Eric by Tom Manning

“When we are clear-eyed about the fact that what we think of as our individual self is really a hodgepodge of artifice, and not really our self, that can be both freeing and terrifying. Our ego constantly chases fleeting needs, which is why an identity based on that ego is fleeting, and happiness based on feeding that ego is fleeting. I think true happiness is probably only attained by the release of ego, which is ironically our ego’s greatest fear. In Eric, I try to capture the horror and freedom of what it might be like to actually erase your ego. It’s all in the book’s opening quote from the Beach Boys: ‘Hang on to your ego / hang on but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight.'”

—Tom Manning quoted in an interview with Sarah Heston, “Magical Los Angeles: An Interview with Tom Manning.” The Los Angeles Review of Books. September 29, 2018.

You can order Eric (or his other graphic novel Runoff) via the author’s website, or ask your local library to order or get it on loan.

Anonymous Sessions on 3:AM Magazine

“Another function of these civilizational trances is the inoculation of the masses from outsider disturbances. This is achieved by hardening the audience to them, administering small doses of carefully excised and polished versions of their rabid and incomprehensible accents, smooth postcard images of toxic wastelands, little commercial apocalypses for atrophied imaginations.”

—Cergat Boş & Elytron Frass, “Interviews with Anonymous Personas.” 3:AM Magazine. September 4, 2018.

Break out of your civilizational trance. Open up to outsider disturbances, and exercise your atrophied imagination.

Reading through these interviews, on one level, there are ideas I haven’t seen before, such as xenofeminism and the possibility of cyborgs as a vehicle for transcending gender and patriarchy. On another level, I keep getting whiffs of word salad, as if there’s a coy game going on in the background. Is it that I’m just not getting this part because I lack the basic intelligence or worldview / theoretical framework? Is this meaningless word salad? Is it something else? All of which is part of the fun.

The casual mention of various books and authors keep sending me down unexplored paths in the literature jungle. It can take some time to cut through the thicket of the conversation and the references providing some context for it. But, it makes for an interesting journey.

In short, delightful. Recommended.

Reference: Anon is Not Dead: Towards a History of Anonymous Authorship in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain

The Truth About Devo, America’s Most Misunderstood Band

“‘So how do you change things? Subversion: that’s how. Who does it best? Madison Avenue; they get people to buy things that are bad for them every day…That’s what we wanted to do, use subversion to sell people things that they don’t know they want.’

…But to dismiss Devo as nostalgia compilation fodder is to overlook a body of work that feels prescient in both style and substance, rife with critiques of consumerism, right-wing ascendance, Midwestern paternalism, corporate monoculture, and geopolitical hysteria…We were a self-proclaimed canary in a coal mine warning people about the emerging dangers of technology as a god to be worshipped, rather than as a tool to be exploited, and the centralized Corporate Feudal State that seemed to be barreling full speed ahead…

Because we thought rock and roll was dead already. We thought rock and roll had been used up, and it was intellectually vapid, and there was no reason for it to continue. ”

—Mark Mothersbaugh in an interview with Andrea Domanick. “The Truth About Devo, America’s Most Misunderstood Band.” Vice. August 29, 2018.

Devo-lution is upon us. Not much new besides the book. Still, interesting if you didn’t know much about them and sympathize with their message, as I do.

Steven Seagal’s Tears

“I once heard a story about Steven Seagal—this is another reason that I love this motherfucker—I heard a story from somebody about Steven Seagal, that a producer came into his—I think this story’s out now, but I heard it years before it came out—that he called his producer into his home, and he said, ‘Come here, you have to come here,’ and the guy came into his home, and Steven Seagal had a 10-foot wooden desk, and on the desk was a script and a gun. And Steven Seagal was sitting at the desk and he was crying and the guy said, ‘Steven, what’s wrong?’ And he looked up and he said, ‘I just read the best script I have ever read in my life.’ And the producer said, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. Who wrote it?’ And he said, ‘I did.’ Like, Steven Seagal is batshit, fucking insane.”

—El-P. Interview with Eric Thurm. “Run The Jewels on the brutality, music, and magic of Steven Seagal.” avclub.com. December 4, 2014.

Really Reading Means Being Open to Change

To really read any discursive text, whether a philosophical tract or a legal contract, is a disturbing and cognitively disorienting experience, because it means allowing another person’s thoughts to intrude into your own and rearrange your beliefs and assumptions — often not in ways to which you would consent if warned in advance. Even when you deliberately decide to learn something new by reading, you put yourself, your thoughts and your most cherished suppositions in the hands of the author and trust her or him not to reorganize your mind so thoroughly that you no longer recognize where or who you are. It’s very scary; hard, painstaking work of determined concentration under the best of circumstances. So particularly with philosophical texts, the whole point of which is to reorganize your thinking, people often don’t really read them at all; they merely take a mental snapshot of the passage that enables them to form a Gestalt impression of its content, without scrutinizing it too closely.”

—Adrian Piper. Interview with Lauren O’Neill-Butler. “Adrian Piper Speaks! (for Herself).” The New York Times. July 5, 2018.

Excellent interview throughout. For this part, I think you could extend the point to any kind of lived experience. Authentic experience is breaking from the automatic, the prejudicial mental models that we have created to navigate the world and experiencing the world in a way that might fundamentally change us rather than limiting our vision to our existing worldview that renders anything outside of it invisible.

When Toast Was “The Tip of the Hipster Spear”

“For whatever reason, I felt compelled to go looking for the origins of the fancy toast trend. How does such a thing get started? What determines how far it goes? I wanted to know.”

—John Gravois “A Toast Story.” Pacific Standard. January 13, 2014.

I remember going to a bar once, and everyone was wearing clothes that were popular three decades prior. It’s startling to be so completely disconnected from the normal distribution mindset and suddenly noticing how much of our world is based on conformity to arbitrary norms.

This story about toast, for instance, got so popular it made it to an episode of This American Life, a show that could plausibly be described as “the base of the hipster spear”. Maybe toast can provide us with some insight into how these things gain traction and maybe help with seeing it ain’t all bad. Really, who’s against toast?