Monday, March 06, 2006

Private property, pokers

We spent part of yesterday at CityPlace in West Palm Beach, a recent development that does its damnedest to look like the central square of a Tuscan village. Of course it's one of those prefabricated faux-urban "environments," essentially an open-air shopping mall with apartments and condos attached. The giveaway, apart from the oppressive cleannesss of the place and the fact that all of the on-street spaces are reserved for valet parking (South Florida is the world capital of valet parking), is the Kenny G.-level soft jazz perpetually piped thru unseen speakers (it's what they play during the coffee breaks in hell). Oh yes – and the massive Mediterranean church that dominates the square functions not as a house of worship but as a theater (available for bar and bat mitvahs & other banquet functions, tho I could find no evidence of actual scheduled performances).

Anyway, we were there in the forenoon before the shops & restaurants opened, the umbrella'd tables & chair were occupied by retirees drinking coffee and reading their Sunday New York Times, and there were families with children strolling about every few yards. All very nice, save for the imbecile music & my own subterranean rage that this – one of the few open areas within a hour's drive whose space & architecture wouldn't have made Ruskin spew – was all private property, & that if I chose to panhandle or distribute political leaflets, I'd be given the heave-ho by the private security army within minutes.

After lunch we wandered into a Barnes & Noble where I read P. about a dozen children's books (mostly "Little Critter" but also a Berenstain Bears that convinced me that Stan & Jan B. are little better than fascists, & ought to be boycotted by all Left-leaning parents) & bought a couple of remainders: Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis & a book I'd contemplated reading for a while, David Edmonds & John Edinow's Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers (Ecco, 2001). Readable enough, but disappointing. E & E take as their focal point the 1946 Cambridge argument between Ludwig Wittgenstein & Karl Popper (during which LW by some accounts threatened KP with a fireplace poker), & from there exfoliate backwards & forwards, filling in the 2 men's cultural & intellectual backgrounds, the significance of their philosophies, & what was at stake in their quarrel.

I'm within 50 pages of the end, but I don't have high hopes to learn anything I didn't already know. Maybe this is just another proof that "philosophical journalism" (as one blurb calls the book) is an oxymoron. At any rate, the penultimate paragraph of the text is a remarkable example of empty boilerplate:
that one can be identified in academia as a Popperian or a Wittgensteinian is a testament to the originality of these philosophers' ideas and the power of their personalities. Those extraordinary qualities were on display in H3 [the room of the debate]. The thrust of the poker becomes a symbol of the two men's unremitting zeal in the search for the right answers to the big questions.

I myself am contemplating a similar piece of "poetico-historical journalism." Provisional title: "Watten's Overhead Projector."
Still waiting for answers on "My Three Songs." Kathrine's closer than Bob, tho – the connecting thread lies in original provenance.

1 comment:

Michael Peverett said...

Oh, how I love that "testament to the originality..." and in fact the whole floundering performance.

um... Night Porter, Cole Porter, Lloyd Cole, ?