Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ravish response

Sorry for the delay in responding to your considerable comments. I run my own business and this is a busy time.

I am still in the midst of getting thru Peikoff's book. Since I am now taking on an apparent case of arthritis in my knees, I have detoured into reading about that particular ailment.

But I want to respond to some of your statements.

I don't think it's so rare for people of a certain age to be seeking philosophical answers. I recall a story about W.C. Fields who was known to be an athiest. A reporter found Fields not long before he died reading the bible. The reporter asked why he, Fields, an athiest, was looking through the bible. Fields was reported to have responded: "Just, lookin' for loopholes."

I'm sure that many people who are getting on the back side of middle age start considering where they are philosophically. I rejected the possibility of god over 35 years ago. Once that decision was made, I pretty much put the whole issue on the back burner. I finished college, married, had a couple of kids, and have spent the better part of the last 30 years making a living at jobs that I generally hated, but that's another story.

Over the last several years, my parent's generation has largely passed on. My parents, my wife's parents and several of her uncles (she had 9) have slipped off their respective mortal coils. Additionally, my oldest brother died at age 60. My wife's youngest brother and sister also are gone. The death of those close to you has a way of putting one's own mortality into a different perspective.

Additionally, the rise of religious fundamentalism both in this country and beyond over the last several years has brought my feelings to a head.

I don't have any problem with refering to myself as you say via a "negative self-description" with the term "athiest." We have tons of "theists." I don't mind being an a - theist or antitheist.
It does signify what I don't believe in, and it's very much to the point. It actually tends to move a conversation toward just what it is that I do believe. (Unless, of course, it shuts the conversation down cold. In that case, I doubt there could be any useful discussion anyhow.)

I don't feel that I suffer from "inadequate conviction in {my} beliefs." There is no waffling in what I believe. I don't vacillate as regards my godless life view. But, I have not done a great deal of philosophical study. My desire is to educate myself more completely as regards philosophical thought. I happen to find Ayn Rand interesting and more or less aligned with much of my current thinking.

As to my "concern about what others might think," perhaps you would look upon this differently if you were yourself of a certain age. I came of age during the 1960s. I observed and occasionally took part in the counter culture. We did a great job of being obnoxious and succeeded, through our own ignorance, in offending an entire generation. I think we were generally right in challenging authority, but our methods were at best draconian. We thought we had all the answers. We were sure that our parent's generation was without any scruples. That they had become totally materialistic with no values. We didn't have a clue. We had no appreciation for what they had experienced and endured. We thumbed our noses at them. We alienated them. We dismissed them.

I often get angry about what is happening in this world. I could get on this thing and go into a diatribe, filled with vitriole and obscenities. I'm sure it would feel great. But it would serve no useful purpose beyond my venting. Granted, sometimes it's good to vent. But I would likely have even fewer readers than I have now. I would like to reach as many people as possible.
I have a pretty good discourse with Sweet Jazzy Cat. We are more or less diametrically opposed to each other's views. He is totally imbued with christianity. I am not. But we have a level of discussion wherein we respect each other's position without accepting it. I told him that if we were to be in the same room for any length of time, we could well wind up yelling at each other. At least this way, we read each other's posts rationally and respond in kind. You may find that uninteresting, but look at what anger and hatred has wrought. It's name is Osama.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Hey Jazzy Cat!

Just thought I'd relate something to you.

A couple of weeks ago my sister in-law's brother, Bob Williams of Martinsville, IN passed away suddenly from a brain aneurism. He was 82 years old. Bob was a WWII veteran of the US Army Air Corps. He was stationed in England and flew escort and occasional sorties into France. He flew a P51.

After the War he wound up working in a factory and didn't fly much for several years. Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer, quit the factory and took up flying at the Bloomington, IN airport. Eventually, he obtained jet ratings and flew for corporations in the area. For several years he flew some guy named Bobbie Knight around until he departed the vicinity. Much more recently he flew rocker John Mellencamp here and there. He flew delivering a plane just 2 days prior to his death.

Bob, along with other local veterans were instrumental in the creation of a War Memorial which now adorns a corner just off the Martinsville town square. It's quite impressive. Check out

Bob was an interesting fellow.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another mishmash

I haven't written much of note lately. Been busy. But, of course, there is plenty to write about.
People are still dying violently. I thought sure they'd stop. Reportedly, a group of Iraqi teachers were beheaded in school in front of their students. I also read denials about this. I don't know whether it happened or not. Nevertheless, allah is truly great.

Yesterday, our local newspaper, The Indianapolis Star, led with headlines regarding a triple murder on the west side of the City that was witnessed by the 7 year old boy of one of the victims. The trauma this child endured is unimaginable. Below that was a story about 5 young IU music students who died in a small plane crash.

While both of these events were tragic, the latter story struck home as my boys were, for a time, also IU music students. They knew or knew of a couple of the kids who died. I can't imagine what the five families are going through now.

Meanwhile, Osama has issued another of his diatribes promising more violence against the infidels. I'm not a violent person as such. I have never owned a gun, hopefully never will. I am not a proponent of the death penalty. But, if given the opportunity, I don't think I would have much difficulty putting a bullet through Osama's brain. Of course, it would be a futile act. It would just provide the islamic fundamentalists with a martyr. At any rate, I'm not expecting an engraved invitation to put Osama's lights out.

A couple of weeks ago responding to a knock at the door, I was met there by a nattily dressed elderly man, bedecked in a 3 piece suit topped with a gray fedora. It seems that he and his wife were canvassing the neighborhood to find people with whom to sit down and discuss the bible.

Boy, did he knock on the wrong door.

Now, understand. I was not offensive to this gentleman in any way. I was cordial, but quickly told him that I was a "confirmed" atheist. You would have thought by this fellow's response that I had punched him. He stumbled back as if he had been struck in the chest saying "Oh, my. How did this happen? I'm so sorry." He regained his composure and appeared to study my face, perhaps to learn if my impending damnation was anywhere evident in my countenance. Nevertheless, I responded cheerily, "No need to be sorry. I'm fine. It's all good."

I didn't convince him in the least. He began taking small nervous steps backward in an effort to extracate himself from the presence of the doomed. He looked hopefully toward my neighbor's house where he caught site of his wife, calling to her, "Olivia, I think we should move on down the street. You go ahead, I'll catch up." Returning to me he edged his way down the porch steps apologetically saying that they had several homes to visit before dark. I waved him goodbye, and off he went briskly across the walk, down the drive, and up the street in pursuit of the lovely Olivia.

In a bit of a footnote: I related this story to my wife, the lovely Joan. She gave me a sidelong glance asking, "Just when and where did this "confirmation" take place?

She got me.

Also on a happier note, my older son called today to inform us that he is in Paris to audition for the Paris Opera. He noted that directly across the street from the hostel where he is staying is the Indiana Cafe. They serve American style burgers, fries and hot dogs. A burger costs about twelve Euros (cheese is two additional Euros.) An order of fries is about three Euros. Pretty reasonable, don't you think? I don't know what they're getting for a hot dog.

My younger son is going to graduate school in Florida. I think I'll get him a Palmetto bug trap and some recipes for 'gater & grits.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's about time!


In the wake of the publication of the Book of Judas the Iscariot clan which has been forced to live in relative obscurity in Argentina for nearly 2000 years are confering with attorneys to determine the viability of any legal action that could be taken against all christendom for defamation of character and the resultant emotional distress suffered by Judas' progeny.
The clan's designated spokesperson, Kenny Iscariot addressed a large contingent of media reps with a terse and emotional statement:

"Enough is enough. We knew the truth would finally win out. Our patriarch, Judas, would never have fingered his pal and saviour, Jesus, to the Romans. Certainly not for a handful of coins. Judas had, in fact, been doing quite well in palm frond futures. Of course the whole crucifixion thing put an end to that. His business never recovered being that it was built entirely on trust. In our efforts to get this case into a courtroom, be assured it's not "the bag of silver" we're after. We seek justice for Judas, and exoneration of the Iscariot name, so that we can once again hold our heads up high. Thank you."

It is unclear just where any such case might be heard, here in Argentina, Israel, or perhaps Rome. Attorney Martin Slobberman of Gideon, James & King, the firm representing the family, stated that the case could be brought "wherever christians gather." It is speculated that a court victory for the plaintiffs in this case could cost christians hundreds of billions in reparations what with nearly 2000 years of inflation and accumulated interest. Also, there is some speculation that all jewry could join in such a suit as co-plaintiffs. An announcement from the Knesset may be forthcoming.

This is Matt Fisher in Buenos Aires. Back to you, Mark.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let's Be Objective, Shall We?

Recently Gregg100 suggested that I investigate some of the work of Ayn Rand and her system of Objectivism. I related to him that I had, in fact, read some of Rand's work, namely her novels The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and possibly either We the Living or Anthem. But that was back around 1970 while I was living in NYC. Frankly, I remember little of any of it. I indicated that I would revisit some of those works, and Gregg said that her novels do not clearly reveal her philosophy. Rather, he suggested that I investigate some of the work of Leonard Peikoff, Rand's protege', devotee and, as it happened, her actual and literary heir.

I took Gregg's advice and have just begun reading Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Upon studying Gregg's posts, it is clear to me now that a goodly portion of his thinking is more or less aligned with Rand's. (Gregg, correct me if I'm wrong.)

Over the years I recall that many people hotly rejected Rand as being far too imbued with her objective view of what it is to be human. That her position was much too cold and shackled our capacity for imagination and was intolerant of human emotion and acts of altruism. Perhaps too "Mr. Spockish" for some tastes. At this juncture I cannot make any cogent arguments on bahalf of Objectivism or Ms. Rand's work and philosophy. I've only read about 22 pages of Peikoff's book.

But right off the bat I was taken with a short quote of Ms. Rand's which I will reprint here. It is her definition of a philosophic system. As follows:

"A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation--or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your sub-conscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown."

Unfortunately, far too many of us have not made an effort to truly define our philosophy of existence. We (myself included) all too often randomly select notions, ideas and ideals that may sound good or right to us at a particular moment in time, and throw them up onto our "sub-conscious junk heap." The result, as Rand indicated, is an inconsistent, often contradictory mishmash of concepts and opinions that leaves us mentally and emotionally unprepared when it comes time to truly define and defend what we believe. Most of us think we know what we're all about, but more often than not our overall philosophy is largely incoherent, and, therefore, indefensible.

I don't know what or how I will feel about Rand or Objectivism when I finish Peikoff's book and presumably other sources on the subject. But, I hope it will help me to logically and more completely define who I am. Perhaps the effort will enable me to at least clear out some mental cobwebs or to evacuate my mental sinuses like Habanero salsa.


Monday, April 03, 2006

God is in the Details

I just watched Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. It was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Julliard School. While a number of their more illustrious grads appeared and/or performed, current students did most of it. They ran the gamut of the disciplines offered at the school including opera, string quartet, full orchestra, jazz, dance and theatre. Many of the performances were stunning. A 13 year old pianist played the first movement of the Rachmananoff 2nd Piano Concerto with full orchestra. A pair of dancers performed to a piece, the name of which I failed to catch, but both the music and the dance were, again, stunning.

After an opening orchestral piece by Schuman, New England Triptych: "Chester," played by the Julliard Student Orchestra conducted by John Williams, Rene'e Fleming sang 2 arias, "Merci dilette amiche" from Verdi's Vespri Siciliani and Puccini's "Vissis d'arte" from Tosca. She did so wonderfully and effortlessly.

Actor Kevin Kline a Julliard (and Indiana University) grad led an ensemble of student actors in Hamlet's instructions to the players.

There was more.

The cameras did all they could to pan through all of the student performers during the course of the show insuring that there must have been any number of proud button popping parents grabbing hands and screaming: THERE SHE IS!!! THERE SHE IS!!! as the camera floated by a girl with a french horn pressed to her lips or another swaying gently into her violin.

I recently commented on Zoe's A Complicated Salvation saying that progress is normally achieved via small, baby steps. It's all in the details.

I have just read Rene'e Fleming's The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer. It is a great book as it details, at times exhaustively, all she went through in the development of her voice. She notes that she was not a natural. It took years and any number of failures before she finally realized success.

The students at Julliard and other schools are going through that process now. Not just in the arts. All disciplines - be it music or dance, genetics or computer engineering, take time and effort to achieve success. These kids have got what it takes.

It is dis-heartening to see things like what Jay Leno does in his street interviews asking questions like "What year was the War of 1812?" and getting really dumb answers leaving the viewers slack-jawed at their stupidity. Of course I realize that they may ask the question of a 100 people and show us only the 5 or 6 who embarrass themselves. Still, it is troubling at how many people seem to know virtually nothing about the world they live in. My brother saw something on the tube just in the last day or two wherein most of the people interviewed did not know what the American Civil War was. Presumably, these people will go far.

My younger son went to Northwestern in Evanston, IL. I met many of his friends and classmates while he was there. They were a bunch of the brightest and truly engaging kids I've ever known. They are handling the details. A close friend of my son is now in graduate school at Harvard studying genetic engineering. One of my son's roommates had a girl friend who had been a concert pianist - even soloing with the Los Angeles Symphony at age 14 - only to walk away from that to go to medical school. To counter balance this nation's uneducated, there are, thankfully, a lot of brainiacs out there. It's just a question of how they apply their intelligence and knowledge. Hopefully, most will do what they can to save our bacon. They can do a lot. Maybe we can come out smelling like a rose - or a petunia at least.