Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.- William Saroyan, born on this date in 1908
Monday, August 30, 2010
Guess that doesn't affect the people in the glass offices.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
We own a couple of Brian Keeler's paintings.
It's important to note that the Hauser affair also represents the best in science. When lowly graduate students suspected their famous boss was cooking his data, they risked their careers and reputations to blow the whistle on him. They are the scientists to celebrate.
Being, belief and reason are pure relations, which cannot be dealt with absolutely, and are not things but pure scholastic concepts, signs for understanding, not for worshipping, aids to awaken our attention, not to fetter it.- Johann Georg Hamann, born on this date in 1730
Thursday, August 26, 2010
But if you believe in Wallace Stevens, who believed in God, must you not, by extension, also believe in God?
Dave also sends along this: AS Byatt, who we are, and maps again.
It still seems to come down to what Julian Barnes says at the beginning of Nothing To Be Frightened Of: "I don't believe in God, but I miss him." I don't "believe" in God, either, because for me God isn't a proposition, but a presence.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
(Bumped. Thanks to Cynthia for alerting me that the original link went nowhere.)
As a Literary Novelist, Franzen is "painfully conscious," and so must bear the burden of those who are not. The insights he shares won't alienate the "beleaguered" modern reader — Grossman assures us we'll enjoy Freedom because it's not too difficult to read.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Revolutionaries themselves are the last people to realize when, through force of time and circumstance, they have gradually become conservatives. It is scarcely to be wondered at if the public is very nearly as slow in the uptake.- Constant Lambert, born on this date in 1905
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Fom Ed's reply to a comment:
In deciding which novelist “knows” more about the world, here are things to look for: how much can you picture the respective operations, which writer is more specific, which writer holds the reader’s hand more, which writer is more interested in the world that he is writing about?
Saturday, August 21, 2010
When the critic of a one-paper town decides that (in Mr. Rosenberg's words) "mediocrity takes up residence . . . when Welser-Möst is on the podium," and when his reviews of the orchestra's concerts consist in large part of variations on that grim theme, the editors of his paper have to ask themselves a tough question: At what point does so oft- repeated an opinion become predictable and redundant?
This is precisely right. And so is this:
Rather than replace Mr. Rosenberg with a younger critic, Ms. Goldberg could just as easily have ordered the two men to split the assignment of covering the orchestra's concerts right down the middle. Criticism is not an exact science, and the paper would have done its readers a service by regularly publishing contrasting points of view on the city's No. 1 cultural venture.
The realization that he was a great poet came to McGonagall in 1877 with the suddenness of a mystical experience or perhaps a neurological event like a stroke. (These days, he would be put at once into an MRI scanner.) From that time on, he ceased ever to work as a cotton-weaver, deriving an exiguous and precarious living from performances of his own compositions in places such as village halls, public meeting rooms, and pubs. His wife begged him to return to cotton-weaving, where the remuneration, while not munificent, was at least regular and more or less calculable in advance. But McGonagall was faithful to his muse to the last, dying in penury in 1902.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
If poetry or any art is to be memorable and moving, it can be neither engagé nor an empty game. Herbert cites his conversations with young Americans in 1970-71 and says “those who dabble in film, art, or literature, loudly declare they are on the side of the `Left’.” If anything, that hegemony is even more absolute today. He continues:
“And I often wonder why the work that results from this essentially noble stance is intellectually immature, as if the proclamation of humanist ideals led the artist into the realm of banality. I’ve often asked myself if it isn’t too cruel a punishment that political kindheartedness should cancel out a work’s artistic value.”
Of course, is the intention really good if the aims are merely fashionable?
If materialism is true, then I think Nietzsche is right: truth is not a value; life-enhancing illusions are to be preferred. If truth is out of all relation to human flourishing, why should we value it?
I think that somewhere Aquinas defines truth as the conformity of the mind to reality. Knowing how things are would seem to be better than not, even if that knowledge be grim. I also suspect that immortality of any sort is something we ought not to bother ourselves with.
... Stanford legend Robert Conquest: new books at 93 for the historian and poet.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
As he puts it, magnificently and movingly, in the essay “Towards a Fateful Serenity”, “the faith that inspires social duty is the honour of being a man, of being a man of honour”.
The Honor of Being a Man was the title of a book my mentor, Edward Gannon, S.J., wrote about about Andre Malaraux.
... Black women's influence of faith.
... Ambition dissected, as the wheel turns.
... Ambition dissected, as the wheel turns.
... Reprise -- Paul Davis's James Lee Burke review from Tuesday: Cajun cop deals with a gusher of violence.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
This ignorance is part of a general myth, aided by programs like "Mad Men" and such twisted accounts as Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. According to these shows and books, the 1950's was a decade of American rapacity, sexism, war-mongering, profiteering and mindlessness. In fact, that decade saw a flowering of literary talents that has not been equaled since. J.D. Salinger, Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, John Updike published important books in the 1950's, and in 1952 Ellison put himself on the map with his own Invisible Man, a powerful narrative delivered by a black man who calls himself invisible because he walks unnoticed through the white world.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
... Davis argues that the good news from biology is that the “globalization of the Earth’s biota will not lead to a world composed of zebra mussels, kudzu, and starlings.” Instead, while in the future different regions of the world will be more similar in their floras and faunas, Davis concludes, “At the same time, they will become more diverse, in some cases much more diverse.”
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I think this should become common practice with articles like this -- headline proclaiming great discovery, followed by hedging bets from first to last. Money phrase: "much remains unknown."
I disagree about John Ashbery.
Monday, August 09, 2010
People in any case overestimate the value of truth and underestimate the difficulty of arriving at it. There are a great many truths in which I have absolutely no interest – truths about the lifecycle of Ctenocephalides felis, (the common cat flea) or the extensive body of truths about the condition of my teeth that my dentist imposes on me. I see no reason why I should bother with these truths or make a point of believing them.I think that first sentence is brilliant.
". . . taking almost anything as a starting-point and letting my thoughts play about it, there would presently come out of the darkness, in a manner quite inexplicable, some absurd or vivid little incident more or less relevant to that initial nucleus. Little men in canoes upon sunlit oceans would come floating out of nothingness, incubating the eggs of prehistoric monsters unawares; violent conflicts would break out amidst the flower-beds of suburban gardens; I would discover I was peering into remote and mysterious worlds ruled by an order logical indeed but other than our common sanity."
The only unexpected thing about this conclusion is that it took the author of American Buffalo (1975), Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), and Speed-the-Plow (1988) so long to reach it. In these hard-headed plays, which established him as a major voice in American theater, Mamet respectively portrays small-time crooks, unethical real-estate agents, and ambitious Hollywood executives as engaged in identically savage battles for power over one another. His foul-mouthed characters behave like scorpions in a bottle, determined to sting or be stung. They have no past or future, only the unremittingly bleak present, though they somehow manage to entertain us—if that is the word—because of the manic energy with which they do their frenzied dances of death.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Am I the only one who thinks Emma Thompson is a dimwit?
I met Thomas Molnar a number of times years ago and had several wonderful conversations with him. He was brilliant man. And yes, we did talk about Teilhard, whom I understood differently -- though I also understood that there was much in what Molnar had to say about him.
... Argentina Has Colder Winter Than Antartica, Spurring Record Power Imports.
... 1 Million Fish Dead in Bolivian Ecological Disaster.
... 'My Hollywood' - oh, my!
... Butte, 1919: Uniting the miners in song.
... Stories in which fate trumps hope.
And a reprise from Tuesday: From Weiner: A straying pol, his stalwart half.
Saturday, August 07, 2010
The hard part of writing at all is sitting your ass down in a chair and writing it. There's always something better to do, like I've got an interview, sharpening the pencils, trimming the roses. There's always something better to do. Going to a writer's club?3- Jerry Pournelle, born on this date in 1933
Friday, August 06, 2010
One of Pickett and Wilkinson’s severest critics – the non-peer-reviewed Christopher Snowdon, author of The Spirit Level Delusion – is taken aback. ‘This displays an eagerness to close down debate and hide behind the supposed gatekeepers of knowledge’, he tells spiked. ‘Some people who don’t understand what peer review is seem determined to present it as some arbiter of truth’, he continues. ‘But it just means a study is fit for publication or is not obviously fabricated.
Well, that's what happens if your aim is consensus ("group solidarity in sentiment and belief") rather than a sound understanding of a problem.
Glenn poses a relevant question.
Tell me if you understand the problem in its full simplicity: former regulators and public officials who were employed by the citizens to represent their best interests can use the expertise and contacts acquired on the job to benefit from glitches in the system upon joining private employment -- law firms, etc.Think about it a bit further: the more complex the regulation, the more bureaucratic the network, the more a regulator who knows the loops and glitches would benefit from it later, as his regulator edge would be a convex function of his differential knowledge. This is a franchise. (Note that this franchise is not limited to finance; the car company Toyota hired former U.S. regulators and used their "expertise" to handle investigations of its car defects).
Do not fear lest you should meditate too much upon Him and speak of Him in an unworthy way, providing you are led by faith. Do not fear lest you should entertain false opinions of Him so long as they are in conformity with the notion of the infinitely perfect Being.- Nicolas Malebranche, born on this date in 1638
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.
In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes two persons, things, situations, seem alike.- Walter Pater, born on this date in 1839
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Boy, is she alive!
Sermons and Soda-Water is a wonderful book. O'Hara excelled in the novella. The second one eapecially, "Imagine Kissing Pete," is extraordinary.
Monday, August 02, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
In "The Appearance of Impropriety," my former University of Tennessee College of Law colleague Peter Morgan and I noted that sociologists like Erving Goffman think that every functioning society needs a "backstage" where people can let their hair down and speak without observing social proprieties. But journalists have been destroying that backstage for everyone else for decades. Why should they be permitted to keep one, when no one else is?
... Twisting, turning marriage.
... 'Red Hook Road': Exploring a tragedy's effects on two families.
... How Facebook became a social-media behemoth.
... Predictable characters, worn words.