Thursday August 3, 2017

I move from wondering if I suffer from dissociative identity disorder to imagining myself and my friends living in a commune. That, for me, represents a typical day. Thanks, capitalism. I also sometimes imagine myself touring a guest silently through my home, reaching down now and then to adjust a throw pillow on an armchair, and in a mime-like manner, offering him or her a drink. Through a swirling haze of dope smoke we arrive at events that feel like interruptions of the trance-script. The words of trance-scripts sometimes go unheard. I am too busy stumbling experimentally toward what I hope will be a happier practice of everyday life. The programmed self isn’t only made aware that the sounds it is hearing are recorded, it is also made conscious of the playback systems it uses to access the recordings. I’m like a prisoner trying to lift a piece of furniture to cast it from the wall of my cell. My thoughts turn to Manchester artist James Leyland Kirby, whose work under his “Caretaker” alias explores early-onset dementia.

Last Sunday’s Game of Thrones began with white dudes having to hand over their firearms upon arriving on the shores of a multicultural superpower. My pet dachshund laid her head across my leg as I watched. The image degraded at one point, so what I was viewing (Daenerys in close-up) looked like a videogame cutscene. As the show proceeded, I admitted begrudgingly that we live in a game-world ruled by prestige. Players compete through the art of negotiation (what liberals call “the rule of law,” or what Trump’s ghostwriters call “the art of the deal”). Mere word games, I think to myself, while the fascists come for us all. We believe in the existence of many games, don’t we, until we’re bound by One. Then again, how do we prevent communities from reverting to territories when citizens aren’t following the same story lines? Between the equal rights of two internally consistent and thus equally valid interpretations of reality, Marx noted (I’m paraphrasing), force decides. But we needn’t submit ourselves to this tedious competition of wills. Every possible sequence of events is happening all at once, as Game of Thrones teaches. Live that way, a character commands us. Imagine yourself to possess a third eye. When others see me, they probably think to themselves, “he doesn’t recognize yet that he has given up.” But Mark Fisher would have understood that, by contrast, I’ve kept true, I’ve remained constant in my refusal to adjust to reality. What remains to be worked out, however, is the connection between psychedelic culture’s reconstruction of its audience’s nervous systems, and Fredric Jameson’s imperative for subjects of postmodernity to “grow new organs” and expand their sensorium to match the multi-dimensional realities of global capitalism. Next time, Gadget, next time.

Wednesday August 2, 2017

Lest I be accused of mere nostalgia, let me begin today’s post by explaining how I see the relationship of our moment to what some are now calling “hippie modernism.”

Following the logic informing the Walker Art Center’s exhibition of that name, I take “hippie modernism” to designate a countercultural formation of unsurpassed Utopianism that flowered unevenly in a wide range of national contexts in the 1960s and early 1970s. This formation was never just a reflection of its time; rather, it actively dreamt and desired a future that, by remaining unrealized, continues to make demands on us today. Postmodernism, meanwhile, is that which emerged in hippie modernism’s aftermath. A product of post-60s Prohibition (here in the Americas, the moment of the highly militarized War on Drugs), postmodernist culture coincides with active state suppression of hippie modernism’s technologies of consciousness. Of course, drug wars have never had much success in eradicating supplies of psychedelics, and so the ongoing era of Prohibition has long been haunted by revivals of hippie modernism’s ghosts. Nevertheless, when I look to hippie modernism today, I see a cultural formation the totality or full international breadth and extent of which has only just now become mappable by individuals, thanks to the art-historical archival efforts of reissue labels and museums. As a result, the time is right, I think, not just for a Marxist account of the history of psychedelia, but for the creation of an openly, unashamedly Gnostic-themed, psychedelia-inflected Marxism, one that presents the raising of consciousness as the relay switch between previously competing or previously antagonistic codes. But enough of that. In what follows, I will not think but do. Returning home after visiting my family, I arrive briefly at the impression, before self-correction, that neighborhoods in the places I’ve lived all look the same. With that, I prepare myself for admission before the court of my town’s public pool. And the self I prepare is a mischievous little child. A scheming little imp. Well, not really. I’m just a sun child. And it feels good, I declare, to lay out in the sun while high — if not for you, then at least for me. I associate all of this, in fact, with the photo on the cover of Kantner and Slick’s otherwise unmemorable — indeed, practically unlistenable — Sunfighter (“Million” being the only song on Sunfighter that I would recommend to others).

There were many pictures of me worshipped like that as a baby. I ate strident dreams of that sort for breakfast. The Guitar Army peered at me with its harmonicas at the ready. Hence my love of sun and pool. Watch me swim now: a swamp thing, a rangy plant-like consciousness, floating at the water’s surface. Hold fast to this image, for in it lies the key. The sunlit sky, the cool body of water, and the public at play: these three shall form the pillars of my religion’s temple. My Hippie-Communist Temple of Joy. It is THIS for which we strive. Justice has been and so will continue to be our rallying cry — but a justice on behalf of pleasure. The world must be made pleasureful and fully present for all those who want it so. To the haters, I reply with the immortal words of Edward FitzGerald and Omar Khayyam: “Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring / Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling: / The Bird of Time has but a little way / To flutter — and the Bird is on the Wing. […] Some for the Glories of This World; and some / Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; / Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go, / Nor heed the music of a distant Drum!” And one more for good measure, to drive the point home: “Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit / Of This and That endeavor and dispute; / Better be merry with the fruitful Grape / Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.”

Tuesday August 1, 2017

Topics appear laid out as if on a blanket at a swap meet. If it’s important, these posts will get to it. All in due time. There remain so many branching paths of possibility. And here I am performing real-time running commentary on it. My dog’s health is declining, the quality of her life worsening in minute increments of perception each day. Time appears like swirling digital mandalas anchored to objects recognizable among the observation deck where I select among sensory inputs. Consciousness slows down and dwells at a state of readiness, as if the planet were a spaceship I were captaining through a VR helmet. The noosphere, as Teilhard de Chardin referred to it, is itself a kind of helmet — a crown placed upon one’s temples. What would it mean to wear it well? The colliding voices are sometimes deafening. The world of the seen keeps reloading or reinstalling itself on my mainframe. Psychology is where the world inside the computer becomes cognizant of its surroundings. Or like the home movie that suddenly realizes it’s being watched. Around this time, the music comes on: the world births unto me Kikagaku Moyo’s House in the Tall Grass.

The album self-consciously hallucinates itself as the emanation of a stoned mind, a parallel cartoon fantasy landscape lit by moonlight. One can practice breathing in irregular counterpoint with its rhythms. The Tokyo-based band, I find myself wanting to say, channels a unique amalgam of psychedelic precursors — but I worry that my tone is too much that of a barker. Perhaps this is just that part of me — the barker part. My best self can run with it, whereas my other self — let’s just say, I sometimes so lack confidence in the quality of my utterances that I find myself needing to subtract from conversation, excuse myself from planned gatherings, and hang back somewhere outside the social event, tensing and loosening through wavelike motions muscles in my neck and shoulders. I can imagine much of this anxiety lifting in a country that provides its citizens a universal basic income. My higher-ed indentured servitude due to student debt has rendered work itself — labor in all its forms — the scourge of my existence. Better to blame work than to blame bad genes or bad chemistry. Or even worse, bad taste. All I know is, that song “Silver Owl” lifts me up. The finale of a bittersweet July, or the opening outward of an endless August. And the chaser for that is “Backlash” off the band’s Stone Garden EP (look out, it’ll get ya.)

Stenciled citadels populate the sky on that same EP’s “In a Coil,” a track that sees the band swiss-cheesing its way to some as yet unexploited bit of land on Planet Krautrock.

Among contemporary acts, Kikagaku Moyo tops the list of those I most admire (i.e. those with whom I can conduct my worship). The current Tokyo psychedelic scene has also been blessed with the likes of Dhidalah, who for what it’s worth I find far less convincing. Yet Japanese retro culture remains uncannily precise in its renditions of the past. Look, too, for instance, to Guruguru Brain labelmates Minami Deutsch, who play the scene’s Neu! to Kikagaku Moyo’s Can.

Monday July 31, 2017

“Oh, the most naughty–” and, in general, “tut-tut.” Doesn’t one want to be bad in some true, deep way sometimes? Like, without relativism’s usual buffer — as in, “without irony.” Women hold up half the sky, while I wander around in the equivalent of William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. I like to think of myself as an eight-ball, or some other device of divination. Smoke me up and see what I say. Though I can also hear in the distance the roar of the cyberbullies from some other leg of the labyrinth. One must connect the surface of life with its greatest depth. Mind is to body, as vertical is to horizontal, as inner is to outer. Together they form a continuum. My sense of spirituality and its relation to nature is not unlike the sense articulated in Woolgathering, where Patti Smith writes, “I never had a sense that the ability to win came from me. I always felt it was in the object. Some piece of magic in everything, as if all things, all of nature bore the imprint of a jinn.” But what for her was “always felt” is for me a sensation that awakened or reawakened only recently. Smith calls this state “the mind of a child.” Look, the mushroom cloud! There (pointing it out for others): on yesterday’s horizon! The editing occurs this way, in the act of composition, or not at all. Drop your needle, I say, on Drew McDowall’s remix of Drab Majesty’s “Forget Tomorrow” (is that statue moving?), and then follow with Tangerine Dream’s “Ultima Thule, Pt. 2.”

The world, enlivened as by a breeze, sings to me. The poet A.R. Ammons applied (and thus, models a way for me to apply) this sense to the practice of writing, which for him involved “not so much looking for the shape / as being available / to any shape that may be / summoning itself / through me / from the self not mine but ours.” I watch in first-person as my feet descend a realtime-3D videogame staircase, with no way to determine whether the feet are of my body or as seen on a screen. I enter a hypnoid state while making myself available to the slow fade of one layer of text atop another during the title sequence that opens 1956’s The Bad Seed. In English, that means “by the light of the moon.” Despite its “crime-mustn’t-pay” ending, this movie deserves wider recognition today as a psycho-allegorical masterpiece. For those who haven’t seen it, let me add here that the acting is at all times mirror-worlded and deliberately Twilight Zone Freudian.

Ideas of mine, a character tells me, are at all times associated with words and things. Any ideas that come to mind are thus associated ideas. The analyst / hypnotist who styles herself a grande dame enters from an upper level, slaps me gently on the wrist, and demands that I go on, no matter how silly. All of us, she reminds us, believe ourselves changelings and foundlings. And then in the night we shout, “I’m lost in the forest!” Fairy tales, I intuit through power of suggestion, allow our thoughts to wander off script of ego. In the darkness, we become aware of a pavilion that isn’t there — isn’t visibly present — in daylight. “A pavilion,” the film adds, “made of darkness, as if by magic.” In this final mode of appearance, the characters onscreen stand revealed at last as projections of the thinking self, frozen there in the midst of the drama (where home is synonymous with psyche) in contemplation of the other actors. Harps, swinging lockets, ringing bells: these are the sounds and visions that ease one’s reentry, until one’s home goes dark.

Sunday July 30, 2017

I’ve talked myself back to a place where I’m co-producing my ideology in dialogic exchange with my surroundings. I’m still absorbing and responding to reality, but buttressed against its impositions in a way that leaves me proud and alive. I like, for instance, that my house contains stones, a record player, a beautiful, naturally-occurring mace made of an exploding galaxy of dead plant matter — little souvenirs that, like figs and grapes, Sarah and I have pilfered on our walks about town. As she naps on a couch across from me, I try to visualize as green and wooded village behind her eyelids a richly-detailed, richly-imagined early modern universe — a bit like the beautiful, soaring, godly perspective of the title sequence introducing each episode of Game of Thrones, mixed with close-up stage dramas of queens and poets: that whole, radically upswept 16th- and 17th-century world of cross-dressing thespians, New World explorers, merchants, reformers, pirates, colonists, peasants, witches, and slaves. I love that she has dedicated herself to the future preservation in consciousness of the unique shape, the unique imaginative geomorphologies and psychogeographies, of the early modern social totality and psyche. I love her way, too, of toggling between that and the news of the moment, while also maintaining a love for everyday beauty. To better understand me, however, I should probably treat myself to Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, particularly (as Bruce Jenkins of Vinyl Connection reminds me) the book’s ‘Pink Floyd’-influencing seventh chapter. I should probably also explore SCRAWL, Katherine Nonemaker’s “Illustrated Essay about Schizoaffective Disorder.” For the rest of you, I recommend you read Albert Mobilio’s Games & Stunts — but only if the spirit moves you. Smoke gives form to beams of light. Boxes, folding chairs, a yellow extension cord wrapped atop a green electric mower. I guess I’ve come to like this place, shut off for a few minutes each day from the larger global-political-ecological-economic totality, which, like a multi-level maximum security prison system, ultimately determines my fate. “Back up, though,” I tell myself, “You need to stop overacting yourself into hyperventilation like Christian Slater’s ‘Mark Hunter’ character in Pump Up the Volume.”

Whether because of introversion or insight, I have difficulty submitting or subjecting myself to an audience. I go rigid in the face a bit. My brain grows dense from lack of oxygen. Maybe it’s just these words, slipping through my fingers. “There you go, friend: that’s yer life!” Imagine standing before a closet or wardrobe and arranging from among countless possible arrangements of the self through an irreversible, improvised practice. And all of this, performed before a public! Regardless of whether to others it is broad or narrow, to me it is a life. Ticking away daily. Next thing you know, you’re someone else. How different would it be, I wonder, to be a webcammer. I certainly can’t promise total disinhibition. We all have our own little political consciences. But I can only spit fire to the extent that I allow myself to speak freely. But freely might also mean roundabout, as with GIFs. We’ll see.

Saturday July 29, 2017

Ears perk up, as on a hound. I do this whenever others wish to converse with me about “traps.” We’ve all lost time to sinkholes and vortices, haven’t we? As I drive along a parkway, an old woman walks past, head tipped back, pouring sunflower seeds down her gullet with the palm of her hand. Would it be fair to liken the invention of a cognitive map to the invention of a superior mythos — one suited to one’s historical moment? Those who call themselves scientists still walk in a mucky world, don’t they? A grizzled oldtimer, sucking on a pipe, lowers his eyes and grumbles ominously out the corner of his mouth, “Ain’t that the truth.” Imagine me speaking to you through a medley of voice actors. Plants today feel prickly, causing me to flinch upon contact. Colored-pencil illustration of fingers, their nails polished, rolling up a thing and lighting it. The buzz of an air unit conspires with the ring of insects out back to wake me like an alarm. Hot damn, where am I? I justify my actions with as loose a code of ethics as possible: just go with it. Become one with the democracy of the self. Contain multitudes comfortably and without apology. So many bugs, though — one must refrain from scratching and striking out at them. For peace, the Lord hath provided us with places indoors. Inner spaces. Learn to stress inwardness as well as presence. No need to crave others’ possessions. The Master of the Self — a master in reach of everyone — redoubles that wealth of joyful intensity within. And that doesn’t require renunciation of the world. Just the opposite: take it, it’s yours and everyone else’s. A small lizard scampers off my stoop. A little black one, with stripes like a skunk. The world in that moment is flush with novelty. These minor revolutions console us in the big one’s absence. These are our share of what was promised: our inheritance. Drug laws are flouted en masse because the people know what works best. A perfect litmus test for detection of the authoritarian personality: do you or don’t you allow yourself entry into the Kingdom of God? As soundtrack, by the way, for today’s entry, allow me to suggest The Isley Brothers’ great cover medley spoken on behalf of and from the standpoint of the meek, “Ohio / Machine Gun.”

The world grants me these real-time, synchronistic epiphanies. Trigger warning: the torture endured toward the end of this track nears the unbearable, and is thus a perfect anthem for today’s struggles: hands up. And for those of you who own property, allow Robyn Hitchcock to cast his spell on you with “Insanely Jealous of You.” Triple hex! Put yourself in mind, as well, of Nick Cave’s strip-club rewrite of William Morris’s utopia in “More News from Nowhere,” wherein Mr. Stripper himself follows Oscar Wilde in seeing utopia as “like a lamp, hanging from a distant boat” and toward which we float, thus sending his desire-riven protagonist sailing ever onward like a drug-addled Odysseus. It is to that that the disease of property leads — so, renounce it by going inward, and ye shall be saved.

Friday July 28, 2017

A breeze kicks up in the hour or so after noon. It offers a sound that sucks me into the depths of my lawn chair, which, in its recliner position, allows me to float at near parallel to the horizontal plane. I picture an animated diagram of air masses circulating, their representations occupying different positions in space from one moment to the next. The world advances and retracts as a visual surface along an x-axis. I set loose my lugubrious retention circuit and begin to melt. Moving from a beginning, which is a “becoming,” we arrive at being. We are. But we also hold it. We put it away for safekeeping. Can I imagine saying “no” to writing, so as to just be? Let thought off its echo-chambered leash. Can you do that for me, reader? Plants are little alien lifeforms, stretching their many arms toward the sun. I can turn these arms to make them reach toward absorption of me, but only temporarily, against the plant’s own tendencies. I guess I feel both loved and unloved simultaneously. Like I’ve neglected the full use of my body. Go out, I tell myself. Consort with wizards and witches, slay dragons, journey. Or am I more of a static, long-take kind of guy? Frame the shot and then study it as life unfolds. Obviously the latter, no? As for the country and mode of production in which I reside, I regard these as sinking ships. I genuinely can’t picture any fix for the mess we’re in — at least, not within the relevant span, which is the lifetime of this guy right here (points downward), Mr. #1. Personal salvation, or at least the fantasy thereof, through the Zig Zag Zen of potsmoking and spiritual writing, is all I’ve got. I confess to suffering full-blown Left melancholia, and I feel guilty about it. I fear a cyberleft superego will come bullying me the moment I go public. Bathing me in insults. I’m embarrassed with myself, but it’s who I am — and so, on a deeper and more lasting level, I have to embrace it and perhaps even find a way to love it. A person’s chance at happiness is found here or not at all. I close my eyes and see Pepe the Frog and the spinning hand of a clock in the pulsing black-and-white face of a Hypno Disk. The enemy’s hypno-propaganda arrives like junkmail each day in my subliminal sense-perceptual inbox. My hatred of the Right, in all its manifestations, makes my blood boil. I’ll never reconcile with those fuckers. I’ll never come in from the cold. Yet even on the Left, I have no true friends obsessed enough with me, attracted enough, to want to read me like a book. I wanna feel as if, through my writing, I’m turning others on. In that sense, I “identify” with what I’m doing. I wish to share that which to me is of value, in the hope that others will find value in it as well. Speaking of which, I find value, too, in following the trail of clues that reality brings my way, like Inter-Dimensional Music by a New Age artist named Iasos.

Try listening to “Rainbow Canyon” while reading quatrains from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Reality can feel that good, assuming one has the right strain of pot. I can dictate suggested activities for readers and thus DJ or curate spans of experience. But wouldn’t that be a kind of fiction expressed as algorithmic essence? Command lines tell, they don’t show. And of course there’s still that suspicion, that worry of ours, that the world’s fate hangs by our concentration. We have to make our readers believe us. We have to show them that we are the kind of being that needs to be rubbed to be released from its bottle. I mean handled properly, we’re able to grant wishes. An observing goddess, turning and throwing her hands up in exasperation, says, “There he goes, off on another delusion of grandeur.” Jaw out, I reply, “I insist that I be allowed to realize my dream.” And with that, the dream unfolds. Perhaps what I lack is gumption. Pirsig calls it “psychic gasoline.” He writes in the character-ized voice of his reader’s always-still-absent Father. And as for you, the one reading this, go do yourself a favor and listen to Jacques Dutronc’s Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi, France’s reply to Dylan. And for good measure, throw in The Leaves’ version of “Hey Joe”: flower punk boiled down to its essence. Keep in mind, though, that flower punk as a genre can stretch even as far as the ethnomusicological exotica of Sun City Girls’s Torch of the Mystics, particularly their track “The Shining Path.”