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Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Johnson

“Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger”*…

 

Know Thyself

An anonymous 17th-century allegorical painting inscribed Nosce te Ipsum (Know thyself)

 

We all know the most famous bit of ancient advice inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Know thyself. It’s a powerful and daunting recommendation. If you take it seriously, you will begin to push through all of the misconceptions you have, not only about yourself but about human beings generally. You will begin to think deeply about who you really are and who you ought to be. You might start making life-altering decisions, decisions that (if you are right) bring you into harmony with your nature and your circumstances, or (if you are wrong) turn your life into a big mistake. There should be little wonder that this one command is the highest command of all philosophy: follow it like a religious law, and – one way or another – you will be a great philosopher.

But this powerful command is in fact just one of some 147 apophthegmata (pithy words of wisdom) inscribed upon a stone monument at Delphi. It’s not clear where these lesser-known maxims came from. The ancient compiler Stobaeus attributed them to the Seven Sages – wise men of the sixth century BCE, such as Solon and Thales – but maybe they were generated in the same hazy way that all instances of folk wisdom (sticks and stones, stitch in time, etc) are generated, and then set in stone for the benefit of later seekers of wisdom – such as us.

Some of these maxims are, for us, complete nonstarters…

Appraise the advise at “More than ‘know thyself’: on all the other Delphic maxims.”

* variously attributed to Mark Twain, Abbie Hoffman, and Aardvark Magazine

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As we wonder about wisdom, we might send well-worded birthday greetings to Samuel Johnson; he was born on this date in 1709.  A poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer, Johnson’s best-known work was surely  A Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1755, after nine years work– and which served as the standard for 150 years (until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary).  But Dr. Johnson, as he was known, is probably best remembered as the subject of what Walter Jackson Bate noted is “the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature”: James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.  A famous aphorist, Johnson was the very opposite of a man he described to Boswell in 1784: “He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.”

Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Dr. Johnson

source

 

Written by LW

September 18, 2018 at 1:01 am

Picture this…

 

Just one of the entries at WTF Visualizations: “visualizations that make no sense.”

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As we recall that not all pictures signify, we might send well-worded birthday greetings to Samuel Johnson; he was born on this date in 1709.  A poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer, Johnson’s best-known work was surely  A Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1755, after nine years work– and which served as the standard for 150 years (until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary).  But Dr. Johnson, as he was known, is probably best remembered as the subject of what Walter Jackson Bate noted is “the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature” : James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.  A famous aphorist, Johnson was the very opposite of a man he described to Boswell in 1784: “He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.”

Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Dr. Johnson

source

 

 

Written by LW

September 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

Don’t blink!…

source: PBS

The cost of attending a movie, insofar as filmgoers are concerned, is about $4 per hour, or just over a tenth of a cent per second… not including popcorn, of course.

But from the studio’s perspective the cost equation is materially more complicated:  budgets vary, as do run times; but at least the studios have some control over those.  Revenues vary widely too– and entirely at the whim of us, the moviegoers.

The good folks at Sharenator have done the arithmetic to let us cut through this complexity.  Bottom line, “blink for a moment and BAM! You’ve just missed thousands of dollars worth of material.”

source: Sharenator (click to see larger images)

As we debate refilling our extra-large cartons, we might send sultry birthday sentiments to Greta Garbo, who was born this date in 1905, and who insisted late in her life, “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is a whole world of difference.”

Ms. Garbo

(And we might choose our words carefully, as this is also the birthday (1709) of lexicographer, wit– and trenchant observer– Dr. Samuel Johnson, who noted that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”)

Dr. Johnson (by Joshua Reynolds)

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Increase your vocabulary!…

If, as Dr. Johnson suggested, “Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language,”  Wordnik is a veritable Santa’s sack…  One can watch the language evolve before one’s very eyes:

As we mind our p’s and q’s, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1993– a bad day for word games–that both of the broadcast series “Scattergories” and “Scrabble” aired for the last time on NBC, effectively marking the end of the brief vogue for adapting popular board games into television quiz shows (the trend before and after being in the other direction:  television to board)…

Scrabble’s TV logo

Your correspondent is turning to some family business for the next few days, a period during which these missives will likely be more roughly than daily.  Apologies.

Written by LW

June 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

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