In praise of the cruise's "unapologetic, gleaming banality"

Michael Ian Black for the NYT:

"But cruising’s simple sincerity never sat well with Wallace and the generation of cruise writers who followed on his sea legs. Dan Saltzstein, an editor at The New York Times Travel section, wrote in a recent articleabout taking a Disney cruise with his wife and daughter. “I’ve been a travel editor for nearly a decade,” he said, “and yet this was my first cruise.” The reason he hadn’t yet participated in America’s most popular vacation choice? “It hadn’t seemed like my bag.” Your “bag?” My dude, it’s a Disney cruise, not Burning Man."

Additional reading: David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again".

Legible cities, illegible cities

Cities visualized on polar histograms, a project by Geoff Boeing, inspired in part by Kevin Lynch's The Image of the CIty:

"60 years ago, Kevin Lynch defined “legible” cities as those whose patterns lend themselves to coherent, organized, recognizable, and comprehensible mental images. These help us organize city space into cognitive maps for wayfinding and a sense of place. But what Boston lacks in legible circulation patterns, it makes up for in other Lynchian elements (paths, edges, districts, nodes, landmarks) that help make it an “imageable” city for locals and visitors."

On being an arsehole: a defense

Jonny Thakkar in The Point -- "The trouble for philosophers is that they find disagreement to be one of life’s higher pleasures. Part of the fun of philosophy, for those who have acquired the taste, is the cut and thrust of argument: for the person proposing it’s the thrill of trying to articulate yourself in the knowledge that a step in the wrong direction could get you skewered; for the person responding it’s the thrill of trying to reverse engineer an argument until you find a chink in the armor. In principle there’s nothing personal about this, just as there’s nothing personal about trying to exploit a weakness in someone’s backhand. In practice things tend to be more complicated."

The phenomenology of the telephone

"At first, no one knew exactly how to telephone. Alexander Graham Bell wanted people to start conversations by saying, “Ahoy-hoy!” AT&T tried to prevent people from saying “hello,” arguing in Telephone Engineer magazine that it was rude [...] Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It’s almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You’ve got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete." (Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic)

"Respond as you would to the telephone, for the call of the telephone is incessant and unremitting. When you hang up, it does not disappear but goes into remission. This constitutes its Dasein. There is no off switch to the technological. Remember: When you’re on the telephone, there is always an electronic flow, even when that flow is unmarked." (Avital Ronell in The Telephone Book)

Dudes and dandies

Rose Callahan's "Dandy Portraits" — "Today, the question, "What is a dandy?" has no simple answer, and I do not claim to have the last word. Rather, this is a very personal exploration of dandyism - in it's "infinite variety" - thru the gentlemen I have had the pleasure of meeting. With each new portrait comes more curiosity, and the realization that a true dandy is a rare thing indeed."

In the 1880's, who was King of the Dudes? — "Wall was born in 1860. His father and grandfather each left him more than $1 million between his 18th and 22nd birthdays, which enabled a certain grandeur. Thereafter, Wall never drank water - only champagne - and sported a walrus mustache, gleaming monocle, and high, stiff collars encircled by one of his 5,000 flamboyant neckties. Wall eventually owned a wardrobe of 500 complete changes, useful for someone who completely changed his clothing at least six times daily.”

from Cheever's "Why I Write Short Stories"

"To publish a definitive collection of short stories in one’s late 60s seems to me, as an American writer, a traditional and a dignified occasion, eclipsed in no way by the fact that a great many of the stories in my current collection were written in my underwear.

This is not to say that I was ever a Bohemian. Hardly a man is now alive who can remember when Harold Ross edited The New Yorker magazine, but I am one of those. The Ross editorial queries were genuinely eccentric. In one short story of mine, I invented a character who returned home from work and changed his clothes before dinner. Ross wrote on the galley margin: "Eh? What's this? Cheever looks to me like a one-suiter." He was so right. At the space rates he paid, I could afford exactly one suit. In the mornings, I dressed in this and took the elevator to a windowless room in the basement where I worked. Here I hung my suit on a hanger, wrote until nightfall when I dressed and returned to our apartment. A great many of my stories were written in boxer shorts."

"Today a philosophy of music is possible only as a philosophy of new music."

"Music participates in what Clement Greenberg called the division of all art into kitsch and avant-garde, and kitsch — the dictatorship of profit over art — has long since subjugated the particular, socially reserved sphere of art. This is why reflections on the development of truth in aesthetic objectivity must be confined uniquely to the avant-garde, which is excluded from official culture. Today a philosophy of music is possible only as a philosophy of new music. What sustains is only what denounces official culture; the latter alone serves the promotion of that barbarism over which it waxes indignant. The cultured listeners almost seem to be the worst: those who promptly respond to Schoenberg's music with "I don't understand that" — a statement whose modesty rationalizes rage as connoisseurship." (Adorno, Philosophy of New Music, introduction)

Letter of recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield

From the New York Times Magazine, Jan. 26, 2018:

"Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift."

"The piece dies a natural death. It dies of old age."

"I find that as the piece gets longer, there has to be less material. That the piece itself, strangely enough, cannot take it. It has nothing to do with my patience. I don't know, my patience, how far it goes, you know. And I don't think about what your patience would be. I don't know that. In other words, I don't have a kind of psychological situation. Let's put it this way. I don't have an anxiety that I've got to stop. But there's less going into it, so I think the piece dies a natural death. It dies of old age."

Morton Feldman (Selected Interviews and Lectures, 1964-1987)

Nietzsche on the New Year

From Die fröhliche Wissenschaft — "I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favourite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself to day, and what thought first crossed my mind this year, a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful: I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yes sayer!"

Links for December 31st, 2017

The issue of "making a case for the humanities." — "Instead I wish to address the other question: the reason for studying them in the first place. That question has assumed a paramount importance in the current academic context—in which university officials, deans, provosts, and presidents all are far more likely to know how to construct an HBS case study than to parse a Greek verb, more familiar with flowcharts than syllogisms, more conversant in management speak than the riches of the English language. Hence, the oft-repeated call 'to make the case for the humanities.'"

Donald Davidson's "Swampman" thought experiment.

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty." Did Burnham really say it?

A modern retelling of the Truth of Silenus, from a University of Cape Town professor.

NPR's Rational Conversation series on Leon Bridges: Neo-soul innovation or "hollow" expression of anodyne nostalgia?

Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson in conversation on religion, mythology, ethics, and epistemology.