Tuesday, 11 September 2018

September .......

The summer has officially gone and the rain has begun, however as yet, not much of it ...... thankfully.  In some ways I'm glad to see its passing and in others, it leaves me slightly melancholic.

Because of the amount that I was working, my garden this year was rather pitiful with only some garlic (which is small because I didn't cut off the scapes in time), kale, herbs and some volunteer potatoes, although my fig tree had a fabulous crop of about 60 King Kadota figs and my quince tree, instead of its usual 6-8 quince has about 20-25. If you've never tried quince it's a much undervalued fruit because you need to cook it to eat it, but it has a wonderful flavour.  Click on this link for a recipe for Apple Quince Crisp if you want to give it a try.  You won't be disappointed.

My construction job is nearly completed which leaves me with a sad yet joyful feeling as well.  I must say that I made sure that I enjoyed every minute of it and made the most of it, but all good things must end and this too, as others.  Life has brought many changes lately and I'm not quite certain where this one will lead.  I'm sure I will find out all in good time.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

My reading this year has suffered more than in the whole entirety of my life.  I've finished 2 books ..... can you believe it?  TWO!  But I've begun many more however I haven't been able to get traction.  With the changes and busyness and confusion, I've remained reasonably unfocused yet, with some extra time lately, I've managed to start and keep on track with two reads: Bleak House and New York by Edward Rutherford.  I feel like I'm going to like this particular Dickens.  I also plan to add C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves and The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe.  I've seen Udolpho mentioned a number of times on blogs lately, so I thought I would join the trend.  I think a silly gothic romance might be just the thing I need right now.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

I also just created an Instagram account for Classical Carousel.  I have Instagram for my food blog but I hadn't thought of it for my book blog.  But fortunately I'm now signed up. Please find me and follow me for a more day-to-day, week-to-week update of my reading adventures!

So keeping this short, I will sign off and hope for you all a wonderful September!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Great Ideas ~ The Darwinian Theory of Man's Origin

From How Different Are Humans? we move to the Darwinian Theory of Man, the argument and evidence for his origin and nature.  While Darwin did not present his theory until his second book, The Descent of Man, he relied on his first book, Origin of Species for the truths of his theory.

This is a tough chapter with complex ideas so bear with me.  I'm going to use many of Adler's quotes. Darwin's argument in The Descent of Man is structured as follows:
  1. man differs only in degree from other animals;
  2. man's origin can be like that of other species;
  3. if man's origin were like that of other species, then missing links must have existed and must be discovered.
His whole argument is dependent on this first proposal being true; there can be no missing links if "there are no intermediate varieties possible between man and ape" and therefore no intermediate varieties are possible if man differs in "kind" from other animals, instead of by "degree".

Luckman protests that the scientific people he spoke with claim that there are only two positions: 1) a difference in degree only and; 2) that any differences in kind are always reducible to differences in degree.

Adler says that these people "beg the question" (begging the question is a logical fallacy when an argument's premises assume the truth of the conclusion instead of supporting it).  They are right if things only differ in degree but they cannot say that the difference between kind and degree is indiscernible.  They cannot say that a difference in kind is reducible or a difference in degree is large enough to make a divergence to kind.  They cannot say that the difference between kind and degree is unintelligible because the fact they recognize a difference exists, makes their argument unintelligible.

Adler goes on to answer questions and observations from letters he received that support his point.  Then he moves on to the question, "how does man differ from other animals with or without intermediates, intermediate varieties?"

Ape in the Orange Grove (1910)
Henri Rousseau
source Wikiart

The Main Point of Darwin's Theory

Both Hume and Kant noted that man differs from other animals by degree alone with intermediate varieties hundreds of years before Darwin.  So what did Darwin add to the insistence on difference in degree?  He took their point and expanded it to theorize about man's origin which brought about his theory of evolution.

There are three main points to his theory:
  1. from generation to generation organisms vary by hereditary
  2. there is an accumulation and persistence of extreme variety
  3. this persistence of extreme variety is accompanied by the extinction of intermediate varieties (if this was not so, there'd be no origin of species)

In Darwin's own words, "On the theory of natural selection the extinction of old forms and the production of new are intimately connected ... The only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is that the latter are known or believed to be connected at the present day with intermediate graduations. .... numberless intermediate varieties linking closley together all the species of the same group most assuredly have existed.  The number of intermediate and transitional links between all living and extant species must have been inconceivably great.  Yet, if this theory is true, they must have all existed at the same time on earth, linking together all the species in each group by graduation as fine as our existing varieties."

Adler states that if all the intermediate varieties co-existed at the same time today as the other species, there would be no species because "you would have a continuous connection of one with another."  Darwin claims the extinct fossil remains connecting man to ape exist, but simply haven't been discovered yet.  Under the assumption that man differs only in degree from apes, then the fossil remains do indeed form the missing link. Adler then lists man along with four anthropoid apes.

Man and Ape (2013)
Stanley Pinker
source Wikiart

Mental Differences Between Apes and Humans

The fossil remains are often reconstructions from a few bones, in particular the jawbone or skull bones and only point to a physical resemblance between man and ape. Luckman points out there are physiological and embryological resemblances as well and Adler agrees, but in addition to resemblances, there are enormous differences.  Yet he asks, scientifically how is ape separated from man?  The species of man is Homo sapien, therefore being sapient enough to have the intelligence to become wise and that is the main point; the mental difference is what is important, not the physical similarities or differences. The most important question remains; are the differences between man and ape kind or degree, and are they bridgeable?  If they are, the fossil remains can be missing links but if they are not, the fossil remains prove nothing.  Then, even if evolution can account for the origin of man's body, it cannot account for the origin of man's mind.

Luckman asks from a letter he received, why a highly rational species cannot have evolved fom a less-developed one.  Adler also points to another letter that asks why God cannot have created a rational man from a rationally undeveloped ape.  There is also a speculation of a new "ingredient" being added at the moment of man's origin, separating him from ape.

Allegory: boy lighting a candle in the company of an ape and a fool - Fábula (c. 1590)
El Greco
source Wikiart

Alder circles back to Darwin's argument which did not depend on the anatonomical or physiological resemblances, but man's mental development, knowing full well his argument would not stand if the two were not linked.  He quotes Darwin's words: "My object is to show that there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.  Animals possess the power of reasoning just as much as men do ..." He says they can speak abstractly, understand human speech, etc. He claims though if there is a difference mentally, it is only of degree.

Next time, Adler says he will share more of Darwin's reasoning, and add to it evidence that has been done since then in animal learning, speech and thought, which he says gives strong evidence for the evolutionary theory.  However, if this evidence was indisputable, the matter would have ended  But Adler says it can be disputed and he will present equally compelling evidence in the next discussion, The Answer to Darwin.

My apologies for the length of the post.  It helped me to try to get my head around Adler's ideas, and of course, Darwin's. I hope it didn't put the rest of you to sleep! :-)

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Books to Pull You Out of A Reading Slump

Well, I'm doing a little more reading lately but haven't finished anything to post, so I thought I would participate in this week's Top Ten Tuesday to keep some sort of momentum on this blog.

I don't often get into a complete reading slump.  If I get bored with a genre, I will sometimes switch to another.  But I can IMAGINE the books I would chose if I actually did experience a full-on slump (perish the thought). So here they are:

1.  I Capture the Castle: what a funny, whimsical read.  Definitely a book to pull you in and lull you into an unique yet engaging story.

2.  Swallows and Amazons:  this is a children's book but is sooo enjoyable to read as an adult.  Summer vacation, sailing, camping, and even a pirate.  What could be more fun to read?

3.  Pride and Prejudice:  one of my favourites.  I love the conflict that turns into harmony.  Definitely a book to grab your imagination, especially if you are interested in human nature.

4.  Three Men in a Boat:  get prepared to laugh uproariously.  Jerome outdoes himself with this story of three bachelors and their dog during their boating trip along the River Thames.

5.  Finn Family Moomintroll:  cute white hippo-like creatures, a beautiful Snork Maiden, and a magic hat.  What could tickle your imagination more than that?

6.  The Moonstone:  a crime is committed in an English country house .... a stolen diamond.  Where is the jewel and who is the thief?  Collins weaves a masterful piece of detective fiction.

7.  Jane Eyre: a little dark, nevertheless the story is so compelling and the life lessons so important (not the mention the romance) that it is one I just have to include!

8.  To Kill A Mockingbird:  A fabulous book.  Just read it!

9.  The Hobbit: an adventure shared with friends.  Tolkien's writing is magic.

10.  And finally ...... Henrietta's War: humorous vignettes from a small Devonshire village during WWII set in epistolary form.  It gives a light-hearted view of a very serious subject yet does so with insight and thoughtfulness.

As I finish my list, I realize how difficult this question is to answer and how personal this list would be for everyone.  And it also depends WHY you are in a reading slump.  Have you been reading tomes and need something lighter?  Or have you been reading fluff and need your mind challenged?  Or have you been over-reading and simply need a break?

My problem lately is that I have so much going on and feel so scattered that my reading reflects my life; I pick up a book, read a bit, then pick up another book, read a bit, etc.  If anyone has a remedy for this problem, I'm all ears!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

2018 Update ... and July

Wild Rose
Hello faithful readers!  No, I have not dropped off the face of the earth and all is not lost, especially this blog.  But I've been having some rather challenging times lately, which has translated into very little time to pursue reading or my blog.  I'm hoping things will change for the better in the last half of the year but that is still yet to see.  Now for a tiny update on my crazy life.

I believe my last monthly post was February and sadly, I never got to March.  On the first of that month, my daughter was in a serious car accident which fortunately all involved escaped with minor injuries.  We were all thankful but nevertheless such an unexpected and grave incident makes you re-evaluate many things.  I've truly been trying to focus my time on what is worthwhile and to spend less with busy-making pursuits.  My new focus hasn't translated yet into my reading, but I've been developing family ties and friendships in a way that is truly meaningful and very satisfying.

Gelato made from the freshest ingredients
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
In another unique and unexpected personal challenge, I altered my usual bookkeeping career into a construction one.  What was supposed to be only help with cleaning up, has turned into an education and foray into framing, woodwork, concrete (jackhammering), insulation, electrical, drywall, painting, and just lately, assisting in the install of a tongue-and-groove fir vaulted ceiling.  It's been quite a stretch for me waaaaayy out of my comfort zone, but I've loved almost every minute of it.  I'll be very sad when it's over which should be in the next month or so.  But all good things must end and I have many great memories and many new skills.  I'll always be grateful for the opportunity and for many of the wonderfully skilled workers that have taken the time to tutor me.

The Canada Cup International Softball tournament will once again take up more time in mid-July and I am once again head scorekeeper.  My job has kept me from devoting as much attention to it as I would have liked but I have an assistant this year who has relieved me of some of the duties.

A creative Easter table by my sister-in-law
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
As for reading, I've been dismally slow, but I do have some books on-the-go and a few that I plan to start in summer, so I'll list them here:

  1. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White
  2. Beginning to Pray – Anthony Bloom
  3. 12 Rules for Life – Jordan B. Peterson
  4. City of God – Augustine
  5. Testament of Youth – Vera Brittain
  6. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  7. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

I make no promises except to keep plodding along.  I'm almost finished book #1 and have started a review so I do plan to have at least one more post for July.

In any case, I do hope I have some readers left and those who are, thanks for your patience as I navigate the turbulent and lately reading-less waters of life!

Pansies for a very cool start to summer!
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Monday, 5 March 2018

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books That I Could Read Forever

Yes, I'm aware that it's not Tuesday.  But since I've been sooo lacking in reading time lately AND so busy with working and such, I thought when I had a moment I'd participate in the last Top Ten Tuesday and that moment came TODAY!  This theme is so interesting and I'm excited to pick my top ten ...

What would happen if I was being sent to a deserted tropical island by myself and I could only chose ten books to take with me?  Which ones would I choose?  Right now, I'm not entirely certain, so let's find out!

1.  The Bible

2.  The Iliad

3.  The Divine Comedy

4.  Jane Eyre

5.  The Brothers Karamazov

6.  Paradise Lost

7.  Hamlet

8.  War and Peace

9.  Metamorphoses

10.  Montaigne's Essays

The last choice I'm not entirely sure about.  While I love reading Montaigne and his thought process, I don't always necessarily appreciate his viewpoints.  And C.S. Lewis would have to be in there somewhere too.  Sigh!  So hard to choose just ten!

Upon review, most of my choices seem rather angsty, with death and war and heavy philosophy (don't we love Dostoyevsky?).  I think I need to do another list with lighter reads to take to my tropical island.   So this post will be continued .......

Monday, 12 February 2018

February ~ Where Has The Time Gone?

Is it February already?  Yikes, I would have sworn it was just Christmas last week. January has rushed by at a startling pace and I'm not quite sure where I spent my time, but let's see if I can gather my thoughts and give a clear picture .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
A chilly but refreshing walk

Well first, let's start with something boring.  After keeping off most of my weight lost from being on Weight Watchers for over a year, I gained back 10 pounds.  I'm not quite sure how I did it because I wouldn't say I indulged over Christmas, but I did do a smoothie challenge for my food blog in January and I think that's the culprit.  Yes, smoothies are supposed to be healthy, but they are high in natural sugar and therefore calories.  So back to WeightWatchers we go.  Actually I've already lost 3 pounds, so I'm not worried but it was kind of shocking after such good maintaining.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
Dare to be Different!

I've started downhill skiing lessons and had my first one a week and a half ago.  I wasn't thrilled with it because the instructor had us walk up a hill and snowplow down for an hour.  Yes, an hour.  Boring!  I wanted to go!  So at the end of the lesson I grabbed another lady and we headed up to a run.  Happily we both made it down easily but it did make me realized that I need to get into better shape.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

As for reading ........... and I will sound like a broken record here ........... I'm still trying to get through City of God, Crime and Punishment, Dead Souls, The Republic and Murder in the Catherdal (which, thankfully, is so short that it should take no time at all). Honestly, I read so little in January that it's shameful.  So putting January behind ....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
One of my favourite photos .... so far ....

In February, I need to keep plugging along with the above.  I was thinking of adding Henry James' The Ambassadors, as one of my Goodreads groups is reading it, but I started it and am not that enamoured with James' writing.  I didn't think I'd be, but I question with my reduced time, if I really want to put it into a book that I won't enjoy.  I'm longing to read either Middlemarch or Jane Eyre but I know that's a dream at this point.

And so I will sign off, with my usual wish to read more and be less busy.  If only one day it will come true!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Excellent People by Anton Chekhov

"Once upon a time there lived in Moscow a man called Vladimir Semyonitch Liadovsky."

Wow, Chekhov was in fine form with this short story!  A narrator relates a story of a literary man trained at law, Vladimir Semyonitch Liadovsky, and his sister, Vera Semyonovna, a listless woman who has been disappointed in life.  At the start of the story, Vladimir has compassion and love for his sister, who had her new husband die, survived a suicide attempt, and now is living with him, quietly revering his talents.

And although there is a peaceful harmony at the beginning of the story, we sense a restlessness within Vera, and a somewhat egotistical, intolerant manner within Vladimir who displays a rather self-satisfied demeanour with regard to his talents and an intellectual judgement over his those who cannot share is views.  

However, one day their quiet and predictable life is shaken when Vera poses an unsettling and unexpected question, "What is the meaning of non-resistance to evil?" Suddenly a new idea is brought upon Vladimir by someone close to him, someone whom he is used to seeing as a subordinate and one who praises him, no matter what the situation.  It is a liberal question that presses against his conservatism, a progressive question that goes against tradition, an elephant in the room, so to speak.  At first he cannot quite comprehend but Vera persists, "Where would we all be if human life were ordered on the basis on non-resistance to evil?"  Vladimir attempts to slough off the idea, by approaching it lightly in his next article but his sister is not satisfied, "Why would a gardener sow for the benefit of thieves and beggars, as one did in the story she just read?  Did he behave sensibly?" Vladimir is further distressed as he senses for the first time, the admiration he is used to receiving from her is uncomfortably absent.  He expounds that to write in such a way is to allow the thought that thieves deserve to exist. What garbage!

Moscow in Winter (1872)
Ivan Aivazovsky
source Wikiart

Their interactions increasingly degrade, as the question and Vera's change in manner begin to tear apart the equanimity and peace of their previous existence.  Vera wants to explore ideas, to search for answers; Vladimir simply wants to remain grasping his ideas, the ideas he has survived on during his life.  They talk and they discuss.  They do not understand each other.  

The ending I will leave uncommented on if others want to read this tale, but needless to say, it is not happy. Again, I'm so impressed with this story.  Chekhov explores tradition versus progress through this interaction of genders and siblings.  Who should better understand each other than people of the same blood, people who have lived together in close community and have a certain respect and love for one another?  However, they not only cannot agree, they cannot even understand one another.  But yet, one has to ask themselves what their relationship was built on, as it was only in harmony when the sister admired the brother and only gave compliments?  Was it their lack of a truthful and deep relationship that undermined their ability to comprehend one another, or was it really a clear picture of the struggles of Russian society between the old tradition and the new ideas of the time.  And we must not forget the title, Excellent People.  Both the brother and sister are good people but each have different ideas.  If we focus on "ideas" or "philosophies" and forget that we are dealing with people do we become less human and less able to understand each other?  And while life would have been more harmonious if the sister remained in her apathetic devotion to her brother, and the brother remained happy in his narrow-minded pursuits, would it have been better?  Their lives would have been more comfortable and untroubled, yet not as real.  Ask yourself, is it better to remain peaceful and happy in a life of past tradition and apathy, or is it more "human" to strive for goals and struggle for something better for self and society, but remain miserable within this quest?  And a question from Mudpuddle's comment below:  I wish I knew if Chekhov meant the title to be serious, in that we can all have good intentions and different points of view and yet still experience unsatisfying and disharmonious outcomes, or sarcastic in that both the brother and sister where not able to communicate their views and come to a resolution, their inner lives became more turbulent from examining them, and nothing really changed, so then they were really "excellent" only in the way they viewed themselves?  Great questions with no easy answers!

I definitely have to read this again at a later date after it settles and percolates a little.  I encourage anyone who has a spare ten minutes to read it and if you decide to come back and leave your thoughts, I'd love it.  While it's only a 7-8 page short story, it would have made a great read-along.  Who would have thought!

Deal Me In Challenge 2018 #1 ~ Two of Clubs