Monthly Archives: February 2016

Our national literature of lies

America is a nation of liars, and for that reason science fiction has a special claim to be our national literature, as the art form best adapted to telling the lies we like to hear and to pretend we believe.

–Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of (1998), p. 15


The irresponsible use of highly electric words is very strongly to be deprecated

Perhaps I ought to add a caution about words. I said that words were, metaphorically, fields of force. May I, in my metaphorical, poetical, and unscientific way, press this analogy a little further. It is as dangerous for people unaccustomed to handling words and unacquainted with their technique to tinker about with these heavily charged nuclei of emotional power as it would be for me to burst into a laboratory and play about with a powerful electromagnet or other machine highly charged with electrical force. By my clumsy and ignorant handling, I should probably, at the very least, contrive to damage either the machine or myself; at the worst I might blow up the whole place. Similarly, the irresponsible use of highly electric words is very strongly to be deprecated.

–Dorothy L. Sayers, “Creative Mind” (1942)

via Coming to Terms

Sing it.

via Sarah Andersen.

Just a reminder, folks: we live in the future.

Physicists are excited by the discovery because it opens the door for telescopes that can “see” gravity.

At the press conference, Reitze said that the gravitational waves the scientists recorded from the colliding black holes “proves that binary black holes exist in the universe.” And that hasn’t been done before. “It’s the first time the universe has spoken to us through gravitational waves,” Reitze said. “We’re going to hear more of these things.”

–Brian Resnick, Scientists just detected gravitational waves. We’ve entered a whole new world for astronomy.

Sports: modernity’s nostrum for the missing moral certainty of a bygone age

The sports fan, however, is in an uncommonly powerless position: No fan can change the outcome of a game. So why devote so much attention and passion to a process whose outcome one cannot hope to influence? Such misplaced devotion can seem meaningless, or worse, a renunciation of the obligation to continuously better ourselves.

Furthermore, unlike a seventeenth-century Calvinist, we don’t think we face the ultimate possibilities of salvation and damnation. The outcomes of our pursuits in life are far less circumscribed. Instead, we grapple with many, smaller potential outcomes: that automation or government budget cuts might render our jobs obsolete or that nuclear terrorism could disrupt civilization as we know it. Life is in many ways easier today, but it is also much more uncertain.

Sports, on the other hand, offer a way to travel back to a bygone age. The Super Bowl allows me to adopt a standpoint of utter moral certainty, whereby the Panthers represent all that is good and virtuous and the opposing Denver Broncos are manifestations of evil. Sports are an arena in which I can take up this fantasy for a brief time and revel in the richness and completeness of the emotions that it brings. I’m also offered the benefit of knowing that the outcome of the contest won’t require me to analyze subtext or trace out extenuating circumstances; the game offers only the joy of victory or the agony of defeat.

Sports provide the rarest of experiences in modern society—an escape into clear-cut-ness. Contemporary life offers little in the way of the explicit contrast between two starkly opposing outcomes that predestination provided. We are tasked with building meaning in our own lives, but we lack the cultural tools to accomplish this. The dichotomies between good and evil, between honorable and shameful conduct, have eroded in the wake of our (legitimate) attention to context and circumstance in assessing other people and the world around us.

–Matthew Braswell, Why It’s Good to Love Football (Or Any Sport)

Fool me once, George Lucas…

if u donuts wanna start shipping new star wars characters then be my fucking guest but mama din’t raise no fool. im waitin til i know who related to who so i don’t have to spend the next ten years in the shower praying for forgiveness. fool me once, george lucas.

–indigo | cold mackerel

via johnthelutheran

“He didn’t name a condition, in other words. He created one.”

Here is one of the great Wallace innovations: the revelatory power of freakishly thorough noticing, of corralling and controlling detail. Most great prose writers make the real world seem realer — it’s why we read great prose writers. But Wallace does something weirder, something more astounding: Even when you’re not reading him, he trains you to study the real world through the lens of his prose.

–Tom Bissell, Everything About Everything: David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ at 20