Sunday, November 29, 2015

St. Crispin's Day

St. Crispin's Day is already a month gone, but it's worth bringing up again, if just to share this video. Dangit if it doesn't make me get all patriotic and choked up and think that this kid is more manly any modern man I know.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Cave Drawings Prove You're Special

If you want to be sure you're not special, take a college biology class. All illusions of grandeur will be crushed by the power of Science. You evolved just like everyone else, buster. Don't get all high and mighty just because you've got opposable thumbs.

Belief can be explained away as the result of an ancient impersonal process. Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks, each bearing a label of letters or numbers. Sex is laid out and explained as a mechanical process. It is neither holy nor mysterious (though still rather embarrassing.) Love comes down to chemicals. In the class, our purpose is - as Keats put it - to "Conquer all mysteries by rule and line/ Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine..." to "Unweave a rainbow..."

But even in the rarefied air of college classrooms, common sense cannot be suppressed. Some blustery day last winter my biology teacher displayed a row of pictures on the Powerpoint paralleling  animal fetuses, outlined, glowing pink in the womb. She pointed to the pharyngeal arches (gill slits) and tail on the human fetus, using the similarities to demonstrate a larger truth about common ancestry. The physical similarities between humans and animals were, indeed, marked. Nothing on the glowing screen showed a magical difference between man and beast.

I must have drifted off for a while, because the next thing I knew, she had moved on to cave-men. One mysterious question, she explained, was how European cave drawings featured creatures like rhinoceroses and other non-European animals. Obviously, they could not have seen these things themselves, as travel was just not practical. "My own theory," she said, "is that their ancestors saw these things and passed down the story from generation to generation. They remembered. That's how they knew about it."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veterans' Day

And said "No chain shall sully thee / Thou soul of love and bravery / Thy songs were writ for the pure and free / they shall never sound in slavery."


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Inspector Lewis - What Lies Tangled - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode.

The final episode of Inspector Lewis begins with long, loving shots of Oxford landmarks (perhaps a bit longer and more loving than usual?), as a woman reads a philosophical passage of The Brothers Karamazov. Drops of quicksilver plink one by one into a petri dish. Businessman Adam Capstone looks out a window and sips his coffee just It's a shocking and elegant moment as the shrapnel floats away in slow-motion. The slow-mo does two things: it draws our attention to the passage of time, and grants the murder just a bit more weight than usual.