Repeat After Me

New Year?

How does it come that we (usually) wake up as the same person who fell asleep? Could it possibly be that in the first instant we are not the same person, that by some talent or mechanism we must actively reload ourselves, re-assert ourselves, surging like waves back into our previous positions, fleshing them out and occupying them? If this is true... then what in God's name causes us to do this? What is the advantage of the repetition? Where is the advantage in re-establishing our old standings?

(A somewhat similar question from Egan's Permutation City -- which I've picked up and started reading again -- "Had he never, in a dream, feared the extinction of waking?")


One's Time-line Becomes Confused

Q: "How long have you been together?"
A: "I don't know... I don't keep count."

Ray Davis published yesterday a long excerpt from (the late poet) William Bronk's essay 'Copan: Historicity Gone'. Reading it reminds me of what you've been saying to me, the discussions we've had over compliments and the independent space you manage to create for yourself.

Excerpts from Ray's excerpt...

"... Life can continue without a reckoning of time..."

"... It is true that we have on either occasion invented times and histories for ourselves and, by an act of will, imposed them as long as strength lasted. We invented these the way we invented speech and buildings and costumes and the changes of modes in these; but, whatever we are, we are without them and apart from the changes in them. These things in themselves can be said to have times and histories; but they have little or nothing to do with us. We lean on inventions, though, to give us standing. We dress ourselves in inventions and house ourselves there. We give ourselves mythic identity, find something we ought to do and project rewards. We are never what our pretensions claim though at times we seem to be when our pretensions succeed for awhile, when will and self-denial and force mold us into some image we impose upon ourselves and on those around us, so that common consent gives us the role we claim for ourselves. To say we make something of ourselves is a form of praise for a person or a culture..."


Finally received The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band's Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward CD. Very nice. Lovely even.

Blurred prayer flags.


Sometimes so much happens that I get lost.

"I'm doing my best to be a master of discretion," I said this afternoon to the birthday boy (who's birthday was actually yesterday) "and keep what's going on from Alamut."

"Huh," he said, "that's a good one."


Strolling Through the Jordaan

Strolling through the Jordaan yesterday I happened to pass one of those strange little shops selling votive candles and calaveras boxes from Mexico (there has to be at least one of these shops in every 'world' city right?). Since it was Sunday -- and I was in a state of total happiness -- I couldn't resist stepping inside for a minute to take some pictures...

A minature Day-of-the-Dead box. It is a couple minutes past 5. Two women struggle (glued!) on a bed while a fully clothed man (the unknown artist?) looks on smiling.

Another Lazy *L* Day

Today... well, it's been another lazy *L* day. *L* standing for languid or languorous. (Me-gosh, it seems to happen every time!)

My only accomplishment today was to read my first book this year -- The Adventures of a Photographer in La Plata by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Allow me to quote from a particularly pertinent section (the start of chapter 50):

Almanza walked under the skeleton of a whale that hung from the ceiling. He counted the steps: more than thirty. Julia asked him if he was going to take a picture of "that lovely thing."

"No," he answered, after reading the explanatory label, "they fished this whale out of the South Sea. I'm only going to photograph the prehistoric animals."

"They're more beautiful?"

"No, but they are food for thought. One wonders how they must have been and how the world must have been then."

He photographed the skeleton of a plesiosaur. Julia said: "I don't think the camera can help you there. It's the imagination which deals with what you are talking about."

"Why?" asked Almanza.

"One skeleton looks like another. They all remind us of death."

"That could be."

"Oh dear, I've discouraged you."

"You never discourage me," he answered.

(Adolfo Bioy Casares)


Yup. The guilty pleasure of reading (Hopscotch) and web browsing (Macrumors) feels even more guilty (and pleasurable) when you've got tons of waiting business breathing down the back of your neck.



"I've gotten used to checking Alamut for the totem animal for the New Year. Not this year?"

Concerning this year's totem animal Judith... believe me I've been thinking a lot about it... but what comes after a Surinam toad, a seal, and a red Mazda Miata? Julio Cortázar begins his novel Hopscotch with an epigram from one César Bruto who wrote a book entitled: What I Would Like to Be If I Wasn't What I Am (the epigram in question is taken from the chapter entitled: A St. Bernard Dog...) Intrigued by this (hmm... I wonder what I'd be like if I wasn't who I was?), I googled César Bruto (both with the accent and without the accent) and learned -- though most of the pages returned were in Spanish and I don't read Spanish -- that Bruto was a pseudonym for an Argentine humorist, one Carlo Warnes (dead now, poor man, he died in 1984) and the charm of Warnes' personage derived from his combination of street philosophy and orthographical error (much like Don Marquis' (anno 1916!) cockroach character Archy, hero of Archy and Mehitabel, or -- dare I say it? -- our own Dagmar Chili...) like this:

"...even tho it aint good to overdo it cause if you overdos it it gets to be a bad habbit and bad habbits is bad for your body just like they is for youre selfrespeck, and when you start goin downhill cause your actin bad in everythin, they aint nobody or nothin can stop you from endin up a stinkin piece of human garbidge and they never gone give you a hand to haul you up outen the dirty muck you rollin around in, not even if you was an eaglE when you was young and could fly up and over the highest hills, but when you get old you like a highflyin bomber thats lost its moral engines and fall down outen the sky."

(César Bruto)

"When you get old like a highflyin bomber thats lost its moral engines..." (Blurred B52).

Becoming animal Judith. Deleuze and Guattari dedicate a chapter to this theme in their A Thousand Plateaus. The single bookmark in my copy sits here. Have you ever read it? I have tried and will continue to keep trying. A confession in the meantime: during our ayahuasca session at DasArts, I was shocked to find myself growling like a dog or wolf -- though this only appeared to last a moment I found tremendous satisfaction in the sound, not horror (as in (the squeaks of) Cronenberg's fly or Kafka's beetle) but catharsis. And people now dare to ask me: Why all the animals in Immortality Suite? (Additional note to myself: last saturday night it was she who realised the dog in the car was about to bark while I remained clueless. How can that be?)

Is becoming animal the same as adopting animal mentality? I wonder. At the end of a letter last year to my friend Norman Olsen I wrote:

"... the more we 'pump' ourselves up in order to escape personal entropy (our gravity well), the more we drive ourselves inwards towards its center. Is this not a perfect example of a tension which 'endeavours to cancel itself out' or consciousness which only desires its own particular brand of amnesia? ('Just give me animal mentality.')"


Super beautiful. Sony's Snow (Neige) minidiscs.


It's 7:13 in the morning, there's paper and bills spread ALL OVER the floor, Múm's Yesterday was Dramatic - Today is OK is spinning in the CD player and for the last 10 minutes I've been staring at a photocopy of Kristeva's article on Holbein's Dead Christ. (Leibnitz was right, it's a wonderful world.)


(alter-ego mea culpa)


save for later


cast off
throw overboard


On repeat: Low and Dirty Three's nine and a half minute cover of Neil Young's 'Down by the River' (from their In the Fishtank CD). The music is slow and sweet but one wonders about the river. As an environment is it beautiful or is it sublime? Does it meander peacefully through cottonwood trees or sluice violently (like the icy torrent in Bergman's Winter Light) through scattered rocks and boulders? Is the water filled with mud or is it clear? Does it run quiet (the silent witness) or does it rage so loud that human speech has become impossible?

Another Dream Bed

Sigmund Freud's couch (from the Freud Museum London)


I am typing this with the smell of spruce tree on my hands. You would never imagine it but spruce tree mixes *incredibly well* with the smell of toasted bread with caraway seeds. (I just planted a new spruce tree and it's breakfast time.)


The video clip 'Hidden Place' (Bjork). I've seen this only once, and that was last August during a stay in West Beirut at the Mayflower Hotel (at home I don't usually watch T.V. but at the Mayflower I couldn't help myself... there were so many interesting channels on the T.V... all of them of course wickedly pirated). Bjork's video: little animated things come out of Bjork's nose. She sucks them into her mouth. Brilliant. Haven't stopped thinking about it. Though until the other day I didn't realise that it was directed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

The word 'arsenal'. As a synonym for storage it's the perfect word to add to my accumulate column. I like the word arsenal. It reminds me of a Surrealist journal that I used to collect (called Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion). I think it's quite a positive word. Everyone needs their own arsenal.

Speaking of madness.

I keep scrolling back to look at Freud's couch. It looks so eastern and exotic.


La machina de la sueno.
La machina de la sueno.
La machina de la sueno.

Tricky's Blowback. I admire his eclecticism. The reviewers either love it or hate it. Certainly no consensus here.


Good music for the gym though.


Interesting... don't you think... how consensus (or its lack) influences desire?

I've never thought about it.


Nightmare scenario: Prolonged couch use could be hazardous to one's health.

Still from a film produced in 1998 by Liza May Post for a Dutch mental institution (De Geestgronden, Amstelveen).

Ronald van Tienhoven writes about this work:

"Het werk van Liza May Post speelt zich af op een beeldscherm dat onnadrukkelijk is verwerkt in de hoek van een muur in de wachtruimte. Nadat de bezoeker op een knop heeft gedrukt wordt een film van ongeveer drie minuten afgespeeld. We zien een ruimte bekleed met Perzische tapijten van het soort dat in vroeger tijden op cafétafels lag. In de ruimte bevindt zich een aantal mannen en vrouwen die in hetzelfde material zijn gekleed en een onbestemde choreographie opvoeren. Het lijkt of in deze ruimte Darwinistische wetten hebben postgevat: camouflagestrategieën als waarborg voor overleven. De camouflage toont tegelijkertijd de kracht én kwetsbaarheid van de dansers; soms wordt een stuk naakte huid zichtbaar, de camera zoomt in op een onbedekte hals, op de welving van een schouderblad.

"Het materiaal van de tapijten representeert een zijnstoestand van zowel de architectuur als van de spelers. De sfeer die in Posts film wordt opgeroepen doet denken aan de geniale ambivalentie van Samuel Becketts toneelstukken, een ambivalentie die onafwendbaar leidt to fundamentele vragen: wie zijn zij, wie ben ik, waar zijn zij, waar ben ik, wat doen zij, wat doe ik?"

(Ronald van Tienhoven)


Information continues to dazzle me. Too much information all at once and I find it difficult to function.


Last year on this particular Saturday I wrote:

"I saw a small boy vomiting into a clear plastic bag held by his father next to the fruit counter at the Konmar. A lot of people seem to have the flu. I had the flu yesterday. I've still got the flu today."

and quoted Thomas Disch on identity problems.


Rijk van Kooij writes:

Hi Paul,

how are you? Hope all's well.

Last week I visited the Groninger Museum to see Immortality Suite and I was quite impressed by the serenity of it all. Actually it was kind of what I'd expected beforehand, but walking through the Repin exhibition on my way to Coop Himmelblau contributed to the effect. It was pleasantly quiet and empty and I'm sure it was a far better moment to experience it than during the opening a few weeks ago.

I was extremely fascinated by the Sortie 2 video because your first attempt (Arti, Dec. 2000) is still something I often think about. During the opening in Arti you asked: "let me know what you think of it, email me." I never did, mainly because of the death of your mother soon after. Or maybe because I didn't want to admit that I had negative feelings towards the work.

During the Arti screening I watched the video basically from the perspective of your fascination with life and death and how you documented your ketamine experiment. At that moment the experiment itself didn't really upset me. Though I was kind of worried about you taking drugs to experience a near death situation, I didn't feel objections in a moral sense.

Driving home later that night, thinking about the coincidence of your mothers illness, I started thinking about parallels with my own home situation. I suddenly felt a tremendous jealousy towards you. My beautiful little girl had her first involuntary near death experience when she was only 4 months old. She suffered from a keto acidosis caused by the fact that she appeared to be a diabetic type 1. She was (and still is) way to young understand all the implications: she needs to be injected at least two times a day for the rest of her life to prevent her from having a Sortie 2. By the time she's about my age (almost 37) it's likely she's had more than 27,000 injections! I was jealous, for you having a choice to stick a needle in your body to experience something I hope my daughter will never have to live through again.

Watching the Sortie 2 film moved me less than I'd expected. It has probably got to do with the fact that Sortie 2 deals with the more abstract apects of the experiment (visions, mirages) while Sortie 1 focussed on the physical act of injecting and the reason for doing so. At least, that's how I experienced it. The documentary approach of Sortie 1 (which assumes the event actually took place, and it did, didn't it?; oh well, whatever...) is far more confronting than the poetic approach of Sortie 2 (...was it all make believe, is this important anyway?). The illusion of reality hits me harder.

Didn't we discuss these kind of issues over and over again at Media-GN?



Yes Rijk, we did. Thanks for reminding me.


(Seasons, cycles etc.)

Like the tide Dr. Jamie has pulled back into town for the film festival. And it was his phone call last night that managed to pull me out into the wind and the rain to watch a film project by one Pierre Bismuth at the Schouwburg and catch up with the aftermath-slash-crowd of yesterday's slew of openings (V2, TENT, the NAI).

(Power chords...)

A couple of hours of 'conversation' (Salvia divinorum, Slavoj Zizek, Camp X-Ray, Giorgio Agamben, Mulholland Drive, hypnosis, The White Stripes) with someone who's as wacky and energetic as a Duracell bunny was exactly what I needed (and exactly what the good doctor provided).

(It's festival time...)

Hey... There's some cool stuff going on in Rotterdam.


Thank you. I'm feeling about a million times better.

When I was at art school I read that essay by Sontag where she claims that 'Untitled' is as much a title as any other sequence of words printed on a white card next to an artwork. Given the role of the title in determining the 'meaning' of the artwork this made a lot of sense to me and I brought it up many times in discussion -- especially as a point of rebuttal to the (Dutch 80's?) art school cliche that "too much story spoils an artwork." In other words in a world where every sign is significant 'no story' also makes a damned fine story.

But... but... there is still another possibility for interpreting an absent sign (and herein the hell of undecidability). What if (the perceived) no story (lapse, lack, silence) indicates indifference? Or randomness? How many times do you need to look at something in order to rule this possibility out? How many bits of information does it take to make a 'byte' of meaning?

This is something I remember discussing this with Rijk several years ago at Media-GN. There was this paper... Yes, here it is...

(WARNING Cybernetic Super-Systematic Thinking ahead.)

(...) The learning dimension is introduced by Arthur Young in attempting to formalize how a free agent 'interferes' with any system. The resulting freedom or unpredictability is then part of the system. He points out that a minimum of six observations are required to determine the behaviour of the free agent:

  1. To know the position of a body in space, we need one instantaneous observation (for instance, the photo finish of a race).

  2. To know its velocity, which is computed from the difference in position of the body and the difference in time between the two observations, we need two such observations.

  3. To know its acceleration, we need three observations.

  4. To know that a body, for example, a vehicle, is under control, and thus distinguish it from one in which the controls are stuck, we need at least four observations. That is, we need three to know acceleration and one more to know that acceleration has been changed. (This still does not tell us the body's destination or goal).

  5. To know the destination, provided the operator does not change his mind or try to fool us, we need five observations.

  6. To know the operator has changed his mind or is trying to fool us, we need six observations.

Young noted that observation "categories five and six repeat the cycle", the fifth falling into a position category (like the first), and the sixth falling into a velocity category (like the second). This shows the relationship between the minimum of four categories required for any analytical grasp and the six observational elements to encompass the behavioral complexity.

(From the Global Strategies Project / Embracing Difference: System Dynamics)


(High) Irony

Via the once Hotsy-Totsy Club (now The Bellona Times...)

"Americans project irony onto the world.... The subject has lost the battle. He knows that he lacks either the individuality or the reason to defend himself against his opponent.... The subject no longer speaks; he is spoken, cursed by an uncontrollable and parodying tic."

(Delphine Perret, 'Irony,' Poetics Journal)

And in Ray's own words (this line actually proceeding the quote above):

"Who's pretending? With few exceptions (movie stars, rock musicians...), any action or expression will be stupider than the theoretical limits of the intelligence responsible for taking or making it."

(Ray Davis, 17.08.99)

Camp X-Ray's see-through exit sign (indicating the direction of Mecca).

"Then I snap my fingers at them all, those below and those in here. Estelle we shall climb out of hell..."

(Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit)


The Joy of Sisyphus

(System theory a-go-go.)

Reader Lopati writes in to remind us of Cosma Shalizi's thoughts on 'complexity measurement'...

"The complexity of a process ought to be measured by how much information is needed to predict its future behavior."

Given the best things in life are going to be infinitely complicated, I guess this means one is never going to have enough information (or get tired of gathering it!)



3:30 A.M. That's an a-w-f-u-l-l-y bright full moon. And somewhere nearby a confused blackbird is singing its heart out.

(Last night) Dr. Jamie King in Cafe Dudok.

December 2001

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