I should’ve posted this ages ago. My 36th Chamber of Commerce story was translated into Portuguese and featured in the A Batalha newspaper. A Batalha is Portugal’s oldest anarchist newspaper (the original version was established in 1919) and a fitting place for the story. It was an honor to be included and very cool to see my work translated into Portuguese for the first time.
36th Chamber of Commerce originally ran as an 8-page story in World War III (B&W), and in Cartoon Dialectics #1 (with spot color). The A Batalha version had to be reformatted into a larger newspaper format and ended up with three oversized pages.
A Batalha was nicely put together. There were other comics in there and they had nice illustrations. You don’t know how much you miss illustrations from magazines and newspapers until you open one up with lots of them inside.
Here are some pics of 36ª Câmara do Comércio in A Batalha. Special thanks to Chili Com Carne for making this possible!
We begin a new series of guest posts from Adalbert Arcane, the writer of Notes & Theories section of the new edition of Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse (BTTOA). The story covered is the first in the BTTOA cycle. This is the story that launched this project in the first place.
Who is Adalbert Arcane? Adalbert Arcane is a noted psychogeographer and the co-founder (with Tom Kaczynski) of Omniversity. He has an honorary fellow at OPA (Office for Psycho-Architecture).
Notes & Theories: 100,000 MILES
AOL / TW
The author (Tom Kaczynski) claims personal events inspired this story. The details are sketchy, but some information can be pieced together from various infrequent interviews. The author did live in the Washington, DC area at the time of the creation of this story. He claims his commute to his job (when he was employed on a secret prototyping division of AOL/TimeWarner (AOL/TW) headquartered near the Dulles airport) was approximately 45 minutes each way. This is plausible as traffic in the DC/Virginia tech corridor is notorious.
The imagery of the comic resembles the freeway edgelands of the Herndon/Reston/Sterling suburban sprawl one would have to traverse to reach the AOL/TW HQ.
J.G. Ballard’s car novels influenced 100,000 Miles. The author makes this explicit on the page (see p. 14, panel 1). This author wears his influences on the sleeve.
Ballard’s Crash! and Concrete Island explore the psycho-sexual relationship between vehicles and drivers. Cars’ sleek chassis and leather barely conceal their latent deep pathology and violence. Drivers enter into a primitive hypnotic state as they begin to physically merge and identify with their vehicles. Violent collisions are moments of truth. The moment of the crash results in an erotic merger of steel, leather, and flesh .
In 100,000 Miles, the car is ubiquitous, commonplace, and tame. The Ballardian charge has already dissipated .
The protagonist drives aimlessly, trying to avoid work. The drive is a tedious and uneventful background that serves as a blank canvas for rumination and reverie. Is it a deliberate counterpoint to Debord’s Derivé, where a flaneur traverses the city in rapid succession of ambiances? The car is a sensory deprivation chamber—a theme that the author returns to repeatedly (see Hotel Silencio, Million Year Boom, and Music for Neanderthals)—floating through a generic suburban wasteland. Occasionally the Real bursts through accidents and traffic jams. Like in Goddard’s Weekend, the traffic jam and the accident reveal the occulted meaning beneath the freeway concrete.
Break With the Past
This story distinctly breaks with the author’s other work (to be collected as Trans Terra, which attempts a sharp social critique in comics form) both formally and narratively. The Beta Testing The Apocalypse (BTTA) project seeds already appear here: obsession with numbered titles, easter eggs that connect each story, sly references to the source material, absurd fictional scenarios, etc.
Traffic Jam / Hyperobject
At what point is the traffic jam real, a real object, an entity that has existential status? The author complicates the ontological status of the traffic jam. Sometimes we drive, and traffic seems to flow without delays, but another traffic jam is already forming somewhere ahead of us. Is each traffic jam a distinct entity? Or is the entirety of the automobile fleet simply in various states of the same continuous global traffic jam in various states of territorialization and deterritorialization?
These ideas parallel Timothy Morton’s work on hyperobjects and the contemporaneous work of the Object-Oriented Philosophical clique. OOP proposes novel metaphysics, reevaluates the ontological status of objects, and posits a positive flat ontology (more on this in notes on Million Year Boom).
The now-famous denouement of the infinite traffic jam sets the stage for the ongoing questioning of the ontological status of everyday reality throughout the book. This sequence is likely the genesis of the whole BTTA project.