Joined: 09 Jul 2005
|Post subject: FLIPSIDE Series #1 - Entertainment Sucks
|FLIPSIDE #96 - JUNE/JULY '95
The following dialogue took place in Costa Rica on January 22, 1992 with Bob Dobbs, Connie Dobbs and Gerry Fialka. In June, 1992 Bob released his first book PHATIC COMMUNION with BOB DOBBS. As an introduction, here's a brief excerpt from Bob's radio show: Bob - "I say human-scale is a reflex reaction to the situation we've come to in our mixed corporate-media effects, and I don't have any identification with anything that's going on. I offer the technique of suspended judgement. No point of view. I study the effects. I don't study the content of the figures. I study the ground, the effects of media on people. You've got to have the technique of suspended judgement and get out of the sensory bias of your time. Like Captain Beefheart says, 'I'm not really here, I just stick around for my friends!'" Now let us time travel to Costa Rica, January 22, 1992:
Bob Dobbs: ...We'll never know what Jack Ruby did at that point because I got lost in thought. I started to talk about how entertainment sucks, as all about me the world went amok.
Gerry Fialka: Tune in next week "As The World Bobs".
Bob: Bob along with Bob as Bob develops the theme that entertainment sucks. Okay, who came up with that phrase "entertainment sucks"? Was it you, Connie?
Connie Dobbs: Yes, Bob! And I'd like you to answer the question - why does entertainment suck?
Bob: Because the electronic environment, since the telegraph, is essentially tactile and interplays all the sensory faculties. Hence, various cultures need to hoick up their own cultural preference as a fashionable response and sensory closure to life at the speed of light. So, in America we need to hoick up a lot of entertainment, a lot of acoustic music, a lot of visual photography, titillation, and a lot of kinetic movement by sports and movies. Therefore, that leaves us in a dilemma. If you work in these twentieth-century crafts, you are servicing the need of people's fashionable sensory closure as a recovery from the obliteration by the heliotropical no-time of electric tactility. So, the person who makes movies, pop-culture books, music as records, and TV shows may present an idea, a concept, a clever presentation of psychological interconnectives, but he's communicating it to an audience who needs content for the electric media as a balm, as an aesthetic massage to nullify the awareness of tactility. So, no matter how profound the message by the artist in whatever entertainment medium, he is playing a secondary role. Therefore, because all the other media of the twentieth century, magazines, newspapers, books and periodicals need to enhance their content, they will write about artists who are making sensory anaesthetics in music and movies, in the arts and theater and dance, and they will interview them, and give them a sense of importance, but all of this is content incestuousness that leaves the artist with a dilemma that no matter what he says or performs in his or her particular art, it is consumed by a mass mind, and "mass mind" does not mean the nineteenth-century, homogeneous public. It means a group of people of whatever number, who have instantaneous, simultaneous communication of events to each other. That's mass mind living at the speed of light. So, the mass mind as the collective unconscious needs this entertainment anaesthetic. The artist provides it. The artist is temporarily hailed as fantastic for the illusions and delusions of the audience. If he does not know this, then he would believe he's important, but he or she will be eventually consumed and passed over. That's where Warhol comes in with the "fifteen minutes". But, of course, Warhol up-dated his statement that everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes. He changed it to, "In fifteen minutes everyone will be famous". That is the idea that everyone will be simultaneous. The audience gets in the act.
Gerry: When did he say that?
Bob: In the 70's, he said he got bored with people echoing him back. You don't know that story? He wrote it in one of his later books, you know, in the late 70's, early 80's and he said that he was sick and tired of everybody knowing the phrase "you'll be famous for fifteen minutes". And that statement means that one individual becomes spewed all over the electric media at the speed of light, famous for fifteen minutes, as content for all kinds of media in their various media-biased versions. But he updated it and he said "In fifteen minutes everyone will be famous", which was a nice flip on it. He was beginning to intuit McLuhan's percept of living at the speed of light, mass man, where the audience gets in the act. And hence, we have the new aphorism produced by me and given to Tom ToucheŽ. The old aphorism was "religion is the opiate of the people", but I updated it to "today, the audience is the elusive opiate of the peoples". "Peoples" (plural, note that) being collective mythic archetypes or mythic stages figured by various media, with the audience getting in the act and becoming global actor and spectator of its own action. This creates a situation where nobody is really listening to anybody else. Therefore, nobody has an audience - a real, continuous audience - only an elusive, quicksilver kind of audience. This is temporarily locked down by Nielsen ratings, polls and pollstergeists, and entertainment ratings.
Gerry: Bob, tell us about your encounter with Warhol?
Bob: No, no, no. I want to continue with this point. How did it go, Connie? The point that you saw where the artist thinks that he's significant because he is given an opportunity, in whatever medium he appears to excel in or have a talent in, he's given an opportunity to express himself and tell the people something in his particular style. Right?
Connie: Uh, huh.
Bob: It's the illusion of telling something to the mythical audience, in a sense, the elusive audience that cannot be found because nobody is really listening. The actual fact is that other media are only using you as content for their media. The simplest example is in a teenager's life where there are pop magazines which are filled with figures from movies and radio, and TV stars. That gives magazines a use for their medium, for selling magazines. They make a lot of money out of it. And it's an extension of the music industry. So, if the person thinks that they are communicating something in a sender-receiver syndrome, they will eventually have to deal with their identity crisis. It would be natural, eventually, to realize that nobody really cared about what you had to say, whether you were Houston the film maker, or Louie Bunuel, or Salvador Dali in painting or Frank Zappa in music. And so the artist either withdraws into solipsism, or, if he really doesn't understand the dynamic, feels a vacuum and tries to fill it up with the appropriate drug for living at the speed of light, which would be heroin or any kind of fast, speedy drug. Hence, the identity crisis since artists are usually sensitive people trying to tell somebody something. You can see in the latter stages they would bum themselves out trying to look for the elusive audience that they thought was there. You know what I mean?
Connie: So, because artists are the DEW-line of the race, since the race is ending they're picking that up now and burning themselves out.
Bob: I would say it better than that.
Connie: I'm sure you would.
Bob: Yeah. There are several races. There are the traditional races that have been around for thousands of years. The new races, the new human race, are the media themselves which use the tribal identities as content of the media See, what you said is that the end of the race happened a long time ago, a century ago. So follow that thought. If the artists think they are the antennae of the race, and they remain the antennae of the race, then they think there is a race to communicate for, or to, or to improve - you know, purifying the dialect of the tribe, the speech of the tribe. So, if they have that anthropomorphic illusion that they are updating avant-garde needs of the race, they haven't even begun to see that in the twentieth century, in the global theater, the only actors and the only spectators are other media. So, I'm saying that they don't...
Gerry: Define "other media". Is that people-oriented?
Bob: "Other media" is magazines, movies, radio, TV.
Gerry: Right, but isn't that "people"?
Bob: Well, media are extensions of us.
Bob: And most people don't know that they think of it as technology that is separated from us and is our enemy. And so they fight against the media as something outside of them, and they don't know the media are them. If they realized the media are them, they probably wouldn't live at such a frantic pace trying to combat the effects of the media.
Gerry: It sounds like, when you say "media", it's not "people".
Bob: Well, you start off saying that media are us. Then, you have to tell them that the media are so much "us" that they've taken over the anthropomorphic scale because people don't know that they wear these new lungs, these new organs, these new environments as their new bodies. So, they don't know they're us. So, you have to make them aware of media as entities in themselves, and once you make them aware of media as entities in themselves, then you reattach the media to the person's body. They are extensions of our anthropomorphic human scale, but the anthropomorphic human-scale identity of our body, which we normally see ourselves as, is not what is there anymore. We have whole new monstrous appendages. So, you have to get them to realize the anthropomorphic image is not there anymore. We've extended that to the extent that the anthropomorphic image is invisible. So, Connie was thinking that artists were antennae of the race and she didn't clarify that it's a non-existent race. She implied that the race was ending, which is only a replay of the nineteenth-century syndrome. The artists of the nineteenth century knew the race was ending, and you can read that in their obscure writings, so they acted that out for the first time. Nowadays, on the anthropomorphic scale, talent acts out, replays the death of the race and they almost, like Burroughs does in NAKED LUNCH, use junk as a put-on. It's almost like a form of megalomania, to replay the death of the nineteenth-century artist as a game. It's very popular to be stoned; it's a card-carrying stigmatum of the artist in all fields. So, we can't take the drug addicts too seriously as really trying to understand, and probe with drugs, what's going on. They are actually old-fashioned businessmen who insist on selling steel (laughs) and avoiding the new materials. Okay? Connie, you were saying they act out the death of the race, but because the death of the race happened a hundred years ago, they're acting it out as a game. And therefore, it's a clicheŽ and accepted - therefore, wide-spread drug addiction. Because it really isn't living on the edge of consciousness. It's become a way of protecting your ego, your nineteenth-century anthropomorphic self. In other words, suicide is the last stance of the nineteenth-century ego which hasn't gone through the vanishing point. To "go through the vanishing point" is to understand the new environments, to feel them as part of your body. And I don't mean to go through the old mystical "vanishing point" of the White Light, or whatever anthropomorphic image culled from the religions and secret doctrines that are offered in GNOSIS magazine and MAGICAL BLEND magazine. So, this new "vanishing point" asks you to go through the anthropomorphic scale, wiping out all historical cultures. So, Connie, you can see that the entertainer will insist on being a specialist, and he will avoid the social life if he's smart, but he will be hung-up on maintaining his artistic anthropomorphic scale. So, you will have someone like Zappa who will never relate to anybody in the regular media mish-mash, but will continue being a solipsistic artist, in the old sense, in his music, and will complain about the media in general, but not very articulately, not in a sophisticated way, which he should be able to talk about because it's easy to understand if you take the time. Basically, when people think of speed-up, of an image of life getting faster, they will show blurred images of it. Like the idea of you moving faster and faster, you're moving through time faster, space faster, so you might have a blurred image as a clicheŽ of that movement. All that movement, no matter how fast the blurred image represents speed, is all the stuff before the "vanishing point". Because when you go through the "vanishing point", you realize that you're in a faster than speed-of-light zone; you're in contact with everything instantly; there's no movement because the electric environment is in touch with everything, as when using a telephone. Everybody is in your telephone. You don't have to travel anywhere. To listen to the phone go beep-beep-beep as you call Moscow, and thinking of it travelling across the Atlantic ocean and across Europe, is an illusion because no matter how fast you imagine it's going, you know, one millisecond or three seconds, you're still thinking in terms of a point here going to a point there. There's still a distance or space dimension, when actually Moscow is in your phone, all the world is in your phone and you are in everybody else's phone, you're in the same spot. That spot has no dimension, time or space-wise. So, the clicheŽ image of speed-up that people think of as representing "things getting faster" is a rear-view mirror, nostalgic image. The electric environment is really totally instant, totally in touch with everything immediately. I mean that the day that Simone is born, she's in touch with the whole universe. Now, how does she form an anthropomorphic body-image in relation to that. She appears to have an anthropomorphic body-image, but how can she realize that she is in touch with everything constantly, with this psychic pressure? So, the junkie thinks that he has to put on a speeded-up kind of sensory thing, and the appeal of junk is that it gives you the rush immediately so that you feel you are one step behind realizing that you're in touch with everything. You get an instant rush, zoom, to the center of the universe. But the idea that you need that instant rush, even if it only takes thirty seconds, is still the stage before the"vanishing point". Because if you realized you're already in touch, you would get that rush automatically in your body senses without the assistance of junk. Junk is like a nostalgic thing; it gives you a sense of getting a boost. You're still trying to pump up your body like a hydraulic jack. That' s still looking at the body as something that needs to be pumped up. But you can see why people would try to experience that as they go through the obliterated moment of the "vanishing point", leading up to that point of going through the "vanishing point". They would need it in increments of speed, like the law that says the more satisfaction you get, the more you need next time. You know that paradox, that law? Maslow's Rule. The more you're satisfied, the more unsatisfied you get. So, you could think of this satisfaction as travelling through time at a faster rate, faster than the time you did it before, and the stages to realizing the final obliteration that you're already in touch with everything. So, that's the appeal, that's why so many people will go through the junkie phase. Especially in the entertainment world because whatever medium you're working in, you're working in information and software. So, you're not working with hardware elements very much anymore; so, you have a lot of free time to emphasize your inner tripping, your central nervous system and software activities. And as you move through them and realize the ephemerality of whatever phase of media you're engaging in, you get more empty or more vaporous as you slowly, if you're lucky enough to get there, realize that you do not exist as an anthropomorphic entity, and that you've just been wearing all these different media as clothing, as a numbing apparatus, because you don't want to perceive the all-at-onceness of the electric effect. But that isn't exactly what we said last night, Connie. It was something about how they... Well, the other talk with Gerry was how the artist cannot, in whatever medium, cannot successfully communicate, because, as you understand what I'm talking about, there is no other outside of you to communicate to, everybody's in touch with you physically through the electric effect. And so, you would prop up an individual identity as an artform, or as a defense mechanism. So therefore, anybody can do their own thing and put on any medium-legacy as clothing, as an apparatus of protection, as a shield. So, someone could be as fanatic about Beethoven as they are about car racing. Or with different people, one could be fanatic about car racing, another person could be fanatic about Beethoven. So, all culture becomes a protective mechanism for someone to wear, to cut himself off from the psychic implosion of the electric newness that makes everybody resonate in touch with everybody else. That used to be a mystical image, the idea that you go to heaven and everybody's all one, everybody's in touch. That's been materialized by humanity as a man-made artifact here in our dimension. So, all the mystical tradition is just old images for a condition that's here as a disservice. So, the new religion would not emphasize being all-one. It would emphasize whatever not-being-all-one is. Right? It would emphasize separateness. See what I'm saying? It would emphasize separateness, not oneness.
Bob: So, the artist trying to communicate something if he is using media of the twentieth-century which have no audience really and the user is the content, and if he has any pretensions of preserving a message, then the only way to do that would be to go back to the nineteenth-century print medium where you would, in that medium, be using a medium that enhances the kind of audience for someone telling someone a message. So, McLuhan said all media aspire to end in a book, because that's the only permanent one.
Gerry: So, here's three things. Your first thing is that you developed your moniker as "greatest living artist".
Gerry: So, how does your definition of that differ from the term "artist~ you've just been talking about? Marcel Duchamp said that the artist in the future will only have to point.
Gerry: So, in essence, your book, in a lot of ways, is just pointing.
Bob: There's capital "A" art, which is commercial art and what we traditionally call art. The seven liberal arts and the twentieth-century arts of movie, TV, and recorded music The fine arts are capital "A" art. Small "a" art is true perception of what is going on, and Duchamp was beginning to understand the importance of small "a" art, and he dropped out of capital "A" art-reality which became culture-as-business and software addiction: capital "A" art. So, when Duchamp said, "the artist in the future will only have to point", he didn't go as far as Joyce and McLuhan. He knew that the capital "A" art was obsolete and that the new role was small "a" art . But he didn't know how to really define small "a" art. Because he should have said, if you're going to point out art, and that's the only role of the artist, then you have to use the pointing medium which is visual space, which is the book because the book creates a point of view. It creates an environment for pointing at things. You can't point at speech, speech is a wrap-around surround that you're all involved in, as you're engaged in it with other people. But you can take a book and have everybody look at it, as a point of view. To point...
Gerry: Can we point at a film?
Bob: Yeah. Now, film is interesting because it is the last medium in the capital "A" world because it contains both process and point-of-view. It has visual space but also has sound. It merges acoustic and visual space, right? So, you're in the interval. So, it contains all history, all times and spaces of the anthropomorphic scale used by the artist. So, when Duchamp says that the artist in the future will point, he didn't point out that capital "A" art was point-of-view. So too, the capital "A" artist will use Marcel Duchamp, like Dennis Hopper and these jokers, will use capital "A" art as the reference point, and they work in that world, they're terrorists for capital "A" art. But they also have the cynicism of Marcel Duchamp, knowing that it's only business, and they know Duchamp is the last icon of "mind" that they can point to, to show that they're hip to culture as our business. But they don't know how to fully develop the small "a" art dimension, which is a huge new field and once you break into it, you can really talk circles around anybody, and you're not just bullshitting, you're making good points. And Joyce did it, and then McLuhan did it.
Gerry: So, you're saying Joyce and McLuhan were the greatest small "a" artists before Bob?
Bob: Yeah. So now, how am I the greatest artist alive today, and why did I make a book?
Gerry: And then tie it into the whole thing of entertainment.
Bob: Right. So, when I say I am the greatest artist alive today, I mean the small "a" art that I've got down. For twenty years I've been the greatest small "a" artist. And that's an easy victory because no one else knew about it. And that's what Tom ToucheŽ has often said: that the hardest thing to be today is to be an artist. And he means a small "a" artist. Very hard to do, and it's very hard to translate into capital "A" art. So, he has always said that I'm the greatest artist alive today because I'm the greatest small "a" artist.
Gerry: So, you didn't give yourself that moniker. Tom did.
Bob: Yeah. Tom basically used to say that a couple of years ago.
Gerry: So, you're only a small "a" artist? Is that what you just said?
Bob: No. I'm now going to explain how I translate small "a" art into capital "A" art. That's what I will attempt to do with the CD, the book and the video, but it is easy for me to work with that because I would do it on a Menippean-satire level and would see no great value in it. It would only be a way of entering into that discipline as one of the many media available. So, I'm translating myself into capital "A" art as a medium. In other words, I should be translated into all media as a process, that's the ritual-in-progress. So, the idea is to put myself through these media to show that one does not identify with any particular medium. Alright? So , the real modern-day artist today, with small "a" art, has the ability to communicate, to tell people something. To tell people something via capital "A" art, such as in all the modern media - film, TV, radio and the rest - is an impossibility. You can never tell anybody anything on that level. But I retrieve anthropomorphic scale in the new way by being able to communicate, and retrieve small "a" art, on a human scale. It can only be done in human scale. But paradoxically you have to do that by hoicking up mixed corporate-media as satirical artforms, Menippean-satire artforms. In other words, the Dennis Hoppers and Zappas of the world, aware of the Duchamp insight, are Menippean-satirizing mixed corporate-media within the content of it, but not satirizing the forms of mixed corporate-media. Okay? The hero after Duchamp, for a lot of these people, is Andy Warhol because he started to talk about media the way Duchamp didn't, and Warhol in an innocent, unsophisticated way, started to talk about the form of the media. But he couldn't satirize it as extensively as McLuhan did because he didn't fully understand it. That's why McLuhan could say that the artist has been pointing at the new small "a" art situation, but lacks the understanding to really do it properly, to do it in a comprehensive, fully knowledgeable way. So, we've indicated Duchamp, how I'm the greatest artist alive today, and Warhol... and what was the third thing? I added Warhol, but there was a third...
Gerry: The book.
Bob: The "pointing".
Bob: So, the book being how...
Gerry: Well, no. You lead to the book, and then I said, "Well, is that why you wrote a book?"
Bob: Yeah, it was...
Gerry: To the point when McLuhan said about the book, the importance of the book being the...
Bob: It's the ultimate medium that all media strive to be in because it's the only form of permanency. So, it would be natural to put myself into book form. And since I, as a satirical image, satirize mixed corporate-media on the form level, then, that whole process should end in book form. So, it's arrived in book form as PHATIC COMMUNION with BOB DOBBS. And it's a very
Gerry: Well, would you ever translate PHATIC COMMUNION into talking books for blind people, since it wasn't on braille? And how would it translate as you were reading it?
Bob: Well, that would be difficult because you have the two sides, the left-hand and right-hand pages, offering different tracks. So, you would have to have somebody read the LaRouche side... Maybe the most efficient way would be to have a LaRouche quote from page four, then read a McLuhan quote, then a LaRouche quote, then a McLuhan quote, read them back and forth. And that way you could start to see if they are parallel or not. So, that's the way you'd do it for a blind person - "hand signals for the blind". But basically, to hoick up small "a" art is to bring back the power of speech, the ability to talk. Because since all the twentieth-century arts are non-verbal, or post-verbal, how do you bring back the human-scale level of the spoken word - the most ancient technology and the most comprehensive technology? How can you revitalize speech? That's the role of the humanist. So, you'll notice the first quote from LaRouche is about humanism, and the first quote from McLuhan is about the spoken word as mirror of the mind. And it goes from there.
Gerry: One of my first questions about your book that I was going to ask you was to define humanism.
Bob: Well, it's a process. When you define it, you use a "hot" definer like LaRouche and you show his definition, which is a good definition. And then you use a "cool" suggester like McLuhan going along parallel to the "hot" definer. And you get somewhere in between or on either side.
Gerry: Well, can you say what it is?
Bob: Well, I just asked, "how do you bring back speech?" It's not true anymore that "the teacher does not know and therefore teaches" and that "the true master does know and keeps silent". That's not true because all entertainers today end up forced into a position of silence because they don't know how to get past the collective effect of the media that they work in. Once you get past the effects of the electric media, the collective media, then you retrieve the value of the spoken word and you know how to talk about it because you understand what the non-spoken dimensions of the other media are. Then, you can hoick up the spoken dimensions of speech itself versus the non-spoken dimensions of the other media's effects. So, that is truly anthropomorphic. But it's a new kind of anthropomorphic scale because it's using speech comprehensively which was never done before. It began to be used consciously when the phonetic alphabet came in and the Greek philosophers turned oral speech into an artform. That is Plato's Dialogues. But they did not know that they were organizing oral speech as an artform inside the visual bias, leading to the ideas of Plato and Aristotle and categorization, which then led to the scientific empirical method after the printing press. So, speech was made an artform at the time of Plato. But speech was not aware of the cycles of artform process known as the tetrad that would happen, nor that speech would be caught up in it. It's only when we get the total "abnihilisation of the etym", as written in FINNEGANS WAKE, under electric conditions, that you can really see the value of the spoken word. And that's when you can communicate one-on-one to people, or in small groups, without being deluded that forming a small group is the end-all and be-all, which is the delusion of the ecofascist - "small is beautiful". It's to know that the spoken word rises and resonates throughout the whole universe. That is the secret of how to use speech in a totally "ecological", in all senses of the word, style. Know what I mean?
Gerry: Mmm hmm.
Bob: So, you can be quite indifferent to what you're saying when you're saying something. And that creates a staccato effect, like I did on my radio show, where you would talk with a charisma and a vibration that people would get seduced by because they intuited it. Somehow you're talking and engaging people with all these different ideas but you are not very involved in them, or identifying with them. So, that was a new way of talking.
Gerry: On your radio show?
Gerry: Well, I think you indeed created a new artform on the radio show.
Bob: It's not necessarily a "new artform". It's a way of communicating a new understanding.
Bob: Because I didn't need to use radio to do it. That was just one way to use the understanding. It could be used in other media, like a book or a CD. As I did it on radio, I had to know the effects of the radio format to bounce the word off of them. To create a kind of temporary anti-environment you use the spoken word differently in different media. Not because you think the spoken word is the greatest medium. It's just that you know the history of the spoken word and the changes it was forced through as you witness the new extensions of language, the new technological environments, and how they created a different "ground" that caused speech at one point to
be frozen, in the visual-space period, and then liberated, in the twentieth-century. So, you can understand the phenomena of Stravinsky, Bartok and modern musicians up to Stockhausen, and why Zappa talks about how serious classical music, which came out of visual space, started to approach the rhythms of speech and used speech rhythms in composing music, and therefore appropriated folk culture, jazz rhythms and popular music rhythms which have a stronger oral and less highbrow framework. Now, what they were doing was trying to adapt music to the new unconscious realization that the spoken word was the greatest bell, manifesting all tones. And classical music and modern music, Stravinsky and these guys, end up being subsumed by the electric need of the electric audience for all kinds of music. So, in the end the population may go to classical concerts, but they will really enjoy, in the end, the privacy of turning on the radio and hearing some Sixties tune or something, or some favorite thing that they were programmed by when they were younger. So, this makes all pretentious, esoteric art, artistic doctrines, superficial and disposable. And, of course, postmodern writers, thinkers and artists incorporate that awareness, but they never know the "ground", the reason, the causes, of that in our technology. And if they knew the causes via technology, then they would see that speech was the first technology, and then they would have a better grasp of what they were doing. And they wouldn't be so obsessive with the various artforms they're naturally inclined towards. And then they would make an attempt to talk clearly rather
than to stylistically portray obfuscation because of their normal, intuitive understanding of the obsolescence of linear one-on-one communication with the intent to tell somebody something. Because I use the spoken word to massage somebody. But part of the message includes the effort to talk to them, if they are inclined to pick it up, on that linear, matchable level. Hence, the reason I pay very close attention to what people are saying is that I'm willing to match with them. I'm not afraid of it.
Gerry: So, another term that's immediately brought up in your book, that I'm fond of, is "freedom", which I always translate to be liberation. So, the artist, take Frank Zappa, for example, appears to his audience to be totally liberated because he can express exactly what he wants. And I think maybe he's touched on small "a" art at times. Maybe you could talk about that, and what, indeed, is freedom? How does Bob define freedom, or how does Bob define liberation?
Bob: I would say liberation, freedom, is understanding - an awareness of the effects of the environments you're in. And the effects they create on you and those around you, as well as the causes and nature of that particular environment. So, Zappa uses rhythmic freedom and polyrhythmic extravagance because he knows, he intuits, on the level of Duchamp, that music is obsolete, or that the ear is obsolete. Therefore, you can muck around with as many disciplines of music as possible. But I said in my videotape with you last September that that's Menippean satire within the specialist tradition. You're still working within a music zone. For those who lack the understanding of the electric environment as the ultimate music in itself, they will favor music as a medium of expression because it is a release from the historical baggage of visual space, which the average electro-peasant today is yearning to be free of. But we've had that freedom in the acoustic arts for almost a hundred years now. Zappa is the final extreme statement of freedom in using sound. But again he's just working in that one sensory apparatus. He doesn't talk about the "ground" of the electric environment, the most musical corporate poem, that would outdo anything that Frank ever aspired to. But since the audience is always well behind true understanding of the times, Frank appears, as a rearview-mirror, nostalgic image, as someone who is the most avant-garde in the sound world because he intuits the extravagance and the freedom to use sound in any way, as well as to use sound in a very disciplined way. With both the traditional currents in art - freedom and/or discipline, spontaneity or controlled order, Frank walks the interval between the two via music. And that's an appropriate strategy if you're going to try to appear the most avant-garde in music. But again, he is communicating in a mass electric environment where his content, his point of view, his style, will be subsumed by many other musicians as content and daily consumption of a radio or TV environment, or record, or CD, or tape environment. So, his efforts are puny, very tiny gestures. And ultimately futile. But you can see that people of a certain level of education and sophistication would pass through the Zappa school, as they learned to appreciate the fact that the environment musically is a lot more radical than Frank could ever express. But, you can see why Zappa could approach true freedom, because he knows how to use the electric spontaneity where the audience gets in the act. He knows how to play off the musical profiles of the period, the musical contours, the fads, the corporate images. And he also incorporates discipline which the traditional educated Westerner, or even the average Westerner, has interiorized as the discipline of visual space, and feels that's an important part of musical "nature". So, Frank has staying power in that world because he has the discipline element covered. He's not like Bob Dylan or any of these guys who have a certain level of control and discipline, but it's subsumed into a Dionysian abandon which is the ultimate message they're trying to get across. You know, for heavy-metal guys, it's total release. Now, they, again, are just miming the total release of the electric environment which puts everybody into a discarnate state as free as the wind. When you're "on the air", you are discarnate. You're "free as the air", you have no physical dimensions. You are on junk. You are stoned. Now, that means that the ultimate anti-environment to that would be the human body. And that's why the Christian Faith is lodged in a metaphor of Jesus as a savior of the human body because the last phase of the impulse to domination, the anti-Christ satanic impulse for dominance over human freedom, human discipline or human inspiration, would be to inflict the discarnate state on them. So, the discarnate state is the most final satanic attack by satanic forces against the message of Christ. And therefore, you would have a religious dimension to retrieving the spoken word, which is the first line in the Bible, "In the beginning was the Word", but the word has been battered and crunched by new technological extensions of the word, since the word is human. And all technologies are linguistic. So, the word has been mutating via technological forms, through history, and that's the ten thunders of FINNEGANS WAKE, by the way, until finally it's been reconstituted in the electric universe as Humpty Dumpty, the egg brought back together again, and not by the King's men or the King's horses. Because they were bureaucrats and could never do it by visual-industrial means. It could only be done by that particular collective extension of man - the electric environment. That brought the verbal universe back together again, and made the universe resonate with the word, the power of the word. And therefore, it is essentially Christ's Second Coming created by all of us, in our history, through building these consecutive technological environments, climaxing with the reconstitution of the spoken word, fully conscious of itself in all directions and positions, upside-down, forewords, backwards, like a Cubist painting. That means that the complementary to this reintegration is that we have burst into the silent sea. And the "silent sea" is the awareness that language is a tool that has many effects and leads to many extensions of itself, and therefore, we don't need to replay that process once we understand it. So, we can talk, like Adam and Eve, and begin a process and ignore its consequences, actually it won't have the consequences, because we would be aware collectively of the effect of any word, which includes all media. As McLuhan said about Burroughs: when Burroughs had said that McLuhan was a word analyst, McLuhan said Burroughs was correct if you consider all media - airplanes, bulldozers, skyscrapers - as the content of the word. And the word is the power of speech, which is what distinguishes man from the beasts. And it's not necessarily the fact... I mean, people could say birds speak to each other or animals speak to each other, but the difference is that man teaches via speech, and can learn via speech...
Gerry: Okay, and then the animals don't...
Bob: And that means matching.
Gerry: But there's matching involved when the bird teaches how to eat.
Gerry: But they're not using... they're using matching but not words?
Bob: They can match within their programmed spectrum. They cannot imagine new scenarios.
Gerry: Which could mean sounds.
Bob: Yeah, they match within sounds and it's a programmed spectrum.
Gerry: I'm saying the bird matches, says (whistles like a bird), and that means, for the little bird, to open up to eat a worm.
Gerry: So, that's just like a mother saying "open".
Gerry: So, then, there is a similarity in communication even though the man is using words, and the animal is using sounds.
Bob: That's right, but the difference between man and animals, this is what LaRouche pointed out, is that the spectrum of possibilities in matching is different between man and the animals. The animals don't have a choice. They have a limited range of options.
Gerry: Okay, they don't, okay...
Bob: We had the choice, and choice was not just a moral issue or a frivolous one. We had the choice to build our own whole universe, to build a whole new nature which is what all technology is. And so, we expanded our spectrum with technology. And the task for us is to realize the responsibility of that, which is Bob's media ecology. So, a bird remains forever a bird in the nest, but man has gone from Atlantis, or maybe from a cave, to the situation right now where he or she has access to the whole universe. A bird couldn't do that.
Gerry: And the man could say "open" in a belligerent sort of authoritarian voice or in a sweet motherly voice, whereas the bird can only just say "open" in one voice.
Bob: Well, the bird might have some emotional tone.
Gerry: Do you think so?
Bob: Yeah. I think that people think that animals cuddle each other or have different emotional tones, and they do. But the point is that when you say man can be dictatorial or comforting it depends on the medium he uses. If he uses print or the alphabet or papyrus, he can extend his dictatorial control over vast spaces. But he needs the media of papyrus and the alphabet to do that. If he doesn't have papyrus but he has clay tablets, then he can extend his power over time. Then you get longlasting oral dynasties with priesthoods. Those are the different types of dictatorial control. The dictatorial control by the animal is in a much smaller range. You know what I mean?
Bob: A tiny range.
Gerry: Right. Well, can we go back a step, back to the words "freedom" and "liberation".
Bob: Which are technologies. Think of those things not as abstract images, but as technologies which evoke certain mental images.
Gerry: Okay, because I want to talk about the artist in terms of "outsider" art or children's art, and maybe bring in somebody like Beefheart who's almost like a Kindergartner at times, although he has witty word play. But take some child who will create a little phrase and make up a little song on their own spontaneously, or the mental patient who will draw the most amazing painting because he's totally liberated from any ideas of saying, "I'm going to create a piece of art now". It's just flowing out of him like the child, it just flows out of them naturally. You know what I'm saying?
Bob: Yeah. Well, you're romanticizing the traditional arts. Remember painting and singing, and making up tunes, or making drawings, or any ancient arts are very puny and micro-organismic compared to the arts of movie environments, or TV environments, or satellite environments, or even the printing press or newspaper environments.
Gerry: Well, are you the only one creating small "a" art?
Bob: Yes. Because to make small "a" art, you have to understand the whole technological history of capital "A" art, and not identify with it. And know the "figure/ground" effects, or the causes and effects, of that process, and then you break through the "vanishing point" into media ecology or an understanding of the effects, which, if you have a grasp of it, you could communicate in small "a" art terms. So, to make a song... I mean, songs are just speech slowed down, or the rhythms of the culture expressed in speech, altered slightly. That's why the Chinese have a whole different musical sensibility than we because their language is so different from ours. And therefore, their ears hear and are involved in their particular language in such different frequencies or pitches that when they alter and play with that language when making music, it's very foreign to other cultures' ears. Now, that's the way it was up until now. Now that we are discarnate, and can flow, and put on and wear all these different cultures because speech is obsolete, and if music is related to speech, then Chinese music is easily absorbed because the new music is a result of the new speech, the new speech being the new technological environments, so that, for example, the new music of the radio language, or the radio environment, was Jazz. That was a music that responded to the electric, syncopated-interval rhythms of the radio environment. So, of course, a new music comes out of a new technological environment. Just as when TV came in, which had many different qualities and textures from radio- the TV environment is a different kind of extension of speech, it's a new language that humans are wearing and communicating with - it also created a different kind of slowed-down speech, or music, which was Rock and Roll, a whole new invented sensibility that came out of a whole new technological situation. So, when I say music is the rhythm of the language slowed down, then Rock and Roll is the rhythm of the TV language slowed down, or mutated. What's interesting about Rock and Roll is that its basic rhythms are all mechanical beats and rhythms of the urban mechanical period of the last hundred years. So, once we moved into the discarnate "silent sea", we could put on the screeching sounds of factories, and railroads, and the whole nineteenth-century industrial environment as musical entertainment via the tactile electric instrument. So, you can see Beefheart was just meeting a certain fad, the young people's sensibility, the babyboomer generation in the later Sixties when they were trying to get back on the natural human-scale "ground", by taking their shoes off and touching and walking in the earth, and trying to retrieve the anti-discarnate state. Beefheart comes up as an image of a wild man out in nature. And he meets a need, an image response of that period. But it soon overturned - Warhol's statement: "everybody becomes famous for fifteen minutes". The reason it's only for fifteen minutes is because the technological mix will create a new sensibility which will need a new figure to match and reverberate that figure-preference in the new audience, which is the shape of the new sensibility of the new mixed corporate-media mixture. So, shortly after the early Seventies as the babyboomer generation biologically aged and got into new environments in their careers and lifestyles - remember, cable TV and FM-radio and all these complex expansions of the TV environment were coming in - a new sensibility was created. Therefore, the image of Beefheart as a natural man would not appeal anymore. Thus, you could track through the whole history of popular culture and see how each image became resonant at a certain time and then fell away. This we could look at as a tetrad. And so, David Bowie comes in as that retrieved, high-tech kind of outerspace metaphor, as a post-Beefheart guy. But he'll last only a little while. And then another image. And then, you had a retrieval by the youngest population of the babyboomer generation, those born in the late Fifties and early Sixties, who didn't go through the Forties and Fifties of the first TV generation. They replayed the Sixties hippie thing with punk rock. But punk rock had the totally opposite aesthetic. It was: "we're a violent generation and we're proud of it". Whereas the semi-literate kids of the Forties and Fifties, when they reached that identity crisis, at the age of twenty or so in the Sixties, still retained the homogeneity-radio effect of trying to keep everybody together. So, they tried to think "we're all one" and the whole "love" thing. That was like the last gasp of tribalism. The next generation, the punk kids, were more used to solitudinous, discarnate individualism, and, therefore, they satirized the tribal ethos with Nazi paraphernalia.
Gerry: Well, let me interject this new punk band that's very popular now, even though I guess they're playing postpunk music, but they will not appear in magazines that have any sexism, racism, or cigarette ads. They insist that their shows only cost seven dollars or less, and they're making up all these rules that are sort of anti...
Bob: Mixed corporate-media.
Gerry: Yeah, anti - what the punks stood for.
Bob: Yeah, so that's a flipping of the process.
Gerry: Explain that, sucka! (Laughs)
Bob: That's easy to explain.
Connie: Looking for human scale.
Bob: Yeah, Connie knows that. You see, every generation since Sputnik, by the time they are twenty, tries to recover human scale. And you've got other factors, I mean, nineteen eighty-nine (1989) is a lot different from 1979 due to the technological mixed corporate-media evolution. And it's a lot different from '69 or '59 and '49. So, in '89 you have the population beginning to realize the Bob insight, that the spoken word is the greatest medium. And so, what becomes the most popular musical form? A non-"musical" form: Rap! So, the generation of the late Eighties is picking up my insight on their unsophisticated level. And just acting it out spontaneously and instinctively, they bring in "talking" as music and entertainment. Now, since the African-Americans have a certain sensibility-mix that made them, the whole mix of their culture rose up as figure to meet this present need. And it's popular, it is worshipped by all races of kids, not just African-American kids. Maybe the biggest market is white kids. There are different cultural or regional North American preferences for different kinds of Rap. The thing is that some white kids will still try to prop up their tribal identity and will replay some of their white history, replay punk, say. But, in this present period - they will replay it on the human-scale level of media ecology, and will be very conscious of using media and of media ripping them off, because we're in the post-TV syndrome. We are in the mass mood of "human scale" where we do not respect any media. Now, the punkers in the Seventies didn't respect any media, but they wanted to ride the economic advantages of media. They didn't believe in their content. That was pointed out in THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE film. That was what's-his-name's whole reason for consciously promoting the Sex Pistols as a bunch of clothes.
Gerry: Malcolm McLaren.
Bob: Yeah. But the new punk sensibility is expressing mythic stage media ecology, where they think they have a full understanding of each medium, and are demanding their tribal mythos be imposed on any medium that uses them. Hence, also the control on "political correctness" or advertising. They are beginning to mimic what the secret intelligence agency has been doing for thirty years, which , is orchestrating mixed corporate-media for certain effects. The neo-punks are miming that on a microcosmic scale - from the position that having been beached post-TV on the "island" of human scale and the "divine animal" of nature, we must save the planet, save the
whole planet, save the Universe, from technology. They are echoing the present mood, which is permeating all levels of society. So, Bush is an environmentalist as a mood image, and his "kids", his "grandchildren", are environmentalist on a technological level, by implementing an ersatz media ecology in their relations with the music industry. And all are revolving around the theme of "retrieve human scale", which is perceived as anti-mechanical technology and pro-speech. Their problem is that they impose tribal mandates of "political correctness" in the medium of speech. But Gerry, you have a tendency, being in the music industry for the past ten years, to look at kids... you said when you were with Myke and me when we were driving home from our last show, you said you love youth culture. It seems to me that you identify too strongly with youth culture as an emotional investment, and you don't study how youth culture goes through changes as a "figure" responding to the new "grounds". And if you did, you wouldn't identify with the content so much, or what a particular obscure band says, because an obscure band that might have a small following is so tiny compared to the Michael Jackson-Madonna level of the function of music, or to the whole nostalgia industry. But the young kids ignore all that older, babyboomer entertainment. They try to find their own needle in the haystack - they'll find some group from someplace in Georgia, like REM.
Gerry: Yeah, REM, but now the new one is NIRVANA.
Bob: Yeah, it's NIRVANA. They show up every six months, and you know, as a kid, you are very myopic and you are looking for an anthropomorphic image, basically tribal, with some hidden sensory mix, that's conditioned by the environmental mix of your time that, as a kid, you're totally unaware of.
Gerry: To express your teenage angst.
Bob: That's right, your teenage identity quest. So, to just study the rock industry or the music industry, or the obscure fringe groups, is to miss the fact that George Bush is responding to the same thing as the kids are. Now, the kids are anthropomorphic and they think of human society as made up of leaders and followers, or whatever social-analysis structure/framework they use, and they think Bush is against them, or represents something different, and they don't know that there is no George Bush, that there's just an anthropomorphic hologram that they're reacting to, and that the anthropomorphic image of George Bush is responding to the same dynamics as they are. That's why McLuhan said, "Take today, the executive as dropout". Nobody called an executive a "dropout" in 1970 because everybody thought the hippies were the dropouts. They didn't know that LBJ, JFK and Martin Luther King were dropouts, or even the CEO of IBM. So, that's why I try to get you to be comprehensive, and that's why my book has, on the idea plane, such diverse sources - just to get you to realize the "ground".
Gerry: You mean, you wrote it just for me!?!
Bob: Not just for you, but also for the persons listening to this tape.
Gerry: To backtrack again to the idea of "liberation" or "freedom". The caveman was drawing on the cave wall...
Bob: Not for anybody to see that cave art. That was put there as a kind of magic to evoke the buffalo or whatever image he painted. He thought he was in touch, ecologically in tune, with all nature. And he would use his natural sympathetic powers, which we call telepathy and ESP, to evoke the buffalo to come via this obscure voodoo image hidden away in a cave as a way of sending out an echo through the universe to get the buffalo to come, so he could eat. Now, we've retrieved that with the modern electric environment. We live inside an electric cave, on one level, and the cave art of the modern caveman is advertising.
Gerry: Yeah. I was just going to ask you to connect that with the statement that "advertising advertises advertising".
Bob: Yeah. "Advertising advertises advertising" is an aphorism that you understand when you realize that advertising itself is a replay of cave art, it's sent out like a voodoo image to see which people identify with it. It's sent out scatter-shot, and sometimes targeted with the mythical demographics. But that doesn't matter, it's sent out there. But remember, it's not "sent out" per se , because under electric conditions, there is no place to send to, since the sender is sent. So, advertising is an image, usually anthropomorphic, carved in the tactile space, and it resonates through all tactile space. It doesn't go anywhere, it just resonates, and the goal of it is to see which people resonate with its frequencies and then identify with the hardware product it advertises because they usually already wear that product. In your body, in the old form, you have to go somewhere to get something, but often a lot of advertising deals with software programs which are right there for you when you tune into the electric media. So, you don't have to go anywhere to get them. You are sent to the program as the program is sent to you. And you are sent to everybody else's discarnate home who's listening to that program, as well as to those that aren't listening to that program. So, "advertising advertises advertising" means that all electric media now are mythic stages in themselves, and by just continuing to function, they keep their own mode operating as propaganda that people are forced to adjust to. All major media do that. Advertising is like the United Nations of the interactions of all these media. And it offers an anthropomorphic satire on each medium carving out its space, and there is boundless space in the electric age for each medium to work in, and to vibrate within. But advertising itself is traditionally considered propaganda. And every mythic stage, every medium-stage, is propagandizing its form on the sensibilities of the world audience and the sensibilities of other media. So, when interpreting the aphorism "advertising advertises advertising", you think of the first word, "advertising", as traditional advertising, as the messages between "entertainment" programming. It is advertising its content, which is other media. So then, the third word, "advertising", refers to the mixed corporate-media. So, advertising advertises mixed corporate-media, which themselves are "advertising", in the sense of propaganda, by keeping their functions going. The other thing is that in the global theater, in the global theater of the absurd, where you expect the unexpected, you can count on the unexpected to happen. Everybody is an actor. There are no spectators. Everybody is crew in this global theater of the absurd. And this crew participates in its own participation. And its own participation is enhanced by the particular medium it uses. Therefore, it's advertising that medium and it's participating in the awareness of each medium by the software replay of it, which is traditional advertising, a Menippean satire on the users of a product and on other products. So, the global theater is an audience, or a bunch of discarnate actors acting within their own participation. So, it feeds on itself. The computer environment feeds on itself, and that's another meaning of "advertising advertises advertising". And don't forget, today, the audience is the elusive opiate of the peoples - "peoples" meaning mythic stages, or collective media archetypes.
Gerry: Would I be misinterpreting if I said part of the meaning of "advertising advertises advertising" is "any publicity is good publicity", whether it's good or bad?
Bob: No, because if you're getting publicity, you're being engaged by another medium, usually an electric medium. And, if you make entry into those other media, then you have a lot more "new nature" reality. You have "reality" because that is reality, to be participating in those media. So, to get coverage, regardless if it's good or bad, helps you to advertise, in the propagandistic sense of keeping your own mythic-stage space going.
Gerry: And you've also talked about how, in the future, historians will want to study past cultures. And what will they study?
Bob: You're laughing because you've heard this before?
Gerry: Well, no. I mean, you filled in the blank well.
Bob: Yeah. You see, advertising is the greatest artform of our century, way better than Zappa.
Gerry: Small "a" art?
Bob: No. It's the greatest capital "A" artform. Better than Zappa, Duchamp, or anybody, because to go through a magazine of a certain period and look at the ads, and then jump ahead ten years and look at the same magazine and its clients' advertisements, you can more accurately see the changes in the audience. The state of "reality" which art pretends to talk about, the state of society - you'll hear a lot of young kids in the music industry say, "Well, we're here to play music that reflects the times" - well, advertising does a lot better job "reflecting the times" because it's operating in a Menippean-satire role, in the gap between the mixed corporate-media. It's very aware of the pollsters and the sensibilities in the media archetypes, and it replays that back, it mirrors that back, nowadays, acoustically, kinetically, proprioceptively, pictorially and phatically, a lot better than any movie, any TV show, or any artform. Because those artforms, those entertainment media, are just keeping their own medium going, and trying to hoick up a new temporary flavor of content, to keep attention on their medium, not really trying to tell you anything. Advertising unwittingly tells you something if you scan the history of the changes in ads. Hence, the genius of the book CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS (1970), twenty years after THE MECHANICAL BRIDE, both by Marshall McLuhan, showing the changes in ads. You'll understand the invisible effects of environments by surveying ads, more than you will with music, because most of the artists of the Sixties, in music, or of the Seventies or of the Fifties or of the Eighties, are responding to the timbre of their times, the pitch of the mixed corporate-media, and are anthropomorphically very involved in trying to communicate that pitch because they believe there's an audience that wants to hear it reflected back to them. And they just end up being appendages of the effects, and they have no understanding of the causes. Advertising has to be aware of the "causes" by the very nature of its "interval" role, as a Menippean satirist, between the various mixed corporate-media. So, advertising is the greatest capital "A" art. Understanding that is the greatest small "a" art.