I write things and am nominally in charge here. Below are my most recent posts.
The bulk of my work is in a style I have, in an act of mild narcissism, named psychochronography. Psychochronography, an offshoot of the artistic concept of psychogeography. Psychogeography is a practice originally developed by the Situationist International as part of their efforts to forcibly dismantle the established social order. Psychogeography is the study of how physical spaces impact social, cultural, and personal lives. Its central technique is what is called the derivé, or drift, in which one wanders through an urban area according to some idiosyncratic logic that causes one to cut against the usual lines and paths traced.
Psychochronography applies this notion to our internal landscape. Taking seriously Alan Moore's notion of ideaspace, psychochronography suggests that we can wander through history and ideas just as easily as we can physical spaces, and that by observing the course of such a conceptual exploration we can discover new things about our world. Topics I've applied this approach to include Doctor Who, British comic books, and Super Nintendo games.
Coming at A New Hope off of the prequel trilogy, what jumps out first and foremost is how much smaller and more intimate a story it is. No small part of this is because of the twenty-eight year backwards jump in film technology, which isn’t something that can be erased even by Lucas’s extensive efforts to tinker with the original trilogy. Which I suppose are a digression worth getting into at this point.
Obviously the special editions are easy to get cranky at. Hell, I’m on record making fun of the “redo old special effects for the DVD release” approach when it comes to Doctor Who. And the scholar in me is unsurprisingly appalled by Lucas’s active efforts to suppress the original theatrical versions of his films, to the point of denying film festivals focused on the 1970s permission to screen an original print. But these days there are multiple gorgeous reconstructions of the theatrical version up on BitTorrent for people who care, and while that doesn’t invalidate the understandable frustrations of people who spent decades wanting to watch the movie of their childhoods and not a CGI-ed over mess where Greedo shoots first and there are a bunch of ...
With Revenge of the Sith, our approach runs into trouble. A constant tension in reading both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones was the fact that they were, in pragmatic reality, designed to be watched by people who had already seen the original trilogy. In practice both films were designed - with more intelligence than Lucas usually gets credit for - to still communicate their main ideas to an unspoiled audience. Indeed, in both cases you can plausibly argue that an unspoiled reading produces a clearer account of the films, revealing a more coherent (if still exceedingly unorthodox) logic for both.
That simply does not work for Revenge of the Sith. There’s no way around the fact that once Order 66 is activated, the film by and large stops being concerned with resolving the story that began with The Phantom Menace and turns its attention fully towards setting up A New Hope. The notion that what it’s doing might meaningfully be called storytelling limps along for a bit longer, its closing minutes don’t even pretend anymore. Yoda’s declaration that he will go into exile seems motivated by literally nothing save for lining up with The Empire Strikes Back - “oh, I ...
Middle parts of trilogies are famously hard. Ironically, this fact largely benefits Attack of the Clones. Freed both from the obligation to try to be the first Star Wars movie in sixteen years and the obligation to portray long-mythologized events in a definitive way, it is allowed to simply reflect George Lucas’s vision in a fairly undiluted way. There are countless snarky sentences that follow well from that, but there’s enough that’s at least interesting in that vision to make Attack of the Clones a compelling experience. To praise with faint damnation, it’s a hot mess instead of merely a bad movie.
Where The Phantom Menace was structured around a single protagonist, Attack of the Clones splits its attention between two plots and protagonists. The first of these is relatively expected: The Phantom Menace fairly explicitly set up a progression from Qui-Gon to Obi-Wan such that, just on the basic sense of structure and the Jedi/padawan relationship, you’d expect the mantle to pass on to him. What’s less straightforwardly set up is the ascension of Anakin to the role of co-protagonist. Obi-Wan, after all, was firmly a supporting character, and given the estrangement in the way Anakin was presented ...
Hey all - just a heads up that I've started a newsletter for the Ithaca Psychogeographic Liberation Front. It'll mail out eight times a year. You can sign up for it here. The first installment of it is below if you want to get a sense of what it'll be like.
Oh, and Jack's on Fridays now, so do check back tomorrow.
Hello. We are the Ithaca Psychogeographic Liberation Front. This is our cross-quarterly newsletter, coming out eight times a year to give you the latest news on the struggle to liberate Ithaca from a variety of nebulously defined forces. You're subscribed to it either because you asked to be or because you downloaded Articles of Secession, our debut release. If occasionally being treated to our deranged musings was not something you meant to sign up for, there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom which you can use to depart our newly liberated Ithaca in favor of the frozen wastelands of reality. Careful though: there are wolves out there.
Your Cross-Quarterly Manifesto
Articles of Secession Update
State of the City
What Would Be Next for the IPLF if We Were Bound by Linear ...
Fittingly, this project exists for three basic reasons. First, having subjected everybody to eight parts of Build High for Happiness, it felt like it was time for a nice populist project. Second, I was seized by a desire to watch all seven Star Wars movies and figured “why waste the research.” But third, I was struck by the fact that, as I put it on Twitter a while ago, the bulk of criticism of the Star Wars prequel trilogy is worse at being criticism than the prequels are at being movies. The most common type is of course the brutal and sneering takedown, an approach that usually ends up committing so totally to its brutality that it gives up on making actually interesting points in favor of preening snark. The second is the counter-tendency of contrarian apologias, which are generally better (I’m partial to Rian Johnson’s “the prequels are a 7 hour long kids movie about how fear of loss turns good people into fascists. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”) but still suffer from wanting to be in conversation with the Red Letter Media shit, and also from the fact that they’re taking a provocative position at the expense ...
A guest post from Sam Keeper, normally of Storming the Ivory Tower. Sam's great and worth supporting, and I'm totally not just saying that because she pitched me a guest post that's in part about my own work. Though speaking of Articles of Secession, the auction for the last physical zine copy ends today.
such rich centers of possibilities and meanings
There is of course no other way this could end, which is fitting given that one of the (many) things Jerusalem is about is predestination. Moore’s vision of the world is closely related to the one we’ve been exhaustively exploring throughout this series. He does not actually use the word hypercube (and indeed envisions the structure in even higher dimensions), but it’s nevertheless clearly what’s going on. And though it would be wrong to describe it as a prison (he’s ultimately too optimistic for that), the multidimensional superstructure in which he places us is nevertheless utterly inescapable. As Moore imagines it, reality is a fixed solid existing in at least four dimensions, in which all events are fixed, and human consciousnesses simply experience their lives on endless repeat, passing through their allotted portion of the structure over and over again, experiencing the same unchanging lives each time.
This poses several problems, of which the loss of free will is only one, and a fairly minor one at that. Some are acknowledged by Moore, either within Jerusalem itself or in interviews, most notably the apparent loss of any moral perspective. Moore, being a monstrously ...
Two quick orders of business.
1) As part of the release of Articles of Secession (which, if you missed that yesterday, do check out), we made a 50-copy print run of the zine with the extended text of the piece. Forty-nine of these were distributed around Ithaca. The fiftieth is now on eBay, with proceeds going to charity. For the purposes of people who aren't in Ithaca, this is basically a print edition of one, so go get yourself some bragging rights and some disenfranchised Ithacans some groceries.
2) Jack has opened a Patreon of his own. If you like Jack's work here, and of course you do because Jack is fucking awesome, you should go support it.
How's everyone holding up?