Friday, August 24, 2007

"[W]e should rid ourselves of the oppressive image of a flawless cultural grounding, transmitted and imposed [on us] by the family and by educational institutions, an image which we try all our lives in vain to match up to. For truth in the eyes of others matters less than being true to ourselves, and this truth is only accessible to those who liberate themselves from the constraining need to appear cultured, which both tyrannizes us and prevents us from being ourselves." - Pierre Bayard, "How to Discuss Books That One Hasn’t Read"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Evolutionary psychology slices into the soul

Absolutely fascinating article in Psychology Today. The authors harness the latest insights of evolutionary psychology to find reasons for several of their sometimes politically incorrect assertions, including almost all suicide bombers being Muslim and the male midlife crisis being a myth.

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.
Many middle-aged men do go through midlife crises, but it's not because they are middle-aged. It's because their wives are.
Read it - you'll be a wiser man (or woman). Sex is the key, isn't it? And isn't that the reason why many of these subjects are politically sensitive? Isn't even race a 'sex' issue? Many of the most important social groupings are defined by who can have sex with whom....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Former American President Calvin Coolidge was known as Silent Cal. Once a woman sitting by him at a dinner party said she had made a bet she could get three words out of him. "You lose," he replied.

“Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.” - Nietzsche [philosopher, madman]

Language / gobbledygook

“The move from a structuralist account . . . marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony . . .” [Judith Butler, a well-known professor at the University of California – Berkeley]

George Orwell’s putdown of this kind of impenetrability in perhaps his most famous essay:

I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Here it is in modern English:
“Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”

From Mann and Nabokov to Sheik al-Hilaly

Roger Sandall’s insightful piece on the response to an Islamist preacher calling scantily-clad Australian women ‘exposed meat inviting rape’ touches on Thomas Mann, Nabokov, art, ‘paederaesthetics’ and the sexualization of everyday life.

The so-called artist’s ‘gift’, wrote Thomas Mann in 1903, has dark roots in a poisoned psyche. ‘It is a very dubious affair and rests upon extremely sinister foundations.’ The world should know that most artists today are sick in mind and spirit, a danger to decent people and heedless of the damage they cause. Plumbers and carpenters and other tradesmen are reliable friends. But artists are not. ... ‘Literature is not a calling, it is a curse, believe me! It begins by your feeling yourself set apart, in a curious sort of opposition to the nice, regular people; there is a gulf of ironic sensibility, of knowledge, scepticism, disagreement, between you and the others; it grows deeper and deeper, you realize that you are alone; and from then on any rapprochement is simply hopeless! What a fate! [Tonio Kröger, Mann]’
Stephen Spender: ‘Thomas Mann is a monumental figure of our time. Reading [his] journals one feels that this monument is made of very hard, resistant, almost cruel material: but under the surface there is a human being who, together with Freud, was the greatest human being this century.’

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Thursday, August 09, 2007