Wednesday, July 30, 2008


When I come across quotes or a few lines I enjoy, I often copy them down in a notepad on my desktop. Here are some of my more recent additions:

"Literature is about trying to capture the one or two moments in your life when your heart opened up." - Camus

"Everyone does what they can to avoid thinking. Laziness is the most basic human trait. People don't want to think -- they can't make the connection between entertainment and thought, they want immediate kicks. People will not be human until they get pleasure from thought. Only a thinking person can be a full person." - Vera Chytilova.

"We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." - Orwell

"Our reality is what it should be, not what it is." - His Day of Glory, Edoardo Bruno

"I liked, as I like still, to make words look self-conscious and foolish, to bind them by the mock marriage of a pun, to turn them inside out, to come upon them unawares. What is this jest in majesty? This ass in passion? How do God and Devil combine to form a live dog?" - Nabokov

"What I find particularly embarrassing are films about artists. Most films about artists must be made by people who would have paid Van Gogh not even an ounce of tobacco for a picture but only half an ounce, and later would have regretted even that because they realized he would have sold it even for a pipeful of tobacco. In films about artists the suffering of the artistic soul, the poverty and the wrestling with the demon, are always put in the past. A living artist who has run out of cigarettes, can't even buy shoes for his wife, is of no interest to film people because three generations of nincompoops haven't yet confirmed that he is a genius." - Heinrich Böll

* * *

Interviewer: In Cannes, American journalists were outraged that the film [Manderlay] shows black people collaborating with their oppressors.

Lars von Trier: Danny Glover plays a good black man whose pure humanity puts him in league with the slave owners. But this is exactly how fascism works and how it was implemented in the concentration camps. If everyone was fighting for their own lives, the Nazis had a problem. But as soon as someone with good intentions entered the camp, they had a powerful instrument of manipulation. That's when the trading begins: "Okay you can kill these two old women, but not the children". Well-meaning people are dangerous.

(This, it seems to me, is what's happening with the entire planet now. We're trying to save our(future)selves only by looking to make fair trades.)

* * *

Bresson: A book, a painting, or a piece of music - none of these things has an absolute value. The value is what the viewer, the reader, the listener bring to it.

Interviewer: There is a difference between value and meaning. We can disagree about the value of a film and still agree on what it means.

Bresson: There are people who when seeing Diary of a Country Priest feel nothing.

Interviewer: But that's their fault. That's not the fault of the film. There is a German proverb: "If a jackass stares into a mirror, a philosopher can't look back."

Bresson: Unfortunately, the public is used to easy films. More and more this is true.

* * *

"Baby boomers won't stop being ridiculous. Baby boomers aren't going to grow up. They'll be 80 years old and people will still be listening to Hendrix and talking about the night we levitated the Pentagon. They're not going to let go of it. There's not going to be that moment when everybody sort of says, "We suck so much. We were so savvy and we sold out." There's never going to be that moment for baby boomers.

Baby boomers are going to go to their graves believing that they ended racism. They really believe that. But I think there are certain neighborhoods in Chicago where if you asked people they would say, "No, I think there's still a little bit of work that needs to go on."

It's not like when 11 percent of the "greatest generation" voted for George Wallace. That's not so great. That wasn't so nice. That wasn't such a fond moment. The greatest generation was nasty to minorities.

The baby boomers aren't nasty to minorities. They just ignore them. I suppose that's progress. It's better than lynching people, but it's not like you ended racism. It's just the whole [baby boomer] idea: "Well, we drove LBJ from office and we drove Nixon from office and we ended the war in Vietnam. That's enough. We're done. Can we see the dessert menu?" - Joe Queenan


Anonymous said...

A good example of recent changes in language:

"I often copy them down in a notepad on my desktop"

This is so ambiguous! Is it a real notepad on the top of a real desk in which you copy quotes by writing them (i hope so)? Or is it a text document in a program called Notepad on your computer desktop in which you copy (and presumably paste) quotes with keyboard shortcuts?

In a recent e-mail from my dad I found this sentence:

"I was able to find the solution by
searching, but it wasn't too easy, so I'm proud of myself for figuring it out. It looks like quite a few people encounter this problem, but only a few post the correct solution."

I was amazed. The problem in question had nothing to do with computers, but still all this talk of searching and posting without any direct mention of the internet!

Relatedly, a newspaper article I saw recently had two sentences to the effect of, "For years everything was fine. Until recently, when everything changed." Starting a sentence with Until recently refering to the previous sentence! I had to read it several times before I understood.

Hectocotylus said...

The ambiguity was on purpose because I copy excerpts on both of my desktops.

All language will be gibberish in a few hundred years (if not sooner), and the great works of literature will be unreadable to all but a few specialists.