Monday, August 30, 2010
The Gentlemen's Magazine- Volume 145, pg. 92 from the year 1829 January – June, contains this interesting obituary from London and vicinity.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Today I found this interesting lecture by Professor Barry Schwartz, a Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. Professor Schwartz makes a compelling argument that the abundance of choice in modern society, rather than bringing about satisfaction and happiness, has tended to cause greater frustration, confusion and disappointment. The glut of options has created a society based on unrealistic expectation and regret. I invite you to listen to the lecture and leave your comments. I have also included a transcript of the lecture.What Schwartz talks about is all very much like my experience with cable television. Before cable, we somehow got along perfectly well with only four or five network channels. I am sure young people today would wither and die at the very idea of it but it did force networks to come up with decent programming in the end. Still the notion that we would now be allowed to watch over 200 channels filled us with both wonder and speechless anticipation. It was really beyond the power of my imagination to grasp. However, it wasn't long before I made a disheartening discovery about cable. No matter which program you were currently watching you always felt that you were missing something far more interesting on a different channel. And nine times out of ten, it wasn't true but the feeling was insidious nevertheless. And so began the age of channel zapping.
Similarly, upon my arrival here so many years ago, I was amazed and appalled by the regimentation of the average life in Turkey. It was an insult to my American sense of individualism, that one could pass through life without question, from school to career to marriage to parenthood.. without making any real decision on any of it. As I looked closer and silently compared both societies, I noted that for the most part, Turks seem fairly satisfied with their lack of options. Not all of them to be sure but the majority seemed content. I would smugly say to myself, "Of course, they are happy. They don't know what they are missing." But surely materialism- as tempting as it appears initially- isn't the key to happiness.
But don't misunderstand me. It is not one big la-la land where everybody dances around like Julie Andrews. There is frustration, of course, especially for women. Yet the kind of depression you commonly see in the US, in all of its forms, seems much harder to find. I find a stronger social network here; friendships that last a whole lifetime as opposed to a few years.
Life in affluent societies has become more and more like cable television, so many choices and so little enjoyment. That feeling we are missing something happening not so far away and so we skip from option to option, fearing that we will miss the best one, fearing that we are settling for less. Meanwhile life goes on and the fulfillment that comes from focusing on a single thing, one life goal no matter how small, slips through fingers.
Paradox of Choice
Sunday, August 22, 2010
When I was a child, my family would regularly visit relatives in Arkansas. The land was still pretty wild then and it hasn't changed all that much today. One night, while coming back from my aunt's home, my parents suddenly pulled the station wagon over to the side of the desolate gravel road. Under the headlight beams, in the middle of the road was a large tarantula- about the size of the average adult hand. It didn't seem too bothered by the attention, perhaps it was cold and therefore, sluggish. For a tarantula, it had a lot going for it, hairy and black as a lump of coal. Its forelegs stroking the ground like a blind harpist.
My brother was adamant about it almost from the moment he laid eyes on the creature. He HAD TO have it. Nobody, he explained, would believe him without some kind of proof. My parents finally- against their common sense and all notions of family safety - were persuaded. So, under his direction, we emptied the first aid kit and maneuvered the little beast into the metal box. Somehow, we drove back to the city with that monster in the same car with us. I really don't see how all of us retained our composure on the six hour journey. One scream and I have no doubt all of us would have bolted from that speeding automobile in all directions.
Finally, we arrived back in our suburban home late that Sunday evening. My older brother would from time to time peer into the box and the very next day, he marched off to school with the metal box under his arm. When he returned home at the end of the day, my mother was somewhat surprised that my brother no longer had the first aid box with him.
"What did you do with it?"
My brother smiled, mostly to himself and finally said, "I sold it."
To accompany my feeble spider tale, I have this odd link for you to play with. http://www.onemotion.com/flash/spider/
From Hurriyet Daily News:
Turkish man demands wife in exchange for 'yes' vote in charter poll
With politicians stepping up their efforts to convince voters to either approve or reject the upcoming constitutional reform package, one elderly voter in Çankırı has set his price for delivering a “yes” vote – a wife.
“I will say ‘yes,’ that is easy, but you have to find a woman for me that I can marry,” 96-year-old Ömer Sosyal told Suat Kınıklıoğlu, a deputy with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, when the politician asked him what his vote would be. (More)Source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
This week on "This American Life" the subject of the podcast is "Superpowers." Click Here to listen.
In Part One, an interviewer conducts a survey, posing these questions: If you could have one of two superpowers- either the ability to fly or the power of invisibility- which would you choose and why?
The collected reactions and replies very intriguing and say a lot the individuals and human nature in general. Although I am not sure if I can agree with all of his conclusions, it was fascinating to learn why some people decided one over the other and their rationale.
What about you? Which would you choose? And why?
So that you won't be swayed too much, my own answers can be found in the comment section.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Here is a sample of the many book covers for Vladimir Nabokov's book, Lolita. If this was a hard book to get published, then it must have been even harder to design a cover for. To see the entire collection of book covers click HERE.
One of my favorites from Carly Simon. (Another one was "The Carter Family" which I shall be posting at a later date.) Now, although the music is pretty easy to listen to by itself, the lyrics are very interesting. For this reason, I wanted to post them separately.
We Have No Secrets
We have no secrets
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Just when you thought the Republican politicians couldn't get any more goofy, loud or obnoxious, some new kind of phony issue arises. This week is the "Terror Baby" conspiracy which, asserts Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), is a gaping whole in the defense of the USA. According to the congressman, Al Qaeda may be sending women to the U.S. to birth a contingent of future terrorists credentialed with American passports. Without any supporting evidence- except for some anonymous ex-FBI agent, Gohmert went on the floor of Congress to call for a revision in the constitution which allows babies born in the US to have automatic citizen rights.
If you've got the stomach for it, you can watch CNN's Anderson Cooper valiantly attempt to pin the Texas congressman down. It is amusing and pathetic at the same time.http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2010/08/12/ac.gohmert.terror.cnn
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Ancient historians tell this sad story about the twenty or so elephants used in a Roman spectacle In 55 BC, when Pompey dedicated his theatre. Animals had been rounded up from all over Africa and brought to Rome for a staged hunt and slaughter. We unexpectedly find that, despite this unprecedented slaughter and barbarism, it was the doomed elephant's pleas for mercy that moved the Roman people.Plutarch says that five hundred lions were killed, but there was "above all, an elephant fight, a most terrifying spectacle" (Life of Pompey, LII.4). Cicero, who was present, wrote to a friend that there were two animal hunts a day, which lasted for five days."The last day was that of the elephants, and on that day the mob and crowd were greatly impressed, but manifested no pleasure. Indeed the result was a certain compassion and a kind of feeling that that huge beast has a fellowship with the human race"(ad Familiares, VII.1). http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/gladiators/elephantus.htmlWhen the elephants in the exhibition given by Pompeius had lost all hopes of escaping, they implored the compassion of the multitude by attitudes which surpass all description, and with a kind of lamentation bewailed their unhappy fate. So greatly were the people affected by the scene, that, forgetting the general altogether, and the munificence which had been at such pains to do them honor, the whole assembly rose up in tears, and showered curses on Pompeius, of which he soon afterwards became the victim.Pliny the Elder, "Combats of Elephants," chap. 7 in Nature of Terrestrial Animals Book 8 of The Natural History
"The elephants were pitied by the people when, after being wounded and ceasing to fight, they walked about with their trunks raised toward heaven, lamenting so bitterly as to give rise to the report that they did so not by mere chance, but were crying out against the oaths in which they had trusted when they crossed over from Africa, and were calling upon Heaven to avenge them" (Cassius Dio XXXIX.38).