Pieces of a Roast – Part III

Finally a third one from a friend in OR

ARAGORN! – Avatar of Clarity

As the crisis of industrial civilization intensifies and the Biosphere becomes ever more fragmented, it’s clearer and clearer that those resisting the death march of Empire could use some truly radical analysis. Personally, we feel the world could use more explicitly anarchist analysis of our collective plight, strategic anarchist analysis that seeks the broadest and deepest change possible, involving the largest numbers of individuals possible. Yet most contemporary anarchist “theorists” insist on being endlessly discursive, absurdly prolix, in love with tiddling academic ornamentation for the sake of it, arcane on the surface but mundane on the inside, and above all hyper-dull. One is often left with a strong puzzlement over who and what this smug literary tiddling is actually meant for!

Intellectuals have (or ought to have) an obligation to communicate clearly, or else they automatically become a closed system, creating ideas solelyfor each other; the sheer complexity of their thought results in deeply unattractive formulations of byzantine dimensions that resist simplification. Without “simplification” (an admittedly lazy word choice) anarchist and other subversive memes are only ever carried by a high-brow cultural elite. This is a matter of comprehensibility, and our use of the word “simplification” refers to a process more akin to distillation: for ideas to spread they must be framed in an accessible fashion!

If we’re dealing with empowerment, then ideas need to be stated clearly. It’s authoritarian at the very least to expect everybody who encounters anarchist propaganda to do their own self-financed course in obfuscatory French philosophers before being admitted to the fold. To remove subversive ideas from the control of the intelligentsia they must be made more comprehensible to a wider range of people, especially overworked wage-slaves who may well not be interested in grinding their way through sadistically dull, neurotically overwrought post-modern windbaggery. A great many contemporary anarchist writers actually disempower their readers due to the sheer obscurity of their thought!

Fortunately for us, this is where Aragorn! steps in. Waging a one-man war on vagueness and ambiguity, Aragorn! recognizes that whatever language constructs are most efficient at getting themselves copied will also be the most effective replicators of the anarchist meme. To this end, Aragorn! smites down the shadowy phantoms of ineffectual intellectual dialectical detritus with his fiery sword of clarity: employing a dazzling, but down-to-earth, writing style and a straightforward precision not seen in anarchist thought since Louis Ling, Aragorn! uses the visceral power of everyday speech to bypass the analytical defenses of the overeducated mind and send atavistic emotions surging through his readers.

In a stunningly illuminating prose that is neither circuitous nor self-indulgent-a prose that can best be described as elemental– Aragorn! reveals himself to be a sworn enemy of obfuscation and tedious, doctrinaire talk, unleashing word-combinations that strike not at the conceptual excesses of the post-modern intellect but at the very core of the human soul! This is not to say that Aragorn! attempts to speak in a “pseudo-populist” vocabulary or tones down the subtlety of his ideas for mass-market consumption, it’s just that he never leaves any room for misinterpretation and die-hard fans and casual readers alike always know exactly where he stands!

Well Aragorn!, by now , after the battering you’ve received this evening, I’m sure you could use a supportive, healing hug from someone. But unfortunately for you, Sunfrog doesn’t seem to be in attendance!

pieces of a roast – Part II

Here is a second roast contributed by John Zerzan from Eugene Oregon

Aragorn! Subversive Trickster or Postmodern Confusionist?

Who is this larger (much larger) than life figure? How should we appreciate and applaud his bizarre term of confounding us? He who laughs at such pedestrian notions as commonly accepted definitions, historical fact, and consistent vision––what manner of beast is this?

Did he receive his wound to the chest from actual skinheads in Sacramento—or was this a decentered bit of text about a virtual “Sacramento?” His manifest energy—perhaps the output of theory graduate students in league with his merry deconstruction of reality?

And what manner of man, after all, is he who attracts two women who together, arrange his birthday roast?

His nihilism may be elusive, if not elliptical, but AK Press, NEFAC, and other assorted lefty losers are paying the price.

All hail to our smiling conundrum, and welcome all interpreters, floating signifiers, and guides to the perplexed!


Pieces of a roast – Part I

With all the writing I’ve been doing about Letters of Insurgents the past few months I haven’t shared what is sharable about the roast that happened for my 40th birthday. I will start with an entry from my friend Artnoose. She is about to start work on a major tattoo for me so I will not say anything curt about her entry (which was read in absentia since she lives in Pittsburgh).

Here I am, roasting from a safe distance. And I know what you’re saying— “Artnoose? But she’s a cream puff! She’s way too nice to write a suitably scathing roast.”

And you’re right. I am too nice. No reason to fault Aragorn! for that, though. He did his best.

I met Aragorn!at the Burley House in San Diego around 1992, or maybe the year before. Boy was he a jerk back then. And me? I was busy having my mind blown by the collective house situation, especially— and get this— house meetings! I was totally enamored with them.

At the time Aragorn! was playing computer games (Wolfenstein?) all the time and sharing a bedroom with a few people who as far as I could tell he wasn’t related to or sleeping with. That was also mind-blowing.

Also as far as I could tell, Aragorn! could win any argument, and even back then, I was never sure if this was a positive thing or not.

Still, I observed his argumentation style, even when I seemed asleep on the couch while he and my boyfriend at the time got into debates late into the night. I want to add a few more things about this time in history before jumping ahead. One is that Aragorn! and Chuck were the first people I met who had septum piercings. The other is that Aragorn!’s gaming name was Chomsky, and I think that my questioning of this name I-had-never-heard-before spawned a verbal introduction to anarchism.

In 1993 I got my septum pierced, moved to the Bay Area, made a trek to Bound Together to purchase Living My Life, and began calling myself an anarchist. I mention this because I suspect that Aragorn! was probably the unwitting focus of this turn. I didn’t see him again until I think 1995, when I almost literally ran into him in the hallway at the 20th Street House, where I was dating one of the residents. We exchanged hellos, he didn’t remember my name, and after a few moments of silence, he said, “Well, no reason for us all to stand here being uncomfortable,” and left.

I probably saw Aragorn! off and on for a few years after that (with him forgetting my name consistently), during which time I had begun attending the reading group at the Long Haul. The debate education that had begun at the Burley House continued as I watched Lawrence battle friends, foes, and ideologies every Tuesday night for years.
At some point a new influx of people began attending the reading group, and Aragorn! was one of them. It was a turning point for the reading group but also my own life as well, as the greater circle of friends around these new people were to become my close friend base.

How this happened was through a difficult situation I found myself in. I was scared and I didn’t feel like I was getting support from the people around me. Aragorn! stepped in to lend a hand, and the thing that I always remember is that he didn’t have to. He made the choice. Other people stepped in too, and it changed the way I thought about friends, even though recent events might suggest otherwise. A true helping hand is one that’s extended without being forced, and it’s unfortunately rare.

Aragorn!was pretty solidly in my life from then on, and I can’t count how many times I’ve had to defend my friendship with him. We’ve also gotten into some rows ourselves, about who I date, how much I kiss people in public, the proper format to submit graphic design to a letterpress printer, and ineffective approaches to storming into virtual buildings armed to the hilt. This last bit is most dramatically illustrated in the moment when during an epic game of Counterstrike I kept getting picked off (probably by Mike K.) in the first few seconds of every round, and Aragorn! yelled out, “Artnoose! Could you pleeeeeease try to not be so fucking USELESS?!” I think I stormed out, but years later I got major cred on tour because there’s that Network of Terror song “Debacle at the LAN Party” and I could actually say that I had been an instrumental player at one.

So there you have it. Later I moved in, shit went crazy, I drew a comic zine about it, and eventually I left town. I still consider Aragorn! one of my best friends, even though we hardly ever see each other. If nothing else, I have a septum ring and Letters of Insurgents to thank him for. Oh, and a few dozen unfinished Kriegspiel boards. Maybe LBC will put them on sale or something…}

Another Surgery For a Battered Soul

Just about exactly 20 years after a “Skinhead brawl” put my roommate into a grave and me into “stable condition with stab wounds on his left side” I might be seeing the end of the second chapter of the complications the incident on my life. While on the one hand it is easy, and true, to blame the aleopathic approach of treating symptoms in my situation for it coming back to haunt me 20 years later I am also feeling pretty thankful for planning ahead on this situation.

I have always been committed to not living “life as usual” from fighting Nazis as a young man, to rejecting the nuclear family (and relationship), and the life of criminal boredom (read: career) I’ve made choices that made some sense to me even though there have been consequences. The primary consequence, one I usually share with 40 million other residents of this country, is a habitual lack of health insurance. I survived the initial stabbing because of a California program around “victims of violent crime” but as my old wound began to herniate I wouldn’t have such honor. I’d either have to suck up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills (probably six figures due to the complications) or get a job with seriously good health insurance. This I did and continue to be trapped in until I am fully recovered from this second chapter.

As you can read in my old blog (which I am going to migrate to here one of these days) the first part of this chapter didn’t go so well. Perhaps I’ll do an equivalent of Bad Medicine in a pamphlet form with some of this material. BTW if you haven’t read the Spring 2010 The Match there is a fantastic (quality) and terrifying (in content) article on hernia surgery that coupled with my story should put the Fear into all men.

But I believe that this time the surgery went well. The massive distention I’ve had in my belly the past 6 months is gone. I can imagine a non-mutant future for myself. I think I will heal. Last time I wasn’t so sure.

That said today was the first time I really examined myself without bandages and materiel. I am going to be a very different creature emerging from this whole situation. My belly, still stapled, shaved, and pasty from my hospital visit also has a kind of un-living characteristic that I am really disturbed by. It is flatter but I can feel the sides of the surgical material under my skin still not integrated into my body. I will survive but I will be beyond scarred. I will be transformed. The new me will be physically weaker (no more Muay Thai for me!). I will have to slowly strengthen my core to achieve baseline. I am, on some level, middle aged before my time. I am not ready.

I am about to hit 40. I am going to have a funny birthday party where people I have made fun of get to respond in kind. I am ready for the next stage of life but not quite for the implications of being not just not-young but actually old. I figured I would be able to fake it, on some level, for another 5-10 years. It just isn’t true. I have some thinking to do about how few peers I have, about how that isn’t going to change anytime soon, and how about my body isn’t going to win me any medals at any future derby. I will have to make do with the steel trap inside my head. Obviously I am going to be just fine but the illusion, the imagination, is gone. Regards.

End of the chapter where a couple things happened of no consequence

Spring is about over and to close it out I took one last trip before my next hospital visit. If all goes well I will emerge from this visit healthier, stronger, and without the absolute need for bi-weekly medical visits (and insurance). I am getting nervous about abandoning these golden handcuffs but can’t wait to have time again to think outside of the 40 hour a week monotony.

Last weekend I was in the Olympia-Tacoma area giving a presentation at the Northwest Anarchist Conference which was a small event funded by the Evergreen and attended by around 50 people over the course of the weekend. I wish I could say that it was a swimming success but I am pretty critical of my own presentation (which I’ll dig into) and am not sure how convinced I am that this kind of a conference is worth the time and energy put into it. That said I continue to really enjoy the people who live in the NW and look forward to the possibilities of further collaboration with them.

Check out http://tan.anarchyplanet.org to see many of their projects advertised.

I am starting to think about taking a bit of a different approach to presentations. I have, for years, started every presentation with something like a “postion paper” in mind. I prepare, more-or-less from scratch, every presentation with the goal being the writing of some sort of 2500-3000 word essay. I spend a few days mulling the implications of what I want to say and the framing of the presentation to a different/new audience. I try to be contextual. I always take on a far bigger speculative project than I am capable of presenting honesly in a limited period of time and never make enough time to write enough words to share a document of my ideas. This is bad and neither benefits an audiece as much as limited essay writing would OR take advantage of my own conversational skills as much as I’d like.


I was somewhat inspired by the presentation Magpie did around his Mythbreaker and Lawbreakers tour. He goes for cutsey a bit more than I think is necessary but I guess it fits into his style. I do think I would benefit a lot from the kind of presentational logic that Magpie used. Even though there is a war against it.

I am just whittling away

Taking on an enormous pile of long range projects has really helped me, psychologically, become a better person. I am happy to make excuses for the person I was before all of these things took over my life, but they would be excuses. Sitting here furiously working on projects of no great import outside my imagination has left me no time for distraction. No time for wandering eyes or hobbies beyond the greatest hobby of them all. Changing the world.

These little things: learning how to set up monitoring so that I can have a longer conversation with a person about their project that I am going to help them make real. Moving resources around so that I am constantly optimizing my mix of spend vs usable resources. Figuring out how to organize things so that I can allow people to grow into resources that they aren’t really helping upkeep. Infinite support. Planning for the future. Spending everything on the greatest project I’ve ever had, and taking myself out to dinner as often as I’d like.

I’ll make an announcement next week getting all of you up to date on what I have been doing the past six months. I have accomplished at least 2/3 of what I had planned on. This is pretty fucking incredible all things considered and would never have been possible without the incredible work of people-who-cannot-be-mentioned and a childhood of abuse and torment that has inspired me to be greater than where I come from.

For now I am finishing up a website. Going to write a couple things in the next 24 hours that should have some impact. Write a couple press releases. Learn about litescribe and root on the events of the next week. I doubt California will be turned to ash but the hopelessness of our time may become a beacon that changes more lives than just mine.

Suprisingly tolerant

I am starting to get a reputation (if only in my head) for being surprisingly tolerant. I have become aware of this at work because I have worked closely with two of the most difficult people to work with at the company. Being a person who can deal with these people comes from my many years of dealing with very difficult to work with people in anarchist circles, in my social life, and perhaps, because of dealing with me.

I don't drink enough

I continue to find difficult people to be far more interesting than ‘nice’ people. I’ve never found nice to be, on its own, a particularly endearing trait. Frankly, I think it obscures far more than it demonstrates. But that ability to deal with difficult people comes at a price.

My skin is callused and thick.

I still feel it when a controversy blows by me, or there is a repercussion, but its less and less over time. I’d go so far as to say that I wouldn’t recommend learning my lesson as the consequences aren’t really for you.

Status update – module 1 is a green light

I am alive!
I am alive!

It is now a couple weeks since my “brain problem” and everything is looking great. Perhaps I need to sleep a little bit more, but that is it. My hand coordination is within a couple percent of normal. My speech is fine. I am OK. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern in this matter. As I am sure you can understand the situation is scary and inspires reflection on pacing, aging, and life.

Enough of that. I think I am going to work on a stream of stories about the day-to-day-life implication of having a critical or anti-ideological perspective (as an anarchist). All too often in the debased NIRL (not in real life aka Internet) discussions I see the tired either-or of action (usually something like organizing, activism, or WWW (world without windows) type actions) contrasted with complaining, criticizing, do-nothingism. Until we break out of this conceptual false binary AND demonstrate more clearly the interplay of how thinking about a problem and then going about solving it (as anarchists) we will continue to have the horrible retention rate beyond age 25 that we have.

Here is an article that feeds my thinking about this today.

This link comes from the world of “technology entrepreneurship” which might seem like a bad place to find useful information for anarchists and perhaps it is. They are empiricists in the laboratory of capitalism not of a world that may be possible. But… these are people who are intent on a type of experimentation between ideas and practice that is rigorous, reality tested, and less hierarchical than one might imagine. The end game for most of these people is not wealth and then retirement to a chalet while the underlings keep the doors open but, by and large, doing “the process” over and over again. The process (of evangelism, entrepreneurship, and building startups) is the goal.

In technology this process can happen very fast and there are fortunes being made and lost so there is plenty for these people to find interesting and exciting. This is part of the appeal and most of the high profile members of this cabal write about it incessantly. Full stop.

For this discussion, from the linked article is (the article uses medical problems as its example)…

Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn’t symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor.

My summary: When you go to a specialist you should expect specialist answers. Conversely, specialists speak from their own understanding of reality and since it is so well developed and precise it can often be confused for truth by anyone who doesn’t understand the context of the specialist.

When we are talking about the project of another world, how to get there, what it would look like, the specialists of one approach often, but not always, show their bias. Part of our self education has to include a deep understanding of the motivations of our position, and other people who share it, and the positions of others who we are liable to work with. Not just the alleged political motivations of baby tyrants, scofflaws, or slackers but the history and interests of people that would prefer to read books, talk to strangers, break windows, sit in meetings, or drink to excess as their way to live their anarchy.

The greatest concern I have with anarchists (or perhaps people) is not their “wrongness” but their lack of curiosity. Specialism is another way to say I am right and you are wrong.


I am not sure how else to put this but that I am falling apart. The center is no longer holding. My will just isn’t enough to prevent simple decay from eating away at me. I guess I am going to have to make choices. Cuts in exactly how much I am trying to do at once.

It is heartbreaking to imagine that just now, when I am at the height of my creative, technical, and organizational power that I am going to have to slow down but the facts are the facts.

yep. that about says it
yep. that about says it

Fact 1: What should have been a simple hernia surgery turned into a now 5 month ordeal.

Fact 2: I woke up Wednesday with slightly slurred speech & weakness in my right hand

Fact 3: After a CAT Scan it was determine that I had a small (although WTF is small in this situation) brain hemmorrhage.

Fact 4: 3 days later I am back home. Waiting for several months for an MRI and about to start occupational therapy to, hopefully, get back the function I lost 4 days ago.

All of this is rather dramatic, at least from my point of view, and puts a bit more of the fear into me than I had before but I have to admit that the repercussions have yet to really hit me. Perhaps they never will. I am still typing at least 80% as fast as I was before TDMBB (the day my brain broke), my slur is subtle (strangers would never know), and since I exhibit none (or should we say few) of the lifestyle risks for what just happened to me (as an OG XVX) the cause is most likely genetic. This doesn’t preclude more of this “genetic” problem from rearing its head but hopefully I’ll know what color to paint the BBTL (brain break threat level) chart in the next month or two.

On to more positive things. Here are a few I am looking forward to in the next few months…

NAASN – Less for the conference, which I am sure will be fine, in an East Coast @ kind of way, but more because of some time (and FOOD!!!) in NYC. If they would only move the radness of NYC to the west coast I’d only hop over the Miss. for MI.
Synology DS409 – I am thinking about this less for the 4.5T of space for ~$800 (!!!) but because of the fact that it runs quiet.
The Nook – Yes I am a gadget fiend. Since I am probably going to be taking the motorcycle less (if at all) in the future, the idea of a BART boredom buster (that actually reads PDF’s) is pretty exciting to me.
LA Anarchist Bookfair – Last year LA had its first bookfair and it was excellent. Very affirming to the fatalistic. It was almost good enough to pre-wash the bad taste of the SF bookfair a few months later. Hopefully this year will keep the great energy with a bit more room.