In calling upon us to care about and answer to those "strange strangers" that live on and with us — including the teeming colonies of bacteria in the crooks of our elbows, the worms that render earth livable for humans, and the foodstuffs that nourish and give shape to our bodies — Morton and Bennett seek to make visible, and palpable, the "mesh" that brings us into contact with all of our inhuman others. In this sense, we might argue that they both see the kind of criticism they engage in as an encounter with the fundamental strangeness of being itself: the more we know about who "we" are, the further we find ourselves from the "us" with whom we began.

I'd say it's a little over-focused on 'plant horror' but it's still a provocative review.

Ian Bogost (creator of a Zen game) has not weighed in yet, but he did have several wonderful posts this week, including one on convincing spambots commenting in his blog:

There's no doubt that they are spam, but its now clear that the spambots are carefully reading my blog (and other, related blogs)—perhaps more carefully than many human readers.

Even better, his article in The Atlantic about the New Aesthetics. (I hate it when they call it that.) This is part of the explosion of OOO that I'm into right now:

BTW - The Ecological Thought is a near perfect crystalization of the BPs recent thought, an excellent overview for newcomers to the field, and quite persuasive. I'm going back to read Ecology Without Nature, but first Bogost's own Alien Phenomenology.

In other news: I've been on a news brownout for about 2 weeks, but a short commentary on recent trials re: Guantanamo unearthed this detail 'they refuse to wear their headphones to hear Arabic translations of the trial' that pushed some weird button (probably the HDT one from Civil Disobedience about the only place for a just man) and news about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is thrilling me due to the way everyone is finally having to talk about the elephant in the room: our relationship with China and China's human rights policy.

These things all seem related to me. And HDT seems to be knocking daily. It might be time to get started on my next project.

P.S. Speaking of OOO, today a bought two dish towels, a riff on Magritte's 'This is not a pipe' painting. One has a mixer, the other a blender, both bear the inscriptions, 'this is not a ______" (whatever the image of the object is depicting.) For some reason I found these incredibly amusing. They are also swift mnemonic devices to illustrate the difference between the thing and the image of the thing, which is a unique entity unto itself.
"The uncanny valley... it's not in Wales."
Apparently, I'm not the only one who has experienced this lately:

My brother (who is not schizophrenic) also loves the patterning in Bach. He says he sees geometric forms when he listens to it.

My original post on hearing it:
Errol Morris has a new NYTimes series on the tendency for people to be unaware of their own incompetence:

He's already making some of those irritating leaps some of you dislike. But it makes for some interesting reading. I'm waiting to see if the BP will pick up on it. "Unknown, unknowns" pack a heavy punch in his lectures.

Also Lady Gaga & Simone de Beauvoir. The start's a bit rough, but she nails the ending:
From a post by the BP:

In Ecology without Nature I talk about the Aeolian as an effect of ambient poetics—the illusion that sound, imagery etc. is emanating from an unseen source, like wind in sympathetic strings.

I like to joke that the power lines outside my home are a very large scale Aoolian harp, but the cables give off extremely low hums, almost imperceptible, but definitely unsettling. Click the info button on the left hand corner to release more examples of ambient wind instruments.
Robert Pinsky on Robert Frost. It strikes me that while I've never really grokked the poetry of Mr. Pinsky he has done an amazing service to the understanding of poetry through his wide and varied 'PSAs' (Poetry Service Announcements).

On just intonation vs. equal temperament. Usually my family doesn't get into these arguments at the dinner table, but occasionally it emerges. The BP is very big on this stuff.

And for fun, some music samples from Rondellus, an Estonian medieval group best known for their medieval covers of Black Sabbath in Latin. Sorry, no BS samples here:

ETA: Here's the Rondellus cover of 'War Pigs.'
I was woken at 4 AM by a hail storm. It is cloudy this morning and there is a mist creeping up from the river. I seem to recall I was dreaming about Werner Herzog, which doesn't surprise me, since I've been saturated in this environment since Sunday. Last night's experience was amazing, even if these kinds of events seem to bring out the jackass in Joe Q. Public. Herzog, himself, was amazing with a graciousness and a gravitas that made even the stupidest questions seem astute.

Impressions from last night. )
The BP on ideology, attitudes, dissertations, and research projects:

This is exactly the smackdown I needed after this weekend's events (and my implicit attitudes towards them.)

Also: a very interesting distinction between dissertations and books.

Not only is the comic funny on its own, but because of the conversation I had @ Secret Stan this week and a heavy dose of the Beloved Professor (a big fan of both Kant & Keats) earlier today I couldn't help but see its relation to Kant's objectivism vs Rand's Objectivism.

Kant's objectivism tells us that all we can really know is the contents of our own mind because we are limited by the very means through which we sense the world. Rand mocks Kant reinterpreting his thought to mean, "man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others; therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind because he has eyes—deaf because he has ears—deluded because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist because he perceives them."

I think that Bucky the Cat shows us the fallacies of Rand's Objectivism daily by the twisted approach he has to the world. He acts on his sensory input with invested self-interest but he is almost and always categorically wrong.

Anyway, I'm probably not using the words correctly (since I lack a proper vocabulary for philosophy), but I think you get my drift.
What does it say that he outlived Jacques Derrida by a few years?

Even if you have never heard of him, the work of Claude Levi-Strass had a major impact on 20C thinking. You are probably carrying around some of his ideas and you don't even know it. The obituary is a fantastic overview of his life and his work, btw, so check it and diagnose yourself on the structuralist spectrum.

I will let you know if the Beloved Professor (from whom I learned about Structuralism, though he's more a follower of Derrida, himself) has any comment. Lately he's mostly been posting about lawns, and elegies. (Including Blue Velvet if it's the only way to get people to click through to the post.)

It's this bit about elegies that really stuck over the past few days:

It's an elegy for a dying Poet, and a dying politics; and like any good elegy it turns into a horror movie where we know what's going to happen before it happens, and then it happens.

I think this is a great description of an elegy. I wonder if obituary-writing has a similar quality... especially since most of them are written before the death of the subject.
We went to Microworlds Part 1 last night. It's excellent, though clearly a work in progress. The performance is powered entirely by human energy, using a step generator to power the lights and sound. The story is about a Serbian physicist living in Tokyo's Nakagin Capsule Tower just prior to demolition. Thaddeus constructed a 3 x 3 x 8 capsule as his primary set piece. It rotates as well as hinging up and down becoming everything he needs for the play. He uses his reverse projection technique I've seen in his other plays, but also draws on one side of the capsule---a translucent wipe-board---to illustrate ideas.

Perchance to dream... )

Also of pertinence to this post, [profile] da_lj's post on Stewart Brand.
Also, the Beloved Professor is back. Check this post from his blog:

I can't speak to the veracity of his account of the Turing test, can any of you?

Camille's letters column this morning was not particularly interesting, but I did want to take note of the below mention of Blake:

Ahh yeah... the freedom to get it on! )
To cure what ails... )

Oh, yes, 9 Beet Stretch: Beethoven's 9th stretched 24 hours with no pitch distortion. It's like Beethoven for whales or across the distances of space. There's an audio stream online if you're curious:

Also: DIY =

Finally, I have managed to upload Prof. Morton's Beautiful Soul Syndrome lecture to Any interested parties who don't have itunes can download it from the following link:

I'm not sure how much sense it makes if the listener is unfamiliar with the material and/or hasn't been following along in class, but I think it's a decent overview of his recent work and what he's teaching. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this subject since he introduced it last November and I'm not sure how he manages to express the ideas so clearly or succinctly.

Let me know what you think, especially if you decide to dip your toes into any of the above.
On March 20, 2009, I begin a response to Timothy Morton's appearance at Creativity in the Face of Climate Change: The Role of Humanities in Awakening Societal Change. a panel sponsored by The Berkeley Institute of the Environment, The Townsend Center for the Humanities, and The UC Humanities Research Institute. The BP was teaching at UC Davis at the time. I have an audio file of his excerpt, but when I went looking for media to share, all I could find was this video of the larger panel:

The BP's lecture begins at about 30 min, and continues for about 15. (Also, Robert Hass is there!)

Read more... )



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