That atomic bomb called mass culture

 (A Miss Vie Nuove contestant.  Vie Nuove was the weekly magazine of the Italian Communist Party.  In other words, this is a PCI beauty pageant, which searched for "a healthy and robust girl of the people of typical Italian appearance")

Certainly something tremendous happened.  We are all afraid of the atomic bomb, but that only could go off. This has already exploded.

Vittorio De Seta, on the post-war transformation of Italian working class culture. 

Pasolini's "anthropological mutation" finds its post-nuclear fallout origin story.  And the weirder of the politically-edged pop directors - Questi, Sollima, Germi, Bava, Corbucci - come to appear like so many Toxic Avengers, who went deep into the radiation zone of mass culture and brought back an unholy glow, one that neither the PCI nor its further left antagonists knew what the hell to do with.

A protest against that which will outlast the collapse of capital

“It’s like a friend telling you that he will stop smoking in 10 years,” said Jochen Stay, spokesman for the anti-nuclear body Ausgestrahlt (Radiated), which has mobilised protestors against the shipment.

“You are not going to congratulate them just yet.”

Germany, like the rest of Europe, has no permanent storage site for the waste, which will remain dangerous for thousands of years.

RIP Ken Russell

Thanks, you big-hearted, wide-eyed bastard.

Funeral note: The narratives about the "stuffiness" of British cinema - which Russell allegedly and actually helped rupture - are largely a consequence of people who have actually watched very little of that cinema.  See here three of my loves - Gainsborough melodramas, Ealing comedies, and Hammer horror - as prime counter-evidence to a story about the alleged dominance of kitchen sink realism.  That tale of dominance has about as much truth as declaring Italian neorealism as the primary touchstone/inspiration/wet blanket against which Italian cinema responded: it is true for certain audiences (such as the kind who think that directors like Russell "cheapen everything they touch", as Pauline Kael put it) and it structurally reinforces itself as such over time, but it has never actually been the case.

What someone like Russell did - and does, because films do not become past tense because their director dies - was to make the kind of films that had been made before but to take off their blinders and belts, to give them the full room to breathe that they had long been panting toward.  To peel back the wet blanket veil and not restrict ornate set pieces to a space through which one passes, but to hang out in them, to scream and make a racket, to wrestle with it and get sweat on the carpet, to let the eyes embedded in the breasts glance around, to stand shoulder to shoulder with Witchfinder General and declare that if one wants to make a historical film about a dark past, one better make damn sure that film is as darkly ornamented, lurid, and self-contradictory as the very history it faces then and now.

Anonymous letter from Cairo

[Anonymous letter from a comrade in Cairo.  Crucial.  Please share and spread widely.]

Dear friends,

I am since 4 days in the middle of shooting and nerve gas, here in Bab El Louq square, 5 minutes behind Tahrir square, close to the Ministry of Interior. Right out of my window, I can see the fire of the guns and the gas cartouches and the motor cycles that take the injured out of the battle bringing them to the field hospitals, one after the other... hour by hour, day and night...There is shooting and this strange nerve gas all the time and at around 10:30 p.m. yesterday night the shebab were attacked for one hour by 30 unknown uniformed special forces in black with different live ammunition and gas, no street lightning at all, the scene only lit up by the fire of the guns, the dim light of the moon and some strange phosphoric light at the end of the street leading to the Ministry of Interior. After an hour, they reconquered Bab El Louq square where I am living with nothing than stones and unbreakable determination and solidarity. Into the face of the shooting and the attacks onto their bare bodies, the shebab were shouting into the night "hurriya" (freedom) and "madaniya" (civil state)... not "ilsamiya" (islamic)... In parallel, Tahrir square full with a millioniya (a million-man demonstration) was attacked at least twice during the night with a nerve gas which you cannot see or smell. I saw with my own eyes how people collapsed suddenly around me. As far as I understand, it's not clear yet from where the gas was coming - from an airplane, the metro air condition below the square or thrown from above the roofs of the surrounding buildings. It's war against the population, it's incredible, it's a crime. Me myself am full of gas and mentally and motorically slightly but continuously disoriented, respiration tract burning. I am deeply shocked. Whoever needs to understand: the Egyptian shebab will never give up, none of us will give up any more. This is about holding on to your remaining or may be first becoming a human being again.

Below a video of the Egyptian campaign "Occupy", a call to all Egyptians and everyone who understands that this is not about Egypt alone, that this is about the fight of all of us for freedom and for a future for everyone in this world to substitute the logic of accumulation and theft and the oppression needed to enforce it, a call to join the open-ended demonstration and sit-in in front of the Egyptian embassies all over the world starting at 3 p.m. next Friday in your countries. The video is in Arabic and English, the middle part is English.

Try to follow the news on the non-mainstream media (facebook and blogs) and the news on Al Jazeera, for those who speak Arabic preferably the Arabic version.

Also for those who speak Arabic below the link to one of the most important TV programs in Egypt after the revolution, the sequal that was broadcasted before yesterday. In it, the hosting journalist Youssri Foda gives space to three of our injured comrades to speak as well as to the well known journalist Bilal Fadl. The dentist Ahmed Harara, the blogger and activist Malek Mustapha and the photographer Ahmed Abdel Fattah of the Egyptian daily al-masry al-youm all lost their eyes due to deliberate shooting from close distances with what we call khartouche ammunition, a projectile with between 13 and 16 small bullets of different sizes, made of either hardened plastic or metal. Fired at close distances it can be lethal and if targeted at eyes, the eyes are destroyed. Ahmed Harara is a close friend of mine. He lost his right eye during the first revolution on 28 January 2011 and 4 days ago he lost his left eye. He will be forever blind but he went back into Tahrir square, right after his operation in the hospital. In the TV program you will see the young officer who fired the bullet and you will hear the voice of a shooting officer proudly reporting to his superior that he managed to get another was a premeditated campaign... targeting the eyes of the activists. But their response is to go back to Tahrir square, the square of liberation, because a shot eye is better than a broken eye as Ahmed Harara says in the program. They are not blind and they put everyone in front of the necessity to take position, no more lies, no more evasion. This is expressed very bluntly by the journalist Bilal Fadl in the program. The program also gives a good concise context of the events during the past month leading up to this second Egyptian revolution

part I with Ahmed Harrara and Bilal Fadl
Part II with Malek Mustapha and Ahmed Abdel Fattah
Warm greetings to all of you,

Beat the colour world with the black wedge


As part of a spectrum so hypersensitized, black takes on a new, its full, chromatic stock... it takes on life, substance (the shiny black of satin is played off against matte velvet), it acquires the value of an ethical symbol...  it inserts itself like a wedge into a colour world

(Michel Caen, on Fisher's Brides of Dracula)


"Is it blood?" asked Étienne, at last venturing to question him. Bonnemort slowly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "It's coal. I've got enough in my carcass to warm me till I die. And it's five years since I put a foot down below. I stored it up, it seems, without knowing it; it keeps you alive!"

(Émile Zola, on labor)

Urgent From Tahrir

We are in the midst of a decisive battle in the face of a potentially terminal crackdown. Over the past 72 hours the army has launched a ceaseless assault on revolutionaries in Tahrir Square and squares across Egypt. Over 2000 of us have been injured. More than 30 of us have been murdered. Just in Cairo alone. In the last 48 hours.

But the revolutionaries keep coming. Hundreds of thousands are in Tahrir and in other squares across the country. We are facing  down their gas, cudgels, shotguns and machine-gun fire. The army and police attack again and again, but we are holding the lines, holding them back. The dead and wounded are carried away on foot or motorbikes and others take their place.

The violence will escalate – for WE WILL NOT MOVE. The junta does not want to give up its power. We want the junta gone.

The future of the revolution hangs in the balance; those of us in the square are ready to die for freedom and social justice. The butchers attacking us are willing to kill us to stay in control.
This is not about elections or a constitution, neither of which will change the authoritarianism and violence coming down around us. Neither is this is about a so-called “transition” to democracy that has seen the consolidation of a military junta and the betrayal of the revolution by political forces. This is about a revolution, a complete revolution. The people demand the fall of the regime, and will stop at nothing short of that to achieve their freedom.

Foreign governments are paying lip-service to ‘human rights’ while they deal with the junta, shaking hands and legitimizing them with empty rhetoric. The US is still sending $1.2 billion in military aid to the Egyptian military. The army and police rely on tear gas, bullets and weapons from abroad. No doubt their stock has been replenished by US and other governments over the last nine months. Stock will run low again.

We ask you to take action:
  • Occupy / shut-down Egyptian embassies worldwide. Now they represent the junta ; reclaim them for the Egyptian people.
  • Shut down the arms dealers. Do not let them make it, ship it.
  • Shut down the part of your government dealing with the Egyptian junta.
The revolution continues, because we have no other choice.

From Tahrir Square / 22 November / 14:00
Mosireen, Comrades from Cairo, Defend the Revolution


She died the day before Thanksgiving, near where I was born.  Then I stood in an Umbrian town, perched high on volcanic rock, where it has been since the Etruscans, where there is thick the smell of woodstove in cold air that I know from where I was born, and where I stood listening to the highway at night as Italians hurtle up and down the A1.  These distances and what crosses them.

Hearts and arms

The fundamentally reductive structure of the news means that all will be reduced to a series of verbs, nouns, adverbs, and occasional adjectives, with static frames to hang a stone in the air. 

The fundamental structure of social upheaval is not linguistic, and it is not iconic.  It is bodily, in all that entails: how we run, how we get turned around, how we stumble, how we sweat, how we leak.  It is indexed, not to programs but to these things called us.  It is as messy and incoherent as these fleshy days of ours always are.  It just brings that to the fore.  That is its tremendous specificity.

We believe that these are specific days.

The gold bugs toil quick and remake the earth

Gold, that solid universal substance in the proximity of which miners become fops, fops become ladies, rivers fill in, buildings arise and fall back into the earth, millineries emerge to clothe miners, fops, and ladies, painted words dissolve themselves like Dante's thieves, ships in the fogged night rise out of painted words.


That, by the way, is pepper spray, onto the faces and bodies of a university's students as casually as though watering a garden with pesticide.  Some of these students were hospitalized for chemical burns.

Read this and spread it widely.  It is tremendously important.

In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis...

"the ultimate contagion machine"


For the appropriate soundtrack for the reading of these diagrams, play the two tracks below simultaneously (the second set at half volume) and something like the thudding crystalline spheres of financial orbit in the age of implosion may start to emerge.  Because, like the above, it simply doesn't work.

Indian Summer / splattered windows

As always, the spambots that comment consistently on my writing produce prose of more subtle grammatic slippage - words chewed up somewhere down the line of a thought - and disjunction adequate to the slippery mess described than either news sources or I could ever do, with all our opposite attempts of clearly stated obfuscation for the former, and obscure clarity for the latter.  

The atmosphere suggested a dress rehearsal for the production of "Revolution. Musical" On a warm afternoon, Indian Summer, black-clad anarchist splattered windows Whole Foods. The general strike began in pantomime. One of the audience started to sing, "protest".

[particularly good is the singular "anarchist" which makes it sound like the substance that is splattered against those windows rather than what does the splattering.  (The windows were just dripping with anarchist this Indian Summer.)  And then someone clads the whole mucky thing in black and someone starts to sing a song that has only one word.]

The poetry of the future will be written by algorithms employed by the mongers of "human growth hormone," dick enlargement pills, bulk office furniture, and identity theft, written not in the nights after work but in the very process of the sheer stupefying attempt to come across as if human.

GI Joe Vs Carlo Cafiero

(Until 2'54", that is.  At which point we're just back to the gold standard, backed by luxury good reserves.  Hell, it was good while it lasted.)

in less than a week buying and selling have been replaced by rioting and looting... and you can't reestablish order until you print new currency.

Yeah, what did you?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole?

Friends, did you bring me the silver,
Friends, did you bring me the gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends,
Keep me from the gallows pole?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole?

The Road to Hell is Paved With Silicone

In my house there's only one thing made of silicone. 

The tree.

Further evidence that an anti-civilization position is not a choice.  It is just an attentiveness to what our world is, its baffling self-baring of the heights of alienation and yes, you just can't make this shit up but yes, this shit still is made and that's where we're hung, tongues out, cruxed between that make and made.  And so we don't choose to hate it, all we to do is turn ourselves up slightly, aim the eyes slightly above street level, or we put ourselves down, an ear to the street, and there we catch a bare rumble, a murmur from that dumb forest of silicone which has no birds in it, which has no roots but weighs all the same, and their needles do not fall, and their branches never droop yet their proximity to a cozy roaring fire will soften the polymers barely, open its substance a bit to let the polysiloxanes breathe, its backbone whispering ⋯-Si-O-Si-O-Si-O-⋯ out into the rooms of the living.

And how one cannot want to let flourish its total, utter decomposition is utterly beyond us.

Listening to J. Stalin in the negative city

I have seen a few things in my life, and I have taken photos - inconstantly - of a few of those things.  Few have heretofore made me as happy as this.

I'm starting a series of "dispatches" from Naples.  They will not be Roman Letters 2: The Lachrymose South, in large part because they are not to a series of ones, single letters, singular friends and comrades. But insofar as my life is a void of structure, these will perhaps produce a fleeting illusion of continuity across it, if only - likely only - for me.

They are titled Listening to J. Stalin in the negative city.  Henceforth LTJSITNC.

J. Stalin is a rapper from West Oakland.  (So named because, "he was short like me, but he was always smashin' on everybody.") "The negative city" is one of terms used to describe the immense Neapolitan sottosuolo, the underground.  Not the underground as in "the metro," but the sprawling web of Greek and Roman ruins, cisterns, tunnels, roads, evacuated markets, empty grain containers, walls, and junk heaps that lie beneath - and mirror - the world built above it.  A good 60% of this lived, teeming, leaning city stands on top of this other one. 

The other day, when I was down in this other one, breathing air that is neither older nor newer, neither stale nor fresh, looking at Nike Air footprints in beige dirt, I was listening to J. Stalin.  It made some degree of sense.

A Pervert's Guide to Provocative Agents

"Police responses are not, in general, decided by individual police witnessing specific events, but by senior police and political leaders deciding how to deal with the protest as a whole. If the police attack protestors, it’s because they’ve decided to attack protestors, not because of anything the protestors did (this is also why worrying about police infiltrators is usually pointless; police may use provocateurs to stage-manage their intervention, but the form of their intervention is decided in advance and is independent of what either protestors or provocateurs do)."


By the way, small note on the pervy libidinal economy of the internet and the pre-selection of content...

... there is no way to google image search "agent provocateur" without receiving results that are almost entirely from luxury lingerie ads. 

Adding the word "police" calibrates the results to include the standard "use of circles to illustrate how you can, in fact, tell a cop by his shoes", but also to include a very Night Porter falange of lingerie models and a woman in bra and panties standing in front of a custom "Agent Provocateur" pink and black Police mini. 

 + "anarchist" gives the more familiar results....

while "+ communist" treats us to a first result of a champagne cork popping off.  At least it got something right.

+ "liberal" mainly shifts the optic toward the "non-West," plus the amping up of the spittle-rain of Tea Party hysteria.

But, more seriously: what "agent provocateur" truly indexes is the quintuple notion that

a) as Voyou notes, the fantasy that there is not already a state game plan in action, as if - notwithstanding the genuine, and vicious, decisions that get made on the ground on the basis of a general predisposition to treat people like that, such as the now-infamous of throwing of a flash-bang grenade into a crowd of people surrounding a man who would require brain surgery - the police were a neutral substance that responded solely on the basis of a catalyst such as "property destruction."

b) that there is a predetermined object - a "protest" - that already exists, that is capable of being "ruined."  The clusterfuck of predictable media condemnation and predictable "left" infighting over the minor chaos of Rome a couple weeks back entirely confirmed this: the discourse centered around the idea that there was a perfectly good demonstration and a few shits - "bad apples", of course, as if the harvest were ripe, untainted, yet subject to the transmission of decay - who went and spoiled this safe, edible, lovely thing.  What this implies, then, is a conception of a protest as something that "everyone" knows damn well how it should go: a set number of hours, the expected quantity of chants performed and flags waved, and a return home at the end, having put in a good day's work.  The echoes of labor time are far from incidental.  And who could blame some for wanting to ruin it?

c) conversely, that a situation itself neutral, undecided, not agitated but capable of being provoked.  A slim beam of contingency.

d) the correct assertion that there do exist, at times, agent provocateurs.

e) the incorrect notion that there are not amongst us who, God for-fucking-bid, might not wish to be provocative, that we might not want our days to end up exhausted, excited, confused, gutted as an abandoned building, taken over by something bigger than ourselves, blown away by how previous lines of adherence came apart, uncertain of what has or what may come to pass.  

Self-portrait as a thief of relics

Thou shalt not offer to take another person’s place, or help out unless you’re not paid to do it ... blood transfusions aren’t paid for.

What kind of strength is it you mean?  

Well, where people don’t know how to say what they think or even think what they think but think it somehow. They live through it and take risks and make choices for it and learn to cope with what they feel but can’t think. It’s very powerful and very inarticulate. 

You mean this strength is more genuine because it’s not just intellectual?  

I wouldn’t say the intellect is non-genuine, except that rationality offers merely theoretical possibilities, so many slick outs and slick ways of manipulating people. And English working class culture is very non-manipulative. Rough, but not so manipulative. 

In what sense?  

In the sense that it was traditionally based on loyalty and bloody-mindedness. There wasn’t a sense of intricacy. Even solidarity was erratic. But there was a kind of non-performance principle. Never work too hard because that would be dropping your fellow workers in shit. The Working Class Goes to Heaven [1971] has it. It’s what Ealing comedies should have been, if they’d had more sense of the man in the cloth cap. The British cinema got it briefly — Saturday Night and Sunday Morning [1960], a few others — then lost it again. The Man in the White Suit [1951] discovered it, from a middle-class angle. One could summarise a proletarian Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not strive too hard, or jump through more hoops than you have to. Thou shalt not offer to take another person’s place, or help out unless you’re not paid to do it ... blood transfusions aren’t paid for. Thou shalt not expect good treatment. Thou shalt always look for the catch, for what the other person gets out of it. Thou shalt contemplate defeat, but not change yourself to avoid it. Thou must become accustomed to always being outtalked and made to look a fool and put in the wrong ... but Thou shall not be moved ... Oh, and don’t be downhearted. Something like that.

- Raymond Durgnat, 1977

[A strange stumbling onto a previous mention of a rather particular lineage I've been drawing forth between Ealing and Petri, between Teflon white suits and the bestial mutter of a busted worker.  Namely, that of a) anti-Stakhanovism and refusal of work, b) stubborn inarticulacy, c) the problem beween class as relation and as status, d) sabotage, willed and unwilled, and e) the repetition of what can't help but go on, and what will, at best, wind up naked, without a finger, contemplative, or all three, while meanwhile the blood keeps getting let and no one is getting a transfusion.]