One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Marshmallow Test

Definition of History

Haven't read much of Scholem's text on Benjamin yet, but this is perhaps the most interesting bit thus far:

Benjamin conceded that no laws could be observed in history, but he insisted on upholding his definition of history as "the objective element in time, something perceptibly objective." In this he found the possibility of demonstrating such an objective factor scientifically. He admitted that he had not yet succeeded in doing so; for my part, I undertook to demonstrate the impossibility of such an enterprise. At length each of us said, Well, when you have come to the end you will admit I am right.

Cioran Withdrawal: Cioran on Celan

Found this snippet from an interview (by Jason Weiss) at Itineraries of  a Hummingbird yesterday.


Bob Lemon (1920 - 2000)

Robert Granville "Bob" Lemon (September 22, 1920 – January 11, 2000) was an American right-handed pitcher and manager in Major League Baseball (MLB). Lemon was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a player in 1976.

Lemon was raised in California where he played high school baseball and was the state player of the year in 1938. At the age of 17, Lemon began his professional baseball career in the Cleveland Indians organization, with whom he played for his entire professional career. Lemon was called up to Cleveland's major league team as a utility player in 1941. He then joined the United States Navy during World War II and returned to the Indians in 1946. That season was the first Lemon would play at the pitcher position.

The Indians played in the 1948 World Series and were helped by Lemon's two pitching wins as they won the club's first championship since 1920. In the early 1950s, Cleveland had a starting pitching rotation which included Lemon, Bob Feller, Mike Garcia and Early Wynn. During the 1954 season, Lemon had a career-best 23–7 win–loss record and the Indians set a 154-game season AL-record win mark when they won 111 games before they won the American League (AL) pennant. He was an All-Star for seven consecutive seasons and recorded seven seasons of 20 or more pitching wins in a nine-year period from 1948–1956.

Lemon was a manager with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. He was named Manager of the Year with the White Sox and Yankees. In 1978, he was fired as manager of the White Sox. He was named Yankees manager one month later and he led the team to a 1978 World Series title. Lemon became the first AL manager to win a World Series after assuming the managerial role in the middle of a season.

Early Life

Bob Lemon was born in San Bernardino, California. Lemon's father, Earl Lemon, ran an ice business and later moved the family to Long Beach, California. There, Lemon attended Wilson Classical High School and played shortstop on the school's baseball team.[1] He was recognized as the state baseball player of the year by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section in 1938.[2]
Later that same year, at the age of 17, Lemon began his professional baseball career in the farm system of the Cleveland Indians as a member of the Oswego Netherlands of the Canadian-American League and later that year, the Middle Atlantic League's Springfield Indians. In 75 games with the Netherlands he recorded a .312 batting average. The following season he played 80 games with Springfield, and hit .293, and then joined the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, where Lemon hit .309. He spent the next two seasons at the Class A level with the Eastern League's Wilkes-Barre Barons as he hit .255 in 1940 and .301 in 1941. In his final stint in the minors, Lemon hit .268 with 21 home runs for the 1942 Baltimore Orioles of the International League

[From Wikipedia:]

Sidewalk Sage: Lil Bit

Blair Field


Lawn Bowling and Reclaimed H2O






Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pascal's Memorial



The Marshmallow Test

The Stanford marshmallow experiment[1] was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. (The reward was sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel.) In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.

Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager is an argument in apologetic philosophy devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62).[1] It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or not. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming an infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief in said God (as represented by an eternity in heaven or hell), a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.).[2]

Pascal formulated the wager within a Christian framework. The wager was set out in section 233 of Pascal's posthumously published Pensées ("Thoughts"). These previously unpublished notes were assembled to form an incomplete treatise on Christian apologetics.

Historically, Pascal's Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism and voluntarism.[3]

Danse Macabre and R L Swihart's "William Tell Remix"

Another little poem of mine was recently (Friday, 4/24/15) DM du Jour at Danse Macabre:

Cioran Withdrawal: Bits and Pieces

A few final excerpts from the last few essays (all centered on Cioran's thoughts, observations re various people).

On an anonymous woman (She Was Not of Their World . . .):
Adieu was the sign and the law of her nature, the flash of her predestination, the mark of her passage on earth; hence she bore it like a nimbus, not by indiscretion, but by solidarity with the invisible.

On F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Thus Fitzgerald's admirers deplore the fact that he brooded over his failure and, by dint of ruminating so deeply upon it, spoiled his literary career. We, on the contrary, deplore that he did not remain sufficiently loyal to that failure, that he did not sufficiently explore or exploit it. It is a second-order mind that cannot chose (sic) between literature and the "real dark night of the soul."

On Weininger (from a brief letter):
In Weininger it was the dizzying exaggeration that fascinated me, the infinity of negation, the denial of common sense, the murderous intransigence, the search for an absolute position, the craving of carrying a piece of reasoning to the point where it destroyed itself and ruined the structure to which it belonged.  

Cioran Withdrawal: Rereading . . .

I should've known: There had to be a connection between Cioran and Celan. The very last text of A/A is "Rereading . . ." The brief intro goes: "Translated into German by Paul Celan, my Precis de Decomposition (A Short History of Decay), was published by Rowolt in 1953. When it was republished in Germany in 1978, the editor of Akzente asked me to introduce it to the magazine's readers. That is the origin of this text."

Gershom Scholem (1897 - 1982)

Gerhard Scholem who, after his immigration from Germany to Palestine, changed his name to Gershom Scholem (Hebrew: גרשם שלום) (December 5, 1897 – February 21, 1982), was a German-born Israeli philosopher and historian. He is widely regarded as the founder of the modern, academic study of Kabbalah, becoming the first Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[1] His close friends included Walter Benjamin and Leo Strauss, and selected letters from his correspondence with those philosophers have been published.

Scholem is best known for his collection of lectures, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941) and for his biography Sabbatai Zevi, the Mystical Messiah (1973). His collected speeches and essays, published as On Kabbalah and its Symbolism (1965), helped to spread knowledge of Jewish mysticism among non-Jews.

[From Wikipedia:]

"Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship" By Gershom Scholem

Going through a Cioran withdrawal, but I've pulled myself away to start something new. Still reading the intro but it promises to be a good read (another selection from NYRB), perhaps revealing the author (whom I know next to nothing about) as much as the object of his friendship: Benjamin.


An excerpt from the Introduction (taking a slice which also includes another big name: Hannah Arendt, who apparently also wrote an important essay on Benjamin):

Arendt's denial of Benjamin's religious nature was not the only thing that must have incited Scholem. Her insistence on "bad luck" as the guiding force behind Benjamin's life must also have provoked him. Benjamin's idea of history as "one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage" becomes in Arendt's perspective Benjamin's projection of his own unluckiness, the "pile of debris" that fate kept throwing across his path. "Benjamin's suicide," she writes, "was an uncommon stroke of bad luck." Tying Benjamin's will to fortune's wheel, she contradicted Scholem's belief that Benjamin had made a fatal, but altogether voluntary, decision not to go to Palestine, attaching himself instead to the tainted soil of a secular, European environment.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Otto Weininger (1880 - 1903)

Cioran linked him with Strindberg and the Book of Genesis. I hadn't heard the name before.


Otto Weininger (German: [ˈvaɪnɪŋɐ]; April 3, 1880 – October 4, 1903) was an Austrian philosopher. In 1903, he published the book Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character), which gained popularity after his suicide at the age of 23. Today, Weininger is viewed as misogynistic and antisemitic by many in academic circles,[1] but was held to be a great genius by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the writer August Strindberg.


Otto Weininger was born on April 3, 1880 in Vienna as a son of the Jewish goldsmith Leopold Weininger and his wife Adelheid. After attending primary school and graduating from secondary school in July 1898, Weininger registered at the University of Vienna in October of the same year. He studied philosophy and psychology but took courses in natural sciences and medicine as well. Weininger learned Greek, Latin, French and English very early, later also Spanish and Italian, and acquired passive knowledge of the languages of August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen (i.e., Swedish and Danish/Norwegian).

In the autumn of 1901 Weininger tried to find a publisher for his work Eros and the Psyche – which he submitted to his professors Jodl and Müllner as his thesis in 1902. He met Sigmund Freud, who, however, did not recommend the text to a publisher. His professors accepted the thesis and Weininger received his Ph.D. degree. Shortly thereafter he became proudly and enthusiastically a Protestant.
In 1902 Weininger went to Bayreuth where he witnessed a performance of Richard Wagner's Parsifal, which left him deeply impressed. Via Dresden and Copenhagen he made his way to Christiania (Oslo) where he for the first time saw Henrik Ibsen's liberation drama Peer Gynt on stage. Upon his return to Vienna Weininger suffered from fits of deep depression. The decision to take his own life gradually took shape in his mind; after a long discussion with his friend Artur Gerber, however, Weininger realized that "it is not yet time".

In June 1903, after months of concentrated work, his book Sex and Character – A Fundamental Investigation – an attempt "to place sex relations in a new and decisive light" – was published by the Vienna publishers Braumüller & Co. The book contained his thesis to which three vital chapters were added: (XII) "The Nature of Woman and her Relation to the Universe", (XIII) "Judaism", (XIV) "Women and Humanity".

While the book was not received negatively, it did not create the expected stir. Weininger was attacked by Paul Julius Möbius, professor in Leipzig and author of the book On the Physiological Deficiency of Women, and was accused of plagiarizing. Deeply disappointed and seemingly depressed, Weininger left for Italy.

Back in Vienna he spent his last five days with his parents. On October 3, he took a room in the house in Schwarzspanierstraße 15 where Ludwig van Beethoven died. He told the landlady that he was not to be disturbed before morning since he planned to work and then to go to bed late. This night he wrote two letters, one addressed to his father, the other one to his brother Richard, telling them that he was going to shoot himself.

On October 4, Weininger was found mortally wounded, having shot himself through the heart. He died in the Wiener Allgemeines Krankenhaus (Vienna general hospital) at half past ten that morning. Otto Weininger was buried in the Matzleinsdorf Protestant Cemetery in Vienna. The epitaph by his father translates:
This stone closes the resting place of a youth whose spirit never found rest on earth. And when he had made known the revelations of his spirit and of his soul, he could no longer bear to be among the living. He sought out the death precinct of one of the greatest in Vienna's Schwarzspanier house, and there destroyed his bodily existence.

[From Wikipedia:]

Down for the Count



More Shore Birds


Not the Thorn Birds but the Phone Birds

I'll call him a blue bird because he's blue (have seen him a lot this spring), but will update if I run down another name.  A blue bird by any other name would tweet as sweet. He was atop the phone booth, then the wife joined him, then he's alone again, and I guess the yellow string was some sort of pull-cord or escape rope for the nest.



Jacarandas in Bloom

Was up early (2nd in line at Bucks, behind a seemingly homeless gent). Walked to Marine Stadium and along the lagoon.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Final Salute to the Tin-Drummer Boy



The term "hierophany" (from the Greek roots "ἱερός" (hieros), meaning "sacred" or "holy," and "φαίνειν" (phainein) meaning "to reveal" or "to bring to light") signifies a manifestation of the sacred.

In  Mircea Eliade's writings:

The term "hierophany" appears frequently in the works of the religious historian Mircea Eliade as an alternative to the more restrictive term "theophany" (an appearance of a god).[1]

Eliade argues that religion is based on a sharp distinction between the sacred (God, gods, mythical ancestors, etc.) and the profane.[2] According to Eliade, for traditional man, myths describe "breakthroughs of the sacred (or the 'supernatural') into the World" – that is, hierophanies.[3]

In the hierophanies recorded in myth, the sacred appears in the form of ideal models (the actions and commandments of gods, heroes, etc.). By manifesting itself as ideal models, the sacred gives the world value, direction, and purpose: "The manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world".[4] According to this view, all things need to imitate or conform to the sacred models established by hierophanies in order to have true reality: to traditional man, things "acquire their reality, their identity, only to the extent of their participation in a transcendent reality."

[From Wikipedia:]

The Iron Guard

The Iron Guard (Romanian: Garda de fier pronounced [ˈɡarda de ˈfjer]) is the name most commonly given to a far-right movement and political party in Romania in the period from 1927 into the early part of World War II. The Iron Guard was ultra-nationalist, anti-communist, anti-capitalist and promoted the Orthodox Christian faith. It is also considered an antisemitic organization.
When Ion Antonescu came to power in September 1940 he brought the Iron Guard into the government. Under the dictatorial rule of Horia Sima, the Guard launched a murderous attack on Jews. In January 1941, however, Antonescu used the army to suppress a revolt of the Iron Guard. He destroyed the organization, as its commander Horia Sima and some other leaders escaped to Germany.


Romanian antisemitism had deep roots and was generally accepted, as it was a religious conception in which Christians and Jews were very different and should live independent to each other, not interfering and not abusing each other. The internal situation was favouring the Jews, as they were in direct charge of Romanian press, politics and public life. As the First World War ended, the Jews turned to pro-communism, an attitude strongly condemned by the population, as the Soviet Union was growing more and more aggressive.

Originally founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu on June 24, 1927, as the Legion of the Archangel Michael ("Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail"), and led by him until his assassination in 1938, adherents to the movement continued to be widely referred to as "legionnaires" (sometimes "legionaries"; Romanian: legionarii) and led to the organization of the "Legion" or the "Legionary Movement" ("Mişcarea Legionară"), despite various changes of the (intermittently banned) organization's name. In March 1930 Codreanu formed the "Iron Guard" ("Garda de Fier") as a paramilitary political branch of the Legion; this name eventually came to refer to the Legion itself. Later, in June 1935, the Legion changed its official name to the "Totul pentru Ţară" party, literally "Everything for the Country", but commonly translated as "Everything for the Fatherland" or occasionally "Everything for the Motherland".

[From Wikipedia:]

Cioran: More Aphorisms

     One would have to be as unenlightened as an angel or an idiot to imagine that the human escapade could turn out well.
     "My children, salt comes from water, and if it comes in contact with water, it dissolves and vanishes. In the same way, the monk is born of woman, and if he approaches a woman, he dissolves and ceases to be a monk." This Jean Moschus, in the seventh century, seems to have understood better than either Strindberg or Weininger the danger already pointed out in Genesis.
     Every life is the story of a collapse. If biographies are so fascinating, it is because the heroes, and the cowards quite as much, strive to innovate in the art of debacle.
     Each of us clings as best he can to his unlucky star.   

From Cioran's Essay on Eliade


I first met Eliade around 1932, in Bucharest, where I had just finished some sort of studies in philosophy. He was at that time the idol of the "new generation," a magic formula we were proud to invoke.
 I have never been able to read Balzac; to tell the truth, I stopped trying on threshold of adolescence. His world is closed to me, inaccessible; I never manage to enter it; I am refractory to it. How many times has Eliade tried to convert me! He first read the Comedie humaine in Bucharest; he reread it in Paris in 1947; perhaps he is rereading it in Chicago now.
Since Pascal and Kierkegaard, we can no longer conceive of "salvation" without a procession of infirmities, and without the secret pleasures of the interior drama.
We are all, Eliade first of all, ci-devant believers; we are all religious spirits without religion. 

Mircea Eliade (1907 - 1986)

Mircea Eliade (Romanian: [eliˈade]; March 9 [O.S. February 24] 1907 – April 22, 1986) was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day. His theory that hierophanies form the basis of religion, splitting the human experience of reality into sacred and profane space and time, has proved influential.[1] One of his most influential contributions to religious studies was his theory of Eternal Return, which holds that myths and rituals do not simply commemorate hierophanies, but, at least to the minds of the religious, actually participate in them.[1]

His literary works belong to the fantastic and autobiographical genres. The best known are the novels Maitreyi ("La Nuit Bengali" or "Bengal Nights"), Noaptea de Sânziene ("The Forbidden Forest"), Isabel și apele diavolului ("Isabel and the Devil's Waters") and Romanul Adolescentului Miop ("Novel of the Nearsighted Adolescent"), the novellas Domnișoara Christina ("Miss Christina") and Tinerețe fără tinerețe ("Youth Without Youth"), and the short stories Secretul doctorului Honigberger ("The Secret of Dr. Honigberger") and La Țigănci ("With the Gypsy Girls").
Early in his life, Eliade was a noted journalist and essayist, a disciple of Romanian far right philosopher and journalist Nae Ionescu, and a member of the literary society Criterion. He also served as cultural attaché to the United Kingdom and Portugal. Several times during the late 1930s, Eliade publicly expressed his support for the Iron Guard, a fascist and antisemitic political organization. His political involvement at the time, as well as his other far right connections, were frequently criticised after World War II.

Noted for his vast erudition, Eliade had fluent command of five languages (Romanian, French, German, Italian, and English) and a reading knowledge of three others (Hebrew, Persian, and Sanskrit). He was elected a posthumous member of the Romanian Academy.

[From Wikipedia:]

Souvenir (4/18/15)

I kept to terra firma.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lost Track of This One: Poem by R L Swihart

I'd forgotten about this little piece: "Another Step toward the Invisible (via Shutterfly)."

Good, Bad, and Prickly

Bucks on the corner, short walk through the parks and around the lagoon. Little bit of this and that, everything rendered beautiful by the morning sun.



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cioran: More Aphorisms

     In the deserted church, the organist was practicing. No one else there, except a cat that wreathed itself around me. . . . Its eagerness was a shock: the inveterate tormenting questions assailed me. The organ's answer did not seem satisfying to me, but in my condition, it was an answer nonetheless.
     Under an incomparably desolate sky, two birds, indifferent to that lugubrious background, pursue one another. . . . Their obvious delight is more apt to rehabilitate an old instinct than the entire body of erotic literature.
     Music is an illusion that makes up for all the others. (If illusion is a term doomed to disappear I wonder what will become of me.) 

Cioran on Beckett

Can you imagine running into Beckett from time to time in the Luxembourg Garden? I cannot.


The endgame of Cioran's essay on Beckett:

     I find him as obstinate as any fanatic. Even if the world crumbled, he would not abandon the work under way, nor would he alter his subject. In the essential things, he is certainly not to be influenced. As for the rest, the inessential, he is defenseless, probably as weak as all of us, even weaker than his characters. . . . Before collecting these notes, I had intended to reread what Meister Eckhart and Nietzsche wrote, from their different perspectives, about "the noble man." I have not carried out my project, but I have not forgotten for a single moment that I had conceived it. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

More from Cioran's "Anathemas and Admirations"

When one has emerged from the circle of errors and illusions within which actions are performed, taking a position is virtually an impossibility. A minimum of silliness is essential for everything, for affirming and even for denying.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cioran's "Anathemas and Admirations"

Still restless in my literary wanderings, though still interested in Cioran. Ergo: mixing in Anathemas and Admirations (late Cioran) with Decay.


From the forward to A/A (by Eugene Thacker of "dusty planet" fame) comes an interesting biographical fragment (fitting?) re Cioran's final days:

In the 1990s, an emaciated, elderly man with sharp eyes and wavy hair is found sitting on the side of the street somewhere in Paris's Latin Quarter. He is lost. He can recall neither the way back home nor even his address. He is taken home. Eventually he stops eating. After an accidental fall, he is brought to a hospital. He drifts in and out of lucidity, rarely recognizing those closest to him. He stops speaking entirely. After slipping into a coma, Emil Cioran dies, on June 20, 1995.


Also from A/A, in an essay (Admiration) on Joseph de Maistre (1753 - 1821), a snippet re the Fall:

. . . Like all great ideas, that of the Fall accounts for everything and for nothing and it is quite as difficult to utilize as it is to do without. But finally, whether the Fall can be imputed to a fault or a fatality, to an action of moral order or to a metaphysical principle, the fact remains that it explains, at least in part, our erring ways, our inconclusiveness, our fruitless quests, the terrible singularity of beings, the role of disturber, of broken-down and inventive animal, that was assigned to each of us. And if it involves a number of points subject to caution, there is one, however, whose importance is incontestable: the one that traces our failure to our separation from the All. It could not escape de Maistre: "The more one examines the universe, the more one is inclined to believe that Evil proceeds from a certain division that cannot be explained, and that the return to Good depends on a contrary force that ceaselessly impels us toward a unity just as inconceivable."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Early Cioran: "A Short History of Decay"

If primarily seen as Cioran's response to WWII, the unrelenting darkness of  A Short History of Decay (love the title) might be more understandable, but for me it's more than that.  The older Cioran seems to have chipped away at the younger Cioran's lyricism for lyricism's sake and moved toward a less baroque and word-glutted text. I could be wrong -- I've only read two Ciorans: Drawn and Short History -- but thus far that's my feeling. Short History is a slower read for me, but not without some humorous and thought-provoking passages.


Excerpt from A Short History of Decay (from a short section titled "Turning a Cold Shoulder to Time"):

     Yesterday, today, tomorrow -- these are servants' categories. For the idle man, sumptuously settled in the Inconsolable, and whom every moment torments, past, present, and future are merely variable appearances of one and the same disease, identical in its substance, inexorable in its insinuation, and monotonous in its persistence. And this disease is coextensive with Being -- it is Being.
     I was, I am, or I shall be -- a question of grammar and not of existence. Fate -- as a carnival of chronos -- lends itself to conjugation, but, stripped of its masks, is revealed to be as motionless and naked as an epitaph. How can we grant more importance to the hour which is than to the one which was or which will be? . . .