Black Helicopters


Origins and Primitives

Following the long-awaited example of a close friend (a nod to you, Allison Gray), I’m trying to make something more of this enterprise.  A largely-pathetic combination of things leads me to keep myself from this sort of writing.  To begin with the most banal and late-capitalist of these: poor time management.  But also indifference; self-obtuseness (“writer’s block”); lack of some “event” to narrate (the most tired conceit in the book); pretentious disdain (“Beckett would never have blogged”), and so on.    Recently, Lauren Berlant construed her own process of post-writing in terms of the post being the tracking of a moment in the process of thinking about, of approaching, a particular problem.   She begins:

My posts take forever to write, because they are trying to–my fingers want to type “to survive a genre,” but I meant to say “to invent one,” and that says it all about where I live. But the long duration also comes from the ways that a “post” is a mnemonic genre of its own, a recording of an instance in the pursuit of a problem. What would I need to understand to shift around this thing?

I would make the claim that Berlant, through her research blog, is indeed inventing a genre, or making a signal contribution to such an invention, but what I really like her is her impulse to type about surviving a genre.  What she gets up to at Supervalent Thought constantly pushes against the banality, the self-serving-ness, the plain egocentric idiocy of the new genre  Put more simply: her ideas are too big for a blog, and the blog forum almost serves to cheapen them.  Berlant’s explorations are typically the purview of the academic book or journal (and, indeed, the blog functions as a device for tracking Berlant’s composition of her next book, Detachment Theory):  They don’t belong here!

These (social networking sites, on-the-spot updates as to whereabouts and engagements, vehicles of “self-publication”) are the spaces in which we inexcusably indulge ourselves, “express” ourselves (shoot me in the face), and monitor ourselves and our fellows in a way that seems not-so-vaguely of a piece with totalitarian systems of control.  (Not to mention what undergirds all this: the tacit assumption that anyone else does, or ought to, give one iota of a shit.)  Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter compellingly picks up on this last point in a recent interview with the Guardian:

Has he been liberated by the advent of caller ID, or email, or SMS? Do those things make him more communicative?

“Yes, but it hasn’t changed my general attitude. You know these situations: you’re talking to somebody, and everybody’s on different platforms all the time, so nobody’s really concentrating.”

What he says next is probably not intended as his verdict on Twitter – a Kraftwerkian development, if ever there was one – but it may as well be. “Everybody is becoming like … ” – he pauses – “a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends.”

What makes Berlant’s blog so successful, so vital, such a pleasure and a challenge to read–as well as such a radical departure from blogging as such–is also what renders it a dialectical exercise: its persistently auto-critical mode, its unceasing investigation into its own conditions of possibility, its fluidity and its fidelity to both conjecture and conjuncture, the hazard of an initial inquiry, the fleeting encounter or witnessing or casual observation that begins an investigation (be it philosophical, ethical-moral, political, or otherwise) and the longer duration that is the sustained act of thinking itself.   And so I think that Berlant’s initial impulse, to write something about survival, is a pivotal one.  I’m trying not to think of it as banal to ponder blogging-as-genre as something to remain ahead of, in excess of; something, perhaps, to be invented and survived simultaneously.

***

In intergalactic news, the Psychic Paramount absolutely fucking killed it in a post-1 a.m. set at Santo’s Party House last Wednesday night.  The heaviest parts of This Heat’s Peel Sessions tapes (see the second clip below) cranked to exhilarating, hemorrhage-inducing volume.  The comparison PP fetches to This Heat is really the only appropriate one, and it is, in certain important respects, lacking:  for example, PP generate far more anxiety than dread through the sheer volume at which they perform, and they have virtually no “quiet” parts in any of their songs (some notable exceptions are to be found on the collection of guitarist Drew St. Ivany’s four-track recordings, released on No Quarter as Origins and Primitives Volumes I+II).  But in terms of three people being in absolutely perfect, if punishing, communication with one another, This Heat is the only precursor that comes to mind.  The Psychic Parmount are, in many ways, the best band in New York.   A day or so after the show, I remarked to a friend my desire to see them play once a day, though to do so would quickly cause serious aural damage.  And part of the excitement they generate in me has to do with the paucity of live shows they put on.   But, these days, it’s become lamentably rare for me to see a band whose live show does not, in some way, smack of artifice or laziness or pastiche.  (The greatest exception to this is and will remain Lungfish, though it’s doubtful I’ll ever see them again.  Another, from just this past weekend, is Richard Bishop.)  The Psychic Paramount deliver an experience that is sublime in a Burkean sense: borne out of a sense of terror, “productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling,” etc.