The last Mudd Up Book Clubb meetup was the most special to date, as The Slynx’s author Tatyana Tolystaya herself showed up unexpectedly. Translator Jamey Gambrell was able to join us as well. INCREDIBLE. To discuss one of my favorite books with its author & translator was a rare treat.

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[Taussig in a garden with yagé vines with Don Pedro, an Indian healer. Colombia, 1977. Via Cabinet.]

Our next selection is Michael Taussig’s My Cocaine Museum. Stoned anthropology written as a slide through heat & sensation in the shadow of Walter Benjamin. Thinking about gold, cocaine, slavery, boredom, color, history, centered around Afro-Colombian gold miners on Colombia’s Pacific coast. This is our second nonfiction book so far, and like Delany’s Times Sq Red, Times Sq Blue, the prose is incandescent, challenging and rewarding. Join us, we’ll meet in NYC on July 8th for My Cocaine Museum.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the “A Dog Growls” chapter:

A dog growls in the doorway of the house where I am staying in Gaupí. I have never heard this dog growl before. I look out into the street, There are two armed soldiers walking by on patrol in standard-issue camouflage. Strange how the dog picks up what most of us feel but do not express. What would happen if we all growled when soldiers walked by? A whole town growling! How wonderfully appropriate to growl back at the state, mimicking it, growl for growl, watching it magnify in the fullness of biological prehistory, writing being but another form of hair rising on the back of the neck. Slap up against the wall of the forest, you get an acute sense of the thing called the state. To me this is more than a heightening of contradiction exposing something hidden. I think of it as natural history, the natural history of the state.

Writing is sixth sense, what dogs are supposed to have, same as what filled the space between the words.

The first place I ever DJed cumbia was at Taussig’s place in upstate New York (a good friend was getting married – wedding DJ!). It wasn’t until a year or two later when I stumbled across all these lovely tracks from the Rio Timbiqui area of Colombia which he writes about so richly in My Cocaine Museum.

A laptop theft took those tunes out of my hands again, but here’s a related song. “I don’t want it” by Grupo Gualajo – a gorgeous marimba jam about foreigners coming to Pacific Colombia to spirit away “our music, our records, and tales of our ancestors / they arrive happy back home / because they took all our inspiration / we don’t value what we have / others come and take the best…”

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Grupo Gualajo – No Quiero (from the Afritanga comp)

[Simone Leigh video still – Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts as Stark Trek’s Uhura]

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts’ book, Harlem Is Nowhere, has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Which is all kinds of awesome. She will be speaking at the New York Public Library in conversation with artist Simone Leigh *tonight*. (Simone Leigh’s solo show at the Kitchen involves a 10ft- tall video of Sharifa as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, and Old Money just released a new riddim called Uhura in honor of the first black woman in (representational) space — 2012 makes a lot of sense for an afro-astral revival; and remember – the original Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, is on twitter!)

Tickets for tonight’s conversation aren’t cheap but if you’d like to go, use the Secret Discout Code “FUTURE” when ordering tickets online, that’ll knock the price down quite a bit. I don’t call my monthly newsletter LOW INCOME TOMORROWLAND for nothing.

The Harlem Is Nowhere mixtape that Sharifa & I put together for Domus Magazine still bumps – COP THAT ISH NOW IF YOU HAVENT YET

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and thanks to always on-point Venus X for pointing out this great PBS clip with Sharifa and Tavis Smiley.

Watch Author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

You’ve got three days left to support the BEST MUSIC WRITING book series as it makes the leap into independent publishing – via a smart Kickstarter project. As much as I love tweeting and torrenting and blogs and “post-scarcity” blahblah and the tumblr-sprawl, I also really love seeing readers and writers and music lovers come together to build something substantial, which is what series editor Daphne Carr has done time & time again with BMW.

For me, one of the real pleasures of BMW lies in experiencing the sheer variety of people’s takes on music contained in each one; reading BMW always expands the way I think about musical worlds and reacting to them with language. (Full disclosure, I’ve been included twice – EVEN MORE REASON TO GIVE THESE FINE PEOPLE MONEY). So. Let’s keep those books burning!

Originally posted at Mudd Up!

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I started the Mudd Up Book Clubb as a celebration of books, readers, libraries, IRL meetups, and all the hot people who love slow media. But the biggest thanks of all goes to the writers themselves. Keep us burning! We see you and salute your work. Furthering that end, here is a gift straight from my muddy heart –

Hand-drawn portraits of all the authors we’ve read so far by artist Rocio Rodriguez Salceda, fitted into digitals for maximum spreadability. Each drawing measures 600 x 800 pixels — formatted for Kindle screensavers, but they work well in a variety of situations: say, an iPhone background, a regular screensaver, or a razor & octopus ink tattoo.

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Click on each author’s name for the individual JPG, or grab this ZIP file (2 MB) containing all 8 images. (Here’s a detailed guide on how to jailbreak a Kindle).

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB KINDLE SCREENSAVERS:

Cesar Aira

Lauren Beukes

Samuel R. Delany

Juan Goytisolo

Nalo Hopkinson

Maureen F. McHugh

Vladimir Sorokin

Mudd Up Book Clubb

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maureen

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aira

nalo

originally posted at Mudd Up!

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Ice Trilogy – Vladimir Sorokin (Mudd Up Book Clubb January 2012 pick!) – aaaahhhh! I wrote: “It’s ambitious, totally nuts, capable of generating new emotions, perhaps the first ’21st Ct’ novel I’ve read.”

 

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Embassytown – China Miéville. Language, addiction, bio-urbanism. Embassytown is especially wow in light of the rest of Miéville’ ouevre.

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My Common Heart – Anne Boyer. My one complaint: (not tryna be greedy but) IT’S TOO SHORT!

“At night I dream of a poetry for the crowd. I imagine the bodies pressed against each other until there is not one set of feet left on the ground.”

 

:in the category of city slickers:

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[Photo: Tyrone Brown-Osborne]

Harlem Is Nowhere – Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. You heard our mix for this, right?

Down & Delirious in Mexico City – Daniel Hernandez. You heard the radio show we did, right?

 

plus an important Mexico addenda:

El Narco – Ioan Grillo. Lucid overview of “Mexico’s criminal insurgency,” putting the complex mayhem into historical perspective while avoiding the sensationalistic.

“If the East India Company was the first drug cartel, then the Royal Navy was the first band of violent cartel enforcers. After the two Opium Wars, the company won the right to traffic in 1860. The Chinese kept smoking and took the poppy with them in their diaspora round the planet.”

&

“I ask Mathilde [a poppy farmer in the Sinaloan mountains] to describe the effect of these flowers. What is the magic property they have? What is it that makes them so valuable? She looks at me blankly for a moment, then answers in a slow, thoughtful tone.

‘It is a medicine. And it cures pain. All pain. It cures the pain you have in your body and the pain in your heart. You feel like your body is mud. All mud. You feel like you could melt away and disappear. And it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You are happy. But you are not laughing. This is a medicine, you understand?’

 

I’m burnt out on the NYC 70s & 80s glorification/nostalgia/histories, a genre that seems to metastasize each year, but Will Hermes’ Love Goes To Buildings On Fire is exemplary for its wide-eyed span: a five-year history of musical innovation in New York City that takes on rock guitars, salsa, rap, jazz, minimalism. Rare that these contiguous/adjacent scenes get examined together. There’s a paragraph in here about how session musicians formed a kind of connective tissue across scenes & studios — so many ways to think about how music circulates and histories congeal. Here’s to more thought-provoking anticoagulants in 2012.

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This Thursday at Manhattan’s Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, you can check Jessica Hopper on M.I.A., Jace /Rupture on DJ Screw and slowness, and more. Their work was selected by the New Yorker‘s Alex Ross for inclusion in the yearly De Capo ‘Best Music Writing’ anthology, out now. Event is FREE.

And remember: Having an opinion about music does not equal being a music critic. WRITING YOUR OPINION IN ALL CAPS DOES!!!!

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The second evening of the week for Best Music Writing 2011 features guest editor Alex Ross, series editor Daphne Carr, and 2011 contributors:

Nate Chinen
Justin Davidson
Joe Hagan
David Hajdu
Jessica Hopper
Amy Klein
Jace Clayton
Caryn Ganz
Chris Norris

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012
7pm

Housing Works Café is a non-profit bookstore supporting New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. Please bring used or new books to donate to their shop.

drake smoking in front of planes, looking sad


 Marvin’s Room (Shlohmo’s thru tha floor remix) – Drake by shlohmoA question I hear frequently asked about Toronto based Hiphop/RnB rapper/singer/child actor Drake in the press is why his new music is so depressing sounding and what does he have to be unhappy about? He’s young, rich and famous! He’s got a seemingly endless supply of adoring fans, pretty women, drugs, alcohol, money and a venue for his artistic expression to talk about his feelings. Hot97 is his psychotherapy couch.

When he sings:
‘Cups of the XO
Bitches in my old phone
I should call one and go home
I’ve been in this club too long
The woman that I would try
Is happy with a good guy

But I’ve been drinking so much
That I’ma call her anyway and say
“F-ck that nigga that you love so bad
I know you still think about the times we had”
I say “f-ck that nigga that you think you found
And since you picked up I know he’s not around”

(Are you drunk right now?)

I’m just sayin’, you could do better
Tell me have you heard that lately?
I’m just sayin’ you could do better
And I’ll start hatin’, only if you make me’

Drake strikes me as being honest here. Even though he has all of the above material and ego-enhancing things that many of us want, he is still not happy.  When artists are honest and speak about what’s really happening with them instead of repeating tropes that seem like the ‘industry standard’ (I’m balling! I’m awesome! I’m getting money!) it adds a richness of meaning, the texture of personal reality.  The current vogue for sipping XO (aka sizzurp, purple drank, or cough syrup made with promethazine and codeine) popularized by many rap/rnb artists including recently Drake and The Weeknd seems to support this pretty well. Codeine is an opiate, the same active ingredient found in heroin. It’s a central nervous system depressant that makes you sleepy and dulls pain when used when you’re sick. If consumed when you’re healthy it pushes pleasure buttons in your brain and feels great.   Taking codeine also kills you.  If you slow your central nervous system down enough you’ll just stop breathing. RIP DJ Screw and Pimp C. My question is: how much must you be suffering to make this glamourous lifestyle choice? Scientific research has pointed to links between the way we experience physical and psychic pain, like the pain of depression, including the fact that depression sufferers seem to have more acute physical pain.  As far as I can tell people who are happy and fulfilled don’t need to constantly take large amounts of central nervous system depressants like codeine and alcohol.

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[originally posted at Mudd Up!]

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The Mudd Up Book Clubb marches to Manhattan with a tender, challenging work by one of the most important authors around: Samuel R. Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. The book takes Delany’s 30+ years in the porn theaters and gay bars of Times Sq. on the eve of its mid-1990s Disneyification as a grounding point for an extended examination of public space, interclass contact, polymorphous intimate pleasures, the regulation of bodies and behavior, and lots more. Sex & urbanism in Delany’s hands — you can’t go wrong!

The humanity that animates his intelligence is inspiring, as is the deft ease with which Delany flows from frank, considered anecdotes about former lovers & friends to more sociologically-minded writing. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue is built from two long essays, which are themselves quite different: the longer one more personal, the 2nd one more theoretical — it includes a powerful section on contact vs networking that is more relevant now than ever, and uses a two-column layout to play with marginality in a direct way and further shake things up.

This is the Clubb’s first nonfiction selection (not to mention our first selection by a black author), and it will give you a lot to think about. The New York Public Library stocks a handful of copies, including a nonlending one up at the Schomburg. The Manhattan location for this Clubb edition is secret, but suffice to say it’s awesome and will be familiar to those who’ve seen Delany doc The Polymath. The tentative date is November 15th. If you are interested, please join the mailing list.

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If you only know Delany from his sci-fi or fantasy, then you are in for a real treat! If you don’t know Delany at all, then perhaps short story collection Aye, and Gomorrah or its earlier incarnation, Driftglass, is a good place to start – “The Star Pit” is one of those rare stories that haunts me to no end. (I wouldn’t recommend starting with Dhalgren, only because I know a handful of people who couldn’t get into it and then didn’t investigate Delany any further.)

But Samuel R. Delany’s work has many, many entrances…

OK. Let’s keep those pages turning! For more online reading about this selection, Steve Shaviro wrote an excellent review of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue — indeed, all Steve’s Delany writings are great.

Stay muddy.

reposted from Mudd Up!

The clubb marches on!

Apologies for the late notice, but the Mudd Up Book Clubb will meet two weeks from today on September 8th, in Tangier Morocco. We’ll be talking about Juan Goytisolo’s Exiled from Almost Everywhere (original title: Exiliado de Aquí y de Allá). Goytisolo is a complicated figure — the Spaniard has lived in Marrakesh for decades, and his biography and attitude are often more interesting than his actual books. But this new one, published after five years of silence, is surprisingly nimble and enjoyable.

The basic plot: a man is blown up in a terrorist attack and finds himself in the afterlife, which is a kind of mad internet cafe. Religious extremism, media spectacles (Debord makes an appearance), the realness of exile (which Goytisolo suffered at the hands of fascist Spain) and the surface-skimming fluidity of online identity, it’s all here. The weird, perversely funny romp of Exiled provides an excellent introduction to the works of this writer. Goytisolo’s career-long literary critique on the cornerstones of Spanish Identity is formidable indeed. (His books were banned in Spain until Franco died in 1975.) I’m not going to pretend that this is an easy or immediately pleasurable read, but it is worth talking about! Plus it’s short. (The October Book Clubb selection will be slightly less far-out, and nonfiction…)

The Guardian review agrees with my take on the book:

Exiled From Almost Everywhere is perhaps the best work of Goytisolo’s later period. The author, who in his 20s, wrote realistic novels that described the vulgar horrors of Franco’s Spain, from which he was exiled, later began to develop a freer, less traditional, more ironic and humorous voice. Nowhere is this style more accomplished than in this novel, beautifully translated into English by Peter Bush. (Even Bush’s title is a clever rendering of the original Spanish, literally “The Exile From Here and There”.)

For more info on the Book Clubb: The idea is simple: every six weeks or so we gather somewhere for informal talk centered around a good muddy book, then go eat delicious food. We’ll have a live Ustream or Skype feed so Cousin Internet and Miss Larry Antitroll can join in — but if you want to tele-participate, you should sign-up for the low-activity Mudd Up Book Clubb Mailing List.

Previous editions: Casablanca / Maureen F. McHugh’s Nektropolis, Madrid / Cesar Aira’s How I Became a Nun.

The following day we are presenting a show at the Cinematheque de Tanger with Nettle and Hassan Wargui/Imanaren. As we mentioned in the Beyond Digital Morocco :Behind the Scenes video, we view the project as a doorway, and are returning for ten days to keep creating.

Last week I dove in, writing about noir & auto-tune in new sloth-positive South African fiction (author approved), then taking a look at the UK riots via Frederick Douglass and some dubwise reggae, an article which reverberated and sparked a nice Motherboard writeup. Next came many airports. After folding into economy seats (always a screaming baby nearby), the discomfort heightened not mitigated by a string of $15 fruit cups in the Frankfurt or Zurich or Zaghreb airport, I found myself on the breathtakingly beautiful Croatian coast. You land at a town called Split. Then drive 30 minutes further out, to the party on the grounds of a former Yugoslavia military installation! Really cool vibes there. Repurposing. Life is strange. Snails on the walls.

Point is, my friend Binyavanga wrote a book. One Day I Will Write About This Place. A memoir about growing up in & around Kenya and South Africa. And it’s great. “How to write about Africa?” Binyavanga knows. NYT’s review positively glows.

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The memoir is even better than his afro-glam / sci-fi (?) author’s photo, although that, too, is inspirational.

I’m about 600 pages into Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 –a book that is both horrible and hypnotic, one of the few Bolaño works I’ve been able to finish (Amuleto was the other one). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of most of his books, some in English and some in Spanish; I simply think he’s overrated and overtranslated when compared to the amazing wealth of other contemporary Latin American writers. 2666’s spot-on epigraph begins things with a quote from Baudelaire: “An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom”. The 1000+ page book is divided into five parts. I’m drowning in part four, “The Part About The Crimes”. It describes, in blunt unaffected language, dozens upon dozens of brutal rapes and murders that occurred in Santa Teresa. The Mexican border city is Bolaño’s fictional stand-in for the very real Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds of women have been killed in unsolved murders stretching back to 1993. As in 2666 , many of these women worked in the American-owned maquiladoras in the nearby desert, making products for export north.

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If it were the stand-alone work of an unknown writer, The Part About The Crimes would be an insane, unpublishable anti-novel . But Bolaño’s writing has long embraced themes of systemic violence and the relationship (if any) of literature to any actual world.

Today, taking a break from the dark gravity of Part Four, I came across several related articles.

The New York Times reports that: “Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm that makes iPhones, Dell computers and other electronics, is one of several Asian companies taking root. It opened a plant in Juárez last summer. . .Despite several murders a day, trade between Juárez and Texas rose 47 percent last year to $71.1 billion.”

And The Guardian says: “Not by coincidence, Juarez is also a model for the capitalist economy. Recruits for the drug war come from the vast, sprawling maquiladora – bonded assembly plants where, for rock-bottom wages, workers make the goods that fill America’s supermarket shelves or become America’s automobiles, imported duty-free… ‘It’s a city based on markets and on trash,’ says Julián Cardona, a photographer who has chronicled the implosion.”

That quote brings to mind a scene from 2666‘s Part Three “The Part About Fate”, which chronicles a black New York City journalist who ends up in Santa Teresa covering a boxing game but learns about the killing of women (and ultimately engages in a favored Bolaño trope: having an outsider enter in a potentially lethal situation and extract a person at risk with the power of words or at least without physical force). This excerpt is rich in its typical Bolañoid blankness (“the sandwich was full of all kinds of things”), laced with a humor so dark you almost forget the room has no windows and we’re running out of air:

He could see hills on the horizon. The hills were dark yellow and black. Past the hills, he guessed, was the desert. He felt the urge to leave and drive into the hills, but when he got back to his table the woman had brought him a beer and a very thick kind of sandwich. He took a bite and it was good. The taste was strange, spicy. Out of curiosity, he lifted the piece of bread on top: the sandwich was full of all kinds of things. He took a long drink of beer and stretched in his chair. Through the vine leaves he saw a bee, perched motionless. Two slender rays of sun fell vertically on the dirt floor. When the man came back he asked how to get to the hills. The man laughed. He spoke a few words Fate didn’t understand and then he said not pretty, several times.

“Not pretty?”

“Not pretty,” said the man, and he laughed again.

Then he took Fate by the arm and dragged him into a room that served as a kitchen and that looked very tidy to Fate, each thing in its place, not a spot of grease on the white-tiled wall, and he pointed to the garbage can.

“Hills not pretty?” asked Fate.

The man laughed again.

“Hills are garbage?”

The man couldn’t stop laughing. He had a bird tattoed on his left forearm. Not a bird in flight, like most tattoos of birds, but a bird perched on a branch, a little bird, possibly a swallow.

“Hills a garbage dump?”

The man laughed even more and nodded his head.

 

And that’s that. The complex — and extremely macho — intensity of Bolaño’s Grand Novel can certainly benefit from queering interventions & inversions more about seeds than graves. First there’s Rihanna’s new single, in which the pop star from Barbados goes reggae as she recounts gunning down Chris Brown “a man”, in broad daylight, with immaculate hair and styling. Personally, I believe guns should be illegal. But I’m willing to make exceptions for Rihanna.

Edging further towards 2666 is Rita Indiana’s punk-mambo apocalyptic embrace of a song, whose title translates to “The Devil’s Takin’ Us Away”, which we produced and released on Dutty Artz awhile back — Rita was in NYC recently and whipped crowds into a frenzy with each performance of “No Ta Llevando El Diablo”. Here’s footage from her Summerstage rendition of it, “a tune so bold and out-of-this-world, that it really seems like a trip to hell.”

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This post first appeared on Mudd Up!

As announced in this post, the Mudd Up Book Clubb kicks off this month. We have a time and location now: It’s going down on Monday June 27th, at 7pm on the rooftop near rue Jean Jaures in Gauthier, Casablanca. It’s a particularly appropriate place to sit down and discuss Maureen F. McHugh’s Nekropolis, a science fiction novel set in 22nd century Morocco involving biochemical slavery, immigration, genetic chimeras and more. See the original post for more info on the event and the book.

We’ll have a Ustream feed going for everyone elsewhere. I’m looking at a Filastine’s Barcelona rooftop for the next edition, let’s keep these pages turning..

The idea is simple: every six weeks or so we gather somewhere for informal talk centered around a good muddy book, then go eat delicious food. We’ll have a live Ustream feed so Cousin Internet and Miss Larry Antitroll can participate.

The inaugural edition will convene on a Casablanca rooftop, around late afternoon/sunset, about six weeks from now. Tea will be served; pastilla بسطيلة afterward — all you need to do is read the book.

Our selection: Maureen F. McHugh’s Nekropolis, a science fiction novel set in 22nd century Morocco involving biochemical slavery, immigration, genetic chimeras, and — last but not least — a new mode of sexuality. Keep reading this post…

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Seems to me like a nice route through tonight is to begin by catching Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts reading from her new book at the New School [UPDATE: THE NEW SCHOOL IS CLOSED TODAY DUE TO SNOW, READING POSTPONED] and then make our collective way over to Made in Africa — whose special guest DJ, Akwaaba’s BBrave, will stop by next Monday‘s radio show.

Harlem Is Nowhere (the book: excerpt) is out now, two weeks after my Domus mixtape appeared. The New York Times reviewer read her work & couldn’t help but hear music (Auto-Tune no less!):

It reads, in fact, as if Ms. Rhodes-Pitts had taken W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Souls of Black Folk” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and spliced them together and remixed them, adding bass, Auto-Tuned vocals, acoustic breaks, samples (street sounds, newsreel snippets, her own whispered confessions) and had rapped over the whole flickering collage. It makes a startling and alive sound, one you cock your head at an angle to hear.

Here’s a breakout jam from my Harlem Is Nowhere mixtape. The beat is an exclusive from Timeblind, low-slung, spacious, holding momenum in one hand and stillness in the other. Sharifa and I read excerpts from the 1941 edition of Rajah Rabo’s 5-Star Mutuel Dream book.

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This incredible publication listed pages and pages of things you might see, with accompanying 3-digit lottery numbers to bet on if you saw them. The lottery dream book simultaneously quantifies the mundane and wires it into a complex system of hope and mysticism, all with an eye on the money. Money the only thing that moves around a city faster or more completely than its number runners. Illegal uptown gambling created this fantastic by-product, these lean little snapshots of life on the street. This was Rajah Rabo’s landscape of possibilities. And so we receive a strange vision of what one might have seen, seventy years back. In many ways the quotidian is the rarest of all. The thing that gets lost first. So we read it. So we say it.

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DJ Rupture, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Timeblind – Rajah Rabo’s 5-Star Mutuel Dream Book

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Last but not least: if you are reading this and own or have access to a yacht, please let me know. We’ll only need to borrow it for a month or two. Thanks!