Saturday, January 31, 2004

Whilst reading Wilson I have discovered a new word - Vastation. To my surprise I also found that it is not in my medium sized Penguin dictionary. I allow myself to write in new words.

Vastation in general terms means to destroy, to clear away. It can also mean 'purified by fire'. Henry James Senior was diagnosed with having what Swedenborg would call a vastation. This is when in the mind the current self-identity is destroyed, cleared out in preparation for a new selfhood.
It is a cold wet Saturday morning in Belfast. I picked up 'God's Funeral' by A.N. Wilson and started to read about William James. Wilson must be brilliant as a biographer. He has a lively style of writing, when he was writing about Carlyle I felt I had to buy 'The French Revolution'. I may not agree with the cynical view of John Henry Newman but his writings about William James are first rate.

With Newman, as I think I have already said I do not think he is being completely unfair. If you were to read about Newman from the viewpoint of other Victorian figures, perhaps read the 'Apologia' and nothing else you may have a negative view of Newman. I have been interested in Newman for a long time and I do not think he was a cynical person. Wilson describes him as a 'defender of orthodoxy' the kind of person who is portrayed as stuck in one mind-set and stubbornly refuses to budge. For myself I have always had the impression that Newman was a strong and confident person but not one to ignore the truth of an argument. (As you can see if you read 'Lead, kindly light').

Friday, January 30, 2004

Fortnight Magazine have given a very reasonable 2-page spread to remember Mairtin Crawford who died of a brain hemorrhage. This is one of the most reasonable and sensitive articles I have read for some time. Actually there are four accounts of different people's memories of Mairtin. I remember Mairtin too, it is quite fair and accurate. He was indeed only beginning to receive the attention that he deserved.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

I was reading another one of Greene's short stories today 'The end of the party'. It is quite a fascinating and deceptively simple plot about a fear of the dark. The Greene takes it and adds two central characters - twins, who share a mental telepathy. One twin is trying to help the other not to feel afraid, partly I suspect because he can feel the pain too. Add to that you never know what the fear is until the very end. All you know is that they don't want to go to a party organised by Mrs Henne-Falcon(!). Seems to be a lot more innovative than your ordinary psychological horror story. It also has quite an eerie twist in the tail.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Water has been discovered on Mars! This is truly one of the biggest breakthroughs in a long time. It is interesting to note that yahoo aren't reporting this and I heard it on the local radio.

Many thanks to my friends at Southern Cross for adding my link to their web page!

I started reading another different book - Time Traveller by Michael Novacek. It is a very interesting story about his life as a paleontologist. When he was in university he wanted to be a musician and he had a few scrapes growing his hair long and doing crazy gigs. Then he started going to the desert to look for fossil bones and got tied into that.

Contrary to what most people might think, he is not interested in dinosaurs, he is more interested in ancient mammals and their evolutionary process. A lot of quite unusual mammals appeared and then went extinct. For example the land whale. It had a whales body with legs and was probable amphibious. It is interesting to read the way biology / zoology is linked with geology. Bones are excessively used and at one point he spent 2 days writing about a tooth! In my time studying geology it was mostly chemistry I had to deal with, three way analysis and chemical evolution. He also explores the history of paleontology and some of the interesting characters from the past. It is humorous to note that one of his favourite places to collect fossils is a hill called 'Lomas Las Tetas de Cabra' - aka Hill of the Goats Teats! Imagine this in the scientific literature.

I don't think he finds dinosaurs boring it is just that dinosaur hunters are seen as being glamour seekers. I went to see a very interesting exhibition about Novacek in the Natural History Museum. I haven't reached the bit about dinosaurs yet. I think he has discovered some dinosaurs. He is about to go to Chile. Apologies for this more scientific blog, that's just the mood I'm in. Novacek's book is possible better than David Attenborough's.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Yesterday I finished reading 'Door wide open' an account of a love affair between Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson. They say that the wife of a politician can humanise the person. Getting to know Joyce has helped me to figure out the sort of person that Kerouac was. The book is a fascinating insight into how the man lived. It is not perfect, coming to the end you know what is happening and you have to remember that Joyce was about 21 and Jack was about 36. In one of the sparkling moments of the book, Jack writes Joyce this poem: (see the link)

image of Jack Kerouac poem

Kerouac is a complex character - on the one hand quite wild, outrageous, a genius writer - on the other hand quite concerned with caring for his mother and buying a house for her. Joyce feels that his mother ruined her relationship.

Kerouac isn't always 'on the road'. He hates publicity, he gets drunk quite a lot, he is very unreliable. The reality of this book is that there are real letters from Kerouac, in some parts I found myself preferring to read the letters by Joyce rather than Kerouac. This is quite a strong testimony that Joyce has good beatnik credentials and is a cool girl. Certainly someone I would like to know.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

I discovered with dismay last month that the short stories of Graham Greene are difficult to find. After I watched Donnie Darko which featured his story 'The Destructors' I wanted to read it. At Jose's house tonight I was looking through some books and I found the short story collection. I have now read 'The destructors'.

It is difficult to say if there is a connection apart from the fact that the story is used as an example of the anti-intellectualism of the small town community. The film is quite mysterious whilst the story is actually quite clear and direct.

The story is interesting in that it deals with the idea that destoying something is fun. The central character Trevor is quite a dark individual. He suggests to his gang that they destroy the house of an old man. It is just after the war and in one area that house is the only one left standing. This conversation occurs when they are burning the money of the old man:

"You hate him a lot?" Blackie asked.
"Of course I don't hate him," T. said. "There'd be no fun if I hated him." The last burning note illuminated his brooding face. "All this hate and love," he said, "it's soft, it's hooey. There's only things Blackie," and he looked around the room crowded with unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things. "I'll race you home Blackie," he said.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

So here I am wondering what to write again. I have modified the template again and i want to see the changes. Still reading 'Door Wide Open' and quite enjoying it, I expect I will finish it quite soon.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Another change to my template
Unfortunately I haven't had time to read today. I have been solving problems, rushing around, banging my head against a computer screen most of the day. But I can tell you what I would love to be reading and what I am going to read now - 'Door wide open' correspondence between Joyce Johnson and Jack Kerouac. Getting another view of one of the best writers of modern times is fascinating and Joyce Johnson is a surprisingly good writer herself with quite a few 'beat' medals of honour herself.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

I thought instead of trying to place pictures onto the blog I could merely add links to my yahoo photo album.


Lake Malawi postcard

You are also free to view the rest of the album, some of the pictures of light houses, for example would make good book marks

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Can water boil under ordinary conditions before it has reached
a temperature of 100 degrees? Before passing into the
Beyond, the World and its elements must attain what
may be called their 'point of annihilation'. And it is
precisely to this critical point that we must ultimately
be brought by the effort consciously to further, within
and around ourselves, the movement of universal convergence !
One of the most exciting things that happened in the last few months was that I found another copy of 'The future of man' by Teilhard de Chardin. I finally found out the cliff-hanger of what the human race has to do.

If you imagine the human race as a boat, around the next corner of the river there is a whirlpool. What are we going to do. Ignore it, turn back or go through it. Teilhard says we have to go through it! This is not something that one individual can do, we have to study the whirlpool and prepare to go through it together. The transformation is what could be termed - human evolution. It is similar to the way that when water boils it turns to team. Fascinating. I'll post a quote soon.
In the beginning was Imagination:
in the beginning was the Seed.
And the Seed was in God:
And the Seed is God.
All things are the flowering of That.
In the Seed was that Light
which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.
The Light shineth in darkness,
And the darkness overpowers it not.

This paraphrase of the first few verses of John was found in Happold. Apparently it is by Gerald Bullett. It is quite interesting. One thing I have been confused over before is the idea of the 'word' or logos.

Friday, January 09, 2004

One of the things that is guaranteed to hotwire your brain is reading Plato. Between this and a wide range of other miscellaneous events I haven't been able to update this site for quite a while but hopefully that will change from now on.

I kept on reading Happold on mysticism and it gets better and better. He goes through most of the religious traditions and gives a report card on how they answer the human condition. His most interesting comments are on the mystical path and how far each tradition is able to go. I never knew about the mysticism of action.

I have started to read 'Islands in the stream' again by Hemingway. Because it is a posthumous book you get the idea that it is not as polished as other books and that some parts are autobiographical jottings that he may never have intended to publish. There is one incident where he is living on a small Caribbean island and his children start to play a game with a group of tourists. The children start asking for gin and this enrages one of the girl tourists so much that she has a tantrum then runs out and possibly starts a romance with one of the kids.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

I'm back! The reason I haven't written anything the past few months is that I was frustrated with Blogger and I wanted to have a break to see if I could change the format of this blog. I've got some links to add and some changes to make to the template but hopefully I can get back to the old me fairly soon!