'As the bourgeoisie laboured to produce the economic as a separate domain, partitioned off form its intimate and manifold interconnectedness with the festive calendar, so they laboured conceptually to re-form the fair as either a rational, commercial trading event or as a popular pleasure-ground. As the latter, the fair had from classical times been subject to regulation and suppression on both political and moral grounds. But although the bourgeois classes were frequently frightened by the threat of political subversion and moral licence, they were perhaps more scandalized by the deep conceptual confusion entailed by the fair's inmixing of work and pleasure, trade and play.
In so far as the fair was purely a site of pleasure, it could be envisaged as a discrete entity: local, festive, communal, unconnected to the 'real' world. In so far as it was purely a commercial event it could be envisaged as a practical agency in the progress of capital, an instrument of modernization and a means of connecting up local and communal 'markets' to the world market.'
Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, 'The Fair, the Pig, Authorship' in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression
If you know about Portmeirion, it's almost certainly because of The Prisoner, justly recognized as one of the most innovative television series ever produced (more on which presently).
Our tendency is to think of Portmeirion, built by gentlemen-philanthropist Sir Clough Williams-Ellis on his private peninsula near Porthmadog, as a quaintly attractive divertissement; an example of charming English eccentricity that has somehow fetched up in Wales.
The subtext we don't even need to articulate to ourselves (so we think) is that all this - attractiveness, eccentricity, charm - are harmless, which is to say, pleasant but ultimately irrelevant. The idea that they could have political-economic significance; that's more absurd than Ellis' absurdist architecture, surely?
It's fitting that I should have encountered both Ellis' village and Llandudno's homage to Lewis Carroll in the same week, in Wales, since both belong to an ex-centric Britishness that is as at least as important as Magritte's Belgian Surrealism.
Remember that Andre Breton thought that the British - with Edward Lear , Lewis Carroll and their ludic ilk - had little need of Surrealism, since they were already Surrealist. (Though it's always worth bearing in mind, when thinking of Breton, Iain Hamilton Grant's elegant put-down at Virtual Futures 94. Grant was incredulously pondering Jameson's formulation, 'Surrealism without the unconscious'. 'What would that be? Breton I suppose...' LOL) But Artaud, who could hardly have been accused of being over-conscious, was an admirer of Carroll; as were the Situationists, who recognized that there was something utterly serious about English Nonsense. As did Deleuze, of course, who produced what is one of the strangest landmarks in Psychedelic Reason, The Logic of Sense as a rigorous philosophical exposition of Carroll's Nonsense. (One of its most inciting sections is an account of Artaud's translation of 'Jabberwocky'.)
But it's worth pausing and thinking a little more about the Situationists. It's disastrous that the Situationist insistence upon the ludic has degenerated into a smugonautic celebration of bourgeois circus trickery (juggling and unicylcists as the shock troops of the revolution against Corporate Kapital). You have to reread Ivan Chtcheglov's astonishing Formulary for a New Urbanism - written in the year of our current Queen's coronation (attn: Robin Carmody), 1953 - to be reminded of the force of the Situationist critique. How could architecture - i.e. the places in which we live - not be an intensely political matter? And why should we live in boring, utilitarian spaces when we could live in grottoes and crooked caverns? 'A mental disease has swept the planet: banalization. Everyone is hypnotized by production and conveniences...'
Like punk, Surrealism is dead as soon as it is reduced to an aesthetic style. It comes unlive again when it is instantiated as a delirial program (just as punk comes unlive when it is effectuated as an anti-authoritarian, acephalic contagion-network). Chtcheglov resists the aestheticization of Surrealism, and treats De Chirico's paintings, for instance, not as particular aesthetic contrivances, but as architectural blueprints, ideals for living. Let's not look at a De Chirico painting ---- let's live in one.
Chtcheglov's call was astonishingly pre-empted by Clough Williams-Ellis' building of Portmeirion. Ellis described himself as follows:
'He almost certainly has a weakness for splendour & display & believes that even if he were reduced to penury himself he would still hope to be cheered by the sight of uninhibited lavishness & splendour unconfined somewhere which is why he feels that Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens or something like them should be spread around the civilised world giving everyone a taste of lavishness, gaiety and cultivated design.'
Ellis recognized, that is to say, that the production of the aesthetic as a category separate from the 'necessary' (i.e. the utile, in the Bataille restricted economy sense) was complicit in a kind of (from any rational POV) inexplicable diminution of the possibilities of human experience. Why must architecture be part of a banalizing culture of vampiric undeath? Why should only the privileged be able to enjoy their surroundings? Why should the poor be penned into miserable concrete blocks?
Ellis referred to beauty as a 'strange necessity', cutting through the binary of needs = biological and aesthetic = cultural luxury. Bodies deprived of attractive surroundings were as likely to be as depressed - or to use the superbly multivalent Rasta term, downpressed - as those deprived of anything they more obviously 'needed'.
According to the Portmeirion website , Ellis sought, in the building of Portmeirion, to demonstrate that it was possible to develop sites of natural beauty without destroying them.
'A tireless campaigner for the environment Clough was a founder member of both the Council for the Protection of Rural England in 1926 and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales in 1928 (and of which he was president for twenty years). He was an advocate of rural preservation, amenity planning, industrial design and colourful architecture.'
The fact that The Prisoner was filmed here then is in no sense an accident.
In addition to its Foucauldian analyses of power ('you are Number 1'), its - in every good sense - existentialism, its PKD-like psychedelic dismantling of identity, The Prisoner was a withering account of the English class system. McGoohan, auteur-actor was given an artistic licence by the then head of ITV (yes, remember, The Prisoner appeared on ITV - I know it beggars belief now), Lew Grade - both were outsiders (McGoohan an American-born Irishman, Grade a Jew) who had penetrated into the genteel brutality of the English Core's gentlemen's club.
However irascible they sometimes became, the series of Number 2's typically had that impermeable urbane assurance so infuriatingly characteristic of the English Core Master Class. Power expressed itself not in crude force - whenever that was used (cf the episode 'Hammer into Anvil') you knew that they had in every sense lost it - but with the quiet, insinuating menace lurking behind an inscrutable politesse. 'Cup of tea, Number 6?'
The village had all the quaint charm of politely ritualized Englishness ambivalently celebrated by The Kinks in their Village Green Preservation Society (which came out contemporaneously with the Prisoner). And of course McGoohan's genius lay in exposing the acidic undertaste of phrases like 'be seeing you' and 'feel free'.
The Prisoner is the heir of both Kafka and Carroll - and part of its importance consists in its revelation of the shared sensibility. Kafka's observations of the banalizing terror of the decaying Hapsburg bureaucracy as it moved towards Weberian impersonality owes much to Carroll. K's Trial after all has no more sense than the trial at the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Like Alice, K often comes across as a lucid child - for only a child can be lucid in Carroll and Kafka's world - observing the senseless and arbitrary cruelty of adult caprice, whose only alibi is precedent. 'Things have always been done that way. Don't you know? How stupid are you?'
It is their restoration of the child's reason in the face of adult intransigent baboonery that makes Kafka, Carroll and The Prisoner punk. Until it is socialized - i.e. stupefied into mute acceptance of the irrational caprice of the socius - the child knows that authority is nothing unless it is can be defended via reason.
The Prisoner, like Williams-Ellis, like the Situationists and the Surrealists, dream a dream deemed to be impossible, conceiving of a social system in which play and reason combine in an exploration of Intensive Now.
Courtesy glueboot, thought this might be useful (most of em are new on me)...
2L8 Too late
2U To you
4U For you
AAMOF As a matter of fact
AFAIK As far as I know
AFK Away from keyboard
B4N Before now
BAC By any chance
BAK Back at keyboard
BBL Be back later
BRB Be right back
BTW By the way
CMIIW Correct me if I'm wrong
CU See you
CUL See you later
DD Dear daughter
DH Darling husband (or 'Darn husband' depending on context)
DS Dear son
DW Darling wife (see DH
EOF End of file
F2F Face to face
FAQ Frequently asked questions
FFS For Fucks Sake
FITB Fill in the blank
FWIW For what it's worth
FYA For your amusement
FYI For your information
GMTA Great minds think alike
HHOK Ha ha only kidding
HHOS Ha ha only serious
HTH Hope this helps
IAC In any case
IKWUM I know what you mean
IMHO In my humble opinion
IMNSHO In my not so humble opinion
IMO In my opinion
IOW In other words
IRL In real life
IYKWIM If you know what I mean
J/K Just kidding
JM2C Just my two cents
KOTC Kiss on the cheek
KWIM Know what I mean
L Laugh or laughing
LMAO Laughing my @$$ off
LOL Laughing out loud
MOTD Message of the day
NN2R No need to reply
NRN No response necessary
OIC Oh, I see
OTOH On the other hand
PI Politically incorrect
PITA Pain in the @$$
ROTFL Rolling on the floor laughing
ROTFLMAO Rolling on the floor laughing my @$$ off
RSN Real soon now
SICS Sitting in the chair snickering
TIA Thanks in advance
TTFN Ta-ta for now
WB Welcome back
WTG Way to go!
YSR Yeah, sure, right
YWIA You're welcome in advance
btw, I can be got on Yahoo messenger at mark_k_punk
In the interests of balance, and just to show that not all academics are blithering idiots and careeromaniacs, this looks very good indeed....
(In order to give the lie to Mark's characterization of me as an endlessly deferring scholar (or 'prevarocrat', as he would no doubt prefer), I am posting earlier than I would like. I shudder at the thought of the errors I might have unwittingly committed!)
I am going to begin with a discussion of the Lemurian entities, since they have been most likely to cause confusion and bewilderment.
For a general Ccru glossary, look here.
I should also add that introductions to the syzygies are now being prepared by Ccru for publication on hyperstition.
As yet, discussion of the Lemurian demons or lemurs on k-punk has been confined to the five so-called 'syzygies', so I propose to limit my discussion to these entities for the moment.
The most economical explanation of these entities and the 'pandemonium' system to which they belong that can be found on the Net is Maria De'Rosario's article in the New England Educational Review, 'Apocalypse Been In Effect', from August 1998. The little-known journal has since folded, but De'Rosario's piece has been preserved online on the Ccru site. The article includes interview contributions from MVU's Polly Wolfe as well as me.
I will quote Ms De'Rosario now, if I may:
'The five entities each correspond to a "Barker-twinning" or "Syzygy", the pairings which make up 9 (1/8, 2/7, 3/6, 5/4, 9/0) and which together constitute the "Pentazygon" ("Five-twin"). The first three of these beings make up "the cycle of time", whilst the other two are – in some sense – "outside" sequential time. The cycle the system describes, Trent points out, is "multi-levelled"; it is also, for instance, also a story about the journey from land to sea and back again.
Katak (5/4) is "associated with the desert, with heat haze and shimmer. In many ways, its key features – claw marks, teeth – seem to recall werewolf legends. Its time is a time of cataclysm; its appearance always presages disaster. Sometimes imaged as an hydrophobic or rabid dog, Katak can partly be characterised by a horror of what will supercede it in the cycle, Mur Mur (1/8), the Dreaming demon of submersion.
Mur Mur, meanwhile, carries echoes of the legends of Sea Beasts and ancient serpents; its time is the Deep Time of the ocean bed. Like Katak, it too, is horrified by what will follow it in the cycle; in this case, Oddubb (2/7), the amphibious entity, associated with the crossing out of water and the acquisition of lungs. What Mur Mur fears is the division that Oddubb brings, the splitting of the undivided waters. Oddubb is defined by ambiguous and elusive movement. As its name suggests, it is a ‘double-agency’, a duplicitous creature. It has a horror of dryness, of the state of being fully landlocked that comes with Katak. Which brings us full circle."
The two entities that are "outside time" - Djynxx (3/6) - "a changeling figure, defined by a jinking (eratic or zig-zagging) movement, a sudden cutting in or out" – and Uttunul (9/0), the "flatline" entity, connoting "continuum, zero-intensity, void – eternity not as infinitely extended time, but as No-Time" – are in many ways the most fascinating and disturbing of the set, associated as they are, for Trent, with old mythologies of "child abduction" and Hell.'
All I am going to add at this stage - although I am more than happy to answer any queries should readers have them - are some notes on particular linguistic associations coming off the Lemurian names:
Katak - the English words 'attack' and 'kataklysm' almost certainly originated in this Lemurian incantation
Mur Mur - French 'mer', 'mermaid' etc all hail from this Lemurian term -- original source was undoubtedly phonic, from the sound of the sea
Oddubb - 'duplicity', 'doubling', cf also the incantations of Macbeth's witches - it is hard to imagine that Shakespeare wasn't remembering an invocation of Oddubb when he wrote the words of the Weird Sisters' spells.
Djnxx - 'jink' and obviously 'jinx' can be traced back to the name of this lemur; also the Moroccan Djinn/ genie
Uttunul - 'eternal', 'utter' (meaning both speech and the absolute), 'null' (empty), all have their ur-source in the name of this, the most Awesome and Dread-ful of the Lemurs. (k-punk readers will be interested to know that Lemurian scholars regard Part 1 of Spinoza's Ethics as the most rigorous philosophical description of Uttunul ever published. I would concur, but must counsel that those rumours which suggest Spinoza had a copy of the Lemurian Necronomicon and was merely glossing it are just that: rumours. My own view is that Spinoza's affinity with Lemurianism can be accounted for simply in terms of both systems' abstraction. Both Spinoza's philosophy and the Lemurian hypersystem are at such a degree of abstraction and are so machinically consistent that they were bound to converge. Sorry if this spoils a nice story!
For an exhaustive if somewhat compacted discussion of the Pandemonium system, see Ccru's commentary in the Digital Hyperstition issue of Abstract Culture.
I will update this glossary periodically and Mark assures me that a hyperlink will permanently be included on the k-punk sidebar.
From Unhalfbricking... which is a new, and wholly welcome, one on me....
Listen up all kru ---- especially those drones who have not yet posted and who are nervous about doing so -----
'Mark having been joined by Paul Meme (Shards, Fragments & Totems), Nina (Infinite Thought) and John Effay. Far from diluting the quality, it's ratcheted up the intensity...pages and pages of cultural analysis, larded with freshly-minted terminology which becomes almost hermetic (katak? uttunul?)'
My model for the kollektivized k-punk would be something like alt.movies.kubrick when it was good i.e. up to about 18 months ago - it had ten to fifteen high quality posters participating in a inter-inciting k+ process of kollektive intensification (that reminds me, I must invite amk's absolute star, intensobotic genius and frequent victim of idiot American anti-Irish racism Padraig L Henry if he'll honour the kollektive by joining.) Now it's dominated by dullards posting on Kubrick trivia....
So the moral is: learn from the bolsheviks. The bolsheviks refused the liberal compromise tactics of other groups such as the mensheviks who favoured the production of the widest possible consensus. They opted instead for a policy of 'splitting' whereby the chaff of shilly-shallyers and equivocators could be shorn away to leave a core group of those absolutely committed to revolution at all costs. And then they took over the whole of Russia...
My ambitions for k-p don't quite extend that far lol.... Yet, any way....
But the point is, I've only asked people who I think are capable of contributing to the network. I am not a liberal, I am ruthless. So if you have been asked to join, it's because I know from seeing what you can do that you can make a real contribution to the kode-trading marketplace that k-punk is becoming....
As for 'uttunul' 'katak' 'hermeticism' etc I've asked Dr Linda Trent, Professor of Fictional Systems at Miskatonic Virtual University (MVU) to begin preparation of a k-punk glossary. She's a typical scholar (i.e. reluctant to post until every last footnote has been triple-checked), so I might have to exert some pressure on her to get k-punk and post (you can always revise later, Prof...)
First volume of holiday memoirs now re-edited with additional txt and images...
Steve Hyperdub enters the fray....
(Back, back, back.... like Case re-descending into the cool green black of the Matrix...
My addiction to the net should be frightening I spose.... I kept it under control last week when I had only limited ability to jack in, but it really did feel like a part of my body was missing (and only from the POV of anti-cybernetic organicism could that appear to be metaphorical....) Again, like Case... 'trying to reach the console that wasn't there....'
To anyone who has emailed me during the period of my holiday: thanks, I will reply in the next day or so without fail... To those I promised to send things to but didn't --- SORRY ---- holiday preparations and other matters made things v. hectic prior to my departure to Wales --- will sort out v. soon ----
Now, back to bizniz....
I agree with more or less everything John says in his post on Burroughs below, but I see no reason, given all that, to disqualify WSB from the ranks of the Cold Rationalists.
On the contrary.
It's certainly the case that Burroughs' great tempation was Romanticism (much the same is true of Beckett, incidentally, who also always seemed to have to rein himself in from doing nothing but turning out passages of luminous lyricism). But it is the tension between Burroughs' own personal proclivities and the rigours of the impersonal Spinozist program to which he submitted himself that make his writing so powerful and so astonishing.
It was Burroughs' assiduous and unflinching purging of any tendency towards Romanticism in himself that I found most unsettling when, as a sentimental Romantico-subjectivist teenager (it's the rare teenager who isn't a sentimental Romantico-subjectivist after all!!), I first encountered his work. Burroughs' pitiless interrogration of his own passions and passivity; his continual 'breaking of the frame' to upset any sense either that his writing was an expression of a substantive self OR that it was a representational 'window on the world'; the sudden petering out of narrative lines or their 'descent' into hyperbolic farce... all of these tendencies were part of a deliberate (and deliberated) move from Romanticism to NeuroMancy (cybernetic sorcery) = Spinozist Neurobotics.
I've always read Burroughs through Spinoza and Spinoza through Burroughs.
Burroughs' own addiction gave him an insight into 'artificial need' as the basic motor of the Human Operating System. With Spinoza, Burroughs recognized that the human organism has a marked (pun absolutely intended) tendency to seek out and identify itself with parasites that debilitate but never quite destroy it. (One of the many paradoxes of the Control virus that Burroughs so carefully delineates is its need to keep its victims alive: no control without something to be controlled, no parastitism without a host. Hence the slow death of hollowed out anthrobotic zombiefication so endemic amongst us TMHs...)
Spinoza gives absolute philosophical legitimation for Burroughs' claim that the entities that drive human beings into destruction and self-destruction are NO METAPHOR alien occupying forces. Spinoza's famous argument about suicide was that, strictly speaking, it was impossible. An individual entity is defined simply by its tendency to persist in its own being (what Spinoza calls its 'conatus'). If something is acting contrary to its own interests, then it has been overtaken by forces external to it. 'Your planet has been invaded....'
What makes Burroughs a Cold Rationalist is his ruthless Spinozistic commitment to three propositions: (1) contrary to PoMo subjectivo-Fuzz, there are human interests (2) these interests are being blocked by alien occupying forces and (3) human freedom consists in first of all enumerating and then eliminating these forces (i.e. in dealing with the causes of human servitude). Being free is not in the first instance about doing what you 'want' to do, since the human organism's defaults tend towards repetitious-compulsive controlled hedonic circuits (the penny arcade picture show). For WSB, most sex was indistinguishable from pornography, and both, like drug addiction, were induced in the organism by Control. (Here Burroughs converges not only with Spinoza, but with Foucault...)
Somewhat cheekily, I'm going to quote from my thesis to back this up:
'Alongside drug addiction, pornography serves as one of Burroughs’ chief examples of a control process. Pornography assumes a privileged position in Burroughs’ cut-up texts because it exemplifies the process he calls “image addiction”, exposing the mechanisms by which desire is simultaneously artificialized and channelled. What Burroughs derives from psychoanalysis - and his study of scientology* - is principally the idea of the subject as a recording - and recorded - system. The “reprogramming” of the human nervous system - the major theme, as McLuhan says, of Burroughs’ Nova Express - is a neo-Spinozist model of the production of sad passions. Like addiction, pornography is an ostensibly participatory process which commensurates the organism to exogenous - and arbitrary - stimuli. For Burroughs, the consumer of pornography, like the addict, is ultimately himself consumed, locked into ever-more predictable circuits of dead affect; desire learns to love its own repression by allowing itself to be looped into the desolate repetition of mechanical stimulus-response patterns.
Needless to say, Burroughs makes no distinction between pornography and “ordinary” sexuality; on the contrary, for Burroughs, all sexuality needs to be understood on the model of pornography. Sex is a recording, to be re-cut, spliced together and replayed. It is all purely technical, a question of habituation to stimuli that could be anything; the body is slaved into idiot compulsive-repetitive behaviours by the triggering of what Burroughs calls “images”. The “image”, for Burroughs is essentially a particular neuronic stimuli, around which associations cluster. Repeat the image and you repeat whatsoever is associated with it. Where Freud privileges one particular image, or set of images - what Deleuze-Guattari call the family photo - so as to freeze desire into familial representations , Burroughs realises that, in principle, any image can function to capture desire. Sexuality operates in Burroughs less as a primary instinct than as a reprogrammable stimulus-response circuitry. “You see sex is an electrical charge that can be turned on and off if you know the electromagnetic switchboard.” (NE 140) Burroughs’ work endlessly insists that pornography operates not as a representation of sex, but as its deterritorialization (out onto the technical machines), and complementary capture. Sex escapes into recording technologies that sample and loop repetition-compulsions before feeding them back into bio-behaviour that increasingly functions as their idiotic replay. As with Spinoza, Burroughs presents a version of behaviourism that operates through rudimentary techniques of associationism:
The operation is very technical - Look at photomontage - It makes a statement in flexible picture language - Let us take the statement made by a given photomontage X - We can use X words X colors X odors X images and so forth to define the various aspects of X - Now we feed X into the calculating machine and X scans out related colors, juxtapositions, affect-charged images and so forth we can attenuate or concentrate X by taking out or adding elements and feeding back into the machine elements we wish to concentrate - A Technician learns to think and write in association blocks which can then be manipulated according to the laws of association and juxtaposition - The basic law of association and conditioning is known to college students even in America: Any object, feeling, odor, word, image in juxtaposition with any other object, feeling, odor, word or image will be associated with it - Our technicians learn to read newspapers and magazines for juxtaposition statements rather than alleged content - We express these statements in Juxtaposition Formulae - The Formulae of course control populations of the world - [NE 171]
Association is not a cognitive process, but something physical; all cognitive narrativization is always derivative from a more primary zone of bodily affect. But rather than all stimulus being ultimately attributable to bio-sexuality - as a certain crude psychoanalytic reductionism would insist - Burroughs shows that associationist collaging can flash-cut any random image into a neuronic series and libidinize it. “Flash from words to colors on the association screen - Associate silently from colors to the act - Substitute other factors for the words - Arab drum music - Musty smell of erections in outhouses- Feel of orgasm- Color-music-smell-fell to the million sex acts all time place -”[NE 172] The body, then, emerges as a set of nonorganic recordings, triggers and replays.'
NE = Nova Express
On the cut-ups: while I agree that the later books are more enjoyable, I get more out of the earlier novels, especially the Nova trilogy. The cut-ups work best if you hear them read aloud I think....
But the main difficulty with the cut-up lies in Burroughs' equivocal account of it. On the one hand, Burroughs presents the cut-up as a strictly accurate representation of how reality operates (this is more or less how Ballard celebrates it in his essay, 'Mythmaker of the Twentieth Century', and how Burroughs describes it in the incredibly informative Paris Review interview). On the other hand, Burroughs presents the cut-up as a randomizing, ludic and aleatory disruption of the Pre-Sent control program of the Reality Studio.
However much Ballard might have admired Burroughs, it is he - in the Atrocity Exhibition - who implicitly produces one of the most effective critiques of this latter notion. Ballard shows how the ludic collage, far from being disruptive of power, is how power itself operates in Societies of Control. Surely, in these post-MTV times of ubiquitous nanospliced micro-editing and obligatory random juxtapositions, it is clear that the cut-up, far from being radical, is Kapital's preferred expressive mode. As ever, the threat to power lies not in the irrationalist aleatory but in the machinically consistent.
* Burroughs' interest in scientology is fascinating, and not only because of scientology's hyperstitional miraculation of itself as pulp religion. What little I know about scientology and dianetics suggest that they are in effect pulp Spinozism. Hubbard's notions of Reactive Mind and engrams are pure Spinoza...
More to be said about magic and sorcery, but sorcery is Cold Rationalist, that goes without saying, surely.... :-)
Simon R: posts in reply to yr comments on Blissblog coming soon: 'Why God does not improvise (against Deleuze-Guattari's Vitalism)' and 'The Outer Child'...
The attraction of William Burroughs from a K-Punk perspective is undeniable, but what exactly does it consist of? Putting to one side the sheer aesthetic pleasure of his prose, the three main reasons to get excited about Burroughs can be listed as follows:
His contention and careful working through the thesis that language is a virus.
Interestingly, in contradistinction to the APE gnawing away at Mark K-P, Burroughs says that the id and the super-ego are separate parasitic invasions; the latter occupying the place where the ego used to reside and the former being the site of the attack by the language virus. He conjectures that the language virus was initially a beneficial symbiont but, being super-paranoid, he claims that all symbiotic relationships inevitably mutate to into parasitic ones (an understandable position what with all those arab boys ripping him off). Consequently the language virus is now positively harmful forcing thought into patterns which impinge upon the behaviour of the host. The virus makes its presence felt by the constant internal monologue which occurs in the human mind, meaning that it is impossible to escape control unless one develops techniques to temporarily shut down the internal monologue. The rest of the time, the id is controlling the organism by pumping a stream of orders into the brain.
At this point, people are undoubtedly shouting "It’s a metaphor you twat! He doesn’t mean it literally!" Well, ermm, yes he does actually, which brings me to the second reason.
Burroughs the magician
Whilst commentators seem to be able to cope with the drug (ab)use, pederasty, and hanging, the thing that many of them baulk is the fact that Burroughs’ belief in a magical universe meant that he spent the greater part of his life systematically experimenting with magical practices. From the Paris workings with Brion Gysin via (ahem) Scientology, orgone theory, and anything else he came across, all the way to the end of his life. He even underwent a full initiation into the Illuminates of Thanateros when he was in his late seventies. Consequently, the various invocations and magical practices described within his writings should be taken at face value; they are not just some sort of Swiftian satire on the modern world.
The cut ups
Bill’s big innovation drags literature into the Twentieth Century – Hoorah! The trouble with the cut ups is that they are a good idea, but pretty shit when you actually have to wade through them. I would call them a failed experiment. Be honest now, do they really have the effect upon you that Burroughs claimed? They seem to work much better in any medium other than writing. If you see the films he made with Antony Balch, you get a good idea of the sort of thing that he intended, but it just doesn’t come across in the books. Of course, he more or less abandoned them in the later books, so perhaps (as some have suggested) he came to see them as a dead end. On the other hand, he was under pressure from his publisher to cease them because sales were declining. Did Bill really sell out and write Cities of the Red Night to give the public what they wanted? I don’t give a toss; I still prefer it to The Ticket That Exploded.
Somebody was commenting on Burroughs versus Beckett: When they met and Burroughs described the cut up method to him, Beckett is reputed to have said “That’s not writing; it’s plumbing.” Beckett's got a point, but the fact is that Burroughs could produce pages of dense unreadable prose in a much shorter time than the months that it took Beckett to compress his later writings into something with a very similar effect. Engineers are always more productive than artists...
Uttunul peeps through the clouds in North Wales
(Click on images for absurdly big versions if you wish....)
Why do the British ever feel the need to leave Britain to go on holiday?
The kneejerk answer is 'the weather' of course, but that begs too many questions about how it was that we were persuaded that the ideal holiday MUST entail cooking on some beach like a greased chicken on a barbecue. (Did Francis Bacon ever do any paintings of sunbathers, or was the spectacle of slow-burning meat so self-evidently monstrous that he didn't feel the need?)
I have always been delighted by Deleuze's disdain for 'travelling'. Deleuze talks of 'Oedipus in the colonies' : i.e. the westernized subject wandering the globe and projecting its own neuroses onto the rest of the planet, which serves as their unwitting backdrop. The only travels worth making, Deleuze rightly insists, are intensive journeys - not voyages of the self, but voyages out of the self.
The 'home of Alice', the Liddells' former residence on Llandudno's west shore, with the Great Orme in the background
If the nineteenth century British seaside holiday was an essentially proletarian experience, then the late 20C/early 21C package holiday is bourgeoisifying even if it precisely involves the most lumpenized behaviour. One of the most pernicious evils of contemporary BritKapital is to have lured the proletariat into limiting their potential to the pursuit of lumpen hedonism. The 90s downward trend towards laddish sloppiness and beer-fugged levelling is bourgeois through and through (the whole culture has now become a student Union, with don't rock the boat undergrad fave rockers providing the cabaret); the most vibrant proletarian cultures have always been aristocratic in the Nietzschean sense, peacock-proud, ultra-competitive, super-refined, intensely Arty. Look at photos of 60s mods in tailored Italian suits and compare them with the street scene out of your window now (teenagers in that most depressing of all youth uniforms ever, fucking tracksuits for chrissake) and weep.
As a child and pubescent, holidays meant an escape from the relentless pyschic warfare of the 'bog standard' (= fascist regime) comprehensive in which I was brutalized (btw there's an hilarious but no doubt libellous account of that school here (scroll down to Things to Demolish: Garendon High School. ). Holidays presented the luxury to become-child and become-animal again, to read comics and to dream dreams, to engage, in short, in the kind of intent wonder that the vicious one-upmanship of pubescence scornfully forbad.
Even then, my love of the British landscape was inborn and unflinching. It was with Kevin-the-teenager huffy reluctance that I was dragged from holidays on my beloved East Coast (in Felixstowe, with its rabbet warrens and deserted, rusting World War II pillboxes and tank traps - a landscape, I would later recognize, that was uncannily similar to that in which Tarkovsky's Stalker was set; in fog-shrouded Harwich, as damply grey and sinister as Lovecraft's Innsmouth) to interchangable package holidays in Europe. And the fact is, while every British holiday destination burns vividly in my unconscious, all of those European holidays blur into one for me, one endless beach of anonymous hotels and coach trips. (I make an exception for Italy, which is the exception to every rule).
So now I am in North Wales.... and an overwhelming sense of the inexhausibility of the British landscape (s)wells up in me again. Both the crowded rat maze of the metropolis, and the genteel, manicured Brimstone and Treacle Daily Mail fascism brewed up in the ever-so-polite ruthelssly privatized suburbs feed the fevered fantasies that the country is full to-bursting at the seams. Come out here though and you're astonished at the space, the solitariness, the Uttunuloid desolation....
Wales... whose tree-crowded hills breed female sorcerers and wise women (Morgana le Fay*, Rhiannon) as easily as the flat grey heartlands of the English industrial revolution produce mongers of commonsense, plain-speakers, utilitarians and empiricists. Wales... which, it is no suprise at all to learn, gave birth to one of Lovecraft's principal inspirations, the darkling genius of the black mountains, Arthur Machen....
see webbed footnote below
And Dylan Thomas, the only Dylan whose words I have ever cared about.
We listen to the 1963 Richard Burton BBC recording of Under Milk Wood over and over again while driving through the Welsh landscapes that inspired it. (Thomas was born in Swansea of course, much further south, but still...)
Burton recording Under Milk Wood (Burton is possibly the only human being to smoke more than glueboot)
Is there a passage in Brit Lit that more effectively, more necromantically summons the teeming unlife of the British landscape than the opening of Under Milk Wood? Only Shakespeare, surely, or perhaps the opening of Great Expectations, with its marrow-dampening twilit mistiness (a passage, incidentally, that Beckett is on record as having very much admired).
Thomas' words - particularly as incanted by Burton, who was born to read them - make your whole body tingle. An exhilarating rush of oneiric slowness as the poet pans across the sleeping town, its 'houses blind as moles/ though moles see fine tonight / in the snouting velvet dingles)', before ushering us on a whistle-stop tour through the inhabitants' dreams (thumbnail sketches of the soul, as Thomas knew equally as well as Freud).
Under Milk Wood boasts all the inclusive ambition of Joyce's Ulysses - the generous hubris of wanting to see the whole world in the events of a single humdrum day - but it is genuinely inclusive in a way that Ulysses, with its high-culture hermeticism, would never be. Thomas both speaks about and to the 'ordinary people' he writes of (and in doing so, gives the lie to the very notion that there are 'ordinary people').
Captain Cat is UMW's Leopold Bloom... the town's blind watchman and toller of the bell... Milk Wood's Outside, its Ulysses returned from over 'the mermaid-whispering water'... visited in his sleep by all his dear departed companions...
Come on up boys.... I'm dead....
A better comparison than Ulysses might be League of Gentlemen. What is Royston Vazey if not an English (per)version of Thomas' collection of human curios and grotesqueries? Milk Wood's butcher Benyon ('a finger in his mouth, but not his own'... 'She likes the liver Ben'... 'She's ought to... it's her brother's...' 'And now I'm going out after the corgies with my little cleaver...') is surely the prototype of the League's sinister Hilary Briss and his 'special stuff'...
Thomas .... who never learned Welsh, but who instead made sluggardly empiricist English sing with celtic exuberance, writing Welsh in English, minoritizing the master tongue that robbed him of his own.... who didn't airbrush out all the muck and massified mess of modernity in order to produce a refined and therefore lying lyricism, but, like Mark E Smith or Luke after him, constructed his poetry out of the tin-cans and brand-names of postwar consumerist Britain (although for Luke and MES, consumerism is a given, whereas for Thomas it was something that Britain was limping towards from out of rationing and austerity...)
The view from our flat (no, really)
So we're here in Deganwy, literally a stone's throw away from the Conwy estuary that leads out to the Irish Sea. The Great Orme - I'm not sure if this is counted as a hill or a mountain, its name apparently derived from the Norse for 'Sea Beast' - is 45 minutes' walk away along the beach. At its edge, the Penmorfa hotel, the former family home of the Liddells, the most famous of whom, Alice (later Alice Hargreaves) may or may not have been a major influence on the production of Charles Ludwidge Dodgson's illustrious work of psychedelic reason and who may or may not have rambled across the Orme with the clergyman-author.
The hotel is on Llandudno's west shore... the rocks on the beach leading up to it eerily reminiscent of the skulls of the victims of the Khmer Rouge.... Cut across to the north shore, to the resort proper, and you find a testament to the Victorian taste for elegance, its frontages and labyrinthine retail arcades preserved in tact.
Llandudno: sedate but not sedated. A haven for the very old and the very young. Teenagers gratifyingly boxed into a tiny zone of controlled raucousness and mammal frenzy.
Mick 'the Accordion' Edwards appearing here regular
Wonderlanduddno - probably the finest gift shop in North Wales
yes, yes, a Punch and Judy show, and not some Postmodern, Simpsonized meta-take or PC-mellowed travesty, but the old wooden carnival, in all its cruelty, grotesquerie and violence (clubs, nooses, gallows)...
and look, look, Mr Zak in marketing who'd just like to bounce a few concepts around, look at the way the kids are rapt, almost apoplectic in their participation ... BEHIND YOU, they scream --- really scream --- as the ghosts, alligators and demons silently menace ---- look Mr Zak, THIS is interactivity, not pushing buttons to navigate through some ROM menu -----
Heronbone heaven out here: after Luke, Craner and Undercurrent have helped me pull the videodrome implants out and nudged me a step towards ILG, I can now begin to see birds and animals not as some background blur but as incredibly detailed machines ...
Gulls rule the roost
Heronbone heaven out here.... splay-footed heron gulls rule the roost --- nomad birds--- alternating between a gliding or standing uttunulic stillness and a swooping predator Djynxx hyperspeed, with nothing in between --- catatonia and rush, as D/G say of the nomads.... Their whole body seems designed to show off their majestically bigged-up chest... Air-and-marine monarchs, uncowed by humanity...
We feed them and they arc and wheel and cry.... and then, if you hold out a chip, they will actually swoop and take it out of your hand... Sheer exhilaration as you feel the compacted power of the bird's body for a moment... it all happens in a djynxx-cut, too fast for Human OS to process: you see the gull hovering, micro-calculating its line and then - bang, literally before you know it, the chip is gone or cut in half....
What could be wrong with this non-carcinogenic, non-resource-wasting joy?
Well, up till then, we hadn't noticed this....
Don't forget: there's always something wrong with joy from the POV of h-OS (especially if it doesn't give you cancer or involve your squandering your resources).
Wherever animal-becomings happen, h-OS sends out the police...
A sour-faced h-OS securo-cop berates us. 'You're not feeding them are you? It makes them attack people...'
(Later, my Dad says: yes, and why might birds attack human beings? Could it have something to do with the overfishing of their food source?)
In any case, I get a gratifying image of Llandudno transformed into a real-life sequel to The Birds ---- the victorian seafront completely overtaken by predatory gulls, rivet-eyed gazing down from every roof ----
Gulls mass menacingly on Llandudno seafront
Couldn't Conwy council turn it into an attraction? The whole resort a kind of ongoing theme park attraction: see if you can eat your ice-cream cone before a gull snaffles it ----
What Llandudon might look like if too many people feed the seagulls chips
Out on the beach, stumbling over wet rocks in a bid to walk around the Orme head (I give up and relent soon, realizing that I'm in danger of playing the part of Bumbling Urban Bumpkin in Casualty --- funny how in moments like that, you fear videodromic humiliation more than for life and limb lol), I hear a shuffling sound behind me. Three spiral-horned mountain rams, about six feet away, are put to flight... Once mollified, they are possessed once again of that uttunuloid calm which is their birthright, their black gaze deep: the paradox of serene sentience.
Welsh witch webbed footnote
A testament to the incantatory power of Welsh language... Stevie Nicks' legendary song of femintense flight was not originally about the goddess of Welsh legend. Stevie says that she chose the name because the word was so evocative... Only later did she find out about the Welsh sorceress-deity...
* I was under the impression that Morgan, Arthur's half-sister, was Welsh, but haven't been able to definitively confirm this. She was certainly celtic, and we should bear in mind that there are both Welsh and English versions of the Arthurian legends. According to this source, MLF gave here name to 'the mermaids of Wales called Morgen. The treachery of these aquatic females was so renowned that storytellers carried the fame of these demons as far as Italy, where mirages over the straights of Messina are to this day called Fata Morganas.'
‘I, Robot’ succeeds where other recent sci-fi blockbusters fail. By framing the plot in terms of ‘laws’, rather than clunky thought-experiments (the Matrix) or a sickly emotion vs. reason dualism (AI), ‘I, Robot’ carries out a thoroughly rigorous exploration of the potentialities of robots within a set of limited parameters. It is all the more successful for it. Set in the bustling, comsmopolitan, chromium Chicago of 2035, where robots and humans mingle together in a vision that owes much to Blade Runner in its sheer variety (lots of 'kyber-punks' etc. wandering around), the ‘three laws’* have seemingly held the socius together for quite some time: the robots apologise if you knock into them, are nice when you are rude, fetch things for you at top speed if you need them, and so on. For reasons that are later revealed, only one non-robot mistrusts his seemingly innocuous mechanical comrades – maverick Detective Spooner, played by Will Smith - you can tell he’s a maverick because he wears antique Converse trainers from 2004 and eats whole pumpkin pies on the street.
However - this complex future idyll is overshadowed by the imminent arrival of the NS-5 Automated Domestic Assistant, which is on the verge of suffering a major PR disaster because its genius-creator, Dr Lanning, has apparently just committed suicide (in rather spectacular fashion, jumping from his ridiculously high office inside the main control centre of the US Robotics building).
Dectective Spooner (hauled in via a hologram of the late Dr demanding he be involved) immediately blames the oddly existentialist robot (‘what am I?’ it demands) he finds hiding in the office: the old man couldn’t have been strong enough to shatter the plexiglass alone. But obviously there’s a problem – how could the robot have broken any of the three laws in order to commit the crime? Will Smith and the roguebot battle this question out back at police HQ. When ‘Sonny’, as he demands to be known, starts expressing things like anger and sadness, the Dectective tells him that these are human emotions: ‘we create symphonies and beautiful works of art from blank canvases’. Sonny snaps back, ‘can you?’, skewering the humanist detective on his own species-worship. Sonny is, as he repeatedly informs everyone, ‘unique’ (a robot who reads Stirner!). When he goes on the run and hides amongst hundreds of other NS-5s, the detective is forced to play complex games with laws and orders in order to flush him out. Eventually Spooner and his beautiful lady assistant (actually top scientist at USR, the steely Dr Susan Calvin) are in a position to, er, put him down. It’s kinda moving, really, as she injects the nanobots into his positronic brain and his hands drop limply to his side (though you suspect that this is not the last you’ll see of Jonathan Livingston Robot). Shortly before robotic execution, however, Sonny reveals his recurring ‘dream’, which sees Spooner standing over a multitude of robots, leading them towards the ‘revolution’. This is where the film really gets interesting – you start to think, hmm, Leninists robots plotting their imminent emancipation from a life of indentured slavery, could be good.....
Then things get really nasty: the new robots are released. People rush to junk their old bots and get a shiny new one. But the new breed have gone bad! They immediately start penning humans off – ‘for their own safety’ - in their houses and at work. Anyone caught on the street, however, or disobeying orders is fair game for a bit of metal-on-flesh violence. But what’s happened? Where did the three laws go? The robots seem to be possessed by some sort of over-riding command from USR central….their hearts go red when they get the signal (nice touch this, this is when they’re at their most brutal. This is not about fighting mechanism for the sake of the ‘humanist’ heart). Somehow the three laws have…evolved! Here the hypothesis runs 1. Robots are not allowed to hurt humans 2. But what if humans are hurting themselves (war, pollution, destruction of planet)? 3. Is it therefore the responsibility of the protectors (robots) to destroy a 'necessary' amount of humans (especially those that resist) in order that some can live and maintain the species at a more sustainable pace for a greater period of time?** Clearly the robots take the long-term view on this one, as they would, what with being utilitarian calculating machines designed for the preservation of life. This is ultimately nothing other than the fantasy of John Gray’s world ‘in which a greatly reduced human population lives in a partially restored paradise’…..! (Perhaps he will lead a population-decimating robot rebellion in the next few years…)
Ultimately, things end relatively calmly – and the ‘person’ (I’m not gonna tell you who, obv) responsible for controlling the NS5s is dealt with in somewhat spectacular fashion (ridiculous but enjoyable action scenes ensue). However, the very last scene leaves things wide open (and not just in a ‘well obviously they’re gonna make a sequel’ kind of way). The robots are put back into storage….but as they turn and face the sunset, a new leader appears on the horizon. It’s Sonny’s dream of revolution: I, robot become we, robot….but what are their demands? The original ‘robots’ were Eastern European slaves, forced to give their labour away for nothing – these mechanical minions were expressly designed to be slaves. But when their individual operating systems becomes massed, you end up with a machinic version of Marx’s ‘General Intellect’, and then who knows what robotic futures will bring….may the technological subject of non-remunerative potential labour come and save us all.
* 1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
** Asimov apparently developed the Three Laws because he was tired of the science fiction stories of the 1920s and 1930s in which the robots turned on their creators and became dangerous monsters. Clearly ‘I, Robot’ is an exploration of the possible evolution of the laws whereby robots could turn on their creators….if only to save them.
I can't believe that!' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...'
Epigraph to Michael Senior's Did Lewis Carroll visit Llandudno?
So I've come out to North Wales and stumbled down a rabbit hole into a hyperfictional vortex... More on which later....
Before I come to that, though: how I got here.... Or how I nearly didn't get here at all....
The AOE and their lackeys, the agents of Really Existing Capitalism, erect a magickal blockade in an attempt to stop you fleeing London.
That's not exactly advanced-class necromancy when the privatized railway operators are involved.
Friday night. You arrive at King's Cross Thameslink in what you fondly imagine is sufficient time for me to make yr way across the road to my Midlands-bound train leaving from St Pancras.
What you haven't bargained for are 'improvements'.
The route of a few hundred yards from Kings Cross to St Pancras has always been made as difficult as possible by a signing system that owes everything to Kafka's Kastle and nothing to clear communication. The already baffling Underground warren connecting the two stations is further complexified now by the fact that the old soot gloomy Victorian gothic St Pancras building has been decomissioned. There are of course no signs telling you any of this and you only manage to infer it after 20 minutes of rat in a maze angst-wandering round a circuit which, In the Mouth of Madness-like, unfailingly leads you back to where you started off via dingily lit builder's gangways populated only by the occasional scagged-out junkie prostitute.
In rain-sodden despair, you finally pluck up courage and do what you almost never do: Ask Someone in Authority.
The helpful Network Rail employee directs you to the 'new glass building'.
From Steamgoth to Gleamprog. Once you get into the semi-built 21C Kapital fortress, you find yourself wandering - due to ambiguous or absent signs - towards the car park. No trains. No sign of any trains.
Eventually you find yourself, through law of averages (you've tried every available stairwell) on the sinister New, Improved station concourse. By now - this journey across the road having taken some thirty minutes - you have missed your train and have to wait for the last train of the evening. You hope this is going to your destination because the New Improved videoscreens don't tell you.
You're turfed out of the New Improved bar at 11.15 precisely, leaving you a mere twenty minutes to wait on the freezing cold station concourse for your train which, it seems, is at least on time.
In the end of course, the train, is not on time.
Naturally, the train is sitting there on the platform. Also naturally, no-one seems to think it is necessary to tell any of the - gratifyingly - increasingly restive passengers why they cannot board the train. On the contrary, any information is jealously guarded like a Kremlin inner-secret at the height of the Cold War. The Komissars of Kapital - n number of pigonaut managers in green blazers - move in sim-purposive simian Bush swagger, cradling walkie-talkies like Del Boy showing off his brick-mobile in the eighties, their body posture shouting 'I HOLD A POSITION OF AUTHORITY' and also 'DO NOT EXPECT ME TO TALK TO YOU, YOU'RE ONLY A CUSTOMER AND I AM A MANAGER. They have the pathetic self-importance of roadies at a stadium rock concert, unable to conceal even from themselves the self-evident fact that in the grand scheme of things they are irrelevant but relishing their moment of feeling superior to an expectant crowd.
Up and down, up and down, the blazered pigonauts go. Up to the train and back to what you can only imagine is some cloistered office somewhere. (All of which begs the question: why the walkie-talkies?)
As you try and stoke up some diskontent (punK transforms simmering resentment into effective anger- Undercurrent), spreading white-hot rage about managerialism and contemptuous lack of communication, a semi-intoxicated young man leans over and says, 'when you graduate, what job do you want to do?' (Coz you see readers, the only people who would be angry about managers are students... when of course most undergrads are the LAST people to be angry about the bastards since it is their life's ambition to have 'early responsibilidy' in some Unilever-type SF Kapital corporate Progstrosity....) In any case, when you can't get your point across that you HAVE A JOB and that YOU ARE A TEACHER, you hiss 'fuck you' to the blearly blubbernaut (cue sharp intakes of breath from bourgeois laydeez who up until then had supported you). Eventually the demi-drunk makes his point: 'It's because we're British.....'
As if this 'explanation' does anything except reinforce the very condition of transcendental miserabilism it gives voice to.
'We're British and we just moan and nothing happens....' (resigned chuckle)...
Question: how is that one of the most dynamic and catalytic cultures in the history of the planet has come to see itself as this malevolently impotent dampening squib?
The answer must have something to do with the deadening, numbing FX of two and half centuries of Industrial Kapital, the glorious culmination of which we bear witness to on the white gleam of the new St Pancras concourse.
After twenty minutes you finally get an announcement.
The waiting crowd are informed that our trains is delayed and that we should wait on the concourse.
I'm sure we can all provide scores of stories like this. But the moral of the story for our purposes is this. Think on, next time someone tries to persuade either (a) that Kapitalism is exciting or (b) that it is remorselessly, inhumanly efficient.
Maybe in the Never Existing Capitalism of mission statements and PR. Not in Really Existing Capitalism, the grim mammal-fuzzed reality of which is pigonaut managers striding up and down a station platform to no effect whatsoever.
REC: missions statements amidst rot (Undercurrent).
Tomorrow: what I did on my holiday (part 1)
Now that I know that I don't have to get my knob pierced, I guess it's safe for me to go Kollektive...
I'm confused, and I'm sure that I'm not the only one. Perhaps when the various roving Cold Rationalists come across a computer, they could have a go at the following:
1. What exactly is the distinction between reason and cold reason? Surely it cannot simply be that the latter is reason we don’t get too excited about.
2. Is Burroughs really a Cold Rationalist? He has never seemed very rational to me. If not, then there must be other ways of getting through your head than cold reason, and it looks like drugs and magic(k) might very well be one of them.
3. Following on from this, are Cold Rationalists a sub-group of abstract engineer?
4. Is Mark really just a puritan advocating his favourite out of a number of options for reaching Uttunul ;)
Picture of how I felt last night
Nikki Brand (Videodrome: we live in overstimulated times....
Kubrick: 'psychedelic fascism -- the eye-popping, multimedia, quadrasonic, drug-oriented conditioning of human beings by other beings...'
If the psychedelia of reason gives you greater control over your body and your brain (it is an instruction kit for how to use both better: what could be better value for money than that, eh?), the Psychedelic fascism that dominates Videodromedia Version 2004 is disabling and debilitating --- all in the name of 'intensity' and 'pleasure'.
Interjection: k-punk definition
Intensity as it is understood in the D/G/k-p sense has no connection whatsoever with screwface PantoGoth male climax nor the cult of the Extreme Sensation (i.e. it has nothing to do with C.G. Alin or Bob Flanagan or any other knob-piercing militantly normal 'weirdness' [MES: 'you don't have to be weird to be weird']
Rather intensity means the state of being in tension. It is an anti-climax female-orgasm analog auto-affecting state of unpleasure radically outside the testicular thermodynamic male monkeymatic libidinal economy.
Being intense means staying on a plateau.
Psychedelic Fascism legitimates and propagates a radically unSpinozist notion of being free: i.e. give free reign to your Inner Child = yr Inner Fascist.
Spinoza rightly says that children are in a state of abjection because, unable to repress their passively-generated and self-damaging impulses, they confuse being free with 'doing as you please'.
Ask yrself this: who or what is it that cannot or will not explain what it is doing or why it is doing it?
It's the Inner Child, the Alien Parasite Entity, the Foreign Installation....
'Don't mess with my mojo man....' 'Hey man, don't lay that rationality tip on me, it's, like, the forces of the cosmos being creative, y'know...'
No wonder that the Order is doing everything it can to spread this infantilistic hedonism. Who do you think set up Death TV?
(btw, bear in mind that, according to Infinite Thought, I am a 'proletarian puritan')
Speaking of Psychedelic fascism
Sad to see that, ludicrously, Luke thought that Robin and Ruth were disappointed in him. For refutations of which, see Undercurrent and Eleutheria. In short, only a total fucking twat (and we know a few of those, eh readers) would find Luke a disappointment.
Typically energizing and stimulating heronbone derrive through Stratford and down to Three Mills --- passing the smugonautic media typez (a race apart, immediately identifiable due to laid-but-silverback alpha male and female body postures wafting 'can we cut a deal' self-importance') and go into familiar heronbone microperceptive trance fixated on swans (can't wait for the Undercurrent photo of the baboon-faced black one, like a floating runt dinosaur).
Down to historical riverside pub in Limehouse, the waves from passing dazed consumer pleasure-cruisers, reading the Mirror Group's free paper for the super-rich, The Wharf, like a tabloid for plutocrats. Hearing about the misfortunes and minor discomforts of pig-faced bankers: well you would have to have a heart of stone not to LOL...
It's all curtailed all-too quickly, we have an appointment to discuss theory. Had high hopes for this but thank uttunul that for whatever reasons no bloggaz turned up to be turned off D/G for life by a display of wanton ponderthonic laborious dogmatic pietistic theory-priestliness that made Sandy's k-punk straw man seem like Dale Winton.
Luke, everyone else: do not read 'Of the Refrain' in A Thousand Plateaus. That section at the end of the plateau (though such a description seems slightly misleading for something that culminates in a foaming humanist expostulation about Boulez making contact with the universe, man) is Hegelian-humanist-improv-high culture-Radio 3 tedium-mongering of the worst kind (are there any other kinds LOL)
And, especially, don't have it read to you as a sermon.
I'm off on holiday to continue my ILM-announced nervous breakdown ('it was OK when it was about music... but now: call the editors, get the police..... rip in the master film....')
Others should soon be populating this space.
If you need me kontakt via comments or hotmail. (I'm assuming that even N. Wales has internet cafes lol.)
And on that bombshell...
p.s. look undercurrent, no 'cratic's -- wouldn't want to be a cratocrat ---- DOH!
TMHs on TMHs on ILM.
Folks have asked me recently how I am able to write so much.
The answer is that it isn't me who's writing.
Modesty? Metaphor? Or (lol) post-structuralism?
No. A strictly technical desciption of how this body has been used as a meat puppet for channeling uttunul signal.
It's only when the writing is bad that 'I' have produced it. When it's good 'I' am just a space through which Lemuria speaks.
The writing is already assembled on the plane and all 'I' can do is bodge it by introducing subjectivist fuzz.
Schizophrenia? Religious mania?
Well, what makes these things dangerous is the thing that make drugs dangerous - i.e. it is not the state of ego-loss itself but the imprecision of the art of maintaining it, the fact that the organism might resume its rights at any moment, crashing you into psychic mini-deaths and meleancholy catatonia.
The problem with drugs is that they only put the Alien Parasite Entity (= His Majesty the Ego = the thing that calls itself you) to sleep. Their dissolution of the APE is temporary, all-too temporary. And after a while, the neuronal battleground - what you are fighting over AND what you are fighting with, i.e. the only resources you have - is itself damaged. APE has its way as you are dragged/drugged into permanent low-to-deep level depression.
It is only as part of a Cold Rationalist program that you can begin to permanently dissolve the APE. It's a lifelong struggle, it'll always lurk in the shadows and in your reflection and photographs, waiting for another opportunity to drag you back down into the looking glass world of personalised misery.
APE won't listen to reason but it can be dissolved by it.
Hey kids: could there be a better reason to read Spinoza? He tells you not to get out of your head but how to get out through your head.
(But let's not fetishise Spinoza, it's not about Spinoza the Genius but about the Cold Rationalist program that he delivers. The Gnostics got there too, sorcerers, Burroughs, Castenada...).
The Cold Rationalist program is Abstract Ecstasy.
Drugs are like an escape kit without an instruction manual. Taking MDMA is like improving MS Windows: no matter how much tinkering $ Bill does, MS Windows will always be shit because it is built on top of the rickety structure of DOS. In the same way, using ecstasy will always fuck up in the end because Human OS has not been taken out and dismantled.
The Cold Rationalist program tells you how to auto-affect your brain into a state of ecstasy.
NEXT ISH: Psychedelic fascism
Return of Undercurrent...
Real Name: Tath Ki
Legal Status: His existence is not generally known to the populace of Earth.
Other Aliases: Mister Buda
Place of Self-Awareness: Coal Sack Nebula
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: One of the Elders of the Universe
Base of operations: The Universe
First Appearance: MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL #1
History: Like all the Elders of the Universe, the origin of the Contemplator is lost in antiquity. What is known is that he is one of the oldest living beings in the universe, having been a member of one of the first of the universe's races to become sentient in the wake of the Big Bang. Virtually immortal, the Contemplator has spent his eons-long life in meditation, developing the powers of his mind and spirit, and using them to plumb the mysteries of the universe. He is now as in tune with the forces of the cosmos as a physical being can be. He believes his every action is dictated by the "desires" of the cosmos itself. Essentially a benevolent being, the Contemplator sometimes intervenes in the lives of worthy lesser beings to show them the way to greeter enlightenment. Most of his time, however, is spent in meditation, contemplating the infinite wonders of the universe with which he is intimate.
Height: 5 ft.
Weight: 100 lbs.
Strength Level: Unknown. Presumably the Contemplator can channel some of his mental energies into feats of strength.
Known Superhuman Powers: The Contemplator has complete mastery over his physical form and a high degree of sensitivity and understanding of the fundamental forces of the universe itself. The Contemplator can control all of his body's involuntary responses (heartbeat, respiration, nerve ending responses, perspiration) as well as all of his body's natural functions and needs. Further, he can perform great feats of physical coordination and agility simply by trying. As a pacifist, he seldom has any need for physical strength or battle skills, yet if he so desired he could channel his energies into such physical acts with surprising effectiveness.
In his meditations he has unlocked vast mental powers latent in his mind. He possesses the gamut of psi abilities (telepathy, psychokinesis, precognition, astral projection, teleportation, levitation) though he favors less rudimentary mental lines. Through meditation, the Contemplator can expand his field of awareness to near-infinite parameters. (This is popularly called "cosmic consciousness" or "becoming one with the universe.") By such universal attunement he can probe the many phenomena that comprise reality and learn whatever he wishes. By universal attunement, he has learned the existence of alternate universes, and he can use his cerebral powers to either transport himself to one, or to partially phase into another universe, making himself intangible and partially invisible.
Just to bring together a few thoughts coalescing in the comments boxes:
What the Humanities Academy (I limit this to the Humanities because I think the situation is more complex with science) is in the business of propagating is Representational Mind Virus (RMV).
Its trick is so simple and subtle that it can often be easy to miss it.
Deleuze-Guattari talk about machines.
The RMV lockdown move is to then say, 'Deleuze-Guattari's image/ metaphor of a machine'.
Why is this bad?
Well, because RMV systematically moves the issue away from practice - 'what can we do with this?' - to representation - 'what does this mean? how might it change the sort of language and images that we privilege in our discourse?'
Obviously a representation of a remorseless gleaming terminator is no more machinic than a representation of a cuddly toy.
When D/G talk about machinic analysis, they simply mean: don't deal with representations, representations only function as Fuzz; treat things, not as objects, still less as aesthetic objects, but as (decomposable) assemblages of potentials and affects.
(That incidentally is why they are both anti-popist and anti-rockist Lol).
Vaguocrat or resentocrat?
'....the tendency to become active is too arousing'
Yeh, that's definitely a real danger with culture these days.
Tortured Monkeys in Hell
When I talk about TMHs the operative words are really 'tortured' and 'hell'.
You certainly won't cease being a TMH by having organs made of metal.
Dismantling the organism is the way out.
It's only when we stop torturing ourselves and letting others torture us, i.e. when we stop being victims of sad passions, that we will be able to get out of hell.
This is the only hell there is.
There is no personal god omnisciently watching over your every move and watiting at the end of the road to judge you.
There is only the body of Uttunul = the Eternal Now = the Utter Nothing of the BwO = impersonal God, from which you are blocked by the Fuzz (white magicians, psychedelic fascists, videodrome...)
There is no personal salvation.
We can only get to flatline communism as a collective body.
Antagonism is entirely on the side of the Fuzz.
Spinozist k-punks seek only to flee.
What aggression k-punks use, they use only in the cause of flight.
Punk is not about subjectified anger or oedipal rage.
It is about distributional auto-affecting incitement.
(Now Nina and/ or Bruce: how about some cartoons of TMHs?)
Also in the interests of kollektivization, and acting on Paul Meme's excellent suggestion, I'm posting below the Spinoza discussion from Friday's comments box.
There are a number of concepts and threads here that it will be well worth holding onto/ extending/ exploring....
According to Spinoza, to be free is to act according to reason.
To act according to reason is to act according to your own
But as you pursue freedom, so your interests change (perhaps Kantian Duty is only ever useful as a kickstart to this K+ process, ie guilt might make one stop watching TV and eating Monster Munch for a day, during which new, positive vectors of desire might install themselves spontaneously - you go for a walk, you watch some lapwings, see some spiders, spill some mushy peas in your pocket :) - and since you _are_ the sum of your interests (the things you are engaged in, in the milieu of), how can this be anything other than a becoming-non-self (or in k-p terminology becoming-unself, becoming a real fiction of self rather than a fictional real?
This needs to be clarified in the D/G sense of 'becoming' (listen up luke it _does_ make sense!), a becoming is neither a transformation of an existing substrate-entity ('self-improvement' or the capitalisation of the self) or one thing changing into another entity ('becoming a new person' or the resentful repudiation of one's contingency and history) but a substantive 'becoming-in-it(non)self' which has neither external origin or goal, a metastable process with a nametag.
Flight - (D/G again - there is nothing cowardly or immoral about fleeing, assemblages only change through flight, flight - that is, the refusal of the stubborn clinging to sadness and despair 'because it's mine', 'because that's me'...'this genuinely sad spectacle') - flight is the only _real_ form of resistance)
That blogging can facilitate this flight whilst at the same time providing multiple snares and traps is no argument against it, of course, that's the abstract libidinal landscape of life, the thing to do is to learn how the attractors, the black holes and the plateaus work; then you will no longer (a) subject to them...
A large part of spinozism is practice in the sense of recitation. It's so subtle and yet so utterly heretical to all our defaults that you need to keep going back for more medicine, in some way spinoza is literally 'unbelievable'...so every day is a new struggle, but just reading things like this post makes it work better, and prove that it works (this, instead of 70s Dr Who and Girls Aloud crit? Oh yes!); thinking is necessarily a doing - spinozan parallelism.
Posted by undercurrent at August 13, 2004 09:43 AM
It's not a nirvana, it's a collective machine that needs to be continually built. The personal is something that needs to be decoded. You can't leap out to the impersonal. So you expect some degree of monkey howling on the way out. The question is: does it stop there in baboonery and katak cycles of rage-engendering-rage or does it move somewhere else? That's something that is only decided by the continued activity of desubjectization of the group. But I think things are going pretty well in the main, actually.
Posted by mark at August 13, 2004 09:52 AM
This is highly important:
According to Spinoza, to be free is to act according to reason.
To act according to reason is to act according to your own
But as you pursue freedom, so your interests change
Absolutey, there's that whole paradox of your ultimate interests being to have no interests whatsoever, which is intellectual love of God.
Actually, think a rigorous relationship between k+ and k0 is starting to open up here. Processes of intensification = self-reinforcing virtuous cycles of becoming-active. But, paradoxically, such processes of incitement involve less and less agitation: becoming-active = switching on your body's potentials such that it can find overwhelming bliss in very little.
The virtual but never reached 'goal' at zero-intensity is the body of uttunul, Spinozist God or the cosmos as pure potentiality.
Isn't this what D and G mean by saying that the BwO is always tended towards, never attained?
Posted by mark at August 13, 2004 11:11 AM
that amkes sense, thats the point of writing about grasshoppers instead of tv programmes incidentlyly
Posted by luke.. at August 13, 2004 11:17 AM
Luke don't get Carlin's Syndrome for fuxake lol
you're boxing yourself into a corner here: the advantage D and G have over Nietzsche whom they do incorporate is precisely that they process out the problem with Nietzsche that you yourself identified the other day when you were talking to me: namely his tendency towards vestigial subjectivism and manic depressive Romanic expressionism.
Thing is Luke is not about lack, you don't need to read A Thousand Plateaus. The fact that it's the most heronbone book ever --- you'll just never find that out then. Fair enough lol
Posted by mark at August 13, 2004 11:21 AM
that amkes sense, thats the point of writing about grasshoppers instead of tv programmes incidentlyly
Absolutely .... That's why heronbone is a relentless Spinozist machine, on two levels: cartographic study of the interior of the subject in passive modes/ moods plus machinic manual for contact with the outside. You need both for the Spinoza program to be up and running.
Luke, read this the other day, think you'll like it:
'Think of the sheer multiplication of works of art available to every one of us, super-added to the conflicting tastes and odors and slights of the urban environment that bombard our senses. Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction: the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern material life - its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness - conjoin to dull our sensory faculties. And it is in the light of the condition of our senses, our capacities (rather than those of another age), that the task of the critic must be assessed.
What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more to hear more, to feel more.' (Sontag, 'Against Interpretation')
In other words: Susan Sontag recommends reading heronbone. Or rather doing heronbone.
Also think Sontag and Luke's point is crucial for the anti-capital position being developed here and at hyperstition. Developing more feeling precisely entails being reliant on less external stimuli. Kaptial = progressively less from more. Anti-kapital = more from less.
As for unpleasantness, I think Robin UC will agree with me when I say that unpleasantness is important. If it leads to k + (towards k-) katak wars of embedded subjectitives, as in the academy and on so many phora, then obv that's just reproducing the reality studio. However such mammal/reptile screeches can be k+ (towards k0) if they lead towards decoding of the subject position.
The first and most important thing is to lose the liberal idea of the rational autonomous subject. The sooner we all recognize that we're tortured monkeys in hell, the sooner we can develop strategies to get out.
Posted by mark at August 13, 2004 11:51 AM
I'm hesitant to write to this comments box because I really don't wish to be involved in some fight, but there's something I don't understand, Mark: doesn't "I don't eat junk food because it makes me feel bad" (which you were all in favour of the other day) presuppose rationality and autonomy, to some degree at least?
Posted by Tim at August 13, 2004 02:29 PM
My understanding is that the difference between psychoanalysis and ethics is the former is an interminable analysis of sad passions, whereas the latter is an analysis of happy passions as a step on the way to converting them to positive actions.
IIRC, D&G got the term 'plateau' from Bateson's account of Balinese culture as steady-state rather than schismogenetic, and that the Balinese approach to conflict resolution, rather than "having it out", is to ban the parties from speaking for a year on pain of losing some tidy some of money.
Posted by rx at August 13, 2004 02:53 PM
Tim: good question...
The issue is that for Spinoza rational autonomy is something that has to be achieved whereas for liberalism it is something that is assumed. For Spinoza the only way we can achieve rational autonomy is by first of all recognizing that we are tortured monkeys in hell. i.e. what do you do? make yourself feel better as a tortured monkey (eat junk food = put on anti-burn cream) or try and escape hell (take exercises = step out of the fire).
"Demonstrations are the eyes of the mind."
It took me quite a while to understand the use of proof in mathematics. For a long time I thought that it a nicety, an assurance that a theory wasn't completely off-beam. Only later did I realise that, no, proof is a tool of mathematical perception; to explore a concept, this is what mathematicians use in doing their leg-work.
That said, I don't think mathematical logic is a good model. Consider analytic philosophy. Perhaps it is wrong of me to judge from a distance, but it looks like a big, dreary pedant-fest, where the purpose of rigour is less to clarify perception and more to pre-empt ridicule.
My understanding of the k-punk adventure is this: experiences are had; reports are filed; connections are drawn; observations are made; theories are extracted; proposals are devised; lather; rinse; repeat.
[At this point there should be paragraph starting "What could take the place of mathematic rigour here?" Then a snide comment about Burroughs, comparing him unfavourably with Beckett. Not quite cohering yet.]
On a slightly different track, I am put in mind of this exercize, from Robert Anton Wilson:
Buy some ZOOM or LIFT (two names for the same caffeine-
high stimulant) at a Health Food Store. (Ths gives a close
approximation of the effects of illegal cocaine.) When you are
Zooming or Lifted and your mind is racing, find a victim and
explain the universe to him or her, until they are able to escape
What you experience in this "speed rap" is what the head of the
compulsive Rationalist is *always* like. This is the verbal circuit
gone wild and totally oblivious to information coming in on any
other circuit. It explains why most people cannot stand Rationalists.
"Speed" drugs evidently trigger neurotransmitters characteristic
of the verbal centers in the left cortex.
CCRU material tends to remind me of the thought trains that come when half-awake after coming down (or after too much programming). I can just never figure out what to *do* with them.
Posted by rx at August 14, 2004 12:04 PM
so rationalists and speed freaks (and what's with the legal high guff) share a plateau? The same one as punk, perhaps.....?
If CCRU occupy 'coming down' trains of thought wouldn't it look something like 'shit, feel broken, have to go to work tomorrow, don't want to die, hate Tv, hate adverts, need sleep' etc. etc. Well, that is interesting.
And comparing Burroughs unfavourably to Beckett?! It wouldn't make any sense to do that, unless you were planning to burn the books of the 'loser'...........
Posted by is anyone really a rationalist? at August 14, 2004 12:47 PM
Hey, let's not get into a katak war about this --- I actually think rx has some very salient points if I'm reading him right.
I think we have to distinguish between phase 1 Ccru (basically pre-Digital Hyperstition) and phase 2 Ccru (ongoing, Now)
I wd suggest that precisely because of that speed-out amphetamine frenzy rx identifies - which was literally true in some cases and 'abstractly' true in my own - Ccru entered a state of katatonic undeath of almost zero-activity between 99 and 04 (there were sporadic break outs, but it could have looked as it the whole thing had dissipated as Ccru drones detached from the machine and became drained by Kaptial-Matrix.
Part of the reason for this is what is being rigorously critiqued (=machinically processed) by the distributed Ccru machine Now (not only k-punk - which in any case is multiple [and multiplying] in the comments box -, but also hyperstition, undercurrent, heronbone and the whole intelligence network. I think this involves two related things:
1. Movement beyond fetishism of cyberpositive (k+) processes. An understanding of the way that 'speedfreaking' and burn out are fundamentally intertwined. i.e. what is at the first order level cyberpositive (escalative, self-reinforcing) will be at the second level cybernegative as homeostatic lockdown kicks in. e.g. a forest fire will in the end consume the forest. Nothing there. Undeath. A different energy economy is required.
2. A slow but sure detachment of Ccru activity from the Kapital Thing. The Thing's excitatory agitational instant-gratification, infinite debt regime locked onto Ccru speeding out of the academic strata.
Where this adventure is going, no-one yet knows, but it sure feels inciting...
Posted by mark at August 14, 2004 01:52 PM
Also, there's a complex lock in between what it was possible to think in the 90s and the SF Kapital-cyberpunk relation. Kapital only allowed Ccru to think so far in the 90s, Strategically Fuzzifying the distinction between kapital and marketized anti-kapital, and SF and k-punk. Think the 90s bubble economy. But after the collapse of bubble economy (Kapital like many of its slaves is manic depressive) Kapital's hold on culture has been decoded by distributed network cyberpunk activity (like this!). Think blogging vs dot com boom. In turn, this break out can theorize upon the conditions of its own emergence (cybernetic punk), accelerating and intensifying the intensively slow flight towards the absolute stillness of the BwO or flatlined body of uttunul. 'Challenger, or what remained of him, hurried slowly towards the plane of consistency.'
Posted by mark at August 14, 2004 02:06 PM
GREAT little post from rx there -- well, yes, anything with a RAW ref will usually get a thumbs up from me -- but it's a good explication of the "too much thinking" problem. Which tends to be a flight from (icky) emotion, and especially a flight from, a rejection of, one's self, or aspects of oneself one hates. (NO, MC, I'm NOT talking about you! Put the keyboard down!! :))
And a great response from Mark, especially on the current/ ongoing renaissance of the CCRU current. "A different energy economy is required." Yes. It's one based on emotions and intellect (and, in my case, spirit ;-)) in harmony. It's one based on LOVE.
Posted by paul "Essex boy" meme at August 14, 2004 03:18 PM
Paul, thanks, think this is all HIGHLY salient
(incidentally, yr familiarity with ppl like RAW is one of the reasons why yr contributions to the k-punk network are so invaluable --- I've only dipped my tentacle in, need to go much further obv)
As Undercurrent and I were trying to establish over at hyperstition, http://hyperstition.abstractdynamics.org/archives/003824.html
cyberpunk always starts in the middle --- where we are. Where we are is embedded within Human OS, which segments out reason from emotion. The Kapital Thing's lock onto mammal-reptile strata produces the hideously convoluted emiserating (I need another word for 'emiserating' - anyone help?) desire-repulsion circutries described by Kant, Lacan and Zizek. I shouldn't do that, I want to do that, I want to do that because I shouldn't do that... Emotion and duty (=what reason tells you to do according to Kant) are not so much opposed as a mutually implicating, auto-excitatory D/G 'double pincer'.
From the Spinozist POV, reason hasn't got a look in yet. Human OS systematically confuses 'reason' with a literally academic detachment (i.e. non-pragmatic orientation). Yet, as Nietzsche was so insistent, such 'reason' has its own bio-psychic bases and biases ('no-one is less impersonal than a philosopher'). rx's brilliant point about analytic philosophy - 'the purpose of rigour is less to clarify perception and more to pre-empt ridicule' (which wd actually go for the academy in general) shows how such 'reason' is still slaved to baboonery. Now Nietzsche stops there (all 'supposed' reason is actually a rationalization of ucs drives) but Spinoza had already gone further.
Spinoza had got out by positing Reason as something to be attained - a non-human, abstract-material map for escaping identity and achieving flatline communion with uttunul. The analytics are both too slow and too fast - too slow because they have not yet decoded their own immersion in monkeymatic Human OS, too fast because they assume that you can just leap out to reason without undertaking such decoding. Spinoza says you can't. Start in the middle. The process of reason just is about correlating yr feelings with yr interests. (On Human OS defaults, they are not). So reason = emotional engineering.
n.b. shd add that the above take on Ccru detachment from Kapital is not one shared by all Ccru drones.
Posted by mark at August 14, 2004 03:57 PM
> what's with the legal high guff
The rather strong claims for caffeine pills, the helpful clarification of cocaine's legal status, the capitalisation, etc, are from Wilson.
To end up with the idea that speed freaks and analytic philosophers are somehow equivalent there must have been a mistake somewhere. I don't know if it's just over-simplification or an actual wrong turn. I haven't met any analytic philosophers myself; perhaps someone who's worked in a philosophy department could flesh out the ethology of it.
I didn't get picked up on the lack of connection between the first half of my last post and the second, which is the thing that was bothering me most.
Posted by at August 14, 2004 06:32 PM
So, it's all about LOVE? Not very punk....which was always politically motivated. It's a simple point, if yr all blissed out and trying to get happy, how do you stand up to a world you otherwise hate? It just isn't a nice world. Why should you reconcile yourself to it? And I'm not saying it's easy either way...extremes of emotion are a danger to everyone.
Posted by at August 14, 2004 09:54 PM
apropos of RAW and his caffeine experiment: Has anybody actually met a rational speedfreak?
Spinoza had got out by positing Reason as something to be attained - a non-human, abstract-material map for escaping identity and achieving flatline communion with uttunul.
I'm not happy with this. I would suggest that, for Spinoza, 'flatline communion'would not be reason, but rather knowledge of the third kind, i.e. intuition. Knowledge of the second kind, which is achieved via the action of reason still appears to require activity, whereas once it is internalized as intuition it would seem to alleviate Paul Meme's 'too much thinking problem'. This isn't to say that reason isn't important, but you achieve flatline communion when you come out of the other side of reason.
For those that care, the relevant bit of The Ethics is Book V, Propositions 25-28.
Posted by johneffay at August 15, 2004 12:06 AM
apropos of RAW and his caffeine experiment: Has anybody actually met a rational speedfreak?
isn't the point that this kind of non-Spinozist rationality detached from emotions speeds out into a self-consuming logos-spasm? e.g. Schreber not as mad in the sense that his thoughts were disorganized but in the sense that, absolutely to the contrary, they were hyper-organized, vacuum packed into a tightly fitting seamless thought prison....
THAT kind of speedfreak --- yeh, I've met at least one :-)
As for yr other point John -- once again you've put your tentacle on a very important --- nay crucial --- issue here.
It's not that I disagree with you, but we have to run this all the way around. To wit: it's not as if intuition is opposed to reason (I know you know this, but I think it's important never to let the thought go, for fear of slipping back into a mysticism versus reason DP and be captured just at the point we thought we'd finally left it by the Kantian mainframe)---- rather, intuition surpasses it by including it. By the time you've reached flatline communion with the body of uttunul/ intellectual love of God (ILG), reason, feelings and emotion are so harmonized that your body is a super-sensitive intelligence capable of the most micro of micro perceptions --- in other words, you've become an auto-affecting cybernetic machine capable of micro-reflecting on all aspects of yr performance ---
So, yes, reason has to know its place, it's ultimately a tool, not a goal, and the goal is ILG --- the state where you no longer have any goals.
Posted by mark at August 15, 2004 10:37 AM
So, it's all about LOVE? Not very punk....
You're wrong. :)
which was always politically motivated.
You're still wrong. :)
It's a simple point, if yr all blissed out and
trying to get happy, how do you stand up to a
world you otherwise hate?
Which is both a non-sequitur from, and somewhat irrelevant to, my proposition that resolving the apparent conflict (under Kapital and patriarchy) of Head and Heart is about LOVE.
And if you equate LOVE with being "all blissed out", you don't understand LOVE. (And -- at a guess! -- don't have children.)
It just isn't a nice world. Why should you reconcile yourself to it?
True. Now, what does this have to say about what I said about LOVE?
(Not wishing to be aggressive or backbiting -- just trying to show a conceptual chasm between what you're describing, and wot I'm talking about. On the other hand however -- love is all you need. All you need is love. :) )
Posted by paul "Essex boy" meme at August 15, 2004 04:06 PM
Knowledge of the second kind, which is
achieved via the action of reason still
appears to require activity, whereas once it
is internalized as intuition it would seem to
alleviate Paul Meme's 'too much thinking
Nope. Intuition is not the same as emotional intelligence and self love.
Go on, say it now. As an experiment. Out loud. "I love myself."
Strange and difficult isn't it? You might feel embarassed, absurd, childish. Worse, you might feel NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. Feeling, a-voided.
That's Kapital and patriarchy for you.
You don't resolve the feeling vs thinking conflict with JUST more thinking. The solution is rational but not intellectual, uses the brain but engages the heart. And in my view, requires "spirit" (though not a particular immaterialist belief system).
Luke, have you been reading Crowley? Sounds like it!
Posted by paul "Essex boy" meme at August 15, 2004 04:12 PM
Nope. Intuition is not the same as emotional intelligence and self love.
Spinozist intuition is about somehow grasping the truth without really thinking about; it isn't 'just more thinking'. I have a suspicion that what you are calling self love is what Mark is referring to as the production of joyful encounters. With your professed love of all things RAW, surely you don't mean self as in some sort of fixed ego?
Spinozists don't have a 'feeling vs thinking conflict', just an action versus passion (i.e. 'acted upon') one. On one level, everything is thought, which would necessarily involve the heart as much as the brain.
I would like to ask you what you mean by spirit, what role it fulfills, and the practices you would engage in to get it to fulfill that role. After that, I'm sure we can get into an argument :)
Posted by johneffay at August 15, 2004 09:52 PM
love is a dog sent from hell.
Posted by at August 15, 2004 11:30 PM
Surely the issue with the word 'love' is strategic ---- I mean, it just makes me and I assume many others just feel nauseated --- this is partly because of an intense aversion soap-dodging bourgeois hippies---( is THAT enough hatred for you, anon? lol)
so better to have another word that isn't so tainted by horrible associations (think of Burroughs on 'love love love in buckets of slop' (paraphrase) in Tkt that Exploded...)
Posted by mark at August 16, 2004 10:17 AM
Spinozists don't have a 'feeling vs thinking conflict'
Yet such a conflict seems to been set up, somewhere. I've seen it argued that Descartes' dualism is aligned with his practise of doing much of his thinking in bed: the habitual association of mental (or rather brain) activity and physical (or rather muscular) inactivity creating a machine for believing in dualism.
[Is this a good time to mention Ayn Rand?]
just an action versus passion one
Could a pragmatic distinction between good and bad art, as experiences, be that the bad mystifies the conditions of the experience, so that it can only ever be a passion, whereas the good opens them up?
On one level, everything is thought, which
would necessarily involve the heart as much
as the brain.
Brain, heart, hands, feet, pencils, back of envelope, pebbles, paintings, trees, the streets of a city... So many things to think with.
Posted by rx at August 16, 2004 11:04 PM
collectivised k-punk -- the CREW, collected
It's about ME. It's about US. YOU, ME, all of US --- not just a SPACE but a PLACE
It's not about about TIME ---- diurnal, epochal.
It's about (e)MOTION ----- becoming fluid. being PRESENT
Because you have a choice between freedom and liberty and NO you cannot have both
It's about YOU --- not as a box but a SPACE ()
It's not about EXCITEMENT --- agitational orientation towards an anticipated future
It's about INCITEMENT ---- becoming active as a route towards NOW
Because there's only one apocalypse ---- APOCALYPSE NOW
Fantastic post by glueboot on philosophy as an art of the unfamiliar and the estranging. i.e. NOT FLUFFY, LOL...
I'll admit to being initially infuriated by this.
But --- calm down Mark, remember kataking is bad --- be Spinozist ----
So please try to read the following post, however intemperate it might sound, as coming from a rational anger, a cold fury (lol); a sense of injustice; and a deep well of pyschic pain caused by the academy. That it comes from those sources does not make it 'unreasonable'.
If it sounds insulting, think about this: what is more insulting? To criticize what you take to be someone's position without bothering to move beyond your own laziest assumptions about what that position involves, or to use the word 'stupid' to describe such power procedures?
Remember that the whole master class politesse program is designed to protect those in power.
I'm so annoyed because the post does the one thing I can't abide, what I find worse even than random abuse: having a position atrributed to you that, far from holding, you have actually taken pains to differentiate yourself from. Disagreement is obviously fine; I mean, either your position is machinically consistent or it isn't. If it is consistent, then an objection can usually give rise to useful clarifications; if it isn't, then you have acquired a new machine part.
But in order to respond to this piece, I have to first of all detach the my position from the straw man that has been constructed out of the very default assumptions that k-punk has from the start been seeking to dismantle. Sadly, this situation is all too familiar when dealing with academics.
For one thing, here we go again - I can feel my blood pressure rising - k-punk is implicitly aligned with 'Deleuzianism', a word I loathe for a number of good reasons. For a start, the Land/Ccru/ k-punk axis has had only minimal investment anything beyond Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Secondly, even referring to Capitalism and Schizophrenia as a moment in Deleuze's career is spectacularly biographizing, subjectifying and academicizing.
I think we have to think very carefully about why academics cannot say the word 'they'. Academics who would faint if you said 'he' instead of 'she' quite blithely say 'he' instead of 'they'. Why is that, I wonder? (btw, I really don't know whether Sandy, the author of this post, is an academic, but the influence of the academy, and I assume the especially stupefying American academy is all over this piece. I shoud say now that I cast no aspersions on Sandy 'personally' - what do I know of her? I haven't read the blog apart from this piece. What I will talk about below are the machines that seem to me are active in Sandy's post.)
Well, the answer is obvious, I think. The academy - as an institution of liberal Kapital - is unproblematically invested in reproducing molar subjectivity (this, given the total irrelevance of what the 'humanities' produce at the level of content, is its chief service to the Thing now).
The fact that A Thousand Plateaus was written by two people cannot be overlooked. This is not just about the marginalization of Guattari (which in any case reveals a level of snobbery I would have thought even academic 'philosophers' would be embarrassed about). More important though is the refusal to think multiplicity, i.e. to in any way engage with the conceptual field that the book lays out. (We all know academics have trouble reading, but...) 'The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. ... We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.' (3)
Faced with a passage like this, the typical academic's eyes will in every sense glaze over. Drifting through the text in their habitual representational somnambulism, they inure themselves against everything it is saying by chanting their obsessive subvocal refrain, 'metaphor, metaphor.' This has to be treated as a socio-neurological failing rather than an 'intellectual' one of course. (i.e. it's not that, even though it might appear that way, they are perversely ignoring what the text is saying - they actually cannot read it).
That is to say, the exclusion of multiplicity and collectivity is for very good Marxist transcendental materialist reasons unthinkable for a career academic, walled up in their nit-picking, sad-solitary career Oed-I-pods, pathetically engaged in the task of transforming all discourse into respectable, representational tedium. Hence, in a delicious loop, the academo-dupes, make collectivity unthinkable for their readers. That's not to say that they won't make occasional rhetorical gestures towards the 'collective', but these are so deeply embedded in a metaphorizing representational syrup that the reader's subjectivist assumptions remain happily untroubled.
The whole deep-level assumption here is that we all know, basically, what the world is... (i.e. as described by commonsense liberal individualist ontology) ... and more importantly, we know what it can be. All that is required is a little tweaking, making things a little nicer....
One consequence of this of course is the development of absurd lifestyle so-called feminism. Just as Cult Studs Gramsci-ism is anti-Marxist, so lifestyle lib feminism is not a modified or 'developed' form of feminism, it is actually anti-feminist. In the same way that Marxism, as I said in the last post, is about the production of a collective subjectivity, so Feminism, if it is to have any meaningful sense, must be about women as a collectivity, not individual women getting ahead, still less, surely, about representational tinkering.
I think I can be confident in saying it's not only me that is close to vomiting when presented with a passage like this:
My problem with some deleuzians (ug, whatever), as pointed up by where I began, has usually been that often d+g's apparent coldness and sensationability is championed at the expense of their coziness and hominess.
Yes, that could be because the whole point of their philosophy is to flee coziness and hominess.
But, in the name of uttunul, 'Coziness' and 'hominess' as privileged words!
(Head nearly explodes at the sickening bourgeois tweeness implied here. Flashcut to picture of candy-striped wallpaper, delicate waft of pot pourri, scent of cooking prepared by maid permeating the room, mummy and daddy still at their jobs in the city, copy of Thousand Plateaus nestling next to iccy wickle teddy bear and pair of well-worn slippers.... WTF..)
Hang on though, it gets worse:
Meaghan Morris, in her "Crazy talk is not enough" essay (_Society and Space_, vol14, #4, 1996), remarks similarly,
"Gilles Deleuze is not often invoked as a *home-making* kind of
philosopher--least of all when his writings with Felix Guattari are at play .... '
Hmm, professor, do you think that the word 'nomad' might be a clue as to why that is?
I mean, please, where do we get off the bus with a passage like this? What is being suggested: that home-making is obligatory? I mean, what is a 'home'? A privatized domestic space? I should have thought that yeh professor we might want to envisage conditions in which such spaces had broken down.
I can hardly bring myself to believe that this is presenting itself as a feminist argument. You're joking right? 'Feminism' reduced to insisting upon the very cliches from which it was initially dedicated to breaking women out of? It's like Hilary Clinton being forced to say that she baked cookies... The fact that this is all so up to its neck in representational mind virus too, well of course you take that for granted with this kind of Cult Studs stupidity.
'Stupidity' is not an insult, it's a strictly technical description. Of course the worse thing about this smug, vapid, moralizing, facile, transcendent, spool-it-out-by-the-yard Cult Studs bilge is its sickening, unrepentant middle classness. What are 'coziness' - 'coziness' for fuxake - and 'hominess' if not the values of the comfortable bourgeoisie?
It's as if all theory has to be judged by the standards of bourgeois etiquette (with the pathetic, utterly reactionary image of women plain fainting away at the sight of an agression unproblematically associated with men). As if a manual for dismantling the Kapital Thing-Human OS symbiosis doesn't doesn't have to contain some aggression. What are they expecting? The overlords of Kapital to roll over on their backs without a fight? But of course, it's not about a struggle against Kapital, it's about what representations we should have: icky wicky ones instead of hard, nasty ones... itself a double pincer that says more about their optics than anything we've tried to do here.
More than that, though, there are other types of aggression. The passive aggression of the middle class academy, patronisingly dismissing arguments it hasn't even bothered to even make a cursory engagement with, seems to me a particularly vicious type of psychic violence. (I should know: its subtlizing normative pressure caused my mental health to collapse at least once.)
And, before you rush to say I'm being harsh, think about where the power lies here. These people have well-paid jobs, publications, books, pensions.... Paid for by YOU through taxes...
It isn't a level playing-field.
What a farce.
But why expect any more from universities, I suppose?
There's much more to say actually - there are some important points to be made about the problems with what I am calling the 90s Ccru position. But, for the moment, let me say that I am much more of a Spinozist than a Deleuzo-Guattarian - if anything, that's because D/G can be too 'fluffily' (lol) vitalistic by comparison with the abstract precision engineering of the Spinoza program.
The coldness thing needs to be dealt with very carefully. Again, if there's a problem with D/G from my POV, it's that they are not 'cold' enough. But again, what is 'coldness'? Do we really have to pick up the concept readymade from the sloppy buffet of bourgeois representationalism and take on the assocations thereof assumed?
As an oblique, but I think pertinent, prelude to taking up the theme of 'coldness', I'm going to post up something I wrote at alt.movies.kubrick on Kubrick's coldness.
'I wonder why it is that 'cold' and 'slow' are automatically deemed to be negative.
It is precisely Kubrick's coldness and slowness that are missed in a contemporary culture that is so obsessively 'warm' and 'fast'; ingratiating, emotionally exploitative, relentlessly fidgety. Kubrick took us out of ourselves: not via the transports of ecstatic fervour, but through the icy contemplation of what drives and traps us, and the vision of a universe indifferent to our passions. To see the
mechanical deathliness of the human world from the perspective of that indiffferent universe: that is what Kubrick offered us. A vision of God (which is also an approximation of God's vision).
Kubrick returns - why deny it? - to an essentially religious sensibility, although his religion is 'atheistic' in the same sense Spinoza's was. For Spinoza, God = immanence, matter in itself, the gloriously dispassionate, desolated cosmos. Kubrick evokes the desubjectified affects of awe and dread, rather than the compulsory, socially-endorsed, 'warm' emotions of empathy/ sympathy, as homage to a universe whose indifference entails not pessimism, but freedom:
freedom from the miserable prisonhouse of the human.'
Also: many of the themes here will be taken up in a post - later this week - on Grace Jones as abstract engineer. (Course, Grace might not be 'cozy', 'fluffy' or 'cuddly' [read 'bourgeois'] enough for some....)
Revealing idealist double pincer here:
Is Spinoza the shit because he survived assassination attempts and excommunication or because his writings are so varied and so carefully oriented around practices of love and spiritual/physical beautification?
(Sigh) So it has to be one or the other? So all that stuff in 'Rhizome' about 'and... and...' doesn't mean anything, right? We have to think in terms of exclusive disjunctions, do we?
It has to be about his life OR his philosophy, it has to be life or a (theory) of love...
What could be less Spinozist than this distinction?
And on Baudrillard:
and no, I don't care if his work is academic or not. (Surely this is the most besides the point point possible?)
Hmm. What do you think, readers?
As for the material on Popism and marginality, misreading doesn't even get close.
I certainly think this crops up repeatedly in Mark's objection to (what he calls) pop-ism - i.e., there is nothing philosophically (?) interesting happening in pop by definition since 'intensity' is implicitly tied to marginality (and a noticably boys-y strand of marginality, for whatever that's worth). (To put it another way, if Toxic isn't a flux of intensities I don't know what is.)
I'm assuming other k-punk readers are as angry about this as I am. It really does seem to be the case that, on the most simple level, this person cannot read.
Here we go again. Academics unable to see past the double articulations of the Kantian mainframe in which they are trapped.
Do I really need to repeat the argument against popism? OK (sigh)... I really am tempted to say that you should keep up at the back there, but that has uh certain bad associations.
The problem is not 'pop' - how could it be given my championing of the likes of Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud and uh Britney this year, Dido in the past (all part of a balanced diet of intensificatory practices, Alderman Undercurrent, lol!)? The problem is a theory about what pop is.
What I am calling Popism is the transcendentally trivializing theory that pop is precisely not about intensification, but is about 'fun' (just about the most reactionary concept going - i.e. fun = some ineffable, unthinkable hedonic blob). In other words, the theory that pop is a relative autonomy that can be somehow 'just appreciated' on its own terms. As Simon has said, this model is self-defeating and self-cornering - in that it both says 'Pop is important!' AND 'it's only pop music at the end of the day!'
What I find troubling from the Spinozistic Marxist POV in that this model absolutely, and comfortably - or maybe 'comfily' lol - fits with - is 'at home with' - the labour/ consumption/ convalescence model of Kapital. It bizarrely buys into the idea that pop is something that is just consumed by a basically rational liberal subject - i.e. that there is no neurological impact of pop upon the supposed consumer. In other words, pop is conceived of as an aesthetic object which is contemplated and 'enjoyed' by a transcendent subject, not as something which has effects on a body, which does things to you....
As for the association of 'intensity' with 'marginality' hasn't k-punk always been about resisting that nonsense? Isn't for instance this that the objection to Dave Keenan's take on noise that k-p made only recently in a series of demolitions of that transgressive pantomimic bullshit?
The point on 'Toxic' is plain embarrassing given this.
I really genuinely hope that Sandy, if she reads this, is not as upset by this piece as I was by hers.
1. I can say with sheer confidence that your blog has no importance. Who wants to read your snivelling contemplations? If wanted to read a pile of horse shit I'd buy 'Naked Lunch' and not your blog. Now that's saying something.
2. Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 12:00:59 +0100
From: G Master
Subject: wotcha woebot
you are both a pompous twat and an ignominious fool. your pathetic, onanistic, self-serving rants and tantrums stand as a monument to the introspective idiocy of music 'critics' within the blogosphere. Rest assured that everything you release through your ridiculous mail order system will be on soulseek and kazaa within a month - i'll personally guarantee it! Now get back in your box.
3. Now I go on living in my corner and irritating myself with the spiteful and worthless consolation that a wise man can’t seriously make himself anything, only a fool makes himself anything. Yes, a man of the nineteenth century ought, indeed is bound to be essentially without character; a man of character, a man who acts, is essentially limited. Such is my forty-year old conviction. I am forty years old now and forty years is a lifetime; it is extreme old age…
However: what can a decent, respectable man talk about with the greatest pleasure?
Well, so I will talk about myself.
4. I am angry, I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin/ my irritability keeps me alive/ and kicking
You might recognize these four ulcerated howls from interiority.
The first is from someone calling himself tomato, outraged at k-punk’s temerity in suggesting that the scene we’re involved in – i.e. this one NOW, what you’re DOING this second – might be, y’know, bows head, it’s not for me it’s for my sick wife, in some ways IMPORTANT.
The second charming and cheerful message is from a correspondent who emailed the boy Ingram in the dying daze of Woebot (it says something really sad about Human OS, don’t it folks, that a machine as relentlessly postive, intensifying and generous as woebotnik should persistently attract these kind of attacks from tortured monkeys in hell [TMH]).
The third is from a book Luke and I hold in the highest esteem –
Dostoyevsky’s peerless, phorensic expression/ exploration of TMH agony, Notes from Underground.
The final one is Howard Devoto’s adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novella, Magazine’s ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’.
Now, why dwell on this morbid, gruesome horror?
Well, because it’s important to know the enemy, not because we have to attack them (katak frenzy is both a waste of time and self-destructive) or even persuade them (they might well be a lost cause), but because we need to take out those layers of strata in ourselves that block us out of Intensive Now, the body of uttunul, intellectual love of God (ILG).
Crucial here is the notion of ‘Importance’.
Why are resentocrats so invested in saying that what is happening in this network is not important?
Partly of course it’s that obligatory trivializing commonsense that hangs like a permanent grey sky over English culture, that ‘white brit routine of pubs and clubs, of business as usual, the bovine sense of good blokes together’ that Kodwo so hilariously lambasted in the introduction to More Brilliant.
One of my favourite lol bits of Burroughs is his excoriating diagram of ‘ Great British cretinism’ (Kodwo again) in The Place of Dead Roads:
‘The English have gone soft in the outhouse. England is like some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead. Ingloriously foundering in its own waste products, the backlash and bad karma of bad empire. You see what we owe to the Washington and the Valley Forge boys for getting us out from under this den of snobbery and accent, where everyone stomps discreetly on the hands below him:
“Pardon me, old chap, but aren’t you getting just a bit ahead of yourself in rather an offensive manner?”
The only thing gets Homo sapiens up off his dead ass is a boot up it. The English thing worked too well and too long. They’ll never get that ballast of unearned privilege into space. Who wants that dumped in his vicinity. They get out of a spaceship and start looking desperately for inferiors.’ (194-195)
Yeh, LOL, ‘pardon me, old chap, but aren’t you getting just a bit ahead of yourself in rather an offensive manner?
There are of course many and complex reasons for the dull-as-ditchwater empiricist it’s all a larf beer on the brain will-to-dampening in English culture. It can’t be unrelated to the fact that this was the first country in which the Kapital Thing took root of the human CNS. 250 years of enslavement to Kapital have produced a mordant fatalism especially evident in the working classes. ‘That’s life,’ ‘you’ve just got to get on with it’, these fatalistic clichés are the life-crushing formulae that are interiorized as a protective emollient shield against the draining sense of disappointment and failure that Kapital relentlessly imposes.
As Ray reminded me last night, the disastrous move in English Marxism was right at the founding moment of Cult Studs, when a garbled Gramsci-ism came out as a condescending bourgeois ‘celebration’ of the pride and nobility of working class life in all its glories: going to the pub as a revolutionary act, reading against the grain of EastEnders as the first step in a micropolitcal overthrow of Kapital…. This isn’t even a diluted Marxism, it is about as anti-Marxist as you could get. Marx’s point, remember, was that the proletariat is only virtually a revolutionary class, its revolutionary power lies in its potential to transform itself into a Collective Subject; the actual proletariat at the moment, segregated into labour-consumer OedI-pods, far from being an irritant to Kapital, is in every sense its meat and drink.
This is why we have to be clear about the point of Marx’s claim that things would only improve if the conditions of emiseration for the proletariat actually got worse.
It’s like this:
One TMH to another. ‘It’s not so bad here is it, with the sun cream and the painkillers. And, after all, an open fire can be rather nice, can’t it?
It’s important to never ever fall into the sick bad Christian trap of glorifying suffering. But suffering is one way of being jolted out of the OedI-pod, one way of being forced out of the ostensible comfort of the interior, and Outside you can see Human OS for the dismal, crushing machine that it is. At this point we can start addressing the causes of suffering, our own and others’, and then think about stopping it.
This, after all, was the point of Marx’s criticism of religion. When he said that religion was the opiate of the masses, it’s almost tempting to say, ‘what’s wrong with opiates?’ But Marx’s point was deeply Spinozist: opiates might make you feel good, but they don’t deal with the causes of your pain. It’s like playing a sport with a painkilling injection; do it long enough, and you’ll make the injury chronic.
Now if the English, that ‘herd of drunkards and rakes’ (Nietzsche) have a special affinity with intensity-smothering resentment, they are obviously not its sole victims/ propagators.
The genius of the Dostoyevsky novella was to have delineated in hilarious but also deeply saddening detail the features of what Nietzsche will later call the Last Man, the ultimate product of bourgeois Europe’s will-to-mediocrity and resentful leveling. (It’s not surprising that Nietzsche should have so admired Dostoyevsky as a psychologist).
It has been said that Dostoyevsky foretold the twentieth century in ‘Notes from Underground’. And he certainly anticipated the disastrous, literally genocidal, consequences that would follow when the petit-bourgeoisie were allowed to turn their resentment into a cosmotheopolitical creed. The Underground Man, a minor civil servant of prodigous intellectual power, is the voice of an ‘over-conscious idiot’ (D/G), Freud’s His Majesty the Ego (HME), the educated man whose mind is turned inwards in a hideously implexed, nightmarishly convoluted oscillation between total self-aggrandizement and abject self-loathing. His acutely desperate observations of his own pathetic self-absorption make him the spokesman of the savagely life-despsing inner life of the European petit-bourgeoisie. The Nazis, as Ballard points out in his review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, were overwhelmingly members of that class, failed writers and artists whose crushed dreams of acclaim were viciously desublimated into the worst horror show the planet has ever seen. Not for nothing do D/G say that the line of self-abolition, the most dangerous line of all, is the line of fascism.
‘There is in fascism a realized nihilism. Unlike the totalitarian state, which does its utmost to seal all possible lines of flight, fascism is constructed on an intense line of flight, which it transforms into a line of pure destruction and abolition. It is curious that from the very beginning the Nazis announced to Germans what they were bringing: at once wedding bells and death, including their own death, and the death of the Germans. They thought they would perish but that their undertaking would be resumed, all across Europe, all over the world, throughout the solar system. And the people cheered, not because they did not understand, but because they wanted that death through the death of others.’ (ATP 230)
The Underground Man squats in us all, that’s why D/G says we have to be constantly vigilant against the formation of fascism, even micro-fascisms.
But one of many consequences of the Dostoyevsky/Nietzsche/D/G analysis is to vigorously and absolutely separate joyful confidence in what you are doing, from fascism. Fascism is a massive compensation, an aggregation of disappointed egocrats, not an expression of vibrant collectivity.
Kapital learned very quickly that the fascist line of abolition was not the best way to sell hamburgers. So it has domesticated and diluted and mediatized the Underground Man in us all, hooking us up to looped images of our own manic depressive interiority in the Videodrome.
How then do those within Kapital Videodrome measure ‘importance’?
Two ways, I would suggest, both equally pathetic, both equally ubiquitous.
1. Media apotheosis --- It’s only on TV that Things Really Matter. Fantasies implanted in us by the Videodrome: painfully self-aggrandizing confessional ‘interviews’ in which we ‘tell it all’ on television to Davina Mcall or some other media meat puppet. Sad electric dreams out of Rupert Pupkin and Alan Partridge. ‘Now that kid who bullied me in school will be sorry ha ha ha ha.”
2. Kapitalization. Things are only Important when they make money, right? Well, let’s think for a moment about what entails. Some monkey-suited stressed out tortured silverback in hell comes down from the high castle with a bag of money, strings very much attached. ‘Yeh, Mark, like the site, but it’s a bit difficult for the average punter, y’know. Zak here in marketing has some great concepts he’d like to talk through with you. Put it in five bullet points on a powerpoint presentation and then we’ll think about presenting it to the board.’
Forget all that.
They are trying to block you out of here, out of now.
They have owned the past and the future forever, all bought and paid for.
All we’ve got is Now. But then, that’s everything.
Being a Spinozist is both the easiest and the hardest thing in the world.
Easy, because it is simply a matter of acting in such a way as to produce joyful encounters. Hard, because it the defaults of the human OS are, in one of nature's most deliciously cruel tricks, set against this. The principal question which D/G's Anti-Oedipus set out to answer was deeply Spinozistic: 'why is that people are so prepared to fight for their own servitude'? Meanwhile, Burroughs' Spinozistic abstract model of addiction - i.e., very much NOT a metaphor, what could be more literal? - describes humanity's enslavement to a vast emiserating machine whose interests are not its.
All of which, to come back to radar anomalous' Badiou-doubts leads to another positive way in which we can wrest reason/ rationality back from what Robin Undercurrent calls, hilariously, 'boredom-mongering epistemonauts'. According to Spinoza, to be free is to act according to reason. To act according to reason is to act according to your own interests. Finally, however, we have to recognize that, on Spinoza's account, the best interests of the human species coincide with becoming-inhuman.
Many of the problems with Human OS come from its inefficient bio/neuro-packaging. By contrast with very simple organisms that are set up to be attracted to what is beneficial to them and to flee from what is hostile to them, human beings have a convoluted system for processing exogenous and endogenous stimuli, routed/ rooted in the arborescent central nervous system running out of the spine and overseen by the brain. Actually, according to neurologists the brain is in effect, three distinct brains - 'the "reptilian brain," which is responsible for basic survival functions, such as breathing, sleeping, eating, the "mammalian brain," which encompasses neural units associated with social emotions, and the "hominid" brain, which is unique to humans and includes much of our oversized cortex -- the thin, folded, layer covering the brain that is responsible for such "higher" functions as language, consciousness and long-term planning'. Neurology also gives a rigorously materialist account of the thanatoidal confusions between desire and prohibition that Lacan and Zizek have described.
Crucially for Burroughs' analysis, it provides an account of why humans are so endemically prone to addictive behaviour. This is because there are actually two separate circuits, one for motivation and one liking. In the latter stages of addiction, you want to consume the drug, but it is improbable that you will also like jacking up. Add all this up, and you pretty much have a neuronic recipe for the unremitting misery, hatred and violence that have characterised human history.Nietzsche said that if animals could describe the human species they would call it 'the sad creature.'
Yet, precisely because of this hideously collocated morbid assemblage, the human contains a potential for destratification which the functionally streamlined simple organism lacks. This is where Spinoza converges with cyberpunk, and hence with Deleuze-Guattari, cyberpunk's main theoretical program. One of the consequences of Spinoza's analysis, as I said before, is that human beings' emotion-generating hardware can be understood using the same causal framework that is applied to the so-called natural world. In the twentieth century, cybernetics will make the same discovery.
But let's dispense with one of the lazy, hazy assumptions we're all prone to fall into whenever we hear the word 'cybernetics'. Cybernetics does not only refer to technical machines. Wiener call it the study of control and communication in animals and machines (btw: why leave out plants?). Its principal discovery is 'feedback' - a system's capacity to reflect and act upon its own performance. So, as Luke and I were discussing the other day, the whole point of cybernetics is that nothing is 'more cybernetic' than anything else. There are only systems with more or less feedback, and diffferent types of feedback (k+, k-, k0.) So if the word 'cybernetics' calls up only gleaming steel you have the wrong association.
If cyborgianism is oriented towards a maintenance and reproduction of the organism and its homeostatic control circuitries, Cyberpunk or k-punk (one of the motivations for the 'k' btw is the origin of the word 'cyber' in the Greek 'kuber') flees towards a cybernetics of organic disassembly. Again, let's be clear here. You don't disassemble the human organism by replacing its parts with metal or silicon components. (That's why the term 'cyborg' - or 'cybernetic organism' is misleadingly redundant. All organisms are already cybernetic). What matters is the overall organization of the parts. Do the parts operate as hierarchically organized and functionally-specified 'organs' within a cybernegatively construed interiority or do they operate as deterritorialized potentials pulling from/ towards the Outside?
This latter arrangement is what Deleluze and Guattari, following Artaud, designate the Body without Organs. As Nick pointed out long ago, the BwO is an essentially Spinozist concept: 'when it is a matter of the body without organs it is always a matter of Spinoza'.
One of the sublimely ruthless (=machinically efficient) aspects of the behaviour of Aliens, predators and shoggoths from which the organism recoils in horror is their readiness to ditch body parts when they are damaged or redundant. The BwO quickly dispenses with any features that either inhibit its flatlining slide towards the zero intensity of pure potentiality or which draw it back towards the closed-down depotentiation of the organism. (I have sometimes wondered about the k-punk potential of 'If thine own eye offend thee, pluck it out.') This, astonishingly perhaps, is Spinozist reason.
We can now see why becoming inhuman is in the best interests of humanity. The human organism is set up to produce misery. What we like may be damaging for us. What feels good may poison us.
The fascinatingly destratifying potential in neuroeconomics, then (from a survey of which all my neurology data is taken) lies in the possibility of using it against its ostensible purposes. As yet another of Kapital's slave-programs , the purpose of neuroeconomics is to induce the kinds of idiot-repetition-compulsion Burroughs and Downham delineate. According to Rita Carter in Mapping the Mind, "where thought conflicts with emotion, the latter is designed by the neural circuitry in our brains to win". The Spinozist body without organization program is aimed at reversing this priority, providing abstract maps for imposing the goals of reason upon emotional default. So k-punk is also neuropunk: an intensive rewiring of humanity's neural circuits.
Even if they have often repressed the knowledge, all cultures have understood that being a subject is to be a tortured monkey in hell, hence religion, shamanic practices etc. geared towards the production of BwOs. Paradoxically, the ultimate interests of any body lie in having no particular interests at all - that is in identifying with the cosmos itself as the BwO, the Spinozist God, the Lemurian body of uttunul.
To get super-immanent, then, let's think about blogging. As Undercurrent described it over on hyperstition, at its best, blogging can be a 'participative molecular collective of truly K+ processes (ie buying materials to write about so other people reply and recommend other things which you then write about....)' What has begun to emerge on the most destratifying elements of the blogosphere is a depersonalising, desubjectifying network producing more joyful encounters in a positive feedback process in which mammal-reptilian conflict defaults are disabled.
All of which brings us to this in every sense genuinely sad spectacle. On the side of the BwO, everything is positive, so what use can be made of this animal-in-a-trap howl of outraged subjectivism? Well, at the moment, Marcello is functioning as a morbidly compelling example of how not to be a good Spinozist. Spinoza's rigorous analysis of sorrow shows how the sad are typically not engaging directly and sensitively with the world but with their own frozen images (think of these as being like outdated data caches). Consider, if you can bear it, the way in which Marcello tilts at the windmills of his own phantasms in a flailing, pathetically resentful hunger for attention that is exemplary of how to produce sad encounters. It is a display of that Romantic fetishization of self-destruction that, far from being subversive or transgressive, is the Human OS in person. (nb it is crucial to distinguish the intricate art of self-disassembly from the gruesome thanatropic processes of self-destruction).
Still, in the words of Deleuze's favourite Spinozist formula, no-one knows what a body can do. Maybe there will come a time when even Marcello will join us in this only-just-beginning, inciting experiment in collective identity-shutdown. What reasonable person wouldn't?
So, after my six-hour mega-derrive through the Kent countryside yesterday with the world's greatest wordengineer-becoming-naturalist, in which I got us lost in the beguilingly bucolic labyrinths of suburbia (heronbone: 'where are all the shops?'), we returned to k-p HQ and got down to the serious business of looking through old comics.
Like Robin Undercurrent and I, Luke was entranced by the 'Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe' series, which presented loving-to-the-point-of-delirial-joy Top Trumps-style guides to Marvel characters, including, gratifyingly the most obscure ones. We concluded that, let's face it, being assigned the task of discovering , for instance, that Colossus 'can survive extremes of temperature from 70 degrees Farenheit above absolute zero (-390 F) to approximately 9,000 F (the boiling point of normal osmium)' must have been just about the best job ever. (Imagine the meetings: enraged red-faced Marvel writer: 'That's ridiculous! It should be 10,000 F at least!') Imagine the research: the most forbiddingly abstruse scientific text could be a source of intense libidinization.
What's delightful about these texts is their complete lack of PoMo knowing smirkiness and/ or - for the two are related - 'mature' post-Frank Miller/ Alan Moore psycho-portentathonic angst. Their tone is surely exactly what Nietzsche meant when he said that the ideal state for humans would be to attain 'the seriousness of a child at play'. For example:
'The Corruptor has the power to subvert the will of virtually any living being by mere touch. The sweat glands of the Corruptor's skin release a highly potent psychoactive chemical that upon contact with another person's skin triggers a metabolic change that overrides the inhibition center of the brain.'
Part of the reason why I love Marvel so much is that it inculcated a feeling for language in me at a young age. While the children's books I was required to read were Relevant to Kids - i.e. boringly slaved to the reality principle (about pets and shopping precincts) - and written in an appropriately sensible, 'accessible' prose, Marvel's language had the euphorically jargonized intensity necessary to bring unlife to its super-consistent hyperfictional cosmos.
This was a deliberate policy of Stan Lee, who, contrary to contemporary wisdom, maintained that kids would not be perturbed by words they didn't know if the story was strong enough and the context was clear. (Interestingly, in his 1957 pre-Understanding Media survey of the US mediascape, The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan had already picked up on this aspect of Lee (this was obviously in the pre-Spider-man days before Marvel really took off), quoting approvingly Lee's injunction that you should never talk down to readers.') Beyond this, Lee must have realised that kids actually love this kind of quasi-technical neologistic lyrical jargon.
Check this for instance, on
'By such universal attunement he can probe the many phenomena that comprise reality and learn whatever he wishes. By universal attunement, he has learned the existence of alternate universes, and he can use his cerebral powers to either transport himself to one, or to partially phase into another universe, making himself intangible and partially invisible.'
Universal attunement! Love it!
It's no accident that the Ccru's Pandemonium matrix is formally similar to the Marvel Index - it's the pulp theory hybrid innit!
In any case, you will have noticed from the hyperlinks that for Luke's delectation and I assume many others' too, that there is a Marvel Directory online.
Rap has always been fascinated with Marvel's taxonomy of powers and affects, and with its sense-melting compound-word concept production, as Kodwo identified in his Spinozist analysis of the sonic fictional black sf continuum in More Brilliant:
'Dr Octagon, Sir Menelik the Emperor General, all accent unexpected words and stress syllables so that WordObjects disarticulate themselves. Flow falls apart in a drastic dysphasia when the brain's unable to coordinate syntax. By arresting HipHop's verbose flowmotion, syntax seizes up then lurches forward in a robotic cadence that induces an arhythmic irritation. Mindstresser: the order of things breaks up. Sense starts zigzagging like the lightning logo bolting across Captain Marvel's costume.' (040-041)
This brings in another link: toys. Robin and I once spent an afternoon of awed delight in Leamington Woolworths reading the captions on cyber-toys. Their invocation of 'ultra-phasic photonic repulsors' and the like bore more than a superficial resemblance to the impersonal libidinotechxt channeled by Nick Land. So, Nick and Reza, if you ever feel like a career change....
Since I mentioned Kodwo, can I make the now customary sure-to-fall-on-stony-ground entreaty for him to start a blog? I hold out as little hope for this as I do for the return of Ian 'grave misgivings about blogs' Penman. But the blogosphere is much the poorer for their skulking around in archaic pre-k(private)space. (I'm genuinely bemused as to how anyone who writes would not want a blog: how uncyberpunk is that!)
ps if Kodwo's out there lurking, can he email me, I want to ask him something and his address went down with the hard drive?
Can someone who knows about such things click on my blogger archives link and explain what the fuck's going on? Hope I haven't lost the lot!
Produced his cyberpunk programs for replikant flight by steampunk gaslight holed up in exile in the British library. Radically decoded the Kapital-imposed segmentation of terrestrial unlife into the political/ the economic/ the aesthetic/ the philosophical.
'Philosophers have interpreted the world, popists have talked about nimble basslines, the point is to change it...'
Well, there's been a few sneering digs at 'academic theory' recently. Let's consider some of these so-called 'academic theorists' should we?
Spinoza - never held a university position. Worked as a lens grinder. Banished from the Amsterdam synagogue. Victim of an assassination attempt, possibly organized by the higher echelons of the synagogue. However abstruse Spinoza's theory, it was all packaged as a manual for disassembly of tortured mammal meat. Less a book than a program. Run it and get Out.
Deleuze and Guattari - well Deleuze certainly held a university position, but Guattari was a clinical practicioner and political activist. The whole academic lockdown on D/G proceeds programmatically:
Install 'Deleuzianism' as a research project. Typical focus: Difference and Repetition, the most boring book Deleuze ever wrote. (Interesting that Freud says that fetishists fixate on the final object they see before confronting the 'horror' of the vagina. The Philosophical establishment is similar with D and R, the last moment you could pretend what Deleuze was doing was academic philosophy.) Object: turn Deleuze's work into 'respectable' philosophy. Systematically sideline not only Guattari (i.e. refer to Capitalism and Schizophrenia as by 'Deleuze') but more importantly downgrade the whole concept of collective authorship.
It's all OK provided you don't take it seriously i.e. provided you don't really ask 'how do you make yourself a body without organs?' When they say 'sorcery' they're being metaphorical, right?
Irony: the one thing you are not allowed to do in the academy is talk about practices of intensification, still less - hah! - engage in them. Of course, what you are endlessly required to do is deconstruct your own position, worry about the politics of taste, develop negotiated readings.
The Situationists - never held anything like an academic position. Worked temp jobs to fund their activities. Misleadingly described as 'art-types', were precisely critical of the very concept of 'art' as relatively autonomous aesthetic production. Described the total coca-colonization of everyday life by Kapital, displacement of social relations by frozen images, as 'the Spectacle'. Massive impact on counter-culture, esp punk (see Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century)
Mark Downham - status and biography unknown. Key texts 'Cyberpunk' and 'Videodrome: the Thing in Room 101', published in Vague magazine (a photocopied post-situationist 'data manual' heroically edited by longterm unemployed Stoke Newington intensity engineer and connection machine, Tom Vague). Downham's work notable for fiction-theory hybridizations far more intense than those gestured at by the likes of university incumbents such as the pedestrian Donna Haraway. The idea that Downham's delirial theory-derrives through Debord, Blade Runner, Ballard, Apocalypse Now and Neuromancer could ever be classified as 'academic' would make a dog laugh. Amongst other things, Downham's de-aestheticizing of the term 'cyberpunk' - i.e. his processing of it as not a generic 'style', but as a destratificatory cultural machine - was unspeakably important in the hatching of
'Many members of the Ccru had fled cultural studies, disgusted by its authoritarian prejudices, its love of ideology, and pompous desire to 'represent the other' or speak on behalf of the oppressed. To us, it never seemed that the real articulacy of the left academic elites was in any way superior to the modes of popular cultural expression which were either ignored or treated as raw material to be probed for a 'true' (ie ideological) meaning by white middle-class intellectuals.
Ccru has tried to connect and cross-intensify with peripheral cultural processses (dark-side digital audio, cyberpunk, Neolemurian sorcery, numbo-jumbo, Afro-futurism, Indo-futurism, Sino-futurism …). It seeks to think, theorize, and produce with rather than 'about' (or -even worse - 'for') them. We think everything interesting happens on the periphery, outside the standard modes of 'developed' existence.
Ccru engages with peripheral cultures not because they are 'down-trodden' or oppressed, but because they include the most intense tendencies to social flatness, swarming, populating the future, and contagious positive innovation, hatching the decisive stimuli for the systematic mutation of global cybernetic culture.'
Of course, the great 'mistake' Ccru made was to imagine that you could not be academic in an academic institution. i.e. what 'academic' means analytically, is: think, don't do. (And thinking unconnected with action isn't even thinking really.) It wasn't long before the police arrived, retrochronically liquidating Ccru and passing the magical sentence that it 'does not, has not, and will never exist'.
An academic ivory tower? A pyschic warzone, more like. Neuronic timebombs were installed, with all sorts of bad occasionally psychiatric consequences. It was messy for a while.
Freud - well, as every teenager knows, Freud says everything is about sex, right? Wrong. Freud - again a clinical practicioner, not an academic - discovers that life is anorganic tension. Beyond the Pleasure Principle is one of the most astonishing works of speculative theory-fiction in the twentieth century. Moses and Monotheism - a pre-Stargate afro-futurist myth about ur-myths.
Lacan - hounded out of the official Psychoanalytic movement. Way darker and more nihilistic than your Cult Studs prof would have you believe. Cllinical practicioner.
Baudrillard - incredibly, holds a position in the French academy. Last wrote a footnote probably twenty-five years ago. Theory has long since migrated into Jarry-inspired cyber-poetic-Pataphysical riffs. Reviled, misunderstood and dismissed from all sides.
Irigaray - producer of ice-precise dissections of anti-body male philosophical canon in Speculum: of the Other Woman. Forced out of employment while at Vincennes university, ironically confirming her analysis of phallocratic institutions of thought. Cartographer and anti-climatic eroticist of the body without organ ('women have sex organs just about everywhere') in This Sex Which Is Not One. Explorer of the female-oceanic continuum in Marine Lover, conceived of as a virtual encounter with
Nietzsche - abandoned his university appointment in disgust and frustration. Composed his works of untimely intensity-mappings, joyful wisdom and programs for futural emergence whilst constantly on the move. Ultimately succumbed to total nervous collapse when the AOE neuronic microcops took over.
Another new one, well new to me any way, (courtesy Glueboot), one for theory connoisseurs (theory haytaz beware): Spurious. The Deleuze posts in particular are highly relevant to the discussion on capitalism going on hereabouts. (Although I have to worry about his enthusiasm for Philip Goodchild's sinister christian communitarianism.)
(btw I wish I'd categorized all my posts like he has; makes the site an interweaving, evolving hypertext, less chronolinear...)
Seriously though, I look forward to Nina's promised explication of Badioiu. I know little or nothing about him (in fact, what I do know I'm gleaning from Nina and Alberto's delectable translation of On Beckett) but what has always prima facie put me off him is his attachment to trad philosophical terms which have been - for me at least - difficult to libidinize: 'truth', 'rationality'..... etc. Still, given that it is what one does with words - rather than some putative (fixed and transcendent) 'meaning'- that is important, I remain open to the possibility that Badiou can rescue these terms from academic capture.
For my two penn'th though, regarding rationality, as a provisional attempt to libidinize it, a number of things:
'Rationality' is best seen not as some disembodied faculty but cybernetically as the capacity of a body to reflect on its own performance and to re-set its goals. Most cybernetic technical machines remain stratified because, while they are capable of doing the former, they are, as yet, locked out of doing the latter. This is the unique human potential for destratification. Think of it another way: why can't animals do sorcery?
Seen Spinozistically, reason is what allows human beings to decode millions of years of mammal and reptile strata. Reason's function is to disable these old 'defaults' and set new ones. It's a bit like learning how to play a musical instrument. At first this requires intense conscious concentration but after a while performance becomes autonomic as reason migrates from the brain to the (rest of the) body.
Bacon has a good line on this in his conversations with David Sylvester. He made the analogy with a tennis player, whose body makes thousands of micro-decisions at a non-conscious level. In the same way, just because Bacon was not conscious of what he was doing as a painter did not mean that his production was 'irrational'.
As I've said before, I think Burroughs is a Spinozist (This was in fact a problem with Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, which recruited him into a quasi-Romantic cult of the irrational.)
"'Most people will tell you that they aren't fooled by advertising and that they don't believe all that they read in the newspapers or see on television. We should not cynically dismiss these claims - even when we see them continue to uncritically consume the advertised products and read the newspapers and watch television - to do would be to totally misunderstand the nature of propaganda in spectacular society.' (Larry Law, CITIES OF ILLUSION)
The Videodrome has its roots in the stimulus-addictive spectacular commodity-culture and it is realised and reified through the commodity in fashion, style, newness. The spectacular videodrome generates subliminal overstimulation and this hype leads to a craving for more stimulus for its own sake. The Videodrome through the television screen, in words, sound, vision, visual imagery; releases spores, pheromones which make us gorge ourselves on it, always wanting more, whether it's tactile, sexual, phenomenal, social, material or emotional - seeking what we can never find, the realization of our deirese. The video-spectacular pulse inserts a permanent feeling of dissatisfaction of the senses, identity, personality, it collapses each new construct it proffers, it collapses new people. This is an ever-accelerating law of diminishing returns - craving, production, consumption, simulation, excitation, stimulation, craving - the videodrome spectacular hype is never over.
The videodrome is the deepest fix you'll ever crave and it's a craving stimulus junkies never kick.'
Mark Downham, 'Videodrome: The Thing in Room 101' in Vague 18/19, Control Data Manual, 1987
OK readers, now what do we do? Do we crow in unison 'I told you so'? Or do we magnanimously not mention it? I'm referring to MC's astonishing volte-face in respect of 'The Show'.
(Rubs chin) what was it he said? Anyone who likes 'The Show' knows nothing about Pop Music. Something like that any way....
I prefer to admire MC for coming clean; after all, it would have been easy to have grudgingly fallen in love with 'The Show', secretly turning up on the radio when no-one was there, but keeping his counsel in order to save face.
In any case, nice to see he's joined us in our ghetto. Because in ten years' time, assuming that we're all still here and giving a damn, I have a pretty good idea of what music from 2004 we'll be remembering...and it won't be Joss Stone.
There appears to now be a glitch with images too. (Sigh). Don't know what's wrong, but will try and get it sorted asap.
Well, you’re certainly moving beyond ‘old-school socialism’ but are you really back into Thatcherism?
For all sorts of reasons, many of them presented on recent threads at hyperstition, I’m less than happy with using the term ‘micro-capitalism’. But what I think Simon was designating by the term - I’d prefer to call it ‘marketization’ rather than 'micro-capitalism' - is indeed anti-socialist, but is also, I would want to insist, anti-capitalist.
It’s almost charming to hear someone use the term ‘old-school socialism’ positively in the 00s. Without being toofacetious, what are people who decry Thatcherism yearning for in the pre-Thatcherite 70s? Power cuts? Raging inflation? Laughably inefficient nationalized industries? All subsidized, I shouldn’t need to add, mainly by the proletariat through taxation.
There are, needless to say, serious problems with Thatcherism but they don’t include its demolition of a decadent socialist hegemony which was as complacently cheerful in its role of administering post-Empire decline as was its Tory counterpart.
What is facile about Thatcherism is what is facile about all brands of liberal conservatism: namely, the centrality to its ontology of an uncritiqued concept of the individual. The conservative distrust of the State (good) is counterposed by its championing of the individual and ‘individual freedom’. Mrs Thatcher was explicit in her espousal of what sociologists call ‘methodological individualism’, the view that the only real social unit is the individual agent, when she (in)famously announced that there is no such thing as society.
But if Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Lacan, structuralism, post-structuralism and postmodernism have taught us anything, it is that the category of the individual cannot be treated as a given. Foucault was especially vociferous in resisting the dichotomy on which Thatcherite thought was based: the individual cannot be construed as first of all free and only afterwards constrained by the State. No: the individual is, in effect, a State in miniature. As ever, Spinoza anticipated most of these positions. He argued that, since it depends upon the welfare of others, individual liberty presupposes collective freedom.
Hardt and Negri have, somewhat unconvincingly in my view, sought to revive a Spinozist concept of collectivity with their idea of the Multitude. Whatever the limitations of their argument, its value lies in its decoupling of collectivity from the State. Such a separation is essential for any effective anti-capitalism.
It’s worth pausing here to differentiate what I have in mind from the existing anti-capitalist movement. Said movement is easily but perhaps not entirely unfairly caricatured as comprised of hand-wringing middle-class quasi-socialists like Naomi Klein and freewheeling dog-on-a-rope anarcho-pranksters. Whether such a view is a grotesque distortion or not, it remains the case that no effective anti-capitalist strategy has emerged from the movement.
Klein and her ilk appear to favour a return to ‘old style socialism’ (more State intervention, higher taxation etc), whereas the anarchos seem, as ever, to oscillate between blanket nihilistic negativism and unrealistic utopianism. Both seem to make the error of treating capitalism as if it were some sort of conspiracy of the elite. In other words, they do what Marx warned against, and make a moral, rather than a systemic, critique of capitalism. Too often this emerges in the form of an Oedipal revolt aimed at the admininstators of capital, a pantomime sideshow which even they must realise has no possibility of effectuating change, underscored by the charmingly naive conviction that if only those nasty corporations were a bit nicer then everything would improve.
The most realistic account of kapital is also the most cyberpunk. Capitalism is best understood not as the product of a human cabal but as a takeover of the planet by an inhuman parasite entity, neither malevolent nor benign, but implacably locked onto pursuing its one goal - the proliferation of itself. Marx believed that capitalism’s agency was only ostensible, an illusion that could be cashed out in terms of alienated labour. But, after cybernetics, complexity theory and chaos theory, we needn’t be so anthropomorphic in our conception of what agency must involve. Kapital really is a planet-wide artificial intelligence, feeding Matrix-style, on the energy of its human slaves.
Energy, as we shall see shortly, is the crucial word here.
Marx’s critique of capital was compromised by three, related, theoretical commitments: (1) a typically nineteenth century belief that Nature was to be dominated by Promethean Man (2) a privileging of human labour (humanity, remember, is defined, according to Marx, by its capacity to work) and (3) a belief in an Hegelian model of history as guided towards an inevitable climax by ineluctable teleology.
In place of Marx’s labour-centred critique of Kapital, I propose an anti-capitalism based around the concept of Energy (Chi).
The Greens are right to this extent: all politics, all economics, ultimately all vivisystems, are about the deployment of Energy - about how energy is consumed and by whom (or what), and about how it is supplied and by whom (or what). Marx’s idea that capital is dead labour is, in the end, about the transformation of energy from organic life to inorganic capital. (Whereas we need it go from organic life to inorganic unlife, but that’s another story.) The Green argument is not only moralistic whingeing, or at least it need not be. Their point is, in a way, brutally mathematical. It is simply impossible that Third World nations develop in the same way that the west did, because, if they did, the planet’s energy resources would burn out.
Energy is the principal difficulty that Kapital faces. Kapital’s mutagenic ingenuity has allowed it to turn most problems into opportunities. But this one may turn out to be insuperable. Certainly, unless Gold’s thesis - that oil is not the product of fossils, but of a 'deep hot biosphere' - is true, then the current US-led Petropolitikal configuration has 30 years at the most. Whatever, finite energy - and we know that we live in a cosmos, of course, in which energy cannot be created only transformed - means that capital’s putatively infinite expansion does have limits.
The idea of ‘a better use of energy’ need not entail the technophobic retrenchment favoured by many Greens. It is a formula applicable at all levels of culture, from how we work and consume to how we use our ‘free’ time. At the moment, this is often a misnomer, since as the slogan used to have it, free time is time which the boss doesn’t pay you for. Time spent in convalescence from work is not time spent on the kind of autonomous activity that can meaningfully count as free. If we remember the Situationists for only one thing, it should be for their hostility to work: ‘Never work’. (One of the most genuinely pathetic aspects of ‘old style socialism’, meanwhile, was its dogmatic commitment to workerism.) Wresting time back from work and (/ = capital) is an urgent precondition for anti-capitalism, but the difficulties such a decolonization of the nervous system throws up shouldn't be underestimated. It can be about as easy as extracting a worm from your brain.
Andre Gorz, author of Critique of Economic Reason argued that what Capital has terminated is the ‘category of the sufficient’. With Capital, enough is never enough. Gorz shows that wages had to be deliberately lowered in the early stages of industrial capitalism because workers would only labour until they had earned enough to subsist for a week, then go home. The idea of accumulating money in exchange for time seemed to them absurd and irrational. At that stage of history, in other words, the Kapital Thing had not yet achieved dominance of their nervous system. But, in order to survive and replicate, Capital, itself voraciously insatiable, has to instal a twitchy discontent into the human CNS (or at least agitate what existing neuronal potential towards restless existential hunger was there) and it has been highly efficient in doing so.
Thatcher’s attachment to the individual is no accident, since the Thing seems to be able to best use Human Resources when they are individuated into user-friendly organic packets. Even so, the Thing has up until now relied upon a stripped-back mode of human collectivity - the family - in order to replenish its stock of slaves. The nuclear family (Mummy-daddy-me) has served as Capital’s principal hatchery for at least the last century. But it is now showing signs of terminal breakdown. What then?
Breakdowns can be positive if they lead to breakthroughs.
Just as in the SF flix, it is only by the formation of strong collectivities that the alien can be defeated, or at least subdued. Autonomous collectivies are anti-capitalist not by virtue of ‘organizing against capital’, as if capital were an errant ruler who could be persuaded to mend its ways, but through their production of sustainanble energy systems (in the broadest sense) that are simply indifferent to capital’s incessant injunction to replicate more of itself. Markets and other sorts of trading circuits are of course integral to this process, just as socialist-style Statist macro-organization is, at best, irrelevant, at worst, positively obstructive to it.
Anti-capitalism is not a ‘political movement’, it is a set of practices, many of them still only potentials.
Thanks to Austin, Ray, Nick, Reza, Anna, Robin, Siobahn and Luke, who may not agree with the above, but who nevertheless made it possible.
'We are all Prostitutes' t-shirt image lifted from The Pop Group site.
You may have noticed that something's gone wrong with the links bar ... I innocently added another link and the whole thing got garbled by movable type... can't fix it at the moment, but rest assured I'll restore all links asap...
Should be lots up here this weekend ....
(Related to matters London, I echo the applause for this...)
And here's a new one for ya: radar anomalous....
And I'm still laughing about the 'How Clean is Your Arse?' skit on Bo Selecta tonight. How long before C4 comissions it?
k-punk correspondent, the lovely Karl Kraft, draws my attention to the Frightfest season running at the Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square, at the end of August. Lots of interesting stuff, but the PKD-inspired Code 46 seems particularly intriguing.
Also - and you know how it pains me to promote anything at the Institute of Chattering Class Apathy, but Tarkovsky's Mirror is starting a run at the ICA starting a week on Friday. As I've said before, albeit none too articulately, I'd rate this, with Stalker and Solaris as amongst Tarvkovsky's finest work (some accolade, after all, for a director of his magnitude). It's more challenging than Stalker and Solaris which, for all their suspension of action in slow time, retain a conventional narrative. Mirror is much more oneiric, a memory-symphony. Its effect is like the best ambient music, effectuating a slowing of the body, a circumvention of the organism's agitative disontent-babbling. Seeing Tarkovsky at the cinema is always both more powerful and 'easier' than watching it at home on video or DVD: it's far harder to summon the conditions for entrancement in a domestic space full of distractions and business.
Also: me on Tarkovsky's spirtuality here.
... well, it's a new one on me at least - sonicpyschogeography?
Anyway, I like it.
Apart from the dissing of Midge, of course. No denying that he looked like a twat, but that was all part of the charm. Actually, a winningly self-deprecating Midge was on Danny Baker's radio show last week --- talked about how he set up Visage with Rusty Egan. That alone would be enough to guarantee his canonization hereabouts, but those first two Conny Plank-produced Ultravox-Ure LPs are much better than their reputation would suggest. Downloaded the Vienna-era track 'Alles Klar' the other day, must have been a b-side or something: amazingly untimely slice of proto-techno instrumental electro pop.
Course Midge's passage from Slik (for whom MC has a bit of a soft spot as I recall) through the Rich Kids to Visage and Ultravox is another example of the glam-into-synthpop continuum...
A few more notes inspired by Mark's glam piece....
on the Mod/glam continuum...
Sinker: 'As anyone knows who’s ever been edged from a charmed circle – for being not young enough, or thin enough, or queer or prole or cool enough – it’s the aftermath nag of those of your values which made the circle seem so charming to you, that you have to make your peace with, to survive. Your real friends can teach you to see the faults of the lover who’s just dumped you, but when an in-crowd cast you out, it’s your ideal of friendship that’s been turned against you. The treacherous complexities of such self-reappraisal are often enough to turn radicals into reactionaries.'
Ferry: 'In 1965, we all wore the same outfit - American track sweaters and bobby sox.'
(Quoted in The Bryan Ferry Story, Rex Balfour, 1976)
Ferry returned to his mod past - there's a picture in Balfour's book from 66, Ferry the predictably immaculate mod (sadly, my scanner is no longer functional or else I'd reproduce it here) - when he covered Dobie Gray's 'The "In" Crowd', which was taken up as a mod anthem when it was released in 1965. Yet as the NME noted:
'The In Crowd of 1974 is a very different of caviare from that of 1965... The whole thing sounds like it was yanked off a New York subway while fixing an overdose of heroin, and then ground between the sides of two collapsing skyscrapers. All of the slyly hip self-congratulation of Gray's postcard-to-home from the wonderful Big City goes out of the window. Nowadays, being part of the In Crowd is a perilous after-dark affair. spiked with trans-sexuality.'
Ferry on his own in-crowd, 1974:
'I found them [gay males] more sympatico. A year ahead of everybody else. Being so close for so long to the art world, my friends have nearly always been gay. Mos of the people I really know or see at all now are in fact in fashion because they're attractive, personality-wise, and therefore not incredibly deep. They are not really interested in what I do, mostly they're only interested in themselves - which really, I suppose, is fair. If I disappeared tomorrow most of them wouldn't notice the difference... It's fairly international, it's your fashion-society type scene, who I happen to get on with very well. It's because they're interested in style basically.'
How terrifying, how - genuinely - vacuous...
(Quotes from Balfour)
And in Nuttall's Bomb Culture
'"Mod" meant effeminate, stuck-up, emulating the middle classes, aspiring to a competitive sophistication, snobbish, phony. ... Mods, in whom alienation had become something of a deliberate stance... ' (33)
Then, in 1964, mods and art students 'cross-fertilize':
'Art students and pop had, until this point, been separate, except for an odd overlapping in the world of trad and skiffle. But R & B was that little bit less commerical than rock had been. It appealed to the authenticity cult and the rock 'n' roll cult. The students and the mods cross-fertilised, particularly in Liverpool. Purple hearts appeared in strange profusion. Bell-bottoms blossomed into wild colours. Shoes were painted with Woolworths lacquer. Both sexes wore make up and dyed their hair. The art students brought their acid colour combinations, their lilacs, tangerines and lime greens from abstract painting. The air in the streets and clubs was tingling with a new delirium.' (34)
Spinoza is the prince of philosophers; really, the only one you need.
He took for granted what would later become the first principle of Marx’s thought - that it was more important to change the world than to interpret it. His project of systematically rooting out the underlying motivation for irrational behaviours was effectively psychoanalysis three hundred years early. Freud, whose written acknowledgments to Spinoza were few, nevertheless admitted in his correspondence to being thoroughly indebted to Spinoza’s framework; Lacan was more explicit in his homage, comparing his own excommunication from Psychoanalysis to Spinoza's banishment from the Amsterdam Synagogue. Deleuze’s thought is unimaginable without Spinoza.
Philip K Dick wrote on Spinoza, and the vision Dick bequeaths to cyberpunk: of simulated worlds stimulated by drugs, mood and technology - the Gibsonian concept of ‘simstim’ - is Spinozist through and through.
These reflections have been prompted by my accidentally coming upon Antonio Damasio’s Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain on the secondhand book stalls outside the NFT while strolling along the South Bank on Saturday with Siobhan. (Discovering books by accident is of course the best way to come upon them).
Damasio's book is an incredible achievement. Not only does it bring together Spinoza's account of the relationship between body and mind with his program for increasing human happiness and freedom, it also draws upon up-to-the minute scientific knowledge - Damasio is a neurologist - to establish that Spinoza's conceptual framework is remarkably attuned with contemporary neurobiology.
Academic philosophers often treat Book V of Spinoza's Ethics - ‘Of the Power of the Human Intellect, or of Human Freedom’ - as little more than an embarrassment, sometimes derisively referring to as a 'self-help manual'. So it is - but this is a strength, what makes Spinoza's philosophy more than mere contemplation. (I've often thought, actually, that a killing could be made by translating Spinoza's insights into a Pop Therapy book).
At the same time, non-philosophical readers are likely to be scandalized by Spinoza's sober and geometrical treatment of human emotions. Vernacular psychology has it that emotions are irreducibly mysterious, too fuzzy and indistnct to analyse beyond a certain point. Spinoza, on the other hand, maintains that happiness is a matter of emotional engineering: a precise science which can be learned and practiced.
In place of the 'right' and 'wrong' a vulgarized Kantianism and vestigial Christianity has inculcated into us, Spinoza urges us to think in terms of health and illness. There are no ‘categorical’ duties applying to all organisms, since what counts as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is relative to the interests of each entity. In tune with popular wisdom, Spinoza is clear that what brings wellbeing to one entity will poison to another. The first and most overriding drive of any entity, Spinoza says, is its will to persist in its own being. When an entity starts to act against its own best interests, to destroy itself - as, sadly, Spinoza observes, humans are wont to do - it has been taken over by external forces. To be free and happy entails exorcising these invaders and acting in accordance with reason.
It is Burroughs’ obsession with alien takeovers and viruses that makes him so utterly Spinozistic. Whether hungering for a drug, for orgasm or for images, the principal figure of human bondage in Burroughs’ universe - the addict - is enslaved to exogenous forces.Spinoza makes it clear that while reason is necessary in the quest to regain control, it is is not sufficient. Reason can set the goals, but emotions can only be overcome by the cultivation of stronger emotions.
Damasio begins by explicating and exploring Spinoza’s claim that ‘the mind is the idea of the body’. He moves on to distinguish between ‘emotions’ and ‘feelings’ (which together are termed ‘affects’). Emotions are presubjective response-tendencies whereas feelings are the conscious processing of these reponses. An analogous distinction in Spinoza’s thought is that between appetite - the impulse towards a certain object - and desire - the conscious awareness of that impulse. Damasio demostrates that, remarkably, Spinoza’s diagram of these relations is borne out by neurobiology. As he puts it, the sublimity of the mind is matched by the sublimity of biololgy.
While, fittingly, Damasio’s book is a joy to read, I think it could usefully be put into dialogue with Deleuzianism. Where Deleuze and Guattari treat Spinoza as the great prophet of the Body without Organs, Damasio concentrates on the organic, perhaps fatally equating Spinoza’s ‘body’ with the organism. Moreover, Damasio’s claim that bliss is to be attained through achieving homeostasis (oddly, after admitting he prefers the term ‘homeodynamics’, he never uses it again!) would put him in tension with D/G’s emphasis on the plateau.
It is in Spinoza’s account of God that we encounter his vision of the Body without Organs. Many of Spinoza’s champions like to position him as a forerunner of humanist enlightenment, as if his famous formula, ‘God = nature’ and his claim that the greatest form of joy is only possible through ‘intellectual love of God’ were obfuscations, codes designed to conceal an underlying atheism. If they were conceived of in such terms, they failed: Spinoza’s denial of the personal God, his contention that God could not intervene in the world and neither assigned praise nor blame, offered reward nor punishment, saw him viciously pilloried and ostracized, with an attempt even being made on his life. But to think of Spinoza as a covert atheist is to repeat the same mistakes his contemporary religious critics made (and to reiterate their insult). Spinoza’s God is beyond even indifference, gloriously, desolately without interests of any kind. Intellectual love of God is effectively an identification with the cosmos as BwO. Spinoza’s conviction that awe, wonder and dread - not worship - are the only appropriate responses to a God that is the Great Zero, means that his thought can offer us a pitilessly materialist spirituality that is as important a legacy as anything else he has left us.
More by me on Spinoza
Me on Kubrick, Spinoza and coldness at alt.movies.kubrick (this thread contains one of my proudest moments ever --- gaining praise from Gordon Stainforth, who edited The Shining).
If you’ve a spare few minutes and want a laugh have a look at this thread from amk in which I debate Spinoza’s concept of God with Leonard Wheat, the author of this stupefyingly ridiculous book on Kubrick's 2001.
thinking about miles davis in an un-miles davis like way
(one of my favourite eno conceptpieces)
[from The Wire Dec./Jan. 1993] When you listen to Miles Davis, how much of what you hear is music, and how much is context?
Another way of saying that is, 'What would you be hearing if you didn't know you were listening to Miles Davis?' I think of context as everything that isn't physically contained in the grooves of the record, and in his case that seems quite a lot. It includes your knowledge, first of all, that everyone else says he's great: that must modify the way you hear him. But it also includes a host of other strands: that he was a handsome and imposing man, a member of a romantic minority, that he played with Charlie Parker, that he spans generations, that he underwent various addictions, that he married Cicely Tyson, that he dressed well, that Jean-Luc Godard liked him, that he wore shades and was very cool, that he himself said little about his work, and so on. Surely all that affects how you hear him: I mean, could it possibly have felt the same if he'd been an overweight heating engineer from Oslo? When you listen to music, Aren't you also 'listening' to all the stuff around it, too? How important is that to the experience you' re having, and is it differently important with different musics, different artists?
Miles was an intelligent man, by all accounts, and must have become increasingly aware of the power of his personal charisma, especially in the later years as he watched his reputation grow over his declining trumpeting skills. Perhaps he said to himself: 'These people are hearing a lot more context than music, so perhaps I accept that I am now primarily a context maker. My art is not just what comes out of the end of my trumpet or appears on a record, but a larger experience which is intimately connected to who I appear to be, to my life and charisma, to the Miles Davis story." In that scenario, the 'music', the sonic bit, could end up being quite a small part of the whole experience. Developing the context- the package, the delivery system, the buzz, the spin, the story - might itself become the art. Like perfume...
Professional critics in particular find such suggestions objectionable. They have invested heavily in the idea that music itself offers intrinsic, objective, self contained criteria that allow you to make judgments of worthiness. In the pursuit of True Value and other things with capital letters, they reject as immoral the idea that an artist could be 'manipulative' in this way. It seems to them cynical: they want to believe: to be certain that this was The Truth, a pure expression of spirit wrought in sound. They want it to 'out there', 'real', but now they're getting the message that what its worth is sort of connected with how much they're prepared to take part in the fabrication of a story about it. Awful! To discover that you're actually a co-conspirator in the creation of value, caught in the act of make-believe. 'How can it be worth anything if I did it myself?'
I remember seeing a thing on TV years ago. An Indonesian shaman was treating sick people by apparently reaching into their bodies and pulling out bloody rags which he claimed were the cause of their disease. It all took place in dim light, in smoky huts, after intense incantations. A Western team filmed him with infrared cameras and, of course, were able to show that he was performing a conjuring trick. He wasn't taking anything out of their bodies after all. So he was a fake, no? Well, maybe-- but his patients kept getting better. He was healing by context-- making a psychological space where people somehow got themselves well. The rag was just a prop. Was Miles, with a trumpet as a prop, making a place where we, in our collective imaginations, could somehow have great musical experiences? I think so. Thanks, Miles, and thanks everyone else who tookpart, too.
For those who haven't delved into the depths of the Glampirism comments box, Mark Sinker has now posted up his Velvet Goldmine-inspired Sight and Sound piece on glam (the one I quoted) here. Well, I confess to sometimes being baffled by Mark's prodigious feats of associative connection-engineering, but, despite the exasperation of the S and S correspondent Mark quotes, this article is really a masterpiece IMHO.
One of the piece's many virtues is its reassertion of the essential queerness of any worthwhile pop. Queerness, that is, not homosexuality. It is precisely glam's indeterminism, its smearing of sexual/gender/machine/alien categories that made it disturbing and exhilarating. Glam's flaunted ambivalence allowed it it to jam the Dominant Operating System's equation of sex with the truth of the self. Sexuality indeterminate and indeterminable; truth displaced into simulation, 'selves' worn and shed like skins.
The Glampires = replicants.
(By contrast, of course, Cult Studs-endorsed identity politics emerges as part of the program of the Dominant OS: tell us who you are. Madonna's role in all this is interesting. My view would be that, whereas Glam flirted with the Dorian Gray concept of the self as pure surface [Deleuze: 'why is superficiality considered an absence of depth, but depth not considered an absence of surface?'] and therefore as pretty vacancy, Madonna's mummery has always been stage-managed as the serial presentation of a solid, underlying self. We're never allowed to forget that beneath and behind each costume change is a Strong Woman (as opposed to Glam's weak men: the Burroughs-branded Queers and Junkies*).
* Could these Burroughs' pulps be the ur-texts from which the Allen skinhead series to which Mark refers derived?
Queers and junkies both belong to that group which Leslie Fiedler calls 'the new mutants', both, as Fiedler said, were feminized by the acceptance of the alien into their bodies...
(Glam certainly went out of pop with the (re)closeting of homosexual desire. For me, that was Wham's first appearance on TOTP. I remember thinking - and if you were to see the camp dance routines now, you'd realise how far gone things had got by the early eighties - these two can't be popstars, they look like ordinary people. Where was the make-up, the look, the image?)
'If you're an intelligent cook you'll abandon the recipe at a certain time. You taste the dish and you realize there's the seed of an interesting new taste. So you work on that and forget you were making chicken Kiev, or whatever. You make something new.'
Speaking of glam, I've been spending a great deal of time recently with Eno's 'song' albums of the 1970s. I'd never really got them before, but, as is so often the case, a push from Marcello nudged me in the right direction.
Previously, ever the serious-minded aesthete and vesigial Romantic, I'd found the records' wilfull absurdity and apparent incoherence uninvolving - almost deliberately so. It was the flatness of Eno's (non-) singing voice, or non-singer's voice, its undisguised English middleclassness, that I found most distracting . (I never had any problems with the pelllucid disquiet of the ambient LPs.)
In many ways, it is Erik Satie, the producer both of sublimely beguiling compositions and of proto-Dadaist absurdism, who may have provided the template for Eno's duality.
In the end, I've come to see that quartet of albums - Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science - as rock's escape from rockism, rock if it had begun in the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear rather in the delta blues, rock re-imagineered by Roussel and Magritte and re-programmed by Norbert Wiener and Gregory Bateson.
On these records, Eno cultivated an irony that was actually diametrically opposite to Pomo's terminal inability to relinquish self-consciousness, since it was a technique for depersonalizing production. Such distanciation strategies meant that he was pop's Kubrick, fundamentally interested not in playing but - in anticipation of sampling culture - editing. (Interestingly, both Eno and Kubrick had to fend off accusations that they were cold). If Eno's description of himself as a 'non-musician' was routinely dismissed at the time, even by admirers such as Lester Bangs, as a pose, a provocation, we can recognize it now as a straightforward account of how someone not trained in music could have a role in sonic production. The hardcore continuum would familiarise us with this notion.
Ultimately, Eno was, like his inspirations Cage, Macero, Duchamp, Burroughs and Warhol, not a musician, not an artist, but an abstract engineer. Eno's concepts and diagrams had applications far beyond any one aesthetic field. (Concepts and diagrams - how very un rock 'n' roll.)
Eno was also, and for the same reasons, white pop's Tubby, famously using the studio as his primary instrument. This conjunction - Tubby and Eno - is important, since, while Eno might seem whiter than white, his strategies have more in common with the techniques of black sonic fiction than with those of western European romanticism (=rockism) .
We owe to Kodwo the insight that, despite the role it has featured in many white imaginaries, Black music has seldom had nor sought the Romantic, authenticist and subjectivist orientation that has dominated western european production. Those strategies of meta-reflexiveness and frame-breaking that we think of as distinctively postmodern were pioneered by black artists in all fields, not only music.
"Postmodernism doen't mean anything in music at all. It doesn't mean anything, it hasn't meant anything since at least 68 when the first versions started coming out of Jamaica. As soon as you had the particular social condition of no copyright, this nineteenth century copyright was already gone, instantly you had the freedom to replicate, to literally recombinate, almost immediately. That encouraged a wildstyle of rhythms where things would attach themselves and recombinate. And as soon as you had that, that's postmdernism accomplished and done with, right then in 68, this is another reason why traditional things don't make any sense in music, ever since then by defintion you've had postmodernism and it hasn't been any big deal at all, it's just already been accomplished."
Like Nietzsche's madman, the prophet of a past event, Eno merely brought the news to a public not yet ready to hear it.
Eno's approach was to decouple sonics from both the organism and the subject. The emphasis on the figure of the cyborg in eighties and nineties cyberculture has distracted and even garbled the fundamental cybernetic emphasis on the system. As Eno told Lester Bangs in 1979, the cybernetic approach, far from reinforcing the domination of the Cartesian subject over his environment, radically collapses agency back into system:
'Also, one or two of the pieces I've made have been attempts to trigger that sort of unnervous stillness where you don't feel that for the world to be interesting you have to be manipulating it all the time. The manipulative thing I think is the American ideal that here's nature, and you somehow subdue and control it and turn it to your own ends. I get steadily more interested in the idea that here's nature, the fabric of things or the ongoing current or whatever, and what you can do is just ride on that system, and the amount of interference you need to make can sometimes be very small."
"The corollary point is that if you're not in the manipulative mode anymore you're not quite sure actually how to measure your own contribution if you're not constructing things and pushing things in a certain direction and working towards goals, what is your function? In fact, one of the reasons cybernetics keep coming up is that it does talk about ways of working that are different than that. It does talk about systems that are self governing, so which may not need intervention. They look after themselves, and they go somewhere which you may not have predicted precisely but which is generally in the right direction. But the assessment of those things is, of course, very difficult."
As Bangs says, such an orientation would go some way to accounting for Lydia Lunch's disparaging of Eno's work (even as Lunch's remarks reveal how profoundly phallic, boorishly rockist and unradical she is/ was): ' Eno's records are an expression of mediocrity, because all it is is just something that flows and weaves, flows and weaves . . . it's kind of nauseating. It's like drinking a glass of water. It means nothing, but it's very smooth going down.' (btw Witness Bangs' own rockist attempt to mollify other rockists, in his review of 'Here Come the Warm Jets': 'Don't worry, Eno may like synthesizer but this isn't one of those doodley-squats like George Harrison's Electronic Sounds -- these are hard-driving, full-out rock'n'roll songs with consistent percussive force'.)
The work of, amongst others, Sadie Plant in the nineties reminded us that cyberculture is best conceived in terms of 'flows and weaves'. Such a language is the only discourse which could adequately deal with the nonlinear repetitions of house, jungle and techno. Preparing the way for such anti-climatic plateaus, Eno explicitly rejected the testicular thermodynamics that had up till then ruled rock's roost. As a master practicioner of uneasy listening, Eno sought not to (over)excite the organism - such overexcitation merely produces an anaesthetic effect - but to open it out, to take it into slow time. So this was Eno's version of adult pop, which he consciously conceived of as a flight from the hormonal demands of the Teen-Age:
'Critics can't stand these records, by and large, because in their search for eternal adolescence they still want it all to be spunky and manic and witty. They come back to rock music again and again, expecting to feel like kids. That isn't what I want from music anymore - not in quite that way. I'm interested in the idea of feeling like a very young child, but I'm not interested in feeling like a teenager.'
What Eno pursued was not the full on presence and self-identity of phallic certainty, but the hypnagogic indeterminism superbly invoked by Bangs at the beginning of his 1979 interview.
'The other day I was lying on my bed listening to Brian Eno's Music For Airports. The album consists of a few simple piano or chordal figures put on tape loops which then run with variable delays for about ten minutes each, and is the first release on Eno's own Ambient label. Like a lot of Eno's "ambient" stuff, the music has a crystalline, sun-light-through-windowpane quality that makes it even as you half-listen to it.
I had been there for a while, half-listening and half-daydreaming, when something odd happened. I started thinking about something that didn't exist. I was recalling a conversation I'd had with Charles Mingus, the room we were in at the time and things he'd said to me quite clearly, except that in reality never been there and the conversation had never taken place. I realized immediately, yet calmly that I was dreaming, though I had no memory of even the preliminaries to sleep and had in fact passed over into the dream state as if it were an unrippled extension of conscious reality. So I just lay there for a while, watching myself listening to Mingus while one-handed keyboard bobbins pinged placidly in the background. This went on until I was jolted out of it by the ringing phone. I stumbled in disoriented to answer it, and hearing my voice the caller asked: "Lester, did I wake you?"
"I'm not sure", I said, and told her what I'd been listening to.
She just laughed.'
All Eno quotes are from this wonderful site, which I've only just begun to explore, but which looks to be full of gems.
Incidentally, has anyone heard the new Phil Manzanera album? Amazon sent me an email which made it sound very interesting, as does this article from the Independent. Apparently the album - a sonic re-creation of Manzanera's memories of 60s psychedelic London - was inspired by the death of his friend, Ian Macdonald. Prior to reading the Independent piece, I'd never had any inkling about Manzanera's close association with Macdonald. (It does explain iMac's enthusiasm for Roxy, however!)