Nov 30, 2002

Drunk on Life
Real men know how to toast the world with a buttered dinner roll.
Engaging the world and drinking coffee
In the middle of a project--or anyway researching it--about the New York Intellectuals and their intellectual growth as a group, I'm struck by the rise and fall of public intellectuals. I'm marking how the intelligents who comment on and critique our world are all either pundits or academics. We've shurely lost the in the street feeling of the intellectuals who were both antipopulists and looking for a public discourse.

In some ways blogs have given rise to public intellectuals again--think of the oft repeated coffee house comparison--yet normally we still fall into these two catagories, with a third contingent of self-referential writers who really aren't commenting on the world.

The ever-present all-consuming politics tends to show itself here, too. Many who would be great commentators are seized by politics and see nothing else. The world shrinks for these and they never touch literature, art, education, church, housing, or the myriad of things that make up our world. Politics prevades and the whole of life goes wanting for some public discourse.

I find this intellectual engagement of the world at school and among my friends. Ocassionally I'm told I'm odd, searching out such a diffuse spread of subjects, but I deny that and am certain privately public intellectuals exist in book stores and coffee shops and colleges and newspapers all over.

If only a few more of them would do this engaging in public.
Linear Drive
"What does it mean?" they said, asking the wrong question.
The End
Of a Generation

he turned down the radio and
it was over, done
the revolution had passed.

Nov 28, 2002

Craziest Guitar
Go turn along the Watchtower for that Purple Haze Experience, Jimi would have been 60 today.

Nov 22, 2002

Plans, so-called
As it snows around me, cold white Mich. snow, I am preparing to head to Toronto in my first trip over that northern border. I am attending a philosophy conference with a number of profs and students from Hillsdale, a conference where the "scary person" Derrida, a deconstructionist, is speaking.

I hope to run accross Gideon Strauss and then catch a U. Penn. ride to my Thanksgiving holiday with my uncle's.

If anyone ever told you I wasn't a little loco, tell them they were lying.

I will enjoy it all and laugh at the insanity while reading a bit of poetic philosophy.

Update & etc.
I survived, though without seeing Strauss or getting a ride to Philly. The American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Languages sessions were great, with highlights being those on the purpose of Christian ritual, a debate on Christ's presence in Communion and talk of the philosophy of Mass media. Derrida was interesting and gave me some material to think through and I bought a good book about typography (an amature interest of mine). More to come, complete with transcribed notes!
A High Church Verse
"For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my
name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall
be offered unto my name, and a pure offering, for My name shall be great
among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts."
We are as poor as poets, but we discard even respect for love of the craft
I think of journalism as an art form. I believe in story telling and journalism is, at it's best, the way we tell ourselves the stories of our world. I hold to journalism as a poetry capturing the texture of common life. Journalism is, or can be, the narrative we live in.

I believe in the mornings when a man discovers humanity in the newspaper.

Coming out of a period of seriously double-checking my life in journalism, I find three reasons to remain here in the land of newsprint. 1) I know the worst about journalism, know it's true and love it anyway. 2) My ability to be a great journalist has, repeatedly, been confirmed. 3) Stories are the fundamental way in which man learns of himself and the world around him.
When the Music Left My Life
Someone stole my CD collection. Mine was small by comparison to many, 40-50 CDs in a single case, and unique enough to make the robbery fairly strange. Much of my folk music was pretty eccentric stuff.

I curse that nameless theif.

Now the sound track of my life seems to be that deaf dumb and blind boy playing pinball. Tommy was safe in the computer's disc drive.
Jonah's wet socks
An unsigned editorial I wrote, with particualr rhetorical flare, for this weeks Collegian.

In the last nine months, what we’ve been getting from National Review is as formulaic as a cheap novel. Just change the names, adjust the times and run the killer plot you used last issue.

Come on guys. Try some new ideas. Surprise us with an unusual assessment. Hit something in some way that makes us sit up and look at this magazine.

Then we’ll send in those resubscription notices.

Take Victor Davis Hanson. In the days after the attacks of Sept. 11 he was awesome. His brand of historical, military and political analysis, brought to the present crisis, was astute, sharp and eminently applicable. And then he plagiarized himself, ripping off his own articles again and again. It became a system like those mass-produced nickel novels. Plug in the bit about bad guys, get in the section about WWII, mention your favorite battle and draw connections to President Bush’s recent speech.

By November we were bored.

Of course there have been exceptions. Rod Dreher has gone on kicks having nothing to do with the oft-hackneyed NR topics, exploring granola, dispensationalism and Catholicism. John Derbyshire, typically a stodgy defender of the plotted line, has occasionally strayed, writing really interesting and enlightening bits about math and humor. But most of this is buried, found in unadvertised corners.

Take the latest cover stories. We have the Anti-American series with the Canadian, Korean and European editions. These things should be considered and responded to, but couldn’t they have been handled in one consolidated assessment?

What we have here is the crotchety old man’s monologues about the bastards who don’t like us, the stuffy repetitions of our righteous cause.

Perhaps we are only upset here because it seems conservative hip has died along with those trees the magazine is printed on.

NR has lost the hipness it had with the introduction of Jonah Goldberg and NR Online. In those days Americanism was defended with talk of cheap American beer and the French were maligned with pointless stories of squirrels in the park. In those days there were random and interesting crusades against Andrew Sullivan or Lew Rockwell and company. In those days they were hot and unpredictable. In those days we didn’t know what was going to be on the cover by looking at the last three.

The old gray-suited men have slogged down NR. They have saturated this magazine until reading it feels like walking around in wet socks.

The hipness has left, and we aren’t inspired to pay for another year of those wet socks.

Nov 20, 2002

Books: The First Vice
If I'm going to go broke--and I am--it had better be in a book store.
Question of Culture
Is culture the false front added to our cheap constructions?

Nov 18, 2002

Participation with the Text
Jonathan Mayhew is working on a blog project that I find facsinating, writing about the slips of paper found in books.

I plan to follow this and, who knows, participate with a few of my own.
Return of the Eastern Orthodox Classicist
Seraphim appears to be back online. We'll see if he keeps it up, but for now he has some interesting stuff over there.
In Our Prison
We speak to each other as inmates.

"Whatch gonna do when you get out?"

Nov 17, 2002

Meaningless Black Omen
There's a black crow in the road, eating a black squirrel. That's what we see when returning to school.

It sounds like a poetic image, it sounds like a Dylan song. But it doesn't mean anything except that one of the crazy looking squirrels we have here, little black ones I've never seen anywhere else, was run over and is now being eaten.

To call it an omen is a joke.

In the movies this shows us ignoring the approaching evil, like not listening to the music all the viewers hear and know evil is coming.

But we don't believe it means anything. But this dead squirrel and this feating crow, both black, hold nothing. They are just dead. To us it doesn't mean anything.

Nov 15, 2002

Living for the Story
He said all I cared about was the paper but I am a journalists and didn't think it was an insult.

"The only thing that matters is the story, the one for tomorrow's paper."
Stratagizing in the Comments
Josh Claybourn looks to be leaving the land of Blogger woe to the happy vally of Moveable Type.

I'm not sure why, but Mark Byron and I are talking about Risk stratagems on the comments section of that post. If you enjoy risk enough to follow comments about the point scale difference between Asia and Africa, take a look. Or, if you'll play me, go and note how much of my stratagy I've just given away.

The key is solid defense with the chance of a crushing assault and a hard drive to victory. And lots of sixes, people, lots of sixes.

Nov 14, 2002

"That's not a very novel position," he said.

And then I felt better about it.

Nov 13, 2002

Written Influences
Exploring the books that have influenced me, with influencing meaning they marked a change in my growth and they still speak to me today, I've come up with this list of five:

If I Ran the Circus, by Dr. Suess
I could have chosen any of the master's books but this is my favorite. From Dr. Suess I learned the feel of language and the beat of a sentence. Anything I know for how writing is supposed to sound and how poetry feels began here.

A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe
Wolfe replaced Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men, In Dubious Battle) as the literary figure in my life, the one who could tell a story about real people with the texture of real life. Wolfe was and is a directional push for how my journalism comes. In the last year or so his style has inspired me and driven me and influenced the best of my journalism.

Paradise Restored, by David Chilton
Religiously and philisophically, the book that represents my move out of Evangelical and Anabaptist circles and into an older Christianity, out of a Christian ghetto and into the world. This book and its Postmillenialism gave me the grounding to engage the world, to seek the triumph of Christ. It was with this grounding that I could engage in politics and then, as my education grew, in philosophy and journalism. The new optimism these ideas had also saved my from a very real and very destructive personal pessimism and defeatism, changing my personality.

St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, by G.K. Chesterton
A passage in this book--about a paragraph and near the end--pushed me into Anglicanism and founded in me an understanding, and adherence, to the old sacramental Christianity. Chestertons bit about the crucifix, the juxtoposition of the great dogmas of incarnation and ressurection, is continually intellectually valuable and brought a spritual component to my life that had been weak or missing before.

Phenomenology of Perception, by Maurice Mearleau-Ponty
The most recent growth: the introduction--the only part of this book I have yet read--has inspired a reworking reexploration of my ideas of meaning and the value of a story. This Phenomenology, which I've written about here (most notably in Referential Totality), is filling out a lot of ideas I already had, creating more of a holistic understanding of the life and working with my understanding of the place of story telling.
From deep in the belly
I hated everyone, feeling the bile and anger.

Then I laughed and took a nap and it was fine.

The miracle of a good laugh at life...
Because of Heidegger
Learning to use nouns as verbs...

Nov 11, 2002

PICASSO replica
I am turning in my replica--a pencil drawing--of Picasso's Poet (Man with Pipe), which I drew last night. If I knew how to post it here I would, and perhaps in the future I will. In the meantime, consider this bit of cubism.
Rhyming poetry feels pompous, today.

Nov 10, 2002

Gray Downpour
They curse the rain soaking their hair as if it melted their gods.

I stop and stand in the rain, letting the water come down, meeting my head with force.

Falling water beating earth. Rushing water swirling the stream in the street.

The poetry of rain soaks my sweater. Beading up it dribbles down my face.

I know the rain as the joy of rain on my face in this wet medium of the street.
Post Collegian
I write about the complication of some terrorism in the Hillsdale Collegian.

Update: Looks like the hard anti-Chechnya line is continuing and will continue for a while.

Be sure to read the story of Living the poetry of a dead language, my favorite piece (and a good look at Hillsdale) from last weeks Collegian.
That blind, dumb and deaf kid sure plays a mean pinball

Listening to Tommy, I'm impressed by The Who's attempt at dominion by creating an epic myth. The little pieces come together into one story: a story of one child and the story of humanity. The minor narratives intertwine into a single story about perception, about cures and salvations that destroy.

Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball
When the Witness was Called Yellow
And so we do our jobs. We don’t let ourselves be bullied into hiding news. We cover this college and we do it well.

We—myself in particular—are considered to be hard-hearted devils who don’t care about the world. We are called yellow journalists, scandal-mongers, leeches, irresponsible bastards and generally bad people.

But then, we never asked to be loved.

“Bad” news is still news and hiding information never benefited a community.

We are witnesses. We are here to record life, to tell the story of this school and the people we cover and the way things are. To us a story is only good or bad aesthetically, it's in the telling. If men hate the stories they ought to live different lives.

We will not keep their secrets. We are the witnesses.

Nov 6, 2002

It is a list of words to memorize/or to forget
The ink on my palm is fading as the soap takes black lines swirling down onto the porcelain surface, traces of education in the water falling from my hands.
The unison HONK
When a poem takes its opening from the lyrics of a newspaper story, I can't help but enmjoy it. I was seized by the imagery of this piece my Uncle is reviewing. The pictures and their meanings:

Fluxus is the name of the vapors coming off the cinder fields
meeting the black birds as they come in at night


The sounds of the words--first by themselves and then in relation to each other and then as a sentence--reminds one of those lovely unpronouncable words in that foreign language one will never learn but always admire:

Until you actually say it, unscriptability and New Jersey rhyme.
The State's equilibrium is located elsewhere.


Go read the whole thing.
Grasping at the Sound
I read the poetry of William Carlos Williams as fractured, knowing only the art of the sentence.

Nov 5, 2002

The urge
to cross oneself
as a Protestant.

Nov 3, 2002

Peace
It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's just that I don't feel like saying it.

Nov 2, 2002

Only a few flurries. A few half attempts while the leaves are still turning.

"But," I say to her, "snow doesn't touch my soul like it does people who grew up with it. I need mountains, trees and rain."