cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick

Taking the part of Stalin in Then There Were Giants (also titled World War II: When Lions Roared ), An American TV mini-series (1994) Michael Caine says:

A Russian proverb says poke out the eyes of the man who sees only the past

June 29, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

Turgenev letters

A NYT archive pdf of Turgenev writing to George Sand and others, in facsimile.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

Kierkegaard’s “Mystery Of Unrighteousness” In The Information Age

Mentioned in woods lot 22 June 2008

Kierkegaard’s “Mystery Of Unrighteousness” In The Information Age

is a paper by Brian T. Prosser (Fordham University) and Andrew Ward (The Georgia Institute of Technology)

A clue to some of its contents can be devined from the biblo:

Baker, A. (1998), “Cyberspace Couples Finding Romance Online Then Meeting for the First Time in Real Life”, CMC Magazine online at accessed 03.22.2001

Dreyfus, H. (1999) “Anonymity Versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet”, Ethics and Information Technology, v.1, no.1, 15-21.

Kierkegaard, S. (1962a) The Point of View for My Work as an Author, tr. W. Lowrie, Harper&Row Publishers.

Kierkegaard, S. (1962b) The Present Age, tr. A.Dru, Harper&Row Publishers.

Kierkegaard, S. (1967) Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, 7 vols., tr. & ed. Hong & Hong, Indiana University Press. [Note: references are to journal entry numbers, not page numbers.]

Marcuse, H. (1964), One-Dimensional Man, Beacon Press.

Prosser, B.T. and Ward, A. (2000), “Kierkegaard and the Internet: Existential Reflections on Education and Community”, Ethics and Information Technology, v.2, no.3, 167-180.

Szalavitz, M. (1999), “Can We Become Caught in the Web?” in Newsweek, December 6.

Turkle, S. (1995), Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, Simon and Schuster.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | general | , , | Leave a comment

My father used to say

When someone begins to say “My father used to say…” who cannot (if father used to have sayings at all) begin to remember, or picture, father saying something and only half hear the other father’s saying. Someone recently told me her father used to say, “Life is like a salami”. Imagine your own explanation.

The character “The Prince” played by Louis Jordan in the 1978 movie, “Silver Bears” says:

My father used to say, “A man is judged by two things: his motor car….”. I don’t remember the other.

To make it clear – and spoil the joke – father knew the two things but The Prince only remembered the one.

My father didn’t have sayings: he didn’t say much at the best of times. He once told me to stop reading my just-bought comics in the car and look out of the window instead. It was a left-wheel drive Sunbeam Alpine with red upholstery, and we had just driven past the Armenian Church on Nidal Street in Baghdad in 1957. He used to ask, instead of sayings, things like, “Do you see any green in this eye (as he placed an index finger on his upper cheek)?” Nobody did. They were not not green.

Do boys remember the colour of their fathers eyes?

June 26, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

The Art of Surprise – A Lecture by Steve Vineberg

The Art of Surprise

He mentions { wiki:anagnorisis }

which links to { wiki:peripetia}

and { wiki: hamartia }

E-text : Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Poetics

Another e-text of Poetics

June 21, 2008 Posted by | general | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Nicolas Carr writes in Atlantic Monthly (link from 3 Quarks) on reading and writing styles and technology. Though it deals with surfing vs. old fashioned reading, it also picks up on such fascinating arcanerie as Nietzsche having to resort to a typewriter when he couldn’t write by hand any more and what effect this had on his writing style attested to by contemporaries.

John Naughton [Observer, 22 June 2008 ], I Google, therefore I am losing the ability to think, takes up the cudgels bringing in mention of Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age and the  notion that having it so readily to hand removes the need to remember it. Then he finishes with:

But people have worried about this since… well… the Greeks. In the Phaedrus, Socrates tells how the Egyptian god Theuth tried to sell his invention – writing – to King Thamus as ‘an accomplishment which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt

for memory and wisdom.’ To which the shrewd old king replied that ‘the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practise it… Those who acquire writing will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful… What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory.’

If you are talking about the web you are talking about hypertext, which can be revised by checking out The Electonic Labyrinth. One of the main points is that hypertext existed before the web. This particular website deals with the creative implications of digital hypertext — pointing out that hypertext itself existed before digitally hyperlinked hypertext — which can be read starting from the page, The non-linear tradition in literature.

I have written on the web as hypertext, including what a blog is and isn’t in this respect( e.g. TiddlyWiki ). When checking this post from Moleskine Modality, make sure to go to Eli Springer’s home page, then open up links in it to see how the new information is added to the original home page text. Stage I: open link Eli Springer in the home page then in that page, as an example, the link ‘moral change’ to show how all three sets of text are available on the same page. Note in each new text box, in the top right-hand corner, there is a choice to close the box down. It is possible to open every link in the home page, and every link in (for simplicity) the Eli Springer page.

In the Carr is the argument that something radical is happening to both reading and writing, in the suggestion there might be some sort of cognitive change going on. This, from the background of writing being something we learn as opposed to spoken language which we are essentially born with the ability to use.

Since the brain is an associative organ (but this only works because it had something stored away in memory) it seems more likely that the web, as the ultimate, though not infinite, hypertext, is echoing what the brain is already good at. And that linear texts, though traditional and popular, are the anomoly. It is just that the technology took time to catch up with the the way the brain works. Saying this does not mean that surfing is more efficient than reading books.

There can be no better analogy to this than conversation. There are different styles, but in the main we latch onto keywords and respond to them, much in the same way we are attracted to a particular link in a webpage. When we pick out a keyword from someone else’s speech, we might intervene if we know something about the subject and want to say what we know or think. We often semi-switch off our concentration when someone is saying something we feel we already know a lot about, but switch back on (if we are good listeners) when words and phrases alert us.

A conversation between two people, is often surrounded by other external events such as other people talking who may not be connected with that particular conversation and other things going on which the couple talking are not interested in. It is not unknown for a person to be distracted by something happening even if the conversation is riveting. A child falls off his tricycle; a car backfires; a light-bulb blows; a woman breaks down in tears. This can stop a conversation and lead to the two people talking about the ‘external’ event. What is this if not coming across something startling in a webpage and taking the link to find out what it offers?

Leaving aside surfing as a way to pass time, there is ‘good’ surfing and ‘bad’ surfing just like good conversation. Good surfing is a discipline in which the surfer does not stray too far from the intended object just like good research from books. The worst surfing is a kind of Freudian free-association, in which at the end of the session you have no idea why you started, and may be a bit vague as to why you began. A good surf always stays within bounds or reason because there is a limited goal and because within each brain is a core of what the individual possessing it considers important or significant. So a fact already known or an idea already familiar, will be skipped or rapidly scanned. Isn’t this what we do in books? Book index people check what is in a book by checking its index. This may lead one to decide not to read a particular book because enough keywords do not appear to overcome a threshold of interest or relevance. So what is the difference between all this and leaping over web pages to get to one you think is important?

June 19, 2008 Posted by | books, culture, digitisation, hypertext, Internet, Literature, narrative style, neuroscience, Nietzsche, reading, science, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

What does it mean to be human?

Straight on the heals of what is culture, another perennial question answered by a range of intellectuals at World Science Festival reported by Wired. Though the detailed debate is nowhere to be seen, the potted answers are stimulating.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Being human | | Leave a comment

Culture is….

….everything we are not that tells us what we are

{Well, it wasn’t Bob Dylan}

What is culture?

9 definitions but none as simple as that. Though Edward B. Taylor’s ( a separate 10th. one) :

“the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”

is pretty satisfying as definitions go. I first saw it in the intro to a compilation of papers by amongst others, Mumford, Lynne White, Aldous Huxley, called Technology and Culture, ed. Melvin Kranzberg and William H. Davenport [Meridian/New American Library, 1972]

Which suddenly reminds me of something along the lines of “If you want to know yourself, examine other people; if you want to know other people….examine yourself” but why exactly I can’t quite say. But it is probably something about ‘reading’ a culture.

Might as well do some quick revision:


Which is a reminder: there are a couple of succinct pages on Braudel’s Civilisation vs. Civilisations in Taming the Tiger: The Struggle to Control Technology by Witold Rybczynski. Oh, alright then, I check: pp. 186-88.

June 6, 2008 Posted by | culture | , | Leave a comment

Micro wind turbines

mico-turbines look to be good things.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

How much electricity do computers use ?

How much electricity do computers use?

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Electricity used by computers | , | Leave a comment

From Lin Yutang’s, “The Importance of Living”

Only those who take leisurely what people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people take leisurely.

Chang Ch’ao

page 141, 1943 edition, William Heinemann:

III: Chin’s* thirty-three happy Moments

I: I was sitting alone in an empty room and I am getting annoyed at a mouse at the head of my bed, and wondering what the little rustling sound signifies – what article of mine he is biting or what volume of my books he is eating up. While I am in this state of mind, and don’t know what to do, I suddenly see a ferocious-looking cat, wagging its tail and staring with its wide-open eyes, as if it were looking at something. I hold my breath and wait a moment, keeping perfectly still, and suddenly with a little sound the mouse disappears like a whiff of the wind. Ah, is this not happiness?

* Chin Shengt’an

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Chin Shengt'an, Chinese philosophy 17 Century, Lin Yutang | , | Leave a comment



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