Friday, October 09, 2015

Loyalty and lying
For example, in many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty.

Obama and Saruman

The Two Towers, “The Voice of Saruman”:
Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard  [Obama's “racism” speech]; and if they did, they wondered for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell [...] But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.
Return of the King, “Many Partings”: 
[Gandalf said,] “I fancy [Saruman] could do some mischief still in a small mean way.” 
Return of the King, “The Scouring of the Shire”:
[Saruman said,] “ ‘One ill turn deserves another.’ It would have been a sharper lesson, if only you had given me a little more time and more Men. Still I have already done much that you will find it hard to mend or undo in your lives. And it will be pleasant to think of that and set it against my injuries.”...  
But Frodo said, “...He has lost all power, save his voice that can still daunt you and deceive you, if you let it. ...”

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Sexual Identity in 1958, from comedian Shelley Berman.

We only hear his side of the call.

He phones his sister, but his very young nephew answers instead. Hilarity ensues. 
Finally (at 7:52 in the video) his sister comes to the phone.
Do me a favor, tell my nephew he's a boy, will you?

He doesn't know. He doesn't know! I asked him before, he didn't know what the hell I was talking about!

What do you mean, "he's a baby"? Now is when he should know! Now, during his formative years! Don't wait till he grows up and makes an arbitrary decision!
Originally on the LP Inside Shelley Berman.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Chivalry is the most delicate form of contempt"

Albert Léon Guérard, Bottle in the Sea (1954):
Descartes wrote in heavy but lucid nontechnical French, for the layman if not for the man in the street. He was the first of the great popularizers (vulgarisateurs in the strictly French sense): a distinguished line and particularly Gallic, in which Pascal himself, and Renan, were to be his successors. He went so far as to include among his potential audience "even women": a revolutionary step, for the elaborate gallantry of the time had not yet broken down the prejudice against feminine brains: chivalry is the most delicate form of contempt. It is odd to think of the austere logician, mathematician, and physicist as a professor for society ladies: yet he had among his disciples Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia and Queen Christina of Sweden. We might consider him as a forerunner of Trissotin in Moliere's Learned Ladies; most decidedly of Fontenelle, whose Chats on the Plurality of Inhabited Worlds are masterpieces of drawingroom wit and courtesy; of Voltaire, who wrote his Universal History for Madame du Chatelet; of Bellac in Pailleron's Le Monde ou Von s'ennuie, the professor as society pet, a composite picture of many successful academic lecturers; even of Bergson, whose courses at the College de France were thronged with the aristocracy of birth and wealth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cesar Chavez' fundamental problem

Like most ’60s radicals—of whatever stripe—he [Chavez] vastly overestimated the appeal of hard times and simple living; he was not the only Californian of the time to promote the idea of a Poor People’s Union, but as everyone from the Symbionese Liberation Army to the Black Panthers would discover, nobody actually wants to be poor.

The Madness of Cesar Chavez (by Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic, July/August 2011 Issue)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Phaedrus - "what is good" - Plato/Jowett vs. Pirsig

Phaedrus by Plato (258d) (translated by Benjamin Jowett):
Soc. The disgrace begins when a man writes not well, but badly.


Soc. And what is well and what is badly—need we ask Lysias, or any other poet or orator, who ever wrote or will write either a political or any other work, in metre or out of metre, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?
As paraphrased in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig:
And what is good, Phaedrus , and what is not good—need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Science and religion

Max Planck, Where Is Science Going? (1932)
Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
1 Thessalonians  5:21 (KNJV)
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another Ogden Nash poem

Medusa and the Mot Juste

Once there was a Greek divinity of the sea named Ceto and she married a man named Phorcus,
And the marriage must have been pretty raucous;
Their remarks about which child took after which parent must have been full of asperities,
Because they were the parents of the Gorgons, and the Graeae, and Scylla, and the dragon that guarded the apples of the Hesperides.
Bad blood somewhere.
Today the Gorgons are our topic, and as all schoolboys including you and me know,
They were three horrid sisters named Medusa and Euryale and Stheno.
But what most schoolboys don't know because they never get beyond their Silas Marners and their Hiawathas,
The Gorgons were not only monsters, they were also highly talented authors.
Medusa began it;
She wrote Forever Granite.
But soon Stheno and Euryale were writing too, and they addressed her in daily choruses,
Saying we are three literary sisters just like the Brontës so instead of Gorgons why can't we be brontësauruses?
Well, Medusa may have been mythical but she wasn't mystical,
She was selfish and egotistical.
She saw wider vistas
Than simply being the sister of her sisters.
She replied, tossing away a petrified Argonaut on whom she had chipped a molar,
You two can be what you like, but since I am the big fromage in this family, I prefer to think of myself as the Gorgon Zola.