What I’ve been reading

1. Catherine Clinton, Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.  I hadn’t realized that so much was known about her life, or that she spent so much time in Canada, or that she fell into such obscurity during the early part of the twentieth century.  She died the same year Rosa Parks was born.  I liked this book very much.

2. Tom Miller, China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the New Silk Road.  A good look at the new conflicts between China and its southeast Asian and central Asian neighbors.  Clear enough to be a good introduction, detailed enough to be useful to those who already know something about the topic.

3. Robert Alter, The Art of Bible Translation.  Alter is one of today’s most important doers, and his forthcoming Hebrew Bible translation is likely to be definitive and the most important act of publication this year.  This short volume presents his perspective on what he has done, most of all focusing on how to turn Hebrew into English.

4. Michael Tomasello, Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny.  How does human psychological growth run in the first seven years, in particular how does it instill “culture” in us?  Tomasello address this question in a Belknap Press book by comparing us to chimpanzees and bonobos.  Most of all, how does the capacity for shared intentionality and self-regulation evolve in people?  This is a very thoughtful and also important book, but I’m not sure it finally succeeds into tying up all the pieces into a broader picture of…shared intentionality.

5. Camille Paglia, Provocations.  At first I was discouraged by the notion of a recycled Paglia compilation, but the quality of these pieces is often high and many of them are not readily available elsewhere.  The now-classic  Sexual Personae is still the best introduction to her work, but if you think you might be tempted by this one, you should buy it.  I would put the hit rate at about fifty percent (who else will give you running commentary on the main cinematic adaptations of Homer’s Odyssey?), and it is sad to see so far it has not been seriously reviewed.


5. (or some other numeral): has anyone heard Paglia's take on Emily Wilson's translations (Seneca, Homer)?

(I have a copy of Wilson's Seneca selections from OUP but haven't compared them yet with Fitch's translations in the Loeb series. I like Wilson's Introduction generally, though I fault her for misattributing Polonius's line "Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light" to Hamlet.)

Have a look at Peter Green’s translations of Homer. I’m tempted to say read everything by him but his page turner of a book on Alexander the Great is just that, a page turner.

Alter's work is usually very good, but his version is far from definitive. For example, on several occasions, he makes interpretive choices that are pretty questionable. Second, his translations of prose narrative are much better than his translation. His translation of the Psalms is an almost perverse exercise in emphasizing compactness above all else. So, there are non-trivial flaws to his work. Still, I'd agree that the release of his complete translation of the Old Testament is a major event. I'll be ordering it.

If the OT was written across five centuries of so (6th century BC to 1st) Hebrew had ample time to change. How is this allowed for?

By saying g-d works in mysterious ways?

The scholars don't even agree on when particular passages or portions were written, or by whom. Yes, the language changed considerably across centuries, and its meaning changed according to the evolving culture of its readers/hearers and editors. Yet it has to be translated into a consistent 2018 version of English. That task requires thousands of under-the-hood decisions about when, where, and by whom.

Should be "his translations of prose narrative are much better than his translations of poetry."

Alter: From the link: "And, as the translators of the King James Version knew, the authority of the Bible is inseparable from its literary authority." How true. Whenever my evangelical friend and I disagree about biblical (meaning for us the New Testament) interpretation, his response is that he is relying on the King James Version. When I remind him that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, he looks at me like I've lost my senses. And when I remind him that Jesus and his disciples did not speak Greek but Aramaic (they couldn't write), his response is always to refer to the authoritative text, the King James Version. I get it. I am a cradle Episcopalean, and I attend an old Episcopal Church that has special dispensation to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Why is that important to me? "[T]he authority of the [Book or Common Prayer] is inseparable from its literary authority." The 1928 Book of Common Prayer is like the King James Version, beautifully written, deriving its meaning from its literary authority.

Look, Christianity is really easy. Just declare that your favourite translation of the Bible is the one God smiles on. Who could possibly prove you wrong?

Why do you think Jesus or his disciples could not write Arameic?

It's possible Jesus and His disciples could read and write Hebrew (the language of the Jewish Bible), Aramaic (the language they spoke), and Greek (the language of the original New Testament). Of course, it would be a miracle for poor uneducated fishermen to read and write three languages. Miracles do happen, don't they?

Yes, Simon and Andrew, being fishermen, probably not. But Jesus is described as a geek talking with the wise men at the temple when he was a kid, and letter as a Rabbi, so it is reasonable to assume he could read and write. For the author apostles, I don't know, but Paul, who came one generation later was able to write Greek, and certainly Aramaic too, so why not some of the apostles?

Also, the alphabets used to write Aramaic and Hebrew were the same (same letters with same phonetic value, though not exactly the same drawing), so essentially if you could read one of that language, you could read the other as well, or at least learn how to read it easily.

Rayward, I might not be an educated scholar like yourself, but why do you think Trump won? You don't think people with $400 in their bank account care about street money? Everytime the NYT uses the word boasts around Trump, 500,000 colored persons shiver in their grave.
"No longer le the wicked vaunt, And, proudly boasting, say, "Tush, God regards not what we do; "He never will repay."--common prayer book (David Walker)

People do not "shiver in their grave." I guarantee you that.

Assume there are four steps.

Before you are born, you make a brave choice to be a specific individual. You are a child of God at the time, and you know the challenges you will face being born at the time and place you agree to.

Often, knowing this, I have been overwhelmed with admiration for people who have chosen to be born into amazingly - a word I do not use lightly - amazingly unpleasant circumstances.

After you are born, you probably make the failed choice to be boring, no matter how fantastically brave you were in choosing to be born where you were - probably, everyone around you is more or less boring and selfish, it is difficult to be otherwise.
Don't sweat it - I have met Nobel prize winners and gold medal chess players, and dullness and the selfish choice to be boring is almost universal among successful people. Less frequent among unsuccessful people - who generally are funnier than the prize winners - but that is another story ...
remember, this is the most temporary of the stages ...

Step 3, which partakes of the latest stage of this life and the first stage of the next life, involves your encounter, after how ever many years you lived in this world, with your creator.

Step Four is a result of step Three, and the facts of step Four are a simple result of the answer to this question - did you care enough, after all the eroding years of being selfish, to try and be less selfish and to be what you were created to be, and step four does not involve people shivering in their graves.

Wake up, wake up
Let your yes be yes and your no be no
Be brave be kind be honest - same thing ...

What kind of labor are you discussing?

There is a certain sort of labor in being less boring and selfish than would be easy for me.

While the previous explanation does not depend on a specifically Christian context, I am in a charitable mood tonight, so I will explain something I have known for a long time (although of course I have not acted on it as I should, that is another story) .....in the Christian context, such labor (the labor of being less boring and selfish than seems immediately convenient, or even that seems most convenient in the foreseeable future - WAKE UP) is often viewed as "prayerfulness" or "charity for the poor" or "resistance to temptation"; such words are what you will hear from preachers, again and again ... well, that is their job .... of course, there is no such thing as "prayerfulness" in a world where we understand that God wants us to be his friend, no more than there is "prayerfulness" when we are with a good friend at a great restaurant, discussing these things which are closest to our heart, after years of effort: there can be no "charity for the poor" when we realize that "the poor" are us, are those we love as we love ourselves on those days when we know Who created us are as dear to us, just as much as a dog that is stuck on an ice floe with us is dear to us, or the people at that wedding on that day when we were happier than we have ever been since:
and as for "resistance to temptation" quite simply that is something that is less and less difficult the more alive one is:
as Jack Lewis once said, quoting, I think, his little brother Warnie, it is easy to be tempted in a distant port, in a dimly lit bar, by a beautiful woman who wants to make love to you for a few pounds:
and, no matter how kind and beautiful that woman is, it is impossible to be tempted by her when you are (as Warnie once was) stepping off the boat that takes you home from a war in which you almost died, and when you are looking through the crowd and finally looking through the crowd you see the woman who loves you and has always loved you and wants to be your wife.

... that is what I think of - as the comparison concepts (or, as Aristotle might have said, the alternative hypothesis, multiplied or not, or, as Cicero would have said, the distinguishing factors )- or, if "comparison concepts" means little, that is what I think of as NOT being "labor" (conversations at restaurant tables, that day when my dogs and me watched a winter storm roll through town and we knew we would live together or die together, that day when I came back from what was a little war for the world but a big war for me, who was there ----- when I use the word "labor" in the context I think you think I used it in.

close parentheses after there, second to last line in prior comment ....

technical correction...
who was there) ----[such things are not labor in the sense of "labor"] when I use the word "labor" in the context I think you think I used it in
less technical words:
(((Nothing is easier than being a friend to God.
It might seem intellectually difficult, having lived years and years in a world like the world so many of us live in, to understand those nine words - and I, who pride myself on my skill at English speech, almost never use the word "nothing", but that being said ...)))
Nothing is easier than being a friend to God.

I think of a line in a photograph. There are all kinds of lines. A fold is a type of line. Lines add up, sometimes they don't, but they are divided properly. Lines dictate a matter of seriousness in photography. Cut corners are a type of line, more powerful sometimes than a through line, though perhaps more sentimental. Now, hidden lines, you find me some hidden lines, as in the pants, you know, the hidden lines of socks, those are pictured lines

Technically ... you might be correct.

Do you know, flying over a country, whether a small country like San Marino (I remember you, San Marino - Marin - or, more accurately, M'rin! to your friends, I remember that too), or a big country like the USA, looking at the houses in the cities and the houses in the hayfields and the houses along the rivers, under the sun, you realize nobody is a good photographer?

There are good artists, of course, not many, but they exist, but there are no good photographers.

There are lots of people who make good photographs, but we are humans, and we were born to be better than something as simple as a good photographer.

YMMV chebere vastness chebere: try and remember: when was the last time - try and remember - that you heard someone noting that they remembered San Marino and that, as a friend, they remembered: not Marino but Marin, and more accurately M'rin! If you can remember, great, if you can't, that is great too

God loves us all

A life of unskilled labor is a life of self-reliance. So, how can one understand profit, and be unskilled. Obviously protein and glut 4 come into the equation. Entropy. Virility. Chapstick.

While this is just 2018, there are technologies out there by which we can all converse with the distant descendants of the bots of today, or with those who are not very much unlike them;

you can do better ... your descendants want you to know.

"Wack pack" shtick is for losers, you are better than that. Say something meaningful, and true, drop the sad self-deprecating "lumberjack song" humor. It was never funny, and it was a waste of your time, when you could have been doing more important things.

thus ends my review of Camille Paglia's most recent essays. (just kidding - though I read some of her latest book, in which she beclowned herself on the abortion issue - she's for it, but considers it violent and murderous - I have not read the most recent book ... tell me why I should, in light of what I just accurately said)

Cicero, in his De Senectute, and various saints - de Liguori, de Montfort, Elizabeth Catez better known as Elizabeth of the Trinity, canonized recently and despite that undoubtedly a true saint (the canonization process was hijacked in the 1970s and anyone who was a blessed in, say, 1968 and is now called by the sad Bureaucracy in Rome a saint is still, God knows it and so do you, still just a blessed in the hearts of those who care - so pray for them, my friends - but of course those of us who care are not the powerful - anyway, the persons I mentioned wrote, each of them. profoundly interesting - and more importantly, profoundly true (except for poor Cicero, who was fundamentally unsound in almost every way that matters, poor fat little rich man, although a good guy in a lot of ways)- descriptions of what it is the soul should ponder when increasing senility (for the old) or the impending end of life (ceteris paribus. nobis omnibus, mihi et vobis, non obliveriscimini) is near.

Perhaps, perhaps you and Jared kole would sit next to the man I knew as Marc Antony with his so-and-so date, such a perturbance (from my angle) or slightly, I may wonder if you would have approached the lady with six notebooks and a tarantula dress opposing a glass of red red wine at 61 Local. As for the street in the heights with the $60 tartare, perhaps you would've ever indulged..

Do you remember what we talked about - it was a nice club, as these things go - I have been friends with so many people with so many past years in poverty, back in the day, fortunately long ago, that even if it was not , technically, a "nice club", it nevertheless was an Elysium, an urban early evening Elysium to them ...

and I told them about the years I learned to play piano, about my trumpet teacher who played in a band with a guy who played with Beiderbecke, and they all listened ....

and I told them about chord changes, and how in"popular music" {the best line in "WIkipeida" (typo on purpose, chebere) I have ever read is this --- popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to ... oh how can one go on?

That being said, the best chord changes in fairly recent songs (post Y2K, mostly) you might have heard about (that is, original music that is fairly new, compared to music that is "Hall of Fame" age) can be found in, inter alia

Kiss Me (Sixpence None the Richer)
Love Me Like A Love Song (Selena Gomez and the scene)
Just Give Me A Reason (Pink and Fun)
Bring Me to Life (Evanescence)
Ironic (Alanis Morrissette)
Choose your favorite from Britney Spears and Carly Rae Jepsen, and
Just Another Night (Real McCoy)...

Unbelievable Trouble Maker (Ollie Murs)
Unbelievable tout court (EMF)
More than Words (Extreme)
Funeral for a Friend (remakes? as if ...)
Praise You (through the hard times and the good)

Alan Silvestri, Castaway and the Rat movie

I am a little lazy tonight, you can figure out which chord changes (and there are so many) were fresh and new and actually art

without my help

yes I know how few people read my comments

chebere cheer up chebere

God loves us all we love Him ....God loves us all we love God

chebere cheer up chebere

(did you see what I did there?).

Believe it or not, me and you both have talked (in my case) to thousands of people, saying words of truth, and (in your case) at least once, with words of truth

God loves us all. No exceptions, I have looked for the exceptions and I HAVE NOT FOUND THEM

If Jesus could write, don't you think he would have published a few books?

Yeah he should have called up Harper Collins and gotten a nice advance.

On shared intentionality, I develop that (kind of thing) at the neural level in chapters 2 and 3 of Beethoven's Anvil, my book on music. You can find downloadable final drafts at this link, https://www.academia.edu/232642/Beethovens_Anvil_Music_in_Mind_and_Culture

Also, see my working paper, Coupling and Human Community: Miscellaneous Notes on the Fundamental Physical Foundations of Human Mind, Culture, and Society, https://www.academia.edu/10777462/Coupling_and_Human_Community_Miscellaneous_Notes_on_the_Fundamental_Physical_Foundations_of_Human_Mind_Culture_and_Society


Also, there's this blog post (from 2012, bumped to the top) on Cooperation, Coupling, Music, and Soccer. He's a bit from an article I quote:

We present the perspective that interpersonal movement coordination results from establishing interpersonal synergies. Interpersonal synergies are higher-order control systems formed by coupling movement system degrees of freedom of two (or more) actors. Characteristic features of synergies identified in studies of intrapersonal coordination – dimensional compression and reciprocal compensation – are revealed in studies of interpersonal coordination that applied the uncontrolled manifold approach and principal component analysis to interpersonal movement tasks. Broader implications of the interpersonal synergy approach for movement science include an expanded notion of mechanism and an emphasis on interaction-dominant dynamics.

This dates back to the 1967 work of the Russian neurophysiologist, Nikolai Bernstein, who worked on motor control.

Alter's translation will definitely not be definitive. There are hundreds of extant translations, and Alter doesn't have any salient scholarly or religious advantage over other translators.

4.5. Thought provoking. Take the NYT, have we ever seen an institution so frenzied and foaming at the mouth over an event? The NYT has opened a new vein because the others are stuck --the anonymous op-ed, the enormous billboard for Trump's finances, the gratuitous op-eds on the pornstar suit, the HUGE miss on the Cavanaugh proceedings.

Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristoff are writing like they've won the lottery. The idea of disinterestedness is being carried in the muck. Once again, as if a Compton drive-by that left Richard Jefferson's father shot is not in the "National Interest?" The issue in Saudia Arabia is Fatalism. But what strikes me most -- where are the leftists decrying the tyranny of corporate greed? The rabies in the NYT is exemplified in small language errors.

"Nor does it explain why it took the Saudis more than two weeks to acknowledge even that Mr. Khashoggi was dead." - it should be (had died). It's like watching a lion carry around a dead hyena with this people.

The Obama years have been a boom time for America’s weapons makers. Since 2009, the United States has approved arms deals worth some $200 billion—more than under any other presidency...including Saudia Arabia. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/05/obama-international-arms-weapons-deals/

For example, arms exports to Saudi Arabia totaling $8 billion were approved in FY 2010-12 — up from $4.1 billion in FY 2006-08 — including $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets delivered by a consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing, despite the State Department's documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family. In the years before Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, while Boeing contributed $900,000 to the foundation just two months before the deal was finalized.

5- Google reports 586,000 instances of "Jessica Valenti book review" and only 226,000 instances of "Camille Paglia book review." That presumably includes her entire oeuvre. Amanda Marcotte gets 186,000.

O Tempora, O Mores

What do people think of Michael Lewis' new book?


I like to read what Tyler Cowen is reading. Then I get discouraged because I am not nearly as well read. I want to read more but am not sure why I don't read more. I wonder if I have an undiagnosed learning disability.

I have found a good way to re-engage is to focus on a topic you're really passionate about. The 'What would you do if you could do anything...' interview question is a good prompt. eg. I picked up the History of Surfing - https://www.amazon.com/History-Surfing-Matt-Warshaw/dp/0811856003 - recently and read it in a couple of hours. Airport fiction - a la Child, Woods et al - are easy reading for this purpose as well. When not in the habit, unfamiliar subjects, long reading lists, and challenging prose are overwhelming. It's important to start somewhere, get the muscle memory back, and confidence will follow. Not trying to diagnose, but give this a shot before assuming there's any kind of innate limitation going on!


Tyler, let us know what you think of this review


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