Spring Break Links 2016

It has been a very busy past few months, and my links have suffered. But spring break has provided some lovely, unencumbered time, so here are many, many links (futilely) attempting to catch up with what’s been happening in the world. (In the interest of space, I’ve also passed over some of the more visible recent stories.)

 

Nuclear and Environmental

Paul Krugman, “Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial.”

Democracy Now, “Naomi Klein on Paris Summit: Leaders’ Inaction on Climate Crisis Is ‘Violence” Against the Planet.”

Adrienne LaFrance, “The Chilling Regularity of Mass Extinctions.”

Isabelle Stengers, In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism.

Sebastian Anthony, “Scientists Discover an Ocean 400 Miles Beneath Our Feet that Could Fill Our Oceans Three Times Over.”

Kylie Mohr, “Apocalypse Chow: We Tried Televangelist Jim Bakker’s ‘Survival Food.'”

Alex Trembath, “Are You and Upwinger or a Downwinger?”

Eric Bradner, “Newly Released Documents Reveal US Cold War Nuclear Target List.”

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May Links

It’s been a busy month, and a there’s a bunch of stuff to catch up on, so links:

 

Disaster and Environment

David Roberts, “The Awful Truth about Climate Change No One Wants to Admit.”

Sarah Resnick, “A Note on the Long Tomorrow.”

Phil Plait, “Jovian Armageddon +20.”

Jamie Lauren Keiles, “Millennial Revenge Fantasy.”

“Texas Governor Signs Law to Prohibit Local Fracking Bans.”

Maureen McHugh, David Rieff, Benjamin Kunkel, Joseph McElroy, Srikanth Reddy, and Ted Nelson: “Speculations Archive: Overextending Ourselves.”

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End of Semester Links, Spring 2015

I’m looking forward to a lot of exciting projects this summer, including some reviews, an interview, essays, and finishing the book. Like years past, I’ll be spending most of my days in front of the computer, I imagine, so you can expect many more links in the months to come. To start off:

 

Nuclear

Who knew there was such a thing?: The National Atomic Testing Museum.

 

Hyperarchival

“How the KGB Archives Will Be Opened and Information Declassified.”

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Remembering Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014)

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Studying with Tomaž Šalamun while he was a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh from 2005-2007 was one of the highlights of my life. I took four classes with him, he was on my MFA thesis committee, and when he left Pittsburgh, for what I believe was the last time, I drove him to the airport in what he called my “tank.” He was a remarkable human being. Generous, expansive, kind, and dynamic, Šalamun profoundly impacted everyone with whom he came in contact. On first reading his poems, they leapt at me, and have continued flying around my head for years. In my favorite of his books, Balada za Metko Krašovec (1981),[1] he declares: “I am the mouth of the Book.”[2] He ate voraciously of the world, of books, and sometimes spoke and wrote like the wellspring of literature itself.[3] He was a powerful poet who invited everyone to soar with him: “I like being in the air. I descend on the city, on / people.”[4] I am thrilled to be one of the people he descended upon.

Looking through my notebooks from the three consecutive spring semesters I studied with him (in 2006, two workshops at once), the vast majority of what I wrote down during class were the names and works of poets, artists, musicians, novelists, philosophers. Tomaž had an immense capacity for awe and appreciation, and he readily shared it with everyone around him. He read and absorbed culture to a remarkable degree, letting everything flicker through his being: from the work of his young students—he adored the work of Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder, among many others—to his peers, modernist painters, and filmmakers—he argued vehemently that Pier Paolo Pasolini was a poet—and so much more. Every semester he would order roughly eight books from the bookstore, but he would not usually assign them or schedule days for us to discuss them. Instead, he would hand out what he was reading that week, what he was excited about. As a result, not only did my library of books and files of photocopied poems and essays grow considerably, but I perhaps caught some of Šalamun’s own catholicity and voracity, his passion for the contemporary, and his faith in poetry. It was hard not to.

Returning to my (seemingly) ancient notebooks this morning, I was initially struck by how little I wrote down of what Šalamun said in class. But then I remembered why. His voice was music. It didn’t always make sense and my pen could not keep up, but it was such a joy to hear him speak while occasionally capturing the gems of books he was reading or his reflections on the books his students were reading. I would spend much of class sunk in nothing but his voice. He would read poems in a way that transformed how I teach creative writing workshops. He would explore every nook and cranny of where a poem took his enthusiastic and often confounding readings, no matter who wrote it, and then he would go somewhere else. He would get up and spread imaginary wings or become, however briefly, a real dinosaur. How could I capture such performances in notes? What would be the point? I did not even try. But I hope his voice still resonates in Cathedral of Learning 512 and I know it will continue to do so with the many people who received the gift of being in that room.

Šalamun was above all a poet. Everything about him resonated with poetry. He would often end class early to have one-on-one conferences with students. Suffering from the normal “crisis of artistic faith during the first year of grad school”-syndrome, my first meeting with him, quite simply, totally renewed my ambitions and convinced me that poetry was something I should pursue. True or not, I return frequently to what he told me. He had that kind of power, that kind of poetic power: he could transform or refresh almost instantly. And he did so because he was a poet in the strongest sense of the word.

For one of the very few things he said that I did write down was: “The poet has to be totally a poet! We don’t need mediocre poets.” Tomaž Šalamun was totally a poet. He encouraged those around him to be total poets as well. (Whether any of us became such mythical beings or not is probably beside the point.) In an age when poetry seems low on the list of anyone’s priorities, even those of us who read, write, and teach poetry, when an MFA classroom can often resemble a seminar on professionalism and/or mediocrity, Šalamun subtly, warmly, and convincingly required the same total devotion to poetry of his students that was on display in his own work throughout his career. And once that easily fulfilled requirement was out of the way, we all then flew and will keep descending on the cities and the people with him.

———

[1] Tomaž Šalamun, Balada za Metko Krašovec (Ljubljana: Državna založba Slofenije, 1981).

[2] Tomaž Šalamun, “‘Within the mountain . . . ,’” in A Ballad for Metka Krašovec, trans. Michael Biggins (Prague, Czechoslovakia: Twisted Spoon Press, 2001), 49. I sadly have no capacity for Slovenian so will rely on English translations. That said, Šalamun was extensively involved in many of his English translations, and not everyone translating him knew Slovenian, so the English translations have their own particular authority and power.

[3] If this sounds hyperbolic, I invite the reader to relish in such hyperbole, as Šalamun would have certainly encouraged them to do so with his own remarkable, Whitmanian verbal hyperbole, for “Tomaž Šalamun is naked and a proletarian”(“His Favorite Ride,” in The Book for My Brother [New York: Harcourt, 2006], 13), “Tomaž Šalamun is a monster. / Tomaž Šalamun is a sphere rushing through the air” (“History,” trans. Bob Perelman and Šalamun, in The Four Questions of Melancholy: New and Selected Poems, ed. Christopher Merrill [1988; repr., Buffalo, NY: White Pine, 2002], 77).

[4] Šalamun, “West Broadway,” in A Ballad for Metka Krašovec, 43.

Daylight Savings Time Links

The extra hour today means I have time to post some links. There are many, as it’s been a while.

 

Nuclear and Environment

“Lockheed Announces Breakthrough on Nuclear Fusion Energy.”

Matthew L. Wald, “Calls to Use Yucca Mountain as a Nuclear Waste Site, Now Deemed Safe.”

Rizwan Asghar, “Illicit Nuclear Trafficking.”

“Emergency Agencies Practice Response to Nuclear Explosion in Times Square.” (Didn’t DeLillo have something to say about this kind of thing . . . ?)

Jonathan Tirone, “U.S. Said to Join Russia in Blocking Nuclear Safety Moves.”

“Notice to Congress: Continuation of the National Emergency on Russian Fissile Material.”

Darren Boyle, “Inside China’s Top Secret Nuclear Bunker: Cold War Relic Built into a Mountain to Fend off Soviet Attack Is Now a Tourist Attraction.” (Thanks to Terrence Ross for a lot of the above links.)

“Asgard’s Fire,” on thorium reactors.

Ari Phillips, “New Study Details Alarming Acceleration in Sea Rise.”

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