Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On Love

In the early pages of this humorous if acidic novel, Pierre Mérot (he's often compared with fellow Frenchman Michel Houellebecq) shares some striking thoughts on love:
We never stop loving those we once loved. But as we move from person to person, from piece to piece, we try to convince ourselves that we are slowly putting together a jigsaw that will some day show us the true face of love. And then our search will be over. But the only complete picture we have is the most recent, and that image hasn't completely erased the ones that came before. No face is forgotten, none charms us completely. Our lives, therefore, are not a succession of failures, but an unsteady edifice devoted utterly to love.

- from Mammals by Pierre Mérot

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dawkins on Colbert

Stephen Colbert interviews Richard Dawkins about his new book The God Delusion. It's something else to hear Dawkins say "The Flying Spaghetti Monster." I'm finishing up The Devil's Chaplain right now.

Part 2 of the interview. Truth be told, Colbert's a bit off his usuallly sharp game on this one. But it's got to be hard for just about any interviewer to know quite how to handle a feller like Dawkins.

Here's a couple of quotes from Douglas Adams - he of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame, whom Dawkins quotes in The Devil's Chaplain:
I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened - it's just wonderful. And ... the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Horrors of the Absolute

When people believe that they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

- Dr. Jacob Bronowski, in the documentary The Ascent of Man from the early 70s, standing in what was formerly a Nazi death camp.
Via Andrew Sullivan, watch the astonishing clip.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Baser Instincts

How sad is it for the right wing when their intellectual heavyweights are neatly and efficiently disarmed by a TV comedian? Yes, John Stewart recently left Bill Bennett a stammering mess with just a few quick jokes, which nonetheless made their point. Of course, the arguments against gay marriage and gay rights in general are generally so preposterous a child could argue against them.

But, no, even those Republicans who recognize that gay people are, you know, human beings, too, these Republicans want to have their gays and beat them, too, as Andrew Sullivan points out:
Most Washington Republicans have no problems with openly gay people. Many of them have sons and daughters who are gay, including the epitome of conservative Republicanism, Dick Cheney. Dennis Hastert has gay staff. Rick Santorum had an openly gay staffer. They have no problems with gay people. And yet their party platform is vehemently opposed to treating gay people as equal citizens or as full members of their own families.
And none other than conservative Tucker Carlson has trenchantly observed that their base is finally beginning to notice this dichotomy:
CARLSON: It goes deeper than that though. The deep truth is that the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power.

.... [CHRIS] MATTHEWS: So this gay marriage issue and other issues related to the gay lifestyle are simply tools to get elected?

CARLSON: That's exactly right. It's pandering to the base in the most cynical way, and the base is beginning to figure it out.
Maybe the base will stay home during the next election and we can begin the long hard slog towards getting our country back, along with all the freedoms we've so casually surrendered of late. (Apparently, even The Washington Times agrees with that last sentiment.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Massive in the Area

Got to see Massive Attack last night for the third time (peviously in Atlanta, GA and Manchester, England). Great show with the legendary Horace Andy stealing it as usual. But surprise guest Liz Phraser held her own more than amply, too. And Daddy G (Grant Marshall) rejoined the collective after a notable absence last time the band toured.

3D (Robert Del Naja) lead the proceedings, and he's interesting to watch. He hides in the shadows much of the time, never spotlit, his dance moves limited to erratic, self-conscious herky-jerky jabs, boxing moves. Clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention, he tends to blurt out awkwardly-expressed political statements between songs before stalking off towards the rest of the band. During songs, he literally turns his back from the audience when he's not singing and even wanders back to sit/hide behind turntables after delivering his lyrics. All that body language seems suited to reinforcing the themes of isolation and paranoia that have permeated much of the Massive Attack's material since he has moved to the band's creative front and center.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wanna Hold Your Hand

This New York Times article on holding hands makes an interesting point: that this seemingly casual behavior which was once (recently) considered a stepping stone to more intimate behavior is now more typically interpreted as a sign of commitment. So people now may feel more comfortable kissing in the early stages of a relationship than holding hands.

The article ends with this sweet little vignette:
Recently, Dr. [Gregory] Eells said, he and his 9-year-old daughter were caught in a downpour after her cheerleading practice. The two grabbed hands and raced off into the rain together. When they finally splashed over to the car, the damp girl turned her face to her father. “That was awesome,” she sighed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Derek Van Gieson

Artwork by Derek Van Gieson

Derek Van Gieson has updated his site with more of his lovely artwork. Now, if he'd only provide a way to buy prints online ....

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tony Kushner on Hope & Meaning

I saw a trailer for Freida Lee Mock's new documentary on Tony Kushner recently and found one quote by him particularly arresting:
It's an ethical obligation to hope. It's an ethical obligation not to despair.
Then in his favorable review of the documentary, TNR's Stanley Kauffmann quotes from Kushner's Angels in America:
Together we organize the world for ourselves, or at least we organize our understanding of it; we reflect it, refract it, criticize it, grieve over its savagery and help each other to discern, amidst the gathering dark, paths of resistance, pockets of peace and places from whence hope may be plausibly expected. Marx was right: The smallest individual human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction.
There's some synchronicity here for me, as I heard another quote this past week, which resonates with that Marx quote - if I can remember where I heard, I'll post it, too.