Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Pentimento has put up a post featuring some beautiful Irish music, and in the comment box over there I've contributed a couple of others. And this has brought to mind this song that I love almost beyond all others. Once in while, far into a dark Bronx night, my friend Bobby Hackett would bring his guitar down from his mother's apartment down the block, and we would would sing--my drunken Irish friends and I--this song, the beer running down the fronts of our shirts, and the tears streaming down our cheeks. It was always in Huvanes that we sang this song--for some reason, never in the Glenside, my "home" pub. Listen to it, then. And if you can do it without emitting a sob, then there's something drastically wrong wit'yez:
I have now finished Part I “Who Is Solovyov and What Is Sophia?” of Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov by Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, a text to which I was introduced in comment boxes at Vox Nova linked to in this post, and first mentioned here.
In learning a bit of Solovyov’s biography, I was struck by several similarities between this Russian poet-philosopher and French philosopher, Simone Weil. And I was subsequently struck again by certain similarities that I saw between Solovyov’s thought and the ideas expressed by graphic artist J. E. L. Eldridge concerning his massive mural Vision Out of Golgonooza.
I took some notes as I read Kornblatt’s book, and I also scanned the table below, from Solovyov's Philosophical Principles of Integral Knowledge. His sets of priorities are worthy of note:
p.41: Perhaps the best way to understand this ongoing, nonrational process is to see the third element, or mediator—whether the daemon Eros, immaterial light, or Sophia—not as a thing, being, or even a state, but as a force or action that enables the potential for wholeness to emerge from the interaction of two opposing beings, things, or states. Solovyov uses the term podvig (heroic feat) for this activity; a word that typically refers to the action of saints and martyrs. The third member of the triad makes possible the interpenetration and transformation of the first two. …Recognizing the potential for transfiguration, Eros affects a union between two beings and through its divine-human podvig affects a divine humanity.
pp. 45-46: He calls the World Soul (WS) “the principle of humanity” – “the ideal or normal human” which is the “unity to which we give the mystical name Sophia”... “the universally human organism as the eternal body of God and the eternal soul of the world.” Here Sophia is identical to the WS, which itself is identical to the clearly paradoxical body of God.
Hint: This is not Luis Arroyo. So, who is it?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The cover art, a nice depiction of Egypt’s sun-drenched sphinx, tell us that there is more to-do with the Middle East in this issue. The related article is entitled “Egypt’s Liberation Province, The Beginning of a Beginning”. According to paragraph one, a project “with which the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser is occupied is Liberation Province, a reclamation project on the Libyan desert bordering the delta of the Nile between Cairo and Alexandria.” How’d that deserty, reclamationy thing work out fer ya, Gamal?
The next article, sticking with the Middle East theme, is “Paris: Revolt in the ‘Casbahs’”. It concerns rumbles in the French urban ghettoes housing hoardes of North African immigrants who have recently rioted over a housing shortage combined with a lack of jobs. We are treated to the contemplation of 20th century colonialism in a paroxysm characteristic of its overall death throes. Pretty. And not over yet.
At home, the Red Scare is not over yet, either. Henry Steele Commager gives us an article entitled “The Perilous Delusion of Security”. The gist of the piece can be seen in Commager’s observation that “the security system…has not brought security but insecurity. It has not enhanced administrative or political competence but destroyed it. It has demolished much of governmental operations abroad. It has set department against department within the government”…etc. He concludes: “If we have lost that faith [“in the virtue and integrity of our fellow citizens”], we have lost everything. No program will save us, and we don’t even deserve to be saved.” Glenn Beck, call your office.
Our common thread, Sidney Alexander, disappoints in this issue. He writes a review of the kind of novel in which I have the least possible interest—the family saga—The Tree of Man by Patrick White. Patrick White? Never heard of him. The name sounds like a declarative sentence, as spoken by Chris Rock.
I’ll wrap up my spotty survey of this issue by noting a piece entitled “A Lion in the Garden” by French reporter, Madeleine Chapsal. It concerns a trip made by American novelist, William Faulkner “to Paris on a State Department mission” and his appearance at a cocktail party held in his honor at the powerful French publishing house, Gallimard. It is the tale of a discomfort and futility that not even repeated doses of bourbon could ameliorate: “There is no use looking at Faulkner. You must read him. To someone who has read him, Faulkner has given all that he has, and he knows it. Then one can understand that when he keeps saying ‘I am a farmer,’ or ‘I wrote that book so that I could buy a good horse,’ it is only another way of putting first things first—what Faulkner wants one to be interested in are his books.” That makes perfect sense to me.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
[Solovyov's] goal was the full reconciliation of the divine and the human--or spirit and matter, male and female--not through a motley, syncretic accumulation of beliefs or a crude dualism that privileged either the material world or the world of spirits, but through a triadic and ultimately mystical operation of faith. Sophia provided him with the third element to effect this interpenetration.
xxxx~ Divine Sophia - the Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov, Judith Deutsch Kornblatt
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Since Preston Ward and Vic Power, first basemen both, cancel each other out, and since Dick Tomanek basically cancelled himself out, you can do the math so that this fellow—a lifetime .240 hitter, with 179 dingers over a 14-year career—was essentially traded for Maris. And with a pitcher thrown in along with Roger! Name this embodiment of the bad deal.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Name the man, and also cite his classic nickname.
A couple of days ago, while delving in the dusty obscurity of the university archives, I came across a 1965 Encyclopedia Britannica reprint entitled, The Year’s Developments in the Arts and Sciences – Literature, authored by Stephen Spender. As 1965 was a watershed year for me—the year I graduated high school and entered the University of Michigan as an English literature major, I brought the little volume back to my desk to read it, and remember.
Stephen Spender’s name, but not really his work, was well known to me. He is described in the front of the booklet as “poet, critic, editor, translator, and lecturer.” That covers a lot of ground. He first provides the reader with a survey of some of the notable novels published in 1964, and then moves on to poetry. Of the novelists covered, I had read at least one novel by several (Saul Bellow, William S. Burroughs, William Golding, Christopher Isherwood, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer). Of the rest, I knew the names of some, although I’ve never read any of their works (Louis Auchincloss, John Braine, Anthony Powell, Angus Wilson), while I’d never heard of the others (John Stewart Carter, Elizabeth Taylor, Keith Waterhouse.)
I was sailing right along, enjoying Spender’s insights into the works he was discussing, until I got to Spender's exposition of Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels. This happens to be my favorite Kerouac novel. Spender has a few nice things to say about the beginning part of the book, in which Kerouac writes of his alter ego’s stint as a lookout atop a fire tower on Desolation Peak in northwestern Washington. But then Spender, in my humble opinion, loses it:
After 120 pages, however, Kerouac, thinly disguised as a character called Jack Duluoz, descends from the heights to San Francisco, and now we are among the beatniks with their beards and blue jeans; their stage properties of the bed and bottle in the pad; their ritualistic parties; their cult of an incommunicable witless slang with which they wish to communicate with everybody; their resort to alcohol, drugs, and sex, which they regard as Aladdin lamps supposed, after rubbing, to produce the genie of spontaneous utterance; their pretentious anti-intellectual streams of ideas; their name-dropping acquaintance with God, Christ, Buddha; their air of superiority over everyone who is disciplined, intelligent, industrious, humble; their total incapacity to enter into any real interchange of conversation; the tendency of all their activities toward the brawl, the prayer meeting, or the sexual orgy (all and any of which they regard as interchangeable); their lives forever verging on a nonstop party where everyone is proving to everyone else (down to stripping off the last inch of clothing) how natural he is and how spontaneous. Everyone here is a genius, but no one say anything interesting.
So “uncontrollable involuntary thoughts” become the criterion by which everything is judged. This is so unreliable a standard that Kerouac’s world is one in which people are totally lost, unable to do anything except try to live up to the act of self-conscious spontaneity which is the common pretense of the group.
Spender totally decompensates when faced with that which he cannot understand, and of which he cannot, therefore, approve. Kerouac and his hip friends are not playing the game; they are flouting the rules; and to make the whole thing worse—it works! (Kerouac lives on. But John Stewart Carter?)
Moving on to poetry, Spender laments the recent death of T.S. Eliot. Now Eliot is a man of whom Spender can most certainly and vehemently approve. This, even though Eliot, like Kerouac, has had visions of his world as a “wasteland”:
Eliot, as it were, built critical awareness into his poetry. The reader discovers in the poem the values which support its culture. In T.S. Eliot, critical consciousness of the problem of writing poetry in a fragmented society is inseparable from the act of writing the poem. The conflict between a tragic awareness of the destructive forces and an intellectual determination to construct something affirmative upon their denial is the basic drama of his work, both poetry and prose. [...] What was new in the early Eliot was not the aestheticism but the intensity of his disgust at modern life and his intelligent transfusion of a Baudelarian sensibility into English poetry.
Apparently Kerouac transfused too much Rimbaudian Drunken Boat and too few Flowers of Evil. Tsk. In Spender’s world, the arbitrary must dominate the spontaneous, lest all hell break loose and Saint Stephen be unsure of what’s real. It’s either balls or brains; but never both. Choose one, won't you, please?
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Although there were certainly others whom you could name, when I think of the premiere southpaws in the American League during the period we're considering here, three names come immediately to mind: Whitey Ford of the Yankees, Mel Parnell of the Bosox, and the subject of Quiz #4, Billy Pierce of the Chisox.
When he first came onto the scene, the man pictured here seemed poised to join them. Alas, it was not to be.
Name this hurler, and the Yankee middle infielder who may be best remembered for having been so inextricably linked to his fate.
I haven’t posted any of my doodles or sketches for some time now, but I woke up this morning in the mood to post this one – a study in blue Bic pen on yellow legal pad, dating from sometime in the 1970s:
My associative analysis of this work is that it shows my anima to be arrested at the Eve stage; I like ‘em a little hairy, and a bit more funky than not. She should bite with her teeth, rather than with her tongue. She should run only in order to be caught. She should be the half that completes a whole.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
This one goes out to Chris Crump, Kymberly Schwartz, Diana Hart, Diane Elliott, Karen Mazzo, Jeannie MacLeod, Claudia Logan, Betty McFall (R.I.P.), Mary Hoffman, Elana Freeland, Patti Woods...and Pam, Janet, Elsa, Miriam, Donna...
Why should not old men be mad?
Some have known a likely lad
That had a sound fly-fisher's wrist
Turn to a drunken journalist;
A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce;
A Helen of social welfare dream,
Climb on a wagonette to scream.
Some think it a matter of course that chance
Should starve good men and bad advance,
That if their neighbors figured plain,
As though upon a lighted screen,
No single story would they find
Of an unbroken happy mind,
A finish worthy of the start.
Young men know nothing of this sort,
Observant old men know it well;
And when they know what old books tell,
And that no better can be had,
Know why an old man should be mad.
WHY SHOULD NOT OLD MEN BE MAD? ~ Wm. Butler Yeats
And while we're at it, although these lines may have been quoted so often that they no longer can be heard or register on the blunted minds of info-saturated cyber-addicts, here they come again, since never have they rung more true:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
xxxx~ W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
Here, from the banks of the O-hi-o, is a threefer fer ya. Of this trio of precursors to the Big Red Machine, one of them should be--in the words of the immortal Latka Gravas--"a piece of pie." So, in addition to naming him, what (jointly held) record of his was demolished by Mark McGwire?
Of the remaining two, one a had son who played in the majors four years longer than he did (1972-1989), but finished with a lifetime BA two points lower (.279 vs .281).
The third man set the bench mark for backstops before there was Johnny. Name all three.
And because 3 is the number of the day, don't miss the other two highly amusing new posts below this one.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
[Here you go, Womack] This Hall of Famer has the distinction of being the first player whose baseball card I owned to die (so far as I was aware, anyway.) Sadly, he was only age 48. Amazingly enough, the cause of death was not cancer of the jaw.
Since I don’t maintain a blogroll, it is incumbent upon me to direct attention from time to time to some of the sites that I visit on a daily basis. Blogs tend to come and go, but I have recently been finding all three of these to be most rewarding.
I am currently involved in engrossing and instructive discussions of Gnosticism in the comment boxes of Vox Nova here; of the Tea Parties at Journeys in Alterity here; and of Salinger and sainthood at Pentimento here.
Please, join in and help these bloggers set me straight.
Update: Baseball fans are also encouraged to check out Graham Womack's site here.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
For some weeks now I’ve been inching my way through two weighty novels. The first is Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, and the second is Green Mars, the second volume of Kim Stanley Robinson’s outstanding sci-fi trilogy about the colonization of Mars. I’ve also read other, shorter, works during this period; but these two dense and amazing novels have been my constant throughout. Every day, three or four pages of the one, followed by four or five pages of the other.
Perhaps because I’m reading them in this manner, and because in Proust I’m now into the section “Swann in Love,” which delves in great depth into the psycho-social mores of French high society, the following passage from Green Mars that I read early this morning struck me as particularly “Proustian’:
Sax had noticed…in his student years…that there were people who would score high on any intelligence test, and were very good at their work, but who at the same time could walk into a room of people and within an hour have many of the occupants of that room laughing at them or even despising them. Which was not very smart. Indeed the most giddy of high school cheerleaders, say, managing to be friendly with everyone and therefore universally popular, seemed to Sax to be exercising an intelligence at least as powerful as any awkward brilliant mathematician’s—the calculus of human interaction being so much more subtle and variable than any physics, somewhat like the emerging field of math called cascading recombinant chaos, only less simple. So that there were at least two kinds of intelligence, and probably many more: spatial, aesthetic, moral or ethical, interactional, analytic, synthetic, and so forth. And it was those people who were intelligent in a number of different ways who were truly exceptional, who stood out as something special.
If we cast one of Robinson's cheerleaders in the role of Odette, Mars, it seems, is not so very different from Combray, after all.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I saw both Elvis and then the Beatles make their debuts on The Ed Sullivan Show. If you have any idea what I'm talking about, you have some idea of my age. Just about the time Elvis hit the Big Time, so did Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline. Duke Snider and Willie Mays were in their prime. Stan "the Man" Musial and Ted Williams were the WWII-era "super-stars" (before the term was invented) still representing my father's generation for the National and American leagues respectively. We are talking late 1950s and early 1960s here. In those years, I ripped dozens of pictures of the baseball stars from the pages of Sport Magazine and Sports Illustrated, as well as many other baseball publications. To honor those players who provided me with so many thrills in my mid-western boyhood, and who have now been largely forgotten other than by hard-core baseball aficionados, I have decided to post some of their portraits here. I will post the pictures without the names, giving the true fans a chance to identify them and prove to the world how much they know.
I will begin with this Cleveland Indian. This time I will provide a hint: there was a book, and then a Hollywood movie, about this player, who was arguably better looking than the actor who portrayed him in the film. If you think you know who he is, state your guess in the comments section:
Who is it?
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Over at Vox Nova, regular contributor Sam Rocha has posted a piece registering his disgust at the news. His post begins with the sentence, I’m sick of the “news.” And he concludes his reflections with, Sure, there are better and worse “news” outlets and we shouldn’t opt to live under a rock, but, in the end, the effect is the same for me today: nausea. How about you?
Well, since Sam asked, I made the following comments (very slightly amended here) in response:
What does it signify that reportage concerning events in “the news” is immediately susceptible to such a variety of slants, spins, analyses, and interpretations, both at the source (the media) and by its consumers (you and me)?
Is this because “the news” contains no Truth upon which you and I can agree? Or is it because you and I make use of the information conveyed to us through the media as raw materials, in order to construct the subjective pseudo-truths which serve to scratch our personal (and/or tribal) itches?
As a for instance, is President Obama taking heat over his response to the BP oil spill from many people because he is pro-choice, rather than because of his response to the BP oil spill itself?
As another, is organized labor in this country being systematically demonized and dismantled (despite its long history of struggle and sacrifice and its huge historical effect in raising everyone’s standard of living) because it has become somehow “unAmerican”; or is it primarily envy causing the rancor?
In short, do we now use news items primarily as brickbats to throw at the head of “the Other” rather than as reports on happenings in the world that may demand our attention as problem-solvers and agents of goodwill toward our fellow man?
Do we use “the news” primarily “against,” rather than “for?”
Do we seek out voices whose constant refrains are “con-,” rather than “pro-?”
All that negativity! No wonder we feel lousy!
NB: Click here to hear Sam jam!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Would Helen Thomas, who has now retired under tremendous pressure, have suffered a similar fate at the hands of pussyfied American liberals if sometime in the early 20th century she had said that the British should get the hell out of India and go home, or later in the 20th century that the French should get the hell out of Indochina and go back to Europe? Helen Thomas was criticizing Zionism, which is a nationalistic, colonialist, political ideology. If you can't make a political statement--especially an unpopular, non-PC political statement--without losing your job, then the First Amendment IS being shredded. What she said is NOT--as has been oft-suggested--analogous to telling African-Americans that they should go back to Africa. The Israelis of European and American origin did not arrive in Palestine in the holds of slave ships, and the Africans who were brought to these shores did not dislodge, disinherit, or dismember either the indigenous people on this continent, or their conquerors.
What Helen Thomas said you can't say in "polite company." But that doesn't make it morally wrong to say it. If you're 200 years old and don't really need the work, I guess you can take the risk and expose the machinations of the thought police permeating the political life of this country. Chalk up another victory for the Likudnik fascists and their American neocon allies.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
"The Turning Point” in the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower is explained by the opening paragraph of the title editorial by Max Ascoli:
What happened to the President and to the nation on that Saturday, September 24, can perhaps best be defined by the common-law term “act of God,” taken in its most literal religious sense. On that day a Power infinitely beyond our calculations stunned us all by affecting the beat of one man’s heart.
That is to say, Ike had a heart attack. The second paragraph goes on to say:
Well, so much for that article. As we know, Ike not only finished his first term—weak ticker, or not—but he did run again, in 1956, and win. And he finished that term, too.
The following (and related) article, by Sidney Hyman, entitled “The Founding Fathers and Presidential Disability” goes on at great length concerning what should be done if Ike’s heart snapped again, disabling him without killing him outright. Constitutionally, who gets to make the call that the POTUS is mentally or physically unable to do the job? This had come up before; both Woodrow Wilson and FDR come to mind in that respect, and Eisenhower’s heart attack had raised the issue again. (But not that interestingly.)
As for Israel’s border crisis. The map of Israel embedded in the text of the article, coupled with hindsight, describes it pretty well:
The letters to the editor section includes missives concerning the article on modern jazz (that I criticized in Part 4) by two prominent writers on the subject—Nat Hentoff and Whitney Balliett—both of whom pretty much agreed with what I had to say about it.
Our common thread, Sidney Alexander, pans Norman Mailer’s new novel The Deer Park. I have to agree that The Deer Park is a piece of shit by Mailerian standards. The title of Alexander’s review is “Not Even Good Pornography”. While this leads one to wonder just what kind of pornography Alexander preferred, back in the day, I also found it amusing that a novel like The Deer Park could be considered quasi-pornographic. There’s worse on primetime TV in this day and age.
The final article from this issue that I’ll mention is a travelogue about Haiti by Sabine Gova. In the final sections of the piece, the author gets onto the topic of most probable interest to Americans—voodoo and (gasp!) zombies. She has met a talkative native named Justin Villefonte in the dining room of the pension at which she is staying. He turns out to be a lawyer, educated at the Sorbonne. He has (we learn) enemies among the houngans—the voodoo priests—a situation about which he will speak only guardedly. At one point in the discussion he offers this:
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I saw a foreshadowing of the reasons for the growing condemnation of Israel while traveling there in 1979. I was traveling as an accompanying spouse with my wife’s modern dance company, under the auspices of the U.S. state department, in a “goodwill tour”-type situation. Because of the geopolitics of the region in those days, this was a very special tour. The company was to be the first group of individuals to cross the border with Jordan, over the Allenby Bridge (pictured above), since before the Six-Day War. In order to do this, each member of the dance company, as well as each fellow-traveler like me, had been issued a second U.S. passport. As I recall, the purpose of this special passport was to be able to present customs agents in the Arab nations with a passport which had not been stamped in Israel.
Incidentally, the hotel strip along the beach in Tel Aviv was literally swarming with hookers. I was several times openly solicited in broad daylight by young women on the sidewalks, or in cars parked along the sidewalks of the main drag, who exposed their breasts without shame and made enticing verbal suggestions—in pretty good English. On one of these occasions, I walking to our hotel with my wife! The beaches were covered in tar, so that one had to wear shoes while swimming or sunbathing in order to avoid having one’s feet semi-permanently blackened. And, although I loved being able to visit the Church of Holy Sepulcher, dealing with the money-hungry priest on duty (I’m not sure which of the several churches he was representing), was quite unpleasant. In the end, I was glad to be getting the hell out of Israel when the tour bus pulled up.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Main Entry: joyce
Function: intransitive verb
Date: 21st century
1 colloquial: FUCK UP BIG TIME
2 : a : derisive :
Update.1: Anyone who would like to read something that is less adolescent, less emotional, and more fraught with goodwill is referred here.
Okay, I'll admit that I just don't get it. I mean, really -- how could squads of laser-guided underwater robots, armed with state-of-the-art diamond saws, so completely fail to accomplish a simple task that even Joe the Plumber -- despite the fact that his name's not really "Joe" and he's not really a plumber -- wielding only the primitive tools hanging on his belt... Oh. Wait...
I once had dreams of wading, following a beautiful, shallow river to the outskirts of a city. I had dreams of discovering in the ground of cache of coins – and more turned up in the sand the deeper I dug. I dreamed of being in a night city, down in the train yards, and finding there a deep pool full of beautiful, glowing fish that swam up near the surface, and then dove again for the inky depths. It does not seem now that the strange fish I encountered in the city when I had arrived there in reality were equivalent to those dream fish – but it could be that I’m wrong; that something is being overlooked. So far as I can remember, I never dreamt of a fish with a coin in its mouth.
Dreams of buried talents… subconscious a-boil with hidden beauty…