Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The World at 18

I am procrastinating. I'll be here until midnight at this rate. Still, the mind wanders. And inevitably, I meander over to Stephanie Klein's. A little torture, a little laughter. I read yesterday's post where she whines that she doesn't like feeling guilty about reveling in her accomplishments. The comments were a little harsh- I revel in my accomplishments, too, to some extent, except that my inner critic always whispers "you didn't deserve that." I also don't count things like "lead in the school play" as among the happiest moments in my life. But whatevs. It's not like I'm so great.

In her post she links to an earlier post (a painful habit of hers)- one that features a quote from William Jennings Bryan which she apparently put below her picture in her high school yearbook:

"Destiny isn’t a matter of chance it’s a matter of choice. It’s not a thing to be waited for; it’s a thing to be achieved."

Lovely quote, yes, yes. But seriously, doesn't this point to a lack of curiosity? She must have found it in some "notable quotables" book and didn't bother to find out who William Jennings Bryan actually was. If she had, she'd know that he was a prominent anti-evolutionist that argued against Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Bryan argued against the teaching of evolution in public schools. Of course, that was the 1920's, and of course, the mores of the population were quite different, Darwin wasn't the (mostly) acceptable quantity that he is today, etc.

Still, that's not a person whose quote I'd stick below my picture on my high school yearbook. Not someone I'd particularly like to be identified with. The question begs answering- was the 18 year old Ms. Klein guilty of a telling lack of curiosity? Or did she know this about Bryan, and still wish to quote him? I'm not sure which is worse.
Who did I quote in my high school yearbook, you ask? Why, the spectacular Omar Khayyam.

"Dreaming, when dawn's left hand was in the sky,
I heard a voice within the tavern cry:
Awake, my little ones, and drink the cup
Before life's liquor in its cup be dry."

Juxtaposing these two quotes now, mine and Stephanie's, I'm struck by their prescience. Stephanie's points to blind ambition- success at any cost, even if the inspiration for the success is somewhat... suspect. Mine presages nothing more than my present drinking habit. I thought I was being clever; Stephanie was being... well, what she is- predictable, un-subtle. But both quotes speak to our present situation more than either of us could've guessed at the time.

20 Comments:

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

My quote was "I can't give you a brain but I can give you a diploma"- Wizard of Oz to Scarecrow. That says...um...nothing about me. I think the real question here is about art. Is the meaning of art inherent due to the artist or is it your relationship with the art? I prescribe to the evolving meaning of art through the eyes of the viewer. Bottomline- I'll cut you both some slack. You for being so self conscious of fitting in you thought you needed a drinking quote(up there with Budweiser Girls posters) and Stephanie Klein for having the conviction to not quote CarrotTop, U2, The Beatles or ALF.

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Nice. I agree with you- only William Jennings Bryan wasn't an artist. Bryan agreed to argue the Scopes Monkey Trial even though he was basically on his death bed because the issue was so dear to his heart. Also- his random quote about destiny can't really be looked at as "art," can it? I agree with you insomuch as I love Roald Dahl even though he was antisemitic and recognize Wagner as a great artist even though he was antisemitic etc- but with Bryan, I'm not sure you CAN separate the man from the quote. Moreover, do you want to? When you quote someone in something like a high school yearbook you want to be associated with the quote, and therefore, presumably, with the person who said it in the first place.
Also- it's not just a drinking quote, it's a PRETENTIOUS drinking quote. Today I'm a lush AND a snob. Things haven't changed much in 11 years.

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

Noisette, congratulations for becoming what youaspired to be. Seriously though, i'm not sure you are accurate in your assessment of Bryan. Firstly, He was a tireless worker for women's suffrage. Secondly, some suggest that Bryan's fight was really against Social Darwinism. Something you may very well agree with him about. Thirdly, his busy itinerary over the last five days of his life seems to contradict any suggestion that he was exhausted by the part he played in the trial in general or by Darrow's questioning in particular (Larson, 1997). In fact Bryan had been a diabetic for years, but had made little allowance for the fact in his energetic life style, and he made no significant attempt to control his weight, which virtually guaranteed a premature death.

So, women's suffrage movement- GOOD, Against Social Darwinism- Not bad, Overweight- who isn't?

The funny thing about facts is so many can be true.


Finally, I would quote Benjamin Franklin all day as he was brilliant. How many children did he have in France as a palyboy? Did he not jail his own son?

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Way to look on wikipedia. Ok, but good points all. Only (and there always is an ONLY)- the difference between Ben Franklin and William Jennings Bryan is like the difference between Clinton and Bush- I don't care what Clinton did out of the office; he can get as many blowjobs as he wants as long as his sex drive does not impact his public duties. Whereas Bryan is known for many public acts- a very important one of which is his role in the Scopes Monkey Trial. The point I was trying to make- poorly, I guess- is that Bryan is an odd choice for a high school yearbook quote and I wondered if SK really knew who he was and what he stands for in the public imagination; and whether Bryan would be someone she'd choose to associate herself with if she'd taken the time to find out who he was. Since wikipedia wasn't available in the mid 90's, finding out about Bryan was a taller order.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

If I may stick my nose in, I would suggest that SHE spend more time reading YOUR blog.

IMHO, I think you needn't trouble yourself about anything she writes. (Not that I bear her any ill will.)

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Oh, I was just feeling ornery yesterday. You know how it is.

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

I don't really read her blog anymore (except when I really don't have anything better to do - it ranks behind clipping my toenails and cleaning my tub) but judging by the very few posts I have read, a lack of curiosity on her part would not surprise me at all. She doesn't strike me as one that makes much of an effort to dig a little deeper. She probably had some vague recollection that WJB was known for something sometime in the past and the quote sounded sufficiently, pompous and pretentious to her, so she stuck it in her yearbook and voila! she's enshrined as ambitious and intellectual for all of posterity to see.

I guess the moral of the story is to read SK for what she is: unintentional comedy. The last time I checked her site there was a post entitled "Falling in Fall." Didn't read a word of the post because I couldn't get past the title. Falling in fall? wtf? Is that really the best she could do? And more disturbingly, someone is paying her half a mil for thoughts like that that I'm pretty sure a 5 year old could come up with? (hey, what do you know? a homonym!)

 
At 4:16 PM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

Wow! When did an intellectual deate become catty? Wunnel and Lizzie, you suffer from what is called "just world". Look it up.

Wunelle, this is a political blog, hers is a journal of rants/introspection. How silly to judge apples and oranges. Lizzie, it's a blog! Get it? Hold yourself to the unreasonable standard of writing you throw on the rest of us poor uneducated bloggers.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

The joys of hsn
Movin' on out, from the east side
Slave to my Hair
Itchy Feet
And Sophie thought she had a tough choice...

Please point out which of these is so clever to make us go beyond the title...

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

A blog? No, I don't get it. What is this of which you speak? Please enlighten me.

Obviously you haven't seen my blog- no unreasonable standard of writing there. Doesn't mean I can't form an opinion on someone else's though. And of course, I don't try to pass myself off as a writer. If SK is going to call herself one, well, then her writing is subject to criticism. Seems reasonable enough to me.

By the way, is a debate having anything to do with SK and yearbook quotes really an intellectual debate? Come on, now.

Just world? No. I suffer from that apparently unfortunate condition that is an opinion. And on a blog, no less! Oh, the horror!

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Snuck that comment in there, I see. So you have seen my blog. See, it's ok to have an opinion on a blog after all. Glad you came around to my point of view! I'll let you go now to return to defending SK's honor in the blogosphere.

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

Lizzie, the debate was on Bryan, his legacy and if art is inherent in the writing or the reader. From my reading SK's blog she has NEVER stated it to be about her writing. If you'd like, I could probably prove it in 10 or 20 of her posts stating as such. Unfortunately, maturity makes you believe even after it is proven otherwise. On her writing, Critique her book when it comes out. That's fair, correct? So actually, you don't have an opinion, you have a bias based on jealousy.

Sorry I didn't provide a clever enough title for this comment.

Sorry noisette, didn't mean to hijack.

 
At 5:09 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Hijack away. Just be careful to show a little humility- after all (as I pointed out above)- you engaged in a debate about Bryan with me by snatching paragraphs from wikipedia. Nothing wrong with that, but don't be all trying to play the intellectual high card.

Also, re: SK and whether it's about writing, isn't her whole "why I blog" explanation dedicated to the idea that "writing is her gym" or whatever? And she has certainly let us know in more than one post that her blogging led more or less directly to her book deal (I know, she had a proposal etc, but without that blog she would not have scored that deal.)

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Yikes! No, please do not go to the trouble of citing her posts, especially not 10-20 of them. I think we've inflicted enough pain on Noisette's blog. And you're right- I shouldn't judge her book until it comes out. (Although, I guess won't at all since I won't be reading it.) In the mean time I'll be more precise and clarify that I think her blog sucks. Fair enough?

btw, you may want to calm down just a little. My original comment had nothing to do with you or your debate (nor did Wunelle's from the looks of it). It was just a comment on Noisette's post, not really cause for attack (as you'll notice I didn't resort to in response to your comment). And researching posts on my blog seems a tad extreme (although I always love people stopping by of course!). Not that I can't take it, a little personal attack is good for the soul, but after all, as a wise man once told me: It's a blog! Get it? A sense of humor never killed anyone :-)

I'm sorry too, Noisette! Have you noticed this seems to happen whenever you post something about SK? Amidst wars and natural disasters, she somehow seems to generate the most controversy :-)

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

I was JUST thinking that, Lizzie. I read somewhere that as things get worse (Iraq, Katrina, Bush, gas prices, etc), subscriptions to US Weekly and In Touch climb while subscriptions to Newsweek et al fall. People just want to avoid reality in general, I guess. And reading SK is certainly a good way to avoid reality!

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

Hell, I'm too stupid to even follow the running commentary!

The debate was on WJB, but the original post made reference to the writing of SK. OK, I don't know shit about WJB, and probably nothing about writing either. But this is the comment section and those were my two cents' worth.

I happen to think that SK, nice person tho she may be, is a run-of-the-mill writer (which is more than can be said for me, I know), and I feel that Noisette was comparing herself to, or springing off of, a writer not of her own caliber.

That's all I meant.

Now I'll follow your dictum and go and look up all the shit that appears to be wrong with me.

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Wait for me Wunelle! Apparently I'll need to borrow that dictionary when you're done with it!

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger Lightsplashed said...

Did I just walk in on the "woe is me" self depracation club? We're all nice people(I think), we all try to treat people with respect and we all have our faults. Noisette/Lizzie, I do research. When someone makes a statement, I research. So when you told me your OPINION of his historical legacy- I researched it and saw conflicts with what you had stated. When you stated emotional critique's on SK, I did researh which showed the total opposite. That's all. I wonder why when anyone takes an opposing opinion they must be a "defender of honour"? A fan? I think in debate that is a way to attempt to diminish validity, no? And the high brow "her BLOG SUCKS" comment just makes any discussion...well...third grade.

Can we just all now help Wunelle figure out what's wrong with him? :)

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Noisette said...

Ok, I'm off to Africa in an hour, but let me just leave you with this: lightsplashed, clicking over to wikipedia, cutting/pasting and then passing it off as though you knew ANYTHING about Bryan is not "research." Sorry. And that is not my OPINION of his historical legacy. That IS his historical legacy. He argued against Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Monkey Trial- against evolution. Now, scholars (and I don't count either you or wikipedia under that moniker) may differ as to why- that's their prerogative. But I can't help but wonder why Stephanie Klein would choose a man to quote who counted among his most famous acts the vehement arguing against evolution at a show trial that was one of the watershed moments of the 20th century. Game, set, match, dude. Sorry.
Lizzie and Wunelle- ;)
Lizzie- I'm going to do research while in Mali for an article on how US cotton subsidies are strangling the west African cotton (industry? Is cotton an "industry"?)- I don't know how much you're focusing on international trade in pursuing your degree, but if you wouldn't mind I'd love to run my article by you before I submit it.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Noisette-
I would love to read your article when you get back. Also, an acquaintance of mine used to work in Mali for the World Bank. I haven't talked to her in a while but if you want any specific info you're not able to gather on your trip, I'll see if I can find her contact info for you. I think she's at Stanford B-school now.
Have a great trip!

 

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