Ramblings & ephemera

The Pareto Principle & Temperament Dimensions

From David Brooks’ “More Tools For Thinking” (The New York Times: 29 March 2011): Clay Shirkey nominates the Pareto Principle. We have the idea in our heads that most distributions fall along a bell curve (most people are in the middle). But this is not how the world is organized in sphere after sphere. The […]

Ray Bradbury on what you know & how to write

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I learned this early on. Three things are in your head: First, everything you have experienced from the day of your birth until right now. Every single second, every single hour, every single day. […]

Ray Bradbury on an encounter that changed his life

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the basic plots available to writers

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): VONNEGUT The others aren’t that much fun to describe: somebody gets into trouble, and then gets out again; somebody loses something and gets it back; somebody is […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the conventions found in plots

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): INTERVIEWER Let’s talk about the women in your books. VONNEGUT There aren’t any. No real women, no love. INTERVIEWER Is this worth expounding upon? VONNEGUT It’s a […]

Woody Allen on what he’s interested in focusing on in his art

From Michiko Kakutani’s interview of Woody Allen in “The Art of Humor No. 1” (The Paris Review: Fall 1995, No. 136): The same things come up time after time. They’re the things that are on my mind, and one is always feeling for new ways to express them. It’s hard to think of going out […]

Dan Ariely on irrational decision making

From Dan Ariely’s “Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?” (TED: 24 June 2009): I’ll give you a couple of more examples on irrational decision making. Imagine I give you a choice. Do you want to go for a weekend to Rome? All expenses paid, hotel, transportation, food, breakfast, a continental […]

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010): Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but […]

Jeff Bezos on the differences between gifts and choices

From Jeff Bezos’s “We are What We Choose: Remarks by Jeff Bezos, as delivered to the Class of 2010 Baccalaureate” (Princeton University: 30 May 2010): What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given […]

There, on the Darkened Deathbed by John Masefield

This is pretty much what I think happens when we die, and unfortunately, what happens eventually after we die. There, on the darkened deathbed, dies the brain That flared three several times in seventy years; It cannot lift the silly hand again, Nor speak, nor sing, it neither sees nor hears. And muffled mourners put […]

The dangers of loyalty based on personality, not policies

This quotation is directly about politics, but it’s about anyone – or even anything – we emotionally attach ourselves to. From Glenn Greenwald’s “My friend the president” (Salon: 8 December 2009): Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are […]

Ambient awareness & social media

From Clive Thompson’s “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” (The New York Times Magazine: 5 September 2008): In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why? Social scientists have a name […]

The Uncanny Valley, art forgery, & love

photo credit: hans s From Errol Morris’ “Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 2)” (The New York Times: 28 May 2009): [Errol Morris:] The Uncanny Valley is a concept developed by the Japanese robot scientist Masahiro Mori. It concerns the design of humanoid robots. Mori’s theory is relatively simple. We tend to reject robots that look too much […]

What dogs give us

photo credit: Cia de Foto From Gene Weingarten’s “Murphy’s Law” (The Washington Post: 3 May 2009): [My dog] Murphy has a good life, which is the least we humans can do for a dog, in return for what they give us, which is access to the sort of innocence and trust and absence of guile […]

Roger Ebert on death

From Roger Ebert’s “Go gentle into that good night” (Roger Ebert’s Journal: 2 May 2009): What I expect will most probably happen [when I die] is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function, and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. Perhaps […]

Immortality, poetically

From Roger Ebert’s “Go gentle into that good night” (Roger Ebert’s Journal: 2 May 2009): And there is Shakespeare, who came as close as any man to immortality. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman: I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you […]

From Philip Larkin’s “Aubade”

From Philip Larkin’s “Aubade“: I work all day, and get half drunk at night. Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. In time the curtain edges will grow light. Till then I see what’s really always there: Unresting death, a whole day nearer now, Making all thought impossible but how And where and when […]

The hard truths science reveals

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law […]

Gottman on relationships

From THE MATHEMATICS OF LOVE: A Talk with John Gottman (Edge: 14 April 2004): So far, his surmise is that “respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them. It may differ from culture to culture how to communicate respect, and how to communicate affection, and how not to do it, […]

Hallucinating the presence of the dead

From Vaughan Bell’s “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased” (Scientific American: 2 December 2008): The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in our senses—as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences. Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to […]