"There is nothing I can say about myself as a whole simply and completely, without intermingling and admixture. The most universal article of my own Logic is Distinguo. I always mean to speak well of what is good..."
-Michel de Montaigne, "Of the inconstancy of our actions", tr. M.A. Screech
Yep, that William Gibson. I read William Gibson for many years before ever hearing his voice; I think it was on an episode of Prisoners of Gravity. I was surprised by how slow and Southern it was, lingering on "The sky was the colour of a television set tuned to a dead channel" like a reminiscence over lemonade. It reminded me almost instantly of that other great writing William from the Southern states - William Seward Burroughs - only younger and more energetic. Not that the energy was being used, but if Gibson had really had to get that sentence out in a hurry, he could've, though it might've dented his sangfroid. Listening to Burroughs in his last couple of decades, though, you felt that he'd had a pretty wild life and this was really about as fast as he wanted to talk, thanks very much, goodnight.
According to Greg Lazenby's guide to literary Toronto, Gibson lived right on my block at one point during his sojourn here. To some things, the only proper response is "Cool." That was one of them.
...you wouldn't think there could be any real suspense about it except a mild speculation as to whether the next clutch of bad eggs is going to be served up poached, fried or scrambled. -letter from Dorothy L. Sayers to Charles Williams, on Dante
I realize this is a further substitute for original thoughts, and blatant herd-following, but I read Dante not too long ago and couldn't really resist; besides, everybody is jumping off a cliff, so I may as well too.
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell! Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
..Lust Was one of the great teachers; Pascal was a fool. How Emilie had loved astronomy and bed.. ... He'd done his share of weeping for Jerusalem: As a rule, It was the pleasure-haters who became unjust. -W.H. Auden, "Voltaire at Ferney"
That was a chapter title in a Doctor Who book; for the life of me I don't remember which one, but I bet Amy does. (Edit: apparently - thank you, my love! - it's Full Circle, with the Fourth Doctor, Adric, and Romana: a good reason to remember! Like most geek-boys watching Who, I wanted to be Adric, and to impress Romana.)
This meme comes courtesy of Bluejo, and insidiously plays on a weak spot of mine: each question must be answered with a quotation. (It occurs to me that 'memes' in the blogging sense are not really single memes, but some sort of virus: they come wrapped in a coating. But we are already overloading the word 'virus'.)
1. Who are you?
We are not that strength which in olden days Moved heaven and Earth; that which we are, we are. -Tennyson, "Ulysses"
2. What do you look like?
He was tall and he gangled.
When he sat in his deckchair gazing at the Pacific, not so much with any kind of wild surmise any longer as with a peaceful deep dejection, it was a little difficult to tell exactly where the deckchair ended and he began, and you would hesitate to put your hand on, say, his forearm in case the whole structure suddenly collapsed with a snap and took your thumb off.
But his smile when he turned it on you was quite remarkable. It seemed to be composed of all the worst things that life can do to you, but which, when he briefly reassembled them in that particular order on his face, made you suddenly feel, ``Oh. Well that's all right then.''
-Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
3. What's your secret?
(Unintentional meme trigger: "Secret secret.. I've got a secret..")
He that has been a servant Knows more than priests and Kings; But he that has been an ill servant, He knows all earthly things. -G.K. Chesterton, "The Ballad of the White Horse"
4. What do you want to be?
There was a time we sailed in ships between the stars, and now we dare not go a hundred miles from home. We keep a little knowledge, and do nothing with it. But once we used that knowledge to weave the pattern of life like a tapestry across night and chaos. We enlarged the chances of life. We did man's work. -Ursula Le Guin, City of Illusions
5. What can you do?
A man's true delight is to do the things he was made for. He was made to show goodwill to his kind, to rise above the promptings of the senses, to distinguish appearances from realities, and to pursue the study of universal Nature and her works. -Marcus Aurelius
6. What can't you do?
And all the clocks in the City Began to whirr and chime: "O let not Time deceive you; You cannot conquer Time." -W.H. Auden, "As I Walked Out One Morning"
7. What is love?
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day I would my true love did so chance To see the pageant of my play To call my true love to the dance. -"Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day", traditional, English West Country
8. What is friendship?
One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. Very brief is the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided. Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instil faith in hours of despair. Let us not weigh in grudging scales their merits and demerits, but let us think only of their need -- of the sorrows, the difficulties, perhaps the blindnesses that make the misery of their lives; let us remember that they are fellow-sufferers in the same darkness, actors in the same tragedy with ourselves. And so, when their day is over, when their good and their evil have become eternal by the immortality of the past, be it ours to feel that, where they suffered, where they failed, no deed of ours was the cause; but wherever a spark of the divine fire kindled in their hearts, we were ready with encouragement, with sympathy, with brave words in which high courage glowed. -Bertrand Russell, "A Free Man's Worship"
9. Are you strong?
We acknowledge ourselves as type of the common man, Of the men and women who shut the door and sit by the fire.. -T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
10. What are you afraid of?
When I think of pain - of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man's heart out at one blow . . . it "quite o'ercrows my spirit." If I knew any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it. But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already, they are the same as yours. Pain hurts. That is what the word means. -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
11. What would you do with a million dollars?
I'd give the ugly people all the money I'd rewrite the Book of Love - I'd make it funny -Laurie Anderson, "My Eyes"
12. What would you tell the one who loves you?
Love, let us live as we have lived, nor lose The little names that were the first night's grace. -Ausonius, 4th century AD
13. What do you want to do?
By difficult mental work, going on for years and surmounting enormous difficulties, we are step by step acquiring new logical truths. And with what are these truths to be concerned? With empty inscriptions and spatial ornaments? I am not a graphic artist or calligrapher, and I am not interested in ornaments and inscriptions. -J. Lukasiewicz, "In Defense of Logic"
14. Where do you want to be?
"My home is not a place, it is a person, sir. People." -Lord Aral Vorkosigan, in Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold (again, previously quoted in these pages, but it still holds)
15. What do you want?
Disturb our negligence and chill Convict our pride of its offence In all things, even penitence, Instruct us in the civil art Of making from the muddled heart A desert and a City where The thoughts that have to labour there May find locality and peace And pent-up feelings their release; Send strength sufficient for our day And point our knowledge on its way.. -W.H. Auden, "New Year Letter" -or simply- ...the humility of Kepler or Newton, who studied the Universe, and knew they were not asked to run it. -Ursula Franklin, The Real World of Technology