Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Best Sentences I Read Today

Centuries ago in the North African desert tribal dancers would perform into the late hours of the night. On a rare night a performer would seemingly transcend what was humanly possible and the crowd would chant “Ala Ala Ala” in response meaning “by God by God by God”, because they could see God in the performer’s dance. As the custom eventually took root in Spain the pronunciation changed from Ala to the more modernly known Ole; chanted in bull fighting and flamingo dancing to this day. I’m sure you all can think of times when someone performed outside themselves. Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, Michael Phelps at the 2008 Olympics, and the list goes on and on. I love to watch transcendent performances because like those in the North African desert; it gives me a glimpse of God. I’ve concluded that the only thing I love more about running than those moments when maybe I have given others, or hopefully will one day give others, a glimpse of God are those moments I feel God running in me. It’s hard to articulate, but when you experience it, you know it. Those moments that are typically effortful become effortless. The thoughts in your head melt away and all that’s left is joy, delight, and the satisfying sensation of performing outside of yourself.
from Olé by kourt + video of Ryan Hall training

Ian Bostridge's Rendition of Nacht und Träume

+ Simone Dinnerstein & Tift Merritt's version

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Our Best Chance of Taking Their Place

Tyler Cowen, the author of “An Economist Gets Lunch,” argued recently that, out of the dozens of restaurants in Washington, D.C., that aspire to be first class, only five to ten really are at any given time. A restaurant can be great for its first three to six months—as the chefs and the owners strive to make the best possible impression on diners and reviewers. But, “once these places become popular, their obsession with quality slacks off,” Cowen writes. “They become socializing scenes. . . . Their audiences become automatic.” [...] Social and economic mobility, in any system, is essentially slack arbitrage: hard work is a successful strategy for those at the bottom because those at the top no longer work so hard. By custom, we disparage the idleness of the idle rich. We should encourage it. It is our best chance of taking their place.
"Slackers: Alberto Salazar and the art of exhaustion" by Malcolm Gladwell

Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Escape from Fundamental Human Limitation

Ioanna Kohler: During a lecture you delivered at New York Law School, a student asked you what major you would recommend he select in order to become a lawyer. Your answer was quite surprising: you suggested that he choose “whatever major you want, as long as it has nothing to do with the law.” You, in fact, studied philosophy at Stanford and Oxford before studying the law at Harvard. How can the humanities or foreign languages be an asset for a jurist?

Stephen Breyer: It’s true, I’ve always thought that it was not particularly useful to study law as an undergrad. We are only allowed to live one life: it’s the human condition, there’s no escaping it. In my view, only by studying the humanities can we hope to escape this fundamental limitation and understand how other people live. Because literature, history, or philosophy all provide extraordinary windows on the world. Foreign languages, too, are fundamental.
"On Reading Proust" - Stephen Breyer, interviewed by Ioanna Kohler

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Cross Either of Thought or Action

After all, a man's life must be nailed to a cross either of Thought or Action. Without work there is no play. When I am in the Socratic mood and planning my Republic, I make drastic changes in the education of the sons of well-to-do citizens. When they are sixteen or seventeen they begin to learn a craft and to do healthy manual labour, with plenty of poetry, songs, dancing, drill and gymnastics in their spare time. They can thus let off their steam on some thing useful. It is only when they are really thirsty for knowledge, longing to hear about things, that I would let them go to the university. It would be a favour, a coveted privilege, only to be given to those who had either proved their worth in factory or field or whose qualities and zeal were pre-eminent. However, this would upset a lot of things it would cause commotion and bring me perhaps in the end a hemlock draught.
from Winston Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930), "Chapter IX, Education at Bangalore"

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Nostalgia Shop

Favorite time of the week--reading NYTimes Sunday Edition with a cup of coffee.

The photo also reminds me of a joke about Chomsky:

Hitchens once told a joke about Noam Chomsky that his dentist told him he had a problem with teethgrinding. Chomsky couldn't understand it, so he was monitored during his sleep. Still no teethgrinding. Chomsky couldn't understand it until one day his wife noticed, that he was grinding his teeth exactly 20 minutes every day, when he was reading the New York Times.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Gobbets of the Day

One of the best dedicatory essays I read in a while (albeit almost half of the essay is a direct quote): "The Career of Leon Kass" by Harvey Flaumenhaft

[Leon Kass] is by rearing a moralist, by education a generalist, by training a physician and biochemist, by vocation a teacher-and student-of philosophical texts, and by choice a lover of serious conversation, who thinks best when sharing thoughts and speeches with another.
Also some of the passages in the essay are especially interesting in light of the two excellent films—Transcendence and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—that came out recently:
In summer 1966, my closest friend had me read Rousseau's explosive Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, for which my Mississippi and Harvard experiences had prepared me. Rousseau argues that, pace the Enlightenment, progress in the arts and sciences necessarily produces luxury, corruption of morals, debasement of tastes, and eventually, loss of freedom. Soon after, I read Brave New World and C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man. I acquired a new set of questions, more challenging than how genes are regulated: What is the relation between scientific or technological progress and the moral health of a community? How can we reap the benefits of technology without eroding our freedom and our dignity? Does the scientific account of nature and human nature tell the whole, or even the best, story about us? These questions have never left me.
Addendum: A theory of the allocation of a Nobelist’s time

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Person’s Very Being

There is, in London, a painting that moves me as much every time I go and see it. It is a self-portrait painted by the late Rembrandt. His later paintings are usually characterized by an extreme coarseness of stroke, rendering everything subordinate to the expression of the moment, at once shining and sacred, and still unsurpassed in art, with the possible exception of Hölderlin’s later poems, however dissimilar and incomparable they may be—for where Hölderlin’s light, evoked through language, is ethereal and celestial, Rembrandt’s light, evoked through color, is earthy, metallic, and material—but this one painting which hangs in the National Gallery was painted in a slightly more classically realistic, lifelike style, more in the manner of the younger Rembrandt. Old age. All the facial detail is visible; all the traces life has left there are to be seen. The face is furrowed, wrinkled, sagging, ravaged by time. But the eyes are bright and, if not young, then somehow transcend the time that otherwise marks the face. It is as though someone else is looking at us, from somewhere inside the face, where everything is different. One can hardly be closer to another human soul. For as far as Rembrandt’s person is concerned, his good habits and bad, his bodily sounds and smells, his voice and his language, his thoughts and his opinions, his behavior, his physical flaws and defects, all the things that constitute a person to others, are no longer there, the painting is more than four hundred years old, and Rembrandt died the same year it was painted, so what is depicted here, what Rembrandt painted, is this person’s very being, that which he woke to every morning, that which immersed itself in thought, but which itself was not thought, that which immediately immersed itself in feelings, but which itself was not feeling, and that which he went to sleep to, in the end for good. That which, in a human, time does not touch and whence the light in the eyes springs. The difference between this painting and the others the late Rembrandt painted is the difference between seeing and being seen. That is, in this picture he sees himself seeing whilst also being seen, and no doubt it was only the Baroque period with its penchant for mirrors within mirrors, the play within the play, staged scenes and a belief in the interdependence of all things, when moreover craftsmanship attained heights witnessed neither before nor since, that such a painting was possible. But it exists in our age, it sees for us.
From Karl Ove Knausgård's Min kamp. Første bok

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Music

Rolling Stones of the rap game, not braggin
Lips bigger than Jagger, not saggin
Spell it backwards, Ima leave it at that
That aint got nothin to do with rap

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Ухааны тэнхээг шавхан улс Монголоо хөгжүүлэх түүхэн цаг үе"

Ene helsen yarisniig ni humuus sonsoj, unshdag l bailguy dee...

Өнийн түүхээ өнөөгийн ололтоор бататгаж, өрнөх ирээдүйд улам ихийг бүтээх золбоо, зорилго, зориг бидэнд бий. Эх орныхоо тусгаар тогтнол, эрх чөлөөг нандигнаж, эвийн хүч, Шударга ёсыг эрхэмлэж, үүрэг хариуцлагыг ухамсарлан ухааны тэнхээг шавхан улс Монголоо хөгжүүлэх түүхэн цаг үед амьдарч байгаагаа ямагт санаж дор бүрнээ хичээн зүтгэцгээе.
Монгол Улсын Ерөнхийлөгч Цахиагийн Элбэгдоржийн Үндэсний Их Баяр Наадмыг Хааж Хэлсэн Үг

Thursday, May 01, 2014

"And nobody loves poetry like a Russian"

Жизнь прожить — не поле перейти.
из "Гамлета" Бориса Пастернака ("Стихотворения Юрия Живаго")