Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The mania for speculation broke loose. Stock soared in three months from 128 to 300, and within a few months more to 500. Amid the resounding cries of jobbers and speculators a multitude of companies, some genuine and some bogus, was hatched. By June 1721 the South Sea stock stood at 1050. Robert Walpole himself had the luck to make a handsome profit on his quiet investments. At every coffeehouse in London men and women were investing their savings in any enterprise that would take their money. There was no limit to the credulity of the public. One promoter floated a company to manufacture an invention known as Puckle's Machine Gun, "which was to discharge round and square cannon-balls and bullets and make a total revolution in the art of war," the round missiles being intended for use against Christians and the square against the Turk. Other promoters invited subscriptions for making salt water fresh, for constructing a wheel of perpetual motion, for importing large jackasses from Spain to improve the breed of English mules, and the boldest of all was the advertisment for "a company for carrying on an undertaking of Great Advantage, but no one to know what it is." This amiable swindler set up shop in Cornhill to receive subscriptions. His office was beseiged by eager investors, and after collecting £2,000 in cash he prudently absconded.

Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution (110-111)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

This madness goes on and on, but nobody seems to notice. The gambling action runs twenty-four hours a day on the main floor, and the circus never ends. Meanwhile, on all the upstairs balconies, the customers are being hustled by every conceivable kind of bizarre shuck. All kinds of funhouse-type booths. Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a ten-foot bull-dyke and win a cotton-candy goat. Stand in front of this fantastic machine, my friend, and for just 99¢ your likeness will appear, two hundred feet tall, on a screen above downtown Las Vegas. Ninety-nine cents more for a voice message. “Say whatever you want, fella. They’ll hear you, don’t worry about that. Remember you’ll be two hundred feet tall.”

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories (46-47)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Vor caught her gaze, and Raquella seemed surprised to see a healthy stranger standing in the ward. He stepped forward, opening his mouth to speak, when suddenly she recoiled in alarm. One of the patients sprang on Vor from behind and clawed at his breather mask, then fell on him pummeling him and spitting in his face. Fighting instinctively, Vor threw his attacker to one side. The wretch cluchted a scrap of a banner that depicted Serena's baby Manion, and he howled prayers, begging the Three Martyrs to save him, to save them all.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Dune: The Battle of Corrin (100)
Warnings such as Aquinas's against excess and obsession were also invoked by church fathers not only in regard to the rogue monk tempted to eat more than his share but also in reference to the opposite case - that is, nuns (for they were almost always nuns) who succumbed to the equally disturbing and disruptive temptation to indulge in excessive fasting. These women, whom the historian Rudolph M. Bell has termed "holy anorexics," punished their bodies by starving themselves and indulging in all manner of inventive and frequently disgusting self-mortifications. Though a number of them - Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Claire of Assisi, Saint Veronica - were eventually canonized, in their lifetimes they troubled the ecclesiastical authorities, who cautioned them to be on guard against the sin of pride: the self-satisfaction they might derive from the pain and the heroic discomfort they managed to endure.

Francine Prose, Gluttony (40)