Monday, November 18, 2013

Disciple and Punish

To the Ecclesiast and Alpinist:

I found in the Magus' remains a strange note about aberrations in the Christian movements. Apparently a good many of them in the New World and in Britain seek to "disciple" people.

The note below is uncharacteristic of the Magus' charity and somewhat harsh. I think it may be a quotation from some other author.
Discipling people is an extension of power and control beyond that of oneself. It is stronger and more powerful than any external control, any police state, or the threat of force. It is the most terrible secret of power -- I do not need to control you if you can be convinced to do it for me for yourself. Human beings have not always had an inner life. But the beginnings of the practices of discipling are to convince people to control themselves instead of merely being controlled by force.

'To Disciple' may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a 'physics' or an 'anatomy' of power, a technology. And it may be taken over either by 'specialized' institutions (the churches or 'congregations' of the present age), or by institutions that use it as an essential instrument for a particular end (small groups, emerging Christianity), or by pre-existing authorities that find in it a means of reinforcing or reorganizing their internal mechanisms of power (one day we should show how intra-familial relations, essentially in the parents-children cell, have become 'discipled', absorbing since the classical age external schemata, first educational and military, then medical, psychiatric, psychological, which have made the family the privileged locus of emergence for the disciplinary question of the normal and the abnormal); or by apparatuses that have made discipline their principle of internal functioning (the discipling of the administrative apparatus from the Puritan period), or finally by community apparatuses whose major, if not exclusive, function is to assure that discipline reigns over society as a whole (the small group leader or lead pastor).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Don't Blink

To the Ecclesiast and Alpinist:

I have survived the strangest debacle.  I do not know what happened to the Magus.  I am left in charge of his writings, experiments, and diary.  We went to investigate the strange pictures of Luther and these doctors mentioned by the Alpinist in the country of Britain.  Quickly we were woven into a strange affair that required more of us than we could muster.  We are men of Geist who welcome unknown ideas not adventure on land and through corridors.

I barely escaped because I kept my eyes wide open. We thought we were near the root of this strange lineage of doctors and their investigations of liberty and so of Geist -- we thought we were able to ask of this strange gentleman and his companion about time.  So much of Geist is about time and so much of our modern era has been able to dominate space and so ignore time.  When it treats time it does so as if it were physical extension not as another wobbly part of our existence.  In Geist time is more than just a dimension of things and more than just a second rate thing to space.

But my good Magus blinked.  We had encountered thousands of remarkable angelic statuary.  But he blinked and all was lost. I did not and made it barely out.

Magus Minor

Monday, November 11, 2013


Dear Macedonian,

I once visited a fair city, Ljubljana, but all the stores were closed for Cyril and Methodius. Is this anywhere close to Macedonia? I admit, my ecclesiastical work precludes far-flung travel or careful study of maps.

While in the great city of Ljubljana, I did encounter this devil:

Do you know him? Is he one of ours?

In Geist,

The Ecclesiast

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Enter: The Macedonian

June 1895

To the Ecclesiast,

Greetings to you, most excellent friend.  If I've been at all successful, you will be receiving this letter from Bitola, in the hotly contested region of Vardar Macedonia, at the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where it is known as Monastir.  I have not sufficiently mastered the Cyrillic alphabet as of yet, and so write you in our agreed upon code of Geist.  Do pass this along to the Magus should your paths cross.  Also to my "cousin," the Alpinist, in America.  

For the foreseeable I shall be operating under the moniker of "The Macedonian."  I've come to Bitola on a most unusual mission.  As you know, this whole area of the Empire, south of the Balkan mountains of Bulgaria, is a veritable time bomb whose fuse has little time left before expiration...and explosion.  My task here, drawing upon my Slavic roots and preternatural ability to sprout a beard, is to infiltrate the recently formed Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), and, if at all possible, to root out those fellow believers of Orthodox heritage and to recruit them for our clandestine airship missionary endeavor.  I must not only earn their trust, but restore to them the vision of our Lord's cross, which proclaims, not Constantine's legacy of bloody reprisals and vengeance, but rather, the crimson tracks of the Crucified Lamb, whose blood makes white the robes of the martyrs.  It is my hope that, by the grace of God, I can help to prevent the days of hell looming upon the horizon of these fair mountains, in a land where, as one poet writes, the whole people is as "a hand thrusting towards the realm of the stars."

Perhaps as striking: despite its proximity to the steam laboratories of Austria-Hungary and Transylvania, just to the north, much of the southern region is utterly devoid of steam technology, or any knowledge of Geist.  Like the mysticism of their icons and the passion of their ethnic hatreds, this realm is governed by different laws.  Under the dream of Turkish rule and the Quranic choruses of the muzzein, which loom above church and Sephardic synagogue alike, this land of peaks and storms seems to have slept, like the American tale of Rip Van Winkle, through the last half-century of advances to the north and west.  There are rumors also of other powers afoot - and for now, let me simply surmise that perhaps of all chroniclers of this region, it is perhaps more akin to the stories of Stoker and the intrigues of Lords Byron and Shelley, then anything we have seen from the inventors and scientists.  

I must be off.  I have enclosed my photograph - a crude antiquity in light of our current technologies, but they are a proud lot, and insist on our blood, as well as our image.  In case the worst happens, you will know how to find me.  The IMRO is a dangerous operation.  It is bent on nothing short of terrorism, against Albanian, Bulgarian, Turk, Greek, and any other who lays claim to their beloved mountains.  I hope we shall find some who still hold to the true Gospel, and so will rise on the wings, not of the Archangel Michael, but with the horn of Gabriel and upon eagles' wings, using our airships to proclaim the true Geist - before the darkness incarnated and invited into the world by this seething cauldron of blackest hate is unleashed upon us all.

Sincerely yours,
The Macedonian

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kronos, Geist, und Möglichkeit: Three extracted steampunk theses on power and promise

The outpouring of the Geist onto the present and the past does not simply endorse the given and accept the state of affairs that we accept as a reality common to us. But it would not simply abandon them or negate the given in full. In discerning the present in the dwelling Geist, a community is enjoined to the Möglichkeiten of what things are and the state of affairs that may be. This to encourage a sort of ordinary Möglichkeit, to help things along and nurture them to be what they could be. But it is also to uncover and enable discarded Möglichkeiten and to unearth what never was or could never be, to present not only what was once möglich but to embrace what is entirely unmöglich.


The weak power of the Geist gives a way to articulate the post-metaphysical concept of Moglichkeit at work in promissio. The Möglichkeit that the Geist brings in its promise is a possibility that not only enjoins what could have been but also what is not and never was.


To so privilege the future in spite of the past wold neglect the relationship that promise has with the given. Thus, to utilize the language of Kronos, the future reaches to the past and gives it new light; it does not simply abolish or purely negate what has come before now. It negates this past while transforming and revisiting it.


Selections from this tome of Steampunk Theology:  Being Promised

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Doing steampunk theology

"Doing theology is like building a comically circuitous Rube Goldberg machine: you spend your time tinkering together an unnecessarily complicated, impractical, and ingenious apparatus for doing things that are, in themselves, simple. But there is a kind of joy in theology's gratuity, there is a pleasure in its comedic machination, and ultimately-if the balloon pops, the hamster spins, the chain pulls, the bucket empties, the pulley lifts, and (voila!) the book's page is turned-some measurable kind of work is accomplished. But this work is a byproduct. The beauty of the machine, like all beauty, is for its own sake. Theology, maybe especially steampunk theology, requires this kind of modesty. The Church neither needs nor endorses our Rube Goldbergian flights. The comic aspect of the arrows we wing at cloudy skies must be kept firmly in mind. The comedy of it both saves us from theology and commends us to it. Engaged in this work, theology has only one definitive strength: it can make simple things difficult. Good theology forces detours that divert us from our stated goals and prompt us to visit places and include people that would otherwise be left aside. The measure of this strength is charity. Theological detours are worth only as much charity as they are able to show. They are worth only as many waylaid lives and lost objects as they are able to embrace. Rube Goldberg machines, models of inelegance, are willing to loop anything into the circuit-tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, Democrats, whatever. In charity, the grace of a disinterested concern for others and the gratuity of an unnecessary complication coincide. Steampunk theology helps us to find religion by helping us to lose it. Theology makes the familiar strange. It ratchets uncomfortable questions into complementary shapes and helps recover the trouble that is charity's substance."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Doctor Who-ther?

Farringham, England
November, 1911

To the Magus,

I have recently received a photograph that you may find of great - and quite possibly utterly disturbing -  interest.  I write to you having come across the sea post-haste by airship in person to verify its authenticity.  What I am about to tell you I have seen with my own eyes and touched with my hands, as the Eagle once wrote to the Ephesians in his first epistle.    

A former classmate and colleague of mine, Professor Rachel Manke, formerly of Malden, Massachusetts but now at the University of Tennantshire in Eccleston in the countryside of Britain, is the sender.  She has been conducting an investigation into the history of the relationship between our dear Doctor Luther and those sympathetic to his cause in Henry VIII's England.

Following the suggestion of her colleague, the renowned Professor Thomas Baker, Dr. Manke made a visit to the preparatory school in Farringham, where, she was told, a teacher by the name of John Smith resided.  His reputation on matters of history was almost fantastical, and it was rumored he was privy to certain dimensions of the past which others found inaccessible or unbelievable.  

Upon hearing the name Luther, Mr. Smith became excited, and leafing through a well-worn leather journal, he produced the following photograph.  I have supplied a daguerreotype with this letter so you can witness for yourself:

As you can see, it is quite clearly a Cranach.  And, as you can also clearly see, the good Doctor is portrayed in the most outlandish manner.  I know it may sound fantastic, but I do believe the strange box behind him resembles a telegraph box, the kind of which are only beginning to spring up like trees across our cities.  Mark those details: a telegraph the year 1529.  Almost four centuries ago. 

Further cryptic details abound.  In particular, the inscriptions across the top, which appear in English to us.  "In silentio fortitudo" - on of Luther's favorite phrases, pointing to the profound revelations that appear when silence falls.  But the other: "malus lupus."  You will of course remember from grammar school that this is Latin for "Bad Wolf."  But perhaps it will escape your attention that the initials are M.L. - the same as the Doctor.  

And let us not forget the scarf, an absurd bricolage hardly keeping with any 16th century styles, especially not of German origin.  Not even the French Bohemians of today's Montemarte would be so ostentatious.  

Something is clearly afoot.  A scraved Doctor standing before an anachronistic box bearing inscriptions about the silence and a bad wolf?  And here is the rub: by all estimates and a number of chemical texts, the photograph is authentic.  Let me repeat: the photograph is authentic.  A photograph of Doctor Luther from 1529!

Now, you will probably suppose that I've been reading too many Jules Verne novels again.  For all the wonders our age has witnessed, and all the blessings yet to be bestowed upon us by the steam and the geist, we have yet to even fathom the possibility of time travel.  And yet, here we are presented with a most unusual paradox.  

You can see why now that I made such haste to come to Farringham to speak with this John Smith myself.  Smith could not seem to remember where exactly the photograph had come from.  But he was eager to share with me the contents of his journal, which he called a book of "impossible things."  Such an imagination has this man - mechanical humanoids, strange creatures, angelic beings, and all other manner of invention and fantasy.  There is more to this Smith than his mild manner lets on.  He is himself, I think, a kind of magus to rival even your brilliance.

A few pages from this journal struck my eye in particular.  For one: notice the implement that the Doctor is holding in the picture.  The same implement appears throughout the journal, including here:

Strange indeed.  And then, I found a page with a self-portrait of Smith himself, along with nine other men, many of whom bore characteristics or resemblances to Doctor Luther, especially the fourth one, with curly hair and a similarly gaudy scarf.

Could it be that our own Luther belonged to the lineage of this strange progression?  That this one who, for all intents and purposes, was used by God to save humanity from itself by reminding them of the true light of the Gospel of Freedom and the importance of thinking and believing for oneself, rather than in corrupt and self-intereted religious authorities?  Was he a part of some order beyond the Augustinians or the Evangelicals? 

Or, dare I imagine: the one that so many seem to believe dropped down from heaven with the Bible open in his hands - might he actually have dropped out of heaven?  Come, in that telegraph box, from another place...or another time?  

And if this is the case, is this picture really of Doctor Luther?  And if not of Doctor Luther...then Doctor...Who?  

As I said, most disturbing.  John Smith claims the pictures in his journal come from vivid dreams that he has most nights, dreams of strange travels across the temporal spectrum and beyond this sphere.  If it were not for the authentic 400 year old photograph, I would simply deduce that all this was the work of a Verne-like imagination.  But perhaps...just perhaps...a kind of anamnesis is taking place. insane as it is even to think...our Doctor Luther has more to do with this John Smith and his drawings than we can even imagine.

I leave this before you, good Magus, as you seem possessed of skills of inquiry and discernment far exceeding my own humble clerical senses.  Let me know what you think, and if you so desire, come with all haste to Farringham.  

Yours in bafflement,

The Alpinist

Monday, May 27, 2013

Out of the Depths

I have begun to plan my journey north into the ice.  This requires a submersible and a ship to travel above and below. 

No journey can evade the depths.

I have begun examining the plans of the French submersible team that never returned.  Whether they succumbed to a cephalopod attack or were crushed by cold and pressure, no one knows.  This design must be improved.

Alongside of the plans I discovered this latin phrase:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.

But how could one call from the depths?  Who would hear in that realm of silence, where no steam and so no Spirit can flow?  It is all water, yes, but how can it but drown all communication?

My journey must explore this phrase.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Loss of Endurance to Ice

As Magus of the North, I observe how the cold slows all things down.

It draws rushing water into ice.

Of late, I lament the expedition of Sir Ernest Henry Shakleton, whose venture to the North Pole ended in ice.

Frozen and lost, he and his men bravely attempted to return.  They were lost at sea and ice and only found solid ground several hundred days after their ship, the Endurance, sank.

I know much of steam, of Geist and Spirit, of water.

But of ice, which surrounds me, the cold that flows in and around my life, I know little.  Can the steam on which we depend also be found in the ice?  Or is it lost there forever?

What Spirit of Ice?


Monday, April 8, 2013

Steampunk Punk Rock Jesus

It may be the future without dirigibles and its may sounds are punk rock and not steam, but Sean Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus (Vertigo, 2012) was brilliant, challenging, crisp, and swift. It is a must-read alternate Jesus/media/science mashup.  If you are at all interested in Jesus, critique of religion, modernity, mass media, you should have already gotten these six issues.

But, if not, the graphic novel collection of these issues is now out.  Because Murphy had to trim the story to fit six issues, he includes a lot of extra pages and art in this new collection.

The premise:  a 24-hour reality show featuring a child created from genetic material believed to belong to Jesus of Nazareth.

The result:  crazed conflict between secularists, Christians, and everyday Americans who clammer for Chris, the boy created in the "J2" project.

The problem:  he discovers punk rock.

A full review is forthcoming.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Steampunk Couture: A Manifesto

Now that steampunk is fashionable, it will be less fashioned. Now that it is an industry, it will be less industrial. Now that steampunk is a type of decoration, it will of necessity have more (and so less) decorum.

Steampunk is the one subculture that can remain independent while going mainstream. It can do so because it recognizes implicitly that the clothes really do make the man (or woman). What you see really is what you get? Gears on the outside, that's because it is gear-driven. Steam steaming forth, that's because it is steam-powered.

This eye-piece? No, I can see just fine, but since I squint to wear it it corrects for the squint.

For steampunk, style is substance and substance is style. There is no getting underneath the exterior, because the visible is what lies beneath.

This alternative history you think you are fashioning. No, it's not alternative. It's the history you have just departed, more real than you are.

Steampunk does what science fiction only dreams of--it makes real the real world. It fictionalizes the fiction. It steams dreams and punks punks.

All of which is to say, if Prada wants to sell high-end fashion of a certain steampunk variety, derivative and original at the same time, this is all to the good, because steampunk really was never very good at not being fashionable.

Steampunk really was always about fashioning.

Makers gonna make, and Victorians march to victory.

And that steampunk couture, all that style and those looks and those pictures you take of yourself to hand out to others? All of that really is the deep down most abidingest thing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Prison Writings of Gramsci on Steam and Dust

Imperial Observation File:
Name:  [redacted]
AKA:  The Ecclesiast
March 1903

[The Ecclesiast] recently sent a pneumatic communication to [The Alpinist] and [The Magus].  Our agent with the Magus recently found that [The Ecclesiast] sent a subversive hymn from the Danish Lutheran Communist communities.  Archival thought that we had buried all disc-copies of this hymn when we had captured and imprisoned the Italian Communist writer Gramsci, whose notes on this hymn, written and confiscated from him while he was imprisoned in Brook-line, New Amsterdam in America, show the danger of this line of speculation.  All care must be taken to suppress this progressive ode.

Poetry and Hymn Division, Imperial Observation Corps
London, England

This hymn of unknown provenance in the Danish LutheranCommunist Youth Groups gives me comfort despite its regressive mythology and utopic pathology.  I can pen it from memory even after all my travails in the Americas.  I had hoped to make contact with the Alpinist in the heights of Colo-rado but he had already moved back to New York and New Amsterdam.

1. How blest are that people who have an ear for the sounds
Which comes from above,
Who already here echo the eternal song,
So all God's angels are astonished to hear
How heavenly the earthly bells sound
When the Spirit with the tongues of the heart of dust
Sings out the depths of its longing.

The first verse directs its signers to ascend to look above to interpret below.  While I would prefer, as Marx and Grundtvig did, not to juxtapose something that is above to the below but to seek the eternal song that echoes out of each and every thing, the last phrase that brings Geist back to dust and inscribes it in the depths of longing gives the proper orientation.  If James Watt’s reflections on the atom would only have been made known to Marx, he would not have ultimately rejected his partnership with Grundtvig.  Spirit is dust.  That the poet sees the Spirit as more seems speculative to me.

2. How blest is the dust, which in the creator's hand
Came so close to God,
Enlivened by him with a royal spirit
To heroic deeds,
Gifted in grace, with hand and mouth
To gain and to gladness at all times
To become like his God, at the best
And speak with him as with a neighbour.

The second verse points continues this ascending motif, which is regressive and suggests the hegemony of above-and-below, a hegemony that is always on my mind.  The opening occurs in the last phrase which seems to echo the long departed but mad Martin Luther Feuerbach, who took God to be inverted humanity.  Becoming like God is hopeful but not sufficient --- to become like God and to see God nowhere but in the neighbor, that is best.  I know no other way of breaking the hegemony of above-and-below and replacing it with the hegemony of freedom and love.  No choice but forward, as Nansen would say.  No more Empire, only friends.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spirit and Dust Exchange

Dear Magus and Alpinist,

This morning I dusted off an antiquated volume of Danish hymns, and came across the following canticle. I do not know the tune, but the text is intriguing. To what degree are dust and steam related, do you think?


1. How blest are that people who have an ear for the sounds
Which comes from above,
Who already here echo the eternal song,
So all God's angels are astonished to hear
How heavenly the earthly bells sound
When the Spirit with the tongues of the heart of dust
Sings out the depths of its longing.

2. How blest is the dust, which in the creator's hand
Came so close to God,
Enlivened by him with a royal spirit
To heroic deeds,
Gifted in grace, with hand and mouth
To gain and to gladness at all times
To become like his God, at the best
And speak with him as with a neighbour.

3. How blest is the heart in the human breast,
With fear and hope,
Which is moved with delight by the voice of heaven
And the call of the Spirit,
Which has no room in its lowly hut
For longs as deep as the sea is wide,
For hope which rises up higher
Than eagles or angels on wing.

4. How blest is the tongue in the human mouth,
With life and speech,
Which puts down its roots in the depths of the heart
To eternal solace
Which shines with the light in the word of life,
Which glows with the fire on the table of grace
And grants to the hearts that weep
God's peace and the gladness of heaven.

5. How blest are that people who have Jesus for king,
Mary's son,
As his brothers and sisters they all have things well,
Open and hidden,
God's peace in their heart, God's word in their mouth,
With the hope of glory at all times
For they, at the chosen of God the Father,
Share kinship with his only begotten.

6. How blest is each soul which in the Saviour's name
From the hand of grace,
Received healing for its hurt, and for all its loss
With life and Spirit,
With the Spirit of the Father and the life of the Son
With the strength of the martyrs in a trembling reed
With the power as the proof of glory
With the keys to paradise.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Collects for Vampire Lent

The Second Sunday of Lent

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have turned undead, and bring them again with staked hearts to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Third Sunday of Lent

Strengthen us, O Lord, by your grace, that in your might we may overcome all enemies of the twilight hours, and with pure hearts serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Almighty God, you know that I have no power in myself to help myself: Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I may be defended from all injuries which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul and steal the blood; through Jesus Christ the Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

For Weekdays in Lent

Grant us, O Lord our Strength, to have a True Love of your Holy Name; so that, trusting in your grace, we may fear no earthly or supernatural evil, nor fix our hearts on earthly goods or immortal lives, but may rejoice in your full salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Steam and Ash: Further Selections from James Watt's Experimental Steam Theology

So far as I can tell, by the reckoning of my devices and pneumatometer, the beginnings of the world is not the atom of Leucippius.  To say that the beginning and bottom of all things (the hen kai panton of the wretched but genuis Spinoza) is without division does not appear on my scope.

The penumatometer allows me to delve deeper.  It would be worth noting that Mr. Locke should have had my scope since I can still see color this far down (it should be a primary quality).  At this point, I can go further as the lines of all things keep going.

Nothing is indivisible.  There are no atoms.  Only steam, continuous and flowing, depth of color and shape beyond shape.

Who can plumb these depths?  What end can be found if that which is smallest is hardly small at all?  It seemed that as I searched downward, I was actually traveling up.  This steam seems to be give height in its depth.  Strength in its fragility.

And this steam seems to stir in ash, dust, and even sound in it.

I do not think Thales or Leucippius had it right.  There is no uncuttable, no pivot on which to stand.  We are this steam -- we are from it and in it and through it.  Epimenedes.  Paulus in Acropolis.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Culture Steampunk Industry -- The Strange Case of the Visage-Livre Part IV

[From the notebooks of Sub-Inspector M. Horkheimer.]

[See his first, second, and third entries]

Finally, we made our trek from the East of Paris, following the night sky stars to visit the offices of the Kulturindustrie.  This corporation originated in Germany and has since spread throughout the Empire, holding offices in all the major cities, expanding their business.

We have never had any occasion to suspect their work was nefarious and against humanity until we start this case investigating the Visage-Livre, alternately known as Gesichtbuch or The Book of Face.  Several people were found dead in London.  We must get to the roots of this crime.  Adorno is convinced that the culprit may be found in this firm whose doors we now reached. 

Weisengrund said that we should prepare ourselves for what we might find.  Once we entered in to the building, which seemed particularly small and ordinary for such an important business as the Culture-Industry.  I still cannot sort out what occurred in our meeting and what the Kulturindustrie’s business is.

Inside the front doors, we were greeted by a single desk and a shorter man, middle-aged with glasses and dressed in old fashions with a poor suit with a tattered hat set on the table.  He looked like he had purchased these from the moth-ridden attic of an old Edwardian, severely out of place here in Paris.  He did not seem like he was the purveyor of culture.  Perhaps this was just a lower functionary.

“Welcome to the Kulturindustrie.  I am Johann L., mid-assessor of the Paris offices.”  We asked to see the person in charge of this office.  L. replied:  “There is no one in charge.  The Kulturindustrie is the most advanced firm in the Empire since it has no board, no directors, no production line, no products, no employees.  Excepting me, of course.”  “But you are mid-assessor,” I said, “that is a title.  You should have an employer, a supervising assessor, and sub-assessors to instruct.”  L. answered “There are no others.  I am alone.  All I do is tick off the progress of the agency.  No one hired me, though I found myself in this office one day with some work to do.  I don’t know who called me, or whether there is a contract.  I’m not even sure I should call myself mid-assessor.  But I shall chart the progress of the Kulturindustrie.”

“And what is its progress?”  I asked.  Weisengrund grew impatient.  He interrupted:  “This is nonsense.  Where are you from?  You are clearly a pale imitation of a bureaucrat from the Great Frank Kafka’s Amerika films.”

L. hung his head.  “You are right,” he said.  “I still insist that there is no person here who hired me.  I am trying to be a Kafka character.  But this is who I am!  This is what the Visage-Livre does!  It just lets you be who you are -- you are your guise!”

Weisengrund quickly calculated L.’s statement.  “So you are saying, Herr L., that you not only act as if you are employed here but you are because this is what the Visage-Livere makes you?  Hmm.  Truly the Kulturindustrie is more serious than I had previously thought.”  L.  tried to respond but since we would get no answers here we left.  Weisengrund continued to reflect out loud to me.

“So it seems that the Kulturindustrie has created this device which allows your portrait to be drawn and then communicated to others through a pnuematic system.  This device both allows you to portray yourself as whoever you wish and in a way that each person identically acts.  Demonic.”

“But Inspector, I thought this would allow everyone to act as they wish?”

“Only if they act identically to express themselves.  Though all that lodge themselves in the Visage-Livre’s web of steam, they all are so lodged in an interchangeable and exchangeable way.  They are reduced to the abstract equivalence of capital.  The Kuturindustrie is more dangerous than any firm.  It promotes no product except to make everyone sell themselves as product.  Ingenious but deadly.  I’m not sure how to fight this.  I do not think that Benjamin's embrace of this steam-driven tool will liberate.  Nor will the film-apprentice of Kafka's, the strange Brecht.  We must retreat, Sub-Inspector.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Pot and the Pan

Dear Alpinist and Ecclesiast:

While in England for my Pentecost Lecture, I went to the libraries of the Oxbridge Amalgamated University to further research James Watt's papers.  I discovered this strange poem, misfiled perhaps by an archivist.  What can you make of it?

The Pot and the Pan
A Eulogy by Samwise Gamgee at the foot of Orodruin

For water and fish
In place of bread
For want of fire
For fear
Tinderbox closed
Gone unused yet not rusted not without love
For weight of iron – no burden or weight
For travelers strange and strangers
        Sign of hill and home
I bury you and commend you
For weapons against hunger and despair
I bury you to preserve you for some chance stranger
        All I may carry now is friend and vial and tender gift
No more to table shall I go, no more to bed
For to our end we must go
For to what may come next in this life become story, I know not
For to our end we must go
I do not know if Slinker will bite or if my Master will fail
But to the our end we must go
Our quest may fail but our friendship will not
That is our end to which we must go