Monday August 14, 2017

Synth chimes lay atop the opening to the documentary 8-Bit Generation to great effect, reminding audiences of the psychedelic aura that well-nigh shimmered around Commodore 64s and early experimental electronic music, the original consumers of which came to each with an appropriate sense of reverence, viewing said devices as tools of consciousness. Heads of the time used to play with pocket calculators. By the way, though, terrible documentary in all other respects; don’t waste your time. A reminder that tech-geeks are to heads as cops are to freaks, even though all such groups arrive at their minds through dialectical struggle against insufficient facts. Those who worship the religion of business break with heads in that they use force to replicate obedience to their fancy in others, whereas heads are content to chill. One seeks to profit from nature, while the other co-evolves with it and reveres it. Logics, controllers, processors. Think of the multiple subjects active in a spontaneous prose autobiography: writer plus actor plus thinker plus knower. Because of this multitude, there results a significant delay as I interpret Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, understanding the latter to be a psychogeographical narrative structured around a two-person dérive. Talk remains the preferred method in our society for the extemporization of consciousness. To write it down is another thing entirely. The actor plays himself, but in a scripted narrative written while seated. Winterbottom’s film, meanwhile, only occasionally arrives at scenes that are improvised. What kind of memory is needed to realize “I’m living the dream, it’s all a dream”? I need to study performance and acting, especially method acting, where one learns to inhabit one’s role. Do people with greater memories inhabit richer universes?

A switch is flipped, and suddenly one is singing “The Winner Takes It All,” the words belted forth with a slightly choked-down lump of indignation in one’s throat, one’s hand reaching up to clasp it. We all improvise ourselves through learned routines. Butterscotch has become my jam, says the impressionist who performs only for the one he loves. Romantics are performative selves, with enormous self-confidence and an abundance of energy. They grab the tree of knowledge from the base and shake out all the apples. They do this especially when young and rich. Don’t fool yourself into ignoring, says another, the existence of other currencies: personality, quick wit, prestige. Everyone and everything is available to be observed, but there is disrespect, a voice tells us, in the act of observing. Massive cloud formations drift lazily past a blue that lies beyond. I did manage to squeeze in a brief pool trip the other day. A cardboard box in my garage contains the words “A SMOOTH AND FRUITY WINE” printed diagonally in repeating lines across its side. Can’t you tell I’ve been reading Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems? White supremacists launched a terror attack with a grey Dodge Charger, while in another state I swam. Social networks accessed through my cellphone, however, brought news of the events close to me. Some asshole with a radio blasted crappy Top 40 dance-pop on the poolside pavement next to me. But where is the benefit in me bearing mass-mediated witness to the alt-right and its murderous acts of violence? Surely my consciousness is altered into immediate sympathetic identification with the victims through that encounter — but toward what end? Shall we permit their ghosts to haunt us? I’m reminded of Foucault’s remark in his preface to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: “Do not think,” he writes, “that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable” (xiii). What dark telos inspires the ways we allow ourselves to be used by our technologies? Moments later, I saw myself in a bird circling overhead while I floated on my back in the pool. I sometimes worry that I haven’t evolved sufficient compassion for others, as when I walk to the concession stand and order a pair of hot dogs. Is it wrong of me in such moments to attend to appetites? Recognize these as defense mechanisms, I instruct myself, installed during childhood gender programming. And the programmers are the ones who possess vastly superior arms. The political parties are just good cop and bad cop; neither is on our side. Any call for “order” under these terms is tyrannous and indefensible, for the bullies own the earth.

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