cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

Virginia Wolf {2} – 3 lit crits

Reality and Virgina Woolf


Brian Phillips

Originally published in Hudson Review Autumn 2003

* The easiest to read
* Most valuable
* If you write or try to write you will learn from it

There is an ideal of the sympathetic imagination that passes from eighteenth-century moral philosophy into nineteenth-century literary criticism, which holds that an effort of imaginative sympathy makes it possible for the mind to break through the barrier that separates it from its object, and, for a moment, to inhabit the object in an act of whole identification. This ability then becomes the writer’s most important faculty and is in a sense the natural instinct of the poet. “He had only to think of any thing,” as Hazlitt wrote of Shakespeare, “in order to become that thing, with all the circumstances belonging to it.” “If a Sparrow come before my Window,” Keats wrote, “I take part in its existence and pick about the Gravel.” In entering an object outside the self, the imagination is able to perceive the inmost nature of the object with an intensity and a fullness that reason cannot match; but the absorption of the mind in what lies outside the self necessarily requires the self to be, at least temporarily, extinguished. This is what Keats meant when he wrote that “Men of Genius have not any individuality, any determined Character.” It is a mystical, impersonal aspiration, almost always associated with literary creativity, and it accords deeply with Woolf’s sense of character, inwardness, and impersonality in fiction. Not surprisingly, the older idea is most frequently employed in describing Shakespeare, the writer Woolf most admires, and whose unimpeded clarity she is most apt to praise. It is for Shakespeare that Keats coins the expression “negative capability,” Shakespeare who prompts Hazlitt to write that “He was nothing in himself, but he was all that others were.” Hazlitt continues:

When he conceived of a character, whether real or imaginary, he not only entered into all its thoughts and feelings, but seemed instantly, and as if by touching a secret spring, to be surrounded with all the same objects, ‘subject to the same skyey influences,’ the same local, outward, and unforeseen accidents which would occur in reality.

“These Emotions of the Body”: intercorporeal narrative in ‘To the Lighthouse.’ – book by Virginia Woolf


Laura Doyle

Twentieth century Literature, Spring 1994

* some on Merlot-Ponty vs. Sartre (phenomenology)

The housemaid and the kitchen table: incorporating the frame in ‘To the Lighthouse.’ – book by Virginia Woolf


William R. Handley

Twentieth century Literature, Spring 1994

A bit heavy going academic tripe, but has its moments.

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Hazlitt, Keats, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf | | Leave a comment

Smorgasbord {2} science, writing

Three from the inestimable 3 Quarks:

Evolving Thoughts science blog : Basic concepts : A List

If a non-scientist mostly reading fiction but wanting some science, then this might be the place to start.

Even Tierra Fuegans Do IT

The Uncashed Metaphor of Natural Selection

Long essay by Justin E.H. Smith

How Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca Telegraph 19 April 2008

April 29, 2008 Posted by | science, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

Les évènements – 1968 Year of Revolutions

Very good documentary/discussion programme on BBC Radio 4 chaired by John Tusa: 1968, The Year of Revolutions.

What really happened? What was the long-term impact?

Includes Olivier Todd, mellifluous tones intact, who popped up on TV a week or two ago. Thought he was long gone. Fractious French intellectuals interrupting each other at every opportunity, but worth the effort. 44 mins.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | 1968, Les Evenements | , | Leave a comment

BBC iPlayer

In the news yesterday, reports that James Murdoch is complaining about BBC iPlayer taking trade from, well people like him. Its called ‘distorting the competitive landscape’. What the report failed to mention is that it works slightly differently from the way he imagines. Though the BBC have pumped tens of millions of tax payer’s money into setting up iPlayer (ITV’s version costing a fraction of the iPlayer at something like £30m, is a pale imitation and too fiddly), it is free to use from the BBC’s point of view. However, the ISPs do not like it either. For example BT are charging for GB used on top of the monthly bandwidth allowance. This seems to work out at about 25 – 30 p for a GB or slightly more, which is not unreasonable.

So the shift in the competitive landscape is not only between broadcasters like Sky in competition with the BBC but from people like Sky to the ISPs such as BT, who don’t even produce the materials they are charging for!

The debate on iPlayer did not start with Murdoch. For example, this August 2007 article in The Register, BT rubbishes BBC bandwidth throttling reports, mentions :

(1) bandwidth demands of the iPlayer may be too much for ISPs to bear

(2) BT’s only concern over iPlayer was that people would be unaware that the Kontiki P2P distribution system which runs in the background would be eating into their monthly GB usage allowance even when they are not viewing or downloading.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | BBC iPlayer | , , | Leave a comment

Charity search engine –

April 28, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

U. of Adelaide e-text

wiki: To the Lighthouse

Large parts of Woolf’s novel do not concern themselves with the objects of vision, but rather investigate the means of perception, attempting to understand people in the act of looking. In order to be able to understand thought, Woolf’s diaries reveal, the author would spend considerable time listening to herself think, observing how and which words and emotions arose in her own mind in response to what she saw.

SparkNotes: To the Lighthouse

Themes, Motifs and Symbols – The Subjective Nature of Reality

Toward the end of the novel, Lily reflects that in order to see Mrs. Ramsay clearly—to understand her character completely—she would need at least fifty pairs of eyes; only then would she be privy to every possible angle and nuance. The truth, according to this assertion, rests in the accumulation of different, even opposing vantage points. Woolf’s technique in structuring the story mirrors Lily’s assertion. She is committed to creating a sense of the world that not only depends upon the private perceptions of her characters but is also nothing more than the accumulation of those perceptions. To try to re-imagine the story as told from a single character’s perspective or—in the tradition of the Victorian novelists—from the author’s perspective is to realize the radical scope and difficulty of Woolf’s project.

Stream of Consciousness in To the Lighthouse

by Christie Lamon-Burney and Srirupa Dhar

Auerbach states that Woolf’s technique is achieved through “[t]he design of a close approach to objective reality by means of numerous subjective impressions received by various individuals….

Notes on Novels: To the Lighthouse

Jane Elizabeth Dougherty, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 2000.

deals with characterization of Lily Briscoe

Virginia Woolf’s Comments on To the Lighthouse


I suddenly remembered Sartre’s description of light in Nausea, and decided to check how often the word was mentioned in To the Lighthouse in the e-text. I think he ripped the idea of light as a philosophical metaphor from Woolf !

Refs. on realism

Some Forms of Realism – A Critique of Representative and Presentative Realism

Subjective Realism and Phenomenal Consciousness – an essay


There is an essay:

Light in To the Lighthouse
Jack F. Stewart
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Oct., 1977), pp. 377-389

This essay refers to Stewart:

The Illuminating Gaze: Light and Consciousness in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

By Anne-Marie Walsh

There is :

Erich Auerbach’s essay, “The Brown Stocking”

which I have not found on online.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | objective realism, Sartre, subjective realism, Virginia Woolf | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sartre: Realism all the way down

A man is always a storyteller; he lives surrounded by his own stories as well as those of others. Through them he sees everything that happens to him; and he tries to live his life as if he were fictionalizing it.


Having finish Nausea, it only remains (ha!) for an explanation of its philosophy. First more on Sartre/Virgina Woolf.

Philosophy apart, I had, while reading Nausea, picked up on something about Nausea and Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. The only thing online I could find was this tantalising abstract:

This article analyses the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausée [1938] and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse [1927], which share many textual details and a concern with the representation of traumatic loss. In both texts, there is an encounter with contingency and a quest for an ethical form that might symbolize suffering. Roquentin’s melancholic quest for an aesthetic vision to render loss constructs a false dichotomy of history versus art, in which the relation with the Other is abjected. Unable to find a form for his suffering – as he terms it, ‘souffrir en mesure’ [‘to suffer in time’] like the jazz tune which relieves his existential nausea – Roquentin ultimately retreats into narcissistic abstraction. In To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe’s post-Impressionist quest to represent her spiritual love for Mrs Ramsay in portraiture is more successful: in its eschewal of narcissistic signature and its hospitality to difference, Lily’s vision becomes an aesthetic space of encounter with the (m)Other, removed from the melancholic, narcissistic project of novel-writing that Roquentin envisages at the end of La Nausée.

of a paper: Mourning and the ethics of form in Sartre’s La Nausée and Woolf ‘s To the Lighthouse, by Ursula Tidd, published in The Journal of Romance Studies, Volume 6, Numbers 1-2, Spring & Summer 2006 , pp. 209-220 (12). If you’ve got a spare $39, or just under £20, you’ll be able to read it.

A discussion at Talking Philosophy on Virginia Woolf and Jean-Paul Sartre.

A quote at Questia:

“I tried to profit”, explains Sartre, “from the research made by certain novelists such as Dos Passos and Virginia Woolf into techniques of narrative.

It remains to both try to specify what I want to find out and to decide how deep to go.

(1) More on Woolf’s narrative techniques. As in : “Explained by someone else not from a reading of her whole ouevre”. Also something more on comparison of technique s in Woolf ‘s fiction and non-fiction.

(2) contingency

(3) Intentionality (wikipedia)

Intentionality (Stanford Enclyplopedia of Philosophy)

Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration though as a GoogleBook not complete is a great help.

[1] Chapter 6: Sartre and Realism-All-The- Way

[a] The Purification of the Consciousness, pages 94-99

[b] Objective realism, 99-100

[c] Radical continuity, 100-104

[d] Realism not contextualism, All the way down, 104-108 {107 missing}

Detailed notes useful 110 – 113

Back, too, to Dennett’s Consciousness Explained for what he says on intentionality. Trying to find his papers on the intentional stance. Probably not going as far as to read his book The Intentional Stance.

(4) Objective realism

John Duncan in Sartre Today :

In Nausea, Sartre crafts a portrayal of radical contingency, that assiduously rejects objective realism.

There is plenty of online help with objective realism. E.g.

wiki: objective realism

What is objective realism?

(5) Idealism

This by Ian Heath on objective idealism is useful. It takes us to the relationship between psychology and philosophy.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

Open and self-enclosed novels

Allan Massie in the Spectator draws a distinction between open and self-enclosed novels in a short but succinct piece.

By the self-enclosed novel, I mean one which makes no reference — or almost no reference — to anything beyond itself. It belongs to its age of course, but it does not appear to be set in time. Time naturally passes, as it must in a narrative, but there is no suggestion that events in the world of fact beyond the novel might impinge on its characters, influence their behaviour, or affect the course of their lives. The doors of the novel are closed against the winds of the world.

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Novel | | Leave a comment

Smorgasbord {1}

Radio 4’s Start the Week introduces two new books: Raymond Tallis’, The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head , on the brain ( TimesOnline review: Why we kiss, laugh, yawn and cry ) and a new biography of Sartre and de Beauvoir, A Dangerous Liaison by Carole Seymour-Jones, summarised on radio by the author herself and reviewed here by Graham Robb in the Times.

Having got to within 25 pages of the end of Nausea – spurred on by a suggestion to compare it to Woolf’s The Lighthouse *- without in any way removing from mind the Author versus the Work Problem churned up by considering Naipaul, the snippets of revelation about their sordid lives only adds to the problem: it was pointed out on the radio program the French couple’s sordid lives began well before they were both famous: which logically leads to sordid lives in of people who are not or who do not become famous and generally known. Well, sordid lives in general and what effect they have on others. Or to something along the lines of do the sordid lives of famous people have greater impact than the sordid lives of the not-famous, if so, why?

Wood s Lot (the mysterious lack of apostrophe) leads to David Weinberger’s post in JOHO, The Future of Book Nostalgia, which in it’s turn leads back to Anthony Grafton’s New Yorker piece , Future Reading: Digitization and its Discontents (which I have already linked to in another post). DW also links to a GoogleBook (if you don’t know what that is it’s a partial fascimile of a published book which invariably has the page you are most interested in missing), The Social Life of Information, By John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, which is comprehensively reviewed at The Complete Review.

The book is more than just a welcome antidote to digital silliness. It is also an important description of the complexities of innovation. – The Economist

Also from Wood s Lot a review Farhang Erfani of a new book on Walter Benjamin called Walter Benjamin, By Esther Leslie.

There is also a lecture (in 10 minute 16 parts) on YouTube by Dr. Sean Homer which its titled Reading Film with Lacan, which may or may not be interesting to filmophiles depending on whether you are into psychoanalysis and Lacan’s theories. Part of the education shall we say? Certainly I am comforted by a quick check under Jouissance in the Literacy Enclyclopedia that:

For Lacan, on the other hand, jouissance seems to imply a desire to abolish the condition of lack (la manque) to which we are condemned by our acceptance of the signs of the symbolic order in place of the Real.

On Start the Week, they were briefly discussing the idea that we are the only species detached from reality. Forgive me: I have been wading through Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. And reading a smidgen on phenomenology.

* Sartre was said to acknowledge a debt to Virginia Woolf’s writing.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | de Beauvoir, human nature, Internet, neuroscience, Sartre | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great UK Vitamin Scare {4} – a broader perspective

This New York Times 8 April 2008 article (the U.S. position, not the U.K. one, but the principle is there)

Potential for Harm in Dietary Supplements

covers the vitamin and deaths research but also has more general points:

(1) Regulations for drugs compared with supplements are not the same

[..] Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, inhalers and reflux inhibitors have to be shown as safe and effective before the F.D.A. will let them be marketed. But thanks to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, neither dietary supplements nor homeopathic remedies are required to provide premarket evidence of safety and effectiveness. To remove such a product from the market, the F.D.A. has to prove that it is dangerous, a challenging task for the understaffed, budget-strapped agency.

(2) No systematic collection of data on adverse effects of supplements

[..] A new federal law requires supplement manufacturers to report serious adverse effects to the Food and Drug Administration, but it depends on consumers to call in reactions. Experts say most consumers are unlikely to relate health problems to a supplement they assume to be safe, and even if they do, they may be reluctant to report an adverse effect from a self-medicated substance.

Examples of effects of overdosing with supplements

  • A dental patient with gum healing problems on high doses of a wide range of supplements
  • leg cramps – A man taking 50 mg. of vitamin B6

(3) Vitamin and mineral supplements can interfer with the working of prescribed drugs

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E and K; niacin; folic acid; calcium; magnesium; iron; and zinc can be hazardous when combined with various prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies. Yet patients often fail to mention using such supplements to physicians.

(4) Structure and function claims conflated with with medical benefits

Our bodies need regular supplies of essential nutrients for growth and maintenance. They can state the concentrations in their products and what the substance is meant to do in the body. They are not meant to be able to say that megadoses have therapeutic effects.

Just because beta-carotene in carrots aids normal vision does not mean it can correct nearsightedness. Or a substance for forming blood cells will not necessarily be useful to prevent or treat a disease of blood-forming tissue like leukemia.

(5) Legally only allowed to make structure and function claims for supplements, while homeopathic remedies can claim medical effects

the example given here is for zinc. As a homeopathic supplement therapeutic claims are allowed. As a dietary supplement, it is illegal to make such a claim.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | vitamins | , | Leave a comment

The Great UK Vitamin Scare {3} – vitamin C

3-dimensional model of vitamin C

The wiki: vitamin C covers almost every angle for anyone trying to examine whether Vitamin C is (a) worth taking as a supplement (b) could be damaging if taken in high doses.

Some questions to answer:

What is the main reason for taking high dose vitamin C?

What is a high dose?

Is natural vitamin C better for you than synthetic?

How does it work and what happens in the body?

For starters, it would appear Vitamin C would not be first choice for a suicide drug:

The LD50 (the dose that will kill 50% of a population) in rats is generally accepted to be 11.9 grams per kilogram of body weight when taken orally.[36]

If you take a lot of Vitamin C you will notice your urine changes colour. This explains why and gives an answer to how much to take:

Nature Medicine ( 7, 29 – 30 (2001) :

Forbidden Fruit: Although citrus fruits prevent and cure scurvy, they may not always be as good for you as you thought.

by J. K. Aronson, University Department of Clinical Pharmacology Radcliffe Infirmary Woodstock Rd. Oxford OX2 6HE, UK

..the body goes to great lengths to avoid excess accumulation of vitamin C, and has at least three ways of accomplishing this. First, absorption of vitamin C from the gut is highly saturable, ensuring that the amount that is absorbed reaches a maximum at relatively low doses. Second, the kidney rapidly excretes vitamin C, because its re-absorption from the renal tubules after filtration by the renal glomerulus is also highly saturable. Virtually all the vitamin C that is absorbed from the gut is thus excreted in the urine. For example, when the daily dose is increased from 200 to 2500 mg (from 1.1 to 14 mmol) the mean steady-state plasma concentration increases only from about 12 to 15 mg/l (from 68 to 85 mumol/l)—no matter how high a dose of vitamin C you take orally there is a limit to the plasma concentration that can be reached. Third, tissue uptake is also saturable. An increase in plasma concentration of vitamin C is not associated with a parallel increase in tissue concentration11. Indeed, the tissue vitamin C concentration, measured in leukocytes, saturates at 100 mg daily4 or plasma concentrations of 14 mg/l (80 mumol/l)(ref. 11).

So no matter how much you take, all you do is increase the concentrations in your urine and gut, and that can cause adverse effects12. Vitamin C is partly excreted as oxalate, and very high doses can lead to hyperoxaluria and kidney stones13, particularly after intravenous use and in people with renal insufficiency. Adverse effects in the gut include nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea14.

He provides a table of grapefruit drug interractions. Most people taking these drugs are warned on the packet.

From wiki: vitamin C :

The biological halflife for vitamin C is fairly short, about 30 minutes in blood plasma, a fact which high dose advocates say that mainstream researchers have failed to take into account. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health decided upon the current RDA based upon tests conducted 12 hours (24 half lives) after consumption. Mainstream medicine remains skeptical of these claims.

Vitamin C page from The Linus Pauling Instititute Micronuitrient Information Center

This is a very comprehensive info sheet, which also deals with saturation levels. Linus Pauling believed in taking massive doses of Vitamin C (and took them himself). Here, they say in the light of research since Pauling they recommend less. The toxicity section refutes a research finding on vitamin C and cancer and has an explanation at Vitamin C doesn’t cause cancer!

A link from the main page titled:

The Difference Between Dr. Linus Pauling’s Recommendations and the Linus Pauling Institute’s Recommendation for Vitamin C Intake

recommends 400 mg/day of vitamin C taking into account saturability. But there is no mention of what you would be getting anyway from a healthy diet. Assuming at least 100 mg. per day in your food, would you want to take a further 400 mg. supplement?

Right at the end it says:

…the Linus Pauling Institute’s recommendation is strictly directed towards prevention of disease in healthy individuals, not treatment of disease. Thus, individuals suffering from certain diseases may require substantially larger amounts of vitamin C to achieve optimum body levels or derive therapeutic benefits, areas that were of great interest to Linus Pauling and need to be further explored.

Food Standard Agency (UK) recommendations for Vitamin C

This a very short one-page sheet which recommended 100 mg. a day which is just above the RDA for Vitamin C.

This fact sheet has a handy chart for food sources of vitamin C. For example, 1/2 a cup of red bell pepper provides 90 mg.

The Vitamin C Foundation (Who they? Sounds impressive… but) recommends 3000 mg. a day (3 x 100). It includes a chart covering different recommendations, starting with the U.S. RDI of 60-95 mg. An associated article, The Nature of Vitamin C, deals in detail with whether ascorbic acid is vitamin C and whether “vitamin C complex” found in food is better for you than plain old ascorbic acid or its sodium or calcium salt.

Look at a standard bottle of Vitamin C from a supermarket or pharmacy. It might say it contains Vitamin C and sodium ascorbate. I would guess most people, if they bother to look at the small print on the label, would think these were separate things. Well are they? Vitamin C page from The Linus Pauling Instititute Micronuitrient Information Center provides the answer. There is now the question of whether you might need to avoid sodium ascorbate if trying to reduce sodium intake for blood pressure. I’ll find out don’t worry! Oh, and also by the way, the main page mentions taking vitamin c for high blood pressure.

The Vitamin C Foundation page is an illustration of how difficult for the ordinary person to sort fact from fiction. There is also discussion – amongst other things – of ways in which the amount of vitamin C we need might be assessed, for example based on what other species use (though they make their own).

Wiki:Vitamin C :

Most simians consume the vitamin in amounts 10 to 20 times higher than that recommended by governments for humans.[26] This discrepancy constitutes the basis of the controversy on current recommended dietary allowances (see Vitamin C as a macronutrient – Evolutionary rationales).

An adult goat, a typical example of a vitamin C-producing animal, will manufacture more than 13,000 mg of vitamin C per day in normal health and the biosynthesis will increase “many fold under stress”.[28][29]

Trauma or injury has also been demonstrated to use up large quantities of vitamin C in humans.

Mike Adams, writing in Natural News, is a believer in “natural” vitamins as opposed to synthetic ones. That aside, his February 28 2007 article

The big vitamin scare: American Medical Association claims vitamins may kill you (opinion)

deals with the issue of absolute risk over relative risk.

He has recently, 16 April 2008, written again on the vitamin scare

Vitamins A, C and E Increase Mortality! (and other nonsense from the realm of junk science)

If you look at his site you will discover he doesn’t believe pharmaceuticals are good at all, having claimed to have cured himself of type II diabetes through exercise and diet. I wonder if he would recommend not taking epilepsy drugs.

DC’s Improbable Science

Debunker site. Useful for junk science debate.

Manufacture of vitamin C

Another fascinating area, which would not have popped up without this search: who manufactures vitamin C and wholesale prices.

China makes 60 per cent of the world’s vitamin C supply, with the four leading Chinese producers making 60,000 tons. About 80 per cent of this is exported to Europe.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, vitamin C, vitamins | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great UK Vitamin Scare {2} – Vitamin E

I’m taking these one at a time. The previous post mentioned B6, which was not generally mentioned in the media reports, which concentrated on the harmful effects of high doses of vitamins A ( or its precursor beta-carotene), C, D, E and mineral Selenium.

Vitamin E supplements ‘could cause up to 27 per cent increase in lung cancer’ Dail Mail 4 March 2008:

University of Seattle


  • A study of more than 77,000 people found that taking moderate to high doses of vitamin E led to a “slight but significant” increase in risk of the cancer
  • study is not the first to link vitamin supplements to lung cancer, with previous research showing that beta carotene, a building block of vitamin A, can raise the risk by as much as 18 per cent.
  • The increased risk was equivalent to seven per cent rise for every extra 100 milligrams of vitamin E taken per day over 10 years.
  • This translated into a 28 per cent increased risk of lung cancer for someone regularly taking a high 400 milligram dose of the vitamin.

A standard supermarket Vitamin E contains 400 iu (international units). 1 iu = 0.67 mg. or 268 mg. per 400 iu capsule.

Before this recent survey there have been newspaper health articles suggesting that vitamin E is as important as vitamin C as anti-oxidant in attacking the dreaded free-radicals.

But there were scare stories on Vitamin E as well. This BBC News report of 11 November 2004,

High dose vitamin E death warning: Elderly people could be risking their lives if they take even moderately high doses of vitamin E, evidence suggests.

based on a John Hopkins study, points out :

  • People who took daily vitamin E doses exceeding 400 “international units” (IU) per day (equivalent to about 270mg) had an increased risk of death by about 10% compared with those who did not.
  • People who took daily vitamin E doses exceeding 400 “international units” (IU) per day (equivalent to about 270mg) had an increased risk of death by about 10% compared with those who did not.
  • In the UK, the Food Standards Agency recommends a daily intake of between 3-4mg or 4.5-6 IU. It sets an upper safety limit of 540mg (800 IU) per day, which is twice as high as the level found to be harmful in the study.
  • In the US, the safety limit is as high as 1,000mg or 1,500 IU per day.
  • Vitamin E supplements have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • In the study, there was no increased risk of death with doses of 200 IU (133mg) per day or less, and there was evidence to suggest these doses might be of some benefit.
  • The researchers said policy makers should consider lowering the maximum dose to 400 IU (about 266mg) per day.
  • Dr Richard Siow, a lecturer in the cardiovascular division at King’s College London. said: “The medical community and the public should treat these findings with a degree of caution since this analysis combines the results from a very broad spectrum of epidemiological studies carried out over 38 years, utilising doses of vitamin E supplementation between 16.5 to 2000 IU per day.”

This CBS report (16 April 2008): Vitamins A, E and beta-carotene increase mortality, not longevity: study

  • Copenhagen University Hospital
  • 67 randomized clinical trials with 232,550 participants.

One issue for these studies is which Vitamin E they use. Vitamin E hydrochloride (E HCl or dl-alpha on the label) is synthetic: ‘natural’ Vitamin E (d-alpha).

If you are into this business of trying higher levels of vitamins, one tip is that some are fat soluble (e.g. vitamin E), while others (e.g. vitamin C) are water soluble. Excess water soluble vitamins can be flushed out by the kidneys, while fat soluble ones tend to be stored in the body for longer periods.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | vitamins | | Leave a comment

The Great UK Vitamin Scare {1}

UK media have persistently refused to mention a single milligramme: the image of worried people bringing in bagloads of vitamin and mineral bottles to ask the pharmacist at Boots whether what they are taking is o.k. is ridiculous. What is the bloody internet for?

What is a high dose? It’s useless to lump all vitamins together. Each one has to be dealt with separately. The main news reports mentioned vitamins A, C, D and E. No figures were given for doses.

In any case, this issue is heated because it is a battle between the vitamin manufacturers and sellers (and their scientific data) and ‘sensible’ science (and conventional medicine). It is virtually impossible to talk about how much of any one vitamin you can take without dealing with the general debates such as do we need to take supplements at all and are we being given the facts?

Let’s take one vitamin, B6, not mentioned in the reports, and see what we can find.

It take seconds to discover the suggestion that over 200mg. per day of B6 can cause nerve damage when taken for long periods, though stopping reverses the damage.

This official looking website, Office of Dietary Supplements, under the auspices of the National Institute of Health (U.S.), in its B6 Fact Sheet suggests 100 mg. daily as the safe level. It is pretty scathing (about the efficacy of B6 (therapeutically) where there is little or no evidence. Several experiments show that placebo is effective as therapeutic doses.

The daily recommended target (RDA) in the U.S. is 1.3 mg. for men and women between 19-50 years of age : a balanced diet would (should) provide this level. A banana a day would give you 0.68 mg., a baked potato, 0.7 mg.

For lowering homocysteine levels (implicated in heart and vascular disease): 3mg. per day. Eat more healthy food! Some suggest taking 50 mg. a day (about 74 bananas). However, SEE B6 Fact Sheet :

What is the relationship between vitamin B6, homocysteine, and heart disease?

A deficiency of vitamin B6, folic acid, or vitamin B12 may increase your level of homocysteine, an amino acid normally found in your blood. There is evidence that an elevated homocysteine level is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke [my italics] The evidence suggests that high levels of homocysteine may damage coronary arteries or make it easier for blood clotting cells called platelets to clump together and form a clot. However, there is currently no evidence available to suggest that lowering homocysteine level with vitamins will reduce your risk of heart disease. Clinical intervention trials are needed to determine whether supplementation with vitamin B6, folic acid, or vitamin B12 can help protect you against developing coronary heart disease.

One report suggested that B6 may protect against heart disease in other ways (i.e. not connected to homocysteine).

For what sort of things do people take B6 in therapeutic doses?

That is: self-administered or under medical advice.

  • Cardiovascular disease and strokes
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • carpel tunnel syndrome
  • PMS
  • asthma
  • epilepsy

Three quite interesting areas:

(1) Pre-mentrual tension.

Said to help relieve the symptoms. Suggested it clears excess oestogen. [ {1}’ Oestrogen leads to depression because it does not only block vitamin B6 activity but also accelerates the metabolism of tryptophan, thereby leading to low serotonin levels and hence to symptoms associated with these. ‘ ]

(2) Depression

Up to 25% of people with depression may be deficient in B6.

A study found plasma pyridoxal-5-phosphate (active vitamin B6) levels were about 48% lower in depressed patients than in controls, a statistically significant finding. 57% of depressed patients, but none of the controls, were B6-deficient. When B6 nutriture was evaluated by enzyme stimulation testing (a more sensitive method), all the depressed patients and none of the controls were deficient. [Russ CS et al. Vitamin B6 status of depressed and obsessive-compulsive patients. Nutr Rep Int 27( 4): pp.867-73, 1983]

(3) Epileptic seizures

Role in building blocks for neurotransmitters. May reduce frequency of attacks.

(4) Diabetes

May reduce risk of nerve damage.


The information sheet {1} says:

Vitamin B6 supplements have been tested extensively for toxicity by a number of research groups. No evidence of toxicity has been reported in human trials using 225mg of vitamin B6 daily for one year (56), or taking 250-500mg for an average of 2.3 years (57). A review of vitamin B6 toxicity states: “there are many reports stressing the absence of toxic side effects in people taking 200-500 mg per day for extended periods” (58). This also became apparent when Brush and Perry followed 630 women who had been taking up to 200mg of pyridoxine per day for years, none reported any side-effects whatsoever (59).


57. Mitwalli A et al: Safety of intermediate doses of pyridoxine. Can Med Assoc, 131:14, 1984

59. Brush MG, Perry M: Pyridoxine and the premenstrual syndrome. Lancet, 1:1399, 1985

This by Jurriaan Plesman, a clinical nutritionist {2} discusses drug therapy over nutrition in depression.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | medicine, science, vitamins | , , | Leave a comment

Focus on: David Brooks

Never heard of the guy: he popped up in my NYT email: The Great Forgetting, NYT, 11 April, 2008. {You may need to register with NYT to read it.} Anyone who can trip off phrases such as “…hippocampically challenged” and conjure up this century as Bad Memory Century with: “..supermarket parking lots will be filled with cranky criminal gangs composed of middle-aged shoppers looking for their cars. ” is o.k. by me. The clincher: use of the word lagniappe, which needed looking up. Just a few is o.k.: reading an Antony Burgess novel is something else: if he was alive he might well be converting his books to hypertext DVD to help us out a bit.

Brooks, I see, provided this commencement address he gave to Wake Forest University:

The Hidden River of Knowledge

This is him talking in a Meet the Columnists video at NYT.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | Op-Ed | | Leave a comment

Paul-Vincent Spade on Jean-Paul Sartre

Paul Vincent Spade is Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has put his Sartre course notes online in pdf:

(1) Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness: Class Notes, Fall 1995. 243 pp.

(2) Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness: Course Materials. 76 pp.

Also includes : Christopher Vaughan, Pure Reflection: Self-Knowledge and Moral Understanding in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1993) 210 pp.

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Existentialism, general, Jean-Paul Sartre | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook By Marty Smith

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Sartre | , , | Leave a comment


Existentialism is a Humanism
First given as a lecture: Paris, 29 October 1945.

Understanding Philosophy for AS Level by Christopher Hamilton (GoogleBook sample): designed for AS (High School) Level Philosophy, section VI, Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism, uses E is an H as its primary text. Half a dozen pages missing but still useful. Recommended by author as suitable introductory undergraduate course in philosophy.

The World According to Sartre by Roger Kimball (New Criterion essay)

Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration {GoogleBook) partial facsimile
By Adrian Van den Hoven, Andrew N. Leak

The Introduction is intact but other chapters are truncated. Chapter 19: Camus vs. Sartre, The Unresolved Conflict by Ronald Aronson, p.302 – 310 (only p. 308 missing. Well, alright, buy the book then…)

Sartre by David Drake published in 2006 to coincide with the centenary. This GoogleBook offers the first 37 pages.

Sartre and Stalinism? There are 50 odd pages of this GoogleBook, Sartre Against Stalinism by Ian H. Birchall, which helps with this question.

Pickings from TLS article, The novelist in the bubble by James Campbell. Subtitled: Sartre’s fiction and its resistance to the “living principle”.

“Why is it that Roquentin and Mathieu, who are me, are so gloomy?”. Typically unsparing, he decided that the reason is that they are “stripped of the living principle”.

Phenomenology and Deconstruction By Robert Denoon Cumming (GoogleBook extract}

Chapter 19: The Work of Art: should start at 158: starts from p.159 : includes sections on contingency and melancholia. Mentions Sartre named Nausea, Melancholia, but the editor changed it.

Mention of Durer’s Melancholia I. Sartre had a bout of depression in 1935. He tried mescaline once. Nausea was published in 1938.

Sartre Online : Articles on Jean-Paul Sartre

The Endgame of Taste: Keats, Sartre, Beckett 2001 Paper by Denise Gigante

Paper by Jean-Michel Heimonet, Bataille and Sartre, translated from the French by Emoretta Yang.

It is available as a Word doc. Here, the HTML with the search terms, “Sartre melancholia” left in.

The Cry has source materials from a variety of existentialists including Sartre. The out links from the Sartre page are dead. The play No Exit.

Also included: Woody Allen. (!) Scripts for Annie Hall and Manhattan Murder Mystery. The part of the website written by Woody was probably the horizontal list of links to the authors included.




kierkegaard …(VOICE. Yes) dostoevsky (Uhuh..) allen (no response) sartre (Yees…) jaspers camus nietzsche kafka heidegger descartes de beauvoir rilke


kierkegaard dostoevsky allen ( VOICE. QUIZZICAL. Allen? )

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Jean-Paul Sartre, Sartre | , , | Leave a comment

Camus and Sartre

Dark Feelings, Grim Thoughts: Experience and Reflection in Camus and Sartre

By Robert C. Solomon

{GoogleBook} partial facsimile

Introduction: Camus and Sartre (complete)

Modern Tragedy By Raymond Williams, Pamela McCallum (GoogleBook facsimile}

Chapter 6: Tragic Despair and Revolt, Camus and Sartre, p. 209- (several pages missing, but sufficiently readable)

Nauseated Strangers

Sartre vs. Camus

Algis Valiunas

Short essay comparing Camus to Sartre

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Camus, Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sartre | , | Leave a comment

Sartre: Nausea

If you have to have a reason (or an excuse or justification) for reading Nausea in 2008, this essay from Gabriel Josipovici in ReadySteadyBook in an essay, Borges and the Plain Sense of Things, is part of it:

Borges’ fondness for detective stories stems from his dislike for the classical novel. For the detective story, unlike the novel, accepts from the start that the logic of fiction is not the logic of life and that as a fictional construct its prime duty is to be interesting, not realistic. The novel, on the other hand, is a curious hybrid: it wants to assert at one and the same time that it is dealing with life in all its boring contingency, while at the same time telling a story which implies that life has a meaning, is always more than mere contingency. This is the secret of its hold over us, as Sartre, for one, understood so well. We open a novel, Sartre says in La Nausée, and read about a man walking down a road. The man seems free, the future open before him. At once we identify with him, for that is how our own existence seems to be to us. We too are walking down the road of life, not knowing what is to come. But the pleasure of reading a novel stems from the fact that we know that this man is in fact the subject of an adventure that is about to befall him. How do we know this? Because he is there at the start of the novel and he would not be there if nothing were going to happen to him. Thus, Sartre concludes, ‘the end is there, which transforms everything. For us the guy is already the hero of the story.’ The extraordinary power of the novel lies in this, that it makes us feel that our lives are both free and meaningful. It does not say this, for it neither needs to nor is it fully aware of it, but nonetheless that is its essence, the secret of its power.

A fuller quote of the Sartre is in the wiki:nausea

SparkNotes: Nausea

Wiki: nausea

Nausea : same text as wiki in different format

Everything2 : Nausea

Sartre and Camus: Nausea and Existentialist Humor
Richard E. Baker J. of Language and literature vol. 1, Issue 1, 2007

Essay examining Sartre’s notion of the absurd, first in his philosophy and then in his novel Nausea, in relation to Albert Camus’s seminal work The Myth of Sisyphus.

Nausea : 6 O’clock in the evening (= The Chestnut Tree )

The Flâneur By Keith Tester

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre | , , | Leave a comment

Patently absurd

This title will be prone to change as will the contents.

Litlove’s 2006 post What is existentialism? with particular reference to Sartre made me try to remember what it was that I read and what took my fancy all those decades ago. I remember being not dissimilar to Tony Hancock in the show where he is ostentatiously (though alone) reading Russell’s History of Western Philosophy when attempting Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, eventually giving up the ghost. Remember how Hancock reads from the beginning, facial expression at first calm, positive, optimistic, but in stages shows the full gamut until utter incomprehension. Having got through half of the first page (artistic license here as I can’t remember the details) he turns to the beginning, defaulting to the initial calm expectancy and then getting confused once more. Does he then throw the book aside?

Nausea was o.k. because Sartre in fiction writes simply, even if you don’t at the end grasp the philosophy. The wiki: Nausea is pretty comprehensive, with substantial quotes which might help in deciding whether to tackle it. I’ve decided to have another go. Notice how Sartre is fond of the colon: I wrote a post on his autobiography, Words, in Moleskine Modality a while back, remarking on the use of the colon there: I still really haven’t a clue how to use it but keep on using it just the same.

I may or may not have made a stab at Sartre’s The Roads to Freedom Trilogy, but cannot find any of them on my bookshelves. I remember watching the BBC adaptation, based on all three books, starring Michael Bryant looking exceeding puzzled and irritated throughout. According to a brief wiki:The Roads to Freedom, Sartre planned a fourth volume, of which only two chapters remain. In the IMDb entry on the Roads to Freedom a comment suggests the BBC wiped some of the original tapes: but that maybe an individual recorded them. If so please make yourself known to us because we desperately need something decent to watch on British TV, and what better than such a great series?

There is a 48 minute Google video of a BBC programme Human all too Human – Sartre: The Road to Freedom. For those of you like me who are not prepared to go over the old ground in a substantial way, here is a painless and short-cut way to re-immerse oneself.

It was to Camus I turned after Sartre and found the absurd in the long essay The Myth of Sysiphus. And the novels.

It is so easy now to find interesting online materials on Camus and existentialism in general. For example the wiki: absurdism has a simplified chart showing the relationship between Existentialism, Absurdism, and Nihilism. I am reminded by re-reading about Camus that he did not consider himself an existentialist, but there are those who do, such as this person who has written The Existential Primer.

I’ll put here some of the articles and sites that might help someone starting from scratch:

The Myth of Sisyphus from SparkNotes (a clear one page summary)

Suicide and Atheism: Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus By Richard Barnett

The wiki:Albert Camus points out that some distinguish Camus’ idea of the absurd from others by terming it the Paradox of the Absurd

Paul M Willenburg has a compilation of essays and other things.

Dance of the Mind blog in a 2008 post explains his reading of The Myth of Sisyphus. Lots of interesting points can be picked out of the the comments stream, including the larger one that is not that easy to grasp what Camus was on about.

Book Crazy blog : several posts

Albert Camus – the Absurd Hero

Caligula by Camus: Absurdity’s illogical end.

In 2006 Marcel Berlins wrote an article in the Guardian, What is it about Albert Camus’ The Outsider that makes it such an enduring favourite with men?

….my brief Outsider-inspired vow always to tell the truth and not care about the consequences spoiled my love life for a while. (“What do you think of my new dress?” “Awful. You’ve got terrible taste.”)

The Outsider study guide from BookRags.


I personally found Mersault bloody irritating because it seemed no man would act or think like that. The initial attraction for me was a recognition of the milieu. I had been a teenager on another North African beach.

One might tend to say now Mersault had a personality disorder. Perhaps it might be said that Camus had no other way to examine such an extreme existential position other than to create a fictional character representing it, in order that the philosophical implications could be worked through. To imagine such a person, is an act of creative fiction at its best.


The general way of dealing with The Outsider is to do the teenage angst bit, as in this BBC News magazine article by Sean Coughlan, The Cult of the Outsider.

BBC 2 ran the Virginia Tech Massacre docudrama 8 April 2008 which seemed to me to be visiting the same territory as Camus with Mersault. There was mention of the need to play with identity. Having re-visited existentialism and the absurd the day before, when an expert (a paraphrase here) summarised gun-boy Cho as preferring the persecution of injustice to the reality of failure, my ears pricked up: this seemed to be the nub. It also seems to feed into the notion of America being the epitome of narcissism. This wiki:narcissistic rage, completes the story.

Cho changed courses from Business IT to English. He started a novel. His family encouraged him, but professionals politely told him it was crap. He wasn’t going to be a writer; he hadn’t got the talent. But this is the way he eventually chose to express himself: he had backed himself into what he saw was a corner he couldn’t get out of. He saw no way out for his desire for admiration and fame than to kill randomly and then kill himself, hence going down in history. Being ultimately disillusioned by the recognition that you haven’t got what it takes to live the life you imaged may be behind many teenage suicides (which just happen to be predominantly male).

Although he did not commit suicide, what is this if not the life of Lee Harvey Oswald?

MARINA OSWALD : “Lee had no moral sense at all…only egotism, anger at others on account of his failures.”

Lionel Shriver in a April 2007 Guardian piece, These are all Copycat Crimes, expresses it better than I have.

Campus shootings are now a genre, much as, in literature, campus-shooting novels are a genre, one of whose entries I am guilty of writing myself. They are part of the cultural vocabulary, and any disgruntled, despairing or vengeful character – of any age of late, since grown-ups now want in on the act – now has the idea of shooting up a campus firmly lodged in his brain.

I do not believe that the choice of schools or colleges for the pursuit of grievance or, often, for the staging of what I call “extroverted suicide”, is arbitrary. For most of us, school and university are the seats of profound and formative emotional experiences, and the psychological power of these locales does not necessarily abate with age. Only last month I had reason to walk down the hallway of an elementary school in the US, and the lockers, lino and acrid chalk-dust smell sent my head spinning with memories, not all of which were pleasant. I felt claustrophobic, smothered, actively grateful to be spared the tyrannies of Mrs Townsend’s home room, and relieved to get out. In fact, I couldn’t believe I was allowed out of the door without a pass.

For a lucky few, school and college are where we first distinguish ourselves. But for the majority, they are the site of first humiliation, subjugation and injury. They are almost always our first introduction to brutal social hierarchies, as they may also sponsor our first romantic devastation. What better stage on which to act out primitive retribution?

Here’s a couple of chunks from The Outsider.


And finally, Colin Wilson’s The Outsider. For those who who know nothing of it, Lynn Barber wrote a profile of Wilson in 2004, titled Now they Will realise That I Am a Genius, which covers pretty much everything, and can have you in stitches at times if your humour is that way inclined, including having written over a 100 books after The Outsider, which no one really wanted to publish. The best being that the blurb in edition after edition continued (or continues) to have praise from Edith Sitwell and Cyril Connolly (who later admitted he hadn’t read it).

I read it in the 1960s having read the story of who he was and how he came to write the book. It was first published in the 50s. The general idea amongst the intelligentsia being he was some uneducated upstart who couldn’t possibly be writing this book, as this page puts it, because of his ‘outsiderish autdidactism’. My view is that he is fine where he is telling us about the books and lives he examines but less good when he tries to develop a theory to encompass a positive gloss on the outsider.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Absurdism, Albert Camus, Existentialism, Sartre | , , , , , | Leave a comment