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Quote #65

To frame a philosophy capable of coping with men intoxicated with the prospect of almost unlimited power and also with the apathy of the powerless is the most pressing task of our time.

Bertrand Russell, via Three-Toed Sloth

Quote #63

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

– Goethe

Two more quotes

Real revolution means people choking to death on their own shit

Graffiti seen by Andy, London 2001

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper

Eden Phillpotts

Quote #59

My feeling about technique in art is that it has the same value as technique in lovemaking. That is to say, heartfelt ineptitude has its charm and so has heartless skill, but what you really want is passionate virtuosity.

John Barth

With clear and open desire

Murray is able to produce a look that is sneaky and frank at the same time. It is a look that gives equal credence to disaster and lecherous success. He says that in the old days of his urban entanglements he believed there was only one way to seduce a women, with clear and open desire. He took pains to avoid self-depreciation, self-mockery, ambiguity, irony, subtlety, vulnerability, a civilised world-weariness and a tragic sense of history – the very things, he says, that are most natural to him. Of these he has allowed only one element, vulnerability, to insert itself gradually into his program of straighforward lust. He is trying to develop a vulnerability that women will find attractive. He works at is consciously, like a man in a gym with weights and a mirrow. But his efforts so far have produced only this half sneaky look, sheepish and wheedling.

Don DeLillo, White Noise (1984)


The single clenched fist, lifted and ready
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting
For we meet by one or the other

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Quote #53, In the Midst of a Putative Peace

…in the midst of a putative peace, you could, like me, be unfortunate enough to stumble on a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out

– Arundhati Roy

The Gift

Speaking to a !Kung bushman called !Xoma about a custom called hxaro, the anthropologist was told:

Hxaro is when I take a thing of value and give it to you. Later, much later, when you find some good thing, you give it to me. When I find something good I will give it to you, and so we will pass the years together

Asked about what would count as a fair exchange, !Xoma wouldn’t answer. Would three strings of beads be fair in exchange for a spear? Would two? Would one?

He explained that any return would be acceptable because we don’t trade with things, we trade with people

Excerpted from Deborah Tannnen’s (1990) You just don’t understand: Men and Women in Conversation, which is far better, far more sociolinquistically weighty and far more fun than it probably sounds.

(Mapping of how patterns of hxaro gift exchange between tribes maintain social networks here)

Quote #51

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the and that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’

– Aldous Huxley

A gob of spit in the face of art

From the first page of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer

It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written thank God.
This then? This is not a book. This is libel, sander, defamation of character. This is not a book in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art…

Tropic of Cancer was published in Paris in 1934 but banned in Miller’s native US until 1961. I found a copy for 20p last summer while foraging in the charity shops of Sheffield. I bought it, mostly because I’d heard Tom Lehrer mention it. And because it was only 20p. I read the first page in the kitchen of the house at Steade Road and fell in love with the book immediately. I don’t think that’s happened with more one or two other books (Gormenghast? Catch-22? Can’t think of any others).

The rest of the book doesn’t carry on in the same self-conscious style, but it completely forfills the initial promise. Miller writes from a time-period I associate more with stuffy classist English novelists than with the revolutionary invention of the modern voice (note to self, should have paid more attention to Hemmingway and Orwell). He writes like a beat poet twenty years before Kerouac and the other beat poets. And unlike Kerouac not a single word has gone stale.

It’s the prose equivalent of the heart sutra – neither defiled nor pure – all the transcendence, but with more whoring and drunkeness.

Interesting Times

It would be prejudicial to the national interest and the conduct of the government’s foreign policy if the English courts were to express opinions on questions of international law concerning the use of force by the United Kingdom and other states which might differ from those expressed by the government and advanced by it in the conduct of international relations.

– Permanent Undersecretary of State Sir Michael Jay, July 1st

As James said, “Come again? Government accountability? Separation of judiciary and executive? Wishy-washy liberal nonsense…”

Or as Michael Jay might have said “The government does what it likes and we do what we’re told”

Will chips in

If there’s any hope for America, it lies in a revolution, and if there’s any hope for a revolution in America, it lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara

Phil Ochs, musician, 1940-76

Quote #42

When the Tao is lost, there is virtue.
When virtue is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is the law.
The law is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 38

Let the record show

Extending the war into Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Exceeding the U.N.’s mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.

From “Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam” by George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time Magazine, 1998

Via Let the record show: 10,000 civilian casualties so far.

Quotes #39 + #40

Two bits of classic Kerouac, the first from the beginning of ‘On the Road’

the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace things, but burn like
fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.


What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -it’s the too
huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the
next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Make good art

Some thoughts from a speech by Neil Gaiman:

Ignore all advice.

In my experience, most interesting art gets made by people who don’t know the rules, and have no idea that certain things simply aren’t done: so they do them. Transgress. Break things. Have too much fun.

Another piece of advice:

I’ve learned over the years that everything is more or less the same amount of work, so you may as well set your sights high and try and do something really cool.

Quote #37

Given what we know about the human brain, two facts stand out as astonishing: (1) We know very little about what distinguishes the human brain from that of other species; and (2) apparently, few neuroscientists regard fact 1 as much of a problem.

–Todd Preuss (2000). What’s human about the human brain? In The New Cognitive Neurosciences (M.S. Gazzaniga, Ed.), Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Via Jody Culham

Quote #36

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life – so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so that you can meet girls.

Matt Cartmill – Professor of Biology, Duke University.
Via Don’t Dance with DNA

The Reasonable Man

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950), from Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists”