“Le doute n’est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde.” translated non-literally, but clearly as:
How can one understand the inner life of a character, real or fictional, without knowing the state of her finances?
When you think about it, we rationalists—and we’re all, to an extent, rationalist—we accept propositions about the early universe which boggle the mind more than any of the biblical miracles do. Your mind can intuitively grasp the notion of a dead man coming back again to life, as people in deep comas do, and as we do when we wake up every morning out of a sound sleep. But to believe that the universe, immeasurably vast as it appears to be, was once compressed into a tiny space—into a tiny point—is in truth very hard to believe. I’m not saying I can disprove the equations that back it up. I’m just saying that it’s as much a matter of faith to accept that.
He is neither a strategist nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general. Other than that he’s a great military man.
Still, I was young, and maintaining a heavy heart all moments of the day was beyond me.
The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder.
[Photo by Toki ITA licensed under Creative Commons.]
Calvin’s Dad: The world isn’t fair, Calvin.
Calvin: I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?
It’s not that a dog accepts the cards it’s been dealt; it’s not aware that there are cards. James Thurber called the desire for this condition ‘the Dog Wish,’ the ‘strange and involved compulsion to be as happy and carefree as a dog.’ This is a dog’s blessing, a dim-wittedness one can envy.
Even though everything I just said is true, it doesn’t make me any less of a liar.
At an off-the-record dinner at the White House with New York Times columnist Arthur Krock, Eisenhower alluded to this method of anger management. Krock wrote in a memo to his files: “The President said he had an old professor who, admonishing his pupils that hate was an element always destructive of one’s aims, told them how to expel it. The professor did this by writing on a card the name of one for whom he felt hatred and putting the card in a drawer, after which he forgot the location of the drawer and the name of the individual.”
His tears couldn’t change that stony outcropping in his character any more than a single summer cloudburst can change the shape of rock. There were good uses for such hardness — she knew that, had known it as a woman raising a boy on her own in a city that cared little for mothers and less for their children — but Larry hadn’t found any yet. He was just what she had said he was: the same old Larry. He would go along, not thinking, getting people — including himself — into james, and when the jobs got bad enough, he would call upon that streak to extricate himself. As for the others? He would leave them to sink or swim on their own. Rock was tough, and there was toughness in his character, but he still used it destructively. She could see it in his eyes, read it in every line of his posture . . . even in the way he bobbed his cancer-stick to make those little rings in the air. He had never sharpened that hard piece of him into a blade to cut people with, and that was something, but when he needed it, he was still calling on it as a child did — as a bludgeon to beat his way out of traps he had dug for himself. Once, she had told herself Larry would change. She had; he would…
She also thought there was good in Larry, great good. It was there, but this late on it would take nothing short of a catastrophe to bring it out. There was no catastrophe here; only her weeping son.
When Shiranzai, with four of his men, reached the lane where the man was still wandering, they parked more than a block away and pointed their rifles at him. “He had a wild look in his eyes,” Shiranzai told me. “We understood from the way he was pacing, and from the expression on his face, that he was really feeling crazy.” After a brief exchange of fire, the attacker scaled a wall, then leapt onto the roof of a house. From there he shot with reckless imprecision at the officers. When he threw a hand grenade at them, it landed and rolled harmlessly down the street. He had neglected to pull the pin. Eventually, the attacker jumped from the roof into the backyard, where an officer shot him in the head. Later Shiranzai told me: “Something I’ve been surprised to learn is that these men, who are planning to blow themselves up, always become frightened when you open fire on them. As soon as the shooting starts, the suicider runs and hides. He doesn’t want to be shot. He is here to die, but he is scared of bullets. It’s strange.” [emphasis added]
That’s just too complicated for a dumb bunny like me.
God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.
“Larry is a man who found himself comparatively late in life,” the Judge said, clearing his through. “At least, that is how he strikes me. Men who find themselves late are never sure. They are all the things the civics books tell us the good citizens should be: partisans but never zealots, respecters of the facts which attend each situation but never benders of those facts, uncomfortable in positions of leadership but rarely able to turn down a responsibility once it has been offered… or thrust upon them. They make the best leaders in a democracy because they are unlikely to fall in love with power. Quite the opposite…”
The paper he was writing on came from a ring binder in which he kept all his thoughts — the content of the binder were half diary, half shopping list. He had discovered a deep fondness in himself for making lists; he thought one of his forebear must have been an accountant. When your mind was troubled, he had discovered that making a list often set it at ease again. [Emphasis added.]
Sir Richard Carlisle: Do you enjoy these games? In which the player must appear ridiculous?
Dowager Countess of Grantham: Sir Richard, life is a game where the players must appear ridiculous.
Sir Richard Carlisle: Not my life.
I don’t think we can say should about things that happen in war. It just happens and we should live with it.
Not dreading it exactly, but it is a brave, new world we are heading for; no doubt about that. We must try to meet it with as much grace as we can muster.
Church wants you in your place. What sort of man wants to be kept in his place? Do this don’t do that, kneel, stand, kneel, stand…I mean if you go for that sort of thing…I don’t know what to do for you. A man makes his own way. No one gives it to you. You have to take it. Non serviam.
If we’d been older or known better, Bill and I might have been put off by the task in front of us. But we were young and green enough to believe that we just might pull it off.
“There is something indeﬁnable in an entrepreneur, and I saw that in Steve,” he said. “He was interested not just in engineering, but also the business aspects. I taught him that if you act like you can do something, then it will work. I told him, ‘Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.’”
Now look at him. It’s seven years later, and he’s aged like a president.
There are more fools in the world than there are people.
An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.
[Though more popular, it is commonly shortened to: "An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."]
Against logic there is no armor like ignorance.
Ideas, [Mike Jones, an engineer at Google] explained, were like babies — everything about their environment said they shouldn’t exist. But they do. You can’t dwell on problems too early, or they will swamp the virtues and you will decide not to do the project.
In the light of the morning, he [Robin Li] realized that as a Chinese citizen, he had no choice, and from that point he implemented the government’s request without complaint. “It’s not an issue to me,” he says. “It’s just Chinese law. I’m not in politics. I’m not in a position to judge what’s right and wrong.
[Discussing the factors that led to the disastrous AOL-Time Warner Merger in 2000]
There are few intoxicants like the prospect of easy money, and that’s what the billions in IPO dollars then raining down on nobodies in Silicon Valley must have looked like. Nor can be discounted the recurring theme of this book: the lure of information empire. In 2010, [Gerald] Levin described to me the condition of being a CEO as “a form of mental illness,” with the desire for never-ending growth as a kind of addiction. As he said, “there’s something about being able to say, ‘I’m the CEO of the world’s largest media company.’ “
Consider the life of Winston Churchill. He was born in 1874. Men still lived who had fought Napoleon. Ulysses S. Grant was in his second term as the American president and Karl Marx was just then in the British Library writing the Communist Manifesto. Mark Twain had written none of the books for which he had become famous. Electricity, radio, television, and telephones were still unknown and only the year before Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgets universities had met to draw up the first rules for a new game. It was called “football.”
When Churchill died ninety years later in 1965, men had orbited the earth, walked in space, and sent a probe to the surface of Venus. An automobile had already driven over six hundred miles per hour and sex-change operations had been successfully performed. Nuclear power had already come of age. Lyndon Johnson was the American president at that time and though he was considered an elderly man, he had been born when Churchill was already thirty-four. The year Churchill died, the Queen of England gave the Order of British Empire to the Beatles. It was an honor Churchill had also received, yet for a far different contribution in a far different age.
How does one life absorb such change? What must it do to one’s moorings, to that sense of connection to the flow of time and how a man experiences the rhythms of the world? Clearly, this was an ever-present challenge in Churchill’s life and it frequently filled his thoughts: “I wonder often whether any other generation has seen such astounding revolutions of data and values as those through which we have lived. Scarcely anything material or established which I was brought up to believe was permanent and vital, has lasted. Everything I was sure or taught to be sure was impossible, has happened.”
He has to sell inconsistency, and not have it confused with hypocrisy.
He wants that trance now. His mind disengaging, his eyes tuned to color, shape, relationship. He wants to mix paint, squeeze life from a tube, dip his brushes and bring them up full. Now as if conjuring both his former selves and the self he’s about to become, he holds his brushes, each carrying some old story and yet together forming a gesture of anticipation. One color at a time and all at once. Color as his vocabulary of light.
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
I contented myself with whiskey, for medicinal purposes. It helped numb my various aches and pains. Not that the alcohol actually reduced the pain; it just gave the pain a life of its own, apart from mine.
Although it took her some tie to admit it, Merav began to sense that her body was only a receptacle for his desire, while her own desire floated elsewhere, in another dimension, invisible even to herself. They half-jokingly referred to these times as Letting Him Have His Way With Her, as if she were consenting to the use of her body, lending it out…
…He took his pleasure; in the end, she could see it so clearly. Did he think this was a kind of giving? Maybe. But what was she giving him? Permission to be taken? Finally, she stopped asking why it was enough for him and began asking why it was enough for her.
So important were beer and its effects among the Irish that the pagan high kings of the land had to symbolically marry the goddess-queen Medb (Maeve), whose name meant “the drunken” or “she who makes drunk.” By drinking beer to excess at Tara — an ancient seat of the high kings of Ireland — these kings attained their sovereignty. It is no wonder that St. Patrick took his brewmaster, Mescan, with him as he tried to bring such pagan practices to an end. Beer was simply interwoven into all of Irish life; this was no less the case by the time of Richard Guinness. Though the Irish called whiskey uisce beatha — “the water of life” — by the early 1700s they were glad for the traditions that gave them a healthy and tasty drink that was only lightly intoxicating.
If the stories in this book tell us anything, however, it is that the free market can also lead to situations of reduced freedom. Markets are born free, yet no sooner are they born than some would-be emperor is forging chains. Paradoxically, it sometimes happens that the only way to preserve freedom is through judicious controls on the exercise of private power. If we believe in liberty, it must be freedom from both private and public coercion.
A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive. At the feet of the tallest and plushest offices lie the crummiest slums. The genteel mysteries housed in the Riverside Church are only a few blocks from the voodoo charms of Harlem. The merchant princes, riding to Wall Street in their limousines down the East River Drive, pass within a few hundred yards of the gypsy kings; but the princes do not know they are passing the kings, and the kings are not up yet anyway—they live a more leisurely life than the princes and get drunk more consistently.
Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently distinguishable: (1) without government, as among our Indians; (2) under governments, wherein the will of everyone has a just influence, as is the case in England, in a slight degree, and in our states, in a great one; (3) under governments of force, as is the case in all other monarchies, and in most of the other republics.
To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has its evils, too, the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs.
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.
“I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant,” she said.
“Because his harmonica’s worse than Stevie Wonder?”
She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh.
“No, I really like his voice,” she said. “It’s like a kid standing at the window watching the rain.”
After the volumes that have been written about Dylan, I had yet to come across such a perfect description. She blushed when I told her that.
“Oh, I don’t know. That’s just what he sounds like to me”
[Arthur Guinness] was still brewing both ale and the dark stout that had become quite the fashion. In his history with the brew that he would be associated with for generations to come, he is confirmation that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. He was not the first or the best or the only brewer to produce dark porter at this time. But he was, perhaps, the most consistent, the most willing to ride the currents of his age, and he was blessed with good timing. If history favors the bold over the most gifted, then Arthur is certainly encouragement to those who are willing to be the former in recognition that they are incapable of being the latter.
“You must not let fatigue set in,” she warns. “That is what my mother said. Let the body work until it is spent, but keep your mind for yourself.”
“To tell the truth, I do not know this thing called ‘mind,’ what it does or how to use it. It is only a word I have heard.”
“The mind is nothing you use,” I say. “The mind is just there. It is like the wind. You simply feel its movements.”
“It will end wasteful competition,” said James Taggart. “We’ll stop scrambling to beat one another to the untried and the unknown. We won’t have to worry about new inventions upsetting the market. We won’t have to pour money down the drain in useless experiments just to keep up with overambitious competitors.”
At stake is not the First Amendment or the right of free speech, but the exclusive custody of the master switch. What is wrong is that a single organization, no matter how responsible, should be the gatekeeper, principal user, rate-maker, and adjudicator of who shall ride. Far from limiting the three major news networks’ right to the air or right to report, I would increase the channels available to all users, including the networks. The present system necessarily limits that freedom of speech the broadcasters so eloquently demand and so seldom fully exercise.
Every age thinks it’s the modern age, but this one really is. Electricity is going to change everything. Everything!
She sounded like a nattering older lady, not the vital force he still imagined when he allowed himself to think of her. He had to squeeze his eyes shut to avert renewed weeping. Everything he’d done with regard to her in the last three years had been calculated to foreclose the intensely personal sort of talks they’d had when he was younger: to get her to shut up, to train her to contain herself, to make her stop pestering him with her overfull heart and her uncensored self. And now that the training was complete and she was obediently trivial with him, he felt bereft of her and wanted to undo it.
“Forgive me, I only wanted t’say that the purity of science often hurts many people, just like pure natural phenomena do. Volcanic eruptions bury whole towns, floods wash bridges away, earthquakes knock buildings flat –”
Sex is an extremely subtle undertaking, unlike going to the department store on a Sunday to buy a thermos.
The foolish person seeks happiness in the distance, the wise person grows it under his feet.
So many people in San Francisco came from somewhere else, suitcases filled with their own complex histories and desires.