The Labor Omnimarket

I’m a writer by temperament. Left to my own devices, most of what I do is sit around, take notes in books, and write. I have a degree in journalism which I’ve never used for a job except a two week gig with a local newspaper that was transitioning to digital and was being run by a woman whose background was in online marketing. She decided after I’d done the work that I’d “broken the contract” because I turned in an article an hour late and never paid me. The article was on a Halloween “Witch Walk” event where middle aged women walked around drinking in witch hats. I forget what the exact quotes I got were. Something like “I’m drunk and I’m wearing a hat.”

It was, of course, very hard to take seriously.

Much of what was taught in the Baruch journalism program was a combination of internet marketing techniques and weird brain-dead paeans to the infallibility and wondrous prestige of the New York Times, where many of my professors had worked at varying points. They were scared people, incredibly insecure they weren’t “real” writers, whatever that means. They kept showing us Edward R. Murrow videos to show the shift in broadcast journalism. I’d read Marshall McLuhan, Chomsky, Neil Postman, and Robert W. McChesney by that point. It was a big waste of time and most of the time they would let me just skip classes to go to the library. The school did have an excellent library, with extensive inter-library loan services.

I came out of college into a non-existent job market. Journalism as a thing someone can make a living on just isn’t there anymore. The advertisers have figured out how to control the content in a manner more insidious than the classic narrative of the evil guy with a cigar telling the plucky lady in the movie to kill the story. The pay-per-click creates an environment for the writer where their primary editors are Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Bizarre nonsense stylistics dictated by computers, or the highly coveted demographic of readers who like to read endless, support group style restatements of the same story.

The professors claimed over and over again that strict stylistic guidelines yielded more “truth.” This is, of course, just Taylorization in its prose form-text must be “efficient”, “simple”, “broken down”. It saves more time later on when the consumer does his part in the assembly line of the culture. The lesson being that “truth” itself is just a shifting style guide.

Marx pointed out that chattel slavery was phased out in favor of the wage slavery of the factories because the latter was more efficient for the employer/plantation owner. The employer didn’t have to provide housing or maintenance for the thing he was buying, and could return it any time if he wasn’t satisfied.

The contemporary bourgeoisie wants one better.

Some of you might remember my soda fountain of babel that could fabricate soda flavors endlessly and was only limited by the imagination of the person ordering the soda. Soda though is something that’s mostly consumed by poor people. The bourgeoisie define themselves as consumers in their purchase of labor.

The Amazon style “everything store” of labor is a thing the logistics of which are being bitterly fought over. What’s not controversial is that it resembles/is a temp agency and feudalism in almost equal measures. The website for Triple Crown Consulting, an “HR and staffing firm” sums up the manifest destiny of the future (present?) labor market quite concisely on their home page: “We deliver the technical consultant and direct hire talent you need to aggressively compete in an ever-changing economy.” But even here, there’s a missing part-the most advanced model is the firm as temp agency for itself.

Uber, which claims their employees are “independent” so as to avoid the burdens of upkeep and legal liabilities that come with having traditional employees, is probably the most prominent example. They represent a post-industrial feudalism based around land rent paid for the “real estate” of their website and app. Amazon’s “independent sellers” work similarly. Examples are everywhere.

The cheap day laborers that stand outside Home Depot or Lowes are so ubiquitous as to pretty much be part of the stores themselves at this point. What the internet presents the consumer is the possibility of pure product unencumbered by the unreliable variable of human interaction. As media are extensions of man, some media are recursive extensions of other media. The screen is an extension of the checkout counter to make the person on the other side not a person and therefore able to be controlled and endlessly duplicated. The physical products themselves are increasingly being moved out to warehouses that no one sees except the exploited labor who pull things out of them to be shipped to buyers.

I wonder how far off we are from just having all the temp workers and day laborers themselves stored in giant warehouses waiting to be bought, or more likely, rented like Zipcars. The decentralized labor camp. The omnitemp agency. To some extent, the rudiments of this already exist in a primitive form in the Mechanical Turk. Perhaps this is the more advanced form; the company doesn’t even have to house them in bunks and the workers are invisible and only paid when, in the vague language of the Turk homepage “the employer/”requester”) is satisfied with the results”.

So we progress from the chattel slave to the wage slave to the Turk.

Most writing and journalism work out there at the moment resembles Mechanical Turk except that Mechanical Turk probably pays out sometimes. My professors were right to be nostalgic. They were looking at a dead thing.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

The Fictional Selves Breed Like Bunnies: The Image As Transmigration

Season seven of Curb Your Enthusiasm deals with the fictional (but actual) Seinfeld reunion and the fictional (but actual) Larry David’s divorce. David comes to fear his estranged wife has been sleeping with Jason Alexander, the actor who played the fictional Larry David surrogate George Costanza, and confronts Alexander about this. As a result, Alexander briefly drops out of the reunion, and Larry David tries to play his fictional self, George Costanza, and fails miserably. The season ends with David reunited with his wife. In the final scene, David ruins this second chance by being the embodied actual self of his fictional creation “Larry David”.

This might sound familiar. It’s pretty much the plot of Othello except with Othello also playing Iago and much more humane marriage laws allowing Desdemona to just get a divorce this time.

First as tragedy, then as farce…

Of course, this is also just a particularly pretzeled variation on the standard sitcom trope of the man/woman who lies about him/herself to another man/woman and then keeps escalating the lie, but for one caveat; in the standard telling of this story, the fictional projection of the character, their job as an astronaut, inevitably collapses and the person is forced to own up to the inferior actual self with the result of learning “to be themselves”. Here, George Costanza is much more socially reified as a “reality” than either the real or “fictional” Larry David and probably worth far more money on the books. Larry David, real or fictionalized, is right to be scared.

The self is of course a much more dynamic and subjective thing than any flat actuality could ever “be”. “Just be yourself” translates quite comfortably into another cliche: “know your place.”

Bruce Conner’s Report dramatizes this in terms of the Kennedy assassination. The Brechtian structuralist cinema technique of the flicker is contrasted with the actuality of journalists discussing the assassination as its occurring and footage Conner filmed off his TV. As Conner does in many of his films, the jumbled countdown of a film reel is repeated several times. Kennedy dies; footage of a matador spearing a bull and part of a space age refrigerator advertisement are shown, and suddenly the audio is rearranged so that the new living Kennedy seems to be resurrected as a media manipulation; but then, in the world of the short film and quite possibly ours, he already was.

Cliches and folk stories of the ridiculous frequently resonate as the simultaneous acknowledgement of their legitimacy and this legitimacy’s necessary repression. Several come to mind here: The oft-repeated story of an always changing indigenous tribe believing the camera steals ones’ soul, Ken Jacobs saying the cinema was a seance; a flickering light that made the dead seem to move; Robert Bresson’s numerous lines in Notes on the Cinematographer which further confuse the possibility of a chronology being so simple as the old paradigm of transmigration cleanly being a thing that happens after death:

My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.
Films can only be made by by-passing the will of those who appear in them, using not what they do, but what they are.
But just what are they? The overwhelming desire for fame that makes masses of people clump for it in feverish pastiches of the breadline is not borne of the desire to date outside their weight class and have financial security; these are simply the justifications for the deeper desire for transmigration. And unlike karma, transmigration can happen in this lifetime.

Not all forms of being fictionalized are created equal.

An example from life:

I was physically dragged off stage at the Saratoga Springs High School talent show when I was 16. As I’m now 26, this was ten years ago. I walked into a local open mic and found the ticket taker and another person I knew discussing the event, getting most of the details wrong and not realizing I was the person who was dragged off the stage. I sat listening for a while. I was tickled. I thought “This is the transmigration I wanted; it may be the transmigration I deserved.”

By comparison, the book I wrote and published on my time at Occupy Wall Street was little discussed, a fictional self I presented to the world that’s now sitting in larger quantities than the “real” me ever could in my garage.

Going over some things I wrote several years ago, I found much expressed that I didn’t remember explicitly understanding at the time; more often than not I feel like the words move around with a freedom and boldness I seem unable to conjure in my actual living. They float around in the darkness like fireflies; I chase them because they glow. I manage to capture several in a jar and wake up in the morning to find them no longer glowing…

Chris Marker, director of La Jettee, never allowed himself to be photographed, preferring to be represented in pictures of cats. He attended a post-screening panel for one of his works as a Second Life avatar, where spent most of the time discussing his desire to retire there. Thomas Pynchon has allowed himself to be photographed only rarely, once with bad teeth for a year book and once by a news crew on the condition it be a crowd shot and that the news report couldn’t pick him out of the shot.

The standard comment in this vein, to the unwanted interview, is the classic anthropomorphism of the image: “I’d like to let the work speak for itself.” The earliest incarnations of this phrase I can find in a cursory search is all in the Christian tradition. “May the work I’ve done speak for me, oh Lord…”

Christ of course never bothered writing anything down and was shown almost exclusively as a variety of animal forms from a sheep to a Unicorn for centuries, long before Chris Marker was a twitch in his father’s testicles.

Fred Exley’s great “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes, is an account of Exley trying to make sense of his life, a long string of self-sabotage, institutionalization, and obsessive failure to live up to the examples of his father, NY Giants wide receiver Frank Gifford, and by extension the “American Dream”. Structured like a confession in the tradition of St. Augustine, Exley’s repetitive descents into booze and madness give the sense that he was attempting to lead a life of perfect mediocrity so that he could eventually write the book; like the print is the original and not the woodblock it came from, so A Fan’s Notes seems more real than the living Exley.

Exley seems to realize this; his salvation is in the space of fiction. He recounts getting a job at an advertising firm and finding he suddenly has the confidence to attract women so long as he approaches them with fake names and invented history. When he meets the woman of his dreams, Bunny Sue, the gorgeous “Vassar” blonde of his personal translation of the American dream, despite her being inexplicably and unconditionally in love with him, he finds himself entirely impotent. They try everything but eventually he unconsciously pushes her away with obnoxious behavior and hates himself for doing so. Where St. Augustine found salvation in his mother crying over his transgressions, Exley finds his in going over Bunny Sue’s letters and finding numerous typos and shoddy, boring syntax. In perhaps the only passage of ecstatic joy in the book, Exley imagines the horrific boredom of how he could’ve ended up sitting drinking with Sue Bunny’s parents in their basement watching bad television for the rest of his life; he exclaims he was saved by the comma, the sentence, the image, the word…

My last serious relationship was with a trilingual woman in a prestigious graduate program for art history. I first felt I might possibly have been hopelessly in love with her when, on our first date, we sat in her apartment watching an Eric Rohmer film and she whispered a correction to the subtitles in my ear. She would complain about the deficiencies in the various citation styles, then apologize that it was boring; I was flabbergasted as I found this unspeakably attractive. I could only refute her anxieties there in ardent physical overtures, and for a short period we were both very happy.

Eventually we ran out of things to talk about. I was reluctant to let go, and showered her with improvised fictions and together we nurtured a bizarre fantasy life for our imagined pet, Pusheen the cat.

An example:


kitty’s so fat he needs a rascal scooter

but no cart in the front because the cake’s never making it home

he loves cake he does. and the bakery at the supermarket loves him

and when his little scooter slowly struggles to get to the cakes the speakers change whatever they’re playing to “Happy Together” by The Turtles

but kitty is selfish and consumed by his mad Colonel Kurtz like desire for cake and never notices as he makes his upriver voyage to the heart of chocolate darkness

“I will get what is coming to me! All of it!” Kitty thinks.

the speakers are sad

their gesture has gone unnoticed

but unlike kitties, supermarket speakers have no mouth with which to indulge in the callow cake of disappointment

so when kitty has feasted and left a carcass of crumbs and icing in his wake,

when the night janitor quietly makes his rounds,

they play “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” over and over to the empty parking lot

I sent these, and just as prolifically sabotaged the relationship, or whatever was left of it, through various other means. Ours was a love triangle with a ghost; I saw her as means to the word. She saw this much more clearly than I did at the time.

I’d like to say my feelings of immediate kinship with A Fan’s Notes came from my self-recognition of this, but I read it several months before we met. But time isn’t quite so linear; maybe the text is faster than reality.

Comedic texts of the 20th century, from Stanley Elkin’s The Franchiser to Woody Allen’s Love and Death were frequently dramatizations of man trying to destroy the oppressive monoliths of meaning and “truth” by coming to an agility in nonsense faster than reality itself. Sometimes they win. In Artists and Models, Dean Martin, the paragon of “sense”, teases Jerry Lewis when Jerry goes into a musical number saying that the way they can live on the single canned bean they have for dinner is to imagine it’s a juicy steak. Dean thinks this is stupid and goes to sleep. Meanwhile, an actual steak literally falls out of the sky onto Jerry’s plate.

This seems ludicrous except when you realize that the Jerry Lewis outside the movies could afford to eat steak himself by imagining a person imagining eating a steak.

The story of Kekule discovering the shape of the Benzene molecule in a dream of a snake, the linear, eating itself.

At times dead while waking, at others vigorously alive in our slumber, by varied means we come to similar ends…

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

A curious old relic made in the immediate aftermath of the Second War War, Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House is a good example of a film that’s so outdated it has become almost subversive

Cary Grant plays James Blandings, an advertising executive who lives with his wife and his two daughters in New York City. He’s basically Don Draper, if Don Draper were a nice guy instead of a misogynistic asshole, and were played by a dashing Hollywood icon instead of a mediocre TV actor. While these days his apartment on the Upper-East-Side of Manhattan would probably go for 5000 dollars a month, we’re supposed to think it’s too small. The film never mentions the Second World War, but Blandings, who’s described as “young” by his best friend and lawyer William Cole, is clearly meant to represent 12 million recently demobilized American soldiers who are trying to put their lives together with the help of the GI Bill. While the 44-year-old Grant may seem an odd choice to play a “young” husband and father, the decision to cast the star of films like His Girl Friday and Only Angels Have Wings is central to the film’s overall message. He is the image of what a demoblized American soldier in the late 1940s might have wanted to become.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is both a satirical take on, and ultimately an endorsement of the great move from the cities to the suburbs that took place in the 1940 and 1950s. When James and Muriel Blandings leave Manhattan for suburban Connecticut, they are already an established, upper-middle-class couple with the money to knock down an old farm house, and build an expensive new mansion. Like Mad Men, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House glamorizes the advertising industry even while it purports to criticize it. James Blandings hates his job. He knows the advertising industry “makes people who can’t afford it buy things they don’t want with money they haven’t got.” Indeed, there are times when Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House almost feels as if it had been written by John Cheever by way of Charles Bukowski. Realizing that the commute to Midtown Manhattan will be much more difficult from suburban Connecticut than it was from the Upper-East-Side, Blandings throws his hands up in despair.

JIM: That’s fine! For the rest of my life I’m going to have to get up at five o’clock in the morning to catch the six-fifteen, to get to my office by eight, which doesn’t even open until nine — and which I never get to until ten!

MURIEL: Perhaps if you started earlier you could quit earlier.

JIM: So I could get home earlier to go to bed earlier to get up earlier!

BILL: Maybe you can have the railroad push the train up to four-fifteen — then you won’t have to go to bed at all!

But not so fast. That everything goes wrong is the point. Only the suave Cary Grant could make decisions as foolish as Mr. Blandings does, and still come off looking like something to aspire to. Yes, the film was telling people in 1948, you may get cheated by your real estate agent on the price of the land. You may spent far too much money on that boxy little Cape Code in Levittown. Your commute may be a nightmare, but everything’s going to be OK. Cary Grant and Myrna Loy had the same problems.

What’s more, while James Blandings may hate the advertising industry, the working class, as represented by “Gussie”, the Blandings’ maid, thinks differently. Gussie – who’s black, and who the screenwriter don’t seem to think merits a last name or a back story – is an enthusiastic, happy consumer of the very products Blandings feels guilty about selling. Commissioned by his advertising firm to come up with a new slogan for “Wham”, obviously Spam, a canned meat product at which he turns up his snobbish, Ivy League nose in disgust, Blandings gets a case of writer’s block. For the first time in his life, he can’t think of a slogan. So he decides to quit. He’s willing to give up everything, the new house in Connecticut, the private school for his daughters, the cushy job that doesn’t seem to require him to do much more than think up a slogan or two every six months, just to be an honest man. But in the nick of time, Gussie saves him from having to become a hippie 20 years too soon. “If you ain’t eatin Wham,” she tells him. “You ain’t eatin ham.”

His faith in the consumer society restored, James Blandings “reacts with the sudden exhilaration of Balboa first seeing the Pacific.” He snaps his fingers. “Darling,” he says to his wife, “give Gussie a ten dollar raise!” It’s a happy ending. In the film’s final frame we see a picture of Gussie, smiling, holding a platter with an enormous ham. Under it is a caption.


That it was actually Gussie, not himself, who came up with the successful slogan for “Wham” and that it is she, not he and his family, who should own the new mansion in Connecticut, never seems to occur to James Blandings, nor, I would guess, did it occur to the film’s screenwriters. But you never know. The end of Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House is more ambiguous than the ending of almost any film I’ve ever seen. Were the film’s screenwriters closet anti-racists who were arguing that the plantation house of America was built on the back of the labor of black women? Or were they just clueless? I honestly couldn’t figure it out. See it for yourself. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Whether the writers intended it or not, this creaky old relic of a film exposes the injustice at the heart of the post-war move to suburbia before the Interstate Highway System was even a glimmer in the mind of the yet to be President Eisenhower.

The Space of Not-Knowing: The Internet and Economies of Information

The present is a time of overwhelming access to information. Much of it is contradictory, vague or seemingly meaningless. Far more facts than can ever be processed are available in already digested forms.

Discussions of early Judaism frequently point out the novelty of a community based around a book instead of a geographic proximity. The text translated itself communally over and over, spiraling outward, as the populations themselves drifted into the decentralized pockets of the diaspora. In the fossil record of documents the earliest probable ancestor to the internet is The Talmud.

The internet, like The Talmud, positions the footnote as a corridor in a labyrinth with the invisible everything/nothing of truth (the artist formerly known as God) at its center. It’s the manifestation of emanationism as the spiraling outward as text. The text is meant to beget more text; it orders the universe in footnotes meant to beget more footnotes. Endless commentaries upon commentaries. This is what a Gawker or Cracked does, they’re just not given as much time to write.

This trend continues historically in the Medieval manuscripts’ infamous marginalia. The marginalia’s content is similar to modern social media posts; lots of raucous images of God-only-knows-what and complaints directed toward a possible non-audience that, in some cases, have not been read until now. Some examples:

“New parchment, bad ink. I say nothing more.”

“I am very cold.”

The marginalia exists as the Twitter of the incunabula; the workers’ invisible griping before meme generators and the copy-paste tools’ most direct descendent, the printing press. The printing press and the ability to make relatively cheap and accurate reproductions of photographs in the 20th century led back to the offspring of the medieval marginalia and The Talmuds’ stylistic tendencies while not entirely resembling either.

The printed book, of course, acts as a disciplinary containment facility for information. The editor is “cuts down”, “slashes”, “trims”. The unedited manuscript is undisciplined, wild, free. It resists definition. Like the medieval myth of the unicorn, it runs about unable to be tamed except by a virgin. It is then promptly killed by the hunters of “meaning” and “definitive interpretation.”

The unicorn, in the 1600s, was frequently seen as a translation of the Christ myth.




The fairly recent obsession with attribution and citation exemplified at its most quantitative extreme in academic style guides is not an historical given, and has or has not been enforced for various reasons throughout history.

The early Hasidic Jewish rabbis, anticipating and joyously embracing what Roland Barthes would later call “The Death of the Author”, paid little attention to issues of attribution; they wished themselves to be transmigrated into the anonymous solidarity of folk tales. Books compiling their tales decades after the fact are filled with cautions in their academic prefaces that original sourcing in many cases can’t be found, that stories and saying in “primary” sources will be frequently attributed to multiple rabbis and that the Rabbis seemed to purposely organize themselves to yield this effect. That these stories are as often started with “Rabbi A said often that Rabbi B” said makes the errand of attribution seem that much more ridiculous.

Like Derrida, they see the world as text. Unlike Derrida, they see this as unambiguously the fount of meaning; the ambiguity is in the meaning. “Meaning” is not monolithic; the belief in God is simply an impetus toward more vigorous reading of the world. It’s said the Ba’al Shem Tov described the Torah as a Rabbi Leibe Moshe tells a parable on “The Value of Not Believing In God”. Another rabbi looks for messages from God in telegraph lines and finds it. Not having the book in front of me I must paraphrase this from memory. But that’s what the rabbis wanted, wasn’t it?

“If God is everywhere, then what does he tell us in the telegraph line?” asks a young man.

“That what’s said here can be heard there,” replies the rabbi.

The learned man, incarnated in the form of the rabbi or translated otherwise, comes to knowledge in order to serves the social goal of gerrymandering the negative space of not-knowing, what can’t be known, what knowledge is false.

Lenny Bruce discussed in a bit which diseases were sexy. He was on to something. The same way people imagine their chances dating celebrities who they don’t and can’t know, certain diseases, especially of the psychological variety, are transformed through semiotic democracy into folk heroes, villains, forces, protective or invasive forces in or around the global village. If charisma is looking like a lot of other people, the charisma of a mental illness exists in its ability to look like a lot of other peoples’ minds.

Schizophrenia is the sexiest disease of the last hundred years. The Marilyn Monroe of pathologies. But while Marilyn’s leggy cheesecake was translated into the moving image schizophrenia’s tantalizing provocations reveal their unapproachable sex in the come-ons of clinical jargon and their transmigration into the vernacular use of the term. The popular understanding of schizophrenia is a parable of the present moment and its relation to the weakening of the social hegemony of the “expert”; in the assaultive media saturation of the present, what’s more relatable than someone screaming at the non-normative voices to stop?

The most popular literary forms of the present is the container; the encyclopedia, the strident simplification. These are defense tactics. The new barbarian horde is the unregulated spiraling outward of text.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

On the NSA

(This is a short story from my recently released spoken word album More Apocalypses That Probably Won’t Happen.)

They had found a way to democratize God. Video and audio and 3D drone scanners recorded everything and stored it in giant digital monoliths. You could have your life flash before your eyes without having to die. They sold tickets and built modest little rooms for stragglers and people needing to sleep.

The eternal recurrence was no longer an abstraction and actually became a popular activity among drunken college students and in fraternity hazing rituals. Some came out traumatized but no more than had with psychedelic drugs. Most found it very calming and looked at everything from a wider distance in the future.

Theological figures of all sorts flocked in droves to the machine despite their jealousy of it. Some mockingly compared the experience to absurd contraptions like the orgone box or 8 track tape deck but no one took these criticisms seriously. It was a new era, the thing to come and replace the internet entirely the way the internet had phased out physical media. It was a form of all consuming narcissism penitent enough to be acceptable and soon it would take over everything. People would walk into the machine multiple times consecutively to feel as though falling through an endlessly recursive series of paintings. Dope was legal by then and indulgences were frequently combined. Medic tents run by religious cults like the ones outside Grateful Dead concerts in years past now sat outside the machine with tea and cookies and orange juice. An amphitheater was built and over several summers they came to have a respectable free concert series. Reality seemed more and more to resemble Jones Beach; innumerable perfectly spaced garbage cans in the sand, the tide receding…

Alas we were the way we were and we are the way we are and the window was short and you can’t do that anymore. And now we all wonder what the next thing will be.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

The Products are in Their Heaven, All’s Right With the World

“Whether starting off your morning or enjoying an afternoon or late-night snack, you’ll love the rich texture provided by OmniGrain Cheerios’ distinctive blend of every single type of grain in existence, from the commonplace Australian barley to the previously undocumented Southern blue quinoa, which was recorded by the ancient Inca but was only recently rediscovered by our Cheerios harvest team when scouring the high slopes of Huayna Picchu.”

-The Onion, “New Omnigrain Cheerios Made With Every Existing Grain on Earth”

Working in more than 34,000 square feet, designers created an extraordinary space targeted at young, time-pressured consumers while keeping a consistent brand and marketing strategy. The result is a crisp and dramatic store that presents merchandise categories in easy-to-find placement with effective layout and simple wayfinding communication. A linear ribbon design motif is translated throughout the store in the architectural facade and interior graphics, and a contemporary and narrow palette of colors and materials keeps the attention on the merchandise.

“Ten of the Best Award Winning Supermarket Designs”

The main way a player earns Farm Coins, the less-important of the two in-game currencies, is through harvesting crops or visiting their neighbors. The player does this by paying coins for plowing a unit of land. This readies the land for planting seeds, which will eventually be harvested after a set amount of time. The amount of time it takes for a crop to mature, and how much money a crop yields when harvested, is dependent on the crop planted and is noted on its entry in the “market” dialog.

-Wikipedia entry, Farmville

Premium members (users who pay a monthly fee to Linden Labs) have the ability to own land on the mainland. Landowners pay no additional fees to Linden Lab if they own 512 m² or less. An owner of larger areas of land must pay an increasing additional fee (what Linden Lab calls “tier”) ranging from US$5 a month up to US$195 a month for an entire 65,536 m² of mainland or US$295 a month for an individual island. The issue of “ownership” now is questionable. Mr. Rosedale recently characterized all “ownership” as leasing time on Linden’s servers. The issue of land ownership was at dispute in the Bragg v. Linden lawsuit, which was settled out of court.

-Wikipedia entry, “Real Estate in Second Life”

Although Ghirda works in Romania, the computers and the internet connection he uses are paid for by a company in northern California. is one of a growing number of firms taking advantage of a boom in online computer games by opening ‘virtual sweatshops’, using the low pay in poor countries to provide services for wealthy western players.

-The Guardian, “They Play Games For 10 Hours-And Earn 2.80 in a ‘Virtual Sweatshop'”

I write these essays using a variety of techniques. I learned one from a friend who’s a painter.. I go into Google image search and type in just the thing I want to write about and build a visual reference file and see where the images take me. The other is an inverted form of an anxiety Charlie Brooker mentioned in an interview about Black Mirror, that he tries to come up with innovative science fiction only to find out what he wrote already happened or happens soon after. So I start by imagining a science fiction story, then work backward to figure out how it already exists. Like any piece of writing, these essays are responses to things in my head that you, the reader, never get to see except in impressionistic glimpses and their implications.

And so, with that sort of opening, you’re probably expecting me to walk you through the process of how I came to this essay with precise details, to put the science fiction story and the full set of images out and then follow them with the essay. But you’re wrong. I’m a craftsman of tantalizing disappointments, I take an idea, show you the box, take pre-orders, and then run off with your attentions. After all, I need to make some sort of profit on all this…




I’ve always loved walking around large supermarkets and 24 hour pharmacies in the middle of the night when almost no one is there. They’re museums, but the dead things on display are fresher. They repeatedly remind you of this.

The supermarket near my house has a cafeteria with a soda machine that can mix numerous flavorings, soda syrups, into an ungodly number of combinations controlled through a touch screen menu. Numerous restaurant chains like Chipotle love to remind the public that their assembly line of ingredients can be recombined into several tens of thousands of different results. Multiple computer algorithms have been compiled attempting to mimic (actualize?) Borges’ “Library of Babel”. A video game called No Man’s Sky is near release. In the game, you’re an astronaut exploring 18 quintillion computer generated “planets”, each with their own distinct “landscapes” and “plants”. It took 13 people to make this.

I look at Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of food products this morning. They have a harmony, a perfect bliss about them.  They’re pure in a way that neither man nor cake could ever be except in their metaphysical dreams.

And, of course, you can’t actually eat them.

The supermarket is the consolidated accumulation form of the just plain “market”. But the supermarket has shifted to the even more expansive and consolidated hypermarket. The shopping mall is dying; it relied on an anchor store and could collapse easily if a couple stores left. But the hypermarket is consuming the shopping mall’s remains in order to acquire its strength. The hypermarket can have a food court that never has vacancies.

It’s possible to imagine the collapse of the hypermarket into a new form. Let’s call it the omnimarket. It exists in no single location. It has soda fountains that can fabricate (realize?) flavors in actually infinite combinations constrained only by the user’s sentimental attachments to the soda-normative. Dead products could be resurrected from their remembered DNA and crossed with each other. A Jurassic Park of OK Soda and Butterfinger BB’s.

Our window shopping of childhood, our nostalgia as it stands, already is largely the province of products we remember consuming when we were so much moreso the age we were. Consuming man could crawl back into the womb forever.

Well, presuming he had the money.


The power relations described by Marx, were, like his money form, a social fiction reified, not a thing with a nature. But we ascribe a nature to it anyhow. We call mountains “natural borders”, we ascribe essence to them when a large part of US industry has been their destruction and the creation of holes that have colorful layers not unlike Mr. Thiebaud’s cakes.

Fictitious scarcity, like fictitious capital, seems to reproduce the current hierarchical relations of power as well as their RL ancestors. Second Life can charge “land rent”. World of Warcraft items are “produced” in actual sweatshops. EVE online players created a “bank” and members of the “bank” ran off with a massive sum of the EVE “money”. This “money” can be converted fairly easily into USD, but he chose instead to use it to build a massive ship and destroyed his enemies’ assets, purportedly worth $16,500 (USD). EVE’s parent company now hires several full time economists to prevent crashes. An MMORPG has its own keynesian brain trust.

I though to myself a couple weeks ago, “most arguments over mass entertainments amount to verbal strong-arming over which womb everyone should crawl back into.” I then thought, “why would anyone want roommates in a womb?”

I found my answer. It was obvious. It’s the same reason people want actual roommates. To split the rent.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

The Surgeon on the Mount, or Science: The Theology After God

I was born and come into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

-Jesus Christ, New Testament, John 18:37

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882

“I consider it to be a defensible proposition that no philosopher has helped to elucidate nature; philosophy is but the refinement of hindrance.”

-Peter Atkins, Science As Truth

The good thing about science is that it’s  true whether or not you believe in it.

-Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Twitter post

Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.

-New Testament, John 18:37

Something that humans made. Eva. Something that humans made. Humans are what? Something that God made. Humans are things which humans made. The things I possess are my life and mind. The vessel of a mind. Entry plug, the throne of a soul.

Who is this? This is me. Who am I? What am I? What am I? What am I? What am I?

I am myself. This object is me, the figure which forms me. This is the me that is visible, though it feels as if this is not me. A strange feeling. My body seems as if it is melting. I cannot see myself. My figure is fading away. I am aware of someone else.

-Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episode 14

Nietzsche pointed out the old God was dead in 1882. As is usually the case when a powerful and influential father dies, the children have since been engaged in bitter struggle over the inheritance.

It is hardly a new observation that the cultural place of science and its related philosophic sects such as positivism constitute a theology. This is nowhere more concisely laid out than in the strident claims by its strict adherents that it can’t possibly be one. “Truth” is real estate to be fought over in the war of culture, and nothing going at present has more cultural capital as “truth” than science.

“Scientism” vs. “pure science”, as its been frequently framed, is a sectarian debate. The most common arguments against it frame it as the poor application of science, an untruth, and attempts to disentangle its assertions from the “pure” science that claims to have no ideology. But the old religions emerged, as science did, from an interwoven desire to control and a necessity to meet deeply rooted psychological desires of both the individual and their collective form. The current debate is the cranky teething phase of a folklore, of a theology coming into its own.

Science cannot exist in the public imagination as much other than a mythology outside of, to some extent, the use of medications, wherein the person can at least report back the failings of their psychiatrists and then be chastised for doing so; they didn’t take the communion wafer in good faith. The rest of science can, in theory, be tested, but the proverbial guy on the street does not have the time, resources, or background to navigate the massive body of literature thrown their direction or run endless clinical tests to verify results. They must take the conclusions of science at face value or attempt to navigate a doomed layman’s investigation.

The literature of science and the pieces reified as its landmarks constitute its mythology, the guiding force of a thing that claims to have no biases. It strives to meet the questions answered by Judeo-Christian mythology; the Big Bang is a garden of Eden story deprived of a moral, keeping with Genesis Darwin brought more “begats” than could possibly ever be considered except in small chunks. It has a dual book of Revelations in climate change and the nuclear bomb. They write their end times in the vaporized absence of bodies and cities or their probable starvation instead of in John of Patmos’ dreams.

The populace largely rejects science for reasons of greed or self-preservation. The Koch Brothers, the oil companies, etc. reject global warming because they stand to make massive sums of money on it. The less well off right wingers reject science because they see its end product and driving considerations more clearly than do the scientists. The end project clearly is the control of the populace, even in its seemingly more benign manifestations such as “positive psychology.” They see themselves endlessly manipulated using the techniques of “social science”, in “soft” behaviorism or any of the more than 32 other flavors. They see this in the workplace, at school, and in their homes. These techniques are frequently tested on dogs initially for the supposed need to be “humane”. One wonders if this ritual is simply a means of deflecting oversight so that the product can reach its end users with less friction.


The interior life and dreams of a collective movement and its actions toward inscribing itself on the world are frequently expressed most clearly in its unconscious, and in this manner the dreams of the scientific project as it stands have been most clearly expressed in the seeming impenetrable chaos of TV science fiction. The pieces I’m going to use here is the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is conspiracy theory literature in the high grand tradition of Gravity’s Rainbow. Readers of the latter might remember Pynchon’s literary montage of the 10 sephirot of the Kabbalah, the 10 seconds counted down on the film strip, and the countdown before the dropping of yet another V-2 rocket. Evangelion takes this horrifying moment of contemplation and extends it to its logical endpoint. Its been oft said that the TV cartoon is just a means to sell dolls or action figures*. Evangelion is the dominant ideologies of the present made into action figures and then beat against each other savagely until they break.

Each episode opens with a shot of the sephirot. Its plot revolves around the relationship between a secret society named SEELE hoping to bring about the merger of all men into a jelly called “LCL”, a shady government organization called NERV that produces giant robots that aren’t actually robots but the souls of the pilots’ mothers, and various world governments playing blindly into the desires of these two uneasily aligned organizations. The technological build-up of NERV and their Eva robots is, like many things in post-war Japanese moving pictures, a dramatized means of coming to terms with the atom bomb. In Evangelion the atom bomb is played by an event called “second impact”.

As the Evas get larger and more powerful the lines of their intentional Freudian symbolism shift. Initially they are the literal mother of the young pilots, the mother they must enter in order to stave off outside intruders. NERV keeps trying to replace these unreliable pilots with the pure automation of “dummy plugs“ which could pilot the Evas purely under the control of the military technology that maintains the Evas form. Even the robot form the Eva is a means of hiding their connections to humanity and a means of binding them to the will of powerful men hoping for the world`s being destroyed into something better. In the series finale, the End of Evangelion feature film, they`re destroyed and eaten alive by new Evas that are entirely automated and designed to resemble penile dentata.

The protagonist, Shinji, is a 14 year old boy who`s forced to pilot the Eva and whose father runs NERV, the organization that is the military-industrial complex collapsed into the church; a thing that isn`t either but is both simultaneously. Shinji experiences his unwilling Joseph Campbell-style hero narrative as the Freudian recasting of Oedipus myth (son kills the father to be with the mother) and Cronos myth (father tries to kill son to avoid his being replaced), as the narrative of the coming of age story so common in anime (and so frequently framed in the terms of the chosen child soldier), as the Christ myth (father sends son to die for the sins of humanity), and as the various secular myths revolving around self-actualization. Shinji experiences all of these simultaneously; no single one predominates; it is not a story trying to privilege one over the other but to let them violently clash until they too might coalesce into a unified pool of LCL.

As in so many Japanese films and TV programs, the atom bomb flows back and forth with ease between its actuality toward the metaphor of the destructive collapse of different worlds into each other.

The atom bomb is America`s scientific dream of death projected out into the world. We inoculate ourselves in the myths that it was necessary to end the war, that all of science can`t be indicted in their production and domination of the popular narrative for over half a century. Richard Feynman, in his second book of memoirs, What Do You Care What Other People Think discusses his going over to Japan to accept a physics award and purposely seeking out working class hotels to perpetuate his self-image as a man of the people. He of course did science with the moral blindness it takes as its precepts; he was integral to the Manhattan Project. If he had any moral self-awareness he`d never have the chutzpah to step foot in Japan. But he can, did, and discusses it with a sinister aww shucks false populism that was later used as the artist`s model for the manufactured populist image of George W. Bush.

Feynman saw the bomb in its infancy; in the teleological joy of discovery so prominent in the bedtime stories American science tells itself. America still sees the bomb in such immanently invisible mythical terms as to focus obsessively on its positivistic particulars.The Japanese saw the bomb in its capacity for destruction and annihilation; they saw it with an actuality that precluded any sort of coping mechanism besides the outright production of myths. These Japanese images of the bomb are American scientism`s death dreams, its Revelations photographed with lucidity from the outside. The American imagining of the bomb is the unconscious portraiture of the selfie.

Science has a mythology and exists in a context beyond “objective truth“ whether it wants to admit it or not. Its claims toward being apolitical are, again, its cowardly decision to bask comfortably in the inertia of the present.


Well yeah, of course it is. Things with little positivistic merit make claims to science or its idealized self, objectivity, the perfected vision of man based around man`s removal of himself. Man failing to live up to the precepts of science the same way he once failed to live up to the metaphysical demands of God. Science`s product pretends to be endless academic papers but the part of science that makes it to the larger population is in disgusting toxic imitations of food, military and surveillance technology, and more “efficient“ techniques of managing employees.

The “perfection“ of nutritional science presents itself commercially in the laughable portmanteau “100% Food.“

From their website:

Designed to fit today’s lifestyle of busy and health-conscious professionals concerned about wasting time.

Looking over their homepage, we see that the actual concern is speed and the impediment of actual food on being the perfect employee. Time is only “wasted“ in the eyes of the capitalist. Visually, science`s metaphysically pure “food“ resembles the vomited up form of its close ancestor, a punishment for unruly prisoners-nutraloaf.

The resources necessary for increased production and nothing more. The prisoner and the civilization on which wars are waged as its testing ground. Science under capitalism could produce little else-the resources for its application are necessarily those of massively concentrated wealth. BF Skinner`s Walden Two described his utopia; Noam Chomsky rightly pointed out that it resembled a concentration camp.

Oh what to do, what to do…

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

*The term “Action figure” was invented because boys refused to play with “Dolls”.


I call it “The Present” or “Our Winesburg, Ohio”.

One hour apiece worth of fabricated programming for eight non-existent television stations will be filmed replete with advertising. There will be:

1. A traffic channel, split into four grainy feeds. One feed shows cars intermittently driving off an unfinished road into a lake, another shows an intersection where the red and green lights are playing in predictably disastrous polyrhythms with each other. One is the vernacular image seen so frequently in rest stop security feeds of the parking lot without a building attached.

The fourth panel is plagiarized storm warning announcements.

2. A QVC clone where the presenters look the same but they’re literally pulling things out of a garbage can and placing them on the soft-lit rotating glass plate. Get actors from regional cable ads to do the chatter. Put a number at the bottom where people can actually call in and purchase the itemized pieces of garbage.

3. A news channel that loops the same video of a car burning and various incoherent sound-bites about the local politics for a locality that only exists in this fictional basic cable package.

4. A station that plays parts of 3 episodes of a syndicated sitcom package showing people in a nondescript workplace who don’t say any words but alternate laughing while patting each other on the back/handing each other cookies then laugh at people tripping over large objects and injuring themselves. It has a laugh track obviously. The advertisements are mostly for reruns of shows that never actually ran showing the same repeated actions but in a home and different looking workplaces. However interspersed in these are a series of poorly shot regional used car lot advertisements that progress over the hour to elliptically show the owner’s divorce and weight gain.

5. A CNN clone that’s actually just an intern in a broom closet reading the internet to old people. Maybe have a bunch of old people in folding chair watching him read this like they have the kids do on Reading Rainbow. A sort of Meals on Wheels program that never travels or feeds anyone.

Chaotic tickers of incoherent text run in all directions at all times.

The advertisements are like those for medical products, but stripped of the products. They consist of endless soft lit images (think Mormon recruitment videos) of smiling old people pushing adorable children on scooters or (slowly) frolicking. Each one ends with a kind voice saying “ASK YOUR DOCTOR” and an illegible list of side effects.

6. An entertainment news program where the hosts and all the paparazzi pictures of celebrities getting arrested or not getting arrested always have wide open smiles showing impossibly clean teeth. The advertisements are all just chunks of the program itself reordered to sell tooth whitening strips.

7. A PBS style documentary with various academic talking heads shot Ken Burns style nostalgically lamenting the “quirky” lost world of sweatshops and flop houses. Just tack the standard “Funded by the Ford Foundation and the support of viewers like you!” bumper verbatim.

8. An American Idol style program where the people don’t sing but just stand in harsh lights while successful well dressed people in chairs say sentences pulled from self-help books or NY Post articles about black men killed by the police out of context to an empty room that still somehow makes cheering and booing noises. Could probably just make the advertisements for it actual ITT Tech and “consolidate your debt” ads. Also an ad for a L’Oreal cream that actually replaces your face.

Add a 9th premium channel for people willing to pay extra to go into the exhibit that just shows an hour of the broadcast of the Baltimore Orioles game where no one legally could show up.


An art gallery will be parceled using cubicle dividers into different rooms with doors that may or may not lock depending. It should collectively resemble an urban apartment complex.

20 individual people/couples from different income brackets and walks of life will be given correspondingly uneven budgets to decorate and live in these rooms for a month before the exhibit opens with the stipulations that they must put at least one thing to sit on and some sort of television.

Once this process is finished, the 8 or 9 channels will be broadcast to the TVs in the rooms in a full one hour loop. Gallery goers will pay for one hour intervals to live in these apartments and watch the TVs. They will be given apartment assignments randomly when they walk in.

Gallery goers will also randomly without warning be assigned roommates, other gallery goers and people hired from temp agencies in unrelated fields as something like seat fillers at the Oscars.

Because they will all only have an hour and a remote control, they must curate what they see of the images themselves and at what volume they watch it at. The person can turn the television off if they choose to. The only thing they’re required to do is stay the hour in the room.

The cubicle walls will be purposely thin so that if a person turns their volume up high enough the person in the neighboring cubicle will hear it.

No maintenance will be done to the rooms, but among whatever objects the initial settlers decorate with, a set of cleaning products will be placed there and switched out as they run out. No instructions will be given to visitors whether they should or shouldn’t touch or rearrange any of the objects in the room. It’s a distinct possibility if people come multiple times that certain areas of the exhibit could gentrify themselves.

Gallery attendants will check on the viewers once within the hour, knocking on the door to hand out Jehovah’s Witness fliers or sell candies. They will not be labeled as gallery attendants and if possible should be actual Jehovah’s Witnesses or people selling candy to support youth basketball programs given basic instructions on how to interact with the exhibit.

There could potentially be promotions of “date nights”. The installation should run itself out until the accumulated conditions cause the gallery building to be condemned by whatever actual city it’s set up in.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

The Crowd (1928) Our Daily Bread (1934): An Occupy Movie 80 Years Before Its Time

Early in King Vidor’s renowned silent film The Crowd, a 21-year-old man named “Johnny Sims” is sailing into lower-Manhattan on a ferry. He and another passenger lean over the railing to admire the skyline. In 1928, New York City didn’t have any glass towers. The World Trade Center had not yet come and gone, but lower-Manhattan, especially from the water, was still an awe-inspiring site. In the film, you can still see the Singer Building, a great old skyscraper that was torn down to make room for One Liberty Plaza in the 1960s. Johnny, like many other young men, has come to make his fortunate in the big city. His fellow passenger is less naive.

Passenger: You’ve gotta be good in that town if you want to beat the crowd.

Johnny: Maybe…but all I want is an opportunity.

In the next sequence, by far the most famous part of the film, we immediately recognize how influential The Crowd has been, having been “sampled” by Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, and even Ridley Scott for the wildly overrated Blade Runner. The camera no longer follows the perspective of one man. Rather, we see New York City from what, for lack of a better term, could be called a “God’s Eye Perspective.” It begins on 45th Street, hovering above the great crush of people at Times Square. It shifts to Wall Street, then lower Broadway. After flying over the docks, the “El,” and swooping in for a shot of crowds of people oozing out of the subway, it comes to rest on 120 Broadway, the Equitable Building, a massive 40-story pile of concrete, darkness and shadow looming over what is now Zuccotti Park. The camera rotates, and pans upwards, climbing the gigantic structure, which is subtly replaced by a model, giving the illusion that the movie’s Equitable Building is even more gigantic than the real Equitable building, and zooms through a window to reveal row after row of men working at row after row of desks. Orson Welles often gets credit for having invented the image in The Trial, but clearly it should go to King Vidor for The Crowd. After the camera pans down one row of desks, we finally learned what happened to Johnny Sims. He’s a faceless office worker at a dead end job watching the clock, waiting for it to turn 5 so he can go home, study, and elevate himself above the mass. The irony of course, is that he doesn’t quite realize that he’s already part of the mass, something that the camera has just demonstrated with grandiose power.

For anybody who camped out at Occupy Wall Street in 2011, the Equitable Building will be a familiar sight. The story will be even more familiar. Bankers and cops used to taunt people at Occupy Wall Street with “get a job you hippies.” Johnny Sims, who was played by the novice actor James Murray, already has a job. Little good that will do him in the end. Soon, Johnny has a girlfriend, then a wife, then an apartment near the El, and two children. Mary, Johnny’s wife, is played by King Vidor’s wife Eleanor Boardman. Tall, beautiful, intelligent, endlessly patient with her husband’s inability to climb out of his dead end clerical job, she’s just about as perfect as perfect can get, far too good for a passive loser like Johnny. Her parents and her two bothers think the same way. Why did she marry such a chump? We agree. Even though Vidor had no idea about what was coming in 1929, Johnny’s trajectory is inevitably downward. The honeymoon over, they begin to squabble. More accurately, Johnny lashes out at Mary at every conceivable opportunity while she suffers in silence. After their little girl is killed by a careless truck driver — it’s a horrifying scene and probably the film’s best image of the suffocating “crowd” after the early pan over the Equitable Building — Johnny loses his will to live. Even as Mary soldiers on, Johnny’s work ethic deteriorates. He quits his job. She encourages him. There are better jobs out there, she says. But even in 1928, you didn’t just quit one job than move up to a better one. Who hires the unemployed? He tries selling vacuum cleans. He fails. Mary’s brothers offer him a place at their firm. He won’t take “charity.” He tries getting day labor, but there are already so many unemployed men, he doesn’t stand a chance. Eventually he finds himself leaning over a set of railroad tracks watching a passing train, the image deftly echoing the early scene where he leans over the railing of the ferry, young and full of dreams. Now he’s contemplating suicide. The only thing that saves him is his little boy.

Son: Why don’t you never play with me any more? I like to play with you. Doesn’t Momma like you? I like you. When I grow up I wanta be just like you.

John: You still love me? You still believe in me, boy?

Son: Sure I do, Pop!

John: We can do it, boy! We’ll show them!

Earlier in the film, on their first date, Johnny and Mary had taken a ride on a double decker bus along lower Broadway. Johnny was still young and confident. Mary, in turn, thought she had landed a good catch. Johnny was handsome, charming, and employed. Like any young, good looking couple in Manhattan, they felt superior to the people around them, “the crowd.” They look down on a human advertisement, a man dressed in a clown suit, walking along the sidewalk, juggling three balls to call attention to a sandwich board.

MAKE YOUR FEET HAPPY – Buy Your Shoes at Brockton’s.”

“The poor sap!” Johnny scoffs, “and I bet his father thought he would be president!” Now, as an unemployed, unhappily-married man who quit his job only because he knew he’d eventually get fired, Johnny is the “poor sap.” Knowing his little boy loves him, however, saves him. He’s finally a better man than he was at 21. He will take any job he can get, and, in a crushingly ironic stroke of narrative genius, the only job he’s offered is the same job he had mocked years before. Johnny, who’s always loved to perform in front of crowd — a recurring image throughout the movie has been him thoughtlessly strumming on a ukulele while his wife did the housework – accepts. What’s more, even though he’s miserably paid, and quite literally has to walk around all day dressed up like a clown – that’s what capitalism does to workers – he’s actually good at it. His transformation comes just in time. His wife is about to leave him forever. She almost does. In the end, however, they stay together. Johnny convinces his wife not to go back home with her two brothers. In the very last scene, which bookends the great panning shot up the Equitable Building, Johnny and Mary sit at a movie theater. They laugh. They’re happy. The camera pans back, revealing row after row of laughing movie goers. They’re all happy. Johnny, at long last, has accepted being part of the crowd.

Is it a genuinely happy ending? I suppose it beats Johnny’s killing himself in front of his little boy, but Vidor is begging the question. Having convincingly shown us how a working-class marriage will inevitably be torn apart by debt, dead end jobs, and the pressure of capitalism as it manifests itself in “the crowd,” he’s now telling us that the family is a refuge from America capitalism. The ending of “The Crowd” becomes even more problematic when we realize what’s coming in 1929. Johnny and Mary, laughing in the movie theater, hoping to keep their family together through hard work and persistence, are more doomed than they know they are, more doomed than even Vidor knew they were in 1928. “Get a job,” the banker and the cop say. In 1930, you might just as soon have jumped in front of a train.

In 1944, King Vidor, John Wayne, Ward Bond, and a group of right-wing actors and directors would go on to form the proto-McCarthyite Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. That makes it all the more astonishing that in 1934, Vidor would make Our Daily Bread, the openly communist sequel to The Crowd. Indeed, while my knowledge of Soviet movies is limited, I might also hazard to guess that, as communist propaganda, Our Daily Bread ranks pretty high.

When Our Daily Bread opens, John and Mary Sims are still married — there’s no sign of their little boy — and still struggling financially. Mary Sims, not incidentally, is now played by Karen Morley. Eleanor Boardman had not been able to make the transition from silent film to the “talkies.” John Sims is played by Tom Keene. Vidor had offered the part to James Murray but Murray, having been unable to secure acting roles after The Crowd, and now drinking heavily, took offence. In an eerie parallel to his character in The Crowd, he considered Vidor’s offer “charity.” In an even more eerie parallel, he committed suicide two years later at the age of 35. About to be evicted from their apartment, Mary invites her uncle over for dinner, hoping he will either give Johnny a job, or lend them money. The uncle comes up with a better idea. He owns a piece of property in up-state New York. It’s vacant. He can’t sell it. Why don’t the couple “go back to the land,” move in, and start a farm? John and Mary take him up on his offer, but they know nothing about farming. Help comes in the form of Chris Larsen, a Swedish immigrant played by the great character actor John Qualen, who would go onto play “Muley” in John Ford’s transcendent Grapes of Wrath. Chris teaches John and Mary how to farm. He also teaches them how to catch and cook rabbit, how to “live off the land”.

If Our Daily Bread stopped there, it would be little more than a pastoral. But Johnny comes up with a better idea. If two people can make money farming, why not 10? If capitalism has failed them, why not communism? So Johnny and Mary recruit a group of down on their luck victims of The Great Depression. Vidor is smart enough to realize that even under communism, some people who would be valuable in a better world just won’t fit into this one. Johnny and Mary reject a concert violinist. He doesn’t have the skills, but they accept a menacing ex-con who knows how to drive a tractor. Soon, Johnny no is longer the loser he was in The Crowd, but a forceful, commanding leader of a socialist cooperative. The ex-con, redeemed by his practicality turns out to be a stroke of luck. Wanted on felony charges, he has a young woman disguise herself as Mary and turn him in for the 500 dollar reward, a noble act of self-sacrifice that allows the Sims to buy critical supplies they need to keep the cooperative going.

Our Daily Bread ends on a note of triumph. The Sims cooperative, fearing they will lose their crops because of a drought, get together and dig an irrigation ditch to a reservoir two miles away, bringing the needed water. But it’s an earlier scene that makes Our Daily Bread genuinely radical, and probably the reason the studios rejected their proposal. Vidor funded the movie with his own money. It’s one of the first “independent” films in American cinema. Mary’s uncle had lied to the young couple. He didn’t have equity in the farm at all. It was already in foreclosure. He only made the offer because he was sure they would fail and wanted to brush them off. The sheriff comes to auction off the land. Buyers arrive. But before anybody can put in a bid, they’re surrounded by the farm’s workers, and it’s strongly implied hat anybody bids too high will probably be killed. The potential buyers leave, and the Sheriff is forced to sell the farm back to the Sims for a little under two dollars. A private farm, once a gift from a dishonest capitalist, is now a genuine collective. Land, having fallen into the hands of the banks, is taken back by force. No wonder Ben Urwand, in a badly argued book called The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler tried to smear King Vidor as a favorite of Hitler.

As pure cinema, Vidor’s sequel to The Crowd is flawed. As a statement about the Great Depression, and indeed, about 2008’s Great Recession, Our Daily Bread is as radical in 2015 as it was in 1934, an “Occupy” movie 80 years before its time. I half expected the NYPD to break down my door and confiscate my computer while I was watching it.

Money Hates Your Heineken and Wants to Fuck


money-case-163495_1280“You can get money for blood,
Blood money for doing no good,
But they won’t take my love for tender”
-Elvis Costello, Clean Money
“Pimp put on weight from fighting them off,
In the mall, you see it and like it, it’s yours,
Thats a nice fit, you ain’t gotta price, shit,
I pays for it like the mics in The Source”
-J Dilla, Won’t Do
“Defendant testified that even though both Plaintiff and her mother told him that all they wanted was an apology, he called Plaintiff’s home and spoke to her mother to offer money for Plaintiff’s ‘education.'”
“One never could ‘buy’ indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences.”
“You got one that’s cool,
Nowadays everybody got two, that’ll do,
but I need another one,
and another one”
-J Dilla, Won’t Do
“… Further, it is anticipated that discovery will reveal that various business associates were aware of Defendant’s actions and not only failed to warn Plaintiff but actively participated in her victimization.”
“It was the ’70s, everybody—people did this. And there it all was: monsters, rock-and-roll, a spooky castle, leather jackets, motorcycles, cannibalism, polymorphous perversion, and, as promised, ‘lots of larfs and sex!'”
“When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?”
-Allen Ginsberg, America
Money as cleansing baptism. (Screencap from Duck Tales. copyright: Disney Corporation)

A map published of the terms most used in searching for pornography in the United States shows the Republican areas surrounding the Stand Your Ground state of Florida searching the term “ebony”. Florida’s top search term is “cream pie.”In a similar manner, money’s most closeted desire and intensely focused lust revolves around its own miscegenation. It wants to make markets with anything and anyone, but in the privacy of globalization. The “developing world” is the bathroom where money jerks off for fear of anyone seeing it. Globalization is the sex tourism of the thing without sex.

Its sexuality intermingles with its castration anxiety in a potent stew that pushes the dialectic of the personal and private toward new extremes. What was once termed “the denial” is now also the confession; this is the true meaning of Orwell’s “doublespeak.” Linguistic obfuscation is so widespread as to replace its opposite and become meaningless.

To he who hath all shall be given. To he who hath not, even what he hath shall be taken away.

The social chameleon, the method actor, the corporate sociopath, the confidence man and their overlaps. All embody the deeply shared dream of complete elasticity of identity.This is why we obsess over them.

Marx calls money “the universal equivalent“. McLuhan frames it as a thing that translates objects and puts them into rigid spacial relations in the manner of the printed word. It’s a translation tool the way a map translates the environment. With urban planning, the map comes to replace the primacy of the environments it initially describes as the money takes centrality over the use-value of the products it translates.

The beloved method actors (Streep, Nicholson etc) have two primary characteristics at the center of their styles: 1) they seem able to “become” anyone, 2) in doing so they tend to also dominate their environment.

Performers who can translate themselves with perfect fluidity so as to dominate their environment.

The ultimate Oscar bait role is that of the currency.

Memory wipe.

I searched “money” on Google images today and 90% of the results were either:

1) Stacks of it arranged to resemble architecture, the urban environment in back-translation.

2) Pictures of it in rolls unintentionally resembling paper towels or intentionally like toilet paper.

Money is a cleaning product. It allows us to get dirty without lasting consequence.

We dream of being baptized in it and reborn like Jay Gatsby. Gatsby’s greatest sin, the reason he had to die, was that his money was “false.”

Money baptizes and cleans by making things real. Telling people I shot a film for $53, they frequently respond “Oh, ok, I thought you meant a real movie.”

I’m in my mid-20s. People ask me all the time:

“So when are you going to get a real job?”

Robert Ashley states it best:

“Television is neither true nor false.
It’s industry.
Television made without industry…
Alone, in a word…
Can cause a sinking feeling.
There can be a loss of trust.
Fear not darkness, i.e.,
Not industry.
Nor your own…
Everybody works to be a part of industry.
To be a part of industry is to be real.
If you’re a part of industry, both in your
Industriousness and in the nature of your work,
There is a chance that everybody will like your work,
Because it is a part of industry.
And things that are not a part of industry
Are not possible to like.
Likeability is less important than
Recognition by the industry.
‘N that’s a reason to be serious.”
Capitalism is a Catholicism that runs entirely on indulgences. The calls of the neolibertarians are an argument for its secular divine right.

 Charles Atlas.jpg

You’ve all probably seen this ad before.

It works entirely in visual reversals organized like an onion. The first and last panels are mirrors, as are the second and second to last. Skinny becomes “real” by literally becoming the bully in different colored shorts.

And the little ball at the center of the onion, the self-creation of the image. Skinny can’t be sure he’s ready to return to the beach for revenge until going through Lacan’s mirror.

The dream is colorful and draws the eye. The actual Charles Atlas, black and white and quite possibly dead by the time this ad was printed, can hardly compete. The top half is the promised wish-fulfillment of the image; the bottom its translation into the then language of the preceding era, an era as dead as Charles Atlas, the massive block of text.

Of course the all caps “YOU” next to Atlas’s head is the missing double to the cartoon’s unpaired image of the mirror. The second person is the written word’s invitation to style ourselves in its carefully distorted reflection.

The male and female reader will validly and subconsciously read the seemingly empty female character legitimately but differently the same way I don’t look like you in a mirror just because we both looked into it.

The female reader sees her as the prize being fought over, the man sees her as the emperor in the gladiator’s arena giving the thumbs up or down.

How do MRAs feel oppressed and not silly? That’s how.

The woman here and elsewhere in the terrain of mass media-the invisible-visible specter of social rejection. Skinny can give the bully a “love-tap” actively but only passively hope for the approval of the supposed thing he actively desires. In the possessive male gaze: the anxiety nothing is looking back.

The beds have been changed but the dreams haven’t.

America initially existed as the fervent prayer there might be a world elsewhere. The denial of the utopia only seems to increase its absent presence as a ghost floating over the proceedings of existence.

We look at America and see ourselves or our absence and little else.

The mirror does not return out gaze.

A new sort of capital is fought over in the distorted photocopy of class war that dominates the present-the careful, controlled distribution of assertions against the anxiety of non-existence.

Defined functionally: the “like” button, the “upvote”. The strike of the current moment is the consumer strike.

To go back to the beginning of this series of articles, I again ask myself of the Reddit strike: “Why didn’t they consider it a strike? Why wasn’t the thing they wanted compensation?”

I answer this time: the Reddit strikers were asking for were improved conditions in their corner of the internet, the factory where they work all day consuming things. They self-define as consumers. They revolt on these lines. Internet revolts are revolts of the consumer. They ask for their favorite TV shows to be renewed, they fight ardently for equality in the space of image production. The first and most ardently protected part of Occupy Wall Street was the “Media Working Group”. When the park grew they eventually escaped the park into the privacy of an office.

McLuhan mentions in Understanding Media: “When the Spaniards were besieging Leyden in 1574, leather money was issued, but as hardship increased the population boiled and ate the new currency.”

Cannibalism has always been most rich as a metaphor. Fully commodified man, the product sold to advertisers, has become money walking. He can only revolt by eating himself alive.