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Useful, pithy observations...

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The week of February 29, 2004 ...
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension.  It is the presence of justice."

   - Martin Luther King Jr.

"His account of the Communists shows in the most extreme form what I came to loathe in the abolitionists - the conviction that anyone who did not agree with them was a knave or a fool.  You see the same in some Catholics and some of the 'Drys' apropos of the 18th amendment.  I detest a man who knows that he knows."
   - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., letter to Harold Laski, October 30, 1930

"There is nothing, I think, in which the power of art is shown so much as in playing on the fiddle. In all other things, we can do something at first.  Any man will forge a bar of iron, if you give him a hammer; not so well as a smith, but tolerably.  A man will saw a piece of wood, and make a box, though a clumsy one; but give him a fiddle, and a fiddle-stick, and he can do nothing."

   - Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson

"Half the controversies in the world are verbal ones; and could they be brought to a plain issue, they would be brought to a prompt termination.  Parties engaged in them would then perceive, either that in substance they agreed together, or that their difference was one of first principles."
   - John Henry Newman, "Faith and Reason, Contrasted as Habits of Mind"

Week of February 22, 2004 courtesy of Terry Teachout's site About Last Night -


"Later in life, I learnt that many things one may require have to be weighed against one's dignity, which can be an insuperable barrier against advancement in almost any direction."  

- Anthony Powell, A Question of Upbringing


"Meanwhile, if I were endowed with wealth, I should start a great advertising campaign in all the principal newspapers. The advertisements would consist of one short sentence, printed in huge block letters - a sentence that I once heard spoken by a husband to a wife: 'My dear, nothing in this world is worth buying.'"  

- Max Beerbohm, Mainly on the Air


"Sentimentality is feeling about nothing.  Sentiment, on the same hand, is what people who are scared of feeling describe as sentimentality."


-          Hans Keller, The Sentimental Violin

I'll have to think about that.  It sounds very wise.  Perhaps it isn't.





DOC HOLLIDAY: What do you want, Wyatt?
WYATT EARP: Just to live a normal life.
DOC: There is no normal life, there's just life.

- Kevin Jarre, screenplay for Tombstone



"That's all any of us are - amateurs.  We don't live long enough to be anything else."


-          Charlie Chaplin, screenplay for Limelight

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Advice to the Sun King


Sire: For thirty years your ministers have violated all the ancient laws of the state so as to enhance you power. They have increased you revenues and expenditures to the infinite and have impoverished all of France for the luxury of your court. They have made you name odious.

For twenty years they have made the French nation intolerable to its neighbors by bloody wars. We have no allies because wanted only slaves. Meanwhile, your people are starving. Sedition is spreading and you are reduced to either letting it spread unpunished or resorting to massacring the people that you have driven to desperation.

- Fénelon to Louis XIV (c. 1694)

Just something I came across reading Jacques Barzuns From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present, Perennial (May 15, 2001), 912 pages, ISBN: 0060928832 (page 298)

Thirty Years?  Twenty years?  George Bush only needed three years.

My attorney friend on Wall Street commented, "Thirty Years?  Twenty years?  George Bush only needed three years.  Makes sense to me.  George had modern technology to his advantage."  And Phillip Raines just said, "Off with his head!"

Ah, but Louis XIV died an old man September 1, 1715 after almost seventy years in power - it was the latter chap who lost his head.


Louis XIV did give us the Louvre (using Claude Perrault).  And Versailles (he moved there in 1682).  There were a few wars in the years alluded to in the quote - the "War of Devolution" against the Spanish Netherlands (1667-68) - he thought they belonged to his Spanish wife because the dowry had never been paid.  And he got some territory in Flanders.  And the "Anglo-Dutch War" (1672-78) where he picked up a bit more of Flanders (not the guy from the Simpsons).  Things went downhill with death of Colbert (1683).  In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes and the damned Huguenots jumped ship - some of them ending up over here in "Arcadia" (Eastern Canada and then around New Orleans - thus the "Cajuns").  In 1688 he started the big war with just about everybody in sight (the nine-year "War of the Grand Alliance").  That ended badly - with the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697).  Of course there was the "War of the Spanish Succession" (1701-1714) to keep his grandson on the throne.  The ended with the "Peace of Utrecht" - France retained earlier conquests, and the Spanish empire was divided between Philip V and Charles VI.  The Crowns of France and Spain were to remain separate.  Oh well.


Bush has a long way to go to catch up to all this.


Reactions to the Death of Louis XIV?


From Duc de Saint-Simon. The Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon. As reproduced in The Age of Magnificence: The Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, trans. Sanche de Gramont, ed. Sanche de Gramont (New York: Capricorn Books, 1964), 183-184.


There were two sorts of persons at court: Those who rejoiced at the end of a reign which held no promise for them and now could set their sights on better positions and those who, wearied by the heavy and oppressive rule of the King and his ministers, felt a delighted freedom. Everyone in general felt delivered from the inconvenience of a court requiring continuous novelty. Paris, weary of its subjugation, found relief in the hope of liberation and in the joy of witnessing the demise of those who had abused their authority. The provinces, which had despaired because of their devastation, now breathed easy and quivered with delight. Parliaments and judges, crushed by edicts and rulings, now had hope of new license and authority. The people, ruined, abused, despairing, now thanked God for a deliverance which answered their most ardent desires. Foreign nations, although delighted to be rid of a monarch who for so many years had imposed his law, and who had always miraculously escaped their efforts to bring him to task, behaved with greater propriety than the French. The marvels of the first three quarters of his seventy-year reign, and the personal magnanimity of a fortunate king whom fortune abandoned in the last quarter, had understandably dazzled them. As a matter of honor, they granted him after his death what they had constantly refused him during his life. Not a single foreign court exulted; all took pains to praise and honor his memory. The Emperor went into mourning as though for his own father; and in Vienna, the prohibition of all entertainments was strictly enforced, even though the carnival was due four or five months after the King's death.


Fools.  They should have had the party.


My grand philosophical conclusion at the end of the day is that humanity does not divide into the rich and the poor, the privileged and the unprivileged, the clever and the stupid, the lucky and the unlucky or even into the happy and the unhappy. It divides into the nasty and the nice. Nasty people are humourless, bitter, self-pitying, resentful and mean. They are also, of course, invariably miserable. Saints may worry about them and even try to turn their sour natures, but those who do not aspire to saintliness are best advised to avoid them whenever possible, and give their aggression a good run for its money whenever it becomes unavoidable.

- Auberon Waugh, Will This Do?

I came across this at About Last Night.




"Criminal: A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation." 


  - Howard Scott (sent in by S. Valcourt of London, Ontario, Canada)



On politics, the first rather famous, the second more obscure:


Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.


- John Kenneth Galbraith

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.  The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes.  The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.


- G.K. Chesterton


On Americans, useful at cocktail parties with French folks present - what the famous Frenchman said of us in the middle of the eighteenth century:


Each person behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others....  As for his transactions with his follow citizens, he may mix among them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone.  And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society.


- Alex de Tocqueville in Democracy in America.


Or other observations that will make you seem pithy:


The Americans who are the most efficient people on earth... have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on a conversation without giving a moment's reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.


- Somerset Maugham

In America there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is.  This is what makes America what it is.


- Gertrude Stein

There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive's new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.


- Mark Twain


Here's something useful for those times when people are parading their degrees and accomplishments.  


Remember, Karl Rove, perhaps the most powerful man in the world, as he is the one who leads George Bush to do what he thinks George Bush should do, dropped out of the University of Utah after two years to devote his life to conservative Republican politics.  Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years to devote himself to... something or other.  Most CEO's - the folks who run Americas corporations - are college dropouts or never even went.  So there's this:


Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education.  Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.


- A. E. Wiggen




Useful when folks say they saw something in the news, so it must be true.


If you're not careful the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.


- Malcolm X

Journalism consists largely in saying "Lord Jones died" to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.


- G. K. Chesterton




And these are just fun.


We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know.


- W.H. Auden

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time" so I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.


- Steven Wright




I found most of these at The Progressive Review.