Thursday, January 18, 2018

But ever young …

… Winnie-the-Pooh: A.A. Milne's Beloved Bear at His 90th Anniversary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The soul and existence …

 Joseph Brodsky on Anna Akhmatova: “Big gray eyes. Sort of like snow leopards.” | The Book Haven.

"Forget it. You're black (or whatever) and I think you are immoral."

How dumb is this?  
The Trump administration on Thursday announced the creation of a new conscience and religious freedom division aimed at protecting doctors, nurses and other health-care workers who decline to participate in care that violates their moral or religious convictions.
I can picture this scene.  Julie gets hit by a car.  EMT's show up.  One of them says "It's a tranny.  I ain't touching him.  Goddamn freak."  And I will die because he was allowed to discriminate.  Because of his "morality."

And the winner is …

… TS Eliot prize goes to Ocean Vuong's 'compellingly assured' debut collection | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

More to the mind than mechanics …

… The way music moves us shows the mind is more than a machine | Aeon Essays. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… I think that the lived reality of music puts pressure on philosophers to broaden their conception of what the mind is, how it works, and to embrace the diversity of ways in which we can begin to grapple with the world around us.

Hmm …

… He Lives: Prayer is a way more difficult subject that Quantum Mechanics. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I think what is said here about prayer — that it is a privilege, etc. — is quite good. But I don't  see the objection to Qaoud's notion that God may answer every  prayer, but sometimes may say "no." That happens in life all the time. Someone asks you for something and you decline to give it to them. Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. That is good in itself. Our perspective on things may often not align with God's. So He may not be able to grant exactly what we ask for. But I have no doubt that his grace is dispensed to us anyway. And that is what we most want and need from God: His grace. Of course, I am not burdened with any Calvinistic notions of God.

Something to think on …

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
— Jacob Bronowski, born on this date in 1908

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Untranslatably cool …

I just happened to come across what I said when I introduced Elmore Leonard at the Free Library some years ago. It is commendably brief:

Good writing is like a person’s signature: It doesn’t look like anybody else’s. No one would mistake Chekhov for Dostoyevsky or Graham Greene for Evelyn Waugh. Read any page of any good writer and, right away, you know where you are and who you’re with.
Case in point: “They put Foley and the Cuban together in the backseat of the van and took them from the Palm Beach County jail on Gun Club to Glades Correctional, the old redbrick prison at the south end of Lake Okeechobee.”
That sentence, which happens to be the first one in Road Dogs, will signal to any reader who’s been there before that he is once again entering Elmoreland, a region whose inhabitants speak a language not taught in the schools: American.
Once you find yourself in Elmoreland, you also find yourself hanging on those inhabitants’ every word. You just can’t help noticing that what they say and the way they say it is smooth and tangy, like good bourbon. These are people who say things like, “I’m an ordained minister of the Spiritualist Assembly of Waco, Texas, but I started out doing nails.”
When you come upon a sentence like that, you realize that when language is alive it packs a wallop. You don’t have to take my word for any of this. The man who discovered Elmoreland and who has been exploring its environs lo these many years is with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Elmore Leonard.

Listen in …

… Episode 252 – Seymour Chwast & Ann Rivera – The Virtual Memories Show.

“What’s easier now is that I know the approach I need to take. What’s harder is coming up with ideas.”

Worth pondering …

The single most compelling new poem is probably “The Middletown Murder,” a 93-line narrative written in 1928. The poem presents an adulterous affair that ends in a grotesque shooting. Written in rhymed couplets (rarely a secure measure for Frost’s serious poems), the narrative wavers unsuccessfully between psychological realism and black comedy, but the story and characters are memorable. The total effect seems un-Frostian, which is to say that the poem shows Frost exploring new territory—more explicitly sexual, more provocatively violent, less densely textured, and almost cinematically fast. Frost knew the experiment didn’t work, but it is fascinating to imagine him successfully hammering out this new mode.

"The Middletown Murder" by Robert Frost, The Saturday Review, Saturday, October 13th, 1928.

(Hat tip, Dave Lull. — Actually, this is all Dave's. I just copied his email.)

Recommended …

… 20011: Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Anniversary was yesterday, but …

… Benny Goodman brings jazz to Carnegie Hall - Jan 16, 1938 -

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The exact measure of the progress of civilization is the degree in which the intelligence of the common mind has prevailed over wealth and brute force.
— George Bancroft, who died on this date in 1891

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Taking a break …

 Informal Inquiries: Blogging Note.

News you can use …

… Suppressing a sneeze can be dangerous, doctors warn.

Robert Benchley was onto this years ago:

"I am pretty sure that, if you will be quite honest, you will admit that a good rousing sneeze, one that tears open your collar and throws your hair into your eyes, is really one of life’s sensational pleasures."
I myself have always taken great pleasure in a good sneeze.  Or three.

More to tea than you thought …

 Informal Inquiries: Tea for Two.

More about the FIS …

… Books, Inq. — The Epilogue: Mark this date on your calendar ....

… Top ten failed intellectuals. (Ah, the dear Maxine.)

Honest writer …

… ‘Brideshead’ Revisited & Revised | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Since Waugh was out of touch with most of his sources of gossip, he relied on Nancy Mitford, a fellow writer and close friend, to collect and transmit comments about what she termed a “Great English Classic,” or “MO GEC.” Mitford, centrally located in Heywood Hill’s bookshop in London, was eager to provide information and as a fellow writer ideally positioned to respond to the book. She had one correction—diamond clips weren’t invented until 1930, so Julia would have worn an arrow instead, an alteration which Waugh made in corrected proof. She wondered if Waugh were on Lady Marchmain’s side and if Ryder “might have a little more glamour” because “he seemed to me a tiny bit dim.” This was the sort of response Waugh wanted, and he explained that Ryder was dim because “it is not his story,” though he admitted that if he were too dim to justify Julia’s reaction to him the novel had failed. Then he added, for Mitford’s eyes only: “He was as bad at painting as Osbert [Sitwell] is at writing.” As for Lady Marchmain, “No I am not on her side, but God is, who suffers fools gladly; and the book is about God.”
Any writer is entitled to have reservations about his work, and usually will, but Brideshead is, for me, an unqualified masterwork.

Something to think on …

The main objection to killing people as a punishment ... is that killing people is wrong.
— Auberon Waugh, who died on this date in 2001

Monday, January 15, 2018

Simply beautiful …

Appreciation …

… The American Scholar: Voices, Places - Charlotte Salley. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso

A conversation between the two...

"Not the least significant aspect of the two artists’ contrasting fortunes was the fact that, whereas Lautrec’s career lasted fifteen years, Picasso’s spanned seven decades. And while Picasso painted himself hundreds of times, Lautrec did so only twice, the first time in his oil painting “Self-Portrait in front of a Mirror” (1882–3), which is helpfully hung in the exhibition alongside Picasso’s “Yo Picasso” (1901), surely a conscious tribute to Lautrec’s work. And yet Lautrec caricatured himself in drawings many times, often charmingly, accentuating his unusual appearance."

Sic transit gloria mundi …

 Nigeness: Van Loon and Cronin.

I read Van Loon when I was a kid and liked his books. I wasn't aware of contempt for the "masses," as he called them ("Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession - their ignorance"). 
I remember seeing the film version of Cronin's The Keys of the Kingdom and liking it lot.

Oh, please …

… Fire and Fury Is a Perfectly Postmodern White House Book - The Atlantic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In this way, the political and moral problem of Trump—his nullity as a human being— turns into a literary problem: How do you write about a character that has no consistency, complexity, or mystery? It is a problem that has bedeviled journalists since Trump first announced for President: you can never get to the bottom of Trump because he is all surface. 
Why did it never trouble them before he announced for President? It isn't as if he was a newcomer on the scene. Journalists have been covering him for decades. He had a hit TV show. And it was journalists who gave his Presidential run scads of free publicity. Why? Because they were sure that if he got the nomination, Mrs. Clinton would win the election easily. When that didn't happen, they started lamenting "the culture that produced Trump," which happens to be the same culture that produced them.

January Poetry at North of Oxford …

… 2 Poems by John D Robinson.

… 2 Poems by Edward L. Canavan.

… Leave by Tony Walton.

… Call by Gideon Tay Yee Chuen.

Submissions are open at North of Oxford.

The first Elizabeth …

 Informal Inquiries: Tudors (2013).

A timely reminder …

… Tweets by Bryan Appleyard (@BryanAppleyard) – Twitter. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who notes that one must get down to the one where Bryan tweets regarding “pseudo-intellectual” — “I think I prefer failed - more accurate. Though neither is quite right as I am not and never aspired to be an intellectual”)

This inspired Dave to send along this: A Historic Moment: Birth of the FIS.

Hmm …

… The Mail | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I’m thinking I might do homage to Tolstoy’s “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by changing the names of the characters and places and otherwise reframing and transposing its parts. I’m sure the New Yorker will be pleased to print it. Especially since, as the one correspondent would have, I will be bringing it to life again (not that I am aware that it has lost anything over the years — but, what the hell).
Reminds me of that old Smith Barney ad with John Houseman: We make fiction the old-fashioned way: We steal it.

Something to think on …

Even with limited intelligence, knowing oneself is not as difficult as some say, but to act according to what one has realized about oneself in real life is as difficult as practicing anything else, compared to theory.
— Franz Grillparzer, born on this date in 1791

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Accepting silence …

 First Known When Lost: Beyond Words.

The word "mystical" (whether used by Wittgenstein or by anyone else) causes some people (ironic moderns, for example) to raise their eyebrows. The same is true of the word "Immanence." I don't know why this should be the case. Perhaps the modern temper is not as "open-minded" as it believes itself to be. In truth, it is quite doctrinaire and intolerant. But we are each free to follow our own path.

And the Washington Post says ...

because of the changes,
Facebook invites you to live in a bubble where you are always right
(What's unclear is why that is bad (kidding, kidding, of course it's bad)).

Facebook changes things ...

conservatives are affected more and as well:
It’s easy to say, “Build your own social media website and compete with them,” but we’re talking about companies with billions of dollars and monopolistic control of their markets. The obvious solution would be to break these companies up or to at least acknowledge their importance to modern society and regulate them heavily, but conservatives don’t seem to be interested enough in either solution to even THREATEN to do this.  
Oddly the columnist is a "conservative" yet for regulation.

Hmm …

 Switzerland bans boiling lobsters alive | CNN Travel.

I seem to recall Graham Kerr pointing out that it was better to steam lobster, that boiling caused a rush of  adrenaline in the creature that made the flesh tough. Lobsters cannot live above a certain temperature. So steaming is a more humane way of cooking them, and they taste better.

The point of it …

 I, Pencil Revisited - Marginal REVOLUTION. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Appreciation …

The Poet of Light. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“Obscurely yet most surely called to praise / As sometimes summer calls us all,” Wilbur wrote in his 20s. The wonder here is not simply the pure gift on display — the music and memorability of these two lines! — but the gift given over to wonder. It never flagged. Well into his 80s, Wilbur still attended to “the blind delight of being.”

Lots of laughs …

… Jews and Their Jokes | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The liveliest pages in Jewish Comedy are those on which Dauber takes up Jewish jokes within his categories. These include rabbi jokes, schnorrer (or beggar) jokes, schlemiel and schlimazel jokes, shadkhn (or matchmaker) jokes, Jewish American Princess jokes, Nazi jokes, even Holocaust jokes. A nice selection of Jewish curses—“May your bones be broken as often as the Ten Commandments”—is also provided. The most politically incorrect of such jokes are Jewish women jokes, which play on the stereotypes of the nagging, over-caring, overbearing disapproving Jewish mother (portrayed brilliantly years ago by Elaine May in one of the Nichols and May skits); the Jewish American Princess (“What does a JAP make for dinner?” “Reservations, of course.”); Jews and cosmetic surgery (Dorothy Parker said that Fanny Brice’s rhinoplasty was a case of “cutting off her nose to spite her race”); the domineering wife (when a boy returns home from school to announce that he is to play a Jewish husband in the school play, his mother sends him back to tell the teacher he wants a speaking part); and the extravagant wife (“A thief stole my wife’s purse with all her credit cards. I’m not going after him. He’s spending less than she does.”)
I was recently pleased to learn that an analysis of my DNA indicates that I am  2 percent Jewish. Not a lot, but better than nothing.

Inquirer reviews …

'Continental Op': Entertaining intro to Dashiell Hammett's beginnings - and the origins of hard-boiled crime fiction.

… Elizabeth Hardwick's 'Essays': A 20th-century star thinks aloud, bright and bold, about literature and social change.

… Leila Slimani's 'Perfect Nanny': Every parent's worst nightmare.

Elif Shafak's 'Three Daughters of Eve': So timely it seems almost clairvoyant.

 'Woman in the Window': Brilliant tale of love, loss and madness.

'When' by Daniel H. Pink: When our timing is right.

Lee Child's 'Midnight Line': Suspenseful, complex thriller.

Fundamental behavior …

… Informal Inquiries: Abraham’s Curse (2008).

Anyone who has been a fight knows that, afterwards, you don't feel much or even any pain , that you're all pumped up and ready to party. Thinks a re different when you wake up the next day, of course. This would seem to suggest that the organism is primed for violence, presumably for reasons of survival. Something else we can blame Almighty Evolution for.

The need for Latin …

… Faith & leadership : Essays in Idleness. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
My high-school Latin teacher, the beloved Jessie Glynn, and her colleague Esther Blaney — who prattled fluently in Latin in the corridors — taught as if it could happen tomorrow. One ought to be ready. Truth to tell, it still hasn’t happened, yet their shades would agree that the nineteen in twenty thousand who dropped Latin the instant it was reduced to an “elective” in the Ontario curriculum of 1968, made a serious mistake. Indeed, look at them now: tedious lives, inarticulate even in English, and cannot quote a single line from Horace.

Something to think on …

The most ingenious men are now agreed, that [universities] are only nurseries of prejudice, corruption, barbarism, and pedantry.
— George Berkeley, who died on this date in 1753

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Scripture …

… Informal Inquiries: Summoned by David, Solomon, and the Holy Bible.

It's not the place, it's the people...

The president of the United States should not, by word or deed, communicate that he is hostile to or disdainful of entire classes of the American population. It doesn’t matter if such divisive rhetoric helps him win elections, nor if the reaction of his opponents is often overblown. As president, his obligation remains the same: Make your case without demonizing whole groups of people.  
This shouldn’t be difficult for conservatives to understand. It’s an argument they’ve been making against Democrats for the better part of a decade. It’s the argument against identity politics ... 
First, if you’re spending your time defending the notion that some countries are truly bad places to live, you’re missing the point entirely. Of course some countries are worse places to live than others. But Trump wasn’t talking about which countries he’d most like to visit or retire to. He was talking about which countries’ immigrants should be most and least welcomed by the United States.
David French in The National Review 

Roundup …

… Nieman Storyboard. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Vocabulary lesson …

… Althouse: "A wretched place... (a) a dirty or dilapidated dwelling; (b) a remote, downtrodden, or unpleasant city, town, etc."

It was said by the President of the United States, but at a private meeting, where I presume he, like many Presidents before him say "fuck" and other bad words all the time. We know Nixon did. LBJ did. 
And it should have stayed in the meeting, which is how it used to be.

Five Rules For Writers

1.  When in Doubt, start with When is number one.

Passage of grief …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Langlois Bridge at Arles (Van Gogh), Sonnet #387.

Something to think on …

The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution.
— Paul Feyerabend, born on this date in 1924

Book vs movie...

Friday, January 12, 2018

… DIVEDAPPER // John Lee Clark. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As there are all kinds of poetry in English, there’s no one kind of ASL poetry. We’ve got everything, really, including rhymes, erasure, handshape-acrostics, purposeful mangling of words and syntax, duets, yawps, everything.

Blowhard alert …

Terry McAuliffe says he'd punch Donald Trump: 'You'd have to pick him up off the floor' - Washington.Times.
McAuliffe should go see the film Patterson to get some idea of how genuine tough guys handle themselves. Always best to make sure your mind isn’t on vacation when your mouth is working overtime.

Words of wisdom …

… The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck | Mark Manson. (Hat tip, John Timpane.)

Now, while not giving a fuck may seem simple on the surface, it’s a whole new bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t even know what that sentence means, but I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it.
I am renowned for not giving a fuck about lots of shit (which is why John sent me this piece).

Bread Abounds...

...New literature and history

"Bread is important. One cannot put it more simply, and yet the reasons could scarcely be more complicated. It is the staff of life, transubstantiated in the eucharist into the body of a divinity; we break it with our companions (com– + pànis, with + bread); we pray for it daily to our Lord (from the Old English word hlàford, which originated from hlàfweard, meaning loaf-ward or bread-keeper); at the Passover Seder, observant Jews eat the bread of affliction, the unleavened matzo (the Catholic communion wafer is made to the same recipe). There is the enriched challah, which is blessed and thus sanctified on the Jewish Sabbath, the sweet Twelfth Night bread that contains a token effigy of the infant Jesus, dozens of Easter breads, numerous iftar breads baked for ending the fast in various Muslim cultures, and the Parsee dròn offering."

Tested instinct …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `We Must Choose Our Parents Wisely'.

Entertaining and touching …

… ‘John Lithgow: Stories by Heart’ Review: Jumping Off the Page - WSJ.

Q&A …

 AMERICAN THEATRE | Natasha Trethewey: Say It, Say It Again.

Hmm …

… After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican poets ask again what it means to belong | PBS NewsHour. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I'm pretty much with Groucho Marx on this — I wouldn't want to belong to any group that would have me as a member.

What they were wondering way back when …

… “Is Cheap Literature Cheapening Literature?” | Bill Peschel.

You have been warned …

… Don’t invite Goethe to dinner! Here’s why. | The Book Haven.

I agree about Werther, which I read for one of my German classes. Tells us more about 18th-century fashion than human nature. The poetry is something else.

Paper war …

 The battle for Arthur Miller’s papers: and the winner is … no surprise. | The Book Haven.

Listen in …

… Episode 251 – Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden – The Virtual Memories Show.

“Ernie Bushmiller used to say, ‘You gotta do the job right,’ and we took him at his word.”

Dangerous goings on …

… Informal Inquiries: The Little Stranger (2009).

Market Listings ...

Two websites with accurate and up-to-date market listing services for writers:

-  Duotrope, 7 day trial membership available, subscription $5/month.

-  Ralan, for speculative fiction and humor, with concurrent design sensibilities, and free.

Something to think on …

Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical, or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition.
— Alasdair MacIntyre, born on this date in 1929

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Well not to jump to conclusions ...

but I literally just took this selfie and look how I look:

I mean I am here right?  

sigh.  Maybe it's not long now.

But really?  HOW ALL OF A SUDDEN CAN I BE TRANSLUCENT???    because of a flash?  I don't think so.

Unintended consequences

Steven Pinker: Here’s How Political Correctness Winds Up Creating Its Own Antagonists:  An  “argument that efforts to make certain topics verboten wind up creating a kind of intellectual black market where the potential for reaching more extreme conclusions is heightened unnecessarily.”
I don’t really think this is a new concept.  All sorts of living things (children, dogs) often are enticed by the forbidden (oh, and Adam and Eve (and their descendants presumably)).

So maybe just ignore the link entirely.

Lear and Nam …

… OFF RADAR: 'Tom O'Vietnam' - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To get the most out of Baron Wormser’s new novel, “Tom O’Vietnam,” you need this close an intimacy with “King Lear,” I’m afraid. The main character is so bound up with the play’s events and language, both literally and figuratively, that much of what goes on will be lost otherwise. Brief summaries of the book and the play might be enough to launch you into this remarkable novel.

Believer malgré lui?

… The other Saint George: George Orwell's nuanced and ambivalent views's on Religion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

None of this, though, should be allowed to obscure the fact that religion lies at the heart of the view that Orwell took of the world and the uses to which religion’s absence might be put. For he realised – and the realisation struck him far earlier than most political commentators either of Right or Left – that the decline in mass religious belief and personal immortality was the single most important crisis of the mid 20th century. Not only had the flight from God created a vast reservoir of displaced religious sensibility looking for a home; simultaneously it had become a key ingredient of the atmosphere in which totalitarian societies took root and flourished. Take away the prospect of an afterlife governed by divine judgment, runs the subtext of many of Orwell’s later essays, and you leave the field clear for tyrants and autocrats (“all the smelly little orthodoxies that are now contending for our souls”) to behave as they choose.

Calling all readers …

… OverDrive (Rakuten OverDrive): eBooks, audiobooks and videos for libraries — OverDrive (Rakuten OverDrive): eBooks, audiobooks and videos for libraries.

Extraordinary …

… A Supercut of Buster Keaton’s Most Amazing Stunts--and Keaton’s 5 Rules of Comic Storytelling | Open Culture. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

How did they do those things back then?

Prophetic …

… Informal Inquiries: "The World is Too Much with Us" (1807).

Balloons and kicks …

… *GABRIEL* by Paul Siegell • Cleaver Magazine.

See also: On the Edge December 2017 | Episode 1.

Recommended …

… Ennyman's Territory: Throwback Thursday: Roman Polanski's The Ghostwriter, Revisited. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Treasure …

… Daguerreotypes of the California Gold Rush. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

It was only a decade prior to Marshall’s cry that Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, and the French government purchased the patent rights to place the process in the public domain. The fever for photography, as Lebart notes, fortuitously overlapped with the fever for gold.

Q&A …

… John Kaag: The Chance To Think | The Reading Lists. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden,)

Poetry and madness …

… What Life in Confinement Meant for Ezra Pound’s Work - The New York Times. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

… Pound was a sort of Antaeus. As long as his feet were on the ground that fed him with images and experiences, he was a giant. In the air, as a seer, a social theorist and a philosopher, he was notoriously vulnerable. He worshiped strong leaders; he indulged in a virulent anti-Semitism; and only slyly, belatedly, offhandedly did he take responsibility for mistaken actions and for detestable opinions that he expressed in writing. His life resists posterity’s best efforts to make it resemble a morality play. 

Lollypops for health …

… Dosha Pops - Ayurvedic Candies.

Tracking the decline …

… A.M. Juster on Twitter: "#WestChesterUniversity effectively killed off the nation's premiere conference on formal poetry by dismissing its creative director …". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.
— William James, born on this date in 1842

The nominees are …

… Announcing the 2018 Story Prize Finalists | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

You come, too …

… Informal Inquiries: Defining, Reading, and Discussing the Classics.

I suspect she can take It …

 Actress Catherine Deneuve Being Excoriated for Criticizing #MeToo Movement.

And not because she is rich or white or extraordinarily beautiful, but because she is supremely self-possessed.

Joseph Conrad...

...A rejoinder

"Turned inward on Conrad himself, these lenses become microscopes, revealing the secret biographical sources for his characters and plots. Turned outward, they are telescopes scanning the horizons of Conrad’s widely travelled world, demonstrating a critical political awareness that, Jasanoff argues, anticipated many of the challenges of our modern world, including terrorism, migration, globalisation, American imperialism, brute Russian autocracy and runaway technological change."

Blogging note …

I must out and about again. I will have my iPad with me, so may do blogging if the opportunity arises.

Protecting the men in blue …

… Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Piece On Blue Lives Matter.

Anniversary …

 Informal Inquiries: Dashiell Hammett, hard-boiled, and more.

Anniversary …

 Informal Inquiries: Dashiell Hammett, hard-boiled, and more.

The latest section …

… "Cosmography" Mercury-1.

My kind of Jesuit …

… Francis Canavan: A Jesuit for the Confused and Distressed | William Doino Jr. | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lest anyone think Canavan wrote only about culture-war issues, this collection shows him defending the Sermon on the Mount and the Church’s social teachings on behalf of the poor. He does so with aplomb, drawing on his knowledge of history, law, theology, and politics—and without resorting to invective or over-heated polemics. Canavan had a rare ability to refute error, and expose deception, with charity and wit. This quip is an example: “Our contemporary culture, officially at least, does not care what kind of sexual activity you engage in so long as you don’t smoke cigarettes doing it.” More examples appear in his column “Losing the Faith,” in which Canavan explains why he has lost all belief—not in God or Holy Scripture, but in the skeptics.

A poem by Robinson Jeffers …

… The House Dog's Grave.

Something to think on …

Long live freedom and damn the ideologies.
— Robinson Jeffers, born on this date in 1887

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Splendid …

… Jeremy Irons reads "Four Quartets" | George Hunka. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A week from today …


Poetry and Winter

A Poetry Reading and Conversation

with Leonard Gontarek and Charles Carr

on Winter, Writing in Winter, and the Poetry of Winter

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018. 7-8:30 PM.

(Please note the address, there are
  other Green Line Café locations.)

     This Event Is Free

Charles Carr is a native Philadelphian. He was educated at LaSalle and Bryn Mawr College, where he earned a Masters in American History. Charles has worked in social and community development services for 45 years, and has also been active in raising funds for various missions and organizations serving the poorest of the poor In Haiti. In 2007, he was The Mad Poets Review First Prize Winner for his poem “Waiting To Come North”. In 2009 Cradle Press of St. Louis published Charles's first book of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania. In January of this year, Haitian Mud Pies And Other Poems published by The Moonstone Arts Center was released. Charles’ poems have been published in various print and on-line local and national poetry journals. Charles is host of Philly Loves Poetry a collaborative live broadcast on the first Tuesday of the month. For five years, Charles hosted a Moonstone Poetry series at Fergie’s Pub on the second Wednesday of each month. On September 26th 2013, Charles read poems in honor of the international 100,000 Poets For Peace at The Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, Ireland.

Leonard Gontarek is the author of six books of poems, including, Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket, Shiva (2016), nominated for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the William Carlos William Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Verse Daily, and The Best American Poetry, among others. He coordinates Poetry In Common, Peace/Works, Philly Poetry Day, The Philadelphia Poetry Festival, and hosts The Green Line Reading & Interview Series. He has received Poetry fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Philadelphia Writers Conference Community Service Award, and was a Literary Death Match Champion. His poem, 37 Photos From The Bridge, was a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges MotionPoems project in 2015, and was the basis for the award-winning film by Lori Ersolmaz.

Plus ca change ...

Literary approaches too...
Fire and Fury, the recent book on the Trump administration, has been criticized for its author's approach to the truth, yet it does appear the author did have authorized access to the White House;
and before that we had...  
Dutch: A Memoir off Ronald Reagan, which was also criticized for its author's approach to the truth, yet its author also had authorized access to the White House.

Extra bonus note to stave off actually working...

John 18:38 - Pilate: "What is Truth?"

Oh My God, people and literary techniques really don't change ...

I could have written a milder "Plus Ca Change ..." in the title above but
1) We have just had Fire and Fury, criticized for its free approach to rigor, that is the author's statement that the book as comprised of, if not true occurrences,  characteristic anecdotes; 
and two thousand years ago we had
2)  Twelve Ceasars, of which says:
De vita Caesarum, which treats Julius Caesar and the emperors up to Domitian, is largely responsible for that vivid picture of Roman society and its leaders, morally and politically decadent, that dominated historical thought until modified in modern times by the discovery of nonliterary evidence ... Though free with scandalous gossip, [it is] largely silent on the growth, administration, and defense of the empire. Suetonius is free from the bias of the senatorial class that distorts much Roman historical writing. His sketches of the habits and appearance of the emperors are invaluable, but, like Plutarch, he used “characteristic anecdote” without exhaustive inquiry into its authenticity.
(P.S.  And lest we forget, "fake but accurate" pace Dan Rather.

Hmm …

… The Thinker Who Believed in Doing | Humanities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
I am a great admirer of William James and there is much in this piece worth being reminded of. But connecting James with contemporary political fads and fancies cheapens him. And it is impossible to imagine James not being opposed to much that is happening on college campuses these days, such as trigger warnings, etc.
What James was really the forerunner of is phenomenology. He believed that our ideas should be weighed in the balance of experience, not our experience in the balance of our ideas.

Hmm …

… Harvard linguist reveals most misused words in English - Business Insider. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I could be wrong, but I think most of these are covered in Strunk & White. So I'd stick with that.

Cozy mystery …

 Informal Inquiries: False Witness (2007).

Something to think on …

It's not possible to search for God using the methods of a detective... There is no way. You can only wait till God's axe severs your roots: then you will understand that you are here only through a miracle, and you will remain fixed forever in wonderment and equilibrium.
— Karel Čapek, born on this date in 1890

Monday, January 08, 2018

Great writing …

This was the road over which Antonia and I came on that night when we got off the train at Black Hawk and were bedded down in the straw, wondering children, being taken we knew not whither. I had only to close my eyes to hear the rumbling of the wagons in the dark, and to be again overcome by that obliterating strangeness. The feelings of that night were so near that I could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s experience is. For Antonia and for me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.
— Willa Cather, My Ántonia 

Poetry and Bluegrass …

… GRAY on Twitter: "#AStableLampIsLighted #Bluegrass lyrics by #RichardWilbur". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

15 best classics....

or are they?  From the Telegraph.

The State of the Humanities

Overly dire?

"The humanities are not just dying. By some measures, they are almost dead."

Amen …

… Deliver Us From “Dynamic Equivalence” | Charlotte Allen | First Things.

More nonsense from our bien-pensant Pope. In grade school we were taught that the phrase did not mean that God tempts us to sin. If the cardinals had to give us a Jesuit Pope, why didn't they pick one from among the orde'rs scholars, instead of an obviously mediocre administrator?

Biography and history …

… Informal Inquiries: The Breaking Point (2005).

Introducing …

… Meet Philadelphia's new poet laureate, Raquel Salas Rivera: Poet, migrant, bridge-builder. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Courage …

… “Season to Season” | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Always act as if you were seen.
— Baltasar Gracián, born on this date in 1601

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Faith and flower …

 Forgotten Poems #35: "La Flor del Salvador," by Ina Coolbrith.

I should say, while I'm talking about all of this, that the religiosity of a lot of nineteenth-century poetry is probably the aspect of it that I find hardest to connect with, or talk about. I'm an agnostic who wasn't raised as a churchgoer, and the more Bible-thumping versions of Christianity make me profoundly uncomfortable, for many reasons. That said, I wrote an entire dissertation chapter on the deeply religious seventeenth-century poet George Herbert, after writing an undergraduate thesis on Paradise Lost, so maybe the only way I can grapple with religion is through poetry -- or art (see above digression on medieval triptychs), or music.
I think that the only way to grapple with religion is through poetry, which is, after all, a way of knowing.

Time is running out …

… The Final Countdown | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Yep, yep, yep...

The average person is far better off than any other time in history...
Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History
We can do better though.  Much much better.

Skeptical history …

… The University Bookman: We’re in This Together. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In some connections, Beard is limited—though anybody would be; reading in a cultural vacuum chamber would kill any historian. Heinously violating multicultural evenhandedness myself, I have to note that Beard’s viewpoint (she is a Cambridge professor) is post-imperial and post-religious—good for skepticism, but bad for a full appreciation of what made Roman culture quite cheery and vigorous despite the preponderance of poverty (directly in the face of stunning wealth), filth, disease, toil, noise, corruption, and oppression that she outlines.
In order to get at the past it would seem imperative to leave behind as many of the present’s fads fancies as possible.

The Ultimate Materialist …

 20011: Boards and a Book.

I remember seeing Father Capon on TV from time to time.

Tour-de-force …

 Informal Inquiries: Fifty Grand (2009).

Anniversary …

Francis Poulenc was born on this date in 1899.


“I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” 
– Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier (1967 – 2015), publisher, Charlie Hebdo.

Something to think on …

Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint.
— Charles Péguy, born on this date in 1873

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Terrific …

I lay awake for a long while, until the slow-moving moon passed my window on its way up the heavens. I was thinking about Antonia and her children; about Anna’s solicitude for her, Ambrosch’s grave affection, Leo’s jealous, animal little love. That moment, when they all came tumbling out of the cave into the light, was a sight any man might have come far to see. Antonia had always been one to leave images in the mind that did not fade—that grew stronger with time. In my memory there was a succession of such pictures, fixed there like the old woodcuts of one’s first primer: Antonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake; Antonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father’s grave in the snowstorm; Antonia coming in with her work-team along the evening sky-line. She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one’s breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions.
— Willa Cather, My Ántonia

I know. Politics drive me crazy too...

But this is about a book (that might have an impact like Uncle Tom's Cabin).

Speaking of that Rupert Murdoch biography, it seems Trump was not aware of the content of that book, which was quite critical. Yet he was talking to Murdoch during your reporting. 
"It's mystifying to me. I don't know if I came up. The distinct feeling that you have when you say that you're writing a book is that these guys don't care about you. You're a kind of non-entity. "A book." Trump is not getting excited about somebody writing a book.
Because he places no importance on books. 
Yeah. They almost can't imagine what it is. I remember when the Murdoch book came out and Murdoch's guy [former News Corp. marketing and corporate affairs exec] Gary Ginsberg, called me, furious, and said, "What is this? The book is all about him!" I said, "It's a biography." And Ginsberg says, "But it's so personal." That's when I realized, these guys don't just not read books — they don't know what books are.
From an interview with Michael Wolff about his book Fire and Fury, about the Trump administration

A saint for our time …

 Evelyn Waugh's Epiphany Prayer of a Mother for the Conversion of Her Son - OnePeterFive. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Anniversary …

Alexabnder Scriabin was born on this date in 1872.

Wisdom …

… Still Standing | Afrocentric Muslimah.

A good life …

… The death of a fruitful man | Brandywine Books.

A touching misson …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Every Cultivated Gentleman'.

Hear, hear …

… Looking Back at Isaac Asimov’s Oil Prediction | Bill Peschel.

As Niels Bohr is supposed to have said (if so, he was probably quoting Danish humorist Piet Hein), "prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."

Much in what he says …

… The Ethos of “Cool”: Robert Harrison on Jim Morrison and The Doors | The Book Haven.

There sure in hell isn't anything comparable to the Doors around these days.

Dots and dashes …

… Informal Inquiries: Morse Code and other impossibilities.

Mark thy calendar …

The Life of The Poet Workshop with Leonard Gontarek – January / February  2018

Thursdays, 5:30 - 7 PM  $108 for six classes.
The workshop will meet six times: January 11, 18, 25, February 1, 8, 15.
You may pay as you go. $18 per class.

 Location: 4221 Osage Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.

Discussion of contemporary and international poetry, and participants’
work. Weekly assignments. Improve your poetic skills. Gain a fuller
understanding of poetry in our world. Find balance, support and time
to write. Keep your spirit up. For poets at any level.

Sign up in advance.
Please contact Leonard Gontarek with interest:,
215.808.9507 – Independent workshops and manuscript editing available.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Robert Frost, with the guidance of award-winning, prolific poet Leonard Gontarek, it’s at least a possibility. Encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible and remove themselves from their work, he’ll help you find—then strengthen—your style and voice.

                                Philadelphia Weekly, Nicole Finkbiner

Have taken several sessions of The Self and Place in Poetry and leave each class in a good place. Leonard is patient and direct. With deft skill and compassionate humor he helps us find the purest parts of our poems.

                                 Kathryn Giedgowd

Leonard Gontarek is the author of six books of poems, including, Take Your Hand
Out of My Pocket, Shiva and He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs.

He coordinates Poetry In Common, Peace/Works, Philly Poetry Day, The
Philadelphia Poetry Festival, and hosts The Green Line Reading & Interview Series.

Since 2006, he has conducted 1000 poetry workshops in venues including,
Musehouse, The Kelly Writers House, The Moonstone Arts Center,
Free Library of Philadelphia, University City Arts League, Philadelphia
Arts in Education Partnership, and a weekly Saturday workshop from his
home in West Philadelphia. He has been Mad Poet-in-Residence since 2008.

He has received Poetry fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts,
the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Philadelphia Writers Conference Community Service
Award, was a Literary Death Match Champion. His poem, 37 Photos From The Bridge,
a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges MotionPoems project in 2015, was the basis
for the award-winning film by Lori Ersolmaz.

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard reading Promise: