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Jul 08, 2008

Vonnegut and Gas

Vonnegut_self_portrait_from_pbs [When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around.* And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.

--- Interview by David Brancaccio, NOW (PBS) (7 October 2005)


*Last week I saw the "fart around" line in some magazine and wanted to quote it, but then I lost it.  Dang.  Then I found it online.  Yay!  I hope it's accurate.  Of course Vonnegut has another more famous quote on why we're here: "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."  I hope that's an accurate quote, too.  I'm being lazy today about double checking.

Illustration: Vonnegut self-portrait plucked from PBS.

03:33 PM in Quotables | Permalink


I would never deny the myriad small pleasures of running errands in a big city. It *is* fun, and ten years ago, I even ran into Mr. Vonnegut on a Midtown street while on my way to a bookstore (he was on his way out of the same bookstore.)

It is sobering for me to realize that somebody as brilliant as Kurt Vonnegut was, for whatever reason, apparently unable to apprehend the all-around excellent farting-around qualities of the Web and other online confections. Generational thing, you reckon?

I "meet" people online routinely. I married someone I met online. :-) If I had been out shopping around for a single envelope instead of shooting the shit on Usenet, maybe I wouldn't have met my lovely wife.

So it goes.

Posted by: Barry Campbell | Jul 8, 2008 8:05:00 PM

"So it goes."

Yeah, I reckon generational thing at least in part. But possibly also that he just didn't like the feel of online -- either the interface, or the nature of the contacts, or... who knows.

Speaking of generational: today on the Diane Rehm show, a discussion about the evolution of both language and communication. One caller -- who seemed like a perfectly reasonable person -- said, "I recently asked my girlfriend to marry me, and I shared the good news with my brother and sister by text message, and my mother by phone call. My brother and sister seemed unhappy with me. Why? I mean, they all got the same information."

The guest was very nice and politely theorized that what the brother and sister missed was the opportunity to "interact" (in real time) as the news was shared and presumably rejoiced over. It wasn't about a one-way info delivery.

If I recall, the caller took their response "off the air", so we didn't get to hear him say anything like, "Oh, that makes sense. I should probably talk with my fiancee about not having arguments via text message, too."

Posted by: Phil | Jul 9, 2008 1:20:11 AM