Weekend Words: Obsolete

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

Jan Baptist Weenix, “Ancient Ruins” (n.d.), oil on canvas, 80.5 x 68.3 cm, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest (image via Web Gallery of Art)

This week, NATO was obsolete until it wasn’t.

Either war is obsolete or men are.

—R. Buckminster Fuller, The New Yorker (Jan. 8, 1966)

Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force… If we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has the right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.

—Martin Luther King, Jr., The Christmas Sermon On Peace (December 24, 1967)

Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.

—Dr. Seuss

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

—Ronald Reagan

Political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize.

—Tom Lehrer

As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete. Even when builders pound nails by the thousand with pneumatic nail guns, every household needs a hammer.

—James Gleick

When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.

—Peter Drucker

Nikita Khrushchev: We have steel workers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.

Richard Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after 20 years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time. […] The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.

—Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon, The Kitchen Debate (1959)

Nothing is so hideous as an obsolete fashion.

—Henri B. Stendhal

Although the activities of some photographers conform to the traditional notion of a fine art, the activity of exceptionally talented individuals producing discrete objects that have value in themselves, form the beginning photography has also lent itself to that notion of art which says that art is obsolete. The power of photography –and its centrality in present aesthetic concerns– is that it confirms both ideas of art. But the way in which photography renders art obsolete is, in the long run, stronger.

—Susan Sontag, On Photography

That is how it stiffens, my vision of that seaside childhood. My father died; we moved inland. Whereon those nine first years of my life sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle – beautiful, inaccessible, obsolete: a fine, white, flying myth.

—Sylvia Plath

That obsolete fiction of the wide river in
An empty land; the gods that Boucher killed;
And the metal heroes that time granulates –
The philosophers’ man alone still walks in dew,
Still by the sea-side mutters milky lines
Concerning an immaculate imagery.

—Wallace Stevens, “Asides on the Oboe”

Your small hands, precisely equal to my own—
only the thumb is larger, longer—in these hands
I could trust the world,
…such hands might carry out an unavoidable violence
with such restraint, with such a grasp
of the range and limits of violence
that violence ever after would be obsolete.

Adrienne Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems, VI

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.

—Betty Friedan

What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but the substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real.

—George Bernard Shaw

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