Tuesday September 5, 2017

All of us contain within ourselves fragmentary shadow selves. Drink it up, knock it back. If illustrations of butterflies are not your thing, turn instead to Search For the Vanished Heaven, an at-times-morose, at-times-pagan 2016 triple cassette by Irish multi-instrumentalist David Colohan, performing under the alias Raising Holy Sparks.

The plague, the Black Death: perhaps some future version of our side went back in time somewhere ‘Carmen Sandiego’-style and planted it. As of this moment, the Capitalist State has already broadcast two failed reality TV shows where participants are tasked with building a new society: Utopia, which FOX pulled from the air in 2014, and Eden, which ran for nine episodes last year on Britain’s Channel 4. Of course they failed, right? How else would such texts arrive at a sense of closure? All the same, though: are there lessons of a more productive sort we might draw from these ventures, like “hey comrades, don’t entrust television production companies with the power to select the members of your intentional community”? Of course, this assumes that we have some choice in the matter, which we don’t. Regardless of my views about utopianism, for instance, I’m still stuck showing up to my classes on Labor Day and having to perform for shitbag conservatives who slouch in their chairs at the back of the class and sneer, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” I squeeze below the bridge of my nose in an attempt to relieve some pressure. Life of a wage slave. We must despise and resist all enslavements. “The Reagan Show!” announces my cellphone, as if to troll me: “A CNN Film, Tonight, 9PM Eastern.” And elsewhere, like a little bee in my ear, dueling AI predictions tossed between Elon Musk and Vladimir Putin via Twitter. Words don’t do justice. They’re distractions. The two figureheads of large entities are just drumming up attention to attract investors for competing ventures. Capitalism is thy name, thy will be done. What a fucking shitshow. My partner and I, meanwhile, sighing and groaning. All we do is work, as our bodies decline and falter. The cars beneath the screen at the drive-in look like carefully stacked rows of coffins. Oh shit — PHINERY just dropped some cassette-tape craziness. Jesse Sparhawk’s What Winter Was?

Hit that. Get on that pronto. Lever harp is a great instrument, I say determinedly, as if wanting to give a fist bump, or some similar symbol of approval, before soaring clean out of sight.

Monday September 4, 2017

Heads need to spend more time exploring being “out of tune” together. We can begin by playing for one another Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury.

When one is in one’s right mind, one can hardly move a mouse. One no longer vibrates in a register discernible to laptop mouse-pads or cellphone touchscreens. From the cellphone’s perspective, it is as if one has ceased to exist. In celebration of my birthday yesterday, friends and I drove to a forested grove to chat about Dario Argento films and wild mushrooms. We hiked some trails and plunged into a pool of icy water at the base of a rock formation smoothed into the shape of a waterslide. A group of women in line ahead of me slid down the face of the rock in their burkinis, their voices filled with joy. On the whole, a great day, warm and sunny — though on the drive home, as we entertained ourselves by reading aloud for one another in its entirety a young adult novel called Just Too Cool, I began to worry that I’d caught a cold (a condition confirmed in the hours since; hence the relative brevity of today’s trance-script). In general, I’m feeling a shortness of labor-power and labor-time. Events move so quickly these days. The waves: everything bounces, time dissipates or contracts. I feel like an observer along a path watching a stagecoach held at gunpoint. Seagulls, water slapping a retaining wall. I lean against a chilled metal railing, and stare across a bay. Are there ways we can recharge the batteries that run the brains within our domes? Heavy headphones, binaural beats, meditation tapes. Laura Archera Huxley reassures me, palms pointed earthward, “You are dirt poor. You are seeking knowledge of how a person should be. You are not the target.” The startling discovery of adulthood, and the guiding principle of my pedagogy (though one I often struggle with in practice): “Making others feel better generally makes us feel better.” Well, it’s at least a nice idea, says a wrinkled, toothless granny. When one’s body is unwell, what can one expect of one’s mind?

Just Too Cool

Sunday September 3, 2017

Up step them, the members, and me, the leader of the Rubber Band. “We’re the members,” sing the members. “I’m the leader,” sings the leader. Why have I faltered (for there’s always a side door) when advised to read “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”? The sky darkens and teen culture mutates accordingly. Next door at the bar, my theologian friend recommends that I read Deleuzian theologian Daniel Colucciello Barber’s book, Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence. What do we think? Is our aim to evaluate? Do we wish to classify worlds, or aspects of worlds, in terms of good and bad? At some point, the bartender leans into the conversation. He, too, recommends a book I’ve never read: Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B. When I arrive home from the bar, I read the Le Guin story, in part because my mind is racing, and I don’t want to soil these recommendations with unnecessary comments and presuppositions. Of course, I would walk away. A grifter god who demands of us a theodicy in exchange for luxury communism in the hereafter is a pathetic god indeed. Or no god at all, really — for the being we’ve imagined remains placed amidst scarcity, and subservient to a logic of exchange. Nature as pointless engine — garbage in, garbage out. Even when this grand “system of systems” invents for consciousness an imaginary telos of the not-yet, it does so solely to prolong its own dumb metabolism, its balancing act atop scales of cosmic justice, with its components all still bound to their crosses in the name of some distant whole. God is only ever an invented persona anyway, a voice by which the self speaks to itself. God are you there? Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Like the Judy Blume novel. Except in this case, God replies, quite convincingly, with Meet the Residents.

As the sleeve notes state, “Soon you too will whistle the merry tunes.” Let this day forevermore be a day for celebration of first contact. How are children able to invent for themselves imaginary friends? And when and why must that phenomenon cease? “Pure art,” writes N Senada, “can only be made without consideration of the outside world.” Nobody can do the boogaloo like me.

Saturday September 2, 2017

A cool wind sweeps over me, reminding me on this eve of another birthday that, as always, I’m headed north of the wall. One year closer. Local villains, I’m told, are acting out again. A conversation over beers takes a turn toward the fantastic when a friend and I catch ourselves imagining a character named Johnny Apple-Semen who, like a tall-tale, weird-porn version of Sven Birkerts, fights to win a future for books by rubbing inklings of himself over the exteriors of editions in libraries. We also, this friend and I, imagine the quarry here in town becoming the setting for True Detective, Season Three. At some point in the conversation, the friend leans forward and says, “Check out Cibo Matto’s ‘Sugar Water.’” Make sure, though, he warns, that you watch only when your head is elevated, and your consciousness is well on its way toward bliss. The point of “Johnny Apple-Semen,” we assure ourselves, is to imagine an alternate reality where violence is taboo rather than sex. The most questionable aspect of the project, however, is its presumption of an audience. But that, too, is the point. Critique is always an exercise of hope, however bitter, as it assumes first and foremost that one can conjure an audience through naught but the magic of speech. Anyway, following that advice, stoned I get, and (hello? “Sugar Water”?) watch I do. And it’s a doozy, temporally and perspectivally, little by little. Brilliantly multi-dimensional in ways similar to Michel Gondry’s video for The Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be.”

Sweet lord, those late 90s Chemical Brothers videos. Psychedelic to the max. “Out of Control,” for instance, anticipates the Glorious Acid Communist Revolution of the Future by almost two decades. We must look, though, not just toward that which is coming into being but as well toward that which is. “And we affirm,” as did Socrates in Plato’s Republic, “that this is the good.” Except on some days, less so. Obligations pile up and feel like terrible impositions. Should the wage slave in me up and seek a new employer? That would require mesmerization and ventriloquy, wouldn’t it? It would require a voice and a presence speaking outward to a roomful of its peers, at the very least. Then again, perhaps it’s just a matter of smiling and nodding one’s way to victory, with a “rest upon thy laurels” finish.

Friday September 1, 2017

Darkness pays me a welcome visit. I become absorbed in particular parts of my body, consciousness narcotized through repetition. We experiment on our selves with rhythmic object exploration, all parts deliriously looped. Can’t I become helplessly far out for a change, as with Stopped Clock’s “A Bed & Breakfast”?

A movie/videogame soundtrack splinter array of bits of beeping honking consciousness. Tracks like that can knock you into flower-sprouting head-space. From there, we’re marched through the thrilling nightmarescape of Tanked’s “Car Crash.”

Just so long as we avoid that this evening, we’re all good. Their song “False Start” is worth a listen, too — as is the rest of the cassette on which those tracks appear. A darker, deeper successor to Lightning Bolt. These are spaces the psyche reaches toward: “the old fight of man against gravity.” Whose voice is it that reads the eulogy? One finds a whole other palette of psychedelic voyaging when one tunes oneself to recent releases from Portland’s Never Anything Records, like Fletcher Pratt’s Selected Works (2015-2016). And let’s not forget Tombed Visions.

The world of head culture is fit to burst these days with things of great beauty — more than anyone could singly contemplate, given the shortness of life. Nevertheless, any one of these, but especially Ex-Easter Island Head’s Two Commissions for Cassette Tape, can stage for us a deeply personal ritual of sound and remembrance. Yesterday’s drive to dinner felt like it took forever. Sky grey. Needle pricks of rain. I felt bad for Sarah, as she’s been sick with pneumonia recently — a string of ill health over the last year or two, really. It worries me. I wonder aloud to her, “Is that an appropriate thing to include here?” She nods and says it’s fine. One needn’t fear: I shall build a pyramid or a sweat lodge in which to heal us. Welcome to the augmented reality videogame known as consciousness. Camera swoops down and surveys a virtual terrain. Don’t stress about work, don’t allow it to occupy any more than a minimum of thought. Use the rest of your time to roam free. Where are we when we enter a fiction? And why need we fear it if the fiction is to our liking?

Thursday August 31, 2017

Time to go “Up Top,” inhabit life differently, as in Joseph Frank & Zachary Reed’s Sweaty Betty (2014). Due to a past incident, I’ll admit, the film’s dog narrative filled me with dread. Formally, though, it resembles a sequence of YouTube videos, brilliant in its use of unsettling song choices to provide glimpses of subjective interiors. Black holes of infinite sadness. Ontologically protected realms. Time moves as slowly as the wheels of a cassette tape. When I’m not teaching, I’m exploring psychedelic space using new tapes from labels like Moss Archive and Nostilevo. Tendrils of vine with curlicued ends hang down from the trees and reach for me. I wish that by assigning readings, I could hypnotize whole classes and help students burrow en masse out from under capitalist realism. Shit, though: grok this mind-melter of a track from the Watchword / Stopped Clock split on Cleveland-based cassette label Polar Envy.

Guitars and synths form a locust-like freak-out of lacing spirals. Laying down on the pavement, blissed out, purring, looking up at the sun: that’s how it feels as I walk semi-passively, trailing behind comrades, through the winding hills of our neighborhood. I become the ghost in the box who gesticulates for a camera-phone. I become “life in the age of public performance of selfhood.” Is it at all compelling to converse with AIs, or to imagine humans as conveyance mechanisms for the upload of consciousness? “Of course it’s not! Of course it’s fucking not!” I shout in my best imitation of Feeding the 5000-era Crass. The Deuce, by the way, far surpasses my initial take on it. Sarah spots me sitting on a bench reading a book in the neon light of the show’s nighttime seventies Manhattan. Why were residents unable to defend that era’s liberties when finance capital’s push came to shove? Why was capital so successful in its war on urban vice? “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD,” and just like that, the city’s polymorphous subjectivities dropped dead. The above questions, however crude in formulation, speak not to capital’s strength but to its weakness. Police, under different regimes and pressures, can be compelled to let things slide.

Wednesday August 30, 2017

There are self-haters among us who don’t yet believe themselves saved. All one need do is close one’s eyes and listen to Ant’lrd’s “Daydream Trace.”

A week into the semester, and I’ve already read responses where students describe growing up in a mansion (albeit one that may have been haunted by ghosts of Confederate soldiers) and vacationing at a “cozy little chateau” nuzzled into the side of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Charming, no? I wish there was a store in town devoted exclusively to the sale of cassettes and weird books. Instead, a Waste Management truck pulls out in front of me. Should I care about China’s accomplishments re: poverty alleviation when confronted with its inverse, the drowning of Houston? And what is this whole other neighborhood in my city, up by the quarry? “The kid’s mixed up ’bout his geography,” says the neighborhood tough guy, his one hand clenched into a fist punching as if to suggest menace into the palm of his other. My favorite trees are birch trees. But the quarry is beautiful. Kudzu-draped. Cavernous and deep. “QUARRY PARK RULES,” as is printed on one of the park’s signs. Why can’t I retire, effective immediately, and hang out there each day hence? Eyes toward the sky, I revisit consciousness. Crickets mark time as I wait for the uptick, the deluge, the crosshairs. News stories tip my head inward. Worms, defense — one needn’t worry. Nations sign to one another by launching missiles. Others among us begin their days dressing and praying before poorly-wrought shrines to money. Is the inner peace they achieve there authentic? Do others rehearse their thoughts while feeling around as in a labyrinth? What sense is there in using the free-write as a site of utopian prefiguration? That’s what I’m attempting here — or “I,” and whoever else wants to join us. I wish to unschool myself so as to improvise new forms of syntax. Go outside, sit on a rail, and trade time-passing speculations like Vladimir and Estragon. These are two of my “operator voices,” a concept I happen upon by happening upon a cassette of that name by Brett Naucke. Operator voices are characters of mine who wait around for their phones to pop off, their daily practice an ecstatic journey routed through chance operations and signs derived therefrom.

Tuesday August 29, 2017

You’ll never catch me declaring, like Mary Boykin Chesnut into her Civil War diary, “My subjective days are over.” Something tells me, “Mists of memory are where we’re touched by the better angels of nature” — though not the ones spoken of by Lincoln. Mingled feelings of joy and sorrow. How have I escaped knowing all of these articles exist with titles like, “Are we headed for a second civil war?” The believers in magic are the ones who seize the day. “Today,” writes Robin Wright, “few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales.” Perhaps I should revise a syllabus and assign Omar El Akkad’s novel American War. Nah, just kidding. That book sounds like a piece of shit. I worry, too, that a story like that may, in its telling, inspire people to buy more guns. My sense is that ideological opponents are already waging the war, precisely by trying to implant the war, as aggregate of instances and images, into the nation’s dominant narrative. Period dramas set in the seventies like The Deuce, meanwhile, no longer even attempt to approximate that former decade’s forms. Exhausted internally from work, I stare befuddled at the image-screen in front of me. Inauthentic, overacted: words begin to lose their meaning. Tide comes in and mutters, “Repair to the great outdoors.” The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Global warming will melt polar ice caps, says Game of Thrones, and the dead will walk the earth. Remember when the political community used to use the phrase “existential threat”? I kinda think that would make a good band name. Also, let’s hear it for all the Popeyes out there who like to eat cans of spinach. Let us each do as we’re each obliged, AKA “I yam what I yam.” “The evidence is circumstantial,” says Sensi Seeds, “but it is there, and when added together it presents a compelling picture that, for many readers at least, Popeye’s strength-giving spinach is … a clear metaphor for the miraculous powers of marijuana.” Before “Broccoli,” there was “The Spinach Song.” Of course, Julia Lee, famed performer of the latter, sometimes also just came out and said it, as in this more explicit version of her elegantly debauched classic, “Lotus Blossom.” The keys to the Kingdom are there for the taking, hidden only to those who refuse to look and listen.

Pipe

Monday August 28, 2017

Now that classes are underway again, minutes of leisure come with no guarantee. A homeless man plops down at the bench across from mine as I sit at a booth in a burrito bar. “Chips?” he asks, gesturing toward some half-eaten ones in a basket on my tray. “Sure, go ahead,” I reply — though afterwards, I’m ashamed, or at least troubled, as by an area of confusion in my evolving, improvised system of ethics. Should I have asked if there was a way I could have been of further assistance (as, I’m fairly sure, I could have)? I can guess what others might say; and giving the matter thought, I’d probably agree. Help wherever one can. But in the event and thus in practice, I am instead often ungenerous and unwilling to sacrifice. As post hoc rationalization, I quote back to myself some unrevised internal policy statement from many years ago, written shortly after my first encounters with Marx had begun to eclipse an earlier commitment to Nietzsche. Reviewing it now, I recall the influence as well of Morton and Zavarzadeh, an unlikely pair of Marxist agents provocateurs who, for a brief spell, held court at my alma mater. It is not the duty of Marxists, they insisted, to go around trying to correct through individual acts of charity the inhumanity of capitalism. Nay, they argued: if one of our goals is to replace ideological obfuscation with consciousness of real conditions, then it’s not enough to just ruthlessly critique all that exists. Instead, like mimes, we “radical pedagogues” must become mirrors of the very ruthlessness we’re critiquing. Remarkable, really, where we allow ourselves to stray. No more living memory. Only histories and myths. The crossroads of our Being — and a hell of a cross to bear. I never know whether I’m writing tragedy or farce. Bartender walks into a bar and looking across the bar asks himself, “What’ll it be, friend?” Everywhere, in every country on earth, humans continue to think themselves John C. Calhoun. How, then, can we persist in imagining twenty-first century America resolving its conflicts through a means other than civil war? Another religious martyr like John Brown, and it is on. Prepare for emergency: hurricane ahead. Aggregate of Communities, prepare to fall apart.

Sunday August 27, 2017

Mind-junk, like resin, needs to be scraped clean sometimes as with the shrill trilling of Evan Parker’s Monoceros.

The cosmos never should have allowed us as a species the right to unhear that. My love lies, too, with The Keith Tippett Group’s Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening, even with and perhaps partly because of the keyboards dipping every now and then into Peanuts territory.

Readers, I have to confess: I’m only just now learning about Ivor Darreg and “xenharmonic” or “microtonal” music. Keep tumbling and you’ll find Dolores Catherino, and behind her, J.F. Martel and his book Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice. One is pulled via language toward specific words and images as toward a cult. “The house is on fire,” says Sarah. “I’m clarifying a path.” I, meanwhile, am successfully and happily awake, especially in brief moments before turning in each night. And I needn’t go nuts about my inability — because unpropertied — to design grounds into terrestrial gardens, shrines to Being built floating in space as atop a cloudy consciousness. Sweeping leaves to clear a deck is a way of making the world presentable at the feet of those with whom we share the journey, the struggle, the ascent of Mount Analogue. Upward, comrades, upward! As I pull the cover off the grill I say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bug thee” to the spider crickets contained therein. Upward, comrades, upward! I hope one day to devote myself to the study of the theory and practice of Japanese gardening. At that, the call of activity subsides. A spider plant reaches toward me, fingers pointed. “Are you an effective evangelist,” it asks, “winning others to a cause that is just?” Parts of me wish to reply in both the affirmative and the negative. And others, I believe, have even less certainty of my worth than me. Since when have I assented to the placement of my heart opposite a feather on some “slave morality” / “servant religion” scale of justice? I will not tolerate any further belittling of immanence through reference to an afterlife in the design of my political theology.