April 26, 2013
In this twenty-first century, many of the most intriguing deconstructions of human/animal dualism occur in an apartment in the East Village. Here, one half of the infamous radio duo Busso and the Wombat shares meanings, interests and affects (as a friend of ours likes to put it) as part of an experimental multispecies community (comprising, specifically, Homo sapiens and Felis catus). Now, as the internet has taught us, cats are the beginning and end of all things, and they occupy much of the middle space, too. At the Center for Feline Studies of the Avenue B Multi-Studies Center, Busso’s ailourographic investigations chronicle this immanent medium of human-cat interactions with phenomenological mindfulness and Chicago School rigour.
Of course, their resistance to performance is demonstrative in itself.
April 5, 2013
Good news for those who prefer pixels to paper:
And FableCroft have released an ebook of the under-appreciated Canterbury 2100 (originally published in print by Agog!), which includes “The Gnomogist’s Tale”. It is available here. This reviewer says it’s good.
Now playing: The Drones, “Nine Eyes”
March 5, 2013
February 28, 2013
February 12, 2013
To think I had resigned myself to missing this non-terrorist ensemble, until an injured bird came to my rescue outside a Melville fast food joint. An experience, yet an opening. Do I have to apologise for crying a yawn? The clouds started it with God’s pee on my cheek. Against a looped 16mm backdrop of industrial documents and firesmoke, of skies and roadscapes, a violin led an instrumental collective through quarter hour builds and flourishes, wordless treatises and incantations. I chair-danced, leg-drummed, conducted, blew my hands, bit my finger, mashed my beard, composed spontaneous spoken word. Tapers taped. Hundreds are counted lucky to share.
January 31, 2013
If numbers can cheat, creating significance where there is none;
If dispositives and economies can cheat, producing undeserved obeisance and unnecessary haste;
If deadlines and morals and messages can cheat on me, cheat in me and through me;
Then I can cheat too.
January 6, 2013
sleepmakeswaves provided a soundtrack for an ontology oriented to objects. As their band name implies, the mind is unconscious and technologically measured; as their song titles suggest, the world teems with vibrant substances, actants and technical artifacts. They are less in a relationship with their audience than both are nodes in an auditory network. Any lyrics or words were unamplified and subsumed by electronic instruments. Indeed the intransigence of pedals and power supplies proved greater than the musicians’ agency.
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving played with sounds like children with toys. As their band name implies, our bonds are but melancholy lifeslices; as their song titles suggest, nature will survive our indecisive selves. They allow their audience to subsist in their musical playpen, free of contracts or rules for the game. They sent loops into organs and waves into marrow. Keyboards and drum mallets announced a grandiose verdict on pretence, before an orchidic finale finally seduced my buzz.
65daysofstatic assailed us with white noisiness and noisy whiteness. As their band name implies, there are two kinds of experiments, the angelic and the demonic; as their song titles suggest, there are two kinds of stories, the elliptical and the verbatim. None correspond. They seemed to progress from desperately hoping that their audience would one day catch up, to vexedly deciding on a violent mugging. Repeating refrains, they refrained from repetition. Encrypted blueprints built into waves and crested as birds. Calculated and uncompromising, they evoked the churn of industry and exuded a cosmic ascetic calm.
December 26, 2012
This year’s Boxing Day infusion consisted of that special Franco-Japanese animation from the 80s, The Mysterious Cities of Gold:
Which, in a remarkable piece of evidence against the decline of civilisation, is being remade – hourra!
The Nostalgia Distillery is pleased to serve this remix from master cocktailier Michael Mills:
December 25, 2012
My sainted middle-namesake continued his undeserved generosity to my book-cravings, this time with a complete series of symposia on the history of zoological knowledge. Ancients, medievals, moderns; domesticates and exotics; science and rhetoric; Babylon and Mesopotamia; Aristotle and Hildegard; dis- and re-appearances; zoo-archaeology and -ethnology. Next year I will write him a letter asking for time to read them.
December 21, 2012
To think both that you will never die, and you could die any minute? On the surface once, burrowed deep now.
To thus put everything off until some illusory time, while every moment is harried and judged? Fuck that shit of a brainworm.
I will die. One day later. So I will work out how to live now.
They should have taught me about the world not ending.
December 12, 2012
Why do I keep marking these days? To prove I can find meaning in inanity? Or at least alliteration and pattern? Our tripled twelve is the number of tribes and apostles, of constellations and signs, of hours and months, of gates to the body. It is code for police and eavesdroppers. Though it transcends binary, it signifies governmental perfection—indicating perhaps that our overlords will be not machinic but angelic. It is the number of completion.
The world will go on, astronomers reassure us, oblivious that this is in fact a time of great personal upheaval, of interstate returns, of memory digitisation, of career crossroads, of crises and crunches, of cycle completions. NASA knows nothing of subjective apocalypse.
December 10, 2012
Today, a CyberChimp interpellated me into new familial, perceptual and behavioural collectivities.
I’ll be sore tomorrow.
November 21, 2012
Among some juvenilia arduously recovered using an ancient laptop from even more ancient 3.5” floppy disks:
- Novels about the sole survivors of a valley dwelling fantasy race and an orphan who survives the murder of his foster-parents to discover his true heritage.
- A short story in which the killer turns out to be, unknowingly, the detective.
- Lyrics to songs from my stint as singer in a band with my mates.
- Character creation programmes coded in BASIC.
- Plot outlines for the zeitgeisty comic Y2K.
Perhaps entropy knows best after all.
November 20, 2012
Issue 76 of New Formations is now out, a themed issue on “The Animals Turn” edited by Wendy Wheeler and Linda Williams.
Among work on life and love, ethics and practice, the Renaissance and modernity, Darwin, Derrida, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, it contains my essay “Animals in Biopolitical Theory: Between Agamben and Negri.”
November 15, 2012
Last night we launched the inaugural issue of Environmental Humanities, a new international, interdisciplinary, open-access journal. Its editors are Deborah Rose, vivifier of morals, and Thom van Dooren, avian entangler. I help make the coffee (and drink the wine). This first issue has essays on Oedipus, agriculture, parasites, burrs, management, seasons, flus, books, and mushrooms.
The website also features two series of interviews with editorial board members. I conducted the first lot about the anthropocene, decentring, and interdisciplinarity. Take a look; things get feisty.
“… and he became the instrument, the messenger, the angel come to rescue you… from what? From your sleep, in the end.”
Of course, eventually even the parrhesia of situationist interventions (21:28–32:38) will be resolved in terms of mechanics and products.
“Once you have started on this binge, fables have a way of dogging your steps—you see the beast in every human, yourself included, and wonder whom you prefer.”
July 30, 2012
Thusly does Fritz Eichenberg introduce his collection of “Fables with a Twist”, the text and intricate woodcuts of which the zoöeschatological disputants pore over with rapt imagination. In the titular tale a meeting of the animals fumes over human oppression and envisions the placement of Homo sapiens on their coat-of-arms. The fall is rewitnessed, the Ark is regretted, power plays out, man is mourned, apocalypses are left behind, the peaceable kingdom is yearned for and mocked, and olden fables are given modern twists which don’t avoid but intensify their morals. “Headlines proclaim: Exploded populations—oceans polluted—wars and genocide—animal kingdom threatened with extinction. … The Lord made a mistake!” (Endangered Species, p. 96) Let us rehabilitate the fabular.
June 30, 2012
Things fell into line for this gambit with an undeniable sense of providence. There were sacrifices, of course, but none that can’t be resurrected. I pushed on past the insecure start, doubled down on anxieties and learned to bear exposure. What kept lulls and doubts from becoming terminal was the continual challenges: to write automatic scrawl and graffiti; to tack back again, compose lucid and deliberate sentences; to swap pen for metal keys, those for brush and scissors; to let the void have its way. That and the manic impulsion of the band who endured me poaching in their slipstream. A minor satellite, I observed and absorbed the dialectic of discipline and madness, as frenzies of organisation unleashed frenzies of creation.
As an experiment in technique, it gave the charged occasion to test methods and materials foreign to the desk and laptop routine. I played surrealist games, mocked them and myself, then forged on again in earnest intensity. Writing was driven by concepts and form, by circumstance and materials. I worked with my hands on obstinate fabrics and mashed theories of perception with my short-circuiting brain. Images emerging from others’ paintwork sent shivers through surfacing words. Fuses were lit among myselves, scales tipped and triggers pulled. There were degrees of sobriety equipping various postures. I practiced a risky ascetics, emptied myself of certain expectations while gambling myself in pursuit of others.
I constructed a phantastic colour organ in which every key is black.
Now comes the difficult follow through, moving from method to results. There is enough material and ideas to sustain the project, an ergodic novel of collated documents and testimonies. The Black Paintings will confront synesthesia, aesthetics and disorders of sensation, destimulation and sensory deprivation. The book will document the trauma of the black paintings; decipher the hand of the black painter; remember the carnival of The Black Paintings.
Thanks for their hospitality to Trash, Mitch, Andy, Bear, Emma, Imogen, Adele, Jeremy, Dallas, Ezza, Clint, Chloe, Mace and all the other painters.
March 5, 2012
I saw him last at Swancon almost a year ago, where we talked and drank and ate and schmoozed like classy carefree gents. This is what I wrote for the collection he launched there.
People say that Paul Haines has bad taste. Try telling that to those he cooks for. Try telling it to the beneficiaries of his music collection culls. Try telling that to Paul Haines, the cannibal gastronome of his “Slice of Life” story suite, who knows just the right cuts and how they’re best served. In the thick of the muck, Paul’s fiction explores highbrow themes like the mystery of conception, the unreliability of perception, and the violence of redemption. Paul is a principled aesthete and a candid man of honour.
Paul is the guy who, at the first Clarion South in early 2004, kept my broke arse supplied with booze. As us ferals partied after six weeks of reprogramming, he bought two beers at a time as if my thirst was his own. This was a sincere morality adapted from the macho drinking culture of his uni days. He couldn’t let an orifice go dry, not when he was in a position to lubricate. And he refused my indebtedness: I owed not him but future poor lads in need of a drink. Pay it forward, with a twist. Of lemon.
This decent bloke is of course the same warped creature who makes readers squirm and cringe with his surrealist black humour, his confused, cruel, hungry, horny, unhinged characters and their equally fucked-up worlds. His exposed backpackers wander through the disorienting East or the degenerate West or somewhere else entirely, preyed upon by the powers-that-be or their own shadowy natures. Many of these characters go by the name of Paul Haines. I have often seen people recoil in his presence as a result of his work—and he’s quivered with satisfaction in response.
To read his fiction is to question the character of Paul Haines. His stories are plenty unsettling even without those infamous self-tuckerisations. His dystopia “Wives” with its brutal misogyny is simply the latest and finest in a long, disquieting stream. But when he does decide to give his protagonist his name, the disturbance multiplies.
It is a venerable technique that the likes of Chaucer and Dante up to Dick, Ellis, and Kaufman have experimented with, and Haines self-inserts with the best of them. Uncareful readers will confuse the protagonist with the author or perceive a monstrous ego at play in this literary autofellatio. All the better for Haines.
Paul Haines is not a wish-fulfilling Mary Sue; he is a fully developed, viscerally scarred character. Paul Haines is not a didactic author surrogate; he preaches nothing but the wages of existence. This is no cameo, no proxy, no Narcissus. By projecting himself into his narratives, he becomes the willing victim of his readers’ own projections. He wallows in the viral dispersal of his proper name.
Paul expects academic wankery of me, so how’s this for a dubious homonymy: there is a Greek verb phainesthai which means “to appear”; it is the root of phenomenon and phantasm and incorporates the sense of both pretense and manifestation. Phainesthai is to appear in a form undecidable between truth and falsehood, fiction and reality. It’s what Paul does. Against vivid exotic backgrounds, the character of Paul Haines dissimulates with a fierce honesty.
The SuperNOVA addendum to the Turkey City Lexicon will include phainesthai, or perhaps simply haines, to refer to self-insertion as literary extreme sport. This is how it will be used in the crit circle upbraiding of wannabe writers: “If you’re gonna to try to haines it, newbie, then don’t shy away from the verdict. You gotta put it all on the line.”
Haines puts it all on the line. The man has travelled, has lusted, has feared, has hurted in unimaginable ways. He laughs and cries as life bends him over and drives its toxic probe up his arse. He tells us all about it. He shames common delusion with his clarity of observation and frankness of expression. He gives the finger to death, to our decomposing bodies, to our poisonous world in exemplary fashion. He has struggled, and he has fought to flourish, too. He creates and fathers and loves.
Today there are no more vulgar drinking sessions. Paul’s colonoscopy punctured that blokey utopia. It forced him to vegetables and administered chemicals, forced him and others to a painful knowledge of the world as it is: singular bodies, each desiring and broken in its own way. The world according to Haines.
He and his character deserve the sweetest of revenge.
February 6, 2012
Having taken it this far, I could hardly say no, so I palmed off commitments and hopped a last minute red eye east for the BDO. We overcame heat and ditzy navigation to locate the venue, where we multiplied passes like Jesus did fishes. Once again, the Hare Krishnas rescued us from the alimentary (if not spiritual) poverty of this declining festival. War-painted and alert, I paired milk crate with smoke machine and tucked myself behind the string section for the last march of the Adler Junior 12.
Its key seriality barred fist mash poetry and demanded that thinking be sequenced and lucid. Nooked together, we accumulated black holes of egoism and nihilism, consumption and extinction, of eyes and gullets and guts. I tied a bracelet of apologies to the page, proceeded with an apophatic calligramme. Watching from behind a canvas being painted prompted a meditation on art as nonknowledge. Forget reciprocal visibility—here now there is only a shadow painter conjuring viewers’ abjection.
The show was brief and furious, a finale awash with triumphant relief. Dual drummers modulated dangerous tempos. Impromptu set changes syncopated energies. Diminishing worlds were enlarged by operatic heroics. Cosmic static amplified temperaments as hordes without and within clamoured for brain time. We wet machines responded as we could. The last spectral setlist included “The Truancy Collector”, “Riotmantic (The Suburban Adventures of the Bristol Zoo Lion)”, “Opera Man vs Bedlam” and “Capitalingus.”
Glad of the opportunity for conclusion, I farewelled the typewriter, its owner and his kind, and an idle superhero chauffeured me to the border in easy quietude.