Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Radiance, pearls, and very good poetry …

… Danish poet Ulrikka Gernes: bringing light to darkness | The Book Haven.

Portrait of an artist …

… Obscured American: Felix the Artist, Ex-Grocer and Ex-Hospital Worker - The Unz Review.



I know Felix. His work is authentic and original. It deserves to be better known.

Federal stupidity …

… zmkc: Born in the USA.



If this woman's parents were not citizens of the US, neither is she, whether she was born here or not. Is my country claiming that anyone born on our soil is a citizen? That would be news to everyone. Surely, there must be some Australian authority who can intervene on this lady's behalf — and maybe suggest the law be corrected. This must be another example of our increasingly shabby political class passing a law before bothering to read it.

The Bard online …

… A Common Reader: Shakespeare: movies currently available online.

Point of departure …

… Solitary Praxis: "White Elephant: June 21, 1970".

Reason — what of it?

 Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson with a few words about Heaven, Earth, Life, and Death.

Something to think on …

The child who concentrates is immensely happy.
— Maria Montessori, born on this date in 1870

Let those who can read, read …

… No, the national anthem is not about slavery | Brandywine Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Earning trust …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The White Light of Idleness'.



I think I have mentioned before that I once introduced Geoffrey Hill at a reading he gave at the the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. He told the audience at one point not to bother themselves too much with his allusions, that he sometimes forgot them himself. He thought it best to just read the poems on their own terms, and that the allusions would take care of themselves sooner or later.

Heartbreaking …

 Solitary Praxis: Losing My Religion - 1 title / 2 poems.

RIP …

 Cockatoo Named 'Cookie', Dies at 83 in Chicago.

Blogging post …

I am in a waiting room at Pennsylvania Hospital. My wife is scheduled to have cataract surgery shortly. Blogging is likely to be spotty.

Hmm …

… Paradoxes logical and literary | OUPblog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Now, at first glance we might think that this second, literary notion of paradoxicality has little to offer the logician – after all, it is a literary notion, not a logical on. But the opposite is in fact true. We can see this by considering the Literary Liar:
“This sentence is not a paradoxL
The Literary Liar is either uncontroversially true, and hence is neither kind of paradox, or it is a paradoxP (and henceforth neither true nor false), but not a paradoxL.
I don't get this. The sentence doesn't sound like a paradox to me, and admits as much.

In case you wondered...

Hmm …

 Illusion of Choice: The Myth of Free Will | Psychology Today.

Libet et al.2 authored a study in the early 1980s that has served as an academic foundation for years of subsequent research into the question of free will. I essentially replicated the experimental design when I asked you to arbitrarily choose an eye to wink. 
Findings from Libet’s experiment demonstrated that the conscious experience of having chosen a particular arm to raise occurred nearly 500 milliseconds after neural mechanisms involved in arm raising had already begun the process.2
Haggard and Eimer3 updated this experimental design and showed that the conscious experience of having initiated a voluntary action coincided not with the neural preparation for the action, but instead occurred later during the actual execution of the action. In other words, Haggard and Eimer showed that your brain chose which eye to wink before both your eye winked and before you had the conscious experience of having made a choice between left and right.
I chose not to wink at all. Explain that.

Coupling …

… Poet explores the explosive potential of the bikini | PBS NewsHour. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Getting the news in line …

… How Does the Language of Headlines Work? The Answer May Surprise You. | JSTOR Daily. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I wrote headlines for quite a few years, and my only journalism award was for writing. But I never thought about them much, probably because it would have interfered with writing them.

New kinds of poems?

… Wuthering Expectations: Sexy D. H. Lawrence - Now I am all / One bowl of kisses.

Perplexing lines …

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson on Death, Superstition, and Tenderness.

Something to think on …

Mental events such as perceivings, rememberings, decisions, and actions resist capture in the net of physical theory.
— Donald Davidson, who died on this date in 2003

Monday, August 29, 2016

Much in what he says …

… We Don’t Know What We Are Talking About When We talk about Religion – Medium. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That the word religion is used in all sorts of imprecise ways, even by those who think of themselves as religious, is certainly true. But I think Rudolf Otto was on to something in The Idea of the Holy. For Otto, religion is grounded in an experience of the numinous, what he calls the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the fearful and fascinating mystery of the Wholly Other, which inspires fear because of its power, but fascinates because it is merciful.

You just might have time …

 Running Out of Time? 10 Short Works to Read Before Labor Day. - Words Without Borders.

To the rescue …

… Phillip Lopate’s Handkerchief | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Heroes …

… Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of 'By Honor Bound: Two Navy SEALs, The Medal Of Honor, And A Story Of Extraordinary Courage'.

In case you wondered …

… The 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers | The Best Schools. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)




A fondness for mystery …

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson on riddles and surprises.

Something completely different …

… which is what language may be: In Tom Wolfe's 'Kingdom,' Speech Is The One Weird Trick : NPR. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sic transit …

… Is It Here to Stay? — Rock'n'Roll Considered | commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Nothing stays popular forever, and by the ’90s, rock had in turn been supplanted by hip-hop as America’s top-selling pop-music genre. But the splintering of our common culture prevented hip-hop from developing into the new lingua franca. Instead, we now have many popular musics, none of which has anything remotely approaching the cultural dominance that was enjoyed by rock and roll for more than a quarter-century.


I was 14 when Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" was released. I routinely turned on Bandstand when I came home from school (I watched it before Dick Clark became its host). So I think it fair to consider myself as having been present at the creation of rock music. And I certainly listened to enough of it. But I find, now that I am an old man, that it is the music I heard before rock came along — music that I heard when I was very young, the music of the '40s and early '50s — that I listen to more and more. Go figure.

Something to think on…

What worries you, masters you.
— John Locke, born to n this date in 1632

Sound and sense …

… Poem of the Week: Theocritus: A Villanelle by Oscar Wilde | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Indeed …

… DEVASTATING: Jake Tapper shares a Gold Star mother’s takedown of Colin Kaepernick – twitchy.com.

On the road …

 The Book Haven goes to Sweden’s Sigtuna Literary Festival! | The Book Haven.

The burden of exile

… Syrian author Iman Al Ghafari: “I did not want to leave my country forever!” | The Book Haven.

Take the longer way …

 Ayahuasca, Plato, and this summer of drugs - Philosophy and Life.

Well, I certainly did my share of drugs back in the day. Just about any you'd care to name (including the hard ones). But I can't say I ever experienced anything particularly transcendent from them. Pleasant times, good highs, little more than that. I get far more now from the active prayer life I have finally managed to achieve. I am surprised almost every day. 

Living words …

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson: words, words, words . . .

Act of gratitude …

… for Geoffrey Hill: Anecdotal Evidence: `I Have Not Finished'.



I have been reading  Hill's The Mystery and Charity of Charles Peguy. I met Hill once, and reviewed The Orchards of Syon.


Cold case …

… Judge opens investigation into death of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca | World news | The Guardian. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Anniversary …

… Nigeness: A Party Poem for Betjeman's Birthday.

Imagine that …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Something New Under The Sun: A Hemingway Biography That's Original.

Inquirer reviews …

… 'White Nights': Poetry and scars of adulthood.

… Sparkling outlook and common sense.

… 'Brandeis': A great lawmaker who left his mark.

… Is Amy Schumer's $9M tell-mostly-all her next big hit?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A poem

Discernment


Amid the darkness place the sun,
That veteran god, from deepest night
Evoking brightest day. Make plain
Imagination’s gestures are
But acts of faith, and loss of faith 
An absence of imagination.
Merely perceiving misperceives:
We must invite what the eye bears —
Sunflower, catbird, passing cloud —
Into the heart's sanctuary,
And watch while revelation flares.

Who is a Hindu?

Masterful …

 At Home with the Irrational by Glen Baxter | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That piece "Paying Attention" is extraordinarily well-crafted.

Sic transit …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Wildwood Days: From Plastic Palm Trees To Looping Neon Signs, Striking Images Of Mid-Century Motels Capture The Vanishing Architecture Of A Bygone Era.

A lovely volume …

 Nigeness: Bird, Beast and Flower.



I just bought a copy for 16 cents (of course, the shipping charges are much greater).

Faith and doubt …

 Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson on religion.



I think this is her way of saying what Cardinal Newman said: "Faith means being capable of bearing doubt." But doubt is always subordinate  to faith.

Who knew?

… Tolkien Influenced Rock More Than The Velvet Underground Did.

'Twas ever thus …

… The Bloody History of the True Crime Genre | JSTOR Daily. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Between 1550 and 1700, British authors and printers produced an unprecedented number of publications that reported on capital crimes. As literacy rates expanded and new print technologies emerged, topical leaflets began to circulate among newly literate and semiliterate consumers. Hundreds of crime pamphlets—short, unbound books of roughly six to 24 pages, usually detailing horrific murders—circulated during this era. But these pamphlets were not the sole form of crime reportage. Ballads—narrative verses recounting the dastardly deeds of England’s Most Notorious—were printed on broadsides and posted around cities and towns. Trial accounts also provided a broad swath of society with details of juridical proceedings.

Sorry ledger …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Death and the Miser (Bosch), Sonnet #312.

And the winner is …

… Marilynne Robinson wins literary peace prize for tales 'of reconciliation and love' | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.
— Lope de Vega, who died on this date in 1635

RIP...

The last visit...

Friday, August 26, 2016

Very interesting …

 Artistic Statement - Poems | Academy of American Poets. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

RIP …

 Joyce Carol Thomas, children’s author who accented black rural life, dies at 78 - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Seeds of smiles …

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson: a chivalrous offering.

Hmm …

… How climate change challenged, then strengthened my faith (COMMENTARY) | Religion News Service. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

She sees a bogus documentary produced by a failed politician and takes that as science. Someone should remind her that she lives on a planet that revolves around a star and that there have been several geologic epochs characterized by different climatic features. This is ignorant sentimentality mistaken for religious faith. Has she ever gardened? It's a good way of getting a real feel for weather. Perhaps she should read this:

Most Scientific Findings Are Wrong or Useless. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
A 2015 editorial in The Lancet observed that "much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." A 2015 British Academy of Medical Sciences report suggested that the false discovery rate in some areas of biomedicine could be as high as 69 percent. In an email exchange with me, the Stanford biostatistician John Ioannidis estimated that the non-replication rates in biomedical observational and preclinical studies could be as high as 90 percent.

Or:
Consider climate change. "The vaunted scientific consensus around climate change," notes Sarewitz, "applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming. The minute you get into questions about the rate and severity of future impacts, or the costs of and best pathways for addressing them, no semblance of consensus among experts remains." Nevertheless, climate "models spew out endless streams of trans-scientific facts that allow for claims and counterclaims, all apparently sanctioned by science, about how urgent the problem is and what needs to be done."

Blogging note …

I have obligations to meet this morning. So my blogging will resume sometime this afternoon.

In case you wondered …

… The true story of Dr Zhivago’s Lara. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Hmm …

… 18 More Classic Literature Characters Who Will Bamboozle You With Their Gay Gayness | Autostraddle. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)



I think some of them are a stretch.

Hmm …

… the first thing I want to note about this topic is how many people will reflexively reject the idea that there is any such topic worth discussing. “French Muslims,” they will say, “are no different then any other French person: they are rights-bearing individuals who are citizens of the French nation, and more importantly, of Europe. And even to suggest that there could be some issue of the relationship of the French nation as such to the Muslim community as such is probably an indication of racism or Islamaphobia.”
But Manent sees such a response as a symptom of an ideological delusion, a deliberate refusal to look at reality. France is an historical entity, not an abstraction, and to be French is much more than to simply possess certain rights. And Muslims do not see themselves as atomic individuals adrift in a Gallic sea of other atomic individuals, but as members of a community of believers, the Ummah, who together share a moral way of life. Thus, the secular liberal response of denying there can even be an issue of how the nation of France relates to its Muslim population is doubly false, and starting, even with great intentions, from a doubly false view of a situation, one typically only makes a further botch of it, like one who is trying to operate on his pet frog, with his eyes closed, while repeating to himself that the frog is actually a pocket watch.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

So very true …

… With Perry Como’s Music, Dig Deeper Than ‘Hot Diggity’ - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
…  there was nothing somnolent about Como’s unassuming, soft-spoken vocalism, which was intensely musical. His phrasing was unostentatiously elegant, his diction flawless, and though he wasn’t a jazz singer, he floated atop the beat so effortlessly that he was able to sing Brazilian bossa-nova songs like Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “Dindi” and “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” with the same unhurried poise that he brought to the pre-rock standards that he loved best.
Here's some proof:



Actually, I remember liking "Hot Diggity" when it came out (I was 14 — and yes the tune is derived from Chabrier's España). As the sales indicate, so did lots of other people. Nothing wrong with "Silly Love Songs," right? By the way, I once dated a young lady who grew up next door to the Comos in Port Washington, NY. Apparently, he was just as he seemed — laid-back, kind, and unassuming. An exemplary Catholic, too, I gather.

Piety from an unusual source …

(Hat tip, Wendy Emery.)

Good for them …

 Univ. of Chicago pushes back on trigger warnings, safe spaces | Intellectual Takeout. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Poetry and the news …

… The Writer’s Almanac for August 21, 2016 | The Sunday News | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Take a look at these …

… Rus Bowden Member Profile -- National Geographic Your Shot.

Connecting with Jesus …

… By the Light of the Cross: Christian Wiman’s “My Bright Abyss”. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Our moments of contact with God are often moments when we notice that we are being perceived and comprehended by Someone outside ourselves. 

Hmm …

… Better To Reign In Hell: Literature's Unpunished Villains : NPR. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

I think what we have here is a standard misreading of Milton, whose Satan is certainly interesting, but gets away with nothing. He demonstrates C. S. Lewis's point that the door to Hell is locked from the inside.

What exactly is she getting at?

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson on a puzzling, pushing, piercing, puncturing anguish.

I think the only way to get to the bottom of a poem like this is to treat it as Alan Watts said we should regard a Zen koan: as a pebble dropped in the well if the mind.

Begging to differ …

… Cynthia Ozick Has Issues — And So Do We - Culture – Forward.com. (Hat tip,

Dave Lull.)

I’d like to say these judgments remind me of Edmund Wilson, and not in a good way; his 1945 New Yorker essay “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” dismissed crime fiction in similarly elitist terms, as “a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between smoking and crossword puzzles.” But then, such a comparison relies on precisely the sort of equivalencies that Ozick claims reviewers (as opposed to critics) are not equipped to identify.

Seaside reading …

 Top 10 seaside novels | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

John Banville's The Sea is a wonderful book.

Something to think on …

What of us lies in the hearts of others is our truest and deepest self.
— Johann Gottfried Herder, born on this date in 1744

Indeed …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Happy 86th Birthday To Sir Sean Connery.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Perhaps of interest …

I learned today how to post links to Google docs that I choose to publish. The Inquirer has long since erased the complete version of an interview I did of Michael Crichton some years ago, though the print version (which can still be found online) refers readers to it.
Well, here is the full text.

RIP …

… Yes, Minister – manwithoutqualities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

God's mysterious ways …

Charming Billy and Me | City Journal. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Returning to a book that you love can be risky. Time and experience distort memory. A reader matures, his perspective changes, but the other members of McDermott’s holy trinity—writer and narrator—remain as they always were, preserved between paper covers in black and white. When I read Charming Billy again, a decade had passed since the whimpering conclusion of my Hollywood adventure. I’d practically become a different person in the intervening years. My politics had changed, as had my career ambitions. I’d married and fathered a child. I was on my way back to the Catholic Church. Feeling the weight of expectation, dreading the possibility of failure, I was again in the market for something on which to anchor myself.

Hmm …

 Pew: Americans giving up on God, miracles | Washington Examiner.

As Somerset Maugham said, "Most people think little."

What poetry is …

 Solitary Praxis: "The Poet and the Golem" by Marly Youmans.

Even I am not so glib as to offer commentary on such as this after a single reading. This must be lived with for a while.

Time present and time past …

… About Last Night | TT: Ghost world.



As I walked into the theater, I realized that it had been thirty-four years to the day since I’d last seen a performance of The Fantasticks. I always meant to catch it at the Sullivan Street Playhouse but never got around to doing so, just as I’ve never been to Radio City Music Hall or the Central Park Zoo. Like most New Yorkers, I figured it would run forever, and so took its existence for granted until it was too late.

Certain words …

… First Known When Lost: Songs.

As I have noted here in the past, the choice is ours to make: we can live in an enchanted World or in a disenchanted World. Although, come to think of it, I'm not sure that this is a matter of choice. One feels that there issomething immanent within, beneath, and behind the beautiful surface of the World or one does not. I do not say this in a judgmental fashion. Our emotional sense of how we fit into the World is a wholly mysterious thing, and I am only qualified to speak of how the World feels to me.

The word's the thing …

… On Self-Translation - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… it isn’t enough to learn a language; one must internalize it, make it fully one’s own. We internalize a language when we organize the world around us based on its parameters. It isn’t that we know words to describe things but that things come to us through their respective words. This is only achieved through time, by letting oneself be absorbed (and, maybe, absolved) by a language’s metabolism.

The subject was consciousness …

… Friday Afternoon in the Universe — The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



…  Old Angel Midnight is a record of listening, of hearing beyond, or beneath, language, of seeking to engage a cosmic beat. 
It seems that Kerouac's star is again on the rise.

Something to think on …

Anything that is worth doing has been done frequently. Things hitherto undone should be given, I suspect, a wide berth.
— Max Beerbohm, born on this date in 1872

Hmm …

… Hot Tomorrow: The Urgency and Beauty of Cli-Fi — The Barnes & Noble Review.



On the other hand, there's this and this.



It is also worth noting that one of the first cli-fi books (though the name hadn't been coined yet) — Michael Crichton's State of Fear — was critical of climate fear-mongering. And Crichton had some actual scientific credentials, a medical degree and a degree in anthropology.

Speaking of State of Fear, here is my review of it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Life during dark days …

… “Tell them that we are dying.” The West wasn’t ready to listen: Jan Karski and the Holocaust | The Book Haven.

Adventures in church …

 Solitary Praxis: "Young Couple at Mass" by Albert Garcia.

Learned mensch …

… Is It Time to Take the Most Published Man in Human History Seriously? Reassessing Jacob Neusner. – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Classic Q&A …

… Playboy Interview: Vladimir Nabokov. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

And the winners are …

… Winning Poems for 2016 July : IBPC.



The Judge's Page.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Listen in …

… Episode 182 – Virginia Heffernan | Virtual Memories.



“It’s very, very weird to do something along with three billion other people.”

A backward glance …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Love Him Or Hate Him: A Look Back At Former Philadelphia Mayor & Top Cop Frank Rizzo.



I am almost completely charisma-immune. I have twice stood within a few feet of Bill Clinton and felt nothing in particular. But the one time — as he strolled through The Inquirer's composing room — that I shook Frank Rizzo's hand, I had the distinct impression that this was the kind of guy who was the natural leader of the pack in the schoolyard.

Anatomy of the sentence …

… Simplicity or style: what makes a sentence a masterpiece? | Aeon Ideas. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some literary stylists bestow greatness on every sentence without tiring their readers. Many readers feel this way about Joyce, but I have always preferred the subtler beauty of the sentences in Dubliners to the obtrusive, slightly show-offy ingenuity that afflicts every sentence in Ulysses: individually each of those sentences may be small masterpieces, but an unrelenting sequence of such sentences is wearisome. Great minimalist sentences – those of the short-story writer Lydia Davis, for instance – may have a longer shelf life.

Hear, hear …

The condescension is the worst part. Many research scientists who fret and wail about public ignorance live off the public dime. Our microscopes, our labs, our pipettes and our particle colliders are bought with taxpayers’ money. They pay our salaries too.
So when we tell them how stupid they are, how ignorant and backward and wrong they are, why shouldn’t they be angry? Belittling someone in an argument never wins his support. How much more arrogant and foolish is it to belittle the people who write your paycheck?

Something to think on …

Essayists, like poets, are born and not made, and for one worth remembering, the world is confronted with a hundred not worth reading. Your true essayist is, in a literary sense, the friend of everybody.
— William Ernest Henley, born on this date in 1849

Monday, August 22, 2016

If at first …

… Solitary Praxis: Don Quixote by Cervantes - the novel is all about overcoming interrupted starts and reaching the finish line.

Another school to scratch off your list …

 West Virginia University Offers Students Guide On “Using Gender Neutral Pronouns Such As ‘Ve,’ ‘Ver’ And ‘Vis’”… | Weasel Zippers.

Blogging note …

I am already out and about, meeting responsibilities. Blogging will be sporadic until I return home.

Words in place …

… The Art of the Sentence: Anthony Hecht | Tin House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

God's whereabouts …

… Solitary Praxis: "The Sunday News" -- here is some good news about churches, hymns, prayers, children, ladybugs, and God.

Dead again …

 More than eulogies: new book considers the dead – famous and infamous | The Book Haven.

Inflation and devaluation …

… Maverick Philosopher: Price Changes 1996-2016.

Ouch …

 Maverick Philosopher: The 'Good' of Blogging.


Of course, if you start as a journalist …

A rare and unlikely balance …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Best and Closest of All Your Friends'.

“He is resolved from the first page to tell you absolutely everything about himself, and so he does. At the greatest length, throughout all 876 pages of the [Donald] Frame translation, he tells you and tells you about himself. This ought to be, almost by definition, the achievement of a great bore. How does it happen that Montaigne is not ever, not on any of all those pages, even a bit of a bore?”

Poetry and public transportation …

… A villanelle on self-pity and a few words hurled at heaven | The Book Haven.

Ionesco revival …

… About Last Night | The lighter side of death.

RIP …

 Elegy for a tree | Brandywine Books.

Something to think on …

It is peculiar to “ressentiment criticism” that it does not seriously desire that its demands be fulfilled. It does not want to cure the evil. The evil is merely the pretext for the criticism.
— Max Scheler, born on this date in 1874

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Led along by poems …

… First Known When Lost: A Stroll.

The poems we love begin to accumulate over the years. (Please bear with me: I intend to contemplate the obvious in this post.) Our personal anthology of poems in turn leads to one of the many wonders of poetry: one remembered poem often carries us on to another, and, before we know it, we are out for a stroll.

Love and resentment …

 Learning to Care (About Writing and Dogs) | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Mark thy calendar …

… Pivot Readings 2016-2017 Season Opener with HD, Islam, Valencia and Whitlock | Griffin Poetry Prize.

Poem


Personal Metaphysick

For Father John Large

Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Luke 12:7)



God pays us close attention. Creates
Us right now. Divine improvisation,
Improv all he can do. Notice: This relaxes.
Strolling about now, slowly though,
Being old and all. Acknowledging that,
You think there may be ways of adjusting,
To getting back near where you were
Before heartache started dropping by.


Father Large is the pastor of my parish, St. Paul's. I have dedicated this poem to him because the first sentence of it derives from a sermon he gave recently. Father Large gives a brief sermon every day at morning Mass. The sermon I refer to was on the Gospel text that contains the line about every hair of our heads being numbered. Father Large pointed out that the obvious inference to be drawn from this is that God takes an intimate interest in us. I don't think I had ever thought of it that way before, and it couldn't get it out of my mind once I had.

Post bumped. 

Some music …

This was originally commissioned by Diaghilev.

Language and transformation …

… NERObooks — Botanical Prose // August 2016. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What think you?

… ''Climate Fictions'': QUESTION TIME: WITH ANSWERS WANTED FROM READERS OF THIS BLOG: ''Do cli-fi novels or movies point to a world of hope or a world of hurt?''

Astonishing shadows …

… One Long Poem | Boston Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… her poems are unflinchingly, unceasingly modern. With more subtlety and nuance than many of her peers, Bishop explored the marketplace of love and the homely accident of happiness; the arrogations of empire and ego; beauty’s unlikely appearance in the ugliness of a child’s death, an electric storm, or a blood-splattered armadillo; and art’s frail attempt to answer to life’s dinning disasters. A poet of broad sensibility and exacting technique, she excelled in classical forms, but she also riffed on blues songs and nursery rhymes, folk ballads and news broadcasts, building poetic structures of uncanny paradox, urbane surrealism, and figurative experiment. Few twentieth-century poets have been so proudly, possessively claimed by both new formalists and anti-lyricists, by the so-called establishment and the avant-garde.

Inquirer reviews …

… including this one by me: 'Don't Think': Stories unlike anyone else's.

… 'Mechanical Horse': The history of the bike through boom and bust.

… Author makes her stroke experience part of new novel.

 'Luckiest Girl Alive' is perfect for your last summer read.

Summer Reading!

Part II is up and FREE (link here) for the next four days!

Something to think on …

We must never undervalue any person. The workman loves not that his work should be despised in his presence. Now God is present everywhere, and every person is His work.
— Francis de Sales, born on this date in 1567

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ernst Junger


"Shortly afterwards, Combles too fell...
Its last defenders, who had take refuge in the catacombs during the bombardment, 
were mown down fighting around the ruins of the church."

I've just finished Storm of Steel, Ernst Junger's celebrated account of the First World War. In response, a few observations:
  • The conflict Junger describes is one of overwhelming barbarity. The earth trembles; millions of men fall. Junger himself was hit fourteen times, resulting in twenty scars. He writes of an "apocalyptic scene," of battles "smoldering away" - only to "catch and burn" in conflagrations of violence. 
  • There's a very clear sense in Storm of just how random that violence was. At one point, Junger describes it as "firing done blindly into an empty space." It must have been frightening: it was an "orgy of destruction" - willed upon no man in particular. 
  • What's worse, the enemies were often separated in their trenches by no more than than 30 feet. Junger writes of lobbing one grenade after another into British and French strongholds. But of course, the enemy did the same. These scenes are difficult to fathom. 
  • There's an awful sense of defenselessness in Storm - which is magnified by the number of times Junger saves himself and his men by jumping into a "hole." I cannot imagine that sensation: of protecting yourself by lying flat in a two-foot divot. 
  • Storm of Steel is an interesting book in its largely apolitical approach to the war. Rarely does Junger indulge in nationalist rhetoric or discussions of politics. His focus instead is on the courage and stolidity of his peers. It really is incredible the extent to which Junger - and so many million others - saw the conflict a test of meddle and honor. 
  • Of course we've come to see Germany as the aggressor in the First World War, as the enemy, the antagonist. All of that I believe to be true. There's no question, however, that we as readers root for Junger, we hope he survives, and worry for him when he's injured. That effect speaks, I think, to the universality of his struggle, and the respect he shows for his enemies. Junger is repeatedly impressed, for instance, by the "bravery and manliness" of the British; he compliments the Scottish similarly. 
  • This was an age of bicyclists and telephonists, of retreating into a trench and brewing tea, all while reading Tristram Shandy. It's so clear - and at so many moments in this memoir - that Junger was living through the moment of change: tea and novels were exchanged for mechanized war, and a more virulent form of nationalism. 
  • At one point, while garrisoned in Guillemont, Junger describes a "tangle" of items in a destroyed house: books, coats, musical scores, oil paintings...It's as if the entire nineteenth century has been laid waste; there it is, on the floor, destroyed forever. 
  • For me, the saddest and most poignant aspect of Storm is the futility Junger is able to evoke. On several occasions, amid the "oceanic roar" of battle, Junger's company takes a site or loses one; they retreat or they push forward. And yet, with frightening inevitability, they "look into the mirror": what they take is later taken back; what they lose they later regain. And that of course begs the question: what was it all for? 

The Duke Bonding …

… Paul Davis On Crime: The Commancheors: John Wayne's 007 Movie.

In case you wondered …

… Clive James on The way we weren’t: what “Mad Men” got wrong | Prospect Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I've never watched Mad Men, or any of the other shows mentioned in connection with it. But I am not surprised to hear it gets a lot wrong.

Let us keep her in our prayers …

 An Interview With Olympic Champion Katie Ledecky on Her Catholic Faith | Daily News | NCRegister.com.
College can be a threat to faith, though she seems well-grounded.

In case you wondered...

Writing the rails …

 The Self-Made Amtrak Residency | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A taste for scrutiny …

… The Comic Genius You’ve Never Heard Of - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In 1987, Gore Vidal wrote an influential essay in which he described her as America’s “best comic novelist,” and a few of her books were reissued. In the 1990s, Tim Page, a Pulitzer Prize–winning music critic, having stumbled on Edmund Wilson’s 1962 encomium to Powell, began editing her diaries and letters; his biography of Powell came out in 1998. In 2001, the Library of America published nine of her novels. But still: She has remained, in literary terms, a hip boutique hotel rather than some stately five-star palace.

The sense of a purpose …

Let us take, for our point of departure, the supposition that man, and man alone, is what makes the universe very interesting; that he remains, as it were, “the measure of all things” in the ancient sense. We may, if we try, dismiss this as a grand tautology, but it is falsifiable.
Until someone is able to demonstrate the existence of a comparable or superior biological life form, anywhere, the fact stands. It makes sense on the basis of all current knowledge; the contrary can only be supported on the basis of wild speculation, unmoored to demonstrable facts.

Hmm …

… Dilbert Explains Donald Trump - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



My own sense is that media are doing Trump a favor by not even trying to disguise their bias. They seem unaware the polls indicate that the media are trusted about as much as Congress, which is to say hardly at all.

Weird writer …

 Solitary Praxis: H. P. Lovecraft: thoughts, dreams, and questions.



The little I have read of Lovecraft has not impressed me. Of the writers of ghost stories and the like, my taste runs to M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood.

Beauty and beast …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Spider, Butterfly and Sun (Burchfield), Sonnet #311.

Something to think on …

The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.
— Paul Tillich, born on this date in 1886

Friday, August 19, 2016

The masterful Mr. Dickens …

 Solitary Praxis: Charles Dickens and memorable characters.

Those were the days …

… 1896 | The Book Review Is Born - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Excellent piece …

 Review: David Bentley Hart's 'Splendid Wickedness' - Chicago Tribune. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.

The reviewer is so open — structurally and critically — regarding his own preferences and predilections. In spite of those, he appreciates a book whose context is not entirely in harmony with his own (just as his own is not entirely in harmony with itself). Take two phrases: "informed critique of capitalism" and "the message of the Christian Gospel is radical." The latter is true precisely because message of the Gospel does not hinge on elevating commerce to the level of a philosophy, which is all that the term capitalism manages to achieve.

Short and sweet …

… Solitary Praxis: Emily Dickinson on poets and poetry.

Blogging note …

I have to attend a funeral Mass this morning for my late friend Temple Painter. Then, it's off to The Inquirer. So my blogging will be haphazard at best.

Better than you may have thought …

… along with the pun of the month: A Don’s Life: Taking Suetonius seriously. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.
— Blaise Pascal, who died on this date in 1662

Take-down …

… It’s Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush | Foreign Policy.

When not treating fabricated quotes as revealing facts, Smith makes other errors that further distort his analysis. A favorite rhetorical device he employs is the sweeping historical assertion, along the lines of “never before in American history…” or “not since the presidency of [insert long-ago American president]…” followed by a ritual condemnation of the Bush administration for some sort of egregious deviation from the mainstream of American history. Some of Smith’s assertions are matters of opinion and interpretation that historians can debate, but at times his oracular pronouncements are factually wrong.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RIP …

 India's beloved 'Queen mother' tiger Machli dies sparking outpouring of grief.

Armchair tours …

… Around the world in 20 books | Mumsnet. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Reality bites …

… Black Oak Books – Faces of $15.

The master of love gth …

 The Writer’s Almanac for August 13, 2016 | No Doctors Today, Thank You | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Real estate …

… Thomas Mann's Pacific Palisades Home Is For Sale And It's A HUGE Deal In Germany: LAist.

(Via LitHub.)

Hmm …

Reconstructing Taoism’s Transformation in China - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When I told a Chinese acquaintance of an encounter I had many years ago with a statue of Guanyin, he remarked that "the Goddess has her eye on you." I wear a Guanyin pendant around my neck. Like Japanese Catholics of some centuries ago, I identify her with the Blessed Mother. Sorry. It's the way I am.

Hmm …

 Joy Williams’s Refractory Brilliance - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
She sounds like an acquired taste, and one I'm unlikely to acquire. Also, if the excerpts cited are any indication, the "God" of her stories is not one many people of faith would recognize.

About what you'd expect …

…from NPR: NPR: 100 Best Fictional Characters Since 1900.



Which is to say predictable. Toad, of course. But no Micawber or Scrooge? No Ahab?

Revisiting …

… Mermaids in the Basement.

The dialectic of faith …

… Convert Companions: Of Merton and Waugh, Me and You |Blogs | NCRegister.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



“All these things so mixed up in us,” wrote Dom Hubert Van Zeller, “so cut across by what we have learned from others, from experience, from our surroundings, and from the hundred and one apparently fortuitous circumstances of every day, have fitted into the pattern which is me.”
The incredible thing is that God himself created that pattern – the Author of the universe sketched out our character – and he wants to include us in his master plan. “There is nothing mistimed or misplaced: our entries fit exactly with our cues, our positions on the stage are allowed for. It is only our acting and our lines that we have to worry about.”

Heavy reading …

… 13 Pounds of Literature | CR. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Something to think on …

Memory belongs to the imagination. Human memory is not like a computer which records things; it is part of the imaginative process, on the same terms as invention.
— Alain Robbe-Grillet, born on this date in 1922

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And for the same reason all lives do …

Solitary Praxis: Fictional Lives Matter (and other musings on reading)


I don't have any grand theory of why I read. If I come upon something that's interesting, I read it.



A foolish consistency, etc. …

… Leonardo DiCaprio, the Malaysian Money Scandal and His "Unusual" Foundation | Hollywood Reporter.


Depends on the poet …

 Solitary Praxis: Ted Hughes and poetry as the "voice of pain".



Not every poet leads a life as operatic as Hughes's.




Gertrude Stein

I cannot wait to pick this up. Pick this up I cannot wait. Wait to pick this up. Cannot.

Microcosm...

Why not?

… Mel Gibson will star in an adaptation of The Professor and the Madman, but can he do James Murray justice? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Gibson is an actor. He won't be playing himself. Penn, of course, is perfect for the role of madman.

Taking a stand …

… Solitary Praxis: The Manifesto for Solitary Praxis.

Listen in …

… Episode 181 – Chris Rose | Virtual Memories.

“After Katrina, I looked around and saw we had reporters out covering the destruction, but ain’t nobody looking around and what’s left. So that’s what I started to do to. I drove my car around the city until I ran out of gas. I got on my bike and rode around until I got a flat tire. And then I started walking. And I wrote about what was here, rather than what was gone.”

Upbeat philosophy …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: The essence of Colin Wilson.



I wrote an entire essay making the point that my identity derives from certain high points in my life. So I guess I'm in some agreement with Colin Wilson, whose writings and thinking I do much admire. But I also agree with what George says in the comments, because I am a Christian and view salvation as individual and residing within the soul.

See also: The Art of Robotics.
Wilson saw, as Lachman writes, not that the eccentric and alienated souls that abound in modernity are shackled by tradition, but rather that they are cases of particularly intense reaction to the abolition of tradition, including a meaningful religious tradition. The “Outsider” of Wilson’s title is, in Lachman’s words, “a person with a pressing hunger for meaning and spiritual purpose in a world seemingly bent on denying these.”
(Hat tip, Dave Lull, who sagely suggested I pair these pieces.)

Something to think on …

The religious life begins when we discover that God is not a postulate of ethics, but the only adventure in which it is worth the trouble to risk ourselves.
— Don Colacho

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Poetry down under …

… Australian poetry: van Neerven; Whittaker; Smith; Fitch. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Better late …

 Learning to Swim at 75. Why Not? - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

FYI …

… The Ugly Truth: An Advice Column for Nonfiction Writers | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Dressing up characters …

… The Millions : Clothes in Books and Ways to go Wrong - The Millions. (Vis LitHub.)

The problem of "success" …

… Solitary Praxis: "about competition" by Charles Bukowski.



I live a few blocks away from an Acme supermarket that stands where the old Moyamensing Prison used to be. Bukowski did a short stretch there after WWII, when he lived in Philly, on Spring Garden Street, right around the corner from where The Inquirer used to be. The actual bar that was the basis for Barfly wasn't in LA, but up the street from The Inquirer at Broad and Fairmount.




Neat …

… concīs (aka concis) magazine| a journal of brevity: Torn Light.

History nuggets …

… from Jim Remsen:

As my book about a dozen fugitives slaves-turned-soldiers from northeastern Pennsylvania moves toward publication, I've continued to turn up new nuggets, including the following two unsavory expressions:
"Mudsills." That was a Civil War era slur for low-born people. I came upon it while looking closer at how whites of the day viewed one another. It turns out high-born whites referred to "the lower breeds" as clay-eaterspoltroons, and midsills. As historian Nancy Isenberg writes in her new book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, midsills were "a foul collection of urban roughs, prairie dirt farmers, greasy mechanics, unwashed immigrants, and by 1862, with the enlistment of Afro-American troops, insolent free blacks." (We humans love our insults, don't we?)
"Abid." That's Arabic for slave--and it's still an Arab slur for any black African person. The legacy of the vast Arab slave trade is recounted in "Ten Facts About the Arab Enslavement of Black People not Taught in Schools," a startling article on my History Enthusiasts online feed, which you can read here. It reminded me of when, during my time with a Darfur support group a few years ago, Darfuri expat friends told me how Arab janjawid marauders would call the black Darfuri villagers abid as they swooped in to plunder, burn and kill them. My friends say the Arab world, in fact, has never reckoned with its own deep-seated racism.
Moving Ahead! My tome, with the working title Embattled Freedom, is on track for release at the end of the year. You can read more at my author site. Next up is developing the tandem educational website. Be glad the book will be an improvement from this one (below, and attached), which the racist Luzerne Union of Wilkes-Barre was touting in 1861.

Regrettably, the picture won't download for me.


Two women …

 Public Books — Analytic Rage: The Genius of Jenny Diski. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In Gratitude is more than anything else a fascinating account of a young woman’s relationship with a great woman writer who appoints herself mentor. Its contours closely recall those of Sigrid Nunez’s Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. Although the young Jenny Diski is relatively immune to Lessing’s charisma, she gives herself over quite thoroughly to the environment of Lessing’s house in Charrington Street. Lessing’s novel The Golden Notebook had been published the year before, and regular visitors to the house included the novelist and feminist activist Naomi Mitchison, the poet Ted Hughes, and the psychiatrist and social critic R. D. Laing.

Q&A …

 Lionel Shriver: ‘A lunch invitation is a catastrophe’ | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft: for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas.
— T. E. Lawrence, born on this date in 1888

Monday, August 15, 2016

Old time politics …

… Solitary Praxis: The real King Macbeth of Scotland killed by Malcolm Canmore on August 15, 1057.

Doing God's work...

Blogging note …

I have a very busy day ahead of me. I may be able to do some blogging from my iPad. Otherwise, it'll be this evening.

Celebrating early …

… Solitary Praxis: Celebrating Ray Bradbury's birthday, avoiding crimes against books, preventing the future, and cliff-jumping.



I'm pretty sure Bradbury was born on August 22, but who cares? He's always worth celebrating.

Speaking of the alphabet …

… Nonfiction Book Review: The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe.

THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH.

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe.

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Correcting the former paper of record …

 On Fire’s Downsides, NYT Has Nothing On Prometheus.



First it was the alphabet, now it's fire that kept women down. Well, stop writing and eat only raw food.

This novel of ideas really is a novel …

… A Libertarian Novel of Ideas | Liberty Unbound. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I can think of no other literary work that was written in this manner — starting with the intellectual debates, and adding the details later — that still succeeded in recommending itself as a novel, as opposed to a series of essays. The vitality of Irwin’s story can result from only one source — a sustained interest in the varieties of human life and character. That’s why the plot could “develop naturally” and not mechanically.

Q&A …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Frederick Forsyth Interview: "They Put A Price On My Head, So I Had To Get Out".

Hmm …

Surely, our past and future aren’t always better than the present. Yet we continue to think that this is the case.
These are the bricks that wall off harsh reality from the part of our mind that thinks about past and future happiness. Entire religions have been constructed from them. Whether we’re talking about our ancestral Garden of Eden (when things were great!) or the promise of unfathomable future happiness in HeavenValhallaJannah or Vaikuntha, eternal happiness is always the carrot dangling from the end of the divine stick.
Well, it's always good in a discussion to first get your terms in order. Eternal  means timeless. So happiness all the time does not mean the same thing as eternal happiness. So most of what is discussed here is beside the point.

Something to think on …

Life can't defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death.
— Edna Ferber, born on this date in 1885

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Science and religion intersecting …

… Solitary Praxis: Blasphemy.

Hmm …

 Here's why time seems to go by more quickly as we get older - ScienceAlert.

I have been telling people for years that the reason time seems to go faster as you grow older is because you're experiencing ever diminishing proportions of your life. The first year is 100 percent, the second 50 percent, and on and on. So I was gratified to read the final section of this about toddler time.

Keeping afloat …

… Swimming in the ‘Drowned River’ of Contemporary American Poetry. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

I think the anarchic state of American poetry at present will prove a good thing. At least it saves us from a strictly academic poetry, though it would help to have poetry taught — or taught better — in the schools, starting in grade school and including memorization. There is little money in poetry usually (though I've made a bit, thanks largely to some of mine being set to music), but that isn't bad, either. Nice to have at least one art that is done for the sheer love of it.

The nose knows …

… George Orwell and the stench of socialism | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Orwell trusted the smell test, and made crucial changes in his life on the strength of it. When he came back for good, after five years in Burma, “one sniff of English air” confirmed that he had done the right thing. The nose knows. One inhalation, and he decided he was never going back. Orwell was, elsewhere, raised to heights of mirthful satire by the odour of leftwing “crankishness”: “It would help enormously, for instance, if the smell of crankishness which still clings to the Socialist movement could be dispelled. If only the sandals and the pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaller, and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly!”