Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Glenn's Book of Quotes, Number Eleven

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

This is usually referred to as Sturgeon's Law, but Sturgeon himself liked to call it Sturgeon's Revelation. Either way, it is a good thing to bear in mind.

I hear people say things like “all television is junk,” and I know it is just not so. I do know that most of it is junk. It all comes at you in an undifferentiated mess at the touch of a button. Flip through the channels and you could be forgiven for thinking that TV is a pastime for morons. You know it's not. It just takes some effort to find the good stuff.

I hear people say “turn off that useless TV and read a book.” Well, that's not a bad idea, but which book? This comes to a surprise to some people, but ninety percent of books are crud too. Believe me, I used to be a bookseller. The publishing world is hip-deep in crud. The bestseller list is mostly crud. There's a ton of crud in the mid-list. Thousands of new ISBNs are assigned every year. That's a lot of crud.

I'm talking about everything here. All fields of human endeavor. Art, architecture, the web, cars, cities, sports, science, religion, radio, business, politics, music, movies, you name it, mostly crud. Why not? We made it. What we make, and our judgments about it are, well . . .

We celebrate our great artists, creators, and dreamers, for beating the rule, for showing us truth and beauty amidst the dross. We also celebrate people who have created nothing of value and achieved nothing but their own celebrity. In fact, ninety percent of celebrities – you get the point.

This could sound like a pessimistic philosophy. It's not. It is essentially optimistic. After all, if ninety percent of everything is crud, then ten percent is the good stuff. Sometimes it takes work to find the good stuff, but it has to be there. I'm like the optimistic little boy who was given a pile of dung as a birthday present. He was last seen happily shoveling away, saying “there has to be a pony in here somewhere.”

That's the trick; find the pony.

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