October 25, 2011

“Carpe diem.” (“Seize the day.”)


THE PLUCKY LATIN QUOTE:

“Carpe diem.” [Traditionally translated as “Seize the day.”]
      
Horace (Quintas Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.)
       Roman poet
       The famous phrase from Book I of his Odes (35 B.C.)
       “Carpe diem” is one of the two most famous quotations from Horace’s Odes. The other is:
“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” (“It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”) Although the usual translation of “Carpe diem” is “Seize the day,” Latin scholars have pointed out that the more accurate translation is “Pluck the day.”  
       In fact, the phrase does come at the end of a poem that uses several pastoral and harvest-related metaphors. So, “pluck” is probably closer to the original literal meaning. Below is a longer section of the poem, translated to English:
  
    “Ask not — we cannot know — what end the gods have set for you, for me;
            nor attempt the Babylonian reckonings Leuconoë.
       How much better to endure whatever comes, 
            whether Jupiter grants us additional winters or whether this is our last,
            which now wears out the Tuscan Sea upon the barrier of the cliffs!
       Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes!
       Even while we speak, envious time has passed:
            seize [pluck] the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!”  
       Regardless of variations in translation, the meaning of the poem and the famous phrase is clear. Live life to the fullest every day and take advantage of the pleasures and opportunities each day offers. Or, as Warren Zevon put it: “Enjoy every sandwich.”


STEVE ZAHN’S VERSION:

“Carpe poon, man.”
       Steve Zahn (as the character Wayne)
       In the movie
Saving Silverman (2001), after seeing a good looking woman in a bar
       Thanks to fans of the movie, “Carpe poon” has now made it into the
Urban Dictionary


ERMA BOMBECK’S VERSION:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”
      
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)
       American humorist
       Quoted as one of “Erma Bombeck’s 10 Rules To Live By” in
David Wallechinsky’s Book of Lists


SKYLER’S VERSION:

Question on a school test: “Define carpe diem.”
Skyler’s answer:
“Fish of the day.” 
       In the 
Shoe cartoon strip, by Jeff MacNelly, October 8, 2010


TEDDY ROOSEVELT’S VERSION:

“Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.”
       Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919)
       26th President of the United States
       Teddy’s advice to his children, quoted in David McCullough’s book Mornings on Horseback (1981)


ROBIN WILLIAMS VERSION:

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
       Robin Williams, as English teacher John Keating
       His advice to his students in the movie
Dead Poets Society (1989)
       This quote comes at the end of a great sequence in which Keating says to his students: “‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’ The Latin term for that sentiment is Carpe Diem... Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines?...Because we are food for worms lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die. Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. [Old photos of previous students.] You’ve walked past them many times. I don't think you've really looked at them. They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Carpe. Hear it? Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

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Related reading and viewing…

October 19, 2011

“Religion is the opium of the people.”


THE FAMOUS KARL MARX SOUND BITE:

“Religion...is the opium of the people.”
(“Die Religion...ist das Opium des Volks.”)
      
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
       German philosopher, historian and “Founding Father” of socialism and communism
       From the introduction to his manuscript
Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844)
       The quote above (sometimes translated as “Religion...is the opiate of the people” or “Religion...is the opium of the masses”) is the familiar condensed sound bite taken from the more nuanced point Marx made in the introduction to his critique of the views of German philosopher
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Here’s what he actually wrote: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.”


THE OCCUPY WALL STREET VERSION:

“Occupy Wall Street...ignited a month ago after a prompt from AdBusters, a not-quite-underground magazine based in Toronto that wraps its anti-corporate message — hyper-consumption is the opiate of the people — in high-definition, high-gloss irony. (It is rather delicious that the counterattack to the vast class war waged for so long by the American right wing and its corporate masters was hatched under Canadian sponsorship. The last time Canada provided such a public service was when it harbored Vietnam-era draft resisters.)”
       Editorial in
The Boston Phoenix, October 17, 2011


THE OCCUPY WALL STREET VERSION 2.0:

“Is talking about the economy becoming the opiate of the classes?”
      
Rev. Michael Bresciani
       American minister, author and conservative columnist
       In
one of his recent columns on the RenewAmerica website, September 25, 2011


THE ONLINE PORN VERSION:

“We might not have free education, healthcare, or affordable housing but at least we have the ‘freedom’ to pay for unlimited access to online pornography. But what is this tawdry freedom really? Surely the masturbating porn audience is a parody of sexuality. Work, consume, masturbate to porn, be silent, die. Pornography is the opium of the people.”
      
Dr. Abigail Bray
       Australian sociologist and author of the book
Misogyny Re-Loaded  
       Comments
in an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald, October 8, 2011


THE ONLINE JOKESTER’S VERSION:

“If religion is the opiate of the masses, then what the fuck is opium?”
      
Mason Lerner
       American stand-up comedian and freelance writer
       One of the 25 things Lerner said he cares about more than whether the NBA is going to have to cancel some games,
in his column on the FasterTimes website, October 17, 2001

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Related reading…

October 11, 2011

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”


THE FAMOUS FAUX DOCTOR’S LINE:

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”
       Used in TV ads for
Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup by actors Chris Robinson and Peter Bergman
       This now oft-parodied confession was popularized by Vicks Formula 44 commercials that began airing in 1984. The original ads featured Robinson, who was best known at the time for his role as Dr. Rick Webber on the television soap opera General Hospital. In 1986, after Robinson was convicted of tax evasion, he was replaced in the Vicks ads by actor Peter Bergman, who was playing Dr. Cliff Warner on the soap All My Children.
       In a 1984 version of the Vicks commercial that’s currently
posted on YouTube with some other vintage ads from 1984, Robinson says: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. And, when many adults get a cough, they play doctor at home. They treat their cough with the same medicine they originally bought for their children. They need one of the adult formulas from Vicks, for the coughs adults get, with the strength adults need. Formula 44 for coughs. 44D for coughs with congestion. And, now, Formula 44M for coughs with congestion and a raw irritated throat. The adult formulas. You can't buy anything more effective.”
       Bergman’s initial ad for Vicks in 1986 was virtually identical.


A JAB AT A REAL DOCTOR WHO CROSSED THE LINE:

“TV’s answer to Web MD, Dr. Mehmet Oz, ran a segment...claiming that his tests found high levels of arsenic in ‘some of the nation’s best known brands of apple juice.’ But because he’s a doctor AND he plays one on TV, the FDA says Dr. Oz’s tests were flawed and that he went overboard on the fearmongering.” 
      
Christopher Robbins
       American journalist and editor 
       In
a Sept. 18, 2011 post on the Gothamist website about the recent flap over Dr. Oz’s claim that apple juice contained potentially unsafe levels of arsenic 
       Food and Drug Administration officials criticized Oz for using tests that do not distinguish between poisonous inorganic arsenic and naturally-occurring organic arsenic, which is found in soil and in many food products in minute levels and is not really a health threat. (If it were, we’d all be dead.)


A JAB AT AN ALLEGEDLY FAUX CHRISTIAN:

“In her 2006 book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, pundit Ann Coulter attacked Democrats for being anti-religion and for faking religious faith. However, Coulter apparently is not a member or regular attendee of any church. Perhaps she should offer a disclaimer at every personal appearance: ‘I’m not a Christian, but I play one on TV, radio, and in books.’”
      
Brian Kaylor 
       Baptist journalist, blogger and book author
      
In his book For God’s Sake, Shut Up! Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively (2007)


A JAB AT FAUX FEMINISTS BY A FEMINIST HERO:

“I’m Not a Feminist But I Play One on TV”
       Susan Faludi 
       Feminist writer and activist  
       Title of
her oft-cited feminist article published in the March/April 1995 issue of Ms. magazine
       In the article, Faludi criticized so-called “third-wave feminists” and female celebrities who appear or claim to be “liberated” but who are more closely aligned with conservative, traditional values and views of women than with the values and views espoused by feisty feminists like Faludi. She called such women “Pod Feminists,” a metaphor based on the “pod people” in the classic sci-fi horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


A JAB AT A “FEMINIST HERO” (WHO’S FAUX IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE):

“Heidi Montag may think she’s a feminist, but she definitely doesn’t play one on TV.”
      
Comment posted on the AolTV site by the editors of Lemondrop.com
       The comment is linked to Lemondrop.com’s
list of “The 20 Least Feminist TV Characters”
       Heidi Montag is best known as the star of MTV’s “reality” series The Hills and for her love of plastic surgery. The Lemondrop.com editors obviously disagreed with a previous New York Times review that had
called Heidi “a feminist hero.” (Heidi said she was “very honored” by being given that title.)

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