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Diet Soap Podcast #198: The Joy Beyond Identity
December 05, 2013 08:03 AM PST
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The guest this week is the author and radical Mark Fisher. Mark and I discuss his recent essay for the North Star Blog called Exiting the Vampire Castle. The essay takes on the politically correct reaction to the comedian Russell Brand's recent call for revolution. Many leftists were perhaps overly skeptical of Brand, focusing on gaffes and slips rather than the content of his message (Brand admits to calling women birds, for instance.) Fisher's essay has caused quite an uproar, especially at the North Star Blog itself. There have been six essays written in response and there has been a split causing some editors to resign in solidarity with Brand and Fisher. My perspective, as always, is that Fisher isn't Marxist enough, meaning that his version of class isn't economic enough, or doesn't focus squarely on the way working people are exploited but describes class on the level of appearance only. Otherwise I find myself agreeing with Fisher.

I want to thank everyone for listening to this podcast and communicating with me on Facebook, on twitter, and through my blog that's douglaslain.com. Also I want to thank Andrew Marshall, Jason P and Michael P for their one time donations and also thank Andrew Marshall, Ted F, John L, and Jacob L for their continual monthly support.

Pop the Left #10: From Henry Flynt to an Electric Ant
November 09, 2013 12:48 AM PST
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This month's Pop the Left features a conversation about Henry Flynt's lecture "An Autopsy of the Left." The conversation, as is typical, wanders, and in the end Varn and I end up mentioning the difficulty of escaping from our current ideology. Henry Flynt is a musician, a member of Fluxus, and the last Communist standing. I wrote to him and asked him onto the podcast, but this email met with scorn and ridicule, which was really too bad. If you know Henry Flynt please tell him that I did not mean to insult him when I called him a commie. For your edification here is a definition of Fluxus as lifted from wikipedia: Fluxus—a name taken from a Latin word meaning "flow, flux" (noun); "flowing, fluid" (adj.)[1]—is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music and visual art as well as literature, urban planning, architecture, and design. Fluxus is sometimes described as intermedia. In this episode you'll here a song inspired by the Philip K. Dick story "The Electric Ant" and a clip from "The Thirteenth Floor." Here's an essay I wrote for Tor.com about both the short story and the movie.
Diet Soap Podcast #189: Chomsky vs. Žižek
July 31, 2013 02:38 PM PDT
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The guest this week is a university lecturer, a poet, and my co-host on Pop the Left. I tapped C Derick Varn to come on so we could discuss the recent Chomsky/Zizek feud. For those of you who haven't been following the debate let me expose you to it: Noam Chomsky on Zizek: What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential. Slavoj Zizek on Chomsky: What is that about, again, the academy and Chomsky and so on? Well with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my first point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate, not just some crazy Lacanian speculations and so on… well I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong in his descriptions in his whatever! Let’s look… I remember when he defended this demonstration of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a couple of texts claiming: No, this is Western propaganda. Khmer Rouge are not as horrible as that.” And when later he was compelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Universe and so on, his defense was quite shocking for me. It was that “No, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we didn’t yet know enough, so… you know.” But I totally reject this line of reasoning. For example, concerning Stalinism. The point is not that you have to know, you have photo evidence of gulag or whatever. My God you just have to listen to the public discourse of Stalinism, of Khmer Rouge, to get it that something terrifyingly pathological is going on there. For example, Khmer Rouge: Even if we have no data about their prisons and so on, isn’t it in a perverse way almost fascinating to have a regime which in the first two years (’75 to ’77) behaved towards itself, treated itself, as illegal? You know the regime was nameless. It was called “Angka,” an organization — not communist party of Cambodia — an organization. Leaders were nameless. If you ask “Who is my leader?” your head was chopped off immediately and so on. You can find follow-ups from both of these thinkers here. I want to reiterate my thanks to everyone who donated to the Think the Impossible book and podcast tour through Kickstarter. I'd love to meet people who have been listening to this podcast, and if you're hearing this now and you live in NYC, Chicago, or San Francisco I do hope you'll turn up to these events. There are several sound clips in this episode. You'll mostly hear from Chomsky and Zizek, but there is also a clip from the National Geographic special Brain Games Apollo Robbins and perhaps a few other voices as well.
Diet Soap Podcast #176: Siskel and Ebert and Desire
April 10, 2013 12:41 AM PDT
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The guest this week the University lecturer and no good commie C Derick Varn. Varn and I discuss the ideas of the French historian, literary critic, and philosopher Rene Girard while also taking Siskel and Ebert as our subjects. Diet Soap relies on donations and if you'd like to donate you can find the paypal buttons on douglaslain.com and at the podomatic page for Diet Soap. In the next month I'll be starting a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund a Diet Soap tour that I plan to call "Think the Impossible!" but that shouldn't stop you from kicking in a fiver or a tener now. Per wikipedia Rene Girard was: a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy. He is the author of nearly thirty books (see below), in which he developed the ideas of: mimetic desire: all of our desires are borrowed from other people; mimetic rivalry: all conflict originates in mimetic desire; the scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry; the Bible reveals the three previous ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism. Siskel and Ebert, on the other hand, were: ...two film critics [who] shared their opinions of newly released films. Their program aired under various names. Its original hosts were Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-TV and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and WBBM-TV.
Pop the Left #4: The Zerzan Reification
March 20, 2013 01:00 PM PDT
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This month both C Derick Varn and Nicholas Pell are missing and instead there is a special guest. John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author.  He's fairly well known, especially in the Pacific Northwest where I am, and his books about Green Anarchism have been influential.  But we don't really talk about the environment, agriculture, or civilization, but rather I try to explain what I think is Zerzan's conceptual or philosophical mistake.

For Zerzan civilized life is a mediated or alienated life that isn't worth living and his solution is to return to directly lived experience. What I try to point out in my conversation with him is that his solution is a part of the problem.  That is, while he wants to overcome the problem of reification his solution doesn't manage to avoid that mistake.

The word reification means to mistake an abstraction for a physical or empirical object. A reification is not when we see an example of an abstraction in the world, it's not when we take a rubber ball and think of it as an example of roundness, but rather when we take an abstraction to be its own example.  That is, when we think that an abstraction can exist on its own without an example.

There are many ideas that are founded on this mistake.  God, for instance, is the kind of idea that is a good example of a reification. Nature is, similarly, the same kind of idea.

Again, my conversation with John Zerzan wasn't about prehistory or hunters and gatherers or the current ecological problems that are facing us, but was aimed at his concepts.  It was aimed at his idea that we might be able to escape concepts, which I think is his fundamental mistake.

Diet Soap Podcast #171: A Left with No Future?
February 06, 2013 01:25 AM PST
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The guest this week is TJ Clark. TJ Clark is an art historian and a former member of the Situationist International. His paper For a Left with No Future has gotten quite a bit of attention over the last six months, and this essay is the subject of our discussion this week. My hero Slavoj Zizek has supported this essay saying "We have to admit the grain of truth in this simplified bleak vision which seems to sap the very possibility of a proper political Event: perhaps, we should effectively renounce the myth of a Great Awakening—the moment when (if not the old working class then) a new alliance of the dispossessed, multitude or whatever, will gather its forces and master a decisive intervention."

In my conversation with TJ Clark he contradicts this interpretation, saying that he does believe in the ability of the people to make a spontaneous revolution, and yet he continues to advocate a tragic vision.

It's Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 (well past the Eschaton) and I'm Douglas Lain, the host of the Diet Soap podcast.

Okay. So the Podomatic feed is up and running again and I'm slowly uploading the back catalog for the podcast. So you can subscribe to the podcast through my website douglaslain.com or through podomatic, and you might get email alerts as I upload old podcasts.

I also want to urge you donate to Diet Soap and to tell your friends about the podcast. While I'm aware of how dreadfully Marxist the podcast has become I also believe that I haven't wandered away from real human concerns here. My goal for 2013 is to continue on, to hold tight to the direction the podcast has found, while also returning to the sense of desperate improvisation that founded this thing. The strange moment that I'm in is this: I believe more firmly than ever in Value theory and Marx's critique of Capital while I'm simultaneously convinced that we are as far away from resolving the deadlock of Capitalism as we've ever been.

In any case you can find the donate button at douglaslain.com and at dietsoap.podomatic.com.

In this episode you'll here clips from older episodes of this podcast and of Talking Art. My son Benjamin and I discussed the Arab Spring and Manet's painting Luncheon in the Grass for Diet Soap and the now defunct One Thousand Words podcast. (I'd love to revive that second effort, although editing an art podcast was very time consuming.) This conversation with TJ Clark represents a culmination or conclusion for Diet Soap. Without meaning to I think we've reached a turning point here.

Pop the Left #2: Sexy Anarchists vs Marxist Eggheads
Explicit
January 30, 2013 12:15 AM PST
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This week on the Diet Soap channel: Pop the Left #2

Pop the Left is currently a special program done irregularly with C Derick Varn (a University Lecturer living in Jeonju) and Nicholas Pell (a freelancer writer and cynic living in LA) and this episode features a conversation with Varn as we dissect just why Anarchists are so different, so appealing, while Marxists look like they've spent the evening coughing into their overgrown beards and forgetting to clip their fingernails.

The other question we ask is why is it that Anarchists and Marxists alike can't really think past Capitalism.

However, the weird thing is that by the end of this second episode we've stumbled into our unconscious and end up in a seemingly never ending stream of penises...I mean Freudian slips.

Enjoy!

Diet Soap Podcast #158: Are Abstractions Necessary?
September 21, 2012 11:48 AM PDT
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The guest this week is the youtube star and Marxist Brendan Cooney and we discuss Marx and Hegel. This is the second half of our conversation, slightly edited. You can find more from Cooney on his Kapitalism101 blog.

I am still planning on canceling the Podomatic feed for Diet Soap and moving the podcast to douglaslain.com. If you subscribe to podcast through podomatic you'll need to change over to the new feed by the end of the month, that means that this podcast will be the last podcast on the podomatic website and next week you'll find instructions on how to switch the feeds instead. When I make the switch I'm also going to restart the Diet Soap philosophy workshop and that workshop will continue weekly, or at least it will be a part of every episode. That means that while I'll continue on discussing Hegel once a month, I've decided to expand the workshop to a weekly format. After each Diet Soap episode subscribers to the podcast will get a chance to participate in a conversation about that episode. So, yes, there will be regular Hegel episodes, but subscribers will also get a chance to discuss all the different subjects that we cover or bring up their own ideas. Finally, I am also going to start a monthly podcast with C. Derick Varn called Pop the Left. We'll take a critical look at the politics of the Left from a Leftist perspective and, at first, that'll be hosted through the same RSS feed as Diet Soap, but if a few more people donate or subscribe I'll start a second feed for Pop the Left on its own. So, you can help me start a new podcast by donating today.

Diet Soap Podcast #157: Real Abstract Robots?
September 13, 2012 11:36 PM PDT
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The guest this week is Brendan Cooney and we discuss his Law of Value youtube video series (I play the soundtrack for his second video), and discuss real abstractions as explained in Marx's bestselling book Capital. We start off discussing whether Data from the television show Star Trek the Next Generation would generate value if he time traveled to this current Capitalist economy.

I am still planning on canceling the Podomatic feed for Diet Soap and moving the podcast to douglaslain.com. If you subscribe to podcast through podomatic you'll need to change over to the new feed by the end of the month, that means that the next podcast will be the last podcast on the podomatic website. In that episode I'll try to explain just how to find the Diet Soap RSS feed from Blubrry. When I make the switch I'm also going to restart the Diet Soap philosophy workshop and that workshop will continue weekly, or at least it will be a part of every episode. That means that while I'll continue on discussing Hegel once a month, I've decided to expand the workshop to a weekly format. After each Diet Soap episode subscribers to the podcast will get a chance to participate in a conversation about that episode. So, yes, there will be regular Hegel episodes, but subscribers will also get a chance to discuss all the different subjects that we cover or bring up their own ideas. Finally, I am also going to start a monthly podcast with C. Derick Varn called Pop the Left. We'll take a critical look at the politics of the Left from a Leftist perspective and, at first, that'll be hosted through the same RSS feed as Diet Soap, but if a few more people donate or subscribe I'll start a second feed for Pop the Left on its own. So, you can help me start a new podcast by donating today.

Diet Soap Podcast #140: The Reality of Economic Abstractions
April 17, 2012 12:49 PM PDT
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The guest this week is Marxist youtube star and pianist Brendan Cooney and we discuss real abstractions, fetishes, the Greek economic crisis, Late Capitalism, and the superpowers of Karl Marx.

The podcast has been on a temporary hiatus as I've struggled to revise a novel as quickly as possible, but we return this week despite the fact that I haven't quite finished yet. I've been up to my eyeballs in dreams, Christopher Robin Milne, cats that turn into toys, and the strikes of May 1968, but the podcast continues.

I want to thank all of the subscribers to the podcast who are participating in the Diet Soap philosophy writers workshop and urge you to either subscribe or donate. I currently have 12 copies left of my book "Wave of Mutilation" and even more copies of my surrealist memoir on urban foraging entitled Pick Your Battle, and a subscribing or donating $6 or more entitles you to a copy of one of these books.

I should point out that this week marks the third year for the Diet Soap podcast. The very first episode was produced on April 16th, 2009. This is also the last week that Diet Soap will feature a Titanic Factoid. Sunday was the 100 year anniversary of the sinking and Miriam has decided to commemorate April 15th, 1912 with a sinking of the factoid. So, this week we say goodbye to the Titanic, but I look forward to seeing what Miriam comes up with next and she promises that she'll continue in some way or another.

My conversation with Brendan Cooney went on for a good while and wandered, so this may be a two parter. We'll see. I've currently got at least five weeks of interviews in the archive. So in coming weeks we'll hear conversations with Paul Shetler on surrealism, with KMO and Olga on Zombies, with Ross Wolfe on Taylorism or Fordism, with Jon Meade on the Production of Space, and with the bizarro writer Bradley Sands on why he's Sorry He Ruined Your Orgy.

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