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

2023

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.

Jan 13, 2023

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.

Jan 13, 2023

2022

In:

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

Out:

  • Faking
  • Disassociating
  • Procrastinating
  • Looking backwards

Jan 13, 2023

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?

Jan 13, 2023

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 Noelle, rather than accept that it was good that it ended? And with Eden? I don’t want to go backwards. Eden and I never got to the point of a “holy” communion. Noelle 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 Rachelle. 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 Noelle; 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 Eden 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. Alisha: 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. Alisha 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 Rachelle should wind up sharing the same status: shelf-objects, part of a collection. But they don’t; this exercise was unsuccessful. Rachelle and Noelle 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.

Jan 13, 2023

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. Rachelle

    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. Noelle

    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. Eden

    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 Rachelle came to know after four long years.

  4. Alisha

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

  5. Felicity

    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.

Jan 13, 2023

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.

Jan 13, 2023

The problem with the Jekyll post format is that it’s a lot of work to create a new file. It’s a barrier to entry. I would prefer to just be able to add to the top of a file. One long file, with multiple metadata blocks, so that we can continue to associate tags with posts.

What I’m doing now is collating separate posts into one long page. It looks the same for the reader, but it’s not as good an experience for the user of the system.

Jan 13, 2023

2020

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.

Jan 13, 2023

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.

Jan 13, 2023