April 24

Home / Something Wise / April 24

Thank you for stopping. You have obviously found me unconscious by the side of the road, or at a party, or possibly propped up against a wall someplace, and you have wisely reached into my pocket and found this medical advisory. If you found other things in my pockets, kindly do not read or keep them. They are none of your business and/or do not belong to you. And remember that, even though I am unconscious now, when I wake up I will remember the things I had. If I am wearing a tie, please loosen it. But, again, do not take it off and keep it. It is not yours and is probably more expensive than you can afford. If I am not wearing a tie, look around at the other people who have gathered to look at me and see if any of them is wearing a tie that might belong to me. If so, please approach that individual and ask for my tie back. If he says it is his, say you do not think so. If he insists, give him one of the cards (in the same pocket where you found this note) of my attorney, and tell the person he will be hearing from him soon.  

– Jack Handey, “Thank You for Stopping”, 1999

April 22

Home / Something Wise / April 22

Since so many [Mao] badges were made illegally, accurate estimates are impossible to reach, but at the height of the revolution some 2 to 5 billion badges had been produced across the country. The amount of aluminium diverted away from other industrial activities was so excessive that in 1969 Mao intervened: Give me back my aeroplanes. – Frank Dikötter, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, 2016

The flowers bloomed, the schools of thought contended, and Mao’s executioners went to work. The slogan had the same function as the Constitution of the Soviet Union, which Aleksandr Zinoviev tellingly defined as a document published in order to find out who agreed with it, so that they could be dealt with. – Clive James, Cultural Amnesia, 2007

One evening about six months later, there was a knock at my door. It was the Chairman, cheerful on rice wine. With his famous economy of expression, he embraced me and taught me the Ten Right Rules of Lovemaking: Reconnoitre, Recruit, Relax, Recline, Relate, Reciprocate, Rejoice, Recover, Reflect, and Retire. I was surprised by his ardor, for I knew the talk that he had been incapacitated by a back injury in the Great Leap Forward. In truth, his spine was supple as a peony stalk. The only difficulty was that it was sensitive to certain kinds of pressure. A few times he was moved to remind me, “Please, don’t squeeze the Chairman.” – Veronica Geng, “My Mao”, Fierce Pajamas, 2002

Loudspeakers blasted revolutionary songs, one of them with lyrics from the Chairman’s Little Red Book: “The world is yours, and also ours. But it is, in the final analysis, yours. You young people are full of vigour and vitality like the eight or nine o’clock sun in the morning. You are our hope”. Zhai Zhenhua had heard the excerpt a hundred times before. It had filled her with pride. But on the day of her departure to Yan’an the words rang hollow. “The world is ours?” she asked herself. “Bullshit!” – Frank Dikötter, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, 2016

April 18

Home / Something Wise / April 18

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. – Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” 1844

A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged. – Czesław Miłosz, “The Discreet Charm of Nihilism”, 1998

April 16

Home / Something Wise / April 16

God makes a portion of each generation intelligent well above the average, and despite the best efforts of our state school systems, His handiwork is hard to suppress. The task of the modern progressive university is therefore to corrupt and unbalance the intelligent; to pit their minds against their common sense. – David Warren, “Essays in Idleness”, 2016

April 15

Home / Something Wise / April 15

From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world. – Saint Arnold (or Arnulf) of Metz, (582-645),  the patron saint of brewers

Let all who desire to be Christians know that it is incumbent upon them to manifest the virtue of temperance; that drunken sots have no place among Christians, and cannot be saved until they amend their ways, until they reform from their evil habits. – Martin Luther, (1483-1546)

“Son, a woman is like a beer. They smell good, they look good, you’d step over your own mother just to get one! But you can’t stop at one. You wanna drink another woman!” – Homer Simpson, “New Kid on the Block”, The Simpsons, 1993

April 14

Home / Something Wise / April 14

Dancing is not an art but a pastime, and should, therefore, be freed from the too-burdensome regulations wherewith an art is encumbered. An art is a highly-specialised matter hedged in on every side by intellectual policemen, a pastime is not specialised, and never takes place in the presence of policemen, who are well known to be the sworn enemies of gaiety. For example, theology is an art but religion is a pastime: we learn the collects only under compulsion, but we sing anthems because it is pleasant to do so. Thus, eating oysters is an art by dint of the elaborate ceremonial including shell-openers, lemons, waiters and pepper, which must be grouped around your oyster before you can conveniently swallow him, but eating nuts, or blackberries, or a privily-acquired turnip—these are pastimes.

– James Stephens, “There Is A Tavern In Our Town”, Here Are Ladies, 1914

April 9

Home / Something Wise / April 9

The Andrians were the first of the islanders to refuse Themistocles’ demand for money. He had put it to them that they would be unable to avoid paying, because the Athenians had the support of two powerful deities, one called Persuasion and the other Compulsion. The Andrians had replied that Athens was lucky to have two such useful gods, who were obviously responsible for her wealth and greatness; unfortunately, they themselves, in their small and inadequate land, had two utterly useless deities, who refused to leave the island and insisted on staying; and their names were Poverty and Inability. – Herodotus, The History of the Persian War, c. 430 BC

April 8

Home / Something Wise / April 8

Captain Renault: I’ve often speculated why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator’s wife? I like to think you killed a man. It’s the romantic in me.

Rick: It was a combination of all three.

Captain Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick: I was misinformed.

– Epstein, Epstein, and Koch, Casablanca, 1942