Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Only Thing Certain Is Uncertainty

INK BOTTLE“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”
~ J. M. Barrie, The Little White Bird

Many pop stars & actors died in 2016. So did . He eradicated smallpox, which killed 500 million in the 20th century alone.

THOMAS SOWELL says farewell. Instapundit gets it. He had always said that "if I quit blogging/punditry it will be because I don’t want to pay close attention to the news anymore..."

RIP Richard Adams, Whose Novel ‘Watership Down’ Became a Phenomenon,
 Dies at 96 - The New York Times

What It’s Like To Be A Poet Who Writes About The Elimination Of A Tyrant

Six thousand years ago, long before the invention of writing, comfortable fabrics, or Cinnabon, a group of tribespeople lived on the steppes of Eastern Europe and 
spoke a language that, over time, would prove phenomenally influential. Today called the Proto-Indo-Europeans (we have no idea what they called themselves), they would eventually spread across much of Eurasia, and take with them a common language that developed differently in each place they settled.
Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted witty, even surreal portraits composed of fruits, vegetables, fish and trees
Poet Alice Notley says, “The tyrant is what enslaves us to our forms. The tyrant is the form of our life, the form of our politics, the form of our universities, the form of our knowledge, our thinking we know something. All of that is the tyrant.”

Arcimboldo Vertumnus
A keen observer as well as celebrated wit, Arcimboldo created composite portraits that were both enjoyed as jokes and taken very seriously. (Skokloster Castle, Skokloster) 

Criticism has been building in the days since Beijing prosecutors announced Friday that they won’t pursue negligence charges against five police officers despite finding that their “improper” actions had contributed to the death of 29-year-old Lei Yang in early May.
14 Other Movies Featuring Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher

“The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning. And truth and meaning are not the same,”Hannah Arendt observed in her brilliant treatise on the life of the mind, adding:“The basic fallacy, taking precedence over all specific metaphysical fallacies, is to interpret meaning on the model of truth.”

The nature of consciousness and its role in both creating and mediating that fallacy is what Albert Camus (November 7, 1913–January 4, 1960) explored three decades earlier in The Myth of Sisyphus (public library) — the source of his abiding wisdom on the will to live and the most important question of existence

“Between the social, political, and economic upheavals affecting our lives, and the violence and forced displacement making headlines, you’d be forgiven for feeling gloomy about 2016. A look at the data reveals some of the challenges we face but also the progress we’ve made toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. Here are 12 charts that help tell the stories of the year.”

"Mr. Robot Killed the Hollywood Hacker: The popular portrayal of computers as magic boxes capable of anything has done real societal harm. Now one TV show wants to save us." Cory Doctorow has this article in the January/February 2017 issue of MIT Technology Review

Anatomy of Scholarly Information Behavior Patterns in the Wake of Social Media. Hamed Alhoori, Richard Furuta, Mohammed Samaka, Edward A. Fox.
“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love,”artist Louise Bourgeois wrote in her diary at the end of a long and illustrious life as she contemplated how solitude enriches creative work. It’s a lovely sentiment, but as empowering as it may be to those willing to embrace solitude, it can be tremendously lonesome-making to those for whom loneliness has contracted the space of trust and love into a suffocating penitentiary. For if in solitude, as Wendell Berry memorably wrote, “one’s inner voices become audible [and] one responds more clearly to other lives,” in loneliness one’s inner scream becomes deafening, deadening, severing any thread of connection to other lives.

Unprecedented and Unprincipled Adversary Inside Higher Ed. “PR dressed up as science.”

Nobel economist Angus Deaton on a year of political earthquakes FT. Asking whether inequality is bad for economic growth is, Deaton says, a “simple-minded question”. Yet inequality manifested in wealthy people or corporations buying control of government is a different matter. “That surely is a catastrophe. So I have come to think that it’s the inequality that comes through rent-seeking [the use of wealth to influence politics for selfish gain] that is the crux of the matter.”

“The Induced Earthquake Database (TIED) is the largest and most up-to-date database of earthquakes proposed to have been induced or triggered by human activity. The data are freely available to view online or can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel format for your own analysis. We endeavour to keep the database up to date and accurate 

Why Javier Marias hates the certainty of theater for the uncertainty of kino  
“Unlike other fictional heroines of the time, Fanny [Price ofMansfield Park] gains happiness because she is aware of her faults.” The Importance Of Being Wrong Is One Of Jane Austen’s Greatest Lessons

I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.  – Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar

The Bell Jar isn’t an obvious Christmas book but I always remember this scene and how it perfectly sums up that feeling when you’re a grown up of it mostly being disappointing. Christmas

News release: “The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today released a declassified version of its investigative report on Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to China and then Russia after stealing an estimated 1.5 million classified documents
 To read the declassified report, click here. To read Intelligence Committee highlights of the report, click here
Via The Guardian – “…The report’s credibility was immediately condemned by Snowden’s lawyer Ben Wizner.

Photographers: The Ankara Gallery Assassination Pictures Show Why The World Needs Professional Photographers

“The point is, there really is no substitute for a professional photojournalist with years of training and field time. In an era when news is increasingly catered toward one’s specific taste, the facts can be elusive. But a good photojournalist can get us closer to the truth. It’s their job.”

How to think about rock. Before the biographies, blogs, and building of brands, it was the music that blew our minds. Behold the manic brilliance of David Bowiem Blowing Minds 

The Chinese Mayor” is an excellent movie for understanding the political economy of China; too subtle to receive good Netflix reviews

Eva Brann says in her first book of aphorisms and aperçus, Open Secrets/Inward Prospects: Reflections on World and Soul (Paul Dry Books, 2004):
“A lovely day: the house in shape, all chores, repairs, arrangements completed. Sun floods the room, the flute all but plays itself, and there is good work just waiting to be done. I’m experiencing that contradiction in terms, domestic bliss, mundane ecstasy.”

And this, from the same chapter, “Felicity”:

“The good life is a delicate, complex construct hard to erect and easily damaged by evil design sometimes, yet far more often by blind accident. But recall that in logic `accident’ just means `property,’ and that often these unwelcome interventions can be appropriated to become the properties of a good life. Best example I know: You have to go to the hospital and there, made painless by bills, you get to readWar and Peace for the third time, in deep long drafts. (The third time is the turning point, from labor to purest love, because you can by now pronounce all the names and needn’t worry what comes next—it’s a trivia-disencumbered suspense free reading, the best.)”

Strictly speaking, the age-old gripe that critics are parasites remains accurate but not fatal. By parasite we mean an organism that “lives on, in, or with an organism of another species, obtaining food, shelter, or other benefit.” Without a host, there can be no parasite, and without a parasite a host will get along just fine (or not). Fortunately, there are exceptions – self-renewing critics who think, write and create work that “enable[s] the readers better to enjoy life,or better to endure it.” Rarest of all are critics who write well, sometimes better than those they write about. Among living practitioners is Gary Saul Morson, a scholar of Russian literature at Northwestern who bolsters enjoyment and endurance. For instance:
“The richest cases we have are to be found in realist novels. If psychologists, sociologists, or philosophers understood people as well as the great realist novelists, they would be able to describe people who seemed as real as characters in George Eliot or Tolstoy.” As Real as Characters in George Eliot or Tolstoy'

Rudolph II was one of the most colorful rulers of Bohemia, and inadvertently, one of the most influential