Tuesday October 17, 2017

There’s no overhead; next thing you know, I’m staring at my life from above. Imagine translating texts by higher-dimensional beings into languages understood by lower-dimensional beings. The characteristics of what Fredric Jameson calls postmodern “hyperspace” (its dislocations, its denial of history, its blurring of distinctions between simulated and real) require that subjects consume drugs in order for such spaces to even seem comprehensible, let alone open to critique and transformation. Time-space compression makes a mockery of our inherited categories of perception. In response, we have a tradition dating back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with writers like Blake already urging fellow moderns to de-reify experience. Remove the categories, they shout, cleanse the doors! As Foucault notes, “The stability of a thing is only its movement indefinitely slowed down” (“Of Other Spaces,” p. 23). If the self, the observing subject, is no more than a temporary amalgam bounded by interpellation via language, then what remains when we open this subject to outside influence? When Aldous Huxley borrows Blake’s “doors of perception” metaphor and, under the influence of Henri Bergson, likens these doors to a “reducing valve,” a faucet one can adjust so as to regulate the mind’s exposure to raw being, one begins to detect the co-presence of a spatial metaphor informing Huxley’s intervention. This spatial metaphor — involving, in its simplest form, a distinction between inner and outer — enables Huxley’s individualized ethic of chemically-aided perception to perform double duty as a secret analogue of sorts for nation-states. Just as individuals should use drugs like mescaline to throw open their “doors of perception,” thus exposing themselves to authentic experience, so too must the imperial metropole open its borders to enable exposure to the “Perennial Philosophy,” i.e., the cultures and teachings of the periphery. Afternoons have been kind of lovely these last few days. Air crisp, shadows long. Perfect for small outings in the hours before sunset. The grim national reality intervenes now and then, especially in conversations with others. “Preppie ex-frat-boy douchebags are corporatizing and Swiss-cheesing higher ed,” we rail, on our way to a farm to pick pumpkins and pet goats. What scares me, though, is my sense of helplessness. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how to fight off this latest assault on the humanities. I used to follow Michael Bérubé‘s work in the early 2000s, his interventions into the culture wars, his defenses of the humanities, his navigation of the so-called “canon debates” — but I lost much of my respect for him during the tail end of the Bush years, and I grew too demoralized to keep paying attention once I completed my PhD and landed in non-tenure-track debtors prison hell. Why spend what little leisure time remains in one’s possession reading about one’s dismal circumstances, if reading about those circumstances won’t change them?

Tuesday September 19, 2017

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.”