:::this is the way the world ends:::

Month: August 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Nuts for _____


Okay, I just got a call from the allergy clinic a couple of days ago.  I’ve been given the all-clear for my cashew and pistachio allergies!  They said that no observable allergies showed up in a blood test I took a few days previous.  So, I can begin to reintroduce the pistachios and cashews back into my diet slowly.  I wasn’t aware that this happened, but they seemed confident I was fine to eat them again.  I wonder if I just ate too many nuts over the holidays a couple of years ago. 

All I’ll say is, it’s nice not to have a potentially life-threatening allergy again.

Happy Birthday to Us

Cupcake Happy birthday, The Hollow Men.  It was one year ago today that this web site had its first blog entry.  That was a grand start to this fine conversation — a conversation that constantly exceeds my expectations. 

Sometimes I feel like technology does very little to enhance our lives, but then I take a look at what has happened on our blog and I fear the future a little less.

As a gift to everyone, I’ve updated the blog template to have a new look.  The old one is classic, but I thought we’d dress our one year old up a bit and hit the town.

Any thoughts, reflections, comments on what has made the site great (or not-so-great) for the Hollow Men?

Poetry Post: Burning Stubble

It’s been some time since the last poetry post. In the spirit of Ned sharing his excellent paintings, I thought I would share a recent poem of mine.


There are many ways to become
unexceptional. A field

a field a field a road a field a field
on fire. And you in a car

sightseeing where once you lived,
someone’s idea of hell, but isn’t

everywhere someone’s idea of hell,
also as the earth is

the kingdom of God. So Jesus says
in books they banished from

the bible. Because if this were heaven,
would the men come to

march a line of fire through it, across
the fields where you are still

the child who stood those men bringing
the flames close so you could

see the mice running out of them?
Then your father watching

closed his hand on you and said
They won’t burn our house

down. In the morning, the house was
white with blown ash,

in a circle outside of which everything
was black, brought down

and still smoldering. You were untouched,
and it must have been then,

careful not to step beyond the unfired
earth, that you decided

you would live your life this way.

The Moral Animal and a Question for Toby… or Free At Last.

I finished the Moral Animal. It is a great book, and I recommed it to any of the Hollow Men that want to tackle a broad survey of evolution, psychology, and philosophy.

I definitely admonish people to do what Shotts apparently had to do with the HP books and persevere through lengthy exposition (except in this case we can’t say Wright could have used a good editor, because apparently he is one). At times Wright will seem to be completely self-indulging in his hypothetical arguments, but keep reading – it all comes around. I feel that early in the book I could have skipped large sections, though I’m glad I didn’t.

I would like to thank J.E. for his recommendation, it has given me new insight into life (somewhat like Peters’ NVC recommendation). And I feel I do understand some of the formative influences on J.E.’s outlook and this makes me happy, as well as Peters’. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the recommendations from Shotts as well.

There is so much in the book that I can’t really respond to everything it covers (it kind of covers everything), but I am in primary agreement with most of Wright’s assertions, though that may be a misleading statement without qualifications. He is a generous mind, an attribute I would also ascribe to Stephen J Gould.

What I find extremely funny is that, in making his argument, Wright often brings up many of the exact issues we covered on the blog discussion, right down to actually comparing the characters of Mother Teresa and Donald Trump which I brought up in the earlier discussion with Peters. Wright also has a section in the back that specifically addresses the example of a soldier falling on a grenade which was also raised.

Both books do support the idea that humans are basically selfish (which is what Liz said, but I couldn’t discern if this was meant in a hopeless sense or a self-awareness sense), as well as self-serving, though not necessarily that everything we do we do to serve our own needs. Both books also encourage individuals to be conscious of this and why we are primarily self-serving, in order to resist this reality.

I would love to discuss the book further, but the blog, sadly, will simply not suffice for the depth of conversation needed. If you want to call me sometime, J.E., I’d love to chat with you about it or anyone else that reads it. I would say that if you were to reread the last eighty pages, from page 313 on to the end, you would see that with the Berger and Weil quotes I posted earlier we were never as far apart as was felt (at least as far apart as was felt by me at the time, if not you). You used the word freewill in a recent blog and this would make for an interesting discussion too.

My question for Toby is… “Got a recommendation?”

How’s the Weather?


Today in Eau Claire is cool and sunny. One of the first tastes of fall coming on. Eliot had his last day of pre-school soccer camp today (we lost one to zero, though most of the kids didn’t know who won and who lost or what team they were on or which direction to kick the ball)and when he finished his game we log rolled all the way down a huge green hill and then raced to the parking lot, dizzy. I used to do similar activities with friends at KCAI. It’s better than being drunk. I have never felt more happy about nearly puking. There is something about this weather that makes me feel more alive and hopeful than any other kind of weather, even more than spring, I think. Of course, I’m sure we’ll have some more hot days, but what a beauty this is. YYYYAAAAWWWWPPPP!!!!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the movie)

Sara and I had our only date in five months tonight. We ate dinner and saw HP and the Order. It was of course my choice of movie, but she enjoyed it almost as much as I did. We both liked it.

I recently read an article which talked about Rowling’s insistence that the themes and narrative arcs in the story are the product of a deeply felt Christianity. I felt that that was evident with this story more than the other stories that have made it to screen, for sure, but perhaps that is due to the escalting nature of the stories and good and evil. Her books, of course, took a beating from the right in this country, and I am amazed that Rowling managed to keep her Christianity basically a secret for all that time she was lambasted. She is quoted in the article as saying she felt that to state that Christianity undergirded the books was to give away the ending. In some ways I feel guilty for not having read the rest of the series (I thought at the time I finished the third book, years ago, that this series was never going to end and I wasn’t interested in reading the same thing over and over. I also read the first three books of the Series of Unfortunate Events). I do, as Shotts suggested, hope to enjoy them with my children some day, along with the Tolkien books and many others. Eliot has been learning some words with flash cards.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the film (which wouldn’t have been new to any of you readers of the series) was HP’s discovery of his father’s teasing and bullying of Snape. It is jolting and changing, that moment when you realize your parents are not right about everything and perhaps downright wrong about some things. I also read the NY Times article and found it interesting that Hitchens complains about the HP series’ avoidance of Christianity and then encourages readers to “graduate” to the Pullman trilogy.


There was an advertisement for the Golden Compass at the beginning of the film for which New Line cinema appears to have pulled out all the stops. I would strongly urge that anyone who plans to go see the movie (which I assume is all of the Hollow Men) should first read the entire trilogy, not necessarily as a recommendation from me, but because my guess from the preview is that they have toned down much of the philisophical content. And you certainly won’t get the Milton and biblical literary references from the film. It might make good discussion material; since in the very first scene of the book, Pullman deliberately decided to have a girl coming OUT of a wardrobe.

This may be a funny way to end this post, switching topics, but I’m curious as to how the HM would respond to this quote by Wright from the Moral Animal…

“Friends engage in mutual inflation. Being a person’s true friend means endorsing the untruths he holds dearest…it may be that the hallmark of the strongest, longest friendships is the depth of the shared bias; the best friends are the ones who see each other least clearly.”

“Participate if you want.”

“…when groups of people – especially males – spend much time together, some sort of hierarchy , if implicit and subtle, is pretty sure to appear. Whether we know it or not, we tend naturally to rank one another, and we signify the ranking through patterns of attention, agreement, and deference – whom we pay attention to, whom we agree with, whose jokes we laugh at, whose suggestions we take.”

From the Moral Animal by Robert Wright.

Pretty funny stuff.

Free at Last

I have this afternoon finished the final installment in the Harry Potter series. I have spent the last seven weeks with Harry Potter, from Book 1 to Book 7. Honestly, while I’m glad I read the books and am interested to have conversation about the series, I feel a weight lifted, having closed the cover on the last book. Free at last.

*****I think Ned may be the only one here who has not read the whole series, but I want to at least put up a warning here that I will talk about particular plot details. So, in case you want to discover the books further for yourself, please don’t read further. I get the sense that Ned doesn’t care much, but I thought I should give proper warning.*****

I was disappointed in Book 7, actually. Nothing, in the end, felt that surprising about it, and it feels more like an inevitable conclusion rather than a riveting, surprise-laden finale. Sure, I was surprised that certain more minor characters died–Hedwig, Mad-Eye, Dobby, Fred, Lupin, and Tonks–but they felt sort of inconsequential, compared to how much fretting is done over Cedric Diggory, for instance. Sure, I thought maybe Hagrid would die, and he didn’t. But I felt the larger plot pieces–Harry having a piece of Voldemort within him as a Horcrux, Snape turning out to be doing Dumbledore’s bidding all the while, Snape being in love with Harry’s mother, Ron and Hermione finally getting together, etc.–were all in the realm of the predictable, and were all things I had entertained at some point in the series previously (certainly by Book 6). And I agree with Toby, in a different posting, that there is a serious lull in the book, while Harry, Hermione, and Ron go camping around various woods and locations pretty aimlessly–which confirms again for me that at least 200 pages could have been trimmed from the book. I would say that is true for Books 4 through 7, with the possible exception of Book 6, which could probably be trimmed 100 pages.

I did like the opening of The Deathly Hallows and did like the last 150 pages or so, when things moved forward at the pace the finale deserves. The Epilogue was perhaps the most predictable part of the book, and frankly, the Epilogue really took away the sense that evil, as part of the world, endures, which I think is a disappointing move, though I understand the pull toward having a shiny, happy ending: “All was well.” But that does feel like it pulls the seriousness out from under the whole series, in some ways.

Christopher Hitchens has an interesting review of Book 7 in today’s New York Times Book Review, and I believe you can read it online, if you haven’t already.

Looking over the whole series, there are some terrific things about the books–particularly Books 3 and 6. There are some imaginative, ingenious devices, and some thematic territories that I think are valuable for young people to explore. But I’m glad the series is over, and I hope Rowling will let it stay finished. The cleverness wore out over seven books, and for all the build up over making Voldemort into a villain with a complicated, disturbing, and interesting past, he came out in the end as another comic book villain with a lot of bluster but with the classic cardboard faulty arrogance that makes him lose control of his power. I lost it and it lost all credibility when 1) Mrs Weasley yells out to Beatrix LeStrange in all capitals: “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” and that is followed on the next page by 2) Voldemort, alone with no other Death Eaters or allies, preparing to duel Harry, just back from the dead and surrounded by several Hogwarts professors and members of the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry then literally says “I don’t want anyone else to try to help. It’s got to be like this. It’s got to be me.” And then that is followed by six pages of goading talk between the two of them, while we assume everyone else is just watching this happen. I mean, that is just as schmaltzy and uninspired as it gets, for any reader of any age. In other words, the build up to everything seems far more interesting than the actual final installment.

But, J.E. had mentioned in an earlier post that Book 7 “doesn’t disappoint,” or something to that effect, and Toby put Book 7 right up there with Books 3 and 6 as his favorites. So I’d love to hear other reactions, and would love to be convinced.

The Badlands


This is a painting that I did for a gift from my parents to my Uncle Bill for his anniversary. The subject is one of the highest points in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I don’t really do things like this anymore when I have complete freedom, but I don’t think that Bill wanted an exploding dragon or a wolf running across a precariously balanced tree trunk…


I finished the fourteen spreads and the four decorative pages for my book on Girgian in Ramadan. J.E. when you are back to a normal swing, let me know and I can send a few along for a post or two. I’m obviously not as connected to these as some of my personal pieces, but it still might be fun to see this other side of what I do. Now I need to finish a small personal commision before meetings begin (you’re lucky Shotts to avoid the bureaucracy of that side of academia).

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