I toss these pages in the faces of timid, furtive, respectable people and say: ‘There! that’s me! You may like it or lump it, but it’s true. And I challenge you to follow suit, to flash the searchlight of your self-consciousness into every remotest corner of your life and invite everybody’s inspection. Be candid, be honest, break down the partitions of your cubicle, come out of your burrow, little worm.’ As we are all such worms we should at least be honest worms.

W.N.P Barbellion,_ Journal of a Disappointed Man

I IX (1914)—In complete helplessness wrote barely 2 pages. I have retreated considerably today, even though I had slept well. But I know that I must not yield, if I want to rise above the lowest woes of my writing, which is already held down by the rest of my way of life, into the greater freedom that might be waiting for me. The old dullness has not yet completely left me I realize and the coldness of my heart might never leave me. The fact that I recoil from no humiliation can just as well mean hopelessness as give hope.

Franz Kafka, Diaries, trans. Ross Benjamin (New York: Schocken Books, 2022), 356.

You adulterate the truth as you write. There isn’t any pretense that you try to arrive at the literal truth. And the only consolation when you confess to this flaw is that you are seeking to arrive at poetic truth, which can be reached only through fabrication, imagination, stylization. What I’m striving for is authenticity; none of it is real.

— W. G. Sebald, quoted in David Shields, Reality Hunger, 2010, 62.

2024

May

Here’s a scene that I needed to remove from the story I’m working on, but which I’m too happy with to simply send to /dev/null.

2012: Tinder and the Beginning of the End

The boys were hanging out at a condo O–’s mother was renting on King Street, near Bathurst. Out on the 21st floor balcony, smoking a cigarette, R–’s big belly laughed when Marc, pointing to the forest of condo towers surrounding them, wondered which one Drake lived in.

“Let’s listen to this, it’s the best song on the new album,” Marc said, scrolling through the iPod plugged in to the stereo. He selected the song “The Ride,” featuring The Weeknd. Epic and melancholy, Drake’s signature sound; not quite a party atmosphere, but he couldn’t stop listening.

Back inside, Rob showed them something on his phone. “It’s called Tinder. You set up a radius, then it shows you all the people in that radius. All you do is swipe right for like, swipe left for dislike. If you both swipe right on each other, you can message.”

“Yeah, I’ve been using it too,” J– said, pulling his iPhone out of his jeans pocket with his left hand while the other held his drink.

“I’ve got to get in on this!” Marc was excited. His phone was plugged into the stereo—except it wasn’t a phone, but a product called the iPod Touch. It resembled the iPhone, just more flimsy, and without the PCIe chip that could communicate with satellites. He could use apps like the others, although they did not run as well on his device’s weaker CPU, and he needed to be connected to a WiFi network. It only took a few minutes for him to create an account, for his friends to take a few photos, and for them to approve the few selfies he added.

“Okay,” J– said, once he was ready, “now what I’ve been doing is just swiping right on everyone. That’s the strategy. Swipe right on everybody as fast as you can, and anyone you get a match with who’s hot, you message them. If they’re ugly, you can just unmatch them. Or meet up and fuck them, your choice.”

“No!” Rob exclaimed, “that’s a bad strategy! You’re going to ruin it for the rest of us. If everyone swipes right on everyone, then women become incentivized to only swipe right on the most elite profiles. It incentivizes them to have a selection bias that will eventually disadvantage the median. Women will become more selective, and we’ll get fewer matches. It’s basic game theory. It’s bad for society to swipe right on everyone. Think about the long-term impacts, not just your immediate satisfaction.”

“But it’s the best strategy,” J– insisted. “You get the most matches and it’s easiest.”

“It’s antisocial!”

Meanwhile, Marc, rendered giddy by the novelty of so many girls brought into virtual proximity, and already having received multiple matches, wanted to swipe faster and faster—and in order to speed up the process, he naturally stopped looking at the profiles and simply swiped right on each new photo as it appeared. And the matches kept coming.

“Wow, you must be really hot,” O– said.

February

This story needs some way to spin the faith vs Enlightenment theme. It’s contained in the difference between D– and myself, and it hinges on this perspective on polyamory as a high-tech optimization of a root (family). The hubris it must take to think that one can change something so immortal is quite astonishing.

Impossible to focus. While I sit here at the dining room table, there’s a girl wandering around the kitchen, muttering like a meth-head. Big headphones on to make sure I don’t bother her. The way I have imagined this story is very condescending towards D–.

What is the point of even telling a story? Nobody cares, not even me. We can only hope to be as real as possible—even going so far as to replicate the fractious structure of thought. And don’t forget to negate the negation.

Maybe the whole thing is too ambitious. Can I represent myself and D– in a way that’s equal? No, but it doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be a story.

The main character is always the narrator, who wins us over with the depth of his gaze and the consistency of his voice. The reader cares about the narrator just as much as other characters. The narration of D–, who does not represent herself, must be neutralized. No character will ever work if they are a caricature. Like Chekhov:

What I admire most about Chekhov is how free of agenda he seems on the page—interested in everything but not wedded to any fixed system of belief, willing to go wherever the data takes him. He was a doctor, and his approach to fiction feels lovingly diagnostic. Walking into the examination room, finding Life sitting there, he seems to say, “Wonderful, let’s see what’s going on!” It’s not that he didn’t have strong opinions (his letters are proof that he did). But in his best stories (and here I’d include, in addition to the three in this book, “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” “In the Ravine,” “Enemies,” “About Love,” and “The Bishop”) he seems to be using the form to move beyond opinions, to destabilize the usual ways we go about formulating them. — George Saunders, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life (New York: Random House, 2021), 343.

Saunders, George. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. New York: Random House, 2021.
Kafka, Franz. Diaries. Translated by Ross Benjamin. New York: Schocken Books, 2022.
Shields, David. Reality Hunger, 2010.

Nothing to look forward to. No meaning. No life. No future. Only memories. Circling the drain. No prospect of happiness. I feel happy when I make a pretty girl laugh. It makes me feel whole again. The best part of my week is Sunday, when I have the chance to make a pretty girl laugh.

I have become hyperfixated. It’s now actually destroying me, and it will continue to destroy me until it’s over and done with. Until I quit, or until I am released from this mortal coil…Another parasocial relationship sucking my blood, killing me, destroying me, draining my life-force.

Saw C– leaving with some man on Valentine’s Day. Then, later heard them fucking; then, he left at the same time as me, early in the morning! REJECTED! (Me not him.) Feels bad. It makes me feel worthless, in fact. I am a piece of garbage. She’s not interested in me. No woman is. They’re just not interested. How did I ever manage to score a woman—any of those times I did? I fooled them, perhaps. Now I’m damaged goods. There’s no hope for me. I can’t be with anyone. I’m a pathetic loser. I will never be happy. I’m broken.

LATER—Feels like a punishment to be sent home early. And without my dinner!

Try to put yourself in the mind of a woman. They want to not waste their time—and they want to feel safe. They feel safe by knowing that you are a part of a network—and knowing that they are part of your network.

For Lent, I have given up. I’m not supposed to be trying. Satan tempts me at every turn. There are demons everywhere.

This place (Isle de Garde) is big, powerful, French, and quality. I would hold it up as a gold standard—well, I would if I were an ambassador of Québec. There are couples everywhere—it’s all I see—like the whole world is people fucking—everyone but me!

Women want to know all of these things about men—but all of these things are not me. All these things they want are not things I have to offer. I’m not fit—I don’t have what it takes—I’m pond scum—I deserve to be alone…

I have given up for Lent. I have given up. Failure. Bad news comes in threes: I"m still waiting for the curb stomp. Do not write a letter to E–. It’s impossible to justify.

How did I become such an incel? I was always this way, and it’s only chance that has led me to taste the non-incel life. Pure chance—this is the life that I am led to. That I am meant for.

Do not compromise your values for this bullshit. Never had to in the past. Look at me through a woman’s eyes: he’s at a bar, so he has at least some money. He’s at this bar, so he has some taste…but he’s alone, so he has no friends, or he’s a loner; and he’s writing in a notebook rather than looking at his phone. This is the extent of his plan. No plans—no friends—loser! Sad, pathetic loser.

When I look around—it’s just happy people enjoying each other’s company. All of them seem rapt. I have never been in such a situation. Is it true that this writing is a substitute for companionship? It is true that I did not write so much when I was in a relationship—but I also didn’t have the clarity of purpose.

But—I also didn’t have the emotional motivation. This is part of God’s plan. I must suffer before I can become who I am. I will go through this phase of extreme emotional motivation—then, I will come out the other side a seasoned pro—then, I will be ready to love. That means I need to finish this cycle of negative thinking.

Failed to ask out A– again—spoke to the guys at PR about it a bit, and had a beer—now back to just being alone, I guess? Comme toujours.

It’s a question of chance—luck—which means my best bet is to simply increase my chances—increase my odds—that’s all I can do. Yes there is an element of chance, but as the Agent of Law (the man), it is also on me to make things happen. My responsibility is to make the world conform to a vision. It’s all on me—poor little pond scum.

Surprised to be greeted by name at the PR cafe. Funny that this cute young girl I see at the gym, with the SLEEP shirt, now walks in. Everyone both lives in the neighbourhood, and hangs out here. She’s very stylishly attired, and with a very cute, fey boy. The milk in this cappuccino is making me nauseous. I like how every accoutrement here is on theme—that’s how I need to do my place. Pick a theme, make sure all the colours match. Re-do the floors.

So far, two scenes in the POLY story: going to Bishop and gabbing with D–. Then, also, using Tinder for the first time with the boys. 2012.

Using the Bishop scene to anchor the flashbacks is a good idea, but how do we go back to Tinder? What function does that story serve? Mostly to (a) date things; (b) to indicate how different things were at the outset, versus the present of online dating; and (c) to talk about how the gamification of these systems was a social inevitability from the outset.

We have to set up the whole thing with N. in order to really get into the poly aspects of the whole thing. We have to set up the intensity of the romance; but we also want to skip a lot of the blowback, because it’s too much to get into.

The three pivotal scenes: (1) first kiss, where she says she doesn’t want to be exclusive; (2) the intensity of our reunion in New Brunswick, where she then talks about wanting to have sex with some guy; (3) the break-up and reunion; me meeting E–, then her reading me a literal diary entry where she describes having sex with some guy who picked her up—feeling excited by the thought of the pain she would cause me—and then he rolls over and starts playing a video game.

The Campbellton interlude should include a moment of—well, the scene around the fire truck. I ask her why she wants to be poly, why she thinks it’s a good idea. She tells me the story back in Chicago. Under the tree. But she also rationalizes it—it’s based on wanting to economize on her sexuality.

This recurrent theme of gamification is like the faith versus Enlightenment debate. Quantity versus quality.

We then go into the time with E–. Must do her honour, but the only scenes I have in mind are (1) the meeting—the TRUTH of the meeting; and (2) the scene at O, where she’s crying and telling me how the whole things is insanity. This should be the middle of the story, where the themes are spelled out and the stakes made clear.

The question, of course, is how to connect all these scenes. How do we anchor them around the meeting at Bishop? Not everything can be a story told? Why would I be telling D– all these stupid anecdotes from my “glory years?” It doesn’t fit. She would never sit still for a story that long. I would never seek to tell her all of these details…

And that means we need as many stories, scenes, from her perspective as from mine. We want this story to be more-or-less equal—gender parity—to represent a POV different from my own. It’s a technical exercise. A level-up. And it’s part of the same series as The Path to Self-Consciousness—there’s a continuity somewhere.

It’s not going to be balanced if all of her stories are from the present, and I’m the only one allowed to have a backstory. Or maybe that asymmetry can be part of the work? Since I have nothing happening in the present—and she has everything happening, and seems incapable of learning.

Science versus faith. Gamification of love. I can talk to her more about—what? If she’s ever been in an open relationship before?

I have this feeling of being emotional, but not knowing why. Is it truly sourceless—or am I guilty about not going to the gallery? Or do I feel bad because I had to contact R–? Or is it lingering food poisoning? What do I want to do, really? Just walk forever? It’s so nice out, after all…maybe I should just—go for a walk on the mountain. What else do I have to do in this shitty life…February, lonely. Or—just shoot me. D– is very annoying, and her callousness hurts my feelings.

Despite a series of successes in the new year that I can’t deny, I still feel—very empty. Unchanged. Like a failure, essentially. My fear is that I will need to fully wallow in happiness before I can actually be happy—before I stop thinking about how nice the other lawn is. How green. How beautiful is the other woman. If happiness is a treadmill, my heart-rate has not really been raised quite yet. This is the kind of emotionality we need to bring to the poly story—it will only, or rather, it is conceptually about economism of emotions. Gameification. What is going to be most efficient, what will get me results most quickly. The most bang for my buck.

Ultimately, yes, the story is about trying to find love. But it’s a corrupted sort of love. It’s corrupted by all the trappings of modern society—everything that is designed to lead us astray. To corrupt our minds.

What are the scenes? What scenes do my life depend on? Meeting Eric at Casa, and then later on he says I’m gay.

Tinder is first invented. Using it at O–’s mom’s condo on King Street. Rob has already developed one strategy of being selective, while J– has developed the opposite strategy of being indiscriminate.

N– and her friend fucking the same greasy guy; convincing herself that she’s poly as a form of cope, while he’s laughing all the way to the pussy bank.

Developing a romance with E– as N– winds up regretfully fucking some gamer. Ha, ha, I win. And she met him online, too.

My loyalty to N– leads to the downfall of my relationship with E–: the desire to have-cake-and-eat-it leads to nothing. She called it, too. You are restricting yourself to a subset of the population, the men of which are typically some of its worst specimens.

D– and the post-Ethical Slut. “Ethical non-monogamy.”

First there is her “sado-masochistic” relationship with Yas, so hilariously mis-named. Again, a man is laughing on his way to the pussy bank while a woman is doing emotional labour. The key to this is her telling herself that the relationship is of a certain type, while he nods along, uncomprehendingly.

Then, there is the way she poisoned the well with Eric by trying to enforce this stupid ENM standard—a mirror of what happened with E– and I? Except that she was a far more high-quality individual than he is. And he and I as the men in the situation, both had a lot more to lose.

The scene of their final breakup, with the dead friend, the make-out with the other woman at D’s place, etc—all very perverse. Like a consensual Bret Easton Ellis story.

  • Celery
  • Pepper
  • Chicken
  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Green onion
  • 3.5 lbs russet potatoes
  • Red onion
  • Banana
  • Large yellow onion
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic

New notebook, new occasion to complain about how lonely and sad I am.

I want to think about the polyamory story. The question is—how to begin. I want to stay in my POV, but in such a way that I can fully inhabit the mind of the secondary main character.

The point is to show how my experiences as a guy doing polyamory/open relationships reveals that the whole pursuit is vanity, insanity, hubris. It works, or advantages, the man, just not this one.

The temporal framing is also important. That thing with E– and N– happened at the onset of the Online Dating Age; it also happened when millennials were the youth culture—the Young Ones. Now we are in a different place. Ostensibly mature, with different interests.

What scene am I most interested in? What drives me? It’s not just a question of reliving my “glory days”—this story has a real pedagogical interest.

No matter what, we don’t begin with me. We begin in the present. The trivia night is a good setting because of how over-the-top geared towards millennials it is, with the questions and the music, LOL!

Opening with A– is a good idea. Sets the tone—and the theme. Establishes some important character traits that will be important later on…but we want to get to the point of D– giving her speech, telling her story, ASAP. That’s the first major incident. The inciting incident? Where we get the first taste of our theme—strategies one how to love. Sexual differences.

Next, after that, is D– telling her story. A friend’s suicide, her boyfriend making out with another girl at her home. Sick and twisted. She tells her whole story, including mimicking his voice, etc; and only after, through my candour, do we learn that she is pretty much entirely responsible for her own situation. She made the bed that she’s unhappily lying in.

At that point—maybe we mirror her story by having me tell my own story; and that’s how we frame the analepsis.

The problem is that my whole story is too long. We need to settle on a particular scene that is capable of representing everything. It’s probably the conversation I had with E–, where she gamed it out and concluded that open relationships don’t work—they are a sacrifice: you can only be with people who are themselves into open relationships, which is a terrible punishment. It means that you can’t be open to the spontaneity of true love—the two are incompatible.

But another key thing is to describe N–’s psychology, and her entire rationale for why she thought it would be a good idea. Which is that, when she was 16, she and her best friend fucked the same guy—and to her, that’s being in an open relationship. That’s polyamory, LOL!

Key to that dynamic between her and I, how it played out, is that I somehow managed to find myself with E–, who is a AAA quality human being. No shitmuncher; not basic; my “superhero,” in fact. While N– is reading to me from her diary about how she’s fucking some random off of Tinder who rolls over and starts playing video games…E– and I had a true meet-cute, not to mention a courtship.

  1. There’s nothing connecting the “weird” opening [of the Thanksgiving piece] to the rest of it.

  2. The actual “narrative” part with the natives is unbelievably half-assed. Make him a real character, and give some more details of their travels.

  3. The giving of thanks could be better integrated.

  4. All the descriptions of nature, etc need to be expanded or integrated. What’s the point, exactly?

This girl next to me is unhappy that she will never be able to compete as a bodybuilder.

January

The newsletter project should have an automated (“AI”) component. The narrative is frozen in time, repeats from one year to the next, but modified.

The one girl is too young; the other is too powerful.

Now at Bishop & Bagg. It’s quite a privilege to be meeting a woman, even if she’s “merely” a friend. Have to remain normal.

Tomorrow, the plan is to—wake up at 8am and walk downtown to the thing. After, go to HOJO to meet the lady. Then go to the gallery, then go to work at the gallery—then go to the gym and do the full-body day. And of course I have to read like 40 pages of Holderlin, or whatever.

My mind is empty right now, other than the stupid anxiety of whether or not my friend is actually going to make it. The whole thing is BS. But it’s the price I pay for her friendship, I guess—the anxiety of not knowing whether she can follow through. She’s still very powerful. But what else…

Sick—did fuck all this week. Today I got an email that I was accepted into the University of Western Ontario. The financing seems very generous. The guy said they were impressed—by The Truth is Haunted, and that dogshit throw-up from FMST 222?! Wow, LOL!

How am I going to feel if they let me into Concordia? It might kill me. WTF!! Right now, I am avoiding going home, because it’s full of people. Strangers. Scared. I met a girl, sort of—she was so nice! Sometimes I feel like an absolute piece of shit. I’m terrible at my job. I am going to work in a restaurant forever—I should be so lucky! 2 jobs, full time…if I ever am married, then my motivation to work in restauration will be gone.

The grass is always greener—elsewhere. If I go to UWO, then I will have FOMO from not being here. If I go to Concordia, then I will always wonder—what might have been.

That girl—has a shop; and she has an old, blind greyhound. She’s a local celebrity. She’s funny, she’s cool, she’s really nice to service staff. She likes her funky natural wines. She addresses me in English. Wow. Radiant energy. Red carpet vibes. Powerful—so what’s she doing with me? Nothing: it was all a dream…

Having a real drink at PR?! Funky playlist, girls with their arms showing. Did I get close with A–? Who knows—all I know is that I can’t ask her out five minutes after some other guy. But—I think she’s very cute; I think she thinks I’m cute—we chat well, etc; she doesn’t know everybody…

Now I’m a Bishop & Bagg. The bartender is very professional to me. I don’t really invite the homely style of service. That’s fine. The beer has a kind of sour taste.

The idea I had—the new idea that’s pulling my heart is some kind of artist statement. That has to do with distinguishing myself from the rabble. No: it’s about what it feels like to be surrounded by so much talent: it makes me feel completely pointless, anonymous. Reading Knausgaard on the page was shocking. His novels are typeset like Stephen King books—they’re huge. The style is too transparent to support the kind of citation-laden writing that qualifies as Something. Every citation needs to be narrativized. That’s the key, and it means that one must also be highly selective.

WTF am I on about. The question has, is, or was about whether I can somehow manage to support something like this without coming across as a huge cunt. “Ouch, my poor wounded ego, all these talented people around me.”

There’s got to be something! The idea was to—I’m so distracted by everything happening around me. I can’t believe that there’s a trivia night happening, lol. (Also, I’m now drunk.)

Okay. Artist statement. The idea was for a story about A–, basically. That’s what inspired me. How it feels like to be around people who are superior to you. At least as good, but superior for existing more than you.

If we write another story about not existing, we are 2 for 1. On a definite theme here. The guy who does not exist. It’s a terrible perspective for a story, but highly symptomatic of a certain type of person.

So that seems like a go-ahead. If we have 2 stories that are on a theme, then that’s basically halfway to a book. That’s a pretty pathetic little series: we have to find another perspectival dyad that we can use to approach—whatever the same object is.

Right now I’m writing shorter pieces. Hopefully they can all be workshopped and brought to market. Maybe together they will work. Who knows.

After that will come an actual novel. We have to do like Faulkner and just tell stories that mean something.

Of course, what I want to do is nothing like Faulkner. What other perspectives can we offer on the same thing? What is at the heart of these two stories? Modern subjectivity? The loneliness of a pathetic man?

The problem is that I don’t have much of a perspective. No. Look, I have access to something—it can be what I make it—and that’s that. I can make it what I want to.

Girls I am currently obsessed with: - A– - PR - ? Not that many, I guess. Natalie. Why am I so bad, why is it so difficult to actually connect with people? What do women think? They have have their lives—they have options—they are only going for a meet-cute that falls in their lap. Or rather, with a dude that is competent enough to actually make something happen. So even if I have an undeniable connection with a girl, she won’t lift a finger, or—she just won’t do fuck all. And I—am too proud to be with a woman who won’t respond to a connection. The only relationships worth having are the ones that are completely effortless, in a sense. Like everything in life that’s worthwhile. The best way to make progress is without effort.

The other problem is that no-one really thinks like this. Are there Romantics out there? Part of me wants to say that the times have simply become too hard…but all my relationships had an element of Romance—and they weren’t really that long ago. It’s like I have become hard of heart. I am the one who has changed!

Met Steven, a very sharp old guy, but one who is limited by his perceptions. Met Trey, a Texan here on a mission of love. Good for him.

I’m afraid to go back to PR because the force of my attraction to that girl is just breathtaking. I want to imagine a long life together. She has a boyfriend—plus, I’m the client. Impossible to puncture the membrane; or, at least, ill-advised folly. I bet we would be happy together: I can tell that we would.

Why? She’s not dissimilar to J–: they are both kind of sallow; but they both imply secret depths. They’re both serious in that way. I wonder if her boyfriend is serious, or just a fling? He’s not as good as me: no man is. How could he be? I am an artist, an intellectual, an athlete. I have great depth of emotion; I have lots of cool, unusual experiences; I have great integrity and sincerity. I’m fit, I have a nice face. I have very little social power. I’m shy. I’m neurotically guarded. I’m vain, narcissistic, which is why I am so prone to self-hatred. I have no life. Gymcel! Bad teeth. I’m desperate: desperate to give myself to a woman. This one seems like a good choice because—I recognize her. From where? Just from myself, you know.

The next stories to write: Spinoza story; Korlin story; the story of Me as an Artist.

Back at PR, caught up with my friend. Crush is not here. Good/bad? Who knows.

Now it’s time for the next project. It’s time for the Spinoza story. This one also has a weird timeline. We need to come up with better techniques for moving through time—we can practise, at least.

What will I read? Well, today, what I should actually do is try to put together some resources on writing workshops. That’s one objective; the second is to think about where/how I can improve The Truth is Haunted.

  • The hegemony of ASL
  • Grammar of signing is on the face??
  • We the Dead (book)
  • Diagrams for when you’re stuck
  • Self-publishing a book
  • February 6: bring some material?
  • Look for motifs in the shared document?
  • What paths does the writing give?
    • Are they the intention of the writer?
  • A time of mediocre thinking
    • That’s what has led us to Gen A; illiterate
    • My back is killing me. I did deadlifts earlier, and we don’t have chairs…
    • She’s bothered by a review

Very sore from the workout. Feel bloated and sloppy. Not taking enough time to care for my body. Not enough time for self-care. I’m here at CG, I feel sick, but it’s in the nose, not the lungs. Too cold, with the window open at night. My lips are chapped. I’m not taking care of my mouth, face, skin.

Today I need to at least finish edits to The Truth is Haunted essay. I should also try to submit it somewhere because it’s fucking good. With that many revisions—plus, the topic is genuinely important. The problem with this piece is that it’s too academic to be an essay for a general readership; and it’s not too entry-level academic to be submitted to a decent peer-reviewed journal. It needs to be either completely re-done for a general audience; or it needs to be actually filled-out, which would take like, two or three times as much space.

Head still swimming. Entire inner world destabilized. Went to the gym yesterday, somehow. A miracle, really. Felt quite weak on the overhead press, and generally un-co-ordinated, but I managed to do eight exercises. Four sets of dips, very long rests. One steam / cold plunge.

The house is falling apart. Chaos reigns. Can’t think about that. I need to do a proofread on all my documents, then submit. Get it out of the way, then get some tool to unscrew the faucet and try to fix it. Then—what the fuck, it’s leg day?!

2023

December

Nightmare service. So many fuck-ups. Now I just feel terrible. At IdG for a beer. D– has lost her respect for me…I’ve lost face. Will I even keep this job? Who knows. The insult added is that the stakes, the fuck-ups, are fractional compared to the past. In the past I’ve had real responsibility; huge groups in the palm of my hand; an international reputation to uphold….

What else makes me feel bad? In a moment of horniness, I proposed to V– that we should take a vacation together, and now I will need to tell her that it’s a bad idea—or else follow-through with it. I can’t tell which is worse.

Can I finish this stupid notebook before the end of the year? I found myself at work fantasizing about A–, a girl I have met twice. Fantasizing about being her boyfriend. Sex, yes, the process of her becoming my slave. Everything I would do to her. I want a steady girl so that I can begin the process of unleashing the full force of my energy on someone—anyone. No, not anyone, sadly; the sad reality is that my pride holds me back from indulging fully in women that I don’t believe are right for me. After work, yes, when it’s hot out—and then we can put our feet up together….

At PR. J– was being very touchy as he asked me about my holidays, about my family. Double handshake, laid his hand on my shoulder, and even cupped my face. I like coming here because I feel seen—but he still gave me coffee in the tiny cup—and he’ll still charge me for the larger size. WTF!

What do I have to do…I need to work on my applications. For Western. I still need to figure out what my essays are even going to be, then edit them.

On the train to Ottawa, then to Toronto. What a difference this mode of transport makes. The staff are attractive and in a good mood. The other passengers are also attractive—more so than on the bus, certainly. I can hear the gay laughter and chattering of one of the girls behind me. The bus is so angry and unhappy. I remember some of those early rideshares: they felt like world-historical events, honestly.

I feel close to getting a girl. I feel close—still thinking about the one conversation I had with that girl from PR. She’s my type—what is it about her? She has an air of seriousness, yes. As ever, what makes her my type is that I believe I recognized my attraction to her reflected back at me. She knows that I think she’s hot, because she presents herself as such. And there’s some confidence that she thinks I’m hot, too, far-off and vaporous like a cloud.

I’ve seen her boyfriend. He’s nothing special. Lumberjack hipster type. I’m more of an army hipster type. But I’m serious, and I have prospects, now, wow! Two jobs?! Maybe even grad school?! What! Not to mention—all my training! All my computers!

I want the ultimate x230. 4 core processor, full HD display. New speakers, new Bluetooth + WiFi chip, new everything inside. The display is most difficult (and expensive).

Of course I will have to flash the BIOS, coreboot, and clean the ME…I’m also looking forward to getting the new keyboard, of course, that’s obvious. I wonder if there’s some way to get USB-C plugs for data, or to replace all the USB 2.0 with 3.0. Of course I will want to reinforce the lid, make it stronger and more secure—less flexible. That seems to be the main concern.

And of course I want the higher-quality cooling system. Keyboard. Perfect screen. Would have to still do VGA out, have the option of attaching a second screen.

I can sense that I’m approaching the limit of what I can accomplish with the story without a long lay-off and/or some help from outside of me. Obviously more could be done to make it more cohesive overall; certain themes that appear in the beginning need to re-appear. More could be done to make the topic of sense-certainty relevant to the rest of the story. Religion, God versus woman, love and loneliness, waking up in the morning—how it feels to be so objectless. Without meaning! Blah blah….

Aside from that, we need to just fix up the letters, remove the excess semi-colons (as S– suggested), etc. Then we need to prepare the CV and the documents for Western.

Post-party. Weak. Me and the affair both: weak. I need to get my application packages together, because I’m about to lose my chance to work on them! Plus, I have no time to shop.

The plan is to chill and rest as much as possible before the work week begins tomorrow. It’s going to be difficult. And I will have no chance to go anywhere. No car of my own.

In the New Year, I will return to the applications. This week I will focus on my gifts. Otherwise—what’s going to happen with—anything? I’m over-reaching, doing damage to my reputation. Just by trying to exist. Stupid—chill out. It would have been better if—today, I’m just chilling until I have to go meet the person for the Pantone mug, and then go to the gym. I’m getting one gift. I need to stop by Wills at some point to get beer. I can get some of that for R–. Mom gets a tote bag, and—? N– can get some socks. D– can get some—book?

What is there left to do…make three cookie doughs, or 2 & a meat pie?

  • Unsalted butter

  • Malted milk powder

  • All-purpose flour

  • Plain, unsulfured baking molasses

  • Orange x 2–3

  • Ground coriander

  • Whole nutmeg

  • Green cardomom

  • Granulated sugar

  • Ginger

  • 750ml dry red wine x 2

  • 750ml ruby port

  • Raisins

  • Almond slivers

  • Allspice

  • Phyllo

  • Pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, malbec or merlot

Went to McK, felt foolish for thinking I had a connection to the place. I wanted to give J– one of their shirts for Christmas as a token of me, a sign of an accomplishment that I was proud of (holding down that job for about 3.5 months). The place is so massive, institutional, busy, powerful. My time there didn’t make a dent, even though it made a huge dent in me.

Walked by Hard Knox, thought about R–, put up an “I <3 Hamas” sticker. The Sud-Ouest is the lair of my enemy and I don’t belong there. I felt invisible, like no-one—like no-one knows me. Zero power, zero recognition, zero presence. Doesn’t help that I invited a bunch of people to the party, and few responded. Now I’m going to try to write?! It’s so late in the day….

Spoke to C– yesterday afternoon. He is doing much worse. Now me going to Trinidad will have the quality of a rescue operation. Now there’s a higher calling than just lounging around.

The story is about a guy who says the name of a girl he likes into his phone 3 times; and on the third occasion, her name appears.

Maybe the diversions into E–’s character are what gives you the space to get into the present. Paralepsis: find a point of commonality that is more meaningful than having the same bag, and bring that back to the present, make it into something real. Something about how different the two of you are.

What does sense-certainty have to do with anything? It’s vaguely related to this idea of unconscious recognition, of the crush, Hegelian Desire. The idea is that you’re thinking about it before you become aware that you’re thinking about it.

The story falls apart. This dialogue on sense-certainty needs to move back and forth through time; we are listening, remembering the conversation; and at the same time we are at Reservoir, looking at the tattoo on a girl’s chest, thinking about where the rest of the pattern must fall—on the tits! She notices you noticing her and gives a breezy smile on her way out.

Standing at the bar adjacent to the espresso machine at O, a very interesting new place to stand—to wait. It does allow me to see behind the bar in a way I don’t like. I don’t like Contemporary pants—the pants people think are appropriate to wear at work. This counter must be for friends, because I, the public, should not have access to this.

Moved up to the window. The only wobbly chair in the house. Next to the Frankenstein girl, who is knitting in yellow with a purple hardback notebook in front of her. No copy of Shelley today. According to this very diary, it was back in October that I made note of her.

Trying to read some Baudelaire, but I woke up melancholic. The thing I most want to do is stare into space.

LOL—just read an email from V– saying she wants to have my baby, pay my student loans, support me as a writer. She also wants me to fall in love with her, make her my wife and keep her in Montréal. I won’t be able to devote myself to anyone that I don’t fall in love with spontaneously—with whom the early parts of the relationship are adventurous, exciting. V– has not changed my conception of the truth.

Right now, the kinds of truths I feel driven to divulge are about being single and alienated; about my past, what can bring a man to this brink. If I fall in love and get a girlfriend, I will want to tell that kind of truth. The two are (to an extent) mutually exclusive. Can’t tell the truth of being single without hurting a relationship. The truth of being lonely, self-hating, self-conscious, horny; the truth of how one falls into love…

Bunch of girls at CG, all speaking English loudly. To some extent, things have taken a turn for the better. Next stop: girlfriend?!

For the story…

  • Need to make the timeline more clear. More of a spring vibe for the present-day timeline; more of the glory of weather.
  • How does the V– anecdote relate to anything else in the story? How does any of it relate to each other? The theme is…fixating on the unobtainable, in spite of what’s in front of you. Or something. I am incapable of precisely identifying what a theme is, and I don’t actually think that’s for the writer to do. When I say, “the theme is whatever,” what I am saying is “the emotional well from which this language springs has whatever affective–conceptual quality in the foreground of my mind.” The artist does not identify their themes, the critic does; the artist can only say what their affective state is at the moment of combining aesthetic elements.
  • The last thing to do is add in the element of “praying” to the computer; entering J–’s name into the phone 3 times. It can end there. Make it happy. Or, tell the truth and don’t mislead by pretending change will be enduring.

Writing + working. Very strange combo. The job is very demanding in terms of memory. I need to remember all the recipes for the cocktails, as well as the menu. The floor plan is simple, but also needs to be memorized. And I need to remember how to do the job, but that’s memory is in my muscles, thankfully, which are bigger than my synapses. All the language, the vocabulary. What else? Cleaning is easy; everything else is hard.

I’m writing at the same time. Tomorrow I can work on the story. Right now I work on this word and this word.

Invocation to the person I love, want to love. That’s the goal. To bring the piece to the end. It needs more action.

11h—At O. The plan today is to work on the story and nothing else. Aside from that—we have gym in a few hours, and then—work! A structure is emerging.

Sent the letters. Today is about receiving feedback from S–, and about working on the story. Morning Regrets has become The Path to Self-Consciousness (it still has both and neither title: the first is just the filename; the second is just a working title, and is too epic to be appropriate for the story’s aesthetic mode). I’m still working on integrating those prayerful insertions of the name into the computer; to be ended on the moment of sending her a message. Wow. It should have been on Twitter, the website that I actually use; but it’s more funny that I had to use an adapter to pipe my message into another communication protocol. I used Messenger to slide into the DMs of an Instagram account. That’s hysterical. You can’t make that sort of thing up, so why would anyone ever bother trying to? I will never understand claims to fiction invented wholecloth.

First day of snow. Suddenly the winter we were waiting for has Become. No longer just an extended spring, but winter—season of snow.

Today the goal is to send draft letters to all my referees; to work on the portfolio; to work at the gym at 80% of my last PR week; to shave.

  • Mom: tote, chocolate
  • D–: W beers, book, chocolate
  • R–: cliff bars, W beers, O shirt
  • N–: socks, chocolate
  • C–: Pantone mug, chocolate, record (?)
  • J–: Knotty boy, McK shirt

Work last night was intense, but good. Reminded me of the good jobs I’ve had. Doesn’t pay as much, but it’s fine. The wine list is not as sophisticated, but the service is at a high level so it’s okay.

November

Two days since I gave my number to the girl upstairs. I paced the landing where our two doors let out for ten minutes before J– knocked for me. When she opened, she was wearing a silk robe and a headscarf; she saw me and looked down at herself as though to say, well, this is how you have found me, and? I didn’t know what to say—it was one of those comedic moments where the head empties itself and at the crucial moment, all my Works decay, and “Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away.”1 She won’t be in touch. I know, because to do so would be too active for the feminine; and, in being an explicit admission of interest, it would negate her power. When I told her that it was nice to talk to her, she agreed, and I believed her…I believe her now. But she has other things to do; she is not going to be so forthright in signalling her interest. She can’t—structurally, logically. It makes no rational sense. If she calls me, if she texts me, that would be her activity. She is a woman—she is not going to be the active one, and nor should she. It would undermine her femininity, and she’s very feminine; it would be a weak move, and she’s not weak. I don’t even want her to: I want her to signal passively that she is interested, but I want to be the one to initiate things because, after all, I am a man.

Of course she is not going to call me. The entire structure of civilization—no, but physis itself is against us: it’s not merely that we are neighbours, and therefore there is an inherent risk…but all our meetings are contingent on admitting attraction. I thought there was some admission of attraction when she came into the apartment at 4am and told me her friend had a crush on me—but there remains some plausible deniability. At this stage, it would only work to move things along by “accident.” That is the most frustrating aspect of dating: everything must appear “accidental,” as though there are no stakes involved.

I honestly can’t tell if it’s me or the world. I always feel the need for a subterfuge. There needs to be something else—some excuse. A woman will not simply agree to go out with me, just as one does not simply walk into Mordor. She will not simply admit that she is attracted to me, will not concede that she wants to know me and be known by me. There needs to be a pretense—a network of excuses, justifications; because otherwise, she makes herself vulnerable. And why would she, to a stranger? It’s quite frustrating, but I understand it. What I don’t quite understand is how to transcend. This whole discussion is upsetting to me. A woman knows that I am an attractive guy; we have plenty in common—she knows that we work in the same industry, etc. There’s a lot of compatibility. She saw the books, the TV, the red flag, the nice apartment: she knows that I have tastes and interests and probably feels some curiosity to know more about me—just like I am curious to know about her…but life is conspiring to keep us apart.


  1. Shelley, Ozymandias. Accessed online.↩︎

Infatuated with anyone who pays attention. Don’t like to talk about myself; try to remain mysterious. I did not realize that’s how I am perceived, but the very sexy blonde Ukrainian immigration lawyer who paid attention to me was easily able to pick up on my stupid tricks.

A bit of encouragement from the world hits the brain like a chemical injection. The ecstasy of optimism. A good lead, a possibility: an interview that went well, at a restaurant and for a patron that I recognize as being at the level of service that I am used to. Hope. Hits like an amazing drug. Light, buoyant. It feels like I’m floating on air. There’s a storm-cloud, which is the fact that I haven’t even done a trial shift. They have infinite options. Still: when I left, I rushed around the corner, fell to me knees on the asphalt lot there, faced east and the low fence of a socialized housing block, and said a prayer.

My Concordia letter of application needs a section on the diversity of my academic knowledge, etc. This should go into the part where I talk about—my genre. How my genre is informed by my background. I’m trying to bring together a wide range of different knowledges to develop one very cool practise.

The Western letter needs to reference some of their faculty—that’s the main piece missing.

The party itself was a failure. Many of the people who said they would attend didn’t; there were a few new friends, but attendance in general was down from last year’s Christmas party, my high watermark. The food was there unexpectedly, the cookies greeted with a more familiar care.

A moment of joy came at the end of the night, but it will only turn out to be another failure. Coming back from the bar after last call, I ran into the upstairs neighbour. Beautiful and cheerful, she felt safe enough to come inside at 4am for a smoke. Told me that her old roommate with the dog named Olive had a crush on me. Her name is C–, and she appeared like a joyful ray from out of a dark sky. Warm, cheerful, bubbly, cute. I was too wasted to make an impression—could barely slur together a few limp questions to try to learn a bit more about her.

For 24 cold and delirious hours, I was riding high on a memory as thought it were winged like Pegasus. 15 minutes is enough to fuel a lifetime. The next morning, I got a rejection letter from APCON. When I knocked on the door to deploy my Trojan horse (a pack of rolling papers), the blonde answered; and as usual she seemed grumpy, unhappy to be disturbed. But who likes when a stranger knocks on their door?

Unbelievably depressed this morning. No hope. I am a complete failure. Nothing but failure. No hope. I have to get on welfare. No woman ever again. Nothing. I am nothing, I will never be anything. I am a failure. I am a total failure. I give up, I give up. It’s hopeless. Fail, constant fail, never-ending fail. Rejection without end; rejection on rejection. Inescapable loop, stuck forever. Nothing will get better, everything will always get worse. No prospects, just nothing for ever and ever. Failures pile up, I am alone, I will always be alone, I will be alone forever, alone with my failures. Nothing but a dark void of hopelessness and failure. Nothing to look forward to. I feel bad that my cat and my roommates have to suffer my presence; I would never dare, I would never presume to inflict my presence on a woman.

Everyone has the advantage. I have the disadvantage. I am a fucking failure. I should KMS.

Here I am at Cafe D, back in this pit of raw concrete, and the tall beauty that I asked so many people to help me find is here. Will I have the courage to approach her? After having hyped it up so much? I can’t ask her out right now, I can’t—no way.

What is my plan? Walk back up St-Laurent to the package store; then to Popeye’s, then to—various bars along Mont-Royal?

I’m frozen on this bench. It’s not even a proper table, more like a staging ground, but I can’t move. Too afraid to approach her, and too afraid to leave without approaching her. Maybe I should just stay here forever. My old boss, G–, just walked by—what a prick. Man I am stressed out right now.

What to do…! How am I going to talk to the girl next door…I can offer to give back the papers—then I can ask, well, say that I was so wasted the other night, I could barely speak—but it was so nice to talk to her, to learn a bit about her—it was the nicest birthday gift of all. It felt like God smiled on me; it felt like the clouds parted, and an angel floated down on a lunar beam. Not just because she is a smiling, cheerful beauty; but because something happened. From out of the chaos and turmoil of the world, from out of the constant, impersonal movement of the city, a figure coheres and emerges. I want to learn more about her.

My Thanksgiving essay was rejected by APCON, and I will say that it feels terrible. That and not having a job have got me feeling very stressed. Worried. Failure.

Who else publishes weird little philosophy essays? Who can I send this to? Don’t let it go to waste—it needs to go somewhere—a proper literary journal—this is a good opportunity—but it’s not important right now. The essay is bad, after all, and it’s good that it isn’t published, because it doesn’t cut the mustard. Instead, I need to apply to some jobs.

  • Sugar
  • Cheese
  • Red onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Mozzarella
  • Flour
  • White onion
  • Radishes
  • Tahini
  • Greek yogurt
  • Butter
  • Dill
  • Lemon
  • Parsley
  • Chili flakes
  • Cucumber
  • Pepper
  • Canned whole tomatoes
  • Dried oregano

The story becomes something else when it moves into a closer analysis of class society (the Hegel class’s society). The problem is that it’s disconnected. If we can get it to the point where it’s doing a serviceable job of describing the characters and social dynamics, then I can add in—more hallucinations? We need something to bring us back to the morning of waking up.

Okay, here’s the plot: you put her name into the computer once, twice, and on the third her name swims into view. That’s the magic element. That’s the story of the morning. It ends with us engaging in a dialogue. Fantasy, or banal reality? I think an anti-climactic (“realistic”) ending gives us a better shot of ending on a joke.

  • Wake up depressed
  • Remember the party from night prior
  • External dynamics of the Hegel class
  • Discussion of sense-certainty with J– and E–
  • V–, guilt and shame
  • Internal dynamics of the Hegel class

We need a better structure for moving through time. More needs to happen on the first day. Everything else is a recollection. The morning and that day is the story’s present. We need two more events. Our theme is ritual & lack thereof, so one event can be work related: in that moment, you, our hero, is in the limbo at the end of classes, before graduation, and without a job. That is about when I would be doing my first trial shift at R. Maybe in a desperate moment before work, I enter her name into the computer for the second time.

  1. The first is in bed, when you’re unable to move
  2. The second is before work, when you’re feeling completely useless
  3. The third is before bed, when you’re buzzed?

That’s basically enough of a plot. Are we making him some kind of hallucinatory guy? We don’t need to insert noir tropes, fuck, but we still need some kind of hook. The hook is whether or not she actually did recognize him in the same way that he recognized her; whether or not he’s crazy, projecting, or if he’s correctly reading her affect.

As an epilogue, we can talk about seeing her at the reading and constantly moving to keep a distance. Then, seeing her and the Lil’ Peep BF out the window. Basically, despite the rejection, there is still this unknowability (opacity); still an element of Schrodinger’s love affair. But we have to put this into relation, or into Hegelian terms. The actual and the virtual.

It’s fantasy to think that there is a possibility of things continuing. The story ends after finding her online, on an unambiguous note of rejection. Not cruel, just real. Maybe when you look in the mirror, you see someone else. You don’t know—you can never know whether the Other recognized you in that brief flash of the eye, but it’s possible!

  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Noodles
  • Celery
  • Beef
  • Soy sauce

Saw the very cute girl that I saw here at O several months ago—a few times, even. Here—yesterday, at Pigeon. Didn’t talk to her. Too cowardly. She has nice rosy cheeks and a round face. She was studying something related to theology. Very cool, but it’s a bad sign that she’s at the Israeli restaurant right now.

And that’s the other thing, dear diary: I get a job, and of course they’re on a BDS list, LOL! My life is a joke. I feel paranoid there. It sucks. Palestine pin on my jacket, keffiyah around my neck. WTF. I’m gonna get fired, and just when I thought I could relax.

The goal is diffuse today. Don’t have much of one. I won’t return to the APCON essay until Thursday, earliest. I should work on Beneath Language, but am not feeling it. What I am feeling is the Morning story, which has good parts—I swear to God, there’s something there….

The first several paragraphs are decent. One of my ideas for it is to just make it “realistic,” i.e. not about anything; or do we prefer instead to make it less realistic, about a guy who is hallucinating? That feels like a conventional twist, but that’s a good thing: it’s recognizable, and therefore I don’t have to work as hard.

The other idea was “campus noir,” use a lot of PI tropes, hard-boiled tropes, to develop a “mystery” of existential despair. “Who killed my reason for living,” etc. This is a distinctly terrible idea.

Trying to take a crack at the Western application. By God, it’s all impossible, LOL!

UWO and Concordia are now the main ones, because S–’s endorsement makes me think maybe I actually have a chance.

What else. The weekend has been immensely depressing and lonely. The calendar is an undifferentiated stretch of loneliness. For my birthday this year, I will have no-one to go to the spa with, no-one to go to dinner with. The season is already almost over. No-one cares—it doesn’t matter—C– is probably dead—I might as well kill myself, no-one would care. My hope is to just drown it all out—if I can sublimate my own unhappiness into a creative project, be one of those artists who makes one intense, juvenile work that cuts close to the bone, rather than the kind of artist with a diverse body of work; well, I’ll take it.

Everything is hopeless. No prospects. Everything going downhill.

Working on Morning Regrets now, because I feel very emotional and that’s all I have.

The key to making this story interesting is to play up the sense of the Block. The reason this character couldn’t talk to the girl at the party is actually something very Epic—something high-concept. It’s the question of everything. Fictional. Not quotidian.

Hallucinatory. Vision goes black and white. Hearing things, seeing things. Put some more ghosts in there. Skin the cat.

All this writing does is depress me.

At F. New guy is talking about Ezra Pound with one of his regular–friends. I have a training shift for a full-time job as a server. The indent of the saucer where the cup sits is filthy; the bottom of the cup is filthy because the grill of the espresso machine is filthy. Despite this details, I will concede that the milk is perfect Italian-style foam.

Right now, the goal is very modest. It’s 11:43 am; if I say until 12:45, I can be on the gym floor by 1, then hopefully out by 3pm. Go home just long enough to drop off things, then bike to the new job. Bring book + notebook, and afterwards—you are permitted to get a drink.

This stupid piece of writing.

  • It needs to be more ancient
  • It needs a thesis
  • Oral versus written, different styles of architecture
  • No matter our cosmology, be thankful for creation ???
  • Needs more colour-coding

Rally, relational pacing.

  • Reading the hinge: it’s not a comma or a hyphen, but a hinge in the writing

  • Neurodiversity falls into pathology

    • Neuropathy
      • Identity versus neurodiversity
  • Pathology returns to mind/body dualism

    • Brain/body versus mind
    • Life is in the world, not synapses

There is that idea in Cave of Forgotten Dreams that societies and cultures that do not have writing live outside of history; ten thousand years is the same as a single rotation of the moon.

creation story <–> architecture <–> time / Thanksgiving

The theme of Thanksgiving is the significant part that’s still missing. A paragraph at the beginning and end where I speak in the first person. I say my relation to the topics at hand; my relationship to colonialism and whiteness. It’s my place to say what and who I am thankful for. Something sincere and real. Break form.

October

Wake up feeling terrible. Halloween is one year. What progress have I made? Had sex with three girls, all of whom I feel are beneath me. I’m just as alone as ever. I am making no progress on actually finding my own way in the world. This is not to mention the professional woes—no job, no job, a deadbeat!

Girl next to me is reading Frankenstein. I’m doing nothing. I have good strength and rigorous technique. I’m muscular, at least.

If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Immanent critique of The Exorcist III: The guy looks too old to be the lead in a horror-action film. But that’s a generalized category already.

So much left unsaid: the nature of the possession; most of the horrible killings happen off-screen. But if I say that it’s “more” or “less” of anything, then I am comparing it to other things. Not immanent enough.

The plot follows a cop investigating a series of murders attached to the “Gemini killer,” who was caught and executed years ago. The priest who jumps out the window in the first Exorcist film is now ambiguously played by two actors, and claims responsibility for the new murders—despite being locked up in a straight waistcoat in a rubber room.

Our protagonist is at the end of his rope. He’s too old and unhealthy-looking for such a role. He’s constantly losing his temper, yelling and screaming at anyone who happens to present the slightest friction in his quest.

The final scene of the film is powerful. A priest tries to perform an exorcism on a man in the padded room, but his Bible is torn to pieces by an invisible force. He flung upward and pressed to the ceiling. Peeling away, his skin and flesh stick to the padded surface, revealing the gory striations of muscle underneath.

The cop bursts in, gun drawn. He doesn’t see the priest bleeding in the corner. He confronts the killer, who keeps referring to himself in the plural—as though he were “legion.” His motivation seems to be to make the cop “believe.”

Pinned to the wall by an unseen power, arms parallel to the floor as though crucified, he rasps—I believe…in depravity, in scum, in unspeakable things, listing a litany of terrible things. Did the Devil hope he would come to believe in God so that he could take it away from him? Lightning strikes the floor, over and over inside the rubber room. Through the broken floor, arms reach up from Hell. The black boy from the beginning, face painted like in a minstrel show, silver ingots hammered through his eyes.

The cop’s speech about scum and villainy is ambiguous. All these bad things seem to be the domain of the devil: is he affirming the power of the infernal powers? It seems more like the monologue functions as some kind of denial, although it’s not entirely clear how. The film is ambiguous through and through.

Finally, the possessed priest momentarily gains control of his body; the cop blows his brains out, the devil is deprived of a vessel, and evil is vanquished.


Why do I feel so bad in this room? In these classes? In all classes? Too much baggage. I should do an immanent critique of me in this class.

Immanent critique of the hospital bombing. In what sense is it real? A bunch of children and injured people, the known defenseless were killed.

I learned new chants at the rally on Sunday. We showed up at Dorchester Square to learn them before the march. We were led by a voice that came from somewhere out in the sea of people. They spread, and we went slowly on the march. It was raining, but not too bad. The umbrellas added to the atmosphere of collectivity.

If we are going to discuss Indigenous philosophy, we should also discuss written versus oral language. For Glissant, this is at the heart of the conflict between the colonizer and the colonized.

Monuments are a means to facilitate inter/intra-tribal social/economic/ideological organization. They are sites of liturgy, i.e. public ritual; they use repetitive models that are easy to understand. Their construction depends on co-operation that implies complex micro- and macro-societies.

These monuments are ritual sites that hold sacred objects, as well as food. People lived on-site sometimes. Monuments mark local resources, and people were expected to regularly return to the site. (111–112)

Use old-fashioned words like “league.”

Always feels harder than normal to be somewhere without wanting to talk. But I love a cup of coffee: hot, bitter, mellowed out to a nice tan with some milk.

Can I get away with using Glissant as the source of my Indigenous cosmology?

  • Mound Builders
  • Architecture gives us access to cosmology?
  • Architecture is more metaphysical than other media?

Woke up sneezing sick. No energy, no motivation. Felt like I got everything out yesterday: enough of an effort with the writing for class, with the interview, meeting D–, etc that I am excused in a break: the interview excuses my break from looking for a job; the writing excuses my break from writing; being sick excuses me from going to the gym.

Nothing is an excuse for writing. If I don’t write, I won’t just die—I will not exist.

V– compared me to the Seducer in Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer. Not really, but said that she wonders if I am developing a “science” of women. Conducting experiments is very much in the vein of the seducer. What the foolish woman fails to grasp is that I am merely making observations, not conducting experiments. The possibility of naive love is over: that’s what I lost with R–. Now I’m objectively jaded. Had to happen sooner or later.

What am I going to talk to E– about? It’s not worth applying to SSHRC for Western, because it’s fully-funded and I only get 3 slots. Those need to be: Concordia Creative Writing; UBC Creative Writing; McGill? Guelph?

What else? Not much, dear diary. I need to get my nutrients in.

  • garlic
  • parsley
  • celery
  • thyme
  • milk
  • coconut water
  • green tea

In the Beneath Language story, all the stuff about being adjacent to the customers is extra. There might be something there, since it’s adjacent to a body—it’s in the narrative of my body. Whatever that means…

…but it’s extra. I need to cut it down. Make it sound better. Less repetitive, more structured. More of the imagery. Make it make more sense. Make sure the reader can follow.

Somehow, this afternoon coffee has made me feel worse.

Crazy night last night with D– and M–. They—oh, there goes my focus…Back at the green lacquer bar. Fired. No job, no obligations, nothing to do but sit around in this cafe. Should apply for a job, of course—that’s the only obligation I have. Otherwise I’m not doing anything. Even now, just repeating the same stupid phrase over and over.

This cafe is different. The people here are more professional (clients). At O, it’s all neighbourhood bros and students. It’s not as comfortable to sit at this bar: I prefer the window at O above all. Nothing like having the view of the neighbourhood, being surrounded by beautiful women. Here, I can see the same platinum blonde that works at Salle, who I see at the gym sometimes. Brighter colours. D– one of those people who stops and talks to everyone along the way. I know a few people—remembered C–’s name. I really appreciate him asking mine. It was honest, and more respectful than not bothering, than wallowing in ambiguity.

That’s enough diary. Here at PR, around 11am on a Sunday. Aimless and purposeless. Feel like my friends at Reservoir have definitely forgotten about me. I—

White Wall Studios

How do we trace the body—from hooking up and hanging out at the bar, to marching for Palestine?

The most popular haircut these days is a mullet, with a harsh line carved above the ears.

Must apply to jobs. My shoes are not working very well. In my 20s I had a lot of promise because I was coming from nothing, because I was still young. Now in my 30s, I should have built on that experience. I should have built on those connections—but really I’m starting from nothing. That’s how it feels, anyway. Building on ruins and salted earth.

But that’s all in my head. When I started working at McKiernan’s, it felt like I was in way over my head. It felt like there was no way that I could make it work—but I settled in, I found the confidence. It was working. They wanted to keep me on. I’m good at this job: we Scorpios are born to work in service.

The guy at the rally yesterday said “I love you even more [for carrying the Irish flag],” the implication being that he already loved me just for being there. It felt great to be part of something—even if I am not technically associated with Ireland, other than in virtue of my whiteness.

Beautiful women surround me at O. The one on the right is French, is here with her boyfriend; beyond her is some British blonde with a Trader Joe’s tote. When I heard her accent, I thought she was making a joke because of how much she sounds like Michael Caine.

To my left is a girl studying theology. Can’t tell if it’s her or the other one sending voice memos. Sure sign of a crush—I can’t imagine doing that with a casual friend—except that I have done it with C–…and J– leaves me voicemails (I’ve never understood why).

What do I have to offer women? Society? Nothing but a terrible time.

K– talks to me. Last time he sent me a photo of me without talking to me. This time he was doing some fake Italian bullshit (he’s Portuguese). He doesn’t appreciate me or my flakiness. Calls me a flake, loudly, to my face. Fair enough. Feels like I just got beat up.

“Weird is a nice way of putting it,” he says when I repeat his words back at him. How can I tell him that I don’t have the spine to do freelance work?

I should send him what I have. It’s the least I could do, and I did a good job. I’m not stable enough, emotionally or financially, to be self-employed.

Pulled into a sickening loop with Palestine news. Pulled into posting in a manner that is, ultimately, unbecoming.

What should I be working on? The writing prompt for this week is “beyond critique.”

  • APCON essay
  • Morning Regrets
  • Beneath Language
  • MA applications

When I gave my order to the Olimpi-bro, I could feel the girl in front of me’s surprise. My voice reveals something that my visage doesn’t: inwardness, infinite inwardness.

  • Roseline: 17h
  • Buvette chez Simone: 16h
  • Taverne Atlantic: 16h
  • Pichai: 17h
  • Harricana: 12h
  • Fleurs & Cadeaux: 17h
  • Ile flottante: 17h

Later, at Bishop—My diary entries are pretty decent, but I will often just skip over the most important nouvelles. Deal with the aftermath, but not dwell or describe the event. I need more description of the world outside myself, to situate things, give a bit of context. In order for this to be a narrative, it needs more dynamism.

Right now I am sitting at Bishop & Bagg, 1.5 pints deep. I’ve just finished sending emails to V– and C–. The first, an apology, as well as an attempt at eroticism. I referred to “her” pussy; asked what she likes; tried to get explicit, to use a few of the magic words.

Ile Flotante, Fleurs & Cadeaux, Boxermans, Le plongeoir, Pichai.

At the gym—Sometimes an old crush does pass in front of the mirror—behind you but invisible like a spectre.

I thought the fact that my bandanna and her hair were both red was enough of a sign, but as it turns out—

Slept on the couch because too depressed to go to bed. Only left the house late. How am I going to find a new job? Don’t have what it takes to go out looking. I don’t have what it takes to go on. You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on. I deserve something better: I deserve a job that doesn’t make me want to kill myself. Nothing has gotten better. My opportunities have only diminished.

All alone on the action de grâce. What should I be thankful for?

  • Fit, strong, muscular, as I worked hard to achieve
  • Cute enough in the face for some girls to come talk to me
  • Good apartment
  • Good cat, mostly healthy and generally sweet
  • Good hair
  • Friends who are nice to me, and with whom I mostly like to spend time. They’ll be gone now that I no longer work there.

Put off seeing M–. Woke up around 10 with a heavily congested nose. Windows closed, dust inside. Dozed for another hour….then went to M. One coffee not enough. Beauty everywhere. Fuck it.

For the University of Western Ontario, I’m supposed to submit two academic essays. The first can be the last one I wrote for the hauntology class, [on the uncanny and the phantasmagoria]: it will need to be significantly revised, which will feel good to do, since there’s such a strong seed there. I know I can make it much better. The challenge will be to integrate more Hegel in a way appropriate to an academic context, but at the same time, to make sure he stays in the background. It’s not an essay on Hegel, after all.

[The above entry was written at Reservoir between 14h–15h. I was scheduled for 14h, but there was not enough work so I sat around for an hour. I then walked out and did not return.]

What’s happening with M–? I felt bad right away. Or rather—I feel scared. Worried. Concerned that she’s going to fall in love. Even as I am absolutely sick with self-loathing, I also know that I have a high power level. How can that be when I am actually so weak? A pathetic loser, you might say. I keep getting picked up—picked up off the street like a piece of trash—; and because I am husband material, she begins to think: this piece of trash is a piece of gold; and he has no other options, therefore I am entitled to him. I’m easy—the town bicycle. That’s what A– called me once, and it precipitated a big fight with J–, H– and him. What does it mean for me to say no to someone? It feels impossible. I’m too afraid to hurt their feelings. Too afraid to face another long stretch without touch, attention—a nut.

Sitting here. What would C– or A– do? The latter is not a role model; the former is like a different species to me.

What would a woman do? They need to learn how to decline offers of sex at some ungodly age. It’s pressed on them—it’s a kind of threat. Whereas for me, for men, it’s an offer—something I want and which feels scarce.

The truth is that, if I were emotionally responsible, I would not have done the hit & quit.

I’m hard up. And I’m not good at pursuing women I feel an actual interest in.

Now I have to tell her how much I liked her flirting, her attention; but that we are not right for each other….

The Pynchon book, Gravity’s Rainbow—I think I’ve lost the plot. Which is weird, given how meticulously plotted it is. It’s also very carefully paced, so I’m confident that it will take me by the hand when it needs to.

Everyone at work is being paid to stand around. All the money comes from elsewhere [France]. It’s a recession. Maybe we’d have something to do if—

What are we going to research for the APCON piece?

  • Epicurus is the guy responsible for the rain theory (?)
  • WHO is the guy responsible for the Eternal Return? I studied this in Falcone’s class: does the fact that I cannot immediately recall make me a sub-par student? In a way, it’s like learning math: useful to exercise the brain, but made obsolete by the technology of the calculator / the Stanford encyclopedia.
  • WHO are we going to cite for the indigenous cosmologies? And what does it even consist of?

The third is supposed to relate to process philosophy. It’s a vision of life, the cosmos, as inter-connected movement.

[sex happens here]

The second (?) time this year I had a transaction declined for insufficient funds. I like that it’s a “coffee bar” here [PR]. Has the same set-up as a bar, although I will say that this shade of green is not a pastel….

What else? There’s something—to work on…SSHRC, school applications…the first ones are in December. And we also need to work on the APCON essay. Need to start that this week. What do we have? THANKSGIVING, and therefore Indigenous–Settler relations; but also—cosmologies? Truth and reconciliation? That’s related to ideas of power, which is another element of the CFP.

There are too many hot chicks here, with too much skin showing. It’s hot out today. Mini-heat wave. I overdressed. This is not even to mention the nipples through cheap tank tops.

September

Idea for a portfolio piece: a short work, almost like a chant, all rhythm, and it is almost entirely questions. Give it some form, but its function is to list everything I know, everything I’ve ever wanted to learn, everything I’ve ever asked myself. Give it a kind of chronology, make it also a story of coming-of-age. The questions compound. Start with writing Jack and the Bean-stalk in kindergarten, my first memory of forming words; then copying out Narnia; then writing stories and poems to express my sex- and power-fantasies. The poem I wrote about 9/11: The Usurpers. Then the unleashing of imagination, in the form of both writing and reading. Musical father, visual mother. Both proletariat. Make the reader feel the sensation of being on the outside. There can also be dialogue, the ultimate signifier of narrative writing.

Felt terrible on Friday night when I learned that F– made out with the buxom blonde. Felt like such a thing was simply a remote, impossibly remote possibility for me. Felt like no such thing could ever happen to me. And he has a girlfriend. And his girlfriend is also his landlord.

Then I woke up too early, went to work tired, barely tried. Minimal effort because nothing matters.

Waking up hungover and in a state of high emotional stress, I remember that I had a dream that my bike was stolen.

People staring at me like I’m some kind of freak just because I’m sitting on St-Laurent with my shirt open, writing meaningless sentences into a black notebook.

“He sat in the sun on the concrete steps in front of the hairdresser’s, writing in his book before work, shirt open and chest bared to the world.”

“On pavement steps in front of the coifferie, sun on belly-skin, pen on book-skin, counting down the minutes before work, heart open to an alarmed world.”

Sources and inspiration.

On 31 August 2023, Apocalypse Confidential published their third special of the year: DUST—JOHN FORD & THE ATOMIC FRONTIER. Included in the “non-fiction” section was an essay I wrote in response to the prompt. Light Enough to Burn a Hole in the Sun, a title I came up with early in the writing process and thought was good enough to not worry about changing, was written over roughly two weeks towards the end of August 2023. I spent around a week gestating in advance. I had only heard about the publication in the month or so prior. My memory is that I saw an old crush tweeting about them, but it’s possible that memory is a fabulation and I found them through conventional means (i.e. the platform’s timeline presented me with a stranger tweeting about them).

The second association that boosted my esteem for the publication was my friend C–, who stayed in my spare room during the final week of writing. He told me about Anna Krivolapova, who, by that time, the algorithm was definitely pushing on me. Her collection of short stories will be released by the publishing arm of Apocalypse Confidential this autumn. C– spoke highly of her, I think highly of him, and she thinks highly of APCON. Enough elements to make this publication stand out before having read them. I even went so far as to go through their website archives, and to read several pieces in order to get a sense of just what the project consists of. These initial associations, combined with the style of the call for submissions, combined with seeing Oppenheimer, fired my inspiration and led me to put a lot of energy into the essay I wrote for them. And I am quite proud of it. Finally I am working in the genre I want to. Finally, I can break free from the prison house of academic language; to paint a picture, while still developing the philosophical questions I am interested in.

One major element of the “literary” philosophical essay style, in my mind, is referencing things without necessarily providing citations. It would not have fit the epic voice I was going for to provide in-text citations. The purpose of this “commentary” is to provide a list of all the sources that I am conscious of having woven into the text. I am inspired by Kierkegaard, who, from the outset of his authorship, kept a series of large black notebooks where, in his own voice, not for publication but addressed to posterity, he provides yet another angle on his work. A running commentary and reflection on the published works.

  1. The protagonist of the essay is Spirit, taken, of course, from Hegel and his Phenomenology. In the sense I am using it in the essay, it is intended to refer to the general movement of the totality of social history. “Spirit” is “history as it has developed so far.”

    Spirit is thus self-supporting, absolute, real being. All previous shapes of consciousness are abstract forms of it. They result from Spirit analysing itself, distinguishing its moments, and dwelling for a while with each. This isolating of those moments presupposes Spirit itself and subsists therein; in other words, the isolation exists only in Spirit which is a concrete existence. … we may briefly recall this aspect of them in our own reflection: they were consciousness, self-consciousness, and Reason. … as unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, Spirit is consciousness that has Reason … when this Reason which Spirit has is intuited by Spirit as Reason that exists, or as Reason that is actual in Spirit and is its world, then Spirit exists in its truth; it is Spirit, the ethical essence that has an actual existence. — G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 264–65 / M440.

  2. The central image of the essay is a drill boring through to the core of the earth. I am quite sure that I started writing before C– spoke about re-watching The Core, and this image was there from the outset. The association between “modernism” and “drilling, digging, excavating” is a common one that I could not give a single citation for. However, I realized only last week that I owe a greater debt to Glissant and his Poetics of Relation than I think I had previously realized.

    Poetics of depth. Baudelaire explored the early realms of this form of poetics. The vertiginous extension, not out into the world but toward the abysses man carries within himself. Western man essentially, that is, who at that moment in time governed the evolution of modernity and provided its rhythm. Inner space is as infintely explorable as spaces of the earth. At the same time as he discovered the numerous varieties of the species man constituted, he felt that the alleged stability of knowledge led nowhere and that all he would ever know of himself was what he made others know. As a result, Baudelaire quashed romantic lyricism’s claim that the poet was the introspective master of his joys or sorrows; and that it was in his power to draw clear, plain lessons from this that would benefit everyone. This romantic beautitude was swept away by the stenches inseperable from Baudelairean carrion. — Ëdouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 24.

  3. The next image is the idea of Azathoth, the lord of all the Outer Gods in Lovecraft’s Cthulhuverse, sitting at the centre of the universe. This was a significant adductive leap that came early in the process. It was my first clue that this was a serious essay. I’m not sure which Lovecraft story I read, or when—it may be that I only read the Wikipedia article some time ago—but some neuron fired, some crepuscular ray hit me, and I remembered that Azathoth was called the “Nuclear God.” As C– mentioned, this is quite simply an archaic use of the word “nuclear” to mean “at the centre of things,” but given that I was writing about Oppenheimer and the photo of the Trinity test, it felt like divine inspiration.

    Never was a sane man more dangerously close to the arcana of basic entity—never was an organic brain nearer to utter annihilation in the chaos that transcends form and force and symmetry. I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared forth. I guessed—from hints which made even my informant pause timidly—the secret behind the Magellanic Clouds and globular nebulae, and the black truth veiled by the immemorial allegory of Tao. The nature of the Doels was plainly revealed, and I was told the essence (though not the source) of the Hounds of Tindalos. The legend of Yig, Father of Serpents, remained figurative no longer, and I started with loathing when told of the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond angled space which the Necronomicon had mercifully cloaked under the name of Azathoth. It was shocking to have the foulest nightmares of secret myth cleared up in concrete terms whose stark, morbid hatefulness exceeded the boldest hints of ancient and mediaeval mystics. Ineluctably I was led to believe that the first whisperers of these accursed tales must have had discourse with Akeley’s Outer Ones, and perhaps have visited outer cosmic realms as Akeley now proposed visiting them. — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness,” Weird Tales 18, no. 01 (1931), full text.

  4. The next important ingredient is the photo of the Trinity test. This is also one of the few things that I started off knowing that I wanted to write about. Is the essay more a review of Oppenheimer, or more an analysis of this photo? You may notice that the colophon for this website is the “dark protozoic organism” that represents an “absence of medium.” This photo has been my banner image for years. I lifted it from an art history course I took in Winter 2018, led by Tal-Or Ben-Choreen. As I recall, she used it in the context of discussing what constitutes art: is this photo, taken for mechanical/scientific purposes, an artwork? She and I both stole it from The New Yorker, which remains the only source for the image online (as far as I can tell). I have not now and did not then read the article, only scrolled to steal the photo (in the pdf I submitted to APCON, I included a caption with citation details).

    Photograph of Trinity, the first recorded test of a nuclear detonation. Taken in New Mexico at 5:29am on July 16, 1945.
  5. Past the halfway point, I added in yet another metaphor: the core of the earth is a “hollow world,” where cro-magnon man stalks pre-historic creatures. This is another fantasy image that I feel is so generic I don’t have a specific reference for it. My intuition from the outset is that ultimately comes from something by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Like the Lovecraft, another inheritance from my father. In doing research for this post, I discovered that ERB wrote a series about Pellucidar, which Tarzan visits in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core.

    Cover of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core.

    As a teenager, I used to write stories set at in the Hollow World about a pirate ornithopter, as big as a frigate, crewed by an assortment of intelligent animals. The main character was Hrothgrar, an “albino spirit bear,” whose name is an osmotic corruption of the Danish king Hrothgar. My best guess on how that word entered my consciousness is through Bulfinch’s Mythology. A combination of Redwall and Elric of Melniboné. The idea was that, spirit bears being all white, the albino version would be all black; and, spirit bears being the most rare type of bear, their culture would be highly refined: the wizards of bears. But my Hrothgrar, being an albino (the inverted form), would be huge and inarticulate, showing the influence of The Incredible Hulk, yet another childhood favourite.

  6. “The layers of the earth weigh on Spirit’s head like a nightmare” is a spin on Marx’s famous line from a pamphlet published in 1852.

    Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something entirely new, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle slogans and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language. Thus Luther donned the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789 to 1814 draped itself alternately as the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, in turn, 1789 and the revolutionary tradition of 1793 to 1795. In like manner the beginner who has learnt a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he has assimilated the spirit of the new language and can produce freely in it only when he moves in it without remembering the old and forgets in it his ancestral tongue. — Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ed. Robert C. Tucker, 2nd ed. (New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978), 595. full text

  7. The reference to “conquering reason” is an explicit reference to Glissant, who is himself referencing Deleuze & Guattari.

    Summarizing what we know concerning the varieties of identity, we arrive at the following:

    Root identity

    1. is founded in the distant past in a vision, a myth of the creation of the world;
    2. is sanctified by the hidden violence of a filiation that strictly follows from this founding episode;
    3. is ratified by a claim to legitimacy that allows a community to proclaim its entitlement to the possession of a land, which thus becomes a territory;
    4. is preserved by being projected onto other territories, making their conquest legitimate—and through the project of a discursive knowledge.

    Root identity therefore rooted the thought of self and of territory and set in motion the thought of the other and of voyage.

    Relation identity

    1. is linked not to a creation of the world but to the conscious and contradictory experience of contacts among cultures;
    2. is produced in the chaotic network of Relation and not in the hidden violence of filiation;
    3. does not devise any legitimacy as its guarantee of entitlement, but circulates, newly extended;
    4. does not think of a land as a territory from which to project toward other territories but as a place where one gives-on-and-with rather than grasps

    Relation identity exults the thought of errantry and of totality. — Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 143–44.

  8. In the sections where I discuss cinema more explicitly, I reference the “transcendental perspective of the camera.” This concept is taken from Christian Metz, who writes that the most basic pleasure of cinema comes not through identification with characters or narrative—but from identification with the perspective of the camera itself.

    In other words, the spectator identifies with himself, with himself as a pure act of perception (as wakefulness, alertness): as the condition of possibility of the perceived and hence as a kind of transcendental subject, which comes before every there is. — Christian Metz, “Identification, Mirror,” in Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Imaginary Signifier, by Christian Metz, trans. Celia Britton et al. (London: Macmillan, 1982), 49.

  9. Around this same section, I refer to Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan as the two fathers of the “house Netflix style.” I didn’t come up with this: I think it was my professor Luca Caminati. I think it is 100% true.

  10. The idea of climbing up the sides of the ziggurat to become one with the sun is an image that keeps returning to me. It’s in another piece of writing that I am currently working on. It references Aztec cultures more so than to the Old Kingdoms of Egypt. It’s almost certainly an image taken from some racist text, but hopefully its origin in antiquity is neutral enough to cancel out any cancellable offense. I will not be surrendering the ziggurat, no matter how much the woke mob might clamour of my blood.

    One of the stairways on the Ziggurat of Ur, circa 2100 BCE.
  11. The idea that modern art is characterized by an “absolutely subjective, arbitrary [aesthetic] vocabulary” is an idea I took from the book The Crisis of Ugliness, a book by the Soviet art critic Mikhail Lifshitz.

    Cubism is characterized by its incursions into the field of the theory of knowledge.

    It sees the greatest danger in the visual perception of the real world. If the world is bad, it is vision that is to blame for reproducing it to us again and again. In its assumption that visual perception gives us images of the real world, the old painting attempted to convey these images with the greatest possible fidelity and fullness. The modernist schools reach for exactly the opposite result: all their discoveries are a ‘sum of destructions’ aimed against the perception of the ordinary person. Things-in-themselves do not exist or are unknowable to us; truth consists in the artist’s subjective experience. Properly speaking, this false axiom was already found by the predecessors of the Cubists, who now only had to make the next step: from the simple negation of ‘naïve realism’ to the total rejection of vision as the basis of painting. — Mikhail Lifshitz, The Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop-Art, trans. David Riff, vol. 158, Historical Materialism (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 84.

    The “predecessors” of cubism here are all the various styles of modern art that had already flourished throughout Europe by the turn of the 20th century. Although this essay is a study of cubism, the book is generally concerned with the “crisis of ugliness,” i.e. the loss of mimesis and the turn towards conceptual art in modern culture generally. What I find to be so special about this book, aside from Lifshitz’s extremely erudite analysis and excoriating remarks on art critics and theorists, is its outsider perspective. The book comes not only from another time, but from a world that no longer exists (the USSR).

  12. “A new religion of art.” At the end of the Phenomenology, Hegel describes how the stage beyond the current can only theoretically be realized in the form of religion, the path to absolute knowing. Religion in the sense we know it, as in worship of the divine; or a religion of art. Both seem to be valid.

    In the condition of right or law, then, the ethical world and the religion of that world are submerged and lost in the comic consciousness, and the Unhappy Consciousness is the knowledge of this total loss. It has lost both the worth it attached to its immediate personality and the worth attached to its personality as mediated, as thought. Trust in the eternal laws of the gods has vanished, and the Oracles, which pronounced on particular questions, are dumb. The statues are now only stones from which the living soul has flown, just as the hymns are words from which belief has gone. The tables of the gods provide no spiritual food and drink, and in his games and festivals man no longer recovers the joyful consciousness of his unity with the divine. The works of the Muse now lack the power of the Spirit, for the Spirit has gained its certainty of itself from the crushing of gods and men. They have become what they are for us now—beautiful fruit already picked from the tree, which a friendly Fate has offered us, as a girl might set the fruit before us. It cannot give us the actual life in which they existed, not the tree that bore them, not the earth and the elements which constituted their substance, not the climate which gave them their peculiar character, nor the cycle of the changing seasons that governed the process of their growth. So Fate does not restore their world to us along with the works of antique Art, it gives not the spring and summer of the ethical life in which they blossomed and ripened, but only the veiled recollection of that actual world. Our active enjoyment of them is therefore not an act of divine worship through which our consciousness might come to its perfect truth and fulfilment; it is an external activity—the wiping-off of some drops of rain or specks of dust from these fruits, so to speak—one which erects an intricate scaffolding of the dead elements of their outward existence—the language, the historical circumstances, etc. in place of the inner elements of the ethical life which environed, created, and inspired them. And all this we do, not in order to enter into their very life but only to possess an idea of them in our imagination. But, just as the girl who offers us the plucked fruits is more than the Nature which directly provides them—the Nature diversified into their conditions and elements, the tree, air, light, and so on—because she sums all this up in a higher mode, in the gleam of her self-conscious eye and in the gesture with which she offers them, so, too, the Spirit of the Fate that presents us with those works of art is more than the ethical life and the actual world of that nation, for it is the inwardizing in us of the Spirit which in them was still [only] outwardly manifested; it is the Spirit of the tragic Fate which gathers all those individual gods and attributes of the [divine] substance into one pantheon, into the Spirit that is itself conscious of itself as Spirit. — Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 455–56 / M753.

Glissant, Ëdouard. Poetics of Relation. Translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
Hegel, G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Lifshitz, Mikhail. The Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop-Art. Translated by David Riff. Vol. 158. Historical Materialism. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
Lovecraft, H. P. “The Whisperer in Darkness.” Weird Tales 18, no. 01 (1931).
Marx, Karl. “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 594–617. edited by Robert C. Tucker, 2nd ed. New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978.
Metz, Christian. “Identification, Mirror.” In Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Imaginary Signifier, by Christian Metz, 42–57. translated by Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster, and Alfred Guzzetti. London: Macmillan, 1982.
Kafka, Franz. Diaries. Translated by Ross Benjamin. New York: Schocken Books, 2022.
Shields, David. Reality Hunger, 2010.

There’s no mistaking that going into work feels like shit. I have precious few minutes left. It doesn’t feel like death, or suspended animation, but rather like stepping into an alternate reality. I’m not good at moving back and forth, especially when I have low commitment. Maybe that’s what valuable in this job: I can be who I want to be; or, who I am: non-committal. But that’s not who I am! I want to be outgoing, friendly, hilarious…it’s just hard when you’re always alone.

Writing Prompt: Description, adjacent

Sometimes I am so drawn into the pleasure of my sensing-body that I lapse into idyll, and it’s then that Life needs to remind me of my own facticity. The scorching ray of an all-seeing eye falls on me, and I am brought crashing back down into a paper body. Who I have been anchors me, a Protestant fetter that privileges me to be who I am now.

We might feel differently about the organism our cogito is attached to, but no-one likes to be interpellated. In the course of a life, each of us will sew an idol representing ourselves; and if we fail to repay our debts, it is the duty of our creditor to stick pins through the stuffing of our joints and send bolts of pain screaming out of the blue light of an interface, glimpsed in the half-light of a bored moment at the bar. Sometimes I lapse into idyll, and therefore need to be reminded of my own facticity. A facade of sociality that slips beneath the waves of forgetting, laying bare an iron edifice of fiduciary obligation. There’s no more rude awakening than a reminder of our economic trail. I tried to set fire to my icon as though it were a Wicker Man, but the rain put it out. My debts haunt me like a spectre that phases into the corporeal when I need to be disciplined, before disappearing back into the alien unknown. A creature of the imagination hovering on the edge of my peripheral, tinting my vision black when the pain overcomes me out of nowhere. Don’t make me do it. I don’t like it any more than you do. The trace of the way we lived in the world; who we are, best understood as who we are no longer. A tether to the past, an unjust fetter, but—let’s be honest: have we really changed? Aren’t we still the same desperate phylum scrabbling for survival, borrowing money without a plan for how to pay it back, from someone whose memory will always trigger a split dioptre?

Remember? Remember? She’s still there, out of sight but adjacent, still in the same world as you.

hello

My goal right now is to respond to V–’s email, and to send the pitch to at least one more magazine.

Can’t do the latter. Difficult enough to do the former. Too distracted by thoughts of girls. The desire for love. Yea, how I desire to love and to be loved. And yet—I am not available to women. They don’t know about me. I am not there. No-one cares. And they’re right not to, because I’m fucking ugly. I have no friends. Loser—no-one wants you, no-one ever will.

The goal for this weekend is to pitch the Wolfgang review to at least 3 places. Emails to be sent out on Monday. Start pitching it indiscriminately: a 1k word column. That’s all I want to show for it. Something short, funny, sassy, that people will read. Will want to read. Just 1000 words.

Just before 16h—Everything is futile. I have zero prospects. Nothing but sadness, loneliness. Life of the modern gymcel. Life of the modern man. I should go back to l’Escogriffe and tell that girl the truth: that I liked the look in her eyes. I liked the way they flashed in that half-second, as she was dodging drunks at the Monsoon show. Couldn’t stop thinking about it, and even though we are very far away from each other—it made me want to know her more.

’Round midnight—Maybe if I wore more tonal outfits, like the cowboy white-hat on the couch opposite me—here, now, at CDP. Maybe if I had bigger side delts someone would love me. Maybe if I had used sunscreen in the morning for the past ten years, and my face were not so wrinkly; maybe If I were one degree higher in my profession. Maybe if I had finished that third reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit, someone would love me.

Somehow, I need to stop thinking about this. Somehow, I need to learn to be happy alone and sexless.

What else am I supposed to do? Write the Wolfgang review on spec? Move on to something else? I really wanted to write it as one of those great, propulsive little pieces—one of those funny, smart, touching, short little reviews that you read sometimes. Just something in a minor key.

My relationship to women is 100% parasocial. Few friends, few real interactions; instead, just—the hot girls I ogle while at work. The hot girls I ogle while at their work. Is this better or worse than an app? Is it the same? Bars, fake third spaces, are here—I’m at one right now, in fact. Apps are not here; they’re over there. Therefore, the via negativa would be to not introduce any new elements. Happiness (wife) will be found by removing everything until only she remains.

Saw E– last week; saw J– and her Lil’ Peep boyfriend today. Next time, it will be C– —or more likely, R–. Maybe A– is back in town. How did [seeing M–] make me feel?

Basically, I know that we are compatible. I would bet my testicles on it. She has precisely what I need, which is a connection to the earth. I have what she needs—a watery depth. We are both graves to each other. I know with the certainty of conviction that either of these 3 women would be good for me. I had a chance…when I see these girls, I think of the way my life could have gone. I see the opportunity that passed me by.

I’m going to call it. Throw in the towel. Ha, ha. What a joke. The very notion that I could give up on romance. I would die before ending a romance prematurely (whatever that means). I want to die all the time. Drink down every last poison drop. Wring the fruit until nothing is left, even if it kills me. Kill me. I will die for a love that does not exist.

Later, in front of La Rama [around 2am]—What exactly is the idea with all this stupid writing? There’s nothing else to do…The taste of tequila is still on my lips, stronger than this nice beer I have.

One thing: I learned the girl from l’Esco’s name. L–. That never would have happened if D– hadn’t been there. If not for her—well, we know I would not have been able to ask. But I did have the opportunity to learn, and learn I did—that she has a boyfriend.

Describe her: Lydia, bartender and “technical director” at l’Esco. Loose cuff on synthetic black pants; cheap, beat up running shoes. A grey t-shirt hangs over a barely-perceptible protrusion of breasts. Smiling and friendly in a plain and homely kind of way, but evidently habituated to the big city life. Small breasts, just like her ass and her narrow hips. Not my kind of woman, necessarily—just a woman. The most feminine element of her appearance is her hair. Long, wavy, down past the shoulders, the tips holding on to the remainder of a blonde dye job.

In the VA lunchroom before E–’s first class of the semester. The question weighing on me right now is, how am I going to keep writing? I must not lose momentum. I need to be sending out pitches—multiple every day; for the Wolfgang review, for whatever. Publish it anywhere, so long as it’s somewhere (other than my website)…

We need to finish Morning Regrets. Push through the drama. There’s the potential for it to be pretty long, but it needs to be an actual story. That means an ending, which means change. What are the themes it wants to reveal? One basic theme is ritual—it’s about a guy who imagines that some form of religiosity would fill the void.

Later—Wow, this class is a sausage fest, LOL. More than usual for E–’s classes. At least there’s some racial diversity.

Being in a strange room. Being next to the queen mother (E–): it feels very overwhelming. I wonder if I belong here—but based on how many white dudes there are, the answer seems to be yes.

EV 10.785

A communist My Struggle (Knausgaard).

Apply at vinvinvin. Send pitches for the Wolfgang review. Read Gravity’s Rainbow. Read Hegel. Go to the gym. Figure something out with the money. Apply for a few more jobs.

When am I going to find a wife? Where’s the progress there? None: instead, I sublimate my desire into the gym…if I can’t be happy, at least I can be strong! Chase the number. Bring the weight up, not the volume—especially on the overhead press.

A home for wayward boys, but the plot of land it’s on emits a permanent stink….

C– goes to the bar and knows everyone. I go to the bar and am alone—surrounded, yes, by the sense of vague connaissance; but I am—alone. No-one wants to talk to the single white guy.

I am never going to have sex again. The girl who once made conversation looks away awkwardly. I must look really bad. I must smell bad. My pheromones are rank. I must have a terrible aura.

What happened? I used to be—someone—now I’m just sinking—deeper and deeper…

May

Personal bests achieved through terrible training methods.

The first weightlifting program I followed was the Reg Parks Beginner Routine, which I began circa 2015 and ran for an unknown length of time. My logging was terrible back then: I’m pretty sure I was training by memory alone. The only documentation I have is the following screenshot of my Symmetrical Strength profile.

weakling.jpg. March 21, 2016.

The Reg Parks routine closely resembles Starting Strength. This is the program I have been following, with some modifications and with occasional gaps of up to 4 months, since roughly the start of 2021 when I was living in Vancouver. Since December 2022, I have been consistent and was able to break all my previously-established records.

This is the routine as written. I only implemented Power Cleans lately, and only did them occasionally.

Workout A Workout B
Squat 3x5 Squat 3x5
Row 3x5 Chins 3xAMRAP
Press 3x5 Bench 3x5
Deadlift 1x5 Power Clean 3x5

Notes: * All weights listed are in pounds. * This does not include my general warm up, which is 10 minutes spent pushing the sled, followed by a dynamic stretching routine. * This does not include my warm-ups sets, which usually looks like 1 set with empty bar/low weight, followed by sets at 60% and 80% of my working weight. I also have a post-workout static stretching routine. * I only implemented power cleans lately, and only did them sporadically. I consider myself to still be in a phase of perfecting my form. * Total time, including warm-ups and cool-down, was usually around 2 hours.

Here are my personal records on the above lifts:

  • 32 years old, male, somewhere between 195–200lbs.
    • Squat 3x5 (285, April 10 2023)
    • Row 3x5 (185, April 10 2023)
    • Press 3x5 (105, March 31 2023)
    • Deadlift 1x5 (300, April 5 2023)
    • Chin-ups 3xAMRAP (9/8/8, April 2 2023)
    • Bench 3x5 (155, March 29, 2023)
    • Power Cleans 3x5 (145, March 31 2023)
weakling2.jpg. Image based on numbers achieved around the end of March / early April 2023.

I am very proud of my squat. The squat is some kind of divine activity. When I deadlift, I get intense headrushes and my training log is filled with asides like “profound existential disassociation,” but the squat is the most complete means of expressing one’s will to power that one could dream of.

I believe that my upper body is so weak because the Reg Parks routine I followed when starting out very confusingly said “bench press OR dips,” and because the bench press stations were always in use, I always went for dips—but was never strong enough to get to depth, and always had to use a band.

Starting Strength is a good routine, and I learned quite a lot from reading Rippetoe’s books Starting Strength and Practical Programming. I also achieved quite a lot of gains. However, the discourse around them is far more rigid than it should be. Speaking from my own perspective, I became so addicted to the routine, so locked into its rut, that it took an immense psychological effort for me to break free. I had this feeling that if I changed things at all, I would lose my precious, hard-won gains. Additionally, because Rippetoe is so single-mindedly focused on low rep-ranges for strength, I myself did not have the imaginative training to even really think about working with higher rep ranges. I knew that the rows I was doing as programmed were doing nothing for me, but I was closer to dropping them from the program rather than doing a variation, or different rep ranges.

The perception of bodybuilding is fairly coloured disfavourably by the toxic elements of the profession, but bodybuilding-style training is far more complex, intelligent, and sustainable in the long-term than powerlifting. At the end of my run of Starting Strength, which, I admit, because of my regular layoffs, was highly protracted, I was run into the ground and burnt out despite training so minimally. A proper auto-regulating, bodybuilding-style routine will have you in the gym 5+ days per week, but because it is not structured around peaking, you should not need to de-load.

I’m not entirely there yet. The new training program I am following is the four day Texas Method, which combines intensity and volume work for all of the four major compounds, split into upper/lower days, and supplemented with accessory work. Here is my new program:

Day 1 (upper 1) Day 2 (lower 1) Day 3 (power/conditioning)
Bench (intensity): 2–3x2–3 Deadlift (intensity): 2–3x2–3 Sled work
Press (volume): 5x5 Squat (volume): 5x5 Power Clean: 5x5
Dips: 4xAMRAP Chins: 50 total Squat variation: 5x5
Tricep Extension: 3x10–15 Back Extension: 3x15 Mobility work
Curls: 3x10–15 Sit-ups: 3xAMRAP
Sit-ups: 3xAMRAP Push-ups: 3xAMRAP
Push-ups: 3xAMRAP Farmer’s Walk
Day 4 (upper 2) Day 5 (lower 2)
Press (intensity): 2–3x2–3 Squat (intensity): 2–3x2–3
Bench (volume): 5x5 Deadlift (volume): 3–5x5
Incline dumbbell press: 4x8–12 Rows: 5x8–10
Delt Raise: 5x10–15 Glute-ham raise: 3x10–15
Tricep Extension: 3–5x10–15 Sit-ups: 3xAMRAP
Curls: 3x10–15 Push-ups: 3xAMRAP
Sit-ups: 3xAMRAP Farmer’s walk
Push-ups: 3xAMRAP

Notes:

  • Sit-ups are done on an incline bench or GHR machine, super-set with pushups and with a 1m rest between sets.
  • Rest times are strictly controlled using a stopwatch: 2m rest on volume sets, 3–5m rest on heavier intensity sets as needed, 1–1.5m rest on isolation movements.
  • I still do 10m pushing/pulling the sled before each workout; or, worst case, 10m on the ergometer if the sled isn’t free. It’s an absolutely incredible method of warming up, and is probably in my top 3 exercise movements at this point. I usually do slow, deep lunges while pushing, and pull with a rounded back for about 3 minutes or so to warm up, then will run each push at full speed and use the pull to recover. RPE by the end of tend minutes is usually around 7. Currently working with 160lbs. That is a guaranteed 40m of conditioning per week.
  • Day 3 is still a work in progress. Since switching from minimalist, powerlifting-style training to maximalist, bodybuilding-style training (with a focus on strength), I have embraced spending all my time in the gym. One of the factors that made me switch from Starting Strength to something more complicated—in addition to being simply burnt out from the constant intensity—is that it simply did not have me in the gym enough. I am currently doing front squats at a lighter weight to focus on my quads and upper back.
  • Current sessions are around 2hrs–2h20 for lower days, usually around 1h50–2hrs for upper days. Because my upper body is weak relative to my lower, my goal—and I have no idea how to achieve this—is to make the upper day take longer than the lower day (or at least as long).
  • I’ve been doing the four day routine for about 5 weeks or so, and I haven’t quite dialed in my progression metrics. I eat intuitively and am currently cutting, so I am trying to not feel bad that my numbers are not going up as much as they were in my novice phase. My volume squat is going up and feels excellent, but my intensity squat is still sitting around the PR I achieved for 3x5, but at a lower volume.
  • Upper days get me high as a kite, feeling really good, even though my intensity press refuses to progress. Volume squats make me feel excellent, too, because I know that I am really strong. Friday makes me feel bad, because it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. I’m trying to increase weight on the bar by feel, and it doesn’t feel like I’m closer to bringing it up.
  • My goal is to compete sometime this year, but I don’t think I’m running this program in a way that is conducive to peaking. I’m having a lot of fun with it, it feels like I’m definitely making gains, I love being in the gym so much and I feel more like a genuine “athlete” than ever before, but my progression metrics still need work.

The curse my father handed down to me.

Last night, I woke up in the dark and perceived something hovering over and to the left of me. My body was frozen, but the thing’s presence was so horrible and filled me with such terror that I could do nothing but—scream. It wouldn’t come, I couldn’t move, but the shadow crept closer and closer; and in response to the looming malevolence, my breathing became heavier and heavier. With great effort, I wrenched my gasps into something like a scream, but even in my ears then sounding more like a harsh groan: no, no, no! was the best resistance I could wrench forth after great effort. This mewling cry was enough to allow my consciousness to regain control of my body, and I began to shake violently. The dark presence was still there, hovering to the left of me when I rolled over onto my right side, turning my back on the unknown power in hopes that it would disappear of its own accord. I lay there shaking, and feeling the phantom presence of the woman who used to lie next to me; who used to shake me gently, her shining face casting radiance into the dark vortex of the unknown thing waiting for me.

My father was haunted by the same darkness. He used to stay awake, eyes wide and whites shining in the dim illumination of the lamp he kept burning through the night. He resisted sleep, sought to escape it, afraid of the close proximity it brought him to death. My mother related stories of rolling over at night to see him there, body completely still, face frozen in horror, eyes wide and fixed on some corner of the room as though he were seeing through to the beyond. In these moments, my mother told me, if she followed the direction of his gaze, she saw nothing but the haze of interrupted sleep would sometimes evaporate instantly, and she could feel the hairs raise on the backs of her arms. Something in her body knew the presence of terror. Sometimes, she told me, she could hear a thin stream of sounds coming out of his frozen lips; and if she put her ear to his mouth and listened intently, she could make out syllables, words. But the words were nothing—nothing—a string of thorough gibberish, sentences dredged up from the alien depths of his unconscious mind, strung together following an unknowable logic. This dark curse haunts my family, generations of men stalked by an incomprehensible force reaching out of the unknowable and into the known through the vulnerable crossroads of sleep.

March

A Montréal after-hours that was once the centre of my universe.

Went to a rave at The Silver Door (Torn Curtain / Drones Club / Cyberia) last Saturday. First time I’ve been there in a long time. The event was called: Bubble Bath x Service de Garde. The DJs listed are: Ma Sha (NYC) and Martyn Bootyspoon. I have definitely seen him somewhere or other.

I took a meandering walk along Van Horne, through the empty lot at Hutchison. Threw a few stones at the concrete and corrugated metal shapes the city keeps there. In my past the night recalled, they somehow had not figured out how to put the lot to use. It was just an empty lot. The entire chain-link fence cordoning off the tracks was pushed down and grown over. I returned there often in 2015 and noticed that someone was using it as an installation medium. Arranging broken chairs, tables, flower pots, dishes, lamps, toilets and other modern conveniences in a pastiche of interior design. The neighbourhood’s profuse supply of run-down street leavings was combed for things broken beyond use. I noticed one day when I examined the dozen or so chairs that had been arranged in neat aisles before a broken hunk of concrete, as though waiting for a group to hear some garbage-speaker. Each one of them was broken in a different way such that they crumbled if touched at all. Another day I came and saw the four walls of a cozy living room, complete with ruined armchair and smashed TV. Another day, the entire field had been emptied except for two chairs facing each other square in the middle of this empty lot.

I didn’t know then what this place meant to me. I didn’t have perspective enough to see that my life had already been concentrated in a few square kilometres around that empty lot. I write to you now, unhappy: I can’t help but live in the opiatic haze of nostalgia. I deeply wanted to go to a party at this specific after hours because Drones Club was once the de facto centre of my universe, a solid shape I craved to fill the emptiness. Sometimes one’s desires can get caught up in the currents that circulate outside, and it feels all the more exciting to satisfy them in a communal ritual. I did what I thought I would have done then: it was the best I could do now. Drank 4 beers by myself and read Hegel at the kitchen table. Turned my music off to perversely accentuate the emptiness. Left at midnight. Had a brief misunderstanding with the guard at the door. Things have changed: now, anyone tuned in to the right channels online could buy entrance (it didn’t take me too much looking to find the event page), but the ticket was the address and you identified yourself by name to the person at the door. The events are framed around organizing teams, rather than venues. The doors were formally closed (not likely in practise) to people coming in off the street. That didn’t stop the riff-raff: you can’t.

I have memories of this place in at least 4 radically different configurations. Then, it had more rooms; now, if it has layers they are opaque to me and I see a flat surface. I lament the loss of the neon “rock’n’roll” sign, but the fog machine is kept alive in honour of the place’s legacy, and that’s good enough for me. I loosened up far more quickly than the previous week, and once the acid hit I started enjoying myself immensely. There were a lot of very cute girls on the dancefloor that I did my best to send psychic waves to: as it has been my entire life, it’s impossible to tell if it worked. I remember one who was quite short, but who weaved purposefully through the crowd and danced with a stiffness. As the evening wore on, I caught sight of her loosened up, but still moving relatively little. Very charming. To the girl in the dress, to the tall girl, to the short girl, to all the girls who were there: email me.

The primary object of going out is always to lose yourself; the possibility of losing yourself is the allure. There was no chance of me losing myself, given that I was my only accompaniment—but I did manage an acceptable level of integration with the moment that the whole thing was very pleasurable and satisfying overall. My secondary object in this outing, my conscious goal was to remind myself of who I am: remind myself that I have my own history, my own life, a relationship to the city that is mine and no-one else’s. Something that goes further back than this year. Than the past four years. I recognized both E– and S–’s silhouette; I didn’t speak to either of them, of course, being too frightened; but it was very vindicating to see two women I have slept with on only my second or third outing as a bachelor again. Recognition of their distinct and positive aura brought me such joy. S– in particular was working so hard. I felt inspired to keep it up myself.

Every single relationship I have ever had with a woman that has been in any way either romantic or sexual is somehow fraught (the S– thing is contingent, owing to the maverick nature of an old nemesis). Suddenly, before I knew it, I was surrounded by my old study group. Suffocated by the overbearing mess of my present social relations. Not counting the two girls from my past, there were around 7 other people that I knew—that I have known for months, in fact, seeing each other multiple times a week—and yet, somehow it was forbidden for us to talk to each other. My fear is the emptiness of not knowing anyone, being utterly alone, which I am. But the problem is that I have such a hard time getting along with them. At Luke’s party a month or so ago, I connected with a few people. I was shy and didn’t take full advantage of the situation, but I felt capable of getting along. I was in a fundamentally different gear, receptive to the world, which is how I usually am not. I was able to make friends with the study group because when I met them, it was not clear that my relationship with R– was over; but then it ended, and the entropy was so sudden and complete, I was reduced to an emptiness. The relationships I had formed were not strong enough with the people I cared about (D– and A–) for them to work to maintain it on their end; and on my end there is just rubble.

I left Luke’s party absolutely elated. I left the rave in a similar recognition that I had had an experience of great personal significance, even though, objectively, nothing special happened: spent the evening reading, poisoned myself with beer in silence, walked alone to a rave where I danced by myself for 6 hours before leaving without having spoken to anyone. Bummed a cigarette from someone so frazzled by the sensory overload that I had moved on before she processed what I had said. Walked home as the sun was coming up. The sunrise on a hard night is more beautiful than anything.

The author on his way home.

January

Leave it all behind and start again. Save for a few years, practise on the side; when it comes time, retreat again even further. That’s what it takes to write a book. I should be on my third or fourth book by the time I’m in my mid-thirties. Each one closer to publishing. Keep it up during work-time because I have nothing else. Encountering no-one but—myself. It sounds like a nightmarish torture; she said she was doing me a favour, and that I would be glad to be alone after she left me.

Can’t say that I have been glad. Careless, maybe, in the sense that I have nothing to care about. The part of me that is presently dead, that I need in order to move on, was already dead. But it’s always been dead. I’m back to ground zero. When I went through previous breakups, I had a society. Now I have nothing. Lost it all in the course of our time together. I look forward to forgetting what brought me to suffering, nothing left but me with my miserable self.

There’s no more future for me as a happy man: the only thing I can hope to do is make money and keep writing. My only optimism is the lure of a new idea. I am coming to a point where my skill is beginning to cohere.

The statue of the angel at Montréal’s Mont-Royal stands out against the night sky. The green of old bronze is indistinguishable against the grey sky, palely illuminated by the city lights. Her outstretched arm and its torch form a line to the cross, lit up orange in the distance above her. The cross that sits on top of the mountain. There is a direct line from it to her. I have always found her to be beautiful, and proud that such a divine statue is a central locus in my fair city. This night, walking home in the cold snow, the line from cross to angel strike me as perfectly representing the provincialism not only of Montréal, my home: but the country itself. A big fish in a small pond. Insignificant.

2022

December

What we’re in for in the New Year.

In:

  • Setting new PRs
  • Pull requests
  • Pitching
  • Morning, afternoon, evening

Out:

  • Faking
  • Disassociating
  • Procrastinating
  • Looking backwards

Who am I?

I’ve started to develop an anxiety around what place my writing occupies in my life right now. Since my relationship ended, it has been all I have; I have leaned on it very heavily over the past two months. This includes my decision to apply for an MFA in Creative Writing. The whole thing is unsustainable. My practises are unsustainable. Too much caffeine, smoking, drugs, drinking. Becoming fat like all the men in my family. Neglecting my health, and getting older, where things stick. I need to take care of my skin now, too?

Thinking about good times and feeling bad.

Hopping the chain link fence late one night at Parc Jarry, skinny dipping in the pool. Sitting on the beach next to Lac Wapizagonk at night, buzzing on mushrooms, sipping a fancy beer, trying to describe the clouds rolling in. Road trip through the eastern provinces. Parking on a lawn next to a lake out in Newfoundland, the sky open and striated pink and blue as the sun set. Screwing so hard in the back of the car I thought it would roll off, then watching Casablanca and eating Ryvita and cheese. “Dance with your left hand.” The moon phase of the relationship. Etc etc.

It’s hard to remember times like these and not begrudge the decision to break up as sacrilegious. It is. It remains as such for all my past loves. Can I honestly say that I would rather continue to be with N–, rather than accept that it was good that it ended? And with E–? I don’t want to go backwards. E– and I never got to the point of a “holy” communion. N– and I did; our love, and some of our memories, are preserved forever and can never be touched by any moralism. Does this mean that I admit it is better that it ended? Even considering all the fallout of that relationship, I still believe, on the condition that we fell in love with each other, that there must therefore be a basic compatibility; that we could have come to an understanding.

The same is true for R–. I can’t help but think it’s the “wrong” decision to end things; it feels sacrilegious when I recall the holy history of our love; but why should I think that I have some special knowledge of what is most valuable? She knows what is better for her than I do—but does that entail something for Us? If she is not healthy, then We cannot be healthy, given that she is one of Our constituent parts. We are not a body-without-organs (lol). I surrendered my happiness to Us, but I was not concerned with my happiness to begin with. I did not fall in love for a good time, as many good times as it may have yielded.

I can remember fond nostalgic moments from past times: at the Theatre Rialto with N–; visiting her in Campbellton for the first time, and for much of the month I spent with her. Nuit blanche. Letter writing. When I first met E– at La plante; our charged meetings at the Centre St-Louis between class; reading my love letter written in French in Parc Outremont, the snow falling. Partying. A–: memories of her from a prior epoch, she bridges a gap between selves that few other than family can. All the times we met out in public. When we first went home together; then, months later, when we started to know each other; the Liberal Arts party, when we both looked very cute. Everyone in her ambit seemed to hate me: her friends when I joined them at Grumpy’s. Her apartment seemed so mature. She invited me back a few times, and told me all about her life. A– is a towering figure, much more powerful than me. It’s unbelievable how much I fucked that up, wow!

The point of this exercise of recalling with fond nostalgia romantic moments from my past is to remind myself that my memories of R– should wind up sharing the same status: shelf-objects, part of a collection. But they don’t; this exercise was unsuccessful. R– and N– are the two relationships I’ve had whose status is similar, and in both cases I still feel disappointed by the opacity at the centre of the other.

Notes on failed relationships.

I toss these pages in the faces of timid, furtive, respectable people and say: ‘There! that’s me! You may like it or lump it, but it’s true. And I challenge you to follow suit, to flash the searchlight of your self-consciousness into every remotest corner of your life and invite everybody’s inspection. Be candid, be honest, break down the partitions of your cubicle, come out of your burrow, little worm.’ As we are all such worms we should at least be honest worms.

W.N.P Barbellion,_ Journal of a Disappointed Man

  1. R–

    The longest one, and the one most recently passed. I still haven’t successfully eradicated the deep-seated sense that it will work out, even though that is no longer possible (but we’ve been through so much—we’ve worked it out before—). I would swear vengeance on her and get it all out in the open, but the nature of a failed relationship is that it inevitably tars both parties. Her failures are my failures, and mine are hers. Somehow, during the pandemic, she wound up becoming a fairly extreme political reactionary; she also degenerated into illiteracy, again on my watch. It was my job to protect her and I failed. Since our first trauma, since she cheated on me with my best friend, whom I repeatedly warned her was going to try to sleep with her, I have always asked myself if I know what love is. In the early days, I had no doubt whatsoever. When I had to leave her apartment early in the morning, and she would stand on the porch watching me recede, and I could never look away. Perhaps this explains why I never liked her kissing me on the neck—why I found myself becoming so cold to her. I don’t want to acknowledge my own failure to myself, my inability to protect my own interests. I should never have fallen in love with her to begin with.

  2. N–

    The most disastrous one, the one whose fallout haunts me today. She disappointed me more than anyone, that’s true; but I loved her very, very deeply; I know that she loved me too; the disaster it wound up in is not something anyone could have predicted, but I still feel like I bear some responsibility.

  3. E–

    Far too wise for me, knew better, got out quick. I am very grateful to her for her maturity. She sensed long in advance what R– came to know after four long years.

  4. A–

    Funny, platonic, then tragic. Too tragic to speak of right now.

  5. F–

    Fun but erupted strangely. One where I asserted myself, where I looked out for my own best interests. It is because of this that she makes it to the list of women I have disappointed.

  6. A–

    Possibly the one with the highest ratio of depth of connection to amicability of breakup. It was a good connection and a fun time that ended fine.

November

An anecdote illustrating my impeccable critical instinct.

After the reading group on Sunday, I was discussing identity politics and cancel culture with a couple of Europeans. They have no context for a whole discourse that is deeply, deeply stupid. The example we were discussing was whether we should NOT read Marx because he was a white man. Not merely a straw man, in fact this is a claim someone made out loud in the class we are meeting around (a seminar on Glissant’s Poetics of Relation). A Guyanese scholar of Black Studies, in response to our prof’s mentioning that she will be leading a reading group for Capital in the winter, said to the class that we should read Cedric Robinson instead of Marx.

Having to explain these sorts of things from the ground up starkly illustrates how ridiculous the question is. My coffee table was covered with books by Nietzsche and Kierkegaard: toxic men, forbidden philosophers. I would never say that people have an obligation to read either of them (unless they are researching a relevant domain). However, I would say that everyone should read Marx. Reading Marx may not be sufficient; we should read Black Marxism in addition to Capital; but the claim that we should disregard Marx is the opposite of my politics. I have spoken in the past about how I am not interested in engaging with certain adversary figures or discourses. This is a decision made on the basis of self-preservation and interest—I don’t have time or interest to engage with enemies whom I am not in the process of overcoming—but it is motivated by an initial political instinct. If you disregard Marx on a political basis, then you are an enemy of the people.

The general point that I wanted to make is simply to brag about my impeccable instincts. Since the pandemic especially, when the entire population became alienated all at once and all by the same institutions (state and media), we have found our critical judgement put to the test. My ex was led astray; my head was too far up my ass to reverse the slide before I lost her. She has wound up in a very reactionary place that seems to me to be the consequence of an inability to sufficiently distance herself from the deleterious institutions of modern society (media). At the same time, I have seen friends, hardcore “communists,” fall onto the other side of the fence—so alienated by woke liberalism that they themselves fall into a state of conservatism.

My claim is that I can see things others don’t. I am highly media literate; I have a fairly wide base of knowledge and education; I have a lot of life experience, and have interacted with many people from all over the world and from many different walks of life. Even before I commenced my education, which is where I began to seriously hoard knowledge and train my judgement, I always trusted my read on the situation. I have a good instinct. I see nuance where others don’t, which is the very practise of critique (separation of elements). I can navigate us through the harsh shoals of this shitty world. As a practising flâneur, that is the product I bring to market—but I am no flâneur, idly standing by. I am committed to the proletariat!

N.B. We discussed instinct in class today! In the context of Bergson, but despite that—a funny coincidence.

2020

August

A fantastical confusion of the early 20th century revolutionary press, and the late 20th century alternative press.

Lenin became a leader as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, when revolutionary consciousness in Russia was at a high point. A statement credited to a group including Georgi Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich, Pavel Axelrod, Julius Martov, Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin) and his younger brother Dmitri Ilyich Ulyanov, read “we are passing through an extremely important period in the history of the Russian working-class movement…The past few years have been marked by an astonishingly rapid spread of Social-Democratic ideas among our intelligentsia, and meeting this trend in social ideas is an independent movement of the industrial proletariat…”

This comment was published in September 1900 by the editorial collective of the newspaper Iskra (Spark). Lenin and his comrades formed this publication amidst intense repression from the Tsarist regime, and a high degree of “disunity” on what we might call “the left.” The collective shared common interests with “several organizations of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, as well as of separate groups of Russian Social-Democrats.” In addition to those who were united around Social-Democracy, the broadly-construed “left” also included the right wing tendency of “trade unionism,” and the left wing, whose tradition of “terror” had provoked the military crackdowns.

Revolutionary consciousness was high among all these different groups, but they all worked independently to bring down Tsar Alexander, and some had radically different visions of what to do on the other side of that horizon. It was in the middle of this “disunity” that Lenin started his newspaper. Its staff was united in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, whose majority would go on to lead the revolution. The objective of Iskra was to fulfil multiple functions: it would be a space to elaborate a “consistent ideology,” and thereby draw “lines of demarcation” between the Party and offshoot tendencies. The second function of Iskra was to “achieve an organisation especially for the purpose of… delivering our newspapers and periodicals regularly to all parts of Russia. Only when such an organisation has been founded…will the Party possess a sound foundation and become a real fact, and, therefore, a mighty political force.”

The content published in Iskra was subordinated to an end outside the essential purpose internal to writing. Developing a material organizational structure was the primary undertaking of the newspaper. Producing and distributing the newspaper to members of the proletariat across Russia would require a network of active, mobilized comrades, embedded within workers’ communities, study circles and other mass organizations. This network of mobilized revolutionaries united in theory and trained in militant organizing would constitute the skeleton of the revolutionary Party.

Meanwhile, in the West, instead of a brutally oppressive monarchic state, the left has had to contend with the more insidious apparatus of liberal soft power. Despite a long tradition of leftist newspapers, journals, and magazines throughout North America and Europe, the absence of a legitimate (in the eyes of the people) revolutionary worker’s Party–even any organized left movement–proves the failure of those projects to overcome the same obstacles Lenin and his comrades faced.

We can blame quite a lot on counter-revolutionary state programs: when they are not assassinating leaders or violently attacking organizations, intelligence organizations have always been used as a counter-revolutionary measure. The CIA was heavily involved in all forms of culture, funding anti-communist intellectuals and propaganda outlets. Although the Americans have exerted a disproportionate impact, all national intelligence services controlled by the bourgeoisie have a history of undermining attempts to organize around socialism.

The state’s forces are powerful, but necessity demands that we find a way to overcome them and build a worker’s Party that exists as a “real fact.”

The reportage of outlets content to play within the bounds of the liberal regime have arguably been more useful to the cause of revolutionary socialism than any of the attempts to relaunch Iskra and speak as a legitimate worker’s Party. By the second half of the 20th century, local newspapers with a progressive-reformist political line abounded. All this punk ethos has to offer is a bourgeois alternative to the bourgeois mainstream. Despite their limits, the “alternative press” should be appreciated for its role in the facticity of the present-day left–for better or for worse. What distinguishes “bourgeois journalism,” no matter how critical it is of the regime, from Lenin’s revolutionary project is that the former takes writing as an end in itself. The newspaper is not being used as a means to construct something that will surpass it in historical significance. Iskra was never about writing, it was about organizing, and its medium as a printed newspaper is the matter by which the two are joined.

The Mirror was one of two anglophone alt-weeklies published in Montreal, this one from 1985 to 2012 and freely distributed to a circulation of 70,000 at its height. By comparison, Now Toronto publishes over 500,000 newspapers per week, and the Georgia Straight an average just under 120,000 [citation needed]. In Montreal, the two anglophone newspapers (Hour and The Mirror) existed alongside the two francophone (Voir and Ici). Hour and The Mirror both folded in 2012; Ici in 2009; Voir lives on as a blog. Cult MTL has inherited the mantle from the Mirror, with former columnist Lorraine Carpenter stepping up as editor-in-chief. Its thin broadsheet is symbolic of Montreal’s equally thin cultural nourishment. In the early 90s, Voice of Montreal seeded here, but recognizing its outsized ambition, it was re-named Vice and moved to New York City.

Montreal is the cultural centre of the country, whatever Toronto’s worst excesses might want you to believe. Those who live here know that the city’s value is not determined by the amount of capital moving through its institutions, because there’s certainly little enough of that. The agglomeration of scenes feels perched on the edge of relevance, slacking prone atop a vein of latent energy, belied by the lack of any achievement. Montreal is a cultural capital in the national context, with a developed art scene in all forms of media, and across languages. It also has a revolutionary spirit that the world recognizes. No socialist media has been able to combine the spirit and the culture, and attain either a meaningful degree of local relevance, while simultaneously bringing that spirit to a broader national or international audience.

The culture industry still has the potential to be employed as a tactical means to build an organization with a greater ambition than perpetually producing further content. The culture industry needs to be put to work in the service of the revolutionary subject. As Canada’s de facto centre of both class consciousness and cultural prestige, the task is to re-appropriate that apparatus toward the same end Lenin used his newspaper to accomplish: building the material structure of a revolutionary Party, and turning it into a “real fact.”

Schopenhauer wrote that in the experience of the sublime through music, the audience can temporarily dissolve the boundaries of their ego and feel as though one with the world-spirit. These moments of dissolution is the most one can hope for in an existence whose precondition involves suffering. No other aesthetic form rivals direct connection with the totality of creation. The Voice of Montreal was purely aesthetic, a sonic gesture empty of linguistic content.

When we combine voice and language, it becomes something other than purely aesthetic. It might come in the form of the poetic, where the sounds and meaning of the words play out their aesthetic dialectic; or the prosaic, where the aesthetics of sound become subordinate to those of language. In the latter case, the voice is no longer important: what matters most is the meaning of the words. The Voice of Montreal was neither poetry nor prose, but something akin to music: its legacy is a rhythm that still lingers online. Nothing was ever said in those pages; it was no more than an aesthetic experience. Whether good or bad, I leave to the reader to judge; what I say with conviction, is that pure aestheticism is escapism. The mirror reflects, holding onto nothing; there is nothing to be aestheticized. Reflection, rather than articulation, is the ideal model for media instrumentalized to revolutionary ends: The New Mirror.

July

Spent some time falling into a nostalgia trap, and going back through old message board archives and reading my 13-14 year old self talking shit. I was a rude, cynical bastard at that age. A lot of anger inside. Not enough attention at home; too much instability. I wrote about some memories using The Place in this Twitter thread. The two forums I was reading through were Martial Arts Planet (MAP), and the Crestfallen Studios community board. Maybe someday I’ll reveal my username. Real ones already know.