Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I don't think newspapers would be in anywhere near the trouble they are if they simply stood apart from the fray and reported what was going on irrespective of who got hurt. Case in point: DOUBLE STANDARDS AGAIN.
... they have to alter and restrict the definition of censorship deliberately to exclude cases of the government restraining a book's publication. That's because if they go by this common definition of censorship, they have absolutely no cases to discuss. Since there is no actual book censorship in the United States, there's not much need for a group crying out against it.
The mood was even more hostile in blogs and e-mails to newspapers and news magazines. Of the 30,000 participants in an online poll by the French daily Le Figaro, more than 70 percent said Mr. Polanski, 76, should face justice. And in the magazine Le Point, more than 400 letter writers were almost universal in their disdain for Mr. Polanski.
That contempt was not only directed at Mr. Polanski, but at the French class of celebrities — nicknamed Les People — who are part of Mr. Polanski’s rarefied Parisian world. Letter writers to Le Point scorned Les People as the “crypto-intelligentsia of our country” who deliver “eloquent phrases that defy common sense.”
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
And answers: "... for serious crimes against the person — rape, murder, genocide — there is every justification for a robust and unyielding refusal to let anyone ever escape punishment for them."
Put Polanski in the same cell with Phil Spector.
It will be seen that what the defenders of Dali are claiming is a kind of benefit of clergy. The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art,” and everything is O.K.: kicking little girls in the head is O.K.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Trust me, folks. I know of whom I speak.
... on the other hand, where was he when Condoleeza Rice was being portrayed as Aunt Jemima: Stop Allowing The Left To Set The Rules. Perhaps he wrote a piece deploring that, too, and I just remember it.
From Glenn's piece:
There's lots of interesting stuff in Baron's book about ecological change, and the folly of seeking "wilderness" without recognizing humanity's role in nature, but to me the most interesting behavior isn't the predatory nature of the cougars -- which are, after all, predators -- but the willful ignorance of human beings. So many were so invested in the notion that by thinking peaceful thoughts they could will into existence a state of peaceful affairs that they ignored the evidence right in front of them, which tended to suggest that cougars were quite happy to eat anything that was juicy, delicious, and unlikely to fight back.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
And the media don't like it, Mr. Hou."Ordinary people have started to realize the world ought to be dominated by them, rather than some media or elite," Hou added. "Online authors are breaking the rules and using totally fresh concepts."
Early in his academic career, though, he noticed that his colleagues, even the ones at the top of their game, seemed unhappy. “They were tremendously stressed about the need to get the grant money, to get the publications, to move up the academic ladder,” he recalls. “And that felt all wrong.” He joined the Peace Corps and taught astronomy at a university in Kenya. On weekends, he took his show on the road, and as impoverished villagers crowded around his telescope, peering excitedly at the moons of Jupiter, he decided that to be deprived of learning was just as tragic as being deprived of food or water.
... tough position: A player with everything on the line.
... California dreamin': Rich portrait of a golden state.
... Margaret Atwood's latest: A fantasy world after 'Waterless Flood'.
As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.- T.S. Eliot
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Public speaking is a performing art. You either have a talent and a inclination for that or you don't. Interestingly, I have known actors, excellent at playing a role before a crowded theater, who were quite uncomfortable giving a lecture.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Moore is a phony.What we are left with then is a kind of political pornography for bien pensants in which Moore carefully orchestrates and manages his scenes and arguments to arouse a sense of anger and moral outrage in an audience which he knows desires to be thus titillated. Moore then feeds a series of stimulating scenes to the viewer, keeping that engorged muscle of angry indignation fully enflamed, until a climactic release at the end of the film. But once that climax has been reached, the world has not changed and the viewer has not participated in any meaningful form of protest, rebellion or dissent. This is ultimately an experience without real contact, without consummation, or the exchange of any bodily fluids. The energy of outrage is dissipated and fades away. The manipulated viewer simply returns to his life, most likely carrying on as a good servant of Capitalism.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Princess and the President is a toe-curler. It is breathless, pretentious, inadvertently hilarious and monumentally self-regarding. But it is also rather magnificent, a demonstration of the melodrama that still animates the soul of French politics, and a taste for showing off that British politics has sadly lost.Clearly, too many French politicians have been educated beyond their intelligence.
It isn’t mainly illiteracy that inflates the size and force of government; it’s the power-lust of the “master” class and the narrow self-interest of the “subject” class, which is disgustingly willing to surrender freedom and future prosperity for immediate and particular rewards. Lenin was perfectly literate; so was Hitler, and so were many of their followers. It didn’t help.
Still, "the defense of a free society, especially against the attacks of literate (or technically literate) people, does require a fairly high standard of literacy." Indeed.
This is a fine piece. So read the whole thing.
We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Much is written of the need for “institution building” to develop the skills and attitudes that are needed for constructive social work among the poor, and Father Bogaert contributed significantly to this literature. More important, he played a major part in the establishment and evolution of three important institutions: the Xavier Institute of Social Service in Ranchi, the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, and the Xavier Institute of Development Action and Service in Jabalpur. He was working on the same task at the Xavier Institute for Social Action in Raipur when he died. Few men can claim to have built even one institution; he built three.
Father Michael was one person of whom one can say with confidence that he left behind nothing but good.
Only yesterday afternoon, John Timpane and I were chuckling over these - from the open pages of The Lost Symbol:
"The skull was hollow, like a bowl, filled with bloodred wine." Well, of course the skull is hollow. It is, after all, a container - for the brain.
"The room like a holy sanctuary from the ancient world." Definition of sanctuary: "a sacred or holy place."
"This room was a perfect square." The room is either square or it isn't.
Indeed.Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”
I've just been introduced to the work of Raymond Carver - and I must say, I'm finding some of it horribly depressing. That said, the fourth story in Cathedral - 'The Compartment' - is masterfully crafted. Indeed, it was reminiscent, for me, of Hemingway's 'A Canary for One': trains, enclosed spaces, velocity, family dynamics - it's all there, cast in patient, powerful prose. I'm interested to learn more about Carver's critical reception as well as his attention (devestating, at times) to those moments of revelation which guide couples towards reunion (or worse, ruin).
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
What we discover, in the end, is that the intellect by itself
can never lead anyone to the virtues of the soul. Mere rational knowledge—even
about God—does not provide growth or movement toward sharing in the life of God.
Some scholars have suggested that Protestantism is built on a Gnostic scheme of
a knowledge that saves. This is too extreme. Yet Protestant Christianity's
special emphasis on knowing God and God's revelation in a very cognitive sense
suggests that its spirituality is too closely tied to a way of knowing God that
is best represented by the fact that the sermon, not the liturgy, stands at the
center of most Protestant worship services.
L. Lee Lowe is an e-novelist who has experienced modest success with her two science fiction novels and various short stories. Her stories, particularly Corvus, have loglines that prompt their potential movie trailers to play in your head and are available for free (doesn’t that make your unemployed ears perk up?) on her website.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Henry Miller was a fan of Krazy Kat. And John Alden Carpenter wrote a very nice, jazzy ballet based on Krazy Kat. Beyond that, I don't know much about the strip.
As a fervent foe of “big government”, he reluctantly accepts the need for the bank bail-out to prevent the entire financial system grinding to a halt. But he has no truck with the attempt to keep afloat the motor industry, most notably General Motors. “Saving GM was folly,” he says. “Millions of investors around the world were looking at GM and all agreed it was worthless. Then a guy who’s a lawyer with an Ivy League liberal arts education [Obama] comes along and tells me that my tax dollars are going to bail out GM. If I had wanted to own part of GM, I’d have a stockbroker.”
Recently, Debbie and I watched He Walked by Night. She very quickly noticed its similarity to Dragnet. Sure enough, later on, Jack Webb appeared as lab technician. He later worked with the LAPD cop who served as consultant on the film to develop the series.
I am less persuaded by Mark's reference to Margaret Wilcox in Howards End. I think Margaret is a fundamentally intolerant busy-body.... Plato might be thought of as a religious thinker for our times. He has no doctrines, only powerful suggestions. He does not advocate belief, but rather good judgment. He is never authoritarian, instead inviting his readers to cultivate a way of life. Alongside questions about the transcendent, Plato places others about values, the good life and love – additional great concerns that are pressing for us today. "In the strange cosmic astronomy of the wandering zeitgeist," Iris Murdoch reflected, "we are closer to Plato now than in many previous centuries."
What about Michael Servetus?The assumption is that forgiveness is owed wherever God might want forgiveness to be given, and we don’t know, so you err on the side of forgiving. You assume your fallibility, and you also assume that anybody that you encounter is precious to God—or is God himself.
Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.- Henry MillerI find it amazing that so many people find themselves so interesting. I like to think I know myself pretty well. I am not that interesting.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The comment thread at this link is grown considerably since I first posted it, so I'm bumping it so people who may not have seen it can take a look. As I said in a comment I just added this is a model of civil discussion.
It's this moral, and therefore, personal element that Pinker's account doesn't capture, and hence in that sense I think it can be called a fiction. He treats us as homo economicus when really we are homo moralis. Language is a window into human nature, as the subtitle of his book has it, only he doesn't really provide a look through that window. After all the moral and personal matters to us as human beings: what is an analysis of language that doesn't capture the meaning that makes most immediate sense to the users of that language? In general, this is the problem of the bio-economic discourses inherent in game theory, evolutionary psychology and the like, of which Pinker is such an adept.
Twitter has decided to act after Tony La Russa, the coach of an obscure American baseball team, launched a legal action over a fake account. He claimed that postings in which he appeared to make light of the death of two of his players had been ‘hurtful’.
"Obscure baseball team." Obscure to whom? Not to anyone who knows anything about baseball. Were I to refer to the manager of a cricket team - if there are such - I would refer to him as the manager of whatever team it was. I wouldn't call it an obscure cricket team simply because I don't know anything about cricket. Anyway, the St. Louis Cardinals are hardly obscure, and neither is Tony La Russa.
See also: Religion for Radicals: An Interview with Terry Eagleton.
(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
In his Dictionary of the English Language, Johnson does not yet recognize the power of "nice" as the catch-all term for British near-approval, but he produces one of his little gems in defining the word: "It is often used to express a culpable delicacy." It may be time to observe that Dr. Johnson, neither by his own definition nor by ours, could ever properly have been described as nice. He lacked culpable delicacy to the exact same degree that he lacked good manners, an easy disposition, a sunny outlook, a helpful quality, an open spirit, a selfless gene, a handsome gait, or a general willingness to put his best foot forward in greeting others. If niceness was the only category known to posterity, we would long since have lost Johnson to the scrofulous regions of inky squalor, for he could be alarmingly rude.
... if your goal is to provide a propaganda service on behalf of the powers that be, then you should at least aim to be effective. But ACORN was destroyed regardless. Even worse, Jon Stewart did a skit on ACORN on Tuesday when only Fox was covering the story and then on Thursday Jay Leno made gags about the hapless community organizers in his opening routine. Both comedians assumed that their audiences already knew the story, which means that the ‘mainstream media’ isn’t setting the agenda any more — and thus can hardly be described as mainstream.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Sam seems to think conservatism is fine theoretically. He just doesn't want any conservatives to run for office or win elections. (Practical politics, after all, can be quite messy.)
“Boswell, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family, and reminded me that the eighteenth of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent, or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been, if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content.”
Had he been a psychiatric patient, Jung might well have been told he had a nervous disorder and encouraged to ignore the circus going on in his head. But as a psychiatrist, and one with a decidedly maverick streak, he tried instead to tear down the wall between his rational self and his psyche. For about six years, Jung worked to prevent his conscious mind from blocking out what his unconscious mind wanted to show him. Between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home and actually induced hallucinations — what he called “active imaginations.” “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ ” Jung wrote later in his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” “I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them.” He found himself in a liminal place, as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin, believing it to be the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists.
Here is a short documentary about Jung.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Adding to the disillusionment is the growing recognition of the part that free access to the Web has played in the hemorrhaging of circulation. "When we look at why people quit buying the newspaper, it's overwhelmingly because 'I can get it for free online,'" William Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group, the nation's fourth-largest newspaper company, recently said. Whenever the Times's Bill Keller and other top editors speak in public, they invariably encounter readers who, expressing amazement at being able to read the paper online for free, plead for ways to donate to it.
It's also worth noting that you can often get it better online - or at least in a more timely fashion. Case in point: the recent ACORN business, which the NYT was certainly not on top of. And who are these people amazed that they can read the paper online for free? When exactly did they discover this? Maybe they should read something else online. They might change their minds about donating to the Times.
But let us not forget `The Carpenter of Destruction'.I sincerely hope that Alan Gilbert will prove to be a great conductor. But I have no doubt that it is far more important to the future of classical music in America for him to be a great communicator, one who finds new ways to do what Leonard Bernstein did so superlatively well in the days of the middlebrow. And I suspect that his will be the harder task: to make the case for high culture to a generation that is increasingly ignorant, if not downright disdainful, of its life-changing power and glory.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Then there are those like Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow, who feel readers should pay for all of their online news, just as they do in print. "If someone does not subscribe to the newspaper, they should pay a fee to subscribe online," he declares. "If you want to read a story, you ought to pay. Someone, either the reader, the [Web] audience, or advertisers have to pay if we are going to provide this content."
Well, go ahead and do it.
... see also The survival of the West is at stake.
(Hat tips to Dave Lull for both links.)
Congratulations to Jenny.
Culture needs authority. Sure, there is an enormous conversation occurring, but the purpose of book reviews is to present readers with the collision of sense and sensibility. The sense coming from an expert, someone who has devoted his or her entire life to reading and mastering this literary form, and the sensibility of a writer. This can be duplicated on lit blogs and in online reviews, but it can’t be replaced by democracy. That’s the tricky thing about culture. It’s not a democratic enterprise, and it’s antithetical to talk about that because democracy has infiltrated into American consciousness and into our emotional life. So it’s easy to confuse culture and democracy, but they’re not the same. Just as democracy is also often confused with capitalism.
I would not myself draw a comparison between culture and democracy. I think the comparison is with the free market. It is out of a free interplay that the spontaneous hierarchialization that we call culture emerges. As for democracy and capitalism, once you get past barter, you need to use capital - a medium of exhange - in order to make economic transactions. The issue has nothing to do with the nature of the media of exchange, but rather with who or what controls the media of exchange. As with everything else - nature, for instance - the wider the distribution the better. So I don't think any of this has much to do with democracy or authority or capitalism. It has to do with personal liberty.
Finally, if every newspaper in the country had a book section like the New York Times and made sure to review only books that had not been reviewed by any of the other book sections, you would still not come close to reviewing every thing that is being published and almost certainly many books deserving of attention would be overlooked. The internet makes it possible for more and more books to get more and more attention by more and more people.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I've avoided comment on Ted Kennedy - de mortuis, you know - but this is too bizarre to ignore.
The upshot of their analysis, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, is that novels have an agonistic structure—that is, they pit protagonists against antagonists, good guys against bad guys.
Today, however, we have the means to make that utopia a reality. In many societies, despite enormous inequalities, ordinary people not only read but have access to a huge quantity of reading matter through the Internet. I would not minimize the digital divide, which separates the computerized world from the rest, nor would I underestimate the importance of traditional books. But the future is digital. And I believe that if we can resolve the current challenges facing books in ways that favor ordinary citizens, we can create a digital republic of letters. Much of my book is devoted to this premise and can be summarized in two words: digitize and democratize.
It ought to be required reading over here, too.
This post links to this piece by Richard Butler: George Santayana: Catholic Atheist. And also to a Santayana Blog.
I like Butler's notion that, just as we among the faithful woefully fall short in our faith, so our atheist friends are likely to fall short in their lack of same.
... according to Calvin, only by seeing ourselves as we really are, in our utter perversity and alienation, can we enter fully into salvation's benefits. A serious doctrine of original sin calls for a radical doctrine of redemptive grace.Ah, but there's the rub. The doctrine of total depravity is what distinguishes Calvinism from Catholicism. Catholics do not think that original sin adversely affected man's fundamental nature. Because of original sin, we have a propensity to sin, but the nature of our being has not been rendered sinful.
I maintain further that Captain Ahab is the ultimate Calvinist: "Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders." Any discussion of Calvin and predestination ought to address this.
By the way, many years ago I did read a bit of Calvin's Institutes. I was very impressed by the clarity and grace of his prose.
All conscious nature has experiences of pleasure and pain. Man alone can deliberately will the repetition of an experience. And repetition, experienced as such, is at the heart, for good and evil, of his faculty of reasoning, and thus makes possible his language, his art, his morality, and indeed his humanity. Yet it is the enemy of life, for repetition is itself the principle, not of life but of mechanism.- Owen Barfield
Monday, September 14, 2009
... Socrates himself wrote nothing. And as for Plato: "There neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on [philosophy]," he wrote in the Seventh Letter. "For [philosophy] does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself." A struggle with life is the lifeblood of philosophy, not a struggle with words.
Could he manage to get his facts straight?What no one could guess, despite all advance hints about setting and subject matter, was whether Mr. Brown could recapture his love of the game. Could he still tell a breathless treasure-hunt story? Could he lard it with weirdly illuminating minutiae? Could he turn some form of profound wisdom into a pretext for escapist fun?
See also Libraries post notice warning of Oct. 2 closing. (Hat tip to Dave Lull for both links.)
Over the weekend the city left phone messages telling people trash collection would become bi-weekly for the same reason. Of course, if the hacks that run the city were at all competent, the city would be, well, not dysfunctional.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Update: It wasn't easy, but thanks to The Inquirer's deputy features editor Michael Rozansky, I have found the missing components: Nonfiction and Fiction.
On another note, Ed Champion sends along this: NBCC 35th Anniversary: Into the 21st century, which includes this:
Carlin Romano, after counting his blessings for the chance to write about European intellectuals for a daily newspaper (The Philadelphia Enquirer), remarked that the NBCC is as much fun today as it was 24 years ago.A number of people have noted that Carlin's On Books column has been absent from The Inquirer's pages for quite some time now. I have not seen Carlin in a while, so I am not in a position to comment further.