Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I keep a copy of “A New Dictionary of Quotations” by H.L. Mencken next to my desk and flip it open to a random page to pass the time while my older-than-dirt laptop boots up.

Here are a few quotations from the page I randomly opened to today:

“You have no idea how destitute of talent are more than half of the members of Congress. Nine out of ten of your ordinary acquaintances are fully equal to them.” – Sergeant S. Prentiss, in a letter to his sister, February, 1833

“We do not elect our wisest and best men to represent us in the Senate and the Congress. In general, we elect men of the type that subscribes to only one principle – to get re-elected. – Terry M. Townsend: The Doctor Looks at the Citizen, 1940

“You can’t use tact with a Congressman. A Congressman is a hog. You must take a stick and hit him on the snout. – Henry Adams: The Education of Henry Adams, 1918 (Quoting an unnamed member of the Grant Cabinet, c.1875

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – S.L. Clemens (Mark Twain)

Congress hasn’t changed much, has it?

plus ca change | 9:18 pm CDT
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Friday, January 20th, 2017

George Washington, in his farewell address:

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence … the jealously of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.


Washington’s warning | 12:01 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Paul Asterer, responding to the question, “What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?” in The New York Times Book Review:

English as She Is Spoke: The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English,” by Pedro Carolino, first published in America in 1883, with an introduction by Mark Twain. As Twain puts it, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book,” and indeed it is ridiculous — a guide to English written by someone who had not the slightest grasp of the language. More than a hundred pages filled with such sentences as: “You have a proof your love for the learnings” or “Nothing is more easy than to swim; it do not what don’t to be afraid of.” The book is pure Dada, and as Twain writes, “its immortality is secure.”


pure dada | 12:00 pm CDT
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Monday, January 16th, 2017

This synopsis of the coming inauguration of the US president was printed in The Sunday Herald, Scotland, UK:

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories — among the most common is the “What if Nazis had one the Second World War” setting — but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into making Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.


Twilight | 10:14 am CDT
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Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Seems appropriate somehow:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, anti-Nazi dissident, writing from prison

stupidity | 1:02 pm CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel
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Saturday, January 17th, 2015

…if one wanted to crush, to annihilate a man utterly, to inflict on him the most terrible of punishments so that the most ferocious murderer would shudder at it and dread it beforehand, one need only give him work of an absolutely, completely useless and irrational character.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead

crush | 9:04 am CDT
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Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Indifference to what words actually say; willingness to accept a vapid truism as a useful, even revelatory concept; carelessness about where a supposed quotation comes from – that’s all part of what I like least about the Internet. A “blah blah blah, who cares, information is what I want it to be” attitude – a lazy-mindedness that degrades both language and thought.
     – Ursula K. LeGuin

indifference | 9:10 am CDT
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Sunday, July 20th, 2014

footprint on the moon

“We have been given eyes to see what the lightyear worlds cannot see of themselves,” Ray Bradbury wrote. “We have been given hands to touch the miraculous. We’ve been given hearts to know the incredible. Can we shrink back to bed in our funeral clothes?”

footprint | 10:34 am CDT
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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Everyone in academia , especially Brandon Smith, Kentucky state senator, agrees: Fifty-eight degrees below zero is the average daytime temperature in Kentucky:

 I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.

He doesn’t want to get into a debate about it. He just wants to give us the facts, and the fact is that the weather on Mars and the weather on Earth are no different! No one in academia will dispute that. Also, there are no factories on Mars. That he knows of.

Uneducated hicks and pandering politicians everywhere thank you, Senator Smith, for reinforcing their stereotypes.

academia | 7:02 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel
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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

CRAIG FERGUSON: I used to have a terrible fear of flying. To combat that, I took flying lessons. I became a pilot, bought a small airplane and flew it around for a bit. I wasn’t flying it enough, so I sold it. That’s a fear I confronted by running straight at it.

PLAYBOY: And you didn’t conquer it?

FERGUSON: Oh no, not at all. If you get me on the right day, I still have the same fear of flying I had before I became a pilot. Which is insane.

PLAYBOY: So the experiment didn’t work?

FERGUSON: No, the experiment always works. There’s no such thing as an experiment that doesn’t work. There are only results, but results may vary. Here’s what I learned: When I’m flying the plane, I’m fine. When you’re flying the plane, I’m not as good. So the experiment yielded results. What I’m afraid of is not, in fact, flying. It’s you. [laughs]

Fergy | 6:11 pm CDT
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Monday, March 31st, 2014

WEB DuBois in a letter to his daughter, Yolande:

Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

From Letters of Note

discipline | 7:43 pm CDT
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.

– Neil Gaiman, Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, The Guardian

books as sharks | 2:48 am CDT
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