Friday, August 14, 2009

st. john’s abacus

counts each step:
a walk along the brook stone

family leather bound black book
la guardia sweeps my hovel

trembles, clear at last
daylight skyline thirteen point

thirty one hundred ‘self-transcendent’

I check for a pulse,

miles east northeast of home
sick ward bound on a friday

afternoon starts before
the sack lunch disaster or,

or even a continental breakfast table-
side reunion of sorts

maybe the night before we don’t
notice the fifteen in bold

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bowery Ballroom, June 13th, 2009

The naïve appeal is that you can play multiple guitar parts at one time: The digital, one-man band. But the digital, one-man band is more than just playing along to recordings, so long as the DOMB performs the recording act on the stage. Last night, JBM played the Bowery Ballroom. We missed the opening. There appeared to be at least one pre-recorded track in his looping station, but we can forgive that because of his masterful way of weaving recording-events, as opposed to recorded-events, into his performance.

There is a sense in which a recorded event becomes something new when part of a performance, and we all understand what this looks like. There is a sense in which a performance becomes something entirely new as a recorded document (see below). Every recorded document is a performance, but even a live recording remains a recorded document, an artifact, when left to itself. It will undergo various mutations and permutations depending upon when and where it’s played; it will have a different sense at each listen, but in most cases it remains an artifact.

What makes a performer like JBM so interesting is that the recording event and the performance become one-and-the-same thing: the performance is recorded and the recording act is performed simultaneously. They are so intimately intertwined that at times it is impossible to tell them apart. Sight and sound deceive even the most attuned. But deception of this ilk is precisely the moment in which a performer like JBM reveals his brilliance as the digital, one-man band.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I point the camera at the train as it approaches the platform.

The camera, the seeing machine, is set to “infinite capture;” it takes pictures in rapid succession until either I remove my finger from the shutter button or its storage mechanism reaches full capacity.

The train’s arrival at the platform is captured as a rapid succession of images. In some of these images the train is still, in others the train is ethereal, not still; it is as though the image is an image of the train-motion itself, perhaps an image of a train train-ing; it is a train after all.

Whether the camera has captured the still train, or the train-motion is a matter of adjusting the shutter on the camera. I increase the shutter speed and all it captures is still.
I slow the shutter speed and all it captures is motion.

But could it be that this is not an image of anything at all? Could it be that this is not even an image, but is instead a happening? Is this really a capturing? Is this really an image that points to something outside of my encounter with the photograph in a perception-event? Or does something wholly new come to presence in my encounter with the photograph?

To capture, to hold captive, to captivate, these hardly speak to the perception-event of my encounter with the photograph. To capture, to hold captive, to captivate all speak to something other than a belonging. To capture something is to hold it somewhere against its will, as if it should be or would be somewhere else. But the photograph is precisely where the movement of the train shows itself anew; the movement of the train in this particular inflection of train movement belongs here and only here. Were it not here in precisely this photograph it would not be in this way at all. My encounter with the photograph is where I may, for the first time, encounter the movement of the train in this peculiar particularity, in this particular peculiarity. The photograph brings the movement of the train to the encounter. The photograph is train movement. Nothing is captured, but a gathering is taking place that becomes a new presentation—not a representation—of train movement. The photograph is one way in which train movement can go. My encounter with the photograph at the site of the perception-event is where I actually see train movement as it presents itself anew in the photograph that gathers as it presents.

And gathering is not a pointing. We may interpret the photograph as representing a train, and that the blurry resolution of the photographic image points to the fact that at the time the photograph was taken, the train of which this image is a representation was in motion. But this interpretation would not be an encounter with the photograph as photograph; this treats the photograph as a sign that points to something outside of the encounter in the perception-event. At the site of the encounter with the photograph I perceive what is gathered together in this particular photograph. The movement of trains is something so familiar to us that we don’t think on what this movement is. If we give it any thought at all we assume that the movement is a quality of the train, not something in and of itself, but to attend to the photograph in the encounter with it as a perception-event is to see the train movement as the thing that it is, brought to presence for the first time. In the photograph there is not a train in motion, the photograph has gathered and brought to the site of the perception-event train movement to be encountered as such.

To perceive the train movement requires a participation. I may participate in the perception of train movement only if the photograph has included me in its gathering. But more than that, the gathering of the photograph is the weaving together of the site of the perception-event. The photograph gathers together a particular configuration of world and things that encounter one another in this gathering. To perceive the photograph is to dwell in the gathering of this photograph and to be attentive to what is gathered. Certainly some photographs are more interesting than others, but the interest of a viewer is indecisive in the gathering of a photograph. Most of the photographs we come across in our daily comings and goings are photographs that have certain demands placed upon them. Photographs are challenged forth to point, to document, to instruct, etc. We edit, crop and resize photographs so that our demands are fulfilled. These demands attempt to turn a photograph into equipment that is put to the task that is demanded of it. In this putting to task of a photograph the gathering can often withdraw. The photograph as photograph withdraws. But insofar as the gathering of a photograph is not decided by the interests of its viewer-demanders, the gathering still occurs and a careful attending to this gathering is still a perception-event. What is gathered at the site of the perception-event in some cases is the peculiarity of the demands put upon the photograph. Often what is presented in the photograph is the photograph’s playful resistance to these demands. The photograph calls attention to the way in which a demand to point, or to document was placed upon it. And when we see the photograph resisting these demands the equipmentality of the photograph in turn withdraws, as the photograph presents what is most essential to it: its gathering together of world and things to the site of an encounter in the perception-event.

Photo says light. Graph says write. To perceive says to take in, to attend to what lies before you as the thing that it is. The light-writing is a creative gathering. To perceive a photograph is to attend to an encounter with the light that is written in its own particular way. But when we attend to a photograph as photograph, the light writing does not remain static; the writing continues. The perception-event itself is a creative event; the perception-event with the photograph is free of determinate delimitations in a careful, attentive encounter that allows the light to keep writing. The careful, attentive encounter with a photograph brings what is written in the light to light in a perception-event.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

a joke

called attention
to our particular circumstance

our hour, our arrangement
of Canadian geese and barbed wire feathers

caught in the chain link this
is only funny because of where I am,

what he was or wasn’t, and the proximity of those bodies
twenty five years his junior hands in

pockets for the expression of contentment
at an interruption, his arms

point and sway out in an exercise
of today’s permission

“are you coming with us?”
to laugh unguarded, unguarded.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

This is not a review, just revisiting one of the greatest live albums of all time

The applause track on Johnny Cash’s, Live at Folsom Prison, is entirely independent of the music tracks. The applause track—assumed to be a recording of Folsom inmates—undulates, is pulled out and put in wherever the editor or producer sees fit. At times, these placements are so conspicuous that they are laughable, a laugh track. They always occur where expected, expected of. Drugs, murder, death, applause. This recording is not a documentary of a performance that took place in a prison, not entirely; this recording is a created document. Rather than a recorded event, Live at Folsom Prison is a recording-event. This is not a prison performance; it has been edited, cut, polished, created in a studio and packaged for consumption. The contemporary consumer still expects what the first consumer expected forty years ago: drugs, murder, death, applause.

The United States has the world’s most defective prison system. California has the most defective prison system in the United States. California’s entire prison system is in federal receivership, and many of its institutions are on watch-lists for human rights violations; this is true. “All prisoners are vicious psychopaths,” one says; Live at Folsom Prison is the evidence.
From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Declawing the Downwinders

Fast Eddie kept a few of the shipyard bets
from the Turf Club bookies in Portland post-
depression all through the war he ran

books from a box of frozen blueberries
in the basement Grandma divorced him for gambling
away the family home some-

how he won her back: Jackpot
Fast Eddie draws his line in
the Nevada desert calls upon the general

Postmaster slowly makes his way up from Battle Creek
A million dollar diamond ring stolen by gunpoint in the rear
of a pink Lincoln convertible overloaded with cash and coin and

his new ethics of thievery: The house
always wins with a charming smile
and a touch of class anything goes
and nobody seems to care when

another Protestant vigilante with pencil-line mustache
segregates a housing complex thought
no one should notice all the dark skin out back

From gramps

From gramps

From gramps

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Airport Phenomenology

We came directly from a champagne and waffle party at a lovely home on Elizabeth with wonderful people who begin their New Years celebration a few hours after everyone else does. Our driver tonight was Daniel from Al Iskandariyah or Al Qahirah. He drove us to the waffle and champagne party at 3:00am, we asked for his number and then we called him back for a ride to the airport after 6:00. His name might well have been Daniel in the sense in which I say that my name is Zach, but Daniel might also well be the name he wanted me to call him when I called him back for the drive to the airport.

They call it egg and cheese panini. I wouldn’t have called it that. I opted for the shiny, new place and I regret that decision. From here I can see into the divide between the seats and seat backs of the row of chairs in front of me. D is sleeping against her bag and pack directly across. I just dropped a strip of egg from my panini and it tumbled down my sweater and bounced off of my lap, onto the computer; it left a trail and a mark. In the divide, on the undersides of the seats, is a network of four-digit claws and the dangling metal tendons of violent, hateful beasts that sleep a restless sleep, barely anaesthetized by the exhaust fumes of jet engines.

With Georges Perec in mind (see: “Species of Spaces,” or not), I ask after what is peculiar to the airport space. The “airportness” of airports, the SFOness of SFO, the “JFKness” of JFK? At its simplest, it appears to be the odd set of permissions granted in the airport space. The airport becomes the only appropriate time and place for me to prefer Starbucks coffee. I enjoy every last sip of it and enjoy every last bite of whatever hideous accompaniment I’ve chosen out of the plastic display module. I tend not to stray from the type of drink I would order anywhere else: a double short latte or Americano, if it’s the holidays I’ll order a double short latte made with eggnog, or perhaps a smallish drip coffee (in the case of drip coffee, at the airport I’ll add cream and sugar, whereas at home I’ll just add milk or creamer). The airport also becomes the only time and place to prefer large, American meals (alla Chile’s or Red Robin). For example, “Lime-infused Grilled Breast of Chicken with Brie,” waffle-cut fries, and slaw at the Sam Adam’s in JFK. The permissions don’t exhaust the peculiarity of the airport space, however, they just add to my contentment while I’m there.
The stop-and-go, the turning-about, the to-and-fro, the bitch-and-moan (I play along) are the affect of the airport space. Constant anxious motion, even in rest, is the affect of the airport space. Too much caffeine and too much sugar are neither cause nor effect, but they are players, participants. The restroom can be a momentary reprieve. I wash my hands and graze the top of the trash bag as I discard my paper towel, so I wash them again, this time being more careful as I move back into the space. Still though, it seems that what is enjoyable and what captivates about the airport space is not just about me or my experience, or any person or set of persons for that matter, though certainly my experience co-constitutes airport space just as airport space co-constitutes me.

So what is it then that is so peculiar to the airport space?

The airport space is a void. The airport space is the anti-intended (though there are intentions that are specific to the space). This anti-intendedness, I think, is what I find so intriguing. No one is actually at the airport. The airport space is occupied, but all occupants are intending and becoming somewhere else. Though necessary in every possible way, the airport is a purely negative space. Even if someone loves the airport, no one travels to an airport, only through an airport. The person who enjoys the airport affect just fares better than others in the void. Airport space is like the margins and the white space (black space) on a page. Coming to appreciate the

shapes and contours of the margins, and the breaks


words make the reading event
that much more

enjoyable. The airport is the same. Turning the void on itself, having or taking full use of the void by intending the

permissions and affects of the
airport space, makes occupying the space an event in

itself, like the reading event, an event, perhaps,
to be enjoyed
as its own event,

regardless of semiotics, (in any straight-forward sense),
an event by the fact of its very happening,
and that happens out of the here-ness and now-ness

of every possible occurrence, and which must be chosen with some measure of discrimination, if for no other reason than that we have limited time, and

limited patience.