You have not seen anything like this

If you are anywhere near Houston between now and 10 May, you must go to the (free) Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston to experience the installation by Antena cofounders Jen Hofer and John Pluecker.

Antena cofounder John Pluecker and daughter Elena, with kite by Sueyeun Juliette Lee, and behind him in silver envelopes, jacob's ladder books by Stalina Villarreal and Jorge Galván Flores.

Antena cofounder John Pluecker and daughter Elena, with kite by Sueyeun Juliette Lee, and behind him in silver envelopes, jacob’s ladder books by Stalina Villarreal and Jorge Galván Flores.

Antena @ Blaffer brings together hundreds of small press and DIY books from across the U.S. and Latin America. I can guarantee you have never seen such a wide and vibrant scope of community-based literary endeavor, from U.S. stalwarts like Green Integer and Kelsey Street to cartonera books from Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay, handmade from recycled cardboard.

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The scope of literary work represented here is thrilling. It represents Jen and J.P.’s deep dedication and committed labor in support of cross-cultural artistic production.

But that’s not all. Antena @ Blaffer also gathers text-based visual work from U.S. and Latin American artists, including Garrick Imatani and Kaia Sand (Portland, OR), Cecilia Vicuña (New York/Santiago) and many others. The visual works will grow and evolve throughout the exhibition, which is more like a happening, and includes a free weekly workshop, a weekend encuentro with all the artists, and readings.

Antena cofounder Jen Hofer with the Watcher Files, a work by Garrick Imatani and Kaia Sand.

Antena cofounder Jen Hofer with the Watcher Files, a work by Garrick Imatani and Kaia Sand.

This flickr set gives you a small idea of what Jen and J.P. have gathered, in a space beautifully curated by Blaffer fellow Amy Powell. I’m totally in awe of them. You will be too.

The luxury of learning to die

I read Roy Scranton’s “Learning how to die in the anthropocene” this morning via Jonathan Skinner. I instantly responded to it. It seemed just right—it set the tone of our moment. I tweeted it. Then I started really thinking about it.

Scranton notes that the biggest challenge of global warming is that, well, it changes everything. The global economy is predicated on technology that could destroy global civilization (and wipe out a bunch of other species in the process). The challenge of global warming, says Scranton, is “that now we have to learn how to die not as individuals, but as a civilization.”

Once we understand, he says, that our civilization is already dead—meaning, no longer tenable—we “can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.”

I realized I found that comforting, uplifting even, in the same melancholy way that gazing over ruins uplifted Romantic poets. If the end has already happened, well, the danger has passed, and we can get on with mourning and rebuilding.

One thing about the death of civilization, though—all these individual deaths keep haunting me. You know, the ones going on right now in the Philippines, hit two days before Scranton published his op-ed in the Times by one of the largest typhoons ever recorded. Here is the Filipino climate chief tearfully calling the world to act at the UN Climate Conference going on now in Poland.

Scranton has faced his own death. He was a soldier in Iraq. According to his essay, he faced his individual death admirably, with philosophy to help him. I’ve never experienced the kind of threat he lived through—and I hope never to—so I can’t say anything about it. Scranton notes, however, that even facing death he was “statistically” … “pretty safe,” given his membership in “the most powerful military the world has ever seen.”

He only glancingly mentions the fate of Iraqis, more than one hundred thousand of whom have died since 2003, and he barely alludes to deaths from Hurricane Katrina, where he watched on TV the same chaos and collapse he had seen in Baghdad, complete with uniformed officers shooting civilians.

Scranton glances past them, but there they are, the lives. They demand some response from us, don’t they? While those of us who have the luxury are learning how to die, what do we do about all the people who are actually dying?

So easy to hate on

the turf grass that dominates the surburban ecosystem of North America. And I do, especially when it comes up where I don’t want. But, still, it’s hard not to respect the root I pulled up with this sprout (which actually was even longer, I broke it off — ensuring a new sprout of course).

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It’s just doing what it evolved to do. We (or Faith and Harold, who preceded me on this land) are the ones who put it here.

Fleeting spring things

I learned that metabolism comes from the Greek word for change. Things must transform constantly in order to stay alive, which means “remain.”

Here are some fleeting spring things whirled up from the cellular flow we are.

Tiny, and perfect.

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Stages of poppy

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Below are nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria on the roots of a lupine I dug up. The bacteria convert nitrogen in the air into a form the plant can use to make cells; in return the bacteria get sugars the plant converts from sun energy the bacteria can’t access. Tight, right? People get nitrogen from plants to feed their cells

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About half the nitrogen in the human body comes from factories. Farmers put the nitrogen on their fields to make plants grow big and fast, then we eat it. But a lot — maybe most — of the nitrogen farmers use never gets into crops. It runs off and wreaks havoc on water systems — consider the Jersey-sized dead zone that sometimes blooms out of the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. Very ugly.

Some people have started to notice that humans have messed up nitrogen flows the way we have carbon flows — the other “inconvenient truth.” Here’s an urgent-feeling video about it with some doomsday guitar chords. And here’s a lupine about to bloom.

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4/2/13: STAY IN CONTROL.®

All the plastic I collect on my daily walk.P1000291

two leaves

one shard of frisbee

SINFIRE™ CINNAMON WHISKY WHISKY WITH NATURAL CINNAMON FLAVORING 50 ML 35% ALC/VOL (70 PROOF) AN EVIL SPIRIT PRODUCED & BOTTLED BY HOOD RIVER DISTILLERS, INC. HOOD RIVER, OREGON U.S.A. GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) ACCORDING TO THE SURGEON GENERAL WOMEN SHOULD NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES DURING PREGNANCY BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS. (2) CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE A CAR OR OPERATE MACHINERY, AND MAY CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS STAY IN CONTROL.® A tiny bit of liquid is left I sniff it — cinnamon — touch my nose on accident to bottle mouth some mouth touched.

black shard, thick

about 14 fragments of polystyrene foam (some blew away), most clean, one dirty

one polystyrene peanut

This package contains 1 HandiHaler® inhalation device. For use with Spiriva® (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder) capsules only.

clear wrapper

orange shard

black lego

Doritos limón fragment

rellerindos ORIGINAL & AUTHENTIC dulces Vero® SUAVE SABOR TAMARINDO

one very degraded piece of pink foam, like coral

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While I was away

Here are a few things that happened while I was away on vacation.

new bamboo shoots

new bamboo shoots

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daffodils

first blooms on baby apple tree

first blooms on baby apple tree

hyacinths

hyacinths

first blooms on camellia planted last spring

first blooms on camellia planted last spring

the camellia sits right outside my office window

the camellia sits right outside my office window

daikon sprouts

daikon sprouts

foam ever with us

foam

My internet presence seems to have been resurrected, thanks to the caring application by several people of time, skills and resources I lack, particularly Philip Barron.

foams

In gratitude, I thought I would pay some caring attention to foam. That is, polystyrene filled with bubbles — nearly all air. So pure of color, white or pale, it catches my eye always when plastic gathering. It is also always there. And the name of a great book of poetry by Evelyn Reilly.

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Then poet, artist and musician Chris Sullivan applied some caring attention to past blog detritus lists of mine and penned a few tunes. Like this one, on which he reports he accompanies himself on “municipal trash receptacle.”

Little Pale Green Foam Peanut Packing Thing