intertubes championship online edition 4: mystical crystal arena

I've recently returned from a Thanksgiving holiday excursion to Annandale, VA, where production work continued on the Everything, Kansas documentary. The footage looks pretty great and our hosts were excellent interview subjects so my pleasure with the progress of the project continues to grow.

Seize Them! is scheduled to start recording drums for our upcoming EP this weekend. We'll be traveling out to Rene's stepfather's house in wildest New Jersey and transforming the drum room there into a recording studio. We hope to get three to five drum tracks laid down and then we'll take it from there. Exciting! I can't wait to have some decent-sounding recordings.

To support this project I bought myself an inexpensive large-diaphragm condenser microphone (the MXL V63M) primarily for vocal recording, but it's also useful for guitars both acoustic and electric. I've really only tested it to make sure it survived shipping, but I hope to actually record something with it in the next day or two. My fantasy is to start a Demo-A-Day project in which I come up with at least one part of a new song every day... this is not likely to happen, but we'll see. Last night I wrote a pretty fun soul-style bassline that may become something bigger.

R.U. Sirius is proposing the creation of an Open Source political party organized around antiauthoritarian lines. Looks fairly interesting and I'll be curious to see how it develops. Will they address the obsolescence of the nation-state?

The WGA strike is still on, and more power to them. Their demands are entirely reasonable (how shocking that a content creator should be paid when a parent company uses that content to sell advertising!), though it's a little ironic to me that the state of labor unions in this country has collapsed so completely that the only unions left with any real power are those populated by sports stars and creative brainworkers. Here's hoping, however, that my below-the-line friends out there aren't losing too much work over this.

If you're interested in one of the most ridiculous "linking policies" I've ever seen, head on over to the relevant page on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics site. I'm pretty sure absolutely zero of this is even vaguely legally enforceable, and my favorite part I will excerpt here (thereby violating their rule about not reposting any material they don't provide as part of their RSS feed! OH NOES!): "The posting or creation of any link to the VANOC Website signifies that you have read this Linking Policy and agree to abide by the terms and conditions contained herein." Wow! So any of us can "agree" to a laughably overbroad policy without even knowing what that policy is! Nice try, VANOC intellectual property lawyers. Next time why not stick with a nice, simple instruction that VANOC trademarks are not to be used without permission? Easier to not look like a total idiot that way.

DDDP - Day 29, pgs. 257-458 + 682-714

DDDP - Day 29, pgs. 257-458 + 682-714
Finally made my way to the end of Part 2. The extra pages noted in the title comprise the Appendix which was, according to the foreword, originally intended to be the last chapter of Part 2. Having read it, I'm fairly amazed that it wasn't kept in the original printing.

Part 2 is a large step up from Part 1 in sheer entertainment value, though some may consider that to be damning with faint praise. The game is afoot, as it were, with plots and manipulations forming. The focus shifts to Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky and Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin (the fact that I could type those names without referring to the text is indicative of how frequently they come up within it), and theirs is an interesting relationship that seems to be half antagonism and half comradeship. Stepan himself has receded almost entirely to the background following a brief scene with Varvara Petrovna and she, too, has been silent for some time now.

The highlight for me, personally, was chapter 7, titled "With Our People", in which Nikolai and Pyotr attend a meeting of the local revolutionaries. From my limited experience with left-leaning activist groups it was spot on in lampooning the general sense of passion and lefter-than-thou sniping which prevails. That Dostoevsky was prescient of murderous "socialist" tyrants like Stalin, Mao and others with his character of Shigalyov was interesting to me. The revelation which follows soon after that Pyotr is in no way a socialist but rather a bloodthirsty seeker after power leads me to believe that ol' Fyodor had probably encountered a few people just like him in his day. While Demons is supposedly a condemnation of revolutionary thought, it so far seems that what he is damning is the tendency for authoritarians to adopt any guise or superficial ideology necessary in order to conquer their fellow men.

Especially intriguing to me was the mention of Proudhon by the unnamed lame teacher present at the gathering who suggests that the "despotic and fantastic pre-resolutions of the problem" ('the problem' being what to do with the hopelessly irredeemable masses... Shigalyov suggests slavery while others suggest wholesale slaughter) that Shigalyov suggests are shared by Proudhon. Proudhon was one of the early anarchist writers and the theorist who split the International Working Men's Association between his ideas and those of Karl Marx primarily over the problem of the source of revolution. Marx expected a revolution of the working class to be led by the intelligentsia, academics, and other middle-to-upper-class (and maybe beyond) socialists while Proudhon believed firmly that only the working class could lead itself in rebellion (unless I'm conflating my memories of his writing with those of Bakunin... they were similar, regardless). He also believed in peaceful revolution, which is what raised my eyebrow relative to his theoretical association with Shigalyov. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, I highly recommend reading Proudhon as he was among the original proponents and theoreticians of anarchism and the basic ideas and concepts have yet, I believe, to be better distilled and described.

Finally, the appendix. The missing last chapter. I said I was amazed that it had been left out of the original printing, and I certainly am. That chapter goes a long way to filling in pretty much every gap there is in the picture of Nikolai Stavrogin's character and I'm curious to see what might be revealed in Part 3 that made the publisher feel it was unnecessary.



DDDP - Day 13, pgs. 125-256

DDDP - Day 13, pgs. 125-256

No, I didn't read all those pages in one day. 19.6 pages/day isn't a great average but, as we keep telling ourselves, it's not a competition.

The book has gotten MUCH more interesting now that Part 1 is over. Part 2 immediately thrusts us into the plotting and scheming of the two sons, Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin and Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky. Uneasy alliances seem to be the order of the day, with vague mentions of a "society" that's out to kill those who've left it and undisguised tension between supposed comrades. That people are being used, and using one another, is clear. Precisely to what ends we do not yet know, though the assumption is some sort of radical political upheaval. I'm interested to see how a supposedly socialist overthrow is going to be led by an upperclass serfmaster if it happens at all. Stavrogin's allegiances are merely hinted at thus far, or spoken about in a vague past tense, so it could go in several directions.

An excellent scene, I thought, between Shatov and Stavrogin with a heartbreaking portrayal of Shatov as a man who feels betrayed by his idol and mentor and yet cannot break from his devotion. It managed to be both expository and a character illustration, which is something of an accomplishment.

The main thing I'm curious about is whether and how the entirety of Part 1 will turn out to be necessary to the story. My assumption is that our future understanding of what's happening will turn on our detailed education in the fine complexities of our characters' social structure.


you kids turn that racket down!

photo by Ethan Beigel

We didn't go on until late, my friends. After 12:30AM sometime. I could barely hear my guitar, but the sound was pretty darned good out in the audience. Adam Fanning, the promoter and bartender, had to start asking us to turn down 'round about the time we started up Drinking Song which I found really distracting. Apparently some upstairs neighbor called to complain. I don't envy anyone who lives above a rock club.

One completely new song in the set, The Pixies' "Dig for Fire", and one resurrection of an old tune called Great Unknown. It's all available for download over on seizethem.com

If you're in NYC the weekend before Christmas, come down to R Bar on the Bowery for our show on December 22 at 7PM. Our first weekend gig!

Sorry for the break in Dostoevsky postings; the band stuff has put a brief crimp in my reading.


Dethpakt - Day 3 (pgs. 80-124)

DDDP Day 3, pps. 80-124

Finished Part 1, Chapter 3, which was primarily concerned with the social intrigue in Stepan's social circle; matchmaking, paranoia about past indiscretion and future infidelity. A new character, the engineer Alexei Nilych Kirillov, has appeared, and seems to be a potential source of disruption and upheaval. His theories about suicide appear to serve both as illustrative of his nihilism (Nilych... cute, no?) and possible foreshadowing either in literal terms or more metaphorically, in line with his assertion that to fearlessly commit suicide is to become God. Though, of course, he like Stepan claims to be athiest.

It's difficult at this point for me to imagine what relevance a lot of the events of this chapter may have to the story later on. Certainly there is a deepening of mistrust and ulterior motive between the various characters. Seeds are being planted which will surely produce discord among the ranks of either the political club or the town's aristocracy. Stepan is revealed to be even more ridiculous and contemptible than we've previously seen and it's clear that Anonymous Chronicler (though slightly less anonymous now) has no desire, in the future of his retelling, anyway, to present Stepan in any kind of sympathetic light. Stepan is at the mercy of his ego, still wishing to be seen as important, influential and dangerous, and is tortured by both unrequited love (in the form of the domineering Varvara) and inappropriate/impossible ardor (for his former student Praskovya Ivanovna Drozdov). Is it this latter infatuation with Praskovya that drives a wedge between Stepan and the AC? AC has revealed his desire to be "introduced" to Praskovya, even though he realizes an actual pairing with her is impossible.

Anyway, I'm hoping that Dostoevsky will soon move on from putting the pieces on the board and begin the actual game. Then again, we're still in the first act and perhaps the slow build of anticipation is entirely what Fyodor is intending to achieve here.


Dethpakt - Day 1 (pgs. 1-79)

DDDP Day 1, pgs. 1 - 79

It often takes me a while to adjust to the pace of storytelling in literature of the 19th century (am I falsely implying that I read a lot of it?). My attention wandered quite a bit during most of the first chapter of Part 1. Some of this I blame on my modern reading habits of riding the subway and listening to music, but even when I was holed up in the Quiet Reading Zone of my bedroom I had trouble focusing much until Chapter 2, wherein we get beyond heavily footnoted scene-setting and enter the territory of sparsely-footnoted scene-setting.

Footnotes are a necessary evil, I suppose, when reading fiction from a time and place too distant for casual cultural references to survive the journey. But they still interrupt my rhythm and pull me out of the world Dostoevsky is painstakingly building.

We've spent a good deal of time so far getting to know who Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky is through the eyes of the Anonymous Chronicler (acting as Stepan's confidant and our snoop) and while the inner character of Varvara Petrovna Stavrogin is still being revealed (or, rather, her machinations become more layered) we have certainly been drawn a detailed portrait of their relationship to each other. It is also clear, however, that this is going to continue to evolve.

As of now I'm theorizing that the Anonymous Chronicler is remaining as such out of fear of persecution for having been involved with the liberal Skvoreshniki political club, but it's hard to say anything definitive while we're still somewhere in the middle of Act 1. AC certainly has a bemused contempt for Stepan, Varvara and the club members and I'm curious to see how that may have developed.

It's unlikely I'll get to post tomorrow about my further reading due to my attendance at a Rock & Roll performance in the evening-time.