Enter the Vandalists

January 31, 2012

Picture of the occupied condo building in Williamsburg by Stephanie Keith

On Saturday night a group apparently semi-related to Occupy Williamsburg threw a party in a vacant condo building. The party and its riotous aftermath have been covered by the New York Times, Village Voice, and the Daily News to name a few, but so far only one statement has been released from the occupationist side: a tract posted on anarchistnews.org titled “Enter the Vandalists” and signed by the “Geiseric Tendency,” possibly a reference to the historic Vandal King.

Resorting to an automatism characteristic of their class, the gentry of Williamsburg summoned their militia
to dissolve the siege being laid to a conspicuously empty palace of banality, newly erected in the heart of their 
spectacular playground. The vandalists had recognized the inhospitablility to life of this sarcophagus for the young
professional class, and did not shy from the conclusion that it lent itself only to defilement. The object of
their critique was not limited to the class for whose consumption the condominiums that cover Williamsburg are
 produced, but included the extreme boredom that the proliferation of these kinds of spaces induce. The prevalence of
the condominium is a symptom of the spreading homotopia that is the Metropolis—the endless repetition of the same 
forever.

The vandalists will not reconcile themselves to merely appropriating these habitats—designed for gradual atrophy, optimized for the most comfortable postponement of death. Rather, they want to see them recycled in the urban
biosphere; turned into manure from which unforeseen species might emerge.

It will not only be the police, the rich, and the reactionary press that will slam the vandalists—activists 
will likely join in as well, decrying the occupation as not being social enough, not populist enough. Why did it have to 
be a party, with booze, hip hop music, and NO RULES? Why not an attempted squat? Why was the media not called?
 Why was the action not ‘consensed’ upon in some public group? No one will understand the vandalists because they are
not of either world; they seek neither professionalist capitalism nor professionalist activism. Perhaps if squatting a social
center were still sometimes tolerated this desperate mayhem would not have occured, just as if there were anything to be 
gained from joining Organized Labor or Revolutionary Parties perhaps we would not see the global masses chaotically
rising against singular abstractions of all authority (Wall Street, Mubarak, the IMF, Money, etc).

Activists call protests, the vandalists instead call potlucks. Potlucks of destruction.

We can expect more Occu-parties and general bad citizenry from these vandalists leading up to an ultimate act of 
descecration, an intelligibility strike, on May First.
-Geiseric Tendency

While the text undermines the social element of the occupation: a criticism of property relations in a city where there are more abandoned living spaces than homeless, it also speaks to an element of occupy many of its proponents want to bury: unruliness. In Oakland after the thwarted occupation of an abandoned convention center, a group of protesters broke into City Hall, damaging everything in site and burning an American flag. A building was also occupied, vandalized, and used for a party in Minneapolis.

Oakland Mayor Quan observing a damaged diorama in City Hall, comparing the riot to the 1906 earthquake.

Some commenters, such as the poster of this fantastic Youtube video showing hundreds of Oakland occupiers evading mass arrest, have observed a sea-change in the occupy movement as its repression increases:

I have no doubt that the number of marchers will increase next time. This group started with camping – The city’s responses seem to be slowly turning them into some kind of militia.

But without the use of arms, what sort of militia is this? A commenter on this NY Post article about an occupier’s disruption of an arraignment court proceeding says:

This is exactly why Occupy Wall Street has even been repudiated by the Far Left, who want nothing to do with the anarchists, druggies, homeless, and other disenfranchised who have hijacked this movement.

Oakland and New York are now officially building General Strikes for May Day, and it is still being discussed weather the strikes will follow in a traditional mold of labor marches and picket lines, or if it will be something more in line with the developing style of the “hijackers” and “vandalists” who are keeping Occupy strong through the winter, indeed some sort of “intelligibility strike.”

Books aren’t selling well, and the result is a desperate and dark era for content merchants, the ones who have historically determined what qualifies as “literature.” They see themselves as going the way of switchboard operators, carriage chauffeurs, and all other redundant analog labor. They are desperate for a later-day Twain or Dickens, a man of the times who can come out of the digital world to harness its momentum and keep their factories running; someone who knows how to get the wealthy yet thrifty young demographics to buy their paper once again.

The first of these cybernetic heroes has emerged as Tao Lin, the mediocre minimalist whose shallow characters and banal plots resonate with the emptiness of hipster existence. Sure, his critical reception was a disaster, but he achieved that elusive type of success marketers religiously call “going viral,” a feat so potent it has proven literary criticism an artifact of less desperate times in publishing—a time when consumers not only wanted to buy new books, but they wanted good ones. Now that the time of the book and its critic, a time of meaningful and significant content is long gone, the tyranny of the shitty-but-marketable writer is upon us.

It is in this dystopic setting that Canadian writer Andrea Coates has mobilized a sprawling piece of criticism against Lin, a figure whose popularity is largely based on his ability to absorb and render obsolete all criticism, especially from the passé intellectual realm. Coates‘ critique is intellectual, for sure, but its strength is that she brings the fight to Lin’s terrain, The Internet, where experimentation in text, form, and taste run free, especially in terms of overhead. A scatterbrained polemic, she tries many avenues. She attacks his work, especially the dismal “Richard Yates.” She focuses on the man as he markets himself—the vegan, the libertine, the exploiter of young female talent. She says he is sexually repressed. She says he is boring. She says if he were any worse a writer, he would have to work in advertising. The attacks on Tao and what he represents take up more textual area and become more a focus than what he does with words. He, not is work, is the primary target.

Tao Lin is a Self Absorbed Guy, but he has internalized the Attitudes of those who keep the Cages: despite it’s Manifestation in his Literature, Tao Lin behaves, in his OnLine Identity, as if he is Completely unAware that the Theme of his Work is that our Consumer Identities are destroying us by keeping us Captive within them, unable to live our Lives as we ought to: Freely, Emotionally.

Our Consumer Identities trap us, use us, and destroy us: Capitalism raises us in a Cage of Consumerism wherein Every Action must be mediated by the Market. In the City, Capitalism feeds off us at Every Turn. It co-opts our ProFunDity as Beings by making us its Slaves and then convinces us, via School, Advertisement and Media, to replicate its Memes of Production in Order to perpetuate it, and so Tao does: Every Thing about Tao Lin screams: Capitalist Brand. The Truth is, it is him who has been branded, by Capitalism, and so now he is its Slave.

The essay appears self-aware of the Faustian bargain that is feeding the troll, criticizing that which eats criticism; opposing a power structure which only learns to be more successfully cruel from its opposition. Her method thus resorts to counter-position of ‘caged’ and ‘free’ prose. Coates presents herself as the alternate pole of her criticism: “Where Tao Lin is Caged/I am Wild,” she says, before the essay moves completely into the realm of self-promotion.

And while the form of her criticism achieves a mirror-like disruption of Lin’s shit-into-gold success machine, one can’t help but wonder if there is actually a way through the shitty game of paper-selling, or if by attacking Lin as a means to both further a polemic against the acceptance of late-capitalist ennui in literature and to further her own career. She too must play on the same freemarket field of self-promotion and websavy virus-baiting. She is a “Slave” as well, albeit a more colorful and rebellious one.

By and large, Coates will be successful for all the reasons she doesn’t want: the spectacle of controversy between players in the literary realm, the success of writing based on its novel form, the want for a new, sexy young literary popstar. For her, this last point may be the most self-defeating. We like Coates because she is an anarchist, she’s pretty, she cares about stuff, and yet she still seems fun! We begin to imagine that we will like her writing before we have even read it. Like Lin, she is engaged in a process of seducing us by creating a character of herself—one largely divorced from her work.

It was once true that “Lorca died and Hemmingway survived”, but what now that they’re both dead, and their literary field is someplace you can tour and visit monuments. While it is noble for Coates to throw in the towel on Tao Lin and his Kmart Realist prose, she needs to aim her throw a bit farther—against not just the man and his genre but against nostalgia for bygone eras when literature and its criticism were imagined to be socially relevant wholly outside of its existence within the marketplace. Most of all though, Coates needs to throw in the towel on authorship itself.

Instead of watching the video of her smoking weed and burning “Richard Yates, watch this much better video of Coates reciting her work:

Is New York the “Greatest City in the World?” The intuitive answer is no; it’s rat-infested, dirty, and overcrowded–mostly with miserable and/or crazy people. At the same time, it somehow manages to be one of the bourgiest cities on Earth, where food, rent, beer, and weed cost more than almost any other city on Earth. In spite (or perhaps as a result) of all this, New York remains the greatest city for one reason: not only did it invent punk, but it has remarkably remained its standard-bearer through decades of international reformulation.

Today’s punk scene, lead by the Raw and Bung punx, is thriving in a big way and it’s awesome to have zines like this one and New York Rules to keep tabs on what’s up in the city and beyond. GCITW, written primarily by a dude with the presumably spoonerist moniker Deed Runlea, features four band interviews, most notably with the DOs (Kira Roessler from Black Flag and Mike Watt from Minutemen) and Boston’s Night Birds, a cooking page on how to cook with dried beans, a Seinfeld fan fucktion, and an excellent op-ed on the editor’s love/hate relationship with Occupy Wall Street. Overall the zine has a voice and sense of humor all its own–definitely not ‘PC’ but honest and raw and packing the kind of punk snot one should expect from a zine whose cover is a chain-strapped boot preparing to stomp on the millionaire admins of the newly minted Brooklyn Nets.

Denver’s Shit Sheet is all written by Mike Kenneally of Albany Hardcore fame. Most of the content is a lenghty review of the new Husker Du book and an even lengthier interview with Mike’s favorite band, Leatherface. The Du review, littered with personal anecdotes and stories about the band he was disappointed were absent from the text, was pretty entertaining although irritatingly formatted into thin strips of white-on-black text that were sometimes upside down or cut lenghtwise. Was this design choice a failed experiment or DIY gone mad? Either way, the Leatherface interview’s more standardized lay out was a graphic breath of fresh air, although it could have been edited to be far more concise. I also would have liked to hear more scene-reportage about Denver, even though it is no candidate for best city in the world.

You can get the zine online here for just $2. I’m sure they also sell it at Academy.

Also check out Deed’s record label Shit Hawk Punks and his excellent show on Newtown RadioCrust Never Sleeps.

One of the longest lasting recent counterculutral centers in Brooklyn is potentially no more today, as NYPD forced their way into the building and arrested anyone defying the vacate order. More info from Superchief:

The Global Revolution collective have been covering Occupy Wall Street via live stream since the beginning. Originally based in Zuccotti Park, their base of operations have traveled as the Occupy movement’s locations have changed. Most recently, their base of operations was established in Bushwick, Brooklyn at 15-1 Thames Street.

4:11PM Update:A resident has confirmed 5 arrested, one of whom is Vlad of the livestream. He also claims that police damaged camera equipment upon entering the building last night.

Last night around 8 PM police and fire marshals showed up, entered the space without a warrant and notified the residents that they would be evicted today. Today around 3 PM, 13-1 Thames, half of the split-residence first floor of the building was evicted and sealed. Police warned that they “may return” later today to evict 15-1, the Occupy HQ.

Residents are reporting to Superchief that they suspect the order to vacate is a targeted attack – likely towards a Global Rev organizer Vlad, and his 4-month pregnant wife. They report that they were able to remove an 800 pound server containing their video archives and their important documents last night.

Police did not specifically issue an order to vacate last night. Rather, they are enforcing a year-old order to vacate – which may or may not be selectively enforced now based on the Occupy presence in the space.

Residents of 13-1 are requesting people to come out and support them against eviction right now and tonight.

Surreal Estate was also raided in 2010 days before the annual Anarchist Book Fair. Updates to follow.

 

Fantastic full length split between Jersey noisecore legends Black Kites (currently on tour in Europe) and Rhode Island weirdos Convulsions, a sludgy hardcore outfit that has seemingly come out of nowhere. One of the best, heaviest, releases I’ve heard in a while, and I love the creepy cover.

Black Kites Facebook/Convulsions Facebook
Year: 2011
Quality: VBR (V0)
Tracklist:
1. Black Kites- Sleep Easy
2. Black Kites- Tall Tales, Low Lifes
3. Black Kites- Used
4. Black Kites- Alive On Arrival
5. Black Kites- Own This Monster
6. Black Kites- Fake Punches
7. Convulsions- Gasoline
8. Convulsions- Decompression Sickness
9. Convulsions- Scrimshaw
10. Convulsions- Marie Laveau
11. Convulsions- Nero & Doryphoros
12. Convulsions- Inhabitants of 13 Mall Street
DOWNLOAD
BUY

One Good band in Israel

August 14, 2011

After the trip, Birthright attendees who chose to stay in the region often search of Jewish identity, religion, solidarity struggle, or a spouse. I stayed to find punk rock. My first stop was Tel Aviv, where I wandered the wide and boulevards for three days, seeing barely any signs of counterculture aside from a string of spray-painted circle A’s leading to Tel Aviv’s punk bar and venue Rogatka, which stayed closed every night I was there. Figuring Israeli punk was a lost cause, I ditched town for Jerusalem. I quickly found Cafe Uganda there, a slightly hidden record star, cafe, and venue where Om and Jeff Lewis have played. Outside, an Israeli dude complimented me in Hebrew for my Dystopia patch. A punk! I thought, finally! The only punk I had seen was a guy in a Descendents shirt working at a record store in Tel Aviv, who I asked to reccomend me some Israeli punk. “There are no good bands in Israel,” he told me.

A year later, Elad’s then embyronic project Lanzkron has come to fruition. Their recently released Demo rips through three tracks in just over five minutes. Combining garage punk, deathrock, and hardcore the demo is by far the most innovative and compelling punk I’ve heard out of Irsael, as well as one of the better demos I’ve heard all year. I sent bass player Elad and Orel some questions which they answered semi-collectively and fairly snottily, which is how good punk rock should be.
MMM: Who is Lanzkron?

Lanzkron: Elad plays the bass, Orel plays guitar and does the vocals. Currently Tom is playing the drums and second guitar.

MMM: Your music has a lot of eclectic punk elements going on, what kid of music do you all listen to?

Lanzkron: We listen to punk rock from all kinds and periods, metal, and other irrelevant sorts of music

MMM: What is your name a reference to?

Lanzkron: The name is mostly just stands as the name of the band. We came across that word in an article about one of Judaism’s better false messiahs.We liked the word and preferred it to a “The somethings’ kind of a name, which was our second option.

MMM: And what’s that thing on the cover of your EP? Some sort of demon ghost pig?

Lanzkron: It is a ghost of a dressed up pig sitting inside an upside-down crown, with a pitchfork shaped fork on one side and a knife on the other. Our vocalist drew it.

MMM: One band that comes to mind as similar is another Tel Aviv band, Monkey son of a Donkey. Do you have any notable relationship with them? What other bands are you tight with?

Lanzkron: We went to a couple of their shows when they were active. For other Israeli punk bands use google.

MMM: It seems like a lot of the older punks in Israel have a nihilistic or apathetic attitude towards politics, is this true for Lanzkron as well?

Lanzkron: As far as we know and see, there were and are all kinds of different relations between the political activism movement in Israel at large and the punk scene. Some initiations seemed more reasonable than others at times. Read the rest of this entry »

A nonsensical flowchart referring to this year's Gaza Flotilla seems straight out of A Beautiful Mind

Heads up for fellow fans of legendary punk vocalist (Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, Thorns of Life, and most recently, forgetters)/literature professor/hermit Blake Schwarzenbach: he may be becoming rapidly unhinged and he’s sharing his manic outsider art with the internet. His new blog, Blake’s 1967 Catastrophe features dioramas, illustrations, notebook pages, photographs, and strange tracts roughly centered around events in US naval foreign policy (Osama bin Laden‘s water burial receives the most attention.)

An obsession with militarized ships, drones, imperialism, mixed media, and mixed messages.

Recently, in Slovenia, while hallucinating in a hotel room and trying to draw a church at dawn, I wrote what I think is the closest to a formal artistic statement as I am ever likely to produce:

The only role of art in my life is to try to reproduce an image — or a feeling — that suggested ‘aliveness.’ So — to briefly find oneself overwhelmed with visual satisfaction — a view, a field, a goat, some humans, building, trestle, mountain, stream. It is a postcard to yourself saying, “Don’t jump. It’s horrible but it gets worse.”

While Schwarzenbach’s friends and devotees have been voicing some concern on Facebook, I’m really enjoying this new artistic face of the man behind some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard (2009′s short-lived and releaseless Thorns of Life included). Hope you’re doing well Blake and keep up the weird/cool shit!

Bad Acting: Wark pretending to cower from a Nerf-dart fired by his student pretending to attack him.

Last Friday Hacker Manifesto author McKenzie Wark held a release for his new book The Beach Beneath the Streets at Williamsburg’s Spoonbill and Sugartown bookstore. To lend some legitimacy to his new book, which I haven’t read but appears to be about the history of the Situationist International, Wark solicited his former students from Eugene Lang classes to attack him with Nerf Guns, which he paid for. Perhaps the best part about the disruption, besides the compelling leaflets (below) was what a failure it was. It was a cheap gag, dishonest and dispassionate. Wark, who had previously distributed his work for free (I’m sure his new publisher Verso wouldn’t be too into that idea) was hoping to exploit his young student’s burgeoning idealism into a controversial event that would help sell his dead intellectual labor. The “disruption” was barely potent enough to impede the flow of his talk, and when it ended, it was revealed he had nothing else to say, as he had hoped the disruption would empty the room. Instead, he awkwardly moved on to Q&A. The first question was something like: “Did you hire those kids to do the disruption?” He denied this. Later on Facebook, he admitted to knowing the authors of the leaflets, but implied he was more impressed with the action of an onlooker from the back, who loudly decried the event and disruption as “boring” before grabbing a couple pricey small press books and walking out of the store.

NYC Hippy Xmas 2011

May 17, 2011

Thanks to Christopher Walsh for making this map of where dormroom college kids in Lower Manhattan throw away everything they own this week. While this rainy week will make trudging through the trash slightly more unpleasant, the optimistic Walsh argues that is just “nature’s way of filtering out the poseurs.”

In the midst of huge Lefty marches on Wall Street comes this interesting action from some New York comrades: a surrealist march from Wall Street in Manhattan to Wall Street in Staten Island. I’m excited to see these groups challenge the concept of the Wall Street march, an aged action with implications of a centralized Capital, existing deep within bank vaults or in the inhumanity of a small circle of banker’s actions. In reality capitalism exists with the same strength in the skyscraper valleys of Manhattan as the side streets of Staten Island. Capitalism is less a thing being done to the world than a thing we are constantly doing to each other.

From Wall Street to Wall Street to Wall Street from Red Channels on Vimeo.

And an intriguing communique from More of the Same

Read the rest of this entry »

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