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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pre-Order Nothing

It never gets old, does it? You can now pre-order the book I did with Marcus Boon and Eric Cazdyn, our contribution to Buddhist scholarship. It's really really worth reading, I think.

Disco Deep Ecology

Daniel Birnbaum, the excellent curator of the Moderna Museet, and excellent Husserlian, told me a very interesting story. There is a relationship between Arne Naess, founder of deep ecology, and Diana Ross, via a relation of his also called Arne Naess....!

So I figure that's what I am: I'm a Diana Ross Deep Ecologist. Disco Deep Ecology.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Warning: Reality Ahead

Reality Machines: Olafur that title is dope.


What a nice hotel. I'd go so far as to say this is a freakin nice hotel. I want to say fucking nice hotel but maybe that's a bit aggressive. But it is, my friends. The shiznit.

Olafur Eliasson and I are having a lot of fun dialing in the right tones for our dialogue.

I remember how nice it was with Paul Johnson at Focal Point. And Haim Steinbach at the Menil. And Björk like permanently. With some people, you just click.

It's so nice to know there are non-aggression, passionate people out there all being as crazy as me.

Come on everybody! We can do this!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


It was almost my kind of apple except for the tiny set of stairs carved into the back descending to a long loop of spiraling peel that provided a way for what could have been small plastic monkeys to almost swing back and forth in the Munich twilight in the hands of the boy under the death clock, he was almost holding it straight up like the Statue of Liberty holding that torch that isn't really a gigantic ice cream cone, I mean it nearly is except it's made of metal and all and the fact that it's too big to fit into my face all at once, or even all at a thousand times, that's pretty true. If you don't have to exclude middles then don't forget the middle of the apple, the bit you just swallowed without noticing, those tiny cyanide pips they don't really kill you, they could almost if you ate enough I guess, they're like suicide pills inside an apple, but not really, well not that much anyway. Kinda suicide pills. Kinda suicide, is it possible, why yes, it happens every day. Turn off the old mind, it's easier said than done John, how about we turn it down half way and see what happens? I like the next bit, "It is not dying" etc that pretty much nails it, you're not dead and you're not alive, you're somewhere in between, kinda zombie with a nicer less freaked out, less I've been buried look, reasonable hairdo, but I'm not sure whether that means you're truly alive or not, especially not at that point, technically you sort of are but it's not you any more, it's some kind of visualization you, but then again, that was about 70% true before you popped it as well. Nothing quite exactly as it seems is exactly what seems to be the case whichever way you slice it. Crunch. Yeah this is definitely an apple, I just bit the inside of my cheek, that's something apples do to me, they don't mean it and neither do I, so we forgive each other. Could almost cry, almost laugh, not quite sure which pathway to travel, there's a lot of energy in here, could be a lighting effect, I'm slightly paranoid. You're neither with us nor against us but somewhere in the doorway of being with us, I reckon. That's how you look from here, it's pretty obvious you Mean Business in some way, you can pass my Turing Test any time, baby, haha, that's almost funny and you almost care, you're my kind of apple, a great crisp juicy computer of an apple if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Water on Mars

There is water on Mars. Water on Mars. On Mars. Mars. Water. On Mars.

I've been waiting to hear that since 1977.

For me, there is a cluster of associations:

My grandfather
Carl Sagan

That's a nice one yes?

Monday, September 28, 2015


BBC, cutting the deficit is impossible when you do spending cuts. Impossible. That's the point. That's why Obama has cut the deficit far more than the UK Tories, who only managed to cut a bit by loosening the austerity. Come on. Think.

And I have a sneaking suspicion you mean debt. And that's the same. How can you reduce it by cutting taxes and services? It's just pure voodoo. Wake up BBC.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Poem 47

I love your love action; love’s just a distraction. No talking—just looking, watching your love action.

Fuck Faces 3

"But Tim, you're into withdrawal and deconstruction. We all know the deconstructive critique of the anthropological myth of fully present face-to-face society. Doesn't that mean we can use our cellphones as much as we want without any worry? I mean, there is no face-to-face. Objects withdraw."

Okay, challenge accepted. Let's go.

You know why face to face is better? It's for the opposite reason from the anthropological myth.

In face to face, there is less information. 

Face to face, in other words, is closer to the ontological truth than online.

It's a familiar fact about online classes. Why are they worse?

Because they contain more information.

Everywhere you look, something means something. There's the chat window, the ticker, the score box, the resources folder, the camera, the teacher in a little window, and on and on and on.

In a physical classroom there's the smell of the chalk, your greasy hair, the old broken furniture, the nasty carpet, the teacher's acne.

All kinds of things that have nothing to do with teaching, in a strictly ontic sense. You would think.

Precisely because of these redundant aspects of the physical classroom, the students can get into the class much better. That's why classrooms always win.

Face to face is closer to the ontological truth.

It's the online world that is in-your-face (-to-face).

First peoples are cooler because they have less chat boxes. Face to face means you don't know what's happening, you aren't being told everything, you can't predict everything.

That's why we're truly scared of putting our phones down. We think we will lose out on some kind of presence that's happening without us. The world of metaphysical presence is inside the screen.

Face to face is better because it's poorer. Not because it's richer. Face to face is better because it's underwhelming. 

Why are online classes worse? Because not everything is information.

Save the world from being turned into total information, please.

Fuck Faces Part 2

One wonders sometimes what kind of a world the internet has wrought, while one still can, that is, while there are still people who remember when it wasn't.

Interpersonally of course, in many respects it's been a total unmigitated disaster.

It figures, given that the medium was created for emergency military communication, then adopted by the WW1 world of academia. Look:

One 15-year-old I interviewed at a summer camp talked about her reaction when she went out to dinner with her father and he took out his phone to add “facts” to their conversation. “Daddy,” she said, “stop Googling. I want to talk to you.” A 15-year-old boy told me that someday he wanted to raise a family, not the way his parents are raising him (with phones out during meals and in the park and during his school sports events) but the way his parents think they are raising him — with no phones at meals and plentiful family conversation. One college junior tried to capture what is wrong about life in his generation. “Our texts are fine,” he said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.” --Sherry Turkle

Wow. I'm glad to say that I haven't yet had a TV dinner or a phone-holding anything with my kids. Ever. That's after 11 years.

Sometimes when I Skype, and I hear the other person typing other Skype messages...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chtonic Index

Get thee to a bookseller and get a copy of this excellent book by Sophie Sleigh-Johnson. She commissioned an essay from me and the request really pushed my thinking: I'm a big fan of that!

But the book is much more than that. It's about (and is) the uncertain margin between physicality and information, between writing and painting, between marking and inscribable surfaces, human and nonhuman realms, past and present, Mesopotamia and Southend...It has a really fantastically uncanny ecological resonance, not your usual modes.

The most common modes out there right now in humanities and arts are:

(1) The overwhelming information dump, out of date already before publication and replicating the shock of grief and the unhelpful pleading that has gummed up ecological speech. No space is left for exploration. It's like how hip hop can be hamstrung by name checking. Better to go directly to the phenomenology of ecological awareness--talk to me directly about shock and the feeling of needing to plead...

(2) The underwhelming confession narrative about my authentic experience of nonhumans, failing to hit the collective awareness target, the sense of planet, and the feeling of unreality. Aka what I've called ecomimesis. Instead, stop trying to delete the weirdness of writing and the playfulness of beings, turn up the ambiguity.

If you're writing a book about environmental humanities, don't do (1) because then you are an example of what you should be's like “studies” of vegetarianism that slip into that discourse's rhetorical mode, the list that becomes less and less convincing the longer it is: “Did you know that Gandhi, Hitler, Ron from 1120, Plutarch, Frederica, assorted mystics, my auntie Flo... were vegetarians?” I can't tell you how many examples of that there have been in the last two hundred years, having done my Ph.D. on it...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lots of Essays Online

In case you want to read them, I've had this policy of uploading about an essay a week to I think I have about 75 essays on there, which is about half right now. Might be helpful?

What Relationists Hear

"The OOO idea that objects transcend their relations must mean that they think objects are static lumps that THEN enter into relations. This is reactionary. Therefore the inverse must be true. There are relations, of which so-called objects are temporary instances or purely illusory reifications."

When you think that, it is YOU who have the idea that objects must be static lumps. You think it's bad or impossible to think this way.

You are attacking OOO with YOUR extremely non-OOO prejudice about objects.

This is why there is NO objects versus relations "debate." We use the same words but we are in different galaxies.

It's a real Lyotardian differend. Total cross-purposes.

What we hear:

When you say "prior to" you mean "made of." I might be made of all kinds of things. I might be made by God or composed of point particles or sawdust. I might be made of relations for all I know, though to my ear that implies an infinite regress (relations between...what?).

But being made of something doesn't mean I am reducible to that something. If God made me out of his divine substance it doesn't follow that I am God.

You are simply selecting the faces part of a faces-candlestick gestalt and saying it's more real than the candlestick. The candlestick is the "object" and the faces are your "relations."

This is just rearranging the deck chairs on the ontotheological Titanic. You have said nothing ontological yet. We are not talking about competing "views of" reality--there's that staring-at-an-objectified-thing syndrome again.

"But I don't believe in this concept of real. There are a-real, irreal, etc processes that result in or are reified as so-called reality."

Again, to our ears, your concept of "real" is a reification. The mode in which you deny reality is--reification. You are swapping one form of reification for another. Your either/or dichotomizing of what you call "objects" and what you call "relations" or what you call "reality" and what you call "differential processes/negation/whatever term doesn't suck for you" is precisely the problem, a symptom of the metaphysics of presence.

The way you deny you are into presence is still in presence mode.

You see? However one escalates the "debate" you get the same result. There is no "debate" if only one party thinks they are in a boxing ring and that there is a winner between two competing beings. While the other party doesn't think this at all.

I can't tell you how many times relationists try to suck me into this "debate." I refuse because agreeing to the debate is agreeing to its terms, which are relationist. So we have a differend.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Get Ready for This Olafur

I am of course a fully posable action figure who really enjoys attuning to whatever directives my hosts want to send my way. It's more fun like that.

So next week, in Stockholm, at the Moderna Museet, I'm going to be doing the philosopher equivalent of cracking a bottle of champagne against a ship. The ship in question is a fantastic huge exhibition of work by Olafur Eliasson.

The bottle of champagne is a talk about the poetics and politics of geometry. You can't help but notice the astonishing work Eliasson has done with geometrical figures. For instance, as I've begun to see, some of them are in fact 3D renderings of 4D structures. And even when they aren't, they are, because they are “about” (yuck) time. It's better actually to say that they are fire hydrants that gush time.

The Rice Graduate Symposium

That was easily the best one, and I'm not just saying that because the grad student team running it chose me for their mentor, and I told them all my pet peeves about what works and what doesn't at conferences.

It was the best one because the students simply chose the best people to present papers. The quality has improved very consistently in the last four years. Mostly they are all beginning Ph.D. students presenting the raw basics of their vision, some faculty and some scholars who aren't academics, if you see what I mean.

I was very lucky because Nick Guetti, who has been really, really consistently helpful and kind on this blog, since it began, showed up, with a really interesting paper about permaculture and ecology.

And I was also lucky because Marjorie Levinson, who I consider to be a genius, was the keynote, and as I had expected, she didn't disappoint. She is developing a really powerful systems-theoretical theory of lyric.

Marjorie was part of the very first wave of new historicists, a truly exciting time in English lit (the late 80s). I was just recalling that time, as that was when and how I was trained. It was an intense time. Really volatile. People had been fired in the earlier 80s over “theory” and yet literary theory types were beginning to get a bit more recognized and even (in certain places) in charge of things. At that moment, Marjorie Levinson blew up Wordsworth scholarship with just one essay--I mean she totally blew it up. People were outraged. They just wouldn't stop talking about it. It was fantastic.

“History” and “theory” at that moment were the same thing. 

You have to understand that historicism doesn't just mean “providing a historical background to help understand a poem.” It had originally a Foucauldian and psychoanalytic and Frankfurt school edge that made it explosive and truly dangerous.

In particular, the sense that there is an irreducibly withdrawn (aka unconscious) aspect of history is, when you think it through, immensely powerful and deliciously scary.

At that moment, writing about vegetarianism and poetry was really, really counter-intuitive and actually dangerous to my career. People kept assuming I was simply promoting vegetarianism. The two domains were just so, so far apart in people's minds, it just didn't compute. That was the point.

Nowadays historicism has been diluted to a simple algorithm:

1 .Chose some literature.
2 .Chose some roughly contemporary non-literary phenomenon, such as stamp collecting.
3. Talk about both of them.
4. Publish a book called [Literature] and [Non-literary Phenomenon].
Example: Proust and Stamp Collecting.