Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Saturday Morning Juxtaposition: Bruno Latour and Phillip K. Dick

Phillip K. Dick, Ubik

Back in the kitchen he fished in his various pockets for a dime, and, with it, started up the coffeepot. Sniffing the - to him - very unusual smell, he again consulted his watch, saw that fifteen minutes had passed; he therefore vigorously strode to the apt door, turned the knob and pulled on the release bolt.

The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”

He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”

“I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”

In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

“You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug.

From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.

“I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.

Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”

Bruno Latour (Jim Johnson), "Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer"

On a freezing day in February, posted on the door of the Sociology Department at Walla Walla University, Washington, could be seen a small hand-written notice: "The door-closer is on strike, for God's sake, keep the door closed." This fusion of labor relations, religion, advertisement, semiotics, and technique in one single insignificant fact is exactly the sort of thing I want to help describe.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I am awake. It's about 4:00a.m. The rain and wind have me worried about the roof again. There are a few water stains on my office ceiling and sometimes a trickle down the inside of a window. My son's room has another spot. I think the flashing around the chimney may need some work. I am anxious, and I am awake. And behind the worry about the roof, come all the others. This is pretty normal. The anxiety a routine.

Will is awake. It's a little after 4:30a.m. He has a cold and a bad cough. It wakes him up, and so he makes his way over to our room. He is remarkably chipper, and he politely requests cough medicine. My wife obliges. I use his interruption and the light from the bathroom to check the ceilings. No new stains in either room. No trickle down the inside of the window.

Cough medicine distributed. Potty breaks all around. Will scampers to our bed toward the promise of a snuggle. We are all awake. Will talks for a spell about something I cannot remember. I am already trying to doze off. He falls silent and begins gently rubbing my cheeks. He combs the hair away from my forehead. These gestures we have performed a thousand times. And then he grabs my nose, just as gently. This, I think, is pure joy. I am melting.

And then he falls asleep, and so do I.