Saturday, 30 April 2011


I was unable to avert my gaze. The only things that got me through the telecast in its entirety was listening to "dark ritual" style music (such as Jimmy Page's soundtrack to "Lucifer Rising") to evoke the true, underlying nature of the ceremony (not demons and other such silliness, of course, but rather...wait, read to the end to follow a link so you can see how queercore director Bruce LaBruce eloquently sums it up!), and fantasizing about what Prince William might have really said in a secret address to his inner retinue, secure in the knowledge that he was rebranding the House of Windsor and thereby contributing to its longevity:

"Brother Blackshirts, my comrades in struggle:

Our fight is for the soul, and in that battle we go forward together till victory be won. Our struggle is hard, because we are fighting for something great, and great things are not lightly or easily gained. We are fighting for nothing less than a revolution in the spirit of our people. We must be worthy of our mission, for blackshirts are those who are summoned to lead the people to a new and a higher civilization.

The Blackshirt is a revolutionary dedicated to the service of our country. We must always possess the character of the true revolutionary. It is not the character that you observe in the little men of the old parties, blown hither and thither by every gust of convenience opinion, elated by a little success, downcast by a little failure, gossiping and chattering about the prospects of the next five minutes, jostling for place, but not so forward in service. Without loyalty, endurance, or staying power, such a character is the hallmark of financial democratic politics.

In the true revolutionary, the first quality is the power to endure. Constancy, loyalty to cause and comrades, manhood and stability of nature. These are the qualities of the true revolutionary. In our movement that great character is being reborn. And for that reason we carry within us destiny. We care not whether we win tomorrow morning or at the end of a lifetime of labour and of struggle. For to us the little calculations of the little men mean nothing. All we care is that win we will because no power on earth can hold down the will within us.

Struggles we have had and will have. Blows we have taken and will again. Victories we have had and will have again. Through good and ill we march on, till victory be won, for this is the character of the true revolutionary. In the great moments of supreme struggle and decision it is easy to hold that character, even in supreme sacrifice. It is not so easy in the hard daily task. It is then even more that in the great fights we have together that I would like to be the companion of every one of you. I would like to be with every action team that carries the message of our new faith to new streets. I would like to be with every man or woman during the hard but vital job of giving leadership to the people in the block of houses for which they are responsible.

For these are the jobs that come, by the dedication of thousands to that mission of leading the people in their own homes and streets, revolution is won. In that task I cannot in body be with everyone of you every day. But in spirit I am with you always. Together we have lit a flame that the atheists shall not extinguish. Guard that sacred flame my brother Blackshirts until it illumines and lights again the path of mankind".

I have to thank derridata as well for alerting me to additional relevant commentary here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Perils of (Non) Identification

< Presumably in line with his reception as unidentifiable and otherworldly, many biographical accounts of Nomi aestheticize his death as his "departure." Page Wood and George Elliott, the "living authors" of Za Bakdaz, a Nomi-themed opera, talk of August 6, 1983, as the day when "Klaus Nomi left the Earth." (36) The British periodical Attitude summarizes his career as a heavenly event: "Like a shooting star, he exploded into the world then fell from the heavens after a glittering, all-too-brief career." (37) The Nomi Song, Andrew Horn's documentary, presents a more elaborate version of the same narrative. The film, whose subtitle reads "He Came from Outer Space to Save the Human Race," opens with a clip from Jack Arnold's 1953 science-fiction picture It Came from Outer Space, which features the landing of aliens on Earth. The clip is then reinterpreted as Nomi's "arrival" on Earth and followed by his contemporaries' descriptions of him as "alien," "artificial," and the like. Jack Arnold's film does not return until the very end of the documentary, when another clip, this time showing the aliens' departure from Earth, serves to allegorize Nomi's death.

In this way Horn's film achieves a neat formal closure and an overall elegant arc structure, but only at the price of aestheticizing Nomi's death and presenting it as logical, even inevitable, while the voice-over in Arnold's film informs us that the aliens are leaving because humanity was not yet ready for them. But, of course, Nomi's death was neither logical nor inevitable, nor was there anything in it worth rescuing through aestheticization. Because he was suffering from an unfamiliar disease, most of Nomi's friends were, perhaps understandably, too afraid to visit him in the hospital. One of the few who were not was his friend and collaborator Joey Arias, whose written account of Nomi in his last days focuses on the visible manifestations of AIDS on Nomi's body rather than on the man himself:

He developed kaposis [Kaposi's sarcoma] and
started taking interferon. That messed him real 
 bad. He had dots all over his body and his eyes 
 became purple slits. It was like someone was 
 destroying him.... Then he got real weak and 
 was rushed back to the hospital. He couldn't 
 eat for days because he had cancer in his stomach. 
 Herpes popped out all over his body. He 
 turned into a monster. (38)
Unfortunately, such dehumanizing accounts of people suffering and dying of AIDS were by no means rare at the time.  In a visualization of that dehumanization, Horn's film ends with footage of a visibly emaciated, dying Nomi's performance of "The Cold Song," an air from Purcell's King Arthur, in Munich shortly before his death. As though to confirm my critique of the film's treatment of Nomi's death, the footage is combined with an interview with Tony Frere, another Nomi collaborator, who comes dangerously close to rationalizing and justifying Nomi's death:

It was definitely a very dramatic ending, and 
 you don't wanna say it was appropriate, but--at 
 the time it was extremely surprising--but 
 now, thinking about it, it was perfect, you 
 know, sort of like a perfect coda to everything. 
 You know, just like "Wow," it was like an ending 
 to this crazy, lavish opera in a way. 

The alien, the unrecognizable, the unidentifiable
 then simply had to go, the film seems to tell us;
as such, he was never sustainable anyway.
Frere's words, heard over the last chords of
Purcell's somber air and Nomi's leaving the stage
 bedecked in a seventeenth-century aristocratic
 costume, provide for a suitably poignant operatic
exit. The most useful conclusion that I have been
 able to draw from studying the reception
 ofKlaus Nomi is that such a radical refusal to identify
 with any normative identities cannot ultimately rescue
 us from the exigencies of identification.
Having to identify with already existing
 identity norms in order to achieve both
 a recognized identity of our own and the
 cultural recognition of others can and often
 does feel stifling.

 Yet the radical alternative that Nomi
embodied is not a viable answer, because cultural recognition
 will be withheld from those refusing
 to sufficiently adhere to a recognizable
 identity. What is needed for a
 more livable life is probably a third way,
 winding between a slavish
 identification with normative identities and a radical
 nonidentification that results in the loss of recognizability.

(This passage is taken from "Do You Nomi?" Klaus Nomi 
and the Politics of (Non)identification.
 Contributors: Zarko Cvejic - author. Journal Title: 
Women & Music. Volume: 13. Publication Year: 2009).

My (brief) comment on the conclusion I've just quoted. Very
 interesting indeed. Still, it begs the question of whether
the symbolic interactionist paradigm in sociology will ever
receive the acknowledgement it deserves from Cvejic
and other like minded readers/theorists. For if one stops
to recall Mead's description of the interweaving of the "me"
and "I" respectively, it quickly becomes apparent that we
 already have a "third way" that can enable us to navigate
 between the positions Cvejic describes. Of course, a
 Deleuzian would merely snort in derision because such
 people have no vested interest 
in a "me"; the "I" is all that matters to them. One can make
an educated guess then as to how a Deleuzian would
 respond to Cvejic, who at least manages to peel back the
"radical" sci fi garb to see the kinds of problems that may
be associated with a "politics of nonidentity".

I hasten to add that Nancy Fraser's advocacy of a dual
emphasis on a politics of recognition and a politics of
redistribution is also highly significant. Please note that
redistribution is conspicuous by its absence in Cvejic's essay.

This song is from Klaus Nomi's unfinished space-western
 opera ZABAKDAZ.
ZABAKDAZ is a collection of songs Klaus Nomi was working on 
up until his death in 1983, released posthumously in 2007. 
The large majority of the tracks have never before seen a studio
 release. Some of those involved with the project hint that the
 album was nowhere near completed at the time of Klaus' passing.

Friday, 22 April 2011


I've really been enjoying listening to Sleep Research Facility's album Nostromo a lot lately which--as you might have guessed--is inspired by the film Alien. As Kevin Doherty has revealed in an interview:

Those that have heard of SRF will probably know you through the Nostromo CD that was released by Cold Spring Records a while ago. This was, as the name suggests, promoted as a soundtrack prelude to the Alien film. Why did you choose to follow such a concept? Does Alien, or the imagery in the film, have any special place for you?

KD:  “Soundtrack prelude to the Alien film”, that's a terrific description. Yeah, "Alien" is my favourite film (I'm big into films and I really like good incidental music) and as a quiet haunting environment the ship "Nostromo", on which the story takes place, is second to none. Also, it seems to me to be really highlighted during the film's first moments – those introductory slow panning shots, there's a strange sense of abandonment so the whole project is kind of inspired by this opening sequence of scenes. Also one can't help but always associate deep space travel with some kind of hyper-sleep or suspended animation, so that theme is almost automatically present as well, though that wasn't really a deciding factor in choosing the subject matter (it's really about the ship, not the people sleeping in it). I suppose I tried to create an aural equivalent of these sensations one might feel, all alone exploring this vast dark place, cut off from everything and everyone -- nothing (apparently) happening, just you and the environment, no distraction, no conversation, not really overtly nightmarish but still curiously tense in some otherworldly and dreamlike way -- something lurks in the shadows but it never jumps right out to scare you, it's maybe a bit like sneaking around in the dead of night when everyone else is asleep, which can be fun and at the same time maybe a bit un-nerving in a compelling sort of way".

It's very hard to capture the kind of structure of feeling I attempted to evoke in my previous posting concerning the work of Darren Jorgensen, which I detect again listening to Nostromo. But how could it be otherwise, when you are dealing with something on the edges of semantic availability? No doubt there will be proponents of so-called "dark vitalism" out there who will soon turn their attention in earnest to this style of ambient music, leading to all sorts of imaginings along the lines perhaps of Deleuze and Guattari's invoking of how Lovecraft's... (should take me five minutes to try to plug into this style of thinking...first I have to create an appropriate search string; wait! I've found something already, ok, let's go then) (ahem!) ...stories become most abstract when he attempts to encounter the plane through the exquisitely minimal, imperceptible haecceities...but of course the plane cannot be encountered. Things emerge through the plane, but the plane does not exist unto itself. Deleuze and Guattari say of music that "there is a transcendent compositional principle that is not of the nature of sound, that is not 'audible' by itself or for itself. This opens the way for all possible interpretations" (TP 266). The horror of Lovecraft's cosmos comes because "it" is not. Through access to the different organisational principles of the cosmos, his protagonists are faced with the truly voluminous and thus mind-shattering infinity of variations and immanent-interpretations (not reflections) of states of perception.

This would be music as a liberating practice that opens gates to what Patricia MacCormack (who I have been borrowing from here) describes as "an infinite territory beyond representation, signification, and perception itself". Could it be that Matt Howarth is attempting a similar gesture in his stories about isolated characters who attain "enriched visions" through personal transfiguration? Howarth is a particularly interesting figure in this context I think because he has long incorporated electronic musicians as characters in his works, with Enriched Visions paying tribute to onetime Lustmord collaborator, and outstanding ambient composer in his own right, Robert Rich. Indeed, the book features a dialog between the two about the parallels between the stories and Rich's own compositions. A dark vitalist might go further by quoting MacCormack's observation to the effect "that these relations force alternate modes of perception without laying new structures of apprehension, finally leading to the function of art as catalysing becomings in the reader/listener by demanding alternate perceptions of relation with any and all entities". 

And so to an overview of the stories in question:

"A collection of short science fiction and surreal stories by Matt Howarth based on the compositions of ambient pioneer Robert Rich. Embark on a series of fantastic voyages, where you’ll encounter: the link between a massive brushfire and aboriginal cave art, a mathematician’s quest into the desert, giant lizards orbiting the Earth, an old man captivated by dancing moss in a park, a kidnapping in the new Ice Age, the music a lonely lighthouse keeper uses to while away the nights, the fate of the last Martians, the unnatural hunger of Dame Procol’s new lifeforms, a man in search of amnesia, an antique dealer specializing in artifacts from the 21st Century’s texplosion era, an alien spire that reaches beyond the sky, and more. This book also features story notes in which Howarth and Rich discuss the connections between the stories and the source music."

The Art of Despair

...Louise Bourgeois, Erik Swenson and Berlinde De Bruyckere...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Steve Fuller's "Humanity 2.0" will hit the shelves 2 months before this title..

Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement
Ronald Cole-Turner, Editor
The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina; cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance; millions of men take drugs like Viagra to enhance sexual performance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. "Transhumanists," on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bringing fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.
Ronald Cole-Turner holds the H. Parker Sharp Chair in Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is the editor ofDesign and Destiny: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Human Germline Modification and coeditor of God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning.

Table of Contents
1. The Transhumanist Challenge
Ronald Cole-Turner
2. Contextualizing a Christian Perspective on Transcendence and Human Enhancement: Francis Bacon, N. F. Fedorov, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Michael S. Burdett
3. Transformation and the End of Enhancement: Insights from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
David Grumett
4. Dignity and Enhancement in the Holy City
Karen Lebacqz
5. Progress and Provolution: Will Transhumanism Leave Sin Behind?
Ted Peters
6. The Hopeful Cyborg
Stephen Garner
7. Artificial Wombs and Cyborg Births: Postgenderism and Theology
J. Jennifer Thweatt-Bates
8. Taking Leave of the Animal? The Theological and Ethical Implications of Transhuman Projects
Celia Deane-Drummond
9. Chasing Methuselah: Transhumanism and Christian Theosis in Critical Perspective
Todd T. W. Daly
10. Human or Vulcan?: Theological Consideration of Emotional Control Enhancement
Michael L. Spezio
11. Whose Salvation? Which Eschatology? Transhumanism and Christianity as Contending Salvific Religions
Brent Waters
12. Transcendence, Technological Enhancement, and Christian Theology
Gerald McKenny
13. Transhumanism and Christianity
Ronald Cole-Turner


Tuesday, 5 April 2011


This mimicking of animal behavior becomes one of the central motifs in the film. Inspired by the nature documentaries of Sir David Attenborough (whose mispronounced name gives the film its title), Marina constantly emulates the gorillas and other animals she sees on television, engaging in improvised showdowns with both Bella and her other companion, her dying father (Vangelis Mourikis). (Her mother has passed away years ago.) By taking on the personae of wild creatures, Marina signals her distance from humanity from which she seems to have intentionally withdrawn, while the sense of antic goofing provides a necessary outlet for her repression. Soon other examples of play begin to pile up, the back-and-forth word games she engages in with her father and a series of odd not-quite-dance-numbers, as Marina and Bella, clad in complementary dresses, walk arm-in-arm, stopping to make synchronized gestures such as a leg kick or a head shake. Later, they stroll down a city street past unmoving young bikers while a French pop song plays on the soundtrack, creating a near-parody of a '50s teen musical number.


What will become of America in five, 25, or even 50 years from today? This series of independent mini-features explores possible future scenarios through the prism of today’s global realities. Immerse yourself in the visions of these independent prognosticators as they inhabit a future of their own imagining.
Nothing is inevitable but the future.
American society is in the midst of some of the most profound and fastest-moving change in its relatively short history. We face a paradox of great challenges and great opportunities. Climate change threatens our physical survival and the fate of many species with which we are interdependent; yet the promise of green energy technology has inspired great strides in science and the promise of economic recovery. Globalization has both divided and connected us in ways unimaginable just a decade ago.
Think of it:
A minute ago, this moment was the future.
A minute from now, everything could change.
Independent Television Service (ITVS) asked both renowned and emerging filmmakers to take the current state of affairs in the United States, and extrapolate them into stories of the nation in the not-so-distant future.
The result is FUTURESTATES, a series of groundbreaking digital shorts. Each episode presents a different filmmaker’s vision of American society projected forward, fusing an exploration of social issues with elements of speculative and science fiction.

I recommend starting with Season 2's Beholder:

Beholder takes place in the biosphere-protected Red Estates, a gated community with a socially conservative political majority. At a clinic where patients can genetically engineer their children, Sasha, the wife of rising political star Bobby Aryana, is informed that her baby carries the genetic marker for homosexuality. By the laws of Red Estates, this is an aberration that must be dealt with immediately, and Sasha must decide between staying faithful to the love of her life or risking everything. Touching on issues of race, sexual orientation, and conformity, Beholder examines the notion of identity and the costs of belonging.

Sounds of The Great Old Ones Tearing a Hole in the Space-Time Continuum

I created this pic and recommend clicking on it to see a larger version
I also recommend playing this accompanying track on headphones to get the full effect.

Find more songs like Wilful at Myspace Music