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Dada-punk sushi select: Bataille on Breton, mosh pit swarming, Nazi punks & automatic schooling to self-cannibalize encore

Dear Internet,

It's mid-April & spring is finally setting in. Earlier this week, as we were engaged in spring cleaning, we threw up this Calamari promotion:

chef's selection

The thinking is, to clear some inventory. The deal is, for the 5-piece set, you pick 1 book & we pick 4 more .. partly based on what goes with the selected book (ala Pandora), what's arbitrarily in season & also to balance our stock (like any good omakase chef). For the 8-piece set, you pick 2 & we pick 6 more. And we'll even serve a dbook appetizer of your choice while you wait.

Our apparent juxtaposed association with our two loves (food & books) is further instilled now as the Calamari inventory is, for lack of any other available space, now stored above our kitchen cabinets (don't worry .. not near enough to the stove to get charred or greased .. not that we cook greasy things .... though they may acquire a residual spicy smell of peppers & garlic).

kitcen inventory

where comes calamari  to cook with

Like some of the objects we talked about in the last post, some of these books have a similar history of having traveled the high seas in cargo containers .. between NYC & Rome & even some carry-overs from Nairobi (if not in storage somewhere in the middle of America while we were there). Or, 3rd beds that were in basements here & there (including an additional box sent to me recently by one of the ex-editors (thanks Andrea!), that included some of the otherwise sold out issues 4, 7 & 9 .. that if you specify in your chef's selection order, we'll aim to fulfill .... as long as no one else beats you to it).

The books are stacked next to our cookbooks .. not that we ever use them .... we improvise every meal depending on prevailing mood/resources. And not that we typically make sushi .. that we leave to the experts. Last night we had sushi at our favorite east village place (Takahachi) & then went to see Metz at Bowery Ballroom .. who lets just say were much louder & rowdier live than they are on album or in this video:

What else .. we read 50 or so pages into A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake & decided to stop .. not that it isn't good .. to the contrary it has us intrigued enough to pick Finnegans Wake back up & reread in such a light as Campbell's illuminating headlamp.

Also read The Absence of Myth by Georges Bataille, which is a somewhat random collection of essays he wrote on surrealism.

Breton & Bataille

Being that a good part of the essays are diatribes against André Breton, we also read Dossier Dada in conjunction with The Absence of Myth. Not that there's much to read in Dossier Dada as most of it is scanned images & articles in French that Breton collected in a scrap book.

The interesting thing about Dada is that much of it was performances that went undocumented. And much of it amounted to polemic skirmishes between certain individuals (which pretty much sums up Bataille's book). So what we have remaining as a record of the movement are ads, newspaper articles, hand-bill manifestos, open letters, etc. .. everyone vying to promote their own tenets (in the days before blogging).

dada bulletin

The other interesting things about dadaism is that it was destined to fail from its inception (collapsing into surrealism & post-modernism .. which also were destined to fail .... as is anything you add ism to the end of). As Hugo Ball famously said: «When else have we seen the the very first manifesto of a new movement actually revoking that movement in the eyes of its adherents?» It nullified itself through an ironic calling of attention to itself & that blip was all it really was. Dada may have been first, but a host of self-annihilating movements have followed in its footsteps .... & the story continues.

You had to be there.

Georges Bataille came a bit later .. even in surrealistic terms he was a late comer. He's more a post-modernist (with an emphasis on eroticism) that got hung up on surrealism .. enough to write these essays. This he says about Breton: «His police reports don't interest me. My only regret is that he has obstructed the pavement for so long with his degrading idiocies.»

dada manifest

Obviously Breton was doing something right to get under Bataille's skin. Or, as is the case today & seemingly in every era of human history, the obnoxious, soapbox standing attention-seekers are the ones that get attention, that become popular, even if only to receive negative criticism complaining as such (as we fall victim to now).

Bataille is critical of surrealism, but at the same time fascinated (& in other essays praises Breton). The main gripes Bataille has with surrealism is it's use of automatic writing & religion (in how surrealism, as a movement, portrays/organizes itself) .. & how these were fused. But what's really at the core of this (at least as we read him) is surrealism's lack of free-will, elbow grease & intent. This particular passage from his essay entitled "The Surrealist Religion" particularly struck us:

«Nevertheless, it is easy to show that the foundation of surrealism—namely, automatic writing—already bore in itself both the virtue and the necessity of these later developments. What essentially characterizes automatic writing—and this is why a man like André Breton remains attached to its principle despite a relative failure he recognizes in terms of the results of the method—is that it is an act of rupture—certainly definitive in André Breton's mind—with an enslavement which, beginning with the world of technical activity, is determined in words themselves, to the extent that these words participate in the profane world or in the prosaic world. Someone who sits comfortably forgetting to the greatest degree what exists so as to write at random on a blank sheet the most vibrant delirium which passes through his mind, may end up with nothing of literary value. He knows that this is of no importance; he has experienced a possibility which represents an unconditional rupture with the world in which we act to free ourselves, in which we act to cover and shelter ourselves. He has essentially undertaken an act of insubordination, in one sense he has performed a sovereign act. At the same time, he has accomplished what, within the meaning of religion itself, could appear predominant: he has achieved the destruction of the personality itself. Those who perform the surrealist act in automatic writing must first abandon the concerns of the man of letters when he writes in order to create a book with a given intent, when he writes a book in the same way as he digs his garden.»

It's like Bataille sits down to write an essay on what a cop-out Dada is, but then ends up buying into these failures as virtues, knowingly or not .... in the process of criticizing dada & automatic writing he convinces himself otherwise. You could change 'rupture' to 'rapture' in the above passage & the method of automatic writing sounds even more compelling. We're also on the fence (in regards to automatic writing) .. it all depends on how you use/treat it. It's all about the integration of intent, of selective filtering.

dada phone

Religion & organized movements in general, on the other hand, are not something we're on the fence about. We have no interest in being part of any school or circle, certainly not one that declares itself as such. Or that have declared leaders & manifestos telling you what it is. We are, however, fascinated by self-organization & flocking behaviors, as evidenced by the book where birds are the words.

The difference between the way humans & fish school, in organized movements, is rooted in the difference between conscious & subconscious intent. Fish check their egos at the door when they school .. no single fish dictates the outcome of their collective behavior. However, they do follow or copy their neighbors (& according to this recent article in PLoS, this magic number has now been upgraded from 6 to 7).

«More generally, our results elucidate the role of the interaction network on uncertainty management in collective behavior, and motivate the application of our approach to other biological networks.»

At the Metz show last night, we considered the mosh pit as self-organizing swarming behavior. What in the beginning starts as a somewhat orderly crowd, flocking to get close to the stage, disintegrates into disorderly circling & thrashing. While the circle pit might resemble the swarming vortex pattern of say, sardines, the general drive is not to attract together, but to repel. Humans are more like locusts, as talked about in the above article, that start swarming when they feel the nipping of cannibals at their feet. «Cannibalism, not cooperation, was aligning the swarm.» And the 6-7 neighbor theory hardly applies with humans .. it's usually one asshole that dictates the general mood of what otherwise is a group of people trying to have a good time.

dada cannibals

Here's a more scientific article if you are interested in the subject, that likens moshing more to disordered gas molecules in two dimensions.

Even the idea of the mosh pit was cannibalized from the early 80s California hardcore scene. This is where it first happened spontaneously & organically, so can only then be considered true swarming behavior. Anything after is conscious copycat mimicking. Even when we went to shows circa 1982 (we lived sheltered in Mexico 79-82) mosh pits were passé, over-run already with 'Nazi punks'. It starts as an original way of self-expression, to differentiate yourself from the masses otherwise standing around like a herd of sheep, but quickly this becomes the norm once 6-7 closest neighbors get wind of it, the moment it becomes conscious behavior. And 30 years later people still mimic the mimicking, ad nauseam .... it got to the point 28 years ago where DKs couldn't even play this song because the ones that loved it most were the Nazi punks the song criticizes.

« ... unless you think» .. this is the key.

The original fuel for behavior such as moshing was the music. But then the moshing starts & testosterone becomes the fuel. After a while it doesn't matter what the music is, as long as it is loud & fast. And the other fuel is the self-conscious will to be seen in the scene. To say you were there.

Not only did Repo Man advocate eating sushi & not paying, but the homeless philosopher in the movie (Miller) proclaimed that «John Wayne was a fag» despite protests from the repo men that «a lot of straight guys like to watch their buddies fuck.» And one of my other favorite California bands from that era, MDC, claimed that John Wayne was a Nazi.

We're digressing into automatic writing here.

Like Dada & surrealism, punk died the day it was born. Better yet, it was stillborn. Any movement that preaches you to think for yourself & rise up against the norm gets squashed once there are more than 6-7 individuals involved. The Sex Pistols knew this & embraced it.

You had to be there.

sex pistols swindle

A few songs into the Metz set last night, the bass player looked like Sid Vicious, blood pouring down his face .. from what, who's to say. Nothing a piece of duct tape couldn't fix.

And speaking of Sid Vicious & Repo Man .... while we spiral into tangential digressions (tangential to you, but for us these things, these bands, movies, were all formative) .. one time we arrived at LAX from Paris & our friend was supposed to pick us up, but some other guy, his roommate, was there in his place .. someone we presumed was an errand boy sent by our friend. Only when we got to their house in Venice did we discover that it was Alex Cox (the director of Repo Man & Sid and Nancy) that gave us this ride. We talked about a lot of things on the ride, but we never got a chance to tell him how much his movies meant to us.

Anyway, we'll digress now back to dada & schooling behavior.


(as in the case with a lot of these, Francis Picabia was the driver behind the Dada aesthetic)

The problem is, humans are not social insects .. humans think. We sit on our high chairs thinking we are the only animals that appreciate beauty when in fact we are ruining it for everyone else.

In applying the rules of swarming to people, there is always going to be too much ego in the equation. And we are also self-conscious creatures. Herd-mentality exists, sure, but only with humans that have the IQ of sheep. In order to truly experience crowd-sourced swarming, you must check your self-conscious ego at the door.

We'll be the first to admit that giving yourself up to the will of a human swarm is a terrifying prospect. We are adverse to crowds. We got into the NY Marathon in 2001 .. but after the events of 9/11 we opted to not run. The events of earlier this week only reconfirm our lack of desire to run or watch a marathon (live) ever again. In the human world there's not a lot of incentive to subject yourself to crowds anymore, unless there's a really good band.

boston marathon

Running is a solitary sport .. not a spectator sport. Running is not even a sport. One should run only for oneself.

Uncertainty & doubt arise when you work solo .. when you reject social norms .. when you refuse to be part of a swarm or school of thought, even like-minded ones that reject the same social norms as you .. when you reject all other ideas coming before you. Belonging to a school reinforces behavior, giving one confidence (false or not). Being part of a school also minimizes risk .. risk of 'uncertainty management' per the above swarming article.

When you stop thinking, when you stop trying, when you lose sense of self .. this is when something worthwhile happens. So the dilemma is .. how do you sustain an original, willful, understandable & organized intent to communicate without consciously trying?


The pitfalls of punk, swarming, automatic writing & the self-conscious irony of such things .. these are things that we've been grappling with/distracted by in developing The Becoming .. which we think we are just now at a point where we can say a first draft is complete. 43,205 words. Now it's just a matter of revisions ....

  >> NEXT: De-rivering a monolithic corpus from Burial & Solip .. in light of late-80s corpses

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