Thursday, January 31, 2008
... PROFOUND COLD. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who reports that, In Superior, Wisc., it's "17 below (45 below wind chill) this morning and there's a promised high of 0.")
Then there's this: Snow storm brings China to a halt.
And this: UPDATE: Jerusalem grinds to halt as snow falls.
Nothing of note weather-wise to report from Philly, however.
Update: Well, that was fast.
Also, check out this: An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
As one of Patrick's readers notes, Sven Birkerts disagrees with Patrick and me. But Michiko agrees! So there.
... Carlin Romano is not convinced by an academic's theory of bar-hopping: Penn prof dives deep into Philly nightlife.
... and Fred Bortz considers whether dinosaurs could have used some Deet: Thinking small when thinking of extinction.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
And help me she has. The book room is in order because of Jen. I have a list of reviews that I have in hand, complete with the email addresses of the reviewers - because of Jen (and trust me, this is very important). Jen will have a review in Sunday's Inquirer, and it is quite a good review.
I do not exaggerate when I say that, given a few more weeks, Jen could easily take over for me.
Most of all I have had the pleasure of her company. To say that she is extraordinarily bright is really to say nothing. (Did I mention that she plays the cello and is fluent in German?) Anyway, intelligence isn't necessarily accompanied by personality, and Jen's personality sparkles. Our talks have been genuine conversations, and I have easily learned as much from her as she has from me. In fact, I probably got the better of the bargain. Tomorrow is her last day.
I will miss her.
Monday, January 28, 2008
"... a large number of people I know seems to define themselves through opinions and to judge others by theirs. I am incapable of doing this, which is, I'm afraid, a very disabling condition."
I suffer from the same disability. And it's growing worse as I grow older.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
... Paul Halpern looks at A guide to understanding the bomb.
... Christine Ma is inderstandably unnerved a bit: An Iranian woman stunned by prison and torture.
... Susan Comninos ponders Geraldine Brooks's latest: Haggadah in the pages of time .
... and Karen Heller finds Rachel Pastan's latest to be ambitious: Swarthmore writer's comic novel has it all, and then some .
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
I think this is true:
But I'm not sure about this:
I think it is that preoccupation with technique that can get in the way of knowing human beings.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The underlying premise of science is that if we get to the bottom of nature we will understand reality. Suppose that premise is false?
This was not meant to disparage science in any way, and I should have put it more precisely, since I was not, in fact, referring to the underlying premise of science - which is the perfectly sound one that by observation, experiment, trial and error we can arrive at an understanding of the structure and processes of nature. What I was intending to refer to is a premise many often posit about science, which might well be true if nature and reality were the same - or, to put it another way, if nature encompassed the whole of reality - but I suspect that neither is the case.
Let me explain by means of analogy. For Hamlet to be fully realized, it must be staged. But the most thoroughgoing analysis of the theater in which it is performed will tell you absolutely nothing about the play. Likewise, a complete understanding of telecommunications won't tell you anything about the message your mother left on your answering machine last night. In other words, suppose nature is simply the platform for reality.
A similar problem arises with the notion that one can arrive at an ultimate understanding of reality - that is, figure it out - solely by means of reason. The problem there, though, is the presumption that reality is primarily something to be figured out. I don't think it is, anymore than a poem is something meant to be explicated. Whatever understanding of reality we may hope for is best arrived at through the portal by means of which we most directly enter it: ourselves. And no one really experiences himself in terms of chemical or physical processes. Reality is more like Hamlet than a theater and has at least as much to do with such ambiguous matters as character and motive as it does with atoms and stars.
I don't know P.K. Page, but that's a very good poem. As for coincidence, I'm one of those who tends to lend it some importance, but then I'm given to magical thinking.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Well, there's a diffrence between news and the vehicle for delivering it. But this true:
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Here's Jessica's review: Betty Smith by Valerie Raleigh.
Coming from the man who runs what remains the gold standard when it comes to book reviews on Planet Earth I feel honored indeed. Thank you, Peter.
A further clarification: By calling the phrase "climate change" redundant I am merely noting that climate is never static but is a process of continuous change, sort of like the ocean, which is never really still.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
... my review of Christian Wiman's Ambition and Survival: A poet reconciling verse and living.
... the aforementioned Ed Pettit on Arthur Conan Doyle: More Doyle, yet still unsated.
... Ed Champion pondering A.L. Kennedy's latest: World War II novel has heart but lacks spine.
... Dan DeLuca being impressed with Kenneth J. Harvey's Inside: Freed at last from prison, scarred and angry.
... Katherine Bailey praising C.J. Sansom's take on Franco's Spain: Spanish Civil War, stripped of Hemingway's romance.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
This includes a nice mention of the very blog you are reading. Thanks, Bryan.
Bryan, by the way, offers as proof - conclusive, in my view - this link to Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu, with Jeremy Irons.
On Friday, Toby Zinman reviewed Fiona Shaw in Beckett's Happy Days, The review included this wonderful quote: "To have always been what I am - and so changed from what I was."
This plot line is certainly prescient: "... two boys deprived of war toys quickly transform their John Stuart Mill doll into the 18th-century French army commander Marshal Saxe."
The idea of a John Stuart Mill doll is truly terrifying.
"... one wonders how and why people, young and old, spend their days watching television or surfing the more worthless regions of the Internet."
I do find it hard to watch television - unless it's a film. And when I go see a new film it better be good, because otherwise I'll sit through it thinking I could have spent my time better at home reading.
I think it interesting how faith and belief changed meanings. Belief originally meant trust in God, and faith meant loyalty grounded in a promise or an obligation. Faith came to mean loyalty to a set of doctrines (now thought of as beliefs). Too bad, because it is in the codification of faith - reducing it to a set of doctrines - that trouble starts and we move away from a way of life and being to a kind of campaign platform and the accompanying sloganeering.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I'm not sure about Poe. He's always sounded to me like a guy who just couldn't hold his liquor.
Update: A distinguished collegue wonders where all the women drunks are. I just read about Edna St.Vincent Millay, who I gather could put it away with the best of them. Any others?
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Is it any wonder that ... some Grayisms make no sense except on Alice-in-Wonderland terms? ("Nihilism is the idea that human life must be redeemed from meaninglessness.")
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The reason to study rhetoric is to be able to distinguish between mere eloquence and eloquence put to the service of substance. To have a nice voice, a commanding presence, and a way with words is not enough - it helps to have something to say. And sometimes the fellow who doesn't have such a great voice or a commanding presence or a way with words has precisely that.
... Desmond considers a real Elizabethan romance: A sympathetic look at Elizabeth and her Leicester.
... Scott Esposito explores the odd world of Quim Monzó: A subtle but potent, very potent, tale of sex, death.
... David Walton consider the Wagners, a tense and peculiar family if ever there was one: The soap opera that is the Wagners.
... and Sandy Bauers listens to A monologue that is by turns harrowing and compelling .
Friday, January 11, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
This is great:
But I suspect the late David Stove would have some interesting things to say about a Darwinian theory of art.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
Think there's any possibility we haven't the faintist idea?
Sunday, January 06, 2008
I went to Catholic schools and I was taught evolution in biology class. When I was in college, Teilhard de Chardin (whose Phenomenon of Man had an introduction by Julian Huxley) was big. I'm still something of a Teilhard disciple. But we'd better not go there just now. This was intended as a brief post.
Here's the Guardian's: Let's play corpse and robbers.
I have to say I prefer Maxine's because it's more show than tell, though I understand - who better? - that Guttridge had a greater space constraint.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Drink is something I know a good deal about - though I haven't had once since 1989. I believe that, if one has a problem with it, the best thing is not to intellectualize it, but simply to admit that you like to get drunk. By reducing the problem to its lowest common denominator you have a better chance at arriving at a quick and correct solution to it.
…You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not....