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For my birthday, knowing how frustrated I've been with not getting anything published, Jade had these made. A print run of five. She did all the layout, paper, etc. It's very well made.

What am I going to do with them? It still feels like a draft, to me, who is constantly reworking things. But it's a draft in physical form, stuck in its incompleteness. Which makes me uncomfortable.

I'm keeping two. What should I do with the rest?
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I was walking along 14th street and in one of those old red fire signal boxes (I guess that's what they are), someone had emptied out the box part and installed inside a death mask, brightly painted in pastels, both uncanny and festive. At the bottom was scrawled the name of the artist and "'05," because there is no wrong time for self-advertisement. I was taken aback at first but then amused (I was waiting at a crosswalk so had some time to stare at it.) And while staring I kept thinking that it would, or should, start moving, mouth words at me. Like the talking computer terminals in that Doctor Who episode.

But I realized as I thought this, that if this did happen, if this art piece would start talking, I would be first taken aback but then amused --- amused not that something otherworldly was happening, but the opposite: amused at the ingenuity of the artifice. The movies and TV shows I've watched have prepared me for it; it wouldn't be anything new; the interest would be in the new context not in the spectacle itself. And I thought, must there have been a time when seeing something new and strange would be an actual surprise, suprise that then maybe years later would be replicated on a screen: not movie magic in real life, but real magic on a screen. Not that one should ever believe in magic, but that our spectacle-saturated world has precluded even the possibility of something unexpected happening. A talking face in a fire call box would not ask me to rethink my conception of reality, just to look for the artifice that would confirm my belief in reality. But artifice implies truth, a substrate of authenticity that artifice serves to occlude. In a world where we are taught to never believe our eyes, what do we believe in? Our beliefs. But if all is artifice, how are beliefs ever going to be adjusted?


Baudrillard anticipates a post-fact society, does Baudrillard anticipate fake news and the media echo chamber? Sure, nothing's new. If anything what's new is that in general we don't realize it's old. The internet has a veneer of newness that is trusted more than the old racisms and tribalism that it is re-offering. Maybe when people are more used to social media it will start to lose its enstupifying powers. Maybe the current abuses of narrowcasting and talk radio will be seen in the future as irresponsible. Like when civilians in the 50s tried to use nuclear radiation to grow better garden plants. Or, this is a new normal, and all sides will simply have to get used to exploiting it. And I mean all sides. The Bernie bros were just as fast and loose with facts as the conservatives.

The fact that the left gets most of its news from comedians probably doesn't help much. Is sarcasm the crutch of the left as indignation is of the right?
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On one end is solipsism, mistaking the whole for the self, and on the other end is mistaking the self for the whole, identifying with one’s role. Loving the prison. Which seems a sin against selves and prisons. I suppose I worry exclusively about this end now. I suppose I miss worrying about solipsism. Now? There’s too hard a line. Too much stuff. So, worry about the role. It’s worrysome! You can spend days, weeks, at forgetting. And what does remembering get you? Some existentialist chops, so old it smells like leather oil and just-emptied ashtrays. And I suppose what they say is that loving the prison is a step, a first step, at dissolving the prison. But it seems a betrayal. A betrayal to the largeness of what could have been. And I’m betraying enough as it is.

Earthly ambition seems counterpoised to spiritual. But art is communication, right? Any job consists of communicating, over and over, one’s potential worth (and this particular job particularly); one tries to do this while listening/communicating other things. But one’s energies are expended treading water. Rising waters, they say. Who knows. I liked myself more as a hardheaded moocher. Though no one else did.

To communicate a sense of vastness, first poison yourself dead of completion.
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There is a crack
a crack
in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
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I do feel it, sometimes, in the arts library, in the architecture building, the weight of it, the building, its bones, though I never was much a fan of that brutalist chic, maybe, though at least it's not that faux-old awfulness on display everywhere else, at least, but inside the building, in the basement, under these bones, these concrete bones, I feel it, sometimes, the building, as if everything could burn away, glass wood and books, people, there would still be these bones, weighty, fragile in the way large things are fragile, an old elephant of raw stone, scored with ridges, like nerves, like skin, like bones, sad and old and heavy, made of gravity, made to be unmade, but for now made.
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Grice's On Meaning shows that there are two definitions for "means." 1) The natural: "X means P," where P is a natural consequence of X. 2) the non-natural (meansnn): "A meansnn something by X". Meansnn has to do with the interpretation of intentions, and is cancelable. Grice's example is "The three rings on the bell mean the bus is full," which can be cancelled by then saying "But it isn't in fact full." Natural "means" by contrast is not cancelable. You cannot follow "Those bumps mean measles" with "but he hasn't got measels."

In terms of literary studies, writers often use the two versions of means interchangably, or, worse, argue from one to the other. One can argue, for example, that a Marxist or a Freudian reading of a text is looking for natural meaning: "X means P by virtue of class struggle, or sexual repression, etc." This says nothing, however, about the text as a speech act.

Meansnn is about representation or communication (depending on whether you're reading Searle or Grice). Let's say an ecocritic argues that Moby Dick has a meaning of industrial capitalism as a good or a bad. Does this also say that Moby Dick meansnn to disseminate the notion of industrial capitalism good/bad? Does this say that Melville as author is concerned with industrial capitalism good/bad? Does this mean that a reader of Moby Dick must engage with industrial capitalism good/bad? These are all things of interpretation/representation, which have to do with intention, which is not the domain of natural meaning.

Then again, Meansnn simply brings the uncertainty of other minds into the sentence-level structure of language. Is Moby Dick a thing towards which we should have speaker uncertainty, or, instead, a vast yet theoretically understandable complexity? Is it the speech act of a person or instead a cultural object, within which and out of which proceed myriad strains of meanings and intendings?

Then again again, treating the text as a cultural object tosses aside everything art about art, the fact that it is made, by a human, in an act of representation/communication. The difference between Moby DIck and a tree or the MTA Transit System, is that in Moby Dick, to mis-apply Searle, the illocutionary act is achieved by getting the audience to recognize that it is the author's purported intention to perform that illocutionary act. While the MTA may have meaning, the representation/communication (meaningnn) of Moby Dick is a function of how much we believe that the author believed that we would believe it to be an act of representation/communication. This same would also apply if, say, an artist (a discrete speaker) put an MTA subway map in an art gallery.

Then again again again, is this just inventing a discrete author-actor when what is more interesting to talk about is an assemblage of actors, including but not confined to psychological pressures, cultural mores, generic considerations, audience expectations, the nonhuman, etc? What makes a single human mind more interesting to talk about, given the uncertainty involved and the remove at which the mind is from us? Human agency is fascinating, but how does it escape being seen, in the end, as a weak illusion in the face of the world-world?

I've been arguing for a rhetorical interpretation of the lyric, which presupposes communication which presupposes a communicating actor. The trouble is largely that I know many people will already disagree, and many will already agree, and I want to know what the difference between them is.

Jan. 12th, 2016 03:36 pm
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I had some difficulty getting into the album. It seemed a little disparate. It was hard to find the connecting thread, and with such a short album (only seven tracks) that seemed important. The title track is gorgeous, with its vaguely middle-eastrn nods, its mysticism and fanaticism. Given the rumor that Bowie said, in passing, that the song is "about ISIS," it's tempting to read the song as an allegory of the Sunni/Shiite conflict:

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)
Someone, somewhere has experienced true insight (the "solitary candle"), but he has passed and now all we have are preening, false prophets: "You’re a flash in the pan / I’m the Great I Am."

But in the context of the album the track felt out of left field. For good reason, it turns out, since most of the tracks were written for different things. "Blackstar" was written as an intro for Johan Renck's crime miniseries The Last Panthers, which premiered in October. (The opening credits sequence is trying very hard to be True Detective.) "Sue (or In a Season of Crime)" and "'Tis Pity She' Was a Whore" both came out in 2014, in different arrangements (a larger orchestra previously, just the McCaslin quintet on the album). "Sue" is a retelling of John Ford's Tis Pity She's a Whore, while "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" is a WWI story. Confusing, yes. "Lazarus" was written for the play at NYTW. "Look up here, I'm in heaven." The play has been sold out the whole time I've known about it, though briefly a few $1,000+ benefit tickets were available. I have friends who've seen it, but not close enough friends that I could ask them about it without getting jealous. "Lazarus" was being worked on after his diagnosis, so the claims that it is his swan song are well-founded, if a little overstated. Is it a song for Thomas Jerome Newton first and David Bowie second? Or typical line-blurring between persona and person?

Read more... )
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working on StW 5

I think, a lot, these days, about the internet of the early 00s. Like a wild west of creativity and exuberance. Ridiculous and endearing. Did we stop sharing things because the internet changed or because we changed?
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Like the decayed and crumbling trees of an ancient forest, rent and shattered by wind and storm, the hypothetical philosophies, which have hitherto cumbered the civilized world, are unable to resist the elements of experimental and logical criticism; and sooner or later must succumb to their assaults. The axe is uplifted for a final stroke - it is about to fall upon the primitive sphere of the earth, and the blow will surely “cut the cumberer down!”

-The Flat Earth Society Wiki

How wonderful to find that there are not only one, but two separate Flat Earth Societies, each running a (near) identical wiki with identical frontmatter.

I read through almost the whole wiki the other night, fascinated by these scientific arguments flying in the face of scientific observation. How all the citations are to forum members identified by their handles ("Dark energy is a vector field" -- TheEngineer) or to the founder, Samuel Rowbotham, noted quack and philanderer, known by his mid 19th-C handle "Parallax." That "cumberer" quote also appeareth early in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, suggesting a conflation of scientific empiricism and religious polemicism. But Flat Earth was always a religious institution, as much as the current wiki denies it.

I remember a long time ago, maybe as a teenager, accidentally stumbling onto something on late night TV, some unknown channel, a British man talking very staidly about scientific facts. It took me a while to realize it was flat earth propaganda which somehow made it onto American late-night TV. The only part I remember vividly is the man sitting on a spinning merry-go-round, not the kind with horses but the playground type, talking about how the round earth theory states that we at every moment are hurtling through the cosmos at breakneck speeds, rotating and orbiting and orbiting galactically and so on, and as the merry-go-round slows and comes to a stop he says, "and yet, on a calm day, we can stand still without even a hair being put out of place by the wind."

Read more... )
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I'm not going to lie, a part of me was hoping New Horizons would bring back something beyond amazing, like a space station or a beacon or a sign saying "Keep it up, we're just a bit farther!" Not that what it did return isn't still amazing. But there was that child's hope. Maybe it's video game logic again, the feeling that the further out we go, the rewards and difficulty should increase exponentially. And Voyager's ready to bounce against the invisible nose of space-whale-god any day now, and it'll wake up and say "Fine, you woke me up. First species to beat me in arm wrestling gets immortality. Wait, no, immortality is terrible for a species. First species to beat me in arm wrestling gets cosmic consciousness. And some cookies."
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A reading last Tuesday --- this short play is a loose adaptation of The Bacchae through absurdism (director described it as "like Beckett... for kids!"). I'm still editing it, but I'm curious as to what you all would think of it.
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The man who was punching asian women in the face randomly turns out to be a man who goes by the name Mr. Talented. The Times is reporting that he posted a suicide note on his blog, but it's more of a suicide note, it's almsot a suicide blog: "THANK EVERYONE FOR SUPPORTING MY IDEAS! I LOVE YOU AND I WILL MISS YOU FOREVER. ALSO I’VE SCHEDULED POSTS TO MY BLOG- SO FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS I’LL BE POSTING FROM THE OTHER SIDE." But almost more bizare is how the "punching women in the face" thing came out of what almost seems like an art project. At least, as he describes it in today's post "Why I decided to leave this earth." He chatted up 1,500 asian women over 350 days, and got no responses, so after a time the discouragement is too much and he decides to start playing "the Nose Game." This involves hitting the women in the nose if they don't respond.

I want to say something about the art game, or maybe the culture of creativity that leads people to think they can make a living gluing dice together into bow ties --- and almost succeeding. But that's not enough, is it. Or am I worried that every Brookylnite out there who has hobbies and eccentricities is potentially a Tyrelle D. Shaw. Because I am worried about that, I am very distrustful of creatives and individualists. They seem to feel entitled to something. Answers, attention.

A suicide blog. This is straight out of Clickbait.

Update: they found him, four days later, dead in an elevator shaft
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I don't remember the last time I heard something as moving as To Pimp a Butterfly


Apr. 1st, 2015 05:46 pm
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My Massacre of the Suitors in Charlie's Odyssey Project (one week only!) has Odysseus as a homeless man sleeping in the audience for the whole show. Odysseus watching plays about Odysseus! This wasn't what we set out to do at the beginning, but hey, we got away with it.

As you should know one of my favorite things is to berate an audience. That's the only thing that works against self-satisfying irony, no? To get in its face and scream and spit from an undeniable place of pure, irrational anger.

We couldn't find an oar in time though!
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In other news, science is turning into poetry.

From that low-complexity state, the system of particles then expands outward in both temporal directions, creating two distinct, symmetric and opposite arrows of time. Along each of the two temporal paths, gravity then pulls the particles into larger, more ordered and complex structures—the model’s equivalent of galaxy clusters, stars and planetary systems. From there, the standard thermodynamic passage of time can manifest and unfold on each of the two divergent paths. In other words, the model has one past but two futures. As hinted by the time-indifferent laws of physics, time’s arrow may in a sense move in two directions, although any observer can only see and experience one.
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I'll probably come back to this but I just want to say that if you can protest, go protest. It's day 6 here and I've only nearly been arrested once.

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I saw Anne Carson read yesterday. This is an excuse to segue to another topic which I tend not to bring up here because of reasons, but which is frequently on my mind as I inhabit this city. Which is how much I hate white people.

I do not hate Anne Carson. She was reading with Nick Flynn at Bowery poetry, which I hadn't been to since way back when, back when it was still the bowery and not the New Bowery, a post-CBGBs, post-poverty world of martini bars and public speakeasies, where poverty only shows up as upworthy posts on your iphone. The New Bowery's poetry club is similarly decked in all sorts of faux riche trappings: fake marble, a mirrored bar, inappropriate chandeliers, and the line to get in was equal parts pretentious and smelly, probably from riding all the way in from williamsburg on a collapsable bike (what are those called again?).

Inside was a sea of white people. The only hispanic I could make out happened to work there. I ended up sitting way in the back, next to the bar where the world's slowest bartender seemed determined to deprive me of even the smallest bit of joy. We took a seat next to two Asians in a de facto minority enclave and waited and watched. Near us was a group of two white people who kept talking while Anne Carson read, a group of three white people who kept talking while Anne Carson read, and this bafflingly awful white girl in a tiny black hat, black stockings and a cape(!?) who drifted between the two groups of white people and kept talking while Anne Carson read. I'm not a violent man but yes I am a violent man when it comes to my thoughts regarding the white people who talk while I'm trying to listen to Anne Carson.

An unannounced opening act played a lovely bit of cello but was, sadly, also white.

I am really starting to see them, that is white people, as an invading force. Which isn't entirely fair. Not that they're not invaders, but if they are invaders then so am I. But David, you say, surely you knew what you were getting into. You went to go see a Canadian poet, on a Sunday, in the New Bowery. Reading with Nick Flynn, whose memoirs I am not familiar with but whose poetry was full of so many random quotes and allusions --- casabianca, Memento, Neil Diamond --- that it felt like his brain was randomly flipping through radio stations, all of which were NPR. Surely you knew. If you went to a hip hop club in the Bronx, or a bachata night in Jamaica, you wouldn't be surprized at the ethnic makeup. Yes, I wouldn't be surprised, because hip hop and bachata are all celebrations of culture. Which means that a poetry reading today, in New York, has become a celebration of white culture.

I do not consider poetry to be a celebration of white culture. I can say that and still want to hear Anne Carson read.

And it's not that I'm against gentrification in and of itself. Bringing money into a city does lots of good, and sometimes it's a good that passes to everyone, even as the not-moneyed are pushed further and further away from the centers of power, money, and culture. Bringing money into a city attracts culture-makers, making it possible for someone like me, barely employed, who doesn't drive, to do things like see Anne Carson read for the third time, and to see things like plays on the cheap whenever I feel like it. But when the readings and plays I go see are full of white people, on stage and off, I have to wonder who this culture is for, and if I am really invited to it.

I'm of course not one to advocate promoting minority culture-makers merely because they are minorities. Neither am I for the tokenism of black and hispanic writers invited on stage (have you seen Yusef Komunyakaa these days? Those sad eyes. A few years back a companion asked him outright at a Q&A what he thought about race and poetry these days, and his answer was calm and noncomittal, but his eyes said "Don't you see all the white people here? Who you think pays my rent?"). It is that I do not feel welcome in a place which is supposed to be open for all.

This has nothing to do with Anne Carson, who read a new(?!) lovely long poem called Essay on the Soul.

During the Q&A afterwards no one was asking any interesting questions so she told a Canadian  joke. "Where do otters come from? Otter space."
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[ profile] grashupfer posted a meme, a real meme, and I'm going along with it because it's a good excuse to write something and a reminder that there is a community here, one so confident in itself it can disappear for months or years and not really mind.

[ profile] grashupfer offered all comers three individualized questions. So I am answering the ones he gave me, and offering three more questions to anyone who wants 'em. If you want questions, comment!

[ profile] grashupfer's Questions:

1. Do you agree with the folks who say this is the golden age of television? Should probably ask first if you watch television?

I watch television. I mean, I watch television on the internet. Too much of it. With my sleep patterns it's usually the only thing that can keep me occupied at night. ("Why don't you just lie in the dark and close your eyes and try to sleep?" she says. "But, the despair!" I answer. "The despaaaaair!") But "Golden Age" implies that this boon in TV writing has to end sometime, and I'm not sure I agree. Sure, we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I'm not sure it must drop. Television is a very new medium. Movies too, if you look at them. Movies are becoming more like television: Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar. And television writers seem to just now be discovering, en masse, the things one can do with a the format, and these are not a discoveries that can be un-discovered. Sure it's going to get co-opted eventually, already is, but it does seem to only be getting better. Sure, The Wire is still the bar by which everything else is judged, but I'm confident that won't always be true.

Of course, we are living in a golden age, a golden age of information, which has a lot to do with how good television is. And this golden age certainly can't last.

2. Do you have any tattoos? If yes what's the story? If not would you ever?

I don't have any tattoos. Maybe in the distant past I flirted with the idea but came to the conclusion that in fifty years when we're all old and wrinkly seeing all these blotchy, stretchy tattoos on everyone is going to be way too hilarious. So I'll abstain. Maybe I'll change my mind in the future. Who knows.

I do love tattoos on other people. When done right, of course. I am guilty at staring intently at someone whose body is a work of art. Other people don't quite get it, have not enough ink to commit to it or too much ink to overcompensate. But a well-proportioned adornment of skin can be a thing of beauty.

3. If I asked you to say the first things that come to mind with the phrase "failed artist" what are they?
Well, failure is one of my favorite things, so I'm of the mind that every artist is a failed artist. Of course there are those that give up before they can fail best, those are more like former artists. And there are those who didn't fail enough, or didn't fail up to their potential for failure. So what I mean is all artists are failures; some artists fail so great we call them successes; not successes so much as black holes that grew so big they started to shine. What turns me off about meeting writers is how desperately they want to succeed. Sure, we all want to succeed. But that's not the point. More of an arbitrary byproduct sometimes gained from setting oneself on fire.
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The trouble with everything is that there's not anything else. Which of course isn't true. One of the perks of being human is that you can dwell in anything not just everything. Though everything eventually wins.

Some fellowships for my academic writing to pursue graduate study. Which feels nice, if confusing. I was convinced, a few years ago, that further study was the only option. Then I considered creative writing, but the last workshop experience cemented that I cannot function in workshops. (She said I was too intellectual to be in an mfa.) And for the last year and a half I've been doing nothing but theatre. Too much so to spend any time applying to schools, so I took the year off. So now I finally have the BA which has taken me ten extra years to complete, and nothing else, which qualifies me for jobs in manual labor. So I work as a busboy and a tech on the weekends, and have been trying to use my free time to finish this script (we just made our first funding goal!) and consider my options.

Staying in NY means I can keep putting on shows. But why would I limit myself geographically if I was going to go into literature? And if I went into literature would I even have time to write or put on shows? And are shows even worth it? Theatre and poetry are dying arts only of interest to other dying practitioners. No, not dying. Just dormant. Of no concern to the present.

But theatre presents such strange and wonderful opportunities. For example, I just got invited to a group project where different playwrights retell episodes from the Odyssey in fifteen-minute scenes. This probably wont see the stage for another year.

October 2017



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