borrowed words (power of the commons)

reagan's 3rd sotu

reagan's 3rd sotu2

reagan's 3rd sotu3

reagan's 3rd sotu4

reagan's 3rd sotu5

reagan's 3rd sotu6

reagan's 3rd sotu7

reagan's 3rd sotu8

reagan's 3rd sotu9

reagan's 3rd sotu10

reagan's 3rd sotu11





The source text used here is Ronald Reagan’s Third State of the Union Speech (delivered on January 25, 1984). Nothing has been added. This is not an effort to create a strawman Reagan but rather an experiment to show the creative, poetic, and theoretical potential within contextomy. Reagan was used because he remains a polarizing figure but also because State of the Union addresses are in the public domain. The power of the commons.


a glitch of psychic crumbling.

For many people, if anything is representative of the art of noise, it is ambivalence.

Joseph Nechvatal’s Immersion Into Noise is a somewhat ambivalent book. It is the contrary to the noise abatement treatments of noise – it is just noise as art. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unfortunately for me, many of Nechvatal’s claims of noise as art run contrary to my own (I do not believe that Rococo or Baroque as busy and complex as they are are in any way ‘noise.’ Intentional complexity is not noise it is complexity. The two should remain separate.). It is then, mostly the theorization of his introductory pages that resonates.

Noise may break some connections, but connections will always continue to grow in other directions, creating new thoughts and new affects.

Nechvatal is not alone in recognizing the creative power of noise. But it is theorizations of noise like Nechvatal’s that set themselves against the blasé readings of noise as just an annoyance to be toned down, a decibel level to be reduced to an acceptable non-hearing damage inducing appropriate levels. On one side of the coin noise is simply an annoyance, offering nothing and demanding everything. On the other side, the possibility of creation, new thoughts, new avenues, the very possibility of the new. Indeed:

This creative art of noise draws us closer to our inner world, to the life of our imagination with its intense drives, suspicious, fears, and loves – that which guides our intentions and actions in the political and economic world.

This is an approach to noise that is wholly other than the noise abatement campaigners. They rail against airplane noise, traffic noise, piped music, and the neighbor’s dogs and stereo. Nechvatal glories in exactly what the campaigners revile:

But for noise to be first noise, it must destabilize us. It must initially jar. It must challenge. It must initiate a glitch of psychic crumbling.

It would seem that bridging these gaps might be impossible. Noise is, after all, a complex concept with overlaying theories that cannot and will not harmonize.

Cash in the Cage’s Debut Drowns in Pretention

Cash in the Cage, Famous Johnnys ★★✩✩✩

Famous Johnnys, the debut effort from music theory dropouts Jacob Bernstein and Michael O’Brien (Cash in the Cage being their collective moniker) is so full of promise that it is despicable in how much it fails to deliver anything meaningful. The debut single “Folsom Prison 4’33”” is as pretentious as it sounds. Is it really an iPhone playing “Folsom Prison Blues” into a Green Bullet Mic with seemingly random insertions of Johnny Rotten screaming “ANARCHY” for just over four and a half minutes? Yes. Yes, it is that obvious and that simplistic. These are the titular “Famous Johnnys” and the artists are so pleased with the cleverness of their ‘subversive’ idea that they don’t even bother to consider the utterly pedestrian nature of such a recording in 2013. While the juxtaposition of John Denver, John Mayer, John Bonham’s “Moby Dick” drum solo, and clips of Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement was novel and well orchestrated on the track “Hang Your Wonderland,” it is the unfortunate exception (likely due to the presence producer Madeline Montgomery – absent on the rest of the record). Sorry, kids, but these aren’t even worth the time to pirate.

the humor of truth: Isabelle Stengers’ Cosmopolitics I

the power to talk about the world independently of the relationships of knowledge that humans create.

Isabelle Stengers’ Cosmopolitics I has only one review on Amazon that basically amounts to: “this shit is hard.” That a single two-star review might be steering potential readers away from the work is disappointing because, while Stengers is dense, the text is incredibly rewarding.

The question of the relationship between a text on science studies and a stumbling progression towards a Paranoiac Noise Theory may not be obvious from the surface but the links, indeed, are present. Science is a question of knowledge and authority. And thus:

If learning to think is learning to resist a future that presents itself as obvious, plausible, and normal, we cannot do so either by evoking an abstract future, from which everything subject to our disapproval has been swept aside, or by referring to a distant cause that we could and should imagine to be free of any compromise. To resist a likely future in the present is to gamble that the present still provides substance for resistance, that it is populated by practices that remain vital even if non of them has escaped the generalize parasitism that implicates them all.

What is noise but knowledge that is unrecuperated into the system? Knowledge that resists the “obvious, plausible, and normal?” What is paranoia but a means of recuperating noise, of finding significance in that which is defined as insignificant? And thus noise and paranoia gamble on the present just as Stengers suggests.

Let us use our illusion.

Every living being may be approached in terms of the question of the requirements on which no only its survival but also its activity depend, and which define its “milieu.” And every living being brings into existence obligations that qualify what we refer to as its behavior: not all milieus or all behaviors are equal from the point of view of the living; and the difference is especially relevant when we address those obligations we impose on the living in the name of some knowledge we wish to obtain.

The question that Stengers brings up (not knowingly, perhaps) is a question of use and misuse. In directly questioning the move from experimental physics to theoretical physics is opened to the approach of the paranoiac.

There are no neutral narratives.

Can one appropriate her discourse? Rip, remix, and rewrite her questions of knowledge production and authority outside the scope of science and science studies? To take her work and, as a fellow philosophical refugee, use it (amplified through an 8×10 stack) to question other discourses, other authorities, other modes of knowledge production?

Are the means I give myself, the approach to practices in terms of requirements and obligations, appropriate to the problem I want to bring into existent practices, namely, the escape from a generalize polemic that puts every practice in a position of disqualifying and/or in danger of being disqualified?

Because, as she notes:

The true subject of description is now a disorderly multitude.

And conducting that disorderly multitude towards a revolution (articulating Dr. Gonzo’s rising sound) is a question that must remain open, that cannot be closed, that recuperates the remainder even as it (inevitably) excludes, selects, and chooses.

Nevertheless, they are strange poets indeed, for the power they have of asking questions that, by right, should be of interest to all humans, of making discoveries on our behalf, and announcing the truth of the shared world, obviously constitutes on component of their passion.

all quotes from:

Stengers, Isabelle. Cosmopolitics I. Trans. Robert Bononno. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Print.

Helmhotz appears.

Composed while listening to Fishtank Ensemble, Woman in Sin.

Speculative Thievery

Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks! I am not trying to rob you.

 – Gandalf the Grey


A conjuration, then, is first of all an alliance, to be sure sometimes a political alliance, more or less secret, if not tacit, a plot or conspiracy.


For to conjure means also to exorcise: to attempt both to destroy and to disavow a malignant, demonized, diabolized force, most often an evil-doing spirit, a specter, a kind of ghost who comes back or who still risks coming back post mortem.

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

In conjuring specters, in delving into the haunted realities of culture and its general milieu (do ghosts feel the anxiety of influence?) one finds oneself in the ever on a threshold, always in a liminal zone, the zone of the interface, the demesne of the ghost, the topos of juxtaposition.


This, though, is the opening of invention, of heuretics, of the possibility of (re)creation. Being with and creating with the ghosts, the rotting corpses of the past, the desiccated flesh of the present. This is remix. This is building new bodies, new selves, from the background noise. This is carving a home from the bare mountainside and meditating till your arms and legs waste away from disuse. Useless: never used.

And so, towards the furtherance of a conspiracy, let us spiral further down, add a new layer of irony, a new distance of doubt.

What does it mean to play on the question of the meme (the Arrested Development macro specifically) with the question of philosophy. The trick. The question and space of play. Did you know Siggy had an affair with the White Lady? Is the meme itself a play, is all juxtaposition play? Interplay and intertext, the flux of values and power structures, hierarchies and hegemonies. To what end? To what politics? To what disruption, what space of rupture, what possibility of invention?

Of course there are no answers in the demesne of the ghost. Tiresias and a warm cup of blood are but tales to protect a fragile mind from an indifferent universe. The injunction to speak will offer no guarantees, for we must make our own way, and benefit or fail under the Sisyphean task. A man walks into a hanging … But lacking rules and guarantees only offers the paranoiac a greater openness in the act of creating the (cultural? ideological? phenomenological?) universe anew.


Speculation is always fascinated, bewitched by the specter.

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

Fretless Theory

Consider for a moment the fretless bass.
Naturally, by this I mean fretless electric bass guitar as nearly all upright basses are inherently fretless (I’ll get back to that).

What might be gained from an understanding of the fretless as a tool to think theory with? Because I argue for play against structure, one might consider the inherent increase in play with the fretless, the ability to play notes between the standard Western chromatics. There are, of course, other benefits to the metaphor. One could look to the increased use of the fretless in jazz and experimental musics and thus the improvisation and unique sound and thus propose a move towards improvisational theory. One could note the increased difficulty in playing a fretless, in playing a fretless in tune, in tune with a band, with other players. Everyone needs to play the same between in order to be playing the same song, after all. Or do we no longer need to be playing the same song while we play in the same room?

I also would mark the concpetualization of frets as disciplinary boundaries. Markers of what is an acceptable note. How one must play in order to be playing music. Perhaps we extend the metaphor to breaking? Consider then the upright bass, so long the standard, and compare the looser disciplinary structures of antiquity. Metaphysics: the book Aristotle wrote after Physics and couldn’t think of a better title for than After Physics.

This does not even get into the question of postproduction manipulation of the soundwaves…

And yet as my colleague Nick Ware put it: “Analyzing a game as if it were a film is like fixing a car as if it were a horse.”

Jean Baudrillard stretches a science metaphor in Impossible Exchange:

The uncertainty principle, which states that it is impossible to calculate the speed of a particle and its position simultaneously, is not confined to physics. It applies also to the impossibility of evaluating both reality and the meaning of an event as it appears in the information media, the impossibility of distinguishing causes and effects in a particular complex process – of distinguishing the terrorist from the hostage (in the Stockholm syndrome), the virus from the cell (in viral pathology).This is just as impossible as isolating subject from object in experiments in subatomic physics.

Of course, now there is this bit of recent research out of Canada.

The principle has bedeviled quantum physicists for nearly a century, until recently, when researchers at the University of Toronto demonstrated the ability to directly measure the disturbance and confirm that Heisenberg was too pessimistic.

What does that say about the metaphor? The limits of metaphor? Is a metaphor about uncertainty more uncertain when the science behind the original metaphor becomes uncertain? Might as well just admit we need to bracket language too while we’re at it. Insist upon the tautology: “I mean what I mean until I don’t. And then I mean something else. Trust me.” and go about our business. Communication breakdown. It’s always the same.

I’d rather just play. Amps to 11, Nigel.

or, Jaco meet Jacques: