Silent Night, Violent Night

I went to Iowa for my nephew’s high school graduation. I stayed at a motel after the ceremony. I slept for six hours without waking, something that has not happened to me in years. When I woke in the morning, all the blankets and sheets were lying on the floor. I do not recall any dreams, but I must have thrashed a lot. I was so tired the next day, it was as if I had not slept al all.

The only thing I did untoward before going to sleep was read a few pages of Heidegger’s Being and Time. I think I’ll take Winnie-the-Pooh with me next time I travel that way.

Published in: on May 30, 2005 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Draft Five Dream

About a thousand typed pages sit on the floor next to the table – four complete drafts of a short novel. But it is not yet a novel, for it is no good.

I want to walk away from it, never think about it again, but it is only seven in the morning.

The word processor is a blank page except for the numeral 1 in the top right corner. I start typing.

The dream is still alive.

Published in: on May 27, 2005 at 11:50 am  Comments (2)  

The Big Nowhere: My Own Political Party

One of the recent subgenres of political writing is the conversion story. These are the intellectual memoirs of people who were once Liberals, but have converted to Conservatism, or vice versa. As converts, these folks become the most severe critics of those folks with whom they once communed.

I’m feeling quite smug and self satisfied today. And why not? It is an occupational hazard for folks like me who are custom made from head to toe. Anyway, I want to talk about my conversion to the Big Nowhere, the space that is neither Left nor Right.

The Left and the Right have more similarities than differences. Both groups hold obscure sets of beliefs. Everyday cases of what should be done befuddles both sides. Life is often too messy for their principles to apply.

That leads me to ask, just what are their principles, and are they consistent sets of beliefs? I answer myself, “darned if I know.” I keep searching all the while thinking my confusion is all my own fault for being dull. However, I have observed the following.

Both sides believe in utopian societies. The Radical Left believes in the pure socialist state. The Right believes in completely unregulated free markets. Both utopian ideas have never existed because each utopia leads to massive social upheaval, breakdown, and misery. Despite the historical evidence against these utopias, both groups zealously cling to their utopian dreams. The political conversion literature is the odyssey of a person moving from one utopian belief to another utopian belief.

Both sides, at root, have an antipathy toward science and philosophy. Pseudo science and dogmatism fits and feels best for them both. The fact that the most difficult and complex problems might not admit of an easy solution tailored to grand principles is an easy source of frustration to them.

I’ll be honest. My beliefs have not changed all that much in the past thirty years. Thirty years ago, I was considered a fascist pig by some. Now, I am considered a bomb throwing, barricade building communist by others. Will somebody please make up their mind?

The only solution is to start my own political party. I am calling my party ‘The Big Nowhere’ for the moment. I am even thinking about running for President of the United States in 2008. I already have my party principles and platform figured out.

1) Scratch where it itches.

2) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And here’s my campaign slogan:

Win with Lynn!

I’ll be posting the address for party contributions in the near future. Anyone donating must sign a release that reserves my right to commit to nothing unless it is a good idea.

Published in: on May 26, 2005 at 11:14 am  Comments (1)  

Explanation, God, and the Unconscious

When we come across a state of affairs we cannot explain, we have at least two choices. We can attribute the state of affairs to god’s will, and go blithely on our way, or we can begin the arduous task of discovering an explanation.

Most would agree that the unconscious is a part of our mental framework. There is a difference between claiming a mental event arose from the unconscious and explaining how and why it arose. Once again, we are stuck with the arduous task of discovering an explanation.

Thus we find the search for explanations, although arduous, a tonic for two pseudo scientific sets of beliefs: Creationism and Pop Psychoanalysis.

One of the problems with beliefs is having enough time to investigate from whence they came and how they are maintained. However, some beliefs matter, and it is worth the time to investigate when one can.

Published in: on May 25, 2005 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Writing a Novel

The art of choosing a finite number of problems to solve from an infinity of challenges.

Published in: on May 25, 2005 at 1:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Montaigne and Freud

I have been slowly reading my way through Montaigne’s essays. I read him about a dozen years ago, but I did not have the fine appreciation of him I have now.

He is an independent thinker who examines things with an open mind. He has an axe to grind, but it is his own axe.

I like reading Freud because he is a master prose stylist like Montaigne. He is an independent thinker too with his own axe to grind. However, Freud’s mind is not nearly as open as Montaigne’s

You may disagree with both of them, but at least you have a target to shoot at. Oh, for the good old days.

Published in: on May 23, 2005 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hijacking Theory and Hypothesis

Somewhere along the line the word ‘theory’ got hijacked. These days theory is a term used to dismiss another person’s beliefs. I hear the expression, “it’s only a theory,” quite often, even people in the media seem to get confused about the word.

What does theory mean when it comes to science? It means a group of propositions believed to be true because they have been tested and verified, or deduced from other true propositions. We might at times call a theory a body of knowledge.

The beliefs in a theory have the delightful characteristics of explaining previous facts and events, and predicting future facts and events. The theory has been tested, verified, and not found wanting.

Some people confuse theory with hypothesis although hypothesis is a word that seems to have been hijacked too.

A hypothesis is a belief that has yet to be tested or verified. This is not to say that a hypothesis is framed at random. Good hypotheses have the virtue of fitting with known theory should they turn out to be true. There are reasonable heuristics one can apply when framing an hypothesis so that one can tell whether the hypothesis is worth testing.

Theory and hypothesis are not the equivalent of faith. For that we can be thankful. The distinction is often important in business as well as science.

What we know about viruses, their mutations, and the diseases they cause, is what is explained and predicted by The Theory of Evolution. That might be one of the reasons why we call it a theory.

Published in: on May 21, 2005 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music

I think Cuppa passed the music baton to me, so here goes.

Total volume of music on my computer?

None, but I have been thinking about loading some one of these days.

The last CD I bought?

The two volume “Hollies Greatest Hits”. Mega-awesome!

Song playing right now?

“Clap for the Wolfman”. I’m listening to the ” ‘Guess Who’ Greatest Hits” CD.

Five songs I listen to a lot or mean a lot to me (in no particular order)?

These are five songs I download on the Pippin’s jukebox every now and then. “I like the beat and they are easy to dance to, so I give them a 98.”

“Stupid Girl” by Garbage.
“Destination Unknown” by Missing Persons.
“Our Lips are Sealed” by the Fun Boy Three.
“Emporer’s New Clothes” by Sinead O’Connor.
“I Wonder What’s She Doing Tonight?” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
“Animal” by Def Lepard.
“Talk Dirty to Me” by Poison.

That’s seven songs. I cheated. I always cheat when answering music quizzes.

Which five people are you passing this baton to, and why?

I don’t know. Maybe President Bush, Dick Cheney, Rummy, Condi, and the Bush Twins. I want to find out if they are Garbage or Missing Persons fans. I count the Bush Twins as one person.

Seriously, I’d like to see what Jean-Francois and Curtis have to say if they have the time.

Published in: on May 21, 2005 at 10:05 am  Comments (1)  

Consumption

Some people claim to hate consumerism. You sometimes find that almost in the same breath they extol the virtues of the latest thing they just consumed.

Published in: on May 20, 2005 at 9:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Stem Cell Research

One of the great things obout being an independent thinker like me is that you get to look at things from an objective viewpoint.

President Bush’s announcement that he will veto any bill coming out of Congress that would open up new lines and ways to do stem cell research is what I would have expected. The President will not fund stem cell research in any meaningful manner. The rest of the world and private businesses will pour huge amounts of money into this progressive and lucrative enterprise whose goal is to alleviate some of the most deadly diseases known.

President Bush knows this and he knows that there is not a damned thing he can really do to stop stem cell research. So why will he veto any bill?

He is appealing to ‘The Base’.

Published in: on May 20, 2005 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wrestling

After spending another day reading and editing my lifeless prose, I will spend the evening reading Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch. I earned and deserve a good read.

Published in: on May 17, 2005 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Basic Program

One of the better things I have done in my life is attend the University of Chicago’s Basic Program. The Basic Program is a four year noncredit sequence of courses in the classics. You go to class one night a week for three hours and discuss the Great Books.

The folks I attended class with were mostly older professional people, so there was not a lot of social diversity. However, it sure was different than going to college because everybody came to class well prepared to discuss the books.

The instructors were top notch although they didn’t actually instruct or lecture. They pointed to a couple of passages in the books or asked a couple of questions, then made sure the discussion kept flowing and stayed on track.

The Basic Program offers Alumni classes too for those who have graduated from the four year program. One year I took a three quarter sequence in the Hebrew Bible. I enjoyed discussing the Bible in that setting. We could have gone on for another 100 quarters before we wore out the book, such was the depth of discussion into which we immersed ourselves.

Then I decided to take a break to study mathematics and mathematical logic on my own. Math is a disease I have caught sporadically during my life. I caught it briefly last year, but that’s another story. Studying math logic took longer than I expected, so I didn’t take anymore classes.

I have been looking at the Alumni courses offered this summer. I might jump back in, but I am feeling ambivalent.

Published in: on May 16, 2005 at 10:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Desperate Housewives

The final episode of this season’s Desperate Housewives airs next Sunday. I think I might bust waiting for Sunday night to arrive.

However, that means I can go back to watching PBS from 8 to 9. I’ve missed a lot of Masterpiece Theater, etc. because of Desperate Housewives.

Who’da thunk it? It’s my sister’s fault. She’s the one who turned me onto Desperate Housewives.

Published in: on May 16, 2005 at 9:25 pm  Comments (5)  

Work and Literature

Waggish has some interesting thoughts on work and what literature makes of work.

But it seems that few writers has picked up the slack, leaving the academic left and the Straussian right to promulgate archetypal portrayals of the western employee to their various audiences. The topic of work is too significant to be left to theorists; Studs Terkel’s Working is a better map of these territories than Marx. The area should belong to literature, which can provide more personal and emotional narratives for it. But literature has yet to stake a serious claim.

I have often wondered about the paucity of stories and novels whose foreground is the normal everyday working world that most people experience. I have had jobs that felt dramatic to me, dramatic in the sense that the difference between success and failure meant a lot to me both emotionally and financially.

I believe I read somewhere that the most common place for people to meet lovers and spouses is at work. An office romance has its extremely emotional moments, and all the emotion does not happen while between the sheets.

Maybe, I am reading the wrong kind of fiction? Let me know how to get on track if I am.

Published in: on May 16, 2005 at 8:57 am  Comments (2)  

A novel about a guy writing a novel

I read Paul Auster’s Oracle Night. The novel is about a guy writing a novel which on the surface sounds like a dumb idea to write a novel about. But Auster pulls it off masterfully as they say. You can do that when you are Paul Auster.

I am writing a novel about a guy writing a novel, but my novel isn’t any good. I think I have too many sex scenes in it and not enough writing scenes.

Published in: on May 15, 2005 at 8:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Blog Spring House Cleaning

I blew away my blog template by overlaying it with one of the generic Blogger templates. Gone are the Blogline links, and unfortunately, something I should have thought about, the Haloscan comments. I have the Haloscan comments archived.

I have the old template saved, so I can go back to it if I change my mind.

Published in: on May 15, 2005 at 11:39 am  Comments (1)  

Get a Haircut

I got a haircut this morning, so it forced me to get up early, clean up, and get out. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from my haircut. I bought some Budweiser on sale for $3.99 a six pack. I worked on my novel for a couple of hours. Now, the sun is out.

It has been a honey of a day so far. Life is good.

Published in: on May 14, 2005 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reading ADD

Last weekend I read Freakonomics, a book my friend Tom gave to me for my birthday. The book has gotten so much media coverage I won’t say anything other than it is a darned good read. Thank you, Tom.

I have been rereading Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil this week. I first read it while attending the University of Chicago’s Basic Program. I am reading it a second time to put the book into perspective with my recent philosophy reading. So far the perspective eludes me.

However, given my attention deficit disorder when it comes to reading, I started reading Auster’s Oracle Night last night, and today I started reading Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. I am already hooked on both books.

I guess Nietzsche will have to wait a few days.

Published in: on May 14, 2005 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Big Think

The last two philosophy books I have read are Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man and Stephen Toulmin’s cosmopolitan, two Big Think books.

Fukuyama claims that we are at the end of history in the sense that liberal democratic regimes are the future for most countries. He digs deep into Plato’s idea of the tripartite soul and Hegel’s philosophy of history for his argument. Part of human nature is the need for recognition. Fukuyama claims that liberal democracies best satisfy that basic human need. The debate rages over whether history is indeed on this track especially since 9/11. Some philosophers, such as Slavoj Zizek, claim there might still be a better way than liberal democracy. Exactly what that better way might be, is a little unclear to say the least.

Toulmin’s book claims that philosophy took a decisive turn during the turbulent years of the 17th Century due to religious wars, depressions, and political upheavals. He claims that philosophy moved from Montaigne’s open humanistic inquiry during the Renaissance to the modern rationalistic philosophy of Descartes and others, a philosophy that demands foundations and certainty for philosophy, science, and religion. He says that only now, in the post-modern world, are we returning to the more humanistic philosophy of Montaigne where we do not require absolute rationalistic foundations for philosophy, science, and religion. Toulmin sees the desire for rationalistic certainty as a chimera, and sees the post-modern turn as positive since it will lead to more creative solutions to our problems.

I found both books good reads and fascinating. I wonder about historical progress in the grand historical sense.

Published in: on May 13, 2005 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Blogging Angst

I have had blogging angst for the past week. I won’t say much about it since a-sdf says it well and better than I can.

Blogging is mostly about informal professional associations and the people who integrate themselves into those associations. The groups that get formed are interesting and myopic too. There is a lot of self congratulatory back slapping over reasonably banal comments. There are groups vituperatively opposed to each other, and that sometimes makes for entertaining sport.

But what does it mean? I’ll still read the big U. S. newspapers online each morning, browse Arts and Letters Daily next, then go to the little blogs I like. I know I could live without the larger informal professional association blogs if I had to–not that I’d want to.

As far as politics goes, I am pretty much a “scratch where it itches” kind of guy. I can be walking to the bank to deposit my dividends check while imagining building barricades in the street to protest the latest political goings on.

Well, I just blogged some. What more can I say?

Published in: on May 12, 2005 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fancy Pants

My memory ain’t so good anymore, but I think I remember this from the Errol Flynn movie “They Died With Their Boots On.” Errol Flynn is, of course, General George Armstrong Custer and he is traveling to his post out west. He meets up with an old mule skinner driving a wagon and who takes Custer to the fort. Custer takes a shine to the mule skinner and offers him a job as a scout. The mule skinner agrees to do it, but he says, “I ain’t going to wear any of those fancy pants”, referring to the trousers of a U. S. Cavalry trooper.

That mule skinner is one of my movie heroes because I ain’t going to wear any of those fancy pants either.

Do you remember that old early sixties Rock song “Mule Skinner Blues?”

Published in: on May 10, 2005 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  

May 8, 1945

I am reminded of my father, Glen “Spike” Rutherford, who entered the U. S. Army shortly after his 26th birthday early in 1942, went to North Africa in 1943, Italy in 1944, and Germany in 1945. When the war ended, he went to Le Havre and boarded a troop transport home.

This week is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. I have been watching some of the excellent documentaries about the end of the war on The History Channel and PBS.

“The Day the War Ended” by Martin Gilbert is a very good book about the end of the war. The story is told from the perspective of people who witnessed the end in the various countries involved in the conflict. The general emotion by those who survived the cruelest and most inhumane parts of the war seems to have been near disbelief that it was finally over and they were still alive. A statistic in the second paragraph of the book says that, on average, 20,000 people were killed each day of the war.

Published in: on May 4, 2005 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Only in Dreams, Beautiful Dreams

Scientific American is one of the most interesting and well written magazines of all time. The August 2002 issue titled “The Hidden Brain” is a great example. The issue is devoted to articles by top researchers in the neurosciences. Let me give an example of the kind of research that might be of value for philosophy. This is from the article “The Meaning of Dreams” by Jonathan Winson.

For reasons he could not possibly have known, Freud set forth a profound truth in his work. There is an unconscious, and dreams are indeed the “royal road” to understanding it. The characteristics of the unconscious and associated processes of brain functioning, however, are very different from what Freud thought. Rather than being a cauldron of untamed passions and destructive wishes, I propose that the unconscious is a cohesive, continuously active mental structure that takes note of life’s experiences and reacts according to its own scheme of interpretation. Dreams are not disguised as a consequence of repression. Their unusual character is a result of the complex associations that are culled from memory.

I wonder how this plays out for certain kinds of philosophical arguments. The article has not deterred me from finishing my rereading of Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Freud was a great writer and thinker.

Published in: on May 4, 2005 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

The Soul selects her own Society—
Then—shuts the Door—
To her divine Majority—
Present no more—

Emily Dickinson

The question often arises, why blog?

People blog to satisfy their desire to be heard and recognized. I know, the answer is too simplistic and pathetic.

Published in: on May 3, 2005 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New High Rise

I look down at the old one story buildings on State Street, the buildings soon to be replaced by a new high rise building. The view of the other old buildings on the adjoining blocks will be obscured once the new building is up.

Things last a little while. “You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.”

Published in: on May 3, 2005 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment