Category Archives: drugs

draft endorse for forthcoming book by Don Miller “Will to Win”

Will to Win
 .
Don Miller used to set his students a ‘think piece’ instead of an essay question. His commitment to provocations has never waned, and this book on sport is of course about much more than sport – or ‘Sport’, capitalised. From the corruptions of commercial sponsorship, to the druggy self-deceptions of Lance Armstrong or the gladiatorial parallels of big business Olympian chauvinism: Sport as gambling, made for TV (the camera always knows where the action will be), amateur, spectacular, Wagnerian self-parody. The book canvasses topics as varied as the Vatican beautifying Italian victims of Ottoman raiders as intervention in anti-Islamic politics today, to the body-sculpting substance abuse of school kids that put cyclists on steroids to shame – each compared and contrasted to the Australian obsession with winners and losers in swimming, while quoting bush-ranger folk heroes (no need to acknowledge, ‘such is life’) and Georges Perec.
 .
I remember when I was 11 years old and playing for The Rosellas under 12 football team in the Eastern Districts Footy League. It was three-quarter time in the preliminary final and we were one-point ahead. Our coach Mr Scanlon gathered us kids together in a huddle as we sucked at our sliced oranges and he told us: ‘boys, it’s not how you play that counts, it’s going out there to win’. I was shifted from ruck-rover to the back-line, took a lucky mark or two, no-one scored, and the final siren brought pandemonium and glory. We went on the next week to lose the grand final to our sworn enemies Knox Eagles, but even today I meet up with teammates who have lived fulfilling lives and we remember that moment. Sport is formative.
 .
If I were critical, I would say Miller runs over some of the same ground more than once, developing his points, lapping himself perhaps, inspired by the logic of his opening parable about the alternative playbook of the ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’, so famous from the Kokoda trail (not track?). The problematic redeployment of the ANZAC myth and its ‘one day of the year’ jingoism is skewered here too, alongside duly ironic recognition of the  subcontinental origins of cricket and a judicious lambast of Bradman’s displaced militarism. These really are things to think with, and weighty matters are made light yet serous. Like Sport. Here are films, Proust, speed, repetition, Bentham and excess – the range renders Sport as complex as life. Sport as a labour of life, a play, to win or to lose, as serious as heck. A morality, a life lesson, a local-global parable for all times.

JH

20140624-055751-21471537.jpg

Order http://hybridpublishers.com.au/index.php/will-to-win-the-west-at-play.html

20140624-060240-21760776.jpg

Moment of Zenffftttttpppppggggggaaaa!

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 12.19.16

click the picture if you are crazy enough to want to read more, which includes a comparative squib on Peter Mandelson. Priceless. I wish I had thought this gag up – the link to the sister, who is a fine supervisor of PhDs and did one for CCS, is genius. What a waste having it as journalism, this could be university publicity department gold.

state execution by neglect?

This from Tom Henri. It looks to me to be an attempted State premeditated murder, aka Capital Punishment, for a minor offense. There is also an open letter to the Ministry of Justice, signed by various luminaries.

Scrubbed to death

Daniel Roque Hall suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, this debilitating and fatal illness means he requires around the clock care.  In 2011 Daniel pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine into the UK.  The judge sentenced Daniel to three years in prison, on the proviso that a prison place could be found which would meet his health care needs.  The Governor of Wormwood Scrubs (widely regarded as the London prison with the worst health facilities) stated that his prison could meet Daniel’s needs.  After three weeks of neglectful treatment in the Scrubs, Daniel was rushed to hospital and placed on a life support machine.  Without exaggeration, the care (or lack of) that Daniel received in prison nearly killed him.  His man has a fatal degenerate disease, he requires full-time care, he is no harm to anyone else and he need to be with his family – NOT in Wormwood Scrubs.  Earlier this week, Daniel and his family won a seven day reprieve on Daniel’s return to jail.

You can read more about Daniel’s story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/02/disabled-daniel-roque-hall-injunction-return-prison

Marx argues for legalisation of Class As

20120511-163715.jpg

20120511-163725.jpg

Uncle Bill’s yage expedition

After my Marx lecture on tuesday evening I was talking to some intrepid fellow travellers about William Burroughs anthropological expedition to sample Yage in South America and I mentioned his letters (as well as doing some pretty bad imitations of uncle bill’s Benway routines). Even though the second volume of letters is about to be published, the first volume may be hard to get so I have copied the relevant letters.
see here: Burroughsletters45-59 for the three or four most relevant excerpts from the letters. (ref: William S Burroughs Letters 1945-1959 Penguin 1993)
There is an entire book on this stuff.
.

Recycled: notes for Satanic Majesties Request paper

Recycled post: notes for Satanic Majesties Request paperSatMaj3D
October 23, 2006

‘wa-what can a white boy do, but to sing for a rock and roll band?’

S. S. Sisodia, in Salman Rushdie’s politically incorrect Satanic Verses, stammers: “The trouble with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history happened overseas, so they don’t know what it means”. True enough, but this should in no way be mockery of stammerers, and I am discomforted by Rushdie now more than ever. Yet the point he makes about history is also relevant more now than ever. Sure the historical fault lies with education personnel and an administrators who have kept quiet about their Empire, or recruited pundits to excuse it (Simon bloody Schama, even now in audio book format), which – curriculum management enhanced strategy – buries any possibility of teaching that history critically with popularist flag-waving, dull media entertainments (variety quiz shows, Schama looking earnestly into the camera) and ball games (Empire games, Commonwealth Games – its hardly sporting old chap). Whatever Michael Palin might offer us on his travel tours, international working class solidarity is a more important a project, and an educational project that supports it, is crucial nowadays as ever before. The cotton mills of Manchester were closely linked to Calcutta, just as today’s MTV beams out to both cities regardless. We should watch these shows closely.

Maybe all we can achieve with (our) writing is to provide people with questions and ideas that allow them (us) to think through politics more clearly, more creatively, more. There can be no revolution without rev-revolutionary theory. There can be no rethinking without new new thoughts.

‘ttttalking bout my generation’

Anglo interest in non-European music has a long pedigree, which it is no longer my job to trace, though I once thought it was. Suffice to say that my interest began as a very mainstream version-The Rolling Stones, (especially Brian Jones derived from the urban white-boy blues of explorations of Joujouka drumming in Morocco and an image of Keef Richards smoking kif in Tangiers); a passing acquaintance with experimental Indo-psychedelic music epitomised by such commercialisations as The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and The White Album, and an early and never shaken interest in the writings of William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. This developed into an interest in why we are interested in Asia – and a book on budget traveller experience in Calcutta. Along the way an edited volume on the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s celebrated work, and activist-led peripheral involvement in the music and rave scene in Australia, led me to various attempts to make sense of the ways English bands have included South Asia in their head space but not really got along with the politics, so, these notes for a paper on how white rock stumbled to the east.

“From Satanic Majesties to Satanic Verses: India in England yet again”.

The Rolling Stones, following The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and the opening up of the India travel caravan (banana pancake trail with magic mushrooms), produced what some pundits label their least successful album in 1967: Their Satanic Majesties. It is a long way from the superficial Eastern flavour of that album too the burning of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in Bradford streets a quarter of a century later, but despite the trite comparison of Jagger and Rushdie as public personifications of the devil (for different audiences to be sure), there are still interesting changes to be charted in the intervening years. Any attempt to comment on the relations between anglo interests and things Asian need to begin with an understanding of significant movements across the globe. Travel to India for the children of the English bourgeoisie has fluctuated from fashionable drug-scenery to adventure tour and on to military tours (Afghanistan has even generals sounding mutinous now), and important dynamics within the Sth Asian diasporic presence in Britain need to be lyricized. The success of Indian trinketry in the souvenir shops and fashion houses of the UK youth market might be contrasted to the flow of British based recordings into India – the mid-1990s success of Apache Indian and Bally Sagoo for example.

What might still be interesting would be to explore these cultural forms – from the Stones to Zadie Smith serialized on C4 – for evidence that could provide an understanding of the contemporary dynamics of neo-imperialism and global order as it changes and as its screened for us in Bliar’s Britain. Such a project might update and contemporise Said’s historical and nineteenth century interest in the traces of Empire in Dickens and his ilk.

There is much written on the phenomenon called Global Music. Of course there are ways in which this can be categorised as a commodification process intricately linked to the global spread of capitalist marketeering of all cultural forms. But within this there are demarcations to be made, and the relative silence still accorded the influence of politically charged South Asian creativities in the Global Music discourse might be indicative of more important politically potent occlusions. Where Blues and Reggae are well established as antecedents of popular ‘Western’ music, the influence of the East always seems to be presented as a peripheral, curious, or at best experimental aside, if accorded any centrality at all. Why? Since in terms of Empire India was so central, Calcutta was the second most important city in the world, so muck-much of European culture can be traced to Asia (from pajamas to umbrellas, goodness gracious me – see Hobson-Jobson). I keep on saying, what would it be to write the history of Empire from a perspective outside of Euro-America? Say from Calcutta, or departing from the disaffected experimental out-of-his-mindset of a stoned Stone or a migrant-resident Indglish Sisodia-stuttering Intefada cursed crossover (both after all go for market share, belong to a well-to-do class fraction, profess a certain degree of – Ltd – left politics, and have been labelled devilish)?….

**** Update Note August 2009 – of course Ted already started out on this too: here.

Posted in drugs, music | Tagged drugs |
4 comments

1.  We love you!
by Pirate Paul October 23, 2006 at 11:40 pm

2. sorry, but despite what Sir John sang, love is not all we need…. we need sympathy for the devil too… and some street fighting men and women, just to be sure
by victor October 25, 2006 at 9:47 am e

3. and some street fighting men and women, just to be sure

Victor– presumably you’ll be one of em
by Dixit October 25, 2006 at 1:30 pm

4. only if you’ll be the working class hero
by victor November 1, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Russell Brand’s Elegantly Addled Drug Career Takes Flight in New Cross

In his now bestseller celebrity self-justification fun version of the footballer/popstar’s premature autobiography, former drug-fiend and co-winner of the year before last’s Big Fat Quiz, Russell Brand has done good (even though he came last in the quiz this NYE). “My Booky Wook” is erudite in a way that may surprise some, but since it is probably also predictable that he steps out with his glam warts and all – herpes? – persona patented on the model of a low-rent Johhny Depp crossed with Truman Capote and Julian Clary, I think no-one should be all that surprised at this effort to titillate and sallaciate with his tales. No doubt some literary-academic-intellectual types – I fear the implied readers of this forum – would neither read Brand nor expect a review of such a text here, and so will pass by with a big mother superior boring yawn but although Brand manages the celebrity-auto-bio format without the soccer or songs, it is clearly better written than most (see the Beckham family albums for the worst of each type). Having read Brand, albeit in between too much seasonal sneezing and spluttering, I think it is worthy of mature consideration even when it gives us heroic tales of not very much really – some school courses he did not complete, some projects that remain lost in obscure corners (his best the anti-Young-BNP piece that is on Youtube here: Naziboy), and some recovery-projects that seem unlikely to be permanent.

But revaluation of revaluations, my favourite bit was where he confesses that his drug problems are born in (educational) New Cross. Sort of. I quote:

“Dean had acquired some acid, sheets of it; I’d heard tell of its qualities, of how it made you hallucinate and readdress your life and I thought, ‘My God! This sounds extraordinary’. We went over to the YMCA after school, took some, and went back to his house in New Cross on the Tube.
With or without acid, New Cross can be mind-bending, so it’s the ideal venue to have something so fundamental as your perception of reality altered, because it just exposes everything – the world as you see it, even your own psyche – as a construction.
All the things you believe to be true are thrown into doubt. And what’s so ridiculous is the way that you take this extra-ordinarily powerful, potent drug: not in a hospital with someone making you sit down and have a glass of water, but on the way home from school with your daft mate, walking through New Cross all fragile and delicate”

There then follows an allusion to Huxley, but although Russell knows its a cliche to talk about how your hands can be fascinating while tripping, his commentary soon devolves into a meditation on body spray that has a Go Ask Alice quality about it anyway.

Which is what is both appealling and annoying about our the lovable scamp that our Russell is – yes, a Big Brother Big Mouth with Dadaist touches, snippets of Nietzsche and knowing references to alternative culture is so much better than the dumb drivel usually offered up for our entertainment, but at the very same time a knowing reference left obscure or never developed is just another holier than though gambit (like this sentence, and like that Ricky Gervais trash of BB in Extras).

So in the end I am mildly disappointed because exactly this sort of double take not quite unconvincing victimoglorification is oftentimes the trouble with drug-fiend memoirs. Nothing much new there, nothing much more than a morality tale about getting caught up in drugs, then struggling to get off them, and final triumph. The Brand book has a good deal of this format, but at least there is some sense that the drugs were fun at some point. Too often these sort of cod-confessionals erase the very reasons the poor sods took recreational drugs in the first place – recreation. A case in point would be Motley Crue guitarist Nikki Sixx’s book “Heroin Diaries” – a sad, paranoid and woefully written tedium that reminded me of a badly rendered version of that annoying movie “A Scanner Darkly”, which also left out the fun bits. These kind of books do not do the job properly, and so do us all a disservice. Brand, in comparison, gets closer,

Next in a series – SLASH (from Guns n Roses). I also got his book for Christmas. And plan to read it alongside Andrew Loog Oldham’s story of getting the Rolling Stones famous for being naughty boys and wasting himself on 1970s coke. Should be a welcome return to fun.

A Battalion of Druggies

Apropos the picture in the previous post on Kendra of star fleet, imperial stormtrooper, colonial marine – whatever kind of junkie – I am shocked to hear that UK soldiers are succumbing to the evils of drug use as well. In particular cocaine is the battle-friendly powder-of-choice. We are told today by a UK military spokesperson on Radio Four that because this drug apparently allows soldiers to stay up all night, they like to take it at parties when they are on leave (the spokesperson does not make this an actual recommendation). The numbers we are talking about here are significant: this year the equivalent of an entire battalion (679) have been discharged because the testing regime for drugs was changed to the day after a soldier returns from leave. Isn’t that clever? A first instance of applied military intelligence. Although it seems we are not sure how these soldiers are getting all this cocaine, since clearly connections with Afghanistan would surely make other substances more convenient – recall that one of the ‘reasons’ we went to war against the (now resurgent) Taliban was to destroy the poppy trade (itself now resurgent).

So, are the battalions self-medicating because their return from the killing fields of Helmand turns out to be a bit tough – arriving back in the homeland/airstrip one where most folks barely know where the war is, let alone that it escalates. I suspect our insurgents in Sangin and Naway might find it in their interests to send a care package to any grunts that look like they are due a break.

Drugs and war is such a huge theme that suggesting any further reading would be an absurdly long task of documentation. I’d start with McCoy ‘The Politics of Heroin’, which the CIA loved so well, but I hope there is someone who could offer a more up to date biblio shortcut here. I’ve mentioned Taussig’s ‘My Cocaine Museum’ book often, but there is much else as well. We all know the tales of LSD experimentation – cool-aid acid test – and can cite lines from Vietnam movies or protest songs which celebrate military weed and more (thanks Country Joe and the Fish) but today’s drug war in the east (chant war on drugs, war on drugs – Pynchon) does not really get the ethnographers it deserves. Hunter Thompson should be deployed (rocket ready) but maybe Dave Boothroyd would do.

Poppies

Poppies seem to spring up on people’s lapels earlier each year, and on younger lapels than ever before. Walking through London Bridge tube station last night I saw them on teenagers, and then later that evening caught a few minutes of an inane interview of Girls Aloud (a pop band apparently) on the BBC and several of them were sporting the little red blossom.

Of course I know all the multiple and multiplying associations that could unfold from the petals of this little bit or remembrance (it is a sort of trinket, the issues are certainly trinketized). Poppy-war, Heroin & war, Fashion, Charity, Symbolism, Hypocrisy. Out of respect for the dead, we should start with the carnage adn waste of so many lives in Çanakkale Savaşları, aka Gallipoli, where thousands of soldiers were sent to the fields of eternal sleep – not the pretty sleep of the Dorothy in a field on the way to Oz kind, but a more wicked wizardry of military strategy in a stupid imperial war, run by kings and generals, endured by regulars and innocents on both sides.

Dorothy’s dream inside a tornado is relevant today. She is about to be released again in a remake, but for pc reasons the remake will not include the munchkins. My version of Dorothy re-imagined would immediately transport us not to Oz or Gallipoli, but to the killing fields of Afghanistan. Under the tarpaulin, huddled in the dust, afraid and under-equipped, young recruits on their third tour of duty, a tin man, a scardy-cat lion, a fellow made of straw – Toto, come back Toto… somewhere over the rainbow… And it has been a long long nightmare for the Afghan people – the humanitarian aid packages are now forgotten, the humanitarian bombing goes on (with an anthropologist helping write ‘counter-insurgency guidelines’ and advising on the battle to win/destroy hearts and minds). That the battle is brought to the imperialists by the resurgent Talaban is not reason to still sustain a long duration battle plan. Among the reasons given by Bliar for attacking Afghanistan in the first place was to eradicate heroin poppy production. That this has failed spectacularly, and his soothing words about restoring the education of women, and the bollocks about the capture of Sheik Osama – the other two objectives – these reamin, how shall we say, ‘incomplete’. This is surely not just circumstantial evidence in a far longer war crimes charge sheet. Whatever happened to the three strikes and you’re out metaphor? And to think Bliar can intervene in the Middle East to good effect – they are havin’ a laugh.

I guess we mostly remember poppy not as echo of the static death embrace of armies in Flanders, but through versionings of death as heroism in the cinema. All Quiet on the The Western Front (1930), Paths of Glory (1957, Kubrick dir. with Kirk Douglas) the trenches and beaches of the Dardanelles – near the site of Troy, and this comes as metaphor because of films that support the nation – the Australian Film Commission funds a jingoism which thrives on cinematic recollection (blame Gallipoli 1981, Peter Weir, dir. with Mel Gibson), and though we like to mock the stiff upper lisp inanity if the military that sent so many troops to pointless charge of the light brigade type death, there is also much to mock in some of the ANZAC tradition marches. With style and humour, Fiona Nicoll has an excellent book that relates Returned Service League, RSL, marches and the Aussie ideal of ‘mateship’ to the carnivalesque of Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney – From Diggers to Drag Queens, Pluto Press. But even that old routine – the One Day of the Year – has worn a bit thin – as we watch our rugby players before the recent world cup, just like the cricket team before them, draw (insufficient) sporting inspiration from a visit to the trenches. Sport is also heck, buy a poppy for Team Oz.

World War 1 is long gone, but that lost generation fodder for the insane destructive wars of Capital must be revived, renovated and renewed over and over. The remembrance date (Nov 11 – but also 25 April for ANZACS) is rehearsed for new wars, and we must acknowledge the charge that brings out a special strain of charity: poppy pins for veterans’ aid collection, emotive posters (on the tube again, posters of an old guy on a park bench with his missing ‘mate’ outlined in floating red flowers), and the Queen and other piggy pollies waddling over to the Cenotaph to lay wreaths for the fallen. Live on television, this comes with almost no debate. In England debate would be unseemly – all the while as more and more are slaughtered in the global war that these very same crocs (Labour Party, ruling class, military brass) perpetrate. Tears for the dead they can spare. Yet their hypocrisy wears thin these days, and at even the most modest or small c conservative levels there are questions being asked about troop welfare, troop support, and adequate compensation for their own maimed fodder. But a debate that would pin responsibility on any decision maker is not likely. Only remembrance – a tamed and contained memory, a blank memorial façade, an anaesthetized festival of hypocrisy and cynicism.

‘We support the troops when they turn on their officers’ was a slogan seen on a photo I posted here recently, but this has not grabbed hold of anyone by the scruff of the coat, even as the old fashioned war veterans associations and the like are ‘up in arms’ about establishment contempt for their dead and wounded. Of course we have not attended, and can barely conceive of a way to attend, to the civilian casualties, the people of Afghanistan, of Iraq, and all those subject to the everyday terror of our contemporary total war capitalism on the streets here (Charles de Menezes) or on the streets there (how many killed today?). Buy a poppy because we are the numb, we are living war, we wear it as fashion, Girls Aloud teach it to their teen fan base. Patriots all Dorothy. Worse than the drug. Tin-Zombies. Lions of Halloween. Straw-man Fiends.

narco-analysis

Dave Boothroyd’s book “Culture On Drugs” (2006) is a sound and entertaining read, and is just as much a carefully argued account of the influence of various substances on theory and theorists across a wide field – Freud and Cocaine, Benjamin and Hashish, Sartre and hallucinogens – as it is a commentary on, and plea for, a narco-analytic turn in culture theory. Good. All the way through the book there were important questions raised and important answers offered – and experimental writing is approved here and there (but perhaps not adopted in the text as much as might be anticipated).

All that said however, I think there was something held back…for example, I expected something on Marx and the opium wars: old beardo advocated that the Chinese not prohibit homegrown manufacture of the stuff so as to thereby undermine the East India Company’s efforts to force their trade advantage via Indian producers. So basically Marx comes out in favour of legalising Class As! And while I think I would have preferred – or is it that I fear – an extended treatment of Sartre’s experiences with amphetamine sulphate (those huge books on Flaubert, more on Flaubert than Flaubert wrote himself), I do appreciate Dave’s attempt to cover all the bases in an even handed way. Especially when he works through the Freudian cocaine versions. Freud as experimenter and advocate; Freud as liberated by use; Freud as promoter.

But it was weird to be reading this text just a day after writing out my own notes for a piece on Irma’s injection as mentioned by Slavoj Zizek in his little starter book on Lacan. (on Zizek, see here and here). Irma’s story – Freud’s first dream analysis – is cited in an admittedly perfunctory way by Zizek in order to explain Lacan’s contribution to Freud’s insight that the melancholic is ‘not aware that he has lost the lost object’ as a realization [by Lacan] that it is not an inability to mourn a loss, so much as a loss of desire for an object that he may still possess, but which has lost its efficiency, that governs melancholia.

This might have been a great opportunity to consider Freud’s own melancholia and mourning in relation to the Irma dream. And here there is much more to be said about the figure of Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow [somehow Dave leaves out the second part of his hyphenated surname]. It is this E-v-F-M to whom Freud had recommended the ‘superdrug’ cocaine in large quantities, as a substitute for morphine, which Ernst then took in large intravenous injections and became more dependent upon the marching powder than on the M he was into in the first place. So much into it that he died of related complications of the substitution (or what could be caled a ‘speedball’ syndrome, thanks uncle bill). All so far just a footnote… but what if the guilt Freud exhibits in relation to the faulty diagnosis of Irma’s injection in the dream that founds psychoanalysis (in The Interpretation of Dreams Irma has pride of place) were to be read in relation to the later guilt (some 80 or so pages later) that Freud reports in a footnote in relation to Fleischl-Marxow’s death? We are familiar with displacements in the dream work, so why not here find the symptomatic explanation of Irma in the text of the dream book itself, and Freud’s feelings of responsibility for having introduced his (ten years) older colleague to the drug that would allegedly kill him – though it was more likely to have been a dirty needle, as also noted in relation to the diagnosis of Irma herself. Perhaps I am not expressing this well, but I would be lying if I did not share a little in the melancholia of having read Dave’s book, seen mention of E-v-F-M, and yet not seen the connections laid out as clearly as they so seemed to me when we read (thanks Carrie, Nicola, Atticus, Miriam, Saul) the Interpretation in our reading group back in 2001 (on its 100th anniversary). It could be that Freud’s loss of his colleague is one he can only admit via a displacement in a dream that forces itself down Irma’s neck. Indication – that Irma should be prescribed some of that very same acetate.

So, narco-analysts to be deployed – the deflection of Irma into the text of Lacan deflects once again a forensic investigation that would explain both Freud’s interest in injections and Irma’s throat, and might lay some blame where blame might-maybe-ought to lie. Dirty needles, guilt and melancholia – time perhaps to lift the lid off this (La)Can of worms, and get back to work…

Heaven and Earth

Once more in Shimokitazawa, where there is a small 5th floor club called Heaven & Earth, and where, after dancing sweaty hot electro and hip hop all night (and gospel for Charlie K), you can sit on the balcony as the typhoon rolls in over Tokyo and then you can get noddles on the way home with the salary men on their way to work. Its my favourite hedoistic hideaway adn always a lot lot lot of fun. Feel lucky to land there (another planet).

But it was not all play – I did at least do a little bit of a presentation for Tech/Animation (and sang) before the all night mad dancing come split level mutli-sited chaos-relief from the rigours of the TCS conference and reception (after Kittler’s talk) and much jet lag come self-induced sleeplessness took over. Walking home an epiphany about the styles of writing, and pleasure at meeting new comrades, getting gift books (“Culture on Drugs” looks good [Dave Boothroyd, MUP 2006] – and I was only just before taking notes on Freud’s guilt about the fate of Max von Flieschl-Marxow…).

Hence the rather subdued interventions at the conference today, but probably that’s probably good thing eh. Probably it was raucous enough as it was, this ubiquitous media routine. Jeremy Gilbert on Steigler tomorrow, in the presence of the man hisself, should be better.

Many thanks to Toshiya for organising (pic 1) and to the enthusiasts who turned up for the second year in a row (i am overwhelmed – pic 2) and to Midnight Snacks (here somewhat obscured, except for t-shirt slogan, in pic number 3).

And it was a fine thing that there were a good number of Goldsmiths CCS and associates in the crowd, and various other digniied (and as the night wore on elegantly un-dignified) peoples, and lots of very fine sounds, people willing to talk endlessly about interesting projects (Tokyo pirate radio post soon; anmation special; and perhaps reviews of Ian Condry and Dave B’s books – though probably just shout outs as they look quite good and don’t need to be trashed by me: “shortcircuiting the exasperating detourof communication” [Boothroyd 2006:47]). On the whole a fun nght had by all. But as a consequence, I’m skipping tonight’s visit with SL to La Jetee’ cafe-bar (sumimasen Chris Marker).

Some of this may seem a tad cryptic. When the jet lag subsides I may turn this diary entry into more proper commentary.

Spectres of Marx – A Christmas Carol?

Cadavers, lifeless bodies, the return of the dead. Over the holiday period the quiet streets of London have been bothering me a little. Alarmed as I am with Christmas carols and hangings on the news – a veritable hauntology has me walking about as if in a dream. Yet people keep on bringing me ghosts. Three times this week, and all through the first term course on Capital, and with two PhD students working the theme (if slowly) into new areas… frightening me to reach for my familiar references – Ghost of Chance by William Burroughs was my first suggestion: it’s a pirate story about Captain Mission (drug fiend, utopianist) and his pet lemur called ‘Ghost’, battling the Christ-Sickness and other plagues destined for the Museum of Lost Species. The Captain himself becomes a ghost on death – stranger than anything Johnny Depp saw Keith Richards do… Of course much more worthy reading on this theme would pursue spirits in Hegel, Marx, the spectral…

So scholars may be worried by spooky stories. But what, I wonder, is all this anxiety about really? Haunting and ghosts are interesting as metaphor or trope certainly. But incorporeality and disembodied form just doesn’t do much – it seems intangible, somewhat vacuous. These ghosts on their own are a bit whispy, shady and faint. I need to find bodies that matter – and I want to know just what point of connection all the current death-talk might have to the socio-political world. It seems a bit abstract at present. So I have two sets of questions:

A. Should not all this talk of ghosts first of all be connected to the forgotten inmates of Guantanamo? To the spectral dead of the twin towers? To the thousands killed by imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia? These ghastly scenes should surely scare us. Somebody needs to organise more than a séance to set the creaking of the system into context – this entire planet is haunted, the walking dead are legion. Vampires suck our flesh.

B. The theme of ghosts might also be questioned as a focus for social theory – I mean, why have these apparitions returned with a vengeance just now? Perhaps the abundance of ghost writings that have appeared since Derrida wrote Spectres of Marx indicates the powerful return of Christianity and/or Christmas pasts: Scrooge and/or the Holy Ghost struts the world stage in a way not seen since temperance. Is this secularism in retreat before the new manifestations of fundamentalism(s)? Or was secularism always underpinned with a faulty reading of Marx’s opiate routine? The first cry of the oppressed masses is a commune with the dead…

Is this the fetish character of capital turned into demons and ghouls? The residue of the dead body. In many stories ghosts can travel through walls and now they seem to have infiltrated everything everywhere. I have been disturbed the past few days by a story Mick Taussig tells in his great new book Walter Benjamin’s Grave, where our intrepid anthropologist-hero is asked by a Putumayo farmer if he knows how to smuggle cocaine past the police and army guards. He did not. “Well, you get a dead baby and open up the abdomen, remove the intestines, pack cocaine paste in, sew up the abdomen and, with the baby at the breast the good mother cuddles her precious cargo through the roadblocks and, who knows, perhaps to Miami and New York as well” (in Taussig 2006:86).

The residue is now also in the body. We certainly welcomed the New Year in high spirits. I find all this as shocking as the grainy images of Saddam on his string. No longer pantomime.

notes for Satanic Majesties Request paper

‘wawhat can a white boy do, but to sing for a rock and roll band?’

S. S. Sisodia, in Salman Rushdie’s politically incorrect Satanic Verses, stammers: “The trouble with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history happened overseas, so they don’t know what it means”. True enough, but this should in no way be mockery of stammerers, and I am discomforted by Rushdie now more than ever. Yet the point he makes about history is also relevant more now than ever. Sure the historical fault lies with education personnel and an administrators who have kept quiet about their Empire, or recruited pundits to excuse it (Simon bloody Schama, even now in audio book format), which – curriculum management enhanced strategy – buries any possibility of teaching that history critically with popularist flag-waving, dull media entertainments (variety quiz shows, Schama looking earnestly into the camera) and ball games (Empire games, Commonwealth Games – its hardly sporting old chap). Whatever Michael Palin might offer us on his travel tours, international working class solidarity is a more important a project, and an educational project that supports it, is crucial nowadays as ever before. The cotton mills of Manchester were closely linked to Calcutta, just as today’s MTV beams out to both cities regardless. We should watch these shows closely.

Maybe all we can achieve with (our) writing is to provide people with questions and ideas that allow them (us) to think through politics more clearly, more creatively, more. There can be no revolution without rev-revolutionary theory. There can be no rethinking without newnew thoughts.

‘ttttalking bout my generation’

Anglo interest in non-European music has a long pedigree, which it is no longer my job to trace, though I once thought it was. Suffice to say that my interest began as a very mainstream versionThe Rolling Stones, (especially Brian Jones e derived from the urban whiteboy blues of xplorations of Joujouka drumming in Morocco and an image of Keef Richards smoking kif in Tangiers); a passing acquaintance with experimental Indo-psychedelic music epitomised by such commercialisations as The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and The White Album, and an early and never shaken interest in the writings of William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. This developed into an interest in why we are interested in Asia – and a book on budget traveller experience in Calcutta. Along the way an edited volume on the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s celebrated work, and activist-led peripheral involvement in the music and rave scene in Australia, led me to various attempts to make sense of the ways English bands have included South Asia in their head space but not really got along with the politics, so, these notes for a paper on how white rock stumbled to the east.

“From Satanic Majesties to Satanic Verses: India in England yet again”.

The Rolling Stones, following The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and the opening up of the India travel caravan (banana pancake trail with magic mushrooms), produced what some pundits label their least successful album in 1967: Their Satanic Majesties. It is a long way from the superficial Eastern flavour of that album too the burning of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in Bradford streets a quarter of a century later, but despite the trite comparison of Jagger and Rushdie as public personifications of the devil (for different audiences to be sure), there are still interesting changes to be charted in the intervening years. Any attempt to comment on the relations between anglo interests and things Asian need to begin with an understanding of significant movements across the globe. Travel to India for the children of the English bourgeoisie has fluctuated from fashionable drug-scenery to adventure tour and on to military tours (Afghanistan has even generals sounding mutinous now), and important dynamics within the Sth Asian diasporic presence in Britain need to be lyricized. The success of Indian trinketry in the souvenir shops and fashion houses of the UK youth market might be contrasted to the flow of British based recordings into India – the mid-1990s success of Apache Indian and Bally Sagoo for example.

What might still be interesting would be to explore these cultural forms – from the Stones to Zadie Smith serialized on C4 – for evidence that could provide an understanding of the contemporary dynamics of neo-imperialism and global order as it changes and as its screened for us in Bliar’s Britain. Such a project might update and contemporise Said’s historical and nineteenth century interest in the traces of Empire in Dickens and his ilk.

There is much written on the phenomenon called Global Music. Of course there are ways in which this can be categorised as a commodification process intricately linked to the global spread of capitalist marketeering of all cultural forms. But within this there are demarcations to be made, and the relative silence still accorded the influence of politically charged South Asian creativities in the Global Music discourse might be indicative of more important politically potent occlusions. Where Blues and Reggae are well established as antecedents of popular ‘Western’ music, the influence of the East always seems to be presented as a peripheral, curious, or at best experimental aside, if accorded any centrality at all. Why? Since in terms of Empire India was so central, Calcutta was the second most important city in the world, so muck-much of European culture can be traced to Asia (from pajamas to umbrellas, goodness gracious me – see Hobson-Jobson). I keep on saying, what would it be to write the history of Empire from a perspective outside of Euro-America? Say from Calcutta, or departing from the disaffected experimental out-of-his-mindset of a stoned Stone or a migrant-resident Indglish Sisodia-stuttering Intefada cursed crossover (both after all go for market share, belong to a well-to-do class fraction, profess a certain degree of – Ltd – left politics, and have been labelled devilish)?….

Note 2009 – of course Ted already started out on this too: here.

This Rolling Stone


An amazing image of Keef Richard – as (mis)represented by The Sun newspaper yesterday (10 May 06), after his second brain operation. Story goes that he fell from a coconut tree, and/also maybe from a jetski, had an initial op, is rumoured to have checked himself out of hospital – rock and roll! – but with continued headaches (go figure) he had to go back in to have a hole drilled in his skull to release the build up of blood. Allegedly through extended drug use he’s got clotting problems, though I suspect this is just a gratuitous use of the incident to score anti-drug points.

So, why is The Sun scheming up these gratuitous diagrammatic images, with the same entertainment sentimentality that we see so often on the 10pm BBC evening news (its not just a lowbrow tabloid that does this). The graphs and re-creations… I remember in the first weeks of the gulf war (2) the Guardian newspaper had, in nearly every issue, a two page map of Iraq. I was saying then they should sell the paper with a little plastic bag full of soldiers and tanks stuck to the front, then we could play strategy on the map just like George and Tony were doing (so badly).

Gnnnnng. So, have some respect for the great stones guitarist – just because it seems like he’s gonna go on and on forever, doesn’t mean its easy to get around with a tap in your head.
.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,789 other followers

%d bloggers like this: