Sunday, November 30, 2008
" ... human societies cannot exist for long without the sentiment of the sacred ... The secularisation of society, therefore, brought about the sacralisation of music."
This need for the sacred, unfortunately, is often satisfied by the merely vulgar and sometimes even by the downright evil (see "Hitler, A.").
This is complex, subtle and deserves very much to be read fully and carefully.
History suggests, then, that there are facts that are not publicly accessible or verifiable, measurable or testable, or susceptible to universal agreement. The evidence for such facts is often objectively less than certain, but it is often reasonable to believe more strongly than the available evidence strictly allows, if there is a great amount at stake, if we genuinely believe that the facts are as we judge them to be, and if there is no way of avoiding the issue.
... Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies: A portrait of 19th-century India.
... Per Petterson's To Siberia: Coming of age and craving Siberia.
... Jim Harrison's The English Major: Book review: All is lost, so he's off on a trip.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The fact that these artificial "climates" are closed systems far simpler than the global climate, have the advantage of the experimental method, and are subject to precise controls, and yet are frequently wrong, should lend some humility to those who make grand predictions about the future of the earth's atmosphere.
Friday, November 28, 2008
What this seems to demonstrate is that there's no one around like Auden, who could have tossed off the demands for occasional verse with great aplomb. On the other, there is myself. I did, in The Inquirer, note in verse the marriage of Charles and Camilla:
Of marriage, matron, prince, and bard I sing
And of delays the fates seem bent to sling
Into the way of true love’s unsmooth course.
Who wouldn’t swap his kingdom for a horse
When called upon to first acknowledge sin
To gain the church’s pardon, just to win
A Town Hall wedding scheduled on the day
That Papal obsequies get in the way?
And now, the charge to praise love’s true devotion
Has England’s Laureate in a commotion.
The scribe dear late Diana’s charms inspired
Has found his rhyming Muse is sick, and tired.
What’s to be done, but take our pen in hand,
Declaring even messy love is grand?
All vain and pompous circumstance aside,
It’s just another hopeful groom and bride.
Therefore we wish poor Charles and his Camilla
Full wedded bliss, down to the last scintilla.
p.s. Are people really desperate enough to have sex with envelopes? What a crazy world, eh?
(Will tapping this caus my PC to d v lop sticky k ys? W ' s . . ..)
At the end of the book, almost 250 pages after his traumatic encounter with the matriarch of the nation, Stourton concludes that, “PC may not be a properly formulated political programme, but it is in the best sense of the term a liberal dream, an expression of the conviction that the world can be made a better place.” That would be in contrast to the worst sense of the term, which presumably involves plans to make the world a less good place.
Well, that is often true, but surely the world is as filled with joy as with sorrow.
That's a rap!
Gaddis is Robert A. Lovett Professor of History at Yale and widely regarded as the dean of Cold War historians.
"With e-book sales exploding in an otherwise sleepy market, Random House Inc. announced this week that it will make thousands of additional books available in digital form, including novels by John Updike and Harlan Coben, as well as several volumes of The Magic Treehouse children's series."
Thursday, November 27, 2008
"I am honoured to accept the first Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute," Prof. Hawking said in a statement released Thursday. "The Institute's twin focus, on quantum theory and gravity, is very close to my heart and central to explaining the origin of the Universe."
Providence. Does the word still reverberate religiously for us? What is providence, anyway, in the modern world? And what is humankind's place in relation to it? Such are the questions that Genevieve Lloyd takes up in Providence Lost, a provocative and closely argued work of intellectual history and philosophical polemic.
IOW, a lovely Thanksgiving treasure, yours for the cyberclicking.
The Times of London's TLS Books of the Year 2008.
I would call Ferdinand Mount's choice the most pedestrian and Martha Nussbaum's the most interesting by far.
Thanks to Dave Lull for both links.
At the end of a few hours at a Lindy’s - not a place where I hang out but a convenient place he picked - he came to the point, as reporters do at the end (I know the tricks; I teach them). He wanted to set me against traditionalists and them against me.
"Rolf Harris regrets the racist verse on Aborigines in 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,' the song that made him famous in Britain and launched the wobbleboard on an unsuspecting music world."
Talk about a business of extremes. In less than a week the book publishing industry has been set abuzz by the news that one publisher is so uncertain about the economic climate that it has temporarily shut its doors to most manuscripts while another is celebrating a banner year by handing out extra bonuses to all its employees.
There is, by the way, more intellectual heft in this single blog post than in all that the Dawkins-Harris- Hitchens troika have written on the subject.
Okay, now, let's get down to brass facts: I think, with those gorgeous peepers, Nicholas Campbell's the handsomest of Canadian actors on the planet (after Victor Garber, of course); and, both are really great at their craft, too!
Never mind. I'm putting my looney on DAR and SS won't let me down . . . will she?
Nah . . . You'll see :).
You don't need the wiles of a computer hacker to see that Michael Dobbs may be on to something with his fictional prediction of a cyber-war in which one nation — in his scenario, China — reduces every other to economic rubble by tampering with the global electronic life-support systems.
Hrmm . . . Wonder how many books they sold (before their limousines whisked them away)?
Although conceived in Canada and airing at some point on CTV, "Spectacle" debuted last night on the American Sundance channel. (Costello is married to Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall and they have a home on Vancouver Island.)
Besides [Elton] John, who is an executive producer of the 13-episode series, future guests include Lou Reed, James Taylor, The Police, Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Renee Fleming, and Krall (interviewed by John).
Russell Smith: "The most retarded thing about the totally gay sensitive-language squads ('Intergroup Facilitators') created for residences at Queen's University in Kingston is how much they make me want to say retarded and gay. Retarded gay retarded gay gay gay."
Ok-a-a-a-y . . . :).
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"Happily I have perfected a Look that freezes the words on their lips and leaves them in no doubt that to proceed further would be to risk something far worse..."
Also, in the too-much-time-on-their-hands department: No Comment.
If you find yourself fortunate enough to reside anywhere near Windsor or London, ON, you're in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat: The Right Honourable Paul Martin (a.k.a. Canada's Twenty-First Prime Minister) will be putting in an appearance at each city's Chapters location tonight and tomorrow night:
26 November @ 7 PM:
Chapters South London
27 November @ 7 PM:
Come Hell or High Water, don'tcha dare miss this one (and, say "Hello" from all those who wish he hadn't resigned in 2006, moi inclus).
p.s. You may also enjoy reading an excerpt from the work penned by the Scrabble™ Champ who, incidentally, graduated with a degree in Philosophy
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Very glad that Dave directed me to AnthonyFlood.com. Flood seems in many ways a man after my own heart. (Though further investigation indicates we differ profoundly regarding what Flood likes to refer to as Zionism.)
" ... the Darwinian evolution (as Ferguson convincingly characterizes it) of money ..." I wasn't convinced myself: Not necessarily ...
But I suspect it's more in tune with Grayling's own belief system, such as that is.
According to the Aquarium Drunkard, both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan are "poets/musicians."
Mffmmffmmmm . . . Mmm . . . For the rest of us, this truly provides listeners with a veritable wealth of free MP3s recorded forty years ago. (Hat Tip, Dan Colman [via BoingBoing].)
p.s. This public-service announcement comes to you in order to provide you with further proof for the unprovable :)
"Joe Hirshhorn, a brash young millionaire from New York, came to Canada in 1933 to invest in gold mines. Typically, he announced his arrival with a full-page ad in The Northern Miner headed 'My Name is Opportunity and I Am Paging Canada.'"
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose . . .
The book, titled Una Dotta Mano or The Learned Hand, has a front cover made of white marble from Michelangelo's favourite quarry (in Carrara). The binding is covered with a red silk velvet handmade by the same Italian shop that created the main stage curtains at The Metropolitan Opera and Milan's Teatro Alla Scala. And, the 62-pounder will only set you back $100,000+ USD. (Not bad for a stocking stuffer.)
Hey, Jim Dodge's Fup made the grade!
Is [patriotism] loyalty to a set of political jobholders, a king and his court, a president and his bureaucracy, a parliament, a congress, a Duce or Führer, a camorra of commissars? I should say it depends entirely on what the jobholders are like and what they do. Certainly I had never seen any who commanded my loyalty; I should feel utterly degraded if ever once I thought they could.- Albert Jay Nock, The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man
My sentiments exactly.
... I Think There's A Problem With The Methodology Here.
... Speaking (in)coherently.
That concluding clause says it all.
For his third collaboration with ex-film publicist Tony Dalton, animation legend Ray Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans) originally intended to write a book about his mentor Willis O’Brien, the man who brought the original King Kong to life. However, upon realising that no history of live action and model animation — an art Mr. Harryhausen refers to as Dynamation — existed, he and Mr. Dalton instead embarked on a two-year project to put together a chronology of their favourite art form.
As Chris Green reports, "Earlier this year, the son of Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, said he intended to publish the incomplete work, disobeying his father's dying wish for it to be burned. Now Dmitri Nabokov has finally broken his silence about the contents."
Books, Inq.uer Frank Wilson's latest's now up 'n' attem @ When Falls the Coliseum . . . Wait a minute . . . Where y'all goin'?
One of the clichés about education is that it should teach you not what to think, but how to think: and a vital part of that is understanding the shape of knowledge — being able to evaluate categories of information and degrees of authority in sources. If the educators themselves can't or won't think about these distinctions, God help their pupils.
From crime fiction’s reigning queen
comes a diabolically intricate tapestry
that weaves together the lives
of very different people
in that vibrant part of London
known as Portobello.
Lucy Atkins investigates
Ruth Rendell's Portobello
in The Sunday Times.
When Alex was sick of working, Dr. Pepperberg reports, he would ignore his handlers, preen his feathers or say, "Wanna go back," meaning he wanted to return to his cage. When he knocked over a coffee cup or gave a wrong answer, he would say, "I'm sorry," suggesting, Dr. Pepperberg says, that he'd "learned that 'I'm sorry' is associated with defusing a tense, angry, and potentially dangerous moment."
Ask Dennis Lehane why Richard Price is worth reading, and he'll tell you, "He's the best dialogue writer alive in my opinion. He's the best urban novelist out there."
Ask Richard Price why Dennis Lehane is someone you should read, and he'll tell you, "Because he likes my stuff so much."
Vanity Fair's Lisa Robinson explores the myths and misconceptions surrounding Motown's magical moments; plus, to top it all off, our favourite Lady of the Lens, Annie Leibovitz, offers her bird's eye view on what's old and new (or, F-Stop In The Name Of Love?).
Monday, November 24, 2008
I like it when I finish a poem. I feel I've accomplished something, got it down as best I could. But beyond that I don't feel any better defined than beforehand. Maybe that's why I've always related to what Eliot said: "... poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But of course only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from those things."
Here is the Civics Test in question. There's also a link to a table comparing the results for the general public and elected officials - the latter proving less knowledgeable.
So how did I do? I got 31 out of 33 correct. Which shows I'm slipping. In my high school civics class, I had a perfect score on every test.
But then, I came of age in the '50s and have only the fondest memories of them. I somehow managed not to notice the McCarthyite repression and lack of artistic achievement (Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Robert Anderson in the theater, great films, Steinbeck and Marquand still writing, the New York painters and poets, the Beats - pretty bleak I guess).
The cover (in its current incarnation) via Jan Burke's blog:
Host Leonard Lopate lets you in on the best conversations with writers, actors, ex-presidents, dancers, scientists, comedians, historians, grammarians, curators, filmmakers, and do-it-yourself experts. Live interaction is critical to Lopate's conversational and personal style. "I think it's crucial to maintain eye contact when you're discussing complex matters with the likes of John Updike, Doris Lessing, Bill Bradley, Mark Morris, and Francis Ford Coppola, all of whom are return guests to Leonard Lopate on WNYC, " says Lopate.
Latest Show's Lineup: "Find out what it was like to be a reporter embedded with the presidential campaigns this year — from the constant traveling and fast food, to the relentless 24-hour news cycle. Also, hear an update on an auto-industry bailout. Martin Duberman talks about his political plays. Chef David Waltuck on nearly three decades of running Chanterelle. Plus: What's the future of TV, now that more and more popular shows are being watched on the Internet?"
Although McLuhan's pronouncements concerning the automobile bear scrutiny in this context — particularly those involving the ways in which we "wear" our vehicles or the fact that cars have become "carapaces, the protective and aggressive shell of urban and suburban man," — IMO, J.G. Ballard (who readily acknowledges his debt to The Media Man) better functions as our go-to guy here:
"The car as we know it is on the way out. To a large extent, I deplore its passing, for as a basically old-fashioned machine, it enshrines a basically old-fashioned idea: freedom. In terms of pollution, noise, and human life, the price of that freedom may be high but, perhaps the car, by the very muddle and confusion it causes, may be holding back the remorseless spread of the regimented electronic society."
Tom Vanderbilt, in his review of Brian Ladd's Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age," prefers to cite Woodrow Wilson or Hitler's call for vehicular de-luxurisation, an argument Detroit or Windsor might wish to revisit in light of its terminally dark days as well as the fact the industry's been driven to begging its respective governments for a boost to rescue it from the jaws of death.
That said, Vanderbilt does quote Ladd's understanding that autophobia's a two-way street: Not only does it stand for a fear of cars, it is also refers to "an obscure psychiatric diagnosis" describing "fear of oneself."
(When I get behind the wheel, it's not yours truly I fear, it's all those road-rageous motor-maniacs who scare the bejeebus outta me.)
So what do we have here? Another entry in a flourishing sub-genre — the going back to the old country and meeting the great-aunt who has the key piece of family information that explains why Dad was an alcoholic? Or the genre in which the writer discovers that his heart truly beats to the rhythms of an ancient past in a land once populated by his ancestors?
p.s. An excerpt from Vassanji's memoir's available @ its publisher's 'site
Kathleen Norris discusses contemporary soul-weariness with Mary Hynes.
p.s. The English language proffers as many words for depression as there are Esquimaux words for snow, ISTM
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Day found 123 wars that could validly be claimed to have religion at their heart—a grand total of 6.98 percent of all wars fought. “It’s also interesting to note that more than half of these religious wars, sixty-six in all, were waged by Islamic nations,” Day offers as an aside.
Apparently, the city has "proposed 100% cuts to arts funding." I think arts funding can often be done better than it is, but none? Sounds ill-advised to me.
I do a little shopping at Whole Foods, mostly for the grass-fed milk and sometimes the bread. Forget the cheese. DiBruno Bros is also up the street. I don't know anything about Neal's Yard cheddar, but I got some great Lincolnshire Poacher the other day. It's only $26 a pound.
Nige also has some insights into an odd development in the way of pets: Reptiles - The New Dogs.
A nation of reptile owners, on the other hand, is a craven, immobile, atomised and emotionally incontinent society.
... Roberto Bolaño's 2006: Astonishing triumph of a novel.
... Malcolm Gladwell's latest: An entertaining but flawed formula.
... Numbers guys: A brave new world of snoopy software.
... see also: History comes calling for boy in the woods.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Emptying the Saloon
Pocket Punch 'n' Judy
Signing the John Hancock
Dragging Thyself to Hell, One Hand's Breadth at a Time
Waving to Queen Victoria
Trying for a Scarlet "M"
Oiling the Pennywhistle
Assaulting the Tower of London
Cleaning the Musket
Quashing the Southern Uprising
Monitoring your Merrimac
Driving the Golden Spike
Delivering the Ejaculation Proclamation
Churning the Codpiece Butter
Square Dancing with Satan < ---- Personal Fave
Addressing Lord Palmer
"The pastor of a mega-church says he will challenge married congregants during his sermon Sunday to have sex for seven straight days – and he plans to practice [sic] what he preaches."
(Erm, uninterruptedly? What about eating, sleeping, and visiting the WC, for example? I don't know anyone who can hold it for seven days; well, maybe I do know someone; but, s/he failed to brag about it. Subliminally or, at least subtly, the use of the word "straight" speaks to Pastor Young's old-fogeyism, unfortunately.)
Energetic, fast moving, bubbling over with life, this is a world where stupidity, not sin, is punished; where wit, not faith, is rewarded; where sexual pleasure, not chastity, is the object of the game.
. . . For an outsider, it is difficult to know how seriously to take the scientists' avowals of intention to do good in the world. Even the most idealistic of biotech researchers are destined to become dependent on medical corporations to test their products and bring them to market. "Big Pharma" and its ilk have acquired, I think justly, a bad reputation, and any residual altruism on the part of the scientists will be the first victim of their involvement. They profess to be humanitarians, but if we measure that claim against the actual consequences of high-tech science-based medicine, our admiration must surely fade. . . .
On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction: Stories.
. . . Whether people noticed his minor is another matter. He says that after he had defended his thesis on rough-terrain mobile robots and had published several short stories, an engineering professor told him that he was surprised to read in a local magazine that Iagnemma wrote fiction. "I said, 'Well, you know that, because that was my minor, and you were on my thesis committee.' And he said, 'Oh, I thought you were studying friction.'"