Edmond Caldwell


What, another book on the brain? She's crazy for them, for these books on the brain. It seems like every week there's a new book on the brain, some of them even on the best-sellers list. Outside on the power line a single crow shifts from claw to claw, as if the wire were too cold, unless it is too hot. But its feathers are not puffed, the sign of a cold bird, and the wire appears to be fully insulated. A "hot wire" is a stripped wire or a loose wire, and this wire is fully-insulated and taut. Still the crow shifts, in anticipation perhaps of the impending day, not long now, when absolutely everything will be wireless.  The crow has a bird brain, and yet crows are reputed to be among the brainy birds, along with parrots and cockatoos. There was a scientist who trained her cockatoo to learn up to eighty words, pecking them out on a kind of keyboard with a pictograph for each word. The cockatoo's favorite show was Sesame Street. The cockatoos are among the long-lived birds, and yet this cockatoo never outgrew Sesame Street, before it died. The crow on the power-line outside the window dimly anticipates the impending day of complete wirelessness, a day whose dawn is already at hand, or at claw, or as it were on the wing, a day destined to bring with it not only complete wirelessness but the melting of the polar ice caps, such that the land will be completely submerged in the sea, to the advantage perhaps of the less-brainy seagull but to the disadvantage of crows. There will be no land to land on but there will be no wires to stand on either, or rather, as now, on which to shift from claw to claw. With its bird-brain the crow addresses itself to this problem.


There are stacks of brain books on the display tables of all the bookstore chains and even on the shelves of the vanishing independent booksellers, every week a new brain book and every one of them, it seems, she reads. She is fully up on the brain. Research on the brain, or brain science, is being done all over the country, behind the walls of medical centers and universities all over the country, but the best thinking about the brain and certainly the best writing about the brain is being done right here in our city, really a megalopolis of merged old-style cities taking up half the coast. Many of the best writers on the brain are here in our city, giving talks about their books and signing copies of them. Many of her brain books have been signed by their authors, whom she has met in person and asked informed, intelligent questions. She has noticed that during the question-and-answer period at the end of such talks the women in the audience don't ask as many questions as the men, or at least do not raise their hands with the same alacrity as the men. Therefore she makes a point of being among the first in the audience to ask a question, to lead the way for women and set an example. The idea that there are major differences between the male brain and the female brain is a canard, which is also a kind of bird—a duck rather than the false-cognate "canary," and to her mind among the more slow-witted of the bird family. She has no patience for ducks.


The crow on the power line outside the window is gone. I am outside the window, looking in at her reading the latest brain-book in the oblong of sun on the futon. Outside it is neither warm nor cold. Inside she wears wool leg warmers and a halter-top with spaghetti straps, so the room's temperature is difficult to tell. The possibility of camouflage should never be discounted. On the outskirts of the city where there used to be trees there are now vast slums, shanty-towns with sewage in the ditches and foaming waste from the bio-tech labs. The shanties are built out of scraps, like bird-nests. The inhabitants of the shanty-towns piece together their shanties while the inhabitants in the universities and research centers piece together the sum of human knowledge. The most advanced brain science is being done with digital imaging. Together with the most advanced gene science and the most advanced theoretical physics the complete terrain of absolutely everything in the universe, the universe inside our brains as well as outside our brains, from the microscopic to the macroscopic, will be mapped, any day now will be mapped. It is already the dawn of the day when everything will mapped. But the word and indeed the very concept of "advanced" is retrograde, sentimental. One thing we are coming to understand is that human knowledge does not advance, in fact it does not move in a straight line at all. Knowledge does not advance but rather spreads, it does not march forth at the front of a column but spirals outwards, from a center. And not a single center but multiple centers, centers which move and shift depending on where they are viewed from, which puts the whole notion of "center" into play now, doesn't it.


The Black Ops units are reading the latest brain books in order to conceptualize the most "advanced" techniques for surveillance and counter-insurgency. But the insurgents are keeping pace, unless it is rather the Black Ops counter-insurgents who are keeping pace with the insurgents, it is difficult to tell. The most "advanced" insurgents have web-cams in their bedrooms and perform acts of solo masturbation with some of the "advanced" non-lethal crowd-control weaponry that has been developed, just to show us perhaps that the secret we tried to hide by publishing detailed assembly instructions on the internet is out. There is a precise moment when the woman reading the brain books will put down the latest brain book and pick up a gun that resembles a paint-ball rifle, but which shoots pellets of a crowd-paralyzing foam. After which the men in the audience who raise their hands first had better watch out. Algorithms for telling how constraint-satisfaction works in neurally-plausible architectures might suggest a horizon for this event, but at another level certain subatomic particles with exotic names and even more exotic behaviors make narrower calculations a problem.


But it is there nonetheless, this event, impending, it waits for us like a page in a book, even though the day has dawned when there will be no more books. It is the exact moment when the wire will be gone, just as there was an exact moment when the crow was gone and I had taken its place, a place that will also soon be gone. When the wire is gone I will be gone too, moving through the walls after the woman who has disappeared into her book or back into the shanty-town where another member of her cell fingers the remote. We are now able to conceptualize the most maze-like urban conflict zones in terms of a single plane.





A piece of writing, like any event, has multiple determinations, some more oblique than others. One such for "A Shorter Organon" was this article by architect Eyal Weizman, in which he reveals how the Israeli Defense Forces have been studying Delueze and Guattari in order to reconceptualize their subjugation of the Occupied Territories.

Link: [here]