Wednesday, December 19, 2007


A speech belongs half to the speaker and half to the listener.
-Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's OK to Say Sh@#$!# on TV

It's OK to Say Sh@#$!# on TV

How is that we can say "excrement" without blushing, even though it refers to the same thing as "shit"? If it's the *shit* we object, shouldn't we ban "excrement" and 'feces" and "doodoo" and "poo" as well?

A word cannot be disgusting. It's just a noise. Shit can be disgusting, but if you need to talk about it, whatever word you use still refers to the same object.

Finally, mostly of the time when we say "fuck" or "shit", we aren't even talking about intercourse or excrement. We are saying "I don't care what they think" or "I think this is terrible food" or "that was an incredible dinner" or "ouch", etc. When I was a kid I got into big trouble for using the word "crud". I had no idea why, until my mother finally admitted that when SHE was a kid, "crud" meant the same as "shit". Can you imagine complaining about somebody saying "crud" today?

Words are only the tool for referring to what we want to talk about. They cannot be "bad" or "good" or "evil" or "disgusting" or "cool".

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it would split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before together.
-Jacob A. Riis, journalist and social reformer (1849-1914)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fellow Passenger on Spaceship Earth

I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process an integral function of the universe."
--R. Buckminster Fuller, designer, author, architect, inventor (1895-1983)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Quote on Self-Responsibility

Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.
-Michel De Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Quote on Communication

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

--Joseph Pulitzer

This quote has the somewhat unusual quality of demonstrating what it advises--clear, enlightening prose to communicate an idea effectively. A lesson for us all.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Deviation of History? Maybe Not...

In The this Raw Story article about the movie 300 I came across this line:

Iran's [prime minister] has called foul over what it calls "deviation of history" but also because the Persians in the film were shown as "ugly and violent creatures rather than human beings."

I could not find an original source for the phrase "deviation of history" but it sounds like something someone might have said, or at least, a translation of something someone might have said.

But it does make one think, doesn't it? I assume the speaker of those words meant something like "This movie doesn't tell the story as we know it happened, ie, as it came to us in 'real history.' Therefore this deviates from history."

Surely they would have done better to say "we consider this portrayal of Persians an attempt to insult those of us living today who consider ourselves descended from the Persians who lived at the time this fictional movie takes place." This tells a more accurate story of their reaction, in my view, without the need to objectify "history" as if we have access to a single, verifiable, accurate account of what happened that would show this movie to be a 'deviation.'

Robert Anton Wilson was credited with the term Maybe Logic, which suggests that we limit our statements of "fact" with the word "maybe." For example he says:

Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering “Maybe Jesus ‘was’ the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do” — or every tower in Islam resounding with “There ‘is’ no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet”?

Can we imagine a world where movies use Maybe Logic to say "Maybe things happened like this," and people respond by saying "Maybe that's not what I learned about those events. Maybe what happened was something in between your story and mine, or something quite different. Maybe we'll never know."

And maybe if we talk like that, we won't get so angry at other people for having opinions. Because maybe doesn't seem quite so threatening, does it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why I am Not a Believer

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
--George Bernard Shaw, playwright (1856-1950)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Avoiding Hardening of the Categories

Comedian Steven Wright was confronted by a friend saying "Your socks don't match!"

Steven responded "Yes they do. I was going by thickness."

When my current partner, an composer/artist, came to live with me, he immediately started challenging my hardened categories.

One day I opened the kitchen cabinet to take out a glass. Jim had evidently put the clean dishes away earlier in the day. As a person who "likes" things in the Right Place, I had to stifle an annoyed complaint--the glasses and cups were "all mixed up."

However, as a person in love, I wanted to find a cautious, friendly way to make my complaint. So I looked closer, to ascertain the difference between his way and The Right Way, which involved function, not form--I keep mugs and cups on the left, glasses on the right, aligned by use, juice glasses first, then milk glasses, then tall tea glasses. This clearly represents the "natural order" for such implements. So where, I asked myself, had Jim gone so wrong?

At that point, I realized that he had used his artist's eye to group the items by color--blue glass mugs with blue drinking glasses, clear juice glasses with clear glass mugs, white coffee cups with tall white ice tea glasses. Color! He had grouped these things by color, something COMPLETELY UNRELATED to their function!

Instead of voicing my complaint, I laughed. I savored the moment, one that comes too rarely, when I come face to face with my hardened categories and have to grant their fabrication at my own hands. I took a glass, blue one, and closed the cabinet without correcting the arrangement. For the rest of the day, almost, I remembered that I could change my mind.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mystery to History

We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.
-Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Douglas Adams on the Big Question

" asks himself, 'If [somebody like me] made [all this], what did he make it for?' Now the real trap springs, because ... man is thinking, 'This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely' and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. "
-- Douglas Adams