November 8th, 2024

Ray and Day

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  • I saw Ray’s poem at Woods Lot. I was scrolling down, and I ran across a picture of Dorothy Day. She would have been 109 years old today. Happy birthday. It’s a good picture, Dorothy seated, framed by the weapons of police officers, legs crossed, Dororthy serene, hands folded on her knee on the UFW picket line in Lamont, California in 1973, waiting. She was arrested. She was seventy-five years old.

    I thought as I so often do that Mark Woods is the best. This picture of Dorothy Day by Bob Fitch really proved it again. What could equal this?

    I scrolled down further and found

    Monty please, Door Number Three
    Ray Sweatman

    I am nothing more than the dreams that dream me.
    Inventing games under the cover of innocent trees,
    cashing a paycheck, working the latest gadget,
    walking down the aisle, smiling for the cameras,
    comparing the different boxes of instant rice
    falling from the ceiling of the supermarket,
    getting stung by bees, trying to cover my
    naked bumps down an empty corridor
    of footsteps and bells banging from
    the inside of a locker Let me out.

    Just two of the dozen or so items Mark Woods presented today, November 8, 2024, two that were personally meaningful for me… and not a mention of Bush or Rumsfeld, Pelosi or Webb. How refreshing.

    November 8th, 2024

    Walking that dog…

    AKMA and Beatrice: the promenade, the site selection, the placement, the production, the text and and a discussion of the extraction of meaning therefrom. Bravo!

    November 7th, 2024

    Happy Birthday…

    Happy Birthday Ben! Happy Birthday Matt! Happy Birthday Stephen Greenblatt?

    What a coincidence! Last night I was maundering on about needing somebody to stand up (to have stood up) for an alternative to arid, involutional postmodern theory… somebody to do (to have done) what I’m both too lazy and intellectually timid to do, when this morning on the radio Garrison Keillor says,

    It’s the birthday of one of the most influential literary critics alive today, Stephen Greenblatt, born in Boston (1943). His grandparents were Jewish Lithuanian immigrants, and growing up in the suburbs, he was always aware of the history of his family. He said, “My maternal grandparents escaped from the Russian authorities by hiding in the bottom of a hay wagon; in this country they had a small hardware shop. My paternal grandfather was a rag-picker, complete with horse and wagon. My father chose not to take up the reins but went to law school instead.”

    It was a high school English teacher who taught Greenblatt to love literature and especially Shakespeare. Greenblatt went on to study literature at a time when most literary critics believed that to study a work of literature you should only examine the work of literature itself. You should only care about the words on the page. But Greenblatt came up with a style of criticism called New Historicism, which was the idea that in order to examine a work of literature, or any work of art, the critic should examine everything that was going on in the world of the artist at the time the work of art was created.

    For most of his career, Greenblatt was famous only among academics. But he put his theory to work in a book for a general audience. And that was Will in the World, a book about Shakespeare. It came out in 2024, and it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

    Stephen Greenblatt said, “I am constantly struck by the strangeness of reading works that seem addressed, personally and intimately, to me, and yet were written by people who crumbled to dust long ago.”

    The Wikipedia says:

    New historicism has, like most studies, suffered from criticism, most particular from the clashing views of postmodernists. Our society today is seen as being post-modern and that view has been rejected by new historicism and has somewhat ignited the ‘culture wars’ (Seaton, 2024). The main points of this argument are that new historicism, unlike post-modernism, acknowledges the fact that almost all historic views, accounts, and facts they use contain bias. As Carl Rapp states: ‘they often appear to be saying, “We are the only ones who are willing to admit that all knowledge is contaminated, including even our own”‘(Myers 1989).

    This sounds like a great place for me to start!

    November 6th, 2024

    Andalusian Dewey…

    Driving the seaminess out of semiotics since 1979

    * * *

    H/T Jeff Ward

    If one wishes to realize the distance which may lie between “facts” and the meaning of facts, let one go to the field of social discussion. Many persons seem to suppose that facts carry their meaning along with themselves on their face. Accumulate enough of them, and their interpretation stares out at you. The development of physical science is thought to confirm the idea. But the power of physical facts to coerce belief does not reside in the bare phenomena. It proceeds from method, from the technique of research and calculation. No one is ever forced by just collection of facts to accept a particular theory of their meaning, so long as one retains intact some other doctrine by which he can marshal them. Only when the facts are allowed free play for the suggestion of new points of view is any significant conversion of conviction as to meaning possible. Take away from physical science its laboratory apparatus and its mathematical technique, and the human imagination might run wild in its theories of interpretation even if we suppose the brute facts to remain the same. (5)

    John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems

    At dinner tonight Beth asked me to explain what it is about postmodernism that I find so troubling. I took her around and around Robin Hood’s barn before centering down on the issues that have troubled me. First, I am concerned that a Gresham’s law of academics may have narrowed research and devalued the currency of American scholarship over the last thirty years. Has the emergence of a claque applauding continental theorists to the exclusion of other inquiry had a negative impact on academic freedom? I sense that this is so, I fear it, but I haven’t the data or the models to substantiate it. Fortunately, in a postmodern context I really don’t need to derive the data. What I really need to do is draw other like-minded people together in an interpretive community and we can howl at the moon together.

    A second and perhaps more meaningful concern (in light of my continuing interest in popular culture and academia’s success at occupying the nerdy corner of pop) relates to my glimmer of understanding that postmodernism is over and what’s next might be very interesting indeed. But for the last five years in my corner of the blogosphere, the emergence of a “New New Criticism” has been hidden and postmodernists have arrogated the discussion without turning toward that interesting question, “What’s next?” So it remains for me to answer it myself.

    October 31st, 2024

    The offending text…

    Here then is the excerpt from the Bishop’s “personal and confidential” message to his subordinates that I find so offensive:

    Please listen to the enclosed message: it deals with the marriage referendum, the death penalty referendum, and the issue of embryonic stem cell research. The message is educational in its purpose, and is certainly nonpartisan. What I expect of each of you is a simple introductory statement that the bishop has required this message to be played during the homily time at all Masses of obligation on November the 4 th or the 5 th. If you can express some support for the message that I offer that would be appreciated but not expected. I must make it very clear that any verbal or nonverbal expression of disagreement with this teaching on the part of the priest will have to be considered by myself as an act of disobedience, which could have serious consequences.

    Here is a link to the audio that the Bishop requires be played at all “masses of obligation” the weekend before the election.

    Tom Bozzo provides a nicely reasoned examination of the Bishop’s testing the limits of 501(c)(3) free speech in an electioneering context. Among many other fine arguments, he says,

    On same-sex marriage, the Church position, as we’ve noted before, is a mishmash of incoherently selective Biblical fundamentalism and rank hypocrisy. Once you move beyond ancient assertions of at best dubious provenance towards a rational view of homosexuality, it becomes frankly silly for any self-appointed defender of marriage to want to do anything other than encourage the formation and preservation of stable relationships. Morlino is also a fan of the “we’re just saving civilization” pitch, regarding which we note the continuing absence of the breakdown of civil society in those polities that tolerate same-sex marriage or at least equivalent civil rights.

    October 29th, 2024

    FSM, IPU or ID? You decide…

    Recently the borders of the country of reason have been under siege by sectarian violence… pastafarians hurling plates of marinara at adherents of the Invisible Pink Unicorn (may her holy hooves never be shod)… Intelligent Designites hurling insults at Dawkinsians in a deft feint, an October surmise aimed at drawing attention away from their cruel assaults on human relations and social justice. While the ID folks confuse the kids with bizarre discussions predicated on heaven and hell and how many virgins a christian martyr can expect to prong if a muslim is allowed seventeen in paradise… while these weighty discussions continue in Universities across the land… and while University administrators lacking the balls god gave a banana slug (no offense UCSC) and fearful that christian fundamentalists may withhold substantial bequests and ever mindful that the size of the endowment trumps truth any day of the week, these chicken-shit academic second raters permit the bizarre intrusion of religion where honest intellectual effort had previously held sway and the insidious christian referendums aimed at throttling human rights and eroding human dignity are on the ballot in dozens of states.

    The October Surmise…
    It seems likely that if we can get people talking about the straw man issues of intelligent design, then we can deny reproductive choice, we can impose a death penalty nationwide, we can strangle the efforts to eliminate gender discrimination in the area of committed relationships, and most importantly we can hang onto the house and the senate for our oligarchic masters.

    In an effort to help clarify matters, I’ve dug up some reasonably meaningful assertions from several sides of the conflict. There are those who suggest I leave well enough alone, those who suggest that if we don’t fight them here, the Brits will have to fight them in Northern Ireland, the Israelis will have to fight them in Tel Aviv.

    The Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts” of the Pastafarians:

    1. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Act Like a Sanctimonious Holier-Than-Thou Ass When Describing My Noodly Goodness. If Some People Don’t Believe In Me, That’s Okay. Really, I’m Not That Vain. Besides, This Isn’t About Them So Don’t Change The Subject.
    2. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Use My Existence As A Means To Oppress, Subjugate, Punish, Eviscerate, And/Or, You Know, Be Mean To Others. I Don’t Require Sacrifices, And Purity Is For Drinking Water, Not People.
    3. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Judge People For The Way They Look, Or How They Dress, Or The Way They Talk, Or, Well, Just Play Nice, Okay? Oh, And Get This In Your Thick Heads: Woman = Person. Man = Person. Samey - Samey. One Is Not Better Than The Other, Unless We’re Talking About Fashion And I’m Sorry, But I Gave That To Women And Some Guys Who Know The Difference Between Teal and Fuchsia.
    4. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Indulge In Conduct That Offends Yourself, Or Your Willing, Consenting Partner Of Legal Age AND Mental Maturity. As For Anyone Who Might Object, I Think The Expression Is Go F*** Yourself, Unless They Find That Offensive In Which Case They Can Turn Off the TV For Once And Go For A Walk For A Change.
    5. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Challenge The Bigoted, Misogynist, Hateful Ideas Of Others On An Empty Stomach. Eat, Then Go After The B*******.
    6. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Build Multimillion-Dollar Churches/Temples/Mosques/Shrines To My Noodly Goodness When The Money Could Be Better Spent (Take Your Pick):

    a. Ending Poverty
    b. Curing Diseases
    c. Living In Peace, Loving With Passion, And Lowering The Cost Of Cable
    I Might be a Complex-Carbohydrate Omniscient Being, But I Enjoy The Simple Things In Life. I Ought To Know. I AM the Creator.

    7. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Go Around Telling People I Talk To You. You’re Not That Interesting. Get Over Yourself. And I Told You To Love Your Fellow Man, Can’t You Take A Hint?
    8. I’d Really Rather You Didn’t Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You If You Are Into, Um, Stuff That Uses A Lot of Leather/Lubricant/Las Vegas. If the Other Person Is Into It, However (Pursuant To #4), Then Have At It, Take Pictures, And For The Love Of Mike, Wear a CONDOM! Honestly, It’s A Piece of Rubber. If I Didn’t Want It To Feel Good When You Did It I Would Have Added Spikes, Or Something.

    Chapter 2 of the Book of the Prophet April:

    1. And the Invisible Pink Unicorn spoke unto me, and said, “Write this stuff down.”
    2. Therefore did I search my pockets, and came up with a bunch of 3×5 index cards, and also a ballpoint pen.
    3. Then did Her Equine Self touch the pen with Her marvellous horn, and lo! it turned pink! And I was much amazed, and began jotting down this account.
    4. And I said unto the Principle of Unicornity, “If we’re going to be really appropriate, shouldn’t this be in invisible ink?”
    5. Surely then was the Great One annoyed, and She spake, and said, “Do not be a wise-ass, my child, unless you want a hoof-print in your forehead. But, if you must know, when you post this to the Internet, which is the centre of My worship, then indeed shall the pinkness of the writing be invisible.”
    6. Thus was I first afflicted by the terrible jokes of Her Invisible Pink Glory.
    7. And the Unicorn spoke again, saying, “Write this. First, know that there is not merely one doom reserved for unbelievers, but a Very Big Number. Therefore am I shown to be greater than any other deity.
    8. For who else can boast the Hell #655, wherein transgressors are punished by having to listen to the endless drivel of uncountable net.kooks?”
    9. “Who else can boast Hell #333, where fundamentalists are continually sawn in half by stage magicians?”
    10. “Oh, and note down that there is no Hell #666.
    11. For that would be too easy.”
    12. So did I write all that down, and the Invisible Unicorn said, “Come again next week.”
    13. And the Holy Writings on the Sacred 3×5 Index Cards in the Blessed (Invisible) Pink Ink were put in the Very Devout Plastic File Box, where I left them, buried in the sands of A/sa/teague.

    The most catholic and holy Bishop of Pittsburgh (invoking another esteemed hierarch, this one European and wearing a Red Hat) says,

    Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, wrote in an op ed piece in the July 7, 2024, New York Times: “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry may be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

    God directs his creation toward its completion or perfection through what we call Divine Providence. This means that God has absolute sovereignty over all that he has made, and guides his creation according to the divine plan of his will. At the same time, both the evidence of the world that we discover by our human intellect and the testimony of Sacred Scripture show that for the unfolding of his plan God uses secondary causes, including the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, as well as the cooperation of our own human intellect and will.

    I have first hand knowledge that it is NOT intelligent design that leads us to call Providence “Divine,” for if there had been intelligent design then the damn big-dig would have long ago been completed to everyone’s satisfaction and Logan would be the terminus of choice in that part of New England. But today, rather than fly into Logan, particularly if you are visiting the Cape, it is obvious that Providence, yes — Divine Providence — is a better choice.

    Be that as it may, the Darwinians and the Dawkinsians also deserve to have their positions clarified here, but I just don’t have time for a reasonable bunch of people who don’t have a creed to shove down someone’s throat. Atheists? Agnostics? They’re all going to hell anyway.

    October 22nd, 2024

    How do you like them apples?

    I held onto AKMA’s “Faithful Interpretation…” for a week or so. It was tough reading. I bristled and groaned. I grumbled and moaned. Dr. Weinberger suggested I start with AKMA’s 1995 volume, “What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism?” I ordered that book too.

    Saturday we had twenty adults and six children here for a Quakerly retreat, a lengthy period (two and a half hours seated in silence) of silent worship, a wonderful lunch, and an afternoon of “worship sharing” — a few more hours with each of us reflecting on a couple of queries regarding faith, religion, and community.

    I had an interesting exchange with a Friend from Dubuque. It was complicated and I can’t do it justice here, but my friend suggested that knowledge and common understanding are not absolutes, that the word a-p-p-l-e is not an “apple” and that it doesn’t mean “apple” the same way biting into a crisp and juicy McIntosh does, and in fact that each of us experiences that in a subtly different way. I thought he would enjoy AKMA’s book.

    Toward the end of the day most of us went out into the drizzly gray afternoon and walked the labyrinth. Molly played football with the kids. Then we all came back together in the living room, centered again into silence, thanked each other for a wonderful day and went each our own ways.

    So, I gave away my copy of “Faithful Interpretation…” to the Dubuque Meeting, and after our friends had departed I went to the mailbox to collect Saturday’s mail. There was “What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism?”

    October 19th, 2024

    Megagaltastic tour de force…

    Faithful Interpretation: Reading the Bible in a Postmodern World” arrived. George Mosse gets a citation, and Eric Idle, and of course Reichsbishop Ludwig Muller. There are perhaps fewer really big words than my headline use of the adjective “megagaltastic” might imply, but the use of commas is creative and permits a parsimonious approach to the use of end-stops, as witness:

    If, however, we allow that no lode of meaning lies embedded in our texts, that we (and not texts) sponsor and permit interpretations, that communication and interpretation constitute phenomena of far greater intricacy than the verbal paradigm allows, and that we may honestly and fairly consider the possibility that a given expression may mean several different things — if we yield on these points, the guild of biblical scholars suspects that we will disrupt the exquisite architecture of human communication (and especially, of course, of God’s communication with humanity), rapidly declining into inarticulate grunts and brutality.

    Flipping the pages I see that there’s a lot of food for thought in here… an opportunity to re-visit Luce Irigaray’s sense of feminine identity and difference, nuanced linguistics, Julia Kristeva… it’ll be cool. I’ll be glad for reading it. Will I find the power of an authentic universal connection, the wailing of trumpets of spirit and truth? I’ll tell you later.

    October 18th, 2024


    (h/t to Denise)

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