Thursday, 30 April 2009

From "Sunset Debris"

By Ron Silliman.

Can you feel it? Does it hurt? Is this too soft? Do you like it? Is this how you like it? Is it airtight? Is he there? Is he breathing? Is it him? Is it near? Is it hard? Is it cold? Does it weigh much? Is it heavy? Do you have to carry it far? Are those hills? Is this where we get off? Which one are you? Are we there yet? Do we need to bring sweaters? Where is the border between blue and green? Has the mail come? Have you come yet? Is it perfect bound? Do you prefer ballpoints? Do you know which insect you most resemble? Is it the red one? Is that your hand? Want to go out? What about dinner? What does it cost? Do you speak English? Has he found his voice yet? Is this anise or is it fennel? Are you high yet? Is your throat sore? Can't you tell dill weed when you see it? Do you smell something burning? Do you hear a ringing sound? Do you hear something whimpering, mewing, crying? Do we get there from here?

Ladkin & Stevenson Defeated

Did Sam Ladkin know about H1N1 flu several months ago? His fake sonnet in ISSUE TWO (p. 321) indicates that he did.

Meanwhile Bad Press's Jonathan Stevenson is too busy with climate chaos and debt cancellation to update his pandemic justice site. Maybe we need to add another activist?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

From "Science Fiction Audiences"

By John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins.

Jenny: Yes, but there are planets and vast forces who are evil in the show and who seek to impose their own autocratic rule, such as the Daleks who want to be supreme rulers of the universe.
John: That's sort of a law, in a way, sort of like a system.
Fred: System- but chaos. Because Davros's dream is to dominate the universe through creating chaos. He even says that.
John: Chaos, or just sort of restrict everything?
Adam: Nothing but Daleks and slaves.
Fred: Which is an ultimate order in a way.
John: Yes, well, I suppose then you could think that chaos, the fringes of chaos become law. (laughs)
Jenny: The ultimate dialectic. (laughs)
Adam: Organized chaos.
Jenny: The Doctor's usually on the side of more naive, independent groups rather than large structure which has a lot of power. It's usually the mining company, the imperialistic planet, the non-human invaders who are trying to use other planets.
John: The mad scientist.
Int: Is Doctor Who a mad scientist?
John: No, no.
Jenny: He's very detached and objective. He doesn't make emotional statements. He doesn't show emotions. That's alwys the function of the female side of the partnership, if you like.
Joan: Yes.
Jenny: ... That's often I think why they give Doctor Who an assistant who's very illogical usually. The most logical of the assistants is still being, acting more or less 99 per cent by intuition and good luck or whatever.
John: The second Romana wasn't. And neither was the first in fact.
Fred: I don't think Leela was either.
Jenny: Oh yes she was. She was all instinct, completely.
John: Yeah, but that wasn't emotion.
Jenny: Oh well, I mean not so much emotion in the sort of wet and flowery meaning that we may associate, but non-logical thought processes anyway. Non-deductive thinking.
Joan: Yeah.
Fred: I don't even agree with that, because I think Leela was very deductive in her thinking. She just based her thinking on different premises, that's all.
Jenny: But she often didn't know why she felt a certain way. She just felt fear.
Joan: Yeah.
Jenny: ... all she could say is, "I sense danger."
Joan: Whereas Romana's more like you're saying, the first Romana. You know, the stunner.
Fred: Yeah, the stunner. That Romana, yeah. (men laugh)

What seems clear in the discussion is the pleasure that this group of intellectuals get in playing around with ideas accessed from a range of generic and social discourses. And this in itself (this extensive competence in "ideas") is both a protection against the threat of "sexism" (in so far as there is always a handy "idea" to deflect attention) and a key to their liking of the show. The Doctor's "powers of mind" (rather than the American "if it moves, shoot it" physicality) are obviously something the group shares and enjoys. And in this game of intellectual dexterity, it is the "progressive" qualities of the show (anti-multinationals, anti-imperialism, liberationism, etc.) which are articulated as a coherent discourse and therefore foregrounded. Even the intellectual game itself can be foregrounded as a source of pleasure -- and this is as much to do with the friendly (i.e. confident) rivalry of former tertiary students as to do with the "artificiality" of the interview situation.

Int: What did you mean when you said you thought Doctor Who was the ultimate dialectic?
Jenny: Well, because ... (men laugh)
Adam: Trendy university student.
John: Yeah, history student.
Fred: Trying to convince us that she's read Marx, that's what it is. (men laugh)
John: Yeah right, right. (laughter)
Jenny: John said, was walking about this sort of fluctuation between chaos and order and the tinges of grey in between, and just on whatever level we approach it, whether we see it as law becomes chaos as much as chaos can come back into being law, or order or whatever you want to call it, and, er, as I said before I see him as the ultimate harmonizer.

The group dynamics here are interesting. It is a moment of threat to the consensus of the "why we like Doctor Who" meta-discourse. Although contained by other, safer subject positions (science fiction, social progressivism), the "sexism" debate is very close to the surface: because while not articulated as such, the debate about "women = intuition, male = reason" has, for a moment, completely divided the women from the men in the group. However, this threat is immediately displaced to a different terrain. The "healthy" rivalry of tertiary-educated people reincorporates the female/male division as a competitive "joke". From this point the discussion regroups via the safer debate of "does the Doctor always remain unaltered?" The unified interpretive position is resecured, is back in control: "who has the best memory of Doctor Who?"

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

From "Ethics in Sign Language Interpreting"

By Granville Tate and Graham H. Turner.

Baby scenario

You are interpreting with a Deaf mother-to-be when she goes for a scan. You know that she doesn't want to know the sex ofher baby, but the gynaecologist suddenly comes out with the information that it's a boy! What do you do, and why?

Of the respondents to this question, approximately 77% stated that they would make some kind of non-mechanistic intervention, while some 23% felt that they would not.

Here are two examples of responses from the first group. The first example is representative of the vast majority of responses:

"I think I would tell her that the doctor has just said the sex but 'you don't want to know, right?' (also explain what I said to the doctor). It's difficult 'cos if hearing the slip would have been heard."
"Don't tell the mum, but explain to the doctor that you are not going to tell her."

Now two examples of replies from the second group:

"Interpret the info., i.e., do the job."
"I would sign 'it's a boy' because (i) the mother should have made it clear that she did not want to know or (ii) if she had made that clear and the Dr. forgot then a hearing person would have heard and by my signing it the deaf woman would be equal to a hearing woman."

I know who I am by how I respond, then feel a strong temptation to pluck

Sounds of Peter Manson & John Wilkinson's recent reading are now up (thanks to Neil Pattison) under Bad Breath. Elizabeth-Jane Burnett's noise of 07 also newly-repaired. Find bits of the texts here, here & here.

Monday, 27 April 2009

From the Internal Revenue Service

Topic 357 - Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children

You may claim a kidnapped child as your dependent if the following requirements are met:

1. The child must be presumed by law enforcement to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or a member of the child's family, and

2. The child had, for the taxable year in which the kidnapping occurred, the same principal place of abode as the taxpayer for more than one-half of the portion of such year before the date of kidnapping.

If both of these requirements are met, the child may meet the requirements for purposes of determining:

* The dependency exemption
* The child tax credit, and
* Head of household or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child filing status.

This tax treatment will cease to apply as of your first tax year beginning after the calendar year in which either there is a determination that the child is dead or the child would have reached age 18, whichever occurs first.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

From "Emma said something about the duty of woman, how ..."

By Eric Elshtain and the machine.

Yes, said almost wistfully: you’re the only man who might be
useful [...]

Saturday, 25 April 2009

From "The Peloponnesian War"

By Thucydides.

[...] revolution thus ran its course from city to city [...] Words had to change their ordinary meanings and to take those which were now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Franatic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent, a man to be suspected.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Thursday, 23 April 2009

From "Biological Exhuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity"

By Bruce Bagemihl.

In both Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphins, animals of the same sex frequently engage in affectionate and sexual activities with each other that have many elements of heterosexual courtship and sexuality. For example, two males or two females often rub their bodies together, mouthing and nuzzling one another, and may caress or stroke each other -- simultaneously or alternately -- with their fins, flukes, snouts (or "beaks"), and heads. Sometimes this is accompanied by playful rolling, chasing, pushing, and leaping. During this activity -- which can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours -- males may display erect penises. More overt homosexual activity takes a variety of forms. One animal might gently stroke or gently probe the other's gential area with the soft tips of its flukes or flippers. Female Spinner Dolphins sometimes even "ride" on each other's doral fin -- one inserts her fin into the other's vulva or genital slit, then the two swim together in this position. Among Bottlenose females, direct stimulation of the clitoris is a prominent feature of homosexual interactions. Two females often take turns rubbing each other's clitoris, using either the snout, flippers, or flukes, or else actively masturbate against their partner's appendages. Females may also clasp one another in a belly-to-belly position (as in heterosexual mating) and thrust against each other.

Homosexual interactions also involve a form of "oral" sex in which one animal rubs and nuzzles the other's genitals with its snout or beak; because both males and females have a genital slit or opening, penetration is also possible in this fashion for both sexes. One animal might insert the tip of its beak into the other's gentials or perhaps just use its lower jaw to penetrate and stimulate his or her partner. Soemtimes this develops into a sexual activity known as BEAK-GENITAL PROPULSION, in which one partner inserts its beak into the other's genitals and gently propels the two of them forward, maintaining penetration while they swim together. The lower animal may also turn on its side or rotate belly up during this activity. Male Dolphins sometimes rub their erect penises on one another's body or genital areas. This may lead to copulation, in which one male swims upside down underneath the other, pressing his genitals against the other and even inserting his penis into the genital slit (or less commonly, anus) of the male above him (the same position is used in heterosexual intercourse). The two partners may switch psotitions, alternating during the same session, or perhaps exchanging "roles" over a longer period. If there is an age difference between male partners, either may penetrate the other, and Bottlenose adolescents have even been observed penetrating much older males. Groups of three or four males may engage in homosexual activity together, or one male may masturbate (by rubbing his penis on rocks or sand) while other males are coupling nearby. Homosexual activity is sometimes accompanied by aggressive behaviours, but these can also occur during heterosexual interactions (males and females have been observed diving forcefully at eat other, for example, and violently ramming their foreheads together as a prelude to mating). In Spinner Dolphins, groups of a dozen or more dolphins of both sexes sometimes gather together in near "orgies" of caressing and sexual behaviour (both same-sex and opposite-sex); these groups are known as WUZZLES [...]

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

From "Thus Spake Zarathustra"

By Friedrich Nietzsche.

"[...] Dost thou not smell the slaughterhouses and ovens of the spirit even now? Dost not this town steam with the fumes of slaughtered spirit? [...] Spit on the city of compressed souls and slender chests, of pop-eyes and sticky fingers - on the city of the obtrusive, the brazen-faced, the pen-demagogues and tongue-demagogues, the overheated ambitious - where everything maimed, infamous, lustful, dusky, over-mellow, pussy and plotting festereth perniciously together - spit on the great city and turn back!"

Here, however, did Zarathustra interrupt the foaming fool, and shut his mouth. "Stop this at once! called out Zarathustra, long have thy speech and thy manner disgusted me! Why didst thou live so long by the swamp, that thou thyself hadst to become a frog and a toad? Floweth there not a tainted, frothy, swamp-blood in thine own veins, when thou hast thus learned to croak and revile? Why wentest thou not into the forest? Or why didst thou not till the ground? Is the sea not full of green islands? I despise thy despising; and when thou warnedst me, why didst thou not warn thyself? Out of love alone shall my contempt and my warning bird take wing; but not out of the swamp! They call thee mine ape, thou foaming fool: but I call thee my grunting-pig - by thy grunting, thou spoilest even my praise of folly. What was it that first made thee grunt? Because no one sufficiently flattered thee: therefore didst thou seat thyself beside this filth, that thou mightest have cause for much grunting, that thou mightest have cause for much vengeance! For vengeance, thou vain fool, is all thy foaming; I have divined thee well! But thy fools'-word injureth me, even when thou art right! And even if Zarathustra's word were a hundred times justified, thou wouldst ever do wrong with my word!"

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Monday, 20 April 2009

The colony ship in which the publishing industry tomorrow leaves this dying star. Bye Georgie, Sarah et al. I'm reading with Mike Weller tomorrow at 7.30 at The Lamb in Lamb's Conduit Street near Holborn. Via Posie, there're Mary's tweets:

"[...] My suicide attempt was a rational act, but, given that I live, I daily labour to remember that I have still the duty of a mother to fulfil.
8:53 AM Apr 19th from web

I am alive and must face reality with a composed mind. Gilbert does not love me. I must make my life alone, and write to support my infant.
8:04 AM Apr 19th from web

It was strangers who rescued me this time. Why, why, why. I do not want to live.
2:22 AM Apr 19th from web

Putney. Old Father Thames sweeps by. Tis raining hard. I shall wait till my clothes are wet through and heavy. No mistake this time.
3:57 PM Apr 18th from web

There is nothing for it. I have no home, no husband, no money, no prospect of any. The world will not miss me, nor I it. Farewell.

From "Out of the Picture"

By Tom Raworth.

[...] a battered cardboard box

won somewhere gambling

dim bell in his memory

was making a duplicate

to see if that needed explanation

sharply, and then, more gently

the door opened

three thousand miles east of home

we avoid old bones

conscious that their territory [...]

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Life You Can't Save

Peter Singer is the flid who put a vegetarian hex on me a few years back. Stay away from his futile, wasteful web site. He propagandizes it without flair in this lecture and this book. His fascinator jiggles into antlers, succumbing the way he cheapens dirt.
Who is the louse Poetry Snark? & why no posts since 2007?

From "Articulate How"

By Catherine Wagner.

I won't say anything
I can't say
like this

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

From "The Histories"

By Herodotus.

When Darius was king of Persia, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied they would not do it for any money in the world. Later, in the presence of the Greeks, and through an interpreter, so that they could understand that was said, he asked some Indians, of the tribe called Callatiae, who do in fact eat their parents’ dead bodies, what they would take to burn them (as was the custom of the Greeks). They uttered a cry of horror and forbade him to mention such a dreadful thing. One can see by this what custom can do and Pindar, in my opinion, was right when he called it ‘king of all’.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

From "The Political Unconscious"

By Frederick Jameson.

In practice, then, the attack on the concept of "totality" in the American framework means the undermining and the repudiation of the only realistic perspective in which a genuine Left could come into being in this country.

Monday, 13 April 2009

From "Verthandi's Ring"

By Ian McDonald.

The Clade Heart-world had engaged its Mach drive and was slowly, slow as a kiss, as an Edda, manipulating the weave of space-time to accelerate away from bloated, burning Seydatryah. Those unharvested must perish with the planet as Seydatryah's family of worlds passed beyond the age of biology. Calls flickered at light-speed across the system. Strung like pearls around the gas giant, the eight hundred half-gestated daughter-habitats left their birthing orbits: half-shells, hollow environment spheres; minor Heart-worlds of a handful of tiers. A quarter of the distance to the next star, the manufactories and system defenses out in the deep blue cold of the Oort cloud warped orbits to fall into the Heart-world's train. The Chamber of Ever-Renewing Waters, the military council, together with the Deep Blue Something, the gestalt uber-mind that was the Heart-world's participatory democracy, had acted the moment it became aware of Rose of Jericho's small secret. Seydatryah system glowed with message masers as the call went out down the decades and centuries to neighbouring Heart-worlds and culture clouds and even meat-planets: after one hundred thousand years, we have an opportunity to finally defeat the Enemy.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

From "Frass Suicide"

By Linus Slug.

you are painfully thin my bulimic bank teller I

want to dry mount you

to the rhythm of your Heave

From "The End of the Line"

By Charles Clover.

Imagine what people would say if a band of hunters strung a mile of net between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged it at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage, like something out of Mad Max, would scoop up everything in its way: predators, such as lions and cheetahs, lumbering endangered herbivores, such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest, family groups of warthogs and wild dog. Pregnant females would be swept up and carried along, with only the smallest juveniles able to wriggle through the mesh.

Picture how the net is constructed, with a huge metal roller attached the leading edge. The rolling beam smashes and flattens obstructions, flushing creatures into the approaching filaments. The effect of dragging a huge iron bar across the savannah is to break off every outcrop, uproot every tree, bush and flowering plant, stirring columns of birds into the air. Left behind is a strangely bedraggled landscape resembling a harrowed field. The industrial hunter-gatherers now stop to examine the tangled mess of writhin or dead creatures behind them. There are no markets for about a third of the animals they have caught because they don't taste too good, or because they are simply too small or too squashed. The pile of corpses is dumped on the plain to be consumed by carrion.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

From "Amish Hackers"

By Kevin Kelly.

The boss, Amos (not his real name: the Amish prefer not to call attention to themselves), takes me around to the back where a huge dump-truck-sized diesel generator sits. It's massive. In addition to a gas engine there is a very large tank, which I learn, stores compressed air. The diesel engine burns fuel to drive the compressor that fills the reservoir with pressure. From the tank a series of high-pressure pipes snake off toward every corner of the factory. A hard rubber flexible hose connects each tool to a pipe. The entire shop runs on compressed air. Every piece of machine is running on pneumatic power. Amos even shows me a pneumatic switch, which you can flick like a light switch, to turn on some paint-drying fans.

The Amish call this pneumatic system "Amish electricity." At first pneumatics were devised for Amish workshops, but it was seen as so useful that air-power migrated to Amish households. In fact there is an entire cottage industry in retrofitting tools and appliances to Amish electricity. The retrofitters buy a heavy-duty blender, say, and yank out the electrical motor. They then substitute an air-powered motor of appropriate size, add pneumatic connectors, and bingo, your Amish mom now has a blender in her electrical-less kitchen. You can get a pneumatic sewing machine, and a pneumatic washer/dryer (with propane heat). In a display of pure steam-punk nerdiness, Amish hackers try to outdo each other in building pneumatic versions of electrified contraptions. Their mechanical skill is quite impressive, particularly since none went beyond the 8th grade. They love to show off this air-punk geekiness. And every tinkerer claimed that pneumatics were superior to electrical devices because air was more powerful and durable, outlasting motors which burned out after a few years hard labor. I don't know if this is true, or just justification, but it was a constant refrain.

I visited one retrofit workshop run by a strict Mennonite. Marlin was a short beardless man (no beards for the Mennonites). He uses a horse and buggy, has no phone, but electricity runs in the shop behind his home. They use electricity to make pneumatic parts. Like most of his community, his kids work along side him. A few of his boys use a propane powered fork lift with metal wheels (no rubber so you can't drive it on the road) to cart around stacks of heavy metal as they manufacture very precise milled metal parts for pneumatic motors and for kerosene cooking stoves, an Amish favorite. The tolerances needed are a thousand of an inch. So a few years ago they installed a massive, $400,000 computer-controlled milling (CNC) machine in his backyard, behind the horse stable. This massive half-million dollar tool is about the dimensions of a delivery truck. It is operated by his 14-year old daughter, in a bonnet. With this computer controlled machine she makes parts for grid-free horse and buggy living.

One can't say "electricity-free" because I kept finding electricity in Amish homes. Once you have a huge diesel generator running behind your barn to power the refrigeration units that store the milk (the main cash crop for the Amish), it's a small thing to stick on a small electrical generator. For re-charging batteries, say. You can find battery-powered calculators, flashlights, electric fences, and generator-powered electric welders on Amish farms. The Amish also use batteries to run a radio or phone (outside in the barn or shop), or to power the required headlights and turn signals on their horse buggies. One clever Amish fellow spent a half hour telling me the ingenious way he hacked up a mechanism to make a buggy turn signal automatically turn off when the turn was finished, just as it does in your car.

Nowadays solar panels are becoming popular among the Amish. With these they can get electricity without being tied to the grid, which was their main worry. Solar is used primarily for utilitarian chores like pumping water, but it will slowly leak into the household. As do most innovations.

The Amish use disposable diapers (why not?), chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and are big boosters of genetically modified corn. In Europe this stuff is called Frankenfood. I asked a few of the Amish elders about that last one. Why plant GMOs? Well, they reply, corn is susceptible to the corn borer which nibbles away at the bottom of the stem, and occasionally topples over the stalk. Modern 500 horsepower harvesters don't notice this fall; they just suck up all the material, and spit out the corn into a bin. The Amish harvest their corn semi-manually. It's cut by a chopper device and then pitched into a thresher. But if there are a lot of stalks that are broken, they have to be pitched by hand. That is a lot of very hard sweaty work. So they plant Bt corn. This genetic mutant carries the genes of the corn borer's enemy, Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a toxin deadly to the corn borer. Fewer stalks are broken, the harvest can be semi-mechanized, and yields are up as well. One elder Amishman whose sons run his farm told me that he'd only help his sons harvest if they planted Bt corn. He said he told them he was too old to be pitching heavy broken corn stalks. The alternative was to purchase expensive, modern harvesting equipment. Which none of them want. So the technology of genetically modified crops allowed the Amish to continue using old, well-proven, debt-free equipment, which accomplished their main goal of keeping the family farm together. They did not use these words, but they considered genetically modified crops as appropriate technology for family farms.

Artificial insemination, solar power, and the web are technologies that Amish are still debating. They use the web at libraries (using but not owning). From cubicles in public libraries Amish sometimes set up a website for their business. So while Amish websites seem like a joke, there's quite a few of them. What about post-modern innovations like credit cards? A few Amish got them, presumably for their businesses at first. But over time the bishops noticed problems of overspending, and the resultant crippling interest rates. Farmers got into debt, which impacted not only them but the community since their families had to help them recover (that's what community and families are for). So, after a trial period, the elders ruled against credit cards.

One Amish-man told me that the problem with phones, pagers, and PDAs (yes he knew about them) was that "you got messages rather than conversations." That's about as an accurate summation of our times as any. Henry, his long white beard contrasting with his young bright eyes told me, "If I had a TV, I'd watch it." What could be simpler?


The Amish are steadily, slowing adopting technology. They are slow geeks. As one Amish man told Howard Rheingold, "We don't want to stop progress, we just want to slow it down," But their manner of slow adoption is instructive.

1) They are selective. They know how to say "no" and are not afraid to refuse new things. They ban more than they adopt.
2) They evaluate new things by experience instead of by theory. They let the early adopters get their jollies by pioneering new stuff under watchful eyes.
3) They have criteria by which to select choices: technologies must enhance family and community and distance themselves from the outside world.
4) The choices are not individual, but communal. The community shapes and enforces technological direction.

This method works for the Amish, but can it work for the rest of us? I don't know. It has not really been tried yet. And if the Amish hackers and early adopters teach us anything, it's that you have to try things first. Try first and relinquish later if need be. We are good at trying first; not good at relinquishing – except as individuals. To fulfill the Amish model we'd have to get better at relinquishing as a group. Social relinquishing. Not merely a large number (as in a movement) but a giving up that relies on mutual support. I have not seen any evidence of that happening, but it would be a telling sign if it did appear.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

By Josh Stanley.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

From "Confessing identity \ belonging to difference"

By William E. Connolly.

A favorite practice in the academy is to convict others of the "performative contradiction," whereby they are said to affirm in practice what they deny in theory. When everything proceeds smoothly the critic eventually pulls the opponent to a place where the latter must accept the positive thesis of the critic. The move in philosophical discourse parallels a familiar one in religious disputes where those who deviate from your faith are convicted of a definitive fault to de-moralize it and bolster the necessity of your own. One can hardly avoid light use of the performative contradiction, to pose questions to others even as you identify sore spots and paradoxes in your own existential faith. But its use as the master tool of critique reflects the tacit assumption that the world conforms to a logic to be grasped through precise concepts. Theorists who play such an earnest game forget to ask whether those so convicted may find something positive in the very experience of paradox, as Augustine, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Deleuze do when they treat paradox as a sign of something efficacious in the world that exceeds conceptual reach. At other times [...] heavy dependence on this tool reflects an implicit narrowing of options available to the adversary to those the critics already recognize as possibilities. Thus, those who do not embrace a transcendental basis of moral authority are often said by critics to reduce morality to desire or preference; for that is what morality would become to the critic if its transcendental basis were subtracted. Once that fateful representation is installed, conviction of a performative self-contradiction is only a step away. In Foucault's terms, polemicists proceed "encased in privileges [they possess] in advance and will never agree to question."

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Monday, 6 April 2009

From "English Hecklers in New Zealand"

By Stewart Lee.

Privately, the debate continues amongst comedians, “what is Daniel Kitson doing?” Why, many wonder, does he do The Stand when he could do the big room at Assembly? Why does he insist on shaking off half the following he has established every couple of years by doing a sensitive story show? Why doesn’t he have a nice haircut? Surely he could afford it now. But Kitson once told me, that after his Perrier nomination, he was doing a run at the Soho theatre. Sitting in a toilet cubicle one night he overheard some of his audience standing at the urinals talking, didn’t like how they sounded, didn’t like them, and realised he would have to begin a process of refining his fanbase.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Poets on Fire

I went to Brixton to write this post. I'm there now -- here. I just kind of wandered around a bit and looked at the people there, and even stopped and talked to some of them, to just like get a real sense of the place. So I guess it's a kind of psychogeographical post. Place is very important to my posts, in fact the other day someone even described me as a forum poster of place, I don't know how true that is, but anyway. The boiling irony is, I typed it thinking it was going in another place -- here on the POETS ON FIRE forum, but I can't seem to register. Can you? Roddy Lumsden asked, "I'm tempted to join the protests but a fair amount of my wages come from the state -- should I still shake my fist?" Roddy was part of an impressive line up at a tolerably half-full ("intimate?") La Langoustine est Mort last night, & a little hollow birdie intoned boomingly to me that footage of his reading may soon appear on Openned. Roddy's poem gathered from various fire prevention web sites might be interestingly compared with Andrea Brady's Tracking Wildfire.

March, if that's your bag. Yeah man, put a pill in a pig. If you do, you will be no more a hypocrite than your proselytizing and spine-free (friarweather friends, if you will) "comrades". Though "hypocrite" derives etymologically from _hypokrites_, the pretender, actor, and "hippie" from the _fin de siecle_ Chicago underworld figure, Arty "Bricker" Von Hep, via _hepcat_, "jazz afficianado," they are the same deal.

As poets on fire, we have more in common with the effigy, "galloping into colour" before the Bank of England -- our role is to agitate the nostrils of the imagination, to sear the surface of history, to kindle debate with our coiling black skins and draw the steady *thwuck* *thwuck* of hecklecopters o'erhead. Our lives must be assimilated to that role, just as a City (hard-)worker, had he been muddled with the effigy, must lie still as he burns, or else risk profound hypocrisy. He must judge as the effigy, plop over as the effigy. What the marchers, or "praxis dudes" as they seem to now be calling themselves, don't realise is this. Effigies which get up and run around screaming *are no longer effigies.* The same goes for poets. ONCE YOU ARE THE EFFIGY YOU ARE THE EFFIGY.

What really winds me up, more even than how the praxis dudes act as is made rational by our system (taking state funding etc.) in order to dismantle it (rather than doing the right thing & sacrificing themselves absolutely to that system's tendential slavery and homicide), is their *litter.* On Wednesday I even saw swathed caitiffs dragging metal partitions into the path of oncoming rows of brave truncheoneers! By their own logic, they should be stooping to clear their yoghurt pots and flapjack crumbs from under the boots of the charging law & order! These are certainly the same folks we see flying, driving or taking the train -- not, at any rate, cycling -- to their various Climate Change / Anti-War / Anti-Domination "conferences" (read: jollies) in exotic locations across England.

There's nothing more laughable (I mean it: "ha ha ha ha" there I go) than a *pamphlet* exhorting me to recycle! Why don't you just *tell* me, mate? They have everything backwards; I will swear I saw an anarchist at the so-called vigil on Thursday (what kind of "vigil" forces police to kettle it just to keep the peace, I ask you?) suckling a severed boob on a baby's head which was immured in her chest. New Social Movements come Janus-faced as standard, so I'm not surprised their members have extra faces sticking out of them. At Cambridge, I knew a global warming activist, "Jonathan Stevenson," at Cambridge, and I remember often seeing a light in his window late into the night. Even the energy he spends waving his arms around while he bores you could have boiled an egg for six months, which he would probably then *eat* because he is *disgusting*. If someone like Stevenson really cares about the irreversible corruption of the conditions which sustain life, he should consider deforesting less rainforest for the purpose of placardsmithing; he should move around a little less, breathe a little less, he should to less and fro less, because that wears down his soles, he should toss less and turn less, because that thins his blanket, he should shut his eyes because those suck up light, he should draw in his arms and tuck his knees up to his chest, so he takes up less space, he should be a pod, inert, starving, a non-meat, a block, a puck, a global flank, dead and self-kettled and silent as fuck. Either that or think about actually doing something worthwhile with his gifts like giving me the sucking chest wound dialectic blowjob-titwank I deserve for my poems.

From "Notes on Commitment"

By Sean Bonney.

The Maggie Beast. […] This is a representation of Thatcher far more accurate than anything that featured in satire. Her personality is irrelevant here, whether as featured in the Daily Mail or Spitting Image. Instead she is seen in her effect on the people; as a force of devastation. The name Maggie is changed by its proximity to beast. It stope being the affectionate shorthand for Margaret, but sounds instead like the name of something appalling from medieval folk tales. Something that appears in the hearth smoke, and carries off your new-born in its claws.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Sean Bonney on the demonstrations

[...] The violence of the anarchists, even the violence of the cops, is insignificant compared to the bloodbaths of the Middle East, the increasing institutional xenophobia throughout western Europe, or indeed Barack Obama’s intention to continue the War on Terror. Most intelligent people know this, but most of them like to pretend that nothing can be done, or that they are somehow innocent. The protesters, both violent and otherwise, are at least trying to work out how capital’s bloodlust, and all of our parts in it, can be brought to a definitive end.

Full post.

From "The History of Airports"

By Chris Goode.

[...] The ones left in the arrivals terminal, apparently, remain there to this day, continuing to wait.

Are there lessons here for the future? It's hard to think about perspective when, as we know, in a single airport minute, whole hand-to-hand wars may be won and lost, and we have often seen a hundred thousand microformal presidents of the United States of America rollerblade into an oblivion of collapsed Muzak. All the ventilation filters leak a cold yellow mucus, the travelators warp and turn turtle. The ineffable congress of lovers -


- is reclothed and neutralised into tantric safety demonstration and the bleak irradiated opportunity to watch blockbuster movies mapped down to the size and scope of an animated scab growing on the back of a wounded headrest.

To many observers, this all suggests that the airport will only be able to support the near-exponential increase in the people's demand for homecoming if it evolves not as buildings do; but as do animals, towards an immaterial system of uninterrupted thought.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

From "Caramello Candybars and Yoohoo Chocolate Drinks"

By Darby Larson.

"Your paradox interests me, Jack."


"Not being able to take a shower because you don't have a home but can't get a home because you've got no money but can't get a job because you can't take a shower, and so on."

"What about it?"

"I think I'm going to try to help you solve it today."


"Do you have any money at all?"

"No. I've got thirty cents."

"Try reaching into your pockets for money. Often, when I need money, I just reach into my pockets, and there it is."


"Reach into you pockets."

Jack reached into his pockets and pulled out thirty cents. Three dimes.

"That's it?" I asked.

"I told you that's all I have."

"Interesting," I said. This was truly fascinating.

Against the London poets

Meanwhile I’ve heard some top London poets have gone among the murderous, thieving hordes of peasants. I expected better of you. Your curiosity is understandable – indeed, under the right circumstances, quite compulsory to our art. But you must grasp that by mixing with the demonstrators, you not only risk your safety, but those of our hopes which you hold in trust. More damningly, you convey, unavoidably, and without the off-sets of whatever private caveats you permit yourselves, an appearance of ideological connexion with the demonstrators, which in our era of appearances, were as good as to make cause with them.

A poet must be at once of his time and for all time. Swallowing this spin-1 power-up, I have incorporated two observations – object lessons in evanescences imperilled – into “Octopus Flute,” which, when its pearlescent sea-bed orchards ripen, may benefit by this pair of glosses: first, that even a baton extended in the spirit of defibrillation may have catastrophic, unforeseeable consequences; second, that under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, deprivation of liberty is not only justified in order to secure the fulfilment of legal obligation, but also, I quote, “for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases”. What social dynamic is the more pathogenic to the body politic than civil unrest? Direct action, indirect faction – and loosed from the labs by this one ghastly error, the pandemic exsanguinates all public will, the lifeblood of the body politic, or else projects it, garishly, within the emetic spatter of the crude homespun placard; it wracks terribly with pains all its vital institutions, sprouting black buboes to block the proper motions of constituent power through its representative organs, and granting us instead bloodied stool of the tossed-up wheelie bin; it mottles, swells, fevers, shatters, eviscerates, and bleeds dry. It is virulent and very, very infectious. It takes our breast in its bite-test – the young, the idealistic, the romantic, the free of spirit, Art Win, Luke Roberts, Mike Cupcake. The antibiotics of expert knowledge and considered public deliberation cannot pierce the anarchic pus of their halo-abscesses. Its germs flout even gravity, floating 'mong the high-minded, taking the chroncillers, the philosophers and poets, corrupting many whose honour and curse by rights is splendid elevation over every partisan carnage. And what medical technology has proved most vital to the modern defeat of disease? Mere sterilisation. And what is its instrument, its chief minister? One appears in every household. The lowly kettle.

From "Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology"

By David Graeber.

To sum up the argument so far, then:

1) Counterpower is first and foremost rooted in the imagination; it emerges from the fact that all social systems are a tangle of contradictions, always to some defree at war with themselves. Or, more precisely, it is rooted in the relation between the practical imaginaiton required to maintain a society based on consensus (as any society not based on violence must, ultimately, be) -- the constant work of imaginative identification with others that makes understanding possible -- and the spectral violence which appears to be its constant, perhaps inevitable corollary.

2) In egalitarian societies, counterpower might be said to be the predominant form of social power. It stands guard over what are seen as certain frightening possibilities within the society itself, notably against the emergence of systemic forms of political or economic dominance.

2a) Institutionally, counterpower takes the form of what we would call institutions of direct democracy, consensus and mediation; that is, ways of publicly negotiating and controlling that inevitable internal tumult and transforming it into those social states (or if you like, forms of value) that society sees as the most desirable: conviviality, unanimity, fertility, prosperity, beauty, however it may be framed.

3) In highly unequal societies, imaginative counterpower often defines itself against certain aspects of dominance that are seen as particularly obnoxious and can become an attempt to eliminat them from social relations completely. When it does, it becomes revolutionary.

3a) Institutionally, as an imaginative well, it is responsible for the creation of new social forms, and the revalorization or transformations of old ones, and also,

4) in moments of radical transformation -- revolutions in the old-fashioned sense -- this is precisely what allows for the notorious popular ability to innovate entirely new politics, economic, and social forms. Hence, it is the root of what Antonio Negri has called "constituent power," the power to create constitutions.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

From a work in progress

By Keston Sutherland.

The mass of the people heard its iron tramp. But why go on
the show in the first place if you’re so bothered by the invasion
of privacy? Too good for an obscure life? Enjambment mitigates
segregation, which mitigates the final fantasy of universal
niecehood already sabotaged faute de mieux to a retrovirus.
Why grope after a more westerly set than that? If you listen
forever enough only to nothing you might never hear it.

Quotations are used to kickstart the stanzas. Then logic.
The mouthfeel of democracy in 2003: the far left
pedal accelerates the coda, hurricane on a wet black.
Lucas: what the fuck do you see in public imagism
like that for? Akinfemiwa: all the better to ignore you with
hadjiavatis vaticilectrix v. Barbie arbitration
the apparition of a frozen heart grasped in fish fingers.

Nine days in, and as yet the diary hasn’t got my mask off.
The natives are getting derivative. Nothing escapes them.
They adjust to it, as circles adjust to reform into the major
arc in a minor key. Sentences become shorter, get
a commuted tone. Back of the wainscot of the friable ocean
pure thoughts on Fuzzy Felts. I want to get to a point where
I don’t have to go through all this again from the beginning when I