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.

Sunday August 13, 2017

Others vacation when and where they want. This, too, is a form of inequality. Worse still, my city is livable, but unmemorable and unattractive. Is my miserabilism the effect of my impoverished personhood or its cause? I am being asked to fail and fail again. And it’s okay: I’ll keep going. I know I somehow will. Please do not be frightened. It’s just that I’ve become deeply unhappy with myself. My writing is a testament to the failure of my ability today to enjoy. The thing is, it really felt like I was pulling out of the spiral there for a moment. What happened? I try not to tell myself that I suffer from depression, as I’m wary of the theoretical presumptions embedded in that label. (My thinking has been partly shaped on this score by Susan Sontag’s Under the Sign of Saturn. But see as well Eric G. Wilson’s Against Happiness.) But, look, let’s be honest: my moods are seasonal and affected by work. I go through patches of good and bad over varying durations. One consequence is that I drive people away just by being myself. My work, if it is truly to be mine, will have to attest to this. And so, without further ado, let’s return to the work itself. The construction of a Marxist theory of psychedelia will have to build upon the insights of critical geographers like David Harvey and Edward W. Soja (and before them, Henri Lefebvre). Psychedelics intervene in and directly modify socially produced space, by changing what we might call cognitive space or mental space. “The presentation of concrete spatiality,” as Soja notes, “is always wrapped in the complex and diverse re-presentations of human perception and cognition, without any necessity of direct and determined correspondence between the two. These representations, as semiotic imagery and cognitive mappings, as ideas and ideologies, play a powerful role in shaping the spatiality of social life” (Postmodern Geographies, p. 121). As we continue to think about the relationships between psychedelics and space, we’ll also have to consult Alastair Gordon’s book Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties. Following Fisher, I see capitalist realism not just as an ideology and an aesthetic that situates subjects within a narrowed or foreshortened horizon of political possibility, where there can be no future utopian alternative to the present; it’s also a shaping and debasing of the way subjects experience space and time. Psychedelics thus possess a certain radical potential under such circumstances, as they provoke immediate (albeit temporary) modification of inner experience beyond the forms imposed by capitalism. When under the influence, one is no longer the Self as defined and designed by the current order. One can drift and linger, now that one has restored to oneself that which capitalism had drowned in what Marx called “the icy water of egotistical calculation.” Anxieties, begone! Pot allows us to see again reality constituted through veils and unveilings, everything both inwardly-lit and haloed. All of which is to re-invoke through transcendence upward from the profane a sense for the sacred, although I’m not sure I wish to do that, as emotional, perceptual, and symbolic spaces are all still immanent to the dialectic of nature. Picture, through perceptual refocusing, the circle-shape and the yin and yang struggle contained therein. No need to delve into those questions just yet. Think, after all, of how much of our lives is invested in staring at illusions of depth onscreen! Games of perception are the very magic by which the system operates. Business is, along with whatever else, a religion imposed on conquered subjects.

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.

Thursday August 10, 2017

A house I pass while out walking in my neighborhood wears a mask with a sideways haircut. I am asking you to read me as a destitute Utopian realist, friend, inflated with chemicals and making it up as I go. It is nice to have loved ones you can join on walks. And neighbors who are radical anarchist gardeners. How easily, though, that can slip into radicalism reduced to a mere lifestyle. Sarah hips me to the hedge-jumping acid-folk Utopianism of Van Morrison’s divine transmission, “Sweet Thing.”

She and I live out the prophecy of “We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain.” So much of Astral Weeks is like that. We Acid Communists need to dip in finally to Ernst Bloch’s multi-volume The Principle of Hope. And maybe also Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, with its group of revolutionaries, the Accelerationists. (And no, for those who are wondering: I do not consider myself an Accelerationist. The only thing I wish to hasten is the coming of the Utopia of Acid Communism; but for me, that means labor’s exodus from capital, not the latter’s acceleration.) As for the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, it was founded at the University of Warwick in 1995 by Fisher, Sadie Plant, Nick Land, Robin Mackay and others, and had ceased to exist as a functional entity by the turn of the millennium. Major downturn here as the dog started pissing on the bed. I cope by practicing intuitive breathing exercises. The depiction of existential dread through a montage of found media in the Zero Books channel’s “Kill All Normies” video speaks fluently of my current predicament.

Why have we talked ourselves into such a dreadfully degraded form of consciousness? How do societies respond to pervasive nihilism? Surely that signals the approach of our show’s finale, no? Are our peers, even the most devout, all secretly traumatized by the death of God and the subsequent purposelessness of existence? I’m barely able to continue to process this. It uses brainwashing techniques such as subliminal messages and emotional association through imagery. Their claim to have control of my mind frightens me. Is “meme magic” legitimately a thing? I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold, and the world has crossed it with me. The interregnum between paradigms. Whose dream am I in if not my own? “Relax, it doesn’t matter,” the shadow self whispers. “Commit yourself only to Being.” Can I square that with the implied monism of “Nature as system of systems”? I feel like I’ve become a person who talks beside himself in public. Angela Nagle’s shamefully ill-informed critique of the politics of transgression in Kill All Normies resembles a student pretending to speak with smug disdain on a topic known only through ideologically-driven potted online summaries, ideas from the Nietzschean / Sadean Left of the 60s and 70s cherry-picked and drastically oversimplified in an attempt to prove a point — that point being that the time has come to lay to rest the entire paradigm of resistance through cultivation of counterculture. To claim as Nagle does the cultural dominance of the Left during the Obama years is to ignore in one’s conception of culture the culture of business, as well as the cultures of the religious right. This is what happens when analysis of culture sidesteps participants’ relations to means of production (including but not limited to means of consciousness-production). The Right transgresses, yes, even under capitalism — but only by falsely hypostasizing the part for the capitalist whole.

Wednesday August 9, 2017

Will I be beaten for mistranslating my mission? Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Okja clutches and fills my heart with fear. I have difficulty translating. Signs go unread. Associative logic is too advanced and moves too rapidly for full trance-scription. The Spectacle has become immersive and sonic and fractal. Characters even play their own twins. Methods of cultural study have been outpaced by media. The film performs a devastating act of cognitive mapping. Psychedelic consciousness teaches us to hold all creatures close to our heart. Revolutionaries should build into their program the abolition of carnivorism. (Live as I say on this score, not as I do.) When tracing the origins of Acid Communism, one has to tell the story of the University of Warwick’s Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, delving especially into the Unit’s fondness for mind-altering substances during its heyday in the 1990s. One could note the progression of Sadie Plant from a 1992 book on the Situationists to 1999’s Writing on Drugs. Before this, of course, one’s narrative would have to discuss the interwar self-experimentation documented in Walter Benjamin’s On Hashish. Meanwhile, a search for “Acid Communism” on YouTube reveals the following: Acid Womble’s “When the class consciousness kicks in… [wombles 4 communism],” and a collection of videos by someone named Aaron.

And man, what a treasure trove of mindbenders it is. Fisher had moved in the year or so before his death to a definition of capitalist realism as a form of “consciousness deflation,” or “the receding of the concept of consciousness from culture.” Forms of consciousness were developing in the 1960s that were dangerous to capital: class consciousness, psychedelic consciousness (key notion being “plasticity of reality”), and (thinking here of early women’s-lib consciousness-raising groups) what we might call personal consciousness (self as it relates to structures). Of course, the important and perhaps most controversial point, is that “Consciousness is immediately transformative, and shifts in consciousness become the basis for other kinds of transformation.” Recognizing the threat this could pose, capitalism adopted a project of Prohibition, or what Fisher called “libidinal engineering and reality engineering.” The goal of consciousness deflation is to cause us to doubt what we feel. Anxiety is enough — that’s all it takes to control us. But consciousness remains malleable, and the tools for raising it are finding their way back into the hands of the people. “What is ideology,” Fisher asked, “but the form of dreaming in which we live?” Patches of green through a haze of condensation in the windows where the walls meet the drop ceiling in my basement. Are stories and games not the ways we navigate space and time? Seize control of them! Invent new games, even if only games one performs in solitude. Send minds careening away from the narrative of identity in space and time imposed by capitalism. Take yourself, even if only momentarily, to a new reality. And then draw audiences with you into labyrinths of pleasureful indeterminacy, drawn out spectacles of release from the hegemonic consensus. Trope-scrambling helps, as does appropriation and montage. General ontological indeterminacy is our goal. And we should recruit out there as many people as will join us, subtracting prefiguratively into our psychedelically enhanced Acid Communist MMORPG, our free 3D virtual world. Go play yourself FACT mix 613 by Wolf Eyes / Hanson Records noise maven Aaron Dilloway while brushing up on Marcos Camacho, better known by his nickname Marcola, the leader of Brazil’s Primer Comando de la Capital. Altered states, baby! Beware the nightmarish spread of the void.