Wednesday January 13, 2021

Let us hop in our rabbit hole and explore Internets gone dark. The Wayback Machine is more time machine than rabbit hole. Somewhere in that past that it stores on its hard drives is a clean, green cyberfuture awaiting reactivation upon retrieval. Other sites elicit collaboratively posited Objects From the Future. Both are desire-machines and means of production: tools for building and changing worlds. Friends, I suggest we get to it. When I think “Object From the Future,” though, the one that arrives is The Book of the New Alchemists. Let us see where we are. The poem by “my” that begins the book is an eerie one, is it not? Do psychedelics aid in reorientation? Can plant allies help us map our relationship to the totality? The New Alchemists teach the old Hermetic formula: “What is below is above; what is inside is outside.” For them, this means “the Earth is an organic being, itself in turn reflecting the life of the cosmos” (vii). The book’s foreword is by ecopsychologist Betty Roszak.

Friday December 11, 2020

Sarah retrieves my grandmother’s bracelets from a storage bin. Large colored plastics — the “costume jewelry” equivalent of the donuts from our daughter Frankie’s Fisher-Price donut toys. Frankie plays with these bracelets that belonged to my Nani. She holds them, admires them one by one. The persistence of Nani’s spirit in our lives gives me joy. A friend calls these final weeks of each semester “grading jail,” days busied reading students’ essays and assigning final grades. If it’s a sentence, let us bear it lightly. Such has been my motto. “Grade fairly and kindly, as would a ‘sharer’ — so that we may enjoy our well-earned break.” The break, of course, is not truly a break. One continues to work, plotting the semester ahead. And perhaps, too, beyond that, a new course for next school-year, on “portal fantasies” and magic. A former student who majored in game design complains that Cyberpunk 2077 was released too soon. “Despite seven years in production, and ‘patches’ to improve textures,” say the players, “the game is a disappointment.” “Well okay then,” replies my alias, the “Uncle Matt” character from Fraggle Rock. “By alternate paths,” he says, “we’ve arrived to an agreement. Shitty cyberpunk is what capitalist realism gets us. Let us try our hand, then, at something else.” I imagine that means authoring a program or script other than the capitalist-realist one we’ve been given. At the very least it means “shaping change,” as Lauren Oya Olamina counsels in her Earthseed religion’s “Books of the Living.” Weave fate toward a near-future other than the ones imagined by the cyberpunks.

Wednesday February 14, 2018

A curving rainbow path extends from a tiger’s eye viewed in profile against a starry background. In the time it would take for these stars to blink, the eye’s lower half morphs into the Millennium Falcon, out of which emerge tentacles composed of rows of cutouts of mechanically reproduced bees. This more fundamental language—visual signifiers assembled from scraps of pop detritus—is the one we think with. A conspiracy of forces, however, has stolen from us the various alternative modernities of our dreams. Our tastes as a culture have led us instead to remake reality into sequences of Apprentice episodes, Disney films, and bleak first person shooter franchises. How do we return to futures of nomadic tribes of ‘peace pipe’-packing hippies, hitchhiking and trucking along networks of cybernetic socialist settlements and encampments?

Friday February 2, 2018

Soggy bamboo hut versus cardboard cutout. Suboptimal work-life synthesis. Walk it off. Beware of laws that march ever onward, urged by unthinking decree. Like remaining always in pursuit of points and dollars. The future as highly suspect temporal form. Think instead of the means of production internally, “pulsating and available, like a brain-sprawl in waiting.” Is it, as Franco “Bifo” Berardi would say, as simple as clearing the head of any further illusions of the future? Berardi’s book After the Future offers suggestive commentary along these lines — particularly the section of the book titled “Zaum and Technomaya.” The best parts of my day, though, are when I put aside such things and walk. Parks, neighborhoods: I enjoy them all. Upon receiving word from on high of my fate, I bow in darkness and give thanks to the ones I love. Parts of narrative click into place. Parts of my childhood begin to make sense. A paper waits to be written on science fiction and the psychedelic revolution. Ahead of me lies the mystery of an unexplored, newly-unlocked segment of the gameboard.