All entries by this author

The Optimist’s Slaughter

May 13th, 2003 | By Christopher Orlet

Early on every thinking man makes the conscious or unconscious decision whether
to view the cup of life as half full, or dry as the Garagum Desert. Those whose
cup is half full are the world’s optimists, the Pollyannas and the kind of people
to be avoided at all costs, particularly at parties. In America they are, according
to Gallup, the majority (64 percent). These are the same folks who wave flags,
join the PTA, bet on the Cubs, and get caught in thunderstorms without an umbrella
and hopefully catch pneumonia. Pessimists, by my estimate, make up about 10
percent of the American population. The other 26 percent couldn’t care less,
and were probably too busy watching professional wrestling to … Read the rest

Most Hated Books *

May 12th, 2003 | Filed by

Tolkien, Iris Murdoch, Derrida, Jeffrey Archer? Harry Potter, Possession, Atonement, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin? … Read the rest

A Huge Black Eye *

May 12th, 2003 | Filed by

The Washington Post on the fraudulent reporter at the New York Times.… Read the rest

Good Old Flow

May 12th, 2003 12:35 am | By

Well, life is short, time is short, we’re busy, we can’t do everything – I mean, come on! There’s the job, the commute, the gym, the spirituality seminar, the assertiveness refresher course, the holistic meditation group, the energy healing hour, there’s therapy, and shopping, and catching up on tv – does that leave a lot of time for reading? Get real! So shortcuts are always welcome. Shortcuts like reading fewer books by particular great writers – or like reading only selections from fewer books by particular great writers – or – oh the hell with it: to be perfectly frank, like not reading anything at all by any great writers whatsoever. Like reading two pages of one novel by one … Read the rest

It’s All so Difficult

May 12th, 2003 12:12 am | By

Another thought or two on the fabulating reporter. The whole story, at least as presented by the reporter’s colleagues (and there are no doubt further stories behind that, or further truths), is a case study in how difficult it can be to get at the truth. Difficult in a variety of senses – difficult just in the sense of grind, slog, graft; difficult in the sense of having to overcome obstacles; difficult in the sense of beset with uncertainites, doubts, confusing evidence; difficult in the sense of painful, ethically and emotionally; difficult in the sense of stumbling in the dark, of not even knowing there is a truth to be found.

The investigation suggests several reasons Mr. Blair’s deceits went

Read the rest

Truth and the Times

May 11th, 2003 7:11 pm | By

The New York Times has a compellingly if morbidly fascinating story today. I feel a little ashamed at being so fascinated: it seems like Schadenfreude, the matter being obviously such a nightmare for the paper and for so many editors who supervised the perpetrator. It’s such a basic malfunction, like those mortifying occasions when fast food restaurants serve up E-coli-laced hamburgers or salmonella in the salad. But I can’t help it, La Rochefoucauld and Burke (‘I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others’) notwithstanding, or do I mean confirmed, fascinated I am.

And it’s fair enough. There is plenty of human interest or gossip appeal … Read the rest

New York Times not Relativists About Truth *

May 11th, 2003 | Filed by

Story on a reporter’s fraud says the cardinal tenet of journalism is simply truth.… Read the rest

Whither Poetry?

May 10th, 2003 9:07 pm | By

The Condition of Poetry is a perennial subject, and for good reason: there’s a lot to say. So, prompted by Barney McClelland’s trenchant essay on the woolly confusion of poetry with self-expression, I thought I would mention, and where possible link to, a few more jeremiads on the topic.

We could begin with Plato’s notorious dissing of poets in The Republic, or we could leap forward to the 16th century and compare Philip Stubbes’ Anatomy of Abuses with Philip Sidney’s derivative but eloquent Apology for Poetry. Or we could start with Peacock’s mocking Four Ages of Poetry and Shelley’s reply in the brilliant though far less amusing Defense of Poesy. Or we could start with Edmund Wilson’s … Read the rest

Clarke on History *

May 10th, 2003 | Filed by

Another attack on learning for learning’s sake, THES says.… Read the rest

Historians and Clarke *

May 10th, 2003 | Filed by

The Times Higher on the Education Secretary’s views of history and historians’ views of him.… Read the rest

Ornamentalism *

May 10th, 2003 | Filed by

The idea of education for its own sake is a bit dodgy?… Read the rest

Ars Gratia Marketing *

May 10th, 2003 | Filed by

There is a difference between content and wrapping, says the founder of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow.… Read the rest

Not Opposed to Medieval Studies *

May 9th, 2003 | Filed by

But utilitarian view of education remains.… Read the rest

ALife Experiment *

May 9th, 2003 | Filed by

An ‘artificial world inside a computer’ helps explain how complex forms evolve.… Read the rest

Respect the Other Even When it’s a Virus? *

May 8th, 2003 | Filed by

A new book examines metaphors for disease and cure but leaves some others unexamined.… Read the rest

Frankencrop? *

May 8th, 2003 | Filed by

India harvests its first GM cotton, which is resistant to the bollworm but has opponents worried nonetheless.… Read the rest

Poetry and the Politics of Self-Expression

May 8th, 2003 | By Barney F. McClelland

You say, as I have often given tongue
In praise of what another’s said or sung.
‘Twere politic to do the like by these;
But was there ever a dog that praised his fleas?

William Butler Yeats

Some years ago, a mentor of mine put forth the argument: “Would you try to build a cabinet when you did not posses even the rudimentary woodworking skills or knowledge of the tools necessary to build the cabinet? Of course not, then why do so many people think they can write poetry without an iota of preparation?”

Still, many do. “Pop vocalists pose as opera singers. Important art museums exhibit installations that the cleaning staff mistakes for trash. Obscenity-riddled recitations, imposed over rhythm … Read the rest

No Facts Please, This is a Film *

May 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Cromwell transformed from theocrat to freedom fighter? Never mind, the truth doesn’t put bums on seats.… Read the rest

Who Cheesed His Virtue? *

May 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Virtuous Bill Bennett gambled away $8 million, but it’s okay because he started with church bingo.… Read the rest

Fear Is Not Rational *

May 5th, 2003 | Filed by

We’re more afraid of rare, unfamiliar dangers than more mundane and likely ones.… Read the rest