rage and the dark


i struggle with hope.

not a lack of it, but an abiding
rage underneath all of my eyes.

never call me at-risk anything.
healing isn’t shaped as a book.

what I’ve been working on,
for years now, is having
a balance between both,

the rawness that comes from
being brutally fucked with.

even at this place, on the edge
of a bridge staring at thick water,

hope gets repackaged as marketing,
as marketing itself. this is not
what i’m talking about here.

some people use genuine hope
as an alternative to despair.

that is not what i am
talking about, either.

h/t: @librarianshipwreck

why i don’t trust politics (even when it means not trusting myself)


the left overall in the USA is completely busted-yet-still-functioning, almost without exception.

people (organizers/planners in particular) keep doing the exact same things over and over again, even when they’re broken, or detrimental.

there’s just enough of a positive sentiment around outcomes overall that people think “it’s working”.

it’s not, it just feels like it, sometimes.

a functional definition of “working” has to include getting past where we’ve been for years, if not decades, in a positive – and advancing – direction.

as it stands, we’re stuck with the same approaches, with ever-lessening progress.

to make things worse, things are busted in a variety of ways, and people’s levels of access and power vary, both institutionally and individually.

so we argue, constantly and call it praxis or transformation or whatever.

it’s not, it’s just more of the same.

all of which is made worse by most people not just being flat-out-right or flat-out-wrong, just mostly right, give or take, about what they know best.

or even worse, cape on behalf of oppressed people, with no idea of direction, goals or even if said caping is making things better or worse.

then we argue about the caping.

just as its been for decades, just faster and more intense.

i do have hope, just not when people keep on repeating themselves.

which everybody does, but not always in the same way.

mobilizing and organizing aren’t the same.

i think we’re stuck, in general, at not building the sorts of movements that could lead to at least understanding the differences between mobilizing and organizing.

h/t: @er0tikka, @lavlobster, black agenda report, and as always, my twitter timeline

The musical and technological dialectics of the body (draft)


More raw thoughts.

– why a keyboard? why not a keyboard? why this chair and not that one?
– why the piano? why not the piano? is the piano dying?
– are electronics killing us or saving us, as musicians, as sound designers? as people?
– is the piano being engulfed into electronics? this is simple: yes.
– but wait: is the synthesizer the new piano? not so fast. there’s little in the way of tradition – synthesizers are new, and not as in service to royal courts and the like as pianos and orchestras were in their respective early-to-mid years.
– further, many people are more ignorant of how synthesizers work than they’d sometimes care to admit. contrast this with the requisite knowledge of your average “serious” piano player – not just techniques that end up being stored in the body, but practices (frequently that were figuratively or literally in service to colonialism and to no small part, imperialism), techniques, and at least some knowledge of the mechanics of the piano itself, as a machine of metal, wood, felt and last but certainly not least in this pantheon of early consumption-as-destruction, ivory.
– this ignorance of synthesizers is not necessarily a bad thing, although the machines themselves are arguably every bit as destructive as pianos were, and are. (virtually all synthesizers are a type of contemporary machine, even analog synthesizers – and in the case of many digital and hybridized synthesizers, computers that are dedicated to a specific set of tasks.)
– past this, the relative ignorance of how synthesis works on the part of many players, as well as ignorance of the math that drives them, at least has the benefit of not tethering musicians to the machinations of programming, of dsp, of circuit design, of all the underlying traditions that have emerged from, and remain in service to, Empire in general, and all too often, the wars of said Empire in specific.
– however, ignorance is not bliss, nor is it liberation. using tools without understanding them provides its own set of dangers, frequently foisted on users of said technologies.
– in contrast, the people who make said tools are exploited, pure and simple. it’s not just “that’s a problem” as so many apologetic hand-wringers and “green tech” advocates are quick to assert, but it’s raw oppression every bit as much as cutting down forests to make condos, or extracting diamonds to sell marriage vows, and so on.
– don’t necessarily count yourself out of all this if you exclusively play electric or even acoustic instruments, either. i trust this speaks for itself.

Much respect to @codemesh for being part of my sorting all this out.

Why I’ve become suspect about artistic fame, liberal or otherwise


“Art is anything you can get away with.” ― Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

– there was a time not that long ago – as in, late 1980s to early-to-mid 2000s – when being a performer who had some sort of actual dialectic content was possible, including content that included so-called identity politics. that’s mostly been replaced by ever-shifting matrices of membership in a given oppressed group, combined with a very thick glass ceiling.
– the net effect of this is in service to capital, of both the commercial and non-profit varieties, inasmuch as there is a relevant difference between the two at all.
– if you’re not a stakeholder in a non-profit, a corporation, or both, you effectively don’t matter – unless you work for one or both. everything else is some version of dark matter, in arts and letters overall.
– all of which presumes being allowed into the club as it were to begin with, which is anything but a given.


– social media has liberated hundreds if not thousands to become active producers of politically charged content. while this has its benefits, it’s not automatically a panacea, either. the ever-increasing amounts of infighting (frequently over smaller and smaller differences in view, combined with actual mistakes inflated to a point of active, acrimonious contention for days or even weeks) is anything but healthy for individual and collective consciousness, including as part of liberation struggles.
– in specific: the constant risk of being fractured apart into ever-smaller groupings of sanctioned behavior, with what amounts to mobbing people (online or off), is of tremendous benefit to capitalism. not only because it keeps people dividing and fighting, but because the resulting confusion serves both as good cover, and an effective means for liberalism to have power-over, and all too often, power within as well.
– none of which is to say that the issues themselves are unworthy of attention (frequently, it’s quite the opposite). the process itself though frequently engages a palpable-if-not-combative mode of criticism that quickly becomes collectively destructive, in practice — even if contained within the realm of words, accusations and sometimes, reputation.


– remember #cancelcolbert? who won? who lost? who was demoralized? who was emboldened?
– when is being emboldened just another means of control? what if demoralization and emboldening wind up as similar if not identical moves on a chess board?
– what if demoralizing and emboldening in this context are both forms of liberalism? who benefits? who doesn’t?
– if we are all artists now, does this mean that we’re all taken advantage of?


– ultimately, whether or not i make art doesn’t matter. but it is what i do, it’s in my muscle memory (by which i mean, my entire muscle structure, not just hands-to-arms, the classic autoamputational (a la McLuhan) interface between the body and the loving machines we call instruments). resisting this means fighting against my body, which results in some sort of deep confusion of the self, which is debilitating if not emotionally/psychically paralyzing, and no amount of well-heeled post-fill-in-the-blank theories can erase that. not at least, without some sort of deeper cataclysm, and not necessarily one of actual merit, or even use. not all catharsis is good catharsis.
– to make matters worse, we left-minded creative labor types frequently get corralled into some sort of gatekept sub-category, where we are allowed even smaller amounts of access, frequently for smaller amounts of time, if we’re allowed access at all. i was able to hobble together a sort of sustainability – by which i mean, barely surviving, but somehow keeping afloat – for years.
– that all said, this sort of thing is clearly not indicative of reality for any number of people, and i am grateful for the experiences that were provided by even this sort of teetering-on-the-brink form of access to self-expression. but unless i will myself into some sort of capitulated, “celebrity left”-like status, as things stand in 2014, at least? this form of access is done, and has been for some time now. further, as my body slowly ages, my more-or-less-manageable physical limitations (allergies, small lungs, some sort of predisposition to infection) keep reminding me that they provide their own glass ceilings on top of the cultural and economic ones.


– so now what? well, my body still loves writing, making music and sometimes, video and design work as well. so much so that day jobs are out (tech ones especially, which imho has always been about leeching people out of and away from creativity, not towards it), and i’m aged out of the sorts of service work that may provide some sort of sustainability. i’m not about to starve, but i’m not able to move forward in any way that’s not a significant step backward politically, if such pathways even remain open. also, i’m not about to become an entrepreneurial anything. that’s at least as bad as celebrityism, if not far worse, including if not especially in the service sector.
– so what does this leave? for one thing, people talk about design as being effectively identical to “making art,” in the literal sense of “art” as a fine arts discipline, so given my particular skillsets, that might work. however, even without the obvious servitude to capital (again, both in for- and non-profit forms) that this entails, i’m not sure that the similarities to creative practice and creative results map here. is making a poster as part of an ad campaign truly the same as making a painting? were basquiat and warhol one in the same, due to proximity, not just in their persons, but in the work itself? i’m not buying it. by which i mean, i’m not about to steal back ideas that are that potentially toxic, even away from the corporations that defile them. fuck all of that as well. on the other hand, not that being some sort of art world darling has ever been on the table, but the art world is perniciously corrupt. so for the record: fuck that double.
– if the only way forward is a militant rejection of everything, including most creative and political practices, out of design, necessity or both – now what? doing nothing is an option, but that’s a net “at least i’m not making things worse.” (this may have more merit than it would seem at first, though.) ignoring the memories of muscle and brain is unworkable. traditional models of political engagement frequently require some sort of rejecting creativity (or at least, being in humbled service to it), while being anything but effective, even within whatever limited scope said politics cast for itself, let alone within transformative or revolutionary frameworks.
– so, once again – now what? i think i’ll leave it there, for now.

h/t to @neverw0rk for ideas around the limits of even radically-minded, self-checked artmaking, and @codemesh for brain food around art and the body. i’m determined to get things right here, hell or high water.