Thursday, March 31, 2016

Narrative Structure is Math!

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.

Egyptian Temples - Digitally Restored

At the Met


… Imre Kertesz, novelist - obituary.

You're invited …


The Philadelphia Poetry Festival is coming!

SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2016 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Do you run a poetry organization, magazine or poetry series in the Philadelphia area?   If so, please register NOW for the Philadelphia Poetry Festival 2016 by sending your request via email to  Include your name, the organization you represent and a brief summary of what your org does and where and when you do it.  Please use the word “REGISTRATION” in the subject line of your email.  REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS FRIDAY, APRIL 15TH


Each organization will present one poet to represent them, who will read for five minutes.  In the spirit of the event, we ask that organization leaders or editors NOT read, but choose a poet to spotlight. 


This year’s festival will be held at a wonderful event space:  THE ROTUNDA4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia.


BOOK FAIR.  The Philadelphia Poetry Festival will include a Poetry Book Fair.  This is for individual poets signing and selling their books of poems.  All proceeds will go to and be handled by the authors.  The space is very limited – You must sign up in advance.  Please contact Leonard with interest:

PROGRAM FLYERS/MATERIALS.   There will be an area for circulation of program brochures, flyers and information about dozens of Philadelphia poetry and writing outlets.  Bring your favorite series information to share!

PARKING.  Lots of street parking in the area, metered and non-metered.  Fresh Grocer Parking Garage across Walnut Street.

GREAT PLACES FOR FOOD & SPIRITS & BUSINESSES WITHIN A BLOCK: Smokey Joe’s, Mizu Sushi Bar, The Greek Lady, West Philly City Tap House, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Copabanana, Hummus & The Last Word Book Shop!

PAST PARTICIPANTS:  American Poetry Review, Farley’s First Thursday Series, Apiary, The Collective Mic, Moveable Beats, Philly Youth Poetry Movement, Asian Arts Initiative, The Green Line Reading and Interview Series, The Fuze: Philadelphia Slam Team, Philadelphia Stories, Philadelphia Poets, Rutgers-Camden’s “Louder Than a Bomb” Teen Poetry Slam, Mad Poets, Musehouse, Moonstone, Philadelphia Writers Conference, and MORE! 

Join us on April 24th to Experience a Unique Sampling of the Greatest Poetry on Earth and the Greatest Poetry Community Under the Sun!
This is the area’s most comprehensive poetry event solely dedicated to celebrating Greater Philadelphia Poetry in all of its manifestations. 
Be there or be square!
Eileen M. D'Angelo, Pa.C.P.
Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal
Paralegal to G. Guy Smith
Harris and Smith
300 W. State St., Suite 301
Media, PA  19063-2639
Phone: 610-565-5300, Ex. 104
Fax:  610-565-7292

Epiphany …

 One Cheer for Ayn > James Como. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My belief in individuality as trumping race, ethnicity, ideology or any othercollectivi (with the possible exceptions of close family and a very few friends) is that it affords me Freedom, a freedom worth more to me than all the equality in the world that anyone could faithfully promise. Freedom to work, to acquire, to give as I choose; to dissociate myself from beliefs and values I reject, to think and speak as I please (within the bounds of Lord Moulton’s moral admonition of Obedience to the Unenforceable), and freedom not to be sullied by envy. A freedom that affords a person – that is, a Person – the dignity of experiencing the consequences of exercising that freedom. In short, better a Person than a particle, for personal dignity and genuine identity beat any mass, always.

Highly recommended …

 Top Picks: Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dissecting Groucho …

… Jewish Review of Books — Jews on the Loose. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“I do not want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member,” Groucho’s letter of resignation to the Friar’s Club, was, at least, certainly written by Groucho. But in Siegel’s microwaved prose, it becomes in “one of its countless dimensions . . . the obliteration not of the self who is making the joke, but of the existential convention, as it were, of having a self, an ego, to begin with.” Never one to leave bad enough alone, Siegel goes on:
If Groucho abolishes his own ego in one stroke with his fabled line—never mind, for a moment, that he also establishes his superior authenticity and power—then who is doing the abolishing? Who is Groucho Marx? He seems to exist in a totally negative space, in which his freedom is synonymous with the fact that he stands for nothing.
Bet you never thought of that.

Should be interesting …

… Tom Stoppard to deliver Charles Wheeler lecture at award ceremony | Media | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

News you can use …

… How Classical Education Can Make America Great Again - The Federalist.

Classical schools teach a curriculum of great books and the liberal or “free” arts that best prepare man for living a free life. The child is not the center of the curriculum or the school. This is actually very freeing, as it allows the child to transcend his own self-perceived limitations.
Yes, once upon a time, a liberal education meant one that taught you how to be a free man (man in this case meaning human, just so no snowflake out there  thinks I'm being sexist).

A fresh look …

… Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At Jack Nicholson in 'The Last Detail'.

Great film, great performance. And just by Nicholson. Randy Quaid also is excellent, as is Otis Young.

Belated birthday remembrance …

… November 1954 : Poetry Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Frank O'Hara would have turned 90 on March 27.

Something to think on …

In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.
— John Fowles, born on this date in 1926

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

For those in Massachusetts

The First Folio makes a stop in Amherst...

“Gaius Pumidius Diphilus was here"

The ancient graffiti of Pompeii brings together these two domains, the spatial and the temporal, anchoring the ideas of a group of people in time to the physical space they occupy. Few artifacts are able to do this. Books and stone tablets, for example, aren’t typically preserved in situ

...and 11 facts about pencils...

on the 158th anniversary of the pencil with attached eraser...Among which:  
3. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) came from a family of pencil makers — in fact, Thoreau and Company was America’s foremost manufacturer — and was an accomplished pencil innovator. He dreamed up a way of injecting the graphite inside a hollowed-out pencil; until he did so, two wooden halves were glued together with the lead inside.

Walking and Knowledge

My desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. I do not know that this higher knowledge amounts to anything more definite than a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we called Knowledge before — a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is the lighting up of the mist by the sun. 
Henry David Thoreau, reviewed by Maria Popova 

Me, I'm still pissed off Thoreau went home to Mother without reporting same in Walden... 

Do-gooders …

 The Method | The Skeptical Doctor. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pathetic …

… Instapundit — IT’S AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE RE-EDUCATION PROCESS: George Orwell Call Your Office: Marquette Demands Ritual Apology From Embattled Professor…

Glenn calls Marquette a disgrace. Especially to Jesuit education.

Lovely …

… 2,000-Tree Rainbow . . . Photo by Rus Bowden — National Geographic Your Shot.

Q&A …

… “Driving While Black” Has Been Around As Long As Cars Have Existed | History | Smithsonian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

On the laureate front …

… Elizabeth Woody named Oregon's 8th Poet Laureate | (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Catching on …

… The Subfield That Is Changing the Landscape of Literary Studies - The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip, Dan Bloom.)

I still don't see The Road  as Cli-Fi. Though maybe all of these may brush elbows with the currently fashionable pornography of despair. 


… Marilynne Robinson talks about her new literary award — and politics - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“It’s worrisome that we’re getting very emphatic news that a large part of the public doesn’t feel well served, and that’s something to take very seriously and try to understand …
Well, the best way to do that would be to stop hanging with the same crowd. Maybe get to know people who think differently from yourself.

A man from a lost world …

… Review of Stefan Zweig, 'Messages From a Lost World: Europe on the Brink'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have liked Zweig since I first read him in college. His biographical sketch of Nietzsche is wonderful. Reading him is to encounter culture in the best sense. Civilization didn't measure up to culture, however, and he seems to have found himself to be, almost literally, a nowhere man.

Something to think on …

Civilization tries to persuade us we are going towards something, a distant goal. We have forgotten that our only goal is to live, to live each and every day, and that if we live each and every day, our true goal is achieved.
— Jean Giono, born on this date in 1895

William Kennedy

I must admit: William Kennedy was not on my literary radar until last week when I picked up his short novel Ironweed which was published only a few months before being awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

Let me start my saying: I'm not convinced. There are parts of Ironweed - which tells the story of a gang of homeless men in Albany - that certainly resonated, and that I felt were well done, both in terms of style and content. I mean, it's a victory in itself to bring Albany to life, and Kennedy succeeds in doing that. 

But I'm not sure that Kennedy does enough in this novel to fully articulate the sense of decline associated with his characters. And more: the sense of regret and loss. These, too, are not probed with the detail I thought they warranted. 

Kennedy's main character - Francis - used to be a ballplayer. OK - I'll believe that. But it's never made clear how and why he falls from his pedestal. It's further unclear - and I think this is the most frustrating part - why he can't climb back up. 

Sure, there's drinking here, and there's meandering around the streets, looking for trouble, too. But Francis seems to me to be sufficiently clairvoyant, and I wasn't sure what stopped him from reaching - once more - for a world beyond destitution. Why is his mind, as Kennedy writes, "devoid of ideas"?

For me, Ironweed was somewhere between John Steinbeck and William Maxwell: there's a tough, rugged quality to Kennedy's writing, and there's a certain proximity - I suppose you could say - to the earth. But unlike Maxwell, especially, Kennedy doesn't fully convince: he doesn't convince his readership to care about Francis, and he doesn't convince his readership to believe the story that's being told.

Kennedy comes close - don't get me wrong. But ultimately, as I made my way through the novel, I wondered whether he'd constructed a flawed hero in Francis, or simply a character full of flaws. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Remembrance …

 Postscript: Jim Harrison, 1937—2016 - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Biblical Translation Is So Challenging!

A new monk shows up at a monastery where the monks spend their time making copies of ancient books. The new monk goes to the basement of the monastery saying he wants to make copies of the originals rather than of others' copies so as to avoid duplicating errors they might have made. Several hours later the monks, wondering where their new friend is, find him crying in the basement. They ask him what is wrong and he says "the word is CELEBRATE, not CELIBATE!"

The Last Vagabond Artist dies

His name was David Weinrib. You probably didn’t know him, but I did. He died on February 7, 2016. With him, too, died my belief that anyone like him — the lifelong vagabond artist — could ever again exist.

Wisdom from Sir Charles

“All politics is rich people screwing poor people. Poor people are too stupid to know they’re just chess pieces in a game. All the poor white people, all the poor black people, all the Hispanics, they’re in the same boat. They’ve got no economic opportunities. They spend all their time blaming each other because rich people throw words at them like illegal immigration and racism and things like that. If poor people ever get smart, and realize: ‘We should band together, rise up, instead of fighting each other,’ we probably can make a difference...
“The whole thing has turned me off because it’s gotten to the point where I watched the last eight years of Barack [Obama],” Barkley said on Tuesday. “The Republicans disagree with every single thing he says. I feel bad for the American people. It’s is going to have zero effect on my life who the president is. I’ll be rich either way.”

Survival of the fittest

Newspapers have settled on a strategy to stop withering away: feast on each other for survival.

In case you wondered...

Something to think on …

I'm obviously not orthodox, I don't know how many real poets have ever been orthodox.
— R. S. Thomas, born on this date in 1913

Blogging note …

Blogging on my part will resume later today. I have to be on hand for a book pickup at The Inquirer this morning.

Mark thy calendar …




author of Requiem for Ignition Cap


author of Bartram’s Garden

Reading & Interview

TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2016, 7 PM


Philadelphia, PA

This Event Is Free

Eleanor Stanford is the author of two books of poetry, Bartram's Garden and The Book of Sleep, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, the Harvard Review, the Kenyon Review, and many others. She is a 2014/2016 Fulbright fellow to Brazil, where she is researching and writing about traditional midwifery.

J. Scott Brownlee is a poet from Llano, Texas. His work appears widely and includes the chapbooks Highway or Belief, which won the 2013 Button Poetry Prize, Ascension, which won the 2014 Robert Phillips Poetry Prize, and On the Occasion of the Last Old Camp Meeting in Llano County, which won the 2015 Tree Light Books Prize. His first full-length collection, Requiem for Used Ignition Cap, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and selected by C. Dale Young as the winner of the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize. Brownlee is a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective that emphasizes place-based writing of personal witness, cultural memory, and the aesthetically marginalized working class. He teaches for Brooklyn Poets as a core faculty member and is a former Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at NYU, where he earned his MFA. Brownlee currently lives in Philadelphia.

Upcoming events:
Philly Poetry Day,
Saturday, April 9

The Philadelphia
Poetry Festival
Sunday, April 24

Creepy crawlies …

… or maybe not so creepy: Paul Davis On Crime: A Visit To The Tarantulas: Alive And Up Close Exhibit In Philadelphia.

Change of heart …

 How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Magical Realism | Reluctant Habits.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Amen, brother …

 Glenn Reynolds: How PC culture is killing higher education.
Writing in The Atlantic,Conor Friedersdorf noted that this sort of embarrassing student “activism” is actually fueling Trump’s rise. And as Reason’s Robby Soave commented: “No wonder so many non-liberal students are cheering for Trump — not because they like him, but because he represents glorious resistance to the noxious political correctness and censorship that has come to define the modern college experience.”

Haiku …

A bird alighted
Right in front of him today,
Looked at him, and left.

Rather a strong connection …

… Evelyn Waugh and Film | The Evelyn Waugh Society. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
In his later years Evelyn Waugh would cultivate a public persona as an old-fashioned and snobbish fogey that belies this love of film and his own early creative innovativeness. As Alexander describes it "in the 1930s he was a figurehead of the younger generation. He stood for all that was fast, brash, witty and loud, but after the war he transformed himself into an old-fashioned clown not unlike his father. He wore outmoded and outlandish suits and hats, insisted on changing for dinner, surrounded himself with Victorian furniture and bric-a-brac and, like his father, appeared to the world as an arcane eccentric from a Victorian novel."

The long haul…

… It is hard being a columnist for eighteen years – here's how I got through it | Voices | The Independent. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… I didn’t come on to the paper a polemical Zionist. If I have sometimes sounded like one, that’s the paper’s fault. I’m not saying I cared nothing for Israel beforehand, but there was a new orthodoxy of anti-Zionism in the air and this paper inhaled its poisons freely. Had there been fewer anti-Zionists writing, and had their hostility to Israel been less a thing of myth and rhetoric, I might not have felt the call to buckle up as often as I did. But when I did buckle up, it was as a critic of their psychology, not their politics. The deep, self-deluding irrationality of hatred will always give itself away in language first.
Good for him.

Dave also sends along this by Patrick Kurp: `Essays Into Rather Than About'.

Nice town …

… Back to the Land Art - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Debbie and I used to stay in Woodstock when were visiting her son in college years ago. We stayed in a little motel that we later learned Dylan used to stay in. We also bought a very nice Karl Knaths watercolor there.

Heavenly …

… The Writers' Almanac: "Nature" is what we see--.

Ladies of wit …

… Historical and Hysterical: A Brief and Inadequate History of Female Comic Poets | Light. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Ghosts and mortals …

… A tender coincidence | The University of Chicago Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As coincidences go, it is not so astonishing that two professors, even a father and a son, should teach the same book in the same week, and indeed it may be causation rather than coincidence. I first read Pnin in an edition that my father had taught from and that bore his marginal checks and exclamation points. More broadly, my susceptibility to this novel can be attributed to my having spied on many a faculty party as a child.

Worrisome …

… but hardly surprising these days: Pseudoscience To Shine At Houston Science Museum.


She … had an instinctive grasp of the media business, which allowed her to found the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and develop it into the global juggernaut it’s become.
In that sense, Mother Angelica was sort of a cross between Rupert Murdoch and the nun who taught you third grade religion.

The Big Three, or why your view of the Bible, Christianity and Jesus is probably incomplete and misinformed

Alter, Stark and Meier.

I am in the midst of reading Robert Alter's translation and commentary on The Wisdom Books.  For those who don't know, Alter has been working in the field of Biblical Narrative for about 40 years, his works such as The Art of Biblical Narrative, The Art of Biblical Poetry and translations of the majority of the Old Testament are acclaimed as probably the best of our time.  Alter has a workmanlike approach to his subject, refreshingly shorn of the encrustations of the too-dogmatic. 

A second member of the Big Three is Rodney Stark, a sociologist who has spent much of his career demolishing received wisdom on the formation of early religion, especially Christianity.  The most recent book I've read by Stark is Discovering God, which looks at the development of monotheism across the world.  Stark is a believer, no question about it, and a fiercely objective one, meeting head on such naive views of religion as the product of a primitive superstitious mind with his review of the evidence.

And finally, there is Fr. John Meier, whose work The Marginal Jew, up to five volumes over about twenty years, has meticulously dissected the historical Jesus, working through the evidence and theories to arrive at the most objective possible view he could achieve of the life of Christ.   Meier is a priest and professor at Notre Dame, and his work has received the Imprimatur and Nihal Obstat of the Church (meaning no objection) but he is also not afraid to review such pillars of faith as the apostles being entirely male (they weren't, he concludes) or of Mary being an eternal Virgin (she had other children besides Christ, he concludes.)

Each of these authors give a good review of the work in their areas, as well as a firm foundation for comprehensive understanding.   Time well spent.

Something to think on …

... I do have the feeling that other writers can’t help you with writing. I’ve gone to writers’ conferences and writers’ sessions and writers’ clinics, and the more I see of them, the more I’m sure it’s the wrong direction. It isn’t the place where you learn to write. I’ve always felt strongly that a writer shouldn’t be engaged with other writers, or with people who make books, or even with people who read them. I think the farther away you get from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources. I mean, a writer doesn’t really live, he observes.
    — Nelson Algren, born on this date in 1909


    Mother Angelica 1923-2016:
    Raymond Arroyo, the managing editor of EWTN News and a biographer of Mother Angelica, said she was the only woman in television history to found and lead a cable network for 20 years.

    Sunday, March 27, 2016

    RIP …

     Jim Harrison, 'Legends Of The Fall' Author, Dies : The Two-Way : NPR. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    For the feast day …

    Insufferable babies …

    … Hey, College Ninnies—Grow Up! | City Journal.

    Obviously, the Emory students need some basic civics lessons in political debate. They are likely to encounter more names of candidates they deplore over the course of their adult lives. They will not have a campus bureaucracy to run to for protection, in what has become the reflex reaction of students today to any behavior they don’t like. The adult response to political speech that you disagree with is argument.
    These clowns are certainly not above reproach, but they look as if they're beneath contempt.

    McEwan's new story...

    Incorrigible observer …

    … Henry James: The Man Who Went Without - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Sounds familiar …

    … A Conscience in Crisis - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    What becomes clear … and what Raskolnikov eventually discovers—is that his ideas are not motivated by a desire to improve society but to rule it. The murders took shape in his imagination as a means of proving to himself that he was above morality itself, and the “new thinking” provided him with a way to disguise this egotism with altruism, to act with utter selfishness while congratulating himself for his courage.

    Have a listen …

    … Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Night Music: Old Jazz Guy Michael Franks' 'The Lady Wants To Know'.

    These days, a real possibility …

    … Free Speech — A Losing Candidate? | Liberty Unbound. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    But before I share any more of my own great thoughts, please take this brief version of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test. Have you already concluded that I who am writing this am a supporter or a detractor of Donald Trump? If your answer is Yes, you have jumped to a conclusion, and you will interpret all subsequent sentences as further proof of your opinion. You will also conclude — or you have already concluded — that I am either a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, or an American patriot who just wants to see something done about the mess in Washington. I’m sure your ability to divine these things will be gratifying to your self-esteem.
    But if your answer is No, then you are qualified to read what follows. Reading involves, among other things, the ability to identify what a piece of writing is about. This piece of writing is not about Donald Trump or my opinion of Donald Trump. It’s about a massive default from the principle of free speech.

    Inquirer reviews …

    … A.O. Scott's 'Better Living Through Criticism': The examined art of life.

    … Paul Davis reviews: Bowden's 'Three Battles of Wanat': Continuing a great tradition.

    … C.J. Box tackles hot-button issues in suspenseful 'Off the Grid'.

    There's anther review in the paper that I will have to track down online.

    Something to think on …

    We shall find in our troubled hearts, where discord reigns, two needs which seem at variance, but which merge, as I think, in a common source - the love of the true, and the love of the fabulous.
    — Alfred de Vigny, born on this date in 1797

    Saturday, March 26, 2016

    In case you wondered …

    … What the Bronte sisters were really like.

    Superb indeed …

    … The Writers' Almanac: The Challenge of Easter.

    Music for today …

    Enter now …

    … Reason Weekly Contest: Comfort the Emory University Students - Hit & Run :

    We seem to have the dumbest students since the dawn of civilization.

    How we got here...

    ...Journey to Jihad
    As part of the indoctrination program, the brothers often watched archived lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born imam who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen a little more than a month before Jejoen’s first visit to Sharia4Belgium. They also watched footage of battles in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and other jihadi conflict zones, and came to think of the mujahideen in the videos as selfless heroes defending Islam against corrupt crusaders. One day, they watched a video of a beheading. Members discussed where they’d like to fight in the future, from Libya to Somalia to the Seychelles. “You sit for months in a group in which jihad is considered quite normal,” Jejoen said.

    Happy 142nd …

    … The Project Gutenberg eBook of Mountain Interval, by Robert Frost. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Robert Frost was born on this date in 1874.

    Preview …

    … First Trailer For Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen Adaptation ‘Love & Friendship’ Starring Kate Beckinsale. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Downsizing …

    … The Whole Mess ... Almost by Gregory Corso : The Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Gregory Corso was born on this date in 1930. He died in 2001.

    Don't be taken in by the BS …

    … Paul Davis On Crime: Cigars, Health Care, Che Guevara And Other Myths About Cuba.

    Cultural parochialism …

    … Bryan Appleyard — The Brexit of the Mind. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Guess I'm a little weird. I studied German in high school and college and love German poetry — people still read Rilke, don't they? — and  the German novelle (an exquisite form). Read Theodor Storm's Immensee sometime, folks. I've reviewed Houllebecq. But also Torgny Lindgren, who I think deserves the Nobel Prize. The late Umberto Eco sold well on these shores, at least for a while. It wasn't that long ago that Hermann Hesse was all the rage. What has happened?

    The ultimate warrior …

    … Zealotry of Guerin: Knight Vanquishing Time, Death, and Monstrous Demons (Philips Wouwerman), Sonnet #290.

    Metaphors be with you — or not …

    … Same Difference | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Metaphors go wrong more easily than similes do: You can always say that two things bear some similarities and sound plausible; saying one thing is the other thing while still sounding plausible is far trickier. Yet a well-placed metaphor can grab your attention far more effectively than even the most powerful simile.

    Something to think on …

    Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
    — Viktor Frankl, born on this date in 1905

    Feuding …

     Do you cli-fi ?: Climate activist Dan Bloom politely asks novelist Paolo Bacigalupi to apologize for his personal Soviet-style online attack. Will he?

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Hmm …

    … The Genius Famine by Edward Dutton and Bruce G. Charlton. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    One cause is a decline in intelligence. The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries and the medical advances in their wake reduced child mortality to such a degree that it switched from being so commonplace that members of the lower class had an effective rate of reproduction near zero to being a rarity.
    This switch had two consequences. First, instead of a downward class mobility that replaced less intelligent lower classes from above, lower classes began to outbreed the higher. Second, it removed the screen on deleterious genetic mutations, which normally would be removed from the population when their presence in infancy prevented survival. Instead, medical technology allowed these slight defects to remain and become more numerous in each generation, to the point where this load of defective genes now depresses intelligence and retards mental function.
    Why is it presumed that the lower classes are less intelligent?  I hail from the lower classes myself and have never noticed that the upper classes were any brighter than many of the people I grew up with, many of whom were quite bright.

    Takedown …

    … The Cowardice Of John Le Carré | Standpoint. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Le Carré has the vices of the old conservative British establishment, and not just in his Jew obsession. He resents the American empire usurping British power and leaving us as its poodle, and engages in a quasi-colonial denial of the autonomy of the peoples of the poor world. But he also has the old establishment’s virtues, most notably its ability to appeal to a vision of a better England which the Left can rarely match.

    RIP …

    … Tibor Machan, a Founding Editor of Reason, RIP - Hit & Run : (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Art and faith …

    … The Writers' Almanac: Flannery O'Connor's birthday, Good Friday, and a timely question about writers of faith.

    Not so elementary …

    … Sherlock Holmes and Certain Critics | Bill Peschel.

    Life without coffee …

    … Anecdotal Evidence: `Now Our Cause Was Lost'.

    Two shows: One good, one not …

    … About Last Night | The things we do for money.

    Another view …

     Hamilton Resonates, Shapes Our Political Imaginations | Brandywine Books.

    Good Friday

    For me, one of the Seven Last Words rings all too true too often "My God, My God, Why Have You Foresaken Me?"  

    God felt abandoned by God.  How reassuring to me.

    Yet, as Richard John Neuhaus wrote in his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon: "[i]f what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything."

    Let's hope …

    … PEN Calls For Kazakh Poet, Others To Be Freed.

    Guess you got to respect a guy who won't accept a pardon.

    Hardly surprising …

    … Nancy Isenberg: This ‘Hamilton’ is not history | Dallas Morning News. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    But that won't stop people from thinking otherwise. That Sam Cook line — "Don't know much about history" — now seems prophetic.

    By the way, here is that Jefferson life mask, done when he was 82. He looks pretty good to me.

    God and Communes

    Hawthorne’s polemic against mesmerism and his rejection of the Brook Farm community are tied closely together, then, biographically as well as intellectually. His encounter with the reformers at Brook Farm may have helped him articulate the error at the core of the transcendentalist Newness: it undermines the metaphysical foundation for mysterious personhood and responsible moral agency, and is thereby unable to fulfill its own promise of deepening the experience of both individuality and love.
    Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance 

    Dangerous credo, magnetic presence …

     Joseph Brodsky, Darker and Brighter | The Nation.

      Since its publication by Corpus Books in the spring of 2015, Brodsky Among Us has been a sensation in the poet’s former country, quickly becoming a best seller that is now in its sixth printing. Last spring, Teasley made a triumphant publishing tour, speaking at standing-room-only events in Moscow and St. Petersburg; Tbilisi, Georgia; and a number of other cities. The book received hundreds of reviews. According to the leading critic Anna Narinskaya, writing in the newspaper Kommersant, Teasley’s memoir had been written “without teary-eyed ecstasy or vicious vengefulness, without petty settling of scores with the deceased—or the living—and at the same time demonstrating complete comprehension of the caliber and extreme singularity of her ‘hero.’” Galina Yuzevofich, in the online publication Meduza, praised Teasley’s “exactness of eye and absolute honesty,” resulting in a portrait of “wisdom, calm, and amazing equanimity.” Even so, the book has yet to find a publisher in English, the language in which it was written.

    Something to think on …

    The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
    — Flannery O'Connor, born on this date in 1925

    Thursday, March 24, 2016

    Words and Language

    A review of Charles Taylor's most recent work

    Centenary …

     Paul Davis On Crime: Happy 100th Birthday To Donald Hamilton, Author Of The Matt Helm Thrillers.

    Julian Barnes on...

    In case you wondered …

     What does it take to be a “cultured” person? Anton Chekhov tells us (with a few qualifying words from Jane Austen). | The Book Haven.

    Mark thy calendar …

     Looking Ahead to the Byrn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale With the Other Donald | Town Topics.

    See also: Bryn Mawr Wellesley Book Sale, March 25-30, Features Books from Library of Local Composer.

    (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

    Milestone …

    … Venice-via-New Jersey novelist Donna Leon celebrates 25th Commissario Brunetti mystery.

    The voice of the heckler …

    … Charles Williams: mightier and darker | TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Lewis is more indebted to Williams than Williams to Lewis; and these facts have to be spelled out with hard words hyphenated, if need be, in these times of extraordinary professional self-approval (“Join editor and writing coach Philippa Pride, who has worked with authors including Stephen King, for this truly inspirational writing course”: theGuardian, November 9, 2015). Many years ago, in an essay called “Redeeming the Time”, I invoked the “antiphonal voice of the heckler”. The voice of the heckler should always be listened to, even if the voice fails to be “inspirational” in modes that gain the Guardian’s commendation.

    Q & A ...

    … The Prosblogion: Philosophers and their religious practices part 19: On Bringing pentecost to Pentecostalism and Diving Deep in Philosophy. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    And the winners are …

    … 2016 February : IBPC.

    The Judge's Page.

    (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Hamlet as kindred spirit …

    … The Writers' Almanac: The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Shakespeare's poem unlimited (and some words from a confused creature driven by impulses and plagued by moods).

    The role I would choose to play in Hamlet is that of Horatio.

    In case you wondered …

    … Wallace Stevens’s Place in the History of English Rhyming | Prelude. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    … Stevens’s approach does demote rhyme to the status of a “local grace”—same thing as, say, alliteration. And so, whereas the old-school rhymer accepted transfusing his or her whole poem with a kind of good (and indeed super-human) artificiality, Stevens allows rhyme to come and go as it pleases, thus entailing sudden changes in the pitch of artificiality. Rhyme plays peek- a-boo . . .

    Dust to Dust

    India's crumbling city of Billionaires


    Who keeps buying Mein Kampf?

    Something to think on …

    Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.
    — Malcolm Muggeridge, born on this date in 1903

    Wednesday, March 23, 2016

    The End My Friend?

    The idea that people are entitled to be employed in whatever field they choose to pursue, and that once they get hired, they then have a “right” to keep that job — that is what’s bad for democracy.
    Newspapers were my life for more than 20 years

    Or are they?

    Seven of the most memorable long sentences in Literature

    FYI …

    … Solitude and Solidarity: Creative Artists Need ’Em Both | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

    Mark thy calendar …


    The Philadelphia Poetry Festival is coming!

    Do you run a poetry organization, magazine or poetry series in the Philadelphia area?  If so,  please register for the Philadelphia Poetry Festival 2016 by sending your request via email to . Include your name, the organization your represent, and a brief summary of what your org does and where and when you do it.   Please use the word  "REGISTRATION" in the subject line of your email.

    Our Format has changed:
      Each organization will present one poet to represent them, who will read for five minutes.  In the spirit of the event, we ask that organization leaders or editors not read, but choose a poet to spotlight.

    There will be an area for the circulation of program brochures, flyers and information about dozens of Philadelphia poetry and writing outlets. Bring your favorite series ’ information to share!  This is the area ’ s most comprehensive poetry event solely dedicated to celebrating Greater Philadelphia Poetry in all of its manifestations .  Be there or be square!

    And .... We're in a New Location!
    This year's festival will be held at
    The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia.  Join us on Sunday, April 24 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  to experience a unique sampling of the greatest poetry on earth and the greatest poetry community under the sun !

    Register now to introduce your favorite poetry org to the greater Philadelphia poetry community OR just come and listen to the spoken word on the 24th!

    Come and find out about all the other poetry orgs, series, coordinators, and more ..  in the Philly and surrounding areas. Each poetry series or organization will send someone to speak a little about their respective program(s) and will bring one poet to read - to represent them!

    Best regards,
    Leonard Gontarek and Eileen D'Angelo


    The Philadelphia Poetry Festival will include a Poetry Book Fair.
    This is for individual poets signing and selling their books of poems.
    All proceeds will go to and be handled by the authors.
    The space is very limited. You must sign up in advance.
    Please contact Leonard with interest:


    More about the New Location:
    The Rotunda – 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia
    A wonderful event space!
    Lots of street parking – metered and non-metered
    Fresh Grocer Parking Garage across Walnut Street
    Great places for food & spirits within a block:
    Smokey Joe’s, The Greek Lady, Mizu Sushi Bar,
    West Philly City Tap House, Bobby’s Burger Palace,
    Copabanana, Hummus,
    & The Last Word Book Shop

    Mystics at heart …

     First Known When Lost: Souls And Stars.

    Intriguing ceramics …

    … Sarah Louise Davey.

    Good news …

     Qatari poet released from prison after royal pardon. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Appointment …

     Jackie Kay named as new Scottish makar | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Dangerous encounter …

    … When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads In Wilderness by Diane Thomas.

    Sampler …

    … Poems from Home By Now by Meg Kearney - (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

    Books and butterflies, together at last …

    … Vladimir Nabokov, Butterfly Illustrator - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
    For a Nabokov fan, paging through “Fine Lines,” which includes a critical introduction and several essayistic evaluations of Nabokov’s scientific oeuvre, can feel a bit like reading the second half of “Pale Fire”: one is confronted by a content-rich, almost dementedly tangential commentary on an increasingly inscrutable work. And yet, as with “Pale Fire,” the commentary is so fully intertwined with the work that, by the end, it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. The writer and the lepidopterist really do turn out to be the same person, engaged in a single, if multifaceted, project of knowledge and description. As Stephen H. Blackwell and Kurt Johnson, the editors of the volume, note, the famous four-by-six-inch notecards on which Nabokov wrote his novels were originally the medium he used for his entomological studies.

    Back at work …

     The Writers' Almanac: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow at The Writers' Almanac: Annie Dillard, William Shakespeare, the Book of Job, and George Eliot.

    Listen in …

    … Episode 160 – Bob Stein & Ashton Applewhite | Virtual Memories.

    “In the last few hundred years, we thought of reading as something you do by yourself. What we’re discovering now is that all media consumption — whether movies, games, or reading — is going social. And it’s going to be completely different.” – Bob Stein

    Arguing terms …

    … Do you cli-fi ?: ''On the usefulness of the 'cli-fi' genre term in the climate change era'' - an OpEd by Professor Edward Rubin.

    Climate change denial remains a powerful force in the United States …
    Who exactly denies climate change? Certianly not anyone who is aware  that climate is characterized by continuous change, climate being a chaotic system governed by a non-linear dynamic. No, what some people deny is global warming theory. One of those is Nobel laureate Ivar Giaeve. I trust him on the subject more than I do a professor of law and political science.

    That said, I like the term Cli-Fi, and I think fiction based on a real understanding of the nature of climate could prove fascinating. Think of a fictional version of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, set during the time when the so-called Little Ice Age was starting in Europe. Very scary that would be.

    Something to think on …

    When you don't follow your nature there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be.
    — Dane Rudhyar, born on this date in 1895

    Tuesday, March 22, 2016

    In case you didn't know …

    … Paul Davis On Crime: Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: The NIPCC Report On Scientific Consenus.

    As the late Michael Crichton said, "Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had."

    Crime gathering …

    … Detectives Beyond Borders.

    I write about...

    Remembering Dudley Moore …

    … About Last Night | When smart was funny. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
    I was shocked to be reminded that Arthur dates to 1981, the year after I started working at The Inquirer. I feel chilly and grown old.

    Clusters of lives …

    … Aubrey the innovator | TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Bennett recognizes that Aubrey was adept at preserving the atmosphere in which stories were told and memories transmitted, “but not in cracking these accounts open to draw out the facts”. Unlike Aubrey, she possesses formidable forensic skills, alongside the fine sensitivity to language that she shares with him. In her extensive commentary on the Lives, she is drawn by Aubrey’s hints, half-remembered truths and omissions into a mountain of detective work, tracking down his sources and often his mistakes with infectious enthusiasm.

    Cri de coeur …

    … The Writers' Almanac: Postscript and endnote: rejecting the time bandit and embracing Nothingness.

     Let us pray that Tim changes his mind.

    Terror spreads...

    And he's their kind of blogger …

    Nigeness: Norway - My Kind of Country!

    Existential cuisine …

     Maverick Philosopher: The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook.
    Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

    Downfall …

    … The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra | Collected Miscellany.

    Yasmina Khadra is an outstanding writer. Here is my review of his novel The Attack
    The unlikely terrorist. I also reviewed The Swallows of Kabul, which is just as good. But that review is no longer available online.

    Follow-up …

    … Story Ideas (part 2) | Bill Peschel.

    Remembering the forgoten …

    … Anecdotal Evidence: `Scarcely Known But By the Catalogue'.

    Poetry reading …

    Something to think on …

    Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?
    — Marcel Marceau, born on this date in 1923

    Monday, March 21, 2016

    In a patrol car …

    … Paul Davis On Crime: Reporter Ride Along In South Philly.

    Over the years, I've gone on a good number of reporter ride alongs and I've learned two things; police officers do not receive the proper respect they deserve, and they are not paid nearly enough to do this kind of work.

    Stick with reason, principle, and conscience …

    … Empathy May Be Overrated in an Election, and in a Leader - The New York Times.

    I KNOW I promised no more election posts...

    But this one statement re: Trump's appearance tonight at "AIPAC, the annual policy conference of the country's foremost pro-Israel organization, an influential bipartisan group with members from all 50 states" ... is too good:
    [G]roups who oppose him are planning to make their voices heard.
    There will be a walkout by rabbis who plan to study passages of the Torah focused on tolerance while Trump is speaking.

    Mediocrity R Us

    Frank wrote:"We live in a debased age, run by credentialed mediocrities."  
    Which brings to mind the classic statement by Sen. Hruska, on the nomination of Judge Carswell, widely seen as mediocre at best, to the Supreme Court:   ''Even if he were mediocre,'' the Senator said,''there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.''