“Lots of American places used to make things. Detroit used to make cars. Baltimore used to make steel and ships. New Orleans still makes something. It makes moments. I don’t mean that to sound flippant, and I don’t mean it to sound more or less than what it is, but they’re artists with a moment, they can take a moment and make it into something so transcendent that you’re not quite sure that it happened or that you were a part of it.”—David Simon, from here. “Treme” sounds like it’s gonna be awesome.
“Advertisers often play on something psychologists call Loss Aversion. Loss Aversion is an aspect of Prospect Theory, a theory that seeks to determine why people make certain decisions. Loss Aversion suggests people are more motivated to avoid losing something than they are to acquire something new. For instance, in a study done on a street in Las Vegas, passers by were given a twenty-dollar bill and then given the opportunity to double their money by betting on a single card. They could walk away with the twenty, or double their money. Most participants chose to walk away from the game, keeping the twenty-dollar bill they had just been given. But when the game was changed and the participants were given forty dollars, only to have twenty taken back a moment later and then given a chance to win back the twenty taken from them, nearly all participants decided to take the same risk and get back what they had lost. In other words, when they had something and lost it, they were more inclined to try to get it back. It isn’t only advertisers who play on this psychological phenomenon, it’s politicians and talk-show hosts and nearly anybody trying to convince anybody of anything. How many times have you heard the phrase “take back our country” or, within the church “take a stand for Biblical theology” or this kind of language. The idea is to convince a group of people they are losing ground. This creates a powerful response in whatever demographic feels like they are losing something. Environmentalist motivate us by emphasizing the loss of physical paradise, and the conservative right motivates us by emphasizing a loss of freedom. Regardless of where you stand, we can all agree these are powerful motivating forces.”—Donald Miller (via azspot)
“I have no context for it, but it looked like he was doing a rhetorical analysis of how gender relationships were playing out over the course of the novel,” Schwartzburg told me. “He appeared to really engage with her and looked carefully at how she structured her narrative. Clearly, he read very widely.”—David Foster Wallace had a heavily marked-up copy of Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are The Children? (via) (via katiebakes)
January, 1961. This is an exchange between New Yorker fiction editor William Maxwell and author Sylvia Townsend Warner, on the subject of Balzac:
MAXWELL: “The pace irritates me, and I see everything coming for miles and miles.”
WARNER: “I think you will come to Balzac yet. When one has disproved all one’s theories, outgrown all of one’s standards, discarded all one’s criterions, and left off minding about one’s appearance, one comes to Balzac. And there he is, waiting outside his canvas tent — with such a circus going on inside.”
Exercise: replace “Balzac” in this discussion with “Law & Order.”
“Medicine is … the entertainment of idle people without occupation who, not knowing what to do with their time, pass it in preserving themselves. If they had the bad luck to be born immortal, they would be the most miserable beings. A life they would never fear losing would be worthless for them. These people need doctors who threaten them in order to cater to them and who give them every day the only pleasure of which they are susceptible — that of not being dead.”— Jean-Jacques Rousseau
“Here I want instead to hazard a little theory, concerning the evolution of a certain type of voice, typified by Halifax, by Shakespeare, and very possibly by the president [Obama]. For the voice of what Macaulay called “the philosophic historian” is, to my mind, a valuable and particular one, and I think someone should make a proper study of it. It’s a voice that develops in a man over time; my little theory sketches four developmental stages. The first stage in the evolution is contingent and cannot be contrived. In this first stage, the voice, by no fault of its own, finds itself trapped between two poles, two competing belief systems. And so this first stage necessitates the second: the voice learns to be flexible between these two fixed points, even to the point of equivocation. Then the third stage: this native flexibility leads to a sense of being able to ‘see a thing from both sides.’ And then the final stage, which I think of as the mark of a certain kind of genius: the voice relinquishes ownership of itself, develops a creative sense of disassociation in which the claims that are particular to it seem no stronger than anyone else’s. There it is, my little theory — I’d rather call it a story. It is a story about a wonderful voice, occasionally used by citizens, rarely by men of power. Amid the din of the 2008 culture wars it proved especially hard to hear.”—from “Speaking in Tongues” by Zadie Smith
“[Tony] Hancock wasn’t such an anachronism, as it turns out. Genealogically speaking, Harvey had his finger on the pulse of British comedy, for Hancock begot Basil Fawlty, and Fawlty begot Alan Partridge, and Partridge begot the immortal David Brent.”—
from “Dead Man Laughing” by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s account of the lineage of a certain strain of British comedy. Harvey is her late father.