Stuff I'm reading, looking at, listening to, quotes and other scraps.

10 December 2016
If you say “The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment,” you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin “I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out,” you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think.

—– GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy


07 December 2016

Geoff Dyer - The Ghost and the Darkness: Safari Notes


05 December 2016
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

—Chesterton’s fence.

See also: “In your youth, you look at inefficient systems and think how to trivially fix them. Later, you look at them and wonder what you don’t know”


02 December 2016
attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity

—Simone Weil


26 November 2016

We have built upon technologies that are quite old now.

“Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.”

“The web we have right now is beautiful. It shatters the tyranny of distance. It opens the libraries of the world to you. It gives you a way to bear witness to people half a world away, in your own words. It is full of cats. We built it by accident, yet already we’re taking it for granted. We should fight to keep it!”



24 November 2016

As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way.

My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest wayhostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful:

As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

David Foster Wallace


21 November 2016
Lots of writing leans on film editing techniques in the wrong way. They support a laziness that would not be tolerated in cinema. They cut between things in an implausible way. That’s OK in cinema because you’re showing not telling. Many writers won’t allow themselves the courage of convictions to just show. They keep having to lead the reader by her hand. They won’t just put it on the page and trust the reader to decipher what’s going on.

—Will Self - Final TX podcast


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