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Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not Omnipotent.
Is he able but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is God both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
I wasn’t sure the video here would remain online when I first encountered it last year, but there is a version on YouTube. It’s from a BBC series and the section below is part one from Jonathan Miller’s.
This part is titled “Shadows of Doubt.” The series is about atheism but what caught me in this section was that Miller visited the site of the absent Twin Towers in NYC to consider the religious implications of 9/11.
I don’t label myself as an atheist. I would consider myself a deist. That’s more of a topic in itself, but it is defined as s the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God, but that is accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge. There is a God who chooses not to be involved in our lives.
Jonathan Miller says he is rather “reluctant” to call himself an atheist because “it hardly seems worthwhile having a name for something which scarcely enters my thoughts at all.”
In “Shadows of Doubt”, we find Miller in the Reading Room at the British Museum describing the purpose of the series. Then he moves to New York City and states that the attacks on 9/11 were “inconceivable without religion”.
There follows a brief montage of people explaining their atheism: Sir Geoffrey Lloyd, Polly Toynbee, Gore Vidal, Steven Weinberg and Colin McGinn. McGinn says that the word “belief” covers diverse things – from I believe there is a computer in front of me, to I believe in democracy. Questions of belief come up only when one is faced with a question which is debatable. Religion and politics are examples. Miller points out that politics differs from religion in being about what ought to be, while religion primarily deals with what is the case.
The series goes back to the evidence of the first “unbelievers” in Ancient Greece and brings it up to modern theories around why some people have always tended to doubt and also why some believe in mythology and magic.
The series includes extracts from interviews with various academic luminaries including Richard Dawkins, Steve Weinberg, Denys Turner, Pascal Boyer and Daniel Dennett. The series also includes many quotations from the works of atheists, agnostics and deists,
The person who uploaded it says they did so because “this needs to be available as a shining light of the historicity of reason midst the depths and oceans of media absurdity and religious propaganda. So few representatives of atheism provide a compelling and earnest account for unbelief, let alone with the lucidity and intellectual vigor of Jonathan Miller. He is sincere and moving in this attempt to explain and understand the origins of the truth of disbelief of religious superstition and faith.”
In the United States, the series was shown as A Brief History of Disbelief in 2007 in three 60 minute sections: “Shadows of Doubt”, “Noughts and Crosses” and “The Final Hour.” There was also a series of supplementary programs made from material that did not fit into the program as “The Atheism Tapes.” (I’m not sure these ran in the U.S.)
I have been a fan of Jonathan Miller since I saw the TV version of his book The Body in Question where he is more in his medical doctor role. he is interested in so many topics and makes all of them understandable. I enjoyed his Darwin for Beginners which he co-authored. He also has a beautiful art book, On Reflection, about how painters represent the effects of light on various reflective surfaces.
As another blogger pointed out recently,there are over 3.5 billion web pages, more than 181 million blogs, over 10,000 digital versions of newspapers on the web and the average person sends and receives over 110 emails every day. But you found your way to this article.
Maybe it’s serendipity, but somehow we have connected here in my little town of Paradelle. And this piece is about another little town.
Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town premiered at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938. I saw it there in the late 1960s on a trip with my high school English class.
It is a play about the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Emily Webb and George Gibbs are children together in Act 1. They get married in Act 2 and in Act 3 Emily has died in childbirth and is looking back from beyond the grave with other dead citizens of Grover’s Corners. Emily doesn’t want to pass on and she revisits the happiest day of her life, which was her 12th birthday.
A lot of my classmates were disappointed in the play for the same reasons that it is considered radical in its time. Wilder decided not to use any scenery and almost no props. He wanted his play to be more like Greek tragedies without the distractions of sets and props. Those dead citizens of Grover’s Corners are like a Greek chorus.
I was in a production of Our Town. We had a ladder as our set.
After Princeton, the play moved to Boston, where it was a flop. But, two New York theater critics, Brooks Atkinson and Alexander Wolcott, convinced the director and producer to give it another try in New York. It did much better. Our Town won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
It is estimated that on average, Our Town is performed at least once every night somewhere in the world.
It connects with people. They see their town in that town. They see themselves in Emily
I think that once you’ve found a person that you’re very fond of… I mean a person who’s fond of you, too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character… Well, I think that’s just as important as college is, and even more so. That’s what I think.
George says this to Emily while they drink ice-cream sodas in Mr. Morgan’s drugstore. No drugstore set. No sodas. George passes on going to college for Emily and love. I wondered about that when I was 16 and watching it. I still wondered about it when I was in college and on the Our Town stage.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?
Emily asks this question of the Stage Manager at the end of Act III after she has gone back to her twelfth birthday.
The Stage Manager says that humans do not realize life. The exception, he says might be “saints and poets.”
The play celebrates the value of everyday events, moments of ceremony and consequence, such as George and Emily’s wedding and Emily’s funeral. But the strange thing is that the characters do not “realize life” at every moment. Like almost all of us watching the play, we don’t seem to realize the wonder of what passes before our eyes in the play that is every day.
Emily tries when she gets a chance at a replay of her twelfth birthday to get her mother to really see her and not take her for granted. Emily realizes that she too did not pay enough attention. She missed a lot, did not appreciate her family or her town until she died.
She returns to the cemetery. She passes over to the realm of the dead.
Our Town covers about 13 years, but the play collapses those years into the span of one day. It opens with a scene at dawn and it ends at 11 P.M. It opens with Dr. Gibbs’s delivery of twins and closes with Emily’s funeral in the final scene. Even my high school self saw the symbolism of the cycle, the stages, the movement of our lives.
I found the play very sad to watch. Our life is one revolution of that big wheel, but the world continues to spin.
And somehow, you found this piece about Our Town on the World Wide Web. People already don’t seem to use that term – the World Wide Web – but I always liked it. The web that connects all of us with so many fibers and lines. It’s our town.
I thought of Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo, three times in the past week. The first time was when I took a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley in California. Next was while climbing the stairs of a tower in San Francisco, the city that is the setting of the film. Finally, last Tuesday, I noticed that it was Hitchcock’s birthday.
Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller that Hitchcock based on the 1954 novel D’entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac. The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, who has been forced into early retirement due to his vertigo and clinical depression. He works as a private investigator and is hired to follow Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) who is behaving peculiarly.
The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. it replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll and has appeared repeatedly in best film polls by the American Film Institute.
Acrophobia (from the Greek ákron , meaning “peak, summit, edge” and phóbos, “fear”) is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. Of course, most people have some degree of natural fear when exposed to heights. It may not show itself when in an airplane at thousands of feet, but be terrifying at a hundred feet on a ledge with no railing.
Acrophobia sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely. Between 2 and 5 percent of the general population suffer from acrophobia, with twice as many women affected as men.
The term “vertigo” is often used incorrectly to describe a fear of heights. It is more accurately a spinning sensation that occurs when one is not actually spinning. It can be triggered by looking down from a high place, but also by looking straight up at a high place. True vertigo can be triggered by almost any type of movement including standing up, sitting down, walking or changes in visual perspective (e.g. squatting down, walking up or down stairs, looking out of the window of a moving car or train). So, with vertigo dizziness triggered by heights is just part of the problem.
In Hitchcock’s film, he popularized the dolly zoom. It is an in-camera special effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, The effect is achieved by dollying (on wheels) the camera away from a subject while the lens zooms in, or vice-versa. The effect is that the background appears to change size relative to the subject. It was Hitchcock’s method of showing Scottie’s condition. As a result of its use in this film, the effect is often called “the Vertigo effect”.
Acrophobia is the extreme, but obviously cautiousness around heights is helpful for survival. Like other phobia, this extreme fear can interfere with the activities of everyday life, such as climbing up a flight of stairs or a ladder or even standing on a chair.
I don’t have vertigo, but I do have acrophobia. It hits me when I climb on a low roof to clean out rain gutters. It stops me from going on many amusement park rides which rely on that natural fear for their thrills.
At one time, sufferers were encouraged to expose themselves to height to overcome the fear. I took rock climbing classes and force myself into situations sometimes. In researching this article, I found that this treatment is now considered questionable.
I actually enjoy flying on airplanes and love looking out the window. I wondered about taking the balloon ride last week because of the open basket. Although we rose to about 2500 feet, I felt no fear at all about the height and it was smoother than the plane ride to and from the west coast.
“Peering Into The Heart of Darkness” shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
It’s beautiful and frightening at the same time.
Isn’t that the way it always is?
The hoopla around the Fifty Shades Trilogy has quieted down, although I suspect that as soon as the movie version is near, it will all start again. That book series got people talking and writing about erotica versus pornography. That is a topic that comes back every few years and has been coming back for a few thousand years.
One article I was reading said that when women use explicit materials, they choose erotica. When men and women look at materials together, they tend to look at erotica, but when men look at materials alone, they look at pornography.
But what is the difference?
Erotica (from the Greek “eros” meaning desire) is any artistic work that deals substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing subject matter. That sound pretty close to pornography – except for the artistic part. All forms of art may be considered erotic – painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature. Erotica has aspirations to be art. Pornography might aspire to make money.
But didn’t the Internet change that? I am making the assumption that most of the pornography viewed today is viewed online. I am also assuming that there is enough of it available for free that the sales of commercial pornography have probably fallen in the past few decades.
But even if sales are not down, there is a huge amount of just photographs available on legitimate and popular websites like Tumblr and Flickr that would be termed either erotica or pornography.
How do we distinguish between the two? The painting The Naked Maja by Francisco de Goya is high-art and I don’t think any modern viewers would call it pornography. Would Édouard-Henri Avril, a painter who also did illustrations for erotic literature under the pseudonym Paul Avril, be considered an artist of erotica or a creator of pornography? His illustrations may not be as high of an art as Goya, and they depict a bit more of men and women in the sexual act. Does that move the line towards porn?
I looked for a few definitions of these terms online. Pornography gets descriptions like “graphic”, “sexually explicit” or “meant to arouse a quick, intense reaction” and it is often coupled with negative adjectives like exploitative or degrading. I’m not going to defend porn. But my curiosity is the line that erotica crosses to become porn. What is at the edge?
An older definition of erotica might have included terms like “nonviolent, non-degrading, consensual” and a newer term in the definition might be “intimacy.” While pornography seems to consciously ignore interpersonal connections, erotica tends to focus on it.
I really have not read a page of any of the Fifty Shades books – although my wife did and I could grab her Kindle if I wanted to. You see the phrase “Mommy porn” attached to it and other books and that seems to have a lot to do with relationships.
What if you write a story with some porn staples, like multiple partners and S&M, but add into the context of a committed relationship? Does the relationship turn the porn elements into erotica?
Men have been told for centuries not to expect to understand women, but one thing that some of these articles tell me is that women’s physical arousal and mental arousal are two different things. Unlike for men, where the two are pretty closed in sync, women can be mentally but not physically aroused, or vice versa.
Another couple of generalizations I took away from reading some very unerotic articles about erotica are that it tends to be positive something that might be considered pornographic when viewed alone, could be seen as erotic if viewed with a partner. Context again.
Men might see viewing or reading this content as an act within itself. But women might see it as a way to improve their sexual relationships in another separate act.
It is so confusing.
So, if you look at images tagged by their owners as “erotica” on Flickr, you will get a wide range of things – some of which I would define as erotic and some that I would tag as porn. Some of it I wouldn’t term as either. (I was told that you get more explicit results if you have an account and are logged in. Not sure about that.) How much of that reaction is context and how much of that is just me?
One of my childhood fascinations was Jean Shepherd. He is best known to his devoted fans as a radio raconteur. He also worked on stage as an actor and standing-up humorist, and he wrote fiction and non-fiction for print, film and television.
Today, he is known more for being the writer of the stories that became the basis for the A Christmas Story film which is replayed on TBS television to the point of numbness each holiday season.
But I remember Shep from my younger years as a voice on my AM radio on weeknights talking me away from my little bedroom into other places – the streets of New York, a humid, swampy Army camp, the temples of slob art in Jersey and beyond.
He is sometimes compared to Mark Twain and one of his own favorite humorists, George Ade. Marshall McLuhan once referred to him as “the first radio novelist.” He is the model for the character played by Jason Robards in the play and movie A Thousand Clowns, as well as the inspiration for the Shel Silverstein song made famous by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Through interviews with his friends, co-workers and creative associates, such as musician David Amram, cartoonist and playwright Jules Feiffer, publisher and broadcaster Paul Krassner, and author Norman Mailer, the book explains a complex and unique genius of our time.”
I had read a few of his short stories in stolen issues of Playboy magazine, but it was when they were collected and expanded in In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, that I realized that he was a really good writer.
That 1966 collection, based on his childhood in Indiana, became the film, A Christmas Story. The main story is his “Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid” and other radio bits like the story of “Flick’s Tongue.”
He spun out his stories on WOR-AM in New York City. The show sounded like it was all improvisation and I imagine that on many nights it was just that. When I tried to get my wife to listen to recordings of his old shows and when I did get her to attend a few of his last stage performances, she would always comment that he never finished the stories he started. But he did. He wove 3 or 4 stories around and somehow they all would end up making sense together. Between the opening and closing theme song (the Bahnfrei Overture, composed for an operetta by Eduard Strauss and sounding like racetrack music), anything could happen.
The programs were unpredictable mixes of stories, commentary, oddball recording used as background or so that he could accompany them on his kazoo or Jews’s harp. “Gimme some cheap sax music” he would tell his engineer, as he dove into a story about G.I.’s on a weekend pass.” Though unscripted, Shep seemed to have some plan for where we were all headed each night.
He was born Jean Parker Shepherd on July 21, 1921 in Hammond, Indiana. He lived at 2907 Cleveland Street and attended Warren G. Harding Elementary School, in the Hessville section of the city.
As listeners know, he worked for a time as a mail carrier in a steel mill when he was in high school, and he graduated from Hammond High School in 1939.
During World War II, Shep was in the United States Army Signal Corps. he may have hated it but it provided him with a lot of materials for his stories.
He attended Indiana University (I don’t think he graduated.) His career began on stage in Chicago as a performer at the Goodman Theatre and doing his nightclub act at venues on Rush Street.
Shep began his broadcast radio career on WSAI in Cincinnati in 1948. He moved in 1951 to a late-night broadcast on KYW in Philadelphia until 1953 and then bounced back to Cincinnati for a show on WLW. But when he settled in at WOR radio New York City for his overnight slot in 1956, he found a home.
He did live shows at the Limelight nightclub in Greenwich Village for 2 hours on Saturday nights.
Shep actually did his early shows from the WOR transmitter site in Carteret, New Jersey and the show ran from 1am until 4:30am five nights a week. After some on-air issues, the show was put into a 45-minute nightly format that ran at 9:15, 11:15 and, in the time I knew it best, at 10:15.
Shep was a bit of a name-dropper and talked about hanging out with Jack Kerouac, Jules Feiffer, Herb Gardner and even a meeting with The Beatles. He was hip and hep in the 50s and 60s but as the hippie age told hold he started to seem less cool. I think he sensed that and became grumpier and more the curmudgeon. When I saw him live in the late 60s and early 70s he even bad-mouthed radio as he was was mving into doing some television work.
But his “night people” followers of insomniacs, and kids like me with transistor radios under their pillow continued to idolize him. He was the closest we had to a Howard Stern but without a hint of obscenity.
He had actually done some TV comedy in his early days with a show on WLW-TV in Philly called Rear Bumper. Steve Allen apparently liked it and supposedly recommended Shepherd as his replacement as host of the Tonight show back in the 1950s.
He never made it to big-time broadcast TV but he did have in the mid-1970s a PBS television series titled Jean Shepherd’s America and another series for the New Jersey Public Televison called Shepherd’s Pie that celebrated visually much of the material from the radio years like White Castle hamburgers, NJ’s Route 22, baseball, bumper stickers, traffic circles, and slob art.
Several of his short stories became PBS films for the series American Playhouse that followed an Indiana family much like hos own but called the Parkers. Those films were Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss, The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters,and The Phantom of the Open Hearth.
He published many magazine stories in publications ranging from Mad magazine and The National Lampoon, to The New York Times, Playboy, Mademoiselle, Car and Driver, and Omni. He wrote a column for The Village Voice newspaper in New York too. Most of his writing is collected in four books: In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters, A Fistful of Fig Newtons and The Ferrari in the Bedroom.
His Hollywood film career started with writing the screenplay for A Christmas Story. The 1983 film is based on about five short stories about Ralphie Parker (Parker as in Jean Parker Shepherd) growing up in 1930′s Indiana. It was a hit and revived his career and turned him away from radio and even TV. There was a follow-up film, My Summer Story, that did not do very well.
In the late 1990′s, he was supposedly working on more films but his health was failing. His appearances in public were rare.
Jean’s longtime companion, collaborator and third wife of 21 years, was Leigh Brown. Radio fans knew Leigh as someone who always seemed to be in the WOR studio. She also co-wrote the film screenplays. Leigh died in June 1998.
Jean Shepherd died the following year of natural causes on October 16, 1999 in a hospital near his Sanibel Island, Florida home. He had no survivors.
There are some books that have come out in the past 20 years that tell some of the back stories, collect bits and pieces and capitalize on the film’s success, such as A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film.
A Christmas Story was also staged as a musical on Broadway in 2012 and picked up three Tony nominations.
In the 1960s, Shep had released several comedy record albums that are collectibles and a few are available as downloads (like Will Failure Spoil Jean Shepherd? as an mp3).
Many of his radio programs are available commercially – Don’t Be a Leaf, Jean Shepherd Live! At Airlie, Life Is (Classic Radio), Jean Shepherd Live, Jean Shepherd Reads Poems of Robert Service, Jean Shepherd: The Fatal Flaw.
I found hundreds of his old radio shows and interviews online via iTunes and other sources. Shepherd fans were often Ham radio people and audiophiles who recorded the shows on tape and would swap them or pass them on to people in other parts of the country.
A good free collection of Shep audio was at The Shep Archives that allowed you to download mp3′s of old WOR shows, interviews, and audio from some of the television shows. In iTunes, I used “The Brass Figlagee” and podcasts of Max Schmid’s “Mass Backwards” show from WBAI-FM in New York to collect many shows. Bob Kaye’s Jean Shepherd page is a good source too.
As far as reading about Shep, I would recommend Excelsior, You Fathead!: The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd by Eugene B. Bergmann which came out in 2004.
Manhattanhenge is the name given to an event that occurs when the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The term Manhattanhenge is a neologism from Stonehenge where the sun aligning with the ancient stones on the solstices is an famous event.
The New York event (also known as the Manhattan Solstice) occurs twice a year. The Manhattanhenge term was popularized in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History.
The event applies to those streets that follow a plan from 1811 which laid out the streets in a grid offset 29.0 degrees from true east–west. During Manhattanhenge, an observer on one of the gridded east-west streets will see the sun setting over New Jersey directly along the centerline of that street.
The dates of Manhattanhenge usually occur around May 28 and July 12 or July 13 being spaced evenly around the summer solstice. On two corresponding mornings, the sun rises on the center lines of the grid on (approximately) December 5 and January 8, spaced evenly around the winter solstice. As with the solstices and equinoxes, the dates vary somewhat from year to year.
This phenomenon occurs in other cities with a uniform street grid. The events would only coincide with the vernal and autumnal equinox only if the grid plan were laid out precisely north-south and east-west, and perfectly aligned with true north as opposed to magnetic north.
For North Americans who want to be Druids for a day, Baltimore comes fairly close, with its sunrises on March 25 and September 18 and sunsets on March 12 and September 29.
Chicago has the setting sun lining up with the grid system on September 25, a phenomenon known similarly as Chicagohenge.
Torontohenge has the setting sun lines up with the east–west streets on October 25 and February 16, and Montrealhenge occurs each year on July 12.
I listen to a lot of podcasts each week. It has become the radio station that I can program myself. There are so many shows. Some are truly radio programs – like NPR programs – some are podcast only. Most of us can’t catch radio or TV programs when they are broadcast because of our too-busy work schedule. My laptop, iPad and my little cheapo iPod Shuffle have become my recorders for audio. A few programs I enjoy have video versions or are video only – those I watch on my laptop since my Shuffle has no screen. Honestly, about half of those video podcasts work just as well as audio-only.
One of those programs that I have been listening to for Le Show
It’s a tough show to pin down with a label, just as it’s hard to label Harry Shearer. Actor, author, musician, director, comedian, satirist, Renaissance man? All fit. Some know his voice from The Simpsons as Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and others.
On the big(ger) screen, you might know him for the mockumentaries like This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind. His other film credits include a few of my favorites: The Right Stuff, The Fisher King, and The Truman Show.
He wrote and directed the feature film, Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
Shearer is New Orleans person and also wrote and directed The Big Uneasy. This revealing documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans won The Golden Eagle Award and The Visionary Award at The DC Independent Film Festival.
On Le Show you get a mix of comedy, satire, political news filtered through Harry and some great satirical songs and impersonations. You can listen online at his site, or on KCRW, or download it on iTunes.
I used to record Le Show on a cassette recorder/radio back in the day. Some of the songs are available now. He picked up a Grammy nominations for Songs Pointed & Pointless and Songs Of The Bushmen. The latter was a “musical impeachment” of the Bush administration.
As a teen, Shearer did some appearances on TV’s The Jack Benny Show, GE Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
He attended UCLA (poli-sci), did graduate work at Harvard University, was a freelance journalist and covered the Watts riots for Newsweek.
He published a novel called Not Enough Indians. It reminded me a bit of The Mouse That Roared. It is a twisted American Dream satire about a town that looks to turn itself around by having themselves declared a sovereign Indian nation to open a casino.
He often does musical collaborations, especially with his wife singer/songwriter Judith Owen. He has his own record label, Courgette Records (hat tip to a scene in This Is Spinal Tap).
This guy does it all. Listen (also watch and read) to him!