Monday, 30 May 2011

I Like It!

You see it so often. In fact you see it all the time. 

Peter Singer’s almost reverential review… of On What Matters by Derek Parfit claims that the work is the “most significant work in ethics since Sidgwick’s masterpiece [The Methods of Ethics] was published in 1873”.  On the contrary, two much more important books were published by Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil (1886) and On the Genealogy of Morality (1887).  (John Greenbank, letter to the TLS 27/05/2011)

The argument is nonsense, of course. For you cannot disprove a person’s preference by replacing it with one of your own.  This is the academic equivalent of saying vanilla ice cream is better than choc-chip because I prefer it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Invitation to the Waltz

Under control.  A life like the family jewels, to be flashed around on special occasions but otherwise kept under lock and key.  Do not let anything show you are free, and therefore vulnerable; keep your exuberance, your wild emotions, within narrow limits; show that they are in your charge.  Sometimes they may peep through the railings, but never must they leave the grounds…

Saturday, 14 May 2011

This is Kitsch

Decades ago Harold Rosenberg wrote an important article about kitsch.  In it he criticised the great Dwight. C. Macdonald, who had attacked the poor quality of popular entertainment.  For Rosenberg, who also criticised Macdonald’s own clich√©’s about high culture, this was another form of the genre – writing about kitsch is kitsch.

If you don’t like popular culture ignore it; for it is not worth our attention, he wrote.  This is a stellar insight, which if followed can save much wasted time.  Much angst would have been avoided, and the twitter traffic reduced considerably, especially from the disgruntled Left, if this advice had been taken over the last few weeks.  Why worry about the royal wedding; why even think about it?  Being utterly indifferent to the event I was able to avoid nearly all of it, save for a few pictures in the Guardian, and the front covers of the celebrity magazines that decorate our supermarket shelves.  My one vague interest, as I passed William and Kate on my way into the Co-op each week, was in the race between hair loss and the ceremony I wondered which would win. 

It was all so easy to ignore!  So why get so worked up?  It suggests people are just a little too close to it…

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Beautiful Because Strange

I saw the usual Buddhist furniture – service bell, reading-desk, and scarlet lacquered mokugyo – disposed upon the yellow matting.  The altar supported a stone Jizo, wearing a bib for the sake of child ghosts; and above the statue, upon a long shelf, were smaller images gilded and painted – another Jizo, aureoled from head to foot, a radiant Amida, a sweet faced Kwannon, and a gruesome figure of the Judge of Souls.  Still higher were suspended a confused multitude of votive offerings, including two framed prints taken from American illustrated papers: a view of the Philadelphia Exhibition, and a portrait of Adelaide Neilson in the character of Juliet.  In lieu of the usual flower vases before the houzon there were jars of glass bearing the inscription ‘Reine Claude au jus; conservation garantie.  Toussaint Cosnard: Bordeaux.’  And the box filled with incense-rods bore the legend: “Rich in flavor – Pinhead Cigarettes.’  To the innocent folk who gave them, and who could never hope in this world to make costlier gifts, these ex-votos seemed beautiful because strange; and in spite of incongruities it seemed to me that the little temple did really look pretty.  (Writings from Japan, by Lafacadio Hearn)

Which is the more exotic: Jizo and Kwannon or Pinhead Cigarettes and Ms Neilson?

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Echoing Grove

Rosamond Lehmann.  Roll the name around.  Go on.  Roll it around your mouth, your lips; say it quietly and slowly.   Do you like it?  The first name full, rounded, softly judicious; and the second sharper, harder, with that heavy footstep on its last syllable.  Perfect, isn’t it, for a novelist?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Too Human...

Insight and freedom of thought are much too expensive, it seems, for our modern university.  Hunter College couldn’t afford it.  Although only paying $18,000 a year they still had to get rid of Professor Norman Finkelstein.  It is, considering his work and international reputation, a derisory salary.  He was a bargain!  Nevertheless, his price, to think independently and speak freely, was too high and so they forced him out.  His response is characteristic, and suggests something of the man: I don’t want much.  Just enough to do what he was born to do: to teach…