Media

Swindle of the Century

So what IS the Trump / Putin connection? So many theories. Sadly, I don’t put a tremendous amount of faith in the really tawdry stuff; the hookers, the pisstapes. Much as I’d like to savour the urinesque fragrance of these salacious rumours, this is my for-the-most-part-baseless gut-feeling about the whole thing:

Following the collapse of the USSR a small cabal of Russian and formerly Soviet industry figures and statesmen were about to become wealthy beyond imagining, almost overnight, through the privatisation of services and industries previously owned and operated by the state. This was all very back-room, skull-duggery, shady-shit, and doubtless an UNTOLD number of Russian journalists committed suicide on their way home from the supermarket during this time. Putin’s crackdown on oligarchs can in many ways been seen as taking out potential political rivals and successors, a consolidation of power.

Of course being crime-lords rather than true statesmen or captains of industry, these rascals buried their money in investments and banks all over the world.

Now, one of the nicest ways to launder dirty money and a lot of it is through high-end real-estate, and that’s where the Trump dynasty comes in.

Oh, and all the ‘adoption’ talks Trump Jr.’s been having with Russian diplomats? In 2009 a Russian journalist named Sergei Magnitsky was arrested while investigating corruption and financial fraud among Russian tax officials. I’m sure you can guess what happened; Magnitsky was beaten to death in prison.

The U.S. put the Magnitsky Act into effect afterwards, thereby preventing certain Russian oligarchs from entering the U.S. or using its banking system. The Russians, in the most petty retaliation ever, immediate put a freeze on any American family hoping to adopt a Russian child. There’s a fucking BUTTLOAD of orphans in Russia, so this was a pretty horrific humanitarian poker-chip to waggle around.

So when Trump Jr. mentions adoption talks with the Russians, that’s code for “we’re negotiating the repeal of sanctions put in place following human rights violations.”

We are living in the second series of True Detective, and I strongly suspect the villains are going to win again.

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Fiction

Rich Foreign Soil

The soil in Kerchetti Province is prized beyond imagining. Unparalleled in it’s fertility, it also gives off a marvellous fragrance when mixed with incense, and can also serve as a powerful disinfectant for poison, gangrene, burns and other flesh wounds. But there are rules to it’s importation and use: one must never ingest the soil, and under no circumstances must a notable amount of the soil be stored collectively outside the borders of Kerchetti.

Kerchetti Province has had many tenants who thought themselves masters. The land is harsh and unforgiving; trees bear little fruit and the spring winds often bring pestilence. Kerchetti has always been seen as a no-man’s land amidst nations that coveted the wealth and territory of their neighbours. The existence of Kerchetti forced an uneasy peace in the region; in order to invade a nation with anything worth taking, your armies had to cross the sands of Kerchetti. The very country itself seemed to resist the otherwise unstoppable momentum of the war machine. Your men would starve and wither. The locusts and gnats would keep them awake all night and bring the madness of sleep deprivation. The constant dust storms would rust the weapons and blind the cavalry. If your army was successful in passing into the nation they wished to seize, they would be in no state to conquer anything.

These historical examples couldn’t prevent various distant empires from attempting occupation, many of whom wished for a central foothold in the region. These imperial legions fared much worse; at least the locals knew of Kerchetti and it’s malevolence. They knew the old sayings which warned them from bringing war to Kerchetti: ‘Those who spill blood upon this earth shall remain to defend it even in death.

It had been some time since the last attempt at occupation. The memory of what awaits any army which marches on Kerchetti would fade in time for another tyrant to futilely attempt to lay siege to that immovable stretch of sand, soil, mountain and blood. The relative peace of the era permitted tentative trade with Kerchetti, and the rich earth of the land was valued tremendously highly.

But many chose to ignore the warnings of swarthy, inscrutable vendors. They purchased vast amounts of the soil, moving it from the small, ornate glass bottle it was sold in and decanting it in large containers and silos. In but a few days they would learn too late the cost of their arrogance.

It is said that Kerchetti province has seen blood run through it’s valleys to an apple’s depth. Locals, foreign invaders; they all bleed the same, and the thirst of Kerchetti’s wrathful soil is never slaked.

The homes and manors of many noblemen and ladies across the moneyed nations were subject to bizarre and total destruction. Explorers and collectors of rare curios, those who operated salons, spas and parlours frequented by women of high society were found torn to shreds, bled totally dry amid their smouldering, shattered homes and places of business.

Witnesses of these reavings eventually began to relay similar testimony: that the victim’s supply of Kerchetti soil had stirred and become animated. The soil had seemed to disobey natural laws, ascending into the air and whirling about at increasing speed, the arid grit sanding and scratching at surfaces, knocking things to the ground. Those who attempted to somehow accost the elemental force before them were enveloped in it, and were seen thrashing painfully amidst the storm before falling dead, covered in lacerations and with blood coming from their torn, dried lungs.

The soil storms would then seem to consolidate into humanoid forms, solid golems of soil, welding equally solid blades which seemed forged in the Kerchetti style. These homunculi of sand, soil and scorn would tear apart the homes, possessions and families of those who had, like vultures, picked and fed at the tatters of their homeland.

These occurrences would not be warning enough to dissuade the generals of future empires from marching on Kerchetti, and the blood of their sons would feed the next generation of bitterness, wrath and vendetta.

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Fiction

Fragments

The plane is spiralling. You try to grasp at the controls, but they’re slick with the pilot’s blood, alternating black and orange in the frenzied cockpit. You can’t see the pilot’s face, none of us can, but we assume they meant well when they brought us all up here. This must have been part of the plan. Was crashing part of the plan as well, or were we supposed to prove our worthiness of flight by taking the reigns of the journey they set us on?

*drift*

The sky is portentous; huge rolling white mountains of cloud, low and fast, moving across an otherwise unblemished amber twilight. ‘Revelations’ weather, everything drenched in eschatological anxiety. Stood facing the ocean, you look out to the fence about eight miles at sea. Sixteen white pylons stand rigid and foreboding. Occasionally a tongue of static discharge licks out across several of the towers.
We don’t know what the pylons are. Some have swum or sailed out to them, but none of them came back. The clouds continue to morph and stream above them, like a second angry shore. What are they protecting us from?

*drift*

The city pulses and you feel the electrified veins creep in through your nose, your mouth, in the spaces next to your eyes and everything below. Hard crystals of sugar-bright coloured sound cascade in fractals, immediately shattering and reforging into new hues and different shapes, an eternal and shrieking phoenix of burnout, reanimation and galvanisation ad nauseam.

Somewhere an engine bristles between your legs. Somewhere your lenses catch the glare of aggressive marketing. Somewhere you pass by heartbreak and providence. Somewhere the gutter flows up over your eyes. Somewhere the gate vibrates off it’s hinges. Somewhere the broken vagrants howl in wounded songs of enlightened defeat. Somewhere you see it all from above. Somewhere you feel it all crash down from above. It is all pervasive and ephemeral. It is the flicker of sunlight reflected in a blinking eyelash. It is the burning titan above.

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Media

Armageddon Obsession

Years back, at DisInfoCon (I’ll try to find the link later and stick it here), Grant Morrison, comic-book writer, ritual magician and Glaswegian, mourned what he considered the western youth’s slide into what he deemed “apocalypse culture.” It’s an interesting cultural development; this is perhaps the first time in history that a vast amount of our consumable entertainment media has been based in worlds which appear to be ruined versions of our own.

Let’s take two huge examples: Post-Nuclear Apocalypse and Zombie fictions. These have been done to death of course, but they provide adequate examples of settings and scenarios which, fittingly, refuse to die. These genres stretch far back in our popular culture; A Canticle for Leibowitz, one of the earliest novels set in the scorched wastes of a world which has in recent centuries undergone severe nuclear devastation, came out back in 1960. Night of the Living Dead, obviously not the first occurrence of zombies in folklore but perhaps the first time the subject matter had beed appropriated by the western culture industry, came out in 1968.

And yet still we obsess over these tropes. The Walking Dead is more popular than ever, and the Fallout games still move millions of units effortlessly. These genres have basically gone unchanged, and I reject the notion that zombies have been ‘deconstructed’ over time; dark notions of what people are willing to become in order to survive have been present in the genre since the beginning, as has the question (repeated ad nauseam) “are WE the real monsters?!” Making the zombies capable of running hardly constitutes a revolutionising of the whole stage. Post-Nuke stuff seems satisfied with ‘yesterday’s tomorrow forever’; the way they perceived the possibilities of the future in the dawn of the Nuclear Age, rising steel statues ravaged by fire, twisted impressions burnt into the earth for those who come after to find and ponder over.

Would it be reductive to simply consider this ghoulish western obsession with the apocalypse either a bizarre manifestation of the Judaeo-Christian ‘End of Days’ eschaton or as an example of mass-unconscious self-loathing imperialist decadence? We’re still caught up in the hall-of-mirrors that is post-modernism, an era chiefly characterised no longer by its incorporation of myriad narratives but instead by a nihilism born of diaspora and self-obsession. Adorno & Horkheimer wrote that “Under monopoly all mass culture is identical” (Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1944), and whereas The Frankfurt School were principally concerned with the inherent homogeneity which characterises art produced in a capitalist society, this lends itself perfectly to the longevity of the genres in question: what better product to market to a society which finds itself in the existential crisis which accompanies imperial decline than one which offers a masochistic vision of said society catastrophically humbled by its own hubris? And one which (and here’s the kicker), depicts the viewer-projection protagonist as a survivor of the horror which surely awaits us?

Want to make an actual deconstructive zombie film? Okay. Have the film open on a shambling pack of zombies, whatever era you deem most intriguing, and follow them for 90 minutes as they wordlessly scuttle about, picking off shrieking survivors and rooting through buildings. Offer absolutely zero human element to the narrative, the backstories of any survivors glimpsed are of no significance.

That was a clumsy (spellcheck suggested ‘classy’ there) way of trying to highlight how post-apocalyptic fiction often tries to offer the audience the vicarious and deeply self-indulgent fantasy of being present for the world’s eventual devastation yet not succumbing to it. It’s the Bystander Fallacy, the delusion some people have that in a high-intensity and adrenaline-heavy situation of violence or disaster they would surely remain calm, collected and capable throughout the ordeal, logically approaching the situation rather than losing their heads and screaming about the place like the other lesser beings present, who unlike the solipsist fantasist in question are not the Protagonist of the situation.

The impression one gets from observing these highly-successful genres is that our culture is one in the throws of an anxiety; we’ve all noticed the trends and parallels, historically. We feel like we know where this is going. Fallen is Babylon, it’s the Last Days of Rome, etc. Pornhub reveals year after year that our tastes are growing more extreme and abstract, populist movements surge behind authoritarian statesmen who hark incessantly to bygone, civilised (and notably caucasian) golden ages which never truly were. It’s all coming down, maaan, and now every generation which follows gets to experience an even more crystallised terror of being all-too-conscious in the seconds after the wheels lose traction on the ice beneath and the car spins into the night, breath held in the timeless moments before the crash.

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Uncategorized

Culture

As Terence McKenna said in this interview, “Culture is not your friend.”

I know, I know. How can I have a go at culture? What’s culture ever done to hurt me? Why aren’t I thankful to culture for providing me with such a rich and varied, erm, culture?

It’s easy to paint culture as some kind of essential framework, without which all the rich bounty of Western civilisation would turn to ash and be taken by the winds. But that’s the thing: our culture has a vested interest in ensuring that your conception of ‘culture’ is a positive one. It would be considered quite the faux pas to instead characterise culture as a form of bondage to which you never consented, which serves only to exclude and to characterise the foreign as ‘Other.’

The very word itself, “culture,” finds its etymological root in the Latin ‘colere’, a term for cultivating crops. While not without a sense of romance, this origin damns culture at its very roots as being a force which staves off true creativity. The reasoning behind this, if we’re going to continue to entertain the rather tortured metaphor I’m setting up here, is that the artefacts produced by a culture will always be template and predictable, as certain fields yield certain crops, and barring some truly seismic shift in the culture’s paradigm we can foresee future artistic endeavours and trends, even if only in the abstract. Even subversion is subservient to culture: works become defined by disparity and dialectic difference. I am a work of B, because I oppose A.

What was Ginsberg’s Moloch if not an unflinching characterisation of his own culture, one which he perceived as brutal, unfeeling, mechanical and fuelled by the lives of children, symbolic of his countrymen and their futures? Given, Ginsberg was a particular person at a particular time in a particular place when he wrote Howl, but the snapshot he took of his culture and it’s inhumanity and viciousness can only stand as a damning, rather than celebratory, characterisation.

Culture means borders. Culture means language barriers. Culture means economic disparity. Culture is always defended by the aged agents of tradition, the traditional enemies of progression.

In The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception (1944), Adorno & Horkheimer accurately predict the path of Western culture. They foresaw that it would become an assembly-line of sensory spectacle, repeated ad nauseam for the sake of profit, bereft of deeper meaning and only ever questioning or critiquing the culture in as much as it can viably profit within the pre-existing space of definitions, hierarchies and power structures.

Of course, all this is to be taken with a shaker of salt. Without my culture, I would have no way to disseminate these ramblings, no language or communicative forms with which to convey them. But that which is inflexible is doomed to shatter, and the defenders of culture and its homogeneity cling to a sinking ship’s mast, a crumbling tower’s parapets, shunning a greater patchwork of identity and community for the sake of preserving the relics of an ahistorical Golden Age.

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Fiction

Detective Cordite’s Personal Notes – Neo-Luddite Violence

Sadly predictable violence at the Technofetishist Rally earlier on today. Six dead, dozens injured. All accessible drone feeds and witnesses show a crowd of Neo-Luddites protesting the rally, though miraculously for our era we haven’t yet managed to piece together who threw the first blow. The Technofetishists are howling for blood; they want these cavemen found, beaten and tossed into space. Though for the most part in breach of no laws on the books, the Technofetishists are forever seeking some kind of validation from the larger population. No one really cares about them; you’re free to seek spiritual and personal satisfaction however you choose, provided you don’t hurt any non-consenting parties. But the Technofetishist death-rate is noteworthy, with dozens of citizens getting themselves caught in complex-yet-evidentially-alluring machinery every year. On top of this, the average citizen is unable to afford the kind of clinic who stand a chance of achieving their trans-humanist ideals in a capable, sterile environment. I’ve seen enough hookers with badly-calibrated pneumatics whining from their exposed, scratched chrome hips as they lean down into a John’s window to last a lifetime.

The Neo-Luddites are always spoiling for a fight, and the Technofetishists give them all the justification their backward code of ethics requires to okay beating the decadence out of a few kids going through some complex identity issues. Their mission statement is as predictable as their methods: Fallen is Babylon, humanity is unanchored, we’ve lost sight of what makes us blah blah. Their solution to the existential crisis arising from universal technological permeation and acceleration? Smash the looms, back to the caves, etc.

The State’s been attempting to plant agents in the Neo-Luddites for a few years, but they’re a difficult group to spy on; very insular, hard to approach. You need to show real dedication to the ideal of a tech-free landscape, shunning all possible technology with vigor and instead attending to the practice of… I don’t know, lifting things up and rubbing sticks together? It isn’t difficult to have an agent pretend they hate technology. The difficulty stems from preventing them from buying into it. Once you’ve managed to get into the trials of admittance, you’re cut off. They last for weeks, and you’re to live with other prospective Luddites. Everyone is watching everyone; there’s no chance to smuggle technology in or communicate with your controllers. It’s the perfect environment for weeding out plants. And once you’ve got your mole identified you get to choose; neutralise, or convert?

Of the eight attempts I know of to plant a G-Man in the Neo-Luddites, three are presumed dead and four are true believers now. The only escapee still gets jumpy around Old World tools, like hammers and saws.

The only sense of advantage we have over the Neo-Luddites is from what we perceive to be their hypocrisy; there’s no way that a group like that could be so well-maintained, organised and inscrutable without some kind of technological intelligence infrastructure. At times in the past when we’ve attended to the scene of a street brawl between the Luddites and some other gang or ‘movement’, it’s been standard procedure to let off an EMP charge or two upon arrival. Scrambles the weapons of whoever’s fighting, gives us an immediate advantage in a combative situation. Doesn’t really bother the Luddites though, as they’re fighting with bats, knives and other lethal implements that don’t require circuitry. We do, however, often find downed surveillance drones in the aftermath. All serials removed and memory flashed upon signal disruption.

I reckon the Neo-Luddites aren’t who they think they are. No one’s got any idea about the leadership structure of the group, save a few surprising influential citizens who’ve left a financing paper trail back to them. It wouldn’t be difficult to set up a kind of militia like this while remaining in the shadows above, no one but the highest echelons of command aware of your existence and leadership. Wouldn’t even need to believe in the ethos; that’s just a useful tool to galvanise the troops and ensure there’s no incriminating hard-drives, because they aren’t allowed to use them.

But then they say I’m paranoid.

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Fiction

Daily Post – Pungent

Though destined to be a grand and celebrated creative, he instead strayed down the meandering, dark path of writing for “chucks”. Trained to craft sonnets, Petrarchan and Shakespearean, he instead devoted his time to the dirty limerick. Though instructed and mentored in the delicate balance of the sublime and the sombre, he spent endless nights devising complex, polysyllabic nicknames for his peers.

He refused to correct his spoonerisms, and saw brilliance only in the subversion of audience expectation.

Though his character became wretched, bilious and putrid, he began to carry himself in higher esteem than ever before. In giving up in his crusade to brew an alembic full of new, alchemically-pure literature he had found a great release. One can grow quite fat on low hanging fruit, and he found it difficult to slake his thirst once he had first tasted the syrup-sweet nectar of the easily won chuckle. Who wants to spend a life breaking the back of their brain in the pursuit of a ‘new’ convention, fully aware that credit will likely not be delivered in this life? Better to rule on the funny pages than to serve in the academy.

His peers sneered; who was he to think so highly of himself? They continued to fight the good fight, to try and prove Eliot wrong and discover new land amidst a well-sailed sea. But our artist cared nothing for their blessing, which only served to increase their disdain.

He would become the black sheep on campus, a carnivalesque jester amidst the prim court of ‘the artists’. He would show them for the pretentious louts they really were. He would become a pen of dull literary vengeance, shattering their swords of reason, introspection and idealism. He would sink further and further into the filth of the triple-entendre, the spoonerism, the mispronounced and the willfully-dense. He would reek of self-conscious mockery and spoil the pomp banquets of Tomorrow’s Writers. He would deliver their punishment; a whole punnetfull. He would hold his head high, the stink of simplicity emanating from his very pores, a gentlemen of unflinching, well-spoken and confident satire.

He would become the Pun-Gent.

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