“Monstrous Plants”

This year’s ICFA has been a blast. This is my third time at this conference, and I’m always blown away by how intelligent and friendly the attendees are. There are so many good papers that it would be impossible to mention them all, but there was one that was so smart and so much fun that it must be shared: Timothy Miller’s “Lives of the Monster Plants: The Revenge of the Vegetable in the Age of Animal Studies.” Miller connected monster plants to anxieties about Darwinian evolution and offered up some fantastic specimens. In addition to the usual green-leafed suspects (in, e.g., Little Shop of Horrors, Day of the Triffids, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) Miller excavated some real gems. My favorite was Paul Bunyan Fights the Monster Plants. I will be ordering this book immediately.  I also appreciated Miller’s linking of plant life to animal studies—a good reminder of the interconnectedness of all things.  Great stuff!

Monster Plants

Modeling Knowledge Conference

For the past few days I’ve been at the “Knowledge Organization and Data Modeling in the Humanities” workshop in Rhode Island. It’s been a treat to participate in a conversation about some of the most ancient and enduring questions we have as human beings: How do we model the world? How do we model models of the world? And how—and now we’re approaching the Borges parable “Exactitude in Science”—do we model our modeling of our models? This is all in the context of the digital humanities, of course, and therefore packaged up and explicated through xml and questions about ontological structures (both in terms of Aristotle and data schemata), but the conversation should be of interest to anyone interested in how it is we know what we know.

Pattern Recognition

Re-reading Pattern Recognition for my presentation at the ACLA in a couple of weeks. Although my presentation focuses upon the novel’s relation to film—in particular, Chris Marker’s La jetéePattern Recognition speaks to a vast and inter-related media ecology comprised of words, images, icons, fashion, adverts, watermarks, human labor, sigils, and typewriters (including, hilariously, “Stephen King’s Wang”). Published shortly after 9/11, and informed by the subsequent trauma of that event, the book remains a phenomenal read. Even though the rendering farm that makes the footage and therefore the F:F:F possible seems slightly antique ten years later, the theme of technological obsolescence and overlap is so expertly woven throughout the text that it doesn’t seem remotely out of date.

“a Wang…but not Mr. King’s”