Ramblings & ephemera

Ghost brides in China

From Reuters’ “China arrests men for murdering “ghost” brides” (26 January 2007): BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese police have arrested three men for killing two young women to sell their corpses as “ghost brides” for dead single men, a Chinese newspaper reported, warning the dark custom might have claimed many other victims. Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old […]

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

Philip Larkin on achieving happiness

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): INTERVIEWER Do you feel happiness is unlikely in this world? LARKIN Well, I think if you’re in good health, and have enough money, and nothing is bothering you in the foreseeable future, that’s as […]

Anthony Burgess on his ideal reader

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, short-sighted, color-blind, auditorily biased, who has read the books that I have read. He should also be about my age.

Woody Allen on what he’s interested in focusing on in his art

From Michiko Kakutani’s interview of Woody Allen in “The Art of Humor No. 1” (The Paris Review: Fall 1995, No. 136): The same things come up time after time. They’re the things that are on my mind, and one is always feeling for new ways to express them. It’s hard to think of going out […]

Woody Allen on immortality

From Michiko Kakutani’s interview of Woody Allen in “The Art of Humor No. 1” (The Paris Review: Fall 1995, No. 136): As I’ve said many times, rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I would rather live on in my apartment.

Are Christians persecuted in the US? Uh, no.

A woman on Facebook claimed that Christians are “persecuted” in the US. I responded: Christians are being persecuted in the US? Please. Wikipedia: “Religious persecution is systematic mistreatment of an individual or group due to their religious affiliation.” Under that definition, there is no freaking way that Christians are persecuted in the US. The majority […]

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010): Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but […]

Catastrophic atheism

From Damon Linker’s “Another Kind of Atheism” (The New Republic: 11 May 2010): But a different kind of atheism is possible, legitimate, and (in Hart’s view) more admirable. Let’s call it catastrophic atheism, in tribute to its first and greatest champion, Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in a head-spinning passage of the Genealogy of Morals that […]

Errol Morris on film noir

From Errol Morris’s “Film Legend Errol Morris Salutes New Graduates At 2010 Commencement” (Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: 10 May 2010): There are many things I liked about noir. But in particular, there are images of one benighted character after another struggling to make sense of the world – and sometimes failing in the effort. […]

Atheism is not fundamentalism

From PZ Myers’s “High Priest Epstein in Newsweek” (Pharyngula: 14 June 2007): The “new atheism” (I don’t like that phrase, either) is about taking a core set of principles that have proven themselves powerful and useful in the scientific world — you’ve probably noticed that many of these uppity atheists are coming out of a […]

There, on the Darkened Deathbed by John Masefield

This is pretty much what I think happens when we die, and unfortunately, what happens eventually after we die. There, on the darkened deathbed, dies the brain That flared three several times in seventy years; It cannot lift the silly hand again, Nor speak, nor sing, it neither sees nor hears. And muffled mourners put […]

The dangers of loyalty based on personality, not policies

This quotation is directly about politics, but it’s about anyone – or even anything – we emotionally attach ourselves to. From Glenn Greenwald’s “My friend the president” (Salon: 8 December 2009): Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are […]

Refusing a technology defines you

From Sander Duivestein’s “Penny Thoughts on the Technium” (The Technium: 1 December 2009): I‘m interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I’m interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by […]

The Irish Church lies in creative – and evil – ways

From Patsy McGarry’s “Church ‘lied without lying’” (Irish Times: 26 November 2009): One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Dublin Archdiocese report was that of the concept of “mental reservation” which allows clerics mislead people without believing they are lying. According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and […]

Religion, God, history, morality

From Steve Paulson’s interview with Robert Wright, “God, He’s moody” (Salon: 24 June 2009): Do you think religions share certain core principles? Not many. People in the modern world, certainly in America, think of religion as being largely about prescribing moral behavior. But religion wasn’t originally about that at all. To judge by hunter-gatherer religions, […]

Some reasons why America hasn’t been attacked since 9/11

Image via Wikipedia From Timothy Noah’s “Why No More 9/11s?: An interactive inquiry about why America hasn’t been attacked again” (Slate: 5 March 2009): … I spent the Obama transition asking various terrorism experts why the dire predictions of a 9/11 sequel proved untrue and reviewing the literature on this question. The answers boiled down […]

A beheading in Saudi Arabia

Image via Wikipedia From Adam St. Patrick’s “Chop Chop Square: Inside Saudi Arabia’s brutal justice system” (The Walrus: May 2009): This is Saudi Arabia, one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle. Decapitation awaits murderers, but the death penalty also applies to many other crimes, such as armed robbery, […]

Van Gogh on death

From Roger Ebert’s “Go gentle into that good night” (Roger Ebert’s Journal: 2 May 2009): Van Gogh in Arles wrote this about death: Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why? I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots […]

Roger Ebert on death

From Roger Ebert’s “Go gentle into that good night” (Roger Ebert’s Journal: 2 May 2009): What I expect will most probably happen [when I die] is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function, and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. Perhaps […]