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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Schopenhauer versus Process

Paragraph 53:

"all such ... philosophy ... regards time, just as though Kant had never existed, as a determination of things-in-themselves, and therefore stops at what Kant calls the phenomenon."

(Applause)



London Ontario

Charmingly all the streets around the hotel are named after places in the Lake District. It should warm the cockles of any Romanticist's heart.

I'm looking forward very much to seeing Tilottama Rajan again. In my humble opinion she is a genius.

My talk "Ecology without the Present" is for her.



Of Schopenhauer

Oh sure, he's a correlationist. But what a beautiful writer. And his arguments, when you expand them in the OOO way (just universalizing the gap between phenomenon and thing) it's very very good indeed.

As a Buddhist I'm here to say that actually his argument is a very beautiful and truly Buddhist application of Kant. Very interesting that you can get there from Kant.

I kept on reading him after class a couple of weeks ago. It's funny how in the introduction to The World as Will and Representation Schopenhauer specifies that you won't understand his stuff the first time you read it, so you should read it twice. It's quite evident in my case.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Analogies for the Relation of Weather to Global Warming

There are no subway stations in New York that are not part of the New York subway system.

There are no notes in Beethoven's 9th Symphony that are not parts of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

There are no matches in this matchbox that are not in this matchbox.

There are no cars at this traffic stop that are not part of the traffic patterns in this city.

There are no blades of grass in meadows that are not in meadows. 

Because this plane is accelerating, it is now going at 200mph, whereas a few seconds ago, it was going at 50mph.

There are no raindrops that are not part of rain showers.

The dessert I have just eaten was part of my meal.

The soldier died in the war.

All BBC shows are found on the BBC channel.

There are no lifeforms that are not products of evolution. 

There are no soundwaves in Beethoven's Ninth that are not produced by instruments playing notes in Beethoven's Ninth.  

Big Macs are made by McDonalds.

The sentences in this blog post are all examples of analogies about the relation of weather to global warming, including this one. 

This newspaper article wondering whether the Frankenstorm is caused by global warming is caused by global warming denial.

As it hurtles towards me, I find that there is a direct correlation between the movements this car makes and the driver's stepping on the gas and turning the wheel to ensure I am in its path. There is now no need to keep on finding the correlation, or proving that this particular swerve is part of the car's overall momentum. The best thing I can do with my time is get out of the freaking way.

Do bears shit in the woods?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Ecology without Agriculture (video)



Cor blimey, someone put this together. Neat.

Frankenstorm

It's an accurate term, actually, and not only because Sandy has kluged together with winter storms in the area. If you assume that people usually elide Frankenstein and his creature, then it's apt, since the storm for sure is the creation of humans. A symptom of global warming.

The persistent media silence over whether the storm has anything to do with global warming is deafening.

And when the issue is brought up, it's usually in the form of a question such as “Is Sandy caused by global warming?” This question is, of course, exactly the wrong one: it is falsely posed in a drastic way.

At this point, there is no such thing as a weather pattern not created by global warming. The analogy is rather like this:

There are no subway stations in New York that are not part of the New York subway system.

Again, it's time to drop the cynical mode humanists have been stuck in since the later eighteenth century. Time to drop it. What we don't need now is another critique of why “doing something” is playing into power, or making us look uncool, or ignoring other stuff, or whatever other kettle logic.

Monday, October 29, 2012

One Potent Memory

I have never been in a subway station with quotations from Deleuze on the walls (and Parmenides, Nietzsche and Heraclitus). Until last night in Lisbon.

Glaciers: See Them While You Can

HT Dirk.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Heat Melting Ice Was just a Theory"


Thank You Portugal

Sometimes doing talks really pushes your thinking. This was one of those times. And what a delightful place in which to have one's thinking pushed. In Guimaraes, for instance, there were quartz, rose quartz and amethyst cobblestones. Medieval buildings. Strong geomancy. Unbelievably good food, mountains of composite rock, witchcraft. Iron dark wine, earthy, heavy, rich, supportive. In Lisbon, incredible conversations at dinner with very kind people, extraordinary depth of philosophical questions, trip hop in the subway, pastelarias.

So thank you Margarida Mendes. Thank you Ligia Afonso. Thank you Joao, Andreas, Gabriela, Amanda, Dominic, and the whole gang. “I'll be back” (Terminator voice).

Nest Machine

By Douglas Irving Repetto. HT Kate. Broken tools, no Nature.

Dark Ecology Phase II (MP3)



What a wonderful afternoon that was in Guimaraes, in Portugal. Really really good discussion. Shows how you can develop such synergy with artists and architects.

In response to the architect who asked about human reflexivity, I thought of a better answer, or part 2 of the same answer, while I was talking to him after I had switched off the recorder.

Basically philosophy should be more like architecture, than the other way around (the age of critique). Thinking is physical. Not the other way around. And so on.

Omelette Style

Writing a book is like making a certain kind of omelette. You have to do it over and over again if you want to get it right. That's why doing talks are so good. My books are more delicious if I can write them in one single go. With Dark Ecology I'm shooting for writing it in ten hours. They don't have to be totally continuous but they shouldn't be spread over more than four days. That is my constraint.

Judging from what I wrote today I think it's more than possible to write this book in ten hours.

That way I can preserve the directness and performative flow.

Interestingly I began to talk about my previous food studies research and threw a little history of capitalism in, along with some logic of neoliberalism.

It's like deciding to throw in some handfuls of cheese at the last minute.



Will My Ontario Stuff Be Podcast?

Yes. All of it. I am like Nixon at this point. Everything must be recorded.



Good Chemistry

That was a strong talk. Not because of me but because of the chemistry with the audience.

I wrote the talk in about an hour in this ancient medieval square. All kinds of Guimaraes phenomena made it into the talk.



My Talk Today in Guimaraes

"Dark Ecology Phase II." They deserve a totally new talk, so I wrote one in 1.5 hours. 20 pages.



Teleferico

Went up the mountain here on a cable car. Fantastic to do those things if you are a meditator. You sometimes need a jolt of fear to push you into rigpa.

I wrote quite a different talk for today, so if you want to come but are wondering whether to since the previous one was podcast, you should definitely come.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Small Person





Class at U of W Ontario

Tilottama Rajan, thanks for having me! I just finished my talk for the class, here in the bus station (Lisbon). In some ways I'm even happier with it than with my talk for the following day's conference.

It's called "Ecology without Presence: Some Romantic Models," and the poems I'm reading are "The Tables Turned" and "There Was a Boy," by Wordsworth.



Trains

I have just proved, yet again, that taking a subway train wherever you are is a bonus experience.

This one has all kinds of trip hop synchronized in each station on the pa.



Friday, October 26, 2012

"Babies: IVF, Can't / Rape, Must"

Dark Ecology: Art and Thinking after the End of the World (MP3)



From Lisbon.

Barber Shop Ahoy

I'm talking here fairly shortly.




Steve Mentz Comments

Sadly I accidentally deleted it so here it is:

Are you looking at Edite Melo's abstract sea paintings of Adamaster (the monster at the Cape of Storms in Camoes's Lusiads) in the Maritime Museum in Belem? If not, you'd enjoy them. Though it's a bit of a hike down the river from downtown.



Silence of Painting

I was struck at an exhibition here on the theme of the sea that painting is silent.

After a day on planes, the high frequency jets get inside your head and probably do something quite injurious to your smaller structures.

It's this refreshing to stand in front of something silent, even though there are chatterings and murmurings around you.

Freud says that drives are silent. The surging ocean of course is loud, but the painting of the surge says something about ocean as drive, as gravity embodied in water.



A Boy Does His Thing





A Hair Cut Is a Hair Enhanced



Just got one in Lisbon. Very nice indeed. To celebrate, here is a stupendous Fry and Laurie skit about haircuts.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wow



Why do so many people think Colbert is actually a winger?

Do You Get It Now

“There is always this call to ‘DO SOMETHING!’ ” said one of the speakers in Madison last week, gesticulating wildly somewhat in mockery of my main point, which is that within 30 years humans will emit 5 times more gigatons of carbon than is necessary to fuck Earth beyond all recognition.

I hadn't actually made the call to “do something,” hysterically or no, and indeed I see the point of being wary of certain kinds of call such as this, in particular as they may inhibit our ability to think.

And yet. It's all way too convenient a performance of smug rightness at the expense of oh, I don't know, 50% of all lifeforms (see the link below).

The paralysis of cynicism is precisely an effect of correlationist humanism, which persists at exactly the wrong time. [sarcasm] Since humans created gravity and evolution and so on (by mathematizing them and otherwise formulating them), it is more important to agonize about the impact of ecological policy on humans than it is to “do” the dreaded “something,” since human measurements are after all what make things real.[/sarcasm]

So this should provide something like a salutary intellectual slap upside the correlationist head. The link is to a pretty handy wheel of doom produced by MIT. The doom will be, as they put it, “largely irreversible for 1000 years.” Ready?

Staying near our current emissions will in the next few decades result in:

  • Staggeringly high temperature rise, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States
  • Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.
  • Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter
  • Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.
  • Unexpected impacts — the fearsome “unknown unknowns”
  • Much more extreme weather
  • Food insecurity — the increasing difficulty of feeding 7 billion, then 8 billion, and then 9 billion people in a world with an ever-worsening climate.
  • Myriad direct health impacts



I Have No Clue

I'm slap in the middle of Lisbon. There are sloping streets everywhere. This evening I shall have dinner with my host and then go to an opening, I believe.

This little apartment has a balcony, which is excellent. And I am the keeper of its sole key so heaven help me if I lose it.

Arriving in a strange new place is always uncanny. I almost like it...

Ted Geier on Nonhumans

Ted, that's a great dissertation project you got there! Looking forward to being part of it.

One thing I like a lot is the project's scope. People focus too much on a short timespan when it comes to literary study. And if you're coordinating reading literature with something like studying consumption and law, you really do need a longer view.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walking to School

The weather calmed down a bit. And I'm flying later today. So I thought I'd walk to school. It's only about 10 minutes. I really am so grateful to the powers that be for letting me live here.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Creation



By Stereo MCs. Kind of my personal non-national anthem.

Portugal Ahoy

I'm very grateful for everyone's invitations these past few months. Everyone has helped Dark Ecology to come into focus so much.

Dark Ecology Diagram

For Lisbon. Click to download.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Show Us Your Papers

Some of what happened last week caused me to think similar thoughts as Levi here. Graham is right to dig it!



The Main Thing What I Said on Friday

In the next three decades, humans will emit five times more gigatons of carbon than is necessary to fuck Earth beyond all recognition.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Portugal Talk Details

Here's my schtick for Portugal this week:

Dark Ecology: Art and Thinking after the End of the World
Timothy Morton

In the later eighteenth century, humans have been depositing a thin layer of carbon in Earth's crust. This layer can now be detected in deep lakes and in Arctic ice. The term now given for this by geology is Anthropocene, a disturbing moment at which human history intersects decisively with geological time.

Since 1945, when humans began to deposit a layer of radioactive materials in Earth's crust, the Anthropocene has accelerated logarithmically, and we now live within a period called The Great Acceleration. Global warming and extinction are interrelated effects of the crossroads we have now reached, a crossroads at which geological and human time have intersected.

This intersection renders meaningless the very tools with which modernity has striven to talk about the nonhuman: concepts such as Nature,world, and even environment are now obsolete. Though they may be politically useful in some circumstances, they are not heuristically useful in any meaningful sense, and may indeed be part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Furthermore, we are now confronted with gigantic entities—global warmingevolution, biosphere—that cannot be seen directly by three-dimensional beings of limited intelligence. Rather, they can be inferred mathematically and logically, a fact that emphasizes that reason itself is not strictly human-flavored, and that we inhabit a reality that is much larger, and more intractable, than we had supposed.

1790 was also roughly the moment at which Western philosophy decided that it could not talk about the real, but only about (human) access to the real. I see this moment and the fact of the Anthropocene as deeply related. For instance, Foucauldianism could claim that worrying about ecological issues is simply another example of biopower, the imposition of power at the biological level, without regard to the fact of the Anthropocene. Foucault was a student of Lacan, who was a student of Heidegger. Heidegger claims that there was no gravity until Newton came along. Heidegger gets this thought from Kant's restriction on the limits of human knowledge.

What is required is a philosophy—and a corresponding ethics and politics—that can think the nonhuman, not simply as the adornment or correlate of the human. Modernity damaged Earth, but it also damaged thinking. Unfortunately, one of the damaged concepts is the very concept Nature.

I call this philosophy dark ecology. It has quite strong implications for ecological arts.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Addition

...on of the scientists knew my uncle David, whom I mentioned in the seminar. David did research on placentas among many things. He discovered that a retrovirus called ERV-3 is unregulated in the placenta.

ERV-3 codes for immunosuppressive properties of the placental barrier.

What does that mean?

It means, my friend, that you are reading this because a virus in your mom's DNA forced her not to abort you spontaneously.

Right?



One of the Many Highlights of the Conference

It was an exhilarating day. Two scientists cornered me on the staircase and praised my understanding of Godel and Zermelo-Fraenkel. Thank you gentlemen!



Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre

HT Jordan Peacock. Haha...

Morning with Jon McKenzie

Well that was a lovely way to finish my trip here, my third trip to Wisconsin in 2012. It's like when I went to Chicago four times in 2011!

Jon showed me around the Capitol building, where the protests against the governor, who to me looks like Sid Vicious poured into a suit with slick hair, involved both Jon and my other friend Rob Nixon.

Then we went to a Frank Lloyd Wright building (built not directly by him, but posthumously) and looked at the lake. It was a very very good thing to hang out with Jon in Madison. Which is an excellent, excellent town.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Final Statements: Biopolitics Liveblog 8

Do we have closing statements?

Tim: Pleasure as closure, destruction, death. Ecological awareness is aperture. This is the beginning of human history.

Kim: Crisis needs to be named: vulnerability. Those who are most vulnerable are indeed in crisis. There is a place for a language of crisis.

Becky: Crisis narratives can be tied into social control. What crisis talk misses is the long term violence.

Sara: This was our conversation about regulation. Confusion of whether or not to regulate. And for whom. 

Kim: To be mindful is to be mindful. Time matters. To inflect our thought with time is necessary.

Q: To limit uncertainty we confuse the chronic and the acute.

Joshua: I want to take Kim's side. Freaking out about acting too hastily is the academy and corporate headquarters. They will do anything to defer action. Is there a good or a bad version of not being hasty? I'm not sure that's a true account of the world. There is probably a deficiency of willingness to act. EarthFirst! and ELF are good.

Juliana: I'm slightly bewildered! Many things confuse me. Many big terms. The interesting thing about ecological stuff, there is a clarity. It is an issue, a problem. The more it gets muddy, the more I feel weird about it. I don't know what to say other than that. It will be tough. EarthFirst! and ELF have been hugely powerful.

Q: Back to pleasure.

Biopolitics Liveblog 7

Gregg and Sara now giving very interesting summaries of what we did. Sara Guyer, versed in deconstruction, is providing a very nicely hermeneutical analysis of our rhetorical styles.

Ecotone: tone as tension that resonates.
My style as ventriloquism, sort of associative.

We keep encountering questions of freedom, decidability, paralysis, intervention, regulation, subtraction. How we face the impossible.

Biopolitics looks like it's being abandoned as a prop to think through questions. 

Q: Idea of seven generations sounds curious and quaint, but... The Clock of the Long Now. Our idea of now has become very distorted. Hard to imagine the future. We are talking something outside our moment of time.

A: Tim. I gave my "there is no present spiel."
A: Joshua. Poetry has a double temporality. Lacan on the psychoses. A sentence takes on meaning in reverse. We understand retroactively. The line break in a poem emphasizes this fact: is the end marking a syntactic unit or not? This is also a useful way to describe value. It's floating and indistinct until it becomes price. That is the structure of debt. Deleuze: man indebted. That indebtedness is a temporality. Zizek talks about it as future anterior; not quite right--the value was present, it just wasn't fixed. This gets very interesting when structures of indebtedness is a way we experience reality politically right now.
A: Becky. Why do we always think we are in crisis? Because now is a time that direction can change. Anything can happen supposedly from now. Biopolitics is future thinking. What are the possibilities? Is today a moment of progress or a moment of decline?
A: Kim. Ethnographically it's hard to get people to specify time or the future. It marks a discursive gap that is a concern. A student of Kim's working on nuclear waste, and trying to find intergenerational ethics.

Q: Let's interject some biology into this. Modes of engaging time that are internal to us. Pulse, hunger cycle, lifespan. But when we compare those clocks to the Long Now, they really have great difficulty in computing this. Three billion years in the future the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. That is phenomenal. But it doesn't mean anything to us. But it is a form of Earth biopolitics.

So one problem we have the scale of time that we are talking about. We need to think about that as we think about interventions. (BTW this chap is an awesome scientist who has dared to enter the den of scientism.)

Sense of loss of epic poetry that gives us a greater sense of long time.

Q: One question that we all disagree on today is the idea of time scale. Tim's paper is the odd one out. Biopolitical arguments frustrate political action in some sense, because of this time scale issue.

Q: There is temporal scale but there are other kinds of calculation. What is a movement? What is a place? Angus Fletcher's work on American poetry is about how one perceives scale. Is there a scale question when thinking about displacement eg in Jamaica where it radically changes because forms of development etc. uproot those who live there.

Q: Gregg. Kim's comment on the difficulty of ethnography points to a cultural work that is being done. Seven generations. In the US we can't look past a year. How do these different scales of time resonate meaning in different modes of production?

Q: Isn't this a place for storytelling to fill that cognitive gap.

A: Joshua, the call for the epic is fascinating. Time is just a phase of space and vice versa. Epic is about what transfers between empires. Capturing global transformation is the issue.

Q: What I (Lewis) wanted to say is that the epic enables us to understand a scale of time that is different from our biological clocks. Telling us why we are here is also on the table. Zarathustra on the gothas. Circular forms that give structure.

Q: Mortgage as a metaphor of the present: we can still put things on credit for an infinite amount of time. Forcing us to live in an eternal present. A systemic arrangement. A false present that we might want to abandon. Lynn's article in PMLA spoke against alarmist novels. But for me, this is also a form of art that might be useful.

Q: What about pleasure?

A: Becky. We use our own pleasure to beat others over the head. We get pleasure from obeying the strictures on bad food etc. We get pleasure in foodyism. Michael Pollan. You need to have his pleasures in order to be a good person. There is pleasure and then there is care. It doesn't have to be connection in a box. It can be many things.

Q: Juliana. The question of crisis is the question of care? She isn't sure. How do we hold on to things like the disappearing islands. I'm trying to put you in distinction with Tim.

A: Becky. I care about the Pacific islands. But who wins and loses? Who gets to decide what winning and what is losing?

Q: Pleasure pain. Pleasures that involve pain. Compost. Toxic Waste Is Good for You.

After Biopolitics (MP3)



Here is my section of the Sawyer Seminar, a discussion of my paper "After Biopolitics."

Dark Ecology: Philosophy in the Anthropocene (MP3)



Here is my talk from yesterday's Humanities without Boundaries.

Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover Q&A: Biopolitics Liveblog 6

Q: Looking through a Marxist model at an event that needs to be brought to a standstill. Paradox: we are looking at things that are very much causal. Why consult Benjamin at such a moment?
A: Joshua: I consult Benjamin, but I wouldn't say that he is the analytic by which I want to think these problems. Do we have seven or eight hours? Why did Frankfurt school have such an influence on the academy? Cultural Marxism. But we also need economic value thought. Value theory, analysis.

Q: I'm not sure that causality is the word. I think it's relationality. You are talking about an internal relation that can't be sorted out.
A: Juliana: I think it's interesting.
Q: Instead of displacing causality into production, you are talking about the need to bring those together.
A: My thing is to hold the synchronic and the diachronic together. Three-dimensional relationship.

Q: How do you think about intervention? There is a way of scholarly work that is interventionist but not activist on a teleological mode. One mode is to enter into language games to shift the discursive field, because the field doesn't produce insight. Do you think of poetry as political work?
A: Juliana: I would say it's one part of a political ecosystem. Poets and academics like to see it as the work or the main work. But that's a limitation. A reason to stay at home.
Joshua: This is a historical question. The idea that discourse shouldn't be discounted is not a historical invariant. The groovy thing I reflect on is, why it was in the 1960s we had this great efflorescence of cultural struggle. And now there doesn't seem to be any of that going around. It's because it's a different kind of crisis.
Q: Is today one of those moments?
A: It certainly has less effectivity.
Q: Is that because of capitalism?
A: Yeah. To take the chemical question. Corporations compete by using cheaper processes and cheaper ways of dumping the chemicals. They don't do that because of ignorance, but because they need to out compete the company across the river. So discursive interventions have less force.
Q: And the corporation engages in language of greenness and tries to capture the market.
A: And even then, discourse can't undo a situation.

Q: In Milwaukee there is a black guy, Will Allen, who started Growing Power, he creates soil out of corporate food waste and the largest slum. Generates work for ex felons who are otherwise unemployable. Contact with third world and first world women starting urban gardens all over the planet. That seems like a specific concrete large intervention. He got a Macarthur. He got money thrown at him. He was offered a deal by WalMart.
Q: And he was told by the ag board that his fish system would never work.
A: Joshua: First of all, I'm not going to gainsay a Macarthur winner. This question asks something structural: can strategies of subtraction work on their own? I can exit the wage system. I'm entirely in support of those. On small and on large scales. Not just a good idea but they are going to be necessary. It would be crazy not to stand by them. But can subtraction alone render a structural change in the world? Recuperative attacks of money and grants undermine this subtraction. Attack needs to be in there. The recent strikes in WalMart. The port strike is not a production strike. Nor is WalMart strike.

Circulation side strikes makes our argument far better than we could.

Q: Where does poetry fit into that story?
A: Juliana: poetry is often aligned with nationalism, is often seen as bad and annoying and apolitical. A garden might feel a little less dubious.
Q: But gardens are also compromised. They are even worse than poetry!
A: Joshua: I am very skeptical about the political efficacy of poetry. I have come here to say fuck poetry. But I have also been engaged in a certain amount of organizing in CA. There have been failures that are also successful failures. It's been extraordinary how many people have been involved. So many of them have been poets and poet scholars. Celeste Langan, Romantic poetry scholar.

There is something about poetry that puts people in a position in which other kinds of struggle can be enacted.

Q: I feel a lot of things that Juliana talked about. A lot of distrust in poetry. This conversation happens in poetry a lot. We should all be out breaking windows etc. How do we think somewhere in between the individual and the state?
A: Juliana: the idea of the collective may itself be problematic. Poetry as a place for alternative thinking. The poets in the Bay Area were able to phone each other up. Small. Do it yourself network.

Q: There are things that are worth doing that aren't political. Poetry as a form of thought. Oppen's "Being Numerous." And the metaphor of ecotone. Why choose this as metaphor? Why not contact zone or market place?
A: Joshua. I agree with you in some sense utterly. The goal is not to say a thing that will get other people to do things. That is not my model of political engagement. Poetry is a kind of journaling that enables me to think through problems.

The ecotone is not the marketplace. That space of formal equality and rights discourse is not the way. Ecotone talks about where two entirely different systems form a unity. That's a dialectical thought. Hegel: unity of opposites. Ecotone remains un-idealist.

Juliana: the idea of the contact zone.

Q: If poetry is exciting. Building an illusion. Bringing life back and building illusion of transcendence. To direct people other than simple gain or income. Why the prejudice against activism in academia? What needs to change in the vision of objectivity in academia? What is the problem?
A: Joshua. Poets are used to proceeding as if they had passionate commitment despite miserable failures. That is the affect of political struggle in this moment.

Activism is a complex word. In the Bay Area there is a lot of hostility to activism as a certain kind of NGO let's have a big march model of intervention. There are schisms within the opposition.

But the attack on activism is awful in academia. Here we are, just giving a paper. And then we say we should all go out and do something. That limit is awful. How do we get past that and stop writing papers? And no one in this room will like it if I say "stop writing papers."

Q: But how else are we going to get into attitudes that are beyond thought or previous to thought? Poetry is really really important. We shouldn't minimize poetry. Xavier Sicilia. His son was killed in a drug issue. He refused to write poetry anymore. Formed huge social movement for peace and dignity.
A: Joshua. If the great power of poetry is that you can swear it off, I'm with ya.

Q: I'm curious to hear more thoughts about ports and interventions. Poetics seems like the creation of concepts. The idea of the container. Jameson on modular form: capitalism makes everything more variegated and more the same.
A: Joshua. Montreal as a non-containerized port. Versus productivity: increasing throughput with fewer employees (like Rotterdam). Finance is "nowhere." The port comes to resemble that. Montreal or Duluth type of port has a higher ratio of workers to throughput. Non-worker strikes: people just go to shut down a port.

Q: I find myself wishing Rob Nixon were here. Time and timescale of the disasters we are up against. It is futural. Global warming changes the way we think about time: "glacial" means fast! Just doing things. How does this intersect for us as academics? Cutting ourselves off with perfectionism. Even if it's inadequate we do need to think things, as Tim Morton said. Nixon brings up creative nonfiction. Literature can offer us things unseen.
A: Juliana. The Nixon book is interesting. There is no reason to limit it to poetry. The perfectionism: of academic discussion is to figure out where the holes are and keep moving. I would never expect an action to be watertight. The big problem is staying in your chair.
A: Joshua. The micro and structural scale problem. And the optimism and despair problem. A ruthless critique is necessary. But the problem is when you have to do it even if your analysis means it won't work out. The analysis that gets you out of the house is the right one.

Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover: Biopolitics Liveblog 5

A conversation about ecopoetry and Marxist poetry. Ecopoetry versus nature poetry, supposedly systemic. Modernist techniques. Leftist panels on workers' lives, documentary poetry. Why do those two things end up being so separate in some way?

Then Joshua and I thought about writing something on this.

For me (Joshua), Juliana has thought quite a bit about ecopoetics. I am less familiar with that discourse. She invited me to join in. The biopolitics is more of the hook. Hardt and Negri, mode that is internal to the logic of capital. Governmentality that allows for new production via affective labor that will rescue the economy when industrial profit collapses.

Intellectual labor has a fundamental flaw that it's wrong: there is a series of bubbles and catastrophes. The things thought as production (immaterial labor etc) are more adequately thought of as circulation and faster turnover, faster distribution.

Juliana: In what ways is art useful? The Hawaiian Kumulipo, a chant that is under-recognized as important to the growth of ecopoetry. Is has moments where what it wants to tell us is the connection of sea and land: systemic. Yet is also is a good example of a complicated representation yet very political. Pre-contact poem. Gets recited to Cook when he lands. Translated by the queen under house arrest by US citizens. All these things show up in the poem: trying to represent an ecosystem.

Joshua: so we used and misused the concept of ecotone: when two ecological systems meet. Embodied, physicalized way. Circulation and production as an ecotone. Object of study and form of thought. Transfer is allowed between one sphere and another. 70s thought of world system theory, and Gaian holism. Combined so as to think about places of intervention and struggle. To avoid getting trapped in one sphere or another.

Ecological poetry: distribution of resources. Productivist model of Marxist thought. How not to get trapped in either sphere.

Juliana: A lot of intervention modes seem stuck on the circulation side. We end with a paragraph on a port shut down.

Joshua: Tim Morton's rejoinder to anti-intellectualism. Demand for immediate action often carries with it a kind of anti-intellectualism. But there is an inverse doubt around that. Concerning the professional scholar's perpetual discovery that the right thing to do is to produce more knowledge. We discover that we are always already doing the thing that needs to be done. This is like looking for your car keys under the street light.

Tim invoked Benjamin's pulling of the emergency brake. I want to express my shared love for Benjamin: revolution as pulling the emergency brake of history's locomotive.

Kim Fortun Q&A: Biopolitics Liveblog 4

Q: As things become more valuable the production of ignorance becomes more important. Do you see that as something that is happening? Is that idea useful and can you think how to combat it?
A: Language ideology is part of what is at stake. The manner in which evidence is discounted, there is a vacuous semiotic field. When you're trying to sense make, there's nothing to bounce off of for comparative reference.

What the environmental scientists are trying to do is to make the semiotic field denser, e.g by using powerful computation. A theory of meaning that recognizes that truth is not an essence.

Q: Material data sheets. What is disturbing is that there are up to 100 000 new chemicals. Why aren't there toxicity tests.
A: I've studied this for decades and I'm still shocked. Eight substances have been banned so far, like formaldehyde. There are no standards. An effort to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act--you don't have to test unless you have reason to be concerned, thus creating a loop that enables testing not to be done.

A huge percentage of PhDs in toxicology work in industry.

Q: The lack of standards not just to do with industry, but also to do with the inner logic of chemistry. Narrow causal experiments.
A: The good rodent studies are very slow and expensive. The science has to be aware of its context, say the new toxicologists. Looking for end points that rule out a lot of things.

Q: Discursive gaps where there is no idiom to deal with a thing. Do you see emerging idioms that are transmissible?
A: Some studies have ecological humility and are very reflective about data and history of science. E.g. sessions on banning the word "accuracy"--what new term to use? Reaching for ways to designate rigor. Hegemonic idiom not friendly to the practices they are caught in.

Q: "Late industrialism." Is this term an implicit critique of certain periodizations of capitalism that seem to be more consumer focused?
A: I often think this in parallel with feminist materialism. We are about to have 100 000 hydrofracking wells in upstate New York. The number of toxic sludge ponds... It really is a soiled landscape. How do we acknowledge that?

Most chemical plants are 60 years old and still operating. All new refineries are abroad. And safer. I'm all for stronger regulation but we also need to invent new modes of collectivity.

Q: The problem of uncertainty. The dominant scientific paradigm requires time and massive investments. So in the absence of certainty, what is the effect of some kind of collectivity as a catalyst. Can sharing uncertainty bring us together?
A: I think about this a lot. Scientists on my campus are organizing around the issue of vulnerability. Disaster theory is often spoken of as about unexpected events--we should not be using this term! Especially when you have coupled nested systems. We can say no to vulnerability, which is unevenly distributed. I'm working with the idea that this gives us a place to understand.

Q: How do we transport this into the classroom?
A: Sense of gross misfit is educational. Fear that things can blow up. There are coupled systems. Understanding the tech. My students go out and build things that I work on. Expertise is critically important, yet also it blinds. We can't anticipate challenges. But teaching students to be good methdologically. Think about the way language works, explanation and so on.

Q: Are you familiar with John Downer's work on epistemic accidents? In the late 80s there wasn't an understanding of aluminum fatigue (so the top of the 737 can rip off). A knowledge gap that exists at the moment of inception of the tech.

Q: Delay between what we know and what we should know. Are there ways of rethinking data? Science in the face of catastrophe? The very notion of evidence might be rethought?
A: Does this mean proceeding without an assumption that we need evidence?
Q: Or can evidence take different forms?
A: There is a recognition that heterogenous data types give explanatory power. There is deep interest in qualitative research and interdisciplinarity. We do need to cultivate multiple modes of knowledge

Q: Like in brownfield remediation.

A: There is a sense of "What do we know, and what do we know from this?" There is a questioning about the nature of insight.

Q: One of the issues of biopolitics is how science represses other kinds of response. Grassroots or narrative response. Maybe it's important to think about diminishing the scientific aspect sometimes.
A: One reason is that the industry effort is so concerning is that it's a sweeping effort to discount many forms of knowledge. Nothing counts as good enough to think with. So part of the struggle is what counts as science?

Q: I often think about how we look at our own bodies. Do we think of them as a series of nested systems? We have actually changed our own bodies, so how do we think outside of that? We need to think about what we are individually. We have been taught to deny our internal environment.
A: On the other hand our public health institutions are indeed worried about what is inside us. The exposure scientists refer to "NIH Types" (who start inside).
Q: I speak from experience about farmers who are in denial about being sick, sticking their arms into the toxics.
A: At the year anniversary of Fukushima there was a piece about how nuclear worry is foolish, in Scientific American. Concern as an index of vulnerability. There are many reasons that make it difficult to get our heads around toxics. They are cultural trouble.

Q: Changes in university systems that make knowledge harder to get at. Idea that knowledge will save us.
A: But the dissing of science is really concerning. (cf how Thatcher used Foucault to close mental hospitals!) The cool field of the exposure scientists; their president was the chair of the Chemical Council. Maybe it's old fashioned but this is a conflict of interest. Exxon should not be providing science to second graders.

We have learned in gender and race studies that we rule out things as not appropriate speech. There is also some disciplining that's needed in terms of language and social organization.

Q: The question of agency comes up again and again.
A: We could try to understand toxics with a different language. The "is it safe or not" is too binary. This is not how you make meaning in language. This is where humanities people need to be in the fight.

Q: The farmer point was very interesting. Because it points to the need for a sensitivity to rhetoric. Not everybody wants to complexify their world. How do you acknowledge a desire for a more simple world as you're also complexifying? How do you talk to the farmer?
A: We need thick descriptions. We have had very minimalist descriptions that don't have traction with some kinds of listener. We have missed the governance boat if some pesticides are in the farmer's hands in the first place. We need to invent a way to decide what should be on the market.

In Bhopal and Deepwater crises, what set up the disaster was the absence of law. No governing structure around it. We need to invent ways to decide what should be at the individual level.

Q: Do you have to deal with engineering hubris? The Wall Street crash << elite engineer disdain for traditional knowledge of how to manipulate piles of money. Is there resistance from your students and colleagues?
A: Yes. But there is also (and this also includes natural scientists) a subject effect. It's very humbling to think the environment, so you tend to get nicer ones in my domain. But twelve hours after Fukushima, one wrote an article for the Times that said there was no problem. What evidence licenses assertion?

Q: This leaves us with a cautionary note. Be careful what you ask for. If we have a system for declaring what's toxic; new forms of evidence and agency, etc. We get the Wobblies but we also get the Tea Party. If education really was the be all and end all we would be living very differently.
A: You think we can't do a better job?
Q: The issues are tied up with our lives that have very polar effects, eg we all benefit from mining. Many of us like who we are. The notion of newer types of evidence can lead us into very dangerous aspects.
A: We don't teach our students to deliberate together. Engineering students hate conflict. They don't have the social comportment to work through. I've done some K through 8 education: you CAN get your head around complex issues. There is a real cultural bias against it being hard.

Q: Whatever we accept as fact will not adjudicate. Questions of who and what is going to benefit? Any time you try to subvert that, it's an expression of power. The farmer shouldn't be discounted but seen in a wider context.

Kim Fortun: Biopolitics Liveblog 3

Late industrialism. Images we need to think well about. Anthropology that encourages historical attunement. Decide what is figure and ground in your project.

Bhopal. Global asthma epidemic. Theories of modernity and empire don't quite allow us to read the contemporary landscape as just riven with risk.

Environmental health sciences. Disaster relief. Creative scientific developments that have tried to get their head around toxics.

Emergent knowledge formations. Some science is shut down as "insufficient evidence."
americanchemistry: "essential2living" "essential2health"
Defining the science of interpretation for toxicity testing.
Chemical and related manufacturing has gone way up.

Can Foucault help us to think about the active production of ignorance, beyond discipline.
Fracking, deepwater drilling. Extraordinary lack of oversight and regulation. It's an actively produced lack of discipline.

Nondisciplinary trends: the queering of environmental health knowledge. Toxpi project of EPA on endocrine disruptors. All the focus on overly structured subjects (Foucault) doesn't work here.

Something as simple as a glass of water requires a huge infrastructure.
Regulatory cynicism: all the spill response plans are copied from the same text, and the aesthetic format is the same. How do we respond to this cynicism?
Probably 40 government agencies worked on BP spill. Lack of coordination.

Groundwater depletion revealed by GRACE. How do we think about system coupling that produces disaster? The problems at hand becoming a joke. We need theoretical frameworks that help us in that articulation.

Becky Mansfield Q&A: Biopolitics Liveblog 2

Q: It seems as if you are saying environmentalism is eugenics. And that a thousand chemicals should bloom.
A: In a way yes. There is concern about purity in environmentalism, purity of nature (haha, like Doctor Strangelove). Humans are degraders. Eugenic sentiments in the founders of environmentalism, George Marsh and Aldo Leopold or Muir.

We have to have a discussion about who and what is going to benefit.

Q: You talk a bit about the biopower of population, Foucault. You make an argument that raced women are charged with preserving the purity. But is it in fact the opposite. A nice middle class solution to consumption. A nice clean easy dividing practice. When you see a pregnant woman lighting a cigarette. Or kids with plastic lunch boxes. I wonder whether this is reassuring rather than disturbing.
A: absolutely. There is a sense that I can do something and that somebody else isn't doing it right. That's part of the racializing process. Everyone is assumed to have liberal freedoms. We can feel good about ourselves. I exercise therefore I'm worthy.

Q: Kevin Dan, genealogy of eugenics and class, not race. Ways of living on the land are what is contested. Not so much race as class. Community versus population and individual.

A: Our class and race become part of our biological makeup.

Q: I don't doubt that issues of nation, race, gender, class are built into the very frameworks of risk. But in some ways I want to see more qualitative evidence of that. More fieldwork on that. But let's step back a little bit from race and class. And look at the issue of fear. That life is plastic. Perhaps this fear is connected to our capacity to be reprogrammed all the time by cultural codes. Darkness. Maybe not just to do with race and gender, but to cyborgization.
A: Yeah. Part of that is a fear of the loss of nature. This opens up a lot of possibilities ("we are not essences.") But this makes us nervous.

Q: I want to go to the critical moment at the end. The shift of the burden to the individual. Versus socialized regulation. But doesn't give the store away? Let's take the example of finance regulation. Individuals shouldn't get bad mortgages. Or the call for a different regulatory regime. But since the birth of the Fed, regulation exists to stabilize regimes. If the solution is one kind of regulation or another this sets a horizon we might want to try to surmount.
A: Yes. The call for a stronger EPA won't really solve the problems.

Q: Is going back to a regulatory paradigm a good thing?
A: The left is suddenly left with defending the state.

Q: Weird alliances? E.g. Holistic Moms and Tea Partyers. And why are all these studies about reproductive health in particular?
A: Much happens during fetal development. Time of greatest plasticity. Fetal origins of adult onset diseases and transgenerational effects. Dutch famine in WW2.
The focus on IQ and demasculation have to do with our fears. There might be all kinds of other things going on.

Q: I wonder whether it's unfortunate that precaution is used to talk about action at all. It's not precautionary when you get to the individual level.
A: We create incredible fears and openness and then set a threshold.

Becky Mansfield: Biopolitics Liveblog 1

What is the relationship between environment and society? Political ecology, interest in envrionmental change, broadly. Health and the body. Papers on methylmercury, contaminated fish. Fish is the unfortunate bridge from old to new work by Mansfield.

She became very interested in toxics. A fascinating conundrum at many levels. The level of denial, combined with the burgeoning information about what these chemicals do.

Another part is the ways in which we then turn to individualized fear and responsibility talk. BPA free waterbottle, or wooden teething toys. New products that will save me or my children. Wraps us up in a tizzy that really isn't helpful. Paralyzing.

Her paper is about how knowledge is changing how we're thinking. How are we understanding or mapping relationships between bodies and the environment? Epigenetics is fundamentally changing some of the basic understanding. It used to be that the placenta, or the gene, was a kind of limit or boundary.

All that is problematized by epigenetics (non DNA causality of cells). Processes that turn genes on and off. (My uncle David and his research on placentas! Upregulation of ERV-3 retrovirus!)

Environment and gene have always been in a complex relationship. Sometimes what is discovered has a major impact: thalidomide, cancers.

Then there are morphological effects: obesity. Effects on reproductive outcomes. ADHD.

Thinking in terms of populations. The 400 000 IQ points increase distributed across a large population.

Life is plastic, bodies are emergent. Environments and bodies are made and remade.

This whole "what is life and how to govern it" thing is biopolitics. Foucault, "make live and let die." Governing emergent life. (Process relationism: We are extrusions of a chemical soup.)

Figure in Science on epigenetic life. Fetus in middle of figure called "Life in a contaminated world."

Biopolitical fears that grow out of history. Normative white man as pinnacle of humanity. Being dumb, fat and gay--fear of this is part of eugenic history. So a lot of the bio regulation looks like eugenics! Improving and protecting (the human) race. Degeneration talk is scary.

Fetus. Individualized repsonsibility. Women's lifestyle choices, for instance around fish consumption. (On the other hand, Claire Hassler.)

Or the responsibility is racialized. Racialized women (who eat more fish) become responsible for human purity. Neoliberal biopolitics asks for intense action by women. Not freedom from toxics but to freedom (unquote) to limit exposure. Inescapable requirement to choose what life looks like.

(I'm afraid I can't see why, knowing about mercury, I shouldn't avoid it in food, on the basis of this argument.)

Ecophilosophy Class (MP3)



This was with the very very good Ph.D. students of U Wisconsin Madison yesterday. Sorry, the battery ran out and I had to change--no content, or not much, was lost.

Public Consumption

An audience member commented, quite correctly, that my talk last night wasn't very dialed towards the general public. Yes. Sorry about that. I'm thinking through this book and so I'm using my talks right now as a way to road-test the ideas. So I'm coming across a little bit less open access. I'm doing an NPR interview with the folks here who run that show called To the Best of Our Knowledge, so that might be of benefit.

Also there's a tab at the top of the blog here--called Interviews. If you click it, you can listen to stuff.

In Answer to Joshua Clover

Okay I think I have my answer to his question, a bit more than where I went with it last night. Ten hours later!

To hold that production is more real than other entities is just relationism, or (in the Deleuzian vein and perhaps the Althusserian) new materialism. It must occupy positions 1 or 2 on my logic square. Which is why in the end it can't think apples, chimps and even spoons.

And global warming, whose amortization rate far exceeds the human and his/her production, so different, claims Marx, from spiders and bees.

Good

That was a nice talk I think. This hotel has pretty wack Internet, so I'm going to wait to upload it.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Friend Alan Taylor

Mentioned by Paul Krugman in this rightly scathing piece on Romney's economic "plan."



Graham Priest on Buddhism etc etc

Thank you Dirk, for this and so many other things.

Toys

I was teaching a class today at Madison. Wow great great students. Clear, intelligent, good humored. One of them suggested affinities between me, Jane Bennett and Deleuze.

At first I wanted to draw distinctions. But then I started thinking about it insofar as there are styles of scholarship, institutions if you prefer.

hadn't thought about this before but I found myself saying that--and this is something I like very much about Deleuze--Jane and I sort of make toys for people to play with. Ecological politics is so confusing and multiple, it's good to make toys at this point I feel.



Well Organized

This Sawyer Seminar here in Madison on biopolitcs, it's very well organized. We all have written position papers. Quite short ones--something like 10 pages each. That way we can discuss things. I'm already learning things by reading the others' things.



German

What a charming small German inn this is. Nice to arrive at. With a charming good German restaurant right next door.

The seminar looks very well organized and there is a goodly packet of readings in a folder on this nice bed.



Traveling

Well that was a little bit of fun. Tremendous rain forced me to stay in a Howard Johnson near O'Hare.

I thought of how Obama would stay there as a kid on cheap holidays with his mom. And how Romney wouldn't.

Then at the airport, I didn't have to go through security. That was the first time it happened--they're installing the service at Houston right now.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Limits of the Human CFP

Subject to Change: Nature, Text, and the Limits of the Human
The University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference
March 22-24, 2013
We invite you to join us as we explore the ontological, environmental, ethical, and literary implications of living in a world in which the primacy of the human has been called into question.

What does it mean to read an object if we, too, are objects? Do inanimate subjects have a claim to the agency that humans have usually taken to be theirs alone? How are artists and scholars supposed to see into the life of things: the animal, the synthetic, the digital, the inert, the abject? How do we read after nature, in a world of things?

Keynote Speech by Timothy Morton

A Roundtable Discussion with
Timothy Morton, and University of Virginia professors
Bruce Holsinger and Jennifer Wicke

Subjects (or is it objects?) of interest include, but are not limited to:

-Object-oriented ontology and the "democracy of objects"
-Whither the human?
-The anthropocene and anthropocentrism
-Nature and the unnatural
-Systems and ecosystems, digital and analog, network and wetwork
-Animism and a living world
-Environment and catastrophe
-Dark ecology and black ecology
-Speculative Realism
-Posthumanism
-Feminist and postcolonial possibilities after nature
-Translation and metaphor
-Textual history; books as physical objects
-Words for things/things for words
-Humanities without the human
-New ecology and community
-Ethics and bioethics in a posthuman world
-The limits of the body
-Animalism
-Monstrosity
-Conceptual art and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry
-Natural supernaturalism
-Goethean science
-The sublime; Romanticism and its afterlife

This conference is interdisciplinary: We welcome submissions from a variety of fields. Send an abstract (of up to 350 words) for your 15-minute presentation to gesaconference2013@gmail.com, with your name and institutional affiliation.

Responses are due by November 30th, 2012.

Find more information, updates, and a growing forum on the nonhuman at
http://tochangethesubject.blogspot.com/

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair of English at Rice University. He is the author of Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (forthcoming), Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (forthcoming), The Ecological Thought (2010), Ecology without Nature (2007), seven other books and eighty essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, food, and music.

Bruce Holsinger is Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror (2007), The Premodern Condition (2005) and Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture (2001). His interests include Critical Theory and Medieval Literature.

Jennifer Wicke is Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Feminism and Postmodernism (1994) and Advertising Fictions: Literature, Advertisement, and Social Reading (1988). Her interests include Critical Theory and 20th-Century Literature.



Incongruous Music

In an elevator at MLA I once heard a Muzak version of XTC's "King for a Day"—a spectacular indictment of class and wealth. Now I'm sitting in the Pavilion here at Rice hearing smooth jazz while reading Schopenhauer. Adorno weeps.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Full Immersion

Reading Schopenhauer and listening to Tristan and Isolde. It's only right.



The Great Storm of 1987

It was discussed on Radio 4 (BBC) tonight, and the anchor asked whether we remembered where we were. I do. I was in the New Building, a Christopher Wren building at Magdalen College. I was living in the room Oscar Wilde used to live in, what a cool room. The building is made of massive blocks of limestone, and so the howling intensity of the wind didn't touch it. But it was scary. Across southern England it caused 2bn damage, and killed 15 people.

It turns out, as the show demonstrated, that the Meteorological Office at the time used pencil charts of the isobars, not real time computer modeling.

Now think about how recently it became possible to map climate in real time. How new it is for us to be able even to think global warming. Twenty five years ago we couldn't even produce computer renderings of weather.

Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 8

Nine out of ten permissions and non-public domain images secured. Fantastic. And it's only been a week since I started on finalizing everything.

Voting Machines

It's Magic!

Monday, October 15, 2012
by Greg Palast for FireDogLake

Here’s an easy way to spoil a vote: digitize it . . . then lose the digits.

Prestidigitation is the French-derived term for conjury, legerdemain, sleight-of-hand, presto-change-o hand-jive, disappearing trickery . . . or, in the language of Karl Rove, “Helping America Vote.”

Following what the media called the “Florida debacle,” the winners of the debacle agreed to “reform” the voting system. So the Bush administration proposed and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act.

The best way to prevent voting reform is to pass a voting reform bill—especially if it’s written by the folks that helped themselves to your vote in the first place.

The Help America Vote Act is not the most Orwellian named, satanic law ever passed by Congress, but it tries. To avoid ballots with hanging chads, the law simply does away with ballots, providing about $4 billion in subsidies for Direct Recording Equipment (DREs), better known as “computer ballots” or “black box voting.”

Not to be confused with votes changed via sophisticated software hacking, this is the system by which simple “glitches” caused the computers to break down or simply fail to record the vote which resulted in over half a million (546,000) votes to disappear in 2008, according to the US Elections Assistance Commission data. In 2012, expect even more to vanish.

This little-glitch-here, little- glitch-there pattern has the odd attribute that it occurs 491 percent more often in Hispanic precincts than white precincts, and in black precincts it’s worse.
Presto! And it’s gone!
From Greg Palast's brand new NYT bestseller: 

Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps

Computer voting machines have a lot in common with slot machines in Vegas. You pull the lever and the result is, you hope, a happy one. Except that slot machines are scrupulously honest, well regulated, and operate properly and transparently.

Now, you’re probably expecting me to tear off into a screed about how easy it is to fiddle with a computerized voting machine (it is), how there’s rarely a “paper trail” to verify your vote (there isn’t one), how the software can be hacked, cracked, hijacked, and name Donald Duck to Congress or Chuck Hagel to the US Senate. (Republican Senator Hagel, who founded the biggest voting machine company, ES&S, was elected with an astonishing number of African American votes, his skeptical Democratic opponent told me, right after his machines were installed. Obviously, a sore loser. Or sore winner. We’ll never know which.)

However the number one way to steal computer votes in America is to unplug the computer.

And dumb-ass variants thereof. The problem with computers is that they don’t work. At least not for voters.

Example: In Sarasota in 2006, Republicans held on to the congressional seat vacated by Katherine Harris by a mere 369 votes after new computerized voting machines simply failed to record a choice in the race on eighteen thousand ballots, mostly from Democratic precincts.

The Republican county elections supervisor claims that the eighteen thousand voters simply didn’t want to make a choice. It was the top, hottest race on the ballot; eighteen thousand drove to the polls, went in, then walked out without making a choice. Oddly, this seemed to happen among voters marked BLA in the records, as opposed to the WHI voters.

There’s always the innocent explanation, which is never, in fact, innocent. Florida marks the race of each voter in the registries. So we can see that in the BLA precincts, poll workers were given the wrong passwords for the machines so no one could vote.

While the software varies from maker to maker, all DRE computer voting machines have one thing in common: like the man who shot the youngster Trayvon Martin, voting machines are really afraid of black folk. And brown folk.

How does this happen? Simple. Low-income towns get crappy schools, crappy hospitals, crappy police service, crappy everything. It would be absurd to think they’d get anything but the crappy voting machines.

When I went to the Taos Pueblo, they were voting on ancient Shouptronic machines that should have been in the Smithsonian. We don’t give Natives used blankets with smallpox bugs anymore, just the used voting machines with mechanical bugs.

Even when the better machines are funded by the state, the training is lacking, the conditions of operation suck (see Georgia summer above), et cetera, et cetera.
It’s that class war thing again. And in America, class is race.

Is it deliberate? If you know it’s going on and you don’t change it, it’s deliberate.

That’s the word from the dean of county elections supervisors in Florida, Ion Sancho, the only nonpartisan election official in the state. He runs the elections in whiter-than-white Leon County, home of the state capital, Tallahassee. He let me try out the machine he set up for Leon voters: a paper ballot that is electronically read. I voted for Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan for president. That is, I deliberately “overvoted” (voted for two candidates for one office), spoiling it. When I stuck my ballot in the reader, it spit it back at me and told me I voted for both a consumer advocate and a pinhead bigot and had to choose one. In other words, I couldn’t spoil my ballot.

I got another ballot and made the correction. In Sancho’s last presidential election, there was not one spoiled ballot in his entire huge county. Hot damn! If Florida officials knew about these machines, there would not have been 179,855 hanging chads and "over-votes" in 2000.

The county next door, Gadsden, the poorest and blackest in Florida, had also installed these cool miracle ballot-readers but could only afford a couple of them, which were kept in a central office. The result: the machines would reject all “spoiled” ballots—but by then the voters were far away and long gone.

Sancho realized that this would disenfranchise a massive number of poor voters in that county. It did: the blackest county in Florida had the highest spoilage rate of all. Harris refused to fix it beforehand and refused to correct it afterward.

“I invited the secretary of state to look at these machines,” he said, “before the election.” Katherine Harris could see Sancho’s office from her window in the State Capitol Building. She just had to take the elevator down, or jump.



She didn’t jump, nor did she take the elevator, even after Sancho told her of a deadly urgent problem.

But it wasn’t her problem. Her problem was to elect Republicans, and the machines did it: the “spoiled” votes in Gadsden, nearly every one marked for “Al Gore,” far exceeded the 537 votes that “elected” George W. Bush.

And in 2012, it’s worse. Way, way, way worse….

Read the rest in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and Vultures' Picnic.

Palast's brand new NYT bestseller Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Indie Bound and on the NOOK and Kindle.






unsubs




A Contemporary Archimboldo

HT Bill Benzon.

Buddhaphobic

Good grief. This is in the Halloween store round the corner. It pees. Would anyone have dared to do the same thing to JC? Here in Texas?


Vampire Poem

...by Claire (8):

cloaked in darkness,
sheathed in blood,

you will never guess who i am!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nonhumans at Virginia CFP

The University of Virginia English Graduate Conference 2013

Subject to Change: Nature, Text, and the Limits of the Human

We invite you to join us as we explore the ontological, environmental, ethical, and literary implications of living in a world in which the primacy of the human has been called into question.

What does it mean to read an object once we, too, are objects? Do inanimate subjects have a claim to the agency that humans have usually taken to be theirs alone? How are artists and scholars supposed to see into the life of things: the animal, the synthetic, the digital, the inert, the abject? How do we read after nature, in our world of things?

Keynote Speech by: Timothy Morton

Panel Discussion with: Timothy Morton, Jennifer Wicke, Bruce Holsinger, and John Parker; moderated by Rita Felski

Subjects (or is it objects?) of interest include, but are not limited to:

-Object-oriented ontology and the "democracy of objects"
-Whither the "human"?
-The anthropocene and anthropocentrism
-Words for things/things for words
-Nature and the unnatural
-The voice of nature in the conversation of mankind
-Environment and catastrophe
-Dark ecology
-Posthumanism
-Translation and metaphor
-Animism and a living world
-Inhuman Humanities
-Systems and ecosystems, digital and analog, network and wetwork
-Ethics and bioethics in a posthuman world
-New ecology and community
-The limits of the body
-Animalism
-Monstrosity
-Conceptual art and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry
-Natural supernaturalism
-Goethean science

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair of English at Rice University. He is the author of Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (forthcoming), Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (forthcoming), The Ecological Thought (2010), Ecology without Nature (2007), seven other books and eighty essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, food, and music.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Revelations of Dr. Kx4l3ndj3r

Imagine if the Space Shuttle developed intelligence and read Nietzsche. I'm watching Jon McKenzie's masterpiece, and you aren't, I'm afraid, because it's a private video on vimeo. I'll let you know what happens. But last time I saw it, Ian Bogost and I were utterly slackjawed with amazement.

Godspeed Interview

Nice one. HT Henry Warwick, rattler of archives.



Ready for Madison

Okay folks, I've got my talk together for "Humanities without Boundaries" on Thursday. Here are the details.

I'm also doing an NPR interview before my talk, which should get me in the mood. I love doing radio interviews, especially if the interviewer and I have some kind of chemistry together.

Come and ask me questions!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Austerity

The only reason the USA has not had a double dip recession, unlike the UK; the only reason why it has fared better than Greece, or Ireland, or come to think of it Japan, is that it hasn't yet enacted so called "austerity measures." Vote for Romney, or ensure he gets in some other fashion, and you will see the country plunge back into recession for quite some time. That and your pre-existing condition is no longer covered.

It's as simple as that.

An Eliminative Materialist Responds





Essay Fixing

This Prismatic Ecologies book is going to be mega. I'm fixing some language in mine, which is about X rays. As per the reader's report, I'm distinguishing between my use of "depth" as a metaphor and the materialist notion (or generally reductionist one) of a substrate to which things can be reduced.



Quiet

I'm grading and fixing an essay. Gosh it's marvelously quiet in here. There are thousands of people right outside celebrating the centennial, but here with two layers of wall and corridor between me and them, you wouldn't know it.



Centennial

Happily I seem to have started at Rice in the very same year as their centennial. Today is the day.

When Rice was founded they banned fraternities and admitted women almost from the start. Good moves.

There is a tolerance towards alcohol on campus that has resulted in the absence of stand offs between drunken mobs and police.

And it's stunningly beautiful.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mahavishnu Orchestra, "Dream"



This is what I listened to almost every day when I was 14+. Billy Cobham's finest hour I think is the duet he has with McLaughlin in the mid section. He is a horrifyingly good drummer.

But the truly wonderful part is when the band falls back into a loping funk based on the second section of the tune, as if a fever had broken (towards the end of the following):


Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 7

5 of the 10 items I need to secure permissions for are done and dusted. That's really not so bad for two days' work.

Between The Ecological Thought and this book, I started using Dropbox, which has made sending and receiving images much much easier. So Minnesota already has the images I've received.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marx a Correlationist

That was what I was arguing today, oh dear oh dear. Among other things. How you can see this for yourself: read chapter fifteen of Capital 1. He talks about the difference between tools and machines. This difference only makes sense if what "machine" means is correlated to a (human) subject.

Is this the reason, or one reason, why Soviet economies have failed thus far? Because they have not achieved escape velocity from modernity?

He asked provocatively.

"This Is Not My Beautiful Biosphere" (video)



A keynote remixed. Video by Alexander James. Shot in Canberra, August 28, 2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

That Was a Bit Strong

Just walked up to the second best sushi place in Houston, fifteen minutes tops from home. Which means it's the best sushi place I've been to on the planet thus far. In the cooler weather.



Boxes boxes

There must have been about 150 boxes' worth of stuff hauled from Davis to Houston in the move. Finally they will be leaving the garage today... This is good news for me as I'm looking for this rather nice lectern, having taken a bit of a stand against chairs recently...



Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 6

So it looks like I'll be able to get some color reproductions in, which is very pleasant. I see part of my job as curating art that is not as well known as it should be, and I'm hoping all the artists I'm representing will get color reproductions.

The word file is about 700kb—definitely the smallest book word file I've ever produced.

And the editorial team and I are agreed on the format of the book, which is two parts with subsections, rather than x chapters. The subsections aren't quite chapters, but they are longer than subheadings.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 5

I'm a good worker. I like doing a good job and I like the feeling of having done it as well as I can.

Editing this book is a bit of a cinch actually. It came out pretty right the first time as I've said.

Now on to illustrations. If you are reading this and your name appears below, please write me stating how you'd like your permissions handled. Some of you such as Marina Zurkow have already given me permission. But I would still like to know what I put after the copyright sign.

Steve Calvert
Tara Donovan
Marija de Haas
Cornelia Hesse Honegger
Yukultji Napangati
Judy Natal
Comora Tolliver
Chris Wainwright
Marina Zurkow

(Interestingly, women artists outnumber men seven to two on this list.)

If you are not on this list and I've talked about you recently don't worry—it means you are in Dark Ecology...

Environmental Humanities essay fixed

That was a helpful exercise. All the readers had something to offer.

It's best, if the editor is behind you, to treat negative reviews as very valuable information about how you're coming across.



Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 4

It's surprisingly nice to revisit the typescript. It's because it came out pretty much right first time, in three weeks or less, last year.

It did that because you all so generously listened to papers on it. It's like The Dark Side of the Moon: it took no time at all for the Floyd to put it together in the studio since they had gigged it to death for a year before they went in.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Subtropical Strange

So something happened about two weeks ago. The temperature dropped twenty degrees in a day and stayed there.

It's blissfully idyllic now here in Houston. I feel the sea air from the tropical coast on my face as I walk to the supermarket. It's about 9.30pm.

I really enjoyed the humidity--no I really did. And this is just extraordinary, this turn in the weather, which I hear is normal.



Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 3

I just collated all the illustrations. For the first time ever, I've used a numbering system that breaks them down relative to each chapter, or in this case, part (since the book is composed of two parts). That's because there are so many of them: twenty two I think. So as per the Minnesota manual, I've been numbering them 1.2, 1.3, 2.5 and so on.

There is an interstitial image without text, that works well as a frontispiece to part 2. I'm calling that one 2.0, although if my wonderful editor has other ideas, I'm all ears.

Wolfe and Morton video

Cary and I are working on a little video on environmental humanities.
Our reaction to what we have so far can be summed up thus:

Ahhhh-hahahahahahahaha!

Bach Dean

So I'm here in this Lutheran church for an excellent concert of baroque music (love it) featuring my Dean, Nicolas Shumway, in the choir. He invited us.

Best dean ever, by the way. By a very wide margin.



The Mesh vs. Twin Peaks

YouTube Doubler


Oh man. Someone did this. Thank you thank you. Better on the actual site where the timing is perfecto. HT Tom Trevatt.

Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 2

Seventy-six thousand words. That's not a bad length at all. I think it might be my shortest thus far. I'll have to check Realist Magic. Nice length. I'm going to see if I can make Dark Ecology just 30 000 words long.

Realist Magic is 86 000 words long. And I think The Ecological Thought is about the same.

Hyperobjects Final Draft Liveblog 1

Well that was a good move. Putting the whole text in one word file. I've never done that before, strangely. But it's terribly helpful when it comes to formatting the entire thing.

University of Minnesota Press have the most awesomely precise style sheet I've ever seen. It comes as a short book! And it's terribly clear. Fantastic. Onwards.

Bleak House and Hyperobjects

That's the kind of day it is today. Read an 800 page novel, and start finishing Hyperobjects.

The good thing about the latter is, the notes are totally together. I need to look at some of the writing, and I need to start getting the permissions ready.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fancy a Shave?

The wonderfully named Barbershop is hosting me in Lisbon:

The Barber Shop at Curators´ Lab
Nomadic Ontology: Mutations of the Aesthetic
— org. Margarida Mendes
Talks 28 OCT + 30 NOV

28 OCT (4pm): Timothy Morton — Dark Ecology: Art and Thinking after the End of the World
Timothy Morton will present a communication which will wonder through terrains far from the anthropocentrism central to most continental philosophy, revising the place of art and thought in a 
post-humanist world, with the support of his ecological theory. Morton will introduce his thoughts according to his positioning within the Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) movement, which
has been growing exponentially on both margins of the Atlantic, as an ally of Speculative Realism.

Oh Palatino

So I just started signing my contract for University of Minnesota Press, for Hyperobjects. The guidelines stipulate that the manuscript be in Palatino. This will be a big trip down memory lane for me.

Palatino was the font (or rather, typeface, if you want to be accurate about it) that I used for my dissertation and for my first book manuscript, on Shelley. After that I switched to Times New Roman and then, with The Ecological Thought, to Gil Sans. (Very interesting book about its progenitor has just come out.)

In the days when I didn't have a great computer, Palatino always seemed quite posh when I got to use it. I wrote most of the Shelley book in one of the computer labs at NYU.

I Need Help Sourcing an Image

It's the famous "dog picture" demonstrating the Gestalt phenomenon of emergence. I'm trying to establish that it's in the public domain. It's for Realist Magic. Help acknowledged!


More Symbionts

There are little mites that live in your face. They come out and frolic at night. They burst when they die and their bacteria enters your face. Your face becomes inflamed and more susceptible to the bacteria.

Which is why I have rosacea.

Friday, October 5, 2012

American Anthropological Association Talk

“Distributed Mind,” November 16, at the Hotel Nikko (yay), SF.

Also Received

...by my new friend Randy Schiff:





Received Today

Nice one Janelle!





A Prodigious Number of Talks

I've done twice as many as last year already. Which means that I've done 30. Mad. Had no idea.



Fondren Library

I just borrowed mr first book from Rice's library--a diary of Freud's.

Having worked in many libraries, eg Lambeth Palace and the Bodleian, this is a bit of a thrill.

As you can imagine this library is very beautiful and comfy. And right opposite where I just ate lunch.



More Buddhist Objects

Gosh I did way more research than I thought I had, on this, earlier in the year. The best pieces are photos of the Buddha statues at the Great Exhibition.



Buddhism and Objects Essay

It's for Victorian Studies, and Lauren Goodlad has kindly given me a few days to fix the notes. It's explicitly about how Latour can change the way we do history and lit crit.



Indigenous Thank You

Thanks to everyone who suggested all kinds of good things for me to look at regarding this issue.

It's terribly helpful, actually, as I've been wondering what kind of datasets and argument resources I can draw on for Dark Ecology, and this is quite intuitively one of them, but one that I hadn't been paying attention to since I hung out with Mick Taussig in the early nineties.

Tim Ingold has been on my radar since we met in Geneva a few years ago. I loved his talk but we got a bit shirty with each other in the roundtable. Never mind, I think we dig each other now. 

So again, a heartfelt thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Deckard, You Know Those Files on Me?

Thank You Brain

Aha! I just started to write me lecture for Humanities without Boundaries in Buffalo. I guess Adam Phillips was or is the previous speaker.

I've written 5 pages just now. Nice one. Time for a coffee and a book about Greek drama.



Indigenous Nature

I've been told I'm Eurocentric for saying that indigenous cultures tend to see reality as a trickster rather than as natural. I've been asked to point out which indigenous cultures do this.

I've been doing that, but I'm also going to turn it around: I defy such a pointer-out to find me an indigenous culture that cleaves to the concept Nature.

Go on prove it.



Revision

I'm revising an essay on environmental humanities today. Three reports. One says publish, the other publish with revision, the other says unpublishable!

That's fairly normal for me. I tend to push people with my writing so I'm good at getting books accepted--it's given that if you want to shell out for a book, you want to be pushed.

But for the exact same reason, essays are tricky.

The "revision" reader is evidently a Deleuzian, and I have a habit of pushing them at present.



That Scroll





"I'm Just Not in Your Religion"

Harman talks about the difficulty of talking about/with Zizek, which to me has to do with the difficulty of talking to Hegelians.

It happened a while back at a talk. Someone started up "You just don't understand that..." and I knew before he finished the sentence that he was a Hegelian. I just replied, "I'm sorry mate, you're never going to get any joy from me, because I'm not in your religion." I had to do it twice, since as their guy asserts, something doesn't happen until it's happened twice...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

EwN in Zagreb

This theater group is doing something with one of my essays for a piece called "Is There a Life on Stage?"



Sianne Ngai on Strange Aesthetics

Thanks Derek Woods! This is interesting.

A Scroll

A massive scroll has shown up at my office. It describes my chairship in florid detailed calligraphy. Cor. I'll try to photo it and put it up here.

Wolfe and Morton Video

Cary Wolfe and I are planning a short video to mark the inauguration of Environmental Humanities in Sydney soon. Stay tuned.



Dracula and Darwin

As you know I'm no longer recording my classes. But I can tell you what we're doing today: Dracula and The Origin of Species. They fit together like an undead hand in a glove made of thousands of interwoven strands of cartilage.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Reader Responds

On Levi's blog:

"If I am made what I am by my history — my past relations — is it still accurate to say that I am ‘independent’ of my relations? Clearly we are running up against different meanings of the word ‘independent.’ I would still BE without these relations but I wouldn’t be what I AM without them."

Ah well yes--that's the whole thing you see. OOO precisely doesn't think you are reducible to your history.

In my terms what you are is your to-come, your futurality. How you appear is your history. There is a profound rift between them.



"Can't We Get Beyond It?"

There are some not infrequent requests for OOO and process philosophy to get over the debate on relations. "It's not important," "It's overblown," and so on.

These dismissals seem to me to be symptoms of the syndrome that is precisely why the debate about relations is THE debate of our age.

"Can't we have a bit of both?" This is what the clamor boils down to. But the trouble is, you can't. I don't see how this position isn't just relationism of a particular sort.

The reluctance to have the debate is to do with a misperception of the ontological stakes. The attempt to foreclose the debate before it's even started is perhaps the final gasp of correlationism before we all have to admit we are beyond it.

This makes sense in a world in which Chevron gets to define official reality, via precisely the language of "everything is connected."



Bryant on Fragility

It's a concept I've been using in some of my explorations of things, and it's nice to see how he argues it through in this continued post on why relationism isn't all it's cracked up to be.



Cary Wolfe et al. on Environmental Humanities

Loads of interesting thoughts on the eve of the new journal's launch.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Bryant on Barad

Levi sums up something I'm arguing in a forthcoming essay on Barad, in a volume on ecofeminism.

Aside from the strange infinite regress of relations implied in the view that relations precede relata, there is the political assumption that this is a good thing always, an assumption that is pretty much unquestioned and even unquestionable these days.

But as Levi argues, if there is not some excess of the thing over its relations, why would we care about DDT, since DDT plus endocrine systems is an entirely new entity.



Buddhism and the Nonhuman (MP3)



At SLSA with Susan Squier, Marina Zurkow and me.