Thursday, March 19, 2009


It was unfair to have Radiohead as our soundtrack tonight. I got too drunk too soon on that music--it started to flay me alive. I began to lift my veils, and the flailing of my hands did not wave away you so much as my own impulse to succumb to the persistent plea of that dark rhythm...

The first time my bloodstream was poisoned with music was at a Radiohead concert in 2001. I was with a beautiful boy. The kids behind us let us take hits off their bowl. I stood there, next to him, as our heads began to lower, as if in prayer, but our feet beat demonically and then our heads involuntarily began to rock, and then our hips began to sway, and our arms started to yield as well. We danced because movement was survival. We moved because our bodies were not our own. And the lights and the persistent beating of that invisible sonic force against my chest... And there was Thom, flailing around on that massive stage like a man in the throws of frenzy... He was mad, and free. He punched buttons on his little black beatbox, a satyr leading us all to that Bacchic plane of existence where right and wrong do not exist, where I and You dissolve, where there is only the immediacy of movement, of light and sound, and the pleasure of a singular body whose edges are blurring into infinite plurality...

I used to chase this ek-stasy, this frenzy, this beside-myselfness at Berlin, where the climax of a packed dance floor allowed the initial solitude of anonymity and then the massive expanse of loss of selfhood as music and darkness absorbed me into is clutches. I used to dance with beautiful shadows, men whose names I cannot summon, whose faces never really appeared, and I used to fuck these phantoms, still crazed with music and drink and Dionysiac pathos behind those thin walls, under stairways, in the shrouds of thick August air.

At some point, however, perhaps when I learned there were rules to the dance floor, the poison of blared dance-music failed to stir my bloodstream, and I started to lurk at the lips of the bar, drink in hand, suveilling the scene, with measured intentions clouding my ability to dance. I would advance, but the froth of saliva was too thick on my breath, and the glint in my eye unmistakable.
I did not damn those boys who saw clearly, but I was ruthless with those who failed to see, those who were too punched-up to read my intent--this is will be violence, my lips sneered, and they blankly blinked and giggled.

Not to my friends, nor to my father, nor to my mentor did I dare admit that I’d allowed the festival to become a sacrificial alter. But there was too much blood; too many ghoulish faces drifting somewhere in my dreamscape. I needed to walk away, and then the first snow fell like mercy.

I asked: Is it possible for the Dionysian intimacy of music, drink, light, bodies, sex to appear in the singular… is it possible to love? Not so many unknown bodies, but one body to hold but never exhaust or extinguish; not the night of a dance floor, but the dark of a bedroom for the play of bodies; not the intoxication of sonic pulsation, but the dizzy loss of breath barely recaptured in the curve of his neck; not an infantile, Imperialist “great-game,” but a tragedian’s immortal poem.

A boy twice mistook my meaning, not recognizing my overcoming, and I do not hold it against him, except until he began to glean the shifted prevue of my horizon and attempted to ingratiate himself into it. This, of course, was nothing but bad faith and false promises, and I discovered I needed to learn to read the difference between a charlatan’s hastily adorned costume and the rags of a boy impoverished by the limits of language. (After all, this poor boy is a philosopher: “He is a sort of barefoot waif who goes out under the stars seeking out an encounter with reality, the embrace, the knowledge or perhaps a shared birth, of whatever benevolence, beauty, or wisdom might be found there.” [Irigarary, _An Ethics of Sexual Difference_, 24])

I became a writer, and a reader, and a professor of philosophy (adjunct). And you met me, for a third time, one night when my daring was born of a misrecognition too profound to articulate save by acting, with boldness. My first address, it is true, was a renunciation, and your body across the table from mine the following night was confirmation of my capacity to overcome (unknown heretofore in this incestuous, circumscribed, ghettoed community).

I became a writer, and a reader, and a philosopher. I sculpted my courses around the monumental questions I wrestle with: Can queers create an agonistic, democratic political space apart from insidious regimes of heteronormativity? Is there “true” friendship in this community--accepting Aristotle’s distinction between a) friends of use, b) friends of pleasure, and c) true friends? Of what does intimacy consist in this community? is it the fleeting fuck of a drunken evening? or can queers risk release to the vulnerabilities of inter-and intra-personal intimacy? How does this intimacy manifest itself?—is it perhaps like that of the Oracle at Delphi, neither speaking nor concealing, but giving signs?

I am a reader first and foremost, and a writer second, and always a philosopher-poet. I have been long been fascinated with Nietzsche’s concept of a “pathos of distance” (BGE, Sect. 257). The other day, while preparing my lecture notes on Heraclitus, I read Philip Wheelwright’s introduction to the fragments and _testimonia_ and found this gem: “The attitude [of Heraclitus] is shaped by what Nietzsche has called a ‘passion of distance.’ By this phrase, which can serve as one of the main keys to the Nietzschean philosophy, Nietzsche means to include at once the ‘Dionysian’ passion…and the ‘Apollonian’ power of self-overcoming, of utter serenity in the midst of battle.” (PS, 67)

The true philosopher--and I take this to mean: the Heraclitean, Nietzschean philosopher--is both passionately beside himself, while also affirming ordered self-hood. The true philosopher is an artist, swept-up and yet somehow channeling, shaping the pathos of creativity.

My trepidatious first swipe at the coiled Gordian knot of questions I lay before my own passage may be articulated as such: We must destruct the myth of immediacy if intimacy is to be possible… Our ethics must consist of patience, of not insisting on a hasty, vulgar nudity, but rather of the play of veils—now revealing, now hiding, and always speaking in signs. It is an ethical intimacy of readership, and it demands the daring of a writer’s pathos, and the philosopher’s keen, judging eye.

I realize that perhaps my hesitance over sharing that I’ve read you emerged as shame because I wish a reader as scrupulous as I myself am. Yes, ashamed... whence my veils (or, Victorian propriety)? Is it asking of (a) "You" too much? May I (finally) voice my desire to have the corpus of my prose handled with care by (a) "You," so that I may allow (a) "You" to care for the poetics of my body? This is my armor, my amour--so many hinges, so many revealings and concealings, and always the faint scent of a conversation that has ignited my imagination.

Indeed, I recoil at the "moment of truth" because my truths cannot be contained in the stilted sputtering of my lips and tongue. I wave it away, like it were a malevolent spectre, a ghastly presence, Bergman's bearer of the Seventh Seal--and I refuse to play his game of chess. The question itself cannot be answered: it desires finality, the cessation of movement. But hands are birds, and I enjoy watching their flight too much to have their flitting grandeur alight on an answer so crude.

Yes, my bloodstream is poisoned—with the vestiges of gin, 4 cups of green tea, 20mg of amphetamines, and the playlist I document below. It is, perhaps, the only way I could ever endure to publish something of this sort.

*1) There, There-Radiohead--"In pitch-dark I go walking in your landscape... Broken branches trip me as I speak... Just 'cause you feel it, doesn't mean it's there... We are accidents waiting to happen..."

2) Faust ARP-Radiohead-- "dead from the neck up, I guess I'm stuffed, stuffed, stuffed...we thought you had it in you but no, no, no... exactly where do you get off... is enough, is enough...for no real reason"

3) You And Whose Army-Radiohead--"Come on, Come on: You'll think you'll drive me crazy?... you and whose army? You and your cronies? Come on, come on if you think you can take us all... You and whose army?"

4) Karma Police-Radiohead--"For a minute there, I lost myself..."

5) Up On a Ladder-Radiohead--"Watch me dance, I'm a puppet: you can almost see my strings" ( )

6) We Suck Young Blood-Radiohead--"Are you sweet? Are you fresh? Are you strung up by the wrists?...We want the young blood... Won't let the creeping ivy/Won't let the nervous bury me/Our veins are thin/Our rivers poisoned... We want the sweet meats... We want the young blood"

7) Creep-Radiohead--"I don't care if it hurts/I want to have control/I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul/ I want you to notice when I'm not around/ You're so fucking special/ I wish I was special... But I'm a creep..."

*8) The Eraser-Thom Yorke--"Please excuse me, but I've got to ask: Are you only being nice because you want something?... The more you try to erase me: the more, the more, the more that I appear..."

*9) Harrowdown Hill-Thom Yorke--"We think the same things at the same time, we just can't do anything about it."

10) I Can't-Radiohead--"Please forget the words that I just blurted out/ It wasn't me, it was my strange and creeping doubt/ It keeps rattling my cage/ And there's nothing in this world that'll keep it down..."

11) Reckoner-Radiohead--"You are not to blame for/ Bittersweet distractor/Dare not speak its name...Because we separate like ripples on a blank shore/...Reckoner.../take me with you..."

12) Sail To The Moon-Radiohead--"I sucked the moon...I spoke too soon...And how much did it cost?"

13) Thinking About You-Radiohead--"Been thinking about you, and there's no rest, shit I still see you in bed. But I'm playing with myself, and what do you care, when the other men are far, far better."

14) Let Down-Radiohead--"don't get sentimental, it always ends up drivel. One day, I'm gonna grow wings, a chemical reaction, hysterical and useless..."

15) I Will-Radiohead--"I will, Lay me down, In a bunker, Underground. I won't let this happen to my children. Meet the real world coming out of your shell. With white elephants, sitting ducks. I will rise up. Little baby's eyes... eyes, eyes, eyes..."

*16) The National Anthem-Radiohead--"Everyone...Everyone around here....Everyone is so near...I'm so alone..."

*17) Like Spinning Plates-Radiohead--"While you make pretty speeches, I'm being cut to shreds...You feed me to the lions, a delicate balance.... And this just feels like spinning plates..."

18) Talkshow Host-Radiohead--"I want to...I want to be someone else or I'll explode...You want me? Fucking well come and find me. I'll be waiting with a gun and a pack of sandwiches... And nothing...nothing...nothing. You want me? Well come on and break the door down. You want me? Well fucking come on and break the door down... I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready..."

19) Bulletproof...Wish I Was-Radiohead--"Wax me, Mould me, Heat the pins and stab them in. You have turned me into this...I just wish that I was bulletproof."

20) Paranoid Android-Radiohead--"When I am king, you will be the first against the wall, with your opinion (which is of no consequence at all)...You don't remember, you don't remember why don't you remember my name? Off with his head, man--Off with his head, man... I guess he does..."

21) Street Spirit (Fade Out)-Radiohead--"This machine will not communicate/ These thoughts and the strain I am under."

*22) Skip Divided-Thom Yorke--"I'm known to bite in tight situations... Yeah you are a fool, For sticking round... I tried every trick in the book... I tried to look at you..."

*23) The Clock-Thom Yorke--"It comes to you begging you to stop: wake up!...You make believe that you are still in charge."

24) Life in A Glass House-Radiohead--"Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat... (But someone's listening in...)"

*25) Idioteque-Radiohead--"I'll swallow until I burst...Here I'm allowed everything all of the time."

*26) Bodysnatchers-Radiohead--"I do not understand what it is I've done wrong, Full of holes, Check for pulse, Blink your eyes, One for yes, Two for no...I have no idea what I am talking about... I am trapped in this body and can't get out...//Has the light gone out for you? Because the light's gone for me.... (It is the 21st Century!)...I'm a lie."

27) Lucky-Radiohead--"I'm on a roll. I'm on a roll this time. I feel my luck could change..."

28) Blowout-Radiohead--"In my mind, and nailed into my heels...All the time, killing what I feel...Everything I touch turns to stone...I am fused just in case I blow out. I am glued just because I crack out."

*29) Myxomatosis-Radiohead--
"the mongrel cat came home
holding half a head
Proceeded to show it off
to all his new found friends
he said "i been where i liked
i slept with who i liked
he ate me up for breakfast
and screwed me in a vice

and now i don't know
What I feel
So don't tell...

i sat in the cupboard
and wrote it down in neat
they were cheering and waving
cheering and waving
twitching and salivating like with myxomatosis
but it got edited fucked up
strangled, beaten up
used as a photo in Time magazine
buried in a burning black hole in Devon

"i don’t know why
i feel so tongue-tied

don’t know why
i feel so skinned alive."

My thoughts are misguided and a little naive
I twitch and i salivate like with myxomatosis
you should put me in a home or you should put me down
I got myxomatosis
I got myxomatosis

"now no one likes a smart ass but we all like stars"
that wasn't my intention, I did it for a reason
it must have got mixed up
strangled, beaten up
i got myxomatosis
i got myxomatosis

"i don’t know why
i feel so tongue-tied"

*30) 15 Steps-Radiohead--"How come I end up where I started? How come I end up where I went wrong? First you reel me out, then you cut the string."

31) Climbing Up the Walls-Radiohead--"I am the key to the lock in your house, That keeps your toys in the basement, And if you get too far inside, You'll only see my reflection... It's always best when the light is off, I am the pick in the ice, Do not cry out or hit the alarm... Either way you turn: I'll be there, Open up your skull: I'll be there... (Thom : "This is about the unspeakable. Literally skull-crushing.")

*32) 2+2=5-Radiohead--"It's the devil's way now/There is no way out/You can scream & you can shout/It is too late now/Because/You have not been... paying attention."

*33) Jigsaw Falling Into Place-Radiohead--
"Just as you take my hand
Just as you write my number down
Just as the drinks arrive
Just as they play your favourite song
As your bad day disappears
No longer wound up like a spring
Before you've had too much
Come back in focus again

The walls are bending shape
You got a cheshire cat grin
All blurring into one
This place is on a mission

Before the night owl
Before the animal noises
Closed circuit cameras
Before you comatose

Before you run away from me
Before you're lost between the notes
The beat goes round and round
The beat goes round and round

I never really got there
I just pretended that I had.

What's the point of instruments?
Words are sawn off shotguns

Come on and let it out
Come on and let it out
Come on and let it out
Come on and let it out

Before you run away from me
Before your lost between the notes
Just as you take the mic
Just as you dance, dance, dance

A Jigsaw falling into place
So there is nothing to explain
You eye each other as you pass
He looks back and you look back
Not just once
and not just twice
Wish away your nightmare
Wish away the nightmare
You got the light you can feel it on your back
[A light,] you can feel it on your back
Your jigsaw falling into place"

( )

34) Weird Fishes/Arpeggi-Radiohead-- "I'd be crazy not to follow... follow where you lead... your eyes... they turn me.../Turn me onto phantoms I follow to the edge of the world and fall off...Everybody leaves, if they get the chance...and this is my chance: I get eaten by the worms and weird fishes...(I hit the bottom...I hit the bottom and escape)."

*35) I Might Be Wrong-Radiohead--"I might be wrong. I might be wrong... But I swore I saw a light coming home. I used to think... I used to think that there was no future left at all... I used to think... Open up. Begin again. ...And never look back..."

*36) The Gloaming-Radiohead--"Genie let of the bottle: It is now the witching hour... Murders, you're murders--we are not the same as you. Genie let out of the bottle, funny how? funny how? When the walls bend, when the walls bend with you breathing (with you breathing)... They will suck you down to the other side... To the shadows blue and red (and your alarm bells... should be ringing)."

*37) Videotape-Radiohead--"When I'm at the pearly gates, this will be on my videotape. Mephistopheles is just beneath, and he's reaching up to grab me. This is one for the good days. I have it all here in red, blue, green. You are my center when I spin away, out of control on videotape. This is my way of saying goodbye, 'cause I can't do it face to face--I'm talking you on videotape after it's too late... No matter what happen now you shouldn't be afraid, because today has been the most beautiful day I've ever seen."

38) Planet Telex-Radiohead--"You can force it but it will not come. You can taste it but it will not form. You can crush it but it's always here. You can crush it but it's always near. Chasing you home saying: Everything is broken, Everyone is broken...Why can't you just forget?"

*39) Dollars and Cents-Radiohead--"we are the dollar and cents, and the pounds and pence, the mark and the yen...We are going to crack your little souls"

*40) Where I End and You Begin-Radiohead--"There's a gap in between. A gap where we meet. Where I end and you begin. I'm sorry for us. The dinosaurs roamed the earth. The sky turns green where I end and you begin. I am up in the clouds. I am up in the clouds and I can't come down. I can watch but not take part, where I end and where you start. Where you, you left me alone. "X" will mark the place like a parting of the waves. Like a house fallen in the sea... I will eat you alive... There will be no more lies... I will eat you alive."

*41) Cymbal Rush-Thom Yorke--"Don't turn away... don't turn away..."

*42) Atoms for Peace-Thom Yorke--"No more talk about the old days: It's time for something great... I want you to get out, and make it work."

43) How To Disappear Completely-Radiohead--"That man, that's not me: I go where I please. I walk through walls, I float down the Liffey... (I'm not here... This isn't happening.)"

44) No Surprises-Radiohead--"A heart that's full up like a landfill. A job that slowly kills you. Bruises that won't heal... You look so tired, unhappy: bring down the government: they don't speak for us. I'll take the quiet life, a handshake of carbon monoxide, with no alarms and no surprises..."

45) Exit Music (For a Film)-Radiohead--"Breathe, keep breathing: I can't do this alone... (And you can laugh, a spineless laugh... we hope you words and wisdom choke you)."

*46) Black Swan-Thom Yorke--People get crushed like biscuit crumbs, laid down in the bed you made...You have tried your best to please everyone, but it just isn't happening...And it is fucked up."

47) Motion Picture Soundtrack-Radiohead--"Cheap sex and silent films help me get back where I belong... I think you're crazy... maybe..."

48) Just-Radiohead--“You do it to yourself, and that’s what really hurts…”

49) Knives Out-Radiohead--"I want you to know he's not coming back. Look into my eyes.
I'm not coming back... If you'd been a dog they would have drowned you at birth..."

50) Last Flowers-Radiohead--"Cause I can't face the evening straight... you can offer me escape. Houses move and houses speak... If you take me then you'll get relief... relief, relief, relief, relief... It's too much, Too bright, Too powerful..."

*=songs you might particularly enjoy, as they are primarily groove oriented… the sort of songs you can tap your foot to, nod your head with, and begin bouncing upon—even if ever so slightly.

** Haruki Murakami, "After the Quake: Stories"

No comments: