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Commentarius Philosophi et Poetae

Jun. 28th, 2006 01:31 pm Seven Laws

In developing the philosophy that will drive and to a degree condemn the hero of my present work, I came upon the idea of writing out a set of laws that he would have written in the interest of guiding his own inquiries. This is based loosely on the idea of the theory that drives Raskalnikov to murder in Crime and Punishment. It occurred to me in rereading that novel that my own hero needed something similar. A kind of fixation that he would dwell on as he struggled to deal with exile.

First Law: Simplicity is an Illusion. That is to say that the world is far more complicated than any of us consider. Take something simple like a baseball. It appear simple. A leather sphere with red stitchings containing within a tightly wound ball of string. And yet if you start going deeper you find a very developed molecular structure. Go deeper and you find atoms and then protons and electrons, still deeper to leptons and quarks, and perhaps ultimately to vibrating strings. Simplicity is something tendered to us by a linguistic illusion that does not deny the existence of a massive structure descending to the subatomic scale and beyond, but rather offers a simple term, "baseball" to capture the whole. This is also fine for more abstract things like common sense, where one is led by the popularity of an idea to pretend its canon law.

Second Law: Complexity is a Delusion. So a baseball is not really a baseball but rather an incredibly complicated structure. So what? The First Law serves well if one is trying to avoid generalizations or stereotypes, but take the First Law to an extreme would create a very real problem. By dwelling upon the massive scale of an event and all the possible consequences to one acting into it, would be so time consuming that it would be impossible for anyone to actually pull off that action. Complexity is therefore a delusion that hinders action and promotes everlasting brooding over a subject. It is necessary for one to accept the functions of a baseball qua baseball alone in order to play the game.

Third Law:The Silent can follow the Ludicrous. This is a variation on the old adage, it's better to remain a silent fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. In a sense it's more an ettiquette that a rule of inquiry. Everyone is entitled to hold their own beliefs and judgments about the world. They're even entitled to draw these beliefs from the most ludicrous of sources if they should so choose. They are free to believe whatever they desire, so long as they keep their positions to themselves. But once they act upon these beliefs, with words or deeds, they place the belief structure outside of themselves thus making it fair game to criticism. Mind that this is a double edged sword, criticism places ones beliefs without as well, leaving one open to be critized with equal ferver. I'm inclined to take this a step further to St. Ignastius of Loyola's suggestion, that to criticize the sins of another is render one's self equally guilty.

Fourth Law: A Speaker is a Seeker of Attention. This is closely tied with the Third Law, but creates a great emphasis to engage those who would be preachers. The purpose of language is to communicate an idea. Therefore, the root of speaking is the hope that one will listen, even if that one is one's own self. As a speaker desires attention, one is free to give it, in fact it is often demanded that one give him attention. Since in speaking the ideas are taken away from the speaker and left free to be abused as semi-independent entities, there is some insistence that they be so abused. Otherwise we'll get nothing done.

Fifth Law: Absolutes narrow the World. This is of the last pair of laws, the moral ones. Here were bear in mind that the universals are not at all clear to us. That to espouse absolutes, to divide the world into two distinct categories, is to narrow the scope of existence, which is capable of unprecedented pluralism.

Sixth Law: Shades of Gray come from Black and White. A counter to the Fifth. Although there are many, many possibilities, these possibilities do not remove the potential for dualism. For godo and evil. Such things may not exist in this world, but that doesn't mean they don't exist at all. Good and evil are often discounted, existence summed up as being simply many shades of gray, while this overlooks that gray can only be produce by black and white.

Seventh Law: The Reasonable are seldom Reasoning. A warning as it were against the tendency toward a mentor, to rely on the opinions of the reasonable. I've found in listening to the so-called reasonable that often the very title of being reasonable leads them into situations where they really don't do much reasoning. Going back to the Second Law, although performed in the guide of the First. This is really a development of them, but it seems nicer and allows me to play in the novel with the numerology surround seven.

Current Location: Metairie, Louisiana

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May. 30th, 2006 02:56 am

Fuck St. Dominic's Elementary.

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May. 22nd, 2006 07:39 am

One further update. I've begun work on a weekly periodical, The Poydras Picayune, which you all may or maynot take an interest in. The first issue will be posted probably sometime later this week. It can be found under the LJ user name poydraspicayune. Talk to yous alls later.

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May. 18th, 2006 04:23 pm Updates of sort

My planned expedition to Cambridge has been postponed at least a month, more probably longer. The nice girl I was banking on has decided to ignore my emails and not return my calls. The apartment was rather cramped anyway, even if it was right on the edge of Harvard, and I'm not too crazy about having to keep cooking around a vegetarian. I'm inclined to look a little beyond Cambridge. Both apartments I checked out while there were on the third floor and by no means spaceous. Both were also charging a hundred more than my part on 37th Street (the smaller of the two was charging two hundred more. Considering my measly pay, I'm inclined to look a little farther abroad than I had initially. That's half a lie, my first reason for chosing Cambridge was it's proximity to Lesley, but the second was I don't really know any other areas very well. Brookline and Chelsea were recommended to me. I'm also thinking about the North End of Boston, which is some sort of Italian neighborhood his architecture reminds me a bit of the French Quarter, though sans balconies but with two or three more stories each. Unlike the New Orleans area I'm really not familiar with the developmental history of Boston's various neighborhoods, aburbs, suburbs and exurbs, something that will probably prove a great impediment for me in my initial move to the region.

I have gotten little to no writing done since I broke my laptop's monitor. On the bright side I'm also spending significantly less time chatting and more time reading. Current reads

Louisiana: A History

John Barry's Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed American

Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz

And this past week saw me zip through Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome, and John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. On the burner right now is Percy's The Moviegoer, Castellanos' New Orleans as it Was (a 19th century work focusing on the city during the antebellum period), and W. J. Cash's The Mind of the South. There's a rather obvious pattern developing in these recent takes. Rising Tide deals a great deal with southern politics in particularly the battles over how best to manage the River. It alludes to the political Percy's who established themselves as an aristocracy in Greenville, Mississippi and would eventually give life to Walker Percy. Walker Percy would in turn teach at Loyola where a sad old mother hands him the messy manuscript of her suicided son, John Kennedy Toole. In lieu of my forthcoming departure, the South has managed to graft itself onto the rest of my historical studies, only in a slightly different fashion. The lays of ancient Rome, as interesting as they might be, are not my people. Sicilians have been oppressed for so long that crossing the like is not going to happen. The Germans were gravediggers. And the French, the one element of my ancestry that isn't an ubiquitous peasant tradition, rose to power with Napoleon and vanished not long thereafter. New Orleans is the earth that binds me, Europe more the soil that was transported hither. That said, New Orleans is not where I can remain. Certain stresses are needed to get anything done, and the South in general is far too laid back to willingly supply them. I humor myself with examples. Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong both really excelled after leaving New Orleans for Chicago. Armstrong's move was likely based more on racism in the South. Morton, a Creole, considered himself French and would have probably resented our characterization of him as a black musician. His move I'm guessing was based more on economics. There was more work in Chicago and better pay. For me it seems more a sink or swim test. Getting a good distance from the safety nets and distractions and forcing myself to get things done.

I'm half considering adapting the Rule of one order or another for more aesthetic purposes, just to meet the demands of this greater discipline. St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercise certainly have a solid foundation for the daily ethic of a writer. My bouts of insomnia, which are growing worse, seem evident that I have a health need to impose them to some extent. Not to mention a financial need that cooking my food more often and regularly might bring. I'll update you all later on how that progresses.

Also, I'm again thinking about taking up painting again. This time with less demands and more abstract aims. Possilbly a few based on the Funky Butt or the flood. Not thinking to seriously on such things until I'm secure enough to by supplies.

I tried a new recipe today. Riso alla Pilota is a very hearty dish, but it needs a little work. Particularly since the Italian sausage is giving me heart burn.

Recommend you all read Rising Tide, all of you who live along the River most of all, but additionally those of you with an interest in the current political situation. The struggle between Eads and Humphreys over the engineering marvels built upon it are wonderful. But with Senator Percy comes into play things get especially interesting. Barry talks a bit about the policies of Woodrow Wilson and the Sedition Act that have an eerie reminder of both the Communist witch hunts of the 50's and a region of rhetoric that Republicans today sometimes skirt along. His assessment of Klan, something Percy fought against, really struck a chord with me. He looks at the Klan not so much in terms of what they were saying but why they were saying it. Showing their distate for blacks, Catholics (probably better evidence, Dave, as to why we don't see them around here than the joke we used to tell), and Jews and so forth as less "simply racism" of rednecks and more a reaction to changes occuring across the board. This would mean the cultural shocks that would produce Christian fundamentalism, the revived Ku Klux Klan, and multimillionaires of the early 20th century is nearly identitical, if not feeding into each facet as it goes along. When faced with a shift in the way things are happening in the world the former two reacted by going back to earlier priciples to the exclusion of all else while the last exploited these changes for their own benefit. This last part is my own continuation of the thought, Barry doesn't seem to dwell too much on the idea.

Americans today are also standing on the cusp of change. I don't mean this post-9/11 nonsense. The changes there are invented ones that would dissolve if you looked in a different direction. I mean shifts over the past twenty or so years that have consequentially driven the national center pretty far to the right. The causes and the direction aren't entirely clear to me, but being up 24 hours is probably a good reason not to dwell much on it. Until next time. Ciao.

Current Location: Metairie, Louisiana

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Mar. 30th, 2006 05:08 am

Gaudeamus igitur
Juvenes dum sumus
Gaudeamus igitur
Juvenes dum sumus
Post jucundum juventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus
Nos habebit humus

I've been sining that to myself for the past few days. Along with scattered parts of the rest of it, albeit this is probably the only stanza I've memorized thus far. I've sent the first host of emails out to strangers in Cambridge to the ends of finding a room there to move into. Craig's List is quite useful in this regard, more so if I can pull something off through it.

In the mail presently are a set of books. The Complete Works of Aristotle and Giambattista Vico's New Science are of course relative to my more severe regiment of studies. However, included their are a set of books for reteaching myself Latin. Amid my usual reading has included the Cambridge History of Italian Literature. In my reading of the Trecento and Quattrocento, respectively being when the Tre Corone (Durante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Francesco Petrarca) led the foundations for the Tuscan vernacular and when Petrach's work in particular led to the dawn of humanism got me thinking on linguistics itself. I was never taught Latin by anyone who thought it truly important. Doc, Willie, Davina and Connie were all teaching it because they felt it was pleasurable to study the tongue. Which amounts to what originally drove me from purusing classics on the graduate level. The Eta Sigma Phi people and my professors seemed to be in the field for entirely epicurean reasons. They simply enjoed it and weren't content to pursue what pleased them simply because it pelased them. In breve: academically sanctioned and culturally approved masturbation. Latin isn't just something to jerk off over. A grand orgasm wrought by future passive periphrastics and vibrating ablative absolutes. It's an almost algabraic system that forces one to think of language in terms of particular values and units. THe sort of thing grammarians try to teach us in youth but always fail miserably at it. Italian humanists once felt Latin was so important that they wanted to abandoned the volgare in its infancy of importance and revert entirely to the tongue of good old Tully. While I'd hardly see Latin trump English, I'm not beyond heeping abuse upon the potential grad students who'll one day study my work. And there's nothing more painful for a student than leaving a whole set of documents in a rare language that requires them to learn and then translate on their own.

I've also been thinking about math. I was good in algebra but never went beyond. I've been thinking a lot about a plan I had over a year ago to rebuild the Antikythera device, or perhaps tackle Euclid and Fibanachi. It's something to leave on the burner for now. Anyway I'm off for beer and bed: arrivederci.

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Jan. 4th, 2006 11:46 am Starting..... something

At some point between last night and this morning, when after a night of insomnia I finally accepted the fact that I wasn't going to be getting any sleep (suppose it was around 6 or 7am) an old idea came back to me. So I got up and did an outline of the first section. The idea began some time back where after chiding of my grandfather pushed me into a night as a pedagogue to Marie. She kept ranting on Romeo and Juliet so I tried to teach her the story. It didn't really work, she wasn't interested enough to learn the dialect. Anyway, after that failed attempt I began noticing similarities between how Mom was dealing with her education and how she dealt with mine. I really wanted to give her a little extra something to get through the bullshit and come out on top, but I haven't the experience with teaching kids or the time with her to accomplish anything. It dawned on me that instead of giving her a number of tools now that she hasn't the maturity to use properly, I could instead compile my thoughts of lifestyle and panache into a book that I'd give her for a graduation present.

At least that was the initial bit, I never put much energy into it and settled on the more selfish goal of worrying about writing a novel for publication before I wrote a philosophy book for personal use. Anyway, last night I picked up the idea of writing Ethics again, but as I started outlining the rough material I'd write on, I realized that the entire project was more than a little selfish. I wasn't so much trying to write a handbook for her as work out a methodology and curriculum vitae for myself. I started on the outline and introduction for the trilogy of part one, which is the important part for me now as it focuses on habit building, which will make the second part easier.

Basically what this little project is amounts to a compliation of the Modern Gentleman, the Handbook of Practical Spying, vague concepts of di Angelo,and any other nonsensical rules or works of etiquette I happen upon (read: Vogue's). It's mainly written as a way of convincing myself to adopt them and helping myself commit their precepts and tools to memory. It also helps me personalize or adapt anything that's out of date. All and all I'm rather excited about the project, it'll help me balance the black pit of writer's block that's appeared since my return to the New Orleans area.

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Dec. 25th, 2005 12:15 am

Happy Mithramas to all and to all a good night!

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Dec. 22nd, 2005 04:05 pm

I really ought start walking down to the grocery store to pick up some necessities, but I thought you all might find this interesting http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4552138.stm . Apparently the internet is no longer the open and apolitical fields we've grown accustomed to. Various ISPs have begun applying structure to it that amounts to either blocking or reducing the accessibility of their competition while leaving their own with the same open access. I imagine television experienced a similar phase that has resulted in public broadcasting being all that remains of the older forms. Except there's a slight difference in it. The various channels on TV buy airtime with the Cable provider. What the ISPs are doing seems more along the lines of a company composed of Cox Communications and Turner Broadcasting that restricts your access to the Discovery Channel and Fox.

A Canadian company has already made a political employment of this technology. While I'm not entirely adverse to say terrorist websites getting shutdown, it does seem a real fear that my ISP, which I think is also Cox in this case, might decide that certain websites are too far to the left, or perhaps too far to the right and limit my access to them, charging me a fee to go outside their network or the website one to be accessed within... Actually the more I talk about this the more it's sounding like TV. I haven't access to the various BBC stations through Cox and can only gain a brief bit of BBC America if I cough up a significant bit of cash for digital cable. There is the option of satellite, but given the weather here it's hardly a great investment. Laws need to be imposed to regulate these limitation, but it's still a little annoying that they're being imposed at all.

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Dec. 12th, 2005 11:12 pm

I'm in Metairie now. Saw Syriana this evening. Good movie. I rather like Iranians, if the political situation were more stable in those parts I wouldn't mind travelling through there. See the sights, explore the ruins of Ectabana and Persepolis. Tomorrow I'm being dragged to Whitney Bank to apply for a job. At some point I'm going to have to sit down and explain to my grandmother how little interest I have in a career of any kind, not to mention the general contempt I tend to feel for businesses of most every kind. From what I can gather she's guaging jobs by the salary. Personally I don't feel that any paycheck is high enough to make me sit for eight hours a day, five days a week, through something that bores the hell out of me. I mean even if Bill Gates came by and said hey, how'd you like to run Microsoft, I'd probably turn him down. To work for money is pointless. Cash is the ultimate fluid. The only reason one pursues it at all is as a means to some further end. To pursue a profession for the salary and the salary alone is only going to end in me getting fed up and telling a client to go fuck himself.

The other day I bought a copy of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, Hesiod's Theogany and Works and Days, and Cicero's De Officiis (which is badly translated into On Obligations). I haven't started the Cicero yet, but Nietzsche and Hesiod are coming along. These I'm reading in addition to Joyce and Polybius. It dawned on me that this one book at a time deal is a rather slow process, and overlooks that I was often reading six to seven at once while at Loyola on a full time term. That in addition to writing regular papers and working twenty-five hours a week. I believe this may relate to why I got so much more work done while in college. The extra payload kept my brain in higher gears.

No great progress on Paternity or the Insular Epiphanies. I'm going to take up Latin again as soon as I get a steady paycheck. Maybe add Italian or German to boot. One way to keep up would involve using other languages in my Notebooks. I'm sure I would make plenty friends at my new job if they saw me at lunch scribbling along in Farsi. Given my complexion they'd probably report me to the FBI. Assholes.

Tookie Williams is to be executed in a few hours. It stands out in my mind that Heracles' twelve labors were performed as acts of atonement, to wipe clean the defilement that arose after he was possessed by a Fury and driven to murder his family. While random people have value, surely one's family carries more. Strange to think that Americans are less forgiving that the gods of Greece. There is a peculiar demand in us. An Old Testament and Hammurabic Code type demand that transgressions be repaid in blood. Mark's father once in a rant hit upon an amusing point. Intelligent people are inevitable criminals, because crime does pay. Not this horseshit like that rapper's movie. But scams like Enron that earn billions and affect just as many people. If you think small potatoes, that's all you'll amount to. Robbing the convenient store, shooting the clerk might earn you a few hundred bucks, maybe a couple thousand and earn you life in prison or at worst the electric chair. Rob a nation and get caught, spend a couple months in a resort joint before coming out to enjoy your vast, newfound wealth. What the fuck is wrong with people?

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Dec. 4th, 2005 07:35 pm Reflections on Polybius: Histories, Book I

"The only method of learning how to bear with dignity the vicissitudes of Fortune is to be reminded of the disasters suffered by others."

I'm beginning work on the Commentarius de Polybio. This is a bit looser than the rigorous outlining done of books I to IV of Herodotus: The Histories. Instead of an array of notes and quoting the opening and closing lines of each section the format is instead one of rough summery of each of the divisions of the book, included are lines that strike me as particularly wise or noteworthy, such as the above.

Never at Loyola was I taught Polybius. Since I did most of linguistic work in Latin and he wrote in Greek he never came up. Perhaps a line or two came up in Roman Culture or some secondary source that employed him as a source. Since I began reading Bloom I've become aware of a Renaissance philosopher named Giambatista Vico who developed a theory that cultures shift through particular political systems: monarchy or theocracy to aristocracy to democracy to chaos and then back again. From the introduction I've noticed that nearly two thousand years before Vico, Polybius in the fragmentary Book VI of this same work develops the notion of anacyclosis. That governments mutate in predictable patterns. Power begins in the control of one man and remains there until he abuses it, then it defuses into a council of elites until they abuse it, then it falls into the hands of everyone until they abuse it, and from the chaos arises a new singular ruler and it all continues once more. The specific terms are monarchy becomes tyranny, aristocracy becomes oligarchy, and democracy becomes mob rule (there's a fancier term but I lost track of it). I know that Aristotle in his Politics makes a similar division. It would seem then that Vico bore some inspiration. It would be interesting to check the dates of his publication of The Principles of the New Science and compare them with the publication dates of St. Thomas Aquinas' many rewritings of Aristotle or to find further links between it and Polybius' anacyclosis.

What I like about Polybius is more the ethical principle that guides his study and presentation of history. As apparent in the quotation above, he was very much a believer in Fortune. The Roman idea of Fortune, as I've seen it, is that force which governs everything beyond the immediate control of the individual. Renaissance writers like Boccaccio and Machiavelli show that this notion managed easily to survive the dawn of Christendom. The importance of studying history and applying it to modern issues is something we find implied in Machiavelli who was annoyed at people who ignored such things.

The benefit is put best by Ecclesiastes' nihil sub sole novum. Since nothing is new therefore every possible event or encounter in your life is in fact very old. Newness comes not from the novelty of what you face, rather that lies in how the particular is arranged. Given this there is great benefit in studying history and applying it. This lies at the root of Machiavelli's Prince and his Discourses on Livy. That from his examination of Livy's Historia Romana he was able to develop a theory on how human beings function in the world and how understanding these things can be employed to the benefit of one's self and one's city.

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