R.I.P. Paul Ricoeur, 92

//mots.extraits.free.fr/paul_ricoeur1.jpg' cannot be displayed]Wide-Ranging French Philosopher Is Dead: “Dr. Ricoeur’s work concerned what he called ‘the phenomenon of human life,’ and ranged over an almost impossibly vast spectrum of human experience. He wrote on myths and symbols; language and cognition; structuralism and psychoanalysis; religion and aesthetics; ethics and the nature of evil; theories of literature and theories of law.

These diverse subjects informed his lifelong study of ‘philosophical anthropology,’ an exploration of the forces that underpin human action and human suffering.” (New York Times )

Bush’s war comes home

“President Bush’s drive for absolute power has momentarily stalled. In a single coup, he planned to take over all the institutions of government. By crushing the traditions of the Senate he would pack the courts, especially the supreme court, with lockstep ideologues. Sheer force would prevail. But just as his blitzkrieg reached the outskirts of his objective, he was struck by a mutiny. Within the span of 24 hours he lost control not only of the Senate but temporarily of the House of Representatives, which was supposed to be regimented by unquestioned loyalty. Now he prepares to launch a counterattack – against the dissident elements of his own party.” — good ol’ Sidney Blumenthal (Guardian.UK)


“I was once offered a free psychic reading by someone who described herself as a ‘mystic’. We had met during a television debate and afterwards one of her satisfied customers told me of her amazing talent and assured me that a single visit would be enough to convince me of her abilities.

Accepting the offer, I made an appointment and visited the psychic at her home in Nottingham. I was ushered into a small room that was suitably festooned with mystical artifacts and adorned with books on tarot cards and astrology. During the reading my psychic used such ancient arts as numerology, astrology, palmistry, tarot cards and rune stones and even found hidden meaning in the colour of my tie. I remember that, amongst other things, she told me I was an only child and that I had four children the eldest of which was a boy. Both these statements are certainly true.

I can see how this might make an impact on many of her clients: the build up was superb and the ambience just right. But I was, and still remain, utterly unimpressed. The reason for my indifference was that I had studied many such psychic readings and understood how and why they worked.” — Tony Youens (Royal Institute of Philosophy)

Some Viagra users report blindness

“Pfizer on Friday acknowledged rare cases of blindness in men taking its impotence drug Viagra and said it is in talks with U.S. regulators to change the drug’s label.” (Reuters)

I know this is nothing to laugh about, but I was thinking that these must be the men who are using the Viagra for autoerotic activities, right? Maybe they are the men whose women partners take the pill:

Can taking the pill dull a woman’s desire forever? “Oral contraceptives may free a woman to have sex without fear of getting pregnant, but they could also extinguish her desire.

The pill has been associated with many side effects, including blood clots, migraines and weight gain. Perhaps least talked about is its tendency to dull libido by decreasing testosterone levels.” (New Scientist)

Listening to CDs with Joshua Redman

Playing the Diplomatic Changes: “Since at least 1996, when he released ‘Freedom in the Groove,’ Mr. Redman, now 36, has been advancing a theory of why jazz can and should share a space with pop. It has to do with sincerity as much as form: acknowledging what musicians truly listen to as they grow up and develop, as much as figuring out a way to make jazz phrasing fit over backbeats. Ultimately, he is playing what he likes and trying to make jazz records that in a gingerly way reflect advances in pop.” (New York Times )

I love the Times’ ‘Listening to CDs With…’ pieces. I would usually rather hear what a musician thinks of other music than a critic. (It might be the case that most critics would share that opinion…)

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‘No Kidding’ Dept.

U.S. ‘Thumbs Its Nose’ at Rights, Amnesty Says: “In coordinated broadsides from London and Washington, Amnesty International accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of condoning ‘atrocious’ human rights violations, thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging abuse by other nations.” (New York Times )


Sanctity of All Life??

With the Gloves Off: “A photo of President Bush gingerly holding a month-old baby was on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times. Mr. Bush is in the habit of telling us how precious he thinks life is, all life.

The story was about legislation concerning embryonic stem cell research, and it included a comment from Tom DeLay urging Americans to reject ‘the treacherous notion that while all human lives are sacred, some are more sacred than others.’

Ahh, pretty words. Now I wonder when Mr. Bush and Mr. DeLay will find the time to address – or rather, to denounce – the depraved ways in which the United States has dealt with so many of the thousands of people (many of them completely innocent) who have been swept up in the so-called war on terror.

People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to ‘disappear’ in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships.” — Bob Herbert (New York Times op-ed)


Just Shut it Down

“I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay open than if we shut it down.” — Thomas Friedman (New York Times op-ed)

Listen to My Wife

“In a world where most people are struggling, the search for ‘balance’ in high-powered jobs has to be counted a luxury. Still, there is something telling (if not downright dysfunctional) when a society’s most talented people feel they have to sacrifice the meaningful relationships every human craves as the price of exercising their talent.

Nowhere is there a greater gulf between the frustration people feel over a dilemma central to their lives and their equally powerful sense that there’s nothing to be done. As a result, talented people throw up their hands. Women are ‘opting out’ after deciding that professional success isn’t worth the price. Ambitious folks of both sexes ‘do what they have to,’ sure there is no other way. That’s just life.

My unreasonable wife rejects this choice. If the most interesting and powerful jobs are too consuming, Jody says, then why don’t we re-engineer these jobs – and the firms and the culture that sustain them – to make possible the blend of love and work that everyone knows is the true gauge of ‘success’? As scholars have asked, why should we be the only elites in human history that don’t set things up to get what we want?” — Matt Miller (New York Times op-ed)

While I agree, I also question the premise that the ‘talented’ people — the term he repeatedly uses — are confined to those who have made the devil’s bargain he posits, or that the thoughtful and caring among us opting out of the high-powered jobs is necessarily a tragedy we should restructure society to strive to prevent.

Das Keyboard

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Show Your Disdain for Qwerty: “In the programming world, only the strong survive. But what about the smug? A new product, Das Keyboard, seems to have both in mind. It’s a regular 104-key keyboard – except that nothing is printed on the keys.

‘It’s really for geeks,’ said Daniel Guermeur, the creator. ‘They can already touch-type without looking. They feel a little bit superior. The keyboard is a statement.'” (New York Times )

Other Perils of Overweight

“…After several years in which the surgery was seen as the last best hope by many obese people, a growing array of scientific data shows that the risks are greater than patients realized. One new study reported that almost one in 5 patients had complications after surgery. For one in 20 patients, the complications were serious, including heart attacks and strokes. Another recent study said the mortality rate for the most common type of bariatric surgery, gastric bypass, was one in 200 – a rate higher than for coronary angioplasty, which opens blocked heart vessels.” (New York Times )


Study Tying Longer Life to Extra Pounds Draws Fire

“The new federal study suggesting that people tend to live longer if they are slightly overweight was challenged yesterday by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Cancer Society as well as a heart disease researcher.

But authors of the federal research said in interviews that they stood by their conclusions and that the criticisms were based on misrepresentations of what they had done.” (New York Times )