Sunday, March 29, 2020


If every life is four dimensional,
if your “now” is just one segment of your whole
and your body spans across the surface of time,
then I could trace the sloping limb of your life
back to its source, the branch that opens up
and lets you calve off. And that branch too,
I’d run my mind along its length of years
and find the place it splits off from its mother. 
So then a family tree is not metaphor,
and you are not an independent rosebud
opening on oblivion. You’re bound
by bone to every node of human life
pinking the spotlight of right now. And what’s
beyond the bottom root? And what’s the sky?

… Say “No” to Death’s Dominion | R. R. Reno | First Things.
 … the mass shutdown of society to fight the spread of COVID-19 creates a perverse, even demonic atmosphere. Governor Cuomo and other officials insist that death’s power must rule our actions. Religious leaders have accepted this decree, suspending the proclamation of the gospel and the distribution of the Bread of Life. They signal by their actions that they, too, accept death’s dominion.
“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”

 — W. Shakespeare

 Zach Baron is a profiler, involving a strange and ephemeral genre of magazine journalism. He spends time with someone and writes about the experience. Now he can't leave  the House  

Earthwatch Institute concluded that bees are the most important living being on the planet

Sam Neil Self Isolating on Two Paddocks

The Bee Is Declared The Most Important Living Being On The Planet  – “Earthwatch Institute concluded in last debate of Royal Geographical Society of London that bees are the most important living being on the planet, however, scientists have also made an announcement: Bees have already entered into extinction risk. Bees around the world have disappeared up to 90% according to recent studies, the reasons are different depending on the region, but among the main reasons are massive deforestation, lack of safe places for nests, lack of flowers, use uncontrolled pesticides, changes in soil, among others

Bread baking is on the rise (*ahem*) during the pandemic. Yeast and flour are in high demand (my local store has been sold out of yeast for at least a week and a half).

A helpful visualization about the value of social distancing and staying home — created by Siouxsie Wiles, a microbiologist and science communicator based in New Zealand

Edible Forest Gardens: A Quick Review of a Very Beautiful and Useful Book

A permaculture gardening book for those isolated and seeking a project, or just a good read

CNET – A research group scrapes more than 500,000 Instagram profiles in Italy to see if people are abiding by the quarantine. “Your posts on social media have been harvested for advertising. They’ve been taken to build up a massive facial recognition database. Now that same data could be used by companies and governments to help maintain quarantines during the coronavirus outbreak. Ghost Data, a research group in Italy and the US, collected more than half a million Instagram posts in March, targeting regions in Italy where residents were supposed to be on lockdown. It provided those images and videos to LogoGrab, an image recognition company that can automatically identify people and places. The company found at least 33,120 people violated Italy’s quarantine orders. Andrea Stroppa, the founder of Ghost Data, said his group has offered its research to the Italian government. Stroppa doesn’t consider the social media scraping to be a privacy concern because researchers anonymized the data by removing profile and specific location data before analyzing it. He also has public health on his mind. “In our view, privacy is very important. It’s a fundamental human right,” Stroppa said. “However, it’s important to give our support to help the government and the authorities. Hundreds of people are dying every day.”..  

COVID-19 Pushes Up Internet Use 70% And Streaming More Than 12% - Forbes: “The first internet streaming and usage figures are coming in as the coronavirus pandemic places a quarter of the world’s population under lockdown. As millions of people go online for entertainment and more, total internet hits have surged by between 50% and 70%, according to preliminary statistics. Streaming has also jumped by at least 12%, estimates show. While an increase is not surprising with so many people ordered to stay at home, streaming of many planned sporting and musical events is impossible as they are cancelled. They have been replaced by some stars such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, John Legend, U2’s Bono, Yungblud and Christine & The Queens offering impromptu home concerts. Still, the largest increase comes from other movie and music streaming…” 

Media Paywalls Dropped for COVID-19 Crisis Coverage

Stars – they’re just like us! As in: losing their minds with boredom and making increasingly hysterical content. Here are some of the best regular feeds

The Czech Magnesia Litera: Musical version of the new Bohemian Rhapsody

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.” Enjoy.
— Bill Moyers - 
… A Poet a Day: Rita Dove –

Elsewhere, Ian Frazier wrote “Talking about hunger and being hungry are two different things; talk can wait for a convenient moment, but when you’re hungry you’re hungry right now.” Frazier’s remark captures precisely the very general issue I am writing about, the discrepancy between words and feelings, between words and experiences.

Haruki Murakami wrote about life before and after the development of the electronic revolution recently. I was reminded of what he said about this issue in thinking about the death of Steve Jobs and his enormous influence on society.

By setting the story [“Town of Cats,” published in the New Yorker] in 1984, before cell phones and e-mail and the Internet had become common, I made it impossible for my characters to use such tools. This in turn was frustrating for me. I felt their absence slowing down the speed of the novel. When I thought about it, though, not having such devices at the time—both in daily life and in the story—ceased to be an inconvenience. If you wanted to make a phone call, you just found a public telephone; if you had to look something up, you went to the library; if you wanted to contact somebody, you put a stamp on a letter and mailed it. Those were the normal ways to do those things. While writing the novel (and experiencing a kind of time slip), I had a strong feeling of what the intervening twenty-seven years had meant. Sorry to state the obvious, but maybe there’s not much connection between the convenience of people’s surroundings and the degree of happiness they feel.

Musical version of the new Bohemian Rhapsody 

Two Victorian artists launch an online affordable art dealership for artists who have lost their income to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cream Town Is Making It Easy (And Affordable!) To Support Local Artists From Home

Apple Inc. By way of background

Magnesia Litera finalists 

       The Czech Magnesia Litera awards recently announced their shortlists, twenty-seven titles in eight categories, selected from 488 entries -- but they've delayed the winners announcement -- originally scheduled for 7 April -- until the fall. 

       Among the fiction finalists are books by Jiří Kratochvil and Jan Němec -- the intriguing-sounding Možnosti milostného románu; see also the Host publicity page --, as well as Štěpán Kučera's debut, Projekt Gilgameš; see the Druhé město publicty page

To be human is to be a miracle of evolution conscious of its own miraculousness — a consciousness beautiful and bittersweet, for we have paid for it with a parallel awareness not only of our fundamental improbability but of our staggering fragility, of how physiologically precarious our survival is and how psychologically vulnerable our sanity. To make that awareness bearable, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of our consciousness: hope.

"I don't want my pictures to tell people what they should think" says Alastair Philip Wiper

British photographer Alastair Philip Wiper explores all kinds of factories, from pork slaughterhouses to sex doll workshops. He says he isn't trying to shock or influence, just to show people where things come from. Fotos of Factories ...

The Role of Philosophy & Philosophers In The Coronavirus Pandemic 

In a previous post, I asked for suggestions from readers for topics related to the pandemic to post about and discuss here. One suggestion, from Jonathan Fuller (Pittsburgh), was the role of philosophy and philosophers during the pandemic. In the following guest post*Alex Broadbent, Dean of Faculty of the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of Instit

An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on Our Human Fragility as the Key to Our Survival and Our Sanity

Bohemian Experience

  • Almanac: Logan Pearsall Smith on professionalism

    “The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.” Logan Pearsall Smith, Afterthoughts Continue reading Almanac: Logan Pearsall Smith on professionalism at... [read more]
    AJBlog: About Last Night Published: 2020-03-23

    They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea. Horace

    Heresies of our time: that children should be taught to read music

    Richard Morrison is the music critic of the Times and writes for BBC Musicmagazine. A man at the heart of the arts establishment, one might reasonably think. But he had an unsettling experience not long ago:
    Do I talk rubbish? The thought crosses my mind frequently, but with particular force as I chaired a discussion at the annual conference of the people who run Britain’s orchestras. The talk turned to education and I expressed my fervent belief that teaching children to read music is the key that opens up everything.
    First jolt: the music director of Arts Council England (ACE), no less, vehemently disagreed with me. Musical literacy doesn’t matter much, she declared. Second jolt: in the ensuing discussion not a single person spoke in my favour. More than 100 people were in the room, all engaged in running orchestras that depend on instrumentalists who can sight-read to an incredible level, and not one agreed that teaching children to read music was a good idea.
    After the event I had coffee with someone in the audience. “Of course nobody sided with you,” she claimed. “Everyone here depends on ACE subsidy. Nobody will contradict publicly what the ACE music director says.”

    When I was younger, I used to yearn for a warmer place to live. But I’m too old now to move anywhere and my lifelong spouse has no interest in taking leave of the city where we have lived for the past 50 years.

    Still, when the days are dark and the rain is pouring down, I begin to yearn for that elusive place once again. However, in his poem The City C. P. Cavafy reminds me that no matter where I might find a warmer place to live, I will never be able to escape myself.

    The City
    You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
    find another city better than this one.
    Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
    and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
    How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
    Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
    I see the black ruins of my life, here,
    where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

    You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
    This city will always pursue you. You will walk
    the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
    will turn gray in these same houses.
    You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
    there is no ship for you, there is no road.
    As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
    you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

    Cavafy was born in Alexandria in 1863 to a Greek family of some wealth and at various times in his life he lived in England and Istanbul. He returned in Alexandria after the collapse of the family business where he died in 1933 at the age of 70.

    In a comment about Cavafy’s poem The City, Orhan Pamuk wrote: I have read [it] again and again in Turkish and in English translation. There is no other city to go to: The city that makes us is the one within us. Reading Cavafy’s The City has changed the way I look at my own Istanbul.
    Every now and then I read one of Cavafy’s poems that have been translated and published on the Web or in one of the volumes of his poems. He wrote only 154 that can be found here

    From the Archives this is one I especially like for reasons that are not at all obscure:

    An Old Man

    At the noisy end of the café, head bent
    over the table, an old man sits alone,
    a newspaper in front of him.

    And in the miserable banality of old age
    he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
    when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

    He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
    Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
    So brief an interval, so very brief.

    And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
    how he always believed—what madness—
    that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

    He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
    he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
    now mocks his senseless caution.

    But so much thinking, so much remembering
    makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
    his head resting on the café table.

    Unless you’re living under a rock in a cave wearing earplugs, you already know Amazon. But you might not yet know about Amazon Handmade, the site’s online store where makers sell quality handcrafted goods. It also has the quick shipping on thousands of items that you’ve come to expect from Amazon, which is not typically found on other handmade platforms.

    Blind fear of death should not guide policy | Catholic Culture… certainly there are some things worth taking a risk for. As much as we admire bravery in the face of danger, we despise timidity. No doubt you would be safer if you spent your life cowering at home, but what could you accomplish? “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once,” Shakespeare tells us. To risk nothing is to accomplish nothing

    Little Free Libraries share food and paper goods with neighbors - Mental Floss – via LitHub: “Across the nation, people are stocking theirLittle Free Libraries with food, toilet paper, and other necessities as a creative way to lend a helping hand to neighbors in need without breaking the rules of social distancing. Many of the makeshift pantries encourage people to pay it forward with handwritten messages like “Take what you need, share what you can,” and other similar adaptations of Little Free Library’s “Take a book, leave a book” motto. Some people have completely emptied the books from their libraries to make room for non-perishables like peanut butter, canned soup, and pasta, while others still have a little space devoted to reading material—which, although it might not be quite as important as a hearty meal, can keep you relaxed and entertained during quarantine…”

What Would Freud Make of the Toilet-Paper Panic?

Unlike hand sanitizer or test kits, toilet tissue is not subject to increased need in the coronavirus crisis. Nevertheless, shoppers continue to express a siege mentality.

Freud and the T.P. panic

During the 16 months Einstein spent in Bohemia, he did nothing much. But the banality of his experience there is itself worth consideration 
Bohemian Experience 

From the Sator Square to anti-riddles, word games have a long and delightful history. Crosswords weren’t invented until 1913 Cross Words  

Freud was a social philosopher, using a scientific guise to lend his ideas more authority. Or so argues a New Book 

“In all the creative occupations, there’s no stability unless you’re a superstar of some sort.” Barbara Ehrenreich reckons with success 

Liberalism after Rawls
Solace in tragic times
Small talk in a pandemic
Lessons from Camus
Pandemic journal
History and epidemics
Literature for a lockdown
Splendor of "The Simpsons"
Coronavirus and postmodernism
Library thefts
H.G. Wells and the 20th century
Audiobook snobbery
Krugman on Piketty
Unwoke cuisine
Talking to Jan Morris
Hardcovers v. paperbacks
Jewish writers
Writers' secret
Freeman Dyson, R.I.P.
Polanski affair
"Bad" English as heritage
Future of MeTooLit
Class system in jails
Trump and architecture
Relationship with books
Doomer lit
Ancient brothels
Bohemian Einstein
A. E. Hotchner, R.I.P.
Rousseau and Twitter
Black English matters
Smashed piano
Regarding Gabriel Matzneff
Conspiracy theories
Criticizing critics
Exclamation point!
On public knitting
Why women read fiction
George Steiner, R.I.P.
Professor as conman
Mary Higgins Clark, R.I.P.
Controversy over American Dirt
To read or reread?
Carver and Bukowsky
Boycott over comma
Missing Howard Zinn
Fair for steer and painting
Book murderer
Is a lifetime too long?
Banksy and banality
Greatness of Beethoven
Plagiarism in Russia
Emporium of pirated e-books
LBGTQ fantasy novels
Reading Airbnb Magazine
Book toilets
Roger Scruton, R.I.P.
Fox News theory of art
The Real John Simon
Against cheerfulness
How to write a memoir
John Baldessari, R.I.P.
Eliot's love letters
Lipstick and resistance
Gertrude Himmelfarb, R.I.P