This makes as much sense as anything, I guess:
All sorts of miscellaneous Evidence has crossed my path in the last week, and I'm trying to make some sense of it. I've been listening to the Audible reading of Stand on Zanzibar (The Weird 1969 New Wave Sci-Fi Novel that Correctly Predicted the Current Day), occasionally dipping into the print version to better understand the book's delicious complexities, and that's encouraging my predilection for a narrative in the 'Camera Eye' and 'Newsreel' perspectives of John Dos Passos' USA trilogy I mentioned last week. So it's reasonable to organize and display a menu of the week's Hares Started
(one commenter notes "If someone started a hare in my conference, I'd be inclined to slip the leash on my greyhound.")
Once again I note that this gatheration is mostly for my own edification, to keep track of things encountered ("KFTF" : Keep Found Things Found), and it's not a complete record, just things that seem especially engaging.
I feel like I've done a good job at tempering my own expectations, keeping me (just) on the inside of the sanity line. As I listen to NPR some evenings, I hear reports from a country that is terrible at tempering anything, certainly expectations. Hope is important, but so is truth, and so is acting like an adult. One definition of being an adult might be: To divine hope from hard truths. The hard truth I've been operating under these last eighteen months has simply been: I don't know, and neither does anyone else, really.
For me, this re-centering of life around the now is novel. Pre-pandemic I was always six to eighteen months out, rarely in the moment. But now the now is all we can depend on. It's been sobering, and in some ways, a positive (or at least a reminder). I'm lucky enough to be able to hide from the world and do my work. My heart goes out to folks who are on the front lines and thought they were done a month or two ago, and have now been pulled back into an even more senseless (and possibly once, though no longer, avoidable) maelstrom. Or my friends with children in places with irrational policy, kept up at night by an entirely different risk calculus.
I met Gardner Campbell shortly before I retired in 2005, and have followed his blog for more than that 16 years. We were Fellow Travellers along many of the same lines, seeking to entice students and professors to commit their lives and discoveries to public online display as an integral and essential part of their continuing education. Some of that now seems blue-eyed optimistic or worse, but that's how one could think when the Web was young[er]. Here's Gardner's reflection on that:I look back at these words from fifteen years ago and I wonder at the energy, ambition, and hopefulness they express. I remember being that person.
I can also see how exuberantly wide-ranging my "resources" were, even then. I've always wanted to discover, demonstrate, and use these complex connections. I've always thought that the Web encouraged and empowered this connectivity.
But once we added personal movement ("surf," "browse") and a vehicle for it (the browser), the Web became a World Wide Free-for-all. Literally. Anyone could publish, change and remove whatever they pleased, whenever they pleased. The same went for organizations of every kind, all over the world. And everyone with a browser could find their way to and through all of those spaces and places, and enjoy whatever "content" publishers chose to put there. Thus the Web grew into billions of sites, pages, images, databases, videos, and other stuff, with most of it changing constantly.
The result was a heaving haystack of fuck-all.
The metacortex—a distributed cloud of software agents that surrounds him in netspace, borrowing CPU cycles from convenient processors (such as his robot pet)—is as much a part of Manfred as the society of mind that occupies his skull; his thoughts migrate into it, spawning new agents to research new experiences, and at night, they return to roost and share their knowledge.
Charlie Stross, Accelerando, pg 39)
...the Republic is a narrative dialogue, not a systematic sequence of axioms, and it is as a narrative dialogue—as the ancestor of the novel—that I propose to read it.
Novels are frequently ironic, and they convey their irony by well-planned disjunctions between what characters say and what they do, and by equally intricate echoes among the different phases of the narrative. For example, aided by Thrasymachus's eye for the self-justifying hypocrisy of power that frames this whole discourse, can we help but notice how Socrates has imaginatively structured an ideal society that happens to be ruled by those of his own social class and vocation? This is not an anachronistic observation, not a reading of Marx or Foucault back into the text, but merely an application of one part of the text (Thrasymachus's early speech) to another (the central description of the just city). This is what it means to read the Republic like a novel.
It is a grave mistake, then, to quote the Republic as if it represented "Plato's philosophy." In this strange book Plato does not issue any philosophy. Instead, he dramatizes philosophy's conditions of possibility, its pitfalls, perplexities, and potentials. When we think of this book, do we remember the syllogisms, or do we remember Thrasymachus pouncing like a beast, the benighted citizens bound in their firelit cave, the souls of the dead flying back to life from the riverbank of Unheeding? And when we think of Socrates, do we always recall his arguments, or do we rather remember his ironic diffidence, his cunning humility, his drive for truth? What can we call the writer who shows us such people as Thrasymachus and Socrates, such images as the just city and the myth of the cave, but some term akin to "poet"? As a consummately ironic artist in narrative and dramatic prose, Plato may well be nothing less than the first novelist of genius.