Monday, October 29, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences. Conclusion.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, a blunt commentary on Americans' use of English.

What is wrong with the following phrases?

right on; up tight; chicken out; totally destroyed; completely destroyed; partially surrounded; completely surrounded; partially damaged; completely abandoned; completely eliminated; rather unique; very unique; totally unique; last-ditch talks; costly walkout; confidence factor; in a punting situation/forced to punt; powerful Ways and Means Committee; all-important Rules Committee; uneasy truce; scenario; agreement hammered out; embattled chief executive; eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation; more importantly ' ongoing dialogue; flipside; growth potential; capabilities; viability; mesh; optimal; innovative; target area; inputs; outputs; components; segments; configurations; environmental impact; time-span; bare bones; market strategies; management teams; high retention characteristics; got good wood on; got a big jump; they came to play; that has to be....

Most are tired, outworn and sometimes redundant phrases.

Thus ends the latest edition of "Significant Sentences," interesting sentences from interesting books. In some cases, the books are out of print and readers would not be able to buy them. In other cases used copies of the books are too expensive to purchase. The few used copies available for Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year cost $95 for a book that once sold new at one-quarter of that amount. The ideas from that book and all of the others featured in this blog deserve to be remembered and read and savored over and over again.

Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking is the last book to be featured in "Significant Sentences," not because I could not find other memorable books with memorable sentences, but because no one cares. I thank all of you who have read my blog, "Significant Sentences." I have thoroughly enjoyed providing this service.

All the best.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 07

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"The British seem so detached and serene to us that their true feelings often go unnoticed." p. 164.

"It might be added also that the British unduly handicap themselves with the names they apply to some foods--bloaters, pilchards, scrag end, bubble-and-squeak, toad-in-the-hole, nosh, fry-up, faggots, roly-poly pudding, stodge, black pudding, spotted dog." p. 173.

"Tourism: ...there is enormous competition for going somewhere nobody you know has been." p. 179.

"Rome tourist leaflet urging travel to the U.S.: '...not true that Americans live on coffee for breakfast, martinis for lunch and frozen foods for dinner.' " p. 183.

Some examples of the decline in use of the English language:

"...nobody takes medicine but rather medication...." p. 2.

William Simon: "One cannot ad hoc tax reform." p. 2.

"There are those who think it is better to say 'impacted on' than 'hit.' " p. 3.

"Can we stop something, preventive medicinewise, from happening?" p. 3.

Redundancy: "...young juveniles." p. 3.

Tired phrases: "You've got to be kiddin'; it's a bad scene; how does that grab you? Just for openers; it's a fun idea; fantastic; it's the in place; is he for real? Back to square one; that's the name of the game; who's counting? bottom line; wild; would you believe? Out of sight; lots of luck; what can I tell you? What have you done for me lately? Is alive and well; it's a whole new ball game." p. 4.

"...parameter vs. boundary or limit; viable...." p. 4.

"...eventuated...." p. 5.

"...good team player...." p. 7.

Inflated language: "...indicated/said; prior to/ before; undertaken/done; subsequent/after...." p. 8.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Authored': Why not, 'He playwrighted a play' ?" p. 144.

"I think it may be better to grunt unintelligibly than to use such language [as the Hampshire College 'working paper'], for it is so impersonal and manufactured as to be almost inhuman." p. 145.

"A large part of social scientific practice consists of taking clear ideas and making them opaque." p. 146.

"On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln was on the side of social scientists when he said, 'God must have loved the people of lower and middle socio-economic status, because he made such a multiplicity of them.' " p. 148. [Lincoln actually said, "Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them."]

"The answers [in sports interviews] are purely ritualistic, but nobody minds." p. 152.

" 'Putting it all together' [in sports] was identified as the key to success a few years ago, and it has swept all other explanations before it." p. 153.

"There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable." p. 155. [To which I add Allan Iverson's, "I should have went to practice," a butchered verb tense--("I should have ran....") used by so many sports commentators that I long ago lost count. What did they teach him in those English classes that he attended at Georgetown University? RayS.]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 05.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

How's this for gobbledygook and jargon from educated people who should know better?

"In June, 1974, Hampshire College in South Amherst, Massachusetts graduated its first class. Plans for the college were set out in December 1966, as a 'working paper,' and these were some of the positions taken:

"...that social structure should optimally be the consonant patterned expression of culture; that higher education is enmeshed in a congeries of social and political change; that the field of the humanities suffers from a surfeit of leeching, its blood drawn out by verbalism, explication of text, Alexandrian scholiasticism and the exquisite preciosities and pretentiousness of contemporary literary criticism; that a formal curriculum of academic substance and sequence should not be expected to contain mirabilia which will bring all the educative ends of the college to pass, and that any formal curriculum should contain a high frangibility factor, that the College hopes that the Hampshire student will have kept within him news of Hampshire's belief that individual man's honorable choice is not between immolation in a senseless society or withdrawal into the autarchic self but instead trusts that his studies and experience in the College will confirm for him the choice that only education allows; detachment and skill enough to know, engagement enough to feel, and concern enough to act, with self and society in productive interplay, separate and together, that an overzealous independence reduces linguistics to a kind of cryptographic taxonomy of linguistic forms, and that the conjoining of other disciplines and traditional linguistics becomes most crucial as problems of meaning are faced in natural language; and that the College expects its students to wrestle most with questions of the human condition, which are, What does it mean to be human? How can men become more human? What are human beings for?"

Incredible! Try summarizing that in a single sentence.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 04.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"Polls...put...the emphasis in an election in the wrong place, on who is thought to be ahead, rather than on what the candidates propose and what their election might mean." p. 73.

"Politicians should be encouraged to stand for what they believe in, not try to smell out the exact mosaic of attitudes and positions that will appeal t the greatest number." p. 73.

" helped to sell foreign products if they were called 'imported' rather than 'foreign.' " p. 76.

"I am...uncomfortable when I hear the breakdown of voting results according to religion and race and national origins...because it helps to perpetuate divisions that we might be better off without, because it leads people to go on thinking of themselves in a particular way, as members of a particular group...." p. 79.

"Spontaneity is all right provided they can rehearse it first." p. 81.

"Another approach to nominating is the alliterative: 'Richard who had demonstrated courage in crisis from Caracas to the Kremlin.' " p. 92.

Jargon: "The capacity to generate language viability destruction." p. 128.

"The ability to use jargon is learned at an increasingly early age." p. 141.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 03.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Massive' doesn't even mean large any more...goes by without registering...means nothing." p. 29.

"You may convince that; you may convince of; you may not convince to." p. 32.

"What makes the incorrect more attractive than the correct?" p. 33.

"Gresham's Law tells us that the less valuable currency will force the more valuable out of circulation." p. 33.

"Why do American politicians invariably say 'I would hope' "? p. 34.

"A 'serious crisis' is the only one to 'true facts.' "p. 35.

"When does a sheet of paper metamorphose into a document?" p. 45.

"No practice in Washington is more beloved than that of attributing statements to sources who cannot be named." p. 49.

"One reason that language is debased in Washington is that it rests so often on assumptions that are unexamined." p. 51. [RayS: For example, today, in the Iraq War, newspapers and reporters on TV constantly refer to the "insurgents." What is an "insurgent"?]

"Politics has a way of bringing on meaningless language." p. 65.

"People who say 'judgmental' think they are important." p. 70.

"...anything that depersonalizes is an enemy of language." p. 71. [RayS: For example, "Wop," "Polak," etc.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 02.

Signficant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"...stiffness and bloat are almost everywhere." p. 9.

"Television...exalted the picture and depreciated the word." p. 11.

"The prevalence of 'Y'know' is one of the most far-reaching and depressing developments of our time, disfiguring conversations wherever you go.... Attend meetings at NBC and elsewhere in which people of high rank and station, with salaries to match, say almost nothing else." p. 14.

"Some people collapse into 'y'know' after giving up trying to say what they mean." p. 14.

"Language, then, sets the tone of our society." p. 17.

"Most of us will never speak...succinctly or concretely; we may, however, aspire to; for direct and precise language, if people could be persuaded to try it, would make conversation more interesting, which is no small thing; it would help to substitute facts for bluster, also no small thing; and it would promote the practice of organized thought and even of occasional silence, which would be an immeasurable blessing." p. 18.

"Still, it remains true that since nothing is more important to a society than the language it uses--there would be no society without it--we would be better off if we spoke and wrote with exactness and grace, and if we preserved, rather than destroyed, the value of our language. p. 18.

"The desire for weightiness even creeps into the language of television weather forecasts: Why [is] 'major thunderstorm activity' preferred to 'major thunderstorms?' " p. 23.

"We love to pump air into the language." p. 24.

"American journalism has a way of fastening on words and sucking them dry." p. 28.

" 'Meanwhile' now serves about as much purpose as clearing of the throat." p. 28.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 01.

Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?
Edwin Newman
Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

RayS: I like nothing better than a good rant on the state of the English language today and Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking.... is one of the more effective rants that I have encountered. A film was made using Newman as the narrator and the words from his book. I used it in an inservice program with school administrators and they were enthralled. His message is clear. Our business language is full of pomposity and redundancy and tired, meaningless phrases. Enjoy--and learn from--these significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking....

Cover: "Newman's wry eye focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of society."

Cover: "If words are devalued, he [Newman] argues, so are ideas and so are human beings."

Cover: "He [Newman] rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized."

"...the state of the language is a commentary on the state of our society." p. 1.

"Not only has eloquence departed but simple, direct speech as well, though pomposity and banality have not." p. 4.

"It is at least conceivable that our politics would be improved if our English were...."

"If we were more careful about what we say, and how, we might be more critical and less gullible." p. 5.

"Those for whom words have lost their value are likely to find that ideas have also lost their value." p. 5.

"A world without mistakes [in language] would unquestionably be less fun." p. 6.

"Harry Truman used to say "irrevalent" and stress the third syllable in "incomparable"; but Mr. Truman never had any trouble getting his points across." p. 6.

"As a veteran I was in an army hospital in 1947, and a fellow patient asked me what another patient did for a living. I said he was a teacher. 'Oh,' was the reply, 'them is my chief dread.' A lifetime was summed up in those six syllables. No way to improve on that." p. 6.

"Certainly those involved in Watergate had had far more education than the national average, yet one of the things that the Watergate hearings revealed was a poverty of expression, an inability to say anything in a striking way, an addiction to a language that was almost denatured, and in which what little humor did occur was usually unintentional." p. 7.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 18.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Inner Galaxy"

"I remain oppressed by the thought that the venture into space is meaningless unless it coincides with a certain interior expansion." p. 298.

"...a play in which man was destined always to be a searcher, and it would be his true nature he would seek." p. 300.

Montaigne: "The conviction of wisdom is the plague of man." p. 310.

"Century after century, humanity studies itself in the mirror of fashion, and ever the mirror gives back distortions, which for the moment impose themselves upon man's real image." p. 301.

Montaigne: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." p. 302.

"It is man's folly, as it is perhaps a sign of his spiritual aspirations, that he is forever scrutinizing and redefining himself." p. 303.

"Few of us can be saints; few of us are total monsters." p. 304.

"Man's altruistic and innately cooperative character has brought him along the road to civilization...." p. 305.

"The open-ended, unpredictable." p. 306.

"Perhaps, it is always the destined role of the compassionate to be strangers among men." p. 310.

"For the seed of man is thistledown, and a puff of breath may govern it, or a word from a poet torment it into greatness." p. 310.

"It was the failures who had always won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes. This is the final paradox, which men call evolution." p. 311.

Comment: I think this last quote is one of my most memorable from Loren Eiseley: "It was the failures who had always won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes. This is the final paradox, which men call evolution." It comes at the end of an essay devoted to man's exploration--not the exploration of continents and space--but man's inner exploration in search of his own nature. And, Eiseley decides, that inner nature is a paradox.

This essay concludes the significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower. According to some, Eiseley himself was a failure as a scientist and as a college administrator. One could infer from his biography--Fox at the Wood's Edge by Gale Christiansen--that he was also a failure as a teacher and perhaps, measured by some critics, as a man--as his father was also a failure. One scientist said of Eiseley's essays, "It's cute, but it's not science."

In my opinion, Eiseley successfully explored humanity and nature with a scientist's insight and a poet's sensitivity and expressed his explorations in memorable words. It is my hope that people will continue to read his essays and be as inspired as I have been to believe in and fulfill the evolving and improving nature of humanity.

What do you think?


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 17

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "How Natural is 'Natural' "?

" our day he [man] has pierced so deeply through the screen of appearances that the age-old distinctions between matter and energy have been dimmed to the point of disappearance." p. 283.

"He [man] holds the heat of suns within his hands and threatens with it both the lives and the happiness of his unborn descendants." p. 284.

Pascal: "There is nothing natural which we do not destroy." p. 284.

"As society improves physically, we assume the improvement of the individual and are all the more horrified at those mass movements of terror which have so typified the first half of the twentieth century." p. 284.

"The special value of science lies not in what it makes of the world, but in what it makes of the knower." p. 291.

"The Renaissance thinkers were right when they said that man, the Microcosm, contains the Macrocosm." p. 293.

Kierkegaard: "Maturity consists in the discovery that there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot be understood." p. 294.

"Man's quest for certainty is, in the last analysis, a quest for meaning." p. 295.

" see, beyond the natural, to that inexpressible realm in which the words 'natural' and 'supernatural' cease to have meaning." p. 296.

Reflections: You can't get more cryptic than the last sentence. I think Eiseley means that at some point the natural and the supernatural come together as one entity. Make of that what you want.

I really like the sentence on page 291 that the goal of science is not what it makes of the world but what it makes of the knower. What does that sentence mean to you? RayS.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 16.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Illusion of the Two Cultures." [RayS note: The two cultures are scientific and artistic.]

Sir Eric Ashby: "To train young people in the dialectic between orthodoxy and dissent is the unique contribution which universities make to society." p. 267.

"Our lives are the creation of memory and the accompanying power to extend ourselves outward into ideas and relive them." p. 267.

"...failure to distinguish the purposes of science from those of literature." p. 268.

"Man, the tool user, grows convinced that he is himself only useful as a tool." p. 269 .

On being discovered reading Tolkein's The Fellowship of the Ring by a young scientist: " 'I wouldn't waste my time with a man who writes fairy stories.' He might as well have added, 'or with a man who reads them.' " p. 269.

"...there can be found in all ages and in all institutions--even the institution of professional learning--the humorless man with the sneer, or if the sneer does not suffice, then the torch...." p. 269.

"In its day and time this hand ax was as grand an intellectual achievement as a rocket." p. 270.

"...the kind of mind which, once having shaped an object of any sort, leaves an individual trace behind it which speaks to others across the barriers of time and language." p. 271.

"Today's secular disruption between the creative aspect of art and that of science is a barbarism that would have brought lifted eyebrows in a Cro-Magnon cave." p. 271.

"The convenient label 'mystic' is, in our day, readily applied to men who pause for simple wonder." p. 272.

"To many it must appear that the more we can dissect life into its elements, the closer we are getting to its ultimate resolution." p. 273.

"From a single point his [the scientist's] discovery is verifiable by other men who may then, on the basis of corresponding data, accept the innovation and elaborate upon it in the cumulative fashion which is one of the great triumphs of science." p. 273.

"Artistic creation, on the other hand, is unique...not cumulative." p. 273.

"As the French novelist Francois Mauriac has remarked, each great novel is a separate and distinct world operating under its own laws with a flora and fauna totally its own." p. 273.

"There is communication in a work of art, or the work is a failure, but the communication releases our own visions, touches some highly personal chord in our own experience." p. 273.

"The artist...touches the hidden strings of pity...searches our hearts...makes us sensitive to beauty...asks questions about fate and destiny." p. 274.

"...great literature, whose meanings...can never be totally grasped because of their endless power to ramify in the individual mind." p. 274.

" emotional hunger which is the prerogative of the artist." p. 276.

"In fact it is one of the disadvantages of big science, just as it is of big government, that the availability of huge sums attracts a swarm of elbowing and contentious men to whom great dreams are less than protected hunting preserves." p. 277.

" the aid of the artistic imagination, those humane insights and understandings which alone can...enable us to shape ourselves, rather than the stone, into the forms which great art has anticipated." p. 279.

Reflections: Science analyzes people; art shapes them. Science and art both create. Science and art should both communicate. Let's explore how science and art could both work together as they did in the days of the Cro-Magnon man. We need to bring the two cultures back together again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 15.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Lethal Factor."

"Before we pass, it is well to think of what our final image as a race may be." p. 255.

"Humanity's restless mind would try all paths, all horrors, all betrayals." p. 256.

"...great music would lift him momentarily into some pure domain of peace." p. 256.

"He would kill for shadowy ideas more ferociously than other creatures kill for food; then, in a generation or less, forget what bloody dream had so oppressed him." p. 256.

" appears that behind every unifying effort in the life of man there is an opposite tendency to disruption, as if the force symbolized in the story of the Tower of Babel had been felt by man since the beginning." p. 258.

"...with bigness there often emerges a dogmatic rigidity." p. 260.

C.S. Lewis: " the modern era the good appears to be getting better and the evil more terrifying." p. 260.

"I am just primitive enough to hope that somehow, somewhere, a cardinal may still be whistling on a green bush when the last man goes blind before his man-made sun." p. 261.

"If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure." p. 261.

Thomas Beddoes: "Thou art, old world/ a hoary, atheistic, murdering star." p. 261.

Erich Frank: "History and the world do not change, but man's attitude to the world changes." p. 265.

Reflections: A pessimistic Eiseley reflects on "Judgment Day." Our "man-made sun" will blind and then destroy the planet, and it's a shame that we will take the frog and the cardinal with us.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 14

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Walden: Thoreau's Unfinished Business."

"...looking is in itself the business of art." p. 236.

Jung: "Technics and science have indeed conquered the world, but whether the soul has gained thereby is another matter." p. 236.

"Thoreau saw nature as another civilization, a thing of vaster laws and vagaries than that encompassed by the human mind." p. 235.

"The universe was in motion, nothing was fixed." p. 236 .

"Modern man...could not imagine so much as exists." p. 237.

"Mind prints are what the first man left, mind prints will be what the last man leaves, even if it is only a beer can dropped rolling from the last living hand." p. 239.

"Thoreau was a stay-at-home who traveled much in his mind...." p. 241.

"Seeing is not the same thing as understanding." p. 241.

"One man sees with indifference a leaf fall; another with the vision of Thoreau invokes the whole of that nostalgic world which we call autumn." p. 241.

"One man sees a red fox running through a shaft of sunlight and lifts a rifle; another lays a restraining hand upon his companion's arm and says, 'Please. There goes the last wild gaiety in the world. Let it live. Let it run.' "

"He transmutes the cricket's song in an autumn night to an aching void in the heart; snowflakes become the flying years." p. 241.

"Only man is capable of comprehending all he was and all that he has failed to be." p. 241.

Thoreau: "Find eternity in each moment." p. 242.

Thoreau: "There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of life getting a living." p. 245.

Thoreau: "I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window or the noise of some traveler's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time." p. 245.

Thoreau: "I grew in those seasons like corn in the night." p. 245.

"A hundred years after his [Thoreau's] death people were still trying to understand what he was about. They were still trying to get both eyes open." p. 248.

Reflections: From Our Town: Emily: "I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back--up the hill--to my grave. But first--wait! One more look. Good-by, good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners... Mamma and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking...and Mamma's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Stage Manager: "No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 13.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Thoreau's Vision of the Natural World."

"...a banal writer who somehow managed to produce a classic work of literature." p. 223.

"Neither science nor literature was his [Thoreau's] total concern." p. 224.

"He [Thoreau] was a fox at the wood's edge, regarding human preoccupations with doubt." p. 224.

"Behind nature is hidden the chaos as well as the regularities of the world." p. 225.

Alfred North Whitehead: "Science is concerned not with the causes but the coherence of nature." p. 229.

"Man is in process, as is the whole of life." p. 230.

Thoreau: "All change is a miracle to contemplate, but it is a miracle that is taking place every instant." p. 231.

"Thoreau views us all as mere potential." p. 231.

"As a somewhat heretical priest once observed, 'God asks nothing of the highest soul but attention.' " p. 232.

"He [Thoreau] had, in the end, learned that nature was not an enlarged version of the human ego." p. 233.

"Thoreau, as is evidenced by his final journals, had labored to lay the foundations of a then unnamed science--ecology." p. 234.

[Reflections: Clearest statement of Eiseley's belief that evolution means change and change means development and development is potential. We are all in process. Eiseley also reinforces his belief that nature and man must work together, the goal of ecology. "The Fox at the Wood's Edge" is the title of a biography of Eiseley by Gale Christiansen.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 12.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Winter of Man."

"We fear the awesome powers we have lifted out of nature and cannot return to her." p. 205.

Title of Essay: "Man Against the Universe."

"The accretion of ideas through the centuries does change the intellectual climate." p. 208.

" the contemporary mass conscious of the innovator in its midst." p. 208.

"As our probes into nature become more sophisticated, the greater becomes our reliance upon the specialist, while he, in turn, appeals to a minute audience of his peers." p. 208.

" great act of scientific synthesis is really fixed in the public mind until that public has been prepared to receive it through anticipatory glimpses." p. 209.

"Without detracting in the least from Darwin's massive and major achievement, one may observe that the literate public was in some measure ready to receive his views." p. 209.

"Emerson: 'What terrible questions we are learning to ask.' " p. 212.

"Emerson: 'Nature knows neither palm nor oak, but only vegetable life, which sprouts into forests and festoons the globe.' " p. 216.

"Between the telescope and the microscope the...universe has widened, that's all." p. 218.

"The shifting unseen potential that we call nature has left to man but one observable dictum, to grow." p. 221.

Reflections: Man's mind is expanding, but as our knowledge grows more specialized and understood only by an audience of specialists, nature continues simply to grow.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 11.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Science and the Sense of the Holy"

"When I was a young man engaged in fossil hunting in the the Nebraska badlands, I was frequently reminded that the ravines, washes and gullies over which we wandered resembled the fissures in a giant exposed brain." p. 186.

"In Civilization and Its Discontent, Freud speaks...of a friend who claimed a sensation of eternity, something limitless, unbounded--'oceanic'...." p. 188.

"Two types of practitioners in science: One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail's eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle...." p. 190.

" 'The whole of existence frightens me,' protested the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard; 'from the smallest fly to the mystery of the incarnation everything is unintelligible to me, most of all myself." p. 190.

"By contrast, the evolutionary reductionist Ernst Haeckel, writing in 1877, commented that 'the cell consists of matter...composed chiefly of carbon with an admixture of hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. These component parts, properly united, produce the soul and body of the animated world, and, suitably united, become man.' " p. 191.

Einstein: "A conviction akin to religious feeling of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a high order." p. 191.

Ahab: "All my means are sane.... My motives and my object mad." p. 199.

"The tale [Moby Dick] is not of science, but it symbolizes on a gigantic canvas the struggle between two ways of looking at the universe: the magnification of the poet's mind [Ishmael] attempting to see all, while disturbing as little as possible, as opposed to the plunging fury of Ahab with his cry, 'Strike, strike through the mask, whatever it may cost in lives and suffering.' " p. 200.

Reflections: Two philosophies of science.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Signficant Sentences 10.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Star Thrower."

"Death is the only successful collector." p. 172.

"...there is little or nothing that remains unmeasured: nothing, that it, but the mind of man." p. 174.

"Our identity is a dream." p. 175.

"We are process, not reality...." p. 175.

"The power to change is both creative and destructive."

"They [the evolutionists] saw life rushing outward from an unknown center, just as today the astronomer senses the galaxies fleeing into the infinity of darkness." p. 177.

" increasingly revenged themselves upon their creators...." p. 178.

"Man's powers were finite; the forces he had released in nature recognized no such limitations. The irrevocable monsters conjured up by a completely amateur sorcerer." p. 170.

"I love the lost ones, the failures of the world." p. 182.

"Man is...a tale of desolations." p. 183.

"The Thrower who loved not man, but life." p. 185.

"Somewhere, my thought persisted, there is a hurler of stars, and he walks, because he chooses, always in desolation, but not in defeat." p. 185.

Reflections: The star thrower is a man who walks the beaches at dawn, picks up the beached star fish and hurls them back into the ocean, restoring them to life. This belief in life is in stark contrast to man who has unleashed and hurled his tools, his powers of destruction, into the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 09

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Last Neanderthal"

"The receptive mind makes all the difference...." p. 129.

"The place was one where only a student of desolation would find cause to linger." p. 139.

"The creatures had a tangential way of darting off to the side like inconsequential thoughts that never paused long enough to be fully apprehended." p. 141.

"Say to the mind, 'Hold him, do not forget.' " p. 142.

"...the sheer organizing power of animal and plant metabolism is...most remarkable, but, as in the case of most everyday marvels, we take it for granted." p. 142.

"Without knowledge of the past, the way into the thickets of the future is desperate and unclear." p. 150.

Reflections by RayS: In discovering the marvels of everyday experience, "the receptive mind makes all the difference."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 08.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of story: "The Fifth Planet."

Summary of story: an amateur astronomer has been led to believe that between Mars and Jupiter there had been a fifth planet that had been blown to bits and that meteors from it were hitting Earth. He kept studying these meteors, hoping to find fossils which would prove life was "out there." But, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he no longer cares whether he finds evidence of life on that fifth planet. He concludes that that planet, if life existed on it, probably met the fate that this planet inevitably must--blown to bits by our own technology.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 07.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of the Essay: "The Hidden Teacher."

"Sometimes the best teacher teaches only once to a small child or to a grownup past hope." p. 116.

"...I once received an unexpected lesson from a spider." p. 177.

"And war it has been indeed--the long war of life against its inhospitable environment, a war that has lasted for perhaps three billion years." p. 118.

"The student of fossil life would be forced to tell us that if we take the past into consideration the vast majority of earth's creatures--perhaps over 90 percent--have vanished." p. 118.

"The specialized perish with the environment that created them." p. 119.

"...there had at last emerged a creature with a specialization--the brain--that, paradoxically, offered escape from specialization." p. 119.

"Man, too, lies at the heart of a web, a web extending through the starry reaches of sidereal space, as well as backward into the dark realm of prehistory." p. 119.

"Is man at heart any different from the spider?" p. 120.

"What is it we are part of that we do not see, as the spider was not gifted to discern my face, or my little probe into her world?" p. 120.

"But beyond lies the great darkness of the ultimate Dreamer, who dreamed the light and the galaxies." p. 120.

"He [man] came because he is at heart a listener and a searcher...." p. 121.

"Nature teaches, though what it teaches is often hidden and obscure." p. 121.

"Civilizations...are transmitted from one generation to another in invisible puffs of air known as words...." p. 123.

"Like a mutation, an idea may be recorded in the wrong time, to lie latent like a recessive gene and spring once more to life in an auspicious era." p. 124.

"Upon this world, life is still young, not truly old as stars are measured." p. 124.

"It has been said that great art is the night thought of man." p. 126.

" knowledge we may grow beyond our past, our follies, and ever closer to what the Dreamer in the dark intended." p. 128.

"In the pages of an old book it has been written that we are in the hands of a Teacher, nor does it yet appear what man shall be." p. 128.

Reflections: This essay is almost mystical in its reach into the world beyond man, to the "Dreamer" who set the universe in motion, the hidden Teacher who is leading humanity to what it can be. The theme is a familiar one for Eiseley, who believes that man is evolving, that he is not in his final form, that he can become something better, and in this essay, he is suggesting that the universe, nature and its origin, the "Dreamer," are all hidden teachers showing us the way. What is it that we do not see, just as the spider did not see Eiseley who intervened in his web to help? Man, says Eiseley, is growing, improving, led by the "hidden teachers."

A hopeful thought for all of us pessimists out here, who watch "Action News" each night where, "if it bleeds, it leads," becomes the lead story for the night--murder, drugs, rape, fire and the general mayhem of man's inhumanity to man and beast.

Why read books? We need the hopeful ideas of people like Loren Eiseley.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of the essay: "Easter: the Isle of Faces"

"Ascending ape or fallen angel--man would have to make his choice." p. 99.

"Either man had slowly and painfully made his way upward through the ages while his mind and his body changed, or, on the other hand, the crude remnants of early cultures found in the earth were those of a creature fallen from a state of grace, fallen from divine inspiration--a creature possessing no memory of his great past and dwelling barbarically amid the fallen monuments of his predecessors." p. 99.

"Indeed, at the edge of the world perhaps there was nothing further he could do." p. 104.

"Man has always been a builder. Perhaps he has built best in loneliness." p. 105.

"...the inscrutable stylized faces...." p. 105.

"No tears are marked upon the faces....." 105.

"...the faces are formless, nameless; they represent no living style...are therefore all men and no man and they stare indifferently upon that rolling waste which has seen man come and will see him fade once more into the primal elements from which he came." p. 105.

Reflections by RayS: Eiseley reflects on the meaning of the huge faces on Easter Island. What do those faces say about humanity? All of Eiseley's ideas are thought-provoking, but one idea stands out on the meaning of man: "ascending ape" or "fallen angel"? Man must make his choice.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 05.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature.

The following ideas come from a series of essays:

"A little while ago--about one hundred million years, as the geologist estimated time in the history of our four-billion-year-old planet...." p. 67.

"There is something particularly in a spider monkey's tail, that is too bold and purposeful to be easily called the product of simple chance." p. 81.

"At least it may cause the true philosopher to pause hesitantly and ponder before he dismisses the universe as totally a world of chance." p. 81.

"Sometimes of late years I find myself thinking the most beautiful sight in the world might be the birds taking over New York after the last man has run away to the hills." p. 88.

"...on the other hand the machine does not bleed, ache, hang for hours in the empty sky in a torment of hope to learn the fate of another machine, nor does it cry out with joy nor dance in the air with the fierce passion of a bird." [From a beautiful essay, "The Birds and the Machine," in which an injured hawk recuperates in an old barn while its mate circles and circles, wondering what is happening, and then migrates for the winter. When the mate returns, the injured hawk is ready to rejoin it and their joyous reactions on being reunited reveal the differences between a machine and a living thing.]

"I was the only man in the world who saw him do it. Everybody else was hurrying." p. 92.

"God knows how many things a man misses by becoming smug and assuming that matters will take their natural course." p. 93.

"As it was, I had just one sleepy eye half open, and it was through that that I saw the end of humanity." p. 93.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 04.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature.

Title of Essay: "The Innocent Fox."

"Some men are daylight readers, who peruse the ambiguous wording of clouds or the individual letter shapes of wandering birds." p. 53.

"As adults we are preoccupied with living. As a consequence, we see little." p. 54.

"I was a man trapped in the despair once alluded to as the utterly hopeless fear confined to moderns--that no miracles can ever happen." p. 55.

"The only thing that characterizes a miracle, to my mind, is its sudden appearance and disappearance within the natural order, although strangely, this loose definition would include each individual person." p. 57.

"Though I was his son he knew me only as one lamp is briefly lit from another in the windy night." p. 61.

"...the wide-eyed, innocent fox inviting me to play, with the innate courtesy of its two forepaws placed appealingly together, along with a mock shake of the head." p. 64.

"It was not a time for human dignity." p. 64.

"...but as Thoreau once remarked of some peculiar errand of his own, there is no use reporting it to the Royal Society." p. 65.

Reflection: If we are not looking for them, miracles occur in nature. This essay reports on the almost human contact between a naive fox and the author who communicate to each other the spirit of play and the joy in living. But there is no use in writing about that miracle to organizations like the National Science Foundation, which are interested only in analyzing nature to control it. Eiseley celebrates the beauty and complex existence of nature as it is. The difference is between a scientist and a naturalist, between the student who dissects a frog and a student who enjoys the magic of their summer chorus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 03.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature.

Title of the Essay: "Man the Firemaker."

"Man is himself a consuming fire." p. 45.

"Fire was the magic that opened the way for the supremacy of Homo sapiens." p. 47.

"Man is himself a flame." p. 49.

"Man is also Homo duplex...partakes of evil and of good, of god and of man." p. 51.

"Homo duplex must learn that knowledge without greatness of spirit is not enough...or there will remain only his calcined cities and the little charcoal of his bones." p. 52.

Reflections: Man, the firemaker, is himself a flame--the human spirit--that must grow to greatness or all that will remain of civilization will be charcoal from the nuclear cataclysm. We do not take the existence of nuclear arsenals seriously enough.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 02

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature.

Title of Essay: "The Long Loneliness."

"There is nothing more alone in the universe than man." p. 37.

"Only in acts of inarticulate compassion, in rare and hidden moments of communion with nature, does man briefly escape his solitary destiny." p. 37.

" is so locked in his own type of intelligence--an intelligence that is linked to a prehensile, grasping hand giving him power over his environment...." p. 38.

"Unless we are specialists in the study of communication and its relation to intelligence, however, we are apt to oversimplify or define poorly what intelligence is, what communication and language are and thus confuse and mystify both ourselves and others." p. 39.

"Man without writing cannot long retain his history in his head." p. 41.

"Man's greatest epic, his four long battles with the advancing ice of the great continental glaciers, has vanished from human memory without a trace." p. 41.

"Only the poet who writes speaks his message across the millennia to other hearts." p. 41.

"It is difficult for us to visualize another kind of lonely, almost disembodied intelligence floating in the wavering green fairyland of the sea--an intelligence possibly near or comparable to our own but without hands to build, to transmit knowledge by writing, or to alter by one hairsbreadth the planet's surface." p. 43.

"If man had sacrificed his hands for flukes, the moral might run, he would still be a philosopher, but there would have been taken from him the devastating power to wreak his thought upon the body of the world." p. 43.

"It is worth at least a wistful thought that someday the porpoise may talk to us and we to him." p. 44.

Reflections: There may be intelligences in nature comparable to our own, but without the opposable thumb that enables man to control his environment. Some day we might be able to communicate with those intelligences. The porpoise is a possibility. Ray S.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 01

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's memorable essays on nature.

Introduction: From the first essay by Eiseley that I ever read, I have been a fan of his. Although he is a scientist, to be exact, a paleontologist, he is thoughtful writer who translates his scientific knowledge into plain English for the average non-science reader. However, he puzzles over what he finds in nature and, in reflecting on it, he uses language that is cryptic. Like Emerson, he seems to write through the individual sentence, although the essays are understandable as a whole. But whether one reads his sentences individually, or his whole essays, the reader concludes by thinking beyond his ideas, almost as if he has left sentence and essay unfinished for the reader to complete.

He believes that evolution offers hope for human beings, that we will gradually improve human nature. I hope he is right. What I like most about Eiseley is his respect for all living and non-living things in nature and the wonderful interaction they provide for us. He is gone now. But God bless Loren Eiseley for the joy in living that he has communicated to us in recording and publishing his ideas.

Time Line

Loren Corey Eiseley. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, September 3, 1907. Died, July 9, 1977.
B.A. in anthropology and English, University of Nebraska, 1933.
Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, 1937.
Taught at the University of Kansas, Oberlin College and the University of Pennsylvania.
Named Curator of Early Man at the University Museum in 1948.
Married to Mabel, 1938.
Appointed Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, 1959.

Books by Loren Eiseley

All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life. 1975.
The Brown Wasps (private edition). 1969.
Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered it. 1958.
Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma. 1962.
The Firmament of Time. 1960.
The Innocent Assassins. 1973 (Poetry).
The Immense Journey. 1957.
The Invisible Pyramid. 1970.
The Mind as Nature. 1962.
The Man Who Saw Through Time. 1973.
Man, Time and Prophecy. 1966.
Notes of an Alchemist. 1972 (Poetry).
The Night Country. 1971.
The Unexpected Universe. 1969.

Essay: "The Judgment of Birds"

"The world, I have come to believe, is a very queer place, but we have been part of this queerness for so long that we tend to take it for granted." p. 27.

"...those who have retained a true taste for the marvelous, and who are capable of discerning in the flow of ordinary events the point at which the mundane world gives way to quite another dimension." p. 28.

" any city there are true wildernesses where man can be alone." p. 28.

"It is knowledge, however, that is better kept to oneself." p. 29.

"Eventually darkness and subtleties would ring me round once more." p. 34.

"...a kind of heroism, a world where even a spider refuses to lie down and die if a rope can still be spun to a star [a lighted lamppost]." p. 35.

"It was better, I decided, for the emissaries returning from the record their marvel, not to define its meaning." p. 36.

Reflections: Miracles exist in this world, but we are so used to the world, we do not see them. Those miracles exist in nature--the struggle of a spider to stay alive in the cold by weaving a web to the light of a lamp. But, given people's responses to our appreciation of these miracles, perhaps it is better that they be left unsaid. RayS.

Note from RayS: You can tell, I am sure, that one of the characteristics of Eiseley's writing is that he is cryptic. You have to read the complete essay to understand the context of some of his remarks. Even with this context, however, you will to puzzle over many of his sentences. Without that context, the ideas are still worth thinking about.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 14. Conclusion.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The most steadily attractive of all human qualities is competence...good at his trade...understands its technique thoroughly...surmounts its difficulties with ease...." p. 224.

"Like all other forms of theology, Communism runs aground on the fact that there are frequent bitter rows between different factions of its prophets." p. 225.

"The one thing common to all prophets is their belief in their own infallibility." p. 226.

"I know a great many more people than most men, and in wider and more diverse circles, yet my life is essentially one of isolation, and so is that of every other man; we not only have to die alone, we also...have to live alone." p. 228.

"It is difficult to imagine anyone having any real hopes for the human race in the face of the fact that the great majority of men still believe that the universe is run by a gaseous vertebrate of astronomical heft and girth, who is nevertheless interested in the minutest details of the private conduct of even the meanest men." p. 233.

"The essence of the superior man is that he is free of ...envy." p. 233.

"When I hear a man applauded by the mob I always feel a pang of pity for him; all he has to do to be hissed is to live long enough." p. 234.

"The mob always stones those it has worshipped." p. 234.

"The good humor of the American Negro is largely founded on cynicism." p. 234.

" atmosphere and a heritage--say that of the Renaissance or that of the pre-Revolutionary eighteenth century. p, 239.

"The work of the world, in all departments, is chiefly done by bunglers." p. 240.

"Very few generals are fit to be trusted with the lives of their troops, very few medical men are expert at diagnosis and treatment, and very few pedagogues really know anything about the things they presume to teach." p. 240.

"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it." p. 247.

"Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve." p. 247.

"It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even of this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true.... Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that that fact proves his existence." p. 249.

"...religions for which multitudes of honest men have fought and died are false, wicked and against God." p. 250.

"Perhaps the most revolting character that the United States ever produced was the business man who fought to the end against any approach to rational and humane dealing with labor." p. 250.

"The psychology of the bore deserves a great deal more sober study than it has got." p. 266.

"A bore is simply a nonentity who resents his humble lot in life, and seeks satisfaction for his wounded ego in forcing himself upon his betters." p. 267.

"According to American theory, all power is in the hands of the plain people, and according to American legend they always exercise it wisely.... In fact the plain people can only exert their power through agents, and in the election of these agents they seldom face a clear choice between a good candidate and a bad one, or a wise idea and a foolish one." p. 283.

"Everything considered, perhaps the best job in Christendom today is that of a bishop. Secular functionaries are exposed to the whims of mobs, but a bishop, once consecrated, is almost bullet-proof. If he dislikes anyone, all he has to do is to excommunicate him." p. 286.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 13.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts o American life and culture.

"Artists can seldom account for their own work...." p. 188.

"The process of creation is only partly intellectual; the rest of it seems to be based on instinct rather than on idea." p. 188.

"One of the things that makes a Negro unpleasant to white folk is the fact that he suffers from their injustice." p. 189.

"Every man is intrinsically anti-social." p. 191.

G.K. Chesterton's method: "...four-fifths of his essays start off by citing something that is generally believed and then seeks to demolish it...." p. 194.

"People crave certainties in this world and are hostile to 'ifs' and 'buts.' " p. 199.

James I of England in 1621: "I will govern according to the common weal, but not according to the common will." p. 203.

"It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world...but idealism." p. 211.

Abraham Lincoln, Peoria Speech, Oct. 16, 1854: "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent." p. 215.

"In every 100 of the men composing the government there are two who are honest and intelligent, ten obvious scoundrels and 88 poor fish." p. 221.

"The men who fought for self-determination at Gettysburg were not the federals but the Confederates." p. 233.

"The so-called philosophy of India has found its natural home in Los Angeles, the capital of American idiots." p. 224.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 12

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The truth is that in any conflict between altruistic purpose and private self-interest, the latter always wins hands down." p. 153.

"The New Deal not only cost the American tax payer billions and greatly depleted the accumulated resources of the country, it also burdened future generations with a charge that will grow larger and larger as year chases year." p. 159.

"No politician is ever benefited by saving money; it is spending it that makes him." p. 159.

"There is a great need of a history of political corruption in America." p. 160.

"The essence of science is that it is always willing to abandon a given idea, however fundamental it may seem to be, for a better one." p. 166.

"The English know how to make the best of things. So-called 'muddling through' is simply skill at dealing with the inevitable." p. 167.

"The only liberty an inferior man really cherishes is the liberty to quit work, stretch out in the sun and scratch himself." p. 168.

"The only way a government can provide jobs for all citizens is by deciding what every man shall do." p. 168.

"It is never possible for a metaphysician to state his ideas in plain English." p. 169.

"The thing that makes philosophers respected is not actually their profundity, but simply their obscurity." p. 178.

"Philosophers translate vague and dubious ideas into high-sounding words, and their dupes assume, as they assume themselves, that the resulting obfuscation is a contribution to knowledge." p. 178.

"Yesterday, the danger that a soldier ran in the field was the danger of a duelist with a sword in hand; today, it is much more like the danger of a hog in a slaughter-house." p. 179.

"Life on this earth is not only without rational significance, but also apparently unintentional." p. 182.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 11.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The human race, taking one day with another, has very little respect for intelligence; what it really admires is presumption, effrontery, dogmatism." p. 134.

"There seems to be a deep instinct in women which teaches them that most of the aspirations of men are vain." p. 139.

Democracy defined: "...the heavy stressing of self-reliance, the doctrine of equality before the law, government by laws not men, the insistence upon free competition." p. 139.

"The cost of quackery has never been properly estimated." p. 140.

"It takes a long while for a naturally trustful person to reconcile himself to the idea that after all God will not help him." p. 141.

"...the American people have been bolstering up its government's powers and giving it more and more jurisdiction over their affairs, paying for that folly in increased taxes and diminished liberties." p. 143.

"Politicians' principal, and indeed their sole, object is to collar public office, with all the privileges and profits that go therewith." p. 147.

"The idea at the bottom of the Christian Eucharist is precisely the idea at the bottom of cannibalism.... The devotee believes that he will acquire something of the psychological quality of the creature by devouring its body." p. 148.

"The politician is the most transient of the world's great men. Who knows who was Speaker of the House under Hayes?" p. 149.

"One of the most amusing by-products of war is its pricking of the fundamental democratic delusion...Homo Boobus...flapping his wings over his God-given rights, his inalienable freedom, his sublime equality to his masters. Of a sudden he is thrust into a training camp, and discovers that he is a slave after all--that even his life is not his own." p. 150.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 10

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The papers printed in the English Journal, the Proceedings of the Modern Language Association and similar periodicals seldom show any professional competence or contribute anything worth knowing to the subject. Would certainly be unusual to find any similar rubbish in a journal of chemistry, astronomy or zoology, or even in a medical journal." p. 122.

"The thirst for liberty does not seem to be natural to man; most people want security in this world, not liberty." p. 123.

"Liberty puts people on their own, and so exposes them to the natural consequences of their congenital stupidity and incompetence."

"Scratch the average American and you will find a Puritan." p. 125.

"All the leaders of groups tend to be frauds." p. 125.

"Of all the classes of men, I dislike most those who make their living by talking--actors, politicians, pedagogues, and so on." p. 126.

"...the applause of today was almost invariably followed by the indifference of tomorrow." p. 126.

"The critic challenges other men's work and is exposed to no comparable challenge of his own." p. 129.

"The human race has probably never produced a wholly admirable man." p. 130.

"A woman of the highest order of intelligence entering into the sciences, or into commerce or manufacturing, always finds herself subordinate to some man, and it not infrequently happens that he is her inferior on all...counts." p. 131.

"What is the function that a clergyman performs in the world? He gets his living by assuring idiots that he can save them from an imaginary hell." p. 132.

"A one who spends his whole life trying to prolong the lives of persons whose deaths, in nine cases out of ten, would be a public benefit." p. 132.

"Whenever a given school system turns out to be relatively rational and effective, no one remembers the school ma'ams who make it so, for all the credit and glory are hogged by the super-gogues at the head of it." p. 133.

"When another school system is discovered to be ineffective the blame is heaped on the school ma'ams, and the super-gogues proceed to supplant them with others trained in some new abracadabra." p. 133.

"On some bright tomorrow, so I hope and pray, someone will write a history of common sense." p. 133.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 09.

Significant sentences for HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The medical specialist is simply a man who has seen the situation now confronting him a great many times, and is familiar with its variations." p. 86.

"The believing mind is... impervious to evidence." p. 96.

"Not long ago, in fact, an actual investigation in Pennsylvania demonstrated that college students often regress so much during their four years that the average senior is less intelligent, by all known tests, than the average freshman." p. 98.

"Life has been defined as...the capacity to suffer." p. 99.

"A professor, even at his best, is a pedagogue, and a pedagogue is seldom much of a man." p. 102.

"The notion that it is against human nature to want to die is...absurd; many men, in fact, show an active desire to die and have it over." p. 108.

"Of all varieties of men, the one who is least comprehensible to me is the reformer, the uplifter, the man, so-called, of public spirit. I am chiefly unable to understand his oafish certainty that he is right--his almost pathological inability to grasp the notion that, after all, he may be wrong." p. 113.

"Anything is conceivable in a world so irrational as this one." p. 113.

"Actually, altruism simply does not exist on earth; even the most devoted nun, laboring all her life in the hospitals, is sustained by the promise of a stupendous reward...billions of centuries of indescribable bliss for a few years of unpleasant but certainly not unendurable drudgery and privation." p. 114.

"Ideas of duty are mainly only afterthoughts." p. 118.

" is hard to imagine even an idiot believing seriously that he will exist as a gaseous vertebrate for a hundred billion years." p. 119.

"The elements in democracy that are sound in logic and of genuine cultural value may be briefly listed: equality before the law; the limitation of government; free speech." p. 119.

"Of all human qualities, the one I admire most is competence." p. 120.

" contempt for teachers of English: not one in ten of them has any sort of grasp of the difficult subject he professes, or shows any desire to master it." p. 120.

"The teacher of English can outfit himself for his career by reading a few plays of Shakespeare, memorizing the rules of grammar laid down by idiots, and learning to pronounce either as if it were spelled eyether." p. 121.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 08

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"Human beings never welcome the news that something they have long cherished is untrue; they almost always reply to that news by reviling its promulgator." p. 65.

"All of us, to be sure, cherish delusions...." p. 67.

"It was not until skepticism arose in the world that genuine intelligence dawned." p. 67.

"People soon find by experience that the ecstasy of sex, like any other powerful emotion, is self-limiting, and that after it has passed off they are substantially unchanged." p. 68.

"The average clergyman is a kind of intellectual eunuch comparable to a pedagogue, a Rotarian or an editorial writer." p. 70.

"...the average man simply spends his leisure as a dog spend it." p. 70.

"The relativity of moral ideas is proved anew every time there is a war." p. 72.

"Men are the only animals who devote themselves assiduously to making one another unhappy." p. 76.

"There are Englishmen, of course, who pretend to friendliness for the United States, but it always turns out on brief investigation, that they are trying to sell something. p. 76.

"The only cure for contempt is countercontempt." p. 77.

"Every rebel believes that he is bringing in a new day that will last." p. 78.

"Can the United States ever become genuinely civilized?" p. 81.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 07.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The capacity of human beings to bore one another...." p. 56.

"Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man...has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent." p. 57.

"There are people who read too much." p. 59.

"I am willing to go along with an innovator so long as I am convinced that he is making a sincere effort to arrive at the truth. The moment I begin to suspect that his desire for the truth is corrupted by an itch to sell something, I quit." p. 59.

"It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods." p. 63.

"It may be, indeed, that the artistic impulse is simply a kind of disgust with things as they are." p. 63. [I would substitute "creative impulse" for "artistic impulse." RayS.]

"The artist is one who tries to create a better world than the one in front of him." p. 64.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The same childish credulity is visible in the doctrine that the cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy." p. 29.

"Intellectuals are so bogged down in dogma that it is impossible for them to make themselves understood." p. 30.

"The whole process [trial, conviction, sentencing and execution] should be shortened to bring crime and punishment close together." p. 31.

"As things stand, the spread between [conviction, sentencing and execution] is so great that by the time the criminal comes to the chair the crime is forgotten and all we see is a poor fish making a tremendous (and sometimes even gallant) effort to save his life, with all sorts of shyster lawyers and do-gooders as assistant heroes." p. 31.

"One of the strangest delusions of the Western mind is to the effect that a philosophy of profound wisdom is on tap in the East." p. 36.

"The existence of most human beings is of absolutely no significance to history or to human progress." p. 39.

"Most human beings live and die as anonymously and as nearly uselessly as so many bullfrogs or houseflies." p. 39.

"If all the inhabitants of the Appalachian chain succumbed to some sudden pestilence tomorrow, the effect upon civilization would be but little more than that of the fall of a meteorite into the jungles of the Amazon." p. 41.

"...for it becomes manifest that the United States, which escaped unscathed from both wars, will have to destroy deliberately much of the sort of property that was destroyed in Europe and Asia by military vandalism. Its plants will need modernizing to meet the competition of the new plants built to replace the war's ruins." p. 44.

"...for a man who really knows a subject is seldom content to spend his lifetime teaching it." p. 44.

"There is simply no way for his [the patient's] physician to tell him just what is the matter with him, for all the concepts on which the explanation must be based, and even most of its terms, are incomprehensible to him." p. 45.

"Men always try to make virtues of their weaknesses." p. 47.

"Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses." p. 48.

"It is impossible to hang the average murderer until he has killed at least a dozen people." p. 53.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 05

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

" the silliest of all the vices." p. 23.

" delight in work because there is a sense of relief and pleasure in getting something done...offers an escape from boredom...nothing harder to do than nothing." p. 24.

"God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable; God will set them above their betters." p. 24.

"Equality before the law is probably forever unattainable." p. 25.

"...what men value in this world is not rights but privileges." p. 25.

"It collides, like the Russian system, with certain irremovable facts of human nature." p. 26.

"Free speech must either be thought of as a value in itself, or there is no uses in thinking of it at all." p. 27.

"Free speech's exercise must inevitably benefit fools quite as much as sensible men...." p. 27.

"The intellectuals believed as a cardinal article of faith that there was a remedy at hand for every conceivable public ill...." p. 28.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 04

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"The essential difficulty of pedagogy lies in the impossibility of inducing a sufficiency of superior men and women to become pedagogues." p. 20.

"It is impossible to make boys take seriously the teaching of men they hold in contempt." p. 20.

"No one rally cares what the private morals of the other fellow may be, but there must be some confidence that he will react in ordinary situations according to the familiar patterns and without too much aberration." p. 21.

"...even in the best society, manners are immensely important." p. 21.

"No man can be really friendly to another whose personal habits differ materially from his own.... The trivialities of table manners...become important." p. 21.

"Each [people of different nationalities] can become accustomed to the ways of the other, but it takes time, and in certain fields it takes a good deal of time." p. 21.

"All poetry is simply an escape from reality." p. 22.

"The five-day week...has given... more time to listen to the radio and look at movies.... No sign whatever that any considerable number of the underprivileged have put their new leisure to profitable use.... Just as stupid as they were before they had it.... Some reason to believe that they are more stupid." p. 22.

"It seems to be inevitable for all men, after they are put in positions of authority, to exercise it in a brutal and inequitable manner." p. 23.

"The moral bully is the worst of all; Puritanism is completely merciless." p. 23.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 03

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

"As things stand, civil law is so complicated...that it is constantly colliding with human nature." p. 15.

"It is what men esteem that determines their conduct." p. 15.

"No one can ever really avoid doing what he holds to be evil." p. 17.

"The Catholic is fortunate in the fact that the sinner can go to a priest and get rid of his sense of guilt." p. 17.

"The main gain of modern man has been the weakening of governments." p. 17.

"...the only sort of man who is really worth while...the man who practices some useful trade in a competent manner, makes a decent living at it, pays his own way, and asks only to be let alone." p. 17.

The persistence of the belief in immortality is because the majority of men are unable to grasp the concept of annihilation. p. 17. [Paraphrase] "People grasp readily enough the idea of being unconscious for a short time, but they are quite unable to think of being unconscious forever." p. 17.

The writer: "Solitary, lonely, tired of himself, wrought up to an abnormal sensitiveness, he wrestles abominably with intolerable complexities--shadowy notions that refuse to reveal themselves clearly, doubts that torture, hesitations that damn." p. 19.

"Worse, the writer must plod his way through many days when writing is impossible altogether--days of doldrums, of dead centers, of utter mental collapse." p. 19.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences 02.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture. 02.

"A strong government always wars on the superior man." p. 7.

"No human being can continue on the higher planes of thought for any great length of time." p. 10.

"I have sat in my time on what might plausibly be described as relatively profound discussion...have noticed that their profundity was a matter of occasional flames; most of the time the debate went on on much lower levels." p. 10.

"What they [average people] mistake for thought is simply repetition of what they have heard." p. 10.

"My guess is that well over 80% of the human race goes through life without ever having a single original thought." p. 10.

"Human life is basically a comedy." p. 11.

"A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable." p. 11.

"To fight seems to be as natural to man as to eat." p. 12.

"The thing constantly overlooked by those hopefuls who talk of abolishing war is that it is by no means an evidence of decay but rather a proof of health and vigor." p. 12.

"...war is a natural revolt against the necessary but extremely irksome discipline of civilization...." p. 13.

"He [the soldier] is, in war, in the position of a free adult; in peace he is almost always in the position of a child." p. 14.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences.

Minority Report: HL Mencken's Notebooks
New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1956.

Why read it? If you have not read something by H.L. Mencken, you have missed one of the truly memorable misanthropes in civilization, who wrote in a style that infuriated most of his readers. He is a wall-to-wall critic of almost everything to be encountered in American society in his own day and today, and each of his shafts brings from readers the response, "Damn it, he's right!" Well, half-right, anyway. Anyone who reads H.L. Mencken never forgets him.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

HL Mencken's Preface to Minority Report: "If I could begin another life at my septuagesima I might have some expectation of developing [the notes contained in this book and the thousands of like ones that still lie in my bin] into something properly describable as a coherent and even elegant system, but as it is, I'll have to spend my time post-mortem either bawling liturgical music (which I greatly dislike) or boiling in oil (which no one speaks well of)."

"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." p. 3.

"A dull, dark, depressing day in winter: the whole world looks like a Methodist church at Wednesday night prayer meeting." p. 3.

"In a country of pushers and yearners, what a joy to meet a man who envies no one and wants to be nothing that he is not." p. 3.

"The really astounding thing about marriage is not that it so often goes to smash, but that it so often endures." p. 3.

"I am willing to admit evidence to show that the victim, though perhaps not a criminal himself, was of such small social value that his death or injury was no appreciable public loss." p. 5.

"The late Judge Frederick Bausman of Seattle...proposed...that a sharp distinction be made between murderers whose crimes are of such a character that any normal persons, under the circumstances, might be imagined committing them, and murderers who kill strangers for gain." p. 6.

[In favor of sterilization of criminals]: "Even if it is argued that their criminality is thus the product of environment rather than of heredity, it follows that the environment they themselves provide for children is very likely to produce more criminals." p. 7.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wings of Morning. Significant Sentences 11. Afterword.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WW II, and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war.

Some thoughts by the author, Thomas Childers:

"More than two hundred letters written by Howard Goodner between the fall of 1942 and the spring of 1945 and approximately three hundred letters written by Robert Peterson to his wife Marie during the same period form the documentary core of the book." p. 271.

"Both men wrote almost daily, and, together, their letters offer a remarkable guide to an American air crew's day-to-day experience in training and combat." p. 271.

"In researching the book, I employed methods normally used by professional historians, but in telling the story I have turned to narrative techniques usually associated with fiction." p. 272.

"But ultimately this book belongs to my father, Tom Childers, who inspired it and who did not live to see it completed, and to my late grandparents, Ernest and Callie Goodner, who preserved Howard's letters and his memory and who always believed, as the old wartime song went, that they would meet again." P. 273.

RayS.'s Note: I think this book is one of my most memorable reading experiences. I felt as if I were there with Howard Goodner and the crew of the Black Cat. The ironies of war, so clearly represented in Tolstoy's War and Peace, were reinforced and brought up to date vividly in this book. I thought of JFK's comment (my paraphrase) that life is unfair, that some men die in the war, some are injured and some never leave the country. Life is unfair.

I think, for anyone who wants to understand the experience of WWII, no film, fictional or documentary, can convey the thoughts of the men engaged in combat the way this book can. A remarkable and unforgettable book.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wings of Morning. Sighificant Sentences 10. Conclusion.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war. Conclusion.

"Every flak battery that shot down an Allied plane was required to submit a report...type of plane hit...the fate of the crew." p. 248.

In the town where the Black Cat had been shot down: "...past a cluster of home and garden centers, furniture discount houses and shopping plazas that seemed more appropriate to the Philadelphia suburbs than Bavaria." p. 250.

"Typical of German farm villages, the neat stucco houses, their windowsills accented with potted geraniums...." p. 250.

"...never asking leading questions or giving anything away." p. 250.

"...a simple cross made of birch." p. 269.

"The marker is dedicated to all the casualties of the war, but at its base a small bronze plaque lists the names of the men who died there on April 21, 1945, a reminder to all who pass that even in triumph there is heartbreak." p. 269.

"I thought of each of them--Frarrington, Regan, Wieser, Barrett, Noe, Murphy, Peterson, and Perella--men whom I had never met but whom I would never forget." p. 269.

"Tractors moved across the rolling swells of the rich, dark earth, and in their wake, as happens each April, shattered bits of plexiglas and twisted metal--mute reminders of the Black Cat and the men who died here--were rising in the furrows." p. 269.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wings of Morning. Significant Sentences. 09

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war.

"Howard came home on December 10, 1948." p. 231.

"...a bored young clerk produced a folder marked TSGT Goodner, Howard G. from a bank of filing cabinets behind him." p. 233.

"But I could follow the trail of the Richard Farrington crew to discover what I could about an uncle I had never known, but whose presence had hovered over me from my earliest memories, and I would find answers to the questions that had haunted my family and others since the spring of 1945." p. 235.

"Each mission folder contained a copy of the briefing notes, maps of the routes in and out, strike photos, and a final summary of the mission. p. 235.

"Studying the thin mimeographed sheets of the 466th's operations diary, I was staggered by the cruel ironies of the mission." p. 236.

"...looking at him, the survivor [he had parachuted from the plane], and wondering, he always thought, why he had come back and their son or brother or husband had not." p. 240.

"But above all they remembered with deep bitterness that a decision by the command pilot--against the pleas of his own navigator and mickey man and others throughout the formation--took them directly over Regensburg." p. 242.

"Everywhere I saw reflected back at me the same tableau of love and pain that I had known in my own family--the same snapshots from the last visit home, the scrapbooks full of yellowing newspaper clippings and curling photographs, the boxes of V-mails, the same heartbreaking telegrams, kept neatly in their torn envelopes." p. 246.

"And as we talked and wrote and visited in the months that followed, the crew came alive again, one by one, borne on the wings of memory, and we found ourselves bound together in a chain of love and loss that passed beyond the generations." p. 246.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wings of Morning. Significant Sentences 08.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war.

"When the Boys Are Home Again" (cont.)
"...we know what it actually means not ever to be able to see our own again, in whom we have centered our thoughts, hopes and plans; it just does not seem right or fair, yet it is a definite fact over which we have no control." p. 224.

"Their plane was shot down, the only one in the thirty-seven." p. 224.

"...if they had been flying their regular position of main lead plane this would not have occurred, but instead they were in about the center of the group, and if they used their chutes when first struck may have been saved, but instead they stayed with the plane until they had piloted it out of formation." [Otherwise, the disabled plane possibly might have caused several others also to crash.] p. 224.

"I believe I am broad-minded enough to accept in good grace most of the adverse things that happen to us in life...but the loss of Jack [Regan] I can never accept, because in my opinion it was caused by the stupidity of some one individual or group of individuals in charge of this particular mission." p. 225. [You must read the book to understand the truth of this statement.]

"Also, to top matters off, all flying was stopped four days later." p. 225.

"Why such a thing happened and in such a way, I will never be able to comprehend." p. 225.

"It was the last mission the 787th flew." p. 226.

" doesn't seem fair when it was so near the end."

"We thought Christmas was bad last year, not having Jack with us, but this year was worse, knowing he would never be with us again." p. 228.

"A report has been received which discloses that the remains of Captain Wiser are interred in Grave 258, Row 11, Plot B, in the United States Military Cemetery, Nuremberg, Germany." p. 229.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Wings of Morning. Significant Sentences 07.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war.

"Luck Is a Lady"
"All around the ship flak bursts erupted, like a sea of black umbrellas popping suddenly open on a crowded London Street." p. 170.

" any change in the routine, it was unsettling." p. 177.

"The Black Cat"
"They were not supposed to fly." [Opening sentence of the chapter] p. 185.

"When the Boys Are Home Again"
"So the tiny community of families, bound together in their anxiety, fear, and hope, continued to cling to the possibility that others had bailed out of the aircraft or that it had crash landed successfully and the crew would still show up." p. 212.

"With no information coming fro the War Department they turned to one another." p. 214.

"Poor exchange, all these meaningless medals in place of my husband." p. 218.

"Staggered with grief and yet unwilling, unable, to accept the War Department's terse communication as unequivocal, unalterable fact, the Goodners, like the Brennans, the Petersons, and the other families of the crew, found in the very vagueness of these grim messages enough to nourish a slim residue of hope." p. 221.

"The news flashed through the beleaguered families from Philadelphia to New York to St. Louis to Tennessee to Chicago." p. 223.

"Surrounded everywhere by returning service men and scenes of joyous reunion, it all seemed too much to comprehend, too much to bear." p. 224.

"I see Bob in every khaki uniform...." p. 224.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wings of Morning. Thomas Childers. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII and a vivid re-creation of participating in the war.

"The Wings of Morning" (cont.)
"Gripping the wheel tightly, Farrington made a discovery that countless others had made before him--that it was possible to sweat at thirty below zero." p. 89.

"...the whole formation seemed to hang suspended over the invisible target." p. 89.

" 'Bombs Away,' Manners barked at last, and the plane heaved suddenly upward as its deadly cargo tumbled out, vanishing into the clouds below." p. 89.

"I'll Get By"
"...the group's formation diagram revealed that Farrington was slated to fly the tail-end Charlie slot in the low-left squadron...the most difficult and dangerous position in the whole formation...the coffin corner." p. 96.

"If Only in My Dreams"
" 'Two pounds!' Jerry said with mock indignation; 'we came to save your ass, honey, not to buy it.' "p. 131.

"...the bouts of depression, combat fatigue verging on catatonia, self-destructive behavior that endangered a man and his crew." p. 135.

"The first five missions were typically the worst in a combat tour, when men saw flak and fighters and the tight formations for the first time, when they came to understand the brutal fragility of their existence." p. 135.

"They concentrated on the details of their jobs, hunkering down into the routine and realized that they could cope with the stress and survive." p. 135.

"People were dying by the hundreds of thousands from Manchuria to Shanghai, by the millions across the plains of Russia, but for Howard and Nancy and their friends the autumn of 1941 meant only that the team had gone undefeated...." p. 139.

"...the war whose end had seemed so near would grind on and on and on." p. 141.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wings of Morning. Thomas Childers. Signficant Sentences. 05.

Significant sentences from Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers, the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in WWII and a vivid re-creation of participation in the war.

"The Wings of Morning" (cont.)
"At twenty thousand feet the frigid crystalline air would howl through the unpressurized aircraft like a gale and the temperatures would plunge to minus thirty or forty degrees Fahrenheit." p. 77.

The electrically heated F-3 flying suit: "Small, well-insulated wires, which would be plugged into the electrical system at his station in the aircraft, ran like veins throughout the dark brown jacket and overall pants." p. 77.

"Slowly the planes, ghostly silhouettes in the dingy mist, nosed ponderously out of their hardstands and began their lumbering procession." p. 81.

"Farrington was flying the artificial horizon, flying blind, ignoring his instincts, his senses, and relying instead on his instruments." p. 83.

"Planes from as many as forty air fields would be surging through the thick clouds into the packed air space over East Anglia at approximately the same time." p. 84.

"In the thin, bone-numbing air of northern Europe at twenty-three thousand feet the temperature inside the plane plunged to thirty below zero." p. 85.

"If the rheostat failed now, if the electric suit shorted out, he would freeze." p. 85.

"The Eighth Air Force, their instructor warned them, lost more men to frostbite than to enemy action." p. 85.

Arming the bombs: "The slippery, frozen catwalk was too narrow for him to wear his parachute, so as he leaned out in the frigid bomb bay, holding with one gloved hand to the vertical stanchions...a false step, he realized, would send him plunging through the doors to his death five miles below." p. 86.

"Mary, Mother of God, get me out of this." p. 88.