1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1;
bought his Carbide at 30 and it went to 29; had the favorite at Bowie but the track was slow—
O, executive type, would you like to drive a floating power, knee-action, silk-upholstered six? Wed a Hollywood star? Shoot the course in 58? Draw to the ace, king, jack?
O, fellow with a will who won’t take no, watch out for three cigarettes on the same, single match; O democratic voter born in August under Mars, beware of liquidated rails—
Denouement to denouement, he took a personal pride in the certain, certain way he lived his own, private life,
but nevertheless, they shut off his gas; nevertheless, the bank foreclosed; nevertheless, the landlord called; nevertheless, the radio broke,
And twelve o’clock arrived just once too often,
just the same he wore one gray tweed suit, bought one straw hat, drank one straight Scotch, walked one short step, took one long look, drew one deep breath,
just one too many,
And wow he died as wow he lived,
going whop to the office and blooie home to sleep and biff got married and bam had children and oof got fired,
zowie did he live and zowie did he die,
With who the hell are you at the corner of his casket, and where the hell we going on the right-hand silver knob, and who
the hell cares walking second from the end with an American Beauty wreath from why the hell not,
Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.,
Wham, Mr. Roosevelt; pow, Sears Roebuck; awk, big dipper; bop, summer rain;
Bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong.
— Kenneth Fearing
…The shape we’re in, these days, why isn’t everyone talking about Kenneth Fearing? See also: “The Ballad of the Salvation Army" and especially "Scheherazade.”
12:03 am • 10 December 2011 • 36 notes • View comments
Jets to Brazil - Lemon Yellow Black
…Daughters of the revolution
You’re freezing in your furs
Well-heeled atrocity show
The finishing school is done
The appropriate responses are wrong
For once in you life, man, just think
Unemployed war heroes
Hating this peacetime march
These things come back to you
…Say it with a snarl.
7:12 pm • 8 December 2011 • 12 notes • View comments
#Occupy as Live Action Role-Playing
We have so much knowledge, so many skills, maybe too much time and energy. Our knowledge is widely distributed and too easily evaporates into the cloud, but we have more of it than ever. We may have fewer skills than past societies (how many cobblers are left?), but there are more of us and a surprising diversity of interest between. For good or for ill, our time and energy, once consumed by a race to the top of working life, increasingly lie fallow. Surplus upon surplus. This is nothing new, neither an emergent condition nor a radical statement. It’s just the way of things. So what?
Why so much talk about “gamification,” recently? Because we’re swimming in a surplus and have no idea what to do with it.
In his keynote address to the Reboot conference in 2009, Bruce Sterling talked about the “play-labor” put into construction of favelas, ad hoc slums fashioned from corrugated aluminum and scraps in the particular, or any similarly ad hoc structure in general. “Play,” here, isn’t diminutive. Being ramshackle makes a favela no less useful, no less a home. Just, you can’t own your favela home. It’s always at risk of being reclaimed by the government, or a landowner, or being wiped out by some of our new “heavy weather.” Also, building a favela isn’t “productive” in the strict sense. It’s recycling, play-labor because it mimics the process of construction and expansion that is, if it ever was, no longer economically viable. Still, Sterling considers the favela and its “chic” a form of life, one of two that define these days. Standing beside “favela chic” is “gothic high-tech.” Similarly precarious, gothic high-tech is the inhabiting of a ruined modernity rather than its mimicry. Similarly unproductive, it’s about abandoned technology, failed enterprise, futures never fully realized. Both manifest a kind of surplus.
Joanne McNeil at Rhizome opened her post about #OWS with this: “On a quiet night, Zuccotti Park feels more like a LARP than a demonstration. Everyone deep in character with a specific task…” We have knowledge, but nothing to do with it; skills, but never opportunities to use them; time, energy and no way to put them to productive use. Our surplus is a virtual one, so we put it to virtual use.
A few ways to do this: games offer one. If this seems strange, try not to think of vulgar gamification, the endless check-ins and badges and rewards for doing laundry, though these figure in as well. Instead, think of archetypal “Alternate Reality Games.”
On Unforum, hundreds of users stand constantly vigilant, waiting for clues to puzzles that exist only in literal “alternate” worlds. They work to solve puzzles with absolutely no productive use, no reward save narrative and satisfaction. The puzzles are often wildly intricate, complex on a scale that no single person could comprehend. So, users work together. And let me stress, it is work, though there is no product. Images are manipulated, code written and deciphered, obscure texts referenced, all this information shared on the forum as collective intelligence. It’s beautiful and completely wasteful. What it lacks in production, though, it makes up for in participation.
Occupy Wall Street, et al. offer a second, related model. It’s a simulacrum of Jefferson’s “elementary republics of the wards,” play-labor put toward the construction of new political and economic life and, like Sterling’s favelas, no less useful for being unreal. Occupation isn’t politically or economically productive: no legislation will be drafted, no market created or leveraged. But it is participatory.
Thus, Mr. Wilkinson, worrying about the movement’s seeming rejection of traditional politics and insistance on…well, occupation:
"…But how is the fever supposed to spread to the general population if these modest bustling colonies exhibiting the inspiring virtues of true democratic community are only allowed where they are not unwanted? Camping and deliberating and participating democratically together on somebody’s back forty, rather than in peoples’ way, is a less empowering experience. It’s too clearly LARPing.”
Build a favela on granted land and it’s simply a slum. The participation has to be public. Go back to Sterling’s definition of favela chic: “Favela Chic is when you have lost everything material, everything you built and everything you had, but you’re still wired to the gills! And really big on Facebook.” The point is demonstration, in both senses of the word. The point is collective intelligence and the utilization of our immense “cognitive surplus.” This manifests as games, as role playing, as occupation because ours aren’t problems of production or productivity. Ours are problems of surplus and the possibilities for burning off that surplus within party politics, or hidden away on gifted private property, are limited.
8:57 am • 30 November 2011 • 29 notes • View comments
do you remember the time we didn’t go to Topeka
we were ready to go with our sandwiches packed
and you had your harpoon and I had my headdress
but we didn’t go though we agreed it totally boffo
we could go to Topeka whenever we liked
but I said I’d rather live here than Topeka where
all they have is a crummy zoo and whoever
heard of Topeka anyway so we didn’t go
and spent the day instead alphabetizing
the pantry quipping how this had become going
to Topeka we composted our leftovers we purchased
hand sanitizer and accreted a Volvo a toolshed
some throw pillows we pressed 1 for more assistance
we pressed 2 to return to the main menu we assembled
in portraits accessorized the great room trimmed
our azaleas until all of these became going to Topeka
and we kidded everyday after how we were going
to Topeka and going to Topeka but we never did
see a prairie dog or a tornado and nobody ever heard
of any of us lying awake in hammocks instead
of going to Topeka or lit up by a television
in the pallid dusk of not going to Topeka
after returning home late in afternoons of not going
to Topeka or to Tallahassee or Sault Ste. Marie
so when I sit now on the stoop at night and watch
seedpods helicopter out of our tree onto the sidewalk
by porch light I wonder what the coral wants
what the arroyo knows I wonder what the desert
swallows and wonder too about the hills of Topeka
the cliffs and canyons of Topeka its auroras
and cyclones arcane canals and minarets
its manta rays in clear clear water supple rubber trees
its yeti and its swans breathing fire how when zephyrs
run like lucent fabric across the spires of Topeka
everybody there touches the flesh in the soft dimple
above the sternum and hums an anthem
in the language of Topeka which we can nearly hear
as if it’s barely past the yellow tollbooth
beyond that blunt and glaring truck stop
on the other side of a modest slope where its people
greet each other in the customary manner genial
and offering We are real and death is not
or maybe it’s Death is real and we are not
it depends I suppose on whichever is the fairer grace
— Jaswinder Bolina
8:56 am • 29 November 2011 • 16 notes • View comments
from Between the Wars
When I ran, it rained. Late in the afternoon—
midsummer, upstate New York, mornings I wrote,
read Polish history, and there was a woman
whom I thought about; outside the moody, humid
American sublime—late in the afternoon,
toward sundown, just as the sky was darkening,
the light came up and redwings settled in the cattails.
They were death’s idea of twilight, the whole notes
of a requiem the massed clouds croaked
above the somber fields. Lady of eyelashes,
do you hear me? Whiteness, otter’s body,
coolness of the morning, rubbed amber
and the skin’s salt, do you hear me? This is Poland speaking,
“era of the dawn of freedom,” nineteen twenty-two…
— Robert Hass
8:55 am • 11 November 2011 • 9 notes • View comments
from Of Being Numerous
We are pressed, pressed on each other,
We will be told at once
Of anything that happens
And the discovery of fact bursts
In a paroxysm of emotion
Now as always. Crusoe
We say was
So we have chosen.
By the shipwreck
Of the singular
We have chosen the meaning
Of being numerous…
— George Oppen
8:46 am • 26 October 2011 • 10 notes • View comments
Synchronicity Reading List: “The Accursed Share”
"When involuntary unemployment exists, the marginal disutility of labour is necessarily less than the utility of the marginal product. Indeed it may be much less. For a man who has been long unemployed some measure of labour, instead of involving disutility, may have a positive utility. If this is accepted, the above reasoning shows how ‘wasteful’ loan expenditure may nevertheless enrich the community on balance. Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth, if the education of our statesmen on the principles of the classical economics stands in the way of anything better.
It is curious how common sense, wriggling for an escape from absurd conclusions, has been apt to reach a preference for wholly ‘wasteful’ forms of loan expenditure rather than for partly wasteful forms, which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict ‘business’ principles. For example, unemployment relief financed by loans is more readily accepted than the financing of improvements at a charge below the current rate of interest; whilst the form of digging holes in the ground known as gold-mining, which not only adds nothing whatever to the real wealth of the world but involves the disutility of labour, is the most acceptable of all solutions.
If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.”
— Keynes, "The Marginal Propensity to Consume and the Multiplier"
"I wanted to avoid redoing the work of the economists, and I confined myself to relating the problem that is posed in economic crises to the general problem of nature. I wanted to cast a new light on it, but to start with I decided against analyzing the complexities of a crisis of overproduction, just as I deferred calculating in detail the share of growth or the share of waste entering into the manufacture of a hat or chair. I preferred to give, in general, the reasons that account for the mystery of Keynes’s bottles, tracing the exhausting detours of exuberance through eating, death and sexual reproduction…
…I will simply state, without waiting further, that the extension of economic growth itself requires the overturning of economic principles—the overturning of the ethics that grounds them. Changing from the perspectives of restrictive economy to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transformation: a reversal of thinking—and of ethics. If a part of wealth (subject to a rough estimate) is doomed to destruction or at least to unproductive use without any possible profit, it is logical, even inescapable, to surrender commodities without return. Henceforth, leaving aside pure and simple dissipation, analogous to the construction of the Pyramids, the possibility of pursuing growth is itself subordinated to giving: The industrial development of the entire world demands of Americans that they lucidly grasp the necessity, for an economy such as theirs, of having a margin of profitless operations. An immense industrial network cannot be managed in the same way that one changes a tire… It expresses a circuit of cosmic energy on which it depends, which it cannot limit, and whose laws it cannot ignore without consequences. Woe to those who, to the very end, insist on regulating the movement that exceeds them with the narrow mind of the mechanic who changes a tire.”
— George Bataille, “The Accursed Share” [pdf]
“If one believes, as I do, that the earliest form of religion was ritual, one might see how play among humans with cultural capacities might develop into ritual. Ritual has many of the features of play: it has no obvious function, it is an end in itself, it enacts events, but symbolically, as in pretend play, and it takes place in a relaxed field, where hunger, predators and procreation are kept at bay. For example, in the perpetually warring Greek states during the great festivals, such as the Olympic festival to Zeus of which the games were only a part, a universal truce was proclaimed. It is among humans that play processes have exfoliated so extravagantly, and ritual is one of the things to which they led.”
— Templeton Report Staff, “The Roots of Religion"
"Human beings are a species whose drive to reproduce is sometimes contested by moral and intellectual values that we posit for ourselves. It is not hard to think of situations in which truthfulness, fidelity, or piety can take precedence over the instinct to reproduce or even to survive—celibacy is a human institution, as is martyrdom. Nietzsche, who was a great antagonist of Darwin, formulated the difference between them precisely in terms of the different emphases that the two thinkers placed on survival. In The Will to Power, Nietzsche observed that, for human beings, the subjective experience of triumph was more important than actual success in the struggle for survival: ‘Physiologists should think again before positing the ‘instinct of preservation’ as the cardinal drive in an organic creature. A living thing wants above all to discharge its force.’ And the discharge of force can take forms inimical to the preservation of life…
…What has been really distinctive about Fukuyama’s work, from The End of History onward, is that he seriously engages with the condition of nihilism, in which he worries that we are condemned to live. But while Nietzsche hoped to counter the apathy of the Last Man with the will-to-power of the Overman, Fukuyama—inheriting, as we all do, the lessons of the twentieth century—cannot look so blithely at the prospect of new ‘wars of the spirit.’ His task, rather, has been to look for nonviolent ways of harnessing the human desire for struggle, recognition, and the ‘discharge of force.’”
— Adam Kirsch “The Dawn of Politics"
"By the time he began writing his Letters on Regicide Peace, two years before he died in 1797, Burke’s concern about the relative strength of the old order had reached a fever pitch. ‘In ability, in dexterity, in the distinctness of their views,’ he wrote of the revolutionaries, ‘the Jacobins are our superiors.’ But where initially he had located the source of the revolutionaries’ superiority in their class position, their material base in finance and commerce, Burke now saw it in their absolute indifference to their material circumstances. The strength of the Jacobins lay in their faith, their willingness to destroy and suffer anything and everything for the sake of their cause. ‘While you are in vain torturing your invention to assure them of your sincerity and good faith,’ Burke wrote to the British officials who wished to negotiate and compromise with the French, ‘they have left no doubt concerning their good faith, and their sincerity towards those to whom they have they engaged their honour… They have been true and faithful to the engagement which they have made more largely.’
It was Burke’s great fear that the British elite — as well as the other monarchies of old Europe — could not summon similar reserves of ideological resolve. They were too comfortable, too assured of their possessions, too confident of their estate. Where the Jacobins had ‘conquered the finest parts of Europe’ with an ‘annihilated revenue, with defaced manufactures, with a ruined commerce,’ the aristocracies of Europe were drowning in the very properties Burke had once held up as the counter to revolutionary France. They didn’t just possess estates; they were possessed by their estates.
At no time has the wealth and power of Great Britain been so considerable as it is at this very perilous moment. We have a vast interest to preserve, and we possess great means of preserving it. But it is to be remembered that the artificer may be incumbered by his tools, and that resources may be among impediments…
They who are in possession of all they wish are languid and improvident…
— Corey Robin, “The Deep Roots of Conservative Radicalism”
8:46 am • 24 October 2011 • 5 notes • View comments