Software Nerd

Friday, February 24, 2006

Interpreting Poetry (and other art too)

An online friend, and general good fella, mentioned that he didn't like poetry so I sent him a few links and he liked the poems. Then, in a chat room, I sent him a link to Longfellow's children's hour. His reaction -- and that of another online pal -- took me by surprise. Since it was one I'd only found recently, I had to read the poem a few times after to understand what they could be talking about!

Here is the poem; what would be your one or two line summary?

The Children's Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mixing entertainment and news

I can appreciate comedy with an ideological bent, even if I don't agree with the slant. Like a good novel espousing wrong ideology, it's not ideal, but I might like it.

However, I do not like ideology (even good ideology) masquerading as comedy (nor as a novel). That's why I do not care for Jon Stewart's show on the "Comedy channel". I sometimes flip by briefly and some of it is funny; however, I never stay long -- there's something dishonest about the style. I prefer the comedic introductions of Leno, Letterman and SNL. Stewart's show is more seriously satirical than those. Compare Stewart's "news" to SNL's fake "news"; his is much more serious.

I'm not sure, but I think I am objecting to satire, for the same reason I'd object to irony: it is okay only in small doses. With serious satire, as with irony, the reader or viewer must constantly remember to "split" the input into serious and non-serious content. I find little value in this, either as comedy or as news. Another comedian who tried this from a more Republican slant was Dennis Miller. He had the same problem -- he seemed funny only if you agreed with his satire.

I guess satire works best when one agrees with the serious part. No surprises there.

So, what is the relationship between satire and comedy. Is satire merely a sub-class of comedy, or is it something more? Something to ponder on...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Becoming more Intelligent

In one of Dr. Binswanger's lectures (I think it was Psycho-Epistemology-II) he mentions Ayn Rand commenting that writing Galt's speech made her more intelligent. [Caveat: paraphrase of paraphrase.]

Serious writing can clarify one's thinking on a topic. Better still, repeated acts of thinking actually improve one's thinking. Thinking "exercises" the mind and makes it more capable of thinking. Start with the right epistemological approach, and think, and write; then, the more you think and write, the more you can think and write.

So, if you haven't done so already, start a private journal, or a blog, or join a forum like Objectivism Online. Not a bad deal -- become more intelligent, for just $50 a year.

World Class Lyrics -- Available Free

Here's an idea for a musician who wants world-class lyrics for free.

Hundreds of old poems are suitable for music. Indeed, some were originally ballards sung by minstrels. If you're a musician but don't write great lyrics, take your favorite classical poems and start a new genre.

I reckon there's a good-sized market out there: listeners of classical radio, PBS/NPR viewers. Retailers might place your CDs beside the Gregorian chants; but if it sells, don't complain. NPR might even offer your CD to anyone making a $100 tax-free contribution; don't let that bother you either.