By Scott Woods
Scott: Okay, in regards to punk, its symbolic year was 1977, and you said that's when everything basically disappeared.
Bob: [laughs] Yeah, that's when Big Brother couldn't fucking measure things anymore, you know what I mean? The Nielsen ratings, advertising, was the pollstergeist, and he couldn't fucking measure it anymore. So Reagan and them just came in, and the '80s was: we're just gonna pretend we're Americans, and we have a model, and it's a movie, and it's a hologram, and you adjust to it. Some people HAD to, depending on their employment situation, others didn't even care. I mean, the anarchy that people think happened in the '60s just carried on and never stopped. There are more drug addicts and perversions and whatever value stands you want to make about what's going on now than there EVER was. No social stance that tried to offer some balance or ecological corrective in the '60s was ever successful.
Scott: Camille Paglia says something about how the values in the '60s--she says they're being retrieved now, like it was lost...
Bob: See that's silly. She only looked attractive because she talked about media. If you talk about media, which is approximating the ground, you look like you're revolutionary. But read "Entertainment Sucks"--I clarify the issues way better than she does. And people noticing that she's kind of leaning into McLuhan-land, they'll say, "Well you sound like McLuhan," and she says, "Oh yeah, I like McLuhan," but she can't say anything ABOUT it
Scott: Yeah, I've noticed that; she'll say she's a big adherent of McLuhan, but she doesn't really mention what he says.
Bob: And she doesn't even know how to use McLuhan to make her arguments better. But she's a whole syndrome of complex reactions, basically making baby boomer women, who went through feminism, mad, knowing those images don't last, they're looking for new images, and she came up with a temporary image that at least acknowledged that the old images were obsolete. And since people are mutating every six months--in information pattern and sense of the selves, the paradigms they have--anybody who comes up and offers a corrective to that, they'll immediately get a response. And that's only a tiny response. I mean, a bestseller in Canadian literature--if a guy writes a novel, or a woman, and sells 1,400, that's considered a fuckin' bestseller. That's puny! That's so tiny, but the industry needs that to keep their money turnover bullshit, or I don't know what.
I don't think--see, everyone's on welfare [laughs], know what I mean? And as long as we keep having money as a guaranteed environment, and some kind of social security--everybody's on welfare, it's just different ways you act out the baroque spiral of the level you want to live on. 'Cause executives, they have very poverty-stricken lives, they've got to run around dealing with their business decisions, playing golf, talking on ONE topic, how to keep the hologram of the company going, while their son is home watching HOURS of TV, watching this and that, fucking everybody--whatever they're doing--playing ball hockey five days a week--all this free time, and they're having more variety and living experiences than their father. And they probably don't even have a father anymore.
So to be any socially functioning role, to maintain all the old institutions, means that you are highly specialized to do that, and every person on welfare, just the amount of stuff they take in and can do while on welfare is--they're taking in a lot of experiences watching TV or radio or walking around. Now, the fact that they don't understand this, they don't have a language to define it, makes them very unhappy. They don't know what I'm describing, they don't know they're in a state of slack. Actually, it's comfortable--like the Evergreens say--to dive into this unlimited, unpredictable dimension. That's like diving--give me a job, one thing to do, so I don't have to have all these choices to make. It's all upside down: people want to become stupid--dumber and dumber--by getting a "good job," so they can have something to do so they don't have to take everything in.
Scott: Something to hang onto?
Bob: Right. And also have a sense of community, 'cause there's no community, we're all astronauts, we're all satellites floating around, and the person on welfare is an astronaut and there's no way to connect to anybody. So that inhuman isolation affects a person more who's not working, because when you're working you've got to do something, people are forced to talk to you, so you have a sense of community. Which is the ultimate universal anaesthetic, because you're having dialogue with people and that's what makes you human.
Scott: Go back a little bit to the 1977 thing. I'm interested in the idea that punk rock, the Sex Pistols, and Malcolm McLaren, although there were some precedents, it was an openly confrontational stance with the audience.
Bob: Well, the hippies were the first to come out and confront the audience by not dressing up in industry standard Beatle-kind of stuff--you know, having uniforms and looking the same. The casualness of the hippy was the first confrontation. Now the audience didn't find it--well, a lot of people hated it, they never liked the music, never will--but the people, especially the younger people or the college people or whoever got into it, they were responding to the environment, and the environment had all sorts of implications, including the values of community, love, and brotherhood, which came up for OTHER reasons. So the hippies were indifferent and confronted the audience, but they had a cover; they had a nice ideology of, "Hey, we're doing this for brotherhood." Or sisterhood, or for community, to bring back human scale. Okay. By the early '70s everybody realized there was no community possible because FM fragmented the whole hippie revolution, so you have that bland, early-70s period where everything's dead, nothing's happening...
Scott: It's interesting, too, FragMent, FM--but go on...
Bob: Oh yeah, good, yeah! So then generation X grows up, the punks grow up as children of the hippies, or as younger brothers and sisters. All they [the punks] did was repeat the confronting of the audience that the hippies were doing, but since they now knew, and everyone knew, that there was no community, they could be blatant about it and put up anti-community symbols like Nazi swastikas and that, and it would be entertainment! It actually would create a sense of community for the young kids. It's exactly like Life of Brian, he looks at everybody and says, "Stop following me, I teach that you follow yourself, follow your own self," and they all go, "Yeah, that's right! Follow our own selves!" And it's a group mind responding, you know, so you can't avoid the group mind response. That confused Johnny Rotten and the whole punk movement for a while; they tried to make it worse by spitting on the audience but it never worked because they didn't know that the population and mind already knew there was no community and actually welcomed abuse value. [laughs] That's one of the ways to begin to explain it. Any of these things you bring up, if you have any questions, that's natural, but I don't complete it because it takes a lot of talking to cover all the factors that could be involved in this.
Scott: Well, just what you said there about abuse value. One of the other writers I interviewed, Frank Kogan, he said the Rolling Stones attracted an audience by saying, "Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd," in "Get Off My Cloud." Is that kind of along the lines of what you're saying?
Bob: Remember, you start getting into my chart, and there's no human scale since 1900 or something. There's no humans; machines are running the 20th century. The reason that the hippie culture in the '60s, the counter-revolution, happened was that you were getting into automation and satellites. People were responding to the ground of automation and satellites, which gave people electric autonomy, there was no community control anymore. So you could spit in the face of any community. You couldn't do that before World War II, because even though there was no community anymore, you didn't have the technological ground to ESCAPE from the community, okay? Fascism could still come in and oppose that, but you couldn't have that kind of control over people when they started having--just the wealth of the '60s, and the fragmentation of the computer environment and automation, and the whole cultural matrix.
So the Beatles, they come on, and there's a million responses to them by different demographics, but definitely the Stones were like the dark side--even though you can't limit to a yin-yang Jungian dialectic, but just for the purpose of this conversation, they were telling the truth, that there was no community, and we could spit in the face. Dylan was kind of in-between the Beatles and Stones, he went both ways: "Blowing in the Wind" retrieved community, but also in "Desolation Row" he was spitting on you. He was friends of both--he's in the interval. And so, the important thing with the Beatles and the Stones is, one represented community, the other anti-community, and all still believed that it was valuable to say one or the other; they didn't know nobody was listening. And that's why, when you have the replay of the '60s by punk, which have aspects definitely of the Stones, and then the later developments, before the punks, all getting more aggressive--MC5, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, all the more violent things, all saying "fuck you" to the world and to community--by the time the punk's come along, they know that it's not even significant to say that there's no community, that's why Malcolm McLaren, in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, says, "I want to make clothes, I want to sell clothes, I want to do marketing." And he knew that you could market negativity to the young kids because they already knew that no value was a value; and that was the LAST value, to say that everything that was good in the '60s was obsolete, that was like the last pattern for a young kid to identify with and get identity from. The kid would have to later wake up to the fact that THAT wasn't even relevant [laughs], to point out that no values was significant.
You see the pattern? I'm always pushing it further than your assumptions, 'cause I want you to realize that's how fucking far gone it's been for 100 years. [laughs] You know what I mean? That's what we gotta realize--we don't realize the massive effect. I mean, McLuhan CRIED when the satellites started to happen, he knew it was all over because we had extended the planet; we extended beyond it, our individual senses. That was a huge ending of humanity...Now you know why kids, or everybody, goes and takes drugs--this is a horrible situation, and the drug thing has increased more and more and more. I mean, if someone--if you took Spencer Tracy in 1935 and showed him America in 1997, the guy would have a heart attack immediately. And yet he was a wild guy for HIS time, not necessarily in his movies, but he lived in the Hollywood dream world--that's how far gone we've gone.
Scott: Was disco the hedonistic flip of punk?
Bob: Here's the thing about disco. The satellite goes up in '57, and if you read "Up the Orphic Anti," the satellite environment disappears in '67, and then there's no framework; that's the last extension, so everything is flux and flow. It's like all the media, the animal machines, are interacting and flowing, and there's no framework. The framework before that was radio, TV, the chronological order of the evolution of technology, but when the satellite was the extension of the whole planet in '57, and that becomes environment by '67, then IT collapses, it supercedes itself because of the chip, the computer chip, which can do and contain everything, and it becomes a new medium. From '67 to '77 the satellite has no longer--we're no longer rotating around the planet in satellite position, so by '77, ten years of no-satellite is ground, the popular culture can begin to become aware of that. When the satellite ended in '67, then there's nothing after that, because you've completed the cycle, the technological cycle; all there is is an after-image. So the after-image goes to '77. After '77, there's not even any after-image, so DEFINITELY nothing exists anymore, not even machine-communicable forms exist. So what would be the last strategy of the human electrons, sub-atomic particles? It'd be to dance around the satellite, and what the fuck is it? the disco ball! It's a fucking satellite! Isn't that amazing? With the laser beams coming out of it! [laughs]
That explains the whole thing. That's why disco probably was stronger than punk. Punk was definitely the anti-environment, you had to have the statement and the response; the punk stimulates disco. Disco was the challenge and punk responded, and that struggle of trying to define the turf kept the illusion going. But I would say that the image--the satellite--see, disco was definitely the satellite environment as entertainment, past times as pastime. And the punks, since they were clothing, they probably represent the raw energy of the chip, of a new chip coming in and organizing the automation and the whole circuitry of society for that year's cultural products. And Windows 95 was like a new chip, right? And that was happening before Windows. Punk is a chip, it's the Rumplestiltskin chip that comes in and alters the situation.
If you want to suppose that disco is half the environment and punk is the other half, we can say that punk is NOT a chip, if you want to just say that punk is responding to the real ground, which is the satellite display time, and just being the natural negativity, the negative response to it...you know, there's always two sides to the story, right? So punk and disco are two sides to the fact that the satellite was gone and now an entertainment symbol of a past time. And especially when you look at my chart, I have laser beams on it; the satellite and laser beam come in together. And that's the disco thing: it's the satellite ball and it's the splice coming out with laser beams.
This is laid out in "Up the Orphic Anti." '46 to '60 is when the satellite was actually being built. It disappeared by '67, and by '77 it is a holeopathic cliché probe of the satellite environment and the laser beam. See, this is a good chart, it should be taught in all courses, from music to physics, because I'm talking ground. You can use this in a music/pop culture history thing. If you'd do some of these, you'd know about the disco ball--see, isn't that obvious? You never thought of it, but it's obviously the fucking satellite, and everyone's dancing around it, sort of outside--they've gone past and extended beyond the satellite environment into chip-land, therefore, they're just little electrons on a chip pattern on a circuit, and all media are, and all machines become that. So...
Scott: Okay. Pop nowadays--pop music...
Bob: Now let's just take that phrase, "pop music"--that's everything. Windows 97 is pop music, because everything is musical today, everything translates a seamless web. It's just that the particular tools--guitars, or whatever SEEMS like music--that keeps the mythic stage of the discipline of what's called music, but it's just a little electron in relation to all the other electrons, and it's a seamless dance. The whole society is pop music.
Scott: Okay, well, actually we'll talk about...
Bob: No, let's go back to your question. Because I can say things that will spin you off into other things, so let's just go through the questions.
Scott: Okay, okay. Pop music today seems little more than a retrieval of previous musical forms, either through digital sampling, or things like the lounge revival, or people's fascination with the '70s and '80s. Talk a little bit about that.
Bob: Okay, the immediate answer to that: retrieval, since everything disappeared by '77, there's nothing NEW created from '77 to '90 except for Bob and Connie. There's nothing new created so you could do more with less, and you had to keep retrieving. That's why, as we get further along in the 20th century, everything more and more DOES seem retrieval because there hasn't been anything new for a long time, even though a lot of what WAS new was retrieval. But what's driving people crazy is that that's becoming obvious, that there's no more way to make new. So what do you do to make new? You do less, you put Clinton in every fucking movie; that's pretty outrageous. You're doing less, but you create a sense of novelty; that's the only thing to counter the sense of endless retrievals.
Scott: Okay...I'm a little confused. [laughs]
Bob: Yeah, but you should be. How can you understand totally what I'm saying. You CAN'T understand; I'm including information that you're not aware of, you haven't had time to study. I've got whole paragraphs going through my head that I'm just referring to. So go back to your question, I keep interrupting.
Scott: Talk a bit about digital sampling, which is an actual technology of retrieval.
Bob: That's chip running the fucking music--that's Rumplestiltskin the chip, and the chip is making music for you. Now, the sampler is a good word, because that's what people live. Once you had the electric autonomy of your answering machine, your personal computer, your cellular phones, you're this floating sub-atomic particle who is experiencing endless variety of media image sound and sight and feeling, and you're just sampling, a remote control. So sampler music comes in around the same time as the remote and zapper. The music changes as the new technology--the new technology was the remote zapper in the '80s, so then the music becomes a form that mimes the latest technology, it becomes sampling music. Luckily you had the chip to make both possible. If you didn't have the chip, you couldn't do this, you know what I mean? You couldn't have the satellite providing all those channels, and if you didn't have the chip you couldn't make a sampler. So obviously, the ground is the chip and the particular cultural texture is the remote experience. An average kid today lives between 1960 and '90. They get that on TV, with all the replays, they get that in school. This [pointing to his chart, 'Xenochronous Bob's'] is the mind of the average kid today; they get endless chip retrieval. Their own chip retrieves all this stuff--Rumplestiltskin. They can see images of JFK, Watergate, McCarthy, Johnny Rotten, Patsy Cline--all of this is in their environment, and depending on the time and circumstances they can consciously input it.
Sampling is definitely something people experience in their cultural overload everyday. Music always responds to the new unconscious needs that people go through, and usually the younger people respond to that faster, because they're more plastic, they're more malleable, 'cause they haven't got any fossilized patterns yet, and that's why older people think sampling--what the fuck is THAT? get me out of this! Every time a new technology comes in, it reinforces retrievals and nostalgia for older fragments of society. So right now you have all this new stuff happening; you have retrieval of '70s for people who grew up in that period, you have retrieval of '80s for those people, retrieval of '60s, '50s, '40s--it's constantly all times happening at the same time. So sampling--you can always just go back, if someone came along on Ed Sullivan and played sampling music, everybody'd laugh their fucking heads off, they'd think the guy was a NUT, Spike Jones or something. Because there's not technological mutation of a condition that has been accepted. That's what, if you can start looking at it, if we can do that more and more in the 20th century, you will get amazed at what people think is entertaining, compared to what people thought was entertaining 100 years ago, or 50 years ago. That's always an interesting sideshow of how people create culture.
So, to ask me, what do I think about it? Well, it's obvious: it's a mandated environment which creates mandated music. It's like robots: bring in a new technology, change the music. I mean, you can say that the reason rap came in, which, in the early phase was speech-based, once we had all disappeared, and technologies all disappeared, we were back in cave man--we were all living in a little room, and we just arrived, and we talk to each other, that's our first medium. Entertainment became based on talk, because we had superceded the whole cycle, the historical cycle, of technological evolution, flipped ourselves to the ultimate extreme, where we extended the planet, then we end up crashing back at the fireplace. And, in a lot of ways that disappearance in the '80s, in the ghettos, they had NOTHING, so they just sort of fucking SCRATCHED, you know what I mean? But that was their technological present, which was actually post-technology, so you can see why speech...That's why, in my chart, I had rap-rant, the last phase, from '77 to '92, and that's why Bob's a great musician: I'm a rapper, I'm a ranter, but I do it with the causes, not just the effects. Always remember, someone could not do what rap did in 1990 in 1955. And it's really funny, when you think, especially in the 20th century as these changes go faster, literally, if Spencer Tracy was plunked down today, he would think that Hitler won the war or something! Whatever horrifying image--because all of America was drug addicts, and people yelling at each other, and they thought it was entertainment! Can you imagine how crazy that would be?! 'Cause this guy, he danced in ballrooms, he likes a little sweet band jazz or whatever, but that's a courtly elite lifestyle from a cloistered cocoon, you know what I mean?
Scott: Is there anything taboo, entertainment-wise?
Bob: Umm, why WOULD there be? We need as much content as possible, you got a lot of air-time. See, what's interesting is we're not REALLY in the information overload because there's always millions of people who will look at SOMEthing, it's just that you can't control it on money terms. We have more wealth than you can measure; we are all trillionaires, we're ALL trillionaires, in terms of information and service environments provided for you, incredible things are provided for you, compared to what people had 100 years ago. But--you cannot put that back into accounting terms. We're NOT trillionaires, each one of us, in visual, gold-standard, money, visual space terms, but you can't measure things like visual space anymore. But the anti-Christ is the guy still insisting on visual space, which we call the IMF and the bankers--they insist on keeping their medium going. Now they have a right to do that, but you can't get people together to clarify the issues, to say, hey, wait a minute, we ARE all wealthy and we have all this stuff, we can't use the money dimension anymore, so what are we gonna do? Are we gonna put everybody on guaranteed income, or what? And that's such a problem, 'cause that's really a way of dealing with the fact that we've all disappeared. There's nothing taboo, there's no measurement, see what I mean?
Scott: How does that tie in with the idea of the lounge revival, where suddenly Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are the most rebellious things around?
Bob: Ha ha! Now here's you, you're going through the Spencer Tracy thing; you never thought they'd retrieve Frank Sinatra, that would NEVER fucking happen--that fucked up real bad! So you're even getting it now, right? They're just constantly ransacking culture, or anything, to provide entertainment, because there's always new people who are 18 years old and going to the senior prom, and they've got to be different from the last year, so they're gonna ransack anything to create a hologram to appear different from last year. Eventually they're gonna go to the prom wearing chartered accountant suits or something, you know what I mean, or carrying accounting books. This is the thing, they're all masks for identity.
Scott: Is it retrieved as 'camp'?
Bob: Yeah, camp gives people a sense of reality because it gives a replay of their lives. We actually don't have replay anymore. All of business is based on replay; all culture is replay, because if everything's disappeared, there's nothing to replay. An after-image of pretending something's still here is at least a replay of what used to be here, that's why everything became camp. And that is only one aspect. There are three aspects to nostalgia: there's camp, there's archetypal retrieval, and there's holeopathic cliché. Camp is pop culture and blatant content nostalgia, rear-view mirror, conservative stubbornness of the human being. Camp is putting something in quotes.
Scott: Is that the same thing as irony?
Bob: Yep, irony is putting everything in quotes.
Scott: And is everything ironic?
Bob: Yeah, I mean, you have to be ironic, because since you're translated into another form immediately by a different media, then you're living the life of a speeded-up artist who's aware of the situation; this is why comprehensive awareness is obsolete. Visionaries are obsolete because we are already in that thing, and the average Joe can be ironic because he's put through so many changes which leads to an ironic stance, which is like extreme self-consciousness. In other words, "let me repeat what I'm about to say" kind of experience.
Scott: In terms of dance music, dance culture, it seems like it's constantly chopping itself up and speeding up, and now you've got jungle music, which is like 170 beats per minute, as opposed to disco and house, which is 120 to 130 beats per minute. Is that speed up a technological--is it just part of the speed-up process?
Bob: Okay, remember, we're in the most primitive...this is so extraordinary, our time--you have to think of the most primitive, harshest conditions, and the most advanced utopian conditions, and they're both happening in our time, and we're even going beyond that. So in that situation, you take the Eskimos. They had 50 or more words for snow; when we go up there, we just see snow. But they live in that environment, they can see all the differences, there's 50 kinds of snow. Well, when a teenager or a young person grows up in acoustic space--in simple terms, electrified, all this music, ear-bombardment, body language and dancing--they can see all the different kinds--it's all snow to someone who's older, but there's 50 kinds of snow for the consumer, so you can look up any music 'zine, and often they'll chart out all the different demographics of tiny, minute group minds. That's relevant to--that's the average teen Eskimo, who sees 50 kinds of snow. And the differences you're making to me just seem like different kinds of snow. Now, they're all important for each faction. And this is not possible without the technology. Is your question, is that fragmentation due to technology? Is that what you're asking?
Scott: Yeah...just the speed-up of dance, the tempo speed...
Bob: Here's the thing. The point I'm making is, all these things, we're robots, we're technologically conditioned. You probably think machines are this mechanical, inorganic thing. When you realize that they're alive and they're acting with earlier machines--speech being an earlier machine--then you'd see how organic machines are, and why people--that IS the cause in all these things. It's a very simple cause. Now this might stop thought if you--"well, I know why, they bring in new technology, it's gonna change everything"--if you understand that pattern, what are you going to think with? That might threaten the mind. It seems to me that I'm repeating and saying the same answer to every question you're asking, but it's such an all-encompassing answer that you still have to repeat and think about it for the next six months and try to find examples to see all the...like the disco ball, see all the flashy little segments, crystal segments, on the ball, all showing you that it IS a ball. I'm saying that I can only give you the same answer to that question. So let's try and come up with a DIFFERENT answer, I'll try not to say that answer. Because what's interesting is that you can't see the--it's not a stupid question, but you know the answer to the question if you've been listening to me for two hours, right? Restate--state the question again, maybe I'm not hearing it right.
Scott: Yeah, well, basically I didn't even put it so much in terms of a question. I just jotted some notes down while you were...
Bob: What IS the question, I want to see if there's a way to come back at it.
Scott: I just wanted to ask you about jungle music...
Bob: Ask me something about it? I love jungle music! [laughs] What do you want to ask me?
Scott: Well, the fact that it's...
Bob: I'm not being mad.
Scott: No, I understand. It's taking dance music and has sped it up, and I'm just wondering how much more can everything be sped up?
Bob: Okay, okay, I've got an angle. Obviously, when print came in and split instrumentation off from speech, song went on to be pop culture, and classical music came in with its notation and highly sophisticated, non-vocal kind of singing, if at all, in opera. Print caused that. You think of all the sophistications of classical music, and then avant-garde classical music, and then jazz, and then rock-- but it all ends up with music in the '90s where a guy's TALKING to you--that's MUSIC. We've actually flipped and gone back to the beginning. Music is speech slowed down; music is now just speech. There's no fucking music, just speech! But it's an environment, so it has to have instrumental accompaniment, but the main figure is speech. That means in dance--you have primitive dance, and then the cultural evolution within technological society, there's different kinds of dancing...I mean, the waltz was considered barbaric at one point, like Elvis doing his hips, compared to the courtly masque before that. So obviously dance is wilder and wilder, more crazy, and now it's getting chip-ized and sped-up. The final dance will be fucking someone standing still, [laughs] you know what I mean? And maybe moving your finger! That is the same cycle of ending up where speech becomes music: it would go fast-fast-fast-fast-fast to--it'll get to the point where the young kids will say, "Hey if I just stand still I'm encompassing all gestures--I'm all gestures!" [laughs] It'll just go like this [raises finger and moves it up and down].
Marshall McLuhan predicted that, he said our society will turn into stone, like Sodom and Gomorrah. We are turning ourselves into nothing, an immobile nothing, and the way of saying that, that it's already happened, is we've disappeared. So dance will flip into non-dance. But if it doesn't, because there's always going to be young kids coming up who don't get to that state right away, so they're gonna need movement--maybe they'll retrieve waltzing, that could be new for kids in the year 2005 in high school. Because the cultural mix, the collective unconscious, which is always becoming conscious, finally finds that a relevant, resonant garbage to retrieve, because it fits with the technological sensibility that's being conditioned by cold fusion and the D-cell, if they're successful by the year 2005--everybody'll feel, "Hey, I'm an aristocrat!" And some of the kids will want to waltz. And there will be Johnny Lydon, sitting there, you know this guy, whatever he is, he's mutated so much stuff through his years as a punk and all the things he's done, and he's looking at this, he's watching his grandchildren going NUTS, going ecstatic over waltzing! [laughs] See, what I'm basically saying is that that's the warning, that you are in a society that you're gonna be obsolesced quite quickly, and you're gonna have to deal with the horror your parents went through when YOU freaked them out. That's one of the disservices of our society, and that's why everybody basically goes mad, because they're not prepared for that.
Scott: Here's a different train of thought: is writing a discarnate experience?
Bob: On the internet.
Scott: But putting words on a piece of paper--are you not out of your body?
Bob: No, discarnate is simultaneity, you're communicating immediately with everybody else, and you don't do that with writing. When you're on the telephone, or on TV or radio, you've got millions of people sharing that electric space, so, no, all technologies up to the telegraph are not discarnate. The telegraph is the beginning of discarnate writing. McLuhan defines the telegraph as the electrification of writing, or the simultaneity of writing, and e-mail is the satellite version of the telegraph. That's why my chart begins with the telegraph.
Scott: But even the book that's out there, with 1,000s of readers all reading it, that's not discarnate?
Scott: Because it's not simultaneous.
Bob: And it's not LIVE. See electric technology is alive, it's organic. All mechanical technologies, like the book, which is the mechanization of the handicraft of the wine press--in technologically historical terms--they are not talking to you. Anything that doesn't talk to you, you can't hear, is mechanical. But a radio you can hear, television you can hear, computers you can hear now. When computers came in in the '70s and '80s, they were visual, you typed on them, they actually brought back the Gutenberg values temporarily. And that may be why the '70s created the yuppie: it retrieved that visual, 19th century bias temporarily. But then once you get into virtual reality or CD-ROM, there's a voice speaking to you. And speech is the first human technology, it's the most intimate, most all-encompassing medium. When we get into the world where objects aren't speaking to you, that's the mechanical phase. In our time, it's from the book up to...just before the movie, I guess. The book and the newspaper, and machines--a lump of steel--doesn't talk to you.
Scott: I don't understand the 'vanishing point.'
Bob: When you look at a horizon, you can see the horizon, but you can't see beyond that. There's something beyond that that's vanished. Now, to go through the vanishing point is the next phase. I go through the eye effect of feeling there's something beyond the horizon that has vanished--I know there's something there. Now, the phone rings, I pick up the phone. And I know, according to the map, that Los Angeles is over the horizon from Toronto. I pick up the phone and it's someone from L.A. calling--I can HEAR L.A. In other words, I can't SEE L.A., but I can hear it--though now if I have video intercom I can see it--so I have gone through the vanishing point, I'm no longer limited just by the eye. Now I talk about it metaphorically in "Entertainment Sucks," about mystical death, when you die you go through the vanishing point; I work with multiple meanings there. But I just gave you a simple technological-level meaning. When the telegraph came in, we went through, we made contact with the area we couldn't see. You see what I'm saying? It's kind of like technological ESP.
Scott: When I'm talking on the phone, discarnate, I'm not talking to Moscow on the phone...
Bob: It's IN YOUR HEAD--not even in your ear, it's in your central nervous system--Moscow's inside your head. In other words, the eye defines you over there and me here--there's distance and linearity and center-margins. All these fragmenting things are properties of the eye; in the sense of space, the eye creates and defines. But [your roommate] Dave could be hearing us in the other room, he can take in stuff through acoustics. Acoustics are more penetrating, more holistic, involve more people, and are more unifying as a sensory motive than the eye, right? So, mechanical technology basically imitated the fragmenting aspect of the eye, and electric technology imitates the unifying, holistic effect of the ear. That's why the acoustic age is the 20th century versus the visual 19th century. Umm, what was your point?
Scott: Umm, just the idea of being discarnate. I used to think, "Oh, I'm talking to California," or whatever.
Bob: Right. It's a very simple point, but it's amazing that human beings--see, we're not trained about our sensory biases. These points, you could mention them to a person in grade eight, and as soon as they heard it they'd understand it, and they'd forever know that. But the characteristics of our senses have never been discussed, especially in western culture, because we, being visually fragmented through the phonetic alphabet, developed a hatred of the body, or we just were fragmented. Which wasn't bad, it's just the effect of visual space, so we didn't like talking about the senses, 'cause we were into the novelty of the visual sense, which was the only sense that could be abstract and isolated. So we're into isolation, and that was the whole realm of capitalism and individualism and nationalistic wars, always conflicting over spaces in eye boundaries.
The Oriental cultures, the non-phonetic alphabet cultures, they're more inclusive--the clichés about how they dance, 'cause they're more into their bodies--because they didn't get as fragmented by the alphabet. They weren't industrialized. They are now, but in the basic archetypal difference...those cultures don't exist anymore, we're all inside the satellite effect and the disappearance of that. You couldn't just use Oriental knowledge about the senses, because the Orientals didn't know that the technologies that the western fragmented man were creating were extensions of the senses. That's why McLuhan, and Joyce's breakthrough, Finnegans Wake, where he understood this, was new knowledge, post-Freud, post-Jung, post-everybody, because he understood that we used the senses as a metaphor for these new technologies, and also he had to teach the people the properties of each sense that we don't think about. And once you understand the properties, as you just figured out at some point, when you started to realize what discarnate meant, then you realize all the machines are simulating that.
It's a very simple point, but it's funny how we're unconscious to the cultural sensory biases we have. And yeah, everybody thinks they're talking to L.A., and once you understand my point, you're NOT--L.A. is here. And someone can call you and--I could call L.A. right now and I could get something DONE there. That's like telekinesis: I mean, I'm using someone else to go across the room and eat a cheese or find an album and play it to me over the phone. That's why we call it discarnate or beyond our normal sensibility--it's electronic ESP we have.
Scott: What about the idea, with this whole Lady Di situation, that we--meaning the audience--are all complicit in her death for reading the papers.
Bob: Well, that's because everybody's disappeared. There's only two people alive, Bob and Connie. And when we found out that they died, I walked away from that scene and I said, "Fuck, they almost killed us." That's what I say, okay? There's lots of reasons why the death of Diana was an attempt on Connie's life. We're not only all implied--that was true once you had radio and TV and the electronic environments, because we were all inside our central nervous system, we're all little electrons all resonating in one little spot, since from radio, and then TV, and then the computer and satellite implodes that. Now, the satellite's disappeared since '77--everything's disappeared--there's been nothing but Bob and Connie, so you guys aren't involved, that's an after-image of a machine trying to pretend he's still here, and getting you to identify with him, and you actually are just the representative of other machines. Because the newspapers want the television to say it, so the newspapers will have something to write, and the TV wants polling so they can find out what the newspapers think about them or about themselves. It's just machines. If everything's disappeared, and the machines are trying to fool you that they're still here...Well, I'm telling you that that's even gone; all you are not involved. The only people involved are Bob and Connie, and they didn't get killed, so it didn't happen. I didn't die. Only the machines trying to say one of our machine images fucked up and malfunctioned, so we can say that we have something that continues our existence as a response to the challenge that we're not here anymore--that was complex, but I'm trying to almost be like Finnegans Wake, because language breaks down when you say this, but can you see that you don't even exist to be involved?
Scott: [laughs] Okay, well how would you explain that, though...
Bob: [laughs] How can I prove that?
Scott: No, supposing you were actually talking to someone who physically did know these people [Lady Di and Dodi Fayed]--how would you say the same thing?
Bob: Umm, I'd say that, can you prove to me that you fucking knew them? Can you bring me Charles over here and do it? So they say yeah, and they bring Charles over, and I say how do I know you didn't pre-stage this? How do I know Charles has a motive to do this? And they could not prove it. The only way they could attempt to prove it is to translate it into a medium: here's a tape recording of me talking to them, and they'd have to rely on other languages, other machines, to prove their case. So, I think I'm on to a defense of my point. [laughs] You see, I don't give a fuck if they think they do, because it has no relevance to the issues today. SO WHAT if you fucking knew the person! That is not what people are responding to--not one of those five billion people who cried their ass off about it ever met fucking Di!
Scott: Not one?
Bob: Well, maybe 10, but what are 10? George Bernard Shaw came out one time after the end of a play, and the audience was cheering him, and one person booed. And George Bernard Shaw said, "I quite agree with you, sir, but what are we two against so many?" The majority of people all experienced Di as a machine image. If 2,500 people actually met Di, so what if they shook hands and even hung out with her--it might've been a fucking double. They didn't track her every way. [pause] That's a good point, eh? It could've been a fucking double. See, this is where machines run the show, where language runs the show now.
Scott: So how do I know I'm with Bob Dobbs?
Bob: Well the obvious answer is you don't! And you weren't! And you never will be! And that's why you don't exist! That's why I'm a saint to actually spend time with nothing and talk to you! [laughs] Not to put you down, but I will bring you back--you actually have a good advantage because you actually met something that imitated the physical version of Bob.
Scott: So is this a hologramic thing we're engaged in?
Bob: It's at least that. It's more than that, it's holeopathic. It's tinier and tinier, the hologram doesn't even exist anymore. It's invisible holograms--I call it holeopathic. IT'S even gone. Look at the chart. All the machines are pretty well gone by 1960, so from '60 to '77, you have the holeopathic cliché probes, all gone by '77. So what happens from '77 to '92? Anthropomorphic physical, Bob and Connie looking like human forms. All the machines would watch to see if Bob and Connie would make it to '90 or '92--and we've made it! That's the big celebration. That's why I'm happy, because we made it, and you guys now have a chance of getting retrieved.