Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Believer

"The Believer is a monthly magazine where length is no object.
There are book reviews that are not necessarily timely, and that are very often very long.
There are interviews that are also very long.
We will focus on writers and books we like.
We will give people and books the benefit of the doubt.
The working title of this magazine was The Optimist."

I discovered this magazine many months after stumbling across one article in it and being given another by Caitlin.  I made the connection idly scrolling through my accumulated bookmarks and realizing I had two articles from the same magazine but didn't know anything about the magazine.  Especially in its early days, this magazine was everything I would ever want in a magazine, and a lot of what I dream this blog could be. 


It is ostensibly a literature magazine, and during its first few years included many original pieces.  There was a heavy emphasis on prose poetry.  Each issue included a Light, a Tool, a Child, a Motel, and a Mammal.   There was an Idea Share.  There are also plentiful book reviews (moreso in the more recent issues).  There is a music issue and an art issue each year.  The meat of the magazine is in indulgent articles from people like us, except more like our ideal selves than our real selves (at least as writers and intellectuals, that is), regarding things they have done, issues in the world, or, most often, people (usually authors) they are fascinated by.  There is also an interview with a philosopher in almost every issue, most of which deal with morality.  There are sometimes interviews with Scientists as well.


Each of the links I included in the previous paragraph I feel is highly worth reading.  Some are long while others are quite short.


I want to affirm again that this magazine is one of the potential things we would make if we were given the resources.  It's beautiful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

τέτρα στοιχεῖα

I've successfully embarked on the further development of that concept I wrote about earlier. Here's my first rough draft of a presentation explaining only part of it, I have quite a lot more planned out already. I hope to go into much more depth with this project, hopefully creating a book worth of writing and probably visual aids as well, I think they help. I appreciate any and all feedback, and I hope you guys enjoy it! =D
Love Blase

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poetry

After we'd finished Einstein, the next and last work we read in Freshman Studies this term was the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.  I had never heard of Bishop, and didn't particularly enjoy her works.  The class discussions we had, meant to help us increase our appreciation for the poems, instead merely helped me understand them cognitively - our professor implied this assertion that poetry could be appreciated as a puzzle, which, while true, doesn't mean that if you solve the puzzle, you necessarily appreciate the poem lyrically.  I don't mean to try to start a discussion here of 'what poetry is' because after all, unlike science and like pornography, poetry isn't something that can be defined: you just know it when you see it. 

Some questions to spark discussion (I can only hope. . . ):

1.  Why do poets (and artists in general) take on the limitations of form?  Why, for example, would you choose to write a sestina instead of a free verse poem?  As poets and artists have moved away from strict forms, have they done anything else differently to accomplish whatever form did for artists previously?

2.  Is it better to read a poem independently, judging on its own terms, without taking into account information about the author's biography or historical and contextual references?  More specifically, regarding poems in which outside information (arguably) plays an important role in understanding, is there an order in which you would apply multiple approaches?

3.  Considering that I didn't like Bishop much, and most of you have probably never heard of her (had you?), what one poet would you suggest for a class like Freshman Studies?  It should be something pretty widely accessible, with some depth of meaning, and not too avant-garde, if only because it is meant as a representative sample of "poetry," in order to help students appreciate poetry as a whole, not to show them a cool individual experimental poet.

Also feel free to just post poetry here.  That'd be lovely.  I am enjoying prose poetry right now; what do you all think of it?  To me, it's highly reminiscent of the things Erik Helwig and Alex write, in that it is funny and beautiful at the same time, and in that it is surreal and playful. 

http://www.webdelsol.com/LITARTS/edson/

Saturday, November 21, 2009

College has Over, College is Broken

As I sit and write this, my roommate quite literally keeps hacking pieces of his lungs into our sink.  He claims this is a good sign - I am dubious.

Tonight I finished the first term of College.  Relief and relaxation are overpowering and washing away stress and discouragement, for the moment.  I look forward to spending the weekend and most of my six-week winter break reading and sleeping and writing.  I have several somewhat ambitious writing projects in mind:

- A journal letter documenting the psychological aspects of this term.

- A philosophical treatise about objective reality and time, without a real thesis or point - a belleletristic (favorite word of today) piece of philosophy. 

- A smut story meant to imitate Lovecraft and also be funny meanwhile.

Speaking of Lovecraft, I've been reading Alex's Best of H.P. Lovecraft in big chunks lately.  For some reason I decided to write a "critical piece" on his work, which I've done, and decided it was very poorly executed and not worthwhile in the first place.  I will try to say what I said in it in one paragraph here:

I find it interesting to note that Lovecraft's own rational, scientific mindset is discounted and made to seem narrow-minded in his works. Instead of presenting this view in opposition to the depravity of the Horror in his stories, the conflict is instead always between the wholly and inconceivably unfamiliar and the 'wholesome,' familiar world, represented in Lovecraft's historical context by Christianity. This makes sense, however, when one contemplates the reason Lovecraft wrote fiction. He was not merely writing to make money, or to give people cheap thrills: his work is an attempt to Romanticize the latest scientific discoveries, which shifted humanity ever further from the center of a meaningful Universe, discoveries that “all contributed to make the human race seem even more insignificant, powerless and doomed in a materialistic and mechanical universe.”

I went with my mom, Alex, Trey, and Cansu to Shenandoah Books the other day and bought the following Books there: The Virgin and The Gipsy, and Lady Chatterley's Lover, both by D.H. Lawrence, The Conquest of Happiness, by Bertrand Russell, Fatu-Hiva and Aku-Aku, both by Thor Heyerdahl, The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh, The Plague, by Albert Camus,  The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, and Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann, as well as a collection of short stories by ETA Hoffmann.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An incomplete vision

It's taken me forever to post this. I hope this provides some insight on a certain characteristic of mine. I had the idea to write a grand composition of sorts explaining a concept that came to my head. In a somewhat failed attempt to capture the thought as it occurred, since I knew otherwise I'd never get around to writing it, I jotted quickly what came to my mind spur 'o' the moment style. I got kind of off the topic of what my main goal was, and never finished it. I wasn't gonna post it on SC yet, since I was convincing myself I was gonna rewrite it and finish it. I probably never will, I've already gotten a new idea basically about the same thing which I think will be a more effective way of explaining it. Now I just hope I can get some work done on that before I get another new idea 2 weeks from now. Anyways, remember this isn't the core of what I originally wanted to say, nor has it been edited and improved as Adam suggested, but if I don't do it now I probably will never post it. Carpe diem.

"Let me share with you my vision. I yearn to be part of something greater than myself, to join in a community of people who radiate life’s energy and vibrate together in beauty, basking in each other’s glow. Life is not something that happens, but an energy to be created and expressed by everyone in all that they do. A genius is just someone lucky enough or determined enough to express their potential at some point in their life. Every one of us is capable of such genius, but like all life, it requires the right environment to develop. Our potential/energy/genius/beauty, it needs nourishment, just like a plant needs light, water, and fertile soil. The essential component is love.

Love is the light, the fire, the warmth which fosters our inner beauty and encourages it to flourish. It is something beyond definition, but I hope the words I use will resonate with your soul, and you will remember something you felt in your life which was love. To show love to someone, means to be willing to get to know them, what they like, who they are, their past, their dreams for the future, and not only accepting them, but appreciating them, and seeking the same love from them. Sharing love with someone creates an open flow in which you can communicate your ideas, thoughts and dreams, without fear for rejection or disapproval. It is that social connection that humans as social beings yearn for, and it is through connecting with each other that we share our potential and power to achieve our dreams and fill our lives with beauty.

So few of us seem to experience true love, we are fooled into believing it is something we can only share with our mate, but we are so mistaken. All is full of love, or should I say potential love, just like the potential energy you learn about in physics. We can, and often do, love our family, neighbors and friends. Sometimes it’s just a smile or saying hi, we only release some of our potential energy, our potential love. But every relationship you have with another human could be as full of love as the relationship you have with your spouse or lover. You could meet a complete stranger, and if you shared yourself with them for one year, unconditionally accepting them for who they are, you would forge a bond of true love with them. We could share our lives, our love with one another, but we don’t. Perhaps we are afraid, afraid that we will try to reach out but be turned away or shot down, not returned the love which we offer. It seems so difficult, but if we lived and grew in a community where everyone let their love radiate and shared their lives with each other, if as children we grew up each day with a daily dose of love from all around us, it would become part of our very essence to do the same.

Many people have tried to define “human nature”, saying people are inherently this or inherently that. People are not inherently good or bad, but we each have an amazing potential for both. Boys grow up in the ghetto of Los Angeles, are given the identity of a blood or a crip, and become soldiers. Killing is a part of everyday life, they and adapt to it and become accustomed to it. But even then, nobody likes it that way, they would get out of the hood if they had a chance. Nobody likes facing the threat of death every day, the will to live is certainly a part of human nature. If inherently we all want the best for our own lives, if that is part of human nature, the only way we can do that is not through competing and fighting, but through caring for and sharing with one another. If that is true, then the behavior most beneficial and desirable to human nature is that of love. The sharing of our love energy with one another provides the base on which we can build our dreams and make them real, enriching every fiber of our lives with beauty.

This abundant love energy serves as the fuel for our creative energy, and our pursuit for perfect beauty. It must be understood that before we can exude beauty in all that we do, we must first have that equivalent abundance of love. This energy field of love, in essence is a spiritual connection of humanness, since really love is the sharing and expression of our humanness with each other. If we are so deeply connected with this spiritual force of humanness, we can all the more easily connect with nature, and imbue our human energy and beauty in our interactions with it. Everything we do is an interaction with the nature around us, whether it’s growing a plant, throwing a ball, or painting a picture. We can channel the energy we receive from love into these actions and interactions, into everything we do. The concept of “art” is exactly that.

A song is more than just a collection of sounds, and a painting is more than paints on a canvas, it is a manifestation of our humanness/human energy in a natural physical form. The more we are in touch with our collective and individual humanness through love, the more and easier we can express this energy in balance with and cooperation with nature’s energy and create beauty in all we do. Beauty is a harmony and balance with nature, and an expression of our harmony...." and then I stopped for some reason and had to do something else I guess. I never went back and reformatted it or continued it :/

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Science

I'd like to paraphrase and reproduce and expand on a discussion we had in Freshman Studies today as a conclusion to our study of Einstein's Relativity. I want to do this to practice creating the kind of provocative and insightful discussions my professor does in class, and because I think it is an interesting topic.

Q. What is Science?

Before moving on, stop and think through this for a minute. Develop a provisional definition of Science. Write it down.

My initial definition from class: Science is the rigorously skeptical search to establish what we can regard as objectively true, independent of perceptual or emotional or other bias.

Things a definition should do, and how my definition fails to do them:

1. Establish qualifications dividing things that are science from things that merely seem to be.
I fear mine is too rigorous - should it be explicitly expanded to include the kind of interpretational or contextually unique truths produced by sciences like sociology, historical analysis, and political science? What "rigorous skepticism" implies and how it is obtained practically must be explained in order to very specifically exclude all things that do not meet those criteria.

2. Establish that Plato's Republic and other works that apply logical reasoning in pursuit of Truth in metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, etc, are not Science. As David Edgerton says, "a definition of science needs to define the nature of the knowledge not the means of its creation only." Why would a hypothetical work that, unlike the Republic, used a logically rigorous and thorough scientific process to discover what the true nature of Justice is, not qualify as Science?

I am intentionally refraining from trying to fix these flaws in my own definition. I want you all to create your own definitions, and then we will hopefully critique each others' and arrive at a few serviceable definitions.

A. As defined by the British Science Council after a year of deliberations, "Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence." Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not Science. (Will anyone appreciate this reference?) Sarcasm aside, however, does this definition meet our criteria? Do you accept it?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Sacred and the Profane

Back from the dead.
That's me.
The influx of good posts has served as jumper cables for my carbody.

I will say something relevant to dreams because that's where we started:
A month ago I went to Ontario to visit my parents for the first time since I moved out in July. A week after I got back, I had two odd dreams within a few days of each other. In the first, my dad beat me up. He punched and kicked me until I couldn't move, and I woke up crying, and feeling humiliated and furious. Then a night or two later, I dreamed that my mom had a psychotic break and I needed to call 911 but she was hoarding all the phones and I was terrified she might hurt me or herself. I woke up crying and feeling inconsolably panicked.

In an offhand conversation, I told my boss, an anthropologist, about the dreams. She was so unsurprised that it didn't even occur to her to be surprised, which surprised me because I was shocked by the dreams. (Untangle that sentence for ten points.) She said that she had some of her worst nightmares between high school and college. This type of experience is so common that anthropology has a specific name (I forget it, though) for such transitional periods and the feelings and actions they evoke. Actions: in a phase of life with few established rules and rituals and little external structure, we must create our own rules and rituals. Thoughts: we must distinguish things as either sacred or profane by ourselves, and we experiment with making profane that which was once sacred (friends, family, ideas...). We do some of these experiments in dreams. Hmm...

I thought that was an interesting take on a phenomenon we're all interested in.

Incidentally, I have heard the phrase "the sacred and the profane" a lot before. And I know it's fairly common, but does anyone know where specifically I would have heard it repeated in literature? I'm thinking either Anais Nin or Henry Miller? Help?