Tuesday August 15, 2017

I wish it were as easy as intoning, “All is okay. One is one’s best self. There is no dark cloud hanging over one’s head.” But my emotions resonate more with Drugdealer’s “Sea of Nothing.” 

Those are companies I should investigate, I tell myself as I spy a pair of corporate logos in a “bad things happen there” industrial park beside a highway. This is what I call my conspiracy thriller “social detective” persona. Seeing a Subway worker in a green t-shirt, a green apron, and yellow shorts, I’m put in mind of a Keebler elf. When Sarah and I drive through the lushly vegetated rural towns of the southern coastal states, we notice churches with names like “Overflow,” and white pickup trucks in our rear-view mirror whose occupants remind us of the white nationalist militia fucks who marched in Virginia. Dérives through these regions lull one into a sleepy boredom.

You can approximate this state by listening to Harmonia & Eno ’76’s “Welcome” while picturing the following appearing like ruins among a sea of green: modular home manufacturers, tool and machine works, a field of zinnias at the center of an exit curve. But my head is always snapping out of this hypnosis due to the region’s abiding hints of danger. Standing in the grass of a park Sunday night, I listened to comrades share their concerns at a local vigil organized in unity with antifascist forces in Charlottesville. But the Democratic Party organizers of the event formed us into no more than an inert mass, clapping when expected to clap, faced back to itself with speakers urging it halfheartedly to launch a love-fest. Years of declining people power have left the local Left lacking even a reliable public address system. But it was energizing, ultimately, to hear comrades who had been there in the streets of Charlottesville share their perspective on what had happened, and to hear as well the newly established local DSA chapter representative, a dear friend of mine, properly naming capitalism as the system we must fight. Despite the odds, the collective lighting of candles successfully cast its spell.

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.

Saturday August 12, 2017

Charles Koch calls ideas “technologies.” His goal is to employ them to “enchain Leviathan,” so that capitalist princes like him, titles won through rigged competition and inheritance, may stand in its stead. Imagine scumbags in power smugly performing lead roles as heads of playground drama. The bullshit of national pageantry. Headlines are looking grim, comrades. The hundredth anniversary nears. News agencies keep pumping blatant propaganda. Global corporate fascism is upon us. Erik “Prince,” Donald “Trump”: who’s writing this tragic race-to-the-apocalypse farce-drama? Nut-bag headlines like “Threat of War May Sound Scarier Than It Really Is.” States and corporations are entities that we haven’t built ourselves. Our wealth and happiness stolen from us and stacked like bricks of gold. No longer is there a way to raise a sufficient counter-power to combat the words and acts of bullies. The affliction known as nihilism replicates by causing those who claim to have successfully defended themselves against it to lash out at and attack its victims. In reaction to this insensitivity, this betrayal of any commitment to compassion, the afflicted lose whatever remained of their admiration for former allies, while these latter observe in horror as their own actions become those of hivemind despots: the rote subjecthood of beings commanded by fear of what lies within. But the affliction remains treatable. By closing our eyes and stilling our minds and bodies, we become pure consciousness, in itself and for itself, rather than instrumentalized will or ego. To transpose this experience into language is to do it a disservice. Plans to visit the pool crushed again by overcast skies. Meditation shelters me from the void and grants me space to breathe, but the object-world remains depthless and unresponsive. Welcome to what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention.” I scan the surfaces of semiocapitalism looking for something — anything — that might hold my gaze and deliver some sense of connection. Pot thankfully interrupts this debased mode of being, however briefly, even when we remain online. It permits vision to pixelate experimentally, turning reality into a sea of floaters. Mind becomes through its engagement with matter. This is what happens when we go outside with it. We must build up our mental maps of neighborhoods, scaling from the local all the way outward to the global. But doesn’t that require media? Houses in the neighborhood belong to people of different classes. Sometimes on the same block. And a varied ecology. Each gardener designs a miniature individual nature. Some of these gardens contain herbs and medicines grown locally, to the best of the climate’s ability. Each one t’each one. The utopia of the diverse city-state, subordinated in a more abstract level to state and nation, and containing further subordinate diverse units within called homesteads. This is what the US imagines as the proper distribution of power through land, that prior-most means of production. And suddenly, one is thinking again.

Friday August 11, 2017

Reality is plastic insofar as minds can take us elsewhere. Utopia is a place one visits through remembered scraps of song. We can bend down and stroke blades of grass. We can grow lonely in the many rooms of our days. Solitude walks us through a diverse range of affective registers. One becomes absorbed in a full stopping of one’s certainty that one will ever again witness the passing of time. Certain changes are hard to contemplate, like the loss of a pet. A part of one’s consciousness, disappearing from active presence in one’s narrative. Must I be audience to this? One becomes panicked by bouts of painful sadness. Music sometimes suffices to dull this, as with Destroyer’s “Sky’s Grey.”

Heads up, North Korea. The masses, the invisible ones, are huddled half-exhilarated in anticipation of the story’s turn toward the tragic. “Sky’s Grey” is what it feels like to be a Marxist at the true end of history. Prog out and get super stoned to Heldon’s “Mechamment Rock.” (For more advanced heads, check out “Cocaine Blues.”)

Others don’t seem to have memories that fail them as do mine. What have been the effects of mass use of mind-altering substances throughout history? One should assume in advance that HBO’s The Defiant Ones will disappoint us because of its ideologically deficient “political statement.” Bits broken from a bar of dark chocolate will remind us of the triangles of the Triforce in Zelda. 85% cocoa, with stout and sea-salt caramel. The World Bank will fund our venture to reestablish Pax Americana, suggest my sources, and the Supercop will become indentured, too. Our minds will become like that of the Three-Eyed Raven. Imagine people telling themselves stories that actually made them feel better. We mustn’t melt castles and burn cities. Better to burn gold en route. If Game of Thrones is an allegory, and a prophetic one to boot, then which country’s dragons are supposed to take out which country’s money supply? Presence is as difficult as hope. But a curing occurs; we relate differently to time when high. But a mourning occurs as well, as knowledges known in the past recede from consciousness, and are known now only as names of computer files stored in folders somewhere in one’s laptop. How distant it all seems: I channeled my consciousness where? And for what? Is this what others call “cognitive impairment”? It’s been so long since I’ve read any David Harvey. Is that an observation or a confession? Parts of my life appear purely arbitrary. My dog and I can perform simple routines, but not much more than that. My world has in essence collapsed.

Tuesday August 8, 2017

Let’s initiate today’s ritual with a notch-lowering jaunt through X.Y.R.’s “False Angel Lullaby.”

Today’s headlines feature reviews of dramas performed by morons. Like Herrigel’s bow and arrow, my trance-scripts are “only a pretext for something that could just as well happen without them, only the way to a goal, not the goal itself, only helps for the last decisive leap.” Not Not Fun have been putting out some top-notch records: “mesmerizing maze music mapped for altered states,” as they say in one of their promos. These records lend themselves to me as “Temples of Solitary Thought.” Let’s end things today, by the way, in anticipation of the season gestured to in Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s “Autumn,” playing both that and Magnetizer’s “See What U See.”

Keep your torches lit, friends. The interruption a few minutes into that Magnetizer track strikes like the beam of pink light Philip K. Dick called VALIS. Criticism is a language of protest reinvented anew by members of each conjuncture. At a bar the other night, a friend recommended I check out “Meditating on Psychedelics,” an episode of the Buddhist Geeks podcast.

Neighbor wars, street wars. The culture war has been heating up over several decades, to the extent that now it functions not just as war by other means, but war by many means. Tree-chopping homeowners, bumper-sticker micro-aggressors, coal-rolling sociopaths: these are some of the monsters immediately in our midst. And yet there at the corner, a garden of great beauty. “Reality Redux (feat. The Blues)” serves as mood-supplementing accompaniment as I go for my afternoon run, along which I intermittently walk and type.

An old yellow truck is tucked in the side lot of one of the homes I pass on my way. Don’t you love it when performers of feats perform cockily? Insects in the trees unleash a pulsing, multi-directional, multi-sourced roar in the moments of dusk’s fading light. Funny, in contrast — I vibrate into an icy unease when my body’s focus shifts to the repetitive drone of my next-door neighbor’s air unit, as if the mechanical and the organic were out of harmony with one another. This is the escapist fantasy into which I implode. Coherence involves a thing’s relation to itself. The marijuana firm American Green just purchased an entire town. It’s small, certainly, atop a mere 120 acres in California; but it signals an intensification of green capitalism’s commodification of peak experiences. With bottled cannabis-infused water, mineral baths, and marijuana retail outlets, it’s a first-of-its-kind, at least here in the US — the latest advance in psychedelic tourism, where your body travels to a particular location in meatspace, but only so that your mind can relax into the exoticism of an altered inner state. What hope is there for the positive changes in consciousness of the kind proposed by Acid Communism when legalization efforts are run by capitalists?

Monday August 7, 2017

I need to design some new courses. What are some topics worth teaching that won’t make me want to blow my brains out? “Literature and the Practice of Everyday Life,” with generous helpings of Thoreau and the Situationists; maybe a sprinkling of documents from the New Games movement of the 1970s? For New Gamers like Andrew Fluegelman, Pat Farrington, and others, writes historian Fred Turner, “to play New Games meant to imagine and perhaps to create a new social order. […]. The arrangement of players and observers on the field, the construction of rules (or the lack of them), the deployment of technologies and techniques in and around the space defined for play — for the New Gamers, to rearrange these elements was to rearrange the structure of society itself.” The course could be titled “Games People Play: Literatures and Practices of Everyday Life.” Of course, if I actually tried to teach this, students would probably stage a mutiny. And so it will remain but a dream. Best to just keep teaching courses on Utopianism, music, and drugs. This is the world as it appears imaginatively to a still firmly embodied consciousness, not just to some Google Street View camera parked across from one’s address. But then, the “outlaw” quality is part of this lifestyle’s appeal. The writer is bumping up against real internal and external censors and is plotting and practicing transgression. The idea is that one could open doors in consciousness so that others could follow, accreting pleasure-seekers like iron flakes to a magnet. Each day’s entry is becoming more and more like pulling back a string and releasing it, firing off the daily arrow. Should the project of collective self-realization feel like Zen in the Art of Archery? If I were to pursue a thought experiment whereby I answered in the affirmative, then it would follow that the trance-script is realized only when, “completely empty and rid of the self,” I become one with the perfecting of my technical skill along a trajectory that appears asymptotic. D.T. Suzuki’s comment in his introduction to Herrigel’s book would serve for me as a proper model for Marxism’s future as a practice of everyday life. “While it never goes out of our daily life,” he wrote, “yet with all its practicalness and concreteness Zen has something in it which makes it stand aloof from the scene of worldly sordidness and restlessness.” Marxism should be an “everyday mind” fired into every direction and every field of activity. To become childlike Utopians again, we must train in the “art of self-forgetfulness.” Imagine it as a slow but deliberate collapse of the self out of capitalist reality, one’s robes falling to the floor as Ben Kenobi’s did in Star Wars. Our thinking, freed via mind-expansion from the prison of capitalist realism, unfolds “like the showers coming down from the sky” and “like the waves rolling on the ocean,” even indeed “like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens.” The picture we will paint with our lives — once redeemed through the psychedelic sacrament — is called “History.” Let me try to rephrase all of that: I am trying to give account of why my attempt to live in fidelity to my Utopianism has led me to a writing practice infused with weed and Zen. I am at all times trying to figure out what it means to live well, as a Marxist, in a society that denies that possibility. To me, an urgent task of our time is to remind alienated productivists of the passion and joy of unproductive play. E.P. Thompson saw in Utopian writing of the past a way to teach others “to desire better, to desire more, and above all to desire in a different way” (William Morris, p. 791). But to know how to educate in this way, I would add, today’s Utopians must find a way, against all odds, to practice what they preach.

Sunday August 6, 2017

As writers, we can populate our voices by sampling the whole of media memory. The sounds come to us as the equivalent of radio signals from within. A voice says, “I gave you Logos a long time ago.” The unlocking of secret heights of language-use prompts shifting of the puzzle parts of reality. Not just a mountain blast or a rhetoric, but a reset of the object-world and of all living subjects’ knowledge and memory of it. Matter complies masochistically to Mind’s urgings. The differences are negligible but real. Like an escaped prisoner, my mind wanders free of discipline, and by that I mean not inner, transcendent discipline, but discipline as imposed by man upon man. By fleeing capture in the language games of others, we pick up the frequencies of an authentic, single-and-continuous, cosmos-creating act of speech. When I allow that speech to hypnotize me, I become capable of writing it down, and what it says becomes what I realize I want to say. The self that speaks itself thus also speaks another. This other self remembers falling asleep the other night while writing, and awakening the next day in the shade of his day, his back deck dappled piebald with spots of sunlight. He burns the social surplus of his days reposed in languorous, language-stupefied gratitude, having learned to worship through pleasure his one true master, the present. It’s like his Boolean microprocessor obeys a different logic, more generous in its handling of circumstance. Mariah’s work continues to astonish in these instances. (The incantatory “Shonen” and “Shinzo No Tobira” are current favorites of his.)

He observes rows of captured sunlight along the boards of a wooden fence, and feels at ease, the rest of the world of irrelevance somewhere behind him. On his run, he dodges a crushed Arizona Iced Tea can. A pointless thing, he shrugs, a trifle of a collapsed civilization. Flowers hung beside sidewalks become for him beings to sniff and touch lightly along his daily, leisurely, mind-adjusting dérives, the latter being a revolutionary strategy he acquired years ago during his apprenticeship among the Situationists. If he knows a word, it holds purpose, and he will use it. There is no active revolutionary strategy for the creation of communism, he thinks, until more residents in the US decide they want this. If this sometimes becomes Trance-Scripts’ Marxist Guide to Wellness, so be it. Still, the kind of joy he extracts from each day is not the kind of joy he’d had in mind. Today is the day on which he and friends had planned to head to the shore for a brief vacation — a trip the group had to postpone due to weather. “The influence of weather on dérives,” wrote Debord, “although real, is a determining factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible.” Perhaps he and his friends will find time in their lives to reschedule.