July 31, 2004
In the opening chapter of Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes, not without irony: "Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students" (Houghton Mifflin annotated edition, page 2). I claim not to be on a level with Thoreau, by any means. But please, just this once, regard this blog as a guide for students who are poor in time, money or energy. Save all three, and don't go see The Village. Yes, it was that bad.
July 30, 2004
It seems that the executive editor of CNet is displeased with the performance of the bloggers admitted with credentials to the Democratic National Convention. I can't speak from any kind of experience, seeing as how I didn't actually read many of the blogs covering the convention. I don't know if Mr. Cooper is correct or not. But even if the blogs were not on par with the big media, and even if the big media is as bloated and agenda-ist as some critics claim, more view points and more voices probably all add up to a good thing, if you ask me.
July 29, 2004
While I sometimes have my own sleep problems, I usually devote at least seven -- sometimes eight -- hours a night to sleeping. While geared primarily toward women, this article offers valuable information on why we should get enough sleep. I often have a bit of trouble getting to sleep, and I can never go back to sleep if I wake up, nor can I take naps (a result of ADD, I suppose.) A bad night of sleep makes me lazier than usual, simply stupid and constantly hungry. The article explains why most of this is so. Geez, I thought I was the only one who gets insatiably hungry from not sleeping sometimes. Usually, though, I have enough sleep in my bank that I can stay up as late as I have to, even going so far as to skip a night's sleep or two. My favorite way to get from Boston to Baltimore for holidays was to take the train (I don't like to fly anymore). By far, my favorite train was the old diesel line that started at about 10 p.m. in Boston and arrived in Baltimore around dawn. Having enough sleep has always been the key to being able to burn through the night while travelling, camping, driving or -- in painfully rare cases -- working. Of course, I'm lucky that I've been a full-time university student since 1997 and that I have the luxury of a flexible schedule.
July 28, 2004
This is in response to Silver Spartan's thoughtful comment: I think my not eating meat or wearing leather is not a rational/moral imperative in the usual [Kantian] sense. Basing morals/ethics on rationality, as Kant does, degrades the ethical, to be sure. My vegetarianism is, rather, a single instance of not doing something I think/feel I should not be doing. I quit smoking about two months before I went veggie, and it was for the same reason. I felt like I shouldn't be doing it. It sounds inane, most likely to say that, but I suppose it's in line with sound Transcendentalist ideals, i.e., there is no higher voice than one's conscience, the voice of the "divine" (whatever name one chooses to give to such an entity) inside of us. Nevertheless, as Max Scheler is careful to point out, any sort of moral/ethical "ought" is necessarily an individual ought, specific to each person. What I ought to do is follow my conscience, and what another ought to do is follow his or hers. Our consciences may not all say the same things. Most people's consciences might agree that killing another person is wrong and that lying is something to avoid. One important thing to remember is that other people have different consciences, and berating people who feel that there is nothing wrong with eating meat is always unfair. To expect someone to listen to another's conscience over their own defeats what a conscience is for. I can imagine that some people feel like they should not watch television or drive a car, and I know some people who feel like they should go to church everyday or work for charity. I might not feel these particular things (I love driving, in fact), but some people do. Perhaps we could all be a little more understanding of one another and patient with one another if we were to remember that there are a lot of things that we all feel differently about and that we cannot always change this.* I like to believe that I am not one of those judgmental vegetarians; I don't even like to talk about what I eat much sometimes. Unfortunately, there are enough veggie jerks to give us all a bad name. "Oh, how can you eat that?" I hate being in a restaurant or a cafe' and hearing someone say loudly, "I don't eat meat." Nothing makes vegetarianism seem so negative as such statements. I'm not entirely innocent: I recall once asking someone if he killed his steak himself, but that was only after he did a rabbit impression of me for having a plate full of veggies. We were both joking, though, of course. In the end, it's not always hard for me to not eat meat. It smells good, but I can resist it pretty easily, since it would feel so bad to eat it. The same goes for smoking. Sometimes, over a beer or coffee with my friends in Maryland, I would love to light one up. But I would not really be able to enjoy it. Now, the trick is to make doing or not doing the other things I feel I should or should not be doing as easy as not eating meat or smoking. If getting my research done and publishing papers were as easy for me as eating extra veggies, I would be in very good shape indeed. [* The ever-wise William James even goes so far as to claim that one's choice of philosophy will always be determined by one's temperament, and Scheler says that we are fated to certain orders of preferring in what we love and hate. Both, however, are careful to reserve the freedom for us to choose within these frameworks.]
July 27, 2004
July 26, 2004
We went to Giant City State Park on a very cloudy Saturday this weekend. I did a sketch of a creek and read some of Thoreau's biography and took some photos of the translucent and phosphorescent fish darting around in the muddy creek (click the photo to see a larger image). It was astounding how much more quiet it is when one is actually in the middle of a state park in the National Forest, rather than merely right outside of it as I am when at home. The only thing I ever really hear here in addition to the natural sounds is the road noise of Illinois Route 51, which is just beyond the woods behind my apartment and which winds through the National Forest. On a windless, humid, cloudy, cool day in July, the stillness next to a creek settled amidst the stone bluffs of Giant City State Park can be quite eerie. And even more refreshing. It was so peaceful that I did not want to go for any kind of hike and get sweaty, lest my placidity be disturbed. The silence was eventually disturbed, not at all unpleasantly, by about fifty motocycles in a single file moto-march. I got out my camera and set the shutter speed to a very low setting and held still enough (I had tea, rather than coffee that afternoon) to snap this photo of some bikers at the end of the throng.
July 25, 2004
I just cancelled my TypePad account. I am waiting for my confirmation email, and then it's official. I am no longer paying SixApart, Ltd. for a weblog. Oh, well. I'm still paying BlogHosts, but I like them. I have a domain and a server and I might move this blog there one day, but that would just be for the fun of having my own domain. I'll still use Blogger. For now, though, I'm very happy here where everything is free and unlimited, on BlogSpot. I'm sure I'll mess around my template continually, as I am wont to do, however. My buddy Dan says that the green hurts his eyes, and I think I might re-upload all of the photos via Hello (changing the code doesn't work because of the way it uploads) so that they show up larger before you click on them. We'll see. It's a rainy, crappy day, so I might have some time to mess around. I lead a very exciting life.
July 23, 2004
The balcony (really a raised deck not accessible from the ground) after the rain. Boy, we had some moderately violent storms last night. The subwoofer on our stereo had to compete with the frequent thunder last night as we watched The Bourne Identity, in preparation for going to the first showing of The Bourne Supremacy in Carbondale. That's right. I am taking off a day of research to go see a movie. I got a good bit finished this week, and I'm allowed to have a break today. Besides, the Mazda needs its first oil change today. The rain thoroughly soaked the wood outside. Even though it's already humid as hell, the wood is cool and smooth under my bare feet, almost polished from the pressure of heavy rain . Too bad the sun is making its way over the trees and will dry it out shortly. Oh, well. If the wood always felt that way, I wouldn't really notice, care or appreciate it, would it?
July 21, 2004
Today would have been Ernest Hemingway's 105th birthday. I celebrated by finishing A Moveable Feast (a $2 copy from 1964 that just plain stinks, in a good way) and deciding to use wooden pencils, rather than obsessing over pens (as I am wont to do). There's nothing like unfinished cedar on a Moleskine and the smell of coffee and the sound of a little pencil sharpener in one's hands to bring one a bit of old Papa.
July 19, 2004
My brother Tom and I, Walden Pond, April 2000. I thought I had a picture from the day before I moved away from Boston of a post-thunderstorm Walden Pond, but I can't find it. Instead, here is a photo of my handsome brother and of your favorite philosophy student taken over four years ago. My brother is the gent with the sunglasses. That's me in the white sweater. It's not a great photo, but it scanned Okay. I miss Boston a lot sometimes. A very good friend of mine sent me a postcard from Walden Pond last week, since he was there on the fourth of July. Luckily for me, Boston is the city in the world with the greatest density of colleges and universities. I have a feeling that I might go back for a little while. Getting a one or two year teaching stint somewhere up there after I finish my PhD here in Illinois would be fantastic. Perhaps I can get a grant to go to Harvard and work on William James and Emerson for a bit. It's not unheard of. Well, Boston is the one city aside from Baltimore where I would be willing to settle. I should wrap this up, however, lest this post turn into a chronology of my two years in Beantown, complete with lovely memories of life on the shore and of the myriad of bookstores...
July 16, 2004
Let me preface this by explaining why I have not eaten meat in almost two years, and why I have no plans to in the future. Well, it began as a thought-experiment: what do I feel when I eat meat? It turned out that I felt like I was doing something "wrong," and so I stopped doing it. No one should ever do something she or he really feels is something she or he should not be doing, right? Beyond any moral or ethical framework, phenomenologically speaking, the experience of guilt is self-evident and something to be taken seriously. I like to think that I am not one of those militant, PETA-loving bunny-huggers. I no longer belong to PETA because I think that their tactics alienate the people whose minds they seek to change. I have no problem with anyone else eating meat, and, yes, the smell of pork or seafood still makes my mouth water. One should certainly be true to one's own feelings about eating meat. And if one feels fine doing it, one should eat steak and enjoy it! I wish I could feel that way and just enjoy a steak. Being the only member of a large extended family who lives far away and the only one who doesn't eat meat is really not all that fun. I miss meat sometimes. Anyway, I finished Hemingway's True at First Light, the fictional memoir of a 1950s safari in Kenya, last weekend. And now I feel the urge to go out and hunt an animal to its death. And then eat it. Not a deer or a gopher -- something that can take me down if I miss my shot. I remember a passage in Thoreau's writings, in Walden, I think, where he talks about this sudden, wild desire to kill and eat a muskrat. What is it that can make a human person want to kill an animal out of some nameless urge, even a person who would get violently ill if he were to eat meat (Thoreau or myself)? Is there some long-forgotten blood-lust that one would need an anthropologist to explain? Have I just sublimated my "army-brat" upbringing, since I never went into the military myself but still can shoot better than even my father, the retired officer? Maybe there is some truth to some of the maniacal statements of Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Maybe men have become a bunch of sissies who need to beat the shit out of each other or "put a bullet in the head of every panda who won't screw to save its species." Maybe, in our weblogging, cell-phoning, latte'-drinking, foreign-car-driving, metrosexual excuse for modern man, the idea of hunting down a lion or a bear just winds our clocks more than a sale on boot-cut jeans at J. Crew. Maybe that old-fashioned, seething, hulking masculinity is just outdated, as a result of cultural evolution. One does not have to chase down and spear or rifle an animal for meat. We have grocery stores. Being beefy and gruff will, for better or for worse, not get a man in modern America a job, a wife/husband (up yours, Bush), respect or anything else he might want, merely on its own merit. But neither does being a bit effeminate aid a man in his endeavors. So what is an American man to do? Hunt, or buy make-up and nylons? Or mold himself into something else, develop some other "manly virtue"? What is the virtue of a "man's man" without a gun, a hot-rod or a bloody lip? This all sounds a little Sartrian: being stuck in modern life with no essence to latch on to. But I wonder if there isn't something to the loss of manliness in American life today. What will be the result? Will we get more violent with one another, or will we become more gentle all around? Or something else or more, still? Scary. I'm going to go and have some Darjeeling tea and stroke my four-day stubble and bask in my paradoxicity.
July 15, 2004
July 14, 2004
Per The Writer's Edge: "CARPENTER SPACE PEN. Includes Scale, (CM and Inches), Magnetic strip, Drywall gauge, Level, Plumb, Cross Level. Contains Black Ink, Medium Point Pressurized Fisher Space Pen. Writes at any angle, on drywall, wood, metal, glass, plastic, rubber, foam and in extreme freezing cold down to -50F below zero." I was talking to my friend Dan on the computer last night, and I lamented that I don't have any useful skills, since I've been studying thinking since 1997 non-stop. We were talking about carpenter pencils (I think they're really cool), and I thought of our talk when I saw this carpenter space pen today. I have a request out to the owner of my favorite space pen source, asking for Jim Fisher's address (Mr. Fisher invented space pens), since said owner knows Mr. Fisher personally. I've always wanted to write to him. Well, I may not have any useful skills. But I have some useful gear. Aside from the excessively (yes, I mean that) useful Moleskines, there are the always useful space pens. They go well together, even if you like gel ink sometimes, like me. Or old-school pencils.
July 13, 2004
July 12, 2004
You can't tell from the photo, but there are baby birds in this little hut on a string that over-looks our balcony. Their Mama is in a tree, right off of the balcony. She's chirping at me to leave her babies alone, even though I don't even have the sliding glass door open and am taking a photo through one of several windows that I should really get around to washing. But now the family of finches is gone. The babies are all grown up, and their Mama is not pooping on our balcony anymore. The nest is still there, but the little family has flown away, probably into Shawnee National Forest, down the road. Maybe if I get a birdbath and put one of my gnomes outside to guard it, the finches will come to visit. The heat index tomorrow will be well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'm sure they could use some cooling off. And I miss those little birds already.
July 11, 2004
My tiny new cast iron tetsubin teapot. And a huge tin of full-leaf green tea. Not much to say about it. It speaks for itself, especially if you hold it and feel its weight and drink tea made in it and wash it with no soap and dry the pointy iron with a red towel. But I guess you can't. The internet has not come that far yet. Yet.
July 09, 2004
When I was in high school, I was -- more or less -- "defined" by being the kid in my class who was "the artist." I let my grades slip in high school (being a straight-A-geek my whole life up to that point was boring, I guess), but I still received an academic award for my graduating class, the "Michelangelo Buonarroti Award for Excellence in the Fine Arts." Yes, your favorite philosopher-type-dude was trained to be an artist and almost went to art school. (Boasting...) I know how to properly use all of that expensive art gear. I sculpted the Archangel Gabriel once (I really liked Christopher Walken’s character in The Prophecy, though my sculpture looked more like the angel of death than it looked like Mr. Walken). I know how to paint with all kinds of paints, and I used to go to AP English proudly with paint under all of my fingernails. I won the blue ribbon my senior year in the spring art show. There is an illustrated school directory in the lobby of my old high school that I painted by hand everyday for months. I used to be a really interesting guy. I had golf-grass-green Dr. Marten’s that clashed deliberately with my dyed-red hair. I used to button all of my shirts up all the way because no one else did, and all of my toenails were painted a different color. I played the electric bass guitar in Franciscan folk groups and choirs. I used to walk to the Baltimore Museum of Art every Sunday afternoon with my friend Chris. But I have not sketched or painted since 1997. So why the heck am I telling ya’ll this? I was brain-storming paper ideas in my office today and doodling in my Scheler notebook, and I sketched my travel mug full of Darjeeling. It looked pretty nice. I remembered that art used to be my “Sache” as the Germans say. My thing. My business. What I was about. Low and behold, Carbondale is full of craft stores that sell very nice art supplies, not to mention our various text-book stores that sell some also very fine art supplies. I ran around picking the most compact sketching set I could find (in a tin) and then went to the local Barnes and Noble to pick up a Moleskine pocket sketch book. I decided today that I would try my hand at drawing again and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take up painting again. I haven’t been writing or playing my bass or mandolin lately. I’m probably so directionless and bored lately because I have no creative outlet. Believe me, academic philosophy is no such outlet. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I had gone to art school. Would I still be as interesting as I was in high school? Would I be crazy (or stupid) enough to be working on a PhD in philosophy? Would I have met my wife? Oh, well. Art works better for me as a hobby than philosophy would. And, if anything looks good enough to let another human being see, I might post some scans. I knew I bought that scanner for a reason. And maybe I’ll watch the modern rendition of Great Expectations this weekend. I have always liked the art work in that film, and it always makes me want to draw or paint. (The soundtrack is great, too.)
July 08, 2004
I did finally get to take my walk to the campus lake yesterday. It turns out that my caffeine-driven office time paid off, and I finished what work I wanted to finish by the end of the week by early afternoon on Wednesday. And it was not as hot or humid; there was even a pleasant breeze roaming across the southern side of the university campus. And the sun was out in full regalia, including its blue sky cape with puffy, fluffy, white cloud collar. I walked over to the the lily pads at one of the small coves on the edge of the lake, and I just missed getting a photo of a spotted frog, as he jumped into the lake. I did shoot a photo in time to get the ripples made by his watery escape. In all, I didn't get any photos of wildlife, except for some blurry photos of a haughty squirrel who was not very afraid of me. I did, however, get some nice photos of the greenery. This is the bottom of a lily pad, close up. That is really the color green they are on the underside; I used no photo effects at all. These pads are large enough and flexible enough that I suppose one could roll one up tightly, sew it up into a cone with some thread, and drink tea out of it -- though I am sure this would not bode well for the lily pad. I have yet to try this experiment, however, so I am unable to report whether or not one can drink Darjeeling from a lily pad. I guess that, if one could, Thoreau would have told us so already. I was lugging around my backpack and had too caffeine, so I began to get a bit warm. As such, I retreated to the safety of the car -- a fifteen minute walk from the lake -- and basked in the air conditioning. This is the sky and some oak leaves through the darkened glass of the Mazda's sunroof. I'm quite ashamed that most of the green life I ever view is through one of the panes of glass in the car. I am not sure if that is a consequence of the abundance of green beings around here, the fact that one has to drive everywhere in this part of Illinois, or my own laziness when it comes to a good walk lately. I suppose it's a combination of all these things, but I really could -- and should -- make more of an effort to get outside more. A nice walk to the lake was a good start, I think.
July 06, 2004
I don't really have anything interesting to say today. I thought I would, because I thought I would brave the heat and take a walk to the big lake on campus today. I didn't know we would have such violent thunderstorms in the afternoon after I took pages and pages of notes on Scheler and that hanging out around trees would not be a great idea, compared with the fortress of Faner Hall, where my office is. So I have nothing to say which is worth publishing to the world. But I am in a good mood, and I have to post something, after all. One cannot just sit on his or her good mood and not spread the smiles. So here is a photo of my mother's twin brother. His name is Garry with two Rs. And his smile is infectious.
July 05, 2004
I wanted to take a short hike in the state park today and perhaps write in my Moleskine a bit and take some photos. But it was just too hot. And humid. And still. Ick. So instead, I stayed inside and looked at pictures of Giant City State Park on my computer and finished updating the archives of this blog from my old TypePad blog. That photo was taken two weeks ago, when my super-good buddy Chris was in town. We also went to Makanda that day, to visit the labyrinth behind the Rainmaker's Studio on the Boardwalk. There is a secret garden behind the studio, and to get there, you have to go through the bottom of an old pirate ship...it's a very magical place. There are towers and ponds everywhere, and this photo is of the main tower:
I am probably a wimp for not going hiking today. Thoreau always talks about how we should seek "brute nature," even in the winter snow. I love Thoreau, don't get me wrong. But I spent three summers in New England, and, well, it just doesn't get this hot there. I love to hike in the cold as much as anyone, but getting heat stroke is not my idea of "communing with nature." I am telling myself that hiking today would have been dangerous. Besides, I really should have been in my office working today, but I decided that I could have a day off for the holiday. I didn't feel like doing anything but sitting around and working on the computer at home, in the nice digitally-controlled air conditioning. This poor kitty didn't have such a luxury, so he curled up on a bench on the Boardwalk in Makanda. That's a good idea, kitty.
July 04, 2004
This is a hand-blown glass orb I bought at the Makanda Spring Fest in May. I realized that I don't have any photos of the American flag, so this will have to do. I'm tired, and I want to go and watch The English Patient. The "Special Edition DVD" is out now, and I was suckered in as soon as I saw the ad on our new Cold Mountain DVD the other night. I've not the seen the former, though I have no good reason for it. I'm a lazy consumer pig, I know. But I really like movies.
July 03, 2004
I usually don't "get political" on here, as we usually do that on Blog Collective. So forgive me. I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 today. I was not in the mood to watch it, since I had one of those headaches you get from sleeping too late, and I really wanted to go outside today. However, we were going to get (and indeed did get) violent storms today, and my wife really wanted to see it. So to the flick I went. You know, a lot of people are calling this film a piece of propaganda. I think that's inaccurate. I think that what critics mean to say is that Michael Moore is a liar (which I don't really believe), and they don't know the proper meaning of the word propaganda. Propaganda, in their eyes, involves deliberate deception, whether that is in the form of outright lying, spinning or omitting the truth or what have you. There is a fine line between presenting the truth in a biased manner (what propaganda essentially is) and their idea of propaganda, and I don't think that Michael Moore crossed that line more than any news outlet which only shows us half of the truth and such anyway. If Fahrenheit 9/11 is propaganda, so is the damned "Today Show." There is nothing terribly wrong with propaganda always, and one might say that anyone who puts forth his or her views cannot help putting a slant on them. Then we're all guilty of propaganda, aren't we? Maybe I'm wrong or crazy. Or, god forbid, biased. Besides, I don't think critics are giving Moore enough credit for his fairness. When he showed something that the American media censored, he rarely called attention to it. He never mentioned Tony Blair by name, and Prime Minister Blair was only in the background of shots twice. He never actually says anything negative about Bush or anyone else, for that matter. He lets them embarrass themselves. He states facts about the actions of the Bush administration without really judging them at the same time outloud. He doesn't have to. If one is worried about unfairness, and one has not seen this film, one should shut up promptly and not criticize it. I think it is the most emotionally trying documentary in the history of film-making. And it has little to do with Michael Moore's orchestration, i.e., music, voice-overs, etc. It is upsetting because of what happened. The charred bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets and hung on posts are what is disturbing, not Michael Moore's film-making. The people weeping in theaters are not weeping because of Michael Moore. Men younger than I am are dying and many more are suffering. When the gloss of the big media goes away, we see that what is going on is terrible and grossly unnecessary. Indeed, the sickest thing about this is that it is entirely unjustified. Even if Moore's suspicions are true, and this is all about money and power, neither of those hollow things are worth human lives and human pain. The ever-wise Max Scheler says that sacrifice is the act of giving up something for a higher value (since he thinks values are phenomenologically given, prior to all cognition, as higher or lower than other values). Sacrifice is a word used a lot in Fahrenheit 9/11. I think Michael Moore is on the right track, but he didn't come out and say it: our troops are dying for nothing. They are not sacrificing their lives for anything, since what they are dying for -- money, power, or utter foolishness -- is unquestionably lower than their own immeasurable value as human persons. Each and every one of the noble people over there are worth more than all of the Bush family's and Saudi Arabia's money -- each person alone. Throwing away life for anything that serves life (which money and power do) goes against all human reason and feeling and goodness and enters the realm of evil. Am I saying that the Bush administration is evil? Yes, I am. Lying that causes death is evil, especially when the consequences of such lying are clearly foreseeable. The war machine has thrown away American and Iraqi lives for nothing that is a higher value than those lives. It's backwards. And we are all fools if we sit back and let this keep happening. Just because the thought that innocent people are dying for nothing is a terrible thought to stomach doesn't make it untrue. If that were my brother, I would have a hard time dealing with the idea that he didn't sacrifice himself for a greater good but that some businessmen-turned-politicians threw his life away and didn't even give him a choice in the matter. That is without question. But no amount of pain can make something untrue or make something go away, as if it never happened. But action can. I didn't vote in the last election. I was a senior in college and was studying some peace studies, and I didn't want to take part in the government, for my own stupid reasons. Luckily, Maryland always votes Democratically in the Presidential elections. This year, I thought about sending in my absentee ballot to Maryland. Who wants jury duty, right? But I'm going to vote in Illinois anyway. I hear that Illinois can go either way in Presidential elections, and I need to do my part for my country by getting rid of Bush. The biggest reason I want to vote here, though, is for the pleasure I will get when I leave my polling place having voted against that bastard. Michael Moore is certainly doing his part to enlighten people. My brother who is in the United States military (and I am, and will always be, proud of him) was a Bush supporter. Hell, when he told me last weekend that he was going to see Fahrenheit 9/11, I thought he was joking with me, since no one in my family really agrees with me on most political matters. However, I spoke with him for a long time yesterday, and he told me that he did really see it. And he is not voting for Bush now. Way to go, Michael!