The nones

19 December 2013 § Leave a comment

19 December

Nearly a year ago, an article about the growth of atheist philosophy in France caught my attention.  This could be a path out of the morass of philosophical ignorance! (thought I).  Christopher Watkin’s book might clarify the despair to which Camus tempts the reader—the despair that Camus also must have felt, in contrast to Sartre’s more distanced approach.  Atheist existentialism aside, the more contemporary strains of atheist philosophy deserve more attention as possibly the most vigorous and serious approach to areligious philosophy in a post-secular West.  A few French philosophers are searching for a new articulation of atheism (as Watkin terms it), one that distances itself from Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze . . .

Difficult Atheism

The nones are onto something.  Watkin explores the thought of Badiou, Nancy, and Meillasoux—you can preview the book—and Watkin elsewhere explores Meillassoux’s idea of l’inexistence divine.  I do not have the book yet, so for now, Quentin Meillassoux’s Après Finitude (and in English).  Meillassoux also lectures in English on speculative realism, but that’s another area for investigation . . .

Quentin Meillassoux: secrètement une petite souris

Quentin Meillassoux: secrètement une petite souris

Excitement ever running its streets

17 December 2013 § 1 Comment

16 December

Dorothy Parker has been on my mind since I read an article about her in May.  Upon seeing the photograph with the article, you can tell immediately by her eyes that she was an insomniac.  She is clearly awake, but there is a weariness over time that is apparent, and her eyes are wide and slightly unfocused, yet you can tell she is concentrating.  A moment’s research confirmed the speculation.

Als jungfrau

Witticism percolating.

Many thoughts about art crammed into one’s brain sometimes causes an implosion rather than an outpouring of insight and analysis, so rather than recounting recent adventures and thoughts in New York, I give you Dorothy Parker on the city:

It occurs to me that there are other towns.  It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.”  And I do—that’s the funny part of it.  But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze.  Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.”  I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more.  I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees.  I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton—or they told me it was Chesterton—said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!”  I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives.  I see it—by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia—even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements.  So I go back.  And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York.  It is always a little more than you had hoped for.  Each day, there, is so definitely a new day.  “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful.  Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.  There is excitement ever running its streets.  Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises.  Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.”  It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

From “My Home Town” (1928).  Also: further reading.

Once, she said this:

Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.

And that is why we are friends.

Stapelgek om te gaan

13 December 2013 § Leave a comment

12 December

Finals are over, and it’s time to celebrate by manically trying to finish all Afrikaans translations in less than two days.  I’m seven hours deep and may soon need inspiration in the form of a loquacious war cry:

Tweedehandsemotorverkoopsmannevakbondstakingsvergaderingsameroeperstoe spraakskrywerspersverklaringuitreikingsmediakonferensieaankondiging.

Apparently ’tis the longest word in Afrikaans.  Its meaning is so dull that everyone gets to create his own elucidation of it.

Today's discovery: a photostat machine, or, how the SA government copied every unimportant passport letter ever.

Today’s discovery: a photostat machine, or, how the SA government copied every unimportant passport letter ever.

Book review no. 1

11 December 2013 § Leave a comment

10 December

Why write reviews of books when critics complete the task in a way that their comments can make the reader ruminate with more complexity upon his love for or dislike of a book?  Sometimes, it must be done, especially if no one has heard of the book.

As I Lay Crying is Faulkner’s most recent posthumously published novel, an exhausting (yet not exhaustive) exploration of the vicissitudes of the spirit during a particularly trying week.  Some unsavoury critics may lampoon the book as an übermaudlin dissipation of words on a subject unsettling for many readers, yet the genius of the book lies in its versatility: it can be applied to the week before the Duke–UNC game, the week after a romantic dissolution, beach week, and—most pertinent at the moment—finals week.  Really any week in which lurks the potential for a nervous breakdown fits well within the paradigm.  Highly recommended for any person who suffers from general anxiety, sensitivity, or a proclivity for terrible weeks.  Faulkner captures the rising sense of despair that culminates in . . .

You’ll have to read the book.

Frequently lost

5 December 2013 § 1 Comment

4 December

The final examination for quant lab is tomorrow, and a quick check of the syllabus—meant to provide reassurance that a grade less than stellar might not sabotage the semester’s work—rather instilled fright, as I found a note about sizable grade deductions for “frequent demonstrations of being lost”.  As I spent much of every lab period wandering round the lab—with a graduated cylinder; looking for reagents; finding pieces of glassware that my black hole of a drawer always seemed to consume; running away from the electrodes; staring at the spectrophotometer in confusion; seeking the instructor to ask why my solutions resembled mud once again—this is grave news.

Of course, I could actually do well on the exam, which may involve simply quoting my analytical chemistry book for the class.  Its aphorisms include the following:

“Silver ion titrations are nice.”  The author of the book exhibits excitement about such activities, but I would say it in the same tone of voice used to respond to someone I meet who gushes about a societal inanity.

“Rather than solving the equation, we hope and pray.”  This is the manner in which I approach everything in physics, as well, so it is a versatile philosophy.

Bromocresol green, a rare hipster toothpaste. You probably haven't heard of it.

Bromocresol green, a common hipster toothpaste.

NB Quotation marks.

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