Monday, January 31, 2011
... as a fan of Thomas Aquinas, I was glad to note that the greatest moral philosopher of all time seems to have intuited an increasingly plausible line:
'It is clear that nature is a certain kind of divine art impressed upon things, by which these things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give to timbers that by which they would move themselves to take the form of a ship.'
Sunday, January 30, 2011
To many researchers, such rapid response is all to the good, because it weeds out sloppy work faster. "When some of these things sit around in the scientific literature for a long time, they can do damage: they can influence what people work on, they can influence whole fields," says Goldstein. This was avoided in the case of the longevity-gene paper, he says. One week after its publication, the authors released a statement saying, in part, "We have been made aware that there is a technical error in the lab test used … [and] are now closely re-examining the analysis." Then in November, Science issued an 'Expression of Concern' about the paper3, in essence questioning the validity of its results.
His tales have no structure, thin characters, little human interest, and usually consist of people sitting around tables discussing the intellectual topics of the day. Yet there's something here that can keep you reading. Peacock's books are a window to the past, and we feel we are eavesdropping on the kind of drunken, heady conversations that English intellectuals have had in pubs for centuries.
"As for Josey Wales, I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends. A war is a horrible thing, but it's also a unifier of countries. . . . Man becomes his most creative during war. Look at the amount of weaponry that was made in four short years of World War II—the amount of ships and guns and tanks and inventions and planes and P-38s and P-51s, and just the urgency and the camaraderie, and the unifying. But that's kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that's what it takes."
And, for those who travel: Travel Bookshelf: The ecological, the elusive, the eternal.
I spoke with Janis about his book, and you can listen to the podcast below.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
A CASE OF "WRITER'S BLOCK". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
"There is about as much proof of the wisdom of old age as there is of the medical efficacy of holy water from Lourdes," Ms. Jacoby writes. And: "The old-age wisdom canon is essentially a defense against the knowledge of the terrible fates that lies ahead for many of us before we actually die." At this point, in the margin of my copy of "Never Say Die," I scribbled, "Keep the laughs coming, kid."
But I find I have somehow grown comfortable with life's diminuendo. I'm not looking to die anytime soon, but I am still interested in seeing what happens next, even though I am perfectly aware that there are, as it were, fewer and fewer pages left in the book. But I have, I think, gotten over the shock that John Hall Wheelock describes in his poem "The Part Called Age":
Almost as if in the winking of an eye,
The thing happened: waking from the long turmoil
And trance of youth, suddenly you found it there --
Not knowing what had become of the years in between,
You found yourself, as now he found himself,
An aged man pacing his father's acres,
Remembering how his father had said, "Someday,
When you are older, perhaps you will understand."
Was it not all exactly as foretold
Long since? Had it not happened all over again?
He had come to the passage in the old legend so many
Before him had listened to through the centuries --
But, oh, the difference, for now it was told to him,
And it wasn't believable!
Friday, January 28, 2011
After submitting your work, the decision process varies. Often the Editor-in-Chief will reject your work out-of-hand, without even reading it! However, he might read it. Probably he'll skim. At other times your manuscript may be sent to anonymous referees. Unless they are the Editor-in-Chief's wife or graduate school buddies, it is unlikely that the referees will even understand what is going on. Rejection will follow as swiftly as a bird dropping from a great height after being struck by a stone. At other times, rejection may languish like your email buried in the Editor-in-Chief's inbox. But it will come, swift or slow, as surely as death. Rejection.
Such plays often lack dramatic momentum, but this one is tautened by its shrewdly calculated setting. The date is Sept. 3, 1939. Not long after Lewis arrives, Freud switches on the radio to hear Neville Chamberlain announcing that a state of war exists between England and Germany—and the air-raid sirens start to wail.
Something of a preview here: NYT Editor Unloads on 'Arrogant,' 'Manipulative' Julian Assange. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)
Lee also sends along this: WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cables. (See the comments for Lee's comment of Bill Keller, for which there is much justification. If not for Lee, by the way, I would also almost certainly not have linked to much, if any of this.)
Oh, and Keller has another critic.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Translation: Rose is idealistic about freedom of expression, and believes in the civilizing effect of free debate, in which no person has a right to any special protection in open democracies, and appeals to the example of the USA, which only places restrictions on incitements to violence. In the book he pays little attention to the fact that almost no American media have republished the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons, something which amounts, for all practical purposes, to precisely the same self-censorship he started out to challenge.
The battle between self-identified conservatives and progressives in the 1980s seems increasingly like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. While humanists were busy arguing amongst themselves, American college students and their families were turning in ever-increasing numbers away from the humanities and toward seemingly more pragmatic, more vocational concerns.
And who can really blame them? If humanists themselves could not even agree on the basic value, structure, and content of a liberal arts education — if some saw the tradition of Western civilization as one of oppression and tyranny, while others defended and validated it; if some argued that a humanistic education ought to be devoted to the voices of those previously excluded from "civilized" discussion, such as people of color and women, while others argued that such changes constituted a betrayal of the liberal arts — is it any wonder that students and their families began turning away from the humanities?
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
... Scottish National treasures – Raeburn: The Skating Minister.
See also Young Blade. (Hat tip, Rob Mackenzie.)
The first time he understood about water, he was five years old. When the bath began to overflow, he’d panicked and run downstairs, crying out for help. By the time Sal remembered about the mains, the water had reached the landing and the carpeting was squishy underfoot and he was hiding at the back of the wardrobe. But without a door to a snowy wood he got a good taste of her hand.
“The experience Tweeting Fragile has been great- I have reached people in far-flung parts of the world that I never would have connected with any other way. I don't think Twitter is the ideal way to read Fragile, or any other book, but it is a way to get a taste of it and experience a bit of the book each day."
I feel the same way about the solemnity of classical music concerts. More people might attend them if they could tap their toes and sway. But no, they have to sit as though listening to a sermon.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
One of the problems of "cool" in the fashion world today is that, with the proliferation of cool-hunters, market research, and commoditized rebellion (think Urban Outfitters, H&M, or other "counterculture" retailers), the cycle from trendsetter to mass consumption is ever shorter and the high-low cultural divide ever narrower. Cool is more quickly copied and mainstreamed these days, which makes the task of being cutting-edge and truly exclusive ever more arduous.
The coolest guy I know is Elmore Leonard, and I doubt if he has ever spent a nanosecond of his life thinking about it.
These little potential artists see art as something that comes out of talent, strictly. They believe that art just happens. If not provided with balanced guidance, they will grow up to not be “real people.” Everything is a dream to them. Worse, they don’t really think the arts are important, though they claim to have veins full of inspiration and a heart driven by thespian passion. They see the arts more as shortcut toward a Romanticized detachment that they can openly and theatrically bear like a personal cross
Monday, January 24, 2011
This may be pertinent: Human Rights Watch for iPad.
"This lock-and-key variety of crude aboutness," Dennett says, "is the basic design element out of which nature has fashioned the fancier sorts of subsystems..." Design element? Fashioned? Do tell, Professor. It all sounds very purposeful to me.
... high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.
"... a rational God of natural laws..." That could be the problem right there. Catholicism has always has a certain animistic, pagan dimension to it. That's why it remains vital.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
See also Christian Theocratic Views?
Guess these people don't feel the love.
Bruckner suggests that with nothing standing between ourselves and happiness, other than our willingness to grasp it, there is a moral compulsion weighing on us to be happy – and it's precisely this social pressure that makes so many people unhappy. "We should wonder why depression has become a disease. It is a disease of a society that is looking desperately for happiness, which we cannot catch. And so people collapse into themselves."
There's a Zen story about a Roshi who, in discussing satori, points out to his students that if you place your hands together gently, you can raise water to your lips to drink. But if you clutch the water, it simply spills onto the ground.
The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.- Walter M. Miller, Jr., born on this date in 1923
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I think David is a saint. I have learned a good deal more about being a Christian from him than I have from some priests.
The book is startling and depressing evidence of what has happened to American academic Marxism, at least its sociological variant, over the last thirty years. It has become turgid, vapid, and self-referential. Wright lives in a bubble of like-minded sociologists and political theorists. On page 322, he thanks Marcia Kahn Wright, his wife, for suggesting to him “the term ‘interstitial’” as a way of expressing something about “strategic logic,” whatever that is. Apart from Mrs. Wright, Erik Wright’s favorite source is Erik Wright. He has read all of his works and finds them remarkable. He moves fluidly between Wright of 1985 and Wright of 2010, as if history has not changed. Actually, for Wright, history has not changed. The issues that rivet Wright unfold in an eternal graduate sociology seminar where the clock has stopped. In a memoir elsewhere, Wright comments that every September since kindergarten in 1952 he has been in school. It might be time for him to take a break.
Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.- Isabel Paterson, born on this date in 1886
Friday, January 21, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Ms. McGonigal's notions about how to enliven what gamers call "RL" ("real life") run the gamut from shallow to, well, that's it, really. It's not that she has nothing interesting to say about the role of videogames in shaping reality; it's that she has little if anything to say about reality itself. She writes like someone who has never seen a Shakespeare play or volunteered at a soup kitchen or fallen in love or raised a child or said a prayer.
I remember being flamed one day by people at Daily Kos for something I had written. I answered all of them, often more than once. By day's end one of them posted that, while he didn't agree with me, he had to admire that I had patiently responded to everyone without ire. The it stopped. I was fine with it. Part of the job as I saw it.
The anonymous trolls, however, are something different. Just pseudo-tough guys, I suspect.
As for the poor lobster — it was a long, long way from its home in the chilly Atlantic. The creature had been boiled so mercilessly that the pale chunks of its flesh resembled disemboweled mattress stuffing: straw-like, fibrous, and impossible to cut even with a knife.
Only the mysticism of the human center, which makes man accessible to grace and nourishes his core, corrects the personality and allows it to grow from measure to measure.- the great Pavel Florensky, born on this date in 1882 (martyred in 1937)
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Nige sends along this: Long-eared Owls in Túrkeve.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The Net Delusion is a polemic and should be read as such. It is an angry and often overwritten tumult of evidence. There are arguments against some of what Morozov says, but none, I think, that can justify the full-blooded cyber-utopian position.
“Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you're in favor of it,” McLuhan explained during an uncharacteristically candid interview in 1966. “The exact opposite is true in my case. Anything I talk about is almost certain to be something I'm resolutely against, and it seems to me the best way of opposing it is to understand it, and then you know where to turn off the button.” Though the founders of Wired magazine would posthumously appoint McLuhan as the “patron saint” of the digital revolution, the real McLuhan was more a Luddite than a technophile. He would have found the collective banality of Facebook and other social networks abhorrent, if also fascinating.
Monday, January 17, 2011
The modern intellectual engages in thought without end, for all purpose would be denounced as agenda or ideology. Restless before this convergence of freedom and uselessness, his occupation takes a critical turn and becomes the mere dissecting of all the interested buzz of the world of practical action. Because it lacks a sense of where thought might find fulfillment, the intellectual realm becomes not a place above the mundane world, but a parallel zone of criticism, where the beliefs of others may enter only to be seen through. The intellectual life reduces itself to functional nihilism, warding off despair only by means of attacking the latest ideology voiced beyond its doorstep.
... and also, the "refreshingly banal" -- Annals of mediocre writing: JFK’s Harvard application.