To Sense and Perceive: A Review of A manifest detection of death-lot in banking games
“I’m primarily concerned with what I’ve come to refer to as death-lot, which is the interrelation of the variables of death and dying with the making of a decision via randomized selection, and how it manifests in banking games, particularly as an infusion of organic (i.e., participatory) and inorganic (i.e., structural) affectations tethered to each chance taken.” Andy Martrich, 2018, “…death-lot…”
Graduate student: I think I want to drop your course. The Martrich assignment has me stumped, and I don’t want to ruin my GPA.
Professor: Ummm, other students are struggling with the text, also. Does it help to point out that it is a long-form prose poem?
GS: I did notice that the volume is unpaginated and there are no paragraphical indentations. But, I’m having a hard time with the language. What does it all mean?
P: Perhaps it would help to know that Andy, an American living in France, is a Philosopher specializing in Ethics. Like you, I had several questions about the text and sent him an e-mail for clarification. He responded that he became interested in games and gaming because of the effects of Bethlehem Steel® on the people living in the area of Pennsylvania where he grew up. death-lot is the fourth in his series of books on gaming. I was curious about what works had influenced Andy, and he mentioned “writing that challenges the demarcation between prose and poetry and some kind of otherness”—Gertrude Stein, Laura Riding Jackson, Jackson Mac Low, Jonathan Williams, Ben Porter, Trisha Low, Holly Melgard, and Gordon Faylor, his longtime friend. “Found” compositions attract him. I hope I am not giving you too much information, GS, but Andy’s responses made me think of the chess player and Surrealist artist, Marcel Duchamp, who might have said, “death-lot is not a prose poem but an idea of a prose poem.” With this thought in mind, I asked Andy whether the point is not to explain or understand death-lot but to sense and perceive it? He replied, “Exactly!” Does any of this help?
GS: Ummm, “sense and perceive”—in addition to Surrealism, that sounds like Expressionism or, maybe, Futurism…
P: …good, I agree; and, Andy’s book would, also, find a home with Modernist texts, such as, Joyce’s Ulysses. For example,, like the famous novel, death-lot uses experimental prose relying on the unconscious [defense mechanisms, such as repression or identification; the death instinct], allusions [to entropy, to the universal human condition, to statistics], metaphors [history, human rituals, rule-governed behavior, war], symbols [from religious texts and cultures], ambiguities [Is the text non-fiction? How literally are we to take death-lot?], overtones [of human ancestry and “anthropological” studies], as well as, perhaps, parody [Are we to believe Andy? Is he manipulating us?].
“Death and lot are not only one and the same, for example, as ethereal properties that expose the delusion of material control and sustainability, but also mutually exclusive given their social, spiritual, and corporeal functions and limitations.”
GS: Yes, I often felt that death-lot was, itself, a game.
P: Indeed! I think Andy might agree with us. But, don’t forget that he wouldn’t want to tell us what death-lot is about or how we should interpret it—or whether we should only “sense” and “perceive.” Do you have any more questions or concerns?
GS: Well, when I read his section about lots and religious rituals, I thought of the Aztecs— sacrificing people to the war god, Huitzilopochtli. In a way, death-lot is about strategy and how we might and might not avoid the inevitable. Does that make sense?
P: That is an excellent insight. When humans play games, they usually adopt a strategy, attempting to win against the [random or seemingly random] odds. If you decide to remain in the course, you might want to research Decision Theory or Game Theory. Both of these models tell us something about how humans try to win. Game Theory, for instance, tells us that there are “stable strategies” that can optimize a person’s chances of winning against an opponent. Definitely sounds like war, doesn’t it?
GS: Ummm, rituals are like strategies since they make life more predictable—and, safer!
“Rituals exist in all societal and cultural contexts, and are typically designed and used to transform or consecrate one or more variables of a focal paradigm.”
P: Well, Andy would say that rituals make us feel safer, anyway. You seem to be conducting a “deep reading” of death-lot. If you decide to really challenge yourself, you might want to compare and contrast death-lot with the philosophical works, Chance and Necessity by Jacques Monod or The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus. Both of these books address selection, chance, and decision-making as existential phenomena…
GS: …death-lot is telling us our strategies will lose in the long term, isn’t it? This sounds nihilistic…
“Although gamblers are evidently pawn-like enablers, they’re also light-bearers, in that their play enacts the ritual and worship that simultaneously acknowledges and reinforces the truth of their situation, which is also our situation—a somnambulistic reliance on consumerist, narcissistic, corporate, and death essentialisms whose variabilities are governed by lot.”
GS: Ummm, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I’ll give death-lot another try.