Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PALAHNIUK ON VESELKA'S "ZAZEN": "the smartest, wry-est voice I’ve read in a decade"

Author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) on ZAZEN by Vanessa Veselka, originally serialized on the Arthur Magazine website in 2009, and now available in paperback from Red Lemonade:

"I can’t remember how this new novel came into my hands, but I’ve been reading and re-reading it all autumn. The narrator’s voice is the smartest, wry-est voice I’ve read in a decade. For young readers frustrated by the state of the world, this book will be a bitter political comedy. It will save the lives of college students who graduate with huge debts and no career prospects. Brilliant and haunting."

Source: Northwest Book Lovers - Dec 12, 2011

Red Lemonade: website

Friday, December 23, 2011


This essay was posted Dec. 16, 2011 at Interactivist. I've reposted it here with the many typos corrected. Readers may be familiar with Peter Lamborn Wilson's work under the pseudonym 'Hakim Bey,' which he used for a period in the '80s and '90s. Essays by Wilson appeared in Arthur Magazine Nos. 16, 29 and 31.

"Occupy Wall Street, Act Two"
Peter Lamborn Wilson

"Money Has An Enemy." — Charles Stein

Some radical historians claim the entire Historical Movement of the Social went wrong in 1870 when the Paris Commune failed to expropriate (or at least destroy) The Bank. Could this really be so?

Since 1971 Bank Power — "Money Interests" as the old-time Populists and Grangers used to say — i.e., the power to create money as debt — has single-handedly destroyed all chances to remake any world closer to our heart's desire. Some anarchist theorists hold that there can be no real revolution except the revolt against money itself — because money itself WANTS capitalism (i.e. money) to rule. Money itself will always find a way to subvert democracy (or for that matter any government power that opposes Money's interests) and to establish the rule of Capital — i.e. of money itself.

"Alternative currencies" will not cure the situation (as Marx rightly sneered) because real [bad] money will always drive the "good" money out of circulation. Alt. money only "wins" in the scenario where it replaces money entirely. But in that case it will have simply become money itself (which is protean and can take many forms).

American progressive Populism — like the agrarian Grange or industrial Knights of Labor — knew certain esoteric secrets we should study. They believed the real producers ("labor") could organize alternative institutions (within the legal system) that could erode the rule of Money and perhaps eventually replace it: producers & consumers co-operatives and labor unions. Money would still be used at first — but not banks — so toxic debt could be avoided. True producers would mutually finance each other (say at 1% interest to cover administrative costs). With "Mutual Banks of the People" plus co-ops they would protect their economic position and advance it thru labor agitation including strikes, boycotts, etc.

"Mutuality" works as a non-State non-central-bureaucratic form of socialism, thus providing no unjust power positions for its administrators. It starts, like Occupy Wall Street, as a consensus-ruled direct democracy (the exact opposite of the Neo-Con free-market "democracy" of predatory Capital). Revokable delegates are sent to larger regional or other administrative Councils.

Thus success of such a system means NEVER participating in representation or "republican" forms of legislative politics ("keep politics off the farm" — Grange Songbook). The American Populist movement made the fatal error in 1896 of joining the Democratic Party — and instead of being crucified on a cross of gold, American radicalism was crucified on a cross of silver. [I'm not going to explain this joke; look in the Encyclopedia under "William Jennings Bryan."]

The only true method of organizing the alternative world of Mutuality is thru voluntary non-state free institutions such as co-ops, mutual banking & insurance, alternative schools, various types of communalism and communitas, sustainable economic ventures (i.e. non-capitalist businesses) like independent farms and craft ateliers willing to federate with the commons outside of the sphere of bank/police/corporation power.

Of course if it ever reached a certain point of success this Mutualism would be directly challenged by Money Interest Power. Lawyers & police will swarm, then military force will be used. The question then will become a different question — War against Money. Could such a struggle be waged as "non-violent war?" In theory, maybe — in reality, who knows?

Actually the whole OWS movement and its future becoming might well be seen as "military" in a Sun Tzu way, i.e. as tactical and strategic —"politics by other means" (to reverse Clausewitz). Interestingly, however, the originary move in such a strategy would now appear to be a tactical retreat — just like in certain kinds of Judo or Aikido — a retreat from the world entirely ruled by money to a world of voluntary cooperation ("the gift") outside the power of BANKS.

This retreat would happen gradually — and since in truth there is no "Outside" to retreat to, the tactic must remain mixed and impure. We can make a new Outside out of our own failure. But as we begin to (re)create an Outside to Money, I believe the rewards will be rich and immediate. Sharing things is inefficient and bad for Capitalism — but (or rather — so) it's got a pleasure nexus in it, an intimacy and human fellowship that millions of Americans now lack and miss. Even the family is threatened by our present "economy of Greed" — as for the Social in general, I believe it may already be dead and beyond revival. However, I intend to go on acting and writing as if I believe it can be SAVED — why? — because pessimism is so boring.

In fact boredom is already a sign that the enemy is very near — it's the sine qua non of consumer trance and obedient wage slavery. Cheat boredom (as the Sits used to say) and already you're winning something back.

Adventures in Mutualism will have to start small — but even a few neighbors can organize a car-pool — or share other "necessary" technologies like electric power, garden tools, telephones, etc.

The next stage of sharing might include cooperatives — a neighborhood CSA or food bank or home-school group. Then the next stage could be institutional and move toward genuine Mutual insurance and banking (Fraternal/Sororal organizations used to supply many of these functions — including the Grange and the Knights of Labor.)

The next stage would be federative, nets of groups and regions as envisioned by Kropotkin and Landauer as well as Proudhon — and by the free Russian Soviets before the Bolshevik coup in Oct. '17.

The key here would be to "organize the kernel of the new world inside the shell of the old" as the IWW Preamble suggests. In other words NOT to wait till "conditions are ripe" in Marxist terms but to begin here & now — not just with demonstrations and media games and info info info, but also with real-life economic and cultural organizing. Why? — because who wants to have to wait to enjoy some fruits of Revolution if it were possible to experience at least a few of them NOW — or after a few years of intense agitation and attention.

Such organizing certainly doesn't "take the place" of resistance (including even riot and crime, much less squatting or debt refusal). It already IS a form of resistance — but also a pleasure in itself — a prime reason for human sociality — a structure for creativity and imagination — for poesis or aesthetic making, whether it be tools or human relations or music or gardening or shelter or just normal everyday conviviality — that lost ideal.

In any face-to-face confrontation with Wall Street "we" must always lose — because WALL STREET IS EVERYWHERE. The up-side of this is that therefore we must occupy "Everywhere." We must inhabit our own space-of-daily-life — the real physical space/time we live in. If necessary we will squat it. And from the space of tactical retreat (not abject dispersal and defeat, but the orderly retreat toward logistic reinforcement — to quote Guy Debord quoting Napoleon!), from the liberated zones whether temporary or not, we will plan our next moves in this end-game between Money and Life itself.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Excerpted from a Free City News sheet (San Francisco, prob. 1968, author unknown), courtesy


A bunch of us went out back today and tore down the fence surrounding the yard. The neighbors, attracted by the sound of our laughter and shouting, gathered around to watch us in amazement. Some of them seemed to become infected with our delight and began to finger the claw hammers and crowbars which were scattered about. Suddenly one man leaped at his fence screaming "Cancer wood" and that set it off.

Before you knew it, all the fences in the block were down and all our neighbors were racing up and down the park they had built congratulating each other for their boldness and imagination. We built a big fire to roast the turkey legs which Jon had brought over that morning. By mid-afternoon, people were fucking in the rose bushes, children were marauding in the turnip patch, and visionary conversations were going on in every corner of the garden. It was a hell of a day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The late Emmett Grogan's account of exactly what went down on the afternoon of September 22, 1967 is available in his book Ringolevio. His fellow Digger Claude Hayward recently posted the pertinent excerpts (and links) over at Daily Kos.

Just for kicks, here's the New York Times' account...

Monday, December 12, 2011


I live on unfenced land on a dirt road in Joshua Tree, not far from the national park. Our house is next to a large swath of unblemished-by-humans BLM land. We live amongst wild beings, in natural quiet. We're very lucky. It's nice for us here, and we're doing our best to steward the land we own.

But. Down by the four-lane highway just a few miles from the park's border, an Indian tribe wants to build a massive, off-reservation casino. A predatory out-of-state corporation wants to build a pseudo-general store on open land to make easy money off our fixed-income and low-income neighbors. The economic crash has sent the unemployment and food-stamp numbers here through the roof. Weird water policies have meant that we have to look beyond our own local aquifer for water. Energy companies want to build fields of solar panels and windmills to supply power to the cities that will not supply power for themselves. Off-road vehicles are driven illegally on county roads and in BLM land regularly, crushing animals and plants, disturbing the landscape and breaking the hard-won silence.

In other words, almost everybody here is hurting. Almost everything here is in danger. Needs defending.

I thought of my friend Dave Reeves. Dave wrote many great columns and articles for Arthur Magazine (which I edited) and provided much raw fuel and blazing inspiration for that project. But his real claim to fame and fortune is that he was the originator of the Defend Brooklyn T-shirt in 1996. The "Defend [where you live]" concept is a brilliant one, in and of itself — read Dave's essay series if you want the background philosophy, history and some great riffs on how culture works. But the "Defend" concept is also brilliant because it can be applied anywhere, which is one of the reasons why it's been ripped off so many times.

I went to Dave to see if there was a way that we could use his Defend idea here in Joshua Tree. We figured out a deal. And now, my partner Stephanie Smith and I have started a Defend Joshua Tree blog, which is being updated regularly with news and views on what's going down here and what we can do about it.

Meanwhile, artist Arik Roper, who did so much gorgeous work in the pages of Arthur Magazine through the years, as well as on posters, T-shirts and album covers, has made two designs for a Defend Joshua Tree T-shirt. Here's one, starring a pack of local coyotes, protecting their young:

We want to start manufacturing these T-shirts as soon as possible. Last week, we started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1500 in 21 days. A pledge of $25 gets you a shirt; $50, two shirts; $75, three; and $100, five.

If you want to support the project but don't want a shirt, that's fine: we'll use your pledge money to give a shirt to a deserving neighbor.

With fifteen hundred dollars' worth of T-shirt orders, we can put in place a sustainable Defend Joshua Tree wholesale/retail microbusiness that won't be dependent on pre-orders, pledges and so on.

If "Defend..." works here, in a town of less than 8,000... Well, we think the implications beyond this one campaign are obvious.

Please participate. The campaign ends Dec. 27, 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


A broadside by the San Francisco Diggers, 1966...

More: The Digger Archives


Ian MacKaye (Fugazi, Dischord Records, pictured above in photo by Amy Farina) had this to say on Pitchfork this week:

"I'm all for file sharing. That's great—as long as people are prepared for the significant consequences. One is that music will become completely couched in advertising. That's already happened. And another is that people should be prepared to have fun with the past because the only music that can possibly be free is the music that's from the past. It costs money to make music. And if people are prepared to only have the past to listen to, then let it be free. But if they want new music then they are going to have to figure out a way to be patrons of the arts. And they will."

I agree with everything Ian says here, except his rather optimistic conclusion that the arts will somehow be saved by a newly enlightened and dynamized public. I don't see that happening anytime soon, and I wonder why Ian thinks it will.

While we're waiting on that, I recommend checking out Robert B. Levine's FREE RIDE: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back, based on strength of the recent review by Jeffrey Rosen in the New York Times and Levine's own excellent Twitter feed.