Wednesday, June 18, 2014


KimKim by Rudyard Kipling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.” The words Elizabeth Bennet spoke to Mr. Darcy reminded me of my struggles to frame this book before I read it.

Rudyard Kipling's novel of The Great Game in British colonial India has been described as "unrepentant colonialism," "an apology for British imperialism," and flat-out racism. Then others cite it as one of the best books they've ever read, calling its depiction of friendship and adventure both beautiful and revealing of the author's "love for India and its people."

Perhaps it is all of these things. It is certainly complex, full of the chaos and serendipity of life. Do imperialists ever grasp these things or is it only for the politically-correct? As Mahbub Ali says to himself at the end of the story, "It must be true...that I am a Sufi [a free-thinker]; for here I sit, drinking in blasphemy unthinkable."

The narrative is at times challenging to follow, but the scenes play out vividly: places, people, food, animals. We are carried along the road with Kim and his companions. As Kim is ignorant of the forces at play at the beginning of the story, so are we. The more he learns, the more we begin to understand. Ultimately, we wonder whether the seemingly naive lama is not right about the nature of life, "A good deed does not die. He aided me in my Search. I aided him in his...Let him be a teacher; let him be a scribe--what matter? He will have attained Freedom at the end. The rest is illusion."

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Galoshes 3:12

Overheard in the backseat of the van this morning, after a trip to the library:

SG: Mom, what are galoshes?
Me: They are rubber rain boots.
SG: OK, thanks.
CK: It's also a book of the Bible!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daring Adventures in Collage: Week 3

This week's lesson is "Surreal Collage" in Matirose McDonough's "Daring Adventures in Collage" e-course that I'm taking through the site.

I've been making collages for more than twenty years, with a considerable gap of no artistic activity from 1999 to 2010. So, that would make it more like ten years, really. I dusted off some of my ancient works and thought I'd share a few. My kids were looking at them this morning and my daughter kept eyeing me with a strange sort of admiration while repeating, "You're weird, Mom," as I explained some of the visual references. In her book a weird mom is better than a boring mom.

This coffee cup crucifix is one of the first collages I made. Sometimes, people ask me what a collage means. I don't like to answer that question. Not knowing is part of the fun.

That being said, I'll give you a hint on this one. I developed a jaded view of "romantic love" somewhere between middle school and college. As a marketing strategy, it appears to be highly effective. Other than that, I'd say it's closer to surreal than real.

And, no, the woman on the left is not me! (I'm pretty sure I'm not the woman on the right either.)

I'll share a few more collages this week. Feel free to leave title suggestions in the comments.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt

Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of VanderbiltFortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II

Just starting this. I thought I'd check out how the other half lived. My mom recommended this as a fascinating read. The rich, it seems, are different from you and me.

“What do I care about the law. Ain’t I got the power?”
-- Cornelius Vanderbilt

Competitors repeatedly tried to topple Vanderbilt, many times by illegal means. A reporter asked him why he didn't sue them. He replied that he could ruin them much more quickly. The courts took too long for his liking.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to LivingA Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry

I am enjoying the section on Nietzsche more than I had anticipated. It turns out that most of what I thought about him was attributed to him by third parties. Much like equating Wagner with Hitler, just because Adolf liked the Ring Cycle.

Ferry seems to take delight in pointing out inconsistencies in various philosophers' theories. They are only human, it seems:

“The problem, however, is that I have yet to meet anyone, materialist or otherwise, who was able to dispense with value judgements. On the contrary, the literature of materialism is peculiarly marked by its wholesale profusion of denunciations of all sorts. Starting with Marx and Nietzsche, materialists have never been able to refrain from passing continuous moral judgement on all and sundry, which their whole philosophy might be expected to discourage them from doing.”

From wikipedia:

In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that all things are composed of material, and that all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material properties and interactions. In other words, the theory claims that our reality consists entirely of physical matter that is the sole cause of every possible occurrence, including human thought, feeling, and action.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Age of Reason

The Age of ReasonThe Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Paine's belief that political freedom would result in the overthrow of organized religion's stranglehold on humankind seems overly optimistic. Nevertheless, he raises a number of questions about religion that many people would acknowledge they have asked at some point in their lives. What impressed me greatly about him was his intellectual honesty and fairness. When he declares that he sees all organized religions as "human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit" he refuses to condemn those that believe otherwise, though he does point out the difference between the person who truly believes and the one who merely professes belief in order to secure power and profit.

"...they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime."

Thomas Paine was a braver man than many. He certainly paid the price for his outspoken courage, being reviled for the ideas he expressed in "The Age of Reason." Only six people attended his funeral in 1809 and the famously tolerant Quakers refused to allow his body to be buried in their graveyard as his will had requested. Perhaps it was payback for this:

"Though I reverence their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at the conceit, that if the taste of a quaker could have been consulted at the creation, what a silent and drab-colored creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, nor a bird been permitted to sing."

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