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

Friday, November 30, 2012


My friend Sam just died, a few days ago, of causes unknown to me. He was in his twenties.

I think I'm still in shock, because I keep forgetting this has happened.

Sam was my tent mate and room mate on my pilgrimage to Mount Kailash. He wasn't a Buddhist, but he went anyway. He was very athletic, unlike myself. My contribution was to tell him what I knew about minds.

I learnt a lot from him. It's hard to put it into words but his way of being is in me, somehow. He had a superbly straightforward and upright nature. It wasn't just the group of Buddhists who influenced me on that incredibly helpful trip. It was Sam. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it around the mountain without his persistent encouragement.

Some people have been pretty beastly to me this week, and it reminds me of the last time a close person died, and I was called a "moron" out of the blue in some online forum. For no particular reason, other than the fact that I was stating a disagreement.

But I'm feeling pretty cranky right now. Please try to be somewhat boundaried with me.

Oh, I guess I finished the final draft of Hyperobjects and sent it in.

Adorno on Object-Oriented Aesthetics: The Pith Instruction

"Ultimately, aesthetic comportment is to be defined as the capacity to shudder, as if goose bumps were the first aesthetic image. What later came to be called subjectivity, freeing itself from the blind anxiety of the shudder, is at the same time the shudder’s own development; life in the subject is nothing but what shudders, the reaction to the total spell that transcends the spell. Consciousness without shudder is reified consciousness. That shudder in which subjectivity stirs without yet being subjectivity is the act of being touched by the other. Aesthetic comportment assimilates itself to that other rather than subordinating it. Such a constitutive relation of the subject to objectivity in aesthetic comportment joins eros and knowledge."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adam Parkinson on Music and OOO

He is a Ph.D. (recently minted) and his work on music and objects is just excellent. Watch out for him. I'm really enjoying this chapter for a book on improvisation.

Out-Humed: Object-Oriented Politics

I think I just heard a mother of a talk. (Read the liveblog I just posted in parts.)

Ecuador used modernity--Humean (statistical) causality and the Kantian phenomenon-thing gap--to outfox the Humean corporations.

Ecuador determined that indeterminacy was grounds for precaution. The very uncertainty of statistical causality is used to promote the social good, which by default includes nonhuman lifeforms, since large hydrocarbons affect all life.

That is dope. It is using uncertainty and modernity against the "no one can prove" denialists.

The gap between the phenomena of hydrocarbons--mostly because of the lack of research on them!--and their reality as things was exploited.

Now that is an object oriented politics. Any questions?

PS: the relationists were Texaco-Chevron and their breakdown of the molecules into "fractions" with thousands of different forms of toxicity. Ecuador regarded them all as a UNIT.

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 8

I'm going to call the court's strategy out-Hume-ing the modern corporation

Judge: because we DON'T know about the heavy ones, that is REASON ENOUGH to know that people may have been endangered

"The lack of regulation does not imply an authorization to dump this substance into the environment"

The substances were known to be hazardous: the director of Texaco collaborated in 1962 study that outlined extreme care in handling hydrocarbons

Need for vigorous defense of human values in face of all providing and threatening science

Risk theory: whoever uses any benefit yielding medium generates social risk and must therefore assume liability

You don't need to determine WHICH element caused harm; the mere existence of harm is enough to establish a causal nexus.

It's an emergent legal logic that recognizes that relying on limited knowledge on hydrocarbons is not the best way to secure care for lifeforms

The 2011 ruling only evokes the precautionary principle: you should take them...

Addressing plausible dangers despite uncertainty
legal causation versus scientific causation

The judgment doesn't fixate on science but rather focused on the extent to which the corporation violated the broader spirit of the law

Scientific knowledge is inherently lacking in closure
indeterminacy, uncertainty, probability >> platform for stakes (actually this is more Kantian-Humean!)

vs corporate risk management logic: trying to establish certainty; to control the capacity to assess and prove a hazard

misleading: "we only know the health effects of some fractions" "far fewer well characterized compounds"
many of the un and understudied hydrocarbons could be deleterious to human health: we just don't know

the toxicological studies of crude are highly circumscribed as Kim Fortun has shown (hi Kim!)
effect of chemical exposure difficult to establish outside the lab

Toxicity is not an inherent thing, but a probability; not just calculated by measuring but must be determined by the production of scientific knowledge
differentially materialized by methods
toxicity and hazards are made to matter through technical and legal work

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 7

Self referencing citational loop of industry scientists
>> scientific legitimacy and technical protection of industry
>> hide controversy

Shift in US regulation in mid 2000s to assess petroleum << fractions: an industry strategy to contain
TPH group 1993 just after Exxon Valdez spill, with witness to financial liability of contaminators

Measured action in the context of indeterminacy
Plaintiffs: Chevron's experts attempt to distort what contamination is; to relativize it, when it's actually absolute
logic contrary to science: the Ecuador decree established a one size fits all limit, 1000ppm
April 2009: independent court appointed expert submitted a report to Ecuador's court
--an interesting move is that he determined the TPH limits of 2001 to be equivalent to a toxic threshold level
Classified maximum permissible TPH values alongside the internationally sanctioned limits
--the levels can be used to evaluate soil, groundwater and surface water

Chevron took many more times as samples and all of them virtually exceeded the 1000ppm limit

Court: liability and causation: because Ecuador doesn't allow for legal retroactivity >> reason that Chevron can't be expected to comply with legislation a decade after it finished
They will instead take the limits as reference parameters

But a number of limits were in force: obligation not to deprive the local inhabitants of their livelihood rights

Foreclosure: "TPH measures a good indicator and give certainty that conditions are similar in all sites"

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 6

The heavy PAH's are supposed to pose no risk to human health

But aging of crude reduces acute toxicity; the aromatics with a greater molecular structure are toxic increasingly relative to the number of carbon rings
It was thought they were not biologically available
but after Exxon Valdez << decline in fishing population there were new studies

many multi ringed compounds >> long term negative effects because they do become biologically available

3 to 5 ring PAH's metabolize as plastogens: they rearrange sections of chromosomes

so more rings are not more benign...

chronic long term sublethal effects increase with time not diminish, especially with heavier ones

scientists: complexity of these hydrocarbons
the metabolites of distinct PAH's depend on the organ, development, size, etc. Very interactive

multi ringed compounds >> questioning protection of scientific knowledge
cf tobacco industry
petroleum industry not innocent here: 1775 chemicals in fossil fuels and cancer link!
1930s hydrocarbons <> leukaemia
50 years of manufacturing uncertainty to stall regulation

>> production of constrained certainty
to foreclose the need for further research
insistence on the heavy rings' inertia

>> demonstrated that crude TPH level of 67 000ppm not deleterious...
>> reduce need to analyze sites

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 5

BTEX is crude oil's lightest aromatic compound
just one benzene ring

BTEX and PAH known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic.

2004-2007 data to court: capture this, enumerate
Ecuador standard was 1000ppm; levels up to 900 000ppm

the findings found very few BTEX and PAH: they did not exist in virtually all the soil and water samples
The corporations were able to say there was no risk on this basis

Degradation: BTEX is extremely volatile, dissipating from oil quickly, evaporating; can dissolve in water or evaporate
Chevron is correct when it says that the tests demonstrate the virtual absence of BTEX...

"There is no single criterion" for toxicity; the assessment is not based on science of human health risk; "standards may be overly conservative and costly"

The TPH group reviewed data and developed an approach to calculating risk based screening levels
quantifiable level of health protection
>> very comprehensive work

1990s + oil scientists promoted the TPH work >> transformed how hydrocarbon sites are understood
Need for scientific analysis

Gross TPH regulation >> mid 2000s not one US state regulates re: a TPH measure, they use the fractions
new cleanup standards based on dividing hydrocarbons into 13 fractions

The light aromatic hydrocarbons dissipate and biodegrade; heavy PAH's remain in the environment but they are inert: this has been the TPH and industry line

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 4

TPH is not regulated by the Feds. Individual states have monitored TPH by establishing cleanup levels. Levels beyond which contamination is not permissible. Dramatic variations: 10ppm to 10 000ppm, depending on state, land use, proximity to human habitation.

Addressing this great disparity. By standardizing the science, reduce disparities among the states. Transformation << measuring gross value >> assessing the risk to human health that groups of hydrocarbons might make.

"It used to be that we would ask how much of the contamination do we need to clean up? And now we ask how much do we need to clean up to make the area safe for humans?"

Insight into the capacity to (de)materialize toxins.

Carbon and hydrogen: aliphatic and aromatic; methane ethane propane; benzene toluene napthalene

aliphatic are chained carbon bonds
aromatics are rings

configuration of dislocation of valence electrons >> stability of ring compound
ring structure solidifies the compound >> stronger than is mathematically anticipated
>> greater thermodynamic force; clearly detrimental to any lifeform
structure <> toxicity

Classification of compounds into groupings or fractions: break down thousands of compounds into fractions, classes, groupings of hydrocarbons
>> proclivity of hydrocarbon to be volatile
minimal risk levels had been determined for some fractions << inhalation or skin contact
but crude contains thousands of hydrocarbons
some of these consist of hundreds of carbon atoms--only 250 had been identified by 2009; only 25 had been studied enough to determine their toxicity
those contained only a dozen or so carbon atoms

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 3

16 million gallons, many many cubic feet of natural gas. How come their reports were so clean? Much was at stake. The largest cash payout.

In most cases the test results are not radically dissimilar to the plaintiffs'. When you look at the data, there are differences but there is a huge amount of collaboration, coincidence, correspondence. They broadly corroborate one another.

So how to diametrically opposed interpretations of contamination emerge?

Chains of association: chemical bonds, legal contracts, bodies. How the production of scientific knowledge, the spatiotemporal complexity of hydrocarbons, and the vagaries of legal reasoning, allow for multiple interpretations.

In the litigation context, toxicity needs to be seen as incontrovertible. Defendants insisted that there was no link between toxins and environment.

Ecuador's law was not retroactive. The judge departed from both: measured action in the face of indeterminacy.

Chemical bonds and risk criteria. Reams of data on the chemical composition of thousands of soil samples. Crude is a complex brew of thousands of hydrocarbons. "Total petroleum hydrocarbon" is the umbrella term: TPH. Measurable amount of petroleum based hydrocarbons in the environment.

BTEX: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene
PAH: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

TPH doesn't assess risk; does give any meaningful account of the measurable compounds in the measure
nor does it give insight on future interactions, which are key to understanding toxicity

TPH Working Group: "TPH concentration data cannot be used to quantitatively estimate human health risk."

With this paradox in mind the TPH working group was formed. Consortium to develop scientifically defensible info to establish soil cleanup levels.

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 2

Suzana Sawyer: it's great to be here talking about oil. My father was a petroleum geologist, my grandfather was a civil engineer. I've grown up oil. So it's rather daunting to be here. I applaud the initiative you have here at Rice.

I'm going to be talking about this lawsuit. I was doing dissertation research not around Texaco/Chevron, but Arco. It was expanding in Ecuador. The Texaco experience was the backdrop.

The lawsuit proceeded. It had a long life in the federal court system. It was sent to Ecuador in 2003. I will now present a chapter from a new book that's looking at the lawsuit from 5 different angles.

This research is largely based on documents, the case file is 200 000 pages. For the most part it's not ethnography. During the course of the lawsuit I've been in the region twice.

"The Toxic Matter of Crude: Law, Science and Indeterminacy in Ecuador and Beyond."

Texaco spewing of industrial waste in 35 years' operation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Endangered human health and devastated the local ecology. Judge, observers, inhabitants, traveled through the affected area. Two written reports: multiple appendices; hundreds of pages; each map an inspection site.

Geomorphic and chemical composition of the samples taken. In line with the civil law tradition, the expeditions were the discovery phase of the trial.

The reports emerging from them are an integral part of the evidence for the judge's ruling in 2011.

At the heart: the capacity to (de)materialize the presence of toxic elements. The toxicity was in question, not the presence of crude. Soils dispersed at various points were said to be contaminated.

By contrast, reports that the defendants submitted reached opposite conclusions. "No oil related risk to public health from the environment." (cont.)

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 1

Chevron have couriered over a position paper because we are all about to watch the movie Crude, which they feel is highly controversial.


Suzana Sawyer, Anthropology, UC Davis. Social and scientific approaches to political justice. Crude Chronicles: on Ecuador. Indigenous activism. Response to contaminative effects of oil was a commitment to refiguring transnational inequalities not just a battle over resources. Ecuador a major supplier of crude oil to the US. How neoliberal reforms have spurred a powerful indigenous movement.  Reading of Hardt and Negri.

Texaco-Chevron lawsuit filed in 1993 on behalf of 30 000 Ecuadorians: plaintiffs were awarded $9bn. American Ethnologist this month: Sawyer writes about unaccountability to local concerns. Profit, liability, risk, an unholy Trinity. Modularity of oil (cf Timothy Mitchell).

ACLA Anthropocene

My student Derek is in it!

Tobias Boes, University of Notre Dame, "The Aesthetics of the Anthropocene: Five Theses"
Calina Ciobanu, Duke University, "Rewriting the Human at the End of the Anthropocene"
Gabriele Duerbeck, University of Vechta, "Ambivalent Characters: Agency and Aesthetics in Anthropocenic Literature (Max Frisch, Iliya Trojanow)"
Noah Heringman, University of Missouri, "Deep Time and the Anthropocene"
Kate Marshall, University of Notre Dame, "Writing the Anthropocene, with Very Large Objects"
Tobias Menely, Miami University, Ohio, "The Aura of Air: Atmospheric Nostalgia in the Anthropocene"
Nicole Merola, Rhode Island School of Design, "Perhaps the Universe is the Memory of Our Mistakes: Materializing the Anthropocene in Jeanette Winterson's 'The Stone Gods'"
James Pulizzi, UC Santa Barbara, "Fractal Realism"
Joshua Schuster, University of Western Ontario, "Extinction, Reductionism, and Precarious Life in the Anthropocene"
Jesse Taylor, University of Maryland - College Park, "The Work of Art in an Age of Anthropogenic Climate Change"
Aarthi Vadde, Duke University, "The Multispecies Novel in a Global Age"
Derek Woods, Rice University, "Scale-Critical Theory for the Anthropocene"

Hyperobjects: Zones

"Objects emit zones. Wherever I find myself a zone is already happening, an autonomous zone, like a pair of carefully tuned sine waves that fills a house with a crisscrossing field of interference patterns (a brief description of La Monte Young's and Marian Zazeela's Dream House in New York). Eliane Radigue's astonishingly layered ARP syntheziser tones fill a church with resonances whose lowest frequencies are felt physically as much as in the ear. A dissonance at that sonic depth results in the body being physically shaken, literalizing what Adorno says about how art shudders and shatters the subject.[1] The music is not “about” the environment: it is an environment. Biogenesis is simply a recording of Radigue's heartbeat, alongside which the sound of the heartbeat of the baby in her uterus begins to be heard.[2] Played through speakers capable of transmitting the bass frequencies, such as the ones used at the 33⅓ exhibition at SFMOMA in 2003, Biogenesis reaches into the listener's body. Coexistence is forced on us, whether we like it or not. With their vibrant lines, the paintings of Bridget Riley and the aboriginal artist Yukultji Napangati emit zones that grip me in their wake, unleashing powers on my optic nerve. A human ethical or political decision is made already in the force fields of intermeshed zones. There is no way to find oneself already heaving achieved a transcendental purchase on the zone. Kantian synthetic judgment, in which I have decided what an object is, what object-ness is, is possible (if at all) only because I have already found myself strafed by the zones that objects emit. The simplest cigarette butt or child running into the street reduces every ethical or political stance to the status of hypocrisy. It is the hyperobejct that forces us to sense this hypocrisy most exquisitely. Hyperobjects are simply so large and so long lasting that the zones that cascade from them are rich and intense enough to become aware of them; and to become aware of the irreducible gap between zone and object, which Kant calls the gap between phenomenon and thing.
Because of this gap, I am far from saying that we immediately encounter situations in which we know exactly what to do, as if everything were mechanically automated. Rather my sense of distance and irony, my hesitation, becomes more pronounced when I find myself latched onto a zone. It is the ontological priority of the zone that accounts fully for the feeling of strangeness and belatedness in my decisions about the object that emits it. It just is impossible to come up with the right reason for why I put the cigarette out in the sequoia forest. Indeed, if I try to generate a reason, I find myself watching the cigarette burn the undergrowth--I have already made a decision not to put out the cigarette. The zone has already grasped me in its beams. This does not mean that I know exactly how to dispose myself relative to the zone. Far from it: it means that I have no idea, or that I can feel the irreducible dissonance between my idea and the zone.
On what scale am I engaging the zone? Why do I put out the cigarette? Is it because I am concerned about the environment in general? Or this tree in particular? This forest? Is it because I understand global warming, and I see the cigarette as an indexical sign of human ignorance, a small piece of a gigantic puzzle? Again, the zone is not a region of direct experience, but a shifting, illusory field of irony and weirdness. This is not Nature. This is Heidegger's thrownness, inverted.[3] I do not find myself any old where, a projection of my Da-sein's unique uncanniness. Everything is doing that. The uncertainty and hesitation are not just in my Da-sein, but in the tree, the rock, the cigarette butt glowing in the ferns. My sincerity, my sensitivity to my phenomenological enmeshment in zones, is the very thing that prevents me from grasping it as solid and predictable."
--from Hyperobjects: Ecology and Philosophy after the End of the World (U of Minnesota Press, 2013)

[1] Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, tr. Robert Hullot-Kentor (London: Continuum, 2004), 349.
[2] Eliane Radigue, Biogenesis (Metamkine, 1996).
[3] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 127. 

Transspecies Sexual Violence

In the New York Times. Reminds me a bit of Twitter.

Levi Bryant at Rice 12/7

Sadly I shall be in Davis—it's for a good cause though, which is face to face time with my Ph.D. students there.

Levi is talking at 3pm in Humanities 119.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DNA Photo

...for the first time ever. Looks familiar.

Know Your Deniers

One of them is called Bastardi. Awesome.

Goodbye Many Worlds

Told you. The odds on a Bohm-Hiley or Valentini or de Broglie style quantum reality are getting higher all the time. Many worlds depends on supersymmetry. Supersymmetry is in big trouble.

That means that when a particle goes into coherence, something is really happening, in this world. Holding on to particles as ontically given (by measurement) means you have to believe in many worlds or faster than light communication. Since neither is possible (at this point), there is a much narrower range of interpretations of QT.


I haven't visited the webpage yet but it looks nice. This is the center that Cary and I and others are coordinating at Rice. 

Plowing On

When you start the edit phase, it's like raking cold stiff ground. Then the ground begins to soften and you warm to the cognitive task in hand.

I'm doing two kinds of edit: looking through the entire book for habitual phrases, phrases that I use to keep myself writing, and which work in talks, but not so well in books. And slowly reading through the whole thing for content and form.

Hyperobjects is much better than it was two days ago, which is very pleasing. All permissions but one are now in hand, which is excellent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

If You Go Carryin Pictures of Chairman Mao

The Cultural Revolution was the high point of the last half a century? 

Explain this, Badiouians.

Hyperobjects on Presentism

"Please don't think that this is Luddite primitivism. It is only an observation based on some quite graphic experiences of different kinds of temporality. It is difficult to believe, naturally, when one is immersed in a vast ocean of presentist metaphysics inscribed into every device about one's person. In fact, my solution to presentism is not a quasi-Buddhist “living in the now” popular with forms of Nature mysticism. Nonhuman sentient beings, for instance, are admired (or pitied) for living in this “now.” In admiring (or pitying) them thus, we only see them as instruments of our technological era, extensions of the ticking clocks of metaphysical presence. This is not a progressive ecological strategy. Like Nature, like Matter, the Present has not served ecology well."

Hyperobjects Sentence

"Global warming doesn't go golfing at the weekend."

Extinction Level Threat

Thanks Dirk!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ah, the Hyperobjects

I'm about a third of the way through the first edit. This is such a short book--my shortest ever. It's 75 000 words. It's nice to revisit the prose and smooth it out. I got it almost right first time, in the fortnight it took me to write it. But when you write at speed, you sacrifice a certain amount of scholarly decorum, so it's nice to brush the dandruff off the prose.

And I got permission to reproduce "Two Rocks Converse" by Tom Gauld, for free!

Done, Next

The proofs are done and sent. So now I have to finish Hyperobjects. I have a week! Actually a bit less--I have until December 1. It's looking quite good right now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exploding Frog

Confined in the dark, narrow cage of our own making that we take for the whole universe, very few of us can even begin to imagine another dimension of mind. Patrul Rinpoche tells the story of an old frog who had lived all his life in a dank well. One day a frog from the sea paid him a visit.
“Where do you come from?” asked the frog in the well. 
“From the great ocean,” he replied.
“How big is your ocean?”
“It’s gigantic.”
“You mean about a quarter of the size of my well here?”
“Bigger? You mean half as big?”
“No, even bigger.”
“Is it . . . as big as this well?”
“There’s no comparison.” “That’s impossible! I’ve got to see this for myself.”
They set off together. When the frog from the well saw the ocean, it was such a shock that his head just exploded into pieces.
--Sogyal Rinpoche

Play with Nukes

This is a horrible and educational thing. Thanks Dirk.

David Bowie

This tune by Phish has always attracted me. In many ways I prefer it to actual things by actual David Bowie.

Queasy Realism

I'm sick and I'm proofreading. And Realist Magic is written in this cycling, iterative style. And what is say is quite quite weird. I'm feeling ill!

You Know, This Realist Magic Is Really Okay

"What is called the past is really some other object(s) that coexist with the object in question. The OOO universe just can't be monistic, nor can it be solipsistic. Though objects are unspeakable, I know they exist. My very existence is predicated on them, not simply because “I am made out of” them, but because an object just is coexistence, even if only with itself, because of the Rift between essence and appearance."

Quite a Nice Paragraph

"Objects are fragile, not superficially, but all the way down, ontologically. And this means that they are weak. I mean this without a trace of sneer: we are one of those weak objects. Consider human language. That languages do not beam the thing down in full presence is not some local quirk of language, but a fact about reality. Words such as “this” and “is” are symptoms of a long and jagged history of relationships with nonhumans. Some of the inconsistencies of language are symptoms of our coexistence with other objects. This makes our language inherently weak. Unlike those theorists who want to posit human language as powerful or rich, I claim it is weak and flexible. That the reason why one can say things such as “This statement is false” in English is not because English is rich, but because English is weak. Like the branch of a willow tree, it bends. Software languages are not less expressive than English, but in a way, they are more expressive. Every term really means something. Or really does something. When you try to dissipate the Liar paradox (“This statement is false” and variants) you end up having to jump to another language. This language can also generate the Liar paradox, in a modified form that might even be strengthened. Paradoxically, the more rigidly one tries to exclude contradiction, the more virulent become the dialetheias that are possible."
--Realist Magic

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hey This Is a Nice OOO Idea

"One reason OOO is hard to accept for some people is also the reason why psychoanalysis or ecological awareness is hard to accept: what is found is a profound lack in the Other, the realization that “the Other does not exist”: there is no Nature, no deep background of meaning—what we took as real is really a projection. What we assumed to be real is just a manifestation of the as-structure."
From Realist Magic, which I'm proof reading.

A Mess

"A thousand years from now, China's insistence that it not adhere to admissions rules a la Kyoto Protocol, because it is a developing nation, will be seen for what it is, a short sighted blunder with disastrous consequences."


King Crimson Proofs

I'm reading Realist Magic proofs and listening to King Crimson.

A little known fact about "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part I" is that it's my father playing the violin solo. He was brought in because Cross couldn't quite nail it. He got a "string arrangement" fee in exchange for not being credited on the album. I think he enjoyed himself doing it.

It's easy to tell it's my dad, for me—the Vaughan Williams like quality, and the way he riffs on the fifth chords about half way through: I used to hear that stuff around breakfast time when I was on holiday or on a weekend, about five years old, which was when he was recording it...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Schopenhauer and Buddha

Which one said "You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger"?

Answer: either of them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


This final image from the Scale of the Universe sequence rather wonderfully uses TV snow, since 1% of it is the microwave background. Nice recursion. And quite frightening scale. 

Got Scale?

Thanks Cliff. This is an excellent tool.

Check all the empty space between 10 to the minus 17 and 10 to the minus 33 centimeters. That's where David Bohm thinks the implicate order lives.

Curve if you look at my citations you'll see there was the beginning of an exponential curve after Ecology without Nature was published.

Thanksgiving Day

Happy day everyone, especially those who are having a holiday today. I'm going to the beach with the family and Cary's crew, which includes a rather lovely enormous dog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Schelling Out for More

I made friends with the translator last week at the Anthropology conference. One thing of many that we have in common is our enjoyment of this book. This version is the third one.

Wuthering Heights Today

Any suggestions anybody, for what to teach?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Realist Magic Acknowledgments

Here they are:

First and foremost, Graham Harman brought this book into being in almost every sense. He compelled me to become an object-oriented ontologist, through the ingenious device of brilliant, seductive prose. And as series editor he has been a most helpful, generous partner in putting this book together.
Ian Bogost, one of the founders of object-oriented ontology (OOO), gave me the title at a highly spiced brainstorming session in Los Angeles in December 2010, and since then has shared his thinking in the most generous ways possible. Levi Bryant, the third object-oriented musketeer, has helped me in more ways than I can possibly list.
There many people whose more than inspiring ideas and kind words have helped me on this project, including but not limited to: Jamie Allen, Jane Bennett, Bill Benzon, Paul Boshears, Kris Coffield, Rick Elmore, Paul Ennis, Rita Felski, Dirk Felleman, Nathan Gale, Bobby George, Thomas Gokey, Joseph Goodson, Peter Gratton, Liam Heneghan, Eileen Joy, Julia Reinhard Lupton, Douglas Kahn, Ken Reinhard, Tom Sparrow, MacKenzie Wark, Cary Wolfe, and Ben Woodard.
This book is dedicated to my son Simon. Anyone who has trouble imagining causality as magical and uncanny need only consider the existence of children.

Realist Magic Finally

I think I've managed to dot all the /i/s and cross all the /t/s. Of course, as my mum says, “There's many a slip twixt cup and lip” so we shall see. I had to find an image for something that was not difficult to source, so I think that's all.

And now there are some proofs to check...

Ralph Steiner, "Water"

Thank you Duskin! I like how the water becomes the liquidity of the film stock, and vice versa...

Take a Stand against the Chair

Finally I get to be Shelley, who always stood to write.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Environmental Humanities (video)

Cary Wolfe, Tim Morton, an orangutan, and some styrofoam. Head over here to see why we made it.

Here is the Environmental Humanities launch page.

How Much More Info Does One Need?

Thanks Kate. This handy little page should cause you to weep.

Xmas Party Reconaissance

The caterer is coming round today to case out the joint. I think we can fit about 90 people here with some ease. So while I finish this video I've done with Cary, I'll do a bit of tidying.

Cary and I

I guarantee you that Slavoj has not yet thought to do what Cary and I have done last night in the way of a movie for our conversation on environmental humanities...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Laurel Peacock in Environmental Humanities 1

Congratulations to Laurel who is editing a collection I'm in on how poems work, and who has just published a very timely essay on Brenda Hillman in Environmental Humanities 1.

Great Conference

I took loads of notes. And my panel introduced me to a whole world of Buddhist + continental philosophy, which I had no idea existed. They must have had telepathic powers to figure me out that much. Says a lot about meditation :)

Thanks everybody and we will for sure be working together again soon.

What a Kitty

Environmental Humanities 1 Is Now Online

Issue 1 contains the following:


Deborah Rose, Thom van Dooren, Matthew Chrulew, Stuart Cooke, Matthew Kearnes and Emily O’Gorman (Editorial Team):
Thinking through the environment, unsettling the humanities


Timothy Morton: The Oedipal Logic of Ecological Awareness

Eben Kirksey: Living With Parasites in Palo Verde National Park
Tom Lee: Burrows and Burrs
Libby Robin: Global Ideas in Local Places
Laurel Peacock: SAD in the Anthropocene
Natalie Porter: Risky Zoographies: The Limits of Place in Avian Flu Management
Alex Lockwood: The Affective Legacy of Silent Spring
Anna Tsing: Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Ecological Mind

Here it is, our panel from today.

A series of talks by Rick Muller, Bethe Hagens, Michael Schwartz, Sarah H Williams, Tim Morton, Elizabeth Sykes, Jason Wirth and Alison Blackduck at the American Anthropological Association Convention, San Francisco, November 16, 2012.

"The only emergency is the lack of emergency"

Thanks to the enowning blog I am reminded of this phrase, which I wish I'd remembered when I told the Madison crew about gigatons of carbon, Earth f***ing, etc:

"When Martin Heidegger, one of the architects of hermeneutics, pointed out decades ago how the 'only emergency is the lack of emergency', he was referring to these sort of alterations: The emergency is when they don't occur."

As if by Magic

It's hard to imagine a better editor than Graham Harman, who produced for me eight pages of very detailed comments on this book within a single day.

Autopoetic Twinkies

Twinkies may be no more following a request by Hostess to go bankrupt. I recall my fascination with them as a Brit reading Spider-Man comics in the 70s. Unavailable in the UK and very strange...

I used to be friends with this guy who worked in the Twinkies factory. He was ordered, like all employees, not to eat the products at a certain stage of their production. Why?

Well there are the obvious reasons, but here's a weird one: they cook themselves.

That orange skin they have? It's just the creamy interior reacting with air at a certain phase of production...

Hyperobject: Myhomeland Paula Dawson. It speaks for itself but if you're nearby (in Australia you need to see these beautiful things). See her description below.

In these recent works I am endeavoring to make propositions which reference our experience of Hyperobjects ( ) a term introduced by Timothy Morton to describe  things that are temporally and materially so vast that they are almost impossible to represent and contemplate. )

Hyperobject: collective care

The drawing calls on the knowledge of the ritual of making a line at the height of a child on a wall, paper chart or doorway each year. To me, drawing the line at the height of a person’s head is not simply a metric of growth.

The drawing of this line implies care and bestows significance on the person’s existence. By reenacting this gesture of marking height in public and including people of all age groups I see this drawing as a gesture of collective care.

150 x 170 cm white conte on black fabrioano paper and mixed media

Hyperobject: Myhomeland,  proposes a way to ponder belonging and dwelling.

The use of the direct laser beam and the hologram reference current military use of holographic maps, which integrate LiDAR (laser) light detection and ranging data, for homeland security.

The computer generated hologram drawing was made by tracing marks along my lifeline, once for each year of my life and shaping them into a dwelling thereby proposing that one’s place of belonging is emergent… that it comes into existence as it is needed.

121 x 65 x40 cm HeNe laser, computer generated hologram CGH and mixed media

The haptic drawing and computer generated hologram research is supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (DP1094613).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Very Interesting Panel

...on altered states of consciousness. There is a science writer in the room, who is under some difficulties. He has a very interesting neurological explanation for light visions in meditation. However, his eliminative stance results in a real difficulty, a different in the room, really.

It's interesting for Tibetan Buddhists, because we believe that the neurological level is real and can construed as part of the sacred outlook.


What do I love about that movie the best? It's that, from the moment he is activated, the protagonist clone is figuring out how to escape. That's the spirit my son!

Missing Panel

Well...perhaps it was unrealistic to think I'd make the start of the panel in delusions. (Good topic!) But the late drawing of the plane into the gate put the seal on it.

On the other hand, I like to ride on trains and this BART is clipping along nicely.

I'm exercising my resistance to the dreaded chairs.

Good Advice for Planes

Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life itself reveals again and again the opposite: that letting go is the path to real freedom.

Just as when the waves lash at the shore, the rocks suffer no damage but are sculpted and eroded into beautiful shapes, so our characters can be molded and our rough edges worn smooth by changes. Through weathering changes, we can learn how to develop a gentle but unshakable composure. Our confidence in ourselves grows, and becomes so much greater that goodness and compassion begin naturally to radiate out from us and bring joy to others.

That goodness is what survives death, a fundamental goodness that is in each and every one of us. The whole of our life is a teaching of how to uncover that strong goodness, and a training toward realizing it.
--Sogyal Rinpoche

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

State of the Species

God this is dope. It's perfectly timed to coincide exactly with my thinking for Dark Ecology. Thanks to Comora Tolliver for suggesting it.

Chroma Fun

The audio I made of Cary's and my conversation the other day is quite quite nice. If you use the highest setting on my mp3 recorder, you get something that could easily be used in a band demo.

The next step is to shoot the video. I won't spill the beans but we have a fun concept of how to make it work. Could be the start of a whole series of conversations...But let's say that we'll be using chroma key quite a lot. Always wanted to.

"Theory Is Like a Patch"

Because in our culture we overvalue the intellect, we imagine that to become enlightened demands extraordinary intelligence. In fact, many kinds of cleverness are just further obscurations. There is a Tibetan saying: “If you are too clever, you could miss the point entirely.”
Patrul Rinpoche said: “The logical mind seems interesting, but it is the seed of delusion.” People can become obsessed with their own theories and miss the point of everything. In Tibet we say: “Theories are like patches on a coat, one day they just wear off.”
--Sogyal Rinpoche

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Good Looking Book Glenn Willmott. Thanks Glenn!

Ah, Toby

Nice chat just now with my outstanding Ph.D. student Toby Bates, of UC Davis. He's doing all kinds of things with time in Victorian literature and culture. He's one of the most philosophically dialed of my students but he also knows how to read a poem (and a story) and he knows his history too.

Editing the Dialogue

Cary and I have a plan for how to proceed with this video. We think it will be fun. First I have to edit the chat, which I've just started to do on this machine.

There were two ashtrays that served quite well as hooves a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And some emergency vehicles went past at just the right moment....

Monday, November 12, 2012

Class and the Election

"Like every president, Obama won for myriad reasons, important and petty. But his reelection was hardly small and hardly devoid of ideas. Indeed, it was entirely about a single idea. The campaign, from beginning to end, was an extended argument about economic class.

It began last December, when Obama delivered a trademark Big Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, where Teddy Roose­velt once spoke, on government’s place in mitigating income inequality. It was, in a sense, an extension of his failed budget negotiations with House Republicans. Obama had decided that his reelection effort would be an attempt to go over Speaker of the House John Boehner’s head and bring to the voters the proposition he couldn’t get the opposing party to accept: that both moral decency and plausible budgeting required an end to George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

Though liberals may have found Obama’s second presidential campaign less joyful than his first, it’s worth noting that it was thematically sharper and more progressive. Even the ads attacking Mitt Romney’s history at Bain Capital, which could charitably be described as one-­sided, supported the general theme. Republicans had deified the rich—they were “job creators” whose interests were wholly synonymous with those of the rest of us. The testimonials of the victims of Bain Capital certainly were a personal attack on Romney, but to view them as just a personal attack is to miss the blunt symbolic overtones."