Monday, April 21, 2014

Everytown: 2036

This is a video I've wanted to edit for more than 20 years. Really. For even longer than that, I've had a love affair with retro-futurism. Things to Come. Metropolis. Streamlined moderne architecture. Teardrop-shaped cars... For as long as I can remember, I've been entranced by the wind tunnel efficiency and earnest optimism of yesterday's tomorrows. William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum" reminded me also of the totalitarian underside to these fantasies, particularly those arising from the Great Depression. But I am drawn to their plucky can-do spirit all the same. So when I found myself in the middle of this semester's crush of projects, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the minutia of these days' obligations, I dug up hours of source material and cut this video. The song is by Donald Fagen. The scenes range from 1927 to 1968, the year I was born. The future, of course, is where it has always been: Just beyond today's fears.

Source Material

American Telephone and Telegraph (1961) Seeing the Digital Future

David Butler [Dir.] (1930) Just Imagine

Fritz Lang [Dir.] (1927) Metropolis

General Motors (1940) To New Horizons

General Motors (1956) Design for Dreaming

General Motors (1956) Keys to the Future

Peter Bogdanovich [Dir.] (1968) Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women

Philco-Ford Corporation (1967) Year 1999 A.D.

Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1956) Man and the Moon

Westinghouse Electric Company (1939) The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair

William Cameron Menzies [Dir.] (1936) Things to Come

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Goofy Grocery Warning

Yeah, it's been quite a while since I've attended to this blog. Spring has sprung a plethora of projects and deadlines: new humanities lectures, off-site presentations, final deliberations on a book set to appear in April (I hope!) - and more potently, reminders from outside my normal flow of teaching, writing, chatting, and traveling that other parts of my life must occasionally take precedence. No complaints here, just an observation that John Lennon was right: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." One consequence is that I find myself falling into the old blogging trap that presumes that all posts must somehow mean something. They don't, of course, any more than any exercise must "mean something." Blogging is gesture, blogging is practice, blogging is invite, blogging is draft, blogging is ephemeral. It can be more, but it doesn't have to be. Accordingly I offer nothing more than a goofy warning sign I spotted yesterday at the Scotts Valley Nob Hill. Make of it what you will. Or don't. Either way, I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

San Jose State "Normal School" Aerial View (1909)

Following up on a recent post featuring a zoomable view of San Jose "Normal School," I'm posting a 1909 aerial view. Check out the snazzy airplane!

Friday, February 14, 2014

San Jose State "Normal School" Panorama

While researching elocutionism at San José State University, I spent some time reviewing old catalogs. One, from 1918-1919, included a pull-out panoramic photo of the old campus quad. The picture was marred with folds and yellowing paper, but I couldn't resist taking a few snaps with my phone. A little Photoshop and Prezi magic, and now I can share it with you!

Note: Click the arrows to advance through the panorama.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Santa Cruz Mural

Quick visit to Santa Cruz yesterday, and I saw this lovely mural. Actually I've seen it for years; it was executed by Peter Bartczak back in '93. But I had a strong impression that I should photograph it this time. As always, you never know...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Emerson and Over-Soul

Continuing my lecture-prep on Emerson, I have been drawn back to his essay, “The Over-Soul.” Here are a few quotations that rose to great me this morning:

“Man is a stream whose source is hidden. Always our being is descending into us from we know not whence” (p. 189).

“I am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher origin for events than the will I call mine” (p. 189).

“When I watch that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up, and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come” (p. 189).

[One ought to] “speak from his character and not from his tongue” (p. 189).

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE” (pp. 189-190).

“We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole of which these are the shining parts, is the soul” (p. 190).

“When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love” (p. 191).

“All reform aims in some one particular to let the great soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey” (p. 191).

“The influence of the senses has, in most men, overpowered the mind to that degree, that the walls of time and space have come to look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet time and space are but inverse measures of the force of the soul” (p. 192).

“[The soul] converses with truths that have always been spoken in the world, and becomes conscious of a closer sympathy with Zeno and Arrian, than with persons in the house” (p. 194).

“Speak to his heart, and the man becomes suddenly virtuous” (p. 195).

“[The over-soul] arches over [individuals] like a temple, this unity of thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are conscious of attaining to a higher self-possession” (p. 196).

“We distinguish the announcements of the soul, its manifestations of its own nature, by the term Revelation. These are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For this communication is an influx of the Divine mind into our mind” (pp. 198-199, emphasis in original).

“The moment the doctrine of the immortality is separately taught, man is already fallen” (p. 201).

“The soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite” (p. 201).

“No answer in words can reply to a question of things” (p. 201).

“The only mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the senses is to forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the tide of being which floats us into the secret of nature, work and live, work and live, and all unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for itself a new condition, and the question and the answer are one” (p. 201).

“The intercourse of society, -- its trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels, -- is one wide, judicial investigation of character” (p. 202).

“That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily but involuntarily” (p. 203).

“Among the multitude of scholars and authors we feel no hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack and skill rather than of inspiration” (p. 204).

“[The poet’s] greatest communication to our mind is to teach us to despise all he has done” (p. 205).

“Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and literature looks like word-catching” (p. 206).

“Deal so plainly with men and woman as to constrain the utmost sincerity and destroy all hope of trifling with you” (p. 207).

“When we have broken our god of tradition and ceased from our god of rhetoric, then may God fire the heart with his presence” (p. 207).

“The heart in thee is the heart of all; not a value, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, and truly seen, its tide is one” (pp. 208-209).

“More and more the surges of everlasting nature enter into me, and I become public and human in my regards and actions” (p. 210).

“The universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time” (p. 211).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Emerson's Self-Reliance

Daguerreotype of Ralph Waldo Emerson
from Wikipedia
Preparing for a lecture on Transcendentalism, I enjoyed an opportunity to review Emerson’s beloved essay, Self-Reliance. This is the kind of stuff my mom insisted I should study when I was a kid, but it reads much differently decades later. Some of its impact has slackened, some has sharpened, and some has appeared all at once anew. I’m using an old Apollo Editions collection, so I cannot account for the exactitude of the quotations, but I’m happy to share nonetheless.

Ne te quaesiveris extra: “Do not seek outside yourself” (p. 31).

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius” (p. 31)

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty” (p. 32).

“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents” (p. 33).

“How is the boy the master of society; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits… You must court him; he does not court you” (p. 34).

“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members… Self-reliance is its aversion” (p. 35).

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist” (p. 35).

“Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to this or that; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it” (p. 36).

“Your goodness must have some edge to it, -- else it is none” (p. 36).

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude” (p. 38).

“Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee” (p. 41).

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (p. 41).

“To be great is to be misunderstood” (p. 41).

“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag life of a hundred tacks. This is only microscopic criticism. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency” (p. 42).

“All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons” (p. 44).

“What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded?” (p. 46).

“The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, the essence of virtue, and the essence of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachers are tuitions” (p. 46).

“We first share the life by which things exist and afterwards see them as appearances in nature and forget that we have shared their cause” (p. 46).

“All my willful actions and acquisitions are but roving; -- the most trivial reverie, the faintest native emotion, are domestic and divine” (p. 47).

“The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure that it is profane to seek to interpose helps” (p. 47).

Man “cannot be happy and strong until he… lives with nature in the present, above time” (p. 49).

“And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far off remembering of the intuition… it is a perceiving that Truth and Right are” (pp. 49-50, emphasis added).

“Why then did we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present there will be power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies because it works and is” (pp. 50-51).

“We fancy it rhetoric when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not” (p. 51).

“Virtue is the governor, the creator, the reality” (p. 51).

“I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. The poise of a planet, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are also demonstrations of the self-sufficing and therefore self-relying soul” (p. 51).

“Isolation must precede true society” (p. 52).