Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Most Radioactive College?

I was somewhat amused to find NMSU-Carlsbad listed on the Bad Education list (ht) as the "Most Radioactive," a designation due to WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where nuclear waste (mostly in the form of gloves, clothes, tools, soil, and the like that has been contaminated by plutonium) sealed into drums is stored beneath 2000 feet of earth and salt beds. This, of course, has no real connection with this branch of New Mexico State University, and is a good 25 miles away in the middle of the desert; but, then, the list gives "members of the class of 2008 slept with an average of just 2.75 people" as a reason for classifying Harvard as "Most Overrated," so that tells you the tenor of the list.

What actually amused me more is that I graduated high school in Carlsbad, and so am quite familiar with 'Harvard on the hill', as the people there half-affectionately, half-sarcastically (or all-affectionately, or all-sarcastically, depending on their mood) call it. It's a branch of NMSU that's designed to function as a community college; it advertises itself as one and only offers smaller certification programs and two-year degrees. And, at least when I was there, it had a reputation for fulfilling that function quite well. I'm extraordinarily puzzled by the reference to "the cost of room and board"; as far as I am aware, NMSU-C has no student residences, precisely because it is a community college, and so does not charge room and board. But the authors of the list seem to have thought that NMSU-C was simply the NMSU, and thus a four-year college.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ut Pictura Poesis

Hume, from the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section III *:

All poetry, being a species of painting, brings us nearer to the objects than any other species of narration, throws a stronger light upon them, and delineates more distinctly those minute circumstances which, though to the historian they seem superfluous, serve mightily to enliven the imagery and gratify the fancy.

The claim that poetry is a species of painting is an allusion to a famous line by Horace: Ut pictura poesis (as with painting, so with poetry). It's found in the Ars Poetica:

Ut pictura poesis; erit quae, si propius stes,
te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes;
haec amat obscurum, uolet haec sub luce uideri,
iudicis argutum quae non formidat acumen;
haec placuit semel, haec deciens repetita placebit.

Here's a decent enough transmogrification into English rhyme:

Poems like pictures are; some charm when nigh,
Others at distance more delight your eye;
That loves the shade, this tempts a stronger light,
And challenges the critic's piercing sight:
That gives us pleasure for a single view;
And this, ten times repeated, still is new.

The analogy has influenced an immense amount of aesthetics, and did so particularly in the early modern period. (As I think Gilson notes, Horace's actual statement doesn't license any analogy between poetry and painting as arts; it's an analogy between reading of poetry and viewing of paintings -- that is, it is an analogy between the artistic criticism applicable to poetry and the artistic criticism applicable to painting. Some poems are to be read closely, some from afar; some look better in the shade, some under piercing examination; some are best as single shots, and some you can read again and again. But this is usually overlooked, and the analogy is taken to be between the arts.)

* If you can't find it in your version, that's because your edition follows the 1777 (and thus final) edition of the Enquiry. Up until that edition, Hume included at the end of the section a series of "loose hints" that he said were "thrown together, in order to excite the curiosity of philosophers, and beget a suspicion at least, if not a full persuasion" that the principles in the section, on association of ideas, were true. The loose hints consist chiefly of using the principles to analyze epic poetry and its relation to history. Hume probably had these "loose hints" removed as being too much of a digression, and therefore a structural weakness in the section, but it's a fascinating discussion, one of Hume's most interesting.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Two Poem Drafts

How Strange Is That?

I felt I fell in love with you today; how strange is that?
Waiting for the bus, we stop and stay and chat,
then suddenly and subito my head is overturned,
unbalances my body and makes my heart to burn.
I'm not even sure I really caught your name!
Isn't this a strange, mischievous game,
where something so ungrounded and so swift
can throw everything off kilter like some new-born stellar rift!
That meeting you but once, but for a little while,
I am haunted by your eyes and the flashing of your smile!
That hardly knowing any part of you, nonetheless my brain
spins out imaginations as though your heart were known and gained!
But it all will come to nothing like the glory of the earth,
and if it pass away, what is this feeling worth?
It is a little fizzle, a little frenzy in heated brain,
and when it ever passes, nothing will remain
but a strange, wry self-suspicion and a memory that will fade
of a day that I was victim to fortune's careless play.


Strange are the nights when one's drowses are fleeting,
Dancing swiftly across the brain like zephyrs,
Restless breezes displaced like nomad nations,
Vagrant wanderers floating down the rivers,
Homeless, friendless, and everywhere unsettled.
Can you catch the elusive god as evening
Shuffles over the swaying bridge of twilight?
Can you lay in your mind a trap, such ensnaring pitfall,
Even Somnus himself would find it a challenge?
No: for Sleep, who is like his friends, the Muses,
Like his brother, who gathers dying spirits,
Walks the path he elects and strikes whom he will.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Notable Linkables

* Mike Liccione, Scott Carson, and some others, have started a group blog called Philosophia Perennis that is already off to a great start.

* Listen close to everybody's heart and hear that breaking sound.... I had heard it was good, but only got a chance to watch it recently. If you like Joss Whedon and haven't watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog yet, you have to do so.

* Irish Calvinist recently had a fun and interesting post on Pollyanna Theology (ht). You really do have to watch the video clip.

* John Wilkins has a fascinating post on the first tentative steps of taxonomy in early modern biology.

* Nancy Pelosi, if you haven't heard, has jumped into boiling water recently; she is, of course, a Catholic and recently made remarks about Catholic doctrine on abortion that led to a rather vigorous response, to say the least, then a fighting response from Pelosi's office, which touched off its own vigorous response. American Papist has a timeline of the major events in the early part of the flare up.

* One small symptom of the cleverness of the Palin pick is that it has actually pushed me to talk politics this election cycle; up to this point nothing really caught my attention except Chuck Norris and Paris Hilton, and, very, very briefly, the calls for a science debate among the candidates. That's not very promising. It's true, a few things have come close here and there, but they were mostly cancelled out by something else that turned my interest off; I liked certain aspects of Obama's early start, for instance, but I don't like FoGBoM politicking at all, and you just can't pay attention to the man without getting it in large doses, so I mostly don't. And McCain is not of much interest to me, either. And in either case, it would take something so utterly unexpected to make me vote for either the Travesty Party or the Absurdity Party that I just can't expect it. But this caught my interest for a bit. In any case, there is a great deal of junk and nonsense being thrown around, because, it would seem, political faction is the enemy of all rationality; so I thought I'd point readers to the post at Historiann as one of the best things I've come across so far on the subject of the pick of Sarah Palin. See also her links to discussion in the feminist history blogosphere, where most of the more thoughtful reaction in the blogosphere is happening. Tenured Radical also has a thoughtful post that attempts to separate out several distinct issues with regard to Palin. Cobb also has some good discussion of how this shapes the race to the finish.