nothing here but conspicuous verminisation, feat. Ryan K. Lindsay

issue 034 - 6th October, 2019

CJW: Welcome to another edition of the nothing here newsletter. This time around we have Ryan K. Lindsay on board, Australian comics writer and all around great guy.

Just a reminder that we also put out bonus letters every other week, with something interesting from one member of the team. If you want to check out the full archive of bonus letters (and all the fresh ones to come), you can become a supporter.

CJW: Thoughts on the planetary: An interview with Achille Mbembe (via Ospare)

It follows that today, although its main target remains the human body and earthly matter, domination and exploitation are becoming increasingly abstract and reticular. As a repository of our desires and emotions, dreams, fears and fantasies, our mind and psychic life have become the main raw material which digital capitalism aims at capturing and commodifying.

A really interesting interview about Africa’s colonial history, racism, technology, current social protest movements, genocide, capitalism, and the various intersections thereof. I could have grabbed a dozen pull quotes, easily.

The complex entanglement of the human and the technological so typical of our age has deeply transformed the ways in which cognitive processes unfold, how people dream and what kind of change they dream about, in short, how the political is configured and experienced. In assessing the qualities and properties of contemporary mobilisations, we must therefore factor in the impact of media technologies on the formation of political subjectivity.

AA

...a proper critique of (Cecil) Rhodes’ style of predatory economics and plutocratic politics cannot be limited to South Africa alone or to the confines of a specific nation-state. The project he served was colonial and imperial. Its horizon was not South Africa-centric. Ultimately, Rhodes is the symbol of the double damage capitalism in its racial, colonial and imperial form inflicted upon humankind and upon the biosphere.

Reading this interview (once I’d turned it into an epub via dotEPUB, of course) eventually got me thinking about that loathsome fucking lizard creature Tony “Onion Gobbledock” Abbott, whose Rhodes Scholar credentials were often bandied about by the Murdoch press here in Australia as proof of his intellectual bona fides. Here’s a picture of him eating an onion, skin and all, the absolute freak:

Anyway, looking deeper into Rhodes’ legacy, I came across some interesting opinion pieces by Robert Hortle and Nanjala Nyabola, who are Rhodes scholars using their scholarships to further decolonisation and support anti-racist causes.

“Cecil Rhodes had no intention for us as black women to ever see his money. I can't think of a better way of saying fuck you than taking it." 

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CJW: Anti-Fascists Are Waging a Cyber War — And They’re Winning

Most anti-fascists view themselves as being in a “three-way fight,” squaring off not only with the far right but with the state as well. Nobody at the workshop planned on doing anything illegal, but as Gordon pointed out, laws can change. “Say Antifa groups get labeled terrorist organizations, we’re all going to have some explaining to do,” he pointed out. “So if you can avoid catching their eye, so much the better.”

This is related to the article we shared a few issues back - Is it possible to stop a mass shooting before it happens?

RKL: I always have this disconnect when I see people railing against Antifa - assuming they either don’t understand that the “fa” stands for, or they have no understanding of our history with fascism. This quote is a winner for me:

As Jenkins put it, “What are they going to do, tell everyone, ‘This person hates Nazis?’”

That’s what it comes down to me, the belly of the beast is, you can’t refute what Antifa stands against, which is why you see people trying to minimise the word “Nazi” - if they make you believe that Antifa thinks everyone is a Nazi, then they can shrug off when Antifa go for the people with legit Nazi iconography inked on their body.

The other quote I dig is:

You can’t tell the difference between shitposting trolls and mass murderers. They all talk the same.

This is the saddest truth of it all - people seem to love to go online and be “provocative,” like that’s the reward in itself. But all the shitposting muddies the waters and we can’t see the genuine threat amidst the sea of loud bullshit. The outline this article gives for how people just trawl through the internet and find these violent bigots based on ear shapes and last.fm posts is the modern crime novel we truly need and deserve.

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CJW: Why We Need a Luddite Revolution (via Sentiers)

[Luddites] didn’t wait patiently for the glorious future promised by the gospel of progress. They saw what certain machines were doing to them in the present tense – endangering their livelihoods – and dismantled them. [B]ig tech companies talk incessantly about how “AI” and digitization will bring a better future. In the present tense, however, putting computers everywhere is bad for most people. It enables advertisers, employers and cops to exercise more control over us – in addition to helping heat the planet.

I’ve long known what a Luddite was through cultural osmosis, but I didn’t realise how little I knew about the Luddites until I heard Ganzeer talking on the Cultures of Energy podcast. The text of his talk is here, and the podcast is here.

RKL: I teach in a school where I’m in charge of ICT, and we have transitioned a fair degree of student work to Chromebooks - those cheap, disposable, fantastic machines. I see the benefit, but I also see the problem, so it’s something I’ve been stewing on for quite some time.

I read years back about Google wanting to house server farms on the water so underwater turbines could sustainably power it, and they also sent a data farm down into the ocean to naturally cool it instead of using expensive means to do the same thing on land.

But that’s Big Company juice, whereas the article looks at what we should do: and the concept of less digitisation in our everyday lives is completely spot on. Making sure our devices aren’t always on us, having data free days, remembering analogue ways of working some of the time - this is all important, and something we can possibly all manage.

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CJW: Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable (Long version here, via marcel

It’s been about 7 years since I last ate meat (and that was a travel-related blip after another 3-4 years of not eating it), but my biggest problem with meat isn’t simply the killing of animals, it’s the completely inhumane and industrialised nature of the industry. If you have a bit of land and some animals and you take good care of your animals right up until it’s time to slaughter them, I’ve got no problem with that. (I couldn’t personally do it, but I’m not going to go all PETA on you either.) My problem is that the whole industry is a carnival of horrors from start to finish that is completely hidden from view of consumers, lest they change their behaviour.

What I’m getting at is, if the problem is scale, then the sort of large-scale, industrial veganism that is developing is also highly problematic. Sure, maybe soy crops use less land and water, and generate less carbon that dairy cows, but the ecological monoculture that these sorts of crops encourage is also dangerous.

So, as ever, we will not consume our way out of this mess. We need to fundamentally rethink our economy, and the way we grow and distribute food - more local, less global. More of a variety of plants native to the area, and less of the global monoculture crops preferred by capitalist economies of scale.

RKL: I worked with a guy who spoke passionately about every suburb needing a community garden and ever since I’ve never been able to get the thought out of my head. That idea of down-sizing things, for sustainability, is something I know will be hard to get off the ground because it’s not the easy route.

I was studying ads for healthy foods with my class the other day and we quickly realised that the foods actually being healthy was never the biggest sell, it was that they were easy. People understand health, and why we should be healthy, but they don’t want to have to do it. It’s the same with sustainability: we know it’s good, but it’s hard, and we’re a lazy, cowardly lot. We need to stop thinking about one solution that’ll cover us all, and instead find our own micro-solution/s.

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AA:Greta Thunberg isn't the only trailblazing young climate leader.

They came from small islands in the Pacific Ocean that hover just feet above the surface of the water, and where sea-level rise is a daily concern. They came from deep in the Amazon rainforest, where trees are being burned and indigenous peoples are being pushed out of their homes. More than 500 strong, these young people from around the globe flocked to the first UN Youth Climate Summit over the weekend to discuss how to solve the climate crisis.

Closer to home, it’s also worth having a look into Seed, a youth-led Indigenous climate network:

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at the forefront of climate change, and as young people it’s our generation with the most at stake. It’s our communities on the frontline who need to be at the forefront of change; leading the solutions and building a society that is healthier, cleaner, more just and puts people before profits.

Founder of Seed Amelia Telford was also featured on this list from 2017 of “Indigenous climate champions”.   

CJW: Related - The Misogyny of Climate Deniers (via Dan Hill) & Why is Greta Thunberg so triggering for certain men? (via manyoyo) Both of which are quite similar, and touch on the variety of prejudices used by male, right-wing media figures to denigrate Thunberg.

I can't help but worry about the social/media cult that's sprung up around Thunberg. On the one hand, she's a teenage girl and shouldn't be subjected to the bullshit of aforementioned arseholes, but on the other hand it also feels like the focus on her diminishes the focus on her message. As above, we're already seeing ad hominem attacks being used by people who would dismiss her message. How long until even sympathetic journalists fall into the trap of focussing on Thunberg at the expense of the bigger issues?

She's doing incredible things, but I don't think the hero worship I've seen online serves any (positive) purpose. It's great to see other activists getting highlighted in Austin's link above, but I think the more we focus on this as a broad movement rather than as the project of one, or a few, exceptional young people, the harder it will be to deny their truth.

AA: I think I see what you're saying, Corey, although I don't necessarily agree. People are attracted to narratives because we use them to transfer ideas and make meaning. Connecting social/political movements to individuals and their stories makes sense from a tactical vantage. Would it even be possible to describe a movement in a purely holistic way? And if you did, would this vision be compelling to most people? I think the average punter needs the vital drama of people-centered stories to get them engaged. Of course this leaves movements vulnerable to bad faith attacks should those individuals be found (inevitably) lacking, and it also makes movements vulnerable when those in power (inevitably) attempt to hijack their energies to propagate the status quo - but does it mean that these people are useless (or worse, damaging) in the long run? I don't think so. I think movements flourish and spread via inspiring human stories, and movements and ideas with enough momentum will still persist when their fleshy vessels are exposed as all-too human.

RKL: Someone spoke to me recently about how Thunberg isn’t perfect, and she’s a puppet, and people above her are getting rich off this whole thing. I asked them why it’s a bad thing for someone to make some kind of money as they work to fix the environment, and they expressed that it’s just another scam. So I asked if they were okay, then, with their money continuing to go into the hands of fossil fuel magnates? Because our money is going somewhere, and someone is probably getting rich, but shouldn’t we choose where it goes?

It spoke to me of the whole nature around Thunberg, we question too deeply the people doing the good, just in case, maybe, just possibly, they aren’t great - or perfect. But all they need to be is good enough for right now, and they can inspire the next person to be great, and the person after that to be better. Maybe I’m being apathetic, maybe pragmatic, but if someone’s just leaning in the right direction, I’m happy for the assistance sometimes. No one will do it all perfect, but so long as they’re doing something, that’s a start, and sometimes a start is all we need. If we do the work, then we can only continue to do it better.

I hope. Really, that’s all I hope.

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MJW: Cash/Consent by Lorelai Lee

When trading sex is made illegitimate, the people who do it are also made illegitimate. Criminalization increases barriers to safety in every form—housing, health care, child care and parental rights, and familial and social support. We live, here and now, in a country in which trading sex is more criminalized than in nearly any other country on earth, and where sex workers have little legal recourse when we’re assaulted. When we’re assaulted, under criminalization, we have to weigh the possibility that going to the police will mean being arrested. If we go to the police, they can refuse to investigate our rapes. Often the police themselves are our rapists.

CJW: This long read covers a lot of ground - Lee's personal experiences in trading sex, sex work considered through the lens of labour and class, scummy sex work "rescuers," and recent changes in law around sex work (changes always made with no regards for the sex workers themselves or what might make their work safer). CW for sexual assault.

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MJW: 'A silent act of resistance': the hidden tattoo studios of Tehran

Tattoo artist Soheil Aflaki, 28, sees tattoos as a way to stand out in a society that allows people little space for self-expression. His living room in a suburb of Tehran also serves as his tattoo studio. “I consider tattooing as a medical treatment for my generation,” he says. “It’s a way to heal the psychological wounds you sustain while living in a culture in crisis.”

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MKY: Smelling a comet from another star

Largely lost in the noise of the latest escalation of global political chaos with local characteristics is that, in the wake of last year’s belated discovery of an extra solar comet having passed through our solar system, now a Russian astronomer has found one mid-way through its journey. Which means cool science is being done rn, like measuring the ‘alien gasses’ coming off it as its leaves nothing more than a vapour trail behind, and a whole lotta cosmic wonder for those of us lying in the gutter, staring up into the void.

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Cutting Room Floor:

CJW: 20 Minutes Into the Future

I haven’t shared this newsletter before, mostly because it was featured in Orbital Operations, and surely you all read that. BUT, in case you’ve missed it, 20 Minutes Into the Future is a new newsletter from Dan Harvey (who I’ve shared links from before), all about the ways technology, social media, and regular media can and do affect our lives, and tools for being wary and maybe staying one step ahead. If you read this newsletter, you probably want to read 20MITF too.

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RKL: Lonnie Nadler’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Lonnie is a hell of a writer, and his “voice” in his newsletters is truly something to behold. Mostly, it’s just a space for him to muse about what he’s writing, how and why, and it’s a great insight into his completely batguano brain - which, if you’ve ever read any of his comics, you’ll know is well worth delving into.

MKY: Aniara (2018)

Do you like bleak euro scifi? ‘Cause this is some bleak euro scifi. Based on a mid 20th century epic poem, described as “Wall-E through the lens of Solaris”, this is what happens when you try to flee a dying earth, kids. Your ship gets knocked off course and the new life that awaits you is drifting through the void as everyone goes mad. *****

CJW: Conspicuous Force and Verminization

I’ve been slowly making my way through Mark Fisher’s collected works in the K-Punk collection that Austin mentioned a while back. And while some of it isn’t relevant or of interest to me (like when Fisher does a deep-dive on some obscure 90s electronica act I’ve never heard of, or just about any time he goes into British politics), there are still plenty of pieces in here that are interesting and relevant still today. 

This piece, about the still ongoing War on Terror (touching on Aliens and the Military-Industrial-Entertainment complex) is especially fascinating. The whole thing isn’t too long, and is well worth reading. Here’s a section from the opening paragraph.

We belong to an 'alliance of moderation' against the Axis of Evil. So when 'we' 'accidentally' level an apartment block full of children with our moderate bombs, we do not cease to be moderate. The difference between They, the Evil and We, the Good is, of course, intent; the Terrorists deliberately target civilians. This is their only aim, because they are Evil. Although we kill vastly more civilians, we do not intend to it, so we remain Good.

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AA: Speaking of Mark Fisher, Urbanomic just released a podcast called Swarmmachines Rewind - a recording from 1996 that features a proto-CCRU collective including Fisher, Nick Land (boo!), Sadie Plant, and Angus Carlyl, dropping heavily processed spoken word theory over vintage mid 90s jungle. Swoon, I did.  

In his introduction Urbanomic editor and CCRU member Robin Mackay explains how the piece was made, and points out some interesting resonances in subject matter to our present day. He also reveals his favourite Nick Land line, which (spoiler) involves the word “monkeyflake”. 

Oh and while we’re talking about Urbanomic, they have a book coming out that sounds great: Spinal Catastrophism. Here’s the (wild) description and the cover: 

Drawing on cryptic intimations in the work of J.G. Ballard, Georges Bataille, William Burroughs, André Leroi-Gourhan, Elaine Morgan, and Friedrich Nietzsche, in the late twentieth century Dr. Daniel Barker formulated the axioms of Spinal Catastrophism: If human morphology, upright posture, and the possibility of language are the ramified accidents of natural history, then psychic ailments are ultimately afflictions of the spine, which itself is a scale model of biogenetic trauma, a portable map of the catastrophic events that shaped that atrocity exhibition of evolutionary traumata, the sick orthograde talking mammal.

I look forward to not entirely understanding it.

RKL: My new comic, SKYSCRAPER, is up on Kickstarter now!

It’s a self-contained one-shot comic, printed at newspaper size, because you’ll want to soak up every line of Mitchell Collins’ art, as well as Simon Robins’ colours. This comic has been a while in the making, and it’s such a dream project for the 3 of us.

CJW: One of the reasons I’m excited about (and already a backer of) this project is that I love these sorts of experiments - restrictions that force a team to think outside the box and really stretch their creative muscles (and I could also argue that the newspaper-sized object stands in for the titular skyscraper itself). It sounds like the sort of experiment Warren Ellis would try and pull off, and/so I am here for it.

Ryan and co. hit their goal in great time and are now in stretch goal territory, so if you want a cool, weird piece of comics goodness, check it out

AA: Discover the list of the world's 291 weirdest bands(via, once again, Craig Puzahki)

A list of 291 artists, many of them unknown and unknowable pre-internet, was included in the 1979 debut album by the industrial group Nurse With Wound. Now 40 years old and legendary in underground circles, the label Finders Keepers are undertaking the Sisyphean task of collecting and compiling one track by every artist on it.

If you’re a fan of experimental/musique concrete/outsider music you’ll want to check out this article and investigate this seminal list of obscure and interesting music. You can buy Vol 1 of the Finder’s Keepers release here (digital only via Bandcamp, as the vinyl is already sold out) or check out this Spotify playlist to get an idea of what’s on the list. You can also read a wiki of the complete list here.

AA: Oi, check out some art that Brisbane’s Jon Weber did for the next Oh Nothing Press release - Cursed Cartoons from Rogue Universes. Cosmic monstrosities meets Fleischer Bros. aesthetics. An investigation of the occult origins of our corporate monoculture, among other things. Should be a laff.

RKL: Thanks for having me on, team. Thoroughly enjoyed spending a week completely out of my depth on topics which I’m either better served shutting up and listening, or just relating how I’d use it in a classroom of 11yo brains.

This did give me time to distract myself as a break each night in the office. I’m on school holidays, but the night writing sessions roll on. Managing the Kickstarter, I had a comic launch at NYCC which we’ll debut proper in early 2020, I had an artist hit me up about a thing and I’m polishing a script I had ready just for their eyes, all while bleeding out my eyes from trying to decipher scores of pages of a contract from [REDACTED] in regards to the [REDACTED] of [REDACTED].

If anyone wants to follow me across to my newsletter, it’s my brain dump each week about what it’s like to write on the side of a full time teaching gig while being an active parent and a husband. It’s at tinyletter.com/ryanklindsay

AA: Can I just say how much I love your newsletter, Ryan? The deep dives into process are fascinating, and your work establishing and running the school D&D club really inspires me as an educator. Reading about what you’re up to makes me want to work harder as an educator and writer. Thanks for coming on board this issue and spending some time with us. And let’s get one last plug for the SKYSCRAPER kickstarter in! 

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CJW: And that's it for another issue. I just had a heated discussion with my dad about climate change denial because he's being radicalised by YouTube. And I have to admit, he's convinced me that this is all just a massive, sprawling, money-making racket engineered by… Big Science? So, I'll probably be sending the next issue from my Faraday bunker deep within the hollow (and flat) Earth. Obviously I'll be using carrier pigeons, so, keep watching the skis!