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SPIEGEL: Why do we waste so much time trying to complete things that can’t be realistically completed?
ECO: We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.
Dr. Rines’s passion about the Loch Ness monster was kindled in 1972 when he was in Scotland on his honeymoon with the former Carol Williamson, his second wife. They were enjoying tea with a friend whose home overlooked the loch. Their host remarked, “I say, is that an upturned boat?” What they saw was a big, grayish hump with the texture of an elephant’s skin. It rose four feet out of the water and seemed to be about 30 feet long. They stared at it for 10 minutes. “I don’t care what anybody thinks, you have to find out what that was,” Mrs. Rines said. The obsession had begun. –“Robert Rines, Inventor and Monster Hunter, Dies at 87,” Douglas Martin, The New York Times
“Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”; the government is lying about creating them, unemployment is up to 17.5 percent by some measures (worse than Europe as a whole and catching up to Spain), and the “jobless recovery” isn’t a recovery for the jobless; FOX says it’s all Obama’s fault, while others propose… socialism; maybe the unemployed should pull themselves up and just sell apples on the street–but no, China is killing the U.S. in the apple trade
TEACHER: Let’s start analyzing the text, everybody pay attention. Who’s going to read the first part? Everyone else pay attention and conclude what the theme of this segment is.
TEACHER: Here, everyone focus on this sentence. It is a metaphor. Is this a direct or indirect metaphor? Why does the author use it?
STUDENTS: (N number of people start to sleep)
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”