Thursday, September 30, 2010
What a fine piece Dianna has written.
Here's a link to something Russ just sent me: Is That Black Music I Hear?
Possibilianism emphasises the active exploration of new, unconsidered notions. A possibilian is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind and is not driven by the idea of fighting for a single, particular story. The key emphasis of possibilianism is to shine a flashlight around the possibility space. It is a plea not simply for open-mindedness, but for an active exploration of new ideas.
There's also Torgny Lindgren.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It was an extraordinary experience (The Inquirer will be having an article about it soon). Russ established contact with the men practically instantaneously. They knew this guy was the genuine article. Russ was completely respectful toward them, but pulled no punches. As for the guys, the didn't just respect Russ. By the time the event was over -- it lasted a good couple of hours -- I think they had come to love him. One said that it had been the most important day of his life. Some of the men even came up to Mike and me and my friend Bill Chaney to thank us for bringing Russ to talk to them. (It was actually Bill who made all the arrangements with the the warden; Bill and I are both retired, but we still get together regularly to arrange shipments of books from The Inquirer to the prison system.)
The men themselves were very well-spoken and sharp. I couldn't help wondering what the hell people like this were doing in jail (yeah, I know; they broke the law and got caught, but that's not my point). I wish them all well.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Daniel Kalder sends along some illustration and further commentary by Zombie: A Berkeley Photo Safari.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
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, born on this date in1888
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Last night, a fellow came to our door while I was watching the Phillies and handed me a civil action complaint ... regarding, I gather, an auto accident that took place a couple of years ago in Northeast Philadelphia.
I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, but rarely go there these days. Also, of course, as readers of this blog are likely to know, I don't drive and don't have a driver's license. Hence, it would have been impossible for me to rent a car from Enterprise or any other auto rental concern.
So I thought I would walk the complaint back to the lawyer from whose office it came and explain all this to him.
Update: As it happens, it was very amicably settled by a phone conversation.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Sorry, Ana Marie, you don't review a book you haven't completely read. And sorry WaPo, you don't publish such a review. And why have Ana Marie Cox review the book in question anyway?
Saturday, September 18, 2010
And not just Christianity.
See also: Reporting the Pope.
For the record, I am a fan of the Pope. But I would be, wouldn't I?
Friday, September 17, 2010
See also: More on Molly Norris: Writer, medievalist speaks out. Becoming Charlemagne, by the way, is a terrific book.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Woody seems bizarrely confident in the correctness of his viewpoint. In fact, given his viewpoint, if he is right, he will never know that. If, however, he is wrong, he will know that.
Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God.- Hildegard von Bingen, born on this date in 1098
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
See also David Thompson, of Houston's Murder By The Book, dies suddenly. (Maggie Galehouse, who wrote this obit, is a dear friend of mine,)
Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.- Robert Benchley, born on this date in 1889
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
For what it's worth I remember that a friend and I, when we read Ethan Frome in high school, thought it was hilarious -- after all, his romance and the accident leave him, in effect, with two shrews rather than just one. Teenage boys can be so sick.
In the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts.
It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.- Sherwood Anderson, born on this date in 1876
Sunday, September 12, 2010
If that really is her singing - and I have no reason to think it isn't - she ain't bad. The Madonna connection is pretty evident, but I don't see that Gaga falls short by the comparison. But then I never discerned any depths hidden beneath Madonna's shallows. Made me think of a distaff Gary Numan and the Tube way Army. Why wouldn't kids get a kick out of it?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
I have a kind of personal interest in this story. I had my own left thumb tip reattached more than 20 years ago. I remember the young surgeon in the ER telling me that he wasn't sure he could do it. But he did. I also remember the nurses at work oohing and ahhing over it when they took out the sutures. They said was the best suturing job they had ever seen. It's still attached.
... `First Out of Pride, Then Out of Humility'.
It is hard to evaluate their case against recent philosophy, because the only subsequent mention of it, after the announcement of its death, is, rather oddly, an approving reference to a philosopher’s analysis of the concept of a law of nature, which, they say, “is a more subtle question than one may at first think.” There are actually rather a lot of questions that are more subtle than the authors think. It soon becomes evident that Professor Hawking and Mr Mlodinow regard a philosophical problem as something you knock off over a quick cup of tea after you have run out of Sudoku puzzles.
If other papers had kept theirs and eliminated much of the other crap they think people want to read they would probably be flourishing. Of course, you have to know that people want to read about more than politics and sports.
... if you do not even understand what words say,
how can you expect to pass judgement
on what words conceal?
- H. D., born on this date 1886
Reading H.D.'s "Pear Tree" in the Holmesburg library when I was about 16 is what made me want to write poetry. It was a true epiphany.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
I have been accumulating change and putting it in jars in my home office. When I restored order to the office this past weekend I decided to start getting rid of the change, which was taking up too much space. So this morning I putting what turned out to be $400 worth of quarters into my flimsiest backpack and haul it 23 blocks to a credit union that would exchange the coins for cash.
That many quarters doesn't actually weigh all that much -- something on the order of 12 pounds, and I've certainly carried more than 12 pounds in that backpack. But it is an unusually concentrated 12 pounds, and when I was free of the weight I noticed that I was aching quite a bit. By the time I left the Inquirer this afternoon I could hardly walk. My back, my knees, and my legs all ached. When I got home, I popped a couple of extra-strength aspiring and lay down for a couple of hours . I feel better now, but still not all that great. So I am going to take a hot bath and go to bed early.
I wrote a poem about starlings myself some years ago. In fact, it got published in Boulevard. So here it is:
Something like a flock of sixteenth notes
Takes flight from telephonic staves
Into the tarnished silver sky
And carries me back to the factories
That seemed even bigger when I was six
Near the vacant lots by the railroad tracks
Thick with blackberries and thorns.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
... It's Not God Who Needs Saving - It's Us.
... A Farewell to the Philosophy of Religion? Why not a Farewell to Philosophy? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
I have been reading Peter Stothard's extraordinary Spartacus Road. I can't say much about it, since I have to write a review of it tomorrow, but one lesson to be drawn from it is that latter-day secularists ought to be boning up on their classics. Horace, for instance, was typical of the educated class of his time in subscribing to Epicureanism, which held that gods may exist, but that they pay us no mind, and we ought to pay them none. It isn't exactly atheism, but it comes to much the same thing. It gives one a nice idea of what a purely secular society might be like: plenty of people still believed in and honored the gods, but they were mostly unsophisticated types, I gather (that alone sounds very contemporary). But there is a bleakness to the "sophisticated" outlook of the day that leads me to think that is one reason Christianity spread so quickly throughout the Roman world. I say this as someone for whom that Epicurean viewpoint has always held some appeal.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
First, let me link to this post from some years back, in which I take the Church to task rather sternly.
This a characteristically fine Bryan Appleyard piece. My only quibble would be to the use of the term conservative. I am often thought to be conservative, but my socio-political thinking is very much the product of that Catholic social teaching Bryan refers to. The foundations of that teaching are the principle of subsidiarity and what Chesterton and Belloc called Distributism. Together these address two main problems of society: the concentration of wealth and the concentration of power by suggestion that both wealth and power should be as widely dispersed as possible -- and not by a top-down redistribution of wealth (which would merely amount to the sole concentration of wealth and power in the state.
I would also demur regarding the references to liturgy. The English vernacular Mass has been a disgrace from the start: willfully mistranslated, hopelessly tin-eared, and doctrinally obtuse. The Tridentine Mass represents the culmination of a liviing tradition; the Novus Ordo is a jerry-built monstrosity. And Pope Benedict knows this: He studied with Romano Guardini, a pioneer in liturgical reform, a clear thinker and fine writer as well as a good priest. You want a religious service that makes you sense that you are part of a vital 2,000-year-old tradition? Attend the sung traditional Mass at my parish some Sunday at noon.
Sunday, September 05, 2010
In the 16 years since we moved here, a lot of Mexicans have moved here as well. I like them. They work hard. And they make visits to Taco Bell completely unnecessary. (You want authentic Mexican food? Come here.)
Also, this country has always been a nation of immigrants. Not that we've always accepted them at first or made things easy for them. But most previous immigrants came from overseas and were legally processed on arrival.
There are laws in place. Those who are charged with enforcing those laws should enforce them. Those who break such laws should pay the penalty. After all, the Mexican who comes here legally deserves to be distinguished from Mexicans who didn't.
And laws can be changed. We can start with identifying what the problem is:
First, a lot of people evidently can't have a good life in Mexico and want to come here for a fresh start. We ought to be able to accommodate them.
Second, there are a lot of people in this country who want illegal drugs. Now I have never understood why an individual does not have the right to put into his body whatever he wants. Somebody wants to shoot heroin, let him. As for any unsocial behavior that might result, well we already have drunk and disorderly laws. You kill somebody while drunk, you get charged with murder. Remember, too, that these drugs attract criminals precisely because, by being illegal, they command high prices. Those prices would drop once the legal proscription was lifted, and they would drop a lot. Unless there is a reasonable profit to be made, nobody is going to make the stuff.
Third, if so many Mexicans want to be Americans, why doesn't Mexico apply for statehood?
Saturday, September 04, 2010
The headline overstates the case, but that is not the authors' fault. Still:
As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
"Spontaneous creation" hardly gets us anywhere beyond "we're here because we're here because we're here." Everything just happens to be and is governed by these law thingies. I thought the question had to do with exactly how something can be created out of nothing. If these "advances" simply tell us that something can come from nothing, they hardly tell us anything we haven't been pondering forever. Where did the universe come from? Oh, that's easy: It appeared spontaneously out of nothing! Awesome!
Friday, September 03, 2010
A put-down for sure. But not much in the way of a rebuttal.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
"The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can't understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. If you like, you can call the laws of science 'God', but it wouldn't be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions."
The laws of science are statistical formulations. I honestly don't know what the hell is he talking about, and doubt if he does either. His grasp of metaphysics seems rudimentary at best.
... Nicholas Humphrey's account of beauty, in Prospect, won't do. Trapped in an instrumental world - of utility, not violins - he explains it like the peacock's tail: a matter of sexual display. But this is surely a case of evolution explaining away what it purports to explain. If you don't like the aesthetic insights of Scruton and Tallis on music, which challenge this reductionism, then how about the hard observation of the physicist, that the beauty of equations is a key test of their explanatory power. Humphrey would say that the perception of beauty in the physicist's equations arises because they represent stable forms, and we are attracted to stable forms because stability is desirable in a sexual partner. Is it just me, or are you thinking, 'shaggy dog story'?
Also, while it is common to cite entropy, is it not fair to point out that it seems to apply principally to the inorganic world? As I understand it, the chemistry of the carbon compounds follows an opposite trajectory, toward states of increasing molecular complexity.