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Showing posts from October, 2016

Bram Stoker

This year as last at this time I pause a moment to remember Bram Stoker (1847-1912), the novelist and dramatist who gave to vampire lore its classically Victorian formulation.

 I say "dramatist" because Stoker -- an Irishman -- was an actor at, and the manager of, a London theatre beginning in 1878. To an ambitious Irishman in the arts in the 19th century, politics notwithstanding, going to London was "making the big time." Indeed, it is still thus, as you can see from the attitude of the Dublin musicians in the recent bittersweet romantic movie "Once." 

It is, I submit, worth spending the time and pixels to make that observation because Stoker gave to vampire lore the element one might expect from a man who crashed the London dramatic scene in his early thirties. Dracula is the same way. A man trying to make it in the big time. 

One theme of the famous novel, I submit, is that the Count could be a frightening bigshot to the peasants of Transylvania. He coul…

Collingwood on art

Philosopher R.G. Collingwood's aesthetics involves the following three points:

 1. To express an emotion is to become conscious thereof.

2, Expression also individualises; on this point Collingwood is following Croce, although perhaps due to the wartime climate he didn't give Croce credit.

 3. The mind of the artist is made lighter and easier by this act of expression. This seems to have something to do with the Aristotelian notion of catharsis, but there are obvious differences.

The Coming Trump Trainwreck

Let's make the following assumption: Hillary Clinton is about to win the Presidency, and the Democratic Party is about to regain control of the U.S. Senate. Control of the House may remain in Republican hands.

Further, let's assume that Trump responds to the loss with his usual grace. He announces that (a) the election was rigged, (b) all major media, including Fox News, were part of the rigging, and (c) he'll keep the revolution going, he's going to create the Trump News Network, offering Movement News (after a lot of gastroenterology jokes, that phrase will be abandoned).

Assume all that, with some slight variations at your discretion. What does this mean? What will our politics look like during the first four years of the HRC administration?

I suspect that the Grand Old Party is headed for its final crack-up. The Reagan coalition has consisted, roughly speaking, of three parts: white nationalists (more or less openly avowed, or hotly denied, to be such); small g…

Nice Adam Smith Quotation

About a friend of his: "Poor David Hume is dying fast, but with more real cheerfulness and good humor, and with more real resignation to the necessary course of things, than any whining Christian ever dyed with pretended resignation to the will of God."

Aside from its tone, it reminds us that the two men were contemporaries, at a moment when Scotland was one of the world's great generators of intellectual fireworks.

Muscular Christianity

It was a trend that I associate with some passages of the Sinclair Lewis novel ELMER GANTRY. More specifically, with the character of Judson Roberts in that novel, a small figure but one with a critical role in the protagonist's career.

"It" is "muscular Christianity," and a blogger I admire, one who goes by the pixel name Ciceronianus, has recently discussed it with erudition and analytical zeal. Here is a link to that blog entry:

I'll expound no more, but leave the rest to Ciceronianus.

Remembering Bre-X

At the movies recently I saw a preview for a soon-to-be released movie called GOLD, which will be a fictionalized version of the true story of Bre-X, a Canadian company that lost investors billions in the 1990s as a result of a spectacular rise in stock price and then a sudden fall, based first on a fraudulent claim to the discovery of vast gold reserves in Indonesia and then to the unravelling of those claims.

In 1999 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrapped up a criminal investigation. The RCMP brought no charges. Somebody was presumably responsible, but proving who ... that seemed, and still seems, murky.

The story is a fascinating one and although at the time it was  rather overshadowed (for those of us in the US anyhow) by the  dotcom madness on the one hand and the related rise-and-fall of Enron on the other, the Bre-X saga has its own archaic quality that makes it stand out in recollection. It was a tale that was in the 1990s but of an earlier time.

It was a tale that reminde…

Making Us Wait: The Nobel Prize in Literature

I went to bed Wednesday night, October 5, believing that there was a reasonable chance that, when I awoke, Philip Roth would at last have won a Nobel Prize in Literature.

This was a mistake. The first problem was the scheduling. The Prizes are usually announced over the course of a single week, one announcement per day, and in the 'natural' course of events, the Lit Prize would have been announced after each of the 'hard sciences' on the list" medicine, physics, chemistry, had had its turn in the spotlight. So, that would have been last Thursday.

Unbeknowst to me, though, the Lit panel had announced back in September, before I was paying attention, that it was taking longer than usual to make its decision, and that it would not bestow its prize this year until the Thursday after everybody else had bestowed the others.

Maybe they're tired of always coming in the middle, after the hard sciences, before the Huge Publicity events of Peace and Economics. Maybe t…