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Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
Canadian poet Christian Bök wants his work to live on after he’s gone. Like, billions of years after. He’s going to encode it directly into the DNA of the hardy bacteria Deinococcus radiodurans. If it works, his poem could outlast the human race. But it’s a tricky procedure, and Bök is doing what he can to make it even trickier. He wants to inject the DNA with a string of nucleotides that form a comprehensible poem, and he also wants the protein that the cell produces in response to form a second comprehensible poem. Here’s a peek at the hellish task this DNA Dante has condemned himself to.
But ideal for creatures with immensely long lifespans: they can have a very very very slow internet with DNA nodes. All they have to do is blog in DNA, encode it as described, set their creatures loose to multiply, and then a few generations of the short-lived encoded-creatures later, other bloggers harvest some creature DNA, read the blog entry, and then write and code their response into another creature's DNA, set it free, and repeat ad infinitum!
[...] It’s like Gertrude Stein: Beyond Thunderdome.
It seems appropriate that Dhalgren, or at least the latest mutation of it, will return this month to the city of its birth. On April 1—Delany’s 68th birthday—the Kitchen will begin staging an adaptation called Bellona, Destroyer of Cities. Its director and writer is Jay Scheib, an MIT professor and rising theater-world star who’s been obsessed with Dhalgren for years. He once devoted an MIT course to the book, and has even adapted it into a play in German.
[...] He describes the set as 'buildings and rooms inside of buildings and rooms,' portions of which will be hidden from parts of the audience. Live cameras will provide glimpses into areas that can’t be seen directly, mimicking the novel’s shifting perspectives and layers of mediation.
[...] Aaron O'Connell and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, did not actually produce a cat that was dead and alive at the same time, as Erwin Schrödinger proposed in a notorious thought experiment 75 years ago. But they did show that a tiny resonating strip of metal – only 60 micrometres long, but big enough to be seen without a microscope – can both oscillate and not oscillate at the same time. Alas, you couldn't actually see the effect happening, because that very act of observation would take it out of superposition.
The key was to connect the resonating strip to a superconducting qubit – a tiny electric circuit that can easily be prepared in a quantum superposition of two energy states. "The qubit acts as a bridge between the microscopic and the macroscopic worlds," says O'Connell. By tuning the frequency at which the qubit cycled between its two states to match the resonant frequency of the metallic strip, the qubit's quantum state could be transferred to the resonator at will.
When measured afterwards, the resonator was sometimes in its non-oscillating ground state and sometimes in an oscillating "excited" state. The number of times it was measured to be in each state followed the probabilistic rules of quantum mechanics.
Remarkably, I, also, am sometimes excited, and sometimes not, but often you can't tell without affecting the results.
[...] Dark matter is hypothetical, invisible stuff that cosmologists invoke to explain why the universe appears to contain much less matter than their calculations say it should, and some think that it is made up of hypothetical particles called axions. Even though we haven't yet found a genuine axion, however, materials called topological insulators can be used to mimic them, say Shoucheng Zhang and colleagues at Stanford University, California. Magnetic fluctuations in the materials produce a field just like an axion field, his team found.
"They are an exact mathematical analogy," says Zhang.
That means we could probe the effects of dark matter in the lab. For example, the polarisation of the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang should depend on how it interacts with dark matter. Simply measuring light shone through a topological insulator could show what cosmic effects to expect.
The promise of topological insulators doesn't end there. Whack a slab of superconductor on top of one, and theory predicts you would have a nursery for hypothetical particles known as Majorana fermions. First proposed over 70 years ago by the Italian physicist Ettore Majorana, these particles uniquely are their own antiparticles.
"It would be sexy just to be the first people to observe one," says Laurens Molenkamp of the University of Würzburg, Germany, who in 2007 was the first to make a topological insulator. The materials had previously only existed in theory.
Oh, honey, talk me some spin and charm: I love me some strange. It makes me hott.
[...] Majorana fermions may also have practical applications. Pairs of them could act as bits of data for a variety of quantum computer, with one huge advantage over all other schemes for such devices: pairs of Majorana fermions encoding the same bit could be separated in space. This means that even if one is disrupted by the environment, which would render its information unusable, the other remains intact.
Take a spin
The properties of topological insulators could also prove useful in the burgeoning field of spintronics, says Zhang. Spintronics is all about storing, manipulating and transporting information using a quantum-mechanical property of particles known as "spin", as opposed to the currents of electrons used in conventional electronics.
Topological insulators are on the cusp of conducting electricity: most of the stuff insulates against current, but electrons at its edges break free and marshal themselves into lanes according to the value of their spin. Because they are not crashing into each other like electrons in conventional electric current, they do not dissipate heat – a seductive property for a blisteringly fast, low-power spintronic device. "It is a superhighway for electrons," says Zhang.
I'm sure I could use a home topological insulator, too.
[...] According to Hoagland, Obama had been prepared to finally give the Constellation program the funding it required to return Americans to the Moon. But then, in December, a remarkable thing happened in the skies over Norway. Right before Obama visited Norway to receive his Nobel Peace Prize, the Russians launched a ballistic missile on a test. The missile sailed into the northern sky and then was stopped in mid-air, grabbed while it was going thousands of miles an hour. It was stopped by some kind of massively powerful mysterious device. And when it was stopped in midair, hundreds of people across Norway saw it, and some photographed it, seeing a weird spiral in the sky that was quickly labeled the “Norway Spiral.”
This was a “double-whammy message” to both Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, “that somebody has the power to stop us,” Hoagland told Coast to Coast host George Noory.
Who? Noory asked.
“Them, out there!” Hoagland replied, “…the secret space program.”
The message was apparently that humanity needed to be “imprisoned” on Earth. Once Obama got the message, he immediately canceled the American lunar program. The secret space program is based on the Moon, and we’re not supposed to go there.
Noory asked if this might have actually been extraterrestrial technology that stopped the Russian missile. Hoagland doesn’t believe that’s the case. He says that what is actually going on dates back to the last days of World War II. As the Allies were closing in, some Nazi scientists took their best technology and fled the Earth, apparently leaving for the Moon, forming “a secret off-world civilization.” There they set up shop and continued to develop their capabilities to the point where their technology is so advanced that they are practically god-like to us in their abilities. Halting the Russian missile is simply the most visible recent example of this, Hoagland said. “The physics are there and it’s all about who is controlling it and what they intend for us.” (My guess is that it’s not going to be nice.)
But of course there’s more going on than us mere mortals stuck on Earth can comprehend. Hoagland says that “there’s a war going on upstairs.” But it’s not clear if the Space Nazis are battling each other—a Space Nazi Civil War—or if they’re battling our government and we civilians don’t know about it. Hoagland believes that terrorism, and events like the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, is the terrestrial manifestation of this war. Apparently there are members of our own government who are involved in battling these Space Nazis, but they have kept Obama in the dark.
And that's why health care reform has only gotten so far.
[...] Twain himself took it on the chin from fellow Southerner William Faulkner, who called him a “hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven ‘sure fire' literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”
Virginia Woolf saw Somerset Maugham as “a grim figure; rat-eyed, dead-man-cheeked, unshaven; a criminal I should have said had I met him in a bus.”
Charles Lamb wrote of Shelley: “His voice was the most obnoxious squeak I ever was tormented with,” and James Dickey, poet and novelist, said of an iconic New England poet: “If it were thought that anything I wrote were influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes. … a more sententious holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word, I never saw.”
[...] Peter opened the door, white-faced. 'Please don't try to make me laugh,' he said. 'Even to smile uses 84 face muscles. I don't work out this early.'
With curiosity, I entered the apartment. It was spacious and quite empty. The furniture - what there was of it - was not art deco, more art stucko, just stuck around on an expanse of white carpet.
'Would you like to remove your shoes?' asked Peter.
'And your belt, braces and false teeth.'
I took off my shoes and gave them to Peter. He threw them against the wall.
'I hate Christmas!' he shouted. 'And while you're here, you'd better stay for Easter.'
'Where's Lynne?' I inquired. 'I strangled her an hour ago,' said Peter. 'You can help me dispose of the body.'
The road was empty as we sped along. We were in the countryside, the fields passing us by rapidly.
'Mein Gott!' said Peter, lapsing into Gestapo German to match his outfit. 'See those cows? They are escaped prisoners-of-war!'
He slammed on the brakes, jerking us violently forward.
'Kum!' he shouted, and leapt from the Bentley, now doubtless in his mind a Wehrmacht vehicle, probably the half-track favoured by Erwin Rommel.
Leaping over the five-bar gate, he stood and pointed at the cows dramatically. 'You! Yes you! The game is up, Englishers!'
'Oh, stop mucking about Peter,' said Lynne, stamping her feet to keep warm.
A short time later, when I entered the dining room, Peter was struggling, or jostling, with an elegant though elderly lady.
'Let us have your table, madam. You have finished your pudding and we have not begun. What is wrong with you? Have you no Christmas spirit ? You can have coffee and liqueurs in the lounge, at my expense.'
'How dare you! Leave my chair alone, you uncouth lout,' the lady protested.
'I am not name-calling. Who is name-calling?' Sellers was talking in a slightly foreign accent.
'You want me to call you names? Very well. You are a rude - and greedy - woman.
'Do you mean to start again with the soup? Very well, no. Then you do not need this table. I will sit at it until you go away, Madam. Until you retire, because I am couth, not uncouth. Couth, do you hear?'
He sat at the table as the lady tried to push him away.
'Call yourself a Christian? What is this? Unhand me, madam.'
A gentleman appeared. 'What's going on?'
'Charles, this man is trying to take our table.'
'Because we are famished. How else will we have our Christmas lunch? She is finished. You are both finished.'
'You bounder,' said Charles. 'I am Major Farnsworth of the Fourth Hussars, and I object to your behaviour, sir.'
'And I am Major Bloodnok of the Fifth Knives and Forks,' giggled Peter. 'And I object to your red nose. It's a danger to shipping. I advise you to stay well inland.'
Major Farnsworth grabbed Peter, ready to haul him out of his chair. 'I'll teach you . . .'
But Sellers was nothing like he appeared in the movies, you know.