299 Articles


7 years Ago

Believe everything you read

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“I believe everything I read on the Internet. Why would you not? Someone took the time to write it—they’re not going to lie.”
John F. O'Donnell

When you really start learning

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“The paradox of education is precisely this—that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”

8 years Ago

Doing something worthwhile vs. working for a living

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“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist.... [More]”
Buckminster Fuller on March 30th, 1970 (The New York Magazine)

Big Business

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“As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.”
John Dewey

The job of a descriptivist linguist

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“Yes, there are rules of grammar. It is Coogan’s job (and yours) to try to obey them. And it is my job as a linguist to try and figure out what they are, and to state them precisely. And also to not be a jerk about it: my job as a language user is to forgive Coogan (or you) for any difficulty he (or you) might have in following them in spontaneous speech, and to use my common sense in trying to figure out what he (or you) might have meant.”
Everything he was in he raised the quality by Geoffrey K. Pullum (Language Log)

The Self-hating American

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Page 128–130 of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut in 1969
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told... [More]”

Inspiring eyes-open cynicism (it’s just a ride)

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I just recently came across this bit by Bill Hicks[1] again. It illuminates what for me makes a good comic. Observational humor is only the very beginning. What makes a comedian memorable for me—what puts him or her on my all-time best list—is a mixture of good storytelling and philosophy as well as a cynical awareness of the utter nonsense that is the human condition. If you mix that with an ability to deliver hope from the depths of eyes-open cynical awareness, then you’ve got gold. A pity... [More]

On Plagiarism

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“Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that ‘plagiarism’ farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a... [More]”

9 years Ago

What the Wizard of Oz actually does

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SMBC puts some very interesting words in the wizard’s mouth that explains his role quite well. After Dorothy and Co. have revealed him to be a fraud—a mere man rather than the all-powerful wizard they’d imagined him to be—he says,

“[…] Now then, you can either persist in your dull revelation, or you can close the curtain and return to your world where good and power can allow without wicked dross, and where the broken vessels of your lives can be made whole by the caprice of an... [More]”

Falling through the cracks

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“The question shouldn’t be why do so many people fall through the cracks; rather, it should be why are there so many cracks in the first place?”
Bill Moyers (paraphrasing Jim Hightower) (The Colbert Report)

Democracy and Capitalism

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It is difficult to imagine how democracy and capitalism are to work together. Democracy is ineffective in the presence of concentrated power; and capitalism acts to concentrate power.

The world of animals

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“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err… They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves within the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

Racism is, apparently, a thing of the past in America

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I found the following analogies, offered in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the preclearance clause of the Civil Rights Act—the stipulation that certain U.S. states with a long history of discriminatory voting practice have to “pre-clear” changes to voting law with the Federal government—entirely apropos.

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are... [More]”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Learn philosophy; it’s important

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“The history of philosophy is the history of very tempting mistakes made by very smart people, and if you don’t learn that history you’ll make those mistakes again and again and again. One of the ignoble joys of my life is watching very smart scientists just reinvent all the second-rate philosophical ideas because they’re very tempting until you pause, take a deep breath and take them apart.”

Achieving mediocrity

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“No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get. Soon people forget what the man really wanted first; and after a successful and vigorous political life, he forgets it himself. The whole is an extravagant riot of second bests, a pandemonium of pis-aller. Now this sort of pliability does not merely prevent any heroic consistency, it also prevents any really practical compromise. One can only find the middle distance between two points if the two points will stand... [More]”
G. K. Chesterton


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“Please don’t confuse my intensity with disrespect.”
Interview with Alice Rivlin by Cornell West on March 1st, 2013 (PRI: Smiley and West)

Cornell West once again distinguished himself with insightful and unrelenting but respectful questioning, taking Rivlin to task for pleading for the status quo. She took offense when he said that her lofty but toothless rhetoric would lead nowhere but a shrug of the shoulders as it once again failed to have the espoused effect. She claimed that the poor were well-represented—and intimated that their representation was as successful as that... [More]

Relative effort

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“One crazy man can block the well, but it takes the whole village to remove the stone.”


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“Absinthe: for when it’s Friday night and you don’t have to be anywhere ‘til Tuesday.”
From: Lori Silverbush & Kristi Jacobson by Jon Stewart on February 26, 2013 (The Daily Show)

For some people? There is no cure.

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There's no cure… by Bronn/Tyrion (YouTube)

Bronn: The little king’s backed up; clogged from balls to brains
Tyrion: Do you think dipping his wick will cure what ails him?
Bronn: There’s no cure for being a cunt[1]

Game of Thrones S02E04

[1] For those who will immediately complain that the use of this word is captial-N never appropriate, I say simply that you have not seen young king Joffrey in action. Nor his mother, to whom the aforementioned epithet applies equally well (viz. season 2, episode 9, in which she drinks herself into a hate-filled hole and takes... [More]

Progress defined

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The luck of the draw

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“My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”
My philanthropic pledge by Warren Buffett (CNN)

Ignorance is self-perpetuating

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“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence.”
From Proposed Roads to Freedom by Bertrand Russell in 1918

English as inveterate lexical criminal

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“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
The King's English by James D. Nicoll in May 1990 (Google Groups)

Hat tip to ”English is a little bit like a child” by Mark Liberman (Language Log) for the reference.

10 years Ago

Being funny for a living

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“People will be expecting me to be funny already. Funny already. A test I’ve failed many times. “Hey, there’s the comedian. He doesn’t seem funny.” No shit. Because I’m trippin’ out, man. Here you are surrounded by those you know well. And here I am, fish outta water struggling to breathe. Tell you what…you be funny now. I’ll be quiet. A quiet guy is not necessarily unfunny. Think of Charlie Chaplin. The space shuttle soars through space. But most of the time it’s parked.... [More]
Scary Situation by Mitch Hedberg

Re-election Stump Speech

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“For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as... [More]”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Accident versus Design

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“If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top […] that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings.”
Buckminster Fuller

Henry Rollins on Music Prices

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“You people have awful prices for CDs. $35 for a fucking CD? That’s awful. Why is anyone going to buy any music at [those] kind of prices? When you see shit like that, burn the record store down and steal the shit. That’s what I think you should do. And if you see any of my CDs at that price and you can steal the shit online? Do it. I’d rather be heard than paid. Fuck it.”
Provoked, part 8 of 14 by Henry Rollins (YouTube)

Rollins was addressing an Australian audience, but the pricing totally applies to Switzerland as well.

A Devastating Book Review

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“Yet Dildo Cay is bad in ways that surpass its title. The product less of an unsteady hand than of a resoundingly tin ear, the novel’s prose is so categorically graceless as to supersede camp and plunge straight into ontological confusion.”
The Worst Book Ever is ‘Dildo Cay’ by Jonathan P. Eburne (PWxyz)


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“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”
Rosa Luxemburg

Dave Chappelle on Richard Pryor

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“The mark of greatness is when everything that came before is obsolete and everything that comes after bears your mark.”
Dave Chappelle, on Inside the Actor's studio, citing an article about Richard Pryor