Best Quote Challenge—On Freedom (June 29, 2008)


Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” This Friday is Independence Day. The Best Quote Challenge for this week—June 29 to July 5—is “On Freedom.”

Here are the rules:

  1. Submit your quotation no later than July 5, 2008.
  2. Submit no more than one quotation for this challenge.
  3. Identify the source for the quotation you submit.
  4. Feel free to quote yourself; that is, you’re welcome to submit a quote of your own invention.
  5. Use the “Leave a Comment” link below this post to enter your submission.
  6. All submissions will be screened and must be consistent with the general guidelines for posting comments at this blog. (See the “Comments Policy” page.)

On Sunday, July 6, a new Best Quote Challenge will be set at this blog. During the week of July 6-12, votes will be taken for the “Best Quote on Freedom” submitted this week. So be sure to come back to this post then to cast your vote using the “Leave a Comment” link below.

Advertisements

Poem in Need of a Title


Poetry

Is not for me.

I wrote “this little ditty,” as they say, earlier this year. Imagine the exertion!

I’m now taking suggestions for a title. I’ve had two nominations, so far: “The Poet,” and “Poet Wannabe.”

For the time being

And maybe in perpetuity,

“Poetry

Is not for me,”

Will have to idle

As “Poem In Need of a Title.”

The Stuff Growing on the Bark


Nick Hornby, a.k.a. Nick Jagger, was induced to read this volume of short stories by a friend, Johanna. Agreeing to do so, with the usual reluctance he reserves for books recommended by friends, Hornby found himself buying up first editions for his other friends. “It’s that sort of book,” he says, in The Polysyllabic Spree.

The book is How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. One year after reading Hornby’s endorsement—today, in fact—I sampled two of the stories. First I read “Stations of the Cross,” the last in the book, and not mentioned by Hornby. It reminded me of a film I saw recently, where the son of an Irish Catholic fireman sets out to convert the ailing son of the local rabbi. I could see immediately that Orringer can write. But she hadn’t convinced me yet that her writing was for me.

So I turned to the first story in the book, called “Pilgrims.” It was this story that had single-handedly compelled Hornby to grab up copies. This story, he promised, “makes you feel panicky and breathless.” That sounded like a rewarding experience, so I dipped into it. I didn’t feel panicky and breathless. Still, I could see why I might if I hadn’t been led to expect it.

For me, there are a couple of crucial tests of a good short story. These are utterly subjective. First, I have to be tempted, if not driven, to find more by the same author. Second, I have to believe that the story is one I would return to periodically. “Pilgrims” passes these tests. But I can’t say I “liked” the story. Like “Stations of the Cross,” “Pilgrims” has that artsy unfinished feel to it. This authorial penchant is fine with me, if it’s handled properly. I want to have some idea how my train of thought can proceed—not to say, should proceed—without the author’s assistance, when the sentences have run out. My limitation, I suppose.

Hornby generalizes in this way about Orringer’s ouvre: “while her themes are as solid and recognizable as oak trees, the stuff growing on the bark you’ve never seen before.” Now I’ve read two of her stories, I think maybe I know what he means. Maybe.

Quotations: The Intellectual Life


“. . . the history of thought is the laboratory of the thinker . . . .”

—Eugene R. Fairweather

“So I’m not educated. I learned my stuff. I’m a heart surgeon, sure, but I’m just a mechanic.”

—Character named Mel, in Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes./. . . . The history of my stupidity will not be written./For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.”

—From Czeslaw Milosz’s poem, “Account,” in New and Collected Poems, 1931-2001

“Most of us hate to think. Five minutes of thought can be more terrifying, more energy-draining than days and days of routine or habitual activity. Your mind is intrinsically thrifty, and prefers to do things the way it has done them before. It sees its primary business as establishing effective channels for action, and resists altering a channel that has become established, to say nothing of constructing a new one that causes anxiety.”

—Kenneth Atchity, A Writer’s Time

“I’m a stenographer of my mind.”

—Allen Ginsberg, poet (1926-1997)

“Your best thought is imbedded [sic] in chunks of your worst thought.”

—Mark Levy, Accidental Genius

“Friends of the human race and of what is holiest to it! Accept what appears to you most worthy of belief after careful and sincere examination, whether of facts or rational grounds; only do not dispute that prerogative of reason which makes it the highest good on earth, the prerogative of being the final touchstone of truth.”

—Immanuel Kant, “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?”

“Most evidently, we cannot give up on the principle of non-contradiction, bold but wayward logicians notwithstanding.”

—Sandra Menssen and Thomas D. Sullivan, The Agnostic Inquirer: Revelation from a Philosophical Standpoint

Dedication to Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow


Here is the unabridged dedication Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) wrote for his book The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (published 1886):

THE VERY DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED

FRIEND

OF MY PROSPEROUS AND EVIL DAYS—

TO THE FRIEND

WHO, THOUGH, IN THE EARLY STAGES OF OUR ACQUAINT-

ANCESHIP, DID OFTTIMES DISAGREE WITH ME, HAS

SINCE BECOME TO BE MY VERY WARMEST

COMRADE—

TO THE FRIEND

WHO, HOWEVER, OFTEN I MAY PUT HIM OUT, NEVER (NOW)

UPSETS ME IN REVENGE—

TO THE FRIEND

WHO, TREATED WITH MARKED COOLNESS BY ALL THE FEMALE

MEMBERS OF MY HOUSEHOLD, AND REGARDED WITH

SUSPICION BY MY VERY DOG, NEVERTHELESS,

SEEMS DAY BY DAY TO BE MORE DRAWN

BY ME, AND IN RETURN, TO MORE

AND MORE IMPREGNATE ME

WITH THE ODOR OF HIS

FRIENDSHIP—

TO THE FRIEND

WHO NEVER TELLS ME OF MY FAULTS, NEVER WANTS TO

BORROW MONEY, AND NEVER TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF—

TO THE COMPANION

OF MY IDLE HOURS, THE SOOTHER OF MY SORROWS,

THE CONFIDANT OF MY JOYS AND HOPES—

MY OLDEST AND STRONGEST

PIPE,

THIS LITTLE VOLUME

IS

GRATEFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY

DEDICATED

Drill Now, or Pay More Later


I used to wonder why the United States didn’t work vigorously to free itself from dependence on “foreign oil.” It seemed like a good idea to me “back then”—during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Popular opinion was that there wasn’t much oil to be found outside the OPEC region. After all, “OPEC” is the acronym for “the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.” And who were the petroleum exporting countries? The original five members of OPEC were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, and . . . Venezuela.

Do you see a pattern here? Four of these countries were and are dominant Middle East players. Venezuela, it should be recalled, is the heavy in South America, led today by Hugo Chavez—no friend to the United States. And Venezuela took the initiative originally to establish OPEC, by approaching the just-mentioned nations of the Middle East.

There are now thirteen member states in OPEC. Guess who’s not on the list? The United States. And why not? Because the United States does not export oil. On the contrary, for decades, the United States has been the chief importer of oil.

Why doesn’t the United States export oil? Because it doesn’t have enough oil to export. It doesn’t even have enough oil to meet its own demand. That makes us dependent on foreign oil. And that’s reason enough for us to be entangled in Middle Eastern politics and subject to the whims of blame-America-first terrorists born and bred in the Middle East.

At the outset of the war in Iraq, there was loud speculation that President Bush was making a grab for Iraqi oil. This speculation was interlarded with denouncements of the merit of such a motive.

And where do we find ourselves today? Gas at the pump where I live in southern California is very near the $5 mark, and the price of oil has just topped $140 a barrel, a new high. Market watchers are hyper-ventilating this afternoon. At CNBC, Maria Bartiromo is high on adrenalin as she reports the news.

What’s wrong with this picture? The United States has waited too long to tap its own oil resources. Do we have oil? Yes. And, no. We don’t have much oil for use, much less for export. But there’s oil out there, on the continental shelf and in ANWR. And it’s been there throughout our dependence on oil. And there’s lots of it. Enough there for us to tell OPEC we don’t need them anymore.

Imagine what it would mean geopolitically if we ended our dependence on oil in the Middle East. Setting aside the legitimate interest we have in protecting Israel, we might be able to sustain a responsible form of “protectionism.” As long as our economy runs on oil, we’ll continue to be enmeshed in worldwide conflicts that are fueled by oil dependence.

What are the primary objections to drilling the oil resources we have?

First, we’re being told that “we can’t drill our way out of the current crisis.” One element in this rhetoric is right: we are in crisis. The crisis goes deeper than the prospect of paying $5 and more per gallon of gasoline.
But that prospect is the sort of crisis that has Americans paying more than the usual degree of attention to political maneuvering in Congress and among the presumptive nominees for President, Barack Obama and John McCain.

Obama is the most visible opponent of drilling. He talks about developing alternative forms of energy. But that won’t address the crisis, either. Why? Because the crisis is at the pump. And most of us are stuck with pumping gas for the foreseeable future. It will take a few years to begin extracting crude oil from the ground. Will it take longer than the development of alternative energy forms? Almost certainly not.

Any major delays to drilling going forward will be due to obstructionist politics, mostly on the part of Democrats, and chiefly on the part of Barack Obama, if elected President. Obama could not now reverse his view about the wisdom of drilling without appearing to be the worst kind of flip-flopper. So he’s backed himself into a corner. What’s in the economic interests of the country is at odds with Obama’s interest in becoming President. Whose interests will command his attention? You know the answer. So ask yourself if that’s the sort of person you want to have as President.

What most Americans want is short-term relief at the pump and a long-term solution to our energy crisis. If the establishment of a drilling infrastructure—directed at the most promising locations off-shore and in ANWR—were to begin in earnest by the end of this year or early next year, we wouldn’t have to wait for the oil to make it to the corner gas station for prices to come down. The prospect of such a radical change in supply and demand within three to five years would place immediate pressure on current suppliers (i.e., OPEC) to do something about prices. John McCain has started making this point, and he’s right. How does Obama respond to that? If Americans elect John McCain, who favors drilling, OPEC will get the message before the end of the year. We’re only about four months away from sending that message.

Second, there’s the green-jerk reaction to drilling. “Drilling offshore and in ANWR is going to be environmentally catastrophic.” Show me the evidence.

Opponents of offshore drilling exploit vernacular associations with the word “offshore,” as if America’s beaches will be cluttered with unsightly oil rigs. What’s the truth? Deep-water oil and gas platforms will be so far offshore that they couldn’t be seen from our beaches. We’re talking fifty to two hundred miles offshore. I could kayak the entire California shoreline and not be able to plot a single oil drilling site offshore. It would take an hour or longer to travel by helicopter to a typical offshore platform.

ANWR is another acronym (pronounced “Anwar”), short for “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” It’s located in the extreme northeastern region of Alaska and encompasses some 19 million acres. It includes what is literally the most remote territory in the United States. A portion of the region contains rich sources of petroleum. In contention is the effect drilling there would have on the habitat of diverse forms of animal life. ANWR is remarkable for its inclusion of six distinct biozones. But the petroleum rich subsection of ANWR is part of a 1.5 million acre extension of the refuge made in 1980. The move appears to have been as much an effort to protect this resource for possible future drilling as it was for any other environmental objective.

A very small percent, then, of ANWR is even considered attractive for oil-production purposes. And yet the resource is thought to be incredibly rich. And though approval by Congress is required to begin drilling in that area, it has, from the beginning, been regarded a potential source of oil production to be used under the right conditions.

Americans need to be educated about the potential for oil production in ANWR, the politics surrounding the possible use of this resource, and alternatives to drilling in ANWR. For the time-being, offshore drilling appears to be more imminent than drilling in ANWR. This is in part due to political vicissitudes. But off-shore production may also be more cost-effective. In any case, ANWR need not be the bone of contention that it has been, with such impressive resources closer to hand, both geographically and politically.

The emerging market demand for oil worldwide could position the United States to be a major exporter of oil. This demand will be so substantial by 2030 that prices for a barrel of oil could inflate to unimaginable levels. But by then, the United States could be online as a major oil producing country.

Meanwhile, by all means, we should be heavily invested in research and development for alternative forms of energy. And Americans should become better informed about the affordability, safety, and cleanliness of nuclear energy.

Sources for Film Discussion Guides


As I learn of online sources posting discussion guides for specific films, I’ll list them here.

Here are sites that feature movie guides:

Residence Life Cinema has created film clips to help college and university students manage residence life. One section of the site is titled Movie Discussion Guides, where discussion guides are organized into categories of general interest to students. On this page there’s also a link to a complete alphabetical list of films for which there are discussion guides. To download discussion guides in PDF format, you have to have an account with Residence Life Cinema.

teach with movies is another site that specializes in the use of film to educate. Access to discussion guides requires a subscription that costs $11.95 per year (as of August 2008). But one page—here—that is accessible for free lists excellent questions for exploring ethical issues in almost any film.

Movie Learning Guides provides discussion guides for parents and teachers, focusing on character development.

%d bloggers like this: