Jamming the Signal: Better Living Through Subliminal Messages

by John Ohno

A little over ten years ago, I discovered a program that shipped with my screensaver package called xsublim. This program (which no longer ships with xscreensaver, and in fact no longer builds) takes a text file, splits it into individual words, and then displays each word on random place on your screen for a tiny fraction of a second. Experimenting with it led me on an interesting path through the backwoods of cognitive science.

XSublim was written as a lark, and by default it will display slogans from 1984 and They Live. However, in the half century since pop-culture’s ideas about subliminal messages crystallized, research has progressed: contrary to the media depictions of frightening hypnotic mind control, subliminal messages have only weak and difficult-to-predict effects, and complicated messages (longer than one or two words) are barely processed at all.

I’m mostly interested in the mind-expanding (rather than mind-controlling) potential of subliminal messages — an area   they are ultimately better suited for. The point of greatest interest is the way that subliminal messages bypass conscious awareness and therefore do not require conscious attention: subliminal learning is a little bit like earning royalties or interest, in that the returns may be small but the effort-to-return ratio is nearly zero. Replacing a week of active study with a year of passive study is a no-brainer.

Mechanism of action

When we talk about subliminal messages, what we’re really talking about is what cognitive scientists call ‘priming’: a weak nudge that inclines us toward particular associations. Priming creates a sense of familiarity and attractiveness — flash faces on a screen, and those faces will be rated as more attractive during a survey. Priming also encourages similar ideas: people who see the word “water” flashed on a screen will be slightly more likely to interpret “bank” as “river bank” than as “financial institution” and those who see “doctor” will respond slightly more quickly to medical-related prompts — a concept known as “spreading activation.” It does this just by seeding a pattern in working memory — ‘priming the pump’ and making related thoughts flow more easily.

This makes it not terribly useful for advertising. A subliminal ad can make people who are currently thirsty slightly prefer Coca Cola, but it can’t get them to buy a case when they already have Sprite in the fridge. Similarly, the impulse is so weak that it can’t be used to get people to act out of character (you can’t be subliminally instructed to kill the president, although if you are playing a first person shooter video game it might be able to get you to shift your target one in a thousand times). If we want to squeeze utility out of subliminal messages, we need to be a little more creative.

 

Applications

Subliminal exposure can produce a sense of familiarity, which can be used to aid learning. Even though seeing the contents of a math textbook subliminally a million times will not let you skip the math class, it will make the terms and patterns seem more familiar, less imposing, and easier to remember — so later study will be easier. Seeing the contents of the textbook after class can help keep the ideas in memory. I typically begin to display the ebook versions of books I intend to read months in advance, continuously — making the actual task of reading them much faster, when I finally get around to it. I have had dense philosophical texts in circulation for years. Read more “Jamming the Signal: Better Living Through Subliminal Messages”

Exocortices: A Definition of a Technology

By The Doctor

A common theme of science fiction in the transhumanist vein, and less commonly in applied (read: practical) transhumanist circles is the concept of having an exocortex either installed within oneself, or interfaced in some way with one’s brain to augment one’s intelligence.  To paint a picture with a fairly broad brush, an exocortex was a system postulated by JCR Licklider in the research paper Man-Computer Symbiosis which would implement a new lobe of the human brain which was situated outside of the organism (though some components of it might be internal).  An exocortex would be a symbiotic device that would provide additional cognitive capacity or new capabilities that the organism previously did not posses, such as:

  • Identifying and executing cognitively intensive tasks (such as searching for and mining data for a project) on behalf of the organic brain, in effect freeing up CPU time for the wetware.
  • Adding additional density to existing neuronal networks to more rapidly and efficiently process information.  Thinking harder as well as faster.
  • Providing databases of experiential knowledge (synthetic memories) for the being to “remember” and act upon.  Skillsofts, basically.
  • Adding additional “execution threads” to one’s thinking processes.  Cognitive multitasking.
  • Modifying the parameters of one’s consciousness, for example, modulating emotions to suppress anxiety and/or stimulate interest, stimulating a hyperfocus state to enhance concentration, or artificially inducing zen states of consciousness.
  • Expanding short-term memory beyond baseline parameters.  For example, mechanisms that translate short-term memory into long-term memory significantly more efficiently.
  • Adding I/O interfaces to the organic brain to facilitate connection to external networks, processing devices, and other tools.

What I consider early implementations of such a cognitive prosthetic exist now and can be constructed using off-the-shelf hardware and open source software.  One might carefully state that, observing that technologies build on top of one another to advance in sophistication, these early implementations may pave the way for the future sci-fi implementations.  While a certain amount of systems administration and engineering know-how is required at this time to construct a personal exocortex, system automation for at-scale deployments can be used to set up and maintain a significant amount of exocortex infrastructure.  Personal interface devices – smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and other wearable devices – are highly useful I/O devices for exocortices, and probably will be until such time that direct brain interfaces are widely available and affordable.  There are also several business models inherent in exocortex technology but it should be stressed that potential compromises of privacy, issues of trust, and legal matters (in particular in the United States and European Union) are also inherent.  This part of the problem space is insufficiently explored and thus expert assistance is required.

Here are some of the tools that I used to build my own exocortex:

Ultimately, computers are required to implement such a prosthesis.  Lots of them.  I maintain multiple virtual machines at a number of hosting providers around the world, all running various parts of the infrastructure of my exocortex.  I also maintain multiple physical servers to carry out tasks which I don’t trust to hardware that I don’t personally control.  Running my own servers also means that I can build storage arrays large enough for my needs without spending more money than I have available at any one time.  For example, fifty terabytes of disk space on a SAN in a data center might cost hundreds of dollars per month, but the up-front cost of a RAID-5 array with at least one hotspare drive for resiliency was roughly the same amount.  Additionally, I can verify and validate that the storage arrays are suitably encrypted and sufficiently monitored.

Back end databases are required to store much of the information my exocortex collects and processes.  They not only hold data for all of the applications that I use (and are used by my software), they serve as the memory fields for the various software agents I use.  The exact databases I use are largely irrelevant to this article because they all do the same thing, just with slightly different network protocols and dialects of SQL.  The databases are relational databases right now because the software I use requires them, but I have schemes for document and graph databases for use with future applications as necessary.  I also make use of several file storage and retrieval mechanisms for data that parts of me collect: Files of many kinds, copies of web pages, notes, annotations, and local copies of data primarily stored with other services.  I realize that it sounds somewhat stereotypical for a being such as myself to hoard information, but as often as not I find myself needing to refer to a copy of a whitepaper (such as Licklider’s, referenced earlier in this article) and having one at hand with a single search.  Future projects involve maintaining local mirrors of certain kinds of data for preferential use due to privacy issues and risks of censorship or even wholesale data destruction due to legislative fiat or political pressure.

Arguably, implementing tasks is the most difficult part.  A nontrivial amount of programming is required as well as in-depth knowledge of interfacing with public services, authentication, security features… thankfully there are now software frameworks that abstract much of this detail away.  After many years of building and rebuilding and fighting to maintain an army of software agents I ported much of my infrastructure over to  Andrew Cantino’s Huginn.  Huginn is a software framework which implements several dozen classes of semi-autonomous software agents, each of which is designed to implement one kind of task, like sending an HTTP request to a web server, filtering events by content, emitting events based upon some external occurrance, sending events to other services.  The basic concept behind Huginn is the same as the UNIX philosophy: Every functional component does one thing, and does it very well.  Events generated by one agent can be ingested by other agents for processing.  The end result is greater than the sum of the results achieved by each individual agent.  To be sure, I’ve written lots of additional software that plugs into Huginn because there are some things it’s not particularly good, mainly very long running tasks that require minimal user input on a random basis but result in a great deal of user output.

Storing large volumes of information requires the use of search mechanisms to find anything.  It can be a point of self-discipline to carefully name each file, sort them into directories, and tag them, but when you get right down to it that isn’t a sustainable effort.  My record is eleven years before giving up and letting search software do the work for me, and much more efficiently at that.  Primarily I use the YaCy search engine to index websites, documents, and archives on my servers because it works better than any search engine I’ve yet tried to write, has a reasonable API to interface with, and can be run as an isolated system (i.e., not participating in the global YaCy network, which is essential for preserving privacy).  When searching the public Net I use several personal instances of Searx, an open source meta-search engine that is highly configurable, hackable, and also presents a very reasonable API.

I make a point of periodically backing up as much of my exocortex as possible.  One of the first automated jobs that I set up on a new server or when installing new software is running automatic backups of the application as well as its datastores several times every day.  In addition, those backups are mirrored to multiple locations on a regular basis, and those multiple locations copy everything to cold storage once a day.  To conserve mass storage space I have a one month rotation period for those backups; copies older than 31 days are automatically deleted to reclaim space.

In future articles, I’ll talk about how I built my own exocortex, what I do with it, and what benefits and drawbacks it has in my everyday life.  I will also, of course, discuss some of the security implications and a partial threat model for exocortices.  I will also write about what I call “soft transhumanism” in the future, personal training techniques that form the bedrock of my technologically implemented augmentations.

After a talk given at HOPE XI.

This is the first in a series of articles by The Doctor

The Doctor is a security practitioner working for a large Silicon Valley software-as-a-service company on next-generation technologies to bring reality and virtuality closer together.  His professional background includes security research, red team penetration testing, open source intelligence analysis, and wireless security.  When not reading hex dumps, auditing code, and peeking through sensors scattered across the globe he travels through time and space inside a funny blue box, contributes designs and code to a number of open-source hardware and software projects, and hacks on his exocortex,a software ecosystem and distributed cognitive prosthesis that augments his cognitive capabilities and assists him in day to day life collecting information and by farming out personally relevant tasks.  His primary point of presence is the blog Antarctica Starts Here.

 

Pull Quotes from “Kids Do The Darnedest Drugs”: Issue #2 High Frontiers

Image by Lord Nose

I’m pretty sure we only printed 2,000 copies of High Frontiers #2 (1985) just like #1. But this time, we sold most of them. Ron Turner at Last Gasp was very excited by it. He was sure we would be sued by Disney because we had the three-eared Mickey Mouse holding the Central Intelligence Agency hit of blotter acid. And all that happened, according to Turner, was that someone from Disney went to a single popular magazine rack in L.A. and made them pull it from the shelf and hand them over. Odd. Not sure how that works. Maybe some of the workers at Mouschwitz just wanted some free copies.

Image by Lord Nose

Excerpt from Freaks in the Machine: MONDO 2000 in Late 20th Century Technoculture (in progress)

 

The hydrogen bomb (was) the flash of the first synapse of an etheric brain which is extended temporally as well as spatially. Robin Hoor Khuit

 

 

Everyone was looking at Ram Dass like he must be the Magus riding out of the north.  Peter Stafford

 

Learn how to control your own nervous system and the whole universe is yours; that’s the transmutation the alchemists were working for.  Robert Anton Wilson

 

 

There are about six different realities that Bell’s Theorem makes possible, none of them are ordinary. They’re all preposterous Nick Herbert

 

Joyce, Guernica, Auschwitz, lunar landings, nuclear weapons, psychedelic religion, and computer networking — markers on a path that may eventually carry us toward functional anarchy  Terence McKenna

 

 

When you take MDA and LSD simultaneously, you get a sort of matrix multiplication effect where you can observe yourself in all possible incarnations. Zarkov

 

 

[With the Brotherhood of Eternal Love] It was a religious zeal that life is better suited to being high.  Michael Hollingshead

 

 

Revolution and evolution, they’re both a process. A revolution never ends; or once a  revolution ends, it’s  probably a dictatorship  Paul Krassner

 

 

I realized that I was seeing “god central.” The central panel I saw was the control panel of the entire universe.  Zarkov

 

 

There was a giant punk goddess with a green mohawk and full body armor  screaming, “is it finally strong enough for you?” Terence McKenna

 

 

Magnificent extragalactic trisexual desires multiple sex with all creatures any time/any space. Non-smokers only. No weirdoes.  Amalgam X

 

Mad Scientists Wanted for Research on Irrational Mechanics

by Giulio Prisco

I am a mad scientist interested in future science and technology able to resurrect the dead from the past. I look for hints, clues and glimpses in today’s speculative, highly imaginative science. Do you want to join me?

The recently published book “Technological Resurrection: A Thought Experiment,” by Jonathan Jones, provides a short and readable first introduction to our ideas on technological resurrection. See my review on Mondo 2000. According to Jones, future engineers will be able to teleport our consciousness to the future with ultra-technology based on quantum effects, wormholes and whatnot.

Technological resurrection science is likely to involve next-next generation physics of huge energies, infinitesimal scales, space-time noodles and quantum ultra-weirdness, not to mention higher dimensions and parallel worlds. The same science will take us to the stars, perhaps faster than light (FTL), perhaps open the way to some sort of time travel, and perhaps permit understanding God(s). Or build God(s), or become God(s).

I call this research program “Irrational Mechanics” (see below).

Before becoming a mad scientist, I used to be a “real” scientist in academy and public research centers. I know the science establishment pretty well, certainly well enough to realize that what I’m saying is so heretical that no scientist can enter safely. There are a lot of scientists who entertain similar ideas, but even mentioning them is career suicide. Developing these ideas is for politically incorrect amateur citizen scientists like me, and perhaps you.

We can’t do real research because our skills are too limited or too rusty, and/or we have to do other things for a living. What we can do is research on others’ research. But that’s good enough, because the heavy lifting work is already done by top scientists, only they aren’t allowed to even mention some deep implication of their own work. Laying out the heretic implications is up to us. Of course, we must understand the science first.

For example, many enthusiasts believe that the spooky correlations between quantum-entangled particles could be used to send FTL instant messages, or signal backward in time. But unfortunately, according to our current understanding, entanglement is real but can’t be used to send FTL instant messages.

“mad scientist” Frank Tipler

Why? Because measuring the spin of one of a pair of entangled particles always gives a random result  —  even if the results of the two measurements are correlated — and any attempt to preset the spin of a particle would break the entanglement. A good analogy is two decks of “magic” cards that are always in the same order, but the magic only works if both decks are well shuffled first, and cheating breaks the magic. Read more “Mad Scientists Wanted for Research on Irrational Mechanics”

Old and busted: Learned helplessness. New hotness: Nihilism as survival trait.

 

by: Pariah McCree

They didn’t censor the gunshots, or the people getting hurt, or the blood… they blurred out a guy in the crowd standing up and flipping off the shooter. I guess we know where their priorities are.

Last night I finally had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a partner I don’t get to see very often, because our lives reside in vastly different orbits these days.  This quality time consisted of sitting on their couch sipping bourbon, shooting the shit, and occasionally glancing over at the television showing a queue full of episodes of Rick and Morty.  I’m not particularly interested in television but I can certainly appreciate the antics of a sarcastic, hedonistic, substance using and abusing mad scientist.  At some point last night, said partner’s phone began making noises as if it were about to explode, or possibly perish of a combination stroke and heart attack.  Knowing them as long as I have and being a product of my time, I immediately extracted my smartphone and began scanning social media.  Did the Oompa-Loompa in Chief finally start World War III?

“Bah.  Another mass shooting, this one at the hotel I stayed at this summer.  Whatever.”

I dropped both phone and drink, committing one of the few sins I actually care about (alcohol abuse).  “What?”

“Another mass shooting, this one at a festival in Las Vegas.  Initial reports are forty fatalities and at least two hundred injured.  Data is still being compiled.”  They sipped their drink and tossed their own phone onto the coffee table as Rick prattled on about the racial epithets of alien species.

“No,” I said.  “You just blew it off.  This isn’t like you.  How much did you have?”

“Just the one,” they said.  “It’s just another fucking mass shooting.  They’ll happen more and more often as people get more and more crazy.  After your ninth or tenth you stop rising to take the bait and flow with it.”

 

I don’t mind saying that I spent the rest of the evening drinking quietly and staring at my long-time friend, co-conspirator, and lover. This is a person who sends flowers when someone’s cat dies, and wept upon discovering that a hamster’s disappearance was due to the creature hiding in its cage to expire quietly. And they’re not even breaking a sweat upon discovering that several hundred people (at last count, more than 500 injuries and almost 60 deaths) were on the wrong end of a jackass with a room full of guns and a week’s worth of ammunition in downtown Las Vegas? Some days I’m not sure how human they are, but last night took the taco. I stayed as far away from the coat closet as I could, lest a cyborg facehugger spring from the shadows and shove its ovipositor down my throat.

In the shower this morning, where I always do my best thinking (don’t you?) I rolled the events of the previous night around in my head. By my take, there have been about 115 mass shootings since the year 2000. While the numbers bounce around a little bit they’re steadily creeping upward.  Add to that the sheer insanity of the past year and… this is our new normal. The pattern of how the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre is going to unfold is probably going to be just like all the others.

The shooter was a wealthy, retired white guy, so there goes the narrative of “brown people who are also Muslim killing good Christian ‘muricans (fuck yeah!)” Nobody could possibly have predicted that this poor, sweet man was going through such a bad time, he was mentally ill and acting on his own, he wasn’t radicalized at all… blah blah fucking blah. If he hadn’t offed himself before the SWAT team blew his door they’d have escorted him safely down to the basement garage of the hotel and whisked him away before sending a talking head to give a statement to the press. Once again, nothing substantial is going to happen, or at least nothing good. The usual talking heads are all whining that they don’t know how such a thing could have happened; they may as well re-run the interviews from the last nine shootings involving white guys and be done with it. The usual “abolish all gun laws,” “armed people don’t get gunned down,” and “Second Amendment uber alles!” crowd is running its mouth and that rattling sound you hear is the NRA shutting money around back channels.  People who absolutely cannot wrap their heads around the fact that a retiree might decide to open fire on a crowd for no good reason at all are blaming everything from an Illuminati human sacrifice ritual to forgotten MK-ULTRA deep cover agents getting the go-code are shitting up the Internet with their wild-ass speculations. The Oompa-Loompa in Chief is barely responding, per usual. He was too busy golfing to pay attention until somebody suggested that it would make him look more presidential to say something sympathetic in front of a camera. The Onion, possibly the last bastion of sarcasm-as-uncomfortable-observation has re-run its “mass shooting in America” article once more, and again changing only the dates and location.

As much as it makes my cold, black heart ache, I find myself agreeing with my partner-in-crime. We’re rapidly approaching a state of being in which the possibility of being gunned down at any moment by some rando is the new normal. Ironically — and this is the part that really fucks with me — some of the news media felt a need to censor some of the social media footage before airing it. They didn’t censor the gunshots, or the people getting hurt, or the blood… they blurred out a guy in the crowd standing up and flipping off the shooter. I guess we know where their priorities are. Conservative mouthpiece Bill O’Reilly even went so far today to say that the shooting in Las Vegas last night was simply “the price of freedom.

I now think I understand why my partner was so nonplussed about last night.  When you live in a world in which the worth of one single life pales in comparison to the value of being able to take a life with ease, one’s self-worth also diminishes. The math scarily balances: One life equals one death. It almost doesn’t even seem worth taking basic precautions to protect one’s safety, does it? The possibility that one may die a violent death at any moment is such a real one that acceptance and preparation seems like the most obvious course of action, because there really is no solution. Lies are the only thing that matter and evidence stating anything else is ignored or mockedPreconceptions born of bad television mean more than answers from real-life experts.

The takeaway from last night’s bourbon-and-cartoon marathon? The bit that stuck with me, aside from wondering if somebody I care about finally gave up?

“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die.  Come watch TV.”

Goddamn.

Steal This Singularity Part 3: Bean Counters in Paradise

 

It was 2008 — maybe a week or two into my first experience working with “official” “organized” (as if) transhumanism as editor of h+ magazine. I was being driven down from Marin Country to San Jose to listen to a talk by a scientist long associated with various transhumanoid obsessions, among them nanotechnology, encryption and cryonics. As we made the two hour trip, the conversation drifted to notions of an evolved humanity; a different sort of species — maybe disembodied or maybe not — but decidedly post-Darwinian and in control of its instincts. I suggested that a gloomy aspect of these projections was that sex would likely disappear, since those desires and pleasures arose from more primitive aspects of the human psyche. My driver told me that he didn’t like sex because it was a distraction — a waste of brain power… not to mention sloppy.

I arrived at a Pizza Hut in an obscure part of the city. This gathering of about 15 – 20 transhumanoids would take place over cheap pizza in the back room that was reserved for the event. There was even a projector and a screen.The speaker — a pear shaped fellow clad in dress pants held up by a belt pulled up above his stomach — started his rap. As I recall, he predicted major nanotechnology breakthroughs (real nanotechnology i.e. molecular machines capable of making copies of themselves and making just about anything that nature allows extremely cheaply) within our extended lifetimes, allowing us, among other things, to stay healthy  indefinitely and finally migrate into space.

I recall him presenting a scenario in which all of us — or many of us — could own some pretty prime real estate; that is, chunks of this galaxy, at the very least that we could populate with our very own advanced progeny (mind children, perhaps.) I’m a bit sketchy on the details from so long ago, but it was a very far out vision of us united with advanced intelligences many times greater than our own either never dying or arising from the frozen dead and, yes, each one getting this gigantic chunk of space real estate to populate. (That these unlivable areas can be made livable either by changing it or ourselves or both with technology is the assumption here.)

Once the speaker had laid out the amazing future as scientifically plausible, he confessed that he was mainly there to make a pitch.  Alcor  — the cryonics company that he was involved in — needed more customers. As he delineated how inexpensively one could buy an insurance policy to  be frozen for an eventual return performance, he began to emphasize the importance of a person in cryonics not being considered legally dead… because that person could then build interest on a savings account or otherwise have his or her value increase in a stock market that was — by all nanocalculations — destined to explode into unthinkable numbers (a bigger boom).

For the bulk of his talk, the speaker dwelt on the importance of returning decades or maybe even a century or so hence to a handsome bank account. It was one of those “I can’t emphasize this enough” sort of talks that parents used to give to their 20-something kids about 401ks. Read more “Steal This Singularity Part 3: Bean Counters in Paradise”

Writing “Blood and Guts In High School” — Excerpt From “After Kathy Acker”

by Chris Kraus (from After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography

I first became aware of Kathy Acker when excerpts from Blood and Guts in High School appeared in the Canadian avant-garde magazine Impulse in the late 1970s. It was the first fictional work I’d read that was able to do what punk rock was doing. Everything around it seemed dull by comparison.

Years later, I got to meet Acker at a MONDO 2000 event and we would quickly become close friends and (briefly… twice) lovers. 

Now we have Chris Kraus’s After Kathy Acker. It’s a well-researched bio that revolves around her creative work… with enough discursive style to achieve some degree of Acker-ness. 

below then… an excerpt from Blood and Guts in High School

R.U. Sirius

*****

Until she sat down to compose the manuscript at the end of 1978, Acker never conceived Blood and Guts in High School as a continuous, stand-alone book. Neither a serial project nor a “big novel,” the book was composed from an assortment of fragments and outtakes written and saved since she moved to Solana Beach with Peter Gordon in 1973 and began writing prose. The intricate pictograph dream maps she drew while she was writing The Childlike Life appear for the first time in Blood and Guts, preceding some fairy tales she’d composed but not used in Toulouse #4.

Teen gangs like the Scorpions had been on her mind since becoming involved with the downtown scene when she moved back to New York. In a 1974 letter to Ron Silliman, she gleefully wrote, I’m becoming a rock & roll lyricist, and copied her new “poem” for him:

NO MORE PARENTS NO MORE SCHOOL

NO MORE SOCIETY’S DIRTY RULES

SPREAD MY LEGS I’M SO POOR I WANT TO DIE

According to Judith Doyle, Acker saw punk as “this schoolyard nasty-girl desire thing.” Composed in the wake the hyper-narrative Kathy Goes to Haiti, Blood and Guts proposes a more aggressive and upbeat, less tragic form of rebellion than the schoolgirl conspiracies that unfold in The Childlike Life, drawn from her years at the Lenox School and the writings of Violette Leduc.

The Persian Poems — her ingenious, maybe real, maybe fake translation of such phrases as Janey is an expensive child/But cheap and see my cunt! into Farsi that form the middle part of Blood and Guts — was initially published in Sylvere Lotringer’s 1978 Schizo-Culture issue of the magazine Semiotext(e). The Persian Poems appeared again in 1980 as an artist’s book illustrated by Robert Kushner that was also funded and produced by him as “Bozeau of London Press.”

Early in 1978 Acker confronted, for the first time, the possibility that she might have cancer. Discovering a breast lump, she underwent a biopsy that turned out benign. Fear and dread of the disease course through the second half of Blood and Guts in High School: [In] my life politics don’t disappear but take place in my body, she writes in the section following The Persian Poems. And further on:

Having cancer is like having a baby. If you’re a woman and you can’t have a baby ‘cause you’re starving poor or ‘cause no man wants anything to do with you or ‘cause you’re lonely and miserable and frightened and totally insane, you might as well get cancer. You can feel your lump, and you nurse, knowing I will always get bigger. It eats you, and, gradually, you learn, as all good mothers learn, to love yourself.

By now she and Gordon no longer lived, or expected to live, as a traditional couple. Best friends and roommates, they had established completely separate lives. Still, that year they got married on a freezing February afternoon at City Hall. As Gordon recalls, the marriage was wholly Acker’s idea. There was no reception, party, or other acknowledgment of the event.

To Gordon, “Our marriage] was always kind of a mystery to me . . . I still wonder about it. Perhaps it was because . . . mortality had raised its head and perhaps there was a re-evaluation of the importance of the relationship.” A more crass viewpoint would be that it was for insurance reasons. But even though he’d signed up for insurance, Gordon’s employer neglected to pay for the policy, and they were stuck with the hospital bill.

Six months later they separated permanently. Gordon moved out of the apartment, into his East Sixth Street studio. They’d been together since 1972. Even though she’d been actively seeking a more — to her mind — suitable romantic partner for the past several years, Acker was devastated. The pain of their separation defines the comedic exchanges between “Janey” and “Father” in the opening of Blood and Guts in High School.

In Scene One, Janey’s father — like Peter Gordon — has started casually dating a girl and discovered that he likes her. Janey: You’re going to leave me . . . Father (dumbfounded, but not denying it): Sally and I just slept together for the first time. How can I know anything? Janey (in amazement. She didn’t believe what she was saying was true. It was only out of petulance): You ARE going to leave me. Oh no. No. That can’t be. Father (also stunned): I never thought I was going to leave you. I was just fucking . . . A series of tormented relationship conversations ensues:

Janey (searching for a conversation subject that doesn’t touch upon their breaking up): What’s Sally like?

Father: I don’t know. (As if he’s talking about someone he’s so close to he can’t see the characteristics.) We’re really very compatible. We like the same things.

She’s very serious; that’s what she’s like. She’s an intellectual.

Janey (showing no emotion): Oh. What does she do?

Father: She’s hasn’t decided yet. She’s just trying to find herself. She’s into music; she writes; she does a little of everything.

Janey (trying to be helpful): It always takes awhile.

Father: She’s trying to find out everything . . .

Janey: Are you going to want to live with me again?

Father: I don’t know right now. I’m really enjoying the emotional distance . . .

Janey: When do you think you’ll know if you ever want to live with me again?

Father: Oh, Janey. You’ve got to lighten up. Things just got too entangled. Everything between us is still too entangled for me to be with you.

Janey: I see. That means no . . .

Father: Right now I just really like opening my door to this apartment and walking into my own space. I’m going to be here through September and then I’ll see what my plans are. I don’t think you should bank on anything . . .

“We were basically living separate lives” Gordon recalls. Kathy had her own life and I had my own life, with Kathy in it. The relationship was not going to change, and I was now marked as a married man. I realized I had to get out..

The exchanges between Janey and her father comprise the first scenes of the book, but they were clearly the last to be composed. It could be that the disturbance of her final separation from Gordon prompted Acker to arrange this collection of outtakes and unpublished writings into a disjunctive but emotionally continuous work. Read more “Writing “Blood and Guts In High School” — Excerpt From “After Kathy Acker””

Mind Parasites & Screaming Memes – Reality Hackers #6 Aditorial

In 1989, Reality Hackers issue #6 ran this aditorial by Morgan Russell on the inside cover calling out “the others” to join us in mutating. The magazine had made a deal with a major distributor to publish 80,000 copies. For some reason, they wound up distributing largely to Piggly Wiggly’s in the deep south. We only sold a small fraction of them. Many months later, we came out as MONDO 2000. Most of our 20,000 copies sold out fast through small indie distributors. Yay!

 

by Morgan Russell

David Bowie’s Strange Louis Vuitton Ad From 2013

We’re inured to it now — even those of us who remember a time when weirdo rock music, even of the most commercially popular sort, wasn’t used in television advertisement.  But every once in awhile, there is an odd or interesting enough juxtaposition of the content of the song to the company being advertised… or even just to the fact that someone deemed this appropriate to be part of an ad, that it makes me, at least, sit up and take notice (and wonder why no one else ever seems to).

The first big fuss, way back,  was about The Beatles song Revolution being used in an ad for Nike (the song was owned by Michael Jackson) in 1987.  Revolution wasn’t a particularly revolutionary song (“Don’t you know it’s going to be all right?”), but McCartney made some unhappy noises about its use (Lennon being unavailable).  McCartney’s songs have since been in a number of ads.

 

A stranger note was stuck by the use of the Jefferson Airplane’s Yippie-esque marching song, Volunteers in an E*Trade ad, which I think may have been aired in the late ’90s, if memory serves, or it may have been later.  Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life to advertise Royal Caribbean Cruise was pretty strange if you know the lyrics, but in contrast with Volunteers, the songs’ more radical or distinctive lyrics weren’t a part of the ad.

The truly weirdest thing I ever saw mixing rock with advertising was — I swear to my own memory of this — a Goodyear Tires ad using Venus In Furs by the Velvet Underground.  Now, I find on YouTube only a Dunlop ad from Great Britain, which is peculiar enough, but this ad is visually strange whereas the Goodyear ad was visually straightforward, and therefor did not call any attention to the content of the song.  I saw it once and never again.

And in 2014, we had David Bowie’s harpsichord remake of “I’d Rather Be High” for Louis Vuitton with its chorus

I’d rather be high
I’d rather be flying
I’d rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns on those men in the sand
I’d rather be high

So there’s the contemporary anticolonial war undercurrent (we naturally think of western soldiers in Arabic territories), but what really sticks out like a sore thumb with a tab of ecstasy on it is the well enunciated “I’d Rather Be High.” The French Revolution-era Court of Louis XVI party decadence visuals are just there. Interesting, but more Louis Vuitton than I’d rather be high. But then, at the end, the fashionable and contemporary beauty  — model  Arizona Muse sitting at the piano gazes up rapturously at the Michaelangeloesque ceiling, reaches slowly — as though, in fact, high, slightly out-of-body, for her fashionable LV pocketbook and then, outdoors, gazes at the camera with eyes that seem, well, high in a psychedelic sense, a bit like she’s seeing you better than you’re seeing her, and maybe having casually drifted up to that Michaelangelesque ceiling, she’s now a tad the chic urban visionary, and at the same time she’s not experiencing quite enough boundary between her self, the camera and whatever’s behind it.

What’s interesting here isn’t any residual purity anyone may have about rock in advertising. That ship sailed long ago. What’s interesting is the conflation of being high… on drugs… with the desired product. Which has been done over and over again for years, but never enunciated, clearly, lyrically, until now.

So that’s it then. A cultural watershed? Wanting to be high… even being high… it’s normal as wanting to be chic, which is… how normal?  Not sure. But the whole negotiation around drugs, their legalization, their use, and maybe even the more liminal states that  some of them sometimes provide are coming into the open. Maybe? In most peculiar ways.

A Mouse in the Noodles over Mars

 

by Woody Evans

Tim opens the fridge to find a mouse in his noodles.  He’s quick enough to grab the wee bastard and chunk her out of the airlock.  The mouse stiffens, bloats, and floats away.  Her rear left leg kicks hard once, then goes still but for the head-over-tail, slo-mo spin into cold darkness.

The noodles might be salvageable, but Tim doesn’t have the stomach for it anymore.  Back to the gruel-in-a-pouch while he treadmills and watches late night celebrity interviews streamed up from Jezero Crater.

Was Tim right to toss the mouse?  How do Tim’s rights and the rights of the mouse meet and interact?  There are analyses elsewhere on posthuman and transhuman rights, but here let’s look for a minute at the mouse, the noodles, and Tim.

Tim has been up there a long time, and life is hard in low Mars orbit.  He’s very often alone, and he only gets a delivery of Chinese food once every three months.  Chow mein, man, with baby corn, little fancy mushrooms, and that crispy fried tofu… How the mouse got out of its weird little lab trap, Tim doesn’t know — an investigation to be opened.  But Tim won’t get any more noodles for 2 months and 29 days.  Sometimes it’s the little things that help you get through fluorescent-white Monday night headaches.

The mouse wasn’t wrong to sniff out the noodles.  She took advantage of a fridge that had been too hastily shut and had bounced open a smidge — a crack just big enough for her to work her way in.  The mouse was hungry, and the noodles were off-gassing umami compounds.

Tim reacted very quickly to the mouse. He didn’t sit and think about what he should do, he just moved. If he’d taken time to ponder the situation, he might have put the mouse back in her lab trap, then tossed the noodles out of the airlock, instead. But he was motivated by revulsion, and his fight or flight thing started flapping: ergo dead mouse. Mice (on Earth, anyway) carry fleas and can spread disease. Makes a kind of ancient common sense to nuke them. Tim wasn’t wrong, though if he could have muscled-down his disgust he might have slowed his reactions and made a choice that was less harmful — indeed, beneficial — for the mouse. Read more “A Mouse in the Noodles over Mars”