Fugaces Labuntur Anni

When I said a couple of days ago that I had to suffer through three hours of tai chi, that was pure hyperbole. Tai chi is usually the only thing which keeps me sane through the long hours of sleep and work.

Three chapters into Living Philosophy, and I am fairly impressed. The subject combined with the personal – sometimes approaching stream-of-consciousness – writing style sometimes reminds me of Finite and Infinite Games, but then Dr Rowe will focus in on a particular aspect of personal philosophy and make some quite interesting observations.

For instance, this is the first passage I underlined, from chapter 1: “The activity of philosophy liberates us…from assumptions and values, at least some of which we disagree with once we become conscious of them”.

To constantly ask ones self “why” can be exhausting. Each “why” leads to a because, which leads to another “why”, and so on, ad infinitum . Why am I angry? Because I am tired. Why Am I tired? Because I didn’t get enough sleep. Why? I stayed up late playing a PC game. Why? I was bored. Why? Distractions are easier than thinking. Why? And so forth.

I have not read a philosophy book in six or seven years. I changed my focus when I started writing, and critical thought made way for science fiction and poetry, the music of the language and the extremes of human imagination. Sharply focused deductive reasoning seemed less interesting and in some cases directly counter to my work. Now that I again have reason to read philosophy I find that I still enjoy it as much as I did in college, ten years ago.

Furor Scribendi

I have finished Off to the Side , and am wiser therefore.

Reading Jim Harrison has always affected me, usually hitting me with strong wanderlust, cabin fever, and a general dissatisfaction with many areas of my life. This time through I drove around a lot, explored those parts of Kent County of which I had always been aware, but never seen. I also tried purposefully to get lost, but what with the sun always directly south and the large number of large roads, this turned out to be impossible.

On Sunday I sat down with my dead-tree journal, an apple, and a bottle ($5.99) of Leelanau Cellars Autumn Red, a wine which has never disappointed. My idea was to enjoy the wine and the apple (which seemed an appropriate pairing) and, sip by sip, describe the experience of drinking.

And I discovered that this wine, which I have always quite liked, does not hold up all that well under close scrutiny. Granted that I am far from a connoisseur of wine, but this just tasted a little…off. Musty. Thick. If chilled in the refrigerator and drunk on a hot summer day it would more than serve, as it is quite dry, but slowly taken at room temperature with a tart apple it suffered.

The argument could be made that one gets what one pays for with wine, but last winter I picked up a case of, uh, some red wine for $20.00 which was excellent, light and dry and a steal at twice the price. Currently my favorite red is St. Julian Great Red ($5.99), which is difficult to beat at any price.

For some interesting writing about food -or using food as metaphor for sex, death, etc.- pick up Harrison’s book The Raw and the Cooked, a collection of his food columns from various magazines during the 1990s.

Next up is the Rowe book Living Philosophy , which should build my brain muscles up to where I can dive into Dostoyevsky after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Respice Finem

I am close to finishing the Jim Harrison memoir, so now I have little excuse to not dive into The Brothers Karamazov. I have the book set aside on my dining room table, next to a deck of Magic cards, an army surplus map case, a button, and Peter Gabriel’s latest album, Up . Between myself and The Brothers Karamazov, metaphorically speaking, are a philosophy book, David Egger’s new novel, and issues 1, 2, and 3 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. More practically, before that stack is even cracked, I must suffer through six hours of sleep, eight to ten hours of work, and three hours of tai chi.

What kind of a sad world do we live in, where such worldly concerns are deemed more important than good literature?

Outside at 11:30 at night we have a light dusting of snow on all available surfaces, particularly the tree directly in front of my living room window which, in the bad light of the street lamp, in silhouette underneath the clouds, look like a negative of a stormscape. Or an aesthetically conscious mathematics experiment. Or just a snow-covered tree, stark against the sky.

Mare Liberum

Every workday at lunch I head across the street to the east bank of the river. Here I relax and stare into the turbulence at the base of the Sixth Street Dam, the west side of which houses “the fish-ladder”, one of the more interesting constructs in the city. Scott is usually there with me. We find that the ebb and flow of the water, the infinite variations on the same scene, effectively wash away the visual trauma of hours spent staring at computer screens.

The daily scenes are variations on a theme: fishermen, fish, seagulls, ducks, some toxic-looking foam clinging to the rocks. Last winter we watched for half an hour as a huge ice floe drifted to the edge of the dam and crashed and splintered and thundered into the lower river. This past spring we watched as young ducks caught young fish and chewed them until they were soft enough to swallow. A gull caught a trout fly in mid-air and was thoroughly hooked. Scott gave a leather-back turtle an accidental hotfoot with a cigarette butt.

The undertow at the base of the dam traps buoyant objects against the falling water where they are gradually – time depending on material and density – worn away to nothing. A chunk of styrofoam which started out square will gradually become round. A basketball will become a smooth pink sphere. Large branches and trees will become hung up halfway over the dam, embedded firmly in the mud of the lower river. Smaller logs and branches gradually become smoother and softer until they appear, in a beautiful irony, to be manmade.

Today one of the smoothed, rounded logs found its way into the center of an old car tire and, acting as an axle, turned the tire toward the dam where it even now spins as if trying to climb the waterfall like a salmon; the rooster-tail sometimes reaches higher than the upper river. Even without taking into account the extreme odds against such a juxtaposition of events, the sight is extraordinary.

Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit

The new content management system is up and running. This is the first es.o post using the system. More later.

Okay. This is what the new CMA can do: create pages, alter pages, delete pages. 99% of what I do on this site is blogging, so that takes care of the overwhelming majority of what I need to do. And it looks cool.

Yesterday while shopping for supermarket sushi I ran into one of my old philosophy professors. Dr. Rowe was my advisor and mentor for the last two of my six years of higher (heh) education, and throughout the years since I have been an avid reader of his books.

He has a new one out, Living Philosophy , which is an introduction to a more humanistic philosophy than that usually taught and practiced in academia. His older work Rediscovering the West , a Buddhist-oriented examination of western traditions, made sense of many things which on which I had long since given up.

In the past three months I have had significant run-ins with two college professors; I have been dumped by a girl, I am working out and writing like a fiend, and I have watched several of my friends go through varying levels of significant personal trauma. It is as if my karma of a dozen years ago is coming around to remind me that though everything changes, nothing is truly lost.

Tempus Fugit

It is a terrible thing to realize that the journal you spent two months transcribing, eight years ago, is in a format so old it is not supported by current technology.

Today I drove away from the city, east to an area I discovered during this past week’s hellish Wednesday. With the anxiety out of the way I took time to enjoy the surroundings. As you approach Lowell on Thornapple River Road you have the edge of the Thornapple River flood plain on your right, and the river itself on your left with an old railroad track running parallel to the road. The sun was brilliant, the air clear and cold. I found a park a few miles south of Lowell and took pictures, mostly of the river. I didn’t stray too far for the deer hunters were making their presence known all up and down the opposite bank. And judging by the crippled duck I scared from a fallen tree, they were being none too discriminating with their targets. To a certain mindset, a large bald man in a black trench-coat looks a lot like a deer. That same mindset would probably think an ’89 Buick looks a lot like a deer.

Pro Bono Publico

Well, I had to go back and edit my post from November 7. The reason? Looking at my endlessly entertaining traffic statistics page I found that someone searching for “pictures of P4m3la 4nd3r50n” (spelled in 1337 to protect, uh, me) had ended up here at es.o. Silly putty I can handle, but not I REPEAT NOT this.

Besides: I think the change makes that entry a little more…poetic.

A follow-up to yesterday’s post: The backward text , as I mentioned, works everywhere except Internet Explorer on the Macintosh. Well, IE/Mac is the only major browser that currently adds quotation marks to the quote tag, as should happen according to the w3c specification. So if you are looking to quote Hebrew text in a manner consistent with current web standards, you are out of luck.

Extinctus Ambitur Idem

Today was hellish, traumatic, and unproductive. In order to take my mind from more important, worldly things I hit a tutorial site and explored some of the more obscure XHTML tags, and discovered some interesting things.

For instance, there is superscript , subscript , quotes , code , citations , even backward text (everywhere except IE/Mac)

Anything to keep myself occupied.