Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Is she seeking to frighten the grown-ups?

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died – (591)

                 Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -
The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -
I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -
With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see –

"the Heaves of Storm" -- Such language. Is this how a little girl thinks poets emote?

"when the King/be witnessed in the room" - Ah, transgressive punk Emily shocks the grown-ups with profane musings. Get ready, grown-ups, rather than Jesus, the FLY is coming instead!  

"...and then it was..." etc.  Reading this for my students, I like to suddenly slow the cadence and narrow my eyes as I pronounce, "there interposed a fly."  Each syllable is fraught with diabolism that Milton's Satan might, erm, envy.

"...stumbling buzz" alliterates with the th in then, the "s" in windows and, after a fashion, the "s" in see (x2), which is anyway rhyming with Between/me/see/see, and so on.  Emphasizing the buzzing sounds is fun when teaching the poem, and (one wonders) presents an opportunity to act like a nut before a group of young people. Even more fun is concluding on this irreverent note: 

"The poem might be vaguely unwholesome if it wasn't so silly."

Emily Dickinson

Monday, April 29, 2024

Ambrose Bierce - Shapes Of Clay (1903) - with art by Herman Scheffauer

Collection of poems. Cover designed by Herman Scheffauer.

More of Scheffauer's images:

The Infant in the News Sheet


The Hollow Head of Mars

View The Hollow Head of Mars HERE.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

John Locke, Analytic Philosopher

Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard and misapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning and height of speculation, that it will not be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true knowledge. To break in upon the sanctuary of vanity and ignorance will be, I suppose, some service to human understanding; though so few are apt to think they deceive or are deceived in the use of words; or that the language of the sect they are of has any faults in it which ought to be examined or corrected, that I hope I shall be pardoned if I have in the Third Book* dwelt long on this subject, and endeavoured to make it so plain, that neither the inveterateness of the mischief, nor the prevalency of the fashion, shall be any excuse for those who will not take care about the meaning of their own words, and will not suffer the significancy of their expressions to be inquired into.

John LockeAn Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “The Epistle to the Reader, § 7.

*In the Third Book Locke presents his remarks on the accurate and the confused use of language, where he describes how the misuse of language leads to conceptual confusion and philosophical credulity, key concerns in Twentieth (and Twenty-First) Century Analytic Philosophy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

CBC's Man Alive

Leo Rampen (whose art portfolio in Emanations Zen was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was the executive producer of the CBC program Man Alive from 1967 to 1979.

Here is the introduction to the first episode, which aired in 1967:

From Blaine Allan's CBC Television Series, 1952-1982:

Man Alive

Here is CBC television's weekly inquiry into issues of faith, commitment, and contemporary life took its title from St. Irenaeus, the second century Bishop of Lyons, who wrote, "The glory of God is man fully alive." The fact that the phrase, "Man alive" appears more popularly as an expletive suggests the down-to-earth pertinence of the program's approach. In fact, a Maclean's review called Man Alive "An irreverent new approach to religion" (December l967). Catchy headlines can misrepresent the show, however. Man Alive grew out of the wake of Vatican II and the movement toward ecumenism in the 1960s. Although it has maintained a vigilant and critical attitude toward the church, it has generally reflected its sense of self-criticism and reform and its growing social commitment. As the program went to air, the CBC's assistant supervisor of religious programming, Rev. Brian Freeland cautioned, "We are not a public relations department for the churches of Canada," and executive producer Leo Rampen added, "Nor are we seeking the benediction of the churches."

Since its premiere in 1967, Man Alive has built a reputation for adventurous public affairs programming. The show and its host since the beginning, Roy Bonisteel, have shared images of credibility and integrity. The program's producers have been rewarded with a consistent and loyal audience and the show's consequent longevity.


Man Alive resulted in part from the expansion of the CBC's Religious Broadcasts department. Personnel for previous programs, such as Heritage (q.v.) had come from the network's regional production centres. In 1967 Rampen, formerly producer of Take Thirty, headed a team that included veteran producers who had worked on such public affairs shows as The Other Eye and This Hour Has Seven Days. Originally in a magazine format, Man Alive reflected the public affairs training of its producers, and covered such subjects as current bills in Parliament that dealt with questions of divorce, capital punishment, and abortion; the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome; Billy Graham's rally at the CNE Stadium in Toronto; and the cult of exorcism. The program employed both filmed documentaries and studio discussions in its inquiries. In the 1970s, the producers decreased the studio-bound programs and tended more toward documentary investigations and filmed interviews.


The program started in a Sunday afternoon time slot, where it was followed by Hymn Sing, itself a popular and long-running series. After two seasons, Man Alive moved into prime time on a weeknight, where it became less strictly associated with religious programming. In fact, it was North America's only prime time offering devoted to issues of religion. It remained in that time slot, with little variation, until 1979, when it moved to Tuesdays. Repeat broadcasts, sometimes under the title, The Best Of Man Alive, have turned up on Sunday afternoons during summer seasons and in the regular season.


Producers of Man Alive have included David Ruskin (l967-68), John Ryan (l967-68), Garth Goddard (l968), Terry Thompson (l968-69), Sam Levene (l969-7l), Louise Lore (l970-l979), John McGreevy (l970-75), Sig Gerber (l973-77), Tim Bentley (l974-78), Rosalind Farber (l974-75), Wayne Thompson (l978-date), Catherine Smalley (l978-date). Executive producers have been Leo Rampen (l967-77, 1978-79), Sig Gerber (l977), and Louise Lore (l979-date).


See also Roy Bonisteel, In Search of Man Alive, Toronto: Collins, 1980.


Sunday, April 21, 2024

A tight and regimented cartouche from Kandinsky

"Drawing for Dot and Line on Plan"
V. Kandinsky, 1925
(Pencils & Ink - 38.6 x 30.8cm)
Pompidou Centre, Paris

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Starship Space Warp Sub-Dimensional Trans-Light Wormhole Interstellar Voyage Control Simulator (please use with caution)

Note: For best results, click the first image and use the tabs at the bottom of the screen to toggle between space data displays and space warp sub-dimensional trans-light wormhole controls. Bon voyage!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: From Victor Hugo to Elizabeth Anscombe to G. E. Moore

At issue: the truth and majority opinions.

In Napoléon le Petit Victor Hugo writes:

Now, get seven million five hundred thousand votes to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest road, that the whole is less than its part; get it declared by eight millions, by ten millions, by a hundred millions of votes, you will not have advanced a step.

What can we do with this?  Most highbrows will immediately recall a remark by Elizabeth Anscombe in her essay on "Modern Moral Philosophy" concerning Kant's Duty Ethics and the legislative weight of philosophical opinions:

Kant introduces the idea of “legislating for oneself,” which is as absurd as if in these days, when majority votes command great respect, one were to call each reflective decision a man made a vote resulting in a majority, which as a matter of proportion is overwhelming, for it is always 1-0.  The concept of legislation requires superior power in the legislator.  His own rigoristic convictions on the subject of lying were so intense that it never occurred to him that a lie could be relevantly described as anything but just a lie (e.g. as “a lie in such-and-such circumstances”).  His rule about universalizable maxims is useless without stipulations as to what shall count as a relevant description of an action with a view to constructing a maxim about it.

To bring things full circle then, we might remark that asserting "2 + 2 = 5" is nothing but a lie, and that any relevant descriptions (outside of theoretical assertions) regarding the efficacy of the statement "2 + 2 = 5" are impossible, as surely the grammar of the statement  "2 + 2 =" must always result in "4". 

To add further interest to this line of inquiry, we might bring in G. E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy, which certainly lends no credence whatsoever to the proposition (i.e. "2 + 2 = 5"). Compare  "2 + 2 ought to = 5" which is patently absurd, for in the case of arithmetic equations, ought is never part of a legitimate statement or a sensible expression.  The question is rather one of identity.  2 + 2 is 4. 

Now, is the "truth" identical to itself? History will show that awkward thinkers have said "no" and impressed many. 

I have said very little here that needs to be said.  But that little ought to mean a lot. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Bernard Parmegiani - De Natura Sonorum (1978)


Many years ago, when, at the cost of my capacity for experiencing deep sadness, I completed my reading in Plato’s dialogues, whereupon the loss of all my doubt seemed to me an unjust punishment, as if a part of me had been rendered into something inaccessible, untouchable, indistinctive. Even a week ago, despite a deeper appreciation for temperate Plato, and all the reading that followed, the familiarity with the meaning of statecraft, the place of philosophy in that mechanism, like grand Prussian musical compositions of the late-eighteenth-century aspiring to a new unity, a new absolute, a new state!—trying to listen to the voice that would proclaim my place! After all this, and more, I remained perplexed and disoriented: my place was after all incomprehensible and unjustifiable! In the last half century (even more!) I have experienced much, many joys, astonishments, and a few sorrows. I grew older. I experienced life. I learned new languages (chiefly Renaissance Italian, soon forgotten, but to be replaced by a return to Elizabethan English (Francis Bacon, thank goodness, to return to that, like a homecoming!), then I explored new cultures of learning anew. I moved away from the English Renaissance, due to lack of time, lack of courage, for fear of finding myself thinking too much. My last important investigation in that demesne was Sir Philip Sydney. That was surely the capital atop the pillar.  I'm still in a non-thinking phase. I feel, and even if I feel those feelings are nothing. Everything seems banal to me, even if that everything is unpleasant, and yet I rejoice at that authenticity! I get emotional, I remember, I am moved, I cry out, I lurch—but it is like watching an old film that I have seen many times—albeit many times long ago. I understood that I was in a delicate, perhaps precarious position, a sort of chronic dissatisfaction with my emotional needs, which were paradoxically no longer linked to my sense of value, even though I had won the respect of a multitude of intellectual communities. Maybe it is a coincidence, but posting in this blog, revising my words, and today presenting this grand composition, Parmegiani’s glorious De Natura Sonorum, seem like reaching out to make contact (with YOU) for the very first time. I am far from understanding who my readers are, but I find those old time-worn communities, the just moderators of those important corrals, still just as new, just as discreet, just as profound. Yet not satisfying, but fulfilling my sense of propriety, my ability as a human to choose to do what is right regardless of consequences or even what’s in my own personal best interest. I do know what all this means, whether the future of old relationships, the evolution of new communities, and so on, are hidden or not among the many blog posts I have set forth here, for you, the millions of readers who buy my books (see the right margin of this blog, and click and purchase all of my books, thank you). Join me, and take note of the change that has occurred within me, your patronage will (and must!) preserve my testimony, and the many particular intentions that I have intended, so as to remind myself, howsoever long it takes, that I have NOT resigned myself and that I have always tried to understand my fellow humans and the things of this world.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

German and English - Grammatical considerations of Precision, Sense, Nonsense, Intent, the "Order of Concrete Things," and the Philosophical Criterion of Use

"The English language lacks the ability to express thoughts that surpass the order of concrete things. It’s because the German language has this ability that Germany is the country of thinkers."

 7 March 1942, quoted in Hitler's Table Talk, 1941–1944

  Source: 1942, Sixth entry

Sorry for the lurid opening, but it raises interesting questions, ranging from the philosophy of language to political philosophy.

I gather conversations about Hitler are rather more "clinical" in America than elsewhere. That's not to say I am not insensitive to the ruffled feathers that could emerge in opening this post as I have. By way of comparison, I was "mildly" alarmed in grad school in the early 1990s where my professors were "casually" discussing Heidegger. They sought to bring his ideas to bear in their ill-advised armchair scheme to build a Utopia--or anyway a Utopia such as specialists in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature might conceive it. Shades of Gulliver's Travels, Book III.

My uncle, a Hittitologist and professor of ancient history who knew 20 (or more) languages, and who was so fluent in German that Germans would ask him when he had come over from Germany, said English was more precise, but I don't recall him offering any reasons.

The father of a friend of mine, who came to America from Germany as a POW in 1945, and who was an engineer, thought that German offered more precision than English. His German and his English were excellent (and we were in perfect agreement when it came to the importance of studying grammar). Meanwhile, having only a vague (and now lost) reading knowledge of German, I was unable to debate the subject with him, though my sense was (and still is) that English is capable of greater flexibility and precision.

First, if English can't produce a word that puts the finger right down on "it," then English generates (or finds) a new word that puts the finger on it with perfect precision, as the word is exactly the thing. Second, and following after something Anthony Burgess said, "English is a language without a grammar," and (again following Burgess) in English we simply group the words together in such a way that their proximity to one another in a sentence patterns the proximity of the various elements we are describing (or arguing about) as they appear in the real world; so to speak, word placement and proximity follow the case of the real thing (or things) that we are discussing.

In good English, there can be no "thoughts that surpass the order of concrete things" because language that surpasses the order of concrete things is metaphysics, and hence nonsense. And hence, also, our on-going highbrow discussion of Wittgenstein's remarks as they relate to such questions. And hence, too, the place of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" in the supporting and adjunct curricula. 

It might be argued that no word ever puts a finger on anything. Furthermore, it is the intent of the people using the words that counts. Thus philosophical (or interlocutory) problems are not with the languages themselves, but the people using them.

But I can only agree with this in a Pickwickian sense, as I am reserved about the use of the word "intent" (see, for example, Wimsatt and Beardsley on "The Intentional Fallacy").

Rather than "intent", I suspect such words as "use", "understanding", "confusion", "agreement", "alternative", and "context" come closer to the concepts we want to use here, especially in our quest to dispel linguistic mystification, clear off conceptual confusion, and put our finger right down on something. 


                           Two      Chicks

I submit the finger has been perfectly placed. And in both instances!

But I fear I have let the thesis slip through my fingers. Let's get back to it.

Unfortunately, my uncle has passed away, and also my friend's father is gone. No doubt, with either of the two men, unpacking this debate would be fascinating. As I recall these two figures--pondering their life experiences, their knowledge, their expertise, and the time I spent with them--our conversations were always stimulating, candid, instructive, and generous. Curious how I took these friendships for granted. Alas, I have lost both. Look around you for such people.

Meanwhile, I will seek elsewhere for instruction in this matter.

For now, a visit with Mark Twain's The Awful German Language should provide some insights.

Monday, April 8, 2024

The Eclipse - April 8, 2024

I saw the eclipse. Three minutes plus totality.

Saw Venus to the lower right (west and a little south of the eclipse).


The horizon glows with a twilight light, and beyond that some dark and then light blue is visible out beyond the moon's shadow.


Above, the sky is very dark. There was a very thin layer of mist/cloud layer, so the corona was not visible to me.


The moon looks like a black hole surrounded by a bright silvery ring. At approx. 7:00 o'clock in this ring I saw a small red spot--sunlight shining through some VERY small valley or depression in the moon's surface. Not overly bright--not as bright as the silver ring.


After totality, the exposed bit of sun is SUDDENLY very very bright.


Two impressions I had that other people who saw the totality I talked to also had:


1) What was it like for "primitive" people to look at an eclipse and find it terrifying--like the world is coming to an end? It is hard to get your head around that. To me--to people I talked too--it's simply beautiful, pure lovely... and a bit weird but not in a bad way.


2) It is a VERY enjoyable experience, and even during the eclipse there is a strong feeling to want to experience another one.

It was hard even to think about it scientifically, though looking around at the horizon gets you back into science mode. You can almost "feel" the Moon's shadow coming down out of space.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Tifusari (Typhus Victims) - Yugoslav Animated Film, 1963

YouTube description:

Tifusari was produced by Zagreb Film in 1963. The animation was scripted by Vatroslav Mimica, based on Jure Kaštelan's poem cycle of the same name. The Tifusari cycle is one of the apexes of Yugoslav partisan poetry, reflecting on childhood, homeland and the hope for a better future in the midst of a cruel and unforgiving revolutionary struggle.