Thoughts On The New Language

Writing is not a dying art form, but it is rapidly changing. Writers typing words into computers like this is becoming a thing of the past. Of course, writers and luddites alike have been saying for a long time that technology is killing writing; the only difference now is that I am not sure it is entirely a bad thing.

William S Burroughs stated that words are a virus and cited the advantages of hieroglyphic language. He also stated that words were tools of the control machine and used cut-up as a means to subvert said machine and reality as well. The cut-up method lives on to this day and has been utilized by artists far and wide both underground and mainstream, myself included. We all came to cut-up for varied reasons, but largely because ordinary writing had reached an impasse. Cut-up was taking us places that traditional language could not go. We knew, at least subconsciously, the limits of language. Experimental literature is alive and well albeit still in the fringes of modern literature. Some authors are moving beyond language entirely and defining (or re-exploring) the boundaries of ascemic literature.

However in the everyday world, language and how we perceive it may be changing more rapidly than it is in the art world, we just don’t think about it. Whereas outdated notions of tradition or formula inhibit many artists, technology adheres to no such boundaries.

The internet has changed the way we receive information and it would seem language is going through a slow metamorphosis. People are putting down magazines and newspapers to gather information online. Books and chapbooks are giving way to e-books. Blogs have given way to Facebook which has given way to 140 character tweets. Language is getting lean, like haiku. It is mutating and merging with image. The new language is a strange synthesis of words, images, sounds, hyperlinks, hashtags, and emoji. Literature is changing, as well as how we disseminate information. The way we “read” is changing accordingly.

It’s an exciting time to be a writer, provided you are not bound by the printed page. Of course the theories I am expounding are nothing new. There are innumerable artists far more talented than I that have experimented with form, communication and the new language for much longer than me and with much more precision. They too have realized the limits of language and how to overcome these limits. Still yet, I feel the need to reiterate and express the ideas to myself at the very least. You see, for all of my experimentation and grand ideas sometimes I still get hung up on words. I still get stuck on the label of “writer” which often leads to frustration as an artist. After all, how can the concept of “writer” remain the same if the concept of “reader” has evolved? Basically, how do I sell something no one is buying? We too must evolve and drop all notions of what a writer is. We must purge ourselves of noir imagery of the alcoholic writer with a cigarette dangling from his mouth slamming keys on an old Corona typewriter. Exterminate all rational thought. That is another lesson Burroughs taught us, but like the Buddha in the road we must also slay Uncle Bill and all of his wisdom. Nothing must stand between the artist and total freedom. Not you, not me, not words.

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Rebooting Me

Recently my old laptop died. I hadn’t even begun to start moving things to this Mac yet, and unfortunately, I had not backed up any files in quite sometime. I lost tons of writing, hours of sound work, and thousands of photographs. I felt gutted… like a part of me had died, and of course, it had. So much of my heart and soul gone forever. It’s hard to see the positive in all of this. However, maybe it had to be. Perhaps that is the only way one can start over fresh.

You see, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of “rebooting” myself.

So I have started this reboot in earnest, trying to get myself out of this creative rut that has plagued me of late, and back to a good place both physically and mentally. I’ve been exercising a lot, getting back into zazen and learning Tai Chi. I’ve even quit drinking beer! Maybe it’s partly because I’m getting older, or partly because of this creative stasis , but regardless of the reason, the results have been fruitful. Mind, body, and soul I have been feeling much better than I have in years.

I received validation for my efforts at my yearly physical today, I cut weight, and my blood work was excellent… and for everyone wondering where in the world vegetarians/vegans get their protein, my proteins were high and healthy. I’m not usually one to post stuff like this, but I thought maybe I would for the benefit of anyone else out there in a rut. I figure if I can “reboot”, anyone can.

Is Traditional Publishing A Black Hole?

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I didn’t write that.

I found this graphic somewhere or another on the internet when I should have been writing or working instead. It stuck with me, and while I may not agree or disagree with it, it proposes serious questions.

Is traditional publishing a black hole?

In 2017, is there still a stigma against self-publishing?

As with most topics, it depends on whom you ask. I’ve never had a problem with it; in fact, out of my six chapbooks two were self-produced. There is a lot of bad self-published work out there, but there is a lot of bad writing put out by major publishers as well.

However, I would hesitate to call out editors as elitist with asinine egos. Firstly, that is not fair. Secondly, I’ve been on that side of the desk and can assure you that editors are not out to destroy the dreams of their writers… that would be rather counterproductive, don’t you think? I would also hesitate to call these small magazines pathetic. The small press has been very kind to me, and while I am far from famous, the only reason anyone knows who in the hell I am, is because of the small press magazines/presses which found some sort of value in my work.

I don’t have a problem with the publishing game. I don’t have a problem with the hustle, the research or submission process. I don’t even have a problem with the rejections. It’s all part of this writers life we committed to.

For me personally, the problem is a lack of truly experimental presses. To make it worse, out of the handful of experimental publishers I find, most of them do not accept unsolicited submissions, or are closed to submissions entirely. I’ve been sitting on two manuscripts for quite some time, submitting them when I finally find an appropriate publisher… obviously that has not been fruitful. It’s frustrating. Because of this, self-publishing has an appeal.

Does it matter how these manuscripts find their way into the world? I’m not going to become rich and famous writing experimental texts. The type of people who would look down at my writing because it is self-published, would likely look down on it even if it was published by Penguin.

Ironically, I have self-produced noise/sound art for many years, as have most of my contemporaries. In the music world, D.I.Y. art is not looked down upon, but celebrated. Why the difference between the music world and the literary world, are we as writers that pretentious and self- important?

So what do you think?

A Few Words On Karma

In a recent discussion, a friend asked me about my thoughts on the nature of karma. Quoting an excerpt from Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, he referred to karma as a “blind machine”. He asked me if I could validate this take on the subject. I’ve never read any work from Wilson, but I have at least read enough on Buddhism for said friend to come to me for an answer. I’m certainly no expert on the dharma; I often refer to myself as the world’s worst Buddhist (see the title of this blog). In fact, I would be hesitant to refer to myself as a Buddhist at all. However, that’s not enough to deter me from elaborating on my own modest take on Karma.

Buddhist texts, much like that of any other religion, are often interpreted several ways, but I feel that Wilson was accurate when he described Karma as a blind machine. While Buddhism may preach kindness, one must remember, it is also a religion without God. Therefore, free of much of the rigid dogma of most western religion.

Karma does indeed align with the scientific concept of natural law. The word karma has no theological or religious connotation. Remember that the word Karma literally translates to “action”… and much as in physics, each action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karma whether good or bad yields fruits of action and this is all tied up in the wheel of life and reincarnation. While people (myself included) may debate reincarnation or the idea of an afterlife at all, I think everyone can agree on Newton’s third law. Buddha said:

“According to the seed that is sown, So is the fruit you reap The door of good of will gather good results The door of evil reaps evil results. If you plant a good seed well, Then you will enjoy the good fruits.”

In short, whatever you send out into the universe you will receive back.

Of course, Buddhism splintered over the years into many schools and some traditions added theological aspects such as treating Buddha as a God, and adding the caveat of heaven and hell to the Karmic concept.

I mostly studied the Zen tradition, which elaborates:

“Our karma has no self-nature, but is created by our minds. If our mind is extinguished, our karma is extinguished. When we see both our mind and karma as empty, this is true repentance.”

That might make it more complicated or clearer depending on how you look at it. For me it is an illumination. It makes Karma something I can grasp in my daily life, independent from concepts such as reincarnation, samsara, etc. The above quoted paragraphs explain why Buddhas are free of karma, because mind is extinguished. Accordingly, I do not wish to accrue good or bad karma, I wish to be free of karma. I wish to be empty, which I do not mean in a nihilistic sense, rather empty like a starless sky, like a blank canvas, like everything and nothing. Much like the bowl made useful by what it is not.

Why Noise?

When faced with the walls of static/skeletal percussion/electronic blips and bleeps the average person has to ask, exactly why in the world would anyone make noise? Why would anyone listen to this stuff? I’ve fielded these questions on more than one occasion, and I never quite know what to say. I usually simply shrug my shoulders and just tell them “I dig it”. Yet, the answer may be more complex.

Why do anything? Why make music? Why write poems? Why paint a picture? All art comes back to self-expression; it’s a matter of what medium best suits you to express yourself. As an artist whose primary function is that of writer I can express most of my innermost feelings with words, and when words reach an impasse and can‘t adequately say what I am trying to say cut-up technique can take me even further.

However, there are things that are so unspeakable or literally beyond words and that is where sound comes in. Sound for me expresses those indescribable, abstract things that even I can’t put my finger on, or even know that I’m feeling. Noise expresses those primal emotions buried deep and beyond words. I can’t go those places within the narrow parameters of traditional music. How can I discover new places that are not on any psychic map if I’m following a very strict road map that dictates tonality, rhythm, and musical alphabets?

I am just not as interested in creating music as I am in creating sounds. I am interested in creating atmospheres, moods, and soundscapes. I am interested in how sounds interact with other sounds and I am interested in how they affect human consciousness. Much like with words, or interestingly enough most any medium I pursue, I am fascinated with deconstruction rather than construction. Above all, I am concerned with self-expression and navigating inner space rather than outer space. I am simply not interested in formula, song structures, tonality, rhythm, etc.

I am not “anti-music”, in fact, I find comparing music to noise very much like comparing apples to oranges, similar but vastly different. I’ve always enjoyed listening to traditional music but it did nothing for me as an artist. I suppose I could look back honestly and say it possible I did not have the discipline to become a talented traditional musician, but I could also wager it did not hold my attention enough to demand discipline from me. I listen to music a great deal, and sometimes I will sit around my house with my trusty bass guitar and play for the sheer joy of it. However, when I feel the need to express myself music does not come to mind as an option.

Let’s put all that introspection aside. As much as those are possible reasons many of us make noise, I’d wager it has little to do with what started many of us on this noise path. I stumbled onto noise as my path of musical discovery started getting more and more weird and extreme. I can’t put it any more plain than to simply say I thought it sounded cool. Soon after I discovered it was fun to do as well. I guess it really does come down to the simple fact that “I dig it”. The catharsis I feel after playing a set of noise is incredible, the places I go when listening to noise music is limitless. That is all I ask for in art: no limits.

Happy New Year (From The Factory Floor)

I feel compelled to write a few words as we head into the final hours of 2016, and I type them here in the factory where I will ring in the new year. Fitting and hauntingly poetic that I will end the year and begin a new one from this factory laboratory where I spend the majority of my time.

2016 was a year like any other with several vicissitudes. We lost Bowie, we lost Prince, and we lost Lemmy. A tumultuous political year divided the country and unfortunately dropping a new year’s ball will not fix the dark days that lie ahead for this country. However, politics will always be politricks and as much as the election has dominated television and social media, it has not defined my year.

The year has treated me well, I made it through it alive and unscathed while my family is all with me, healthy and happy. The job that I complain about so much has afforded me to be the most comfortable I have ever been. Life is good, and when it’s not, it is usually because of my own perspective. I’m often my own worst enemy.

Creatively, it was a slower year than I care to admit. However, I am very proud of the handful of things I have done this year. I have had some of my best work published in some of my favorite experimental journals, Otoliths, Ex-Ex Lit, and the Zoomoozophone Review. I had the honor to play a show with Mark Hosler (of the legendary Negativland) this year as one-half of Blk/Mas. We also made our annual stop at this year’s St Pete Noise Fest. New net albums by both me, and Blk/Mas hit the web this year.

In 2017, I am looking to shake off my apathy, polish up and start shopping around two chapbook manuscripts I am sitting on. I also hope to do more shows, and release a lot more noise as well. I’m not much of a resolutions guy, but if anything, I just hope to be a little less apathetic in the coming year and nurture the creative fire that still burns inside of me.

If anyone is reading this I’d just like to say, Happy New Year! Stick around; it’s going to be a fun year.

 

Text + Sound

Two new text pieces entitled Industrial Evolution and Sidewalks To Buddha are up for your reading approval or disapproval at the very cool blog Experiential-Experimental-Literature. My short piece A Garden Of Flesh is also up at the excellent zine Otoliths. I hope you’ll give these new pieces a read.

Been having a blast with the reformation of Lakelands own noise rock superheroes Stickfigure, meeting a lot of cool people, playing some fun shows with some more on the horizon. Expect much more craziness.