Saturday, February 24, 2007

Terrain.org at AWP

Look for Terrain.org flyers at the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, in Atlanta, Georgia, from March 1-3, 2007.

There you can also find Terrain.org's editor, Simmons Buntin, who is leading the "What's the Conversation Rate of Euros? Americans Publishing Abroad" panel on Saturday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. That's at North Court East, 2nd Floor, Hilton Atlanta.

And check out the Tucson Literary Orgs "Tucson Heat: A Big Sexy Reading" on Thursday, March 1, from 8:00 to 10:30 p.m. at the Midtown Tavern, 554 Piedmont Avenue. Terrain.org editorial board member Deborah Fries is one of many poets who will read. Get more info at AWP Bookfair table #270.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ocean Noise 2006

The Acoustic Ecology Institute, http://www.acousticecology.org, has released its spotlight report, Ocean Noise: What We Learned in 2006. You can view it at http://www.acousticecology.org/spotlight_oceannoise2006.html.

According to AEI, "The oceans contain over 80% of the earth’s total volume of habitat; because of limited light penetration, many ocean species rely heavily on sound for navigation, finding food, and maintaining group relationships. For decades, human activity has been increasing the noise levels in the oceans; over the past few years, we have begun to pause and consider the effects of our sounds on ocean life. The oil and gas industry, navies of the world, and field biologists are all putting more time and money into these questions than ever before. Here’s what was learned in 2006."

The online report of an often-overlooked environmental concern is worth investigating.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Terrain.org (Journal and Editor) Featured in Latest Writer's Digest

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments is one of the featured "path to poetry" online markets in the April 2007 issue of Writer's Digest.

Take a peek, and you'll also see an article wrapped around the online markets list titled "Poetic Sustenance," written by Michael J. Vaughn. It's an article/interview with four poets: Grace Cavalieri, Jane Hirshfield, Doranne Laux, and Terrain.org editor Simmons B. Buntin. The interview's theme: getting your poetry out into the world.

Go buy a copy, won't you? :~)

National Day of Climate Action : April 14, 2007

It's time to step it up, don't you think? Participate in the National Day of Climate Action on April 14.

Learn more at http://www.stepitup2007.org/.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

mixeye: News, Events, and Journalism

mixeye, a new website (for us, anyway), is currently highlighting an essay from the current issue of Terrain.org: "Earth Jazz" by Evan Eisenberg. The essay itself is a reprint from our print partner Terra Nova.

Check it out at http://www.mixeye.com/viewpoint.php?vid=226.

More on mixeye, from its own website: "Mixeye exists solely as a platform for the general public to showcase their insights and opinions. We seek to publish original, innovative articles from bloggers and previews of multimedia journalism projects to help facilitate the discovery of new perspectives and websites. Anyone can contribute. Viewpoints are categorized into channels to facilitate browsing and finding viewpoints of interest to you. So go ahead: browse through our collection of viewpoints, or contribute your own."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Annotation: Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Disturbing the Universe is a mixed-genre account not only of Freeman Dyson’s academic and professional life, but of the scientific and often moral and spiritual development of the Western world, especially the United States as an intellectual melting pot, from World War II until the 1970s. I say mixed-genre because it is part memoir, part scientific reporting, part political commentary, part speculative and philosophical examination—and always utterly fascinating.

Of course, it does not account for all events nor even all major scientific advances during the time; it is not a catalog or encyclopedia, and it is much the better for that. Always told in the first person, Disturbing the Universe is divided into three sections: I. England, II. America, and III. Points Beyond.


As the sections evolve—the first section based primarily on a few specific, narrative examples of Dyson’s childhood as well as a more detailed account of his involvement in England’s Bomber Command, the second on his personal development and scientific involvement in a wide variety of math- and physics-related endeavors of national and global implication, and the third mostly discussing the future of science, and so the future of civilization—Dyson’s approach evolves, as well.

Memoir is strongest in the early sections. Scientific reporting and to a degree political commentary are strongest in the middle and largest section of the book. Philosophical exploration and resultant political commentary, though always specific and gentlemanly, define the third section. Personal essay combining flowing narrative and strong metaphor occurs throughout.

Dyson’s book is a classic example that you must first become an expert in your field to then wax poetic on it. By that I mean that Dyson thoroughly validates his concluding arguments—his vision of mankind’s future—by detailing his experiences, conjectures, and perhaps most importantly failures along with successes.

What captivated me most, however, was not the last but rather the first and second sections of the book. Here we find Dyson writing crisp, entertaining narrative that nonetheless covers complex subjects like nuclear physics and rocket science (particularly in the second section). Toward the end of II. America, though, Dyson weaves in a much stronger critique of political and military actions in relation to his own, clearly acknowledging his role, as much for worse as for better. The chapters “The Ethics of Defense” and “The Murder of Dover Sharp” are particularly pressing and poignant in this respect. Indeed, while we’ve learned a great deal about Dyson the scientist and even Dyson the critical thinker to this point, we may have learned the most about the man as a human being in these two chapters.

Even if we believe as Dyson does that time and space do not work in linear fashion, the book is mostly chronological. Given the technical nature of much of the subject matter, as well as the significant historical events—World War II and the Cold War, predominantly—a chronological approach both makes sense and works well. But Disturbing the Universe also does not rely solely on a linear pattern, as references to historic events, people, and arts (including and perhaps especially literature), and speculation and forethought are eloquently woven throughout the text.

Dyson’s major intents here are threefold. First, he wants to record the amazing time he lived in, as well has his place and role in that time. Second, he wants to demonstrate accountability for many of the actions of the day—both his involvement in scientific discoveries, and his responsibility in activities that he realizes were not right, or at least did not turn out as perhaps then the scientists thought it might. Dyson’s realization of the great harms of nuclear fallout from bomb tests and Orion rocket tests—if ever expanded—is perhaps the strongest example. Third, he wants to build upon his great experience to offer a vision of the future—with a passionate (and still scientifically credible) call for solar energy and an entertaining and thoroughly acceptable thesis on how humans will (not may; he has no doubt of this) expand into space.

While I think the third section is the weakest of the three—simply because it cannot rest on the imagery and compelling historical details of the first two sections—I do not consider the third section a weakness. All three sections and the entire book are wonderfully written, pulling from a wide array of literary techniques that in lesser collections could seem fragmented, but here work in harmony, not unlike the beautifully simple structure of a single atom.