MachineMachine /stream - tagged with Biltong en-us LifePress <![CDATA[Kipple and Things II: The Subject of Digital Detritus]]>

This text is a work in progress; a segment ripped from my thesis. To better ingest some of the ideas I throw around here, you might want to read these texts first: - Kipple and Things: How to Hoard and Why Not To Mean - Digital Autonomy

Captured in celluloid under the title Blade Runner, (Scott 1982) Philip K. Dick’s vision of kipple abounds in a world where mankind lives alongside shimmering, partly superior, artificial humans. The limited lifespan built into the Nexus 6 replicants  [i] is echoed in the human character J.F. Sebastian,[ii]whose own degenerative disorder lends his body a kipple-like quality, even if the mind it enables sparkles so finely. This association with replication and its apparent failure chimes for both the commodity fetish and an appeal to digitisation. In Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, mechanisation and mass production begin at the ‘original’, and work to distance the commodity from the form captured by each iteration. Not only does the aura of the original stay intact as copies of it are reproduced on the production line, that aura is actually heightened in the system of commoditisation. As Frederic Jameson has noted, Dick’s work ‘renders our present historical by turning it into the past of a fantasized future’ (Jameson 2005, 345). Kipple piles up at the periphery of our culture, as if Dick is teasing us to look upon our own time from a future anterior in which commodity reification will have been: It hadn’t upset him that much, seeing the half-abandoned gardens and fully abandoned equipment, the great heaps of rotting supplies. He knew from the edu-tapes that the frontier was always like that, even on Earth. (Dick 2011, 143) Kipple figures the era of the commodity as an Empire, its borders slowly expanding away from the subjects yearning for Biltong replicas, seeded with mistakes. Kipple is a death of subjects, haunted by objects, but kipple is also a renewal, a rebirth. The future anterior is a frontier, one from which it might just be possible to look back upon the human without nostalgia. Qualify the human subject with the android built in its image; the object with the entropic degradation that it must endure if its form is to be perpetuated, and you necessarily approach an ontology of garbage, junk and detritus: a glimmer of hope for the remnants of decay to assert their own identity. Commodities operate through the binary logic of fetishisation and obsolescence, in which the subject’s desire to obtain the shiny new object promotes the propagation of its form through an endless cycle of kippleisation. Kipple is an entropy of forms, ideals long since removed from their Platonic realm by the march of mimesis, and kippleisation an endless, unstoppable encounter between subjectness and thingness. Eschewing Martin Heidegger’s definition of a thing, in which objects are brought out of the background of existence through human use, (Bogost 2012, 24) Bill Brown marks the emergence of things through the encounter: As they circulate through our lives… we look through objects because there are codes by which our interpretive attention makes them meaningful, because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them as facts. A thing, in contrast, can hardly function as a window. We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us… (Brown 2001, 4) This confrontation with the ‘being’ of the object occurs by chance when, as Brown describes, a patch of dirt on the surface of the window captures us for a moment, ‘when the drill breaks, when the car stalls… when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily’. (Brown 2001, 4) We no longer see through the window-object (literally or metaphorically), but are brought into conflict with its own particular discrete being by the encounter with its filthy surface. A being previously submersed in the continuous background of world as experience, need not necessarily be untangled by an act of human-centric use. The encounter carries the effect of a mirror, for as experience stutters at the being of a thing, so the entity invested in that experience is made aware of their own quality as a thing – if only for a fleeting moment. Brown’s fascination with ‘how inanimate objects constitute human subjects’ (Brown 2001, 7) appears to instate the subject as the centre of worldly relations. But Bill Brown has spun a realist [iii] web in which to ensnare us. The object is not phenomenal, because its being exists independent of any culpability we may wish to claim. Instead a capture of object and human, of thing qua thing, occurs in mutual encounter, bringing us closer to a flat ontology ‘where humans are no longer monarchs of being but are instead among beings, entangled in beings, and implicated in other beings.’ (Bryant 2011, 40)

Brown’s appraisal of things flirts with the splendour of kipple. Think of the landfill, an engorged river of kipple, or the salvage yard, a veritable shrine to thingness. Tattered edges and featureless forms leak into one another in unsavoury shades of tea-stain brown and cobweb grey splashed from the horizon to your toes. Masses of broken, unremarkable remnants in plastic, glass and cardboard brimming over the edge of every shiny suburban enclave. The most astonishing thing about the turmoil of these places is how any order can be perceived in them at all. But thing aphasia does diminish, and it does so almost immediately. As the essential human instinct for order kicks in, things come to resemble objects. Classes of use, representation and resemblance neatly arising to cut through the pudding; to make the continuous universe discrete once again. You note a tricycle wheel there, underneath what looks like the shattered circumference of an Edwardian lamp. You almost trip over a bin bag full of carrot tops and potato peel before becoming transfixed by a pile of soap-opera magazines. Things, in Brown’s definition, are unreachable by human caprice. Things cannot be grasped, because their thingnessslips back into recognition as soon as it is encountered: When such a being is named, then, it is also changed. It is assimilated into the terms of the human subject at the same time that it is opposed to it as object, an opposition that is indeed necessary for the subject’s separation and definition. (Schwenger 2004, 137) The city of Hull, the phrase ‘I will’, the surface of an ice cube and an image compression algorithm are entities each sustained by the same nominative disclosure: a paradox of things that seem to flow into one another with liquid potential, but things, nonetheless limited by their constant, necessary re-iteration in language. There is no thing more contradictory in this regard than the human subject itself, a figure Roland Barthes’ tried to paradoxically side-step in his playful autobiography. Replenishing each worn-out piece of its glimmering hull, one by one, the day arrives when the entire ship of Argo has been displaced – each of its parts now distinct from those of the ‘original’ vessel. For Barthes, this myth exposes two modest activities: - Substitution (one part replaces another, as in a paradigm) – Nomination (the name is in no way linked to the stability of the parts) (Barthes 1994, 46) Like the ship of Argo, human experience has exchangeable parts, but at its core, such was Barthes’ intention, ‘the subject, unreconciled, demands that language represent the continuity of desire.’ (Eakin 1992, 16) In order that the subject remain continuous, it is the messy world that we must isolate into classes and taxonomies. We collate, aggregate and collect not merely because we desire, but because without these nominative acts the pivot of desire – the illusionary subject – could not be sustained. If the powerful stance produced in Dick’s future anterior is to be sustained, the distinction between subjects aggregating objects, and objects coagulating the subject, needs flattening. [iv] Bill Brown’s appeal to the ‘flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition’ (Brown 2001, 4) partially echoes Dick’s concern with the purity of the thing. Although Dick’s Biltong were probably more of a comment on the Xerox machine than the computer, the problem of the distribution of form, as it relates to commodity fetishism, enables ‘printing’ as a neat paradigm of the contemporary network-based economy. Digital things, seeming to proliferate independent from the sinuous optical cables and super-cooled server banks that disseminate them, are absolutelyreliant on the process of copying. Copying is a fundamental component of the digital network where, unlike the material commodity, things are not passed along. The digital thing is always a copy, is always copied, and is always copying: Copying the product (mechanical reproduction technologies of modernity) evolves into copying the instructions for manufacturing (computer programs as such recipes of production). In other words, not only copying copies, but more fundamentally copying copying itself. (Parikka 2008, 72) Abstracted from its material context, copying is ‘a universal principle’ (Parikka 2008, 72) of digital things, less flowing ‘within the circuits’ (Brown 2001, 4) as being that circuitry flow in and of itself. The entire network is a ship of Argo, capable, perhaps for the first time, [v]to Substitute and Nominate its own parts, or, as the character J.F. Isidore exclaims upon showing an android around his kippleised apartment: When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. [my emphasis] (Dick 1968, 53) Kipple is not garbage, nor litter, for both these forms are decided upon by humans. In a recent pamphlet distributed to businesses throughout the UK, the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign made a useful distinction: Litter can be as small as a sweet wrapper, as large as a bag of rubbish, or it can mean lots of items scattered about. ENCAMS describes litter as “Waste in the wrong place caused by human agency”. In other words, it is only people that make litter. (Keep Britain Tidy Campaign, 3) Garbage is a decisive, collaborative form, humans choose to destroy or discard. A notion of detritus that enhances the autonomy, the supposed mastery of the subject in its network. Digital networks feature their own litter in the form of copied data packets that have served their purpose, or been deemed erroneous by algorithms designed to seed out errors. These processes, according to W. Daniel Hillis, define, ‘the essence of digital technology, which restores signal to near perfection at every stage’. (Hillis 1999, 18) Maintenance of the network and the routines of error management are of primary economic and ontological concern: control the networks and the immaterial products will manage themselves; control the tendency of errors to reproduce, and we maintain a vision of ourselves as masters over, what Michel Serres has termed, ‘the abundance of the Creation’. (Serres 2007, 47) Seeming to sever their dependency on the physical processes that underlie them, digital technologies, ‘incorporate hyper-redundant error-checking routines that serve to sustain an illusion of immateriality by detecting error and correcting it’. (Kirschenbaum 2008, 12) The alleviation of error and noise, is then, an implicit feature of digital materiality. Expressed at the status of the digital image it is the visual glitch, the coding artifact, [vi]that signifies the potential of the digital object to loosen its shackles; to assert its own being. In a parody of Arthur C. Clarke’s infamous utopian appraisal of technology, another science fiction author, Bruce Sterling, delivers a neat sound bite for the digital civilisation, so that: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (Clarke 1977, 36) …becomes… Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from [its] garbage. (Sterling 2012)  

Footnotes [i] A label appropriated by Ridley Scott for the film Blade Runner, and not by Philip K. Dick in the original novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, who preferred the more archaic, general term, android. Throughout the novel characters refer to the artificial humans as ‘andys,’ portraying a casual ease with which to shrug off these shimmering subjects as mere objects. [ii] A translated version of the character, J.F. Isidore, from the original novel. [iii] Recent attempts to disable appeals to the subject, attempts by writers such as Graham Harman, Levi R. Bryant, Bill Brown and Ian Bogost, have sought to devise, in line with Bruno Latour, an ontology in which ‘Nothing can be reduced to anything else, nothing can be deduced from anything else, everything may be allied to everything else;’ (Latour 1993, 163) one in which a discussion of the being of a chilli pepper or a wrist watch may rank alongside a similar debate about the being of a human or a dolphin. An object-oriented, flat ontology (Bryant 2011) premised on the niggling sentiment that ‘all things equally exist, yet they do not exist equally.’ (Bogost 2012, 19) Unlike Graham Harman, who uses the terms interchangeably, (Bogost 2012, 24) Bill Brown’s Thing Theory approaches the problem by strongly asserting a difference between objects and things. [iv] I have carefully avoided using the term ‘posthuman,’ but I hope its resonance remains. [v] The resonance here with a biological imperative is intentional, although it is perhaps in this work alone that I wish to completely avoid such digital/biological metonyms. Boris Groys’ text From Image to Image File – And Back: Art in the Age of Digitisation, functions neatly to bridge this work with previous ones when he states: The biological metaphor says it all: not only life, which is notorious in this respect, but also technology, which supposedly opposes nature, has become the medium of non-identical reproduction.

[vi] I have very consciously chosen to spell ‘artifact’ with an ‘i’, widely known as the American spelling of the term. This spelling of the word aligns it with computer/programming terminology (i.e.’compression artifact’), leaving the ‘e’ spelling free to echo its archaeological heritage. In any case, multiple meanings for the word can be read in each instance.

Bibliography Barthes, Roland. 1994. Roland Barthes. University of California Press. Bogost, Ian. 2012. Alien Phenomenology, Or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. University of Minnesota Press. Brown, Bill. 2001. “Thing Theory.” Critical Inquiry 28 (1) (October 1): 1–22. Bryant, Levi R. 2011. The Democracy of Objects. Clarke, Arthur C. 1977. “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination.” In Profiles of the future?: an inquiry into the limits of the possible. New York: Popular Library. Dick, Philip K. 1968. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Random House Publishing Group, 2008. ———. 2011. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Eakin, Paul John. 1992. Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography. Princeton University Press. Hillis, W. 1999. The Pattern on the Stone?: the Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work. 1st paperback ed. New York: Basic Books. Jameson, Fredric. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Verso. Keep Britain Tidy Campaign, Environmental Campaigns (ENCAMS). YOUR RUBBISH AND THE LAW a Guide for Businesses. Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. 2008. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. MIT Press. Latour, Bruno. 1993. The Pasteurization of France. Harvard University Press. Parikka, Jussi. 2008. “Copy.” In Software Studies?: a Lexicon, ed. Matthew Fuller, 70–78. Cambridge  Mass.: MIT Press. Schwenger, Peter. 2004. “Words and the Murder of the Thing.” In Things, 135 – 150. University of Chicago Press Journals. Scott, Ridley. 1982. Blade Runner. Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller. Serres, Michel. 2007. The Parasite. 1st University of Minnesota Press ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sterling, Bruce. 2012. “Design Fiction: Sascha Pohflepp & Daisy Ginsberg, ‘Growth Assembly’.” Wired Magazine: Beyond The Beyond.

Sat, 25 Aug 2012 10:00:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Kipple and Things: How to Hoard and Why Not To Mean]]>

This is paper (more of an essay, really) was originally delivered at the Birkbeck/London Consortium ‘Rubbish Symposium‘, 30th July 2011 Living at the very limit of his means, Philip K. Dick, a two-bit, pulp sci-fi author, was having a hard time maintaining his livelihood. It was the 1950s and Dick was living with his second wife, Kleo, in a run-down apartment in Berkley, California, surrounded by library books Dick later claimed, “They could not afford to pay the fines on.” In 1956, Dick had a short story published in a brand new pulp magazine: Satellite Science Fiction. Entitled, Pay for the Printer, the story contained a whole host of themes that would come to dominate his work On an Earth gripped by nuclear winter, humankind has all but forgotten the skills of invention and craft. An alien, blob-like, species known as the Biltong co-habit Earth with the humans. They have an innate ability to ‘print’ things, popping out copies of any object they are shown from their formless bellies. The humans are enslaved not simply because everything is replicated for them, but, in a twist Dick was to use again and again in his later works, as the Biltong grow old and tired, each copied object resembles the original less and less. Eventually everything emerges as an indistinct, black mush. The short story ends with the Biltong themselves decaying, leaving humankind on a planet full of collapsed houses, cars with no doors, and bottles of whiskey that taste like anti-freeze. In his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick gave a name to this crumbling, ceaseless, disorder of objects: Kipple. A vision of a pudding-like universe, in which obsolescent objects merge, featureless and identical, flooding every apartment complex from here to the pock-marked surface of Mars. “No one can win against kipple,” Dick wrote: “It’s a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.” In kipple, Dick captured the process of entropy, and put it to work to describe the contradictions of mass-production and utility. Saved from the wreckage of the nuclear apocalypse, a host of original items – lawn mowers, woollen sweaters, cups of coffee – are in short supply. Nothing ‘new’ has been made for centuries. The Biltong must produce copies from copies made of copies – each replica seeded with errors will eventually resemble kipple. Objects; things, are mortal; transient. The wrist-watch functions to mark the passing of time, until it finally runs down and becomes a memory of a wrist-watch: a skeleton, an icon, a piece of kipple. The butterfly emerges from its pupae in order to pass on its genes to another generation of caterpillar. Its demise – its kipple-isation – is programmed into its genetic code. An inevitable consequence of the cosmic lottery of biological inheritance. Both the wrist-watch and the butterfly have fulfilled their functions: I utilised the wrist-watch to mark time: the ‘genetic lottery’ utilised the butterfly to extend its lineage. Entropy is absolutely certain, and pure utility will always produce it. In his book Genesis, Michel Serres, argues that objects are specific to the human lineage. Specific, not because of their utility, but because they indicate our drive to classify, categorise and order: “The object, for us, makes history slow.” Before things become kipple, they stand distinct from one another. Nature seems to us defined in a similar way, between a tiger and a zebra there appears a broad gap, indicated in the creatures’ inability to mate with one another; indicated by the claws of the tiger and the hooves of the zebra. But this gap is an illusion, as Michel Foucault neatly points out in The Order of Things: “…all nature forms one great fabric in which beings resemble one another from one to the next…” The dividing lines indicating categories of difference are always unreal, removed as they are from the ‘great fabric’ of nature, and understood through human categories isolated in language. Humans themselves are constituted by this great fabric: our culture and language lie on the same fabric. Our apparent mastery over creation comes from one simple quirk of our being: the tendency we exhibit to categorise, to cleave through the fabric of creation. For Philip K. Dick, this act is what separates us from the alien Biltong. They can merely copy, a repeated play of resemblance that will always degrade to kipple. Humans, on the other hand, can do more than copy. They can take kipple and distinguish it from itself, endlessly, through categorisation and classification. Far from using things until they run down, humans build new relations, new meanings, carefully and slowly from the mush. New categories produce new things, produce newness. At least, that’s what Dick – a Platonic idealist – believed. At the end of Pay for the Printer, a disparate group camp in the kipple-ised, sagging pudding of a formless city. One of the settlers has with him a crude wooden cup he has apparently cleaved himself with an even cruder, hand-made knife: “You made this knife?” Fergesson asked, dazed. “I can’t believe it. Where do you start? You have to have tools to make this. It’s a paradox!” In his essay, The System of Collecting, Jean Baudrillard makes a case for the profound subjectivity produced in this apparent production of newness. Once things are divested of their function and placed into a collection, they: “…constitute themselves as a system, on the basis of which the subject seeks to piece together [their] world, [their] personal microcosm.” The use-value of objects gives way to the passion of systematization, of order, sequence and the projected perfection of the complete set. In the collection, function is replaced by exemplification. The limits of the collection dictate a paradigm of finality; of perfection. Each object – whether wrist-watch or butterfly – exists to define new orders. Once the blue butterfly is added to the collection it stands, alone, as an example of the class of blue butterflies to which the collection dictates it belongs. Placed alongside the yellow and green butterflies, the blue butterfly exists to constitute all three as a series. The entire series itself then becomes the example of all butterflies. A complete collection: a perfect catalogue. Perhaps, like Borges’ Library of Babel, or Plato’s ideal realm of forms, there exists a room somewhere with a catalogue of everything. An ocean of examples. Cosmic disorder re-constituted and classified as a finite catalogue, arranged for the grand cosmic collector’s singular pleasure. The problem with catalogues is that absolutely anything can be collected and arranged. The zebra and the tiger may sit side-by-side if the collector is particularly interested in collecting mammals, striped quadrupeds or – a particularly broad collection – things that smell funny. Too much classification, too many cleaves in the fabric of creation, and order once again dissolves into kipple. Disorder arises when too many conditions of order have been imposed. William H. Gass reminds us of the linguistic conjunction ‘AND’ an absolute necessity in the cleaving of kipple into things: “[W]e must think of chaos not as a helter-skelter of worn-out and broken or halfheartedly realised things, like a junkyard or potter’s midden, but as a fluid mishmash of thinglessness in every lack of direction as if a blender had run amok. ‘AND’ is that sunderer. It stands between. It divides light from darkness.” Collectors gather things about them in order to excerpt a mastery over the apparent disorder of creation. The collector attains true mastery over their microcosm. The narcissism of the individual extends to the precise limits of the catalogue he or she has arranged about them. Without AND language would function as nothing but pudding, each clause, condition or acting verb leaking into its partner, in an endless series. But the problem with AND, with classes, categories and order is that they can be cleaved anywhere. Jorge Luis Borges exemplified this perfectly in a series of fictional lists he produced throughout his career. The most infamous list, Michel Foucault claimed influenced him to write The Order of Things, refers to a “certain Chinese encyclopaedia” in which: Animals are divided into

belonging to the Emporer, embalmed, tame, sucking pigs, sirens, fabulous, stray dogs, included in the present classification, frenzied, innumerable, drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, et cetera, having just broken the water pitcher, that from a long way off look like flies…

In writing about his short story The Aleph, Borges also remarked: “My chief problem in writing the story lay in… setting down of a limited catalog of endless things. The task, as is evident, is impossible, for such a chaotic enumeration can only be simulated, and every apparently haphazard element has to be linked to its neighbour either by secret association or by contrast.” No class of things, no collection, no cleaving of kipple into nonkipple can escape the functions of either “association OR contrast…” The lists Borges compiled are worthy of note because they remind us of the binary contradiction classification always comes back to:

Firstly, that all collections are arbitrary and Secondly, that a perfect collection of things is impossible, because, in the final instance there is only pudding “…in every lack of direction…”

Human narcissism – our apparent mastery over kipple – is an illusion. Collect too many things together, and you re-produce the conditions of chaos you tried so hard to avoid. When the act of collecting comes to take precedence over the microcosm of the collection, when the differentiation of things begins to break down: collectors cease being collectors and become hoarders. The hoard exemplifies chaos: the very thing the collector builds their catalogues in opposition to. To tease apart what distinguishes the hoarder, from the collector, I’d like to introduce two new characters into this arbitrary list I have arranged about myself. Some of you may have heard of them, indeed, they are the brothers whom the syndrome of compulsive hoarding is named after.

Brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer lived in a mansion at 2078, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Sons of wealthy parents – their father was a respected gynaecologist, their mother a renowned opera singer – the brothers both attended Columbia University, where Homer studied law and Langley engineering. In 1933 Homer suffered a stroke which left him blind and unable to work at his law firm. As Langley began to devote his time entirely to looking after his helpless brother, both men became locked inside the mansion their family’s wealth and prestige had delivered. Over the following decade or so Langley would leave the house only at night. Wandering the streets of Manhattan, collecting water and provisions to sustain his needy brother, Langley’s routines became obsessive, giving his life a meaning above and beyond the streets of Harlem that were fast becoming run-down and decrepid. But the clutter only went one way: into the house, and, as the interest from the New York newspaper media shows, the Collyer brothers and their crumbling mansion became something of a legend in a fast changing city. On March 21st 1947 the New York Police Department received an anonymous tip-off that there was a dead body in the Collyer mansion. Attempting to gain entry, police smashed down the front-door, only to be confronted with a solid wall of newspapers (which, Langley had claimed to reporter’s years earlier his brother “would read once his eyesight was restored”.) Finally, after climbing in through an upstairs window, a patrolman found the body of Homer – now 65 years old – slumped dead in his kippleised armchair. In the weeks that followed, police removed one hundred and thirty tons of rubbish from the house. Langley’s body was eventually discovered crushed and decomposing under an enormous mound of junk, lying only a few feet from where Homer had starved to death. Crawling through the detritus to reach his ailing brother, Langley had triggered one of his own booby traps, set in place to catch any robbers who attempted to steal the brother’s clutter. The list of objects pulled from the brother’s house reads like a Borges original. From Wikipedia: Items removed from the house included baby carriages, a doll carriage, rusted bicycles, old food, potato peelers, a collection of guns, glass chandeliers, bowling balls, camera equipment, the folding top of a horse-drawn carriage, a sawhorse, three dressmaking dummies, painted portraits, pinup girl photos, plaster busts, Mrs. Collyer’s hope chests, rusty bed springs, a kerosene stove, a child’s chair, more than 25,000 books (including thousands about medicine and engineering and more than 2,500 on law), human organs pickled in jars, eight live cats, the chassis of an old Model T Ford, tapestries, hundreds of yards of unused silks and fabric, clocks, 14 pianos (both grand and upright), a clavichord, two organs, banjos, violins, bugles, accordions, a gramophone and records, and countless bundles of newspapers and magazines. Finally: There was also a great deal of rubbish. A Time Magazine obituary from April 1947 said of the Collyer brothers: “They were shy men, and showed little inclination to brave the noisy world.” In a final ironic twist of kippleisation, the brothers themselves became mere examples within the system of clutter they had amassed. Langley especially had hoarded himself to death. His body, gnawed by rats, was hardly distinguishable from the kipple that fell on top of it. The noisy world had been replaced by the noise of the hoard: a collection so impossible to conceive, to cleave, to order, that it had dissolved once more to pure, featureless kipple. Many hoarders achieve a similar fate to the Collyer brothers: their clutter eventually wiping them out in one final collapse of systemic disorder. To finish, I want to return briefly to Philip K. Dick. In the 1960s, fuelled by amphetamines and a debilitating paranoia, Dick wrote 24 novels, and hundreds of short stories, the duds and the classics mashed together into an indistinguishable hoard. UBIK, published in 1966, tells of a world which is itself degrading. Objects regress to previous forms, 3D televisions turn into black and white tube-sets, then stuttering reel-to-reel projections; credit cards slowly change into handfuls of rusted coins, impressed with the faces of Presidents long since deceased. Turning his back for a few minutes a character’s hover vehicle has degraded to become a bi-propeller airplane. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, a stand-out novel from 1965, begins with this memo, “dictated by Leo Bulero immediately on his return from Mars”: “I mean, after all; you have to consider we’re only made out of dust. That’s admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn’t forget that. But even considering, I mean it’s a sort of bad beginning, we’re not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we’re faced with we can make it. You get me?”

Sun, 31 Jul 2011 10:28:32 -0700