Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Atheism alone is a rotting corpse. I substitute art and nature for God - the grandeur of man and the vast mystery of the universe.

NASA's Hubble "Deep Field" above portrays not stars - almost every point of light is a distant galaxy. If the Deep Field image itself is sublime, how much more impressive is it that we as humans can comprehend it?

Compare Coreggio's "Jupiter and Io," 1532, left with that of NASA's 2001 Cassini Probe, with the amber-colored Io and the white Europa in Transit across the face of Jupiter, right. There is no separating the "mystery of the universe" from the "grandeur of man" who surveys it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

One More Leap!

NASA's Phoenix Mars lander is only just sending back images after its successful landing yesterday.  Enjoy this 90 second video of its majestic launch:

And this slick  3 minute animation of its voyage:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Gift of Music

I'm not exactly a luddite, but I'm no where near the cutting edge of technology either. I don't wear a watch. I've never owned a cell phone. I did once buy a Sony Walkman – sometime last century. I have a laptop, but riding the subway I read the newspaper and, until yesterday, I listened to ear plugs. A close friend just did me the favor of getting me an inexpensive mp3 player. On it are well over a hundred songs. The first five are some of my favorite hits of the last century. If you are not familiar with them, I recommend these inspiring classics:

Nina Simone Feeling Good
Etta James At Last
Dusty Springfield Son of a Preacher Man
Johnny Nash I Can See Clearly Now
Sam Cooke Change is Gonna Come

Friday, May 23, 2008

Not by Bread Alone

North Korean classical pianist Cheol Woong Kim, born in Pyongyang, gave his first performance in America as a free man in Manhattan on May 21st. He had escaped to South Korea in 2003. The New York Sun quotes him as saying "I did not leave North Korea because I was hungry for food, but because I was hungry for music... People do not leave because they know that they deserve food, but because they know that they deserve freedom."

Let us remember this and the 54,000 american servicemen who died in the Korean War as we celebrate Memorial Day weekend.

Cheol Woong Kim as he performs at the 2007 Melbourne Jazz Festival:

Walter M. Miller "A Canticle for Leibowitz"

Walter M. Miller Jr.s' magnum opus, constantly in print since its publication in 1960, this work is considered by many to be the most beautifully artistic work of science-fiction ever written. In three parts, Fiat Homo, Fiat Lux, Fiat Voluntas Tua, it traces the future history of man from a post-thermonuclear dark age, through the re-invention of electricity, and back to the brink of self destruction. Written as an explicitly Roman Catholic and pre-Vatican II novel, the Hugo Award-winning story revolves about a monastery named for the titular character, Saint Leibowitz, who never appears live. A basic knowledge of Latin and a willingness to look up a term every other chapter (or to reference the wonderful cheat-sheet of Latin phrases fromn Canticle at Wikipedia) and an ability to suspend any anti-Catholic bias will benefit the reader.

The work is one of worship for heroic effort, of principles upheld, and values passionately pursued. Miller's sense of history and discerning psychological skill lead to vistas and characterizations of Herbertian depth. With the wry dark wit of a Cold War culture that produced Strangelove and Planet of the Apes, irony wrestles with ecstasy. Leibowitz is a Jew, canonized by the Church for accidental reasons. With its span of centuries, another strand woven throughout this epic is the apocryphal Christian mythological persona, the Wandering Jew, condemned to walk the Earth 'til Christ return.

Miller's language is unsurpassingly poetic, his words evoking imagery of Randian clarity. I have read this book three times through. Miller was known primarily as a writer of short stories, often, as in Dark Benediction, of great skill and originality. He led a troubled later life, and never finished another novel. The posthumous, disillusioned and anti-climactic Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman was finished by a ghost writer. But this masterpiece has all the pathos and beauty of a great mediaeval cathedral, crucifix included.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Maxine Waters Quote of the Day

"And guess what this liberal will be all about? This liberal will be all about socializing . . . uh, uh . . . will be about basically taking over, and the government running all of your [oil] companies."

My thanks to Scott Cram for pointing out this loose cannon's threat to turn the United States into Norte Venezuela. Some people are only happy when they are threatening others: bullies, dictators, congresswomen from California...

Sunrise Earth

I have to admit that there is a little bit of the pyromaniac in me, at least in so far as it concerns watching fires, and especially volcanic eruptions and the flow of lava. I once told a friend that if there were a subscription channel that showed nothing but flowing lava for 24 hours a day without commentary (and preferably no sound whatsoever, except for the occasional hiss or splutter) I'd gladly pay the premium.

So far as I know, the Lava Channel does not yet exist. (I'm sure it will if we get nationwide door-to-door fiber optic before we get sharia or the next smallpox pandemic.) But there is a very life-positive channel called Animal Planet that comes with most basic pay-television packages. And while they don't yet offer the Lava Hour, they do have a delightfully pastoral hour-length series called Sunrise Earth. It currently runs weekdays at 7am Eastern. There are commercials interruptions. But there is no voice-over during the program itself. No soporific PBS style announcer droning on and on about how the death of the calf to feed the wolf is nature's way. And no dire warnings about how human encroachment is yadda yadda yadda... Just the babble of brooks, the sighing of the wind in the trees, and the occasional chatter of a bird. What a blessing!

The show is available on the regular channel or in high definition. I record it on my DVR and play it back at night as I type. If you have a widescreen TV you might try watching it with your coffee in the morning rather than the insincere treacle you'll get on one of the morning shows on the major networks. Just press the mute button your remote when the commercials come on. The series is apparently also available at the Discovery Store in various DVD editions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Introducing Radicals for Happiness

Welcome!  Radicals for Happiness is dedicated to serious and not-so-serious matters related to the philosophy of rational egoism. Its inspirations are such writers, thinkers, and artists as Christopher Hitchens, Camille Paglia, Carl Sagan, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell and G.K. Chesterton, as well as the philosophic thought of Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Epictetus, and Epicurus, among many others.

In our belief that each individual's happiness is his most sacred possession, we intend to focus particularly on matters which bring people joy, and when necessary on matters which pose a serious threat to human happiness.

Expect to find posts on current trends and ageless truths, works of art and the little joys of life, book, art, and movie reviews, essays on the human condition, and the occasional rant when events merit it. Overall, the point of this blog is to focus on the positive. Some people are only happy when they are unhappy. This blog hopes to change that.