The Good, The Bad, and The Riotous Canine

Time for a remake, indeed.  (Song is "The Ecstasy of Gold" from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, not from Once Upon a Time in the West, though.)

However, give Loukanikos a Bronson harmonica, and we're there...


machina multa minax minitatur muris

A giant machine that terribly threatens walls

(from the Annals of Quintus Ennius)

Archer and arched bleed alike

Insurrection, which does not exist, that's the point, is a diagonal cut away.  A double-headed arrow, which wounds both the archer in the act of drawing back and the target when it falls.  There's correspondence, but its other term, what it was the pejorative bastard cousin of  - what we used to call revolution - isn't there, and definitely not as some haunted absence or trace.  It's relation without a relative, adrift in the black, but stepping down and out.  Hypotenuse of the knight's move.

That or the tired, somewhat strategic erasing of other words left on the board after an early morning section, with the end result of a two-bit Richter painting.

Further proof we're still living in the times of Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition

The gusher will be choked to death by a "top kill," in which heavy mud and cement will be shoved down the throat of the blown-out well.

It's true I could serve coffee using my rear as a ledge (Jennifer Lopez)

[Two statements witnessed side by side on a TV playing in a bar]

Arctic infestation (On Frankenstein, secession, anti-social zones, and creeping life)

Forget nature, forget the sublime.  It has nothing to do with a Gothic-bent refraction of individual melancholy, ontological horror, anxiety about having to face up to the bare fact of sex come your wedding night.  As if the stain of the psyche means that every house is old, dark, and creepy, each mountain snow-clad and backlit.  All sentences laborious and baroque.

Frankenstein is the choice of auto-exile, secession.  For the world doesn't darkly warp to match its marked subject.  Not claustrophobically bound to it, escapeless and swerveless, all under the shadow of two beings: the unholy affront to the natural order and the one who disowns it as such.  And yet the world isn't malignant as a whole nor even with nasty pockets and ruptures of the brutal where it doesn't belong.  No.  The normal, the sunny, the populated, the generative, the familial, the social: it's all still there, and it marks a wide band in which all things fall (even to the point that your wretched Luciferian creature will wage his war on you there, on the terrain of the family, and, above all, on your wedding night when you're supposed to finally stop fucking around with dead bodies and start fucking around with a live one).  And it can only be left behind actively.  You don't stray down the wrong hallway, open a door, and suddenly, there's unholy terror lurking all along, infecting the day.  Rather, Victor and creature alike search ceaselessly for literally anti-social sites, totally inhuman zones, to create a correspondence between subject and terrain that isn't there to start.  In exile I belong.

They're frantic for the empty and dull, to exit the "neighborhood of man," and the task of making of another - a perfect wretch - from the scraps of this leaden social world is caught in such an exile's failure, a initial version to pull away from family and friends while doing "research."  The full bloom of misanthropy that emerges in the war against humanity, to "glut the maw of death," the anti-social, takes first form in, and ultimately regresses back to, this more basic notion of the misanthrope as the loner, the asocial.  So too geographically, as the dead birth of the creature occurs midway between the desert (where the creature and his potential mate will go to breed) and the arctic (where Victor and the creature will go to die).

The desert where nothing grows, the arctic where decay slows to a crawl.

Why, then, does Victor destroy the wretch's potential mate, after having already made/corpse-montaged her in full?  Victor explains:

Even if they were to leave Europe, and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the dæmon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?

Two things.  First, Victor has been pretty hellbent on inflicting curses, given his utter unwillingness to accept not just his complicity (oh no, I played God, albeit in good faith, and now I can't stop this thing I made) but active driving of the situation into its catastrophic pitch (I will treat you so inhumanly that the only response possible is to fully become the monster I've demanded you be).  Perhaps he has no right, but that doesn't stop him from inflicting, and cultivating masterfully, a curse that until now has remained unwilling to lash out beyond the minor, closely-inscribed circle of Victor's social world (even as such a world has been, for Victor, crushingly burdened with the thickness of the bourgeois social world per se, in which every personal decision functions against the backdrop of all norms, in which maybe not really wanting to raise a family with your cousin becomes a perverse affront to the very category of family).

Second, the slippage between the existence of the species and the existence of discrete instances of that species, between "the human race" and "some humans."  What's elided in his comment, in the escape toward the species as a whole, is the fact that the very condition of existence is, for the vast majority of the world,  precarious and full of terror. (A condition that describes nothing so well as that of the creature itself.)  Should the general grounding condition of human existence come to be precarious and terrifying, via its opposition to a hostile counter-species, it would only mean that the definition now closely matches the reality of its instances.  That the conditions of the human are no longer predicated upon the conditions of existence for a minority, whose minoritarian and elite status requires a mode of existence for the wretched rest that will necessarily mark them as beyond the pale, lagging behind, degenerated, or surplus of the worst kind.  Victor, one of the few "humans" (i.e. not precarious and terrified), has to make a choice to make it the case: he willfully produces an existence, through the construction of one existent thing, that will extend a rippling, staining, corrupting precarity through the hard work of declaring something to belong to nothing and nowhere.

To belong anywhere other than the no man's land, that is.

For the actual terror at stake, the conditional terror, and the destructive urge to dismantle the recently assembled bride, are necessarily tied to the first horror of the creature's coming alive.  Given all the messy, gory work that's gone into it and a real familiarity with the face and body of it (you built it, for fuck's sake), we just don't buy the shock at having made something unholy, that the trespasses against the chain of being are visible in the scabrous, cracking smile.  No.  It is vacancy under attack and the the threat of social, domestic, mediated experience filling that necrological blank slate.  The entreating glance up at Daddy, then coming to hang out, a lumbering mass of non-knowledge, and you suddenly realize that all your blasphemy, all your labor of escaping the realm of productive labor, of generation itself, insisting not on development from scratch but montage from scrap: it's all going to be the same old thing, again, the same cycles of prohibition and shame, disappointment and playing nice.  The ultimate flight from the realm of the social, the oikos and polis alike, into a vicious, spiteful, remarkable form of waste management won't be enough.  The inhuman thing must be worked on to become what it should be.  And that working on means leaving alone, on blocking it from the creep of the social.

And so too the zones, the desert, the arctic, the deserted and frozen.  The threat isn't the human itself, that the new species-being will be that of always under attack from a race built from your leftovers, but the inhuman.  Those few and far between remaining zones left untouched, the poles of not-us, not-here on which the normal social order depends and to which Victor is drawn incessantly as flight out of the everyday.  Not that they might not leave Europe (that teeming, mediocre hinterland), but that they will leave Europe, they'll go to the desert and fill it up.  And after that first copulation, the first generation born will themselves be more of the same.  Sure, Mom and Dad look a bit funny, the stitch-marks remain, but after that, the desert's full up with Europe-ness, with its enemies who couldn't look elsewhere other than to the constructive source who disowned them.

We're voracious for the empty because the horizontal creep of the bourgeois social world is even more so, devouring in negative, a consumption that eats only lack and absence, filling, thickening all.  It infects, into these humanless wounds.  Not the body politic, but a rot setting in without primary matter to work upon.

In short: the horror is the shrinking capacity to leave behind, that even the desert will be just another brood and breed.  The propagation of the race will flower desert without images (eine wüste Gegend), now full and teeming, more brood and breed, lost to the mindless furthering of growth.  A resert desertification, and the race of devils soon wants in on the game, starts selling its labor cheap, polishes itself up nicely for EU membership and foreign investment, dragging in and desalinating the ocean, and the golf courses alone, in their startled green, retain a glimpse of that unnaturalness with which the whole thing started.  

And the arctic?  It's doomed to warmth.  And it's the final act of secession that will make it such, the auto-immolatory funeral pyre of the creature in the lifeless north.  As the fire built on the ice consumes him, the ice starts to moisten and melt.  A circle of brief, flitting, licking warmth.  His unrotting body (decay frozen not by temperature but by life itself, by the fact of his animation) now makes an aura, shadow, outline in the ice, and the bacteria will work, and more heat, melting more, rotting faster, slicker, uncovering other bits of lost matter gripped in the ice, now subject to putrefaction, and it spreads, the massive torrid heat of decomposition melting it all.  First flies, then flowers, then birth.  The ice blooms.  And the fingers of the social sneak in to this enemy terrain, its shocktroops of intimacy and family, notching footholds for the lurching, drooling hulk of capitalist life itself.

There, flourishing once more, belittling their children for not wanting to propagate, stuffing full with new flesh the anti-social zone, the species proves itself once more unable to think its own extinction.  Which is to say, unable to think at all.

All the beehives are plundered

[from Horse Lange's War Diaries]

In a dugout near Krashneva, September 26, 1941

[…] – Cold, restless night. Poor sleep. The bunkers are supposedly lice-ridden. Already you feel the itching. – Cold, gusts of rain. Big, sailing clouds. Constant hunger. I eat shameless amounts. In the morning our artillery on the neighboring hill shoots pointlessly over our heads at the Russians. – Around midday I go to the abandoned village of Krashneva, where our sappers gut the houses, taking planks and beams to reinforce their bunkers. The dead, ghostly magic of the houses, captivating me. The jumbled relics of past life. A cap still hangs on the peg. A string of beads on the ground. Colorful knitted bands to fasten the bast shoes. Schoolbooks (the same everywhere), family photographs, the parents, sons (trouser creases!) and daughters sit there stiffly, holding their breath in alarm. Icons in the corner, next to them the Communist posters, bright, loud and without an iota of taste. Potted plants. Two dead horses in a stall. A barn full of junk (sign of affluence!). Wild cats darting about and wailing hideously like angry household spirits. Beautiful vessels, the ancient, almost Stone-Age forms of jugs and iron pots. All the houses are missing windowpanes. The winter will snow in, the storm sweep through. – In the house gardens, where beets, cabbage, tomatoes and poppies grow, I look for onions without finding any. Birches everywhere, the village must have had an inviting look, like something described by Gogol or the author of “Adventure of a Hunter”3. – I go back, look at my watch and feel a bit uneasy. As soon as I’m over the hill and back in our ravine, the Russians shoot several heavy-caliber salvoes at Krashneva and the path I just took – aiming at the German guns that fired this morning. The shrapnel flies all the way to us. Only later do I realize how lucky I was. One becomes so jaded! Now I’m writing, barely able to read it, by the thin light of homemade wax candles. All the beehives are plundered. –

Girls fly like birds over the swamp

Kafka calls out its demons, Trakl gets its putrefaction... Kubin sees its dust and mold, and like Horst Lange, whose work he illustrated, he sees the expanding swamps, the unstoppable spread of brush and swamp.  Our world has gotten old.  Kubin documents its catastrophe.  His images, pulled out of the rubble, translate no words but see this world as Todessymbolik, a grand astral theater where the powerful breath of Saturn expresses the hieroglyphs of death.  Universal life is described here at the end of its cycle.  When a cycle nears its end and comes to the questionable Abendland, in the gray color of the swamp, the realms are confused.  The line does not contain forms in flight, but it splits them open, it chops them up and mixes the pieces together.  Girls fly like birds over the swamp.  Fish-men and toad-men hunt weird beasts together.  A death arrow hits a farmer from a tree, or the bird of evil omen crashes into his house from a leaden sky.  The sun remains ever hidden behind thick clouds that rise up from a sour earth.

- Massimo Cacciari, Posthumous People: Vienna at the Turning Point

Middlesex (or a certain management proves itself once more staggeringly ignorant of the fact that there's no way we'll let it end like this)

Philosophy students and staff suspended

Some Middlesex University Philosophy students, along with Philosophy professors Peter Osborne and Peter Hallward, were suspended from the University this afternoon. Hallward and Osborne were issued with letters announcing their suspension from the University with immediate effect, pending investigation into their involvement in the recent campus occupations. The suspension notice blocks them from entering University premises or contacting in any way University students and employees without the permission of Dean Ed Esche ( or a member of the University’s Executive.

The Campaign,
Friday afternoon, 21 May 2010.

One ghost and one ghost only

We beg to differ.

(and it makes one wonder: why the need to assert this?  They been getting loads of ghost reports lately?  Just wanted to clear this up, everyone...  The singular exception responds to its self-doubt, shores itself up against all those other minor phantoms, faith's declaration gets corrosive and starts to gnaw...)


The windows?

They broke themselves

The eras infected themselves

We badgered ourselves into quiet

The hovel mortgaged itself

The cluster fucked itself

You cop and robbered yourself

They knackered myself

The marrow’s rot got grounded

The locks opened themselves

like chests chock full of blood do

We shambled ourselves

Rag and bone menned ourselves

And it made our oceans unlit again

Until the sonar came back empty

Abominates but fails properly to negate

Mark Fisher reviews Hideous Gnosis in the new issue of The Wire, sidesteps the more inane attacks on theorizing what's already a genre so obsessed with auto-theorizing (albeit from the perspective of willful non-knowledge), and takes on a claim I made rather cryptically about failed militancy.  For the next incarnation: melancology (i.e. blackened ecology of sorts) in London, early 2011.  I'll leave behind politics and headless objects per se for ecologies of hostile manufactured objects, those rare exceptions of the man-made dotting the icy creep of black metal landscapes like Blackwood's malignant willows.

Tarred and flattened

and more than that, the cows weren't even black to start.  But when the night lasts so long, drags on, skips days, when thought's failed capture makes black objects out of its own darkness rather than face the terror (i.e. creeping, anticipating, tingling stench) of of gray (without value, without decision, without effect), when it demands that what is seen is what must be, pitched and tarred lightless by the act of speculation: how do the cows not start to believe?  Creatures of the night?  Very well. Morning has never changed a thing.

Prolegomena to Any Future Philosophy

Enemy of doxa, corrupter of youth, promulgator of discomfiting intuitions. That philosophy is unpalatable to the powers that be: this is not news to Socrates and his comrades.

Today it is no philosopher in particular, but philosophy itself that is ordered to drink the hemlock, sentenced to death for corrupting the capacity of what used to be called “the University” to turn greater profits. Philosophy is convicted of impiety before capital.

The present situation at Middlesex University makes the stakes excruciatingly clear. Even “excellence”—the preferred contemporary replacement for such antiquities as learning, knowledge, or thinking—is no longer enough. Even the “ranking” of a program is no matter, nor is its contribution to the reputation of the institution. Nor does it suffice that a program should sustain itself financially, or generate revenue. The operative question is simply: could MORE revenue be generated through its elimination? Could one, for example, restructure enrollment so as to swell Work Based Learning programs that draw lucrative funding from corporate sponsors? Could one get away with simply reallocating external grant funding already secured by the Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy (reportedly some £1 million through 2016) while eliminating the expense of actually running the Center? According to administrative logic, neither the international reputation of Middlesex Philosophy nor its financial solvency have any bearing upon the verdict that it makes “no measurable contribution” to the University. According to the calculus of greed and exploitation—the calculus of capital—philosophy at Middlesex, as Alex Williams rightly puts it, is worth more dead than alive.

What lessons are we to draw from this example? And what sort of a response might those lessons entail?

We might insist that philosophy is essential to the university—that only an institution which includes it answers to an acceptable vision of what the university should be. And we might then demand of wayward administrators the reversal of an “irrational” or “unethical” decision: the restoration of philosophy to its proper place at the core of any university worthy of the name. Or, on the other hand, we might find in the termination of philosophy the expression of an essential truth about the university’s role as a modern institution: to reproduce the relation between capital and labor—through the production of cultural capital when convenient, through the excision of cultural mediation when expedient.

The era of such expediency is everywhere upon us. Discussions of “The Crisis of the Humanities” proliferate at a dizzying pace. How can we proffer more compelling accounts of “what it is that we do” to administrators looking askance at abstruse investigations no longer even regarded as charming? Can we compete on a level playing field with the verifiable results of science and engineering by drawing up lists of our recent “discoveries”? Can we compete with the profit margins of private business schools embedded in public universities by insisting upon our invaluable contributions to civil society, our production of a thoughtful citizenry? How can we account for the worth of our teaching by metrics that calculate the value of programs according to higher, rather than lower, student/instructor ratios? How can we justify our existence, our form-of-life, in short, amid the unchecked reign of bureaucrats whose moral compass is neither the novel nor the Nicomachean Ethics but the consulting firm?

To its immeasurable credit, Middlesex Philosophy offers an alternative to both indignant pleading and professionalized handwringing: concrete resistance.

The students, staff, and faculty at Middlesex have opted to intervene in “the crisis of the humanities” by taking a common space of thought and practice with the determination to hold it. What inspires is the escalation of their radicalism in response to administrative obstinacy. First they occupied a boardroom to protest the cancellation of a meeting, seeking a proper explanation for the closure of their program. The next day they took the entire building, demanding a reversal of the decision. Today a red and black flag flies over the barricaded Mansion House at Middlesex, and thinkers from around the UK and continental Europe are travelling to the occupied Trent Park campus to participate in an open program of art, philosophy, and politics events called Transversal Space.

This sequence is a prolegomena to any future philosophy.

We cannot rely upon the goodwill of administrators and their consulting firms to uphold the grand tradition of the Academy, nor to offer wildlife preserves for modes of critical reflection that assuredly do not serve the interests of their species. We will not secure “the future of the humanities” by the authority of the better argument nor through appeals to a higher good than goods. If the very capacity for philosophical activity is to survive, then by any means necessary we will have to make it unprofitable to destroy the time and space of resolutely unproductive thought. What Middlesex augurs is that the 21st century is a time in which the material conditions of any possible thinking will have to be constructed, expropriated, and defended by common force.

Kant’s project, at the core of critical modernity, was to banish dogmatism by accounting for the conditions of any possible understanding. But now it is not critical reflection but rather the dogmatic operations of capital that pose the question, quid juris?, to philosophy. To subject Kant’s critical idealism to a materialist inversion, today, is to recognize that the conditions of any possible philosophical reflection—reflection upon conditions of possible understanding, or anything else—will depend upon material powers of resistance, the construction of times, spaces, and forms of life capable of holding their own against the vacuity of philosophy’s erasure.

“The philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” The present crisis of the relation of philosophy to capital means that philosophers will have to change the world in order to interpret it. It is not that philosophy will be obviated by the real movement of history, the coming-into-being of communism, but rather that communization is now the pre-condition of any possible philosophy.

“In the sphere of this faculty you can determine either everything or nothing,” writes Kant in the preface to the Prolegomena. From California, to Puerto Rico, to London, to Zagreb, to Greece: We Want Everything.

Nathan Brown
University of California, Davis

Marija Cetinić
Comparative Literature
University of Southern California

Gopal Balakrishnan
History of Consciounsess
University of California, Santa Cruz

Aaron Benanav
University of California, Los Angeles

Jasper Bernes
University of California, Berkeley

Chris Chen
University of California, Berkeley

Joshua Clover
University of California, Davis

Maya Gonzalez
History of Consciousness
University of California, Santa Cruz

Timothy Kreiner
University of California, Davis

Laura Martin
University of California, Santa Cruz

Jason Smith
Art Center College of Design

Evan Calder Williams
University of California, Santa Cruz

Grozę, Grozę!

from A: "An APC presiding over a Polish Kino featuring "Apocalypse Now" during Jaruzelski's martial law in 1981"

Notes toward two figures of darkness and stupidity (based on two phrases with substituted words)

That day in which all cows are black

(featureless identity doesn't get the news that day has come and the field's revealed.  What once was the flatness and indistinction of the dark stands out.  A marked, mooing blot of the ex-same.  For sure, owl of Minerva flies at dusk, we grasp only after the day is done, but what of the staining idiocy of the total night?  The next day begins and the leftovers of thinking's death still stand about and low and wait, painted thick by a total correspondence come and gone.  Once the stealth, comfort, and invasion of absent light - which isn't an absence of light, it's the feeling of being swallowed into a substance, eaten by the ink - is now an affront to space.  That's the birth of difference: embarassment of what was so of its time that it was indifferent, unthought, now it's a terrible inheritance that calls out to be destroyed: a placid herd so dark they're eating the light, just off the side of the road, not just chewing cud, spat back up, but the day itself...)

Shooting dusk for night

(too grayly close to real dark.  That weird zone that is closer to the effect you're trying to produce, looks more like it, but it all breaks down, no underexposure or red filter to go from blue to black.  The time of near-dead light, and the longest shadows, cannot be made into no light.  You need high noon for that.)

Let them sleep who do not know

Today we all steal
animals we are
possession is lost

The hatching plot

Neon and black, we will

paint the land hotter

in neon and black.

By the break of dawn the citadel's ramparts had been draped

The Economist already made the lame joke last week, but hell, time for reapplication: Acropolis Now...

(Also, something particularly archaic - and stirring - about actions involving "citadels" and "the break of dawn.")

Giant fish impaled on lightposts, avant-garde pulp

Watched Mega Pirahna, get what the fuss is about now. It is a) a weird bleeding over of Fitzcarraldo-esque - or any other time Herzog gets going about fecundity and doom - dialogue into pulpy, self-knowing retread a little too into being awful for its own good (or bad).

b) Like Transformers, it's audience-baffling, shrill, affectles experimental cinema wrapped in the guise of the popular and effective.

The more I look, the more all films start boiling down to the incoherent, muddied, and glaring friction between what kind of movie we're expecting to see and what it actually feels like to look at, listen to, and sit in front of. Feeding frenzy, blooded and threadbare pixels. And fish leap from the river, drift forward, and auto-impale on whatever they can find, breathless and desperate to get away from themselves.