December 19, 2005
In a Friendster profile from some exciting looking stranger in (I think it was) France I read “I have a nasty habit of avoiding things that make me feel” and I thought it was rather elegant and wanted to write it down so I reached for my notebook and wrote “I have a compulsive habit of avoiding things that make me feel,” in less than a second misremembering the word ‘nasty’ as ‘compulsive,’ perhaps implying that I don’t find anything particularly nasty about it, or perhaps only stressing how (for me) all such endeavors are fundamentally obsessive.
December 12, 2005
I had forgotten that I had said that modern life was like triage, that we deal with each thing in our lives on a strictly emergency basis, and things that seem less urgent are mercifully shuttled off to the sides. That we are all much too busy and this fact infects the very texture of our consciousness. I had forgotten because somehow, somewhere along the way, I slipped off the fact of all of that and sometimes it seems like I no longer spin. Who (of any substance) speaks of what is the good way to live? (All we get are tepid self-help books the sub-text of which always has something to do with how the individual can survive all the pain, damage and loneliness that capitalism unknowingly inflicts.) But of course we already know what the good way to live is (easier said than done): a life against the triage of small, daily things and towards giving meaning its due, against pushing things to the side and towards bringing that which is essential towards the centre of one’s heart. (But perhaps it is better to keep such thoughts to oneself.)
December 5, 2005
Corporate oligarchy isn’t my idea of a happening time. An investment in our future is an investment in the enemy’s consolidation. Take the have’s and the have-not’s, toss them all in a big old blender, and let’s really mix things up. Passion belongs on the internet. A feeling of warmth on the cusp of the genitals is a feeling that must remain unredeemed. Back when communism was strong text fragments of advertising had a reason to be afraid and union bosses had greater leverage. We belong together, a together so black there is simply no denying its impotent potency. A momentary lapse in judgement reveals criminal intent where previously only claustrophobia prevailed. Reconsidering my previous precious position, corporate oligarchy might sometimes, or even occasionally, become my idea of a happening time. In particular, a focus on the living essence of the question raises questions as to what exactly such questions might actually mean. I don’t know if our collaboration has been a positive experience for you but, apart from the normal intensities of frustration that one finds in any successful collaboration, I would generally have to say that it’s been a positive experience for me. Conflict is the way we are invited to explore change. Perhaps too negative to be a ‘real’ activist. If current trends continue to intensify, my idea of a happening time will potentially have to change.
November 28, 2005
Confusion always leaks. Like a middle child unsure where exactly it falls within the general family pecking order, a sense of being unsure might attempt to generate borders, but such borders will always remain permeable. All applications are subjective. A land where infinite certainty reigns is a space prepped for near-infinite calamity. Ordinary people have crises which are by no means ordinary. Particular confusions leak in particular ways. Experimental forms, subtraction from endlessly permeable borders, middle children struggling to regain their rightful place within the residue of former hierarchies, practical solutions to impractical questions – every confusion generates its own leaky parameters. Even what comes naturally may occasionally become fatal, become fiction. Give yourself the freedom confusion makes possible. Let it open. Let it close.
October 16, 2005
Take one large sheet of tracing paper. Place it over top of the screen of your television set. If you do not personally own a television someone else’s will work equally well. As images flicker past, rapidly attempt to trace them onto the translucent surface of the tracing paper. If you follow these instructions carefully, a series of incoherent markings will unfold, gradually becoming more cluttered, until eventually you have achieved the figurative state we like to refer to as ‘a complete mess.’
When I began this sonata I had intended to strain towards an analogy between the ‘complete mess’ produced upon the tracing paper and the equally ‘complete mess’ watching television produces within the mind of the viewer. Such ill thought out, but nonetheless intuitively resonant, moral judgements are a common enough feature of my written output. I believe there is a kind of quick, cheap pleasure to them and we should never deprive ourselves of such pleasures. However, as the art critic Peter Schjeldahl writes: God knows most of us Americans [and Canadians] hate being alone. This may explain why our popular culture is the best in the universe. We keep pouring the cream of our genius and love into producing the antiloneliness serums that our movies, pop songs, and television shows. We take nothing more seriously than our fun. Well, all of this has been said many times before, often by pundits displaying that other familiar compulsion, to make people feel bad about what makes them human and sociable in whatever way their world allows. Loneliness is no sin. It is “an infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing” in need of infinite consolation.
People frequently tell me my writing has become too didactic, that they prefer my earlier, more poetic, more evocative style (like in Stardust Memories when they tell him: ‘we prefer your earlier movies, when you were funny.’) And it’s true, perhaps my thinking has become a bit dry, a bit too critical, or is it only critical in the wrong way, or is it in fact not critical enough.
About five years ago I stopped watching television. And I can’t help but wonder if this shift, this newfound dryness, isn’t a direct result of a very specific deprivation, of searching for some sort of purity of mind, trying to remove the clutter, to wipe away the ‘complete mess.’ Television, that perfect hybrid between furniture and propaganda, also compels us to take life just a little bit less seriously. You can always change the channel (and in less than an hour it will be a different program anyway.) While watching television you rarely feel trapped. But now I’m straining towards another analogy, still thinking about that tracing paper, how when you press too hard it so easily tears. About how the things we do to clear our minds have endless, unintended consequences. And purity is always an opening for poison.
October 3, 2005
“He behaved badly. And then I behaved badly. And now it’s done.”
“You think you’re tough. You’re not tough. I could pull out my dick and poke out your eye. That’s how tough you are to me. Hit me again.”
“To be perfectly honest, what you’re saying really just makes me want to cry.”
“I have pretended for too long that everything is fine.”
September 26, 2005
There is the pretence that the purpose of language is to communicate when so often we use words only to protect ourselves or attack others. Yet we cannot or will not admit to this. Behind all of our honesty is a deeper dishonesty which is inevitable and cannot be named.
I find lately that the least little ambiguity between myself and others is so heavy with failure. Failure to do the right or good thing. Is it even possible to be clear? What could clarity mean other than an attempt to signify mysterious sadness or elucidate the pathos of things.
Communication cannot save us from ourselves. Attempts to communicate are just the fragile, awkward gestures we hide behind time and time again. And yet without these fragile gestures what would be left of us? Only apathy and self-interest? Desire, of course always desire, but desire without communication is only impotence or war. (I am forgetting about joy.)
Attempts to communicate signify, however ineffectively, that we still care. Tenderness and failure. We must go on.
September 19, 2005
1.When we see coincidences as meaningful what we are really saying that there is some sense to life, that everything is not just chaos, that seemingly random similarities between parallel events open up a door in what is known through which it might just be possible to glimpse that which we will never know. And so I made a kind of quiet resolution: to follow the coincidences that life presented me and see where they might lead.
Milan Kundera has an essay about the six different kinds of coincidences that can be employed in the contemporary novel. I can't remember what these six are exactly but this half-remembered inventory makes me think that coincidence helps us form stories about our lives and without stories we are lost. But these stories must be open and flexible or they will bury us. And coincidences, because they are unexpected and out of the ordinary, help us open up our stories again and give us a taste of how perhaps anything is possible.
The problem with following coincidences is a problem of interpretation. When a coincidence occurs in which direction should I follow it, how am I to understand what it means? For that matter, even if a certain interpretation presents itself as obvious and clear that doesn’t necessarily suggest some specific decision. Action remains on the periphery of the phenomena.
In what ways is it still possible to use words such as fate or fortune now that science has made them archaic? But I almost drifted backwards into semantics. Fate and fortune still exist, whether or not we have words to describe them.
September 12, 2005
There is no such thing as anti-cinema, all cinema is equally enthusiastic. I believe this is the case because technology requires belief to transform itself from a useful gadget into a meaningful entity. Without belief, cinema is only a trick.
You are watching an extremely violent movie. You can feel your central nervous system tightening as you watch. That is why you prefer theatre to cinema. Because theatre doesn’t affect the central nervous system in such a direct and insidious manner. Cinema is like a dream. It is projected onto the inside of your retina. Theatre is more real. And as human beings we require reality. Because without reality there is no basis for moral and ethical decisions.
Cinema is a horrible victim of its own success. The more people who are deeply moved, enchanted and affected by something the more money they will pour into it and the more money they pour into it the more that money will dictate the parameters of its existence. Therefore, movies are terrible because people love them and not, as is generally assumed, the other way around. /// The filmmaker, like anyone on the receiving end of a terrible love, also faces a great responsibility. As the object of devotion he/she must also realise that the audience, like any devoted lover, is willing to undergo any degree of dejection or humiliation in service of their love. Films may pummel them or even ignore them but they will always come back for more. /// Of course, today people do not go to the movies in order to be moved, enchanted or affected. They go only to have something to do, to pass the time or perhaps have something to talk about at the office, some proverbial hook on which to hang all there instantly arrived at opinions. Movies today are a direct response to the fact that people don’t have anything better to do. A distraction from everything including themselves.
August 29, 2005
Individualism represents a kind of freedom and excitement but also generates a very specific and intense strain of powerlessness. This powerlessness results from the fact that in order to change things people have to work together and, more often than not, individualism erodes the very sense of common human purpose that might make working together possible.
I don’t like to win. More of a problem than it at first seems. Easy enough to avoid conflict (most of the time.) Perhaps easy enough to just simply lose, if by some casual accident one unfortunately finds oneself in actual competition. But never to win: an altogether painful business.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about that utterly childish aspect of the human mind, the part that instantly demands: “I want this” or “I don’t want that,” which in a split second desires or just as quickly rejects. How before any information has been gathered, before any time has been taken to weigh the various pros and cons, before even the first glimpse of thought has had a chance to emerge, already such an intense impulse overtakes the body and already we know.
And yet there’s always a degree of hypocrisy and bad faith. Everyone and everything is just a little bit corrupt and that’s exactly the way we like it. To be completely consistent is both boring and impossible so let’s not pretend. Instead let’s rejoice in the openness and exhilaration of inconsistency, of doubt, of questioning, of changing ones mind when faced with new information or simply for the hell of it, of being undecided or even indecisive, of not knowing the truth and continuing to search without finding, always searching, and believing this search to be an honest and meaningful way of life. But I’ve fallen slightly off the point which is of course that I live and work as an aggressively isolated and alienated individualist while at the same time seem to be saying that it is the exact opposite condition which in fact would be most effective and liberating and right. The exact opposite. Proving even I can be exact now and again.
August 22, 2005
French is the most beautiful language. Anything you might want to say automatically sounds better when spoken in French. One sentence in English equals at least two sentences in French. Everything is not only longer, but also more beautiful.
French is the language we use to clarify and illuminate sentiment. It’s delicacy reveals what the rough-hewn edges of English do not.
Language destroys what it creates, is inhuman, makes true intimacy impossible, separates us more ferociously than the crumbled stone edifice of the Berlin wall. But within the humble clemency of the French tongue all is forgiven.
Politics is a disciple of language. Legal documents form a literature within which it is possible to destroy peoples lives in a much more concrete manner than the great romantic poets had even imagined. But every word one writes has consequences. And it is no coincidence that so many of the great works of literature and philosophy were originally formulated in French.
And when Europe becomes the most violent bloodbath that the millennium has yet to experience, as seems likely within the next hundred years, it is even more likely that the epitaph for the millions of mutilated and dead will be written within the supple intonations and tonalities of the ancient yet incalculable French language.
Personally I do not speak, read or understand a single word of French. I am speaking only hypothetically.
Near the end of his life Rainer Maria Rilke switched from German to French for the following reason: in German there is no word for absence which also implies presence and fulfilment. In German, absence is only emptiness...
August 15, 2005
“Have the bastard fixed,” was all she said. So we did. We had the bastard fixed. Things went much better after that. Considerably less heartbreak.
The Yoga Mat
“Your yoga mat is on fire.” I mentioned this almost in passing, somehow not sure whether or not I should say anything. “Yes, I know,” she replied. In retrospect I realized it was really not much of a pick up line.
Motherfuckers think that just because I’m some sort of washed-up has been they can say or do whatever they want to me. Well, listen up motherfuckers. Someday this is going to happen to you. And let’s see you try to stay off the bottle when every last one of your hit CD’s are selling for a dollar a piece in the bargain bins of tower records all across America. Oh, I forgot: you never had any hit CD’s. So shut the fuck up.
I went in search of a more populist style. It didn’t work. So I became a professor of contemporary literature. Our course this afternoon begins with an examination of…
August 8, 2005
I must go back to the place where things were simpler and a more benign perspective gently revealed itself. There was once a place like that, I am sure of it.
Several escaped but most simply perished. Of the ones who escaped three prospered, eight committed suicide (as a result of guilt), four are currently in situations the exact nature of which it is difficult to ascertain, and eighteen remained within the negligible ‘in between’ we might refer to here as ordinary life: neither successful nor failures, neither happy nor desperate. Of the ones that perished the occasional memoir was discovered (three in total), the occasional scrap of paper with a jotted list or phone number. It is impossible to defeat remnants.
I had no one to blame but myself. I went in with no plan and when things took a turn for the worse I simply panicked. There was no way to avoid the considerable fact of the matter: it was a complete and unredeemable fiasco. (Though from an outsider’s perspective I’m perfectly aware it might appear to be an unmitigated success.)
Business strategies of the ontologically perverse.
If you begin with mere premises of course you will travel endlessly in circles. That is why we must begin with facts. And the facts are really not so complex. People will behave one way when they feel secure and a completely different way when they feel they are in danger. Security is a luxury with the potential to produce generosity along with an endless stream of small acts of kindness. That is why we must work around the clock to generate the continuous illusion of being-under-threat. Only through such means can we activate results sufficiently conducive to our end goals. For public relations purposes we will refer to this strategy as ‘the delightful effect.’
6.If there’s one thing he wasn’t it was a celebrity. This simple fact agitated him to no end. “Why must others be celebrated but only I ignored”, he would write over and over again in the small, spiral bound ‘reporter’ notebooks he bought at Target for a dollar a piece, each time using different words. Even if he were to win the lottery it would be of little use, for the genre of charisma he wished to possess unfortunately cannot be bought. “Fuck it,” he thought, “serial killing is my only hope.”
And we all dropped ecstasy and leapt joyously through the streets; through the streets and through the alleyways and parks. Such joyous leaping cannot be contained in mere words. Images, prayers, exhortations, telepathic emanations: all these strategies and more must be employed if one wishes to properly convey the pure joyousness of our endlessly delirious, wasted leapings. In the morning we watched the sunrise as the buzz gently waned. I glanced at my watch. I was already late for work. I said my goodbyes.