Musings, Thought-shards and the Like

The world is often most eager to categorize those individuals who most defy any easy categorization. As a rule, the less of a reductive cliché one is, the more clichés one is reduced to.

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Success as a writer is to get a positive reaction for telling the reader something other than what they were already waiting to be told. Any idiot can feed things into a waiting and eagerly opened mouth. It takes skill or luck to get the morbidly insensate to realize they are in need of nourishment.

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The fact that an account isn't representative of everything does not mean it isn't representative of anything

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Good is something you just talk about. It is something you do. Or it is nothing.

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You cannot institutionalize independent thinking

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It is often the establishment's greatest beneficiaries who stand to benefit the most by convincing others, and eventually themselves, that they are anti-establishment underdogs.

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The only moral response to “If you're not with me, you're against me” is “in that case, I'm against you”

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I have noticed for a long time that religious people have much greater clarity about the gods they don't believe in than the gods that they do.

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The best literary translators are concerned not with the great amount that is lost in translation, but with the equally great amount that stands to be gained.


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I have often noticed that what is called God's justice is typically a human's idea of what they would do if they were God.

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Upper-class liberal multiculturalism is an aristocratic self-image. There are certainly things that it is preferable to. But there is no need to pretend that it is more, or other, than what it is.

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People who have no actual power to control events often comfort themselves by pretending that they in some way have control. A good measure of defeat is the degree to which the distinction between minor and major problems is obliterated, and matters of secondary consequence are invested with great moral urgency. If I have no real ability to change a thing in any way, but I can of course control my personal behavior, it is seductive to think that changing how I behave, how I talk about a thing, what I wear, or what movies I do or do not pirate, may actually contribute to changing the thing itself. "We all have our part to play in this" is an appealing alternative to the prospect that you are simply out of account. Sometimes, it is the alternative to losing your mind completely.

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Always beware of those whom everybody finds charming or likable. For the same reason that you shouldn't be impressed at the sense of humor of someone who laughs at absolutely everything. If you're not disliked by somebody, if nobody has a problem with you, then there is a lot you conceal from everyone.

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A loathing or repudiation of rhetoric is neither necessary nor sufficient to allow one to see beneath the rhetorician’s lie. A lie is a lie, no matter what stuff it be gauded in. The distinction between matter and manner should be made, at least sometimes.

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The laugh of the cynic should not be mistaken for soullessness. It is the alternative to a life of horrified screaming.

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A valuable habit to cultivate: learn to discern the truth by the way other people tell lies, but never slip into paranoia.

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"Russian is a richer language than English!" Pfah. I defy anybody to find a Russian word for privacy, or three Russian words that can adequately translate the three-way distinction between disillusionment, disenchantment and disappointment.

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You will rarely find that any two randomly selected individuals are exactly the same height. One will always be taller and the other shorter, if only by a fraction of an inch. Likewise, it is statistically likely that, of any two given evils, one will be the lesser. And it is a fact of eternal banality that, when one is faced with a list of bad options, the best option chosen will still be bad.
But those who employ the phrase "lesser of two evils" are not simply re-stating the obvious. There is a seedy rationalization at work. It is worth noting that this is often the only use of the word "evil" that such people ever permit themselves. Scarcely a second after inflicting the cliché upon the eye or the ear, they forget that the lesser of two evils is, still and ever, evil.
And there is no limit to the degree of evil a sane mind can be found to endorse, as long as that evil can be cast as the lesser of two.

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Intelligent people can be brilliant at believing stupid things. A narrow intelligence, in the absence of proper perspective, may easily make a person all the more tenacious in maintaining the most ridiculous of ideas, as they are all the more equipped to rationalize whatever bullshit they are loath to relinquish. Formalistic thinkers in particular are suckers for beautiful arguments with one false premise.

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يشكل التسامح، وفقا للمعايير الحديثة، فكرةً غير متسامحة في الاساس. التسامح يعني انني احكُمك، وسأسمح لك بقسط من الحقوق والامتيازات التي اتمتّع بها ،ولكن ليس كلها، شرطا أنْ تتصرف تبعا لقوانين أشرّعها وأنفّذها وأفرضها انا عليك. إنّ حقوق الانسان ليس لها ادنى علاقة بمجرد التسامح، فالتسامح لا يُنتِج مقدار ذرة من الاحترام بالضرورة

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I think the time has come for the term “liberal reactionary.” A person who sees the anti-racist consensus under attack, and uses this as an excuse to double down on their class-interests.

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Impure genius exists. Pure genius is an oxymoron.

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Those who hate evil more intensely than they love good are in a dangerous position.

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شأن الله شأن الفلوس والزواج والقوانين وغيرها من الاشياء والمفاهيم التي لا توجد سوى بقدر ما يؤمن المجتمع بوجودها

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Joseph Brodsky is not the best translator of Joseph Brodsky. I wonder if the reason so many of his best poems have yet to be well translated into English is because others were uncomfortable trying their hands when an English version by the author's own hand existed.

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Relatively few love poems celebrate a love that actually exists with a lover who is actually present. Poets tend to either anticipate it with joy or look back on it with nostalgia or pain. They prefer the past or future to the present. Actual love in the present moment seems to be diminished by too much introspection, and those love poets who deal with it seem to relish the mundanity of things, as if to reaffirm that what they are feeling is real.

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The Abbasids appropriated Hellenism from the Byzantines as part of an explicitly articulated cultural program of supplanting and delegitimating the Byzantines as heirs to Greek greatness. And it was done largely with the labor of Christians and converts from Christianity. Or did you think Abbasid Arab Muslims actually bothered to learn Greek and Syriac? Nobody who whinges about cultural appropriation has any business glorifying the Abbasid translation movement.

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I am tired of the use of the word “colonialism” not as a descriptor of a set of identifiable practices, but as a morally charged (and frequently psychologically inflected) metaphor that passes for reality. This is responsible for a good deal of muddled thinking.

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Actual diversity is the last thing to be found within ten miles of anyone who feels the need to make noise over Diversity™

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سامح اعداءك لكن لا تنسٓ أبدا أسماءهم

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New Rule: you can’t be an expert on the Middle East if you can’t read a newspaper article in either Hebrew, Arabic or Persian.

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There is no crime that a human being can commit that would justify treating them as less than a human being.

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If you genuinely think nothing worse than Trump is possible, then you are ignorant of history and current global affairs.

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There is something fucked up about a country that gets more bent out of shape about a president calling Haiti a shithole country than about a president bombing Yemen. 

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The world is run by sociopaths and you have to live in it.

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It’s gotten so that every time I see the phrase “profoundly problematic” I think “what fresh bullshit am I going to be served today?”

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot convenience cooked up in the writers' room.

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Your freedom of speech does not translate into my obligation to listen.

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Слово пошлость часто считается непереводимым. Как бы то ни было, хотя у нас в америке такого слова нет, зато в значительном избытке есть само явление.

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Intersectionality is how members of the haute bourgeoise like Ava Du Vernay can be seen to speak for the black woman who sold me my last burger at McDonalds

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إن اردت التعددية فتحتاج الى دولة علمانية لا الهَ في دستورها اذ أنّ العلمانية الضامن الوحيد للحرية الدينية.


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I dearly wish comic book artists would stop drawing women like deformed sex-mutants

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According to my thesaurus, there isn't another word for synonym

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Mars habet duces.
Pax habet decus.
Qui marte luces
Tu dux es caecus,
Trumpus Donaldus.
Baro in luce,
Follis est caldus.
Saluto il Duce.

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What dumbass put an "s" into the word "lisp"?

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I have nothing but respect for the Department of Fatherland Security

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The sentence "every farmer who has a donkey beats it" has many possible meanings.

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Postmodernism is the bad hangover of a civilization that got drunk on the idea that nothing would ever happen again for the first time.

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The idea of artistic originality (and the negative connotations of "plagiarism"), has got to be one of the stupidest ideas the modern world has about art. Uncertain paternity is no more a blemish on an artistic work than on a person, and the only real bastards are the Romantics who failed to grasp this. Many ridiculous notions such as "ripoff" and "derivative" (as well as a whole sub-genre of modern copyright law) rest on the same general absurdity.

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This Ibid guy must be the most prolific and versatile scholar ever to exist.

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Just because I'm an atheist, doesn't mean I don't believe in anything at all. I do, for example, firmly believe in the reality of the Surgeon Birth. It is undeniably true that C-sections actually happen.

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The Grinch seems to be the last of his species. No wonder he's bitter at the Whos. They probably exterminated his entire civilization.

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Я помню чудное мученье.
Передо мной явился ты,
Стабильный гений неведенья,
Как призрак фарса и беды.
— А.С. Пушкин к Дональду Трампу

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This A. Z. Foreman guy is so arrogant and pretentious, I bet he even talks about himself in the third person. 

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One of the smelliest things about Cop Shows in any country is their tendency to portray Internal Investigations as the Bad Guy.

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لا يحتاج العقلاء الى وعد الجنّة ولا الى التخويف من الجحيم لإدراك الفضل في الأعمال الصالحة

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Never insult literature by turning it into scripture. Shakespeare has suffered enough at the hands of his worshippers.

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Violence sometimes is the solution, no matter what fortune cookies say. But that doesn’t mean you should be an idiot about it.

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It is probably a crappy movie if the black supporting character refers to “my black ass” at any time.

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Just because an opinion is given by an expert, doesn't mean it is wrong. 

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It doesn’t seem to me to be true that “nothing can really be translated.” Nearer the truth is that everything can be translated. It’s just that not everything can be translated well.

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Language is the one thing where, the more educated you are, the more ignorant you tend to be about it.

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Many of the old left, of all colors, are disturbed by the obsession over “cultural appropriation” because a lot of what they cherish most (whether as artists, political thinkers or just as human beings) comes from their having violated some cultural precinct formerly held sacrosanct. Concern with cultural intactness and with “whose culture a tradition really belongs to” is profoundly conservative, no matter what your color. I can’t help but notice that a lot of the people in the Anglophone world who are most eager to bow to the idea of cultural appropriation as a kind of terrible blasphemy are also some of the ones who uttered not a goddamn peep in 1989-1990 to defend Salman Rushdie from the charge of literal blasphemy and literal death threats. “This hurts my cultural feelings" is an age old cry of conservatism in any and every society.

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You can't dismiss Human Rights as merely an imperialist creation without asking: what would a world without the concept of rights be like?

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I am sick of people making the claim that there is no objective truth, as if it were objectively true.

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كان هناك رجل لم يعجبه طبخ زوجته، فوضع لها لوحةً في المطبخ كتب عليها
"إن الله يحب إذا عمل احدكم عملا أن يتقنه"
أخذتها فعلّقتها في غرفة النوم 

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One reason why administrators love adjunct professors is that they are usually too vulnerable to teach any topic seen as controversial.

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Things that are regarded as evil always draw in an unseemly fascination, but things regarded as trashy or behind the times do not. What will it take, I wonder, for reasonless violence to fall plonk in the realm of the Uncool? Eventually, we may grow so bored with seeing our fellow creatures dismembered in simulacrum, that trashy may be the worst anyone is able to think of it anymore.

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Just because a lie is batshit crazy and absurd, does not mean it is meaningless, that its effect is not worth taking seriously. I don't just mean taking seriously the possibility or even likelihood of someone or some multitude believing the lie. I mean the effect that constantly being lied to has on you, me, and any other primate. The power of lies is not simply to get you to believe untruth. Constant assault of fabrication on one's faculties has the effect of dulling them in specific ways. Being inundated with transparent lie on lie for great stretches of time will have at least one effect: getting you used to being lied to. When you're used to being lied to constantly, when you simply accept it as part of the background noise of existence, truth tends to matter less and critical faculties wither. It becomes easier to convince yourself of all sorts of things that — from the outside — might sound delusional, easier to dismiss information out of hand that may have proven vital. So if you're going to be lied to constantly, it's best to dissect a lie now and again. If the experience of being lied to constantly is normalized, you are that much more vulnerable to demobilizing paranoia.

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Donald Trump uses the phrase “fake news" in a way that blurs the more useful sense of the phrase. It muddles the distinction between good-faith poor journalism which - whether through bias, exaggeration or oversight - may be inaccurate and perhaps misleading, and a deliberate hoax which has no basis in fact and is intended to make you believe that it is something other than what it really is. A Yiddish proverb has it that "a half truth is a whole lie" and there's that Blake quote about how a "truth that's told with bad intent/ beats all the lies you can invent." All well and good. But there is an important difference between badly reporting the truth, and successfully purveying lies.

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Women will soon be able to drive cars in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are finally entering the nineteenth century.

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“I agree with you, but more eloquently”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

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"في المستقبل كلما الناس بتسألني "دينك ايه؟" جوابي حيبقى "انا باعبُد الغباوة، وانت الهي الجديد


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Secular piety is the funniest kind

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On Star Trek they treat it as alien that Bajorans put their family name before their personal name (as in "Smith John".) I keep wondering what happened in the future to the Hungarians, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Mordvins, the Japanese and everybody else.

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Multilingualism, both historically and presently, is more common than monolingualism. Yet linguistics has traditionally operated as if the monolingual were the normal speaker. An unnoted irony inheres in the fact that the majority of human beings ever to inhabit this weary globe have been capable of conversing in more languages than Noam Chomsky. 

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The upper middle class always hates it when the poor are not sufficiently miserable

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If bathroom legislation is about protecting children, there should be separate bathrooms for unmarried clergy.

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I wanted healthcare like a civilized country and American capitalism gave me a Bluetooth salt shaker.

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You don’t need to respect the religion somebody practices in order to respect their right to practice it

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Iran supports the Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh, even though Azeris are Shi'a. Lesson for anyone who thinks religion guides foreign policy.

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Bad questions do not deserve good answers. At least, not all the time.

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Star Trek: Enterprise is the Keyser Söze of outer space. The mind is always flaming wreckage in its wake.

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I wish the police took sexual assault as seriously in real life as they do on cop shows

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For Marx and Engels, it was Russia that was the reactionary behemoth and America the great hope of liberty. Something they usually don't teach you. In either country. 

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Appelons les choses par leur nom: le régime de Trump est une ploutocratie.

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Placing a high value on authenticity seems paradoxically to encourage phoniness

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Increasingly one is forced to render one's own intellect anonymous as the price for functioning as an intellectual.

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To be objective is not to be neutral. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle, but it is almost never in the exact middle. The only time "objectivity" deserves those scare quotes is as a misleading synonym for neutrality. 

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Donald Trump is what America gets for slapping bandaids on an infected wound and pretending it isn't there.

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Russian-American Putinheads remind me of the German-American Bund.

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Female Starfleet captains who aren't named "Janeway" have a mortality rate that would shock a redshirt

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I've often heard people say "we should have just let the south secede." Oddly enough, it's mostly only white people that say that. 

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Mountains fall before the power of hyperbole.

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I have noticed that absentminded professors in fiction are always, always male.

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I'm no good at being anything other than myself except when I translate literature. Translation is an escape from the nuisances of self.

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If I were a woman posting the same shit I already do, I have no doubt people would be all "why are you so bitchy all the time?"

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People who blame themselves for everything have an exaggerated sense of their own importance.

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The notion of a "Western Construct" is also a western construct. Translation: fuck you too

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The Bible is 100% accurate when thrown hard at close range

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New rule: you can't call a country Marxist if its citizens aren't allowed to read Marx in uncensored form.

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لو انا في غرفة وكل شخص فيها اسمه "طارق"، هو ده معناه انني في غرفة الطوارق؟

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Political correctness is for white people so busy respecting other people's cultures that they forget to respect other people.

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I thought about ceasing to be a surrealist, but then I went back to filling the bathtub with brightly colored power-tools

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Since cellphones are becoming more and more waterproof, soon it will be okay to push people into swimming pools again

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Sometimes conflicts arise because two parties misunderstand one another, and sometimes because they understand one another all too well.

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The chance of being horribly misunderstood is directly proportional to the importance and gravity of whatever it is you're talking about.

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There appears to be a mostly positive correlation between the stupidity of a language ideology and how smart its adherents believe themselves to be. 

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Those who claim to judge others based on their intelligence typically have a very stupid idea of what intelligence actually is.

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That what passes for the truth is often no such thing doesn't mean the search for truth is fruitless.

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When a couple is having problems in a film, all it takes is a major catastrophe for them to fix all their marriage issues and be happy.

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USA Today claims that Welsh is a “notoriously difficult” language. Difficult? Pshaw. I think Anglophones rate any language as “difficult” just for not being Spanish or French or German.

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I avoid a lot of horror movies, because watching a teenage girl get dismembered alive is not my idea of a good time.

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In the fight between oligarchic corporatism and authoritarian nationalism, the true losers are those who think one of them is the good guy.

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Being highly educated does not make you particularly intelligent. People seem to have difficulty with this fact.

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“Connery” c’est super rigolo comme nom.

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Translation theory using cultural respect to avoid letting a work actually communicate is the most colonial of all.

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Is there a parallel universe where people believe in Thor, and Yahweh is one of the Avengers?

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Logical flaws are like farts. You don't mind your own, but someone else's can be really unpleasant when you pick up on them.

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Cultural Identity is a chronic disease contracted through prologued contact with infected individuals, usually in childhood. Though seldom fatal, all humans, even the seemingly immune, should be considered carriers and potentially contagious. The only consistently effective treatment is for infected individuals to place themselves under quarantine and avoid all human contact for several years. However, symptoms will reappear upon resuming contact with infected persons. Another temporary, usually less effective remedy, is to exchange saliva with another sufferer of a different strain.

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When people write that "purchasing sex to me is violence against women" what they're telling me is that they are either sadly confused about what Purchasing Sex is often really about, or that they have a definition of Violence Against Women that is so contorted as to be worse than useless.

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Hypothesis: take any 100 Americans from my generation into a time machine and drop them off in an American city 30 or so years before their birth. Within one month, 10-30 of them will have killed themselves.

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The fact that what passes for the truth is often nothing of the kind does not mean that the search for truth is fruitless. Rather, it means that such a search is all the more urgent.


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We Americans have this cultural assumption that peace is the norm and war the exception. But that is only an assumption.

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I notice that when people do not know how to do something, they tend to assume it is either far far easier or far far harder than it really is.

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When the history of late 20th and early 21st century America is written, a large chapter will have to be devoted to how such a large swathe of the electorate remained so clueless about how corrupt their representatives really were, in the face of so much evidence. Members of my generation will find themselves having to explain ashamedly to their grandchildren what absolute fucking chumps they were.


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"I am sick of all the fake shit being attributed to me on the internet"
-Albert Einstein

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Blue percent of Americans have synesthesia.

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The things that distant posterity remembers most vividly are usually the things that never really happened. Worshipful deification by posterity is the true Hell to which successful idol-smashers and blasphemers are often consigned after death.

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Life isn't about money or power. It is about easily digestible platitudes which tell you what life is about.

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Nostalgia is not a kind of remembrance. It is a form of forgetting in which the present overshadows the past so completely and the future so frightens us, that the only refuge is the delusion of remembrance: fabrication of a past that never existed, when we can't handle the truth that even good old days were pretty godawful too.

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Behind much talk of challenging power inequality, and attempted criticism of power structures, there lies no coherent, rational and secure vision of a better world, but an incoherent, insecure and irrational obsession with power itself, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself, a state of being. The seductive idea of power obscuring all other considerations. Much of this bloviation about "empowerment" in many circles seems to both perpetuate and mask a continued Enslavement, to a retrograde idea of Power Itself.

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I have noticed two things about the antagonists in videogames: they are so good as to never give the hero a second break, yet so incompetent as to be thwarted at every turn.

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There are some languages where different word-order may be as unimportant as that between a sleeping man, and a man sleeping. There are others where it is as crucial as the difference between a venetian blind and a blind venetian.

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I'm glad the forbidden fruit Adam consumed was an Apple. Just think how much more damned we would all be if even the Fruit of Knowledge were running Windows.

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Plato, you're full of shit. There is no evil in this changeful material world. But the world of our immutable ideals is crawling with it.

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When George Orwell died in 1950, he had at last achieved an international reputation, and was having to issue repeated disclaimers of the use the American Right was making of Nineteen Eighty-Four. One wishes he had lived just a little longer to give the American Right its due at full Orwellian blast.

2 comments:

  1. You should write for "Black Mirror." Hehe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I almost think you should distribute these one at a time (maybe you do, on Twitter) because most are really quite meaty, and it is impossible to do them justice read all at once.

    ReplyDelete