Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Revolution is lean...

Over 60% of Americans are overweight and 20% obese. Our pets have the same problem. They are getting obscenely large in all the wrong places for the same reasons humans are hefty: overeating and lack of exercise. These animals are now part of the cultural community and family of the human with all its residual ill effects.

Thanks to Ashley Porter for suggesting this site.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Militarized Dolphins

These are my field notes from an excellent essay on the strange history of military dolphin experiments.

Dolphins militarized

They could be very useful as antipersonnel self-directing weapons. They could do nocturnal harbor work, capture spies let out of submarines or dropped from airplanes, attacking silently and efficiently and bringing back information from such contacts. They could deliver atomic nuclear warheads and attach them to submarines or surface vessels and to torpedoes and missiles.

Dolphins and Other aliens:

dolphin laboratory could provide a model system for breaking through to a nonhuman mind. In the era of Sputnik this meant actual extraterrestrials, which may sound crazy now, but these issues lay on the cutting edge of national concern in those days: if we met the little green men (or, more likely, started receiving radio signals from deep space that looked to carry nonstochastic levels of information), what would we do?

One of these visionary Dolphins was a brilliant young Harvard astrophysicist named Carl Sagan, who made his way down to St. Thomas several times in these years to meet Lillys dolphins and muse about alternate forms of life in the cosmos.

If dolphins prove as intelligent as the initial studies suggest, then for a long time presumably they will be in the position of the Negro races in Africa who are attempting to become Westernized

see we shall not be moved blog entry.

Gregory Bateson visits Lilly:

Bateson laid out a sweeping theory of cross-species language development: human beings, in his view, possessed a language disproportionately preoccupied with stuff. This was our joy and our pain, since the evolution of such thing-centered linguistic abilities had gone hand in hand with the extraordinary material culture of Homo sapiens, from moldboard plows to supersonic cruise missiles. Yet in Batesons view this same evolution had left us with a grotesquely impoverished intelligence in the domain of social relations: those intersubjective complexities, he averred, are very poorly represented in language and consciousness. Homo faber was, in this sense, stunted, and the consequences, for Bateson, were clear: war, social conflict, pervasive psychological maladjustment.

Permit a human-sized intelligence to develop over millions of years in a highly social animal, whichon account of its aquatic evolutionpossessed no hands, and thus no real capacity to manipulate a material culture, and it was reasonable to hypothesize that the cognition of such a creature would be radically, fundamentally, pervasively social. Theirs would be a language not of things but of beings. As Bateson put it to Lilly, If I am right, and they are mainly sophisticated about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships, then of course (after training analysis) they will be ideal psychotherapists for us.

/See in ecology of mind chapter: Problems in Cetacean and Other Mammalian Communication.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evolution of a Goat Revolution

The article "Man vs Goat" develops the stages of an animal revolution from animals intended to serve us to pests an nuisances, to killers. The revolution is patient, the animals wait, but then strike quickly.
Excerpts from the NY Times article of 10/28/10:
Olympic National Park, Washington

Veteran hiker from nearby Port Angeles, Bob Boardman, ran into an aggressive mountain goat on a popular trail in this park, the scenic centerpiece of a peninsula the size of Massachusetts. The goat pursued the hiker, using its two pointed horns to gore Boardman in the thigh.

In the last minutes of his life, Boardman tried to warn others of the danger, witnesses said.

They licked the bushes for salt from our sweat and urine. They nudged at the packs. They came close to enough to scare us. And when we tried to shoo them, they would not leave.

The Park Service spent years trapping the animals, tranquilizing them with shots fired from helicopters and then airlifting them to the Cascades. But that only spread the problem around.

With every passing year, the goats lost whatever fear they had of man. This was aggravated, of course, by knuckleheads who insist on feeding wild animals, which breaks down barriers.

But all of this was our handiwork. The goats were introduced to give humans something to hunt. A sport. A game. A chase. For almost 100 years, we never feared them. Now, they’ve stopped fearing us, and are even pursuing us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Animal fArmS

March, 1947. From Orwell's Preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm (two years after the English Edition was published):

"I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to read signs of the animal revolution

“Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as art, one thing is above all essential, something that today has been thoroughly forgotten—and so it will require still more time before my writings are ‘readable’—something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a ‘modern man’—rumination.”
--Fredrick Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bull in a china shop...

When fables, proverbs, and idioms come to life, it is a sign of an animal revolution in the making... they warned us these days would come:

"The animal escaped from an auction market next to GB Antiques Centre in Lancaster, Lancashire, on Monday and barged its way into the shop, which was packed with 200 people.

Police had to shoot the animal in order to save customers and stock - china and all. It was herded to an area of the centre and blocked in using two antique organs before a police marksman opened fire. A woman was treated in hospital for a bruised shoulder after the incident. 'Hundreds of items will have been destroyed, at a cost running into thousands of pounds,' Mr Blackburn said."

Really, the owner could have invited the bull for tea. Where is his hospitality? Is it reserved for humans alone, and only for select humans...not very hospitable then is it? The absurd idea of inviting the bull for tea once it is in the china shop is a figure for saying: what does the animal want and why don't we think of its desire, which is to say, why can we not be hospitable. Here think of Derrida on hospitality:

it [hospitality] already broaches an important question, that of the anthropological dimension of hospitality or the right to hospitality: what can be said of, indeed can one speak of, hospitality toward the non-human, the divine, for example, or the animal or vegetable; does one owe hospitality, and is that the right word when it is a question of welcoming – or being made welcome by – the other or the stranger as god, animal or plant?”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vox Clamans in Deserto

Complete with animal voices--dogs barking, a donkey wandering across stage, all in Jean-Luc Nancy's essay/play meditation on body, voice, and speech.
"Voice has nothing to do with speech. Yes, there's no speech without voice, but there is such a thing as voice without speech. And not just for animals, but for us as well. There's voice before speech. Because I know you, I recognized your voice as you were coming toward me, long before I could make out what you were actually saying." (from Vox Clamans in Deserto by Nancy)

This links with David Clark's work on Derrida & Levinas where Clark claims the animal give voice (to pain) and so are moral subjects deserving recognition. What do aliens and animals say? How could we understand this foreign language? Bodies--the necessary component of voice--are the "exploit" (as Eugene Thacker would say). They are the way out of the hermeneutic circle of cultural meaning; they level us, take us away from speech (words, language), into a body (see Nancy's The Birth to Presence) that takes us elsewhere ... toward an animal revolution.

So, voice is a split decision, it splits between cultural speech) which does not need voice and the cultural obligation of moral rights to those who have a voice, those who can be heard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eugene Thacker's After Life

Thacker's book is out with Chicago UP in November 2010. Here is a bit from the introduction to entice those interested in the non-human world.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the fist, the paw

Frank Cieciorka is attributed with the first creation of the modern fist of protest--a hand devoid of body--clenched in defiance and anger. Lincoln Cushing gives a brief history of the image. An adjacent philosophical concept beginning with Martin Heidegger is the hand, a concept explicated by Jacques Derrida in Geschlecht II. Heidegger designates the human hand as different from animal claw and paw. The animal hand can only grasp, only take. The human hand can extend in giving and in the giving that is thinking, opening up to "the open" (a clearing where humans let beings be).

If there is to be an animal revolution, what will be the Frank Cieciorka image equivalent for the animals? And how to undo Heidegger's anthropocentric writing of the hand? Can a paw mark be a giving and an openness (what H calls an openness to the open of which we have no concept because we are stuck being human)?

Addendum 8/31/10: Mark Lussier handed me the Aug. 16, 2010 Time Magazine. Note this on Heidegger's comment that only the human hand can open, can give, can open onto the open: "A 2008 study by primatologists Frans de Waal and others at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlant ashowed that when capuchin monkeys wre offered a choice between two tkenes--one that would buy two slice of apple and one that would buy one slice each for them and a partner money--they chose the generous option, provide the partner was a relative or at least familiar. The Yerkes team believes that part of the capuchins' behavior was due to a simple sense of pleasure they experience in giving, an idea consistent with studies of the human brain that reveal activity in the reward centers after subjects give to charity." (43).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So, the question of politics becomes the question of survival of fireflies, which begin to disappear from Europe in the 1950s. For fireflies disappear along with collective ideologies. They disappear along with pollution and the collapse of the political imagination. Fireflies are tiny markers of resistance, the suicide bombers of the insect world. If Lyotard’s ‘RĂ©sistance’ were ever to be brought into being, it would have to involve fireflies. Lots of them. It would be a posthumous show about something that no longer exists or is disappearing. Or about something that does not yet exist.

In his movie, Zidane, Philippe Parreno & Douglas Gordon keep coming back to images of moths, flying transfixed in the stadium floodlight. Indifferent to human display, they seem to support neither Villareal nor Real Madrid. They seek only their destruction in a tiny blaze of heat and light.

From Critchley in Art & Research, 3.2

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Radioactive Boars, a return of the repressed

Yeah, we forgot all about Chernobyl. We just up and abandoned the site but animals haven't. They inhabit our disasters and return them to us in new strange fur and teeth forms. Wild boars in southern Germany have been feeding off the plant life and roots deep in the ground that have absorbed radiation. These boars then take to the countryside and city looking for food and generally causing a ruckus. They are not only vicious, they are radioactive! Techne and animality return to foil the human.

If, as Nietzche claims, our strength is our ability to forget (or as Freud might say, our ability to repress), then these boars leverage against our strength. We've forgotten the radioactivity while they absorb it and live it only to return it to us. Super-boars for the comic books?

More info from Spiegel online and NPR.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Aliens & Animals, the Other to rational man

Recently the cyborg Stephen Hawking has warned that aliens coming to earth would not be coming in peace.
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach. . . . If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Think here of T-Bone Burnett’s “Humans from the Earth.”

And yet, aliens are a necessary supplement which help us think what it means to be human. David Clark builds out this point with his stellar essay “Kant’s Aliens.” As he explains, in the final pages of Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View Kant considers that the only way to understand a species is by comparison to others. In order to know man as a terrestrial rational animal, he should be compared to a non-terrestrial rational creature:
The highest concept of species may be that of a terrestrial rational being, but we will not be able to describe its characteristics because we do not know of a nonterrestrial rational being which would enable us to refer to its properties and consequently classify that terrestrial being as rational. It seems, therefore, that the problem of giving an account of the character of the human species is quite insoluble, because the problem could only be solved by comparing two species of rational beings on the basis of experience, but experience has not offered us a comparison between two species of rational beings”

As Clark mentions, Kant’s “off-world interest go back to Kant’s first major work, the cosmological treatise entitled Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens [1755]” (see the “Appendix” on “the inhabitants of the stars”).

Clark nicely connect this to “This is an almost Nietzschean question—one asked, we might recall, by
Friedrich in the essay ‘On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense’ that spookily begins by imagining what “man” might look like through the pitiless eyes of an alien zoologist.” Indeed, this opening passage from Nietzsche has been an inspiration for the revolution!

Now dear reader, if you have wandered into reading this far, consider that each animal is in its own umwelt, its own world. Indeed, animals are aliens to us—as is our own animality. We can measure humans and “thinking otherwise” by weighing ourselves against the scale of these creatures. Kant is concerned with rational beings and measuring ourselves against a “nonterrestrial rational being”; yet why privilege reason and who is to say that alien reason would be anything like our own? What is this alien "to come" and land among us? Are they already here? (and yes, see my Lovecraft post.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Octopus films his stealth underworld

Great footage of an octopus taking a camera from a diver and filming with it so the viewer gets a bit of octopus umwelt. He next goes for the diver's spear gun. Clearly the cephlopod wants to televise the animal revolution.

For more on the revolutionary behavior of octopus, see my entry on Octo-armor and another on an octopus flooding an aquarium floor.

Perhaps the revolution will be televised?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Event & The Differend

The animal revolution is an event. To understand what this means, consider Bill Readings on Lyotard’s concept “the event." Lyotard's event “disrupts any pre-existing referential frame within which it might be represented or understood. The eventhood of the event is the radical singularity of happening, the ‘it happens’ as distinct from the sense of ‘what is happening’” (Introducing Lyotard xxxi). He goes on to say “The event is the occurrence after which nothing will ever be the same again. The event, that is, happens in excess of the referential frame within which it might be understood, disrupting or displacing that frame” (57).

Of course, the concept needs to be developed for the revolution. To do so, (note to future self), look at Lyotard’s The Differend (p 79-80 & X). This event and its wake: “It is not in their power to pass over in silence what they cannot speak about. Insofar as it is unable to be phrased in the common idioms, it is already phrased, as a feeling. The vigil for an occurrence, the anxiety and the joy of an unknown idiom, has begun” (80).

Lyotard’s “differend” takes into a logic of the supplement which exceeds and undoes the laws of the current regime. How is one to express the error of anthropocentrism within a humanist world? One would need a new world and new language: “To give the differend its due is to institute new addressees, new addressors, new significations, and new referents in order for the wrong to find an expression and for the plaintiff to cease being a victim. . . . The differend is the unstable state and instant of language wherein something which must be able to be put into phrases cannot yet be.” If, following Hiedegger, language is the house where humans dwell, then a new language calls for new tenants. The event as “unstable state” wrecks the house of language and simultaneously constructs something new, a new house and new residents, “new addressees, new addressors, new significations, and new referents.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

shaman & salmon

As reported in the NY Times: "more than two dozen Native Americans embarked from here [San Francisco] on a spiritual mission to New Zealand, where they will ask their fish to come home to California."
"The fish in question is the Chinook salmon, native to the Pacific but lately in short supply in the rivers of Northern California, home to the Winnemem Wintu — a tiny, federally unrecognized and poor tribe"

The whole story involves technology, politics, polis, and animality. The Chinook were important for the spiritual and material prosperity of the tribe. Salmon thrived until the Shasta Dam was built in the 1940s. After that, the fish population steadily declined. As techne and fortunes would have it: "the United States government once bred millions of Chinook eggs from the McCloud River and shipped them around the world in hopes of creating new fisheries, including a batch that went to the South Island of New Zealand, where the fish thrived."

The tribe apologized to the salmon for allowing the dam to be build and not doing more to preserve the fish dwelling. The called to the salmon to come home. And so, we wait...

Drunk Pennsylvania man tried to revive dead opossum

Okay, this is the title from the Associated Press for the Times Tribune article. The police, the law, the State calls to him, hails. But this fellow--Donald Wolfe--is out of it, out of bounds. The police, the law, the State see a drunken man trying to revive a dead opossum; they see him gesticulating over the road kill. But for another angel, the animal revolutionary knows what this is about: it is a Dionysian rite in which the mangled body of the god/animal is brought into contact with the human.

"The trooper says one person saw Wolfe kneeling before the animal and gesturing as though he were conducting a seance, while another saw the mouth-to-mouth attempt. Levier says Wolfe was 'extremely intoxicated" and "did have his mouth in the area of the animal's mouth, I guess.'" Yes, a seance but who is calling to whom? Intoxicated Wolfe refuses the proper name, the social name, and reverts to its material animality... in animal state he is called by the non-State player, the animal before him, he follows after. Where will this lead? Can the opossum's spirit be translated? The police fail to investigate the opossum's death and do not ask it any questions. Their omission is itself a tale.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Return of the Urban Animal

Thanks to
Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir for noticing this. In
I Like America and America Likes Me, for three days Joseph Beuys lived in a gallery space with a coyote in the Rene Block Gallery at 409 West Broadway in New York. The piece was a gesture of pidgin language between world and across politics (German, American, and animal).
You could say that a reckoning has to be made with the coyote, and only then can this trauma be lifted.
A reckoning, indeed. Now, the coyote is back in New York. Is this an offspring from the coyote Beuys met? Is the critter looking for Beuys or his artistic descendants? Does he want a rematch? There is more reckoning to be done--more thinking, more reconciliation, more aktion in an Event "to-come."

Thanks to Angela Ellsworth for calling my attention to this--humans are walking the tracks of the coyote in a meandering becoming-other creating political alternative cartographies. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Landmine Detecting Rats!

The Revolution knows how to burrow. From the organization APOPO come rats trained to find and dig mines. These HeroRats are trained to be sent into fields and detect and dig for mines. Other specialty rats sniff out tuberculosis. "APOPO’s mission is to train and disseminate sniffer rats to save human lives- by detecting landmines and disease."

My dear reader: rats + mines. Is this not the sign of a revolution. Once they nourish active rebellion, where can a human hide that a rat will not sniff out, burrow, bury. Think Willard (either the 1972 version or the 2007 version). And yes, think swarm as in Ben (1972).
My thanks to Jane Prophet for pointing out this moment of revolution.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

We shall not be moved

Ever since Edmund Burke called the ruckus crowd of England a "swinish multitude" there has been a push from the masses to bite back. See, for example, "Pigs' meat: or, lessons for the swinish multitude" (1793) by Thomas Spence. There is even a Spence "Pigs' Meat" coin/token "For the Rights of Man" from 1795. (Yes, Hardt and Negri are late to the multitude game.)

Things get tricky next; follow me on this: the American slave song "We shall not be moved" was once inscribe across the neck of a Sussex pig Rye pottery piece (circa 1900). Why? Because, as the lovely man on the BBC Antiques Road Show explains "everyone knows the Sussex pig will not be moved"! (See
episode: Antiques are examined at Highcleare Castle in England. Also, here is a contemporary Sussex Pig from Rye pottery). The pottery piece is often used as a drinking jug--alcohol optional. So, here we have the inebriated masses--the swinish multitude--drinking from their pigs' meat pig jars inscribed with "we shall not be moved" echoing slave songs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

God Proposes, Man Disposes (Sir Edwin Landseer)

Cover for the Animal Revolution book ("to come") & or its album cover. Who will construct the anthem for the revolution? what non-human sounds are to be played? [cue Lovecraft's Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! from At the Mountains of Madness which he takes from Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym].

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympics and Animality

Okay, folks, the Vancouver Olympics 2010 is surrounded with Orcas including the mascot and inspiration for the medals. We want to contemplate the otherness of the animal and its aura. Techne (digital imaging) enhances the contmplation: "the eyes of the world watched as northern lights, polar bear and a pod of orcas, who magically appeared when the floor appeared to crack like ice, transforming to ocean, became a spectacle to behold."

The opening speeches are redolent with rhetoric about global peace and unity. Not included in this is the violence of domestication and training of wild animals. Indeed as essays in Zoontology explain, animals are subject to Foucaultian control just as humans are. Hey Phelps, want to compete with an Orca? The point being, animals are not part of the games and if they were, they would overturn human supremacy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

from William Blake's Milton

terrific Lions & Tygers sport & play/ All Animals upon the Earth, are prepard in all their strength/ To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of the Nations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Architecture for the animals

Following my bat house entry, here is the next moment for pondering a post-human phenomenology: what do other animals look for in a dwelling? Super Kingdom approaches this question.

Or as a (post)Heideggerian might ask, how do animals dwell. Yet to be written: Building, Dwelling, Thinking of the Non-human [a riff off of Heidegger's essay and (later) Tim Ingold.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thanks to Charlie Blake for this anthem toward animlity: "angels are bestial; man is the animal."

Founding Father bites like an animal

George Washington's false teeth were made from animal teeth:
"He had several sets of false teeth over the years, but they were not made of wood. For at least one set, Washington's dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, used a cow's tooth, one of Washington's teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs." Talk about becoming animal?! The res-publica has now created a line of flight for animality.