Date: Thu, 04 Dec 1997 20:13:09 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
It's been a while since I posted to Humanist bits of this and that gleaned
from my two favourite newsprint sources, the Guardian Online and the Times
Literary Supplement, but then a house-move and its aftermath do tend to
absorb one's attention. My daughter could tell you about the bed I promised
to build her and have still not finished, but she won't, and I could
describe how for lack of shelving, for which materials have yet to be
scouted out, my papers are mostly in chaotic piles all over the floor, and
so on. I have, however, convinced myself that the light at the end of the
proverbial tunnel, which dims away by 4 p.m. these days, is slowly getting
closer and so take time to see what morsels can be gathered from the two
publications, both newly read this evening.
(1) Christopher Hitchens, "With a deafening report", reviewing James H.
Jones, Alfred C Kinsey: A public/private life (TLS 4940 5 December 1997),
notes that Kinsey (the famous American sexologist whose wife was reported as
saying that "Since he took up sex, I never see him") "believed that, with
sufficient primitive accumulation of fact, truth would emerge. He believed
that factual accumulation should be rammed home, as it were, by exhausting
bouts of field work." I am reminded of a lecturer once who, hoping to get a
job by impressing her audience, recounted a truly impressive collecting of
all 11,564 instances in Greek literature of the phenomenon she was studying.
I don't think anyone doubted that she had actually examined all 11,564
cases. But what this accumulation had given her was, as it were, the hybris
of being in command of a huge tank, which she could drive wherever she
wished, over gardens, houses, public squares, whatever. In the end she drove
it, alas, into the nearby sea, where she drowned. Makes one think about our
craft, does it not? About the bold salutory application of reason and
interpretation to the masses of evidence our machine can deliver to us. In
this light, it would seem a good idea to read Thomas Nagel's latest, The
Last Word, reviewed by Barry Stroud in that same issue of the TLS.
(2) Joanna Bawa, "50 years of the transistor" (Guardian Online for 4
December), on the invention made about the time that Father Busa got started
with what became the Index Thomisticus and Vannevar Bush wrote "As We May
Think". The online version of this article omits the photos, alas, including
the useful one showing the progression of vacuum tube to microchip. Some
informed glances into the near future too.
(3) Jim McClellan, "Ode to the joystick", on the book Joystick Nation by J.
C. Herz, a serious study of video games, their history and cultural importance.
(4) Kevin Wilson, "From tags to riches", on XML (the TEI is not mentioned
but should be!). Tim Bray is quoted at length and pictured too.
(5) Jack Schofield, "Netwatch", points to
-- <http://www.audionet.com/twa8080/>, the CIA Simulation of the Crash
of TWA Flight 800, presenting the findings of the FBI, in RealPlayer format.
Works fine at this distance.
-- <http://www.punpunpun.com/>, site of The International Save the Pun
Foundation; the Foundation publishes a newsletter, The Pundit....
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>