Friday, June 11, 2010

Some Ebert Frisson

knew my love of obscure quotes from an almost-forgotten 17th Century French mathematician would eventually pay off with some love from Roger Ebert:

Background: Roger Ebert wrote a blog post a few weeks back about frisson, a french word that means a brief intense reaction, usually a feeling of excitement, recognition, or terror. The article was about the internet, our increasingly short attention spans, the rewiring of our brains, and twitter's enablement of our collective and questionable daily search for frissons. In other words, another entry in a great series of blog posts Roger has been cranking out.

This particular post very much resonates with me, as I try to make progress on a book-length project while parenting three kids and constantly getting sidetracked by the daily frissons of the internet. It made me remember one of my favorite quotes by Blaise Pascal, so I included it in a comment to his article. The comment itself got some love by Roger, who made a comment to my comment that sitting quietly has never come easy to him.

He apparently liked the quote enough that he tweeted it.  This was a couple weeks ago.  Just two days ago, I set up a twitter account.  I didn't set it up to enter the world of tweeting, but to verify that, yes indeed, all the things that I told my 15 year-old daughter that she should not say on Facebook, she has instead been saying on Twitter. She calls it "spying on her."  I call it "parenting."  She's a great kid (like all my kids), but we sometimes have generational issues.

Anyway, I was catching up with my friend Pat Gabridge yesterday, and he congratulated me on being "quoted" by Roger Ebert. I had no idea what he was talking about until I searched my shiny, brand new twitter account, and found the quote above. Talk about a frisson.  I knew that being a good parent would eventually pay off. My twitter feed now consists of three people: Roger Ebert, Barack Obama, and my daughter. They are all quite prolific.

Believe me, I understand the multiple layers of irony of this blog post.  I am quoting someone who quoted me in quoting someone else on the topic of spending too much time noticing what everyone else is noticing. On the other hand, it is nice to get a small sliver of notice from someone I admire so much and who is well-known and respected by so many others.  On the other, other hand, this just underscores how addicted I am to the frissonedness of the internet. And why my long, book-length project is going sooooo slowly. After all, it takes time to write about yourself being noticed by someone quoting you quoting someone else.


Anonymous said...


You evil genius . . .

Patrick Gabridge said...

Tracy told me that you posted about my telling you about Roger Ebert tweeting about you commenting on his posting, so I thought I could comment on Tracy mentioning it, in hopes that maybe you can tweet about the comment, and then perhaps I'll mention that tweet on Facebook...

Dan S said...

That's the spirit!

PG said...

Have you read Ebert on his rich life on Twitter?

I follow people, including Hugh Chavez and Rainn Wilson, but don't let anyone follow me, since I use my Twitter account for private voice-recognition notetaking (via Tweetcall).

But now I'm thinking I should start a second Twitter account, as if I didn't have enough to do online.

Tim said...

Wow! That's great! Ebert cited you-- that makes me, like, three degrees from famous!

I do have two questions, though:

1.) How do we find your Twitter page?

2.) Since I'm a librarian, I'm compelled to ask: did you verify that quote before you sent it to Ebert? Did you quote it from the original source? Or were you just reciting it from memory? Either you or Ebert put it in quotes, which means it should be the EXACT quotation as Pascal said it. The only reason I ask is that some online citations say "most of humanity's problems..." and some say "all..." And none of them seem to point to the origin of the quote.

My worry is that you cited a slightly inaccurate, or unverifiable, quote to Ebert, he repeated it, and now everyone will re-quote it all over the interwebs, making it impossible to fix (if it needs fixing.) This is the kind of thing we librarians have to battle every day.

Tim said...

Sorry, forgot to check the follow-up comments box.

Dan S said...

I've not posted anything on Twitter and probably won't. I have don't even have enough time to ignore my blog and my facebook account, much less twitter. I'm just so 2004 on social networking.

Those are good librarian instincts Tim. I vaguely remembered the quote, did an internet search on the keywords and copied it from some site. I do have "Pensees" translated into English (where it came from) and flipped through it, but could immediately find it. No frisson there.

I suppose the important thing in quotes is to get the idea right, more than the actual words, especially if there is a translation involved. Luckily, in this case, there isn't much difference between "all" or "most" since both are hyperbole.

Tim said...

You probably know where I stand on getting ideas right vs. actual words when it's in quotes, so I won't even bother to say it.

Instead, I'll respond to your last sentence. Consider these two variations:

1. All the people have enough to eat.
2. Most of the people have enough to eat.

Can you tell the difference? If not, you're probably a Republican. :)

Dan S said...

OK, found the real quote:

When I have set myself sometimes to considering the various agitations of men, and the perils and troubles to which they expose themselves at court or in war, from which arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often evil enterprises, etc., I have concluded that the whole misfortune of men comes from a single thing, and that is their inability to remain at rest in a room.

A bit wordy for a tweet. :) And if we are going to be literal about it, we should be quoting him in French, not English.

Tim, language is not always a literal thing. The purpose of language is to express ideas and it does it imperfectly. Quotes, especially ones translated from antiquated languages of hundreds of years ago, are not just what people said, but what they meant.

Tim said...

I know I'm fighting a losing battle if I can't convince my highly literate brother of the difference between the "quote" you gave Ebert and the original you provide. Yes, I know it's a translation, but a published translation written by a professional.

Quotes are "just what people said." See, I'm using your exact words, so I put them in quotes.

A paraphrase is what they meant. For example, to paraphrase your last comment: Tim, you're being an anal git.