Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Unboiling eggs...

The impossibility of unboiling an egg put the word unboil in our lexicon at least 90-odd years before science made the impossible possible, and another version of unboil is even older. 

Independent publishers arise...

In Philadelphia

Should we care …

… 4 Prominent Ayn Rand Recanters — Hit & Run : Reason.com.



Many years ago, I gave a lecture that was attended by a number of Rand's disciples. Like most dogmatists, they were hard to have a conversation with. I was never able to get into any of her books, though I have always thought that Gary Cooper's performance in the movie version of The Fountainhead was insightfully wooden.

Sharp words …

 Poet Sonia Sanchez's life gets film treatment. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Online now …

Garner Review.

The perils of plugging in …

… Untrending | The Curator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Poets of the new millennium face a compound dilemma. Not only are we distracted as readers, we’re flighty and prone to overshare as writers. Where once was a stable narrative center of desk, writing instrument, and ream of bond now proliferate laptop, tablet, smartphone, and flat panel display. Even cable and satellite programming are being supplanted by devices like Roku and Apple TV that offer streaming media subscriptions.
I read as much as I ever did, though as often as not these days using my iPad Kindle app. I watch less TV than I ever have, mostly movies, and fewer and fewer of those, it seems. The computer has never seemed to me much more than a better kind of typewriter — no need for whiteout, capable of justifying margins, etc. I have a Twitter account, but don't use it much. I'm linkedin, but don't really know what to do about that. As my occasional haiku indicate, I spend a good bit of time sitting on park benches watching all the world go by. 

Listen in …

… Episode 128 – Rhonda K. Garlic, author of Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History: Impecunious Nobles | Virtual Memories.

“I remain certain that there is no one else who has had this sort of aesthetic influence.” 

Something to think on …

With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch.
— Walter Pater, born on this date in 1839

O thou dull god...

Naked vs nude...

Monday, August 03, 2015

Haiku …


He wished she were here
Sitting beside him, looking
At the oaks and sky.

Mark thy calendar …


Art opening …

This Thursday night, at Dirty Frank's Bar, there is an opening for a new exhibition for the bar's Off The Wall Gallery. It is of work by my friend Felix Giordano, work I happen to admire.
It would be easy to identify Felix's work with Pop Art. But it would be wrong. Pop Art was to a large extent simply a coordination of art with advertising. Felix's work is something altogether different. It is grounded, as is that of every authentic artist, in how he sees the world. And what Felix has noticed from the start is how pop culture — movies, comics, and, yes, advertising — has shaped how we see the world. Hence, he has incorporated allusions to such in his paintings. This makes them as reflective of their time in their own peculiar way as Botticelli's are of his time. Which is another of saying that they are timeless. Bear in mind, this is someone who paints with color right on to the canvas, exactly like today's premier traditionalist, Nelson Shanks. In their very different ways, Felix and Nelson are both classicists. 
Anyway, the paintings are already up, I believe, so if you find yourself near 13th and Pine, stop in, have a brew, and take a look.

See also: Something to look at …

As well it should …

 After 20 years, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy thrives on the web. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Oops …

… The L.A. Times’ Ted Rall Versus the LAPD: He Made It Up. And He Got Caught. | PJ Media.

The value of a classical education …

 That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket.

“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”
Yes, knowing how to think and write can prove useful.

Not exactly reassuring …

… You can’t understand Pope Francis without Juan Perón — and Evita - The Washington Post.

Better late? Maybe not …

 The Trouble with Late People | Reluctant Habits.

Psychology Today‘s Adoree Durayappah-Harrison offers the provocative suggestion that late people arrive at meetings when they do because they don’t want to be early. But this too seems a strange reason to pardon the late person. Isn’t arriving early a plus? You don’t have to walk into a meeting place right away. You can survey the surroundings, saunter around a new neighborhood, chat with a stranger, send a text, and perform countless other acts because you see time as something to be savored. Moreover, does the late person seriously believe that the punctual person always enjoys being early? Why should the late person get preferential treatment?

Something to think on …

I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.
— P. D. James, born on this date in 1920

Another one bites the dust...

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Faulkner's offensive books

There is a key lesson here, one I’ve seen time and again in over 40 years of teaching: What we condemn today may be prized tomorrow; what we praise today may look silly in a hundred years. Andthere is another lesson as well: Books show us where we have been, and, morecrucially, what it felt like to be there.

Suffering brings humanity

For years, I felt the burden of my scars: the unending pain, the odd-looking medical braces, the pressure bandages that covered me from head to toe, the feeling of having gone through some kind of weird door and of living separately from the day-to-day experiences of my previous self and other “normal” people. I’d become an observer of my own life, as if I were watching an experiment on someone else—and I looked anew at other people as well.
This new approach became central to my work. Remembering the placebos given instead of medications during some treatments, I conducted experiments to explore the effects of expectations on painful treatments.
 

Now this is interesting …

Not the place to start …

… New collection of Shirley Jackson writings is best left to devoted fans - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well worth seeing …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Visit To The Philadelphia Museum Of Art's "Discovering the Impressionists" Exhibit.



Debbie and I went to see it last Wednesday. Durand-Ruel deserves all the praise heaped on him. The catalog will certainly be in my holiday book roundup later this year.

Contemporary discourse …

… From Boring to Baffling - Taki's Magazine.

We use this signifier, “hypermodernity,” instead of, say, “postmodernity” or “high modernity” because the prefix “hyper” is probably better for conveying the strategic dimension of contemporary modernity. It is precisely this strategic dimension of the contemporary which is producing extreme levels of reflexivity and flexibility. These, in turn, (re)produce a process of socio-cultural hyperdifferentiation, and, as such, feedback into contemporary strategization.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

Hmm …

The same parts of the brain that control the stress response … play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives… Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what the molecules and nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts. And then we need to ask whether these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.
Maybe we should also learn to think more clearly. That the stress response is, well, a response to stress, which is presumably external. no one disputes. Since we have a body, it is hardly surprising that said body would react to environmental factors such as stress. That is not the same as saying that "nerve pathways and molecules [underlie] psychological responses." You have an experience. Your body reacts to it. That reaction has a biochemical component, to be sure. But that is hardly the whole story.
Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: a trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. Each can lead into the black box and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere.
Yes, it's all very complex, and cannot be reduced merely to biochemical factors, especially given that those factors are triggered by the sensations born of experience, which is to say interaction with the world. Also, as Dr. Sternberg notes, memory plays a decisive role in all of this, and memory, we now know, is not just a tape recording of events, but an imaginative re-working of them. There is a lot said here that we have all known for quite some time, and little new that tells us anything.
It hardly needs to be said that our organism reacts to environmental stimuli in the only way it can: chemically. But to say that this chemical process causes our emotions seems a stretch. Nice to know how those chemical reactions proceed, of course, but I rather suspect that they only reflect the emotions. It is my seeing something that scares me or delights me that sets the body off, not the other way around.

Inquirer reviews …

'League of Outsider Baseball': Poetic unknown stories of our national game.

… Anthony Rose's 'Men of War': Troops' roles in three great conflicts.

… Chris Harrison's 'Perfect Letter': A perfect beach read.

… Monique Laney's 'German Rocketeers': An unbelievable true tale.

Something to think on …

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.
— James Baldwin, born on this date in 1924

Saturday, August 01, 2015

FYI …

… The Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2015.

Schooled beyond their intelligence …

… The College That Hates ‘Americans’ - The Daily Beast.

Instead of referring to the elderly as senior citizens (or even as the elderly), members of the UNH community are encouraged to embrace the most up-to-date politically-correct terminology: “people of advanced age” in this case, according to the guide. This is supposed to be somehow less derogatory than “senior citizen”, which of course was once the politically correct of saying “old”.
I like "geezer" myself.

Pushback …

 Fisking the Guardian’s Latest Sad Puppy Article of the Week | Monster Hunter Nation.

Isaac, we hardly know ya …

The Unknown Newton — A Symposium — The New Atlantis.

Discovery …

… F. Scott Fitzgerald story, long thought lost, is finally published - StarTribune.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Times two …

… Titus Andronicus’ ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’ Brilliant Double Album. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



The band doesn't grab me especially, but I'm an old man, even if a first-generation rocker. I just find a lot of today's bands formulaic. In fact, I find much that is being turned out these days in all sorts of areas formulaic. The posters I see as I walk up Ninth Street, advertising various rock groups, seem so unoriginal in their attempts at edginess. This, from 1972, is what real edginess is:

Nilsson sings Sondheim …

 This Recording Could Have Changed the Way We Think About Broadway - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sometimes at odds …

… 20011: Biography and Memoir.

The sea of faith …

 Zealotry of Guerin: The Wave, Sonnet #253.

Something to think on …

The most important sentence in a good book is the first one; it will contain the organic seed from which all that follows will grow.
— Paul Horgan, born on this date in 1903