Tag Archives: the guy quote

The Guy Quote – Alan Watts

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Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker. Best known for making Eastern philosophy digestible to Western minds, his radio broadcasts, books and talks turned people on to new ways of thinking. He introduced the youth culture to The Way of Zen, he put forward the idea that Buddhism could be seen as a form of psychotherapy rather than a religion, he engaged with and explored ideas of human consciousness as well as man’s relationship with nature…to me at least he embodies the world-thinker, astride cultures, taking what is relevant or useful and leaving the dogma. He died in 1973 at the age of 58, at his cabin on Mount Tamalpais. Recently though, people have been setting extracts from his lectures to animations and montages, uploading them to YouTube where his words are enjoying a renaissance.

He was bright, exploring various types of meditation as a teen – he even met D.T. Suzuki – and then moved to America in 1938, just before war broke out. He became an Anglican priest, his thesis at the seminary attempting to blend contemporary Christian worship, mystical Christianity and Asian philosophy. Leaving the ministry after an affair, he went back to academics, teaching at the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco, and bouncing around various other places in following years as he toured the lecture circuit, travelled in Europe, had a TV show and wrote more books.

He expanded his studies into cybernetics, Vedanta and more; experimented with psychedelics in the early 1960s; and for several years was a Fellow at Harvard. He was enjoyed by intellectuals, but had a harder time with academics. Perhaps because – as Watts said himself – he was more “philosophical entertainer” than academic philosopher.

The excellent Wikipedia entry on him, which includes tonnes of links as well as the following:

Watts did not hide his dislike for religious outlooks that he decided were dour, guilt-ridden, or militantly proselytising — no matter if they were found within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism….he has been criticised by Buddhists such as Philip Kapleau and D. T. Suzuki for allegedly misinterpreting several key Zen Buddhist concepts. In particular, he drew criticism from those who believe that zazen can only be achieved by a strict and specific means of sitting, as opposed to a cultivated state of mind available at any moment in any situation. In his talks, Watts addressed the issue of defining zazen practice when he said, “A cat sits until it is tired of sitting, then gets up, stretches, and walks away.” [he also said about experimenting with drugs: "if you get the message, hang up the phone".]

Though known for his Zen teachings, he was equally if not more influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine Reality Man that Man misses, how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution, how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego, how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles. His books frequently include discussions reflecting his keen interest in patterns that occur in nature and which are repeated in various ways and at a wide range of scales – including the patterns to be discerned in the history of civilizations.

And so on with the quotes…

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“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”

“Playing a violin is, after all, only scraping a cat’s entrails with horsehair.”

“You will never get to the irreducible definition of anything because you will never be able to explain why you want to explain, and so on. The system will gobble itself up.”

“We therefore work, not for the work’s sake, but for money—and money is supposed to get us what we really want in our hours of leisure and play. In the United States even poor people have lots of money compared with the wretched and skinny millions of India, Africa, and China, while our middle and upper classes (or should we say “income groups”) are as prosperous as princes. Yet, by and large, they have but slight taste for pleasure. Money alone cannot buy pleasure, though it can help. For enjoyment is an art and a skill for which we have little talent or energy.”

“What we see as death, empty space, or nothingness is only the trough between the crests of this endlessly waving ocean. It is all part of the illusion that there should seem to be something to be gained in the future, and that there is an urgent necessity to go on and on until we get it. Yet just as there is no time but the present, and no one except the all-and-everything, there is never anything to be gained—though the zest of the game is to pretend that there is.”

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate from “I.”

“I owe my solitude to other people.”

“Like too much alcohol, self-consciousness makes us see ourselves double, and we make the double image for two selves – mental and material, controlling and controlled, reflective and spontaneous. Thus instead of suffering we suffer about suffering, and suffer about suffering about suffering.”

“To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

“The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.”

“Naturally, for a person who finds his identity in something other than his full organism is less than half a man. He is cut off from complete participation in nature. Instead of being a body, he ‘has’ a body. Instead of living and loving he ‘has’ instincts for survival and copulation.”

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”

“If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”

“Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal saviour.”

“And people get all fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as if it were words… As if you had a meaning, as if you were a mere word, as if you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. You are meaning.”

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

“Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”

“Zen is a liberation from time. For if we open our eyes and see clearly, it becomes obvious that there is no other time than this instant, and that the past and the future are abstractions without any concrete reality.”

“Hospitals should be arranged in such a way as to make being sick an interesting experience. One learns a great deal sometimes from being sick. ”

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”

“It is interesting that Hindus, when they speak of the creation of the universe do not call it the work of God, they call it the play of God, the Vishnu lila, lila meaning play. And they look upon the whole manifestation of all the universes as a play, as a sport, as a kind of dance — lila perhaps being somewhat related to our word lilt”

“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things.”

“I am what happens between the maternity ward and the Crematorium”

“A successful college president once complained to me, I’m so busy that I’m going to have to get a helicopter! Well, I answered, you’ll be ahead so long as you’re the only president who has one. But don’t get it. Everyone will expect more out of you.”

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.”

“The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.”

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

“For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.”

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

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“It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually–if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning– you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as –Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so– I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it. ”

[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – James Brown, Godfather of Soul

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James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, the hardest working man in showbusiness, soul brother number one, founding father of funk and so much more. His musical career spanned an astonishing six decades, he was a major influence on rapping while he’s beats…well, he’s the most sampled artist. Here’s a short version, a few highlights before the quotes, but there’s a fascinating Wikipedia entry on his life and career here which is well worth checking out.

He first hit fame in the Fifties as part of a group called the Famous Flames, touring on the “chitlin’ circuit” (the opposite of the Borscht Belt); from then on, it was largely an upward arc as he revolutionised music and became one of 20th century music’s major influences.

And yet, while he’s undeniably a force of nature, he also has the record as the artist with the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 without ever hitting number one on that chart.

The James Brown tour was one of the best in the business – or certainly the biggest, with an enormous band and a bigger retinue – the James Brown Revue had something like 40 or 50 people in it, all of them busing around the US, doing 330+ shows a year, most of them one-nighters – and most of them featuring the infamous cape routine, when he’d pretend to collapse from the emotion and be escorted from the stage with a cape over his shoulders. I think Elvis copied this too. He died in 2006 of heart failure.

He wasn’t joking when he said he had it tough. Born in 1933, as a young child, Brown and his family lived in extreme poverty in South Carolina. His parents separated when he was two, when his mum ran out on his dad for another man. He stayed with his dad (and his father’s assorted girlfriends) until he was six, when he was sent to live with an aunt who ran a brothel.

He might have lived with relatives, but he still spend a lot of time on his own, hanging out or on the hustle. He worked hard as a kid, shining shoes, sweeping out stores, selling and trading in old stamps, washing cars and dishes and singing in talent contests. Brown also performed buck dances for change to entertain troops from Camp Gordon at the start of World War II as their convoys traveled over a canal bridge near his aunt’s home.

He had an early passion for music, too. Between earning money, Brown taught himself to play a harmonica given to him by his father. He learned to play some guitar from Tampa Red, in addition to learning to play piano and drums from others he met during this time. He formed his first vocal group, the Cremona Trio, when he was just 12. That same year they won local talent shows at Augusta concert halls such as the Lenox and Harlem theaters. He was forced out of school in seventh grade for wearing “insufficient clothes”.

When James Brown was sixteen, he was convicted of armed robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa. While in prison, he formed a gospel quartet with fellow cell mates Johnny Terry, “Hucklebuck” Davis and a person named “Shag”, and made his own instruments – a comb and paper, a washtub bass, a drum kit made from lard tubs, and what he called “a sort of mandolin [made] out of a wooden box.” Due to the latter instrument, Brown was given his first nickname, “Music Box”. In 1952, while still in reform school, Brown met future R&B legend Bobby Byrd, who was there playing baseball against the reform school team.

Byrd’s family helped Brown secure an early release in 1952 after he’d done three years of his sentence. The authorities agreed to release Brown on the condition that he would get a job and not return to Augusta or Richmond County and also under the condition that he find a decent job and sing for the Lord – as he had promised in his parole letter. After stints as a boxer and baseball pitcher in semi-professional baseball (a career move ended by a leg injury), he finally turned his energy to music.

The rest, as they say, is history. Notable highlights though…

Influenced by having been booted out of school as a youth, his main non-musical activism was in preserving the need for education, particularly among black youths, who consisted of large school dropout rates in the mid-1960s. As a result of this, Brown wrote “Don’t Be a Drop-Out“, which was released in 1966 under the “James Brown and The Famous Flames” billing – though the actual recording featured none of its members with the exception of Brown (not to be confused with Dolly Parton’s song the same year, “Don’t Drop Out“. Royalties from the song were given to charity, he was rewarded by President Johnson, and he always advocated, in songs and in speeches, the importance of education in school. When he was older, he’d occasionally go back to his childhood neighbourhood in Augusta and give out money and other things to those in need. A week before he died he visited an orphanage and gave out toys and turkeys.

Civil Rights. Brown and his band first participated in benefit concerts for civil rights groups starting in 1965, performing for organizations such as the SCLC. In 1968, Brown recorded two socially conscious songs, “America Is My Home” and “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud“. The former song, in which Brown performed a rap, advocated patriotism, pointing out that America was one of the few countries where “you can start as a shoeshine boy and shake hands with the President” and exhorting listeners to “stop pitying yoursel[ves] and get up and fight.” This coincided with Brown’s participation in performing in front of troops during the Vietnam War.

“Say It Loud” was written in response to pressure from black activists for Brown to take a bigger stance on their issues. The song was inspired by television coverage of black on black crime as well as concurrent issues concerning the riots that occurred following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Brown wrote the words and asked his bandleader at the time, Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, to compose the music. The song’s lyrics helped to make it an anthem to the civil rights movement. Some critics[who?] later stated that the song had gotten through to black youths better than some civil rights leaders’ speeches. Throughout the remainder of his career and after his death, Brown was credited by some of his admirers for “destroying the word Negro from the vocabulary and making it cool to call yourself ‘Black’.” Brown performed “Say It Loud” only sporadically after 1969, later stating in his 1986 autobiography:

“The song is obsolete now… But it was necessary to teach pride then, and I think the song did a lot of good for a lot of people… People called ‘Black and Proud’ militant and angry – maybe because of the line about dying on your feet instead of living on your knees. But really, if you listen to it, it sounds like a children’s song. That’s why I had children in it, so children who heard it could grow up feeling pride… The song cost me a lot of my crossover audience. The racial makeup at my concerts was mostly black after that. I don’t regret it, though, even if it was misunderstood.”

His personal life wasn’t always settled. Gruelling schedule, always on tour. For the first 25 years of his professional career, he had a drug-free policy for his entire entourage and band. A few people were fired for going against his word, especially those who used drugs and alcohol. Noting of this policy, some of the original members of Brown’s 1970s band, The J.B.’s including the Collins brothers, Catfish and Bootsy, intentionally got high on acid during a 1971 concert gig, causing Brown to fire them after the show because he had suspected them to be on drugs all along, according to Bootsy Collins. Towards the mid-Seventies though, he was allegedly using them himself anyway. In the mid Eighties he got into an angel dust storm with then-wife Adrienne Rodriguez. There were a few arrests for domestic violence.

Still though, an amazing performer. An amazing musician, poet, lyricist, dancer. A serious talent, in a man’s world. Here are some quotes. They’re not necessarily all amazing, but what is amazing is the context and background of some of the things he said. (ps – If you like this, do please share, and read some of my other “The Guy Quote” posts here. )

Die on your feet don’t live on your knees.

I’ve outdone anyone you can name – Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Strauss. Irving Berlin, he wrote 1,001 tunes. I wrote 5,500.

Hair is the first thing. And teeth the second. Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he’s got it all.

When I’m on stage, I’m trying to do one thing: bring people joy. Just like church does. People don’t go to church to find trouble, they go there to lose it.

… I’m not going to be joining ZZ Top. You know they can’t play my stuff. It’s too complicated.

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.

I don’t really care what people think, … I just do my own thing. … I like being loud and letting people know I’m there.

Retire for what? What would I do? I made my name as a person that is helping. I’m like Moses in the music business.

I’m twice as old, but I feel good.

I got a wife who likes expensive things, so she takes all the cash.

I taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

Sometimes you struggle so hard to feed your family one way, you forget to feed them the other way, with spiritual nourishment. Everybody needs that.

It doesn’t matter how you travel it, it’s the same road. It doesn’t get any easier when you get bigger, it gets harder. And it will kill you if you let it.

I used to play one job and have 125 pair of shoes on the floor. What was I doing? I couldn’t wear but one pair.

My expectations of other people, I double them on myself.

Now, we own a publishing house that’s way up in the billions of dollars and gets bigger and bigger. That’s probably the only thing that makes me look like Bill Gates!

Sometimes I feel like I’m a preacher as well, ’cause I can really get into an audience.

The hardest thing about being James Brown is I have to live. I don’t have no down time.

I did the thing with bonds, which was about 30 million dollars, and didn’t get none of the money on them.

They had a chance to see me look good and perform and be so neat again. A lot of young people felt shaken, ’cause there I was, 70 years old, looking half as young as they did!

I only got seventh-grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use.

Michael Jackson has a very good heart. He was crying when he was giving me the award, ’cause his mind went back over the early days.

I started Michael [Jackson] years ago. I saw him in Gary, Indiana, and we’d have him on the talent shows. He kind of emulated me, and did the best he could.

My son don’t have to say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud. He don’t have to be called those crazy names.

They had a chance to see me look good and perform and be so neat again. A lot of young people felt shaken, ’cause there I was, 70 years old, looking half as young as they did!

I just thank God for all of the blessings.

I used to think like Moses. That knocked me down for a couple years and put me in prison. Then I start thinking like Job. Job waited and became the wealthiest and richest man ever ’cause he believed in God.

I want to say to you, help yourself, so you can help someone else.

I’ve been held responsible for taxes I know nothing about.

You can take care of yourself, and God helps those who help themselves.

I had to tell about my colonic, which expresses the fact why I’m so neat today as opposed to a few years ago. I never knew that the weight made that much difference.

I named my new son James Joseph Brown II. I think he’s going to be a lot better than I was.

I think the best thing about being James Brown is looking at my little son. Hopefully I can make my son a role model to a lot of people.

I think what I came through is great, but my son can take it to another level, not having to fight racism. His mother’s a Norwegian and I’m mixed up four or five times, so he can face the world.

I was stillborn. The midwives laid me aside, thought I was really gone. I laid there about an hour, and they picked me back up and tried again, ’cause my body was still warm. The Good Lord brought me back.

I’d like to cut down on the work a little bit.

I’m kidding about having only a few dollars. I might have a few dollars more.

My expectations of other people, I double them on myself.

Thank God for the journey.

The hardest thing about being James Brown is I have to live. I don’t have no down time.

When God took it, he accepted it; when he brought it back, he accepted it. That’s what’s happening with me.

You can’t teach others if you are living the same way.

If you like this, do please share, and read some of my other “The Guy Quote” posts here.

And here’s a documentary about him:

If you like this, do please share, and read some of my other “The Guy Quote” posts here.

What I won’t miss, what I’ll miss (Nora Ephron)

From Lists of Note, 27 June 2012:

The great Nora Ephron passed away yesterday, aged 71, following a battle with leukemia that began in 2006. She had many strings to her bow, but most notably wrote the screenplays to some of the best loved films ever to grace the big screen, many of which she also directed and produced. She wrote the following lists — of things she won’t and will miss — in 2010 and used them to close her book, I Remember Nothing.

(Source: I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections; Image: Nora Ephron, via.)

What I Won’t Miss

Dry skin
Bad dinners like the one we went to last night
E-mail
Technology in general
My closet
Washing my hair
Bras
Funerals
Illness everywhere
Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism
Polls
Fox TV
The collapse of the dollar
Bar mitzvahs
Mammograms
Dead flowers
The sound of the vacuum cleaner
Bills
E-mail. I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it.
Small print
Panels on Women in Film
Taking off makeup every night

What I Will Miss

My kids
Nick
Spring
Fall
Waffles
The concept of waffles
Bacon
A walk in the park
The idea of a walk in the park
The park
Shakespeare in the Park
The bed
Reading in bed
Fireworks
Laughs
The view out the window
Twinkle lights
Butter
Dinner at home just the two of us
Dinner with friends
Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives
Paris
Next year in Istanbul
Pride and Prejudice
The Christmas tree
Thanksgiving dinner
One for the table
The dogwood
Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan
Pie

The Guy Quote – Gore Vidal

His “pansexuality” stopped him getting into politics, he was punched by Norman Mailer, described Truman Capote’s death as “a good career move” and he never quite hit the same literary orbit as some of his peers (Updike, Bellow, Roth et al), but Gore Vidal was a stunning essayist, a brilliant speaker and a glittering wit. The following comes from his obituary in The Guardian, but if you’re interested, read the one in Time too:

For as long as democracy lasts, people will quote the most brilliant of his many epigrams – “Politics is just showbusiness for ugly people” – and, for as long as competitive endeavour exists, will parrot his cruel but psychologically astute observation that: “It is not enough to succeed; others must fail.” It is rare for a week to pass without one or both of these remarks being quoted approvingly somewhere.

He was open to the charge of namedropping, but claims of famous acquaintance were never faked: he had been a friend and relative of the Kennedys and, when I went to interview Vidal at his breathtaking clifftop villa on the coast of the Amalfi coast, there were photographs of him with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, who were reputed to have taken refuge there during one of the presidential scandals. However, though distantly related to Clinton’s vice-president, Al Gore, Vidal delighted in declining to meet a branch of the family he regarded as dull, grey sheep.

As often with Vidal, the remark about politics compensating the plain was double-edged. Famously attractive as a young man, he would have been a beautiful politician but, with the American electorate reluctant even now to back for most high offices candidates known to be gay, he was surely doomed to fail in the profession of his influential grandfather, Senator Gore of Oklahoma, who, being blind, relied on the newspapers being read to him by a group of assistants who included his grandson[...]But, even had he been straight, a mainstream political career would likely have been undermined by the savagery of his analysis of America. Politically, she was a corrupt and failing empire with a government that ruled through paranoid invocation of national security, he felt. However, he liked to reassure people that there was no risk of American culture dying – because it had never existed.

Despite the extremity of these opinions – and the fact that early novels such as The City and the Pillar (1948) and Myra Breckinridge (1968) were censored and banned because of their sexual content – Vidal later achieved mainstream bestseller and Book of the Month club status with a fictional sequence designed to correct what he saw as the deficient historical knowledge of his fellow Americans.

The Narratives of Empire books, from Burr (1973) to The Golden Age (2000), combined fact, gossip and waspish commentary in the most entertaining and subversive history lessons until the advent of David Starkey, whose style somewhat echoes Vidal’s.

These popular works and lucratively paid but cheaply produced screenplays for projects including Bob Guccone’s Caligula permitted Vidal to live in some splendour in Italy and California, while writing the essays on politics, literature and culture. They were premiered in periodicals and later preserved in book-form and had the feel of his true vocation. It was in one of these pieces that he characteristically claimed to have sneaked a gay sub-text into the screenplay of Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur.

A walking rejection of the claim that America has no class system, Vidal had the manner of an aristocrat. During the BBC coverage of the 2008 election, he spectacularly blanked David Dimbleby, whom he seemed to feel was pulling rank on him. Often, while interviewing Vidal, it struck me as a minor tragedy that no director had ever cast him as Lady Bracknell, for no actress has ever managed the levels of hauteur that this author could summon.

A few years ago, when I mentioned a passage in his memoirs that admits to being unable to express any open distress after the death of Howard Austen, his supportive partner for almost 50 years, he drawled: “Have you seen that film with Helen Mirren? The Queen? Our class are brought up not to show emotion.”

This effortless identification with one of the highest-born figures in history was very Vidal: both in its social self-confidence and the fact that a question about emotional evasion was itself emotionally evaded through a provocative aphorism.

With a writer who was such a brilliant speaker and a natural entertainer, it is fitting that he has left a more durable record on film than most writers do: through occasional acting turns such as the arrogant senator in the political satire Bob Roberts. That part was a vision of another life he might have led. But anyone who relishes elegant and incisive writing and speech will be glad that Vidal was fated to explain, rather than practise, politics.

“The planet Venus, a circle of silver in a green sky, pierced the edge of the evening while the wintry woods darkened about me and in the stillness the regular sound of my footsteps striking the pavement was like a the rhythmic beating of a giant stone heart.”
― Gore Vidal, Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories

“Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy’s edge, all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. Nothing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.”

“Love it or loathe it, you can never leave it or lose it.”

“Politics is just showbusiness for ugly people”

“You hear all this whining going on, ‘Where are our great writers?’ The thing I might feel doleful about is: ‘Where are the readers?'”

“A writer must always tell the truth, unless he is a journalist.”

“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”

“I suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting.”

“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.”

“The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity – much less dissent.”

“The American press exists for one purpose only, and that is to convince Americans that they are living in the greatest and most envied country in the history of the world. The Press tells the American people how awful every other country is and how wonderful the United States is and how evil communism is and how happy they should be to have freedom to buy seven different sorts of detergent.”

“Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.”

“[Professor] Frank recalled my idle remark some years ago: ‘Never pass up the opportunity to have sex or appear on television.’ Advice I would never give today in the age of AIDS and its television equivalent Fox News.”

“At a certain age, you have to live near good medical care — if, that is, you’re going to continue. You always have the option of not continuing, which, I fear, is sometimes nobler.”

“All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself.”

“Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice, like Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they’re both just aspirin.”

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

(on Norman Mailer) “You know, he used the word ‘existential’ all the time, to the end of his life, and never even learned what it meant. I heard Iris Murdoch once at dinner explain to Norman what existential meant, philosophically. He was stunned.”

“Little Bush says we are at war, but we are not at war because to be at war Congress has to vote for it. He says we are at war on terror, but that is a metaphor, though I doubt if he knows what that means. It’s like having a war on dandruff, it’s endless and pointless.”

“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.”

“There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices.”

“Anyone who sings about love and harmony and life [John Lennon] is dangerous to someone who sings about death and killing and subduing [Nixon]”

“A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.”

“In America, the race goes to the loud, the solemn, the hustler. If you think you’re a great writer, you must say that you are.”

“I believe there’s something very salutary in, say, beating up a gay-bashing policeman. Preferably one fights through the courts, through the laws, through education, but if at a neighborhood level violence is necessary, I’m all for violence. It’s the only thing Americans understand.”

“Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so.”

“Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice like, Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they’re both just aspirin.”

“Envy is the central fact of American life.”

“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”

“In America, if you want a successful career in politics, there is one subject you must never mention, and that is politics. If you talk about standing tall, and it’s morning in America, and you press the good-news buttons, you’re fine. If you talk about budgets, tax reform, bigotry, and so on, you are in trouble. So if we aren’t going to talk issues, what can we talk about? Well, the sex lives of the candidates, because that is about the most meaningless thing that you can talk about.”

(on Ronald Reagan) “He is not clear about the difference between Medici and Gucci. He knows Nancy wears one of them.”

“I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.”

“There is something about a bureaucrat that does not like a poem.”

“Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”

“The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven’t seen them since.”

“Today’s public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either.”

“Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults.”

“We must declare ourselves, become known; allow the world to discover this subterranean life of ours which connects kings and farm boys, artists and clerks. Let them see that the important thing is not the object of love, but the emotion itself.”

“Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be.”

“Never have children, only grandchildren.”

“Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an IQ of 60″

“The unfed mind devours itself.”

“A good deed never goes unpunished.”

“I’m not sentimental about anything. Life flows by, and you flow with it or you don’t. Move on and move out.”

“All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself.”

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.”

“Fifty percent of people won’t vote, and fifty percent don’t read newspapers. I hope it’s the same fifty percent.”

“Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.”

“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return”

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

“If one starts with the anatomical difference, which even a patriarchal Viennese novelist was able to see was destiny, then one begins to understand why men and women don’t get on very well within marriage, or indeed in any exclusive sort of long-range sexual relationship. He is designed to make as many babies as possible with as many different women as he can get his hands on, while she is designed to take time off from her busy schedule as astronaut or role model to lay an egg and bring up the result. Male and female are on different sexual tracks, and that cannot be changed by the Book or any book. Since all our natural instincts are carefully perverted from birth, it is no wonder that we tend to be, if not all of us serial killers, killers of our own true nature.”

“Write what you know will always be excellent advice for those who ought not to write at all. Write what you think, what you imagine, what you suspect!”

“The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes.”

“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”

“Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that’s the end of the constitution as a working machine.”

“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.”

“As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days.”

“Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.”

“Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.”

“There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices.”

“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

++

Your suggestions:

He described Reagan during the 1980s as “a triumph of the embalmer’s art”. – Clarence

Niccoló Machiavelli – on character

It will consequently be exceedingly rare that a good man should be found to employ wicked means to become prince, even though his final object be good; or that a bad man, after having become prince, should be willing to labor for good ends, and that it should enter his mind to use for good purpose that authority which he has acquired by evil means.

There is no better indication of a man’s character than the company which he keeps; and therefore very properly a man who keeps respectable company acquires a good name, for it is impossible that there should not be some similitude of character and habits between him and his associates.

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances; and if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that every on can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

Niccoló Machiavelli, The Discourses. 1517.

Word. (courtesy of Hunter)


 
(via – or see more Hunter S Thompson quotes here)

The Guy Quote – Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, well clever and well tall. He was only president for four years, from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, but in that short time he led his country through enormous change and adversity. We’re talking constitutional, military and moral crisis (American Civil War), during which he preserved the Union, ended slavery, sorted out the economy and the financial system. And this on top of a brutal route to office. I liked doing this post. His quotes aren’t too fancy, they’re practical and meaty and some of them are very funny. He must have been a very skilled judge of character. Wonder what his voice sounded like.


“Some day I shall be President.”

No silver spoons here. Lincoln was born into a poor family on the western frontier. Mostly self-educated, he started out as a country lawyer, then became a state legislator and a one-term member of the House of Representatives…the rest was grind.

[this next bit is edited from Wikipedia] In 1859-60, he opposed the expansion of slavery in the US in his campaign debates and speeches, secured the Republican nomination and was elected president in 1860. Before Lincoln took office in March, seven southern slave states declared their secession and formed the Confederacy. When war began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln concentrated on both the military and political dimensions of the war effort, seeking to reunify the nation. He vigorously exercised unprecedented war powers, including the arrest and detention without trial of thousands of suspected secessionists. He prevented British recognition of the Confederacy by skillfully handling the Trent affair late in 1861. His efforts toward abolition include issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and encouraging Congress to propose what would become the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including commanding general Ulysses S. Grant. He brought leaders of various factions of his party into his cabinet and pressured them to cooperate…Each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.

As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Lincoln found his policies and personality were “blasted from all sides”: Radical Republicansdemanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats desired more compromise, Copperheads despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists plotted his death. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage, pitted his opponents against each other, and appealed to the American people with his oratory. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American history. It was an iconic statement of America’s dedication to the principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.

At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. But six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre.

A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Don’t worry when you are not recognised, but strive to be worthy of recognition.

I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.

Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.

Every one desires to live long, but no one would be old.

I can make more generals, but horses cost money.

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.

Everybody likes a compliment.

I will prepare and some day my chance will come.

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.

Avoid popularity if you would have peace.

I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.

When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.

These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new at all.

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.

When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.

There is another old poet whose name I do not now remember who said, “Truth is the daughter of Time.”

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

He has a right to criticise, who has a heart to help.

Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible.

The Gettysburg address:

NB. read it out loud, don’t just read it to yourself.

(short backstory – an amazing piece of oratory delivered to commemorate soldiers who fell in the war, ten sentences and two minutes in which he redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for preserving the Union but as “a new birth of freedom”, also compare it with Pericles’ Funeral Speech if you like this sort of thing)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – Lucian Freud

Freud was born in Berlin but his father, Ernst, moved the family to England in 1933 to skip the rise of Nazism. Grandson of Sigmund Freud, elder brother of Clement Freud (who told the world’s funniest joke), he seems to have chosen to paint without much fuss or fanfare – it’s what he was meant to do. He was one of a group of artists in Britain at the time, the “School of London”, which along with Francis Bacon and a few others concentrated on figurative painting. He had a pretty crazy personal life (many lovers, at least 14 kids) – but there’s plenty on that elsewhere.

Freud’s subjects, who needed to make a very large and uncertain commitment of their time, were often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. He said, “The subject matter is autobiographical, it’s all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement, really.” However the titles were mostly anonymous, and the identity of the sitter not always disclosed; the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire had a portrait of one of Freud’s daughters as a baby for several years before he mentioned who the model was.

In the 1970s Freud spent 4,000 hours on a series of paintings of his mother, about which art historian Lawrence Gowing observed “it is more than 300 years since a painter showed as directly and as visually his relationship with his mother. And that was Rembrandt.” For me, the ones of his mum are the most emotive of all. She was in a deep depression at the time as Ernst had died, and you can instantly feel that mood in the room, almost disengaged (he couldn’t paint her before because she was too animated and interested in him) as she stares into space.

A prodigious worker, Freud spent a huge amount of time on his paintings, and always needed to have the subject in the room. He’d work in five-hour sessions, and a single painting easily take over two thousand hours to complete. He’d start by drawing in charcoal, then paint a small area of the canvas, and gradually work outward from there. For a new sitter, he often started with the head as a means of “getting to know” the person, then painted the rest of the figure, eventually returning to the head as his comprehension of the model deepened. A section of canvas was intentionally left bare until the painting was finished, as a reminder that the work was in progress. The finished painting is an accumulation of richly worked layers of pigment, as well as months of intense observation.

It’s crazy – the closer you get, the more abstract the paint becomes. I can’t imagine how he could stare intently at someone’s mouth, say, then go to the canvas and carve a green slash into a thick layer of paint on it, and yet, from a metre away, it looks exactly perfectly right in tone and texture and everything. Astonishing. And a lot of people talk about the distance between artist and subject, or the odd perspective (he often painted from above) and the inherent anger, but to be honest I didn’t necessarily get that. To me it almost makes things more intimate, like he’s there, but not necessarily intruding, a bit like Dad coming in and waking you up for school or something. There’s a familiarity to it and passion, but I’m not sure anger is the word I’d use.

I also really like the way he does people’s foreheads. Quotes below – and they’re relevant for all types of artist, writers, singers, painters, the works.

“There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so.”

“I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them.”

“The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with.”

“A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure.”

“Now that I know what I want, I don’t have to hold on to it quite so much.”

“Painting is sometimes like those recipes where you do all manner of elaborate things to a duck, and then end up putting it on one side and only using the skin.”

“Full, saturated colours have an emotional significance I want to avoid.”

“The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh.”

“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.”

“I remember Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it’s what Yeats called the fascination with what’s difficult. I’m only trying to do what I can’t do.”

“A painter’s tastes must grow out of what so obsesses him in life that he never has to ask himself what it is suitable for him to do in art.”

“The subject matter is autobiographical, it’s all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement really.”

“The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.”

“I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”

“What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince.”

(To Martin Gayford about his portrait) “The picture of you has always been linked in my head with the one of the back end of the skewbald mare.”

“I think half the point of painting a picture is that you don’t know what will happen. Perhaps if painters did know how it was going to turn out they wouldn’t bother actually to do it.”

“The only secret I can claim to have is concentration, and that’s something that can’t be taught.”

“I could never put anything into a picture that wasn’t actually there in front of me. That would be a pointless lie, a mere bit of artfulness.”

“The painting is always done very much with [the model's] co-operation. The problem with painting a nude, of course, is that it deepens the transaction. You can scrap a painting of someone’s face and it imperils the sitter’s self-esteem less than scrapping a painting of the whole naked body.”

“I don’t want any colour to be noticeable… I don’t want it to operate in the modernist sense as colour, something independent… Full, saturated colours have an emotional significance I want to avoid.”

“The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh. The effect that they make in space is as bound up with them as might be their colour or smell … Therefore the painter must be as concerned with the air surrounding his subject as with the subject itself. It is through observation and perception of atmosphere that he can register the feeling that he wishes his painting to give out.”

“A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure.”

(On Models) “And, since the model he faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model.”

The Guy Quote – Charles Dickens (anniversary edition)

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens (so much nicer to celebrate a birthday than a deathday). Dickens was nothing if not a prolific writer. Author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, the Pickwick Papers…even if you haven’t read much of his work, you will have heard of some of it. And while many artists struggle for recognition in their lifetimes, he was wildly successful while alive – since then his books have never been out of print.

Most of his work was published serially, in instalments – rather like a soap opera today. Rather than write them all up in one go, he’d write to the same pace as the publishing, giving his stories a real rhythm, complete with cliff hangers. He’d have been perfectly happy writing today, I reckon.

His early life sounds like something out of one of his books – indeed characters from it found their way in. He was the second of eight children. His father lived beyond his means and ended up in debtors prison with the rest of the family while young Charles, aged 12, was sent to a family friend. Then he was moved to the back attic of a court-insolvency clerk (a fat, good-natured old man).

To pay his way and help his family, he had to leave school and work 10 hours a day in a blacking warehouse, pasting labels on shoe polish. Unsurprisingly, this treatment etched itself on his memory. Not just in characters for his books (one of the other boys there was called Bob Fagin, which he used in Oliver Twist), but in his thoughts on labour conditions and the economy – and the unreasonable work-load that was foisted on the poor and dispossessed.

An unexpected inheritance got his family out of prison, but his mother didn’t take him straight out of the workhouse. Unsurprisingly, he never really forgave her. Eventually though young Charles worked his way to a job at a law firm, learnt short hand and then became a freelance reporter…the rest writes itself.

To give you an idea of his popularity – on a trip to America, a “Boz Ball” (his early nom de plume was Boz) was held in his honour, 3,000 people came. He called in on the President. When he got back, Angela Coutts, heir to the Coutts Bank fortune, approached him to help set up a house for fallen women in Shepherds Bush, Great Ormond Street asked him to help with funding…he was a great philanthropist.

He died in 1870 after a series of strokes. He had wanted to be buried at Rochester Cathedral “in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner,” but was instead interred in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph that went around during the time of his funeral says: “To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England’s most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”

Dickens’s last words, as reported in his obituary in The Times were:
“Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”

Accidents will occur in the best regulated families.

I do not know the American gentleman, god forgive me for putting two such words together.

‘Tis love that makes the world go round, my baby.

Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.

Train up a fig tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under the shade of it.

With affection beaming out of one eye, and calculation shining out of the other.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed. There ain’t much credit in that.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. (David Copperfield)

We need never be ashamed of our tears.

A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.

The first rule of business is: Do other men for they would do you.

A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.

There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart.

This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in.

There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life as the simple truth.

A loving heart is the truest wisdom.

The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother.

A person who can’t pay gets another person who can’t pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don’t make either of them able to do a walking-match.

The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none.

May not the complaint, that common people are above their station, often take its rise in the fact of uncommon people being below theirs?

Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows – and china.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.
Charles Dickens

Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man! Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are!

Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips.

It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away.

The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.

It’s my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained.

There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk.

Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

We forge the chains we wear in life.

Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs.

Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly.

Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.

In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.

That sort of half sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity’s small change in general society.

The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.

Send forth the child and childish man together, and blush for the pride that libels our own old happy state, and gives its title to an ugly and distorted image.

The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself.

There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.

To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my nature. I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart.

Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!

We are so very ‘umble.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free.

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest.

Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.

Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.

When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.

I have known a vast quantity of nonsense talked about bad men not looking you in the face. Don’t trust that conventional idea. Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it.

You don’t carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation.

It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.

There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

Although a skillful flatterer is a most delightful companion if you have him all to yourself, his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to complimenting other people.

An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine.

Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.

Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.

Credit is a system whereby a person who can not pay gets another person who can not pay to guarantee that he can pay.

Do you spell it with a “V” or a “W”?’ inquired the judge. ‘That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord’.

He had but one eye and the pocket of prejudice runs in favor of two.

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.

If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.

Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions.

It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations.

Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.

==

If you enjoy The Guy Quote, find more in the series by clicking here or on the tag to the right.

The Guy Quote – Ambrose Bierce

Famously cynical, withering in his criticism, survivor – and hero – of more than one deadly battle, Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, short story writer and satirist. In 1913, by then an elderly man, he also famously, mysteriously, disappeared.

He’s perhaps most famous for his short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and for his satirical lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary, while his motto “nothing matters” earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce”.

Born in 1842 to parents who, though poor, instilled in him a love for books and for writing, he was the tenth of thirteen children (each of whose name began with ‘A’- in order of birth they were Abigail, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Ambrose, Arthur, Adelia, and Aurelia. He left home at 15 to work on an Ohio newspaper.

He fought for the Union from the outset of the American Civil War. As well as fighting in “the first battle” at Philippi and rescuing, under fire, a wounded comrade at Rich Mountain, he fought at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 – a terrifying experience he later drew on for short stories and his memoir. In 1864, he sustained a bad head wound. He was, in short, no wallflower.

Even if you put his war experience – and the trouble his wounds caused him later in life – to one side, he had reason enough to be cantankerous and sardonic. Married in 1871, he separated from his wife in 1888 when he found letters to her from an admirer. The following year, his son Day was shot dead in a brawl over a woman. Two years after that, his remaining son Leigh died from pneumonia brought about by alcoholism.

By the time he was married, however, he was already a prolific and successful writer. As well as writing for newspapers and periodicals both in the US and in England, he wrote ghost stories, short stories, war stories, poems…you name it. All with a very pure, economical style. The Devil’s Dictionary is still quoted a lot today (and probably will be below, too).

In 1913, at the age of 71, he set off for Mexico to see the Pancho Villa revolution for himself. He wrote the following letters to his niece before he left, and was never heard from again.

Dear Lora,

I go away tomorrow for a long time, so this is only to say good-bye. I think there is nothing else worth saying; therefore you will naturally expect a long letter. What an intolerable world this would be if we said nothing but what is worth saying! And did nothing foolish — like going into Mexico and South America.

I’m hoping that you will go to the mine soon. You must hunger and thirst for the mountains — Carlt [her husband, Carlton] likewise. So do I. Civilization be dinged! — It is the mountains and the desert for me.

Good-by — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart his life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia!

With love to Carlt, affectionately yours,

Ambrose

Lora received another short letter from Bierce on November 6 of that same year, reporting that he was in Laredo, Texas. The letter concluded: “I shall not be here long enough to hear from you, and don’t know where I shall be next. Guess it doesn’t matter much. Adios, Ambrose.”

Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth.

Immortality: A toy which people cry for, And on their knees apply for, Dispute, contend and lie for, And if allowed Would be right proud Eternally to die for.

I believe we shall come to care about people less and less. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace them. It’s one of the curses of London.

“Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.”
From An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

Heathen, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel.

Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.

Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Twice: Once too often.

Christian, n.: one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyse his delusion is called a philosopher.

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.

Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Impiety. Your irreverence toward my deity.

The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge.

What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends.

There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.

To apologize is to lay the foundation for a future offense.

When you doubt, abstain.

Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is – it is her shadow.

To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.

Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.

Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows.

Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.

Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up.

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.)

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.

The covers of this book are too far apart.

You are not permitted to kill a woman who has wronged you, but nothing forbids you to reflect that she is growing older every minute. You are avenged 1440 times a day.

The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.

An egotist is a person of low taste – more interested in himself than in me.

Miss, n. A title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate they are in the market. Miss, Misses (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In the general abolition of social titles in this our country they miraculously escaped to plague us. If we must have them let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to Mh.

Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

Peace in international affairs: a period of cheating between periods of fighting.

It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.

To men a man is but a mind. Who cares
What face he carries or what form he wears?
But woman’s body is the woman. O,
Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go,
But heed the warning words the sage hath said:
A woman absent is a woman dead.

Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Sabbath – a weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.

Hippogriff, n. An animal (now extinct) which was half horse and half griffin. The griffin was itself a compound creature, half lion and half eagle. The hippogriff was actually, therefore, only one-quarter eagle, which is two dollars and fifty cents in gold. The study of zoology is full of surprises.

Plagiarism, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.

Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Mark how my fame rings out from zone to zone:
A thousand critics shouting: “He’s unknown!”

Be as decent as you can. Don’t believe without evidence. Treat things divine with marked respect — don’t have anything to do with them. Do not trust humanity without collateral security; it will play you some scurvy trick. Remember that it hurts no one to be treated as an enemy entitled to respect until he shall prove himself a friend worthy of affection. Cultivate a taste for distasteful truths. And, finally, most important of all, endeavor to see things as they are, not as they ought to be.

Woman would be more charming if one could fall into her arms without falling into her hands.


Find out lots more about Bierce by following the links at the bottom of this page.

If you liked this piece, there’s a load more of The Guy Quote articles here.

Tip of the hat and a thankyewverymuch to Olly Figg, who suggested Bierce in the first place.

The Guy Quote – Michael Herr (a must-read)

Before he co-wrote and contributed to Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, Michael Herr wrote a book called Dispatches.

Published in 1977, it is a memoir of his days as an Esquire journalist in Vietnam in 1967, where he witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

He had originally gone with no real brief, no real deadlines, intending to write a series of monthly articles for the magazine, but gave up when he realised the idea was simply “horrible”. It took him ten years to gather his thoughts.

Dispatches pioneered a new form of journalism – the nonfiction novel. Pick it up if you see it, the writing is honest, engrossing, truthful. No wonder Jean Le Carré called it “the best book on war and men in our time”.

The Heath Anthology of American Literature has this to say: ‘As Herr tells it, the Vietnam War was very much a 1960s spectacle: part John Wayne movie, part rock-and-roll concert, part redneck riot, part media event, and part bad drug trip. Herr’s style, so perfectly grounded in the popular culture of the time, pulls at the reader with great power and unmistakable authenticity. After a particularly terrible battle, a young Marine glared at Herr, knowing he was a writer, and snarled: “Okay, man, you go on, you go on out of here, you cocksucker, but I mean it, you tell it! You tell it, man.” And so Herr did.’

When I was about 13 I bought a copy in a second-hand book shop. I liked it because it had a picture of a helmet on the front and I’d never seen a book cover with white space like that. Platoon was out in the cinema and me and my best friend Nicky Boas were listening to a lot of Deep Purple and The Doors.

I was engrossed from the second I opened it. I read it and re-read it until the spine cracked and it fell apart. Re-reading some of it now, I’m amazed how much of it has stuck with me too. Dispatches introduced me to all sorts of writers – a gateway to Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and more. Its words, its ethos – well, all of it really – is just as relevant, just as powerful today as it ever was.

NB – please click here to see more “The Guy Quote” pieces

[apologies in advance if any of these aren't from Dispatches - let me know and I'll correct in a jiffy, but I'm fairly sure they're all good]

“In the months after I got back the hundreds of helicopters I’d flown in begin to draw together until they’d formed a collective meta-chopper, and in my mind it was the sexiest thing going; saver-destroyer, provider-waster, right hand-left hand, nimble, fluent, canny and human; hot steel, grease, jungle-saturated canvas webbing, sweat cooling and warming up again, cassette rock and roll in one ear and door-gun fire in the other, fuel, heat, vitality, and death, death itself, hardly an intruder.”

“I had the I Corps DTs, livers, spleens, brains, a blue-black swollen thumb moved around and flashed to me, they were playing over the walls of the shower where I spent my half-hour, they were on the bedsheets, but I wasn’t afraid of them. I was laughing at them, what could they do to me?
“I filled a water glass with Armagnac and rolled a joint, and then started to read my mail. In one of the letters there was news that a friend of mine had killed himself in New York. When I turned off the lights and got into bed I lay there trying to remember what he had looked like. He had done it with pills, but no matter what I tried to imagine, all I saw was blood and bone fragment, not my dead friend. After a while I broke through for a second and saw him, but by that time all I could do with it was file him in with the rest and go to sleep.”

“Conventional journalism could no more reveal this war than conventional firepower could win it.”

“There’s no way around it, if you photographed a dead marine with a poncho over his face and got something for it, you were some kind of parasite. But what were you if you pulled the poncho back first to make it a better shot, and did that in front of his friends? Some other kind of parasite I suppose.”

“All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it.”

“I think Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods.”

“Amazing, unbelievable, guys who’d played a lot of hard sports said they’d never felt anything like it, the sudden adrenaline you could make available to yourself, pumping it up and putting it out until you were lost floating in it, not afraid, almost open to clear orgasmic death-by-drowning in it, actually relaxed.
“Unless of course you’d shit your pants or were screaming or praying or giving anything at all to the hundred-channel panic that blew word salad all around you and sometimes clean through you. Maybe you couldn’t love war and hate it inside the same instant, but sometimes those feelings alternated so rapidly that they spun together in a strobic wheel rolling all the way up until you were literally High On War, like it said on the helmet covers. Coming off a jag like that could really make a mess of you.”

“‘I’ve been having this dream,’ the major said. ‘I’ve had it two times now. I’m in a big examination room back at Quantico. They’re handing out questionnaires for an aptitude test. I take one look at it, and the first question says, How many kinds of animals can you kill with your hands?’
We could see rain falling in a sheet about a kilometre away. Judging by the wind, the major gave it three minutes before it reached us.
‘After the first tour, I’d have the goddamndest nightmares. You know, the works. Bloody stuff, bad fights, guys dying, me dying… I thought they were the worst,’ he said. ‘But I sort of miss them now.’”

“Levels of information were levels of dread, once it’s out it won’t go back in, you can’t just blink it away or run the film backward out of consciousness. How many of those levels did you really want to hump yourself through, which plateau would you reach before you shorted out and started sending back the messages unopened?”

“I keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by seventeen years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good. You don’t know what a media freak is until you’ve seen the way a few of those grunts would run around during a fight when they knew that there was a television crew nearby; they were actually making war movies in their heads, doing little guts-and-glory Leatherneck tap dances under fire, getting their pimples shot off for the networks. They were insane, but the war hadn’t done that to them. Most combat troops stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go, these few who were up there doing numbers for the cameras… We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult.”

“…if that energy could have been channelled into anything more than noise, waste and pain it would have lighted up Indochina for a thousand years.”

“I met this kid from Miles City, Montana, who read the Stars and Stripes every day, checking the casualty lists to see if by some chance anybody from his home town had been killed. He didn’t even know if there was anyone else from Miles City in Vietnam, but he checked anyway because he knew for sure that if there was someone else and they got killed, he would be all right. “I mean, can you just see *two* guys from a raggedy-ass town like Miles City getting killed in Vietnam?”

“The crew chief was a young Marine who moved around the chopper without a safety line hooked to his flight suit, so comfortable with the rolling and shaking of the ship that you couldn’t even pause to admire his daredevil nerve; you cut straight through to his easy grace and control, marveling as he hunkered down by the open door to rig the broken seat up again with pliers and a length of wire. At 1,500 feet he stood there in the gale-sucking door (Did he ever think about stepping off? How often?), his hands resting naturally on his hips, as though he were just standing around on a street corner somewhere, waiting. He knew he was good, an artist, he knew we were digging it, but it wasn’t for us at all; it was his, private; he was the man who was never going to fall out of any damn helicopter.”

“How many times did someone have to run in front of a machine gun before it became an act of cowardice?”

“Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar. [...] I knew one 4th division Lurp who took his pills by the fistful, downs from the left pocket of his tiger suit and ups from the right, one to cut the trail for him and the other to send him down it. He told me that they cooled things out just right for him, that could see that old jungle at night like he was looking at it through a starlight scope. “They sure give you the range,” he said.”

“Maybe nothing’s so unfunny as an omen read wrong.”

“You know how it is, you want to look and you don’t want to look. I can remember the strange feelings I had when I was a kid looking at war photographs in Life, the ones that showed dead people or a lot of dead people lying close together in a field or street, often touching, seeming to hold each other. Even when the picture was sharp and cleanly defined, something wasn’t clear at all, some repressed that monitored the images and withheld their essential information. It may have legitimized my fascination, letting me look for as long as I wanted; I didn’t have a language for it then, but I remember now the shame I felt, like looking at first porn, all the porn in the world. I could have looked until my lamps went out and I still wouldn’t have accepted the connection between a detached leg and the rest of the body, or the poses and positions that always (one day I’d hear it called “response-to-impact”), bodies wrenched too fast and violently into unbelievable contortion. Or the total impersonality of group death, making them lie anywhere and any way it left them, hanging over barbed wire or thrown promiscuously on top of other dead, or up into the trees like terminal acrobats, Look what I can do.

“Supposedly, you weren’t going to have that kind of obscuration when you finally started seeing them on real ground in front of you, but you tended to manufacture it anyway because of how often and how badly you needed protection from what you were seeing, had actually come 30,000 miles to see. Once I looked at them strung from perimeter to the treeline, most of them clumped together nearest the wire, then in smaller numbers but tighter groups midway, fanning out into lots of scattered points nearer the treeline, with one all by himself half into the bush and half out. “Close but no cigar”, the captain said, and then a few of his men went out there and kicked them all in the head, thirty-seven of them. Then I heard an M-16 on full automatic starting to go through the clips, a second to fire, three to plug in a fresh clip, and I saw a man out there, doing it. Every round was like a tiny concentration of high-velocity wind, making the bodies wince and shiver. When he finished he walked by us on the way back to his hootch and I knew I hadn’t seen anything until I saw his face. It was flushed and mottled and twisted like he had his face skin on inside out, a patch of green that was too dark, a streak of red running in bruise purple, a lot of sick gray white in between, he looked like he’d had a heart attack out there. His eyes were rolled up into his head, his mouth was sprung open and his tongue was out, but he was smiling. Really a dude who’d shot his wad. The captain wasn’t too pleased about my having seen that.”

‘Bob Stokes of Newsweek told me this: In the big Marine Hospital in Danang they have what is called the “White Lie Ward”, where they bring some of the worst cases, the ones who can be saved but who will never be the same again. A young Marine was carried in, still unconscious and full of morphine, and his legs were gone. As he was being carried into the ward, he came out briefly and saw a Catholic chaplain standing over him.

“Father,” he said, “am I all right?”

The chaplain didn’t know what to say. “You’ll have to talk about that with the doctors, son.”

“Father, are my legs okay?”

“Yes,” the chaplain said. “Sure.”

By the next afternoon the shock had worn off and the boy knew all about it. He was lying in his cot when the chaplain came by.

“Father,” the Marine said, “I’d like to ask you for something.”

“What, son?”

“I’d like to have that cross.” And he pointed to the tiny silver insignia on the chaplain’s lapel.

“Of couse,” the shaplain said. “But why?”

“Well, it was the first thing I saw when I came to yesterday, and I’d like to have it.”

The chaplain removed the cross and handed it to him. The Marine held it tightly in his fist and looked at the chaplain.

“You lied to me, Father,” he said. “You cocksucker. You lied to me.”’

The Guy Quote – Carl Jung

Founder of analytical psychiatry, Jung was the first to view the human psyche as “by nature religious”. He is also famous for his research into dream analysis. As well as his own clinic, he also explored Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology and sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Many psychological concepts were first proposed by the Swiss-born doctor, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and synchronicity. He collaborated – and then had a massive falling out – with Freud (more here, and pictures of the two of them hanging about in the slideshow below come from here) and was fascinated by Nietzche. While doing all of that, he also studied masonry, to balance out his thinking. All in all an amazing guy.

One of my favourite things about him is that, for someone who is such a star in a field often pigeonholed as the very definition of sober analysis and the pursuit of the rational, he was fascinated by mysticism (and saw spirits as a child, as well as having shaman-y leanings) and had a crazy episode in his late 30s which inspired him to write The Red Book. When he and Freud had a massive barney, Jung found the end of their father-son relationship so traumatic he had prophetic(?) dreams about a mighty flood washing over Europe – this just before the First World War broke out.

It would do too great a disservice to him to attempt to summarise his core beliefs myself – and I’d be way out of my depth – but use this page and this one to find out more and get to other links (this page is fun too). In the mean time… enjoy The Guy Quotes.

ps – if you like this sort of thing, I’ve done other similar posts which you can find listed here.

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Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.

(on being 36 yrs old) The time is a critical one, for it marks the beginning of the second half of life, when a metanoia, a mental transformation, not infrequently occurs.

An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.

Midlife is the time to let go of an overdominant ego and to contemplate the deeper significance of human existence.

Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.

Image is psyche.

One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games.

I have never since entirely freed myself of the impression that this life is a segment of existence which is enacted in a three-dimensional boxlike universe especially set up for it.

The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ — all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness — that I myself am the enemy who must be loved — what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.

We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

Astrology is assured of recognition from psychology, without further restrictions, because astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.

A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon.

Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.

If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.

In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.

The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.

I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions – not about anything, really. I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation or something I do not know.

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.

I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense— he is “collective man”— one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind.

It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.

Deep down, below the surface of the average man’s conscience, he hears a voice whispering, “There is something not right,” no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or moral code.

If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.

The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

Words are animals, alive with a will of their own.

The true leader is always led.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.

Sensation tell us a thing is.
Thinking tell us what it is this thing is.
Feeling tells us what this thing is to us.

The personality is seldom, in the beginning, what it will be later on. For this reason the possibility of enlarging it exists, at least during the first half of life. The enlargement may be affected through an accretion from without, by new vital contents finding their way into the personality from outside and being assimilated. In this way a considerable increase in personality may be experienced. We therefore tend to assume that this increase comes only from without, thus justifying the prejudice that one becomes a personality by stuffing into oneself as much as possible from outside. But the more assiduously we follow this recipe, and the more stubbornly we believe that all increase has to come from without, the greater becomes our inner poverty. Therefore, if some great idea takes hold of us from outside, we must understand that it takes hold of us only because something in us responds to it and goes out to meet it. Richness of mind consists in mental receptivity, not in the accumulation of possessions. What comes to us from outside, and, for that matter, everything that rises up from within, can only be made our own if we are capable of an inner amplitude equal to that of the incoming content. Real increase of personality means consciousness of an enlargement that flows from inner sources. Without psychic depth we can never be adequately related to the magnitude of our object. It has therefore been said quite truly that a man grows with the greatness of his task. But he must have within himself the capacity to grow; otherwise even the most difficult task is of no benefit to him. More likely he will be shattered by it.

The Guy Quote – Christopher Hitchens (RIP)

Woke to the sad news that Christopher Hitchens has passed away. Since his diagnosis with oesophageal cancer he wrote fearlessly and frankly about what he faced. But never, ever forget that before he “passed into the land of malady” (and also after) he was a fabulous polemicist and one of the leading voices of secularism. So as well as the quotes I suggest you read a tribute to him by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, for whom he wrote for many years. Do take time to discover the rest of his career though, because you should be defined by how you live, not what kills you, and if you don’t happen to agree with what he says, he’ll at least make you think. There’s an excellent obituary from The Guardian here and a full profile on Wikipedia – get stuck in.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frankgraceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly. (VanityFair.com)

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“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

“[O]wners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”

“Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”

“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

“The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that ‘if English was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.”

“What do you most value in your friends? Their continued existence.”

“To ‘choose’ dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”

“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”

“Organised religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”

“Nothing optional–from homosexuality to adultery–is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate. As Shakespeare put it in ‘King Lear’, the policeman who lashes the whore has a hot need to use her for the very offense for which he plies the lash.”

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

“Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.”

“You should be nicer to him,’ a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favoured boy. ‘He has no friends.’ This, I realised with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.”

“She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”

“Everything about Christianity is contained in the pathetic image of ‘the flock.”

“Your least favorite virtue, or nominee for the most overrated one? Faith. Closely followed—in view of the overall shortage of time—by patience.”

“Your favorite virtue? An appreciation for irony.”

“How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.”

“There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.”

“What is your idea of earthly happiness? To be vindicated in my own lifetime.”

“The finest fury is the most controlled.”

“Cheap booze is a false economy.”

“The search for Nirvana, like the search for Utopia or the end of history or the classless society, is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle.”

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.”

“How is the United States at once the most conservative and commercial AND the most revolutionary society on Earth?”

“As the cleansing ocean closes over bin Laden’s carcass, may the earth lie lightly on the countless graves of those he sentenced without compunction to be burned alive or dismembered in the street.”

“Where would you like to live? In a state of conflict or a conflicted state.”

“I have not been able to discover whether there exists a precise French equivalent for the common Anglo-American expression ‘killing time.’ It’s a very crass and breezy expression, when you ponder it for a moment, considering that time, after all, is killing us.”

“Your ideal authors ought to pull you from the foundering of your previous existence, not smilingly guide you into a friendly and peaceable harbor.”

“How ya doin’?’ I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, ‘A bit early to tell.”

“There either is a god or there is not; there is a ‘design’ or not.”

“Forget it. Never explain; never apologise. You can either write posthumously or you can’t.”

“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.”

“There can be no progress without head-on confrontation.”

“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.”

“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can’t make old friends.”

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? (Just to give you an idea, Proust’s reply was ‘To be separated from Mama.’) I think that the lowest depth of misery ought to be distinguished from the highest pitch of anguish. In the lower depths come enforced idleness, sexual boredom, and/or impotence. At the highest pitch, the death of a friend or even the fear of the death of a child.”

“In a Pyongyang restaurant, don’t ever ask for a doggie bag.”

“My little ankle-strap sandals curled with embarrassment for her.”

“And now behold what this pious old trout hath wrought.”

“The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.”

“Part of the function of memory is to forget; the omni-retentive mind will break down and produce at best an idiot savant who can recite a telephone book, and at worst a person to whom every grudge and slight is as yesterday’s.”

What word or expression do you most overuse? Re-reading a collection of my stuff, I was rather startled to find that it was ‘perhaps.”

“I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator – that’s beyond my conceit.”

“So this is where all the vapid talk about the ‘soul’ of the universe is actually headed. Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The ‘vacuum’ will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labor of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover. An awful embarrassment awaits the British if they do not declare for a republic based on verifiable laws and principles, both political and scientific.”

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Add-ons:

“Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner, rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed on by some Apache transvestite”.

The Guy Quote – Douglas Adams

He wrote The Meaning of Liff (one of my favourite books as a youth), but what Douglas Adams is really famous for is the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. The book (and radio and TV series – sadly he died whilst working on a script for the film) fired my imagination and poked fun – gently, satirically – at everything from bureaucracy to religion. Some of his stuff reads more like an extended koan than a science fiction book. I used to try and write like him. Still do, sometimes.

Adams was a Character in the best way. A conservationist, atheist and environmentalist, a lover of fast cars and technology, he seemed blessed with a perspective that could find the absurd in our daily lives and pick out themes for the future. Richard Dawkins dedicated his book, The God Delusion (2006), to Adams, writing on his death that, “science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.

A member of Footlights whilst at Cambridge, he found it hard on graduating to get his style right, so had a variety of jobs to make ends meet – hospital porter, barn builder, chicken shed cleaner, even bodyguard to the Qatari royal family – before finding his stride. Maybe that helped him develop his sense of the absurd. There’s loads of stuff on him here (where I got the picture below) and here.

Next year would be his 60th birthday, and it’s nearly Christmas, so what better time than now (or whenever you happen to be reading this) to celebrate his wit and wisdom.

It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

We don’t have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.

We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.

He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realised there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.

Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.

Life… is like a grapefruit. It’s orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.

“Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word ‘safe’ that I wasn’t previously aware of.” [as Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers Guide...]

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.

Even he, to whom most things that most people would think were pretty smart were pretty dumb, thought it was pretty smart.

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarise: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.

If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.

 

There are some people you like immediately, some whom you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick.

So this is it,” said Arthur, “We are going to die.”
“Yes,” said Ford, “except… no! Wait a minute!” He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. “What’s this switch?” he cried.
“What? Where?” cried Arthur, twisting round.
“No, I was only fooling,” said Ford, “we are going to die after all.

I’d far rather be happy than right any day.

 

Don’t Panic.

 

The Guy Quote – Pablo Picasso

It’s a fair to assume you will already have heard of Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. You might not know all of his middle names, but you can be forgiven that.

A Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, he was undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

The enormous body of Picasso’s work remains, and the legend lives on—a tribute to the vitality of the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombre…piercing” eyes who superstitiously believed that work would keep him alive. For nearly 80 of his 91 years Picasso devoted himself to an artistic production that contributed significantly to and paralleled the whole development of modern art in the 20th century.
Picasso’s art from the time of the Demoiselles was radical in nature, virtually no 20th-century artist could escape his influence.

Moreover, while other masters such as Matisse or Braque tended to stay within the bounds of a style they had developed in their youth, Picasso continued to be an innovator into the last decade of his life. This led to misunderstanding and criticism both in his lifetime and since, and it was only in the 1980s that his last paintings began to be appreciated both in themselves and for their profound influence on the rising generation of young painters. Since Picasso was able from the 1920s to sell works at very high prices, he could keep most of his oeuvre in his own collection.

At the time of his death (1973) he owned some 50,000 works in various media from every period of his career, which passed into possession of the French state and his heirs. Their exhibition and publication has served to reinforce the highest estimates of Picasso’s astonishing powers of invention and execution over a span of more than 80 years.

There’s loads of stuff on his actual art here – http://www.picasso.com/ – and a nice little biog here – http://www.biography.com/people/pablo-picasso-9440021 – but before you disappear I hope you’ll enjoy some of his quotes:

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What is a face, really? Its own photo? Its make-up? Or is it a face as painted by such or such painter? That which is in front? Inside? Behind? And the rest? Doesn’t everyone look at himself in his own particular way? Deformations simply do not exist.

Action is the foundational key to all success.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought.

Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?

Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs.

The older you get the stronger the wind gets – and it’s always in your face.

The people who make art their business are mostly imposters.

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

Art is a lie that makes us realise truth.

Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.

Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

Disciples be damned. It’s not interesting. It’s only the masters that matter. Those who create.

Everything you can imagine is real.

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.

God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things.

One must act in painting as in life, directly.

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.

I do not seek. I find.

The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.

I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.

The genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima.

I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.

The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is, the less there is.

When you start with a portrait and search for a pure form, a clear volume, through successive eliminations, you arrive inevitably at the egg. Likewise, starting with the egg and following the same process in reverse, one finishes with the portrait.

Why do two colours, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? no. Just as one can never learn how to paint.

Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock.

You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.

You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.

Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.

The chief enemy of creativity is “good” sense.

Every positive value has its price in negative terms… the genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima.

Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.

The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?

There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.

They ought to put out the eyes of painters as they do goldfinches in order that they can sing better.

To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.

To draw you must close your eyes and sing.

To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.

To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved.

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.

We don’t grow older, we grow riper.

We must not discriminate between things. Where things are concerned there are no class distinctions. We must pick out what is good for us where we can find it.

Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.

It takes a long time to become young.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Love is the greatest refreshment in life.

My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.

Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.

One does a whole painting for one peach and people think just the opposite – that particular peach is but a detail.

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.

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[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – Kurt Vonnegut

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

Blending satire, gallows humour and science fiction, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the twentieth century’s great pacifists. You’ll understand why when you know about his time in WWII as soldier and prisoner of war.

He was captured in 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge, where he was an an infantry private. His regiment got cut off from the rest of the army. As he said: “The other American divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren’t much good against tanks…”

Imprisoned in Dresden, Vonnegut was chosen as a leader of the POWs because he spoke some German. After telling the German guards “…just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came…” he was beaten and had his position as leader taken away. While a prisoner, he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which destroyed most of the city.

Vonnegut was one of a group of American prisoners of war to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used by the Germans as an ad hoc detention facility. The Germans called the building Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), which the Allied POWs adopted as the name for their prison. Vonnegut said the aftermath of the attack was “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.” This experience was the inspiration for his famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a central theme in at least six of his other books.

In Slaughterhouse-Five he recalls that the remains of the city resembled the surface of the moon, and that the Germans put the surviving POWs to work, breaking into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for mass burial, while German civilians cursed and threw rocks at them. Vonnegut eventually remarked, “There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes.”

Vonnegut was liberated by Red Army troops in May 1945 at the Saxony-Czechoslovakian border. Upon returning to America, he was awarded a Purple Heart for what he called a “ludicrously negligible wound,” later writing that he was given the decoration after suffering a case of “frostbite”.

When he got home, he jobbed around as a writer whilst studying for an anthropology degree. Then carried on writing his own stories on the side. In the mid 1950s, he worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and left.

He was on the verge of giving up writing when his novel, Cat’s Cradle, became a bestseller, and he started Slaughterhouse Five – one of the most important American books of the 20th century.

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A word on “so it goes”. The amazing thing about “so it goes”, the repeated refrain from Slaughterhouse Five, isn’t so much its plainness as the way it can pack so much emotion — and dismissal of emotion — into three simple, world-weary words. It neatly encompasses a whole way of life. More crudely put: “Shit happens, and it’s awful, but it’s also okay. We deal with it because we have to.” Damn right.

Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armour and attacked a hot fudge sundae.

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.

If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!

Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.

Human beings will be happier – not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.

I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.

All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true.
From “Slaughterhouse Five

Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before… He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.
From “Cat’s Cradle

One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
From “Cold Turkey

Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
From “Cold Turkey

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
From “Cold Turkey

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
From “A Man without a Country

Humor is an almost physiological response to fear.
From “A Man without a Country

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’
A Man without a Country

I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.
From “A Man without a Country

1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.
From “Breakfast of Champions

New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.
From “Breakfast of Champions

The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.
From “Breakfast of Champions

Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.
From “Breakfast of Champions

I can have oodles of charm when I want to.
From “Breakfast of Champions

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.
From “Cat’s Cradle

Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.
From “Cat’s Cradle

Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’ Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand.
From “Cat’s Cradle

Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
From “Cold Turkey

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
From “God Bless You Mr Rosewater

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.
From “Hocus Pocus

During my three years in Vietnam, I certainly heard plenty of last words by dying American footsoldiers. Not one of them, however, had illusions that he had somehow accomplished something worthwhile in the process of making the Supreme Sacrifice.
From “Hocus Pocus

Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.
From an interview on Mcsweeneys.net

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
From “Mother Night

There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.
From “Mother Night

Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.
From “Hocus Pocus

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
From “Sirens of Titan

Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her.
From “Slapstick

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.
From “Slaughterhouse Five

All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.
From “Slaughterhouse Five

How nice–to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.
From “Slaughterhouse Five

Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’
From “Timequake” (his last novel)

All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.
From “Timequake

EDIT: An excellent late addition, spotted by Charlie:
“Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.”

(thanks for the idea to do Kurt, Adam – good shout!)
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[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – Richard Harris

“Richard Harris may no longer be a wildcat, but he is certainly not a pussycat. Perhaps the description, amiable tiger, will do.” Lisa Hand, Journalist.

A genuine star of cinema on screen and a fiery hell raiser off screen, Richard St John Harris was born in 1930 in Limerick, Ireland, to a farming family. He was an excellent rugby player and had a strong passion for literature. Unfortunately, a bout of tuberculosis as a teenager ended his aspirations to a rugby career, but he became fascinated with the theater and skipped a local dance one night to attend a performance of “Henry IV”. He was hooked and went on to learn his craft at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

His breakthrough performance was as the quintessential “angry young man” in the sensational drama This Sporting Life (1963), which scored him an Oscar nomination. He had a few ups and downs in his career. His last role was as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) after his then 11-year-old granddaughter threatened never to speak to him again if he didn’t.

Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Burton were drinking buddies from the early 1970s till Burton’s Death. Harris struggled with alcoholism – gave up completely for a long time, then in 1991, a decade before his death, went back to drinking Guinness. It’s interesting, normally I search around for various quotes on and by these guys, but the ones on Harris all seem slightly maudlin – I wish I’d been able to find more bright ones. Still, he did comes up with some goodies.

While living in England, he popped out for milk and when seeing the paper he noticed that Young Munster were playing in Thomond Park, Co. Limerick, Harris got the next available flight to Ireland. He spent the following three weeks on a drinking binge. All was unknown at the time to his wife, who had no idea where he was. When he finally returned to England, he rang the doorbell of his house. His wife answered the door and before she had a chance to say anything, he said, “Well, why didn’t you pay the ransom?”.

He had little time for fools. One apocryphal story has an American wittering on to Harris about his own third-generation Irish heritage or somesuch, but using a soft ‘c’, pronouncing celt ‘selt': “I’m a celt just like you,” says the American. “No sir, you are a sunt,” replies Harris.

I would give up all the accolades – people have occasionally written and said nice things – of my showbiz career to play just once for the senior Munster team. I will never win an Oscar now, but even if I did I would swap it instantly for one sip of champagne from the Heineken Cup.

Someone asked me once “What is the difference between Tom Cruise now and you when you were a major star?” I said there is a great difference. Look at a photograph of me from the old days and I’m going to one of my film premieres with a bottle of vodka in my hand. Tom Cruise has a bottle of Evian water. That’s the difference – a bottle of Evian water.

No one trusts me any more. I spent half the movie [Maigret (1988) (TV)] arguing with people and I was accused of causing big on-set rows. But what they won’t tell you is I fought for [author Georges Simenon]. I fought for the maintenance of quality. I don’t believe in lying down on the job. I’ve seen these so-called “nice” actors. Very able fellows like Ian McKellen and Kenneth Branagh. But they’re like bank managers. So sweet and careful. Who needs them? We are suffering a plague of good taste. Give me Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke any day. They project danger. That’s what makes acting – and life – interesting.

[on his life] I wish I could remember it.

[on turning seventy] I can be eccentric now and get away with it.

I have no friends in this business. I don’t go to their clubs, don’t go to their hangouts and don’t mix at all. I am part of the business but I am apart from it. If anyone ever asks my advice, I tell them, ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously.’

No one gave me anything. I fought TB, I fought the devil. But I made people laugh. I don’t want immortality. I’ve lived it all. I’ve done it all.

What I hate about our business today is the elitism. So-called stars ride in private jets and have bodyguards and dietitians and beauticians.Tom Cruise is a midget and he has eight bodyguards all 6 feet 10, which makes him even more diminutive. It’s an absolute joke.

I hate movies. They’re a waste of time. I could be in a pub having more fun talking to idiots rather than sitting down and watching idiots perform.

I was a sinner. I slugged some people. I hurt many people. And it’s true, I never looked back to see the casualties.

I consider a great part of my career a total failure. I went after the wrong things – got caught in the 60s. I picked pictures that were way below my talent. Just to have fun.

I made films I did not want to see, I took planes to places I didn’t want to visit, I bought houses I didn’t live in. I was numb, and it didn’t seem to matter.

If ever I was miscast in my life, it was in the role of husband. I was the worst husband in the world.

When I’m in trouble, I’m an Irishman. When I turn in a good performance, I’m an Englishman.

When I worked with Julie Andrews, I think I experienced the greatest hate I ever had for any human being.

Jesus is just a word I use to swear with.

Marriage is a custom brought about by women who then proceed to live off men and destroy them, completely enveloping the man in a destructive cocoon or eating him away like a poisonous fungus on a tree.

I formed a new group called Alcoholics-Unanimous. If you don’t feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you.

I’m not interested in reputation or immortality or things like that…I don’t care what I’m remembered for. I don’t care if I’m remembered. I don’t care if I’m not remembered. I don’t care why I’m remembered. I genuinely don’t care.

Really, catching TB was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me

Actors take themselves so seriously. Samuel Beckett is important, James Joyce is – they left something behind them. But even Laurence Olivier is totally unimportant. Acting is actually very simple, but actors try to elevate it to an art.

[on Michael Caine] … over-fat, flatulent 62-year-old windbag, a master of inconsequence masquerading as a guru …

It worked too well. I was taking this woman out to dinner afterwards and couldn’t zip up my trousers. I wouldn’t use Viagra again. Your heart has to be good to take it

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[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote (extended) – William Faulkner

Nothing Ever Happens

One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours — all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.

In spring of 1947, the English department of the University of Mississippi had William Faulkner address one class a day for a week. The teacher of each class was barred from attending the sessions. Faulkner spent the entire time answering questions from students.

This article originally came from HERE. There’s a decent bio of Faulkner – who won the Nobel prize for literature – here if you want to find out more.


.

Q: Which of your books do you consider best?

WILLIAM FAULKNER: As I Lay Dying was easier and more interesting. The Sound and The Fury still continues to move me. Go Down, Moses – I started it as a collection of short stories. After I reworked it, it became seven different facets of one field. It is simply a collection of short stories.

Q: In what form does the initial idea of a story come to you?

WF: It depends. The Sound and The Fury began with the impression of a little girl playing in a branch and getting her panties wet. This idea was attractive to me, and from it grew the novel.

Q: How do you go about choosing your words?

WF: In the heat of putting it down you might put down some extra words. If you rework it, and the words still ring true, leave them in.

Q: What reason did you have for arranging the chapters of The Wild Palms as you did?

WF: It was merely a mechanical device to bring out the story I was telling, which was one of two types of love. I did send both stories to the publisher separately, but they were rejected because they were too short. So I alternated the chapters of them.

Q: How much do you know about how a book will turn out before you start writing it?

WF: Very little. The character develops with the book, and the book with the writing of it.

Q: Why do you present the picture you do of our area?

WF: I have seen no other. I try to tell the truth of man. I use imagination when I have to and cruelty as a last resort. The area is incidental. That’s just all I know.

Q: Since you do represent this picture, don’t you think it gives a wrong impression?

WF: Yes, and I’m sorry. I feel I’m written out. I don’t think I’ll write much more. You only have so much steam and if you don’t use it up in writing it’ll get off by itself.

Q: Did you write Sanctuary at the boilers just to draw attention to yourself?

WF: The basic reason was that I needed money. Two or three books that had already been published were not selling and I was broke. I wrote Sanctuary to sell. After I sent it to the publisher, he informed me, “Good God, we can’t print this. We’d both be put in jail.” The blood and guts period hadn’t arrived yet. My other books began selling, so I got the galleys of Sanctuary back from the publisher for correction. I knew that I would either have to rework the whole thing or throw it away. I was obligated to the publisher financially and morally and upon continued insistence I agreed to have it published. I reworked the whole thing and had to pay for having the new galleys made. For these reasons, I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.

Q: Should one re-write?

WF: No. If you are going to write, write something new.

Q: How do you find time to write?

WF: You can always find time to write. Anybody who says he can’t is living under false pretenses. To that extent depend on inspiration. Don’t wait. When you have an inspiration put it down. Don’t wait until later and when you have more time and then try to recapture the mood and add flourishes. You can never recapture the mood with the vividness of its first impression.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

WF: A hack writer can tell. As I Lay Dying took six weeks. The Sound and The Fury took three years.

Q: I understand you can keep two stories going at one time. If that is true, is it advisable?

WF: It’s all right to keep two stories going at the same time. But don’t write for deadlines. Write just as long as you have something to say.

Q: What is the best training for writing? Courses in writing? Or what?

WF: Read, read, read! Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read! You’ll absorb it. Write. If it is good you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.

Q: Is it good to copy a style?

WF: If you have something to say, use your own style: it will choose its own type of telling, its own style. What you have liked will show through in your style.

Q: Do you realize your standing in England?

WF: I know that I am better thought of abroad than here. I don’t read any reviews. The only people with time to read are women and rich people. More Europeans read than do Americans.

Q: Why do so many people prefer Sanctuary to As I Lay Dying?

WF: That’s another phase of our American nature. The former just has more commercial color.

Q: Are we degenerating?

WF: No. Reading is something that is in a way necessary like heaven or a clean collar, but not important. We want culture but don’t want to go to any trouble to get it. We prefer reading condensations.

Q: That sounds like a slam on our way of living.

WF: Our way of living needs slamming. Everybody’s aim is to help people, turn them to heaven. You write to help people. The existence of this class in creative writing is good in that you take time off to learn to write and you are in a period where time is your most valuable possession.

Q: What is the best age for writing?

WF: For fiction the best age is from 35-45. Your fire is not all used up and you know more. Fiction is slower. For poetry the best age is from 17 to 26. Poetry writing is more like a skyrocket with all your fire condensed in one rocket.

Q: How about Shakespeare?

WF: There are exceptions.

Q: Why did you quit writing poetry?

WF: When I found poetry not suited to what I had to say, I changed my medium. At 21 I thought my poetry very good. At 22 I began to change my mind. At 23 I quit. I use a poetic quality in my writing. After all, prose is poetry.

Q: Do you read a good bit?

WF: Up until 15 years ago I read everything I could get a hold of. I don’t even know fiction writers’ names much now. I have a few favorites I read over and over again.

Q: Has “The Great American Novel” been written yet?

WF: People will read Huck Finn for a long time. However, Twain has never written a novel. His work is too loose. We’ll assume that a novel has set rules. His is a mass of stuff – just a series of events.

Q: I understand you use a minimum of restrictions.

WF: I let the novel write itself – no length or style compunctions.

Q: What do you think of movie scriptwriting?

WF: A person is rehired the next year on the basis of how many times his name appeared on the screen the previous year. Much bribery ensues. In the old days they could give a producer three hundred pounds of sugar and be reasonable sure of getting their names on the screen. They really fight about it and for it.

Q: To what extent did you write the script for Slave Ship?

WF: I’m a motion picture doctor. When they find a section of a script they don’t like I rewrite it and continue to rewrite it until they are satisfied. I reworked sections in this picture. I don’t write scripts. I don’t know enough about it.

Q: It is rumored that once you asked your boss in Hollywood if it would be permissible for you to go home to work. He gave his approval. Thinking you meant Beverly Hills, he called you at that address and found that by home you had meant Oxford, Mississippi. Is there anything to this story?

WF: That story’s better than mine. I had been doing some patching for Howard Hawks on my first job. When the job was over, Howard suggested that I stay and pick up some of that easy money. I had got $6,000 for my work. That was more money than I had ever seen, and I thought it was more than was in Mississippi. I told him I would telegraph him when I was ready to go to work again. I stayed in Oxford a year, and sure enough the money was gone. I wired him and within a week I got a letter from William B. Hawks, his brother and my agent. Enclosed was a check for a week’s work less agent’s commission. These continued for a year with them thinking I was in Hollywood. Once a friend of mine came back from England after two years stay and found 104 checks enclosed in letters that had been pushed under his door. They are showing a little more efficiency now, so those things don’t happen much anymore.

Q: How do you like Hollywood?

WF: I don’t like the climate, the people, their way of life. Nothing ever happens and then one morning you wake up and find that you are 65. I prefer Florida.

Q: On your walking trip through Europe how did you find everything?

WF: At that time the French were impoverished, the Germans naturally servile, I didn’t find too much.

Q: Did your perspective change after travel to Europe and to other places?

WF: No. When you are young you are sensitive but don’t know it. Later you seem to know it. A wider view is not caused by what you have seen but by war itself. Some can survive anything and get something good out of it, but the masses get no good from war. War is a dreadful price to pay for experience. About the only good coming from war is that it does allow men to be freer with womenfolks without being blacklisted for it.

Q: What effect did the R.C.A.F. have on you?

WF: I like to believe I was tough enough that it didn’t hurt me too much. It didn’t help much. I hope I have lived down the harm it did me.

Q: Which World War do you think was tougher?

WF: Last war we lived in constant fear of the thing catching on fire. We didn’t have to watch all those instruments and dials. All we did was pray the place didn’t burn up. We didn’t have parachutes. Not much choice. World War II must have been tougher.

Q: Is association (such as a boarding house) good or bad as a background for writing?

WF: Neither good nor bad. You might store the facts in mind for future reference in case you ever want to write about a boarding house.

Q: How much should one notice printed criticism?

WF: It is best not to pay too much attention to a printed criticism. It is a trade tool for making money. A few critics are sound and worth reading, but not many.

Q: Whom do you consider the five most important contemporary writers?

WF: 1. Thomas Wolfe. 2. Dos Passos. 3. Ernest Hemingway. 4. Willa Cather. 5. John Steinbeck.

Q: If you don’t think it too personal, how do you rank yourself with contemporary writers?

WF: 1. Thomas Wolfe: he had much courage and wrote as if he didn’t have long to live; 2. William Faulkner; 3. Dos Passos; 4. Ernest Hemingway: he has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb. He has never been known to use a word that might cause a reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used. 5. John Steinbeck: at one time I had great hopes for him – now I don’t know.

Q: What one obstacle do you consider greatest in writing?

WF: I’m not sure I understand what you mean. What do you want to do? Write something that will sell?

Q: I mean whether the obstacle is internal conflict or external conflict.

WF: Internal conflict is the first obstacle to pass. Satisfy yourself with what you are writing. First be sure you have something to say. Then say it and say it right.

Q: Mr. Faulkner, do you mind our repeating anything we have heard outside of class?

WF: No. It was true yesterday, is true today, and will be true tomorrow.

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[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – Robert Mitchum

Mr Film Noir himself, Robert Mitchum is a true original, he defined the anti-hero. When he was 12, his mother sent Mitchum to live with his grandparents in Felton, Delaware, where he was promptly expelled from his middle school for scuffling with a principal. A year later, in 1930, he moved in with his older sister, in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. After being expelled from Haaran High School, he left his sister and traveled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking a number of jobs including as a ditch-digger for the Civilian Conservation Corps and as a professional boxer.

Mitchum had all sorts of adventures during his years as one of the Depression era’s “wild boys of the road.” At age 14 in Savannah, Georgia, he was arrested for vagrancy and put on a local chain gang. By Mitchum’s own account, he escaped and returned to his family in Delaware. It was during this time, while recovering from injuries that nearly lost him a leg, that he met the woman he would marry, a teenaged Dorothy Spence. He soon went back on the road, eventually riding the rails to California.

He didn’t get stuck into acting straight away, but when he did, he nailed it. He started out as an extra, then a baddy, then a cowboy. After serving in World War Two, he came back and won acclaim in films noir. Then on September 1, 1948, after a string of successful films for RKO, Mitchum and actress Lila Leeds were arrested for possession of marijuana. The arrest was the result of a sting operation designed to capture other Hollywood partiers as well, but Mitchum and Leeds did not receive the tip-off. After serving a week at the county jail, (he described the experience to a reporter as being “like Palm Springs, but without the riff-raff”) Mitchum spent 43 days (February 16 to March 30) at a Castaic, California, prison farm, with Life magazine photographers right there taking photos of him mopping up in his prison uniform. It didn’t hurt his career.

Mitchum was the original baddy in Cape Fear. Oh, and he was also a singer and composer. Even had a calypso album out at one point. He always shrugged off his success, was quite cynical about movies, walked off the set from a few. I always liked him. Quite funny to hear what he says about other actors – doesn’t hold back an iota.

The only difference between me and my fellow actors is that I’ve spent more time in jail.

I gave up being serious about making pictures around the time I made a film with Greer Garson and she took a hundred and twenty-five takes to say no.

I started out to be a sex fiend but couldn’t pass the physical.

Movies bore me; especially my own.

I’ve still got the same attitude I had when I started. I haven`t changed anything but my underwear.

“Listen. I got three expressions: looking left, looking right and looking straight ahead.” (on his acting talents)

People think I have an interesting walk. Hell, I`m just trying to hold my gut in.

(on press stories) “They’re all true – booze, brawls, broads, all true. Make up some more if you want to.”

When I drop dead and they rush to the drawer, there’s going to be nothing in it but a note saying ‘later’.

I never take any notice of reviews – unless a critic has thought up some new way of describing me. That old one about my lizard eyes and anteater nose and the way I sleep my way through pictures is so hackneyed now.

Years ago, I saved up a million dollars from acting, a lot of money in those days, and I spent it all on a horse farm in Tucson. Now when I go down there, I look at that place and I realize my whole acting career adds up to a million dollars worth of horse shit.

I have two acting styles: with and without a horse.

Every two or three years, I knock off for a while. That way I’m always the new girl in the whorehouse.

I never changed anything, except my socks and my underwear. And I never did anything to glorify myself or improve my lot. I took what came and did the best I could with it.

You’ve got to realize that a Steve McQueen performance lends itself to monotony.

Not that I`m a complete whore, understand. There are movies I won’t do for any amount. I turned down Patton (1970) and I turned down Dirty Harry (1971). Movies that piss on the world. If I’ve got five bucks in my pocket, I don’t need to make money that f***ing way, daddy.

John Wayne had four inch lifts in his shoes. He had the overheads on his boat accommodated to fit him. He had a special roof put in his station wagon. The son of a bitch, they probably buried him in his goddamn lifts.

There just isn’t any pleasing some people. The trick is to stop trying.

Asked his opinion of the Vietnam War in 1968: “If they won’t listen to reason over there, just kill ‘em. Nuke ‘em all.”

Sure I was glad to see John Wayne win the Oscar … I’m always glad to see the fat lady win the Cadillac on TV, too.

I’ve survived because I work cheap and don`t take up too much time.

You know what the average Robert Mitchum fan is? He’s full of warts and dandruff and he`s probably got a hernia too, but he sees me up there on the screen and he thinks if that bum can make it, I can be president.

When asked why in his mid-sixties he took on the arduous task of starring in an 18-hour mini-series “The Winds of War” (1983) (mini): “It promised a year of free lunches.”

How do I keep fit? I lay down a lot.

(Regarding three-time co-star Deborah Kerr) “The best, my favorite… Life would be kind if I could live it with Deborah around”.

Asked his opinion of Method actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson: “They are all small.”

“Stars today are just masturbation images.” (1983)

People make too much of acting. You are not helping anyone like being a doctor or even a musician. In the final analysis, you have exalted no one but yourself.

These kids only want to talk about acting method and motivation; in my day all we talked about was screwing and overtime.

I know production values are better, but are the scripts, are the pictures? The thing is, it`s a hell of a lot more work, and I don’t see overall where the films are any better, really.

I often regret my good reviews, because there is no point in doing something I know to be inferior and then I find I have come off the best in the film. Wouldn’t you find that worrying?

“I never will believe there is such a thing as a great actor.” (1948)

I got a great life out of the movies. I’ve been all over the world and met the most fantastic people. I don’t really deserve all I’ve gotten. It`s a privileged life, and I know it.

Sometimes, I think I ought to go back and do at least one thing really well. But again, indolence will probably cause me to hesitate about finding a place to start. Part of that indolence perhaps is due to shyness because I’m a natural hermit. I’ve been in constant motion of escape all my life. I never really found the right corner to hide in.

Up there on the screen you`re thirty feet wide, your eyeball is six feet high, but it doesn’t mean that you really amount to anything or have anything important to say.

“Where are the real artists? Today it’s four-barrelled carburettors and that’s it.” (1967)

The Rin Tin Tin method is good enough for me. That dog never worried about motivation or concepts and all that junk. (1968)

I only read the reviews of my films if they`re amusing. Six books have been written about me but I`ve only met two of the authors. They get my name and birthplace wrong in the first paragraph. From there it`s all downhill.

(on working with Faye Dunaway) When I got here I walked in thinking I was a star and then I found I was supposed to do everything the way she says. Listen, I’m not going to take any temperamental whims from anyone, I just take a long walk and cool off. If I didn’t do that, I know I`d wind up dumping her on her derrière.

When asked what he looked for in a script before accepting a job, he said, “Days off.”

(on Steve McQueen) He sure don`t bring much brains to the party, that kid.

(on Jane Russell) Miss Russell was a very strong character. Very good-humoured when she wasn’t being cranky.

When Mitchum, who served time for marijuana possession, was asked what it was like in jail, he replied, “It’s like Palm Springs without the riff-raff.”

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[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

The Guy Quote – Ahab, Melville and the Zep

Moby Dick was first published in 1851, but the book wasn’t recognised as a masterpiece until many years after Herman Melville was dead.

The book is beautifully written, but beauty can be cruel, unmerciful – there’s no soft edge to it. Powerful and lyrical, there’s a sort of inevitability to Ahab’s rage, railing at his fate as he gets closer and closer to the edge of reason. While the sea suffuses every page – Melville is (quite rightly) in awe of it. These weren’t day sailors, they were men who fought the elements every minute of every in brutal, unmitigating combat.

Plus, Ahab was nuts, mad at the world. His own brother had pushed him overboard so he could steal his girl, and in the process, Ahab’s leg had been chomped off by Moby Dick. There’s your motive right there, bub.

So, in no particular order (but my favourite at the end):

These are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.

Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them.

However baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.

By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.

At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a sharp, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor.

“Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”

Truly to enjoy bodily warmth,some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.

“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”

Ignorance is the parent of fear.

It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment.

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!”

- Moby Dick, Herman Melville

ps – it helps if you shout that last one out loud, shaking your fist at the heavens

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[[pps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

ppps – Led Zep did a song called Moby Dick, with some kick-arse drums: