Thursday September 21, 2017

I pull air into my lungs with long, extended breaths as I come to. Stabs of low-range electric organ. Lawn mowing forms a new container-act into which I spill my beans. And that’s not the only way in which my life now resembles a reboot to a ’90s VR horror thriller. I’m thinking here of The Lawnmower Man, with my face buried in a pint of fried rice. The old man, after eating like a chimpanzee, belches and groans contentedly. His dog, an elderly dachshund with Cushing’s, adjusts her failing legs and licks the scraps at his feet. Allow me to remain deliberately blasé, though, dear readers, especially when rendering something vacuous and unmemorable like liberal humanist subjectivity. Don’t you want something better? As in, wouldn’t you prefer to be a psychedelic superhuman? When the dog pees on the floor, I stomp around the living room and speak down to her in an angry British accent. Teaching sometimes grants me a platform from which to denounce corporate news media as capitalist propaganda. On those days, rare as they may be, I get to spring on students tried-and-true head-busters like Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony. But even on these best of days, teaching can still end up feeling like a mere teeth-gritting exercise. Laurie Penny and Plan C both think anxiety is the relational mode of our age, and I suppose they’re right; but rage and depression are close runners-up. All the more reason to smoke weed and zone out. It’s like replacing the competitive self-promoting self with a neon air dancer. Or as the Situationists used to say, “Sous les pavés, la plage!” Claire Cirocco soundtracks the day’s affect with “Clear Base Living,” a new track by her project Comme À La Radio.

It angers me to no end to have to show up, semester after mind-rotting semester, to teach classes of students who will never be as financially fucked as me. Friends and I formed and met regularly as members of an Adorno reading group in grad school. Yet what do I have to show for it? How has my character or circumstance been in any way bettered? There we go: head to head, with cracks of thunder ’round our sides. My winning move: pass through history unscathed. Map the ground covered, and then get back in there and hustle, keep going, advance ever further into the game’s interior.

Wednesday September 20, 2017

Go deep into consciousness-diminished-to-swirling-mandala-made-of-mealworms trance-state with Healing Sounds by Dr. Christopher Hills & the University of the Trees Choir.

(Check out the Wikipedia page for Hills, by the way: sailor, commodities trader, Rastafarian, mystic, natural foods advocate. Quite a character!) I use cassettes like that to recharge myself after a grueling day at work. “The more you attempt to contain consciousness,” Hills argued, “the more you limit yourself.” As the universe, so on earth. All becomes clear and simple. What do games like DOOM do to consciousness? Heads link up and react upon the same virtual world. A technologically assisted version of what “indigo children” claim to do unaided. Am I a producer of ADHD prose? They try to medicate those of us who think differently than the majority. On days when I’m free from work, I sometimes cut out mid-afternoon and play Thymme Jones, a new tape on Unifactor by Luminous “Diamond Ben” Kudler.

Precision-made videogame tones soundtrack imaginary force-beams, fires, and explosions; also, occasional jump-sounds. Afterwards I contemplate the tape’s capacity to foster psychological projection into sonic avatars. Before listening, I too often and without thinking tended to limit my conceptualization of avatars to two kinds: objects encountered IRL, and icons seen onscreen. I had forgotten that sound, too, forms a distinct third kind. Scores can be entered into through performance by players. This entering into and drifting amidst is not unlike use of a park. As for instance, last night: talk of autopsy tables at the kudzu park. Kudzu forests, kudzu valleys. A friend recommended Tales from Moominvalley and Moominvalley in November, two books by Finnish author Tove Jansson. Our shadows extended upward over the path ahead of us as we ascended the side of the quarry. I am the world’s head browser and chief ontologist. Let me take for a ride an imaginary Airstream, while the monster who heads my country threatens to “totally destroy” whole nations. The Hell’s Angel now drives a truck.

Tuesday September 19, 2017

In today’s episode, language blows about the room, the latter’s surfaces pulsing, oscillations occurring in rapid unit time intervals. Nothing works anymore; media bubbles have us quarantined. The ungraspable totality leaves us lost by the river, our hours stolen away from us, leaving us little time to think. Consciousness drops anchor, sinks part of itself down into objects. I’m also trying desperately not to get sucked back into another asceticism. Object-worlds: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. (Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all night.) Friends throw shade, say “Take a look at yourself.” None of this happens: I’m just making it up in my head. Isn’t that sometimes a fantasy of ours? The DIY primitivist aesthetic. By Season Four, the characters on Halt and Catch Fire have become the early 90s Silicon Valley types hallucinated into being via Wired magazine. One of these days, I’ll get around to writing something about videogames and their relationship to the psychedelic aesthetic. Osamu Sato’s LSD: Dream Emulator will certainly figure prominently, as will Fernando Ramallo’s Panoramical.

Dig out the hidden, suppressed history. That’s one thing I really enjoy about Halt and Catch Fire: its historical revisionism. Capitalist education system structured like a pinball table, locking subjects into a downward plummet. I made bad choices, poor decisions. My body failed to comply with my aspirations, and there was no one there to correct me. There is a fundamental tension, Sarah declares, late in the evening and by this point well in her cups, between parental responsibility and truth. No matter how fucked up things are, she says, people have a sensibility that if they tell that truth to their child, they are not a good parent. Your parental responsibility is to give your child a sense that the world is improving, following an upward trajectory. Do you rear a child to think the future is fucked? How do you do both? That’s most people’s only way of imagining they can change the world. When in fact, it’s the way you perpetuate it. We would all be far more radical if we believed and thus lived our lack of a future. “Be like Foucault,” I reply: “Drop acid while camping in Death Valley.”

Monday September 18, 2017

All of a sudden, this Britishness! Art thou a Britisher? “Alas, no,” I reply, if only for my merriment, “There’s naught but an ounce of British in me!” Partnered to contingency, I embark outward into the greater reality, the one of Jesus Christ and the Reverend Freud. Leonard Cohen steps in and immediately ups the ante for us, asking, “Is This What You Wanted?” The heat and sweat of the outdoors?

I admit: it’s not easy, this wandering. I reserve the right to fast-forward on at least one occasion, so as to dwell instead amidst the sly funk and street-corner brokenness of Savoy Motel’s “Sorry People.”

Observe the old ones stranded outdoors along the paved banks of the hospital here in town. Death is this terror, this grand interruption, spreading its wings somewhere behind us in the midst of Being. Witness, too, the “Wah-Wah” cry of wary kindness that erupts from those who take life’s jabs in stride. Meaning arrives for me in the marvelous weirdness and propulsive forward thrust of Francis the Great, who instructs me via restless hybridity of form to “Look Up In the Sky.”

But the alphabet never ceases to rephrase itself: “meaning” is just a freeze-frame, a momentary crest amidst later sequences filled with seagulls and crashing dominos, Being in its further jungle-like stirring-and-coming-forth. ‘Tis but a ceaseless profusion of ants and moss, detritus tossed carelessly. The Wipers strike a note of caution here, reminding all eager seekers among the so-called “Youth of America” that hidden within us lies a secret reserve, a hunger for transcendence.

Because afterwards, it’s the return of the crows. Into this indecisiveness, this place where we find ourselves, comes our reckoning, the call of love. Having retired to our bed for the evening, my love and I read aloud from an illuminated manuscript passed back and forth between us Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure.” While a cruelly-written passage involving a female dwarf leaves us appropriately aghast, the tale is otherwise so finely wrought and so perceptive in its rendering of self and world that I fall effortlessly into imagining courses by which to introduce the piece to students. Think of the many great works of literature one could assign, for instance, in a course on flaneurie and the art of walking. Baudelaire, Poe, Debord, de Certeau. Pleased with the thought, I resolve to make it so.

Saturday September 16, 2017

With my eyes closed, I imagine from an external vantage point the sight of my arms held above me. As if into a phone, I request the identity of the one with whom I speak with the phrase, “Who’s calling?” “Nevermind that, now,” it answers, “let me buy you a drink.” I pull the phone away from my ear and stare at it. My head drops through the screen and tumbles downward, as if into a fantasized space. I unlock a new level, where life resembles Campbell Logan’s video for D/A/D’s “Orion Beach.”

Looks good, right? With other work I sometimes purse my lips. My head ricochets backwards, overstimulated, distracted, and bored. Try again, but don’t push so hard, urges a voice. Capital’s subjects perform their function — chasing “good business” to the letter — because they’re abused by the thought that they’re always being hunted. “The wolf, thy brethren, will come for thee,” says an imaginary ancient prophecy. We are immersed in a zone of consciousness called Ideology: an illusory yet sensate world. The nightmare world, with adjustable levels. We need to start dreaming ourselves differently. Cognitive liberty means the right to allow thought to toboggan down mountains, wander through strange neighborhoods in search of moments of clarity. A part of my self tells another part to check out Edmund Berger’s Uncertain Futures, as well as his essay “Into the Mystic.” As I stroll through my neighborhood, I realize that every house has a hum. The night’s performances make use of helicopter, lawnmower, cars, air units, and cicadas. Sarah runs her hand through lavender and remarks on the evening’s strange music: “complex conversations,” she says, “in alien languages.” Afterwards we watch a bearded asshole of an old man grumble, “Actions have consequences.” Ozark, by season’s end, has become a variant of what’s that show, eaten by goddamn worms: ding-dong, The Walking Dead. Also a family-based reality tv show. The family of contestants receives a new challenge each episode: to accept, say accept. To decline, say decline. Marty Byrde is understood to be the reluctant but masterful god and devil, capital incarnate: the show’s Zen-like tragic hero.

Friday September 15, 2017

Fuck this shit. Let it all collapse. I’ve lost whatever remained of my ability to care. And allow me to say that, by the way, in full knowledge that I’ll likely feel differently before the end of this trance-script. Speaking of which: check out Thom Donovan’s essay in Tripwire 13 on Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue and on note-taking as a mode of composition. “Note-taking,” Thom writes, “as opposed to prose that results in novels, involves lived duration. ‘Discharge’ rather than ‘disclosure’ […]. Without preparation, nor the time to be edited (rewritten for the dominant culture’s genres), they comprise a continual improvisation, taking form amidst life’s general emergency” (279). A small grey-brown mantis stands alert, perched on the arm of a chair on my deck. For those looking for additional recommendations: I recommend giving yourself time to turn on, preferably during a sunny afternoon, to Pauline Anna Strom’s “Energies,” a track off her upcoming release Trans-Millenia Music from RVNG Intl.

Georgia’s video for that, by the way, takes me to precisely where I want to be. I also recommend Georgia executive Justin Tripp’s interactive generative art app Silk. Greg Fox’s “By Virtue of Emptiness” goes well with that, too. Art of this sort, I think to myself, amounts to a raw language into which heads can unfold their heads. The unified self is that which imagines itself making all of this, as in the video for Lusine’s “Just a Cloud.” My jungle-canyon rope-bridges, meanwhile, all feel limp and broken. This is a brain when fried. We’re all living in separate but adjacent mass-mediated frames, as in the title sequence to John Carpenter’s They Live.

Think the concept of differential immanence from the perspective of one who channel-surfs among parallel worlds. Remember: we who criticize the brutality of this world have been sent to perform necessary work here on behalf of the post-capitalist future. Think of us, in fact, as heroic time travelers whose tasks bear cosmic-eschatological implications, as with John Connor’s father, the protagonist in The Terminator. Each of us, trapped as we are in our private-personal, capitalist-realist prison-caves, must become once more our own Messiahs, interceding, both individually and collectively, on our own behalves — but only so as to be joined again with those we love.

Thursday September 14, 2017

“The tyranny of reason,” as Christian Bök calls it, has increased my esteem for the mad. We heads are an invisible people. A buzzer goes off, causing me to silence a lecture. The best smack talk is no talk at all. “Shit happens. Act accordingly,” says the voice of a dead man. Life is too short, says conventional wisdom, as we observe decline in all selves and all things. Money — or more accurately, the value-form — spoils, strips of magic, degrades and corrupts. Consciousness loses contact with place, its affective investments captured in the constructs of others. Have I mentioned that friends and I walked around town the other night chatting with one of the dudes from Negativland? He regaled us with tales of a party thrown for Negativland at the home of none other than Mr. LSD himself, Timothy Leary. R. U. Sirius (aka Ken Goffman), the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000, arranged the introduction. This was back in the early 1990s, at the height of the band’s kerfuffle with U2’s label Island Records following Negativland’s unauthorized sampling of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I also recall there being some mention of a mouse — poor creature! — crushed inside the gatefold cover of an Abba record.