Weekly facts and quotes, 11/3 – 11/9


For memory is so necessary that Plato was right to call it a great and mighty goddess – in my part of the world they actually say a man ‘has no memory’ to mean that he is stupid. When I complain that my memory is defective they either correct me or disbelieve me, as though I were accusing myself of being daft. They see no difference between memory and intelligence.

On liars, Montaigne


In Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota there were many, many German speakers. World War I changed all that.

“German is criminalized in 23 states. You’re not allowed to speak it in public, you’re not allowed to use it in the radio, you’re not allowed to teach it to a child under the age 10,” Gordin explained.

The Supreme Court overturned those anti-German laws in 1923, but for years that was the law of the land. What that effectively did, according to Gordin, was decimate foreign language learning in the US.


In the original screenplay the Alien is not an implied bioweapon but rather a member of a long extinct race who copulate within pyramid structures. Since the planetoid’s extinct alien inhabitants were capable of architecture and religion, the Alien, as initially conceived, was not to be an entirely hostile creature. As it ages, O’Bannon explained, the Alien “becomes more and more harmless. Finally, its blood-lust gone, the Alien becomes a mild, intelligent creature, capable of art and architecture, which lives a full, scholarly life of 200 years.” To add to the concept of the Alien becoming more intelligent and emotionally content as it matures, O’Bannon excused the Alien’s blood-thirst aboard the Nostromo as a sort of juvenile panic that, given the right environment, may have passed: “It’s never been subject to its own culture, it’s never been subject to anything except a few hours in the hold of the ship. Quite literally, it doesn’t have an education. The Alien is not only savage, it is also ignorant.”



Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

(A Little Book in C major (1916) ; later published in A Mencken Crestomathy (1949). )


Picasso called this Canadian 1952 stop-motion short the best film that was ever made.


As a brief aside, it came out a few years ago exactly how the UK got away with such a good deal out of the Maastricht negotiations; not joining the Euro, and without really making any meaningful concessions. John Major, then prime minister and new to the role had a senior civil servant (and expert in European law) John Kerr hide under the table during negotiations. Apparently Kerr secretly passed notes to Major throughout the meeting which pretty much gave him all the right things to say such that Britain got all it wanted out of the negotiations, without really giving anything away.

John Kerr was also rumoured to be, in part, the inspiration for Humphrey Appleby in Yes, Minister.

(alternate source)

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