1990/2005 | ​city: works of fiction

​Catalogue number for the world is HNCD 1483.

​​CITY: Works of Fiction was re-issued in July 2005 via All Saints / Hannibal (Ryko) with new cover art:
From the CD notes:

• Spirit: not only in the forest but in the carwash, too. Exotic culture forms highlight pop culture forms and vice-versa…

“…and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”—T.S. Eliot

• Expanding sonic menu made possible by continuing inquiry into what’s the baby and what’s the bathwater, i.e., relationship of surface features (recognizable to most) to structural sophistication (recognizable by few).

“…to change our way of reading (listening), to be attuned simultaneously to flashing surfaces and structural intricacies … both televisual and poetic, and to alter consciousness toward a future mode of perception.”—Mark Edmundson

• Spontaneous combustion of rap, hip-hop as urban folkloric forms. “Folkloric” in the sense that it arises out of sentiments and materials at hand.

• Compare African tribal style: dance, poetic storytelling (in-jokes, ironic boasting mixed with traditional wisdom), local instruments. Hip-hop style: same, except that local instruments are not skin and wood but samplers and turntables and drum machines with TV tempos.

• Funny idea: that parts of CITY are like “classical” hip-hop …What rappers might tune into as an exotic extension of their vocabulary.

• Desire to reinvent, redefine possibilities of Fourth World …To poke air holes in the enclosing bubble of the inevitable banalization and orthodoxy of the “World Music” idea.

• Nigerian writer Ben Okri’s “Brave New Africa” images: City of Red Dust… bizarre ailments… conmen selling Power Drug… A continent dreamed up by Bosch and Borges.

• The polyglot L.A. of the near future in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

• Jean Baudrillard: America as “the primitive society of the future.”

• Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: A poetic fantasy conjugation (past, present, future) of “city”. “And from the mixture of those two cities a third emerged, which might be called San Francisco … and which might blossom as capital of the Pacific a millennium hence, after the long siege of three hundred years that would lead the races of the yellow and the black and the red to fuse with the surviving descendants of the whites in an empire more vast than the Great Khan’s.”

• Fellini’s “Reggiolo”: a custom designed film town …It could be Bombay, Beirut, Brasilia.”

• Surrealists’ idea: “Odd things meet in full light.” (Or: ordinary things in odd light?) “Surrealist music”.

• Rushdie’s image of a tropicalized London: “… institution of a national siesta… vivid and expansive patterns of behaviour among the populace, higher-quality popular music, new birds in the trees… improved street life, outrageously colored flowers (magenta, vermilion, neon green), spider monkeys in the oaks… hotwater bottles banished forever, replaced in the foetid nights by the making of slow and odorous love… friends dropping in on one another without making appointments, closure of old folks’ homes, emphasis on the extended family…”

©1990 Jon Hassell

1. VOICEPRINT (BLIND FROM THE FACTS) Metal Fatigue is a euphemism. The same vibrations express sympathy or illness depending on their target. At night the broken glass looks like a field of stars. Seen from the towers, the tail lights of a car cruising for prostitutes can spell out short words, like L-U-V.

2. PAGAN In our search for a way of keeping track of minutes and seconds without tools we discovered music and from then on the other arts chimed in. Harvests improved. We developed new fruits and flowers and invented dessert wines.

3. MOMBASA They sell orchids in the ladies room. The subway is free. The train keeps rolling all night long. On it they sell fresh orange juice and newspapers. Rice is a dime and it’s white. When it rains everything shines like glass. Once in a while the wind blows through this town from the North and sandblasts everything. What’s metal shines, what’s painted, they repaint.

4. TIKAL At any given time exactly the same number of people will be found to be sleeping there. Sleeping past the alarm is a crime. Doctors make the patients run or weave specific patterns of lace. Smoking is mandatory in restaurants.

5. IN THE CITY OF RED DUST Their engravings of God depict him in a hammock. The grandeur of a home usually has to do with the size of its central fountain. Many of their priests are also hairdressers whose pricey creations represent mythological events. Although nudism is the custom, men and women rarely are seen unveiled.

6. RAIN The wind changes the beat. Water blows around the corner and down the block. It’s backed up. Foreign cars with horns in minor keys. Hear the phone wires bang and echo like a cheap cave. The wind is playing with fire.

7. BA-YA D I always wondered how they could dig a city like that up. Who buried it in the first place. Don’t tell me it just gathered dust for that long. Somebody must have buried it. Maybe they were trying to hide it so their apartments would be vacant when they came back and then they never did.

8. WARRIORS Bad mothers. Fierce but laid back. Wearing colors you’ve never seen. Gangbanging without moving. Napping in your face. Sleeping in a car outside your house with the radio on.

9. OUT OF ADEDARA Their architects were blind women. From these towers rose the hot air balloons of the singers. The baths stretched from the North wall of the city to the South. To enter the women’s city from the men’s city one had to pass through them, and the same going the other way.

Glenn O’Brien



The following is the full of text of a note, directed at the Penn (U. of Pennsylvania) community, that was enclosed in one of the packages of materials that Kathy Change distributed the morning of October 22nd 1996, the day she set fire to herself.

(Note that this was written in the atmosphere surrounding the first Gulf War. -jh)

All that you have and cling to in fear

Is as worthwhile as a poisoned pie.

A universe full of love and wonderful possibilities

Would be yours if only you would reach for it.

You are sitting in timid conformity

On a hayride to hell.

You’re just about there.

Get off that truck now.

Break out of the ranks of evil

Do a dance for freedom.

I am angry, impatient, full of anxiety

And full of hope and love

But after 18 years of trying and being rejected

And being a pariah and a fool

I have finally concluded that my charism

And social magnetism register high on the negative scale.

Now that I’ve put in the first word,

This movement that I’ve tried to start,

Would probably do better without me,

So I will try to make a dramatic exit.

I’ve tried to do this several times before,

And failed.

If this is the right thing to do,

Heaven will help me.

If not,


Nevermind. I’ll be seeing you around.

I look at you and you are so beautiful

It makes me shy.

Your sympathy makes me want to hide

Because I feel unworthy.

For the cause I want to grab you

Drag you to meetings and demonstrations

But I’m afraid of putting you on the spot

Making you uncomfortable, scaring you away

So I am frozen in wanting

to merge my mind and heart with yours

Imprisoned by the invisible barriers

That I know must be broken through

I scream shrilly

I am an ungainly presence

Trying to break through the complacency

with my wild rage.

I have crashed this party

I do not belong here.

But you do. You are the children of the host.

You can talk to each other as peers

And take your rightful places

At academia’s table

with calm and gracious poise.

As crazy as I have been,

You can be cool.

Have confidence in your beliefs

You are a step ahead of everybody else.

Underneath their herd stupidity

Even the demo emulating morons and their sold out mentors

Who appear to be the majority in your milieu,

Are human beings

Who long for the world to be freed and set right

Even though they don’t know it.

Do them the great kindness of forgiving their stupidity

And put them in touch with the real heart

Of humanity.

To reach through the mask

Is your task.

There is so much at stake;

The country, the world, the future.

Don’t be put off by trivialities.

With you as its champion

Good will surely triumph.

How great will be your glory

How multitudinous will be your blessings

The highest happiness will be yours.

For many years I have though that Penn

Would be a good place to start the Transformation.

If this action I am taking succeeds

I hoped it might spark some interest

In what I was trying to say.

I hoped my writings would be printed and made available.

Maybe Transformation Parties could be held.

I am taking this action out of hope

Not despair.

By destroying my material corpus

I want to free my spirit

So that it can jump inside of you

I think that you would enjoy being filled

with conviction and can-do optimism

I think you would feel good

to be cleansed of the blase brain rot that clogs your mind

Yes there is such a thing as true morality, a real

distinction between good and evil, right and wrong.

Decisive moves must be made on behalf of good.

These are the addresses of some Penn people to whom

I have sent my packages.

Maybe you would like to meet and talk.

I have also sent packages to WXPN

and the Daily Pennsylvanian.

October 7, 1996

The multitudinous war crimes and crimes against humanity of the U.S. government have been documented and detailed, and every American is more or less aware of the criminality of his government, and yet we continue to respect its power and authority. We continue trying to work through the electoral process. We plead with our congress people to work for the well being of all the people and the planet instead of catering to the special interests of big money and organized crime. It is as though Gary Heidnik, the man who imprisoned, tortured and murder women in his basement, was the headmaster of a girls’ prep school; and upon discovery of his crimes,he was duly criticized, but allowed to remain in his position of power and responsibilty, presumably to continue his atrocities. The U.S. government is a much bigger and far worse criminal than Gary Heidnik, and it must be relieved of its duties immediately without further bureacratic hemming and hawing. The crimes of this present system are so enormous, an the dangers to which it is exposing us are so deadly and world threatening, that a sincere and forthright call to the American people to depose this evil system and come together now to peacefully replace it with true democracy, would be received with an overwhelmingly positive response from the people. Media workers are in a position to make this call and it is their responsibility to do so.

It is a waste of energy to get angry and gripe at the government. The government must be replaced by a truly democratic selfgovernment of, for and by the people. Those people working in industries essential to maintaining life should democratically take over their work places and organize an emergency economy to supply the needs of the people. The rest of the people should meet in their communities to organize a new directly democratic community based selfgovernment. This should be done immediately, because every day that we continue with business as usual, the problems just get worse. I want to protest the present government and economic system and the cynicism and passivity of the people in general.

I want to protest this entirely shameful state of affairs as emphatically as I can. But primarily, I want to get publicity in order to draw attention to my proposal for immediate social transformation. To do this I plan to end my own life. The attention of the media is only caught by acts of violence. My moral principles prevent me from doing harm to anyone else or their property, so I must perform this act of violence against myself. Around twelve years ago, I don’t remember the exact year, a woman from Boston set herself on fire in Independence Square. For the next five days the Philadelphia Inquirer was filled with reports of investigations into who this woman was and speculation as to why she did this act. Since I have been in Philadelphia for fiften years, all the while making myself very visible demostrating my position opinions, dancing and waving my flags on the streets of this city, I believe I should create at least as much as a sensation in the press. If the news media buries this story it will be proof of the extreme prejudice of the media. I want this statement and my other writings to be printed in the newspapers of this city. I want the people of this city who have been seeing me around for so long to finally hear what I’ve been saying. I want my ideas to be publically discussed. If people talked about my ideas, they would realize that transformation of our society is possible, and they would feel better.

I first planned to take this action a year ago. I wrote up final statements, xeroxed them, and then I backed down. A year ago, economic collapse seemed to be the most imminent danger threatening us. Today the likelihood of the impending war with Iraq rapidly escalating into a nuclear holocaust eclipses the likelihood of economic collapse as being by far the more serious and scary crisis. I am propmted to take this action by the dire urgency of the world’s environmental crisis, and the enormous unnecessary suffering and repression being endured by all the world’s people because of the oppressive geopolitical system. Of all the world’s people, only the American people have the power to change this global system of abuse, and therefore, it is their responsibility to do so. I hope my action will not be viewed as tragic, but rather, in the light in which it is intended. I am performing this ritual sacrifice in hopes that it will increase the efficacy of my prayers to all the people to have faith in the ideals, choose the path of peace and transform this nation and world.

I also want to make a statement about life and death. Death is natural and inevitable. Death is good, because it allows life to make a fresh start. The spirit is everlasting and always returns to life through rebirth. I am not certain exactly how this happens, but I believe that the spirit recycles itself somehow. It’s true that we are each special individuals whose lives are precious, but we are also part of a great spirit body, the universal collective spirit. By dying, we dissolve our individual ego personality and rejoin the spiritual totality, before returning to alife in a new body. It’s a completely wonderful process, and not sad at all, except perhaps for the people we leave behind, who may miss us. But there are so many beautiful people in the world, that they should not miss the departed for too long. There are always plenty of people around to love.

This society places too much emphasis on the unconditional sacredness of life. Anti-abortionists believe that it is more important to save life than to guarantee the quality of the life they save. This belief in survival as the highest priority contributes to the deterioration of the quality of life for everybody. When people do not practice birth control and all the babies are saved, then we overpopulate. We kill wild animal species, strip the earth of its forests and wilderness, and the planet becomes ecologically imbalanced and punishes us with environmental disasters. When there are more people than we can care for, the quality of life diminishes for everyone. A life is worth saving only if it is worth living. It could be argued that to live with physical handicaps and adversity may be good for spiritual growth. But to live in moral degradation is not good in any way. Because our society is so corrupt, unfair, environmentally destructive, and in a state of deterioration, rather than improvement, we are all living in a state of moral degradation. Our society is like a cancer on the planet. The goal is for everybody to improve, not to commit mass suicide.

For eighteen years I have been trying to urge people to throw off the corruption and go for the good, but I don’t see my efforts as being successful in any way, except that it’s given me something to do. I do not want to live off of this evil society any longer. My life is dependent on this society, and so I want to end my life. I demand that life must meet a standard of true morality or else it is not worth living. In Orwellian fashion, this society equates repression with morality. But in truth, repression of people who are only trying to enjoy themselves and not hurting others is utterly immoral. The real struggle is not between races, or classes. It is not people versus the elite.

The real struggle is between good and evil; between intelligent behavior and blind obedient conformity. Good is what promotes health and happiness. Evil is what causes deterioration and disease. If we choose good, it will be a triumph for everybody. Every person from the poorest to the richest, from the humblest to the most powerful, will gain. Everybody will discover real joy and peace of mind. The benefits will be so absolute that I cannot imagine any other outcome.

We are entering an age that will be as different from what came before as day is to night, or as summer is to winter. Throughout this passing age, humanity has had to work very hard at being constantly on the defensive, and prepared for war. Now as we dissolve the enmity, we can all relax and enjoy life.

As a plan my action, I think of all the things that might hinder it. What if the post office fails to deliver my press statements? What if someone stops me from carrying out my intentions? I don’t know if I will succeed, but I will drop this statement in the mail and proceed, trusting in fate to bring about whatever is meant to happen.

Call me a flaming radical burning for attention, but my real intention is to spark a discussion of how we can peacefully transform our world. America, I offer myself to you as an alarm against Armageddon and a torch for liberty.