The Corner

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Brushing Up


Today, we publish Part III of my series “This Is Important.” But, here on the Corner, I’d like to publish a couple of letters concerning Part II. In that installment, I quoted Roger Kimball as saying, “We can download a veritable library of material to our computer in a few minutes; that does not mean we have mastered its riches. Information is not synonymous with knowledge, let alone wisdom.”

I had several things to say about this, one of which was, “Today, people have virtually the whole of music on YouTube. Are they as appreciative, I wonder, as kids a few generations ago who might have been able to buy a few records a year?”

A reader tells me he was floating around the Internet recently and found something funny. The question was, “If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to him about our present life?” An anonymous respondent said, “I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.”

Do you resemble that remark? (Nothing wrong with cats. On the contrary.)

Also in Part II of my series, I said I had not known the word “bootless” — simple as that word seems. (“Without result, gain, or advantage; unavailing; useless.”)

Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Shakespeare uses the word in Sonnet 29: “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state / And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries . . .” A reader of ours cites Othello — to wit, “The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief; / He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.”

Perfect. I myself will cite Cole Porter: “Brush up your Shakespeare, / Start quoting him now. / Brush up your Shakespeare, / And the women you will wow.”

Does that still work? Did it ever?


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