Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.

Fernando Pessoa

Today I learned about Henry Wickham, an “explorer” and braggart who, in 1876, smuggled rubber seeds out of Brazil to Kew Gardens in England, who in turn used them to grow rubber in Asia, collapsing the Brazilian economy: “The greatest act of biopiracy…maybe in history.”

Pierre’s Insanity

Pierre’s insanity consisted in the fact that he did not wait, as before, for personal reasons, which he called people’s merits, in order to love them, but love overflowed his heart, and, loving people without reason, he discovered the unquestionable reasons for which it was worth loving them.

-Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Part Four, Chapter XIX (I bet that reads badass in the Russian)

Prolepsis (n) - The representing of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so. As in he was a dead man before he entered.

On Boredom

A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.

Bertrand Russel, The Conquest of Happiness, 1930, as mentioned in this Aeon article.

On this day in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, clearing the way for the incarceration of 112,000 Japanese Americans in prison camps.

Check out this fantastic word: autochthonous au·toch·tho·nous (ô-tŏk′thə-nəs) adjective: 1. Originating or formed in the place where found; indigenous: autochthonous rocks; an autochthonous people; autochthonous folk tales. (American Heritage Dictionary App)

Today I learned that oropolitics is the use and abuse of mountaineering for political purposes. The most notable example of which culminated in the Siachen conflict.

Events in themselves are not so interesting to me as the conditions that led to the events. These conditions are often quite commonplace, and yet full of what is imminent. Immanent and imminent.

David Goldblatt, from this Places Journal article

The Whole Usefulness of Education

The whole usefulness of education consists only in the memory of it, for just as having heard something does not profit one who cannot understand, likewise having understood is not valuable to one who either will not or cannot remember.

Hugh of Saint-Victor, Chronicle (c. 1130)

Why, yes, I did get a new Lapham’s Quarterly in the mail earlier this week: “Memory.” Having a ball.

In true reality, there is nothing but relationships.

  • Piet Mondrian (via a MoMA placard)

The movers and shakers depend on the visions of the dreamers: those for whom the world is real are nothing without the others for whom the world is an idea: the two have to work together to reshape the chaos into a world we can live in.

  • Gregor von Rezzori, in Abel and Cain

On this day in 1907, railroad engineer Jesús García saved the entire town of Nacozari de García by driving a burning train full of dynamite six kilometers away before it could explode. Hence the town’s name.

It’s only defamation if it’s not true, 1831 edition

Today I learned that in 1831, French satirical artist Charles Philipon “published a drawing of the king’s head, metamorphosing in four stages to a rotting poire (pear-head), also French slang for ‘fool’ or ‘simpleton.’ Philipon was hauled into court and, as legend has it, avoided prison by demonstrating the resemblance—of king to pear—to the jury, by means of sketching and (very likely) verbal panache. He was acquitted of the charge of defamation.”

That’s a win!

Today I learned that Waylon Jennings gave up his seat on the flight that crashed and killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1959.

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.

-Epictetus

On this day in 1859, Joshua A. Norton of San Francisco proclaimed himself Norton I, Emporer of the United States. Where have all our visionary madmen gone? They’re still here, but, in our insecurity, we ignore them (or banish them), and elevate the facile instead.