The Session

Mind blown by the experience of seeing musician Michelle Mae’s group The Make-Up perform at Irving Plaza in the spring of 1995, the Narrator had kept up with Michelle’s bands over the years. Never, though, had he met Michelle in person. Life is like that sometimes, especially for those of us with rich fantasy lives. Rarely do we get to sit down one-on-one to converse with the heroes of our youth.

“But early last September,” notes the Narrator, “I did exactly that.”

Thanks to a most excellent gift from his friends, he had the pleasure of meeting with Michelle and working one-on-one with her on Zoom in her capacity as a tarot reader.

She appeared onscreen sitting at a table in her home in Tucson. “I remember noting in the room behind her,” notes the Narrator, “a handcrafted besom leaned upright against a gray stone hearth.”

“There were some difficult cards in my spread,” confessed the Narrator to his friends in the days that followed. “But Michelle is super wise, super cool. She helped me see what the cards might be trying to teach me.”

News from Tucson

There came a time in the Narrator’s life when the best thing he could think to do was to seek the help of a tarot reader.

And sure enough, he was confronted soon thereafter with a way to do so. The opportunity presented itself, he recalls now in retrospect, at a backyard barbecue one afternoon last summer. “I was there chatting with my friend Saylor,” says the Narrator. “The latter, newly returned from the desert, leaned in and shared some exciting news with me.”

“You’ll appreciate this,” said Saylor with a grin. In the course of his summering in Tucson, he explained, he’d begun to hang with tarot reader Michelle Mae.

“Saylor had good reason to assume I’d be wowed by this news,” adds the Narrator, “as indeed I was, for as I’d confided to him in the past, I’m a longtime fan of Michelle’s band The Make-Up.”

So much so, in fact, that when asked to name the best rock concert of his life, the Narrator always refers to a Make-Up show — one he caught in high school. Make-Up shared a bill with two of their Dischord Records labelmates, fellow DC punk superstars Slant 6 and Fugazi. “What a night,” says the Narrator, recalling the show proudly now in hindsight. “Seminal. Life-altering. I was sixteen years old at the time. The Make-Up were a new band, so I hadn’t heard of them prior to that evening — but I liked and admired frontman Ian Svenonius’s former band Nation of Ulysses. As for the other acts on the bill, Fugazi and Slant 6 were as good as gods to me in those days. All of it blew my mind.”

Is Accelerationism an Iteration of Futurism?

After watching Hyperstition, a friend writes, “Is Accelerationism an iteration of Futurism?”

“Good question,” I reply. “You’re right: the two are certainly conceptually aligned. I suppose I’d imagine it in reverse, though: Futurism as an early iteration of Accelerationism. The former served as an experimental first attempt at living ‘hyperstitiously,’ oriented toward a desired future.”

“If we accept Hyperstition’s distinction between Right-Accelerationism and Left-Accelerationism,” I add, “then Italian Futurism would be an early iteration of Right-Accelerationism, and Russian Futurism an early iteration of Left-Accelerationism.”

“But,” I conclude, “I haven’t read enough to know the degree of reflexivity among participants. I hope to read a bit more along these lines this summer.”

The friend also inquires about what he refers to as the film’s “ethnic homogeneity.” By that I imagine he means that the thinkers featured in Hyperstition tend to be British, European, and American, with few exceptions. “It could just be,” I reply, “that filmmaker Christopher Roth is based in Berlin and lacked the budget to survey the movement’s manifestations elsewhere.”

The friend also wonders if use of concepts like “recursion” among Accelerationist philosophers signals some need among humanities intellectuals to cannibalize concepts from the sciences in order to remain relevant.

“To me,” I tell him, “the situation is the opposite. Recursion isn’t just a concept with some currency today among computer scientists; it was already used a century ago by philosophers in the Humanities. If anything, the Comp Sci folks are the ones cannibalizing the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.”

“At best,” I add, “it’s a cybernetic feedback loop: concepts evolving through exchange both ways.”

Monday June 14, 2021

Harmonica on the beach. And a golden sun at the center of the sky gleams down. Mind clear, inner chatter silenced, I listen to the waves. We trade rides on a store-bought boogie board. The world hisses, sprays / spits with love. Day of summer, day of sizzle. Application of coconut oil to bare skin. Afterwards I sit on the deck feeling “happy, happy, happy!” as the baby’s fond of saying here at our macrame / woven-art Airbnb. When Sarah returns from taking Frankie to the park down the street, I take over and do the same. Frankie marches me around, marches up slides, climbs a set of plastic mountains, majesty arranging herself to her liking on a swing. Birds sing as wind rustles the leaves of a neighbor’s palm tree. What a life. “What we need,” you say, “are places like this, but free.”

Thursday June 3, 2021

A West Coast friend and I converse on Zoom. We each come away from the conversation with our heads full of leads and recommendations. Both of us are interested in decoloniality. Words linger in the air and on the page, and “decoloniality” is one of them, not least because this friend and I have been watching Raoul Peck’s new documentary miniseries Exterminate All the Brutes. Arrows of time point toward the works of Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano and Colombian-American anthropologist Arturo Escobar. The story of Henry Box Brown intersects with this line of inquiry, as does the story of the Otolith Group.

Sunday May 30, 2021

I wake to an announcement from a “witch of Instagram” whose readings have proven insightful in the past: we’ve entered “Mercury Retrograde.” Her advice for the next three weeks is basically “stay calm, go with the flow, despite feelings of postponement.” And the day is a good one: a friend invites us to her new home, with its beautiful porch and garden. I stroll around admiring the latter’s rocks and stones and many varieties of plants. The place seems magical: an apt terrain for psychedelic psychogeography, with its porch swing and its side porch overlooking the garden, and its meditative loft and its stained-glass window. It reminds me of a house from my past: a house that before my time belonged to a gay wizard. Someone from the home’s past — the wizard or one of his successors — had mounted on the wall above its side porch a cattle skull. Let the home’s stories and images be brought back into awareness. Write it, I tell myself, as if it were a weird tale: flotation tanks, rock boy. A spooky tale, certainly — but not a work of horror. The narrator is a bit like the Edward Jessop character from the movie Altered States: a professor who embarks on a psychedelic journey. The journey occurs during the period of the professor’s tenancy in the home of the gay wizard. Imagine him here recalling it now in retrospect. His spiel is, “It never occurred to me at the time that the place might have been haunted.” This, despite the fact that he grew up only a few towns away from the infamous ‘Amityville Horror’ house, raised by a mother who herself was raised down the street from one of the houses upon which the story of Poltergeist is based. Let our soundtrack be as follows:

Saturday May 29, 2021

We kick off the weekend relaxing beside a community pool in our neighborhood. Frankie loves it. After some initial skepticism, I too come to like it. It’s a bit busy, but Sarah packs us a great lunch. And in the afternoon, we gather gang-like for a barbecue in a friend’s backyard. It’s a good group; we all enjoy each other’s company. And the friend is a great host. For all who make events of this sort possible, for all who labor in their preparation and/or facilitate their happening, I give thanks.

Thursday May 6, 2021

We gather with colleagues on several occasions to celebrate completion of classes, abandonment not yet a fait accompli. There is a shared exhaustion that many of us bring to these events. This has, after all, been a long and difficult schoolyear. We’re fatigued by Zoom – but we all show up, knowing summer’s arrival is but a week away. Summer is time away from Zoom. Time ours again to cast amid the sea of the possible. Time for reading groups, and vinyl nights, and visits to Hades for drinks with friends.