For all the random wierdos who happen to stumble across this blog: I’ve got a new home, at Anarchy and Culture.
June 23, 2011
June 12, 2010
Here’s an illustration of a possible hidden pattern in Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” courtesy of the humor site Cracked.com.
The Wikipedia article on this famous work explains: In 1990 a physician named Frank Lynn Meshberger noted in the medical publication the Journal of the American Medical Association that the background figures and shapes portrayed behind the figure of God appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain, including the frontal lobe, optic chiasm, brain stem, pituitary gland, and the major sulci of the cerebrum.
It certainly looks convincing, but is it plausible that Michelangelo intended it? Plausible, yes. Like his fellow Renaissance master Da Vinci, Michelangelo was fascinated with anatomy, and was known to cut up corpses. But if he did put this “Easter egg” into the painting, what did he mean by it? That God is a product of the human brain? Or something more mystical, like “God and the imagination are one?”
February 9, 2010
My brother Joe, after a long dry spell, has abandoned his “Naked Time” blog. However, he has embarked on a new endeavor, “Sans Comics“, which is more strictly devoted to the development of his art. Hopefully there will be more of those music videos. Those were awesome. And maybe I can get him to do more cartoons for me, too.
February 4, 2010
It’s been a rough year for me so far: starting school, looking for a new car, ignoring collection notices, battling my post-college football season depression, losing in chess to my brother, not drinking enough (I write best between two and four beers). And not wanting my dear dear opinions to dissipate into the blogospheric aether, I’ve set for myself a goal of two posts per week (one Song for Sunday and at least one other post during the week), but its been hard to stick to even that. So with that self-exculpatory preface noted, my apologies to anyone who cares. Now for a few brief updates:
Way overdue update on my bowl picks: I was just over 50 percent, with 17 right and 16 wrong. Good enough to try it again next year. I should note that some of my most confident picks (TCU, most notoriously) were the most wrong.
On two recent famous deaths: I read The Catcher in the Rye I think three times between ninth and tenth grade, and have not read it since. For some reason I was never impelled to read Salinger’s other published work, but my feeling is that he was really a one-hit wonder, like Ken Kesey, Chuck Palahniuk, and so many other American novelists. I’m not sure whether the book would hold up to a re-reading as an adult, either. A People’s History of the United States has long been on the top of my reading list, and since my live-in girlfriend (terrible phrase- sounds more like a job description rather than a relationship- but what am I going to call it since we have no state-sanctioned certificate?) owns a copy I have little excuse for not having read it. It always seems to happen that I discover an artist’s work right after they die, which has happened to me with John Fahey (2001) and William S. Burroughs (1997).
A few words on a book recently read: Crispin Sartwell’s Against the State has two main flaws as I that I can see. Its subtitle is An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory, which might lead one to think that it contains summaries and analysis of actual historical anarchist ideas, thinkers, schools, and controversies. Syndcalism, egoism, Christian pacifism; individualism versus social anarchism; whether anarcho-capitalism is genuine anarchism; how Proudhon was a sexist and Stirner was crazy- that sort of stuff. Instead Sartwell devotes the bulk of his book to a refutation of philosophic claims for state legitimacy, and a short section in the end giving an adumbration of the kind of anarchism he would like to see in the future (promising development of his ideas in a future book). Now this is a very minor flaw, since there are certainly other books devoted to historical and contemporary anarchism, but few that engage in academic political discourse in the way that this one does. This is a step toward anarchy being taken seriously. This leads to more serious flaw, which is that Sartwell admirably takes on the titans of political philosophy: Locke, Hume, Bentham, Hegel, Rousseau, Hobbes, Nozick, and Rawls, just for starters. Yet he devotes less than 100 pages to this task. Mystics and idolators of state power Rousseau and Hegel are dismissed as presenting no real argument for legitimacy, and rightly so, but surely as lasting and widespread a theory as Hobbes’ deserves to be refuted in greater detail. Perhaps Sartwell is just that efficient. It’s hard for me to tell, since I happen to agree with every word, but I think a skeptic would want more.
Some ideas for upcoming posts: Since I’m taking all English classes, I have more literature than politics on the brain right now. But I have some notions of exploring the overlap, including Argentinian writer Jorge-Luis Borges as a conservative anarchist, and Jonathan Swift as both a proto-anarchist and a proto-totalitarian (so he was accused by George Orwell, referring specifically to book IV of Gulliver’s Travels). Expect possibly also some thoughts on Beowulf, William Blake, the Enlightenment and/versus Romanticism, Jane Austen, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Thomas More’s Utopia, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Coetzee, and so on.
Or maybe you won’t hear from me again until after finals.
January 4, 2010
I just got the sad news that GaragePunk.com will no longer be doing the Podcast Network, which puts up about a couple dozen different awesome Rock and Roll podcasts. Most of the individual podcasts will still be available on their own blogs or somewhere. Check them out here.
November 6, 2009
So establishes the new biography by Robert Service (no, not the English-Canadian poet), reviewed here by John Gray. Trotsky, idol of the 20th-century western literati, favored repression of political dissidents and political correctness in culture. There is little evidence that he would have been less tyrannical than Stalin at the helm of the Soviet Union. Gray writes,
. . . along with Lenin he had created the system that Stalin inherited and used for ends with which Trotsky generally sympathised.
And of course he helped give us the neocons. The question is what this all says about the western literati that held him up as a paragon, a veritable secular saint. In my more cynical moments I fear intellectuals are inveterate worshipers of power. But this doesn’t explain why the exiled Trotsky is favored over Stalin. I think this is simply because Stalin was so obviously not an intellectual, whereas Trotsky
fitted the perception that dissenting intellectuals like to have of themselves. Highly cultured, locked in struggle with a repressive establishment, a gifted writer who was also a man of action, he seemed to embody the ideal of truth speaking to power. The manner of his death solidified this perception, which has shaped accounts of his life ever since.
But not forever hence.
October 8, 2009
There have been two recent podcasts, each devoted to a figure that has held a peculiar hold on my imagination for a long time. The first is an episode of the BBC radio show In Our Time, discussing the mysterious Egyptian Pharoah Akhenaten, and the second is an Entitled Opinions episode on Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber. What interests me about these people? I think it is that each attempted, unsuccessfully, to completely revolutionize the society they lived in, the former from a position of absolute power by revamping the state religion (converting it to monotheism) of one of the most severely traditional societies in history, and the latter from a position of no power (a voice crying in the wilderness if there ever was one) by trying to stop the engine of the most dynamically unstable society yet created. The motivation and personality of each is inscrutable, and this holds an attraction for me (which is not at all to imply ideological sympathy in either case).
October 5, 2009
A correction: I complained before that 2001: A Space Odyssey did not make the Battleship Pretension top 100 films list. It was in fact, number 3. Oops. At the time they had not revealed the top ten, and I thought they had mentioned that there were only three Kubrick films, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Eyes Wide Shut.
Still a shame about The Maltese Falcon, though.
September 30, 2009
The boys over at Battleship Pretension have posted the listener-generated list of the top 100 movies of all time (well, minus the top ten, which they’ll be announcing next week on the show I think). I like the list, except for two inexcusable exclusions. The first is The Maltese Falcon. If Memento is on the list, then this should be. Okay, the story is not deep, the style is not revolutionary, the themes (if there are any) do not tap into some zeitgeist. But the characters are archetypal for the genre of film noir, the cast, acting, and dialogue are superb, the story is tight, not a moment of it is boring, and when I thing of tough-guy private detectives I inevitably think of Bogey as Sam Spade. Come on, people! The kicker is that I voted for this list, and I left it out, too. You could only pick 10 films, and I was trying to be objective, and so I picked Casablanca (which much of the same cast). Big mistake, apparently. I wonder how many other voters had it at number eleven.
The second exclusion is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I did in fact vote for. It’s cold, it has no human characters, really, and the ending is still pretty bewildering. But this movie revolutionized what movies could be about, what they could say and how they could say them. The thing is, no other film has really gone down the trail blazed by Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke, least of all any science fiction film.
On the show they also lament the presence of any documentaries. I forgot to include any in my voting, but let me now suggest Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, and almost anything by Errol Morris, but especially The Fog of War.
September 28, 2009
Podcasts are taking over my life. This is what I have instead of t.v. Here are the most interesting cultural and philosophical podcasts I’ve been into lately
1. Barely Literate– A book club hosted by Colin Marshall. Tends toward sci-fi (Snow Crash, The Man in the High Castle) and the fantastical (American Gods, the Master and Margarita).
2. The Marketplace of Ideas– Excellent cultural show, with guests from across the political spectrum (neocon critic Roger Kimball and former SDS member Cathy Wilkerson), also by Colin Marshall.
3. Entitled Opinions– Literary explorations with a Stanford professor. Great 3-part series on Dante’s Divine Comedy.
4. Philosophy Bites– Short (around 15 minutes) episodes dealing with classic and contemporary issues in philosophy.
5. History of Jazz– That’s its iTunes name, but the show is broadcast on the radio as “Jazz Insights”. I point this out because the former is a misnomer. You don’t get a chronological perspective, but rather series which profile certain Jazz figures, instruments, scenes, and styles. By a music professor and trumpeter. Wonderful.
And a bonus one for College Football fans: College Football Guys. Audio quality is not so good, but this is the most entertaining college football podcast around (why in the world did ESPN thing Ivan Maisel and Beano Cook had good podcast voices?). Also a blog.