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#333: Archiving butthole-surfing meme machines in meatspace—«the concept of absence in a life packed full of presence (of experience) is a slippery term to define»


Dear Internet,

The «official archivist» for Butthole Surfers got in touch w/ us yesterday (to try to jog our memory about some shows we'd bootlegged) & it got us to reminiscing more about the glory days before we blogged & tweeted & had digital capturing devices ... before these endof times when all the idiots in front of you vainly try to capture the revolution as it's happening ... watching the show thru dumbphones even tho the meat is right there in front uv their eyes ... before we cashed in our nostalgia for instant gratification & vanity mirrors. This Butthole archivist is collecting information (recordings, photos, etc.) for his «anal obsession» ... or maybe he's just another obsessive fan trying to score free bootleg recordings who knows it doesn't matter ... either way it's what makes you, Internet, reign so supreme ...

... or not. Maybe its better to sit around on couches shooting the shit, arguing about the little details ... «that was the show Gibby played naked» or «back when he wore clothespins on his nipples» (an actual detail we just remembered which we forgot to recount to this archivist). We were able to pinpoint the date of 1 particular show cuz we member it was the day Dan White (no relation) was released from prison & the buttholes took the stage w/ trays full of Twinkies & threw them into the audience. Funny tho, is when we google «Butthole Surfers Dan White Twinkies» the first thing that comes up is a story we wrote for Instant City, Let Them Eat Twinkies, & by «story» we don't mean news story, but work of fiction. And by «twinkie» we don't mean the opposite of bear.

Does this make life more intarresting (for the poor fools searching for legit details)? Our memories are selective after all, regardeless. Should we «believe» something just cuz it's sold as «news» or «history»? If so, then where's the fun in believing? At the endof the day, what's important is what it inspired—the raw emotion, the art—not necessarily the facts. We're talking about a band called Butthole Surfers after all ... we were probly the only 1 at these shows NOT on acid or some other mind-alternating drug. For the record, in the above Twinkie story, we did embellish some, like where the show was (it was at On Broadway, not the next door Mabuhay Gardens which we used probly because it had a better ring (a Filipino restaurant turned punk club?! ... certainly there was some fond memories at the Mab, including another BH Surfers show, countless Flipper-opened shows & a Swans show where Michael Gira blew the PA out, but rather than get frustrated w/ technology he threw the mic down & started screaming the vocals loud enough for us to hear over the already ear-damaging wall uv noise).

live version of BBQ Pope that we used for the Boons/Camp book trailer

... & now googlers might come across this thinking it's source material ... hehe. Perhaps that's why we tend to go all censeless on occasion here ... flood your waters w/ detrital gibberish. When you make too much sense or profess to being the xpert in sumthin it's not intresting & makes it too easy for information-seeking big brothers.

The question is tho, do we selectively change (like physically, in our inner circuitry) our memories? Did the Butthole Surfers really throw twinkies into the audience, or was it spools of toilet paper (another memory we have of Gibby) ... what in our minds we converted to Twinkies because it made for a better story? Even if others verify it, how do we know it wasn't a collective hallucination?

We could of course consult you, Internet, to get to the bottom of this ... but who has time for such fact-checking? We believe what we want to believe. We hear things & selectively forget. Like we've heard before that when River Phoenix od'ed outside The Viper Room (20 years ago today), Gibby of the Butthole Surfers was playing on stage inside (along with Flea & Johnny Depp). But we'd soon as forget.

We're thinking about such things not just cuz of this butthole-surfing flashback but this past week we've been mining deep into our brother's journals, in the process of writediting his "SSES' "SSES' "SSEY'. It's tempting to change details to make it more interesting to a literary reader ... as a sort uv «human interest» story ... but at the same time it's fascinating to us as an arkhival document, to pre-serve it xactly as it was (tho this might be less intresting to the casual reader that didn't know our brother (who od'ed a few years after River Phoenix). Still haven't decided which route to take ... at this point we are in massive artchival collection/transcrption mode ... mapping his journals, stories & art to Joyce's breakdown of The Odyssey via Ulysses. In fact just yesterday we got a nifty Wolverine negative scanner to scan in slides uv his artwork. Perhaps we'll show you sum of that here later ... for now here's a scan from 1 of his notebooks, a sketch of his initial designs for "SSES' "SSES' (& of course we'll try to stay faithful to this design & present our redux of "SSES' "SSES' in such fashion):

"SSES' "SSES' concept

«the concept of absence in a life packed full of presence (of experience) is a slippery term to define»

... & strange even tho we haven't mentioned our brother here, in the last few months anyway, we get this email just now from our mom, as if she read our mind:

Since you are writing about Kevin----I thought I would tell you a few things I felt that were "different" about Kevin!
l965-67---His eye color, hair, body etc.-came from my mother's side! He never liked to be cuddled or hugged! He got his loving from attention! He didn't talk except to say BeBop-while bouncing up and down in his crib!
l968--I realized Kevin had a natural sense of humor--like my brother!
l975---I realized he was an artist---and his brain was different!
l976- We were all (including cousins & Lobo) at Lake Tahoe---during the granola & healthy eating stage! Kevin was 11 yrs. old---and was reading "Introduction to a Yogi". We were talking about if people could read other people's thoughts! Since all you kids were there-----I gave each of you a piece of paper! I was thinking of a tall tree! I drew a long triangle & then put two lines at the base! Kevin drew a regular triangle---crossed it out & drew a tree! Kevin remembered that he had that power!
After Kevin died-I was getting a massage in Palo Alto with someone I didn't know! In the middle of the massage-she said that someone else was in the room,----that this person had quite a sense of humor ---and was with the grinning Cheshire Cat! I remembered Kevin's art work---until he went to college--had a Alice in Wonderland feel-----so I investigated! If there is reincarnation---I feel Kevin was John Tenniel! John Tenniel did the drawings of the Cheshire cat, etc.

Hi mom! Thanks for this, you are a part of Internet now! These are the sorts of things useful in trying to understand where our brother/son was coming from, not necessarily from his perspective, but from the formative people trying to form him ... before he was fully formed. This explains a lot. The Be-Bop reference (the first words he ever spoke) is particularly enlightening in that he died two days after the Hale-Bopp comet passed it's perihelion (brightest point) on April 1, 1997 ... although the Heaven's Gate doomsday cult stole his mojo by targeting their mass suicide for the Hale-Bopp perihelion, they were a week early, on March 26, 1997 (strangely, our other brother's birthday, who is still living now & since before this time way down in the southern hemisphere).

Heavan's Gate Just do itDoomsday

Sometimes life can be stranger than fiction ever can be.

In the last post, we ended by saying any work of literature or art can be summarized by carving «___________ was here» in a tree. You could also say any work of literature or art can be summarized by saying «hi mom!» This is is our Warholish 15 minutes uv fame, when/if people are ever paying attention.

Just like when programmers first learn to code the first thing they do is make their machines say ... >hello world . This is all we ever do ...
          in endlessly nesting loops,
                 over & over
         in the various different languages ...

hello world

               ... anyhow ...
         endif
return ()
... back to reality. Finished Bleeding Edge but we yacked enuff about that already. Suffice to say, in the end Pynchon thankfully doesn't try make some grand statement about 9/11 or contrive some hack conspiracy theory like we suspected he might ... it ends in a more touchy-feelie (& stoney) meatspace. A part uv us wants to criticize him for biting off more than he can chew ... juxtaposing serious & overly ambitious themes in such a lo-brow sloppy joe DiY manner ... but then again, anything Pinchon does will be both criticized & worshipped at once ... automatically attacked by New Yorker Harper's types no matter what & blindlessly embraced by Pynchonophiles regardless of what shit comes streaming out his arse. Not only is Pitchon on auto-pilot, but the reading publick is on cruise control following after Him ... zombies trailing Pynchin's plane as it crashes head first into an empty field. All we can ask is, did we enjoy the ride? ... & is that all we can ever ask?

There's this conspiratorial cense that Pynchon captures ... a conspiracy of conspiracy theories bunching up on themselves ... a paranoid noise that is more pervasive now than ever, in the here & now ... that the government is monitoring our every move—gasp! are you surprised? Really who's to blame is the public at large for xposing themselfs in such a mindless manner. If you really want to fuck w/ «the man» or «the machine» then why not flood the channels w/ disinformation? Like this John Sifton dude, a human rights attorney who set up a proxy server in Pakistan to email himself passages from Finnegans Wake. We should all sling hash into the wakeful ether which ok is what Pynchon is doing so bravo.

In our own meatspace (we should probly slap a placedatetimestamp here for future reference but we wont) last night we had sushi w/ BroLo & BLK BTLR & after went to the Tyrant party at KGB tho we were schmucks & ducked out before Scott McClanahan took the podium (must confess our love for the Red Sox, compounded w/ our crowdrophobia) ... but we've seen videos of him read & he's quite the dynamic reader. Haven't read his new Hill William yet but dug his Crapalachia (talked about it here).

And speaking of BLK BTLR, we read his Sky Saw, also put out recently by the incomparable NY Tyrant. Between reading Bleeding Edge, our brothers journals & the various manuscripts we are in the process of editing (including Niceties, which we sent to the printer yesterday)—not to mention all your Internet sourced feeds & shit—all this lit is starting to jumble in our head as one big cluster bomb of text. But amidst all this BLK has carved out his textual niche. He's not so much a writer as an architect, not necessarily one who builds but carves text-blocked living rooms into the soapstone of our otherwise globular brains. BTLR himself is not human but a colony of ant-ish cells, possessed in their drive for the grand designs of these hives they sculpt holographically from molten gray meatspace. «The fibers in the house's rooms erected from their expanses, spindling the hallways with weird fur.»

Blake Butler: Sky Saw

Hallways of linguage that fracture & bi-fur-cate into fractals enfolding (or expanding ... it's all relatif) thru more doors into an endless 4x4 array of homey honey-combed rooms. Even tho BLK is known for his established Internet presence, his books definitively unfold in meatspace ... a timeless & often clawstrowphobic (in its vastness) expants devoid uv any refurences to people or places in the real world. An earwaxed organic headspace architected spatially as a 4-walled ceremonial home w/ no ceiling ... housing his cumulatif ancestors embodied in a cloned immediate family.

Sky Saw is an xtension uv this space ... which is not to say all his books are the same, they are similar only cuz they remain true to his literary voice, to tell it another way would be posing unfaithful to his DNA. The new variations on the theme in Sky Saw are that people have numbers as names & he's expanded into the architextual space of the Cone... which he perhaps lifted from Thomas Bernhard (which we talked about here, surmising that the cone was in fact the book object itself) but BLK takes this cone to the next level, his cone you could liken to a sort of aging ... a hyper-spaced hourglass.

«... he shouted into the air around him, fraught with black laughing, though where the words were there was sand, and each grain of the sand was him repeating each word we'd ever found, strings of syllables crammed between the cone and its unending ending, the coming instant at which the words would close and there would be no more said beyond the blinking in the blinking in the blinking in the ...»

We've mentioned before that in our minds we liken BTLR to some sort of Bower Bird ... obsessively building nests of language. There is no sense in questioning why he builds these nests, it's just what he does (again, much of it from the female p.o.v.).

«She swung & swung the axe at the air there hitting nothing. She threw it down and used her free arms then to scoop the birds down into her from the air, to press in clumps the thrumming meat against her thick chest, the milk inside her turning hard—the birds spreading out around the rind of her now from the outside speaking in.»

In the end, it's not about anything ... just pure unbridled language, a spindling prism uv BLK BTLR.

«No layer here was destined nor not destined, no layer here had not been lost, the cold worked inside the cold and flayed it outwards though not extending as there was no space beyond the way, no phrase beyond the softing though in the water of it we could walk and could go on in any way we wanted and have been so, any day could seem the next, I might look down and find my arms there typing language and believe the language and know it was or I would look down and find the words there in my body written always, I could hold my body as a book, I could put the book down and walk into the next room and see the walls there and touch the walls and hold their sound, the sun above the fields would rise and fall like any way of us had ever, I could touch and be touched, hold and be held, could speak and be spoke into, could spread the word all through my blood, where any shape here appeared it always listened and when I turned it turned around, each line inside the field forever shifting in my vision as I needed without knowing what I did, each old color in the presence of its colors, waking, slaying, being, in the warm name of any coming memory of skin.»

The leaves continue to change. It is getting colder. The Red Sox won. Much as we write this for you, The Internet, to be stored digitally in silicon-based circuits, the end result is for carbon-based life forms. Sorry to say, we are merely using you as a carrier, just as memes are using us. Just like the Heaven's Gate freaks referred to themselves as «vehicles» ... coo coo as they were we can't help but agree. We are once removed. You Internet, are twice removed. Says Kenneth Goldsmith, channeling Warhol & Bök, in The Writer as Meme Machine:

«Fifty years ago, when Andy Warhol said things like “I want to be a machine,” and “It’s easier not to care,” he was romanticizing the formal and emotional cleanliness of machine-based production. Humans, after all, court messiness. Warhol’s salvo was extended by the poet Christian Bök, who, in 2009, claimed, “We are probably the first generation of poets who can reasonably expect to write literature for an audience of artificially intellectual peers …. If poetry already lacks any meaningful readership among our own anthropoid population, what have we to lose by writing poetry for a robotic culture that must inevitably succeed our own? If we want to commit an act of poetic innovation in an era of formal exhaustion, we may have to consider this heretofore unimagined, but nevertheless prohibited, option: writing poetry for inhuman readers, who do not yet exist, because such aliens, clones, or robots have not yet evolved to read it.»

This much we perhaps could agree with ... it's when he brings Vanessa Place into the equation that we take issue (although call us hypocrites cuz earlier we advocated flooding the channels that be w/ such nonsensical flarf).

«In an essay on the Poetry Foundation’s Web site called “Poetry is Dead, I Killed it,” Vanessa Place says that the poet today resembles a zombie more than an inspired bard, gathering & shovelling hoards of inert linguistic matter into programs, flipping switches, and letting it rip, producing poetry on the scale of WikiLeaks cables. Imagine the writer as a meme machine, writing works with the intention for them to ripple rapidly across networks only to evaporate just as quickly as they appeared. Imagine a poetry that is vast, instantaneous, horizontal, globally distributed, paper thin, and, ultimately, disposable.»

This is exactly the resigned lack of imagination & intellectual laziness that we should oppose. Such gimmicky shticks don't stick. We should never underestimate the calculating capabilities of the machine (on the reading end) ... machines that will harbor immortal code long after the disposable styrofoam packaging decomposes. Then again, we are not poets, so if this is the direction contemporary poetry is taking this only reconfirms our inclination to abandon ship. We should be in the business of calculated creation, not zombeed garbage collection.

Speaking uv archival information & NYC history & bootleg recordings, etc. we've been listening to a lot uv Velvet Underground these past few days for obvious reasons, R.I.P. One thing that still puzzles us about VU is the few years they forsake NYC for Boston. Our love for the Red Sox initially stemmed from our hatred uv the Yankees & doesn't go much further than baseball (tho we do confess to liking the Patriots as well, tho not as much as the Giants, especially in times like now when they have mastered the art of losing). Again, we could google around to seek the truth & we have in the past & watched some documentary that we don't member the name of off hand ... but from what we member uv this documentary & you, Internet, saying is that VU boycotted New York from 1967-1970 because of lack of radio play & promotion & that they felt felt Boston was more supportive. But there's gotta be more to it than that.

Some clues perhaps lay embedded in our favorite VU album, Live at Max's Kansas City. Not only does this album capture the sound of VU live, but it's a historical snapshot of the the Factory scene (an associate of Warhol made the recording) on August 23, 1970 ... perhaps in it's drug-fueled decline.

The album starts w/ ambient noise as they tune their instruments, then Lou Reed says:

«Good evening, we're called the Velvet Underground ... & you're allowed to dance ... in case you didn't know.»

Is this a reference to the antiquated NY law (still in the books!) banning dancing in NYC bars & nightclubs not specifically licensed for dancing? During their exile from NYC, the VU took up residence at The Boston Tea Party, a night club w/ a huge dance floor, where fans could dance & express themselves freely.

The other intresting tidbit Lou Reed says in between songs, when someone (Jim Carroll?) is shouting Heroin! ... is:

«We don't do heroin anymore.»

Perhaps Lou Reed had had enuff of playing for drugged up Factory groupies (in between other songs you can hear Jim Carroll scoring drugs & snarky socialites mocking Lou Reed's unhip corniness from the peanut gallery). Even tho there seems to be a certain laidback sincerity from/between the band (minus Mo who was on maternity leave), this was the last show Reed played w/ them. So perhaps his departure had more to do with his general disenfranchisement w/ the New York scene. Regardless, now he's dead, man .... but his music remains.

«And here come the waves. Down by the shore. Washing the soul of the body that comes from the depths of the sea.»

P.S. Some pages from Ark Codex ±0 in Map Literary today, Halloween 2013 for the record.

Ark Codex

  >> NEXT: Buckley, travel logs, fake plastic stumps & Rome revisited reading Pirandello


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