Friday, June 28, 2002

I was going to type in a long quotation by Ken Wilber, but googled the first few words, and of course, it's been entered already. It's half-way down this page, here with a geocities ad, and here with some graphics and a pop-up. Click on the one you find least offensive.

To me, it shows Wilber's transformation of traditional Buddhism from a rather pessimistic system--I've always interpreted the concept of Nirvana as meaning that existence should be escaped (a typically inaccurate Western view)--into something pretty affirming and positive. It is slightly other-worldly, but consider that in context, it comes as a prayer-like outpouring after 700 pages of intense philosophical reflection on consciousness in this world in the book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. In that context, it seems very appropriate.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

An excerpt from an interview with a very courageous Israeli peace activist.
There are very few things that would allow human beings to overcome their ethnic and nationalistic disputes. But we almost encountered one last Friday. (via metafilter). A major natural disaster like an asteroid encounter that measured 8 or higher on the Torino Scale would, I believe, unite the world more effectively than anything else I can think of.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Yesterday, I was listening to NPR and heard a review for what sounded like a great new recording of Mussurgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition". The today, reading an article about Bethlehem Steel in Slate, I saw the phrase "dark satanic mills".

So obviously, I immediately thought of one of my most guilty pleasures, masters of 1970s "progressive" rock, Emerson Lake & Palmer. They recorded both "Pictures" and Blake's "Jerusalem". Mabe I'll get out my CDs and listen to them again. Their version of Jerusalem is a great track to try out a new stereo system on. Greg Lake's voice is a rich, powerful and godlike barritone and the production results in a pretty massive wall of sound. If there's a better recording out now, I'd love to here about it. It's one of the few poems steeped in Christian language that I can appreciate emotionally without wincing at the dogma it invokes (primarily because Blake mythology doesn't entail traditional Christian dogma).

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of God
On England pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold,
Bring me my arrows of desire.
Bring me my spear, oh clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land!

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Robert Musil linked to a neat story by Arthur C. Clarke. (The story has the added virtue of being very short--four pages.)

Thinking about the story, I realize that I would like to know much more about historical Buddhism than I do. (Please email me any Buddhist book recommendations.) Is Buddhism innately Pelagian?

By Pelagian, I refer to the heresy in Christian Church history that our life here on earth, rather than to "glorify god", in the typical formulation, is a process of "soul-building". That is, when we have suffered and learned enough from life in this world, we pass onto the next. This is an idea that has ben around as part of Christianity as well as many other religions.

Now that I get that question down on paper, I see that the answer is almost certainly yes.

Monday, June 17, 2002

An article about one of the best beers I've ever had, Old Suffolk.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Well, for thought-proking, I sure as hell can't do any better than The Cellar BBS's image of the day today.

Non-violent protestors are one of the few saintly things in the world today (in all the positive senses that the term "saintly" connotes). They are an affront and a challenge to many forms of evil that afflict our world.

Violent protestors, like binLaden, get the opposite of what they want done. binLaden claimed he wanted a Palestinian state. What he has achieved is dead civilians in both Manhattan and Kabul and Palestine is farther away than ever. And a very patriotic America.

Non-violent protestors, like the ones in the picture, have a far greater chance of achieving their objectives than violent protestors. Or at least, of not making the opposite of their objectives come true, as is the case with binLaden.

And perhaps there is another, invisible, factor at work in their favor.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Surprisingly, George Will has written a column that didn't make me really angry. It's about Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Mo thinks that Springsteen reads Emily Dickinson. Of course, Bloom might say: ...and vice-versa.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

With her, there was never anything to discuss. Or was there just never anything to discuss with me? Because I don't believe that she didn't want intimacy with anyone.

Then again, she was raised in such an oppressive, superficially-oriented, ambition-hungry environment, with a real fascist bastard for a father, what should I expect. Typical Anglican east-coast WASPs transplanted to the Midwest. A little Martha Stewart. No wonder she's such a wench.

It was my need to care for everyone, my faith that everyone is ultimately capable of love that did me in. That combined with her absolute childishness.

Look at what a saint I'm painting myself as. Well, I'm no saint. I don't have her side of the story.

I'd like to have her side. That's what I'm missing. I want completeness, wholeness, integration, to heal.

But like I said, with her there was never anything to discuss.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

I can't find this interview on the net anywhere, so I thought I'd post it.

------ Start of Forwarded Message ------
From: Damion Matthews
Sent: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 03:00:02 -0700
To: "Camillepaglia@Topica.Com"
Subject: Bloom and plagiarism

Boston Globe; Boston, Mass.; Apr 21, 2002;

Sub Title: [THIRD Edition]
Start Page: B.7
ISSN: 07431791

Not long after plagiarism charges began swirling around the work of historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Globe spoke to Harold Bloom, 72, the Yale literary critic and author. Bloom, in town to speak at the Boston Public Library's annual Literary Lights dinner, wrote the influential book "The Anxiety of Influence," which argues that an inspired form of plagiarism lies at the heart of much, if not all, great literature. Bloom, a Shakespeare enthusiast, launched into his first statement before being asked a question.

Full Text:
Copyright Boston Globe Newspaper Apr 21, 2002

Globe correspondent Jenny Attiyeh conducted this interview.

Not long after plagiarism charges began swirling around the work of historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Globe spoke to Harold Bloom, 72, the Yale literary critic and author. Bloom, in town to speak at the Boston Public Library's annual Literary Lights dinner, wrote the influential book "The Anxiety of Influence," which argues that an inspired form of plagiarism lies at the heart of much, if not all, great literature. Bloom, a Shakespeare enthusiast, launched into his first statement before being asked a question.

A. [Shakespeare] is a sublime plagiarist. He is the genius of plagiarism. He got away with every thing he could get away with. Wherever he found a likely passage in Plutarch, he would just versify it. Wherever he found a chunk of anything that would be useful to his purposes, in it went. It was like a sort of endless stew in which everything and anything went. . . . So really, whether it be one of my own students or whether it be a distinguished or popular historian or whoever, I cannot get excited about accusations of plagiarism. It is the most normal activity of literary production.

Q. Is that true of Stephen Ambrose and "The Wild Blue," as well, that he's not really doing anything wrong?

A. I cannot say that I'm familiar with either the name or the work!

Q. Why do you think plagiarism became a sin in the academy, considering what you have said? How did this develop as an accusation?

A. My dear, when you consider what has happened to the American academy, we don't have academies anymore! We don't have universities. We have what I would call media-versities. There are no standards whatsoever. All cognitive, all aesthetic standards have vanished in the study of the humanities. I would think that inspired plagiarism is greatly preferable to the endless nonsense that goes on in what used to be the academic world.

Q. How would you define the term plagiarism? Does it include intentional or unintentional borrowing of someone else's work?

A. I wouldn't define plagiarism, because, as I say, it's the same thing as literature! Let me quote my great hero, Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The originals are not original!" That is from his superb essay called "Quotation and Originality."

Q. Your defense of plagiarism makes me think perhaps that we have no original thoughts.

A. Well, there are figures who come along and so subsume our available stock of reality and of language, Shakespeare above all, so that after Shakespeare, no one can be original! And so Shakespeare himself was not original.

Q. Have you ever done it [plagiarized someone]?

A. I'm very idiosyncratic and eccentric! To the best of my knowledge, I have not done it. On the other hand, I am scandalously overproductive; I have turned out 26 books and perhaps a thousand separate pieces. I hope I have never done it, but I wouldn't be prepared to stand before a firing squad and insist I have never done it!

Q. Has anyone ever plagiarized you?

A. I don't follow such things, so I would not know. But . . . I am considered to be so "way out" that it's not likely that anyone would try.

Caption: HAROLD BLOOM Says standards are lacking

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Column by Michael Kinsley in which he heaps much-deserved scorn on the VP.
Amusing article about the now-banned UK MS Xbox commercial.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Having nephews is a great joy. You get to play with kids without reducing your entire life to domestic drudgery (i.e., by having kids).

Saturday, June 08, 2002

It was characterised by certain distinctive attributes: humanity, openness on all sides, philosophical depth of thought, dissatisfaction with the world and oneself, the courage always to try something fresh and to abandon it if need be, self-criticism, truthfulness, objectivity, severity, rigour, variety, a certain ponderousness but also delight in the freest improvisation, slowness and earnestness but also a playful richness of invention, engendering ever new ideas which it quickly rejects as invalid, respect for originality, good nature, generosity, sentimentality, musicality, and above all freedom, something roving, unfettered, soaring, weightless, Promethean.
In a complaint about what contemporary Germany lacks, an article on the two spirits of Germany descibes the commonalities between my favorite writers (Lessing, Goethe, Heine, Nietzsche) better than most commentators can, appropriately contrasting that spirit with German nationalism. Via A&L

Friday, June 07, 2002

"Why does Evil exist? To thicken the plot." -Krishnamurti

An inhumane thought, but only because the cosmos is inhumane--obviously--it's larger than the human.

This probably makes me a complete cad in most people's books, but I love this article on the philosophy of punctuation.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Very interesting article. The internet bubble as a decentralized pyramid scheme.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

"But what none of the first-tier memes can do is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the only true perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened. Blue order is very uncomfortable with red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green tends to lash out at blue, orange, and anything post-green. Folks, let me put it bluntly: any first-tier meme will prevent world peace."
--Ken Wilber, Boomeritis, p. 28-29.

For an explanation of the color-scheme he's using, here is a short passage that I wrote, and here is a long one. But I think the passage is also intelligible by ignoring the color jargon. What it says is that the only worldview or state of consciousness that is capable of moving the world towards peace is one that recognizes the appropriateness, the right to exist of the other perspectives, worldviews, memes, or states of consciousness.

If we've learned one thing since 9/11, it's that terrorism is not produced by the poverty of money. It's produced by the poverty of dignity. It is about young middle-class Arabs and Muslims feeling trapped in countries with too few good jobs and too few opportunities to realize their potential or shape their own future—and blaming America for it. We have to break that cycle, and no one could help us do it more effectively than the Egyptians. Does President Bush dare say that, or are we going to keep lying to ourselves and to them?
Mildly interesting article about Harold Bloom. I love that man. He wrote one my favorite books.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

If any of you are interested in alternate notions of time that are scientifically based but compatible with mysticism, I recommend Julian Barbour.

I received my copy of Boomeritis on Friday, but have only been able to read the first few pages. It seems excellent so far. You have to love, if only for its uniqueness, a philosophically-oriented novel that explicity starts out from Bill Joy's article "The Future Doesn't Need Us" and, implicitly, from the cybernetic/AI vision of liberation through escape from carbon-based bodies. It also offers a new and philosophically improved version of the Turing Test.

Monday, June 03, 2002