German Book Office editors trip (& a look at Adorno’s library)

Many thanks to the German Book Office New York for inviting Repeater to take part in its international editor’s trip to Berlin and Frankfurt. Repeater publisher, Tariq Goddard, joined Henry Carrigan (Northwestern University Press, USA), Giovanni Carletti (Editoria Laterza, Italy), Mikhail Kotomin (Ad Marginem Press, Russia), Marc Lowenthal (MIT Press, USA), Niels Cornelissen (Uotgeverij Boom, Netherlands), Marcos de Miguel (Plaza y Valdés, Spain) and Ken Wissoker (Duke University Press, USA) on the trip, where they met with German publishers, editors and booksellers to discuss trends in philosophy and non-fiction publishing.

Here’s Tariq in front of Adorno’s blackboards (his library apparently includes Arthur Conan Doyle, HP Lovecraft, Evelyn Waugh and James Baldwin)  Continue reading German Book Office editors trip (& a look at Adorno’s library)

Dawn Foster demolishing the arguments for free schools in the London Review of Books

In the May 7th issue of the LRB, Dawn Foster demolished the arguments in favour of free schools. In particular, she highlighted how huge amounts of public money has, in some cases, been spent setting up free schools in areas where there is no lack of school places: 

“There is no requirement that free school founders have experience of running a school, and no assessment is made as to whether the prospective founders will be able to meet the legally required standards of school governance.

In effect, this means that any group of parents who believe there is a need for a new school can club together and apply to set it up. Successful applicants have argued that there is a local need for Steiner schools, German schools, and schools that follow Montessori or Maharishi principles. An application to set up a Scientology school was unsuccessful. The ‘need’ for a new school isn’t necessarily based on an assessment of the number of school places available in a given area, but on parental choice and a clamouring for individualism in state-funded education. Petitions often suffice. One academy chain putting forward an application to start a free school in Doncaster offered potential pupils £500 to sign up: other free schools have offered iPads and bicycles… Continue reading Dawn Foster demolishing the arguments for free schools in the London Review of Books

Experimental noise school for kids returns to East London

The brilliant Cafe Oto are hosting Future Music, a series of experimental music workshops for kids in their project space this summer. No previous musical experience or knowledge is required, and all equipment/instruments provided. All the workshops are now booked up, but it’s an excellent project which recalls the Shoreditch Experimental Music School of the late 1960 – the subject of this BBC documentary:

For London-based adults feeling left out, there’s also a one-off School of Noise evening workshop at The Social on 29th June

Extract: A Gathering of Promises, a new book on Texan psych by Ben Graham

The Austin Psych Fest was last weekend, but in the UK we were fully focused on the elections and associated depression/stoicism/recriminations/reinvigoration (delete as appropriate). So in belated celebration of the festival and the 13th Floor Elevators 50th anniversary reunion show (review/photos/video here), here’s an extract from Ben Graham’s new book on Texan psych, A Gathering of Promises (out in June from Zer0). There’s also an interview with Ben about writing the book on the Brighton Noise blog. – TS

On an outdoor stage on the banks of the Colorado River, a 63-year-old man is leading his band through a set of churning, rhythmic, hard-edged blues rock. His grey hair cut short and neat, George Emerson Kinney looks every inch the respectable Texas rancher, dressed smart but casual in pressed blue jeans and white shirt. Yet something in the intensity of his performance gives him away. With the sun starting to set behind him, he lets his electric guitar swing round onto his hip and clutches the microphone stand fiercely with both hands. “There comes a time of starvation, and it is true,” he howls. “If you believe in elevation it will happen to you.”

George Kinney has endured the time of starvation, in terms of appreciation and recognition at least. He wrote and first sang this song, Starvation, with his band the Golden Dawn some 47 years ago, long before many in the audience at this, the 2014 Austin Psych Fest, had even been born. Yet it is also true to say that Kinney never stopped believing in elevation; that is, the potential of the entire human racetumblr_ljealzWyoR1qe8793o1_500 to ascend to a higher level of psychic understanding and spiritual evolution, a belief that inspired both the name and the songs of the Golden Dawn when they formed in Austin in 1967. It was a belief that the Golden Dawn shared with their close comrades, the 13th Floor Elevators (who Kinney is of course also acknowledging in the lyric), and it would appear that in the 21st Century, long after the original incarnations of both bands disintegrated under pressure and recrimination, things are indeed finally happening, both for them and for many of their psychedelic Texan contemporaries. Continue reading Extract: A Gathering of Promises, a new book on Texan psych by Ben Graham

Exclusive extract from Tentacles Longer Than Night (vol. 3 of Eugene Thacker’s horror of philosophy series)

This is an extract from Eugene Thacker’s forthcoming Tentacles Longer Than Night: Horror of Philosophy, Vol. 3 (Zer0, April 2015). It is the second of two extracts, the first of which (from vol 2 in the series, Starry Speculative Corpse) was published here last week. The two books (Vols 2 & 3) will be published simultaneously on 24 April by Zer0. – TS

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 17.15.17The Vast and Seething Cosmos (Poe, Lovecraft). In 1843, Edgar Allan Poe published his short story “The Black Cat.” It opens with the following passage:

For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror – to many they will seem less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place – some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

An opening that is, perhaps, unparalleled in horror literature. Poe prepares us to expect something incredible, but without giving us any particular clue as to what that will be. Regardless of what follows, we as readers are primed to experience something indefinite, something the narrator does not – or cannot – define in any concrete way. All that we know from this opening is that what the narrator has witnessed seems to defy all rational explanation. The narrator even questions himself – was it a dream, a drunken hallucination, insanity itself? This self-interrogation (before the narrative has even begun) raises the stakes of the story. Whatever abstract horror has happened, it cannot be explained by the narrator. And yet, it must be explained, there must be an explanation. The narrator is so committed to this notion that he is willing to question his own sanity so that the “Horror” can be explained. And, the narrator continues, if I can’t explain it then there must be someone else who can. In lieu of this, he can only hope that someone else (doubtless we, the “dear readers”) will come along and provide an explanation, some explanation, any explanation.tentacles

What cannot be accepted is that something happened for no reason. But this event is not just an everyday event. It has the character of being out-of-place, of not fitting into our everyday or even scientific modes of explaining the world. It threatens the order of things produced by we human beings, living human lives in a human world largely (we presume) of our own making. That something, that event, might threaten this order of things, and that it would happen for no reason – this is, for the narrator of “The Black Cat,” the real horror. It is a thought that cannot be accepted, without either abandoning reason and descending into the abyss of madness or making the leap of faith into religion and mysticism. It is as if, before Poe’s story has even begun, the horror tale itself is in a state of crisis, the narrator nearly having a break- down before us, only able to communicate himself in vague terms and uncertain utterances. Continue reading Exclusive extract from Tentacles Longer Than Night (vol. 3 of Eugene Thacker’s horror of philosophy series)

Exclusive extract of Eugene Thacker’s forthcoming Starry Speculative Corpse

This is an extract from the introduction of Starry Speculative Corpse: Horror of Philosophy Vol 2 by Eugene Thacker. It is the second part of a 3-book series, which began with In the Dust of This Planet (Zer0, 2011) and will continue with Tentacles Longer Than Night.

Vol 2 & 3 will both be published by Zer0 on 24th April 2015 – TS

Descartes’ Demon. Sometime around 1639, René Descartes sat down at his desk to write. At issue for him was a simple question concerning knowledge. Philosophy, theology, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, the arts, and the natural sciences all claim to know things. From them a cumulative understanding of the self, of others, of the world, and of the cosmos is made possible. But how do we know that what we know is actually true? What is the foundation on which these disparate fields of knowledge are based? Are there questions that cannot – or should not – be asked, lest they undermine the knowledge they are designed to produce? How much uncertainty is tolerated before knowledge becomes doubt, and when does doubt come to a stop, if ever?

An abyss opens up. For Descartes this was a personal as well as a philosophical problem. As he writes, “Some years ago I noticed how many false things I had accepted as true in my childhood, and how doubtful were the things that I subsequently built on them and therefore that, once in a lifetime, everything should be completely overturned and I should begin again from the most basic foundations…”

Being the astute thinker that he was, Descartes set out a method for addressing this problem. The task was, as he notes, ambitious, and Descartes writes that he had been waiting for a “mature age” at which to undertake this project. Whether the age of forty-three was the right age or not is hard to say. He felt he had been waiting long enough, even too long, and so, Descartes writes, “today I appropriately cleared my mind of all cares and arranged for myself some time free from interruption. I am alone and, at long last, I will devote myself seriously and freely to this general overturning of my beliefs.”

The result of these exercises in skepticism are well known to students of philosophy, and, when The Meditations on First Philosophy were published in Paris in 1641, they immediately attracted a whole range of responses, not least of all from the ongoing debates over the relationship between philosophy and theology, reason and faith.

Descartes’ most lasting application of his methodological doubt comes in the first of his meditations, where he considers how our senses deceive us. Dreams, hallucinations, painting, and other examples are discussed as instances in which we think we know something based on sensory evidence, and are in fact deceived. But at least in these instances we can learn, from experience, to distinguish dream from reality, and the image from the thing itself. Our senses are reliable, if used properly.

But Descartes pushes his doubt even further. What if our senses are, by definition, deceptive? What if deception is, as it were, hard-wired into our very modes of being? Descartes raises this question through a kind of thought experiment:

Therefore, I will suppose that, not God who is the source of truth but some evil mind, who is all powerful and cunning, has devoted all their energies to deceiving me. I will imagine that the sky, air, earth, colours, shapes, sounds and everything external to me are nothing more than the creatures of dream by means of which an evil spirit entraps my credulity. I shall imagine myself as if I had no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, no senses at all, but as if my beliefs in all these things were false.3

Another abyss opens. Often dubbed the “evil demon” or “evil genius,” here we see Descartes pushing his doubt to an extreme point, a point at which no knowledge is possible because nothing is for certain. One thought is as good or as bad as another, every- thing relative, arbitrary, haphazard, pointless. Subject to continual deception, prey to the cunning of unknown entities, dismembered and insubstantial, Descartes has let himself to stand on the precipice of philosophy and peer over the edge. And what he finds there is a terrifying abyss, where there is neither certitude nor knowledge, nor even a single thought – just a tenebrous, impassive silence.

“But this is a tiring project and a kind of laziness brings me back to what is more habitual in my life.” Can we blame Descartes for stepping back from the precipice? Thinking is hard work, yes, but the negation of all thought is, perhaps, harder. What Descartes inadvertently discovers is at once the ground and the greatest threat to philosophy, the question that cannot be asked without undermining the idea of philosophy itself. Continue reading Exclusive extract of Eugene Thacker’s forthcoming Starry Speculative Corpse

Camden: Last Survivor of a Dead Epoch by Tariq Goddard

This is an extract from Uncommon London, a new title in the excellent Uncommon Guide Books series, which will be published in June 2015 – TS

Camden: Last Survivor of a Dead Epoch Tariq Goddard

I wanted to be a writer at a time when my peer group wanted to rock. Even those who did not wish to be on the cover of the NME wanted to look like whoever was, and would show up in Camden with vague expectations of necking the same swill as Liam or Noel, their numbers increasing as the unlikelihood of it grew; the Gallagher brothers having long gone up to Primrose Hill to quaff the more salubrious stuff.Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 09.46.58

For those who remained faithful to the dream that was Camden, there was always the early nineties zeitgeist to look back on. A time when grebos, junk shop clothes horses, Adidas cretins and shoegazers colonised The Good Mixer and other ‘drinkers’ pubs, and where elderly Irish bookies sat next to gauche young show-offs out to make the era and boozer their own.

In these days before the great gentrification of London and unaffordable house prices, when the city’s declining population was only just being reversed, it was still possible to take the entertainment industry by surprise. Camden, beyond the market, was not lying in wait for its Dick Whittingtons in the form of walking tours and organic coffee: it had to be taken as it was; a working class area that a pub-based music scene had emerged from, largely by default (and through proximity to the Polytechnic of North London in Kentish Town). For those who disliked their music in poorly ventilated back rooms with carpeted walls there was always this plus; their world was theirs and no one else’s, relying on word of mouth and supported in public only by the then vibrant weekly music press. This ensured relative exclusivity and some halo of cool to an otherwise cut-price and basic state of affairs.

You were either one of the initiated or not, and as most people even in Camden didn’t care one way or other, the initiates had a free hand. With it they were able to pursue a programme of (modest) musical experimentation and to remain one step ahead of the commodification that would eventually kill their way of life.

Continue reading Camden: Last Survivor of a Dead Epoch by Tariq Goddard

Cargo Cult – an extract from Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle’s Cartographies of the Absolute

This is an extract from Cartographies of the Absolute, the new book by Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle, out later this month from Zer0 – TS

Cargo Cult


Cargo Cult is a photomontage from Martha Rosler’s series Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain, produced between 1966 and 1972. The series, starkly inter-cutting the devices of female domestic labour (fridges, washing machines) and commodified nudity, was produced – initially for political circulation and intervention rather than gallery display – concurrently with Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful (1967-72), another series which projects the imperialist carnage of the Vietnam War into the feminised décor of American domestic space. Though its theme – the profitable ‘industrialisation’ of women’s beauty – is blunt enough, the possible connotations of the image are not exhausted by its apparently direct materialist-feminist intention.

The term ‘cargo cults’ is commonly used to refer to the collective ritualistic practices of certain groups, principally in Melanesia and Micronesia in the Pacific, which reacted to the traumatic encounter with colonial power and capitalist technology by mimicking the appearances of the devices of alien domination (say, by building a wooden airport and airplane) in the messianic belief that this would bring the ‘cargo’, the unexplained plethora of goods which the white man – who could never be seen producing these goods – seemed to dispose of in unlimited amounts. In the 1950s and 1960s radical anthropologists – most memorably Peter Worsley, in his The Trumpet Shall Sound (1957) showed that, against a condescending gaze on this primitive reaction, many dimensions of the cargo cults showed a rational response to both the trauma and the fluctuations of capital (a system which viewed from these islands seemed to involve no production and a thoroughly irrational and unpredictable fluctuation in values). Continue reading Cargo Cult – an extract from Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle’s Cartographies of the Absolute

#VoteSyriza2015 rolling coverage by journalist Kevin Ovenden

Please follow this link for Kevin Ovenden’s rolling coverage of the 2015 Greek General Election on January 25.

44-kevin-ovenden Kevin Ovenden is a longstanding progressive journalist, writer and activist who has followed Greece’s politics and social movements for 25 years. A National Officer of the Stop the War Coalition and a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, he led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010.

Please support this venture. Kevin’s reporting is funded by the sale of ‘Syriza: Greek For Hope’ T-shirts , get yours from Philosophy Football

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