31 July 2004
(Worse, the article as written is a mangled mess of contradictions, implicit biases, and dramatic focal shifts. See how many you can spot-- and then do a shot of whisky for each one you find. This blog's favourite is the galling use of the word "outclassing" in the fourth paragraph.)
30 July 2004
Here's the section in question:
Now other souls of mournful dead stood by,This got me looking at other versions of this famous scene, and it's strange some of the differences in tenor from version to version. Here's Albert Cook's very peculiar version from 1967:
each with his troubled questioning, but one
remained alone, apart: the son of Télamon,
Aîas, it was-- the great shade burning still
because I had won favor on the beachhead
in rivalry over Akhilleus' arms.
The Lady Thetis, mother of Akhilleus,
laid out for us the dead man's battle gear,
and Trojan children, with Athena,
named the Danaan fittest to own them. Would
god had I not borne the palm that day!
For earth took Aîas then to hold forever,
the handsomest and, in all feats of war,
noblest of the Danaans after Akhilleus.
Gently therefore I called across to him:
'Aîas, dear son or royal Télamon,
you would not then forget, even in death,
your fury with me over those accurst
calamitous arms?-- and so they were, a bane
sent by the gods upon the Argive host.
For when you died by your own hand we lost
a tower, formidable in war. All we Akhaians
mourn you forever, as we do Akhilleus;
and no one bears the blame but Zeus.
He fixed that doom for you because he frowned
on the whole expedition of the spearmen.
My lord, come nearer, listen to our story!
Conquer your indignation and your pride.'
But he gave no reply, and turned away,
following other ghosts toward Erebos.
Who knows if in that darkness he might still
have spoken, and I answered?
But my heart
longed, after this, to see the dead elsewhere.
--- from the Robert Fitzgerald translation (1961)
So I said, but he answered me nothing and went with the otherSo where does Cook get the phrase "And he would have spoken in anger"? It's a strange thing, because in Cook's version, lines earlier, Odysseus claims that "I myself spoke out to him with soothing words" (emphasis added). That's awfully speculative, and makes Ajax seem like he simply didn't get a chance to speak first so he exits pouting stage right. (And, one assumes, negates just about everything Longinus had to say about this episode.) I think sometimes that it's a sign of one's maturity how well one appreciates and understands silence, figurative or otherwise. Ajax's is a stony but obviously pained silence: he was screwed by the gods and he knew it, and all he could do was accept it. Was there any way to respond? Not really. All he can do is face the man that was favoured by fate and address him with the most fitting response available to him: silence, and then departure, there in fact being nothing that he could say that wouldn't sound like fury, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, self-pity.
Souls of the shades of the dead to Erebos.
And he would have spoken in anger, just as I to him,
But the spirit within my own breast desired
To see the souls of the other men who had died.
I think it was Stevenson who once said that the cruellest lies are often told in silence-- but one has to add to that maxim that so too are the most penetrating truths. One need only think of the devastating effect of Christ's silence to the Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, or, more fliply, of Chesterton's refusal to engage Shaw in debate because Chesterton knew that silence was the only thing a man like Shaw could never abide. There's something very piercing about silence, whether in cruelty or in kindness or something in between, and it commands us to understand without parsing or dissembling or explaining. Silence is itself a language, a disturbingly opaque language, as Beckett perhaps more than anyone understood so well. Nihilo ex nihilo, omnia ex nihilo. It's the language of the perverse and paradoxical echo: it means everything and it means nothing at the same time, something King Lear could never have grasped. It also begs the question: is language always-already a gesture of alternate purpose-- a supplication, an amendation, an appeasement, a rage for order to which we are not innately given? I'm sure Derrida has an answer ready on that one somewhere.
But I return to Ajax to note something very important-- the utter lack of explicit emotion, at least as manifest in Fitzgerald's translation and butchered by Cook. We can only imagine what Ajax's response is, or, rather, "what he's feeling," if indeed he's feeling anything as a shade. I wonder if Milton was right to give his Satan so much self-defense (Non serviam, et cetera), so much "me miserable" justification, even if the idea of silence would surely have been anathema to our grand poetic hectorer. I wonder if he'd then have had to modify God's response, or would he have walked away as indifferently as Homer's Odysseus does? It's obvious that Odysseus wants something from Ajax in that passage, and it's not just the desire to ease Ajax's troubled soul. It's just as surely not simply the desire to "make things better" in the plain sense of that idea. No, he wants, and this may be an overly-modern association but I don't think so, forgiveness, forgiveness for having been favoured by the gods, forgiveness for his survival-- which makes me think Homer may have been hinting at something much larger than we normally think for this segment. To beg forgiveness without receiving an answer-- there's no comfort in that, no resolution, no sense of conciliation. Ajax's answer is both cruel and not: there's simply nothing to be said, and, perhaps, that there's no point in saying anything. And perhaps, too, there's a yet crueller irony here: that maybe Ajax's silence is a language saying so much-- or maybe it is simply Nothing At All. Nothing. Humanity for all its imaginative capabilities cannot truly imagine nothingness, and silence is the closest approximation of it that we know. No wonder it unsettles us so. Or maybe it kills us to imagine what might have happened if we'd been silent and waited for words to deal with us before we tried to deal with them.
28 July 2004
In a bit of unrelated news, for the odd couple of you that know what I'm talking about: the worst words possible are now being used-- "It's only a matter of time."
Greatness, rareness, muchness, my ass.
25 July 2004
This blog's also a little bothered by the clause "Olga was so longing to get the feedback." Oh, is that what the kids are calling it these days? "The feedback"? I'll have to remember that.
Whatever, he says, shrugging it all off. Hopefully it looks at least a little better. Yeah, I know, I know, making things (other than language) isn't exactly my strong suit. But, as the impotent man said to his increasingly impatient wife, "Hey, at least I'm trying here...."
24 July 2004
Post-Script: This blog's always on the alert, however, for Truly Significant Breaking News. Why? Because knowing's half the battle.
(BTW, you can see God's warning about the exam and the unanswered questions by clicking here and here, respectively.)
22 July 2004
Received this in an email from RK that I must admit I very much liked:
Thought of you when I saw Christina Ricci on a magazine cover. De gustibus, and all that.Oddly enough, when I see Christina Ricci on a magazine cover, I think of me, too.
Actually, this blog is tickled, er, pink that it should be associated with physically-impressive nymphets. (This blog thinks there has to be some sort of karmic goodwill to it.) So, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this association. Not a thing. Unlike posting this link, which is just so very, very wrong on so many levels, and will cause this blog to be ashamed of itself for almost a second. Do NOT click on the previous link if you are: (a) easily offended; (b) slightly (or more) prudish; (c) at work; or (d) trying to maintain some ridiculous illusion that the Not-So-Good Doctor would never, ever, ever put such a thing on his blog.
RK, in another nudge in a kind of running discussion of matters of taste, suggested that I read (well, reread) John Donne's elegy "The Autumnall." It's a beautiful poem, but I guess the simple fact is that Donne's "The Dreame" (also known as "Picture" in one MS copy) probably more fitting for this silly, silly chap. In the former poem, though, Donne says, rather eloquently but in a manner now sure to enrage feminists:
Young Beauties force our love, and that's a Rape ;Ah, 'tis true-- and the Not-At-All-Good Doctor isn't quite ready yet to be consenting.
This doth but counsel, yet you cannot scape.
Yes, a dirty, rotten, shamelessly-lecherous mind is a terrible thing to waste.
(Have I offended everyone now? Let me know if I haven't.)
To say that I'm mighty P-O'd right now would be an understatement. Aaaargh! And frankly, I'm too frustrated to bother trying to redo any of it all. Phukety-phuk-phuk-phuk....
Post-Script: Okay, I was able to restore one post, "He's An Itty-Bitty Kitty."
Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade-named - BOOK.
BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it.
Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere - even sitting in an armchair by the fire - yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.
Here's how it works:
BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.
Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.
BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.
BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.
An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session - even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK. You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with optional programming tools, Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Styli (PENCILS).
Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon.
21 July 2004
Yes, it's finally here, the new edition of the Heaven Admissions Test, and God's evidently in a smiting mood. If you dare, just click here to read it.
You must answer at least TEN of the following questions.
Read this examination paper in its entirety before answering. You are reminded that you have three hours to complete this examination, and that this is your only opportunity to sit this examination, so answer carefully and accurately. Good luck.
1. Stephen Hawking once said: "I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image." Assume this is true. Now explain to your creations, in terms as uplifting to them as possible, why you have to destroy them.
2. Defend mooning as a legitimate form of social criticism. How might it be used ontologically?
3. "There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after," says the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 1:11). Assess the implications of this fact in relation to the traditional notions of confession, repentance, and forgiveness, and explain how those implications effect each of the following:
(a) the works of Marcel Proust;Note: Amnesiacs are precluded from answering this question.
(b) the existence of purgatory;
(c) the idea of love;
(d) that thing you did with the rugby squad, the guinea pig and the cocoa-butter cream;
and (e) your prospects for the successful completion of this examination.
4. Justify J. Lo. Be warned that mentioning any of her songs, films, lovers or body parts will result in immediate disqualification.
5. Summarize the scope of human history in one word. No adjectives or profanities, please.
6. Exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many Charlie's Angels? Remember to show your work for possible partial-credit.
7. Hypothetical situation: the Last Man on Earth is a Jehovah's Witness, sitting alone in a small room. Suddenly, he hears a knock at the door. (Take a moment to savour the irony.) Does he or does he not answer the door? Determine and describe the consequences of his decision.
8. Discuss and comment on the importance of cunnilingus to human evolution.
10. Explain God's purpose(s) in creating each of the following:
(a) tickling;11. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud" (Corinthians 13:4). Identify the substance that Paul was smoking when he wrote those words and explain the social, historical, and economic implications of Paul having bogarted that joint.
(b) the Chia Pet;
(c) Richard Nixon;
(d) the opossum;
(e) the uvula.
12. Is cruciverbalism a heresy? Why or why not?
13. Can God make an error so great that even he cannot repair it? Explain.
14. Evaluate your own success in living in accordance with God's policy on gettin' jiggy with it.
15. Design a course for an upper-level seminar on trust. What readings would you assign? Could you expect your students to do them?
16. Have an epiphany. Right. Now.
17. Write a complete, grammatically-correct sentence that is also a perfect palindrome. Stay away from a man, a plan, a canal and Panama.
18. Perform a precise and meaningful exegesis of the following lyric:
I don't want anybody else19. Name your five favourite sins, cardinal and/or venal. Describe how your indulgence of these favourites now has you screwed but good.
When I think about you
I touch myself
I don't want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no....
20. Describe your greatest regret in life. How would you change things if you could, and what do you suspect would be the consequences?
22. Chart as precisely and as mathematically as you can the structure of the firmament, and then situate yourself within the desire evinced by that structure.
23. Name the one thing you believe above all others, and explain why this belief is utterly and inescapably wrong.
24. Describe the smell you detect coming now from the charnel-houses in the form of a cywydd llosgyrnog.
25. Have faith. Articulate it in one word, and then the Welsh equivalent.
26. Recreate creation using only a cinder block, an ounce-and-a-half of baking soda and two garden hoes.
27. Name every single Bad Thing that you have done in life. Itemize them in a descending scale of priority. Postulate remedies for the top five.
28. Write one thing that will make God smile.
29. Write one thing that will make God laugh.
30. Sing the song buried deepest in your heart without using words. Sing who and what you were before the world was made. If you can, try not to cry.
Submit your examination paper to the attending procters. Feel free to prostrate yourself before them accordingly, but be assured this will do no good.
18 July 2004
And, why, by the way, has Canada never had a Science Minister? Sheesh.... (And the first person that makes a Star Trek reference will suffer severe and vociferous bludgeoning with the nearest blunt instrument, probably Leonard Nimoy's left eyebrow.)
At least one show is tackling the decency debate head-on. "The Simpsons," television's longest-running comedy, will offer its take on the controversy next season on Fox. In an episode to be broadcast after the Super Bowl, Homer finds himself in charge of the game's half-time show. Writers won't say exactly what kind of havoc Homer will wreak, but surely there will be something to offend — and amuse — everyone.
Blessèd, blessèd be....
The fact of love abiding, or, perhaps more correctly, the question of whether it really abides in this or that case, or whether it ceases: is something which occupies the thoughts of men in such manifold ways, is so frequently the subject of their conversation, and very frequently the prinicipal content of all their poets' works. It is regarded as praiseworthy that love abides, but as unworthy that it does not last, that it ceases, that it changes. Only the first is love; the other seems, because of the change, not to be love-- and consequently not to have been love. The facts are these, one cannot cease to be loving; if one is in truth loving, one remains so; if one ceases to be loving, then one was not loving. Ceasing to love has therefore, in relation to love, a retroactive power. Moreover, I can never weary of saying this and of demonstrating it: wherever there is love, there is something infinitely profound. For instance, a man may have had money, and when he no longer has it, it still remains entirely true that he had had money. But when one ceases to be loving, he has never been loving. What is still so gentle as love, and what so strict, so jealous for itself, so chastening as love!Excuse me a moment. I can't even be bothered to parse through the antinomic problems of this sort of thing. Let's just say that I'm now feeling an uncontrollable desire to listen to Tina Turner-- and to have my stomach pumped.
--- Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love
17 July 2004
Sitting at the heart of a distant galaxy, the black hole appears to be about 12.7 billion years old, which means it formed just one billion years after the universe began and is one of the oldest supermassive black holes ever known.I ain't gonna say it....
The black hole, researchers said, is big enough to hold 1,000 of our own Solar Systems and weighs about as much as all the stars in the Milky Way.
But 12.7 billion years old? Unfathomable. This is the sort of thing that makes one think Babylon 5 was closer to science than any Trek crap, with presences (or would they be absences?) so ancient that they simply cannot be contained within a scientific ken. We should call this guy Lorien.
16 July 2004
Not much to be happening in the way of blogging today. Last night I wound up partaking of a couple of bottles of Ontario wine which, as you may have surmised from the collision of the words "Ontario" and "wine," I was still tasting well into this morning. Then much frustration with this blog-: after some renovations last night, all done in Mozilla, I had to redo everything because it all looked rather nauseating in Internet Deplorer. And now I am supposed (key word there, supposed) to be barrelled over by the Musketeers to a stag-and-doe for an old family-friend. We shall see. Alas, yet another wedding on the horizon.... There are far too many of them in the happening. Mehhhhh-wiiiij. I'm almost starting to wonder if The Big Man is trying to tell this curmudgeon to make much of time. Then again, if The Big Man were indeed trying to send such a message I fear I'd have to refuse him (three times, before the cock's crow?). Ah, I should probably ready myself. Hopefully there'll be some decent lagers on tap that I won't still be tasting tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check out Stephen Hawking's anticipated revision of his thinking on black holes. How appropriate.....
15 July 2004
(BTW, note the image on the first page: is it just me ot does that poor young woman seem to be about a week-and-a-half away from being able to sweep the floor when she walks? I've seen drive-in screens that were shorter....)
Maybe it's time for some people to trade up. Key quote: "'He called me the voice of reason,' he said, chuckling. 'No one has ever called me that in the 20 years I've been in politics.'"
We were already looking at a chocolate shortage. Now comes news that berries will be in significantly shorter supply. The gasp you just heard was Christie realizing that her budget's going to triple until this crisis subsides.
Speaking of which: this looks scrumptious, though some of you might prefer other items on the page.
And here, ladies & gents: even further proof, as if we needed any, that there's a website for everything these days.
(Aside: the more stunning thing is that people can still abide watching that horrible show. How it lasted all those decades is the third most-pressing riddle of the 20th century, behind only how Hitler could be elected in Germany and how they manage to get the Jimmy Hoffa into the Caramilk bar.)
While the CRTC approved the Arabic network, it turned down an application to offer Italy's RAI International as a digital specialty service through cable or satellite.Well, go figure.... Actually, the very principle of supporting freedom of speech suggests allowing the carriage of Al-Jazeera, the dismissal of the RAI application just seems like nonsense. Oh, the blessèd CRTC and its wisdom....
More than 100,000 Italian-Canadians signed petitions favouring the RAI application to broadcast 24 hours a day in Canada.
A-ha! Now what's happening in the United States makes perfect sense! Ladies and gentlemen, we now have our mission: find Angela Lansbury.
(Okay, the Frankenheimer film isn't exactly a verbatim translation of Richard Condon's book-- the new film with Denzel Washington claims, though, that it will be closer-- but do you honestly think any of this cadre would read the book rather than see the film? I thought not. Besides, the original film is a classic.)
14 July 2004
Hey, J, the 2004 Edition is just going through revision right now and should be ready soon. I'm letting Loki stall the damned thing in committee while I fidget around with a few other matters. Luci says I'm being too generous this time around, but, well, we'll see. I'd give you a more concrete date, but, hey, you know me-- and what's the point of letting people know when it's gonna happen? Sometimes I wonder why I don't just change the pedagogy and end off with a final project-- you know, creating life, or a reconstruction of the spheres or some such thing-- but I get lazy in the end and think this at least leaves me with less of a mess to clean up at the end. Besides, I hate fucking dioramas. (Pardon my Sumerian.) Hate em, hate em, hate em. The other good thing about the tried-and-true method: I don't have to make comments. That bloody Job nearly sent me right off presentations completely. Anyway, I'll send it soon. Gotta line up the proctors, prepare the charnel houses, the whole drill, first. Let everyone know it's coming. Put the fear of Me into them. LOL. 1 r taht 1 r.Oh crap.... See the previous edition here. And some previous answers. Yikes.
Yah? Way.... It's time to sizzle some nizzle-- fo' shizzle. :-)
el Docco G
P.S. Loved the candy-dish. Used to have one just like it. Called her "Eve," but then Isis saw it and, well, you can guess the rest....
Read "Excuse Me, Officer...."; the final paragraph alone is worth the long read.
EXCUSE ME, OFFICER, COULD YOU DIRECT ME TO THE NEAREST PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL?
By Frank Johnson
Prospect magazine has cleverly won itself some publicity with a list in its July issue of 'the top 100 British public intellectuals'. It being alphabetical, Tariq Ali's name, I was pleased to see, was at its head.
As a Tory, I am an opponent of American neoconservatism. British Toryism should always oppose internationalist ideologies, of which American neoconservatism is the latest. Mr Ali, as a Marxist, is also an internationalist. But for whatever reason, he was more right about the biggest subject of the late 20th century - the Soviet Union - than the neoconservatives were. The latter said it was a mighty and frightening power. The 1960s New Left, out of which Mr Ali emerged, said it was a ramshackle polity whose might and power people like the neoconservatives exaggerated for their own purposes. By the late 1980s - not a long time after the 1960s by the standards of history - the Soviet Union collapsed without firing a shot westwards. The New Left was more right than the New Right. More Old Tories thought like Mr Ali than cared to admit it. They included, if Mr Ali will forgive the expression, Enoch Powell. But most kept quiet. Mr Ali, then, deserves his place.
So, doubtless, does the last name on the 100, James Wood, the literary critic. A few Rightish names creep in: Noel Malcolm, Roger Scruton, David Green of the free-market think tank Civitas, and, rather daringly, Melanie Phillips. There is also David Starkey, the Macaulay of our day, for we may be sure that Macaulay in our day, as well as writing books, would also have been a television historian.
Another name is that of 'Julian Le Grand, social policy theorist'. Some us are intellectually self-confident enough to admit that we have never heard of him. It sounds like an invented name. Julian Le Grand could be a social policy theorist in a television thriller, found dead in the Sorbonne library. Did he kill himself because a rival academic had discovered that he had falsified his degree in social policy theory and that, in any case, his name was not Julian Le Grand, but Julian Le Petit? But of course it turns out to be more complicated than that.
Another explanation for this name's inclusion occurs: Prospect made the name up to expose its more pretentious contributors and readers; luring them into exclaiming to one another that Julian Le Grand was 'the only social policy theorist one read these days; the rest being so dumbed down'. But we do not associate Prospect with practical jokes.
An especially welcome name on the list is that of Lord Skidelsky: the historian Robert Skidelsky. Welcome not just because of his books, but because of a story I heard about him only the other day which I hope is true, and which, if it is, reflects vast credit on him. My informant said that Lord Skidelsky bet David Dimbleby a case of champagne that in his interview with ex-President Clinton, he would not ask Mr Clinton about the oral sex. But Mr Dimbleby did, and it was Lord Skidelsky who sent the case of champagne. For once, a public intellectual has justified himself.
But what exactly is a public intellectual? Is it the same principle as a public convenience? Excuse me, officer, I've been caught short conceptually. Could you direct me to the nearest public intellectual? Intellectuals can be touchy about whether they are spoken to with enough deference. Perhaps public intellectuals wear a sign: 'Kindly adjust your address before leaving.' The Guardian seems to subscribe to the public convenience analogy. Annoyed at so few women being on Prospect's list, it apparently published a list of female public intellectuals. It would help if male and female public intellectuals could each wear those little signs, so vital to public conveniences, indicating respectively gents and ladies.
The term 'public intellectual' comes from the United States. Or at least it was in American publications that I first saw it used. A public intellectual seems to be an intellectual who earns a living by making his or her opinions public, or is an intellectual of whom a public of a reasonable size has heard. Not just the public as a whole, as in the case of Dr Starkey, but the many small publics which would have heard of, say, Julian Le Grand. Believers in the importance of intellectuals would put it higher. Public intellectuals, they might say, are intellectuals who are especially wise, and to whom we should listen or in whom we should believe.
That raises problems. For some of us, reading and listening to them is one of life's pleasures. But should we act on their advice? We may be sure that some of the compilers of Prospect's list, being intellectuals themselves, believe that we should go further than reading and listening to them: we should somehow give them political power. The world would be better governed if intellectuals, rather than people like President Bush, governed it. Thus Gordon Brown is on Prospect's list.
But Mr Brown's success as Chancellor is the result of something he did, at the outset, which the more intellectual economists opposed. That was handing over monetary policy to the Bank of England - something which the pronouncements of Keynes, the economist of the past who today would most likely be described as a public intellectual, suggest that he would have opposed. Handing monetary policy to the Bank was a cause of non-intellectual businessmen and unfashionable right-wing economists.
Likewise, Mr Bush blundered into Iraq not because he was non-intellectual but because intellectuals influenced him. That is, the neoconservatives. However much left-liberal intellectuals disapprove of them, the neoconservatives are typical intellectuals. Their magazine, Commentary, irrespective of whether one agrees with it, is one of the most intellectually distinguished magazines in the language. Lenin and Trotsky were intellectuals. To them is owed the 20th century's most disastrous political invention. Previously, radicals assumed that it would be enough to capture the state, and rule through it. Lenin and Trotsky proved that a better instrument was the omnipotent party. First Mussolini, then more terribly Hitler, copied them.
But perhaps our intelligentsia will only abandon its excessive regard for intellectuals once it is convinced that intellectuals can also be right-wing. Plenty have been. The term bien pensants - now used only about left-liberals - was invented to describe the royalist and absolutist intellectuals of Third Republic France, such as Charles Maurras. But, as already mentioned, the neoconservatives tend to be intellectuals. So there is some hope that 'intellectual' may eventually become a bad word even among Prospect's writers and readers. A remark attributed to Stanley Baldwin should be the last word: 'The intelligent are to the intelligentsia what a gentleman is to a gent.'
(c)2001 The Spectator.co.uk Close this
I don't even want to imagine what this means....
In the past 20 years, Americans have increased public assistance to colleges and universities by 30 per cent in real terms, whereas public moneys in Canada have fallen by 20 per cent, after inflation.No, Jeff, some of us don't wonder. This is the price we're paying for myopia. Maybe The Soylent-Green Party is a thing whose time has come.
You wonder why class sizes are growing, the undergraduate experience is weakening, and tuition fees are rising.
13 July 2004
(There are, in fact, about seventeen directions in which this blog could go from here, but all of them are shamelessly filthy. Make that eighteen.)
We must not let loose our own subjectivity upon the pictures and make them its vehicles. We must begin by laying aside as completely as we can all our own preconceptions, interests, and associations. We must make room for Botticelli's Mars and Venus, or Cimbaue's Crucifixion, by emptying out our own. After the negative effort, the positive. We must use our eyes. We must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there. We sit down before the picture in order for the picture to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)It's a simple principle, not difficult at all (although, depending on the context, one might substitute ears for eyes, and so forth). The ridiculously irrational state of affairs in just about all "responsive" circles has become astonishingly intolerant. When reading, when debating, when participating in any form of discourse, get yourself out of the way as completely as you can. For those needing an even more pithy way of summarizing this principle: Give things a chance. That doesn't mean merely shouting at others, or letting your opponent say his or her bit before returning to your own imperious stump. Look. Listen. Dare to receive. Be patient. Engage.
from An Experiment In Criticism (1961)
Let us face facts: there is very little genuine debate right now, at least in larger discursive circles, including the current American election, a cacophonous farce of democracy. (Don't worry: the Canadian election was one, too.) Why? Because most people are talking rather than listening, imposing and superimposing themselves rather than hearing alternate ways of thinking. It never ceases amaze me the current penchant for demagoguery and the culture of polarization that has resulted from it-- on both sides of the political, intellectual, sociological (and so on and so forth) spectra. It destroys more than it creates, and it undermines more than it understands.
(WARNING: Clicking on the preceding link may provide more information than you ever wanted to know. I assure you, it's more than I wanted to know. And to my younger readers, perhaps unsure about the reference made above, see here.)
(Query: is it even possible anymore for American to produce a satirist of Pope's or Dryden's, or even Mark Twain's, ability anymore? Magic Eight-Ball reads "All signs point to NO." *shrug* )
In a related matter, Jeff Simpson at the Globe has come out in (albeit mild) encouragement of looking at new systems of proportional representation to deal with the evermore-prominent disjunction between the way Canadians vote and the governments they end up electing. This blog can't help but think the French system has a bit of wisdom to it-- a second round in which voters know what they're dealing with and which compels finally a "one-or-the-other" decision-- but Jeff's right; it's impossible enough to get my compatriots out to vote to begin with. The Australian system is more problematic but more "over-and-done-with" and may find some support. This blog's primary question, though, is why it's taken this long to get debate seriously going on this, especially after the Free Trade eleciton in 1988. Although opinion on that has now moreorless turned (even Liberals and New Democrats no longer talk of ditching the agreement), it was a bizarre result of parliamentary democracy that what effectively became a referendum on an issue could wrench a "yes" win from a 40-odd percent of the vote. Ah, Canadians, always so quick to action....
(This concludes the CanConPol portion of this blog for the day. You may now proceed to matters more trivial, certainly, but eminently more enjoyable.)
12 July 2004
This blog wants to be a lobster. This blog also has it on impeccable authority that it goes very well with butter.
Key quote: "And they come one after another."
Note: all crab-cracks (cracked-crab bits included) and references to this blog as "Doctor Claw" will result in punishments so severe that PETA will end up protesting your treatment.
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
As the song goes, don't it [the article] just make ya wanna cry, wanna lay down and die? If I beat anyone the way this young woman beats this metaphor, I'd be imprisoned for life with absolutely no possibility of parole. Or langue for that matter.
Read "Sent To The Chopping Block"
Sent To The Chopping Block
In my corner of academe, English Renaissance drama, New Historicists dominated the 1980s and '90s. Their research often involved speculating about who might symbolize Elizabeth I in any given play, preferably by Shakespeare. Was it Portia in The Merchant of Venice? In Hamlet, was it Gertrude? Or Hamlet himself?
But all of those guesses were wrong. As it turns out, my dissertation director is Queen Elizabeth. And I've been sent to the chopping block.
My adviser -- let's call him Brad Torey -- sports a Palm Pilot and tenure rather than a scepter and divine right, and, sadly, geometric-print rayon shirts instead of ermine robes. But his rule bears a startling resemblance to Elizabeth's court, where the monarch -- flirtatious, unobtainable, and more than a little vain -- demanded that courtiers woo her and be wooed. To do business with the queen was to offer undying love and to hope for tokens of affection in exchange -- a dance, perhaps, or maybe a shipbuilding contract.
Brad's dominion over his students is similarly romantic. I got chocolate from England; my fellow doctoral student, Jane, got candy from Scotland. He sends cards, sometimes with endearments -- "honey," "sweetheart," "darling." He meets us in casually chic restaurants and bars.
When he presented me with a copy of the Oxford Classical Dictionary and gave Jane an old television set, we giggled, trying to figure out what that meant.
Somehow, sex always rears its ugly, lovely head in the Torey court: office-hours conversations about how Monica Lewinsky might have gotten exactly what she wanted, about student-professor affairs. (I couldn't help noting, perhaps paranoiacally, that during my comprehensive exams Brad used the word "arousing" no less than five times. At no point were we talking about sex.)
Our monarch is frank about his history with other women: the mother who preferred his brother, the devout high-school girlfriend, the woman who turned him down for a date with a ludicrous excuse (she was busy for lunch that year), the nurse, the schoolteacher, the bruising divorce, and finally, the dissertation student who married him a few years ago. She had to give up her teaching career, of course. Brad, our Virgin King, does not wear a wedding ring.
Elizabeth was frequently accused of miserliness; her first earl of Essex, along with two of her chief knights, Hatton and Walsingham, died as broke as any grad students. Brad himself doesn't much like handing out money to his ladies in waiting.
We've taught his classes and edited his manuscripts, yet received no compensation in return. When he was in England, Jane drove without complaint to his large, sparkling house, taking care of cats and plants -- unpaid, as usual.
But I don't really think Elizabeth was just stingy, and I don't think Brad is either. His reluctance to put things on a financial footing, rather, shows a desire for his subjects' absolute fealty. By agreeing to do these things for him gratis, even as we take out more and more student loans, we are forced to admit our need and desire to please him.
Brad, though, sees it differently: The graduate students he advises are his friends, he says. We're all partners with him in a joint venture, right? Yes, Brad. If you say so, Brad. You're the boss.
At any rate, Brad asks for his students' love, and he gets it. We felt the knife when he had surgery one semester, winced along with him when his fittingly Tudor gout flared up. We listen sympathetically, trying not to let our reactions give anything away, when he wonders aloud whether he's too old for his students to find him attractive. (As Elizabeth aged, needing reassurance, she demanded more and more wooing from her courtiers, to less and less effect.)
But I wish Brad would spend a bit less time in the English Renaissance with Elizabeth and a bit more in the Italian Renaissance with Machiavelli, who wrote that it was better to be feared than to be loved. Because whatever Brad thinks, it's fear, not love, that he wants.
It took a few years for me to feel the treacherous shoals of the intimacy Brad had offered, to see the bearded jaw tighten in anger, to hear that California-tinged voice drop and get a little husky with rage. The queen's young favorites inevitably presumed too much intimacy; so did I.
Last semester, after waiting three years for Brad to read a chapter draft (my departmental stipend had expired in the meantime), I asked for more feedback in a tone that wasn't exactly courtly. And I implied -- in public -- that one of Brad's suggestions for my dissertation might not work.
Those were fatal errors.
Today I can no longer call Brad my director at all. He resigned from my committee with a curt note, and though he had approved my dissertation prospectus and passed me for my comps, he refused to sign the paperwork that would get me into doctoral candidacy and didn't bother telling me.
The queen had her critics maimed and executed; I merely got dumped. But man, even without having my entrails drawn out of my still-living body and fed to waiting dogs, I sure do feel eviscerated.
The department hasn't quite kicked me out. I've found a new dissertation director, recently tenured. Brad seems to know everyone and to head every important committee, though, and I'm not too optimistic about my career.
As for his other courtiers, Jane and our friend Laura keep soldiering along in Brad's service. His wife, Mary, still lives with him. Doris didn't try for an academic job after her decade or so in the graduate program; instead, she works alongside Mary in an office on campus. Alice got the kind of plum tenure-track position we were all supposed to try for, but things haven't gone so well for her. Unable to produce a dissertation that Brad would sign until years after she was hired, her tenure case looks bad. Like Queen Elizabeth, Brad will leave no heirs to the throne.
Meanwhile, I'm still sans doctorate. I've left Brad's kingdom for adjunct work in a rural state adjoining the one where I grew up. I'd call it "exile," but that sounds a little grand.
Actually this small Southern town isn't so bad. From here, I correspond occasionally with my undergraduate adviser, a man of many kindnesses. And sometimes I take walks in the oldest local cemetery. In the spring rains, the cemetery looks suitably romantic, with the artificial flowers blown across the gray-green grass. Some of the names on the gravestones seem to come from a period only a few generations after the earl of Essex's head must have thudded on his queen's scaffold. But I can't quite make out the dates on the weathered granite. They could be 17th century, or 21st.
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
Ana Forbes is the pseudonym of an adjunct instructor of English at a university in the South.
I guess *sigh* she's movin' on up...
*pause* *I know, I know, it's just so crass, so fantastically wrong*
...to a deluxe apartment in the sky-hy....
(This blog now feels so, so, dirty. )
Reading this post over at Christie's site today (and, surely, opening myself up for no end of assassination attempts), I got to thinking about all those beautiful actresses now as culturally-forgotten as the poems of Alfred Noyes. We build our female icons for a moment, and we discard them so quickly, though usually after a series of head-scratching career-missteps. I was thinking about Gabrielle Anwar and how stunning she used to be-- so much so that her one scene in Scent of a Woman remains the only thing people remember about that flick other than Pacino's overripe "hoo-yahs." I think of Olivia Hussey, still for all intents-and-purposes every teenage boy's image of Juliet. I think, hell, even of Sharon Stone, once everyone's hot topic. Remember when Winona Ryder wasn't a laughing stock? They've all faded into one form of obscurity or another, more a novelty of a role or two in culture's memory despite eventually being relegated to work at the Mr. Submarine's of the film industry. Then there are the ones Doc J didn't especially have a thing for but who had their moments. Mira Sorvino? Kim Basinger? Brooke Shields? All of them now footnotes now. All still alive, all of them working, none of them culturally relevant. Sad, isn't it? Admittedly, some just simply didn't age particularly well, and some didn't have a great deal of talent. This happens, all of this happens. But looking back, say, at some of the pictures of, say, Ms. Anwar or Ms. Hussey, I'm struck by how beautiful they still look by today's ever-shifting standards of beauty, and I wonder why they didn't make it bigger. Ms. Anwar can't be 35 yet. Ms. Hussey could have passed for 30 well into her mid-40s. Or what about Kimberley Williams, known to everybody as Steve Martin's daughter in Father of the Bride? Now stuck humiliating herself on a weekly basis on-- gasp-- According to Jim. Her predecessor in the same role was Elizabeth Taylor, a laughing-stock for decades but undeniably a star for the ages.
I'm trying not think of Keat's Grecian Urn, but it's inescapable. I don't want to slide into the drudgerous thinking of "beauty fades," even if it does. In the end, though, we don't cherish beauty as much as we think we do. We talk about it excitedly, then glibly, for a time, then we moreorless forget it, maybe to rediscover it again, almost surely only briefly. We forget. I wish I knew why we do that, beyond the obvious reasons of moving forward in time and being surrounded by new people and new things and such. It's sad how much beauty one forgets, of which the physical visions named above are just communal images, denominative, impersonal ones, really. I wonder if there's a comfort in allowing ourselves to believe life is just as grey and banal as it seems when we make our commutes and sit through our meetings and watch our television and read our newspapers. Sometimes I think we wean ourselves from beauty rather than keeping it in our memories, we learn not to think so much about it, not to remember too well the details and the charms, else we'd be forever beholden to it, forever bound to something that something that we have seen and known and moved on from; that is, something we situate firmly in the past tense. Humanity needs its greyness, I think. It's so much easier that way.
Whether easier is better is another matter entirely.
For the record, check out the official White House biography of President Bush. Notice that the article does not mention that the President was elected, or by how much.
|There once was an old man of Esser,|
Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser,
It at last grew so small
He knew nothing at all
And now he's a college professor.
|The limerick's callous and crude,|
Its morals distressingly lewd;
It's not worth the reading
By persons of breeding -
It's designed for us vulgar and rude.
This site, however, is much more complete, and generally the quality of the limericks much better. Consider:
Two guys at a condom conventionThat should be "whose," but.... And:
Attracted a lot of attention.
"Who's dong is the bigger?"
They argued with vigour;
But still it's a bone of contention.
"If only you'd show me", I said,And then there's this one that may take a second to register:
"Just a smidgeon of interest in bed.
Just a smile? Just a sigh?
Just a touch on my thigh?
Just a ... Shit, I forgot you were dead."
f vwels n my keybard I've fur;Enjoy. And remember, they're limericks. Don't expect any of the good ones to be clean.
I've cunted 'em lking fr mre.
I thught that there ught
T be mre f that srt
S the must've drpped t the flr.
By the way, one has to wonder why this story isn't getting more prominent play in the U.S. media. *evil, shifty glare* If you're wondering about the source of the story, check out the relevant FAQ which is good for a chuckle or two. The authors are self-professed old-timers that "long for the days when men were men, sheep were nervous and Playboy Playmates really did look like the girl next door." This blog concurs with points one and three.
11 July 2004
(This blog apologizes for its uncontrollable drool. It has had an incurable crush on Jennifer Connolly, the real one, since it saw her in The Hot Spot, oh-too-many years ago. Any of you that dare to do the math on that will be viciously beaten with a Windex bottle and/or the bones of Burgess Meredith, whichever is nearest at hand. Harrumph.)
You got railway carriage-charm, you got railway carriage-charm....And it's that elongated "Y" sound that makes all the difference: he holds it for the perfect time and with the perfect timbre, and he nails it. There's a tough catharsis to it, a rigorous strength that denies cheap sentimentality, and it lances through musical convention even as it demonstrates a kind of showy virtuousity. It's a note given enough muscularity and force that one almost forgets that it's a human voice making the sound, Morrison's tenor almost purely saxophonic, and it's pulled off with such apparent ease that one almost forgets that assaying to reach such a note in concert could turn so easily into embarrassing failure. It's a moment few other musicians could pull off-- and only Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra leap to mind as ones who've been able to do it successfully. And it's brilliant, fucking brilliant. It sings of despair without for a second seeming timorous or reluctant, and it prepares us for the supplication of language to music that follows. It's a dizzying moment, the sort of thing that reminds guys like me why we listen to music in the first place: it makes one forget the sad prose at the end of the sun. This is what the human voice can do, and it almost seems like nothing at all. It's a steeling lesson for a Sunday morning.
Ray Charles said it this way:
Did ya ever wake up in the mornin'
Just about the break of day
Reach over feel your pilla'
Where your baby used to lay,
Do all your cryin'
Like you never cried before,
CrYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY so hard,
you give your blues to the neighbour next door.
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- But Teach Me To Ball, And I Ball Forever....
- Pretty Guy For A Fruit Fly
- Civic Pride
- The Best Part Of Waking Up
- Not Waving But Drowning
- "Um, That's A Real Tough Question To Answer."
- Hymns To The Bloody Silence
- Dulce Et Decorum Est
- Good Grief
- Feeding It Back
- Night's Template
- Diminished Capacity
- Our HATs In The Ring....
- Rake's Progress, or The Rape Of The Doc
- The Gay Divorcee
- The Hot New Tech
- HAT: 2004 Edition
- Breed The Geeks
- Diplomatic Impunity
- "Unacceptable Comments"
- Angry Dad To The Rescue
- Queasy, Queasy Like Sunday Morning
- Now That's A Massive Hole....
- Rule Britannia
- What The Thunderbox Said
- I'm Talking About Shopping Here
- That Friday Taste
- A Fury Of Accord
- Maher, Maher, Maher!!!!
- Queer As Milk
- Kinda Blue
- Good Golly Miss Molly
- Always Thinking Of Others
- All That Jazeera
- Bombed? Us?
- Frankenheimer's Monster
- Shades of Gray
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- Dumbing Down
- "That's What Our Children Deserve"
- You Know You're A Self-Victimizing Hyperbolist Whe...
- Behold, He Makes All Things New
- "Let's Make Litter Out Of These Literati!"
- ~~I Didn't Sleep At All Last Night~~ (Doot-ditty-d...
- Screw The Future
- Lennon's Tomb
- "You Can Leave Them Slightly Parted Like I've Done...
- Remembering A Staple
- "Anyway, You're Still Fat."
- Jersey Girl
- That'll Get 'Em Tolkien....
- "Sweetly, Dirtier, Dirtier"
- One Way, To Dullness, 'Tis Inclined
- Mandarin Laundries and PR PR
- Turfin' The Debt
- Betta Down Where It's Wetta....
- Oh, God, Doctor J, Not Another Wallace Stevens Pun...
- Going The Dissedance
- This Blog Is About To Be Thoroughly Ashamed Of Its...
- "This Man Is About To Die."
- Tossed Salad And Scrambled Eggs....
- Hard Times
- The Democratic Age
- Five By Five
- Unchain My Heart
- Easy Come, Easy Go
- The Beautiful Waist Of The Hourglass!
- Did You See That Ass?
- The Prose At The End Of The Sun
- I Think I Scan, I Think I Scan, I Think I Scan...
- Deus Ex Machina
- Like The Middle East, Or Junior High School
- The Red Batch of Courage
- It's All In The Game
- Now They Would Arrest Her For Smoking
- Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackberry
- The Dread, Clammy Spectre Of Inclusiveness
- Criticism, Sans Facts
- Huge, Heaving Bosoms
- Where The World's Your Oyster...
- Why Not, Indeed....
- Barnacle Bill
- Let This Cup Pass From Me
- "He Let It All Happen"
- This Is What Happens When You Listen To Billy Ocea...
- Buenos Diaz! (or, There's S&M About Mary)
- "I Needed To Hunt Virgins Twice A Year."
- Body Of Me
- Only In America....
- MXC in MMIV
- Blinded By The Light
- Reader Madness
- "Peace And Love... Or Nothing At All."
- Keirascuro Imagery
- "Do You Think I'm Just Anyone? Do You?"
- What's Your Metaphor?
- Somebody Said, Lift That Bale
- Get A Little Bit Closer, Don't Be Shy
- Nice Work If You Can Get It
- So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
- I Challenge....
- The Brunswick Howls
- The Greene In Spain
- The Living Headlights
- A Story For Banana Anne
- Who Were Those Masked Men?
- "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!"
- Waxing Nostalgic
- A Touch Of Frost, or His Secret Ministry ...
- Sentence Fragment
- A Dutch Of Class
- The Face That Launched A Thousand Chips
- Alberta, Alberta....
- Pro Serviam?
- Mmmmmm, Just Fourteen.....
- And Ye Shall Be As Gods!
- The Chicks And The Thing With Several Legs
- But Did They Make It To Asgard?
- What Sid Meier Forgot
- But Will They Have Grounds More Relative Than This...
- Funniest Download Message Ever
- Young Man, Are Ya Listenin' To Me?
- Saturday Morning Cartoons
- The Foul Rag And Bone Shop Of The Heart
- The Familiar Wallpaper Stain
- Another Passing
- Like Cicadas From Hell
- "But Just Then, The Chapter Ended."
- Remember The Geneva Convention!
- Molehills Of The Caribbean
- "It's A Sociological Dissection..."
- The Pluck Of The Irish
- My Ever-Shifting Godliness
- Another Year, Another Birthday
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