wax banks

second-best since Cantor

‘Git gud’ and the hero-journey, because why not.

‘Getting good’ means having your reality tested, not just by you — putting others in a position to measure you and judge you. Your cosmos is no longer private. That’s horrifying as you’d expect, but necessary: it’s how we become people, real people. It’s the threshold to the imaginal realm, for one thing, the boundary between (1) parochial experience which naively favours the atomized ego and (2) experience that acknowledges, and supports the development of, the macromind. ‘Getting good’ — the gamer-asshole’s ‘git gud’ — is part of heroic development, in other words. The fact that gamers experience this in the lamest, most egotistical possible terms is just one of the bad things about that subculture.

This is why risk and failure are such important parts of adult development: to ‘self-actualize’ you have to strive to be good instead of less bad. ‘Good’ is a quality beyond, straining at category. Heroism is exceptional.

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Zen in the art of not being great at anything in particular.

Today I saw a once-‘notable’ blogger refer to his ‘one-on-one coaching practice’ — basically productivity tips and some Marie Kondo shit — and was forcefully reminded that I subconsciously choose to fail…then comfort myself with the idea that I’m an unusually talented failure.

‘Gifted and talented,’ as they used to say.

I wonder what my life would be like if I spent the next year of it trying to become not a good writer but a rich one. I wonder whether I could enjoy that pursuit.

Squand(er) goals?

I come to the office early every Saturday/Sunday morning to write for a few hours. As sometimes happens, today’s felt like a waste — I set myself the task of writing about $frustrating_complex_topic and have realized, too late, that I don’t know precisely what I think. Which is to say it’s actually been a useful morning, as well as a stupid frustrating one. Fuck this vocation! I wish I’d been called to be something easy, like the Vice President of the United States of America.

No Bambi, no wanking.

From the long work in progress. –wa.

Here’s an exercise: Where’s Bambi, in all of Disney World? The death of the titular fawn’s mother has infamously been a traumatic rite of passage for American children for 80 years, one of the most recognizable of the company’s stories and characters. Plus Bambi’s pal Thumper is goddamn adorable. Yet you’re hard pressed to locate Bambi imagery at the Resort. Why’s that? Even if there’s some banal copyright-related answer, we note that Bambi’s story is unassimilable to the vibe of The Park, in which no one suffers and nothing ends, meaning nothing begins. At Disney World, you might hear the ‘Circle of Life’ — a classic Disney song supposedly about natural cycles1 during which, we note with some disappointment, nothing is born or dies — but the rude facts of bodily existence aren’t permitted into the Magic Kingdom or its offshoots. The same goes for Disney’s ever-growing portfolio of sub-mythic ‘intellectual property’: George Lucas’s Han Solo unquestionably fucked his way across the galaxy a long time ago in a cultural environment far far away, but Disney’s Han Solo 2.0, Poe Dameron of the miserable sequel trilogy, comes no closer to sexual desire than a raised eyebrow at a woman whose face is entirely covered in a mask — who dismisses him for a last lame laugh. (This is of course preposterous; even I couldn’t say no to Oscar Isaac.) And the Marvel movies, full to overflowing with bare-chested male actors grossly inflated on steroids and female performers chastely hiding their bodies from view, are comprehensively sexless — ex-Troma filmmaker James Gunn snuck a masturbation joke into his Guardians of the Galaxy, but even in that intensely juvenile movie there’s a character right there onscreen to remind us that jacking off is disgusting. Of course it is! Unsanctioned production is strictly against the rules.2

No Bambi, no wanking: same thing. Yes, really. Sex and death move time forward, and the magic of Disney World is precisely its timelessness, perfect stasis.

Which is why Disney ‘magic’ is no magic at all: magic is transformation, inner and outer worlds overlapping to materialize thought and impregnate sense with dream. Its energy is both programmatic and improvisatory, in both cases free — magic is imaginative freedom — and in the Magic Kingdom, nothing is free.

It’s a Kingdom, after all.


  1. The fact that The Lion King figures natural order as dynastic political succession, and misuses its fantastic ‘Circle of Life’ opener/closer to mark the announcements of two royal heirs, is just one of those ordinary stupid Disney things. Disney movies’ equation of authoritarian political order with sanity is gross when wrenched from their folk-narrative origins. Well, that’s capitalism innit. 
  2. You needn’t actually read Raquel Benedict’s 2021 online essay ‘Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny,’ which goes no deeper than the obvious implications of its title — yes, there’s a section about the psychosexuality of 9/11, no it’s not good — but the title is a perfect expression of an invaluable insight, a line good and true enough to have entered culture-politics discourse as a ‘Must we remind you…?’ aphorism. 

The strange slow curve against the mainline.

MULDER: I didn’t think anyone was really paying attention.

MAX FENIG: Somebody’s always paying attention, Mr Mulder. (X)

something true about it. being recognized at a distance. that feeling, open fields, featureless. you’re the feature, the blot: you the stain. inexplicable black shape against wheatfield offyellow.

you listening to the shortwave alone at night. you playing the guitar alone at night. you alone at night. you alone.

Electric Miles.

Facets: Keyboard-washed transition from acoustic quintet (Jarrett/Corea/Zawinul primary colours), guitar-driven rock toward Agharta/Pangaea mountain (Cosey!!), 80s return and diminuendo, lyrical and worn then out. Brew is the standard, Silent Way the secret, but On the Corner is the key: blackest music he ever made, i.e. the most futuristic. It’s all there. Every step lost on horn he gained as bandleader; few great 20C artists stewarded group creativity so well. Each post-1965 sessions box holds wonders, particularly proto-ambient Silent Way. Oh: hear Isle of Wight set immediately. Few 20C bands even come close.

Trane.

Artist-avatar of self-purification and its cost — maybe the deepest jazz musician of all, surely the most singleminded: deranged, devoted. His final quintet w/Alice is that familiar paradox, the lesser ensemble attaining purer expression of an earlier idea. The Jones/Tyner/Garrison quartet is the heaviest band in recorded jazz, maximally intense while swinging deep, not yet out to pure transhuman ecstatic vibration. Trane was complete with them in dark molten blue but sought light not earth, found it in formless union. A Love Supreme is the American hymnal; Interstellar Space should be his last word, or ours.

Silly notions. Speech is music. Music is live.

The following propositions are dubious at best. I had coffee this morning which I’m not used to, I’m a tea drinker, coffee makes my ideas jittery. I don’t believe what I’m saying and neither should anyone else, ever. –wa.

Of course speech is elaborated birdsong — but we evolved to duet not monologue. Writing potentially purifies the lone melodism of an individual’s speech but cuts us off from our discursive (social-cognitive) apparatus for mutual regulation/revision. This language of course ties us back to love (per the General Theory): music (Art more generally you might say) is one of the mechanisms by which we conduct the intersubjective limbic business of love, at a distance. Writing, not so much. Music intensifies the effects of speech among its other effects, that’s why we set the lyrics we need to remember to melodies, but music is meant to be heard. Writing’s proximity to music is actually undercut by the fact that by definition, the only writing we ‘hear’ is recorded. Lifting writing out of time strips it of certain intersubjective aspects — i.e. mediates the exchange, at some cost.

Music is live. It’s an event, an exchange.

Recorded music is its own peculiar thing.

All of which is to say that writing suffers when it’s divorced from its origins in musical duet, i.e. in live discourse. Writing doesn’t simulate speech, it simulates the musical cognition which occurs in speech — but it strips out the musical cognition that we engage in as we listen and respond. Yes, there’s an element of ‘response’ in writing, e.g. to our impulses and what we realize(!) about the images in our head. But we’re at our best, as improvisers and composers (insofar as those are different), when we’re collaborating and connecting and responding. We are incomplete. Writers work to overcome that incompleteness but it’s always a simulation — dragging behind speech, not behind monologue but rather dialogue. The coupling that completes us.

Writers need people. That’s all I’m saying really.

(Derrida’s ‘critique’ of ‘phonocentrism’ is mostly bullshit and can be left aside — we take an evolutionary view of human speech as a rich variant of birdsong and see no point in his stupid ahistorical ‘primacy of writing’ thing even as a dialectical provision.)

(I’m not sure I buy any of this except the opening sentences and the pissing-on-Derrida.)

V FOR VENDETTA (Alan Moore / David Lloyd et al., 1982-89).

After watching some clips of the film I went back to this classic graphic novel, which I read in college (along with the other 80s/90s classics my comix-loving housemates suggested) and one time since. It’s in three parts: the young lads’ tale of V’s vendetta, the horrifying but evocative ‘training’ of Evey, and finally — when the book was picked up by Moore/Lloyd again after a publishing delay of several years — ‘The Land of Do-As-You-Please,’ a quite different piece of work whose best-known sequence is Detective Finch’s visionary LSD trip. That third movement is both the book’s creative peak and its least exciting/kinetic plot-piece, with Moore understandably self-indulging as he explores his full vocal range; Lloyd’s art also deepens noticeably in the later chapters.

The book’s component parts haven’t aged equally well. The political setup is, as Moore points out in his introduction, na├»ve — not that Britain might tip into fascism (though Thatcher didn’t do it) but that it would be accomplished by grand measures not a steady ratcheting of authoritarian pressure, then rolled back by terrorist strikes against gov’t apparatus. (My bleak suspicion is that London’s citizens would be content to keep calm and carry on in subjugation in such an event, cf. Americans’ post-9/11 jingoism and quiescence.) The torture of Evey in the ‘cabaret’ is obviously presented as a kind of initiatory experience, prefiguring Moore’s later magical allegories, but that doesn’t make it less reprehensible — and her quick forgiveness of V isn’t any more believable than her easy acceptance of imprisonment in the early chapters. (I’d forgotten that she’s 16 at the outset, and after V rescues her from the rapist cops she simply moves into the Cabaret.)

Which is to say certain of Moore’s personal unpleasantnesses are on display as usual.

Moore’s government figures are caricatures in the early chapters, but in ‘Do-As-You-Please’ he fleshes them out; it’s interesting that Moore has the government collapse due to internal pressures, something only sketched in by the Wachowskis in the film, whose script makes V himself central to the third act at some cost to the thematic integrity of the story. The film is both shockingly good and brave and hopelessly compromised; the comic is less expertly executed, less indulgent of sensationalist violence, much more idiosyncratic and strange.

I don’t think I’ll ever need to read it again, unless my son reads it (as I hope he will) and wants to talk about it. I might watch the movie once more, with Agi who quite liked it, but at this point I’d insist on pairing it with…hmm, with Southland Tales or similar. To capture the strange political tenor of that era.

Ong’s Hat isn’t a place, it’s a world.

Stating what should be obvious:

Ong’s Hat — not the ghost town in New Jersey but the fictional town-story overlaid on it by Joseph Matheny and later collaborators/followers — isn’t a place, though it’s certainly tied to one. Rather, it’s a way of experiencing a place: once again we’re recasting supposed discrete form and substance as modes of relation. Understanding story-system, meaning-system, ideological system, etc. as perceptual filters, you might be better able to imagine how they stack and interact, and how they seem to alter experiences deeply but not so predictably and not at all consistently.

Ong’s Hat doesn’t need to make sense, only to perturb sense — it’s ‘true’ in the way any filtering functioning is ‘true’: it does what it does to how you see. It un-senses you.

Seeing the transmedia project in this way we can avoid the twin traps of (1) reducing it to ‘just’ a game/story and (2) treating it like a set of fact-claims. ‘You determine your own level of involvement.’ As with so many conspiracy theories (not only explicitly, intentionally fictional ones), the fiction offers entry to a feedback loop between new/fictional thought, new/provisional belief, and new/exploratory action. All three arcs of the circle might be termed ‘generative’ — creative. Fiction, provision, exploration.

And of course bullshit.