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Quotable

Monday, April 25, 2011, 14:50 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

(Edited to correct a few spelling and minor grammatical errors.)

One of the feeds I get on my BlackBerry is called “Quotes of the Day.” Typically it sends four quotes each day, usually by people I’ve heard of, sometimes not. Three in particular, unrelated to one another or to a central theme, got me laughing lately. It really is true that the best humor is rooted in reality.

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.

—Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948)

Beard was an American historian of great repute until he began to break with his classically liberal peers. I can’t find any reliable attribution of this quote to him, nor can I find any context to indicate why he said it (if in fact he did). But it rings true in the way various movements or activists throughout our history have been demonized by their opponents. From abolitionists to first amendment defenders to civil rights leaders and even today’s Tea Party participants, there is nothing more disconcerting to staunch adherents of the status quo than someone who understands the principles of our founding and applies them to the issue at hand.

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost luggage.

—Mark Russell (1932- )

Russell, an American humorist known for his political commentary put to music, has a knack for finding the humor not only in politics but also in everyday life. The only way his Saturn quote could be any funnier is if he included along with lost luggage all the single socks that seem to get sucked up by the clothes dryer.

The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.

—Robert Frost (1874-1863)

Nothing says Americana like poet laureate Frost, and nothing says contemporary America like the caricature of the of the mindless corporate office worker (see: Dilbert). I can’t speak for Frost’s intended meaning, but my own interpretation of this quote has less to do with office workers than with the corporate environment that so often promotes uniform process at the expense of critical and creative thinking. The irony is that today’s behemoth corporations and industries whose cultures are so rigid were propelled to success by risk takers (think Henry Ford vs. today’s U.S. auto manufacturers).

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