To be radical, then, in the sense that I am after, is to return all the way back to the source of an argument, to dig all the way down to its foundation. To go with the Latinate metaphor, we are radical when we refuse to follow a particular tree along the course of its growth and development, because we think that it has been planted in the wrong place all along. Ditching the metaphor: We refuse to accept a dispute as it has been presented to us, because we know that by then far too much has been presumed already. This, I want to suggest to you, is the stance that we Catholics ought to take towards practically all the debates going on around us today. Rather than taking sides, we need to step back, see what the sides have in common, and, most probably, take sides against that.
As Roger Angell approached his 100th birthday, the Friend Memorial Library on August 8 honored him, its best-known and probably oldest supporter, with a band, a governor, a proclamation, a parade, a speech and plenty of well wishes.
His actual centennial doesn’t happen until September 19. “I crossed my fingers,” he said from the steps of the library to the hundred or so people gathered below him.
“Roger Angell Day” wasn’t the first time Brooklin honored the writer. When he was just 90, the town held a parade to honor veterans, which he described in his book, This Old Man: All in Pieces. He wrote that he got to doff his cap at the appropriate moment, having served in the Air Force during World War II.
The description of a Brooklin parade in This Old Man could almost have described the scaled-down version that celebrated his birthday. “Families of every size walked in from their cars, parked along Route 175,” he wrote. They watched the “fire trucks…shined-up ancient roadsters and kid- and Lab-laden pickups” that, “honking all the way, streamed slowly past.”
Angell’s centennial parade came after a concert by The Treble Makers and the speech-making on the library lawn. Gov. Janet Mills read a proclamation honoring Angell as he sat above her on the porch. She listed some of the baseball stars Angell had profiled, mangling many of the names. “Mordecai Brown,” she said, using the pitcher’s given name. Angell shouted out his better-known nickname, “Three Finger!”
“Bill Mazurski,” said the governor. “Mazeroski,” corrected Angell.
“Dizzy Vance,” she said. “Dazzy,” he yelled.
“Always the editor,” Mills said. “Jeezum.”
"Scholars in both digital humanities and media studies have noted an apparent disconnect between computation and the interpretive methods of the humanities. Alan Liu has argued that literary scholars employing digital methods encounter a “meaning problem” due to the difficulty of reconciling algorithmic methods with interpretive ones. Conversely, the media scholar Friedrich Kittler has questioned the adequacy of hermeneutics as a means of studying computers. This paper argues that that this disconnect results from a set of contingent decisions made in both humanistic and mathematical disciplines in the first half of the nineteenth century that delineated, with implications that continue to resonate in the present day, which aspects of human activity would come to be formalized in algorithms and which would not. I begin with a discussion of Nicolas de Condorcet, who attempted, at the height of the 1789 revolution, to turn algebra into a universal language; his work, I argue, exemplifies the form of algorithmic thinking that existed before the Romantic turn. Next, I discuss William Wordsworth’s arguments about the relationship of poetry and science. While Wordsworth is sometimes viewed as a critic of science, I argue that his polemic is specifically targeted at highly politicized projects like Condorcet’s that sought to supplant existing modes of thought with scientific rationality. Finally, I demonstrate the importance of Romantic thought for George Boole, creator of the logic system that would eventually form the basis of digital electronics. The reason Boole was able to succeed where Condorcet had failed, I argue, was that Romantic notions of culture enabled him to reconcile a mechanical view of mathematical reasoning with an organic view of the development of meaning—a dichotomy that remains a key assumption of computer interfaces in the twenty-first century."
When we look at pictures of others, we may sense things in them that aren’t visibly present, such as the person’s mood or the encompassing cultural scene. That photograph of Michel Gallimard’s sports car smashed into a tree, seemingly split in two, feels like an archetypal image of the car crash itself, the extravagant violence of the wreckage emblematic of the spectacular death of a literary playboy.
In a passage near the end of The First Man, Camus describes the way that he, as a boy, could distinguish “with his eyes closed” the scent of books released by different publishers: “Each book […] had a specific smell, according to the paper on which it was printed, so singular, and secret.” My edition of The First Man conjures up no smell to my memory, but thinking back on that old copy, still tucked away in my library back home, I do recall a fanciful, impossible, daydream image: pages of the manuscript, those photographic reproductions on the endpapers, splattered with blood.
Throughout the 2016 US presidential election, pundits repeatedly described Donald Trump as a performance artist and his campaign as performance art. Meanwhile, his alt-right supporters were mounting performance art shows, debating the meaning of Marina Abramović’s work, and developing their own theories of political performance. For experts in performance theory, such punditry and provocation is like the image in a funhouse mirror. It’s hard to make sense of such bizarre, distorted images—let alone to recognize ourselves in them. This article insists that, nonetheless, we should try. Trump and his movement pose special challenges to American political culture—and also to academic performance theory. His rise has revealed the limitations of a politics (and performance theory) based on norms and their transgression. It has also given the lie to politicians’ false belief that they (and only they) are not performing their politics. The challenge now—for academics, activists, citizens, and journalists alike—is to articulate how performance works, how it provides models of cultural power.
One’s view of God may be congenial when things are going well and yet largely inadequate when one is facing the fundamental challenges that suffering and death pose to our sense of meaning and well-being. The large, “cosmic” questions of meaning that can seem too “abstract” and “distant” in normal times will become very concrete and immediate when crisis threatens. Will the comfortable, distant, non-demanding God be adequate to shed light on the deep questions of meaning in such times of darkness? So unbearable was Augustine’s grief, so incapable was he of bearing this burden, that it caused him to flee his hometown and return to Carthage.
Like all created things, friends are good, but incomplete. They are finite, and we have been created for an infinite good, and only it can fulfill us. To expect that created things, even friends, can fulfill us in ways that only God can is to expect more than they can give and to miss the good they can be. Like all created things, friends are meant to point us toward the God who created, redeemed, and sustains us. Our perseverance in truth, goodness, and love depends upon this. Without these, we become useless, and perhaps worse than useless, to those we call “friends.”
Which brings us to another question. How good a friend was Augustine? He was using his friendship with others to seduce them away from the faith and into a life of illusion and arrogant worldliness. And not merely this one nameless young man. There are also his other, more famous friends whose names we know: Alypius, Nebridius, and Romanianus. Augustine was clearly the intellectual ring-leader of the group, and he led them all into the errors of Manicheanism, before later leading them back out.
More contemporary fiction like this, please:
Jaspers is one of the very few existentialist thinkers who did not seek to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life. Instead, he tried to cultivate a relationship to this essential quality of life and engage it on its own terms. He repeatedly insisted that ‘I do not accomplish my freedom. I did not make myself. I do not exist by my own means.’ Rather, I depend on the freedom of others and the complex makings of a fragile world. Only because our lives are contingent and vulnerable can we experience love, freedom and purpose as something meaningful. The attempt to prove love or catch the ephemeral presence of beauty would likely take away the experience. Already in his Psychology of Worldviews (1919), Jaspers argued that it is ‘precisely this uncertainty of all contents which, for us finite beings, defines the only way to spiritedness, intellectuality and vitality.’ While order and stability are necessary for human existence, they alone would turn us into machine-like puppets. What we come to understand in moments of happiness, loss and tragedy is that we cannot possess meaning, we cannot own who we authentically are or determine our identity. Uncertainty was not something to overcome for Jaspers. He rather considered it the ground of ideas such as freedom, truth and justice that can be defined only negatively, through what they are not, or not yet.
The most alluring movies from the turn of the century have staying power because they were the most original and unexpected. The ones most remembered from that year, however, can be lumped into a single movie called Gladiarequiemento, aggressive self-impressed entertainment masquerading as innovative cinema. As for the then-cutting-edge narratives which experimented with hyperlinked stories, they have not retained their interest. The Traffic Code Perros movies now exist as sets of dated signifiers of a cost-cutting, distracted future that has come to pass. So what? During the Bush-Gore election campaigns in 2000 and the last days of the dot-com bubble, many of us knew what was coming. So instead of those movies, here are what I think are the thirty-five best films of 2000, in order of theatrical release wherever they came out first—a grouping that represents how I spent my summer vacation twenty years later, because of Covid-19 and because I don’t have a car.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor