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American Betrayals: Black Elk, Big Brother, Sleepingfish 12 & Open Access for all

Dear Internet,                                                                           June 11, 2013

We've been thinking that we spend too much time thinking about writing & not enough time actually writing .. here & in genereal .. too much self-editing .. backspacing .. or deleting .. rewriting. Starting over .. caring too much what others think .... when we need to just think of this as the private journal that it is, for our own reference .. to document our own thought process.

It seems issues of surveillance, transparency, open access & abuses of power regarding access to information have been in the news a lot this past week .. mostly in regards to that Edward Snowden guy. Enough to put 1984 back on the bestseller list.

1984 George Orwell

hardly what we remember 1984 to be like

The other day we re-watched All the President's Men. Funny, back then, whistleblowers .. or deep-throated leakers .. were heroes. Now whistleblowers are enemies of the state, traitors. Or narcs.

Strange times we live in. Strange sure, because of you, The Internet .. «the most important invention in all of human history» as Snowden referred to you .. & we'd have to agree. The Internet is fueling this war on intelligence .. or accelerating it .. bringing all these issues to a head.

Most news stories don't interest us much, in regards to everyday politics. But how this information is disseminated & subverted fascinates us. What's actually disclosed is not so interesting (or scary) as the overarching methods of disclosure. For all this talk of Wikileaks .. what was actually leaked that had significance consequence? Perhaps the big secret is that there are no secrets.

Just like in literature, we get so hung up on language that any corresponding story becomes an inconsequential sidestory.

But if there is one cause we do believe in, it's that all information needs to be free. And all other issues stem from this .. this lack of transparency. Having control of information corrupts people. It's turned Obama into the devil, worse than Bush, worse than Nixon. The baddest, biggest brother of them all .. his thumb on the media, prosecuting more whistleblowers than any other administration in U.S. history. Who's your daddy now?

Big Brother Obama

Sure, we understand, they're doing it for our own protection .. in the interest of national security. It's just this double-standard, where they are allowed to tap our lines, collect «telephony data» .. & monitor what we read/watch on the internet .. but we can't know what they are up to. Where a fart is enough to substantiate probable cause. They claim they want transparency, but then when someone like Snowden comes along & points out such breaches .. calling for nothing more than transparency on all accounts .. he is branded as a criminal, a radical, a threat to national security.

Personally, we don't give a shit if people monitor what we do or say .. knock yourself out. We could care less if someone took a cheek swab, logged us into a database (we've already done that voluntarily .. the subject of another post). How is it that taking someone's DNA when they are booked at the police station is suddenly a violation of their rights, when no one cried foul about being fingerprinted? It's really no different, except people have this notion of their DNA as being personal, private. The same people that divulge every fricking detail about their private lives on Facebook & then cry out that they are being violated, unfairly surveillanced.

No one should care, says Obama, or his administration, if you have nothing to hide. True that, we're fine with such transparency as long as you are. We'll show you ours if you show us yours. The details of our surveillance should also be public. Why not lay it all out in the open? There should be no such thing as 'classified' .. classified should be for all classes.

Whenever we hear about secret classified programs or surveillance or anything to do with law in general, we usually think about the overwhelming waste of resources. Lets say you do have some criminally-minded person or potential threat .. then it takes hundreds of people to track & investigate this suspect. Seems like the burden from this is usually greater than any potential threat.

muder weapon

The other day in Riverside Park just outside our window, some man tried to commit suicide .. then thought better of it & sought medical attention. But he left the above knife & a pool of blood down by the tennis courts. All day there were dozens of cops & detectives milling about, drinking coffee & texting their girlfriends (& why not?). When we went running we counted almost a dozen police cars patrolling the paths .. bleeping their damn sirens at us. All day long a helicopter buzzing back & forth .. an NYPD boat on the river patrolling the shores .... all this because some guy had a bad day & tried to kill himself.

Think about the money .. all these cops' time .. the danger (these helicopters do crash) .... and this isn't that extreme of an example. Think about all the false alarms, where police, detectives, surveillance, are mobilized for nothing. Or something silly & harmless .. like people taking drugs, walking their dogs without a leash or having weird sex .. anything deemed 'suspicious'. All this becomes magnified 10,000-fold in relation to things like the Boston Marathon bombing .. the extent of resources to capture & investigate 2 confused or attention-seeking idiots is mind-boggling .. the city locked down for days. What is at the root of debilitating terrorism .. the actual weapon of destruction, or the reaction to it? And what causes it to happen again & again? You don't think the knee-jerk reaction is what 'terrorists' are really after .. the fifteen minutes of fame?

Any regular Joe that is worried about being wiretapped or having their privacy violated is paranoid & delusional. Seriously, who has the time to be spying on you? And if you are up to criminal behavior worthy of surveillance, then you are an idiot for using regular lines of communication.

We should all leave you, The Internet, out of this. All information should be free & transparent within your boundaries.

Everybody's got something to hide .. except for me and my monkey.

Lennon and Yoko monkeys

Lennon said the song is about him & Yoko against the paranoid world .. but if you listen to McCartney, the monkey is Lennon's heroin problem. Either way, who gives a flying fuck. It's the hiding that entices. As we mentioned in this post (albeit in Danish or German), if people knew the true identity behind the person in the song «you're so vain» then the song wouldn't be so interesting.

Information is most valuable when it is free for everyone .. if no one owns it or has control over it .... then the balance of power will shift .. to those intelligent enough to know what to do with this intelligence .. those best at filtering through the flood of misinformation, pop-up ads & purposeful obfuscation .. to extract what's important enough to propagate, to link to, to repost, to retweet.

«What brought about this massive regime of secrecy that the new transparency schemes have been designed to disguise or excuse?» It all started with an Air Force plane crash in 1948 (that ended up being not all that). In 2 years people might say, what caused Obama to be impeached? And the answer might be some regular Joe named Edward Snowden.

Besides Snowden, the NSA, etc (& now the ACLU is suing Obama), it seems there's all sorts of chatter lately about open access .. at least in our Twitter feed (although we don't tweet, we do read it voyeuristically thru assumed secret identities), probably because the 2013 Society for Scholarly Publishing 35th Annual Meeting was this past week. Good to see the topic of open access front & center .. something's got to give. Hopefully Aaron Swartz (speaking of the Joker .. see our post from a few weeks ago) didn't die for nothing.

Swartz Joker

If only he'd hung in here a bit longer he might see his dream come true.

You, The Internet, might be the greatest invention ever, but what about breast milk lollipops? «We are endlessly grateful to all the mothers who kept sharing their breast milk with our flavor specialists until we were able to candify it. These lollipops won't bring back childhood memory; they'll bring up animal instinct.»

Humans are weird.

Oh .. & UbuWeb wants to print you, The Internet, in your entirety. Somehow correlating this with #openaccess .. when it's just #plainstupid. Whatever happened to UbuWeb & Kenneth Goldsmith? They used to be so cool, now they are just, what, so gimmicky? Dweebs. Sluts for attention. Anything for a photo op ....

Kenneth Goldsmith & Obama

Goldsmith brown-nosing Big Brother (What's the frequency, Kenneth?)

We also read the current issue of Nature the other day .. something we haven't done in a while .. It seems our better half (still in Burma) now has a home subscription. We picked it up to read the special segment on the 100th year anniversary of the quantum atom, but we were surprised at how many of the articles had to do with open access .. research-funding agencies calling for wider access to published papers .. how scientists want to exempt data-mining text crawlers from copyright laws .. geneticists pushing for global data-sharing .. another article about aggregating satellite data & making it freely accessible .. etc.

For our part (.. not that what we publish is at all scientific or scholarly .. but we don't make such discriminating distinctions .. it's all rock 'n roll), if anything we've published isn't already on the Internet, it will be .. for free (if you want .. though of course voluntary donations would be cool). Ark Codex & Under the Auspices are already online on such a payment-voluntary basis. And here ... we just put links to the Marsupial & Poste Restante dbooks up online .. so they are now liberated .. part of you, The Internet. (Any other Calamari authors wishing to cybernetically liberate their books let us know & we can do the same with your monkeys).

At the end of the day, the number that matters is number of read books you leave behind, not number of dollars.

Do we (Cal A. Mari speaking now) give a rat's ass that 99.98666% of people don't donate anything? (We're not pulling that number out of a hat .... at last count that was the tally for Ark Codex before we stopped keeping track). To care would be monetarily greedy. The book is happy (as are we) that it is liberated & a part of you, The Internet, the mother lode of readers. The dbook is ephemeral content, a virtual copy .. it is not even an object. In a sense it is just an advertisement for the book .. after all, in a bookstore you are free to peruse through a book before you buy, to keep, collect .. if it's something you deem worthy.

Speaking of Ark Codex, someone  (thanks P!) just got one of the etchings we made for it .. & in the process of looking we realized that there is now only one left (besides those in galleries in Italy) .. incision H. So if you've wanted to get one of these etchings, now's your chance ....

Incisione H

incisione H from Ark Codex

We've been working on final edits of The Becoming this past week. This is the point where self-doubt peaks, as it typically does near the end of a project. We can't imagine who will be interested in this book. It won't be interesting to anyone looking for a novel or fiction & it won't be interesting to anyone looking for poetry .. it's neither. In fact, we'd consider it anti-poetry. The second we (the wolf-brothers speaking now) started to write anything remotely 'poetic' or 'lyrical,' we'd turn around & mangle into grotesque gibberish (the wolf-brothers have no spoken language .. yet). The second something started to make sense or resemble a story, we'd distort it to contradict itself, subvert it, fold it in on itself. Re-reading it now (as Cal A. Mari), it hardly makes any sense to us & to the ear sounds awful. Much as we tried to consciously alter the direction of the text, it kept coming back to a certain shape & form that we seemingly had no control over .... so whatever it is, it felt compelled to come out as such, like a translation of subversed genetic code. Now we are getting to the stage where we need to detach ourselves from it, to extract it out like some alien fetus & throw it in cold water to see if it sinks of swims. We just want to be done with it so we can get back to our own life.

We also made a series of 4 images for it .. one for each section break.

The Becoming 0

The Becoming 0 (N) (a sort of bastardization of one of our failed attempts at the cover)


Becoming 1

The Becoming 1 (W)(continued distortion)


The Becoming 2

The Becoming 2 (S)(featuring a scan of our tattoo & our step-father & scribe, the woodpecker)


The Becoming 3

The Becoming 3 (E)(featuring an actual scan of our ear (upper left))

All this & we never got around to talking about what we read this week .. which was Black Elk Speaks .. a book written in 1932 by John G. Neihardt, a white poet from Nebraska .. though as the title would imply, it's the story of Black Elk .. an Oglala Sioux medicine man. The book is based on a series of conversations Neihardt had with Black Elk, as translated by Black Elk's son.

We first read the book in 1990 or so, when we were living in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but have been itching to re-read it lately .. in part because The Becoming deals with some Native American themes .. but moreso just because we remember it being an entrancing read. And it was again, the second time around. Speaking of open access to information .. it's a good thing this document exists .. the story of this particular Oglala Sioux at a pivotal time .. during their unfortunate decline, at the hands of American infantry, during westward expansion. Not only does Black Elk give his first-hand account of what went down (from the Sioux perspective) during some of the battles such as Wounded Knee & Little Bighorn (Custer's last stand) .. or how Crazy Horse was killed .. but he gives us a good idea of their way of life .. what it was like to be part of a mass buffalo hunt, for example. And his perspective is unique in that starting at the age of 9, Black Elk started to have a series of crazy visions (which led him to eventually become a medicine man). Whether it's hokey or you believe in such powers, the fact is his people did, and they believed in him .. enough to help him reenact his visions in ritual & dance (with, of course, a lot of 'the pipe being passed around'). If you'd rather, you can think of medicine men as rock stars, or writers, artists, that have visions, that turn these visions into myths or songs & then act them out ritually for the benefit of the people. Even if there's no scientific basis to their 'healing powers' .. even if it was just for entertainment (what else was there to do all those long cold nights by the campfire?), the rituals made the people feel good & there's 'power' in that, right? The chapter where he travels to NYC & London & Paris is priceless .. both hilarious & heart-wrenching. He gets a French girlfriend & then has one of his 'visions' (wherein for 3 days he was supposedly clinically dead at his girlfriend's parents house! ... he could've been the Lizard King in another life).

Anyway, if you haven't read it .. classic American literature. A true American hero.

Black Elk Speaks

We are also reading Scott Bradfield's Animal Planet (speaking of Orwell .. it draws some obvious parallels with Animal Farm) .. but we've talked enough about Bradfield in recent posts .. who's History of Luminous Motion we just got back from the printer (it's available thru SPD if you are chomping at the bit).

We were in Book Culture today (next door to the post office, where we seem to be spending a lot of time these days) .. forget what we went in there for, but we walked out with:

  • The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (to read on our upcoming Nepal trip)
  • Sanctuary by William Faulkner (just because we haven't read it yet)
  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey (we used to have a beautifully illustrated & seemingly abridged version, but seemed to have misplaced it) &
  • Bukowski's Tales of Ordinary Madness (also read before, but felt like reading again)

& we wrapped up Sleepingfish 12 & sent it to the printer yesterday. Here's the cover (using art by Dmitry Babenko):

Sleepingfish 12

  >> NEXT: Swans song, mongoose monsters, snow goats, earplugs, meaty reflexes, carnal conjunctivitis & the doubling of connotation

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