Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Here is the first page and a half from today's entry in my Sex Journal. It continues my thoughts on the Nature vs. Nurture Science Wars between femnists and reactionary male evolutionists.
The most interesting development(s) in work on sex-and-gender today seems to me the acrimonious debate between feminists and evolutionary psychologists. I will attempt to present the various issues and their protagonists and explain why this is as important as it is interesting. I have found the most useful and objective overview of the problems and situations in an 2007 issue of Politics and the Life Sciences.*
*Laurette T. Liesen, "Women, Behavior, and Evolution: Understanding the Debate Between Feminist Evolutionists and Evolutionary Psychologists," Politics and the Life Sciences 26:1 (March, 2007), 51–70. If you are as interested in this subject as I am, but limited as to time, read pages 52-54 of Ms. Liesen's essay and the footnotes on pages 66 & 67.     Liesen gives a combined historical and analytical introduction.

As you know, feminist scholarship began in earnest in the 1970s. By coincidence, or perhaps not by coincidence, there simultaneously began in the 1970s a big shift in the way men began investigating Charles Darwin's evolutionary theories. This male development brought about a new academic discipline called Sociobiology, and focused attention not just on species but more on how natural selection affected individuals and our behavior. For example a lot was made of a new belief among male academics that altruism was much more than it appeared, it was no less than an evolutionary device for the replication of an individual's genes.

      Looking back, the big breakthrough for these conservative gentlemen biologists and evolutionists was Robert Trivers, still carrying on at UCSC's Sinsheimer Laboratory, whose 1972 publication in Bernard Campbell's anthology, Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man (Chicago: Aldine) was entitled, "Parental Investment and Sexual Selection." As recently as last Sunday, a gentleman in the New York Times "Review" section used Trivers to begin a discussion much like I am doing here.**        
     Trivers' work is sometimes referred to as "sperm expenditure theory," wherein males practice a "mixed strategy" seeking extrapair copulations, i.e. polygynous males.
     You can see how a disagreement was in the works. For might not the Trivers idea be seen as an "excuse" or "justification" by women for what doesn't seem very nice behavior? Moreover, entire programs and disciplines were built from such 1970s Darwinian investigations, for example Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, biological basis of social behavior!
     As you know, I believe our individual behavior is not genetic but socially constructed. In thinking this way, I am influenced by feminist theorists as well as by their many philosopher allies, such as Michel Foucault. In fact, I believe sociobiology has long been discredited; but new more sophisticated offspring have evolved from these 1970s reactionaries.
* I find the hundreds of articles on altruism and these new ideas about it uninteresting and unconvincing, but it is impressive how male biologists and the scientific establishment have embraced these ideas. It all began with George Williams, Adaptation and Natural Selection (Princeton University Press, 1966).

** Dan Slater, "Darwin Was Wrong About Dating," NYT (January 13, 2013), page 1, continued on page 6.Slater helpfully reduces the evolutionary psychologist proposals to three: that men are less selective than women about whom they sleep with; men like casual sex more than women; men have more sexual partners than women during their lifetimes. No doubt, if you are a man reading this, you agree wholeheartedly in these stereotypes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013

Here is the beginning of my January 27 Sunday entry in my Sex Journal. I am reluctant to give more than one page of today's journal, because it seems I'm getting a little too esoteric, in this entry, for a mere blog. But, if you enjoy this kind of material, do please "comment" on it, and I will include more like it.

Judith Butler claims that one does not need ontology to sustain ethical and political reflection, or, at best, only an austerely minimal one.  This immediately caught the attention of Stephen K. White, Professor in the Department of Political Science,  Appalachian State University and editor of the journal, "political Theory," because he is the author of Sustaining Affirmation: The Strengths of Weak Ontology in Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2000) and, of course, other books. And this in turn catches the attention of your humble journalist because Jstor Online Subscriptions offers a service where they alert you when someone you have marked appears in their data base, and that, in my case, applies not only to Judith Butler, who no doubt appears in your files also, but Stephen K. White, too.*
     Judith Butler, the world-famous creator of Gender Trouble (N.Y.: Routledge, 1990), makes as her postmodern ministry questioning (and, usually, dismissing) those ontological notions which, before her, have been uncritically accepted. In her words she "interrogates the construction and circulation" of pre-linguistic-turn philosophical beliefs, notions, foundational principles. Well, we should all do this, and, if we did, there would be no uncritically accepted beliefs. As I liked to tell my students the six years I taught in my seventies, "If everyone thinks the same, someone isn't thinking."
     Butler's greatest interest, of course, is gender, which is why all the above gets into Sex Journal. And, to her credit, she taught us that if these ontological notions are not contested then previous but questionable truths about gender sneak into our being without being interrogated. And, as she proves in Gender Trouble, once you question them, they show themselves as merely shadows on the wall, beyond contestation in other words.
     Of course, intellectually, Dr. Butler's all-embracing theory is itself an unquestioning ontology, which is why, perhaps, postmodern thinking subverts all universal truths. Nevertheless, Stephen K. White has come up with an Ontology that is not so "strong" that ideas can't be if not foundational at least acceptable; he calls this "weak ontology." You can see how useful what you probably thought a very narrow journal entry would prove!         
*Stephen K. White, "As the world turns: Ontology and Politics in Judith Butler," Polity 32:2 (Winter, 1999), 155-177. Ontology, from the Greek "onta," (the things of this world, as in Augustine's words, "Love calls us to the things of this world," in time producing Richard Wilbur's finest book of poetry), ontology = being; as in the scientists', "Ontogeny recapitulates ontology."


Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26, 2013 (From Sex Journal)

My  computer's flash drive has been stolen. The only serious loss, since everything on the flash drive is also on the computer, were the January entries in
Sex Journal.. A lot of my journal writing, in January, took place in Sex Journal, as I read several dozen scholarly articles on Sex and Gender. So it was a tiny loss. I believe I posted at least a few of the entries on my blog..
This was our second break-in within a year. Both resulted in our front glass door busted ($300 each time). Mo, my partner,  got sort of depressed. I had been pretty sick, with the flu, so it didn't bother me. They stole $150 and all the candy snacks–also not the Diet Cola but the red-can Coca Cola. And my flash drive.
     I was driven from the bookshop, where I live, by Lauren and Joshua Ling, who were worried it was too cold and lonely for me. I spent a week, recuperating, at their home on Walker Avenue. They looked after me swell. But it left the bookshop unattended, and crazy (druggies?) thieves broke in. The first break-in, I was here, and suddenly appeared, and the poor thief was startled out of his wits, crashing through the glass in the broken front door in his panic to escape.
     While I was with the Lings, although not feeling well, I did hunt down a very few more scholarly articles about sex and gender. In the Sex Journal, I include a photograph of Elizabeth Grocz, an Australian feminist theorist and critic who currently is a guest at the finest Women & Gender Department in the U. S., at Rutgers University. She figures in a splendidly interesting essay I found in that great journal, Signs.*
      I had never heard of "Evolutionary Psychology." Have you? Evolutionary Psychology seems to be the bellweather, using Darwin in universal accounts of human experience (everything from art to gender). For there seems to still be this science war divide between Nature and Nurture, right up to the present. Carluccio uses our heroine, Elizabeth Grocz as the Nurture champion feminist post-structuralist, a 2004 definitive study. Carluccio says cleverly that.even if you embrace Darwin completely, as my chess buddy Charlie does, how to you describe the Biology? Grocz dismisses Evolutionary Psychology, just when I found it.
     Carluccio explores the concept of Tendency in both Darwin and Post-Structuralism, to show Evolutionary Psychology can resolve some of the artificially created problems (differences) between Science and the Humanities. She finds the first use of Tendencies, after Darwin, in William Keith Brooks (1879), "The Condition of Women from a Zoological Perspective." Brooks thought, "Men and women tend toward a particular kind of intellect."
     Carluccio then glanced at up-to-date recent Tendency thinking in evolution, i.e. David M. Boss (2000), evolutionary psychologist, "Men and women tend to have different experiences of romantic jealousy."
     Carluccio demonstrates, at least for me, how both 1879 and 2000 both make assumptions in using Tendency: because Tendency hypothesis shifts multiple times as they proceed; because Tendency is merely oneof a multiple of interconnected complexes–a "constellation of concepts" (P. 433)–functions, tendencies, and cognitive fictions–through which we shepherd, as I see it, shepherd the embodied mind too far from the body–which then reflects a stretched version of itself back to itself.
*Dana Carluccio, "The Cognitive Functions of Gender in Evolutionary Psychology and Poststructuralist Theory," Signs 38:2 (Winter, 2013), 431–457

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25, 2013

Today, Friday, Jan. 25, I am printing another twenty copies of my Spiritual Journal. So far, I haven't included anything from that journal in my blog postings. Because that journal is all completed. However, as I began printing it, I thought you all might be interested in what that journal is like. So here's one day's entry, pretty much at that journal's inception. I'm kind of proud of the way I mix and interchange the very personal Al-journaling with broad abstract concepts about Spirituality. So I'm attempting to tell a story, my story, but also my thinking.

Spiritual Journal: September 8, 2012:

     Just a footnote thought on secular/spiritual we talked about yesterday. Because the new issue of The Journal of Religion (University of Chicago Press) just arrived, 92:4 (October, 2012). There's a new book in its book review section that caught my eye, A World of Becoming by William E. Connolly (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011). Dr. Connolly, like many thinkers since Nietzsche, finds both Belief and Unbelief unpalatable. Perhaps this is the majority of people in the West today? Dr. Connolly posits a "third way," his idea of "becoming." It is based on Time, in particular the dfferent times in which different elements operate. Neat idea. He made me think of the leading Unitarian Universalist theologian, James Luther Adams (1901-1994), since my tiny Unitarian Fellowship meets here in the bookshop. Adams, in addition to consideration as the foremost theologians among the denomination, was a professor at the Harvard Divinity School 1956-1968, teaching "Christian Ethics." Adams, too, had a third way, believing in a "Creative Event" at rule in the world. You can find more in his On Being Human Religiously (Boston: Beacon Press, 1976).  
 Sometimes you read a scholarly essay that is really foolish,written poorly, trivially attributed, and you still get a lot out of it. I just read a long essay of that kind, in an M.I.T. journal, Leonardo, by some jumped-up academic, obviously thrown off from the “publish-or-perish” new world of Academia. But the author has made his headings and sub-headings useful, and he included what he no doubt thought of as “the major players.” This allowed me, in 15 minutes of otherwise boring and irritating reading, to have an outline of the subject, a subject germane to this journal and my thinking about spiritual matters. His title (stolen from Kandinsky) was “Concerning the Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art and Science.”
     The author reminds us that at the turn of the 20th Century, perhaps not in popular culture but in alternative culture, religion had already been spurned by the artists and scientists, but in their place came movements familiar to me, born in 1936, married to a woman born in 1907, but about which you probably never heard. These movements were enormously influential in the arts and sciences, and I believe a 21st sensibility (or lack thereof) would find it hard to believe how influential these movements were: Theosophy; Anthroposophism; Occultism. The most influential gurus of these movements were Rudolph Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Krisnamurti. Krishnamurti was the first and best of a dozen Hindu religious who were to have enormous followings among Bohemians and other playful citizens with too much time on their hands, quacks whose hilarious antics and whose gullible followers would make a marvelous storybook. I might do you a favor and take the trouble to cull through those at a later date; you won’t believe guys like the Indian Bagman with his 92 Rolls-Royces and thousands of Hippie devotees in the Pacific Northwest.

     Since the breakdown of a single church single source for Western belief,
which took its hugest event in The Protestant Revolution, all sorts of esoteric and quirky belief systems have arrived. The U. S. has been fertile ground for all of them! Just because I don't take them seriously doesn't mean you shouldn't or that people don't. For a positive view of the 1960s dabbling in Eastern Religion, check out M. H. Harper, Gurus, Swamis, and Avatars: Spiritual Masters and their American Disciples (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972). Dr. Harper believes that all the more influential eastern imports had in common, in addition to being personality cults, the Brahman (Absolute Reality), that Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Absolute Existence, Absolute Consciousness, Absolute Bliss), that the Self cannot be distinct from Brahman, and that the means of liberation from the bondage of Illusion is fusing the Self's identity with Brahman. To find out what all that means, you' all have to read the book, because I can't tell you.
     The figure behind all these weird spiritual practitioners (Madame Blavatsky & Co.) was of course Friedrich Nietzsche, who proclaimed “God is dead,” not the first or the last to do so, but the timing was right, and the 19th C. ended in a fistful of bizarre substitutes for organized religion, which was no longer relevant to the avant-garde.
     Wassily Kandinsky was the first artist to put the new sensibility into words and, for that matter, into paint, as he began the Abstract Art Movement, the distinctive 20th C. modernist response to the new spiritual crisis in his 1911 “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” No artist was to write again like Kandinsky, although most artists portrayed their spiritual tendencies in their abstract work. I am thinking of men like Mondrian, Klee, and all the American Abstract Expressionists. I am indebted to Roger Lipsey for an overview like this (see this journal’s Bibliography). In addition to Kandinsky, Lipsey singles out Brancusi and the introduction of Buddhism into modern artist’s perceptions via Jacques Bacot’s 1925 translation of the 13th C. Tibetan Buddhist text, The Life of Milarepa.
      One of the more sensible figures at this time influenced me a great deal: Ananda Coomaraswarmy, not only through his seminal work, History of Indian Art, but his curatorship of my favorite museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston.
     As a Columbia student–an all male college at that time–you could take courses at Barnard, and I took an Art of Indian Asia course there. Just then, the Bollingen Series brought out Heinrich Zimmer’s two-volume boxed set, Art of Indian Asia, for a hundred dollars. To give you an idea of the value of that book, not only would inflation make that 100 five hundred dollars today, but the Mellon fortune subsidized the book, reducing the price in half. In other words, this impoverished student looked through the window of The Eighth Street Bookshop at a two-volume set worth  in today’s money a thousand dollars. (My rent in N. Y. at that time was $39/mo, to put this in pespective.) Nevertheless, I talked the bookshop owners into setting the Zimmer work aside for me, and I paid it off throughout the school year, finally acquiring it as the school year ended.

     A few months later, instead of graduating, I quit college to become manager of The Eighth Street Bookshop, and one reason the Wilentz Brothers hired me was they were impressed by my foolish Zimmer acquisition. The year I spent as manager of that bookshop, 1957,  was probably the most important year of my entire life, considering its influence and education on all that has concerned me since; I met my partner, Teo
Savory, there (as well as just about every important writer, artist, and publisher who has influenced my life and my career as a maker of books).
I had already met the first and most influential person in my spiritual life, Dorothy Day, in 1954.
     The way I see it, the new mindset in religion exemplified by Nietzsche in the 1890s  and the new mindset politically, The Russian Revolution of 1917, gave the kebab to organized religion. 2,000 years of pretty serious indoctrination was dissolved, certainly in its monolithic power over
people in the West.
     In Art, abstract art replaced it spiritually. In Poetry, it was free verse. In Science just at this time Quantum Physics, the Copenhagen Convention came along to give physicists what became an increasingly spiritual
perspective to their work. (Darwin had already all but destroyed the ability of scientists to believe anymore.) It wasn’t long before many geniuses began fusing the new religious and scientific auras, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin one of the most influential and characteristic.
     Being a bookshop clerk, manager, owner all my life (I now am a full-time worker/owner in Glenwood Coffee & Books), I become familiar with the interests and buying habits of my most interesting customers as well as popular trends. I notice that Chardin no longer sells. Not too long ago, you couldn’t keep any of his books on the shelf! Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Blavatsky are completely unknown today. I have yet to sell one of my beautiful art books on Brancusi. Even Paul Klee, whose magnificent abstractions in color reproduce so well, sits dusty on the shelf.
I think I’ve sold one copy of Kandinsky’s formative text on the spiritual in art in five years. Students are, as they would put it, “into” other things, fortunately among them the provocative and spiritual writings of the sculptor and earthworks innovator, Robert Smithson, whose first one-man show I exhibited in my art gallery on Park Avenue in 1957, which as I just said was such an important year in my youth. “The occultism of the early 20th C. has vanished,” is how a recent art historian puts it. Nevertheless, in those 1950s in The Eighth Street Bookshop, poets and artists were buying D. T. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism. Ad Reinhardt, who had a studio a few blocks away from the bookshop (the Cedar Tavern, home of Abstract Expressionism,  was on 10th Street in The Village), came into the shop to purchase the latest Thomas Merton tracts on Eastern Philosophy. Merton, himself a great poet and religious, died trying to link Eastern Religion to Roman Catholicism. He was a great friend of Unicorn Press (the publishing house I founded in 1966 and still direct 47 years later). 

I once had the spiritual experience of my life, when Tom celebrated Mass for us, right in our Unicorn print shop. (There was also a Unicorn Book Shop, managed by Jack Shoemaker, but that’s another story.)
     Still another story I hope to discuss in the journal as I am studying and thinking about it is how the new arts, Electronic, Body, Cyberspace, Video, Feminist, Conceptual, Performance, all delve into and from spiritual roots. But not today. Relieved, huh?
     As I glance at all the above in today’s journal entry, it seems to me the one person I’m surprised has fallen out of favor is Pierre Thielhard de Chardin, whose concept of the noosphere (The Phenomenon of Man, 1961) still seems relevant and current. Chardin was not only a Jesuit Priest but also a scientist, a paleontologist. Notice the connection between his “layer of ideas circling the planet (Noosphere)" and the Internet for example.
     Moving from the spiritual in the arts to the spiritual in the sciences, especially beginning with Quantum Mechanics, is for another day, if ever. I don’t claim any great knowledge in that arena. I  notice that people who do, like the enormously popular Kenneth Wilber, take a strait-jacket approach to the subject. They have this idea of integration and they force their theories to conform to reality (see Wilber’s Quantum Questions).
     I do see significance in the fact that the largest most sought-after prize in science, the physicist’s Templeton Prize of $1,000,000 is given “to a living person who has shown enormous originality in advancing humankind’s understanding of God or spirituality.” Stephen Hawking is a Templeton recipient, to give you an idea who gets this kind of thing. Hawking is of course the modern physicist author of A Brief History of Time. Although I believe there are strong correlations, it is hard to see a universal synthesis of science and religion at this time. Indeed, with such polarization all over the globe in every political, economic, cultural, and religious field, it is impossible to see any synthesis in anything! And, yet, do we ordinary people, unlike our rulers, not have an insatiable longing for . . . peace? Do we not all feel a spiritual kinship with each other?
     Before I leave off today’s journal entry, I want to preview a future discussion. Yesterday was the annual topless woman’s gathering in Asheville, N. C. A thousand people came to see a dozen women expose their bosoms. That doesn’t belong in my Spiritual Journal I agree. But here’s the thing. A small group of people carrying white crosses were on hand as a counter-demonstration."It's about the spiritual wickedness in this city," said one member of the group, Michael Lombardi of Asheville. "We're trying to bring the love of Christ. We're not bashing anyone." That–from the local paper. What I’d like to discuss in my Spiritual Journal is what if anything “love of Christ” has to do with it? [Probably anything I have to say on this subject is already in Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, so maybe we’ll just leave it at that?]


Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013

Last night, I was fortunate to have dinner at Lauren and Daniel Goan's home.

That's Daniel and Lauren. Here is what it is like to listen to their music:
Daniel and Lauren are raising money for their new album on Kickstarter. They have $4,000 raised, but they're asking for $12,000. So if you're a fan of music and artists who write their own lyrics, compose the music, then perform it superbly, please support Daniel and Lauren. And do so before February 1st.
     Daniel and Lauren are working very hard this month and next, taking a break from touring but putting out a big album of their best. They write the songs, compose the music, then perform it! What a combination – especially when you add two of the most delightful and superior people I have ever met.
     Sunday is Lauren's birthday; she'll be 25. Tuesday night, Daniel's family had a birthday party for them, a few days in advance. Lauren received gifts;and the custom in their home is everyone present expresses the special gifts The Birthday Girl brings into their lives.
     Lauren's "sweetness" was emphasized. My very special friend, Jenny Kimmel, is sweet, too, but Jenny doesn't like being totally defined by her sweetness. Lauren doesn't seem to mind, but I think Lauren is not well defined by "sweetness" She is as lovely as she appears to be, no doubt. But she has a reflective and melancholy aspect, too, she is very deep, and, for me, "sweetness" doesn't capture her depth.
     If I were at a family birthday party, and I were called on to praise Lauren on her 25th birthday, what would I say? Because everyone has just emphasized how sweet she is. I would say, "Lauren is kindness herself, no doubt. She is beautiful and sweet, yes, no doubt. She sings so harmoniously with Daniel, it is a joy to be in the audience, to be at the table with her, just to have her in your life. But Lauren is much more, even, than all these special and extraordinary attributes. She is a woman of profound courage and complexity. She has a bottomless contemplative spirituality and is infinitely mindful and considerate. Considerate of others, yes, but also considerate of herself and her place in our community. She is dynamic in the sense of ever-evolving, but unlike most people she doesn't change so much as add on. That is, as she deepens her character and adds to her personality, she grafts these new attributes on to an already existing existential self.  You might say Lauren is blessed. But I believe she has earned all this richness and love. Because of her selflessness and sensibility. She is a woman as capable of joy as she is of sorrow, and I am sure she has experienced both. There is no doubt anyone who has the privilege of being friends with her is a very fortunate person indeed."
That is what I would say about Lauren Goans, on her 25th birthday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

Here's a photograph of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, from 1956. That year, I was manager of the Gotham Book Mart, and Ms. Monroe was preparing to marry one of New York City's leading creative intellectuals. She phoned the G.B.M. and asked me to send her the entire Modern Library, from Random House, some 750 volumes as I recall. She told me she wanted to adequately prepare for marrying such a smart man.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013
from today's Bookshop Journal

Glenwood, the cat, and I have been at the home of Lauren and Joshua Ling, on Walker Avenue. I caught the flu a week ago, and brutally cold, nasty weather was on its way, so Mo pleaded with me to find some place warmer and safer than my mancave in the belly of the bookshop. Lauren and Josh took Glenwood and me in. And fed us and looked after us for 6 days and 6 nights.
     Then, when we were to return, came a big snowfall and the break-in at the shop, which also serves as our "home." But here we are at last, me at my familiar stance typing into Microsoft Publisher, albeit with many a sneeze, and Glenwood perched near my left shoulder on top of a woolen blanket draped for his comfort over our futon. Glenny would prefer I played "Retrieve!" with a rolled-up paper ball he brought in to show me. Or pour him some more Kibbles or, yum-yum, maybe a few of his favorite "Temptations" treat. Or why don't I make myself some dry cereal with yoghurt and cream, then he gets to lick the bowl? I can just hear him muttering, "These humans are so dumb!" We just don't get it, clueless creatures with big, stomping feet. Well, he's teaching me. I try, I try, Glenwood. He yawns, and he stretches, and he gives me a jaundiced eye. Oh, I know that look. Glenwood isn't the first cat whom I've served.
     The first were George and Monkey, so named because Hans and Margaret Rey lived in the pretty little building on Washington Square that I did, 82 Washington Place. They were the creators of Curious George. So the cats were named George and Monkey. You can get a good idea of those two cats from the portrait Teo Savory drew of them in her fable, "The Alley Cat and the Laws of Status." For George was a regal cat, with a long pedigree. And Monkey was the son of Hazel who was, alas, an alley cat to be sure. Once we took Hazel to the Vet, and the Vet said, "This cat isn't pregnant. She's psychotic." So she was. But Monkey was a sweetheart, as George said, "one of nature's gentlecats."
     Monkey was three-colored, just like his Mom. Once we mentioned to our neighbor in the country, Martha Fadding, that Monkey being three-colored and her cat, "Yellow," being who she was, maybe they could mate? Martha and Yellow were both offended at this city offspring of an urban gutter mating with her Yankee manor aristocrat. After all, Hazel, Monkey's Mom, was found under a car on Sixth Avenue. Martha looked Monkey up and down and said definitively, "I guess he doesn't have it in him."
     There are countless Martha stories in my new journal I am beginning this month, Berkshire Journal. For Teo Savory and I were privileged characters. It wasn't enough we lived in Greenwich Village in the winter. For the summer, we had purchased a home in Western Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Hills, the first New Yorkers to buy a summer home in the working-class immigrant village of West Stockbridge (1956), now, 'most 60 years later, half full of New Yorkers and Bostonians who pay a few cents more for the privilege than the $5,000 we did. A'ya, as those Yankees say, we bought a 1850 house and two acres on The Williams River with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of 4%, $150/year it cost us, plus $500 taxes and insurance. That was before Martha made us drill a well, because she shut off the water supply we were entitled to share with her from her spring up-mountain. When we threatened to sue for our water rights she said, "Winter's the time for lawing. Anyway, you'll lose, 'cause they know who I am." When we went to the lawyer in Great Barrington, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "They know who she is." He gave us a business card for Holder Well Drilling in Hillsdale, New York . . .

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 12, 2013   

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

 When Kuhn came on the scene in 1962, Karl Popper and Behavorism and Scientific Method had been the godlike basis of science and the scientific method. Kuhn dramatically attacked this seemingly faultless universally acclaimed accomplishment of modern science and, indeed, modern life, which was credited with all our impressive advances, or what were then seen as "advances."*
      Kuhn agreed that "scientific method" might exist but, if so, it isn't nearly as important as it is made out to be. Kuhn noticed that many science breakthroughs came about independent of rigorous methodologies. For some scientists and their discoveries these so-called methods weren't even known! And so Thomas Kuhn set out to discover what it was that gave birth to scientific discoveries. He came up with ideas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,  that are still current 50 years later and, in fact, is probably the leading sourcebook in all introductory science study, a theory based on the concepts of paradigms, normal science, anomalies, and scientific revolutions, and this is the theory he set forth in 1962. Paradigms, Normal Science, and Anomalies. Throughout history, Kuhn argued, and he invented "paradigm" to describe each set of separate beliefs. From this he developed the logical idea of "dominant paradigms." You can see how foundational and practical Kuhn's insights were, much like the historian Herbert Butterfield, whom I have mentioned, thirty years before, in his "Whig Thesis."
     Kuhn adopted the term "scientific revolution" to describe the event of a new paradigm overtaking a previous one. It is not hard to see how the "scientific method" was all but scrapped in this new way of looking at invention. Interestingly, falsifying was the first step in a scientific revolution. A little verification of the new was built on a little falsification of the old! An elegant twist. Paradigm change is really a conversion.
     Ironically, Kuhn's work emphasized that most scientists who achieve remarkable results know little or nothing about the history or philosophy of science. In this way, he explained why the nature of "breakthroughs" is consistently misrepresented especially by the more creative and curious thinkers. A false impression is given that one proceeded logically from one fact to another, linearly. What is new, according to Kuhn, is what he called "puzzles," because behind every new paradigm or scientific revolution is a scientist or scientists puzzled by things that previously were not puzzling; that's how I put it, anyway.
     David Ricci explains that the failure of political scientists before Kuhn forced them to miss the salient features of politcal life : "the really 'big' issues of the past twenty years - foreign policy, nuclear policy, civil rights (including McCarthyism), the relation- ship of government to the economy." If so, you can see how important and useful Kuhn is to us. For Kuhn, progress in science is movement without a goal.
     Of course, Academia being what it is, you can imagine how far Kuhn is followed in such reactionary institutions. Political Science for example must be the laughing stock of all the other foolish disciplines.

* A typical but by no means exceptional survey of Popper is found in the opening pages of David Ricci's "Reading Thomas Kuhn," Western Political Quarterly 30:1 (March, 1977), 7–34

** Ibid.,20. "From this point of view, the scientific method is not the midwife of knowledge, although it may have an important role to play somewhere in the day- to-day work of normal science. Moreover, the knowledge in question, no matter how attained, is not objectively reliable. In fact, scientific communities agree to espouse certain paradigmatic "truths" at least partly for sociological rather than methodological reasons. This is why, instead of speaking of public tests and rea- soned discourse, Kuhn described the acceptance of new knowledge in terms of conversions, gestalt switches, transfers of allegiance, and acts of faith, an explicit argument against the scientific method."

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January 11, 2013


     Before I got the idea of opening a scholarly bookshop, founding a Free University, and fulfilling my teaching ambitions that way, I began teaching at UNC-G and taking courses in their graduate school to qualify for more teaching. (I had a vague goal of getting enough of what these academics call "ed cred" to qualify as a instructor in Women & Gender Studies at G.T.C.C., the local community college. I have always desired a serious study of Art History, so for two semesters I took art history courses with my oldest friend, Carl, whom I've known since he was a freshman in Brooklyn College. Carl is now a very serious professional indeed, has released three important books with Cambridge University Press, has served as Head of the Art Department and is, I would say, the most important elder of the local university's world of art. He is at least 75, but remains a vigorous intellect and hard worker and professor. I learned a lot in my two classes with him and enjoyed them immensely, partly because my fellow students were so bright and creative–Garima from New Dehli, for example–but mainly because of Carl's erudition and sense of humor. He's Brooklyn-born, and I miss the Yiddische Kopf here in Southern Baptist Land.
     I think of all this because of an essay I just read in the current issue of Arion. Arion is one of those precious university "Humanities" mags, this time from Boston University; it's been around for decades and is usually pretty dull, as you can imagine. But there was an inoffensive little thing on Vasari, and it reminded me of a funny incident in my recent academic immersion with my friend, Carl. Because a large part of Carl's course in Art History began of course with the very founder of Art History, the Florentine genius, Vasari.*
     Professor Barolsky didn't take Vasari as seriously as my friend, Carl, and in fact tweeked him on his piacivoli inganni, Vasari's "pleasurable deceptions," claiming, unlike Professor Carl, that Vasari was quite aware that the little anecdotes and stories he told were embellished for the amusement of his readers.
     Carl, on the other hand, had us take Vasari very seriously indeed. He concluded his lecture on Vasari by having us notice that in the 450 years since Vasari very little has been found to contradict or refute any of Vasari's many insights into Renaissance Art (Carl's specialty by the way).
     I raised my hand and said I agreed with Carl except for one thing. Vasari does not mention a single woman artist of the Renaissance.
     Students like me are at a rhetorical disadvantage in such exchanges with Herr Professor. Carl stood at the head of the class, in front of the blackboard, behind a little podium. I was in row two, seat four of some thirty narrow, uncomfortable stackable chairs in the room, all facing front.
     Carl thought a minute, and then he said, "But there were no women artists of the Renaissance." And he said it with quite a bite of finality.
     Perhaps it was that little "bite" that caused me to mutter, "But in my bookshop I have a recent volume of over 1,000 pages with the title, "Women Artists of the Renaissance."

* Paul Barolsky, "Burlington Magazine and the Death of Vasari's Lives of the Artists," Arion 20:2
(Fall, 2012), pages 63–80

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013 (excerpt from SEX JOURNAL)
There still exists a traditional division of labor by gender and sex. My friend Lyn told me that when she brought her mother into a Unitarian Universalist Church at which she worships, the mother couldn't stand the presence of a woman minister. A minister had to be a man, she felt.
However, my spouse, Rev. Liz Brown, who raised her children in a pagan religion, told me they once had a visiting male leader, and her son said excitedly, "Look, look, Ma! There's a man in the pulpit!" Aries concludes, "Certain work, activities, privileges, and responsibilities are still assigned to individuals on the basis of sex." And she says, "Communicative behaviours are strategies that evolve from situational constraints to meet social expectations."

What about non-verbal communication? To understand the sex and gender aspect of non-verbal communication, I turn to Judith A. Hall, a Ph. D. from Harvard, where she taught–also Johns Hopkins and Northeastern University. Much of her experience was psychologizing M.D.s.1
      The study of gender and sex, it is important to note, is in flux, and there is not a whole lot of agreement. The Nature/Nurture Wars continue. You may agree with me that after thousands of years of men deciding gender, and men deciding sex, women have had only a few moments to set the record straight. Therefore, men being as tenacious as they are, and women hardly being listened to, it is not surprising that the new and proper insights have not been embraced and complimented. The more misogynist my men friends are, the more stubborn they are. Moreover, as Dr. Hall shows, it is difficult to even express such differences, let alone explain them.
     What are nonverbal communication skills, at which women excel? "They include the ability to judge accurately the affective meanings of nonverbal cues, the accuracy with which one's nonverbal expressions (face, body, voice) can be judged, and the ability to know a face that one has seen before. For all these three skills, females are more accurate than males."
     I remember reading a study years ago which explained that if you smile at someone, for example when passing in the street and making eye-contact, if it's a woman, she will smile back 2/3rds of the time, but a man? Only 50%.
1 Judith A. Hall, "On Explaining Gender Differences: The Case of Nonverbal Communication," in Sex and Gender, edited by Shaver & Hendrick, (N. Y.: Sage Publishers, 1987), 177–200.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013

From Al's Sex Journal:

Alain de Botton has released a new series of books which remind me of my journals, although he hides behind the Expert's Mask and reveals little about himself. Nor does he write all the books in his new series, which were brought to my attention by a well-written book review in The New York Times January 4th, by Dwight Garner.How To Think More About Sex is the third Botton bottom.

     Ah, ha! This crude pun on Alain's last name–not the first I'll bet anything –reminds me of an Ezra Pound anecdote I heard exact;y 60 years ago from my friend George Penty. And. thinking of George Penty, the first Southerner I ever knew, reminds me of still another hilarious incident for the Sex Journal.
     First, the Pound Pun. George was being picked up by some friends in Paris, this was in the 1930s sometime, and he was standing on a street corner awaiting their vehicle. It came, and he was directed into the back seat, where Ezra Pound was sitting. As he stepped into the car, the driver introduced him to E. P. George quipped, "Pound? I bet that's a name that's often punned."
     It turned out Ezra Pound hated puns, and he told the driver either George Penty left the car or he would. Of course, it was George who was evicted.
     I met George in Book Land, where I worked from atge 17-19, on Times Square, my first bookshop job. Turnover was high in such a joint, and George left, but we had become friends. His next part-time pick-up job was editor of what were called in those dark ages, "Girlie Magazines." A truly awful thing. George was much older than I, and he liked to tease me about what a prude I was. So he placed in the Girlie Magazine he edited, under "Letters to the Editor" a fake letter, purporting to be from me!
     Dear Editor, Liked those shots of Tiffany Tyler naked. Let's see some more!!! Thanking you in advance, Alan Brilliant.
     And he put my address too. And it appeared in his magazine!


Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4, 2012

from Al's Childhood & Old Age Journal (today's entry):

A brand-new website arrives on the internet, and I email the woman, Heather O'Donnell responsible: company name, She had posted an announcement on a special collections librarians' listserve I'm attached to . . . her first catalogue is available. It's the most creative website I've ever found in the world of books. Miss Heather is an antiquarian bookseller, offering things like a first edition of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary (1755).
Here's a recent edition–there have been hundreds--two volumes. 2,500 pages. Turns out Ms. O'Donnell wants a Unicorn Press book, Apollinaire's Calligrams, which I published in French and English in 1969. There is suddenly a lot of interest in this book, almost 50 years after I published it, because the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has decided it's important in the history of the development of Abstract Art, and they are displaying a first edition of it this month in Manhattan.
     The main reason I mention Miss Heather and her new enterprise is that she's located in Brooklyn. This morning I emailed her the book is on its way, and I told her the three times I had lived in Brooklyn.
     My mother, Sara Birnbaum, was born in Vienna, in the 19th Century–in those days in a European city like Vienna, Jews had to live in a ghetto just for Jews, and it was locked up, locked in, at night. Her father was a rabbi there. But in 1900, he moved his synagogue and his family to the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
     Consequently, my mother went to Washington Irving High School. Her 1917 graduating class was probably the brightest in the history of education, giving us all the good guys and the bad guys that are responsible for the good and the bad in our american world today. Mom was the Valedictorian. But her Orthodox Jewish father, wouldn't let any of his eight daughters go to college. Men, he felt, were ordained by G-d for study, women for drudgery to free men for study.
     Sara's sisters all went into the Garment Industry (today it's called The Fashion Industry in a wealthier america). Tilly was some kind of clothing broker, and Gussie was a tailor, and Vivy was a seamstress, as was the oldest, Anna. The one son, Moe–well, I was there the day The Pope (that's what my father called Mom's rabbinic Cohanite father) threw him out of the family–Moe became a plumber, and paid off enough of the corrupt Brooklyn politicians to land several plump plumping jobs and became a rich man. What goes around comes around. His eldest daughter Gloria married a fellow, Gene Levy, and when my brother, David, killed himself, Gene, whose wife had died from cancer, married Dave's widow. Yes, mine was an enormous, incestuous family. All those wonderful aunts . . . I had 53 first cousins.
     Mom was too bright to be a mere tailor, she became a secretary! Meanwhile, Dad had run away to New York from the farm on which he was "incarcerated" (to hear him tell it) for 18 years.
     In those days, in The Russian Empire, Jewish men had to serve 24 years in the Russian Army, so my grandfather, Dad's father, Jakov brought his family to Ellis Island. They were all Russian peasants, so the JNF (Jewish National Fund) bought them a farm in Connecticut, from which, as we have seen, when he was 18, Matthew Brilliant, my father, Jakov's son, ran away to work in the Garment Industry in New York.
     Dad needed a secretary. He had been born in Russia, in the Ukraine. In fact, his mother was born a slave, because when she was born, Russian serfs were still slaves; they were freed by Czar Alexander in 1962. Dad, too, was a 19th Century Jew, from a little village, Tiraspol, that you know all about if you ever saw it portrayed in Scholem Aleichem's short story, "Tevye and His Daughters," which became the movie, Fiddler on the Roof. The author, you see, was also born in the little village of Tiraspol, 20 miles west of Odessa, on the Black Sea, a village of 12,000 souls.
     Dad needed a secretary, because he owned five factories. A "factory" on 7th Avenue in those days (right after WW I, which Dad claims he missed being conscripted into by one day) wasn't what you think of when you hear "factory." It had a dress designer, and a model who came in occasionally, a pattern-maker (usually the designer), a cutter, a presser–all male professions–and a few sewers, usually women. Dad's brother, my Uncle Jesse, was a cutter all his life. His son went to Harvard, but Dad's son only to Columbia. Dad's sister's boys also went to Harvard. Aunt Cecelia married a dress salesman, probably the richest member of the family, my proud Uncle Terry. Jack, the oldest of Dad's siblings, also owned dress factories, but he held on to his when The Depression hit.
     "Macky," as my father was known, was quite a lady's man, but Sara was strictly brought up–she was really a religious addict–and she wouldn't sleep with him, even if she was his secretary. So he had to marry her.
     I was born, 1936, in St. Louis. Dad had lost his little factories and was one of the 25% unemployed in this country where the streets were paved with gold.
There was a rumor of a job in St. Louis, but when that didn't pan out, Sara found succor in Bensonhurst, where her father and mother and all her sisters now lived. No more Lower East Side. Brooklyn now. So I spent ages 1 and 2 in Brooklyn.
     Still no job. So, in 1939, the Brilliant Family bought Dad a car (a '39 Pontiac) and a farm. And I got brought up in Franklin Township, New Jersey, a two-hour drive from Bensonhurst through the Holland Tunnel. It was "back-and-forth" even though gasoline was soon rationed.
     I think had the Depression not come, had I been a typical bright Jewish boy from the Lower East Side, had there been no farm, I'd be a boring college professor today, like my oldest friend, Herr Professor Goldstein, whom I've known since he was a freshman in Brooklyn College. But I had a garden at age three, and learned from Brownie my cow and Spotty, my Beagle dog, from the farming families on Davidson Road, an 8-acre family farm, two miles from Bound Brook, in Central Jersey, on the Raritan River and its Canal, ten miles from New Brunswick where our farming co-op was. Mom saw to it the shochet came regularly (for ritual slaughter of the animals)–chickens and eggs were the cash crop, a smart move when World War II came along.
     And when WW II ended, they sold the farm, alas, and I was moved back to Brooklyn, where the family bought an apartment house in Boro Park. That only lasted two years, for Dad finally got a job, in (ugh) Camden, New Jersey. So I got to go to the worst high school in the history of education–and in the worst city in america. Later, I'll tell you all about that. And how a hoodlum like me became a poet and a printer and a publisher, just like Camden's Walt Whitman.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3, 2013

From my Out Journal today:

JOURNAL OUT: January 3, 2013

I'll begin four full days out starting tomorrow! Mo wants some relief from my living here in Glenwood Coffee & Books–and she needs space, time, room in her head to figure out all her plans and layouts for the New Year. She also needs some relief from worrying about me all the time. She worries a bad 'un will break into this retail store, little dreaming someone lives herein, and she will arrivetop find me dead on the floor, my head bashed in. She looks me over and owrries I'm tired and worn out. That the punk rock music she brings in is driving me crazy . . .
     "Mo," I tell her, "I'm fine. I'm happy. I;m content. All is well. Don't worry!"
     She worries.
     "Mo, what can I do?"
     "You can go away," she says, in years. And she asks me to leave, just for a few days, so she can "get on with it."
     Of course I say, "Fine," although I'm a little shocked. She loves me, she worries about me, so she wants me to get lost?
     What will I tell my friends? Of course they'll all assume Mo can't stand me, maybe I grabbed her ass, and she made me go away!
     "The landlord is doing some rennovations," I tell my friends, "I have to move out for several days."
     "What will become of Glenwood the Cat?" they want to know.
     "Uh? Well, uh, Mo is taking care of Glenwood," I say inspired.
     My fellow Unitarian congregants, The Minkoffs, Craig and Lyn, are nice enough to take me for four days and four nights, January 4-5-6-7.
     I'll miss banging away on my computer in all these journals I'm in the midst of. Fortunately, I only yesterday completed printing another one, Occupy Journal so I can take that with me and begin sewing it. One hundred copies, first printing. It will take half a week of solid sewing.
     And I have a book I want to read, Feminist Politics and Human Nature by Alison M. Jaggar, a forgotten book written after the fabulous 1970s decade, when intellectual women were still activists, revolutionaries, artists, in there! Now, of course, all those Second Wavers are conservative as hell, making hay in Academia–behaving just like palominos instead of mules.*
     Alison M. Jaggar–I wonder what became of her?–was a professor of philosophy, and the Political Science gurus wouldn't let her teach a course in "political theory," telling the Dean of Arts & Sciences she must stick to Philosophy and leave "Theory" to The Political Science Department. So she published her "course," and it's a good one, in which she codifies the first decade of feminist theory into four ideologies: liberal feminism; traditional Marxism; radical feminism; and socialist feminism. She quite properly decides that socialist feminism was the best option, but of course by now we know that feminists and Feminism opted for the worst, "liberal feminism." Probably Dr. Jagger did, too!!!
* "At first the two burros had tried to find the mule who had told them, back on the farm, about the benefits due them, thinking that there was something they had not understood, or, perhaps, some further effort they might make in order to achieve them. But they did not find the mule and one of their neighbors told them that he had been made Minister of Education. And one evening, on his way from his daytime to his night-time job, the father had seen the mule coming down the steps of some government building, carrying a calfskin briefcase and dressed in a silk suit–looking, in fact, just like a palomino."
Teo Savory, "Little Brown Burros," from A Clutch of Fables (Greensboro: Unicorn Press, 1977), page 26

 Say, here's a handmade Christmas Card, my friend and fellow Occupier, Kate, sent me last week. Pretty neat, just like Kate herself!