June 09, 2020
As Everybody Knows—

— Whenever you wish to assert something completely false, always preface it with the statement: ‘There can be no possible doubt’ or ‘It is universally admitted that.’

…from Baron Bulwer-Lytton’s essay, “Professor Tomlinson’s Advice to His Pupils.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:36 PM
November 29, 2010
Same Old Same Old

As I’m frantically working to finish six psych papers in the next two weeks, I have only this to offer, from Genius by James Gleick.

“Would I had phrases that are not known, utterances that are strange, in new language that has not been used, free from repetition, not an utterance which has grown stale, which men of old have spoken.” An Egyptian scribe fixed those words in stone at the very dawn of recorded utterance — already jaded, a millenium before Homer.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:06 AM
May 20, 2010
Commonplace Book

First I would be in love with Peace,
   And her rich swelling breasts increase;
But how alas! how may that be,
   Despising Earth, will she love me?
Richard Lovelace
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:21 PM
May 05, 2010
Commonplace Book

“Democracy has few values of its own: it is as good, or as bad, as the principles of the people who operate it. In the hands of liberal and tolerant people, it will produce a liberal and tolerant government; in the hands of cannibals, a government of cannibals.”
Norman Davies
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:15 PM
April 17, 2010
Commonplace Book

“A pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises. An optimist gets nothing but unpleasant ones.”
Nero Wolfe
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:47 PM
January 15, 2010
Commonplace Book

“The right use of bold persons is, that they never command in chief, but be seconds, and under the direction of others. For in counsel it is good to see dangers; and in execution not to see them, except they be very great.”
Francis Bacon
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:14 PM
December 08, 2009
Commonplace Book

“All rising to great place is by a winding stair.”
Francis Bacon
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:14 PM
October 28, 2009
Commonplace Book

“Experience has shown that there is no action so wicked that even an honest man will not do it if he is borne out by the opinion of those with whom he habitually associates.”
John Stuart Mill
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:21 PM
October 13, 2009
Commonplace Book

“The errors of benevolence are by no means those from which human prosperity has most to apprehend.
John Stuart Mill
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM
October 12, 2009
Commonplace Book

“As for the wars which were anciently made on the behalf of a kind of party, or tacit conformity of estate, I do not see how they may be well justified: as when the Romans made a war for the liberty of Grecia; or when the Lacedaemonians and Athenians made wars to set up or pull down democracies and oligarchies; or when wars were made by foreigners, under the pretence of justice or protection, to deliver the subjects of others from tyranny and oppressions; and the like.”
Francis Bacon
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:47 PM
September 29, 2009
Commonplace Book

“They are not skilful considerers of human things who imagine to remove sin by removing the matter of sin … Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure he has yet one jewel left, ye can not bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye can not make them chaste, that came not thither so … a dram of well-being should be preferred before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person, more than the restraint of ten vicious.”
John Milton
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:02 AM
September 21, 2009
Commonplace Book

“To have contemplated human life for forty years is the same as to have contemplated it for ten thousand years. For what more wilt thou see?”
Marcus Aurelius
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:46 PM
September 16, 2009
Commonplace Book

“Lies are sufficient to breed opinion, and opinion brings on substance.”
Sir Francis Bacon
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:01 PM
September 11, 2009
Commonplace Book

“The brain cannot see itself fooling itself.”
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:22 PM
September 09, 2009
Commonplace Book

“If parents are not lenient, children are not likely to be filial.”
The Rev. W. Scarborough’s “Chinese Proverbs,” 1875
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:49 AM
September 07, 2009
Commonplace Book

“I would not live over my hours past, or begin again the thread of my days: not upon Cicero’s ground, because I have lived them well, but for fear I should live them worse.”
Sir Thomas Browne
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:14 AM
September 03, 2009
Commonplace Book

“Critics are like horse-flies which hinder the horses in their ploughing of the soil. The muscles of the horse are as taut as fiddle-strings, and suddenly a horse-fly alights on its croup, buzzing and stinging. The horse’s skin quivers, it waves its tail. What is the fly buzzing about? It probably doesn’t know itself. It simply has a restless nature and wants to make itself felt— ‘I’m alive, too, you know!’ it seems to say. ‘Look, I know how to buzz, there’s nothing I can’t buzz about!’ I’ve been reading reviews of my stories for twenty-five years, and can’t remember a single useful point in any of them, or the slightest good advice.”
Anton Chekhov
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:41 AM
August 31, 2009
Commonplace Book

“They are not skilful considerers of human things who imagine to remove sin by removing the matter of sin … Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure he has yet one jewel left, ye can not bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye can not make them chaste, that came not thither so … a dram of well-being should be preferred before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person, more than the restraint of ten vicious.”
John Milton
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:10 PM
August 30, 2009
Commonplace Book

“Those who rather pursue posthumous fame do not consider that the men of after-time will be exactly such as those whom they cannot bear now.”
Marcus Aurelius
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:25 PM
August 28, 2009
Commonplace Book

“He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation. But if thou shalt have no sensation, neither will thou feel any harm; and if thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou wilt be a different kind of living being, and thou wilt not cease to live.”
Marcus Aurelius
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:52 AM
August 25, 2009
Commonplace Book


A birdy with a yellow bill
Hopped upon my window sill
I tricked him with a piece of bread
And bashed him on his fucking head.


***

tomorrow is canceled

Graffiti in Saigon toilets, 1968

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:59 PM
August 24, 2009
Commonplace Book

“more than know means guess”
e.e. cummings
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:00 AM
August 23, 2009
Commonplace Book

“Of all lies, art is the least untrue.”
Gustave Flaubert
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:54 PM
August 22, 2009
Commonplace Book

“For as there are misanthropists or haters of men, there are also misologists or haters of ideas, and both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world.”
Dialogues of Plato
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:43 AM
November 15, 2004
Commonplace, 11/15/04

Thomas L. Friedman, writing in the NYT of 1/12/92: “...to the extent that Russia is a democracy it will be much less of a threat to the U.S., since democracies are less likely to initiate aggressive wars.” “Aggressive?” “Democracy?” The “democracy” to which Mr. Friedman refers has just launched one war a year for the previous two years, plus military actions against Nicaragua, Libya (twice), and Grenada during the preceding eight.

This is a pretty fair example of the kinds of things you can write in newspaper columns without the need to cite any source or advance any argument, and yet run no fear of contradiction. “Peace-loving communist nations” sounds grotesque to us, whereas “peace-loving democracies” sounds like the simple truth, as unarguable as gravity. We begin to grow up only when we open ourselves to the suspicion that both terms run counter to observable fact.

(Friedman’s is an opinion column, of course. But it offers a window onto the unexamined assumptions that hobble his opinions — and those of most Americans. Can we imagine an American editor across whose mind there ever passed even the momentary thought of assigning a reporter to examine recent history so as to determine which forms of government actually do engage most often in “aggressive wars?”)

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:06 PM
November 11, 2004
Commonplace, 11/11/04

For the last fifteen years or so I’ve been keeping a commonplace book — a sort of offline blog. I’m now mining these 1,000-plus pages for an actual book I’m setting out to write, at the moment called Why You Never Seem to Get Ahead.

When I get down to business, I’ll be posting bits and pieces in hopes of getting reaction, correction, and ideas from you. Meanwhile I’ll put up, for what interest they may have, various scraps I come across in my files and notes.

Here’s the first, probably dating from the Bush I or early Clinton years:

Powerlessness ought to be divided into two sections: one for the poor saps at the bottom of the food chain: the trailer park conservatives, the fundamentalists, etc. And another for those who sell them the myths: the journalists, the entertainers.

Fascinating to consider the cases of newspapers, mass novels (mysteries and even the lit-crit stuff, which is inward-looking and devoid of overt political content, suggesting that nothing can be done and all is hopeless), and of movies. The misdirected and childish, and hence harmless, “revolt” of an Oliver Stone, or a Network. The equally misdirected anti-government stuff of Jimmy Stewart type flicks like Dave (in which the president dies and a commonsense look-alike brings peace and prosperity), the wonderful case of the Wall Street Journal, where the reporters splashed happily and usefully in their little puddle while the propagandists on the editorial side peddled supply-side rationalizations to the country’s (and the paper’s) owners as they all joined hands to scuttle the economy.

Investigative reporting looks admirable at first glance, but let's take the Iran-contra thing, say. The energy and the reporting were entirely misdirected. The true scandal, the secret illegal war, was hardly worth bothering with. It was in fact known from the start by any diligent reader of the papers; it just was not seen as important.

The true scandal wasn’t arms for hostages, which seems to me to have been a perfectly defensible idea. It was the subversion of government, a coup from within. But the press had colluded in this sort of thing for so long that it didn't strike anyone as news that the President and the CIA director and the NSC were attempting to take over the government.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:29 PM