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review 2016-12-04 00:00
Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life
Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life - Adam Phillips https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/154055211413/missing-out-in-praise-of-the-unlived-life-by-adam

…In my version of strong reading , the strong reader is trying to rediscover what he hates, and he is looking for clues about how he can get out of it.

The title alone is reason enough to read this interesting elegy. But unfortunately, drawing from the works by [a:William Shakespeare|947|William Shakespeare|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1424313573p2/947.jpg], [a:Sigmund Freud|10017|Sigmund Freud|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1406688955p2/10017.jpg], [a:Henry James|159|Henry James|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1468309415p2/159.jpg], and Winnicott failed to buy me out, even though the liberal offerings regarding the clinical experience of Adam Phillips did provide enough grist for me to chew on religiously. As with any book of substance there were quotes aplenty for my pen to pilfer from his text. And in many cases the author’s own words are more sufficient and worthy than any lousy review.

Without frustration there can be no satisfaction. Frustration that is unrecognized, unrepresented, cannot be met or even acknowledged; addiction is always an addiction to frustration (addiction is unformulated frustration, frustration too simply met).

Thought is what makes frustration bearable, and frustration makes thought possible. Thinking modifies frustration, rather than evading it, by being a means by which we can go from feeling frustrated to figuring out what to do about it, and doing it; what Freud called ‘trial action in thought’ — and what we might call imagination — leading to real action in reality…thinking is the link, the bridge, and not an end in itself…failures of imagination would be the unwillingness to bear with frustration…And reality matters because it is the only thing that can satisfy us…But the quest for satisfaction begins and ends with frustration; it is prompted by frustration, by the dawning of need, and it ends with the frustration of never getting exactly what one wanted…

How do you know what your desire is? It is that which makes you feel guilty when you betray it; not when when you betray someone else, but when you betray yourself; indeed, for Lacan self-betrayal, the self-betrayal of giving up on one’s desire, is the source of guilt. We suffer from failures of ruthlessness…There is no satisfaction without an initiating frustration; and so there is no satisfaction that is not preceded — and to some extent pre-empted — by a wished-for fantasy of satisfaction…
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review 2016-08-07 23:07
Let Stupidity Reign
Praise of Folly - Desiderius Erasmus,Betty Radice,A.H.T. Levi

Well, what better book to read when you are in the Netherlands than Erasmus' tributed to stupidity. Okay, I'm sure he is not being serious, though it is difficult to tell at times, particularly when he suggests that by being an idiot one does become healthy, wealthy (but not necessarily wise – actually, that would be quite the opposite). Actually, healthy is probably not necessarily something that comes either, but certainly wealth seems to come to a lot of people who simply don't seem to have all that many brains, and that a lot of people are running around with pieces of paper that seem to claim that they are actually really intelligent, but in reality are complete idiots. Actually, that is not at all surprising because my Dad, who was an academic, has actually confirmed that one thing that academics seem to lack is common sense – they may have a university degree, but they haven't made their way in the school of life where they learn that doing stupid things doesn't necessarily pay off.

 

Actually, what Erasmus was getting at was that in the Europe of his time it seemed to benefit one a lot more to be stupid than to actually be wise. For instance, there are a lot of philosophers out there that don't seem to have all that much to rub together – actually being an artist doesn't seem to do all that much for you, at least while you are alive: as people seem to suggest, the only famous poet is a dead poet (and I suspect that is also the case when it comes to other artists, unless of course you happen to be Justin Beiber, but then again I guess he goes to prove that Erasmus actually has a point).

 

Look, everybody could rile against bankers, lawyers, and the like, but the problem is that as long as there is money and trade they are going to be with us – which is probably why Lenin, rather unsuccessfully mind you, tried to do away with commerce. Actually, we need to also consider the world in which Erasmus was running around – it wasn't like today where the bankers, lawyers, and such, would actually be the rulers of the country – that was the job of the aristocrats (the Netherlands was still a couple of hundred years away from becoming a republic) – however they still managed to dig their fingers into anything and everything that they could (and if you wanted to see a prime example of stupidity then you need look no further than the aristocracy). It reminds me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut – the job of a lawyer is to move money from one point to another and take some for themselves, though the reality is not a bit but as much as they can get away with (they'll take all of it if they can generate enough billing hours).

 

Yet this is the foolishness that Erasmus is poking fun at – the fact that people are so caught up with the acquisition of wealth that they don't actually see the beauty of the world around them. In fact as long as they can surround themselves in a bubble of niceness (such as the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore – and that is a classic example – the city itself is beautiful, but jump across the straights of Malacca you will see an industrial hell hole – externalising to the extreme), it doesn't matter what goes on outside of their circle of comfort as long as it doesn't disturb that circle. However this is foolishness to the extreme – they want their comfort but comfort doesn't necessarily equate with happiness. I have lived in a big house with a swimming pool, but as soon as all my friends left after a three day party I was all alone again, and it all fell apart as well (and it wasn't as if I had money either – I didn't – it was just that I managed to score a room in a really cool sharehouse, and when I everybody moved out I was left with the entire house to myself).

 

They say that there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people, and I am sure this was going through Erasmus' mind at the time. The thing that makes a person stupid is because they don't ask questions, and the reason that they don't ask questions is because they don't want to seem to be stupid, but by not wanting to appear stupid they make themselves stupid by not asking any questions. At other times the reason they don't ask questions is because they believe that they already know the answer, or if the answer is wrong that is irrelevant because as far as they are concerned if that is their answer then that is the correct answer. Have you ever tried to argue with a stupid person? If you have then you'll know what I mean (though, of course, because we don't accept their answer, and their answer is actually right, then it makes us the stupid person).

 

The conclusion of the book comes down to a criticism of the church. Like [author:Martin Luther], Erasmus went to Rome and was horrified at what he saw. In fact he completely ruined his career by writing books such as Praise of Folly, however I will leave it at that because I am reading the next section of the book, and I will deal with criticism of then church therein.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1718547399
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text 2016-07-10 09:17
DNF on page 64 out of 426 pages.
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women - Elizabeth Wurtzel

I'm giving up on this after that particularly twisted paragraph on rape culture logic. Wurtzel seems to be saying that women should proudly announce when they've been raped but we really don't need to know the names of the culprits, and this somehow fixes the problem.

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text 2016-07-09 07:25
Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 426 pages.
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women - Elizabeth Wurtzel

The more I read this book, the happier I am that it exists as a proof for equality:

 

White women can suck at writing and get published just like white men!

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text 2016-07-07 17:47
Currently Reading: Crainioklepty, and Reading At Your Own Pace
Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius - Colin Dickey

I used to spend a lot of time beating myself up over not being able to stick to (what I assumed everyone did) the pattern of starting a book, churning all the way through and then finishing it - without stopping to look into/read other books. See, I just did it there - I put "look into" rather than admit that yes, I stop and pick up another book to read at the same time. It's taken me a long time to get used to the fact that not only am I really good at figuring out that I'm just not in the right mood to have fun with a certain topic or writing style, I'm also going to enjoy reading more if I'll actually listen to that and then return to a book in the right mood.

 

Also it's excellent for allowing a book to surprise you.

 

Crainoklepty is a book that most folk who know me - or have seen my apartment (when not all of it was in storage) - would say is definitely up my alley because yes, I love skulls. I have loads of them - er, all decorative and none of them real. (I'm not opposed to real - just requires more upkeep, and also - breakable. I like plastic.) I usually strew them about the place because if they were all placed in one area it would look a bit weird. But in amongst plastic lizards and action figures, it doesn't look as intimidating. (Well, not to me anyway.) So a book all about skulls isn't just something I want to read - if I had shelf space I'd want a nice hardback of it to display on a bookshelf.

 

However I'm the sort of person that likes the variety of skull artwork, and am into the idea of the skull on the medieval scholar's desktop sort of decor (it's what you were to meditate on with thoughts of carpe diem). This is a book about people who are obsessed with the real thing, and (so far as I've read) obtaining the skulls of famous people. 

 

I set this book down after getting burned out during the part where a famous local singer's head was stolen - by people that knew her in order to remove the flesh and keep the skull. And the process was gross, the science was bad, and the result was a skull that didn't "keep" well, shall we say. And at that point I was spending way too much time thinking about "how could you do this to someone you knew, and look at that head as it decomposes and..." - yeah, you can see where this is one of my set aside, more later times. I read horror and such, and when I'm in moods where I fall into this kinda questioning, it's a sign that I'm not going to walk away with happier thoughts. (Oddly, I'm fine with stories of monsters. It's the humans, and historical humans that give me problems.)

 

Anyway, I picked the book up again and have been enjoying the section of phrenology. If you've never heard of phrenology, oh do you have some fun in store - this is one of those weird fads of science that still occur - and can be boiled down to the idea that the bumps on your skull indicate the kind of person you are. And people took it very seriously. Interestingly, it wasn't quite as whacked as it become - the inventor, German doctor Franz Joseph Gall, tried to make that clear apparently:

 

31% in:

"...he was accused by the Viennese authorities in 1802 of attempting to distinguish "the worthless and the useless from the virtuous" by the shape of their skulls, Gall replied that such a thing was impossible "because moral, social, civil and religious conduct, is the result of many and different concomitant causes, and especially many external influences..."

 

However when pherenology was picked up and spread by Scottish lawyer George Comb - well, I'll quote from the same page, discussing the written document (the back and forth between Gall and the Viennese) in the quote above:

 

"In his English translation of the document thirty years later, Comb added the footnote: "This was written in 1802. I consider it quite possible, in the present state of Phrenology, to distinguish the naturally worthless and useless from the virtuous by the shape of their skulls.""

 

You can get an idea of why this was problematic/dangerous - it's along the same lines of "I can tell a person's intelligence by the size of their head and/or how they look." (The fact that you continue to hear this kind of talk today isn't heartening. Thankfully it's now without any reputable science backing it.)

 

The reason I already know a chunk about phrenology is that it comes up all the time in books of the early to mid 1800s, which I had happily read chunks of for high school and college. You might not realize it until confronted with quotes, but once you start seeing them, descriptions of peoples' head shapes are seriously all over the place - Dickens, Bronte sisters, etc. etc. And it was done on purpose, so yup, well worth picking apart.

 

Marian Evans/George Elliot was another fan - she was told many flattering things about her own skull.

 

31% in 

"...In works such as Adam Bede and Middlemarch Eliot created a new mode of depicting the inner consciousness of everyday people. And, particularly in her fiction, phrenology was an important tool for accessing that inner consciousness. ....In the early Scenes of Clerical Life, we are introduced to Lawyer Dempster, who is "weighed down" by "a preponderant occiput and a bulging forehead, between which his closely clipped coronal surface lay like a flat and newly-mown table-lawn." Astute phrenologists would have immediately recognized the selfishness of such a character, a "preponderant occiput" indicating an overdevelopment of the faculties of approbation and self-esteem. Likewise his flat "coronal surface" would indicate a developed intellect but lack of veneration, conscientiousness, and benevolence."

 

It's actually a trend that no one you ever read gush over phrenology was ever told that theirs was a poor example of a skull, and obviously they weren't intelligent or virtuous. The skulls of famous people - talented artists, politicians, etc. etc. - were always shown to have the wonderful properties that you'd expect, knowing their lives and talents. There weren't any experiments along the lines of "here's a skull, tell us about the person." - that I've found anyway. If you see parallels between palm reading, tarot card reading, etc., you're in the right, this is similar.

 

Then again, I could go on a long tangent about the weird areas the field of psychology has drifted into throughout its history, and this post would go on and on. Social sciences are fun like that. (But I would say that, I've got a social science background.) 

 

Anyway, I'm having fun today picking up the books I feel like reading. And remembering how much fun it is - even decades away from school assignments - that I'm free to start and stop reading whenever I feel like it. So weird that I used to long for days like this back when I had to rush to finish a book - and now my problem is forgetting that there's no need to finish or rush if I don't want to, there's no longer an assignment!

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