on the privilege of trauma.

The night before last I spent five hours analyzing the semantic and performative contours of the phrase “as if” in-text. Tonight, I vacillate between secret applications on one imperious hand, and the abject denial of the pernicious contingency my last ex proved me right in inevitably being on an Other’s.

Accepting that second-guessing intelligence is more harmful than acquiescing to the truth of said intelligence’s brutally proven first nature in its first instance has a lovely indelible flavor, and a third hand is holding spectral position over this amazing Crown Heights studio I’ve enjoyed for two weeks. Nevertheless I remain ever-readied for a second move in two days, and I’m writing fiction like never before on yet another fucking hand, and I threw Anaïs Nin’s “trauma of privilege” motif out the frigid window with fully conscious glee, and I drink under a nomme de guerre with two-dimensional strangers.

I’m beginning to believe in the existence of an intermediary class of inauthentic extroverts, those who are really introverts, yet lack the commitment to follow through, and so make much better extroverts, digitally. No hate, no foul.

Don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be here right now.

I barely touch my social media accounts. It’s kind of exhilarating to imagine the emotional détournement everyone is copping on the hourly, perpetually fighting the urge to conflate their concrete situ with their self-produced produced-self.

But clearly it’s still worse to run from the acts one does, or continue metanarrating one’s failure to act from an abstract, presumably innocent position. My god, the casual ease of blaming one self for hurting oneself, while one freely switches between judge and accused.

In other words, I’m quite pleased with myself, and I know it. Apologies to most readers for the cryptic nature of this post, but look at your fucking clock. Look at it. Goodnight.

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mutually ensured solipsisms

The living room is lit in slight excess of what’s either needed or desired: two couches on old, uneven planks, facing one another like waves bracing for Brooklyn, separated by a brazenly tacky ellipsoid glass coffee table, covered in writing magazines and spent, overexposed polaroids.

Two wooden desks cup the far couch, one bare, the other with ornate carvings, full-bore patterned copper handles and candles, all extinguished since C’s old psychosis. A single wooden chair rests next to the metal-barred window to the rusting fire escape to Central Harlem. It’s eleven p.m., and Al Pacino’s slow mix of Mac DeMarco’s Chamber of Reflection plays out its somber affirmation, and the latter’s voice repeats the chorus: “alone, a better man, alone again…”

I am in here.

Having just finished the first pointless argument with his new gf, I feel somehow at home again in this meanness, a meanness that settles slowly, for weeks, behind the intersections of my minimally networked life as its said minimally networked connections begin to become not so minimal after all, begin to regain social affect; a meanness which does not exist when it grows, because it isn’t real, you see, it is only a reaction, an explosive, self-immolating shock wave, perpetuated by the degree to which my present, becoming self’s difference from the ideal, future-perfect selves extends. And they, them, being imaginary things, will not acquiesce to the present’s real demand for space, and so turn against the newest, least ingratiated self, my future-perfect selves do, but their motion is neither linear nor coordinated; they move against all knots of narrative, real or not, social or agential, giving their imaginary selves (N.B., sans reductio ad absurdum) a taste of reality by rejecting my present self’s request to be imagined, struck down from thought by their mutually ensured solipsisms, and so their movement becomes a perpetual vengeance machine: real because it tears by being torn apart, escaping their ideal world(s) by destroying their newest brother’s potential to not not be.

This is fire, burning what’s on its way down.

02.13.2015

Today my bag was stolen from 96th St in the upper west side. I suppose these things happen. Its contents were a tin water canister, a notebook, a scarf from Cambodia, French sunglasses, a bottle of ibuprofen, a book of poetry, a pencil I’ve owned since 2001, and my journal, which contained fragments of manuscripts, essays, personal thoughts, speculation and poetry. I sincerely hope whoever decided to take it performs a gestalt of reason on these contents, and concludes that he or she just stole from someone who was out to do something spectacular, but it’s almost certainly already in a garbage container by now, because there was no money in it.

I am trying to think of something profound to write in eulogy to these items, with my last modest spurt of energy, but it isn’t coming.

A part of me feels relieved, as my manual writings were becoming more theory and itinerant plans than actual passionate writing. Only half of the journal’s contents really seized their respective days. The rest were notes on others’ thoughts, and the depressive motions of a man in bad faith of a futile relationship. Maybe it’s for the best to forget my first few months in NYC. No record of beginnings really make a difference, because in retrospect, it’s during the middle and the end that the most profound recognitions occur, when the old habits break down and deconstruct, when one transforms and realizes he or she has already become an other, that the story actually comes to life.

But really, there was much to be unpacked that I wrote down … ideas i consented to forgetting because i wrote them down. Fuck. I’m going to have to re-research so many things. I feel so empty without it. My work and its media are obsessed with stoicism and buddhism right now, and it’s been getting on my nerves; as if I haven’t already practiced this. I don’t want to play mind games and trick myself into feeling better about the state of things. I want to go, go, go, move on and higher, and stop doubting how I feel. Of course no one needs to feel any different than they already do. I’m (ironically) a radical individualist. One can choose to remedy any set of emotions if they are an obstruction to extending a genus of ethical conduct, a flow of desire,  but one should never be forced to assuage one’s present body. However, you’ll suffer that,  regardless.

But moving on is all one can do in this situation. Damn. I’m so unattached to everything and everyone. Oh well, moving on …

I can’t stand only writing at night, when my mind’s spent and my imagination is asleep. Everything in this post feels so quotidian and uninspired, and that isn’t me. (PROGRAM …) This isn’t what it’s like to be around me. I can’t wait for this next job. Which one of the two awaiting me I cannot say.  that is up to the economy.

I suppose this blog will be my journal of the more profound kind, in the meantime. But I miss pen and paper. At least the screen lights itself, but still. Text is so fucking democratized and minimal on these flat dull screens. There’s no character, no mistakes turned semiotic tricks to play off as coy slips.

A few notes:

reactionary→i am so very tired of people of ordinary craft and creativity using SNS sites to document their self-sabotage. (I made it! I did it! I’ve achieved jouissance! it exists only for me,  and pretty soon it’s coming to destroy you,  too!)  … there should really be a public announcement illustrating the phatic nature of remediating gestalt-recognitions. It should begin with a soundless definition,  and conclude with examples of online socialites of ordinary craft being cross-examined by homeless geniuses (again, soundlessly), to reveal how irritatingly much desire the viewer discharges in he/r adoration of them.

spontaneity→time. work. sign. lit. revolution. open relationships. negative capability. indifference to public dissent/assent. art, genesis, concept. reading//writing. thought, thought thought. sleep.

02.13.2015→unedited fragments.

There is a trail of dried wax resting on this white wooden table in the dark. The only illumination is this computer’s light, vaguely outlining this old Harlem room. Recordings of thunder and rain fill this space with memories of more authentically introspective nights in the Midwest, back during a time when this writer could speak candidly about a soul’s eternal fate, in that contented intermission between love lost, social transgression and academia.

I am sitting in a broken chair, balanced into its upright position with one foot, held down by the weight of the other. Crumpled copies of my manuscript and notes dating back to 2011 litter the oak floor, and the drive to complete even a single essay escapes me. In seven hours I will be at work again, begging strangers for money on the streets of Manhattan, fighting to keep what thoughts I’ve summoned in the past few hours within reach.

Time is one’s greatest enemy. The internet only plays at democratic pluralism, only pretends to be free mediation. Without the space to write one’s own categorical imperative, free from social assent or dissent, one’s attention becomes fragmented, polyvocal, self-contradictory and unsound. Endless feeds of news, politics and art elicit only urgency, decadence and envy, respectfully. We are forced into ego-death, and redirected to the races, our “careers.” While it may be true that only moral (or immoral) action yields individuation, it is also true that the absence of non-political spaces precludes the formation of a stable ego.

In a completely politicized world, friendship becomes enmity with an other’s lack of correspondence with the completed, idealized other of one’s imagination. A series of images is organized and consolidated enough to resemble a whole, then it is renamed as such, as other; gestalt.

An anonymous quote has intrigued me as of late:

a man once said to himself, “so tell me, is it better to die?”

A man posits a transcendent, future-perfect self who is both oneself and who one will have been. He walks along a crack in the road, one hand over the sun, the other like a wing swinging down, looking down through imperfection, through the trace of his more earthly, contingent self’s mortality, and considers his fate from this distance.

It’s something everyone does. An absolute imago, totally sheltered and abstracted from the blinding uncertainty of the present. But it is also a deferment of the question. If there is a higher self to ask, then the question is senseless.

He whispers his name. He repeats it, he echoes. He thinks greek, and feels the pull from the other, the magical space of noumenal intuition Kant posited between the phenomenal and the political, so he’d ‘know’ what was right.

isolation is a cold, epoch-producing machine. it brackets causality, it removes the castrating effect of proper use endemic of the term social. if Dostoevsky lived today, he would agree with Zizek that if there is no God, then everything is prohibited.  We cannot act how we’d like to because there is no afterlife, no future-perfect to which we can defer our complicity, and delay our need to make amends.

time is one’s greatest enemy, not in the senseless way of lacking a requisite quantity or duration, but because it has been pulled down to us, in our hyper-mediated world. it drives us through so many frames of reference that we can no longer project it in any other way but how it wants us to. there is no era. there is no tribe. there is no season, no history. only statistical analyses and quantified jouissance.

when tomorrow finally comes to stay, perhaps yesterday will finally make good, and all of us will face Hegel’s Divine Day, present, game-free, unmythologized, undetermined and unavowed. breathing, divining, shining into one another’s eyes, we will cease to posit “me,” and exist as the future does: for one-self, in the future anterior, the origin of all past repetitions.

01.24.2015→much later, with sun

I’m settling in for a few weeks of the most mortifying work I can imagine, in any town. I don’t even want to say what it is. I think prostitution is the next step down.

the New York economy is onerous!

I read another blog’s latest post earlier today, and it reminded me of a distinct difference in social relations between asia and the states–respectability: in the east, I was basically a demigod wherever I went. Except for the few who’d already made names for themselves by establishing cultural capital (bands, art fests, interdisciplinary performance troupes, etc), most expats were predominantly reduced to nervous, flattering and attention-seeking behavior.

Oh, how sad I was back then.

I’ve entered this strange stasis, now, trapped between two mutually exclusive outlets: this awful job as my only means for survival, and my writing. The latter’s been difficult for the past day, seeing as this caribbean wake upstairs connotes 9 hours of bongo-bashing per night. jesus. my roommate’s ceiling is coming apart. whoever passed had better be up to some serious bliss.

I am writing three pieces, two of which are due next week:

the first is an essay on the notion of future anterior in psychoanalysis. the most compatible experiences to employ as examples are trauma and love. oh boy.

the second is my SF piece. I’m submitting an excerpt from the novel, but I need to expand it, sharpen the dialogue, insert some psychosomatic and etymological play, take advantage of the use-mention antinomy, et al.

They’re just for contests, but hell it would be really nice to receive a $4000 grant, work-space, free workshops and two public readings. Talk about a different world. There are a thousand ways I can rip myself apart about where I am, the life I presently endure, who I can and cannot talk to, my lack of progress in pretty much everything compared to upper-middle-class writers of ordinary craft and solid capital. whatever happened to the days of the bum genius? i am in serious need of a 21st century beat movement.

but the saddest thing I guess is how my friends have interpreted their recognition of my recent housing//financial//emotional woes as proof of character weakness, and transferred that recognition to something more specific and personal. my competence as a writer. because, you know, if i were smart 

I guess one learns who one’s true friends are through such ordeals. The sad thing is it was all of them.

I said tabula rasa, but I didn’t mean ex nihilo…I still have needs! Ugh.

I find myself fantasizing encounters with people I’ve hardly known, and maybe met once, as if my subconscious doesn’t even know what to do with my body anymore. In another time and place it would be funny, but I’m subletting my room to a couple, a happy, young couple in their late teens. I will be on the couch, working on the cold streets nine hours a day, five days a week.

Hopefully, something will change for the better, someday, somehow, eventually…

a tardy review of a show at yoko and a critique of expat cultural production that earnestly reads like a rather dated cry for better abstract expressionism

the review      

Stepping into the redesigned Yoko, I greet the doorman with a nod, and look up. A skyline of stolid silhouettes jerked to unsyncopated rhythm, pulsing with each tremolo scratch. The experimental pastiche is pulling their heads forward in random cycles, as if some monstrous question were being exorcised from the audience. Hanging off of the white walls are comic-portraits of John Lennon, Kurt Cobain and the like, each framed with a single-served quote-to-enlightenment.

Everything is black, or blue from the artist’s five meter runway of synthesizers and record players. I look up to see the introvert’s nest I remember retreating to last year. Empty space has replaced the loft.

fitting

fitting

I also notice an apparently non-functional A/C. Take a deep breath. The air is thick, watered down. I can smell bodies, perfumed and not. Also, whiskey? From the entrance, the bar’s bland white fluorescent light spills over more silhouettes in the far-out right. The customers stand there, no cash in hand. I continue up the stairs and navigate through a plethora of pillars decorated with woven wood-urns, dying candles and brand-new ashtrays. Conspicuous cosmopolitan eyes guide me to the menu. It’s as thick as a magazine, all done up and gleaming with the white light’s reflection. Unfortunately, perhaps pretentiously, the beer is 69K VND and up. Oh well, I thought, there’s cheap beer across the street and as long as I look beneficially busy, no one will object to externally purchased booze. I decide to splurge and buy a G&T (120K). The servers speak English fairly well, although it took an awkward exchange to learn that my Viet-accented English was unnecessary.

After several “excuse me’s” and bright-eyed smiles, I hugged my German Viet-kieu friend at the front of the crowd and saw the spectacle I’d come for.  It took a few seconds for me to realize why Yoko had changed. Or rather the kind of venue it might become. On the screen, images of average Saigon sights; xe oms, food stands, and other small businesses. I began to wonder why only businesses with no upward or downward momentum were chosen.

not yoko, but the feeling's parallel

not yoko, but the feeling’s parallel

As my thoughts began to dive into postindustrial squalor, the image was cut out, piece by piece, and lines of static appeared at the top and bottom. Imagine an old VCR fast-forwarding long enough to achieve sentience. A rainbow of colors and fractal effects begin to fill the bodies, overwriting them one organ at a time. The next few minutes feature traditional Viet hats resting on a Fibonacci sequence resting on a hoodie proclaiming “USA #1.”

This show wasn’t just entertainment; it’s a reproduction of a city casually reinterpreting its place in a possibly non-mutual consummation with neo-colonial markets. A regular cannibal’s Babel, Yoko is. Two obligatory femme fatals shook their stuff to the left of the screen, baiting me to join in. A tall blond man to my right smiles and gives me a thumbs-up, nodding, to dismiss any doubt. But before I could bite, the projector switched functions, and suddenly the crowd was displayed on screen: silhouettes of static noise, fractals and bubbles pushing and melting into everyone’s crossed arms. Only the girls moved like the screen. Everything was scratches with velvet and perfume. A dolly shot of five ambiguous bubble-shadows standing in a semicircle. The girls and their go(o)ds. Scene.

the critique

Bringing experimental noise music into a venue like Yoko, where the object of the show is either to dance or talk, creates the same familiar paradoxes accompanying entertainment universally. Here you have long, Wagnerian moans and pulls laced with absolutely spontaneous tremolo scratches and effects generally not heard above the radio spectrum. But still those scantily clad femmes’ goods were shaking to their best guess of a rhythm.

Anticipating the crowd’s response, the DJs gradually alter the soundscape until some base rhythm achieves a veritable omnipresence. But why? My contention is that they have three at-hand choices on stage, or three ways to respond to the polemic of production. Giving the artists the benefit of the doubt (in that they are not putting on a show only for fame and fortune, but actually have something to express), there are three kinds of audience members:

i) the avant garde, listening not to be entertained, but to study, interpret, travel-with, suffer; listen.

ii) the entertainers, who analyze the production for value alone, be it financial or sexual.

iii) the entertained, who cheer or jeer only in conjunction with passing levels of jouissance or alienation, note with this last group, their actions have less to do with the production than with their happiness.

These three types are not rigid in the sense of being composed of the same individuals at all times-there is always the contingency of psychological transformation or perturbation. and there’s death.

But so the question begged is: which audience do the DJs play to? Are they purists, abstaining from the cupidity of entertainment and shock-value in full fidelity to artistic expression? Perhaps, but then, if they really are there for the art alone, and bland bloodless repetition for entertainment’s sake is the abject, then those of us poor fools suckered into one of the last two categories (and i’m fully aware of the religious irony here) must be saved.

But here they realize in order to save us from blind entertainment, in order to overcome entertainers, they must Entertain. This is already weird enough to signify some sort of cyberpunk continence. In order to hold the entertainers in a symbolic chain capable of eschewing business par usual, to Rising Above Entertainment, the producers (if avant garde) must keep the girls’ goods swaying, keeping the entertained profitably distracted, leaving the entertainers’ minds in a good space to Listen.

From what space-or continence or whatever-can someone really Listen? A place where they are willing to be (although not necessarily always are) beside his-or-herself. An element of amnesia is required, but this must be one of forgetting the short-term hyperactive emotional affirmation of the now (à la Dionysus); the entertaining quality of the production must not rely on happiness, or any quick derivation of some other easily triggered emotion.

the production must induce amnesia of something

The entertained must be just that (i.e. entertained) until the entertainers forget their existence as such, in favor of a deeper, more impassioned self, willing to experience anything-even boredom, for the sake of experiment and expression (or to speak Sartrean, transcendence). Since the entertainment of the entertained is primary, the production must first induce amnesia of the drawn-out, big-self identity that the artists, the avant garde-is always striving to be.

the production must cloak the producers

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for “d’auteur”

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