Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sigh...another death

A group of men beat, shoot transgender woman, killing her, Phila. police say.
It's so sad been part of a disposable population.  This is our world too, and far more of us live here than in the privileged world like me and Caitlyn... and people say it should stop but that's all. When enough people try to stop it it will. When trans people have housing and decent jobs and a life it will stop. Are we all doing what we can to bring that about, are we all doing our best? I know I'm not. And I'm trans and run a trans clinic in the city.   RIP darling Kiesha Jenkins.  Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord.

Mismatch …

 In Defense of Chrissie Hynde: Why NPR Needs to Change and Why David Greene is a Sexist Fool | Reluctant Habits.

Giddy memorial …

 The TLS blog: John Clare and the remnants of the fairy days. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As the filmmakers candidly admit, By Our Selves might be around, on limited release, for a week only – so catch it while you can. This may be your only chance, as pictured above, to see a film starring Alan Moore, a straw bear, the singer MacGillivray (ghosting the part of Clare's dead lover Mary) and a sometime TLS contributor, Iain Sinclair, in a goat mask.

Recommended …

 Nigeness: The Green Table. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Groping in the dark…

… "Beyond Eastrod": Emily Dickinson's "From Blank to Blank--" helps me advance rather than stop and perish within the labyrinth of life.

Methinks the poem is about the realization that our understanding is incapable of fully grasping the mystery of things.

The artist and his art …

 Keeping an Eye Open — The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In general, Barnes dislikes artists who turn themselves into celebrities by behaving badly–Picasso, Courbet, Lucian Freud–and prefers the rather aloof dedication of a Braque or a Delacroix. This preference helps to mark Barnes, for all his love of French art, as a very English kind of critic.
Well, I share his preference, and I'm not at all English. In fact, Braque is a better artist than Picasso. Check out the late lithographs of birds.

Mystery bird …

… Aliens Among Us: A Brief History of the Owl ‹ Literary Hub. Hat tip, Dave Lull — the Omnipresent Wisconsin Librarian.)

Dreaming of the future...in 1900

Really interesting article from The Washington Post chronicling what those living in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like. Great images throughout.

We're talking vocabulary...

The Murmurations of Starlings

We're talking dialog...

The use of "stuff"
Baseball considers itself the most thoughtful of games, a pastime more than a sport, written about with reverence and lyricism, in which pitching is considered more art than athleticism.
Yet the primary term used to explain the art of pitching, which often determines who wins and who loses, is an inelegant word of ill-defined mush.

Something to think on …

The mind is its own place and in his inner life each of us lives the life of a ghostly Robinson Crusoe. People can see, hear and jolt one another’s bodies, but they are irremediably blind and deaf to the workings of one another’s minds and inoperative upon them.
— Gilbert Ryle, who died on this date in 1976

Monday, October 05, 2015

Michael Cunningham

The Hours, Michael Cunningham's meditation on the life, work, and legacy of Virginia Woolf, is a book that had been on my list for a while. I can't claim it moved up that list all that much; still, it was there, and I finished it last night. 

I should say up front that the book grew on me. Not that I didn't enjoy its opening sections - because I did. But the intersecting nature of the plot (and its three major characters) comes together particularly well at the end. And it's there, I felt, that the book was most satisfying, most profound in its observation.

The Hours is deceptively simple, curiously approachable. But of course, it's not simple at all; it's complex, both in terms of its narrative structure as well as its emotional landscape. Cunningham's characters - including Woolf - confront a real sorrow; and while it's sometimes mixed with a celebration of life and its victories, that sorrow is never far from the surface, never fully locked away. 

And that, for me, was one of the most lasting qualities of the book: that balance between despair and contentedness, that search for what constitutes happiness, especially in a domestic setting. 

I did have one criticism, though, and it's the same one I've articulated in response to the work of Marilynne Robinson: namely, that Cunningham's prose are too pretty, too composed. That's a trait I've noticed in Updike, too: the sense in which the writing is simply too precious. For me, the sentences comprising The Hours aren't detailed enough; they doesn't move enough. Instead, they're ephemeral; they float. 

Perhaps that was deliberate on Cunningham's part: I can't be sure. Regardless, I think the book would have revealed more had it been written with increased movement, with with the same intensity (or at least a similar intensity) that drove Woolf to create. 

As I say, I salute Cunningham for his achievement - because there's a quality to his work that's transcendent. That's a rare thing and is to be celebrated. But like Robinson, I find the writing here too delicate: I wish there were more. 

Nobel literature odds …

… Ladbrokes. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who sends along the following instructions: "from the Ladbrokes home page click on the A-Z Sports link, then click on Awards in the pop-open menu, and then on the Awards page click on the link for 11:00  2015 Nobel Prize for Literature."

And the winner is …


Just so stories …

 The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved.

The explanations offered do not even rise to the level of hypotheses, since they derive from no evidence, only supposition — how one might think and act if one were a human being eons ago in lion country and the grass started rustling.
Now let's suppose something else, that our distant ancestors were more sensitive to the natural world than we are. Bear in mind we're talking about some pretty sharp cookies now, people who figured out how to domesticate animals, make fire, who invented agriculture, carpentry, masonry, and — let's not forget — language and discourse. But the poor dumb fools understood the world and life in terms of personality, not chemicals, and were sure there was something called spirit and an invisible world corresponding to the one we see, one inhabited by its own hierarchy of beings. I would submit that this was a hypothesis based on experience and observation, i.e., evidence, not the idle fancy of people sitting at a desk.

Submit now …

… Call for Submissions (and Pretzels) | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Father and son …

 [MANIFEST] Who Were Our Fathers Before They Were Fathers? - Entertainment & Culture - EBONY. (Rus Bowden.)


 EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection Blog — Henning Mankell Dies at 67. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is much in what they do …

… Air France Workers Rip Shirts From Top Managers in Jobs Protest - Bloomberg Business.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty …

… Beauty and Reality | The American Conservative. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So, if I’m reading this correctly, a beautiful object is one that is internally harmonious in its proportions, is harmonious with the world beyond itself (which implies that it does what it is supposed to do with respect to its ends), and expresses its own ontological reality with exceptional force. This is why Dante’s Paradiso is a realm of pure light within forms. This is the poet’s way of signaling to us that in Paradise, everything appears to be exactly what it is; nothing is veiled. 

Looks like a good deal …

… Antique Mathushek Baby Grand Piano Gorgeous Matching Bench | eBay.

The people selling it are friends of mine. I already have a baby grand.

Something to think on …

It is clear enough that you are making some distinction in what you said, that there is some nicety of terminology in your words. I can't quite follow you.
— Flann O'Brien, born on this date in 1911

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Field research …

… Paul Davis On Crime: John Le Carré The Spy Who Betrayed His Best Friend...By Having An Affair With His Wife: Sensational New Biography Claims The Celebrated Novelist Conducted A Series Of 'Assignations' In Real Life.

On the castrati...

Revisiting the Varieties of Religious Experience

Science establishes no new beliefs; it merely destroys old ones. "The God whom science recognizes must be a God of universal laws exclusively," he writes, "a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business." Most men and women require a more personal God. "The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another."  (The link is to Google's search because of the WSJ firewall - pick the first item on the Google search list.) 

Top 10 writing mistakes

At the risk, therefore, of offering a deficit model of ‘creative writing,’ here, in no particular order, is my top ten list of common mistakes in unpublished (and unpublishable) manuscripts, on a scale of ‘Don’t do this’ to ‘For the love of god, no!’ In my early authorial career, I’m pretty sure I did all of these myself. I’m restricting myself to novels here, and I won’t bother with the obvious stuff about poor presentation, typos, and not reading the submission guidelines for now

Blogging note …

Debbie and I are heading out to see La Bohème at the Curtis Opera, after which we will head somewhere for dinner. So blogging will resume later.

Fact- and faith-based science …

… The Reign of Recycling - The New York Times.

Recycling has been relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college. As a result, otherwise well-informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.
Making a religion out of science is surely as dumb as making a science out of religion.

John Tierney comments.

Straight talk …

… Martha Graham on the Life-Force of Creativity and the Divine Dissatisfaction of Being an Artist | Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Inquirer reviews …

 'Collected Works' makes case for Primo Levi's singular art .

 'Contraband,' by Andrew  Cohen: Part of what made America great.

'Brief Candle in the Dark': Richard Dawkins' brilliant, fiery, funny memoir.

… Gilbert Gaul's 'Billion-Dollar Ball': The money-madness of college football.

I found this, in the review of Dawkins's memoir, rather amusing: "Dawkins has no time for scientists of 'no great distinction but who happen to be openly devout' …" This from a fellow who has done no serious bench science in more than three decades. Oh, he coined the term meme, but that's as much an article of faith as the Trinity, and has contributed nothing to the science of genetics, which owes its existence to Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar. Of course, Mendel actually did science. He didn't just write tendentious books about it.

Something to think on …

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's how the smart money bets.
— Damon Runyon, born on this date in 1880

Saturday, October 03, 2015

I beg to differ …

 Wallace Stevens Wrote a Handful of Beautiful Poems and a Lot of Tosh - Washington Free Beacon.

This strikes me as quite wrong-headed. The writer does not seem to know that Stevens understood poetry as play as well as prophecy. "In the Carolinas," one of the poems cited, is really a blend of the two. Such blending in fact is common with Stevens. There is nothing obscene about "aspic nipples," at least if you know that aspic means a "savory meat jelly." For a baby, could he speak, the phrase would do. The last two lines would make perfect sense to Thomas Aquinas, with his notion that the knower and the knower are one. As for "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," here's what Stevens wrote about it once: it "wears a deliberately commonplace costume, and yet seems to me to contain something of the essential gaudiness of poetry; that is the reason why I like it." No hint of looking down on the poor there. And as for Stevens thinking that poetry might serve as a substitute for belief in God, he may have started with that as his premise, but I think that a close and regular reading of The Collected Poems reveals it to be the diary of a journey toward faith, which can only be reached after combat with doubt. On his trips to New York City, Stevens always made sure he had some time to spend just sitting quietly in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Current riders …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Bald Eagle (Audubon), Sonnet #263.

Elusive lady …

 Decades After Her Death, Mystery Still Surrounds Crime Novelist Joseph | Vanity Fair. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I am a camera” might have been Josephine Tey’s motto. “Oh, for one of those spy cameras that one wears as a tie pin!” she wrote in a letter to her friend Caroline Ramsden, a sculptor and racehorse owner, according to Ramsden’s memoir, A View from Primrose Hill. “When I was in town this last time I thought that, apart from a well-fitting new suit, there was nothing in the world that I wanted. And then I thought that yes, there was. I wanted a camera that looked like a handbag, or a compact, or something. So that one could photograph a person standing two feet away and be looking in another direction altogether while one was doing it.... I am always seeing faces that I want to ‘keep.’ ”

Something to think on …

If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.
— James Herriott, born on this date in 1916

Friday, October 02, 2015

Sounds good …

… Antigone. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I like the phrase "the award-winning playwright Sophocles." Reminds me of Mencken's "the late Aristotle."

Worth noting...

Alienated …

There is a kind of moral blackmail at work here: to mention the rather obvious fact that young black men in the ghetto are now much more likely to be killed or otherwise seriously victimized by their peers than by the police, however reprehensibly the latter may sometimes behave, is ipso facto to yell, in other words be irrational in a particular and politically offensive way. According to Coates in another passage, even to speak of violence done to blacks by other blacks is to do “violence to language.” Rather than yell, then, it is best to keep quiet on the subject, to pass over it in silence or, better still, fail even to notice it. And this, be it remembered, is a recommendation to his son.
Coates fails to notice that his blanket exoneration of the perpetrators actually dehumanizes them. On his view, when the young perpetrators pull the trigger or thrust the knife in they are only vectors of forces, not agents with purposes, desires, plans, or motives. Therefore they are not really men at all, so that, ironically enough, they become for him Invisible Man writ large.

Brain implants will make us more Godlike, Kurzweil claims

"We're going to add additional levels of abstraction," he said, "and create more-profound means of expression."More profound than Twitter? Is that possible?Kurzweil continued: "We're going to be more musical. We're going to be funnier. We're going to be better at expressing loving sentiment."Because robots are renowned for their musicality, their sense of humor and their essential loving qualities.
From the comments:

The human race has heard this one before, I believe

Cutting to the heart...

...is a storytelling device Christians need, says here.  The funny thing in my mind is that cutting to the heart is precisely where certain apologetics and other "Christian storytellers" fail:  how are they going to "cut to the heart" when calling others names, like intrinsically disorder, lacking moral legitimacy, etc. etc.  I think the heart has to be a heart first.