One of the wonders of youtube and google video is the possibilities of revisiting your past. A case in point is a documentary on Williams Burroughs that I remember seeing at about age 14. This documentary had a seismic impact on me, especially Burrough's talk about the cut up method which fired my imagination.
Here are two items on the cut up method and related concepts. A seven minute clip from the aforementioned documentary. The most interesting bit of the clip is a conversation between Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg at the end, where he explains that if the whole universe consists of pre-recordings, then the only things that aren't pre-recordings are the pre-recordings themselves. Thus, if one tampers with those pre-recordings; one is tampering with the very fabric of the universe....
It seems to me that Burroughs, by quoting Wittgenstein's assertion that an argument cannot contain itself as a proposition, is convoluting two quite different things: an argument which is a judgement about something and a pre-recording which is a descriptive of the physical fabric of the universe. While laws can be adequately descriptive of the universe (since that is why they are laws) they can never be prosciptive (they cannot be the cause of something). Therefore Wittgenstein's propositions and Burroughs's pre-recordings are not the same thing.
Incidentally, the lady who shows Burroughs around his old flat in the film who is called Jessica. Jessica was my ex-landlady when I first moved to London in the 1980s. I remember talking to her about Burroughs. She wasn't a fan. I think an astute viewer will be able to detect a certain amount of tension between the two when they watch the film.
Here is 'Playback from Eden to Watergate,' Burroughs' preface to The Job, with more of his meddling with pre-recordings.
Playback from Eden to Watergate
In Encounter Magazine, admittedly once subsidized by the CIA, there was an article called "Night Words" by George Steiner. Talking about my writing and the writing of other writers in whose works sex scenes are frankly and explicitly described, he says, "In the name of human privacy, enough!"
In whose name is human privacy being evoked? In the name of those who bugged Martin Luther King's bedroom and ransacked the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist? And how many other bedrooms have they bugged? Does anyone believe that these are isolated instances? That they were caught on the first job? Who is casting the first stone here?
It is precisely by breaking down the whole concept of privacy that the monopoly the Nixon Administration wishes to set up will be broken down. When nobody cares, then shame ceases to exist and we can all return to the Garden of Eden without any God prowling around like a house dick with a tape recorder. Books and films in which the sex act is explicitly represented are certainly a step in the right direction. It is precisely this breakdown of shame and fear with regard to sex that the Nixon Administration is all out to stop so it can continue to use shame and fear as weapons of political control.
It is generally assumed that the spoken word came before the written word. I suggest that the spoken word as we know it came after the written word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God-and the word was flesh . . . human flesh . . . in the beginning of writing. Animals talk. They don't write. Now, a wise old rat may know a lot about traps and poison but be cannot write "Death Traps in Your Warehouse" for the Reader's Digest, with tactics for ganging up on dogs and ferrets and taking care of wise guys who stuff steel wool tip rat holes. It is doubtful that the spoken word would ever have evolved beyond the animal stage without the written word. The written word is inferential in human speech.
My basic theory is that the written word was actually a virus that made the spoken word possible. The word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host though this symbiotic relationship is now breaking down, for reasons I will suggest later.
I quote from Mechanisms of Virus Infection, edited by Mr. Wilson Smith, a scientist who really thinks about his subject instead of merely correlating data. What be thinks about is the ultimate intention of the virus organism. In a chapter entitled "Virus Adaptability and Host Resistance," by G. Belyavin speculations as to the biologic goal of the virus species are enlarged. "Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependent upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living."
Is the virus then simply a time bomb left on this planet to be activated by remote control? An extermination program in fact? In its path from full virulence to its ultimate goal of symbiosis will any human creature survive?
"Taking the virus-eye view, the ideal situation would appear to be one in which the virus replicates in cells without in any way disturbing their normal metabolism. This has been suggested as the ideal biological situation toward which all viruses are slowly evolving."
Would you offer violence to a well-intentioned virus on its slow road to symbiosis?
"It is worth noting that if a virus were to attain a state of wholly benign equilibrium with its host cell it is unlikely that its presence would be readily detected or that it would necessarily be recognized as a virus." I suggest that the word is just such a virus- Dr. Kurt Unruh von Steinplatz has put forward an interesting theory as to the origins and history of this word virus. He postulates that the word was a virus of what he calls "biologic mutation affecting a change in its host which was then genetically conveyed One reason that apes can't talk is because the structure of their inner throats is simply not designed to formulate words. He postulates that alterations in inner throat structure were occasioned by a virus illness. And vot an occasion! This illness may well have had a high rate of mortality, but some female apes must have survived to give birth to the Wunderkinder The illness perhaps assumed a more malignant form in the male because of his more developed and rigid muscular structure, causing death through strangulation and vertebral fracture. Since the virus in both male and female precipitates sexual frenzy through irritation of sex centres in the brain, the male impregnated the females in their death spasms and the altered throat structure was genetically conveyed. Ach, lunge, what a scene is here . . . the apes are moulting fur, steaming off, the females whimpering and slobbering over the dying males like cows with aftosa and so a stink-musky, sweet, rotten-metal stink of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. . . .
The creation of Adam, the Garden of Eden, Adam's fainting spell during which God made Eve from his body, the forbidden fruit, which was of course knowledge of the whole stinking thing and might be termed the first Watergate scandal, all slots neatly into Doc von Steinplatz's theory And this was a white myth. This leads us to the supposition that the word virus assumed a specially malignant and lethal form in the white race. What then accounts for this special malignance of the white word virus? Most likely a virus mutation occasioned by radioactivity. All animal and insect experiments so far carried out indicate that mutations resulting from radiation are unfavourable-that is, not conducive to survival. These experiments relate to the effect of radiation on autonomous creatures. What about the effects of radiation on viruses? Are there not perhaps some so-classified and secret experiments hiding behind national security? Virus mutations occasioned by radiation may be quite favourable for the virus. And such a virus might well violate the ancient covenant of symbiosis, the benign equilibrium with the host cell. So now, with the tape recorders of Watergate and the fallout from atomic testing, the virus stirs uneasily in all your white throats. It was a killer virus once. It could become a killer virus again and rage through cities of the world like a topping forest fire.
"It is the beginning of the end." That was the reaction of a science attaché at one of Washington's major embassies to reports that a synthetic gene particle bad been produced in the laboratory. "Any small country can now make a virus for which there is no cure. It would take only a small laboratory. Any small country with good biochemists could do it."
And presumably any big country could do it quicker and better.
I advance the theory that in the electronic revolution a virus is a very small unit of word and image. I have suggested how such units can be biologically activated to act as communicable virus strains. Let us start with three tape recorders in the Garden of Eden. Tape recorder one is Adam. Tape recorder two is Eve. Tape recorder three is God, who deteriorated after Hiroshima into the Ugly American. Or, to return to our primeval scene: tape recorder one is the male ape in a helpless sexual frenzy as the virus strangles him. Tape recorder two is the cooing female ape who straddles him. Tape recorder three is DEATH.
Von Steinplatz postulates that the virus of biologic mutation, which he calls Virus B-23, is contained in the word. Unloosing this virus from the word could be more deadly than unloosing the power of the atom. Because all hate, all pain, all fear, all lust is contained in the word.
We now have three tape recorders. So we will make a simple word virus. Let us suppose that our target is a rival politician. On tape recorder one we will record speeches and conversations, carefully editing in stammers, mispronunciations inept phrases-the worst number one we can assemble. Now, on tape recorder two we will make a love tape by bugging his bedroom. We can potentiate this tape by splicing it with a sexual object that is inadmissible or inaccessible or both, say, the Senator's teenage daughter. On tape recorder three we will record hateful, disapproving voices. We'll splice the three recordings in together at very short intervals and play them back to the Senator and his constituents. This cutting and playback can be very complex, involving speech scramblers and batteries of tape recorders but the basic principle is simply splicing sex tapes and disapproval tapes together. Once the association lines are established, they are activated every time the Senator's speech centres are activated, which is all the time (heaven help that sorry bastard if anything happened to his big mouth). So his teen-age daughter crawls all over him while Texas Rangers and decent church-going women rise from tape recorder three screaming "WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN FRONT OF DECENT PEOPLE!"
The teen-age daughter is just a refinement. Basically all you need are sex recordings on number two and hostile recordings on number three. With this simple formula any CIA son of a bitch can become God-that is, tape recorder three. Notice the emphasis on sexual material in burglaries and bugging in the Watergate cesspool-bugging Martin Luther King's bedroom. Kiss kiss bang bang. A deadly assassination technique. At the very least sure to unnerve opponents and put them at a disadvantage. So the real scandal of Watergate that has not come out yet is not that bedrooms were bugged and the offices of psychiatrists ransacked but the precise use that was made of this sexual material.
This formula works best on a closed circuit. If sexual recordings and films are widespread, tolerated, and publicly shown, tape recorder three loses its power. Which perhaps explains why the Nixon Administration is out to close down sex films and re-establish censorship of all films and books-to keep tape recorder three on closed circuit.
And this brings us to the subject of SEX. In the words of the late John O'Hara, "I'm glad you came to me instead of one of those quacks on the top floor." Psychiatrists priests, whatever they call themselves, they want to turn it off and keep tape recorder three in business. Let's turn it on. All you swingers use movie cameras and tape recorders to record and photograph your sessions. Now go over the session and pick out the sexiest pieces -you know, when it really happens. Reich built a machine with electrodes to be attached to the penis to measure this orgasm charge. Here is an unpleasurable orgasm sagging ominously as tape recorder three cuts in. He just made it. And here is a pleasurable orgasm way up on the graph. So take all the best of your sessions and invite the neighbours to see it. It's the neighbourly thing to do. Try cutting them in together, alternating twenty-four frames per second. Try slowdowns and speedups. Build and experiment with an orgone accumulator. It's simply a box of any shape or size lined with iron. Your intrepid reporter at age thirty-seven achieved spontaneous orgasm, no hands, in an orgone accumulator built in an orange grove in Pharr, Texas. It was the small, direct-application accumulator that did the trick. That's what every red-blooded boy and girl should be doing in the basement workshop. The orgone accumulator could be greatly potentiated by using magnetized iron, which sends a powerful magnetic field through the body. And small accumulators like ray guns. There is two-gun Magee going off in his pants. The gun falls from his band. Quick as he was he was not quick enough
For a small directional accumulator obtain six powerful magnets Arrange your magnetized iron squares so that they form a box. In one end of the box drill a hole and insert an iron tube. Now cover the box and tube with organic material-rubber, leather, cloth. Now train the tube on your privates and the privates of your friends and neighbours It's good for young and old, man and beast, and is known as SEX. It is also known to have a direct connection with what is known as LIFE. Let's get St. Paul off our backs and take off the Bible Belt. And tell tape recorder three to cover his own dirty thing. It stinks from the Garden of Eden to Watergate.
I have said that the real scandal of Watergate is the use made of recordings. And what is this use? Having made the recordings as described, what then do they do with them?
Answer: They play them back on location.
They play these recordings back to the target himself, if the target is an individual, from passing cars and agents that walk by him in the street. They play these recordings back in his neighbourhood. Finally they play them back in subways restaurants, airports, and other public places. Playback is the essential ingredient.
I have made a number of experiments with street recordings and playbacks over a period of years, and the startling fact emerges that you do not need sex recordings or even doctored tapes to produce effects by playback. Any recordings played back on location in the manner I will now describe can produce effects. No doubt sexual and doctored tapes would be more powerful. But some of the power in the word is released by simple playback, as anyone can verify who will take the time to experiment.
I have frequently observed that this simple operation making recordings and taking pictures of some location you wish to discommode or destroy, then playing recordings back and taking more pictures-will result in accidents, fires, removals, especially the last. The target moves. We carried out this operation with the Scientology Centre at 37 Fitzroy Street. Some months later they moved to 68 Tottenham Court Road, where a similar operation was recently carried out.
Here is a sample operation carried out against the Moka Bar at 29 Frith Street, London, W.1, beginning on August 3, 1972. Reverse Thursday. Reason for operation was outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisonous cheesecake. Now to close in on the Moka Bar. Record. Take pictures. Stand around outside. Let them see me. They are seething around in there. The horrible old proprietor, his frizzy-haired wife and slack-jawed son, the snarling counterman. I have them and they know it.
"You boys have a rep for making trouble. Well, come on out and make some. Pull a camera-breaking act, and I'll call a bobby. I got a right to do what I like in the public street."
If it came to that, I would explain to the policeman that I was taking street. recordings and making a documentary, of Soho. This was after all London's first espresso bar, was it not? I was doing them a favour. They couldn't say what both of us knew without being ridiculous.
"He's not making any documentary. He's trying to blow up the coffee machine, start a fire in the kitchen, start fights in here, get us a citation from the Board of Health."
Yes, I had them and they knew it. I looked in at the old prop. and smiled, as if he would like what I was doing. Playback would come later with more pictures. I took my time and strolled over to the Brewer Street Market, where I recorded a three-card Monte game. Now you see it, now you don't.
Playback was carried out a number of times with more pictures. Their business fell off. They kept shorter and shorter hours. October 30, 1972, the Moka Bar closed. The location was taken over by the Queen's Snack Bar.
How to apply the three-tape-recorder analogy to this simple operation. Tape recorder one is the Moka Bar itself in its pristine condition. Tape recorder two is my recording of the Moka Bar vicinity. These recordings are access. Tape recorder two in the Garden of Eden was Eve made from. So a recording made from the Moka Bar is a piece of the Moka Bar. The recording once made, this piece becomes autonomous and out of their control. Tape recorder three is playback. Adam experiences shame when his disgraceful behaviour is played back to him by tape recorder three, which is God.
By playing back my recordings to the Moka Bar when I want and with any changes I wish to make in recordings, I become God for this locale. I affect them. They cannot affect me.
Suppose, for example, that in the interest of national security, your bathroom and bedroom are bugged and rigged with hidden infrared cameras. These pictures and recordings give access. You may not experience shame during defecation and intercourse, but you may well experience shame when these recordings are played back to a disapproving audience. Shame is playback: exposure to disapproval.
Now let us consider the arena of politics and the applications of bugging in this area. Of course, any number of recordings are immediately available since politicians make speeches on TV. These recordings, however, do not give access. The man who is making a speech is not really there. Consequently, intimate or at least private recordings are needed, which is why the Watergate conspirators found it necessary to resort to burglary.
A Presidential candidate is not a sitting duck like the Moka Bar. He can make any number of recordings of his opponents . So the game is complex and competitive, with recordings made by both sides. This leads to more sophisticated techniques, the details of which have yet to come out.
The basic operation of recording, pictures, more pictures, and playback can be carried out by anyone with a recorder and a camera. Any number can play. Millions of people carrying out this basic operation could nullify the control system which those who are behind Watergate and Nixon are attempting to impose. Like all control systems, it depends on maintaining a monopoly position. If anybody can be tape recorder three, then tape recorder three loses power. God must be the God.
London, 1973, William S. Burroughs