This will be my first actual email on Substack. I am figuring out what form these things might take as I go along, so please bear with me. I envision these newsletters as being little morsels presenting the work of my subjective wonderings and in some way crystallizing the thinking that I do compulsively. It’s for me but also most definitely for you.
There’s nothing like new media to make you think very hard about why you’re writing something. And why get into small talk? Let’s get meta. It’s just me, so I’ll ask: is the growing decentralization of media a good thing? The fact that podcasts of a thousand varieties create little intimate bubbles all over the globe means that the distribution of art, of opinions, is already so changed and that art is starting to change. People can have whatever texture they like textured straight to their brain with ASMR. Journalists follow the shape of their ego to unmediated newsletters straight from home.
Recently, walking through Queen Elizabeth park in Vancouver—under a sky that is illuminated at night to a color that one could describe as bruised or milky-grey in the way that the water for cleaning paintbrushes becomes—I was discussing this with a friend, especially the effects of podcasts. As the social fabric fractures into thousands, millions, of fandoms and little bubbly worlds, “chambers,” will the view of reality that is already so threatened by fabrication and “fake news” suffer more? Or have we always had our personal Jesuses in different stages of our individual lives to talk to us while we wash dishes, while we sit alone at home? Is hyper-individualized media an improvement on prayer? in that is it edifying? Or is it just doing for aural media what the explosion of the novel form and printing technologies did for the written word? Big questions. No real answers. Only contribution.
As far as the socially distributive potential of payment models and Patreon and crowd-funding goes, I was disturbed in that direction by a meme I saw the other day, saying how the Gofundme model has moved from fun, craft-based support to full on mutual aid, replacing government subsidy.
I for one think that our post-industrial moment needs more centralized solutions, and that the further splintering of desires, dreams, and nodes of connection do us a disservice. On the mutual aid systems that rose up after the tide of the French Revolution faded into the First Empire, Marx wrote in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,”
“[the Proletariat] partly throws itself upon doctrinaire experiments, “co-operative banking” and “labor exchanges” schemes; in other words, it goes into movements, in which it gives up the task of revolutionizing the old world with its large collective weapons and on the contrary, seeks to bring about its emancipation, behind the back of society, in private ways, within the narrow bounds of its own class conditions, and consequently, inevitably, fails.”
For Marx, setting up little networks within communities as the solution, as opposed to interface with the big things like Nation, State, and Class, was the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand. I don’t think this criticism carries over to the present, and decentralized solutions may be all we can do to try and patch up the alienation and technicolor doom n’ gloom. At any rate, if my newsletter ever makes it big and I start charging the proverbial BIG BUCK, maybe remind me of this digression.
The travel agents scream over their headsets; all the flights are booked. Hotels are full to capacity. “The binge” they are calling it. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago people were imagining a local street viewed upside down as some Parisian alley or that a radio tower viewed through the tree upside down gave them an impression of Berlin. No, travel has resumed rabidly. Think Black Friday meets Venice in June. Flight attendants are running out of ways to tell the passengers there are no more peanuts and the ice machine is broken. They, the passengers, imagine these objects shiny and unused. There is a general uproar.
The Great Wall is crowded with sun burns, with stuffed pockets, and sneakers. Squeezed in too tight, people start to pop off and over the sides. There are mud slides at Machu Picchu and at the Parthenon. Hotels begin to find socks all over the hallways, trailing out into the street. Buttons burst from shirts like shrapnel, and reports of massive welts, even a bleeding eye, come in. Whole families, whole towns are jostling to step on to the board walk and out onto the beach. There are no spots between the towels. People are having a hard time touching each other. But they want more and more so every scene is like a bag of batteries, so many different pulsions: stares, recoils, wrath. All lost in the twirl of cash and dates.
Satisfied shopkeepers sit back as their wares fly off the shelf. The quiet city people bite their nails as they see the roads chipping away. Garbage prevails. Little Sally tries to pick up a flower from between the bricks of crumbling Roman wall but is swamped by photographers; she is lost in the flashes.
What are they looking for?
I published an article in the online journal Blue Labyrinths about the logic behind the science fiction action film Tenet by Christopher Nolan. I used the article as a way of talking about subjective time, the philosophy of technology, and to poke general fun at Nolan whom I see as a humorous figure and probably an unintentional bellwether for fraught narrative tendencies in our culture.
You can find the article here:
I recommend giving it a read if you like Mark Fisher-style film criticism or jokes about super self-serious people.
That’s it for this one. Let me know what you like, what you didn’t and thanks for reading. Talk soon.