Mar 27, 2002
Book hunting at local used dealers the other day I found this great book and now I have begun reading it. I watched the movie before, not knowing it was connected to a book, and the movie was delightful.
The prose and the structure of the book give it a heavily authentic Mexican-American feel. It seems to wander, to tell local legends as a backdrop necessary to understand the current story.
It is a great book that feels like something from an oral tradition.
Spring Break isn't what I planned on, but I'm having a good time anyway.
I intended to visit my Uncle, Ron Silliman, in Philidelphia. My ride to Philly, planned out a month ago, fell through and I'm still in South/central Michigan. It's snowing, and it's the Midwest and not much of a get away. But then a break is a break any time I can sleep in and read a lot and learn without the restrictions of classes.
And I'm enjoying myself even if I am banished/stranded to this place.
I stayed the first few days my friend, fellow student and student journalist Elliot Wild. He was also a homeschooler and we had fun relaxing, cooking, watching movies and playing. One night we stayed up until 3 a.m. playing a presidential/history/geography trivia game. When we were almost done with the game as it was meant to be layed we changed the rules and then it lasted until 3 a.m. This is the kind of fun that just happens, it can't be intentional.
Now I am at another friends home. I'm staying with the Stacks in Hillsdale. Emily, a friend of mine, has gone to Boston for Spring Break and I am staying with her parents and brother. They are great people, very real and practicle and unpretensious in a solid Midwestern way. I knew them before, I ate dinner at their home once and attend their church, and am very comfortable. You learn a lot about someone staying in their home and sleeping in their childhood room.
I am enjoying myself beyond making the best of things.
Mar 21, 2002
Mar 20, 2002
Feeling overwhelmed? Just want to get away? This may be the answer I was looking for.
Looking through note to a class in astrophysics I took last year and found the answer in my notes--escape velocity.
All it takes to break loose from the endless orbit is a speed greater than the square root of two times the gravity times the mass divided by the radius of the object holding you in orbit.
I expect to pull out any day now.
Of course, if your situation is huge (a lot of mass or a large radius) or weighty (gravity) then you may be stuck going in circles, but at least this equation tells you what effort (speed) is required to escape.
Mar 19, 2002
Sometimes editors are lousy. Writers soon find that editors don't always have journalistic principles in mind. I'm not sure if a cautious editor or an uncautious editor is worse. In recent news from the New York Post we have a story about a reporter getting canned for writing about the NY Post business partner Walt Disney and an editor getting canned by her editor because she had her own ideas.
This was the same woman who, before she was an editor, got the information the headline: Headless body in a topless bar. That was surely one of the headlines in headline history and proved, if there ever was any doubt, that crime reporting is strange.
I've had good editors so far. Of course part of that is because I write good stories and they leave me pretty much alone. I really liked my editor at the daily I worked at over the summer (and may work at again this summer). His main concern was the story and that is the way I like journalists.
Recieved a hand written letter from my college president today on the topic of art. It is his response to the opinion piece I wrote for the college paper. He asks intelligent questions about how I see the nature of art.
He seems to think we disagree on questions of history and progress. I think once I define art and successful (good) art the questions will change. I admire the way he has dealt with our disagreement and how he has responded to what he sees as a student in error. He hasn't used anything but reason in our arguments thus far. He has not pulled rank, age or experience or in anyway tried to change my position without changing my mind.
I plan to respond with a full letter over Easter break and also to invite him to a Fairfield presentation I am going to give on the topic.
When I have a moment I will post the letter in full on the docuements page.
Mar 18, 2002
From the site linked to below:
"Hiroyuki Goto, 21, the current world record holder for the most digits of Pi memorized, required over nine hours to recite 42000+ digits [Seattle Times, 2-26-95].
To recite all the known digits of Pi (6.4 billion digits) would take 133 years with no pause for coffee or sleep."
More evidence that the universe is a knowable place, built on a logical system that can be understood and described.
I was reading The Second Creation today, a history of 20th century physics I am trying to read inbetween classes and homework, and came accross the description in the book of the discovery of the quatification of the subatomic particles.
Particles are simple, they have no smell, taste, color or any of the things that distinguish objects in the world we live in. Particles can be described with a few numbers. You can fully describe a particle if you can quantify its energy, angular momentum, orientation in space and rotation speed. A complete set of these numbers are called quantum numbers. The numbers are mostly fixed. Everyone of the numbers except orientation in space is a fixed number.
Trying to determine the number for the rotation of the electrons, the speed with which they spin as they circle around the nucleus, scientists (two Dutchmen named Samuel Goudsmit and George Uhlenbeck) discovered the number is Planck's constant (the ratio of a photon's energy to its frequency, given as E = hv) divided by twice pi. I find this fascinating and exciting and amazing because of the numerical relationships.
Why should pi, a number we find in the relationship between the diameter and the circumfrence of a circle and a strange number at that, help to quantify subatomic particles. I am a believe in an ordered universe and in the possibility of mathamatical explainations of this logicla system. I think this supports that belief but I am ignorant enough that I will have to keep reading to know if that is true.
Watch for sanity-saving posts.
Mar 17, 2002
In honour of Patrick and the Irish and my own Irish blood, I am posting the words to my favorite Irish Martyr song.
See the fleet foot host of men
Who speed with faces drawn
From farmstead and from fisher's cot
Along the banks of Ban.
They come with vengence in their eye,
Too late, too late are they
For young Roddy McCorely, he goes to die
On the bridge of tomb today.
Up that narrow street he steps,
Smiling, proud and young
About the hemp rope on his neck
The golden ringlets flung.
There is never a tear in his blue eye,
Both bright and sad are they,
For young Roddy McCorely, he goes to die
On the bridge of tomb today.
When he last stepped up that street,
Shining pike in hand,
Behind him marched in grim array
A stalward marching band.
For Ireland! For Ireland!
He led them to the fray,
And young Roddy McCorely, he goes to die
On the bridge of tomb today.
Well there never was one of all your dead
More bravely fell in fray
Then he who marches to his fate
At the bridge of tomb today.
True to the last, true to the last,
He walks the upward way,
And young Roddy McCorely, he goes to die
At the bride of tomb today.
I wanted to post the closing hymn from the service at Christ Church today. Is there a clearer presentation of the Trinity and His dominion?
Holy Father, Holy Son
Holy Spirit, three we name thee;
One in essence, only One,
Undivided God, we claim thee.
And adoring, bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.
Holy God we praise thy Name,
Lord of all we bow before thee.
All on earth thy scepter claim,
All in heaven above adore thee.
Infinite thy vast domain,
Everlasting is thy Name.
Mar 16, 2002
Today at lunch I was talking about the west coast--the mountains and the ocean and the valleys and the canals and the fields and the trees. Mentaly I drove from the North Olympic Peninsula through the mountains of Oregon and the San Juaquin Valley and the California desert.
I spent time in Seattle--riding the ferry east across the sound, standing on the back deck in the wind, watching the space neddle in the dark. I spent time in San Francisco, with fog rolling in from the Bay, and Berkely, hanging out Telegraph avenue with the students and having a picnic on Indian Rock. I crosse the Columbia river into Portland, eat pizza at Rocky's and spent hours in Powells, the best used bookstore in the world.
I drove back along the coast and saw the Redwoods and the cliffs and got a tan on my left arm from hanging it out the window as I drove.
I guess I'm feeling some wanderlust right now, strangely mixed with homesickness.
Today is beautiful. The sky is clear and blue. A slight breeze is blowing.
I'm missing my mountains and my ocean. The sky is so blue I look to the horizon to see the mountains in their beautiful clarity. I breathe the air to taste the salt, to feel the ocean in my lungs. The skyline is empty and the breeze is saltless.
Mar 15, 2002
Dave Van Ronk and Waylon Jennings are dead and the great music of America--our native blues, folk and rock--has passed a little more into history.
Waylon Jennings cheated death on "the day that music died." Giving up his seat to J. P. Richardson, Waylon wasn't on the plane that crashed with Buddy Holly, Little Richie and Richardson--called the Big Bopper--when it crashed. Music didn't die, Waylon carried his bass sound onward for another 43 years.
He was a native of Texas and played the outlaw with Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson while they rejected Nashville and held forth with the sound of hard living, hard work and true confessions.
Van Ronk, 1936-2002, taught Bob Dylan the Blues. Dylan said he heard House of the Rising Sun for the rist time when Van Ronk played it. Van Ronk was know as the founding father of the 1960s folk music. He was active in the hootanannies, helped the Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs and Janis Ian when they were rising artists, and was a king in Greenwich Villiage.
Out music is richer today because he lived. When he died on February 10 our connection to our musical roots died a little. But Van Ronk's work will live on whenever beat of blues, folk or rock are heard, whenever the music entwined with sweat and blue jeans and earth is played.
Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for the obituaries and the memorializing of these two men who forged our musical roots with the sounds of their guitars.
Today I have crossed a new threshold of journalism. In response to a story I wrote about the arrest of a Hillsdale College student and former basketball star I received a phone call from an angry unidentified male.
He said I had no right to write the story, should send my resume to the National Enquirer, some foul statements and then told me if he ever ran into me at a party he would hurt me.
I don't expect anything to come of it. I don't attend those parties and I think if he intends to act he would have already. The student directory lists the address as well as the phone number.
I knew that I would get such a reaction eventually and am glad to have crossed the line. The joke among my friends is that I am celebrating my first death threat.
A good journalist can't afford to be soft.
Mar 14, 2002
Seraphim, friend and fellow student journalist here at Hillsdale, thinks the Ed Carter case of stolen credit cards, one that I reported for the paper, may have some racial implications.
I doubt it does, beyond the fact the administration will avoid mentioning Carter is black. It seems fairly open and shut. The cards were in his pockets. A lawyer would probably have a rough time with this one. Carter could plead stupidity (do you begin to write your own name when signing for a purchase with a stolen credit card and then scratch it out and write the name on the card?) but that wont get him far.
A few points do seem to have potential chinks if they are to be found. 1, the suspicion of the jewlery store clerck may have been aroused by a black man buying jewlery (the clerck would be high on my list of people to find and interview). 2, the arrest may not be valid (meaning the evidence would be thrown out) and may be based racial description. Police arrested Carter upon recognizing him from a description given by a jewlery store clerck. Can they arrest you if you fit a description? If that description said something like "tall black male" then race could be brought in. (Carter has a large tatoo on his elbow but I don't know if that was covered up).
Intersting issue. Race certainly is hot, especially in this anti-affirmative action private school and the surrounding Midwestern culture.
I personally don't think racism is as prevalent as it is generally portrayed to be. It will be interesting to see the results of the investigative journalism.
Mar 13, 2002
In a previous post I quoted Einstien's reaction to the proposition that everything can be expressed scientifically. He said that describing a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure would be meaningless.
I though of this in philosophy class today when discussing dualism, and had a few thoughts.
All nature can be described in mathamatical formulas. All mathamatical formulas should be transferable into bianary code, a language/program used to run computers that uses only 1s and 0s. Shouldn't we then be able to program a computer to observe the universe in as good a way or in a superior way to humans?
We could program a computer to measure the pressure variations in a Beethoven symphony but at this point we would still say the computer does not listen to the symphony in the same way we do because we understand it and because we hear it as more than pressure variations. But, if everything can be expressed in mathamatical formulas and all mathamatical formulas can be written in bianary, then shouldn't we be able to discover the mathamatic description of our understanding and whatever "more" it is that we hear in a symphony, and translate it into bianary?
The computer then, with a bianary system, could be programed to understand in a way equal to the way a human understands.
I think this leaves us with a man made consciousness and artificial intelligence or man as physical machine. Is man merely a computer or can a computer become a man?
I'm certainly not happy with either conclusion. Hopefully I'm missing something in my logic or my premises.
Can you get an excuse for your late assignment because you were reading Dante for the fun of it? Can you miss class to delve into the intricacies of chess? Can you ignore homework to study epistomology?
Life is cruel in offering so much. The abundance of our world is glorious.
My good friend Jeff Nelson has writen and posted a piece of work called Encounter. If ever there was a romantic writing about restraining ones emotions this is surely it.
I read this when Jeff wrote it, a year or so ago, and was moved by it. I still am. It is strong, beautiful and a clear expression of Jeff's sober and hopeful additude toward romance, an additude with which I hearily concur.
Listening to Simon and Garfunkel's album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" and going a little crazy with Kant I hear the lyrics:
"Through the corridors of sleep
Past the shadows, dark and deep
My mind dances and leaps in confusion
I don't know what is real
I can't touch what I feel
And I hide behind the sheild of my illusion"
These lyrics, from the opening of the song "Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall," sure sound like Descartes with Cartesian doubt and the Veil of Ideas and the general state of confusion he leads himself and his reader into.
So, art is imitating the way life is if we can know nothing about life and if we doubt or disbelieve everything about the world we know?
It is a good song. I'm going a little crazy here.
I'm in the middle of a paper about Kant and the logic leading to his Catagorical Imperative. Kant's writing is dense, practically inpenatrable. His writing is practically a parody of bad philosophy writing.
I think Kant ofuscates because his ideas aren't as profound as he wants them to be.
I'm supposed to lay out his premises leading to the conclusion of the Catagorical Imperative. Finding his premises are no easy task, but linking them to his conclusion is a bear. I am looking for a logical error--that's the second half of the assigned topic--which might be why logic seems so hard.
Working with moral theories, we are looking at the is/ought problem. The problem being the logical impossibility of deducing an ought, a command about the way man lives, from an is, empirical facts about the world.
Kant, I think, has this logical flaw but undersatnding his logic enough to find the errors has been quite a challenge. None of the books in our school library or the sources on the web I have looked speak of logical problems with Kant's Catagorical Imperative or the is/ought problem. I find this strange and suspect my prof is a canny old man.
I let you know how the results of my search/paper go.
How the American War for Independence sought to defend the old order.
By Daniel Silliman
The English ideal of self-government stretches far into the past. The idea of men governing themselves has roots in Hebrew law, Greek democracy, and the Roman Republic. Yet, the ideal of self-government was an idea Englishmen clung to as uniquely their own. It was a habit; a sentiment confirmed in the hearts of all Englishmen, it had become a self-definition.
Former basketball player had stolen credit cards, marijuana in his pocket when arrested
By Daniel Silliman
A Hillsdale College student was arrested for allegedly stealing two credit cards Saturday.
Edward James Carter, 23, is facing six felony charges and one misdemeanor after he allegedly stole two credit cards from fellow student Adam Schaper. When arrested, Carter had Schaper’s Visa and Discoverer credit cards as well as a plastic bag of marijuana in his pockets.
Mar 12, 2002
I've just started reading a book (outside of class) on the history of 20th century physics. It is called "The Second Creation" and promises to be very interesting. It is all about the history, focusing on the people involved, but not ignoring the ideas. I hope to gain a greater understanding of the concepts involved.
The book starts with Unification Theory or, as some physicists like to call it, the Theory of Everything. The conscepts, and the idea of the concepts, can be fascinating. "A complete description of the foundations of matter, space and time, a set of linked equations containing the elements of the cosmos," as the book, writen by Robert Crease and Charles Mann, says, would be a great breakthrough and have to be restled with among philisophical fields. It would deal with the disonance and the gap between Newtonian and Quantum physics, certainly a dissonance and gap where unification is needed.
Mar 9, 2002
"So I asked Einstien one day, 'Do you believe that absolutely everything can be expressed scientifically?'
"'Yes,' he replied, 'it would be possible but it would make no sense. It would be description without meaning -- as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.'"
--Hedwig Born in "Helle Zeit"
I am adding a documents page. Over there I will post papers and longer stuff that might clog up this main page.
Mar 8, 2002
"There on the shelves were personal affirmations of faith by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, a born-again diet plan, a transcription of the horrible (though rather unimaginative) things you can hear if you play rock and roll records backward, and a weighty tome arguing that every time the New Testament says "wine" it really means "grape juice." But I couldn't find anything you'd actually call a book. The Bibles themselves had names like A Bible Even You Can Read and The Bible in English Just Like Jesus Talked."
—P.J. O'Rourke, Holidays in Hell
This movie heroized soldiers in the way only the men of WWII have been heroized before. Conservatives--notably those posting on National Review Online--didn't like the violence, and indeed We Were Soldiers has footage in the same league as Saving Private Ryan and Blackhawk Down. Liberals still don't like the war.
Vietnam War movies have had a hard time. In my opinion they were all bad until this one. They either make it a pure war movie, Rambo/Terminator style, and avoid all philisophical content, or they make the story a conflict with ourselves, way too political, partisan and biased. We Were Soldiers gives us a good story that feels like history. It doesn't sell us a presupposed reality or avoid the moral questions of the war.
The reviewer does a good job at showing the Boomers' moral development and how their emotional additude has shifted enough to respect the "Greatest Generation" and glorify WWII but hasn't yet allowed many of them to look on Vietnam unjaded.
This is the first Vietnam War movie that was intended to be timeless and wasn't exclusivly made for vets and protestors.
Besides, the photojournalist character and scences were awesome and should be required viewing in all journalism classes.
Note the links added to the page. These are sites I read. Enjoy.
Reviews of "The Searchers" and "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance," John Ford films 4 and 5.
Every once in a while you realize you don't know as much as you think you know. The lack of an end quote resulted in the monstrosity you see in the "My Darling Clementine" posts. The error was done in such a way that it cannot be fixed so we will have to live with them.
I promise never to do it again.
I didn't like this film. It tells the story of the gunfight at the OK corral but is wrong on almost every historical detail. having seen more recent and accurate films and read a few books on the subject, I disliked the complete recreation of the story. Everything from why the Earps come to Tombstone to their relationship to Doc Holiday to Holiday's death is historically wrong.
What is interesting is why Ford bent the story. With his version we see Fordian (excuse the phrase) themes emerge. Holiday represents savagery in competition with Clementine and the Earps' representing civilization. Holiday represents the loner outside the community who will be vital to the survival and the future of the community but can never partake.
I find the reasons for the bending interesting but would have told him to find a story that fits his themes.
Ford retells the story of Gen. George Custer. He changes parts of the story in order to better portray the spirit of the situation, getting inside Custer the man. He sets him in the South West both so he can use his beloved Monument Valley but also so he can move away from the then typical heroization of Custer and tell a fuller story.
I have trouble enjoying the film because the main character, played by Henry Fonda, is such a bitter and uptight fellow. I don't like people like the he portrays and it makes it hard to enjoy the film. Seeing Temple as an older girl is interesting--watching her tenative attempts to act while depending on being cute. The other characters are enjoyable and interesting.
The closing of this film, where the second in command covers up for his reckless, stupid and now (with his soldiers) dead commander, is a forerunner to the "Print the Legend" ending of "Who Shot Liberty Valance," a latter film. Ford attempts to balance the need for legend and myth in a society with a respect for truth and fact. It is a precarious weighing of the scales. History professors in the audience seemed uneasy with the move to disregard history in favor of myth.
For the record, my first mention of him is in a promotional and not combative. This was not so on his site. He responds on his blog to my e-mail response to his opinion piece in the Collegian. I shall respond to his blog on my blog and I think we will have a good blog war. Maybe not on the scale of the Goldberg/Sullivan or the Goldberg/LewRockwell wars, but a blog war nonetheless.
It has come to my attention that our college president, Larry Arnn, has spoken extensivly of me and our conversation at college dinners.
I find this funny. Should I send him a bill for my provision of subject matter?
Arnn has dinner with all the seniors of the college every year. They go to the president's house, called Broadlawn, in groups of 16 or something. He likes to talk philosophy and history--mostly the merits of conservatism and Churchill--and feel like he is testing the students. In his mind it is something like a exit exame although it has no bearing on the students' exit.
He also like to use the conversations later when speaking with donars and the parents of prosppective students. I suppose I have given him material for all of the dinners above.
Pretty good for my first year at this school. Ahhhhhhh, the arrogance kicks in.
In today's Collegian, our college paper, I was attacked in the letters to the editor. Both of them said I didn't know what I was talking about, didn't understand art and am not qualified to talk about art.
Their arguments aren't devastating to mine. A few are attacking straw men I didn't set up, a few misunderstand what I said and a few are fair points.
The only part of the letters that suprised me are the ones that are personal. One letter from an art major says: "If he wanted a serious debate, however, Silliman should have based his arguments on logic and fact instead of unfounded opinion." She goes on to accuse me of a lack of research and sweeping generalizations. A second writer, a senior, says: "Silliman's ...article was so weak it demonstrates to me that he doesn't really know all that much about art." She concludes by saying: "I think Silliman should look harder at the Hillsdale student's creation. If they didn't say anything to him, it was probably because the message went over his head."
To reaffirm my brashness I am posting the articles on my dorm room door as trophies.
Mar 5, 2002
It takes a dash of those two qualities, if we can call them qualities, to be a journalist.
I wrote an opinion piece (which can be read at hillsdale.edu/collegian/articles/2002/February/safeand) for the school paper here where I work as a reporter. I said the work of our art department is safe, boring and predictable. I said it well. And now I'm taking some heat.
This is a small school so the art department isn't that big but three art majors have disagreed with me (despite my efforts to hide from them for the next few weeks). I've had a few profs and a few administrators disagree with me. Conservative Catholic students have disagreed with me. Today at lunch the school president came over to my table to disagree with me.
Being brash and arrogant really helps when the heat is turned on. I stand by what I said and am a little proud to have gotten the reactions.
Some students did offer me their support, which was certainly appreciated. But then, when talking to someone (like the head of the school) who thinks you don't know what you're talking about it, self-confidence is all you've got.
Davy Crockett said "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." That is the best advice anyone could offer to a journalist.
A good film really defining the characters of the west. The drunken doctor, the prostitute with the heart of gold, the southern gentlemen, the wife of the calvary officer, the young outlaw, the fat and timid stagecoach driver--they are all there and defined in this flick. The stagecoach works as a good prop, drawing the characters from different lives with different problems into one place with a common mission. It is not really incredible as a plot but good to watch and defining for its time.
John Wayne makes a big appearence. This is probably his first good film, where he has begun to play the Duke that we know from latter years.
Mar 3, 2002
I recieved a B- on the paper. I talked in circles too often when I could have written in straight lines. I needed to follow Descartes own arguments more closely. My prof said I came to very plausible conclusions by not so plausable arguments. He basically liked what I had to say--he said my work was above average--and said I was certain to move up from here.
I could have done better but am still in a really good place for the class.
The topic is the Westerns of John Ford. We are watching five of his films and his grandson and two of his biographers are lecturing. We will be discussing the imagery of the west, their role as myths and legends for America and how the past was defined by this film director.
I plan to post my thought on the lectures and reviews of the movies as the week progresses. I expect to be stimulated by the event and posting should help me with the paper I eventually have to write.
I'm giving 10 points to the first person who can give me the name of the J. Ford movie and the context of the line "When the fact becomes legend, print the legend."
As a journalist I certainly appreciate that sentiment.