“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

Friday, January 31, 2014


And talking of Dzogchen, if you do it for long enough, this should happen.

The Tibetan means fierce female fire. 

It comes and goes but a while back it happened for two years solid. That was awesome because (1) it shows you are doing meditation right and (2) it is freaking beautiful and strange. Like having an alien inside you who teaches you stuff while healing everything.

It can occur without that. People often think they are going crazy when it happens without doing anything like meditation at all. Which is why Stanislav Grof wrote this.

There are two ways for it to happen: manual and automatic.

Manual can be a bit dangerous. Automatic is spontaneous and you are not in charge of it, so you don't tweak out demonically.

It's like your subtle body says “He's gone! Let's disco!”

Here is something like an unintentional hymn to it. Courtesy of my mom in law. I freaked out when I heard this first.

Buddhist Permanence

Charles Nelson asks: “If everything is impermanent, why seek enlightenment?”

That's a common mistake that tends towards nihilism. 

Enlightened mind is permanent. 

For instance, my Buddhist refuge name is Gyurme Chöga, which means Changeless Dharma Joy

It's a Dzogchen thing, you wouldn't understand : )

Britain, Britain, Britain

BBC and Tories--you are comparing your 2.1% growth favorably to the USA?

Fourth quarter results just in: 3.1%.

Third quarter was 4.1%.

Here's a tip: stop austerity.

American Scholar, You Are So Wack

It's a pretentious name. But much much worse: I heard this chap on NPR the other day. He had written yet another (apparently) article in which he endeavors to replace “foreign” words with “actual American” words.

Apart from the xenophobia of that. And apart from the obvious hilarity of that (anyone remember England, where English came from? To that extent Americans speak a foreign language dammit!).

There is the simple fact that this is technically impossible. Because of the specific nature of English.

English is a creole. I know there are pidgin versions of English. But English as such is a creole all the way down.

A creole is a language designed as an interface between 2 or more cultures. It is noun heavy and very skimpy on rules. So for instance a Saxon can go into a Norman supermarket and say: “Two packs of Marlboro, some spaghetti, a couple of grams of heroin and a snowboard, please.”

Or as some of my new countryfolk shout on planes, disconcertingly: “COKE!”

But the most important feature is that words are imported wholesale from other languages.

French has rules. French has an Academy. French turns computer into ordinateur.

English is a fantastically anarchic language, which is why it's caught on actually. Not simply imperialism. But it's almost not a language, is the thing!

That's why we can say tsumani and tidal wave, tornado and twister, cannabis and marijuana.

Why isn't that a good thing?

So it is intrinsically impossible to “replace” “foreign” words with “real American” ones.

And it's downright anti-Semitic (which is why this piece blew my mind--and why didn't the anchor debate it?) to want to replace mensch with “truman” or, heaven help us, “Mandela.” As in “She's a real mandela.”

Spot the error here. Mandela is a foreign word. Also, was Mandela a mensch? The mensch is more likely to be Mandela's secretary who makes everything happen and nobody dislikes. Or something.

As for “truman,” I refuse point blank to replace a Yiddish word with a word derived from a guy who tested hydrogen bombs for a living.

And man is a corruption of German. As is true.

They're everywhere, these corrupt “foreigners.” Cat is Roman working-class slang. What about okay? It's probably West African. Run for the hills! Nail irregularly shaped pieces of wood to the door! They are here already! Right, you *******. What to do with shizzle?

It went on. He wants to replace schadenfreude with “sadenjoy.”


Schadenfreude is not enjoying other people's sadness. It's taking delight in their suffering.

And his other reason for why “sadenjoy” was cool: “It encapsulates the very feeling of schadenfreude, the mixture of sadness and joy.”

No. Schadenfreude is an unalloyed joy, thanks very much. Sadistic delight. Just ask Nietzsche.

And let's talk about sound shall we? “Sadenjoy” is as an American German sausage to an actual German sausage.

Oh yeah, and sad is a corruption of German, and enjoy is a corruption of French.

Boo to you, American Scholar.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Best Party

I haven't written about them before. But as my friend Dominic Boyer (anthropology) says, having been there and met them, just having a member of the Sugarcubes as mayor would be good enough. But there's more. Look at the platform of these anarchist surrealists: 

  1. To help the households in the country: Family is the best thing in society. Governments need to meet the needs and demands of households. An ironclad shield wall needs to be raised around the households in this country. Icelandic households deserve only the best.
  2. To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you're poor or there's something wrong with you.
  3. Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We'll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
  4. Equality: Everyone deserves the best regardless of who they are and where they come from. We will do our best for everyone so that everyone can be together on the best team.
  5. Increase transparency: It is best to have everything aboveboard so that the general public knows what is going on. We say we support that.
  6. Effective democracy: Democracy is pretty good, but an effective democracy is best. That's why we want it.
  7. Cancel all debts: We listen to the nation and do as it wishes because the nation knows what's best for itself.
  8. Free bus rides for students and disabled people: We can offer more free things than any other party because we aren't going to follow through with it. We could say whatever we want. For example, free flights for women or free cars for people who live in rural areas. It's all the same.
  9. Free dental services for children and handicapped people: This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it.
  10. Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it's the election promise we're most proud of.
  11. Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
  12. Complete equality of the sexes.
  13. Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It's as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We're going to change that.

Thank You Chaps

…that is, the Center for Inquiry.

Something Is Happening. There's Something in the Air

Dear Rice community,

Is energy just what we use or something we might see and taste?

Ask artist Marina Zurkow, who has made a career of rendering perceptible the way energy haunts and shapes our lives.

You'll find Zurkow's works appearing on campus as part of "Consumption," a year-long project presented by the Arts and Media cluster of CENHS, the Center for the Study of Energy and Environment in the Human Sciences.

With generous support from CENHS, the Humanities Research Center, and Rice's Arts Initiatives Fund, sinkholes will open up on video screens across campus in the animation "Mesocosm (Wink, TX)."

Keep on the lookout for these installations around campus--the RMC, the Rec Center, Jones College, Rice Gallery, Matchbox Gallery, and elsewhere. We invite you to spend some time with "Mesocosm" and post thoughts and responses at mesocosm.blogspot.rice.edu.

"Consumption" culminates on the evening of Thursday March 20th, when Zurkow curates an artist's meal for 50, "Outside the Work: A Tasting of Deep Time." The meal, hosted in Brochstein Pavilion, explores through food the pervasive role of oil in our ecosystem, something residents of the Gulf Coast well understand. And it asks us to think about slow geological processes that impact cultures of consumption, be it of food or of natural resources.

Rice is leading the way in thinking about how the arts impact our understanding of energy, ecology, and consumption. Please join in: watch, taste, and reflect. And forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

                                                                                    The Arts and Media Cluster
Joseph Campana

Aynne Kokas
Timothy Morton
Derek Woods

More on that Norton Anthology of Theory

…as a matter of fact, let's just not use it until Norton condescends to include the topic that everyone thinks about, with mounting anxiety. Ecology. Extinction. Global warming.

Stacy Alaimo, let's start a movement here. (You just wrote me about your upcoming talk here.)

I've taught theory for twenty-five years. It was the first class I ever taught at Oxford--right Jeremy?

At Rice Next Spring

I'm teaching a class called Ecology and Philosophy. I'm part of this Philosophy Cluster of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. We got this big grant and me teaching that class is part of the deal.

In the fall, I'm manning the decks for the gateway class. English 600.

I'm determined to get ecological criticism and theory in there.

Even Vincent Leitch's wafer-thin-cigarette-paper gajillion page Norton Anthology doesn't include that. Still. Good bloody God.

Chris Schaberg, IOU

Chris, your invitation to New Orleans has resulted in what I really really wanted Dark Ecology to be, in miniature.

I was already writing it, but quite obliquely and very slowly. That's what, in part, putting two books together at the same time will do for you.

I'll explain it a bit more when you pick me up at the airport.

This talk is a humdinger even if I say it myself.

Thank you Chris. This is not the first time you injected me with Galvanizing Medicine.

You Horrifying Bullies

Britain, you have been hypnotized.

Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday was just extraordinary.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SXSW Book Signing

click to download

UC Davis Animal Studies Group

If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care
For you
We would zigzag away
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Ted Geier: my Ph.D. student. He means business.

I Want My Nanny

…the only ones who really are addicted to welfare appear to be the banks, who are freaking out about a slight tapering of quantitative easing.

And yet one thought Milton Friedman was their god…

A Tibetan Responds to Agrilogistics

Dudjom Rinpoche was driving through France with his wife, admiring the countryside as they went along. They passed along cemetery that had been freshly painted and decorated with flowers. Dudjom Rinpoche’s wife said: “Rinpoche, look how everything in the West is so neat and clean. Even the places where they keep corpses are spotless. In the East not even the houses that people live in are anything like as clean as this.”

“Ah, yes,” he replied, “that’s true; this is such a civilized country. They have such marvelous houses for dead corpses. But haven’t you noticed? They have such wonderful houses for the living corpses too.” --Sogyal Rinpoche

Monday, January 27, 2014


She told her class that Buddhism is “stupid” and, “no one can stay alive that long without eating.”

Erm…about what is she talking? 

Likewise a fundamentalist pastor on the BBC Today show last week: Buddhism is about giving up on life, while Christianity is life affirming. 


Great Strides in the Yogurt Department

America, you have made such great strides in the yogurt department this last year.

For instance, Chobani, your lime yogurt is really quite extraordinary. As is your passion fruit.

Are you now ready finally to take the leap towards the ultimate?

Yes that's right I'm talking about hazelnut yogurt. Preferably with pieces of hazelnut.

You have legalized marijuana in Colorado and allowed most Americans to get reasonably good healthcare.

Give them some hazelnut yogurt in your newfound wisdom.

"Feel the Power of My Fusion Lick!" 2

Oh my heavens.

"Feel the Power of My Fusion Lick!"

Why have just one awesome guitarist when you can have two, going crazy on the same track?

Namely, not only Frank Gambale, but also my favorite Allan Holdsworth, introverted number one guitarist of Earth.

This album, very rare, is my new obsession.

Krugman Gets It Right

As have a lot of others. Paying slightly more tax and being mildly criticized do not a Kristallnacht make.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Trip 2

Oh yes. “She was only fifteen years old.” I did consulting on this show for the producer and director. I can't wait to see it. Tantalize yourself.

The Trip 1 is two brilliant comedians reliving Wordsworth and Coleridge reliving Tristram Shandy.

The Trip 2 is two brilliant comedians reliving Byron and Shelley reliving Wordsworth and Coleridge reliving…you get the picture.

Subtle, densely hermeneutical spider webs of laughter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Morton at SXSW

I'm talking there because Charles Long has done a huge piece based on my ecological thoughts.

Friday March 7 at 5pm. Book signing at 6. At The Contemporary.

Life Intrinsic to Things

Some forms of theism think of life as a highly contingent miracle.

Some forms of materialism (quite a lot) think exactly the same. What mostly exists is “dead matter” (Meillassoux's phrase, and of course Brassier et al.) such that life is a highly contingent affair.

But this theory says something very different.

In essence, life is an essential feature of a reality in which things are quantized. And thus subject to probabilistic rather than mechanical causality. A young physicist takes on Schrödinger's (“What Is Life?”) mantle.

Thanks Dirk!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Driverless Vehicles and Nonhuman Agency

…on Houston public radio today.

OOO in LA Review of Books

Among other things. To do with plants.

I Have Haters? Neat!

Jon Cogburn informs me that I do. Splendid. I'll take whatever attention I can get. : )

One gave up relating to all that business in the slightest about two years ago.

What's quite interesting is that the occasional comments I now get, from non-scholars (shall we say) who release their screaming inner chimp at me for mentioning global warming, are remarkably similar to the supposedly educated ones I used to rubberneck. In style, logical order and delivery.

I'm on the Radio Today

Live on Houston Matters talking about driverless vehicles. Which is a somewhat accurate description of some of the cars already being "driven" here. :)

OOO on the radio!

Graham Harman Rice Talk Flyer

Click to Download

Monday, January 20, 2014


900 citations of my stuff. I don't know if that's any good, but it feels right.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Flu a Hyperobject?

Someone asked me this recently. Yes, why not? You experience its local manifestations, you require computation of whatever kind to plot it, it's massively distributed and so on.

In the old days epidemics were called miasmas. They became visible as societies became more static due to agrilogistics.

In a sense miasmas are the first hyperobjects for humans.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Coming Soon to a Loyola Near You

Cities within Cities

Apropos of Doug's piece. Orbital, "The Box."

Douglas Kahn on Slowness

My friend Doug got hit by a car and now he's written about it in The Guardian. I love it, and especially this part: 

There are cities within the city with rhythms within rhythms that overlap and, at times, collide. What the image does not show is that there are other people there with you. The city blurs around many people. They occupy the same space but live in a different passage of time than the Sydney most people know.

Hyperobjects Readability

I did a Flesch-Kincaid, as they say, on Hyperobjects last June, and it came in somewhat easier to read than The Sword in the Stone.

That's nice for me: I like books that have easy sentences but hard concepts. I've always admired Žižek's prose for that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

McKenzie Wark on Games

Ken talks about my take down of Nature--a little bit.

Pop Focauldianism as Repressive Desublimation

…or in other words, cynical reason activation devices, on your screens, courtesy of the British.

What the heck is wrong with Britain right now? Is it just a reaction to the unshakable (so far) predominance of the Tories?

Or is it like Britart? Finally the mainstream gets theory, forty years too late? Just as finally the Brits got French and American modernism, also forty years too late?

What is it with these dark, Satanic documentaries?

Adam Curtis: “Shock horror! We are all slaves to consumerism!” “We live inside a machine!”

“Let me use the muscle of the BBC to patronize you about how you have been patronized! And to yearn for the good old patronization against the hippie pleasure!”

And now this one, The Lottery of Birth. I had a visceral negative reaction to this decades-out-of-date pop Foucault plus Althusser.

The voice over goes something like this:

“You are completely programmed from birth to fit a predestined social niche.”

It talks quietly, not reassuringly. Dark images of people on escalators.

This is a lie in the form of the truth. A particularly British version: the dominant ideology there is the enforcement of feudalism within capitalism. “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”

Deep pacification. Now courtesy of pouvoir and interpellation!

It's based on a rigid and self-defeating conception of metalanguages (dead since 1973! You've been dead now, wait a minute let me see…). “Every sentence except this sentence is totally corrupted by ideology.”

The documentaries tell you that you can see behind the facade. On mainstream TV. You are begin coerced to feel in the know. And utterly powerless. And smug.

It's beautiful soul syndrome in a box.

It's the new way official reality is enforced! Through the top way of being right in modernity: cynical reason. Anything you can do I can do meta. 

It's like what Blake was aiming to unmask in Songs of Experience. They tell the truth--social reality is shit. But in such a way that the message is utterly disempowering.

I wonder whether Vandana Shiva knew what she was signing up for. It's nice to see her and I'm sure she doesn't agree with the way the little interviews are framed as voices that confirm the invisible voice of/about oppression.

The whole thing is what the Frankfurters used to call repressive desublimation in the form of knowledge. Mainstream TV juices your will to know, to go meta, to be cynical, to see through things. “So things really are as bad as I suspected! Even worse!”

Nice One

Jonathan Lamb on Objects

Jonathan is a distinguished professor of eighteenth-century studies. This is nice to read. Hi Jon! I used to edit Eighteenth-Century Studies, you see, and he was on the board.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Do Let's Please Call MOOCs Failures

By its own admission, the Chronicle is now ready to admit this. Right on schedule. I remember telling my mates back in 2012 that I give MOOCs 2 years before they die.

People get so neurotically, speedily caught up in stuff. Especially stuff that is just Silicon Valley making hungry noises.

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Protevi Details

Rice Seminar Lecture by Professor John Protevi on 01-17-14
Professor John Protevi of Louisiana State University will give a lecture titled "Darwin, Disasters, War & Prosociality" on Friday, January 17. The lecture will begin at 4:00 pm and will be held in the Humanities Building, room 119. This talk is presented by the 2013-14 Rice Seminar "Materialism and New Materialism Across the Disciplines." For more information check the events calendar in the Humanities Research Center.

Yay John Protevi

He is coming here this week! Well done my colleagues. Hope I can see him!

Harman @ Rice

Just before Valentine's Day! 2.13. At 4pm. Open.

He will talk about Infrastructure...

Hyperobjects in Arts&Letters Daily

Published by The Chronicle of Higher Ed. Top column.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rock This Party Right

By Tyree (Cool House). 1988!

This is quite a mad one.

Another Good Guy

And how lovely to see Douglas Armato, chief spinner of the Minnesota press decks.

Mark Payne

So nice to end one's MLA with some deep noninstrumental intelligence served up by the great classicist and erstwhile guy who lived opposite me at Magdalen, Mark Payne.

Portrait with Laptop

I wonder whether photos of people engrossed in their computers would be quite revealing of their basic phenomenological style. Like portraits by Vermeer. How people appear when for them, it's just them.

People in a loop.

Wow Stanford

Roland Greene and Natalia Cecire invited me to be part of Arcade a while back, and it was my first experience of doodling my thoughts in public, otherwise known as blogging. I'm very grateful they asked me.

So Arcade is about to morph into something very very special. Roland wanted me to consult on this last night (paid in Zinfandel and extraordinary cheese).

This is going to be a real benefit both for public intellectuals and for non-scholars. I've not heard of anything like it.

It was Natalia's idea I think, Roland said--awesome.

Best humanities development I've heard of in a while. Everyone will benefit.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Le non du père de la philosophie

…I mean, why restrict yourself to some anti-semitic sounding stuff about "essentially Jewish" vs "Greek" whatevers?

Why not be a transnational offender?

It's the twenty-first century after all!


If you're going to do a massive takedown of philosophy as such, hadn't you better include Nagarjuna and Nishida and Shankara, and the Islamic occasionalists and Aristotelians etc etc? 

Environmental Critique on Hyperobjects

Thanks Randall! Students at De Paul go to work on the topic.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amiri Baraka RIP

Something in the way of things 
Something that will quit and won't start 
Something you know but can't stand 
Can't know get along with 
Like death 
Riding on top of the car peering through the windshield for his cue 
Something entirely fictitious and true 
That creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways 
Like they were yourself passing yourself not smiling

Polar Vortex Land

...for the MLA, my profession's annual convention of envy, speed and anxiety set against the backdrop of -4F Chicago.

Please my fellow participants try to maintain a level of softness of soul. You would make humans and octopuses proud that way.

Good luck to me interview candidates and paper givers: you are many this year.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ecology and the New Left 2

Consider the possibility that "The New Left dropped the ball on ecology because it was a hippie thing" was because "It was a style thing" (see my previous).

Wouldn't that be just awful?

Imagine "dropping the ball" on race (the New Left, conventionally, was about including race and gender and notionally environment in thinking through Marxism) because thinking race was "stylistically" not cool vis a vis thinking class.

Or literally that the clothing or the music…or indeed the skin color…was wrong.

It's just awful, right?

So that's not a good reason to drop the ball on ecology.

"It Was a Hippie Thing"

When I first showed up in the States the official line on the New Left (emerged in the 60s) was that it was about including race, class, gender and environment in the intellectual mix.

Andrew Ross and I used to talk about it.

But over time I started wondering more and more, "Where did the environment go?" It certainly wasn't obvious from the way the New Left shook down in the late 80s academy.

So one day I asked my friend (another one) who writes for New Left Review (so he should know right?).

"How come the New Left dropped the ball on ecology in the Sixties?"

"Well, it was a hippie thing."

Not "It was perceived as a hippie thing." It was one.

Well, this hippie thing is now the Arctic Vortex that got drunk and slipped south thanks to a wobbly jet stream << globe warming. Humans have died. And so forth.

Best line on the Vortex, by a TV journalist: "It's colder than Mars." Love that. The sense of being on another planet and of thinking at a planetary scale.

What about it is a hippie thing? It's a question of style?

Or the "style thing" is masking an anthropocentric thing? You dismiss forging and acknowledging relations with nonhumans that way? (You use the "best of bees" vs "worst of architects" to cover your behind?)

Or "hippie thing" is pejorative code for "I too, the New Leftist, do not wish to ruin my trip by mathematizing relations at the scale of geological time"?

Scaling up to the level on which you can think ecology is a hippie thing? I really really want to figure this out. I'm writing a book remember!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Capitalist vs Communist Robots

"Human uniqueness is a bourgeois construct and must be smashed. Just consider the Russian for worker! Capitalism is an out of control machine sent to destroy us from a machinic futurity. Just consider marketing algorithms!"

Resentment as Intellectual Gasoline (Sadly Low Octane)

Must…make sure…freshest…philosophy…in years…bites the dust…it was supposed to be…me...

"We Don't Have Time for This"

This hurts really bad. I know a tiny bit how they must feel given the stigmatization of my schizophrenic brother.

Weather Is Inside Climate

"The Arctic Vortex is occurring within global warming" is the same as saying "This shirt is in this closet." Thanks Jon.


Dean Baker with some good reasoning on Obamacare. Better than that awful "I hope he fails" Robert Kuttner.

"We Aren't the World"

That's right. Precisely because it's the Anthropocene (the most non-anthropocentric concept ever, stay tuned for my reasoning). World depends on horizon, which depends on something that is beyond the horizon--there is no horizon anymore. You know that when you flush the toilet, it goes into the wastewater treatment plant, or the Gulf, or the Atlantic, or wherever. There is no away. Thus there is no world.

That's why Hyperobjects is subtitled Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hyperobjects in Translation

Coming soon:


Stay tuned for more info on when.

Permanent Austerity

"Osborne," me old classmate, you have wrecked the UK. I'm never coming back: couldn't and wouldn't.

You know why Obama has halved the deficit and more since he started? Because the Feds have been stimulating the economy. The only thing stopping a neoliberal meltdown is a bunch of somewhat reasonable people who are not part of your religion.

And so they have done several more rounds of the quantitative easing Gordon Brown did, and that has been nothing but mocked since the Tories got in, on the BBC. It's like the British music press: so fickle.

The GOP have done their best to throw a wrench in the works with all kinds of horrifying cuts. But they have phased in far more slowly than they can in Britain, where the party in power can say "We will cut education by xbn pounds" on Friday, and on Monday, presto.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Where Is Memory?

It's not in your head. Thanks Cliff.

Buddha's Birthplace

Thanks Rick. He was in legend born at the exact time archaeological science has now dated his birth. And his first shrine was a tree. Respect to that. You know, in legend he spent the first week of his enlightenment thanking the tree under which he was sitting.

Thanks to Brian Wallis I now have a leaf of that tree's descendant.

Darkside 3

...the radio play form plus the 60s utopianism and elegiac quality aligns the work with the Firesign Theater, the warmer, gentler US Monty Python. Slowly but surely I'm writing about them with my friend Jeremy Braddock.

Darkside 2

The way in which the final song becomes the fourth-wall-collapse moment of the play. With that yearning, elegiac coda--where is the Juggler? (“And what exactly is a dream? And what exactly is a joke?” “Jugband Blues”).

And the hilarious Wise Man (“He's naked. Is that wise?”) which is none other than “Time” and its guitar solo, on the edge of trite. Yet very intense: the Wise Man's lesson, to the adolescent running the show, is “This…is not…a drill.”

The way Stoppard is an OOO playwright, refashioning existing play-objects. Expanding, remixing, remastering.


By Tom Stoppard. Just listened to it last night. It's going to be very difficult to describe it--in particular to relate just how good it is. Because it is. It may take a few posts.

Think about how you can coordinate The Wizard of Oz with The Dark Side of the Moon.

Now imagine that Tom Stoppard (Tom Stoppard) has written a play interwoven with The Dark Side of the Moon. Deliberately.

(Have you bought it on amazon yet? I hope you will by the end of this.)

Stoppard is clearly a very profound Floyd fan. He uses Syd Barrett in Rock 'n' Roll, the most recent play of his I've seen, where he is The Piper.

Here, I think, Syd (who is not, and is, on the album itself) is The Juggler. The first song Syd recorded after he left Pink Floyd was “Clowns and Jugglers.” And no doubt he is a Trickster.

It's how the play ends--wondering where he is. The madness on The Dark Side of the Moon is so…serious, unwhimsical. Yet he is woven into it…somewhere…into its sense of play and its feeling of danger and beauty. And yearning: where is he, where is the Trickster when we need him?

(Which is of course what Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright are also all thinking as they record the album itself.)

(And what we are thinking if, dear reader, you have attuned to my way of thinking ecologically…of which more in a moment…)

And its feeling of suspension--it's all hypothetical, this play and the album, it's all a thought experiment, of the most serious kind. Serious play. Which is also the utopian feeling of music, and of pop.

This gives you an idea of how the whole play works. Words, characters, actions are given--styles of pretense (how do you know whether it's pretense or not?)--for beloved, oft-played lines of music and lyric on the album. As if musical phrases, songs and riffs were people.

Or as if the characters were suffused with the lived, felt resonances of their styles of being. Which is how things can go mad and Dionysian with too much-ness.

And the way radio is a voice in your head, and a signal from outside your head. It's a radio play.

And the way thoughts in your head are people (I've been on about this for a while.) And the way people are not just how you think they are. (And so on, to OOO and ecology…)

And the way the play functions, with its many meta-levels, and the album, with its implicit levels, so simply and skillfully evoked by the use of the voices (responding to Roger Waters's cue cards). This use of the meta never departing from a powerful sincerity yet providing a feeling of being able to escape, to jump, to dissolve fixations into emptiness, and bring them back.

The way drama is a projection of the chorus (Nietzsche, who shows up in this). The characters are the holograms projected by the R2D2 of the music itself. Revitalizing the idea of melodrama, dismissed as kitsch. Music in the play is never simply accompaniment.

It's one of those rather wonderful Stoppardian chiasmuses. Drama >> music and music >> drama. Philosophy and music. Sincerity and irony.

It's a weird way of making the unspeakable (music, the space cadet glow of listening to this music, and so on) strangely explicit. It feels in part like a homage to the album, a playwright's loving way of making the same thing, by tracing it, as one would trace an inscription on a wall with one's finger.

But it is also a very compelling dramatization of the thoughts that are implicit in the album, as if philosophies, religion, art, politics (and on and on) were jostling and competing. It's as if it is already there, in the album itself.

It is an interpretation, by a genius. High fidelity. A weird very serious comedy, comedy in the highest sense of the word. It makes you realize how drama is the highest form and how comedy is its highest mode.

(And strangely Stoppard and I had the same idea. Pink Floyd + ecology: see this talk.)

A very peculiar logic of the supplement is in effect--enhancing something intrinsic, yet adding and embellishing. Or purely adding without embellishment. It brings new meaning to the notion of melodrama. And to the deep connection between drama and music. And (as I said up there) philosophy and music.

The overall effect? It's like you are listening to the album for the first time, all your memories of having heard it thousands and thousands of times stripped away. The play is like sandpaper, stripping the album back to its freshness--weird in the sense that this is an album that above all others traffics in truisms.

It's like the way we re-master classic 70s rock. But now re-mastering via drama, not Dolby surround.

Its like the first time you heard it--for me as an early adolescent, thinking “This is the most important thing that's ever happened to me on audio” as I devoured it, or it devoured me, with headphones and my Sanyo walkman. The sense of urgency and the sense of danger.

And all the time, an ecological theme keeps leaking through, as one finds when one listens to the Floyd over and over--because this is a play that, like global warming has done since 1972, makes that theme of the psychedelic 60s and early 70s explicit, so you can hear it.

Two incredible moments: the sense of being in a  strip club at the end of the world, and so much more, as Clare Torry starts to do her thing on “The Great Gig in the Sky.” And the way we somehow end up walking into a country church on a sunlit morning and wow, who is there on the organ--it's Rick Wright and he's playing “Us and Them.” That part made me cry, both as a true statement about the emotional core of the album, and as an elegy to the departed Wright, and as the heart of the play's exploration of ethical relations.

And all the way through, that theme: how we dispose ourselves towards one another. And maybe one another is not just human.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Of Selfies

“The reason why you post so many photos of yourself and your close ones online is to ward off the disturbance of intimacy. Why did the violence happen off stage in Greek tragedy? To cordon us from it, or in fact to make it more intimate through the exploitation of our anxiety and imaginative identification.”


Don't Mess with My Health Care

This is true. But for weeks and weeks, supposedly left of center organs such as the Huffington Post were totally rolled by this GOP tactic.

Amazon, Your Algorithms Suck

I'm still wondering why it's not Natural for an algorithm, as opposed to algorithmic procedures carried out with pencils and paper (market research old style), to know that I'm pregnant.

Further proof we still live in the Romantic period.

But whatever.

Here's something I do get somewhat amused by. Amazon wants me to buy these:

Why thank you. But I wrote those so I kind of have them.

Why thank you. But actually Bruno Latour just told me I should get the former. And I got the latter last year under my own steam.

So the nonhumans got it a bit wrong in this case. This makes them less perverse than Target?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Disturbingly Fake Indigeneity

It's like the Celtic Twilight of the eighteenth century, so the aesthetic implication goes. These guys are a vanishing breed, like the Welsh. How charming. Big beards and prejudices.

(With the implicit connotation that a “way of life” (Raymond Williams's definition of culture) is vanishing. Charming, because vanishing.)

The equation of concepts and beliefs with cultural charm is the first disconcerting move of the show. The aestheticization (in a bad way) of sentences such as You should marry 16-year-old girls.

And these beliefs are still disturbingly in effect, no matter the length of your beard.

And you are not really an indigenous person if you have a big beard and say outrageous things.

You Poor Sensitive Dears

Jesus Christ. Most extraordinary sentence: 

“Langone described the Pope's comments about a ‘culture of prosperity’ ‘exclusionary’ statements that may make some of the rich ‘incapable of feeling compassion for the poor’.”

A Drop in the Ocean

…of real numbers, is the set of rational numbers. A gigantic ocean that can be thought, but not counted.

Thank you Cliff!