Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson, London Review of Books


The Friend by Alan Bray

Chicago, 380 pp, £28.00

In 1913, Turkish workmen restoring the Mosque of the Arabs in Istanbul uncovered the floor of a Dominican church. Among the gravestones was a particularly striking one in grey-white marble with pink and blue veins. Two helmets with slits for eyes faced each other, like a pair of beaky dolphins about, clangingly, to kiss: ‘Tomb Slab of an English Couple’, the label in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum says.

The couple were illustrious knights of the royal chamber of Richard II, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, ‘the Castor and Pollux of the Lollard movement’, as the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane called them. Neville died just four days after Clanvowe, the inscription records, in October 1391. The Westminster Chronicle fills in the details. Following the death of Clanvowe, ‘for whom his love was no less than for himself’, Neville starved himself to death. Beneath the helmets their shields lean on each other, indicating the position of the bodies beneath. Their coats-of-arms are identical, half-Neville, half-Clanvowe, a blend called ‘impalement’, used to show the arms of a married couple, with Neville’s saltire on the husband’s half, Clanvowe’s bearing on that of the wife. Well, not quite. There are two impaled shields rather than the usual one, indicating a mutual exchange of arms, a double dubbing, so to speak.

"Branded For Life"

Andy Beckett, The Guradian


The Rebel Sell:
How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture

by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter

352pp, Capstone, £16.99

Since Naomi Klein's bestselling anti-capitalist book No Logo was published
five years ago, its success in Britain and North America has been
accompanied by an intriguing political and economic mystery. While Klein and
her imitators have made sweatshops and bullying corporations and the other
costs of global consumerism into much more mainstream topics for public
discussion, this does not seem to have stopped many people from going
shopping. One conclusion you could draw is that political books are not as
life-changing as they were. A more provocative one would be that where the
dominance of modern capitalism is concerned, Klein's kind of thinking is not
part of the solution but part of the problem.

The Rebel Sell is a brave book. In places it is also unfair, light on
evidence and repetitively polemical. But the argument it makes is important
and original. Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, both young Canadian academics,
think that for nearly half a century critics of capitalism have profoundly
misunderstood their enemy. Worse than that, the authors argue, these critics
have — sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not — provided modern capitalism
with the fuel it runs on.

The Times, London (UK),
May 14, 2005

Gang of five

By James Eve

Deep in the hills above Bologna a secretive band of writers has hatched
a truly evil plot — to overthrow the world of celebrity

If you believed everything that was written about the group of Italian
novelists known as Wu Ming, you would think that they were red-toothed
revolutionaries. Under their former pen name — that of the former
Watford and AC Milan footballer Luther Blissett — they published
Q, a sprawling, bloody spy story set in the religious wars of
16th-century Europe. It became a bestseller across the Continent, though
the group's non-literary activities, which according to several breathless
newspaper reports included hijacking a night bus in Rome, prompted as
much interest as the sales figures.

Negativeland's Negativity A Plus

Joseph Dewey, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Doug Nufer, Negativeland

Autonomedia, 2004. 186 pp. Paper: $9.95.

Ken Honochick is both character and experiment. The winner of two gold medals in backstroke swimming at the cursed Munich Games, Honochick spends the next decade trying to cash in on his fragile celebrity (his medal count overshadowed by the Spitz glitz). Married off to a Tournament of Roses Queen, he gets involved in a health spa franchise that pitches spiritual as well as physical rejuvenation but that eventually folds amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By 1988, Honochick, bankrupt financially and morally, drives cross-country, seeking healing by returning to his Florida roots (the narrative is told backward, backstroked as it were). Once there, he confronts in a local tourist trap his own wax figure, a belt of ammo around its shoulder while rescuing a buxom gymnast — an outlandish invention that serves as Nufer’s savagely funny critique of America’s empty cult of celebrity.

But Ken Honochick is also part of a playfully ingenious narrative experiment, a novel executed within an entirely arbitrary constraint: every sentence, every sentence, uses a negative construction. As a Gen-X practitioner of the Oulipo school of self-validating process-texts, the midcentury Dadaist-inspired avant-garde movement that audaciously argued that creativity required not freedom but rather form, specifically rules — precise and entirely arbitrary — for its fullest expression, Nufer works with elegant virtuosity within the self-imposed discipline.

Surely the text threatens to be gimmicky, like watching a Scrabble tournament. But Nufer’s novel is a most satisfying read, an engrossing revelation of a character struggling within a vacuous American culture that is itself Negativeland: a culture defined by hype and hyperbole, celebrity and surface, relentlessly driven to embrace the image, thus perpetuating the cannibalism of expectation and disappointment. That Nufer ultimately resists this heavy negativity is the achievement: Honochick stumbles inelegantly toward the simple solace of another lonely soul. Two negatives, Nufer reminds us, equal a positive.

"Classics of Cannabis Culture Collected"

Michael R. Aldrich, Ph.D., O'Shaughnessy's


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters

Cuisine, Slang, Literature and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey & Abel Zug (eds.)

Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia. 694 pages, $24.95.

Despite its provocative title, this book focuses on the religious use of cannabis in India (Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist and Tantric) and in the Muslim traditions from Afghanistan across the Middle East to North Africa. Since most religious use of cannabis historically has been with edibles and drinkables rather than smokables, a chapter is devoted to ancient and modern recipes for bhang, majoun, dawamesk, syrups, tinctures, extracts, and high-potency cuisine.

Rounding out the collection are scientific and literary commentaries, mostly 19th century, on the subject of hashish-eating, glossaries of slang for cannabis products in a dozen cultures, an amazing set of illustrations, and perhaps the best bibliography/netography of 2,000+ citations on religious cannabis ever compiled. It's a superb anthology!

"Declaring Forbidden What Is Not Forbidden Is Forbidden"

Phillip S. Smith, DRCNet


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters:

Cuisine, Slang, Literature, and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey and Abel Zug, eds. (2004, Autonomedia, $24.95).

As someone who writes about drug policy for a living, it is indeed refreshing to sit back and enjoy Orgies of the Hemp Eaters. There is very little of the standard drug policy reform rhetoric in this compilation of cannabis culture— no concern about teenage drug use, no worries about the link between pot-smoking and schizophrenia, no maneuvering over how to craft a political message that will appeal to the not-so-pot-friendly masses or political classes, no concessions to the prohibitionists. But while Orgies of the Hemp Eaters may have little to offer for drug reform wonks, what it does do — and very successfully — is remind us that there is indeed a whole pot-smoking (and -eating and -drinking) world out there in which drug czar John Walters and the rest of his prohibitionist posse are basically irrelevant.

"Fourth World War", a lavish production (on a shoestring budget) including footage from Mexico, Canada, Korea, Plaestine, Argentina and South Africa has recently been released on DVD, but is also available for download over the net. You can find a torrent version here, or a copy on FTP here. If you are using FTP make sure to use a client that can restart a download in case of interruption. Subtitles are available in french and italian from the link for the FTP above. Below you'll find an interview with a member of Big Noise Films, Rick Rowley (the other being Jacquie Soohen) which was printed in the NY Indypendent last year.

Indypendent: What is the Fourth World War?

Rick Rowly: We first heard the term ‘Fourth World War’ from the Zapatistas in 1996. It’s a conflict that transcends the logic of states. It is a war without a singular enemy or fixed battlefields. There are not two sides in the Fourth World War. It is a system at work everywhere violently reorganizing our lives.

Alan Moore writes:

"Culture Jam 101" at Grassroots Media Conference

Alan Moore

I visited the NYC Grassroots Media Conference, an annual gathering of community-oriented media in New York City (April 9-10, 2005; at New School University just for the panel called “Culture Jam 101: You Are a Thinly Veiled Threat.” This was William Etundi Jr., of, Swoon who is with Toyshop, and Reverend Billy (Bill Talen) and his partner Savitri D. Promo:

“Here we are in the thick of a culture grown complacent on consumerism, complicity and coercion. A sustainable movement is empowered by confronting and evolving the cultural assumptions of the moment – a goal not easily achieved through traditional protest. Here lies the world of culture jam, of renegade art, of guerrilla actions aimed at shaking the foundation of Apathetic America. This hands-on workshop will ‘teach’ you nothing. Our goal is to awaken the brilliance you already have. Short video introductions and brief anecdotes of our experiences in the street will open to an interactive dialogue on the logistics, challenges and possibilities in cultural evolution. We will explain the tools we use while working with you to build your own seditious solutions – after all you are not a consumer, you are a thinly veiled threat.”

John Doraemi writes:

Achilles’ Heel(s) of the US War Machine

John Doraemi

Recently I was introduced to Gene Sharp's manifesto on "regime change"
called: From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation
(1993). This
— along with U.S. overt and covert "aid" — has brought down
at least three governments to date, including Serbia (Milosevic), Georgia (Shevardnadze),
and the Ukraine (Yanukovych). [1]

I found the book on a web page, available through Google, if you type in the
title. The book is used by US imperial "soft power" forces such as
the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute
(IRI), and "Freedom House." It was published through the Albert Einstein

George Soros has been responsible for some of these US adventures in non-violent
overthrows of regimes deemed unacceptable to US power brokers.

'Still, the book itself is a manual on how to overthrow dictatorships, military
non-democratic despots, the sort of which we are becoming here in the U.S.

"In Central Park"

Hal Foster

"The Gates", the orange portals and banners that punctuated many of the paths in Central Park from 12 to 27 February, were greeted with great delight. People were first softened up by the numbers – 7532 portals, 5290 tons of steel, 60 miles of vinyl tubing, 116,389 miles of pleated nylon, 23 miles of trails, $21 million in costs – and then worked over by all the wacky presentations by the Bulgarian-born Christo and his French-born partner Jeanne-Claude (she of the punk-red hair). Contemporary art is big, bright, expensive and eager to please, right? So maximise these qualities, involve as many people as possible (640 paid workers to assemble the gates and 340 volunteer ‘ambassadors’ to open them), and you have a winning formula. Scale of work and size of audience will trump everything else (the hero of the piece might be the head engineer), and the piece will triumph as spectacle. If the actual location of The Gates was the park, its effective site was the global media (including the souvenir market online): that is to say, its site was everywhere.