More from Harman, this time on Iran

•March 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Graham has posted a stirring, beautifully written, article on Iran. I found this particularly moving:

In Shah of Shahs, Kapuściński describes a street exchange between two men, a protester standing at the edge of a large crowd, and a policeman. Until now, he reminds us, the policeman would scream at the man to go home; he and the rest of the crowd would turn tail. But then suddenly, things change. ‘The policeman shouts, but the man doesn’t run. He just stands there, looking at the policeman…he doesn’t budge. He glances around and sees the same look on other faces…Nobody runs though the policeman has gone on shouting: at last he stops. There is a moment of silence. We don’t know whether the policeman and the man of on the edge of the crowd already realize what has happened. The man has stopped being afraid – and this is precisely the beginning of the revolution…the policeman turns around and begins to walk heavily back toward his post.’

You can read the rest here

The Speculative Turn

•December 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The United/Sunderland match is looking to get out of control. No Arsenal or Saints Saints game until tomorrow. The weather is crap. The holidays have left you bloated and hungover. What better time than now for a new book of philosophy?

The Speculative Turn has been made available here in both its physical (for purchase) and electronic (free pdf) forms. While I’ll be purchasing a copy, and suggest you do as well, this is an excellent opportunity for those who wouldn’t normally purchase a book of contemporary philosophy or are just window shopping to have a go at it on the free. The more I consider it, the open source publishing model seems to be the right approach. God willing and I ever complete a book, it will be released this way.

Contributions come from the usual suspects: Harman, Shaviro, Bryant, Latour, Stengers, and Protevi, with contributions from some of the old guard of Continental Philosophy (Žižek, Badiou, Delanda). It serves as a coming out party of sorts for a mode of thinking that’s really beginning to establish itself as a significant contribution to contemporary philosophy.

The Beauty of Mechanism

•December 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What fascinates me about “Steampunk” is the mix of nostalgia and futurism. It houses reverence for the technology of early industry but brought forward into the contemporary world.  Plus, it tends towards an aesthetically oriented use of technology. Part of the wistful looking backwards is to the beauty of interlocking pieces and parts working in concert; a point of view that resonates strongly with what draws me to process thought and the ethics it produces. This quote sums it up nicely, I think:

And that’s why I like seeing all this automata, from people who have contrived to straddle the space between the over-mixed blandness of the art world and the lively, vibrant certainty of subcultures. The interest in materials, the love of small pleasures, the geeky fascination with how things work: they work against the tendency of made things to end up in dumpsters, and especially they avoid that tendency for art to become saleable, showable detritus made by people who have been stuffed with unreadable theory, who don’t, apparently, feel that vibrancy.

via Cabinet of Wonders: A Plethora of Automata, but Lasting Forever.

 

The comment about theory is a bit cynical, but I appreciate the inclusive definition of art as artifice, something created that has an intrinsic beauty generated by the creators desire for it to have its particular form.   Apparently you can get lost making your way through youtube videos of various automata. I may give that a try.

Writing, Difference, and Repetition

•December 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Levi’s made an excellent post here on the anxiety of writing in academia. This entry is timely for me since I am in the midst of a dissertation “write-in” at Chicago. I echo his call for those who are not writing on a regular basis (on blogs, comments, facebook notes, in sandboxes) to begin to do so. My few blog entries here have been the impetus for note taking, draft entries, and some mock responses to blog posts that haven’t been posted (I’m not quite over my anxiety yet).

I agree with Levi repetition is generative of positive results. Besides the assassination of the Other, which Levi describes better than I can, there’s a slackening in tension over the quality of writing and ideas. While I’m still not satisfied with my prose and am certain that others have said what I wanted to say with more dexterity, this process has helped form a greater familiarity with what it is I do want to say, shown me places where I need more development, and has eased my anxiety towards writing in general. On the technical side of things, I’ve begun to see where my expressions fall a little flat and have developed a seething disdain for the repetitive phrasing that my proofreaders have chastised me for.

To reiterate my comments in my briefs review of Toward Speculative Realism, it helps to see the writing process as a site of intellectual and technical development. Graduate school is, in a sense, Triple-A academia. It’s a training ground for early experience, to give you the chance to “get reps in” to sharpen your ideas and their expression. The student-you develops into the philosopher/student/writer-you with repetition over time. As a friend of mine once told me, “You’ve just got to learn that you suck, and start to get better.” You practice, see flaws, accept them, and improve.

As a last note, I’d also mention that posting publicly is an important part of the process. I haven’t had to deal with many of the downsides yet, since only a few people check in here, but the push into making oneself known as a writer in the public space is helpful in itself. For my fellow introverts, I promise its liberating. Yelling into a canyon and hearing an echo is better than never having yelled at all.

Controlled Accident

•December 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After writing the review for Towards Speculative Realism, I remembered that I’d written an amazon review for my friend Gray Kane’s novel Controlled Accident. I greatly enjoyed the book, as the review shows. It’s available at Amazon or Smashwords.

My encounter with Kane’s story ended up being quite a personal affair as his characterization of Louis throughout the novel vividly captures the experience of coming of age around a host of strong personalities while attempting to forge one’s own identity. This central theme makes the work ideal for those of us in all periods of life (except for maybe the alphas among us) as this conflict is repeated throughout our maturation from young adult-hood to old age. In a period where we seem obsessed with the formation and authenticity of our identities, viewing it through Kane’s mind is a welcome exercise.

I’ve described the book to my girlfriend as “Chuck Palahniuk for more intellegent readers”, as the text is littered with images and phenomena that inhabit our surroundings but are little discussed. We are exposed to a host of subcultures and seldom told tales through the collection of eccentric personalities that populate the world of the novel: The Mexican Revolution, Exhibitionist Performance Artists, Shady Canadian Business and Publication schemes that give the novel a quality of the fantastic, but never go so far as to make the scenarios unrealistic. Instead, the events of the novel take on a magical quality in real space that gives depth and breadth to what could have been more mundane interactions.

In my view, the crowning achievement of Kane’s novel is the personalization of the characters and their interactions. Little tics like Matteo’s repeated touching of/for his mohawk (watch for it), add to the personality of the characters in a way that makes them more real. The standout moments are in the segments of one on one dialog (JAck and Matteo, Louis and Roxanna) that are a jambalaya of wit, deception, cleverness, concealment, and exposure. They fall somewhere between fencing and passionate sex (which aren’t really that far apart when you think about it). The language and ideas expressed by each of the characters opens itself to engagement with your own thoughts and feelings; carrying you along with Louis (and others) on their journeys as a companion rather than a spectator.

I recommend this book as more of a ride than a text. A happening where one always senses something novel on the horizon and is propelled forward to see what’s on the other side.

Towards Speculative Realism

•December 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m nearing the home stretch on Graham Harman’s book, Towards Speculative Realism and thought that I would pause a moment for a brief reflection on its effects.

In the first place, Harman’s book is an excellent introduction to Object Oriented Philosophy, his own variety of Speculative Realism. We begin during his graduate study and the development of his reading of Heidegger in Tool-Being and trace the emergence of his advocacy of a return to metaphysics, the peculiar “vicarious causation”, and his incorporation of insights found in Whitehead, Latour, and others. The importance of this aspect of Harman’s work should not be underestimated as it provides us with a unique opportunity to get a real sense of the path that Harman’s thought has taken from his time in DePaul, his work in Cairo, and the many travels that cross these periods. This historical dimension of the text is what has lured me deeper into the text, beyond my engagement with his arguments.

Continue reading ‘Towards Speculative Realism’

Hello Everything on USTREAM

•December 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The video’s from today’s conference at UCLA have been posted over at Tim’s ustream site.  They aren’t working for me at the moment, but that may more my problem that the site’s.

Hello Everything on USTREAM: A seminar featuring Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant and Tim Morton. With Eleanor Kaufman and Nathan Brown. ..