Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wendell Berry on faith

Fearnside: You’re a Christian.

Berry: I’m a subscriber to the Gospels; you could put it that way.

Fearnside: You strike me as being both devout and skeptical; firm in your faith, yet willing to question it. Do you see skepticism as something that nurtures your faith?

Berry: Faith implies skepticism. It implies doubt. Faith is not knowledge. It’s not the result of an empirical study. So I would think that people of faith would always be involved in some kind of maintenance to shore it up. Sometimes it’s easy to have faith, and sometimes it isn’t. Maybe if you’re in a monastery it’s easier, because everything there is established for the purpose of preserving your faith. The world, as it operates today, isn’t made to preserve it.

From Sun magazine interview.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Something to think about

  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
  • Chalmers Johnson summarized the intent of Blowback in the final chapter of Nemesis.
    "In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback. In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia – the area of my academic training – than on the Middle East."[10]

    Obama meets the Pope

    After the meeting between President Obama and the pope, there was a press conference where the President made a distinction between his work as a political leader and the pope's as a moral authority.  "His job is a little more elevated.  We're down on the ground dealing with the often profane, and he's dealing with higher powers."
    Such cheap patronizing.  Such a shallow superficial speaker.  This President, like his predecessor, is an embarassment.

    On my mind today

    Why can't I buy a car that doesn't have a computer in it?

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    A pilgrim's regress

    What little he may have accomplished in life was largely a failure to avoid it.

    Thursday, March 20, 2014


    I love silence.
    I hear so much.
    No need to talk.
    Eyes speak and listen.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    Haiku Shadows

    Shadows crawl over
    the lawn searching the grass
    for fugitive light.

    Must see TV?

    In the Entertainment section of the newspaper I have been reading about the "wonderful new Cable TV shows" and the "great writing" to be found there and how we are now in "a golden age of television."
    Really? Sorry but for me this gold is dreck.
    We dropped cable TV a few months ago.  We purchased an antenna which is mounted in the attic.  It provides very clear images of the four networks plus PBS and some miscellaneous local stations.  We find it useful to get weather news, the government news as reported on ABC, NBC. and CBS, and the local news as required by the Chamber of Commerce.
    The entertainment shows in prime time are of scant use to us. Murder, assault, rape, robbery, torture, serial killers, criminal minds, special victims, molestation, crime scene investigaions, trials, stalking, cannibalism, and torture chambers are what passes for entertainment in present-day America.  That, or simpering political correctness and adolescent fantasies.

     Reading about these 'great new shows' on HBO, Netflix, etc around my wife's curiosity.  She discovered that she could download these shows from the internet at no cost.  So she downloaded the complete series of House of Cards and we began to watch them as the last thing before bedtime, not serially in time but on those days when it felt like we needed diversion.
    I remember that in the fourth or fifth show I commented that there  were no good people, no honest unselfish people in this story.  It makes Congress look evil.  Can they be happy about that?
    Zut alors!  On February 18, Peggy Noonan wrote about the House of Cards and the Congressional response to it.  They love it.  They are proud of it.  They enjoy quoting the famous lines.  Her opinion?  "To have judgements is to be an elitist.  To have doubts is to be yesterday.  To have standards is to be a why have them?"  She concludes that the response is decadent.

    We watched the first two shows of "Empire Boardwalk."  A story of crime, mobs, deceit, cruelty, gratuitous sex, dishonest cops, and no good people.

    We watched only the first show of "The Wire."  A story of crime, racism, cruelty, dishonest and corrupt police, and no good people (well maybe one.  We didn't give the show another chance.)

    We watched only the first show of "Game of Thrones."   A story of getting head, giving head, cutting off heads, mindless cruelty and the most cliched writing.  It was like seeing American life today transported back in time to an era somewhere between that of the Druids and the Age of Chivalry.

    I am not dis-inclined to believe that today's police departments aren't portrayed accurately in these wretched shows but I don't understand why I haven't read one instance of unbrage taken thereto.

    Bertolt Brecht wrote "Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it."

    Some hammer.  Some shape.

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    Pertinent quotation

    XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited "free trade" among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of the citizens of every nation.
    XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local needs had been met.

    Author: Wendell Berry

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014


    I have good days and bad days.  On the good days I am ready for Death.  On the bad days I want to live forever.

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Oh, you're a Luddite.

    An acquaintance said to me once after listening to one of my rants.  "Oh, you're a Luddite."

    What is a Luddite?  Well, it isn't too difficult to find out but the history of the word has some discrepancies and there is an element of the apocryphal too.
    The OED reports the following:

    (Said, but without confirmation, to be f. Ned Lud, a lunatic living about 1779 who in a fit of rage smashed up two frames belonging to a Leicestershire stockinger.)  A member of an organized band of mechanics and their friends, who (1811-16) went about destroying machinery in the midlands and north of England. 
    Webster's New World Dictionary (college edition 1957) says:
    (said to be after Ned Lud, feeble-minded man who smashed two frames belonging to a Leicestershire employer (c. 1779), any of a group of workers in England between 1811 and 1816 who smashed new labor-saving textile machinery in protest against reduced wages and unemployment attributed to its introduction.
    The American Heritage Dictionary (New College Edition, 1980):
    Any of a group of British workmen who, between 1811 and 1816, rioted and destroyed textile machinery in the belief that it would diminish employment.  (Probably after Ned Lud(d), a late 18th-century worker who destroyed stocking frames in England.)
    Then there is this from a history of economic thinkers  titled "The Worldly Philosophers" written by Robert L. Heilbroner:
     "..the horrors of working conditions were not the only cause for unrest.  Machinery was now the rage, and machinery meant the  displacement of laboring hands by uncomplaining steel.  As early as 1779 a mob of eight thousand workers had attacked a mill and burned it to the ground in unreasoning defiance of its cold implacable mechanical efficiency, and by 1811 such protests against technology were sweeping England.  Wrecked mills dotted the countryside, and in their wake the word went about that "Ned Ludd had passed."  The rumor was that a King Ludd or a General Ludd  was directing the activities of the mob.  It was not true, of course.  The Luddites, as they were called, were fired by a purely spontaneous hatred of the factories that they saw as prisons and the wage-work that they still despised."

    Americans have been taught that a Luddite is a perjorative word, such people being backward and against progress.  Differing opinions are not acceptable, I guess.  Such as Wendell Berry's observation that "labor saving means people replacement."

    Today we live in a technological and mechanical world.  We have bet our future on cyberspace, robots, machinery, and artificial intelligence.

    I leave it to a better mind than mine to complain:

    We see that great masses of people, left to themselves and allowed to pursue their private pleasures and interests as the spirit of the day moves them, will spoil themselves if the requisite facilities for doing so are available to them.  And the commercial interests - the advertisers and the others - will eagerly provide those facilities, because this involves consumer spending and they make money out of it.  
    He continues:
    The politicians, left to themselves, and anxious to say only what they think people and the special interests that support them want to hear, will be the last to try to halt this process.  Their main concern will be not to oppose it but to exploit it.
    ...One can contemplate only with sadness and apprehension the prospect of the American federal government intervening in problems of the habits of daily life among the citizenry.  Certainly, it would be better if this could be avoided.  Yet whenever public authority, here as elsewhere, has stood passively by and permitted technological innovations to be thus recklessly and uncritically appropriated into people's lives with out concern for their social effects, it has assumed, whether or not it meant to, a measure of responsibility (and who else to do it?), it will draw a cloud - is already drawing such a cloud - over its own adequacy as a form of government for a great people in the modern age."

    from:  Around The Cragged Hill  by George F Kennan, 1993.

    Philosophically I am a Luddite.  I would not destroy another person's machines but I would be willing to prevent their use in my workplace, and my life.


    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Free Range Thoughts

    Contradictions of capitalism or  revolution by the privileged?
    I'm referring to millionaires (ballplayers) who strike for more money and their bosses (team owners) who seek wage controls (or, as they like to call them, salary caps).

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Novels versus TV

    On Frank Wilson's blog. Books, Inq,  there is a link to an article in the New York Times wherein two literary types comment on whether modern TV series like "The Wire," "True Detective," "House of Cards," etc. are the equivalent great novels and may replace them.  Two famous novelists are mentioned as a move to support their contention:  Henry James and Charles Dickens.
    I have the feeling these days that my mind doesn't work properly.  It doesn't seem to fit or adapt to most of the observations and information so I may be wrong but I think that such assertions are absurd.
    Consider:  TV shows are VISUAL and that element is mentally received before the text is taken in.  Novels do not have visual content from beginning to end.

    Consider: TV series have music playing in background for effect and manipulation of emotions.  This element is mentally received concurrently with the visuals and the text.  Novels do not have the accompaniment of music.

    Consider: Numerous attempts have been made to make successful and faithful movies out of famous novels.  Largely they have failed or been only partially successful because the novel's elements cannot be expressed in visual dramatic filmed modes.

    These shows are closer to TV soap operas than any other form.  If these series ever replace novels it mean that the barbarians have broken through the gates and own the town.