Sunday, January 27, 2008

We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems

“Despite disparate aims and personnel of its constituent members, the underground is agreed on basic objectives. We intend to march on the police machine everywhere. We intend to destroy the police machine and all its records. We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems… To put it country simple, we have heard enough bullshit.”

I still didn’t get around to explaining the title of this blog, and why I like it. To associate oneself with William S. Burroughs has almost as many risks as (say) quoting Crowley in a positive context. He still seems really dangerous to many.

Anyone who thinks of me as quite a nice person might wonder why I use a quote from a cynical, misogynist, gun-toting gay junkie (I suppose, if you think in such labels).

Well, first of all – he’s very funny, to me. Especially reading his own material out loud in that wonderful W.C.Fields drawl. Ah, of course, a lot of people don’t find Fields funny, either. Hmmm.
OK – he strikes me as extremely intelligent (something I seek out wherever I can), and for all the apparently ‘damaged’ parts of him I always find rewardingly, and surprisingly insightful elements – that balance the apparent ‘cold fish’ aspect.

Of course, I also love Laurie Anderson’s work, and she did a most excellent version of ‘Language Is A Virus’ which I recommend to anyone…

Quite a lot of Burroughs’ work arrives in bite-sized chunks that he called ‘routines’ (again the parallel with show-biz comedy) – and (just as with Samuel Beckett) you might find it easy to miss the jokes.

If you want to check out his place in modern culture/literature – the book “Wising Up The Marks" might prove a good place to start.
(again with the echoes of ‘Never Give A Sucker An Even Break, and never smarten up a chump’ from Fields)

But the main lesson the gestalt of Burroughs's life and his work taught me was that there exists a sinister congruence between the control systems implicit in capitalist societies (with their obsessional manufacturing and their compulsive consuming) and the uncontrollable psyche of the drug addict. It was Burroughs's great contribution to twentieth-century literature to merge his own psychopathology with the collective malaise. Truly, to paraphrase his friend Jack Kerouac, he made us all look at what was on the end of our forks.

So - a fork with The Soft Machine on one end, and The Naked Lunch on the other.

Maybe try: My Mother and I Would Like to Know (from The Evergreen Review)

"The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals: In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. Minutes to go. Souls rotten from their orgasm drugs, flesh shuddering from their nova ovens, prisoners of the earth to come out, With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly" (Signed) INSPECTOR J. LEE, NOVA POLICE

In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.The dogma of science is that the will cannot possibly affect external forces,and I think that's just ridiculous. It's as bad as the church. My viewpoint is the exact contrary of the scientific viewpoint. I believe that if you run into somebody in the street it's for a reason. Among primitive people they say if someone was bitten by a snake he was murdered. I believe that.- w. s. burroughs

You might wanna check out Grey Lodge, who offered a WSB Special

And you might stop to read the piece by Korzybski, too (with whom Burroughs studied at one time, I believe)

And, of course, you can always go read Wiki... if you get interested in the Dream Machines, or Cut-Ups, or his film projects (see Ubu Web) or his later art projects, etc.

And in case you think of him as some sort of blasphemous atheist, as opposed to a religious type, try this Burroughs-ian Gnosticism - which explores his fairly explicit Manichean connections. I have a soft spot for the Gnostics, myself. Here's a little more on the subject.

J.G.Ballard on Burroughs Biog Project Brainy Quotes The Ghost of WSB Reality Studio

Can You See a Virus? The Queer Cold War of William Burroughs

[...]those he does not repel, Burroughs fascinates[...]

If memes survive by parasitizing human minds, so, reciprocally, can the mind survive through parasitic self-replication: the viral programme “simply says ‘Copy me and spread me around.’” This is Burroughs: “all poets worthy of the name are mind parasites, and their words ought to get into your head and live there, repeating and repeating and repeating.” He could scarcely be more explicit.

A virus operates autonomously, without human intervention. It attaches itself to a host and feeds off of it, growing and spreading from host to host. Language infects us; its power derives not from its straightforward ability to communicate or persuade but rather from this infectious nature, this power of bits of language to graft itself onto other bits of language, spreading and reproducing, using human beings as hosts.The notion of the meme -- coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins to illustrate the field of memetics -- crystallizes this view of the communication process. Georges Bataille similarly argued that communication was best understood from the perspective of contagion. In Bataille any human being is no more than a conduit for communicative process, a channel for ideas which pass through him/her."If, as it appears to me, a book is communication, then the author is only a link among many readings."* The author is simply a node on a network, through which ideas pass. This found here (pssst! pass it on...)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Eight System Cards

One of the most interesting models that came up in my studies of grids and systems of thought remains the eight system model (eight circuit model) that came from Tim Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.

Antero Alli has contributed greatly to my understanding of the model, too - his online course encouraged us away from words and our computers, to explore these other realms - and part of the escape from words and concepts (System Three) involved making a set of 'tarot' cards of our own. I have posted these elsewhere on the blog (follow the System link) but came across them again while cleaning my hard drive, and quite like them...

Not having much 'artistic' talent I made 8 collages of images grabbed from the web, and my apologies for not crediting all the 'real' artists who drew and photographed these images.

I don't intend to wrap words around this right now, to try to explain it all - you can find versions all over the place out here, (check out some of the relevant posts on Only Maybe) but I will offer these collages I made on Antero's course, which captured at least some of my understanding of these mindbody (or bodymind) matters.

One of the joys of making up a set of cards remains the fact that you can shuffle them around, and play with layouts (like Tarot) and perhaps find new connections (like Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table)
Mendeleev loved chess and card games. He would write down the names and atomic weights and properties of all the known elements (about 63 at that time) on blank cards. He would shuffle the cards and lay them out in a thousand different patterns. He was trying to find a pattern in nature.

When he arranged the 63 known elements in rows of seven across, he noticed that the columns down always had elements that had much in common with one another. But occasionally there was a gap. He took a bold guess. "There is an element as yet undiscovered," he predicted.

In fact there were three gaps. He predicted three undiscovered elements. And he predicted boldly what they would be like once they were discovered!

All three were found, just as he predicted.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Make Up Your Mind

I don't live comfortably in this world. I don't share a lot of the values of my culture (this morning the papers seem full of shock/horror stories about Romanian gangs smuggling children into the UK to work as beggars and thieves, in a Dickensian tale - with the money going back to Romania to fund a high-living life-style for gang-bosses).

Well, duh - you offer poor people the capitalist dream, and then get horrified that they become opportunist (Romania recently joined the European Union). And just because we stopped most of our own 'Dickensian' behaviour a hundred or more years ago doesn't really put us in a position to judge, any more than the fact that we have now stopped putting children in jail or the workhouse for such behaviour.

The idea that we all live in the same period of time just doesn't hold water...

Some still live in 'medaeval' conditions by our standards, some in paeoleolithic or tribal situations, right now, right here on the same planet. To tut tut at people getting stoned to death for adultery (say) is to deny our own heretic-burning heritage, or our involvement with the slave trade, or the fact that the British government got the Chinese population addicted to Opium (not so long ago) by forcing cheap supplies on them (grown in British India), etc.

We air-brush embarrassing details of our own past out of the history we can judge more harshly anyone passing through stages we have graduated from. This seems (to me) about as fair as telling kids to 'grow up!' or expecting of them the same sensitivity, knowledge, understanding, insight or self-control as you yourself may have acquired over a longer life.

You can see why I often hear cries of outrage when I talk to people. Many want the simple judgemental approach (I agree! I disagree!) not thinking about complex matters with fuzzy logic, exploring the grey areas, adding a touch of 'maybe' to narrow certainties.

I wonder how many people outraged that 'new' Europeans are coming over here to make money are buying up cheap property in Romania, as 'holiday lets'. Just a thought.

I don't like exploitation of children any more than you, but I do think we have to approach this stuff cautiously. Crime and exploitation of children is despicable wherever it happens (don't get me wrong!), but I don't like the witch-hunting attitude of some of our newspapers which can make life hard for law-abiding, ambitious and hard-working people who also arrive here, perhaps to offer a better future for their children...

Hey ho. Better drink my coffee...

PS: Here's Stephen Leather being interviewed four years ago, and it was all going on then. So why is this suddenly news in this morning's paper? Because they rescued some of the kids? Good news, of course, so long as we integrate them and make them happy...

The police are well aware of the mounting scale of the problem. Jamaican Yardie gangs run amok in south London, and have been for twenty years. Now they’ve moved into Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. Turks and Kurds have been dealing drugs through London for years and are now moving into the Home Counties. The Albanians are the fastest growing criminal group and now control three quarters of the off-street vice in London, now challenging the Turks and Kurds for control of the heroin market. Bangladeshi gangs are moving into the cocaine business, Chinese Triads run Chinatown, people trafficking and drugs empires, and the Columbians traffic cocaine into the UK. The Russian mafia are major players in London, along with Kosovan and Romanian gangsters. All are jostling for position, and all are willing to kill for a greater share of the criminal profits.

And how about, overall, immigration is good for Britain?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Will you listen to this?

Last night I managed to get Skype working again (in spite of a dodgy headset) and took part in an interview with Brandon Phillips over at the Rebel Trading Post.

I have done some written interviews with Star Wars guys...but this is the first 'radio' interview I have done online. Excellent! Thanks Brandon...

I think it comes out on Friday, as a special...go to The Sarlacc Pit.

I sincerely apologise for the popping and crackling, fading in and out (my dodgy headset) I should get myself set up properly for Skype...

A New Arrival

My nephew Duncan, and his partner Fiona have just had a new child - Thomas Padraig Dacombe. Welcome to the planet!

That makes my sister a grandmother (which I am sure she loves), and turns me into Great-Uncle Toby, which I kind of like...

Sunday, January 20, 2008


It rains in Wales. It rains a lot. Even with Irish ancestors from the Atlantic Coast (where it rains pretty heavily, I am told) I find it wet around here. Well, OK, the Irish lot moved to England at least a couple of hundred years ago...

Now we are up in the hills, it seems to rain all the time. We have reached day four, and haven't seen the sun, or even a dry period. Sometimes you can see the hill on the other side of the valley, and sometimes you can't (depending on the mist). I still go out (Dandy dog insists on it) so I know that the paths are streams, the streams are rivers, the river is a torrent and all the waterfalls have become quite spectacular!

Fortunately it hasn't been too cold, and the wind hasn't been to bad, so I just wander around feeling a bit forlorn, with hat pulled down over my eyes, and water slowly climbing my trouser leg (in spite of the long coat) purely by osmosis. At least my wonderful boots have kept my feet dry...

It doesn't really look as though it will change much in the next two days, either.

Julie has lots to DIY on the house (plenty of indoor jobs) but I just want to sloth I did the walk thing.Then there's the light the stove thing, and the write a book thing, and the learn a new card trick thing, etc....before it comes around to taking the dog out again before it gets dark (around 4:30 or 5:00).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Toby as Online Tutor

Moving into the hills, and not driving, has made me think of what I could do with myself, not only to pass the time, but to earn some money without having to commute all the time.

I don't kid myself about writing for a living. Sure, if you get really lucky, but I don't have the popular touch at the best of times. Most online writing jobs that I stumble over involve either writing "Readers' Letters" and winning a tenner, or working in the writing equivalent of a call centre - trolling around in forums, posting hype for products as if it was your word-of-mouth recommendation, or creating click-through lenses, or dense webs of self-referential websites, etc. All modern equivalents of ancient scams (pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing, chain letters, etc). The casual mention of a product is a kind of viral marketing - or do they call it guerilla marketing - either way, it would prove as soul-destroying to me as cold calling trying to sell insurance.

Although I understand the insurance concept (everyone chips into the kitty, so that the few unlucky - some would say lucky - people to whom the unexpected happens get helped by the community). I like Bucky's definition of an insurance firm as a bunch of people who are betting something will not happen to you, but try to convince you to bet that it will!

Anyway - looking at my limited talents and resources, I decided to consider online tutoring. I have just compiled a list of my relevant experience, and suddenly that seemed at least feasible, and with a least a possibility of working.
Notes on websites and writing

I have used a Google Lab website to list what I have done, and what I might prove capable of...I felt quite impressed myself! Did I really do all that AND the performing? Amazing.

If you have any comments or connections for finding online work, please add notes in the Comments field.


These pix? The top two date from 2000, when I was training staff remotely, and trying to liven up the forum, 'humanise the tutor', silly poses, etc. So was the bottom one, although the pic dates from 1986, when I had just hit 40...with my City Lights T-shirt on (after visit to The States) and sitting in Spain, taking a picture of myself....ah, those were the days, with film earnings!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In my own words

I don't update my tired old website, because Front Page is no longer supported by Microsoft, and I don't intend to go out right now and spend lots on a new bit of software for web-building.
(oh, and it contains hundreds of pages!)

Apart from running (at least) 3 blogs, moderating a website, etc I prefer to move on, and to that end I am experimenting with something from Google Lab - much like a blog it creates a quick website.

Although I should do something about my scattered experiments, I guess. I hate dead projects on the internet, but I guess it is full of clutter. Every gmail address (and I have a few) seems to come with a blog, etc.

And then I wanted to try WordPress

And so on. NO, No! There's no content worth clicking through for!

These links are just for me to remind myself to tidy up...

And speaking of notes to self - I keep meaning to take a moment to explain why I called the blog a title that some might find off-putting (the word 'virus' isn't popular).

And why would a sweet innocent like myself quote an 'awful', misogynistic, gay junkie gun-freak? Well. I'll tell ya...

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