Previous: 2005 to 2006 Mid-Aughts
2007 and 2008 were quite the years: a time of friendship and drug experimentation and further travel, and then back to Burning Man… Which leads to the moment you’ve all been waiting for, at last I move to China!
I was so young then…
In 2005 or 2006 I met comic book writer Grant Morrison at a music festival in Los Angeles. It was an odd event in Echo Park, with many experimental bands playing at various stages, and at the same they had a workshop on the occult. Sadly, most people weren’t concerned about the workshop part.
I was ecstatic to hear that Grant Morrison would be there. He gave a fascinating interview. Seriously, you must youtube some videos of him immediately. Low-key event that it was, we got to chat personally for a few and he was nice enough to take a picture with me. I met his wife too.
I met him at Comic Con the following year as well, at events far more crowded, and he was still very nice. I won’t inundate with more pictures, however, I’m not that much of a fanboy.
For more here’s an particularly awesome video from 2000’s DisinfoCon introducing the tenants of chaos magic and how to do a masturbation sigil:
Note he’s Scottish.
And now my blog begins. Presenting the master of the Postmodern Superhero. The punk rock star of comics. My personal all-time favorite.
First things first, comparisons with Alan Moore are inevitable. They are both absolutely brilliant. They are both magicians. They both deconstruct the nature of the superhero like no other.
Yet, one is a mess of hair and the other is bald. One seems to be a misanthropic old man, and the other apparently has lot of fun as a writer. One hates all things mainstream, and the other is just fine with utilizing corporate characters as tools to tell the important stories.
Unfortunately, if you’re a Grant Morrison fan then you must be an Alan Moore fan as well but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. There’s a lot of overlap in themes, yet if you want to be an anti-mainstream purist you can skip Morrison. I think you would be missing out if you did that.
Anyhows, I am a great fan of both so what’s wrong with that?
As for me, I personally first came across Grant Morrison in my teens (though the story gets more interesting in my twenties), because of the huge phenomena that was JLA in the 90s. I was marginally interested, being that I followed everything important that was DC at the time, and the first volume was okay. Superman with a mullet notwithstanding. When I got to the Rock of Ages graphic novel, I was astounded. Then the following arc about the 5th dimensional beings left me well and truly mindfucked.
To me, the peak was the One Million crossover about time travel to 853rd Century. Great high-concept science fiction.
Grant Morrison has since further written Superman in such titles as All-Star Superman, Action Comics, which you can see my opinion thereof by following that link .
One of the random things I was into seeking back in the day was Flex Mentallo, a strange Vertigo piece about a corny superhero. I found issue 3 at discount, and spent years hunting down the full story.
It had everything: deconstructionism, metafiction, with groundbreaking art by frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely.
I contend that Flex Mentallo is superior to Watchmen. It takes a dissection of the superhero genre even further. And it’s funnier, wittier, with treatises on childhood trauma and cosmic abduction, and contains the classic line “Fredric Wertham was fucking right!”
It was so hard to get all four issues. The problem was that Flex Mentallo was a satire of the ‘hero of the beach’ and with republication risked getting sued by those old strongman ads. DC wouldn’t reprint a graphic novel for years. Back then, I bit the bullet and paid high prices on ebay and it was well worth it. Now, of course, there’s a trade.
Let’s go a bit more backwards, with Animal Man. The saga of Buddy Baker was one of Grant Morrison’s first forays into DC during the 80s British Invasion. This obscure hero was given a modern reboot, that quickly went from an essay on animal rights to some weird routes onto the nature of fiction. Combining Wile E. Coyote with Native American mythology, by the end it went full on metafiction. Most haunting of all was when Animal Man broke the fourth wall and looked directly at the audience, shouting “I can see you!”
Concurrently, Doom Patrol was a very interesting take on outcast heroics. The patrol were always a bit odd, a tad off, and Grant Morrison knew how to play to the strengths of that. Robotman as eunich, transgendered street characters, and most of all were the villains based off art history. Brotherhood of Dada anyone?
Not to mention Flex Mentallo first appeared in Doom Patrol.
These were all well and very, very good. However, Grant Morrison’s true opus came in the 90s with the Invisibles. By the time I got caught on, well after it was completed, I was generally getting into more esoteric subject matter. I was reading P.K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson. I was collecting Disinfo books. I was coming across these strange interviews with one Grant Morrison comic writer, on the subjects of chaos magic and higher consciousness. It was time to read more.
I ordered the entire set, and read on. Then I read them again, and a few more times at differing stages of my life. I’m about ready for a reread again.
The Invisibles is an epic take on Gnosticism and conspiracy theories, through the lens of an action comic, published by Vertigo. About a team of anarchists fighting the good fight against the forces of control in this world. It incorporated all kinds of references to psychedelic mythologies. All came to a head in that Singularity futuristic year of 2012.
It felt somewhat cathartic that my burgeoning spiritual path was overlapping with my love of comics and superheroes. I was doing it right all along. Much can truly be learned about human growth via the metaphor of the Superman. Thanks, Grant Morrison.
And, I may share that reading interviews on how Grant Morrison took LSD and other various chemicals for the sake spiritual experiences, that had an impact. Helped to encourage me with my own experiments utilizing psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine, legal or otherwise, rewiring some synapses within my nervous system in some arguably positive ways.
As always, reading books (and comics) can be such a bad influence!
It’s a little ridiculous
to expect any less
It’s a tad bit presumptuous
to pay the charge, and make a fuss
Enjoy what you got
What you got is quite hot
In the temperate sense of the word
In the metaphoric meaning of this term
It’s a turn
And it isn’t
What you didn’t
Dancing, the plastic trees sing
Taste in your mouth, colors are drifting
With every motioning wind
More peels and pails of skin
Streetlamp is smiling
Eye’s music is frowning
And the clowns marching music is daunting
Just a little bit further
One more check of the clock’s tick-tocking ticker
You can’t understand
This profound kind of math
Least I have no hand
to check-mark every grain-tinkle of sand
I do have a cap, most verifiably thinking
It’s just that I ate it, and now it’s all, um,
Part II Verse Verse Verse
Tear, Wear, the Hair
Spill, kill, uphill!
Urban shamanic retreat
Spa colonic fungal infection in heart
Pupils are dilating
Guts churning a-frightening
and tip-toe the pattering feet
and graffiti the art scene of meat
twelve turns of the hourly beat
Farts, flesh, finagle!
Time bends to the brainwave’s falafel
Never seen such sweet curvature
of the spine
of the earth
Never thought such neat empties
of the city
Infinite conceptual abstractions a-blaze
moon, moon, plastic moon
In the midst of my general soul-searching of late, I realize that I put too much prudence on the idea of having a girlfriend. As opposed to the specific individuality of a person and how her personality and vibe would match with mine. I tend to rely too much on false hope, without any real foundation, and reap the consequences of such later. This kind of thing may go for this episode.
Mid-2012. I was meeting girls from time to time, whatever. I wanted more. I wanted a partner, stability, someone to hang out to always be there to hang out with me. Tired of the chase, I wanted the idea.
I met Jeanie on the ol’ website. She thought I was interesting, and funny! Believe it or not.
She was Chinese; she was educated and worked in some international company. I think she made more money than me.
She had the most perfect skin. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman I ever met, but she was the most beautiful woman I ever met online.
The problem with meeting a partner online, I always say, is it’s not a good story of how you met.
But who really cares about the stigma of dating online that in this day and age?
I suppose the simple truth of why it didn’t work out is we didn’t have all that much in common. We ran out of things to talk about. I’d repeat myself. There wasn’t that much to confide, not that much to be deep over.
For a while, we did have a pleasant routine. She was always busy with work, which was far away in Luohu. We went to all the cool dating places early on, such as when we went to the top of the KK Building – tallest building in Shenzhen. I tried taking her to parties but she wasn’t into it. The rave was a particularly bad idea, she was so bored. There was one cool episode when she babysat me tripping on smuggled psilocybin chocolate at Lianhua Mountain.
But sooner or later, every weekend would roll around and she would be too tired to go about town and she just wanted to chill in my Meilin apartment. I suppose nothing wrong with that. Just the two of us tended to be quite nice. We watched a lot of Mad Men.
I was very serious about writing back then, and spent most of my free time on my novel. I didn’t need to be a super fun-time-all-the-time social butterfly type, and she didn’t want that from me. My popularity in the Shenzhen scene was waning. “Didn’t you move to Guangzhou?” everyone said, unaware that I’d been back for a while and uncaring. Which suited me fine. I was in my own little world.
We did travel once. We only went to Zhuhai, but we did go there together and it was nice.
Zhuhai is beach town two hours away from Shenzhen. I’ve been there several times. It borders the former Portuguese colony – and current gambling pit – of Macau, and is one of the four original Special Economic Zones of reformed China. (Shenzhen, by the by, being the first of the SEZs.)
Zhuhai happens to be her hometown, and she was visiting her family one holiday three-day weekend and I decided to tag along. After her filial duties, I bused over and met her at a hotel. She showed me around some islands and we taxied around to eat and to shop and to see the sights. It’s a fun place to explore at night.
“Welcome to Zhuhai,” she said on the hotel bed.
After two years in China, two years of travel and adventure and yes dating, I was ready for my triumphant return to America. Some people like to go back to the home country often; every summer, every Christmas, every Chinese New Year. But with so many places to see in the world, and only so much free time as well as funds, I prefer an every-other-year approach towards seeing old friends and family. There’s not all that much for me in the States anyhow, to be perfectly honest.
I left my burgeoning/declining relationship and flew home. It worked out so that I was in between apartments, with boxes of clothes and stuffs strewn about various friends’ apartments back in Shenzhen. I was to live out of my suitcase for the whole month of August. Best month, for sure, to get out of the South China heat.
The trip proved to be rather epic. With a chill start, my good buddy who also happened to be my old roommate picked me up from LAX, that familiar Los Angeles airport I’ve been to so many times. Funny story how we became roommates; he’s a very old friend from Cincinnati (all the way back to youthful high school days), and after I’d already been in California a while one day I was surprised with a call and told me he suddenly decided to drive over to visit and move in with me. I said sure! I’ve since been long-gone, and he still lives in Long Beach to this day.
I even got to stay in my old apartment, in the center of the LBC. There wasn’t much nostalgia, no reverse-culture shock. At this age in my development, it’s quite easy to just pick up where I left off. I enjoyed relaxing for a few days. Went to the beach. Took the infamously shitty LA public transpot and met up with L.A. friends up in Echo Park and Hollywood. Went through various bureaucratic procedures at the California DMV and Chinese consulate. Nerd that I am, my favorite part was simply going to the big bookstores and sitting down and catching up on graphic novels. And, a bit of flirting with girls at bars, regaling of tales in China, and nothing at all came of that.
The high point was actually when I flew to the Midwest, believe it or not.
Part 2, the continued story of How I Came to China: Burning Man
After my amazing week of sights and sounds on the Black Rock desert scene, the amazing people I met and the beautiful visuals and even a few hookups, it all culminated in the final night – in which they Burn the Man – and then I got to take LSD.
Now, the psilocybin mushroom is my drug of choice. I have the most experience with it, I am a big fan of Terence McKenna’s spiritual theories on the subject, and I believe that the therapeutic aspects of these experiences literally saved my life during a sensitive time in my upbringing. It’s natural, healthy [aminita muscaria is the shamanic poisonous mushroom, psilocybin is completely nontoxic, I do know what I’m talking about on this subject], and extremely powerful. It’s a psychedelic and obviously non-addictive (come on, a psychedelic trip is something to do once every few months at the most), and I’ve never even come across any law enforcement official who gives a shit about mushrooms. Something I certainly recommend for everybody, and hey to each their own.
I heard there were shrooms going around the Burner community, but I wouldn’t like to do it in a party atmosphere. It’s unfortunate that entheogens tend to turn up when you’re around loud noises and crowds, better to do it in times of quiet contemplation. Set and setting, very important.
Anyway, the twilight of the event and there were parties of dancing naked people around the periphery of the immense burning statue and I wandered as much as I could to seep in each and every sensory perception. I met some nice Australian couchsurfers and they mentioned acid and we actually did the barter economy thing. I traded my indie comic for a tab—how cool is that?
This was my first and only time with LSD, at least with good LSD. I’m not opposed and would very much like to try it more often but it’s just been so elusive for me. I’m just not that cool to have the proper vibe. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. That’s okay, I’ve had plenty other.
These days, South China tends to have a lot of party drugs, the kind that are more shallowly fun and dangerous. Sadly it’s not a psychedelically-inclined place. That’s Rising China, nothing deep of substance here. But I’m not complaining, the nice economical thing about true psychedelics is you can take it once every few decades that that can be plenty.
This was a plentiful dose indeed. I found the lysergic acid diethylamide chemical to be far more euphoric than psilocybin. Not scary, no bad tripping episodes. The hallucinations were more subtle, things bending and stretching and amazing colors when I close my eyes but not quite the intense melting sensations of organics. Less nausea-inducing than my other psychedelic experiences as well, such as ayahausca.
Back to the story at hand. For the next twelve hours I was gleefully rolling around on the sandy playa. Kind passersby would ask me if I was okay, and I’d say I was fine and had no self-conscious issues at all. I looked up at the stars to see one of the most stunning sights of my life, as you can see the real sky when you’re in the desert, and suddenly I understood how the ancients conceived of constellations. I saw infinite UFOs connecting the dots of star points with streams of light dancing upon infinity…