Thursday, December 20, 2007

The flight of Wright

WNYC's Radio Lab commemorates the first human flight: Orville and Wilbur Wright's achievement to get their plane off the ground on December 17th 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The program (and the podcast) turns out as a crafty collage of voices, sounds, music and statements. Ten minutes of depicting the achievement, outlining the historical importance and some human interest.

The feat of the Wright brothers speaks to the imagination. I recall learning about them in grade school and I see my son learning about them in grade school as well. The romantic fascination is inevitable and the Radio lab podcast hits that tune full force. For a moment I wanted to resist, if not for a simple thought expressed also in the show.

The Wright brothers in their efforts were about 10 years ahead of their competitors (or fellow researchers). Had they failed, flight may have entered world history ten years later. What is the difference between 1903 and 1913? It is that war we have been writing about so much in this blog lately: The Great War. Not that air force was really significant in this war, but it was widely experimented with, further adding to its rapid development.

The last second thought with regards to the romantic appraisal of the flight of Wright - are we better off with flight becoming real as early as 1903? Any slight alteration with regards to the Great War and whatever It brought about, affects us heavily today. What if...? Bad medicine for historians.

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Times Talks (NYT)

Times Talks is a podcast of the New York Times. It is recording of a talk before a live audience at the Times Center with figures from American Culture. Or as the NYT words it on its podcast web page: Intimate discussions with people of note and New York Times journalists and editors. The editions vary in length from half an hour to over an hour. I have tried two of them. Two issues with people from the film industry that kept on talking while the interviewing journalist kept on laughing.

The most recent is Editor at large Lynn Hirschberg discussing film making with actors-directors-producers-brothers Luke and Andrew Wilson. Owen was supposed to have been there but was reported to be 'under the weather.' (audio)

Another episode was Actor and comedian Bill Murray from Arts and Leisure Weekend 2005. Bill Murray takes over the show, rambles on. It is to be admitted that he is very entertaining, but the way the interviewer must continue to laugh hysterically is too much for my taste. Smacking of being eager to please, rather than being genuinely amused. (audio)

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Rumi - Speaking of Faith

"The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi", is the title of the last issue of Speaking of Faith. Subject is the 13th-century mystic and poet Rumi of whom I had never heard, but who appears to be popular, not only among Muslems, but in recent years also in the West. Krista Tippett speaks about Rumi with Fatemeh Keshavarz professor of Persian and comparative literature at the Washington University.

Professor Keshavarz displays an enchanted affection for Rumi, quoting him and referring to him with loving reverence. What leaps out to the unexpecting listener is a type of both mystic and worldly Islam, which is artful, playful, philosophical and mystical at the same moment. Rumi's lines dance like the whirling dervishes, whose performance he is claimed to have invented as well.
Fatemeh Keshavarz: I think the energy can't go in all directions completely in control and you have to choose because you have one life. You have to spend it wisely. So absolutely, he would say choose, be selective, recognize your own value. At another point he says, 'You are an astrolabe to God, you know, don't use yourself for things that are not worthwhile.'

But I want to linger a little bit on that idea of being scattered because that's a key concept in Sufi thought. And actually it's something that the Buddhists also talk about a lot. And that is our mind just jumps from one thing to the other and, you know, the Sufis call it the onrush of ideas into our minds. And in some ways, if we allow it, it takes us over, you know. You know, what am I going to do about that credit card? You know, how am I going to--what do I do about this student paper, you know, whatever else is that you're concerned with, my family, my kids, my future. So it all invades your life and so in a way you're pulled in all directions. You're scattered. So one of the purposes of his poetry and one of the concepts the Sufis talk about is to collect that scatteredness.

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