Aphorisms XX

My guitar teacher used to say to me – learn the theory, learn the chords, learn riffs and learn songs. But try your best to forget it all when you need to write music.

The same goes for advice on writing. You can’t have all that rattling around in your head when you’re trying to get something done. When it comes up, it should pop in like a friend to remind you you need a cup of tea, or better, bring you that cup, with a biscuit.

(This fits into the probably quite voluminous category of meta-advice.)


When you play a videogame with gestural graphics, that don’t quite add up, you bring a kind of supplement to it. An ideal space opens up on top of everything on the game and adds materiality, similar to when you’re reading a book and you bring images, material from the memory into the book-image. It fills in the gaps, making the whole painting pop. At least, it did when I was a kid.


The ecstasy of influence – now we know that originality is combinatory, or are just less neurotic about newness, there has opened up another way of dealing with influence. To just drench yourself in it openly. Ready Player One, Stranger Things etc.


Triggering – a peculiar online right-wing obsession with triggering says a lot about how they consider politics to be completely unprincipled – or at least its main principle to be negative in the sense of denying someone else. They get triggered by ‘the libs’ and think that this is the back and forth of politics. Their political activity becomes – what can I do which will fuck over the other side.


An objection to an open ethical framework is never just to the framework, but to how I think I would behave under that framework – but everything would collapse, (because I would collapse!) But you never know how well things might go.


The past is so terrifying and nebulous. The infinity of the lost moments. Destiny and fate were only available as explanatory concepts to those who had no recordings of themselves as teenagers. Or maybe, the destiny which comes to seem throughout, actually only consists of several key moments.


The material requirements and limitations of a form of communication shape what is considered to be the ideal experience of that form, determined by social considerations. For a twentieth century paperback, this was well bound, easy to read, cheap and small enough to carry, whilst being significant enough to read for a while. So the text was shaped by the material form, as people wanted to write similar length and genre texts to what they had read, and similar layout etc. In a factory mass culture of reading. But with Twitter, for example, this form is different. There is nothing about information itself that necessitates a particular form. Or rather, there is no ‘information itself’. The internet encyclopedia of everything, down to the constant short snippets on the internet aren’t a fallen form, they’re just a more plugged in text, expressing a more plugged in material form. Nothing stops you from defying the form apart from yourself, of course, and the material limitations. But things driven by page visits and advertising revenue will be short and will lead the consumer to the next click. More and more this determines the content too – be wary of being made angry or horny, or just blandly interested by a site. The algorithm is probably designed to do exactly that to you – constantly tempt the binge. (The Twittering Machine, Richard Seymour called it.) It doesn’t have your best experience at heart. Just the most sticky, in the sense that velcro is sticky. The stickier a site, the more ad revenue. A more measured read, though not necessarily ‘more accurate’ in any deep sense, is found in longer pieces, which recall the measuredness of the book. More and more, they demand a measured subscription tithe. Remember that when paperbacks were introduced they were considered a fallen form by some, mass produced, they undermined the exclusivity of the text. This was a social consideration moulded from the previous generation of expensive hardback texts, made in craft shops, only affordable to higher middle class and upper class readers, persisting into that present. But there is always a literate-aesthetic culture in every class. We humans textualise our being. It sometimes takes a bit of looking for.


“I think you’ll find white/black’s not a colour.” Later: “What colour do you want to play as?” “I’ll be white.” “What colour do you wear with this skirt?” “Definitely Black.” “Select a colour using the picker:” *selects white*


If you approach the problem of religion as a kind of ethical and aesthetic project, stripped of any claims about the nature of the world (or at least taking place on a separate set of vectors that happen to occupy the same space) which is the only way to make sense of it, your claims about it must be approached in a pragmatic sense. What will be best for this project?

This opens up a level of subterfuge where those who have thought through the history of religions and the so called metaphysical arguments for it, and seen the tightly bracketed nature of religious truth, in the sense of ‘project’, might start to act based on their considerations of the success of religious institutions, which may well include lying or at least obfuscating the problem for a large number of people (something already present to a greater or lesser degree.) It’s like a soft Machiavellianism, in the same sense as ‘soft power’. It then bumps up against many other ethical and aesthetic projects, known as politics.

Unless you want to strip it of thought altogether, and pass over in silence that whereof one cannot speak. In which case all words and logos vanishes round your back, to hang behind you, unseen, until the project dies, or doesn’t, in its contingency, while specific practices of ‘spirituality’ continue. I think this is the likeliest course.


The more I think about music theory, the more I see it as a kind of productive numerology, or geomancy. Beyond a basic level concerning harmonies.


Videogames – I pick up the controller, turn on the console, and then as this game challenges me, softly, or consistently, it leads to a hard place where I become angry at myself, laughing in disbelief at the game. But I persist, and often beat the game, the moment of victory a presence in the last moments of challenge, lost afterwards. Maybe an empty performance of celebration. But the joy is in this challenge which absorbs me. And it gets late, after hours of this, and I think – what have I gained? Is this not a pure death drive, absorbing time in circumscribed challenges which have no relation to the development of the mind. You would need a mythology, like chess developed, of the activity of playing developing in you a heightened level of some other thought, or reactions. And of course it has this.

Then there is the constant presence of my family saying – this is a waste. Don’t talk to us about it. Don’t do it – do something productive. Like… painting, etc. This can seem a strange demand.


Only a philosopher could say that, despite having eaten over 9000 bowls of cereal, I have never encountered the reality of a bowl of cereal. If reality is always elsewhere, and never here, it has nothing to do with us, and really shouldn’t concern us.

That experience of a thing is always partial, in an ontological sense, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The partial is also real. Obviously. But then, what would the complete experience of a bowl of cereal be? We can’t even describe what that would be like, what would satisfy that greed for completeness. But is experience the kind of thing that rests on a sliding scale, that you could slide the selectors to the ends where it says – complete? Doubtful. There is the ability to experience more about/of a thing. But in this context, completeness, like infinite experience, is an ontotheological thing. A myth we tell ourselves about the way the universe experiences itself.


A virtue system is a productive ideology. It has its rewards and creates and frames problems and the actions that would solve them. Helps us to get satisfaction.


The cultural aspect of the nation is the conversation of those who inhabit the nation state. It shouldn’t be an elevation of one set of cultural concerns over another in a systematic way, like royalism and imperial nostalgia, or big houses and fast cars. It’s just the cultural conversation between people that construct a nation which has no fixed identity, but lives in the population. A legal entity, which itself defines the cultural zone. Nation as Legion.


I remember playing Pokémon when I was young, on my yellow ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ Gameboy colour. I remember being so absorbed by it that I experienced the screen, up close and with poor eyesight, and everything around faded away, was not important, and my own bodily feelings were forgotten. I would stay like this for hours. The same happened for me with the PlayStation portable, and the Xbox, and through. I was absorbed. And now, that feeling is dangerously welcome, beautiful. The task, the next task, becomes all, my mind occupied by solving it. And then the outer world impinges and says, this is a waste of time! And it’s experienced as a betrayal, and I try and exculpate the guilt I feel at doing something that replaces the normal orderings of value. But in the game, I have this and this to do. But once the value has been questioned, the chain of goals as a whole is tinged with redundancy, and the game becomes played with a kind of manic just continuance. In design, this is reflected by levels to complete having been replaced by levels to lead to something more, ad infinitum. Pokémon saw the progression early. And I would stand on the landing, uncomfortably, for hours, so long as I could play.

The structural development is based on the economic base, as always. The selling of Pokémon cards, then the selling of map packs, then the selling of loot crates.

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