Commonplace Book of Quotations, August 2010

"I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying. It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The 'Watchmen' film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can't we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change."
(Alan Moore)

“If you are superman, let me be forever animal.”
(artist and occultist Austin Spare in a 1936 letter to Adolf Hitler, responding to Hitler’s request that Spare paint Hitler’s portrait)

I bring you the stately nation named Christendom, returning, bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiao-Chou, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking-glass.”
(Mark Twain, New Years, 1900)

“As a (semi-) reformed fanboy myself, you’d think I’d be celebrating... yet I find this rise to dominance both confusing and ironic, no more so than when fanboys shout down opposition to something they collectively adore. .. Not only is this wrongheaded, it’s the exact opposite of the fanboy ethos.... You loved what you loved, in part, because it spoke directly to you, and in part because most other people didn’t feel the same way... [and] if there is one thing the Internet is good for, it’s bringing together like-minded people, then convincing them that their opinion is the only valid one in existence. Psychologists call this “group polarization,” a tendency for people who agree to gather and prod each other toward further extremism. This has long been evident on political blogs, but it’s true in cultural criticism as well...Once the outcast underdogs, fanboys have become the new bullies.”
(Adam Sternberg in New York

“Charlemagne [columnist for The Economist, not the Holy Roman Emperor] doesn't always work for me, but he did this week, boy howdy. (I've never used that phrase before; I'm trying it out.) His column focuses on explaining something that Americans probably don't fully grasp, which is that Europe's tendency towards limiting the work week and lowering the retirement age came not out of laziness or me-me-meism, but from a general belief that these were the goals of a civilized society when they had escaped the basics of food/shelter problems for a large enough group. Throw a hand to the unfortunate, and try to get to a place where most people didn't have to work crazy hours. Take longer vacations. Chill the fuck out. It's a solid piece of wistful writing, even when it smacks of a little bit of blind optimism.”
(Tucker Stone)

“The reason that Europeans struggle to accept the need to work more, and get less from the state is that it seems to signal an abrupt reversal of the decades-long advance towards an ever-more civilised society: in short, the end of progress..... By progressively shrinking the number of hours worked a week, or years worked over a lifetime, society seemed to be rolling towards some sort of ideal, with vin rosé and deckchairs on the beach for all. This fits France’s sense of secular, revolutionary History, carrying the country forward, however fitfully, like an “endless cortege proceeding towards the light”, in the words of Jules Ferry, a 19th-century educationalist. Even President Nicolas Sarkozy, usually averse to abstract nouns, has spoken of “the politics of civilisation” and asked economists to measure output in terms of happiness, not just growth.
Put simply, if Europe stands for something, it is decent treatment for all. To this way of thinking, to guarantee a comfortable retirement is akin to banning child labour or giving women the vote: not optional perks, but badges of a civilised society. Such social preferences are what Europe is for, and what makes it different from America. Europe may no longer be a global power, or have much military muscle. Its churches may be empty, its spiritual fibre weak. It may not boast much cutting-edge innovation or economic growth. But it knows how to look after its sick and elderly, take a long lunch break and abandon the office in August. The cold realisation that time is up, and that such progress is over, prompts anger, denial and shock.”
(“Charlemagne” in The Economist)

“The difference between actors and comedians is that actors are symmetrical, physically, and comedians are lopsided.”
(Martin Brown)

“The human form, with its endless racial and genetic variations, is only one template for beauty which suffers from the changing tastes of passing eras - our views on horses and orchids have remained relatively static.” (Jay Stebly on the article “The Phenomenology of Ugly)