Tuesday, September 21, 2021
I think one should decide which it is one wants to be — a reporter or an activist.News is news. Opinion is opinion. Most papers have sections for both. The twain should never meet.
Monday, September 20, 2021
As always, one should attend to one's soul. Where does one start? Best to return to the solitary maple tree in the clearing among the pines. Everything begins and ends with a single beautiful particular.
… just as Saad gains some momentum in his sixth chapter, the next chapter, “How to Seek Truth: Nomological Networks of Cumulative Evidence,” is an enormous letdown. In it, he shoehorns so much of his research on sexual differences and Islamic extremism, proving that that men and women are different and that Islam lends itself to violence. Somehow, Saad believes that using evidence across disciplines will do the trick of convincing the other side, as though no one else has tried this already.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
On Constitution Day, I say drink a toast to the losers. After all, some of them agitated for a Bill of Rights, a proposal that was rejected by the framers in September of 1787. Let us study their criticisms of our imperfect system. Imagine what might have been and what might be as the republic suffers in a realm of political dysfunction caused in no small part by our odd framework of government.
In Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, the notion is advanced that conclusion arrived at by means of a counterfactual proposition is always correct precisely because the premise is false. If that had not happened, then … whatever.
Saturday, September 18, 2021
… Mullins argues that we need to train young readers to recover the pleasurable delight in encountering the subtleties of language, the repetition, the imagery, the narrative arc . . . the literariness of Scripture. This is not just a better form of reading, but a way of loving communion with the God who breathes and inspires the truth in his authoritative Scripture. Good reading is a full-bodied encounter.
In college I wrote the poetry that Big Poetry was promoting, but eventually found it unsatisfying and stopped writing poetry altogether for about a decade. In my 30s, I realized that I could write the kind of poetry I loved rather than the poetry that others wanted me to love, so that’s what I set out to do.
Friday, September 17, 2021
There is paradox here, but no contradiction. What Lao Tzu is telling us is that while of course the Tao can be named or spoken of in onesense – that’s the point of saying what we’ve so far heard him say, after all – what we are speaking about is something that ultimately cannot adequately be captured in language, because it is so radically unlike the temporary, changing, differentiated, dependent things of our experience. In that sense it is nameless. The best we can do is to suggest the ways in which it is not like the things of our experience – it is not temporary, not changing, not differentiated, not dependent, and so on.
It is perhaps worth taking note of the Chinese translation of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God.” Regarding anthropomorphism, it seems to me that the Incarnation is as anthropomorphic as it gets.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
A walk through Philadelphia’s streets and alleys exposes the walker to an art, history, and domesticity that validates the walker as an individual, with individual quirks, histories, and significance himself. Apart from Center City, little of Philadelphia rises above four or five stories high. As Bourdain’s visit and my own experience prove, that ground-level appeal is consequently not limited to the city’s architectural features. The Mural Art Project and Isaiah Zagar’s colorful mosaics can be experienced throughout the 142 square miles of the city limits, stopping the solitary walker in his tracks. It is a rare route through the city that fails to traverse cobblestone streets and two-century-old buildings that remind the walker of the city’s and the nation’s history. And the longer one stays in the city, the more frequently one comes across ghostly reminiscences of their own history: after drinks at Dirty Frank’s and visits to Independence Park, the walker begins to see the city as a mirror of their own experience, as an individual, as a Philadelphian, as an American. One senses one’s own paradoxically ghostly permanence as the city itself curates its own history.
This is a really fine piece, and I say that who has walked all over the place. (I feel obliged to mention, though, that Frank Rizzo’s black bodyguards thought the world of him.)
… Moore retains the tart flavour of a well-kept secret. He is not under-rated exactly, nor does he merit the backhanded compliment “writer’s writer” (unless the writer in question is Graham Greene, who called Moore his favourite living novelist). He is, rather, under-read and certainly under-kept-in-print: only about a third of his 20 novels are easy to find at any time. Luckily, enterprising publisher Turnpike Books is marking his centenary this month by reissuing three of his longest-unavailable novels, including one of his best.
Birkerts’ close reading of Nabokov teases out patterns from the dense and meditative prose of the older writer’s work. The opening section deals with the nature of time, showing how Nabokov embeds future moments in early ones. In particular, his nostalgic recollections of childhood innocence foreshadow later events which will disrupt it, such as his father’s sudden death. Brief intimations of later moments in elaborately described early experiences suggest the malleability of time as held in memory.
Blake did not read the Divine Comedy as a medieval Catholic believer but as a visionary 18th and 19th century English artist and poet who invented his own religion. He “taught himself Italian in order to be able to read the original” and had a “ complex relationship” with the text, writes Dante scholar Silvia De Santis.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
I’ve learned after all these years that the differences between American and British language are very many and often very subtle, and thus it’s extremely difficult for an American to provide 100% convincing dialogue for a Brit, and vice versa. Klara and the Sun proves the point.
Maybe I’ve read too many books by Brits, but some of these sound to me as much American as British. I use clever and others have even used it of me. Certainly Americans sometimes give it a go. But the point is well taken. If I ever wrote a novel, I would make sure all the characters were American. I’d also be careful about regional characters.
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
… if you look at colleges generally, what do you get? Outside of those few departments like the applied sciences, where practical results condemn failure to the garbage can, or mathematics, where proof is proof and wishing doesn’t make it so, higher education is not education at all. It is a racket. I mean the word in its strict sense. The colleges have positioned themselves as the owners of the only bridge across an impassable river. If you want a good job, they say, you have to go through us, and we, with government enablers and enforcers, will make you mortgage yourself over the gables for the privilege.
I had a great time in college and when I visited my alma mater when I was The Inquirer’s book editor it seemed pretty much the place I knew. But I recently learned it may be going woke.
Dialectism is the existence
Of 2 phonemes weaving together
Laws coexist regardless of distance
Example: hot and cold in the weather
There is Form and Matter in everything
All Matter has Form, But not all Form does
For the a Cappella singer sings
All Form precedes Matter and Whole because
There is a divine order in the world
Even chaos is a deviation
Anouk is life: Sapien boy or girl
Everything is woven to formation
Is there free will indeterminism?
Even that is a whole algorithm
— Benjamin Knox
President Biden’s hectoring speech put none of these suspicious to rest. Quite the opposite. Surely President Biden knew many would dig in their heels. Why would he take this tack? Frijters, Foster, and Baker note the role of “sin stories” during the COVID panic. “A very effective way to dominate people,” they write, “is to convince them they are sinful unless they obey.” Government officials and powerful business leaders use sin stories to divide and control opposition. Corporations break the power of labor by cultivating discord in the workforce; politicians tell sin stories to keep the people from mounting mass opposition. COVID, they note, is “an almost perfect sin story,” one that sets all against all by treating everyone as a potential source of deadly infection and literally distances us from one another so we can’t mount a united opposition. Giant companies told sin stories to kill off small businesses that couldn’t afford to keep up with constantly-changing regulations. And President Biden deepens divisions by presenting himself as president of the vaccinated, whose duty is to protect them from impure semi-citizens like me.
I may be an impure semi-citizen myself. I have certainly never been inclined to be servile toward the state, especially given the quality — or mostly lack thereof — of politicians these days. Others, I gather, are more compliant than I.
Some people do seem to have a kind of religious fervor regarding vaccination (of course, others have a peculiar and overtly religious objection to them). Having been rather well trained in philosophy — the rational sort — I find this all very strange. I do not place my faith in science. Science is not about faith. It is about observation, experiment, and verification. And it is always open to challenge. Otherwise we would still think the sun circled the earth. I have had good lab courses in biology, physics, and chemistry. I have been a medical editor. The first thing I ever wrote that got me some success was a paper about microscopic life in a stagnant pond, complete with photomicrographs I had myself taken. I was about 15 at the time. It won a prize from Philadelphia's Museum of Natural History. So, while I am not a scientist, I like to think I am scientifically literate. And as an old-school journalist, I think all sides of a subject should be looked into, and all should be open to question.
Monday, September 13, 2021
With a kind of inverse dandyism, Eliot concurrently fusses over his clothes, which he relies on to render him innocuous. The war, he thought, would usher in a totalitarian future when “we are all either in uniforms, or Civil Servants”; avoiding both khaki and pinstripes, he still sought the camouflage of uniformity. After being awarded a fellowship at a Cambridge college, he frets about acquiring the correct gown, surplice and hood. His duties as an air-raid warden in Kensington come with their own sartorial rules: Old Possum, the alter ego he adopted for his poems about cats, decrees that “Gas Masks are to be Worn, Under, not Over the Necktie”. At Christmas, he treats himself to a spring suit of blue-grey Glenurquhart Angola wool. He is especially proud of his umbrella, essential to the armature of the City gent: made of whangee cane, it has a bamboo handle and he coyly shelters behind it on the cover of this volume.
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Please notice the vast difference in relative and absolute risk reduction for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While the manufacturers kept talking about the 95.1 and 94.1 figures, which, indeed, sounded very impressive, the absolute risk reduction was actually only 0.7% and 1.1% respectively. The later set of figures were hardly ever mentioned in mainstream reporting on the subject.
As an article in Nature last month put it, a "massive UK study of COVID-19 cases shows that people who are jabbed have good immunity at first, but quickly become more vulnerable to the fast-spreading Delta variant."
The following passage from the article I have linked to, however, prompts me to wonder if I should not get the shot after all (I turn 80 next month):
Any knowns and unknowns concerning vaccine risks must be weighed against the known and unknown risks of COVID-19 itself, which includes, of course, long-haul COVID complications. For many people, especially the elderly and individuals with various pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic liver disease, this should be an easy choice.
I do have hypertension, and take medication for it. It's the only medication I take. On the other hand, I don't like being bullied. Nevertheless, I'll think it over some more.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
I study the past in order to find out what things were like before I came on the scene, not to judge it in terms of whatever view may be fashionable these days.
What she sees in her hospital work is the normal COVID-19 symptoms in incoming patients and patients with symptoms (such as blood clotting; cardiac issues; cognitive problems; encephalitis; kidney issues) that she believes derive from the “vaccines.” But doctors shut her down mid-sentence when she makes the connection between the vaccine and the new patients. And there is no reporting to VAERS.
Friday, September 10, 2021
One publishing insider pointed out last year that the backlash against plastic packaging has resulted in the manufacturing of more cardboard and paper packaging, this being a prime example of the law of unintended consequences. As mills pivot to manufacturing more cardboard packaging, they have less capacity for things like, well, books.