2020 Vision (What Will You Wear To The New Civil War?)

2020 Vision (What Will You Wear To The New Civil War?)

Lyrics written in 2020 by R.U. Sirius
Images by Chad Essley
1 actual recorded song and video by Phr!endz

 

Inscribed

I stole my aphorisms from a young girl named Tristan Tzara
I minored in comedy but I majored in horror
I reached my 100th year when I was 27
I was inscribed inside with a little hint of heaven

And I’m writing this prescription
From an anarchist jurisdiction
Which is just a slimy fantasy
Or wistful wisdom let it be

 

Idiocracy (The Documentary)

And the idiots rose up against The Farrow and cried
Tore off their masks and roared “Let my people die!”
And the Orange Messiah passed out pills and bleach
And everyone agreed “great again” was within reach

And they came with their guns
And even some with hair buns
And all the Karens and Jaspers
Were cheering from the rafters
And some nebbishy patricians
Were signing their petitions
To please their voter base
By appealing to their race

And as they caught and spread infection
Orange Messiah fucked with the election
And called the idiots to insurrection
Promised free Cheetos and police protection

And so the virus spread and spread
Until there were millions dead
And all the supply chains collapsed in dread
And couldn’t get the people fed
And that was just the early crisis
Idiocracy spread just like the virus
To every corner of the earth
And every nation sputtered and lurched

And the idiots rose up against the Farrow and cried
Tore off their masks and roared “Let my people die!”
And the Orange Messiah passed out pills and bleach
And everyone agreed “great again” was within reach

So kiss farewell to the well-mannered plutocracy
And wave hello to the global Idiocracy

Illusions Of Agency

The great society
The ideology
Culture theory
Timothy Leary

Plant a tree
Subversives on TV
Digital means free
Let’s try alchemy

R.U. Sirius
Act imperious
New edge freaks
All power to the geeks

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

The DNC
Crypto-anarchy
Spread a creed
Propaganda by deed

Wild schemes
My magazines
Guillotines
Control of the means

Hillary and Bill
The Triumph of the Will
A perfect peace pill
Mad skills

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Spread a trope
Audacity of hope
Say nope to that joke
Demand better dope

Susan Sarandon
Charlie Manson
Hair of Samson
Dear Leader is handsome

Pontificator
Angry instigator
Be a player
Run for mayor

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Transhumanism
Ideological schisms
Elon’s cybertruck
The belief in luck

Joseph Stalin
Marty Balin
Volunteers
Rock careers

Patty Hearst
Voodou curse
America first
Melania’s purse

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Stay the course
Find the source
Use force
Express remorse

Bio-engineer
Manipulate through fear
Point and jeer
Let me steer

Read more “2020 Vision (What Will You Wear To The New Civil War?)”

“All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed

 

by R.U. Sirius

artwork by Jamie Curcio

Jamie Curcio is a brilliant artist and cultural theorist or something like that… but even, thankfully, harder to pin down.  

In any case, he is one hell of a writer and thinker, mixing together all kinds of favorite MONDOid memes — the ups and downs of post-whatever philosophies, the over-the-edges of avant cultural works, media narratives and quasi-apocalyptic hysterias and — perhaps most charmingly — he is obsessed with David Bowie.

Books include Narrative Machines: Modern Myth, Revolution and Propaganda, Party At The World’s End (Fallen Cycle, Volume One) and the upcoming Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice, which is in progress.

I interviewed Curcio mainly about Narrative Machines and the upcoming Bowie book.  

R.U. SIRIUS: Your book Narrative Machines provides a discourse about the distorting effects of a sort of mediated hall of mirrors and decentering of identity. This sort of thing has been active for a very long time, even before the internet made its growth “exponential.”  From whence comes the recognition that the contingency of our narratives is more useful to the “right” than the “left”… if true?

Also, there was a ‘90s idea that a sufficiently advanced technology would sort-of blow through the rupturing aspect of it all — that the dissipating structures would eventually cohere as a higher evolutionary order.  Is there any use for that sort of hopeful perspective today?

JAMIE CURCIO: Pessimism and realism have a complicated relationship. That’s one of the things I was trying to come to terms with in working on Narrative Machines. So let me say, if being pessimistic is going to shut people down, then I’m not going to say it’s a virtue.  

But it’s also hard to really take an account of the problems on the horizon for our civilization, and our collective inability or unwillingness to deal with it, and not recognize how blinding optimism about the “revelatory power of the new” can be. Accelerationists often forget just how dumb the perpetual rush toward the new can be.

People can read that statement in a Right or a Left way — they’ll differ in terms of looking for a solution, or in what “our civilization” means. Everyone seems to think the barbarians are at the gates, whether it’s the Fascists and Russian oligarchs, or the immigrants and cultural Marxists brainwashing the children. It’s clear which I think is more absurd, but in either case, it’s a war of myth. We can joke about memewar, but I think we need to recognize the ways that it isn’t a joke, or at least, the way that it’s a continuation of propagandist methods that are hardly new.

There’s a kind of messianism and eschatology that runs through both the “Right” and “Left,” the idea that a political ideology itself can fix anything. Robert Anton Wilson wrote about this plenty. I think he was ahead of the curve in many ways, for all that it’s worth. And he was adamant about remaining optimistic.

To me, the silver lining is that if the analogy of the effect on culture the printing press had, and now with the internet, then there’s reason to believe the end isn’t nigh in that regard. Things are looking dark, but if we’re talking about bot armies and the Russian use of postmodern methods in their propaganda — all is not lost. It just emphasizes the importance of studying “useless” things like philosophy and art.

On the other hand, the way that unfettered capitalism is likely to consume the planet, or at least its habitability for a great number of species including, ultimately, ourselves… that’s another story. For all we know, that ship has already sailed. The only way out, if there is one, is through. We’re committed to carry the experiments of the past into the future — just look at how the problems and solutions of a century ago continue to get resurrected. Fascism, Communism, Liberalism. The three ideologies that arose from the ashes of WW 1.

I should add, I happen to think compassion should guide our actions toward others as much as we can manage, and much Right wing ideology seems a veneer for various forms of cruelty, and I believe cruelty should be reserved for art. So my sympathies tend to run Left, but that’s different from an ideological commitment.

RUS: You take on the statistical based optimism that seems to be well-loved particularly by neoliberal sorts like Pinker. The idea is that statistics show us that human beings are improving their lot in life and becoming more well-behaved.  Can you explicate your view a bit?

JC: I was taken by John Grey’s argument on this subject in The Soul of the Marionette, and so while I didn’t just reproduce it, I would say it helped me put a pre-existing line of thought in order. In short, I investigate the Progressive certainty that everything is improving all the time is very much based both on our selective interpretation of the facts, and our situation in terms of a particular narrative we have constructed about our place in history. There have been undeniable benefits per capita in the past 100 years regarding the marriage of technology and capitalism. Will that read the same in 100 years? I’m not so sure.

RUS: I think underlying the technotopian hope of the late 20th Century was the idea that this mostly white and American eruption at the end of the 20th century could use tech to deliver an awesomely improving world and you could elide the blowback from centuries of colonialism and racism. It’s not an entirely bad idea… to avoid conflict.

JC: It definitely tends to overlook the role of inertia in a culture, or of a true reckoning with the past, why that keeps repeating itself through us. Time may be accumulative but the behavior of complex systems is generally not linear.

 

RUS:  You deal in Narrative Machines with questions of revolution… and how it doesn’t tend to deliver on its hopes.  Looking at the Arab Spring, would you say that any movement now just accelerates confusion. There’s no interregnum of hope?

The broader question about revolution usually not improving things… does this leave us with neoliberalism with its economic domination, total surveillance and constant war… or nationalism?  

JC: I use the Arab Spring as an example. What struck me about it was how clearly it supports the idea of “revolution” as very literal — going around and around, forever. There is a sense of Frazier’s Golden Bough here, each King deposed by the King who will one day be deposed. Though that’s a bit reductive, it is hard to find examples of revolution going well for “the people” long term. It’s generally good for some people, and not others. To the extent that revolutions are a power play, they just reshuffle the cards. There’s a lot in Marxist thought about getting beyond that problem… which we definitely haven’t see play out in reality. The day of the revolution is one thing, but there’s always the day after. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is hopeless — we still affect one another, things do actually change.

But my ultimate focus in that book isn’t political, even though it deals so much in political ideological terms. It’s all a backhanded argument for an art movement, really… Read more ““All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed”

The Annoying Internet Part 1

by John Shirley

When I’m online looking up hotels to stay at, or airlines, it used to be that you got the hotel itself first, the website with the front desk number and reservations number — reservations made within the hotel. Now you get a raft of intermediary businesses trying to get you discounts and they’re all people who can’t answer your questions. They can book you a room maybe at a slight discount but not always. Bunch of goddamn parasites.

Lots of times their URLs are deceptive — like, it’ll say the name of the hotel, Joe’s Hotel say, and then after that the name of the intermediary parasite company. JoesHotelFrontDesk dot com — the company is deceivingly called Front Desk. Wanting to talk to the hotel directly you’ve got to sift through a dozen of these and look carefully to pick out the real hotel website.

It’s deceptive and it’s inefficient and it’s irritating. I should not see these booking companies first ± I should see the hotel. If I want booking companies I can google hotel discounts or something. (When I was a boy, the damn search engines were simple and good!)

And ….try finding correct song lyrics online. When looking for song lyrics online, most of the time you get bullshit — they don’t provide the real lyrics, they provide a spazzy version with many errors. The lyric sites are often put up by people in Europe and Eastern Europe who really don’t understand the lyrics very well, even if they can hear them, and they write down the wrong stuff. Lyric sites (often with obnoxious ads) copy the badly transcribed lyrics at other lyric sites. The result is lots of new bands doing covers full of errors.

On youtube, the videos that offer “the lyrics,”,if not put up by the band or artist directly, are likely to be at least partly wrong, sometimes very wrong. And these people do not get permission from artists to put this up. Nor do the lyric sites get permission.

Some artists, like David Bowie, put up all their lyrics so people’d get it right. Lou Reed put out a really good big book of his lyrics. If you go to RollingStones dot com put LYRICS in their search bar, and you get videos where the official lyrics are available. Try that with bands and artists first before searching online.

Lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult and Iggy Pop online are often partly wrong. Sometimes they leave out passages too. I checked and some of my own lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult are misreported. Many lyric sites not only have super-annoying advertising they’re trying to put malware on your computer.

Google Music (not just the google search engine, but Google Music) seems to make an effort for accurate lyrics.  Artists should sue these other bastards for this misrepresentation.

Pariahs Made Me Do It — Of Dali, Warhol & Leary

Excerpt from the original unpublished unfinished MONDO 2000 book. A new one is in the works for Zero Books! Whoo hoo!

R.U. Sirius

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years. From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come. Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm. As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.” Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds. People were either bitchy; or they were in retreat smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.) David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally.) but original persona. His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment. While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain. To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary… all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping in the 1960s. I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture. It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me. During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile. At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison. And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement. This was very depressing. But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held. Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a “science faction” book. Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself. My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing. I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner, that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim. The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new. The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque transhumanism came in 1977. It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But there was a bookstore. I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out. And then I read them again. It all resonated. It all made sense to me. It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed! These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future. The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment. Was I crazy? Was I wrong? By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary? Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.

One final thought. Digging the works of all three of these characters are considered by many to be a display of bad taste. This was perhaps the greatest attraction — not just creating a mental space for from the maddening aging “new left,” but also thumbing my nose at intellectuals and critics.

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.