Monday, July 5, 2010

Hold Fast

Acute pressures from multiple spheres (personal, professional, intellectual, activist) are converge into one rapidly approaching zero point. I have only myself to rely on at this point: the time spent studying Badiou's distinction between heroism and courage in between endless listenings of metal anthems lionizing steadfast resolutness in the face of crisis has just been preparation for putting the analysis and critique on hold while I get down to business. Alright, then, here we go.

Oh, hi down there!

And since my iPod is brokified, which for me is akin to having my fellow athiest-in-a-foxhole abandon post at the first sign of a firefight, I've been subsisting on the same cultural effluvia as before, with the exception of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï, Hithcock's Strangers on a Train, and Sophie Fienne/Slavoj Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, none of which are portable, which is for the best when you really think about it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Run the Numbers

Likelihood that I will attempt to watch a movie after coming home mashed, alone: 25%

Likelihood that I will attempt to watch a movie after coming home mashed, with friends: 95%

Likelihood that I will make it through said movie in either scenario: less than 1%

Oh well. I guess you only really need to see the first 20 minutes of Suspiria to appreciate it anyway.

"I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man. I certainly don't to justify myself to anyone about this. I don't care what anyone things or reads into it. I have often had journalists walk out of interviews when I say what I feel about this subject."
- Dario Argento

Daily bread: Andrew Potter and Joseph Heath - The Rebel Sell, Slavoj Zizek - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Future of the Left - Curses and Travels With Myself and Another, Drudkh -Microcosmos, Twilight - Monument to Time End, Discordance Axis - Jouhou, Archers of Loaf -Icky Mettle, Dario Argento - Suspiria

Friday, June 18, 2010


I have two half-written polemics to be posted on this blog that I can’t motivate myself to finish, even though I feel strongly about the subject matter. The reason for my apprehension is as simple as it is jarring (at least it is for me): I simply don’t want to engage in a critical reflection today - I want something beautiful. I don’t want to give up my criticality, but I do want to reflect a bit on what it means.

I’m interested in locating the intersection of political, economic and cultural forces that drive social phenomena, investigating in particular how these forces are shaped by, and shape, space. In the tradition of my intellectual forebears, these sort of investigations involve a lot of critique. Critique and critical reflection often seem negative – this is wrong, that must be changed, and so on – but, in the grand tradition of Enlightenment thought (which, ironically, I am often critical of), critique is designed to be either transcendent of its subject or to elucidate possible transformations of its subjects in order to improve the subject’s condition. For the sake of example, if we critique a certain local government’s policy, the whole objective of pointing out its flaws is to sketch out ways that the local government’s policy could be improved. It’s no coincidence that the subtitle of Marx’s Capital is A Critique of Political Economy: Marx pointed out the failings, inconsistencies and contradictions of capital in order to create the groundwork for a more just and stable mode of social organization. Capital was meant to be ten volume set, with volumes towards the end of the set to be dedicated to finding the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Unfortunately for us all, Marx only really completed the first volume of Capital (volumes two and three were drafts edited and completed by Engels), and so we have been left to pick up the pieces from where the master left off, and figure out what a better, post-capitalist world might actually look like, and how it might function.

Adorno: good at figuring out what is wrong with art, popular culture and the relationship between people and capital, bad at seeing anything positive in anything, ever.

Our search begins with critique. We critique the undialectical straightjacket of modern science and its cloak of pseudo-objectivity, yet an alternative to the contemporary scientific method remains elusive. We critique the structural mechanics of capital, especially in its neoliberalized, free-market form, but alternative modes of economic organization lack the clarity and simplicity of capital exchange and monetary valuation, which David Harvey correctly points out are perhaps the only universally understood measuring stick for value. Critiques of the unjust and exploitative power relations that shape the world economy are as convincing and affecting as ever (in particular see Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums), and yet these power relations remain obdurate, for the simple reason that the world economy requires immiseration and poverty in order to discipline labour and establish fertile conditions for competitive locational advantage and Schumpeterian “creative destruction”. In sum: Marxian critiques of cultural, political and economic formations are often accurate in pointing out their failings, but what often seems missing is the transcendent end of critique, with a vision of a better world in mind.

David Harvey wrote in Spaces of Hope something to the effect of “a ship that knows not where it sails can make no use of the wind”. I am a firm believer in this. What is the point of criticality if it isn’t driving us towards a better world? What is a better world – more personal gratification? Economic stability? Social justice? In effect, what is point of understanding all the failings of capital if there is no understanding of love, death, sex, religion, family, or communication? As the elder Marcuse succinctly put it, “not every problem someone has with his girlfriend is necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production”.

And so we come to beauty. I won’t take this time to try and figure out what it is, or how my conception of beauty is shaped (Pierre Bourdieu, you and I can have that conversation another time), but I am slowly coming to the realization that I need to take more time to appreciate it. There are significant hardships awaiting us if we don’t significantly change the architecture of our collective politico-economic sphere, but these changes are meaningless unless I/you/we understand what we are changing for. This is a deeply philosophical quandary, and not one that I can answer at the moment with any sense of depth or profundity, but I do know this: I am taking some time, possibly the rest of this summer, to try and understand how my ideals of beauty are formed, and experience this beauty in the fullest. This will probably involve making a lot of mistakes and doing things that I know on a rational level to be kind of foolish, but, you know, sometimes even I have to give myself a break.

Last night I attended a fundraiser for Comrad Sound, a small local arts/community development centre in danger of closing. The fundraiser was packed full of energetic, intelligent, enthusiastic people of a variety of demographics. It was beautiful.

Other beauties: David Cross – Bigger and Blackerer, Wolf Parade – Expo 86, Angels of Light – Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home and split with Akron/Family, Washed Out – Life of Leisure, Karl Polanyi – The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Tom Waits – Bone Machine, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Kurt Vonnegut – Armageddon in Retrospect, Earth – Hex; Or, Printing in the Infernal Method, activism

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My life has been strange lately; a weird combination of monastic retreat and jubilent extroversion, personal growth and personal loss, total eagerness and crushing ennui. As always, I've tried to keep myself busy in order to distract myself from the losses and solitude, but these things have a habit of catching up to me. Still, I think about the future a lot. It's almost all I think about: the ten million things I want to experience, achieve, and accomplish. It is both my opiate and my stimulant, a wellspring exuberance and a font of melancholy. (It's also potentially a source of all of this pseudo-romantic prose, but that's another matter altogether)

In my latest bout of - nausea? angst? melancholy? - I stumbled across a copy Walter Benjamin's On the Concept of History, which I had meant to read for a while and never really got around to. It's mystical and passionate, even if parts of it are totally opaque to me. His ninth thesis, however, has struck me, and I've included it below.

"A Klee drawing named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."
- Walter Benjamin

I think this passage reflects the overall pessimism of the Frankfurt School, and it's hard not to think of negative dialectics and an inescapably grim historical materialism while reading this passage, which are not things I am prepared to totally buy. I also think that sometimes it's hard not to imagine myself/ourselves as being similarly hurtled forward through time by a force so inexorable and violent that it precludespossibility of meaningful change, and you/I/we are left with nothing to do but fixate upon the ruins piling up at our feet at a mounting pace.

It is 12:20 pm, May 19th 2010. It feels like it's about to rain. I am waiting for a train bearing a friend who will be late for a meeting that might not happen. I am working at a job that has been a learning experience, but has been spiritually exhausting. It is a limited tenure, but I have found out that I may be able to extend my contract for another year. Maybe. I need the money. I am beating my wings against the fury of an incoming storm and I am not sure how it will turn out.

Stay tuned.

Substance: Arkhon Infaustus - Orthodoxyn, Watain - Sworn to the Dark and Casus Luciferi, Busta Rhymes - When Disaster Strikes, Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter - The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed, Ernest Hemmingway - The Sun Also Rises, Japanther - Rock n' Roll Ice Cream, LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last night in the apartment I've spent two years living in with Ana. These have been the two happiest/most productive years of my life. No time to think about that, for now - just have to finish a paper for a grad seminar in the next few hours (somehow), pack (somehow), and move tomorrow (somehow).

I have friends helping me move tomorrow. I decided I needed to buy some beer for my labourer friends, because beer is the universal unit of exchange for labour power. Digging through my stuff I found my old skate, put on some Suicidal Tendencies, and skated down the block to buy some beer, and somehow, against all odds, I reversed the ageing process by no less than four years.

Gateways: Suicidal Tendencies - S/T, Dissection - Storm of the Lights Bane, Liars - Sisterworld, Natural Snow Buildings - The Snowbringer Cult, Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury, Gang Starr - Daily Operation

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So Busy, So Bored

So many deadlines approaching, and yet, with all the work I have to do I somehow find myself doing this. I should be reading critical theory and writing about urban social movements, but instead I find myself raiding friends of friends via Facebook and lurking on various electronic nonplaces. Sure, it sounds glib, but I grew up in a suburb, and spent a lot of time playing video games, isolating myself, hanging out on message boards, reading alone. I'm used to the idea of
boredom, but somehow still haven't found a way to be bored without being self-destructive. Maybe a little bit more time in this room with no windows will help? Maybe not.

Yeah, whatever.

Marching to the beat of: Gang Starr - Daily Operation, A Grave With No Name - Mountain Debris, Jodi Dean - Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies, Failures - 1st LP, Atlas Sound - Logos, Lustmord - [O T H E R D U B], some black metal bullshit, disappointment

Monday, April 12, 2010

Get Sad

I just stumbled across this wonder. I've listened to And We Parted Ways on Mt Jade about 15 times in under and hour and a half (the other time was spent listening to the other two songs intermittently). I don't have any money, I can barely afford to eat, and I can't go to the University's year end student party on Friday because I have to work (so I can eat). I haven't been to that party since 2005. I am feeling old: not in that shitty, "my body is giving out on me" way, because let's face it, I'm only 24 (and even I need to give myself a break sometimes), but I feel like my youth has slipped away, and I've lost all my excuses to be reckless and carefree, although then again, maybe I was never that reckless and carefree? Maybe I've always been as scared as I am right now?

It's April 12th, 2010, and it's 10:00pm. I am sitting in a brightly lit computer lab with no windows doing something I hate, listening to sad music, thinking about last summer, my future, comic books, my brothers, how I'm too old to live but too young to die, and I swear on everything that I hold sacred that I can smell rain right now.