Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Wilde’


DUTY, n. A concept of slaves, a tool of tyrants. Doing what others want you to do because they want you to do it. 

(to paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s comment in The Soul of Man Under Socialism)

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— from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded), the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. (The link goes to 50 sample definitions and illustrations.)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


(For the last few months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. This is an expanded version of a post from 2014. We’ll be posting more blasts from the past for the next several months, and will intersperse them with new material.)

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The media is abuzz, and friends have been calling me, about the so-called Super Moon. We’re having one tonight, and according to the excited local media (TV weather forecasters) we’ll be having two more in January. Wow! . . . Well, maybe.

In reality, there’s nothing to get excited about here, folks: the (full) moon will be at perigee (its closest point to the Earth) and about 14% larger in diameter than it is at apogee (its farthest point from the earth), and only about 7% larger than the full moon is on average.

As regards brightness, the moon at perigee is about 30% brighter than at apogee, and about 15% brighter than average. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? — until you realize that the eye’s response to increases or decreases in brightness is far from linear, and that the sun is approximately 400,000 times as bright as the moon. Thus, the average ratio of the sun’s brightness to the moon’s is about 400,000 to 1, and the ratio of the sun’s brightness to the “Super Moon’s” is about 400,000 to 1.15.

So, if they didn’t read the hype, and hence didn’t expect to see something, very probably 99% of people wouldn’t notice these rather subtle differences in the moon’s appearance. And the other 1% would be amateur and professional astronomers who’d be aware of them, but wouldn’t get excited about it.

There are lessons to be drawn from this.

As Oscar Wilde put it in The Critic as Artist, “[Journalism] keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

And as Wilde put it so well in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, “[T]he public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”

There’s very little to add other than that journalism has advanced significantly since Wilde’s day and now manufactures things not worth knowing.


The media is abuzz, and friends have been calling me, about the so-called Super Moon. There’s nothing to get excited about here, folks: the (full) moon will be at perigee (its closest point to the Earth) and about 14% larger in diameter than it is at apogee (its farthest point from the earth), and only about 7% larger than the full moon is on average.

If they didn’t read the hype, and hence didn’t expect to see something, very probably 99% of people wouldn’t notice this rather subtle difference. And the other 1% would be amateur and professional astronomers who’d be aware of it, but wouldn’t get excited about it.

There are lessons to be drawn from this.

As Oscar Wilde put it in The Critic as Artist, “[Journalism] keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

And as Wilde put it so well in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, “[T]he public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”

There’s very little to add other than that journalism has advanced significantly since Wilde’s day and now manufactures things not worth knowing.


The 2016 presidential election is fast approaching, and to provide a few moments of respite from the nauseating spectacle — election workers would be well advised to hand out barf bags along with ballots — here are a few definitions you might find humorous.

The first definition is from Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and all of the others, plus the graphics, are from our new American Heretic’s Dictionary. We hope you enjoy them.

Democracy, n. 1) The bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people.

Democratic Party, n. 1) The “good cop” in the biennial good cop/bad cop mugging of the American public; 2) A political party which has persevered and prospered for over two centuries without, curiously, ever having had any principles to betray.

"Hell" graphic by J.R. Swanson from "The Devil's Dictionaries"

Hell, n. A place of everlasting torment, much like the United States during an election year.

Lesser of Two Evils, phr. The perennial and inspiring reason to vote for the Democratic Party’s courageous, incorruptible candidates.

Majority Rule, phr. The governing principle of the United States. The revered concept that it is every bit as right and just that two million individuals impose their will upon one million, under threat of force, as it is that two individuals impose their will upon one, under similar threat.

Municipal Election graphic by J.R. Swanson

Municipal Election, n. A refreshing dip in an open sewer.

President of the United States, n. 1) A pathological liar suffering delusions of grandeur; 2) An office which confers upon its holder vast coercive power as well as the means to commit mass murder—an opportunity of which all recent U.S. presidents have taken advantage. Because of this, some observers have concluded that only the worst type of individuals seek the office of president. This unkind assessment is, however, incorrect. It is more realistic to conclude that only the worst type of individuals are elected to the office.

Republican, adj. Having an affinity for gold, in both bullion and shower form.

Republican Party, n. Once described as “America’s largest hate group,” the Republican Party is often scurrilously portrayed as consisting entirely of racists, but this is not so. Many Republican leaders are not racists themselves, but are merely content to pander to them.

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American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


Wilde

“There are terrible temptations that it requires great strength and courage to yield to.”

–Oscar Wilde


cover of The Soul of Man Under Socialism

“The fact is that the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”

–Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism


DEMOCRACY, n. The bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people.

–Oscar Wilde, adapted from The Soul of Man Under Socialism

cover of The Soul of Man Under Socialism