Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

24 October 2019

Inklust #24: Lessons from Circe

Let me say what sorcery is not: it is not divine power, which comes with a thought and a blink. It must be made and worked, planned and searched out, dug up, dried, chopped and ground, cooked, spoken over, and sung. Even after all that, it can fail, as gods do not. If my herbs are not fresh enough, if my attention falters, if my will is weak, the draughts go stale and rancid in my hands.
Circe, Madeline Miller

I have been studying witchcraft for a year. It's creative and interesting, learning to use herbs, draw sigils, design spells suited for the purpose, memorise incantations, choose the moment, focus. Focus, focus. All this requires understanding your own intent, honing it to a sharp point.

...the draughts go stale and rancid in my hands.

This past year I learnt how little we actually know of what we want—past what we're asked to want, past what's appropriate, past what makes money, past a stagnated dream we've probably outgrown. What do we want when all the jockeying and the incentives to parrot a well-learnt response go away?

Strong will, the capacity to bend reality to your desire by magic or otherwise, requires an intimate connection with oneself. Everything, everyone, works to keep us from achieving that. (Our systems are fragile. We don't know this, don't think of it, but they rely entirely on our self-doubt—our bottomless need to find some solution outside ourselves, coupled with the suspicion that we are never quite doing enough, never quite good right here.)

I also realised how much of our shared reality is magic: Our belief in the stability of money. Our unquestioned treatment of corporations as people. The misguided assumption that consumption of the right things will yield preservation of the planet at large.

Consumption is always the hero. Magical thinking. The wrong kind, though. It's the kind that fuels addiction.

Think on Circe: What it means to make magic with the earth, with space, with yourself, this moment; to sharpen the deepest part of you into a subtle knife. Don't let the draught go stale and rancid in your hands.

Photo Credit: "Circe Invidiosa" by John William Waterhouse. The title means "Jealous Circe"; she's pouring the draught that will turn Scylla, "her rival," into a monster. In other words: Just another "inspired" man capturing a woman mid-catfight. Sigh. But I like it because of that tilt in her head, the furrow in her brow: She's concentrating. Even after the potion-making's over, one must still do the work of intent and execution. Circe works hard. She does not fuck around.

What is "Inklust"? Boy am I glad you asked. Here's the manifesto: part I and part II.

23 October 2019

On the Spin #3

Current mood: Witchy. Also: Gangster of the Oregon Trail.

  • Dolly Parton's America, a 9-part podcast series about our very own pop goddess of the (political) crossroads. If you thought of her as a punchline, there's a reason for it. Did you know she wrote "I Will Always Love You"? Some of her oldest "sad-ass songs" have a mythic backstory: They hail from grisly murder ballads she heard as a little girl in the country, themselves evolutions of murder ballads that traversed centuries and the ocean. Even if you love Dolly, you have nothing close to a full picture of what we inherit from her culturally.

  • The Missing Cryptoqueen. An 8-part podcast series about Ruja Ignatova, who masterminded OneCoin, the biggest ongoing crypto-scam in cryptocurrency's short life. On this quest to learn what became of her (she vanished into thin air!), we learn how she leveraged cult tactics and MLM motivation—not to mention piles of princess dresses—to mount a scam so epic it makes me feel... well, unambitious, frankly. This bitch is Frank Ocean.
  • Clipping's music is a modern example of storytelling as medicine, a shamanic tradition as old as community.

There's this song Clipping did called The Deep that recounts the history of an undersea people who hail from the pregnant women on slave ships who were flung overboard.

It won a Hugo Award and has been transformed into a novel by Rivers Solomon. Read all about it.

  • Pharmako/Gnosis by Dale Pendell, the last of a trilogy on poisons/plant allies, and not just the usual suspects; nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and chocolate count among them. (Surprised? Learn how they came to dominate our cultures, and in some cases not be seen as drugs at all, or at least be seen as the least of the evils, which isn't remotely true.) It is poetry, chemistry, botany, politics, folklore. It is our story through eyes shared with silent manipulators. Here's a passage from the second book, Pharmako/Dynamis, about our culture's addiction to fossil fuels: "Every speed junkie uses until it is gone. That’s what we’ll do, I’m afraid.”
  • L'homme qui savait la langue des serpents (The Man Who Spoke Snakish) by Andrus Kivirahk is a translation of an Estonian bestseller, where it draws from cultural lore. On its face it's about how a country becomes industrialised—what is gained and lost. Mostly, it's about what is lost: A sacred connectedness to people, land and animals in exchange for overwork, nifty gadgets and prestige. Also, if you were born able to speak Snakish and fear you're evil because of Harry Potter, this book will tell you you're not a creeper; you've just inherited a mythic talent that'll ensure you never go hungry, unlike the dummies around you. Well, provided you live in the forest.
  • Honoring Your Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestral Veneration, by Mallorie Vaudoise. I developed an ancestor veneration practice this summer and am stunned by how it's changed my mind, daily movements, and relationship to family or local history. There's a school of thought that posits our lack of cultural space for ancestor veneration, which is anomalous in the story of civilization, is central to why we are neurotic about death and have, to boot, yielded toxic-AF systems. I don't know if I believe that wholesale, but I believe it's at least a contributor.
Something I'd read if someone wrote it: 
  • A comparative essay on the work of Billie Eilish and JPEGMafia. They are both of our time, approaching its Ionescan absurdity in ways more similar than different. Don't @ me.
  • Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. It's fucking hard, but not how you'd expect. I feel like Hermione without a Time-Turner, and boy am I going through a lot of candles and sea salt!
  • Babaylan. The modern approach to reclaiming the pre-colonial Filipinx community "witch" is intellectually satisfying and meaningful: kapwa (a word for "me," but also "us") is used as a compass to approach decolonization, and also animism. Babaylan is also broken down into the dynamic embodiment of five community roles: Visionary. Teacher. Healer. Warrior. Priestess. I love all of this, every last drop. Some Babaylan reclaimers are intellectuals; others are healers with gorgeous planty Instagrams; others, tribal tattooers; others, practitioners of Arnis Kali Eskrima (which I still practice... sometimes). Babaylan moves through us and blooms kaleidoscopically. Everyone is cross-pollinating to strengthen themselves and the whole.

Something I wish:
  • I become a Twitch streamer who plays old-ass vintage games, mumbles my strategies, curses my stupid youngest son Harold for getting lost again, and ruminates over the future of the planet. People love it, and I make all the monies. You know that shit ain't happening, though.
Looking forward to: 
  •  Justice for His Dark Materials. 

20 October 2019

Running a company sucks.


  • People assume that if you're a founder or shareholder, you're rich. This is false at least 98% of the time; shares mean nothing for a long while, especially in services, assuming they ever mean anything. Meanwhile, the founder generally pays herself less than almost anyone else for as long as feasible. (Money is a talent acquisition or retention tool. She needs no acquiring, and can't just leave.) 
  • People feel really good about speaking their truth to your power, even when they're absolutely wrong and have zero frame of reference. Yet there is so much you can't say back or explain, in great part for this reason: You understand why it's not in their interest to identify with an employer (was it ever in yours?), and recognise that asking them to is both shitty and futile.
  • In relation to the above: When someone complains about the money they make, how hard it is, and how that's your problem, you can't say, "I've been struggling to pay rent for years, LOL; in fact, pulling from my laughable savings is the first thing I do in a month when I still have to pay you and you sabotaged all attempts to win that new client, thanks for that btw"
  • No matter how long the company lasts and what good it's done, its end as we know it will always mark it in history as a failure. (Do we remember AOL fondly? Do we ever think about how much of America it got online? No and nope.)
  • It is hard to find people who tell you the truth about how things are going without hedging for their interests. In fact, anytime most people find themselves alone in a room with you, they perceive it as an opportunity to hedge for their interests.
  • There is always a better thing you could have done, and a better state the company could be in, and it is always your fault.
  • You no longer identify with friends' problems—particularly the complaints about their shitty bosses. They identify with you less and less. As time progresses, you realise how few of them you actually ever want to see again.
  • Your relationship to your partner or spouse changes. They talk a lot about your ego. You think a lot about your guilt.
  • You fail at many things, every day.
  • If you are a woman, people will consistently question your thinking, level of engagement and experience far more than they would a man. This is most flagrantly true if you have a male business partner.
  • If you have a male business partner, people will assume you are sleeping together or have done.
  • I still haven't figured out what to do when meeting with an employee who clearly believes I am hitting on them, or is clearly trying to pick me up. It is unnerving. 
  • The problems never stop. And they're never the problems you set out to solve in the first place.
  • The problems you set out to solve in the first place exist for reasons you didn't see when you set out to solve them. 
  • I think a lot of people start companies because they think it's a good way to become free. You are not free. You are bound in ways you can't imagine. Your partnership is a marriage that everyone must reckon with, including romantic partners. Your company is a child whose needs will never escape the Terrible Twos, and who will frequently clamour for your attention, either because it is legitimately sick or because it just likes it when you look up (who's to know which, and when?).
  • You can never just stop when you're too tired, don't want to anymore, or have become depressed.
  • You need a whole new crew of people to help you solve your problems, or at the very least in whom you can confide. Most of these people you'll have to find. And most of them you'll have to pay for.

16 September 2019

Not a Medical Doctor

Me: I've been a little stressed. It's better now, though. I'm fine.

Cousin Kyle Who Just Had a Baby: Angel, you need to come back to the Bay. And when you come, I want you to do something. I want you to spend a few days with us, and just... just allow the baby to work his magic on you.

Me: Are you seriously talking about your weeb like he's a dream vacation? Like, a few days barefoot on the beach and I'll relax, except 'the beach' is the baby smell wafting from his tiny skull?

CKWJHaB: YES! No regrets. You're gonna see. You'll see for yourself. Also, when we get off the phone, I'll send pictures of the cartoon face he made while taking HIS FIRST BATH.

(He really did. It was a cartoony face. My cousin is high on the best drug in the universe—the drug of progeny. I love it, partly because I love him, but also sociologically.)

30 June 2019

A Flicker of Thought for People's Park

"It's got the worst bathroom in the East Bay... but it might be the last truly free place left in America."

So says Stark Mike in Emma Silvers' article, "Contested Territory," about the latest existential battle for People's Park in Berkeley. It was printed in California, UC Berkeley's alumni rag.

I never read California. Whenever I see it, I'm grated by the idea that there are nine schools in the University of California system, 23 Cal State schools and countless other state universities besides, but Berkeley got to claim "Cal" for itself, as if there's something especially Californian about it. It smacks of the careless entitlement that makes Americans call ourselves, well, Americans, as if all the other countries sharing North and South America are spin-offs or off-brand versions of the United States.

It's been 13 years since I've graduated. I've moved at least four times, and California keeps finding my address. The magazine is now a given in my adult journey, harder to shake than any possession I may be more inclined to call mine. It shows up in my mailbox, inexplicable but inevitable as sunrise, even as jobs, pets, relationships, country, and politics change.

The result is that I tend to ignore it.

The People's Park article grabbed me, though. I don't know why. Back at school, the legend I heard was about volleyball courts: The land belongs to the university, which tore down housing and has tried using the space for any number of things people find reprehensible. Cal once erected volleyball courts, and People's Park supporters came swinging mallets, hammering at the smooth, flat concrete of entitlement until it cracked.

People reclaimed it, grew things there. It's an idyllic story—us against The Man, and we won!—but mostly I remember that People's Park reeked of pot and chaos: Unkempt and snarly plantlife, filthy bathrooms, shouting transients and slummin' schoolkids—born-again converts to liberalism, defenders of Those Less Fortunate who, in a home game, probably crossed my high school quad in an anxious, judgmental huddle, like the lot of us were muggers.

People's Park is again, and like always, under threat. The variables: A housing crunch for students, a clever chancellor who doesn't just want to convert People's Park into dormitories but social housing, too. There's even word of erecting some kind of plaque, and keeping space preserved for public activity (likely better-manicured than the current iteration). She's generating surprising support from fronts typically resistant.

Age transforms even things you thought you understood into abstractions. That's perhaps its main function—to remind us we know nothing, over and over again. I am sad, maybe felt I had the right to resent and avoid it, because I didn't realise how fragile People's Park was, never fully absorbed what it meant—a folly typical of youth, not just of people but of all things too young to digest history, including our own country.

We are only now beginning to understand how delicate our own values and freedoms are, how easy it is to reverse generations of advancement.

All of this is to say, I wish I'd held my nose, suppressed my own entitlement, and crossed People's Park at least once. Next time I go home—less and less these days, an unspooling, elongated tragedy in itself, given how hard I worked to escape—it may not exist, and one more holy land will become mere mythology.

25 May 2019

An orientation sandwich

I recently learned about Now (versus About) pages and dig them. I'm also mindful that it's been nearly a year since I've written in—no surprises there, perhaps—and every time I do write, it's some effort or other at distilling where I am Now.

This will be no different. This time, I thought it might be fun to try making an orientation sandwich that could comprise past, present and mid- and long-term future, which could lend better light on where I am presently.

(Live and uncensored! Little did I know that in buying this URL as a lark, I'd be experimenting with unpacking that concept in all the most pedantic ways possible.)

Immediate past: My soul brother died. It'll be nearly a year, at once long and short. It wasn't easy to steal time to mourn, but I did: Lone lunches and a three-month subscription to a sensory deprivation tank, where I could lose all sense of time in a single hour, to study my pain and also death.

What I learned was good. You know what? Look at death sometime. It's not grim. It's like a sad slow dance with your dad, a good-bye that is heavy on both sides. If death can be personified a moment, I think it recognises its cost and is the opposite of callous, like jaded doctors. I think we must also recognise that death is what makes our lives dear.

Now: Just came back from Hamburg, where one of my oldest friends wed, and I was the only one who didn't speak German. Next trip: London for a panel on diversity in esports. Yesterday: Gave a talk at Sup de Pub about esports, advertising and marketing. Spent all night building my presentation, because I pissed away the previous two days indulging an obsession with cutting all the vines on the agency's façade, for which I rightfully earned a blister and the mockery of all my colleagues.

But I have no regrets, because my presentation was Choose Your Own Adventure style, and a riot.

Romain and I have been living a fun creative spurt. I'm exploring witchcraft, systems theory, herbology and the old myths; Romain's on a bread- and pottery-making extravaganza and will now begin a meat-curing season. We recently repotted all our plants and turned our spare room into an office for my experiments, both of which were way bigger projects than I thought (though he seemed to intuitively know, because he's more of a details thinker than I am).

I'm still trying to maintain six hours of sleep, with middling success, though my hydration experiments are going fine because I recently became addicted to tisane.

Elsewise: Trying to stay off social networks, to study my life without them. Reading books made of paper, not pixels. (The Pharmako series by Dale Pendell is quite lush and informative. I recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in plants, poison, myths, health, drugs, addiction, anthropology, art, magic, poetry, literature, beauty, life, or death.)

I'm making my own deodorant, lotion and perfume. The latter is going iffily and I surrendered to a sizeable purchase at Diptyque recently. Here's a snippet of conversation I had with the vendor, who stayed with me all through my decision making process, which was whimsical at best:
Me: Do you wear the same perfume always, like a signature?
Him: Oh, no! Everyone in the store, we change perfumes almost every day.
Me: Why? Do you feel like a different person when you change perfumes?
Him (betraying, after a brief pause, the beginnings of a smile that indicates we've wandered off the social script and come into something truly revealing): Yes. So much, every time, yes.
Also: I threw out all my tight pants. I worry this means I'm surrendering to a gently expanding body, and in some respects that's probably true. Mostly, though, it probably means I'm in my mid-thirties and can't be fucked about it anymore.

Hurrah: Running a company will never be simple or relaxed. But we are now twenty-ish, with a reasonable diversity ratio, though it isn't ideal and I worry about it every day. We've just launched an adapted sociocracy model we call Hurrahcracy. It isn't perfect, but it's promising, and I'm surprised and gratified by how nicely it's landed. The biggest issue is vigilance in leadership obeying the rules, because if we don't, who will?

I'm also traveling a great deal more for our various social responsibilities. I don't mind this, but I also didn't expect it to be so intense, nor so sudden.

Muse is chugging along grandly and will soon be a year old. People really like it (who would tell me to my face that they didn't?). We've got an additional writer in the stable, and one of my favourites. Cannes Lions is around the corner.

My dreams are more vivid and I note them in droves. Last night I dreamt I was walking about naked—not by choice, but obliged to deal with it—and trying to convince the people I encountered it was a perfectly normal decision that I made for quite evident, understandable reasons. People nodded along, clearly half-convinced. Apt stuff to mention on a site sometimes mistaken for porn.

Mid-term: Time to write. Time alone. The beginning stages of a slow-moving plan to perhaps leave Paris. Me and Romain want other adventures, beach and garden and newer and more experiments. I love Paris—loved it the other night, when I left work late, met my girlfriends very late, then walked home, later still, listening to the clap-clapping of my shoes against concrete, my shadow cutting long through lamplight. I love that I can do that, and come upstairs to find Romain smoking on the balcony, gazing down at me.

Long, strange nights, a city replete with secrets, the menagerie of friends, the surprises encountered on terraces.

But I can love other things, too. I will love silence, and sand, wild forest and sunlight peeking through trees. I will love being barefoot, toes in soil. I will love giant vats of fresh rose petals that I will use to make secrets.

Otherwise: A strong passive income for Hurrah, to make our big stable of talented people feel just a little bit safer. Hurrahcracy set in place, a well-oiled machine, kinks manageable and themselves smoothed out in a clear and systemic process. We are considered a global agency.

Muse flourishes, simply matters more, and to more people.

I see new things.


Hurrah as a multi-country operation, with the complications that come with that; I'm fine if we have the right people to help, and hopefully we do. I'd like to find a way to divorce some percentage of our operations from reliance on the economic system. It's something I spend a lot of time thinking about.

A more stable esports, brought partly to life by the efforts of federations that share the same goals. Codes of conduct, finally. A bubble that pops, but gently, because we all prepared for it in not-stupid ways.

Muse, equipped with a good stable of solid writers and a lovely, widely-regarded reputation.

I quit smoking (Christ, I'm tired of smoking) and we spend more time outside under naked sky, unimpeded by time. Lately I like being barefoot.

Biggest learnings lately:

  • When someone demonstrates who they are, believe them.
  • Listen closely to the stories people tell about themselves. This little mythology will play itself out in every choice they make, every decision, every conflict, every motivation or effort.

Latest Quote:

"The creation continues incessantly through the media of man."—Antoni Gaudí