It’s Friday the 13th. Avoid ladders, black cats and ridiculous superstitions.… Read the rest
Month: December 2019
Office party tonight. There’ll be a lot of drinking and, no doubt, the stereotypical office party drunken antics, including the woman who drinks too much, flirts outrageously with the boss, then goes home with him, leaving me to deal with the fall-out later. Fortunately, that woman is my wife and I’m that boss.
I’m in charge of the specialty drink and games. I’m making Electric Lemonade: two parts squeezed lemons-limes, three parts simple syrup, three parts vodka, two parts blue curacao. Pour in a glass over ice, about 2/3rds of the way. Top with 7-Up. It’s good stuff.
I’ll be drinking quite a bit of it. Partly because I normally enjoy the office party, partly because I enjoy the holidays, and partly because I’m really stoked at the vote results yesterday in Britain. Wow! I bought quite a few British stocks earlier this year. Their performance has been middling. I’m looking for that to change, even if there might be a choppy spell when Brexit actually takes place.
Others will be drinking quite a bit, too. Over the past seven years, our office has undergone a severe youth movement. Ten years ago, I was the youngest person in the office. Now I’m the third oldest. I enjoy the status, even if it comes with a touch of “old guy” reverence (or snickers). I remember one secretary two years ago who was amused … Read the rest
Jean-Paul Sarte is also significant because his immense popularity offers further proof that there is something about existentialism that appeals to modern man.
In 1945, after Sartre’s philosophy began to filter through Paris’ streets, he scheduled a public lecture. Although it was not widely advertised, by the time he arrived the street outside the hall was mobbed with people “frantically trying to get in, and as the hall was already packed, only celebrities were allowed to pass through. His friends had to force an entrance for Sartre himself. Inside, women fainted, chairs were smashed . . . [the resulting] press coverage was astounding. Many newspapers produced thousands of words of Sartre’s text, despite the paper shortage [from World War II].” Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (1990), 233 That was just the start of Sartre’s public career. He would go on to publish many works and become one of the most influential men of the twentieth century. … Read the rest
Born in 1966, I hit puberty as Jimmy Carter wound-down his presidency and I became an adult under Ronald Reagan. I spent a lot of time partying and acting ridiculously during high school and college, but toward the end of my college years I got a serious streak. It was 1987; I was a junior at the University of Michigan, and I started reading everything I could get my hands on, from economics to politics to philosophy. It was a shotgun approach, with a strong emphasis on literature. I would go to the Dawn Treader Used Bookstore in Ann Arbor and buy fifty cent paperbacks of modern classics, like All Quiet on the Western Front and A Streetcar Named Desire. It was here that I bought my cheap paperback copies of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey. I also bought some books by Camus.
I’m not sure why I turned to Salinger and Camus, but I think it’s because I had a presumption of sorts that they were on the “cutting edge.” I remember having the impression that these men, especially Camus, were writers who dealt with modern “things,” and were men I needed to understand in order to be current in intellectual and artistic patterns. Based on conversations with people now and my Internet surfing, this still seems to be the case today, nearly fifteen years later.
It’s odd … Read the rest
The Catcher in the Rye is one of the few books that I’ve read twice. The narrator and protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is a teenage jerk, but his constant, pointed criticisms of the shallowness of modern life make me laugh. Holden punches and weaves through everyday banalities that most people embrace as the precious prizes of life. He disdains the ballyhooed elite prep school he attends; he thinks little of money; he is nauseated by the forms of entertainment most people find enjoyable. He intuitively sees the shallowness of the things that are the cheap fodder of existence for most people.
In a later book, Franny and Zooey, Salinger continued that theme, weighing in heavily against the vulgar junk food of modern life. In this book, a brilliant young girl named Franny is undergoing a breakdown that alternates between religious fervor and simply giving up on life. At one point, her mother tells Franny’s sage brother, Zooey, that Franny needs to see a psychiatrist. Zooey explodes: “You just call in some analyst who’s experienced in adjusting people to the joys of television, and Life magazine every Wednesday, and European travel, and the H-Bomb, and Presidential elections, and the front page of the Times, and the responsibilities of the Westport and Oyster Bay Parent-Teacher Association, and God knows what else that’s gloriously normal—you just do that, and I swear to you, in not more than a … Read the rest
My small town has a great event planned this evening for downtown shopping. My office is located in the middle of it all, thereby enabling me to have a few drinks, venture out and check out the sites, go back and have a few drinks, venture back out . . . It’s an ideal set-up.
Unfortunately, I’m in a death match with my weight. Criminy. No matter how much I starve myself, the weight just keeps piling on. I finally Googled it and, WHAM, there were a bajillion search results. The link excerpts said things like, “Science doesn’t know why, but people undoubtedly pack on weight during the winter even if they keep exercising and eating right,” “People’s appetites seem to increase as the winter months approach,” etc. Those aren’t exact quotes, but definitely fair summaries of what I saw.
Soooooo, alcohol is problematic. If my ancestors’ need to preserve weight during the cold months hard wires me to pack on weight–by slowing my metabolism, increasing my appetite, etc.–I have my work cut out for me, and alcohol is the great bane of weight loss. As of this typing, I don’t know what I’ll do this evening, even though I am leaning towards tying one on. It’s been a long freakin’ week.
The whole attitude of existentialism is perhaps best seen in the most-popular existentialist novel of the twentieth century, Albert Camus’ short book, The Stranger, which I’ll summarize in hopes of giving the reader a good “feel” for existentialism.
The hero of the story, a man named Mersault, is supposed to be the quintessential existentialist man. Nothing holds any meaning for him; he’s indifferent to things most people value—family, love, social conventions, money, career. He goes through life with little thought of others; primarily because he gives little thought to himself. He just goes about and lets the events of life bounce off him, indifferent to any aspirations for himself, puzzled by aspirations in other people. When his mistress, for instance, asks if he loves her, he describes his response as follows: “I answered . . . that it didn’t mean anything, but that I probably didn’t love her.” When his mother dies, he obliges the social conventions—to sit at casket vigil for a day—but feels no remorse; he doesn’t feel any annoyance at the vigil, either; he simply doesn’t care either way.
This indifference gets Mersault sentenced to death. He becomes friends with a pimp named Raymond, who at one point beats his girlfriend, an Arab woman. The woman’s brothers later attack Raymond in revenge while Mersault is with him, but are beaten back. Later, Raymond and Mersault see the Arabs again, … Read the rest
The experts often disagree about the definition of existentialism, but in general, the term refers to a type of thought that emphasizes existence rather than essence. Here’s how one scholar put it: “[G]enerally we can describe thinking as existentialist if it makes existence rather than essence the starting point of its ontological reflections.” Will Herberg. Basically, existentialism is a type of thought that tells people, “don’t worry about all those things that seem to define us as individuals—our job, our possessions, our reputation, our physical characteristics, our personality. Those things are secondary, or ancillary, things. First focus on the simple fact that you are; that you exist.” … Read the rest