Avatar, The Poem

Here is a little diddy we created during our respective lunch breaks. Shall write up a review in a few days when I have time.

Where thee be,
Faraway tree,
In a faraway land,
On faraway sand.

They live in you,
With skin of blue,
Running through trees,
Running and free.

Floating rocks,
And dragon flocks,
Wisdom does grow,
With plants that glow.

But families, friends
It could all end.
These connected lands,
These connected hands.

A great war of all,
Saw thee tree fall,
Falling, fallen, lost,
Losing home the cost.

Yet united we stand,
To defend this land,
Guns against paws,
Bombs against claws.

Love unifies all creatures,
All their differing features.
An old strength is born,
On the new light of dawn.

By Maarinke and I.

How to write a feature car story for modified-car enthusiast magazines

We are hiring a whole bunch of new people at work, I have been working on a scholarly article about writing for car magazines, but I now realise I need to write a far simpler version so it is useful for people who may actually become motoring writers. The following is based on my experiences as a writer for car magazines (must be close to 100 feature car articles by now) over about eight years on and off and my PhD research where I have read several hundred magazines. The below is a very basic account of the process and different writing styles.

What you will need, but won’t always have at the start of the writing process:
1. Tech sheet. This contains all the various specifications of the vehicle, pretty much every single major part. The owner/builder fills this out.
2. Photos of car. So you know what it actually looks like and/or to be used as a reference resource when writing.
3. Interview with owner or builder of the car. This is to clarify certain elements of the technical details and to also get an account of the build. The easiest way to find out information about the build is to ask for a timeline. Often enthusiasts will describe what they did in terms of how hard somthing was to do and how much of a challenge it was. Without challenges there can not be enthusiasm.

There are three main ways to write the story, and each story could be written purely following these different ways with the right information. However, you normally have mixed information at your disposal so each story will be a combination of these three main types:
1. Use metaphor/simile. This is the last resort for me.
2. Locate vehicle in the scene. Good middle ground when you have little information about the build.
3. Narrative form of the challenges of the build. How I write feature car stories.

1. Stories based around metaphor/simile are normally written when not much about the build or technical details of the car are known. This can be because a new owner has taken possession of the vehicle and actually doesn’t know much or perhaps the owner can not be contacted in time to clarify technical details before the story deadline. Metaphor is when you say thing A is thing B, such as “The WRX is a bomb ready to go off.” Simile is when you say thing A is like thing B, such as “The WRX is like a fashion model transforming the George Street cruising strip into a catwalk.”

The imagery of a bomb or fashion model is used in a similar way to poetry. It works to create an image of the vehicle for the reader that is associated with various thoughts and feelings. In feature car stories the central image organises the rest of the text. Most car builders do not like these sorts of stories because they diminish the role of the car and certainly of the builder in the story which is more about the poetic capacity of the writer.

2. If you have a clear understanding of the particular segment of the scene to which the given vehicle belongs, and you have good technical details on the vehicle, but without much information about how the particular build occurred, then you can discuss the technical details in the context of their socio-technical function in the scene.

‘Socio-technical’ is a term derived from academic philosophy; it refers to the way all technology is not only technical but also social. One way to think about this is in terms of the function of technology to complete or satisfy tests, i.e. performance. These tests are culturally specific. For example, if you are concerned about the environment then you want to know how a vehicle performs as technology that produces pollution. Or if you are concerned about the speed and acceleration of the vehicle then you want to know how well the car performs in speed and acceleration tests. Certain humanities scholars and social scientists would describe this as the discursive dimension of technology.

‘Performance’ here has an ambiguity in modified-car culture when thought in a socio-technical manner. Modified cars also perform when they are turning heads, cruising the strip as well as when they are being raced on the drag strip. By locating the vehicle in the scene and drawing on knowledge of the scene you can explain the performance of various modifications. How well does the vehicle perform tests of acceleration because of ‘this’ and ‘that’ modification? How well does the vehicle turn heads cruising or at a car show with ‘this’ or ‘that’ modification?

3. My preferred way of writing feature car stories is by writing up an account of the build. My signature modus operandi is to focus on the challenges of the build that demanded of the enthusist that he (or she, but normally it is a ‘he’) mobilise his (or her) enthusiasm. Real enthusiasts know that building modified cars is about facing the challenges they present. A modified car is a topological inculcation of socio-technical challenges that an enthusiast has ‘risen to’ and overcome. The subject of the story then is less the poetic form of the story or the car itself.

All three types of story are often incorporated into each story.

Structure of main copy.
Opening paragraph: I normally open each story by using imagery to create a tone and creating a relation to the scene by describing or implying the location of the vehicle in the scene.
First section: Describes the aquisition of the vehicle and how the project started.
Second section: Provides an account of the main features of the build and the challenges that they posed.
Third section: The remainder of the technical details.
Repeat: Sometimes vehicles have undergone more than one build, so repeat sections 1-3.
End section: What is the character of the enthusiast’s satisfaction, what goals were accomplished, and what goals are remaining (if any beyond pure enjoyment of a completed project).

Besides the main copy you will also need to write up a few different bits and pieces:

1. ‘Tech breakout box’. This is a separate box from the columns of the main text and it contains every major technical component that has been modified or replaced.
2. Owner profile. This is basic biographical detail about the owner and perhaps a few direct answer to specific questions.
3. Captions for photos. As the writer you are the expert about everything you are writing about (or should be), you isolate particular important elements of the car and make sure the photographer takes proper photos.
4. Possibly another breakout box depending on the nature of the car. Often you’ll use a particular fact, component or technique to expand and add another dimension to the story. I often ring up the engine builder or someone else associated with the build and get an expert opinion on some facet of the car.

That is purely on the writing side of the job. Before you start writing, you need to find the cars. This is the journalistic function of the job, to investigate what is happening in the scene and know when cars will be finished and so on. After you have finished the story, and hopefully spoken with the owner/builder, you will also have to supply ad leads to the ad sales department based on the businesses that did work on the car and are mentioned in the tech sheet.

on the event mechanics of agency

I have been idly contemplating the role, function and incorporation of creativity into capitalism. The contemplation has been instigated because I now work in a commercial enterprise. For the first time in my life I am being forced to think like a capitalist. There is something liberating and joyful about this. For so long I have basically been at war with a part of myself — my habitus — that was individuated/grown in the capitalist ecology of late-20th century neoliberalism. Many people opt out of this war much earlier in life and dismiss it as teenage fantasy, and some continue the war fueled by teenage fantasy, but I am doing neither. I am learning. This learning is progessing along two main axes. One of which I describe below in an anexact yet rigorous fashion 😉

From my PhD research I already have an account of how human endeavour — no matter how seemingly trivial and banal — is commercialised. I have been haunted by Manuel DeLanda’s comments regarding the uselessness of the term ‘commodification’ in that it is far too simplisitic a term. Indeed, I agree it is far too simple. I have been thinking about the concept of the spectacle and how to invert it to stand it right side up on its material base. The spectacle has been described a number of ways since Debord. I think the closest to my way of thinking come from Jonathan Crary’s remarks on ‘relations of attention’:

Spectacle is not primarily concerned with looking at images, but rather with the construction of conditions that individuate, immobilize, and separate subjects, even within a world in which mobility and circulation are ubiquitous. In this way attention becomes key to the operation of noncoercive forms of power. This is why it is not inappropriate to conflate seemingly different optical or technological objects [in a discussion of Foucault’s and Debord’s respective works]: they are similarly about arrangements of bodies in space, techniques of isolation, cellularization, and above all separation. Spectacle is not an optics of power but an architecture. (Crary 1999: 74-75)

In my dissertation I describe this as an imperceptible ‘structurating expectation’ that is felt in the bodies of enthusiasts. Alongside what Deleuze isolates as two of Foucault’s conceptual innovations — ‘statements’ and ‘visibilities’ — is this third [something]. I am not sure what to call it. It has a far more dynamic relationality than both the ‘statement’ and ‘visible’. Sanford Kwinter isolates something similar in his book Achitectures of Time. I will try to outline precisely what I am trying to talk about.
The first part seems similar to what Deleuze and Guattari call the ‘refrain’ in that it has a catalysing function. A ‘new’ iteration of organisation precipitates across the heterogeneous elements grouped by a given consistency. There is a seemingly silly dimension to this: the elements are grouped because they are grouped. But that ignores the dynamic dimension of how different basins of consistency (I prefer this to basins of attraction, as ‘attraction’ implies a relation between similar elements, when they are purely heterogeneous) are formed and unformed.

Note I have used the Derridean term ‘iteration’ to describe the relation between different consistencies of organisation. This is a problemtic term. The event, in Derrida’s philosophy, is that irreducible element that cannot be actualised and is continually deferred. What in Deleuzian philosophy would be called the ‘pure event’. Without a doubt there is a pure event, that of pure existence, of everything, the cosmos, for all eternity. This is perfectly useless for mundane human affairs. Introduce any degree of spatialisation and temporalisation — so that the pure happening of the cosmos becomes the happening of any discrete composition of elements — and there is a near infinite complexity of temporality, spatiality and causality. The best concept I have come across that attempts to tackle this complexity is that of ‘transversality’.
‘Transversality’ is a term that describes the non-spatial and non-temporal contiguity of elements in a complex system. The character of transversal relationality is what Deleuze and Guattari rather enigmatically, and with a hint of irony (at least for this reader), describe as ‘problematic’. The seriality of the differential repetition of events into iterative organisational consistencies is not linear; it has a ‘problematic’ character. The seriality is transversal. The second dimension of this [something] I am trying to describe is its transversality. The transversal (iterative) seriality is contained within the [something].

A problem that took me a long time to be able to even grasp was with seemed to be the conflict inherent between different interests within a given consistency of elements. In my dissertation this consistency of elements most often appeared as the ‘scene’ of an enthusiasm. How to reconcile the commercial intersts of capital and the subjective interests of enthusiasts born of a complex psychology of identity and so on. Perhaps the simplest way to imagine this is in terms of the conflict of ideology. There is a clash of beliefs at the level of what is perceptible and expressible as signifying elements in terms of what is visible and statements (what can be said at any given juncture). Yet, in a war for example, the conflict has a dimension of participation in that, as the cliche goes, it takes two to tango.

Whitehead’s concept of ‘congruence’ is a way to grasp the asignifying relationality between elements that are otherwise antagonistic. Perhaps this is an echo of human will or any will for that matter, one that does not yet take on the consistency of agency, yet overdetermines the trajectory of elements that have a consistency and the character of this consistency. At stake is the integration of the perceptible — the object world of a subject — and the vast imperceptible transversal relationality of the happening of iteration and the pure event of the cosmos. The transversal contiguity of iterative consistencies has a congruent relationality that is felt, ie as affect, but is otherwise imperceptible to participants. To frame it in the terms of another conceptual paradigm, it is the content of what Kant described as intuition. Congruence then is the third and, at this stage of conceptual development, final dimension of this [something] I am trying to describe.

There is a fourth dimension that with purposeful irony is related to time. I haven’t quite figured out how to formulate this as yet. The specific problem is super complex and relates to different orders of causality (feedback and feedforward loops, for example) within the transversal seriality of different iterations of consistency. At the moment I am leaning towards another concept from Whitehead to describe the processual dimension of this complex causality, what he called ‘appetition’. For Whitehead, this was the integration of prehensions prehending each other into an ‘actual occurence’, basically what Deleuze would call ‘actualisation’. The troubling part of this is the function of human imagination in the form of memory and probabilistic calculation, of how the ‘past’ or felt relationality of crystalised impercibility commonally referred to as ‘memory’, affects the relations of futurity by opening or closing perceptible relations and thus effecting the present directionality of action. It is a feedback loop with a feedforward loop ratified on the level of affect and directly consecrating action into the appropriate and inappropriate. This is what I would call the appetition of the spectacle and pushes Crary’s description of the spectacle as an ‘architecture’ into a fourth dimension.

To return to my opening remarks, what I am learning is how to map the effect of capital within this dynamic through the distribution of effort into the appropriateness or not of action. How to render this process of the distribution of appropriate action perceptible and guide it seems to me to be the location of agency and the purpose of what Deleuze described as counter-actualisation. One positive effect of all this thinking is that the distribution of effort within this transversal iterations of consistency as I understand clearly renders the utter conceptual poverty of the phrase ‘self interest’. ‘Self interest’ is a refrain that consecrates the distribution of effort into actions for the ‘self’ as appropriate and thus ratifying the affects of capitalist apprehension and, in a word, judgement.


Trying to be lazy these last two days. It is hard work being lazy. I snuck in some Kant and administrative work. I work tomorrow.

Wrote a bad poem, lol!

Sweetest sweet ass poison,
Burns, relieves, focuses.
Well, exhale,
And we had the ciggies, at least.