Tuesday, September 29, 2009

imponderable thoughts

"Oh! how immaterial are all materials! What things real are there, but imponderable thoughts?"

--Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Calvin and Hobbes": a Critique of Society's Values

"Although ethical discussions are not a particularly popular subject for the mass media, many people who might rarely, if ever, have been exposed to ethical arguments (much less challenged by them) were exposed to them through this comic strip."

--Alisa White Coleman, "'Calvin and Hobbes': a Critique of Society's Values," Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 2000

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charismatic Cults

In defining Max Weber's concept of "Charismatic Authority," you cannot go wrong in providing Jesus and Hitler as your only two visual examples:

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"In his writings about charismatic authority, Weber applies the term charisma to 'a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader...' (Maximilian Weber, Theory of Social and Economic Organization, 1922, translated by A.R. Anderson and Talcott Parsons, 1947)

"Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader.

"Hitler is also considered to be an example of a charismatic leader."

will one day cause great changes in the world

“Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry which began long since in the East; they will finish the great circle.”

--Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, “What is an American?”, Letters from an American Farmer, 1782

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Myths and Legends of the Swahili

My favorite stories from Myths and Legends of the Swahili by Jan Knappert, copyright 1970, published by Heinemann Educational Books: London, Nairobi, Ibadan, Lusaka:

A man was travelling along a river; when evening came he sat down for a rest. Suddenly, a spirit flew down from a tree and knocked him on the head. The spirit lifted him up like a dead branch and carried him across the river. There he put him down. The man found himself in a city where all the houses were made of gold. In one of these houses the door was open and a beautiful girl was awaiting him. She welcomed him and he had a wonderful time with her. After some days he felt dizzy in the head. He went to a doctor who gave him medicine to drink. He fell asleep, and when he woke up he was again sitting near the bank of the river.

A certain traveller was on safari in the wilderness, and when night fell he saw no town or village. So he decided to sleep in the bush. As soon as he was asleep, a hyena arrived and started to drag him away by his cloak. He woke up, and when he saw the hyena he leapt up and ran away. He saw a house, went in and shut the door. At first it was dark, then he saw two little flames, then a woman with two candles. She was very beautiful, she smiled and bid him welcome. She gave him a copious meal of meat and fruits; then they slept. The traveller spent many weeks with the good woman and they were very happy. At last the traveller had to go back to his town and his business. He said good-bye to his hostess, and asked her what her name was, so that when he wanted to come back he could ask the people on the road how to find her house. She said: “I am the Hyena.”

Three men were travelling in the wilderness when they discovered they had only one loaf of bread left. They decided it would not be enough for the three of them, so they made an agreement that one man would have all the bread. After much discussion they decided it should be the one who would have the best dream that night.

They settled down for the night, and two of them slept at once. The third one could not sleep as he was plagued by hunger. So he got up and ate the bread. All of it. The next morning his companions rose early and he pretended to be emerging from profound dreams. He asked them at once what dreams they had had.

The first one said: “I dreamt that I saw a golden ladder rising up into the sky. I climbed it, up and up and up, until I reached the gate of Paradise. The gate was at once opened by a beautiful angel who took me by the hand and led me to a hall where there was music and food and feasting. And I was told I could stay there for ever. Alas, it was only a dream.”

The second one said: “I dreamt that an ugly devil arrived, seized me and dragged me down into Hell through a hole in the ground. There, I was locked in chains and shackles and beaten with iron rods. Oh, it was horrible. Thank God it was only a dream. The worst was that I was told I would stay there for all eternity.”

Now the man who had eaten the bread told his companions: “I dreamt that an angel came to me and asked me: 'Have you seen what has happened to your friends?' I said no, I have not. So the angel took me by the hand and flew with me, up towards the stars and into Heaven. There we entered a hall where musicians were playing and where people were eating and feasting, and there I saw you, my friend, sitting on a golden throne and surrounded by beautiful angels. I was then told that you would be staying there until the end of time.

“Next, the angel took me down, down, past the stars and the clouds and into the ground through a narrow passage, until we arrived in Hell. There I saw you, hanging in chains and shackles and being beaten by ugly devils. And I was told you would stay there and never get out. So when I came back here, knowing that neither of you would return, I ate the bread.”

The Dukes of Hazzard at Cracked

"The Dukes of Hazzard was a long-running CBS television show starring a 1969 Dodge Charger and Catherine Bach's ass in short shorts....

"The Duke boys were constantly involved in car chases with the law, even though the authorities chasing them knew exactly who they were and where they lived....

"Sorrell Booke graduated from both Yale and Columbia universities, served the U.S. during the Korean War as a counterintelligence officer, fluently spoke five languages, and once conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Naturally, he is best known for playing Boss Hogg, a greedy fatass in white polyester."


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Health Care

"What Americans often consider a single unique system of health care is an illusion: we exist in a sea of not-so-unique alternatives. Like the citizens of Germany and Japan, workers in the United States share insurance premiums with an employer. Like Canadians, our older, destitute and disabled citizens see private providers with the government paying. Like the British, military veterans and Native Americans receive care in government facilities with the government paying the tab. And like the poor around the world, our uninsured pay cash, finagle charity care, or stay home."

--Abigail Zuger, "One Injury, 10 Countries: A Journey in Health Care," New York Times, 2009 September 14, review of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lovecraft Film Festival

Oregon, Portland, Hollywood Theatre
2009 October 2-4

Founded in 1995, the "H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival promotes the works of H.P. Lovecraft, literary horror, and weird tales through the cinematic adaptations by professional and amateur filmmakers."

"The only festival that understands."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

if you ponder

"You can't appreciate the beauty of a rose if you ponder that the color red is just the brain's interpretation of a specific wavelength of light with crests that are roughly 700 nanometers apart."

--Joel Achenbach, "The Power of Light," National Geographic, 2001 October

photograph by jules

Thursday, September 10, 2009

one must be

"To cut oneself entirely from one's kind is impossible. To live in a desert one must be a saint."

--Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 1911

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

a spiritual culture

"'Art is a spiritual culture whose best conceptions are never brought down to the physical plane.' This may have been esoteric philosophy, or it may have been an excuse for indolence--of that intellectual kind that often accompanies great powers."

--Julian Hawthorne, "The Delusion of Ralph Penwyn," 1909

Monday, September 07, 2009

American Samoa

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"In March 1889, a German naval force invaded a village in Samoa, and by doing so destroyed some American property. Three American warships then entered the Samoan harbor and were prepared to fire on the three German warships found there. Before guns were fired, a typhoon wrecked both the American and German ships. A compulsory armistice was called because of the lack of warships."

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Songs entitled "North Dakota"

"North Dakota" by Lyle Lovett, U.S.A.
album: Joshua Judges Ruth, 1992

The boys from North Dakota
They drink whisky for their fun

"North Dakota" by Thrush Hermit, Canada
album: Sweet Homewrecker, 1997

If it makes you sad
It makes me sadder
If you ever miss me
I will always miss you more
In North Dakota we can only waste our time

"North Dakota" by Kris Delmhorst, U.S.A.
album: Appetite, 1998

And I'm watching your goodbye and I'm trying to cry
Guess I'm not built for this load, guess it's back to the road

So now Delaware is tollbooths, Virginia is twilight
and Michigan's beef jerky in a small boy's hand
and Arkansas's a skinny cop, Oregon is purple hands
and Flagstaff, Arizona is delirium at night

And I love North Dakota 'cause you have never been there
and the days go on for hours and the towns all look the same
and I can ride the back roads and I can walk the main streets
and I could show everyone your picture but they would not know your name
I love, I love, I love
North Dakota

"North Dakota" by Chris Knight, U.S.A.
album: A Pretty Good Guy, 2001

I never should have brought her here
Living’s rough this time of year
Trying to keep food and fire till winter's done
Sometimes she gazed across the plains
With a look that I couldn’t name
And I’d wonder if she’d stay till springtime come

I found her on the first warm day
The rain had washed the snow away
Went for wood and lost her way back home
And I ain’t the kind believes in ghosts
But some nights I get pretty close
When the North Dakota winter moans

"North Dakota" by Hold On Kid, Australia
album: Just For The Record - Demo, 2008

Maybe we should get away
Be ourselves, just the two of us
In your car, we'll drive till the road runs out
We can run forever

Hey and when we get there
We can find a cheap hotel
Where we can hide from the world
We can pretend that we're all alone
And no one else exists

Saturday, September 05, 2009

your notion

The girl wept. Through her tears she said, with a knife for a voice: "If you are a man, you will do it."

"Oh no, lady. Only if I am your notion of a man."

--Tanith Lee, Cyrion, 1982

Friday, September 04, 2009

spiritual over-lord

"The Buddhism of Tibet is not the pure original doctrine of the gentle Indian prince who lived and died six centuries before the birth of Christ. It is the usual degenerate form, full of devils and spooks, and it has forgotten a great many of the noble teachings of the founder of that great Asiatic faith. But Tibet has been a bulwark of Buddhism which has been of great help in preserving that religion against the attacks of the Mohammedans from the west and the pagan creeds of southern India....

"During the reign of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan and an ardent convert to Buddhism, the abbots of an important Tibetan monastery were recognized as the political rulers of all Tibet. In return for this favor, the new Dalai Lama, in his quality of spiritual over-lord of the whole Buddhist world, officially crowned the Tartar Khan Emperor of Mongolia, just as Pope Leo III had crowned Charlemagne."

--Hendrik van Loon, Van Loon's Geography: The Story of the World We Live In, 1932

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

the ontological argument

"I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument. Galileo, who held a scientific truth of great importance, abjured it with the greatest ease as soon as it endangered his life.... Whether the earth or the sun revolves around the other is a matter of profound indifference. To tell the truth, it is a futile question. On the other hand, I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying)."

--Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942, translated by Justin O'Brien