‘LBC’ Category Archives
by aragorn in LBC
This year we did this 10 week death march where we published eight new titles in about 10 weeks. We’ve gotten rather good at all the wrangling, negotiating, and logistics necessary to do such an amount of work but that doesn’t mean it comes free. In a capitalist economy there are always costs and with our project is costs are usually human costs.
So for at least three months I have been teetering on the edge of total burn out. I’m not giving enough positive reinforcement for the things I’m doing to make up for the drudgery and the dealing with jerks all the time. I’m not saying this is a plea for positive feedback. Far back in my head I know that LBC is doing interesting work. I feel like our timing is off, and there would’ve been more of an audience for this project if we started it two, or five, years earlier than we did, but it took a long time to figure out how to publish aggressively and inexpensively.
Some teetering on the edge of total burnout and now comes eight days of anarchy. On the one hand this is a great time of year, many friends come into town, I do get to have inspiring conversations nearly every day, but this year I learned what the limits of human capacity is. I’ve suspected for a few years that aging was going to catch up to me at some point and this is that point.
This is very frustrating for me because I strongly believe that this is a worthwhile project and this is the time to do more with it and not less. It also should go without saying I have a fantastic group of people who help make the LBC project possible. But it’s not enough. At least today, at least by the measure of my current capacity, at least when I am feeling lowest. Today the trolls and ennui make me question the context in which this project exists. The project is worthwhile but the milieu might not be. I don’t know. Ask me in a week. Maybe I’ll have changed my mind by then.
The logic of the ad hominem
In a humorous recent thread I was accused of being the scion of riches. It’s hard to tell if the commenter is an actual enemy, a frenemy (that glorious combination of friend when they see you and whatever when they don’t), or just an educated troll the accusation is very interesting.
On one hand we (at LBC) are criticized fairly frequently for being a capitalist project, charging too much for our books, and basically just sucking because we are legal and Bloom-esque. This is the other side of that criticism. This says that our problem is some sort of “bad faith” due to our familial resources. Take this a step further and the accusation is that if you come from bad (aka money) then what you produce, what you make, is bad.
This right here, this impossible choice between being judged for failure and judged for success, is why anarchists never grow old. Why would they? Even a modicum of success (which I wouldn’t even say we’ve achieved) gets strangers to authoritatively declare you whenever, why succeed? Spend a couple years being a rebel, take some scalps, and walk the fuck away cleanly.
I used to think a lot about the origins of the people who are around. What the demographic story was of our scene. What the class composition of the people around me were and how it was a predictor of future behavior. But it was all bullshit. There are valid reasons for everyone to walk away. Those of us who stay behind aren’t particularly noble. We are just stubborn.
If I were accused of something I was not 20 years ago I would be in the trenches right now. I would not stand for the truth to not be told. I would not put up with something being wrong. I laugh at that person today. Things are wrong on the place, and nicer people are accused of worse things all the time.
Now I just think of the consequences, or the environment in which ad hominem attacks are honestly substituted for critical thinking, conversation, or dare I say it relationships.
Stomping out ashes
I think it’s safe to say that we are now in a moment of decline for the anarchist space. This is not due to failure of the Beautiful Idea but the failure of our imagination today. Naturally we have the extreme disadvantage of having zero resources and an impossible project but that didn’t stop the makers of nightmares from bringing this world into being and it shouldn’t stop us.
I am known, probably fairly, for being a naysayer of many projects. I am always mentioning the but of them rather than the heart of them. But that is not how I really feel. I more or less accept the nihilist should be someone whose heart has been broken one time too many and if it hasn’t been then it’s probably a shallow nihilism indeed. Which is to say that I am hopeful for new beginnings and projects over time. I continue to be doubtful about that thing that I call activism or right answers or solutions but I’m more inclined to shut my mouth about them than ever before.
Occupy was a fresh beginning. Clearly it doesn’t take much in the American context but the taking of space was a big deal. None of the rest of it matters all that much in my opinion. The rest of it easily falls within the spectrum of what a new radical can expect: meetings, romances, boredom, and maybe a little smashy smashy. But the taking of space, as bleak and mediocre as that space was, current something mundane into something fantastic, something worth repeating (over and over), something to crave.
But in the bizarre world of addiction you can’t really trust your instincts. Once it’s taken away and you have to live with absence is as if it never happened at all. There was never a moment where everything seemed possible. It was always emptiness and lack. It was always like today.
So it’s a moment of decline and that raises the question of what’s next. The Occupy Generation is now here and it’s different than the post-Seattle generation, the punks, or the New(ish) Left. It’s getting up to speed on identity politics, insurrectionary rhetoric, and all of the required reading of the 21st century but probably will not care all that much about what came before. This generation has its own orbits and logic.
So what’s next has to address the oldness and the newness in equal measure and without fixating on past correct answers (which weren’t either). Sure it involves the Internet but also has to involve some way to connect with people on a personal level, without irony or sarcasm or snarkiness. This personal connection is a lot of what people experienced that sticks with them after the occupations were done and it’s the thing that is impossible to maintain without that face-to-face interaction.
It’s also the thing that is damn near impossible for my generation to do. Generation X damn near invented survival sarcasm and I can’t imagine going back even now I know it’s killing the anarchist space and all social space. This isn’t just an (self) accusation of hipsterism but an assessment that Occupy demonstrated a flaw in my generations approach. If we want to take the Beautiful Idea seriously we have to leave space for the new earnest people to find their own way. Our jaundiced view, based in too much experience, is preventing the wide-eyed future from coming.
And frankly I think that this lesson comes to late. I think that the decline in the anarchist space is our own fault, it’s related to these attitude problems and others, and is probably not repairable. Instead we would do as we’ve done several times before (in my 20 odd years of experience) which is do as we do and wait for a complete cycle of new people to come around and stake their claim in the space. Perhaps our generation, or the attitude of our generation, will weaken enough to let them in.
At some point I became exhausted with the process of making new friends. This is perhaps telling sign of aging but I no longer feel like the honeymoon period of a relationship is the most important one anymore. It used to be that the first three hours, three weeks, three months of a new person, getting to know them, to love them, to obsess about them was the ultimate social experience. This corresponded nicely with the fact that I ended up making a new set of friends every three months, seemingly whether I wanted to or not.
The first sign of change was not, surprisingly, that it became more difficult for me to find new friends. Even after my decline from the cute plateau (age 16-24) I was still able to find new people. All of a sudden though I was no longer capable of being completely interested in all the things that people do. I blame radical politics for this, especially radical theory. I was so obsessed by my own self-education and the truth that I was finding the deeper I went down the rabbit hole theory that people who did not share my particular obsessions stopped being particularly interesting to me. You cannot balance a hunger for newness along with an obsession for depth.
I spend the next five years learning and relearning this lesson. Then I planted my feet and went deeper and deeper and deeper.
I recently had a recent post-cute plateau person, who I’ve known for at least five years, remind me that when I first met them I told them that they basically don’t exist for me until they’ve been around for years. Basically they asked me if they existed to me now, full well knowing that they had existed for some time. Although probably not the way that they wish that they had.
Lesson one: pick a piece of ground and stay there. It more or less goes without saying that if you come to the long haul in 10 years on a Tuesday evening I will be there also. Obviously I understand why people don’t like long haul, don’t like the ASG, or don’t like crowds but I’ve made a choice. Until something traumatic happens (which is obviously possible) I will be at this singular place having conversations about the things that I love with strangers and other people who at that point I will have known for two decades.
Lesson two: find some good people. Obviously I hate good people so here what I’m getting at is that I have spent way too much time having stupid conversations about bands, movies, and other people. Finding people who are interesting, compelling, interested is a serious fucking challenge. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t worry about the fact that it will not happen easily or quickly. Don’t take it too hard that you may not be as interesting as they are. That happens over time and will never happen if you surround yourself with the mundane.
Lesson three: find a mentor. Mentors are not elder wizards who are going to teach you alchemical wisd from a huge volume of recipes. One mentor might teach you to love better. Another by the martial art or an approach to martial arts. Another might just have a great attitude towards life. These people are your future comrades in arms. They are going to show you how to connect to others with the same interests as yourself. They are going to show you the extent of their abilities and vision which damn well better inform your own.
Lesson four: have patience.
This is a very busy time for us. In three weeks we will begin our annual eight days of anarchy celebration. This is our chance to spend a series of days and evenings together conspiring, gossiping, and decompressing. I have more to say but it is closer to the events but it goes without saying that I will be happy to see everyone come and happy to see everyone go.
The last few months have been filled with what I’m calling the 10 week death march. Eight projects in 10 weeks. We are just about done with all of the projects so I will list them.
- Stirner’s critics
- defacing the currency – new writings by Bob Black
- between predicates, war: theses on contemporary struggle by the Institute for Experimental Freedom
- anvil number four
- The 2013 LBC catalog
- Anarchism and violence – Severino Di Giovanni in Argentina
- Feral Revolution
- let’s destroy work. let’s destroy the economy
Fuck. The volume of content just in this list is enough for a year of reading and engagement. I’m going back to sleep.
by aragorn in LBC
I* had an amazing year in 2012. So much so that the kind of perfectly normal winter induced funk that I seem to be in seems a little bit embarrassing. Here is a little bit about the year and a bit more about the future.
In 2011 I took a three month trip to Europe. Even though it was lonely and uncomfortable it was also life altering and inspiring. Prior to the trip I had been thinking more seriously about publishing. About how to do it in a more meaningful and affordable way and how to grow the umbrella project that a few of us were a part of. By about half way through the trip I had a pretty good idea what the plan was all that was left was implementation.
2012 was going to be a year about publishing. Publishing books. It took about 4 months to figure out what equipment to buy, how to use it, and what titles we were going to start the project with. By December 1st 2011 I knew that the first book we were going to put together was going to be by me and figured I knew what the first 3-4 titles of the year were.
In this write up I’m going to talk about the process of putting these books together, some nitty-gritty book production stuff, and perhaps wrap it up with some thoughts about why I feel more like a wrung out rag than a proud paterfamilias and why I go into 2013 with as more doubts than answers.
Here are the books we (LBC: Ardent, LBC Books, Repartee, GA, etc) will have officially publishing in 2012.
- Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupation Movement 2009-2011 – edited by Aragorn!
- Queer Ultraviolence: An Anthology of Bash Back!
- Freedom: My Dream – The autobiography of Enrico Arrigoni
- Theory of Bloom – by Tiqqun
- Uncivilized: The best of Green Anarchy Magazine
- Crime Thought – by Alden Wood
- Treatise on Etiquette for the younger generations – Raoul Vaneigem
- Anarchy 101 – edited by dot matrix
- After Post-Anarchism – by Duane Rousselle
- Novatore – translations by Wolfi Landstreicher
- Anarchist International
Fuck. I am not sure how much I want to go into these books (beyond what I’ve already done in this blog) but perhaps I’ll do more of a crit/self-crit for your all’s amusement.
What we did right
The model worked. The idea of publishing anarchist material frequently (a book a month) seemed a little ridiculous this time last year. We had no idea what we were doing three months into 2012 and half these titles weren’t even sparkles in our eyes. The idea that to be doing this meant increasing the pressure, of our own capacity, of our relationships, of our processes, etc, was the right one.
If our desire was to live anarchy, as a vibrant, challenging, set of ideas and people, then publishing anarchist material (propaganda, biographies, theory, and collections) is a real way to do it. I would be hard pressed to think of much anarchist material that I am interested in that didn’t pass through our lens this year. I often say that there are two different kinds of anarchists. There are the ones whose anarchism ended in 1937 and want to try again harder and anarchists who were born in 1968. If we are a publisher of the second kind of anarchy then this year demonstrated (to me at least) that there are legs on this. I can’t wait to see where they take us next.
We didn’t taken the ankle-biting criticisms too seriously. Obviously there are a variety of real/not-real things that can be said about some of our choices (paper, indexes, covers, etc) and some times at the moment they are uttered they can really get me down but by-and-large I feel pretty good about balancing the criticisms we have received in terms of their heat rather than their smoke.
We didn’t burn too many bridges. Given how nasty our little world is I can definitely say that we built 3-4 times as many bridges as we burned this year. This was perhaps due to some maturity on our part but it also due to the fact that our project is primarily about delivering other people’s messages to the world. The effort we are spending is making things that are not financially viable but are meaningful to us and an expression of our friends (or comrades, as the case may be) has finally paid off. Obviously we aren’t perfect and are kind of jerks… but I can finally say with no irony that the work speaks for itself.
What we did wrong
We rely far too much on the milieu. I love the milieu** but it is too closed of a circle. Even as that circle has expanded (thanks Occupy!) it demonstrates all the weaknesses of self-definition. There is a ton to criticize in “the scene” but for us, as a project, we have to start reaching outside of our comfort zone. As to how to do that in a meaningful and long-view way… Good question!
Too many men. I am increasingly concerned that our project, especially as a publisher of anarchist books, has become a sausage party. We only have two books (although there are two anon titles and one multi-author collection) that aren’t duderific. I think this issue is going to take years to truly resolve but that one of our first steps is to pull back and think about what our goal is. If the goal is to embrace and publish the world of anarchist ideas then books have a ton of embedded problems. I have a critic who often lambasts me for my (seeming) embrace of the long form essay (which the book is obviously an even longer form) as being out of touch with the attention span of the modern human. Even though the criticism is also a ridiculous one (since I’m also fairly married to the web short form) there is a big question that seems right to me. Money is not our motivation. If chaos, or anarchy-wearing-chaos-formalwear, is our motivation how can we better transmit this? Somewhere in the answer to this question is also the answer to dude question.
We did not take enough risks. Being that we are self-funded (aka broke) we are also kind of bullet-proof in a way that other publishers are not. While it would be possible for someone to sue me into financial oblivion, I owe so much more than I have that it would probably be harder on them than me. More importantly it wouldn’t stop us from publishing! As a result of this we can, and should, be taking more risks, doing more illegal and inappropriate publishing projects. This year we published Treatise (an affordable version of Revolution of Everyday Life) and Words (a send up of the IAS’s Lexicon series) but this barely scraped the surface of what we should be doing. There are priests to be strangled by beauracratic entrails…
What is next
Books of course! In addition there is going to be a push into video (long and short form), music (?!), deeper web content, e-books, etc. 2013 is going to be a bit more focused on reaching outside of our safe(ish) space and into the cold, hard world that doesn’t care one bit about what we are thinking about. Anti-politics for the masses and shit.
Financially we have to figure out a way for more people to participate in the project. It is strange to think that this makes any sense at all (in the quid pro quo sense of the word) but becoming an accomplice of LBC means getting everything that we do (something like 25-30 projects in 2012) and supporting the fact that we are doing it. If we could cover our burn (rate, the amount we have to spend a month) with our accomplices it would go a long way towards making the project more (personally) sustainable.
I guess related to income is how connected this project is to a rich and fulfilling emotional life. While intellectually I couldn’t be happier I find that emotionally devoting so many hours of my day (and life) to this thing is exhausting. I am exhausted. I am exhausted by the bad faith and criticism-that-isn’t. I am exhausted by the frenemies. I am exhausted by the fact that I have made these choices and have no one to blame but myself. I am exhausted by blaming myself. 2013 is the year where I figure out how to convert some of the intellectually fulfilling aspects of this crazy thing called anarchy into something healthy.
Maybe I’ll just go back to Europe or something.
* I want to apologize for the use of I throughout this article (and in general). Often times I personify the LBC project even though there are a half a dozen people who are also as committed to the project as I am. I do this for a variety of reasons but to list them… a desire to not be or seem representational, a desire to take responsibility rather than hide behind an institution, because I’m the only one who tends towards writing about the project at all, because marketing is about people, because I am alienated from my individual desires and only have project desire now, because I’m fucked up.
** Obviously it is love and hate but if love is a decision about who you want to live and die with… I’m still here.
by aragorn in LBC
I am not writing very much right now. I wish I was.
I am so entirely mired in the day-to-day workflow of LBC that it has become nearly impossible to keep track of all the details or to look past them. I want to keep a record of this work (both types) though so I am going to try to do a monthly “report back” on the status of the project for your (and my) enjoyment.
I’ll talk about our setup and our February title to start this out…
I have been publishing stuff for a while now. I wrote my first pro-situ zine about twenty years ago now (wow) and it’s been about nine years since I started my involvement with Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (and two since ending it). We published (as Ardent Press) our first book almost five years ago.
I guess I have decided that anarchist publishing is what I have decided I am going to do with my time and energy but how? On the basest level I have been concerned (to put it lightly) that with print dying that the publishing of anarchist material was going to lose all corporality. Obviously I am on top of that too but there is something not replaceable about print. Moreover the Internet has shown itself to be a poor mechanism to weaponizing ideas. It is great for the lulz and the information churn but it isn’t a place to geologically layer the knowledge, discussions, and style that forms awesome (aka peers).
Moreover the book we published in 2011 was expensive. So expensive that it made be very nervous about doing another like it. I believe it’ll make back the money spent on it over time but the lesson (perhaps wrong) I took away from that book is that obscure anarchist material will not sell well quickly led me to reconsider the project of anarchist publishing. Sidebar: While Enemies hasn’t been an incredible seller it has been an unqualified success on every other measure.
How do we publish interesting things (aggressively) while not losing our shirts (financially)? The short and long answer is that we bought the equipment to make future books (for about the cost of three Enemies). Obviously this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t work a shitty office job for three years but I did and it was. Add to the mix another member to the LBC team who was willing to “take ownership” (which refers to PRDM which I’ll talk about another time) of the LBC print shop and we were off to the races (figuratively).
On the plus side: We can now publish interesting things.
On the minus side: We are now operating a print shop in addition to trying to publish books.
Here are some details.
First Book – Occupy Everything
I am not going to go into too much detail about Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement 2009-2011. I decided in early December to edit a book by the end of January. It was very challenging work to make something that was balanced and (I believe) will stand the test of time while being interesting to a non-anarchist audience.
The book did immediately vindicate the LBC printing project in that we made a variety of mistakes that we were able to repair in a short period of time. We can now practice iterative publishing and printing which makes me nearly giddy. It wasn’t until March that I feel I became a pro but January was the start of learning pre-press the hard way.
I should mention another thing? With the equipment in hand it is our intention to publish one anarchist* book a month in 2012 (and maybe beyond). Occupy Everything was the first book.
Second Book – Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back! Anthology
I’ll give more detail to this project because it was a monster.
Final page count: 430.
This includes over 250 pages of Communiques (a sizable portion being so insider as to be indecipherable outside of the particular people being talked about), 150 pages of theory, and a new introduction and conclusion. But the content (text on page) wasn’t the difficult part of this project. Everything else was.
In a moment of insanity I agreed to let the book be design heavy (designed by the same lunatic behind Politics is not a Banana) which meant a two sided color cover (With the gloss on the inside. More on this later.), color inserts, and a color timeline of events.
This turned out to be the easy part (or at least until we tried to bind a book to it) as the (outsourced) printer just treated the inside of the book (the glossy part) as the outside of the book.
Here is the matte outside cover (pretty, no?)
The real difficulty came when we tried to glue the book bloc to the cover. Glossy (inside) cover + paper = cover + paper (in a pile on the floor). Not good!
This means that we ended up having to sandpaper the inside spine of every single book we put together. Insane!
Here is an unlucky grinder of gloss
Another issue with the cover is that due to the aesthetics of the full color inside cover a simple crease on the corner of the book bloc would not do. We ended up having to do a special crease (I forget the term, but basically a hinge an 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the book corner) to preserve the inside image. This wasn’t as frustration (by a long shot) as the sandpapering.
You can see the inserts here (although they’ve changed to full color porn on the left side)
The inserts obviously make this book “more special” and pretty and whatnot but have added intensity to the production process. For starters they have to be manually inserting INTO the book bloc (prior to binding… obviously) but the more challenging (especially for the persnickity people) issue has been that the printing surface has been offset compared to the usual page because of the way that the “full bleed” and printing process plays out.
It is hard to visualize this but in our usual pre-press process we rotate and flip our text so that the paper cut that creates a binding surface ALSO is the hidden cut. This is good for aesthetics and paper conservation but not applicable to the color spreads (although it could be and perhaps will be on the next run).
Mostly the timeline was a requirement of the editing process (without it the pile of Communiques are harder to contextualize) but ended up being a bit of an albatross on the project. At some point (when we decided not to bind it to the book) I contemplated blowing it up to a more proper poster size, but that quickly passed (mostly because it wasn’t going to be wise $).
Doing stuff is hard
I’ll try to do this once a month, just to give people who are book/print nerds a little insight into our world. There are tons of topics to cover but obvious the QU:BB! book represents the high point of design, volume, and insanity. I doubt we’ll do another book nearly this crazy this year. Perhaps never.
I am not going to focus on big lessons or negatives because, basically, there aren’t any. I love anarchists, I love the creative process, and I want others to share in this love. I am getting to do very hard work to make more sharing possible. I hope this loving work makes the best weapons ever. I hope I live long enough to see these weapons used against those I hate.
Let me start with public matter that I should have attended to earlier. My big projects, the ones I was so cagey about all fall, have been announced. These include…
- The formation of a new publishing project LBC Books
- The announcement of three new books to be published by this new project (with 2 more to be announced, with dates, within the next week or so)
- One of those books is edited by me. It has already been released
Falling under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished” the announcement of the new book was met with scorn and dismissal (although not by anyone who wanted me to know their name). The fascinating part of this, for me, was a new line of attack. Aragorn! is too powerful and should stop doing things. Giving this the full benefit of the doubt (which I don’t) this criticism is long overdue. Anarchists have become lazy. I don’t blame AK Press or Crimethinc for producing all the literature that deserves to be read but the attitude that because nothing we can do is good then we should do nothing at all. Obviously most everything I do…
Quick Sidebar: It is absolutely ridiculous for me to say that “I” do anything at all. I can think of 3-10 people (and one in particular) who I absolutely depend on for every public project I do. I say “I” mostly because I feel like I have prepared myself for the slings and arrows and want to honor my accomplices privacy and different capacities. Not everyone wants to be called out on the Internet, or in stupid email chains, or on forums, etc…
return: Most everything I do is bad. Is corrupted by capitalism, alienation, and editorial control. I’d like to say that the authorial control I try to give people is enough, but of course it isn’t. I wrestle with demons with clear motivation. I believe that an anarchy worth my time is one vibrant, powerful, and bottled with genie(s). I believe this thing is worth making my time worth something so I trudge on.
I am touched by corruption and blow it off because thinking in terms of the sacred and the unholy is exactly the Christian problem that makes life unlivable. I despise Christians and the forces of boring, boring, life. I want to fight them all but my (and our) weapons are dull and rusty. We anarchists have not risen to greatness and have no one to blame but ourselves.
The transformation of the world by the productive forces was bound slowly to realise the material conditions of total emancipation, having first passed through the stage of the bourgeoisie. Today, when automation and cybernetics applied in a human way would permit the construction of the dream of masters and slaves of all time, there only exists a socially shapeless magma which blends in each individual paltry portions of master and slave. Yet it is from this reign of equivalent values that then new masters, the masters without slaves, will emerge.
Personal Stuff: The slurring of my speech seems to be getting a bit worse. As some of you may remember I had a few brain aneurysms a few years ago which have mostly left me none-the-worse-for-wear but does seem to have impacted my speech. It usually only happens when I’m tired, or under-caffeinated, or feeling blah but this past week the issue has noticeably worsened. It seems to be impacted by my choice of words. Certain vowel combinations or word choices and my lazy tongue keels over.
It is easy to get troubled by this. Along with my typing hand this is my main output into the world. Without it I will be misunderstood or perhaps worst, ignored. It is a wonderful irony that just as I am finding a voice, in the publishing sense of the word, I might also be losing it.
I would like to be updating this blog at least once a month (but preferably 2-4 times) but I haven’t for the past few. This is largely because I am about to announce the largest project I (by which I mean we since there are several other stakeholders) have ever undertaken and I would prefer to wrap up the announcement with a bow than be partial about it. I’ve already dropped a few hints so I’d rather stop doing that until we are ready.
I have been doing some other things that are probably “blog worthy” but up till now I’ve attempted to use my blog as a place for short essay type writing than what I guess is more “bloggy” kind of writing. I think quantity probably matters so I will do more bloggy shit even though it hurts my brain.
I do a monthly review of anarchist (mostly) print media
I did a few presentations over the past month while in Columbus OH and Chapel Hill NC. The topics were Illegalism & Social Media. I will be sharing writeups on both topics in the next year. There will be a new publication of my last few years of my presentations and follow ups to an old set of pamphlets called Attentat. Expect it around June.
My presentation in Columbus was particularly notable because it included like an hour discussion that was what I would call “high level.” It wasn’t stupid questions about a better world or silly hypotheticals but real discussion about the situation on the ground in town and how the presentation could relate to that. Afterwards it was pointed out to me that much of the room was in graduate school. I was sad.
Chapel Hill was a fast paced two day whirlwind. We arrived early for the bookfair and went to “the” eco-coop-natural fibers-bullshit store which gives anything on the West Coast a run for its money. The bookfair smelled like stale beer but was otherwise a fantastic time with a lot of good conversation, demonstrations of activism-without-the-word, and good energy. Even my frenemies couldn’t spoil the mood. I am really excited to go back to the area and check out Firestorm because those people were alarmingly nice and engaged.
I spent some time in Michigan where I may end up spending a lot more time in the next few years. I love the spring and fall time there. I basically hate the summer and winter. I did get to meet some real life @ in Grand Rapids (just about the last town one would ever believe @ would live in) while I was there. That was awesome.
Now I am back in the Bay. Occupy Oakland (which I will write about substantially another time) is starting to fade as the holidays come and police war against tents heats up. I was away for the day of the General Strike but here is my favorite image from the day…
I am going to try to catch up with my writing because I am now sitting in a squat in Amsterdam and am anxious to talk about my intense & awesome day today but first things first…
I love to drive. I can handle 500 miles before lunch and absolutely love the headspace that I get in during drives that span the night. I mostly tolerate driving during the day, but the night…
Which is a good thing because after leaving Houston on Sunday night we went to St. Louis (Monday), Milwaukee (T-Wed), and then streaked the 2000+ to be back in Berkeley on Friday by 2 pm. Monster driving was required.
If I could calm the fuck down and smell the roses, or seriously consider moving back to the Midwest, this would probably be the second place on my list. (I am from MI so that would be first) The people who comprise the St. Louis scene are the most, I hate to use the word sophisticated, but perhaps experienced and not-backwards of any place outside of the coasts. During my event there were a dozen people who had entirely thought through (and discussed with each other) topics that many places were hearing said out loud for the first time. I would not feel lonely in St. Louis, neither would you.
Like idiots we scheduled an event on the day that Black Bear Bakery was closed which meant we didn’t have a chance to hang out there and enjoy the @-Bakery. Suffice it to say that their bread is really good and the atmosphere is IMO the best of any @-work project in the US.
There is an urban squat project in St. Louis that I will not spoil by talking to much about. The US doesn’t have a squatting culture and so building one (both a squat(s) and a culture) is an incredible task filled with trepidation and awesome. I mostly think that people shouldn’t visit St. Louis for their squats but think seriously about what extra-legal land projects are possible in their location and how to learn the lessons of other US & European experiences.
Milwaukee has shown me different faces during different visits. I’ve seen punk Milwaukee, some version of @ Milwaukee, and I’ve passed through a few times. This time I saw the Riverwest neighborhood and the adorable coop & CCC. A total treat and a total Midwest intersection of space (meaning they have a lot of it) and comfort (meaning a short walk to great food & their community center + comfort food).
I have decided on the next LBC project. It is the biggest risk and reward potential yet. It hopefully will be what will get more people involved in the project and connect us more to the people that we like. It isn’t a project of reaction but doing shit I’ve been fascinated with for a decade… I can’t wait. Oh, except I have to because I can’t even get started on it until I get back from this damn three month vacation.
End of US trip
by aragorn in LBC
I am going to try to give a reportback on my recent trip around the US. My goal is to give the reader a taste of each town rather than of my presentation or the lessons I learned regarding my own projects. I’ll leave those for another time when the reader can safely ignore them.
I took a quick loop visiting Tucson, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. At the end of the trip I raced back to Berkeley to be present at a private event with the Invisible Committee. I’ll discuss that a bit later.
The Dry River Collective has come a long way since the last time I visited it (during the first months of its life in a different location). The new space is very nice, appearing to be located in a small church rather than a small warehouse. It has a free store corner and all the accoutrements one would expect from a space of this sort. My event was prefaced by one by Keith McHenry (co-founder of Food Not Bombs) who is a great cheerleader for his cause. His presentation was well attended by the local FNB chapter and other interested parties. They filed out as he concluded.
My event was, essentially, abandoned by its organizer which impacted its attendance, passion, and relevance. I’ll respond to the organizers abandonment another time but suffice it to say I was disappointed.
The presentation was mostly interesting for its Q&A which was highly interested in gossip & the Internet (clearly not a theme in a talk on illegalism). I was quite surprised how closely the 1/2 dozen people followed the mundane (and not) Internet drama of @. This makes sense, given the size and scope of their own scene but is likely a dangerous direction given how much personal detail they knew about people they will never meet or befriend.
Lesson: Make sure you do your own legwork before you do an event in Tucson.
I arrived a day early in Phoenix which meant that I had an opportunity to go to Flagstaff and visit the Infoshop there. I also participated in a protest against the development of the San Francisco Peaks which entailed me holding onto an embarrassing banner and mumbling along with statements I’m not particularly comfortable with… but when in native land one should show a full unit of humble respect (a humbleton).
Suffice it to say the Taala Hooghan is entirely impressive. It is an “indigenous infoshop” rather than one oriented toward a particular sect of (anarchist) politics. It shares its expansive space with a native media group and as a result has a atmosphere of Internet era “new media” along with a concrete and run down aesthetic.
The space is huge. It has a children’s room, a semi-gymnasium, a (or several) mural walls, garden plots, common rooms, kitchen, and the aforementioned media space (which includes sound-proofed rooms and other nearly professional equipment). The content of the space relies strongly on a “zigzag” vibe but as I am inclined towards that I have no complaint. It is also heavy on the PM/AK vibe which I am not inclined toward but I understand the appeal of free credit (and recognize the marketing & social impact of it).
The people of the space were very friendly and generous with their time. I was even challenged to defend my position and perspectives which I greatly enjoyed (and wish happened more often).
My event in Phoenix itself was pleasant and a bit of a let down in comparison to the conversations I had earlier (and later). I will say that the audience in Phoenix was (25%) well informed and those who weren’t seemed generally interested in the connections I was drawing, so much so that the main criticism I received was that I wasn’t fully accelerating on my point. Fair enough.
The PCWC (my generous-with-their-time hosts) were alarmingly unorthodox (or as I usually deride them “into American eclecticism to a fault”) and seemed somewhat interested in a point that I share an interest in. What is the position of repression and lone wolf actions in a denatured political site. I look forward to engaging them on this in the future as their hopefulness about people (generally) shocks and concerns me.
I had an entirely pleasant time during my stay in Austin. This was entirely due to the company of my accommodations as my event at Monkeywrench was a waste of my time… Perhaps that is not fair as I often have experiences like the Monkeywrench event that later turn up lasting relationships but my general sense of the space was of exhaustion and obligation and not joy and fruitful collaboration. Perhaps this is due to the preponderance of leftist crap adorning their bookshelves as the people associated with the space were friendly enough just… tired.
Austin is a sleepy town that was already too hot for human life (95 degrees in April). This means a slow, relaxing life filled with a spectacular mineral water (Topo!) and languid siestas. Only in the evening to people perk up and engage in hours of good conversation sitting next to the goats and chickens.
Ostensibly my reason for going to Texas was to attend the first annual Houston anarchist bookfair and this is what I did. The Houston organizers did two things I haven’t seen before. 1) They scheduled 12 hours of events for each of the two days (having their film festival conclude each evening) and 2) had three meals a day provided for the entire attendance by the local Food Not Bombs.
The event itself was well run (allegedly there is a howto document forthcoming). There were table, chairs and most importantly an audience of more than just the organizers friends. This is very important for other @ who want to throw a bookfair. The better your outreach the better the event, period.
The demographic was younger and punker than I had seen in a while but the political attitude was definitely laid back and positive rather than jaded-urban-knowitall so good for Houston. Especially for not making any particular connections to the town itself I came away feeling very positive about my time there and about the organization of the event. GJ Houston!
Up next… St Louis, Milwaukee, & 2000 miles to meet the French
Ending are anti-climactic. You know that, I do too. After working for three years in the cubes I am now free and barely know what to do with myself. I feel like someone recovering from Stockholm Syndrome.
I have at least 12 months to do… something else. I have a fairly good idea about what those things are going to be of course. After a couple week break I am hitting the road… Scratch that. Little Black Cart is hitting the road and I am its chaperone. If you are going to nearby these locations/dates please stop by and say hello!
Tucson AZ – April 15th
Phoenix AZ – April 17th
Austin TX – April 19thish
Houston TX – April 23rd, 24th
St. Louis – 25th, 26th
Milwaukee WI – April 27th
After that I’ll be back in the Bay for some yet-to-be-announced events and then in NYC for some more. Finally I’m headed to Europe for three months of travel. If all goes well I will come back and have my head totally cleared of the spooks of cloud computing and career drama. I will remember what exactly it is that is motivating me…
Oh wait, that isn’t really my problem at all. I know exactly why I continue to plod forward… stubbornness. And now I am free(r) to be stubborn on my own terms.
We have a possibility that makes us freer than the gods: we can quit. This is an idea to be savoured to the end. Nothing and no one is obliging us to live. Not even death. For that reason our life is a tabula rasa, a slate on which nothing has been written, so contains all the words possible. With such freedom, we cannot live as slaves. Slavery is for those who are condemned to live, those constrained to eternity, not for us.
-At Daggers Drawn