Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It as a comforting theory. It dispensed with all those bothersome little acts of daily courage; it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward; it justified the past while amortizing the future.

— Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, "On the Rainy River"
I'm teaching the first of three classes (in my seminar on the 1960s) on Tim O'Brien's amazing book The Things They Carried tomorrow.  It will be the fifth or sixth time, I think, I've taught it.  At least fifth, plus one time I taught the title story by itself.

Anyway, now, rereading it for class tomorrow, for the sixth or seventh or whateveritisth time, this quote struck me.  I've read those words before, of course, many times.  But each time through, of course, different quotes stand out; this one stood out tonight.

Monday, October 14, 2013

J. L. Austin's Philosophical Papers is Available Online

Awesome.  I was googling this book, hoping to use a 'search inside' function (either on google books or on Amazon or what-have-you) as an index (to then match it with my own, dead-trees copy), and I found that, lo and behold, the whole book is available online.

He's an obscure philosopher—at least these days—but, I think, an underrated one.  So now you can check him out, if you're so inclined.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Poem of the Day: Louis Macneice, "Charon"


The conductor’s hands were black with money:
Hold on to your ticket, he said, the inspector’s
Mind is black with suspicion, and hold on to
That dissolving map. We moved through London,
We could see the pigeons through the glass but failed
To hear their rumours of wars, we could see
The lost dog barking but never knew
That his bark was as shrill as a cock crowing,
We just jogged on, at each request
Stop there was a crowd of aggressively vacant
Faces, we just jogged on, eternity
Gave itself airs in revolving lights
And then we came to the Thames and all
The bridges were down, the further shore
Was lost in fog, so we asked the conductor
What we should do. He said: Take the ferry
Faute de mieux. We flicked the flashlight
And there was the ferryman just as Virgil
And Dante had seen him. He looked at us coldly
And his eyes were dead and his hands on the oar
Were black with obols and varicose veins
Marbled his calves and he said to us coldly:
If you want to die you will have to pay for it.

-- Louis Macneice

Thursday, October 03, 2013


I have blogged about palindromic dates once before, and at the time discussed two of my very favorite* palindromes: Georges Perec's Grand Pallindrome, and J. A. Lindon's brilliant palindromic poem "Doppelgänger".  (The latter is posted in its entirety at the link.)

Once you pass out of 2012, palindromic dates become in short supply -- although, of course, it all depends on what date system you use (search for "palindrome", or just scroll down.)  And if you just write the necessary numbers -- thus, "3" for the day and not "03" -- and put them in the European rather than the usual American order (which, to be fair, makes more sense (although not as much as the Chinese manner, which styles today 2013-10-3)), then today, yes, is a palindromic date.

So to celebrate, I thought I'd post** one of my very favorite artistic uses of palindromes -- up there with Perec and the Lindon -- Weird Al Yankovic's marvelous song/video parody, "Bob".

Incidentally, while the lyrics to this stand on their own (after all, they're perfectly balanced), the video itself is a parody of a famous video (avant la lettre) by Bob Dylan of his song Subterranean Homesick Blues.  If you don't know the latter, you might want to watch it first, not only 'cause it's great, but in order to properly enjoy the parody.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Weird Al:

Happy palindrome day!

* Yes, I'm claiming the Perec as a favorite without ever having read it (see post for details); I like the idea of it, the fact of it, enough for it to qualify.

** Actually repost, but the earlier post was buried in a link dump and you probably missed it (close attention that I know you pay notwithstanding).