“News”

“News” is a generous term. More accurately, this is an infrequently updated blog-notebook-commonplacebook-journal where I keep track of projects, conferences, conversations, ideas (of mine, of others), news, rumors, gossip, and events related to digital culture, science fiction, environmental practice, electronic literature, digital art, the history of science, the concept of nature, and many other weird and wonderful things under the sun.

Beat the Devil

It doesn’t get much better than this:

“Satan’s Computer–Doug is an ace arcade player-he always seems to make the winning moves. Then he is faced with the ultimate test, an incredible computer game called Beat the Devil, in which much more than his ego is on the line. It’s the most exciting-and the most dangerous-challenge of his life. First his sanity, then his closest friends, and finally his very soul are at stake-as he competes against a monstrous, mind-shattering code—programmed by the prince of evil…” (from Goodreads).

Elizabeth Agee Manuscript Prize

Animal Vegetable Digital” has won the Elizabeth Agee Manuscript Prize from the University of Alabama Press. I am grateful and honored.

“Awarded annually to the manuscript chosen as representing outstanding scholarship in the field of American literary studies, the Elizabeth Agee Prize was established in honor of a longtime Birmingham bookseller who described herself as “a reader and lover of books.” The prize includes a cash award and full publication of the work. The Agee Prize has recognized books on such diverse topics as Wallace Stevens, James Wright, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Conner, Emily Dickenson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Walt Whitman, and it demonstrates the Press’s broad interests in American literary culture.”

Website for AVD

Animal, Vegetable, Digital is “in press” and scheduled for a spring 2016 publication (so long to wait! so far away!). In the meantime, with the help of some very talented students, I’ve made a web page for it, not merely to promote it, but to keep track of artwork, news items, insights, and events that relate to the intersections between digital and ecological aesthetics that the book explores. Once the book’s closer to publications, I’ll make the site a little less bloggy and (I hope) more useful and interactive for people who share an interest in eco-digital culture.

 

Singing Trees

This semester I’m teaching a class on Literature and the Environment, and when I was reading John Muir’s descriptions of the pines in “A Wind-Storm in the Forests,” I noted the following passage: “The waving of a forest of the giant Sequoias is indescribably impressive and sublime, but the pines seem to me the best interpreters of winds. They are mighty waving goldenrods, ever in tune, singing and writing wind-music all their long century lives” and this next one shortly after:

I drifted on through the midst of this passionate music and motion, across many a glen, from ridge to ridge; often halting in the lee of a rock for shelter, or to gaze and listen. Even when the grand anthem had swelled to its highest pitch, I could distinctly hear the varying tones of individual trees,–Spruce, and Fir, and Pine, and leafless Oak,–and even the infinitely gentle rustle of the withered grasses at my feet. Each was expressing itself in its own way,–singing its own song, and making its own peculiar gestures,–manifesting a richness of variety to be found in no other forest I have yet seen.

Both passages reminded me of a trip I took to San Diego a couple of years ago, and an unusual series of artworks I encountered when I was there: Terry Allen’s TREES, a gorgeous installation at UCSD, part of the Stuart Collection. It also reminded me that I’d taken some pictures and video, which I’m sharing below.

The Singing Tree
Talking Tree
The Quiet Tree

Effulgence of the North

The last time I was in Los Angeles, I visited the Velaslavasay Panorama, which is located right off the 10 at the Hoover exit, which is pretty close to where I went to grad school at USC. On display was “Effulgence of the North,” a fantastic, fully-immersive, decidedly *not digital*, audio-visual experience. I look forward to returning, and not just for the panorama. They also had a petite camera obscura located in the back, as well as a garden full of carnivorous plants.

panorama1panorama2

 

Orange you glad…

The MLA was a jam-packed extravaganza. My panels went well, I met lots of neat people, and I got to see many amazing people that I don’t get to see nearly enough; I also learned lots of new stuff about online games, OCR, phonographic audio-books from the Victorian period, Thoreau, code, and the evolution of microfiche. But my favorite part of the conference occurred at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, in panel #486. It was at this point that Mikhail Gershovich demonstrated to a crowd of many the pedagogical potential of MaKey MaKey by using the kit to control his computer with…wait for it…a banana. Yes, a banana.  The MLA has reached new heights.

Flower

We recently checked out “The Art of Video Games,” on tour from the Smithsonian.  It was a blast!  Not only did we get to play old arcade favorites and wax nostalgic about the home entertainment systems of our bygone youths (hello, ColecoVision!), we also got to see some games that departed familiar gaming conventions (i.e., the first-person shooter, the quest-oriented adventure, the OCD creature that needs to consume (or touch) everything in its path).  I enjoyed the whole exhibit, but I particularly enjoyed playing ThatGameCompany’s Flower for PS3.  There’s no object to the game, really.  You “play” the wind and as the wind you blow through different environments, picking up flower petals along the way.  It’s a gorgeous game.  You get to be the wind.  You get to participate in an (albeit simulated) eco-system.  You get to move your whole body, not just your wrists and fingers.  I enjoyed how I felt when I played it: I could lean into it, bend away from it, glide and drift with it.  I didn’t feel anxious or tense (the way I can sometimes feel in games in which I am chased) when I played it.  Instead, I felt relaxed and a little dizzy, like I’d been flying.