Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The latest

...additions to my reading list arrived in the mail.


As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Guy Gavriel Kay, so buying Ysabel was a given. I wasn't so sure about buying the Dawkins book. I'd heard good things about it, but the review at Amazon put me off. I finally decided to order it after a chat over at Salt and Ice.

The books are now on a shelf in my newly painted, newly reorganized office. Well, there's one wall left to paint, but that has to wait until the weekend after next. Anyhow, because of the changes, the lighting was no longer adequate for evening reading, so I went to Flin Flon to buy the perfect lamp. Alas, no such lamp presented itself. I then looked through the Sears catalogues. I searched through Home Depot and Staples. Still nothing. Convinced that the lamp of my dreams did not exist, I toddled off to the studio to work on a watercolour. An hour or so into painting, I touched the paper with a brush that was overloaded with water. In a mad scramble for paper towel, I noticed a lamp. A lonely little lamp that hasn't been used in years. A lamp that I'd forgotten about. The lamp of my dreams was in the studio all this time, right in front of my nose.

39 comments:

Rhett said...

Let me say before I start that I am pretty sure that I get just about everything. That being said, (I watched the Colbert clip) scientists who don't understand that point of a good story really piss me off.

Brenda Schmidt said...

I'm over halfway through The Selfish Gene by Dawkins and I'm enjoying it. If TGD is anywhere near as lively, it should be a good read.

Paula Jane said...

There was quite a bit of buzz about TGD at Christmas in the bookstore - I've heard mainly good things about it. And I'm looking forward to Ysabel, although I'm at least one GGKay book behind at this point. Honestly, I haven't been reading that much since the thesis and before then ... academic stuff. I think my brain decided to take a vacation this past while. *g*

Tracy Hamon said...

Well, when you're done reading, pick me, pick me.

Aren't most things in life right under our noses?

Tracy Hamon said...

Meaning, I would like to read them, of course.

ZW said...

Rhett, please read Dawkins before you get pissed off. If there's a scientist who appreciates a good story out there, it's him. He modelled his book on evolution, _The Ancestor's Tale_, e.g., on Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_. And he argues in TGD for treating the Bible like just that, a good story. He is quite clear that he believes the Bible should be taught, that it's an indispensable text for understanding who we are and how we behave in the "West," including vast swathes of our best art; if he's intolerant of anything, it's the ignorance most Christians have of the actual content of their Good Book. Ironically, most of the people saying that Dawkins is ignorant and/or intolerant haven't actually read _his_ book either--or they've read it in such a way as to get whatever message out of it suits their preconceptions. Sound familiar?

Rhett said...

That's fair. He certainly didn't come off like that in the interview I watched which spawned my reaction. The basis of my views come from Campbell and Tillich so if he goes along that line then I don't need to be upset :).

Brenda Schmidt said...

A well deserved vacation, Paula Jane! Though I imagine things are perking in there. A writer's mind is much like a coffee pot.

Speaking of McNally, their customer service is awesome. Amazon, after many weeks, sent a notice saying they couldn't get me a copy of Robert Bringhurst's new book, so I ordered it and a Steven Pinker book that I couldn't get from Amazon either (and another book that isn't coming to mind at the moment) from McNally Robinson. I soon received a phone call letting me know the status of Bringhurst's book and then emails letting me know when each book came in. All three are waiting for me at the desk.

Tracy, the only thing under my nose that I truly pay attention to is my mouth. Yes, I'll definitely pass the books on to you.

The Canterbury Tales? I had great fun studying Chaucer. Ok. I really have to finish TSG so I can dig into that shiny silver book.

ZW said...

Well, an interview with Colbert, entertaining tho it may be, is hardly an opportunity to delineate your views in detail.

John said...

It's The Ancestor's Tale that works off The Canterbury Tales, not TGD, Brenda. Just to be clear.


Rhett: I have to agree with ZW that Dawkins does not miss the point of a good story.

And speaking for myself, I'd say that what Dawkins has a problem with is fuzzy thinking and misrepresentation of facts, and the giving of free passes rather than challenges to theologians, etc., who utter inanities as profundities and/or base their systems of thought on faulty (and sometimes outright false) premises.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Sheesh. Do you mean I won't find the Wife of Bath in TGD? Darn. I was already trying to imagine how she'd be put to use...

Rob L said...

Long time reader, first time responder (at least I think so...). Rhett chimed me in to this conversation and as a Dawkins reader, I thought I'd add my two cents.

Dawkins is a curious scientist, and I use that term in both the positive and derogatory sense of the word. He's a brilliant geneticist and certainly on the cutting edge of the field when it comes to evolutionary theory. His contribution to knowledge is significant. That being said, he's a total ass. Dawkins claims some sort of scientific objectivity that hovers above the religiously indoctrinated, while at the same time comes down on them with the hammer of judgment and scorn that stinks of a subjective ignorance. If anyone has ever had the displeasure of viewing "The Root of All Evil", his BBC documentary, you know how inflamatory, obstinent and rude he is. He's an arrogant jerk. He prods, pokes and attacks people until they return fire, upon which he slyly nods to the camera and says (I'm summing up here), "See, religions are inherently violent and ignorant." It's enough to make you throw something at the TV.

While Dawkins may have an appreciation for the narrative quaility of a text, anyone who has read his short work or has again witnessed the debacle that is his documentary knows that he has nothing but infinite distain for any religious faith. He does not quietly acknowledge the etherial quality of religion, but instead scorns it as an escape from the earthly responsibility of being a human being in the here and now (sounds a lot like Marx, actually...and Freud...). He's as ignorant and closed-minded as the people he attacks.

He's also not in good shape. I could probably bench press more than him.

Rob

Rob L said...

Witness the ignorance on both sides of the fence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ussdzdnj_dE

Brenda Schmidt said...

So Rob, how much can you bench press? :)

Seriously though, being new to Dawkins, I find all these comments quite intriguing. As far as the videos are concerned, both this clip and the interview in the Salt and Ice post I linked to above seem to fit in with the general, sensationalized TV offerings these days, which is a large part of the reason I no longer watch anything but hockey. Well, that's not quite true. I did watch a Harry Potter movie on CBC a short while back... Anyhow, I won't judge the book by the videos. But I am more curious than ever.

Brenda Schmidt said...

I won't prejudge, I mean.

John said...

Rob L, I've posted a short response to this

He [Richard Dawkins] does not quietly acknowledge the etherial [sic] quality of religion, but instead scorns it as an escape from the earthly responsibility of being a human being in the here and now (sounds a lot like Marx, actually...and Freud...).

at my blog: http://saltandice.blogspot.com/2007/01/god-delusion-etc.html

ZW said...

I haven't seen the documentary in question, but this business of Dawkins being ignorant/arrogant/an ass seems to me the last ditch defense of a cornered animal. He pokes, he prods, yes. He follows one question with another until he reaches questions that people of faith--at least otherwise rational people of faith--are just too damn uncomfortable/embarrassed to answer. When someone makes someone else uncomfortable, there is a danger that they'll make themselves look like an asshole.

I'm with John; this ethereality business is a total copout. I had a very annoying argument with someone about this subject a couple of months ago. Eventually, he said, "well, Zach, it's all just a metaphor. You're a poet, right, you must believe in metaphor." Yes, but there's a difference between believing in the poetic value of "the sun has risen" or even in using it as a simple idiomatic expedient for reasons of semantic parsimony, and believing that the sun actually hovers beneath the horizon for 12 hours, then pops above it for a spell. Likewise, there's a difference between using the word god in the Einsteinian sense as a metaphor for the universe, or for all that we don't understand, and believing that God is some kind of indivisible substance that intentionally created the universe, created human beings in His image, breathed his essence into a virgin, who gave birth to a man who was also God and who died for our sins, and who listens to our prayers. If the former is the case, then you don't believe in God in any significant sense; you're not a theist, you're a spiritualist. If the latter is the case, then you're superstitious. If you don't believe the above, then what do you believe? Where do you draw the line and say, of course not, that's nonsense?

No, it can't be scientifically disproven, as Dawkins admits, that God or Allah or J-----h don't exist, but nothing can be disproven, so the Christian myth, or the Muslim myth, or the Jewish myth is on the same plane as any other wacky, unproven thesis. If all religion did was say, we don't know, it wouldn't be pernicious. But it doesn't. Even in its moderate forms, it says, we know, we have answers; moreover, we know best, we have THE answers. At best, this is redundant; at worst, it's mendacious.

Rob L said...

Wow. You guys sure crank things up a notch quickly with your increased vocabulary, your pejorative spelling corrections (sic), and your name calling. Thanks for the "dialogue."

Perhaps I'm just being delusional.

Rob

ZW said...

Some excellent Q&A here:

http://richarddawkins.net/home

ZW said...

A more stable link to the video:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,303,Reading-of-The-God-Delusion-in-Lynchburg-VA,Richard-Dawkins--C-SPAN2

John said...

Thanks for the links, Zach.

Rob, I'm quite willing to have a dialogue. I won't apologize for the use of sic, though. Spelling errors in words which would seem to be a crucial part of a statement are indicative of carelessness, in my opinion.

I'd rather not clog up Brenda's blog with acrimony. If you would like to discuss Dawkins or religion further, why not use the link I provided? Or, if you'd prefer, provide a post at your blog. All the same to me.

Rhett said...

Don't mind me, once again, am leaving in my ROFLCOPTER. But the good news it that I painted my ROLFCOPTER and named it post-modernism. You guys might want to put on your LOLLERSKATES and get out while you still can.

Brenda Schmidt said...

[The clouds rumble and the storm moves on. Suddenly the sun breaks through and the land turns a green beyond any green that Tolkien could ever have imagined for Lothlorien. It's a fragrant green. The fragrance of destiny. Above that green, centred in that shaft of light, a ROFLCOPTER hovers. From it a ladder dangles, more gold than gold, upon which figure after figure ascends...]

Seriously though, I just got home after a few days away. The last 330 km leg of the journey was far too icy. I'm sure H's ears are still ringing from all my eek eek EEK! MWAHHHHHH! I know I know, people like me really shouldn't drink coffee. Anyhow, I made it in one piece thanks to H. It's great to be sitting here and it's great to see these comments. Every one. I feel so lucky to be yapping with such a spunky bunch of people, from Rob L., first time commenter here, to those of you I've been yapping with and at for years and years. I swear it's just like Shakespeare says. Sweet varied notes, enchanting every ear!

John said...

Is that one of them there black ROFLCOPTERS what's always hovering outside my window at night?

Rhett said...

Spelling errors in words which would seem to be a crucial part of a statement are indicative of carelessness, in my opinion.

Is that one of them there black ROFLCOPTERS what's always hovering outside my window at night?

ROFLCOPTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:D

John said...

Now that there'd be what's known as a question, not a statement, wouldn't it?

ZW said...

And your use of "what" ruther than "that" is a standard, grammatically correct, substitution in a number of English idiolects. But didactic grapholectic dogmatists and addicts of CBC English might be reluctant to accept such a thing, eh what?

Brenda Schmidt said...

Many here are quite familiar with the Schmidt idiolect, aka Schmidiolect, in which substitutions are the norm, especially in interrogative statements. Questions, that is, specifically questions regarding cake.

Rhett said...

I fear for the worst Mr. Frodo. I now believe the internet is being taken too seriously.

HOT HOT! Gratuitous hobbit on hobbit action - CLICK HERE!!!!

Brenda Schmidt said...

Good grief.

Rhett said...

Love the Good Griefs, keep 'em coming.

To sum up:

It made me reflect that half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.

From Thou Art That, Joseph Campbell (talking about misunderstanding of myth and metaphor).

ZW said...

Well, ain't that a quaint li'l dichotomy! Must be naice not to suffer from that pesky nuanced nuisance of polychromatic vision! Gawrsh!

Rhett said...

LOL

You misunderstand many things, young master hobit.

Brenda Schmidt said...

No doubt I will have nightmares about all you guys ending up at the same dinner table...

Thanks for those links, Zach. I checked out the first video last night. Today I hope to find 70 uninterrupted minutes to get through the Q&A.

ZW said...

That wasn't a dichotomy?

Rhett said...

It was a dichotomy but he was referring to something beyond the dichotomy (which why I included the note in the parenthesis). I suppose that might have been a bit too much to put together for such a lil gaffer. I'll try and be clearer in the future.

But, you patronize well, young master, but it is a good thing I'm a quick learner.

Now we are in post script territory and not one I am custom to. Perhaps, a new topic is appropriate. I will wash my hands of this catastrophy.

ZW said...

An easy task when you haven't got them dirty in the first place. Why don't you turn the other cheek while you're at it? Usually best to withdraw if you've got nothing of your own to say and can only quote out-of-context excerpts of other people's writing to give your position the superficial appearance of authority. A very Christian reflex, that. I haven't even begun to patronize you, little drummer boy.

Peace and joy, parumpapumpum.

Rob L said...

Or we can just pull 'em out and measure, which is essentially the equivalent of what's been going on here.

Good grief.

kimmy said...

large weather we're having...