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that would confirm them in the comfortable neuroses of their subjectivities, but the singular risk of the fetish, withdrawn from the very possibility of intelligibility and meaning.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

Reincarnation

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

Okazy

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.

Why?

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:

Triangle(2009)
Enter the Void(2009)
Avetik(1992)

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

WHICH CROSSOVERS SO BEAUTIFULLY WITH

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

Generation Loss

I hate looking at bad reproductions of great photographs, and these online images were uniformly lousy. Generation loss – that’s what happens when you endlessly reproduce a photographic image. You lose authenticity, the quality deteriorates in each subsequent generation that’s copied from the original negative, and the original itself decays with time, so that every new image is a more degraded version of what you started with. Same thing with analog recordings. After endless reproduction, you end up with nothing but static and hiss. (28)

from Elizabeth Hand Generation Loss

Braid

artykuł w Technopolis/Polityka

Now Reading

Douwe Draaisma Machina metafor. Historia pamieci
China Mieville Kraaken
Jeff VanderMeer Third Bear
Roger Luckhurst Science Fiction

I am there.

I spent long moments looking. The sky was stretched taut between cliff edges, it was narrowed and lowered, that was the strange thing, the sky right there, scale the rocks and you can touch it. I started walking again and came to the end of the tight passage and into an open space choked at ground level with brush and stony debris and I half crawled to the top of a high rubble mound and there was the whole scorched world.
I looked out into blinding tides of light and sky and down toward the folded copper hills that I took to be the badlands, a series of pristine ridges rising from the desert floor in patterned alignment. Could someone be dead in there? I could not imagine this. It was too vast, it was not real, the symmetry of furrows and juts, it crushed me, the heartbreaking beauty of it, the indifference of it, and the longer I stood and looked the more certain I was that we would never have an answer (Don DeLillo Point Omega, 92-93)

The desert

I keep seeing the words. Heat, space, stillness, distance. They’ve become visual states of mind. I’m not sure what that means. I keep seeing figures in isolation, I see past physical dimension into the feelings that these words engender, feelings that deepen over time. That’s the other word, time.

I drove and looked. He stayed at the house, sitting on the creaky deck in a band of shade, reading. I hiked into palm washes and up unmarked trails, always water, carrying water everywhere, always a hat, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a neckerchief, and I stood on promontories in punishing sun, stood and looked. The desert was outside my range, it was an alien being, it was science fiction, both saturating and remote, and I had to force myself to believe I was here (19-20).

There were no mornings or afternoons. It was one seamless day, every day, until the sun began to arc and fade, mountains emerging from their silhouettes. This is when we sat and watched in silence (36).

from Don DeLillo Point Omega

Passion

Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer. – Mark Z. Danielewski

Reading novels

“Reading novels – serious novels, anyhow – is an experience limited to a very small percentage of the so-called enlightened public. Increasingly, it’s going to be a pursuit for those who seek unusual experiences, moral fetishists perhaps, people of heightened imagination, the troubled pursuers of the ambiguous self.” Jerzy Kosinski

Neurobiological Gods

God(s) evolved as one of our brain functions in the same sense that vision evolved as a means of processing stimuli arising from photons stimulating neural tissue. That is, god(s) are located within the brain where, we propose, their evolved function nudges us toward Darwinian ends. This “god function” is neither trivial nor dysfunctional. Instead, it is integral to the effective functioning of the human brain as an organ shaped by natural selection (282).

Rather, we would say that religion arises from an “itch” that we “scratch” during religious practices, just as sex-drives generate a wide range of behaviors and cultural practices that are related to sex, many of which have little to do with actual reproduction. [. . .] we see religious experience as about as valid or useful as erotica. It too concerns and stimulates an important function, one that is part of the behavioral substratum underlying evolutionarily appropriate human conduct. Like erotica, religion may become extreme or dysfunctional in some cases. Also like erotica, there is some variation in religious practice, not all of it worthy of either condemnation or praise.

Religious experience is not divine in origin. Instead, it is an evolved part of the human way of life, one that is abrogated or dismissed only at some peril. Gods are real, and important. But they are neither transcendental nor all-powerful, and their origins are decidedly material. These gods no more deserve our worship or awe than our livers do, though the liver really is a pretty impressive organ. (287).

from Michael R. Rose and John P. Phelan “Gods Inside,” 50 Voices of Disbelief. Why We Are Atheists, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk

Now Reading/Just Read

Gillian Rose Visual Methodologies
Louis Althusser On Ideology
Emma Bull War for the Oaks
Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space
Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk 50 Voices of Disbelief. Why We Are Atheists

Ghosts

Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living (42).

Robert M. Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance