Monday, 20 November 2017

108 - Boulanger/Pope/Singer

Short Story:
Made for Two, by Daniel Boulanger. I wouldn't even call this a short story -- it's just a slice of life, an anecdote. Faintly interesting, like the man I met on the bus the other day.

Solitude, by Alexander Pope
A poem about contentment of life that supplies everything and that needs no recognition to be valuable.

Are We Ready for a Morality Pill? by Peter Singer, 2012
This essay was prompted by the incident in 2011, when a two-year-old girl in China was run over by a truck and a dozen or more motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians walked past her without attempting to help. If we could make a morality pill that would make people help others should we make it? Would we take it?

Sunday, 19 November 2017

107 - Saumont/Whitman/Singer

Short story:
Annie Saumont: Bretagne: You should have changed at Dol, 2000
A strange story, written in an odd, staccato fashion. A girl in a train sees visions of passengers in the same train in 1940, just before it was blown to bits.

Walt Whitman: I sing the body electric (plus half a dozen others), 1855
I read a half dozen other poems before I read this one, and none of them connected with me in any way. This one did. It was confronting when he described seeing the bodies of the slaves being auctioned off at his local slave market, as it seems so foreign to us now, it feels like it must have been thousands of years ago, but of course is only a few decades longer than a human lifetime ago. Whitman seems so modern, and yet he knew slavery. It makes it more real. I also appreciate in this and other poems he seems not to be a misogynist.

Peter Singer: God and suffering: again (2008) and Godless morality (2006)
I like the twist on the suffering argument -- in the suffering of animals, and the Christian he's debating has no answer. The morality argument never made any sense to me, and he easily destroys it.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

106 - Bradbury/Whitman/Singer

Short Story:

Ray Bradbury: All Summer in a Day.
I found this a very sad tale of life on Venus, and the one day every seven years when it doesn't rain. The one shy girl who remembers sunshine is set upon and locked in a cupboard so she misses the event.

Walt Whitman:  To You (1881)
A reminder that we are not our 'mockeries'; we all have potential, and the world is at our feet, but from the first line we realize we are not achieving what we are capable of:
Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams...

Peter Singer: Does Anything Matter? (2011)
A short review of Derek Partitt's book On What Matters, which I haven't read. I couldn't quite follow the argument, which seemed loaded towards defending (absolutely defensible, I think) environmental concerns.

Friday, 17 November 2017

105 - Asimov/Whitman/Singer

Short Story:
Isaac Asimov: Star Light.
Another murder story, but this time of a space traveller who kills to get access to millions, only to find he has space-jumped through hyperspace to the worst place he could have imagined.

Walt Whitman: I Sit and Look Out (1860)
Another gut wrencher:

'All these -- all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.'

Peter Singer: The value of a pale blue dot (2009)
The title refers to the picture Voyager took of Earth from around 6 billion kilometres away, at the request of Carl Sagan. Here it is:
Earth is the tiny speck about half-way down the brown band (caused by diffraction by the camera's optics) on the right. (

Singer's argument is basically that we need to confront the truth of our insignificance in order to achieve the greatness of which we're capable.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

104 - Asimov/Whitman/James

Short story
Isaac Asimov: The Dust of Death
A murder mystery cleverly linking Titan, platinum black, hydrogen and oxygen, and ridding the world of a credit stealer.

Walt Whitman: The Wound Dresser
Written in 1865, it's hard to imagine the horrors of 19th century warfare, but this poem about a nurse (I assume) dressing wounds of the soldiers brings the horrors to life. I can see it all, smell the blood. Horrifying.

Clive James: Not Drowning but Waving
This essay, published in the New Yorker in 1987 celebrates the poetry of Stevie Smith. I'm sorry to say I'd never heard of her, but I wish I had, and will seek her out.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

103 - Asimov/Whitman/Raimundus

Short story
Isaac Asimov: A Loint of Paw.  A short story about how time travel will affect the statute of limitations (or will it?). Interesting and with the last line a pun just as likely to illicit a groan as is the title! Fun.

Walt Whitman. The Artilleryman's Vision. A veteran awakens in the night and is haunted by the memories of the war. A chilling poem:

(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red I heed not, some to the rear are hobbling.)

It may be stretching it to call this an essay, but John Cabot's Discovery of North America (1497) is a collection of letters that is definitely worth reading. He was commissioned by King Henry VII to explore (looking for a route to China, I think), and discovered North America (probably making landfall in what is now Canada). He found a few signs of inhabitants, including a needle for making nets and snares for catching animals, but apparently made no contact.

Starting again

This was such a great challenge and I was learning so much that I've decided to start again. I had a rough time for a long while after I first began this challenge, including caring for my mother and coping with her subsequent death, but things have settled now and I'm ready for the challenge again. Bring it on!

I will also gradually enter all the days I kept records of in my notebook during the period I stopped blogging here, and will backdate them so the posts will be in order.