“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, October 31, 2011

Robert Ashley in NYC

Weird. How did he know? I was just writing about one of his pieces for Hyperobjects. Then I get this in an email out of the blue. I have no idea why.

And Speaking of Interviews

Eugene Thacker talks on To the Best of Our Knowledge. HT Dirk Felleman. Good for Halloween I feel.

Shouting about Philosophy on KPFA

My interview with C.S. Soong of Against the Grain streams tomorrow at noon PST on KPFA.

Or you can hear/download it on the show's website.

It has ecological bits, OOO bits and funny bits! The funniest bit is the very last bit, which I hope they keep in, where I simulate the sound of croaking right after saying that telos can suck it...

Paul Boshears Carries Milk, Spills None

This is a very elegant essay about Marina Abramović's performance art, and in particular her piece The Kitchen V: Carrying the Milk (2009).

Abramović started a series called Transitory Objects for Human and Non-Human Use in 1989. How prescient the title seems now.

Paul Johnson at Frieze

My cousin Lindsay's partner Paul was at the Frieze Fair this year. Here is the video:

I think the judge nailed it. This piece, Temple, “treads the line between invisible and monumental.” Yay, withdrawal!

Inaction and Stasis as Ecological Art

Finally, I can answer Adeline Johns-Putra's question! Skype cut out a little bit at that point. Adeline was wondering whether, since we are always “wrong” against the hyperobject (because we're inside it), is doing nothing a kind of statement?

There are three aspects to this. The first aspect is the main way I answered it in the moment. There are real entities and we know this now: so one approach is indeed better than another approach. If metaphors (causal anything, from my OOO point of view) are about real things, then some metaphors are better than others.

Sitting on one's sofa would be an aesthetic event. But it wouldn't work as well as Chris Wainwright's iceberg.

That's how I answered it at first.

Now for the second approach. “Being a chameleon poet (like Keats) even while staying still—is that aesthetic?” was kind of the gist of this angle of the question.

I addressed that in terms of the onto-theological distinction between process and stasis. I answered this in terms of OOO, that there is a rift between appearance and essence from the side of the object itself. I've addressed this in numerous place here and I won't rehash it. But basically, the distinction between process and stasis isn't anything other than an anthropocentrism and a reification.

That was my second reaction.

But Adeline's question, fuzzed out by Skype, looked a lot more like this (this is her email, which she sent a little bit later):

My Emergent Environments Q&A

An exchange with Richard Kerridge, Kate Corder, Adeline Johns-Putra and others. As you can see I had to resort to my iPhone as Skype on my computer fritzed out.

My Emergent Environments Lecture (Video)

Given this September at Queen Mary University of London.

My Dialogue with Richard Kerridge

At Queen Mary University in London this September. It's fun for me to watch it--Skype on my computer failed so I just used my iPhone...

This was on the theme of my talk on ecology and aesthetics.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Living Books about Life

...From the Open Humanities Project. I'm in the Symbiosis volume (see below).


The pioneering open access humanities publishing initiative, Open Humanities Press (OHP) (http://openhumanitiespress.org), is pleased to announce the release of 21 open access books in its series Living Books About Life (http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org).

Funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and edited by Gary Hall, Joanna Zylinska and Clare Birchall, Living Books About Life is a series of curated, open access books about life -- with life understood both philosophically and biologically -- which provide a bridge between the humanities and the sciences. Produced by a globally-distributed network of writers and editors, the books in the series repackage existing open access science research by clustering it around selected topics whose unifying theme is life: e.g., air, agriculture, bioethics, cosmetic surgery, electronic waste, energy,
neurology and pharmacology.

Peter Suber, Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge, said: ‘This book series would not be possible without open access. On the author side, it takes splendid advantage of the freedom to reuse and repurpose open-access research articles. On the other side, it passes on that freedom to readers. In between, the editors made intelligent selections and wrote original introductions, enhancing each article by placing it in the new context of an ambitious, integrated understanding of life, drawing equally from the sciences and humanities’.

By creating twenty one ‘living books about life’ in just seven months, the series represents an exciting new model for publishing, in a sustainable, low-cost, low-tech manner, many more such books in the future. These books can be freely shared with other academic and non-academic institutions and individuals.

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, commented: ‘This remarkable series transforms the humble Reader into a living form, while breaking down the conceptual barrier between the humanities and the sciences in a time when scholars and activists of all kinds have taken the understanding of life to be central. Brilliant in its simplicity and concept, this series is a leap towards an exciting new future’.

One of the most important aspects of the Living Books About Life series is the impact it has had on the attitudes of the researchers taking part, changing their views on open access and raising awareness of issues around publishers’ licensing and copyright agreements. Many have become open access advocates themselves, keen to disseminate this model among their own scholarly and student communities. As Professor Erica Fudge of the University of Strathclyde and co-editor of the living book on Veterinary Science, put it, ‘I am now evangelical about making work publicly available, and am really encouraging colleagues to put things out there’.

These ‘books about life’ are themselves ‘living’, in the sense they are open to ongoing collaborative processes of writing, editing, updating, remixing and commenting by readers. As well as repackaging open access science research -- together with interactive maps and audio-visual material -- into a series of books, Living Books About Life is thus involved in rethinking ‘the book’ itself as a living, collaborative endeavor in the age of open science, open education, open data, and e-book readers such as Kindle and the iPad.

Tara McPherson, editor of VECTORS, Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, said: ‘It is no hyperbole to say that this series will help us reimagine everything we think we know about academic publishing. It points to a future that is interdisciplinary, open access, and expansive.’

Funded by JISC, Living Books About Life is a collaboration between Open Humanities Press and three academic institutions, Coventry University, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Kent.


* Astrobiology and the Search for Life on Mars, edited by Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths, University of London)
* Bioethics™: Life, Politics, Economics, edited by Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths, University of London)
* Biosemiotics: Nature, Culture, Science, Semiosis, edited by Wendy Wheeler (London Metropolitan University)
* Cognition and Decision in Non-Human Biological Organisms, edited by Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University)
* Cosmetic Surgery: Medicine, Culture, Beauty, edited by Bernadette Wegenstein (Johns Hopkins University)
* Creative Evolution: Natural Selection and the Urge to Remix, edited by Mark Amerika (University of Colorado at Boulder)
* Digitize Me, Visualize Me, Search Me: Open Science and its Discontents, edited by Gary Hall (Coventry University)
* Energy Connections: Living Forces in Creative Inter/Intra-Action, edited by Manuela Rossini (td-net for Transdisciplinary Research, Switzerland)
* Human Genomics: From Hypothetical Genes to Biodigital
Materialisations, edited by Kate O’Riordan (Sussex University)
* Medianatures: The Materiality of Information Technology and Electronic Waste, edited by Jussi Parikka (Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton)
* Nerves of Perception: Motor and Sensory Experience in Neuroscience, edited by Anna Munster (University of New South Wales)
* Neurofutures, edited by Timothy Lenoir (Duke University)
* Partial Life, edited by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA, University of Western Australia)
* Pharmacology, edited by Dave Boothroyd (University of Kent)
* Symbiosis, edited by Janneke Adema and Pete Woodbridge (Coventry University)
* Another Technoscience is Possible: Agricultural Lessons for the Posthumanities, edited by Gabriela Mendez Cota (Goldsmiths, University
of London)
* The In/visible, edited by Clare Birchall (University of Kent)
* The Life of Air: Dwelling, Communicating, Manipulating, edited by Monika Bakke (University of Poznan)
* The Mediations of Consciousness, edited by Alberto López Cuenca (Universidad de las Américas, Puebla)
* Ubiquitous Surveillance, edited by David Parry (University of Texas at Dallas)
* Veterinary Science: Animals, Humans and Health, edited by Erica Fudge (Strathclyde University) and Clare Palmer (Texas A&M University)

Contact the Living Books about Life series editors:
Gary Hall, Joanna Zylinska and Clare Birchall
E: gary.hall@coventry.ac.uk
E: j.zylinska@gold.ac.uk
E: c.s.birchall@kent.ac.uk
W: http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org

Open Humanities Press is a non-profit, international Open Access
publishing collective specializing in critical and cultural theory. OHP
was formed by academics to overcome the current crisis in scholarly
publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor
worldwide. OHP journals are academically certified by OHP’s independent
board of international scholars. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed,
published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately
available online.

Queen Mary Talk on Hegel, Ecology, Aesthetics

Now online courtesy of the conference itself.

I had a very meaningful exchange with Richard Kerridge, which will also go up soon.

Shelley's Queen Mab Bicentenary

I like Alan Weinberg. He's a professor from South Africa, very creative, fizzing with intelligence. We just had the second in a series of Skypes about a project we're realizing on Shelley's Queen Mab, whose bicentenary is 1813 (just like Pierrot Lunaire). Watch this space.

Steve Jobs, Trungpa, Suzuki

Oh yes. He read Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa. I gave a copy to Slavoj Žižek about ten years ago. And he read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Two of my favorite Buddhism books and the first two I read. And he was married by Kobun Chino Roshi and went on retreat at Tassajara, where my friend Alan used to work.

That contemplative aesthetic is for sure embodied in Macs and other Apple products. This post is a very extensive and very well done account of all this.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Literature Conference CFP

ALSCW (Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers)

I'm going to be presenting a paper on Heidegger and Buddhism (see below).

Eighteenth Annual Conference
March 9–11 2012 at Claremont McKenna College

Call For Papers

With the compliments of the Program Committee for the 2012 Convention:

Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University
Eleanor Cook,  University of Toronto
Elisabeth Samet,  U. S. Military Academy
Tim Peltason, Wellesley College
John Burt, Brandeis University
Michael Putnam, Brown University
Robert Hanning,  Columbia University
David Powelstock , Brandeis University

The call for papers for each session is given below; the practice is that at least one participant at each session should derive from this call, and that all of the participants in the concurrent seminars will do so.  Please note: Everybody who participates must be a current member.  The 2012 introductory rate for new members is $37 and renewals are $74.

The seven panels will be:

Moderator: Alison Keith, University of Toronto
Paul Allen Miller, University of South Carolina
Vincent Katz, School of Visual Arts, New York

We invite papers on any aspect of the Roman Elegy: fragments of Ennius, erotic lyrics of Catullus, poetry of Tibullus or Propertius, Ovid, Cornelius Gallus, or Sulpicia, including their reception in Martial and Statius.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to Professor Alison Keith, Department of Classics , University of Toronto, Lillian Massey Building, 125 Queen's Park,
Toronto ON M5S 2C7, Canada,  (or akeith@chass.utoronto.ca).

 Moderator: Steven Cassedy, University of California, San Diego
Conor Klamann, Northwestern University
Anna Razumnaya, Boston University

Texts and works of art produced during the Stalin Era or by survivors of  it. Subjects might include fiction of Grossman, Platonov, or Bulgakov,  poetry of Mandelshtam, Pasternak, Akhmatova or Tsvetaeva, music of  Shostakovich or Prokoviev, the condition of Soviet Jewry under Stalin.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to Professor Steven Cassedy, Office of Graduate Studies, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive # 0003, La Jolla, CA 92093-0003 (or scassedy@ucsd.edu).

Moderator: Gordon Teskey, Harvard University
Ronald Martinez, Brown University
Kasey Evans, Northwestern University
Michael Murrin, University of Chicago

We invite papers on any aspect of Ariosto's work, on his relationship to  Renaissance or Classical epic, his use of material from The Song of Roland  and other sources, his influence on English poets, his presence in  later Italian poetry.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to both Professor Gordon Teskey, Department of English, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138 (or gordon.teskey@gmail.com) and Professor John Burt, Department of English MS023, Brandeis University, Waltham MA 02454 (or burt@brandeis.edu).

Moderator: John Channing Briggs, University of California, Riverside
Harry Jaffa, Claremont Institute
Daniel Walker Howe, University of California, Los Angeles

Lincoln is a writer and speaker whose legacy includes the perpetuation of an idea and practice of eloquence that overlaps with statesmanship, practical politics, and literary accomplishment.  His prose reminds us that certain kinds of non-fiction were welcomed into the literary canon, as it was broadly understood, until the disciplinary specializations of the twentieth century tended to separate them from works that could be studied as literature for their own sakes, sometimes exclusive of their authors’ philosophical or historical preoccupations.  Today a trend in the opposite direction has also ignored the tradition of eloquence by radically politicizing and historicizing the study of literature, to the point that many scholars have abandoned the humanities while claiming to serve them.  Some scholars in the social sciences no doubt sense a similar problem in their fields.  As do many journalists, many scholars in both fields are now long in the habit of reducing eloquent texts to mechanisms for winning advantage or as symptoms of impersonal forces.  As we discuss the meaning of what he wrote and said, what do we learn from Lincoln about the inadequacy of our current disciplinary preoccupations in political science, history, and the study of literature?  In particular, what do we learn about Lincoln’s eloquence and about literature more broadly understood? 

In celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation,  we invite papers on any aspect of Lincoln's Life and Work. Papers might  consider his great public speeches, the Gettysburg and Second Inaugural  Addresses; early works such as the Lyceum and Temperance Addresses; his  correspondence with Joshua Speed and others; his poetry, prose satire, or fiction; his debates with Stephen  Douglas; the run-up to and aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation; his  development of Whig ideas and his anticipations (or contrasts with)  Republican ones; his ideas about democracy, equality, and race. Papers may  consider how others responded to Lincoln (Melville, Frederick Douglass,  Whitman) but should not lose sight of what Lincoln actually said and did.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to Professor John Channing Briggs, University Writing Program, HUMANITIES SOCSCI, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521 (or john.briggs@ucr.edu).

Moderator: Mark Payne, University of Chicago
Timothy Morton, University of California, Davis
Oren Izenberg, University of Illinois-Chicago

“There is a well-established variance between philosophy and creative practice” (Plato, Republic, 607b).  To translate Socrates’ words this way is not to claim that Plato does not mean to posit an “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy, but rather to indicate that this disagreement is identified, in the first instance, at the level of practice.  We therefore invite papers that investigate the variance at the level of procedure: how should we think about literature and philosophy when they seem to do the same things (invent persons and worlds; stage imaginary conversations; metaphorize; hymn and disenchant)?

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to Professor Mark Payne, Department of Classics, the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, The University of Chicago, 1115 E. 58th St. Chicago, IL  60637 (or mpayne@uchicago.edu).
Department of Classics | Division of the Humanities
1115 E. 58th Street Chicago, IL 60637

Moderator: John Fyler, Tufts University

It seems that two equally strong impulses lie behind much of the secular and religious literature produced during the high and late medieval centuries in England.  One is toward perfection, or transcendence, or structures of completeness and symmetry; the other is toward the acknowledgment, analysis, and comprehension of imperfection, in the form of sinfulness, failure, or inescapable incompleteness.

We invite papers exploring some aspect of this Icarus-like trajectory of aspiration and shortfall.  Texts discussed can be in poetry or prose; in Middle English, Anglo-Latin, or the French of England.

While taking account of the hypothesized "trajectory," papers can focus primarily on either of its "impulses."  A few possible areas for exploration: quests chivalric or religious; love as ideal, desire as experienced; literary structures as imagined, proposed, and executed; insights promised but denied in dreams and other visions.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to Professor John Fyler, Department of English, 210 East Hall, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155 (or john.fyler@tufts.edu).

Moderator: Robert Mezey, Pomona College
B. H. Fairchild, Claremont Graduate University
Timothy Steele, California State University, Los Angeles

California boasts a complex history and a rich array of distinctive authors and literary traditions.  Papers might address such topics as the different literary cultures of Los Angeles and San Francisco; particular California poets such as Edgar Bowers, Kenneth Rexroth, Henri Coulette, Yvor Winters, Virginia Hamilton Adair or Thom Gunn; fiction writers such as Jack Kerouac, Janet Lewis, David Foster Wallace, Raymond Chandler; Movements such as the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats or the Activists; representations of nineteenth century California; California ecological literature; or recent writers of the Asian-American experience in California.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by November 20 to both Professor Robert Mezey, Department of English, Pomona Collage, 140 West Sixth Street Claremont, CA 91711-6335 (or Robert.Mezey@pomona.edu and to Professor John Burt, Department of English MS023, Brandeis University, Waltham MA 02454 (or burt@brandeis.edu).

The four seminars will be

Moderator: Adam Bradley, University of Colorado

We seek papers from high school and college teachers, graduate students, and independent scholars on any aspect of Ralph Ellison's career: his early stories, Invisible Man, Shadow and Act, Going to the Territory, his writing on music, his relationships with other authors (Richard Wright, Saul Bellow, etc.), his reception history, Juneteenth, and Three Days Before the Shooting.

All participants – we hope for fifteen to twenty – will be from the call
for papers.  Proposals for papers should be sent by November 20 to Professor Adam Bradley, Department of English, University of Colorado at Boulder, 226 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0226  (or Adam.Bradley@Colorado.edu) and Professor John Burt, Department of English MS023, Brandeis University, Waltham MA 02454 (or burt@brandeis.edu).

Moderator: Nancy Partner, McGill University

We take this as our premise for this session: "Both historiography and fiction are genres of writing, not bundles of fact or nonfact in verbal shape.  In either case, then, it all boils down to the rules of the writing game."

History has always been a literary form, whatever other functions it fulfills, and has shared common ground with fictional narrative genres such as epic, romance and tragedy, most evidently in earlier ages.  Even under the strict requirements of professional practice, narrative remains central to historical writing, and history and fiction share concerns with character, motive, conflict, and the relation of particular event to expanded realms of meaning.  The writer/reader contract operates within every literary culture to signal how texts are produced and how they are to be received, but we are now often hard pressed to understand the implicit codes for history and fiction in premodern societies.  We seek papers dealing with any aspect of the history/fiction relationship, from any literary or historical period, and especially those foregrounding theory and "the rules of the writing game." 

Opening remarks from Nancy Partner:  “Fiction and History: Patrolling the Borders

All participants – we hope for fifteen to twenty – will be from the call for papers.  Please send proposals and abstracts (300 words) by November  20 to  Professor Nancy Partner, History and Classical Studies Leacock, Rm 635, Department of History, 855 Sherbrooke, West Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2T7 (or nancy.partner@mcgill.ca) and Professor John Burt, Department of English MS023, Brandeis University, Waltham MA 02454 (or burt@brandeis.edu)..

Moderator: Debra Fried, Cornell University
Gary Roberts, Tufts University

We seek papers on the use of names, conventions of naming, or changes of name, in Poetry and in Fiction, especially but not exclusively the use of personal names. Examples might include:

•  Papers on the uses of names in dialogue, dramatic speech, literary conversations: what some of the effects of/motivations behind deploying names when someone is talking?

•  Papers on names as elements of lexis or diction: names as words, words as names; the placement and poetics of names in various verse designs or prose textures.

•  Papers on the ethics of naming name in literature.

•  Anything that develops/applies Allen Grossman’s poetics, in particular the conservation of personhood. Theories of naming associated with other scholars of poetry, e.g. Christopher Ricks, Alastair Fowler or John Hollander.

•  Papers discussing the history of printing and the use of names in literature.

•  Papers representing the point of view of a card-carrying philosopher of language who has an affinity and respect for literature and literary questions and would be able to outline for an audience of literary scholars some of the current philosophical work on proper names, and in particular how literary uses challenge semantic assumptions regarding reference and meaning.

•  Anything that demonstrates how some literary uses of names are more interesting/successful/compelling/pleasing than others.

All participants – we hope for fifteen to twenty – will be from the call for papers.  Please send proposals and abstracts (300 words) by November  20 to Professor Debra Fried, Department of English, 250 Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853-3201
(or df18@cornell.edu).

Moderator: Archie Burnett, Boston University

Critical editions are difficult to edit and expensive to publish, yet without critical editions scholars and students are bound to catch many “soiled fish of the sea,'' to construct fanciful readings which turn on what turn out to be typographical errors.  The decisions editors make are often fraught ones.  When Edward Connery Lathem added a comma to Frost's “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,'' for what he thought of as grammatical reasons, changing “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,'' to “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,'' he made those lines refer to three parallel attributes of the woods (loveliness, darkness, and depth), rather than treating the last two words as elaborating the meaning of “lovely.''  The change emptied the word “lovely'' of its seductive promise of dissolution, so that the speaker was merely whimsical, no longer half in love with easeful death.  We invite papers that consider any aspect of the problem of critical editing: the philosophical premises about authorship and texts that underlie its main practices,  specific problems of copy text and multiple versions, online editions, or the use of critical editions in the classroom.

All participants – we hope for fifteen to twenty – will be from the call for papers.  Please send proposals and abstracts (300 words) by November  20 to Professor Archie Burnett, Editorial Institute, Boston University, 143 Bay State Road.  Boston, MA 02215
(or burnetta@bu.edu).

Elif Bautman and Dark Ecology

Elif Bautman, who wrote the New Yorker piece, tells Chris Schaberg that she was inspired by my “dark ecology.”


I get these dog ear like flaps on either side of my head. It's time to remove them before this keynote.

Deconstruction Should Get Out More

There is a tendency amongst some deconstructors to operate only within the narrow confines of Derrida's world. Of course this is a tendency of any widespread philosophical movement, a not so great one. It's a sign of atrophy, that things are heading for a whimper rather than a bang.

If deconstruction carries on that way, it will end up dealing with a narrower and narrower range of increasingly brittle topics and arguments. I think this explains in part the phenomenon of the current assault on deconstructive theisms and the psychoanalytic death drive. Things have gone a bit pear shaped if you're resorting to an unproven Aristotelian law to argue that it's logically impossible for a god or the death drive to exist—and then to call that argument Derridean.

Of course there are other things in the mix here: the end of modernity as such is the biggest. At the last gasp, thinking clutches at straws to preserve the distinction between things given ontically within correlationism versus the transcendental a prioris—synthetic judgment, reason, the human as radically split from the ontic and from other lifeforms and so on. This seems to be done most often in the name of eliminationist scientism, which provides the backbone of the resort to the law of noncontradiction.

Elimination preserves the scientistic world just as it is, while leaving thinking untouched in its tiny shrinking island of transcendence.

Steve Jobs and Buddhism

Courtesy of Elephant Journal edited by my friend Waylon Lewis. Some nice photos of him with Kobun Chino Roshi.

Friday, October 28, 2011

KPFA Interview Details

My interview with C.S. will air on next Tuesday's (Nov. 1) Against the Grain program, beginning at noon and ending at 1.

Against the Grain
on Pacifica Radio airs on KPFA 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond; KFCF 88.1 FM in Fresno and California's Central Valley; and worldwide via kpfa.org.

The audio will be archived afterward, in on-demand and downloadable forms, on againstthegrain.org.

Expressionist Realism 2

I nominate this poem by Gottfried Benn as a mine of expressionist realist examples:

Oh, that we were our primordial ancestors.
Small lumps of plasma in a sultry swamp.
Life and death, conception and parturition—
All emerging from those juices soundlessly.

A piece of seaweed or a dune of sand,
Formed by the wind and bound to the earth.
Even a dragon-fly's head or the wing of a gull
Would be too remote and mean too much suffering.

Harman on Expressionist Realism

Graham's post speaks for itself. Count me as a paid up member of this faction. The examples Graham uses are taken from numerous Pierrot sources including Stravinsky and Schoenberg's setting of Giraud.

I now try to refer to Pierrot Lunaire in every talk I give. A while back it was Blade Runner and if you recall J.F. Sebastian's house, you will see the link. Indeed, the Herrmann movie Graham speaks of here is remarkably Blade Runnerish.

This is not just fantastic whimsy—believe me I'm all for that too. I do indeed think that there is some juice left in Expressionism and related art that I don't see elsewhere, and that this is for reasons to do with OOO and ecology.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 29

59 000 words. Many artists are now in Hyperobjects, including my friends Jarrod Fowler and JLiat. Many more to come. A little bit slow going this morning. But I had a major new idea.

Ecology without the Present

Oh shit, I always knew this would happen (as is said in Repo Man). Not only am I advocating ecology without Nature, and as some of you know, ecology without Matter. I'm now going after the Present! What next?

I'm afraid I won't elaborate here, because I want to save it up for the fun and games in Carbondale next week. You should come if you're anywhere near: it promises to be a really great day.

Leibniz Love Affair

I've been enjoying Heidegger these days yet I'm also having a thing on the side with Leibniz. I find he is a little different from Deleuze's Leibniz. The affair was clinched when two days ago I discovered in some of his letters an argument almost identical to something I worked on in Realist Magic. Leibniz had gotten there via a different route. It was very pleasing.

I've always had a soft spot for Leibniz. It's those fish ponds within fish ponds.

So excited was I by the discovery that I went out and got some Rameau—I have a feeling Leibniz would have heard it. Does anyone have a sense of what music he liked? I know he writes very specifically about music theory. 

Another New Yorker Quotation

Page 65:

"Lying on a sofa bed in Aras, I tried to imagine the landscape of ecology without nature..."

HT Chris Schaberg

Nature Fancy Dress

I was just asked to consult on a Halloween costume that depicted "nature." I suggested:

Rainbow Serpent
Primavera (Botticelli)

Philosophy and Waste Schedule

Here is the schedule. And here are some details about the location and so on. You'll see I'm doing two talks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peregrinations of the Beautiful Soul

All too often the siren song of the beautiful soul these days comes in the form of a call to act, NOW! In this sense it appears to be its opposite. Let me give you a brief example from a Twitter exchange I just had:

“Michael Moore is self-serving because his movies have not created real, substantial social change. The point is to CHANGE things, NOW.”

I'm sure Stalin said quite similar things.

It sounds awfully like the Nature injunction:

“The point is to stop thinking, stop reflecting, go OUT and ACT.”

That's why I get a little queasy when I read Brassier's translation of Meillassoux: “the great outdoors.”

The cynical ideological distance typical of modernity is maintained by these injunctions to act, which induce the guilt that cripples genuine action—which of course includes reflection and art.

Sarah Juliet Lauro's Zombie Book on Huffington Post

One of my great Ph.D. students, she is. Zombies have been in the news a lot recently. Almost everywhere you look there's a zombie! My own contribution to this was the line “I'd rather be a zombie than a tree hugger” but perhaps I would modify that now to say “I'd rather be a zombie AND a tree hugger.” I was playing with Haraway's line “I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

Ecology without Nature in The New Yorker

This week's one (October 24, 2011), on page 65:

The very idea of “nature”—implying something exterior to humanity and human culture—may be inimical to true ecological thinking, which presupposes the interconnectedness of all things. In the eco-poetry of the future, we may, in the words of one eco-theorist, “have lost nature but gained ecology.”
That's the spirit! It's from page 200 of Ecology without Nature.

Southern Illinois Keynote

Next week at Philosophy and Waste. The die is cast: this one will be a fast ride through the book Hyperobjects featuring all kinds of things I've never shared before, some newly hatched from out the portals of my brain.

Shelley and the 99%

The Mask of Anarchy was written in the wake of a bloody massacre of protesters in Manchester England in 1819.

I was prevented from having it read on the BBC when I was put in charge of a show of readings by Shelley. Someone intervened and convinced the host that the poem and various related ones (such as the "Ballad of the Starving Mother") were not by Shelley. I kid you not.

I wonder why...not!

So here's the glorious ending, Gandhi loved it, transmitted it to King:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable NUMBER!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fall'n on you:

Hyperobjects Liveblog 28

57 000. 2000 words in 30 minutes, all the time I've had today. It's deeply pleasurable to start talking about some more art, too. Next up: Robert Ashley and Jarrod Fowler. And JLiat...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hyperobjects Liveblog 27

55 000 words. I'm done with two of the ten or so hyperobjects talks I've given so things are moving right along. It wasn't quite as pleasant today: mostly a lot of back-filling. There are some fairly elegant places in the talks in which I talk about physics, and I wanted to make sure they were in the book without overlapping with its existing content.

Transmit Liberation

Just had the best possible conversation with Michael Martel and Ted Geier. As an upshot of which I can proudly say:

Thank fucking god for nonhumans! We'd be sunk without them!

Gideon Koppel Movie

At the Royal College of Art, November 3. With music by Aphex Twin. It's a documentary about a small Welsh town. From the New York Times:

For all his evident love of Trefeurig, he keeps viewers at arm’s length from its inhabitants and their lives. We see them doing quotidian tasks or dwarfed by the landscape, yet we’re not privy to their inner lives.

They couldn't have sold it better! Count me in! 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Academics, but Were Afraid to Ask a Dzoghen Master

Take it away Trungpa Rinpoche.

Bogost Says Something about Derrida

This is a very thoughtful post and the comments section is neat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I've had it chronically since about 17. It flares up once or twice a year now. It was really intense at Oxford. I was stressed (directing a play) and woke up quite suddenly. My head spontaneously whipped around. The pain!

Luckily the lead guy was a doctor from the States with a drawer full of pills. He gave me a Valium: only time it's really been good for me. Total muscle relaxation.

But the sleep apnea really made it worse. If you don't sleep you never totally relax. So the whiplash, when it recurred, would last for weeks.

Until I lost all sensation in my arm a couple of years ago, I used to call it a sore neck. Erm, no. No wonder no one seemed to care!

Because I lacked the machine on Friday I now have the whiplash. But because I do have the machine now, it will evaporate in two days.

For now it's to the gym with me to use the arm bike.

What Is Occupy Wall St. About?


Critical Climate Change First Book

Immersion into Noise, by Joseph Nechvatal. You can read it online. I'm on the editorial board of this so I'm excited about it.

The noise factor is the ratio of signal to noise of an input signal to that of the output signal. Noise can block or interfere with the meaning of a message in both human and electronic communication. But in Information Theory, noise is still considered to be information.
By refining the definition of noise as that which addresses us outside of our preferred comfort zone, Joseph Nechvatal's Immersion Into Noise investigates multiple aspects of cultural noise by applying the audio understanding of noise to the visual, architectural and cognitive domains. Nechvatal expands and extends our understanding of the function of cultural noise by taking the reader through the immersive and phenomenal aspects of noise into algorithmic and network contexts, beginning with his experience in the Abside of the Grotte de Lascaux.
Immersion Into Noise is intended as a conceptual handbook useful for the development of a personal-political-visionary art of noise. On a planet that is increasingly technologically linked and globally mediated, how might noises break and re-connect in distinctive and productive ways within practices located in the world of art and thought? That is the question Joseph Nechvatal explores in Immersion Into Noise.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 26

50 000 words. 4000 in 40 minutes. This really isn't hard at this point, since the architecture of the underlying book is pretty robust.

The most pleasant part of it is being able to put in all the art I've been introduced to. I just "did" Comora Tolliver. Next up Marina Zurkow and Jarrod Fowler--and many others.

The Bureaucracy of Ego

It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureaucracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego’s constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking. Whenever we have a dualistic notion such as, “I am doing this because I want to achieve a particular state of consciousness, a particular state of being,” then automatically we separate ourselves from the reality of what we are. One must step out of such spiritual materialism.
--Chogyam Trungpa

O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies

Levi Bryant, Kris Coffield and Eileen Joy are to be congratulated for putting together this new journal. Levi provides details and a link to the journal itself. Write something for it! 2000–3000 words for the first offerings is a pretty awesome length, I think, in many ways. Cuts through a lot of things.

Performativity, Science, Humanties cfp

This looks like it might be interesting. HT Enowning.

It has been the basic intention behind systems theory to include lifeworld into science with reference to Heidegger’s fundamental ontology and the concept of being-in-the-world. However, it was Heidegger, above all, who warned from the supra-theoretical hubris of systems theory and cybernetics. In “The end of philosophy” in 1969 he anticipated: “No prophecy is necessary to recognize that the sciences now establishing themselves will soon be determined and steered by the new fundamental science which is called cybernetics. […] The arts become regulated-regulating instruments of information.“ To reverse once more, Heidegger’s philosophy has reasonably been certified (e.g. by Rüdiger Rimpler) to contain itself processuality and performativity. Others regard it as mysticism. Is mysticism the fate of performative science, too? Last but not least, the more recent phenomenological streams strongly influenced by French thinkers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty or Michel Henry should be mentioned for they particularly add corporeality as an important aspect of performativity and understanding, i.e. the bodily involvement in doing, which is also considered to play the major role of performative science.

Monday, October 24, 2011

(Wind) Turbines + Transmission

An interesting art project in collaboration with the Ogallala.

Hagglund Nutshell

For some reason I'm talking with some friends today about Martin Hagglund. I thought it would be good for me to summarize my several posts on him here.

In short it all boils down to Hagglund's adherence to the law of noncontradiction. Hagglund argues not that god doesn't exist, or that it's foolish or evil to believe in god, but rather that it's impossible, since it would be believing in a self-contradictory thing.

Now Hagglund also is a Derridean who uses Derrida's concept of trace, applied strictly to temporality, to support the above. Yet the trace is highly self-contradictory. You can't cleave to LNC one moment only to drop it when it's convenient.

Moreover, I still don't see how, if the "trace structure" cashes out as LNC, Derridean time doesn't regress to a mere succession of now-points, which is refuted by Aristotle himself (who asserted LNC first), and Hegel (who holds that things can be self-contradictory).

That's it, in a nutshell.

Hyperobjects Update 25

46 000 words. That's 6000 words in the last hour. Now it's the easy bit: fitting pieces of my previous work on hyperobjects (talks, essays) into the volume.

It's a bloody good job I didn't start this way. I would have been up to my neck right now in a sea of repetition.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buddhaphobia Update

It's been a while since I've written here about Buddhaphobia

Buddhaphobia is in a transitional state (aren't we all?!). What was the whole book now seems to me to be a first chapter, or first part, of something larger. Not physically larger but more meaningful. This is perhaps the hardest project I've ever done. It's going to take a little time to get it together as a whole.

That means I shall tear down what I have and rebuild it. Never fear, some projects are like that. I wrote it under steam from The Ecological Thought. I think my writing and thinking got a lot better since then. I need to write it on its own time and I need to start from scratch, I think, then see what I can salvage. As you know it may not take long once I start it that way : )

But in the mean time I'm finishing an essay called “Buddhaphobia,” a long one, for a collection I'm planning with two Buddhist philosophers.

Geometry as Object Orientation

Over the entrance to the Academy Plato had inscribed something like “Don't even THINK of coming in here unless you know geometry.” What did he mean?

I was thinking this afternoon about the Delian problem: the oracle at Delphi reputedly told the people of Delos to double the size of the Altar to Apollo. Plato took this to mean that they should chill by contemplating higher things, rather than be plagued with plague.

Later, Plato got pretty mad at Eudoxus and Archytas for solving the problem using mechanical means, rather than using pure geometry. But what is that?

Pure geometry just means “with a compass and a straight edge only.” The Delian problem is about how to use tools to make objects. So Plato had this in mind when he put that inscription over the entrance to the Academy.

Which brings me to a sublime discovery Ian Bogost shared with me: instructional videos can be very beautiful. (More to follow if I remember to.) What if we thought of Graham Harman's “philosophical installations” along these lines? (See my previous.)

(By the way, you can't double a cube using a compass and a straight edge...)

ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω

I Can Breathe!

No, I can't. What I have is a machine that can breathe for me. And now it's plugged into the correct power supply. There is a sensor in there that must have reacted to when I stopped breathing with too much sensitivity. Some slight over- or under-supply of electricity to the electronics from the makeshift power supply. I wonder if quantum scale happenings were involved?!

It was a deeply disturbing experience, mostly because it was clear that my breathing on my own has, if anything, gotten worse not better. In other words, if I didn't have that machine, maybe I'd be dead by now.

Harman, Aesthetics

"We need to find the equivalent of 'philosophy installations', whatever that might be."

It's hard to describe how good this is.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mind and Life Photos

Some pleasing photos from the recent conference, “Ethics, Ecology, and Interdependence.” Note Thrangu Rinpoche and the 17th Karmapa. My teacher's brother was the guy who pretty much established neuroplasticity as a fact. His prefrontal cortex showed more than 500% above normal responses during meditation on nonconceptual compassion.

Buddhism LA March 9

It looks like I may be talking on Heidegger and Buddhism in LA on March 9. I'll update when I have more information.

Another Denier Bites the Dust

Welcome aboard Professor Muller.

After Nature on Anthropocentrism

There are some very good points in this post, which argues against the charge that OOO fails to ascribe importance to humans or perhaps to anything...

Breathless 2

The improvised power supply failed. The CPAP has some kind of sensor in it that detects pressure and I think the power from the supply was erratic enough to fool the sensor into "thinking" I wasn't breathing.

So every breath resulted in the CPAP turning on and then off. Needless to say I didn't use it after that arose. So I've had my first night without the machine for a while.

It's deeply disturbing. I'm aware I can't breathe and I keep waking up.

Tao Te Ching 1

I enjoyed reading this just now:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Latour Mainz Lecture Notes

By the resourceful Angie Lewandowski.

20 October 2011
Bruno Latour: “Is it Possible to Get Our Materialism Back? An Inquiry into the Various Idealisms of Matter”
(Part of SoCum’s series on “materiality”)
Notes: Angela Hume Lewandowski


Inquiry into idealism and materialism of matter has nothing to do with the spiritual.

History of empiricism as an art form. The typical activity of empiricism—the seated artist views “the dead piece of meat.” The object is well lit, and the only activity is getting the object onto the flat surface (canvas). This is our last emblem of empiricism. Idealistic origin of matter: matter as what is seen by fixed spectator, who seeks to make a “copy” on a flat surface. This is the way objects are represented. There only two points: the object, the spectator. The whole idea is based on the notion of making a copy. What we mean by matter comes from the history of art, a specific moment in art, the still life. Gibson: “the notion of the image as a flattened out object.” It’s not actually like this. “The information for the perception of an object is not an image” (Gibson). Furthermore: “the information to specify something does not have to resemble it”; vision is not an image (Gibson).

The idealism of matter: We access things through geometrical means, as a definition of how things move through existence. But science thinks things very differently. Scientific images are non-mimetic. The lack of mimicity defines scientific images. How we inscribe—draw—really has nothing to do with how we actually see. And yet this history of art—of the still life—has guided the way we think about perception for so long. The still life—such a completely bizarre way of handling data! When you go to scientific practices, you get an entirely different take on what vision is. Transcription is never mimetic in science. It’s an entirely different way of “accessing data.”

The odd situation of how we traditionally produce subjects and objects (in the still life arrangement, e.g.). But there are other ways of producing subjects and objects—and other ways of not producing subjects and objects. Res extensa, how things stand. Primary and secondary qualities: these are the product of art history, of print culture, etc. They should not be confused with how things actually stand. The object in res extensa, how the object actually stands.

“Modes of existence”—thinking this way allows us to get out of the subject-object idea, two modes of existence (as only subject or object). Ways of being matter: this is what we need to learn to think. Think of all of the things that don’t fit into the subject-object dichotomy—science, religion, etc.

The anthropocene. The era of geological sciences. Going to geology, for example. What does it mean to be a materialist when what we must face today is the fact of the anthropocene? Human beings are such a huge geological force. And this is real! (And here we are talking about posthumanism!) Materialism is completely changed by the fact of the anthropocene.

Getting our materialism back. So we had earth at the center of the universe; then we had the Copernican revolution. But now, we are largely back to earth at the center (see illustration). The fragility, uncertainty of habitat. Our “ecologized cosmos.”

It’s more realistic, objective, to talk about the lived world. We need to rethink our “lived world.” What this means.

What it is to live in a cosmos with a strong boundary: we will never escape from earth. We must ecologize what it is to live in our world. It’s just the earth. It’s something incredibly local—to talk about objectivity is to talk about something local, objects that have to cohabitate. We are much closer to the Renaissance right now, the idea of the earth as the center of the universe.

Materialism of people who live here, as geological forces. And this isn’t very good news. “This is actually very bad news.”

Gaia is local. It is about the earth.
Gaia is highly re-active (contrary to the idea of the indifference of nature).
Gaia is fragile. We can’t talk about nature without thinking this fragility.

Nature as fierce and violent—vengeful. Gaia targets humans and terrians as what makes it impossible to go on. “This isn’t very nice for us.” We have to really start thinking this reactivity of nature. Humans and terrians are not at war. “The lived world is not a nice world to be lived in. It’s a highly disputed world to be in. Once we get our materialism back, we also get back war, because the lived world…is uninhabitable.”

The terrians are those who have only one earth.

A little note of hope: Whatever we mean by materialism means we take on our shoulders the cosmos. It’s not the cosmos of the old matter. The “lived world”: the most dangerous, the most contested, but also the most interesting materialism of the future.

Humans: Have several earths in reserve
Terrians: Have only one earth
Dis-community between humans and terrians.


Thinking the fact that we—as geological forces—are killing, will kill, 7 billion people. What it is to be many.

Where are the social sciences in the time of the anthropocene?

Latour, on technology: Going back to the lab. We have to love the technology. If anything, we don’t have enough technology. More technology is better.

A question I have for Latour: What does “getting our materialism back” mean for environmental ethics?

More specifically: When we acknowledge the anthropocene, “ecologized cosmos,” the “lived world,” what we are really acknowledging is that so much of what we’ve done, so much of the damage we’ve done, may very well outlive us—chemicals, Styrofoam, dams. And so: with reparation off the table, what happens to environmental ethics? What kind of ethics does such a “materialism” entail?

Breathless in Monterey

An hour away from the destination I realized I'd forgotten the power supply of my CPAP, the machine that forces my death driven body to breathe...

I had to go to a specialist electronics store and get them to hand build an adaptor!

Luckily being a musician I knew vaguely what to talk about when it came to putting that together...

None of the company reps we called had a clue, of course.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Heidegger Interviewed by a Buddhist Monk

Bikkhu Maha Mani, to be precise. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! I think it's from 1964. If anyone knows different, let me know.

The monk's name means “Great Jewel.” Of great interest, without doubt, is how Heidegger stresses a difference between Buddhist and Western thinking in terms of granting some kind of specialness to the human (as opposed to the animal or the plant).

Alex Robbins Posts a Visual Offering to the Carnival Tent

I already love these masks and they've only been in my life for a day.

Karl Schroeder on Me and Harman

He wrote a post on a talk he gave on the new vitalism/realism.

Derrida Tweaked

“An object is not an object unless it hides from the first comer, from the first glance, the law of its composition and the rules of its game.” Adapted from Dissemination...and roughly what I'm arguing in the essay I'm proofreading today, “Waking up inside an Object.”

Philosophy and Waste

The Philosophy and Waste conference website is now operational.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 24

40 000 words. I did it. The spooky thing is, it wasn't that hard to write those last 1000. It took 30 minutes.

Meditation as Realism

Trungpa Rinpoche tells it:

You can personally experience the flavor of the different stages on the path of meditation. We are not referring to psychic or outlandish experiences. We don’t expect flying saucers to land on our heads. We are talking about experiencing reality, as real as possible in your own existence. In order to experience that reality, you have to tame your mind.

KPFA Interview

C.S. Soong, Joy Wheeler and Chuck Johnson couldn't have been nicer and more creative and inspiring if they'd tried. What a great afternoon and evening. It's hard to describe how energized I felt after that interview—an interview at which I may have said some trademark silly things, judging from the laughter going on in the booth while I was talking! C.S. was like a jazz musician and he was really ready to improvise with me. Fantastic mind. Joy facilitated the whole thing—what a superstar. Then I had dinner with Joy and Chuck and we talked about Eliane Radigue and Pauline Oliveros. Life could not be sweeter.

The show is Against the Grain (KPFA Pacifica, Berkeley) and I'll obviously post a link when it happens.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harman on the Philosophical State of Play

I really like his characterization, riffing on a French post. One thing that appeals for sure about OOO for me is that it ends a certain poverty mentality where we Brits and Yanks await the next noteless French styling mousse.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 23

39 000 words. I'll tell you a secret: I had no real idea I could do this until today. It was a challenge. I know it makes the book better.

But even with The Ecological Thought I only pushed to 30 000 words, and that was with notes.

I don't believe I've ever been at the stage of generating new ideas at this word count before. And of course my first few books were far more patched together.

Pacifica Today

It's been a while since I've been in a radio studio, maybe a couple of years I think. It will be so fun to drive down to Berkeley and do this interview for the show Against the Grain. C.S. Soong, who runs the show, likes The Ecological Thought, so I guess we'll proceed from there.

I tend to do as little preparation for dialogues as possible these days. That way things come out much fresher and I can genuinely listen to the other person.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Response 2.0

Rick Elmore, divine respondent, has written to me out of the blue with a question about interonnectedness and Graham Harman.

First of all, let me remind you how joyful it was to hear Rick's response to my talk, in which I felt so thoroughly known, it was very touching.

Okay, the essence of Rick's question is this: if I'm cleaving to Harman's withdrawn objects, what happens to the radical interconnectedness of The Ecological Thought?

Here is part of my response:

That's a very significant question. I hope I can answer it here though rather briefly. I'm working on two projects, one on causality and one on hyperobjects, which will address this question.

1) I might have made mistakes in the past! (Of course, one often says this, especially if prone to making mistakes... : ) )

2) I don't think when I wrote ET that I had figured out the question of whether the mesh or the strange stranger had ontological priority.

2)a) Strange strangers are unicities, even in ET, so the mesh didn't even there suggest that things are *only their relations. There was a more paradoxical thinking going on about how the relationality of things made them uncanny.

3) Now I believe that there is a mesh, that it's totally interconnected (as before)--even that it's nonlocal and nontemporal in some sense. Yet the mesh floats ontologically "in front" of the strange stranger(s), rather than subtending it/them/her. This works if we think of causation has happening in, even equivalent to, the aesthetic dimension, which is how it must work if we have withdrawn objects...

Hyperobjects Liveblog 22

38 000 words. I'm not even sure how they happened. I seemed to do almost no writing at all today, though perhaps that's just a relative effect of having written so much at the weekend. Nevertheless, I'm close to the 40 000.

So far no Zeno's paradoxes are manifesting, which gave me a little anxiety at about 25 000 words. The writing at this stage is remarkably different though. It seems to be split into two: housecleaning and new insights.

My general strategy is to go through the book adding a sentence or two here, some extra thoughts on an existing idea there. All of a sudden, I'll find myself writing a totally new thought. There is a real cut between these two sorts of process that didn't happen until now. Pretty much up until about 30 000 words I was just pouring out what I already knew.

Animals that Saw Me

Ed Panar just sent me his new book too. He waited for animals to see him, then photographed them. It's like Derrida's essay on his cat--only much more so...


By my friend Malcolm Bull, received today. Can't wait to read it.

Rabbi Michael Lerner on OWS

A message I received today. 

The Message and Strategy that is Needed by Occupy Wall Street
by Rabbi Michael Lerner 

On October 15th, Occupy Wall Street will demonstrate in concert over 951 cities in 82 countries and counting as people around the globe protest in an international day of solidarity against the greed and corruption of the 1%.

Occupy Wall Street is a people powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations on the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people who are writing the rules of the global economy and are imposing an agenda of neoliberalism and economic inequality.

I'm particularly proud that young Jews have created Sukkot, the temporary huts that Jews are supposed to live in for 7 days (the holiday started Wednesday night) in order to detach from the material security provided by our homes, to re-identify ourselves as a people that has mostly been homeless for most of our history, and to remind ourselves that all the accomplishments of material security are meaningless unless shared with everyone else. So on this Shabbat of Sukkot Jews around the world read King Solomon's biblical Book of Ecclesiastes with its message that all the striving for power and wealth is pointless, that we are here for a very short while, and that all we can do while here is to maximize love and generosity (ok, that last part was more Lerner than King Solomon, but I'm hoping he would agree). Tikkunista Jews are challenging the establishment Jews, some of whom run the very institutions that all of us supporting Occupy Wall Street hope to see replaced by a more just order.

The media, trying to discredit us, says we don't know what we are for, only what we are against. So I believe there is much to be gained were we to embrace the following 20 second sound byte for "what we are for."

We want to replace a society based on selfishness and materialism with a society based on caring for each other and caring for the planet. We want a new bottom line so that institutions, corporations, government policies, and even personal behavior is judged rational or productive or efficient not only by how much money or power gets generated, but also by how much love and kindness, generosity and caring, environmental and ethical behavior, and how much we are able to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement the grandeur and mystery of all Being. To take the first steps, we want to eliminate ban all money from elections except that supplied by government on an equal basis to all major candidates, require free and equal time for the candidates and prohibit buying other time or space, and require corporations to get a new corporate charter once every five years which they can only get if they can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. We call this the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA). We want to replace the mistaken notion that homeland security can be achieve through a strategy of world domination by our corporations suppoted by the US military and intelligence services with a strategy of generosity and caring for others in the world that will start by launching a Global Marshall Plan that dedicates 1-2% of our GMP ever year for the next twenty to once and for all eliminate global poverty homelessnes, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care--knowing that this, not an expanded military, is what will give us security. And we want a NEW New Deal that provides a job for everyone who wants to work, jobs that rebuild our environment and our infrastructre, and jobs that allow us to take better care of educating our youth and caring for the aged. That's what we are for! And you can read more about them at www.spiritualprogressives.org

Ok, it was two minutes instead of 20 seconds, but we deserve that amount of time night after night on national media, and lots more space on print media.

Strategy? Two key directions. For direct action, we need to begin non-violent sit-ins aimed at disrupting the normal operations of those corporations that have acted illegally and immorally, but gotten away with it because their friends control the Democratic Party as well as the Repbulican. We can't just occupy parks, we need to escalate our activity in a totally non-violent way. For a longer term strategy, we need to run a candidate or a series of candidates (different ones in different states) to challenge Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries, else the power-brokers will continue to ignore the progressive sentiments of the American majority, telling themselves that since we have no electoral alternative, we'll always be there for the Democratic power brokers no mater how badly they ignore the needs of the 99%.  And we can use that kind of campaign to do in the Democatic Party what the Tea Party did inside of the Republican Party: push for a worldview that is coherent and clear, and policies that embody that worldview even if those policies can't yet get majority support.

The big problem facing us is how to take the millions of Americans who are ready to in this new direction to work together coherently. Yet we can rejoice the first step has been taken: Americans coming out of the closet of despair and calling for a world of justice, peace and caring for each other and for the planet.

--Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine and Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Author of the NY Times best seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper, 2006), his next book forthcoming in November is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy for Middle East Peace.  RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org

Three Cheers for Reflexive Pronouns

Here's something you don't know about me. I'm waging a war against the loss of the reflexive pronoun.

Me, us, them. Great words, all. 

“Who's there?” “It's ME.” Only someone not well versed in English might say “It is I.”

What is this grammatical inability to see oneself from the viewpoint of not-oneself? I find it disturbing.

“He is smarter than I.” Bollocks. He is smarter than ME. In Latin it's quam plus the accusative, goddamit! But we are reluctant to accuse ourselves of anything.

You don't say “C'est JE” in French do you? You say “C'est moi.” Listen, the day someone says “C'est je” will be the day I evacuate Earth, okay? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Harman on Anthropocentrism

Extraordinarily I was writing something very similar in my book just this afternoon. Here he is on a post of Scu's:

[T]here’s a more insidious form of human-centric ontology, as found in many version of scientism. On the one hand, scientism insists that human consciousness is nothing special, and should be naturalized just like everything else. On the other hand, it also wants to preserve knowledge as a special kind of relation to the world quite different from the relations that raindrops and lizards have to the world. Another of putting it… for all their gloating over the fact that people are pieces of matter just like everything else, they also want to claim that the very status of that utterance is somehow special. For them, raindrops know nothing and lizards know very little, and some humans are more knowledgeable than others. This is only possible because thought is given a unique ability to negate and transcend immediate experience, which inanimate matter is never allowed to do in such theories, of course. In short, for all its noir claims that the human doesn’t exist, it elevates the structure of human thought to the ontological pinnacle.

Now here's what I wrote:

Phenomenology per se is what begins to bring Kantianism down to Earth, but it's hyperobjects and OOO that really convince me that it's impossible to escape the gravitational field of “sincerity,” “ingenuousness,” being-there. Not because there is a there—we have already let go of that. This is where I must part company with ecophenomenology, which insists on regressing to fantasies of embeddedness. No: we are not in the center of the Universe, but we are not in the VIP box beyond the edge, either. To say the least, this is a profoundly disturbing realization. It is the true content of ecological awareness.

Amazon Twitter

On my amazon page you can now see my twitter feed.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 21

35 000 words. It truly was quite a surprising weekend. Overall I wrote about 22 000 words in a few days. Today has been a little slower, mostly because I've had several meetings, with students and of the library committee I'm on.

I really think I can do this. I think I can write 5000 more words without breaking open my notes. I'm going to add some extra substantiation to things I've already written for a little bit, as I wait for the fog to clear. I had one major revelation last night, which I won't bore you with here. I guess that's enough for now. No need to have one every day!

Merleau-Ponty on Animals

Thanks Michael of Archive Fire!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Nature of Reality

Another panel, another HT Serpil Opperman. Jim Walsh kicks it off. Again, it's quite sad that the dominant view is correlationism, with a bit of undermining.

My Latest Piece in The Contemporary Condition

Here it is.

The Nature of Reality

HT Serpil Opperman. A roundtable discussion featuring a neurobiologist, a theoretical physicist, an anesthesiologist, and a computational physicist. And Deepak Chopra.

It's a sad commentary on the state of things that there are no humanists.

Most of the discussion, without doubt, oscillates between undermining and overmining. 

Hyperobjects Liveblog 20

32 000 words. That means there's only 8000 words to go of self-constraint. Okay. I can do this. I think. Somehow 8000 is far less daunting than 10 000. Perhaps 10 000 is “psychologically important” as they say of a certain stock market figure. I wrote 8000 words yesterday, so if I punch it again, there's only one day of work left before I can break open my notes.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 19

30 000 words. It turned out that by last night I had written 8 000 words, even more than on Friday. Today is a little slower. I've taken the time to talk with a friend, and as Schopenhauer says, you should never turn down an invitation from a friend while you're thinking. This turned out to be very helpful, because some of the things we were talking about were (to my mind) directly relevant to what I was writing.

I'm now 10 000 words away from my “no notes” constraint target, and I'm starting to sweat a bit. Will this be like Achilles and the Tortoise? Will I get to 39 000, then 39 500, then 39 750...?

Bennett, Bryant, Harman, Ecology

From the CUNY event.

Speculative Realism - Part One from The Center for the Humanities on Vimeo.

Speculative Realism - Part Two from The Center for the Humanities on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hyperobjects Liveblog 18

25 500 words. I am enjoying working under the constraint of not looking at my notes. In his talk here last week, Ian Bogost explored the value of working with constraints such as the physical limit of a computer's memory. The Atari game system allowed for a very small number of program steps, for instance.

When under constraint, you are forced to be inventive.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 17

20 000 words. That means I'm halfway towards my goal of writing a chunk of this book without reference to any notes whatsoever. It's a very freeing experience, but like a lot of freeing experiences, there had to be some preparation beforehand.

At the moment I'm writing about just intonation and art in the time of hyperobjects.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 16

19 000 words. I wasn't expecting to write a full 7000 words on my first day back on the project. It's a very pleasant surprise. I could write more if I wasn't bone tired after a rather long week. But it's a good sign that even with attenuated time I'll be able to finish this thing fairly soon.

I'm not surprising myself very often with discoveries as I write, as I performed this book live many times before sitting down to write it. But there are some fresh ways of talking about things that are familiar to me, because I still haven't looked at my notes at all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pauline Oliveros

I just love her music, really a lot. I'm listening to Crone Music right now. I may happily meet one of her mentees next week when I do this Pacifica interview.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 15

15 500 words. Over lunch I wrote another 1500. This thing is unstoppable. It's like the parable of the elephant in Buddhism in reverse. You feel your way around something you already know is an elephant (the hyperobject, in fact). It doesn't matter whether you feel the trunk, the legs or the tail. You have confidence that it's an elephant.

Hyperobjects Liveblog 14

I finished a rewrite of an essay on feminism and ecology, had some good conversations on Skype, and sat down here at the student union to have a coffee and plunge back into Hyperobjects.

Going was a little sticky at first as I acclimatized to the special atmosphere of this particular project. But about one and a quarter hours has gone by and I've written 2000 words. All of them have been in the Introduction, which seemed like a good place to get back into it. I think I've reached the end of this particular train of thought, so I'll go and have some lunch and see if I can reenter the book from any number of the other possible entry points.

Harman's New Essay

“The Problem with Metzinger,” in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 7, no. 1, 2011, pp. 7-36.

Somewhat synchronistically I provided a brief taste of one line of argument in a recent post on Žižek.

Graham's essay argues against Metzinger's reductionism, which employs Buddhism (as does quite a lot of neuroscience these days). I am finding it increasingly disturbing that ever-so-conveniently Buddhism shows up at the horizon of Western thinking just as two interconnected things go into overdrive: the emergence of industrial society, and the presence-at-hand–nihilism doublet.

This is disturbing for me in particular, as a Buddhist, because such uses of Buddhism forget that it's about love, compassion, not fucking your life up. You know, stuff that Metzinger might diss as merely “folk.” Furthermore, it's about Buddha nature and enlightenment. You can say that there is no self if you like, but if by that you mean that there are no Buddhas with no qualities, then I'll have to see you outside!

Is Causality Symmetrical?

Physical laws are time symmetric, but causality only seems to happen in one direction. What is going on? 

This only remains a puzzle if you think that objects sit in a container called “time.” If the container flows a certain way, like a stream, then backwards causation would be like swimming against a current, which might be very strong or all powerful.

If on the other hand, time is emitted by objects themselves, then it's plausible that an object could emit time in such a way as to influence the past.

If an object that is “present” is only a vorhanden caricature of a real object, then the paradox goes away. The paradox of backwards causation is only paradoxical from the standpoint of present-at-hand objects floating in a stream of time.

Furthermore, it becomes even more simple in a relatively flat ontology. My mind is not that different from any interobjective system of entities. In that case, my future seems to influence my present all the time, since I anticipate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Lichenthrope Weighs In

With some reflections on narcissism...geddit?

Son Calligraphy

I'm pretty into this painting that my son Simon (2) made this afternoon.


Ian reminded me last night that blogs are very ephemeral. That's actually one of the things I really like about them. I've often collected quite ephemeral texts and some of my favorite antiquarians were into that (Percy, Ritson). Also, death could come at any moment and even my children will die...so the ephemerality of the blog is a friend, I think.

An undergrad once made me a t-shirt to my specifications, printed with the phrase Impermanence Rules. In slightly punky looking lettering.

Joan Stambaugh

Limpid prose on Heidegger. I like it. She makes it as easy as falling off a log. Too easy? I think not. But I'm happy I meditated before I tried to understand this.

Dylan Trigg on Mars

That's where you can find him in this post. It's marvelous, really. Science plus phenomenology plus ancient time plus extraterrestrials. It fails to get much better.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Introduction of Ian Bogost

Emboldened by a kind message, I paste here my intro of Ian. I actually find them harder to write and speak than talks themselves: 

It's my pleasure to introduce to you Ian Bogost, a professor in the school of Literature Communication and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Director of the graduate program of Digital Media.

It would be churlish of me to pass over Professor Bogost's extraordinary popularity. Indeed it's intricately related with the fact that Ian is both a professor, and a very gifted game designer.

It would, for instance, be awkward of me not to note the fact that his recent video, Seeing Things, which he sent to a conference on Object-Oriented Ontology at the New School last month, has since about three weeks ago received over 47 000 viewings. This in a situation where it's gratifying for me to see my name in the phone book.

Like a neurotic Wittgenstein, I just can't pass over in silence the fact that while I'm happy when a blog post of mine gets a few hits, Ian recently wrote a blog post on a tech website that got 300 000 hits. In two days.

I find myself unable fully to speak to, yet compelled nevertheless to speak, the tale of his Ancient-Mariner-like wandering across the Pacific Ocean, most recently to Beijing where he was a guest speaker at the World Economic Forum, where golden silk clad humans burst out of tables that double as gigantic skirts, with the sole purpose of witnessing your taking a glass of drink.

What can we conclude from this? We can draw the inference, I'm pretty sure, that They, you know, Them, really like Ian Bogost's writing, movies and videogames.

But what else can we draw from the mass of Bogostian data before us? Isn't it the case that there must be some reason why They like Ian's stuff so much? Isn't it also the case that Ian is, heaven help him, doing his job, namely, being a public intellectual, in a media climate that is not all that friendly to scholars, but also—and we must note this with a slightly sad face and a sense of due caution—in a scholarly climate that's not all that friendly to media?

Could it be something to do with the way he says things, the way he writes things, the way he makes things? Ian's sentences are silky smooth yet charged with complexity. His avatars are chocolatey and generous lipped, like a jar tilting towards you just so in a Cezanne painting. His first book, Unit Operations, is a brilliant analysis of videogames, gaming, and the devices that we use to play videogames. Yet it was also a beautiful reading of Baudelaire, an incandescent yet limpidly clear account of philosophy, and just a great object to hold in your hand.

Since then Ian has written several more books, including How to Do Things with Videogames, his most recent, and Newsgames, a less recent one—and when I say “less recent,” I mean “a little bit earlier this year.” Yes, Ian Bogost is a very gifted writer, and a very prolific writer, but this is because he really cares about his subject—and when I say subject, I mean object, or better, objects. Ian is attentive not the scintillating surface of new media, but always to the ways in which media is made of things: motherboards, joysticks; software code, players; tools, screens, colors and sounds; photographs and the hands that hold photographs, words and the devices that deliver words, the words that deliver devices.

Could it also be to do with the fact that Ian thinks things and makes things, and that sometimes these activities are indistinguishable? Take, for instance, his company Persuasive Games. Ian makes games that make you think, and he makes thinking into something that you don't just do in your head. Persuasive Games have won awards for their games about social and political issues. A Persuasive Game could be about airport security, disaffected copy store workers, the global petroleum market, tort reform, suburban errands, pandemic flu, consumer debt, the politics of nutrition, or wind energy. Persuasive Games created the first ever official games for US presidential candidates, and the first videogames published by the New York Times. The games have been played by millions of people and exhibited internationally at venues on five continents. There I go again with those numbers.

And then there are games like A Slow Year, a very long and beautiful look at the notion of speed and temporality in gaming. And various iPhone apps that you may be familiar with. And then there's Cow Clicker. This became a phenomenon last year as people began to see the humor (and not see it) in Facebook clicking games such as Farmville, by playing Ian's game, which is now the stuff of legend, since the cows were all recently raptured in a Cowpocalypse. From the flyer for this talk you will see that Ian is a very gifted graphic artist who can draw a cow with one nostril turned just so, and big eyes placed just so, that you really, really want to click.

Ian and I are part of a small group of scholars trying to forge ahead in the newly discovered coral reef known as object-oriented ontology, a coral reef that lies below the submarine, or is it U-Boat, of Heideggerian philosophy, whose strange colors and textures involve and invite a massive reworking of philosophy from Aristotle to Derrida, from Deleuze to Al-Ghazali, from Leibniz to Levi Bryant. Ian is a passionate scholar who cares about things—things, that is, the way an Atari screen has its own weird experiences of color; the garden lawn beside the grieving daughter in the photograph, the precise way a software routine encapsulates another set of code—the ways in which we can indeed talk about what he calls an alien phenomenology, which is the title of a book he's just finished for Minnesota.

That's pretty much it. Ladies and gentlemen, Ian Bogost, with a talk entitled “Words, Images, Computation, and Other Materials.”

Harman on Zizek at OWS

Graham makes some good points here.

Ian Bogost Video

Watch live streaming video from objectorientedontology at livestream.com

“Words, Images, Computation and Other Materials,” UC Davis, October 11, 2011.

Ian Bogost Talk Notes

Herewith my hastily scribbled notes on Ian's talk. Video and audio to follow.

Structuring effect of discourse


Cognitive linguistics: Lakoff
We understand one domain in terms of another

Force of words
Glaukopis Athene
Metric filler, mnemonic

Received forms that we change over time

Invention of linguistic constraint

Lipogram (omitting certain letters)


Tree of Codes
Cut out of Street of Crododiles

Histories of how we got from clay tablet to codex don't let us think what to do...next...

Book as a book
"I was never making a book--I was putting words down"

We think o photography as representational

"the illusion of a literal description of what the camera saw"

Graininess from chemical halide in high shutter speeds

Triumph of tech vs a strange random walk
35 mil camera by a guy who had asthma and didn't want to use view camera!

The way a lens "sees"
Cartier Bresson at small apertures
Or Brassaille in the rain

The confluence of stuff in the image

Light sensitive emulsion or sensitive chip
The ways we want to let the camera see favor certain kinds of vision

Two identical pics of light with same aperture etc. Newer one prevents flare

Frank photo of glowing jukebox
Allowance of flair
Sets of ways of knowledge, not just an accident.

Computers not identical
We tend to want to undermine computers into binary data

Platform studies

Not just delivery--the platform is supported by what it can and can't do


We usually stay on top level

Platforms can be windows into other platforms!
You have to know which is doing what and why

Atari: Television Interface Adapter
Player Sprites
2 missiles
One ball

Commonalities--what can we make from them

Level playing field etc

Display tech

We think of pics as flat and 2d

But Oscilloscopes

Intense phosphor burn

The electron gun is position then moved

Cathode ray tube tv

Phosphorescence is illuminated by scanning gun that does it 60x per second

Graphic, space then copy to screen

Atari doesn't have a screen buffer

So that interfaces with the electron gun

You have to get everything synched

Not like writing or ploughing

Code for how to get a black screen

20 bits just to make screen
Flipped symmetrically

Adventure Games created way for others to follow

Neutral zone produced by reading out code and running data
You are seeing the code for the data

Layer dip

Flat Ontology

How do we make all the layers visible

You and the metal
Strangely peaceful
How do you make this visible?
A Slow Year
Four games about four seasons
Like poems

Steve Cartwright

Rain as optical illusion

Trying to get all the levels present in the work

Living machines that have something to teach us
Everything is like that

Q: form
Making a book
vs writing a book

We complain around it
Stuck in world of ideas

Some analogy between a sonnet and 128k
But one is form and the other is capacity

"chef" programming
Which registers are interesting at any moment

Q: Nostalgia in video game studies

Silicon Valley technical innovation vs Hollywood Style
We throw machines away
Hard to take Atari at face value

Patience or not with earlier forms
Games have largely been killed or thrown away
Nostalgia objects rather than earnest aesthetic containers
What if I took the @ seriously

Activision vs Atari paintings
The paintings create an interesting space
You know it doesn't match the game!

We construe tech as advancement

Imagining obsolescence??

Failure and difficulty--Yar's Revenge

Q: A game that allows mistakes to happen? (Gina)

"I wonder how I can break it?"
"Where is the edge?"

Could you go to the lowest level of Playstation?

You have to understand something about the aesthetics

Commercial games: no one ever frames it

"I wanted to write a game for Playstation that used the smallest number of instructions"

Q: 6 axis controller in Playstation 3

You would need to take it seriously
That affordance of the device hasn't been plumbed to its depths

Atari had very long commercial life
Like VW Beetle