Pop the Program #1: Waking Life


This week marks the death of the podcast “Pop the Left” and the birth of a new podcast called “Pop the Program.” Varn has grown tired of the left, profoundly tired of it, but he enjoys conversing about all manner of subjects with me, and in an effort to keep the conversation going we’ve renamed our joint effort. What you can expect in the future are conversations about literature, art, music, philosophy, and perhaps even conversations about dead white dudes like Marx or Guy Debord, but “the Left” will no longer be our primary subject.

This week, at the outset, we discuss the revolutionary ideas in Richard Linklater’s 2001 film “Waking Life,” and as such this first episode is a transitional podcast. It was recorded for “Pop the Left” but edited as the first episode of “Pop the Program.”

Back in 2001 Roger Ebert celebrated Linklater’s film and its release: “Waking Life” could not come at a better time. Opening in these sad and fearful days after Sept. 11, it celebrates a series of articulate, intelligent characters who seek out the meaning of their existence and do not have the answers. At a time when madmen think they have the right to kill us because of what they think they know about an afterlife, which is by definition unknowable, those who don’t know the answers are the only ones asking sane questions.

Pop the Left #10: From Henry Flynt to an Electric Ant


This month’s Pop the Left features a conversation about Henry Flynt’s lecture “An Autopsy of the Left.” The conversation, as is typical, wanders, and in the end Varn and I end up mentioning the difficulty of escaping from our current ideology.

Henry Flynt is a musician, a member of Fluxus, and the last Communist standing. I wrote to him and asked him onto the podcast, but this email met with scorn and ridicule, which was really too bad. If you know Henry Flynt please tell him that I did not mean to insult him when I called him a commie.

For your edification here is a definition of Fluxus as lifted from wikipedia:

Fluxus—a name taken from a Latin word meaning “flow, flux” (noun); “flowing, fluid” (adj.)[1]—is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music and visual art as well as literature, urban planning, architecture, and design. Fluxus is sometimes described as intermedia.

In this episode you’ll here a song inspired by the Philip K. Dick story “The Electric Ant” and a clip from “The Thirteenth Floor.” Here’s an essay I wrote for Tor.com about both the short story and the movie.

Pop the Left #9: Is Žižek Dreaming Dangerously?


This week I’m presenting the latest Pop the Left Special wherein C Derick Varn and I discuss Slavoj Žižek’s little book “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously.” Neither of us found the book to be either coherent or useful. My main complaint would be Žižek’s failure to take Marx’s critique of Capitalist political economy seriously and his abandonment of the Labor Theory of Value. The conclusion we reach is that Žižek is a worthwhile philosopher, but that his philosophy is not a firm foundation for the development of a politics or a movement. What Žižek does deliver is an imperative: “THINK!” It turns out that this imperative will require us to think beyond him.

In this episode you’ll hear clips from the movie trailer for The Spectacular Now, a youtube mash-up of Zizek’s lectures, Zizek at Occupy Wall Street, and a bit of a Diet Soap interview with the art historian TJ Clark.

Pop the Left #8: Dual Power


C Derick Varn and I discuss the anarchist/communist strategy of dual power and how the term has come to mean too many things. Starting with a wikipedia article that lists everything from communes to workers coops as examples of “dual power” Varn walks us through the history of Lenin’s use of the strategy. Stopping briefly to imagine the end of Capitalism we end up taking on the list of “dual power” institutions head on.

The notion of dual power is usually associated with prefigurative politics which accounts for a lot of our criticism and debate.

From the Mutualist Alliance Blog:

The mutualist praxis is not based on insurrection (though it does not strictly object to it, it views it as frequently ineffectual), nor open revolution (as the enemies of mutualist society far exceed us in power and capacity at this point in time). Instead, it is based on what Proudhon termed the dissolution of the State in the social mechanism, or what Lenin called “dual power” and Konkin called “counter-economics”. The essential principle of mutualist organization is to build a better, freer society, right here and now, which can serve as an alternative to the current system.