Archive for the Dispatches Category

Workspace

Posted in Dispatches on May 29, 2019 by Magadh

Every now and then I like to post a picture of my workspace, partly to record for myself what I’m working on, and partly to give anyone who is interested an idea of what goes into the pot.

The Technological Plane

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2018 by Magadh

baud1“The technological plane is an abstraction: in ordinary life we are practically unconscious of the technological reality of objects. Yet this abstraction is profoundly real: it is what governs all radical transformations of our environment. It is even – and I do not mean this in any paradoxical sense – the most concrete aspect of the object, for technological development is synonymous with objective structural evolution. In the strictest sense, what happens to the object in the technological sphere is essential, whereas what happens to it in the psychological or sociological sphere of needs and practices is inessential. The discourse of psychology or sociology continually refers us to the object as apprehended at a more consistent level, a level unrelated to any individual or collective discourse, namely the supposed level of technological language. It is starting from this language, from this consistency of the technical model, that we can reach an understanding of what happens to objects by virtue of their being produced and consumed, possessed and personalized.”

Baudrillard, The System of Objects, 3

R.I.P. Fred Cole

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , on November 10, 2017 by Magadh

fred2I heard today that Fred Cole of the legendary Portland band Dead Moon had died of cancer. I regard this as a tragedy, but if I may be permitted to utter a bit of heresy I will say that I never liked Dead Moon all that much. They just kind of weren’t my thing. I saw them plenty of times in practically every state of mind (other than stone cold sober of course), but I never quite got the lo-fi magic that everyone else seemed to be tuning in to. That said, I will say that there are few people with whom I have crossed paths in music for whom I have so much respect, and perhaps that distance between the first thing and the second is worth a bit of comment.

It was hard to avoid Dead Moon if you came up in the underground scene in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s. It was Fred who handed me the first musical instrument I ever bought, a Gibson SG bass that he recommended because I was left handed and it would be easy to restring. He even showed me how to flip the nut so that the strings would fit right. All of this happened in the course of a twenty minute conversation at Tombstone Music out in Clackamas (after I’d spend an hour trying to find the place because it was on 82nd Drive, not 82nd Avenue). Anyway, it was useful advice, and he didn’t hiccup at the fact that, at that point, knew just about zilch about musical instruments or what to do with them.

I must have seen Dead Moon at the Satyricon twenty times at least. They had the feel of having being around forever, even though they really only formed in 1987. Now, to be 100% honest, I hung around the Satyricon a lot and wasn’t terribly picky about what I was seeing there. In point of fact, I saw The Mentors like three years running (they used to play every year around Christmas on their way up to Seattle), and please believe me when I say that I had no inclination to see them even one time. For me, Dead Moon was kind of like sonic wallpaper in an environment which I was naïve enough to think would never really change.

It never really occurred to me that anyone outside the Willamette Valley actually cared about them until one night in the 90s when a bunch of us were chatting with Dregen Borg after a Backyard Babies show at Satyricon. Someone asked him how they like Portland and he was like, “Yeah, we love Portland. Dead Moon are great!” That was pretty close to the time that I actually moved out of town, and by that point I was so wrapped up in black metal and its more obscure variants that I didn’t really have the space in my head to wind back the clock and revise my judgment.

Well, Fred is gone now and I wish him a happy trip to Valhalla or wherever the legendary rockers go. He had a commitment to doing things his own way, and he clearly never gave a damn about making big or any of the other bullshit trappings that come with playing music. He just went his own way, churning out dark country music recorded in mono. There is something in that fundamentally worth respect. There are and will be many imitators of that way of doing things, but one thing I knew about Fred was that it was a fundamental expression of who he was, and I salute another idol as he fades into the twilight.

Technics 1

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , on August 20, 2017 by Magadh

“Everything washes together into the uniformly distanceless. How? Is not this moving together into the distanceless even more uncanny than everything being out of place? The human is transfixed by what could come about with the explosion of the atomic bomb. The human does not see what for a long time now has already arrived and even is occurring, and for which the atomic bomb and its explosion are merely the latest emission, not to speak of the hydrogen bomb, whose detonation, thought in its broadest possibility, could be enough to wipe out all life on earth. What is this clueless anxiety waiting for, if the horrible has already occurred?

hydrogen

The horrifying is what transposes all that is out of its previous essence. What is so horrifying? It reveals and conceals itself in the way that everything presences, namely that despite all overcoming of distance, the nearness of that which is remains outstanding.”

Martin Heidegger, 1949

Spectacular Dispatches #2

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , on March 30, 2017 by Magadh

“The images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream in which the unity of that life can no longer be recovered. Fragmented views of reality regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudo-world that can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the world has culminated in a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the non-living.”

trumpism1The individualistic ideology of liberal capitalism functions as a superstructure for the fragmentation and isolation of human beings. But this fragmentary individualism operates dialectically with the world of collective images. No feature is so definitive of politics in postmodern mass societies as the centrality of images that create the illusion of integrated life. These images surpass and eventually replace the true.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks during the Republican presidential debate in Las VegasThe politics of Donald Trump (one hesitates to lend it coherence by designating it Trumpism) are predicated on the construction of a complex of stimuli coalescing into apparent coherenceThe utterances of Mr. Trump and his amanuenses weave together truth, rumor, and outright lies into a web the target of which is more affect than intellect.

trumpism2The creating of this spectacle is facilitated by the prevalence of infotainment, in process for at least half a century. The twenty-four hour news cycle created a need for the creation of ever greater volumes of content (although not substance), with sports punditry increasingly used as the structural model for political and social commentary. The sporting industrial complex has retrogenetically colonized the culture out of which it grew.

trumpism4Sporting events have cultural traction to the extent that they involve individuals in the narrative worlds of imagined communities. The insistence on referring to the fanbase of particular teams as “nations” seems ridiculous at first blush. But this is merely a function of the absurdity of nations as such, which does not practically diminish the capacity of such narratives to motivate mass human action, often with lethal consequences.

(Text from Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle drawn from Ken Knabb’s website)

 

Spectacular Dispatches

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , on March 25, 2017 by Magadh

“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.”

Spectacles are the purest product of zero marginal cost capitalism. Whereas in earlier times, capital was primarily engaged in the reproduction of itself through the production of material commodities, now it is spectacles that accumulate rather than (primarily) things. Spectacles constitute the reproduction of domination through the production of fascination and apathy. They can be reproduced and distributed in practically infinite quantities through the medium of networked societies. Spectacles have become the lifeblood of modern capitalism.

coffeeThe circuits of production of modern capitalism are maintained by a politics centered on the production of compliance. This is not to say that there was in the past some sort of golden age in which the sphere of the political was one of free and rational consideration of substantive matters relative to the organization of society and its resources. But Habermas was probably correct to note that there was a period from the late 17th century in which there were spaces wherein such rational considerations were given greater scope that at other times, at least for those positioned in social and gender terms to have access to them. This era of the rationally structured public sphere was fleeting in the long history of human societies.

rallyThis era of the rationally structured public sphere was fleeting in the long history of human societies. It was also functional to the maintenance of the political and economic order, at least in the respect that it provided a means for the rising bourgeoisie to exert intellectual influence on the post-absolutist orders of politics and production that they were creating. Beginning in the 1920s this mode of ideological organization came increasingly to be seen as insufficient to the increasingly turbulent political conditions of imperialistically segmented industrial and finance capital. It was in this era that the production of spectacles began to replace the production of ideas as the medium for preserving the domination of capital.

A Statement of Resistance

Posted in Dispatches with tags , on November 16, 2016 by Magadh

The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

Damn Donald Trump, the most loathsome combination of bullying and mendacity to afflict American politics for generations. Damn his circle of toadies and yes-men. Damn the Republican Party, whose toxic mix of cynicism and zealotry are making this happen. Damn the Democrats, who suck up to bankers and hedge fund managers and yet try to argue that they have the answers for the men and women left behind by neoliberalism. Damn the misogyny of the American electorate that determined that an obviously better qualified woman was less appealing that a preening, self-important buffoon with the right kind of junk.

baudrillard-1968

I’ve talked to a number of people who are seriously considering leaving the country. I can’t really blame them. I’m sufficiently conversant with the history of fascist regimes (especially National Socialism) to recognize that it’s too much that people breast the tide of violence and hatred with no way of knowing when it will end or how bad it might get. I, for one, am staying. I recognize that part of my willingness to do so is based on the fact that, as a heterosexual white male (and a property owner to boot) I am not in the line of fire in the way that women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and others are. Given all that, it’s still tempting for me (and for many others like me) to go into what used to be called in the era of Nazism “inner emigration.” Forget that. This stupid regime will not get my compliance, my silence, or any sort of concession that the klepto-fascist order that they seem intent on building is in any way normal or acceptable.

My family has been in this country since the revolution. Does that make me more American than anyone else? No, it does not. Quite the contrary. We have benefitted in so very many ways from the freedom ensured its democratic institutions. And if that freedom has not been open to all, as the stated ideals of the Constitution declare that it should be, then the burden weighs on us all the more. It is the responsibility of those of us in communities under less immediate threat to show solidarity with those for which the danger is greater. We can’t stand up for them, but we can stand with them and let them know that we refuse to acquiesce in their debasement.

Once, as a child, I asked my father why it was that he would always talk about the virtues of American democracy given that it so often failed to live up to them. “Because,” he told me, “those are ideals that we are aiming for. We’ll always fall short of them, But we have to remember that the ideals themselves are important because they give us a way to know if we’re headed in the right direction.” America has fallen so gravely short of her ideals in the past: in the era of slavery, of colonialism, and in its continuing marginalization of people of color, of women, and of sexualities that don’t “fit in”. Now, in the moment that those ideals are challenged, it is time to reaffirm them and to make the goal of building a just, non-exploitive society, that recognizes and practically affirms the dignity of all human beings regardless of race, gender, or sexuality a reality in the world.

There will be struggle in the months and years ahead. We are likely to be under heavy manners for quite some time, and much of the progress that was bought as such great cost of lives and effort in the 20th century will be lost. So be it. We are the fighters, the rebels, the ones who don’t fit. I address this particularly to those of us who came of age in the hardcore punk scene of the 1980s. In the years before the rise of bands like Green Day made punk domestic, acceptable, and profitable, we experienced things of which “normal” people never dreamed. We know what it is like to be out of step with society. But we also have amongst ourselves a wealth of knowledge and experience of building a culture outside the mainstream and of operating in adverse conditions. Let’s use it to take the fight to the enemies of civilization and to let them know that we have the strength to resist over the long haul.

Everyone is going to have to do their bit, and every little bit helps. Not everyone is comfortable marching in demos. Don’t worry. There’s a lot that you can do. Network, post on social media, contribute money to worthy causes, let people who are afraid know that you are looking out for them and that they are not alone. Authoritarianism works, to an important degree, by isolating its victims. Don’t be isolated. Don’t let others be. Know in your heart that generations before you resisted and carried on the struggle without knowing what the end would be. Have courage and be strong. The era of resistance starts today.

Magadh