A Sagan quote and stray thoughts

What an astonishing thing a book is.

It’s a flat object made from a tree, with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles.

But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person. Maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions. Binding together people who never knew each other. Citizens of distant epochs.

Books break the shackles of time.

A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

Carl Sagan (well duh), Cosmos,
ep 11, “The Persistence of Memory”

Stray observations:

  • Because of the Symphony of Science auto-tune videos, each episode of Cosmos has a few spots where you sit up and say, “Hang on a minute, this sounds really familiar!”
  • Because the quote is from a TV show, I had to come up with a paragraph division myself. (There’s a Cosmos book; I don’t have it.) I wonder (and don’t Google, because I’m lazy) if anyone has tried giving unparagraphed text to author-types and seen if they break it into paragraphs the same way.
  • Or is that even the right question? Author-types don’t take a stream of text and break it into paragraphs; they generate the stream and break it while it’s still hot. I wonder if revision As Done By Professionals includes much paragraph-fixing.
  • Also, what if you gave unparagraphed text to an author and said, “Paragraph this so it is quick-paced. Then so it’s soporific, or suggesting the narrator is mad.” Which are the easy ones: short paragraphs, veeeeery long paragraphs and a new paragraph every 254 characters.
  • Oh, it was Carl’s birthday on the ninth. Which probably was mentioned by someone while I was falling through the Net, which led me (after a few other failed diversions) to pulling up an episode of Cosmos and cheering up instantly. And then, into writing this post. I’m not one to plan my diversions; even today, I thought I’d spend the whole day writing, but have instead done cycling, computer housekeeping, and a few hours tinkering with a decorative Buddha, turning it into an Erisian saint idol of some description. (A long story: It was Prague, this summer, the last day of the active portion of my summer vacation, and I was in one of those hundreds of tiny convenience stores that Prague is full of (candy and booze!), irritated because it was likely to rain soon and my companions were not perfect slave-manikins of my will and desires; and, having still too much local money left, I grabbed the cheap Buddha statue, the size of two fists, smirked back at the Asian lady manning the till as I paid, and thought to myself, “Ha! I can waste time making impulsive buys increasing the likelihood of being stranded in the rain unumbrella’ed, too!” And then, later, I thought to myself, what do I need a Buddha for? It’s not a Czech souvenir, really. Czech Republic, the famous birthplace of Siddharta… uh, and Made In China. And thus I’ve been buying beads, rasps, a few bottles of paint; as (speaking in pseudo-theological gobbledygook) the Buddha is not deployed into Buddhistic use it is an agnostic pre-worship object, and surely it is okay that I appropriate it into statue-body modification for a different faith. Possibly for St. Confusius, he of unclear revelations. Because this Buddha is a fat man of wealth and good fortune (with a legend of “COMING WITH CASH” along the base), it’s a nice painting project for an inept buffoon like me: plenty of bulging smooth surfaces. Anyway, it’s that long a story.)
  • Also, since I’m writing NaNoWriMo (updates on that to follow), I’m prone to word diarrhea (see the previous point).

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