sees it. They’re already using a system to collect as much data as it can about each citizen. We’re talking about everything they can possibly find–from unpaid parking tickets to arguments with a store owner, participation in a demonstration, arrests for disorderly conduct, what church or mosque you attend…everything.

It’s a system of values and–like school–demerits. You get too many of the latter and you might not be able to board a train or leave the country–even be allowed to enter Beijing –as recent protestors from the outlying areas found out when they came to do a traditional protest in the capital.

The fact that a Blacklist composed of citizens who have a negative profile according to the state– is the first “product” of this new system–tells you everything about its intentions.

The MIT article is the most comprehensive discussion I’ve seen of the Chinese approach but I was surprised by the attitude of the writer. She opened her piece by denigrating the democratic electoral process we have in the west. She blamed…Brexit and Trump on it’s failings…before in my opinion doing her best to put a happy face on the Chinese efforts as being something all countries will be looking to in the future.

Whoa I thought. We’re talking about the Chinese State. We’re talking about one in five people on the planet being affected.

And we’re talking about companies that work with them–like Facebook. Last week a report came out discussing Facebook’s new strategy for evaluating how much weight to give individual’s voice online. For instance if you object to a site on Facebook–the company reserves the right  to look at thing like your network of contacts among other things in order to gauge your…trustworthiness…echoing what China’s doing.

Did Facebook come up with this all on their own? Or is it a by-product of their work in China–a bleed so to speak?

What happens when Facebook can assemble a better dossier than sanctioned spies and the agencies they work for?

When  their trove of data allows them to craft a more complete profile of you than your own government?

Does it then become another player in the worlds intelligence game…buying and selling secrets with the others in the darker recesses of the Simulation?

Maybe we don’t have take up arms but we sure might want to raise our voices when it comes to making sure our freedom of speech is used to enshrine not silence our rights to think as we want online.

In the end I’ll  take our process, as sloppy and …human as it is…over  technocratic enslavement any day.

Dean Balsamo

 

The End of the Americans–My Russian Stories

The End of the Americans — My Russian Stories

The Americans TV series was an emotional experience for me—especially the finale. I teared up. Had a flood of memories. I too had contact with Russians during 80’s, the same period as the show.

They were artists mostly. I was an art dealer in San Francisco when I first met them. Later in the decade we were in New York City where I worked for their Russian dealer for a while.

We’ve been so wrapped involved with the Russians over the last 70 years that we might as well call each other “cousin.” We’re like family– we can’t seem to live with or without each other.

As a child in the late 50’s/early 60’s it was impossible to avoid having the Ruskies on your mind. You thought of them when you took your Pavlovian dive under a desk when the air raid siren sounded.

The nuns had you pray for Russia’s “conversion” in their quest to satisfy some Dan Brown-like thread they subscribed too—connecting Russia, Our Lady of Fatima’s prophecies and some report about the Pope turning ashen when he read them. Hey what did we know? We were kids.

You lay this on the Cuban Missile Crisis and you got some first class angst—guaranteed to keep your dreams and nightmares on fire. While Dr. Strangelove– Boris and Natasha blazed new cultural paths.

And my favorite: the Russian Spies. They could be anywhere. I was fascinated with their infilltratration of our country’s P.T.A’s and civic organizations.

When we got our first home—transitioning from our artist lifestyle—to one which now had two children and a house in a “nice” neighborhood– I drew upon my Russian spy lore to craft an avatar for myself during our shift in lifestyles. I dubbed myself “the subversive suburbanite,” in order to convince myself this was just an “assignment” not really me. I was doing it for a large cause.

In schools of the late 60’s—Russian influence was everywhere. Teachers talked the language of Marx and Marcuse. Those crazy Trotskyites (ANTIFA ancestors?) were doing their thing.

But it wasn’t until the 80’s that something akin to infatuation with Russian culture happened. I found the Russians warm, cold, gracious, suspicious, intellectual, primitive, idiosyncratic and great. Pretty much like everyone else in the world—the same but different—Russian.

One of the Russian souls I met towered above the others—above most people I’ve met. Ernst Neizvestny—sculptor and visionary. He died last year. Here’s the link to The Economist Obit on him:

https://www.economist.com/obituary/2016/08/20/obituary-ernst-neizvestny-died-on-august-9th

This was the man who argued with Khrushchev about ARTISTIC expression after he called Neizvestny’s work “dog shit,” at an exhibit on the early 60’s.

From my conversations with him there’s no doubt he treated the Russian Premier —with his Stalin-era baggage about the purpose of art –like a Philistine.

Ernst lost the battle. Blackballed for years. Then won the war when Khrushchev –on his deathbed–asked him to do the piece for his tomb.

He was never sent to a camp just forced to be innovative securing materials and creating his works. Secret striving.

John Berger, the revolutionary-minded art critic, wrote a book on him. Pictured below. He traces the artist’s place within the Avant Garde linage established by the early Bolshevik artist-heroes.

I first met Ernst in the early 80’s when we had an opening for him at the gallery in San Francisco. Like many charismatic individuals he had something of a uniform—all black, leather vest, thick platinum ID bracelet. Stocky. A brutalist edge– just like his sculptures. He could have easily been an elder in Sons of Anarchy.

After the opening a bunch of us drank Russian style with him –shouts of “Nostrovia” and shots of Vodka. He embodied the heroic ideal of the artiste. I didn’t see him again until we moved to New York City a few years later.

Another person did a book him. I believe he’s connected with a museum dedicated to the artist’s work somewhere in Sweden.

Here in the States Ernst worked in relative obscurity out of his old studio on Grand Street at the edge of Soho. His twisted sculptor—often with forms of a cross—in the windows—made it look something like one of those old places of worship you could still find downtown then.

He had a huge vision for a monumental sculpture celebrating the unity of the world’s people. And said that Americans and Russians were alike when it came to appreciation for grand– larger than life projects. He thought that appreciation was baked into the large expanses of space both countries possess and the mentality that grew from them.

He inspired me enough to write a Docudrama about his life in Russia. Some how I found a draft—from ’87 I believe. Don’t know which version it might be—hasn’t had much of polish or much revising. I offer it as a product of the times. Can’t believe I did this all on a typewriter.

More Russian stories in another post.

Here’s the link to docudrama:

deans centaur (1)

Dean Balsamo

 

 

 

 

Freedom of Speech: Redskin-Filters-the Echo

Redskin-Filters-The Echo

Professor and civil rights activist Jerry Farber’s rant “Student as Nigger” galvanized Cali campuses in the late 60’s.

Like any great logline– as soon as we heard it—we got it.Saw the big picture—tasted the details—loved the concept.

Would it work like it did then in today’s online world?

The Totem of Diversity by Dean Balsamo

Jesus I doubt it. Charges and revolts over appropriation— and everyone’s favorite “racism” – would be everywhere.

Including all those friggin TV’s broadcasting the same channel in those lazy airports who take the money and abandon their clientele to the mind-numbing Media bullshit— which now instigates instead of reports.

Until the recent Purge of Alex Jones –the censorship by our internet giants appeared…piecemeal…they took out the fringe things and those damn Russians. 

The censorship sort of slipped under the radar. But Alex Jones? What’s the play here? Are the social media platforms banning him now—in order to a BUILD his audience …make him a martyr So when he comes back on …stronger than ever…they can monetize the hell out of him?

Okay so it’s a little conspiratorial. But we have a serious dilemma. Do we want the dominant companies framing the online world–to determine our rights to freedom of speech on the internet?

I don’t.

At least two of the largest are working hand in hand with the Chinese government to build a massive surveillance state by blocking, censoring and eliminating undesirable sites—undesirable people—that government has designated.   

And while the Purge is being presented as something all about “good intentions” … we all know– what that shit hole country called Hell is paved with.

Sorry. I don’t believe in “good intentions.” What I see doesn’t look good from the point of view of Freedom of Speech.

Ironically along with their censorship, employees at the company whose name means “search” to most people–has a movement to stop the company from working with our own defense/military agencies while willingly cooperating with the Chinese state. Hmm….

This is what I’d like to see happen:

Since these companies didn’t invent the internet –why don’t we take the decision-making process for safe guarding Freedom of Speech away from them and put it under our own Constitution. I don’t care what it takes—an amendment, executive action etc. let’s apply the same rights and protections we enjoy enshrined in our Constitution –online

Make our rights Vertical 

From heaven to hell.

The rest of the world can deal with this space however they want too. But it seems to me real “Resistance” in this country should be directed to a win all sides can enjoy—the freedom to say and think what we want.

I came to this decision in a personal way when Alexa decided –Post Purge—that I now had an objectionable song in my music library….one that only weeks before she added at my request without a problem.

Redskin Rhumba’s a big band tune from the 1940’s by Charlie Barnett’s band. It says everything about America at the time—infectious, you can’t sit still when it’s playing kinda music.

But when I asked Alexa to play it last week she claimed she couldn’t find it. I did a work around with the app and cued it up. But when she announced the song..

She said, “Blip (electronic sound) Rhumba.” Does this mean I now have to say “blip” or do I have to mimic the electronic sound she makes now? Is our music now going to be purged if doesn’t satisfy some algorithm invented in Palo Alto?

So who’s making these calls? And why? We’ve got a mash-up of a country—one whose culture I’ve always felt we should be free to draw from.

Objectionable words, ideas and people come with the territory …hasn’t that always been a given?

In my opinion the time has come to make the US Constitution the chief guide for online activity when it comes to Freedom of Speech. Take it out of the hands of the corporatocracy and put it in the hands of the people.

Dean Balsamo

***excerpt from Jerry Farber’s rant:

(note from this author: “Ah yes the 60’s. I always think – I’ve killed my hippie heart—and than something like this comes along”

Excerpt:

The general timidity which causes teachers to make niggers of their students usually included a more specific fear — fear of the students themselves. After all, students are different, just like black people. You stand exposed in front of them, knowing that their interest, their values and their language are different from yours. To make matters worse, you may suspect that you yourself are not the most engaging of persons. What then can protect you from their ridicule and scorn? Respect for authority. That’s what. It’s the policeman’s gun again. The white bwana’s pith helmet. So you flaunt that authority. You wither whispers with a murderous glance. You crush objectors with erudition and heavy irony. And worst of all, you make your own attainments seem not accessible but awesomely remote. You conceal your massive ignorance — and parade a slender learning.

 

 

 

SLICE—Denver: Vangst Cannabis Job Fair

SLICE—Denver:

Vangst Cannabis Job Fair

Sometimes you have to throw a variable in to the mix. Shake the box. See if all those bits and pieces you got lying around can be re-configured in a productive manner.

Last week I got the bug and attended the Vangst Cannabis Job Fair in Denver.

The Vangst site (https://vangst.com) bills itself as “The cannabis industry’s #1 recruiting resource.”

I’ve been a subscriber to their missives for about 2 years. And curious about this growing industry for the last 4 years.

I write it periodically as in these early posts from Arcaneword:

http://arcaneword.com/cannabis-shops-in-co-part-1-a-review-store-layout-visual-merchandising-transactions/

http://arcaneword.com/cannabis-shops-in-co-part-2-a-review-store-layout-visual-merchandising-transactions/

http://arcaneword.com/colorado-cannabis-stores-part-3-money-laws-distribution-comments-on-tinctures-and-topicals/

http://arcaneword.com/the-economist-corner-a-read-on-the-cannabis-industry/

But outside of making contact with the people in the retail stores, I haven’t had any contact with owners or upper tier management in the cannabis industry as I did working with upscale grocers around the country in my previous project. I’ve found that there’s a certain amount of secrecy in this regard— totally understandable.

 

I’m also looking for a partner on a CBD, first-to-market, product line from Hemp, Cannabis’s kissin cousin…. so I thought …

Okay it’s a five-hour drive—a straight shot up 25 from Santa Fe—a trip I’ve taken dozens of times over the years for work and pleasure….

This is my variable.

The event was held at the EXDO Event Center on 35th St., bordering the Five Corners area of Downtown Denver. Like most of the older parts of the city the buildings are low…and the area’s quickly going through the same kind of make-over most of our desirable cities are going through which means: breweries, a distillery, a wine bar, restaurants…did I say breweries….

It wasn’t a huge hall but just right for the size of the event. The cannabis industry is still in its infancy—though it’s already larger than the magazine industry—so you don’t need the typical convention center size…yet.

This gathering reminded me of the early day of the Natural Foods Industry when it was “movement.”

Like the natural foods industry at that time the cannabis world appears to be driven by Enthusiasts, the hard-core lovers and consumers of all things cannabis. There were several speakers on various topics and it was clear they weren’t coming from a corporate background.

At the same there was a start-up vibe seen in the well-scrubbed faces of eager Millennial staffing the simple tabletop approach to the event.

Speaking about appearances. I have to say I was expecting a hall of Rainbow people—stoners basically. Was I wrong. Overall there was, to me, a kind of Midwestern aesthetic to people’s attire…

Most of the attendees looked like they walked out of their **bullshit jobs (the name of a new book by Debt’s author David Graeber) at the bank, phone company, telemarketer’s pit….

And I was surprised by the demographic profile. There were quite a few over 40 and even in their 60s.

Regarding the boomers. After listening to one owner of cannabis company make pointed references in his talk to ….just showing up on time (and not after you’ve had a dab or two) I came away thinking that Baby Boomers could be a valuable addition to the cannabis companies.

(“schwag” from the show–one lighter has a tamping device for rolling/smoking)

Give them a short (4 hours) stint, some training and let them loose. I have the feeling that some of the things I heard about turnover could be addressed by hiring Boomers. They’ll show up on time, have a good work ethic and if studies from Europe are any indication—they’ll work well with Millennial.

As far as the job prospects at this fair went, most of those discussed at the tables were entry-level types: bud-tenders, trimmers, retail handlers of the cannabis. But for most, these kinds of jobs will be the best way for them to enter the industry.

On the other hand some of the cannabis companies in CO are reaching small grocery chain level in their reach.

Native Root was there. They have 25 stores—including two gas stations—in their holdings. And they were looking for a CFO.

As the industry plots it’s course for 20 billion a year—I don’t think it would be a bad idea for some buyers/VP’s of merchandising in the grocery industry to look at cannabis as well.

All in all not a bad event. I think they could have set up a coffee truck and had “lounge” of sorts where people could hang out—get to know others….

But…as a hybrid of a tradeshow/job fair it worked. We had the kinds of industry-related conversations you’d expect (I heard about an angel investors company in Boulder for instance), people were friendly, there was some solid information and some schwag was given away.(though no samples of anything you could smoke or otherwise consume).

I think anyone who’s serious about entering this industry would do well to attend similar kinds of events. Like most industries, relationships—networking—open the doors.