Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ends of the Forest

I just posted a new fiction work, "The Ends of the Forest," at Wattpad.  It's a short story that you can enjoy in about thirty minutes.

http://www.wattpad.com/9374280-the-ends-of-the-forest


Django Unchained

I just saw Django - the closest to release day I've seen a move in ever - and I thought it was solid.  The most important part, for me, was that it in no way tried to downplay, trivialize, or exploit the horror of slavery for any purpose but to be as gut-wrenchingly awful as it really was.  There are sections of the movie that should be hard to watch even for a wizened gorehound like myself, not because the blood is so over-the-top (that part makes the gunfights spectacular and fun) but because we are unmistakeably witnessing an entire system that forces people to become evil, and rewards those who enjoy being evil the most.

Everything else is somewhat incidental - this movie could not have been good if it didn't face the morality of its subject matter head-on, and the fact that it does is probably the most important thing about it.  Otherwise, as a movie, I'd say the ending is very predictable - which it's kind of supposed to be, but that doesn't make the last fifth of the film any less plodding.  Everything up to that is really great, though.  Basically, every part of the movie that has Christoph Waltz in it is fantastically fun, because he's a genius.

Oh wait, spoiler alert.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All Good Things . . . The End of STOIC and Bradley Kokay's CHEAPER THAN ARROWS, 11/16

Just a quick reminder and endorsement, if you haven't made it out to the current show at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, STOIC and Bradley Kokay's Cheaper Than Arrows, this coming Friday will be your final chance.  Starting at 9pm, The Venture Compound is hosting Boston's Pile, along with local bands Ghost Hospital and Just Satellites, and after the performance, Cheaper Than Arrows will close.

Going into it none of us were really sure what to expect, but in the frantic all-night runup to the opening these two guys turned out a truly intimidating installation, with one of Brad's trademark organic collages running the entire length and breadth of a gallery wall, four of STOIC'S iconic hungry skulls marching the remaining perimeter, and each leaking/bleeding out onto the pitch-black ceilings and floor.

This is the most striking, new, dramatic art currently on display anywhere in St. Petersburg, and maybe in Tampa Bay.  After Friday night it will be ripped down, painted over, and DESTROYED.

You've been warned.


Facebook Event w/info:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Psychonautic Sun Salutations: Yoga and Meditation for Creativity

This Saturday morning at 11am at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, I'm very proud to present the second edition of Psychonautic Sun Salutations, a class I'm working on focused on the use of yoga and meditation to foster creativity. If you happen to be in the area, come on out! Details on the event and location can be found on the Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/272087816246307/

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Manchurian Incident and the Alien Act

Eighty-one years ago today, a Japanese Lieutenant set a dynamite charge on the tracks of a Japanese-controlled railway in Manchuria, in Northern China.  The act, blamed on the Chinese, was a successful attempt to initiate sino-Japanese war by the Japanese Kwantung Army.  The army had to an extent gone rogue, engaging in militant acts intended to provoke a Chinese response, and was about to be disciplined by the leadership from Tokyo when it chose to take matters into its own hands by manufacturing Chinese resistance.  This is known as the Manchurian Incident or the Mukden Incident.  What followed was more than a decade of Japanese occupation of and violence against China, including the most brutal single incident in all of World War II, the Rape of Nanking.

Note that I say Nanking was singular in its brutality, not in the number of people it killed.  The statistical honors might go to the Holocaust of eastern European Jewry, or to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States, or maybe even to the firebombing of Dresden by the English.  What's remarkable about Nanking, and what it shares with the Mukden incident that paved the way for it, is the completely uncontrolled and undisciplined nature of Japanese military action.

Perhaps this is the real threat Mukden and Nanking hold for Japanese popular imagination, the reason there has yet to be a collective national reconciliation with the legacy of the war, nearly a full century and several generations later - a phenomenon whose very narrow manifestations in popular music I've documented.   Perhaps it's not the evil of these acts that's so threatening, but the fact that they are out of character.  Certainly, the Germans killed all those Jews, but they did it with a characteristic German efficiency that can be recouped - they may have done something wrong, but they were still German.

Japan's war crimes, though, defied every treasured stereotype of Japanese unity, the concepts so often propagated, not just in the West but within Japan itself, of a 'hive-like' 'oriental' mentality, of collectivism, self-sacrifice, and humility.  In Mukden, low-ranking officers took it up on themselves to undermine the plans of their leaders, including implicitly the Emperor.  In Nanking, enlisted men ran wild, raping, pillaging, and murdering in endlessly creative ways.  These were not strong Japanese collective actions gone awry - they were actions deriving from some other root, something alien and awry, something that, whether deeply human or deeply perverse, were surely not 'Japanese.'  They cannot be recouped, explained, or folded into a narrative of evolution.  For those who believe in the uniqueness of the Japanese spirit, they can only be denied, repressed, dismissed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Announcing New Student Travel Award, NCA, Human Communication and Technology Division

Via Bree McEwan, Western Illinois University:

The Human Communication and Technology Division is pleased to announce an opportunity for two (possibly three) graduate student travel scholarships ($200-$250) for travel to the National Communication Association 2012 convention in Orlando, FL. Interested communication graduate students are invited to send a cover letter and vitae requesting support by October 5, 2012. Requests will be evaluated by officers of the HCTD according to the following criteria: 1) Current enrollment as a graduate student in a recognized communication program in higher education; 2) Acceptance of a paper on technology and communication for presentation at the 2012 NCA; 3) Evidence of ongoing scholarly engagement with technology and communication issues; and 4) Travel distance to Orlando, FL. Students receiving the awards will be notified before the Convention, but award checks will be issued either during or after the Convention. Officers of the HCTD are ineligible for this travel scholarship. Please e-mail requests to Bree McEwan at HCTDofNCA@gmail.com on or before October 5, 2012.

Michelle Goldberg on Paul Ryan

"The modern right's combination of economic libertarianism and social authoritarianism only makes sense if, every time you hear the word 'individual,' you substitute 'individual white male.'"

-(from this interview: http://soundcloud.com/fun-2-know-1/pacifica-radios-behind-the)

Friday, September 14, 2012

State of Place

An interesting thing I spotted - a geographer (by trade, though I'm not sure of her degree/background) who left the academy to start a 'space consulting' small business, called State of Place, to advise cities and urban planners.  Someone needs to get her to come to Tampa and do a Hell's Kitchen-style intervention on the sprawling disaster of this city.

http://urbanimprint.com/about/state-of-place/


Thursday, September 13, 2012

IT'S OUT! Blown Horizonz: Incidental Notes on Psychedelic Noise, Abstract Rap, and Other Music That Will End Your Mind

Note: I'm now blogging at Blownhorizonz.com.  It's more attractive, and it focuses more on cool stuff like music and fiction.  Check it out!



It's coming, it's coming, it's hereCollecting over a decade worth of writing about mind-boggling sound, Blown Horizonz strips away the insignificant fuzz and takes you to the deep dark places where music can remake you, remake us, remake our whole society into something bigger, weirder, and more free.


I feel like out of all of the press I've received for this record, that your review is the first one to truly understand where I was coming from and what I was trying to accomplish.
-Dylan Ettinger

Enclosed please find a check representing the payment for your piece selected for Best Music Writing 2010. On behalf of Daphne Carr and all of us at Da Capo, I want to express our deep regret that necessity unfortunately required that your piece be cut from the collection.
-Jonathan Crowe, Editor, Da Capo Press.



Noise is the imperfection that shows us that the world doesn’t have to be the way anyone tells us. Because what is perfect is dead - If some bit of studio-processed pop manages to have a spark of actual artistic life, it is a fluke, a monstrosity, an inexplicable anomaly. The sunzabitches even managed eventually to get the vibrational frequency of ‘grunge’ into a studio processing unit and started making songs in which the distortion sounded careful and clean. It always happens, capitalism recouping some pretty and successful version of a chaotic failure that initially captured attention by being spectacularly WRONG and exciting everyone thereby.

I have witnessed on record and in life an ethical noise, an aesthetic refusal of what we are told to call ourselves, new tribes traveling nomadic routes that short-circuit convention. They were able to do what they wanted and face uncertainty and not panic, which to me seemed as magical and unlikely as Clint Eastwood gunslingers facing down imminent murder without blinking. As much as I’d looked for the darkness, I still carried with me and maybe always will a certain suburban-normal fear of instability, and I looked at the way they lived and I envied it but didn’t feel it was mine to have. I imagined into them some sort of purer unmediated relationship with experience and desire. I wanted that noise to enter the substance of my life, but I could not let go of what was clean and safe.

When something appears simple and clear we are easily deceived into thinking we understand it, and as soon as we are thus deceived we might as well be dead. Confidence and clarity are the end of change and possibility. Noise presents us with an impenetrable barrier and tells us only that we must confront that blank wall and make sense of it ourselves. What we find when we truly face the irrational is inevitably some version of ourselves and what we believe and what we want, truer than what we ever could have seen if we’d been staring at a crystalline Technicolor projection of another person’s dream.

Noise is the sound of not knowing the future, of not needing or wanting anything. Noise takes us to Interzone, to interrogate the black meat, to ask questions about just what is this world we live in, and how can we or should we change it. It forces us to think about change because it shows us that anything Anything ANYTHING is possible. When we confront the blank barrier of the unknowable, the absence of order and meaning, we can admit that we know nothing.
 




Blown Horizonz is available FREE in a variety of formats from Smashwords for the next week (9/13-9/20). 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sneak Peek: Blown Horizonz Cover


This is preliminary (and I'm hoping it'll be eventually replace by something done by an actual professional) but I'd say for now it's looking pretty solid.  Feedback welcome!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

At In Media Res: Sonoda Kenji's The Sakura of Madness

This week, as part of hip hop cinema week at In Media Res, I've curated a few clips from the infinitely interesting Japanese film Kyouki no Sakura.  You can catch the clips and my commentary here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beall's List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers

There was a time when you just got solicitations for turning your master's thesis into a poorly-edited vanity press book.  Now you can get trolled for a conference presentation and bait-and-switched into a page fee in the several hundred dollar range.  This list of predatory journals might help you avoid a serious waste of time . . .

Beall's List

Mass Media: Enemy or Tool? Workshop video from Food Not Bombs World Gathering

Enjoy the lush view of my backside as I talk about media structure and how opposition media workers can use it for their own ends.  Things get interesting towards the end when Vermin Supreme drops by!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Announcement: Blown Horizonz Release Delayed

Hi folks, some hopefully somewhat disappointing news here.  Due to the confluence of a variety of events that I couldn't or didn't plan ahead for (specifically, the RNC, a possible hurricane, and the start of the semester all coinciding with a retreat weekend where I won't be doing any other work), I've decided to push the release of my book Blown Horizonz: Psychedelic Noise, Abstract Rap, and Other Music That Will End Your Mind back to Thursday, September 13th.  This will give me more time to get the word out and make sure everything is ship-shape.

Not to worry, though!  In the intervening two weeks, I'll be providing you a few tantalizing teasers here and there - previews of what you can expect, maybe even a couple of possible outtakes that won't be included in the collection.  For a start, here's a little taste of the cover art-in-progress.  Woah, dudes!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Saint Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts: George Inness, Mary L. Proctor, Victor DuBreuil

I finally got out to the small museum here in St. Pete.  It's the kind of museum where they have everything from pop art to Jain shrines.  These sorts of places are hard to really enjoy as total experiences, but I did get exposed to a few interesting new artists.  George Inness, the landscape artist (seen above), has a kind of mystical haziness that I really appreciate.


The museum also has a piece by Mary L. Proctor, a folk artist.  The piece in the museum is really spectacular and wild, though unfortunately it seems that more recently Proctor, who is now something of an institutionalized folk art figure, has turned to slightly more kitsch work like that above.






Finally, there's Victor Dubreuil a late-18th century "painter of money," represented by the work above.  I've been doing a lot of writing and research about money as a medium lately, so it's doubly interesting to learn that there was an entire movement of money painters who produced representations of representations of value.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Norman Towle: St. Petersburg's Henry Darger?

Note: I now blog at Blownhorizonz.com.  It's much prettier to look at, and more focused on fun stuff like weird fiction, extreme music, and awesome art (like this!).  Also check out my Tumblr at blownhorizonz.tumblr.com.

Last night I hit the opening of one of the more exciting and challenging gallery shows I've seen in a while. The show is at the Venture Compound, a D.I.Y. music and art space in St. Petersburg, FL, and the opening coincided with the 29th installation of the Pangaea Project, an ambitious noise/avante-garde series curated by the Venture group.  The art is by Norman Towle, who died recently at the age of 99.  The show is said to encompass 95% of the work Towle produced in his lifetime.

Knowing Towle's story is key to understanding why this apparently unassuming work is so interesting.  After spending time in the Merchant Marine, Towle attended a technical art institute, then spent several decades as a commercial art retoucher, largely working for the New York Times.  He retired to Florida, only after which, apparently, he actually began to produce art of his own.

And what art.  The works - over a hundred of them - cover everything from local St. Petersburg landscapes, portraits of public figures, nonspecific scenes of everything from dancing to ocean life, abstract works that include elements of collage, and a little bit of softcore pornography.  These are all rendered in a hand that can be described as inexpert, even clumsy.

But the whole body of work, and many of its individual pieces, are profoundly absorbing and multidimensional.  This interest isn't because the work is 'good' in any conventional sense, either technically or because it advances some coherent, self-conscious aesthetic or social message.  Towle falls in that troubled and weird category known with measured condescension as 'folk art' - works and artists whose interest derives from the unselfconsciousness of their process, which allows them to represent, at best, a set of truths as deep as those in more conventional 'high' art.


In Towle's work, as in those of so much folk art, those truths are dual-edged.  On the one hand, when we connect Towle's story to his work, we see the way that modern society can limit human possibility.  These paintings show a man with a profoundly foreshortened vision of life, someone attracted primarily to the most banal of public figures and the safest modes of existence.  There are numerous pictures here of 'beautiful' farmhouses, churches, golf courses, suburban homes, and parking lots (!), and dozens of portraits of presidents and film stars and singers and models. Towle, at least according to his paintings, saw the world exactly as NBC, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have wanted him to.

At the same time, the traces of his own life in Towle's paintings show, through no intent of the artist, what utter lies he was reproducing.  Just as his life fulfilling the commands of others seems to have left him with little ability to reflect critically on the culture around him, decades of touching up other people's images as part of a process that reduced art to nothing but another industrial, assembly-line product seems to have left Towle himself with an imperfect command of fundamental artistic principles of perspective, figure, and color.  His apparent naive reverence for Pope John Paul and suburban normality, filtered through the imperfections that this banal world imposed on his abilities, reveals the absurdity, beauty, and even brutality of modern 'everyday life.'

There's also something profoundly troubling about a man trained in 'art' who produced no work of his own until retiring from his career in the art world.  There's a particular piece here that captures that poignancy - a desolately kitsch landscape of a flower garden, which nonetheless stands out from the other paintings in its technical refinement.  This is apparently another artist's work that Towle gave a few small touch-ups . . . and then signed.  It's one of those instances where the unvarnished reality of folk art manages to convey the desperation and sadness of the human condition far more effectively than 'high' art.  Here and elsewhere, Towle's work, in its way, shows the darkness that lies beneath the facade of normality better than Francis Bacon's.
 

But Towle's work also shows the ability of people to transcend the limits imposed on them by society.  Every observation of Towle's technical limitations comes with the caveat that a great deal of this work was completed when he was in his 80s and 90s, with a hand that would have been unsteady for reasons having nothing to do with skill.  That he persevered at that age at producing any art at all is some kind of testament to human creative energy.  And there's a real joy to lot of the paintings,  something that could be seen as either childlike or just sincere.  It's particularly worth remembering that, as someone born in the early 1920s, who served in the military during the 1940s, Towle would have been close to enough darkness in his life that he might not have had much interest in reproducing it.  What looks to people my age like suburban banality and empty-headed celebrity culture may have been a fully justified retreat to psychic safety for those brutalized by world history and the machinations of social elites.






Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Noriko Manabe on Antinuclear Music

A fresh article from Princeton-based Japanese ethnomusicologist Noriko Manabe, who here describes the No Nukes 2012 concert hosted by Ryuichi Sakamoto.  There are some snippets in there about artists' careers being destroyed because they have spoken out against nuclear energy, which are shocking for me even knowing what I know about just how controlled and corrupt the Japanese entertainment industry is.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gangster Computer God

Big Announcement Time! About My New Book, Blown Horizonz

Hello friends!  I'm really excited to make an exciting announcement. About WRITINGS.

If you read this here blog, you see random, scattered, off-the-cuff musings on a semi-random assortment of popular culture nuggets, political haps, hot links, etc.  But you may also occasionally see links to my writing elsewhere, and maybe you've wondered at those times, HEY, WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT?

What's it all about is that I pretty frequently for the last ten years or so have been writing about music for outlets like Tinymixtapes, the Japan Times, The Wag, Popmatters, Audiogalaxy, etc.  I've now finally taken the time to compile some of these pieces into my FIRST BOOK!

It is titled Blown Horizonz: Incidental Comments on Psychedelic Noise, Abstract Rap, and Other Music That Will End Your Mind, and it will be released on September 1st, 2012.

Actually I should have probably written "FIRST BOOK"! above, in scare quotes, because it may or may not be a real "book."  It's an ebook, which I'm self-releasing, with the generous cooperation of my various editors and publishers. Is that a real book?  Your call, bro.

The collection will contain essays about everything from free jazz to weird folk to U.K. garage to Kool Keith.  It includes interviews, mostly with white rappers like Cage, Themselves, and MC Paul Barman.  Some of these pieces are difficult or impossible to find, including essays on Japanese hip hop and the Night People scene that I published in the print-only magazine Signal to Noise, and pieces from a decade ago that only saw the light of day in small newsletters.  There will also be at least one piece written fresh for this collection.

One of the Signal to Noise essays was shortlisted for the 2010 edition of Da Capo Press's Best Music Writing, so that might be worth checking out.  My writing has also been praised by such luminaries as Michael Gira of Swans and Dylan Ettinger.  But just in case that's not compelling enough, you can watch this space over the next month for samples, plugs, and the like.

Best of all, the book will be FREE for at least two weeks after its initial release!  How will I make money, you ask?  And my answer is, of course, volume, my friend.  Volume.

I hope at least one or two of you are as excited about this as I am.  (Thanks Mom!)




If you would be interested in receiving a digital copy of the book for review, please let me know in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Bane's weird voice ruins the whole thing.

Batman Shooter was a PhD Candidate: Let's jump to some conclusions.

So, the BBC is reporting that James Holmes, who apparently shot nearly 50 people in a paramilitary-style attack on a movie theatre near Denver, was a former neuroscience PhD student at UC-Denver.  This adds to a lengthening chain of doctoral candidates who kill, including Gang Lu at the University of Iowa in 1991, and James Eaton Kelly at the University of Arkansas in August of 2000.  Both of these were individuals who, while obviously insane in the way most homicidal people are insane, were immediately motivated by career difficulties.  Lu was unable to find a professional position on graduating, and Kelly had been drummed out of his PhD progam.

Obviously these are widely scattered incidents and there is no metanarrative to be drawn from them, much less any speculation to be done about this current tragedy.  But it does point out the fact that the academic world is tied into the same competitive and high-pressure system that encompasses the rest of America, with its disgruntled postal carriers, police officers, and office drones.  These expressions of malevolent rage come from people who seek validation and worth in their careers and, when it isn't forthcoming, have no ongoing reason to engage in society.  It's that disconnection from society - utter, complete alienation - that allows such things to happen.  And the isolating, hypercompetitive, high-pressure world of graduate school is a potent brew for those already disposed to instability and violence.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Was Fukushima Caused by "Japanese Culture"?

The official Diet-commissioned report on the Fukushima disaster was released about a week or so, and a fascinating catch was made by one Richard Katz on the Social Science Japan mailing list. The report is mostly a very specific account of communication failures and lapses in responsibility, but it seems that the English-language version of the report's executive summary lades on some generalizations condemning the root cause of the disaster as Japanese culture itself:

"[The disaster's] fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience;  our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program'; our groupism; and our insularity."

Katz and others have focused on the discrepancy between the English and Japanese versions of the report, with the reasonable assumption that the English version is specifically conceived as playing to foreign expectations.  But I'm more interested in the fundamental questions raised by the mere idea: how do these claims seem to define "Japanese culture," its limits and boundaries relative to other spheres of culture, and the way culture affects individual behavior?  The points made above seem focused on very local interpersonal behavior, relative to, say, a boss.  This is an important distinction from, for example, 'culture' in the more mediated sense, where it may be more difficult to make an argument for any such thing as a uniquely Japanese culture in an era of globalization.

Relevant sources at:

Asahi Shimbun
National Diet of Japan
Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Note: Car Radio, Space, and Class

A sudden insight and clarification of the piece on car audio that I'm working on.  It all hinges on Zizek's notion of paraconsistent logic, transferred in a somewhat crudely metaphorical form to the social realm.  The car radio is an instance of technological work that, at the same time, helps extend the atomized form of the early 20th century suburban/suburbanizing white middle class into the space of the car, and also produces its obverse, in the form of car radios used as broadcasting platforms that disturb both urban and, later, suburban ideals of middle-classness as they are linked to quiet/the lack of disruptive 'noise.'   This is linked to the idea that even with the earliest forms of electronic networked communication, the middle classes/knowledge classes began to transcend or escape from the physical space of social life.  At the same time, the development of a working-class vernacular of car radio as noise producer was a work of bringing power and meaning back into space.

The middle classes used the car radio to connect themselves over great distances to projects of national identity and development - for instance, during World War II, radio listening was conceived as a kind of patriotic duty.  These were early experiences of networked identity.  By contrast, the subaltern-identified usage of car radio as a broadcasting platform in local space - specifically, in the emergence of the 'boom cars' that we're all so familiar with now - was a resistance to the networking of identity, and a reaffirmation of localized identities formed in physical spaces.  It was not just a rejection of and attack on middle-class cocooning, but the articulation of a different logic of community altogether.  It is crucial to this understanding that the main media channels for boom car culture were rarely actual radio broadcasts, but physical media, in an era that roughly coincided with the democratization of the production and distribution of these forms - the appearance first of the cassette, then later the CD, then the CDR.  These were not vast networks of high-speed, ephemeral, space-binding broadasts, but much more time-binding, coherent 'records' (in both senses) of highly developed, increasingly local worldviews.

But is there an inconsistency to using Zizek, who in his take on Hegel rejects the notion of socialized reason and history as a project of "The Cunning of Reason," in an argument that hinges on the presumption that these processes play out some sort of structural problem-solving?  I'm not sure.  More generally, I'm not ready to comment on the legitimacy of Zizek's notion of paraconsistent logic - I can frankly say that I know I am well inside that mindset, and I still don't have many of the tools that I'd need to take a step back and place it in the context of the history of ideas.

All of this came to me as I was reading the exchange between John Gray and Zizek in the New York Review of Books and Jacobin, respectively.

New Call of Duty Villian Based on Julian Assange

In case you hadn't already figured out that video games that put you in the shoes of an 'elite' soldier were always authoritarian wet dreams/fascist training tools, this one went ahead and made it a little clearer.

Black Ops New Villain "The Leader of the 99%"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Race and Technology: Okeh Records

Mamie Smith
I've just been poking through William Kenney's Recorded Music in American Life, and came upon a really amazing little tidbit.  Apparently Okeh records, which would go on to be early and vital popularizers of African-American music, were initially successful not because of their content - which at least in the early days Kenney characterizes as "uninspired" - but because of their technology.  The founder of the company pioneered a pressing process that allowed Okeh's records to be played on any turntable, whereas most companies at the time pressed in proprietary formats linked to phonographs that they also produced.  This was particularly important to the story of black music, because the Victor and Columbia companies, which held controlling intellectual property in the dominant lateral-cut pressing system, did not record black musicians due to supposed risks to the companies' respectability.

Okeh would go on, after the initial success bolstered by their technological leapfrogging of these barriers, to aggressively open markets in first Northern, then Southern black communities.  This began with Mamie Smith, but would culminate artistically with the recording of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens, which remain to this day one of the definitive statements of American musical culture.  This art might not exist today if not for the technological and structural paths of recorded sound development.

McLuhan would be delighted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Actually Awesome Anarchism: Valve Software

Note: I now blog at Blownhorizonz.com.  It's much prettier to look at, and more focused on fun stuff like weird fiction, extreme music, and awesome art.  Also check out my Tumblr at blownhorizonz.tumblr.com.

In the semi-weekly discussion group run by the Tampa Anarchist Collective, we have several time broached the topic of examples of anarchistic ethics and practice that can be found in the world around us today - particularly those that don't explicitly declare themselves as such.  Many of these can be found in the world of software, particularly in the Open Source movement (file sharing communities are another one that has been thrown around, but I have some issues with that example as my views on copyright evolve).

Another sterling example has just come to my attention - Valve Software, probably the single most creative large video game studio in the world, is run on nonhierarchical syndicalist lines.  Projects are not assigned, but are created and spearheaded from the bottom up by self-constituted teams subject to flux.  There are even serious elements of communalism, as pay rates are at least in part based on a system of mutual value ratings.  You can read more about these practices at The Wall Street Journal and Develop Online.

The example does highlight a consistently emerging caveat - obviously, a software development company is generally staffed by people who are already highly trained, motivated, and disciplined.  And even within the company's own literature, there's an acknowledgment that when someone who doesn't fit that mold lands a job at the company, it can be disruptive and take some time to shake out.  Does this indicate that anarchism, for all its bottom-up rhetoric, works best at its highest level of institutional development when it's being used to organize the elite?  Regardless, it's yet another exciting sign that we're looking at the political philosophy of the 21st century.  Not only is it right - it works.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My New Yoga Culture Blog: Flexy Beast

For anyone potentially curious, I've started a series of posts on Yoga culture from a critical/cultural studies perspective, on a new blog tailored to the purpose.  As on this blog, a lot of the material there will amount to rough drafts of future essays/more polished work.  The first post on the series is about culture and personality in Yoga:


Yoga for Type-A Americans . . . and Type-A Indians?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Subverts Unite!

We've got a pretty great thing going here in Tampa, what with all the Free Skools, collective spaces, art warehouses, and various mishigas.  But somewhere beneath all that, there's something sinister . . . something bleak and desperate.  A perverse Dadaist conspiracy!  Evidence of it only surfaces in fits and starts, but here is the latest sign that something sinister is afoot, replete with mind-bending tone poems of Reichian Orgone Therapy, violent insurrection, and subconscious mental manipulation.

Subverts Unite!  Issue 2

Monday, May 14, 2012

Refreshed: The Best of Japanese Underground Hip Hop

I've re-upped the link for my moderately popular mix of Japanese underground hip hop.  You can get it here.


As noted, there's limited bandwidth on that link, so please save rather than streaming it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Anarchism and Japan's Anti-Nuclear Movement: Part 2

Here's part 2 of my recent talk at All Power to the Imagination, about Tokyo's anarchists and the antinuclear movement.  Enjoy!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Video: Anarchism and Japan's Anti-Nuclear Movement

Here's the video of my recent presentation at New College of Florida's All Power to the Imagination conference in Sarasota, FL. It was a great experience, with a small but attentive audience of anarchist activists and (mostly) theorists.  It's an annual event, and I highly recommend that you make the trip next year if you're at all interested.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Open Letter to Occupy Tampa, its Members, Allies, and Supporters (and to other Occupies in Crisis).


Note: I now blog at Blownhorizonz.com.  It's much prettier to look at, and more focused on fun stuff like weird fiction, extreme music, and awesome art.  Also check out my Tumblr at blownhorizonz.tumblr.com.

Last Thursday, I was invited to answer some questions about income inequality and Occupy for a continuing education course at a progressive church in north Tampa.  I was really amazed to find that this group of a dozen people in their sixties, seventies, and even eighties were eager to hear more about Occupy.  I told them about the movement’s drive to get the money out of politics, and to return to people a sense of the democratic process.  A frail-seeming woman in a wheelchair quipped, “If only you’d been around for Reagan.”  But then a man with a snow-white beard spoke up: “Everything you’re saying sounds wonderful – but why am I not hearing more about it?”

That’s when I noticed he was on the verge of tears.  He knew that he was witnessing a great moment of possibility, but he sensed that it was slipping away.

He was right.

Occupy has opened a window through which we can see a new world.  It comes after decades of neoliberalism in which looking for new possibilities, much less working towards them, has seemed futile.  By bringing together and giving voice to people committed to living in that new world, it has shifted the political culture of what is still the richest and most powerful country in the world.  It has shown its potential, and the need for it is obvious.  As that supportive but dispirited man said in all sincerity, “Without you, we’re lost.”
Hearing just how much faith – or at least, how much hope – these people were pinning on Occupy was a wakeup call for me.  We still have a lot to do, and we have massive untapped resources with which to work – silent allies, waiting to be activated.

Of course, returning to the reality of Occupy Tampa was another sort of wakeup call.  Because we’re on the verge, in Tampa as in many places across the country, of losing all of this possibility.  Of losing everything we’ve worked for.  Those of us who have been proud to be associated with Occupy Tampa are now at risk of being associated, for the rest of our lives, with disappointment, failure, maybe even catastrophe.  While the air is still full of possibility, on the ground, we are at a crisis.

Many – in fact, most – of the energized and purposeful individuals who showed up for the early days of Occupy Tampa are no longer active participants.  As those activists have trickled away, the space that has been shared to us by one of our great outside allies has come to be mainly of non-activists, where there are regular outbursts of violence, hate speech, drug abuse, and even active sabotage of political projects.  It is only a matter of time before this stew of instability explodes and forever tarnishes the name of Occupy Tampa.

In order to address these issues of fracture and decline, I’m encouraging all past and present allies of Occupy Tampa to make the effort to come out to our General Assembly this Saturday, April 28th, at 7:30pm, following our discussion of May Day planning.  There, we need to address two key issues – first, how to maintain cohesion even as affinity groups of Occupy Tampa pursue independent projects, and second, how to deal with individuals whose actions threaten the work of our organization from within.

As the great movement thinker Cindy Millstein has emphasized again and again over the last six months, this moment is fleeting.  The sense of possibility that came with Occupy may disappear at any moment – remember what happened when 9/11 put a sharp end to the anti-globalization movement?  We must seize this moment while it lasts.  But a major part of seizing this moment is making it last – working to carry forward the initial burst of energy that brought us together.  If you ever considered yourself a member or sympathizer of Occupy Tampa, you are needed NOW to make sure the moment does not simply pass.

I want to frame the discussion that we will have on Saturday.  A few related issues and dynamics have gotten us where we are now.  At bottom, all are negative downsides of the unique and exciting aspects of Occupy’s initial structure – particularly, the way it invited everyone to participate in the process of changing the world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A few random images of the Occupy Tampa Library.

 The Occupy Tampa Library is the heart of the Education working group.  We are currently on a fundraising push to enable us to get permanent space for our books and events before Florida's hurricane season starts in full force.  We also have plenty of other needs, including: clipboards, paperclips, copy paper (we print our own zines), printing services, and signmaking.  We also could really use a bookplate with our name and borrowing policies on it, and of course, always, more books with a focus on political and economic topics, from a radical perspective.





Thursday, March 22, 2012

SXSW Post-Op: Sapphire Slows

I discovered a few great new bands and made a few great new friends at SXSW this year, and sometimes they were the SAME PEOPLE.  For example in this case - Sapphire Slows puts on an awesome show and makes awesome music and also simply is awesome, for good measure.  She played the Not Not Fun house party at Hounds of Love, and also the fantastic Impose magazine party at the Longbranch.

Steampunk Magazine #8: Late Twice.

I can't believe I didn't post anything about this already, but I guess I've been pretty lax with the blogging in general lately.  Three or four weeks ago saw the release of Steampunk Magazine #8 . . . which contains the first piece of fiction I've published in almost a decade, along with an essay about the ideological relationship between Occupy and Steampunk.  The issue is available online, but if you have the means and interest, I highly recommend you pick up the print version - it's a truly beautiful thing, full of illustrations that deserve to be appreciated in full size on good paper.  We actually have copies with the Occupy Tampa Mobile infoshop, so if you happen to run into us, you can get one without paying for shipping.  In fact, the Infoshop will be out in Gainesville this weekend at the Southeast Regional Convergence of Occupations, so keep an eye out.

Steampunk Magazine is a shockingly awesome radical science-fiction magazine.  Members of its writing and editorial staff have been heavily involved in Occupy, and long before Occupy were doing the godly work of understanding the radical past.  The deep interest in history that the magazine displays is really powerful.  Please check it out.

Dropbox REVOLUTION: Mixes and MP3s galore

I've just set up a Dropbox account, and there's this really cool feature to the free cloud hosting service . . . a public folder.  So, I'm going to be able to re-post a lot of things, specifically mixes, that I've put up over the last few months/years but couldn't host long term using the services I had access to at the time.  I'm hoping this actually works . . . to try it out, here's the link to the re-upload of the only file I had on hand today:

International Transport Volume 1

A nice snapshot of the dub/noise I was listening to a year and a half ago.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Usher: Climax



From the classic car imagery to the vocal desperation to the simple, warm beat, it's hard not to read this as heavily influenced by Frank Ocean's "Swim Good."  Usher's song is solid, but I can't say I prefer it.

 

Post-Fukushima Japan: Civil Society Rising

A quick writeup here from Daniel P. Aldritch, which is light on specifics but with a good overview of recent substantial shifts in the role of civil society in Japan.  For decades, sociologists and political scientists mourned the seeming near-absence of a civil society in Japan, but that has, at least for the moment, all changed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why You SHOULD Go to Graduate School

Hey, so a couple of years after writing this, I'm out of academia!  Temporarily! Maybe!  Check out my new blog, focused on my interests in weird fiction, experimental music, and generally all things so post-academic that they're not academic at all, over at Blownhorizonz.com.

I spent a good chunk of last night strolling through the excellent blog, 100 Reasons NOT to Go to Grad School.  I'm reading it from a particular perspective - about a year and a half after finishing grad school, now with a couple of years of good employment under my belt and a slow, tentative sense that everything might actually work out okay.  I think the blog is great because much of what it highlights is simply facts about graduate school that, apparently, people don't necessarily enter into it fully aware of - the amount of work, the need to be truly fanatical about your intellectual interests, the difficulty of writing a dissertation.  But particularly in reading the comments, it strikes me that as factual as it may be, it's obviously set up to emphasize negative possibilities, and encourages a tendency of certain people to generalize their own experience to an entire institution.  So I just want to take a second to say one thing:

I spent six years getting my PhD, and it was the best decision I possibly could have made.  Therefore, GRADUATE SCHOOL IS OBJECTIVELY AWESOME and everyone should do it.

I'll show you the life of the mind.
Okay, kidding aside. I had a great time in grad school, and I knew many other people who did as well.  There's no denying there are a larger number of people who have a negative, or just a more complicated, experience - but I think it's just as important to attract the right people as it is to warn off the wrong people. Maybe if I present where I came from to have such a positive experience (and what I'm beginning to suspect might become a good career, but who the hell knows) it'll help people make the right decision at least as much as having a list of warnings about potential negatives.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Un MU.ZZ.LE

I find myself deeply and sharply inspired by the Xanga page Findingatiger.  It's an achingly personal journal of what could probably look from the outside like a pretty boring life.  It's a real journal, but it's written with both the arcing ambition of a piece of serious fiction and, intentionally or not, in a fragmented, attention-fractured voice that either 'captures' or simply really is the way people in their twenties now think, talk, and feel.  It is literary in heft, while still being utterly trivial in content.  It makes me ask a quite serious question about how much of our life is inner and how much objective and factual.  It also encourages me to maybe try some things in this blog that I haven't tried in this or any other space in some time.

I was thinking about my life - my by many measures extremely lucky, slightly crazy, weird life over the past ten years.  And I compared it to the slight echo of disappointment that lingered in the air after all of it.  The idea that maybe I haven't been great, or that I was not entirely present for the moments that counted, or I have been so awkward-and-proud-of-it that I've missed one too many things to make my weirdness worth it.  It's impossible to know, I guess - it's like that old question about whether my 'green' is the same as your 'green,' and how could we know if we can't literally get inside one another's brains?  Maybe some people see and feel the drama and turmoil of their inner lives simply because they spend the time looking there.  Maybe I can be such a chipper dude simply because my brain chemistry is like whatever's the opposite of psychotic.

I'm listening to the new Gonjasufi album, MU.ZZ.LE.  I put it on right after the Bad Brains' I Against I, so I must be on some sort of thing.  The Bad Brains was what I put on after I bailed on Occupy Tampa for the night.  I stopped by very briefly, just long enough to hear the start of a conversation about the kitchen that I really didn't have even the slightest desire to stick around for.  A substantial part of energy in the camp is going now into these sorts of discussions - which as simple as they sound, regularly explode into massive personality conflicts that stretch over multiple meetings, night after night.  This is because the camp is made up more than anything else by asocial narcissists, including longtime homeless, travellers, borderline head cases, and apparent drug addicts.

It took less than a month for this population to make up the  critical mass of the 24/7 occupation of Occupy Tampa.  I have some serious concerns about where we go from here, despite the valiant efforts of several organizers to keep momentum going into several ongoing and exciting projects.  The idea of the 'occupation' has been so crucial to the appeal of the movement in the public eye - but I have seen much firsthand, not just in Tampa but in New York City, to suggest that in the long term these occupations might have destroyed themselves - that in fact the police in cities across the country are doing Occupy a huge image favor in decamping them before their tents become symbols, not of freedom and uprising, but of needle drug use and screaming matches.

What does this say about the ethos of the Occupy movement, its commitments to horizontalism and autonomy?  Well, it leaves me sorely tempted to declare that, at least at the very extremes, there are people for whom the chance to make their own decisions represents a clear and present danger to themselves and others.  Occupy has attracted a great number of, first, genuinely mentally ill people, and second, borderline personality types.  People shout to get attention, and turn it into a fight when shouting isn't enough.  People badmouth one another and scream and cry.  People require regular trips to the hospital from participants with cars, for injuries incurred long ago and far away.

And yet.  These people are broken, beat, tired - and yet I can't bring myself to dismiss them, to throw up my hands in despair.  They are struggling just like the rest of us.  And god knows, this is where any of us could end up if we were taken off our Xanax and put in a minimum wage job for ten years struggling to take care of kids and a wife and a house until one day suddenly it's all gone away.  Or been put out of the house at fourteen and made to fend for ourselves.  Or had to grow up transgendered in a macho Latino family.  Sometimes the cliches are just true.

We all fancy ourselves misfits, we suburban white kids and Brooklyn hipsters, but how ready are we to recognize a real one?  I've never been one of the hipster haters, I think that art is essential to progress and pretension is essential to art.  But the almost complete lack of trendy participation in Occupy has maybe disturbed the comfortable fiction I'd so long lived with that under all the superficial bullshit these people shared my discontent.  That their consumerism was, as they often claimed, somehow ironic.  But I saw a cute couple the other day, in Ray-Bans and cutoffs, and realized I've never felt more distant from people like that.  They were suddenly only slightly less offensive to me than the Britnis and Bobbys who had tormented my high school years (or at least haunted my imagination).

Occupy, at least out here in the real hinterland, is a province of the true fringe - the left behind, the kicked out, and the fucked up.  And even though I don't always look like it or often give in to it, I'm one of those myself.  I mean, I guess I must be, or why am I spending so much time with this gang of losers?  I went to the Publix Greenwise a few miles from the Occupy Tampa camp tonight - it's a kind of commercial-organics-froufrou grocery store, like a low-rent Whole Foods.  It was full of beautiful women in their early 30s, shopping alone.  They were dressed like me, in the nearly automatic neat-creative mode that comes with giving a shit and making an adult, white salary.  But there was something in their eyes, something scared and vacant and confused.  They didn't know (and here comes another true cliche) how they could still be unhappy after buying the things they had been told to want.

I can't deal with that.  And I'm also realizing: maybe the only thing stopping me from truly feeling those situations, that amazing past I've travelled through, was that I haven't spent enough time writing about it.  I am a writer - why is this not how I've been creating myself?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Delicious Old Wine, Shiny New Bottle


Have you heard? Occupy Tampa has expanded its Occupation from Curtis Hixon park to Voice of Freedom Park at 2101 W Main Street, Tampa FL 33607.  This is incredibly exciting, and represents a shot in the arm at a time when many Occupations are facing huge uphill battles.



The park is owned by Joe Redner, a local businessman and activist, who has given OT carte blanche to use the space as they see fit.  This presents all kinds of new opportunities and challenges.  The group has been forged in the fires of a months-long confrontation with the police, and the opportunity to truly organize infrastructure and facilities may allow that energy to be channeled in new and interesting directions.
Either way, the space is incredible - as you can see above, we have a fire pit!  There's also a kitchen:





And a medical tent:


There's also power and wi-fi, though there's still work ongoing to solidify the latter.  I'll be working on a more in-depth discussion of what this means and what challenges remain, but in the meantime, head on down and check it out for yourself!

(All above photos are taken from Occupy Tampa's Facebook page)