Thursday, December 15, 2011

Return of the Repressed: Contagion

75 percent of newly emerging infectious diseases originate in animals.
"Animals carry viruses. The reason they are getting into us is that we are chopping down trees, building farms next to forests and trading wild animals," said Dr. Jonathan H. Epstein, a wildlife veterinarian with EcoHealth Alliance, which commissioned the study. "Everything comes back to human activities."

I've said it before and say it again: our own bodies, our human animality, are the exploit. Our bodies are the portal by which the animals will triumph over us. Indeed our animality conjoins with the animal revolution to overthrow humanism.

btw: fittingly, this is my 100th blog post on the animal revolution. I'm working on writing a book Animal Revolution: Events to Come. Hope to get it in a publishable form by 2013.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Arm the Animals (now a fashion)

For the revolutionary in all of us, Arm the Animals t-shirts, stickers, and misc fashion items. The animals don't care if you are wearing it, but it is good to warn other humans of the coming revolution.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why animals will have the last laugh

 "On this planet, extinction is the norm – of the 4 billion species ever thought to have evolved, 99% have become extinct. In particular, five times in this past 500 million years the steady background rate of extinction has shot up for a period of time."

Nietzsche's reflection on this undermines anthropocentrism and our "gift" of reason:
"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history'—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die."

Other animals will survive...some animals. They will have the last laugh. Martin Rees, Britain's Royal Astronomer and former president of the Royal Society puts the odds at 50% that humanity will survive beyond 2100.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Pressured to Name Leader, Occupy Denver Elects Dog"

The Occupy Wall St movement has taken a revolutionary sentiment to the streets. When capitalism fails the 99%, they want it known. But on Nov. 9th, the movement took an animal revolutionary turn. In Denver the mayor asked protesters to elect a leader "to deal with City and State officials." The protesters were hesitant and then obliged by electing Shelby the 3 year old border collie. One protester explained "She's the youngest leader of a revolution in history and the first of any occupation so far, but she's smart, so people know she won't make any situations. We just have to make sure she doesn't get arrested."Now with a dog as your leader, you can lift your legs and take a piss on the current system.

Animals of the world: Occupy Earth. It is yours, and it is not fair that the humans, the so very few, weigh so heavily upon it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apocalyptic Animals

Do animals sense an end and limit to human culture and history? Attacks by animals are on the rise.

The final frontier of the human is the nonhuman. If we conquer the nonhuman then it is not a final frontier but rather a repetition of the human conquest that takes place in every space we explore. (See species extinction.) We plant the flag of culture across space and time and call it history and civilization. The final frontier is final only when we get over ourselves. It is final when we give ourselves over to the nonhuman, when we go native in the frontier, when we arrange our human world according to that which we are not. Do we have the hospitality to let the nonhuman change the parameters of culture and reconfigure how we dwell?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

when the domestic gets out of hand... On Going Native

"There are an estimated four million to five million feral hogs in the United States"
We domesticate them, transport them, and create biodiverse environments. Now they are an invasive species once outside the pens we've created. NY Times article details some of the devastation of animality gone feral.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yvonne the cow as difference

How can we think difference in itself? It is a question posed by Deleuze in Difference and Repetition. Examples of D's thinking are hard to come by since the question bears upon the unrepresentable. Animality offers a mode of engaging difference in itself. Cows are domesticated beasts but for Yvonne the cow, domestication is merely a camouflage. She has not only taken herself out to pasture, she kept running and is in full on wilderness. Some in Germany are hunting to kill her. The State says she posses a threat since her corporality, her animality that was used for commercial gain in milking, has turned into a possible weapon should she step onto a road and get hit by a car. Others, animal welfare folk, want to bring her into the fold and give her a safe home. But Yvonne is having none of this dialectics. She has receded into the wildnerness and humans can't find her. Recall Heraclitus: "Nature loves to hide." But really, must we seek it? Can it not be into and of itself. Allowing Yvonne to be is a recognition of a difference in itself, one that cannot be domesticated but roams of its own accord.

Aliens and thought

Aliens are in the news often these days and with good reason. They are figures of an unknown animality with an unknown consciousness and reasoning that confronts humans and humanism. has a good video dialogue on the subject. Aliens confront the limits of human reason and biology with an unknown. This unknown and unknowable is played out in animality as well in the work of Thomas Nagel (essay "What is it like to be a bat" references aliens) and Uekull (whose Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Men ends with astronomers gazing at the stars and the life they could hold).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Animality lurks everywhere!

- April 2011 Fish and Wildlife Services of the U.S. announce the extinction of cougars in New England.

- July 26th 2011 a cougar shows in Connecticut having walked 1,500 miles from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Apparently this cougar had been reading the Fish and Wildlife Services reports and wanted to repopulate the area or just prove the government surveyors wrong.

- So, what should be done with this beast who walked so far? What are the possibilities of re-population, what are the rewards for his heroism of traversing long, treacherous distances? After being spotted among the homes and estates of Greenwich, CT, it is struck and killed on Wilbur Cross Parkway and becomes another animal victim on the road of American progress.

- His body, his presence and his death haunt us still. The NY Times's David Baron writes: "if a cougar can walk from South Dakota to Connecticut, a cougar could show up anywhere." No safe is immune from the possibilities of animality. The virtual of the animal lurks and can erupt and tear the fabric of the social surface at any moment.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Public and Private Life of Animals (1877), illustrated by Grandville: "Weary of insult, ignominy, and the constant oppression of man, we, the so-called Lower Animals, have at last resolved to cast off the yoke of our oppressors, who, since the day of their creation, have rendered liberty and equality nothing more than empty names." (And see the cautionary final chapter, too.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Animal Portraiture

Noted photographer David Salter visited a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia in order to photograph the endangered Celebes crested macaque monkeys. The animals seem friendly enough. They are not afraid of humans and seemed wonderfully curious about Salter and the human technologies he lugged into the forest. The photographer put down his camera momentarily only to have a female macaque break from the group and take the camera. The machine was passed among the animals. A dexterous beast became fascinated with his reflection in the camera lens and somehow managed to take a snapshot self-portrait. The sound of the camera click scared the rest of the macaques but curiosity overcame caution as the animals took up the camera again and snapped a few more pictures. Salter explains “At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection. . . . They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.” Ultimately, the animals snapped over a hundred pictures before the photographer got his camera back. Salter seemed pleased with the results: “I wish I could have stayed longer as he probably would have taken a full family album.”

Portraiture is a rather unique and uniquely human art. From portrait paintings to photography, the portrait tells a story about the outward social status of the human represented (often surrounded by possessions) or the inner psychological state of the subject (think brooding author photos on book covers). In short, portraiture is about having standing—as a social being amid others or about the privileged interiority of the human subject. In other words, you are some one and you think about things.

Occasionally we find pet portraiture which reflects not simply on the animal him/herself but on the human owner and the social standing of the animal for the individual and the culture.

Portraiture reinforces what Emmanuel Levinas calls “face.” Having face means you are an ethical being who recognizes others and your ethical and social duty toward others. When portraiture captures faces, they are also depicting face. The image acknowledges social and moral standing of the human being depicted. So powerful is the concept of portraiture that James Mollison took brilliant, large, crisp photos of great apes as a gesture of cross-species social and moral standing (see James and Other Apes, 2005). The apes are still waiting on their social standing (perhaps via the Great Ape Project with its curious acronym GAP).

Now enter the Celebes crested macaques who take matters in their own hands. Since humans won’t grant face nor portraiture to animals, they do so for themselves. Levinas never granted that animals had face but the macaques in their portraits grimace as if to say: “I don’t need you to grant that I see you as a being toward which I should be social. Here human, here is a picture of me and by me. Here are others I’ve taken of my group. Am I social? Look around. Am I moral? Ask your neo-Darwinian scientists and they will tell you what I already know but you refuse to believe: I am and I be through my sociability. Survival of the fittest is survival of fitting into an ecology and a society here in the wilds.” And so it is that the macaques grasp technology to reconfigure portraiture.

They are not the only beings to run with a camera. See the Umwelt of the camcorder octopus and the flight of a camcorder stealing seagull. See too Sir Edwin Landseer parodying our concept of portraits and sociability in The Monkey Who Had Seen the World (1827).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,
Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant!

Ant-swarming city, city abounding in dreams,
Where ghosts in broad daylight accost the passerby!

Charles Baudelaire "Les Sept Vieillards" [The Seven Old Men]

Thursday, March 31, 2011

RIP Fred the Baboon squad leader

Fred was known as a ringleader of baboons in a tourist area of Cape Town, South Africa and was infamous for his ability to open closed car doors. He was euthanized because of his aggressive tactics.

More than 400 baboons roam Cape Town's outskirts, particularly the popular scenic sites along the coast. They are a protected species but have a number of run-ins with humans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spy Animals

Cats, Squirrels, Hawks, Insects and more at Huffington Post.

In the 1960’s, the CIA reportedly explored surgically inserting microphones and transmitters into cats, a project dubbed “Acoustic Kitty.” Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told The Telegraph that the project "slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity." The first wired cat was, according to the Guardian, released for spying and took just a few steps towards its target before the cat was run over by a taxi. The CIA concluded that the project was impractical for intelligence gathering.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is the voice of the inhuman?

I will begin with the punch line and lure: have a look at
Scrambles of the Earth. The premise of the site begins with a cd of music sent in the 1977 Voyager spacecraft into outer space. The site claims the music was found by aliens who remixed it to their liking in order to make the sound more hip: “Aliens want state-of-art mega-hip scene. But music on Voyager record is hundreds of years old! No synthesizer, no drum machine, no dance remix! No wondering that, in ten year, not a one alien has called! Aliens hear old tunage, [then] puke out all kidneys from ear-pain. [They] say: 'Gaia beings are coma-toast lamo Gilligans.'” The samples on the website are haunting and aptly described by Rich Doyle’s concept of the alien: “the very essence of the alien presence … [is] its characteristic ability to proliferate and mutate, disturbing the various taxonomical categories that we bring to bear on ‘them.’” So, from aliens to animals… where do we go from here?

Wittgenstein's lion: “If a lion could talk, we could not understand him”(Wolfe Zoontologies 1). The lion problem is an issue of speaking and sound which is related to voice but different. In this problem the concern is social community, the discourse community in which language is fashioned to human (or nonhuman) experience of being-in-the-world or as Wittgenstein says "To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life." A lion’s sense of being is different and its use of language would be different—even, as Wittgenstein says—unintelligible.

Rather than speech and language I'm interested in voice (which I’ll enter as a new keyword in this animal revolution lexicon). Voice precedes speech and enables it but not just humans have voice: “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" (Vox Clamans in Deserto 38). Nancy characterizes voice as singular difference--each voice, he claims, is more unique than a fingerprint. So, it is not a common ground since voice is not a ground but a plurality. It is a sort of shared difference.

Can we use this capacity to address the other in an address, admittedly, that would be outside of discourse community and outside of language?! It would be an odd address, indeed, and Nancy hints at it throughout his essay and particularly at the end where voices resonate and call out to the other from one other to an/other. Voice cannot hear but can voice; it can throw itself and articulates what it means to be bodily thrown into the world, a being who is situated in a world (more on this in a moment). Hearing voice transports the listener, possesses and intoxicates to listener who may well give voice in response—the Dionysian Nietzsche (see Birth of Tragedy) and even Nancy assert.

This is where we get to aliens, so hang on. First it is useful to understand Nancy's claim that "Every voice cries out in the desert. . . . the desert of deserted existence, prey both to lack and to absence”(41). The voice is corporeal but not by way of taking in (food, air) nor by expelling (vomit and shit) but as an opening and opening up, opening the body in and unto the world. By way of example, he quotes a poetic passage from Julia Kristeva about a baby crying which ends with "The voice springs from this rejection of air and nutritive or excremental matter; so as to be vocal, the first sonorous emissions not only have their origins in the glottis but are the audible mark of a complex phenomenon of muscular and rhythmic contractions that is a rejection implicating the whole body.”

Secondly, animals and aliens have bodies which give voice. Each voice is different—its own patters. Yet in each singular instance, the voices cry out, the bodies open themselves, throw the voice into the air and within hearing of the other:"The voice cries out in the desert because voice itself is the desert that unfolds at the very heart of the body, beyond words." It is rather important that this is an opening and unfolding beyond words since (recalling Wittgenstein) if the alien and animal speak, we could not understand them. But outside of understanding and beyond speech and words, what we can hear and become enthralled by is the voice of the other. Listen those who have ears to hear—as the biblical passage goes. And transported, carried (dare I say abducted? Or is this another matter?) and recognizing this opening, we give voice in return.

Nancy is not a lone voice in the desert crying out. He takes up a particular line of thinking from Kant, Bentham, and Levinas on the look and the cry of animals.

Kant: "Just as Descartes had the paradoxical opinion of animal-machines, so must I likewise say of humans and of myself as well, only to a greater degree: if that one howls like a machine, then I speak like one. Because of the similarity between our external behaviour and that of the animal, I judge that the inner condition of the other involves thinking and sensing like mine, for my behaviour is regarded by it just as it is regarded by me.I therefore have just as much cause not to take him as a machine as to take myself as one.” [p. 3 of Naragon, Steve.“Kant on Descartes and the Brutes” in Kant-Studien, 81: 1-23 (1990)]

Bentham: "The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Bentham, Jeremy. Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, second edition, 1823, chapter 17, footnote.

Levinas tells the story of the dog named Bobby who greeted the prisoners at the Nazi concentration camp and treated them with respect and dignity. The "mere” dog’s treatment of these humans stood in stark contrast to the treatment by other humans. And so the question asked is can animals have what Levinas calls "face” by which he means recognition within the (human) community as a moral citizen and toward which one has moral obligations. While Levinas disconcertingly says Bobby and animals should not be given this recognition, other philosophers have taken up Bobby's cause and argued otherwise. The look and regard of the animal—and I would add voice of Bobby—calls for recognition by us. (Here David Clark, "Towards a Prehistory of the Postanimal: Kant, Levinas, and the Regard of Brutes.” Unpublished manuscript. Critchley on Levinas is rather good: see Infinitely Demanding)

What voice offers us then is an ungrounded ground—a multitude of singularities—which calls to the other. Voice as the opening in the self is, as Nancy suggests, the space where the self is beside itself, leaves itself and in hospitality offers its openness to the world. We sense this vibration (here the play of sensation and sensibility works well) and in the hospitality of sense, sense surrenders itself to the foreign.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Radioactive Rabbit

A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings.

The regional director of the Office of Radiation Protection, Earl Fordham, said Thursday that no contaminated droppings have been found in areas accessible to the public.

The Tri-City Herald reports that officials suspect the rabbit sipped some water left from the recent demolition of a Cold War-era building used in the production of nuclear weapons.

The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium.


This is similar to the radioactive boar post earlier this year as a return of the repressed.