11 November 2018

Let Them Hang

Below is a list of the photos in order. Here's the legend:

        * '+'   means a pictures with an identifiable person
        * '-'   means a pictures with with faces obscured by cropping or
        * '[+]' means the photo is widely available
        * '[ ]' means the photo does NOT turn up in reverse images searches.

? that last category is interesting, because it narrows the scope of
where the images come from.

        * [#]   means there's some interesting detail (below the list) about
its origin

The photos, in order:

- [+] Boston Dynamics robot dogs running
+ [+] woman wearing a keffiyeh with an assault rifle in the back of a
pickup truck
- [+] gender-balanced, faceless people in a crowd ? maybe a demo,
maybe a concert, probably in Europe
- [ ] Instagrammy composite photo of a skinny woman's arms, four hands
flipping the viewer off
- [ ] people eating, maybe communally, faces blurred in photoshop
- [+] stock photo of an athletic woman running on a race track
+ [+] composite photo ("harveryaftermath") of blacks and whites working
to save kids in a flood zone
+ [ ] poor Latin American kids, maybe in school, with a boy hiding his
face behind paper, bandana-style
- [ ] a punching bag hanging in some sort of crude training camp
- [1] composite photo of two white men crouching behind a mound, one
with a rifle, one with binoculars
- [+] two helmeted motorcyclists pulled off by he side of a remote road,
maybe coordinating
- [ ] arbitrary 3D-rendered thing (a "network" I guess, but quite
unusual ? interesting detail)
+ [ ] outdoorsy white woman, long hair flowing, resolutely digging a
- [ ] hippyish white man (probably), framing a house
- [ ] someone welding
+ [ ] infrastucture-ish composite: white guy working on a tower
scaffold, container ships
- [2] ambiguous photo of someone burning branches, distant crowd visible
through the smoke
- [+] composite: car burning, small group of people in a burning forest
- [+] misc boats in a flood zone (also Hurricane Harvey, in Houston)

More details:

[1] The two men crouching behind a mound is cropped from an image that
appears in several articles about westerners who joined ~local forces to
fight ISIS

[2] the photo of someone burning branches comes from an image
("dakota2.jpg) that appears widely on college essay?selling websites
to illustrate a webpage called "law-enforcement-essays.html", with a
bias toward "racial profiling essays" and "essay on police corruption"

That last bit is interesting, because it suggests something that had
never occurred to me: essays-for-sale websites being used to identify
specific students' political leanings. Maybe some enterprising
journalist can take that one on ? by using reserve image searches to
identify where ~stock photography is used on anonymous, cloned
essay-selling sites.

Other possible follow-ups that could shed light on where this site comes

- language analysis, to see where else the phrasing is popping up
- identifying faces (for example, the woman digging a trench)

One really interesting find: Reverse image searches turn up one more
photo that didn't make it into the final production, called
"hangingrose.203ee432.png," which was to appear in a section called "Let
Them Hang ..." It's a homebrew photo (not available elsewhere) of a
bouquet of flowers, hanging upside-down on a wall, above a US-style
electrical socket. That seems like a pretty sophisticated proposition: a
sentimental appeal phrased in the passive voice but strongly suggestive
of political violence as a tragic, forlorn necessity. I have
screengrabs. Who "they" are who'll be hanging is left to the reader's
fantasy. The phrase "let them hang" comes from Shakespeare's Twelfth
Night (1.3), but it's attained a slightly meme-like status in a variety
of music circles:


—Ted Byfield on nettime

8 November 2018

Windows96 is that guy from Arcade Fire? He's the root cause of all nostalgia in music since early 2000s. I don't think so... I thought he was from brazil


Presently they're linked and slowly descending from wee-hours Manhattan into teeming darkness, leaving the surface-Net crawlers busy overhead slithering link to link, leaving behind the banners and pop-ups and user groups and self-replicating chat rooms . . . down to where they can begin cruising among co-opted blocks of address space with cyber-thugs guarding the perimeters, spammer operation centers, video games one way or another deemed too violent or offensive or intensely beautiful for the market as currently defined...
"Some nice foot-lover sites too," Eric comments casually. Not to mention more forbidden expressions of desire, beginning with kiddie porn and growing even more toxic from there.
It surprises Maxine how populated it is down here in sub-spider country. Adventurers, pilgrims, remittance folks, lovers on the run, claim jumpers, skips, fugue cases, and a high number of inquisitive entrepre-nerds, among them Promoman, whom Eric introduces her to. His avatar is an amiable geek in square-rim glasses wearing a pair of old-school sandwich boards that carry his name, as do those of his curvaceous co-adjutor Sandwichgrrl, her hair literally flaming, a polygon-busy GIF of a bonfire on top of a manga-style subteen face.
"Deep Web advertising, wave of the future," Promoman greets Maxine. "Thing is to get position now, be in place, already up and running when the crawlers show up here, which'll be any minute."
"Wait—you're actually seeing revenue from ads on sites down here?"
"Right now it's weapons, drugs, sex, Knicks tickets . . ."
"All that real recherché shit," puts in Sandwichgrrl. "It's still unmessed-with country. You like to think it goes on forever, but the colonizers are coming. The suits and tenderfeet. You can hear the blue-eyed-soul music over the ridgeline. There's already a half dozen well-funded projects for designing software to crawl the Deep Web—"
"Is that," Maxine wonders, "like, 'Ride the Wild Surf'?"
"Except summer will end all too soon, once they get down here, everything'll be suburbanized faster than you can say 'late capitalism.' Then it'll be just like up there in the shallows. Link by link, they'll bring it all under control, safe and respectable. Churches on every corner. Licenses in all the saloons. Anybody still wants his freedom'll have to saddle up and head somewhere else."
"If you're looking for bargains," advises Sandwichgrrl, "there are some nice ones around the Cold War sites, but prices may not stay reasonable for long."
"I'll bring this up at our next board meeting. Meantime maybe I will just go have a look."
It isn't a promising neighborhood. If there was a Robert Moses of the Deep Net, he'd be screaming, "Condemn it already!" Broken remnants of old military installations, commands long deactivated, as if transmission towers for ghost traffic are still poised out on promontories far away in the secular dark, corroded, untended trusswork threaded in and out with vines and leaves of faded poison green, using abandoned tactical frequencies for operations long defunded into silence . . .  Missiles meant for shooting down Russian prop-driven bombers, never deployed, lying around in pieces, as if picked over by some desperately poor population that comes out only in the deepest watches of the night. Gigantic vacuum-tube computers with half-acre footprints, gutted, all empty sockets and strewn wiring. Littered situation rooms, high-sixties plastic detailing gone brittle and yellow, radar consoles with hooded circular screens, desks still occupied by avatars of senior officers in front of flickering sector maps, upright and weaving like hypnotized snakes, images corrupted, paralyzed, passing to dust.
Maxine notices that one of these maps is centered on eastern Long Island. The room has a familiar look, austere and unmerciful. She is visited by one of those rogue hunches. "Eric, how do we get into this one?"

—Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge

19 October 2018

Message from the Japanese Embassy in Vancouver to all Japanese citizens living abroad

The defunct band "TIA & tha Knutz" now simply called "Tia Ray", photograph circa 2013.

About legalization of cannabis in Canada Published October 4, Heisei 30 With the enactment of the "Canadian Canadian Act on Marijuana" that was adopted on June 21, we will inform you of the following reminders to Japanese nationals.   1. In Canada, possession and use of cannabis (marijuana) will be legalized from 17th October this year.   2. Meanwhile, in Japan in the Cannabis Control Law, the possession / transfer of cannabis (including purchase) etc is illegal and subject to punishment.   3. This provision may be applied not only in Japan but also in foreign countries.   Four. Japanese nationals residing in Japan and Japanese tourists should observe these Japanese laws and take sufficient precautions not to hand over cannabis (as well as foods and drinks containing cannabis), even outside of Japan I hope.

Source: https://www.vancouver.ca.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_ja/00_000921.html

11 October 2018

Hi Alex, I tried to answer your phone call the other day but was not able to hear you. Anyhow, I'm now playing low stakes poker (and tournaments) at the Big Easy Casino 4 nights a week until 2 am. It gets me out of the house socially. I work out most days in the pool for at least an hours, but still eating bad (McDonald's and Burger King most nights after poker, and sleeping most of the day). T is a successful acupuncturist in partnership in California and will be visiting with me for a few days in early November. I'm very happy with the Trump Administration and Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court. Best regards, Rick

Kanye West is not Picasso
I am Picasso
Kanye West is not Edison
I am Edison
I am Tesla
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another
I am Tesla
I am his coil
The coil that made electricity soft as a bed
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
When he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West
I don’t get around much anymore
I never have
I only come alive after a war
And we have not had it yet

-- Leonard Cohen

5 October 2018


JORF n°0229 du 4 octobre 2018
texte n° 113

Recommandation sur les équivalents français à donner à l'expression fake news
NOR: CTNR1826048K
ELI: Non disponible

Portée par l'essor des médias sur la toile et l'activité des réseaux sociaux, l'expression anglo-saxonne fake news, qui désigne un ensemble de procédés contribuant à la désinformation du public, a rapidement prospéré en français.
Voilà une occasion de puiser dans les ressources de la langue pour trouver des équivalents français. Lorsqu'il s'agit de désigner une information mensongère ou délibérément biaisée, répandue par exemple pour favoriser un parti politique au détriment d'un autre, pour entacher la réputation d'une personnalité ou d'une entreprise, ou encore pour contredire une vérité scientifique établie, on pourra recourir au terme « information fallacieuse », ou au néologisme « infox », forgé à partir des mots « information » et « intoxication ».
On pourra aussi, notamment dans un cadre juridique, utiliser les termes figurant dans la loi de 1881 sur la liberté de la presse ainsi que dans le code électoral, le code pénal ou le code monétaire et financier : « nouvelle fausse », « fausse nouvelle », « information fausse » ou « fausse information ».
En tout état de cause, la Commission d'enrichissement de la langue française recommande l'emploi, au lieu de fake news, de l'un de ces termes, choisi en fonction du contexte.

24 September 2018

Nicole's Cage


A Lesbian Artist Who Painted Her Circle of Women at the Turn of the 20th Century


Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 6:07 AM

to me

The image at the bottom of “Una, Lady Troubridge” would be a good model for your Lesbian self portrait!
me thinks

Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 4:49 PM

to you

Hi you

I like it
But I think maybe you had someone else in mind?
My Lesbian self portrait would require several extra layers of paint, I am not sure I could pull it off.
best wishes

14 September 2018

Titles for Beth's paintings (but I might use a couple too)

1. If I look too closely all I see is Donair meat 
2. Subterbody 
3. Find the strangest website you can about ecology 
4. All ideas start as memes 
5. Banana with Adam's apple 
6. Painting in a vacuum 
7. Tirades 
8. Politics of synaesthesia 
9. Becoming anti-intellectual 
10. Academia saves you from stupid ideas 
11. Pig ribs at the scale of cow ribs 
12. Pickle of the scene 
13. Asking permission for rights to traveling wilburys song 
14. TED talk with rapping AI robot 
15. Algorithms of consent 
16. Attention payments 
17. You would be so poetic / as a pair of underwear / hanging from the balcony 
18. Clouds inside a house 
19. Digestive system in a bank vault 
20. Drapery in a server farm

7 September 2018

For Beau

"The children," writes Ryman, "knew the Substitute was not a real teacher because he was so soft" (168). "Substitute" derives from the word "succeed," and the sense of possibility around the changeover is deeply embedded in the word. A substitute brings optimism if he hasn't yet been defeated-by life or by the students. He enters their lives as a new site for attachment, a dedramatized possibility. He is by definition a placeholder, a space of abeyance, an aleatory event. His coming is not personal-he is not there for anyone in particular. The amount of affect released around him says something about the intensity of the children's available drive to be less dead, numb, neutralized, or crazy with habit; but it says nothing about what it would feel like to be in transit between the stale life and all its others, or whether that feeling would lead to something good.

Of course, often students are cruel to substitutes, out of excitement at the unpredictable and out of not having fear or transference to make them docile or even desiring of a recognition that has no time to be built. But this substitute is special to Dorothy: he is an actor, like her parents; he teaches them Turkish, and tells them about alternative histories lived right now and in the past (171). Dorothy fantasizes about Frank Baum not in a narrative way, but with a mixture of sheer pleasure and defense: "Frank, Frank, as her uncle put his hands on her" (16g); then she berates herself for her "own unworthiness" (169) because she knows "how beautiful you are and I know how ugly I am and how you could never have anything to do with me" (174). She says his name, Frank, over and over: it "seemed to sum up everything that was missing from her life" (16g). Yet, face to face she cannot bear the feeling of relief from her life that the substitute's being near provides for her. She alternately bristles and melts at his deference, his undemanding kindness. She mocks him and disrupts class to drown out her tenderness, but obeys him when he asks her to leave the room to just write something, anything.

What she comes back with is a lie, a wish. Her dog, Toto, had been murdered by her aunt and uncle, who hated him and who had no food to spare for him. But the story she hands in to the substitute is a substitute: it is about how happy she and Toto are. It includes sentences about how they play together and how exuberant he is, running around yelping "like he is saying hello to everything" (174). Imaginary Toto sits on her lap, licks her hand, has a cold nose, sleeps on her lap, and eats food that Auntie Em gives her to give him. The essay suggests a successful life, a life where love circulates and extends its sympathies, rather than the life she actually lives, where "[i]t was as if they had all stood back-to-hack, shouting 'love' at the tops of their lungs, but in the wrong direction, away from each other"(221). It carries traces of all of the good experience Dorothy has ever had. The essay closes this way: "I did not call him Toto. That is the name my mother gave him when she was alive. It is the same as mine" (175).

Toto, Dodo, Dorothy: the teacher sees that the child has opened up something in herself, let down a defense, and he is moved by the bravery of her admission of identification and attachment. But he makes the mistake of being mimetic in response, acting soft toward her in a way he might imagine that she seeks to be: "I'm very glad," he murmured, "that you have something to love as much as that little animal." Dorothy goes ballistic at this response and insults Baum, but goes on to blurt out all of the truths of her life, in public, in front of the other students. She talks nonstop about being raped and hungry all the time, about the murder of her dog, and about her ineloquence: "I can't say anything," she closes (176). That phrase means she can't do anything to change anything. From here she regresses to yelping and tries to dig a hole in the ground, to become the size she feels, and also to become, in a sense, an embodiment of the last thing she loved. After that, Dorothy goes crazy, lives in a fantasy world of her own, wandering homeless and free, especially, of the capacity to reflect on loss in the modalities of realism, tragedy, or melodrama. To protect her last iota of optimism, she goes crazy.

—Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism

30 May 2018

Winnie the poo eyeing an aubergine

Capitalism is a system for concentrating wealth, which makes possible new investments, which further concentrate wealth. This process is accumulation. Classic models take us to the factory: factory owners concentrate wealth by paying workers less than the value of the goods that the workers produce each day. Owners “accumulate” investment assets from this extra value. 

Even in factories, however, there are other elements of accumulation. In the nineteenth century, when capitalism first became an object of inquiry, raw materials were imagined as an infinite bequest from Nature to Man. Raw materials can no longer be taken for granted. In our food procurement system, for example, capitalists exploit ecologies not only by reshaping them but also by taking advantage of their capacities. Even in industrial farms, farmers depend on life processes outside their control, such as photosynthesis and animal digestion. In capitalist farms, living things made within ecological processes are coopted for the concentration of wealth. This is what I call “salvage,” that is, taking advantage of value produced without capitalist control. Many capitalist raw materials (consider coal and oil) came into existence long before capitalism. Capitalists also cannot produce human life, the prerequisite of labor. “Salvage accumulation” is the process through which lead firms amass capital without controlling the conditions under which commodities are produced. Salvage is not an ornament on ordinary capitalist processes; it is a feature of how capitalism works.

Sites for salvage are simultaneously inside and outside capitalism; I call them “pericapitalist.” All kinds of goods and services produced by pericapitalist activities, human and nonhuman, are salvaged for capitalist accumulation. If a peasant family produces a crop that enters capitalist food chains, capital accumulation is possible through salvaging the value created in peasant farming. Now that global supply chains have come to characterize world capitalism, we see this process everywhere. “Supply chains” are commodity chains that translate value to the benefit of dominant firms; translation between noncapitalist and capitalist value systems is what they do. 

Salvage accumulation through global supply chains is not new, and some well-known earlier examples can clarify how it works. Consider the nineteenth-century ivory supply chain connecting central Africa and Europe as told in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. The story turns around the narrator’s discovery that the European trader he much admired has turned to savagery to procure his ivory. The savagery is a surprise because everyone expects the European presence in Africa to be a force for civilization and progress. Instead, civilization and progress turn out to be cover-ups and translation mechanisms for getting access to value procured through violence: classic salvage. For a brighter view of supply-chain translation, consider Herman Melville’s account of the nineteenth-century procurement of whale oil for Yankee investors. Moby-Dick tells of a ship of whalers whose rowdy cosmopolitanism contrasts sharply with our stereotypes of factory discipline; yet the oil they obtain from killing whales around the world enters a U.S.-based capitalist supply chain. Strangely, all the harpooners on the Pequod are unassimilated indigenous people from Asia, Africa, America, and the Pacific. The ship is unable to kill a single whale without the expertise of people who are completely untrained in U.S industrial discipline. But the products of this work must eventually be translated into capitalist value forms; the ship sails only because of capitalist financing. The conversion of indigenous knowledge into capitalist returns is salvage accumulation. So too is the conversion of whale life into investments.

Before you conclude that salvage accumulation is archaic, let me turn to a contemporary example. Technological advances in managing inventory have energized today’s global supply chains; inventory management allows lead firms to source their products from all kinds of economic arrangements, capitalist and otherwise. One firm that helped put such innovations in place is the retail giant Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart pioneered the required use of universal product codes (UPCs), the black-and-white bars that allow computers to know these products as inventory. The legibility of inventory, in turn, means that Wal-Mart is able to ignore the labor and environmental conditions through which its products are made: pericapitalist methods, including theft and violence, may be part of the production process. With a nod to Woody Guthrie, we might think about the contrast between production and accounting through the two sides of the UPC tag. One side of the tag, the side with the black-and-white bars, allows the product to be minutely tracked and assessed. The other side of the tag is blank, indexing Wal-Mart’s total lack of concern with how the product is made, since value can be translated through accounting. Wal-Mart has become famous for forcing its suppliers to make products ever more cheaply, thus encouraging savage labor and destructive environmental practices. Savage and salvage are often twins: Salvage translates violence and pollution into profit. 

As inventory moves increasingly under control, the requirement to control labor and raw materials recedes; supply chains make value from translating values produced in quite varied circumstances into capitalist inventory. One way of thinking about this is through scalability, the technical feat of creating expansion without the distortion of changing relations. The legibility of inventory allows scalable retail expansion for Wal-Mart without requiring that production be scalable. Production is left to the riotous diversity of nonscalability, with its relationally particular dreams and schemes. We know this best in “the race to the bottom”: the role of global supply chains in promoting coerced labor, dangerous sweatshops, poisonous substitute ingredients, and irresponsible environmental gouging and dumping. Where lead firms pressure suppliers to provide cheaper and cheaper products, such production conditions are predictable outcomes. As in Heart of Darkness, unregulated production is translated in the commodity chain, and even reimagined as progress. This is frightening. At the same time, as J. K. Gibson-Graham argue in their optimistic reach toward a “postcapitalist politics,” economic diversity can be hopeful. Pericapitalist economic forms can be sites for rethinking the unquestioned authority of capitalism in our lives. At the very least, diversity offers a chance for multiple ways forward—not just one.

In her insightful comparison between the supply chains for French green beans (haricots verts) that link West Africa with France and East Africa with Great Britain, respectively, geographer Susanne Freidberg offers a sense of how supply chains, drawing variously on colonial and national histories, may encourage quite different economic forms. French neocolonial schemes mobilize peasant cooperatives; British supermarket standards encourage expatriate scam operations. Within and across differences such as these, there is room for building a politics to confront and navigate salvage accumulation. But following Gibson-Graham to call this politics “postcapitalist” seems to me premature. Through salvage accumulation, lives and products move back and forth between noncapitalist and capitalist forms; these forms shape each other and interpenetrate. The term “pericapitalist” acknowledges that those of us caught in such translations are never fully shielded from capitalism; pericapitalist spaces are unlikely platforms for a safe defense and recuperation.

At the same time, the more prominent critical alternative—shutting one’s eyes to economic diversity—seems even more ridiculous in these times. Most critics of capitalism insist on the unity and homogeneity of the capitalist system; many, like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, argue that there is no longer a space outside of capitalism’s empire. Everything is ruled by a singular capitalist logic. As for Gibson-Graham, this claim is an attempt to build a critical political position: the possibility of transcending capitalism. Critics who stress the uniformity of capitalism’s hold on the world want to overcome it through a singular solidarity. But what blinders this hope requires! Why not instead admit to economic diversity?

My goal in bringing up Gibson-Graham and Hardt and Negri is not to dismiss them; indeed, I think they are perhaps the early twenty-first century’s most trenchant anticapitalist critics. Furthermore, by setting out strongly contrasting goal posts between which we might think and play, they jointly do us an important service. Is capitalism a single, overarching system that conquers all, or one segregated economic form among many? Between these two positions, we might see how capitalist and noncapitalist forms interact in pericapitalist spaces. Gibson-Graham advise us, quite correctly I think, that what they call “noncapitalist” forms can be found everywhere in the midst of capitalist worlds—rather than just in archaic backwaters. But they see such forms as alternatives to capitalism. Instead, I would look for the noncapitalist elements on which capitalism depends. Thus, for example, when Jane Collins reports that workers in Mexican garment assembly factories are expected to know how to sew before they begin their jobs, because they are women, we are offered a glimpse of noncapitalist and capitalist economic forms working together. Women learn to sew growing up at home; salvage accumulation is the process that brings this skill into the factory to the benefit of owners. To understand capitalism (and not just its alternatives), then, we can’t stay inside the logics of capitalists; we need an ethnographic eye to see the economic diversity through which accumulation is possible.
—Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the-possibility of life in capitalist ruins.

21 April 2018

21 and Provigo

I have attempted to outline this polemic in a fashion that displays some of my admiration for it. I agree with and feel hailed by much of No Future. Indeed, when I negotiate the ever-increasing sidewalk obstacles produced by oversized baby strollers on parade in the city in which I live, the sheer magnitude of the vehicles that flaunt the incredible mandate of reproduction as world-historical virtue, I could not be more hailed with a statement such as, “Queerness names the side of ‘not fighting for the children,’ the side of outside the consensus by which all politics confirms the value of reproductive futurism.” But as strongly as I reject reproductive futurity, I nonetheless refuse to give up on concepts such as politics, hope, and a future that is not kid stuff.

Juan Esteban Munoz, Cruising Utopia

28 March 2017

Month of May


The issues did not always find the right players for them. Someone full of rage at existing conditions often seeks to join the protest movement around at the time—which since 1970 has often meant an environmental movement—and in some situations will even vent their rage against fellow-campaigners. Ideally, environmentalism needed people with ties in their family and locality, and with a keen sense of responsibility for future generations, who felt bound by certain rules and values and, when appropriate, viewed the state as a positive force for order. But such people are often not prepared for confrontation with the state, or have no time for a new commitment. After 1970, then, it was typically ’68ers who, having failed in their previous objectives, could be mobilized to campaign against environmental scandals: single people without children, for whom homeland, family, standards and laws were deeply suspect. What counted tor them above everything was their spontaneous impulses, and they liked nothing more than travelling around the world. This did not necessarily mean that they ended up doing nothing for environmentalism. The history of the eco-age provides material for success stories as well as tragedies, but also quite a lot of material for comedies.

—Joachim Radkau, The Age of Ecology

25 March 2017


I have made every effort to locate the precise origin of the term vanilla. It appears in italics in a 1985 issue of Outrageous Women, one of the first magazines devoted to lesbian s/m. The italics here may signify that it was a fairly new term among lesbians at the time, or it may simply refer to the particular writer’s desire to signal that she means it in a special sense, though what that special sense is is not possible for me to verify. In Different Loving, the term is glossed as “conventional relations, or any intimate relations that do not include D&S or S/M sexuality” (49). This definition marks the term as an absolute “other,” while obviously there are elements of “vanilla" in s/m and vice versa. Such definitions erect a very rigid binary, a dualism that is bound to lead to tension and sometimes hostility. 

Larry Townsend uses the term as early as 1972: “Knowing the scene as I do, I feel it is important not to deflate someone else’s bag, simply because it isn’t mine. For this reason, you will find a good many comments wherein I will preface my remarks by saying, ‘It’s my opinion that . . . .’ I do not feel that there is any mutually agreeable activity, regardless of the number of people involved, that is intrinsically ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘evil.’ I don’t happen to like vanilla ice cream, but it is not for me to tell someone else he won’t enjoy it. It is a matter of taste, and the way a thing tastes is sometimes difficult to describe. In an attempt to overcome this hurdle, l have included a number of vignettes to depict the particular action I am discussing. If some of these grab you, even just a little, I will have enabled you to sample the flavor” (The Leatherman’s Handbook, 1st ed. (New York: Affiliated with Olympia Press and Traveler’s Companion, 1972). (I wish to thank Gayle Rubin for providing me with this citation).

I cannot establish that this was the first use of the term, but it does establish the referential context as existing at that time. The question of the origin of the term is not, in my view, as significant as the way in which it came to take on a rigid oppositional connotation during the sex wars of the 1980s between lesbian feminists who were antiporn, anti-s/m and pro-sex, pro-s/m lesbians and their supporters. Obviously in the context in which Townsend is using it, he means to signify a range of possible sexual practices (a variety of “flavors”), none of which are subjected to judgment or censure in his mind. Sexual practices, as he states quite clearly, are a matter of “taste”—hence the analogy with ice cream. While on the one hand the ice cream analogy is an obvious one—signifying bland, ordinary, and pure—it also strikes me as interesting that vanilla would be lifted out of this context and come to signify non-s/m sexualities. It seems quite likely that the term began in the gay leather community, since Townsend uses it here as vanilla ice cream (my inference being that had it been current at the time he would simply have said “vanilla,” not that Townsend was the originator of the term).

Risking that this is the worst sort of overreading, the kind that literary critics and theorists are often accused of performing like the sending up of hot air balloons, I can nonetheless not resist wondering how or if vanilla signifies white in the Western collective unconscious? Freud’s depiction of women’s sexuality as the “dark continent” has been picked up by a number of writers and discussed as a racialized term (see Doane and Kofman). Both outside and within various s/m communities, sexual practices that deviate even slightly from normative, reproductive, heterosexuality are often referred to as the “darker side” of one’s desires. In Fatal Women, I pointed out that Havelock Ellis relegates the women who really do it primarily to his footnotes (the underside of the text). And that there we find that it is the women of color in other (“othered”) countries who are the ones that hold the place of the “real” in Ellis’s representation.

To go back to the cartoon in Bad Attitude, it is interesting that the s/m couple is depicted as interracial, while the other two couples are white. What was once called “miscegenation” was threatening for all sorts of reasons, but basic to the fear of interracial mixing was the threat to white supremacy and simply (or not so simply) the basic idea of “mixing” (of any kind) in and of itself. That is, “mixing" as a confusion or recombination of categories, the breaking down of boundaries. S/m communities have achieved this kind of mixing not only in terms of making affiliations between and among people who are otherwise kept separate by identity categories (bisexual, trans-sexual,’ lesbian, etc., etc.) but also along racial, ethnic, and class categories. These communities are held together, however sometimes uneasily, not by identity categories but by theoretical and and political affiliations. As Gayle Rubin has written: “There is a lot of separation between the straight, gay, and lesbian S/M communities. But there is also pan-S/M consciousness. As one wise woman who has been doing this for years has said,  ‘Leather is thicker than blood’ ” (“Leather Menace," 218-219). That is not, by any means, the way in which racial categories are held together by the dominant culture. The “white” race holds onto its “purity’ and psychic coherence by trying to guarantee the exclusion of all others. As James Baldwin put it in “The Price of the Ticket,”: “white people are not white: part of the price of the white ticket is to delude themselves into believing they are” (xiv).

I am not saying that vanilla = white, but I am suggesting that it is an interesting choice of words that conjures certain racial associations. For I think that part of the threat to the dominant culture of s/m communities is that they have achieved an intellectual, spiritual, and political bonding in ways that precisely contradict the dominant culture’s notion of maintaining order through disciplining categories. It is the dominant culture that is really “into discipline.” The “discipline” within s/m is inclusive and heterogeneous, though certainly not without its tensions and fears arising from racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual practice/preference differences. If white is the term that oversees the discipline and regulation of Western cultural orders, then it is a clever and apt (if unconscious) political move for s/m cultures to disidentify themselves from this particular “flavor.”

The etymologies of the word vanilla complicate this term further. The Oxford English Dictionary gives us entries that tell us “Vanilla” was an “Indian Nectar” ( 1662), which was “mingle[d] with Cacao to make Chocolate” (1673); it is of the “climbing orchid variety. . . which, like the ivy, grows to the trees it meets with” (1783); the pod-like capsules of the plant produce an “aromatic substance [which] is the succulent fruit of a climbing West Indian plant of the order [Orchid] ” (1830). If vanilla has come to signify plain or old-fashioned in the latter half of the twentieth century (“go to Schrath’s for a plain vanilla” [1955] and “old-fashioned vanilla sundae” [1984]), in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries it was an exotic import from Panama, Brazil, Jamaica, and Granada.

Furthermore; bizarrely enough, its etymology is linked to the word vagina“. “Vanilla dim. of vaina (:-L. vagina) sheath.” The vanilloes are “long flattish pods, containing a reddish pulp, with small shining black seeds” (1812); hence, I presume, lts association with vagina-from the Latin sheath.

—Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh

28 February 2017

The Haliburton School

“THIS FIRST QUESTION IMMEDIATELY leads to a second, which concerns the “neutrality” of the public space and the presence at its heart of marks of identity, and thus marks of social, cultural, and more fundamentally anthropological difference. Here again, allegedly self-evident and natural thresholds turn out upon examination to be wholly conventional, which also means shot through with strategies and norms, with relations of forces among groups, subjectivities, and powers, dictating the very meaning of the categories “public” and “private.” This is why we should not be surprised by the rise of discussions about the length (and very existence) of beards, nor by the comparison of the problems of propriety raised by the veil and the thong, nor by proposals to reestablish uniforms, nostalgically evoking the republican school of the nineteenth century and classic utopian models for representing the citizen—the unity of the two coming from the fact that the school has always furnished the privileged place for implementing utopias of citizenship. And we should not be surprised that, in the sudden emergence of trouble in the relations between representation and publicity, religion (belief, communitarianism, subjectivation) and sexuality (the ultimate but “obscene” anchoring point of controls and the school (particularly the public school, detached from the family and reattached to the state, above parties and governments) is essentially a place of transition between the space of private existence and the existence of public space—but one legally situated within the public space itself. This imposes contradictory imperatives between which it must negotiate. The school must be a closed space, but one in which information and representatives from the outside circulate. The school must prepare (and thus anticipate, simulate) the relativization of social belonging, beliefs, and ideologies in order to facilitate individuals’ entrance into the political sphere, citizenship; it thus has to virtually detach individuals from their primary identities (which is in fact a very violent process—a sort of dismemberment, a separation from their identities, that then ideally allows them to reclaim these identities, but from the distance implied by the primacy of the second, common political identity). But the school must also give individuals the means to represent their ideologies and belongings in political life, though without itself being political, that is, without speaking the language of politics except indirectly and metaphorically (through history, literature, philosophy). Holding these contradictory imperatives together, and a fortiori “holding them together in an egalitarian way, would evidently require highly favorable circumstances. It can be expected that practice approaches them only very incompletely, or attains them only at the price of successive conflicts (which it is just what is happening at the moment). What is demanded of the school is not that it simply be “neutral” like the state, but that it carry out a neutralization or constitute an additional neutrality between two non-neutral spaces—what we call “private” and “public”—in a way that avoids confusing them.”
—Étienne Balibar “Equaliberty: Political Essays

31 December 2016

comedy as prophecy

“Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure?
That is the real question.
Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction, but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space, and the inside of men's minds?
That is the question of the New Frontier.”
John F. Kennedy,
1960 Democratic National Convention Acceptance Address
delivered 15 July 1960, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

Off topic, but on topic: When are we going to begin the Beach Boys
article? I guess it is just up to the first step. In a way it is
over-tardy, it goes without saying it is like Dan Graham pastiche.
Would there be any way of bringing it up to date? I guess American
fascism is up to date, but certainly not in the Wilsonian sense. After
your historic recreation of the record collection, which speaks to
certain current artistic practices of locating historical facts, how
could this piece of writing take a similarly reflective stance toward
its material?

well, one way would be to look at environmental devastation, the beach(boys), new orleans, sri lankan, tides destroying things, surfing, Walter Benjamin's 1936 artwork essay warning against societies fascination with their own destruction.
maybe i am overly optimistic that Wilsonian fascism is more than just a fascination with having the right north american speed demon.

the text can be an artwork, not necessarily something that fits a program of academic inquiry - thus a poetic free association might work. 


And of course Smithson, within that environmental lament. Perhaps the
Beach boys to him represented a melancholic coastal utopia that he
knew was quickly and with the force of amnesia plummeting into a
future pre-history. And so he could not bring himself to listen to

Brian Wilson, although considered the leader, probably shouldn't be the target of our scorn, rather the entire beach boys band pre- Pet Sounds.

I like the picture you paint of Smithson.

maybe Fillip review would be a good place to submit a proposal for it?

I don't know how to start this though.



It's a good idea. There are reviews which are 1500 words or so, and
essays which are twice that. this is obviously not a review, unless it
is a review of your piece in the Triennale, but it would be nice to
have the space to meander anyway. We send them a 250 word abstract or
something. The rules are on the website. I never got my 75 bucks from


perhaps we could do a 'site-specific' version for the Fillip review, bring in some polemics about that nonsense statement by Lawrence Weiner comparing nova scotia to british columbia, coastal dialectics.

or not.


Did the Beach Boys ever play in Halifax, I wonder. Although how much
impact do they make on a 'sophistication' register. Fuelling a
regionalist art feud could be fun. We could pose as being based in


perhaps an abstract could be :

we propose an artistic "site-specific" article, starting from the claim made by Lawrence Weiner in the last issue of Fillip review that Vancouver was(is?) more sophisticated than Halifax and how that might play out in the pages of a Canadian magazine published in Vancouver by Vancouverites.  We will look at the intertwined relationship between The Beach Boys' fascistic impulse,  post 9-11 environmental histeria, economies of production in Vancouver and Halifax, 2010 Olympics, destruction, Vancouver artists obsession with Conceptual art, the piece 'an object tossed from one country to another', and 'island of broken glass' controversy Vancouver Island.


alter as you may


instead of saying obsession with conceptualism, i wonder if we could make the claim that Vancouver artists suffer from a certain Dan Grahamitus, or Robert Smithsonitus;  a little detourné of the Smithson line that artists of the 1960s suffered from Duchampitus.



aside from the at first glance, very tenuous relationship between the Beach Boys and fascism, there is the more close relationship between california style minimalism of Larry Bell and John McCkraken, Craig Kaufmann and the beach boys which was acknowledged by that curator who did the show on B. Wilson.   I think the car culture and high gloss paint fashions was the link.  Ed Ruscha often makes the statement about the tendency of allowing your love of cars to enter your artwork. Now, where's the fascism? i have no idea. even hippies love cars in california, evidenced by Father Yod and others.

I've often wondered what the relationship is between the Bush regime and the puritan yankee Minimalism of Richard Serra, Robert Ryman, Donald Judd.  When you go to Dia Beacon you feel like there has been some eerie like placement of things.  when does the dominant high culture become entwined with the dominant political culture? Then there is John Chamberlain with his busted car allegories; frightening sublimity.

thank you for entertaining my insanity for a minute.

i believe there is a picture of michael circulating out there wearing a plaid number.

this reminds me that pendletons plaid shirts were the item of choice for surfers.


That's a sweet idea- our own line of surf wear (as illustrations).

surfer's also meaning, Robert Smithson!

Neil Young might be the dialectical synthesis though, with Smithson opposing Brian Wilson and Young at the resolved mid point.  Neil Young isn't particularly futuristic, nor entirely nostalgic.  Merlin Carpenter suggests Young's guitar on rust never sleeps deals in the same analysis of geological time as Smithson's work.

or maybe i am fantasizing about an already made artwork by Sam Durant.



"Wouldn't It Be Nice" is a goldmine on this topic."Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long" - death drive, anyone? (This has always been K's reading of this song).
Then there's the homespun kitchen facism of "We could be married/Then We'd be Happy".

20 December 2016

The Juggalo President

Justin Trudeau's airplane

The "return of the repressed" is of course a "bad" (read: "regressive") thing—whereas sublimation is what founds civilization. Sublimation, however, is also, according to Freud (Sigmund) a psychic mechanism that is most appropriate to men, who are the "founders" of civilization. Leo Bersani reads a very interesting moment in one of Freud's footnotes (the "lower body" repressed from the "upper body") toward the end of Civilization and Its Discontents. Bersani refers to this footnote as a moment of "textual embarrassment," when Freud argues that one of the first acts of civilization was man's conquest of fire, accomplished through collective urination, interpreted as a form of competition between men, experienced as sexual pleasure and hence symbolically homosexual. For Freud, women are anatomically capable of such a "conquest"—hence their relegation to the hearth, the tending of the fire. This "fantastic sounding conjecture," attempts to accomplish the task of consigning "women" to an act that precedes civilization, rendering them incapable of sexual pleasure, and positioning them as the bearers or upholders of civilization while eliding their ability to participate in its making.
— Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh

5 November 2016

coming community

He continued down a list of narrow additions to his consortium of what might be called life-style Republicans: “The Uber driver. The Lyft driver. The labor unions don’t like this. They think you should have to be an employee and work eight hours a day, and have this regulated. But if you say, ‘That’s not me. I’ve got a second job,’ well, you’re out,” he said. “In New York, Airbnb has been outlawed except in rare circumstances. So the Uber driver, the Lyft driver, the Airbnb person, the vaper, the concealed-carry person. Homeschooling was illegal in forty-eight states thirty years ago. Concealed-carry permits didn’t really exist in any meaningful form thirty years ago. Vaping didn’t exist ten years ago. Airbnb and Uber didn’t exist ten years ago. This is a new collection of people.”
— Evan Osnos, quoting Grover Norquist

22 October 2016

Back in Alt Sachsenhausen

 "We had weeks and weeks of meetings with these men and she totally unnerved them because she knitted all the way through. It was extraordinary to watch these big, powerful bureaucrats having temper tantrums, only to be met with a look of disdain from the stony face of Kathleen Shannon and the rhythmic clacking sound of knit one, purl one. ... When it was clear that we had won, Kathleen looked at me and smiled and said, "Well you've got your film and I've got a new sweater!"

— Terre Nash, "Against the Grain: In 1974, when Kathleen Shannon Founded Studio D." This Magazine. Vol. 31, no. 6 (May-June 1998)

6 October 2016

Coal Rolling

"A principal speculation of the medical experts in this era was that the masculine “will” or “instinct” to reproduce had been somehow affected by the spread of degeneracy. As the “active” agent in reproduction, men were assumed, both in biological science and in popular culture, to be the efficient cause of lowered natality. The contemporary campaigns against wet-nursing and infanticide are clear testimony that women were held responsible in some measure for the depopulation problem, but most of the responsibility fell on males. While women might be “sterile” (though this possibility was badly understood until after 1914), their “impotence" (frigidity) was only a partial barrier to pregnancy. Male sterility was better understood and documented, but male impotence was generally assumed to be the major cause of childless marriages, and had been so regarded since the old regime.

The nineteenth-century understanding of male impotence was linked to a venerable principle in French (and European) physiology, which held that sexual function, like all other bodily activities, was dependent on the maintenance of an equilibrium of vital forces, a sort of biological “golden mean” among the various functions of the organism (nutritive, reproductive, etc). According to this concept, the overall “animal economy” could be depleted by an excessive expenditure within any of these autonomous systems. Indeed, the experimental criterion for deciding on the biological norms of the normal and the pathological was the rate of energy expenditure. Moderate (average) rates of expenditure were deemed normal, and excessive or insufficient rates were judged to fall in the range of the pathological.

With respect to the sexual function-and this precept held equally for women—excessive sexual activity exhausted the organism, destroying the dynamism characteristic of sexual function and leading to impotence or, in more severe cases, to sterility. As the “genital” instincts, as they were called, drained from the organic structures that housed them (the genitals), it was believed that the organs themselves were altered, together with all the secondary sexual characters of the individual. This process produced anatomical abnormalities that doctors believed to be the stigmata of degeneration. Though excessive copulation could bring about this result, medical specialists from the late eighteenth century on believed that the most likely explanation was masturbation. Both activities, by making pleasure rather than reproduction the end of sexual activity, disrupted the “normal” and intrinsic aim of the genital instincts and led directly to exhaustion and premature death.

Most medical specialists in the early nineteenth century, in keeping with the principle of the old humoral medicine that men embodied the qualities of heat and dryness and women those of coolness and moistness, believed that men “spent” far more in the sex act than did women. Men were therefore especially prone to exhaustion and functional impotence. This basic distinction between the sexes was maintained throughout the nineteenth century, assuming the form of evolutionary discourse after 1870 or so. The evolutionary explanation for the differences between men and women was that a woman was more biologically primitive than a man, a case of arrested embryological development.

Women were therefore more “instinctive” (read “natural”) than men; women’s animal economies functioned more smoothly than those of men because less of their vital energy was directed away from the organism and toward the cerebrally based function of higher reason. Engaged as they were in the world of affairs, so the argument went, men had a far greater opportunity to exhaust themselves in overwork, where their superior capacity to reason was an ironic liability in the struggle for survival. Males’ “genital instincts” (“sexual instincts” after 1880 or so) were therefore less reliable, less certain in aim and duration than those of women, despite the apparently greater short-run violence of their sexual behavior."

—Robert A. Nye

22 September 2016

"We can’t allow our problems to stop us from dreaming"

"Plato was about to Strike his Servant, and while his hand was in the Ayr, he checkt himself, but still held it in that Menacing Posture. A Friend of his took notice of it, and askt him what he meant. I am now, sayes Plato, punishing of an Angry Man" - Seneca

8 September 2016

The Frosted Curtain

“Because New York City, the main target of the terrorists, is the nation’s arts center, the impact of September 11 on artists and cultural institutions was felt nationwide. Immediate action was taken by the Heritage Emergency National Task Force to assess structures and collections in the areas of the 9/11 attacks. Within hours, the American Association of Museums reported that all New York museum staff were accounted for and museum collections safe.
However, on the 105th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the Cantor Fitzgerald investment firm had suffered the horrific loss of hundreds of employees. The world’s largest corporate collection of works by sculptor Auguste Rodin and numerous works by Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, and Louise Nevelson were destroyed. Next door in the South Tower, the National Development and Research Institutes Library was completely wrecked, as were the offices of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The Broadway Theater Archive, with 35,000 photographs, that stood a block from the World Trade Center was also lost, and 13  other historically or architecturally significant structures, including the Federal Hall National Memorial, were damaged.
In the days and weeks immediately following September 11, Americans turned to the arts, especially to music and poetry, to express their grief. Media focused on the dark stages of Broadway and paid little attention to the blight of the nonprofit arts community. Congress debated how to expedite relief to New York City while arts groups navigated eligibility requirements to secure loans from the Small Business Administration and aid from the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency.
The economic impact of the terrorist attacks on each of the arts fields was assessed by the NEA. There was a dramatic downturn in year-end giving to nonprofit arts organizations as donors directed giving to 9/11 charities. Revenues were lost from cancelled performances and low attendance at arts events. The general economic slump, decline in tourism and travel, and reduction in state tax revenues brought about cuts in state and local arts budgets. New York City announced a 15 percent across-the-board cut in funding for cultural organizations. Insurance costs rose, in part because of increased security needs at public performances.”
National Endowment for the Arts: A History, 1965–2008

“Yet anyone who has witnessed the art events of the past decade carefully might come to a very different conclusion. On the one hand, there has been an intensification of the critique of art's institutionalization, a deepening of the rupture with modernism. On the other hand, there has been a concerted effort to marginalize and suppress these facts and to reestablish the traditional fine arts categories by all conservative forces of society, from cultural bureaucracies
to museum institutions, from corporate boardrooms to the marketplace for art. And this has been accomplished with the complicity of a new breed of entrepreneurial artists, utterly cynical in their disregard of both recent art history and present political reality. These newly heralded "geniuses" work for a parvenu class of collectors who want art with an insured resale value, which will at the same time fulfill their desire for mildly pornographic titillation, romantic cliche, easy reference to past "masterpieces," and good decor. The objects on view to celebrate the reopening of MOMA were made, with very few exceptions, to cater to this taste, to rest easily over the sofa in a Trump Tower living room or to languish in a bank vault while prices escalate. No wonder then that McShine ended his catalogue introduction with the very special hope "to encourage everyone to be in favor of the art of our time." Given what he has presented as the art of our time, his currying of our favor could hardly be at odds with that of the sponsors of the exhibition, the AT&T Corporation, who mounted a new advertising campaign to coincide with the show. "Some of the masterpieces of tomorrow are on exhibit today," reads the ad's banner headline, under which appears a reproduction of one of Robert Longo's recent glorifications of  corporate style, now in MOMA's permanent collection. That corporate interests are in perfect accord with the art presented in MOMA's inaugural show is a point underscored in the catalogue preface written by the museum's director, whose long paragraph of praise and thanks to AT&T contains the following statement: "AT&T clearly recognizes that experiment and innovation, so highly prized in business and industry, must be equally valued and supported in the arts."”
— Douglas Crimp, The Art of Exhibition

25 August 2016

Cave Youth

 How he sees himself, and by association the artist, anywhere, anytime, is part of the mystery of his late works, and can only be disentangled from the web of consideration at peril of losing the real meaning of a lifetime's work. "I must quote you something from an essay by Evgeny Zamyatin," he writes in September 1974:

No revolution, no heresy, is comfortable and easy. Because it is a leap, it is a rupture of the smooth evolutionary curve and a rupture is a wound, a pain. But it is a necessary wound: most people suffer from hereditary sleeping sickness, and those who are sick with this ailment (entropy) must be allowed to sleep, or they will go to their last sleep, the sleep of death.
This same sickness is common to artists and writers: they go contentedly to sleep in their favourite artistic form which they have devised, then twice revised. They do not have the strength to wound themselves, to cease to love what has become dear to them, They do not have the strength to come out of their lived-in, laurel-scented rooms, to come out in the open air and start anew. To wound oneself, it is true, is difficult, even dangerous. But to live today as yesterday and yesterday as today is more difficult for the living.

Guston adds: “I jumped out of my skin, as you can imagine, when I read this.” But, he says, and but again…

— Dore Ashton, A Critical Study of Philip Guston