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It all becomes a metaphor in the picture when I look at it, the two people there project sexual silhouettes, stuck in the gaze of a political machine, but still holding onto the mundane mystery of a human relationship.

Mike Thomsen, “Sex on Inauguration Night”

(Excerpted from the author’s new collection Levitate the Primate. Join TNI, Mike, and friends for a reading of this section and more from Levitate at McNally Jackson Books on Tuesday August 28 at 7 pm. More info here. Free beer.)

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These alerts have become commonplace for me and the 27 million other unemployed or underemployed Americans, their bank accounts hovering near empty. The luxuries of my lifestyle consist buying new socks and underwear a couple times a year — almost exclusively for emotional cheer — and spending $20 at a bar every week or so. I eat quinoa, brown rice, and canned beans. Moral tales of austere self-restraint don’t have much to attach to in my daily life.

Mike Thomsen, “Escape From The Minus World”

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Ironically, the creation of machines to spare men from having to encounter a woman’s orgasmic needs would lead to the dissolution of the andro-centric view of sexuality, making it as unfathomably bizarre as the 14th century idea of a flat earth. The advent of the armed drone carries with it the same seed, inevitably bound to destroy the philosophic foundation of war, and the privilege of defining the enemy that comes with it. The greater the ability to wage war without putting soldiers in harm’s way, the more absurd war becomes: an expression of inflexibility and sanctimony, fearfully condemning the unknown based on strangely inhuman interpretations. Everything looks like a threat from above, every body a terrorist, someone who hates us for being who we are.

Mike Thomsen, “Vagina Analogues”

The Search for Posthumanism

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Notes from the 2011 Singularity Summit

by Mike Thomsen

The idea that we can run out of time is peculiar. It’s a product of how we organize our memories.

Human consciousness is a kind of romance with the idea that time is finite and consumable. This assumption of finitude means that time can also become digested and metabolized urge, energizing the desire to imagine what is coming next. Being able to organize the past into a semicoherent system, we extrapolate forward and read ourselves into a specific future. We make predictions: Moore’s Law tells us the size and cost of microprocessors diminish every 18 months. Polling reminds us the United States prefer to re-elect their presidents during wartime. The Super Bowl favorite wins three out of four times. It has been written, and so it shall come to pass.

In the opening keynote of the Singularity Summit, Ray Kurzweil, inventor, writer, and immortalist, spoke about the looming end of prognostication. By his best estimate, the Singularity — the moment when our predictive mechanisms are overwhelmed by superintelligent computers that surpass the understanding of any one person — will happen in 2029. This will wipe clean all the fantasies and modeled futures we made for ourselves. Our ability to predict our personal destiny will vanish; in its place we will have the strange sensation of falling through the floor of our own life.

The Singularity tells us that the future is not a truth we can discover, but merely a theater for our private melodramas. Mom and dad are going to die. I’m never going to be an astronaut. Oh my god.

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I’m With Stupid

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On the latest edition of Clarice Lispector’s final novel, The Hour of the Star (New Directions

by Mike Thomsen

Stupidity is always conditional. An observer discovers some ignorance in a subject, or else the subject stumbles on her own stupidity, usually engendering a torturous self-doubt about what other ignorances might be lurking within. The only antidote to stupidity is an agitated intelligence constantly prowling for blank spots in one’s outward seeming. Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star is a romance, then, between stupidity and its neurotic observer, a restless stretching away from form, tradition, and the stupefying rules they impose on writing.

The novel is narrated by Rodrigo S.M., a writer whose post-modern monologue addressed to us, his readers, makes up the entirety of the novel. Rodrigo imagines Macabéa, a girl so poor, ugly, and stupid—she is perpetually amazed by non-sequitur morsels of trivia discovered on the radio—that she becomes his emotional ideal, free of the intellectual hedge mazes that torment him. It’s anti-intellectual writing, trying to free itself from the idea that the canonical ordering of the past can say anything about the experience of the present. Lispector dedicates the book “to the very crimson color scarlet like my blood of a man in his prime and so I dedicate it to my blood.” It’s a rejection of the arterial walls in favor of the fluid they surround, a novel to the flowing of experience without the history, science, and philosophy that structure and explain it.

Her book is not about blood, but the romantic figuration of blood, the metonymic ghost we invoke when we talk about blood and heart and love. Literal facts are useful only in their ability to provoke a momentary flush of experience, and whatever sensical purpose they have is beside the point, a disposable hallucination waiting only for some new discovery or trick of science to sweep it to the margin. Truth is not truth but only the best we could do at the time, stupidity that has not yet discovered itself.

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The Missing Medium

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A review of Ian Bogost’s How to Do Things with Videogames

By Michael Thomsen

It is sometimes possible to love something so much that you carry its worst traits forward in time until they are ineradicable. I often have this sense when encountering taxonomical descriptions of the variety applied to “videogames.” It is not enough to accept games as a new form of creative abstractionism, but it must be ordered and canonized, frequently with the goal of proving that games can transcend its category and become something world-changing. It’s not enough to identify a game by its emotional themes, we must identify them by the effects they have on us when we play. We don’t organize games as joyful, fearful, competitive, or reflective, but instead favor a system of naming the mechanism: shooting, jumping (twisted into “platforming” in industry lingo), puzzle-solving, sporting, and strategizing, among others. In so doing, we have ensured the confusion endures between videogames and the still undefined medium in which they reside, the power of the higher explained by the perpetually incapable lower.

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