“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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcome My Son

Cliff Gerrish makes a good point about Aetna insurance: 

You mistake those words for a message from a human making a statement about a state of affairs. Rather it is a representation in words of a state in a database. That data has been attached to the network identity of your son.

Pink Floyd said it this way,

"Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. Where have you been? That's alright, we know where you've been." 

Yes. Except I reckon the lyric should in this case be "That's alright, we think we know we're you've been, although this only corresponds to the database state Cliff mentioned. You bought a guitar to punish your ma, etc. etc."

American Medical Insurers, You Are Ignorant as Well as Brutal

…obviously. But you just couldn't be more absurd. Obamacare's website not quite fast enough? That's nothing. Nothing. Consider this letter from Aetna, just opened:

"Dear Simon Morton [a 4 year old boy whose doctor is at Texas Children's],

…we've designated your primary care physician's Steven S. Alley, MD practice [note the horrifying grammar] as a Patient Centered Medical Home practice for our network."

1. What does this mean?
2. Is this a sentence?
3. What does it have to do with my son?

Answers: 1. Nothing. 2. No. 3. Zip.

What a waste of trees, brain cells and my money.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

NSA vs Target

"It's cool that my local department store knows that I'm pregnant before I do. But it's not cool for the NSA to know that I'm planning to blow you up."


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Professor Morton's Guide to Tropology 1: What Is a Trope?

A trope is an algorithm for generating a certain kind of meaning.

For instance:

1. Choose a noun.
2. Choose a cause of that noun.
3. Swap 2 for 1.
4. This is called metonymy.

Example: Prefab Sprout, “The King of Rock 'n' Roll.” What a joyful and sardonic song, mixed together in such a perfect blend. As a fan of chord clusters, you have to admit, etc.

Reminds me of my days at NYU!

The chorus…

Highly Recommended

Douglas Kahn, Earth Sound Earth Signal. Just out.

One of the very best things of 2011 was going around Australia and New Zealand with Doug, talking in dialogue with him about hyperobjects. This is what he was working on at the same time. It's the same topic, isn't it?

Oh Go On, You Know You Want To

Look at your basic mind, just simple awareness which is not divided into sections, the thinking process that exists within you. Just look at that, see that. Examining does not mean analyzing. It is just viewing things as they are, in the ordinary sense. --Trungpa Rincpoche

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Yule Y'all

Why do I get excited by the Solstice? I just do.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


These snowflakes are good. Thanks Rick Muller!

Turning Nihilist

Long time correspondent Nick Guetti (hi Nick! I owe you an email!) writes: 

I just had a long FB conversation with an old friend of mine: permaculture teacher, ecofeminist, grassroots organizer. Or she was, years ago. She's gone nihilist. Completely burned out. "Maybe you should ask yourself if the world is asking to be saved." She thinks taking action and responsibility is all about ego and it doesn't really matter. Everything she said is like a textbook example of what you've said/written about the apocalyptic, happy, hypermasculine deep ecology failing to sustain people through reality.

Bad Loops

Thank heavens the FDA is getting on the case of antibacterial soaps. They are also anti-batrachic, ie they make frogs die.

"Long-time TreeHugger readers will rejoice at this news; it is an issue we have been covering since 2006, when TreeHugger Emeritus and chemist John Laumer first introduced us to the problem, way back when the pictures were small and the posts were short. Reviewing the series of posts starting seven years ago is seriously depressing; everything the FDA is finally asking now has been on the table for years. And they haven't even banned the stuff yet, they are just asking the companies to justify its use. This is appalling."

Bad loops: the attempt to be clean results in a further twist in the web of fate.

Friday, December 13, 2013

OOO and Art

So I'm off to the Menil Collection, which is this excellent, excellent art museum around the corner. Literally two blocks away from me. I'm going to talk with one of the directors there about OOO, as he's organizing an exhibition around it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I like this theory. I just do, and have done for years. It's funny to see it on the front page of the Huffington Post. Just in time for Yule?

OOO doesn't tell you how many objects there are. We're not the object police.

But this explanation really fits with OOO. There is a withdrawn entity whose sensual manifestation is the universe with its dimensions, gravity etc. These things are illusion-like, yet inseparable from the withdrawn entity whose manifestation they are.

Of course it also fits with Vajrayana! The universe is Vairocana. A small piece of the universe is Vairocana. A collection of pieces is Vairocana. And so on. Just as a small piece of a rose hologram is also a rose.

When you visualize in Vajrayana, you are supposed to see the deities as holographic. The Tibetans used reflections of inverted thangka paintings in water (surrounded by candles) to achieve the correct rippling-with-nothingness effect. And the deities have tiny tiny deities in them emanating out of every pore etc.

I like the headline: "Shock." It's a Kantian shock. There are phenomena, and there are things, and you can't quite tell the difference. It's also nice after all the months of "shocks" about the NSA etc. etc.

And I can't help liking David Bohm.

Ocean as Hyperobject

Yes! By Steve Mentz.

Nonhumans in Comedy

Happiness is…giving episode 1 of The Mighty Boosh series 1 to your buddy Cary Wolfe, who agrees with you that comedy is the highest art form.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

JLiat book

It looks good! And reminds me to send him Hyperobjects -- he's in it!

Anthropocentrism and Marxism

Saying that ontology should be non-anthropocentric is not the same as saying humans should not act to change their material conditions.

It's just that we are lazily used to our ontology coming with an easy to discern, snap on ethics or politics--and vice versa.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ring Puppets

I love me a puppet.


Stem: the central shaft.
Stem: a branching shaft.
Which, really?
To stem from. Implication of something prior, despite the attempt to assert centrality. Strem-trality overwhelms the implicit content.

Are You a Romantic? (Interview)

Yes that's right pale faces of sad sack rage, I am a New Age consumerist, ish! This was actually a very good interaction, between me and Jeff Carreira, the presenter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yes Henry Warwick

…that's the opening few seconds of “Close to the Edge” sampled at the start of “Lights in My Brain.”


Very good DJ Spooky. You didn't have to be so very kind about my book--thank you sir. This is one of my favorite Spooky things, a remix of Ultramarine's “Lights in My Brain.” When I first showed up in the States the band did these gigs with Meat Beat Manifesto and Aphex Twin, called Communion. I went to a couple naturally. This is one of those remixes that's better than the original, which is really saying something. Voice is Robert Wyatt, another favorite.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bills, Bills, Bills

That's nothing, NYT. With my heart beating too fast I was driven one block to hospital in Philly. The bill was $13000.

7 hours of monitoring in hospital came to $11000.

Inside the Fear Is the Sadness

Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, and restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath its veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness. Nervousness is cranking up, vibrating, all the time. When we slow down, when we relax with our fear, we find sadness, which is calm and gentle. --Trungpa Rinpoche

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Great title for a talk this Wednesday by Tom Cohen, who is visiting Rice. I'll be introducing.

Situational Aggression

Two somewhat distressed undergrads just told me, in my capacity as director of undergraduate studies. There is a Facebook page on which Rice Engineering majors scoff at Humanities majors.

Yuck. Why?