Q&A with C. Relkbi, aka Rebecca Nakaba

Last September C. Relkbi gave a lecture based on her B-Movie creature analysis, featured in The Meekling Review. Her lecture touched on various forms of creatures and popular misconceptions, and included slides of their potential habitats including the one featured in the photo above (taken in a high school bathroom in Gary, Indiana) . In this interview we speak at greater length about Relkbi’s research, the genesis of her interest in these creatures, how they are often inaccurately referred to as “monsters”, as well a her favorite B-Movie creature of all time.

What first drew you to critical creature discourse and the genotypical and phenomenological study of B-Movie creatures?

I suppose what draws anyone to a field of study they are passionate about: childhood exposure. As a kid I watched a lot of B-Movies with my father, who is very talented at pattern recognition. I remember we had many discussions on the similarities and differences between the “monsters”: how they behaved when angered, frightened, surprised, or walking slowly through a marsh or forest. The humans were easy to understand, so I was always more curious about the creatures. I’d never seen one outside of films, so I started doing as much research as I could. Much of it tangential, as the field was and is small, but like my dad I’m pretty good at pattern recognition. My mom studied genetics for a little while, too, so I grew up knowing that in humans adenine pairs with thymine and guanine with cytosine. I wondered: what would B-movie creature DNA base pairs be? Of course we can’t know, but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Solving the mystery with the clues at hand.

I think the moment I knew studying B-Movie creatures was what I wanted to spend my career pursuing was when I first saw a B-movie that featured a desert habitat. I grew up in Southern California, and seeing one of those creatures roam my landscape was thrilling. I can’t recall the film, and I’ve searched for it my entire professional life.

For those readers unfamiliar with your branch of research, please describe what you do and the most important conversations happening in critical creature discourse at the moment.

As a B-movie scientist, I study B-movie creatures, or in colloquial (yet inaccurate) terms, “monsters”, in a way analogous to an astronomer studying stars. Both astronomers and myself have to contend with physical and temporal distance, and data that almost entirely comes from EM radiation (though astronomers have available to them the entire EM spectrum, and I must rely on optical and occasionally radio). Much of what I and astronomers do is modeling based on data, as things like control samples are mathematical ideals and our testing laboratories more computational.

I study these creatures to learn more about them, where they live, their peculiarities; what any biologist would say. Compared to the thousands of species of insects or birds or mammals, they are rare, and dependent on celluloid preservation methods. It is important to gather and accurately interpret data before their documentation—thus, in a way, their lives—is unsalvageable.

Some very exciting conversations in critical creature discourse have begun to separate analysis of the creature from anthropocentric psychology. In the past, creature motivation and even existence was all recorded under the shadow of human motivations. But my research and that of my colleagues has shown that, while the human drive must be accounted for in how the creatures are represented, a trove of unexplored data are presented when the creatures are studied as independentof the human psyche. Our hope is that after this more rational examination, the creature and human may be united again for a more complete understanding of each.

What are the most typical misconceptions of B-Movie creatures held by the general public?


The most common misconception I’ve encountered is that all B-movie creatures are violent or aggressive without reason. I believe this to be caused by selection bias and documentary techniques. The cases in which a creature has violently interacted with a human are much more likely to be documented than a peaceful encounter. And, it is much easier to document creatures that reside in habitats that overlap with those of humans. Close quarters will often lead to an interaction of some kind, though in my extensive research I’ve found it is more often the human that escalates the encounter.

Another misconception I run across is that the majority of B-movie creatures were created through nuclear waste. While it’s true that radioactive waste triggered mutations in some, it is mostly a convenient (though important) metaphor for humans and not scientifically accurate. Part of my job is to review documentation and data to parse when human intervention has occurred and when coincidence makes it appear that way.

What are your favorite B-Movie creature(s) and if you yourself could be a B-Movie creature, what would you be?

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but a recent creature I’ve studied and grown fond of is the “mollusk” in The Monster that Challenged the World. It presents a taxonomical difficulty I still haven’t entirely worked out. And, what can I say, I have a soft spot for California creatures.

To be honest, I don’t think I would want to be any of them. I’ve seen how their story ends too many times.

 

C. Relkbi is a scientist studying the genotypical and phenomenological characteristics of B-movie creatures. Her research focuses on human-creature interactions. She has published numerous papers in a variety of journals.

Rebecca Nakaba is a writer and multi-media artist studying the genotypical and phenomenological characteristics of humans and nature. Her research focuses on human-creature interactions. She has published in places.

FIND MORE B-MOVIE ABSTRACTS in The Meekling Review:

+ COPIES ARE NOW AVAILABLE AT POWELL’s BOOKS in PORTLAND, OR, for all you left coast folks +

B-Movie Abstracts by C. Relkbi, aka Rebecca Nakaba

Role of Visible, UVA, UVB, and IR radiation in Aggressive Creature Encounters

by C. Relkbi

23 September 20XX

Abstract

It is a well documented behavior that many organisms (heretofore: creatures, historically “monsters”) present in major box office habitats (MGM, Universal, Paramount, ARC, etc.) have an extreme aversion to light in the visible spectrum (390 to 700 nm) and often themselves utilize light for defense or aggression in UVA/UVB (< 390nm) or IR (>700nm) wavelengths. Humans documented to be involved with said creatures are often noted to possess a flashlight, largely at night or in shaded environments—where, because of the lack of visible light, creatures preferentially inhabit and humans preferentially illuminate. Ideally, this would create equilibrium for violent human-creature interaction: close contact with a creature’s own UVA/UVB/IR radiation can be debilitating to many human functions, but the average flashlight emits a continuum of light in the visible range, providing adequate repellant of a creature. Therefore, human and creature may exploit one another’s weakness in uncontrolled environments and situations, keeping “the balance of nature” in check.

Why, then, do many humans rarely succeed at repelling the creature? This paper seeks to answer this question and to suggest improvements to the flashlight for human use in defense against aggressive creature encounters. We will first examine the comparative strength of the visible radiation of the flashlight to the strength of documented creature-emitted UVA/UVB/IR radiation. The efficacy of the laser, whose light is monochromatic and coherent as opposed to the flashlight’s incoherent continuum, will be examined against a smaller subset of relevant creature-emitted radiation data. Lastly, a new model of flashlight created from the results of this paper (see Tables 3.1, 3.2, and Figure 5) is proposed, and the benefits of its papier-mache body woven of continuum-spectrum LED nano-fibers is discussed. Future experiments involving tube length, casing shape, and shock absorption are discussed in the Conclusion section.

 

Correlation Between Chest Albedo and Frequency of Female-Creature Interaction

by C. Relkbi

3 October 20XX

Abstract

While the average movie set is habitat to a variety of B-movie “monsters”, each with its own unique behavior and drive, it has been noted first by Corman et al. (1991) and more recently by Birch et al. (2004) that, regardless of habitat, genotype and phenotype, creatures are preferentially drawn to exposed females. Additionally, creatures that are otherwise solitary are observed to disregard their “usual” behavior in pursuit of the exposed female—analogous to the moth that flies into the flame. This paper seeks to provide a scientific analysis of the phenomena in response to the highly philosophical, sociological, and psychological implications that have surfaced over the past ten years in critical creature discourse.

The common factor across the over two hundred data points synthesized was albedo as it pertains to the female’s exposed chest. Albedo was calculated using several skin-reflectance parameters from the Harvard MERL/ETH database. The area of reflectance was determined using the classical anatomical definition of “bosom”, and pixel sampling was performed with an n-Rooks algorithm. We conclude that a strong correlation (graphs 6.7, 6.8, 6.9) between magnitude of albedo and frequency of creature-(female) human interaction exists. While it is outside the scope of this paper to postulate the causality behind this correlation, several theories are proposed in a subsection of Conclusions, including the potentially hypnotic effect of the highlighted female bosom as referenced in scientific and popular literature for the duration of the Anthropocene.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A significant constraint of the dataset used is the inescapable problem of film observation as opposed to direct sampling. Archival footage can only provide information relating to sight and sound, while more nuanced variables such as smell, touch, and chemical analysis must be inferred. However, given uniform high occurrence of creature preference for exposed females across a spectrum of female interaction, it can be concluded that individual-specific elements such as pheromone production and gland activity are insignificant (Methods 1.3). It can be assumed within an acceptable margin of error that the phenomena is ocular. For details on the control sample of covered female chests, see Methods 1.4.

 

C. Relkbi is a scientist studying the genotypical and phenomenological characteristics of B-movie creatures. Her research focuses on human-creature interactions. She has published numerous papers in a variety of journals.

Rebecca Nakaba is a writer and multi-media artist studying the genotypical and phenomenological characteristics of humans and nature. Her research focuses on human-creature interactions. She has published in places.

FIND MORE B-MOVIE ABSTRACTS in The Meekling Review:

+ COPIES ARE NOW AVAILABLE AT POWELL’s BOOKS in PORTLAND, OR, for all you left coast folks! +

Q&A with KANPHATA, aka Aditya Bahl

 
We were mesmerized at first glance of KANPHATA’s NAME/AMEN, a series of concrete poems formed from the deconstructed names of canonical Anglophone poets — Auden, Eliot,  Plath, etc. What is the meaning of a name proffered then dissolved and its remaining fragments? We asked the poet about this; we inquired too about the influence of Wittgenstein and Badiou on this work. From there KANPHATA guided us through a vast terrain of language and ideas, moving swiftly from fake poets and language games to the gap between what exists and what can be said, the contextualization of names, as well as his coming to Anglophone poets as a nonnative speaker of English. 
 
 
Who/what were your inspirations and influences for NAME/AMEN?
 
The project NAME/AMEN follows from a sheer desperation with using English language for literary purposes. English is not my native language, I have hardly ever spoken it in the everyday life (before recently coming to the US). And yet, I grew up (as a poet) reading a lot of Anglophone modernist poets. Largely because significant portions of their work are available to read online. This project, as I understand it now, is the wasteful remainder of my ambition to cure myself of my “double consciousness” as a poet. I had been strenuously striving to work myself out of the influence of a decidedly Western poetry and poetics, and yet, it was as if the more I was meaning to formally subvert the Western paragon of newness the more I would end up imitating the “great” Western poets.
 
This neurosis, and its attendant trials and tribulations, (howsoever romantic they might sound in retrospect, especially to a reader’s “lyric-ears”!) could not be sustained for long, and it culminated into a very painful and traumatic (for me) breakdown of the language I had been working with. A total breakdown at that, right down to the bare physical elements of the language. Although I was loosely aware of traditions of concrete and visual poetry in Brazil and Italy, I was not sure where I was going with this. I mean there was no ambition to create “art” or “poetry” of any “avant” kind, which is why making these works had offered little compensation.
 
I have enjoyed the wondrous fake anthology of South American poets written by Kenneth Koch, perhaps all the more wondrous for putting into relief the then prevalent mode of “transparent” translation practiced by the likes of Robert Bly. Also, Kent Johnson’s A Question Mark Above the Sun. Robert Kelly’s Earish, his homophonic translations of Celan, is great. And there are several other works too, esp. Brandon Brown’s translations (!!!), but then, alternating between real poems by fake authors and fake poems by real authors, I ended up operating in a completely different medium, one which is neither (only) language nor (only) image, and the personal context of this work is very different too.
 
 
We found inspiration for the Review in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s statement (from his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus): “The limit can, therefore, only be drawn in language and what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense.” How does this speak to your process in NAME/AMEN, or contradict it?
 
Upon receiving my copies, I kept thinking about this quote from Wittgenstein, which prefaces the volume, as also about the relationship between philosophy and poetry in general. If only in a way, Plato onwards, philosophy has traditionally come to be marked by a rather tragic persistence to philosophize the poem. But, as Marx says, what takes place as a tragedy often repeats itself as a farce. It is not surprising, then, that with the advent of the ’60s the very realm of philosophy should come to be poeticized! In the light of this turn to language, a famous proclamation from Wittgenstein comes to mind : “I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: Philosophy ought really to be written only as a poetic composition.” But what is supremely interesting is that Wittgenstein himself did not write his philosophy as a poetic composition. At least not the Wittgenstein of Tractatus. Instead, he takes recourse to a propositional form of writing, one which is almost pointillist in its logical effects, in order to repeatedly hone and clarify the limits of all that can be said, and to thereby circumscribe “the unsayable.” I believe there are important insights to be gleaned from the Wittgenstein of Tractatus. The most crucial of these relate to the minimal but absolute gap between what exists and what is (or can be) said of this existence. To collapse this gap is to fall into an abysmal sophistry of language games, whereby the poet-players mistake their poetics of semiotic deconstruction and glitch-noise for a destruction and/or re-organization of the oppressive forms of social relations we find ourself materially implicated in. Of course, this is not to discount the efficacy and a possible strategic use of the poetics of semiotic noise, especially in the current political situation of the world, but one must remember that noise can remain noise if it determines itself as noise. And this, I sincerely believe, cannot happen if one remains stranded in a wholly sublimated realm of language.
 
Thinking of NAME/AMEN in this context is kind of difficult for me. Each of these works is an improvisatory organization of black and white loops, curves, arms, chins, serifs, bars, stems on the white surface of the screen. Is this decontextualization of “the letter” a simple formalism of sorts? But then, why is each of these object-glyphs titled— name of __? Is there a hermeneutic to be sought, a bridge of positive correspondence to be built over the otherwise impassable gap separating the title (the name of __) from what it appears to refer to? Surely, this cannot be a meaningless exercise? Etc. There is, for me, an intense affective dimension to this work, one which refuses to be simply brought into consciousness. But let us not compensate the apparent meaninglessness of the work with a discourse of an ordinary pathos of biography, let us not make a spectacle out of the self-hatred the poet had felt while making these works. Let us just say that the work followed from an intensely affective experience with language, that of which one cannot discursively speak. In this regard, the work stands its own stead. To come to think of it now, this does chime rather well with the Wittgenstein of Tractatus— “Whereof we cannot speak thereof one must remain silent.”
 
 
The series begins with a quote from Alain Badiou: “ The proper of the name sabotages the common of the concept.” What is the significance of a name, common and proper, and of a name deconstructed?
 
I was really into Alain Badiou while preparing a manuscript for Meekling’s call for submissions. The quote comes from his essay on Nietzsche. For Badiou, the nomination of the indiscernible is a difficult enterprise. The “indiscernible” is indiscernible because it comes to “make a hole in the given situation,” and for the reason of its incalculable novelty it cannot be named . . . and yet. Badiou resolves this aporia by ensuring that the name of what is otherwise indiscernible is not of the order of signification, but rather it is a name which embodies an “evental quality.” To understand this difference, let us take the example of Kashmir, a symptom of the sovereign democracy that the Indian nation state professes itself to be. On the one hand, in the legislative structures of the Indian democracy, “Kashmir” is identified as one of the 29 states of the country and Kashmiris as legal citizens of the nation. But on the other hand, “Kashmir” is also the name of the freedom sought by those rioting masses in the streets, the masked men, women and kids who spontaneously emerge in the streets day after day armed with nothing but stones to pelt at the Indian army, resisting, in conjunction with an otherwise organized armed militancy across the state, the forced occupation of their homeland. The state, meanwhile, continues to exercise its “right to legislate,” and thus “identify” these militants as Pakistani terrorists or make sense of the riotous rabble as citizens of India who have been seduced by the Pakistani infiltrators and so on, and thus normalize the state of emergency it otherwise perpetuates. This antagonism between the ethos of democracy (farcical as they are) and the militant attempts which resist the forced Indian occupation of Kashmir is constituted and sustained by the same name—“Kashmir”—at once belonging to the legislative structures of the Indian constitution and sustaining the militant longing for freedom. Here, the difference between Badiou and the philosophers of language must become absolutely clear. For unlike the latter, for Badiou the interventional resistances stand in no need of a “different” register of signification. The newness of any movement lies not in the artificial novelty of the names it assumes for itself, for it is not the names themselves which exceed the situation. The novelty of a movement relates instead to the referential meaning of the name it assumes. The name “Kashmir,” if we are to go by Badiou, is supernumerary, is foreclosed from all determinants of Indian democracy, simply because there exist militants who have politically decided on the status of Kashmir, and have, thereby, chosen to demonstrate their fidelity to the same. In this regard, Kashmir is an empty name, or to put it otherwise, it has been named emptily, for it refers only to a world yet to come. The militant profession of the name Kashmir is a persistent clearing away of the forced occupation; it leaves the actual referent of the name void, to be duly filled in the future. What this historically entails for the future we do not know. Does it pertain to Kashmir’s emancipation as a nation-state? But, given the geopolitical situation, does not Kashmir’s emancipation rest upon the emancipation of the whole of South Asia? Of course, Badiou’s formalized abstractions are useless when it comes to these real geopolitical considerations. But I had found his rumination on the anti-Hegelian philosophy of Nietzsche particularly interesting.
 
The example I have used pertains to politics. The decontextualization of names that the project NAME/AMEN undertakes operates at an entirely different level of abstraction, that of poetry. It is dangerous to use either poetry or politics as an analogy to suit the other’s ends, but please, please indulge me awhile, and at least for now let me wager my thoughts! In a way, I think this project seeks to name these poets emptily yet again, to destroy the modernist monoliths. I mean who cares about the “great modernist works” and their “newness”? At least I did/do not.
 
 
You say you wanted to become a yogi but became a poet instead—at what point did these paths diverge?
 
In order to become Kanphata, a disciple of Gorakhnath, he had to have his ears split. But once it came to pass, he mysteriously turned into a visual poet, a people’s answer to Zarathusra’s complaints— “Must one smash their ears, so they may learn to listen with their eyes?”
 
 
KANPHATA: At my birth I split my ears to be able to see better. I grew up wanting to be a yogi. I ended up becoming a poet.
 

Aditya Bahl is a member of the Delhi-based Marxist collective Radical Notes. A book of poems will be out soon from Delet-e (Delete Press). A chapbook of poems is forthcoming from LRL Textile Series. A chapbook called this is visual poetry by aditya bahl was published in 2013 by Dan Waber’s imprint this is visual poetry.
 
 

Find more of KENPHATA’s NAME/AMEN in The Meekling Review:

from MUTINY IN HEAVEN

by Nijinsky’s Head

“He also gave a final dance concert, before an invited audience, at a near-by hotel, the Suvretta House. As Romola describes the performance, Nijinsky began by taking a chair, sitting down in front of the audience, and staring at them for what seemed like half an hour. Eventually he unrolled two lengths of velvet, one white, one black, to form a cross on the floor. Standing at the head of the cross, he addressed the audience: ‘Now I will dance you the war… the war which you will not prevent.’”

*

 

Father, Son & Holy Ferret, I want rest, I want rest, I want rest. From up the zero rectum of this great green void, at last I’ve come out as sane as my mother before she made me. Was it the voice of the Authority still on me like sleek afterbirth that I heard, shaking my head a bit to knock loose the amniotic fluid still trapped within my ears? “Are you willing to be a nobody? Yes?” Yes. “Then you are free. I condemn you.”

 

*

 

So, condemned as such, besmirched like a louse fresh from the crush of a thumb, I was spat out like human realism, cast out. The churches would not have me. The halfway houses would not have me. The myriad jackbag jobs would not have me. And yet, was I not a spy as I was–a devout Christian, homeless, diseased with criminal drugs? To the nearest low wage I took myself and from the incredible hours passing through me made something measly. Under the awning above the grocery loading dock, I stood half in sunlight and submitted myself to a coworker’s lessons on smoking. Hold the cigarette like so. Suck. Hold the smoke, then let it flow out, or blow. Out both nostrils if you are a true animal. And if you are so skilled, out of one only. Best to be elegant with your cancer.

 

*

 

The somebodies, what of them? The somebodies, they say, are deeply weak for their identities, which, of course, we give them. We kill them to be one thing and one thing only. Here one comes walking along, snipping people’s ears off with scissors. In their presence everyone learns to listen. The end of God is a mouth. Blah blah. The end of the mouth is God. Now that sounds more like it. A sweet day for the nobodies, who have had to stand by for so long, moving through the vanishing circuits like so much Zen money. For today, like us, they drag God from his inborn lair, face-down through the streets of his literature.

 

*

 

Because he was one of the first, wasn’t he? For I am full of increase now, moving through the bowels of Authority’s communal ego—I can, and will say it! Celebrities are feces of the disenchanted, the anonymous, blandly downtrodden, lives too dumb to rise. Here is Monica Belluci, here is Beyonce, here is Jack Nicholson and Andy Warhol and, yes, barely last and mostly least, yours only—Nijinksy! Then we are, here we go, on our mobile thrones, carried across wasteland relevance atop a velvet pillow. As our pallbearers crumble, their children step to take up pillow. The burden, as they hate themselves praising us so, is more than they could ever know!

 

*

 

To dance the war, then! A pornography of realism. I lay no preexisting claims on what will happen next. Ballet is life lunging out of death. It says much—that no one now would dare believe it. As I have established, I am of these beings, vibrating among them along the nimble continual string of consciousness. Each time I seize one and become them, I tell them: every day I meet my maker, because I am him. They only believe in their condition, as if it were selected for them, like a body. A body is there to leap out of time, to shame space and gravity, and just as vigilantly, sculpt it! These weaklings, these inborn wraiths, who have never allowed themselves to be brushed so by the unreal greatness of their bodies!

 

*

 

A good hard living look. A good look at them. And there they go, one by one: staring back. What do they think I think they are? They should know, I am full gone obliterated back through the insane navel of my animal. Whilst they sit and stare, reduced, like just that: an audience. Cast out at breakneck speed into helplessness. Though to them it feels like waiting for no one else.

 

*

 

As I am! No one! One with a body, a Nobody! A Nobody flooding space like a ghost! Hold me close, Holy Ghost! Drowning in the now, new as a death-throe, as full tight with birth as roe.

 

*

 

Look up, and there you are. A leap suspends us—you, me, every one of me as you—above and below, unknown!

 

*

 

The meaning of life is power. The meaning of life is self-interest in flower. Those who can’t climb it, hallucinate it. Ranting, doctors would later say, is the sympathetic magic of madness. Imagine how dangerous I would be if I were useful! High on the view from up here, where I leapt with a lonely body, and then, from that simple height, one by one, dropped them.

 

*

Nijinsky’s Head was born on Apr. 8th 1950 in London, England. It has been rolling towards you ever since, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

 

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press, 2016). The title story for this book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015)

 

WANT TO KEEP READING?

Find the full text of ‘Mutiny in Heaven’ in The Meekling Review: