From Barb, the headline of the week, discovered on the BBC’s website:
FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS CHASED THROUGH
LONDON BY WOMEN DRESSED AS BADGERS
If trenchant quotations were properly recognized as a public asset, Mark would be a good candidate for the cabinet post overseeing the storehouses. Recently I came across a few he had assembled when planning to launch a new web log.
From computer pioneer Edsger Dijkstra, advice to a promising researcher:
“Only do what only you can do.”
Djikstra on patience:
“Waiting is a very funny activity. You can’t wait twice as fast.”
And from Steve Mirsky, Scientific American columnist:
“I looked up ‘umpteen’ . . . the number of incorrect ball and strike calls made in a Major League Baseball game.”
Physicist Richard Feynman, on learning that 98% of the atoms in the human body – including the brain – are replaced each year:
“Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in your mind a year ago.”
The average person takes in a ton and a half of matter a year, and your new atoms have to learn your childhood memories.
By law, any group of quotations must include some ridicule of poststructuralist literary critics such as deconstructionist Jacques Derrida. This excerpt comes from William H. Gass in the London Review of Books:
“The poet composes the poem; the critic explains it. The poet is inspired to write the lines; the critic interprets them. But suppose, as has been proposed by followers of Jacques Derrida, there is no right reading of the work, no correct sense for it. Out of a cage of calculations, suppose we are free to choose the pigeon we like best.”
If everything can be taken to mean anything, it hardly matters what words (if any) appear in the poem, or in what order. The search is on for a new literary fad, possibly incorporating the Higgs boson.
Then there’s Chauncey DePew, one of those familiar names of utterly unfamiliar people (He was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s attorney and a U.S. Senator from 1899 to 1911). Here is Chauncey’s take on physical fitness:
“I get all my exercise as a pall bearer for my friends who exercise.”
Finally, an oft-repeated gem from Henry J. Kaiser:
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”