Sunday, February 10, 2008

Torture as a footnote

This Friday, Mira and I took a nice day trip out to Philadelphia. We were excited to see the puppets in contemporary art exhibition curated by my friend Carin Kuoni and Ingrid Schaffner. We had a wonderful drive down listening to Democracy Now. The focus of the show was that the 911 Commission's report apparently has a fourth of its footnotes obtained possibly through torture. They interviewed the director of the commission, Philip Zelikow, whose flipflopping and inconsistent (bordering on bizarre) defense made it clear that he was completely caught off guard by these allegations. "Hey don't look at me, the CIA did the torturing!", he seemed to be saying. In short, the 911 commission was aware that the CIA was probably torturing the detainees who were providing the information but didn't really want to know. They just wanted the information. More appauling than anything is that after explaining that the commission was actually concerned about how the information they were using was obtained, they asked the CIA to go back and get more information out of the detainees (obviously via torture). This absolute disregard for human rights on all levels of government makes you realize the depths of the 911 mania was taken (and still is). Now the CIA is under fire and everyone that went along with it is taking the Eichman defense ie. I was just doing my job.

Can you imagine the 911 Commission school of journalism? In the 911 commission school, if you are lacking some facts or information, you just go out and find those involved (or for that matter, someone nearby) torture them till they give you a good story, then put it in the footnote. PS. We made our source feel like he was drowning and when we came up for air he spun an incredible yarn, see footnote 7. My college papers could have looked so different with the 911 footnote via torture method. In fact, with footnotes as torture could be included as part of the Research for Dummies guide.

In thinking about the fact that the CIA has admitted to waterboarding three detainees, a few argumentative inconsistencies emerge. One is the question of whether one should not use torture for footnotes because, well, under conditions of torture, people don't tell the truth. Now, I don't know the research on this. I am sure there could be empirical research that goes either way, but clearly, it leaves room for doubt. How reliable is this material? The problem, of course, is that this line of reasoning also leaves one vulnerable to a discussion about whether or not information obtained under torture is useful. Given the myopic yet pervasive perspective of most game theory oriented people (otherwise known as a majority of folks in government and military), this question is simple: if a bomb was going to destroy a million people, woudn't it be more reasonable to torture one? This logic makes its way through every ethical issue in civil and national and international law and one must always beware of its corrosive implication. Under this logic, the national paranoia of terrorism becomes the perfect atmosphere for destroying all civil liberties. This has been said a thousand times.

But this is the weekness of focusing on the argument that torture makes the 911 commissions report invalid. Because one can trust testimony under torture. A. No one cares about the accuracy of the report anyway. It was such a bankrupt method from the get-go, why worry about its validity now? That is a losing angle. This basically leaves one open to the game theory logic that makes our rights exploitable. The better one is much more simple: torture is ethically wrong (that is why it is called torture). When we begin to torture people, our rights as citizens lose value. We undermine the basis of law and democracy when we talke the foundations of human rights away.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In a desperate political mood, Barak cuts the mustard

Who isn't caugh up in the primary fever? It is very much in the air and like all things that grip a country, we can bet that we will embarrased about this moment later. Nonetheless, in this particular minute, I can't worry about political embarrasment. We are caught up in the winds of electorial political passion that only someone like George Bush & Co. could have created. Lets just look back painfully at the electoral set backs. Gore vs Bush vs Nader (round 1) in 2000. We all went green back then didn't we? Well good for us. Gore actually wins, but then Bush wins. Kerry vs Bush in 2004 (round 2). No one likes Kerry. Nobody. Bush wins. This time around the country really really hates Bush and the democrats are running a white woman and a black man in the lead up to the primaries. The nail biting is over. We have our chance. All aboard the big democrat capitalist ship! Fuck it. We concede. We can't handle Republicans anymore. We can't ignore electoral politics anymore. How did on the ground activism fair in the last eight years (?) Not so well. Electoral politics has coerced us into becoming enthusiastic about the elections! CHANGE! Please! Anything!

I am for Obama under the same trope as everyone else. I must say, I just lack nuance this time around. Hilary voted for the war (so did Edwards). I just can't support that. I can't even go into how pissed I was when the Democrats caved to the idiocy that was the Iraq War. Everyone knew Bush was using the trauma of 911 to shift bellicose energy toward his long-time desire to get a foothold in the middle east. No one was under any illusions. It couldn't have been more transparent. It was one of those political moments that you thought the country had gone crazy and well, lets face it, Edwards and Hillary both went along with the insanity. Barak didn't. Not giving into the mad, fascist disaster that was the last eight years, was simply not a bold thing to do, it was an obvious thing to do. I can't begin to say how caving into that type of pressure can only be the best rorschach test of their politics.

Now Barak is using this annoying language of bringing the country together. The rallying cry of bi-partisanship. What exactly does that mean? Lets hope he means that we need to get the working classes back to a more reasonable political platform and ostracize the hateful and capitalists. He also didn't mention anything in New Orleans about housing. Stregthen the levees, the schools. These are good things to do. But New Orleans suffers from racism and capitalism and levees and schools aren't going to solve that. (but right, it is better than HIlary and any republican). I feel that Barak might have a lot of Clinton-esque capitalism up his sleeve. Fortunately, he doesn't have a ton of Bush global aggression. We will have to see. Like most political activist types, we refrain from elections because, we also know, they make us look soft. I am almost positive that if Barak is elected there will be many policies that I find to be in line with the powers that be (I do hold out a shred of hope that he will really be bold and do something more radical on the economic front, but I doubt it). But now I am desperate. We all are. Eight years ago, he wouldn't have had my vote. But we now have eight years of Bush totalitarianism between and that folks, makes all a tad more gun shy in the face of electoral politics.

What does Bud Light want from men?

During my recent voyage into obsession with the superbowl and the NY Giants, I was blessed with an unusal amount of football commercials. Particularly Miller and Bud Light commercials. I can't help but consider what these commercials say about my identity as a male. In fact, I have been thinking about what advertising does to the male self image in general.

Bare with me if my realizations are very dumb, but sometimes you go full circle to realize something quite obvious. Case in point, I recently realized that most advertising is geared toward a particular audience and thus adds for women are geared toward women and adds for men are geared for men. For example, models look the way they do, not for men, but in fact, for women. It isn't exactly accurate to say that fashion runway models don't reflect a circular relationship of body image and that is hardly produced outside the sphere of patriarchy, but nontheless, it is useful to bare in mind, that the target audience for much of the runway clothing is, in fact, women. Just like when I was walking along houston and 1st ave and I saw this massive American Apparrel add where this very thin girl is lying on her stomach with her ass sticking out. It was more than suggestive. Some grafitti activist types had written, "I wonder why women get raped." Well, is it that simple? I would think that the place to consider male self image would be the adds targeted at them. Clearly this add is geared toward women, right? Surely target marketing gears their images toward those that will buy from them.

I mean, ultimately, reducing rape to one image is a mistake in and of itself. But the grafitti on the sign really had me thinking. It was a provacation that I took seriously. Is it this add that leads to rape?

So, this leads me, in a round about way to considering these beer commercials. How, beer commercials lately have a very basic formula. The idiot guy surrounded by hot women, but at least he has his beer. In fact, the guy can never get it right. That is the major umph of those adds. This beer drinking football watching guy loves his friends, tries to get with hot women but messes it all up, and ultimately has his beer. These Bud Light guys just can't get anything right. They go to the opera, oops, bud light bottles explode in their jacket. Or, they ultimately, choose their beer over women. That is another version. He could have picked the woman, but he is driven by an overwhelming desire for bud light. It is a deeply anxiety driven ad (as they are supposed to be). But advertising itself, is a fear machine. It produces anxiety as its modus operandi. To think that every gender doesn't suffer under the hands of media is silly. Women have body issues shoved in their faces. Men have inadequacy issues thrown at them. But the point of many of the male adds, is, in fact, self hatred and aggression. Fuck it, the adds seem to say. It is an ethos of failure that they encourage with beer. Woe. Now that is a coctail of hostility.

Mira and I were talking about this last night. We were thinking how much the male image is now very much in line with a defensive, alienation. That is, men are advertised as dumb. Think Homer Simpson and Bart. Lisa is the smart one. The statistics that more women are going to college than men. Do you think this has anything to do with education being anti-masculine? Does this current depiction of male identity spawn from the anxiety produced by feminism? Of course it must.

But then again, football commercials are the easier ones. I mean, they are clearly gunning for a demographic who needs some real masculine massaging. But who doesn't need that? Sports commercial time is probably the easiest for finding basic masculine narratives. But not everyone watches sports. I think I will watch television and see how Charlie Rose commercials depict men. Be right back!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alan Sekula advises that you watch The Wire

It wasn't all that long ago when Alan Sekula stood up at a conference and asked poignantly, "Why is it that political theorists don't have as good as an analysis as The Wire?" His question resonated deeply in my mind as I witnessed, suddendly, two separate world colliding together in a swift stroke. I had been in Kassel when Okwei Enweazor and Alan Sekula spoke together on a stage about his Fish Story and his analysis of global capital. I appreciated Sekula and Enweazor's somewhat Marxist cultural theory, but well, Kassel? It all felt pretty corny and arty to me. But then, to have them understand that cultural mechanisms are happening outside the arts. MMMMM that smelled like tangible aggression. It all made sense. These worlds can collide. I get bored of the art world.

Stop. This phrase: the art world. Why do I continue such a thing? It could almost, but not quite, equate with my disdain for newspapers that validate the "war on terrorism". Such myths that only prop up the stupidity behind them. And to be clear about who is being stupid, it would be - the idea of an art world only props up the limited powers that be AND the idea of terrorism only props up the powers that be. The rest of us, meaning almost everybody, couldn't care less. Aside concluded.

So, the Wire. My favorite HBO show. It was once Deadwood which I must say was Shakespearean and character driven, at times trying to avoid the cliches of major media, at times failing in that pursuit, but ultimately, a completely revolutionary show. It opened the doors to the Wire as did the seminal television series The Sopranaos. It sounds almost pathetic, but the ability to have a flawed and almost hateful protagonist was a revolution in television drama. And also, in a more Marxist-Anarcho sense, the abilty to have a drama where the protagonist is aware of their place within the overarching scheme of power, that power is a field in which people must battle, this idea: it is useful and revolutionary.

Television drama? What a low hurdle we must cross... Nonetheless, when we do leap over it we feel absolutey ecstatic. It is like when Michael Moore has one of his over-driven propaganda films (that I love so much) where he assaults the power structure for being suckers to capital, and the anti-capitalist viewer sits there and thinks, "My god, this is what I think. Who the fuck paid for this?" It is this very 21st century feeling. Things can media-wise be ever topsy turvy. Rules were meant to broken in media land so what rule is held sacred? Hmmmm. I bet there are some.

So, the Wire. Ever watch it? Well, catch up. It is incredible. Not because it is a cop show. Who likes cops? Not because it sympathizes with exhausted educators. After Junior High School, I have trouble sympathizing with them. Not because of the tightly wound inequities of politics. Or the caught in the game ethos of Baltimore gangland. (although i must admit the show still makes being a gangbanger one of the more romantic positions in the show. maybe that is the case. I don't know) but alas, ultimately, no one wins. Power wins. It is a Foucualt/Bourdieu- inspired voyages, but more tangible. Bourdieu attacked sociologists as being caught up "in the game" but who would pay attention? Sociologists at a conference? Maybe. That is about it. Otherwise, he was shit out of luck. So, no worries, ideas can benefit from reasonable people like David Simon.

Because that is what is really happening right? Micro battles for power with larger logics of capital hovering over it. That is what is happening. But these micro-battles. The infrastructures outside our understanding. We need to understand their fights. But oh so many fights. How to compete with them all?

Up with Cults

I was humming Beck this morning, "I got a devil's haircut in my mind." My mind wandered, as it does, towards his supposed connection with Scientology. I have always held a sort of affection for new religions. They surely aren't easy to produce and well, they tend to have a more contemporary feeling about them that I enjoy. Then I began to think about the Tom Cruise video that had caused all this scandal on YouTube because the Church of Scientology had aggressively moved to have it removed. In a Guardian article, it was stated that Scientologists believe it is ok to lie to non-believers. You must admit that is a premise that is most enjoyable. A religion that believes in lying is smart in my book. Ok to lie.

You know, I get cranky when folks get all worked up about the evils of scientology. Albeit, they do feel like a pyramid scheme and it is a bit corny to have a sea captain as your messiah, but at the same time, as I said, what about the sympathy for contemporary religions. Don't people have a soft spot for organized metaphysics anymore? I know we find it difficult to get past such science fiction inspired dieties like Helotrobus or Xenu Ruler of the Galactic Confederacy, but surely that is the point of a religion isn't it? Shiva isn't particularly non-comic-book like either. Jesus, well, true, Jesus is pretty dull. More indie-rock looking. Not from outer space. But lets face it, religion is supposed to take us on a wild ride toward metaphore. That is how it works. It transitions from practical rules (don't eat this meat, wash your hands like this, when a guest comes over uses these plates, don't jerk off) to more glorious drug induced arty rules, "When Helotrobus greets you, place a silver coin on his tongue". Surely we aren't so naive as to think that all metaphysics should be practical and rational. What kind of religion is that? That is the relgion of the how-to guide. I subscribe to the religion of how to put coolant in my Honda Accord. I suppose that is why I have always enjoyed Mormons as well. A giant slug guards the gates to heaven and Jesus came to the U.S. Both are great ideas. What? You want Jesus to only visit once? Ok, black people can't get into heaven. Oops. They should have really thought twice about flagrant racism. But lets face it, the big religions aren't particularly kind to 'others' either.

I have had it up to here with atheists or agnostics. Such a contemporary lazy approach.

What do you believe?

Oh, I don't know, something is out there, and we're here. You know, the basics.

What do you do when someone comes to your house?

Oh, I don't know. Let em in.

What do you do when your deity greets you?

Deity? My god is a glimmering mist. We just kind of happily dissolve.

See? Enough with self satisfied atheists. Down with soft unimaginative thinking. Up with cults. Up with organized bad ideas. Up with counter power organization in general. It leads to strange culture. In my formative years, I lived on a Christian commune outside of Utrecht in Holland. Many new people I meet worry that I was brainwashed or lived some sort of ascetic unimaginative life. But I just say, "we sang lots of songs." What? You don't like songs? Who doesn't like a good song? Do atheists sing songs? Well, they should! They could be glorious songs. Songs to make the universe weep with envy. The chorus could go, "I believe in a god, but he lets me sleep in Sunday. He has undefined attributes, and his only super power is an occassional ability to spy on me." That is a sweet song. What? True. It does sound like Beck.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Natural Sensorium

It is cold outside and I dearly love walking to Prospect Park with Mira, getting a coffee, a toasted bagel, and watching the birds fly over the lake. The air is crisp and I find myself bewildered by the patterns the birds produce together. Sometimes feeling like one entity, just this pulsing pattern of squawks in the sky. There is the swirling tornado shape where they glide in circles up up up and then down, producing a collective drain into the icey stratosphere. There is the hey, lets all head over there, mad panic where for reasons unknown, the birds head out to another section of the lake together. Do they work these things out in advance? There are the individual chase scenes where I always wonder, "Why are those two birds mad at each other? Is that a game they are playing? Love? Crankiness? Are these the wrong emotions to lob onto a bird?" An old man was feeding the birds and they all were whipped up into a feeding frenzy. I always latch onto a small bird who gets his bread consistently taken by the geese and mallards. Oh the poor things. I imagine myself with the bread and selectively feeding the runts. Feeding time is a time of justice, even in my mind. Good feathers! Have a piece of bread. You there, don't worry about your aggressive friends, I will throw this piece out toward the left. You didn't run fast enough! ugh, no wonder you are so small. The geese are always so demanding.

Sitting by the lake I watch other urbanites sit hypnotized by the goings-on of the birds. Is nature really healing? Really? I remember feeling somewhat mystified by my early 20s desire to become mystically alert by heading into nature. I am part of the legacy that feels that nature whispers genuine wisdom into us. As urbanites, it can be our piece of the garden of eden where we long for the tasty fruit trees and solace that inevitably accompanies the myth of nature. Buddha didn't lean against a freeway divider mind you. Nature is an experiential book. We collectively gravitate toward reading it. Sitting there. Dodging bike riders, joggers, men with metal scanning devices moving over the earth, and healthy yuppies. We sit on rickety benches and stare marvel-eyed at the rorschach test of maddening specs of white birds loving, feeding, yelping, pulsing like an ant hill. Nature, what do you want from me?

I remember living with my mother in the woods of Winchendon, Massachusetts. I had fled from the Bay Area because I was depressed to no end. I hadn't really intended to face nature really. I was looking forward to the couch more than anything. Slowly, I got used to heading out into the woods and just sitting there, hoping to spot a deer or even a bunny. I loved waking up to see the tracks in the snow of the animals that had scampered about the night before. As though, during the snow season, the earth was covered in tracing paper. Why, I could just follow these deer tracks to a deer bungalow. It is that simple. I remember sitting there in the snow and realizing that nature isn't quiet. It's loud. Cracks, pings and ticks abound. You could hear branches breaking in the wind, and that birds are far too gregarious. If everyone could shut up, I could hopefully hear the delicate steps of a deer or the ever so rare umph of a moose paw.

As I sat on a log with miranda today with my coffee spewing steam and her hair getting caught in her mouth from the wind, I once again thought about how our senses dim over time. They get selective. When I was young, I understood nature by the smell of dirt and the texture of bushes as I hid in them. I knew the stains of grass on my knees and the way sticks felt on my hands as I ran with them. I knew the smell of rotting apples, walnuts, and blackberries. The feeling of thorns across my arm. The familiar mud between toes in a river. Now we sit on a bench and stare across a lake with birds mimicking the bleary static of our eye-laden living. We push into a natural world with our eyes shoved forward and our hands in our pockets. Dirt is best when it is smelled and pushed between our fingers. An icey lake comes to life when your feet crack through the ice and the different temperatures slide along your leg as you fall in. Your nose can remember better than you. It is a scrapbook with few pictures in it.

Reminds me when natalie jeriminjenko said that we she can't stand the popular notion that we are bombarded with more information now than ever. As though our minds have never been put through such a filtering test. As our senses dim, we turn the light out on far more information that is out there. We privelege our eyes out of convenience and let go of the vast sensorium that would have us bristling with multiple forms of pleasure, agony and deliciousness.

Working Out as an Exercise in Conversation

Working out these days.. It really isn’t even “these days” because it has never really happened before. The brief moments it did happen were when I was on the freshman high school football team. That is the last period where I regularly used a bench press. Then I faintly recall having a romance with the gym at the junior college College of the Canyons but what is peculiar about that period is I can’t seem to mentally fit it in. That is, the junior college period doesn’t fit in my general understanding of how my life shifted aggressively into the future. I don’t recall what year it was but it must have been around 1991. Actually, these events, that is things like working out, defined actions that come with environments and smells, are in some way a form of time travel. They currently allow me to sew these past two events (high school, post-high school and the present) into one awkward unified experience. I would even go so far as to say that my personality at each interval was more or less the same. That is: the gym produces an uncomfortable yet masculated me. That mixture of emotions that the gym produces is a particular concoction of me that travels through time and recognizes itself every brief moment it steps out onto this sweat filled, moaning stage. I remember thinking that the first step downhill is when you give these versions of yourself a name. I am not going to do it, but of course, it is tempting to call the gym-me: Brett. And we could call the writer me: Allen.
I like this idea that time travel is possible through particular memorable spaces of smell, orientation and environment. Surely, if I ever wanted to travel back to my days working at Del Taco it would be as easy as begging someone working there to let me behind the counter. I could move back in time and recall what it felt like to work for $3.33 an hour as the drink station supervisor. Wow. I could also recall the anticipation of saving up for my Ford Pinto Wagon and being in my terrible punk band Cows on Acid. You know that name Cows on Acid sounds like one of those band names that never really existed but somehow manages to exist on bad television. But in fact, this was the name of our band. Probably the lamest name of all time except my friend Anthony’s band, which was Overt Volition. That name clearly derives from the punk rock high school band habit of searching the dictionary for intellectual sounding words and then infusing them with something equaling ‘kicking ass’. Another example of that is the band, Ill Repute. Ugh.
So, right, I have been working out and it is peculiar indeed. I have one of these annoying personalities that really gets into something obsessively. It is like a fair-weather syndrome. I say fair-weather because the same thing is happening with me and the Red Sox. I used to hate the Red Sox and baseball altogether and then it clicked, if I like the Red Sox I can talk to about anyone in New England. And surely a modicum of small talk is strategically useful. Not only that but one must continuously put themselves through forms of personality calisthenics. Particularly around things like cultural taste where most of it is arbitrary anyways. Try reversing direction and liking the things you once hated. It can be difficult. I can’t actually say that I am always capable of such things. But when I manage to pull it off, when I manage to completely find myself obsessed with something I once hated, then I feel like I made some points on some out of this world personality score card.
That is how it is with working out. But then again… once you dip into the well of personality types you find nauseating, most times you learn what makes people tick. That mind/body thing is real. More real than I imagined. In the case of working out, I really should name the pre and post work out Nato, two different things. But I would hate to change my name to Brett. When I talk about how great working out is, I feel somewhat like a born again Christian where if I am talking to someone who doesn’t do it, they get this look in their eye like “woe, psycho path full of too much enthusiasm.” I think I might even start breathing hard when I start discussing it.
Ohhhhh.. that reminds me of an epiphany that is too good to waste. It must be written. Even at the cost of being pathetically tangential and self-obsessed, we must clean the mind of epiphanies. We must pour them until the body is just the well worked out body it once was. Here is the idea; I have often found that when the body desires something, it often compensates for it by talking about it. As though it can feed itself through conversation. The most obvious example, is when you’re hungry and you love just talking about what you should eat. As though each utterance is in fact a morsel: ribs, mashed potatos, chicken burrito, gnocchi, ahhhh! Particularly when people get drunk. That is the best. They feed themselves with their words. Egos need feeding and when people get drunk they often (I know I do) often speak in hyperbole because it tastes better!
So, working out… dear god. I don’t even care about this subject anymore. I’m hungry! Ribs!

-June 16, 2006

I wrote a poem today

wispy slitted wind rustles her sotted dyed hair
her gait down the pavement
a puddled mule
her shades on this brilliant eye popping spring
the milk of her husky crunked sweatshirt
she is a big girl
full of slip and slides and plastic flamingo porches
the mad hilarity of a thousand children
creeking out the cracks in her tennies
and he
his folded up baseball hat
covering a tangled morass of cobbed hair
his golden moustache stained in the conversation of smoked refuse
his torn jeans revealing a brazen sinfully white rusted knee
the mass of reds and yellows on his black shirt selling car parts to the growing cacophany of mad mad tikes
swarming the road with glee and mouths to feed
and they are holding hands
and it is this that i saw
peeking out from their counterintuitive black shrouds
flesh fingers bent together
holding softly as their feet push with umph against the asphalt
down the hill and into town
the cooing of their joining blanketing their steps
in a pale array of conjugal glimmer
like the candy sweet gust
of breath from the Aces drunks
that pours a cool shade over the glazed eyes along river st.
the poverty of my town swims sweetly in their fingers
the hobbled pace
of each their jeaned leg
the pull
of the graviational descent
emptying out
onto Chase Avenue
and then town
spilling into the mouth
and trickling deceptively past its lips
the few that walk here
bare its mark
the path along the road
a place to emerge
from the dim glow
of cards, noodles and pillows
the day strikes light
accusingly along their shoulders
and weeds their condition for the cars to see
their lines in their fingers caressing each other
in the mournful brilliance of their affections

-April 16, 2006

The Bicker Board Game

Ever had a fight in a relationship and almost completely not know what it was about? Or, have you ever been in a relationship where you don't quite understand it, but you are fighting all the time? Ever been confused by the almost rhythmic flow of aggression that certain couplings can produce in you? Of course you have! And I am now your therapist. I have never trusted therapy. I didn't need Foucault to discuss the problems of speech producing problems in order for me to sense a sort of obsessiveness about the therapy pyramid scheme. In fact, I often tend to truly trust the ever enviable belief that you can simply forget things into oblivion. Forgetting, the anti-christ of therapy, is probably the best medicine. Out of site out of mind is not an adage to be taken lightly! Therapy tends to attract the narcisstic and the last thing they should be advised to do is to talk about themselves. Alas!
Nonetheless, here is some advice to all you wayward lovers out there. As a caveat, I must say that this epiphane was not inspired by Miranda whom I get along with quite splendidly. No, this epiphane was the result of a collective assortment of past cantankerous relationships that baffled me to no end. So, lets call this thought: the bicker board game.
I think that many of the cranky moments in couplings happen as people tend to get to know their partner more than their language skills can compensate for. That is: just like a drive home, or learning to drive a car, as you get to know something/someone, your brain learns more and more about them. And as your sly brain learns about things, it tends to know things faster than it can process that knowledge into language. Such that, it can read passive aggressive behavior faster than you can know it is happening. This means that you can read when the other person is already being resentful toward you faster than your language skills can cognate that that is what is actually happening. In the inertia between your brain reading the other person's signals of disdain and you reacting to them, while at the same time your conversation is only about the taste of this bad linguini, you are thrown headfirst into a vertigo of aggressive subtlety to which you have no command. You are outgunned. Outgunned by the lopsided nature of your brain!
Passive aggressive behavoir is bad news. It is a skill of the most cunning, but often what happens to people is that parts of their brain are more cunning then they are. That is, they are able to emit signals without fully knowing that is what they are doing. The same goes for reading them. Duplicity isn't just a technique, it can lead to a tactical schizophrenia. BEWARE!
What to do about this malady, o-my-patient... ? Well, I think knowing this useful bit of information can lead to a certain sense of sobriety in the heated moments of couple bickerdom. Another good piece of advice... if you fight with someone a lot, get out of that relationship. I have been in many and well, I think the ones I hated most were the bickering ones. Oh, the agony of living. That moment of public yelling at each other or being in a public place with someone yelling at you on a cell phone. The horror! The easy going ones are the best and often the reason we fight with people is not because there is something inately cranky about them, but that the dynamic between us results in bad mojo.. Our secret brains deceive us. We are passive aggressive in our dance moves!
This will probably be my only blog of therapy and with that sense of assurance, I hope that it has profoundly cured you in most of your travails of love!
Dr. Thompson
-March 27, 2006

Narcissistic Eulogy

I received word regarding the death of a friend that bordered on acquaintance. I don't want to go into the details, but it shook me deeply. I have only had one other friend pass away and that was in high school, three of my four grandparents are alive.. in general I have somehow been magically or tragically sheltered from the hand of doom. But surely this distance only increases my anxiety for when I heard about his death, I was freaked out. I'm deeply terrified of death and the mention of it in proximity to my life puts such a low low feeling of dread into my heart. I realize, just now, that death is a minefield of cliches because one actually doesn't talk about it nearly enough and when they do they simply repeat the old adages that are unfortunately true. Well, at least given my pathetic socio-cultural position. If there is anything I can add to the discussion is only my constant resentment toward those that feel comfortable with their demise. I can't stand when people giggle when I say I am terrified of death. I feel as though surely I must be missing something for isn't that the great source of dread? Ah language doesn't cover it nearly enough.
My friend's death comes at a time when I have also begun to have renewed fears of mortality again. In my early 20s they haunted me to no end. Daily I would have a panic attack as I contemplated what oblivian could possibly mean. Unlike Kierkegard who said death makes a good dancing partner, dancing is the last thing on my mind. More like cowering and weeping. And Bataille, who used death and sex as this foil for catapulting all things in his existence, well, I am envious of his frantic poetry, but not for me. My little attacks of fear have returned lately. I'm not sure why. Maybe every few days, I have to stop in my tracks and stare into the world with the feeling that everyone is mad, mad, mad as the hills. That they don't particularly understand the tenuous nature of our existence and somehow, through a well honed skillset of forgetting, manage to complete their daily lives. I remember once being completely wiped out on mushrooms in San Francisco. We were driving into the city at sunrise.. I saw the billboards towering over the town and the cars clogging the freeways, the steam pooring out of manholes.. the morning bustle.. and I had this mortified realization that it was they, they, they, that were mad as can be. Ridiculously driving around as though nothing were happening while death and life hovered over this quaking moment. Argh. I used to have this terrifying thought that the reason most animals look terrified is not that life is cruel, but that they lack the ability to forget what lies for them beyond this one.
This sense of dread stays with me. I think of my friend and I almost envy him. In this strange way, he is there. He went there. Like being afraid to jump off the diving board, he went, buchunk, off into the sky and down into the blue fizzy pool. Maybe if I was around it more, this life would make more sense. The lack of death makes its appearance so strange and embarrasing. It's as though I'm walking around Twin Peaks and have forgotten the hideous face of Bob and suddenly he emerges laughing, laughing, laughing and I remember.. I must stay afraid.
I feel I have two options. One: I must spend a significant time before my death researching the most prevaling method for longevity and immortality. There is always a new idea and I will go with the best one. I have always thought freezing yourself, cryogenics, makes sense. I'm game. It may be a money issue, but I hope I can resolve that. Man, if I woke up, and my overweight great great great great grandchildren are gathered around me in the year 2147.. I would love it! I would laugh laugh laugh... This makes complete sense to me. I don't think our mortality is a given, but I do suspect the riddle won't be solved in my lifetime which only makes my feelings of dread worse.
The other option is to really cultivate my growing form of postmodern Budhism. That is, coming to terms with my own lack of subjectivity. It always seems to me that the lack of a subject and Budhism are almost the same thing. However, how to come to terms with such a thing has never sat well with me. There aren't a lot of guide books and the ones that are out there, all want you to sit by while life drains away. Breathing is good, but how good?
Ok that is all. I miss my pal. But it is hard to feel sorry for someone when their gone. It seems like a strange emotion. They are gone. All that is left is us. And soon enough.. we will be gone too.
-march 16, 2006

Vice City Tour Guide

Strange experience: Last December I was walking around Miami for the first time in my life. It was late, I was drunk, the air was wonderfully warm and I had this uncanny feeling that I had been on that street before. I could almost sense my internal map telling me the direction of the beach, the direction of little haiti and little havana etc.. I could feel it because somehow I knew it. And then I realized what it was: I HAD been here before, in that Sony Play Station 2 game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It had taken place in Miami and after spending many many many hopeless hours car jacking, picking up hookers and listening to their incredible talk radio, I had learned how to drive around Miami. This was a genuine shocking video game meets life experience.
I then began thinking that video games could actually be fun ways to learn about towns. You could have the exact map of a city, you could have local bands playing in the clubs, you could see what beers were on tap where, you could car jack anybody and learn early on where the drugs can be scored. I mean this virtual tour guide thing could be a real hit. You're sitting at home in Houston and you say to yourself, "I wonder what it's like to walk around Tokyo." Well don't waste all that time being disoriented in the real thing! Buy the video game, get used to the town and then presto, by the time you land in the airport, you'll know where the subway is, what hotels you like, where you like to hang out, what type of cultural experiences are illuminating, which are simply onerous. I'm telling you the video game tour industry is the future!
-March 15, 2006

Pigging Out With Jesus

I saw a poster at the mall that I just loved. It was set up like the last supper but sitting at the table was the cast of the sopranos, the cast of the godfather, al pacino (from scar face) and robert deniro. This poster, which is incredible, was sold at one of those stores where television, film and music stars (Brad Pitt, Bob Marley, Eminem, Tupac) are faux painted onto canvas and sold for $80. It is an incredible store. In fact, about as incredible as the motivational posters with silhouetted hikers and a sunset text reading: Achievement. Those are good too. But I digress (hey speaking of digressing, this is my second blog tonight, the last being so theory driven and somewhat unfun that I had to do this one as well). So, back to the the mob.
What social function does the mob serve? When casts of characters from different films and television shows miraculously detach themselves from their proper narratives and coalesce around Christ's table, what does the moment achieve for us? Well, what can I guess? First of all, would it be wrong to call this poster the last supper of modern masculinity? Although the television show The Sopranos pretends to position Tony Soprano as a guy that is coming to terms with his emotional shortcomings and on-going misogyny, the show derives its satisfaction from his inability to overcome it. That though he tries and tries, his inner man forces him to violence, aggression and women hating. I must admit enjoying the show so don't think I'm out to ruin Tony Soprano, but I can feel that dudes when they finish watching an episode feel more affirmed in their right to tell their "nagging girlfriends" to shut up. They probably feel better about slamming doors more or even wearing masculine-friendly necklaces. It's hard to resist the temptation. It is so glamorous (in a weird Jersey way).
And then, there they are, at the last supper. All of them eating like real men. Food hanging out of their mouths, bellies big under the table, well dressed and respected but still men. men being men with christ.. ribs, rings, pot bellies,guns and jesus... who wouldn't want that poster? but $80? hmm how about $30?
-March 13, 2006

Being Effective

Being effective is difficult. If you find yourself in a somewhat bummed out mood and just feel like what you do isn't effective, well, you're not alone. There are alienated internetters everywhere hoping to make a difference without a road map of how to do so. Given this news, hopefully this new sense of community will not induce a euphoric sense of complacency. It is important to want to be effective. Of course, I'm speaking politically and socially, but ah, why reduce it to that.
See, I have this nagging thought that keeps growing in my mind and I am not sure how to resolve it.. Here is the riddle: If something you do doesn't produce material effects in the world, then it can easily be relegated as a simple positioning of one's subjectivity. That is, if I hold radical beliefs, but only in so much as I can retain the subjective position of radical without my beliefs translating into any actions, then isn't the point more about my identity than it is about effecting change? If I espouse radical theory (a la Deleuze, Lefebre, Lacan, etc. etc) but only use them as a device for social climbing strange graduate school hierarchies, then isn't most theory a form of identity social climbing? And doesn't this type of description apply to most of what is described as the radical left in the art world? Not to pick on us, but isn't this a tricky situation to deal with?
Here is another riddle: are there actions that can occur that produce positive social change that are unattached to any progressive ideology?
And finally: if such actions do exist, shouldn't these be the models we look toward rather than those positioned in a counterproductive niche of subjectivity?
Ok those are the riddles..
-March 13, 2006

The Great Cartoon Fiasco

So, out there, somewhere, exists an enigmatic racist cartoon. You have surely heard about it. The cartoon from the Danish paper that has ignited protests worldwide... people have died over this cartoon! There are protests at embassies over this cartoon. Conservative British papers are getting into the action by defending free speech and in so doing re-printing the cartoon. Scottland Yard tells this paper they can't be assured police protection and the paper pulls the cartoon. This cartoon apperently has the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban telling suicide bombers as they get to the gates of heaven: I'm sorry, but we're all out of virgins..
Wucka wucka.
Now that is a racist knee slapper if I ever heard one.
But has anyone seen this cartoon? ?Well, isn't that the joke? You can only have the cartoon described.. Did you see it as I described it? Was it a Dilbert-sort of aesthetic? Maybe Doonsbury? Peanuts? What about Family Circle? Or maybe Farside? In what illustrative manner was this bad joke depicted? We may never know.. Hold on. I will now use Google to find out...
I will first put in the words: racist muhammed cartoon
It worked!
Much better than I ever imagined in fact. Wow. Now check out what I found:
"Why did Jyllands-Posten publish the cartoons? The Copenhagen Post explains: “Jyllands-Posten called for and printed the cartoons by various Danish illustrators, after reports that artists were refusing to illustrate works about Islam, out of fear of fundamendalist retribution. The newspaper said it printed the cartoons as a test of whether Muslim fundamentalists had begun affecting the freedom of expression in Denmark.”
Holy moly!
A test?! A test?! Now, that is sure one way to test your market. You know that thing you hear on the radio when that voice comes on, "This is a test of the emergency broadcast network." Now, while enigmatic, I would say that is a reasonable major media test. Actually come to think of it, that test is ridiculous too. (Might have to get back to that idea in a different blog). But this test? This is the Danish newspaper racism test? Can you imagine the New York Times saying, we printed these cartoons of exaggerated jewish film producers and bankers in order to test whether or not that might aggravate someone. Bare with us. We must conduct a test.
On the surface one might say that these protests are quite insane. Protesting a cartoon? Well, I don't really know. It seems like a perfect opportunity for the white white west to sit back and say, "Man, those people are fucking crazy! Protesting over a cartoon! Talk about needing a sense of humor!" But then again, what the fuck? How lame is it that a newspaper prints all these flagrantly racist cartoons in the name of freedom of speech? Now, liberals and conservatives can jointly castigate the muslim world as they pat themselves on the back for having a tremendous Western sense of humor. God, the west knows how to take a joke. We're just so flexible.
Funny it's the Danes that started this too. The Danes?!

-February 10, 2006

Contagious Lingo

So, once in a while in my blogs, I will attempt to chip away at the various day to day experiences that prove that I am joyfully soul-less. I am often enamored with finding clues that validate many of my post-modern suspicions that I am simply a vessel for outside culture. I am a giddy sponge. I suck up what is around me. My favorite example is contagious lingo. Ever have a friend who simply has a way of talking that is particularly them? They have a cadence to their conversational style or an abundance of odd idioms? Do you ever notice when someone who has been around them, including yourself, they suddenly begin borrowing phraseology? Where you get that creepy and entertaining feeling that one person is slightly becoming the other? That happened to me and Matt Littlejohn. It also sometimes happens with Karyn Behnke’s wacko phraseology like ‘crankerpants’, ‘secretly’ and ‘butts’.
My crash course into Wittgenstein in undergrad left me slightly scarred. But the one thing it taught me quite well is: we are the words we use. We conceive of ourselves through language and language makes us what we know to be ourselves. The implication of this, of course, is that when you start borrowing your friend’s strange terms, you aren’t just borrowing language, you are becoming your friend. Your souls are gooing together into one lump of lingo. That is an odd thing to think about.
-December 18, 2005

repetition as crime against humanity

This is an old thought but one worth considering. Time, as we know, is relative. But what is more elusive than just knowing that, is locating the implications of that in your own life. Ah, repetition. Ever notice that the first time you drive somewhere it seems to take a long time, but then the return trip takes less? Ah ha! A clue. That is due to the relative shrinkage of time due to repetition. The more we repeat something, the less relative time it takes as the mind processes time based on new stimuli. Now, what might this mean for us? Well, I distinctly recall when I was a temp worker horribly doing the same thing ever day doing telemarketing or in the mail room at Farmer's Insurance, that this repetetive form of existence was shrinking my relative life span. That I would look back on my life and see one instant of putting mail in a box. Or if you live in the same town too long, you are shrinking the relative time span of your life. Now, given that, to what degree are businesses which make its workers do repetitive tasks a la Fordist models of manufacturing, culpable of shrinking the relative lifespans of their employees? To what degree is forced repetition prosecutable as a crime against life? Can we defend our right to relative time as an inalienable right directly tied to relative existence?
December 17, 2005