Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Peggy McCracken Talk on Flower Girls, Mesh and Strange Strangers


This is an enchanting, information dense talk that starts to explore flowers in Medieval culture. Not simply as symbols for other things, but also as—flowers...Very haunting use of strange strangers...

For me all poems about flowers are also about poetry, because a “flower” is a trope (hence the term “anthology” from the Greek anthos, flower. Hence “flowery language.”

But flowers and tropes share a deeper similarity, because they are both plots of algorithms, as I describe in this talk.

Here's Dudley Moore playing a Liberace-style Beethoven introducing Wordsoworth (Peter Cook) reciting “Daffodils,” with some flower girls...


Everglades Pics




























Rodent skulls


Joel Trexler and air boat

Everglades 4

Joel Trexler has been our guide. Expect a lot more on this. Apologies for the raw notes here.

Wood storks--endangered

Ridges longer than they are wide
Tear drop shaped tree islands
Because of water flow
Federal initiative zeroing in on recovering water flow because that has cascading effects
Don't want to lose drinking water
Dropping water table in a strangely dry year got the ecologists in trouble
Pushback against the sparrow management because Indians want tourists to hunt: need tree islands
Snails that get really big, apple snails
Kite specializes in eating them
Limpkin with a long bill also eats them

Floating mats of algae
Sinks down at night
Floats up in the day
"scum" in ponds on campus not aesthetically pleasing but ecologically important
Periphytin
Bladderwort carnivorous
We're in the wettest ie longest hydroperiod part

We have 1/8 of nesting wading birds historically
This part of FL has only been out of the water for 5000 years

Oolitic banks and substrates
Limestone platform when sea level dropped
Filtering process and accumulation process of species
Peninsula effect: lower diversity as you go down

Shorter list of species here than just north of lake Okochobee

Water beetle with paddle like feet for swimming

The joy of looking into clear water
Seeing the weeds

Environmental economics: Joel interested in this through a particular economist
You can put a value on eg tourist dollars per wading bird
Large mouthed bass: how to out a value on that
The economist Joel is talking about is a correlationist -- nature only has value via humans



Everglades 3

Gar: living fossil tolerant of low oxygen
Swim bladder
Exchange across tissue layers like placenta
Fish can inflate or deflate bladder and stay in place
Gar has tube that creates link between gut and swim bladder
By coming up for air
Vascularized tissues associated with this
Can use like a lung
Fish that can't do this were weeded out
Don't see zero oxygen in Everglades but not much
Cattails an anthropogenic effect
Nutrient enriched water into national park
Cattail monocultures
Big federal lawsuit
Under supervision
Ag interests want court to rule quickly
But clean water act says you can't dump water into Everglades
As we go north the cattails disappear
Becomes sawgrass: historical vegetation for the ridges
Serrated blades
You have to wear protection
Nutrient enrichment drops off quickly in this canal because of flow from north to south
Boat disturbance releases nutrients
This ecosystem is supersensitive to phosphorus
Very low phosphorus in water historically cf wetlands in Jamaica
So when people add it it has cascading effects
Changes in algal community
Changes in cattails
You need a number to enforce the rules
Phosphorus is accumulating
2-8 ppb historically
Near or below detection limit
Hard when you're enforcing a standard
We argued that over 10ppb is problematic
Closer to 10, easier to reach nutrient rich ecosystem
Nutrient spiraling
Ecosystem flips
"loading" or accumulating over time
Slowly saturated system
No practical way to take phosphorus out
Which is worse? Overstrung or adding more phosphorus? This is a common argument
Trexler thinks it's better to leave dry then slowly add water back
But peat oxidizes and compacts, takes hundreds of years to take back
Dilemma

Everglades 2

Limnology U Wisc are experts
Limestone platform low nutrient system removes phosphorus
Water percolated right through rock
Peat not anoxic
Tendency to see Everglades as unique
Some high end journals won't publ Evergaldes stuff because of that
Mikasuki Indian tribes next to it
Miami drinking water filtered through Everglades
Big canals result in salt water intrusion
Water Conservation Area 3B is where we're at
Fresh water issues politicized
Supreme Court decision that grants weight to peer reviewed papers
Not as cut and dried interest wise: not stark black and white "let it be" vs "keep the levees"
Deer hunters and fishermen
Indians vocal on the tree islands
To them it's a shifting baseline phenomenon
"what I saw when I was a kid"
Before Spanish came in, disease etc with them wiling out humans
Trail of Tears of people forced west
Some came south chased by US army
Pushed into Everglades
Those guys lived on tree islands
Seminoles
Not a pre-European community
Deal cut re resettlement when national park was built
One group took money
Another group moved along trail: took name Mikasuki
Contrast between Seminole and Mikasuki : Ms do a lot of suing
Chief Billy interests counter to preserving
Mud puddles where there was once a lot of water looking south
Lots of peat historically so it would've been wet
Cape Sable and the vanishing Seaside Sparrow
This sure is showing how ecology is hypocrisy and sincerity
Army Corps claim that they can dry out an area cleanly doesn't hold up because the whole system is affected
If you like one community of species than another depending on hydroperiod
Hydroperiod: number of days a site is inundated
Ten year hydroperiods
If it dries every third year you get a different community
Even empiricism is affected by transitions in view
Limnologist may think what she sees in WI is transferable
Value system of trying to capture the historical ecosystem
Hydrologists focus on annual water budget eg
You can't do traditional experiments with controls
You have to create or extrapolate a nonhuman picture as a quasi control
One month dry extra
Threshold effect
Hydro guys don't see the little fish eg that ecologists care about



Everglades 1

Wet prairies
3' to 21' big cypress national preserve
Big biological shift
Slews with sedge
Ridges that intersigitate the slews
North south water flow affects the dynamic
Losing that pattern in the landscape
If you lose relief between wet and dry zones then ecology drastically shifts
Ridges aren't easily seen as discrete
SW 8 St runs across Everglades
Huge fires burned peat
FL peatland here and around Caribbean basin function differently
Sci study as a way to fund management



Everglades Day


Expect at least one post on the Everglades today. I'm up ridiculously early but I have an extraordinary piece of Persian violin music to keep me company...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vegan Time


This piece in Time has some pretty uncompromising information and arguments about vegetarianism and veganism (on the pro side). In particular, there are some arguments about free-range meat (doesn't that sound like a very very strange image? It should). Cows and chickens are raised kindly, then shot. Once you've crossed the threshold of realizing they shouldn't suffer in life, it does seem a bit much to then turn around and pop a cap in their heads.

Valleys: An Uncanny Tourist Guide


You can leave them. I'm not convinced this applies to ecological awareness.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Slough of Despond (Pilgrim's Progress). Our devotees are able to exit them.
Let's think of some others together (comments welcome).
There are some undeniable gender complexities in the valley.
Frank Zappa, “Valley Girl.”
Valley of the Dolls.
What about other religions?
Shangri-La. Otherwise known as Shambhala.
La Vallée. Movie with soundtrack by Pink Floyd about a lost civilization. Primitivism.
Romanticism has its dells and nooks (“of paradise,” as someone said of Samuel Palmer's art).

Denizens of the Uncanny Valley


It's an issue in CGI, and as you can imagine there are complex gender issues in the valley, as well as race and ability issues.

Return to Uncanny Valley


Just got off the phone with Judy Natal, who tells me that 2500 PEOPLE showed up at the University of Arizona in Tucson AZ for a series of talks on cosmology. Evidently there's a thirst for thinking about what exists in reality, even for ontology itself.

Judy was wondering why the same fascination isn't there for global warming. I was thinking about this too—I reckon it's because of the oppressive claustrophobic horror of actually being inside it. You can spectate “the Universe” as a kind of ersatz aesthetic object: you have the distance provided by the biosphere itself, which acts as a kind of spherical cinema screen. You can kid yourself that what's displayed on that screen (like projections in a planetarium) is infinite, distant—the whole Kantian shebang.

But inside the belly of the whale that is global warming, it's oppressive and hot and there's no “away” anymore. And it's profoundly regressing: a kind of toxic intrauterine experience, on top of which we must assume responsibility for it, and what neonatal or prenatal infant should be responsible for her mother's existence?

I was thinking about the “uncanny valley” phenomenon in robotics yesterday. Last time I posted on it a commenter talked about racism and I think yes, the uncanny valley explains racism quite well, and other forms of dehumanization. If an entity is different enough from you, you can regard them without a sense of the uncanny (which has to do with strange resemblance). So antisemitism for instance emerges in a culture (Nazism) in which beings such as Hiter's dog, Blondie, are treated with reverence.

The more we find out about our kinship with all lifeforms, the more uncanny they become—they all start to slip into the uncanny valley. So ecological ethics must be to do with how we confront the “inhuman”—precisely, the strange stranger that is us.

So perhaps global warming is in the uncanny valley as far as hyperobjects go. Just a theory, but maybe a black hole, despite its terrifying horror, is so far away and so wondrous and so totally fatal (we would simply cease to exist anywhere near it) that we marvel at it, rather than try to avoid thinking about it or feel grief about it. The much smaller, much more immediately dangerous hole that we're in (inside the hyperobject global warming), is profoundly disturbing. Especially because we created it.


--

Ecology without Nature

Return to Uncanny Valley

Just got off the phone with Judy Natal, who tells me that 2500 PEOPLE showed up at Biosphere II in Tucson AZ for a series of talks on cosmology. Evidently there's a thirst for thinking about what exists in reality, even for ontology itself.

Judy was wondering why the same fascination isn't there for global warming. I was thinking about this too—I reckon it's because of the oppressive claustrophobic horror of actually being inside it. You can spectate “the Universe” as a kind of ersatz aesthetic object: you have the distance provided by the biosphere itself, which acts as a kind of spherical cinema screen. You can kid yourself that what's displayed on that screen (like projections in a planetarium) is infinite, distant—the whole Kantian shebang.

But inside the belly of the whale that is global warming, it's oppressive and hot and there's no “away” anymore. And it's profoundly regressing: a kind of toxic intrauterine experience, on top of which we must assume responsibility for it, and what neonatal or prenatal infant should be responsible for her mother's existence?

I was thinking about the “uncanny valley” phenomenon in robotics yesterday. Last time I posted on it a commenter talked about racism and I think yes, the uncanny valley explains racism quite well, and other forms of dehumanization. If an entity is different enough from you, you can regard them without a sense of the uncanny (which has to do with strange resemblance). So antisemitism for instance emerges in a culture (Nazism) in which beings such as Hiter's dog, Blondie, are treated with reverence.

The more we find out about our kinship with all lifeforms, the more uncanny they become—they all start to slip into the uncanny valley. So ecological ethics must be to do with how we confront the “inhuman”—precisely, the strange stranger that is us.

So perhaps global warming is in the uncanny valley as far as hyperobjects go. Just a theory, but maybe a black hole, despite its terrifying horror, is so far away and so wondrous and so totally fatal (we would simply cease to exist anywhere near it) that we marvel at it, rather than try to avoid thinking about it or feel grief about it. The much smaller, much more immediately dangerous hole that we're in (inside the hyperobject global warming), is profoundly disturbing. Especially because we created it.

"Gorgeous, Terrifying Zero-Degree Literalism"

...That's what it says on the jacket. Ah, a plane seat, a book. Brenda Iijima was so kind as to send me her rev. you'll-ution. Can't wait to get into dialog with her.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Want Not: Tonkinwise and Pinkus on Sustainability

Song Dong, Waste Not

“Want Not: A Dialogue on Sustainability with Images”: Cameron Tonkinwise and Karen Pinkus have this excellent dialogue up in World Picture 5, elegantly illustrated.


A sustainable future cannot be just a peacefully, resource efficient, clean and shiny once-and-for-all world. To sustain humans, it must contain its own challenges, its own diversities, its own changing dynamic.


I enjoy the use of Heidegger. He's brought in to underwrite the idea of openness to upgrades, repair, and and maintenance in urban design...how to live in a world of broken tools.

Natal on The Big Picture


Judy Natal writes of the upcoming Chicago event featuring art, science, philosophy...and global warming. I'll be livestreaming our panel here.

A Text is a Sentient Object


Read this paper of Eileen Joy's and know the future of literary studies. It's quite simple... Finally, finally I made it through all my school business and can get down to looking at this and other projects. Thanks for your patience all those who've borne with me.

The take home idea: a text is sentient object. It's quite counter-intuitive at first. But it's elementary really. Since we can apply almost everything meaningful about a pencil's interactions with a table to a mind's interactions with its world, why not a text, that is, what a pencil writes, if you hold it the right way...

Schaberg Essay in Media Fields


Emerging theorist of all things plane, Chris Schaberg, has just published an essay in the journal Media Fields 2. What a nice looking journal—can't wait to read it just after I get my body fully scanned tomorrow morning (that's the topic of his essay). They provide a PDF too. Very classy.

The Sunflower Forest


What a treat: William Jordan just sent me a copy of his book The Sunflower Forest. He notes some of the many resonances between it and The Ecological Thought:

"What we call Nature is monstrous and mutating, strangely strange all the way down and all the way through." (The Ecological Thought, p. 61)

"...creation is trouble. Or, as in the old joke about the turtles---if the world rests on a cosmic turtle, what does the turtle stand on? Well, it's turtles all the way down---creation is trouble all the way down." (Sunflower Forest, p. 40-41).

Congressperson Reads My World Picture Essay

... Hope they decide OOO is a national priority. I'm trying to find out who.

Thoughts on Global Warming and Art


Herewith some thoughts I've been sharing with Judy Natal on art and global warming. Art that addresses global warming must get outside the box of simply pitching global warming as if it were some kind of product (yuck-- you probably know what I mean). The problem isn't about some new but recognizable thing. This affects everything in the world and it involves being very big about things that can make us feel very small: the fact that we're "inside" it for instance like Jonah in the whale, and the fact that it's humiliating huge and long term (and tiringly so, from a self-interested point of view). So "The Big Picture" here (the title of Natal's upcoming panel in Chicago) means something quite disturbing, disrupting our normal categories of here and there, home and away, inside and outside and so on. Global warming, in other words, is a gigantic entity, on my view, like a huge alien being, inside whose belly we find ourselves. This is not cool (to say the least). For example, reality now becomes very claustrophobic. There is no "away" because we know that whatever we do has some effect. Ultimately this is very healthy if we can integrate it into society. But I think we're at the first stages of grief right now (denial, anger). I think that the kind of "Big Picture" thinking your work suggests to me is precisely to help us humans over the first phases of grief about this. It's funny I was just talking in the gym to two guys who happened to be climate scientists, and perhaps this would be a good anecdote to start with, since we were talking about the terrible rain here in CA and whether it was related to the tsunami, which must have scooped up quite a lot of El Nina in its path through the Pacific. Of course then we have earthquakes as a product of global warming since the changing pressure due to warming water at the bottom of the ocean creates nonlinear dynamics down there... Then there's the little question of scale: 7% of global warming effects will be around 100 000 years from now. One of the scientist guys said "the trouble is, how do we integrate this knowledge into society?" To which I replied "Yeah that's the big question isn't it?"

My World Picture Essay

...has just been published. Issue 5 includes work by my friends Cameron Tonkinwise and Karen Pinkus.




Significant Americana

Flying over the bayou that surrounds New Orleans, and driving through the Garden District, which was like driving through a garden, were intense and strange experiences of the highly variegated edges between human and nonhuman existence.

I'm off to Miami tomorrow and will be touring the Everglades a little so expect some reports from there.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Nazi Degenerate Art


Otto Dix, one of my favorite painters, was in the exhibition, and Bela Bartok, one of my favorite composers, insisted that he be put in it. This post on it by Harvard UP shows how an ordinary Berliner looked at Dix's War triptych and came to the best conclusion:

“The picture is not a bloody-minded depiction of the degenerate, war is.”


Yes. Wow. It reminds me of what Picasso said to a Nazi officer who was looking at Guernica, sneering. “Who did that?”

“You did.”
Best reply EVER.

New Issue of Antennae

...the topic is animals in graphic novels.



Silent City Schoenberg

What a genius idea to have Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire sung in a silenced metropolitan center out of animated billboards, flat screen TVs and in the windows of apartment blocks. While a döppelganger—you'll see...

So much more going on in this than what I've said here. Watch it. It shows you how scary the early twentieth century was—and it's a hundred years later and we still haven't figured it out...HT Graham Harman, who posts on it here.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Palpitations of a Slime Mold

HT Jarrod Fowler.



Yellow Slime Mold Timelapse from sesotek on Vimeo.


Slime Molds in My Hood


They're everywhere at the end of the cul-de-sac here and elsewhere. I suppose it's because of the incredibly heavy rain. It's a rare opportunity to see this quite alien lifeform, significantly more different from us than fungi are, genetically speaking (see below).




As you can see the poor thing was trodden on a few times and has dried out significantly since it's gotten quite a lot drier all of a sudden. I think it's Fuligo septica, otherwise charmingly known as Dog's Vomit. Slime molds are resistant to high levels of toxic metal. Some of them can navigate their way around a maze.

Chicago U-N-F-O-L-D Talk


“Art in the Time of Hyperobjects.” It'll be at a special event with Judy Natal (who now resides in Biosphere II), Diana Liverman, William Fox and Alison Deming. The week is devoted to U-N-F-O-L-D: A Cultural Response to Climate Change.

Art in the Time of Hyperobjects
Timothy Morton

Tectonic plates, global warming, nuclear radiation, evolution. These are hyperobjects: entities that are massively distributed in time and space, at least relative to human scales. Hyperobjects appear in the human world as a product of our thinking through the ecological crisis we have entered. The ecological crisis is best thought as the time of hyperobjects. Why? Because this is the moment at which massive nonhuman, nonsentient entities make decisive contact with humans, ending various human concepts such as “world,” “horizon,” Nature and even “environment.”

Art in the time of hyperobjects isn't simply art “about” hyperobjects, but art that strives to evoke hyperobjectivity in its very form. I'll try to explore some of this art in my talk. In particular, I'll show how what we thought of as postmodern art is often better thought as the first stirrings of a truly ecological art. And why irony hasn't gone anywhere in the time of hyperobjects—in fact, it's even more poignant than ever.

William L. Fox: Prolific author, and Director of the Center for Art + Environment (http://artenvironment.ning.com)
Timothy Morton: Author and Professor, Dept. of English (Literature and the Environment at UC Davis, and active blogger
Diana Liverman: Co-Director of Institute of the Environment, U of Arizona, Tucson, Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, visiting professor of Environmental Policy and Development, Oxford University, author of Climate Change: Risks, Challenges, Decisions among other articles, essays and books.
Alison Deming: Prolific poet, essayist, author, Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona

A Speculative Sublime


Kant limits the sublime to an experience happening in the subject. An experience that can't be probing or cognitive. You can't, for instance, experience the sublime when you look at the ocean if you begin to think about all the lifeforms that swirl and thrash around in there. If you look at space, you can't think about the planets and black holes and possible “rational beings” up there.

In short, you can't speculate in the Kantian sublime.

This is the subject of my Speculations essay. Kant polices the sublime, saying that if you speculate with it, you become a fanatic, mad with reason. And we wouldn't want that! Too revolutionary? I like Kant enormously more than Burke, for whom the sublime is just shock and awe (to use Bush II's phrase for the bombing of Baghdad): the terrifying might of authority. At least Kant supported the French Revolution.

Miami this Week




I'm talking this week at Florida International University. The title of my talk:

ECOLOGY IN THE TIME OF HYPEROBJECTS

In this lecture, Timothy Morton asks us to consider what he calls “hyperobjects”: entities such as radioactive materials and global warming. Hyperobjects are massively distributed in time and space, subject to temporal distortion, nonlocal, phased and “interobjective.” Hyperobjects appear in the human world as a product of our thinking through the ecological crisis we have entered.

The ecological crisis is best thought of as the time of hyperobjects. Why? Because this is the moment at which massive nonhuman, nonsentient entities make decisive contact with humans, ending various human concepts such as “world,” “horizon,” “nature” and even “environment.” The existence of hyperobjects poses a number of problems for ecology and philosophy, from theories of self-interest to deep ontological questions.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vegan Update: Nuts, Oh Nuts


I'm sitting on the edge of a kitchen chair holding an enormous bag of walnuts.

Just be careful what you dream of, that's all I say. I'm a big believer in collective meals and groups and sharing, and eat together with my crew every day. But in the last few days, I find myself not really eating lunch, in a sit down way, but simply perching with a bag of nuts. I have become the object of my fascinated horror.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tenth-Century Arabic Philosopher Discovers Hyperobjects

Spicules, the Sun (each hair-like one is half as long as Earth
and 300 miles wide, flowing in a magnetic field)


This Arabic speculative metaphysics is just getting more and more jaw dropping. I seriously recommend that you familiarize yourself with it.

Here's the latest line of thinking from ar-Razi, in Doubts against Galen (the ancient physician). It goes like this (paraphrased):

The subgroup that posited infinite eternal space and time was in error. Not because they were wrong to critique Galen and Aristotle, though. They were quite right to do so. But let us now do so in Aristotelian terms.


(I like this already. It's a different approach than I'm used to, which goes, boom, here comes Bacon, now let's throw out the scholasticism.)

He continues:

All entities that are created are subject to corruption (that is, they degrade and are impermanent). Thus the heavens, although we are told that they are permanent, might simply consist of some very long lasting substances that only appear to be eternal to our human eyes. If not, then you are claiming that they are uncreated, and this is absurd.


(Remember they thought what Ptolemy thought, namely that the stars were fixed to orbs or a glass like substance. Ignore the wrongness. This argument rocks.)

Now for the truly amazing part (using the same analogies):

Gold, gems and glass can disintegrate, but at much slower speeds than vegetables, fruits and spices. So we can expect whatever the celestial sphere is made of to degrade over the course of thousands of years. In fact, astronomical events take place on scales vastly larger even than the scales on which epochs between peoples happen.

Think of a catastrophe such as a flood or a plague, and how these events create ruptures between periods of history so that the time of one entire people, with its history and observations, can pass to the time of another. How much would a ruby degrade between the time of Hipparchus and the time of Galen? So the degradation rate of a celestial body might be to that of a ruby as that of a ruby is to that of a bunch of herbs.

Now think about spatial scales. If you were to add a mountain's worth of mass to the Sun, you would not be able to detect it on Earth because the Sun is so massive in the first place.


So we have ar-Razi discovering objects that are massively distributed in time and space in the tenth century, just by thinking. And me being amazed by that.


Tantric Objects


If a Tantric Buddhist were an object-oriented ontologist, this is what she'd say.

“Real objects are female Buddhas. Real, withdrawn, dark, molten, vajra-like.

“Sensual objects are male Buddhas. Brilliant, evanescent, illusion-like, having form and color.”

(Notice the nice inversion of normal Western phallocentric parameters here.)

She would continue:

“The real and the appearing aspects of objects exist in inseparable union. We never encounter a real object devoid of sensual characteristics, because that is what encounter means: some sensual exchange takes place. Likewise we never encounter a bundle of sensual appearances that can't be traced to an object.

“Another way to put this: what is real (yeshe, wisdom) is female. The way to realize this is skillful means, male (upaya). Confusion is simply not seeing reality as it is. The path is to treat all entities as Buddhas.

“In Tantra this is represented as female and male Buddhas copulating.”

A Glittering Array of Hypersound


Pierre Boulez, Répons, always loved it, always will. I don't much care why he thought he wrote it: some kind of intensely structuralist view of sound, probably, with some mediation through the pro-Cultural Revolution politics he was into.

When it premiered at the Proms I stayed up and listened to it (I wasn't allowed to go—too young!). I used headphones and taped it, and the tape stuck around for a long time.

About 6 minutes in (6 minutes and 25 seconds to be precise on my recording) the percussive instruments come in. They surround the smoother instruments (brass, strings) in a square and they are processed through various delays and filters that nowadays seem super easy to organize but then required intense programming skills.

The deal was that the percussive soloists also surround the auditorium audience. Oh man I wanted to be there.

I now associate the sound of their entry with speculative realism: the sound of a vaster world bursting in to the human, or is it the reverse, the sound of a trapdoor opening in a plane, or the plane itself disappearing so we find ourselves in the wide blue sky? A terrifying, wonderful sound, the Kantian sublime of inner freedom giving way to a speculative sublime of disturbing intimacy. The sound of the end of the world but not an apocalypse, not a predictable conclusion. The sound of something beginning, the sound of discovering yourself inside of something.

Sure: at the time Boulez probably thought (and his audience too) that this was the sound of modern human technology and so on, Gesellschaft impinging on Gemeinschaft, bla bla bla. And the idea of a dialogue between equal partners, some kind of dialectical play between organic and electronic.

The piece is much more that that. It's the sound of real entities appearing to humans. But as I've been arguing, real nonhuman entities appear to humans at first as blips on their monitors. But they are not those blips.

The sound of a higher-dimensional configuration space impinging on extreme Western music (total serialism). The sound of hyperobjects. The sound of a non-music. Listen to the very end: the sound echoes and reverberates, repeating glissandos, then over. No fade out. That end is still unspeakable for me.

The sound of a music I was waiting to hear until
Jarrod Fowler showed up...Robert Cahen captures it quite well in this deceptively simple film, visualizing the “human sounds” as a traditional orchestral ensemble and the percussive sounds as humans mediated by a luminous ocean:



Pierrot and Columbine Inside an Object



Graham Harman reminded me of this one, which is on the cover a Boulez rendition of Pierrot Lunaire. Shame, my one is rather bland by comparison.

All that space above them. Two strangers inside another stranger.

Chilling with Cronon


The GOP accuses those of us who've reacted negatively to the FOIA request for Professor Cronon's emails of having a “chilling effect.” This is a classic case of projection. It is THEIR action that has had a chilling effect. What, do we scholars now have to be afraid of every single goddam thing we write against their absurd agenda?

There's a Moth in My Face


I shared my CPAP mask with a sleeping moth tonight. I wondered what kept brushing against my face as I slept and in the end it woke me up. I wonder whether it enjoyed the air flow. Not sure what a CPAP is? Here's my post on that. Part of my body take pleasure in my death.

Bill Cronon under Attack


Environmental historian William Cronon is being assaulted via FOIA for his first ever blog post. Told you blogs are disturbing. Read about it, take action.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Valuable Post on Ian Hamilton Grant


I really like this post on Grant's reading of Schelling. HT Michael of Archive Fire.

Why the Doctor Who chocolate? Well I used to eat it in the mid-70s (3p!). And those Doctor Who's were all about motorized rubber sfx, aka slime dynamics, the nature of the Universe. Let my good buddy Ben Woodard explain. And Doctor Who's time tunnel was pretty slimy at that point. And chocolate is melty. &c.

Orion Essay on Queer Ecology


This piece by Alex Johnson seems strongly in line with my essay for PMLA.

Arabic Speculative Metaphysics 2


A certain sect of Arabic philosophers, Ar-Razi included, held that time and space were absolutes, but this was widely critiqued as absurd. Such ideas were more widespread in Christendom where Neoplatonism held sway.

I'm beginning to love Arabic philosophers. And I'm sure philosophy and science lost a lot when European scientists ran pell mell from the Middle Ages. It took until 1900 to loosen the grip of absolute time and space in physics. You have to love people who were suspicious of absolute time and space, by dint of nothing but reason.

On the other hand, Ar-Razi discovered measles and used rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant. And discovered kerosene. He died in 925. Can you believe? It puts Europe to shame.

There Are Fewer White Objects Inside this Object


Somehow this makes me very happy, on a visceral level. Always has and probably always will. I'm glad to be living in a state that is now minority white. Early 2010 census data now shows that as a proportion of overall population US whites declined by 5% from 69% to 64%.

For the record, race is a sensual object, not a real one.

OOO and Software Studies


A reader asks whether OOO can be applied to software. Four words:

IAN BOGOST

ROBERT JACKSON

The reader assumes OOO does away with relations. No. The sensual object realm is a veritable mesh of relationality. We also argue that far from abolishing relations OOO enables them at a deep level.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Speculative Pierrot


Just sent in the final draft of my Speculations essay. It's exciting in numerous ways to be published in paperless form and in an open access format.

Here's a choice paragraph, apropos of some recent posts:

According to OOO, objects all have four aspects. They withdraw from access by other objects. They appear to other objects. They are specific entities. And that's not all: they really exist. Aesthetically, then, objects are uncanny beasts. If they were pieces of music, they might be some impossible combination of slapstick sound effects, Sufi singing, Mahler and hardcore techno. If they were literature, they might exist somewhere between The Commedia Dell' Arte, The Cloud of Unknowing, War and Peace and Waiting for Godot. Pierrot Lunaire might be a good metaphor for grotesque, frightening, hilarious, sublime objects.


The painting is Pierrot in Despair by James Ensor. The one in the post below is Carnival by Max Beckmann.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“We Had to Destroy Buddhism in Order to Save It”


An editorial in The Guardian expresses concern about “Western Buddhism,” citing Zizek.

The argument goes something like: “Buddhism is okay. But as Stephen Batchelor argues, Eastern Buddhists believe a lot of strange things, like karma and reincarnation—and meditation. In order to wean people off of the opium that is Western Buddhism, we should personally edit the dharma.”

Newsflash: personally edited dharma IS “Western Buddhism.”

FAIL.

(Oh and I see he goes for the statue jugular...see my MLA talk. Classic Buddhaphobia.
Only a wounded narcissist would beat up on narcissism like that.)

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian



Calligraphies and carpet like designs made of mirrors.

Intro to OOO: The Soundtrack


While you're enjoying the Beginners' Guide to OOO, why not listen to the perfect soundtrack, Pierrot Lunaire, supplied by no less than Graham Harman?

OOO for Beginnners: MP3s, Lexicon, Tutorials


So here's my guide to object-oriented ontology for the curious.


Read this pithy statement by Ian Bogost

Then watch Ian's excellent video, “Seeing Things.”

Watch this video by me.

Now listen to this talk by Graham Harman.

Listen to this class by me.

Then you can listen to the first ten minutes of this, in which I introduce OOO.

Now ready for some reading?

Start with this basic tutorial by Graham Harman.

Now try Levi Bryant's “The Ontic Principle” in the free PDF of The Speculative Turn. Then read the online introduction to his version, onticology (part 1 and part 2).

Then bookmark this lexicon of OOO by Levi Bryant.

Harman's Two Step Guide to Speculative Realism

This is the beginning of my making good on a promise to someone to do a beginner's intro to OOO. More to follow.

I can't wait to read Ennis's book.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Now that's What I Call Angels Dancing on the Head of a Pin Liber X


I say this Arabic speculative theology is a bit of all right. You want to think past clunk causality and its ramifications? You have to go back before clunking was in vogue. You have to get medieval. Yes, say that dirty word: scholasticism! Soon we shall need an album called Now That's What I Call Angels Dancing on the Head of a Pin Liber X.

So as well as being right on the money as far as the notion of infinite space goes, al-Kindi has a wonderfully creative idea about causation. Since there is only one uncreated cause in reality, namely God, all other causes must in some sense be secondary, or as he puts it, metaphorical. It's part of a case he begins to build for occasionalism, which Graham Harman has put me onto in a big way—and if you've read Graham's work you'll see his groundbreaking writing on al-Ghazali on said subject.

The notion of metaphorical causation is pretty much perfect if you're writing a book called Realist Magic on the role of the aesthetic dimension in causality. It means you can make a case for causation as a sensual object, which is where I've been going in various posts on emergence, for instance.

Think about it. When a stainless steel ball clunks another ball in an executive toy, that ball has been clunked by another ball, which was moved by some fingers, which belonged to the hand of the grandson of the granddaughter of the .... evolutionary time ... star stuff ... then of course there's the toy itself, which was made in a factory, which was made of girders and bolts, which ...

So when you try to locate a proper cause in this, you simply discover what I've called the mesh. And when you try to isolate a single cause, you end up with all kinds of Zeno's paradoxes and candles and flames (both Islam and Buddhism use the very same metaphor, a coincidence I find fascinating).

And if you've been following Graham's stuff, you'll know how he brings metaphor into the notion of causality itself.

Cornfields vs. Oilfields

A nice infographic courtesy of Kate Hersch:

Cornfields vs. Oilfields
Via: Online Schools



Beautiful Soul Steps down from Cynicism into Hypocrisy


Come on in Mr. Monbiot the water's lovely:

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.
Here's the deal. We should address global warming, in the same way that we should put out a burning cigarette stub in a Sequoia forest. So, what to do?

Wait for a perfect machine that will reverse entropy (deep green and the right meet on this)
Use coal (two words: feedback loop; one more: non-linear)
Use solar and wind: yes indeedy
Use nuclear: until there's enough solar and wind

Every choice here involves pain and suffering. We are now all hypocrites because there is no meta-position, no point extrinsic to the problem. We are inside the hyperobject global warming. That means everything we do is totally sincere. Including doing nothing and feeling righteous about it. The hypocrisy fish eats the cynicism fish. The sincerity fish eats the irony fish.

Harman on Heidegger


I'm enjoying reading this post by Graham, which seems congruent with something I wrote below.

I like it that Word thinks Heidegger should be headgear.