Why we need the dark imagination. Me + Sarah Maria Griffin on AEWCH 93

10 Dec
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This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.
AEWCH93TitleCardFriends,
Let’s enter the mystery together: You, me, and dark science fiction writer Sarah Maria Griffin. Let’s talk about violence and evil and owls. Let’s think about David Lynch’s uncanny power, and how magic works, how horror works. Let’s approach the paranormal, the dreadful, the uncommon.
Sarah is the author of multiple books, most recently the excellent novel, Other Words For Smoke, about a brother and sister encounter the sinister and strange forces in their aunt’s house. The book just won the Eason Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year 2019 here in Ireland. Her previous novel, Spare And Found Parts chronicles a post-apocalyptic world with a hopeful girl at its center, trying to move humanity forward while her machine heart ticks away.
Sarah and I had a profound and potent conversation, and after we finished the episode, we continued to talk about the entire world, and love, and fortune. And then all the lights on my block switched off. Now that’s a powerful connection!
This is one of my favorite episodes of AEWCH ever. As Sarah says at the end, we “move immediately past…small talk.” Couldn’t ask for anything more.
So excited to share it with you!
We discuss:
  • Magic, the paranormal and why they’re so troubling for people
  • Twin Peaks as evil and threat and occult power
  • Horror is No-One-Believes-You, Fantasy is We-All-Knew-This-Was-Real-Even-Though-You’re-Just-Learning-About-It
  • Why investigating mystery can fuck you up
  • Not-knowing as an act of compassion
  • Sarah’s leap in style and vulnerability in writing
  • Following desire and characters
  • The unendingness of Hell
  • Why questions are always appropriate tools
  • The tarot as anatomy (and why it gives us unsolicited dick pics sometimes)
  • What a world of caring about subjectivity looks like (and why Freud got that right)
  • Why there is no metric for violation or resilience
  • Fiction as a generator of compassion and empathy
  • The importance of speaking poetically
SHOW NOTES
• For more on Sarah, read her entertaining and thoughtful one-year memoir, Not Lost: A Story About Leaving Home. Here are here contributions to the legendary Irish lit magazine, The Stinging Fly. And here’s Sarah talking about empathy.
TP• I’m sure you’ve all seen Twin Peaks, but have you seen the newest season? It’s utterly terrifying and completely challenging. It is a true act of occult intensity. The episode we talk a lot about it Part 8. 
• Sarah mentions the eclectic and wonder-filled story collection Her Body And Other Parties by the great Carmen Maria Machado. She also gives a shout out to Leslie Jamison’s poignant collection of essays, The Empathy Exams.
James Tate was a Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning poet. He was an infrequent but happy friend of mine, as well. He died in 2015.
• If you’re American, you’ve probably heard of the spooky immersive theater experience, Sleep No More. If not, check it out.
• I really love the episode I did with experimental punk musician and author Tim Kinsella – AEWCH 43. He’s a hero of mine, and I feel blessed to have had the conversation. I posted a playlist on spotify of Tim’s music to go along with that episodes. It demonstrates his breadth and strangeness and inventiveness as an artist.
KD• A couple of first lines come quick on each other’s heels. First, I mention the first line of Sarah’s novel, Spare And Found Parts: “Just under the surface of the waves where the ocean met the land, a hand without a body reached for someone to grab it.” And then I mention the chilling first line of Kathryn Davis’s novel, Hell. “Something is wrong in the house.”
• Want to read Alejandro Jodorowsky on the tarot? Read his book on it, co-authored with Marianne Costa.
• I mention, briefly, a man who was harassing Sarah and other women in Ireland, and how she was compassionate in her response. For a quick summary of what happened, here’s an article in the Irish Times about it.
• There’s a great book by anthroposophist and inkling Owen Barfield on the move away from poetics and towards flat literalism. It’s titled Poetic Diction: A Study In Meaning.
Until next time,
XO
CH
lungfish

Against Everyone With Conner Habib 92: On The Origins Of Sex

5 Dec

AEWCH92TitleCard

AGAINST EVERYONE WITH CONNER HABIB 92
THE ORIGINS OF SEX or LIFE SUPERLIVES

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This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.

Friends,

To keep going with the themes of symbiosis from AEWCH 91, I thought I’d  present my short essay series on the origins of sex, Life Superlives, as an episode. The gist of it is this – what are the bacterial origins of sex, and what can we learn about our lives today from these scientific origin stories?

Rather than present show notes as usual, I’ve reproduced the original essays here, along with a bibliography below.

Enjoy this solo episode! Back to the conversations next week.

XO
CH

Sun1. Sex in the Gaze of the Sun

For all the problems that accompany sex in our lives — shame and fear, jealous lovers, unplanned pregnancies, STIs — one might be surprised that, according to the scientific narrative, sex began as a healing act which diverted crisis.

Once upon a time, billions of years ago, the Sun’s violent and ultraviolet rays cascaded over an ozone-less Earth, greeting the only lifeforms with harsh light. These were the bacteria; prokaryotes, so named for their lack of nuclei (pro = before, karyon = nut or core).

These beings arose only to dissolve in the radiated presence of light.  They already had a way to repair themselves, or life would have never survived its bright beginning. Their DNA — the double-stranded molecule that many of us know about but that scientists still have trouble understanding — had begun to replicate itself through a series of gestures from various enzymes. If one part of a DNA strand was damaged, it was amputated by an enzyme that could cut the DNA bonds apart (a nuclease), and then another enzyme arrived to create wholeness and heal the void.

In the gaze of the Sun, the tiny prokaryotic innards were often too damaged to recombinate on their own. So these beings reached, in the mordial soup, for the ejected DNA of their dead kin, the floating pieces of bodies amongst them. They used their own enzymes in conjunction with the dead to repair themselves.

This was the beginning of sex for living organisms.

It was a co-mingling of partners. The Sun was there first. It aroused the prokaryotes, initiated sex, and then the presence of the dead infused the living with a new possibility for life.

Experiments today that replicate ultraviolet early-Earth intensities prompt similar responses in bacteria.

Life’s first sexual partner was a star.

That also means that by evolutionary implication, our first sexual partner was a star. The ancestors of all our ancestors undulated across the Earth, under a pulsing sexual sphere.

As children, we stare at the Sun, and it blots out our perception. As adults, we know better. When we look at the Sun, we turn away, flushed. It remains a flirtatious, sexual glance cast upon an unbearably beautiful face.

PromoImage2. The Orgy Against Identity

Life threads through the world, not just living, but superliving, creating more life and more possibilities for what life can be. Every individual has within itself the potential to change, utterly, all potentials.

First, bacteria and the Sun embraced over vast distances, and created sex. After sex was created, different forms of sex were possible.

Bacterial sex can take the form of gene-swapping on a “lateral” level. In other words, genes flow freely from bacterium to bacterium, breaking from an initial host and finding their way into another.

If this happened in humans, “…a man with red hair and freckles might wake up, after a swim with a brunette and her dog, with brown hair and floppy ears.”

Because of their freely exchanged genes, bacteria are engaged in the largest and most continuous orgy of all time.

Or maybe it’s microscopic self-love. It depends on how you define bacterial species:

“(Since) all strains of bacteria can potentially share all bacterial genes, then  strictly speaking, there are no true species in the bacterial world. All bacteria are one  organism, one entity capable of genetic engineering on a planetary or global scale.”

Look closely at the world, and you will see that life defies scale: Are the tiniest organisms really just the largest organism alive, spreading across the planet and into its pores, a giant body with infinite organs? Life superlives.

In another form of bacterial sex, conjugation, a “donor” bacterium transfers genetic material into a “recipient.” The ordinary terms are biological sex — “male” and “female” — are useless in the underlying current of life: hen the donor transfers its genetic material to the recipient, it loses its donor characteristics, and the recipient receives them. Bacteria fuck their identities into each other.

Look closely, again, at the world. You will see the slippage of identity.

dali3. Carnal Incarnations

Life was born, and it superlived.

Early organisms brushed up against each other, and when they did, they consumed each other. But not always. Encounter after encounter between them gave rise to a new form of union: symbiosis.

Here’s an example. Imagine a tiny, ancient oxygen-respiring bacterium. Small, but hungry, it was  was a fierce predator. Now imagine a larger, blobbier organism – a thermoplasm, contracting and expanding itself through its shapeless life. The two come together again and again, usually leading to the thermoplasm being invaded and eaten from the inside out by its smaller relative. But not every invasion killed the thermoplasm, and soon – how? We don’t know – the invader organism was taken up by the invaded, incorporated into its being. Permanently.

The thermoplasm could now resist the death-bringing properties of oxygen, and the bacterium found rest from the hunt.

Symbiosis is the ultimate procreative sex act. Two beings merge and form a third. Not a separate being, but a reincarnation of both selves.

Symbiosis is the origin of all multicellular organisms, and likely one of the main motivators of the rise of new species.

Symbiosis is sex, super-sexing.

This creative act is the foundation of human life. Let me explain.

Many protoctists (usually mislabeled “protozoans” – there is no “zoo” in them, since they aren’t animals) like the thermoplasm, reproduce through cell division, also called mitosis, in which an organism copies its own DNA and then pulls itself in two. A startling feature of mitosis is that, even though it’s called cell “division,” it doesn’t actually divide the number or chromosomes, structures in the cell that bear many of the cell’s genes.

In the procreative variety of sex that humans have, sperm and egg cells merge to create a new being. Sperm cells and egg cells have only half the chromosomes compared to the other cells in human beings. When sperm and egg meet, each carries a complimentary half of those chromosomes. This is how sperm and egg meet and form a new being. Rather than dividing (mitosis) humans are created by compliment (meiosis).

Our cells have forms that are meant to meet. They await each other. In other words, human beings are formed through a sort of predestined symbiosis.

Look at your hands, now. They are composed of cells upon cells, grouped together in the whorls and arches of your skin, the bones beneath, the connecting tendons. Your hands are a gathering of cells. And those cells are the ancient agreements of bacteria.

Sex is us. It’s what makes our cells, it’s what made us capable of making new forms of sex and new beings.

And it’s more than just us.

From its inception, sex has been a meeting of forces far beyond bodies and desires.

LC4. Sex Before Life

We end this series with a story from before the beginning.

Once upon a time,

biology tells us,

Before bacteria…

Before the superliving hypersex of symbiosis…

Before life…

the Earth was teeming with bonds of sugars, phosphates, and nitrogenous substances.

These bonds, or ribonucleic acid (RNA), huddled into themselves, and stretched their ways throughout the surface of the planet.

For these molecules, language was form. When they encounter each other, they strained to understand each other through strange acts of translation. They wrapped themselves up into each other, and this act of language, this braiding of being, created new forms.

A mysterious correspondence: an exchange of material, packed with meaning. This was the exuberant world full of RNA, and this was the birth of sex.

This story provides us with a new and sideways answer to the old question of chicken and egg. Did two chickens having sex make the fertilized egg from which another chicken sprung?

Or did the first chicken spring from a pre-existing egg?

When we look into the origins of sex, we discover an unexpected truth.

Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A. Sex.

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of  Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

Lynn Margulis in conversation with Conner Habib on AEWCH 91.

19 Nov
LISTEN HERE OR ON iTunesSpotifyOvercastSoundcloud • YouTube
This podcast is only possible because listeners like you support it. Do contribute to my mission by supporting Against Everyone With Conner Habib on Patreon!  Thank you so, so much.
Promo
Friends,
This is the most important episode of AEWCH for me. In it I talk with my friend and intellectual mentor, biologist and geoscientist Lynn Margulis. This is, I believe, the last recorded discussion with Lynn before her death from a stroke on November 22, 2011. Lynn was a profound intellect, and, I believe, the most important thinker in the last 50 years.
With James Lovelock, she developed the Gaia theory – that organisms interact with the non-living aspects of the Earth to regulate Earth systems like cloud cover, oceanic salinity, atmospheric gas abundance, and more. She also proved and popularized the notion that organelles in nucleated cells are symbioses of bacterial mergers.
Along with her son Dorion Sagan (from her marriage to Carl Sagan), she developed a new theory of evolution, symbiogenesis, which boldly asserts, and with ample evidence, that new species arise out of symbiotic mergers with bacteria, not through random genetic mutation-meets-natural selection.
The episode is a wide-ranging exploration of Lynn’s work and thought. Because Lynn offer so much, I’ve started this episode off with a lengthy introduction to all her efforts. It’s an intro adapted from the essay I wrote shortly after her death (and it appears in the book Lynn Margulis: The Life And Legacy Of A Scientific Rebel). Feel free to skip past the intro if you’re familiar with her work, or to listen to it as a primer afterward, to get your bearings in the dizzying array of names and scientific concepts on the episode.
On this episode, among many other things:
  • the difference between ecological association and symbiosis
  • why Darwin never mentioned the origin of species
  • why the mainstream pop-science version of evolution is religion, not science
  • “there’s this concept that almost all scientists have that there really is an objective reality, but there’s no evidence whatsoever (for that) because everything observed is through an observer, and that observer tends to be a person…”
  • How all science starts as esoterica
  • How scientific facts are accepted – and not accepted until capitalism approves
  • Is life process or entity
  • Why zoologists have such a hard time understanding evolution
  • “‘Medical science’ is an oxymoron, like ‘military intelligence’.”
  • Why Lynn just wanted to avoid people and read her whole life
  • Emily Dickinson and the Matster
SHOW NOTES
• For more on Lynn, read her countless publications. The two that everyone should read are Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution and (with Dorion Sagan) Acquiring Genomes: A Theory Of The Origin Of Species. Also, I recommend the text book I had to read for my first course with her, Environmental Evolution – 2nd Edition: Effects of the Origin and Evolution of Life on Planet Earth and her book of essays, Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature. A documentary about Lynn’s life and work, Symbiotic Earth, was released in 2017. Here’s Lynn interviewed by geneticist Jay Tischfield and here’s Lynn presenting the Gaia theory to NASA.
• In the episode, we talk several times about the “Homage To Darwin” event, which was organized around Lynn’s year at Oxford. The event featured Lynn, Richard Dawkins, paleobiologist Martin Brasier, biologist Steve Bell, and systems biologist Denis Noble. It’s one of many occasions wherein Lynn revealed the stupidity of Richard Dawkins’s ideas about evolution. It appears in three parts. Part One, Part Two, Part Three. I highly recommend watching all of them.
• Alfred North Whitehead was a profound influence on Lynn’s thinking, especially later in life. She mentions him at the top, and later in the episode, brings up his book The Function Of Reason.
• Lynn says, “We are all Schwendenerists!” means we all accept symbiosis because we accept the truth that lichens are symbiotic organisms. This was discovered by Simon Schwendener, a Swiss botanist.
• Lynn mentions James Watson’s book, DNA: The Secret of Life.
slug
Rosemary and Peter Grant studied the finches on the Galápagos Islands for years.
• An amazing book that expresses clashes between neo-Darwinism and Gaia and symbiogenesis (this is before Lynn and Dorion fully developed the theory of symbiogenesis) is From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Writings in the Life Sciences.
• Would you like to learn about the photosynthetic sea slug? That’s a rehtorical question. Of course you would.
• Here’s a lengthy commentary on the debate between Lynn and Richard Dawkins that gets mentioned a few times in the episode.
• Palentologists Niles Eldrege and Stephen Jay Gould observed and popularized the idea of “punctuated equilibrium” – that most populations of organisms are stable and exhibit little change, until sudden and massive changes occur. This theory is expressed consistently in the fossil record, and in many ways, challenges neo-Darwinian theories of evolution.
• Ludwig Fleck’s book, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact is a precursor to Thomas Kuhn‘s famous concept of a “paradigm shift,” and it’s a great look into how facts are made, how they inhere, and…then what?
• “The Experiment As Mediator Of Object And Subject” by Goethe (yes, Goethe!) changed my life, and it should be evoked again and again until it changes the face of science.
• A mind-blowing short essay on where organisms start and stop is “Where Do Organisms End?”
• We talked about some of this waaaay back on AEWCH 6 with Alex Tsakiris (and my first chat with Alex, “Fight Science With Science“)
• Lynn often raved about Max King’s book Species Evolution: The Role of Chromosome Change which I (still!) have yet to read.
• Lynn’s book of short stories, Luminous Fish, is quite good. I remember being a little scared to read it and then thinking – why did I expect anything less?
• Here’s a small bit on Swiss Emily Dickinson translator Hans Werner Lüscher.
You can expect a bit more on Lynn’s work – particularly on the origins of sex – from me in the near future.
Until next time, friends,
XO
CH
AERWCH91

AEWCH 90: Amanda Palmer + Conner Habib + Everyone. We are all here for each other.

12 Nov
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Support Against Everyone With Conner Habib
on Patreon!
The show is funded exclusively by listeners like you, so I’m asking, will you support it? Thank you so, so much.
promo
Friends,
What an honor to go deep into the ways we are all connected with rock star, writer, TED Talker, and activist Amanda Palmer. Amanda is known for many things – her music, her band The Dresden Dolls, her book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help which was kicked off by her TED talk, “The art of asking” – but all of her accomplishments stress a spirit of giving and vulnerability.
We start with me recounting an event from the week before, when I intervened and stopped a man from committing suicide, and from there, we talk about the many, many ways in which we are all here for each other. This is an episode compassion, which means “to suffer with.” It’s about the jobs that artists have in our world, about the ways we close ourselves off from connection, about art and motherhood, about mutualism in animals, and more.
And yes, we both cry.
I’m so proud to share this episode, friends, and I hope it brings light to you.
Do contribute to Amanda’s patreon. Amanda has done so much for artists, particularly by laying the foundation for grassroots and associative economies.

SHOW NOTES

• For more on Amanda, here’s a spotify playlist I’ve made of 10 songs by Amanda (and her band the Dresden Dolls) that I love. Amanda is married to world-renowned fantasy author, Neil Gaiman, and they record an entire event together (it’s great). And here’s a great (and mulled over on my show) Amanda appearance on Tim Ferris’s podcast.
• Here’s my little twitter tribute (in thread form) to Lynn Margulis. Stay tuned to future episodes for more on Lynn and her work.
• Amanda and I interacted for the first time when she was kind enough to repost my exclusive blog post of a speech by Tilda Swinton about art and light. The speech is stunning, and I was lucky enough to get it from Tilda’s friend, author William Middleton.
• Unfortunately, Tatsuo Motokawa’s classic article, “Sushi Science and Hamburger Science” is behind a paywall, but it’s worth reading.
• Here’s travel writer Pico Iyer’s TED Talk, “What ping-pong taught me about life“.
• If you’d like to read a bit on occult theories of how music works, check out AEWCH 45 with occult musician Ben Chasny, and also read The Harmony of the Human Body: Musical Principles in Human Physiology by Armin Husemann.
• Read Amanda’s poem for the brother of the Boston Marathon bomber “A Poem For Dzhokhar

MY

• There’s a great book by Walter Kendrick about how the ruins of ancient Pompei turned into porn called The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture.
• I have yet to listen to Madison Young‘s podcast, but it is SO on the list now.
• A great self help book that I think can help anyone who wants some help is How to Be an Adult: A Handbook for Psychological and Spiritual Integration by David Richo.
• Amanda was reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast and I recommend his book Eating Animals.
• The Roisin that Amanda mentions is Roisin Ingle, who created The Women’s Podcast.
• Actually, the Brian O’Connor episode came out just before this one! It’s AEWCH 89!
• Read Sophie Lewis‘s (dream guest for the show!) Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family for a truly challenging examination of motherhood, pregnancy, and work.
• I wrote about my mother’s death in my essay, “When You’re Sick You’ll Wait For The Answer But None Will Come
• I talk more about detachment and sex work on AEWCH 44 with writers Kelly Link and Jordy Rosenberg.
I’ll leave you here with the lyrics from Amanda’s beautiful song, “A Mother’s Confession” which is on the spotify playlist I made of Amanda’s music.
Our son is four months old his name is Anthony or Ash for short
And he’s too small to do things by himself
We were in LA over Christmas in a rental and we jury-rigged a place
To change his diapers on a shelf
I was peeing in the bathroom and had left him for a second
‘Cause I thought he couldn’t move and he was safe
As I came out I saw him falling in slow motion to the floor
It was probably the worst moment of my life
And then I accidentally stole a thing of chapstick from the safeway
I didn’t see it ’til I got out to the car
I would have usually returned it but I was overwhelmed
And late to take the baby to my cousins which was far away
In my defense, I’d bought like $87 worth of groceries
And the chapstick was a $1.99
I know it wasn’t the right thing to use
My newborn child as an excuse
But it felt like a good reason at the time
And as I pulled out of the parking lot I cried
And as I pulled onto the highway I said right
At least the baby didn’t die right?
At least the baby didn’t die
And then we went to Sarasota
To see Neil’s cousin Helen
For her birthday she just turned ninety-nine
We were also there for Sidney
Who was ninety-four two days before
But he was sick, so mostly it was Ash and Helen time
She survived the Warsaw ghetto
And she always says I love you”
When she sees you ’cause she knows you never know
She’d worked for months while I was pregnant
On a gorgeous handmade blanket
Her almost-hundred-year-old hands crocheting every row
I’d been emailing her pictures of the baby and the blanket
Every day since she had sent it in the mail
But they were of one that someone else had knitted
She was really nice about it
Then I went and shoplifted a pair of ugly sunglasses
From Goodwill (they were on my head
I’d tried them on and left them there)
But that’s not really bad compared to
When we left the baby in the car
At least he wasn’t in there very long
And not directly in the sun
And thank god no-one walking by happened to notice what we’d done
I’m even scared to put these lyrics in a song
But
Everything is relative and everyone’s related
I can’t do that much right now
But take care of this baby
I figure everything’s technically all right
If at least this baby doesn’t die
And then I took a plane to Washington alone
So we could visit Jason Webley who’s his godfather
He’s playing the accordion
I couldn’t wait to see him and share tales of our disasters
Over dinners in his houseboat when I saw I’d lost my passport
So I got a rush appointment at the place where you replace them
And I drove the baby in and on the way I got a speeding ticket
When the cop came to the window I was shaking and I said “I’m sorry”
But you couldn’t hear me that’s how loud the sound of screaming was
Cause he was hungry and I think that I was speeding
Cause I panic when I hear him cry
My god what kind of a mother am i
And as I pulled out of the breakdown lane I cried
And as I pulled out on the highway I said right
At least the baby didn’t die right?
At least the baby didn’t die”
While I was waiting for my passport I was hungry so
I twittered for a coffee in the neighborhood
And there I saw a woman who was sitting at the bar
And it was noon and she was drinking
And she called across the diner to me How old is your baby?”
And she smiled at us nursing
And she said she had a daughter who was grown
And then she paused
And said she also had a son
And when I’d paid and was about to leave
I picked him up and crossed the room and touched her sleeve
I said, Hey, this baby wanted to say hi”
And she held him tight and she started to cry
And I’m sorry that this story’s gotten long
And that everybody’s crying in this song
And then I got back in the car I turned the radio and heater on
And sat there with the baby in the back
And they were talking about Syria and climate change and ISIS
And the candidates’ positions on Iraq
I feel so useless in this universe
I know I could be doing worse
I’m trying hard to stay at peace inside
I know it’s hard to be a parent
But this mess is so gigantic
i wonder if I should have had a child
And as I pulled out of the parking lot I cried
And as I pulled out on the highway I said
right
At least the baby didn’t die
At least the baby didn’t die
EVERYBODY:
At least the baby didn’t die!! right?!
At least the baby didn’t die!!
(i may not make it to the passport place on time!)
At least the baby didn’t die
(and they might revoke my license for a while!!)
At least the baby didn’t die
(and I might get caught for retroactive theft!!)
At least the baby didn’t die
(and I might get turned into the DSS!)
But at least the baby didn’t die
Until next time, friends,
XO
CH
Amanda

photo by Michael Murchie

Do nothing and feel good about it! Philosopher of idleness Brian O’Connor on AEWCH!

5 Nov

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AEWCH89TitleCard
Friends,
Surely self-improvement is not a bad thing, right? Surely we should be doing as much as we can to make ourselves self-actualized beings and get shit done and follow the 7 habits of the 12 secrets of the 4 agreements of highly effective badass people with the secret to living the happiness project of our lives.
Wellllllll…maybe not. 
On this episode of AEWCH, I talk author and philosopher Brian O’Connor about idleness, and how – as Brian says in this episode, not having shitty jobs is not enough. Instead, wanting to be and do better might just be part of the capitalist trap we’re all stuck in. Brian is the author of the excellent and short book Idleness: A Philosophical Essay, a skewering of philosophical arguments against idleness. It’s not a how to be idle book, since that would be pro-self help! Instead, it’s just a good dissolving of all the reasons why we shouldn’t be just kind of lazing around enjoying life.
Since Brian is also a scholar of the great critical theorist Theodor Adorno, we talk a lot about him, too. To supplement our discussion, you should check out Brian’s very very good intro to Adorno called, well, Adorno. Adorno is a key to this discussion about idleness, because he identifies that even in a world without the same wage-labor relationship we have now, we’d still be working our asses off and trapped in the same arrangement we have now.
This episode was a huge challenge to my normal way of thinking, since I am all about self improvement. But it was a friendly challenge, and a powerful one. I learned a lot. Which I guess, um, means I improved.
In this episode:
  • Brian’s struggle with being idle
  • Why Kant got idleness wrong and right
  • Psychoanalysis and ending the perpetual cycle of productivity
  • That time I pissed off my friend when all I wanted to do was compliment her on being so chill
  • Why we lionize our own pain and struggle
  • Whether or not boredom is productive
  • How the military exploits idleness to kill people
  • How mental work and physical labor mirror mental illness and physical pain
  • How Bugs Bunny cartoons should inform our politics
  • Why good jobs are not enough
  • How sex workers can see how their jobs erode work
  • Why everything small thing deserves attention, but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. Also, why object oriented ontology sucks.
  • I nervously present Brian with my theory of phenomenology and occult critical response. But he was very very nice about it.
  • Why libertarians get individualism wrong
PS: Sorry for the breathing into the mic! I think I had Brian’s mic turned up a little too high. Anyway, just imagine him relaxing.
Want to check out the books we talk about and more? Go to the SHOW NOTES.
AH

 

A portrait of my era of porn production, featuring my pal and scene partner, Johnny Hazzard. It’s AEWCH 88!

29 Oct
AEWCH88 Title Card
AGAINST EVERYONE WITH CONNER HABIB 88: JOHNNY HAZZARD
or A PORTRAIT OF THE (PORN) ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN

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Friends,

For the first time ever, I have a fellow gay performer on the show, Johnny Hazzard. Johnny was a prolific performer and still appears in great and arousing movies; but more recently of the mainstream sort, like his great movie about two gay brothers, Tiger Orange.

Johnny and I talk about our era of adult films, which overlapped and, um, let’s say intersected in the scene we filmed together. We spend a lot of time talking about those eras, trying to express how complicated it was, even though people want to simplify it into purely negative and positive pictures.

Our free and easy way of talking about sex might help indicate to you what it’s like for so many of us when we’re on set. On a good day, there’s a friendliness and ease around bodies and sex that can’t  be found almost anywhere else.. This was so much fun, and I’m so excited to finally share an episode with one of my cumrades with you. Yeah, I said cumrades.

We talk

  • Why Johnny left adult
  • The ways being in adult can heal and harm us
  • Homosexuality and brotherhood
  • The difference between our eras of adult and the new OnlyFans era
  • Our first experiences going to set
  • Why I idolized performers before I started and why Johnny didn’t
  • Gay adult performer suicides
  • The skills you can get from being in porn and how they’re ignored by so many of us
  • Why “normal”  jobs – including mainstream acting – are worse than adult.
  • Why hating sex workers is the same impulse as homophobia
  • How much performers get paid

To go deeper, check out the show notes here.

JHPromoImage

Our hearts vs The neoliberal capitalist tech imperialist nightmare. Una Mullally on AEWCH 87!

23 Oct
AEWCH87 Title CardFriends,
In a nearly double-length and incredibly wide-ranging, I talk with journalist, editor, activist, and podcaster Una Mullally about the erosion of old structures and the possibility of new ones. Not just the government, but the environment, our relational structures, our spiritual structures, and more.
We talk at length on how neoliberalism and tech imperialism is eating the soul of Dublin, but our talk is by no means Ireland-specific. What we’re discussing at the core is how we fight against the consuming algorithms of neoliberalism and capitalism with our hearts and humanity. The reason we talk for so long isn’t merely because she’s Irish! It’s because we keep going deeper and deeper.
I was so excited to have this conversation with one of Ireland’s great minds.
Una is one of Ireland’s best known journalists, and one of the most incisive. She’s also the co-creator of the great podcast United Ireland, which chronicles the current landscape and history of Ireland, county by county. I can’t recommend a more accessible intro to this place I love so much.
On top of being an extremely prolific author, Una is also an activist, and much of that activism features in her work, including the book Repeal the 8th, which Una edited – an anthology work by women resisting misogynist abortion laws in Ireland (which features an essay by AEWCH 72 guest Sinead Gleeson!) Plus she’s written (briefly) about leprechauns, so how could I not be excited to speak with her?
Also on this episode:
  • When and why Una left the Catholic church
  • The tech gentrification of Dublin and everywhere
  • The cruelty of ugliness
  • Why Irish meter maids are the best
  • The ways neoliberals pretend to be the drivers of progress
  • Equality vs freedom
  • The uses and dangers of nationalism
  • The feeling of Ireland, and Irish people laughing at me for moving here
  • The mystic pulse of the Irish land
  • Why we need to fight oppression and heal trauma simultaneously
  • The zombification of party politics
  • Why relationship is the most important part of activism
  • Why facts no longer matter
  • How self indulgent emotional performativity holds back change
  • Giving conflict over to the angels
  • The problems with Extinction Rebellion

Want to go deeper? Look at the SHOW NOTES!

XO

CH