My dad, my brother, and I drove out to see the crash site where Peter Brock died earlier this year. My dad told the story how on his way to work that day he had seen the last three cars leave off from where ever the racing event started. (I think the casino.) It made him feel like part of the event. The immediacy of the news that Peter Brock had died was perhaps almost as startling as the news itself. I heard about it in Sydney only an hour or so after it happened.
RIP Brocky
Tyre marks are not skid marks from the accident but marks from fans and admirers burning rubber in tribute to the motorsport icon.

Much can be written about Brock and the phenomenon of his death as an event. He has popped in my research during the “V8’s till 98” campaign of 1984 to save the Holden V8. He was instrumental in maintaining the V8 car culture in Australia throughout the 1980s. This is probably more important than his actual racing exploits.

Here are some more photos I took.


Sheds are a suburban phenomenon. Actually I’ve seen them in the inner-city, as a kind of communal garden shed, and of course in the country of a much larger scale, but the suburban shed is a different beast. It requires some basic skills to erect and a space in which to erect it. Sheds are built so things can be put in it. Things. The things of a shed are not things like other household objects, because they are no longer of the household (in the restricted modern sense). The things of the shed are no longer immediately useful, but they may be useful in the future, such as tools and the like. There are other categorical distinctions for particular divisions of things into shed and house, mostly gendered and some along a cleanliness/dirtyness axis. Is it also an expression of an anxiety for the potential future utility of a thing? Like, have patterns of utility changed between generations? The shed was once for non-household things of utility and now with shifting patterns of durability in commodities this has produced some sort of anxiety around utility itself (rather than the utility of the thing)? Or is it a question of sentiment that envelopes things like a blocked river of sedimented memories?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been taken by Stephen King’s book Lisey’s Story. The action of digging through stored artifacts brings into sharp relief the relations between the events of one’s past and objects stored for future (unknown) utility. Is the possibility of future utility actually a way of valorising the past, to hold onto something because it might be useful in the future, is a way to valorise the past, and also sometimes the present. (Like how I just spent $250 on new tools to fix a car that I will probably never drive again.) Throwing things out and severing those connections does not mean that the past is necessarily unworthy, only that the past no longer needs this haphazard totem of memory and suburban existence. It exists on its own fully interwoven into the present, and at this point perhaps even forgotten.

I promised my dad I would help him sort out the main shed in my parent’s backyard. There are two sheds. One was built for big things that should not have been stored outside in the weather (bikes, etc). The main shed was where all my dad’s tools were kept when I was a kid. I used to play around building things, normally some kind of vicious weapon inspired by histories of vikings and nomads, and children’s cartoons. I once built a particularly effective crossbow that fired satay stick skewers. I put one through the webbing of my hand once and my dad took the crossbow from me and snapped it without a word.

Helping sort the shed has meant cleaning it out from this:

old shelving arrangement

And then rebuilding the shelves so they are slightly more user friendly. This involved removing everything from the shed and distributing it throughout the backyard. A train of memories. My mum’s stuff from when she was a trainee teacher more than 30 years ago is in the mix there, some old toys, lots…

things from the shed taking over the backyard

This is where we are presently at, with my dad tightening the bolts on the shelving frame. I had cut all the supports in half with the 4″ grinder:

reorganised shelving, rock and roll!

I thought of posting some slightly suggestive shots of me attentively grinding and sparks flying everywhere but that would be wrong.

King’s Gothic Manifold

I am in awe of Stephen King’s most recent novel “Lisey’s Story”. Most of the press about it has focused on the obvious digs that he makes towards academics. Yeah, so what… I have grown up reading King, not studying him. “It” (the book) was the first ‘adult’ novel I read. It made me want to avoid a lot of things.

Anyway, the text itself however has received scant attention from what I have read. This is a pity. It is a perfect example of 21st century gothic fiction. Let me outline my case. The first gothic novels were romances. King presents a romance between a dead author and his wife. There is an ancestral curse of sorts. The heroine is always fainting. And the classic haunted manor house or castle or in this case a work/study room animates the horror or mystery of the human soul.

Beyond all these obvious resonances is King’s masterful narrative style, which he uses to great effect to produce a gothic architecture of events — a gothic manifold. This has got me really really excited. The gothic architecture of spaces explores hidden rooms and decay, and where the plot often follows a claustrophobic inward spiral that always leads those who are lost back to the horror. An architecture of events involves crystallizations of time, the actualisation of duration. Much of Lisey’s Story is a tale of the past, of what has occurred, but told as it is remembered in the present. Often the memories of the past are of others telling stories of another past! King produces a moving gothic architecture of events by doubling and tripling stories/memories within stories/memories.

(What is the relation between the baroque of Leibniz and the gothic of King? This is my question.)

This is a place holder post and I shall return to it shortly as I haven’t quite finished the book yet (xmas pres;)).

The Art of Small Talk

[I have been writing this for a while. It is a little uneven and maybe even a little bizarre.]

What if you didn’t know how to make small talk?

Small talk is not something you have, it is something created between a population of attendent speakers. Let’s call these attenedent speakers ‘players’ because they are both at once acting a sort of drama, which requires various skills, and playing a sort of game, one that has particular risks and rewards.

One of the first skills is recognising that there is good and bad small talk, judged according to its capacity to engage. Forget substance of conversation, small talk is the art of engagement. Perhaps it is a seduction, or becomes one, I am not sure. This dimension of small talk efficacy is qualitative and involves an assessment of the required nature of engagement determined by the nature of your respective players. Certain paranoic modes of shared sociality will be expressed through subjectivities demanding reassurance of their common sense. I don’t have much time for such social interactions, but perhaps you are stuck at a bbq with a political junkie of rabid energetics imperceptively assured by your gait that you are someone who needs to be informed of some cosmic anxiety or another. There are other much more positive modes of engagement that require skill and panache. Depending on your station and the number of alcoholic beverages that you can remember having consumed I suggest you can engage in four basic ways (from a combination of two basic variables):

1) Critical, transcendental. This is where you go head-to-head with whatever stupidities you assume are being sprouted by the aforementioned twit. You don’t actually have to hear what this person is saying. Normally their clothes or haircut (or especially their partner) will be a good enough indication of whatever milieu of stupidity they belong to. It involves you doing a stationary dance of contrariety and invoking whatever weapons of knee-jerk response that you think appropriate. Depending on your intentions in relation to the social event you are attending this is probably not the best way to make small talk. It involves a supreme confidence in your capacity to impose yourself in a situation through intellect or charisma. If you lack either or especially both, then perhaps you should forget I ever even mentioned this possible mode of engagement. Lastly, this mode of engagement makes the fundamental error of taking whatever is said during small talk seriously. In fact, it belies a troublesome disposition that shall see you wantonly left off guest lists — unless the host is after a little cheap entertainment — of being on the look-out to deploy your conversational sabot of mass-annoyance. The social event is much more important than you.

2) Complicit, transcendental. This mode of engagement requires a vast resource of experience. If the previous mode could be appropriately described as “radio shock jock” then this mode is “taxi driver” (although there is often confusion between the two, and in practice they speak with one voice). Here, the antagonism evident in the previous mode becomes a shared thread of interest. It is no longer two lines sharing a right angle, two vectors of butting heads, but two segments of a circle sharing a radius. Perhaps you may offer a slight disagreement to whatever position has been thus arrayed by one of your co-players, but only to the extent that it actually provides the opportunity to demonstrate that you are in fact in profound agreement with whatever essential underlying fact of reality is being discussed. Remember phrases such as “fact of reality” as it is much more powerful than the now common “it is just common sense”.

Topics of conversation that are appropriate for this form of engagement have to avoid confrontation, so think of sport or how shit shopping is ‘at this time of year’. Actually, anything to do with sport or capitalist consumption. If you are a bloke then talk about blokey things. You are on a winner if you can find someone who wants to hear you complain about how much beer cost at the Ashes. Again, this approach is not so good if you want to have sex with someone, unless, of course, the person is a bloke who looks like he despeartely wants to complain to you about how much beer cost at the Ashes. The key here is to ascertain the common ground that you share with another in terms of world view, because then the actual topic won’t matter. You can bring up anything and if you share expectations in life you will be in general agreement (or, again, disagree just enough to recognise that at the level of essential facts of reality you are in agreement, like Christians about Jesus or something, but if they are normal Christians they may not have sex with you anyway).

3) Critical, Immanent. I am not sure why you would want to engage in this manner, it is the most daring, and the most accidental. An antagonism is brought to you, a deliverence, and yet your engagement is not reactionary. How is this possible? It is a question of perspective. Humour can be used to inflict the most vicious of social injuries, and yet such humour could be simply innocent. A stumbling in the dark. It is to speak with an unproblematic appreciation of what will happen, while knowing full well that something will happen. If an appetite is both a feeling of thirst or hunger and the prehension of the concept of drink or food, then this is like an appetition of destruction [boom boom] with a radically open datum.

4) Complicit, Immanent. The red thread (or blue thread, or green, yellow, rainbow-gay-friendly, etc) is interest. Interest is the problem, small talk is the solution. Your players are conspirators. The thread of interest becomes mobile, takes flight, and needs to be cared for. The opposite of interest is boredom. If you can not posit interest as a problem in a sufficiently charming manner and pursue solutions with charismatic aplomb then you will be boring. However, there are two prospective dangers.

One is a question of endurance. Charm requires energy, but the effortless kind. The only charisma is an easy charisma. If you are working hard to pursue solutions either you are not cut out for this line of small talk or your co-players aren’t. Either way, it is at this stage that the true potentiality of the space of the social event becomes apparent. The drinks table/bar becomes a time out, and the bathroom an escape. Groups of friends are slightly trickier because they are also moving around and unless you have worked out a sophisticated secret sign language they may not be able to help you out. You have to develop an awareness of the rhythms of small talk, to know when someone’s endurance is lagging, and to be aware of others within the event who are open to small talk.

The second problem goes hand in hand with the charisma and charm required to facilitate this mode of small talk. If endurance is a problem of gradual decline in the energy required — burnout — then the second danger is an excess of energy, an over exuberance. This is the one-joke-too-far syndrome, which is not a question of bad jokes, because sometimes a bad joke is a good joke. Or the that-happened-to-me syndrom of where someone has a story to match every other story. I suffer from this malignant social condition on occassion. I have since learnt to have patience. To speak to the small talk, rather than to a single person, or simply about myself. (Well, unless I am dancing with a hawt nurse from Broome who also finds brains super-sexy:). Small talk is then carried out through gesture and without much talk at all, small or otherwise.)

It is a question of a threshold of repetition that produces an annulling series rather than a constant modulation of the interest. Tap the problem to provide small talk solutions, sure, but there is a finite concentration of potentiality within this mobile relation of engagement. Interest has to be continually modulated. An interesting story is not only as interesting as the way it is told, but as interesting as the questions asked of the story teller after it is told, and as light as the laughter that acompanies appropriate digressions, and as full as the gravitas of contrasting seriousness when silence is used to speak that which can not be spoken.

Ok they are the four. I think the last one is the most productive. There are a few fatal errors, essentially of judgement, but sometimes of execution. The first is to believe that you’re boring. Unless you are a vegetable you enjoy in the struggle of life just the same as everyone. Assessing one’s self as boring is actually a problem of self-reflection, of perspective. You are a network of potentiality, to realise it is the first step to actualising it. The longer the time you haven’t seen someone, like for two years, or an infinite amount of time (just met), the more possible material you have. Possible material is not potentiality. Sometimes the best thing to do is to bow out of small talk if you feel like you have nothing to ask. WHatever you say must be a question in statement form, and any question must actually modulate the potentiality of the possible field. Lah lah lah.

A second major problem is not properly appreciating that not everyone shares your common sense, and that the singularities of small talk are part of haeceitties that belong to events on much grander scales than a backyard bbq. They go hand in hand. The lines of fracture across which your perspective sutures common sense between the diverse baroque scales of events. Structure may be a machine for the production of events (a question of sedimentation, like a river bed), but structure also has an evental dimension (it is a question of perspective, and rivers change course).

I hope by now you realise this is not self help, even though it may help, which I hope it does. Forget the stupid fucks who tell you what to talk about, pffft… They are closet Platonicists even if they are not aware of it. Think! Stop accumalating thoughts! OK, so it is not self help because I am actually worried about being stuck with boring mofos when out and about. I am worried about the small talk. From small talk big things grow. (That may be a Spidermanism?) Two examples: You don’t just ‘get a girlfriend’, you first make a girl laugh, and she may then make you laugh, then you gaze intently and with wonder at the slights of mischief that always seem to be seen out the corner of your eye flashing across her face like a mystical little leprechaun nude at the cricket.

Is it more believable if I pitch it as self-interest and not self-help? Isn’t that interesting…

You don’t just start talking some shit about philosophy either. You know, Deleuze this, Guattari that. Isn’t good philosophical discourse a version of small talk, involving an impersonal investment in an immanent movement of thought and an appreciation of which is distrbuted across many minds? Not what is said as such, but the incorporeal movement in what is said. Bodily and discursive gesture as the vectors of an event. Cultivate the multiplicity.


There is currently a line of men’s footwear (that I saw in a surf shop) called ‘Custom’. Right…

Mel has a new post up on Footpath Zeitgeist on customisation where she discusses a paper from the recent Fashion stream of the CSAA conference. In part she writes:

Indeed, what I really liked about Silvester’s research is the way that customisation isn’t presented as a purely stylistic gesture or as mark of singularity for its own sake. Instead, it is a pragmatic acknowledgement of the relationships that people form with their clothing, and the way those relationships change over time.

Depending on how Mel is using singularity here I would suggest that it is not so much a case of being singular or not, but of different types of singularity correlating with different forms of multiplicity.

I think ‘singularity for its own sake’ actually means distinction for the sake of territorialising the stylistic gestures of others. This is the spatialisation of another’s virtuality, what Bourdieu called distinction. The emergent vertical hierarchies of difference are posited in relation to enduring structrations of such fields of spatialisation. Endurance here may be of a single fashion cycle, a single weekend, or for an entire decade. For example, Reebok Hi-Tops may have been released in 1987, but they are now sooo 1980s, and you won’t wear yours again after being shown up for some fucking dandy wearing brilliant white and green versions last weekend (bastard).

On the other hand, the customisation that Mel is interested and highlighted by the CSAA paper is in fact a way of tracing “the way those relationships [between clothes and wearer] change over time.” The singularity here pertains to a virtual multiplicity of duration. That is a multiplcity (and correlative singularity) that manifests a necessary temporal dimension. The elements of customisation here arrest the changes over time — that is, the duration of ownership — rather than attempt to fix differences in a spatialised field of distinction. It was this difference that I was getting in my question I asked of Mel on her other blog regarding subcultural capital in the way Sarah Thornton described it and a subcultural capital for an event-based conception of (fashion) subcultures.

The difference between the two forms of customisation is one of the great divides of modified-car culture. On one side are the restorers through to the resto-modders through to the modifiers through to the customisers through to the tuners. I discuss this to great length in my section about becoming part of the scene and buying a car. Part of buying a car is accounting for the duration of ownership: how well was the car maintained, its condition for its age, and so on. This is very different to the abstract sign-commodities of the so-called postmodernist school of commodity culture. This all becomes incredibly complex when you think of situations such as contemporary street rods that are built to look exactly like 1950s rods, but using technologies that simply did not exist then and even producing a car that is far superior in terms of technological development compared to the 1950s cars. What is arrested here is not so much an individual field of virtuality, thus pertaining to distinction, but a field pertaining to an entire cultural formation. This is what I trace when I talk about the series of social organisation from street rodders to street machiners to current day imports.