Archive for September, 2012

New Eyes for Old News

September 28, 2012

Our brainy chum & co-brogger T.—who looks to be the bearded baby had Oliver Reed & Alan Bates conceived during the wrestling scene in Women In Love—has recently produced an crucial video essay.

The essay explores the relationship between Image and Revolution through a sustained examination of the documentary images of the Arab Spring.

Pivotal & dramatic moments of the Arab Spring were viewed globally by millions through live satellite feeds, and we are often told that the revolutionary impulse was driven by these images as they spread across youtube & twitter & facebook &tc.

How should we, a distant audience, understand these images? What exactly do they capture? The spirit of the revolutionary moment?

Central concerns for those who wish to document/study social change. Central concerns for those interested in the power/impotence of political art. In our worlb that is so often mediated by imagery & experienced vicariously through screens of one sort or another, this b necessary commentary.

Program Note: No is lunch break cat video; the essay establishes its argument gradually, diligently over 15 minutes. PREFERRED VIEWING SETTING = INCAN STONE TEMPLE CONVERTED TO MEDIA LABORATORY


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

September 27, 2012

“Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:”

Last Saturday was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln presenting the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. However, according to historian Harold Holzer, Lincoln didn’t just jump right to the main dish at that momentous wartime cabinet meeting. Instead, Lincoln opened the session with a reading from his favorite joke book. !LoL! ENDING SLAVERY ICE-BREAKER, anyone?! Lincoln was ROTFL; Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was less amused. Jah tracked down the humorous reading at the library… can’t even tell what level it’s on! Maybe I like it!? 1860s Laffs…

From Artemus Ward, His Book

High-Handed Outrage at Utica

In the Faul of 1856, I showed my show in Uticky, a trooly grate sitty in the State of New York.

The people gave me a cordyal recepshun. The press was loud in her prases.

1 day as I was givin a descripshun of my Beests and Snaiks in my usual flowry stile what was my skorn disgust to see a big burly feller walk up to the cage containin my wax figgers of the Lord’s Last Supper, and cease Judas Iscarrot by the feet and drag him out on the ground. He then commenced fur to pound him as hard as he cood.

“What under the son are you abowt?” cried I.

Sez he, “What did you bring this pussylanermus cuss here fur?” and he hit the wax figger another tremenjis blow on the hed.

Sez I, “You egrejus ass, that air’s a wax figger–a representashun of the false ‘Postle.”

Sez he, “That’s all very well fur you to say, but I tell you, old man, that Judas Iscarrot can’t show hisself in Utiky with impunerty by a darn site!” with which observashun he kaved in Judassis hed. The young man belonged to 1 of the first famerlies in Utiky. I sood him, and the Joory brawt in a verdick of Arson in the 3d degree.

Continue Reading: Bonus Nonsense

Don’t ask why I was watching Jay Leno last night!

September 27, 2012

Earlier this week Joe Nocero had a column about the new list of “Forbes 400 Richest Americans”. It included this devastating couplet of facts:

In the last year alone, the cumulative net worth of the wealthiest 400 people, by Forbes’s calculation, rose by $200 billion. [Pause to ponder that figure!] That compares with a 4 percent drop in median household income last year, according to the Census Bureau. One would be hard pressed to find a clearer example of how powerfully income inequality has taken root.

Last night Jay Leno made a crack about Forbes’ list during his monologue that caught my ear / boiled my blood:

Forbes Magazine has come out with its annual list of the 400 Richest Americans. If it shows you how bad the economy is 200 hundred of them have moved back in with their parents!

AHHHH SO ULTIMATELY WILLFULLY OPPOSITE. Wealth inequality is so fucked up & destructive in this country, and Jay Leno (Jay Leno!) is so obscenely & flagrantly wealthy, that making mindless cracks about the social chasm is like making offhand jokes about———whoops, can’t complete the analogy because I just shot myself in the face!

Keep Reading: More Hell

Still Ill

September 20, 2012

I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving. “The United States is mine,” they say, “it owes me a living.” “But ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye.” Oh, ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye! [Applause] We cannot cling to the old dreams anymore. No, we cannot cling to those dreams.

[The pompadour is almost there. And one less button, pls. Is it wrong to like the version with the crazy harmonica?]

“perning in a gyre”

September 20, 2012

Morning, noon & bloody night,

Seven sodding days a week,

I slave at filthy work, that might

Be done by any book-drunk freak.

This goes on till I kick the bucket:



-Philip Larkin, 1968


(Or book-sober, as the case may be.)

The Tiers/Tears of Reality

September 19, 2012

I was speaking the other day with the Persian~Parisian~Prowler about the issue of virtual reality / virtual realty in Second Life and he pointed me to this entry of Third Life.

After a momentary examination it became clear the post-normal manner in which Third Life exists. It is not a game played by avatars within Second Life, but rather a parody of Second Life created as an entry within a parody of Wikipedia. (Seriously, what is up with “Uncyclopedia”?)

Interlude: “Nutted By Reality” by Nick Lowe

In previous times the question of the “most real” was no less difficult, but perhaps less complex.

I mean, Plato described the unreal as puppet shadows cast upon a cave wall. But now we have to contend with satirical shadows (Third Life) cast on a satirical cave wall (Uncyclopedia) derived from a shadow play (Second Life) held in a fake cave (the Internet), which is itself a shady realm.


“In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman”

September 19, 2012

<<<Excuse the administrative exercise—trying to learn how to use what Blog Artists call a page jump—in the small hope of lessening the burden on your blog eye>>>


An humorous tangential chapter, No. 88 of Moby Dick, in which the author discusses caddish interlopers in schools of female whales.


In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and his concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not more than one-third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily entitled to embonpoint.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature of the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys…

old news

September 17, 2012

A ridiculous place for my hat

September 11, 2012

Franz Kafka records in his diary of 28 March 1911 a visit to the hotel room of the prominent theosophist Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

In his room I try to show my humility, which I cannot feel, by seeking out a ridiculous place for my hat. I lay it down on a small wooden stand for lacing boots.

“Despite all my rage, I am Still” —John Cage

September 11, 2012

From Paul Griffiths’ exceptional, elucidating review of John Cage’s centenary celebrations.

“I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” The line, probably John Cage’s most famous statement, appears three times over in his book Silence…. A self-devouring paradox, Cage’s modest avowal neatly draws attention to the impossibility of saying nothing, for once a frame of communication has been set up, be that frame a book or a musical score, a sheet of paper mounted in a gallery space or a performance scheduled in a concert hall (and Cage worked in all these media), emptiness will speak.

It does so in 4′ 33″, probably Cage’s most famous musical statement, which, being entirely silent, offers clear proof that nothing is never simply nothing. The piece is the vanishing point towards which Cage’s forebears Webern and Satie were tending in their reduction of means; it is a space within which members of the audience can react, and others hear that reaction; it is an invitation to pay attention to what is normally unvalued (perhaps the sound of air conditioning or traffic outside); it is a provocation; it is a joke; and, perhaps ideally, it is an opportunity to listen to silence as keenly as we listen to (other) music.


LOL, is this how we’re meant to interpret Julian Casablancas as he earnestly drones “I’ve got nothing to say” over & over & over & over over a sub-Magnetic Fields melody?




September 11, 2012

In his review of two new Noam Chomsky books, David Hawkes discusses the “Chomsky problem”—that Chomsky’s notable work in the fields of linguistics and political commentary “appear to contradict each other”. That may be the case. But the terms of Hawkes’ review seem guilty of the same charge.

Discussing Chomsky’s disdain for popular religion, Hawkes writes that Chomsky “cites the fact that ‘about 75% of the US population has a literal belief in the devil’ as the clearest possible example of American ignorance and stupidity”.

But is it really so different from his own beliefs? Throughout his career, Chomsky has depicted a world ruled by demonic forces of quite incredible malice and guile. Whatever is running the world Chomsky describes is undoubtedly a very greedy, violent and selfish entity—it would be hard not to call it “evil” or even Evil, were such tropes not sternly prohibited by the monochrome literalism of our age.

Well Said & Tru Dat. Indeed, the prevailing language of public discourse allows no room for going front spear into the Spirit World, or Mystik Tyger Danse (results guaranteed), or for the many totems that were until very recently very intelligible and for which we have found no serviceable replacements. I mean, moreso than Stephenie Meyer, wouldn’t it be more concise & accurate for the Wall Street Journal to speak of vampires?—were such tropes not sternly prohibited by the monochrome literalism of our age?

Agreed. And yet. In the next paragraph, Hawkes demeans Chomsky’s perennial characterization of the United States.

The America described here is a crazed, bloodthirsty monster, hell-bent on the destruction of humanity.

But… is it not a monster? What was the United States government in 2003 if not an eye-stung Cyclops, stomping the globe in wreckful reckless revenge, swinging wild blind limbs, crushing villages?

I mean, when the band of the same name appeared didn’t we all nod “mmhmm, yup”?

The USA is a Monster — “No More Forever”

[Brace yrself for terrible word play: If Yahweh means “I am” does it not follow that a strident atheist should be called “No am”? Chomp on that.]

What Is Going On

September 11, 2012

At a real party this weekend I heard about a friend who is “working as a bouncer at funerals in Second Life”. What? Apparently, at funerals in Second Life [already lost!] grievers [or maybe “griefers”?] throw “balls of code” to disrupt the solemn proceedings. Thus, the digital funerals frequently require a bouncer. Got it?

Reading more about Second Life I learned that the virtual world has a very real economy (a GDP[?!] of several hundred million US dollars) and several very wealthy Residents. The most prominent is an avatar named Ailin Chung, née Ailin Graef, “the Rockefeller of Second Life”, who “owns thousands of servers’ worth of [virtual] land, most of which are sold or rented to other users as a part of her ‘Dreamland’ areas”. I don’t know what that means, but somehow she employs 80 IRL humans in her endeavors, and became “the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world”.

And here’s where the need for bouncers becomes apparent.

In December 2006, while conducting an interview for CNET with Daniel Terdiman on her economic assets, the virtual studio in which the interview took place was bombarded by flying animated penises and copies of a photo of Graef modified to show her holding a giant penis in her arms. The griefers managed to disrupt the interview sufficiently that Chung was forced to move to another location and ultimately crashed the simulator entirely.

Yet the weirdest aspect comes with the copycat-consequences IRL. “This attack in Second Life later became a template for a real life flying penis attack on chess world champion and Russian presidential candidate Gary Kasparov.”

What is truly insane is imagining the surreal explanation that would be required to parse the incident for a Normal Person.

Normal Person: “Oh my! Why did someone just charge into this ballroom and throw a rubber penis at Gary Kasparov?”

Post-Normal Interpreter: “Well, you see, that prank was an homage/IRL allusion to an online attack against a prominent virtual real estate mogul.”

NP: “…someone threw a rubber penis at this woman as well?”

PNI: “Not at the woman per se, but at her online 3D avatar. And in that case they weren’t actual rubber penises, nor were they thrown. Rather, a cascade of self-replicating animated images of rubber penises overwhelmed the digital forum in which she was giving an interview to a CNET reporter avatar.”

And later if you ran into this poor NP after Gary Kasparov was arrested for protesting in defense of Pussy Riot? We can imagine NP asking with shaky trepidation, “Umm, is Pussy Riot related to the… rubber penises…?” “No, not exactly. But you might say that, in a way, Pussy Riot’s performance was a “rubber penis” thrown at the Russian Orthodox Church.”

(The title of the Kasparov/penis article deserves a nod: “Kremlin critic gets genital reminder about who’s in charge“.)

The levels of fictive realities deepen: Kasparov’s disrupted event was a coalition of opposition groups gathering to form “a symbolic alternative parliament”. The penis, dangled & maneuvered from a miniature helicopter, was operated by a man inspired by the online prank group named “Room 101”, a reference to a location in the fictional world of George Orwell’s 1984. LoL. With IRL becoming a simulacrum of a simulated world, Baudrillard is gonna need to smoke some bath salts and update his freakin books!

If nothing else, this sort of business deserves a new tag! Revisiting Bruce Chatwin recently, I was reminded of his book What Am I Doing Here. The title is strengthened by the missing/implied question mark (a literary point which fails to grasp!—compare the listing with the adjacent image—horrors!). Anyway, for us, a new tag: What Is Going On.

Sweetmeat Addendum

September 7, 2012

Yesterday, when cruising the web curious for other instances of “sweetmeat motto” I stumbled upon a wondrous newspaper column from Australia. “FASHIONS. From Our London Lady Correspondent”, Western Mail, Perth, Saturday 23 April 1887. The column, reviewing the latest home décor baubles, must’ve been an exquisitely excruciating read for prim ladies dragged to the frontier by the gold rush (or whatever misadventure brought them to the arid edge of the empire). I’ll quote the whole article below because the language is as incredible & florid as the fashions described. Reporting from a visit to the stationery corner of a shop in Picadilly, our penwoman informs us unfortunates marooned in the Outback that “Letter-weights have given rise to all sorts of fanciful designs and grotesqueries—birds, bees, blossoms, and, to be alliterative, beasts in every vagary of nature are there”. To keep us abreast of this season’s trend in “surprise valentines” she tells of a ghastly excitement I can hardly believe she’d allow at her own table. “A melon is served at desert, with a fuse burning from the stalk end. At the right moment there is an explosion, the melon is in fragments, and the table is strewn with every kind of delicious sweetmeat, motto, and verse”. My dear woman, you have carelessly revealed that you are in possession of a wild side!




From Our London Lady Correspondent.

At the time when the decorations on the dinner table seem more important than the menu itself, and when the china glass, and silver pressed into the service are not only of the costliest description but fashioned according to the canons of high art, it is refreshing to be able to describe an arrangement—that word is so delightfully comprehensive—which, when producing a striking and really beautiful effect, costs literally only a few shillings. A certain hostess had taken a number of small dark green wicker baskets of the roughest manufacture, shaped somewhat like a tube lily, and had twisted them into a graceful form. These she filled with flowers of red shading, and placed them at intervals along the table. Small liberty scarves of various tones of red were formed in front into a sort of cornucopia, in which was the menu card; the remainder was gracefully draped. Between each card was a divided space, occupied by a fairy light of the faintest tone of red. The effect was soft and harmonious in the extreme. Speaking of menu cards, the new armorial stand seems likely to be the favourite of the season. As the name indicates, the coat of arms, or simply the crest, is reproduced in silver, and fixed on the base of a stand, behind which the card is placed. I saw at a large shop in Piccadilly a set of six in a handsome case just being sent off as a bridal gift. Another novelty I saw at the same establishment was a fitted writing tray on stand for use in bed. Every requisite for the pen was there in handy form. At a touch the legs of the stand fold under, and as the fittings are easy of removal, it can be used for other purposes. Her Majesty ordered 18 for Windsor. A soft leather-lined basket also attracted my notice and roused my acquisitiveness. This had everything a professional penman, or penwoman either, could desire—scissors, paste, pens galore, and all the little etceteras we of the craft require at our elbow. Letter-weights have given rise to all sorts of fanciful designs and grotesqueries—birds, bees, blossoms, and, to be alliterative, beasts in every vagary of nature are there.

I must find room for a word about the Rhys’ valentines in sweetmeats. You open a fancy box, and lo, a lovely fan, all of almond paste, carried out in every detail. Another box discloses a heart, with a flame issuing from the top, and on one side a tiny cradle with a Baby Bunting in it. But the surprise valentines are the greatest novelties. A melon is served at desert, with a fuse burning from the stalk end. At the right moment there is an explosion, the melon is in fragments, and the table is strewn with every kind of delicious sweetmeat, motto, and verse. A “bomb” is another surprise, and this I am told, explodes with a force that gives quite a shock. I interviewed the collection, and felt in the wonderland of a “Zoo.” From Bismark and his Kaiser, in chocolate, full length figures, to the useful porker in almond paste, the range was varied. I carried off a porker from mere admiration of his well-moulded parts. The best and prettiest model, however, was a Jubilee bust of Her Majesty the Queen, in white sugar. The likeness is perfect.

A very useful riding novelty is the Russia leather strap-bracelet, with a tiny watch in the centre.


Western Mail, Perth, Saturday 23 April 1887

“Sweetmeat Motto”

September 6, 2012

In Dead Souls Chapter VIII, our charlatan hero Chichikov, recently the intrigue & delight of the provincial capital, receives invitation to the Governor’s ball.

Everything extraneous was immediately dropped and dismissed from Chichikov’s mind, and all his energies were directed towards preparation for the ball… It may well be that ever since the very creation of the world never has so much time been expended on a toilette. An entire hour was devoted solely to an examination of his face in the mirror. He attempted to impart a multitude of different impression to it: now important and dignified, now deferential but with a faint smile, now simply deferential with no smile. Several bows were rendered to the mirror, accompanied by vague sounds that bore a slight resemblance to French, although Chichikov had absolutely no knowledge of French.

Once at the ball, flitting about the local gentry, flirting indiscriminately, Chichikov’s performance is no less comically ridiculous.

He exchanged easy and fluent pleasantries with some of the ladies, approached one or another in tiny tripping steps, or, as they say, with mincing gait, in the manner of those aged little fops known as ‘mouse-stallions’, who trot so briskly on high heels round the ladies.**

Love it. Anyway, onto our point! When Chichikov encounters the Governor, the reader encounters a strange word: “The Governor, who meanwhile was standing near the ladies, holding a sweetmeat motto in one hand and a lapdog in the other, on catching sight of Chichikov threw both motto and lapdog to the floor….”

Da funk is a “sweetmeat motto”? The translator tells us it’s a “slip of paper containing a line of poetry, inserted inside a fancy sweet-wrapper”. Sort of like a high society fortune cookie. The OED refers to this 19th century bon mot bon-bon as a “motto-kiss”. It is probably time to resurrect this practice. Would not the world be improved if Tristan attended parties armed with lavender origami paper rolled & pinched at each end like saltwater taffy that, unfurled, reveals a choice couplet from the Pied Piper of R&B?

It should be added that “sweetmeat” refers to confectionary treats, like dried/sugared fruits, cookies, or cakes. From the archaic form of “meat” which means any kind of foodstuff. We’re not talking about tangy teriyaki beef jerky here. A blueberry Slim Jim wrapped in a few lines of Dryden presumably would not produce the desired effect. Outside a Ren Faire tailgate party, that is.



** Further: “After mincing in rather adroit turns to the right and to the left, he scraped a foot, in the process describing a little tail or the semblance of a comma. The ladies were most gratified, and not only discovered a host of pleasant and amiable qualities in him, but even began to descry a majestic expression on his face, something even Mars-like and military, which, as is well known, is very pleasing to women.”

Ah yes, Chichikov’s investment in preparation has returned a most delicate yield!


September 4, 2012

From a review of the new Deerhoof album, which offers criticism of lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki:

It makes me wonder if someone with a looser, more impulsive style– say the Fall’s Mark E. Smith– might fare better with Deerhoof’s more repetitive jams.

Great advice. You know what would improve yr experimental art-punk band…? How about the lead singer of The Fall?

The review in general was pretty good, but the word choice might’ve been better if it was written by Flaubert.