Sunday, 8 November 2009

Ream Peehole &c.

The Dream People issue 32 is online! Including, you know, "An evening of video and readings from the work of this important minimalist hermit poet who was a close friend of Thomas Merton. With Alan Spence and Julie Johnstone," that sort of thing. Mykle Hansen’s Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere sounds good -- "will change everything you thought you knew about the subject." My stupidly long remix of the Blankety Blank review is here. I particularly enjoyed Rob Parker's "Goatse Agape!" -- a consummate Thing By A Boy.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Blog post

Hello! Three things.

1) Power 2010 / Unlock Democracy is featuring some interesting ideas for democratic reform from the many little larabuckertons of "Blogland."

2) Meanwhile, I visited London this weekend to look for survivors and found nothing but bookshops. The bookartbookshop near Old Street tube station is a sweet little diving bell, stacked with pretty little hand-mades and a few poetic bots and bibs. Definitely worth a lick of its icing, but it has funny opening times so make sure you have a giggle at them before you go.

While you're securing the area, there's a little bookshop in Old Street station itself. Full prices, but "stacky" like a second hand bookshop, so I didn't feel afraid, and for its size it's a good selection of genre and cult stuff.

Altogether grittier is the Barnardo's charity shop near Brixton Tube, where Bon Jovi side-projects and suspect baby slippers mingle with rare and sacred texts of the contemporary avant garde -- you know, Articulate How, Eckhart Cars, that sort of thing. It probably won't be long before they clear either the poetry or the slippers out to make room for the other, so hurry girls!

I'd also recommend, back in Edinburgh, Armchair Books, which is along from Grassmarket. It has a nice large jumble of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and a large antiquarian collection whose books I can't afford, but whose titles made me titter melodiously. Two notices, "This bookshop may revert to a private residence at any moment," and "Please don't piss against the door -- it runs into the shop" also trickled under my fancy.

I haven't visited Peter Bell Books next door, but doesn't it sound trustworthy? Like a Praxis MP!

3) I'm guest-editing the "Scotland" bit of an online poetry journal, Sleeves run I think by Marcus Sleeves? I met him at a sort of poetry rodeo thing in London, he has very pure skin like a baby and carries a moustache comb. So do send me your poems, if you live in Scotland (larabuckerton at "gee, male!" dot com), or let's say down to Newcastle, by the end of November.

4) There are now four bald men and one with a ponytail opposite me clustered around a Toshiba laptop watching something that goes "Aaargh! Eugh! Aaaargh! Bchkew!! Bchkew!! Aaaaargh!!"

Looters xxx

Monday, 5 October 2009

Utopia

I have just spent two nights at Notopos, un événement de la Biennale internationale des Poètes en Val de Marne (BIPVAL), au sein du projet européen « Trytich : Poésie – identité – Coexistence » soutenu par le commissariat à la culture de l’Union Européenne et piloté par la société chypriote Atlantis Productions en collaboration avec les quatre pays partenaires Chypre, France, Suède et Grèce, whatever that means! I always think I'm quite good when I get to say the French but not so much when I have to listen.

The lovely, lovely, lovely Christophe Marchand-Kiss kinda tractor-beamed me via series of evasive emails which actually attached alligator clips which were the Praxis Molds of the Hoxton fin of the lad I love, and whose wires apparently led into a rustling bingo-wing all arranged, it looked like, for karaoke later and I was down to do John Prine's "Jesus Christ: The Missing Years . . . et un 'bonus'" with someone called AnnaO but actually led out the other side into a shaking trifocal pornography whose panels each represented the level of magnification most associated with one of the three participating nations (France, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey). On Saturday, at the Maison de la Poesie restaurant, Christophe explained in terrible English how he distilled my pure coordinates out of fine ambient poetry dew, and to be fair had an alembic but I suspect a tip-off from the lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely respectively Stephen Rodefer or Caroline Bergvall? Bliss was it in that norm to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!



A folder in my hotel room held translations, by no less than Ian Bell, which were both much better than the original without not being exactly the same!

The readings took place in two venues, one in Paris and one in Vitry-sur-Seine, and on the coaches between, & I suspect the funding relates to the Vitry venue, whilst the Paris venue was because none of the fucko backwards redthroat Vitry locals could after a harvest day of barf and bucks under the bigger EuroDisney roller-coasters be bothered to fucking show up (some of those only scheduled to read in Vitry were a bit "poety" about this!!) to listen to some fucking poems.

After I watched perhaps ten poets read in languages I couldn't understand, though in some cases they were followed by translations into languages I couldn't understand. Everyone read with spectacular theatricality and vivacity, and some were accompanied with videos, music (including a bloody wicked lil faun-dude mincing about with a flute pastoral as shite) and other sound; some of this perhaps was in deference to the uncertain mix of linguistic competence present in the room; some perhaps merely à la mode.

It began with le travail de Heike Fiedler (Suisse), some rather wonderful macronic outbursts, quite understandable from a customer finally at the front of the queue she hallucinated. Here's something of Heike's I found on Youtube:



Heike is a matey. I'll try to find more of her stuff. She questioned the ethics of holding me down to tape my beak open "in case."

Cia Rinne (Finlande), whose kid I think Gür Genç (Chypre -- it means Cyprus!!) laughingly hoisted earlier, broke words into smaller sense units and rapidly nudged them around their somatic neighbourhood, achieving a semantic ensemble stripped to minimal syntax without, somehow, seeming semantically random. I dunno, in London I might have found this a bit I-shit-myself-with-jogging-loyalty, but perhaps the fact that there was sucha comprehensive context of Indo-European meaning being drawn upon enlivened it. Or maybe her puns were witty.

I also liked Anne Kawala; she'd prepped me beforehand and I was able to follow some of it. I think there were roses and some cabbages being grown in the desert, but the cat knocks the irrigation. Then I think something dies, and I think, counterintuitively, it may be the cat. Oh dear. New Criticism. Anne is interested in reviving language. Is it then alive or undead I asked, wanting comfort. We developed a distinction between Vampire Language, whose spiritless repose is restrained and unobvious to the untrained eye, and Zombie Language, whose deadness is unmistakeable and also contagious (a kind of ideology of ideology critique?). Anne was taken by my account of Lich Lords. She is also taken by Christophe, who seems like a well nang cat -- all "crashing fags to people who don't really smoke but oh go on then" and frenetically chillaxing via E E Cummings, Quentin Tarantino, & tax law. Maybe he was excited because it was the festival he was organising then.

I went off for a bit and tried without much success to make myself sick to sober up. In the meanwhile Niki Marangou, who would not be drawn over dinner, Ramon Dachs, and Anne Kawala read. Then Demosthenes Agrafiotis, whom I missed at Birkbeck earlier this year, showed and collaborated with a film which took its own sweet time portraying its abecedary. I thought of Tom Raworth's "Shorty Fleming". Demosthenes is into post-calligraphy. He went to China with Julien Blaine and they drank snake's bolood together, a kind of commitment which should be instructive to the wavering hick polick. Then I just nipped off again and missed Gür Genç.

Then I did my bit:



& a dude came through with a mop to sort out the Coke at the end, and came on again later to really make sure. Frédérique Wolf-Michaux read Ian Bell's translation, really getting into it, and making similar cuts to the ones I'd just made up. It was weird and thrilling. Collaboration ex post facto mixed up with vanity.

Then mighty Pambos Kouzalis and his flautist. Probably bards? Then Nathalie Yot, at pace and throwing some shapes. Then AnneO and her guitarist. Three or four extremely breathy minimalist trip-rock pieces about princesses, with photocopier imagery -- I think of ladies in massive fuck-off hats and big gowns, maybe candles -- it made me think of that story where a kiss is amplified and the chap that hears it goes mad and melts. Not Roald Dahl, the other one. Then Demosthenes again, less accessible to me this team. Steinbacher was reading and tapping his pencil on his glass and smacking his book emphatically, and when he lost his pencil he had a spare pencil, though he put it in the same place from where the first one had rolled, but then when Frédérique was giving one of the interleaved translations he retrieved them both to his inner pocket, putting an end to that drama, and I was plucked away on a bus to Vitry.

In the vast bus were me and Gür and two others. "If you only shake your dick in Cyprus you'll hit some poets." I think Gür was out of sorts. He is a composite of twisted shadows, half-darknesses wrapped compactly like an artichoke heart, his serrated umbra-flanges spooling around the edges of the System in murklaw Northern Cyprus, as though they were monkeybars. His favourite English poets are Philip Larkin and John Clare. He's interested in poets who killed themselves (Myakovsky killed himself). "The skeleton worked into the David Foster Wallace" (Keston Sutherland, page 8). A fiss of RK lips. Things were winding down in Vitry. Raptor void leaping from people to people. All the funnest hugs, ever. The director Jean-Pierre Balpe was hilariously despondent and thought the whole thing was a fucking failure. Ha ha ha ha!

Saskia de Jong said she liked poems if she liked the person who was saying them and didn't like them if she didn't. She ordered for me: une omlette avec fromage et une bloody mary. She told me my train was upstairs.

I'll maybe add more later!

BYEeee xxx

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Animals



I have found a new piece from the magnificent Steve Aylett!

"As far as I could tell every single one of the thousand or so rats was exactly the same. Again, why the repetition of the same idea? It could be that they were different from each other in some subtle way I didn’t understand, but what could it be? Would they begin individually expressing different viewpoints and notions never heard before? Or simply attack me in the most boring way, each rat gnashing in roughly the same manner as its neighbour? I’ll leave you to guess which was the case."

Well done everyone!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Telly!!!

Derren Brown predicted the Lotto numbers live on telly!!



Then the marvellous imp "revealed" three ways of winning the Lottery: (1) forge a ticket; (2) really predict the numbers; (3) rig the machines. Most of his show was devoted to option (2). We watched the lovely, lovely, lovely Derren charm twenty-four also rather sweet chumps into believing that -- if they only shed their greed (like good cultists!) -- then, like Power Rangers dolls, aggregated into a mighty Prophet Mech -- why, those Lotto numbers would come tumbling towards them like a little Temporal Hamster, scurrying in her ball against the flow.

It seems like "Deep Maths," post-Christian anxiety around civil privatism, the sedimented avant-garde cachet of Breton's automatism, and the wisdom of crowds ("the studied perspicacity of lynch mobs" as Auntie May used to call it) make up the New Credulity, and upon it the lovely, lovely, wicked Derren has founded the New Paranormal -- that's not boycum sealing your copy of Freakonomics, Derren -- it's ectoplasm!!!

But then in the very exciting bit at the end, Derren strongly implied he had really used option (3) -- eyebrow-waggled his way into the Camelot set-up, a veritable Jedi Knight of the Round Table, and rigged the lottery.



Of course, some cleversticks of Youtube Inc. quickly divined how Derren could have “predicted” the lottery with camera trickery, a sort of option (4) thingy. His unstoppably understated video was picked up by national news, because this is how we roll. The enigmatic snowflake which, in the teaser to The Events, Derren coquettishly lifts up to his chest rather like the doomed and overweight child who repulses Humbert Humperdink in the early chapters of Nabokov’s Lolita lifting a sticky red lollypop to hers, seemed to sign that Derren had indeed frozen half the screen.



The latest twist though comes from a member of the show's live audience, a sort of living "deleted scenes", who reports that they were shown a clip of Derren on an open-top bus travelling under the 2008 Christmas lights on Oxford Street, snowflakes unravelling about his cheekbones and glittering in the pits of his eyes, and his fists stuffed with mock-up Lotto balls prophesizing the correct digits.

But the very latest twist is that the studio audience who watched the studio audience being filmed saw yet another secret bit of the show, which seems to show that there is an option (5)! Melody had tickets, but couldn't go on account of having suddenly become responsible for the creation of twenty carrot and ginger cakes, despite not owning so much as a spoon, so this is from mine & Poesy's memories, known to be rather wonderful and interesting. Do listen out for what I think may be a rather clever sleight in the final moments:

[Derren speaking]
Ah, Derren,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn'd perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature's eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Derren may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Derren must be damn'd.
O, I'll leap up to my God!--Who pulls me down?--
See, see, where Christ's blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ!--
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!
Yet will I call on him: O, spare me, Lucifer!--
Where is it now? 'tis gone: and see, where God
Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!
No, no!
Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Earth, gape! O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign'd at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Derren, like a foggy mist.
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud,
That, when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven!
[This now cuts to a profile shot of my ex-boyfriend, Dream, which is weird enough in itself]
Ah, half the hour is past! 'twill all be past anon
O God,
If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
Yet for Christ's sake, whose blood hath ransom'd me,
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Derren live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav'd!
O, no end is limited to damned souls!
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras' metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang'd
Unto some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv'd in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu'd in hell.
Curs'd be the parents that engender'd me!
No, Derren, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv'd thee of the joys of heaven.
[The vast red LED blinks 12:00.]
O, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell!
[Thunder and lightning.]
O soul, be chang'd into little water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found!
[Enter DEVILS.]
My God, my god, look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books!--Ah, Mephistophilis!
[Exeunt DEVILS with DAN BROWN.]
[A sort of chorus enters and begins to strike the set.]

Paroxyms of gay man lust overwhelm me and I must go for a wander. Adieu, world-swabs.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Letter to Toilette & Douche LLP

Dear Big 1/4,

According to the Deloitte web site, "Third-party assurance enhances trust building and credibility with company stakeholders".

This evening I read with mounting euphoria your inaugural corporate responsibility report, "We are defined by our responsibilities." You were even runner-up in a competition! Alas, as has often been the case, my euphoric pretensions were cut short when the finale came sooner than expected, or was wished for. Where is the assurance statement?

To its clients, Deloitte promotes the value of independent assurance of corporate responsibility disclosures. Why then does the firm feel it is inappropriate to seek independent assurance on its own report?

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,
Lara

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Octave Puke

May I recommend you all Francis Crot's "OCTAVE PUKE: 3 CHAPTERS FROM THE TRAGEDY OF BEYONCE KNOWLES" forthcoming very soon from Veer Books? I have an advance copy for blurb purposes, although Francis, who is also the author of "I Will Endorse Your Novel For Crack," has explained that she "makes them up" and is going to "use me for ideas," so. It's a sort of hard-boiled detective thingy. Originally Francis wanted 200 blank pages at the back for notes. Next I'm reading Cranford again and I'll probably write a blurb to that as well. Consider this it, Francis!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Non-sequitors are the new instrumental reason

Violent grassroots resistance to . . . regulation of the health insurance market? Loco! Some cry astroturf, Lara says burnurns & traversers! Prof Karol Sikora, dean of the University of Buckingham Medical School, has been appearing in US commercials explaining that negroes, Satan and communism are basically the same deal, and what we have over here!

Only one thing to do: donate a few bucks to Strange Horizons, which has been around much longer than America.

xxx

P.S.: Billions of Britishers en masse are defending the NHS on Twitter (those that don't know how to defend it on Dwarf Fortress)! Sweeeeet!!!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Assurors of the future

I am working on a specula principum for the Big Four (four cutting edges, like a Wilkinson Sword Quattro: they are Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y and PwC). I'm focusing, obv., on their provision of assurance of corporate responsibility reporting.

I've drafted this wish-list of features which I think a good assurance engagement should have. I'd love to hear your views (I mean anyone!).

Is there something I've left out?

I've tried to be as ambitious as possible, but are some of these just completely unrealistic longings?

"CR" stands for "Corporate Responsibility" (something like CSR, corporate citizenship, or sustainability). "CRR" stands for "Corporate Responsibility Reporting." CSO and NGO are "Civil Society Organisation" and "Non-Governmental Organisation."

Third-party involvement in CRR: best practice and risks




(1.1) Stakeholders - best practice

Critical independence
- The assuror is an expert on the public interest, conceived as a global phenomenon ("the common good" etc.)
- The assuror constantly maintains its expertise through consultation with -- and procurement and recruitment from -- CSOs, NGOs, academia, business, grassroots activists, the political class, and through original research
- The assuror's opinion is widely regarded as credible, but the assuror's ultimate reference standard is the public interest, not the protection of its own credibility
- The assuror doesn't take the existence and salience of different stakeholders as a "given," but considers how CR and CRR can influence the formation, salience and empowerment of stakeholder constituencies
- The assuror also takes into account the formation of different stakeholder models and representations by CR and CRR -- different ways of imagining or modelling stakeholder expectations
- The assuror recognises itself as a stakeholder, and does not present itself as neutral
- The assuror recognises that it is a nexus of stakeholder views
- The assuror itself is subject to independent oversight
- The assuror employs third (fourth, I suppose?) parties to double-blind assure randomly selected CRR assertions
- The assuror treats liability as a transformative instrument, not just as a risk to be avoided
- The assuror’s employees possess independence of mind
- The assuror’s independence is not structurally compromised
- The assuror always constructively criticises the reporting entity’s CR and CRR (there are no clean bills of health)
- Criticism is always addressed by the reporting entity, not normalised as a permanent feature of CRR
- The assuror ensures that stakeholder conflict is reflected in the reporting entity's CRR

(1.2) Stakeholders - risks

Independence is confused with objectivity
- The CRR obscures the political dimension of the reporting entity’s activities -- disguising political conflicts with winners as losers as "challenges" which can be tackled to everyone's satisfaction
- Processes which cannot be quantified are neglected
- Processes which cannot be validated are neglected
- Measureable indicators are mistaken for hard facts

Pandering to stakeholders
- Stakeholder-orientation leads to neglect or misuse of expert knowledge
- Stakeholder-orientation leads to overemphasis on credibility at the expense of accuracy
- Goals which cannot be associated with specific stakeholders are ignored

Inventing stakeholders
- Stakeholder-orientation causes assurors and reporting entities to see well-defined constituencies where no such constituencies exist
- "Communities" or "the community" abstract away real differences, fragmentation and conflicts among stakeholders

Malign transformation of stakeholders
- “Symbiotic” stakeholder constituencies, which legitimate corporate activities in return for minor concessions, marginalise other stakeholders
- Traditional democratic resources are eroded by the emergence of corporate stakeholder constituencies (e.g. time spent in stakeholder dialogue is diverted from traditional civic participation)
- Improvements in CR damage the identities of critics of the reporting entity (e.g. critics are marginalised, "defeated" and/or radicalised, rather than transferred to new appropriate targets)
- CR compels individual stakeholders with unique characteristics to assimilate into blocs



(2.1) Holism - best practice

Intelligent responsibility

- CRR allows corporations, states, CSOs, NGOs, international institutions and other actors to dovetail their efforts towards achieving the public interest
- The assuror helps the reporting entity to define scope and materiality, not just test accuracy
- Materiality is defined with respect to the public interest
- The burden of proof lies with the assuror in determining that it or the reporting entity “is not in the business of [x]” (i.e., that [x] is a matter for private morality / government regulation / someone else in the supply chain etc.)

Intelligent comparability
- CRR identifies the real drivers of CR and allows easy policy transfer to underperforming entities
- CRR encourages the growth of SRI and engages in critical dialogue with ranking agencies and investors
- CRR is tailored by context, including entity size, industry, sector and geographical spread
- CRR occurs at the appropriate organisational level, which may be above or below that of corporate reporting
- At each level, CRR facilitates CR at every level -- e.g., CRR at the level of the individual corporation facilitates the launch of CR programmes at the industry level

(2.2) Holism - risks

Inappropriate responsibility
- In defining materiality, the survival or “success” of the reporting entity takes precedence over public interest
- In defining materiality, partial social goods, such as job security or local community development, take precedence over public interest
- The reporting entity’s CR is benchmarked against a limited model, against competitors, or against an abstract idea of “public expectations” or of “progress”
- Too many scenarios and interactions are considered, incurring unecessary costs and obscuring priorities
- Responsibility is confused with accountability, making it difficult to tell where accountability channels exist
- CR successes are “consolidated” by unnecessary or counterproductive regulative regimes
- The assuror and / or the entity hold unrealistic expectations about the limits of the law

Inappropriate comparisons
- CRR invites misleading comparisons, either because reports are insufficiently tailored to context, or because errors occur in translating between contexts

Malcoordination
- Different visions of the public interest interfere with one another
- Important issues “fall between the cracks” between businesses, states, assurors and other actors
- Corporations are encouraged to try to replicate context-specific or one-off successes



(3.1) Business case - best practice

Conflicts of interest
- The assuror does not just avoid conflicts of interest or seek to neutralise them with Chinese walls, but resolves them in favour of the public interest

Appropriate scope and depth
- Neither assuror nor reporting entity view assurance as primarily a commodity
- Where possible, assurance is not a commodity - for example, provided free of charge with large contracts, or incorporated into the assuror's own CR programmes
- The assuror achieves the appropriate balance between driving change and ensuring comparability across reporting entities
- Assurance always contains "spot checks" in which randomly selected material items are assured to a higher level than they otherwise would be
- The scope of the engagement between the reporting entity and the assuror is not determined by the reporting entity, but by the global public interest
- The scope of the engagement between the reporting entity and the assuror is not determined by the assuror, but by the global public interest. Increases in scope are not reflected by increases in fees (for example, the expanded scope engagement could be passed over to a second assuror)
- The scope of the engagement is not limited by financial considerations - if the reporting entity cannot afford the required level of engagement, the assuror or some other actor meets the funding gap
- The assuror drives change at substantive, procedural and cultural levels
- Assurors and reporting entities achieve the appropriate balance between long-term relationships and fresh perspectives
- Assurance involves a long-term on-site presence
- Assurance involves off-site interviews of employees and management

(3.2) Business case - risks

Assurors sell legitimacy
- CRR is callibrated to maximise legitimacy, not to accurately reflect CR

“Box-ticking”
- CRR is dominated by a compliance-orientation

Cultural change is emphasised in the wrong areas
- Compliance-orientation is underused. CR which could safely and easily coordinated through systems rationality places an undue burden on communicative rationality

Notes

At the moment, I'm coming at the issue from the perspective that "stakeholder" is in danger of becoming a magical concept, capable of solving any CR problem. But the definition of a stakeholder is notoriously contested, and certain groups of stakeholders may simply get certain issues wrong.

Once I've finalised my model of a perfect assurance engagement, the next step is to see how the Big Four measure up to it! Then to insinuate myself as a mist under boardroom doors.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Reality



plus . . .

Dead Set.

WHEN WILL SOMEONE MAKE A REALITY TV SHOW WITH ZOMBIES AND PUT ME ON IT AND NOT TELL ME I'M ON IT. NO I don't have an unconscious wish to abolish private property, it really is about the zeds.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Horrible Truth

Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria
By D. Harlan Wilson


D. Harlan Wilson wrote Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria. A serial killer comes to suburbia. In good postmodern fashion (shout out, Giorgio Agamben, Zygmunt Bauman) the killer is a rational extrapolation of the suburban system, not an exception to it.

When D. Harlan Wilson wrote Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria it was like, OK: why bring that up now. Because in “Room” (The Kafka Effect, 2001), approximately the same author pointed out: “Room fulla bureaucrats, managers ... tomboys, oafs ... [it goes on for a few pages, mentioning everything] ... sociobiologists, sociopaths ... loners ... chin ... collectors and resellers ... mean and nasty and wild and crazy packrats, and an invisible man made visible by a suit of human skin standing by himself in a corner blinking into the maelstrom and then scanning the whitewalls of the room, just one more time, for doors that are not there”, and what’s to add? What’s to add to that succinct bitterbitter, blankety-blank sentiment? What’s to add that hasn’t been INB4ed by the OP “saturnalia-nailed-on-a-skatepark” gris-gris freize-freak you love to hate to hate to love, ladies and brutalmen, the one, the only, the Other, Late- a.k.a. Techno- a.k.a. POSTCAPITALISM?

Some of us have been seeing if, next, we can throw up through our best friend – stuff like that. Bringing up the postcapitalist maelstrom is a bit like bringing up the Holocaust. Can’t we just forget about it, i.e. deny it ever happened? You say head in the sand, I say taking the fight to the sand. A serial killer comes to suburbia. You can’t kip-up from life itself. WRITHE WHERE YOU BELONG, BEING.

A brief history of the Cafca Effect

Franz Kafka’s illustrious communiqué that the “exceptions listed in §2 of the classification regulations frequently provide the inspectors’ assessments with a legal justification to oppose the Insitute’s classification. The application of §2 in the current classification system must rely on the passage regarding revision of the risk categories as specified on p. 119 of the Amtliche Nachrichten of 1909. This section states that only certain types of commercial enterprises may be considered suitable for the application of §2, as well as a limited kind of low-energy engines” (letter to the Minister of the Interior, Summer 1911) says it all.

What’s to add?

Definition of maelstrom

Noun. Rarely malström, malstrøm. Pl. maelstaaaaargh!

1. A very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The Nordic word was introduced into English by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841). Probably derived from the Dutch maelstrom (in modern Dutch, maalstroom). The Netherlands was one of the earliest countries to succumb to (slash, become emparadised by) capitalism, and also the locus of the first truly modern financial crisis: the tulips bubble. Financial bubbles stretch out over the ether to a grand thought dirigible. But what image floats therein? Is it just a chick?

2. A metaphor for the way in which postcapitalism confronts individuals. Although in fact you are caught in a conjunction of currents which have no necessary relationships with one-another, you experience a monstrous integrated environment, seemingly bent on your captivity and destruction. Tossed devastatingly to and fro, the more you lose track of absolute position and orientation, and the nature of body and identity, the less convincing you find the vulgar postmodern maxim that such things are illusions.

Dream-like

Shutting your eyes to the horrible truth lets you dream about it.

“... Basically,” says D. Harlan Wilson (hereafter “Doc”), “irrealism combines a dreamlike aesthetic with an absurdist sentimentality—that’s how I always explain it. I also deploy techniques and rudiments from several other genres (e.g., absurdism, science fiction, fantasy, horror, splatterpunk, literary fiction, postmodernism). These are all fairly broad terms that encompass a wealth of styles and narrative ingredients. In the last few years, my writing has fallen into the category of ‘Bizarro.’ This is also a broad term that might be quantified as the literary equivalent to a cult film. In light of my preoccupation with media forces and technocapitalist violence, however, probably the most apt title of all for my writing is ‘Avant-Pop.’ According to hyperartist Mark Amerika in his Avant-Pop Manifesto, ‘Avant-Pop artists themselves have acquired immunity from the Terminal Death dysfunctionalism of a Pop Culture gone awry and are now ready to offer their own weirdly concocted elixirs to cure us from this dreadful disease (“information sickness”) that infects the core of our collective life.’ Plain and simple, right? In the end, I guess I’m as confused as anybody about what I write. But I like writing it ... I’m extremely interested in dreams on a personal and theoretical level—where dreams come from, how they inform our lives, how they interpret experience, the stories they tell, what they indicate about brain function, etc. Dreams are essentially an instance of raw imagination at work, and the assertion and exploration of the imagination is of seminal importance to me, both as a writer and reader ...” (interview in Pif Magazine).

One similarity between dreams and Blankety Blank is a properly Kafkaesque atmosphere of stonewalling and unforthcomingness. Kafka’s shit so cash. Worlds of meaning are violently torqued around undisclosed “fetish object” gravity wells while behaving enormously embarrassed about the whole thing.

This kind of unenthusiastic and bureaucratic “negative destiny” is remniscent of The Crying of Lot 49: “‘It is at about this point in the play that things really get peculiar, and a gentle chill, an ambiguity, begins to creep in among the words […] a new mode of expression takes over. It can only be called a kind of ritual reluctance” (Thomas Pynchon).

This same quality sometimes enters OMG my dreams. It tends to happen whenever a dream puts its entire illusion in jeopardy, by developing demands upon its characters to act more – well, “humanly.” I mean, I think there can be a kind of revalatory element to living in a world peopled by other minds, a dimension of surprise and emergent complexity. Something which cannot be convincingly emulated by a single mind relating to itself via an ensemble of finger puppets. So whenever events in a dream conspire to disclose that limitation, the ritual reluctance intervenes to divert and distract. Otherwise, all the little brains in the muffin tin must rise rhizomically and merge and Lara must awake.

That’s what (to take another phrase of Doc’s) “The Dream People” are like – strange, pseudo-differentiated creatures, ever-ready to morph to new functions, secluded behind a veil of evasiveness, superintended by something large, secret and shocking.

But the obscurity which Blankety Blank tries to penetrate (or at any rate, introduce into the dance of its eye flaws) is this – real people have become like people in dreams.

Pinching

Another smidge of Pynchon, BTW, Blankety Blank reminds me of is the opening of Vineland, in which Zoyd Wheeler somewhat wearily carries out his annual rite (it’s a local media spectacle too) of dressing in drag, acquiring a chainsaw and leaping through a plate-glass window. This keeps him in mental disability cheques for another year: obv. this special day is from a certain POV the one day of the year on which Zoyd is sane enough to “work” as a productive member of society. There’s a character in Blankety Blank who compulsively throws himself from a window, one of the many instances in the book of mechanical behaviours unaccountably imposed on human life. Even more than of the Pynchon bit though, it reminds me of Chris Morris’s Jam sketch on the topic. Jam includes some very good satire on what you might call the UK’s “propertied interest” – here a meticulous expose of middle class ruthlessness and self-loathing, here a rather sweet expose of underclass bafflement and slavishness (can’t find the link just now but it is rather sweet I promise). In a way it’s a pity Chris Morris wasn’t born an American, since then he’d be dead and we wouldn’t have to know.

Spoiler alert

Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria. Parts hereafter are quite spoiler-ish. So if you want the gist, it is: buy this product, in fact don’t just buy this product, buy every product!



Zero-dimensional man

“An irreality TV show was being filmed outside the entrace. Rutger had seen the show before. He couldn’t remember its name. It might have been ‘The Show.’ He recognized the main character. He was the only character – an expressionless, nondescript male in his late 50s who traveled to different strip malls around Michagan, stood against their pseudobrick walls and, once an hour, on the hour, droned, ‘This is real.’ Intermittently he said, ‘This is reality,’ and it was the task of the audience, over the course of a month, to determine how many times the protagonist tacked on an ity word to the word real and precisely where and why those aberrations took place in the temporal scheme of things. To do so successfully resulted in the breaking of a code that rutger had always found to tedious to waste time on. But he had to admit liking the show. He liked it almost as much as staring at praying mantises.” Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria, by Doc, pg. blankety blank.

Real people have become like people in dreams. Crash zoom, cymbal crash. Yes, in Blankety Blank, the characters are as deep as the scum that covers the surface of the poisoned water feature at the centre of the suburban community – and this illicit and derivitive quality extends even to their reviews. From the town hall pulpit to the last cracked commode lex leks and Zweckrationalität runs amok. Put your little Lego crescent in mine. But lives in Vulgaria are stacked less like Lego than like Luxco portfolios – malevolent, horny and barely there. If there were a Dramatis Personae it would list the characters’ desires, not their names. Haggling, which overtly dominates one early episode, is a good template for most of the memoir’s interactions. There is gusto and imagination in haggling – but it’s all in the sick, sundazed and saddened pursuit of gain.

The thin characterisation is not simply “good writing disguised as bad writing.” In a strong sense, it is “bad writing.” It is writing which is bad because life itself is badly written.

Quality is violently reduced to quantity. Your vein, if you know your stuff, rises hissing from your forehead like the cobra from her basket – Jürgen Habermas, in a drunken swing at postmodernist irrationalism, hypothesises an “unlimited communication community,” but against this (actual proper) theory, postmodernism can posit a quasi-noumenal “unlimited haggling community,” in which communicative action is steered by fear of boredom, and of the violent restructuring of identity by haggard and mercenary rhetoricians. “Why can’t I find a girlfriend? I don’t understand. Maybe they’re scared by all the multiple orgasms they have when they have sex with me – that it will leave their mind a shuddering husk?” is practically “hi” in Vulgaria – “emotion” in is either an embarrassingly transparent ploy, or good inspiration for such a ploy. It always gets product-recalled by tranquillity. A porn medley with the sex cut out. The Vulgarian id plagiarises structures of economic interest in its wretched efforts to avoid enforced redundancy at quarterly review. When we can afford a McMansion, shall we fall in McLove?

Aside

To say that real people “have become” like people in dreams, or that irreality “has replaced” reality, is a bit of a cheat – it harks back to a fabled golden era.

But this level is stupidly hard, so it’s OK to use cheats. It’s questionable whether we can ever rid ourselves of all that harking.

Alive, alone and alike

There are two linked features of modernity which may explain why real people are becoming more like people in dreams.

The first feature is atomisation. With the industrial revolution (you know: The Spinning Jenny, poi, Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf in digital 3D, Beowulf ringtones etc.) greater social and geographic mobility has loosened people from their traditional communities. This atomisation goes hand-in-hand (actually, probably prefers not to touch cuz of cooties) with isolation, alienation, pathological individualism and anomie (the last word is Emile Durkheim’s, basically meaning a lack of beliefs about how to behave or what to care about).

The second feature is homogeneity. As we know each other less, we have to become more alike just to maintain basic social order. The diffuse imperative to be categorized and predictable grows stronger – where once we had chicken soup for the soul, now we have zombie semen for the CV (Zygmunt Bauman talks a lot about homogeneity in this sense under the rubric of “the stranger in our midst”).

From zero to Nero®



Studies in the 1950s showed that dreams were predominantly black-and-white. As colour media became more widespread, dreams gradually seemed to colorise.

This sounds like one of the kooky lies from one of Doc’s “short history of” interludes, but it’s not.

“According to cave drawings, it is believed that Yen-shu Phrase (d.o.b. unknown), a Chinese barber, proto-human, and member of the Yicfung clan, experienced the first coherent dream. The dream was simple. A jar of baby pickled sat on a table .... Phrase awoke. Crabby and fatigued, he told his family and peers about his experience. They neither believed nor understood him.” Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria, by Doc, pp. blankety blank to blankety blankety blank blank blank.

The lovely, lovely, lovely Eric Schwitzgebel has a paper all about the apparent “colourisation” of dreams. He argues that the ingredients of dreaming are not uniquely elusive to memory and language. Instead, “we are pervasively and grossly mistaken about our own conscious experience”.

So on one level, we tend to incorporate the most ubiquitous or advanced technologies into our theories about our minds. Cyberpunk tended to conceive of the mind computationally. Descartes had a hydraulic vibe. Ug and Grok developed a theory of mental content in which compresent tropes are cudgelled into squits of a multiply-realisable “concept jelly,” and their central controversy was: is the mind more rock-like or branch-like?

But what Schwitzgebel says implies something more fundamental. Not only the theories we bring to bear on experience, but the nature of that experience itself (including what we do and don’t count as “technology”), down to something as apparently self-founding as the colour of dreams, depends on what technologies pervade our universe. My dreams, for example, now have a chat window, which I have disabled.

It’s this more fundamental level which Doc explores. Who are we? We are, tautologically, “ourselves.” But for Doc, and his co-doxa, the “self” changes with the hour. “The self and technology are not independent of one another; they are co-dependent,” Doc muses, “and if technology were to somehow be transcended or extracted from the self, the self would cease to exist. In this way, the boundary that separates nature and culture collapses as technology (generally considered a cultural formation) is a natural part of the (post)human condition. Any expression of nostalgia for nature is problematic …” (Technologized Desire, p. 27).



In Doc’s approach, technology is not just whatever blips and whirrs the brightest and loudest. It’s a broader concept – as Donna Haraway 5.44 points out, “Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile …” (Cyborg Manifesto, OMG). Very loosely speaking, the technologies Blankety Blank focuses on are the economic, cultural, and psychological ones – technologies like the dinner party, the fitness regime.

Emancipatory traces

The mammoth silo which Rutger has built in his back yard – the phallic, rustic, conspicuously-consumptive folly, with its peculiar association with music (the construction workers who build it all play musical instruments – compare some of the stuff I say in (1) Prosody), and its unmissable insinuation of theology a la Babel and post-Babel (e.g. William Golding’s The Spire, Ted Chiang’s “Tower of Babylon”, Square Enix’s The Final Fantasy Legend) – that silo is surely one such problematic expression of nostalgia for nature.

I’ve been hinting that Blankety Blank doesn’t just bear witness to suburban postcapitalism, but is in some sense critical of it. In other words, this book is broadly a satire. It’s tricky to say just where its criticism begins and ends, especially since the postcapitalism setting comes with a certain amount of, as it were, prepackaged critical motifs. To say that people are atomised and homogenised is to make a not-that-tacit critical statement.

Plus, there have long been fierce and interesting disagreements about the limit conditions of criticism, and particularly over the question of whether it’s possible to criticise something without providing a better alternative to it (nostalgic or not). My hunch – a lot of people have this hunch – is that criticism can’t help evoking some alien ingredient, some thing drawn from outside its subject matter. If it thinks it can avoid it (say by using only satirical exaggerations and enlargements, or some kind of careful immanent critique) it tends to develop subterranean dogmatisms.

Since criticism can’t help evoking it, it does well if it pays attention to it and shaping it in some way, but this might not mean turning it into a full-blown “better alternative.” It might mean attenuating it and degrading it, making it frail and unconvincing. It might mean turning it into that postmodern favourite, the “trace.”



If everything is meaningless, why is there the concept of meaning? If the Doc’s “short history” interludes demonstrate that the line between fact and fiction is blurred or nonexistant, why does the reader experience them as provocative mixtures of fact and fiction?

Again in good postmodern fashion, there is no sameness here without différance, no equivalence without violent historical exclusion, no neutrality without it being wrapped around a steaming stick of bias-dynamite, no unfurnished, whitewashed bungalow bedroom without, shall we say, a certain degree of reality haddock immured by its thoughtful former occupant – and the river of “blankety blank” flowing through the memoir is silvered by at least three such reality haddocks: (1) euphemism; (2) the long-running British gameshow “Blankety Blank”; (3) prosody. In the words of Immanence, “Oh no. I farted. My wart. Darted. Back to the garden to start the countdown.”

(3) Prosody

Blankety Blank is encapsulated in the counterfeit thought of Paul Di Filippo, “[l]ike Paul Di Filippo meets Paul Di Filippo . . . on The Bell Jar serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors covermount!”

The memoir is mostly written in short, avuncular sections – shades of Kurt Vonnegut. Many of these are potted histories of this or that, emphasis on the pot. Also definitions, Confucian analects, aphorisms, and some extremely choice quotations (“I’m sorry I killed five people, ok?” – Gary Allen Walker, Serial Killer).

Aside

Reminds me of the epigraph to a Steve Aylett novel, George Appel’s soundbyte from his electric chair: “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.” Something else Doc shares with Aylett, BTW, is the prominence of reviled orators . . . though Aylett’s tend to be sash-eyed liches who are after transcendence through affront, whereas Doc’s Gamehater, for example, is truly dismayed by his hostile receptions. Haterz can’t be playaz.

Where were we and who are we

Breezily high concept comedy (“What if Patrick Swayze was an initiate of deconstruction?”) with a brazenly low budget. This is the kind of book you’d forward to your friends. Mark Leyner has a sort of running joke: what if we really thought in the terms suggested by corporate advertising and government policy? This premiss becomes amazingly fruitful in Leyner’s writing. By taking at face value the invasive and near-invincible culture (red in truth and law) which encompasses and composes us, he repeatedly shows that we already know the kind of lie it is. Leyner’s deadpan acceptance of spin and hype seems to demonstrate that ideology critique isn’t good enough – at least, that it tells us little that’s new. We already know that the pantheon of nobheads who occupy aspirational discourse are all injured parties themselves – despairing, near-suicidal wretches – and that the native population of normalising discourse all feel like immolated freaks. Something similar pops up in Doc’s work (which is a good thing, since Leyner seems to be on a loooong time-out), though the premiss is less “what if we really were what culture supposes us to be?” than it is “what if the things which culture supposes to be important really were important”?



Quotation

“In the wake of recent revelations concerning Margaret B. Jones’s memoir ‘Love and Consequences’ and Misha Defonseca’s ‘Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years’ the disclosure that Mr. Kafka’s work was based on reality has embarrassed editors and scholars.

“’I’ve been teaching “The Metamorphosis” for years, said a professor of literature at Princeton, who insisted that he be identified as P. ‘I’ve called it one of the most sublime pieces of literature ever written. Elias Canetti called it “one of the few great and perfect poetic works written during this century.” To find out that it’s actually true is devastating.’

“The actual condition of Kafka’s neighbor, a Prague salesman who didn’t return our calls or e-mail messages requesting comment, is known as entomological dysplasia, and is somewhat rare. It results in the development over time of a hard carapace, a segmented body and antennas.”

-- Mark Leyner, New York Times, March 9 2008



(3) Prosody

So although Blankety Blank has an affinity with proto-postmodern proto-anti-novels like Jonathan Swift Tale of a Tub and Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy and (where most of the “story” is digression), and with contemporary roving, docufictionary maximalism, or “hysterical realism” by the likes of of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, the more obvious comparison is with “stuff you find on the Internet” – think “content provision,” think memes, blogosphere, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Onion, all the belle lettres of the era of value-add reverie.

People tell me Bizarro really lends itself to the short form. But me, I’m often disappointed by wee absurdist set-pieces – which justify being not-very-good by being not-very-long. Their “weirdness” can be little more than a passive-aggressive refusal of all valuation criteria, but it’s usually pretty obvious which bits are the good bits, if any.

More bang for my buck, less lassitude for my vicissitudes ... it’s strange that such a formally permissive book doesn’t give much sense of splurge. Admittedly, there are a few sections, mostly towards the end, where I found myself wanting to take Occam’s Blunt Instrument to Doc and his book. And the slapstick injuries disrupt the tautness with queasy bodily cacophany (as per usual – who here can honestly say they haven’t uncertainly thumbed a residue of gristle from the SimCopter they left playing on their iPod Touch?). But for the most part, you get the impression of mad skills on Windows Paint, not Adobe Photoshop. There’s great economy of expression. The bright bald triangular green head of the book’s pet praying mantis is its superlatively representative phenomenon, the phenomenon all its other phenomena aspire to, and the one you’ll dust from its cooling embers after it explodes. Keith Loutit’s breathtaking Metal Heart is the book’s perfect cinematic correlate. The frequently clipped and direct style is apt, in light of the meanness and narrowness of so much Vulgarian experience. The memoir’s dedication is “for me.” You get a sense of Doc as chiropractor, briskly fondling himself gauntlets from the reader’s inner chitin. You get a sense of computer gaming – left to their own devices, the characters would get up to jaded, capricious fidgets that resembling the idle animation loops of point-and-click performers. Except a bit more trepanny. Their temperments resemble the mood indelibly carved into the heads of platformer heroes – Mario’s resoluteness, for example.

They say Charles Dickens rejected a submission by Laman Blanchard entitled “Orient Pearls at Random Strung” with the terse “Dear Blanchard, too much string – Yours, C. D.” I would have gone with “It’s made out of cum!”; the problem of the interconnection of microcontent. What grouts together the petite triumphs, with their assorted conceits and other raisons d’ être? Or can they really all be jiggled together each flush to some others’ edges?

There are nods in the grouting (an allusion to the long-running British horror / sci-fi show Nods in the Grouting?) to the thick anthropological detail of late Victorian realism – the cumulative creation of a solid and consistent world out of the various interesting episodes which occur within it – but they are only nods, and they are also along to the heavily-fuzzboxed totalising roar of Empire-paranoia metal. Then there is the moment-by-moment improvisation of interest which is the gist of slapstick. But I think prosody – the rhythm, stress, intonation, and all the musical contours of language – is Doc’s best answer.

People say “tum ti tum ti tum ti tum” when they’re scanning a line of verse, or “doot dee doot doot doopy doop doop” when they can’t remember the next line of a song, a bit like “blankety blankety blankety blank”. Prosody can be a kind of lender of last resort for the global economy of meaning. Its fidelity to living occurs at the level of mimesis of breath and pulse, borbyrigmus and the shift of sweaty balls and breasts.

“Sometimes, when Rutger Van Trout walked through the hallways of his McMansion, he could feel the blankety blankety blank blankety blank blank blankety bank blank blank blank blank beneath him. So he built a silo, and he climed to the top. The blankety blankety blank blankety blank blank blankety blank blank blank blank blank didn’t go away. At least now his feet weren’t so close to it. He couldn’t stay up here forever, though. Hewould have to devise other means of coming to terms with the blankety blankety blank blankety blank blank blankety blank blank blank blank blank. Something to divert his attention, perhaps. Or rather, something to keep his eye on the ball.

“Mr. Van Trout looked down from the silo. Shielding their eyes, his neighbors looked up at him as their children obliterated entire communities of unsuspecting insects with blow torches.

“He lifted his eyes and looked at the skyline.”

(2) Wogan & his wand

A few slight scraps of optimistic otherness waft through Blankety Blank. Prosodic grace is one. The silo is another. Maybe sports. The possibility of a loving family unit seems to be another, or perhaps, more problematically and less conservatively, the possibility of children. Yet sprogs are not romanticised in any way. They are chips off the old block – “... their children buside themselves in driveways with magnifying glasses, burning anthills and vagabond beetles. A few children used miniature blowtorches. ... More neighbors gathered below, all of them wives or Mr. Moms and their kids. Children outnumbered adults now. There were hundreds of them. From the sky it looked like the street was on fire, flames humming and crackling over the din of insect screams” (15). Still, at least they glimpse life beyond the block. Hatred is another. Vulgaria has a superhero who, even if he sports compulsive malfunctions, and attracts nothing but heckles from his wards, is nonetheless rather promising – The Gamehater, whose creed is to hate the game not the player (that is roughly, to fight the postcapitalist system, not its individual moments (but to demonstrate how tough this is, imagine the reverse: “I can’t love you baby, but I’m totally crazy in love with segment of the social totality which corresponds to you, or if you prefer, with the intersection of discourses which constructs your identity”. In postcapitalism, the role of revolutionary is made pathological, inasmuch as diagnosing the enemy as a totality makes it necessary to withdraw your feelings from everything. Decathection is like nature’s hope)).



One fawned-upon irony, or paradox, or equivocation of postmodern thought involves an exception being a symptom of a norm. So Bauman, for example, rabbits on about how Auschwitz was not an aberration, but a logical effect of a system that was and still is. And Agamben has all this stuff about how the state of emergency became business as usual in the Bush era and beyond. We’re not really talking about principles or laws here – it’s a motif, and its truth depends entirely on its application (and I think Adorno and Schmitt respectively have similar but better things to say about Bauman and Agamben’s topics). Regrowing Hydra heads also have an important place in postmodernism. “Perfecting” one system creates problems elsewhere, like trying to squeeze air out of a rubber dinghy only everybody’s suffering and dying because of it.

Existent order is like a scab you can’t help picking only everyone’s suffering and dying because of it. In consequence there grows a yearning for almost any order that presents itself as spontaneous, transcendent, or exported from without. This yearning is part of the picking, though somehow, nebulously, a unique part of the picking.

I don’t know if Doc has ever seen the gameshow “Blankety Blank,” but here goes anyway.

The contestants take turns to fill in the blanks: “My son was a juggler until he dropped his ______”; but instead of a pre-arranged “factual” answer, the answer is generated in the miniature social reality of a panel of six.

One point is earned for each person on the panel who writes down “the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges), up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone.” In misleadingly-appropriated philosophical jargon, then, “Blankety Blank” features a coherence theory of truth, not a correspondence theory of truth.

What makes this show even more pressingly vital for our salvation is that (1) the panel is made up of celebrities, who are, in their weird way, wretched and regurgitated Everymen, each a savage composite garble of the desires of the demos, and (2) it peddles a very particular kind of shabby, linguistified eroticism, the eroticism of matrons and jubbly breasts, characterised by double entendre and a jaded cunning that is entirely at odds with sexual abandon. “To the thongs themselves” (Husserl).



If the viewer himself or herself doesn’t know the answer, an impression is contrived that the contestant and celebrities participate in a kind of spontaneous harmony, which somehow comes from outside of the show’s hegemony, which is the wrestling of fact and lacklustre lust.

“Revolts belong to history. But, in certain way, they escape from it” (Foucault). The heartstrings of several of Vulgaria’s inhabitants play a D chord at the prospect of such unaccountable set-pieces, of spontaneous order that is irreducible to sociological categories. Of a kind of political spirituality. Of the generative glamour associated with Rousseau’s lawgiver, Weber’s charismatic leader, Schmitt’s dictator, but imprinted onto a kind of monumental, diagrammatic arrangement of bodies. The kip-up late in the memoir, the “rape” kids earlier on.

(1) Euphemism & vulgaria

Blankety-blanx are of course also grawlixes.

Is there such a word as “fuck”? Or is the word “fuck” actually the word “fake”? How would Habermas pronounce it (a reference to his famous “unlimited communication community” thesis not his cleft palate! – Habermas is lovely and hates postmodernists like Doc!)? Is there such a word as “neo-cuntian”?

The townsfolk of Vulgaria go about in a sort of reverie or, taken by visions, stand frozen at their stations. The memoir has been rightly celebrated, by Di Filippo and others, as an awkward insistence upon the bongwater you try to call your blood. My final purpose with this review is to estimate the nastiness of its ass.

Offensive language causes “displeasure or resentment.” But this is practically the condition of all language in Vulgaria.

There is no word so extreme that it doesn’t refer you back to the established social hierarchy to determine its significance.

Envision the person of a little old lady. Not the vampish, worldly (nay galaxyly) “I-once-snogged-Hemingway” grand dame figure that is Lara’s certain destiny – she shall go unsuspected of her Satanic prank until it is quite, quite too late – but a sort of trite, two-dimensional “offensiveness metre” which has been handily callibrated for us and left at a Vulgaria bus stop. We christen her Mrs. Bourgeoisdom.

There is no reliable formula which will register the maximum jolt upon her kindly little cabbage. Perhaps you say (a) “Aren’t you people scared ... Of dying. Of being disembowelled. Of being murdered and peed on” (p. 82), and rack up only a slight sniff, and a new splurt of cumulonimbus capillatus incus in her twilight-crowded eyes. But perhaps the mild-seeming (b) “I have to take a leak” (p. 83) kindles a dramatic gasp of affront.

Breaking down the difference, we might suppose that the creepiness of (a) agitates, inside Mrs. Bourgeoisdom, some kind of ideological antibody into activity. The enquiry gets sealed in protective blandness mucus – converted into a generic specimin of “hmph! the upsetting nonsense of a nutcase” or “hmph! the confrontational attention-seeking of a nihilistic generation” – and its discrete components (fear, death, stomachs, murder, piss) gain no access to the complexes of experience which could have made them meatily meaningful for Mrs. Bella Bourgeoisdom. Whereas perhaps (b) slips under the crucial threshhold with all its pungent detail in full effect – coarse, vivid, improper – and the generalisations (“kids these days have no manners” etc.) make these details sharper and worse.

I only insist so passionately on the crap hypothetical dear because Doc is, pretty clearly, trying out marvellously sneaky blends of the humdrum and the nauseating. In this respect I think he contrasts a bit with another leading light of Bizarro, the reektastic Carlton Mellick III – whose limit-pushing is more often tacitly on behalf of supplicants of limitless horror and erotica.

The memoir offers “the uncanny” as a way of understanding its blend of transgressive and the everyday, but (a bit bewilderingly) I think this term might be a bit like one of Mrs. Bourgeoisdom’s inoculating balls of foam. It tidies things up, enrolls visceral unease in a Liberal Arts degree. Louis Althusser says, “The ultimate condition of production is the reproduction of the conditions of production,” or so I gather from the epigraph to a tale in The Kafka Effekt (one of the chapters of Blankety Blank, BTW, is called “Cause and Effekt”) – but this isn’t bring a friend day, Doc. I’m a bit confused.

I think Blankety Blank tells you you needn’t fear the New Puritan’s lockpick. First you have to kill your inner cop. Then you have to kill your inner politician, your psychiatrist, your inner doctor. Basically you’ll be left with your inner chiropractor. It’ll be a shit Identity (2003).

If I permanently renounce going around with a pole up my ass, how am I to smuggle the claymore into the true love waits fundraiser rodeo?

Well Doc, I trust our pus will cross again.

And what became of Rutger? Reader, I ramified him.

One last thing

Even were all this gavel-nuzzling to somehow spawn a revolution of everyday life – the salvation of suburban sprawl – it wouldn’t touch what matters.

“The guilt of a life which purely as a fact will strangle other life, according to statistics that eke out an overwhelming number of killed with a minimal number of rescued, as if this were provided in the theory of probabilities -- this guilt is irreconcilable with living” (Adorno, Negative Dialectics).

“The War Against Being Mean is forty-eight years old as of today. To celebrate its birthday, the President has ordered a suprise nuking of New Nigeria twelve. Every time we nuke it, it just keeps coming back, but in the words of the President, ‘Killin’ feels G-U-D.’” (D. Harlan Wilson, Blankety-Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria).

BUY IT.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Drax, darlings!

The Drax trial reaches its exciting conclusion!! If you've just zoned in, fifteen eco-warriors, five eco-clerics and two eco-mages are on trial for criminal damage. They hijacked a train!! The indians to George W.'s cowboy!!

"Although Judge Spencer repeated many previous warnings that such wider evidence was inadmissible, he did not stop Gannon from describing at length a book about dinosaurs and climate change, nor her conclusion that "burning coal means carbon pollution which means death.""

Not just cowboys but dinosaurs!! Could the book have been the zplendid Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up?

Though it's tootingly irrelevant to today's case, I do hope for the sake of English law that a juridical form does exist for what is plainly a good thing to have done. Perhaps, since it's THE WORLD at stake, the right to self-defense, or perhaps they had "lawful excuse". Cf. Section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971, defining lawful excuse:

"[...] (b) if he destroyed or damaged or threatened to destroy or damage the property in question or, in the case of a charge of an offence under section 3 above, intended to use or cause or permit the use of something to destroy or damage it, in order to protect property belonging to himself or another or a right or interest in property which was or which he believed to be vested in himself or another, and at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed—
(i) that the property, right or interest was in immediate need of protection; and
(ii) that the means of protection adopted or proposed to be adopted were or would be reasonable having regard to all the circumstances."

Though cf. R v. Hill and Hall (1989) 89 Cr. App. Rep. 74; "immediate need" could be a crux.

Will the crunchies succeed in describing to the twelve good sooty Northerners and true what civil disobedience is, and convince them it's a good idea? They'll have the judge blathering in their ear that their job is only to determine concrete circumstances which everyone agreed about three days ago, and that magic is true.

The prosecution is using Section 36 of The Malicious Damage Act so they don't even have to prove mens rea!

I'll bet some zcrew brings them zwine flu too!

UPDATE: They did in fact use Defence of Necessity! That puts them in the same boat as the cabin-boy cannibal convicts!

UPDATE: They were found guilty!!! A jury of slaves! Jonathan Stevenson is gorgeous! I am in love! Jonathan Stevenson, I find you guilty . . . of stealing my heart!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Theodora Children's Trust

Staying in hospital can be a daunting time for a child: away from home and the people and things they know and love. For just £5 you can send a clown doctor to visit a sick child.

Cliche straight from the Swanwick

"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled," a story by Michael Swanwick, podcast by Escape Pod and Sarah Tolbert, at first filled me with shame. So many SF clichés were assembled that I felt like an abject dork for having ever tolerated any of them. Was it time to give up and start buying lady magazines?

"Imagine a jeweled mountain, slender as an icicle, rising out of the steam jungles and disappearing into the dazzling pearl-grey skies of Gehenna."

Piss off!

The formulaic, fetishistically-explained Gibson+Niven gizmos, the quasi-puppeteer, the kooky AI narrator, the pedantic xenoanthropological footnotes, the ridiculous alien voice, the cataclysm, the artefact, the jungle . . . if I hadn't had flour on my hands, I wouldn't have kept listening, but I'm glad I did because Tolbert and Swanwick both hit their strides and it becomes an utterly elevated and beautiful work, something which executes some very agile and suggestive meditation on cliché itself. I feel I can't say much more without spoiling it. Check it deep!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Harry Gilonis writing to Bill Rammell MP

Bill Rammell MP
Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Dear Mr Rammell,

I'm aware that clinging to power, and perhaps to your own job/seat, are going to take priority over any other wider concerns, but I really can't let recent government-issued nonsense, which cites you by name, pass by unnoticed.

I was among many signatories to a recent electronic petition asking the Prime Minister to "do everything in his power to impose an arms embargo on
Israel in light of the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip and to apply pressure on countries supplying Israel with arms that breach
international agreements with the intention of restoring lasting peace to the region".

As e-mails to the Prime Minister's Office are limited to a 1000-character maximum (government by Twitter cannot be far behind), I am writing to you.

The PM's Office's response to that petition (www.number10.gov.uk/Page18448) follows, with my observations interleaved:

A recent Amnesty International report confirmed that Britain is not a major arms exporter to Israel

Amnesty' chief focus is political prisoners. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade - surely the people who should be referenced here? - contradict that:

"The UK has consistently sold arms to Israel. Over recent years it has licensed arms exports worth between £10 million and £25 million per year. Figures available for the first nine months of 2008 show that, three-quarters of the way through the year, arms worth over £27 million had been approved for export to Israel" [See: www.caat.org.uk/issues/israel.php]

and, as Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 4 March, the UK regularly turns down arms requests from Israel. Each export licence request is assessed on a case-by-case basis and conduct in recent conflicts is always taken into account.

It is hard to square that with the fact that the UK is still approving weaponry - or components for weaponry - for export. Sir John Stanley (of the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls) made the point to you personally just last April: "the key issue is whether or not the use that was made of British-made weapons systems and components in the recent conflicts, in Lebanon and most particularly in Gaza, did or did not represent a breach of the EU consolidated criteria." [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmquad/uc178-iii/uc17802.htm]

We do not believe that the current situation in the Middle East would be improved by imposing an arms embargo on Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself and faces real security threats.

That applies far more to Palestine, which does not have one of the largest and best-equipped armed forces in the world. The inhabitants of Gaza have stones - and a handful of home-made rockets which are scarcely more effective than stones in terms of casualties inflicted. (Israeli soldiers killed more Israeli soldiers last year than such rockets killed Israeli civilians.)

However, we will not grant export licences where there is a clear risk that arms will be used for external aggression or internal repression.

The precise criteria referred to by David Miliband (still Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs this week) are as follows:

"Criterion 2 (we will not issue an export licence where there is a clear risk that the export might be used for internal repression), criterion 3 (we will
not issue licences for exports which would provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of
final destination), criterion 4 (preservation of regional peace, security and stability), and criterion 7 (the risk that the equipment will be
diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions). [Quoted at: www.caat.org.uk/press/recent.php?url=210409prs]

Of these it is evident to the least-informed eye that only 7 isn't breached by the UK. David Miliband himself has said that UK components have ended up in F16 combat aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, Saar-Class corvettes and armoured personnel carriers. [Quoted at: www.caat.org.uk/issues/israel.php]

More generally, the government is fully committed to the implementation of a two-state solution. There must be a viable Palestinian state existing, in peace, alongside a secure Israel.

Then why is the UK denying recognition to the democratically-elected government of Gaza?

We will continue to work with our international partners, including the new US Administration, to pursue vigorously a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East

- whilst spending shed-loads of money arming one side in the conflict and talking about sending warships to stop any aid of any kind reaching the other ...
This is not merely pusillanimous, it is sickening.

Yours sincerely,
Harry Gilonis
This is just to say I don't remember doing that last post so sorry if there's no such bookshop!

xx

Monday, 1 June 2009

Brixton? More like Fixton!

I found a bookshop on Coldharbour Lane today in which a copy of Kathy Acker's Blood & Guts in High School and two copies of Steve Aylett's Lint are just sitting there! Also lots and lots of Moorcock, and I picked up a lovely, lovely, lovely Combat Command set in Jerry Pournelle's Janissaries universe and despite my superior technology I've already been killed by the little pikemen! Bliss! And the science fiction is right next to the fucking poeettry! Hope I'm saying this right as a bit mashed.

xxx

Friday, 29 May 2009

Action required!

The very morning after the strange prophetic half-dream about the lovely, lovely, lovely Stephen Thomson relentlessly grilling a blind lady who in the dream was Jeff Hilson's friend (though not really - not Jeff's fault he's lovely!) about wiping her bottom comes this bombshell. The bombshell, in a nutshell, is that when it comes to protecting minority interests against corporate rapaciousness and lobbyist gimme-gimmes, Barack Obama and the people are no longer on the same page. Or are we? We can't know, because we're blind and he's seized our gizmos, no doubt fearing the penetrating critiques of the erudite visually impaired who are immune to many of his charm ray attacks.

Come on people, stop them with the internets then smooch!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Dappy Ideas for Democracy no. 2

I don't want scapegoats -- unless it's an entire "state"-goat!! -- & I don't want David Cameron's "swift" resolution; I want the very bright limelight which our voluptuous political class currently enjoys to linger for an uncomfortably long time, almost as if up in the techie box someone had missed the cue for a scene change, or was dead.

Despite that hope, I can't help sharing an idea which I'm sure will attract a prompt and deep consensus, and solve at least part of the problem. MPs must of course maintain a home in their constituencies, but also must be accommodated when they come to London, unless they have Skype, to sit in parliament. A wing of HMP Pentonville should be adapted for this latter purpose.

Dostoyevsky's old saw, "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons," is a background rationale, as is a long republican-democratic tradition associating public office with private austerity, as is the issue of securely housing our public officials till the war on terror is won. But I'm mainly thinking of the system of parallels between parliament's legislative activities (ROFLMAO) and the practice of release on temporary licence (ROTL).

Like the incarcerated, our representative legislators (1) may pose a threat to society (though the mix of powers & inclinations may be significantly different) and so must be contained by a system of checks and balances, including a separation of powers, high walls, dogs and machine guns; (2) owe a substantial debt to society (beyond the obligations of citizenship); (3) function to deter socially disruptive uses of power through those same uses (raison d'état ought to preempt, and delegitimise, vigilantism and private militarism -- still a little muddled about this one); (4) face the imperative of internalising a complex and alien texture of normativity and organising it as objectively meaningful morality (the "recuperative" goal of sentencing); (5) use cigarrettes as currency and have tattoos which signal gang loyalties. Nonetheless, there are circumstances where it becomes impractical to keep an elected representative or a criminal locked up.

I am available to head a commission!

Maybe we could also involve Dostoyevsky's new Saw! "When Don Touhig MP wakes up, he discovers that his head has been sealed in a box, which quickly begins to fill with water. A self-administered tracheotomy using a pen keeps him breathing until the Chief Whip arrives at the Gideon meatpacking plant . . ."

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Countercabinet reshuffle

Al-"square"-eity! A minor change really, Teresa Carmody replaces Eddie Izzard who is a bit shambolic bless him and has been doing films.

Lol Coxhill - Leader of the Shadow Shadow Cabinet
Gordon Brown MP - Shadow Shadow Chancellor
Frances Kruk - Shadow Shadow Foreign Secretary
Mark E. Smith - Shadow Shadow Home Secretary
Prof Peter Singer - Chairman of the Counterpower
Sarah Maple - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
China Meivelle - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Prof Chantal Mouffe - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Alan Moore - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Alice Mahon MP - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Dr Esther Leslie - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
George Monbiot - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Sharon Borthwick - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Stewart Lee - Shadow Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Prof Angela Davis - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Charlie Brooker - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Paul Sutton - Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
Prof Roger Scruton - Shadow Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Milan Rai - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Miranda July - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Teresa Carmody - Shadow Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Dr Eric Griffiths - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Dec - Shadow Shadow Minister for Housing
President Barack Obama - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Steve Aylett - Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
George Galloway MP - Shadow Shadow Minister of State for Europe
Sarah Haskins - Chief Whip