Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"One night in a doss-house in Dorset Street Scabby came in with a parcel of fish and chips. He offered the chips round, which was the custom then and still is. But one drunken fool took his piece of fish instead of just the chips and started eating it. Scabby had a knife in his hand, because he was about to cut a loaf of bread. When he realised what had happened he stabbed the man fatally. he was put on trial for murder, pleaded provocation and was acquitted. Later after drinking the Frying Pan, a pub at the corner of Thrawl Street and Brick Lane, he crossed the road, walking into Mother Wolff’s, picked up a penny cake and walked out of the shop without paying, after using some threats. He was charged with stealing a penny cake and sentenced to 12 months jail. Such is justice."

from East End Underworld: The Life of Arthur Harding by Raphael Samuels

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"But now that we leftist intellectuals can no longer be Leninists, we have to face up to some questions Leninism helped us evade: Are we more interested in alleviating misery or in creating a world fit for Socrates, and thus for ourselves? What is behind the regret we feel when we are forced to conclude that bourgeois democratic welfare states are the best we can hope for? Is it sadness at the thought that the poor will never get all the way out from under the rich, that the solidarity of a collective commonwealth will never be attained? Or is it, instead, sadness at the thought that we, the people who value self-consciousness, may be irrelevant to the fate of humanity? That Plato, Marx, and we ourselves may just be parasitical eccentrics living off the surplus value of a society to which we have nothing in particular to contribute? Was our thirst for world-historical romance, and for deep theories about deep causes of social change, caused by our concern for human suffering? Or was it at least in part a thirst for an important role for ourselves?"

- Richard Rorty, from "The End of Leninism, Havel, and Social Hope"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Galton on writing Hereditary Genius:

“I had been overworked, and unable to give as close attention as desirable while correcting the proofs, so mistakes were to be feared. Happily there were not many, but one was absurd, and I was justly punished. It was due to some extraordinary commingling for notes on the families of Jane Austen and of Austin the jurist. In my normal state of health the mistake could not have been overlooked, but there it was. I was at that time a member of the Committee of the Athenaeum Club, among whose members there happened to be a representative of each of the above families, who “gave it to me hot”, though most decorously.”