Saturday, April 30, 2011

Scenes from the Sit-In (! معتصمين)

[a re-post with updates]

 In French, when you want to refer to a sit-in, you have to resort to “un sit-in”.  (It sounds even wimpier in French -- “uhn seet-eeeen”.)  In German it’s ein Sit-in.
In English, sit-in is all right -- part of the genius of the language that produced teach-in, bake-off, freakout, and much else.   But it does sound pretty passive.

Arabic, by contrast, has a particular verb for “to sit in”, i`taSam; a noun, ‘sit-in’, i`tiSaam;  and a participle mu`taSim, plural mu`taSimiin:  which is the title of the third and final song we shall link to, from that memorable evening in Taghyir Square:


Arabic is a strong and forceful language;  Yemeni, a dialect capable of especially warrior-like expression;  and the root `-S-m is one of signal strength:  both phonetically, with its quintessentially Arabic `ayn, its emphatic (pharyngealized) Sâd, and finally the mîm -- in itself a soft letter, but in closing out the defiant word mu`taSim, it is like a powerful jaw, champing down and not letting go; and semantically, surrounded  as it is  with a corona of splendid paronyms:  `iSâmî ‘noble’, `âSim ‘guardian’, and ma`Sûm  ‘sacrosanct’. 

Where the first piece  was in jog-trot treble-time,  in keeping with its elfin satire -- now we have the rhythm of the anvil beneath the smith. 
So let us join the democracy demonstrators  in this pile-driver of a chant.


[More here.]
~ ~ ~
Updates:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/19/world/middleeast/19yemen.html?_r=1&ref=global-home



At Sahat Taghyir, they keep coming back for more:


Notice the Korans on the chests of the dead.


[Update 1 April 2011]
"a narrative of Shakespearean proportions":
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/yemens-future-hinges-on-its-two-most-powerful-men/2011/03/29/AFLxOnCC_story.html

[update 5 April 2011]
An even-handed survey:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/11/110411fa_fact_filkins

More protest-wit:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/04/syria-red-card-youre-out.html


[update 30 April 2011]  After the GCC initiative, hardline rejectionists were quoted as demanding "a departure, not an initiative" -- hardly winged words.  But in Arabic, it rhymes (mughâdarahmubâdarah).



[update 1 May 2011]
When the GCC put forward its moderate and face-saving initiative, and Saleh publically embraced it, many of us breathed a sigh of relief.  Enough of the street stuff -- now on to the real task of rebuilding the nation.  A guarantee of immunity from prosecution for the ex-(to-be)-Prexy is a small price to pay, and maybe even a benefit:  the nation does not need a show trial or other spectacular distractions.   The crisis of water resources should be front and center now.  So when much of the opposition hooted the initiative down, it seemed impractically maximalist;  le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.   But by golly, b’gum, b’dad, turns out they were right to distrust him:  the old eel has some wriggles in him yet:

Saleh refused to sign the accord yesterday in his capacity as president, saying he would only ratify it as chairman of the ruling General People’s Congress.

A baffling semantic nicety without the explanation:

“If he signs as chairman of the party and the party says it rejects his decision, he will remain president.”

That sort of ploy has long been in evidence among tyrants, from Napoleon on down.

(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-01/yemen-accord-signing-has-been-postponed-gulf-official-says-2-.html)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hurryhurry hurryhurry Rush Rush Rush !!!


Only 324 shopping days left till Meinong’s birthday!

My left profile is even better


What more thoughtful gift could you get for your special loved one  than a copy -- better yet, two copies -- of Murphy on the Mount ?

The only mystery that can make this claim:  Guaranteed Nominalism-free !!!

Click here and win big.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

OUTED !


It is time to come clean.
They got me dead to rights.

Yes, penguin-fans, behind this mild disguise, I am in fact an International Man of Mystery.   Actual documentary footage of my exploits has just been wikileaked to the Net:


Ouais, c'est mouais ! le docteur Justice !!



-- Uh-oh, game over.  My cover's blown.  “M” is putting me on the next plane home.   My days of international intrigue are done.   I am thinking of taking up crochet.

 [Note:  The handsome fellow in the car is me.  The fat schlumpf you see at work  or mowing my lawn   is just my stunt double.]

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Locked Room Mystery


The caterpillar   with shrivelled skin
in a tent of silk    was laid therein.

This crumpled thing,   shrunk like a shroud,
was laid in silk   white as a cloud.

The sons of men   stood round about
warding the worm   should not get out.

Three days they stood   with solemn face,
never eyes wavering   from that place.

Then did they open   that mute cocoon,
and stood amazed:   the worm was gone !

Then some believed   and some did doubt
how that the worm   could have got out.

Yet to the sky   in spiral rings
the new flew forth   on crystal wings.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whitehead’s God


 In his inexhaustibly suggestive masterpiece, A Preface to Morals (1929), Walter Lippmann writes:

There is a God in Mr. Whitehead’s philosophy, and a very necessary God at that.  Unhappily, I am not enough of a logician to say that I understand what it means to say that ‘God is not concrete, but He is the ground for concrete actuality.’ …  A conception of God, which is incomprehensible to all who are not highly trained logicians, is a possible God  for logicians alone.

No more indeed than this, can I presume to have advanced, by the arguments in the series of essays towards a Theologia Mathematica.
For the mystic experience, or the calm and certainty that lies at the heart of real faith, I can hardly argue.  You see, or you do not see, the deep red rose.  You feel, or you do not feel, the breath of a breeze on your cheek. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Fable for Triduum

A meditation upon this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrQAhKDGvuQ&NR=1&feature=endscreen
may be consulted
Here.

[A note for connoisseurs:
The fact that the Leier,  after Murphy -- by way of substitutional atonement -- plucks it up,
remains silent,
is strictly comparable to the facts of Transubstantiation:
the accidents remain the same...]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taken in Adultery


 A crowd of scribes and Pharisees, dragging a woman distraught,
now burst into the temple, where Jesus sat and taught.

"This wench was taken in the act  of foul adultery.
 The law of Moses says she dies. Now you – What's she to thee?

With frowning brow and vaguely straying hand
he doodled idle figures in the sand.

Impatient at his silence, they renewed to taunt and try him,
their faces flushed with righteousness, as were they flushed with wine.

"They coupled there like weasels,  like pitch her lust waxed hot!
 The Law of Iron in wrath demands  the vengeance: stone the slut!"

He gazed down at the lines that he had drawn,
his eyes though focussed on another plane.

At length he lifted up his eyes, and said, on even tone,
"Let him of you who hath no sin  step forth, and cast a stone."

Like reeds at streamside, when the breezes  set their heads to sway,
the upright crowd there wavered, and murmuring went their way.

            The day drew on to noon without a sound,
            and Jesus drawing traces on the ground.

Then up he looked and saw the woman standing there alone.
"The ones who would condemn thee, lo, where are they gone?"

Apart she stood, and hung her head, whom they had called a whore.
"Neither do I condemn thee.   Go, and sin no more."

She left, and vanished into life; and there we lose her trail.
What vows she kept, or did she slip, we can no wise retail.


The shadows lengthened over him, they cloaked him like a robe
They spread to the horizons, till they covered all the globe.

Then all was black, till only stars  the striving sight might see.
His eyes then sought the zenith.  "My God, forgive thou me."

------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Note:  For the psycho-theology of this, cf. The Secret of Father Brown – "You see, it was I who killed all those people."]

An Impassioned Plea for a Liberal Theology

 In his classic work of 1929, A Preface to Morals, Walter Lippmann thus characterizes the up-to-date theology of the Modern Business Man:

I have examined the alleged pronouncements of an all-knowing God.  Some of them are obviously untrue, some are rather repulsive;  others, however, if they are properly restated, I find to be exceedingly good.

Hear, hear.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Only Question Remaining for 2012


Will it be Trump-Palin, or Palin-Trump?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bel espoir -- Côte d’Ivoire


The forces of Sarkozy -- ahem, of Ouattara -- have taken Abidjan, and Democracy can breath a sigh of relief.

Or, alternately, hold its breath:

And, more graphically:

“La course à  la bouffe”


* * *
[Update 18 IV 2011]

Well anyhow, congrats to Nigeria on its peaceful election.    DPA summed up the matter thus:

Wahlbeobachter der Afrikanischen Region bezeichneten die Präsidentenwahl im bevölkerungsreichsten Land Afrikas nach umfangreichen Wahlreformen als die korrektesten und ordentlichsten seit Jahrzehnten.

And the fruits of all this can be viewed here:

http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2011/04/17/nigeria-goodluck-jonathan-en-tete-de-la-presidentielle_1509043_3212.html#ens_id=1503134


[Update 1 May 2011]


En Côte d’Ivoire, ça continue.

[Update 3 June 2011]
A vacancy has appeared in the chief executive position of a major hotel chain.  Qualified applicants should send their  resumés here.
 

Do Not Read


Don’t bother to read this piece -- it’s just an experiment.
Earlier this evening  I put up a post -- a slight thing, ephemeral -- which, within one minute of posting, suddenly had more hits than this site’s more timeless contemplations  get in a week.  In a good week.
Our Webmaster, Dr. Massey, suggested that these hits -- implausibly instantaneous to be from actual people -- might stem from some indexing engine, that smacks in on any site whatsoever, that mentions, even glancingly, in this case (though now I tremble to mention it)  D-d-donald … Tr*mp ….  Ready to pounce upon any instance of badmouthing, or badthink.
Either that, or some shadowy entity ...


So, purely as an experiment, here goes a bunch of hogwash:

Sarah Palin   Sarah Palin   Sarah Palin    Sarah Palin
(don’t read this)
Sarah P. Palin,  Sarah “the Bear-Slayer” Palin,
Sarah of Alaska,  Saint Sarah,  Sarah the Great; - - -
sexy Sarah Palin, undraped Sarah Palin,
Sarah in her birthday suit,
Sarah with a capybara  in compromising positions …


= >  FEDS RAID ROMNEY LOVE-NEST  -- IBOGAINE, CAPYBARA FOUND

(Hey -- I trust nobody’s reading this.
It’s for trawlers, not human beings.)


BRITNEY WEDS NIGERIAN VIAGRA KING  AND ACHIEVES HUGE MORTGAGE!!!

(Hey -- didn’t I tell you not to read this?)

“Never before have I achieved such a mortgage with a man,” breathed the buxxxom American icon, breathily.  “You could call it the climaxxx of my financial life.”

Asked to comment, her husband, King Mbebe, intoned:
“Mbaba mbubu ba-wala bu-gugu k-kaka.”

“Never have I known  such a night of liquid bliss,” continued the starlet, “since last I achieved organism with the Pope.”

For the opportunity – not to be missed! – of contributing the totality of your assets to the happy couple’s Wedding Present fund, visit our Web site,


(that URL represents a sub-experiment  within the larger experiment)


Passphrase for OP MAJESTIC:
crNpf32sss/sss/1

Apologies All Round


For some time now, in these essays and elsewhere,  whenever the occasion required a metonymy or metaphor to signify ‘The World’s Worst Human Being’, I have been writing -- in all innocence, and without malice aforethought -- "Donald Trump".  This, in quite the style  whereby you put Hercules when you mean ‘someone really strong’, or Goliath, for ‘someone really big’, or Achilles for ‘stone killer but who sulks in his tent’.    This stylistic flourish bore him no ill-will, for I never had the pleasure of meeting the man -- any more than we intend any disrespect towards the actual historical Ananias -- who, whatever has faults in the department of prevarication, may well have been an admirable family man, good with children and small animals -- when we use him as our Poster Liar.   For the fact is, I had been somehow under the impression that said Trump was, like the Pythonic parrot of legend, deceased, defunct, decomposing, dead as a doornail, six feet under, pushing up the dandelions -- that he was by now nothing but a filthy, stinking, rotting corpse, polluting unhallowed ground, his foul remains spurned even by the worms.

Yet now, to my intense dismay, I learn that said Trump is still aboveground, still stalking the planet, still casting a deep black shadow over all that is decent and good.  And not merely still undead and unburied -- but the #1 Presidential choice of the Teabaggers and birthers!
My deepest apologies to Trump’s flunkies;  please convey them to Mr. Trump.

[Update 28 Oct 2012]  Omigod, he's still undead!
Donald Trump's wretched $5-million gimmick
http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-donald-trump-october-surprise-20121024,0,1723552.story
 
Here you can see him in a pink shirt, pink tie, fake hair, wild eyes, and lying out of his asshole.
 
.

Rites of Spring


Yesterday  I hauled the old lawnmower out of the shed, where it had long lain hibernating.   (I say “the” shed  since the reference is in fact unambiguous:   unlike Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, I personally possess only one shed.)  I gassed ‘er up, and, in lieu of actually oiling anything or “replacing the plugs and points” (what is a point, exactly?), since I don’t understand anything about lawnmowers, I contented myself with prodding it here and there with my toe, and eyeing it with a masculine, propriety air -- with just a hint of asperity to it, along the lines of, “Let’s not have any of that won’t-start-up nonsense this time, shall we?”
For we have here that annually recurring agony of vernal uncertainty.   You set your stance, seize the ripcord, let loose your mightiest tug, and… it either leaps to life with a throaty roar, or… splutters impotently, mocking you, and then you’re hosed.
(I must here explain for the ladies, who would otherwise scarcely understand, that failure of one’s lawnmower to start, is humiliating for a man.)
Yet lo!   With a deafening neigh  worthy of Bucephalus, and a forward leap recalling Pegasus, the noble mower sprang into action -- the very first on our cul-de-sac, this season, to do so!
Thanking the gods, I strode forward, laying low the uppity tussocks  and insolent weeds,  like Hector mowing down Myrmidons, relishing in Man’s estate.
In ancient Rome, it was considered a most auspicious omen, when one’s lawnmover started right up  in the spring.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Murphy Calls in a Specialist


I've focused on matters philosophical, mathematical, and theological on this blog. But I offer this for readers interested in the even deeper mysteries of life. Click on the picture to enter the world of the Murphy Brothers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unsolicited Counsel for those Contemplating Love


 There was a time, when I was adolescing, a song was popular, with this refrain:

            If you can’t be with the one you love,
            love the one you’re with.

At first hearing, this might strike you as shallow;  as word-play, epigrammatical;  there might even be a reading (horresco referens) whereby it is downright cynical.  But now at last, I understand it aright:  and it is more than just good advice:  it goes to the heart of our human situation.  And its applications are manifold -- implying,   for instance,  the parish principle of congregational organization, rather than the Country Club style.  (In Princeton, when I lived there, all the choicest citizens attended Nassau Pres;  Negroes and sinners attended a different Presbyterian church  a few blocks away.)

Let us explore the implications of this insight.


(1)   Finding Mr. Right

Trying to find Mr. Right… is a fool’s errand.   (A novelist phrased it more candidly:  Looking for Mr. Goodbar.)   As soon seek a diamond, in a field of wheat.  But the wheat itself, each ear -- the wheat is good.

            There was a woman I knew in college;  I was much taken with her loins.    I knew little of such things.  She knew a bit more.   She agreed, we’d have a fling (and we flung), but she one day mentioned -- in passing, I suppose -- that I should understand we’d never marry.   I was indeed nowhere near, as yet, being ready for any such adventure;  yet her remark astonished me.  Why not?  “Because you’re not Jewish,” she said.
            At the time (as yet unbaptized), I presumably shared, without thinking, the goodthink of  secular liberalism, which no doubt would tut-tut  such a prejudicial idea.  Oh ho ho, we’re all just one big happy family here;  let Mormon wed Zulu, let prophetess and priest be wed.   I don’t quite remember whether I did partake of this opinion, nor by which path, if so, I came gradually to abandon the idea -- so wilting is that plant, which has its roots in nothing real.   Anyhow  it rather quickly became clear, that such a criterion, while by no means a skeleton-key to life’s locks, is still a pretty sensible sort of thing to bear in mind.
            After college, she moved to Manhattan -- that citadel of the love-lorn -- and I’d see her from time to time, when I’d visit back East.   And she would update me -- resignedly, glumly -- on the detours and divagations in her search.   The latest was Allen, he’s an accountant,  and he has good points  and not-so-good points, an upside and a down;  but she was getting tired now, and thinking of finally tying the knot;  even though  she couldn’t truly say that he was “Mr. Right”  (for thus she styled the object of her quest).   -- I replied, sympathetically, and wryly/diplomatically, that I hoped he would anyhow prove  “Mr. Approximately Correct”.
            The phrase  for some reason caught her fancy;  and from then on, that was her name for him,  whenever she spoke with me:  “Mister Approx”.  (They did eventually go on to marry;  and there we must leave them, fading into the crowded canvas of all our lives.)

            Bottom line (write it for reference, on your inner arm):
            No match is made in Heaven.  Rather, it is sanctified there.


(2)  To Wed, or not to Wed:  that is the question
           
            Whoso weds, with an oath before the Lord,  is wedded indeed.
            It is not (as they say) a commitment to be undertaken lightly.   This is a thing, which would change your life forever;  you’re not just renting each other -- neither for a decade, nor for the night.

            Have a care:  I am not being romantic  or sentimental here -- almost the contrary.   Nothing is being…idealized.
            For there you both stand, with all your warts and faults.   Sir Galahad he is not;  and you are not Guinevere.
            Yet once you are wed, in the sight of the Lord:   as surely as had a statue come to life -- you are transformed,. 
            I was going to add, “like water into wine” -- only, that would be false.  Plainly, factually, both spiritually and practically false.   For wine is instantly a quite different beverage:  Whereas you and he  will both, for a time, taste pretty much the same.  You might even have your very first marital quarrel, when you are not yet quite halfway down the chapel steps.
            And that doesn’t much matter.  We fell in the Garden, and have been picking ourselves up ever since.  The change in this case  -- would we might avoid  such a big-barreled comparison, but you see, no other simile will do -- this change is comparable rather to that of the wine -- the rich red wine -- into the true and veritable blood of Jesus Christ.  Post-transubstantiation, it tastes exactly the same;  yet it is different:  inexpressibly, but in ways that matter.

            When the man who would be my father, proposed to the woman who would become my mother, he said:   I offer you my hand, but on one condition:   That you never get on to me, about my drinking.  I drink.
            And with time, it became clear, that he had been wise  to say that.  Not wise, perhaps, to continue drinking so much (well -- wise, not at all;  but perhaps justified, in that he had other dragons to go forth and conquer, at that time in his life, than John Barleycorn..)  But wise to make it plain,  that he was not signing up for a lifelong role in an Edward Albee play.
            Whether it be wise for a woman, to accept a man on these terms, I know not.   Some cases yes, some cases no, I imagine.  But if she does accept him, it had better not be with the mental reservation, that yeh, okay, she kind of plights her troth, but on the tacit understanding that she shall later be able to retract her pledge and to browbeat him into submission, break him upon the anvil of her righteousness, and bend his behavior to her will:  since after all, she is right, and he is wrong.   Not denying, she might be in the right, in some given situation;  only, there are just two good choices:  decline the offer;  or accept him with your whole heart -- and then so live and so love as to beckon the Holy Spirit into your home.  And in time,  your man will sense that presence in the room.     Then, whether with the lightest of lingering fingers, or with the brute brawn wherewith the angel wrestled Jacob,  the Spirit shall engage your husband indeed.  And it may be, later, each time the toper hoists the tankard to his lips:   behold!  the wine has turned to water in the glass.


(3)  The Adventure of Married Life

            A word chosen wisely:  adventure.   For you and he are sailing forth, upon a dark sea, beneath a brooding sky, towards horizons wherein lurk pirates.
            And no more could I advise you, concerning what you may face, let alone what to do about it, than I could tell you what to be sure to pack, when traveling to the Moon.   I barely understand my own life, let alone yours.   All that I can, is to wave from the dock, as your splendid ship sets sail.   And to wish you favorable winds -- But if that come not:   then stout hearts, and a sound compass:  each to the other  both captain and mate.   
            (And in secret, casting this gold ring into the ocean,   even now do I offer,  a prayer to Poseidon … Nay in a matter of such moment  -- may the One God forgive me -- I do offer this prayer to that old Greek seaweed-stained   god of the Sea . . . )

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making the Best of a Bad Bargain



            Then Tom went off to the market-place,   to vend a brace of geese.
            But on the way he met a man,   of raiment   half red,  half green.
            “O what wilt thou take, for those fine fat geese?”
            “Such price, as you deem fair.”
            “This basket of pearls  I offer thee:   each one as great as an egg.”
            So Tom made the exchange, and went whistling home.   His father stood in the door.
            “Thou’st made an ill trade, Tommy my lad.   A goose is a good, is a very good thing.  But no Christian has ever discovered a use for pearls.   Were they bigger, they might serve as ashlars;  but they are not large. Were they flatter, they might make decent skipping-stones;  but they are not flat.”
            And then Tom fell sad;  but then Tom grew wise.
            “I shall give them to the geese, Father, when we gather their eggs -- as I know that we must, yet --  a fact and an act, that always has pained me, as it must pain  them.    But on these  they may sit, and cluck, and brood,   and their silly hearts    be glad.”

            And that is the story of how a Christian first discovered a use for pearls.

~

Further thoughts on pearls:



As pearls are of more price  than white peas,
so is Gawain of more price  than other gay knights.
-- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

And yet, goodly are these peas, be they pale or green.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An epigram concerning the concept of “Minimalism”, the word-count of which is (rather paradoxically) actually shorter than the subject-line of this very post (namely, the one you are reading right now)


Minimalism:
A little of it goes a long way.

The Minimalists' Favorite-Ever Line of Poetry



            Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones,
             there is something in this richness that I hate.

[ I could append the poet’s name,
but then ‘twould no longer be  Minimal. ]

A Comprehensive Summary of World History, from the Garden of Eden down to the Present Day



Professor Guthrie explains:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB-YnV0e3Lc&feature=related


You will be responsible for this information on the Final Exam.
Time:  Judgment Day.
Place:  The Pearly Gates.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Which Side Are You On?



From Wisconsin to the Kindergarten (previously k.a. the House of Representatives):
Which Side Are You On?









The Dems vs. Teabaggers  have devolved into a Punch-and-Judy show.
Workers -- time to show the gumption that your grandpa and your grandma showed.

Solidarity Forever.

~          ~           ~

Miscellaneous weekend additions:
Folks speaking out.

http://www.salon.com/news/donald_trump/?story=/ent/tv/feature/2011/04/08/bill_cosby_donald_trump_today



Update 2 IV 2012:
"Pink slime economics"
 

Brief description of Minimalism



….     .  .   .       .
    . . .  .   .    .     .      .     bare  and   spare   .    .      .      .       .

   .            .                   .                            .                                        .

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More on Minimalism


-- “More on minimalism??!!!  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms ???????”

(ahem)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then,  I contradict myself.

~

The post below is essentially a jest -- a poetic exercise, like a haiku; 
glancing sidewise at these --
            =>  a poem without a title
            =>  a poem without words

But a serious project lies behind it.  One I am not yet ready to grapple with,
for it does go deep.


Just some hints and crumbs, to follow  whithersoever they may lead:

Reductionism:  the one-word summary of the scientific enterprise überhaupt.
Minimalism:  Principally, historically, a term about the arts;  but adopted (wisely, slyly) by Noam Chomsky, for his later program.
Platonism: a spare roster of Forms, from which mere mortals and materials are the fallout.
Euhemerism:  explaining myths (and miracles) away.
Occam’s razor:  Bold blade, slice wisely -- for indeed, our fallen world does need a shave !


Related matters:
  Axiomatics.  The logicist program.
  Isomorphism;  homeomorphism.
  The Decalogue;  the Credo; the Lord’s Prayer.
  The Constitution.

--- !!!   I have just conceived a remarkable proof and elucidation of the whole shebang!
But alas  the 140-character limit of Twitter  does not permit its exposition …

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More amoral drivel from neuroscientists


I have on occasion twitted ultra-Darwinists and early-universe cosmologists  for being seduced by the flashbulbs and footlights  into amorphous public vaporings upon matters of which they know not.  But their shticks are mostly harmless.  More concerning are ongoing attempts by neuroscientists to degrade what is left of human morality, accountability, and free-will.   One such husband-wife buffoon-team is frowned at here.  Their antics are at least largely confined to academia.  But some of the sepsis is leaching into the popular press:


Excerpt:
The legal system needs an infusion of neuroscience. It needs to turn away from an ancient notion of how people should behave to understand better how they do behave.

I won’t pause to polemicize, but merely note:

=>  The question of how people should behave  falls within the province of the Law, and of theology.
=> The question of how people actually do behave, and misbehave, falls within the province of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and market research.   (Oh, and soap operas.)
 
Or, in the words of a respected philosopher-scientist:

Something has gone terribly wrong.  It is a confusion of explanation with exculpation.
-- Steven Pinker,  The Blank Slate (2002), p. 179

(The connection is, however, foreshadowed in our very language: “You have some explaining to do !”)


Neuroscience is welcome to attempt to annex the behavioral sciences, which are already in a fairly sorry state.   But keep your mitts off law and morality, you lab-coated apes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Minimalism


 Minimalism.

……..  Reductionism.


(Discuss.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ballad of Doubting Thomas


THE BALLAD OF DOUBTING THOMAS
Miserere eum nobisque


When Christ came down from off the cross
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
None were but did bewail his loss.
and the cherry blooms in spring

When Christ arose from out the grave
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
then some did doubt and some believe.
and the cherry blooms in spring

When Thomas heard the news they bore
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
He shook his head and scoffed and swore.
and the cherry blooms in spring

"I'll never credit this disguise
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
save that I see with mine own eyes."
and the cherry blooms in spring

"Nor with you will I not rejoice
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
unless I hear his very voice."
and the cherry blooms in spring

"No more with Christians will I stand
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
ere I touch the nail-holes with this hand."
and the cherry blooms in spring

Then the wind did blow and the rain did moan
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
And Thomas walked along alone.
and the cherry blooms in spring

He saw a figure in the road
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
That might, or might not, be his Lord.
and the cherry blooms in spring



"O Thomas, dost thou know me now?"
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
"Naught know I,  save you show me how."
and the cherry blooms in spring

Then Christ revealed his wound so wide
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
And Thomas thrust his hand inside.
and the cherry blooms in spring

He fell to 's knees without a word
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
Then said: Thou art my Lord my God.
and the cherry blooms in spring


Praise God that Thomas is reprieved.
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
Thrice blest who saw not, yet believed.
and the cherry blooms in spring

Then when from faith away we fall
Oh the leaves drop down in autumn
May God have mercy on us all.
and the cherry blooms in spring




[For a related poem, see:  The Healing of Jesus]

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stabat mater


Stabat mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

contristantem et dolentem


Round her all the nations wept
in vigil  her in comfort kept,

until her son  to rise was seen.
Now by his side  she reigns as queen.

For her the robes are laundered white,
for her the tapers burn all night,

and daughters named abundantly:
Maria, Mary, and Marie.

*

Yet on that day another stood
alone, beneath a darker rood.

Unnamed, unknown, alone she grieves
beneath the cross reserved for thieves.

To her no dove of grace was sent;
the one she mourns  did not repent.

Her tears are dry as desert sands.
The dust enfolds her.  Still she stands.



*
For a mini-movie
of madness and salvation,
click here:

Good Guys/Bad Guys


In this complex and conflicted world, at least there are two theatres in which the moral choices are clear:  Libya and Ivory Coast.

(1)  In Libya, a hated dictator confronts the struggling unarmed forces of freedom (normally referred to as “civilians” in media accounts).  The world universally condemns the former, and provides military support to the latter.  The saga, as it is told to us,  has, it would seem, drawn hundreds of brave Libyan-Americans to head back to the old country  and put their own bodies in harm's way:  actions reminiscent of the International Brigades against Franco.  The rebels, clad in shining armor, and motivated only by the principles of Madison and Jefferson -- oh wait.  Maybe not.


If Professor Prashad is correct, we have no more business intervening in what would be basically a sectional dispute, than in, say, Katanga when it rebelled against the rest of Congo. -- O wait, there was Western intervention there, by the slippery-slithery Belgians, for their own worst reasons.



(2) In Ivory Coast, a spotlessly conducted election produces a clear winner, the result ratified by a host of international observers.  But the incumbent ignores the election results (“le président sortant  refuse de sortir”).   The winner, refraining from violence, awaits the material support of the international community, biding his time with a rereading of The Federalist Papers.
            Then something strange turns up:  a thousand corpses in a single village, which is held by our spotless democrat.  And oddly, that very village was also protected by hundreds of UN troops, who -- their noses buried in the collected works of Alexander Hamilton -- didn’t notice a thing.   So far, my perusal of the mainstream media has produced no enlightenment; the whole thing is a mystery.
            The only hint of an explanation I stumbled on in Le Monde.  Not, to be sure, in the actual articles of that worthy journal,  notorious for euphemism and underreporting, but in readers' comments.   They may not know what they are talking about;  but since theirs is the only attempt I have encountered so far, to illuminate the problem, I reproduce them here:

Je me pose la même question. Dans l'article il est écrit que c'est dans une mission catholique que les persécutés se sont réfugiés... Petit rappel: Ouatarra est musulman et Gbabo a représenté la communauté catholique. d'où l'extrème pudeur des journalistes.
--
"Tout semble indiquer qu'il s'agit de violences intercommunautaires."  Expression codée de la langue de bois médiatico-politique, utilisée pour les massacres de coptes en Égypte : l'élément "inter-" signifie "entre" et évoque un lien de réciprocité, ce qui est l'effet recherché. Mais comme il est difficile ici d'imposer l'idée de réciprocité quand on a un massacre de populations civiles par des militaires, on ne saura pas à quelles "communautés" appartiennent les massacreurs et les massacrés.
--
C'est à cause du méchant Gbagbo que le gentil Ouattara (ancien directeur délégué à l'Afrique du FMI, il ne peut être que très très gentil) laisse ses hommes commettre massacres et exactions. Tout le monde le sait bien, il y a toujours un méchant coupable de tout   et un gentil pas même responsable de quoi que ce soit. Gobez, gogos, gobez.

Where the truth lies, I do not know.   But in both stories, a voracious consumer of the principle television and newspaper media  will not have been presented an explanatory background of the story -- one which is at least hinted at (correctly or not) in a two-minute radio spot, and some amateur comments buried in a foreign newspaper.
-----------------------
[Update 4 IV 2011]:  So now France, its appetite not sated, but whetted, by its Libyan adventure, has fired on Gbagbo's home and palace.
Here, incidentally, is the prize for which all sides contend, as they converge on Abidjan.

-------------------------
The case thus resembles the important one in Tunisia, which we commented on here.


*

Meanwhile, Tunisia itself, suddenly become a beacon of democracy to the world, has been overwhelmed with an inrush of immigrants seeking relief from poverty and oppression at home -- principally from southern Italy, groaning under the yoke of persistent underdevelopment, the Mafia and the Camorra, and that Berlusconi buffoon:


Oh wait! No.  It’s an outrush of emigrantsTo Italy.
Oops.


(*Sigh*)  Well, at least we may close with some good news.   Tunisia and Egypt, brother beacons, celebrated their solidarity with a match amical:



Oh, wait ….

~     ~     ~

Nota bene:
The larger editorial point in all this, is not the travails of the individual lands, which indeed have my deepest sympathy, but the way in which much of our media  resembles Top 40 radio, pumping out pop tunes, which the public whistles, blissfully unawares.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Again, that Touch of Pitch


"...of dalliance with a demon thing..."  (Yeats)

Sigmund Freud once referred to the occupational hazards of being a psychoanalyst:  you are exposed to neuroses the way early lab workers were exposed to radiation.
In the post below   is a link to a fine article in the New Oxford Review, concerning the perils for an actor  of going too deeply into his role;  and here, more recently, another article of note.

Nor is the detective’s calling -- and for Murphy it really is a calling, a vocation, not just a job -- exempt from spiritual dangers.   Learn of these -- in chilling detail -- HERE.