Monday, August 31, 2009
I'm certainly not alone among Americans of a certain age in remembering exactly where I was on the day of her death. In the late afternoon of Aug. 5, 1962, I was leaving the Polo Grounds after watching the New York Mets split a doubleheader with the Cincinnati Reds when I saw, at the entrance to the 155th St. subway station, newsboys hawking tabloid extras with the news announced in big, black type. I was stunned, as obviously were all the others who crowded around to buy copies. After all she was only 36 years old -- a mere 13 years older than I was -- and recent photographs had suggested that she was at the height of her beauty. That she was dead was unbelievable and insupportable.
This seems odd: "He is small for a dancer, just 5-foot-7 ..." About the same height as Erik Bruhn, and only an inch shorter than Nureyev. Here are Erik Bruhn and Carla Fracci.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
... Blues' early days, recorded on location.
... Magic envelopes a Uruguayan girl.
... A woman brilliant and beautiful.
... Travel Bookshelf: New guidebooks for travel dreaming.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.
It's almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Going someplace I've never been always makes me feel alive, alert, aware, and undulled. Even on a long day of driving, if I'm on a highway I've never seen before, surrounded by lands, lakes, mountains, fields I've never seen before, I feel particularly alive. It is my goal, in the next few years, to visit all of the US National Parks, and every state in the Union. At some point I want to drive along the Canadian passage to Alaska. I love the north country, and I don't want to just fly over it to get a notch in my belt for visiting Denali, and making photographs there. Photography is the goal, but in a way it's also the excuse. Just going, being able to go, being able to travel, is equally important.
My position on the climate is to avoid releasing pollutants into the atmosphere, regardless of current expert opinion. Climate experts, like banking risk managers, have failed us in the past in foreseeing long-term damage. This is an extension of my general belief: "Do not disturb a complex system." We do not know the consequences of our actions (this idea also makes me anti-war), and I have explicitly stated the need to leave the planet the way we got it.
Is anyone pro-war? I hope not. But if you break into my house, I'm likely to blow you away. Saying one is anti-war is a lot like saying one is anti-typhoon. Wars tend to be more on the order of natural disasters. Only a lunatic would say that one must never fight one. (Bear in mind, for an individual to adopt non-violence as a counsel of perfection is not the same thing as being "anti-war".) Does Taleb think WWII should not have been fought? One could argue that different policies might have prevented it, but to do so would be pure counterfactual-conditional speculation. War does disturb a complex system, though, no doubt about that. So do hurricanes and floods and earthquakes.
As for leaving "the planet the way we got it," the planet is already not the way we "got it" and will continue to not be. That is because the planet, like reality, is continuously undergoing change. We are constituents in a complex system and ought to behave in a responsible manner within that system. But we are not in control of that system. Given humanity's historical track record, let is pray we never are.
See also: Sunspots Do Really Affect Weather Patterns, Say Scientists.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I have no comment on the ones who are still living, but I think that Kenneth Patchen ought be included among the others.
"Our members are not interested in Brian Tierney's geography lesson, they want to hear him commit that the local ownership will not try to slash our wages and benefits, or put our pensions in jeopardy," local Guild administrator Bill Ross said Tuesday.
He called the local ownership campaign "laughable," noting the newspapers won more than 20 Pulitzer Prizes under corporate ownership of Knight Ridder, which was based in San Jose, Calif., before it was bought in 2006.
The Teamsters Union - with more than 2,000 full- and part-time employees working as drivers, press operators, mailers and in other jobs - strongly backs Tierney.
"We believe whatever pain we're going to suffer will be kept to a minimum under local ownership, in contrast to the banks," said John Dagle, a local Teamsters vice president.
Used to be that the Teamsters were the decisive factor when it came time to negotiate. I don't know if that still holds. But is the Guild thinking that its members will be better off if the creditors take control? Sounds iffy to me. Whatever the outcome, the Inquirer would be better of with newsroom management more oriented toward the 21st century, and not lost in nostalgia for what were, for them, the glory days of the paper and their careers.
Glenn also links to these: Pushing Artists to be Political and The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?Artists shouldn’t be used as tools of the state to help create a climate amenable to their positions, which is what appears to be happening in this instance. If the art community wants to tackle those issues on its own then fine. But tackling them shouldn’t come as an encouragement from the NEA to those they potentially fund at this coincidental time.
And if you think that my fear regarding the arts becoming a tool of the state is still unfounded, I leave you with a few statements made by the NEA to the art community participants on the conference call. “This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely… "
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Autism is often described as a disease or a plague, but when it comes to the American college or university, autism is often a competitive advantage rather than a problem to be solved. One reason American academe is so strong is because it mobilizes the strengths and talents of people on the autistic spectrum so effectively. In spite of some of the harmful rhetoric, the on-the-ground reality is that autistics have been very good for colleges, and colleges have been very good for autistics.
The principal hero of this struggle was Emerson, whose reputation Mr. Poirier did much to redefine, challenging the familiar view of him as a facile optimist, a woozy metaphysician or an enabler of laissez-faire capitalism. Nor would Emerson have embraced the modern notion of “the self as something put together by a person who is then required to express it and to ask others to confirm it as an identity.” Rather, he saw the self as something very much like what Frost called a poem: “a momentary stay against confusion.”
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
What Bill says of Mencken I fear is true: "By denying himself the possibility of growth through an increased knowledge of the world, by locking himself into the attitudes of youth, no matter what, Mencken shows himself to be as much a part of the booboisies and knuckleheads that he raged against."
It is extraordinary to see how primitive technology was at the time. And how primitive the ads were on As the World Turns (though the actress playing the wife was quite good, actually). Interesting, too, that Walter is far less blow-dried than today's anchors. Also Walter did a fine job. He is obviously exerting great control over his emotions when the president's death is confirmed.
Maybe because his actual home base was his farm outside Doylestown, PA.Hammerstein was born and bred as an affluent New Yorker, but his spiritual home base was the rural and the sentimental.
Hammerstein's default mode was sentimental. There's a place for Hallmark, of course—I enjoy "If I Loved You" from Carousel as much as anyone else.
Moreover, take away birds and flowers and you just jettisoned a heck of a lot of poetry in English.
I thought that Lisa Tucker's The Song Reader portrayed ordinary working people both accurately and sympathetically, without any condescension. Which is to say it showed you how interesting they are, underscoring the fact that you that you do not have to go to college to be interesting. Actually, many people who do go to college are not very interesting at all; in fact, where or whether you go to college has nothing to do with whether or not you are interesting. I would myself venture a guess that one is at least as likely to find interesting people at the car repair shop around the corner from here as in any of the law offices in Center City.
I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single
object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart upon
me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.- Walt Whitman, "As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life"
Monday, August 24, 2009
The idea that Dawkins is capable of doing very much more than deeply offending people is probably inconceivable to those who accuse him not only of a virulent disrespect for religion but of being an apologist for Hitler and Stalin who, it is rather irrelevantly pointed out, were atheists too (except that Hitler was raised a Roman Catholic and Stalin studied at a Georgian Orthodox seminary).
See also Learning to live with radical Islam.
Nice to see that Sebastian Barry won the fiction award for his wonderful Secret Scripture.
Update: See also The Chasm Between the Value of Print and Web Readers. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)
Well, yes: Technology makes things cheaper. Printed books cost a lot less than illuminated manuscripts. TV got a boost because it was free. Both TV and newspapers - and magazines - have been dependent on ad revenue. The real story is that advertisers may have found, in the internet, a better and above all chapter way to do their thing. After all, they were never paying all that money to networks and publishers out of the kindness of their hearts.
Madeleine Bunting says [a number of developments in neuroscience and psychology] point to a new view of human nature as humans now no longer seem to possess reason, autonomy or freedom. This is a tricky argument as, once you have said it in its strong form, you can't say anything else because you are human and, therefore, anything else you might say is compromised by your lack of reason, autonomy etc.
Read the whole thing.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I must have been in an uncharacteristically cranky mood when I wrote that post. Rankin can do as he pleases - and so can his readers. I think the latter will, as Maxine suggests, prove loyal. In any event, he didn't deserve to be the object of truculence.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Somebody should remind Rankin that the only reason why anybody gives a rat's ass why he says or does anything is because of Rebus, not him. It isn't about you at all, Ian.
Not so sure about this, though:
What about government? That sure metastasizes enough. And corporations do die. Mycelia do pretty well also.... only two things grow indefinitely or have indefinite growth firmly ensconced at the heart of their being: cancer and the corporation. For everything else, especially in nature, the consuming fires eventually come and force a starting over.
Whatever, I'm taking a break today. It's Saturday. I need a day off. Probably you do, too.
But see also Terence Blacker: Why does a philosopher need to join the clamour for speed? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
... Anaximander of Miletus, who probably lived from 610 to 540 B.C.E. ... described the ultimate material principle as apeiron, "the Infinite" or indererminate; "something without bound, form, or quality."
This is a quote from Naming Infinity: A Crisis in Mathematics (Harvard) by Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor. I just started reading it last night and expect I may finish it by tomorrow. Briefly put, it tells the story of how a group of Russian intellectuals who were adherents to a mystical form of Russian Orthodoxy (having to do with the Philokalia and the Jesus prayer) were able, by virtue of their mystical take on things, to make one of the great mathematical breakthroughs (having to do with infinity).
The description of the Infinite in the passage I have quoted bears a striking resemblance to the Tao. Anaximander and Lao Tzu were roughly contemporary. What I am interested in is the light the book may shed on how the way we think affects the outcome of our thought. Specifically, if the Russians' mystical approach was in fact more effective in arriving at a breakthrough necessary to advance mathematics, then maybe that approach is sounder than a purely rational one.
Friday, August 21, 2009
By the way, I will presume that the author of the article, described as the "Science Editor" of the Times, knows his science, but he doesn't seem to know jack shit about religion. "[T]he Islamic world, where creationist beliefs are strong" - no Mark, they believe in a Creator, just like everybody else who believes in God. "Creationism" is something different. "While most non-fundamentalist Christian traditions have largely accepted evolution" - so have most fundamentalist Christians, actually, though they may quibble over the details. Henderson's problem is that he thinks all fundamentalist Christians take the Bible literally and believe that the world was created about 5,000 years ago in six 24-hour periods. As it happens, most do not.
Oh, and I immensely admire Dawkins's courage in taking his views to Islam, just as I respect his views while not sharing them - which is more than could expect of him, I gather (a friend of mine is a friend of his).
The jewelweed reminded him:
Being may only be encountered
In particulars — this orange flower-cup
Here, or that yellow one there.
The sky is pale this morning,
As never before, nor ever again.
Outside of now being is memory
Or prophecy, echoes or guesses,
Ancient bones dolled up
In make-believe flesh, fashion’s
Fears and wishes assigned
Their odds and post positions.
Long-dead priests and potentates,
Their postulants and subjects,
Alike are make-believe,
Their passions and intentions
Dust and ashes impossible
To reassemble into bone and sinew.
“So who am I?” he wonders,
And a slant of light between two trees
Prompts him to think of wind slipping
Softly through a cleft in rock.
“I am being created,” he tells himself,
“In the image of a presence invisible
As light and air. I slip into time softly,
Like a breath of wind through a cleft
In rock, or a narrow slant of light
Between a pair of trees. Like priest
And potentate, this flower-cup or that,
I will slip out as well, and be impossible
To reassemble outside of now,
Invisible as the presence I am made of.”
I first wrote about Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code because the features editor of the Inquirer had been at a dinner party attended, she told me, mostly by Ph.D.s (husbands and wives), most of whom had read the book and praised it for the revelatory nature of its historical accuracy. I hadn't even assigned it for review, having been unimpressed when I gave it a look while it was still in galley. Anyway, I started reading and realized immediately that my boss's Ph.D. dinner companions obviously had their degrees in something other than literature and history.
By the way, Brown wasn't always so reclusive. He stopped talking when people started asking questions he couldn't answer, like "why do you portray the Council of Nicaea as having decided by vote whether Jesus was the son of God when all the participants already believed that and were tryng to decide how he, as son, related precisely to the father?"
The fact is there is nothing so dumb that you can't find some self-styled intellectual to buy into it.
There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man's needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.- Albert Jay Nock
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Makes sense. No distractions, no peer pressure, no bullying.
Where grit must always be hidden, though, is in art. Art is by nature about hiding the struggle: the wrestle with words for the writer, with time and sound for the composer and performer, with the stubborn materials in the hands of the visual artist. Art is about emerging from that struggle victorious and showing not the least sign of strain, which is to say grit, for having done so. The artist in effect says, Look, Ma — you, too, World, look! — No hands! Art is about making things seem effortless, or so at the least is the art I most enjoy.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
"Diamond’s celebrated book – which added to the reputation he earned through Guns, Germs and Steel, a Pulitzer prize-winner about why some societies triumph over others – sought to discover what makes civilisations, many at their apparent zenith, crumble overnight. The Maya of Central America, the stone-carving civilisation of Easter Island, and the Soviet Union – all suddenly shattered."
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
(Hat tip, Dave Lull, who makes welcome guest appearance.)
... government ministers should themselves be under twenty-four hour video surveillance. The tapes should be broadcast daily so that we, their constituents and paymasters, can see and hear what they are up to.
Monday, August 17, 2009
It is a way of doing philosophy that seeks not to impose a truth that comes from without, but to bring it forth from within.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Bryan, in this post, quotes this passage from Midgley's article:
The mythology of how markets work, of how money can do things on its own, is as remote from solid physical reality as these other things. And of course whatever the mythology of the time is, those inside it don't recognise it as such; they think they're just noticing facts.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"I would love to have had him in class!" Debbie said of Ed during brunch. And indeed Ed is just the sort of over-the-top ideaphoric type one would infer him to be from his writing. Had we met in high school we would have made a wonderful pair of enfants terribles. (I think that God, in His infinite wisdom, decided to spare the world that by assigning us to different generations). Oh, and he can be very funny.
I had not known that Sarah hails from Canada, but I was pleased to discover our mutual admiration for Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. We both think it is not a novella, but a genuine prose poem. Sarah, by the way, is one of those quietly brilliant and lovely young women it is nice to know do exist outside novels.
I may have more to say about all this later on, but right now I have to get ready to head to South Jersey. One thing Ed said that struck a spark in my mind was that he leaves the computer entirely alone when the weekend arrives. I may well start doing the same. Everybody deserves a day. Anyway, they may be a few posts scheduled after this, but I won't be back to the computer until tomorrow.
Science really got going, Hannam argues, when Aristotle was challenged by theologians at the great universities (all founded in the medieval era, naturally). Orthodoxy would not accept that Aristotle’s “natural laws” could limit God’s powers, so thinkers were encouraged to investigate the “consistent and not capricious” workings of God’s universe for themselves. Experience, as Chaucer might have put it, started to chase after authority.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The Cardinal is taking it upon himself to explain, rather grandly, the impact of his story, an intricate one about a docile young princess who gradually learns the pleasures--and dangers--of independence. Though insisting on the reality of his account, the Cardinal is drawing his listener's attention to the exaggerations. A story, he suggests, is a vital form of expression: it offers not just a record of experience but also a vision of potential. And its truth is inextricably connected to its theatricality.
I don't think August Kleinzahler will be doing a reading, however.