Posts Tagged ‘intellectual’

Why I do what I do



a fine explanation of independent publishing from a practitioner…  RT

(reosted from Cedar Writes)


Why I do what I do.

An Instant of Midnight

Simon H. Lilly strikes again with a meditation on midnight…RT

(reposted from Simon H. Lilly)

An Instant of Midnight.

Celts & the Exile of Poetry

March 14, 2013 8 comments

File:Sanzio 01 Socrates.jpg

OF THE many excellences which I perceive in the order of our State, there is none which upon reflection pleases me better than the rule about poetry.

To what do you refer?

To the rejection of imitative poetry, which certainly ought not to be received; as I see far more clearly now that the parts of the soul have been distinguished.

What do you mean?

Speaking in confidence, for I should not like to have my words repeated to the tragedians and the rest of the imitative tribe– but I do not mind saying to you, that all poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and that the knowledge of their true nature is the only antidote to them.

(Socrates speaking to Glaucon, from the opening of Book X, Plato’s Republic)


We are over fathomless waters here. The banishment of the poets from Socrates’ ideal city has had immense consequences for the practitioners of the art (and in the end, RT suspects, for all artists, whatever their medium). Here Poetry, and by extension all “imitations” of nature, is condemned as fundamentally uncivilized and destructive to its audience’s understanding, filling the mind with obstructive figments that may please for a moment but serve in the long run only to confuse people’s thinking.

And RT thinks it is no coincidence that Plato (424-348 B.C.) who lived to see the Celt’s sack of Rome and other depredations, may have been speaking not only of Homer and Greek poetry, but of the Celt’s poets, who formed a highly disciplined guild of practitioners, headed by a High Poet (or at least in ancient Ireland). Plato cared deeply for the city, believing it to be capable of producing the best human life possible. The Poets, as far as he could see, advocated an uncivilized life ruled by fancy and belief–the life lived by the Celts at the time, a life lived in the midst of nature.

The debate has raged down the centuries, Philosopher vs. Poet, hard reasoning vs. inspiration. The current state of things would suggest a nearly complete victory for the Philosophers, with enormous cities spread across the globe and poetry seen as an idle past-time, the Celts pushed to the edge of Europe, their languages besieged by the current koine, English.

How much discipline is good? When do we need to stop and feel the richness of experience? Certainly science has brought many miracles; but the argument for the survival and restoration of the Celtic speech must take into account the possibility that there is something good in the magic of poetry–and of language.    RT

Painting: The School of Athens, detail showing Socrates; Raphael, 1509, oil on canvas. WikiCmns, Public Domain. Text from Book X: Wikisource. Public Domain.


Less than two weeks


go, indiegogo!!!  RT

(reposted from Christian Mihai)


Less than two weeks.

samsung project (9) i drown my sorrows in the darkness of papua wamena


sounds delicious…  RT

(reposted from sonofmountmalang)


samsung project (9) i drown my sorrows in the darkness of papua wamena.

A Tale of Two Libraries: MLK Memorial and the Library of Congress

File:Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.jpg

MLK Jr. Memorial Library

RT finds it somewhat odd, if not outright inexplicable, that he has never posted about libraries before: he is a lifelong lover of libraries and learning and an avid patron of any library that happens to reside near his current domicile.

The library that has corrected RT’s egregious oversight, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., is not as famous as its neighbor, the Library of Congress, but is in its way just as important. But the two buildings could not be more different: the LOC’s Thomas Jefferson Building, designed by John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz and opened in 1897, is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style, roofed with a copper dome and containing a grand reading room.

File:Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. - c. 1902.jpg

Library of Congress, 1902

The MLK Library building, on the other hand, is a modernist work, designed by Mies van der Rohe, one of the 20th century’s most distinguished architects. It opened in 1972 and is the only public library ever designed by the architect.

Then there are the differences in function between the two libraries. The Library of Congress is the United State’s unofficial national library. Among its holdings (22.7 million cataloged books, plus millions of other items) are the Russian Imperial Collection, consisting of 2,600 volumes from the library of the Romanov family; collections of Hebraica and Chinese and Japanese works; and Otto Vollbehr’s collection of incunabula, including one of three remaining perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg BibleWow!

The MLK Library is the central library of the District of Columbia’s library system. It houses several of the system’s special collections. The Washingtoniana collection includes books, newspaper archives, maps, census records, and oral histories related to the city’s history, including 1.3 million photographs from the Washington Star newspaper and the theatrical video collection of the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive. The library offers a) computer and adult literacy instruction and b) help for job seekers and people filing their income taxes. Many of its services are available on the internet. Wow!

It’s clear that the two libraries serve different audiences: the LOC, though open to the general public, has special resources that interest the most serious readers and researchers; MLKL serves Washington D.C.’s residents and those interested in the history of the District of Columbia. And, to RT’s eye, the buildings they are housed in reflect their purposes in a helpful way. In particular, RT would like to note the main hall of MLKL. There is something quite subtle about Mie’s work; his sense of volume is sublime, and any who enter the library feel the dignity of the space–even if the building materials are steel, glass, and brick. RT could find no picture that gives the reader an adequate idea of the main hall, so he offers an interior photo of another of Mie’s buildings: the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.    RT

File:Berlin Neue Nationalgalerie June 2002.jpg

Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin












Photos: Top two: Public Domain; Bottom: CC 1.0. All: WikiCmns.


Nightstand 2013: Week Nine

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment


some excellent magazine reading…

(reposted from The Quotidian Diary)


Nightstand 2013: Week Nine.

Why kitchens are so inspiring (and messy)

February 20, 2013 1 comment



the great truth of the creative life…   RT

(reposted from artistcollage)


Why kitchens are so inspiring (and messy).

Denis Diderot and the Book that Changed the World

February 20, 2013 3 comments

File:Denis Diderot (Dimitry Levitzky).jpg

An encyclopedia has an ambitious goal: to bring together all important information on an academic discipline into a single book. The challenges that face expert(s) who create such a compendium of knowledge are many: How do they determine which information is important and useful? How do they structure each article so as to present a summary of the material that gives readers a good understanding of its scope? Which reference works should they direct readers to for further information? What manner of person undertakes such a monumental task?


Denis Diderot (1713-1784) lived a life that epitomizes the struggles and achievements of philosophers ancient and modern. He came from a conventional background, but was himself highly unconventional. He was educated, receiving a master of arts degree in philosophy in 1732, but was also an autodidact, accumulating an enormous library during his life. His masterwork, the Encyclopidie, broke with tradition in several respects, and above all in its presentation of the emerging thought of the Enlightenment, creating a furor in the academic and scholarly communities of the time–yet never earned Diderot a penny. Officially banned by the French monarchy as it was being compiled, the Encyclopedie nonetheless was completed in secret with the support of such luminaries as Madame de Pompadour. The work comprised 28 volumes, with 71,818 articles and 3,129 illustrations. The first seventeen volumes were published between 1751 and 1765; eleven volumes of plates were finished by 1772. Diderot himself wrote several hundred articles, some very slight, but many of them laborious, comprehensive, and long–becoming a pariah in the process.

No less a person than Catherine the Great of Russia came to his rescue. She purchased Diderot’s library from him, then left it in Paris, paying Diderot an annual salary to act as her librarian. After his death, the library was sent to Russia, where the Queen had it deposited at the National Library of Russia.

As if all this were not enough, Diderot authored several important works of philosophy and literature.


Freedom of thought, religious tolerance, and the value of science and industry–these are some of the philosophical positions that Diderot championed. Diderot lived a life out of tune with his times because he practiced what he believed–and the excitement of helping birth modern Europe surely helped sustain him during the many difficulties he encountered. He had the courage of his convictions, and so remained at the front of his era’s intellectual vanguard.



PaintingPortrait of Denis DiderotDmitry Grigorievich Levitzky (1773). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Of literary critics, professors, journalists, crime detectives, and cult writers – 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment



impressive book, fine review…   RT

(reposted from Book Rhapsody)


Of literary critics, professors, journalists, crime detectives, and cult writers – 2666 by Roberto Bolaño.