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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

My brother is partly dependent upon the Navy for funds with which to investigate cloud physics.  He was talking recently to a similarly mendicant scientist about the billions invested in space.  The colleague said this, wryly: “For that kind of money, the least they can do is discover God.”
  —  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book: “Wampeters Foma And Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2013 Without Witness
2012 Nutritarian
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Two weeks later, a new semester began at Lincoln High.
 

In the band rehearsal room, the members of C Band were waiting for their leader — were waiting for their destinies as musicians to unfold.
 

Helmholtz stepped onto the podium, and rattled his baton against his music stand.  “The Voices of Spring,” he said.  “Everybody hear that?  The Voices of Spring?”
 

There were rustling sounds as the musicians put the music on their stands.  In the pregnant silence that followed their readiness, Helmholtz glanced at Jim Donnini, who sat on the last seat of the worst trumpet section of the worst band in school.
 

His trumpet, John Philip Sousa’s trumpet, George M. Helmholtz’s trumpet, had been repaired.
 

“Think of it this way,” said Helmholtz.  “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came into it.  It can be done.  You can do it.”
 

A small cry of despair came from Jim Donnini.  It was meant to be private, but it pierced every ear with its poignancy.
 

“How?” said Jim.
 

“Love yourself,” said Helmholtz, “and make your instrument sing about it.  A-one, a-two, a-three.”  Down came his baton.
 

 —  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
from his book: “Welcome to the Monkey House
from the short story: “The Kid Nobody Could Handle
 

[Loving yourself is where it always begins.  We are each given our own instrument.  What is your instrument?  —  KMAB]
 

 

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I “discovered” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. when I was going through my first Science-Fiction reading phase back in high school (way back in the late 60’s early 70’s).   I read a couple of his novels and really enjoyed them, so whenever I would stumble upon one of his books on a store shelf, I’d pick it up for my “library”.
 

I bought “Welcome to the Monkey House” (1968©) back in my Army days and have carried it around the world with me ever since.  Last summer (2011 that is), I took it along with me for its second trip to Liverpool, determined to read it.  I didn’t, but I read another Vonnegut (Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons), and it rekindled my interest so I set “Welcome” on my nightstand, hoping I’d get around to it sooner rather than later.  I guess since I bought it 40 years ago, reading it after another year and a bit is “sooner” rather than later…
 

Anyway, the book is absolutely terrific!!
 

It is a series of 25 short stories from Vonnegut’s early writing (50’s and 60’s).  A few are Sci-Fi related, but all are really about humanity.  Almost every story has a “twist” at the end which, for me, was unpredictable.  Okay, maybe not “unpredictable” as by the fourth or fifth you KNOW there will be a twist so you’re left trying to anticipate it, but most still surprised me.  Some will make you almost cry, some will make you almost laugh out loud, but all will make you feel better about yourself (and maybe even humanity).
 

The book is a very fast read.  The stories average 12 pages, so you can complete one and put the book down for a while as you wind your way through your day.  I had training in San Francisco during the week, so I read the first five or six stories on the BART  travelling to and from and then finished the book yesterday while home in bed with my kidney stones flaring up.  Very highly recommended!!!
 

Oh, in case you’re wondering how I know when I bought this book, when I was in the Army they used to make us write our names and the last four digits of our social security number in the book as it was a personal belonging which they would ship home in the event they had to ship you home too…

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Agony never made a society quit fighting, as far as I know.  A society has to be captured or killed — or offered things it values. 
 

… One wonders now where our leaders got the idea that mass torture would work to our advantage in Indochina.  It never worked anywhere else.  They got the idea from childish fiction, I think, and from a childish awe of torture.
 

… I am very sorry we tried torture.  I am sorry we tried anything.  I hope we never try torture again.  It doesn’t work.  Human beings are stubborn and brave animals everywhere.  They can endure amazing amounts of pain, if they have to.
 

—  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
from his book: “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
 

[Obviously, this is a book Bush / Cheney never bothered to read.  —  KMAB]
 

 

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Most writers I know, all over the world, do the best they can.  They must.  They have no choice in the matter.  All artists are specialized cells in a single, huge organism, mankind.  Those cells have to behave as they do, just as the cells in our hearts or our fingertips have to behave as they do.
 

We here are some of those specialized cells.  Our purpose is to make mankind aware of itself, in all its complexity, and to dream its dreams.  We have no choice in the matter.
 

…  But if the entire organism thinks that what we do is important, why aren’t we more influential than we are?  I am persuaded that we are tremendously influential, even though most national leaders, my own included, probably never heard of most of us here.  Our influence is slow and subtle, and it is felt mainly by the young.  They are hungry for myths which resonate with the mysteries of their own times. 
 

We give them those myths.
 

We will become influential when those who have listened to our myths have become influential.  Those who rule us now are living in accordance with myths created for them by writers when they were young.  It is perfectly clear that our rulers do not question those myths for even a minute during busy day after busy day.  Let us pray that those terribly influential writers who created those our leaders’ were humane.
 

—  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
from his book: “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons
 

 

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About the dumb Earthlings versus the smart Earthlings: I have known a fair number of scientists over the years, and I noticed that they were often as bored by each other’s work as dumb people would be.
 

—  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
from his book: “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
 

 

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A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete.  All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the Whale.  Everything else holds up pretty well, particularly the lessons about fairness and gentleness.  People who find those lessons irrelevant in the twentieth century are simply using science as an excuse for greed and harshness.
 

—  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
from his book “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
 

 

 

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