Wednesday, March 16, 2011


"To be wise is to be eternally curious." —Frederick Buechner

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." —Voltaire

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are they poor, they call me a Communist." —Dom Câmara, Roman Catholic Archbishop

"A stand can be made against invasion by an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea." —Victor Hugo

"When the great lord passes the wise peasant bows deeply and silently farts." —Ethiopian Proverb

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"[W]hat I have to say about the nation has more to do with the history of Man... This issue has come to a stage when the moral man, the complete man, is more and more giving way, almost without knowing it, to make room for the political and the commercial man, the man of limited purpose. This, aided by the wonderful progress in science, is assuming gigantic proportion and power, causing the upset of man’s moral balance, obscuring his human side under the shadow of soulless organization. Its iron grip we have felt at the root of our life, and for the sake of humanity we must stand up and give warning to all, that this nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over the human world of the present age, eating into its moral vitality." —Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism in the West (1917)

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." —Albert Einstein

"What is patriotism now, and how do we get rid of it, and what do we put in its place, if anything? The word is politically incorrect, of course. Patria-pater-father. So where is Mom? Didn't she help Dad turn the American wilderness into a cement desert bright with golden arches? Didn't she help Dad kill those pesky redskins? Anyway, whose patria are we talking about? The so-called Indians are the original Americans whose homeland European invaders stole. My own family settled on Cherokee land in South Carolina and on Chickasaw land in Mississippi. In due course, the remnants of dozens of tribes were finally dumped in what is now Oklahoma, a place none of us wanted any part of until the oil started to gush at the Osage reservation..." —Gore Vidal, Patriotism (written for The Nation in 1991)

"People ask me 'are you proud to be an American?' and I say 'I don't know, I didn't have a lot to do with it. My parents fucked there, that's about all.' I hate patriotism. I can't stand it. It's a round world last time I checked." —Bill Hicks

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"Two movies on war didn't work, mine, The Carabineers, and Jean Dewever's The Honors of War. They were two sincere and very simple war movies that were complete failures. But the other movies like The Longest Day, were huge successes. People love to watch people being slaughtered, women being tortured, old ladies being raped... That they love, but it has to be for the salvation of the homeland... But our movies showed what war was really like... In the end, if the folly of war came from people's own folly... then they get suspicious. They didn't want to face it." —Jean-Luc Godard

"What is up with our cultural fascination with fathers avenging the rape/murder/kidnap of their daughters? There is something vaguely incestuous in this obsession. The image of daddy’s-little-girl being symbolically violated is too much to bear. We go to theaters to be teased with its taboo implications. It is an aggressive formulation of patriarchal domination. The father must protect the women from themselves. The atomic family unit is the most important thing in the universe: it trumps the wholesale destruction of our planet and the imbecilic notions of “Government” on display here. It’s quite perverse. We are not willing to question the illusion of these institutions, but we masturbate to fantasies of their violation." —Andrew (the kinodrome)

"Hollywood has melted everyone's brains. In the old days you had one murder and that was enough for a story. Now you have to kill 300,000 people just to get the audience’s attention." —Aki Kaurismäki

"[T]he degree to which children's genres have colonized the entire movie industry goes beyond overkill. More often than not, these collectively infantilizing movies are breeding an audience—not to mention a generation of future filmmakers and studio executives—who will grow up believing that movies aimed at adults should be considered a peculiar and antique art. Like books. Or plays." —Mark Harris, The Day the Movies Died

"The other day, while strolling a humid Brooklyn street, I overheard a twentysomething woman talking to her friends about her movie predilections. Her life is stressful, as it turns out, her work hours long and her job serious. When she goes to the movies, she wants to unwind, to take in easily digestible entertainment—to, as she put it, “put her brain on autopilot.” That this person plausibly represents a key urban intellectual demographic that was once connected and clued in to what was going on in film outside the multiplex and is now resigned to Hollywood’s paltry offerings, while justifying her artistic and emotional laziness on grounds of taste, is a matter too depressing to wrestle with at this juncture. But what’s also fascinating about her casual commentary is what it reveals about many viewers’ idea of escapism in film, and what we’ve come to label as such. If one wants to escape from the toll of the daily grind, why must it necessitate putting one’s brain “on autopilot”? Why has film culture split so drastically between high and low that any alternative to Hollywood fare is perceived as difficult and forbidding? In order for film to survive as a valid art form, audiences need to wish to escape to worlds not commercially prescribed to them. One need not retreat to fantasy to escape." —Michael Koresky

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"[Jean] Renoir's belief is that everyone, in a way, transforms their life into a film. Meaning they don't see reality, but only the convention of reality. They focus on and accept only the convention. More clearly, society has given us stereotypical roles and situations, and our idea of reality is defined by these conventions." —Jean Douchet (from an extra feature on The Criterion Collection's Boudu Saved from Drowning DVD)

"There is a place where you create yourself and a time in which you play yourself. The space of everyday life, that of one's true realization, is encircled by every form of conditioning. The narrow space of our true realization defines us, yet we define ourselves in the time of the spectacle. Or, put another way: our consciousness is no longer consciousness of myth and of particular-being-in-myth, but rather consciousness of the spectacle and of particular-role-in-the-spectacle." —Raoul Vaneigem, 1962

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"I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple. But now realize that tv and popular film and most kinds of “low” art—which just means art whose primary aim is to make money—is lucrative precisely because it recognizes that audiences prefer 100 percent pleasure to the reality that tends to be 49 percent pleasure and 51 percent pain. Whereas “serious” art, which is not primarily about getting money out of you, is more apt to make you uncomfortable, or to force you to work hard to access its pleasures, the same way that in real life true pleasure is usually a by-product of hard work and discomfort. So it’s hard for an art audience, especially a young one that’s been raised to expect art to be 100 percent pleasurable and to make that pleasure effortless, to read and appreciate serious fiction. That’s not good. The problem isn’t that today’s readership is “dumb,” I don’t think. Just that tv and the commercial-art culture’s trained it to be sort of lazy and childish in its expectations. But it makes trying to engage today’s readers both imaginatively and intellectually unprecedentedly hard." —David Foster Wallace, interview

"Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make use feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." —Franz Kafka, from a letter to Oskar Pollak (1904)

"It's impossible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep." —Navajo Proverb (according to John Perry Barlow)

* * *

"The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing." —Edward Abbey

"Those trapped in the blighted inner cities that are our internal colonies or brutalized in our prison system, especially African-Americans, see what awaits us all. So do the inhabitants in southern West Virginia, where coal companies have turned hundreds of thousands of acres into uninhabitable and poisoned wastelands. Poverty, repression and despair in these peripheral parts of empire are as common as drug addiction and cancer. Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Palestinians can also tell us who we are. They know that once self-delusion no longer works it is the iron fist that speaks. The solitary and courageous voices that rise up from these internal and external colonies of devastation are silenced or discredited by the courtiers who serve corporate power. And even those who do hear these voices of dissent often cannot handle the truth. They prefer the Potemkin facade. They recoil at the “negativity.” Reality, especially when you grasp what corporations are doing in the name of profit to the planet’s ecosystem, is terrifying." —Chris Hedges, How Our Empire Crushes Opposition

"To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence." —Andrei Lankov, Escape From North Korea

"No system of total control, including corporate control, exhibits its extreme forms at the beginning. These forms expand as they fail to encounter resistance." —Chris Hedges

"A curious paradox characteristic of every kind of courage here confronts us. It is the seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time we might possibly be wrong." —Rollo May, The Courage to Create

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"Civilizations are not realities, but only dreams; dreams of the mind, not of the heart, and therefore fictitious, and perishable; they have never affected the heart and therefore have made no valuable progress." —Mark Twain

"This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress." —Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

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