Saturday, March 31, 2018

Will and a way …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): This is my final posting — Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.

Just a thought …

At least three of the books of poetry I have recently reviewed featured foxes. All three, I am pretty sure, were by women. All three also gave every impression of being grounded in actual encounter with the red-furred canid. Anyone who has met a fox knows there is something canny — and uncanny — about them. 
Women and foxes may have an affinity for one another. I would not be surprised.
I have had brushes with foxes, but only one actual encounter, which lasted  just five or ten minutes. The sense I had was of a creature knowing how to size me up. I felt privileged he would take the time. He did not run away. He stopped and looked, then took his leave.
Foxes, in person, live up to their legend. Christ referred to Herod as “that fox.” Jimmy Hendrix sang about that foxy lady. My very own wife — a redhead — has chosen Reynard as her online nickname.
Foxes do not make good pets. The so-called domesticated red fox is domesticated only to an extent. Foxes are best left to themselves — and to poetry.

Faith and observation …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Robert Frost on belief, God, and children.

Children have one advantage to start with: a complete lack of preconceptions. The grown-ups set about curing them of that as soon as possible. 

Rehabilitating Mary Magdalene

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister, said Mary Magdalene’s reputation was sullied by her depiction in art over the centuries.
“Art history made her become a prostitute, which is something that is not present in the Gospels,” he said, adding that she also has been portrayed as Jesus’ wife.
“It is important to find the real face of Mary Magdalene, who is a woman who represents the importance of the female aspect on the side of Christ,” he told The Associated Press at the Vatican.
I've posted before on Fr. John Meier's book series called The Marginal Jew (up to Vol. 5) in which Fr. Meier, a professor at Notre Dame, has used rigorous historical analysis to revisit the life of Jesus, with his baseline established by what his imaginary "unpapal conclave", made of a Jew, Protestant, Muslim, Catholic and atheist, would consider accurate.  Fr. Meier had concluded that Mary Magdalene was indeed another apostle (Vol. 1, The Marginal Jew).  

As to what the "female aspect on the side of Christ" actually means I don't know.  According to Genesis we are all male and female made in God's image.  Jesus also noted in heaven there is no marriage, we are like angels, and Paul said in heaven there is no male and female. (I leave the cites as an exercise for the reader.)

Evolutionary proof...

...Grandparents: The Storytellers Who Bind Us
This preference for grandparents may be tied to the anthropological concept of “al- ternate generations.” Parents may be more likely to pass on the practical skills of using a machete or avoiding a jaguar, while their own parents pass on the big picture of how a community understands the world and it- self. Other studies have found that relations between grandparents and grandchildren tend to be more egalitarian than the “I told you not to do that” relationship between so many parents and children.

Word and stone …

 Zealotry of Guerin: The Woman Taken in Adultery (Pieter Bruegel the Elder), Sonnet #398.

"fiery 93-year-old avowed atheist reporter"

misquotes Pope, Vatican says.  There is too a Hell.  Of course, St John Paul's favorite theologian, von Balthasar, said Hell is empty.   

Poetry and faith …

Is there, I ask him, something in Causley’s poem about the perils of not taking our own lives seriously?

“Yes. I think that’s bound up with the same thing really, that we don’t know how to live. To put it in unhelpful prose, it seems as though the poem is saying: All that actually gives me life, gives me energy and hope, or anchorage in reality, all of that also frightens me so much that I want to run and not only run but want to strike out at what seems to promise what is good for me. We are living in a society which doesn’t seem to know where its life or health is, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’d like to see the poem engraved in granite in public places.”

Appreciation …

… Mario Vargas Llosa: A Celebration. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Vargas Llosa was never a conservative; his moral and philosophical beacon has always been Albert Camus, who broke with the European orthodox left in the early 1950s.


… Faith films challenge Hollywood at box office | Film | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Last weekend I Can Only Imagine, a Christian-themed independent biopic, beat a series of studio-backed films to win the number three spot behind Black Panther and Tomb Raider. And as Easter approaches, films with Christian messages are experiencing an upswing not seen since Mel Gibson’s 2004 crucifixion drama The Passion of Christ.

Something to think on …

Charm is a cunning self-forgetfulness.
— Christina Stead, who died on this date in 1983

Newman, Parks, and Nilsson …

… Roundup | George Hunka. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

While much of their music engages nostalgically with the American songwriting tradition, Newman, Parks, and Nilsson didn’t merely indulge in this nostalgia, but aimed it through the prism of an America that was radically changing in the 1950s and 1960s, in which the emotional and cultural certainties of these classic American songs were no longer relevant. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sense and madness …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Blogging Announcement and Preview.

Good Friday

Can't say "Happy Good Friday."  Take your time today.  About the holiness of the day I'd recommend Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus:

"If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything."

One-stop shopping …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Tudors (2013).

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

Indeed …

… A Lesson for Holy Week From the Witness of Arnaud Beltrame.

It isn’t logical, it isn’t “normal,” for anyone to place his or her life in harm’s way for a friend, much less for a complete stranger, as Arnaud Beltrame did. Only a special kind of love can make a person do something so unreasonably beautiful. This why John 15:13 says that no greater love exists than laying down one’s life for the sake of another. It’s a love so great that on a Friday 2,000 years ago, it turned the world on its head and — with divine irony — defeated death through an instrument of torture called the cross.

Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of those plays that can't be avoided. And while I haven't seen it in the theater, I have just finished reading it in print. I was not disappointed. 

Part of what I enjoyed most about the play is its sense of movement: Albee proceeds at a steady clip, and the play, while long, does not drag. This is all the more impressive, I think, because it includes only four characters. 

And then there's Albee's facility for dialogue: there are exchanges here which pop, and which must be quite funny on the stage. Meanwhile, there are others -- especially involving the older of the two couples, George and Martha -- which are pointed and sad, and which must evoke emotion when performed. 

I know the third and final act of Who's Afraid is thought to be the most famous -- with its unexpected ending, and its thematic resolution. I enjoyed this section, true, but I did not necessary find it the most compelling. For me, this was the second section -- "Walpurgisnacht" -- during which the characters are inverted, and the younger of the two couples is exposed for characteristics we might not expect: , frailty and hypocrisy, among them. 

For me, this wasn't a play at the same level of O'Neill or Ionesco, for instance, but there is something here that's lasting, there's a sense in which Albee has laid bare the games we play: he's exposed them and their meaning, and in so doing, has made clear that those games are the things, however imagined, however strained, which keep us sane. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Forsaken …

 Lama Sabachthani by Timothy Murphy | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That's for sure …

… Baseball Is Back -- and We're Better for It | RealClearPolitics.

This will sure make me want to tune in …

… Los Angeles Rams' male cheerleaders make NFL history.

Git to remember: I'm a really old man. I still hold doors open for women, who seem to appreciate it. God knows why.

I agree …

… but then I'm 2 percent Jewish, so I would, wouldn't I: 'Enough is enough', say marchers at Paris rally for murdered Holocaust survivor - France 24.

Hmm …

 … Pope Francis: 'There Is No Hell'.

I think it is finally time. I have resisted saying this because the historically informed (if there are any such these days) will know what I am alluding to, though I wish no actual physical harm on anyone. I am just being, as I always have been, a wise ass. So: Will no one one rid us of this turbulent priest?

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): 29 March 1797 - Wollstonecraft marries Godwin.

Tracking the decline …

 Un-liberty | The problem of hyper-liberalism – John Gray. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Practices of toleration that used to be seen as essential to freedom are being deconstructed and dismissed as structures of repression, and any ideas or beliefs that stand in the way of this process banned from public discourse. Judged by old-fashioned standards, this is the opposite of what liberals have stood for. But what has happened in higher education is not that liberalism has been supplanted by some other ruling philos­ophy. Instead, a hyper-liberal ideology has developed that aims to purge society of any trace of other views of the world. If a regime of censorship prevails in universities, it is because they have become vehicles for this project.

Listen in …

… The Jordan Peterson effect – Mark Vernon.

Better late …

… 101-year-old-woman honored with life-long dream of being a professor by FSU. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Still truckin' …

… Happy Birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Poems out of Maine …

… Poems from 'Notes from an Open Book' - Portland Press Herald. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Q&A …

 Ennyman's Territory: A Visit with Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas, Author of Why Bob Dylan Matters. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Regina Spektor Reads “The Everyday Enchantment of Music” by Mark Strand – Brain Pickings. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Good luck …

… Navroz - the recurrent renewal - TransConflict. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Hmm …

… Artists Aren't to Blame for Gentrification, After All - CityLab. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

That hasn't been the case in this city. In the '70s Northern Liberties was just an old factory section of town. Then the artists moved in. The same has been true in Lower Kensington.


… Johan van Hulst, Righteous Among The Nations, Dies at 107 – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to think on …

The concept, the label, is perpetually hiding from us all the nature of the real.
— Joyce Cary, who died on this date in 1957

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hear, hear …


The famous final scene …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Preparing ourselves for the final, universal change.

Sad anniversary …

… Virginia Woolf’s Suicide – The Virginia Woolf Blog.

When she was writing Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925, Woolf wrote ominously in her journal: “Woke up perhaps at 3. Oh it’s beginning, it’s coming – the horror – physically like a painful wave swelling about the heart – tossing me up. I’m unhappy, unhappy! Down – God, I wish I were dead. Pause. But why I am feeling this? Let me watch the wave rise. I watch. … Failure. Yes; I detect that. Failure, failure. (The wave rises).”

Q&A …

… Mark Athitakis on Jane Smiley, Class, and the Literature of the Midwest | Book Marks. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Voluptuous and enigmatic …

 Minor Notes by Kathleen Rooney | Poetry Foundation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Auden, her mentor, once wrote that “A mannered style, that of Góngora or Henry James, for example, is like eccentric clothing: very few writers can carry it off, but one is enchanted by the rare exception that can.” Murray’s style is mannered in the extreme, yet she carries it off with élan.  

Nature and wisdom …

 Mother Nature’s Step-Son – Idlings. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

You might say that nature is a vision rather than a catechism. It may serve to illustrate or illumine a philosophy but it does not impart one. As Lewis writes, “Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and infinite majesty. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me.”
Though, when alone in the woods, I have often sensed what I took to be the transcendent.

Promising debut …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (2008).

Something to think on …

They deceive themselves who believe that union with God consists in ecstasies or raptures, and in the enjoyment of Him. For it consists in nothing except the surrender and subjection of our will — with our thoughts, words and actions — to the will of God.
Teresa of Avila, born on this date in 1515

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A prophet for these times …

 Book Review: Twelve Rules For Life | Slate Star Codex. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Maybe it’s just that everyone else is such crap at it. Maybe it’s just that the alternatives are mostly either god-hates-fags fundamentalists or more-inclusive-than-thou milquetoasts. Maybe if anyone else was any good at this, it would be easy to recognize Jordan Peterson as what he is – a mildly competent purveyor of pseudo-religious platitudes. But I actually acted as a slightly better person during the week or so I read Jordan Peterson’s book. I feel properly ashamed about this. If you ask me whether I was using dragon-related metaphors, I will vociferously deny it. But I tried a little harder at work. I was a little bit nicer to people I interacted with at home. It was very subtle. It certainly wasn’t because of anything new or non-cliched in his writing. But God help me, for some reason the cliches worked.

Hmm …

Perceptive tribute …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Miserables.

In case you wondered...

Something to think on …

I have, for my own projected works and ideas, only the silliest and dewiest of hopes; no matter what, I am romantic enough or sentimental enough to wish to contribute something to life's fabric, to the world's beauty.... [S]imply to live does not justify existence, for life is a mere gesture on the surface of the earth, and death a return to that from which we had never been wholly separated; but oh to leave a trace, no matter how faint, of that brief gesture! For someone, some day, may find it beautiful!
— Frank O'Hara, born on this date in 1926

Cultural differences ...

”I’m French therefore I’m rude,” said the fired server.

Blogging note …

I have to leave for a doctor's appointment very shortly, then I must head over to The Inquirer to arrange a book pickup for the Philadelphia prison system. So blogging will be catch-as-catch-can until much later.

Listen in …

… Episode 262 – Jerry Moriarty – The Virtual Memories Show.

“I wouldn’t be anybody if it weren’t for my Art Card.”

Monday, March 26, 2018

Claire Messud...

...On the function of art

Mark thy calendar …

… All But True - New Door Books.

Technology and espionage …

… BOOK REVIEW: 'The Quantum Spy' by David Ignatius - Washington Times.

Oh, those people …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Reader Who Knows How to Read'.

In case you wondered …

… It’s pronounced “nee-norsk.” | Brandywine Books.

Quite a story …

… Why Does This Jazz Guitarist Fascinate Neuroscientists? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Martino has also put on a show for neuroscientists. His case demonstrates neuroplasticity, the brain’s remarkable ability, during development and learning, to “optimize the functioning of cerebral networks,” wrote Hugues Duffau, a professor and neurosurgeon at Hôpital Gui de Chauliac at Montpellier University Medical Center in France, who studied Martino’s case. The guitarist’s recovery epitomizes the ability of the brain to improvise—to compensate for malformations or injuries by wiring new connections among brain regions that restore motor, intellectual, and emotional functions. For an encore, say neuroscientists, Martino’s story is about music and how it helped shape his brain in ways that revived his life.2

Fine art, foul artist …

… Nigeness: Gill Country.

Latter-day asceticism

… The Social Media Fast – Reluctant Habits.

I deleted the appurtenant apps on my phone and resolved not to check anything. I would never know if something I posted had been liked or favorited. For all I know, there are direct messages awaiting me right now on these poisonous online poppy fields. The funny thing about all this was that I was such a prolific presence on these channels that three friends texted me to ask if I was okay. I had managed to connect more by disconnecting.

A boost to the spirit …

 First Known When Lost: A Beginning.

Some years ago, Debbie and I spent a week in Kinsale. Lovely town.

Listen in …

… The American Scholar: The Killers’ Canon - Stephanie Bastek.

Hmm …

… A.M. Juster on Twitter: ""To my dear friend #MJJackson, a disparager of this treatise" by #AEHousman (#AMJuster translator): via @newcriterion (the last significant poem written in Latin)".

See also this.

Big chill …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Cold Snap by Cynthia Morrison Phoel (2010).

Something to think on …

All knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use.
— A. E. Housman, born on this date in 1859

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Recommended …

Lantern Theater's 'Tempest': A victory for kindliness, with an ache at the heart.

Debbie and I went last night. It is a fine production and well worth seeing. It is also my favorite Shakespeare play.

Here's a production from when television was a vast wasteland:

Radical grounding …

 Mr. Emerson’s Tombstone by Wilfred M. McClay | Articles | First Things.

… the point is this: the “liberal” elements in early American political thought must always be understood as being propounded in tension with other, far more restrictive—and more communitarian—views of human nature and human society. Protestant Christianity must be regarded as the most important of these forces. To the extent that Protestantism underwrote an emphasis upon individuality, it was in the form of a  constrained individuality. 

On her birthday …

… Flannery O'Connor Reads 'Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction' (c. 1960) | Open Culture. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Faith in language …

 on Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions by Alberto Manguel (Yale University Press) | On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Ron Slate (GD). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pledge of allegiance …

… Poem | Ode to Our Lady | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anniversary …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Flannery O’Connor — b. March, 25, 1925.

A doer of good …


Their thing …

Paul Davis On Crime: My Piece On Cosa Nostra: The Threat Of Organized Crime In America.

Inquirer reviews …

… including this one by yours truly: Local poet Sarah Blake's 'Let's Not Live on Earth': Zombies, monsters, sci-fi, and big messages, without preaching.

… 'Body and Soul' by Panthea Reid: A long love, a long grief, the presence of a soul.

'Just the Funny Parts' by Nell Scovell: Ambition, sexual politics, and a woman's way in TV-land.
 'Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World': How a picture of five women ignited modernism.

Book vs movie...

Calamitous wrangles...

Something to think on …

Imagination is not enough. Knowledge is necessary.
— Paul Scott, born on this date in 1920

Saturday, March 24, 2018

I am far from a lock them up kind of person but I found this NYT article baffling

The article is on youth incarceration and is called The New Superpredator Myth on how society is overreacting with unfair policing, prosecution and sentences to some perceived youth (mostly of color) menace.  And I am sure I would agree with the premise.  But the first two paragraphs are:
The criminologist John DiIulio sparked panic in 1995 when he predicted there would be an explosion of juvenile superpredators in the coming years, resulting in widespread violence. His baseless theory was wrong; youth crime has fallen dramatically ever since. 
Mr. DiIulio has retracted some of his ideas, but the damage is done. The “superpredator myth” [he started] ushered in a wave of intensified policing and harsher sentences that fueled mass incarceration.
But here is what I don't get: Isn't the (red) sentence in the second quoted paragraph, "The super predator myth [in 1995] ... fueled mass incarceration" actually the cause of the drop in youth crime (the red clause in the first paragraph)?

In other words, doesn't the author prove something they were at least inferentially arguing against: That mass incarceration has led to the drop in superpredators and in fact youth crime since 1995?  

It's a start …

… 12 Horrible Messages Hollywood Sends to Americans | Lifestyle.

When I was growing up, Hollywood's motto was "Movies are better than ever." Not now.

Q&A …

 Paul Davis On Crime: The Quantum Spy: My Q&A With Spy Novelist And Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius.


 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Blogging Note.

Hypnotic ...

Watch the snow fall on Big Sky MT's Snowstake Cam


 Philip Kerr, author of Bernie Gunther novels, dies aged 62 | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Experience triumphs over theory …

… How a blind artist is challenging our understanding of colour. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

Hmm …

… The Democrats Abandon Catholics - WSJ.

I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

Tracking the decline …

 The University of Denial - WSJ.

When it comes to grades—which measure students’ knowledge, proficiency and achievement—we can declare they don’t matter and that complete nondisclosure is therefore a wise course.
The problem is that students, including law students, go out into the real world. They are hired, paid and expected to perform, and their actions have real consequences for others. Whether we like it or not, grades help predict future performance. Some social actors acknowledge this, implicitly or overtly. As a law professor, I observe, for example, that federal judges unapologetically select clerks based on academic record and rank, and that elite law firms are also highly grade-conscious.

Differentiate …

Problems & Mysteries | Issue 125 | Philosophy Now. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The difference between problems and mysteries has been well expressed by the French Catholic existentialist Gabriel Marcel:
“A problem is something which I meet which I find completely before me, but which I can lay siege to and reduce. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity.” (Being and Having, 1949).
Problems are localized and ‘out there’, whereas mysteries enclose us.

The child is parent to the adult, or, parents teach your children well ...

LA JOLLA—In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Salk Institute scientists report in the journal Science that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

Camouflaged Elites

Just cause they dress Victor Davis Hanson.



Baldwin's Book Store in West Chester PA.  One of the independents.  Picture story here.

Sea and self …

 Zealotry of Guerin: The Angry Sea (Whistler), Sonnet #397.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Pulling no punches...

...I review a new book that merrily dives into surgery's bloody past: On the cutting edge

In case you wondered …

… Madness and civilization | The influences and output of Cormac McCarthy. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Anyone who has read my review of The Road knows I am not a fan.

Window critter …

… Bird by Dorianne Laux : American Life in Poetry. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

On and on …

… A Never-Ending Poem Grows in the Netherlands | Travel | Smithsonian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Something to think on …

A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.
— Friedrich von Hayek, who died on this date in 1992


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Something to think on …

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.
— Malcolm Muggeridge, born on this date in 1903

Not so non …

 Time to call 'In Cold Blood' fiction? - Richard Gilbert.

So now they DO know you're a dog ...

Years ago I wrote on here about a book called The Transparent Society by David Brin (I can't find the post).  The conceit was that with the Internet everything will be visible so no one really has to worry about their privacy -- no one has any.  The author didn't really predict social media interactions, and people giving information away, but the end the result is the same.

This relates to the paranoia about Facebook, etc. because you are giving information away everywhere on the Internet -- with every search you do on Google or other places, every website you visit, every time you buy over the Internet.  It isn't just one single website that you have to be worried about -- each of them tracks you if they can, and even if they can't through your privacy settings you visits are often tracked by central advertising agencies -- which then decide which ads to serve to you.

So in other words, the old joke that "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" isn't really relevant anymore.  Your information is tracked. diced and sold, and you can't call it back.

Once upon a time …

… When Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Bookstore. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Even though most of Wright’s works have been obsessively catalogued by scholars, information on Browne’s Bookstore was difficult to find. From a website that sells windows and lamp patterns modeled on Wright’s I gleaned that for the bookstore, Wright had replicated the windows he used for the children’s playroom in his home. A clearer picture started to emerge only after I searched through scans of century-old newspapers, flipped through out-of-print memoirs, and made a trek to the Fine Arts 

Reappraisal …

… The Popular Connoisseur | by Richard Dorment | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

In most of his articles, books, lectures, and broadcasts from the late 1920s onward Clark synthesized formalist and iconographical approaches to the study of art with historical understanding to create a method of inquiry that is uniquely his. He first asks who, what, when, and where the work was made, then questions why and under what circumstances the artist made it—and, crucially, how it was understood by those who first saw it. Clark always relates an artwork to its historical precedents and assesses the degree to which it conforms to or departs from earlier representations of the same subject.

Withdrawing …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Blogging Note: Blogger, Facebook, Twitter et al.

Something to return to …

… First Known When Lost: A Poem.

Remembering …

 Human Rights Day: A poem about Sharpeville by Dennis Brutus. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Meanwhile, there's this from Newsweek.

Further evidence in support of the Original Sin hypothesis.

Evergreen …

In ‘Godsong,’ a New Poem That’s 2,000 Years Old. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
Thoreau took it with him to Walden Pond. Himmler carried a copy in his pocket. Whitman supposedly kept his under his pillow as he lay dying. Gandhi declared it to be his guide — as did his assassin, Nathuram Godse, who carried it with him to the gallows.

Q&A …

… Ferlinghetti speaks out at 99, his voice as vital as ever - San Francisco Chronicle. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

“As a poet,” he says with a laugh, “I don’t deal in reality.”

More about Masha Ivashintsova …

 Found: 30,000 Photographs by the ‘Russian Vivian Maier’ | Smart News | Smithsonian: Masha Ivashintsova. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Take the tour …

… The National Museum of Scotland can be toured via Google StreetView | Digital meets Culture. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Simply devastating

… ‘Great Kanto, 1923’ – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Good for him …

… Yes, Jordan Peterson Really Is That Smart.

As you might expect, controversy has followed, most recently having to do with a negative review about his book. In response to a New York Review of Books essay by the Indian novelist and essayist Pankaj Mishra titled, “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism,” Peterson tweeted at Mishra: “And you call me a fascist? You sanctimonious prick. If you were in my room at the moment, I’d slap you happily.”
I thought the Mishra piece was terrible and wondered why NYRB had published it. Niall Ferguson recently threatened to sue Mishra for libel after he accused Ferguson of racism in a piece he wrote for the London Review of Books.  
For what it’s worth, Peterson doesn’t see himself as a conservative, so much as a “terrified traditionalist” who generally believes in exercising caution over endorsing sweeping or radical cultural changes.
Sounds like me.

Something to think on …

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who died on this date in 1832

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A sonnet and some questions …

Hmm …

… The Advice Columnists Who Prescribe Literature as Medicine | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I presume you would first have to have the necessary problems.

Pilgrims …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd.

Ackroyd has also written a biography of Chaucer.

The times they are a changing...and/or we really don't remember right.

Hazleton was another former coal mining town slipping into decline until a wave of Latinos arrived. It would not be an overstatement to say a tidal wave. In 2000 Hazleton’s 23,399 residents were 95 percent non-Hispanic white and less than 5 percent Latino. By 2016 Latinos became the majority, composing 52 percent of the population, while the white share plunged to 44 percent.
This article, partially profiling Hazleton PA, is from National Geographic's race issue.  There is a quote later on too:
White Hazletonians consistently recalled a city that was “close-knit, quiet, obedient, honest, harmless, and hardworking” and described newcomers (Latinos) as “loud, disobedient, manipulative, lawless, and lazy.”  
The Hazletonians interviewed are wrong.  Interesting how they falsely glorify those days.  

Hazleton has always been a pit during my lifetime -- over many years.  My parents were fron there, and couldn't wait to flee.  I still go back to visit relatives.  

Hazleton was a mining city.  It fell apart in post WWII - when the mines started to close and strip mining took over.  The strip mines required many fewer people, and Hazleton had no other industry.  It was a depressed place for many years following.  

Even before that it was a harsh town -- my dad used to tell the story of his mother's first husband dying in the mines one day and the workers simply brought his body back to her porch, left him there, and that was that. 

Getting at the truth …

As If!  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Appiah considers another type of idealization that he calls “counter-normative”: thinking or acting as if a moral principle is true although we know it isn’t. He believes we do this when we treat certain prohibitions—against murder or torture, for example—as moral absolutes. His view is that strictly, there are exceptions to any such rule, but it may be better to treat it as exceptionless. In that way we will be sure to avoid unjustified violations, without countervailing risk, since “it is remarkably unlikely that I will ever be in one of those situations where it might be that murder was permissible (and even less likely that I will ever be in one where it is required).” Appiah adds that sometimes the advantage of the fiction will depend on its acceptance not by an individual but by a community. Perhaps the strict rule against making false promises would be an example, since even if it is not universally obeyed, the general belief that it is generally accepted encourages people to trust one another.

Something to think on …

Despair is the only genuine atheism.
— Jean Paul, born on this date in 1763

Listen in …

… Episode 261 – Robert Weil – The Virtual Memories Show.

“Translation editing is all about the idiom.”

Explications welcome …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Agatha Christie

Frank writes below about an Agatha Christie biography.  Coincidentally I have been rereading her books, they are very inexpensive through Amazon Kindle and If you need really good entertainment you can do far worse than her books.  

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Ten Little Soldiers, The Secret Adversary are so remarkably well written, with characters and plots that are simply engrossing, and her style is very clean and almost sparse, like Elmore Leonard sparse, far moreso than I remembered.  She was an innovator in many ways too, so if you haven't read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd I would encourage to to do that too.

Warning: There is casual racism throughout which I also forgot or never noticed originally.  It is shocking now.  That was the era however.  

LAST Minute deadline ...

for the Sewanee Writers' Conference

Hear, hear …

… Instapundit — BACK TO THE FUTURE.

In praise of Laurence Sterne …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `Tears, Fancy Cakes and Curry'.

Mirror images …

… Schiller’s Mary Stuart: a play of mighty opposites for two great actresses | The Book Haven.

One of my complaints about contemporary theater has to do with how little repertory theater there is. Conductors make their reputations by interpreting great works from the past. Actors and directors ought to do the same. This problem also afflicts ballet. How often does one see a performance of The Rite of Spring or Debussy's Jeux? Instead, you get Mendelssohn's violin concerto revised so it can be danced to. If you want any live acquaintance with the music, you have to settle for hearing it in the concert hall. I would love to be able to actually see plays by Pirandello, Giraudoux, Anouilh, Hauptmann, J.B. Priestley  Enid Bagnold. And there are many more than that.

Well, this looks interesting …

Here's some more information:

Years after he changed the landscape of American filmmaking with 1973’s THE EXORCIST, director, co-writer and legendary storyteller William Friedkin moves from fiction to fact with his new documentary, THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH. What began as a brief conversation between Friedkin and Father Gabrielle Amorth – the head Exorcist for the Diocese of Rome for over 30 years – as two professionals who knew of each other’s work soon transformed into an once-in-a- lifetime opportunity, as Amorth agreed Friedkin could film an exorcism ceremony. It would be the ninth exorcism for a painfully afflicted woman, Cristina (a pseudonym), who had already been under Father Amorth’s care – and it would be filmed by Friedkin alone, with no other crew allowed, no light other than the natural light in the room and a small digital camera-and-mic unit that could capture the ritual and its revelations.
Combining the startling and singular footage from Cristina’s exorcism with interviews from priests and psychologists, neurosurgeons and non-believers, Friedkin guides us on a journey into the twilight world between the boundaries of what we know and what we don’t with a singular and startling guide in the form of the urbane, charming and self-deprecatingly funny Father Amorth, a man who laughs in the face of the Devil both figuratively and literally. Combining Friedkin’s past memories and present observations with archival footage and new interviews – as well as also presenting what may be the only real exorcism ceremony captured on film – THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH is a startling and surprising story of the religion, the ritual and the real-world victims involved in possession and exorcism.

Bottoms up …

… The Time I Drank with Borges in a Scottish Pub | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

His deep voice boomed, beautifully controlled, almost theatrical. The accent was slight: his grandmother had been English, and he had grown up with the language. He read Shakespeare and Wells, Stevenson and Chesterton, Wilde, and any number of obscure poets in English. “I adore Chidiock Tichborne,” he said to me. “Don’t you?” He could recite long passages of Anglo-Saxon verse from memory.

Music and philosophy …

 BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, John Gray. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Perfect for the waiting room …

 Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

It's everywhere …

… PETER HITCHENS: The 'patriotic' thought police came for Corbyn. You are next - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The State, that cawing rookery of committees and subcommittees.
— V. S. Pritchett, who died on this date in 1997

Monday, March 19, 2018

What Agatha knew …

 Agatha Christie’s life rivaled the immortal mysteries she created.

Hmm …

The Classics Scholar Redefining What Twitter Can Do. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“Many translations import misogynistic language when it isn't there in the Greek,” she wrote. “In [Robert] Fagles’ best-selling version, ‘You sluts -- the suitors’ whores!’ [Stanley] Lombardo: ‘Sluts’. [Richmond] Lattimore: ‘Creatures’. [Robert] Fitzgerald: ‘Sluts’. [Alexander] Pope’s is the best: ‘nightly prostitutes to shame’.”
I guess I'm insufficiently sensitive to nuance. I just read a couple of translations of these passages online and all of them struck me as pretty gruesome. It is obvious that Telemachus does not like these ladies and hasn't for a long time. The women don't seem to put up any struggle. They don't say anything. Maybe the Greek text is less "misogynistic" than some translations suggest, but death by slow strangulation hardly suggests that Telemachus had much respect for the women, however delicate the language may be. The treatment of Melanthius doesn't show a lot of respect for men, either. 


… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Blogging Note.

Immersive Music

Little colored bubbles fltoat ever higher, growing larger as they rise toward the sky. People drift into a circle of six towering screens, wearing high-tech 3-D holographic visors, like moon-walkers taking their first steps in an alien atmosphere.They reach out their arms and use their thumbs and forefingers to pinch the air in front of them. Each time they do, new bubbles appear, and each one emits a single, precise musical tone.The tones combine and dissipate; there is the sound of crickets chirping, and waves of white noise.This is “Bloom: Open Space,” an art and music installation created by the influential producer and music pioneer Brian Eno and his frequent collaborator, the musician and software designer Peter Chilvers.

Because he was really good?

… Why Billy Wilder is Deemed the Greatest Screenwriter of All Time. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Meanwhile, in World Politics ...

Busy Schedule Forces Vladimir Putin To Move Up Election Win A Couple Days Early
It's from The Onion but whither satire in today's age?

Restoration …

… A Review of Scott Freeman’s Saving Tarboo Creek | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

A local band …

 Roman Music – Roman's ruthless energy is not to be missed.

Jim Roman, the drummer, is the greeter at 8 AM Mass at my parish. Just thought I'd give his band a plug.

Very interesting indeed …

… Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard – The Movie! | The Book Haven.

Listen in …

 About Last Night | Or is it four?

Taking on the Bard …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Shakespeare via Cornwell.

Beautiful …

… A Garden for Moonlight - 36.08. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

No mean feat …

… Informal Inquiries (2nd edition): Reading along with John Adams.

In case you wondered …

… Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
… neither Abraham nor Moses is available as a starting point for a modern historian, for the simple reason that neither of them can be proved to have existed. Indeed, for a scholar who subscribes to critical and scientific canons of evidence, it is quite certain that they did not exist, since their stories are full of things that could not possibly have happened: the voices from Heaven, the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea. Instead, the secular historian must find a starting point that is well attested in non-Biblical evidence, and work forward from there. Already, in this decision, Jewish memory is separated from Jewish history; the latter must study the former, but must not rely on it.
Hard to get more parochial than this. These people couldn't have existed because the miraculous is impossible. Presumably, all mystical experiences are also impossible — unless we want to psychologize them in some intellectually fashionable manner. I'll stick with Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hmm …

… The voices of ancient women - Medieval manuscripts blog. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

I wonder if there are any fragments recording things other than complaints and petitions.

Something to think on …

Broke is a temporary condition, poor is a state of mind.
— Richard Francis Burton, born on this date in 1821

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The hard problem …

 Maverick Philosopher: The Problem of Consciousness and Galen Strawson's Non-Solution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mark thy calendar …




in association with PEN America

will present a poetry reading

on Gun Control and Sexual Harassment

We would love it if you would read for five minutes,

your own work, or another’s, or a combination of both

Tuesday, March 20, 7-8:30 PM

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

     This Event Is Free


Email or text me: 215.808.9507





in association with PEN America

will present a Poetry Reading

on Gun Control and Sexual Harassment

Hosted by Leonard Gontarek


     This Event Is Free

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

If you would like to read a poem
in the open reading, sign up in


If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Brian Turner