It is sadder to find the past again

16 August 2019

It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.

~  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mark Twain on Photographs. 

14 August 2019

From DAILY HAWAIIAN HERALD, September 5, 1866 [including a few corrections of typos and inserted paragraph breaks by PG]:

We have just been reading over Sam Clement’s [sic] last letter, and in the following instance, he blunders on so much truth that we have a notion to countermand our order for him to communicate with us. Speaking of photographs he says they are all false, and feelingly remarks,

No photograph ever was good, yet, of anybody – hunger and thirst and utter wretchedness overtake the outlaw who invented it!

It transforms into desperadoes the meekest of men; depicts sinless innocence upon the pictured faces of ruffians; gives the wise man the stupid leer of a fool, and a fool an expression of more than earthly wisdom.

If a man tries to look serious when he sits for his picture the photograph makes him look as solemn as an owl; if he smiles, the photograph smirks repulsively; if he tries to look pleasant, the photograph looks silly; if he makes the fatal mistake of attempting to seem pensive, the camera will surely write him down as an ass.

The sun never looks through the photographic instrument that it does not print a lie.

The piece of glass it prints it on is well named a “negative” – a contradiction- a misrepresentation- a falsehood.

I speak feeling of this matter, because by turns the instrument has represented me to be a lunatic, a Soloman, a missionary, a burglar and an abject idiot, and I am neither.

Mark Twain Before the House Judiciary Committee

13 August 2019

From Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean, March 24, 1888, p. 1 [additional paragraph breaks inserted by PG]


Mark Twain Before the House Judiciary Committee.

WASHINGTON, March 23. – A hearing on the subject of the proposed international copyright law took place this morning before the House Committee on Judiciary. Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) said it seemed to him that the question as it had taken form in the last year or two, had become at last a sort of question which the authors themselves ought to have attended to long ago, but they had not done so.

So far as he knew, the international copyright law had, in the past, taken but one form, in respect of the attempts of authors about it, and that had been that there was no party concerned in it or affect by it but “his majesty, the author;” and that the author was first, last, and all the time the only important factor, the one chiefly affected and to be affected by any change in that direction.

But, as the matter stood now, all parties concerned had learned to see the matter had not stood in that way at all; that there had been a mistake down from Mr. Clay’s time to the present, that the parties concerned in it and whose rights were at stake were not chiefly the authors; in fact the authors were the persons least concerned in international copyright, either in regard of pocket or of reputation.

There were many other people to be considered — the printer, the binder, and publisher — and all these, he understood, were in favor of the Chace-Breckinridge bill.

He was glad to see the matter take that shape and to see the author brought down from his Alpine altitude of being the only person concerned in it, and made to take his place among the foot hills where he properly belonged. [Laughter.]

The case, he said, had been properly set before the committees of Congress, and the committee, he thought, would report the bill.

He knew that the committee had a good deal of work to do; and he was reminded of the Irishman’s suggestion to the other party in the quarrel. “Now, all that I want of you is silence, and mightly little of that.” [Laughter.]

The Internet’s Distinct Configuration May Have Facilitated Anonymous Threats

12 August 2019

The Internet’s distinct configuration may have facilitated anonymous threats, copyright infringement, and cyberattacks, but it has also kindled the flame of freedom in ways that the framers of the American constitution would appreciate – the Federalist papers were famously authored pseudonymously.

~  Jonathan Zittrain

I Sat in the Back Pew

10 August 2019

I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man.

Harlan Coben, first line of Six Years

Don’t Eat and Read

9 August 2019

All books should not be read in the same way. Novels, for instance, are there to be devoured. Reading them is a voluptuous act of absorption, not an act of empathy. The reader does not imagine himself in the hero’s place, but assimilates what befalls him. The vivid report of these experiences is the appetizing trimmings in which a nourishing dish comes to the table.

There is, to be sure, a raw diet of experience—just as there is a raw diet for the stomach—to wit: one’s own experiences. But the art of the novel, like the culinary arts, begins beyond the raw ingredients.

How many nourishing substances there are that are unappetizing in a raw state! How many experiences are advisable to read about, but not to have! Some readers are struck so forcefully, they would have been devastated had they suffered the experiences directly.

In short, if there were a muse of the novel—a tenth muse—her emblem would be the cook. She raises the world from its raw state in order to create something fit to eat, to bring out the fullness of its flavor. One may, if necessary, read the newspaper while eating. But never a novel. These are two conflicting obligations.

~  Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), a philosopher, cultural critic, and essayist

It’s technology

9 August 2019

It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.

~ Steve Jobs

He Was a Guy Who Talked with Commas

8 August 2019

He was a guy who talked with commas, like a heavy novel. Over the phone anyway.

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

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