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.”
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.
The Founder is the story of that monstrous St. Paul of the New American Church, McDonalds businessman Ray Kroc. A little guts, gumption, and elbow grease, says the face spied blurry in the mirror, and there’s gold to be had. Alas, nothing in this world can stop the scourge of that bloody word “persistence.” “Keep going,” mouths Harriet Tubman from the epigraph to Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened — which, of course, I have no intention of reading. (Are you kidding me? “What happened”? What rubbish!) But Tubman’s words echo regardless, don’t they? Imbued with oracular import. Careful, though, I warn myself, not to appropriate for one’s personal, psychonautical meaning-system, words tossed up by the struggles of the enslaved and the oppressed. With that warning firmly in mind, I firmly place a tab of acid directly beneath my tongue and prepare for takeoff. Within (give or take) half an hour, I begin to feel jittery impulses, excess energy welling up inside me. I take a whack at describing the experience: not just the proverbial “butterflies in one’s stomach.” Indeed the “stomach” barely enters the affected sensorium! Let us focus instead on tension woven into our necks and upper backs. Our minds seek to be released out from under this weight. Before long, though, the restlessness spreads outward, becoming observant, firstly, of “mind-body dualism” and other related epiphenomenal derangements of experience via discourse. “Stop wedding awareness to locations and objects,” shouts the recurring intrusion of a car horn. Trees drop their leaves onto my deck. Should I sweep them or let them be? I throw myself into the experimental body practice known as “yard work”: a practice I associate with submission to the compulsions of my father (who, let’s face it, despite my great affection for him, is a bit of a clean freak). And yet, here I am, thinking to myself (and subsequently sharing with all of you): the act of sweeping can serve for us as a kind of “centering” practice, a reminder of our embodiment, and thus, at least briefly (one is grudgingly forced to admit), a source of pleasure. A scolding voice intrudes here, though, and commands me to regard dispassionately the many ways I attempt to correct myself. Let go of these, I say! Open fully to whatever may follow. Allow a wind to come and scatter thought far and wide. I do hereby declare: We shall compose ourselves tomorrow in full appreciation of sunlight, in all its aspects and guises.
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.
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.
“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.
Jason Bateman ends and begins episodes shouting, “Jesus! Fuck! They put up a cross.” To me, those people are invasive of ecosystems, turning every town into a bait shop. Zombies pissing into oceans. Starlings in Central Park. Established entities like that worry me. Drug money, narco-dollars: that’s the world for me. The weeds, the rich earth: which are we? Is drug money the capitalist economy’s pump primer? So says Ozark, as I try to get my bearings. Voiced bodies make me laugh. Among creatures, they’re pretty peculiar. We shouldn’t be arming them. Many of them also know kung fu. Reality becomes gridded as I relax in my mission. I started this blog out of a perception that present iterations of the maze-world lack authentic, whole-person modes of communication — modes attentive as well to the always schizoid, always provisional nature of contemporary subjectivity. Bath products hanging from my shower-head advertise themselves as “Damage Detox” elixirs and provisioners of “Nature’s Therapy.” Let this blog extract from all such things the kernels from the husks. Let it compensate for the fact that a student of mine showed up to class this week wearing a “Raised Right” GOP hoodie. (Alas, my only remaining hope involving this country is that I may one day escape it.) In yesterday’s case, “Nature’s Therapy” meant sitting in a room, drinking from a thermos, listening to the progression of sustained and unsustained notes that fill the air below the vaulted ceiling of Sarah Davachi’s cathedral, The Untuning of the Sky.
To transform ourselves, we must allow ourselves to wander. By the way, Full Spectrum Records was founded by a pair of heads in Greensboro in 2008; they’ve been churning out high-quality head treatments ever since. Check out Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, for instance, by the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, or beneath the by Des Moines-based artist Lindsay Keast performing under the project name Tree branch Twig.
Witness, too, the heartbreaking window onto the canine soul that is Laika’s Lullaby, Keast’s collaboration with animator Julia Oldham, for a 2015 exhibition at the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city where that was a thing? All right — enough, then. Go lightly on thy way.