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]]