Does Camus Speak to Us Now?

I just finished re-reading The Myth of Sisyphus for my philosophy book club. It has been almost twenty years since I last read it. When I read it before I thought it was brilliant, a cri de coeur for everyone to go out and live an authentic life. Today it doesn’t feel nearly so effective. No doubt some of that is due to changes in myself but there are still some exogenous factors that seem worth exploring.

Poetry and Technology

Is Twitter or any kind of technology killing poetry? That was the argument I listened to yesterday afternoon at a local Meetup group. I shake my head, silently, every time these arguments come up because they capture something real about our crazy modern life but also leave so much behind. To me poetry is just another form of technology - a linguistic one - which we use to communicate with each other.

Art, Harm, and Interpretation

A long and interesting discussion about art and interpretation at last nights Understanding Philosophy Meetup. We started with Susan Sontag’s essay “Against Interpretation” and went from there. One of the issues that came up was the potential for harm caused by art or interpretation. Since Plato philosophers and critics have acknowledged that art can be dangerous. For Plato this was a major reason to banish poets from the republic; art could only distract us from real world of truth and forms.

An Intergenerational Shakespeare

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a classic literature reading group to meet somewhere out here in the Western burbs of Minneapolis. This post is a riff on that idea. What if the group were to meet at a local retirement community? Surely there is an audience of people who are retired and interested in reading Shakespeare. Perhaps they never had a chance to read it before, or maybe they are just lifelong learning junkies like myself.

Idiom of the Hero by Wallace Stevens

I heard two workers say, “This chaos Will soon be ended.” This chaos will not be ended, The red and the blue house blended, Not ended, never and never ended, The weak man mended, The man that is poor at night Attended Like the man that is rich and right. The great men will not be blended… I am the poorest of all. I know that I can not be mended, Out of the clouds, pomp of the air, By which at least I am befriended.

Speed by Carl Sandburg, a poem

The silent litany of the workmen goes on – Speed, speed, we are the makers of speed. We make the flying, crying motors, Clutches, brakes, and axles, Gears, ignitions, accelerators, Spokes and springs and shock absorbers. The silent litany of the workmen goes on – Speed, speed, we are the makers of speed; Axles, clutches, levers, shovels, We make signals and lay the way – Speed, speed. The trees come down to our tools, We carve the wood to the wanted shape.

Turning YA

I just finished reading a wonderful short novel “The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy “ by Jeanne Birdsall It is about the summer vacation of a family of four, very independent sisters and their widowed father. They rent a cabin on a large estate in the Berkshire Mountains. During their stay they meet a young boy who lives on the neighboring estate.

Eric Rabkin on Science Fiction and Perceptions of Nanotechnology

One of the enduring joys of attending a large research university or living in close proximity to one is the chance to attend public lectures and presentations by faculty or experts on topics that pique your interest but don’t necessarily fall inside your chosen specialty. The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences hosted an inaugural symposium yesterday and today. I skipped yesterday’s event but decided to get out of bed early today to see Eric Rabkin talk about science fiction, science, and perceptions of technology.

Existential Threats and Silly Ideas about Genre SF

Charlie Stross gets things going with a post about the dissipated habits of current science fiction. Chad Orzel says not so fast, you foreigner science fiction hasn’t dissipated it’s just been outflanked by wacky internet fads. John Scalzi pipes up with a comment about how American just don’t care what other people think of our politics and John M. Ford tells it like it is - selective futurism. I think something has happened to science fiction and fantasy in the last two decades.

Time Travel in Art

I’ve been prompted to think about time travel by two recently read novels and a movie. The novels were The Time Traveller’s Wife and Slaughterhouse Five, the movie The Lake House. Is there any difference between the treatment of time travel in these works and more conventional science fiction genre works, such as H.G. Wells The Time Machine. The Lake House and The Time Traveller’s Wife are both mainstream works that use time travel to illuminate character and emotion, especially love.