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You see we make our writers into something very strange. […] We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their style of living and are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishment, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop. Or else they read the critics. If they believe the critics when they say they are great then they must believe them when they say they are rotten and they lose confidence. At present we have two good writers who cannot write because they have lost confidence through reading the critics. If they wrote, sometimes it would be good and sometimes not so good and sometimes it would be quite bad, but the good would get out. But they have read the critics, and they must write masterpieces. The masterpieces the critics said they wrote. They weren’t masterpieces, of course. They were just quite good books. So now they cannot write at all. The critics have made them impotent.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Green Hills of Africa, ch. 1 (1935)
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Speaking of American writers.
 
Added on 6-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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If we establish a standard of safe thinking, we will end up with no thinking at all. That is the only “safe” way, and that is, needless to say, the most precarious, dangerous, of all ways.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“What Ideas Are Safe?” Saturday Review (5 Nov 1949)
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Reprinted in Freedom and Order (1966).
 
Added on 30-Mar-22 | Last updated 30-Mar-22
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To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of today, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Joan of Arc, “Translator’s Preface” (1860)
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Added on 25-Mar-22 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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One day you are an apprentice and everybody’s pet; the next you are coldly expected to deliver. There is never sufficient warning that the second day is coming.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 10 (1963)
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Added on 3-Mar-22 | Last updated 3-Mar-22
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These women were fatuous with a fatuity which had threatened her all her life, as it threatened all people of means, and which was of mournful significance for humanity in general, since it proved the emptiness of one of man’s most reasonable expectations. No more sensible form of government could be imagined than aristocracy. If certain able stocks in the community were able to amass enough wealth to give their descendants beautiful houses to grow up in, the widest opportunities of education, complete economic security, so that they need never be influenced by mercenary considerations, and easy access to any public form of work they chose to undertake — why, then, the community had a race of perfect governors ready made.

Only, as the Lauristons showed, the process worked out wholly different in practice. There came to these selected stocks a deadly, ungrateful complacence, which made them count these opportunities as their achievements, and belittle everybody else’s achievements unless they were similarly confused with opportunities; and which did worse than this, by abolishing all standards from their minds except what they themselves were and did.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
The Thinking Reed, ch. 7 (1936)
 
Added on 29-Mar-21 | Last updated 29-Mar-21
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Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Thinking and Moral Considerations: A Lecture,” Social Research (Fall 1971)
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Referring to Adolf Eichmann's use of "cliché-ridden language" as a sign of his "thoughtlessness." Reprinted in The Life of the Mind, Part 1 "Thinking," Introduction (1974).
 
Added on 18-Mar-21 | Last updated 18-Mar-21
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You’re only as good as your last story.

Helen Thomas (1920-2013) American reporter and author
Acceptance speech, Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, White House Correspondents Dinner, Washington, DC (25 Apr 1998)


That was the full speech.
 
Added on 9-Sep-20 | Last updated 9-Sep-20
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The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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Cynics are, in the end, only idealists with awkwardly high standards.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
Status Anxiety, “Philosophy” 1.5 (2004)
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Added on 9-Aug-18 | Last updated 9-Aug-18
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There is a role for bureaucracy; it’s very useful for certain tasks. In particular, it facilitates standardization and interchangeability. Bureaucracies excel at performing tasks that must be done consistently whether the people assigned to them are brilliant performers or bumbling fools. You can’t always count on having Albert Einstein in the patent office, so you design its procedures to work even if you hire Mr. Bean by mistake.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
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Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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Judaism holds that man can most genuinely worship God by imitating those qualities that are godly: As God is merciful, so must we be compassionate; as God is just, so must we deal justly with our neighbor; as God is slow to anger, so must we be tolerant.

Morris N. Kertzer (1910-1983) American rabbi, writer
“What is a Jew?” Look Magazine (1954)
 
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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JAYNE: I just don’t get it. How’s a man get so wrong? Cuttin’ on his own face, rapin’ and murdering. Hell, I’ll kill a man in a fair fight. Or if I think he’s gonna start a fair fight. Or if he bothers me. Or if there’s a woman. Or if I’m gettin’ paid. Mostly only when I’m gettin’ paid. But these Reavers — last ten years they show up like the bogeyman from stories. Eating people alive? Where’s that get fun?

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Serenity (2005)
 
Added on 16-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-15
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There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best.

Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) American baseball player [b. Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper"]
The Sporting News (4 Apr 1951)


When asked why he hustled on even a play that wouldn't affect the outcome of the game or his team's standing.
 
Added on 17-Feb-15 | Last updated 17-Feb-15
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We measure the excellency of other men by some excellency we conceive to be in ourselves.

John Selden (1584-1654) English jurist, antiquary, politician, Orientalist
Table Talk (1689)
 
Added on 8-Dec-14 | Last updated 8-Dec-14
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The way of the portable computer user is as a stony path strewn with plugs and sockets, all the wrong size.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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