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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   wacky Los Angeles lecture & show
Saturday, November 13 1999
As Mare gave her morning tantric lecture, there was a thin, older, balding gentleman in the front row who appeared to be engaged in rather intense meditation. He was sitting in the lotus position with his eyes closed, and he was twitching rather noticeably but completely silently. Either he was engaged in some sort of tantric excursion, or, more likely, he was merely acting as though he was some sort of tantric heavyweight in an effort to impress others at the seminar. In either case, he was being rude to Mare, who completely ignored his childish little display. Later, when Kim and I raked this guy over the coals, I joked that he'd looked like he was in the electric chair. From this came the name we used for him for the rest of the seminar: "Electric Man."

Though Kim was lapping up everything that Mare was saying, I have to say that this tantric seminar wasn't speaking to me in my language. But it wasn't loaded with dogma or doctrine either; it was a revelation of a set of mysteries, and once I realized that the chakras, "energy," "light," etc. were just words in the language used to reveal these mysteries, it was a lot easier to take and it didn't seem to conflict so much with my ultra-rationalist core. Still, the mysteries that are most important to me are those that I don't want to trivialize with explanation, language or, heaven forbid, group ritual. So, for instance, during the breaks I'd go outside and sit in the beautiful little rustic garden surrounding Ca$h's house feeling undescribably moved by the rich greens of the vegetation, the medieval charm of the architecture and brickwork and the idyllic qualities of the sunlight. In defiance of Kim's strong feline allergies, I'd even be petting the cats, a smallish grey Manx-hybrid and her only tail-equipped progeny, an enormous fluffy tiger & white named, appropriately enough, "Tail". If I was going to be on vacation, away from programming and writing, this basking where nature meets art was what I most felt like doing; it seemed somehow beside the point to beat around the bush using Sanskrit euphemisms to describe the mysteries of sex.
I chatted now and then with various other seminar people. One of these was shy helicopter engineer who was trying to get acquainted with his new digital camera. This tantra thing was little out there on the edge of his comfort zone, and sometimes he seemed on the edge of a freak out, but his curiosity kept him in the mix. Another was a stock broker from Cape Cod who happened to be a father of five. I wondered if he was still married and whether or not his wife knew he was here.

Interestingly, the way most of the people present had found out about the seminar was via the internet. This must have been the first event I ever attended for which the underlying organizing force was the World Wide Web. The tantra movement, like most fringe social, political and sexual movements, benefits enormously from the networking potential of the uncensored global network. A related movement is the Goddess movement, as represented by the Goddess temple, which is more of a website than it is an actual brick and mortar temple.
One of the goddesses was Dr. Corynna, and she led us men through a session of "goddess worship." Since I was being filmed, I did my goddess worship in the sunny part of the room. Such worship, conducted completely clothed, involved the sprinkling of rose petal upon (and more suggestively) the chanting of various vowel sounds into the seven chakras. There was also a bit of fun with a peacock feather for a time. The only downside of such parasexual tantric activity is how long it takes. I'm a busy, increasingly well-paid computer programmer, and it's difficult to justify spending my time playing such extended games.
At around 3pm we all broke for a late lunch (lupper?), driving down into downtown Studio City at the south extreme of "the Valley," the same valley from which all bitchin' Valley Girls hail. Ca$h had recommended a Chinese restaurant named Kung Pao, and that's where we all ended up. We all sat at a huge table and ordered all sorts of things which we shared. But before we ate anything, we did the spiritual thing, all holding hands and saying something not especially offensive to my atheistic sensibility.
Ca$h seemed to delight in his role of host, melodramatically recommending various dishes, chatting up the waitresses about the fine points of certain entrees, and considering and reconsidering various plans of action outloud. It rather reminded Kim of her own mother.
During the meal, Kim learned from Electric Man that his business is retail sex toys. It seemed somehow appropriate.
In the evening, Kim and I bonded some with Ca$h and his new lady friend Nancy, whom he just met last night during the puja. It turned out that we had some good pot on us, and with most people of the psychedelic generation, that's a decidedly good thing. We sat around in Ca$h's bedroom smoking and talking about Alex Grey and his paintings. We ended up being late to the evening lecture.

It was now time for the men (the Shivas) to receive the worship, but it was done in an entirely different way from the personal way the goddesses had been worshipped. We men lay in the living room with blind folds and the women swept in to titillate and stimulate us. It all began with drum beats and rattles. Next they moved on to dragging cloths over us, touching our nipples, and even pressing ice cubes to our feet. But we had no idea who was doing what. It was parasexual stimulation by committee. It was interesting, but to me it wasn't especially sexual.

When the day's lecture was over, someone put a Dead Can Dance documentary videotape on the VCR. It was exactly what I wanted to hear, and I wasn't the only one. Like Alex Grey, Dead Can Dance seems to sum up the principles of tantra, that is, sublimely spiritual decadence, with their creative works. The mere fact that Alex Grey and Dead Can Dance are so important to these tantra people greatly predisposes me towards their cause in a political and intellectual (if not fully spiritual) sense. Their music and artistic interests could be far worse. (By the way, I'm fully aware that critics routinely pan Alex Grey, but I think he's awesome, as is anyone else who can depict my hallucinations.)

Via the internet, someone had received word of a lecture on "Psychedelic Culture" happening tonight in downtown Los Angeles. Kim and I wanted to check it out, but by now everyone who'd been present for the tantric seminar had gone for the night, leaving just us with Ca$h. And it had been an exhausting day and we weren't that sure we had the energy.
As Ca$h showered, Kim and I sat around smoking pot and talking about a number of amusing things, Electric Man for example. We found ourselves comparing and contrasting the effects on our subconscious "truth detectors" of two different examples of theatrics: Electric Man's fake tantric meditation in the lecture this morning and the superficially compelling reality of the actors' experience in the Blair Witch Project. My mind moved from there to a pondering of the manager-managed relationships in contemporary society. This gave me an idea for a possible book to write, Masters of Masters and Slaves of Slaves, about the closed-door meetings we don't attend wherein psychological techniques of control are taught and learned. In our particular station we only know about these meetings based on the evidence provided by the techniques' applications.

Despite our torpor, we somehow we rallied. It all started when Ca$h emerged from the shower saying he'd decided he wanted to go after all. Soon he was dressed in his vinyl pants and faux-leopard jacket, which he accessorized with a huge drum strapped across his chest. Suddenly he looked like he was about to lead a rag-tag parade of pirates, a look I could have never anticipated. Kim's getting ready was decidedly slower, but eventually we were on our way down the 101 in Ca$h's BMW. On the way Kim pried a little to find out what exactly Ca$h did for a living. He hedged a little, saying he didn't want to "talk about work," but he did briefly mention organizing "crowds of thousands of people" for movie scenes, usually tapping into local high schools for warm bodies and "paying" crowd members with things like "free pizza."
The location was in a largely industrial, semi-run-down part of downtown. It was divided between two buildings, one having a large dark, soundproofed dance floor suitable for rave-like activities and the other a well-lit space where the psychedelic culture lecture was being held.
So we filed with great fanfair (Ca$h was hard to miss) and found our place among the pierced raver chicks and tattooed punk rockers (the median age of the crowd was probably 18). Everyone was sitting cross-legged on the floor, a posture that has never come easy to me. When the lecture began, it was blessed by a genuine Tibetan who rang little bells and led us in a long round of Ommmming. Though we'd gone 15 miles down the freeway and completely changed the generation of our milieu, we'd never actually left the culture of the tantric workshop; Los Angeles is an archipelago of islands occupied by this particular brand of mystical Eastern culture.
The lecture wasn't anything spectacular, though it had been billed well. Featured speakers included:
  1. Marilyn Ferguson, author of the Aquarian Conspiracy (who was almost certainly on drugs at the time; she ended her rambling monologue with a few fragmented sentences of non-sequitur).
  2. Art Kunkin, the publisher of the Los Angeles Free Press, who, in an article entitled "No More Secret Police" once published the names of all narcotics agents in California. The funniest thing he said was in relation to the debate about oppressive drug laws, which he said concerned "the freedom of reality."
  3. A purported leader of the German subversive underground from back in the 60s. His English wasn't so good, and he tended to drone on just a bit.

An hour or so into the lecture, this one long-haired dude got into a rather nasty argument with the wise-looking Tibetan dude who had opened the ceremony. In humble defiance of the pro-psychedelic currents of the lecture, you see, the Tibetan had stated his belief that drugs are a cop out, and that the true path to enlightenment is meditation. This brought him into some confused agreement with a couple of raver chicks who looked to be about 13 years old who claimed to have taken "lots of drugs" but who thought their raver friends were destroying themselves on the stuff.
By now Ca$h was thoroughly bored and had relocated to the other building to hang out in the still-sparsely-occupied raver section. After a little uninspired techno, a two-person contingent featuring a sparkly-attired DJ and a poetry-shrieking woman took the stage.
The best act of the night came in the form of a more conventional band named Blue Pearl, fronted by a girl who had painted herself entirely blue. She was naked aside from the paint and a robe that concealed nothing.
The Blue Girl's voice was absolutely spectacular in a sort of Middle Eastern way, rather like Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, and as she sang and occasionally unpretentiously narrated about life in a supposed 16th dimension, various performers took the stage in front of her. There were fire breathers, there was spectacular sword-dancing girl, and there was an Eddie Vedderesque guy who could do all kinds of unexpected balancing tricks with a transparent sphere. I already knew he could do deft things with it even before the show; he couldn't keep from handling the sphere in his characteristically gravity-defying manner even in his stage-hand role as he hid it away for the performance he was to give.
Inexplicably, the Blue Girl decided to sing a song she introduced as "sort of poppy and not our usual sound." It was, let me just stress, absolutely horrible. Even her singing was bad. As the audience evaporated away, the other band members did what they could to bring the song to a premature halt.

Back at Ca$h's house, one thing led to another and we ended up staying up until 4:00am. One thing that seems to be irrepressible about Ca$h is his sexuality. He wants to have sex with every attractive girl he meets, and Kim was no exception. There isn't a monogamous bone in his entire body. For some reason with him it doesn't come across as slimy or especially off-putting. He obviously views sex as a holy rite and one that should be performed as much as possible as a means to harmonic convergence; it's endearing like an eight year old with a heaping basket of candy. Well, that's how it seemed to me, but for Kim it was perhaps just a little too inescapable.
One interesting aspect about tantra is that it provides a language for all levels of intimacy in a context that doesn't necessarily interfere with existing relationships (or at least, that's how it felt to me at the time). So when Kim and Ca$h stared in each others's eyes with their hands together in mutual adoration, it was okay, especially in the context of two days of fairly non-specific (but also fairly non-threatening) intimacy. [REDACTED]

The helicopter engineer fumbles with his
digital camera behind Kim.

Two pictures of a Manxish grey cat, the mother
of a much larger, tail-equipped version.

The garden around Ca$h's house.

Plastic dead goldfish in Ca$h's bird bath.
This was a popular watering hole for local honey bees.

A matter-of-fact mummy sculpture in Ca$h's yard.
I'm reminded of this.

A huge evergreen up on the hill above Ca$h's house.

Ca$h (left) and Electric Man (with menu).
The hair in the middle belongs to Mare.

Ca$h orders from the waitress at the Chinese food place
while his new lover, Nancy, looks at the menu.

From left: An Indian yoga-practitioner with a
curiosity for tantra, Mare, Electric Man and Kim.

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