Monday October 16, 2017

The star of a popular TV show paints dollar signs on her fingernails to demonstrate her love for former US president Barack Obama. She and her fellow Democrats don’t seem to have learned much since last year’s election. Insulated by their money and their privilege, they remain clueless as to why they’ve lost control of all branches of government.

Broad City Dollar Signs

My mind, however, is elsewhere. I continue to dwell upon psychedelic imagery from one of the performances I caught this weekend. Washed Out teamed up with Brainfeeder-affiliated visual artist Timeboy to create music videos for each track on the band’s latest album, Mister Mellow. The videos utilize several forms of animation: everything from stop-motion and claymation to hand-drawn cartoons. The band projects and modifies all of this dynamic imagery in real-time during live performances using Kinect 2.0 devices: motion-sensing “depth” cameras, basically, designed by Microsoft for use with Xbox One. Sarah joined me for a beautiful late-afternoon stroll through a garden yesterday, where we were graced by magnificent monarch butterflies, a pink wildflower anemone named “Queen Charlotte,” a fence post covered in flowering snail vine. We imagined ourselves entering and exiting zones filled at once with the romantic drama of the strolling couple, and at a different scale, observable only when the couple peers down on occasion, a world teeming with ecosystem narratives: complex interactions between predators and their potential prey. Perceived at this level, suffering and decay seem almost painterly in their abstraction. I realize that I spend too much of my life torn between warring impulses. Should I spend my life immersed in texts or in nature? I commit myself fully to neither speech nor phenomena. Broad City more than makes up for past crimes, by the way, with its latest episode, an animated shroom-and-cannabis-fueled extravaganza by artist Mike Perry.

broadcity_mikeperry_intro

The alarms, the intensities, objects melting and reforming: together, it amounts to a grand de-reification of reality. So much more pleasurable than the gritty nicotine-crack-alcohol police-and-criminal-class hustle-drama dished out by David Simon’s The Deuce.

Thursday August 31, 2017

Time to go “Up Top,” inhabit life differently, as in Joseph Frank & Zachary Reed’s Sweaty Betty (2014). Due to a past incident, I’ll admit, the film’s dog narrative filled me with dread. Formally, though, it resembles a sequence of YouTube videos, brilliant in its use of unsettling song choices to provide glimpses of subjective interiors. Black holes of infinite sadness. Ontologically protected realms. Time moves as slowly as the wheels of a cassette tape. When I’m not teaching, I’m exploring psychedelic space using new tapes from labels like Moss Archive and Nostilevo. Tendrils of vine with curlicued ends hang down from the trees and reach for me. I wish that by assigning readings, I could hypnotize whole classes and help students burrow en masse out from under capitalist realism. Shit, though: grok this mind-melter of a track from the Watchword / Stopped Clock split on Cleveland-based cassette label Polar Envy.

Guitars and synths form a locust-like freak-out of lacing spirals. Laying down on the pavement, blissed out, purring, looking up at the sun: that’s how it feels as I walk semi-passively, trailing behind comrades, through the winding hills of our neighborhood. I become the ghost in the box who gesticulates for a camera-phone. I become “life in the age of public performance of selfhood.” Is it at all compelling to converse with AIs, or to imagine humans as conveyance mechanisms for the upload of consciousness? “Of course it’s not! Of course it’s fucking not!” I shout in my best imitation of Feeding the 5000-era Crass. The Deuce, by the way, far surpasses my initial take on it. Sarah spots me sitting on a bench reading a book in the neon light of the show’s nighttime seventies Manhattan. Why were residents unable to defend that era’s liberties when finance capital’s push came to shove? Why was capital so successful in its war on urban vice? “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD,” and just like that, the city’s polymorphous subjectivities dropped dead. The above questions, however crude in formulation, speak not to capital’s strength but to its weakness. Police, under different regimes and pressures, can be compelled to let things slide.