Dec 12 2017

Between Real and Unreal in Death and Pornography

Mark Twain in Athens

Between Real and Unreal in Death and Pornography

Beginning with Oscar Wilde (1854-1900):

Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly…. Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing…. A new Hedonism—that is what our century wants.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 2.

Now compare Alexi Sargeant, “The Undeath of Cinema: Why digital resurrection is so creepy–and how it’s hastening Hollywood’s decline into a soulless factory,” The New Atlantis, Summer/Fall 2017:

Peter Cushing’s performance in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is remarkable because Cushing died in 1994. Industrial Light & Magic’s computer-generated imagery (CGI) wizards digitally resurrected Cushing to once again portray the villainous Imperial Grand Moff Tarkin, a central antagonist of the original 1977 Star Wars, in which the character brutally orders the destruction of Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan. Recreating Cushing for Rogue One was experimental in two senses: Disney was testing out both the technology and audiences’ reactions to it.

And from Samantha Cole, “AI-Assisted Fake Porn is Here and We’re All Fucked,” Vice, December 11, 2017:

Someone used an algorithm to paste the face of ‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot onto a porn video, and the implications are terrifying….

And a followup to Cole’s piece by Rod Dreher, “Stop it with the Selfies. Really,” The American Conservative, December 12, 2017.

Returning to Wilde:

“My dear Gladys, I would not alter either name for the world. They are both perfect. I was thinking chiefly of flowers. Yesterday I cut an orchid, for my button-hole. It was a marvellous spotted thing, as effective as the seven deadly sins. In a thoughtless moment I asked one of the gardeners what it was called. He told me it was a fine specimen of Robinsoniana, or something dreadful of that kind. It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. Names are everything. I never quarrel with actions. My one quarrel is with words. That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray ch. XVII

 


Dec 5 2017

Scottish Schadenfreude from David Hume

porticos in Bologna, Italia

Scottish Schadenfreude from David Hume

“[David Hume] loved to puncture convictions and to discomfit dignitaries. He was sincerely irreligious, but he also wanted to shock. Such Schadenfreude doubtless quickens a man’s perception of vulnerable targets, but in itself it gives no more, though no less, of a title to intellectual eminence than does the desire to reassure. Both can be motives to good, both to bad thinking. But the quality of the thinking has to be judged by its results, not by its motives.”

––Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976)

“Hume” (1956) in Gilbert Ryle: Collected Papers. Vol. I, (London: Hutchinson & Co, 1971).


Dec 3 2017

Some Notes on “How to Think” by Alan Jacobs

Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna, Italia

Some Notes on How to Think (2017) by Alan Jacobs

  • “To be freely aware and richly responsible” means gracefully attending to the “relational goods” of one’s neighbor (Jacobs 47-49)….
  • One must graciously attend/adjust/adapt these relational goods–what Roger Scruton calls “negotiating our posture toward the other,” (Jacobs 83)….
  • Genuine questioning in a community is conversation, not communication, (Jacobs 59) as I’ve recently pointed out:

Communication [says Wendell Berry] is when you’re being told to do something by someone else, like to remove a statue or let it remain. Conversation, on the other hand, is dialogue, a back-and-forth process of giving and receiving. Or to use the words of Martin Buber, while conversation is a mode of discourse where an “I” and a “You” function as reciprocal partners, communication is a mode of discourse between an all-powerful “I” talking down to a faceless, listening “It.” The first treats humans as individuals; the latter as mere objects of manipulation. Hence the fluidity of conversation is open to inquiry in ways that rigid communication isn’t.

  • Out of that negotiation one finds a You in their neighbor instead of an It….
  • My neighbor who voted differently than I….
  • As I read How to Think, I keep recalling words from Martin Buber (1878-1965Knowledge of Man (1966):

Genuine conversation, and therefore every actual fulfillment of relation between men, means acceptance of otherness….  (69) Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other…. (71)

By far the greater part of what is today called conversation among men would be more properly and precisely described as speechifying. In general, people do not really speak to one another, but each, although turned to the other, really speaks to a fictitious court of appeal whose life consists of noting but listening to him…. (78–79)

Man exists anthropologically not in his isolation, but in the completeness of the relation between man and man; what humanity is can be properly grasped only in vital reciprocity…. (84)

Now, since if there is anything real, then (on account of this reality consisting in the ultimate agreement of all men, and on account of the fact that reasoning from parts to whole, is the only kind of synthetic reasoning which men possess) it follows necessarily that a sufficiently long succession of inferences from parts to whole will lead men to a knowledge of it, so that in that case they cannot be fated on the whole to be thoroughly unlucky in their inductions. This second branch of the problem is in fact equivalent to asking why there is anything real, and thus its solution will carry the solution of the former branch one step further…. Each of us is an insurance company, in short….

The care that men have for what is to happen after they are dead, cannot be selfish. And finally and chiefly, the constant use of the word “we” — as when we speak of our possessions on the Pacific — our destiny as a republic — in cases in which no personal interests at all are involved, show conclusively that men do not make their personal interests their only ones, and therefore may, at least, subordinate them to the interests of the community.

But just the revelation of the possibility of this complete self-sacrifice in man, and the belief in its saving power, will serve to redeem the logicality of all men. For he who recognizes the logical necessity of complete self-identification of one’s own interests with those of the community, and its potential existence in man, even if he has it not himself, will perceive that only the inferences of that man who has it are logical, and so views his own inferences as being valid only so far as they would be accepted by that man. But so far as he has this belief, he becomes identified with that man. And that ideal perfection of knowledge by which we have seen that reality is constituted must thus belong to a community in which this identification is complete…. (“Ground of Validity of the Laws of Logic: Further Consequences of Four Incapacities.”)

Finally, as what anything really is, is what it may finally come to be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality depends on the ultimate decision of the community; so thought is what it is, only by virtue of its addressing a future thought which is in its value as thought identical with it, though more developed. In this way, the existence of thought now depends on what is to be hereafter; so that it has only a potential existence, dependent on the future thought of the community. (“Some Consequences of Four Incapacities.”)

Great to see @ayjay and @austinkleon at @bookpeople tonight #books #thinking #literature #ATX #Austin

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Dec 2 2017

When Late-19th Century Daughters Remember The Fiddles of their Fathers

pencil shavings

When Late-19th Century Daughters Remember The Fiddles of their Fathers

The other day I was doing some background research on my grand-grandfather by reading Emma Guest Bourne’s (1882-1959A Pioneer Farmer’s Daughter of Red River ValleyNortheast Texas (1950) and came across this poignant passage:

Father used to play a piece on his violin known as Blossom Prairie. I caught a few words as I would hear him singing the song, but have never heard the song since I was a child, and only know a few words. Yet the melody is still with me. In my imagination, I can see father as he sat before the fireplace in his little straight chair with his violin and bow as he played this beautiful song. At intervals he would let the bow rest as it was poised over the violin, and he would thump the melody of the chorus with his left fingers as he held the violin under his chin. In the chorus, Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, were the opening words, and then these words would follow; [sic] “Oh, the green grass grows all over Blossom…” How I have wished for these words, but no one has even been able to give them to me. Mount Vernon was the county seat for several years of Lamar County before the seat was established at Paris, five miles north of Mt. Vernon. [1]

Bourne was born in 1882, and her longing for a ghost-song of her father initially reminded me of the early days of file-sharing on the internet–when one may have heard a song only once in one’s life, and never knowing the name, was somehow able to find it on Napster or by similar means.

But upon reflection, what Bourne’s passage reminded me of was a similar scene told by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s (1867-1957) daughter Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968) of her last visit to her grandparents “Ma and Pa Ingalls”:

We were ready to start early next day, before sun-up, and that evening we went to Grandma’s to say good-by….

Aunt Carrie and I sat in the doorway. Papa got up to give Grandma his chair and Mama stood a minute in the doorway to the dark sitting room. They had blown out the lamp, and there was just a faint start-shine that seemed to be more in the summer air than in the sky. Then, Mama said, “Pa, would you play the fiddle just one more time?”

“Why yes, if you want I should,” Grandpa said. And then he said, “Run get me my fiddle-box, Laura,” and somehow I knew that he had said those words in just that way, many times, and his voice sounded as if he were speaking to a little girl, not Mama at all. She brought it out to him, the fiddle-box, and he took the fiddle out of it and twanged the strings with his thumb, tightening them up. In the dark there by the house wall you could see only a glimmer in his eyes and the long beard on his shirtfront, and his arm lifting the bow. And then out of the shadows came the sound. It was—I can’t tell you. It was gay and strong and reaching, wanting, trying to get to something beyond, and ti just lifted up the heart and filled it so full of happiness and pain and longing that it broke your heart open like a bud.

Nobody said anything. We just sat there in the dimness and stillness, and Grandpa tightened up a string and said, “Well, what shall I play? You first, Mary.” And from the sitting room where she sat in her rocker just inside the doorway, Aunt Mary said, “ ‘Ye banks and braes of Bonnie Doon,’ please Pa.”

So Grandpa played. He went on playing his fiddle there in the warm July evening, and we listened. In all my life I never heard anything like it. You hardly ever heard anymore the tunes that Grandpa played…. [2]

NOTES

wood

[1] Emma Guest Bourne, A Pioneer Farmer’s Daughter of Red River Valley, Northeast Texas, (Dallas, TX: The Story Book Press, 1950), 262.

[2] Rose Wilder Lane, “Grandpa’s Fiddle,”A Little House Sampler, by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, ed. William Anderson, (Lincoln, NE, 1988; New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1995), 66-67.


Nov 26 2017

Reading About AI and All That

porticos in Bologna, ItaliaReading About AI and All That

Three interesting pieces on AI and its potential malevolence or benevolence:

 

 


Nov 25 2017

The Trouble with Reading Too Many Good Books

bookshelf

The Trouble with Reading Too Many Good Books

Twenty-four years ago, Harold Bloom said we should read only canonical works, only the best of the best:

Who reads must choose, since there is literally not enough time to read everything, even if one does nothing but read….

Reviewing bad books, W. H. Auden once remarked, is bad for the character. Like all gifted moralists, Auden idealized despite himself, and he should have survived into the present age, wherein the new commissars tell us that reading good books is bad for the character, which I think is probably true. Reading the very best writers–let us say Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy–is not going to make us better citizens. Art is perfectly useless, according to the sublime Oscar Wilde, who was right about everything. He also told us that all bad poetry is sincere….

Reading deeply in the Canon will not make one a better or a worse person, a more useful or more harmful citizen. The mind’s dialogue with itself is not primarily a social reality. All that the Western Canon can bring one is the proper use of one’s own solitude, that solitude whose final form is one’s confrontation with one’s own mortality.

We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before…. One ancient test for the canonical remains fiercely valid: unless it demands rereading, the work does not qualify….

Yet we must choose: As there is only so much time, do we reread Elizabeth Bishop or Adrienne Rich? Do I again go in search of lost time with Marcel Proust, or am I to attempt yet another rereading of Alice Walker’s stirring denunciation of all males, black and white? ….

If we were literally immortal, or even if our span were doubled to seven score of years, says, we could give up all argument about canons. But we have an interval only, and then our place knows us no more, and stuffing that interval with bad writing, in the name of whatever social justice, does not seem to me to be the responsibility of the literary critic…. [1]

More recently, Alan Jacobs has suggested we should place some limits even on canonical works:

While I agree with Harold Bloom about many things and am thankful for his long advocacy for the greatest of stories and poems, in these matters I am firmly on the side of Lewis and Chesterton. Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame. And even if you are that rare sort of person who is delighted chiefly by what some people call Great Books, don’t make them your steady intellectual diet, any more than you would eat at the most elegant of restaurants every day. It would be too much. Great books are great in part because of what they ask of their readers: they are not readily encountered, easily assessed. The poet W. H. Auden once wrote, “When one thinks of the attention that a great poem demands, there is something frivolous about the notion of spending every day with one. Masterpieces should be kept for High Holidays of the Spirit”––for our own personal Christmases and Easters, not for any old Wednesday. [2]

Excess is toxic. Too much of anything is biologically poisonous. One might compare the worldview of the steady reader to the worldview of the career soldier. Take General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) for example:

He liked life at McKinley. With a good Officers’ Club and a large contingent of officers, it furnished a social world all its own. Pershing made it a point, however, to avoid concentrating on Army friendships. “We Army people tend to stick together too much and become clannish,” he said. “It’s good to know civilians. It helps them appreciate what the Army is like and it’s good for us to know what they’re like.” [3]

It was Pershing’s ability to get outside his own habitual worldview as a career soldier and actively intermingle with civilian life and culture that led him to further successes. At one point, when he was stationed in the Philippines:

Pershing was thunderstruck. To his knowledge, this was unprecedented. He had never heard of a white man being so honored by Moros [as Pershing had]. Solemnly he thanked Sajiduciman. In a concluding ceremony, both men placed their hands on the Koran and swore allegiance to the United States. [4]

NOTES

wood

[1] Bloom, Harold, The Western Canon: the Books and School of the Ages, (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace, 1994) 15–16, 30–32.

[2] Jacobs, Alan, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2011) 23.

[3] Smythe, Donald, Guerrilla Warrior: the Early Life of John J. Pershing, (New York, NY: Scribner’s Sons, 1973) 135.

[4] Smythe, Guerrilla Warrior: the Early Life of John J. Pershing 92.


Nov 20 2017

Disenchantment

London - Georgian Apartments

Disenchantment

Disenchantment with rhetoric about law that ignores legal realities:

A very important think piece by Jesse Singal: “There Have Been So Many Bad Lefty Free-Speech Takes Lately,” New York Magazine, November 12, 2017.

Disenchantment with the beltway culture that ignores any reality:

A poignant reflection on Washington, D.C. and writing by Tom Ricks: “Babylon Revisited: Melancholy Thoughts After a Short Trip to Washington, D.C.,” Foreign Policy, November 17, 2017.

“Disenchantment,” in Max Weber’s (1864-1920) words, means:

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. If we attempt to force and to ‘invent’ a monumental style in art, such miserable monstrosities are produced as the many monuments of the last twenty years [1897–1917].

Elaborating on Weber’s term, “disenchantment,” Richard Jenkins notes:

It is the historical process by which the natural world and all areas of human experience become experienced and understood as less mysterious; defined, at least in principle, as knowable, predictable and manipulable by humans; conquered by and incorporated into the interpretive schema of science and rational government. [1]

Yet, Jenkins points out, there may not be anything necessarily “modern” about this disenchantment:

Even if we disregard the rich variety of communities and ethnies in the pre-modern world, there is every reason to suggest that the European world, at least, has been disenchanted, in the sense of epistemically fragmented, for as long as we can perceive it in the historical record.[2]

NOTES

wood

[1] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium,” Max Weber Studies 1 (November 2000): 11–32 at 12; Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Translated and eds. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958) 55.

[2] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium” 15.

 


Nov 9 2017

The Greatness of Russia and the Greatness of Texas

la casa

The Greatness of Russia and the Greatness of Texas

Russians call World War II, “The Great Patriotic War,” and Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, whom I almost never agree with, has a decent article out today acknowledging Russian greatness/sovereignty (derzhavonst/державонст), writing:

This Veterans Day, we should also remember those heroic Russian soldiers. In bitter cold, and after losing hundreds of thousands of lives, they finally did the unbelievable: They halted the march of Nazi Germany. [1]

What do I mean by Russian greatness? I mean things like:

Putin’s favorite quote these days is, “We do not need great upheavals. We need a great Russia.”[2]

As Nina Kruscheva, daughter of Nikita Khrushchev, has recognized:

Putin maintains that Russia’s problem today is not that we, the Russians, lack a vision for the future but that we have stopped being proud of our past, our Russian-ness, our difference from the West. ‘When we were proud all was great, he said at the Valdai International Discussion Club meeting last September. While he may bemoan the death of the Soviet state, Putin’s search for greatness extends even further back in history, to Byzantine statehood…. Why is Putin’s idea of going back to the future attractive for Russians? …. But our [Russia’s] problem is that our idea of greatness doesn’t involve such small stuff. It is extreme, everything or nothing.[3]

I find Russian greatness comparable to Texas and its culture of greatness:

If one southerner can whip twelve Yankees, how many Yankees can six southerners whip? Although the premise of this problem seems to have been somewhat unstable, it evidences a spirit of confidence that for a long time seemed lost to the New South. It may be, however, that the aggressiveness and boastfulness so characteristic of the Old South instead of dying out after the war simply followed the trail of cotton and migrated to Texas. From the time they annexed the United States in 1845 until their recent singlehanded and unaided [“not so fast,” said the Russian veteran!] conquest of Germany and Japan, Texans have been noted for their aversion to understatement. But it is possible that when Texans talk “big” they are speaking not as Texans but as southerners. Certainly, that Texan was speaking the language of the Old South when he rose at a banquet and gave this toast to his state: “Here’s to Texas. Bounded on the north by the Aurora Borealis, bounded on the east by the rising sun, bounded on the south by the precession of the equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgment.” [4]

And:

“That’s why I like Texans so much … They took a great failure [the Alamo] and turned it into inspiration… as well a tourist destination that makes them millions.”[5]

NOTES

wood

[1] Victor Davis Hanson, “Remembering Stalingrad 75 Years Later,” National Review, November 9, 2017.

[2] Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, “Putin and the Uses of History,” The National Interest, 117 (January–February 2012) 21–31 at 23.

[3] Nina L. Krushcheva, “Inside Vladimir Putin’s Mind: Looking Back in Anger,” World Affairs, 177 (July–August 2014): 17–24 at 19, 20.

[4] Robert S. Cotterill, “The Old South to the New,” Journal of Southern History, 15 (February 1949): 3–8 at 8.

[5] Robert T. Kiyosaki Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach their Kids About Money that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not, (Scottsdale, AZ: Plata Publishing, 2011) 132.


Oct 31 2017

Initial Thoughts on the Breech between Digital and Analog

analog book spines

Initial Thoughts on the Breech between Digital and Analog

The steam engine with a governor provides a typical instance of one type, in which the angle of the arms of the governor is continuously variable and has a continuously variable effect on the fuel supply. In contrast, the house thermostat is an on-off mechanism in which temperature causes a thermometer to throw a switch at a certain level. This is the dichotomy between analogic systems (those that vary continuously and in step with magnitudes in the trigger event) and digital systems (those that have the on-off characteristic).

––Gregory Bateson (1904–1980)[1]

While Baylor University is not my alma mater, its Distinguished Professor of Humanities Alan Jacobs has been my teacher for the past few years. While I did not formally audit Jacob’s course this semester “Living and Thinking in a Digital Age,” I did recently finish the principal texts: Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future (2016) and The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter (2016) by David Sax.

Writing about what I’ve recently read at Bookbread.com #tech #books #writing #digital #analog

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What follows are initial thoughts only. I intend to think more about these books and write something more in depth soon enough.

 Initial thoughts on Kelley: While it’s a Penguin paperback, the aesthetics of the book are wanting: pretty bland for a book told in such a cheerleading tone––just flat white pages printed with what looks like Times New Roman––as if it were a newspaper. Was this irony intentional? On the other hand, unless I’m a sucker for novelty (and I am), Kelly’s twelve trends in emerging technologies came across to the present writer, for the most part, as an interesting essay with many things to think about. Whether or not one agrees with the “inevitableness” of Kelly’s thesis, there are things to ponder further. But its cheerleading tone seems similar to feelings held by students whom Leo Strauss (1899–1973) once addressed:

We [moderns] somehow believe that our point of view is superior, higher than those of the greatest minds [of the ancient world]––either because our point of view is that of our time, and our time, being later than the time of the greatest minds, can be presumed to be superior to their times; or else because we believe that each of the greatest minds was right from his point of view but not, as be claims, simply right: we know that there cannot be the simply true substantive view but only a simply true formal view; that formal view consists in the insight that every comprehensive view is relative to a specific perspective, or that all comprehensive views are mutually exclusive and none can be simply true. [2]

Initial thoughts on Sax: With its hardcover, Baskerville font, cream-colored pages, and embossed dustjacket, I regard this book very highly in terms of aesthetics. Its contents, however, aren’t (at least initially) very captivating. Then again, maybe this was because (1) I was born in the analog era, so much of Sax’s book is review for me, and (2), because it’s review––by definition––it cannot be novel. Nonetheless, I found the most interesting portion to be Chapter 7 “The Revenge of Work” because here Sax (unlike Kelly) doesn’t explain his pattern finding in the voice of a utopian cheerleader. While Chapter 7 discusses Shinola watches made in Detroit in a hopeful manner, Sax’s writing remains quite sober and never pretends to offer easy answers.

Initial thoughts on reading and writing: Both Kelly and Sax write in a “breezy” style suitable for airport consumer readers—a strong contrast to say, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) where readers find a much slower-paced “storytelling”[3] style that demands reflection, review, rereading, and repetition.

Initial thoughts on technology: In the spirit of neo-analogic Zeitgeist, I confess I wrote the first few drafts of this blog post by hand (as I often do). I also printed Jacob’s syllabus for the “Living and Thinking in a Digital Age” course and read through it. Then, with regard to reading the books by Kelly and Sax and writing about them, I physically underlined what I thought were the important parts of the syllabus:

How is the rise of digital technologies changing some of the fundamental practices of the intellectual life: reading, writing, and researching? ….  So we will also spend some time thinking about the character and purposes of liberal education…. This is a course on how the digital worlds we live in now — our technologies of knowledge and communication — will inevitably shape our experience as learners. So let’s begin by trying to get a grip on the digital tech that shapes our everyday lives.

Finally, to find the quotations I needed, I consulted my previous digital notes on Strauss and Bateson, then copied-and-pasted where appropriate.

Initial thoughts on spirituality: (1) When I first came across Kelly’s line––

[Google] takes these guesses and adds them to the calculation of figuring out what ads to place on a web page that you’ve just arrived at. It’s almost magical, but the ads you see on a website today are not added until the moment after you land there. (181)

––it reminded me of an observation from the atheist anthropologist Gregory Bateson:

My view of magic is the converse of that which has been orthodox in anthropology since the days of Sir James Frazer. It is orthodox to believe that religion is an evolutionary development of magic. Magic is regarded as more primitive and religion as its flowering. In contrast, I view sympathetic or contagious magic as a product of decadence from religion; I regard religion on the whole as the earlier condition. I find myself out of sympathy with decadence of this kind either in community life or in the education of children.[4]

(2) Kelly’s last line of his book––“The Beginning, of course, is just beginning,” (p. 297)––seems highly suggestive, perhaps because it seems highly biblical. But it might also be a tip of the hat to Joycian recourse. If digital technologies and patterns are as inevitable as Kelly says they are, then Analog’s Wake might’ve made for a more appropriate title.

More to come.

Great to see @ayjay and @austinkleon at @bookpeople tonight #books #thinking #literature #ATX #Austin

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NOTES

wood

[1] Mind and Nature, (New York, NY: E. P. Dutton, 1979) 110–11.

[2]What is Liberal Education?” Address Delivered at the Tenth Annual Graduation Exercises of the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. June 6, 1959.

[3] With regard to “storytelling,” early in his magnum opus, Taylor writes:

I ask the reader who picks up this book not to think of it as a continuous story-and-argument, but rather as a set of interlocking essays, which shed light on each other, and offer a context of relevance for each other…. I have to launch myself into my own story, which I shall be telling in the following chapters… One important part of the picture is that so many features of their world told in favour of belief, made the presence of God seemingly undeniable. I will mention three, which will place a part in the story I want to tell…..  And at this point I want to start by laying out some broad features of the contrast between then and now, which will be filled in and enriched by the story. (A Secular Age, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP) ix, 21, 29)

[4] Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson, Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred, (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press Inc., 2005) 56.


Oct 27 2017

Reading about Russia on Friday

la casa

Reading about Russia on Friday

Via Catapult.co, Sabrina Jaszi translated a short story “Bluebells” from русский to English (for the first time!), written in the late 1950s-1960s by Reed Grachev (1935-2004).

Also, Scott Neuman reports on “Documents offer Insight into Soviet View of JFK Assassination,” NPR.org, October 27, 2017.

Although, on this particular issue, I think it best to turn to Norman Mailer’s (1923-2007) investigation Oswald’s Tale (1995).