Sunday, 30 September 2007

From "Five Theses on the Philosophy of Music"

By Ben Watson.

The enormity of Karl Marx's thought is underestimated. When he declared that the point was to change the world, the agent of change he pointed to was the class of proletarians. The idea that a class of propertyless oiks could carry through a solution to history which had evaded the best minds of German philosophy has now becom familiar jargon: it has lost its power to shock. Not, however, its musical corollary: the idea that the two-minute rock 'n' roll single solved musical problems that stumped Mahler and Schoenberg.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

The MET Are All For This

By Steve Aylett.

As Menwith Usansa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic bug. The body was a ball of aerials from which his face peaked as though from the battlements of his own enemy. These beeping bayonets moved sluggishly, re-orienting like the spines of a sea urchin, guided by geosynchronous LANDSAT satellites. Foetally folded in protection of what he yet considered his harmless innards, Usansa itched – a tarnished crust of infinity receivers coated his skin. He had a discreet pinhole camcorder embedded in his forehead and a quartz-controlled ultra-high frequency transmitter up each nostril. The right managed four standard audio channels and monitored room conversation in real time; the left incorporated an inbuilt audio tape storage system and was designed to monitor telephone dialogue for retrieval at high speed. Both were coupled to the public telecommunications network and were activated by dual tone multiple frequency signalling.

All this had happened while he slept. It was as if the wire-eyes in the walls had flocked to him like filings to a magnet. Why remain concealed from one in so defenceless a position? This self-fulfilling mockery denied him protection.

What has happened to me? he thought. What to do now? Was there a procedure?

He scanned the window, where the overcast sky – raindrops beating on the window gutter – made him quite melancholy. He looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It was half past eight o’clock and the hands were quietly moving on! The next train for the office was at nine – to catch that he would have to hurry. His antennae clashed together as an American-owned Vortex satellite passed silently, miles overhead.

There came a cautious tap at the door. “Menwith,” said a voice (it was his mother’s), “it’s half past eight. Hadn’t you a train to catch?”

Usansa had a shock as he heard his own voice answering – unmistakeably his own voice, but with a persistent electronic enhancement behind it like an undertone, so that he could not be sure who had heard him. “Yes, yes, thank you, mother, I’m getting up now.” His mother began to shuffle away. “Just getting ready.” However, he was not thinking of opening the door, and felt thankful of his habit of locking his door at night, though it had aroused suspicion in the neighbourhood. His immediate intention was to get up quietly without being disturbed, to put on his clothes and eat his breakfast, and only then consider what could be done. He remembered that often he had awoken from oppressive dreams with an aftertaste of fear and persecution, which had proved purely imaginary when he got up, and he looked forward eagerly to seeing this morning’s delusions gradually fall away. With an effort of beleaguered willpower, he flexed the stiff stalk-field of his aerials, pushing himself across the mattress. Rolling like a theatrical asteroid, he crashed to the floor with a sound which resembled the overturning of a trashcan. He had probably caused anxiety, if not terror, behind the door.

Menwith rolled slowly toward his mobile, thinking to call the office and explain that he would be late, but found that the old A5 digital scrambler had been somehow switched to the less secure A5X. Would it matter what he said now? he thought. Nothing could escape detection – if someone is spying on me, he thought, I must have some explaining to do. Perhaps he had discussed the possibility of doing something wrong, or harboured an opinion of something done already. Could ECHELON sift thoughts? “Menwith!” his mother shouted. “What have you done? Someone’s here to see you.”

That’s someone from the office, he thought, going rigid. He tried to suppose that this sort of thing could have happened to anyone. Perhaps there existed the possibility of a mistake in such a matter – but the bug stuck.

“Menwith, a police constable is here!”

Usansa’s transmitters ticked nervously, his aerials clattering together. I should have expected this, he muttered to himself – he didn’t care to make his voice loud enough for anyone to hear. Behind the door, his mother began to sob.

Then the door opened and a man entered, slipping a small tension wrench into a pocket. Behind him, Usansa’s mother stood gaping – he was, after all, a chrome cacti of transmitters, the fading personality at its centre like a palmsqueeze wad of playdough – then she let out a shriek.

“Menwith! How could you?” And she rushed away, leaving Usansa with the officer.

And before this presence Usansa was drained completely of courage. He’d become a convolute contraption of magical guilt and timorous enquiry.

“You’ve made it worse for yourself, Ukusa,” said the man, approaching Usansa. He leant over and gripped one of the aerials, which was crooked, and bent it until it had attained a semblance of the true.

Usansa was too afraid to correct the officer’s mistake. “Am I allowed to have them removed?” “Removed from what?” said the man, and pointed a finger. “Do you consider there’s some dark corner in this body?”

And propelled by the demand, Usansa clicked through Boxer into the Harvest and Supercray computers at Silkworth. Running through the system, he found himself barred from the Ultrapure, Velodrome, Totaliser, Moonpenny, Voicecast, Carnivore, Trojan, Transcriber, Trackwalker, Silverweed, Pusher, Ruckus, Herdsman, Watson, WatCall, Holmes and Troutman programs. Even Vortex, Chalet and Magnum satellite data was closed to him. It was a one-way deal.

“Teflon polymer-coated sensory probes the size of a sandgrain interacting with your neural response patterns,” said the man. “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”

“Then why do I feel so embattled?” wondered Usansa.

But time passed, and he became the norm under panning lenses. His resentment twinkled like a far star in a streetlit sky, dwindling. He was at one with Edgewell, Rudloe, Canberra, Bude, Chicksands, Cheltenham, Peasemore, Molesworth, Feltwell and the switching station at Oswestry. And as signals busied and the law’s devices twisted on, at the dimmest inner heart of the trash star, his last flicker of consciousness went out.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Football in Heaven

By Stephen Jones.

Now God wanted a football match
And to play it up in heaven
But first he needed players
And select his first eleven

Georgie Best, big Brian Labone
The legend Dixie Dean
Alan Ball and Bobby Moore
All made it in the team

He needed one more player
Some one who would be quick
From up above he looked down
And saw Rhys there in his kit

So Rhys was taken up above
God took him by the hand
To play the game he loved so much
Where sponsorship is banned

There is no cheating either as
God is the referee
There are no mega wages
And the transfers they are free

The games are live on telly
You don't have to subscribe
The players all stay on their feet
Cos no one takes a dive

So Rhys plays now so happily
To the angels in the crowd
And every time he hits the net
They roar his name so loud

Have fun my little blue boy
Your safe and in God's care
Till its time for me to get my boots
And join with you up there

God bless Rhys

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

From "Le Grand Ordinaire"

By André Thirion.

"Our miseries are due to the fact that we have forgotten the old ways," declared our friend Moscheles in grave tones as he was getting his circumsized member sucked by his youngest daughter Sarah, whe was barely thirteen. "Modern life has devalued the pure joys of home and hearth, and every day the practice of sports takes children a little further away from their parents, and exposes them to a thousand temptations. (No, Sarah! Work on the head -- how many times do I have to tell you! And for goodness sake don't be afraid to use your tongue as much as you can!) One only needs think of the extreme freedom of manners, in fact the sheer licence, that permits the horrifying way couples dress at balls, in the street or in public parks. As for the latest, camping holidays, they encourage a quite indecent promiscuity, indeed I can't see how camping differs from vagrancy pure and simple. And have you ever read the columns in some of the women's weeklies? They actually recommend love affairs! Adultery is supposed to be a good thing! Sarah, come on, girl! Don't go to sleep on the job!"

Sunday, 23 September 2007

A Note on Scargill

Here are the notes I made to go with my contribution to Pilot (launching on Friday). They are strange & maybe it's better I didn't get them to Matt on time. Act out of damage.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

From "Watching the Complex Train-Track Changes"

By Bernadette Mayer.

Your name rhymes with clothes
Your plane folds & flies away
Without us, I’ll make the next one
We are enclosed in spaceless epics by breathless bricks
& still we’ll meet like runes or the leashes for hawks
Let’s go! Can we stay? Go to sleep.
A tree wouldn’t talk or weep if I-forget-what
And you in the train’s opulent rooms
Switch your cock to a baby and then say
“Must there (not) be a law against this?”

Friday, 21 September 2007

Why don't you have a blog? Even K. Lorraine Graham has a blog.

"On Monday night I dreamed I was presenting at an academic conference. My paper was well received, and the chair of the panel took me to a back room in a library and said, "congratulations!" and then duct-taped me up like a mummy. I think that Ron Silliman and Stan Aps were there, but they weren't on the panel. My paper was about Mina Loy and I was wearing a lampshade."

Thursday, 20 September 2007

From "Why Art Can't Kill the Situationist International"

By T.J. Clark and Donald Nicholson-Smith.

Proposition 2: The SI in its last ten years was an art-political sect, consumed with the lineaments of its own purity, living on a diet of exclusions and denunciations, and largely ignoring the wider political realm, or the problems of organization and expansion that presented themselves in an apparently prerevolutionary situation. Call this the clean-hands thesis. Or the burning-with-the-pure-flame-of-negativity thesis. (Proposition 2 is subscribed to, be it said, by many of the SI's admirers.)


Like all good travesties, these four propositions are not simply lies [...] Each proposition has a barely hidden corollary, and it is the truth of the corollary that this Left wants (and needs) to affirm.


Corollary 2: Therefore, the failure of the established Left to pose the problems of revolutionary organization again, and come to terms with the disaster of its Leninist and Trotskyite past, likewise does not matter. Such things are distractions. Dirty hands make light work. And the Left's love affairs with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, or the foci of Che Guevera and the Ecole Normale Superiere, or the Burmese road to socialism, or the Italian Communist Party, or Tony Benn and Tom Hayden -- or a hundred other objects that left the Situationists cold for reasons stated by them in detail at the time -- are now so much water under the bridge. Jedermann sein eigner Fussball [every man his own football], apparently. The Left may have prostrated itself in front of Mao's starving and stage-managed utopia. But at least it was not fooled by black uprisings in the United States. So many misled, premature lumpens, lacking (the Left's) direction, unaware that the time was not ripe for insurrection (for these guys it never is or will be). "Spontaneity"! The very word brings on a shudder or a giggle.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

From "The Broom of the System"

By David Foster Wallace.

"[...] The experience I have had was on the . . . (unintelligible) . . . In the Desert? And I was . . . where we were I was contestant. I am the contestant. The host opened the showcase and from where I was the audience screamed. It was the most desirable prize imaginable. The prize impossible to conceive of a more desirable prize. The totally desirable prize. And the audience had to be restrained with electrified wire mesh. And where I was I was not restrained. And . . ." (unintelligible) "and wires affixed. Host in robes says . . ." (here patient adopts different voice, possibly one of game-show quizmaster [N], pain at vocal effort obvious):

"'And the contestant will of course receive in which he receives the most widely desirable prize imaginable, on the condition that he, here we are, not want it, for the next 60 seconds.

"Contestant, where I was, did not receive prize. Shouts from audience: 'Don't think about it.' 'Renounce all desire.' Shouts from audience behind electrified wire mesh. To receive totally desirable prize by not desiring prize I did not receive it [...]"

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Toot Toot

"Maggie O’Sullivan and Ulli Freer will be reading their poetry in the upstairs room at The Lamb, 94 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1, from 7.30 on Thursday 20th September. This is the fifth in THE BLUE BUS series. Admissions: £5 / £3 (concessions). Nearest tubes: Russell Square; Holborn. Further events will include Stephen Watts, Christopher Gutkind and Richard Leigh (25 October) and Lee Harwood and Laurie Duggan (22 November)."

Monday, 10 September 2007

Visible Ordination

By Erin Mouré.

Those of us who fear the dancers,
the placement of mint
over the heart
The scent of the hands after the bread is made
Those who see the clay in bricks
who see bricks in hillsides
& mint in the far hill

We, yes, who hear the mothers speaking to their children,
& the fathers to their fathers' graves,
who crave a space with no America
so that we can rest
We for whom the statue of Liberty faces inward
& claps

Our answer is the ducks calling in the rocks,
is the chicken walking behind a sweater,
is human always,
agape & easily entered,
the letter on the inside of a host of bread

Those of us who fear the dancers
know the dance is a bright window
of oxygen in the head
We who look out the window
see the dancers eat before they know they will be dancing,
on the ocean terrace of the tavern,
salt blown on their shoulders,
beneath the cedars
with their white, white inner wine

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Philosophy and Poetry

Poets Reading Philosophy, Philosophers Reading Poetry
University of Warwick
26-28 October 2007

"This international conference will bring together poets and philosophers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K., to explore questions of method, aim, and substance relevant to both philosophical and poetic practice. We hope the conference will provide a constructive counterweight to a tradition that has often cast philosophy and poetry too simply as representing competing norms--of reasoned argument, generality, and objectivity on the one hand, and of expression, particularity, passion, and subjectivity on the other. To this end we have invited poets who count the philosophical tradition as an inspiration and whose work offers many routes into engagement with philosophers. The philosophical substance of poets’ work will be discussed, as well as such overarching concerns as relations between imagery and abstraction, the role of emotion and personal expression in philosophical inquiry, the role of imagination in reasoning, and conceptions of poetic and philosophical achievement. The conference programme will include poetry readings as well."

Invited speakers:
Robert Bringhurst (CA)
Richard Eldridge (Swarthmore College, Philosophy)
Jorie Graham (Harvard University, English)
Robert Gray (AU)
Kevin Hart (University of Virginia, Religious Studies)
Geoffrey Hill (Boston University emeritus, Literature and Religion)
Simon Jarvis (Cambridge University, English)
John Koethe (University of Milwaukee, Philosophy)
Peter Lamarque (University of York, Philosophy)
Susan Stewart (Princeton University, English)
Jan Zwicky (University of Victoria, Philosophy)