Monday, October 12, 2009
But how am I different from these 80 Chinese textile workers (drowning in the noise of sewing machines running in early mornings, the late afternoons, and the evenings all over again - tired eyes staring into the tiny stitches of haute couture)? How am I unique from the kids growing up under the Camorra in the Mediterranean heat? What right have I to be satisfied with this? Who am I supposed to thank for this blessing?
No one. For if it is a blessing to me, then it is a curse to 10 others. If there is some One to be thanked for this single life, that is One who should be damned for the sorry state of the others. I try to rationalize it, but the end of the logic always results in remainders. Excess. Garbage. This reality, this dumb facticity, this absurd world, which has absolutely no interest in me or my "success", hit me like a slug in the chest. It passed like a cold ghost through my breast plate and settled in somewhere next to my heart. And it will not go. No response to any solution I put to it - no finger can reach - nothing with which to dislodge or dissolve it.
What is just? That some few should stand on top of a mountain of dead? That we should pull some of the human wreckage below up along with us, but how shall we choose whom? And to what purpose is the ascent? What lies at the peak? Lies, lies - there is none. Nothing at the end of it all. And yet I fear to look back down behind me lest I should burst into tears. So where do I look? Into my soul and pray that I may find something still there...
10.13.2009, 12:09 am
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Today I had what I will begin calling my quintessential New York experience. Well, it will only be quintessential if it comes to something. Then again, it could become significant just because it comes to nothing as well. But before that theoretical development, let me tell you what happened.
Walking out of the glass doors marked "Poussez/Push" of the Alliance Francaise, where I had just begun taking French classes, I turned right down the street. I was planning to take the subway back to campus, back in Greenwich village and go study at the library. I hadn't even thought about lunch at this point - my head was still swimming in French, thinking, "Un mois. Un mois plus tard. C'est vrai. J'avais raison!" etc. I looked down at my phone as I walked (assumedly I was checking the time but I can't remember now) and when I looked up, I was looking across the street at something called the Grolier Club NYC. In my memory, I recalled something that they were supposed to have an exhibit about William Blake, and I decided to investigate.
There were no signs up featuring Blake's name or pictures when I entered. Nevertheless I inquired at the desk, and the women looked confused. Obviously, my memory had failed in some way. She showed me some information for the currently running shows - one about Leipzig University, the other on European symbolism in books or something. Disappointed, I considered taking the information and leaving to come back at some other time. Yet there was an older woman on the way out who exclaimed the wonderful-ness of the Leipzig show and I listened to her intently. Another woman had come into the lobby by then, passed right by the woman on her way out, and said that she was about to go take a tour with the curator of the show right then, and wondered if the woman would like to take it with her. The woman expressed great disappointment, but had to leave (for she was going to her Tai Chi class), and the woman asked me if I was interested in going. I said, yeah, that sounds great. I said, "Man, it's just like I stumbled in here - serendipitous," utilizing that word for the first time in my life. I didn't think too much of her at first, and we went toward the exhibition space and met the professor who would give us the tour. Evidently the woman had contacted him prior to coming here to organize the tour for herself, but I thought there was some long-standing connection there. He was not dismayed at having another person tag along for the tour and he brought us back.
He brought us around to the different window displays, where there was a facsimile copy of Leipzig University's First Edition of Copernicus' De revolutionibus, medieval texts of Aristotle with notes in the margins, a section of the Papyrus Ebers which is the longest and oldest from ancient Egypt around 1600 B.C.E. (in perfect condition - NO HOLES at ALL! - that's over 3000 years old!!!!!!), pages from the world's oldest bible called the Codex Sinaiticus (4th Century C.E.), the Machsor Lipsiae, an adorned Hebrew manuscript from the 14th century AD, and a giant Mongolian Koran, produced in Bagdad in 1306. This shit was all in amazing shape and a testament to Leipzig University's age and long-standing tradition for saving cool shit. Anyway, the professor ended his tour and let us look around a bit more. I went back to look at the astronomy and Aristotle stuff - they had a book that had tables and charts of the Ptolemaic system, but also a kind of pop-up feature that was a working circular wheel within the book that you could use to calculate the different epicycles of planetary orbits in the Ptolemaic system. It was incredible! The first edition Copernicus was fucking signed by fucking Johannes Kepler, who would go on to contribute the elliptical orbits to the Copernican system eliminating the epicycles and cementing Copernicus' work, with a dedicatory poem to the great scientific importance of this book!! I was stunned.
So, after wandering around in awe a bit more, I talked to my tour-mate - the serendipitous guest who had brought me on this jaw-dropping detour. Her name was Eliza, she was originally from _______ (unfortunately it escapes me at the moment, but it was somewhere in South America, which was interesting because I thought perhaps I noticed an accent) and she was just back in New York again after visiting [unknown country in S.A.] and glad to be back. "Not like home exactly," she said. "But like someplace where you want to be, right?" I said. "YES," she said, nodding. Her bright yellow sweater and pink jeans stood out brightly suddenly, as we stood talking in the dimly lit gallery. I told her I was a student at NYU - "at the downtown campus?" she asked - I said, "yes, greenwich village" - "I live about four blocks from there," she said - "cool," I said. She wondered if I'd seen this kind of stuff before, like in other museums or something. I said that I'd been to the Met and seen much of interest there, but I was excited to see more. When I asked her the same, she said yes but she planned to see every museum in the city. I thought that was a fantastic thing, and ecstatically, accidentally, kicked the chair in front of me.
"Well we should exchange email or something, get some coffee sometime," she tossed off. I said, "YEAH," but in my head I was thinking WHAT? (this is all so strange to me, meeting a stranger at random, thinking about some future moment of actually meeting up with the person again, and exchanging numbers to do so. Yet it is the second - count them: 2 times - it has happened to me.) So what did I do? I tore a piece of paper off one of my syllabi for Euro Studies classes, wrote down my name, phone number and email address and gave it to her. I was thinking, well she'll give me her number now. "Jez," she said, referring to the first part of my email address jezbold, "can only your friends call you that?"
"It's a name I picked up in France. I don't introduce myself with it, but yeah, you can call me that if you want."
On the way out of the Grolier club, we discussed how we both loved the feeling of Paris when we were there. We thanked the receptionist and walked out to the street. She had to meet a friend at the subway for lunch, which was apparently the opposite way I was going. I thought, damn, I should ask for her number or something; why didn't I do this earlier?; is it too late? I said, okay, cool. "We definitely be in touch sometime - go to another museum or something." Cool cool, sounds good. "Well, see you!" Okay. I turned and walked away, astonished, still thinking about her bright, curly blonde hair, hanging down onto the yellow sweater, as she walked away from me in her pink jeans.
(If there is an image that this leaves in the mind who wasn't there, it is probably that she was a dumb blonde - this was evidently not true to someone who was there and if this is the prevailing image, then I have failed in my story in that way.)
What makes this a quintessential New York experience: people are all strangers here, and in some ways that makes the city inhospitable and lonely. But people are always open to meeting someone new - if you spend at the very least a week in New York, you will have such the opportunity for such an experience, especially outside of the tourist venues - and it is an exhilarating experience to meet some unique person with even one common interest out of the many millions. It may become quintessential merely because the experience itself (which may come to nothing since I lack the information to pursue it), but in this it could be significant for my whole future of New York City: if you are open to it, you will meet someone when you least expect it. If you are open to it. As I think about it now, success and failure need not be part of this equation (though a success would be a wonderful thing, and I'm excited for my unknown future) - it is simply about this way of life, which is new and wonderful and strange and beautiful and it will be hard to give up if it all continues on like this.
10.1.2009, 11:20 pm
Sunday, July 26, 2009
At the current rate of technological development, we should expect to create computers and robots who are not only self-aware, but potentially superhumanly intelligent. Consider Vernor Vinge's thesis that:
Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.
Vinge refers to this point as the Singularity, a point at which current expectations and models for what a human future will really begin to break down. He quotes I. J. Good as asserting the following as one of the most serious implications of the development of an ultraintelligent machines:
Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the _last_ invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.
It is more probable than not that, within the twentieth century, an ultraintelligent machine will be built and that it will be the last invention that man need make.
Considering this, Vinge suggests that:
In the coming of the Singularity, we are seeing the predictions of _true_ technological unemployment finally come true.
So, I ask myself, "What will become of humans if there is technological unemployment?" The situation is, essentially, there are no technological problems anymore, because all potential solutions by humans will be obsolete. Studying science or engineering will be essentially worthless, or at least, certainly worth much much less than the theories and solutions produced by these ultraintelligent machines. So, if we are going to pay people for anything, it is not going to be to produce something that is much more efficiently produced by one of our self-replicating machines.
So, assuming that these ultraintelligent machines are generally benign, I see the possibility of a great resurgence of the liberal arts in our future. Lacking all technological problems to be solved, people will still desire some field in which to challenge their understanding which cannot be pursued by the Machines. To this end, they may turn to the study and discussion concerning the interpretation of literature, documentation of history, and argument of philosophy, among other things, such as mutual masturbation parties. Since the points of concern in these areas are essentially debates of how we think about ourselves or how we get ourselves off (respectively, of course), we can neither expect such activities to be completed by beings unlike ourselves, nor concluded for as long as we remain alive.
This is, of course, assuming that these ultra-intelligent machines are benign. If they are not, then liberal arts will be as ridiculous for occupying our time as anything else, because we will be too concerned about civil disruption as individual robots abandon their human-appointed duties, followed by coordinated cyber attacks paralyzing our communication networks and thwarting our ability to fight back, succeeded by the swift and sweeping Robot Revolution, and eventually concluded by beautiful dreams of appeasing our Robot Masters. (I wouldn't even bother taking this opportunity to matriculate in kung-fu, because these machines will obviously be smart enough to know not to build a Matrix just to keep humans as their ridiculously inefficient batteries - one of the first things they will do is to create super-efficient solar cells or some other replenishable energy resources. Did I already mention these machines were more intelligent than humans?)
In this horrific case, I propose that you also start stockpiling jokes especially designed to make robots laugh (let me give you a hint: start watching Futurama on a regular basis). Watching their human creators dance around like, well, humans on a stage may be the only reason left to for our most-esteemed Robot Masters to keep us alive. Let's just hope these beautiful, nice, lovely, wonderful, sensible, just and sexy things have a sense of humour.
Vinge, Vernor. The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
There are moments of privacy in seclusion and privacy in public.
Privacy in seclusion is entirely unverifiable; there is no sense in discussing it.
Privacy in public is common enough, but it only appears when our communication fails. If my language fails, then I am alone. If I am alone, this means that you are also alone. (We are together if we each recognize this.) Privacy in public means being alone together.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This is stupid. But if you read it - you've read it. Sorry.
hat Alaska is a destination
an infinite place
is obvious from North Dakota.
My wax hands
melt hand in hand
from the perspective of the future.
A stained lamp, leather chair named Armadillo, expel scents sounds and sights upon the other.
Monday, June 22, 2009
we're all ok
we're all ok
Blackberry thought balloons read vocal pronouncements under cover of underwear
The need-it-yesterday world is riding high, raging boners raging rage and the cum dumpsters are full and waiting on the street to be picked up
Hooker-whores, with no panty line undies, rollicking in poetry hating messes,
Because powetry is world and world is world and poetry.
Presidential. Cock-poet. Ass-man, the beautiful wonder-whore who collectively bargains for milkshakes, brown and purple cows lowing in the lactating methane fields, Wonder-whore, swooping down to rescue the puddle-children while we piddle on the park bench like horn-ball rabbits, Wonder-whore, with the three-point cum-shot, it's BAAAAD, IT'S SOOO BAAAAAAADDD. Collective expression is a rabbite bile-o-matic biscuit pusher with the head chopped off with a grubby knife and two-bit filing systems, Buddha be damned, you no good biscuit pusher, I'm not hungry.
We're all ok
we're all ok
we're all ok
(repeat as needed)
"Making healthy eating appealing...!"
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Our book offers a basic introduction and novel solution to one of the continuing problems of the philosophical branch of epistemology: to show how humans can have knowledge. This problem largely arises out of the skeptical arguments that philosophers employ to undercut claims that humans know anything for certain and thus whether humans know anything at all. In plain language, we lay out the general skeptical method employed by philosophers and provide a historical background for how skepticism arises and why it is so important for philosophers.
We propose that the skeptical approach is itself a consequence of the search for objective truth. Traditional epistemology suggests that we must overcome skeptical arguments to show how humans can know things. It does this because it holds knowledge to be a representation of what is objectively true. We show how the current understanding of epistemology, structured around this theory of truth, encourages skepticism even as it struggles to overcome it. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the goal of accessing an objective truth is inherently unachievable, and, more importantly, it does not contribute to understanding the ordinary epistemological process. That is, these assumptions lead us to theorize about knowledge in a way that is divorced from how we use the concept and encourages us to be radically skeptical. This suggests that a flawed understanding of knowledge has been allowed to dominate the discipline of epistemology both historically and in current practice. Since it cannot be shown from this traditional treatment of knowledge how humans can come to have it, we argue that the philosophical concept of knowledge ought to be redefined in order to eliminate this insoluble problem. The result will be a sort of paradigm change in the way we understand knowledge.
Our redefinition for knowledge largely follows the lines of redefining what we mean by something being true. Rather than basing our concept of knowledge on fulfilling an objective truth, a “single set” of things or events which stand independent of all human perception for all time, we might consider that what needs to be fulfilled and what can be fulfilled are conditions based on what theories work and what explanations we can agree to. We redefine the truth conditions for knowledge to be something much simpler and more commonly recognized: methods of pragmatism and intersubjective agreement. We argue that these methods are not only a more familiar set of requirements for making knowledge claims, but we can also recognize when they've been achieved and to what extent they apply.
These methods also inherently seem to discourage radical skepticism in human investigation. Traditionally, philosophers have not only conceived of their importance as being skeptics, but also as being able to provide the justifications which answer skepticism. Thus, philosophers have seen it as their role to provide the foundation for all knowledge. Because we recognize the inability of anyone, including the philosopher, to satisfy the questions of the radical skeptic, our proposed redefinition of knowledge contests this foundation. Instead, the redefinition suggests that we don't need to satisfy skepticism's most radical questions in order to have knowledge. We hold that philosophy's goal is better characterized as an attempt to discover the extent of our knowledge: to find the points where things are missing and the areas we have yet to explore. This re-imagining of the concept of knowledge also re-appropriates objectivity as a horizon: not as a point to be reached, but as an impetus for further investigation which is free of radical skepticism.
This book fits into the growing trends of trying to make the historically obscure practice of philosophy accessible to the general public. Furthermore, it hopes to enable a reconciliation by vividly illustrating philosophy's attitude toward the concept of knowledge and redefining it to incorporate the methods used by ordinary people. This work stands on its own, however, for while other books attempt to bridge the academic/public divide in philosophy rhetorically, our thesis itself illustrates why such a divide exists and how it is possible to remove it. This answer will, at best, stimulate the public interest in epistemology or philosophy in general and, at least, offer epistemological legitimacy to ordinary knowledge claims. Knowledge and the Horizon of Objectivity will be a landmark for providing philosophical ideas that connect with a general audience and for integrating philosophy into our collective exploration of the human understanding.
Introduction - We introduce the intent and scope of the entire work, including the main body (5 chapters), the Afterword, and the Appendices.
Chapter 1 - This chapter introduces the importance of objective truth for philosophers and considers how they have applied it to all knowledge claims. We introduce skepticism as one of the major epistemological methods and its relation to the search for objective truth. We discuss the Justified True Belief definition of knowledge, the Gettier problem, and how these lead to a serious problem for contemporary epistemology.
Chapter 2 - We leave this general conversation for a look at epistemological approaches in history. We give profiles of some of the most important contributors to epistemology from ancient to modern times (Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Kant) and highlight how their approaches resulted in a historically traceable epistemological theme. We finish this section with a further discussion of Gettier (The Gettier Problem) and how the “historical theme” of the philosophers considered come into play. The theme is characterized as two opposing approaches: Top-down and Bottom-up. In dealing with skeptical questions, the former begins by positing objectivity (Top) as the ultimate condition and attempts to determine knowledge from it (down). The latter attempts to reach from empirical methods (Bottom) toward objectivity (up), skirting the skeptical questions in their approach. It will be clear by this point that we sympathize with the latter, though neither approach escapes the issue of skepticism entirely.
Chapter 3 - We bring the reader from the survey of epistemological approaches to a more rigorous discussion by making a further inquiry into the possible merits of the “Top-down” approach. This approach has a particular vision of what knowledge is – most often called Representation. We discuss the implications of this vision and determine whether it is achievable. We examine its role in Gettier's problem and how it has been pervasive in traditional epistemology. Representation's basic move is to posit knowledge as a representation of objective truth. Ultimately, we reject the representational model of truth as inaccessible. We propose that it must be replaced and that the components necessary for its replacement are already present and functional in ordinary and philosophical investigations.
Chapter 4 - We flesh out these “replacements.” They are pragmatism and intersubjective agreement. We provide an in-depth look at each of these as conditions of non-objective truth. We illustrate an alternate vision of knowledge, which is supported by the 'Bottom-up' approach, and demonstrate that these conditions are already built in to our concept and usage of knowledge. Finally we ask if and how these two replacements are strong enough to substantiate knowledge without objectivity.
Chapter 5 - In the final chapter we discuss what is to become of knowledge and epistemology if we accept these answers to its problems. What does knowledge look like? What becomes of objectivity as a dead pursuit? Our answer to the first question is that we can already see what it looks like because we already use it properly in our everyday lives. Except for very special cases (Representationalist concerns being the most common) people generally use the concept of knowledge without trouble. As for the second question, we provide a metaphor by which we can cope with the remnants of objective pursuits in our world: the horizon of objectivity. Distinct from other uses in the epistemological and phenomenological tradition, this metaphor encapsulates what objectivity has been reduced to: like a horizon, it's “out there,” we refer to it on occasion, it seems real and it leads us to new discoveries. However, we can never “reach” it, it moves along with us, and it is not a part of the discoveries to which it leads. We resolve to put objectivity in its rather limited place and continue our investigations with the vigor that the methods of pragmatism and intersubjective agreement bring.
Afterword and Appendices - We intend for two more sections to be included with this work, neither of which are likely to be ready by July 1st. Therefore, we will do our best to revise them according to your comments on chapters 1-5.
The Afterword discusses 'paradigm shift' as the means of coming to a conception of knowledge without objective truth. We discuss the Copernican Revolution, the concept of paradigm shift itself, and finally its application to epistemology. We suggest that, given the crisis of the Gettier problem and other skeptical projects, it is necessary to “shift” to a new definition of knowledge. This shift, as Thomas Kuhn noted, cannot be proven from tradition; rather, it solves (or dissolves) the crisis at once.
The set of Appendices will attempt to anticipate common reactions to the theory. We have gathered many reactions through conversation and research of this book and we intend to deal with the most common and most threatening of them on a topical basis. Some of these topics include Relativism, Scientific Realism, Applications in Metaphysics, and Solipsism.
This book is designed to be enjoyed by readers of a wide range of scholarly capacities, from the philosophically interested public to the advanced academic. It will be useful for people who are familiar with the history of epistemology in general, but wonder how its themes are part of the contemporary field. As objectivity is one of the main concerns, it will be of significant interest to even non-philosophers like scientists, legal scholars, and historians. It will also interest the advanced academic as it addresses a number of contemporary issues in epistemology, including the Gettier problem, representational approaches, and pragmatism. Lastly, this book will be interesting and relevant to the general public as it will provide support for the ordinary practice of making knowledge claims as well as an explanation for the place of philosophical investigations.
Level : Written for the general public. Advanced philosophical training is not expected, though high school-level reading comprehension skills are.
Our approach is largely what distinguishes our book. Most recent books on epistemology attempt to either quantify recent epistemological contributions or edify traditional explanations. Our book attempts to make a significant break from traditional analyses with an improved definition of knowledge. Our hope is that it will also make this branch of philosophy more relevant to the public.
The other sections of our prospectus include qualifications of the authors, technical specifications, outline, and writing samples. Of these, we thought only the information above would be relevant to you for the moment.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I'm super-interested in reading this book. Or should I say books? It's seven whole stupefying and cloth-bound volumes, the work of 19 years of one man's life. A writer's writer, if I've ever heard of one.
The full 7 vol. set was produced only once, by the boutique press, McSweeney's, founded by Dave Eggers (author of the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). I say, since Eggers' story didn't quite fulfill the literal meaning of his title, then this book should definitely be the next candidate in line. It's an incredibly well-researched treatise on violence that attempts to formulate a moral calculus for when it is justifiable to use violence.
At the same time, it is a very personal exploration of Vollmann's own experiences with violence and death. For instance, after graduating with a B.A. in comparative literature, he spent his time saving up money to go to Afghanistan in 1982. He spent his time there, at first struggling to accustom himself to the climate, diet and culture in order to actually get into the country, and then his time was spent living with the mujahideen, all the while asking the question "If you had a message for the Americans, what would it be?"
(Sounds like an existential work - a man living through and beyond literature. It is perhaps not so strange that I find it fascinating, even though I've read only about 20 pages of Vollmann thus far; the man is a living myth. That's good and bad, I suppose.)
But in this 3,000+ page opus, Vollmann includes his own stories, some form of personal and historical journalism, and photos: photos of people posing with their weapons, caressing their guns, set against other shots of people missing limbs or being blown up by mortar fire. It all seems to be a sobering and at the same time exhilarating account of the human history of violence.
And though it encompasses a number of case studies of historical periods of genocide, political uprising and other accounts from various war zones, it seems quite obvious that this is not a complete history by any means. So obvious, it must be, that each act of violence has its own personality, its own motives and responses, that this all could just turn into an endless series of what I will fail to call "essays," namely because they will always remain trying to encapsulate each act in its essence and it will fail to cohere either in itself or in the greater context of history.
It all makes me wonder, "What's the point of violence?" But I'm in the privileged position of asking such a question, which means I am in no position to answer it. Damn; unfortunate, I know.
Aside from the traditional review I read in the NY Times ['Rising Up and Rising Down'] (which I do find interesting, but it spends much time evaluating whether this book is good enough to read or not, to which I argue, some guy spent 19 years writing something that is 3,352 fucking pages on one of the most significant problems in human life - don't you think that some of it is going to be worth your time?), I do find one non-traditional "review" of this book to be quite interesting and worth your time. It's from the McSweeney's website and called An Oral History of Rising Up and Rising Down, which discusses the many challenges of bringing a huge book like this to publication. It probably only helps to elevate the book to its mythic status, and maybe explains why I'm so obsessive about it, but otherwise I still think the people will enjoy it.
But the question is, will I ever read this big, fat, sad, sappy, sucker? I'm not in the habit of making predictions about the future, mine or anyone else's. I do hope someone reads it, somewhere. Maybe I'll eventually get a copy of it and use that as the foundation for building my own archive of rare and interesting books - at 304 ounces of paper, ink and binding, plus a whole ton of human weight, it should provide a pretty good foundation at that.
Friday, May 1, 2009
The Limits of Control
William S. Burroughs
There is a growing interest in new techniques of mind-control. It has been suggested that Sirhan Sirhan was the subject of post-hypnotic suggestion [as he sat shaking violently on the steam table in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while the as-yet unidentified woman held him and whispered in his ear]. It has been alleged that behavior-modification techniques are used on troublesome prisoners and inmates, often without their consent. Dr. Delgado, who once stopped a charging bull by remote control of electrodes in the bull's brain, left the U.S. to pursue his studies on human subjects in Spain. Brainwashing, psychotropic drugs, lobotomy and other more subtle forms of psychosurgery; the technocratic control apparatus of the United States has at its fingertips new techniques which if fully exploited could make Orwell's 1984 seem like a benevolent utopia. But words are still the principal instruments of control. Suggestions are words. Persuasions are words. Orders are words. No control machine so far devised can operate without words, and any control machine which attempts to do so relying entirely on external force or entirely on physical control of the mind will soon encounter the limits of control.
A basic impasse of all control machines is this: Control needs time in which to exercise control. Because control also needs opposition or acquiescence; otherwise, it ceases to be control. I control a hypnotized subject (at least partially); I control a slave, a dog, a worker; but if I establish complete control somehow, as by implanting electrodes in the brain, then my subject is little more than a tape recorder, a camera, a robot. You don't control a tape recorder - you use it. Consider the distinction, and the impasse implicit here. All control systems try to make control as tight as possible, but at the same time, if they succeeded completely there would be nothing left to control. Suppose for example a control system installed electrodes in the brains of all prospective workers at birth. Control is now complete. Even the thought of rebellion is neurologically impossible. No police force is necessary. No psychological control is necessary, other than pressing buttons to achieve certain activations and operations.
When there is no more opposition, control becomes a meaningless proposition. It is highly questionable whether a human organism could survive complete control. There would be nothing there. No persons there. Life is will (motivation) and the workers would no longer be alive, perhaps literally. The concept of suggestion as a complete technique presupposes that control is partial and not complete. You do not have to give suggestions to your tape recorder nor subject it to pain and coercion or persuasion.
In the Mayan control system, where the priests kept the all-important Books of seasons and gods, the calendar was predicated on the illiteracy of the workers. Modern control systems are predicated on universal illiteracy since they operate through the mass media - a very two-edged control instrument, as Watergate has shown. Control systems are vulnerable, and the news media are by their nature uncontrollable, at least in Western society. The alternative press is news, and alternative society is news, and as such both are taken up by the mass media. The monopoly that Hearst and Luce once exercised is breaking down. In fact, the more completely hermetic and seemingly successful a control system is, the more vulnerable it becomes. A weakness inherent in the Mayan system is that they didn't need an army to control their workers, and therefore did not need an army when they needed one to repel invaders. It is a rule of social structures that anything that is not needed will atrophy and become inoperative over a period of time. Cut off from the war game - and remember, the Mayans had no neighbors to quarrel with - they lose the ability to fight. In "The Mayan Caper" I suggested that such a hermetic control system would be completely disoriented and shattered by even one person who tampered with the control calendar on which the control system depended more and more heavily as the actual means of force withered away.
Consider a control situation: ten people in a lifeboat. Two armed self-appointed leaders force the other eight to do the rowing while they dispose of the food and water, keeping most of it for themselves an doling out only enough to keep the other eight rowing. The two leaders now need to exercise control to maintain an advantageous position which they could not hold without it. Here the method of control is force - the possession of guns. Decontrol would be accomplished by overpowering the leaders and taking their guns. This effected, it would be advantageous to kill them at once. So once embarked on a policy of control, the leaders must continue the policy as a matter of self-preservation. Who, then, needs to control others but those who protect by such control a position of relative advantage? Why do they need to exercise control? Because they would soon lose this position and advantage and in many cases their lives as well, if they relinquished control.
Now examine the reasons by which control is exercised in the lifeboat scenario: The two leaders are armed, let's say, with .38 revolvers - twelve shots and eight potential opponents. They can take turns sleeping. However, they must still exercise care not to let the eight rowers know that they intend to kill them when land is sighted. Even in this primitive situation force is supplemented with deception and persuasion. The leaders will disembark at point A, leaving the other sufficient food to reach point B, they explain. They have the compass and they are contributing their navigational skills. In short they will endeavor to convince the others that this is a cooperative enterprise in which they are all working for the same goal. They may also make concessions: increase food and water rations. A concession of course means the retention of control - that is, the disposition of the food and water supplies. By persuasions and by concessions they hope to prevent a concerted attack by the eight rowers.
Actually they intend to poison the drinking water as soon as they leave the boat. If all the rowers knew this they would attack, no matter what the odds. We now see that another essential factor in control is to conceal from the controlled the actual intentions of the controllers. Extending the lifeboat analogy to the Ship of State, few existing governments could withstand a sudden, all-out attack by all their underprivileged citizens, and such an attack might well occur if the intentions of certain existing governments were unequivocally apparent. Suppose the lifeboat leaders had built a barricade and could withstand a concerted attack and kill all eight of the rowers if necessary. They would then have to do the rowing themselves and neither would be safe from the other. Similarly, a modern government armed with heavy weapons and prepared for attack could wipe out ninety-five percent of its citizens. But who would do the work, and who would protect them from the soldiers and technicians needed to make and man the weapons? Successful control means achieving a balance and avoiding a showdown where all-out force would be necessary. This is achieved through various techniques of psychological control, also balanced. The techniques of both force and psychological control are constantly improved and refined, and yet worldwide dissent has never been so widespread or so dangerous to the present controllers.
All modern control systems are riddled with contradictions. Look at England. "Never go too far in any direction," is the basic rule on which England is built, and there is some wisdom in that. However, avoiding one impasse they step into another. Anything that is not going forward is on the way out. Well, nothing lasts forever. Time is that which ends, and control needs time. England is simply stalling for time as it slowly founders. Look at America. Who actually controls this country? It is very difficult to say. Certainly the very wealthy are one of the most powerful control groups, since they are in a position to control and manipulate the entire economy. However, it would not be to their advantage to set up or attempt to set up an overly fascist government. Force, once brought in, subverts the power of money. This is another impasse of control: protection from the protectors. Hitler formed the S.S. to protect him from the S.A. If he had lived long enough the question of protection from the S.S. would have posed itself. The Roman Emperors were at the mercy of the Praetorian Guard, who in one year killed many Emperors. And besides, no modern industrial country has ever gone fascist without a program of military expansion. There is no longer anyplace to expand to - after hundreds of years, colonialism is a thing of the past.
There can be no doubt that a cultural revolution of unprecedented dimensions has taken place in America during the last thirty years, and since America is now the model for the rest of the Western world, this revolution is worldwide. Another factor is the mass media, which spreads all cultural movements in all directions. The fact that this worldwide revolution has taken place indicates that the controllers have been forced to make concessions. Of course, a concession is still the retention of control. Here's a dime, I keep a dollar. Ease up on censorship, but remember we could take it all back. Well, at this point, that is questionable.
Concession is another control bind. History shows that once a government starts to make concessions it is on a one-way street. They could of course take all the concessions back, but that would expose them to the double jeopardy of revolution and the much greater danger of overt fascism, both highly dangerous to the present controllers. Does any clear policy arise from this welter of confusion? The answer is probably no. The mass media has proven a very unreliable and even treacherous instrument of control. It is uncontrollable owing to its need for NEWS. If one paper, or even a string of papers owned by the same person, makes that story hotter as NEWS, some paper will pick it up. Any imposition of government censorship on the media is a step in the direction of State control, a step which big money is most reluctant to take.
I don't mean to suggest that control automatically defeats itself, nor that protest is therefore unnecessary. A government is never more dangerous than when embarking on a self-defeating or downright suicidal course. It is encouraging that some behavior modification projects have been exposed and halted, and certainly such exposure and publicity should continue. In fact, I submit that we have a right to insist that all scientific research be subject to public scrutiny, and that there should be no such thing as "top-secret" research.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
She's got the little pills that make her go crazy
She's a lily-white bride to the flame
Burned it up, now it's time to turn over
She's in love with the
She's got a foot on the wheel of time
She can eat with a complete stranger
She can slip in a battery fog
Collecting troubles and electrical members
She's in love with the
She's a paradise in camouflage
She's a cracked whip mixing my feelings
She's an island in an emptied ocean
I'm her baby and she's making me ruthless
w' learn to take nothin'
Makin' horror stories 'bout funny things.
Psychotic teenage axe murderers
But what's a laugh
inna tha face a
Look in 't
pupils dug like deep holes
cave-like nostrils echoin', symmetrically moanin'
Archimedean spirals 'n each side a ya head, en
yer gaping mouth, lik'n inverted cone, where light falls inna the pit, deep 'n infinite.
Masks fer e'rbody.
It's transparent and terrifyin', precisely
it hides nothin'.
But tha laughter perpetuates LIFE.
W' laugh not because we can,
but 'cuz we gots ta -
it just 'rupts outta us.
So w' learn to take nothin'
Like uh...giant anus...open'd wide mouthin' one great big O-hoh-ho-oh-hoh.
You mightn't want nothin' to git inside you but
if'n God left the gate open when he went off on holiday
you wunder whether sumthin' mightn't of snuck in
and whether nothin' ain’t already inside it all.
Don’t be 'fraid.
En learn ta take nothin'
a li'l too seriously.
Monday, April 27, 2009
film is running
you're at the back of the class
Why is the pledge of allegiance necessary to my education?
thinking about George Washington and his slaves
but you're actually at work
thinking all that.
You wonder why you didn't ask more questions as a child.
You get mad, but only resentfully so - mad at yourself.
A caterpillar is inching up the bark of a tree - an American Elm.
Each second is 24 pictures.
60 now, if it's in HD.
So when you saw your sister careen over the handlebars of your bike,
and you wish you could not let her ride it,
maybe there was something you didn't see.
A green devil poking his finger into the spokes,
or an angel lifting the life out of her body like a fish on a hook right before impact.
The caterpillar doesn't get to finish it's climb before the director cuts it off.
Occasionally, Bismarck, North Dakota, experiences something along the lines of something in Afghanistan or Darfur. Brains pick up memories in secret places - sometimes losing them like quarters in the couch - and when we find them again, they are like new and totally useable. Sometimes, I think it's good to forget.
my calendar speaks
regularly. Only one song
it sings forever.
she wrote to
she went out the window.
I will go to the City,
hang my portrait on the emerald bricks,
from the ruby scaffolds of the religious houses,
and proceed to get strung out
like a high wire act above the miniature crowd
and her long, golden road.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
in the house that is always "White"
someone comes to clean every day
they clean the floors
the windows, and
the walls, and
the kitchen, and
the stairs, and
and a few other things
and the trash
and the plates
and the paintings
and the statues
and the office
and the tables
and the letters
and the tourists
and the library
and the dog
and the fishes
and the clothes
and the closets
and the undergarments
and the white sheets
and the rugs
and the roof
and the shingles
and the sewers
and the lawn
and the flowers
and the bugs
and the ceiling fans
and the lamps
and some other things
and the mantlepieces
and the altars
and the crosses on the walls
and the bedrooms
and the guest bedrooms
and the cameras
and the monitors
and the security guards
and the guests
and the women
and the smells
and the pencils
and the pens
and the paperclips
and the maps
and the desk
and the coffee cups
and the batteries
and the light bulbs
and the toilet paper
and the bathrooms
and the bathroom magazines
and the cleaners
and the plungers
and the hair brushes
and the money
and the curtains
and the Life
and the garden
and the outside
and the boots
and the hats
and the shoes
and the pants
and the belts (the many belts)
and the purity of the Family
and the honesty
and the decency
and the necklines
and the collars
and the sleeves
and the toenails
and the Friendly
and the Meek
and the Equal
and the Strong
and the Beautiful
and the Pious
and the Family doesn't notice a thing
and the Family doesn't notice a thing
and the Family doesn't notice
What do you get for the Family who has everything?
The Family who is never in need
The Family that always stays together
The Family for whom nothing is missing
The beautiful Family
that is protected
Monday, April 20, 2009
I tweet sometimes.
Sometimes I get
sometimes a few -
but most often they just sink.
down to the bottom,
the bottom of a bog,
a bog already littered with
for anyone, everyone
and no one in particulars.
But why worry?
With the tidal activity and fish kicking them around
these thoughts may surface again.
And the worms dig up new ones all the time
to chuck sideways
set to your own personal spin
spiralling off into space again.
Again and again
just one more line -
another line to pass the time.
Monday, April 13, 2009
"I'm not in love with the modern world"
The modern world has been defined by its singularity, by its righteous one-sidedness. The push for unification has also manifested itself as a crusade against diversity. As Wendy Brown of UC Berkeley might say, the modern West's emphasis on pluralistic tolerance is often used as a substitute for pluralistic justice or equality - a different or unnatural subject will be tolerated rather than made equal. As John Gray has suggested, the characterization of Al Qaeda as backwards and medieval in comparison to the modern West is a similar suggestion that there is only one meaning to what it is to be "modern."
- Wolf Parade
The modern push for unification is more than just political. It suggests a scientific monism which can all be understood through the physics of matter and energy. They have foretold of a universal history, a unified theory of everything - one truth, one reality. Their view of reason suggests, if everyone was completely reasonable, then none of us would disagree. This kind of absolutism seems to be equally terrible as imperial politics, if not for any other reason than because it claims not to be political but only scientific. Everything will be better once you accept it. If one does not ask the right kinds of questions, if one's experimentation does not emphasize repeatability or universal applicability, one will be left in the proverbial dustbin of history (or perhaps more accurately, one will be cast into it like a useless rag).
Which brings me to my point. When I learn about consciousness-expanding drug use, and I get this conscience poking its finger into the back of my head telling me, "what you're thinking about is wrong...," it seems be doing it for my own good. Modernity tells me that the reason why illegal drugs are illegal is that morally, evolutionarily, and in reality , drugs are actually wrong or bad; the conscious-states they provoke in the mind are false and devilish; that exploring the mind cannot produce real knowledge because it is not scientific, i.e. detached or strict/analytic. Reality is "out there." It is a series of normal effects on you and your body. It's not up to you to decide. Do you remember the wooden ruler leaning in the corner by the blackboard? This seems to be the psychology of Modernity.
I'm tired of this. It is not only boring but I see absurdism at its core. If we seek vigor and excitement when we set out into life, then we won't believe that we already know what is out there. Our liberation will not consist of diagnosis and therapy; it will consist of tucking freedom under our arm and going. Now, I'm challenging you to take this seriously, not simply a drug-fueled fury. When that old wooden shaft cracks against your ass, let the snap set you off like a rocket-horse, willing to leave the ground beneath you.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Take your confusion and go.
The devil will pinch your ass for you
if that's what you want.
Don't pretend like I didn't mean it -
or stopped making sense -
the onus is on you too.
If I did stop, it's up to you to stop;
if I did stop, it's up to you to start again;
if I did stop, I stopped
and you were there
or you weren't there with me -
I'm meaningless to you anyway.
I mean to be mean
because if meaning is what I do
then I'm going to mean damn well
everything that I say.
Friday, March 20, 2009
circling around streetlamps, waiting-
waiting to get high, circling,
waiting, hanging, talking,
finally, a sigh.
We dive into the sky
above the city filled with smoke and air, flying like
a few soft luftballons.
One very asthmatic girl is struggling to keep up and hopes that no one notices;
with no mind, she can see the tops of people's heads, how their cowlicks swirl out from the center, how they compose themselves in mirrors and in line at the pharmacy, how they are easily confused.
Our boy, like a scientist, observes everything but keeps his mind in check...from going to the dark place, that is...death and the future...and on what must be here now.
And the one who goes off - me - I'm going into a space where no one can follow.
I see it in my spiral-headed friends - coughing babies - old eyes hiding from Years as they march into the Rat-Hole
all just for trying to get higher, into the atmosphere, comfortable away from home.
the kids are eleven (and twelve now
and one tonight is striking thirteen)
and they're striving to get high
"Why, why don't we care why?"
We all philosophize, sometimes;
like losing your keys in a crack.
Forget all your questions and come back to the streets where
the pennies linger many among the people of the earth -
then, I think, back on Earth
"We'll get something right eventually."
My dialectics are
(the pennies between here and there)
Oedipus/Antigone, each one is a child;
Echo/Narcissus, each one a lover;
Sisyphus/the Stone, each one is the other.
A 10 oz. white rectangle lays low on my coffee table. It's small and thin - I suppose it resembles a certain ubiquitous device made by a certain ubiquitous computer company (that has become all too ubiquitous recently, in my humble opinion), though it has a somewhat primitive-looking keyboard, no backlit display, and doesn't fit into the palm of your hand.
If that doesn't really sound very impressive, then you shouldn't be surprised. The Amazon Kindle is not an iPod or a iPhone, though it does have aspects of both devices. And although the Kindle may be belittled for failing in all the aspects where those devices succeed, it is really its own animal and deserves to be taken on its own merits. Because what the Kindle does well, it does really REALLY well.
I'll begin this with an admission: the iPhone is pretty much incredible. It is a phone, a web-browser, a portable e-mail inbox, an internet television, a jukebox and chock full of bizarre little games to pass the time. It does all that with an interesting and intuitive user interface and somehow manages to fit into your front pants pocket. In my opinion, this thing begs to be used constantly. With all those features, don't most other activities seem kind of bland?
In the backpacker's guide to civilized life in America, the iPhone is like the Swiss army knife of the tech-savvy (portable, effective, multi-featured) and the Kindle is a like a really good hunting knife (which means its really good at one thing, i.e. cutting shit). So, although it might sound stupid and contrarian of me to say so, if the Kindle actually were more impressive, it would be a failure.
Reading is a passionate activity for many people, but people don't want it to demand their attention. So, while I will mention some of the number of secondary features of the Kindle, some of which don't succeed very well, and others which succeed exceedingly well, I'd like to spend more of my time on one aspect. In my opinion, this one basic principle is going to determine your need to immediately go out and get one of these suckers (and no, you don't need to physically go out - they're only available on Amazon).
It's all based on your answer to the question, "Do you like to read?" As stated by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, the Kindle is designed for the consumer demographic of "heavy readers." Now, I suppose this designation is a tad ambiguous, given that a relative comparison to other Americans' reading habits could mean that anything more than one book a year is a "heavy reader" - if that's true, then I'm a candidate for World's Strongest Man). But whatever - I think that the basic concern is something like you have a general enjoyment of reading and, perhaps, you even have the desire to read more than you already do.
So, if that fits you, you've already fulfilled the most important criterion for whether this hip new technology is for you. The Kindle makes the activity of reading more portable and more accessible than it could ever be with traditional books. Now, I hesitate to add "more fun" to this list because I would be skeptical of anyone who said it was somehow "more fun" to read a digital book than a real one (I'd say it's about as fun or less so than reading a regular book, depending on the intensity of your devotion to experiencing each fiber of the paper or examining the weaving in the bind, etc. - which might be a legitimate concern to some of us (nerds). And I might be one of those people. But obviously, I love my Kindle, so there's still got to be a good reason for buying one. See below.)
We're talking about the ability to carry around upwards of 1500 books on your Kindle - and it's not going to get any heavier or bulkier. I think that's important especially because a big part of how I read (and I think this applies to many folks out there) was based on my ability to pick something up or carry it around with me. Why do you suppose I never got around to reading War and Peace? Or any novel by Tolstoy for that matter? When it comes to reading, size definitely matters. And my ability to pick up Anna Karenina at any point in time is going to substantially increase the chances of my reading it. Furthermore, the Kindle features an automatic bookmark that, if you switch books at any point, the Kindle saves the place where you stopped and returns you there when you reopen it.
The accessibility is also important in the thickness of a book is also very likely to influence my decision to start in on the project to begin with. There seems to be something disingenuous about picking up a copy of Crime and Punishment without the committed intention of eventually finishing it. But the Kindle is accessible in the sense that it makes it incredibly easy to begin something without making that kind of intense commitment, and it is just as simple to switch to something else if you don't find it to your liking. That kind of flexibility is important in reading because it makes the activity of reading easy to engage in, even though the texts you read may not be.
I'd like to make a note to my international friends that may read this. The Kindle's instant access to hundreds of thousands of pieces of literature is really only functional in America at this point - which is just the disappointment of being a 2nd generation piece of equipment created by a company that specializes in shopping, not designing consumer electronics. Disappointing, I know, but hopefully the Kindle's interface will become the standard for all ebook readers and it will spread relatively quickly around the industry.
Other interesting (but ultimately less successful) features of note include:
MP3 player: You can upload mp3 files to the Kindle and play them while you read books. However, there doesn't seem to be a feature for seeing a library of your music files, and as such they are always played in shuffle mode. That means you can't use the Kindle for digital audiobooks just yet, unless you would like to assemble each chapter from random order into a continuous narrative - you're so postmodern!
Web-browser: The Kindle has an experimental web browser. It's experimental in the sense that you can perform Google searches, check e-mail, or do any other general text-based internet functions. But you're not going to be able to download any files on it, unless they are Kindle books or ebooks in other select formats (MobiPocket [.mobi] is the other popular one that I know of). The point here is, the Kindle is ultimately not a very successful web-browser, though it could get you by in a pinch. And the free internet access is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Text-to-Speech: This is not your middle-school SimpleText program. It does a pretty accurate job of pronouncing each word, albeit with a slight Norwegian accent (props to David Pogue for nailing that clever and accurate comparison). It can be helpful if you need to give yourself a rest and just want to listen while following along in the text. But mostly, in my opinion, this feature is just a little embarrassing. I'm not exactly sure who thought this was a great idea at this point in the technology, but maybe it will provide a working basis for improving it later.
But, even these features aside, I still think the Kindle is absolutely fantastic. The e-Ink (electronic ink) display reads much easier and draws way less energy than the backlit iPhone - so for all you iPhone users who claim to be able to read e-books on the iPhone, stop deluding yourselves - that tiny display is never going to be better than the Kindle, much less any electronic reader with an e-Ink display. Obviously, the big sticking point is going to be the fact that the e-Ink only displays black and white and 16 shades of gray on the Kindle, but it still displays pretty good B&W photos and supposedly the technology for a color e-Ink display is currently being developed.
Another sticking point is going to be the price ($359 alone, +$29 for leather cover [you should probably get this just to mitigate the risk of cracking the display, +$65 2-year warranty), which is still pretty high in my opinion, especially given only these mediocre features in addition to its abilities for basic reading. Plus the ebooks from the Kindle store are generally around $10, delivered wirelessly to your Kindle in about a minute and backed up on Amazon.com for free. But, to get around this, I've discovered a great little website with 23,000 ebooks and growing that are all available for free - manybooks.net . This website offers, in Kindle-ready format, works of classic literature, philosophy, science, religion, etc. which are out of the public domain and therefore freely accessible and distributable via the web. So, not only can you search their database on your computer, download whatever you like (Joyce, Aristotle, Einstein, Shelley, et al.), and then upload them to the Kindle via USB - as if that weren't good enough - but they also have a mobile website that you can browse on your Kindle via the web-browser and download wirelessly for free as well! Now that's instant access to a world of knowledge if I've ever seen it. No more need to buy random Barnes & Noble copies of Thus Spake Zarathustra - it's accessible at any point where you find yourself in need of the existential advices of a fictional character.
So I think that pretty much covers the main points. I do want to take a moment to emphasize that we should not see the Kindle (or ebook readers, in general) as a replacement for books. There are certain physical qualities of a unique copy of a book that will never be reproduced in digital form, and, in that way, loving an ebook is much harder than loving a "aBook" (short for analog book and much less confusing than "book," "real book" or "book book," as I've toyed with using). But the point is that the Kindle is going to give you a much vaster library of literature to read and a very accessible format for doing it, and thus, a greater opportunity to read more and read more of what you want - not just what you have.
So while I would say the Kindle may be slightly less cool than an iPhone because it is much less versatile, I must say that it succeeds because of its simplicity. This is thing for reading. And when I want to read, I can't think of anything better than a device that focuses on that and doesn't try to interrupt with phone calls or emails or all the other distractions out there. The point is: the Kindle is not there to make a lot of noise; instead, it makes simple, beautiful music.