Of course, I look back. In the last 12 months, I went to the desert more than ever before (always respecting it), learnt so much it would be hard to start describing how much (a lot, that’s how much), spent a night in an empty airport (with a tornado approaching), completed an academic pictorial/cinematic turn (which was long coming), bought so many books I am not sure about the logistics of making them cross the Atlantic, discovered great software for presentations (Prezi), had tons of Mexican food (and some Thai), almost grew a beard and almost shaved my hair, gushed over a new Steve Erickson novel, made a bunch of new friends and managed not to lose any old ones (unless someone is not telling me something), scrounged a bagful of Jack Chic comics in “Los Jilbertos,” finally had two ideas I am fairly confident are actually fairly original and fully mine, ate more fruit and vegetables than in the last 5 years, and thought about the previous 42 birthdays (ok, about 10 or so). And remembered every single day how lucky I am. And yet, I have never looked forward more than I do now. It is so cool to be 43. You don’t have to believe me. You’ll be there (if you weren’t already, that is).

Harrowing Idealism

For all its close and intimate focus, These Dreams of You may well be today’s Great American Novel. Not just for its portraiture of universal American dreams and anxieties; not for its social scope; nor for its historical and political topicality, in which it deals in spades, but rather because of its painful sincerity, its humble recognition of human failings, and its continued hope that it is not too late. In a final, choking passage that belongs in the same league as the conclusions of The Great Gatsby, On the Road, and Vineland, Erickson writes:

Though to the outer waking world Sheba’s dream is only a few seconds, in her sleep she understands it’s a long voyage. [The rest of the quote in the previous post here.]

The rest of my review of Erickson’s latest – here.


Though to the outer waking world Sheba’s dream is only a few seconds, in her sleep she understands it’s a long voyage. Poised at the ship’s bow, transmitting a distant song, she sails in search of the word that will name her, a word for those who’ve never belonged anywhere and who make their own belonging in the same way that people used to name themselves after where they belonged, the same word as that for the grief that goes on grieving for what’s not remembered but can’t be forgotten. As the girl and her brother and mother and father step from the boat onto shore, the word isn’t paradise or heaven or utopia or promisedland but rather a name as damaged as it is spellbinding to everyone who’s heard since the first time anyone spoke it, then tarnished it, then hijacked it, then exploited it, then betrayed and debased and then emptied  it, loving the sound of it while despising everything it means that can’t be denied anyway because it’s imprinted on the modern gene which is to say that even as the girl pursues it, it’s already found her, passed on by her adopted father in whose ear it was whispered one afternoon when, from a crowd desperate to hear the secret of it, he was pulled by a young woman of the Old World and the beginning of time, and now it binds daughter and father though neither knows it, she carries it in her fierce core, armed to defend it with that blade of a finger she draws across her throat, and the word is america. (Steve Erickson, These Dreams of You, 309).


“It’s a country that does things in lurches. Born in radicalism, then reluctant for years, decades, the better part of the centuries, to do anything crazy, until it does the craziest thing of all. But it’s also a country – inherent in its genes – capable of imagining what cannot be imagined and then, once it’s imagined, doing it” (Steve Erickson, These Dreams of You, 12).


Very incisive but clearly elucidated thoughts on utopia, ecology, and the politics of now – by Kim Stanley Robinson.


Those footsteps that once led to a river’s edge haunted him; he loved, as does every man who is born to a vision, that unseen future that his courage once failed. He hated, as does every man who is born in America, that irrevocable failure that his heart won’t forget.

Steve Erickson, Rubicon Beach, 282.

The Desert

In sublimity – the superlative degree of beauty – what land can equal the desert with its wide plains, its grim mountains, and its expanding canopy of sky! You shall never see elsewhere as here the dome, the pinnacle, the minaret fretted with golden fire at sunrise and sunset; you shall never see elsewhere as here the sunset valleys swimming in a pink and lilac haze, the great mesas and plateaus fading into blue distance, the gorges and canyons banked full of purple shadow. Never again shall you see such light and air and color; never such opaline mirage, such rosy dawn, such fiery twilight. And wherever you go, by land or by sea, you shall not forget that which you saw not but rather felt – the desolation and the silence of the desert.

Look out from the mountain’s edge once more. A dusk is gathering on the desert’s face, and over the eastern horizon the purple shadow of the world is reaching up to the sky. The light is fading out. Plain and mesa are blurring into unknown distances, and mountain ranges are looming dimly into unknown heights. Warm drifts of lilac-blue are drawn like mists across the valleys; the yellow sands have shifted into a pallid gray. The glory of the wilderness has gone down with the sun. Mystery – that haunting sense of the unknown – is all that remains. It is time that we should say good-night – perhaps a long good-night – to the desert.

from John C. Van Dyke The Desert 232-233.

Complexity and ambiguity

“The majority of essays in the humanities have as their primary methodological orientation an interest in complexity and ambiguity. A plurality of texts describe cultural locations, practices, identities, and objects as hybrid, mixed, impure, marginal, dislocated, disoriented, Creole, Pidgin, transcultural, liminal, meta-, para-, quasi-, or otherwise complex and ambiguous. The pleasure of the text is produced by the very focus on hybridity, mixture, and other kinds of irreducible complexity as much as by whatever other insights are gained into the cultural locations, practices, and so forth, that are the texts’ nominal subjects. To the extent that this is generally true, the commonest rhetorical strategy in recent scholarship is to demonstrate a state of unexpected complexity or a pitch of ambiguity that cannot be reduced to simpler schemata. . . . Hence the characteristic pleasure and discomfort of the twilight zone between namable concepts or even between one name and its nearest neighbor. . . . If there is an analytical limit to these interests, it is the assumption that the demonstration of what I am calling hybridity is itself sufficient; the idea is to work upward from known states and dichotomies that are taken to be relatively pure toward an interesting and complex impure state” (112-113). from James Elkins Visual Studies. A Skeptical Introduction


Poniższe zbierało mi się już od dłuższego czasu ale do tej pory nie było czasu a nie chciałem skracać. Zanim przejdę jednak do meritum – kilka zastrzeżeń. Po pierwsze, poniższego nie należy odbierać jako krytyki – nawet jeśli ktoś rozpozna swoje nawyki. Moje spostrzeżenia oparte są na dosyć długiej obserwacji bardzo wielu osób narodowości przeróżnej. Owszem, jest w nich pewne wezwanie do zmiany ale wzywać to ja sobie mogę długo i przepięknie a każdy i tak będzie robił swoje. Nawet jeśli pojawiają się tu frazy typu “razi mnie”, to odnoszą się one do pewnego rodzaju praktyk a nie konkretnych osób. Po drugie, nie jest to żadna anty-Fejsbukowa krucjata – powinno być to oczywiste dla każdego, kto uważnie przeczyta ten wpis.Sam Fejsia używam z mniejszą bądź większą częstotliwością i niezależnie od różnego rodzaju zastrzeżeń do jego polityki prywatnościowej, podobnie jak inne media (bo stał się on de facto czymś więcej niż tylko softwarową platformą) może być on bardzo przydatny jeśli używa się go do właściwych celów. A wpis niniejszy dotyczy właśnie użyć niewłaściwych czy nawet szkodliwych.

Już w tym momencie można by zaoponować – jeśli chodzi o użycie programów czy serwisów nie ma czegoś takiego jak użycia niewłaściwe. To życie i użytkownicy na bieżąco i dynamicznie kształtują ich uzus – jak to napisał w “Burning Chrome” Gibson, “the street finds its own uses for things”. Jest to prawda i daleki jestem od narzucania komukolwiek czy nawet proponowania jakiejkolwiek kodyfikacji. Jednocześnie powinniśmy być świadomi – a moim zdaniem większość użytkowników nie jest – jakie są konsekwencje niepohamowanego i bezrefleksyjnego pisania wszystkiego na FB. Ale najpierw cofnę się o pół kroku.

Do czego nadaje się Fejsbuk? Przede wszystkim do tego, aby na bieżąco informować naszych znajomych, przyjaciół czy kolegów o tym, co dzieje się w naszym życiu – na jakim ognisku byliśmy, jaki klip na YouTubie spodobał się nam bądź komentarz w telewizji rozsierdził nas na tyle aby podzielić się z innymi, o tym, że rozbiliśmy samochód albo że znaleźliśmy fajną stronę. Pojawiają się więc zdjęcia, klipy, linki i krótkie opisy. I są to formy bardzo pożyteczne. Raz, że oszczędzają nam one wiele czasu – nie musimy opisywać każdej osobie z jakimi przygodami szukaliśmy monitora w Riverside. Dwa, na pewno są o wiele zręczniejsze i sprawiają wrażenie bardziej osobistych (chociaż w rzeczywistości takie nie są) niż listy-cyrkularze, które kiedyś pisaliśmy na papierze bądź emailowo a dodatkowo – potencjalnie – włączają do rozmowy inne osoby, które mogą mnie zawczasu ostrzec aby nie kupować monitorów Hannspree bo to badziewie. Trzy, szczególnie komentarze dają możliwość wielostronnych pogaduszek – takich “social small talk” – osób, które na co dzień nie spotykają się w realu. Cztery, dzięki wrzutkom naszych “przyjaciół” możemy co jakiś czas odkryć nowy zespół, książkę, czy film.

(Celowo pomijam w tym momencie fakt, że nasze updaty są czytane przez wszystkich tzw. “friends” – czyli potencjalnie zarówno bliskich przyjaciół, dalszych znajomych, ludzi z pracy i wszystkich, których zapraszamy bądź akceptujemy, a sądząc po przeciętnej liczbie “friends” użytkowników są to baardzo zróżnicowane kręgi empatyczne. FB oferuje – chyba – co prawda możliwość definiowania grup i udostępniania takich czy innych wpisów danym grupom ale ręka w górę kto używa tej opcji. No właśnie, tak myślałem.)

Podsumowając więc, Fejsbuk ma swoje miejsce w całościowym ekosystemie mediów internetowych – ale, ciągnąc ekologiczną analogię, wielu użytkowników bezrefleksyjnie ów ekosystem trzebi, zamieniając go w niebieską monokulturę. Bo czy naprawdę rozmowa między dwoma osobami umawiającymi się na rogu Krakowskiego Przedmieścia na kawę jest czymś przeznaczonym dla pozostałych 354 “friends”? Czy zajmujące po 70 komentarzy przekomarzanki na słówka rzeczywiście są interesujące dla wszystkich naszych “przyjaciół”? Jaki jest sens uzewnętrzniania się (nic złego w samym akcie) ale w ogólnikowo-kryptyczny sposób, żeby tylko 2 z 400 osób zrozumiały o o co chodzi? Albo wywieszania do wiadomości całej naszej listy gwałtownych wybuchów ekstazy czy złości, które potem kasujemy bo nawet nam samym głupio, wstyd i w ogóle kwas? Wlewa się więc w fejsia całość naszego cyfrowego życia – tyle, że połowa z niego po 12 godzinach i dla 99% “przyjaciół” staje się bełkotem. Bełkotem zatruwającym cyfrowe fale naszym listowiczom, którzy – przynajmniej czasem – czują się z dobrej woli zobowiązani aby śledzić nasze życie chociaż tak często nie są w kręgu wtajemniczonych.

Spieszę od razu zaznaczyć, że doskonale rozumiem potrzebę ekspresji i sieciowego samo-kreowania (w sensie psychologicznym a nie popularnym pejoratywnym). Jak i to, że spora część tego kim jesteśmy budowana jest, przepraszam za żargon, performatywnie a media cyfrowe ostatnich 10 lat dostarczyły nam cały szereg scen, na których wszyscy możemy lepić, kształtować i testować poczucie naszego “ja”. Tak jest i polemika czy to dobrze czy źle nie ma nawet sensu. Ale czy akty, o których piszę w poprzednim paragrafie muszą odbywać się na fejsbuku, który w dodatku na cały szereg sposobów ogranicza głebie i zakres tego, co tak naprawdę chcemy przekazac? Dlaczego szybkie umawianki i przekomarzanki nie mogą odbywać się smsowo albo na GaduGadu, GTalkach i innych? Dlaczego nasze emocjonalne wzloty i upadki nie mogą odbywać się na blogach (a lista tzw. providerów usług blogowych jest tak długa, że mało prawdopodobne jest, że przypadkowo znajdzie nas ktoś, kto nas znaleźć nie ma), których adresy dajemy tylko tym, przed którymi nie wstydzimy się wywnętrzniać?

Nie zalewamy wtedy szczerze zainteresowanych nami osób banalnymi gadkami, o ktorej na rogu z kimś innym ani też nie musimy się hamować podczas wylewania żalu. Nie czyńmy z FB jedynego ale też w dużej części nie do końca szczerego ze względu na powyższe ograniczenia repozytorium naszego cyfrowego życia – tylko dlatego, że wejście na drugą stronę to taki straszny wysiłek a na fejsiu przecież wszystko i szybko. A póki co, sami spedzamy [czytaj: marnujemy] godziny przeglądając posty “przyjaciół”, z 96% których nie wynosimy nawet prawdziwej wiedzy o tym, co dzieje się w ich życiu bo albo były słowne bierki albo w 18 komentarzu dowiadujemy się, że esencja tego, o co chodzi we wpisie poszła na priva do jednej tylko osoby. A nie można było od razu email albo GG do tej osoby?

Monokultura medialna jest niebezpieczna nie tylko na poziomie makro, biznesowym i technologicznym, ale i na mikro – osobistym. Fejsbuk formatuje nasze cyfrowe życie według jednego szablonu (w którym między innymi nasz wpis może mieć maksimum 5000 znaków ale czyjś komentarz już nawet 20,000 a pewnie i więcej), który nadaje się tylko do pewnego rodzaju wyrazu i pewnego rodzaju interakcji. Używajmy komunikatory, blogi, serwisy zdjęciowe i email – nasze odsłanianie się będzie i pełniejsze i lepiej ukierunkowane. A i też bardziej bezpieczne dla nas samych. Niezależnie od reguł dostępności/widoczności naszych wpisów, Fejsbuk ma notorycznie kontrowersyjne zasady prywatności. Każda napisana “k…a”, zdjęcie z super imprezy czy opublikowany link zostają na serwerach firmy nawet jeśli skasujecie je bądź uniewidocznicie – i są one na twardo przypisane do waszego imienia i nazwiska. Owszem, Google czy serwisy blogowe też mogą zbierać moje info na wieczną pamiątkę (chociaż przynajmniej nominalne ich SLA są o niebo lepsze od FB),ale przy zachowaniu pewnych podstawowych zasad ostrożności, potencjalnym niechcianym zainteresowanym będzie o wiele trudniej przyłożyć je do naszej twarzy i nazwiska.

Używajmy więc fejsia do tego, do czego całkiem zgrabnie się nadaje. Całą resztę przenieśmy gdzie indziej. Niech żyje cyfrowa dywersyfikacja! Napisałem ja. Komentarze mile widziane.

Meat and math

“The story of the 21st century will be, in part, the story of the drawing and redrawing of these battle lines, the story of Homo sapiens trying to stake a claim on shifting ground, flanked by beast and machine, pinned between meat and math.”

Love these last two images – the whole (not too complex but still entertaining) here.

Now reading

Reading now:

Nalo Hopkinson Midnight Robber

Lauren Beukes Zoo City

Marc von Schlegell Mercury Station

Paul Grainge Monochrome Memories. Nostalgia and Style in Retro America

Write into dread

“My tendency is to write into dread in order to reveal to myself, as much as to any reader that may come after, the varied complacencies that make other, mostly more conventional writings, readable. It’s at the frontier between readability (security) and unreadability (terror) that I want to live creatively. That frontier is dread, a dread with moral, ethical, political, social, cultural, psychological, historical, and aesthetic ramifications.”

Michael Mejia, interview in the forthcoming Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing

The New Pornography

  1. Do not imagine that the pornography upon which you are engaged will ever authorize any possible explanation, interpretation, or knowledge of the world; you have riskier, more interesting work to do. Pornographic invention is neither an alternative form of knowledge, nor does it replace knowledge. Rather, it is the irreducible supplement of knowing, pornographic invention engages what the aspiration of explanation, interpretation, and knowledge can only dismiss as accidental, transitional at best.
  2. Abandon the assumption that the pornographic enterprise is reducible to questions of representation, correspondence, adequation, or judgment; what is specifically pornographic in porn is precisely what in the act of presentation exceeds representation, for porn is not merely a portrait of pleasure, but presents itself as in itself pleasurable; provoke pleasure and enjoyment instead of teaching appreciation, and thereby free art’s work from every possibility for a moralistic pedagogy.
  3. Address yourself, therefore, to what of your readers exceeds knowing, judging, or desiring subjectivity, for it is neither epistemological, moral, nor desiring subjects who experience the unbearable pleasure of the fuck. Offer them not objects that would confirm them in the comfortable neuroses of their subjectivities, but the singular risk of the fetish, withdrawn from the very possibility of intelligibility and meaning. Honor thereby the ontological stammering upon which the art’s work opens, thus recalling to your readers what of life, beyond all reason, is consecrated to pleasure, bios apolaustikos.
  4. In addressing yourself to what is most obscene and perverse in your readers – that is addressing yourself to the indestructible supplement of interpretation, knowledge, judgment, or desire, in addressing yourself to the chaos of the passions and affects, in addressing yourself to thinking – you thereby abandon the respectable comforts of the seductive transcendence promised in nostalgia and prolepsis. Choose non-transcendence, the destitution of John Greyson’s Patient Zero in Patient Zero, Luke in Gregg Araki’s The Living End, the unrepentant faggot of Diamanda Galás’s Plague Mass, the cast of Samuel Delany’s The Mad Man, Isabelle Stengers and Didier Gille’s “utter fool,” all members of a “race” that in affirming its non-transcendence “is not the one that claims to be pure but rather an oppressed, bastard, lower, anarchical, nomadic, and irremediably minor race – the very ones Kafka excluded form the paths of the new Critique,” as Deleuze and Guattari have it: the whore, the hustler, the bad queer, the junkie, the Lumpenproletariat, the mad, the stranger.
  5. And thereby abandon any project that would reduce the political (as such) to any geography of location or cartography of position, whether literal or metaphorical. Abandon the putatively neutral white cube of the museum for the labyrinth and the corridor; desert the boulevard for the alleys, forsake the park’s lawns for the shrubbery; leave the stadium for the deserted warehouse. Or better yet, transform the white cube into a labyrinth, architecture into something not simply anti-architectural, but undecidedly contingent, something at once both and neither architecture and anti-architecture. Above all. transform location or position, always already a point in space fixed in a possible cartography or geography, into place, the “here, now” of Whitehead’s prehension, or Deleuze and Guattari’s plane of immanence, or the place of the stranger’s pleasure – all of which specify an engagement of thinking with its impossibility precisely in an absolute resistance to any attempt to reduce place to location. “Here, “now” is the place of simultaneity of deterritorialization/ reterritorialization, the place of fragmentation, anonimity, promiscuity, utter strangeness, unknowable difference, and an obscene perverse pleasure subject to no possible calculus. The New Porn never forgets that this untenable place of absolute risk is at once infinitely hospitable and entirely uninhabitable; “here, now” is nevertheless the New Porn’s only place, for it is here, and here alone that the political (“in itself and as such”) happens.

from Willaim Haver, from the Foreword to The Logic of the Lure and the New Pornography. London: University of Chicago Press, 2002, p.xi-xiii.

Reblogged – with admiration for persistence – from Pornologician


You really go through different incarnations, in effect. That in any life your body changes, and where you live changes – the people in your life, your work, your habits. All that changes, so much that in effect you pass though several incarnations in any one biological span. And what I think is, if you consider it that way, it helps you not to have too much attachment. You go from life to life. Each day is a new thing.

from Kim Stanley Robinson, Sixty Days and Counting


Cóż to jednak za wiara – religijna czy metafizyczna – która nie chce bronić swych racji i dowodzić swej przewagi nad innymi? Wiary autentycznej, ryzykującej, w liberalnym, egalitarnym i indywidualistycznym społeczeństwie już nie ma, a jeśli jest, to tylko w kulturowym skansenie. Niewiele dziś doprawdy dzieli wiarę od niewiary. Obie bywają płytkie i machinalne. Rzadki to ptak – człowiek prawdziwie wierzący. I rzadszy jeszcze jego negatyw – zaangażowany ateista walczący z wiarą i religią tak jak kiedyś wyznania walczyły między sobą. Ceńmy te okazy, bo autentyczność i żar przekonań, których mieliśmy niegdyś w tragicznym nadmiarze, dziś są jak oazy na pustyni płochości.

Jan Hartman “Duch się nam zapodział” Gazeta na Święta 23 kwietnia 2011.

The Woods

What’s your particular intent?

Taking people to places that are completely unfamiliar to them. Basically dragging people into the woods.


That’s what turns me on, to do that.

Do you think people need it?

I need it and I like other people doing it to me. I wish people would do it more, I wish there were more opportunities to be dragged into the woods. I want to be manipulated – as if it’s some kind of dirty word – I want to be manipulated really fucking well if I’m going to see a film or listen to music or read a book. I want to be manipulated by a master and that master can play any tricks they want on me. That’s absolutely fair game. You’re playing them like an instrument. And it’s the best feeling in the world.

William Bennett, of WHITEHOUSE fame, in the “Invisible Jukebox” (The Wire 322, December 2010)

Jaron Lanier – You Are Not a Gadget

Reading the above – brilliant so far but this passage especially struck a chord.

The deep meaning of personhood is being reduced by illusions of bits. Since people will be inexorably connecting to one another through computers from here on out, we must find an alternative. . . . Next to the many problems the world faces today, debates about online culture may not seem that pressing. We need to address global warming, shift to a new energy cycle, avoid wars of mass destruction, support aging populations, figure out how to benefit from open markets without being disastrously vulnerable to their failures, and take care of other basic business. But digital culture and related topics like the future of privacy and copyrights concern the society we‟ll have if we can survive these challenges.

Every save-the-world cause has a list of suggestions for “what each of us can do”: bike to work, recycle, and so on.

I can propose such a list related to the problems I‟m talking about:

  • Don‟t post anonymously unless you really might be in danger.
  • If you put effort into Wikipedia articles, put even more effort into using your personal voice and expression outside of the wiki to help attract people who don‟t yet realize that they are interested in the topics you contributed to.
  • Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won‟t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.
  • Post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more time to create than it takes to view.
  • Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out.
  • If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would define a machine.

These are some of the things you can do to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others.

Riding Towards Everywhere

One night not long ago, in a certain desert valley that I love, a farewell gathering for friends had ended, and we were all feeling sad. Since I had been sitting in company for hours, I decided to return to the ranch alone and on foot. It was an easy walk of three or four miles which I had made several times over the years, always in the heat of the day. Now it was coolish, windy, and so cloudy that I could just barely see my feet. Usually the desert nights are star-bright enough even in moonless intervals, and so I had a sense of joyous adventure setting out, with a small bottle of water in my shirt pocket and another in the pocket of my bluejeans. Presently the lights of the departing cars began to stream as slowly as a funeral procession down the dirt in the neighborhood of my left shoulder. I had chosen another road which was shorter and sandier, so that I would have it to myself. When the cars reached the main highway, which it took them surprisingly long to do, they turned right, representing themselves now by the tiniest precious beads of yellow-whiteness, snailed across my vision, and were gone. Then it was darker than dark. Fortunately the sand was pale enough to reflect its soft reliability up between the silhouettes of my feet. I stayed in a rut and walked easily, the dark wind at my back. By the time I had finished my first bottle of water, its contents were as warm as blood. The wind grew increasingly wild, the darkness more absolute. I could barely see the lights of the old maintenance station ahead; the ranch lights were hidden behind those; I recognized the mountains more by memory than by sight. Suddenly I began to ask myself: Who am I? I found that I was speaking aloud. Over and over I whispered and shouted to myself: Who am I? (Vollmann 105-106).

Now Reading

Reading now:

J. K. Gibson-Graham A Postcapitalist Politics (2006)
Paul Auster Sunset Park (2010)
Gene Wolfe Pirate Freedom (2010)

Just (sort of) watched:

Enter the Void(2009)

Underground London ca. 1919

Serge, Audrey and Becky visit the salon several times over the next few weeks. After a while Becky teaches them the password sequence so that they can go without her: it consists of the visitor enquiring whether there’ll be a piano recital today, and the servant (since Madame Z’s seems to be open round the clock, these keep rotating) asking whether they’ve come to hear the Chopin or the Liszt, to which the visitor must answer “Liszt.” There is a piano in the main room, as it happens; from time to time, one of the guests will play it for a while, but their recitals never get completed, any more than the intermittent conversations rippling about the place, which fade away almost as soon as they get going. Serge learns other passwords too: there’s one that works at Wooldridge and Co. chemist’s shop in Lisle Street, and another in a taxidermist’s store in Holborn; at a confectioner’s in Bond Street, by announcing himself favourable to liquorice, then purchasing either a flask of perfume or a box of sweetmeats, Serge is able to procure much more than he ostensibly requests; at an antique dealer’s out in Kensington, the code works the other way, one or other (sometimes both) of two Oriental objets d’art, calligraphic watercolours bearing (originally, at least, quite accidentally, Serge imagines) the likenesses of the Western letters C and H, appearing in the window to indicate the availability of various stock. He starts seeing all of London’s surfaces and happenings as potentially encrypted: street signage, chalk-marks scrawled on walls, phrases on newspaper vendors’ stalls and sandwich boards, snatches of conversations heard in passing, the arrangements of flowers on window-sills or clothes on washing lines. He also comes to realise just how many of his fellow citizens are subject to the same vices as him. He picks up the telltale signals all over town: the sniffs, the slightly jaundiced skin, the hands jerky and limp by turns, eyes dull yet somehow restless too. Sometimes a look passes between him and a chance companion on the bus, or in a queue, or someone brushed past in a doorway, a look of mutual recognition of the type that members of a secret sect might give each other: Ah, you’re one of us … (211).

from Tom McCarthy C

Now reading

Reading now:

Tom McCarthy C (2010)
Ken McLeod Newton’s Wake (2004)

Just watched:

The Quiet Earth (1985)

Mieville on metaphor

“I’ve been very interested in metaphor for several years, and it’s been cropping up in the books (and does in ones not yet out). I don’t know that I can say that much super-rigorous about it, but basically I got interested in, in distinction to some of my other ‘fantasy’ novels, the idea of magic as a literalised metaphor, which means that it’s not subject to an external system of rules, but instead becomes about a constant sense of making connections. The making of those connections being the point, rather than the excavation of existing ones. And I like that because it’s an exaggerated and literalised model of what the human mind does all the time. Sympathetic magic is the logic of simile – this is like that. Do something to this, it will have an effect on that. Transformative magic seems to me metaphoric – this becomes that. Sometimes these metaphors are very obvious – the comb becomes the forest. Sometimes they demand a moment of decoding – Achilles is a lion. and sometimes their lack of obviousness is the point. However, for the most part, as they say in Kraken, given that these work by persuasion (of the universe), their logic tends to be a bit trite. And this kind of rather lumpen comparative logic seems to me at the heart of much fantasy, in a literalised way, and also of enormous wads of ‘literary’ fiction, though not literalised – instead, at a plodding organisational formal level, in which activity X in the book (often excitingly ethnic and othered) becomes, crash, ‘a symbol for’ something else. Often the protagonists life, or whatnot. This is
what I think Pynchon was teasing with Kute Korrespondences, and it was something I wanted to play with.”

The rest here.

Mad daguerreotypists

Daguerreotypists developed their negs inside the dark tent, holding the glass plate above a bow of mercury and a spirit lamp. As heated mercury vapor whirled around the plate, the image appeared. Denny must have done this hundreds of times, for years and years. It’s why his hands shook, and why his gums had turned blue; it explained why everyone said he was such a sweetheart. He had been, once upon a time. Then, Hannah Meadows died, gruesomely, and to memorialize her he revived a lost art, without bothering to learn about its dangers. Otherwise he’d have known that what drove 19th century hatters mad, with brain damage and psychosis, had driven daguerreotypists mad too. Denny had mercury poisoning. (234)

from Elizabeth Hand Generation Loss


When the vision came, he was in the bathtub. After a decade of using mercury vapors to cure his photographic images, Louis Daguerre’s mind had faltered—a pewter plate left too long in the sun. But during his final lucid minutes on this cold evening of 1846, he felt a strange calm. Outside, a light snow was falling and a vaporous blue dusk seemed to be rising out of the Seine. The squatters had set fire to the barrens behind the Left Bank and the air was full of smoke. Louis sat reclined in warm water perfumed with lemon skins, a tonic he believed to be good for his skin and nerves. The wind gusted under the eaves. He placed a hand against the adjacent window and from the bath, perched high in his rooftop belvedere, he felt the night pressing in against him. His head was partially submerged and he heard the metallic click of the tenant’s pipes below. It was a message; he was sure of it. The world was full of messages.

from Dominic Smith The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre