Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Philip Murrary-Lawson Interviews Ruud Antonius

Ruud Antonius is no stranger to Highbrow readers.  His painting "The Fourth Plinth" appears on the cover of Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5, where he also published a short story, "J. P. Holmes, Jr." He was a participant in the 2011 Meeting of International Authors in London, where, incidentally, he and his lovely friend Deborah were my hosts the two nights I spent there.  Mr. Antonius was born in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. He moved to England where he studied art, then moved to Germany where for a period of five years he painted and played music, then returned once more to England. From 2011, Mr. Antonius spent three years in Spain after which he moved back to the South of England again where he writes, paints, and records and produces music. Websites:;

Philip Murray-Lawson, who has interviewed a number of people connected with International Authors, has posted a new interview with Mr. Antonius.  Please click HERE.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tasso Progress Continues: the role of AI support

The translation of Torquato Tasso's long "ultra-modern" poem Il mondo Creato (Creation of the World) is now finalized, and the set-up of the actually book is nearly completed. In these final stages of production, I am once again thankful for the various instruments of 21st century technology which have made the realization of the project possible.  Truly, we live in a great age.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Co-supremes and stars of love" -- more on the Phoenix

The Phoenix and the Turtle
Let the bird of loudest lay
On the sole Arabian tree
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever's end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather'd king;
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak'st
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st,
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the Turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov'd, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance and no space was seen
'Twixt this Turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine
That the Turtle saw his right
Flaming in the Phoenix' sight:
Either was the other's mine.

Property was thus appalled
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was called.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded;

That it cried, "How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love has reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain."

Whereupon it made this threne
To the Phoenix and the Dove,
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene:


Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix' nest,
And the Turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem but cannot be;
Beauty brag but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

Elizabeth's Phoenix jewel, from the Phoenix portrait

Please click HERE for Wikipedia commentary.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Phoenix: he, she, or something else entirely?

The Phoenix is feminine in Greek, masculine in Latin, masculine in French, feminine in Italian, and masculine in German.  For Tasso however, the flaming bird is both, and neither!

For more on this intriguing development in our translation adventure, see Dario Rivarossa's blog, il Tassista. Please click HERE.

"The Phoenix" by Selkis (Tiziana Grassi)

Monday, June 13, 2016

cryptic messages scrawled near the ceiling

In this secret room
from the past
I seek the future

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Radium Age

Cary Doctorow has written an article on "Science fiction's Radium Age: prewar stories of postscarcity, peace and justice."

Doctorow's brief article/review is based on the work of science fiction historian Joshua Glenn, who defines the "Radium Age" as follows:
One thing that distinguishes Radium Age [1904-1933] from Golden Age science fiction is its faith in the possibility of a post-scarcity, peaceful, tolerant, just social order.
Then Glenn writes:

But the Radium Age wasn’t naive: We find many warnings about dystopian tendencies in the cultural, political, and economic tendencies of the period: Karel Capek and Aldous Huxley worried about the drive towards efficiency in all things that characterized both America and the USSR; Yevgeny Zamyatin and Edgar Rice Burroughs worried about the effects of Soviet-style collectivism on the individual; and Jack London's “The Iron Heel” (1908), which is about fascist plutocrats who take over America, feels particularly relevant right now.
Which is it? If anything, Radium Age science fiction is full of dire projections: H.P. Lovecraft, R.E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Capek's War with the Newts... Dire projections indeed. If anything, "Golden Age" science fiction material was the voice of optimism, and it was the late-60s New Wave (embracing Kubrick, as well), that restored the darker view of things (and which, ironically, perhaps, was a midwife to the "utopian" promise of postmodernism...)

That is, if we can generalize about such matters. Suffice it to say that there is optimism and pessimism in all "historical periods" (I am wont to insert a "tra la" here), and that moreover the thing to watch out for is the phenomenon of unrealistic optimism--again as an example, take the utopian song and dance routine that went along with postmodernism when that shiny corrosive began raining down on our Beatles-blasted heads.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Seascape from Tasso

From Creation of the World, lines 675-689:
A gentle wind blows; a placid breeze, sweetly
murmuring, whispers and wanders about,
and ripples the waves, which look like
foamy silver among the rocks or by the
curved coasts; often with the color of shiny
sapphires the sea is tinged, and like
pyrope under the sun’s gentle rays.
Scattered sails fan out far away,
shining white in hundreds, in thousands,
faster than running horses and chariots;
painted ships unfold their old, famous
ensigns, and with pointed rostra furrow
their flat ways; all around, the wet fish
thrash, and often the swift dolphins 
show off their hunched backs in the air.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tasso Translation Progress

I have now entered the final stages of editing Creation of the World.  With a little luck, the book will be available in early July.

For all things Tasso, please visit Dario Rivarossa's blog, Il Tassista.

A presto!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

New Hosting for the International Authors Website

The International Authors website has new hosting.  There has been no material change to the appearance or the function of the website, and the "migration" has little significance beyond the self-same fact that it has happened, but now you know.

Please click the IA logo to view the site:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Contemporary Political Culture, continued

A consideration of Confucian attitudes towards law might be helpful in understanding contemporary technocracy and the political culture that supports it. In Political Order and Political Decay (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)  Francis Fukuyama writes:
There was in fact an active hostility to the very idea of law embedded in traditional Chinese culture. The Confucians believed that human life should be regulated not by formal, written laws, but by morality. This revolved around the cultivation of li, or correct moral conduct, through education and correct upbringing. The Confucians argued that reliance on written law, or fa, was detrimental because formal rules were too broad and general to produce good outcomes in specific cases. Confucian ethics is highly situational or context dependent: the right outcome depends heavily on the relationship and status of the parties involved, the specific facts of the case, and conditions that cannot be known or specified in advance. Good outcomes are produced not by the impartial application of rules but by a sage or superior man who can weigh local context. Having a good emperor at the top of the system is a condition for its proper functioning. 
In Fukuyama's history, China "never had a transcendental religion, and there was never a pretense that law had a divine origin." It seems to me that contemporary attitudes towards the basis of law are similar.  John Rawls' has contrived such concepts as "the original position" and "the veil of ignorance" as quasi-metaphysical substitutes for traditional Western attitudes towards the law, and then, upon their acceptance, goes on to build his neo-Confucian technocracy. I view Rawls' concepts as mere psychological substitutes meant to satisfy a cultural need, rather than as solid bases of understanding, as I remain unconvinced by the arguments Rawls and his followers offer in their support. It takes very little thought to identify them as sophistries and deceptions.*

Like the Confucians, Rawls gives us an orthodox morality, and rather than an orthodoxy of law, it is an orthodoxy of institution, an orthodoxy of bureaucratic relationships. For Rawls, behavior and policy is tested against the standard of what he calls the "Just Society" but after the smoke of his argumentation clears, it is evident that morality and policy are determined by the internal politics of the bureaucracy he represents.  As reading Fukuyama in this context suggests, the nature of how the Rawlsian technocracy actually functions and arrives at decisions compares to Confucian attitudes:
Law was seen as a rational human instrument by which the state exercised its authority and maintained public order. The law did not limit or bind the sovereign himself, who was the ultimate source of law.  While the law could be administered impartially, this was not due to any inherent rights possessed by citizens.  Rights were rather the gift of a benevolent ruler. Impartiality was simply a condition for good public order. It was for this reason that property rights and private law—contracts, torts, and other issues arising between individuals and not involving the state—were given very little emphasis. This stood in sharp contrast to both the Common Law and the Roman Civil Law traditions in the West.
Appertaining to my criticisms, in a future Highbrow post I'll discuss some related problems in Rawls and Kant, applying analysis via G.E.M. Anscombe.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Trends in American Political Cuture

Speculation:  There has been a shift away from favoring constitutional (legal) foundations of government towards a "Confucian" view (and maybe mix in a little Plato, Rousseau, Yeats and Rawls). The idea is best described as Technocratic but at the same time it is, emotionally anyway, Aristocratic.  It is the idea that the "best" people will make the "correct" decisions if we could but give them the power.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Brief Note on "Unified Theories"

Scientists (and philosophers) have a tendency to be led by their activity and language into seeking explanations for things, but the explanations (like the questions) are empty, or anyway are not what we really want. Scientists and philosophers are correct in attempting to describe how things happen, but when they are led by their misapprehension of language into attempting to explain why things happen, then they find themselves involved with projects in which they really don't know what they are doing. 

I would not be surprised if the activity of pursuing "unified" theories is similarly credulous; and it is also unprofitable (that is, it does nothing to advance science, philosophical understanding, well-being, or wealth).

Also, I suspect that an investigation will show that the quest to answer how leads to liberalizing epistemological and political habits, while seeking answers to why leads to authoritarianism.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Austrian Cultural Forum panel discussion on literary translation, May 17, 2016

Recently, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City hosted an international panel discussion on literary translation, exploring some key challenges and surveying the current field of literary translation and publishing in English language. Moderated by well-known critic, author and translator Liesl Schillinger, with panelists Tess Lewis, Michael Orthofer, Ross Ufberg, and publishing researcher Rüdiger Wischenbart. The panel was introduced by ACFNY Director Christine Moser. Recorded by Trafika Europe Radio.

Please click HERE to listen to the discussion.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

From the Desk of Vitasta Raina

Vitasta Raina is the author of the novella Writer's Block. Please click HERE to view the Amazon description.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Codex Sinatra

Astronomical in scope, the human condition exposed in all its vagaries, allegorized as audio impulses and megaphoned through the vibrating codex of shamanic riddles, all possible archetypes lived in full and heaped together in a, so to speak, plastic bag. Was Frank fasting when he wrote this?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Philip Murray-Lawson Interviews "Knox" (Ian M. Carnochan)

I have very little interest in punk rock.  The subject gives me a vague desire to read "Theodore Dalrymple" on the decline of the British working classes.  Nevertheless, an occasional visit to the lowbrow sphere can be refreshing, provided one has a capable tour guide, and I think Mr. Murray-Lawson admirably plays that role HERE in his interview with Vibrators frontman and songwriter, Ian M. Carnochan, who, highbrow posturing aside, is a painter with a fine talent.

Lake 2008
Pen and acrylic on paper, approx 7 " x 10 " (18cm x 25cm)