4.16.2017

How to be Creepy in 2017

Someone else wrote: The Dracula things is picked up by Larkin himself in a poem. He had quite a lot more sex with quite a lot more girls than he let on.

Ruth Bowman
Monica
His secretary, Betty Mackelreth
Patsy Strang
Maeve Brennan. 

 I had initially written, in the thread this comes from, the following, but decided to snuff it, lest I get silenced again:

"And this would all be perfectly acceptable, if Larkin were a liberal; but since he was conservative, and had the audacity to be a shy and retiring man (the bastard!) he is, of course, a predator."


Simple really. You cannot be a conservative, heterosexual white male and admit to finding women attractive, or God forbid, actually having sex with them. If you do have the unmitigated gall and depravity of character to sincerely confess to having sexual thoughts about adult women, you are a "creep". 


The 'liberal' hypocrites are out in force. As are the poetasters. Beware. LOL! As if anyone with a brain larger than a mustard seed would have to be warned.

And in case this doesn't come across: there is nothing liberal, in the classical sense of that great word, about these contemporary lefty-lucy-loonies. They are unliberal, to say the least. In fact, they are anti-liberal, if truth be told. But we mustn't tell the truth, because the truth hurts. And these hypocrites literally believe and profess that the Great Unwashed are truly made of snow, and will melt into a dew at the slightest rise of a barbed eyebrow. But the troof is, and this is the GOD's honest troof: the real snowflakes are the lefty-lucy-loonies whose egos are far more delicate than any innocent child or flag-waving, fag-hating, knuckle-draggin 'Christian', and made of much finer stuff, say the finest dust of tulip or lily petal, gossamer fragile, dainty as lace spun of the milk of Hera in quantum space. Etc.

On another website, there are hundreds of ultra-lefty "enlightened" loonies who start thread after thread related to any kind of subject - many of them dealing with pornography, or just threads wherein posters put up photographs of the wanker material they like - and they act like a boatload of drunken spring breakers, with absolutely no concern about PC. BUT, if a known Christian and/or conservative person (usually male, but even right-oriented females are abused) joins in the thread, or says something critical about some debased comment some lefty has made, they are treated with suspicion, as an automatic reflex. 

4.16.17  ...grrr...

4.12.2017

Hey All You Hellfire Preachers

Hi S.

I thank you for your considerate and erudite message! It comes at a very crucial time for me, as I am tottering on the edge of a knife: with faith on one side and a return to agnosticism on the other.


I was an atheist for most of my adult life, from around 18 to 47, when I had an emotional breakdown followed by a psychotic episode that wound me up in the emergency room for about 24 hours, perhaps more. I have only scattered and very brief memories of that time - but it was a profound experience that assured me that God had picked me up, given me a good shake, and claimed me for His own. Accepting Christ came a bit later, after more emotional turbulence and a profound sense that He had stolen my heart.


Since then, which was 2011, I have been a Christian of some kind. I don't go to church, and I don't have any association with Christians except for a few online friends, B. C. being one of them, J. S. another, and C. S. (though I think C. and I have had a bit of a falling out). I am non-denominational and non-doctrinal. I guess I'm what you'd call a "closet" Christian, in that I don't preach at people, I am the opposite of "evangelical", and I keep my faith close to my chest.


I'm not ashamed of my faith, but I do have major cognitive dissonance to deal with. I pray and pray, sometimes with my face on the floor, clutching my cross, for this conflict to be resolved. I pray for strength and for understanding. I believe (not know) I have become stronger as a person, and I can see that my understanding has improved. I can understand poems more clearly, whereas years ago they would have been opaque to me; I can understand philosophy more, and even get a tiny handle on certain braniacs like Roger Penrose - though I admit his book The Road to Reality became too difficult for me at about page 50 or so!


I had many conversations with C. S. about this concept of a literal hell. He is a Calvinist, and believes with total certainty that there is a literal hell awaiting most human souls; not only that, but that those souls will have a "new body" especially designed to withstand an eternity (in literal time, as we humans experience time, meaning forever and ever) of real fire. This will be a "dark fire", since hell will be pitch black. So, one must try and conceive of being in this place of total darkness, yet burning in real fire, forever and ever. And one must realize that God has foreordained, or predestined, most of humanity to this horrible fate.


If there is anything more absurd than that, I sincerely don't know what it is, but there are literally millions of people who accept this idea of hell, and they not only accept it, they seem to enjoy thinking about it. Many Calvinist and even hard-line Catholic believers claim that one of the "pleasures" of Heaven will be to witness the suffering of souls in hell. I am continually appalled and sickened that human beings can be so callous, so absurdly without compassion or pity, as to hang with such a disgusting and repulsive belief.


People like Charles Spurgeon spoke extensively on the reality of a literal hell. I would offer a quote but I imagine you know of him and his ilk.


I simply cannot reconcile a loving Father of fathers, and the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, with a literal hell. It makes no sense at all.


I can certainly accept some sort of reward or punishment scheme. In fact, I hope there is some kind of justice in some kind of afterlife. The idea that Joseph Mengele lived to old age in Brazil after what he did is appalling to me. It may sound petty, but I don't like the idea that such a barbarian was able to avoid punishment for his unconscionably evil acts. I would not advocate an actual hell, even for such an evil person, but at least some form of justice?


Perhaps his soul was born again as a hen, consigned to life in a battery cage?


Or, more fitting to the horrible things he did, as an animal used for vivisection? That would be an apt punishment for such a wicked man, who was known to cut into human beings without anesthesia, even pregnant women.


But, as it happens, I wouldn't even wish that on him, the bastard, because my sense of compassion would not allow it. I would not advocate torture or agony on any living being, regardless of how evil they are, because to do that I stoop to their level: I become as they are.


This subject will not leave me alone, and I think there is a greater reason behind it than simply one individual with an idée fixe.


I strongly believe that this idea of a literal hell is the most evil concept ever hatched in the human mind, and it's been used as a political tool, a means of leverage and power, mostly by men with a serious need to control and manipulate others, for far too long.

It must be put to rest, and emphatically so, but not only by atheists, but by people of faith, and by followers of Christ.


As Julian of Norwich said, All shall be well, and all manner of thing (sic) shall be well.

4.2017

3.22.2017

Write That Check (Free Speech)

Ayn Rand, famous (or infamous) creator of Objectivism, considered the use of agressive force to be one of the 'destroyers of the world'. The other destroyer was faith. I'll leave off faith for another day, and focus on force.

As much as I currently disagree with much of Rand's philosophy (particularly her views on esthetics), I happen to agree that the use of aggressive force is one of the destroyers of the world; I also agree that the use of force is only ethical when it's used in retaliation to the initiation of force. In other words, I am no pacifist, and would even consider pacifism, especially if practiced by a whole society of people, not only as not ethical, but downright evil. But more of that some other time. (Short version: Pacifism, practiced on a large scale, puts innocent people in harms way. ie: It kills people.)


I've had a lot of arguments lately with various people about the respective virtues and/or dangers of words. To my way of thinking, true power lies in the exercise of reason, which manifests in words and actions; which also means, contrarily, that the opposite of reason is the exercise of brute force. For the purposes of simplicity, when I refer to brute force, let's imagine I mean fists, or weapons. It should almost go without saying, if we've learned anything as a species, that the person who is apt to start swinging his fists over the slightest disagreement, is a person who is not open to reason, but in fact, dead-set against it. These are the enemies of reason, and as such are enemies of free speech: the use of the power of words. A truly enlightened person knows that words and reason are inseparable and, in fact, co-dependent. Without words, we cannot reason.

In my experience, there are many people who are dead-set against reason. These are individuals who, in general, are so certain of the veracity of their beliefs that any disagreement, however delicately or diplomatically worded, will incite them to anger; and in some individuals this switch from normalcy to blind rage can be triggered, literally, in seconds. I have seen it happen so many times it makes my head spin: The absolute refusal, or sheer inability— I sometimes cannot determine which— to tolerate the articulation of an idea that causes these people of whom I speak to think outside the box they've locked themselves into.

Someone I know is fond of a certain expression: "Don't write a check your ass can't cash." This is a rather unfortunate little phrase that actually means: "If you think you might get hurt, don't voice your opinion." In other words, it's an explicit, if poetic, advocacy of cowardice. 

"Don't run your mouth unless you can back it up", is another way of phrasing the same sentiment: "If you're in a situation where speaking your mind might cause you to get your ass kicked, stay silent." No matter the street-wise manner these sentiments are voiced in, they amount to the same thing: Cowardice.

I've taken my lumps when situations have called for me to stand my ground, come hell or high water. I've got actual, literal lumps to prove it. I'm a small guy, not physically strong, and decidedly non-aggressive; but I'm also not a coward. I don't care if the person I'm interacting with is six foot ten: If they insult me, and especially if they are under the delusion that their physical advantage will intimidate me and cause me to hold my tongue, then all bets are off, and this six-foot-tenner is gonna get an earful of reality whether he likes it or not. 

Naturally, Goliath will have every right to exert his strength, and in many cases I can understand that I've got it coming. But the possibility of being beaten up is a trifle when compared to the possibility of behaving like a coward. 

The world is full of Goliaths (people or groups in power) who simply cannot grasp that fear of harm will not silence the people they wish to keep under their ugly, collective heel. They don't understand it, and it literally drives them crazy. They will stop at nothing in their blind attempt to silence the voice of reason with their big, hairy hands. When the voice of reason keeps on speaking, despite a bloody mouth, a black eye, or broken bones, these Goliath's get even angrier, and put even more force into their futile blows. "When will this idiot be quiet?" they cogitate, swinging away, wondering just how far they will have to go until the "idiot" finally decides to close his mouth.

The tragedy is that at some point, the voice of reason is, at long last, rendered silent, and Goliath can finally stop swinging his hairy mitts and relax. This is happening all over the world, especially in theocratic countries in the Middle East. There is sometimes a lot of blood to mop up, and maybe even some graves to be dug, but at least Goliath can rest in peace, since the silence he so dearly craves has been achieved. The voice of reason can rest in even greater peace, because it refused to be silent, even against the threat of harm or death. 

Nonetheless, Goliath will stand there, scratch his rotund belly, and wonder, "Why wouldn't that little prick just be quiet? Couldn't he see that he was wrong, because he had such little hands and since mine are so big and hairy? Hmm..." The world is full of bullies, of Goliaths, individually and collectively. But there will always be those pesky little David's with their words, their slings, and their indomitable courage.

WAB 3.22.17





10.25.2015

Utopia? Nope. FB dialogue

P. O. to me: We could rearrange the how the world is organized such that everyone could attain their heart's one true desire if they are only willing to play by certain rules. I think that perfect happiness would be a sufficient motivator for all besides the few that have short-circuits in their minds.

Moi: 

Certainly - if only everyone would abide by the rules, we'd have a Utopia; but Utopia is not possible, because of the people I referred to, sociopaths and psychopaths in the main, but also your average joe (if such a person exists, which I'm inclined to think: Not). How many people do you know who have never broken a law, have never broken a rule? I've never met a single individual who would meet that criteria, and I'm not sure I'd want to, because such a person might possibly be an anemic, lifeless, approximation of a human being, rather than the real McCoy.

We stand at a place in history where hindsight tells us abundantly more than foresight or insight. Nearly 3,000 years of various attempts at Utopia-building, all of which have failed. Some of these attempts were monstrous, such as what we saw in the first half of C20, as well as many a barbarous empire in ages past; some had better luck, as in the UK, the USA, the EU, or places like Australia and Canada. 

Now we are witnessing what appears to me as the downfall of the last, and perhaps greatest empire: the USA. What will become of the world when the USA goes down, as Rome went down? The future looks grim from my perspective, though I admit I'm an American, born at West Point, with every advantage, and I've lived my life in relative safety and security thanks to the industry, effort, and sacrifice of millions who came before me, who made it so I could live my life without the fear of having a bomb dropped on my house, or my town or city invaded by a foreign invader. 

I don't know if a world stripped of religion is the answer. And the only way a "Utopia" could be established would be through means envisioned by writers like Orwell and Huxley.

10.25.15

10.02.2015

Information versus Entertainment; posted @ FB

I want to offer some suggestions to the producers of media content whose primary purpose is to educate people, and not necessarily entertain them.

If you have information that you would like to communicate to people that you think is vital, and that they should understand for their own betterment, you should concentrate on educating, and lower - or even eliminate - the entertainment aspect of the content you produce.

If one goes to Youtube to watch videos on any given topic, and if these videos are somewhere in the higher-budget area, ie, if they have a certain value as items of entertainment: a look, a sound, hi-def quality video and music, one might notice that often it appears that the producers have placed a higher priority on entertainment value than on the value of the information they wish to communicate.

This is especially the case with respect to videos that are political or polemic. If a video is trying to convince you that aliens have visited Earth, for example, you will notice that it will have a music track that creates an atmosphere of mystery, fear, intrigue, excitement, and controversy; and usually the video will be edited in such a way that the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery is even more enhanced: For example, documents will be shown with focused areas highlighted while the outer areas are blurred or obscured, and these will be shown for only a moment, and usually accompanied with dramatic music. The editing is frenetic and confusing, causing a sense of disorientation in the viewer.

Now, if a producer and/or writer's intention with these videos is to convey information they believe to be credible and important to other people, the viewers, I believe it is absolutely contrary to that intention to create videos that induce in the viewer a definite sense of disorientation, shock, alarm, and a general feeling of emotional ambivalence to what they are witnessing and hearing.

In other words: producers and writers of that kind of video are automatically suspect, and I would encourage people to avoid and even ignore that kind of content, because those producers and writers are patently more interested in entertaining you than in persuading you to believe in whatever it is they want you to believe.

The above refers not only to lesser known or unknown producers on sites like Youtube, but to any and all creators of such content, even National Geographic and other prestigious, world-renowned individuals, groups, or companies.

If you have something of vital import to tell me, tell me, don't entertain me. I can seek entertainment elsewhere.

10.2.15

9.27.2015

Sam Harris, Nominalism, Islam, Mustaches, & Swiss Cheese; navelgazing @ FB

I was having a discussion with a young man about religion, Islam, Sam Harris, and accusations directed at Harris of racism and "Islamophobia". The conversation started off on a sour note due to some misunderstandings of what I had written. I was happy to take the blame for that misunderstanding - occasionally my writing is convoluted, goes off on tangents, and crawls up its own arse. I get gabby, I lose focus and go off into areas that in my own mind are relevant to what I started out with, but are utterly confusing to someone trying to make sense of what I'm trying to say.

I ended up deleting the post and subsequent thread that initiated this conversation, since the young man with whom I was talking has either blocked me or deactivated, since his posts vanished and I can't locate him in a search. Ah, well.

The point I tried to get across to this person was that I'm a nominalist, in that I subscribe to the idea that groups are not real entities, that only individuals are real entities. A group is made up of two or more individuals who have at least one attribute in common. The group called Americans, for instance, is a big group, and the one attribute all Americans have in common is that they are citizens of the United States of America. Americans have many other attributes in common with one another, but none of them are necessary attributes. The only necessary attribute of an American is that he/she be a citizen of the United States of America. That's it.

Americans have innumerable attributes in common. Some of them are Christians, some of them are Jews, and some of them are Muslims; some of them are white, some of them are black, some of them are hispanic. Some of them are women, some of them are men. Some of them are Christian and white. Some of them are Jewish and white. Some of them are Muslim and white. Some of them are white Christian men, some of them are white Jewish men, some of them are white Muslim men. Some are black Christian men. Some are black Muslim men. Some are black Christian women. Some are black Muslim women. Some are hispanic Christian women. Some Americans are atheists. Some Americans are white atheists. Some are black atheists. Some are hispanic atheists. Some American atheists are white women. Some American atheists are black women. Some American atheists are black men. Some American atheists are left-handed. Some Americans are gay men. Some Americans are gay women. Some Americans are claustrophobic hockey players. Some Americans are blind. Some blind Americans are blues guitar players. Some blind guitar-playing Americans are black. Some Americans have mustaches. Some Americans like cheese. Some Americans don't like American cheese.

Sorry for all that, but I think it's kind of necessary. When someone like Sam Harris, or any rational person, stands up and says that radical Islam is a danger to real people in the real world, he is not saying that everyone who is an adherent to the Islamic religion is therefore dangerous. As a matter of fact, Harris has gone out of his way, time and time again, to explain that he is, in fact, defending innocent people in Muslim countries, who are themselves at least nominally Muslim - meaning in name only - against the people who are oppressing them and keeping them in a constant state of fear and danger. By the very act of denouncing the atrocities committed by radical Muslims against their own people, Sam Harris is defending the majority of Muslims, the far greater majority of individuals who are just as sane and rational as anyone else, who just want to live their lives in peace and be left alone.

And yet, by some amazing miscomprehension, or purposeful slander, he is accused of being an Islamophobe, of being racist, of being the very thing that he is in complete opposition to.

At the heart of most of the confusion is a simple conceptual error: the failure to distinguish the real from the unreal. A group is not a real entity. It's just a label, an abstraction. The word "Muslims" does not identify any individual, rather it's a term that refers to a massive group of individuals who share at least one attribute in common: that they are, at least nominally, members of the religion of Islam. They may be hardcore fundies, or frightened atheists who are unable to confess to disbelief because to do so could get them killed, or any number of moderate, liberal, or orthodox believers.

When Americans fought Americans in the Civil War, Sam Harris, while he is an American, was not a member of those groups that fought. I'm an American, but I am not in the group of Americans that fought against the Japanese and the Germans in World War Two. Those people were Americans, and I'm an American, but I was not a member of that group of Americans.

Spaniards killed a lot of Native Americans. There are many Spaniards who never killed any Native Americans.

Some Spaniards are men. Some Spaniards are vegetarians. Some Spaniards like American cheese. Some Swiss people don't like Swiss cheese.

9.27.15

8.09.2015

Me 8.9.15; posted also @ Facebook


I am a Spinozan agnostic non-denominational universalist follower of Jesus Christ as I understand Him to be and as He has revealed Himself in my heart (not the pump in my chest).

I am not diagnosed bi-polar, but underwent treatment for emotional disorder for a while - to no benefit. My brother and sister (I'm in the middle) have both been diagnosed bi-polar and both are on medication. My mother was also hospitalized in her 30s for severe depression. It's in the family.

I believe very strongly that bi-polar disorder (and other similar mental disorders perhaps) may be at the heart of many religious conversions, many a deeply religious person, and also be at the core of many testimonies by individuals who claim to have been 'touched' (for want of a better word) by a higher power, or God, some of whom are quite famous, such as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. There are no doubt countless others, ancient and modern.

I do not really **know** what I believe or don't believe; I have zero certainty; but I do know that I have a strong faith (made the leap) that a Being or Beings have intervened in my heart and mind and that this Being or these Beings are benign, loving, and are of a nature that is beyond my brain's capacity to comprehend. I have named these Beings God and Jesus Christ, and while my gut and my heart tell me I am correct, my reasoning brain allows me to consider that this could be (and probably is?) due to the place of my birth, my upbringing, and the information about the world that I have been exposed to. From my scant reading of Buddhist beliefs, if I were born in the Far East, I would probably be a Buddhist; and the same may be said if I were born in the Middle East, etc, etc.

I've been astonished of late by the similarities in core teachings of all world religions, and believe that there is a reason for that which goes beyond what we know scientifically, historically, philosophically, and sociologically.

The LAST thing I wish to do is offend my Lord, or to offend God. I would gladly die right now than willfully do such a thing. While I say this, I am fairly convinced that Jesus Christ and God cannot possibly be offended by me, because their nature is such that there is simply no means available for me to cause any actual offense to them. I may, however, be wrong, and this very thing that I've just said right there could very well constitute a grievous offense to the very Lord and God Whom I love with all my heart and soul. That is my greatest fear at the moment. I don't fear eternal punishment, as I believe that to be utterly contrary to a loving God; what I fear is offending That which I love so much, so deeply. A retreat to disbelief, at this point in my travels, would leave me with a feeling on par to that of abandoning one of my children, and/or forsaking my parents.

I realize that none of this sounds remotely rational or reasonable. I cannot defend my views or my feelings with wholly rational, reasonable discourse or argumentation.

I was a militant atheist, and was even a Randian Objectivist for a few years, for most of my adult life. I went through what I can only call a radical religious conversion in 2011, over the course of a few months of intense depression, elation, confusion, grief, and sporadic bouts of prolific artistic creativity, which has lasted up until now and is ongoing.

That's about it,
Bill

6.22.2015

Gun control; rights; @Facebook

Well, I did some reading as promised, but in the long run my opinion on the issue remains as it was. Even if it's true that owning a gun puts one at greater risk for harm, which is self-evident by virtue of what a gun is: a potentially deadly instrument, that's simply not a justifiable reason to divest a person of their right to own a gun for the purpose of self defense. I'm a professional cook. I work with fire and sharp knives. Common sense tells me that I run a higher risk of burns and cuts than a person who doesn't work with fire and sharp knives. ?

You say a person may "feel" safer, but in reality not be. So what? Who are you, or I, to deny a person their right to "feeling" safer in a dangerous environment? Furthermore, and much more importantly, people are different. Person X, who is well-trained in gun safety, will be safer than Person Y, who hasn't bothered. Citing stats that show any number of horrible things happening when people get hold of deadly weapons changes nothing when it comes to the fundamental issue of rights.

Having the right to do something, like own a gun, or eat at MacDonalds every day, does not carry with it any guarantee of safety or wellbeing, nor should it. And if I defend a person's right to own a gun, or to eat at MacDonalds every day, it doesn't mean I am giving either thing my stamp of approval.

Ayn Rand made a similar point when she brought up the subject of pornography. She found porn repellent and disgusting, but she was willing to defend a person's right to consume it. Defending a person's right to do something is neither a moral sanction nor a stamp of approval. I hate to repeat this but it bears repeating, because it's frequently forgotten.


Gun ownership entails a great deal of personal responsibility. Some people are simply not responsible. Do you suggest that we limit a responsible person's rights by virtue of the fact that irresponsible people exist? Perhaps you and I are vastly different people.

6.19.2015

Media data overload; madfingering @ Facebook

 I've got so much I could add to this conversation, I could literally go on for thousands of words. However, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I think we need to ignore the media. Ignore it flat out. We're in an age now where "information" - (usually misinformation, especially the very first articles or blogs about a particular event or issue, because people are too eager to get their opinion out there, and too eager to play the part of the concerned citizen who's more on the ball than their neighbor, whom they imagine is an ignoramus - and I am generalizing here as well, committing the very mistake I am blaming others of!) - is so readily available and so easy to access, so everyone (not literally) is going mad thumbs on their smart phones and on their pcs trying to keep up. No-one (not literally) wants to be thought of as ignorant, or unconcerned, uninvolved. And most people (even that's a stretch) still can't stand to see someone else who's "wrong on the Internet". Basically (and don't you hate ppl who start sentences with that word, as if things need to be dumbed down for others?) the world and world events are no different than they have been since day 1, the only difference is the massive media scramble to glut the information highways (cliche alert) with data - and negative news has more appeal than positive news, so we hear about criminals and catastrophes far more often than we hear about the latest child prodigy who just wrote an opera in three days, or five year old drummers who can give Mike Portnoy a run for his money, or the average joe or jane in the street who is doing wonderful things without concern for media attention, and simply out of a love for humanity and the selfish joy of reaping the rewards of being a good person and living according to an unwritten code of morals and values. That's all for now. And everything I've just said has been said by a million people in the past five seconds, and probably said better.

6.12.2015

Thanksgiving

Whatever happened to politeness and simple courtesy? At a BB I post regularly at, which shall go nameless, I've noticed over the past few years an annoying tendency amongst the more entrenched members, particularly those who are widely published, to ignore the time-honored etiquette for such public fora, meaning the idea that one should always thank a critter for their critique. At least two prominent senior members, both very well known and widely published, seem to have a habit of posting work, receiving critique, and then only thanking the critters they are pleased to thank, or just not saying thank you at all. How difficult is it to say thank you? One can abbreviate, Facebook style: ty, and that would at least be something. But they seem content to give nothing, which is bothersome, and downright silly. Perhaps a thank you is implied, without actually being present in text form, and I'm just out of the loop? Or could it be that George Orwell was right, and that some animals are more equal than others? My Christian goodwill would like to believe the former, while my reptilian kernel believes George was right. 

6.05.2014

Pontificating at the Sphere; crit and critters phase 1 where Doris gets her oats; as Williamb


Many in this thread have already given expression to most of the things I think and feel about poetry, but there are some things I'd like to say about the relationship between poet and reader, or poet and critter.

 There are always people in workshops who take a hard, aggressive approach to critique, and this, by and large, with proper moderation and attention to board etiquette, is a good and productive thing.

 Knowing that, and knowing that aggression is not a big part of my nature, and that I always regret any instance when I become aggressive, and that I feel better after I have behaved passively and not belligerently, I go about critiquing in a more passive manner. I, as the reader, am the passive vessel, into which the poet pours her words. These words, in the arrangement she has made, are intended to affect me, and as a reasonable reader, I know that she wants me to be affected by the words in the same way that the words affected her, so I try to do that, to share her experience. I don't go into it with the feeling that she owes me something, or that she will be responsible for my disappointment if her poems fails to make an impression on me, or is simply poorly made: I let the disappointment fall on her by virtue of my having failed in sharing her experience. 

 There is no reason whatsoever for me to be angry or indignant towards her. And the worst thing to do is act offended by a poorly made poem. I've seen that kind of thing happen a million times: a critter acting like a shrinking violet, so in accord and at one with the benevolent power of good poetry that bad poetry is odious, even harmful to them. Bad poetry cannot possibly harm or offend a competent poet; on the contrary, it should arouse pity and compassion. Without bad poetry, no-one would know what good poetry was, and if all poetry was good poetry, there would be no need for poetry, no reason to write it. 

 I take a subordinate position to the poet. The poet has made something that she thinks might work, and wants to try it out on like minded people. I voluntarily take the time to read what she has made, and voluntarily agree to think and think and think and think about what she has made. The poet has not coerced or forced me to read her poem by the mere act of posting it for critique. 

 There are those who argue the contrary, but those arguments are not valid . Even in a workshop, any critique done by a member is done voluntarily, of their own choice. No-one is forced to critique a poem in an online workshop. No-one. I've seen many poems slide down the board at another site with a big goose egg in the reply column. I've had one or two of my poems slide down the board with nothing but a goose egg to bid it farewell. That, when all is said and done, is probably the harshest critique a poet can receive. We all have egos. No comment is worse than no comment.

 Now, some of the more aggressive critters like to say things like this to the poet:

commentexample_one says > I can't believe I wasted three minutes reading this. I wish I had those three minutes back! Will you please read the guidlelines, and post in a forum appropriate to your level of ability and experience, so that other people [meaning we really smart people] will not have to waste their time reading a poem written by someone who obviously doesn't know anything about the craft of writing poetry? We value our time as much as you value yours. 

The above comment, to my mind, is an example of someone with an ego on overdrive. Something similar to the above has been typed, or copy-pasted, millions of times, at other sites, and at one site in particular. The best response, even if the poem is execrable, as far as I'm concerned, is this:

poetreplyexample_88 says > Thank you, commentexample_one. I appreciate your taking the time to write this response. However, I'm afraid I cannot feel responsible or guilty about how you manage your time. I can only manage my time. Thanks again! 

At which point, due to the critter being wounded by the poet, much nastiness ensues, until a moderator steps in. In the real world, it sometimes happens that a Colley Cibber actually can hurt an Alexander Pope, though for most people the joke is always on Cibber. Ha-ha-ha. 

 It's obvious to anyone who knows about poetry that Pope was better at it than Cibber. It is glaringly obvious, hence the tragedy (to my mind) of Pope spending so much time wasting his gift, his remarkable skills, on laughing at and mocking writers who everyone knew could not hold a candle to him. Who knows what amazing works he could have penned had he been able to value a great poem over a good joke? 

 Luckily, for readers of poetry, along came poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, who spent their time writing with an effort aimed at exalting the human experience, of finding value in human life and human beings, in reverencing the natural world and the cosmos, rather than focusing on putting mankind to shame. Our religion, our faith, if we understand and practice it to the best of our ability, provides us with shame proportional to our deserving of it as individuals, and history gives us an abundance of reasons to be ashamed of ourselves collectively. 

 I prefer to use poetry, the artform that I love the most, even above my great love for music, to make an impression of that passion, that love that I feel, in the minds of a few other people. I don't wish to use poetry to make myself feel better or bigger than others, to softsoap or coddle myself, a purpose for which certain authors of satire have used it. I'd rather use it as a means of helping a reader to empathize with another human being, no matter who that human being is, just to take a severe example: a violent criminal undergoing capital punishment, or an innocent wrongly undergoing the same; how would, or could, that feel to the father and mother of the former, or the latter? How must that feel, as a human being? That's a big part the experiment of poetry for me, to explore situations in which I haven't been involved, to wonder how I would react, how I would feel, in such scenarios.

 In the end, I'd rather praise than blame as a critter, I'd rather reward than punish: knowing that there are plenty of harder, more aggressive critters out there doing what they do, keeping things balanced. I can't act in contradiction to my nature, nor, I think, can anyone else. Our job is to understand this and to enslave the emotions to reason, as best we can, even if, in reality, that goal is most likely impossible.

5.18.2014

"...It's an Orangy sky..."


As a father, I've encouraged my sons to look up Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Rape of Nanking, I've discussed the atrocities of the Holocaust, the evils of war, the evils that occurred in POW camps, the evils of religious, ethnic, and political persecution; as well as to bear in mind the evils of child and spousal abuse, sexual abuse, especially in times when people had no recourse to the law, nowhere to turn, no-one to go to for help. I've talked to them about poverty, disease, natural catastrophes, horrible accidents, etc. I want them to know the dark side of nature and the dark side of humanity, as well as the dark half of happenstance.  Anything can happen, at any time, to remove their comforts and destroy their lives. That's not to say I want them to dwell on such things inordinately, only to bear in mind their relative good fortune, and to be grateful, and to be compassionate to those who are not as fortunate, and to be reverent to our ancestors, who in general had far more difficulties and challenges to face in life than we do now.

And I'd rather they watched an extremely violent film like Kiss of the Dragon, a Jet Li vehicle, than the artsy fartsy A Clockwork Orange, for the simple fact that the former has a redemptive moral meaning and purpose while the latter does not. I can already hear the slings and arrows of contempt that might come my way for saying such a thing. I said as much on another forum and was pelted with rancor and indignation, so I won't be surprised.

4.22.2014

Cosmotheological diddlings from Eratosphere; as Williamb


I'll be 50 in two months, and until Feb. 2011, when I was 46, I was an atheist the whole time, just like my pop, who as it happens, turned 70 back in January.

 Either I'm insane or I was touched by God. Or something extremely powerful, benevolent, and amazing. I have been an outspoken God-believer ever since, despite the fact that my life is falling apart around me and each day brings new difficulties. I go to bed every night and see images of the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, The Inquisition, the bombing of Hiroshima, Pompey, tsunamis, human suffering on a terribly grand scale. But it's the daily catastrophes, accidents, atrocities, the day-in day-out round of human suffering that I don't hear or know about, that troubles me even more.

 I say, Hey God, why the hell is all this happening? When am I or my loved ones gonna be tossed into the grinder? Why am I safe and sound? Why don't I have physical pain? Why are my loved ones not dying? Why am I not suffering? I conclude that my suffering is still to come. In a universe where balance is all, it seems only correct and proper that I should get my share of the pain, after 50 years of relative ease and comfort.

 I think this is how Christ works in me. I've had it too easy. I let the years go by. Now comes the rough stuff. Every day is harder and harder. No wife, see kids rarely, no friends, low-wage job, future looks dismal.

 And we haven't even started. I expect things to become worse. After a certain amount of time, I won't be able to handle the stress, that harsh gnawing in the belly, the fear. A time will come when I can't keep a job, or do a job properly. A lifelong Tull fan, that Aqualung character has always haunted me, since I was about 14. I saw myself in him.

 Back in Cowper's day (I think I'm a lot like he was) there were patrons who helped crazy poets along. Those days are long gone. Nobody gives a tinker's damn about poetry, because everyone's a poet. Mishmash splishsplash = word salad: poem.

 Listen to what Roger said. This needs to be tightened up, much of it deleted or re-written. The final couplet, I'd do without the summing up. There's good material here, and something fine can be made of it I'm sure. The F-bomb is too fucking much in the first bit.


1.11.2014

'Splainin' @ FRDB; response to D; as WilliamB


D. wrote: The question was not about art, or the role of art, but the descriptive efficacy of ordinary language/folk psychology.

Fair enough. The best way I can answer this accurate rebuttle is to try and address the exact terms you have used in my own way. I hope this eases things along and that our interactions can improve.

First: I would have to say that "folk psychology", at face value, is an oxymoron. Psychology is a science, and "folk", generally speaking, does not refer to scientists and what they do. So I have never cared for that phrase, which is why you won't catch me saying, "we need more folk psychology, people!", while it may appear that I actually am endorsing such a thing.

Now here is the important part: while "folk psychology" doesn't really make much sense with respect to the medical, and/or scientific disciplines (at least so I believe), that does not therefore mean that "folk", meaning people who are not scientists or psychologists, are without relevant insights into the things which professional people conduct research about, or without intelligence, scrutiny, the capacity to reason, or the ability to understand the way the world is. See? That's all I'm actually saying, in a nutshell. I am not dissing science—that would be ludicrous! I am defending us regular "folk" in a world where regular "folk" desperately need defending against increasing whackiness in government and academia.

My apologies to those in and from places of higher learning. I am not judging individuals when I make these comments, but things in general, from the standpoint of an avid reader and observer who is basically self-educated and has been since I got out of High School knowing absolutely nothing. You don't have to attend universities or colleges nowadays to get a fair handle on what is being taught to people. The major institutions of higher learning have vast websites, libraries, and data-bases which can be accessed by people who aren't students, and YouTube and many other sites are choked with videorecorded classes, lectures, debates, pdf documents of papers, etc. Not that this is equal (of course not!) to being a student, or anywhere near it, but an intelligent person can get an idea. And to be honest, I've read some things being taught by professors to impressionable young people that I find embarrassing, shameful, and utterly absurd as an intelligent human being. I hope I don't have to go into detail, but if I absolutely must, I suppose I can dredge up some examples of what I'm talking about.

An easy example off the top of my head would be courses given with a patently militant-feminist bent that suggest that Beethoven's music was about rape. That isn't to say that one shouldn't be able to have a theory that Beethoven's music contains aggressive elements that could potentially correlate to masculine aggression against women, etc, but to actually teach it to students and grade them on their response to such a theory, from a decidedly biased and totally subjective proffessorial perspective, is not good education, but something entirely different.

Next: let me address the phrases "descriptive efficacy" and "ordinary language", and what "Art", my one-word answer to the post I quoted from you, could possibly mean in relation to those terms:

I'll grant, straight off the bat, that a novel, or a poem, does not have "descriptive efficacy", at least not in the way you, J. or f. might understand the term (I say "might" because I don't want to come off as a mind-reader or what have you. I'm only guessing at your respective viewpoints and perspectives based on our interactions here); but, if you really want my honest opinion, I would venture to suggest that a novel like Adam Bede, by George Eliot, or The Hero, by Somerset Maugham, or any number of great novels one would care to mention, have truckloads of "descriptive efficacy" with respect to the human experience from my personal perspective: meaning, necessarily, what it means to be a conscious, intelligent being in society co-existing with other similar beings. A great film can work even better on the average person, on people who either don't like to read or need things delineated in a more immediate, sensual, and relatively brief fashion. Millions of people across the planet exit movie theatres with their brains in overdrive, pondering ideas and concepts, having been oftentimes deeply moved, even changed, by the simple experience of watching a great flick. This is nothing new or controversial. Smart, and highly educated people around the globe, including academic philosophers (like Deleuze, just as one example) have recognized the important psychological impact of film on the social animal.

To go out on a limb here, I'll say something that is controversial, and which I realize is just my personal opinion, which you can take or leave at will: I think classic and contemporary film-makers, particularly the Chinese masters (and yes, many in the mainstream blockbuster camp as well), have just as much—and very often far more— useful and important things to say about the human experience than the average college or university course. <<< there, that's just one of my wholly subjective, emotional, and hopelessly passionate, romantic opinion on things. Y'all may tear it apart like hyenas if you like, but I'm stickin' to it until convinced otherwise!




12.26.2013

"Defending Jesus"; Facebook advert; Christian duty (an opinion, not a knowledge claim).

What's with this "defend Jesus" advert I've seen on Facebook recently? Hello there, Christians, Jesus defends us, we do not defend Him. Jesus Christ requires no defense. He is the defense. Our job as Christians is to adore, worship, and depend on Him, with all we've got, and to witness to others how He has worked in our lives, in the hope that they may realize equal results; not to "defend" Him [as if such a thing were remotely possible for us] from the ignorance, slights, or slanders of others. This is not to suggest that there is anything intentionally unsavory about an honest desire to defend the Lord. As I see it, when we speak of Christ to our fellow men, with an interest toward enlightening them of His Grace, and His true affect upon our lives, we are not defending our Lord, but giving public testimony to His power, affirmation of trust in His guidance, and glad and grateful acknowledgment of His authority, in God the Father.  Merry Christmas!

- written 12.25.13 -