Passion Fruit: Anti-Authoritarian (Con)sensuous GamesPO Box 63232St. Louis, MO 6316383 pages; $4
This zine describes physical, sexual and ﬂirtatious games people can play with
each other that are creative and as safe as seems reasonable. It discusses issues ofconsent, communication, and disease. It tries to be fun and responsible.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the thinking behind this zine. I grew up
in the time before AIDS, when the shots from the Sexual Revolution were stillreverberating (including the ones of penicillin). My early feminist years werespent thinking and reading about how breaking the corporate, button-down aﬀect,getting in touch with our bodies, refusing to abide by suburban morality, were allpractices that would liberate us, as well as celebrate our liberation.
There is still something to these arguments — the understanding that we are
animals not ﬂoating brains, that bodies are to be embodied, that the controlimplied by suits and high heels may be what we need to attain to destroy thissociety, but will destroy us as it has the people who believe in it. And Passion Fruitis explicit in its desire to open up people’s options around forms of relationships,
But too much emphasis on sexuality is problematic too. Over-hyped sexuality
is the haven of a corporatized world; it is the award and the consolation for our(presumed) powerlessness in the rest of our lives.
Acknowledging the power of sex in human life is one thing; understanding how
this culture has forced even more signiﬁcance into sex is another. Understandinghow we are all taught to manipulate (and be manipulated by) sex is part of that.
PF might have worked better for me if it had used diﬀerent graphics. The images
drop you into the middle of a party full of strangers. Of course some people lovethat jump-in-over-your-head approach, but I prefer to go in one step at a time.
Perhaps the most serious question is about PF’s attempt to marry hedonism
with responsibility. Talking to people about how to have fun while they relate in
loaded, physical ways with people who they don’t know is a tricky and frequentlyexplosive business. This zine takes the de rigueur approach of cautioning everyoneto make sure that everyone consents to everything before anybody does anything,and encouraging people to opt out if they feel uncomfortable. This is the standardapproach made popular by sexual harassment suits everywhere: the approach
that says that we can have hedonistic fun while dotting i’s and crossing t’s, thattrust comes from having signed on the dotted line.
Perhaps this approach is the best we can do. But I would love to see an analysis
that challenges that perspective on safety, on consent, and on play.
Politics is Not a Bananajournal of vulgar discourse
One of a spate of zines that are being distributed primarily online as PDFs, leav-
ing it up to the reader whether to read it online or download and print it out, PiNaBis a pretty, clean, light-hearted, insurrection-inspired, thoughtful publication witha heavy design element.
It is so designed in fact that the design becomes one of the loudest (if ambiguous)
facets of the content. For example, the footnotes are larger than the body text,and are set oﬀ in bright red. Message: perhaps that our roots and/ or tangents areimportant? Or perhaps that we should pay attention to things that are normallyconsidered secondary? Or perhaps, that size and color are not in fact a measureof importance?
Documents that are published online (with the goal of people printing them
out themselves) have diﬀerent (not fewer) challenges than pieces designed forhardcopy. Instead of having to make decisions based on price (of ink, of paper type,of shipping, etc), online documents have to negotiate the diﬀerences betweenreading on a screen (short text sections to suit reading on a monitor, a clunkierpage change process, etc) with reading in hardcopy. Pages need to work as wellin color (for the screen) as in black and white (per the limitations of most homeprinters — unless your audience is primarily people who will be scamming colorcopies).
PiNaB’s design means that it is not especially easy to read, either on screen or
The main problem was one running thread (apparently a subpiece called “pol-
itics is not a banananotes”?) that streams along the bottom of the pages. Thispiece is particularly hard to read — as it’s very broken up — and distracts fromthe other articles above it. Furthermore, the argument for design is that readingas a sensual experience is worth focusing on, which is contradicted by presentingthe document in a way that de-emphasizes touch.
But life is full of compromise. This document negotiates territory between appealing and funny, and between
sincerity and jargon. One of the ﬁrst images is an apparently appreciative, butperhaps ironic, picture of a masked frat-looking white boy grabbing his crotch ingood wigger style.
There’s an argument that this sets a theme for this publication. There is a lot of
talk about sex, and some about shit, in what is clearly attempting to reﬂect a trans-gressive integration of body and theory. Sometimes this works, but sometimes itjust turns the body into another rhetorical device.
A brief philosophical and political introduction to the concept of post-civi-
Another of the PDF / online documents that are becoming more common,
Post-Civ! comes from one of the people who brought us the excellent magazine,Steampunk. That magazine ﬂoated above the conﬂicts that come from appealingto a broad base of people who frequently don’t get along with each other (scienceﬁction aﬁcionados, DIYers, crafters, anti-civ idealogues, etc). Post-Civ! is a moredirect approach to the question of critiquing civilization while not necessarilybeing anti-tech, and promotes a civilization-critique-without-modiﬁers. “It’sabout the anarchist urban hunter-gatherer squatting the ruins of the city livingside-by-side with the rnicro-hydro engineer who has rigged the water runningthrough the sewers to power her gristmill . . . It’s about never laboring again. (Inthis case, we are deﬁning labor as ‘unnecessary, unenjoyable work’.) Frankly, it‘sabout destroying civilization and saving the world and living a life of adventureand fulﬁllment.”
This attempt has honorable precedents. Historically Voltairine de Cleyre is
the exemplar of anarchy without adjectives and the utopian novel ‘bolo ‘bolo byp.m. posits a future world in which contradictory lifeways will coexist as long ascertain fundamentals (eg community size) remain stable.
While ideologues will be frustrated by the crossing of certain lines, it’s hard to
argue with the three basic premises put forth for the deﬁnition of post-civilizedthought:
Civilization is unsustainable and unsalvageable; it is neither possible nor desir-
able to return to a pre-civilized state of being; ﬁguring out a good post-civilizationis therefore appropriate. There are people who are so attached to the deﬁnition ofpre-civilization as meaning all things good that they will have a hard time gettingpast number two, but rhetoric aside, there is nothing to argue with.
The writer(s?) of Post-Civ! takes the route that is more complicated in practice:
not rejecting all technology but picking and choosing what works for a speciﬁcsituation and what doesn’t, not rejecting science but also “not worshiping it.”
This will stick in the craw of those who see science and/or technology as an
overarching philosophy, part and parcel of the problems that we face today, butthe conﬂict may be a semantic one, something to determine as (and ii) the projectcontinues. If we agree that we have been irretrievably shaped by our world, then
the best we will ever be able to do in overcoming it is to be skeptical of andchallenging toward the things that seem to push us to (or keep us in) the statusquo.
Since being purist and heady is one way to support the status quo, and since
being unreﬂective and action- or product-oriented is another way to also supportthe status quo, we will always be in the position of doing the best we can in anygiven situation.
Post-Civ! seems to err on the side of getting along in a milieu of people who
don’t worry much about making friends, and therefore may not satisfy many oftheir most obvious audience (and will probably be the center of some conﬂict). But this is a ﬁne little publication. The question is whether the producers areprepared to weather the conﬂict as bravely as de Cleyre did, and continue to ﬂeshout the bones of their interesting idea.
I visited Ireland for a few weeks many years ago. I don’t have a strong knowl-
edge of the place. I know the basics. It’s strongly Catholic: everything shutsdown on Sundays, abortions are even more inaccessible there than they are in theUS (unlike the rest of Europe, which in general has no question about whether
women should be able to have them). The violence of ongoing warfare; its status
as one of the earliest colonies; these realities make Ireland a very diﬀerent placethan the US. So it is hard to position myself relative to the feminist theory that Ihave read from Ireland, which, to my eyes, seems so reminiscent of the 1970s.
The Rag has articles, like so many dozens of other feminist zines, on herbal
medicines, on domestic violence, on why there are so few women in anarchistscenes, on midwives, on the value of anger, and so on. Sadly, the content is nomore unusual than the topics. Women don’t want to be part of anarchist scenesbecause there is a culture of macho posturing, for example. If I had a penny forevery time I’ve heard that . . . I don’t know if it’s true, although some of the bestanarchist posturing I know is done by women, myself included — what I do knowis that I would love to read something that doesn’t talk about boys making roomfor girls, bur perhaps talks about girls taking their own room. Power, in anymeaningful sense, can not be given. It must be claimed. The one diﬀerent thing inthis publication is the article on sexworkers. While still couched uncomfortablyin “men shouldn’t see women as meat” language, it is at least one indication thatfeminist arguments have moved incrementally farther than they were when goodfeminists didn’t talk about decriminalizing sex work.
There is a strong need for people, in groups and individually, to reconsider
how women and men, girls, boys, and other, people in general, interact with eachother and themselves. There are ongoing, decades-old, centuries-old, problemsthat relate to how we value ourselves and each other. The urgency of that need isonly covered up, concealed, by rhetoric that was tired 20, even 30, years ago.
Like I said, I don’t know. Maybe this stage of dialog is an important part of
what needs to happen in Ireland. But it would be great if somehow we could learn
more from each other, instead of having to go over the same road again and again,reading the same tired signs that don’t seem to get us to where we want to go.
12 pages, no price [email protected]
This reprint of a chapter from a book in French, A mort l’artiste, is a brief and
scathing indictment of the artist-as-advanced-individual ideal. Starting with thehistory of artists under the patronage of the wealthy and powerful (whether nobleor church-based), the author(s) move on to point out that currently artists aremerely workers with attitude.
“Presenting themselves as the victims of the commodiﬁcation of culture, they
are actually simultaneously its result and one of its principal agents . . . being thesocial category recognized notably for its ‘right’ to subversion and transgression,the artist remains the best agent for the neutralisation of critique and its aestheticrecycling.”
While there is not that much that is new here — particularly lacking is an
acknowledgment of the impact that aesthetics do have on our lives or the pos-sibilities inherent in something like Oscar Wilde’s determined dandy-ism — itcould serve as an wake-up call for any self-righteous liberal arts major you wantto smack down.
Ron SakolskyFifth Estate BooksLiberty, TN$15, paper, 215 pages
Creating Anarchy works on a few levels — for example Sakolsky’s concise and
clear critique of issues like democracy and voting are refreshing and valuable inthese days of “anybody but Bush.” The ﬁrst pieces in this book are bite size, e.g. interviews with Sakolsky and others that don’t go very deeply into any of thethings that they talk about, and descriptions of Sakolsky’s experiences teachingor working on free radio projects. These are ﬁne examples of lessons learned, butlessons that are easy to come by in most of our lives, so the audience is apparently
young people without a lot of experience in this arena.
The best parts of this book come later, and are on the history and relationship
between surrealism and anarchist (or anti-state) thinking.
Sakolsky is a ﬁne historian, intimately connected with his topic(s), knowledge-
able and accessible in tone. These pieces are not just his thoughts about theconnections between these two ﬁelds, but also introductions to various surrealistpainters, poets and musicians, for readers who want more information about thistradition.
interpreting quotations. Sakolsky quotes people and then explains whatthe quotation means. Is this because Sakolsky’s history with the authorsgives him an understanding of what they mean that is better than whatthey actually say? Perhaps that is the case, but if so, using quotations is aconfusing way to make the given points.
word play. I don’t know why someone who has a background in, and infor-
mation about, poetry would do some of the gooﬁness that Sakolsky doeshere. Phrases like “snivilization” “realpolitricks,” and “evil of two lessers”are neither funny (although of course humor is in the perspective of thebeholder) nor interesting commentary. Particularly irritating are simplisticreferences to animals as in any way relevant to state tendencies, as in “UnitedSnakes of America.” It’s cheesiness like this that gives play a bad name.
Among the complicated philosophical concepts that are bounced around un-
critically in this book are the tropes of building-an-anarchist-movement, andlife=good/death=bad.
It is easy and problematic to use the word “movement” as the way to talk about
increasing the strength of anarchist ideas. The word has enough baggage, alongthe lines of democracy and gloriﬁcation of the masses, to sound alarms. Nor islife is always good, or death always bad, but those associations too are taken forgranted in this culture. Someone who has been around as long as he has, and whois conversant in the signiﬁcance of dreams and storytelling, might be expectedto have a more sophisticated understanding. Life and death are part of a whole,made signiﬁcant by each other. Making one good and the other bad denies both.
The book also includes pictures from various surrealist artists, including Don
La Coss, Cliﬀord Harper, Sue Simensky Bietila, Cathy Stoyko, and others.
Only a NodIf you are looking for a current, accessibly written book that talks about the
history of US racism against black people, doesn’t demonize all white people, andgives some examples of projects for education reform, this could be the bookfor you. The author spent some time in a class in Douglas High School (in the9th Ward of New Orleans), and examples from that class provide descriptions of
where some kids are right now in their suspicion and boredom with school (and
presumably with their options in general). The history of British colonization ofScotland and Ireland gives context to the history of Black people in the US. Andprojects like Students At the Center (SAC), Young People’s Project (YPP), and the
Algebra Project are given as examples of people making a system that works for
students — apparently in hope that such an educational system will encouragestudents to make a better world.
This book gets some important things right: a) schools are not failing but
succeeding at their goal (which is to manage and create people who believe theyhave no options); b) that this is true regardless of the economic background ofthe students (although the tactics might be diﬀerent for diﬀerent classes); c) thatsaviors and charity don’t actually create serious change, and d) that memory is abig deal.
But if you’re looking for deep thoughts about memory and history and how we
address or experience being cut oﬀ from our past, or stories that might actually(as promised) end some nightmares, then this book will disappoint.
The book’s most signiﬁcant weakness is that it conceives of race as black and
white. Asian people are not mentioned once, and native and latin people are
thrown in as “and them too.” While of course engaged readers can make someconnections, this lack indicates unsophisticated thinking about race and power. Race here and now is about so much more than Manichean “your team vs myteam”. And the rhetoric of race, especially in activist circles, has so far to go tocoherently address the issues of what is currently called “internalized racism” thatit was very disappointing to have this book be so simple on this facet of the topic.
APoM’s most ironic failure is in its nod to a hopeful future. If educational
projects like SAC, YPP and the Algebra Project are the best hope for a betterfuture, how are they diﬀerent from multiple previous education reform projects?
History has shown that these kinds of projects are so easily integrated into thestatus quo as to be swallowed without a ripple. A quote from one of the author’smentors, Kalamu Ya Salaam: “Unless and until [disenfranchised youth] can hon-estly recognize and confront their own realities, they will never be able to trulytransform themselves and their communities.” Of course, the rub is that whatsome people mean by transformation is really not what others mean. Educationalprojects are a ﬁne liberal goal, one that is easy to ﬁnd support for since it is adeeply-held liberal concept that more information will solve all problems. Therehave been multiple eﬀorts to empower students through various levels of studentparticipation, from students organizing against wars to members of radical groupsbecoming teachers to eﬀect change from within. A brief foray into a library re-
veals that in past decades there have been many high school students who were
articulate about the racism and classism of the school system and who had hopethat society could be changed. The eﬀorts that are cited in APoM are working atgetting students just to that level of analysis (by giving them skills and conﬁdence),and there is no evidence (when and if they get there) that any more change willbe eﬀected than was 35 years ago. The question of reform vs. revolution, of whatmakes change, is only alluded to in this book, and the allusions don’t make acompelling argument. The author’s failure to acknowledge the history that existshere is in direct contradiction to the title of the book.
Finally, there is always a push and pull to memory. Remembering where
we came from is crucial to knowing where we are, but we also best rememberwhat best suits us or what we best understand, and what we best remember
doesn’t necessarily help us to create diﬀerent ways of being. Taught to be withinstructures that despise both us and what we long for, we are not necessarilycapable of remembering the things that might be most important to who we
want to be. This conservative role of memory is another nuance that is never
The title of this work gives a nod to signiﬁcant and powerful topics, a rich menu,
but then oﬀers up potato chips and miniature cucumber sandwiches, leaving thereader not starving but ready for something more.
Imagine a conductor standing in front of a symphony orchestra with hundreds of musicians. The melodious strains of music from each instrument blend together in perfect unison or shine individual in solo. With just a wave of the baton, the conductor instructs this violin or that trombone to join in or fade out, speed up or slow down, pacing the tempo with exact precision. Without the baton