Mike Rosulek, a grad student at U. Illinois, has hit upon an excellent T-shirt design. Check em out at his zazzle site where you can buy them. Proceeds go to the National Center for Science Education. I think I’ll be a purchasin.
In what has got to be a very complicated metaphor, Rep. Sid Miller is proposing a bill to allow people to go up in a helicopter and gun down wild hogs. There is some concern that something might go wrong if this plan were implemented, but I just don’t see how that could be. The report at the Huffington Post is really quite funny.
A friend of mine once said that England and America are separated by a common language. While not entirely sure what this means, I’m often surprised at how much the predominant sensibilities of the two countries differ. We both have our forms of The Office, sure, and who doesn’t love Hogwarts, but it is startling how many things fail to translate even though no actual translation needs to be done. The works of Penelope Fitzgerald might be an example. This woman had two books shortlisted for the Booker and won it with a third book. Even her books that don’t get Bookered are unanimously praised in the British press. So why don’t we know her better over here?
It was in an attempt to find out that I read Blue Flowers, which was Fitzgerald’s last book which won the American National Book Critics award in 1998, two years before her death at age 88. I probably chose the wrong book. The Blue Flower is about the German Romantic poet Friedrich von Hardenberg and his love for a woman whom everyone but Fritz recognizes to be a silly dunce of a girl. She dies in the end and that’s very sad.
Before ripping into this book, which isn’t really all that bad, I should voice my prejudice. It turns out that Fritz (who became famous as the poet Novalis) was a dabbler in idealistic philosophy and was a student of Fichte. While I think there is some stuff to be learned from Fichte (I actually made a pilgramage to Jena once, myself) like most of those German idealists things lapse into nonsense pretty quickly. I also hate romantic poetry, and I have little understanding of someone who falls in love with an idiot. So, because of my own baggage, I hated Fritz and wished he had died alongside his hollow beloved.
Hating a novel’s protagonist is no better reason for hating a novel than hating a lead singer’s voice is for hating a band. (Both are often sufficient motivators, but I’m not sure they are really good reasons.) It must be said that Fitzgerald was talented. She had a very light touch, with a sort of understated humor that almost made me grin once or twice, but in general I found the book somewhat boring. It has been called a masterpiece by more than one critic, but I couldn’t help being thankful that the chapters were short and the book as a whole was only a couple of hundred pages. So, I have my doubts about “masterpiece,” but it was good enough to where I will check out another book by Fitzgerald. After all, surely so many British critics can’t be wrong, can they?
Today is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. The theory of evolution by natural selection might be the single most fertile and elegant scientific hypothesis of all time. To celebrate the bicentennial, I’ve been reading the two volume biography by Janet Browne, Voyaging and The Power of Place. Though I’m not through both of them, I can already recommend the books as among the best intellectual biographies I’ve ever read. One of the encouraging things about Darwin is that he doesn’t appear to have been one of those almost magical minds ala Newton, inventing calculus on the way to greater things. Darwin, it seems, was driven by a relentless intellectual curiousity and a keen eye for good explanations: characteristics that are a little easier to emulate than pure mathmatical aptitude. He was also, it must be said, in the right place at the right time–which is a little harder to emulate.
It’s not just a metaphor anymore. The company responsible for setting Beatles tunes to pan flutes in order to hypnotize Gap shoppers is going under. I, for one, find this encouraging. Now, if only Michael Bolton and Kenny G would go bankrupt, this economy would have hit the crap trifecta!
I normally don’t put a bunch of private lifey posts up here, but I thought it needed to be said: being an uncle is underrated. I just spent a weekend with my brother’s family in Bend, Oregon and the time I enjoyed with my niece Marly and my nephew Finnegan was, well, rejuvinating. One day I might very well have critters of my own, but the affection/responsibility ratio of the avuncular life is pretty damned good.