Friday, June 10, 2005

from "Seizing the Power"

by Tom Wolfe (1973)

When we talk about the 'rise' or 'death' of literary genres, we are talking about status, mainly. The novel no longer has the supreme status it enjoyed for ninety years (1875 - 1965), but neither has the New Journalism won it for itself. The status of the New Journalism is not secured by any means. In some quarters the contempt for it is boundless... even breathtaking... With any luck at all the new genre will never be sanctified, never be exalted, never given a theology. I probably shouldn't even go around talking it up the way I have in this piece. All I meant to say when I started out was that the New Journalism can no longer be ignored in an artistic sense. The rest I take back... The hell with it... Let chaos reign... louder music, more wine.... The traditions are exhausted, and no new one is yet established. All bets are off! the odds are cancelled! it's anybody's ball game! ... the horses are drugged! the track is glass! ... and out of such glorious chaos may come, from the most unexpected source, in the most unexpected form, some nice new fat Star Streamer Rockets that will light up the sky.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

At the Edge of the World

"... I must say that the man we call modern, the man
who is aware, of the immediate present, is by no means
the average man. He is rather the man who stands upon
a peak, or at the very edge of the world, the abyss of
the future before him, above him the heavens, and
below him the whole of mankind with a history that
disappears in the primeval mists. The modern man - or,
let us say again, the man of the immediate present - is
rarely met with. There are few who live up to the
name, for they must be consious to a superlative
degree. Since to be wholly of the present means to be
fully concious of one's existence as a man, it
requires the most intensive and extensive
consciousness, with a minimum of unconsciousness. It
must be clearly understood that the mere fact of
living in the present does not make a man modern, for
in that case everyone at present alive would be so.
He alone is modern who is fully conscious of the
The man whom we can with justice call 'modern' is
solitary. He is so of necessity and at all tiime, for
every step towards a fuller conciousness of the
present removes him further from his original
'participation mystique' with the mass of men- from
submersion in a common unconsciousness. Every step
forward means an act of tearing himself loose from
that all-embracing, prisitine unconsciousness which
claims the bulk of mankind almost entirely."

from C.G. Jung's "Modern Man in Search of a Soul," 1933

"... Nothing is so fertile in our private lives as
the feeling of love; love even becomes the symbol of
fertility. For many things are born out of a person's
love: desire, thought, volition, action. All these
things, however, which grow from love, like the
harvest from a seed, are not love itself, but rather
presuppose its exitstence. Of course, in some manner
or form we also want what we love; but, on the other
hand, we obviously want many things that we do not
love, things which leave us indifferent on a
sentimentality plane. Desiring a good wine is not
loving it, and the drug addict desires drugs at the
same time that he hates them for their harmful

From Ortega Y Gasset's "On Love: aspects of a single
theme," 1957

The Perfect Man

"It is, therefore, a source of great virtue for the practised mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about invisible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his."

-- Hugo of St. Victor

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Educational Value

from "The Black Album," by Hanif Kureishi

Serious reading required dedication. Who, now, believed it did them good? And how many people knew a book as they knew "Blonde on Blonde," "Annie Hall," or Prince, even? Could literature connect a generation in the same way? Some exceptional students would read hard books; most wouldn't, and they weren't fools.

The music her students liked, how they danced, their clothes and language, it was theirs, a living way. She tried to enter it, extend it, ask questions. It wasn't a pleasure telling people that culture would benefit them, particularly if they couldn't see what it was for. As it was, they were constantly being informed of their inferiority. Many of them regarded the white elite culture as self-decieving and hypocritical. For some this was an excuse for laziness. With others it was genuine: they didn't want to find the culture that put them down profound.

from "Brain Candy" (a recent article in the New Yorker), by Malcolm Gladwell

One of the ongoing debates in the educational community, similarly, is over the value of homework. Meta-analysis of hundreds of studies done on the effects of homework shows that the evidence supporting the practise is, at best, modest. Homework seems to be most useful in high school and for subjects like math. At the elementary-school level, homework seems to be of marginal or no academic value. Its effects on discipline and personal responsibility is unproved. And the casual relation between high-school homework and achievement is unclear: it hasn't been firmly established whether spending more time on homework in high school makes you a better student or whether better students, finding homework more pleasurable, spend more time doing it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Moral and Physical Thermometer

(as printed in The Columbian Magazine, 1789; the point, obviously, was to disuade people from drinking - the temperance movement; there's an actual chart here, made to look like a thermometer, but I'll just list them off from good to bad)

A Moral and Physical Thermometer: Or; A Scale of the Progress of TEMPERANCE and INTEMPERANCE. Liquors, with their EFFECTS, in thier usual order.


Water; milk and water, vinegar and water, molasses and water; small beer -- Health, Wealth, Serenity of mind, Reputation, long life and Happiness.

Cider; Wine; Porter; Strong beer -- Cheerfulness, Strength and Nourishment, when taken only at meals, and in moderate quantities.


Punch; Toddy; Grog; Slings -- VICES: Idleness; Pevishness; Quarreling; Fighting; Lying; Swearing; DISEASES: Sickness; Puking and Tremors of the hands, in the morning; Bloatedness; Inflamed eyes; Red nose and face; Sore and swelled legs; Jaundice; PUNISHMENTS: Debt; Black-eyes; Rags; Hunger; Hospital; Poor House.

Bitters infused in spirits (Rum, Gin, Brandy, Whisky & Jamaica spirits) during the DAY & NIGHT -- VICES: Obscenity; Fraud; Anarchy; Hatred of just government; Murder; Suicide; DISEASES: Pains in the limbs & burning in the palms of the hands, and soles of the feet; Dropsy; Epilepsy; Melancholy; Ideotism; Madness; Palsy; Apoploxy; DEATH; PUNISHMENTS: Jail; Whipping-post; Wheel-barrow; GALLOWS.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Shades of Gray

from "Elephant," by Murakami (his interviews with people involved in the Tokyo bombings of 1995):

Kano: As long as the statistical structure you use is the same as that used in medical science, then it's okay. These symptoms mean this, this is how you treat them, that sort of thing.

Murakami: I don't imagine you read novels.

Kano: No, I don't. Three pages is about the most I can manage before I give up.

Murakami: Since I'm a novelist I'm the opposite of you -- I believe that what's most important is what CANNOT be measured. I'm not denying your way of thinking, but the greater part of people's lives consists of things that are unmeasurable, and trying to change all these to something measurable is realistically impossible.

from "Dinner at the Homesick Restuarant," by Anne Tyler

"When your mother and I were first married, everything was perfect. It seemed I could do no wrong. Then bit by bit I guess she saw my faults. I'd never hid them, but now it seemed they mattered after all.... I was sitting over a beer in the kitchen one Sunday evening and all at once, not even knowing I'd do it, I said, 'Pearl, I'm leaving.'

Cody said, "You mean THAT was when you left?"

"I packed a bag and walked out," said Beck.

Cody sat down on the stoop.

"See," said Beck, "what it was, I guess: it was the grayness; grayness of things; half-right-and-half-wrongness of things. Everything tangled, mingled, not perfect any more. I couldn't take that. Your mother could, but not me."

Clem Snide, "I Love the Unknown"

she asked him,
"why can we not be together
why is it we have to part
why did you leave with a stranger
when i am revealing my heart?"

because i love the unknown
i love the unknown
he says he loves the unknown

they asked him,
"hey, where's this bus going?"
and he said, "well, i'm really not sure."
"well then, how will you know where to get off?"
and he said, "the place with the most allure."

becuase i love the unknown

and then his father got him a job
and it paid well
but every day it felt the same
well, his father was really heartbroken
when he quit and changed his last name

because he loves the unknown

the doctor asked him what he was afraid of
just what was he running from?
he said, "it's not a fear of success, nor of closeness
but of going through life feeling numb."

that's why i love the unknown
i love the unknown
he said he loves the unknown

from the movie, "Waking Life:"

Creation seems to come out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration, and this is where I think language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another.

So much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed; it's unspeakable.

And yet when we communicate with one another, and we feel that we have connected, we think that we're understood, I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think it's what we live for.

Ken Kesey quote:

The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer -- they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.

from "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant"

by Anne Tyler

The baby chewed on a curtain pull. Jane, the nine-year-old, perched on Ezra’s knee as casually as if he were a piece of furniture. She smelled of crayons and peanut butter – homely smells that warmed his heart. “What are you fixing in your restaurant tonight?” she asked.
“Cold things. Salads. Soups.”
“Soups are hot,” she said.
“Not necessarily.”
She paused, perhaps to store this information in some tidy filing cabinet inside her head. Ezra was touched by her willingness to adjust – by her amiable adaptability. Was it possible, he sometimes wondered, that children humored grown-ups? If grown-ups insisted on toilet training, on please and thank you – well, all right, since it seemed to mean so much to them. It wasn’t important enough to argue about. This is a transitive verb, some grown-up would say, and the children would go along with it; though to them it was immaterial, frankly. Transitive, intransitive, who cared? What difference did it make? It was all a foreign language anyhow.