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'NEARLY EVERY SICKNESS IS FROM THE TEETH' - Sergeant Pluck
[OK, I know it's months after the disinfo.con, but this travelogue/review/diary of a hypochondriac has been lying around semi-written since mid-March]
Sometime around lunchtime on February 18th, I was cowering in a booth of some terrible cafe in Heathrow airport, with just three miserable hours of fitful sleep under my belt, most of which was spent sitting upright to keep any extra blood from pounding through my jaw. It eventually turned out to be a cracked filling. Insomnia, coupled with clove oil and codeine, led me to the folly of ordering what was a liberal interpretation of 'breakfast'. The sausages were the worst - two long curved veiny stalks that led me to suspect that Dr. Benway was gelding mugwumps in the kitchen. Dropping my cutlery in disgust, I coughed up some cash for the sullen waitress, and joined the sweaty masses waiting for the bird-trip to New York.
Some 22 hours later, after painkillers, the first couple of chapters of Aldous Huxley's *The Art of Seeing*, the frozen inferno of John F. Kennedy Airport, a subway spin with a mathematics lecturer from Zanzibar (via Liverpool) who sort of offered me use of his beach house (I never heard from him again), the bizarre dimensions of my sauna-like room at Hotel 17, an evening of beer and cocktails at some bar in the Lower East side, an emotional reunion with the one and only ID (who I hadn't seen since we performed a funeral service for a punctured once-inflatable transvestite Barbary ape named Gordon at low tide on Sandymount Strand, Dublin), an Indian meal in what can only be described as a hall of mirrors and LEDs, another night of sleeping in an upright state in my hotel 'room', I found myself having a painful, lightheaded breakfast by the Flat Iron building, in what felt like a borrowed body, with an ensemble which included the aforementioned ID, as well as Blatherskites Mark Pilkington of the Fortean (Times) Bureau of Investigation and Doug Skinner of WhiteKnuckleSandwich.
What the hell was I doing in New York anyway? I was doing Disinfo.con, an event staged by Blather's friends at the Disinformation Company. The conference was taking place at the Hammerstein Ballroom, West 34th Street off 8th Avenue, and the speakers included Robert Anton Wilson, Genesis P. Orridge, Kenneth Anger and a horde of others.
Sometime around 11:30, or perhaps much later, the Breakfasters swarmed into the foyer, names were checked against rosters, entrance gained. Inside, the cavernous hall was ringing out with some chants that I can only presume were emanating from the mortal vessel of Vyaas Houston, who was perched behind a cut-out of a stylised devilette head - the Disinformation symbol. The stage was surrounded by huge projection screens, which throughout the day churned out all manner of cut-up fragments of film and video, backed by music from Family of God.
Madame pain returned, and I descended to the basement, where I convinced Mark to abandon me in front of the dream machine tent with some ice, so that even if I was to be denied satori, I might at least manage some solace.
Somewhile later, I bounced back, and caught the latter half of NYU professor Douglas Rushkoff's talk, which dealt with how what is still considered to be the 'counterculture' in the eyes of the 'mainstream' has long since *successfully* bled into that mainstream, like a virus, but can no longer be considered separate from its host. I had only previously read one of Rushkoff's books, *Cyberia*, which I left me with mixed feelings about his take on the 'subculture', but after this talk, he was redeemed.
Next up was inventor and artist Paul Laffoley - but those terms don't do him justice... in fact, I recommended checking the entry on Laffoley at http://www.disinfo.com and working from there, as I cannot do justice to his inventions of living growing houses, time machines and other works of beautiful innovative design. Alas, while Laffoley was speaking, I had grave difficulty in keeping up with him, as while he seems to have a firm grasp of his subject, perhaps he assumes that his audience does too.
After lunch, crowds, a visit to the green room and some food, Greg Bishop (Excluded Middle magazine), Rob Sterling (http://www.konformist.com), Jody Dean (http://www.aliensinamerica.com), Jonathan Vankin (http://www.conspire.com) and Ken Thomas (http://www.steamshovelpress.com) took the stage for the conspiracy forum. Thankfully they didn't spend much time on particular well-worn theories, but instead discussed the nature of conspiracy theory, and the responsibility of conspiracy writers. Does the speculative theorizing of conspiracy writers just add to the noise, thus burying the *signal*, i.e., the truth, deeper in the pile?
After a bizarre rant from Michael Backes on bananas, aliens and art, Greg Bishop returned for a talk about 'alien writing' - forms of writing apparently channelled from paranormal sources. He was followed by Glaswegian author of *The Invisibles* comic, Grant Morrison, who despite being under the influence of several 'stimulants', was one of my favourites of the day. Grant gave less of a talk, and more of a rant, first warning us that if we didn't understand his accent, then, well, we could fuck off. No problem for me, but I don't know if anyone else there could, or if they could understand me, either. He giggled infectiously, spilled his beer, and did a convincing job of introducing the value of personal magical rituals.
At this point, I indulged in some conspiracy of my own, and slunk off to a dinner appointment with a couple of the Secret Chiefs. By the time I'd returned, I had missed Adam Parfrey, Kenneth Anger, Mark Pesce, and video messages from Howard Bloom and Marilyn Manson. I also missed R.U. Sirius, who probably announced his 'FUCK THE VOTE' plans for the US presidency. I did, however, get to experience artist Joe Coleman. I like his paintings, but was strangely unmoved by his grotesque makeup, his rant about how humanity is a cancer threatening Mother Nature, the surrounding video shots of cadaver dissection, and his subsequent chest explosions. Likewise, despite their introduction by Ann Magnuson, I wasn't all that impressed by Kembra Pfahler and the Girls of Karen Black... who, well, were naked, painted blue and pink, and did what I was told were Celine Dion covers. They then lay on top of each other to create 'The Wall of Vaginas'. Maybe I should stay in more.
The energetic Genesis P. Orridge (http://www.genesisp-orridge.com/), late of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV bounced out on stage in a nifty suit, like a puppet on perishing elastic, to deliver a talk on, amongst other things, the myth of static personality, and the subsequent obsession with individuality. GPO emphasised the mind vs. body duality, postulating that our bodies are merely vessels for our greater existence, and that any assumption such as 'This is who I am, this is my life' is no more than folly. Genesis was up with Grant Morrison as a top speaker of the day - both were able to convey personal metaphysics to a mass audience.
Last on was that esteemed 'damned old crank' Robert Anton Wilson (http://www.rawilson.com) who, like Charles Fort, seems to be somewhere between a scientist and a humorist. Bob regaled us with no end of politics and Joycean theory, as well as airing the sound theory that one has to have a penis to be pope. When the cardinals want to pick a new pope, do they just slap out their schlongs up on the table to see who's the biggest? What's the difference between counterfeit money and 'real' money - do the Federal Reserve or National Mint have a magic wand? Readers may notice that I'm forever quoting RAW in Blather's issues - check out his site at http://www.rawilson.com, and for feck's sake GET ONE OF HIS BOOKS for yourself.
After a rousing finale, with an appearance by Disinfo arch-deacons Richard Metzger and Gary Baddeley, some of us collapsed in the green room, where Greg Bishop pulled a bottle of James 1780 from somewhere, and doled out something to warm us before we staggered cross-eyed into the icy February air.
Links to all, or at least most of the speakers can be found at The Disinformation Company website at http://www.disinfo.com
Some photographs can be found at
*The Art of Seeing* - Aldous Huxley [Full writeup coming soon in
[Over breakfast, on the day of the Disinfo.con in New York City, erudite blatherskite Doug Skinner announced that his band, White Knuckle Sandwich, were to play at a *ukulele convention* in New Jersey. And so, a special Blather report, from across the ocean...]
UKULELE EXPO 2000
When White Knuckle Sandwich (Jennifer Duffy, Anne Shapiro, and the undersigned) learned a ukulele convention was in the offing, we nabbed a booking. We didn't know what to expect, but we knew we belonged there.
We arrived at the Katz Civic Center in West Orange, New Jersey, to find tantalizing displays of antique instruments and dealers hawking the latest models (including banjuleles, miniature electric guitars, and the mellifluous Fluke). A crowd ranging from East Village rockers to retirees lounged on folding chairs, clutching strummables, as a variety of performers took over an open mike.
We missed the workshops and the probably soul-stirring inductions into the Ukulele Hall of Fame, but can report that the evening concert was great fun.
Again, the range was delightfully farflung -- the retro crooning of Jim Beloff, the blues wailing of Phyllis Capello, the trenchant dissonances of Songs From a Random House. Our set was a big hit, and we sold dozens of CDs.
As Anne contentedly sighed on our drive back to Brooklyn, "It was all I hoped a ukulele convention would be."
Ukulele Hall of Fame -- http://www.ukulele.org
White Knuckle Sandwich -- http://www.whiteknucklesandwich.com
A Clockwork Orange
Burgess (real name Anthony Wilson, 1917-93), a post-Joycean virtuoso, invented for this semi-futuristic novel an extensive system of nouveau slang for the narrator, a violent young street thug called Alex. The title of the book comes from some real slang, the cockney phrase *as queer as a clockwork orange*, meaning very strange indeed, guv'nor.
The first time the phrase appears in the book is as the title of *another* book, one that a character has written. This is F. Alexander, a professional writer, who is attacked at random by Alex. This other *A Clockwork Orange* is a polemic against the imposition of mechanical laws (symbolized by clockwork) on human nature (symbolized by the orange, i.e. a product of nature).
The young Alex does whatever he likes (rape, beat, steal). He laughs at the question of what causes evil, pointing out that no-one bothers to discover what causes good. He believes that the establishment (the government, the justice system, the schools) are only against evil because they are against the self. He believes in freedom of the self and that people are good or evil because they want to be.
Alex is arrested for his crimes and goes to prison, where free will is also the concern of the prison chaplain. Alex is interested in the Ludovico Technique which is said to *cure* criminals but the chaplain warns that goodness has to be chosen, not imposed by this extreme technique. He says *When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man*. Regardless, Alex is put forward for the Ludovico Technique, which will remove his ability to make ethical choices.
After Alex is subjected to this bizarre drug-and-film Technique, he cannot act violently or think about violence without becoming ill, experiencing great physical pain. Alex's urges towards evil are still present but he is powerless to think or act on them. The prison chaplain is appalled. In his opinion Alex is now a non-human creature. Alex subconsciously realizes this himself, when he suddenly compares himself to a clockwork orange.
Alex had been a classical music afficionado, adoring in particular some of the more *violent*, powerful work of Beethoven. When he underwent the Ludovico procedures, there was musical accompaniment and now he finds himself feeling as much revulsion for music as he does for violence. The doctors recognised that there could be no *delimitation*, that *the world is one, life is one*. Feelings of violence overlap with feelings involved in the sexual act and feelings produced by art, music and literature. Alex is no longer capable of enjoying these things. F. Alexander calls Alex a machine, only capable of *good* and of what the government deems to be socially acceptable.
The Ludovico Technique is only an example of the extreme that the government is moving to. Under the auspices of defeating crime, the State is limiting the freedom of all its citizens. Soon those who suffer are the same people who were originally suffering at the hands of the street criminals: the weak, the easily bullied, writers and freethinkers. Street thugs find new employment as policemen.
In this nightmare scenario we are left with the question of whether it is better to have evil chosen by free will or good enforced at the expense of free will. And how good is *good* when there is no freedom, when the State is the new aggressor and when *results* are deemed more important than ethical intentions?
In the world Burgess depicts, the young are savage, while middle-aged and old people are quite mellow. Violent crime seems to be the activity of the youth of the *Municipal Flatblocks* who are too young for employment or marriage. Of course, in our world the main body of young offenders become the adult criminal population and age is no brake. This may be irrelevant, considering that this is a work of fiction, however the way Burgess portrays the age groups seems crude in this otherwise incisive novel and Stanley Kubrick was right to leave it out of his film version.
- Barry Kavanagh
*A Clockwork Orange* can be purchased from the Blather bookstore:
OTHER RECENT REVIEWS:
Hunter S. Thompson, *Hell's Angels*
William S. Burroughs, *Last Words: The Final Journals of William S.
Flann O'Brien At War: Myles na gCopaleen 1940-1945
Junichiro Tanizaki, *The Makioka Sisters*
Matt Groening, *Are We There Yet? The Simpsons Guide To
Ray Richmond, *The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite
St Thérese of Lisieux, *Poems*
Tom Robbins, *Still Life With the Woodpecker*
Richard Andrews & Paul Schellenberger, *The Tomb of God - the Body of
Jesus and the Solution to a 2,000-year-old Mystery*
On April 3rd 2000, author, explorer and shamanic researcher Terence McKenna passed away peacefully, at the age of 54, after a battle with brain cancer. His books included *Food of the Gods*, *The Invisible Landscape*, *True Hallucinations*, *The Invisible Landscape* and *Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers Guide*. McKenna was one of the leading proponents of the use of psychedelics, and proposed that human culture was sparked off when early peoples discovered hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Official Terence McKenna site
The Novelty Project - A benefit project for his Terence's family
Terence McKenna Land
Flann O'Brien: Comic Genius
The 23 Enigma: Captain Clark Welcomes You Aboard! (by daev)
If these links dosn't work, go to
Dave (daev) Walsh
May 10th 2000