In the age of pictorial reproduction the meaning of paintings is no longer attached to them; their meaning becomes transmittable: that is to say it becomes information of a sort, and, like all information, it is either put to use or ignored; information carries no special authority within itself. When a painting is put to use, its meaning is either modified or totally changed. One should be quite clear about what this involves. It is not a question of reproduction failing to reproduce certain aspects of an image faithfully; it is a question of reproduction making it possible, even inevitable, that an image will be used for many different purposes and that the reproduced image, unlike an original work, can lend itself to them all.
♦ John Berger, Ways of Seeing
But watching [12 Years a Slave], being forced to confront its depiction of the unrelieved brutality and sorrow of slavery in the context of the brutalities being committed in the here and now, should turn all our heads sharply backwards and unloose our tongues to revive King’s question for our times: “How Long?” And in unison we should answer, the arc of the moral universe is still bending toward justice, but it has not yet reached its mark.
♦ Deborah E. McDowell, “How Long?—Not Long”
Lecturer, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.
♦ Abrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
[I]t must be remembered, that while our language is yet living, and variable by the caprice of every tongue that speaks it, these words are hourly shifting their relations, and can no more be ascertained in a dictionary, than a grove, in the agitation of a storm, can be accurately delineated from its picture in the water . . .
♦ Samuel Johnson, from the Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)
“One of the mysteries in the history of chemistry is how seldom chemists blew themselves up while investigating novel substances and reactions. Hydrogen and oxygen . . . can burn smoothly together, but they can also react explosively. Priestley used to carry small bottles of these two airs, and he entertained visitors by exploding the gases.”
♦ Trevor H. Levere, Transforming Matter: A History of Chemistry from Alchemy to the Buckyball
The phenomenologist from Paris hates mosquitoes
and carries a small electronic device
that lures the female mosquito to her death
by simulating the amorous cry of the male. Then,
to block the whining sound, he has pink earplugs.
As he sits in conversation
with the phenomenologist from Sussex
a mosquito is observed to enter.
The Englishman leaps to his feet,
calling, “Let us use the mosquito machine!”
and smashes the insect to the wall
with the device. It is the first sign
of wide ontological differences
that will open in the Anglo-French dialectic
♦ Anne Carson, from “What Do We Have Here?”
in Plainwater: Essays and Poetry, (1995)