Radical media, politics and culture.


Negativeland's Negativity A Plus

Joseph Dewey, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Doug Nufer, Negativeland

Autonomedia, 2004. 186 pp. Paper: $9.95.

Ken Honochick is both character and experiment. The winner of two gold medals in backstroke swimming at the cursed Munich Games, Honochick spends the next decade trying to cash in on his fragile celebrity (his medal count overshadowed by the Spitz glitz). Married off to a Tournament of Roses Queen, he gets involved in a health spa franchise that pitches spiritual as well as physical rejuvenation but that eventually folds amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By 1988, Honochick, bankrupt financially and morally, drives cross-country, seeking healing by returning to his Florida roots (the narrative is told backward, backstroked as it were). Once there, he confronts in a local tourist trap his own wax figure, a belt of ammo around its shoulder while rescuing a buxom gymnast — an outlandish invention that serves as Nufer’s savagely funny critique of America’s empty cult of celebrity.

But Ken Honochick is also part of a playfully ingenious narrative experiment, a novel executed within an entirely arbitrary constraint: every sentence, every sentence, uses a negative construction. As a Gen-X practitioner of the Oulipo school of self-validating process-texts, the midcentury Dadaist-inspired avant-garde movement that audaciously argued that creativity required not freedom but rather form, specifically rules — precise and entirely arbitrary — for its fullest expression, Nufer works with elegant virtuosity within the self-imposed discipline.

Surely the text threatens to be gimmicky, like watching a Scrabble tournament. But Nufer’s novel is a most satisfying read, an engrossing revelation of a character struggling within a vacuous American culture that is itself Negativeland: a culture defined by hype and hyperbole, celebrity and surface, relentlessly driven to embrace the image, thus perpetuating the cannibalism of expectation and disappointment. That Nufer ultimately resists this heavy negativity is the achievement: Honochick stumbles inelegantly toward the simple solace of another lonely soul. Two negatives, Nufer reminds us, equal a positive.

"Classics of Cannabis Culture Collected"

Michael R. Aldrich, Ph.D., O'Shaughnessy's


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters

Cuisine, Slang, Literature and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey & Abel Zug (eds.)

Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia. 694 pages, $24.95.

Despite its provocative title, this book focuses on the religious use of cannabis in India (Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist and Tantric) and in the Muslim traditions from Afghanistan across the Middle East to North Africa. Since most religious use of cannabis historically has been with edibles and drinkables rather than smokables, a chapter is devoted to ancient and modern recipes for bhang, majoun, dawamesk, syrups, tinctures, extracts, and high-potency cuisine.

Rounding out the collection are scientific and literary commentaries, mostly 19th century, on the subject of hashish-eating, glossaries of slang for cannabis products in a dozen cultures, an amazing set of illustrations, and perhaps the best bibliography/netography of 2,000+ citations on religious cannabis ever compiled. It's a superb anthology!

"Declaring Forbidden What Is Not Forbidden Is Forbidden"

Phillip S. Smith, DRCNet


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters:

Cuisine, Slang, Literature, and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey and Abel Zug, eds. (2004, Autonomedia, $24.95).

As someone who writes about drug policy for a living, it is indeed refreshing to sit back and enjoy Orgies of the Hemp Eaters. There is very little of the standard drug policy reform rhetoric in this compilation of cannabis culture— no concern about teenage drug use, no worries about the link between pot-smoking and schizophrenia, no maneuvering over how to craft a political message that will appeal to the not-so-pot-friendly masses or political classes, no concessions to the prohibitionists. But while Orgies of the Hemp Eaters may have little to offer for drug reform wonks, what it does do — and very successfully — is remind us that there is indeed a whole pot-smoking (and -eating and -drinking) world out there in which drug czar John Walters and the rest of his prohibitionist posse are basically irrelevant.

John Doraemi writes:

Achilles’ Heel(s) of the US War Machine

John Doraemi

Recently I was introduced to Gene Sharp's manifesto on "regime change"
called: From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation
(1993). This
— along with U.S. overt and covert "aid" — has brought down
at least three governments to date, including Serbia (Milosevic), Georgia (Shevardnadze),
and the Ukraine (Yanukovych). [1]

I found the book on a web page, available through Google, if you type in the
title. The book is used by US imperial "soft power" forces such as
the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute
(IRI), and "Freedom House." It was published through the Albert Einstein

George Soros has been responsible for some of these US adventures in non-violent
overthrows of regimes deemed unacceptable to US power brokers.

'Still, the book itself is a manual on how to overthrow dictatorships, military
non-democratic despots, the sort of which we are becoming here in the U.S.

"Helen Macfarlane" Book Party

New York City, Jan. 30, 2005

Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in Mid-Nineteenth Century England

By David Black (Lexington Books, 2004)

Sunday, JAN. 30, 7:00–9:15 p.m.

A talk by Anne Jaclard, followed by open discussion. Free admission. Book available for purchase.

39 West 14th Street, Rm. 205 (Identity House — ring buzzer 205 and come to second floor), Manhattan (north side of 14th St., between 5th and 6th Aves.; take any train to 14th St. or Union Square)

This intellectual biography plunges the reader into the most revolutionary organizations and ideas of the era. A radical Chartist and colleague of Marx in 1849-50, Macfarlane was the first person to translate the Communist Manifesto into English and the first Britisher to translate and comment on Hegel's works. Yet she was nearly lost to history: no one published her name with her translation of the Manifesto, including the American edition published by the feminist Victoria Woodhull.

"Marketing and Digital Play"

Julian Kücklich

Reviewing Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing

Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter

Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press 2003. 368 pp. 24.95 USD. ISBN 0-7735-2591-2

Writing about the Web in 1996, science-fiction author William Gibson predicted that it would "evolve into something considerably less random, and less fun" [1]. The same seems to be true for digital games. As the industry tries to minimize the risks involved in game development, it churns out sequel after sequel and licenses everything that appeals to the masses. While this is hailed by some as the way to a broader audience for videogames, and thus more diversity and innovation, others take a more pessimistic view. From their perspective, the games industry is caught up in a downward spiral that leads to a prevalence of violence over variety, spectacle over depth and commodification over play.

"30 Books, Not One Review:

Chomsky and Academic History"

John H. Summers, Counterpunch

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." — Karl Marx, "Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right"

Noam Chomsky has written more than 30 books over the last three decades. Yet neither the Journal of American History, nor the American Historical Review, nor Reviews in American History has reviewed them. If the journals had overlooked one or two of Chomsky's books, then the omissions might not rise to the status of a problem, and could be attributed to a combination of reasons each of them incidental to Chomsky himself. If the journals had in fact devoted attention to him, but the preponderance of the attention had been hostile, then they might stand accused of harboring a bias. This is the most respectable way to disagree about such matters. But the journals have not done enough to deserve the accusation. They have not reviewed a single one of his books. Chomsky is one of most widely read political intellectuals in the world. Academic history pretends he does not exist.

Why is this so?

"Children of a Lesser Marxism?"*

Steve Wright, Historical Materialism


Futuro anteriore. Dai "Quaderni Rossi" ai movimenti globali: ricchezze e limiti dell’operaismo italiano
G. Borio, F. Pozzi & G. Roggero

Rome: Derive Approdi, 2002.

La nefasta utopia di Potere operaio. Lavoro tecnica movimento nel laboratorio politico del Sessantotto

F. Berardi

Rome: Castelvecchi. 1998.


While it has inspired more than its share of critical essays and polemics over the past forty years, the political tendency of operaismo (workerism) has been the subject of few book-length analyses in Italy or elsewhere. Perhaps this is less surprising in the English-speaking world, where for whatever reason, Italian workerism has commonly been passed over in discussions of postwar marxism(s).(1)

In Italy’s case this is a little more perplexing, given operaismo’s influence for many years within the local left and labour movement. Back in the late seventies, it is true, there was a collection of papers from a conference organised by the Istituto Gramsci. There leading Communist party (PCI) intellectuals — many of them former workerists — grappled with the tendency’s historical significance, as well as its meaning for their own political commitments of that time.(2)

Interestingly enough, the conference in question also allowed a certain space for contributions from workerist intellectuals deemed ‘to reek of autonomia’,(3) at a time when that movement and the PCI were themselves daggers drawn. In any case, the arrests of 1979 onwards, led by Judge Calogero (himself close to the PCI), both put the final nail in Autonomia as a mass phenomenon, and marginalised operaismo as a current within Italy’s cultural and political life. To use a much-quoted phrase of Primo Moroni and Nanni Balestrini, the years that followed were ones of ‘cynicism, opportunism and fear’,(4) granting little time or space for dreams of a life beyond capital and the state.

"Suppressing a Sacrament?"

Joe McNally, Fortean Times/i>


The Ibogaine Story: Report on the Staten Island Project

Paul de Rienzo, Dana Beal, et al.

Autonomedia, pb, $20 , pp348, illus, appendices, index, refs, bib.

Fortean Rating — 4/4

Highly recommended.

Research into chemically altered states of consciousess seems to breed evangelism. One only has to look at the likes of Terence McKenna and his relentless proselytising on behalf of dimethyltriptamine (DMT) or the late D. M. Turner, and his boundless enthusiasm for almost every psychedelic under the sun, to see how workers in this controversial area seem to acquire an almost religious zeal for their particular substance of choice.

All this leads one to a certain scepticism when yet another chemical miracleworker comes along with their latest wonder soma. As forteans, however, we should feel obliged to assess each claim presented to us on its evidence; in the case of The Ibogaine Story, that evidence makes for compelling reading.

"American Splendor"

Paul Buhle


Americn Splendor: Our Movie Year

By Harvey Pekar

Ballantine Books, 174 pp., $16.95

Whoever does not already know the basic Pekar story not only isn't a comics afficianado, he or she hasn't been watching the movies closely enough to spot one of the most attractive and innovative indies of recent years. If "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" brought animation to an adult audience as nothing since the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Bugs Bunny was watched mainly by grown-ups, "American Splendor" (the film, that is) matched actor to human original to animated version. Nothing quite this remarkable may have happened in Cleveland — forget the Rock 'n' Roll Museum, crowning the famous — since Satchel signed with the Indians.


Subscribe to  Reviews