Nora Ephron: "Never turn down a front-row seat for human folly."
Lord Vetinari, Unseen Academicals: "One day I was a young boy... when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. Even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued... As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and the pink roes spilled out much to the delight of the baby otters. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."
McAlvie "The ultimate downfall of modern civilization won't be war; it'll be Twitter and Facebook."
Jenny Zhang: "A lot of writers swear by routine, but I swear by chaos. There’s enough fucking routine in my life. Every day I have to brush my teeth. Every day I have to smile at strangers. Every day I have to worry about money. Every day I want something I can’t have. Every day I find some way to go on! I know that writing every day for an hour would help me tremendously with writer’s block, but I also know that I need an element of wildness in my writing. I need to know that writing is something I do because it sets me free. It makes me feel golden with confidence. It gives me the gift of gab. I feel like a god. I feel like an entertainer. So write when you damn well please."
Joe Queenan: "If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it's probably because at some level you find "reality" a bit of a disappointment. People in the 19th century fell in love with "Ivanhoe" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" because they loathed the age they were living through. Women in our own era read "Pride and Prejudice" and "Jane Eyre" and even "The Bridges of Madison County"—a dimwit, hayseed reworking of "Madame Bovary"—because they imagine how much happier they would be if their husbands did not spend quite so much time with their drunken, illiterate golf buddies down at Myrtle Beach. A blind bigamist nobleman with a ruined castle and an insane, incinerated first wife beats those losers any day of the week. Blind, two-timing noblemen never wear belted shorts."
LogicalDash: "Nobody of any age should have to fend off sexual partners. That such defense is assumed as a part of the cost of adult courtship is suggestive of some more fundamental problem than age difference and its effect on consensuality."
Keith Richards: "I had to invent the job, you know," he said, earlier. "There wasn't a sign in the shop window, saying, "Wanted: Keith Richards."
Caitlin Moran: "As I started to reassess my writing style, I thought about what I liked doing--what gave me satisfaction--and realized the primary one was just... pointing at things. Pointing out things I liked, and showing them to other people--like a mum shouting, "Look! Moo-cows!" as a train rushes past a farm. I liked pointing at things, and I liked being reasonable and polite about stuff. Or silly. Silly was very, very good. No one ever got hurt by silly.
Best of all was being pointedly silly about serious things: politics, repression, bigotry. Too many commentators are quick to accuse their enemies of being evil. It's far, far more effective to point out that they're acting like idiots, instead. I was up for idiot-revealing.
"I am just going to be polite and silly, and point at cool things," I decided. "When I started writing, I would have killed to have one thing to write about. Now, I have three. Politeness and silliness, and pointing. That's enough."
Carolyn Hax: "Unless 15 years’ worth of mail has misled me, no one has ever found love through complaining about the lack of it, and no lonely person has ever felt better for hearing, “You just haven’t found the right person yet.”
David Simon: "Change is a motherfucker when you run from it."
Joe Queenan: "People who read an enormous number of books are basically dissatisfied with the way things are going on this planet. And I think, in a way, people read for the same reason that kids play video games ... they like that world better. It works better, it's more exciting, and it usually has a more satisfactory ending."
Dan Savage: "There isn't someone for everyone. Some of us do wind up alone, and that just fucking sucks and sometimes that stings, and you don't know if you're one of those people who's going to wind up alone until you die alone....So you kind of have to live in hope and build a life for yourself that's rewarding and fun, has friends and pleasure in it, whether you're alone or not."
the painkiller: "I will not be tagged, pinned, circled, liked, tweeted, retweeted or numbered."
Steve Jobs: "Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Apple: "Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Miss Manners: "Please do not -- repeat, not -- make a hostile approach to knitters. Have you not noticed that they are armed with long, pointy sticks?"
Stephen Tobolowsky: "And of course, nothing is what I figured on in my life. That seems to be a recurring theme."
James Bulls: "When you find yourself walking a true path, you will know it because you will want to walk it no matter the burning Sun, freezing sleet, torrential rain, and treacherous ground. The risks become no less and the journey as always exhausts you, but your desire to brave the challenges never diminishes."
Amy Argetsinger: "Twitter is a disease, plain and simple. It makes people insane. A decade from now I expect the CDC and FDA will be issuing warnings."
Cary Tennis: "You don't have to "move on" either. Not until you're ready. People say, Oh, you should be grateful. They say, Oh, it's time for you to move on. I'm like, What are you, a cop with a nightstick? I'll move on when I'm done playing the blues on my harmonica, thank you very much."
Mark Morford: "It is 2011 and here is what we know: Reality is fluid, fact is malleable, cause and effect completely uncertain. We know what we don't know, but we also know the opposite."
Charlie Jane Anders: "Just remember, if you flinch from your destiny, you'll never achieve your true greatness — you didn't choose to be chosen, but being chosen means you have to choose."
Roger Ebert: "To put it bluntly, I believe the world is patriarchal because men are bigger and stronger than women, and can beat them up."
Myca: "Jesus is not the reason for the season, and there's no way I need to act like he is. Christmas is a stolen tradition. There's no reason we can't steal it back."
Lady Gaga: "I hate the holidays! I'm alone and miserable, you fucking dumb bit of toy!"
Dianna Agron: "I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can’t erase the strokes you’ve made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate."
John Mayer: "It occurred to me that since the invocation of Twitter, nobody who has participated in it has created any lasting art. And yes! Yours truly is included in that roundup as well. Let me make sure that statement is as absolute and irrevocable as possible by buzzing your tower one more time: no artwork created by someone with a healthy grasp of social media thus far has proven to be anything other than disposable."
Vanessa, Something Positive: "I like 'em crazy. You hear insane rants, I hear a reminder that the sex is interesting. Oooh! Hear that? Tonight's gonna tingle."
Anonymous: “Your problem is that you want to be an artist. What you need to be is an artisan.”
Sugar: "Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it."
Wide Lawns: "Often very odd things happen to me. Usually they are not my fault and mostly beyond my control."
Anonymous reporter: “When weird shit happens around here, weird shit really happens around here.”
Anne Johnson: "Today some stranger sent me an email that said, "You are a nut case." Well, I must admit this never would have occurred to me. Everyone else is a nut case. I'm the sane one. I think."
Carl Mayer: "Whenever I start to feel like my life isn’t where I want it to be, “Cops” is there to put everything into perspective. Yeah, I haven’t made all the right moves over the last 34 years, but I’m not hiding from the police under a kiddie pool, either."
John Scalzi: "In retrospect, it’s a little weird to think that my entire future was falling into place as I obliviously tucked into the El Presidente chimichanga platter, but of course, that’s life for you — the most important days of your existence don’t always announce themselves in obvious ways."
Tart and Soul: "Indeed, love comes whether we have braced ourselves for it or not. But commitment offers a choice, tapping us on the shoulder to say, “sorry to bother you. Is this a good time?”
J.C. Hutchins: "I was Wanky McWankerton, in love with words I’d yet to write. I did this for nearly two years. If every sperm is sacred, God wasn’t irate with me — he was effing thermonuclear."
Beth Sekishiro: "You don't need to be conventional to love people. Maybe you've got to give up your whole life - but that's just when you'll find it."
Cormac McCarthy: "Creative work is often driven by pain. It may be that if you don't have something in the back of your head driving you nuts, you may not do anything. It's not a good arrangement. If I were God, I wouldn't have done it that way."
Pardon me for writing an actual entry today, but I'm in the mood to do some chatting about sci-fi television. Spoilers for Sliders and Torchwood: Miracle Day below...
I started watching "Sliders" recently. If you haven't heard the original concept of the show (which is to say, the first few seasons before Executive Meddling kicked in), it's pretty much a 4-person version of Quantum Leap/Doctor Who. A genius grad student in physics named Quinn Mallory figures out how to hop through portals to alternate universes with the use of a timer, which he does with three other people. However, he or whoever operates the timer (a) has no control over where they go to or for how long they are there or when they can leave--the timer somehow bizarrely sets this stuff for them--and (b) he lost the way to get back to his original Earth. So he and his friends travel through various worlds, frequently getting mixed up in local politics and attempting to improve things before they slide out.
Several versions of Quinn in other alternate Earths have figured out sliding, and our Quinn got the final missing piece of data from one alt-Quinn dropping in for a visit. He gives a brief primer on how it goes (though "how to not screw up the timer so you can get home" is lost via noisiness), and at one point, alt-Quinn mentions that he'd gone to a world with no crime and total peace that was wonderful, and how he'd like to get back there someday. According to the makers of the show, this is the world the sliders visit in season 1, episode 9, "The Luck of the Draw."
Paradise World is best known for its small population--even San Francisco is around 100,000 in population. There's no crime or wars, there's free cars to borrow, and there's even free money if you need it! Actually, that's where the kicker comes in. The Sliders team are thrown into societies that are to some degree "off" from ours, and as far as they can tell, it's free money being handed out at "The Lottery" ATM. But they don't know the connotations behind taking this "free money" (though Professor Arturo does smell a rat). What those in the culture already know is that the lottery comes with a potential price. Anyone who takes money from the ATM is entering themselves in a lottery of death.
Winners--12 drawn at a time-- are given $5 million to leave to their heirs and get a couple of days of free shopping, nice clothes and a fancy ball before being quietly, blissfully euthanized to keep the population down. "Making way," as they call it, is something most people of this world find desireable, so most people are not fazed by this. (Those who are are deemed "right-to-lifers.") You get your money and you take your chances. If you're not willing to "make way" any time soon, then don't take the money. Of course, this is where the Sliders run into trouble when one of them wins the lottery and another falls in love with a fellow lottery winner, and they find out that the only major crime in this world is interfering with or chickening out of the lottery.
The setup of the lottery raises a lot of logistical questions for me, such as: (a) How often does it run? Yearly, monthly, weekly? (b) If you take money and aren't drawn, is your name remaining in the reaping (TM Hunger Games) from then on, or is your name purged? and (c) How long do you get to have this whopping "White Card" shopping spree before you die and don't get to take those toys with you? It's a nice idea, but you really don't get much time to enjoy it, do you?
But in addition to this, I can't help but think that in a way, for all of this utopianness, it's also a culture of death. What I mean by that is that death is a lot more accepted in their society (and even revered) than it is in ours. Death is not only a natural process, but it's okay for it to be an unnatural process if it's for the good of others. The less people there are, the better other people's lives are. And if you're willing to take yourself out for the good of all, well...you'll get a very nice sendoff for your sacrifice. To which I say, well, if that's your choice, okay... but it's a pretty strange mental leap to make unless you've been conditioned to it since the 1700's.
Paradise World's culture, according to the Earth Prime Travelogue page, is based off of the beliefs of Reverend Thomas Malthus. To quote from the page:
"In 1798, Reverend Thomas Malthus, a 19th century English economist, published the widely influential Essay on the Principle of Population which warned that mankind would be condemned to misery and poverty because the rate of population growth would increase faster than the rate of food supply. Taking Malthus' theory seriously, Paradise managed to keep the world population down to 500,000,000, which is roughly 10% of Earth Prime's world population. San Francisco has less than 100,000 citizens and feels more like a small town than a major metropolitan city. This has been made possible through heavy emphasis on birth control and a Lottery system that may seem barbaric to an off-worlder but is rather sensible.
The Lottery itself is like an ATM, except you request money from it. The more you ask for, the higher the chance that you'll be chosen to participate in a euthanasia program that rewards the beneficiaries of those who choose to "make way."
Now, there's two major ways to manage the population: controlling births and deaths. This episode focuses on the latter, but it's made clear that birth control is literally in your drinks. (I'd love to know how they pull that off for all genders.) I would imagine that if you want to get an abortion in this society, it wouldn't be an issue. I suspect it might be more like the "Love Gods" episode in season 2 (most men have died off, those remaining are kept in breeding centers impregnating young and hot women who were approved for a pregnancy) in that you have to apply for a special birthing license. This doesn't sound like a bad idea to me, all things considered.
But in a society where you literally have lottery winners choosing to take the risk of death...well, clearly a lot of someones felt the need to implement something like this ON TOP OF very well maintained birth control. If well maintained birth control isn't quite enough to keep the population manageable, to the point where they are doing a lottery for healthy adults to voluntarily die...what other policies do you think they have going on in this utopia?
I suspect euthanasia happens for anyone who gets sick beyond something that's easily fixed. If you come down with an incurable disease, make way! Well...having watched my various relatives in this situation, I wouldn't really argue with this point. Watching someone suffer for a decade is godawful, and in the end I don't think prolonging people's suffering did a lick of good. So while I'm fine with that, after that point it gets ambiguous. If you come down with a possibly curable disease, what happens? Do they bother to cure people who get cancer, or encourage them to "make way" instead? I suspect the latter, since the population is already accustomed to this happening in the lottery. Does this society bother looking for cures for diseases? Do they vaccinate? Do they do organ transplants? What if you have a chronic disease that may or may not kill you, but is treatable (if not curable)? Do they go above and beyond in saving you when something goes drastically wrong in your body or you get hit by a car, or do they let you "make way?" Early on in the episode, Quinn accidentally hits his head and falls off a horse. He's okay, but when that happened I thought, "If he needs serious medical attention, are they just going to let him die?" It's a good thing he wasn't shot until the end of this episode as he jumped out of there, I suppose.
As for the legal system: does anyone prosecute murderers? I'm sure we're supposed to think that a utopia wouldn't have any, but shit happens and some people are still born assholes and these things happen. Is it like the episode "The Good, The Bad, and The Wealthy" where nobody cares when people are killed? Are those folks just given a pat on the back for doing a service?
All things considered, if you live in a culture where you accept that enough people are going to need to die on their own in order to keep the rest of society happy, it probably makes people feel more comfortable if extreme measures aren't taken to preserve life. But I wonder what middle measures may or may not be taken to preserve life under these circumstances. I think on that level alone, it makes the "culture of death" a pretty uncomfortable idea. The TV show Torchwood covered this in their season series "Miracle Day," in which people were no longer able to die regardless of what happened to their bodies. "Categories of life" had to be created, with Category 3 being a designation for the still-healthy, Category 1 being for the "should be dead but aren't, what do we do with them to really kill them for good" people (answer: incineration...if that works?), and Category 2 being the people with chronic health problems. How those people are handled is where it gets ugly, as they are taken (forcibly) to "overflow camps" along with the Category 1's. We find out that plenty of conscious Category 2 people can easily be assigned to Category 1 and future incineration....
It's a slippery slope once you focus on getting people out of the way more than anything else, isn't it? To me, that's the difference between this world and our world's arguments right now about abortion and euthanasia. The focus in our world in those arguments for those things is quality of life. Those in favor of say, letting the terminally ill die when they want to rather than letting a disease erode them away, want to do this so that nobody has to suffer any longer than they have to. Those in favor of abortion don't want mothers or children to suffer by having or being an unwanted child, or one that can't be provided for, or a child doomed to suffer and die due to disease, etc. Even though it sounds like we don't treat life in a reverent way by being in favor of those things in bad circumstances, it's really that people in favor of these things prioritize having a good life rather than one at all costs.
"But don't they think that way on Paradise World?" you might be thinking. "They prioritize having a good life so much, for all, that they realize that everybody can't have one."True, in a sense. But in order to prioritize "having a good life due to less people," their true priority is to eliminate people as easily as possible--including getting people acculturated to death via lottery. But I wonder what their standards and boundaries are for health care, and how easily those standards erode when the priority is to easily rid the world of other humans. And that, to me, is where the utopia fails. It makes me wonder about the morals of these people, and how much effort they put into preserving the lives of people who didn't choose to enter the lottery. If something happens to you in Paradise World, will you be saved? Or would you even care if you were?
(Note: comments closed because you know crazy people are going to find this via search engines.)