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Subject:Bruce Fife, "The Coconut Oil Miracle"
Time:01:05 pm
Coconut shells are tough and can be very difficult to open. Fresh coconuts straight from the tree have a softer shell and can be opened by a sharp blow with a large knife. But the coconuts sold in most grocery stores are older and have much harder shells. The easiest way to open one of these coconuts is to brace it in a corner and strike it with a hammer. The force to break the shell may be substantial, so choose a corner that will not be harmed. Your kitchen countertop may not be the best place to do this.

- Bruce Fife, "The Coconut Oil Miracle"
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Subject:Flannery O'Connor, "Wise Blood"
Time:08:07 pm
"Why, friends," Onnie Jay Holy said, "not to have a friend in the world is just about the most miserable and lonesome thing that can happen to a man or woman! And that's the way it was with me. I was ready to hang myself or to despoair completely. Not even my own dear old mother loved me, and it wasn't because I wasn't sweet inside, it was because I neverr known how to make the natural sweetness inside me show. Every person that comes onto this earth," he said, stretching out his arms, "is born sweet and full of love. A little child loves ever'body, friends, and its nature is sweetness - until somethig happens. Something happens, friends, I don't need to tell people like you that can think for theirselves. As that little child gets bigger, its sweetness don't show so much, cares and troubles com to perplext it, and all its sweetness is driven inside it. Then it gets miserable and lonesome and sick, friends. It says, 'Where is all my sweetness gone? where are all the friends that loved me?' and all the time, that little beat-up rose of its sweetness is inside, not a petal dropped, and on the outside is just a mean lonesomeness. It may want to take its own life or yours or mine, or to despair completely, friends." He said it in a sad nasal ovice but he was smiling all the time so that they could tell he had been through what he was talking about and come out on top. "That was the way it was with me, friends. I know what of I speak," he said, and folded his hands in front of him. "But all the time that I was ready to hang myself or to despair completely, I was sweet inside, like ever'body else, and I only needed something to bring it out. I only needed a little help, friends.

"Then I met the Prohphet here," he said, poitning at Haze on the nose of the car. "That was two months ago, folks, that I heard how he was out to help me, how he was preaching the Church of Christ Without Christ, the church that was going to get a new jesus to help me bring my sweet nature into the open where ever'body could enjoy it. That was two months ago, friends, and now you wouldn't know me for the same man. I love ever'one of you people and I want you to listem to him and me and join our church, the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ, the new church with the new jesus, and then you'll all be helped like me!"

Haze leaned forward. "This man is not true," he said. "I never saw him before tonight. I wasn't preaching this church two months ago and the name of it ain't the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ!"

The man ignored this and so did the people. There were ten or twelve gathered around. "Friends," Onnie Jay Holy said, "I'm mighty glad you're seeing me now instead of two months ago because then I couldn't have testified to this new church and this Prophet here. If I had my gittarr with me I could say all this better but I'l ljust have to do the best I can by myself." He had a winning smile and it was evident that he didn't think he was any better than anybody else even though he was.


-- Flannery O'Connor, "Wise Blood"
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Subject:Richard Dawkins, "A Devil's Chaplin"
Time:12:43 am
To describe religions as mind viruses is sometimes interpreted as contemptuous or even hostile. It is both. I am often asked why I am so hostile to 'organized religion'. My first response is that I am not exactly friendly towards disorganized religion either. As a lover of truth, I am suspicious of strongly held beliefes that are unsupported by evidence: fairies, unicorns, werewolves, any of the infinite set of conceivable and unfalsifiable beliefs eptiomized by Bertrand Russel's hypothetical china teapot orbiting the Sun. The reason organized religion merits outright hostility is that, unlike belief in Russell's teapot, religion is powerful, influential, tax-exempt and systematically passed on to children too young to defend themselves. Children are not compelled to spend their formative years memorizing loony books about teapots. Government-subsidized schools don't exclude children whose parents prefer the wrong shape of teapot. Teapot-believers don't stone teapot-unbelievers, teapot-apostates, teapot-heretics and teapot-blasphemers to death. Mothers don't warn their sons off marrying teapot-shiksa whose parents believe in three teapots rather than one. People who put the milk in first don't kneecap those who put the tea in first.


A beautiful child close to me, six and the apple of her father's eye, believes that Thomas the Tank Engine really exists. She believes in Father Christmas, and when she grows up her ambition is to be a tooth fairy. She and her schoolfriends believe the solemn word of respected adults that tooth fairies and Father Christmas really exist. This little girl is of an age to believe whatever you tell her. If you tell her about witches changing princes into frogs, she will believe you. If you tell her that bad children roast forever in hell, she will have nightmares. I have just discovered that without her father's consent this sweet, trusting, gullible six-year-old is being sent, for weekly instruction, to a Roman Catholic nun. What chance has she?


-- Richard Dawkins, "A Devil's Chaplin"
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Subject:Gabriel García Márquez, "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
Time:02:54 pm
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of march a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades' magical irons. "Things have a life of their own," the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. "It's simply a matter of waking up their souls." José Arcadio Buendía, whose unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic, thought it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from the bowels of the earth. Melquíades, who was an honest man, warned him: "It won't work for that." But José Arcadio Buendía at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded his mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots.


-- Gabriel García Márquez, "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
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Time:08:11 pm
(This is written from a million and five years in the future, when humans are no longer burdened with "oversize brains.")

"What made marriage so difficult back then was yet again that instigator of so many other sorts of heartbreak: the oversize brain. That cumbersome computer could hold so many contradictory opinions on so many different subjects all at once, and switch from one opinion or subject to another one so quickly, that a discussion between a husband and wife under stress could end up like a fight between blindfolded people wearing roller skates."

- Kurt Vonnegut, "Galapagos"

So true, so true.
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Subject:Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"
Time:12:19 am
I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. The unnerving mirror hung at the end of a corridor in a villa on Calle Goana, Ramos Mejía; the misleading encyclopedia goes by the name of The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917), and is a literal if inadequate reprint of the 1902 Encyclopedia Britannica. The whole affair happened some five years ago. Bioy Casares had dined with me that night and talked to us at length about a great scheme for writing a novel in the first person, using a narrator who omitted or corrupted what happened and who ran into various contradictions, so that only a handful of readers, a very small handful, would be able to decipher the horrible or banal reality behind the novel. From the far end of the corridor, the mirror was watching us; and we discovered, with the inevitability of discoveries made late at night, that mirrors have something grotesque about them. Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.

-- Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"
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Subject:Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"
Time:12:09 am
Some small fading memory of one Herbert Ashe, an engineer for the southern railroads, hangs on in the hotel in Androgué, between the luscious honeysuckle and the ilusory depths of the mirrors. In life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do so many Englishmen; dead, he is not even the ghostly creature he was then. He was tall and laguid; his linmp squared beard had once been red. He was, I understand, a widower, and childless. Every so many years, he went to England to visit - judging by the photographs he showed us - a sundial and some oak trees. My father and he had cemented ( the verb is excessive ) one of those English friendships which begin by avoiding intimacies and eventually eliminate speech altogether. They used to exchange books and periodicals; they would beat one another at chess, without saying a word.... I remember him in the corridor of the hotel, a mathematics textbook in his hand, gazing now and again at the passing colors of the sky. One afternoon, we discussed the duocdecimal numerical system ( in which 12 is written 10). Ashe said that as a matter of fact, he was transcribing some duodecimal tables, I forget which, into sexagesimals (in which sixty is written 10), adding that this work had been commissioned by a Norwegian in Rio Grande de Sul. We had known him for eight years and he had never mentioned having stayed in that part of the country....We spoke of rural life, of capangas, of the Brazillian etymology of the word gaucho (which some old people in the east still pronounce gaúcho), and nothing more was said - God forgive me - of duodecimal functions.


-- Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"
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Subject:Jorge Luis Borges, "The Form of the Sword"
Time:06:08 pm
I realized that his cowardice was irreparable. I awkwardly urged him to take care of himself and took my my leave. I blushed for this fearful man, as if I, and not Vincent Moon, were the coward. What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience commited in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the death of a single Jew suffices to save it. Perhaps Schopenhauer is right: I am all others, any man is all men, Shakespeare is in some way the wretched John Vincent Moon.

-- Jorge Luis Borges, "The Form of the Sword"
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Subject:Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
Time:10:35 pm
I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to Lady Crack Pipe or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?

- David Sedaris, on learning French. With Hebrew, I can relate.
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Subject:John Wheeler
Time:12:31 am
Mass grips space by telling it how to curve, space grips mass by telling it how to move.


- John Wheeler, discussing General Relativity, January 27, 1998
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