30 June 2011


A.  Discursive knowledge arises from an imperfection in intellectual nature. For that which is known through another is less known than what is known through itself; nor is the nature of the knower sufficient for knowing that which is known through another without that through which it is made known. But in discursive knowledge something is made known through another, whereas that which is known intellectually is known through itself, and the nature of the knower is able to know it without an external means. Hence, it is manifest that reason is a certain defective intellect.  —  SCG I.57.9

B.  Please don't wear red tonight.

C.  The contingent is opposed to the certitude of knowledge only so far as it is future, not so far as it is present. For when the contingent is future, it can not-be. Thus, the knowledge of one conjecturing that it will be can be mistaken: it will be mistaken if what he conjectures as future will not take place. But in so far as the contingent is present, in that time it cannot not-be. It can not-be in the future, but this affects the contingent not so far as it is present but so far as it is future. Thus, nothing is lost to the certitude of sense when someone sees a man running, even though this judgment is contingent. All knowledge, therefore, that bears on something contingent as present can be certain. But the vision of the divine intellect from all eternity is directed to each of the things that take place in the course of time, in so far as it is present, as shown above. It remains, therefore, that nothing prevents God from having from all eternity an infallible knowledge of contingents.  —  SCG I.67.2

27 June 2011


A.  Something you probably haven't noticed:  The Coca-Cola logo is a leftover of the 19th century.  Also, Coca-cola is spelled with 'C's

B.  Midnight in Paris is an unusual film for Woody Allen (though at times you can still hear his voice in several of the characters... listen for echoes of Love and Death (4) in the lines of Earnest Hemingway), and really an impressive achievement.  (4)

C.  Coca and Cacao are in fact not the same plant.  The mistakes of elementary school teachers stick with us for a long time.


"Among all the things that are ordered to one another, furthermore, their order to one another is for the sake of their order to something one; just as the order of the parts of an army among themselves is for the sake of the order of the whole army to its general. For that some diverse things should be united by some relationship cannot come about from their own natures as diverse things, since on this basis they would rather be distinguished from one another. Nor can this unity come from diverse ordering causes, because they could not possibly intend one order in so far as among themselves they are diverse. Thus, either the order of many to one another is accidental, or we must reduce it to some one first ordering cause that orders all other things to the end it intends. Now, we find that all the parts of this world are ordered to one another according as some things help some other things. Thus, lower bodies are moved by higher bodies, and these by incorporeal substances, as appears from what was said above. Nor is this something accidental, since it takes place always or for the most part. Therefore, this whole world has only one ordering cause and governor. But there is no other world beyond this one. Hence, there is only one governor for all things, whom we call God."  —  SCG I.42.7

26 June 2011


A.  Thomas Paine's personal creed (taken from his book The Age of Reason):

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. 

C.   The Goldbach Conjecture seems like a good proof of God's existence.


A.  Interesting:  Professional wrestler Mike Bell, one of the subjects of the 2008 documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which focused on the public image and medical implications of steroid use, died in rehab near the end of 2008.  Apparently in addition to long-term steroid use, Mr. Bell was addicted to painkillers and alcohol.  Poor guy.

B.  The Wikipedia random article button has led me to "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows", the upcoming sequel to the 2009 abomination starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  Why do you do these things, Hollywood?

C.  Mycroft Holmes was, contrary to what I thought, in the original stories.

25 June 2011


A.  The thirty-third perfect number: 2859432(2859433-1)  [click here].   It's rather long.

B.  Currently on Netflix Instant View:  The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  (3)

C.  Another good title:  The Way of All Flesh

D.  E.M. Forster's opinions should be heard with caution.

24 June 2011


A.  "A man carries cash. A man looks out for those around him — woman, friend, stranger. A man can cook eggs. A man can always find something good to watch on television. A man makes things — a rock wall, a table, the tuition money. Or he rebuilds — engines, watches, fortunes. He passes along expertise, one man to the next. Know-how survives him. This is immortality. A man can speak to dogs. A man fantasizes that kung fu lives deep inside him somewhere. A man knows how to sneak a look at cleavage and doesn't care if he gets busted once in a while. A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job. It doesn't matter what his job is, because if a man doesn't like his job, he gets a new one."  —  Esquire online, April 2009.  It continues, but in the same vein.  The readership is spared.

B.  Virtue, n.  behavior showing high moral standards [...] ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French vertu, from Latin virtus ‘valor, merit, moral perfection, bravery, manliness’ from vir ‘man.’

C.  The Russians are pretty great.

23 June 2011


A.  A friend in need is a friend indeed.

B.  Just for fun, name them.

22 June 2011


A.  Poemen also said, "They smoke out bees in order to steal their honey.  So idleness drives the fear of God from the soul, and steals its good works."

B.  Against the Mormons, an argument from awkwardness:
Again, every body is finite, as is proved in De caelo I [I, 5] of a circular body and a rectilinear body. Now, we can transcend any given finite body by means of the intellect and the imagination. If, then, God is a body, our intellect and imagination can think of something greater than God. God is thus not greater than our intellect—which is awkward. God is, therefore, not a body.   —   SCG I.20.5

C.  Richard III, Act IV, Scene 4, 39-48:
Tell o'er your woes again by viewing mine:
I had an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
I had a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him:
Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard killed him;
I had a Richard too, and thou didst kill him;
I had a Rutland too, thou holp'st to kill him.
Thou hadst a Clarence too, and Richard kill'd him.
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death...


"And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands, and made captives since the time of their capture, and who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free, and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of money. If this is not done when the fifteen days have passed, they incur the sentence of excommunication by the act itself, from which they cannot be absolved, except at the point of death, even by the Holy See, or by any Spanish bishop, or by the aforementioned Ferdinand, unless they have first given freedom to these captive persons and restored their goods. We will that like sentence of excommunication be incurred by one and all who attempt to capture, sell, or subject to slavery, baptized residents of the Canary Islands, or those who are freely seeking Baptism, from which excommunication cannot be absolved except as was stated above."

21 June 2011


A.  "If every mover is moved, this proposition is true either by itself or by accident. If by accident, then it is not necessary, since what is true by accident is not necessary. It is something possible, therefore, that no mover is moved. But if a mover is not moved, it does not move: as the adversary says. It is therefore possible that nothing is moved. For, if nothing moves, nothing is moved. This, however, Aristotle considers to be impossible—namely, that at any time there be no motion. Therefore, the first proposition was not possible, since from a false possible, a false impossible does not follow. Hence, this proposition, every mover is moved by another, was not true by accident."  —  SCG, I.13.17

B.  Current weather for Barrow, Alaska and Pago Pago, American Samoa (northernmost and southernmost places in US territory).


Some classic moments in film (some spoilers here, but these aren't movies you can really spoil):

  1. The bell in Andrei Rublev.
  2. The opening of the game with death in The Seventh Seal.
  3. The swing scene in Ikiru.
  4. "Le Tourbillon" in Jules et Jim.
  5. The trial in Fritz Lang's M.
  6. Willard meets Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
  7. Hannay's extemporaneous speech in The 39 Steps. (Jump to 47 minutes in.)

20 June 2011


Short summaries of SH- movies. (1-5 scale rating)

  1. Shadowlands: Anthony Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis.  Fairly good movie, evangelical megahit. (3)
  2. Shakespeare in Love: Witty bio-flick about the writing of Romeo & Juliet, lots of sex. (3)
  3. Shall We Dance?:  Mean Japanese lady gives shy man ballroom dancing lessons. (2?)
  4. Shallow Hal: Hypnotized Jack Black sees Gwenyth Paltrow's inner beauty while Jason Alexander messes stuff up. (2)
  5. Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights:  Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan in two kung-fu loaded western parodies (think Rush Hour, but with cowboys).  Sequel not as good as original. (4,2)
  6. Shattered Glass: Hayden Christensen plays a New Republic writer with a lying addiction who gets caught. (2)
  7. Shawshank Redemption:  Classic riff on The Count of Monte Cristo starring M. Freeman and Tim Robbins. (5)
  8. She's All That: The prototypical nerd-to-prom-queen movie, complete with Freddie Prinz and references to MTV's Real World. (3)
  9. Sherlock Holmes: Horrifyingly awful period action movie pretending to be a Sherlock Holmes mystery.  R. Downey, Jr., Jude Law, drug use and satanism. (1)
  10. Sherlock Holmes:  The classic Basil Rathbone film series.  All of them worth watching. (3s & 4s)
  11. Shine: Over-driven piano prodigy has a nervous breakdown while preparing a Rach. cto.  Lots of human fulfillment, emotional awakening, etc. etc. (3)
  12. The Shining: Over-hyped Kubrik film by S. King.  Lots of buildup for a few very creepy scenes.  One of Kubrik's better works. (3)
  13. The Shipping News:  Kevin Spacey moves to Newfoundland to report deaths for a local newspaper.  Everyone has weird emotional problems. (2)
  14. Shopgirl:  Written by and starring Steve Martin.  Silicon Valley logician uses extremely depressed girl for casual sex and supports her with anti-depressants. (2)
  15. Shutter Island: Leo DiCaprio and M. Scorsese.  Detective with a bad boston accent looks for vengeance, but is it all in his head? Or is it all real? Or is it in his head?  Or real? By the end no one cares. (3)


A.  "Another benefit that comes from the revelation to men of truths that exceed the reason is the curbing of presumption, which is the mother of error.  For there are some who have such a presumptuous opinion of their own ability that they deem themselves able to measure the nature of everything; I mean to say that, in their estimation, every thing is true that seems to them so, and everything is false that does not.  So that the human mind, therefore, might be freed from this presumption and come to a humble inquiry after truth, it was necessary that some things should be proposed to man by God that would completely surpass his intellect."  —  SCG I.5.4

B. From an article in the "Health and Science" section of Time:
"As she steamed the placenta with some herbs, the kitchen got that ironlike smell of cooked organ meat, with vague undertones of a consciousness-raising group and a Betty Friedan rally. Sara said Cassandra had a particularly robust placenta, and she hoped to get 120 pills out of it. As she sliced the cooked organ and put it on parchment paper in a dehydrator, she told me that some people drink the placenta raw as a smoothie. "I do this for a living, and I couldn't do that," she said. The pills, she explained, were superior, since Cassandra could stretch their hormone-rich benefits much further, perhaps even freezing some for menopause."

C.  "Just as, therefore, it would be the height of folly for a simple person to assert that what a philosopher proposes is false on the ground that he himself cannot understand it, so (and even more so) it is the acme of stupidity for a man to suspect as false what is divinely revealed through the ministry of the angels simply because it cannot be investigated by reason."  —  SCG I.3.4

D.  From British Glamour's May edition (purchased by sister in Warsaw):
AQUARIUS — Hel-lo super flirt!  Whether you're single or in a relationship, Aquarians are swapping kissy communications with at least one sexy guy this month.  Have fun, but be aware that love right now is a serious business—and he's getting attached.  Are you prepared to follow through, or are you just messing around?  Workwise: don't fret if it seems a bit 'bleurgh', it picks up on the 21st.


A.  Some films with numbers in their titles:

  1. 500 Days of Summer:  Upbeat hip romantic comedy with a wry feel to it.  Worth watching for its pleasant aesthetics and good use of music.  The female lead is the sort of character you hate with the fury left over from everyone who has ever hurt you.  
  2. 8 1/2:  Fellini's most famous film, with La Strada.  Possesses a similarly grand, sweeping vision of a person's life, and similarly through a small concept.  In La Strada we have a travelling performer, in 8 1/2 a film-maker trying to make a movie he's lost hold of.  8 1/2 is exceptionally boring unless you're ready to psychoanalyze everything, but it makes up for it somehow.  I've never watched it all in one go, despite several attempts.  The final sequence is great.
  3. 9: A poorly made post-apocalyptic animated action flick, with voice acting done by Christopher Plummer and Elijah Wood among others.  The plot is like cottage cheese, the graphics feel like a videogame, and the whole thing makes very little sense.  An unsatisfying ending tops the whole thing off.
  4. 12 Angry Men (the original):  Classic jury-room drama.  Excellent acting and good writing transform a simple cast of 12 men standing around a small room into a valuable civics lesson and reflection on prejudice.
  5. 13 Conversations About One Thing: The "one thing" happens here not to be sex.  This was one of the first major multi-narrative flicks produced by hollywood in the 2000s.  A series of short vignettes run into each other in chance ways, etc. etc.  Not bad.
  6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  Classic underwater adventure, based on Jules Verne.  Haven't seen it since I was pretty small, so I won't say more.
  7. 28 Days:  Rehab drama starring Sandra Bullock in one of her better roles.  Alcoholic main character is sent to a 28-day rehab program where she meets a suicidal heroin addict, a sex-addicted baseball player (Viggo Mortenson), and various other screw-ups.  Vague feelings of life-progress and sentimental moments follow after she stops fighting the system.  If you want to watch this, watch Rachel Getting Married instead.
  8. 28 Days Later: One of the best zombie movies of all time.  Britain has been taken over by a zombie virus when a comatose man wakes up in an abandoned London.  He and a few survivors attempt to find their way off the island.  Very well made.
  9. The 39 Steps:  Classic Hitchcock spy thriller.  A man is charged by a stranger to make his way to Scotland to prevent a cell of germans from stealing vital plans for a new warplane.  One of my favorite Hitchcock films.  An entertaining romantic subplot keeps you engaged.  Robert Donat does a great job.

B.  "The usage of the multitude, which according to the Philosopher is to be followed in giving names to things, has commonly held that they are to be called wise who order things rightly and govern them well."  SCG I.1

C.  "Brother, you don't need to turn me away." 

19 June 2011


A.  "Say you are a little girl and I am a totalitarian father. It is Saturday afternoon. I say, 'I don’t care what you want to do, you have to visit your grandmother.’ You go but you secretly hate me and try to revolt and that is OK. That is good.  But the monstrous permissive father will say: 'You know how much your grandmother loves you, but visit her only if you really want to.’ Beneath the appearance of a choice is a much more severe order. Not only must you visit grandma but you must want to and like it. I had such a father, which is why I hate him." — Zizek

B.  "It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produce, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.  But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do.  As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made will in soul by such a course of philosophy." — Aristotle, Ethics B.4

C.  "By abstaining from pleasures we become temperate, and it is when we have become so that we are most able to abstain from them; and similarly too in the case of courage; for by being habituated to despise things that are terrible and to stand our ground against them we become brave, and it is when we have become so that we shall be most able to stand our ground against them."  — Aristotle, Ethics B.2


A.  "There were moments when the thought that he might have helped the nephew on his new course himself became so heavy in the old man that he would stop telling the story to Tarwater, stop and stare in front of him as if he were looking into a pit which had opened up before his feet.  At such times he would wanter into the woods and leave Tarwater alone in the clearing, occasionally for days, while he thrashed out his peace with the Lord, and when he returned, bedraggled and hungry, he would look the way the boy thought a prophet ought to look.  He would look as if he had been wrestling a wildcat, as if his head were still full of the visions he had seen in its eyes, wheels of light and strange beasts with giant wings of fire and four heads turned to the four points of the universe." — The Violent Bear it Away, Ch. 1

And catching sight of Helen moving along the ramparts,
they murmured one to another, gentle, winged words:
"Who on earth could blame them?  Ah, no wonder
the men of Troy and Argive under arms have suffered
years of agony all for her, for such a women.
Beauty, terrible beauty!
A deathless goddess—so she strikes our eyes!  But still,
ravishing as she is, let her go home in the long ships
and not be left behind . . . for us and our children
down the years an irresistible sorrow."  
— Iliad, Book III

18 June 2011


A. "Legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark [hamartanousin], and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one."

B. "To gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things."

C. A few definitions:
  1. Mycosis — an infection caused by a fungus. 
  2. Jerry — British name for Germans during the second world war. 
  3. Histoplasmomas — plural form of histoplasmoma
  4. Spindrift — spray blown from the crests of waves by the wind. 
  5. Saccharomyces cerevisiae — baker's yeast.

    16 June 2011


    A.  Could you find your house from space?  A few times when looking at a specific map location, I have taught myself to pinpoint a specific spot or house by zooming in manually from Google's full map of the world.  I can do this not only with my own house, but with a few of my friends', and with some memorable places abroad (e.g. that bench I mentioned a few posts down).  An interesting exercise.  The real challenge is to do it without any map labels (this I can only do with my own house).

    B.  Is it possible to steal an idea?  To take someone else's thoughts and intentionally publish them as your own is more an act of fraud (pretending they were of your own devising) than of theft (depriving another of the use of his thoughts).

    C.  Let it be known that I am thoroughly unoriginal.  If asked, I will produce sources.


    A. "Wojtyla proposed two corrections of the speculative moral theology of Aquinas. First the teleological axis of Aquinas is to be replaced by a deontological one. The ultimate explanation of morality on the basis of the final end is to be replaced by an explanation on the basis of value and norm. We are concerned today not only with a presentation of the ultimate end of moral behavior but with the ultimate justification of the moral norm. And second, with the appearance of the philosophy of consciousness and the development its specific tools of cognition — the phenomenological method — new conditions have appeared that allow for the enrichment of the concept of the human person with the subjective aspect of consciousness that has been flattened out in metaphysical naturalism."  —  Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P.,  Theologian of the Papal Household (2005 — Present), from a lecture on nature and grace.

    B.  "...and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden."

    C.  Consider a following set of triplets, defined as follows:  
    1. (0,0,0) is in S
    2. For all triplets (a,b,c), if by subtracting a positive integer from any one column you can transform (a,b,c) into something in S, then (a,b,c) is not in S.
    3. Triplets containing negative elements are not in S.
    Provide a general strategy for determining whether or not a triplet is in S.

    15 June 2011


    A.  Vitriol is the old name for Sulfuric Acid.

    B.  Chicago style pizza is the best pizza.

    C.  Consider this.


    A.  Slavoj Žižek may be right about The Sound of Music.  Apparently a popular German political song during the Third Reich had the chorus "Adolf Hitlers Lieblingsblume ist das schlichte Edelweiß."  Translation:  "Adolf Hitler's favorite flower is the simple Edelweiß."  Maybe all those singing von Trapp kids aren't as harmless as they seem.

    B.  Žižek is, despite the above, just a kind of entertainer who likes playing the game of philosophical inversions with his own "hermeneutic of suspicion", brewed from a mix of pop culture and Jacques Lacan. We recommend his film performances, especially The Pervert's Guide to Cinema.

    C.  Ernest Hemingway has fantastic titles.  When I was young, I was overwhelmed with the excellence of the phrase "For Whom the Bell Tolls".  Then early on in high school I discovered its source.  A quick collection of great titles (with a bias for things ready at hand, either mentally or physically):

    1. The Sound and the Fury
    2. As I Lay Dying
    3. The Sun Also Rises
    4. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.
    5. The First Circle
    6. The Sickness Unto Death
    7. Fear and Trembling
    8. Absalom, Absalom!
    9. Long Day's Journey Into Night
    10. The Iceman Cometh
    11. Mourning Becomes Electra
    12. Paradise Lost
    13. The Ticklish Subject
    14. The Sublime Object of Ideology
    15. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce


    A.  N.B.:  If your government sponsors mass public aerobic exercises, you are living in a totalitarian state.

    B.  Ia.  Ia IIae.  IIa IIae.  IIIa.

    13 June 2011


    A.  Fencing rules differ depending on the sword.  With épée and foil, only hits from the tip count.  With the sabre, hits count from any part of the blade, though only in the upper body.

    B.  According to wikipedia, 11 of the 15 companies with the largest revenues worldwide deal with oil, gas and energy.

    C.  http://oeis.org/


    A.  An argument:
    Fury said to a mouse
    That he met in a house
    'Let us both go to Law
    I will prosecute you.'
    Said the mouse to the cur:
    'Such a trial, dear sir,
    With no jury or judge
    Would be wasting our breath.'
    'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,'
    Said the cunning old fury,
    'I'll try the whole cause
    And condemn you to death.'
    B.  Imagine an elementary school in which the grumbling of the children against their teachers reaches a critical mass, and a rebellion takes place.  The students are convinced that the old teachers were ignorant and incorrect and that the student body can educate itself more effectively.  So, once the teachers have been sent packing, the students begin to "play class" in the rooms.  Some of them elect instructors from among the tallest and smartest of their classmates, others allow each student to study as he will according to his own whims and ideas, and others descend into total chaos.  But even among the more structured classrooms, over time, the educational standards prove to be deformed.  When disputes arise, there is no way of settling them without an adult authority.  Order is maintained in a rough parody of classroom activity, in which important rules are lost, and other arbitrary customs elevated the status of law.  Reading becomes the turning of pages, teaching is making squiggles on a blackboard, etc.  Compare the products of such an education to those taught in a normal school.

    12 June 2011


    A.  Some basic theses (all gathered from the Summa Contra Gentiles):
    1. Every agent tends to introduce its likeness into its effect in the measure that the effect can receive it.
    2. An effect is most perfect when it returns to its source.
    3. The principle of every operation is the form by which a thing is in act.
    4. The principle of diversity among individuals of the same species is the quantity of matter.
    5. Everything composed of matter and form is a body.
    6. The object of appetition moves the appetite.
    7. The defect in the will which precedes any moral fault is not natural but voluntary.
    B.  Some general notes:
    1. As a child I discovered a copy of William Danforth’s I Dare You! on my parents’ bookcase, and read most of it.  I was too young to know what a self-help book was, but I found the book interesting.  Danforth tells the story of some shy bow-legged kid in a classroom who was once challenged by the teacher to surpass his peers in all the qualities he apparently lacked, and rose to the challenge.
    2. The book is based in part on the belief that an open challenge is the best way to inspire discipline and high achievement among people.  Danforth’s other ideas (about balancing squares and standing up straight and so forth) are less valuable, but this one seems to be worth keeping.
    3. The difference between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour is that the former contains more gluten, thus giving the bread a sturdier consistency.
    4. If one wants to familiarize oneself with the assumptions of an author, the best place to look is at the beginning of every argument.  (Obvious, but easy to forget.)


    A.  The wisdom of the age (see, for example, Disneyland) tells us that happy memories are worth treasuring.  If I had to construct an argument in favor of this view, it would run as follows.  The past is secure and unchangeable, and so if one can guarantee that one is happy at a specific time, this happiness will (in the form of memory) be preservable in the future.  To have lived a good life is to finish one’s time with a sufficiently large stock of happy memories.  This is, of course, false.  While it may be true of the really happy man that he will die with a full store of good memories, it is certainly not true that a life made up of happy moments will necessarily be happy as a whole.  The past is no strongbox.  ”Peace in our time” produced the Holocaust.
    B.  More interesting than all this is the idea that one should have experiences with the intention of creating memories.  There is a particular bench on a particular hill overlooking the Freiburg Altstadt that will always have a certain significance to me, but I never photographed it.  In all probability, I will never return to Freiburg am Breisgau in my lifetime, and will never see that bench again, nor walk down Wilhelmstraße in Tübingen, past the playing fields at night.  The problem with engineered memories is the problem with every attempt at engineering some natural part of human experience: in attempting to replicate the formal aspects, the motivating principle of the thing is easily lost.  We should be deeply suspicious of memory-factories like Disneyland.  The product they claim to be selling is far too close to our souls to come from a set of costumed figures and plasticine facades.


    A.  During the wintertime, an ant was living off the grain that he had stored up for himself during the summer. The cricket came to the ant and asked him to share some of his grain. The ant said to the cricket, ‘And what were you doing all summer long, since you weren’t gathering grain to eat?’ The cricket replied, ‘Because I was busy singing I didn’t have time for the harvest.’ The ant laughed at the cricket’s reply, and hid his heaps of grain deeper in the ground. ‘Since you sang like a fool in the summer,’ said the ant, ‘you’d better be prepared to dance the winter away!’  —  Aesopica (Perry 373)
    B.  ”Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  — Matthew 6:19-21
    C.  Descriptions of the “state of nature”, i.e. the condition of man with all civilization removed from him, make the mistake of believing first that there is some definite bottom at which an uncivilized man will settle, and second that this stripped down condition is somehow indicative of human nature in its true form.  Hobbes’ vision of uncivilized man is the best, but of course the condition he describes is a departure from human nature, since nature is a formal quality of things, a quality by which a species is differentiated through the order of its parts in their various activities.  To eliminate the proper order from human action is to violate human nature, not to reveal it.  Likewise, with Descartes, to eliminate the proper order of human thought, for example by supposing the world to be imaginary or oneself to be insane, is to maim reason and taint it with madness, rather than reveal its pure form.


    A.  Eliminate the order from a good man, one stage at a time, and see what he becomes.  First the order of his mind decays until he forgets his proper end.  Overconfident and lacking direction, he begins to pursue lesser ends out of proportion to their intrinsic worth.  This leads to acts of vice: an excessive concern for bodily health or reputation might produce cowardice, excessive love of wealth to acts of injustice.  The intellectual principles which allow him to discern higher from lower goods decay further, and he sees no difference between ends, but only pursues what he desires at the moment.  At this point temperance breaks down, and he begins to indulge his sensitive appetites (food, drink, sex) freely and without restraint.  The pain that comes from overindulgence ceases to deter him from repeating his errors, since he no longer has the strength of mind to draw the causal connections between act and consequence.  He becomes slothful and bitter, loses control over himself, curses everything good which he has lost, and attempts to nurse his wounds (with more vice) in total solitude.
    At this point, he is little better than a beast.  We continue our descent.  As the order which rules his sensitive appetites is taken away, he no longer distinguishes properly between help and harm.  He lashes out at friends and is indifferent to enemies.  He no longer hungers strictly for food, but sometimes for poison, and his sexual appetite has degenerated into blatant self-mutilation.  Eventually he dies, and becomes a carcass of flesh.
    The flesh has a high degree of intrinsic order to it, but we eliminate this as well.  Organ systems decay, tissues dissolve, cells collapse.  The chains of proteins break up one by one, leaving smaller and simpler molecules as the corpse which was once a man becomes a mass of sludge.  The simple molecules in turn give up their order, the order which places some atoms in relation to others as part of a whole.  Now we have a collection of atoms belonging to various elements.  Suppose we eliminate the ordering from this collection of matter, so that atomic structure collapses and there are simply free-floating neutrons, electrons and protons.  Then we disperse the quark trios which make up the neutrons and protons, bringing everything into a primal soup of elementary particles.  Finally we remove the last distinction: between being and nothingness, and allow all the fermions and bosons to return to the undifferentiated void.
    B.  Some sayings:
    1. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
    2. Necessity is the mother of Invention.
    3. A stitch in time saves nine.
    4. Habit is the will’s best friend.


    The French have a special knack for being interesting.  They seem to fail at many other skills that require more discipline.  For example, they are notoriously bad at fighting wars and organizing governments.  The French collapse in the face of Hitler’s invasion in 1940 is a good example of the former, the number of total political collapses the French state has experienced since 1789 a good demonstration of the latter.  Furthermore, it is a general truth that French thinkers make poor systematicians.  Somehow the gallic mindset must not lend itself toward a broad view of the world, since their most famous theorists and philosophers (Voltaire, Sartre, Camus, Barthes, Levinas, Descartes) usually write in short, manifesto-like tracts or literary works and fail to follow out the implications of their own thoughts.  The upside is that works written west of the Rhine tend to read more easily than those written to the east, in the land of systematics.  Discipline and principle seem to be the stuff of the German mind, though this apparently breaks down every few centuries, and always in a very dramatic way.  The French, meanwhile, are good at turning a phrase, showing us a glint of wit or insight, and then moving on.  Dwelling too long on a thought would make it tedious, and so, though one should never really look to a French thinker for a broad philosophical framework or worldview (alas for the poor souls who do!), they are always good to turn to when one is feeling intellectually dry.


    “To be a critic by profession and to proclaim that one understands nothing about existentialism or Marxism [today, we might say "Postmodernism or Christianity"] (for as it happens, it is these two philosophies particularly that one confesses to be unable to understand) is to elevate one’s blindness or dumbness to a universal rule of perception, and to reject from the world both Marxism and existentialism:  ’I don’t understand, therefore you are idiots.’
    “But if one fears or despises so much the philosophical foundations of a book, and if one demands so insistently the right to understand about them and to say nothing on the subject, why become a critic?  To understand, to enlighten, that is your profession isn’t it?  You can of course judge philosophy according to common sense; the trouble is that while ‘common sense’ and ‘feeling’ understand nothing about philosophy, philosophy, on the other hand, understands them perfectly.  You don’t explain philosophers, but they explain you.  You don’t want to understand the play by Lefebvre the Marxist, but you can be sure that Lefebvre the Marxist understands your incomprehension perfectly well, and above all (for I believe you to be more wily than lacking in culture) the delightfully ‘harmless’ confession you make of it.”
    —Roland Barthes, “Blind and Dumb Criticism”, in Mythologies.


    A.  It has become common for comments about the murderousness of Adolf Hitler to be followed up by comparisons to Josef Stalin.  Hitler, the usual line goes, killed only 12 million in the Holocaust, while Stalin killed many more (estimates run as high as 60 million, according to wikipedia) through political purges, mismanagement, and pogroms.  Therefore Stalin’s malice trumps Hitler’s.  This is a good example of flawed utilitarian reasoning.  Hitler’s plan on invading Russia was to intentionally starve 20-30 million Russians, completely depopulate the Ukraine, and eventually let the slavs die out through a mix of famine and disease.  Additionally, if you were a Russian prisoner of war in German hands, your odds were close to 1 in 2 of dying.  German soldiers were told to think of slavs as treacherous subhumans and to make no particular efforts to keep them alive.
    B.  The above information courtesy of The Third Reich at War, by Richard Evans.


    A.   "‘I think would of his spies would — well, would seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.’  ’I see,’ laughed Strider.  ’I look foul and feel fair.  Is that it?’”
    B.  The Bridge on the River Kwai is a peculiar film.  Most of it has the calm, even feel of a military adventure story, but occasionally it reveals itself to be a military drama.  Then again, certain key plot elements are openly comedic.  And then in the end it proves itself to be a real old fashioned Sophoclean tragedy.  In all the confusion of genre I’m not sure what to make of the film as a whole.
    C.  ”Dear Bess, dreamed about you last night.  Thought we were going through a flood together.  We got through without disaster.”  ”Dear Bess, you don’t know how much I appreciated the letter I got in the post today.  I was so devilishly homesick.”


    A.  Some ways of (mentally) reacting to disagreement:
    1. What an idiot.
    2. It’s remarkable how broad the spectrum of intelligence is.
    3. He only thinks that way because he hasn’t heard the truth yet.
    4. If I could just spend half an hour explaining the way things are, his opinions would be different.
    5. Some people are just opposed to Reason, and would rather torment themselves in an awful wasteland of sentiment and self-contradiction than hear the truth.
    6. I will pound him so low to the ground that he no longer has enough confidence to open his mouth.
    7. I hate arrogant assholes.
    8. No one understands what I mean.
    9. I wish other people were as smart as I am.
    10. I wish other people had the deep inner knowledge that I have.
    11. What a disagreeable person!
    12. I could bother to try and convince him, but he’s probably too self-assured to listen to reason, and really such a trivial point isn’t worth the effort in the first place.
    13. Such an interesting view of things!
    14. By his view, the world is very different.
    15. I hate parties.
    B.  Some quick ways of shutting down an argument:
    1. Total agreement (feigned if necessary; this is the easiest way to get most people to shut up)
    2. Sarcastic comment of unclear meaning
    3. Remark about how tedious “this sort of argument” has become.
    4. Reference to hopelessly obscure fact or authority that directly contradicts opponent’s reasoning (Nos. 2 and 4 are best used if the opponent wants to demonstrate his own learnedness, as people arguing for stupid claims usually do.)
    5. Repeat back the opponent’s conclusion while laughing and smiling condescendingly (Use where the opponent has low view of himself.)
    6. Condescending assurance of opponent’s error (“I know you don’t see it now, but eventually you’ll work it out.”)
    7. Laugh, pat opponent on back, and walk away
    8. Insulting aside to a third party (“Ronald here has decided to proclaim himself prince of the hobos!” [guffaw])
    9. Remark (covertly derogatory if necessary) about the opponent’s clothing or general appearance.
    10. Offer apologies that you don’t have enough energy to properly inform the opponent of how he’s wrong, and assure him that you will perform the exercise at a later date.
    11. Spontaneous question about the opponent’s educational history (“What did you say you studied in school?  Where?”)


    A.  There is a remarkable pleasure that comes from exploring a specific high-end market niche, finding out what’s available and how it works, what makes some things better than others.  It combines the joy of discovering a new, unanticipated field of knowledge and the all pleasures of covetousness.  Mechanical watches, headphones, books.  One is initiated into a wonderful mass of new distinctions which order a class of objects formerly mysteriously amorphous in their various qualities.  I had never thought before about the possibility that differences in typeface made it easier to read some books than others, or that the softness of paper and binding could make it easier to keep a book open, and therefore explain why I always wolf down books published under the Vintage label, while that cheap edition of Augustine's Confessions (with the small typeface and narrow margins) remains unfinished.
    B.  Sometimes at random one will catch a very specific odor coming from an unlikely source.  At present the fingers of my right hand smell of benzoyl peroxide.  This probably has something to do either with the foreign bar of soap I just used to wash my hands, or the chemicals in the soil of my back yard.  I have not actually encountered benzoyl peroxide in a good many years, but the chemical odor remains in my memory.  The trite response to this reflection would be something about how scent is the sense with the strongest ties to memory.  Or perhaps you expect me to say something about Proust.  (There you go, I did it.)  But really I just wanted to point out that my hand smells like an acne medication that I haven’t used since I was 15.
    C.  ”That assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered as the great council of the nation, was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans; and distinction of every kind soon became criminal.  The possession of wealth stimulated the diligence of the informers; rigid virtue implied a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus; important services implied a dangerous superiority of merit; and the friendship of the father always insured the aversion of the son.  Suspicion was equivalent to proof; trial to condemnation.  The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human blood, he became incapable of pity or remorse.”  — Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Chapter IV


    A.  Everything bagels are the best bagels.
    B.  The following quote expresses as well as anything the idea of prejudice in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer.
     ”Perhaps, too, as difficulties are of two kinds, the cause of the present difficulty is not in the facts but in us.  For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day, so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.”  — Aristotle, Metaphysics α.1, 993b10
    We are blind to everything that is most obvious, while derivative truths point implicitly toward what we’re missing—but we still miss it.  This observation is the basis of a large amount of psychoanalytic work.  A person’s inability to trust that others will remain friendly toward him in the long run may be based on instabilities in the home or a lack of stable relationships in early childhood, etc.  My intolerance of intolerance does not look like intolerance because I don’t have a sufficient grasp on the structure of my own beliefs.  Thus my hypocrisy might be obvious to anyone else, but escapes me entirely.
    C.  An excessive attempt to justify oneself on points that have barely been touched upon generally indicates a lack of security in one’s own position.  However, pop-psychological rules like this one are irritating in practice because they allow people to make extremely unsubtle snap judgments about the thoughts or motivations of others in conversation.  The easiest mistake to make when attempting to peer into someone else’s psyche is to forget that their mind has to be at least as self-conscious and complex as your own.
    D.  Soft cheeses melt at lower temperatures.  Sharp cheddar is better.


    A.  Do hipsters take themselves seriously?  Obviously they do, since they put so much thought and effort into the construction of their tastes, appearance, etc.  But obviously they don’t take themselves seriously, since most of these constructions are “ironic”.   The necessary conclusion seems to be that their “irony” is a sign that hipsters take themselves unusually seriously.
    B.  The long-term lack of a structured project or job wears away at a person.  Channel surfing to find a show that gives one the delusion of working, remembering the teenage years when reading young adult fiction felt like accomplishing something substantial, these things offer a sort of double consciousness to the jobless person.
    C.  Intellectual sloth gives one the inclination to talk without saying anything substantial, or to endlessly revisit old subjects without actually developing anything.  The slothful intellectual does not ask good questions.


    If you follow the “Random Article” button through Wikipedia, the resulting trail of facts is not likely to be useful or coherent.  It is more productive to navigate by means of internal links.  Since any two articles are probably no more than two dozen clicks away from each other, this guarantees that you can find new areas of interest when the present topic is unappealing, but also that the succession of facts encountered will have a kind of order to them.

    However, the Random Article button can lead to interesting finds.  Earlier this evening it produced a list of German companies in 1907 by number of employees (most of the top entries involved railroads and manufacturing), which (by internal links) led in turn to the list of German companies in 1938 by number of employees, and then to the general — i.e. contemporary — list of companies by number of employees.  The eighth entry on this list was G4S, a Danish “security services company”, which, it turns out, is the second largest private employer in the world, after Wal-Mart.

    The really entertaining thing about G4S is that, despite the fact that it employs (according to Wikipedia) over 600,000 people worldwide and has existed for over a century, its article in English is under 1100 words long, and in Danish only 44 words.