josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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19 Feb '11 06:51:46 AM

'Critics also condemned Newgate's design because it allowed convicts almost unlimited interaction, letting them pool their experiences. As one Society for the Prevention of Pauperism lawyer pointed out, the place operated "with alarming efficacy to increase, diffuse, and extend the love of vice, and a knowledge of the arts and practices of criminality." Some thought it might be worth trying to immure prisoners in silent isolation, as did Philadelphia's celebrated Eastern State Penitentiary. Others thought that as stretches in solitary had been shown to drive many to madness and suicide, the system used upstate at Auburn might be preferable: isolating prisoners at night but setting them to (profitable) gang labor by day, under the rule of absolute silence, enforced by summary flogging. In the end, however, Newgate was deemed hopelessly beyond repair, and the legislature authorized a brand-new prison, on the Auburn model, at Ossining, near the large marble deposits discovered in Westchester County.'

3 Feb '11 03:14:34 AM

'…the dynamic tension between necessity and contingency [in character and commitment]…'

'Does any sweet or sad memory mingle with this dream of the future—any loving thought of her second parents—of the children she had helped to tend—of any youthful companion, any pet animal, any relic of her own childhood even? Not one. There are some plants that have hardly any roots: you may tear them out from their native nook of rock or wall, and just lay them over your ornamental flower-pot, and they blossom none the worse. Hetty could have cast all her past life behind her and never cared to be reminded of it again.'

3 Feb '11 12:34:47 AM

'Leibniz put an insect, which he had carefully examined through the microscope, gently back again onto its leaf, because he had found himself instructed by the sight of it and had, as it were, received from it a benefaction.'

25 Jan '11 06:06:01 PM

'He writes himself into the larger world.'

25 Jan '11 08:51:17 AM

'There is no such thing as pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, i.e. significant, must be subjective. The sum of what the writer of whatever class has to report is simply some human experience, whether he be poet or philosopher or man of science. The man of most science is the man most alive, whose life is the easiest event. Senses that take cognizance of outward things merely are of no avail. It matters not where or how far you travel,—the farther commonly the worse,—but how much alive you are. If it is possible to conceive of an event outside to humanity, it is not of the slightest significance, though it were the explosion of a planet. No mere willful activity whatever, whether in writing verses or collecting statistics, will produce true poetry or science. If you are really a sick man, it is indeed to be regretted, for you cannot accomplish so much as if you were well. All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love,—to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It does n't all amount to one rhyme.

Dandelions, perhaps the first, yesterday. This flower makes a great show,—a sun itself in the grass. How emphatic it is! You cannot but observe it set in the liquid green grass even at a distance. I am surprised that the sight of it does not affect me more, but I look at it as unmoved as if but a day had elapsed since I saw it in the fall.'

16 Jan '11 02:05:58 AM

'I've been writing a sentence, with all the art I can muster. Here it is: A work of art is important only as evidence, in its structure, of a new world which it has been created to affirm.'

13 Jan '11 08:41:54 AM

We know that the very world dilates, grows, the more one lives in it, the more one's life leads one to range over it. Perhaps this is why philosophers are so galling: they pretend to grasp all the world within what is barely a life.

12 Jan '11 04:32:07 AM

With objects that come to life as we live with them we can be reminded that we're living, or how we're not.

12 Jan '11 04:31:08 AM

Cities give you room to ignore the people that are everywhere around you; but in even sizeable towns that person you ignore will feel, somehow with justification, 'why don't you talk to me? there's no one else here'.