Friday, January 31, 2014

Just a thought …

There is no reason to presume that play and pray are antagonistic terms. Work and play are already thought to complement each other. But the best work is a form of play. As Noël Coward said, "Work is so much more fun than fun."

So you think you got problems …

…  Big Game. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

Morning Lull Report …

… courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Three days before the end: January 31 1959: Buddy Holly, et. al., play at the Duluth Armory - Zenith City Online.

UPDIKE by Adam Begley | Kirkus.

Sculptor David Tothero, who did The General, remembers having Updike's father as a substitute teacher one day in Adamstown.

… Correcting history, as it were: Daphnes book prize launched to right literary wrongs of past.

We're not doing a feminist corrective, or a corrective based on any sort of identity politics," Crispin told US publisher Melville House's blogMobyLives. "I'm just tired of having the same conversations about 20th-century literature, which always seems to revolve around these same writers: Hemingway, Faulkner, Updike, Roth. When you challenge this reduction, when you say maybe there were other books, other stories, other things going on, people get angry … Maybe Updike really did write the best book of the year! But I doubt it. Hopscotch is a marvel, Muriel Spark is still 10 years ahead of us."

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is [Lawrence] Block’s 11th novel featuring the signature exploits of his urbane gentleman thief. However, unlike virtually every one of his prior literary efforts involving a cavalcade of indelible characters, including, of course, complicated private investigator Matthew Scudder, Block’s latest is completely self-published.
… Podcast — Mark Vernon and Rupert Sheldrake discuss The Hidden God of Atheism.

… The greatest Victorian: All the Sad Sages.
The Memoirs of Walter Bagehot is an oddity, for Bagehot left behind no memoir when his chronically weak chest finally undid him at the age of 51. Instead, Frank Prochaska has stitched together this self-portrait out of the boxfuls of essays, letters and articles he did leave. These have been republished in multi-volume editions three times, by Forrest Morgan in 1889, by one of the Wilson sisters, Emilie Barrington, in 1915, and finally by Norman St John Stevas between 1965 and 1986. Prochaska chose to present Bagehot in the first person ‘because I thought Bagehot could speak more vividly of his life and mind than I could as an intermediary in a conventional biography’.

Both sides now …

In claiming that testimony is a basic source of justification for the hearer, Reid isn’t denying that testimony can work only in conjunction with other sources of knowledge. Just as memory extends pre-existent knowledge across time, testimony transfers pre-existent knowledge from one person to another. Testimony, unlike other sources of knowledge, is irreducibly social and morally significant. It cannot operate without trust on the part of the hearer and honesty on the part of the speaker.
Note the relevance of this to the previous post.

See also this piece, indirectly linked to yesterday:  The Restless Heart of Darkness – Part One.

Modern thought oddly claims to be scientific and to rely on the certainty of empiricism, but in fact takes everything on authority, and on anonymous authority at that.
Anonymous means no modern man would dream of discovering the qualifications of the members of the UN panel on climate change, nor has modern man any impulse to question the findings of bribed bureaucrats or political appointees drawing conclusions about the relative dangers of DDT. The modern man is ironically proud of skepticism, but has no ability to question the authority of experts utterly nameless, utterly faceless, utterly immune from question or contradiction. The Middle Ages, taking on faith some dogma decided at the Council of Ephesus, would know the name of the defenders of the faith, and the heretic had their names affixed to their beliefs; and the dogma were all carefully written down, not merely a drift of opinion.

A real journalist …

 CNN's Jake Tapper: Don't Just Trust the Government, Demand Proof - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic.

Recall that the Pentagon Papers, the Abu Ghraib photos, the waterboarding revelations, the reports about warrantees wiretapping in the Bush years, and the WikiLeaks trove of documents were all alleged to have done grave damage to America. The harms were overblown in every case. If the U.S. government ever deserved the benefit of the doubt from its citizens, it long ago squandered that privilege. Like the boy who cried wolf, it now needs to offer proof. 

Philly guy …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Local Connection: Ian Fleming's Character James Bond Was Named After A Bird Scientist Who Worked At Philly's Academy Of Natural Sciences.

Backstory …

… “My Work is to Explain My Heart” – A. Papatya Bucak on Her Brevity Essay | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A thought for today …

An artist is his own fault.
— John O'Hara, born on this date in 1905


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Just a thought …

I took a walk this evening and was reminded again that few things look sadder than vestiges of snow, and for some reason the vestiges on display tonight seemed emblematic of the era we are living in. Both the 19th century and the 20th began with war. In fact, this year is the centenary of what has come to be known as the Great War, which destroyed the stability the Victorian period seemed to have settled into. It had been a fragile stability built upon a colonialism that in some places was scarcely different from the slavery that dishonored the United States and that in all cases was premised upon dominating the peoples of seized lands. Small wonder that, by the time 1900 arrived, there was a good deal dissatisfaction seething throughout Europe. The war that inaugurated the 20th century was managed by lesser, grayer figures than those of the Napoleonic era and their resolution of the conflict quickly proved inept, marked by economic collapse and yet another war, this time on a truly global scale.  The resolution of that war began with a nuclear standoff and seems to be drifting into nuclear Balkanization. The breakdown of such stability as prevailed in the Middle East may well have placed the world in its greatest danger since the Cuban missile crisis. The diplomatic ineptitude on display lately makes Neville Chamberlain look good in comparison. Maybe that is the pattern of centuries — a collapse into war followed by a period of recovery that prepares the way for a recrudescence of combat.

Backstory …

… Thaddeus Gunn on Anger, Abuse, and “Slapstick” | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Much in what he says …

… Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: A seminal 12,000 word essay on the modern condition from John C Wright. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The essay is often insightful, but to call contemporary "spirituality" mysticism is not only misleading, but flat-out wrong. I suggest taking a look at William Johnston' s Mystical Theology: The Science of Love. Johnston is a Jesuit priest and a great person. St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi were all mystics. None of them were nihilists.

Coasting through life...

Explaining my absence …

I am having one of those days. Will resume blogging when I next have a chance.

The morning Lull Report …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Who knew? — What does opera have to do with football? | OUPblog.

Now there's a way to get kids interested in classical music.

… Playing with masks: Biographers Cannot Be Choosers: On The Biographical Drive.

… Reading up on what to talk about: Joseph Brodsky’s Guide to Basic Conversation.

OK, you can forget about that last one. Indeed, it’s pretty obvious that Brodsky’s list is not really “basic” but rather a fairly arbitrary roster of cool stuff he had read and wanted to talk about. But given how few people have read all the books on his list, we may wonder if he lived in a state of perpetual loneliness and despair.
… Good: A TV Writer Finds His Literary Voice.

The 64 stories in "One More Thing" vary wildly in length, tone and subject matter. Some consist of just a set up and punch line: "I was sad that summer was over. But I was happy that it was over for my enemies, too." Others cover more complex territory, exploring such diverse topics as depression, suicide, the nature of love, family relationships, and the mysteries of dark matter and quantum nonlocality.

Deeply moving...

A thought for today …

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.
— Lloyd Alexander, born on this date in 1924

As a Rhode Islander...

...I couldn't help post this

Sure is, mate...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Less storage space …

… Instapundit — SCIENCE: The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind: It’s not so much that the mental faculties of…

I've been saying this for years, not because I'm so smart, but because it's so obvious.


… Paul Davis On Crime: Tonight On BBC America, "Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond.

Amazing, Hypertext makes possible a three way Moebius strip!


A cow spurned the advances of a man on trial for having sex with a sheep.


Report: Human Body Not Prepared For Life In Outer Space


Backstory …

… Faulkner’s Vietnam: Kelly Morse on the “The Saigon Kiss” | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Morning roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Help for the philosophically challenged: Edward  : Jerry-built atheism.

The claim that the only respectable options are natural science and conceptual analysis is itself neither a claim that is supported by natural science, nor something revealed by conceptual analysis. (The naturalist might try to bluff his way past this difficulty by asserting that neuroscience or cognitive science supports his case, but if so you should call his bluff. For neuroscience and cognitive science, when they touch on matters of metaphysical import, are rife with tendentious and unexamined metaphysical assumptions. And insofar as such assumptions are naturalist assumptions, the naturalist merely begs the question in appealing to them.)
… Canny craftsman: The sound of sense: Clive James on Robert Frost.

Eventually there will be three volumes, but the first volume [of letters] is already enough to prove, if proof were needed, that Frost was anything but the shit-kicking fireside verse-whittler of legend. When not actually practising his art, he thought about it so long and hard that it was a wonder he had time for anything else. His detractors would like to think that he found plenty of time to suborn editors, sabotage rival poets and practice infinite cruelties on his wife and family, but even his detractors must have noticed that he got quite a lot of meticulously crafted poems written. These letters are proof that his working methods and principles were the product of a mental preoccupation that began very early. Right from the start he had an idea of what a poem should do.
… Good news, I guess: Beyond Foodism.

Foodism is just the latest manifestation of the dietary laws our distant ancestors drew up. The best thought on the subject of food that I know of is this, from Lin Yutang: "If a chicken is killed, and not cooked to perfection, that chicken has died in vain."

… The afterlife of an elegy — Mourning Tongues: How Auden Was Modified in the Guts of the Living by Nina Martyris.

… Auden’s words were quite literally, in Auden’s line from the poem, “modified in the guts of the living,” and how, in a feat that even someone as reputedly self-anointing as Auden could not possibly have foreseen, it went on to link a multicultural pantheon of greats: Yeats, Auden, T. S. Eliot, Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, and Seamus Heaney.
… Probably a good idea: Where Only Print Is Permitted.

Getting inside a text …

… Translation as a Performing Art - (Hat tip, Lee Lowe, who certainly knows about translation.)

“What did you do about the dialect?” I asked him, at one of our lunches. He laughed, and replied, “Oh, I just left it out!”
At first glance, it’s a little like translating “Moby-Dick” and leaving out all references to boats. But I understood. Weaver explains it better in his introduction to the English edition: “To translate Gadda’s Roman or Venetian into the language of Mississippi or the Aran Islands would be as absurd as translating the language of Faulkner’s Snopeses into Sicilian or Welsh.” 

A thought for today …

A hero is a man who does what he can.
—Romain Rolland, born on this date in 1866

The poet speaks...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Well, that settles it...

Serious reading list …

… A Commonplace Blog: Five Books of cancer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let's keep David in our prayers.

Online now …

… The Winter 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review.

My friend John Timpane has a poem in this issue: Hum.

And so do I: Alborada. There is a slight typo in the first line of the third stanza. Time veered, not tim.)

Noontime roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Crossing the badlands: The Madness of Art | Dissent Magazine.

WE’RE IN the habit of reading the passage as if Dencombe had ended with “This is the madness of art”—as if he were grandly encapsulating everything he’d just said. But he didn’t.The rest is the madness of art. The artist’s calling is to do what one can, to give what one has; the artist’s calling is to explore one’s doubt, one’s task, one’s passion. And the madness of art? The madness of art is everything else.
…  Honoring the past: Real books should be preserved like papyrus scrolls.

As the era of the book wanes, it will be the rare-book library's major prerogative to hold on to what it has. The book may not have a future – and there will be fewer and fewer handwritten manuscripts – but such written material has a past that must be preserved and treasured.
… Speaking of books and the past: The romance of certain old books.

[Books] are sadly familiar to us, because they are canonical; that is, because we read them in the present, with the standards and expectations of the present, as towering figures of the present. To be borne into the past, boats beating against the current, the best books are those which are least familiar: the books no one is assigned on any syllabus, the books discussed in no classroom.
 … Stalking the mythical beast: William Logan and the Role of the Poet-Critic.

 To call myself a “poet-critic” would be to give myself airs. My own imaginative life is lived almost entirely in poetry. I could give up criticism tomorrow with only minor regret, so to dwell in this interview on criticism is to represent myself in a way amusingly prejudicial. I’m merely a poet who has opinions and has sometimes been paid to publish them.
… In case you wondered: How We Love Our God.

Me, I knew these things were true as a matter of theological conviction, but they had not taken sufficient root in my heart and imagination until I read theCommedia, and gone on pilgrimage with Dante. My life will never be the same.
… The harvest of meditation: Silent communion.
This is ‘faith’, then, not as some watered-down alternative to propositional belief, but a commitment made and remade even while its object comes into view only gradually and uncertainly (‘through a glass, darkly’, as St Paul put it). It’s a commitment, too, to facing whatever silence throws at you. Boredom and busy schedules are familiar obstacles in any meditation practice, Christian or otherwise, but tougher still are those times when practitioners find themselves frightened or unwilling to follow where the silence seems to be leading them.
… Review: The Guts,’ by Roddy Doyle, a sequel to “The Commitments”.

Backstory …

… On the Making of Electricity : Ravi Shankar | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.


… Folk Activist Pete Seeger, Icon Of Passion And Ideals, Dies At 94 : The Record : NPR.

I didn't see eye-to-eye with him politically, but I saw him once years ago at the Electric Factory and by the time he was finished I was ready to march through the streets singing "The Internationale."

And, regarding his politics, he was admirably capable of self-examination: Seeger Speaks — and Sings — Against Stalin.

A thought for today …

Be happy. It's one way of being wise.
— Colette, born on this date in 1873

Monday, January 27, 2014

Definitive …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Jack London: An American Life.

I think Martin Eden is a great novel.

Sorry for my absence...

I've been working on the below, which now I give to you, my first and one hopes not only, contribution of a longform piece to Books Inq.

I am a patent lawyer, which is not an opening sentence you’ll often encounter.   Patent lawyers deal in words, making the intangible tangible, modeling an invention in words and drawings and maybe computer code, or formulas, or words and sentences, like variables and equations, in other specialized languages, like math. To write a patent is best described as an art form; involving all sorts of judgment calls, balancing legal positives with negatives: what words can be used and how they can be used to define the invention. Words are imprecise, unlike math, so it is an art to use the right words, the right and most accurate and most valuable words you can.

My father, who is also a patent lawyer, and at the age of 88 still practicing patent law today, had written a patent for his client, the largest manufacturer of building materials in the country.  Let’s assume that the patent involved a product the company made, like a building component, like a metal stud for a wall.  Metal studs are made from an enormous roll of metal, like a huge roll of sheet metal toilet paper, 12 foot in diameter, which then gets chopped and folded and cut on an assembly line, then cut, and crimped and folded and fastened on another assembly line to form the 8 foot long metal studs you see at your local home improvement store, or in buildings, especially those warehouse type corrugated metal buildings, those low and flat and long buildings containing who knows what inside, legal and illegal, where the metal studs are visible from the inside.

My dad’s patent, like all patents, ended in one or more claims, which is a single sentence he wrote defining the invention for legal purposes, like this:

Claim:   The process of making a metal stud for walls, being made out of a roll sheet of metal, comprising:

 - cutting pieces into desired longitudinal lengths;

- folding and crimping said shapes to form metal stud shapes; and,

- fastening said metal stud shapes by striking longitudinally opposite sides of said metal stud shapes together, resulting in a friction type fastening at spaced intervals along said stud.

The link is to an Wikipedia article on assembly lines; assembly lines implement the words of the claim in real time. 

My dad had chosen his words carefully, through his practice of the art of capturing a tangible thing in words, with legal effect, trying to create worthwhile, valuable words for his client.  One of those words he used was “striking”. 

And that becomes important in a second. 

Shortly after the patent issued, a competitor (“Company X”) started using the same method.  Or so we thought, because we didn’t know what its assembly line looked like, but we had hints through examining the metal wall studs Company X produced and sold though its process.  The Company X studs had certain tell tale marks that our engineers felt was evidence of use of our process, silent witnesses to their method of construction,

So we wrote them a letter, this led to that, and before long we sued Company X.   And that is where I became involved because I do litigation as part of my practice.

WE sued Company X – the second largest building materials maker in the country, right behind our company, and a fierce competitor -- because we thought its assembly line method infringed, that is, the method it was using infringed my dad’s claim because Company’s X process struck its metal. 

X’s defense was seven words: We squeeze we don’t strike.  Not liable.

Or, as described in claim language:

The process of making a metal stud for walls, being made out of a roll sheet of metal, comprising:

 - cutting pieces into desired longitudinal lengths;

- folding and crimping said shapes to form metal stud shapes; and,

fastening said metal stud shapes by squeezing at least two longitudinally opposite sides of said metal stud shapes together, resulting in a friction type fastening at spaced intervals along said stud.

The next two years were spent in the grinding work of pre trial practice: the proceedings, known as discovery, to gather evidence to support one’s position.   Millions were spent and millions were at stake trying to prove the meaning of the two words which, not incidentally, could be defined by the dictionary as two different things.  But that wasn’t what we wanted.  We wanted what Company X was doing to be defined as striking.

Finally, it was time – after traveling across the country, at one point from city to city throughout the US for six weeks straight, my dad at my side, (which was, frankly, a blessing and a curse,) looking at assembly lines, blueprints and documents, asking questions of witnesses -- for me to depose Company X’s expert.  We had flown in the night before, into Sacramento, California, which is an old western manufacturing town, wide and flat streets with thousands and thousands of linear feet of warehouse type corrugated metal buildings; those low and flat and long buildings containing who knows what inside, legal and illegal.  Buildings that used our metal studs.  Miles and mile of our studs. 

X’s expert, let’s call him Bob, was a patent lawyer too, like my dad and me.  We deposed him in a converted hotel room the next day in Sacramento.   He knew all about the reason he was there – to define his client’s word for its process.  Bob was older than me, anxious to show off a little.  He was Company X’s  in house patent counsel too, which meant his job was directly affected by how well he did here.  But Bob knew that Bob couldn’t lose.  All he had to do was keep to the party line, X’s process squeezed not struck, unshakeable because he was providing an expert opinion.

The deposition was in a hotel room in Sacramento, a converted office table which for some reason had a checkerboard tablecloth, like a picnic one, over the top of it, when I walked into the room.  I liked it.

It was sunny in the room, but I had drawn the drapes.  They didn’t close fully so we could see the part of the wall of the building next door through the crack.  It was one of those corrugated metal warehouse buildings, shining in the sun.

We faced each other across the table, the reporter at Bob’s side, tasked with recording the proceedings.    On one side are Bob and his outside counsel.  On the other were me and my dad.  I could tell my dad was a little nervous, hoping like hell that I had something as he didn’t really want to try to have to carry the case at his deposition.

Sometimes you have the table so that the witness is looking at the window, thus tiring him out and slowing his comprehension so you could trap him better.   This table wasn’t set up that way, it was perpendicular to the window, so neither side looked directly out the windows and I was okay with that too.

I knew I had him. 

We started, and after about a hour and a half on general matters, my goal making Bob more and more comfortable, it’s time for me to get my word out of Bob:

ATTY CHOVANES [ME]: Sir, you have said in your discovery responses that your process doesn’t strike, rather it squeezes.  Are you familiar with those responses and that position?

WITNESS [Bob]: [leaning over the table at me]: Yes I am.  Are you?

ME: Why yes I think I am and you understand you are here to testify in support of that position?

Bob: Yes.  [Here the reporter noted: “table slapped for emphasis.”] Yes!

Bob chuckled and his outside counsel chuckled.  They were feeling good.

ME: I want you to draw a x-y graph, f is the y axis and x is the time axis, of a strike.  Here is graph paper and a pen.

Bob: What? [He looked at his lawyer for guidance.  The lawyer shrugged and made a go ahead sign.  ]

And what Bob drew looked like this:

And I asked him to label the graph with the exhibit number and then initial it, which was a little cruel of me, my dad later told me, because the guy was happily signing, at my encouragement, the first document in his own evisceration.

ME: Now I want you to draw an x-y graph, using the same parameters, of a squeeze. 

And Bob, now seemed to think I was giving him the opportunity to win the case; because he could show a really really big different between squeeze and strike as a function of time, enthusiastically drew something like this:

Bob’s lawyer bestirred himself.  Cause he was bored. 

[BOB’S LAWYER]: Counsel I want to object, this is highly irregular, having the witness draw pictures like you are doing here.  Moreover, from the nature of the pictures I’d say you are just obtaining further support for my client’s expert opinion on the a matter at hand.

My dad stirred as if he was going to say something.  I kicked him under the table.  I ignored the outside counsel.  I brought out my drawings.

ME:  And here is a representation of striking over a time frame leading to 1 second, do you agree? [and handed him something that looked like this:]
Bob was a little puzzled I had pulled out a predone exhibit at this point, with a drawing that logically extended his drawing, but nonetheless he said yes.

ME: And this next exhibit looks just the same as the last one I gave you but its number 18:

And you will agree it shows generally accurately squeeze over a time frame leading to one second, using your process?

Bob [all of a sudden defeated.  The charts were identical.  Squeezing was striking at the speeds of the assembly line.  The word had meant what we’d said it meant – in real world application.]: Yes. 

And earlier we established that both assembly lines, plaintiff’s and defendant’s, travel about the same speed correct?


So these drawings can be used interchangeably as a generally accurate picture of either sides’ process?


At operational spends for all practical intents and purposes the processes are identical?


So your process can be said to strike within the words of the claim? 

Yes, he said, because he knew now where he’d been led, hung his head a little, and he and outside counsel I let leave shortly thereafter.  The case was done, we had won, Bob had given me what I wanted by defining the word the way I wanted. And the case settled the very next week for an amount I can’t reveal in this matter: the matter of a most valuable word.

My dad was happy.  I was happy because I had delivered a tremendous outcome to my client.  And as the years have gone by, I have realized something even neater, even more striking about the value of the word my dad had chosen and so had given me.  It is around me when I am in a house, or office or school, or warehouse, any building with walls held up by metal studs, to me each one, each metal wall stud faintly echoing to me the words of his art.  

Afternoon roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… FYI:  Lessons From Bar Fight Litigation | Ordinary Times.

Regarding bar fights, the best policy is to avoid them.

… Odd fellow: The Madness of John Cowper Powys or Strange Doings at Phudd Bottom.

A slight correction: As the story indicates, Phudd Bottom is in upstate New York. Debbie and I drove by it on our way to New England once, but New York is not part of New England.

… The past transfigured: One Does Not Age: Richard Howard by Craig Morgan Teicher.

… One of a kind: What Do You Get When You Combine These?

Spufford thinks a faith that makes sense, emotionally to the core, is one that deals with reality – pain and suffering and injustice and death as we know it. He wants to defend that his emotions about how God deals with these matters is defensible because it makes sense.
… Why you should hate the creative writing establishment (…as if you needed any more reasons).

… if we gave even a moment of thought to it, we’d realize that the insurance claims adjuster who finally hits it big with their novel where Bigfoot falls in love with Dracula is a much more—one hundred times more—heroic figure than the Stegner Fellow who uses $43,000 a year from Stanford University to pen a sensitive novel about what it was like to be a sensitive kid who grew up in insensitive surroundings. For the latter person, their travails were substantially decreased once they got to college. Whereas the insurance adjuster’s struggles increased day by day—as everything in their life conspired to pull them away from their writing—and it was only through major force of will that they persevered and kept going.
… Who knew? How online gamers are solving science's biggest problems.

On paper, gamers and scientists make a bizarre union. But in reality, their two worlds aren't leagues apart: both involve solving problems within a given set of rules. Genetic analysis, for instance, is about finding sequences and patterns among seemingly random clusters of data. Frame the analysis as a pattern-spotting game that looks like Candy Crush, and, while aligning patterns and scoring points, players can also be hunting for mutations that cause cancer, Alzheimer's disease or diabetes.
… FYI: How the 'Netflix of books' won over the publishing industry (Q&A).

Among the first to offer this type of system for books is Oyster, a New York-based startup founded by Eric Stromberg and two co-founders. For $10 a month, the service offers unlimited access to more than 100,000 titles, books that can be read across a number of devices, and at the reader's pleasure.

Judge for yourself …

… Snowden exklusiv - Das Interview | NDR (English) : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

Lee also sends along this: Told Ya So: NSA's Collection Of Metadata Is Screamingly Illegal.

Hmm …

… A Commonplace Blog: Entrepreneurs of the spirit. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What Wilkinson has to say about the self is provocative and largely true, I think. The self is a convergence of loyalties and enthusiasms and beliefs and habits. That there is a “stable” self, which persists through the flux of illness and health and better and worse, is an “illusion.” Wilkinson’s best line is that the “self is more like a URL,” an “address in a web of obligation and social expectation.”
Mr. Wilkinson will think differently when he discovers that he is old and that there is more of a stable self behind the loyalties, enthusiasms, etc. than he thinks. It is where those others come from.

The minute a blogger joins the staff of a magazine, though, everything changes. … When the blogger becomes a “channel” for a media organization (to use Wilkinson’s term for it), he must adhere to more than the house style. He must also trim his judgment to suit the editorial fashions of his employer.

This blog started as a newspaper blog. And the editorial connection never interfered with it, probably because the powers that were at the paper paid little attention to it. I am, however, in the process of rethinking it in order to take advantage of what I think is its form.

Backstory …

… On Writing “Breathless” | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A thought for today …

One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.
— Lewis Carroll, born on this date in 1832

Why read...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A thought for today …

When the soul drifts uncertainly between life and the dream, between the mind's disorder and the return to cool reflection, it is in religious thought that we should seek consolation.
— Gerard de Nerval, who died on this date in 1855

Together at last...

And yet not enough...

Inquirer preview …

… Spring arts preview: Books.

Sunday morning roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… The Poetry Daily Critique: "Academe Quits Me" by D.G. Myers.

Dave drew my attention to the comment by David X. Novak, with its reference to "the pithy quote by Frank Wilson about whom I know nothing." It's somehow especially gratifying to see the remark making its own way on its own terms without being attached to my identity. The great Anonymous would surely agree.

… But would they really be cities? —  Happier Cities, Happier Lives?

Obviously, the governing factions in any city determine to a large extent the kind of place it is. But, Baron Haussmann's glorious work notwithstanding, the really great cities — Elizabethan London or Victorian London, New York City in the '50s — always have a prominent dimension of improvisation and decay.  Nowadays, grunginess seems just another  bourgeois affectation.

…  The mystery of the gaze: On Having Faces.
It is through our eyes that our souls are said to be open to others. Not a few sentimental songs speak of looking lovingly into the eyes of the beloved. Yet, Walker Percy wondered, in Lost in the Cosmos: “Why is it that we cannot gaze into the eyes of another for more than a few seconds without looking away?” I have often thought some connection existed between this observation and the oft-mentioned hope in Scripture of seeing God “face-to-face.” Surely no “few second” rule exists here!
I think that Till We Have Faces is Lewis's masterpiece.

Not what you think...

Changing landscape...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Setting the record straight...

Just a thought …

"For I am your passing guest, / an alien, like all my forebears." This is from Psalm 39 (the New Revised Standard Version). The King James Version has it thus: "for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." This suggests that our being is temporary. We come into it, and eventually leave it behind. This makes sense. Being, as we experience it, is fundamentally temporary, and the myth of Tithonus reveals how, under the conditions of life as we experience it, unending duration would be a horror. But surely, whatever measure of it we are granted is deserving of gratitude. Christians tend to think of death as a threshold to another, everlasting and immaterial mode of being. In fact, though, Christianity does not promise immortality in the sense of continuing to exist after death as something called a soul. It promises resurrection of the body. Not at all the same thing.

Post revised and bumped.

Submissions welcome …

… The Nonfiction Conversation | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Historic Preservation in Britain

My review of Simon Thurley's Men from the Ministry has been published online by The Portland Book Review. Click here to take a look.

Twilight roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Person of intelligence: The Neglected Books Page — Philosopher’s Holiday, by Irwin Edman.

Edman is a delight to meet on the page. I loved Philosopher's Holiday.

… From spiders to bombers: The Deadly Web of 'Black Widows'.

… Miss Emily online: Dickinson: Raw or Cooked?

…  those readers who wish to supplement the Harvard archive with more adventurous approaches can consult Werner’s own Radical Scatters website, or the extensive Dickinson Electronic Archives long maintained by the energetic scholar Martha Nell Smith, which include Werner’s updated analysis of the Lord fragments (“Ravished Slates”), discussions of a recently discovered 1859 daguerreotype that might possibly be the only known image of Dickinson as an adult, in the company of a woman who may have been her lover, and manuscripts of Dickinson family members, notably including poems and letters by Susan Dickinson, believed by Smith and other scholars to be the main love of Dickinson’s life.

… Deservedly so: Spectator cartoon to win an Oscar.

… In Search of Nancy: A first trip to the Evelyn Waugh Archive.

Loved as she was, Nancy was not spared Evelyn’s caustic pen. He was as cruel to her as he was to everyone else, and their friendship prevailed largely because Nancy frequently refused to take offence and forgave quickly when offence was inevitable. She was not a sulker, but instead argued her corner against Evelyn when she had to.

 … the first writer to appear in his art was Walt Whitman. He read him in the summer of 1960, between terms at the Royal College of Art. And in the 1961 etching Myself and My Heroes, Whitman appears as one of the two haloed figures standing beside the young Hockney (the other is Gandhi), along with the words "For the dear love of comrades" from Whitman's poem "I Hear It Was Charged Against Me".
… Hmm: America The Philosophical by Carlin Romano.

Lively as his exposition can be, it is spoilt by a pervasive belittlement directed at those who have taken philosophy on as a technical speciality – starting as far back as Socrates, but now represented for Romano mainly by the academics who belong to the American Philosophical Association – that “eleven-thousand-member black hole in American media and public life known as the ‘philosophy profession’” (p.184), who practise a “metaphorical scam of desiccated, moribund, yet still breathing Socratic philosophy” (p.8). (At the same time he is a paid-up member of the APA. Make of that what you will.)

Well, as Erwin Edman put it, “A professor of philosophy studies philosophy; a philosopher studies life.”

No sweetie pie he …

… 20011: Reading Fichte.

Death unblinking and smiling …

 Zealotry of Guerin: OUR NATURE (Sonnets #158 and #159).

Morning roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… Sad, but mostly true: Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: Disappointed with modernity - we have wasted our opportunities, perverted our opportunities.
I cannot think of a single modern society which used well the opportunities given by the establishment (for a few generations) of peace, prosperity and comfort.
The curious case of criticism.

In the case of the two reviews of the Roger Ailes book that are cited, it seems evident that Janet Maslin reviewed the book and raised valid questions regarding its methodology. The Weisberg review seems to be more of an opinion piece about Fox News that takes the book under review at face value.

To open an 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is to open a worldview lost forever in the staggering slaughter of the first world war. The 11th edition of the Britannica represents the high tide of optimism and belief in human progress that had dominated the Anglo-Saxon vision since the Enlightenment.
…  Under the Covers —‘Why I Read,’ by Wendy Lesser.
“The slight, the facile and the merely self-glorifying tend to drop away over the centuries, and what we are left with is the bedrock: Homer and Milton, the Greek tragedians and Shakespeare, Chaucer and Cervantes and Swift, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and James and Conrad. Time does not make their voices fainter. On the contrary, it reinforces our sense of their truth-telling capacity.”

… Debunked before reaching urban legend status:  No, Mein Kampf Is Not an Amazon Bestseller.
How many people, then, are reading Mein Kampf in 2014? The answer is that it’s impossible to say, and there’s no real reason to think there are more now than there were six months or six years ago.
… Anniversary dish: Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis”.

A thought for today …

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.
— W. Somerset Maugham, born on this date in 1874

In case you wondered...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Congratulations …

Dana Gioia to be Honored with Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry.

Browsing among blogs …

… Good questions, especially these days: What would you do if your government invalidated someone's freedom of religion?

A threat to another's religion is also a threat to mine.

… Q up: `Here's to the Quirky Beauty of Its Tail'.

… Precise boundaries: A “damn fine aphorist” shares a few thoughts among hundreds.
 Only leaves know the true color of sunlight.”
Then only sunlight knows the true color of the purple grackle.

Holmes times three:

 ‘Sons of Moriarty’ Anthology Offers Mixed Bag of Holmes.

Preliminaries …

Noontime roundup …

… Courtesy of Dave Lull:

… The progress of narrative:  Changing Our Stories by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

… some writers do change their stories and their style quite decisively: Dickens shifted abruptly from optimism to pessimism, T.S. Eliot from a grumbling gloom to something approaching serenity, Joyce from relative simplicity to unspeakable complexity, Beckett from baroque English to the sparest French, Hardy from novels to poetry, or indeed, in the case of one of my favorite writers, Henry Green, from regular writing to silence. In each case, if one examines the life of the author, it becomes clear that the earlier approach no longer “worked” for the writer, no longer contained the tensions that need to be contained in order to go on living in a certain way. Some other story was necessary. Or alternatively, change had happened, had been achieved, for better or worse, and the previous story was simply no longer appropriate, because no longer required.
… In this corner: Charles Saatchi and Taki: the gloves are off.

Once, while in the competitive embrace of another, I (and he) crashed through a second-floor hallway bannister onto the floor below — just like in the cowboy movies. I was the fellow underneath. So I can't help regarding this as risible.

… Takedown: Why Be a Maker When You Can Be a Re-Maker? (Of Society According to Your Ideological Predilections).

Morozov has the usual problem of the socialist-leaning intellectual complainer of modernity--he doesn't really want to spend a lot of time spelling out what he does want (no one has to work, because, well, the state will take care of it) so he just moonily bitches about the ways other people choose to find fulfillment and joy.
That's because joy doesn't interest people like Morozov. Power, and exercising influence in relation to power, does. Oddly, joy does not appear to be one of the benefits conferred by power.

… Speaking of power: The Myth of Religious Violence.

The myth of religious violence should finally be seen for what it is: an important part of the folklore of Western societies. It does not identify any facts about the world, but rather authorizes certain arrangements of power in the modern West. It is a story of salvation from mortal peril by the creation of the secular nation-state.
… Showing us out: Other Selves, Other Souls?

… Learning from Edith: Edith Wharton and Loneliness in January.

No one is keeping track of my ritual but I have an idea something depends on my re-reading The Reef, or The House of Mirth, or Ethan Frome.
That something, I came to understand this year, is me. The birthday is the excuse; the truth is that these books are, to me, about my own loneliness. They are the way I get through Januaries. 
… Learning from George: Rebecca Mead’s ‘My Life in Middlemarch’.