In the evening dark Evan suited up to find Lucky. She did not come for her dinner. He grabbed his father’s flashlight and wore an old pair of boots, and old jeans and a farm coat with gloves and scarf.
"You’ve called just as I’ve begun a sad adventure," said Evan, and he explained.
"Well, I’ll let you get on with your sad adventure," said Jerrod.
Evan: Lucky is sick tonight. Let’s pray for her health.
A.J.: this distresses me greatly. is it poison? antifreeze? is she refusing to stay somewhere warm?
Evan: I came home and saw her woozily ambling down the hill behind the gas tank, she would not turn to face me or acknowlege me; breathing heavy, she idled to the creek and laborously drank, from there I followed by the pool and across the creek again to the far hillside. She did not want to be followed and i touched her back w/ my gloved hand. She did not eat dinner. I thought she’d gone off to die. But she is under the shop. She is sleeping, snoring.
Todd: Dude dont joke
Evan: I am not joking. She didn’t eat dinner! She is snoring under dad’s shop now. I think she just needs to rest.
Todd: Put her in dads shop its negative zillion.
Evan: She won’t move.
Todd: move her
Evan: I’m looking into wrapping her in a sleeping bag. I don’t want her to be too hot.
Todd: Its freezing out
A.J.: Hmm. Hmm. She is like family. My mind is troubled by this. Perhaps she has gone under the shop to die and if so we gave a dog a wonderful life. And we can get a new puppy in spring.
Evan: (holding it together eating peanut butter cookies in kitchen) Aj aj aj! No puppy talk! Too soon too soon!
A.J.: hahaha. it moves me. i gave been made emotional over this. some chord has been struck. i have begun crafting my ghost hunters essay…it is not easy.
Evan: I have experienced the most relentless crying jag! First under the house w/ Lucky—I was pushing food to her; she was non-plussed about the flashlight beam. And of course standing in the kitchen. Chord struck indeed.
A.J.: oh it is wrenching!
Evan: She is very warm under the folded sleeping bag. Underneath dad’s woodshop is not so bad.
A: What did you want to add to my introduction of your thesis?
B: Well, context, mostly. But it’s boring and long.
A: Can you make it spicy?
B: I can talk about gay sex?
A: Yes. That is a spice.
B: Hmm. Let me—well. [Clears throat] We intuitively sense, now that Facebook has become an undergird of a new adult socializing, and that we no longer trawl around MUDs anonymous and genderless, that what we post in some direct and material way corresponds to our identity, to the physical manifestation—body and conscious—of the you and I sitting here right now. This cohesive interpolation of the self with the machine is, um, not novel, but it betrays the ideas of a whole sect of early media-culture anthropologies. I’m thinking of Sherry Turkle’s schema in Life on the Screen, or Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace,” where the psychic turmoil of VR and RL are played out in exotic and erotic counterpoint. Users fashioned mages and gummy-persons and experimented in complicated and somewhat giggle-inducing fantasias, setting up communes and escapes, and origin stories for digital society, and even laws….
And—that this was minority practice should have tipped their hands, but so be it—the results of this were not the re-integration of a radical sexual politics into the mainstream, or a stronger representative democracy as such. Categorically, I can say, the middle-class was masturbating the whole time and what happened was an upsurge in Kleenex sales. Turkle excerpts a titillating interview with a woman who participated in gay chatrooms—this is going out as transcript, so I’ll just put it on the table:
I have always been so cautious about what men do with each other. I could never imagine how they talk to each other. I can’t exactly go to a gay bar and eavesdrop inconspicuously. [When online] I don’t actually have [virtual] sex with anyone. I get out of that by telling the men there that I’m shy and unsure. But I like hanging out; it makes gays seem less strange to me. But it is not easy. You have to think about it, to make up a life, a job, a set of reactions.
I don’t mean to denigrate Turkle’s research. Much of it I take as gospel. We were full of optimism back then. I quote to show that once upon a time we took it for granted that the internet hides us so that we may accomplish profound discoveries, fluctuate our identities; likewise it is an environment that camouflages sinister activities, too—“To Catch A Predator” comes to mind, but that is stale, unremarkable.
Now we want to reveal ourselves, our true selves. (Turkle’s recent work answers to this. She says simply, “We are at a point where the fact that something is simulated does not, for this generation, make it second best, and that leads to some problems.”) The internet is now a confessionary; many users consider it a “sanctuary.” Nameless and faceless trolls have their own consoling playlands where they post topless on Tuesday, and gratuitously on Wednesday, each day a mini-holiday of narcissism inflected with some innate call to self-possession. (Incidentally, this has produced a rash of child pornography made by children and for children. But that’s neither here nor there.)
A: You advance on conservative viewpoints. You sound like a fogey. I wonder if you’re not glossing the feelings of a real community achieved in this space.
B: No. I mean, yes—I know what you mean. I sound fogey but I’m not judging. “I’m not judging. There’s no judgement here.” I love when people say that. “These remain descriptive comments, not evaluative.” Well, whatever. The ritual functions of these mini-holidays regulate us and to an extent absolve our narcissism, a major crime around here, with much decrying. Visions of our faces stimulate warmth and sincerity. GPOYWs serve the double-function of sanctioning our vanity for traditional social upkeep while positing a more tenable metric for comparison outside Tumblr. “He is a poor speller and lamely reblogs Hipstamatics, but he has succulent abs. All is forgiven.”
The host of this dialog, Duck Beater, has, I think, two or three shirtless pictures of himself, and many other self-portraits, many candid, some bizarrelyartificial. He makes as good a control specimen as any other, and his eclecticism marks the prerogative ambivalence of self-presentation and mediation on Tumblr, at least the literary side of Tumblr. I don’t know how literary he is. He hangs out in a barn.
A: Right. You are not particularly populist, either. You error towards the snobbish.
B: I am a partisan, if that’s what you mean. Unfortunately rhetoric of this stripe falls along a continuum and I do circle around, at times, into Tim LeHaye religious fundamentalism rather than Feuerbachian ethical skeptisism. It’s the old problem of Andrea Dworkin’s dogmatic feminism or Jaron Lanier’s quasi-militant tech missives. They are fighting on moral grounds within the left, but it makes them sound authoritarian or self-policing. That’s the problem with context, is that it sounds prescriptive and all-inscribing, and really what I’m doing is stacking my deck. A manifesto is poetics in polemic force. The problem with describing this stage of the internet is that the blogosphere and the pornutopia occupy equal landmass.
A: Indeed. [Considers.] So, in this manifesto you made several controversial claims, and I’d like you to clarify on one or two points before we investigate present conditions of the internet—specifically Tumblr. Tumblr is the medium we’re discussing this afternoon. Is that alright with you?
B: Sure. Hit me.
A: If you had a thesis—an initial salvo—I would say it challenged the cultivation of internet personality, this sense that avatars had entered uncanny realms of identity crossover. Where the virtual and the real get all mixed up, and an over-emphasis on the immaterial substance of internet culture, its ephemerality, its surfaces, begin to assume the rhythm and texture of material life, and occupy the minds of users in ways that manifest themselves as compulsory or disciplinarily.
B: I don’t—I don’t mean to be rude—but I would take that consolidation of my thesis as clichéd, or tamed. Surely it’s a given. I would say that is an adequate interpretation of the surface effects on an avid users’ worldview, if not their physiological makeup, but nowhere points to the more radical—and eerily banal—ubiquity of other forces at work. Compulsion and discipline are certainly of a piece with my thesis. What cannot be overemphasized is the feudal state of the internet.
B: Feudal. Reigning kings, field workers, peasants, a division of artisans. Wizards and dragons and such. The internet’s history of political-economy is interesting because it maps very closely to the development of the world’s history of political-economy. I say this in contra-distinction to any belief that users are operating in a utopian space.
A: The problem you identified with this process boils down to a distrust of reification. And the endworks of this reification too quickly lending themselves to the accumulation of wealth and status, instead of an honest exploration of forms and meaning. You take issue with the aesthetic compromise.
B: Did I use the word “reification”?
A: You used a lot of Marxist-y words.
B: And then I talked about aesthetics?
A: Pages and pages.
B: This is so. I have been very drunk and alone since the manifesto’s publication. I lost all my spare copies in a downpour.
A: You spent the summer in Washington State, laboring on a CSA farm. Did you lose them on the farm?
B: I did. My yurt flooded and I lost a lot of my papers and all of my books.
A: Had you camped in a wadi?
B: No, no. I did not camp in a wadi. This is the Washington agricultural highlands to the east of the Cascades, not some desert valley in Israel. My abode was on a discreet hillside and after several days of particularly hard rain in late July, water began to track my way.
A: A year ago you offered some compelling words to lit bloggers in a paper manifesto—
B: —Yes—it is no longer in circulation—
A: —Quite. This is ironic—
B: —It is ironic that no one bothered to scan it and PDF it and circulate it so—
A: —That is right. You may conclude readers respected it too much—
B: —I conclude what few readers it found had neither the time nor the inclination to scan a twenty-two page zine, folded eight-by-eleven copy paper, ten point Times font, the text imbricated with pictures of caged animals—
A: —It did have a vegan propaganda-like feel to it.
When the angel of the Lord visited Wilbur was after he washed his mother and carried her upstairs and placed her in bed. He had never seen his mother undressed and he had never bathed her until that night. His skin melted closer to his bones as he considered this new knowledge of flesh. His jaw was bandaged shut and he snorted at the angel who stood on the landing, flush under a halo’s silvery light. “Hark!” said the angel. She pointed up. Wilbur carried the shame of his thoughts past the angel and into the bathroom. He set about emptying the tub and lining towels, binning waste-clothes and restoring salts to their shelves. He had drawn the water and helped his mother with her robes—she had not the strength to lift them above her head. Beneath her gray ears gasped the pits of her clavicles, and a greening bruise ran across her left scapula from where she had fallen some days ago, the skin mending raised and red. He placed all her knobs in the tub, touching each reeking knee down, silently, looking elsewhere, until every angle up to her chin was covered by the skim of murky water. There she soaked in silence. The iron in the air, the ammonia, nitrogen and sulphur, the smells of earthen filth weakened and dissolved.
Wilbur had not known what to do—so he took out one pale, veined leg and then another, holding the tarsus in one hand and in the other a coarse washcloth. Her bones were as exposed as an insect’s and he worked lightly, as if the waxen hull could snap, as if she might sting. The thought made him blush and squeam. He scrubbed her toes, briskly circled her ankles and scraped behind her black knees, snagging the down on her shins; she whimpered. He washed her back’s burning skin, measuring his progress by using one knuckle against one notch in her spine. Held forward in the mists, her hair fell against the foamed water and floated there soaking up the brine. She could, if she only opened her eyes to take in the soft orange candlelight, see bluely the sockets of her eyes bracketed by a wire mien, and the hanging mouth scratched by lips, and the shadow of her son passing before the lamp, orbiting the rim of the tub with his worries. She sighed. The angel said, “Hark!” Wilbur walked out of the house, into the side yard, under the bare branches of an oak. He rolled down his shirtsleeves. He picked up sticks and broke them and flung wood upon the stars. His mother slept above and the angel of the Lord sat beside her in the window’s deep sill, looking outwards at the night below, at the young man shivering in the yard.
The angel descended upon him and moved her spirit over his bowels and lungs to warm him and to warn him. She said, “Hark!” He would not look into her flaming eyes so she grabbed the bandages about his mouth and turned his head to her face and breathed flames through his lungs to heal his jaw. But the jaw was uninjured—he was wearing the bandage for other injuries, inscrutable. He spoke nothing and she recoiled at the cold sloping form when he fell to his knees, the bands about his face snapping and peeling away, fluttering about his neck and shoulders to make a waving necklace. The angel barked again her “Hark!” but Wilbur refused to speak or to be led or move at all. In thoughts of the visions of the night never had he believed his mother was so lost and never had he understood his mother as a fixture failed by this world and its spark. Yet the body does not last. What was holy had passed into some other home.
On clear evenings I patch into the system and feed my image over the hundreds of miles to arrive glowing in Cody’s bedroom. For less than a minute, a few crackling moments of breathless elation—we can see each other—we smile widely—we say hello—it seems as if the cable will hold. But the sound drops out. It bends and wends down a funnel into the earth, a whirring escalation in pitch before it finally disappears in silence. (Imagine a coin falling from a pocket. The sharp plink! as it strikes marble and rolls, spinning, grating, carrying the note of its whistle across the rose smooth stone—and slipping under Darth Vader’s cape. He sighs.) Then the image thickens. We stick mid-sentence, break, disappear, teleport backwards. We half-way rasp an apology when our faces freeze snarling against the screens, what looks like anger edged neon green and pink. Hitting refresh doesn’t help—it merely repeats the jitters, the contortions, the fierce mute glitch of distance. We let us go. To see the world of these failed transmissions—to see every lovers’ aborted attempts to say goodnight. To think of longing no longer mediated by missives carried across seas on steamer ships, only the sight of my bony shoulders just come under electric light, and the pattern of his shirt, and the way the cameras fog up our eyes. The shock of detail assumes a softer form as sentiments vaporize into an immaculate cloud of unknowables. Just as we’ve breath to say something and mean it and really see its meaning, only nothing.
In his last semester of law school, my twin brother is taking a creative nonfiction class Pass/Fail—and as a “non-traditional student at the undergraduate level,” he would add. Today will be his first day. Part of the coursework is the creation of a Tumblr. You can check in on A.J.’s progress at the link above. The class is taught by my friend and mentor, Allison, who has her own log of the proceedings here. Perhaps in the future A.J. will explain the greater significance of his blog’s name. I have some ideas.
Do people write LOL because they really are laughing out loud? They do not. I write “haha” because my shoulders are laughing, as are my finger-tips. My fingers dance within Home Row. Haha. Anyway. Kate and I were discussing an excellent critical review, written by my friend Kim, of a Hanson show at the House of Blues. Kate is a diehard fan, as distinguished from the crazies, a not-inconsiderably large subset within the Hanson fandom hierarchy. I asked her why the band hasn’t moved beyond its original sound, why it hasn’t evolved in some fundamental way since ten or so albums, what with the major life changes taking place amongst its members. (They have been bumped off labels, married, had kids; once they toured in stadiums and now they do not. I am paraphrasing Kimmi.) She sent me an experimental track off a fan club release that was admittedly intriguing yet still—silly, fluffy, affected. She said when Hanson tries stuff outside of their “sound” they sound “weird” and “cheap.” I said the song really showed their influences—it was raw and bald and sort of mesmerizing if only for that. Then I thought, “Wait. Isn’t this a cover? Sounds like a cover.” And then:
I knew why I had to listen to a Hanson song tonight, and not just to [sic] myself on Fuck Buttons name, or to realize my taste in music boils down to “screechin cats and laser noises.” It was so Kate could tell me “Big Kevin” (her step-dad) wrote “shreeded cheese.” And that phrase alone, the way it stays on your tongue in its sharp succulence, whistling thickly before coming down on teeth, is completely cat-like, and laser-guided, which I completely appreciate. A cat catches a bird and feasts upon it.
Here is a picture of my cats harassing me on a wintry morning. Just so this post rounds out in a highly-internetty way :
They come up to the house earlier and earlier in the mornings—and there’s three more of them. A battle-fleet of barn cats! And then I walk them back to the barn while they hiss and fuss and give me the sad eyes and the serious eyes and the mad eyes.
I know New Year’s Eve meant a lot to you. It certainly meant a lot to me. We’re trying to get a handle on the us vs. them. Maybe this project will end when we are all partnered off or living together. What I want is everyone partnered off and living together, or not too far down the block. I sat on Lauren’s lap for the whole bus ride even though there were spare seats. I wore my serious face for you. Is your scarf unusually long? My shirt is wrinkly because I bought it that way—I tried to tumble-dry the wrinkles out before driving up, but they persisted and intensified. Lauren tried to put lipstick on my ear with her mouth when she whispered. I was paranoid about this because I was a little drunk.
You can’t tell in that photo, but I kept the small lion you purchased for me in my pocket all night, and in Danny’s I dropped it on the floor twice, and scrambled on my knees to find it. Kimmi helped. I brushed legs aside and searched the booze-soaked floor with my hands. I always recovered the lion. The lion swam awkwardly in my sweat-drenched jeans pocket, its claws in my thigh. We left Danny’s partly because we were hot, tired and hungry. The music was downbeat and low and unheard-of; there are others, I am sure, who would disagree. On Saturday morning Netha showed us pictures of Pine Ridge and Kimmi made coffee in these complicated ways. Lauren and I drove back in relative silence.
I put the lion beside the horse that was in the soap you got me for my birthday last year. Here is photo-documentation of their new friendship:
For this medium-shot, I removed the pumice stone for compositional purposes.
At a certain speed, the speed of light, you lose even your shadow. At a certain speed, the speed of information, things lose their sense. There is a great risk of announcing (or denouncing) the Apocalypse of real time, when it is precisely at this point that the event volatilises and becomes a black hole from which light no longer escapes. War implodes in real time, history implodes in real time, all communication and all signification implode in real time. The Apocalypse itself, understood as the arrival of catastrophe, is unlikely. It falls prey to the prophetic illusion. The world is not sufficiently coherent to lead to Apocalypse.
Nevertheless, in confronting our opinions on the war with the diametrically opposed opinions of Paul Virillio, one of us betting on apocalyptic escalation and the other on deterrence and the indefinite virtuality of war, we concluded that this decidedly strange war went in both directions at once. The war’s programmed escalation is relentless and its non-occurence no less inevitable: the war proceeds at once towards the two extremes of intensification and deterrence. The war and the non-war take place at the same time, with the same period of deployment and suspense and the same possibilities of de-escalation or maximal increase.
What is most extraordinary is that the two hypotheses, the apocalypse of real time and pure war along with the triumph of the virtual over the real, are realised at the same time, in the same space time, each in implacable pursuit of the other. It is a sign that the space of the event has become hyperspace with multiple refractivity, and that the space of war has become definitively non-Euclidean. And that there will undoubtedly be no resolution of this situation: we will remain in the undecidability of war, which is the undecidability created by the unleashing of the two opposed principles.
Soft war and pure war go boating.
—Jean Baudrillard, “The Gulf War: is it really taking place?”
Kickaways bass player Jacob had bought a new pair of jeans that very afternoon, black skinny jeans from Hot Topic, stretchy but not roomy. “They are really tight on my balls,” he said, plucking fabric away from his crotch.
My new pair of jeans kept me bow-legged and in the pub I worried I’d left on tags. It’s in these tender moments of fashion despair that I really miss my chador.
"These jeans were on sale, they have these disgusting ironed-on pleats, and I’m worried there’s a fucking sticker behind my knee," I said, brushing the dark canvas of my pockets.
Jacob and I took another moment to appreciate our new jeans.
Before the band got going, Adam took a plastic baggie and removed earplugs for his father, and he put in his own before sitting behind the drum kit. I think he could use a mouth guard for the wag of his tongue, and safety glasses, too, for the broken sticks. But that would not be rock and roll.
Adam crashes through performances with his mouth falling open like Saint Teresa in ecstasy; he snaps his hair back, bats through his hips and shoulders, boyishly consumed by the beat. If Jacob and Devyn anchor the band, pivoting in the stage space as two points on a crown, looking inwards at knobs and chords and pedals, mutely shouting to one another to settle distortions and brisk up the hum, the lo-fi fuss and hi-tech hiss, it is Austin gnashing at the mic and Adam kicking at the bass who first claim the territory. They take the seriousness of the crushing sounds and make them charming, they take the rush of the foaming chords and yield up their pleasures. It is this soft-gauze avalanche of energy that makes The Kickaways so sly and yes, so sexy.
The Dukes (another—quasi-rival—Cincinnati band) were fully present to show their support, and garbed in leather and mustaches, to evoke the many splendors of The Three Musketeers (1993).