Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another loss ...

... director Michelangelo Antonioni has died at 94.

The GOB and Bryan ...

... Reflections on our Times.

I agree with Dave Lull that Bryan's praise was directed at Marilynne Robinson, not writers workshops. But I also agree with the GOB that writers workshops are rather a waste. I'm not even sure that studying with a great writer is worthwhile - other than by reading said writer's books, that is.

A crimson debut ...

... the first Hawaiian hibiscus of the season opened yesterday in our garden.

Ingmar Bergman, sui generis?

While just about all the obits and appreciations I've read of the admittedly great Ingmar Bergman unfailingly note his influence on film makers who followed him, I haven't seen any that mention the undoubted influence on Bergman of the great Danish director, Carl Dreyer. I don't know if Bergman ever publicly acknowledged Dreyer's imprint, but anyone who has watched any movie of the almost-30-years-older Dane couldn't help but notice it.

Light blogging ...

... until later. I have a review to write.

One more ...

... Ingmar Bergman piece, this one by Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey: Ingmar Bergman, 89, virtuoso of the art film. Carrie's conclusion is one others seem to have missed:
"In Fanny and Alexander, about the daughter of a sunny theatrical family who marries a repressive clergyman, the mature filmmaker reconciled the clashing themes of his earlier work. The moral of his last feature film, that art and faith need each other, stands as his eloquent epitaph."

Clear thinking ...

... there has been a lot of discussion lately about learning and technology, much of it having to do with the loss of authority by those who have been gatekeepers. But Alan Wall's A Defence of the Book (hat tip, Dave Lull) is different in that it makes a distinctly valid point:

"That new and potent ideology which claims that it is not the internalisation of knowledge that should be the aim of education, simply the acquisition of techniques for effectively accessing it. In other words, the skills do not have to be ‘learnt’, simply located, downloaded, then stored for future use" is indeed, as Wall says, cant pure nad simple. And his explanation as to why it is cant is right on the money: "Real learning modifies the human being who undergoes it. We change; we grow; we see reality differently. If we don’t, then we have not, in fact, learnt: we have merely skimmed the surface of a learning subject. Learning is participatory, which is why in any text-based subject, reading is usually more educative than watching a DVD. The more passive the student can be, the more the information simply passes over the mind, rather than entering it. In one ear and out the other, as we say. But reading, serious reading, close reading, reading of the sort that I still teach in a department of English, cannot tolerate such superficial engagement. Surface contact with the text results in failure, and so it should. Reading involves the whole mind; it is a negotiation of meaning. It is demanding, and rightly so. Merely ‘accessing’ the text does not help."

Technology can aid learning. It cannot substitute for it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hey, this is a good cause ...

... so cough up some change: MS City to Shore bicycle charity ride.

Improve your life ...

... For Those Who Want to Make Reading a Part of Their Lives.

Bryan on Bergman ...

... don't bother with what the Times's chief film critic has to say. Just read Bryan's Ingmar Bergman.

A personal note: My first spouse and I started watching Scenes from a Marriage and turned it off. It was too much like watching a home movie.

Pretty impressive ...

... pretty funny, too: Variations of an Air. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More on Bergman ...

... from my former classmate Dick Corliss: Why Ingmar Bergman Mattered.

This year's ...

... Bulwer-Lytton winner. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

At a library near you ...

... the most borrowed books.

Forget Dow Jones ...

... how about The Rapture Index? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It's looking worrisome - I guess.

Not again ...

... Sven Birkerts weighs in on the print versus online discussion and finds himself Lost in the blogosphere. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Birkerts cites Cynthis Ozick:
What is needed," Ozick writes, "is a broad infrastructure, through a critical mass of critics, of the kind of criticism that can define, or prompt, or inspire, or at least intuit, what is happening in a culture in a given time frame. . . . In this there is something almost ceremonial, or ceremoniously slow: unhurried thinking, the ripened long (or sidewise) view, the gradualism of nuance."
To which I would respond: Nothing is stopping anybody from being unhurried in their thinking, letting their views ripen, so that no nuance is released before its time - and posting the results online when they feel ready to. Just because the Web allows one to do things quickly doesn't mean that everything done there must be done quickly. As a matter of fact, it is those of us in print media who face the tighter deadlines. As I have said before, newspapers' cutting back on book coverage will do more harm to newspapers than it will to criticism or reviewing.
Ed Champion has some thoughts, too: Sven Birkerts and “Literary Life”

Death won't be the same ...

... Ingmar Bergman has died.

To quote Browning, "I feel chilly and grown old." I associate Bergman's films with my youth and his influence on my own spiritual development was incalculable. I think of his films as works of literature, since the screenplays of his best films are as interesting to read as the films themselves are to watch.
I'm not sure I agree with this: "The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring (1960), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963) and The Silence (1963) all lead progressively to a rejection of religious belief, leaving only the conviction that human life is haunted by 'a virulent, active evil'." I don't know where that phrase about evil comes from and I found Winter Light exhilarating in its passionate engagement of the dilemmas of faith.
As I've suggested here before, faith settles nothing. It is a struggle, not a victory. Bergman's own faith may have proved incapable of bearing doubt, but his engagement with religious issues was never glib.
Here's the dream sequence from Wild Strawberries and the chess game with death in The Seventh Seal.
Here's an inteview: Part I and Part II.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The ultimate travelogue ...

... Dante's Self-Help Book. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Indeed ...

... I have suggested here a number of times that Richard Dawkins and his assorted acolytes ought to take a look at Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy. That book is mentioned in passing in this piece by Roger Scruton: The sacred and the human. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The point is that some sense of the presence of the transcendent comes with the territory of being human. It is Dawkins and friends who are out of the evolutionary loop.

Missing Maxine ...

... but catching up on Petrona posts I missed, including this one: Taking science too seriously.

And that's not all ...

... he also interviews Nathan Englander: A writer who can't rest in peace.

Bryan takes on Web 2.0 ...

... Notorious nobodies.

The truth is, for the moment, that nobody knows what will happen next. Either we will get more narcissism and self-promotion, enhanced by ever more exotic technology, or this will turn out to be a phase. The blended iPods, the vacuous or weird web celebs, will come to be seen as the florid birth pangs of a technology that, in its highest manifestations, will succeed in bringing the world together. Human nature being what it is, however, there are good reasons to be sceptical if not downright pessimistic.

Sunday sermon (II) ...

... The Dawkins Confusion.

This is particularly interesting, since it demonstrates the contrast between a real philosopher - Plantinga - and a philosophical dilettante like Dawkins:

The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins' naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can't rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.

Sunday sermon (I) ...

... Hitchens’ Hubris. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is worth noting:
The main arguments that Hitchens offers against Christianity are that evolution explains the origin of life on earth, that portions of the Bible are not literally true, and that the four Gospels are not mathematical reproductions of each other. These arguments don’t get Hitchens where he wants to go. Many eminent Christians have seen no contradiction between evolution and their belief. John Paul II stated that evolution was “more than a hypothesis,” and Cardinal Newman wrote shortly after the publication of Darwin’s work that “Mr. Darwin’s theory need not be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and skill.” Newman also echoed the Thomistic belief that reason and revelation are complementary, not antagonistic, in words all Christians should take to heart: “if anything seems to be proved by astronomer or geologist, or chronologist, or antiquarian, or ethnologist, in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or secondly, not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to any thing really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation.”

And long before Newman or John Paul, such important figures as St. Augustine and St. Jerome looked to the Old Testament not primarily for historical or scientific knowledge, but to see how it pointed the way to Christ. Indeed, Augustine speculated that different species of animals were not the result of separate miraculous acts of creation, as a literal reading of Genesis would suggest, but the result of a process in which the conditions for life created by God gradually became operative.

Literary discourse ...

... from Kenya. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... Carlin Romano ponders the risk of being a Russian dissident: 2 great takes on Russian spy drama.

... a combat veteran is impressed with Yasmina Khadra's The Sirens of Baghdad: How the war on terror can turn friend into foe.

... Katie Haegele looks at animated poetry: Still looking at blackbirds.

... Charles Desnoyers considers a fresh take on the Hellenistic Period: New look at a transformational era.

... Roger Miller reminds us of how original Damon Runyon was: 'Guys & Dolls': 75 years of rockin' the boat.

... Sandy Bauers expresses gratitude: Dear Author: Thanks for not killing off a fave character.

... and in a related piece, film critic Carrie Rickey considers The Jane Junkies.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Get acquainted ...

... with our girl Katie's The La-La Theory.

It isn't just me ...

... 70 or 70 x 7? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The NAB is worse than just an abominable, inaccurate, and tin-eared translation. It's a near occasion of sin - just what one would expect from today's American Catholic hierarchy. (There are honorable exceptions, of course, notably Lincoln, Neb., Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, but overall the American hierarchy is temporizing and timorous.)

Attention, Brian Tierney ...

... Reading books correlates with affluence.

Bryan, Dyana, and a snail ...

...Thoughts for the Day.

Regarding the astronauts, though, Glenn notes that the story may not amount to much.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A reminder to give ...

... to the MS City to Shore bicycle charity ride.

Traduttore, tradittore ...

... Translating Zbigniew Herbert. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Au naturel ...

... Breaking the Laws of Medieval Blogging.

Poetic lord ...

... Poet of the Week: Fulke Greville. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who notes:
"His poems make their appeal to the ear and the intellect, not to the inner eye." [Good for those of us with a deficient, or even an absent, inner eye.])

Good God ...

... Garrison Keillor seems to be looking poorly: Poem: "The Clasp" .

Check out this item to. Especially, click on the first link, to John Treadwell Nichols:
It's the birthday of John Treadwell Nichols (books by this author), born in Berkeley, California (1940). After traveling in Central America and moving to New Mexico, he decided that he had to write a political novel about the lives of Latin American people. He worked on seven novels that never saw the light of day, and then finally came out with The Milagro Beanfield War (1974), about a poor man who diverts water from an irrigation canal so that he can raise beans to support his family. It was a great success, and Robert Redford made it into a movie.

None terribly attractive ...

... it seems to me: Certain Character or Personality Patterns.

Good news ...

... About 100 unpublished poems. I am very fond of Mistral's poetry. I wish they had posted some of the photos.

On your mark ...

... Writers in Training. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I actually don't think it's a good idea to go to school to learn how to write. I think it's best to read a lot and look around you and observe carefully what's going on and then just sit down and write ... and write ... and write.


... so it turns out he's not friendly to people: Oscar the Serial Killer.

True, Bryan's not the most dispassionate observer in this case, but I think the prima facie evidence is there. (By the way, I rather like cats myself. At least I liked Pandora, who was with me for 20 years and is buried in our garden. I like dogs, too - more than cats, actually. But Pandora was special.)

Let's have a contest ...

... since a number of people have suggested that this shot of me is a worthy subject for a caption contest, I say let rip with your entries. One clarification, though: The photo - as the sharp-eyed Vikram Johri has noted - was taken with Carlin Romano's corner of the book room in the background (Carlin was on vacation at the time, I think). So the clutter is really his. The front of my desk can be seen in the lower lefthand corner of the photo. I'll take a picture of the rest of the room next week and post for the edification of all.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Legal shenanigans ...

... Carlin Romano's piece on Saira Rao's Chambermaid ( Novel does no honor to judge) has drawn much attention. Here, for instance: Chambermaid: Judge Sloviter Speaks. And here: Chambermaid: For the Record. We'll check for when Carlin responds to their email.

Surprise, surprise ...

... Shocker: Lefty Book Reviewer gives Right-leaning Book a Bad Review.

Remembering Heinlein ...

... Robert A. Heinlein's Legacy and “We must ride the lightning”: Robert Heinlein and American spaceflight.

Online poetry alert ...

... the folks at WordFlair have put together an anthology of 50 internet poets: A Bouquet of Poetry.

Attention O'Hara fans ...

... John O'Hara in Ranks.

Words, words, words ...

... Increasing Your Vocabulary.

As Amy notes, these do not seem especially unusual. But it's nice to have them gathered in one place.

Me and mine ...

... a shot of yours truly that Andro Linklater took of me when he was at the office for an interview.

A nanny state tale ...

... Zero Tolerance.

Let's help, folks ...

... MS City to Shore bicycle charity ride.

What's going on ...

... Shameless has just been to Mysterious Venice, which is where I happen to know Maxine currently is.

The horror, the horror ....

... Tomatoes and Milk.

Apart from Susan's tomato bisque recipe (what I immediately thought of myself) this post includes some of the ost ghastly culinary references imaginable, though it's nice to learn that Bryan and I share a fondness for halibut.

Another Lull ...

... though they spell it Llull: Catalan Culture’s Programme for Frankfurt 2007 is presented.

Talk about contrarian ...

... Our Creed and Our Character. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"In Keynes’s haughty disdain can be found the intellectual lineaments of countless subsequent attacks on American imperialism—a point of view that, as Gelernter observes, has lately been embraced by American intellectuals who are as ill at ease with our national religiosity as are their European counterparts. For such religion-hating postmodernists, there can be no salvation without secularism."

Headline of the day ...

... Chief Lies-a-Lot fired.

Glenn agrees and has more.

The comments appended to the Chronicle of Higher Education piece are interesting. Some demonstrate that tenure does not necessarily carry with it a capacity for clear thinking. Churchill falsified his credentials, stole others' intellectual property, and misrepresented still others'. Yet some seem to think that tenure is tenure, by whatever means obtained, and must be respected without furtrher question. The fact is, Churchill is a fraud and, except at being a fraud, an incompetent.

What we returned to ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amy's back ...

... 8 Things.

The reader vote ...

... Literary Write-in. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My own choice would be Ahab/Starbuck.

Cogito, ergo Gallicus sum

Those cogitating French are all tumulte over their new leaders' attitudes towards thinking. Those leaders apparently think (if that's the word) it's overrated.

An original ...

... for sure: Spiegel Interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

This is interesting: "The February Revolution had deep roots -- I have shown that in 'The Red Wheel.' First among these was the long-term mutual distrust between those in power and the educated society, a bitter distrust that rendered impossible any compromise, any constructive solutions for the state."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Well, I knew ...

... but then my brother was a flyboy: Wiley Post.

He also looked like Ronald Colman.

The purpose of art ...

... and other thoughts from Terry Teachout onscreen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More here.

Still art ...

... after 50 years: Seductive Spectacle.

Curiouser and curiouser ...

... The truly miraculous properties of carbon dioxide. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More about truth ...

... Intellectual adolescence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This covers a wide expanse of nonsense, but I particularly liked this: "Louise Lamphere ... a past president of the American Anthropological Association, claims that there is an 'urgent need' for an 'engaged anthropology,' within which moral commitment trumps impersonal scientific concern ..." Exactly what is her moral certainty grounded in, I wonder.

It isn't just Hollywood ...

... William Katz remembers: Hollywood, hurray for? The sequel.

Worth thinking about ...

... Ever again. I fear it may be so, as indicated here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The endangered book review ...

... Poisoning the Well.

I can't say that I disagree with this exactly - no surprise there, I suppose - but I can't help thinking that abandoning book reviews poses a greater danger to newspapers than it does to reviews or reviewers or literature. Reviewing will continue to take place in some way, shape or form. But there will be one less reason to pick up a newspaper.

Where we were ...

... on vacation.

An interesting question ...

... What do you give back?

I am myself more in the not-letting-my left-hand-know-what-my-right-is-doing school.

Yes ...

...`Nothing is So Beautiful'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The road to Damascus ...

... musically speaking, that is: From Iggy to Gigli: my journey to the Proms. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

More Harry Potter news ...

... Unread First Edition, First Issue.

Check out ...

... Bill Peschel's Reader's Almanac.


... As Ellen Terry put it ...

Hard thoughts ...

... but worth reading, especially the Arthur Miler obit: Post hoc.

Another bad idea ...

... nicely skewered: The Elders Are Coming! (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Richard Branson seems to be hell-bent on proving (as if it hadn't been demonstrated often already) that you can make a lot of money and still be a dimwit.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How science works ...

... and how not: Angier's The Canon and New Atheism at Prosthesis. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In this connection, this is very much worth looking at, since, I gather, it is up for peer review, and it's about soundness of methodology: Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts*.

"We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts to support global
warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get

Poetry and madness ...

... hearing voices (speaking in tongues) the poetry of schizophrenia. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.) I have seen schizophrenia up close. It is a terrible affliction.

Speaking of Bryan ...

... we may as well Bring on the Brain.

Beautiful, downtown ...

... Tunkhannock.

Score me skeptical ...

... Bryan Appleyard on psychometric tests: Want a job? Let’s play mind games.

I'm not sure I'm quite as skeptical this, however:

Who are you?

Never been asked, but if it ever is, answer: “I don’t know and, more to the point, you never will.”

I know who I am. I just can't say it in so many words.

My two cents ...

... Dan Green agrees and disagrees with Eliza:End of Week Pronouncements. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think Eliza's point is simply that it is better to read than not and that we ought not to be taken to task because what we read doesn't measure up to someone else's high-falutin' standard. Reading is a co-creative act. A mediocre book may well stimulate a first-rate imaginative response in a reader whose imagination might well not be sparked by Swann's Way. So what?

A model discussion ...

... Keen vs. Weinberger. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm mostly on Weinberger's side in this, but I applaud both for a thorough and thoroughly civil dialogue.

Today's Inquirer reviews ...

... first, the biggie - Susan Balée just loved the new and final Harry Potter: Dark and witty, 'Potter' bows at its best. (She's not the only one: 759 Pages, No Waiting.)

... Martha Woodall is somewhat disappointed in Elizabeth Berg's latest: WWII story engaging, lacks depth.

... Steve Weinberg thinks Hamlin Garland's A Son of the Middle Border still holds up: Memoir a classic in 1917, still so in reissue.

... Chris Patsilelis likes The Pentagon: Seat of U.S. military might.

... Sarah Weinman is of two minds about the new Ruth Rendell: Another entry from Ruth Rendell

... Katie Haegele is much taken with Cecil Castellucci's Beige: Young Adult Reader | How she spent vacation: 21/2 weeks with punk-rock Dad.

... and here's more on Pearl Buck: Scripting a Pearl Buck revival.

When stories clash ...

... it's good know they're all true (see previous post):Both New Republic and Weekly Standard Missing Elementary Journalism.

Tom Lipscomb, by the way, who reviews for The Inquirer, is as sharp a journalist as you are likley to find on this planet. I'll have to ask him what he thinks of Ms. Trunk's epistemelogical insights.

There is no truth ...

... only autobiography ... or something like that. And so: It Doesn't Matter that Journalists Misquote Everyone.

"Journalists who think they are telling 'the truth' don't understand the truth. We each have our own truth." Gee, I never knew that. And I've always taken great pains to make sure I quoted people accurately. I also always took pains to make sure what was quoted was placed in context. I even thought I was tring to tell someone else's story, and not just my own, over and over again, all the time. Silly me. Not surprising, though, since I "don't understand that the truth." I thought it had something to do with the conformity of the mind to reality. Obviously, though, it's just the way people see things - nobody's right and, of course, nobody's wrong.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A must read ...

... The Banality of Evil 2. The must read is the review of Bryan's that he links to near the end of the post. Note that at no point does he divulge any of the sensational (and presumably gruesome) details. This is a well-nigh perfect book review, filled with money quotes, though I will cite only one: "in the last analysis, the evil act is a decision, even when taken by children. No causal chain, however plausible, will account for that moment of dreadful freedom when some do and some do not. The only coherent and humane account we have of such decisions is the Christian doctrine of original sin which says, not that people are evil, but rather that there is evil in all of us. This is humane because it provides sympathetic insight rather than dubious chains of quasi-scientific causality."

Beautiful, downtown ...

... Laceyville, PA.

A nice way ...

... to start the day: The great Paul Desmond. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is the same effect Harry Potter will have on bookstores worldwide at midnight tonight.

Although this sounds as if it should have come from the Farmer's Almanac, this compelling bit of history comes from today's Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1875 that the largest recorded swarm of locusts in American history descended upon the Great Plains. It was a swarm about 1,800 miles long, 110 miles wide, from Canada down to Texas. North America was home to the most numerous species of locust on earth, the Rocky Mountain locust. At the height of their population, their total mass was equivalent to the 60 million bison that had inhabited the West. The Rocky Mountain locust is believed to have been the most common macroscopic creature of any kind ever to inhabit the planet.

Swarms would occur once every seven to twelve years, emerging from river valleys in the Rockies, sweeping east across the country. The size of the swarms tended to grow when there was less rain--and the West had been going through a drought since 1873. Farmers just east of the Rockies began to see a cloud approaching from the west. It was glinting around the edges where the locust wings caught the light of the sun.

People said the locusts descended like a driving snow in winter. They covered everything in their path. They sounded like thunder or a train and blanketed the ground, nearly a foot deep. Trees bent over with the weight of them. They ate nearly every living piece of vegetation in their path. They ate harnesses off horses and the bark of trees, curtains, clothing that was hung out on laundry lines. They chewed on the handles of farm tools and fence posts and railings. Some farmers tried to scare away the locusts by running into the swarm, and they had their clothes eaten right off their bodies.

Similar swarms occurred in the following years. The farmers became desperate. But by the mid 1880s, the rains had returned, and the swarms died down. Within a few decades, the Rocky Mountain locusts were believed to be extinct. The last two live specimens were collected in 1902, and they're now stored at the Smithsonian.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Harry Potter tale ...

... I Was an eBay Voldemort.


... I am back from the hospital - and so is Debbie. Her surgery went extraordinarily well this morning. A growth, apparently benign, was removed and she didn't even have to spend the night at the hospital. I cannot express what a relief this is. Thanks to all who sent best wishes and offered up prayers. They were all deeply appreciated.

Larkin larking

What the experience of being in a clothing store evoked in Philip Larkin.

How to appear cultured

Speaking of book reviews, Dave Lull (when the credits roll at the end of today, his will be the only name on them) points out this amusing one about a non-reading French literature professor.

She's why newspapers are cutting back on book reviews.

One woman; 7 years; 12,000 book reviews.

If you're not a classicist.........

.........this review will make you wish you were one. I loved Latin in school and would have liked to have been a classicist myself, had I not become a smooth-talking drifter (which has its own consolations).

In the spirit of vacation travel ...

... comes this article, discovered via Bookninja, which, I have to admit, I completely understand. While I wouldn't say I spend half my travel time in bookstores, there's something romantic about browsing stories in some far-away place. This means, though, that the dispute over the enjoyment - added weight ratio is not uncommon amongst traveling family members.

Swimming against the current

In Charlotte, The News & Observer is EXPANDING its books coverage.

Oh dear ...

Applause to Nige for pointing out this article and thereby completely undermining my faith in humanity.

Hooray for Inquirer Books!

What can I say? I find new reviews exciting.

Susan Balée appreciates the animals in Jon Katz's Dog Days: Sometimes you feel like a mutt . . . so fetch this

See what I mean ...

... For Harry Potter, Good Old-Fashioned Closure.

As I said yesterday, Serves them right ...

The trouble with the media (cont'd.) ...

... or Mondern Journalism in a Nutshell.

Geez, what a dim-witted argument to advance.

Then, there's this: All journalism, all the time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Score one for Bryan ...

... I think this is best refutation of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" thesis that I have read: Potter 3: Amanda, Arendt and The Banality of Evil.

In fairness to Arendt, though, I think she was trying to dispel the notion that there is always something slightly glamourous about evildoers - a la Mephistopheles, or Milton's Satan. On the contrary: The perpetrators of evil are, as often as not, dull, uninteresting brutes.

Where I am ...

... I am back from a week in the cabin we rent outside Tunkhannock. But I'm not back in the office until a week from today. So blogging will be sporadic until then. Tomorrow there won't be any at all, because my wife is having surgery and I will be at the hospital all day.

Serves them right ...

... Last Harry Potter leaks online.

This news fills me with the wonderful thrill of schadenfreude. Allow me to explain.
A few years ago, at BookExpo America, I attended a panel discussion regarding embargo agreements. Those on the panel proudly declared that they never had and never would sign an agreement to honor a book embargo (i.e., promising to publish nothing about said book until the date of publication). I found the whole business sufficatingly sanctimonious. I had, have, and will continue to sign such agreements. Why? Because it's in the interest of The Inquirer's readers, that's why. I'm in the business of getting them news about books as expeditiously as I can, not in the business of being holier than thou.
But the lengths to which publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic have gone to prevent anyone from knowing anything about the latest Harry Potter book until the precise moment the publishers allow them to has reeked of arrogance. No review was ever going to give away the ending. And the publishers know as well as I do that the New York Times will get a copy of the book beforehand. They always do. They got a copy of the last one. So refusing to grant other papers any pre-publication access to the book gives the Times an advantage by default. Quite frankly, as a representative of one of those papers, I resent that.
Moreover, there is something inherently offensive about a publisher going to such extremes to prevent information from becoming public. I would have have gladly signed an embargo agreement - and I would have honored it to the letter, as I always have. Bloomsbury and Scholastic would have earned the good will born of civility and cordiality. As it is, I have to review the Potter book. But when something else comes along that Bloomsbury or Scholastic would like special attention paid to, I suspect I'm going to suddenly discover my Missouri roots.
So I'm glad, really glad, that all their security measures have come to nought. It's what they ought to have come to.

Consider the comma;

OK, it's not quite as thirst-quenching but, the old Coca Cola refrain notwithstanding, that humble punctuation mark really is the pause that refreshes.

Summertime and the livin' is, well, not so easy.

If anyone out there is a meteorologist (even an amateur one if there is such a thing), an answer please.
If the Iraqi parliament is taking off for a month because "it's 135 degrees in Iraq in August", how cool does it get on September 1?

The trouble with the media ...

... Greatest Living American Ignored.

More here.

William Makepeace Thackeray

It's his birthday today (1811) and he wrote "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know until he takes up a pen to write."
And that thought itself may have been one of them.
Hat tip for the birthday tip to The Writer's Almanac.

Great minds ...

... my colleague Carlin Romano and I are, once again, on the same page: If We Don't Call Them Names, the Terrorists Win.

Should Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy head of Al Qaeda, be the only "leader" quoted making moral judgments — that Arab regimes are "corrupt" — in a week of terrorist incidents? Why do media parrot this moral irresponsibility, as in The Boston Globe's post-Glasgow editorial that the terrorist threat can "be countered by means of sound intelligence, conventional police work, legal adaptations that do not create a law-free zone, and leadership that distinguishes law-abiding communities from the crazed Islamist ideologues that prey upon them"?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Before there was Diana ...

... there was Margaret Rose: Princess Margaret: A Life Unravelled.

But, speaking of Diana, here's Tina Brown and The Diana Chronicles.

Bryan at his best ...

... Knowledge is nothing to be scared of. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

For readers of E. Ethelbert Miller........

.........And you know who you are, today's your lucky day. Go here, here and here.

Zut alors!

Pegasus Books has announced it will publish in October a new (well, new-ish) novel by Alexandre Dumas. Let's just call it recently re-discovered. It's only about 150 years-old.

Inquirer alum, Tim Weiner

..........and Pulitzer Prize winner while here, has written a history of the CIA. Historian Michael Beschloss finds much to admire in it. Other reviews can be found here, here and here.

Tibet loses another round

Chinese Internet police have shut down a Tibetan website.

Henry James in Paris

He probably loved it there. As Steve Martin has pointed out, the French have a word for everything.

Bryan Appleyard scotches the idea

............of a single-malt culture.

Winning poetry ...

... from Mike Allen (whose Strange Wisdoms of the Dead I reviewed last year): 2007 Rhysling Awards.

Here and here are two YouTube clips of The Journey to Kalish. (Hat Tip, Laurie Mason.)

Welcome home Frank!

We're glad to have you back.

In the Inquirer Books world ...

... Charles Desnoyers explores Colin Thubron's latest: 'Silk Road' traces links between empires

Additionally, Thubron will be speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who needs me ...

... when I've got two great people subbing for me? Back whenever.

No Harry Potter trickle-down

Despite - and here some religious fundamentalists may be right - ungodly sales figures, the boy wizard doesn't deliver much magic to booksellers.

Adieu, Librairie de France!

A New York landmark to close in 2 years.

A room with not much of a view

Here's a writer's room in which you'd not likely be distracted (unless it's by the chair you're sitting in).
Thanks to Dave for practically all of today's postings.

You didn't want get on the wrong side of A.E. Housman

.....especially if he got out of the wrong side of the bed that day.

Media habits of one highly effective librarian

You'd think the Librarian of Congress must have enough information to deal with, but noooooooo! He's always trawling for more.
And I think I read somewhere that when he isn't shushing people at the library, he blogs 10 or 12 hours a day too.

What writers........

.........are reading.

John Banville reviews Black Mass

.......John Gray's new book, a "brilliant" analysis of religion in politics.

Happy 10th anniversary, Bloggers.

Hard to believe but blogs have now been around for a decade (more or less).
Apparently, there was no "What hath God wrought" moment, but blog archeologists have determined that the blogosphere is indeed approaching its tin/aluminum anniversary.

Reading for the fun of it ...

Skimming through Bookninja today, I came across something that stopped me in my tracks (or, at least, stopped the movement of my cursor down the page). As I mentioned only a short time ago, I’m an English major – I am therefore utterly unable to pass up an article on literary merit without comment. By and large, I liked Rick Groen’s discussion of “liberating” effect of fiction and the importance of novels, but frankly, I found his argument for “literary fiction” a little silly. Yes, we should read great books, yes, they should be artistic, and sure, those graceful yet heavy films that seamlessly infuse their messages into our very souls are fantastic. Honestly, though, if that was all media I consumed, I’d probably read three books and see two movies in a year, and I’d be depressed the whole time (what can I say? Most powerful books tend to end sadly). Unlike Groen, I refuse to dismiss non-“literary” books – in fact, I find them necessary. Not only do they entertain us and lift our spirits, but, like the fool in Macbeth whose comedy actually highlights the tragic nature of the play, they serve to remind us of good literature when we find it. This year I took breaks from Shakespeare to watch Veronica Mars and the Office. My best friend and I occasionally paused in our reading of Cannery Row to chuckle over bad romance novels. Perhaps it’s that I can still remember high school, where getting kids to read at all is a challenge, but honestly, I think that what we read doesn’t matter all that much. So long as we enjoy the English language, we’re doing okay.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's that time of the week again ...

In today's Inquirer Reviews:

Kelly Jane Torrance explores Susan Vreeland's story of one of Renior's great paintings: A perspective on art from the inside out

Jessica Schneider discovers the ins and outs of the married lives of great literary figures in Katie Roiphe's new book: A literary world of vanity, trysts and pain

Glenn C. Altschuler unearths the silly scheme to steal Lincoln's body in Thomas J. Craughwell's account: Slapstick crypt caper made unduly serious

And though they're technically not book reviews ...

... Katie Haegele discusses the literature of Second Life: Second Life literati create 'book world'

... Carlin Romano considers the literary success of J.K. Rowling: Classic 'Harry'

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Naive but nice ...

Perusing Bookninja today, I came across this video that purports to sum up a day in the life of an English Literature Student in Wales. Being the American equivalent myself – known here as the English undergrad or the Soon-to-be-Living-in-a-Box – I had to smile at the sweet-hearted nature of the film. Sure, it neglects the panic of sleeping through that uber-important lecture, the terror of discussing that unread book with an over-zealous TA, and the depression of pulling an all-nighter to write that twenty-page essay (one friend now attributes to Red Bull “the scent of defeat by homework”), but it does convey the brilliance of the professors, the beauty of the language, and the sheer fun of working with literary masterpieces. Now if only employment were as easy as they suggest....


Though I’ve only been blogging for a week, apparently mistakes attack quickly in this business – in particular, I erroneously attributed two opinions to Bryan Appleyard that were really those of his co-blogger, Nige. All errors should now be rectified, and my overwhelming apologies go out to both.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rejection suggestions

Maxine Clarke points out this site soliciting honest (but not so honest they can't be used again and again) templates for publishers' rejection letters to authors.

What fun!

There’s something almost Dickensian about these serialized stories, which simultaneously thrills me and makes me hope they’re not being paid by the word (excess verbiage breaks my heart, right along with lots of ellipses and writing in all caps – but I digress). Those equally excited should check out the fun here, here, and here.

For the sake of appearance ...

Though we may have differing opinions on the best breakfast cereal, I do have to agree with Nige on using books to pretend to be the person we wish we were. This explains the copy of Freakonomics that resided on my bookshelf during freshman year of college. While an informal poll of my friends revealed that, yes, it did make me look smarter, none mentioned how intelligent they found me when they discovered that I'd only ever read half.

Maybe Frank will assign someone to review this book,

......perhaps himself. We know he's on vacation of course, but he may want to take a look at this book on book-reviewing, a review of which can be found here. And please let me know if I haven't used the word, "review" enough in this posting.

Poetry lovers, here's one you may not know!

Dave again is our guide to this posting on Anecdotal Evidence. It's kind of melancholy and heartening at the same time. Scottish poet Sean Rafferty never quite had the brush with fame he apparently deserved.
My only brush with fame is I knew a guy who once gave Dean Martin a haircut.

The Beeb and the O.E.D.

Dave Lull points out this blog where these two mighty franchises delightfully combine forces in the dictionary's never-ending quest for the original uses of words and phrases. The ghost of Sir James Murray lives on.

Psst. Wanna buy a book?

The New York Yimes has a new (to me, anyway) blog about ads for books.

The Great Science/Poetry Divide?

Science vs. Poetry? Apparently, in Vegas the action is on science; at Harrah's Bloomsbury Casino it's just the opposite.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Attention, authors!

Now, Maxine informs us, you can digitally (literally, i.e., using your fingers) create and publicize a book tour for yourself.

The uses of poetry

Interesting review of a book about the history of reading poetry in the USA.
Hat tip to Dave Lull.

Happy birthday, boys!

Sorry, ladies but all our birthday acknowledgements today (courtesy of The Writers Almanac newsletter) are stag only. You can console yourselves with the fact that most of them are dead. Who, after all, would rather have a birthday than be alive, am I right?
Henry ("don't call me Hank") David Thoreau; camera maven, George Eastman; lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II; poet and sometime screwball Pablo Neruda; and (how they pinned this down so exactly I don't know) Julius Caesar.

And a pre-posthumous shoutout to Andrew Wyeth who is 90 years old today and still (sometimes literally) painting up a storm.


Philip Booth, Yankee poet. Read about his life and work here or here.

Price woes

Though I hate to sully great literature by talking about money, here’s an interesting discussion about the price of American books in Canada. I have to admit, economics isn’t my forte, but all this talk about prices and exchange rates makes me remember my trip last night to the public library, where I picked up four books for the extraordinary price of free.

Blame it on overwork …

… or distraction or laziness or sheer blogging ineptitude, but I somehow missed Nige's thoughts on breakfast cereals yesterday. While I completely agree that Kellogg’s Just Right is probably All Wrong, and certainly part of a marketing ploy to take advantage of health concerns, I disagree with him on what is clearly the more important issue. Frosted Flakes is obviouly the supreme cereal, not Shreddies. As someone whose three square meals have often consisted of three bowls of cereal, I feel comfortable asserting my authority on this point.

I was never much good at physics ...

… but Bernard Jacobson’s review of The Human Touch by Michael Frayn almost makes me want to give science another shot.

Idle musings redux

Well, thanks to one and all for your thoughtful and well-argued responses to my faux Christopher Hitchens lunch piece below.
I wasn't so much trying to show that sacred music proves the existence of God as it was to provoke some discussion which you provided in spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs. I was merely - and here I'm echoing Andrew's and Rus's comments, I guess - trying to compare the transcendent experiences of art and religion. However, I gotta say I don't think those experiences provide as much of what modern bureaucrats might call `plausible deniability' as the Santa Claus analogy.
By the way, are you implying that Santa doesn't exist, Rus? Then whose lap, each December, have I been sitting in all these years? I rest my case, you honor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Idly Musing

I had lunch yesterday with Christopher Hitchens. Well, my dining partner claimed to be C.H. but of course, nobody knows what the tireless, publicity-shy essayist looks or sounds like.
So I said to him, "Chris, I get the Got is Not Great thing of yours and agree with some of it, but riddle me this: If God is an illusion, why is there so much great religious music -- Bach's B minor Mass, Mozart's C minor Mass and any number of other pieces, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Allegri's Miserere, Schubert's Masses, etc., etc., etc.?
Now, don't say these composers were just on retainer and wrote the pieces on commission. That may be true, and obviously these people were geniuses, but surely it was more than genius and money that inspired and informed their work, am I right, my fellow American (welcome aboard, by the way)? Or were the composers just summoning up the feelings, like so many musical method actors?
But alas, answer came there none. No doubt, one would have come if the lunch had actually happened, but I just wonder what it might have been.

Authorship and ethnicity

The subject is taken up by Crystal Mahey in The Guardian

Anyone remember any nursery rhymes?

Apparently they're in danger of dying out - at least in Britain. In the States I think they've been dead for years (which may explain why I didn't start talking until the fifth grade).

Rob Mack

........has a nice appreciation of Michael Hamburger's 10-years-in-the-making look at modern poetry "The Truth of Poetry". Hamburger died last month at 85.
Hat tip to Dave Lull.

Elmore Leonard

Dave Lull alerts us to this short MSNBC/Newsweek piece touting Leonard's upcoming book on writing and his 5 "Most important books"

You might call it anti-diet …

... when you look at Gina Kolata’s new book and interview with the Inquirer.

It makes me chuckle …

… though that’s probably because it’s true.

Call me cynical …

… but it seems to me that Sebastian Faulks’s new James Bond novel is less about celebrating Ian Fleming’s 100th birthday, and more about making yet another blockbuster picture (which totals exactly how much literary merit?). Thanks to Grumpy Old Bookman for bringing this one to my attention.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How many Nobel Prize winners have great legs?

Dave Lull points out this short piece on the durability of many of the winners of that big lollipop.


The new Merriam Webster dictionary gives you the 411 on old words and new.


The gloves are off and, if by some chance you haven't noticed, the Poetry war has begun. Apparently, while you were poolside naively sipping a pina colada a group of poets, critics and editors for nefarious reasons known only to themselves has hijacked the American poetic agenda.

Origins of rap

I once heard someone conjecture that hip-hop really originated with "You Got Trouble" from Meredith Wilson's musical "The Music Man" but Dave Lull points out that Stephen Burt has traced the origins waaaaaaay further back than that to Alexander "Li'l" Pope.

Poetry and the Movies

Admitttedly not a topic that comes up very often - although I seem to vaguely remember watching a discussion on the subject with a panel of experts led by Professor Irwin Corey - but Dave Lull points out this thougtful piece by Stacey Harwood.
Thanks too to Dave for the alert about the previously noted book-signing tonight.

And now for something completely different....

If you don't like wearing ties (or anything else) check out this event. You better hurry though, it's happening (real happening, man) tonight. It's a book signing. The title of the book? "Nudity and Christianity".
I don't think Jesus mentioned the subject in the Beatitudes -- "Blessed are the optionally clothed for they shall inherit the Casual Elegance Collection at Barney's" -- so it should be an enlightening evening.

You should be happy ...

… that your kids are reading school-approved material at all. Thanks to Bookninja for finding this NY Times article.

Dressing for Success

A few words of sartorial wisdom from Bryan Appleyard, because we all like to look pretty while reading.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Chatterley Chat

Is Lady Chatterley's Lover D.H. Lawrence's worst novel? D.J. Taylor in the Sunday Times gives Lawrence and the book a working-over that leaves D.H. in that no-man's land between the canon and canon fodder.
Hat tip again to Dave.

Attention thriller lovers

Maxine sends out this APB (as the coppers might call it) for a big thrill ride in NYC this weekend.

Speaking of appreciations

...........if that's the word, here's one by Brian Appleyard of Homer Simpson, patriarch of the family and program that for my money is the best send-up of the American Way of Life ever. I learned of Brian's piece via Maxine's Petrona blog and was saddened to learn of her inability to "get" pop culture (and this despite Stephen Hawking's multiple guest-starring roles as himself on The Simpsons).

Prosper Merimee

That polymath Frenchman's felicitous name is always a great attention-getter, I find. I drop it at cocktail parties all the time. Dave Lull has pointed out a wonderful appreciation of him by Julian Barnes. A writer of outre and outrageous fiction (including the novella upon which Bizet based his opera, Carmen) he should, Barnes tells us be as well-known as a protector of French architectural history.

New literary magazine

The Southampton Review will launch later this month.

Terry Teachout

.....has added a new supporting cast member to his blog.

This has nothing to do with books, but

........in the interest of the health of Books, Inq. readers may I point out a couple of things? The first in today's Inquirer by science writer, Erika Gebel is about the latest new product in what can no longer be denied is a worldwide conspiracy to caffeinate the entire potable world.
I predict "Decaf Plus" will be the next caffeine-added beverage.
The second piece is for our marginally hypertensive, dark-chocolate-loving readers.

Frank has noted this point from time to time

..........but thanks to Dave Lull for referring us to this piece in Anecdotal Evidence that reminds us once again that "art is frivolous" (although in my estimation essentially so, if I'm not being oxymoronic or just plain moronic).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Today's Inquirer Reviews ...

... Cecil Johnson is impressed by Doug Stumpf's business truths disguised as fiction: Of soles and the soulless

... Michale McHale happily discovers Martin Cruz Smith's detective Arkady Renko back at work: Arkady Renko's Russia still haunted by Stalin

... Dan DeLuca finds Haruki Murakami's new novel a little underwhelming: Murakami works in a lower key.

... Scott Stein explores Brink Lindsey's views on American wealth and economic, cultural, and religious history: Cogent, coherent examination of U.S. culture now

I apologize for the delay in this posting. Like opportunity, internet connectivity can be fleeting.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My heart's in the highlands ...

... as we head off to Pennsylvania's lovely, if modest, mountains. Won't be back until July 17. In the meantime the blog is in good hands. John Brumfield you should already know. Joining John will be Eliza Fox, who wrote her first book review for me before she had graduated from Springside School. I think it may have even appeared in print before she graduated. So welcome Eliza, please.

Favorite reading ...

... Karen Heller has Suggestions galore for books to read this summer.

Get involved: Discuss | What are you planning to read this summer?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Only a French intellectual ...

... would think that jogging is right-wing activity: Bravo, Sarkozy - from one jogger to another. (Hat tip, Vikram Johri, who notes slyly that "this is taking it a bit too far."

I don't jog myself, but I do walk four and a half miles every day at a good clip, and I used to hike and climb a good deal. I think of walking as more civilized than jogging.

Oh, I like this ...

... Jihadi Transvestite Busted in Islamabad.

Crime galore ...

... Another double dose of Euro Crime.

Take your pick ...

... What’s Your Alchemist Name?

For reasons best not explained, my choice was Navzar Bombastus.

Always helpful ...

... that's our Bryan: How to Do Everything. His latest scientology reprise shouldn't be missed, either.

I know what he means ...

... from the Grumpy Old Bookman: Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"I've been putting this off, you know -- writing a review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's new book, The Black Swan. Why? Because it's hard work for one thing: requires concentration; and because it's a deuced risky enterprise for another."

Me too. Putting it off, that is, but not only because it is hard work - which it is. But mostly because it takes an amount of time I haven't had at my disposal as I try to get ready to go on vacation and deal with some other matters. Which is why my review won't run until July 29, after I return from vacation. And which is also why I have read only the GOB's introductory remarks.

Shallow deep down ...

... and not so very deep down, either: Gut instinct isn't science. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Professor Barash, like M. Jourdain discovering that he was speaking prose, has discovered that appearance and reality aren't necessarily the same (though they are necessarily connected: Nothing is real that doesn't in some way appear to be, and every appearance, even a mirage, is in some way, to some degree, real).

"Our planet is round, even though it sure feels flat under our feet as we walk." Well, sort of. But scanning the horizon suggests otherwise, and the the roundness of the Earth was regarded by Thomas Aquinas, for instance, as a matter long settled.

The question, however, is this: Who exactly is suggesting that we substitute "gut instinct" for science? And how many of those counterintuitive insights of science started out as someone's gut instinct?

"Science, bless its innovative soul, constantly reveals new realities. Many of them — global warming, nuclear weapons, overpopulation, threats to biodiversity — are pregnant with immense risk. Others, like genomics or stem cell research, offer great opportunity. But nearly all are freighted with a lack of truthiness."

Does this mean genomics and stem cell research offer only opportunity, but no risk? And I am not the only one to think the jury is still out on global warming - or does Professor Barash think Freeman Dyson and others have been seduced by gut instinct? Moreover, I believe the population bomb turned out to be a dud.

Actually, that paragraph demonstrates perfectly the extent to which Professor Barash's thinking is confined to conventional pieties, which can be as much of a threat to science and truth as any gut instinct.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Your nominations, please ...

... What's a 'perfect line' in poetry? (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Since, I gather, one can cite more than one line, I would choose, off the top my head, this:

... the future is a faded song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,
Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.

Mad as hell ...

... Why I Hate Poetry Magazine. (Hat tip, Laurie Mason.)


Precision thinking ...

... Joseph Epstein on The intimate abstraction of Paul Valéry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“The religious debate is no longer between different religions; but between those who believe that belief has some sort of value and those who don’t.”

Bryan's choices ...

... and commentary for the Interboard Poetry Community poetry competition: Winning Poems and Commentary. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Who knew ...

... that Calvin Coolidge was so eloquent? The eternal meaning of Independence Day.

Happy Fourth of July to all!

My sentiments exactly ...

... Should You Trust the Government?

My idea of a high-trust society differs from that of many elites. Elitist journalists think that a high-trust society is one where we trust the mainstream media. Elitist politicians and activists think that a high-trust society is one where we trust legislators, regulators, and experts to exercise broad authority. In contrast, I believe that a high-trust society is one in which processes ensure that elites are subject to checks and accountability. It is particularly important for legislators, regulators, and experts to have their authority limited and their accountability assured.
My impression is that no single climate model enjoys the confidence of a large number of scientists. Instead, many climate scientists are willing to endorse a "consensus" that takes a range of estimates from some models. I would like to read an essay written for an intelligent layman that explains why this is a persuasive approach. What is the rationale for including some models while excluding others? Do predictions based on the "average" or "consensus" model out-perform the predictions of any individual model, as in a "wisdom of crowds" phenomenon? Or is the purpose of a "consensus" is to strengthen a political coalition, rather than to improve accuracy?
Here's an idea: How about taking all the most reliable meteorological data from, say, 1950, and feeding it into one of these climate models and seeing if the results describe what in fact took place weatherwise in, say, 2000?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Coming to Philly?

... well, here's a nice B&B not far from where I live: Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast.

Cool ...

... Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

South of the border ...

... from the Wild River Review: Here Is Your Neighbor — This is Mexico.

And why not ...

... Why, Poetry? (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Gee ...

... “I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.”

- William Tecumseh Sherman

Interesting indeed ...

... Brown, gays and Gramsci.

I'd worry if my prime minister were a fan of Antonio Gramsci.

Evidence and nuance ...

... can both be found here: A Divine Materialism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As a bonus there's Francis Bacon's explanation of Richard Dawkins: "A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

Sad but unsurprising ...

... at least to me, though I am in a position to see the literary world from its least flattering angle: The end of a competition.

Seen any lately?

... Venting one's spleen.

The results are in ...

... for A Roaring Contest !

He's back ...

... And Yes I'm...

Some background: Free the Blogger one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It just won't go away ...

... Richard: The church may be struggling, but in politics its rhetoric is on the rise. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Gulley Jimson ...

... the painter protagonist of Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth, had a prototype in real life: Stanley Spencer.

Spinning your wheels at work?

Go to the movies!

Join T.E.S.T.I.C.L.E. ...

... now: Chip Dale's Thought Experiments: The Campaign. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As is well known, I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories, so when I suspect there is a conspiracy afoot to silence the founder and president of the Failed Intellectuals Society (FIS), you better take it seriously. Come on Blogger: Free Bryan Now!

Summer substitute blogger found alive in Phila.

Just a test message to see if I can still log onto Books, Inq.

Frank will soon be on holiday and I'll be trawling for blog entries while he's gone. Don't hesitate to email me at jbrumfield@phillynews.com with any suggestions.

Fact or fiction ....

... Dead Airman's Affidavit: Roswell Aliens Were Real.

In case you wondered ...

... Why Intellectuals Like Genocide. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Update: Here is a lecture by Keith Windschuttle: Postmodernism and the Fabrication of Aboriginal History.

By their fruits ...

... you shall know them. And by that standard one can learn a lot about the two people who wrote The Third Culture and Inferior Design. The style of the one, it seems to me, reveals the writer to be supremely civilized and kind; that of the other seems reflective of a twit full of himself.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Also the latest ...

... Junto newsletter.

The latest issue ...

... of The Mad Hatters' Review.

Where we were ...

... and why I didn't blog yesterday: We visited friends - Dot and Nancy - across the river in New Jersey. Their lovely house is nestled in a woodland. The pup is their sheltie Comet. Standing near the hydrangeas are (from left) Dot, Nancy, and my better half. The painting of doves is by Nancy as are the figurines in the corner above the glass table.