Feb 28, 2003

Indelible Collapse
Reading a book, I’m slowly seized by the fear—almost unconscious, almost receding into the once-dreamed as I focus—the text will collapse.

The little black words will lose their footing, falling from the page. First one, in a descent like Lucifer’s. Flaming tragedy and finality going unnoticed, the word leaving the page. The word will crash, without sound, an indelible puff of powder rising from the end.

Then another will slip and the lines will slide, slopping downwards, slurring into each other like a drunken marching band.

The text will collapse into a small pile of black dust, looking like the powder of burnt-out ashes once the form is gone.
The Price of Blogger
The Blog*spot guys still aren't answering the question we all really want to ask. How much did you make in the deal, guys? Come on. How much? Really, how much?
A man of typewriters, Martin Tytell was a repairman, historian and high priest of typewriters for over 70 years.

Feb 27, 2003

Calling it Home
From an obituary in the British satirical novel Who's who in hell:
'To say he was on the road to madness would be to invite ridicule. He was not on the road to madness: he had arrived there, bought a house, and was renting out rooms.'

Feb 26, 2003

Mithering:
To encumber, burden, bother, worry, be delirious.

Slang from South Cheshire, often used as a description of speach. Like nagging. Seems to hold a smiliar usage and tone as drooling.
Cursed and blessed by the tears of sorrow.

Feb 25, 2003

Colorist and Cubist
A grand fight between the titans of modern art is now on display in the Museum of Modern Art. The struggle between Picasso and Matisse is the stuff of legends. It's these little flairs that make the artist human in striving.

This story is one of Picasso puncturing Matisse's rising fame, one of Matisse raging that he would destroy Picasso, naming his stuff Cubism. The two collided, neither ever becoming triumphant and yet better for the fighting.
On Suiting
'You know what?' she said. 'You suit me.'

The last phrase didn't strike him as the most significant of remarks at the time and yet, an hour later, walking down the traffic-bound streets to pick up a case of oranges from the local greengrocer, her words came back to him like a blessing. He became aware of an unfamiliar sensation, which he could only describe as a surge of pleasure at being alive. Struggling back into the bar with the box of fruit, he began to have an intoxicating sense of belonging, of the kindd that some people experience when the pull on a uniform.

Who's who in hell, By Robert Chalmers
The internet can be seen in its maturity with Google, Blogger
It was a time of passion, tycoons and lots of money.

And then the internet grew up.

Today the internet is coming of age, and the beginnings are passing. We are moving out of the violence of development and into the solid, stolid and sturdily usable internet of information.

The internet we’ve known—the internet of the 90s when the thing became an institution and when most of us came of age—was the early internet winning the fight of establishment with all the exploding opportunity newness.

Reaching the public in the 90s, the internet was an economic boom. The military was out and the business of internet was huge.

It was the time of millionaires at 30. It was the time of dropping out of school and starting a company online. It was the time to think hard and make money tapping what hadn’t been tapped.

We called it the revolution. We were hyperbolic, to be sure, but it was a revolution of sorts. The internet was the information revolution, we said, the dawning information age.

Being exciting by the explosion of the thing, we were really into the revolution part of the information revolution. It was about information, sure, but that’s not what happened in the daily business. This was like the oil boom—it was about transportation, yeah, but mostly it was wildcatting and striking it rich and cash.

And that was good. All beginning industries have that time of craziness, when men become rich in a day and an idea marks an age and creates a world. Then the thing grows, quiets and develops. The wildness subsides and becomes established. One forgets that eventually everyone will have a car, that plastics will be common. The violence and shouting pass into the colorful tales of old men, and even Bill Gates becomes old.

In the last few years, we’ve seen the internet growing into a normal, stable thing. We’ve seen it gradually move from that violence and indicate the maturity that will come to this increasingly normal thing we call the internet.

This year, two internet words are joining the dictionary: blog and google.

Google, the name of the world’s premier internet search engine, has become a verb meaning “to search for on the internet.” Google is a solid company not really about fast earnings that figured how to search the vast collection of the online.

Blog, the word produced in the coupling of web and log, is both a noun and a verb. A blog is a thing where a series of posts, logged entries on whatever topic, are put out, collected and archived. To blog is to write one of the series of posts. The most popular blog server is Blogger, with 1.1 million users.

Both words still speak of the zany creativity propelling us all into the information age, but now they’ve entered the dictionary and your children will them common words like plastic, calculator and automobile.
 
Both Blogger and Google have filled rather technical niches—one archiving bits of internet writing and the other searching the internet—and are but solid and reliable companies. Both companies—and now Blogger has been purchased by Google, guaranteeing reliability and continuing service—are about information.

The cash is fairly limited. There’s money, but no boom and no mansions and no piles of green stuff. Google and Blogger aren’t creatures of the economy; they aren’t the madness of the 90s.

It’s not about money anymore.

Google has virtually given us the greatest library ever, dwarfing the legendary shelves of Ancient Alexandria. Anyone wanting information can turn to the search engine. Like a library, we turn to Google for knowledge, primarily.

Blogging is mostly a profit-free enterprise, the work of people interested in talking about whatever. The analogies are the coffee houses of Addison and Steele. Blogs are just people using the technology to talk, form communities, gather and distribute information for the enjoyment of it all.

Roughly between 12 and 20 Hillsdale students and recent graduates—it’s difficult to tell how many lurk unknown—run personal blogs. That number includes three of the five editors here at the Collegian. Hillsdale students and grads are using this technology to comment on philosophical, social, political, theological and linguistic things. Call it the virtual snack bar. Call it that table at Saga, without the food.

This has nothing to do with fame, money or even business. It’s a hobby and a pastime and a thing educated people do—talk and listen and consider.

The world of the online has calmed down and is calming down. We’re moving past the insane and the strange and the interesting. Recent moves have indicated the growth of the internet into the information technology we always said it was supposed to be.
The Christian Necessity of Dualism
Philosophy 410, Philosophy of Mind

In a materialist’s objections to Rene Descartes’ dualism they point, to his Christianity as a reason for his dualism. Dualism is said to necessarily be the Christian’s answer to the philosophical questions of mind and body. Dualism was foregone conclusion clouding Descartes judgment because he was a Christian. Oftentimes this is said uncharitably, with the materialist sarcastically saying this is another example of Christianity leading men to stupidity. Sometimes this is said charitably, with one sympathetically saying Descartes was an honest man attempting rectify the necessary conclusions of the Christian faith with the direction of his philosophy.
Descartes is called by biographers a good Christian philosopher and a “diligent student” of Christianity. He was a life-long Catholic, a good Christian and it is alleged that, as a Christian, he needed his dualism and was necessarily driven to dualism. But whether charitable or uncharitable, both are wrong. For dualism is not a necessary Christian idea. It is not specifically a Christian concept and certainly not something required by the faith.

Descartes’ dualism is said to be a defense of the immortality of the soul. Cartesian biographer Richard Watson describes this as the primary reason for the bifurcation of the human. “A prime motive behind Descartes’s (sic) dualism is summed up in a saying of his times: If immaterial, then immortal,” Watson wrote. A theory dividing the human into material and nonmaterial substances allows for the human—at least the nonmaterial part of the human that is the really real part—to exist beyond the physical and biological limitations that are the nature of material. Things fall apart, and for one to continue existing after the death that is the decay of the material that is man, one must escape material. Dualism saves the Christian hope of immortality by allowing the human to transcend things falling apart.

“This is a powerful doctrine,” Watson writes. “It is the primary promise and main attraction of Christianity. Descartes’s dualism of soul separate from body supports the Christian belief in survival after death.” Thus Dualism is needed for Christianity and is a philosophical theory defending the idea of soul, from the evil materialists. If humans have the nonmaterial soul of Cartesian dualism, then the human soul can exist outside of the material and not partake of the decay and dissipation of the material that is body. If this can be accomplished—if one can run a good and solid theory of dualism—then immortality can be shored up and Christianity can be saved in this philosophical assurance.

In the essential battle of the age, a fight between Christianity and the mechanical materialism of science and mathematics, Descartes philosophy of dualism was then a significant support. This was the battle to save humanity, and to save humanity the existence of souls had to be guaranteed. It had to be delivered from the impending “crucifixion” of mathematical physics.
Yet the link between Christianity and dualism is not a necessary one. Christianity is not, in essence, a dualistic faith. While dualism may be present and while Descartes and modern physicalists may see Christianity as necessarily on the side of the bifurcation of man into two substances, the Christian scripture and the Christian fathers specifically oppose substance dualism.

For the first five centuries the Church—including the fathers Jerome, Ireneaus, and Tertullian—taught that humanity was all material. In early Christian thought there was no non-material soul, there was no non-extended, non-physical, non-spatial thing that allows man to exist forever. The hope of the church is not immortality by transcending the material, but life eternal by physical resurrection. The hope of the church is resurrection of the body; it is an acutely physical hope. The Apostles and the Church Fathers that followed them preached not the escape from the material, but the conquering over it with the physical body of the faithful rising up from the dead on the last day.

Tertullian argues that even God must have a body, because all that is, is material. “All that is real is body. The corporeality of God does not detract from his sublimity, nor that of the soul from its immortality. Everything that is, is body after its own kind. What is not body is nothing.” This concept played into the importance of the material in Christian salvation. The bifurcation of substance dualism leads to the material/physical man being disregarded while the non-material physical is faced with questions of immortal eternity. Yet Christianity did not seek to make claims on partial man, but on the whole. Jerome asks how damnation is supposed to happen to a non-physical thing. “If the dead be not raised with flesh and bones, how can the damned after judgment gnash their teeth in hell?” This only becomes more strange when questions about spatial existence come into play. Dualism was a soteriological heresy of the Gnostics. Speaking of the salvation of man, Irenaeus opposes dualism, insisting on the delivery of the material man. “For the Gnostic view of salvation does not include the flesh; but if the flesh is not saved, nothing of man is saved.”

The ghost-soul—the non-physical, non-spatial, non-material spark of life defended by Descartes and connected so securely with Christian thought—is an idea of the Platonists, defended by the Stoics, and joining the Christian tradition only in the 12th century with the scholastics exploration of Aristotle. With the exception of the western Augustine, early fathers held dualism to be heresy. The dualistic tradition in Christianity is a tradition of heresy, beginning with the Gnostics and continuing with the Manicheans. Far from necessarily answering the mind body questions of philosophy with Cartesian dualism, the Christian church sought to defend the physical. The Christian emphasis on physicalism can be seen by the attention and care give to liturgy, the passion of Christ, the dedication of the martyrs, and the material salvation of men. The tradition of dualism is not one necessary for a faithful Christian. Descartes did not need to be a dualist because of Christian theology; indeed, he would have better maintained the pure faith of the Church by separating himself from dualism.
Derrida taken seriously in Credenda
Credenda Agenda seems to have put out a piece on Derrida taking him seriously. I'm shocked. The first being their trend of not mentioning philosophers by name and only making generalizations about "those guys." I'm also shcked because the piece doesn't trash Derrida or pretend to refute him in 300 words. The man actually says we should consider D.'s thoughts. Wow. Just when you thought they'd never get it. Must have been an accident.

Feb 24, 2003

Between Merleau-Ponty and Sartre
On the days when you don't know if other people are history, or hell.

Feb 23, 2003

The SF Examiner seems to be dead, basically. Which is too bad, both because I enjoyed the zaniness of the paper and because two town papers are better.
Blues Notes
The Anglican preist in the front of the room can't not dance. Being from the south. Those with souls couldn't sit still. We felt the music and it filled our bodies. Girls wandered in from the prom-like thing the College puts on, looked around, poured grape punch. Feeling out of place, in their dresses and wanting to dance without knowing how. Luke sits next to me leaning backwards in his shades and half grown chops. Every once in awhile he smiles and nods his head. Wearing blue jeans and a suit coat, "I just came for the blues." Hard and slow. I remember my father at the festival. The guy with crazy long hair smoking cigarettes at the knobs of the sound system. The lead singer looks like music, personified. Like a modern Pablo. Pablo would play Blues if he hadn't been in another time. He'd have been more honest if he'd played the blues because they don't deny pain. Filled with the sound of the guitar doing its best impersonation of Jimi. He wears a hat, and fills the voice of the Delta. Of humanity in Blue. The bass player wanders around. Fender P. Moves off the stage, with the riff of the bass. The jazz and the dance are just annoyances. Why are you here? Who Dat? Next weekend in Coldwater. If only the women cared. Too many women, pretty women in prom dresses who don't have any idea. Red, pink, black. And all the songs are about love and none of the dresses are blue. Jesus left Chicago and went down to New Orleans. Rising up from the Delta. I just like to say Delta. The Delta and all that means. A house in New Orleans. Huddie Ledbetter was a hell of a man. The king of the 12 string sang his way out of jail. Just the ones who really feel it. Cigarettes and sahdes and jeans. Poets and madmen and philosophers. Like Roman Candles, raving hysterical naked. On the rooftop, forget embarassment and feel the humanity. Pain. Life. Blue.

Feb 20, 2003

An Evil Mr. Silliman takes on Funny
This actually ran as an editor's note in today's paper as an explanation for my move to pull the weekly satire page. There are lots of good reasons for what I did, but this is the only one anyone cared for.

Rumors and random signs around campus have claimed the editorial board of the Collegian has killed the infamous satire page, known either as the Half-Page or the Back-Page, but this is incorrect.

Final decision have not been made, but, for now, the page will appear on special occasions, notably the last issue of each semester.

This decision was made for a number of reasons, official and unofficial. Unofficial reasons include the page’s long tradition of not being funny, poor taste, cluttered look and negative influence on the work of Collegian reporters.    

The official reason is the evil, black-hearted and unfunny news editor Daniel Silliman, immediate supervisor of the page.

Although he is rarely seen, sources claim Silliman wears all black and a large sweeping cape. He lives in a cave and never sleeps.

He smokes two cigars at a time, gives cigarettes to children by the pack and hates absolutely everyone.
Fellow staff members describe his laugh as “evil, very evil.” The strange sounds probably shouldn’t be called a laugh. Silliman’s enemies use the word “evil” to describe him, seriously underestimating how bad he really is, knowledgeable sources allege.

“The Grinch was a pansy,” Silliman said of his recent move. “What? He stole Christmas? Hah! I’m killing love, joy, smiles and laughter.”

Silliman, a veteran journalist and Collegian staff member, plans on staying the long term to destroy all that is good and true.

“Funniness was just the beginning,” he said.

Feb 19, 2003

Still not a dove, but . . .
An eloquent response to warmongering, specifically that gong-banging of Jared Anthony Cook, in this comic.

War is cool, children, war is cool.
The Man and the Machine
So, in the end, I would rather be a mystery. Consider this a further case of the fragmentation of the confession that is this blog.

The typwriter is part of my continuing celebration of the machine, and is meant to refer of one of my writings I can actually read and reread pleasurably, a Tom Wolfe style essay on the typewriter. (Scroll down to the July 22 post).
Structuralism:
A systematic attempt to uncover deep universal mental structures as these manifest themselves in kinship and larger social structures, in literature, philosophy and mathamatics, and in the unconscious psychological patterns that motivate human behavior.

From the introduction to The Age of Structuralism by Edith Kurzweil.

Feb 18, 2003

Seeking God, part 1
Flight from Idols
The surrealist painting of a pipe is underlined with the words “This is not a pipe,” for the painter knows he is but trying to represent that pipe he paints.

What is a pipe, and what a representation? To know a pipe is hold it, to smoke it. It is not to behold it—lo, a pipe—but to use it.

To confuse the representation and the thing may seem silly but it has always been a problem and is often subtle and ingrained. It is a great and long tradition to think a thing reducible and fully capturable to an image, or to a description.

Every good Protestant child learns about the dangers of idolatry: To shun icons, eschew representations of Christ, and not pray to the corner of the room. We know the dangers of letting physical things take the place of God, of letting them eventually slip to that place where God, to us, is this thing we are looking at and not the awesome God mostly unnamable in the burning bush.

We want to seek God, but we want to believe in the God who is God, not the God of our own creation. Put another way, to be a serious believer in God is to always be escaping idolatry. Escaping idolatry is a task long and complicated.

We must flee idolatry, and to do so we must distinguish between the sign and the signified. If we honestly seek God then we must make the distinction of semiotics (very much involved in the work of Derrida) the distinctions between signs things signified. What is the difference between the word or the sentence and the thing the word is describing? What is reducible to a word and what is irreducible?

Nothing is such a problem here, at least to the serious Theist, as the sign that signifies God. With what sign is God signified to us? How can such a reduction do justice in depicting God? The “God” that signifies God cannot be anything but pitifully insufficient. God is not reducible to our words, our propositions, or statements of Truth. Our words aren’t God but a gesture. Our gesture isn’t God but a pointing. Our pointing isn’t God but a wave at something that is beyond our waving, pointing, and gesturing. To believe is to want not the gesture, but the thing gestured at.

God is beyond language in the same way he is beyond depiction.

Anything circumscribed by us isn’t God. The description of God isn’t God. At best is but the gesture in the direction of God. The truth isn’t in the proposition or the definition—it is in the God we are attempting to near with these words.

Pascal remarked that he didn’t want to believe in the God of the philosophers, the unmoved mover, the first cause, the enframed thing the scholastics rendered as “God.” The God of the philosophers is a God who is defined and described—circumscribed by our prepositional statement about who He is.

God cannot be fully named, for to name is to describe and to circumscribe. To name is to make subservient to one's self, to own. Yet the caveat of the surrealist is not one often made by the theologians. Every theological work ought to be underlined with the words: “This is not God.”

This is why much early Christian theology is apophatic, making only negative statements about God, telling us what is not rather than defining what he is. They are seeking to know God by talking abut what we can speak of, that which he is not. The most traditional Christian statements about God are apophatic: God is infinite; God is unchanging.

This same need is captured in the line of the Zen Buddhists: “If you meet the Buddha, kill him,” for any Buddha that can be captured, that can be represented, is not the real Buddha.

And serious Theism is this flight from idolatry, this search for the God beyond the word, beyond the image, beyond the concept.

It is to attempt to grasp the ungraspable as ungraspable, to know the unknowable as unknowable.
Sarah Jones' post on her ties to the time 10:13 have brought out some cool (that is, crazy) numerology in the comments.

McInnis in particular has taken the number and found only good things:

"10:13 is not such a bad number to be under the auspices of. It is full of holy references. 13 minus 10 equals three, which is of course the number of the Trinity. In the year 1013 the Roman Catholic Church's dominancy was at its peak before it would begin a great decline...."

I don't know though. I'm sure if we looked hard enough it's a frightening thing, that 10:13. Don't cross any streets at 10:13, sarah j.
Banging War Gongs
J. Anthony Cook has written perhaps the most Hawkish rethoric around, claiming the U.S. must push through the world's disarmament and essentially become a single government and security force in the world (this is mostly his description).

I disagree and, while not being a Dove, I am increasingly uncofortable with the prospects of war. I'm working on a piece setting out my frustrations with the war moves and my search for a reasonable foreign policy position.

Feb 17, 2003

Abortion Language Debate
The Boston Globe used "fetus" in reference to child killed in womb, later says it should have used "unborn baby" for almost full-term dead.

The child actually was delivered and lived for a few hours, information the paper didn't know at the time of the original story, which the Globe considers to have settled the right word as "baby." This is interesting, in light of partial birth abortion. Viability was seemingly the standard, but only half the standard or applied inconsistantly, or something.

The Globe's conclusion, that they were dehumanizing the death of the child, is the right conclusion and one that ought to be understood in the full spectrum of the usage of "fetus." The Globe's cavet that it was an unusual story is a cop-out and untrue in every story where "fetus" is used.
When Journalistic Leanings are Yellow
You have to use Apocalyse in a headline, given the chance.
The rules might change, if I were playing.
Big Blogging and Internet News
Google buys Blogspot

Commentary coming...

Best analysis so far:
Burningbird, Tony Pierce and Mark Frauenfelder. Pierce and Frauenfelder were at the blogging confrence when the news broke.

Feb 15, 2003

A lone horn blowing smoky air
Before the before the beginning: I sit by myself, in that pre-Jazz session where remembering lessons musicians ride scales.

Each playing solo they swing and collide, reeling constellations where cacophony lives and is, where the disparate juxtapose and are jazz.
If you're an adult who was homeschooled consider taking this survey.

Feb 14, 2003

So.
A Man Against Film, Despite Everything
He was beaten by me in a public debate, by Jon Metzger inan online debate, and was seriously shown up in the piece I wrote, but Jared Anthony Cook is still going after movies. The latest news tell us he is going to write his senior thesis on how movies destroy the human soul.

I can hope here that he's modified his case--seeing everything thus far has fallen very flat--but I doubt it. Against such continued craziness and repetition of bad arguments, what can you do?

Oh well. I'm going to go watch a movie.

Feb 13, 2003

"You tell me again you prefer handsome young men, but for me you will make an exeption."

Feb 12, 2003

Listening to the Reviews
At first look, Life of Pi seemed to be a rip-off of The Old Man and the Sea. Now, reading more reviews as they keep coming in, I wonder.

Which means I'll probably read it.
"What?"
"I didn't say anything."
"You didn't?"
"No. I just sort of point that way with my thumb."
"I thought that was saying something."
"Well, in the Derridaian sense that nothing is outside of the text, yeah."
Photographer Lived by the Scanner
I don't know if this is becoming a hobby but here's another obit of a great old journalist, the kind I admire and emulate.

When one of those who know me here call me a yellow journalist, say I have ink in my veins, or laugh that I'm having an affair with a newspaper, I think of such men as this late photographer.

May G.E. Arnold, "a hard-driving photographer for The Times-Picayune who made it his business to reach fires and crime scenes ahead of the competition," rest in peace.
The Year in Film
The Oscar nominations are in and while I place little stock in the academy, I’m still interested enough to follow.

I’m glad to see Road to Perdition and Talk to Her come up for a few awards, not really trusting them to notice them.

If I were to give the awards myself—noting these are not predictions but my choices—the following would win:

Animated films: Lilo & Stitch
Pixar wasn’t doing anything this year. Perhaps I should nominate Gollum?

Art Direction: Road to Perdition
Cinematography: Road to Perdition
This is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and the one I enjoyed most all year.

Foreign Film: I don't know. Despite seeing a number of foreign films—particularly Spanish ones for some reason—I’ve seen none of these. I’d pick Talk to Her.

Music Score: Catch Me if You Can
Best Actor: Leo DiCaprio, Catch Me if You Can, seeing it was such a suprise.

Best Supporting Actor: Gollum, The Two Towers. This is what made the movie, for me.

Other personal award categories:
Favorite Film of the Year: Road to Perdition

Films I wish I’d seen: My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Frida

Best Title credits:
Catch Me if you Can, for the opening credits and The Pianist for the closing credits.

Great Disappointment: A tie between Signs and Gangs of New York. Followed closely by Insomnia.

All in all, I’d say it was a descent year for film, though nothing exceptional.
Living Underground
“I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can't explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well--let it get worse!.”

“It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything. Yes, a man in the nineteenth century must and morally ought to be pre-eminently a characterless creature; a man of character, an active man is pre-eminently a limited creature. That is my conviction of forty years. I am forty years old now, and you know forty years is a whole lifetime; you know it is extreme old age. To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is vulgar, immoral. Who does live beyond forty? Answer that, sincerely and honestly I will tell you who do: fools and worthless fellows. I tell all old men that to their face, all these venerable old men, all these silver-haired and reverend seniors! I tell the whole world that to its face! I have a right to say so, for I shall go on living to sixty myself. To seventy! To eighty! ... Stay, let me take breath ...”

The first time I read Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground I was appalled enough to stop reading. Why spend time exploring the mind of someone perverted, twisted and spiteful? Someone who talked about lying to the reader and lying about lying? Someone who enjoyed the “pleasure of despair”? Someone who was mad that two plus two made four?

Ah. But how wrong I was. How poor my soul was that I didn’t see my own face in those lines. An unpleasant man? Frustrated at his world? Dehumanized and feeling spiteful?

Too true, gentlemen. Too true.

And that man is me, in certain ways and on certain days.

Feb 10, 2003

Criminality as Celebrity
Brian Godawa reviews Chicago.
Know thy Enemy
A Contrast of Leaderships
The Spectator has an interesting piece on the similarities between Hitler and Churchill—and the differences in their understandings of each other.

While England had a cartoonish picture of Hitler (a madman who certainly would amount to anything, who the German and European people would certainly stop) Churchill knew the man as a man. He knew an evil person, to be sure, but one with the subtlety and shades of a real person.

Hitler, meanwhile, in the grasp of his own rhetoric and ideology, could only conceive of Churchill as a “puppet of jewry,” a “political prostitute.”

The piece outlines a number of other differences—style in dress and choice of officers to surround one—making for an interesting analysis of both upbringing and leadership.
Hope amidst Futility
Is hope hope if it isn't hope against the world? If it isn't hope in hopelessness? If it isn't hope amidst futility?

Josh Claybourn considers the picture of human hope in music--the deaf Beethoven writing music despite his inability to ever hear it, as better than the picture of Camus' Sisyphus myth. I think we are often too ready to regard Sisyphus as hopeless and stupid when he should be seen as truly hopeful.

It is hopeless, true, but that is where we find hope.

Another case is the double ending of Jacob the Liar. A movie about men hoping despite all, hoping because they can and not because it makes some sense in a Rationalistic world of logical deductions. Men need hope, the film says. And will hope as hopeful because it is hope. Hope is a human thing, unknown and unknowable to the world of deductions and math. When the world is bad, the film says, we hope more and not less.

Then, in a nice and mostly ignored-by-the-critics turn, the movie offers us two endings. First, a hanging followed by the death of all those we care about in the film and second, a hanging followed by a rescue, the realization of the hope that the skeptical viewer had called silly, throughout.

And then the viewer is left to choose, to choose between hope and "reality," between hope in a dark world and a dark world. We are left with two endings and we, almost invariably, choose an ending with music we write if never hear, with a stone that will be rolled once more up a mountain, with the belief that the massacre of a people is almost over.

It is futile--there is no argument against that futility. It is the human world. It is dark. It seems pointless.

And there is hope.

Feb 8, 2003

Random Notes
Enough
He laughs. Tilting back his head, he laughs.

She smiles.

And that was enough.

Class Notes
Language is public
Language is public
Language is public

manifestation in language?

Feb 7, 2003

An Assesment of "Being Smart" in Philosophy
I realize that I am coming to the point where I know all my interesting contributions were not from brilliant thinking (not being new with me) but from broad knowledge and comprehension. My advantage has been knowing interesting esoteric material that I could bring in and incorporate into regular topics, making things interesting.

I am hurtling to the edge where philosophy is done in the present tense.

Is being smart a matter of knowing more of everything or knowing what has never been known?

I am in a strange state where I am convinced I am not smart and the world is dumber than I thought it was, thinking that I am.

What was that Tom Wolfe said about the only things writers care about, anymore, is being brilliant or outrageous?
Coming to Language
Woo woo petunia
Post Collegian
My two pieces for the Hillsdale Collegian are now up online. One is on smoking cigarettes at Hillsdale and the other is about one woman's conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Feb 6, 2003

The Meduim
I always get frustrated when people start talking about The Media. Normally they have nothing but bashing to do if they pull out the obtuse abstraction called The Media. This awful term is supposed to include everything from obit writer to the cop reporter to radio jock to the pundits.

And really it doesn’t cover anything and is but a sure sign the person doesn’t know what they’re speaking of.

It only gets worse when the writer tries to be grammatical. Media, obviously, is Latin and the plural of medium. But the abstraction is singular. Note National Review painfully trying to ask “Are the Media Liberal?”, a title that stumbles more than a football player dancing ballet drunk.

The crazy abstraction is for a singular thing and the word is a plural and the sentence, if one looks at grammar, angrily self-subverts.

Think, who ever speaks of a single news service as a medium?

Hmmmn. Actually that doesn’t sound bad. Perhaps if I start a paper I’ll name it The Seattle Medium, or some such. It’s new, works with a good number of city names, sounds better than a lot of those overused variations and has an upbeat and hip feel.

The Medium. Nice.
Praise
Spoke to Ernie this morning and he thanked me for the editorial.

"Did you write that?" he said. "It was very very beaudiful."
The Muddy Edges of the Christian Faith
Heterodox: 1) Not in agreement with the accepted beliefs of the Church in doctrine or dogma. 2) Unorthodox doctrine.

Heresy: 1) A doctrine at variance with the established religious belief. 2) Dissention from a Christian dogma by a church member.

Feb 5, 2003

Hot Young Blues Artist with all the Right Influences
With Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Leadbelly as influences, how can this young blues player go wrong?

Jackie Greene is being billed as a roots and blues prodigy, and is apparently really hot right now. If I were in road trip reach I'd be going over to hear the man's riffs and rythms. As it is, I'm waiting in line for his yet-to-be-planned album.

Any young artist paying dues to Alan Lomax is a friend of mine.

Of course, he doesn't have any friends, but only fans. So that's the sacrafice for good art.

Keep it up man!

Feb 4, 2003

     "He wore the look of a balanced thinker when he began, but he was not the picture of sanity. I myself loved to talk and kept up with him as long as I could. For a while it was a double concerto, but presently I was fiddled and tumpeted off the stage. Reasoning, formulating, debating, making discoveries Humboldt's voice rose, choked, rose again, his mouth went wide, dark stains formed under his eyes. His eyes seemed blotted. Arms heavy, chest big, pants gathered with much belt to spare under his belly, the loose end of leather hanging down, he passed from statement to recitative, from recitative hye soared into aria, and behind him played an orchestra of intimations, virtues, love of his art, veneration of its great men--but alwo of suspicion and skulduggery. Before your eyes the man recited and sang himself in and out of maddness." --Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift
If I Weren't a Betting Man
To actually accept Pascal’s wager, to actually bet on God, is to deny the terms Pascal’s using. To bet on God is not to bank on a good bet, considering the odds. It is to bank on God without any consideration of odds at all. Faith is not faith in a good chance, it is belief in the trueness of thing.

Making this thing of Pascal’s awfully self-undermining and an interesting case study in a philosopher creating a God (or a faith, in this case) contrary to the revealed one he wanted in the first case.

Which pushes one to the other statement of Pascal’s, about not wanting to believe in the God of the philosophers.

Feb 3, 2003

Mad Man in Wet Socks
Or, how I am responsible for "the strangest G-File ever"
Jonah Goldberg is still uptight about my unsigned Collegian editorial about the loss of the edge over at National Review and National Review online.

I'm glad he heard about it and hope his new piece--which I haven't gotten to read yet--is a hearkening back to his former insanity.
To Direct the Sweeping Epic of Man
The art and tragedy of the film director, the passion and the vision and the mad romance of Don Quixote that makes them great, and destroys them.
Authenticity
Haller should have laughed.

Or cried.