Neal Stephenson on the Dress of Sir Winston

March 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm (Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver) (, , , , , )

p. 175 “Sir Winston was of Raleigh’s generation and had fought in the Civil War as a Cavalier — he was a serious man and so was dressed in a way that passed for dignified and understated here, in a black velvet coat, flaring out to just above the knee, with lace handkerchiefs trailing from various openings like wisps of steam, and a yellow waistcoat under that, and God only knew what else beneath the waistcoat — the sleeves of all these garments terminated near the elbows in huge wreaths of lace, ruffles, et cetera, and that was to show off his tan kid gloves. He had a broad-brimmed Cavalier-hat fringed with fluffy white stuff probably harvested from the buttocks of some bird that spent a lot of time sitting on ice floes, and a very thin mustache, and a wig of yellow hair, expensively disheveled and formed into bobbling ringlets. He had black stockings fashionably wrinkled up his calves, and high-heeled shoes with bows of a wingspan of eight inches. The stocking/breech interface was presumably somewhere around the knees and was some sort of fantastically complex spraying phenomenon of ribbons and gathers and skirtlets designed to peek out under the hems of his coat, waistcoat, and allied garments.”

Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)
Neal Stephenson

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John Cage on Enlightenment, Control, Indeterminacy, & Why

March 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm (John Cage, Silence) (, , , )

p. 6 “A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances so that he was able to travel to a distant island to study Zen with a certain Master for a three-year period. At the end of the three years, feeling no sense of accomplishment, he presented himself to the Master and announced his departure. The Master said, “You’ve been here three years. Why don’t you stay three months more?” The student agreed, but at the end of the three months he still felt that he had made no advance. When he told the Master again that he was leaving, the Master said, “Look now, you’ve been here three years and three months. Stay three weeks longer.” The student did, but with no success. When he told the Master that absolutely nothing had happened, the Master said, “You’ve been here three years, three months, and three weeks. Stay three more days, and if, at the end of that time, you have not attained enlightenment, commit suicide.” Towards the end of the second day, the student was enlightened.”

p. 37 “From that point of view from which each thing and each being is seen as moving out from its own center, this situation of the subservience of several to the directives of one who is himself controlled, not by another but by the work of another, is intolerable.”

p. 39 “Nothing therefor is accomplished by [an indeterminate] performance, since that performance cannot be grasped as an object in time. A recording of such a work has no more value than a postcard; it provides knowledge of something that happened, where as the action was a non-knowledge of something that had not yet happened.”

p. 42 “Is there any reason in asking why? Would I ask why if the questions were not words but were sounds?”

Silence: Lectures and Writings
John Cage

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