Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Doing Less with More

Scholarly Tome

I'm back at Laughing Horse Books in my chauffeur capacity. The Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges is an interesting title. From the dust jacket: "The more we sever ourselves from a literate, print-based world -- a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas -- for one informed by comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans, and a celebration of violence, the more we implode."

This reminds me of my text-drives-graphics posting, and my general sense of living in a time of intellectual slovenliness. It's really not president Obama's fault that Americans have become mental midgets. You go with the army you've got.

I've been thinking back to Madison Square Garden in 1979 (right?), an event I did not attend, where Bucky was telling us we needed to go with the tetrahedron over the cube. WTF?

You need a serious-minded intellectual culture to even engage in a discussion that metaphysically advanced i.e. it takes some setting up, some context. Who has the patience, the focus? Seeing The History and Mystery of the Universe might be a place to start (in DC next year), but doesn't television have a role to play?

When were the Discovery or National Geographic channels planning to get around to this chapter in our history? Probably never right? What's a tetrahedron anyway?

As I wrote in Synergeo earlier:
Of course many of the specialists aren't really able to follow the action that well, having next to no grounding in the basics. It's a kind of chicken-egg problem, as you can't see what the fuss is about until you take the time to study the battlefield and that's hardly encouraged by the antediluvians (what the battle is about: keeping Bucky obscure, the more obscure the better -- so art colonies are a worry, also museums, think tanks... glad we're on the right side of history eh?).
Alan Kay seemed somewhat skeptical that we'd have the brains, in this day and age, to reinvent something as amazing as TCP/IP. This was at our summit in London a few years back. As Dr. Susan Haack pointed out, there's no guarantee against backsliding. Kay might be right.

Per the thesis of Idiocracy, we may have been over-taken by over-specialization, reached some point of no return. Of course I don't want to believe that, why be such a defeatist? Perhaps we still have some aware zip codes out there? Nod nod, wink wink (to quote Monty Python).

Like we've got Trevor Blake, Dave Koski... other scholars of note. But if you look at what passes for math teaching... what a vast sea of mediocrity, with little uptake or manifest ability to adapt.

And what's up with Philosophy these days?

All this dim bulb activity doesn't keep 'em from raising tuitions I notice. "Less with more!" would appear to be the rallying cry in the gulag.