Wednesday, 27 June 2007

It's all piling up on me

There is no friend so faithful as insomnia. Insomnia will stay up with you in the wee small hours, quietly counseling you that all is not well with the world, warning you of all the dangers and perils in the days to come, and reminding you of all the embarrassing and clumsy words you spoke in the days gone by. Insomnia never lets you down, whenever you really need a good night's sleep, the day before an important interview for example, insomnia will be there for you.

So last night, insomnia and I explored together the injustice of a particularly annoying dispute I have with a certain bureaucracy, helped me to consider a whole range of problems that I might experience with my new job, and even opened up to me whole avenue of insoluble worry: worrying about insomnia itself.

Fortunately, today, I have no work to go to, and no urgent studying to perform. I have a "To Do" list as long as, well, as long as my middle finger -- but the writing's quite small, honest. One of the most venerable items on said list is "file away papers". Now I have to admit -- and this may be strange coming from a librarian, that I don't do filing. Throughout my career, I've generally applied a variation of a slash and burn method. Every time the pile gets over about four foot, I change job. Then I either pile it all into a bin bag and take it home on the last day or, shamefully, leave it as a welcome gift to my successor.

I'm looking now at the mountain of papers from my philosophy course (lecture notes, handouts, academic papers). I go and measure it -- about 37cm all told. Hmmm. I wonder if I could transfer to doing Cultural Studies.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

going back -- in time and place

Strangely there is a place in a public library service for an unfashionable librarian with outdated views (like believing that books are really quite "cool" and computers are a mere adjunct to the magnificence of the tome). An Inner City library, a nice big old-fashioned one with a reference library and "no mobile phones" signs, has kindly dragged me out of retirement to cover some summer vacancies. Starting in two weeks time. So I'll have to dust down my best cardigan (the green one with the leather elbow patches) and polish my bifocals and get ready for the exciting cut and thrust that is 21st century librarianship.

Ah, it's nice to feel wanted.

So I spend this weekend in the country, visiting friends in Devon. On the way down, I notice some young people on the train heading down to Glastonbury festival. What so struck me is how smart they looked in their clean clothes. How times change! When I went to Glastonbury back in the 19XX's, you could buy a ticket at the gate and then get yourself a plate of lentils, a gallon of scrumpy, an eighth of rocky (so hard you could break your teeth on it), a nice strong cup of mushroom tea, and still have change of a ten bob note. I gather that the young people of today pay tens of pounds for the privilege of covering their designer jeans in mud and to watch popular beat comboes performing their latest video recordings. Not for me any more, alas. My idea of a good time is a small glass of Southern Comfort chased down with a hot chocolate and then bed.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The paradox of time (or why everytime you think you've finished one task, another five turn up together)

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water of rl, my agent phones me up to ask me if I'd consider a temporary summer job with a nearby public library service. Well, I couldn't say no really so they put forward my (frankly rather embarrassingly archaic) CV and to my mild surprise, their interviewing me on Friday morning.

I remember the days when student life meant a grant and if you got a summer job at all, it was picking fruit, while living in a cave in Southern Crete. But if this comes off, I'm going to spend the balmy months of June, July, August and September weeding the mills and boon, listening to kids earn their summer reading challenge rewards by reciting the entire story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and saying "shh!" a lot (I wish).

Still I need the money -- paraconsistent logic doesn't pay the rent (or rather it does and it doesn't pay the rent).

Anyway, I feel that I've let down my readers of late and so as soon as I've done a bit of research on the library service in question, cycled over to their new super-dooper libary (so I can tell them just how wonderful it is), and I think we're late spring cleaning this afternoon. When I've done this I will:

** List my own 8 tediouser tag facts (sorry AHH)
** Put a new post on the primary site of East of Dulwich (sorry MRV)
** Find a way of transferring and cleaning up the EOD files (Word 2000, yes seriously) on the MacBook so that I don't have to fire up my poor ailing PC every-time I want to update

(By the way if AHH is reading this I would like one more guess at who GP is but it's a bit of a long-shot...well at least as distant as his philosophical interest is in time (2,329 years by my reckoning.))

Thursday, 14 June 2007

the evening after the morning after

So that's it then. Exams over. No more philsophy until October. What am I going to do with myself (besides find a job and create more and more blogs about blogs about blogs, duplicating and reproducing themselves until they burst the seams of the blogosphere.

I was talking to a friend today about intoxication. Can you be intoxicated by ideas? Some people certainly seem to get drunk on participating in mass movements. Others become addicted to the numbing security of fundamentalism, bedoming dead to the agony of uncertainty by the injection of various forms of organised religion. Charismatic leaders in-spire their followers, injecting them with endorphin-releasing mental substances. And then there's always Spinoza, accused of atheism, yet "intoxicated by God".

I can't say I've ever tried such heady mixes. And yet, there is a buzz I get whether it's sipping a bit of Strawson or downing a full-on shot of something a little stronger, Wittgenstein perhaps... but no, I shouldn't. Not when I might be cycling later on.

Here's a nice bit of writing about the 'noblest and most loveable of the great philosophers' from

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Almost there, almost here

So, my first "exam" is tomorrow at six. The others follow on Tuesday and Wednesday at the same time. Then (thank the postulated one Substance) they'll all be over for another year. Obviously, there's not much point in planning to much revision after today...a long session on the day is not going to leave me any energy for an evening in an exam room. Since it is not just my body but also my mind, or as I would prefer, the mind/body, that is going to be present, there is no point in running the race before the off.

So, today I'll be looking at mind and body in Spinoza and Descartes (again) plus trying to get my head round (last chance!) the question of whether perceptual experiences have content. Don't worry (to those who read my blog(s) out of a misplaced sense of duty (although I'm really grateful, honest i am)), I am not going to meander around these fascinating topics online.

But rather, let me leave the last word (until Thursday at least) to one, Monsieur Descartes -- so often maligned by New Age-ers and their ilk, as the originator of all that is evil in the doctrine of mind-body dualism:

Nature also teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst and so on that I am not merely present in my body as a sailor is present in a ship, but that I am very closely joined and, as it were, intermingled with it , so that I and the body form a unit. If this were not so , I who am nothing but a thinking thing, would not feel pain when the body was hurt, but would perceive the damage purely by the intellect, just as a sailor perceives by sight if anything in his ship is broken. Similarly, when the body needed food or drink, I should have an explicit understanding of the fact, instead of having confused sensations of hunger and thirst. For the sensations of hunger, thirst, pain and so on are nothing but confused modes of thinking which arise from the union and, as it were, intermingling of the mind with the body.

(Sixth Meditation AT VII 80-1; CSM II 56)

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Wanted: 3 interesting facts about East of Dulwich

I'd never heard the expression until yesterday, when I managed to get myself "tagged" by Antarctic House Husband. What this means apparently is that I now have to list 8 "interesting" facts about myself.

I have never made any secret about the fact that East is a fictional character (as is, of course Mr Brad Eastman, despite his rather pathetic claims to the contrary). I (the character formally know as Mr Eastofeastofeastofdulwich) on the other hand am totally made up, a fabrication, a chimera, an unreliable narrator. This is fortunate. It saves me a great deal of trouble. I don't need to transcend the boundaries of the self for one simple reason. I have none.

But I digress. Mr HH has tagged not me but East of Dulwich and as such it has not taken up too much revision time to come up with 5 false facts about this character (sorry to those of you who like verisimilitude). However, I still have three remaining and in the interests of something called "Web Two Point Zero" I would like to invite you, as the sole "real" reader of the East of Dulwich series to contribute one of them. This is not a competition, as you (you know who you are) are the only contestant.

Here's a sample to get you going:

(1) I [East of Dulwich] was born closer to the end of the First World War than to the end of the War in Iraq (2003 - ).

Please leave your suggestions as comments to this post. Closing date 3am GMT, 13th June 2007. Abnormal competition rules apply

Monday, 4 June 2007

You're my favourite waste of time

Those who know me will know that I am the Master of Procrastination. But even by my own high-standards of time-wasting, I have surpassed myself. It is now one week to go until my first exam and I estimate that I have done approximately 7 hours of revision so far.

OK, these are just internal ones -- they even don't call them "exams" but rather "sessional tests". But all the same, I don't want to sit in that room next Monday thinking, "hmm this looks familiar but I've completely forgotten what 'immediate justification' means."

So having problems getting down to study - what do I do? I find something to do when I should be studying - blogging for example. So which came first? Like the chicken-egg dead heat, what would come out of a photo-finish between the avoidance activity and the mental block. In other words, am I not revising because I'm blogging or am I blogging because I am unable (or unwilling) to settle down to revision.

It doesn't help that the JobCentre closed down my claim for the heinous crime of going to Paris for 48 hours. If I'd gone to Belfast or Shetland - that would have been fine. But leaving Her Majesty's Dominion means that not only do I lose money for all three days when I breathed that filthy Gallic air but I have to complete all my forms, attend initial interviews, all adding up to about 3 hours of time which might have been better spent, er, looking for a job. Or revising. Or, for that matter...blogging.


Jim Pryor on the Regress Argument
Objections to Foundationalism
Ordinary Standards Skepticism

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Missing: one memory

I really can't remember when the local Sikh Gurdwara held a procession and festival in celebration of the anniversary of one of the great gurus.

I seem to be losing my memory. And although I went down to Barry Road and watched these people joyfully assert their faith, even in punishing rain, I just can't find the record, written in the logbook of my mind as to when this happened.

Please click on the following video reconstruction...

Sikh Festival in Lordship Lane

...if this has jogged your memory, maybe you could help me with mine.

(By the way, if you've seen a lost youth prowling the streets of South London, it's probably mine.)