Thursday, December 31, 2015

A mixed bag …

… World thinkers 2015: the results | Prospect Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Most will be forgotten.

Happy New Year

I wanted to take a moment to wish the team - Frank, Vikram, Julie, and Dave - a very happy new year. I feel fortunate to be a member of BooksInq, and I continue to give thanks to Frank for his friendship, support, and guidance. Here's to a wonderful 2016! --Jesse 

Back later …

… maybe not until next year. Much running around today.

Hmm …

… National Book Critics Circle: Second Thoughts: George Scialabba on Shakespeare - Critical Mass Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

By comparison with Bunyan’s, Shaw claimed, Shakespeare’s view of life was impoverished, his sense of motivation and personality cramped, his imagination fertile but only within narrow limits. His characters have no sense of a purpose larger than themselves, their political or romantic ambitions, their dynastic allegiances, and other trivial matters. Bunyan’s, by contrast, live by and for something truly great, a conception of stark moral and intellectual grandeur. Bunyan and his Hebrew forebears, if I understand Shaw correctly, were heroes because they cared little about their individual destiny, having identified themselves generously and wholeheartedly with an explicit cosmic moral order, unlike Shakespeare’s heroes, with their comparatively trivial purposes and preoccupations.

As if Shaw himself had any grand world view other than a political one, and that pretty shallow overall. Shakespeare shows us people as they are, and most people, happily, are not ideological activists. Art is at its best when it causes us to see things and people as they are, rather than as someone thinks they ought to be.


… The Fox Chase Review | Fox Chase Review.

This stuff is past its expiration date …

 The Will to Outrage - Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The reaction to the cartoon … was indicative of what one might call the will to outrage. This will precedes any object to which it might attach, and many people wait as if in ambush for something to feel angry about, pouncing on it with leopard-like joy (the leopard, so I was told in Africa, is particularly dangerous, for it kills for pleasure and not only for food). 

Something to think on …

If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.
— George C. Marshall, born on this date in 1880

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Very nice …

… The Inner Minx: The First.

Lovely …

… Nigeness: Christmas.

Favorite reads of the year …

… and more: The Guest List 2015 | Virtual Memories.

And just the man to address it …

… A ‘Problem’ Worth Addressing - Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I plan on seeing this one next month.

No kidding …

 It's Infallible: Pope Francis' Statements on the Scientific Details of Climate Change Aren't Binding on Catholics | The Stream. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The Christian faith alone does not teach us the details of chemistry, astronomy, metallurgy, economics or political science, though it offers moral standards on the proper use of each. So it is intrinsically impossible for the pope, as pope, to speak with any more authority on the details of climate science than any other non-scientist. Nor is he better suited than you or I to evaluate the so-called “consensus” of actual scientists. He might as well be picking stocks or rewriting the scores of Broadway musicals, for which he has equal divine authority: none.
Bishop Coronado is further proof, if any were needed, that ninnies can rise in the hierarchy.


On November 17, 2015, a Saudi court sentenced poet Ashraf Fayadh
to death on charges of apostasy based on poems published in his book:
Instructions Within.



in association with PEN International & PEN American Center


An Open Poetry Reading

in support of Palestinian Poet, Ashraf Fayadh

TUESDAY, January 19, 7 PM


(Each poet is asked to read one poem
appropriate to the occasion)

Sign Up In Advance:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania    USA

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

     This Event Is Free

The international literature festival Berlin (ilb) is calling on “all individuals, institutions, schools and media outlets that care about justice and freedom to participate in a worldwide reading of selected poems and other texts in support of Ashraf Fayadh,” a Palestinian poet who has been sentenced to death by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

An appeal was filed on Fayadh’s behalf.
In articles in The Guardian and Vice, the Palestinian poet and artist — sentenced to death by the government of Saudi Arabia, where he is a long-time resident — expressed hope of his release. He was able to speak to the artist Ahmed Matar, who passed along his comments.
Mater told The Guardian: “Last time I spoke to him he really thought he was going to die. For the first time he talked about what he would do if he gets out.”
To Vice, Mater said: “Things are going in the right direction. This pressure worked very well — the news — all of this was good. … He’s OK. He’s waiting. He’s feeling much better because everyone is with him.”
To keep up the pressure, organizers at the international literature festival Berlin are asking anyone who can to participate in a  worldwide reading for Fayadh.
Fayadh, who has been in prison since January 2014 on flimsy charges attaching to his supposed apostasy, which the appeal contests, and his poetry collection Instructions Within (2008), was sentenced to death. According to The Guardian, the appeal argues his initial arrest was unlawful as it was ordered not by state prosecutors, but by the religious police. Additionally, “The allegation of apostasy made by Shaheen bin Ali Abu Mismar, who is alleged to have had a personal dispute with the poet, was not corroborated by other evidence, which goes against the principles of sharia law.”

Ashraf Fayadh's "Disputed" Poems, in English Translation:

petroleum is harmless, except for the trace of poverty it leaves behind

on that day, when the faces of those who discover another oil well go dark,
when life is blown into your heart to extract more oil off your soul
for public use..
That.. is.. the promise of oil, a true promise.

the end..

it was said: settle there..
but some of you are enemies for all
so leave it now

look up to yourselves from the bottom of the river;
those of you on top should provide some pity for those underneath..
the displaced is helpless,
like blood that no one wants to buy in the oil market!

pardon me, forgive me
for not being able to pump more tears for you
for not mumbling your name in nostalgia.
I directed my face at the warmth of your arms
I got no love but you, you alone, and am the first of your seekers.

you are inexperienced with Time
lacking rain drops
that could wash away all the remains of your past
and liberate you of what you had called piety..
of that heart.. capable of love,
of play,
and of intersecting with your obscene withdrawal from that flabby religion
from that fake Tanzeel
from gods that had lost their pride..

you burp, more than you used to..
as the bars bless their visitors
with recitations and seductive dancers..

accompanied with the DJ
you recite your hallucinations
and speak your praise for these bodies swinging to the verses of exile.

he’s got no right to walk however
or to swing however or to cry however.

he’s got no right to open the window of his soul,
to renew his air, his waste, and his tears..

you too tend to forget that you are
a piece of bread

on the day of banishment, they stand naked,
while you swim in the rusty pipes of sewage, barefoot..

this could be healthy for the feet
 but not for earth

prophets have retired
so do not wait for yours to come to you

and for you,
for you the monitors bring their daily reports
and get their high salaries..

how important money is
for a life of dignity

my grandfather stands naked everyday,
without banishment, without divine creation..
I have already been resuscitated without a godly blow in my image.
I am the experience of hell on earth..

is the hell prepared for refugees.

your mute blood will not speak up
as long as you pride yourself in death
as long as you keep announcing -secretly- that you have put your soul
at the hands of those who do not know much..

losing your soul will cost time,
much longer than what it takes to calm
your eyes that have cried tears of oil

These poems appeared in Fayadh's poetry collection Instructions Within which was published by the Beirut-based Dar al-Farabi in 2008 and later banned from distribution in Saudi Arabia.

Translated by: Mona Kareem

Upcoming Green Line Events:

Tuesday, February 16, 7 PM –
Book launch for David Kertis’ debut
poetry collection, The Word of The Day

Tuesday, March 15, 7 PM –
the great Bill Zavatsky, poet, translator
and director of SUN Publishing

Philly Poetry Day 2016 – Saturday, April 9
Philadelphia Poetry Festival – Sunday, April 24

Much in what he says …

… I'm Completely Fed Up with Nutrition Science. You Should Be, Too. | RealClearScience.

We should be cautious when research funding is provided by interested industries. But we should also be cautious when research is done or funded by anyone with an interest in the outcome, for instance, props lobbying for this or that. Norbert Wiener argued against scientists accepting government funding and never took a government grant himself.

Something to think on …

Freedom of thought and freedom of speech in our great institutions are absolutely necessary for the preservation of our country. The moment either is restricted, liberty begins to wither and die....
— John Peter Altgeld , born on this date in 1847

Systematic abuse...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ouch …

… About Last Night | Been there, seen that.

So much for free thought …

… Saudis Ban Controversial Female Poet For 15 years. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

More like caricatures …

… Pictures from an Institution — Quadrant Online. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The idea  … that marriage is an indissoluble bond between two people (and a man and a woman at that) has the imprimatur of that other non-PhD theologian, Jesus of Nazareth. And yet in today’s world, it is a political—that is, a conservative, that is, a retrograde—position. All good people know that marriage is just what you want it to be. That’s not political, that’s just common sense. It’s what everybody I went to college with thinks, ergo it must be true.
I happen to be quite well-informed theologically. I studied it for four years. I've read my Karl Rahner and Romano Guardini and quite a few others besides. A degree in theology is no qualification for sainthood and it is sanctity Christians are supposed to be aiming at. I would call the people who signed the letter denouncing Douthat horses' asses, but that would be an insult to horses and their haunches (I used to do the racing charts, so I have a certain appreciation for equine grace and beauty, thing sorely lacking in academe these days).

One point of view …

… Cli-Fi.Net (blog): Amitav Ghosh's new University of Chicago lecture series book on the Anthropocene (nonfiction texts of four lectures last fall in the Berlin Lectures series at UC.

We at Books, Inq. are always open to hearing all sides of an issue.

Something to think on …

A boy has got to grow up to be a man some day. You can delay the process, but you can’t protect the boy from manhood forever. The best and easiest way is to expose the boy to people who are already men, good and bad, drunk and sober, lazy and industrious. It is really, after all, up to the boy, when all is said and done, and there are a lot of boys who never get to be men, and a lot of men who never quit being boys.
— Robert Ruark, burn on this date in 1915

That which defies understanding...

Golden silence...

Leaving too much out...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Out and about …

I will be away from my desk for the rest of the day. Blogging will resume sometime later.

Jack Donne and Dr. John (not the musician)…

… The TLS blog: John Donne in verse and prose.

Well, yes …

 Sin: Treating People as Things | Brandywine Books.

The limits of clarity …

… Maverick Philosopher: A Note on Analytic Style.

Oh, for the day …

… Distraction-Free Writing | Bill Peschel.

Together at last …

 A Christmas Carol: Dickens and Nietzsche and Freud – oy vey! | The Book Haven.

Happy birthday, Stan Lee …

Beyond Eastrod: Stan Lee, the embarrassment of comic books, and a return to "guilty pleasures".

The mythology of Melville …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `A First-Rate Writerly Intellect'.

Hmm …

… James Lovelock: 'enjoy life while you can: in 20 years global warming will hit the fan' | Environment | The Guardian.

He dismisses eco ideas briskly, one by one. "Carbon offsetting? I wouldn't dream of it. It's just a joke. To pay money to plant trees, to think you're offsetting the carbon? You're probably making matters worse. You're far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives the money to the native peoples to not take down their forests."
There is much in what he says, but I rather suspect that the Holocene epoch that we are living in will give way to a return to the Pleistocene, which characterized climate for the last two million years (except for the 10,000-year warm periods that punctuated it every 100,000 years). I think forces beyond our control govern the planet.

Vintage recipes …

… English Cooking: Discover the true value of pie — The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Men and birds …

… You Have to See These Photos of Mongolian Men Hunting With Eagles | Mother Jones. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


… Abstract painter, sculptor Ellsworth Kelly dies at 92.

Something to think on …

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.
— Mortimer Adler, born on this date in 1902

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hmm …

 The Frontiers of Secularism: Sam Harris.

I have learned in my research that the vast majority of people who walk away from religion don’t miss it and find numerous ways to live meaningful lives without it—through work, family life, friends, hobbies, art, sex, philosophy, theater, hunting, working on cars, dancing, and so on.
Well, I've done no research, but I have known enough people who have walked away from religion to provisionally confirm it. The only way to understand a faith is to practice it and many who profess a faith often scarcely practice it. There is nothing new about this. As for living a meaningful life, for genuine people of faith, religion is not a means to an end, but the end itself. It is this that the secularist does not understand. 

Magic in the telling …

… George Saunders on Story | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Hello …

… Pretty Violence by Tim Parks | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

… how are we to distinguish between images that are rendered with the worst intention—“the preservation of power,” assuming we are agreed that that is not a legitimate aim—and those that are supposedly being used to expose this intention for the hypocrisy it is? 
War, horrible as it is, provides many opportunities for the best that humanity has to offer — courage, compassion, sacrifice. It is these that are epic. The beauty is in spite of, not because of, the horror. This is what "has been going on for hundreds of years." There is nothing ambiguous about it. It is part of the terrible paradox of being. No movement is ever going to rid the world of war. Only a change of the human heart can bring that about.


… Cli-Fi.Net (blog): A ''Cli-Fi'' (10 8) Must-Read Reading List for College Students and Academics in 2016.

Mind in the clouds …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Clouds in Late Fall, Sonnet #276.

Remembering Judith …

… - Connecting People Through News. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

That great editorial …

… Yes, Virginia . . . - The New York Sun.

The Grinch pushes back …

… The Grinch's Social-Justice Demands.

Talk about your discrimination.

Why not?

… Why would a dissolute rebel like Paul Gauguin paint a nativity? — The Spectator. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

He was attracted to the idea — in the air in the 1890s — that all the world’s religions and mythologies were essentially the same. In 1897 he wrote a long, rambling essay entitled ‘The Catholic Church and Modern Times’. In this Gauguin claimed that divinity was an ‘unfathomable mystery’. ‘God does not belong to the scientist, nor to the logician; he belongs to the poets, to the realm of dreams; he is the symbol of Beauty, Beauty itself.’

A cuppa verse …

… Poets Online Talking About Coffee: Ron Slate - Queen Mob's Tea House. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

God bless us everyone …

 (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I should have mentioned this: Muslim Sufi Artists Play Favorite Christmas Songs.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Indeed …

… Same story, different pitches from Philly papers — NewsWorks. (Hat tips, Paul Davis and Dave Lull.)

This is fine. The Inquirer poses as the staid broadsheet. The Daily News is an (appropriately) shameless tabloid. That is a fine headline for sure. The Inquirer headline could perhaps have been better. But that is a tight headline order. So not a lot of space to be pithy, accurate, and provocative all at once.

Here's an idea …

 Immigration Insurance - Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When my Polish forebears came to this this country around the turn of the last century they somehow managed to get by without any assistance from the state that I have heard tell of.

Causing you to think …

… A Review of Joey Franklin’s My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Hmm …

… Reading Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Islamophobia. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Islamaphobia is a phony term. A phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about fearing people who cut other people's heads off. Moreover, the fear is not directed at Islam. It is directed at certain practitioners of Islam who are in the habit of killing people. To equate caution regarding refugees from countries where Islamic extremism flourishes with a phony phobia is intellectually dishonest at best.

Well, this is different, that's for sure …

 Paul Davis On Crime: Former LAPD Sgt And Bestselling Author Joseph Wambaugh's Hood Version Of The Christmas Song.

A monk's heart...

Good news …

… Rescued from oblivion: selected poems from the early and late Dunstan Thompson | The Book Haven.

Mystery …

 Beyond Eastrod: Three in One.

Short answer – No …

… The Ghosts of Christmas: Was Scrooge the First Psychotherapy Patient? - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
It is what is known as a conversion tale.

I guess this is good …

Traditional Music - a significant social and cultural asset for Northern Ireland | Arts Council of Northern Ireland. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

How sweet it is …

 Behold: The World's Largest (Three-Ton) Gingerbread Village | Travel | Smithsonian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Oops …

… Poet returns Stephen Spender prize after accusations of plagiarism | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Civilized discourse …

 The Lewis Society and the genuine enjoyment of rational disagreement | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Use your gifts faithfully, and they shall be enlarged; practice what you know, and you shall attain to higher knowledge.
— Matthew Arnold, born on this date in 1822

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Haiku …

Buds gracing branches,
Promising a life to come,
While he saunters off.

Mutability …

… POETRY: The River Moves House | Wild River Review.

Read more than once. Not at one time. Wait a bit. Pick it up tomorrow and read it again. If you read it in the morning, read it again in the evening. Notice what happens.

Stick to the facts …

… Physicists and Philosophers Debate the Boundaries of Science | Quanta Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Whether the fault lies with theorists for getting carried away, or with nature, for burying its best secrets, the conclusion is the same: Theory has detached itself from experiment. The objects of theoretical speculation are now too far away, too small, too energetic or too far in the past to reach or rule out with our earthly instruments. So, what is to be done? As Ellis and Silk wrote, “Physicists, philosophers and other scientists should hammer out a new narrative for the scientific method that can deal with the scope of modern physics.”
But if the "scope of modern physics" falls outside the realm of possible experience, it would seem that it is no longer science, but science fiction. Every now and then it useful to employ the words "I don't know."

Mark thy calendar …

… Poetry Center: Poetry Conference — West Chester University. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A curious creature …

… The absurd life of Félix Nadar, French portraitist and human flight advocate | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In the age of the selfie, Nadar reminds us of the brave beginnings of a medium that changed the world. A pioneer photographer with any ambition needed to be part scientist (Nadar liked to call the darkroom his laboratory), part artist, part salesman – and yet a whiff of the mountebank clung to the nascent profession.

Still contemporary after all these years …

… Take Him Up, Gather Him - WSJ. (hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mr. Fox traces with clarity the development of Augustine’s thought, but also of his character, his deep relationship with his mother, Monica, and his engagement with his network of friends, patrons and intellectual adversaries such as the Manichaean priest Fortunatus with whom he held a public debate in August of 392. The discussions of Augustine’s early dialogues and letters do not always make for light reading, but they are always worth the effort.

Go-betweens …

… Messages of angels — Philosophy and Life. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Socrates did not think to disobey his daemon. By the time of his death, in relative old age, he was too used to it being right. And then he realised why he should follow it, drink the hemlock and die. The manner of his death would be the greatest testament to what he had come to know. The tangible life we can see and touch, and which passes away, is only the most immediate dimension of a depth in life - the depth from which his daemon spoke in its enigmatic voice.

Something to think on …

To lend freshness to things known, to spread knowledge of things new; an excellent program for a critic.
— Charles Augustine Sainte-Beuve, born on this date in 1804

Questions that torture...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Well worth noting …

 Waugh Elegy | The Evelyn Waugh Society. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haiku …

December day, warm
And wet and gray. He recalls
Another like it.

Weigh in …

… Beyond Eastrod: Beyond Eastrod and lectio Divina: a Christian malgre lui embarks on an urgent pilgrimage and asks you a question.

To see oursels as ithers see us …

… Rex Murphy: Don’t blame Trump … blame America | National Post.

Whatever Trump has said on immigration is not more dismaying than the fact that the U.S. has for decades paid no respect to its own borders. A nation that does not respect its own territorial integrity, and protect the idea and status of citizenship as its first value, cannot expect others to respect it. It is not Trump who is the outrage. Rather it is the political class of both U.S. parties, which have for decades temporized, dodged, euphemized and evaded the question of the country’s sovereignty and the impact of illegal immigration on it.
See also:  A Country Founded by Geniuses but Run by Idiots.

Something to think on …

The basic line in any good verse is cadenced... building it around the natural breath structures of speech.
— Kenneth Rexroth, born on this date in 1905

The Inspector …

… Crime Classics: Maigret by Georges Simenon (Penguin, November 2015).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Looks like anti-Semitism to me …

… You Can Serve As a Military Dentist. Unless You’re a Jew. | Daily Wire.

That's it for now …

I have a very bust day ahead of me. So there won't be any more blogging by me until later.

Seasonal hits …

… A Brief History of the Hit Christmas Song | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A bag of gifts …

… The Lighter Side: Kay Ryan | Coldfront. (Hate tip, Dave Lull.)

Help needed …

 AttackingtheDemi-Puppets: Writer in Trouble. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I just made a donation.

The playpen of newness …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Every Sally of Caprice'.


… Want to be happy? Join a choir | Life and style | The Guardian.

Introducing …

… Real Animals That You Didn't Know Existed - My Modern Met. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Twofer …

… Bryan Appleyard —  Spielberg/Hanks: The Rabbi & the Jock. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… [Hanks] interrupts. “You go back to the late 1800s, there were a few decades of horrible presidents, and they gave way to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.”

Apparently, he forgot about Grover Cleveland, who is still well thought of. So was McKinley, who picked Teddy for VP. Many people think Wilson overrated, and now his racism has come to the fore. Another dumbass actor mouthing off.

Something to think on …

People think that because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that.
— Anthony Powell, born on this date in 1905

Christmas comes early...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Just wondering …

Our distant ancestors invented agriculture, discovered how to make fire, domesticated animals, including herding animals, and eventually got around to building cities, roads, and empires. But they believed in God because they weren't as smart as we are? 


… Kurt Masur, conductor - obituary - Telegraph.

Revealed …

… Winnie the Pooh: The real story behind A A Milne's classic books.

Recommended …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Watch George C. Scott's Powerful Performance As Scrooge In 'A Christmas Carol'.

Scott is certainly good in this, but my favorite is the Alastair Sim version, which we watched once again last night.

Crowded with particulars …

… Life Itself | The Hudson Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Knausgaard, in My Struggle, provides the reader with the usual plainly autobiographical narrator but upends the fatalism, serving up instead what can seem, to Norwegian readers, a naïve, credulous, American-style enthusiasm about life. Whereas all too many Norwegian authors, moreover, ooze self-importance and patently view themselves as know-it-all sages, Knausgaard presents himself as an ordinary slob, rife with intellectual and social insecurities, who constantly worries that he doesn’t understand anybody or anything at all, including himself. He’s preternaturally uneasy around others, uncomfortable trying to adjust to societal expectations and congenitally suspicious of personal relationships, which, he frets, are “there to eradicate individuality” and “fetter freedom.”
I started reading it, but couldn't get into it. My fault, I am sure. But then there's also the brevity of life.

Bah, humbug …

… Jingle Hell | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You'd think you'd hear more about this …

… RSF’s 2015 Round-up: 54 journalists held hostage worldwide - Reporters Without Borders. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

I should think so …

 Poet Ashraf Fayadh Is Appealing the Death Sentence Handed Down by a Saudi Court | VICE | United States. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Many familiar, some new …

… The Seasons: the Nation’s Most Treasured Nature Poems review – a soothing greatest hits | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Posthumous contrariness …

… Book review: “And Yet...’’ by Christopher Hitchens - The Boston Globe. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

No one-hit wonder …

… Greater than Gatsby - The American Interest.

Vacuity alert …

 One Cliche Too Many by Barton Swaim, City Journal December 18, 2015. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

But hold on. If we follow the even-one-is-worth-it logic, we will find ourselves advocating all kinds of draconian bans and unreasonable requirements. If one preventable death is one too many, and if that is sufficient justification for further governmental coercion, we would impose an outright ban on football, skydiving, mountain climbing, bicycling, and countless other risky diversions. We aren’t prepared to ban any of these activities for reasons that have nothing to do with our concern—or lack of it—for human life. We don’t ban them because we value varying degrees of personal freedom more than we value absolute safety.
If one death is always one too many, what are we to make of the death notices in the paper?

Cri de coeur …

… On Living with an Inner Demon | Reluctant Habits.

Inquirer reviews …

… Our staff recommends great books for giving.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's perfect novel, imperfect life.

There will surely be more …

…  Cli-Fi.Net (blog): PJ Media lists the 7 worst cli-fi movies of all time: Cromwell, Snowpiercer, The Colony, The Day After 2Moro, Predator2. SolarBabies and Idaho Transfer.

Something to think on …

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it with reluctance.
— Jean Racine, born on this date in 1639

Saturday, December 19, 2015


...‘We are all on the front lines’: Canadian reportedly killed fighting ISIL wrote essay about why he went to war
We are all on the front lines of this conflict, whether we know it or not. We can measure the causalities not only in the body counts of deadly terror attacks, ‘mass demonstrations,’ embassy assaults and assassinated artists; we can also measure it in the terror produced among cartoonists, satirists, publishers and booksellers, news media and educators who are being prevented from doing their necessary work of maintaining the machinery of the enlightenment. Not only have we all been threatened; in many ways we are all already casualties of this war.

Appreciation …

… Judith Fitzgerald. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Winter and childhood …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Hunters in the Snow (Bruegel), Sonnet #275.

Poor baby alert …

… Instapundit — AS ALWAYS, LIFE IMITATES TOM WOLFE: Students at Lena Dunham’s college offended by lack of fried chicken.

Further evidence that American higher education is a house divided.

Clearly,  the humanities departments have become the Augean stables of academe.

Remembering …

… Sadly, Judith Fitzgerald Has Passed Away - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Life is neither ugly nor beautiful, but it's original!
— Italo Svevo, born on this date in 1861

Friday, December 18, 2015

Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras's The Lover is not a book with which I was familiar until recently. In fact, it hadn't been on my literary radar until I posted this link to the blog. 

But over the past few days, I've read Duras's novella, enjoying parts, and questioning others. 

To start, The Lover is less erotic than I'd expected. There's a sensual quality, for sure; but to call it erotic, I think, would be a misnomer. This is instead a work that hovers in the ether, that explores sexuality from a distance. 

In that sense, there was something - for me, at least - of Durrell in Duras's novella. Everywhere, there's a blue quality, a sense in which time itself lurks and cannot be beat. Duras writes as if on silk: her prose slither, charting the human form. 

Plot, of course, is limited - which is fine: there's more to The Lover than action and character. Instead, there's memory of action; characters, meanwhile, are nothing if not figments of recollection. 

Perhaps that's the greatest success of Duras's book: in the end, the sexual act is limited in time. And yet, taken as a figment of memory, it has the potential to last forever. This, in effect, is what Duras has constructed: an endless memory, a vision of her youth, cast into the future. 


Online now …

… HA&L magazine issue eight.2 Cover - HA&L magazine issue eight.2.

… including: Judith Fitzgerald (1952-2015).

Pretty pathetic …

… Sadness, shame and blame at Yale over First Amendment repeal video | Fox News.

These clowns didn't fall for anything. They either don't know what the First Amendment protects or they don't care to have that protected. God help us.

"The collection of 50 Yalie signatures for a petition to repeal the First Amendment is a sad commentary on the present state of public opinion," said Professor Bruce Ackerman.
It's also a pretty sad commentary on the quality of education on offer at Yale, as is what else the good professor has to say.

To note or not …

… Marginalia and Its Disruptions - The Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 Considering marginalia have been found in texts for as long as there have been books, scrolls, or writings on papyrus, it seems odd to say that now is the moment. But indeed it may be. There is an obvious reason for this, and a less obvious one.

Songwriter …

… Randy Newman’s Non-Love Songs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Some of my earliest work was in comics. I tend to think in pictures and always like to write scenes possessing the dynamic you find in comics.
— Michael Moorcock, born on this date in 1939

Thursday, December 17, 2015

No wishful thinking …

… Hope Without Optimism - book review - Philosophy and Life. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary …

 Paul Davis On Crime: On This Day In History: Charles Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol' Was Published In 1843.

Listen in …

… T.S. Eliot And The Birth Of The Modern Poet | On Point with Tom Ashbrook. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The splintered truth …

 Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel lecture: “Evil kept a watchful eye on us.” | The Book Haven.

In second thought …

… A Christmas question: Are the Gospels more reliable than scholars once thought? | Fox News.

Something to think on …

We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.
Ford Madox Ford , born on this date in 1873

More nonsense …

… on the sensitivity front: Dutch Museum renaming art for cultural sensitivity - (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

If you don't like the way people in the past phrased things, don't look at such things. It's your loss.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The matter of preferences …

… Beyond Eastrod: William Shakespeare, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, David McCullough, Colin Dexter, Tony Hillerman, Christianity, and more.

I can't say I have a favorite author, though there are books and authors I return to. I'm always reading Wallace Stevens and Eliot and Denise Levertov and H.D.

Sinatrama …

… Not in a Shy Way - / current issue. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In case you wondered …

… Teflon Don (or, why it’s near-impossible to attack the GOP front-runner) - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This has been a great election cycle for the media. Let's see what the people have to say, starting in a couple of months.

Hmm …

… All revolutions are born in terror: Can this one be? ( Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This seems to boil down to the proposition that those attracted to ISIS subscribe to ideals they are willing to die for and we do not.

Odd piece …

… Barnes & Noble is dying. Waterstones in the U.K. is thriving. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
But saving Waterstones’ 280 stores seemed practically impossible. The company was £170 million (about $260 million) in debt and about to file for bankruptcy when, miraculously, it was rescued by the billionaire Alexander Mamut, a complicated, influential figure in Putin’s Russia who one British broadsheet dubbed “the most powerful oligarch you have never heard of.” Mamut had been talking to Daunt before the sale and immediately brought him aboard to right the ship. “He wanted to make a mark in the United Kingdom, where he had a house, educated his son, and this seemed a positive, beneficial thing worth saving,” Daunt said of Waterstones’ benefactor. “Other people buy football clubs, fund art galleries—this was his thing.”
Hard to see how a presumed influx of cash wasn't a major factor.

Something to think on …

Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace.
— George Santayana, born on this date in 1863

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Luckily, I guess …

… I don't live in Cambridge — WAR: Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council Censures Breitbart News.
If you can refute, feel free to do so. We are all ears. But repressive measures only demonstrate the truth of the accusations. How have we come to elect such dopes? And in Cambridge no less.

Invisible to all but a select few …

… Marxist Spirit Underpins Campus Protests | RealClearPolitics.

Both systemic racism and systemic sexism are said to be invisible, pervasive, and toxic. Neither is subject to standard criteria of evidence and argument. Indeed, to seek facts and reasoned analysis, according to the theoreticians of systemic oppression, is to show complicity in all-embracing structures of injustice. 
Invisible. No evidence of it. No argument on its behalf. Sounds like make-believe. Maybe we should make fun of it.

It depends, I guess …

… Writing Is Not Hard Work | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Thomas Mann wrote that "a writer is someone for whom writing comes harder than for anybody else." But it doesn't involve any heavy lifting.

Heartbreaking …

 Judith Fitzgerald: Poet wrote with a dazzling voice of pain and passion - The Globe and Mail. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Riddles, Latin, and God …

… Review: Saint Aldhelm's Riddles, edited by A.M. Juster - Baltimore Sun. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

We have no reason to think that climate change is harmful if you look at the world as a whole. Most places, in fact, are better off being warmer than being colder. And historically, the really bad times for the environment and for people have been the cold periods rather than the warm periods.
— Freeman Dyson, born on this date in 1923

Soft bigotry of low expectations...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pretty funny response …

… DANGER ZONE: Ted Cruz Responds To Donald Trump Calling Him A Maniac | RedState.

Read then tweet, then enjoy the video. Could this be the cleverest "kiss my ass" message ever?

A loving review …

… The Victory of Oliver Sacks by Jerome Groopman | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The story surrounding the publication of Migraine is telling:

Sacks attributes Friedman’s bad behavior to a role reversal of the “youthful son-in-science” outshining “the father.” I take a less generous view. Serving on grant review committees, I have observed senior researchers who are fair and well-intentioned, but also those who slam proposals from creative investigators, then steal their ideas. Similar fratricide occurs with submitted manuscripts, with reviewers denigrating competing research so it is not published. There is an ugly side to the scientific hierarchy that comes from unchecked lust for success and fame.

What, no Dickens?

… Robert McCrum on the Best Novels in English - Five Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'd pick Moby Dick before Huckleberry Finn (which I didn't like as much as I did Tom Sawyer).

Fascinating …

Vikram sent me this link and I just watched. My own familiarity with Hinduism is marginal. I read the Penguin edition of the Upanishads years ago, and I guess my interest in J. Krishnamurti counts. Also, I was very taken in my early teens with the poems of Tagore. I think I'd like to read Being Hindu

Taking a break …

… The Sewanee Review | A Letter from Leigh Anne. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… news down the line of a more bittersweet nature, is the retirement this spring of George Core, our inestimable leader.

Weigh in …

… Beyond Eastrod: Shirley Jackson's birthday (December 14, 1916), "The Lottery," and your decision about whether or not someone must die this year in your community.

In case you wondered …

… On the Food-gasm, or, Why We Feel So Passionately about “Regional” Dishes | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Life as lived …

 Raymond Tallis and the meaning of life | spiked review of books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Following EM Forster’s epigram, ‘Death destroys a man; the idea of death saves him’, Tallis writes that the thought of death liberates the thinker: ‘Using the idea of the Nothing beyond [RT’s] life’s end to illuminate aspects of the Everything that precedes it, Black Mirror has been an invitation to marvel at all those seemingly important hurries, all that activity and passivity, action and experience, from the standpoint of a stillness in which all hurry is spent, time is no longer tabled, insentience rules, and all ado is adone.’

Appreciation …

… Remembering Judith Fitzgerald, 1952–2015 | Quill and Quire. (Hat tip, Ed Champion.)

Hmm …

… The crisis of character | spiked. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Where earlier celebrators of the individual emphasised our capacity for autonomy and for governing our own minds and sense of ourselves, today’s self-identifiers cannot exist without the blessing of new forms of therapeutic authority. Mill’s view of the strong individual was a creature who used ‘observation to see, reasoning and judgement to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision’. Contrast that with today’s self-indentifiers who claim words wound, that individuals are vulnerable, that, in the words of one, ‘our mental safety is threatened by those who question our right to exist’.
I don't identify as anything. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam. But I'm also also a live-and-let-live kind of guy.