A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

March 12, 2019

the brevity of astrology

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I don't know so much about astrology, though I do hear a fair bit about it these days, but I read a tweet this morning about my sign and it unnerved me that my entire personality could so easily be summed up in so few words:

"cancer is ruled by the moon and wants and struggles with wanting to process and feel their emotional vulnerability + connect with others, while also remaining elusive and always somewhat hidden + isolated from the world"

(I suspect the book I'm currently writing is almost entirely summed up in these words + literature + politics. But who needs literature and politics. Maybe I should dedicate my life to the brevity of astrology.)



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March 8, 2019

Peter Linebaugh on Silvia Federici

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As a woman and a feminist she observes the production of the commons in the everyday labours of reproduction - the washing, cuddling, cooking, consoling, sweeping, pleasing, cleaning, exciting, mopping, reassuring, dusting, dressing, feeding children, having children and caring for the sick and the elderly.

- Peter Linebaugh on Silvia Federici



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January 17, 2019

A possible premonition for my future...

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“He is currently working on a novel about solar energy, telepathic kittens and cuddling.”



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January 14, 2019

Where I Come From We Show Love

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I said to myself: you should write about how much you like cuddling. How come you’ve never written about that before? Is it too personal? Too intimate? You’ve written so much about loneliness and yet hardly anything about how much you like cuddling. But, then again, do I really have anything to say about it? Just that I like it and then my mind goes blank trying to figure out what else might be said. Also asking myself if the reason I don’t write about it is because I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced cuddling not connected to sex. Or in a way that wasn’t sexual. And so I wonder: what is it exactly that I’m saying I really like?

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At the Noname concert she’s introducing the band and starts by introducing the keyboard player (sorry I don’t remember his name), and we applaud for him, but then she suggests we haven't applauded heartily enough, that we should applaud more enthusiastically, saying: “where I come from we show love.” And right away I feel the anxiety that where I come from it was the opposite. People were awkward, insecure and timid, and I often experienced this as them being cold. I think: where I come from we didn’t show love and of course fear that I still don’t. And don’t think I’ll ever really be able to embody anything like it or know what’s an appropriate expression. But in that moment Noname isn’t exactly talking about love, she’s talking about applause and cheering, so of course we all applaud and cheer for the keyboard player, and then for the rest of the band as each one is introduced.

*

I’ve decided to call this a short story. And as I’m writing it I find myself wondering: is there some way that writing a short story might change my life? If I write that I really like cuddling – and people who know me, but who don’t know I really like cuddling, read it – would that change anything. What kind of confession is it exactly? It doesn’t seem like much, but I find myself unusually reluctant to write about it, so that must mean it’s actually quite a lot. I’ve been writing and publishing for about thirty years now and have gradually come to the conclusion that nothing I write or publish changes my life very much, or at all. But is it very much or at all? Why don’t I quite know?

*

I could maybe start again from another angle. I was writing a novel about war, about a utopia surrounded by war, and I was doing a great deal of research. All that reading and thinking about war became so undeniably bleak. When I began writing novels, many years ago, I promised myself I wasn’t going to write depressing novels but now, about fifteen years after declaring this goal, I was somewhat falling short of it. I felt confident that my war novel wasn’t only depressing, that it was also strange and thoughtful and funny and defined by some slight yet sharp sliver of hope, but it was also clearly depressing. And I thought: if this book is extra-depressing when compared to the others, then whatever I write next should be extra-not-depressing to compensate, and what could I think of that I found extra-not-depressing and the only thing I could think of was cuddling. (That’s not entirely true, I also considered writing about solar energy.) But what kind of novel, or short story, could one possibly write about cuddling? There is something so static about it. And yet isn’t so much of the problem with the world, and with art, embodied by the fact that’s it’s so easy to imagine writing a novel about war and so difficult to imagine writing a novel about cuddling?

*

Someone posts on social media, something like: “touch deprivation is a real thing, we should be talking about it more.” And I try to get my mind around it: touch deprivation is a real thing. Also, on the internet, I remember reading about a “loneliness epidemic,” a phrase that feels to me almost satirical but at the same time all-too-real. (The time I spend online is often spent in a kind of mesmerized loneliness.) There is a loneliness epidemic and it is on the rise. And loneliness is bad for your health. And people can even, in some sense, die from it. And I wonder what it would really take for me to believe such things as facts. Or what community feels like? Or what solidarity feels like? How reading an article, or even a single sentence, on the internet lodges inside your brain and makes you see the world differently, even if you are not entirely convinced that the article or sentence is true. Or in precisely what sense it is true. I’ve thought this before, and think it now again, that the problem is I see my loneliness as my own, as my own private problem, and not as part of some larger social loneliness that we all must try to work towards solving together. I have never tried internet dating, and wonder if the reason I have never tried it is that I don’t want to think of all the people on the internet as real. I would find it almost unbearably sad. But of course they are real. Or most of them are real. And it’s almost terrifying the degree to which I’d prefer not to see it.



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January 11, 2019

"Strangely enough my ambition tends to come in moments of depression." / A few passages from David Bowie: An Oral History

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[I thought I had never been that interested in David Bowie. But I guess reading David Bowie: An Oral History proved me wrong. Here are a few passages:]



He played with the idea of being a rock star but he was very good at sabotaging that role. And at the moment when he looked like he might become Billy Joel or Elton John - that moment when you get accepted and therefore you are fixed, he walked away. He had to work out: How can I be famous; how can I be that star that I want to be, but also be able to keep changing? Because of course the very consequences often of keeping changing is that you ruin your popularity because those that love you want you to be the same. So he managed to be absolutely the same all the time, always David Bowie, by constantly changing.
- Paul Morley (on seventies Bowie)


His self-analysis was lacerating. He talked a lot about his sense of self, and one of the things that came across, and this was not false modesty, was his constant anxiety that what he was doing wasn’t quite interesting enough. Here was a person who seriously pushed himself, and constantly reevaluated his contribution, and he found himself lacking. Blessing and curse.
- Angus MacKinnon


Even when he was out of favour, he was aware of his out-of-favourness and he was exploiting that because to try not to be out of favour would have been deeply uncool.
- Paul Morley


My biggest mistake during the ‘80s was trying to anticipate what the audience wanted.
- David Bowie


Strangely enough my ambition tends to come in moments of depression.
- David Bowie






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January 7, 2019

Kristen Ross: "Why did something happen rather than nothing? And what was the nature of the event that occurred?"

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But the real question, I believe, lies elsewhere, outside the parameters of revolution, failed or not. Why did something happen rather than nothing? And what was the nature of the event that occurred? The attention given to the problematics of power has effaced another set problems at issue in May, and 1960s culture more generally, which we might begin to group under the heading of a no less political question – the question of equality. I mean equality not in any objective sense of status, income, function, or the supposedly “equal” dynamics of contracts or reforms, nor as an explicit demand or a program, but rather as something that emerges in the course of the struggle and is verified subjectively, declared and experienced in the here and now as what is, and not what should be. Such an experience lies to the side of “seizing state power;” outside of that story. The narrative of a desired or failed seizure of power, in other words, is a narrative determined by the logic of the state, the story the state tells to itself. For the state, people in the streets are people always already failing to seize state power. In 1968, “seizing state power” was not only part of the state’s narrative, it expressed the state’s informing desire to complete itself – that is, to totally assimilate the everyday to its own necessities. Limiting May ’68 to that story, to the desire or the failure to seize centralized power, has circumscribed the very definition of “the political,” crushing or effacing in the process a political dimension to the events that may in fact have constituted the true threat to the forces of order, the reason for their panic. That dimension lay in a subjectivation enabled by the synchronizing of two very different temporalities: the world of the worker and the world of the student. It lay in the central idea of May ’68: the union of intellectual contestation with workers’ struggle. It lay in the verification of equality not as any objective of action, but as something that is part and parcel of action, something that emerges in the struggle and is lived and declared as such. In the course of the struggle, practices were developed that demonstrated such a synchronization, that acted to constitute a common – though far from consensual – space and time. And those practices verified the irrelevance of the division of labour – what for Durkheim was nothing more and nothing less than that which holds a society together and guarantees the continuity of its reproduction. As such, these practices form as direct an intervention into the logic and workings of capital as any seizure of state – perhaps more so.

- Kristen Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives



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January 4, 2019

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: "There were so many agent provocateurs and informers that it was thought that half the membership of some organizations were infiltrators."

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Police surveillance and infiltration would only grow worse. More than half the fugitive’s on the FBI’s most wanted list were charged with politically motivated crimes. There were so many agent provocateurs and informers that it was thought that half the membership of some organizations were infiltrators. Even the alternative literary presses and moderate antiwar and peace groups were not exempt. The FBI, using provocateurs, was also partly responsible for the violent direction the movement was taking. Inexplicable suicides and accidental deaths were being reported among former participants of the Venceremos Brigades. In the growing atmosphere of surveillance and danger, the necessity to develop a clandestine structure began to seem like the only way to continue our work.

- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960-1975



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Brian Holmes: "A different kind of self can only emerge from resistance to the psychic tsunami of continuous crisis."

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Globalism has produced an unprecedented concentration of socially and ecologically unbearable wealth, an oligarchy beyond anyone’s control. It is too corrupt to govern, too unjust to bear and too powerful to stop without a detailed, sweeping and widely comprehensible project, capable of swaying millions of hearts for more than twenty-four hours, and for more than twenty-four years. No one will create such a project by simply vibrating on the wavelengths of the present. We are entering the kind of era that gives birth to great philosophies and messianic religions. The secret societies of today do not conspire, they don’t use encryption, they don’t plan spectacular campaigns or media coups. They meet steadily and publicly to express emotions, exchange ideas, map systemic trends and constitute world pictures. They learn resilience, renewal, and above all, the capacity to recognise the efforts of similar groups without necessarily coming to immediate agreement.

A different kind of self can only emerge from resistance to the psychic tsunami of continuous crisis. Disconnecting from the neoliberal neural net does not mean ignoring emergent facts, earth-shaking events or split-second changes. It means re-attuning bodies and minds to the deep time of necessary and inevitable transformations in the earth system.

– Brian Holmes, from How do 7 billion interconnected bodies resolve an endless crisis



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January 3, 2019

Brian Holmes: "On the other side of the door – outside, if you like – is everyday life, where basically art tends to dissolve and become invisible, or it’s like a cherished memory that you occasionally share with other people."

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Art is a strongly vexed thing because art’s worth money. And it’s worth money because it has a signature. And not only that... it’s not as crude as that, because you can also say that art’s worth money because it has a kind of prestige based on how identifiable the decisions are in it, so we can find out how original it is. That’s how you can price it, by the original decisions. To make those decisions identifiable, the artist has to have chosen to do one thing and not other. To do that they have to be an artist, they have to be an individual.

Or, if they’re a collective, they have to operate as a collective that’s so rigorously controlled that you could say the collective has chosen to do this and not that. And then you can compare it to a whole set of things. That becomes a very evaluative approach where you would analyse the worth of anything in any kind of market by how much it’s comparable to and stands out from other things. Unfortunately that doesn’t have anything to do with collectivity in the sense of creating the basis of autonomy, by which I mean, creating shareable things that will help people to gain a footing in the world, from which they can determine their own experience, their own destiny. Art is continually being pushed away from this quest for collective autonomy.

At the same time, art is the word that we have for places where creation and invention take place. We know that in a complex society, language and images and imagination are some of the places where invention and creativity can happen the most frequently and fruitfully. So art is at a vexed pass, it’s caught between forces that push for its identification and evaluation, and very different desires seeking something that creates autonomy: a difference, other- ness, escape. Art as trap, art as liberation.

But it’s not like there’s an either/or. A lot of people are on the threshold. On one side of the door is the art world, where all those operations of evaluation take place. On the other side of the door – outside, if you like – is everyday life, where basically art tends to dissolve and become invisible, or it’s like a cherished memory that you occasionally share with other people. In the end most people are actually on the threshold. They’re going back and forth between these two things. They don’t go all the way into daily life as the pure unalloyed creation of collective autonomy, because when they do, they get completely lost as artists. Occasionally you meet them. You might run into this person and eventually you find out that they have all of these things to say about art and life, and you’d have never suspected because they didn’t give a sign. But when you stay on the threshold, you can instantly find the people who have lots to say... because they’re producing the signs. They have lots to say all the time, about signs which point away from where they are. It’s weird... but I think if you’re honest with yourself, you will probably have to admit that you’re living on this threshold. Maybe another place to start this conversation is what to do with that location, because it’s real.

– Brian Holmes from Combination Acts. Notes on Collective Practice in the Undercommons



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January 1, 2019

A playlist from 2018




I wasn't going to post this. It's 559 videos long and, as I believe I also said last year, I feel it is little more than a testament to how addicted I am to the internet. But, it seems, just like I can't seem to stop myself from saving all the songs I listen to over the year onto a playlist, I can't seem to stop myself from posting it. If I've done so all the previous years than why not this one as well.

Very often, in the office, unsure of what to listen to, I find myself listening to this playlist, starting from the middle or near the end. Or at the beginning. Or listening to lists from previous years. When I'm not online I often can't remember these songs at all, what they are called or who they are by. I feel, before the internet, I remembered so much more about the songs I heard, and most likely also heard far fewer songs.

So many songs.



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Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: "She was researching viruses, hoping to identify a fatal one that would attack males only."

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It took several days for Flo to arrange the meeting with Valerie [Solanas], so T-Grace took me to women’s meetings in New York and introduced me to dozens of women’s liberation activists: some reformists, some radicals, some extremists. One was a young lesbian biologist who avidly supported Valerie, whom she took quite literally. She was researching viruses, hoping to identify a fatal one that would attack males only. She said that once males were eradicated, she planned to introduce chemical reproduction without sperm. Furthermore, women would no longer carry the fetus; rather, the process would take place in the laboratory. She chatted about this idea as if she were discussing the weather. Now I understood what Stokely Carmichael had meant when he said that young black militants in Chicago had called him “Uncle Tom.” When I challenged the young woman, she called me a “daddy’s girl,” Valerie’s term for male-identified women.

- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960-1975



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