August 11, 2019

Two paragraphs from the work-in-progress Solar Kittens


If humanity survives, which is unlikely, people will want to know what it was like. This feeling that the end was no longer happening in some distant future but was basically happening now. The conversations quoting scientists who had warned us before it was too late but had not known how to summon enough political will for enough people to act, for a large enough number of people to heed their far too prescient warnings. The conversations in which we tried to reassure each other in the knowledge that despair or hopelessness would solve nothing and were in fact the emotions – understandable as they might be – that were the exact opposite of what was required. They will want to know what it was like, in search for insights as to why we didn’t do more to save them, to save ourselves. We will want to know what it was like.

I am sitting here staring out the window on a calm Sunday evening. At the moment it is like nothing. It is like every other unmemorable Sunday evening I am able to recall. This week has been unseasonably cool, a relief, a break from the heat of the previous weeks. I am living without internet at home because I am too addicted to the internet and, if I had it, I would be staring at it now, completely mesmerized by the screen, instead of writing these words. I of course wonder if there’s any point in writing these words. Historically, literature was built by writers who each had at least some feeling there was a chance their writing might live on, that someone might continue to read them far into the future. Statistically the odds for this were not good, and therefore literature has also been built, layer by layer, upon misguided fantasies of posterity. But sitting here with no internet, staring mindlessly out the window, it is extremely difficult for me to imagine any distant future in which someone might be reading these words. Yet imagine it I do. Because I’m a writer and therefore can’t help myself. And when I imagine it, I also can’t help but feel their hunger, their longing to know just what it is like – right here, right now – and I search desperately, both within myself and directly out the window at the quiet street in front of me, searching for something to tell them.


August 9, 2019

Music I like perhaps mainly because it makes me feel a little bit better about getting older


Between some Robert Forster solo records (Songs to Play, Inferno) and some Edwyn Collins solo records (Understated, Badbea) I no longer think getting old in rock 'n' roll is such a bad thing.

(When I posted this on social media someone also mentioned Peter Perrett's How The West Was Won.)

(And of course, now and always, Robert Wyatt's Comicopera.)

(Also, perhaps somewhat related, I've always loved Boy George's 2013 single King of Everything.)

And since I now realize this post is mostly about aging, out of curiosity, I thought I would take a moment to look it up:

Robert Wyatt was born in 1945
Peter Perrett was born in 1952
Robert Forster was born in 1957
Edwyn Collins was born in 1959
Boy George was born in 1961

(I was born in 1971)


August 7, 2019

Four passages from Stage Fright, Animals, and Other Theatrical Problems


Four passages from Stage Fright, Animals, and Other Theatrical Problems by Nicholas Ridout:

The experience of this theatre-goer, then, is one in which anticipation gives way to disappointment, in which pleasure is bound up with anxiety and even perhaps pain and illness, in which acting is confused with vulgar interruption, in which the transcendent possibilities of the world’s greatest dramatic poetry appear to pass by almost unnoticed in a ‘deliberate monotone’, and success appears as dependent upon the audience as it is upon the artistic capability of the actor. Yet for all this, for all the confusion, anxiety and disappointment, it is an experience which he cannot bear to bring to an end, and to which he will repeatedly seek to return.

This ambivalence certainly characterizes my own relationship with the theatre. Theatre, being queasy, makes me queasy. That such queasiness is widespread, that we find theatre uncomfortable, compromised, boring, conventional, bourgeois, overpriced and unsatisfactory most of the time, is I think not only generally accepted as true, but also generally accepted as part and parcel of the whole business. Theatre’s failure, when theatre fails, is not anomalous, but somehow, perhaps constitutive. What I want to argue here is that it is precisely in theatre’s failure, our discomfort with it, its embeddedness in capitalist leisure, its status as a bourgeois pastime that its political value is to be found. Theatre is a privileged place for the actual experience of a failure to evade or transcend capital.

Of course, never in the history of theatre has the social position of the actor been so similar to the social situation of the character: they are, at last, contemporaries, and more than that, members of the same social class. This means that the ‘actual life’ the actor is required to simulate is close enough to her own for her life to become a private resource for public display. While Diderot feared that the actor’s over-identification with the emotions of the character would be detrimental to theatrical representation because it would lead the actor to lose control of her technique, the new danger for the actor is that their new technique, along with the new forms and subject matter of bourgeois naturalist drama, might permit so intense an over-identification, that the actor might no longer be required to act at all, but instead just effectively ‘be’ a version of herself.

McKinnie points out that the theatre is an economic subsector in which work is clearly alienated. Picking up on this perception one notes how the employee’s time is regulated with rigorous force by bells and curtains, how both the rehearsal process and the nightly routine of performances are dominated by repetitive activity, how wage levels are set in structures of extreme differentiation, how these are maintained by a huge pool of surplus labour which renders effective industrial organization impossible, and how the core activity itself is both a metaphor of alienation and alienation itself: the actor is paid to appear in public speaking words written by someone else and executing physical movement which has at the very least usually been subjected to intense and critical scrutiny by a representative of the management who effectively enjoys the power of hiring and firing. The actor is both sign and referent of the wholly alienated wage slave.


August 5, 2019

Jorge Herralde on running the publishing house Anagrama


This job is wonderful, though it’s not easy, can be difficult, but by its nature it offers great joy and huge disappointments. It’s a roller coaster. It’s, as I said in an article once, about dolling out and receiving pain. Dolling out pain to so many manuscripts that one has to reject. If it’s an author you have no ties to, they experience the pain, but when it’s an author who has published several books with you but you decide not to go with, it’s painful for the publisher and even more so for the author. And then one receives pain, when there are misunderstandings with authors who are very much to the publisher’s liking but who decide to listen to siren songs, which can be deafening.

– Jorge Herralde, on running the publishing house Anagrama


August 2, 2019

Jessa Crispin Quote


“Don’t end up like Bertolt Brecht.”

That seems like horrible advice. Shouldn’t the goal of life be to end up as close to Bertolt Brecht as possible. I need a little context.

“When Brecht moved to Los Angeles, he had such a difficult time learning English that he gave up. It soured him, being unable to communicate, and he started to hate America. Read his journals, you’ll see.”

For Stefan, every topic of conversation circles back to Bertolt Brecht, the way for me every topic of conversation circles back to William James. I take his point, which is made in impeccable English, shaming me further. I have been stubborn about learning to speak German. It feeds into my unsettled state. Why learn German if I’m only going to be here for a few years? But then how can I know if I want to stay unless I assimilate a little and give the place a chance? It is mortifying when someone addresses me in German I can’t follow, and yet part of me likes the little bubble I live in, the way I can tune out conversations on the subway because I can’t follow them anyway.

“Read Brecht’s journals,” Stefan repeats. “And learn German.”

– Jessa Crispin, The Dead Ladies Project


July 31, 2019

Susanne Moser: "But it’s basically the idea of keeping the Anthropocene to a really thin layer in the geologic record and being one among many species that live on this planet ..."


Laurie Mazur: With the story of climate change, there's so much loss: loss of the familiar, of places we love, of the stable climate that gave us a huge boost as a species. Are there things to be gained as well from moving out of that certainty?

Susanne Moser: I certainly think so. The loss is tremendous and heartbreaking on so many levels, both the human suffering and the wiping out of other species, the loss of places, seasons. And it strikes me that it seems so much easier to imagine these losses than to imagine that we could change ourselves and create a different form of living on the planet.

It is really crucial that we learn to imagine what we could gain. If we can't imagine it, it’s more difficult to create. It'll make us dependent on accidents, serendipities.

When [atmospheric concentration of carbon passed] 415 parts per million, people were saying that we had never had these kinds of atmospheric conditions during the time that homo sapiens have been on this planet. And we’re now moving to double that, and beyond.

So we’re having to deal with completely new environmental conditions, and we will be changed by that. Can we imagine that? No. Can we try to imagine that we’re not just clobbering each other over the head or blowing each other up? I can imagine something different.

Laurie Mazur: When you imagine it, what is the best thing about that new world?

Susanne Moser: That we will be a nondominant species again. I'm not the first one to say that. But it’s basically the idea of keeping the Anthropocene to a really thin layer in the geologic record and being one among many species that live on this planet within the confines of its resources, without damaging it, and in fact making it part of our species’ purpose to recreate and nourish the conditions for the continuity of life.

In my highest aspirations for the human species, that’s what we will be: servants of life.

[From Despairing about the Climate Crisis? Read This.]


July 28, 2019

Lidija Haas Quote


At a party, a woman in her twenties, someone you find slightly intimidating, tells you that you and others your age (mid-thirties) are being used as “beards” by men who employ your friendship as a convenient badge of feminism while behaving poorly, when your back is turned, toward younger, less professionally established women. The claim doesn’t seem to be an attack; she’s trying to help you make more informed decisions. Your first reaction is, You think I’m established? Your second: How could I possibly know if what she describes is happening? And third: It’s probably true. (This last strikes you as an alternate instance of what the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas calls “the unthought known.”) Can people abuse power they don’t see themselves as possessing? All the better, probably. Not seeing power must be a function of having it.

- Lidija Haas, #ETTU?


July 24, 2019

Ursula K. Le Guin Quote


The validity of the promise, even promise of indefinite term, was deep in the grain of Odo’s thinking; though it might seem that her insistence on freedom to change would invalidate the idea of promise or vow, in fact the freedom made the promise meaningful. A promise is a direction taken, a self-limitation of choice. As Odo pointed out, if no direction is taken, if one goes nowhere, no change will occur. One’s freedom to choose and to change will be unused, exactly as if one were in jail, a jail of one’s own building, a maze in which no one way is better than any other. So Odo came to see the promise, the pledge, the idea of fidelity, as essential to the complexity of freedom.

– Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed


July 21, 2019

Erin Hill Quote


I have been thinking about sharing, it is a pillar, is a gesture, and I have been trying to notice its smallest interactions. Upstairs wakes us.

The birds were awake when I was awake, 7:18, that’s new for Berlin sunrises.

I don’t think the Share button on Facebook is actually for sharing, doesn’t sharing involve an intended receiver?

The share button is for spreading, and spreading is territorial, is taking up space.

Sharing is fundamentally about survival.

I don’t believe myself in what I’ve written here… but it’s early.

– Erin Hill, Real Life Magic


June 27, 2019

early rules for an eventual novel


To let the book ferment in my head for years and years before I actually start writing it.

Write a little bit, think a lot, write a little bit more.

“I hated the idea that there can be such a thing as a masterpiece and I hated the fact that I wanted to try to write one.”

A novel with many storylines, many loose ends dangling – and some of the loose ends are tied up, some are partly resolved to varying degrees, and some are left dangling – so as you continue to read you are always unsure which storylines will be completed and which will be left incomplete.

A novel about kindness and tenderness.

A satire of a novel about environmental collapse.

Trying to write a really long book.

The world needs people. (Or at least it used to. Perhaps what it needs now is in fact considerably less people.)

This isn’t science fiction therefore we don’t need to explain how the kittens first develop telepathy.

I didn’t invent sex.

When she was young she of course wanted to be famous.

A novel without a single protagonist, with so many protagonists it’s impossible to keep count.

A story about how millennia ago evil magicians planted oil deep in the earth so that it would someday be discovered and destroy humanity.

Never again: ripped from the headlines. No more: ripped from the headlines.

Letting ideas percolate in my head for many years before eventually writing them down.

“I think I will eventually write another book, someday, but I’m not working on anything at the moment and have no immediate plans to do so.”

I thought I would try to write about the emotional complexity of sex, which isn’t necessarily something I know very much about.

A person who sets up a museum in their home.

A horse that climbs into a boat.

Reading a non-fiction book and encountering a minor character, a character mentioned only in passing, but who is clearly portrayed as despicable, and then gradually realizing the character is based on you.

Being a public figure whose private life does not match up with their public image. The fear of being exposed or being blackmailed.

Spending years trying to find your idol, finding him, at which point he attempts to scam you out of money.

Not actually writing a novel, but fantasizing about writing a novel.

“I never found out if that book actually existed.”

“Climate change is so interesting because it, more so than other crises, reveals the neoliberal demand for "individual responsibility" as being an ideology whose sole function is to protect the ruling class from collective action.”

[Bonus: you can find my possible first attempt at the possible first chapter here.]


Aravinda Ananda Quote


One of the processes for dismantling white supremacy is, oddly, building up white people’s sense of fundamental worth and belonging. Not entitlement or superiority, but a deeper feeling that they do belong among other humans and will not be discarded as they learn. The last thing I want to do right now in my stage of racial identity development is hold space for white people; I actually want to get really far away from them. But you can’t shame someone out of a shame aversion, and so working with white people has become very important for me. Caucusing in order to do that kind of hard work of drilling down into white assumptions and fragility in a way that can hold people and bring them through the work has been so valuable. It responds to that call to “hold your people.”

- Aravinda Ananda, from Turn This World Inside Out: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture


June 22, 2019

Nora Samaran Quote


Men with avoidant attachment styles may not notice the confusing nonverbal signalling they are actively doing very early on that prevents safety from happening with women they want to nurture and support, who may become more and more imbalanced towards them in response.

Since ‘absence of nurturance’ is just an absence, it can be hard to recognize early. When early avoidant responses to requests for closeness are not noticed as such, attachment science teaches us, ‘protest behaviour’ – the distress when needs aren’t met – may get louder over time, in ways both people are contributing to and neither understand. It becomes all too easy in a patriarchal culture that values rugged individualism over interdependence to call an anxiously-attached woman ‘crazy’ without noticing the parallel avoidant responses that are contributing, that are ‘crazymaking’. In other words, it takes two to enter into the avoidant-anxious trap, but patriarchal culture normalizes an avoidant style and stigmatizes an anxious style, wherever it appears.

None of this is worthy of shame; fundamentally, all of the insecure styles are based in an unquestioned belief that people will not be there for them and that nurturance is somehow a problem rather than wholly desirable and good. Avoidant attachers ‘know’ from an early age that the ice will break, the chair will collapse, best not to try. Insecure attachment styles are not chosen, are not conscious or intentional, and it is an understatement to say they are not easy to change. They deserve understanding, compassion, and empathy.

And yet living without loving, secure attachment bonds is the loneliest experience in the human repertoire.

- Nora Samaran, The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture


June 18, 2019

The more novels I write...


The more novels I write the more deeply I question the ethics of writing fiction. (Perhaps this has something to do with taking things from life and from the world and transforming them without the ability to give proper credit.)


May 27, 2019

the exact same feeling


I have this overwhelming feeling of failure. Then I think, probably no matter what I had done, or how it had gone, it would have changed nothing: I would have had the exact same feeling of failure. Because I still would have failed to completely change the world (for the better.)


May 24, 2019

The purpose of stories is to help us learn how to live.


The purpose of stories is to help us learn how to live. So many of the stories we currently learn from, often from a very young age, are provided to us through popular culture, through movies and television. The creators of these stories most often center them around conflict. Conflict is a part of life, therefore learning how to work through conflict could be one useful approach to any given culture’s stories. However, so many of our popular culture’s versions of conflict focus on a hero and a villain, or some variation on that pattern, and the story ends when the hero defeats the villain, and the viewer is expected to most identify with the protagonist, with the hero. This is no way to have any sort of general understanding as to how we should approach conflict, and yet having been raised on such stories our subconscious is shot through with them, and we see the results of this all the time, in how the people around us approach every sort of interaction and situation. Vanquishing an enemy is no way to resolve a conflict.


May 21, 2019

dian marino Quote


I advocate difference but I also advocate connectedness. To me being different in a creative way means that I’m willing to connect my difference to other people’s differences. That can be a paradoxical connection – that people would want to be clear about their different positions, where their differences are located, and then also wish to figure things out collaboratively, collectively. Frequently when we encounter difference, we don’t explore it; we try to manage it. Perhaps we can search for common threads while we appreciate our differences.

– dian marino, Wild Garden: Art, Education, and the Culture of Resistance


April 18, 2019

Carmen Maria Machado Quote


In her essay “On Liking Women,” trans lesbian critic Andrea Long Chu completely dismembers this idea, and asks: what if it doesn’t matter? What if queerness or transness is about moving towards desire, and not affirming some inherent trait? Why is the lack-of-choice narrative necessary? This is obviously a very controversial idea, but I find it bracing, exciting, even moving: the idea that one might choose what gives them pleasure no matter their instincts or body or social constructs, and no one should have anything to say about that. I’m not saying all queerness is chosen, but rather that we should be open to that possibility.

- Carmen Maria Machado

[You can find the rest of the interview here.]


April 2, 2019

Possible opening for a novel tentatively entitled: Solar Kittens / Amateur Compassion


I’ve been thinking about how I don’t write about sex anymore. It has something to do with my gender. I am reading a book written by a woman that contains plenty of sex. I think: if I wrote this exact same sex in the exact same way it would still be different. It would read as male fantasy. It would be written with patriarchy sitting on my shoulder, egging me on. It goes without saying that I most often try to write in a manner that feels opposite to this. Which is perhaps only one of the factors that has resulted in my current practice ending up a bit sexless. But all the other factors have considerably more to do with my actual life.

I hated the idea that there can be such a thing as a masterpiece and I hated the fact that I wanted to try to write one. I also hated the idea that there can be no such a thing as a masterpiece. The world I’m writing about and within is more or less this world, but with one significant detail shifted, in that it is a world in which the only sex we know is cuddling. (However, there might also be a few other ways this written world differs from our unwritten one.) When you want to have sex with someone who doesn’t necessarily want to have sex with you – meaning, at least in this story, when you want to cuddle with someone who doesn’t necessarily want to cuddle with you – there is of course a certain understandable degree of disappointment. Learning how to gracefully breath through such disappointment is another question I hope we might eventually get around to.

There is a cartoon I saw on the internet. A corporate executive sitting behind a large wooden desk. In the first panel he says: “You want coal? We own the mines.” In the second and third panels he says: “You want oil and gas? We own the wells.” Fourth and fifth panels: “You want nuclear energy? We own the uranium.” Sixth panel: “You want solar power?” Seventh: “We own the… eh… ah…” And in the final panel: “Solar power isn’t feasible.” (No one owns the sun.)

In his book The Accursed Share, Georges Bataille writes about how everything on earth, all the growth and energy, originates from the sun. And there is always an extra part, beyond what is needed for human survival, that he designates with the French expression the devil’s share (or the accursed share.) We can use this extra energy to make art or we can use it to make war. How we use it says so much about what we value as a culture. I am writing all this from memory. I read the book so long ago. I will have to look at it all again to verify. Books one read so long ago are so explicitly faded in our memories of them.

I have been thinking so much about solar energy, about how much of what I read, especially from a mainstream perspective, seems misplaced. When I read that we will not be able to generate enough energy using solar and wind, I feel they are completely missing the point. The points are: 1) That these new, sustainable technologies will force us to use less, will demonstrate – on a real, lived, experiential basis – that resources are renewable but not infinite. 2) That there is more autonomy, and less greedy profit, in a decentralized power grid. 3) That the many exorbitant expenses of polluting the air and water are simply not being factored into the standard calculations. Environmental devastation is expensive on every level.

But it is mainly the first point I obsess over. Let’s say you have solar panels on the roof of your house. Each day, you will use only as much energy as these panels generate. When it runs out you go to sleep and wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. The energy is not infinite, not available twenty-four hours a day. There are limits and you learn, out of necessity, how to live within them.

This, for me, is the main lesson of sustainable technologies. They would force us to live differently, to be aware of daily limits, to find solutions that acknowledge real limitations. They do not make life easier in every way. They make life harder in some ways, ways that force a fundamental shift in how we see the world and our place within it. I also suspect that working within a series of concrete, reasonable limitations would bring along with it a kind of reality and even joy.

There is a novel I have never read about talking human ears. The reason I have never read it is that it has yet to be translated into English. It was written in Danish by Per Hojholt and is entitled Auricula. I often think about it. If someone could write a novel about talking human ears perhaps I am not letting my own writerly imagination roam freely enough. If I can write about absolutely anything, I ask myself, why exactly am I writing about this. Whatever the this might be in any particular instance. (I frequently ask myself a similar question about the world.) As I’ve read online, the premise of Auricula is that “time very briefly came to a stop 7 September 1915, which led to the birth of a great many ears (yes, ears) which floated around and got involved in especially the arts of the time.” On Goodreads, Nicolai’s review of Auricula is brief and to the point: “Not a very good novel, but an outstanding book.”

When I see a picture on the internet of miles and miles of solar panels – for example a solar farm in the desert – I think to myself: no, that’s completely wrong, they have it completely wrong, that’s completely the wrong model. I have no particular expertise or experience upon which to base this opinion. It’s simply a hunch. To me it looks like the old model and we need a new model. I of course feel the same way about the novel. Which I suppose is why I’m finding it so difficult to let the actual narrative begin. I prefer characters without names, perhaps for similar reasons that I prefer cuddling to sex, though sometimes I still have sex, or at least I used to. But there is an obvious problem with a character that doesn’t have a name. You have to find a way to refer to them which doesn’t create any further confusion in the reader than strictly necessary. When a character is speaking about themselves in the first person it feels natural that they would rarely refer to themselves by name, so in this mode the difficulty rarely arises. But I would hate to limit myself to first person for only this reason.

The story hasn’t started yet but it will. Since I keep telling myself that I am writing a novel and not an essay. (Though I have always liked the novels best that at times verge on becoming essays. Or at least I used to.) The world needs to change. Therefore, the novel also needs to change. But perhaps what is required of the novel is not that it change but that it disappear. That it become something else. The energy contained in fossil fuels once came from sunlight. The energy contained in literature once came from songs and rituals and stories and fables. Songs and stories once helped us understand how we should live. I do not see how the novel currently does any such thing. In a sense, we already know from which direction we came and therefore, coming full circle, in which direction we should return. But now I feel I’m becoming preachy and moralistic and, since I continue to write this novel, also very much a hypocrite. What kind of knowledge can be fully lived and in this way travel from generation to generation? What kind of knowledge will this novel not contain?


March 29, 2019

Claudia La Rocco Quote


I wake up and it is like I have always been. All of them staring with their big cow eyes, pale frames flush against one another. I don’t know enough then to know why I shouldn’t like these faces and of course in fact I also love one of them. The pelican sucks the world down into itself. There is no before. I wake up.

When they ask Jacob Wren to name a difference between him and a person he loves, he says I feel completely different from everyone in almost every way but know there is no way this can be factually true. Also, I fear I don’t really love anyone. A simpler answer: I always drink coffee black.

The rogue AI robot was pretty angry by the time we found her. She was holed up in Toledo, and she made a point of saying, and this is a direct quote, that she didn’t think it was worth wasting her whole fucking life just to satisfy some ridiculous fantasy about staying alive forever, whatever the fuck that means. End quote. She swore a lot.

The monster when she opened her wings was the palest, most beautiful of reds. What you might say was saffron. She was sexually insatiable. She was immortal. She was cursed.

Or maybe, my avatar says, just maybe I am an alien intelligence sent to inhabit a viable life form in order to help, uh, shake things up a bit on this backwater planet, by which, yes, I mean Earth, you’ve read enough science-fiction to know that I am in fact talking about your stupid planet.

– Claudia La Rocco, petit cadeau


March 24, 2019

Kari Marie Norgaard Quote


This state of affairs brings to mind the work of historical psychologist Robert J. Lifton. Lifton’s research on Hiroshima survivors describes people in states of shock, unable to respond rationally to the world around them. He calls this condition “psychic numbing.” Following his initial studies in Japan, much of Lifton’s work has been devoted to describing the effect of nuclear weapons on human psychology, particularly for Americans (see, for example, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial). Out of this project, Lifton describes people today as living in an “age of numbing” due to their awareness of the possibility of extinction (from the presence of both nuclear weapons and the capacity for environmental degradation). In this usage, numbing comes not from a traumatic event, but from a crisis of meaning. Lifton says that all of us who live in the nuclear age experience some degree of psychic numbing. We know that our lives can end at any moment, yet we live as though we do not know this. Lifton calls this condition the “absurdity of the double life.” We live with “the knowledge on the one hand that we, each of us, could be consumed in a moment together with everyone and everything we have touched or loved, and on the other our tendency to go about business as usual – continue with our routines as though no such threat existed.” According to Lifton, the absurdity of the double life profoundly affects our thinking, feeling, identity, sense of empowerment, political imagination, and morality. He writes, “If at any moment nothing might matter, who is to say that nothing matters now?”

– Kari Marie Norgaard, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life


March 12, 2019

the brevity of astrology


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.)


March 8, 2019

Peter Linebaugh on Silvia Federici


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


January 17, 2019

A possible premonition for my future...


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


January 14, 2019

Where I Come From We Show Love


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?


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.


January 11, 2019

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


[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


January 7, 2019

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


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


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."


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


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


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


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."


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


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.


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


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