From “Forbidden Planet” to “The Terminator”: 1950s techno-utopia and the dystopian future

by Bill Benzon When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s Westerns were pervasive on television and at the movies. Where they the dominant genre of the era? Perhaps, I don’t really know. But whatever the numbers say, the were very important. Correlatively, science fiction was a relatively minor genre, both on television…

A perverse sense of intellectual honor is driving humanities scholars to disciplinary seppuku: Some personal reflections on the book, Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

by Bill Benzon Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age, The University of Chicago Press, 2021. Permanent Crisis hits close to home. In the first place, I have been trained as a humanist, my degree is in English Literature. But I have long suspected that the sense humanists have of being…

To Understand the Mind We Must Build One, A Review of Models of the Mind – Bye Bye René, Hello Giambattista

by Bill Benzon “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs” – so began James Joyce’s (infamous) Finnegans Wake. That line is but the completion of the book’s last sentence, “A lone a last a loved…

Seinfeld on his Craft, Or: Comedy as a Path to Metaphysical Grace

by Bill Benzon Music as a prelude to Jerry Seinfeld I started trumpet lessons when I was ten years old or so. After about two years or so my lessons were drawn from Jean-Baptiste Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet, which dates from the middle of the 19th century and is the central method book…

Some vignettes in the wake of a historic election [16 tons, where are we now?]

by Bill Benzon At close to 71 million votes, Donald Trump beat Barack Obama’s 2008 total of 69.5 million, which had been the highest number of votes ever cast for a presidential candidate (Wikipedia). But Joseph Biden got over 75 million votes to win. Those numbers alone make this a landmark election. The nature of…

It took 13 years, but Jersey City finally has a poured-concrete SK8park – A story of local grass roots politics

by Bill Benzon That, I assume, is the floor slab of a demolished industrial building. It’s located near one of the remaining fragments of the Morris Canal in Jersey City. Back in the day the Morris Canal delivered anthracite coal from Eastern Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York City – the Hudson River is…

An Electric Conversation with Hollis Robbins on the Black Sonnet Tradition, Progress, and AI, with Guest Appearances by Marcus Christian and GPT-3

by Bill Benzon I was hanging out on Twitter the other day, discussing my previous 3QD piece (about Progress Studies) with Hollis Robbins, Dean of Arts and Humanities at Cal State at Sonoma. We were breezing along at 240 characters per message unit when, Wham! right out of the blue the inspiration hit me: How…

From Progress Studies to Progress: Through decadence and beyond

by Bill Benzon How do we get there from here? Evolution, revolution, or revolution through evolution? I don’t know, but as the smart kids are saying these days, I have my priors. As does everyone else. A movement begins Back in July 2019 Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen called for a science of progress in…

Can the pandemic serve America as the cradle for a rebirth of civil society?

by Bill Benzon This pandemic changes everything, we can’t go back to the way we were. That’s what everyone is saying. Well, not everyone, but I don’t know how many times I’ve read some version of that over the past month. I would like to reflect on that theme, albeit in perhaps and oblique and…