Showing posts from August, 2013

Future and Past Talks updated. Links to follow. Some future talks quite soon are now visible.

Insane Puppets

When you enforce the law, you look like an insane puppet. But in the end, others are relieved that you did so, which required that you are not afraid to be a fool.

Because you have been a vacillating hypocrite in the past, that is no reason to continue to be a vacillating hypocrite in the future. To say "Well, I've let the pain infliction continue for years--why do something to stop it now?" does not follow. "Well, I've caused my own share of pain, so I shan't stop this."

Many alien races may not have contacted us. The airwaves are weirdly silent. Why? Perhaps, quite plausibly, because they got to a certain point of development and blew themselves to kingdom come. How did they do that? Through weapons of mass destruction. How did they get used? By flouting whatever flimsy international laws--laws that begin to acknowledge that the alien race in question consists of members of a species--they had put in place. Such as, for instance, the condition of possib…

Seamus Heaney RIP

What a nice chap. He was Oxford Professor of Poetry while I was there for the last couple of years, and hence at Magdalen, where I was. We had this poetry society that I used to run, to which he showed up when he was there. It was heavy duty. Anonymously submitted poems, read by volunteers, mercilessly critiqued. It had the predictable effect of putting a lot of people off writing poems, which was sad!

Theories of Consumerism

What an interesting experience. I'm revisiting material I taught an awful lot when I started out, about twenty plus years ago. It's on consumption and consumerism, for this class I'm giving to the effervescent Rice undergrads.

But now I have understanding about ecology, and I have greater understanding of philosophy. And some degree of comfort and certainty regarding that understanding.

So I'm in a position to evaluate and explore theories of consumerism a little better than I was a while back. Philosophy helps history!

For a kickoff, let's just say that I'm opposed to the narrative about the origins of consumerism that present it as a fall from a graceful state of nature. This fall is usually associated with the reflexivity of consumerism, because as we know (haha) loops and recursion are evil and bad and the whole purpose of human society is to get rid of these evil hydra-headed loops.

If like me you believe that consumerism's form is loop-like because people…

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Hyperobject: Homeland

Look at these beautiful holograms by Paula Dawson: She named them "Hyperobject: Homeland." They are extraordinary sponges/baskets made of thousands of people's lifelines.

If you are in NYC you should see this (click to download). Paula's Hyperobject will be there!

Interference:Coexistence will be an installation of holograms by outstanding artists from around the world. The holograms exhibited include classic pieces from the late 70s and early 80s that defined the art form as well as fresh visions by established and emerging artists.

Encountering holographic art makes us question perception. What we see occupies a space in an entirely different way from a physical object – the hologram is a sculpture of light. Using a range of holographic techniques these artists have created scenes of multiple and extended views, scenes we could not see directly but require the intervention of the holography.

Please join us for the opening on Friday, September …

Romantic Ecology Revisited (MP3)

...from the Wordsworth Conference. Nick Roe, awesome biography of Keats, MCs.

My Bloody Valentine in Denver

I talk about MBV, my favorite band, in Hyperobjects. Our trip to Denver was a chance to see them, having last seen them in 1992, good heavens. They played at the Ogden Theater.

They were, of course, incredible. Bilinda Butcher stood there, perfectly poised, with a smile, throughout the show, singing extraordinarily and playing guitar, rocking a pair of good high heels. She exuded the somewhat pro-feminist power that I associate, happily, with My Bloody Valentine and with other bands of that era such as Lush and Curve.

In the words of my friend Jeff (Suthers, big figure in the CO shoegazing scene), Kevin Shields gave the appearance of Einstein, surrounded by monitors with huge scraggly hair. In many ways this look was latent in his younger look, which made me smile.

He said all of two words (Belinda said none): "Hi" and, when an audience member yelled "Thank you!", "You too."

Debbie played extraordinary bass, rocking with Colm Ó Cíosóig, whose drum sequencing …

Gym Teaching

Just like Plato haha I am about to teach my first class in a gymnasium. It's a good thing I regard poems as physical beings.



-Literature Masterclass is a community where all Literature majors (English and foreign languages) can discuss an issue, a short text, and/or questions with a visiting scholar as well as with one another.

-Masterclass is an opportunity for Literature majors to interact with scholars and critics from around the country.

-Masterclass enables literature majors to use the skills and knowledge they have gained to consider contemporary critical questions about texts from different historical periods, literary traditions, and critical approaches.

-Masterclass also offers insight into the requirements, processes and expectations of graduate and professional studies.

-Masterclass offers the advantage of working one-on-one with graduate student mentors.

-Masterclass meets three times per term for 1 hour of credit. All Literature majors are welcome!!!!


September 6 @ 4: Introduction to Masterclass in the English Dept. Lounge, Herring 2…

The Craziest Field Day: Story Time and Reflection

Mechanical failure. Coloring books. Late night adventures. Kind strangers. My most recent collecting trip had all of these things. Settle in, because this is going to be a crazy blog post.

As part of my research on the endemic arthropods of Arkansas, I've been collecting with Malaise traps and leaf litter extraction from four sites in Arkansas's Ouachita Mountains. It's a beautiful area with neat biogeographical implications, and as part of the Interior Highlands of the US, it's pretty much as high as you'll get between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Usually, getting to all of my traps in one day is pretty rushed and doesn't allow me to do any intensive collecting before I need to head to my next site. On this most recent trip, I decided to split it into two days so I could check out some new areas and collect more leaf litter with the extra time I had.

One of the sites I wanted to check out was Roaring Branch Research Natural Area in Polk County. It's an …


The center for energy and environmental research in the human sciences is now operational!

Britain, Britain, Britain

We've had hot running water for over ten years, a tunnel that connects us to Peru--and we invented the cat.

Like An Illusion

No Terry, my old tutor, we Buddhists don't think that reality is an illusion. We think it is *like an illusion. Can you spot the difference?

Elsewhere your new book is an awesome piece of diplomacy.

Wordsworthian Matters

Cumbria is as extraordinary as when I leapt up and down the hills as a child for the first fifteen years of my life. My grandparents lived there, in remoter, wilder northern Cumbria off of Bassenthwaite Lake, dark and immense.

Immediately I saw the warmth and small r republican vibe that the Romantics extolled. Haven't been there for a conference since 1990 when Jonathan Bate gave his famous "Romantic Ecology" talk. Mine was called "Romantic Ecology Revisited."

Next year I'll be back to talk to non-scholars about all this for a special event at the Dove Cottage museum, which is brilliantly organized and heartbreakingly beautiful.


I was just interviewed for the excellent Rice Magazine by the excellent Lynn Gosnell. As I'm the first in this endowed chair--thank you Mr. Guffey and sorry I didn't see you in Kensington!--they wanted to talk to me of my doings, including this mega arts and ecology grant I'm managing here with the also excellent Joseph Campana.

Elemental My Dear Watson

My trip to Scotland just now has inspired my essay for Jeffrey Cohen's new book, another in his growing stable of thoroughbred eco books. And I just wrote 2000 words of it on this plane from Edinburgh.

In other news--look I am back in a world with Internet.


It has been the most extraordinary Wordsworth Conference. Still here. Ten days. Cottage by a waterfall. Many many things to relate. Family staying within twenty feet of the conference barn, sixteenth century buildings...

This couldn't wait. It's a stone circle and I love them. Nicholas Roe (the organizer) and I thought that the stones were placed like metaphors near the mountains that ring them 360 degrees: it is a living poem of mountain talking to stone, the shapes clearly analogous. Maybe there is nothing under this appearance. Maybe the truth is at the level of appearance: this is contemplative space, for practice.

Apheloria west of the Mississippi River

If you haven't yet noticed, I'm fond of writing about millipedes. Since I moved to Arkansas, I've seen a few species that don't live in Ohio, which is exciting--it's nice to see more millipede diversity.

A wide-ranging genus in the eastern United States is Apheloria (Family Xystodesmidae). It contains species that utilize cyanide as a chemical defense and exhibit aposematism to warn predators to leave them alone (this is common in the family).

Apheloria virginiensis is the most widespread species in the genus, and has five subspecies. Two of them occur west of the Mississippi River: Apheloria v. iowa and Apheloria v. reducta.A. v. reducta is a bit more widespread, being found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. I recently came across this millipede in a leaf litter sample in Arkansas.

Apheloria virginiensis reducta
Instead of the bold black usually seen in A. virginiensis, this one sports a chestnut brown color. I wasn't quite sure of the exact species (Pl…

Choosing my favorite millipede

I was asked recently what my favorite millipede is. That's not an easy question, but I was forced to pick one, so I thought about it for a bit and then figured, why not share it with everyone? I find myself doing more tweeting than blogging lately, but Twitter is terrible for long form responses.

There are about 12,000 described species of millipedes, and I've seen maybe 70 of them in life or in photos, so I'm drawing from a limited pool of millipede diversity. Even so, I know of many amazing species. Is my favorite something like the shocking pink dragon millipede, Desmotyxes purpurosea?

Desmotyxes purpurosea from Enghoff et al 2007. Read the paper, it's really neat!
Or maybe my favorite is another tropical millipede. After all, Psammodesmus bryophorus, a millipede I've blogged about before, has mosses that grow on its back!
Photo from Martínez-Torres SD et al 2011.
You won't be disappointed if you browse photos of millipedes from the tropics. There are many forms …

Do Be Polite

@Twitter needs to shape up. Wherever you go, there you are. Netiquette was in the past. Speech as the Buddhist call it, or style as the phenomenologists call it, just manifests, no matter whether you're using your lips or a keyboard.

"Moron" and "sycophantic turd" aren't quite the same as rape threats, he understated. But they did hurt  and I'm sure they wouldn't have been said behind the road rage glass envelope that encourages the latent psychopathy or narcissistic aggression, or switches off the mirror neurons, or whatever. So hopefully thanks to the UK Twitter gets a more direct "report abuse" button.

An Essay on Energy

I just finished an essay for Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger for a book of keywords on ecology and energy. My essay is called “Ecology.” It's about 1500 words long.

It's amazing what you can pack into that space if you just get the timing right.