Dead Letter Game
June 24, 2003
the disjunctive text had its charms, but one has to admit it may not work well in weak economies, under conditions of suspect leadership, especially -- it's hard enough to know why the incense trail spirals the way it does (this is code, for self-protection), let alone how the currents flow not this way but that -- in other words, the tricky reflections absorbed by all manner of opacity nonetheless haunt in the background, so why trouble the issue with intentionally awkward sleights of hand -- there are other ways to provoke a mood swing, and really that's what writing is all about anyway

the moon shines brightly these days (how's that for functional discourse), and i've recently learned that i will soon be partially responsible for increasing the world's population by one -- but none of that just yet (honestly, i could hardly begin, cloaked as i am in very thick layers of denial and disbelief)

the question of right practice cannot be dissociated from one's earlier choices with regard to medium and mode -- an element of the form/content diad here but an added sense that practice as performance aligns differently with content -- i move deliberately with a game piece, deciding on a course of action limited by options determined by the current arrangment of other pieces on the board and the board's configuration itself -- i cannot, that is, reselect either the game piece or my available set of options -- making a move (form as performance) is very much about making that very move (content), where moving into (or toward) a new arrangement (setting, set of relations, context) touches or combines with that arrangement as it goes

heady, opaque stuff here, to be sure (i should have stuck with the moon), and i can hardly get it all just right when i am double-strapped by the meta-rules (and second-order equipment) constraining my actions here -- a bloody mess, but nothing like the one i'm about to get into

i can wrap it all up, i think, with one word: prose -- it is partly by rejecting the tyranny of poetic line that i find room to imagine different arrangements (plus moves) in language -- prose writing as equipment in a dead letter game requires a letter unto itself -- but maybe not: everything added/amended to this point bears the mark of that move already made
June 22, 2003
i no longer use a source text because i trust neither source nor text -- a source is too slippery, volatile -- you never know where the next one will gush forth, and there's no telling who has put in before you -- text, that seeming neutral, blankets an old regime -- you can almost hear it like a chorus of giddy and slightly wine-drunk cherubs: we love you, they mutter dolefully, and the lie clings to every weave

this near-diabolical reliance on metaphor pretty much makes the case, don't it? -- there must be better ways to organize (then pressurize) the activity of, what, wordcraft? -- not quite, but at least to reconvene on the other side of an experiment, active since Mallarmé, by which the materiality of signs (just one way to put it) came to stand in for the kinderwurk of an able if unschooled community of aspirants

the world today at all of its fixed portals (ways and means of multiple, numbered worlds) communicates its losses sometimes faster than the losses themselves -- the cry of the burn victim in the aftermath of bombing recurs absurdly, strikes distant listeners as an afterthought, as (grotesquely) the echo of its own sounding -- perception is key, and worlds collide, disintegrate, recombine in the narrow spaces between one's bouts with vision

so, we can willfully buy into this faster-than-light self-immolation (a body, so to speak, turning inside out in an effort to catch itself winking) or we can opt out -- i'm not sure this is a real option, but there are certainly commitments to be chosen all the same

the digitally punchy, for example, have met recently to coach each other's strategies for self-archiving -- individuals worry, to put it bluntly, about the fate of their outputs -- in the midst, i wonder: what are the unwritten codes of sustainability for any art, and what is it any artist can hope to expect (or think one deserves) by way of preservation? -- age-old question, to be sure, and one that is decidedly 'text-based'

still, underneath, the conditions of practice that make equipments matter not as tools of output but as, themselves, products of choice and selection -- indices of commitment -- touch-points for decisions made -- in using equipment, we must learn to stop recording at the moment of impact, and then, before playing back, to self-regulate and realign with a world (a scene, a lexicon, a poem) no longer what it was

at base, choices should be made on behalf of immediacy (the lived moment, sure, but also the echo heard almost in advance, in anticipation) -- these choices have nothing to do with one's mode of articulation, which follows up on equipment as (sort of) its product, its endgame

camping out in the knotty folds of these busy abstractions is the creature who does not shoot first, asking questions later -- shooting first is a kind of source manipulation, and while the result is nearly always accuracy (pride of kill), the writer often knows no satisfaction, since the odds to begin with favored this and not another outcome
June 20, 2003
wins and losses provide instructions for, perhaps authorize, subsequent moves -- to the act are implicit a host of devices which, when choreographed, applied, bring about successful maneuvers

this has not always been true (see Round One), but the impulse has always been there and, in retrospect, eases the burden by suggesting some new parameters (if not rules) -- 'writing is a communication activity' tells an incomplete story, which is obvious but hardly fodder for the morning show -- the gains and losses inherent to the formula must be teased out through a subtle swapping of game pieces or a second pass through those instructions

it makes no sense, though, to dwell on the metaphor which, oddly enough, would introduce the new risk of literalizing the game -- spare me -- i came into the world of the literate already damaged by a 'preliterate' aversion to secondary sources (the proof is in this very sentence)

so what are the preferred technologies?

i like the way a computer translates a set of key strokes into a selective encounter with the world, or when documents of one order (phone bills, press catalogs) initiate conversations of a different, if still recognized, order -- the plow, we know, has written whole histories into the soil, cutting entire languages and peoples both into and out of its sprawling fields -- the tin whistle goes well with the ocarina -- remote controls breed not only laziness but consumer confidence -- the digital excesses of the DVD match those of the CD, although the former requires a much greater investment of material resources

this list could go on, but the point is the question of preferences invariably leads to revelations of unconscious allegiances, and these allegiances are a kind of equipment in the truest sense -- what is sent always bounces back, in one form or another, and i guess there's a certain charm in that -- to play at all is to authorize this magic, and deeply
June 17, 2003
writing puts time to sleep -- this matters only if the bend in the road is suitable (to you) -- otherwise, watch out -- you can't imagine how lost i am when it comes to the question of content -- even the trippiest poets often just 'write from the head'

now then, as for equipment, which while not always visible or immediately accessible can still be theorized -- here goes: (1) patience (easier said than done, then done); (2) confidence (consider the heart of the rose as the rose); (3) focus (for all inclusions there exist corollary exclusions; measure both); (4) tolerance for fear (the best of them are always alone, wandering, as if abandoned); (5) sensitivity (literally, as a way of aligning the senses at all phases)

this is a manageable logic, and rewarding if handled well and from a stable vantage -- try too hard, well, that story's already been written -- let the energy lapse, then there are no more chances

i am among many, no doubt, for whom those early learning experiences (deferring to the voices in the walls, on the shelves) could be remembered and applied only as a kind of self-erasure -- contained therein was the mistake: insinuation pleases the interlocuter, whose debt is always lighter if you dare to claim too much (as one who has known certain things)

this 'logic' then (tactical) may work wonders against the hold, the lock implicit to years of working strategy -- rare are the moments when one knows one's place -- those moments should multiply
June 14, 2003
there are two ways to talk about the relevant "objects" -- first, the habit of repetition was itself an object: that pattern of threes, to be sure, but other strategies emerged as well, the worst requiring an exhaustive self-emulation to the point of breaking down -- and really some cataclysmic event was needed to break the spell, or I'd go on in some mode indefinitely, convinced that I had cracked the code when really I had simply found yet another way to rally behind old habits dying hard

to be fair, I had theorized a cycle as a means of staying true to my image of self as artisan -- one must practice, after all -- but things went wrong when the object disappeared behind a series of rote duplications -- copies of copies of copies, ad inf., until the illness came or someone knocked on the door

which brings me to the second object: love

really, it's kind of embarrassing, but in all serious I have to ask: when young, how else get started? -- what else motivates so readily and rightfully? -- death, maybe, but not when there are bills to pay -- love, though, is kind of cheap, or rather easy to please, so there was that, finally, as an object and for a while it made the game worth playing

winning in most games is the object, but love is the object worth winning for -- when this game finally turns over (a promised eventuality), I'll find a way to love it too -- but for now I leave it like that, for the record: love and repetition, the two objects for which the rules of the game had been written

what better companions, in fact -- and for me the one always fed the other: love repeated; repetitious loves; love's repetitions, etc. -- perhaps I had found a way to synthesize the action (repetition, ritual, and cycle) and the outcome (love), although the inverse was also true if perhaps to the same end: love as action; repetition as outcome

all of which comes to little except a clearer sense of why the answers always came late, as they do now -- in fact, this game recreates (does not repeat!) the patience with which I had to live those days, in love and repetition, always on the lookout for a means of escape, a release from the tiresome routines which had taken over
June 12, 2003
the threat of options was a given, too banal to take seriously -- being serious about the threat, i mean, was not an option, and for the obvious reasons -- the topic here is activity, right? -- and of a particular kind: pseudo-literary, part research, and focused loosely on production of a durable good -- not 'books' necessarily, but -- that fetishizing of output anyway -- really the exact nature of the activity is irrelevant, being as it was all 'language work' of a sort

no, fuck that -- i should look less to this phantom trace and focus more on the established record -- i can remember certain 'zones' in which time was on my side, but all those less-than-suitable locales conspired against me, leaving all transcripts opaque with a filmy residue, tacky to the touch, brittle after days left drying in some remote drawer -- activity, yes, and action (if not activism), and while action was interaction i could find no one, not one, whose protocol had anything to do with mine

and this was all my fault, of course, a failing to understand the rules of the game, and these rules were themselves a kind of activity

specifically, the shape of things (call it form, but just barely) was all borrowing, but of a particular type -- we know, that is, that we are always 'one' for a pedagogical environment of 'many,' that we come into authority only insofar as the trace of assimilation ("deep and productive") has been recognized as worthy, as sutaining an authoritative capacity -- that's badly put, but my borrowing, in the context of this authoritative sustenance, or sustained authority (recognized), seemed somehow always fresh and original, not so much in the romantic sense of unprecedented, but in the Medieval sense that posits originality in the authors of antiquity whose authority always underwrites any attempt in the here and now

i had duped myself, basically, because in fact the 'authors of antiquity' don't work that way and never did -- i mean, i'd been foolish to ignore the ways in which a whole suite of modern anxieties underwrites the romantic urgency toward originality -- people take that seriously, in short, and just because i fancied myself differently aligned doesn't mean the gridwork had changed beneath me

so i had borrowed precisely the misguided belief that borrwing, as an idealized form of betrayal, was actually a way toward originality, the real deal -- what's worse, i never really believed it -- so, doubly fooled, i was twice bamboozled
June 10, 2003
i was convinced that all writing was epistolary, realized only in the moment of reception/audition -- it made little difference, since all outcomes varied, but i held fast to the notion all the same

more crippling was the fact that at any time my efforts could be eclipsed by something else, a concern of the day, a tactic, a discrepancy in the ordinary flow -- which was a problem to the extent that it marked the substitutability of writing at all times, as if the means could never quite live up to the end

so the work was itself a variable dialogically opposed to other energy-consuming modes of assertion, be they 'life games' or whatever -- to keep things on track, the moment of attention required a suitable set of preconditions, choreographed as fetishes, icons, totems in the broad sense that each, while not immediately symbolic (representing the 'rabbit' or the 'hunt,' for example) could nevertheless serve for (proctor) a much-wanted symbolic transfer

so, for instance, i could manage by candlelight if the couple in the apartment below mine were not fighting or watching a movie; or if the texture of the paper (the unused side of a photocopy, maybe) filled out the space of intention as a fulfillment of desire; wine was often important, too, as were mechanical pencils and loose-fitting clothing

the point is, i had systematized a way in while remaining uncertain of my exact whereabouts in time and space -- the assumption of a letter-delivered predetermined (limited) the range of output, which doomed the venture -- i was aware of this in real ways but could find no other way -- the draw was too strong, like the pull of the ocean as the tide goes out
June 8, 2003
i had gotten used to the idea of craftwork as a form of strategic self-defense -- i could never finish and therefore could never lose, or win -- practice, as rite, defined everything in the sense that nothing escaped, nothing was immune to my search for opportunity

but again these were strategic moments infused with an illegitimate power -- the threat of exposure kept me up at nights -- i had identified something important, of course, but couldn't recognize it at the time: the myth of legitimacy fools almost everyone -- those who manage to find a way out are no more legitimate than those who don't, but the former know this and the latter can't, which makes the difference

today i read through the records (the "electric diary" and other sources) and force back a grimace -- no sense judging, but the marks of discontent are so obvious, all the same -- the desire to self-incriminate (a kind of psychic house-cleaning) remains

informing assumptions included an unconditional (if unrecognized) faith in the power of language itself as "medium," in the less-than strict sense of intermediary, go-between, like the trussed effeminate body that receives spirits for the sake of a small group of anxious, hyperventilating live ones -- the trips and false starts (the muco-seminal dribblings, really) of an ear-bent consciousness would lead the way, find the channel, and in the wake of this experience an attendant flesh-node (me) could lean back and "be impressed"

it was almost scholarly in its attention to mining the research moment -- a kind of "reading," sure, but more so the ruse of eliciting "nuggets" of perception, told true in the imprint, the finished sequence -- i see it now as bullshit but that's hardly the point (and grossly unfair to that spirit world) -- the important thing is i had no other choice and could rest assured that the outcome, while notably flawed (and obviously so), was nonetheless divinely ordained, predestined, incapable of being other than what it was

playing this dead letter game is like scanning an old yearbook -- the faces emerge anew but as they have always been, secure and encrypted, perfect though incomplete -- i can hardly wait for that moment when the faces break open and pour forth in dialect -- everything here is prelude, i guess, to that moment, that horizon
June 6, 2003
on certain mornings i could really get off on the collision of time and opportunity -- something feral, almost seductive, in the conditions of sportive engagement (with: text, the word, sound, physically acting out script) -- the result, as the advertisement says, was a kind of "electric diary" transmutable in accordance with weather, state of health, work schedule, and a host of surely self-orchestrated habits of conscious ordering

these were no simple feats, but the ordering of action was predictable, which made for an easy assessment of value -- in a sense, meaning fell into the sheltering of a long-term project -- value and meaning, thus conflated, had little if anything to do with the finished thing, the artifact -- the result: always a vanquishing of meaning in this efficient use of morning

a sense of flow and accretion, to be sure, a satisfaction of form (if not empty vessel, at least the weight of the cup when thirsty) -- the always important follow-through which kept things going, turning over (the weight of deeds performed, perhaps) -- for example, the tendency to work in groups of three: first, the predictable drone of experiment (improvisation); second, a duplication of perceived measure; third, the managed resistance to failure (secondary duplication, in dead letters)

there's a way to regroup all of this under slightly less constraining categories, but i'm not sure how -- the plan, though, is still sound: to divest and reconvene at the same time, to outsmart the vagaries of former commitments, to recognize the outlines of the new regime while the lessons of the old one still inform -- dead letters, contentious little marks on dissolved surfaces, legible where the light is good
June 5, 2003
"don't remove periodicals from this area" is clearly not an unspeakable doxic moment -- though possibly toxic -- maybe in those early days of improvisational word-dancing i'd at least found a way to be 'happy' in a moment of dedicated attention (to: the moment of letters, sounds, the emergence of structure) -- a kind of applied temperature-taking -- and yet still wanting to remain faithful to that intervening (since then) understanding that my own temp. is hardly the point -- the balance maybe in rigorous confounding of intention/attention, noting where the privileges and commitments meet, where possible

oddly, into a hole all impulses to 'start again' go, complete with anxious stock-checking re previous projects and abandoned starts, false and true -- in the absence, deferred futures, the stone rolling down the pike -- and all this white space here between lines, = more false bravado

so finally to pull back after, what, 3-4 years of floundering and by deliberate door-closing on certain options unless in response to the given practical need (distribution, event) which centers and draws the activity -- the center of that problem, that 3-4 years, maybe the slow divorce from (a) form as end in itself, (b) drive to ride fences without commitment and, well, enough time, (c) fear of others, (d) clinging to false hopes -- new regimes of convivial productivity on a horizon littered with ideational fallout -- the subtle gratification of knowing/being on the doxa border, spitting seeds and laughing out loud
Round One: Ex Nihilo [06.05.03 - 08.22.03]

Round Two: Futures [09.30.03 - 12.27.03]

Decom(press/posit)ion [01.01.04 -

Flip the Page: the body of the assassin {blog}

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An experiment in memory excavation and obsessive existentialist detailing, Dead Letter Game is ideal for one or more players ages 12 and up. The game once started plays indefinitely. Players will soon recognize that the end is in sight but ever receding on a horizon replete with potential outcomes. This is not a continuous present so much as a persistent continuum. To stop and start again is to play the same game only differently. Do not be startled if patterns emerge, which is normal under ideal playing conditions. The game as played here is neither the all nor the part of it. Down to the very letter as well as out beyond its margins you will find the dead letter game, whole and in progress. An open-source document, DLG automatically self-absorbs upon completion, returning to the epistolary commons from which it came.

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