4/17/09 Speaking of Art...
"What you see is what you see." —Robert Rauschenberg
"My motivation is pure. I do it for the money." —Salvador Dali
"Art is what you can get away with." —Andy Warhol
Profound, droll, ironic, silly? I guess that's for you to decide. Whatever you might think of modern art and artists, it could be helpful to keep in mind what Salvador Dali also said,
"I'm a better genius than I am an artist."
3/30/09 We don’t have no stinking potholes
"The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil." —Sheikh Yamani, Saudi oil minister in the 1970s
On a related note, the horse and buggy didn't vanish because we ran out of horses. If I have my facts right, there are more horses in America today than in 1900. But very few people use them to commute. As big a headache as potholes are, at least we don't have to deal with horse dung all over the street any more.
What will replace oil for energy in the future is anybody's guess. But I'll hazard to predict it won't be horses or burning horse manure. The latter of which would give roadside recycling a whole nother meaning. And a whole nother smell.
On the other hand, kerosine from petroleum replaced something we were running out of. Whale oil and the source of that oil, whales themselves. If you think about it, by making kerosine ten times cheaper than whale oil John D. Rockefeller saved the whale.
3/17/09 Under New Mismanagement
"Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule."
Or so said an unnamed plant manager for Delco Corporation. Yessiree, bob, people say some mighty strange things. This came from a list of real-life Dilbert manager quotes. My dad had another version of this idea when clients seemed obsessed with deadlines above all else:
"There's never time to do it right, but always time to do it over."
The winner of the real-life Dilbert manager quotes comes from Microsoft's Fred Dales:
"As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday, and employees will receive their cards in two weeks."
Makes you wonder if these people have a good grasp of time management. Or of time, period.
3/2/09 Monkeying Around
"We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true." —Robert Wilensky
I suppose I should plead guilty as charged. I confess I'm no Shakespeare. Then again, if you listen to the literary theories of some folks who propose other people actually authored his plays, Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare either. Which only goes to show, monkeys banging on typrewriters mightn't be unique to the internet, they could be writing magazine articles and books, too.
"I never met a man I didn't like."
...As Will Rogers is often quoted. What does it really mean? Was Rodgers a bad judge of character or naive? Did Will Rodgers never meet a bad man? Unlikely. Notice he never said "I never met a man I didn't trust." But if and when he did meet a baddie, he liked them personally. Which only shows scoundrels, rascals, and perfectly rotten people can be charming.
Is the quote really a comment not to confuse personal likability with actual goodness? That sentiment being one of the big themes of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That's one danger of meeting people and judging them on a strictly personal, superficial level by how likeable they are. It's the mistake the populace of Netherfield made with Mr. Wickham.
Let's face it, Bernie Madoff was probably liked by everyone who ever met him. Being likeable is how all con men ply their disreputable trade. You meet them, they charm you to like and trust them, then they rob you blind. Afterwards you can still say, "I never met a man I didn't like."
The full quote was Rogers on Leon Trotsky in Saturday Evening Post of November 6, 1926. "I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn't like."
1/16/09 Begging the Question
Many people use the phrase "begs the question" incorrectly as though it means the same as "raises the question." Begging the question is a sort of evasion, an unproven assumption, a type of fallacy logic.
Begging the question: the premises are as questionable as the conclusions reached.
Here's an example from a national newswoman. "For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96%."
In the 1930s Nazi Germany was the most highly educated country in the world, was it the free-est? If a slave can read and write, does that make him free? See, the question that goes begging, unasked, is about the opening, and dubious premise: Why or how does literacy equate to freedom?
Like saying IF pigs could fly they'd be faster than cheetahs. Maybe so, but that's one big If. A conclusion based on a flawed or unproven premise is not thus proven.
1/5/08 Fruity Propaganda
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Which might mean an apple at every meal will repel Dr. House's entire staff. If everyone in the country ate apples every day we wouldn't have any doctors at all! Then where would we be? Can an apple write a prescription or take out your appendix? Where do apples send these doctors away to?
What fruit keeps interns at bay? Will pineapples stop nurses in their tracks? Do chiropractors fear bananas or gooseberries more? What I'd most like to know, what fruit will ward off a coroner?
Lastly, what would happen if a doctor ate an apple?
12/22/08 Jumping the Lock, Stock and Barrel
Terrycolon.com.2009 is here even though I know it's not 2009 yet. Am I jumping the gun or going off half-cocked?
Jumping the gun is a sports metaphor which doesn't concern hurdling a firearm, just starting the race before the starter's pistol goes off. Half-cocked has to do with firearms more directly.
Half-cocked was the hammer's safety position for priming the pan with gunpowder on a flint-lock. If you pulled the trigger in that case it wouldn't cause a spark to discharge the gun because the striker is out of position. Hence going off half-cocked means ill prepared and to no effect.
Lock, stock and barrel is another, if less obvious gun related phrase. Way back when gunsmiths often specialized, some made barrels, others made the lock firing mechanism, and still others carved the wooden stocks. Some created the whole gun from start to finish, hence lock, stock and barrel. In other words, the whole kit and kaboodle from soup to nuts. Though what a kaboodle of soup would be, I can't imagine.
“What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”
Ever hear that famous quote? However, this is not the entire quote. When you hear the whole thing it casts what Alfred Sloan said in a different light. The complete quote and context makes all the difference:
"What's good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country."
Though nowadays one wonders how applicable that is. As well as just what is good for General Motors. Furthermore, what is General Motors good for.
“Train as you fight. Fight as you train.” is the current philosophy of the US military. This isn't a totally new idea, but the modern take on the way the Roman legions trained. Of whom it was said, "Their drills were bloodless battles and their battles were bloody drills."
Like they say, everything old is new again.
How many times have you heard Santayana's famous quote about those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it? Maybe as many times as Andy Warhol's quip about 15 minutes of fame. I have my own favorite quote which comes from comedian Ed Bluestone:
"History helps us better understand the past."
Strained relations between the military and the press are nothing new. Just consider this quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Civil War:
"I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."
Another quote from playwright Tom Stoppard:
“I'm a man of no convictions. At least I think I am.”
Do I show an undecided voter or an indifferent one? Politicians vie for the uncommitted voter, but not the noncommittal one. This makes me think of the old joke/riddle: Why are there so many ignorant, indifferent people? I don't know and I don't care.
Some quotes just for the fun of it.
"I've gotten a great deal of advice from him over the years. All of it bad." —Calvin Coolidge on Herbert Hoover
"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't make them all yourself." —Usher
And an anecdote. Playwright Tom Stoppard being interviewed for a job by Charles Wintour, Editor of the London Evening Standard.
Wintour: Are you interested in politics?
The exception proves the rule. Have you ever wondered at the logic of this old old saw? Doesn't it seem the exception would disprove the rule?
The problem comes from how the meaning of "prove" has changed over time. Nowadays it means to establish as true, in days of yore "prove" meant to test. This usage can still be found today, as when we proof-read a document. Or when a wedding phographer gives you proofs, which are test samples.
So what the expression really means is: "The exception TESTS the rule."