Sunday, June 30, 2013

Emerald City

Melbourne, from Mount Macedon

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013


Explored one of the Macedon Ranges Walking Trails - found tree ferns!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cross-species kinship

I've been making my way through Deborah Bird Rose's recent Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction (University of Virginia, 2011). I used some of Rose's important Dingo Makes Us Human: Life and Land in an Australian Aboriginal Culture in the Aboriginal Australia course. In this work she argues for an "ecological existentialism," weaving together Aboriginal and western stories, engaging philosophers and ecologists, histories of genocide and the great man-made wave of extinctions of our time, all in the service of ethics. An American anthropologist who's been in Australia for decades, Rose is a central figure in the "environmental humanities" which seems to be such an exciting intellectual community here in Australia.

Other parts of this book, like its engagement with Levinas, I'll tell you about some other time. Here's just two bits of her Aboriginal-informed insights. The first fits my existing, rather schematic and not unromantic, conceptions.

Old Tim Yilngayarri’s stories about Earth-Sky connections are especially precious to me because he was the only person in the region who had been there. He told how the Sky people had dropped a rope and taken him up to their country where they gave him special powers. And when he looked back at Earth he saw the fires of people’s camps looking like stars.

The second goes way beyond this: not Sky people but animals, including us. (What Rose calls "cross-species kinship" is one of the main themes of her book.) The start of a powerful argument for the importance of death to life she describes hunting with Aboriginal people and, here, dividing up the still warm body:

[Y]ou know without any doubt that the way this animal feels to your hands is exactly how you would feel if someone were doing this to you— the same heat, same textures, the fresh smell, the red blood. That intimacy of interchangeable interiority forms a special kind of empathy based on the tactile knowledge of our mammalian kinship and our shared condition as creatures born to die. This dead animal could be me, and I myself will one day be a dead animal.

Existential indeed! ... And there's a chapter coming up about Job!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA farewell day!

At last, some good news from SCOTUS, very good! Wish I were there to celebrate! There, where? (Headlines from New York Times, above, and Los Angeles Times, below.) The celebrations in NewYork and California, Maryland, Delaware and New England, Iowa and Minnesota must be quite different from those in the big majority of states with still unchallenged DOMAs of their own. Still, I suppose it was as much as one could have hoped for from the Roberts court. Wedding bells!!

Aboriginal shadow dances

Came into Melbourne to see some friends, and for my now customary visit to the Aboriginal art at the National Gallery of Victoria

Crusoe Kuningbal (Kuninjku), Mimih Spirits, 1984

 Ronnie Janbardi (Gurrgoni), Wandurrk at Guyun 
and Wandurrk at Gubalorlo, 1988, Wandurrk, 1973

Julie Gough (Tasmanian Aboriginal), Drift, 2005

Sunday, June 23, 2013

WInter solstice?

It's been colder here than in ten years and there's frost on the fields in the mornings, but it feels more like Autumn and Spring than Winter...

Up and away

By way of Los Angeles and Auckland on my way back to Oz!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


This is the 2500th post on this blog. How the time does fly! But how pleasingly appropriate that this should come up on the eve of a trip back to Australia, for which the blog was created 2484 days ago, 1 Sep '06. In that time I've shared a good many views of Australia, as well as Taiwan, India, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Nepal, China, Portugal, Spain, and sundry places in the good ol' United States of America (look 'em up - that's what the little white search box at upper left is for!). But a blog isn't only or even mainly for holiday snaps and stories; slices of life, more like, cross sections, rhythms... It's a strange beast, a blog, hovering between evanescent and forgettable daily concerns and being a lasting record of the march of time.

It feels especially right to be heading back to Australia at this milestone because I'm feeling, as I did back at #1, like I'm embarking on something new. Maybe it's finally finally being finished with the Job project, a project which I've been working on in one way or another for eleven years - though it's rarely been my main thing. What was/is my main thing? A good question. You might recall that the project when I headed off for sabbatical in Melbourne in 2006 was "the problem of the good." Since then I've been entranced by "lived religion," among various other things. But I haven't had a "next project" and happily allowed New School anniversaries, Aboriginal Australia, the India China project on Himalayan religion and ecology, religion & fashion, queer Christianities, Buddhism & liberal arts and even Leibniz to pull me this way and that.

I feel like I'm ready to move on! On to what? Let's call it "Wider Moral Communities" for now, the name of the paper I'll be giving at AAR in November. I don't want to jinx it by defining too much at this stage, but it's basically pursuing the intuition that answers to the question "how shall we live?" can't be answered only with reference to human experience, rich and varied though it is across time and culture and even among individuals. It's not just that there may be more members to our moral communities than living adult human beings, not just that we might be called to relationships of care with what Graham Harvey calls "other-than-human persons" (which might be animate or inanimate, embodied or disembodied, focused or diffuse) but that we might learn something profound from them about ourselves.

If you've followed this blog when it gets weird and oracular, you know this isn't really new - though it's new to feel things coming together into a "project." You'll have caught whiffs of this in my evolving understanding of religious studies as "the discipline that reminds us there is no consensus on the real," ruminations on ethics of care, rhapsodies on religious naturalism (including James on our "religious function" and the "demands of the universe"), grappling with "indigenous" knowledge and kinship, my curious ideas about "resource uses" for ERSEH and emerging understanding of the everyday, of "lived" religion... In a way the deeper questions of the "problem of good" are at play here, too. I think the opportunity to work with images afforded by the blog (and a sequence of trusty cameras) may also have contributed, and even the strange temporality of the blog itself - thank you!

But Australia's part of it as well, I'm sensing, a big part. I've spent the last 3 weeks here in Del Mar starting gently to explore various things I've been wanting a chance to think about for a long time, from Merleau- Ponty to ecofeminism to a book called Plants as Persons. Time and again the trail of references and acknowledgments leads down under. 2006-7, the year I spent in Australia, was the year many people "got" ecological awareness - me among them. It was the year of "An Inconvenient Truth." But what I got seems to have been shaped by specifically Australian experiences, too. "The land," one wants to say, and ancient cultures (what got me tripping about centuries and millennia), but surely also a certain historical and cultural self-consciousness among thoughtful "settler Australians," an all-bets-are-off off-the-mapness. And Leunig!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Year of the Weed's

The luminous furry yellow Weed's mariposa lilies - once a relative rarity - are all over Torrey Pines State Reserve (and extensions) this year! Even where's it's been too dry for other plants to grow, Weed's shine forth.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Missed media

Can't remember just why, but was reminiscing with my friend K about the rapid obsolescence of media skills. At one point she knew all about how to send out 1000 copies of a newsletter by fax. And I knew all about how to put together a mimeographed newspaper with justified margins.
Wow, I haven't done that in 24 years but the skill is still there! I wonder if it's affected the way I approach anything else? The funkier historians of culture and ideas now focus on things like this and the way they formed and facilitated certain practices rather than others...

Monday, June 17, 2013


"The Book of Job: A Biography" moves steadily toward publication! I just sent in the corrected proofs - hope they don't balk at my 222 requests for inserting or removing commas, inverting or replacing words, as well as embarrassing cases of subject-verb agreement I can't believe I didn't catch before! (They've been very obliging about my request that three of the images be recropped.) Here's a taste of what's to come, some of my best-turned phrases.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yosemite view!

Look who wound up in last weeks San Francisco Chronicle! Anyone got a digital subscription so we can read the attendant article?

Saturday, June 15, 2013


B, an old friend from high school, directs a non-profit recognizing women's leadership here in San Diego. A few weeks ago she discovered (quite by accident - she was showing an intern from abroad the difference between a Bing search and a Google search) that someone had set up a copycat site, using the same charity name, text and photos - and a "donate now!" button of its own. Sleuthing a little, B discovered that the copycat site was the work of one of her organization's past honorees, who had listed herself and a friend as board members and had been calling people soliciting donations, and also pays her rent from these fraudulently gained donations. I couldn't believe my ears. B is more philosophical. She's read a book claiming that one person in 25 is a sociopath - "has no conscience" - and they've had 300 honorees so far so it's not that surprising... besides, self-aggrandizing and fraudulent charities are, unfortunately, nothing new. They've hired an attorney and are working to get the copycat site's host to take it down - more easily said than done. (The fake site is still up; I just checked.)

I am still speechless. But in these few weeks at my parents' place in California I've been reminded that such unscrupulous scams are far from rare. Our town association has warned people against scammers calling and pretending to be police demanding confirmation of address and SSN for court proceedings, and then offering a cash out-of-court settlement. Someone's called us at least twice "to schedule the delivery of an emergency notification system" which we never ordered; when I asked, he said that someone had paid for it for us. There should be a special circle in hell for those who prey on the vulnerable like this.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Near swoon

Mindful of events at Gezi Park and the Iranian election, I made İmam bayıldı tonight, a Turkish dish whose name means "the imam swoons."

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Today I discovered the Eden of the scarlet larkspur in the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension. Almost as exciting: I learned that some of the dualism-dynamiting ideas I most appreciate in Maurice Merleau-Ponty have antecedents in Nicolas Malebranche. Chair du monde - divine? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dog's eye view

The San Diego County Fair has opened! Nephews made it fun last year
but I think I'll give it a miss this year. The view from dog beach is quite enough. And I'll be seeing my nephews within a fortnight in Oz!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mountain highs

My father invited a friend of his to lunch today who has extensive experience trekking in high altitude regions - Karakorum is his favorite, though he also did a 250-mile (!) trek around Annapurna some years ago. He's also a medical doctor, so I was able to get some non-anecdotal advice on what to expect at the high altitudes of the Kailash pilgrimage, and how to prepare. In the sober way of a doctor, he told me that many people's breathing pattern changes, to what's called "periodic" or Cheyne-Stokes breathing. One might well awake in the middle of the night (not that anyone sleeps well up there) and find that one's breathing has stopped. No cause for alarm: the usual triggers for breathing related to CO2 are disrupted in these oxygen-poor climes, but the body will resume breathing as needed. Forewarned is forearmed.

Perhaps relatedly, people have vivid dreams and even hallucinations!

Monday, June 10, 2013

More Del Mar scenes


All these pictures were taken on a somewhat unplanned 2-hour ramble
through the two parts of the Torrey Pines State Reserve extension.

(If blogspot won't let you look at the details of the 360˚ panorama from Red Ridge, let me know and I'll send it to you as an email attachment.)

Sunday, June 09, 2013


Some of the native(ish) plants growing around UCSD's Geisel Library.

Implied transitions

I'm slowly but surely making my way through the Job proofs. It's an occasionally painful process, since early editing has aimed for a text you could breeze through, loosening my often turgid academic style (my old friend V used to call it "teutonic") by going for shorter sentences without transitions... Read it word for word and you sometimes don't know how the reader is supposed to get from one idea to the next! At this stage all I can do is trust the process...

But overall it's gratifying - I managed to pack quite a lot of good stuff in. A reader will be able to make better sense of what's going on in this rare Joban hymn, which turned up in (Catholic) church this morning - three
Old Testament sources making for a very New Testament message.