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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain”*…

 

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To Epictetus’ dictum in the title of this post, one might add “disdain”…

“That most deformed concept-cripple of all time.”

Friedrich Nietzsche on Immanuel Kant

“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.”

Arthur Schopenhauer on Georg Hegel

“There’s no ‘theory’ in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find… some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a 12-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying.”

Noam Chomsky on Slavoj Žižek

“Well, with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my… point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate… well, I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong.”

Slavoj Žižek on Noam Chomsky

“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors, those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russell

The hits just keep on coming at “The 30 Harshest Philosopher-on-Philosopher Insults in History” and “Philosophers’ Insults.”

Special bonuses:  Monty Python’s “Philosophers’ Football” and “Dead Philosophers in Heaven.”

* Epictetus

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As we live the examined life, we might send porcelain brithday greetings to Marcel Duchamp; he was born on this date in 1887.  A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.

In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess.  He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer.  Duchamp’s   Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame.  In 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.

Duchamp (center; his wife Teeny, right) “performing” Reunion with John Cage (left) in 1968

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Written by LW

July 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…

 

In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.”  A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.

* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)

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As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946.  An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).  But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.

Carl Van Vechten’s 1935 portrait of Stein

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** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto.  And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.

 

Written by LW

July 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever”*…

 

The internet runs on an attention economy. Those with the most views, clicks, retweets, likes, and friends win. That’s why Petit Tube is so wonderful: it presents only the least-viewed videos on YouTube. It’s a bare-bones site, streaming video after video (1:30 long tops), with two buttons: “cette vidéo est bien? and “cette vidéo n’est pas bien?” Thumbs up or thumbs down.

To say Petit Tube curates videos is probably an overstatement. Real estate tours with corny music aren’t popular for a reason. But even they have their charm, and you’ll also find the occasional gem of found poetry…

Consider this, for example: a Chinese youth orchestra’s rendition of “Scarborough Fair” (up to over 500 views as of this post, surely as a function of it’s featured place in the rotation on Petit Tube)…

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Read more about this celebration of the wonderfully weird at Studio 360‘s “Introducing the least viral videos on the internet,” and then dive into the wonder that is Petit Tube… where “with 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, Petit Tube [is unlikely] run out of material anytime soon.”

* Napoleon

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As we ponder popularity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that Bob Dylan was booed off stage at the Newport Jazz Festival during his first public performance with electric instruments (and a band that included Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper)… The cat-calling began with his opening number, “Maggie’s Farm,” and continued through three more songs, after which Dylan left the stage. As a peace offering to Pete Seeger and other aggrieved organizers, Dylan returned later to do two acoustic numbers… but the die was cast; thereafter, his career was electrically-powered…

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For a sense of just how far things have come, check out Johnny Winter’s version of “Highway 61,” taped at a 1992 tribute to Dylan (on the occasion of 30th anniversary as a recording artist):

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Written by LW

July 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

“It isn’t that they cannot see the solution. It is that they cannot see the problem.”*…

 

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From Zogg from Betelgeuse , “Mathematics: Measuring x Laziness²,” the latest entry in the Earthlings 101 series– a beginner’s guide for alien visitors.

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we dazzle ‘em with differentials, we might spare a thought for Sir Sandford Fleming; he died on this date in 1915.  A Scottish engineer who emigrated to Canada, Fleming designed much of the Intercolonial Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway; was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada; founded the Royal Canadian Institute; and designed the first Canadian postage stamp (the Threepenny Beaver, issued in 1851),  But he is best remembered as the man who divided the world into time zones– the inventor of Worldwide Standard Time.

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Written by LW

July 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is no better high than discovery”*…

 

Be careful what you use as a bookmark. Thousands of dollars, a Christmas card signed by Frank Baum, a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card, a marriage certificate from 1879, a baby’s tooth, a diamond ring and a handwritten poem by Irish writer Katharine Tynan Hickson are just some of the stranger objects discovered inside books by AbeBooks.com booksellers.

I recently opened a secondhand book and an airline boarding pass from Liberia in west Africa to Fort Worth, Texas, fell to the floor. Was there a story behind this little slip of paper? Was someone fleeing from a country ravaged by two civil wars since 1989? I will never know, but used and rare booksellers discover countless objects – some mundane, some bizarre, some deeply personal – inside books as they sort and catalog books for resale.

Adam Tobin, owner of Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, New York, has created a display inside his bookstore dedicated to objects discovered in books.

“It’s a motley assortment,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years since opening the store. The display quickly took over the back wall and now it’s spreading to other places, and there’s a backlog of stuff that we haven’t put up yet. There are postcards, shopping lists, and concert tickets but my favorites are the cryptic notes. They are often deeply personal and can be very moving.”

Used booksellers often take ownership of books that have been in a family or a household for decades or even generations. “It’s easy to find things in books that are very dated,” explained Adam,” Such as a newspaper advert for elastic bands from the 19th century. My personal favorite is an ad from the 1950s that reads ‘Rinsing Dacron Curtains in Milk Makes Them Crisp, Stiff, Just Like New.’”

The most valuable item discovered by Adam is a letter written by C.S. Lewis - author of the Narnia series – but his monetary finds have been limited to a $1 note now pinned to the display.

Eager to learn more, AbeBooks.com asked its booksellers to reveal their finds. You might be surprised to learn what people will leave inside a book…

Discover this buried treasure at “Things Found in Books.”

[TotH to @MartyKrasney]

* E.O. Wilson

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As we rifle through the volumes in our libraries, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1887 that there occured an event that would surely have warmed Dr. Wilson’s heart:  an enormous “rain of ants” at Nancy in France.; “most of them were wingless” (Nature, 36-349.. as quoted in Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned).

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Written by LW

July 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

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