Quotes of the Day

In April I began a project intended to add structure my day, since my airline went out of business. Collecting quotes has long been my hobby and I thought one way to indulge my hobby would be to share it with others. Following are 100 days of quotes from writers and others who have inspired me and made me the gift of a larger life. If you are on my email chain you have already seen these.

QUOTES OF THE DAY – #1 – APRIL 16, 2020

“And 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.”

-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life.”

-Senator Alan K. Simpson


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #2 – APRIL 17, 2020


“Truth is mighty & will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this except that it ain’t so.” 

-Mark Twain1

“The way to make people trust-worthy is to trust them.” 

-Ernest Hemingway2

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

-Aldous Huxley3


Quotes are often interesting because of the way they evolve. It may be that quotes, over time, become better versions of themselves. The Hemingway quote is a great example. I have always enjoyed it, but it is almost always misquoted. Most sources will relate it as “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” I like that because it is optimistic and hopeful. 

In fact, Hemingway’s quote, in a letter to Dorothy Connable was a cautionary statement about a man Hemingway considered to be an unscrupulous biographer, Charles Fenton. To capture the true spirit of Hemingway’s quote one should include the next sentence, “The way to make people trust-worthy is to trust them. But this man is not a person that works with that system.” 

1. Mark Twain’s Notebook (Harper & Brothers, 1935.)

2. Letter to Dorothy Connable, La Finca Vigia, February 17, 1953

Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961, edited by Carlos Baker.

(Charles Scribner’s, 1981)

3. Complete Essays of Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays, 1926-1930 Vol. II 

(Ivan R. Dee, 2000)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #3 – APRIL 18, 2020



“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”1

“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying. … If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple f—ing answer.”2

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”3


Anthony Bourdain (June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018) was not a predictable celebrity. He was a sometime drug addict and directionless youth who became the Executive Chef at a well-regarded New York restaurant. His 2000 book Kitchen Confidential became a surprise best-seller and catapulted Bourdain to fame and other media opportunities. Chief among these were No Reservations on the Travel Channel and CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Both shows, focusing on food and travel, revealed Bourdain’s fundamental humanity, humility, decency, and integrity. He was intelligent, broad-minded, and generous.

1. No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach

2. New York Times – retrospective (June 8, 2018)

3. No Reservations – Peru (April 10, 2006)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #4 – APRIL 19, 2020


“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.”

– Albert Camus1

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

-Albert Schweitzer1

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

– Mohandas K. Gandhi1

“Fate often puts all the material for happiness and prosperity into a man’s hands just to see how miserable he can make himself with them.”

– Don Marquis1,2

HAPPINESS, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.”

-Ambrose Bierce3


It is time, already, to address the gorilla in the room of every conversation about quotes. It is just damn difficult to authenticate quotes. For starters, many quotes by their nature, are spontaneous. Many really clever or insightful ones happen in real conversation and are not properly recorded by the listeners for obvious reasons. Do you carry a notebook around in your pocket to jot down the wisdom that comes out of your friends’ mouths? Exactly. My goal here will be to either properly document quotes, or, if the quotes are worthy but can’t be documented, to let you know. These are examples of those.

1. (Undocumented) These four quotes, by Albert Camus, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Don Marquis are widely attributed to these four men. I was unable to find a definitive source for any of them, though. Every single one is in character and could plausibly have been said by the given individual. Doesn’t that sound like Camus? Isn’t that exactly what Gandhi would say? Sure it is. That is the problem with quotes. I would give each of these about 80% credibility, based on my research. Sometimes that’s as good as it gets.

2. I love Don Marquis. You will hear more from him as this goes on. I love his wry humor and skeptical outlook on the world, and, perhaps most of all that he attended my alma mater, Knox College. 

“Donald Robert Perry Marquis (July 29, 1878 – December 29, 1937) was a humorist, journalist, and author. He was variously a novelist, poet, newspaper columnist, and playwright. He is remembered best for creating the characters Archy and Mehitabel, supposed authors of humorous verse. During his lifetime he was equally famous for creating another fictitious character, “the Old Soak,” who was the subject of two books, a hit Broadway play (1922–23), a silent movie (1926) and a talkie (1937).” (Wikipedia)

3. The Cynic’s Dictionary (1906)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #5 – APRIL 20, 2020


“The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.”1

“Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed.”2

“If you love the good thing vitally, enough to give up for it all that one must give up, then you must hate the cheap thing just as hard. I tell you, there is such a thing as creative hate! A contempt that drives you through fire, makes you risk everything and lose everything, makes you a long sight better than you ever knew you could be.”2

“In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions. I did not wish to lose the early ones. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”3

“Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand — a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods — or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.”4


Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American writer who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. (Wikipedia)

1. One of Ours (1922)

2. O Pioneers! (1913)

3. My Antonia (1918)

4. On the Art of Fiction (1920)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #6 – APRIL 21, 2020


“Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering, there are days you’re gonna feel sad, you’re gonna feel angry, you’re gonna be scared. That’s nothing you can choose. But you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It’ll make a world of difference.”

-Pete Docter1


1. Oscar acceptance speech for Best Animated Feature for Inside Out (March 23, 2016)

Peter Hans Docter (born October 9, 1968) has described himself as a “geeky kid from Minnesota who likes to draw cartoons.” He is an American animator, film director, screenwriter, producer, voice actor and chief creative officer of Pixar. He is best known for directing the Pixar animated feature films Monsters, Inc. (2001), Up (2009), and Inside Out (2015). He has been nominated for eight Oscars (two wins thus far for Up and Inside Out – Best Animated Feature).(Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #7 – APRIL 22, 2020


“I tell everybody the Earth’s going to be here no matter what humans do. If we wipe ourselves out, the Earth will keep spinning and keep orbiting the sun. We want to save the world— for us.”

-Bill Nye1

“Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

-Greta Thunberg2

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘What good is it?’ If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

-Aldo Leopold3

“The thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That’s the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth, that protects us from deadly ultraviolet light from the sun, that through the greenhouse effect brings the surface temperature above the freezing point. Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology.

-Carl Sagan4


1. Pasadena Magazine, A Conversation With Bill Nye.

2. Address to the British House of Commons (April 23, 2019)

3. Conservation (c. 1938); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 146-147.

4. Skeptical Enquirer – “Wonder and Skepticism” (Jan-Feb 1995)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #8 – APRIL 23, 2020


“The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.'”1

“The robb’d that smiles, steals something from the thief.”2

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”3

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”4

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”5

“I think the devil will not have me damned, lest the oil that’s in me should set hell on fire.”6 

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”7

“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it”8

“They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.”9

“For I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can; you are not for all markets.”10


1. King Lear – Act 4, Scene 1

2. Othello – Act 1, Scene 3

3. Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2

4. Measure for Measure –  Act 1, Scene 4

5. As You Like It – Act 2, Scene 7

6. The Merry Wives of Windsor – Act 5, Scene 5

7. Julius Ceaser – Act 2, Scene 2

8. Much Ado About Nothing – Act 3, Scene 2

9. Love’s Labour’s Lost – Act 5, Scene 1

10. As You Like It – Act 3, Scene 5


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #9 – APRIL 24, 2020


Fiction – All The King’s Men

“Upon my return I found the call in my box. It was Anne’s number, then Anne’s voice on the wire, and, as always, the little leap and plunk in my heart like a frog jumping into a lily pool, with the ripples spreading round.”1 

“And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.”1 

“…the air so still it aches like the place where the tooth was on the morning after you’ve been to the dentist or aches like your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how things once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened.”1 

“So I tried to make what amends I could for being what I was…”1 


“It is to our credit that we survived the War and tempered our national fiber in the process, but human decency and the future security of our country demand that we look at the costs. What are some of the costs? 

Blood is the first cost. History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that. It was real blood, not tomato catsup or the pale ectoplasm of statistics, that wet the ground at Bloody Angle and darkened the waters of Bloody Pond. It modifies our complacency to look at the blurred and harrowing old photographs — the body of the dead sharpshooter in the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg or the tangled mass in the Bloody Lane at Antietam.”2


“Most writers are trying to find what they think or feel. . . not simply working from the given, but toward the given, saying the unsayable and steadily asking, ‘What do I really feel about this?’”3

“A young man’s ambition — to get along in the world and make a place for himself — half your life goes that way, till you’re 45 or 50. Then, if you’re lucky, you make terms with life, you get released.”4

“Storytelling and copulation are the two chief forms of amusement in the South. They’re inexpensive and easy to procure.”5


I love Robert Penn Warren. He was a remarkable talent and received all sorts of accolades and awards, not the least of which was the title Poet Laureate of the United States. Still, most of my admiration for him is based on his novel All the King’s Men. It holds up well today and, in some ways, makes one reflect on the kind of cynical populism rampant in the world today.

1. The Legacy of the Civil War (1961)

2. All The King’s Men (Harcourt, Brace, and Company -1946)

3. National Observer (6 February 1967)

4. The New York Times (2 June 1981)

5. Newsweek (25 August 1980)

Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905 – September 15, 1989) was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel for All the King’s Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. In 1980, Warren was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. In 1981, Warren was selected as a MacArthur Fellow and was named the first U.S. Poet Laureate on February 26, 1986. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #10 – APRIL 25, 2020


“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson1

“A few more steps and we’ll be safe in the fire swamp.”

“We’ll never survive!”

 “Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

-Westley and Princess Buttercup2

“Remember, none of your ancestors was a virgin.”

-Neil Pasricha3 

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”

-Daniel Kahneman4 

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it’s impossible to count them accurately.”

-Oscar Wilde5


1. Mike Tyson definitely said this during some pre-fight trash talk. He referred to it in a November 9, 2012 interview in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, but could not, himself, remember which fight.

2. The Princess Bride – (20th Century Fox, 1987) Adapted from the 1973 William Goldman novel.

3. 1000 Awesome things blog  – “#2 -Stopping to remember how lucky we are to be here right now.” (April 20, 2016)

4. Thinking, Fast and Slow – (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011)

5. Letter from Paris (May 1900)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #11 – APRIL 26, 2020


“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

-Virginia Woolf1

“Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.”

-H.L. Mencken2

“By all the vows that ever men have broke,

In number more than ever women spoke”

-William Shakespeare3

“Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what’s sensible and what’s foolish, and want you to stick at home all the time.”

-Willa Cather4

“I met a lady in the meads

Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.”

-John Keats5

“The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a garden. It ends with Revelations.”

-Oscar Wilde6

“I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right, but we were each the person the other trusted.”

-Joan Didion7

“Maybe…you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”

“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”

“Yes. I want to ruin you.”

“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.” 

-Ernest Hemingway8

“After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.”

-Mark Twain9


1. A Room of One’s Own (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1929)

2. A Mencken Chrestomathy (Alfred A. Knopf , 1949)

3. A midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1 Scene 1

4. My Antonia (Houghton Mifflin, 1918)

5. La Belle Dame sans Merci (1819)

6.  A Woman of No Importance (1893)

7. The Year of Magical Thinking, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

8. A Farewell to Arms (Scribner, 1929)

9. Extracts from Adam’s Diary (Harper and Bros., 1904)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #12 – APRIL 27, 2020


“I sincerely believe in this life, if we’re going to learn anything at all, you know, we will be learning from people who are different than us. Someone who speaks like me, who dresses up like me, who votes exactly like me is only an echo of my voice. We do not learn anything from echoes.”

-Elif Shafak1

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

-Bill Nye2 

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new”

-The Dalai Lama3


1. TED Radio Hour (July 27, 2018)

Elif Shafak (born 25 October 1971) is a Turkish-British writer, storyteller, essayist, academic, public speaker, and women’s rights activist. Shafak writes in Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, and Three Daughters of Eve. Shafak is an activist for women’s rights, minority rights, and freedom of speech. (Wikipedia)

2. University of Massachusetts Lowell 2014 Commencement

3. Widely attributed to the Dalai Lama, and a good quote, but could not verify the attribution.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #13 – APRIL 28, 2020


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

“Folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.”


All quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird (J. B. Lippincott Company,1960)

I love Harper Lee and I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, to the average American reader that is akin to saying “I like Christmas!” To Kill a Mockingbird, at 281 pages, belongs, rightfully, to the pantheon of short American classics. If a young person today asked my opinion about what to read, my short list would include Of Mice and Men, The Old Man and the Sea, and Mockingbird

There is a certain type of “serious” reader who would “poo-poo” that list. It is a perverse rule of literature that the more popular a book becomes, the less it is esteemed (in some quarters.) These three are classics, not only because they are magnificent and deal with important “eternal” themes, but, to be honest, because they are accessible. They are easy and efficient, and, well, readable. That is by design. Brevity is hard work; believe me. Literature should be accessible. It should be inviting. We want kids to learn to love reading. We want more readers in the world. And if serious important ideas can be slipped into a thin little book, so much the better.

We all have our prejudices, of course (this is the part where I admit to my prejudices). None of us likes to see our heroes brought down. I sometimes say that I admire Abe Lincoln more because he occasionally had feet of clay, but I’m not sure I mean it. We need our heroes. We need real ones and we need literary ones. I will just come right out and say it, “We didn’t need a sequel (or prequel) to To Kill a Mockingbird.” I suspect there is a reason Harper Lee didn’t publish Go Set a Watchman in 1960. Without going into detail about the controversial 2015 publication of Watchman, I will just say this, “If Atticus Finch is even just a little tiny, teeny, bit of a racist, I don’t want to know about it.” 

Finally, I wanted to add a little aside. I hope I can make this work. Every high school freshman can tell you “To Kill a Mockingbird is not about killing a mockingbird.” That is an old joke, of course. But I think one gets a definite insight about the book if one understands how mockingbirds are, honestly, special. They are unique and they are amazing. 

Growing up in Illinois, I never saw (or noticed) a mockingbird until I was visiting Alabama in my late twenties. I was sleeping, and awoke in the middle of the night to a bird, or ten different birds, singing lustily, in a tree right outside my window. After awhile I began to think somebody, for some obscure reason, was pulling my leg. Birds, in my experience, don’t sing at night and no single bird that I knew of, sang with ten different clear and distinct calls. I walked outside and with a flashlight discovered a single little grey bird producing all of that music. 

Since then, whenever I’m in the south, I keep an eye peeled and an ear cocked for that little grey bird and I can never get enough of their music. I have even discovered that occasionally we are favored by their presence in the midwest. Last summer I found a mockingbird singing from the top of the old pine tree in our yard. I got a video of it which I will try to share here. Just listen for a minute or two and know that all of the bird sounds you hear are produced by this one little grey bird. Is it any wonder Harper Lee used it for a metaphor?



QUOTES OF THE DAY – #14 – APRIL 29, 2020


“Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”

-Maya Angelou1

“People with plenty of work to do are less enamored of self-destruction.”

-Garrison Keillor2

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”3

-John Cage


1. Gather Together in My Name (Random House, 1974)

2. Garrison Keillor Blog – “A Man Watching His Own Heartbeat”(August 30, 2018).

3. Quoted in Richard Kostelanet’z book Conversing with Cage (Limelight Editions, 1988).

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives.

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is often assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #15 – APRIL 30, 2020


“Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. This is easy to write, easy to read, and hard to believe. The words are simple, the concept clear—but you don’t believe it, do you? Nor do I. How could I, when we’re both so lovable?”

“Our excessive emotions are so patently painful and harmful to us as a species that I can hardly believe that they evolved. Other creatures manage to have effective matings and even stable societies without great emotions, and they have a bonus in that they need not ever mourn … It would seem that emotions are the curse, not death—emotions that appear to have devolved upon a few freaks as a special curse from Malevolence.

All right then. It is our emotions that are amiss. We are freaks, the world is fine, and let us all go have lobotomies to restore us to a natural state. We can leave the library then, go back to the creek lobotomized, and live on its banks as untroubled as any muskrat or reed. You first.”

“The world is a monster. Any three-year-old can see how unsatisfactory and clumsy is this whole business of reproducing and dying by the billions. We have not yet encountered any god who is as merciful as a man who flicks a beetle over on its feet. There is not a people in the world who behaves as badly as praying mantises. But wait, you say, there is no right and wrong in nature; right and wrong is a human concept. Precisely: we are moral creatures, then, in an amoral world. The universe that suckled us is a monster that does not care if we live or die—does not care if it itself grinds to a halt. It is fixed and blind, a robot programmed to kill. We are free and seeing; we can only try to outwit it at every turn to save our skins.”

“Let me repeat that these parasitic insects comprise ten percent of all known animal species. How can this be understood? Certainly we give our infants the wrong idea about their fellow creatures in the world. Teddy bears should come with tiny stuffed bear lice; ten percent of all baby bibs and rattles sold should be adorned with colorful blowflies, maggots, and screw-worms. What kind of devil’s tithe do we pay? What percentage of the world’s species that are not insects are parasitic? Could it be, counting bacteria and viruses, that we live in a world in which half the creatures are running from—or limping from—the other half?”


All passages here are from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper’s Magazine Press, 1974)

I love Annie Dillard. She is an acquired taste, no doubt. I fell in love with her on my first day of Freshman Preceptorial class at Knox College when we were assigned her Pulitzer Prize winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. And, the thing is, many (ok, most) other students hated Tinker Creek. From the first paragraph Dillard flies off in bizarre directions. If you are not, yourself, just a little bizzarre, you probably will be put off. Here is the opening paragraph:

I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I’d half-awaken. He’d stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I’d wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I’d been painted with roses.

She gets weirder from there and I, being a very weird person to start with and already enamored of nature and biology and Thoreau’s Walden (I hadn’t discovered Aldo Leopold yet), I ate it up.  

Annie Dillard (born 30 April 1945) is an American author born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her non-fiction narrative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in 1974. She has since published ten other books. Her most recent is the novel The Maytrees. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #16 – MAY 1, 2020


“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”1


1. Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 1961)

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays. His best-known work is the novel Catch-22, a satire on war and bureaucracy, whose title has become a synonym for an absurd or contradictory choice. (Wikipedia)




One of my readers wrote to me to talk about the H.L. Mencken quote from the HE SAID/SHE SAID post from April 26. She took exception to Mencken’s unfair generalization about women and to his using cheap humor at the expense of others. Referring to Mencken and another writer she said: “They think being funny gives them permission to be rude (or in Mencken’s case, just an A-hole).”

As my reader is someone whose opinion I respect a great deal I decided to rethink the quote. I’m glad I did because it revealed to me some subtlety in the debate which I had not considered before. Here is what I thought:

Your comment about H.L. Mencken really made me step back and think, not only about the “She Said/He Said” post, but about the idea of collecting quotes in the first place and the consideration that, as you put it very well, “being funny gives them permission to be rude.” Unfortunately, since I chose the quotes, I too am culpable.

I would like to protest, of course, that “I am not a misogynist!” or, as I sometimes claim to my daughter, “I am the least chauvinistic person you know!” Now that I hear it out loud that rings about as hollow as Trump’s constant retort that he is the “least racist person in the world.”

Quotes, by their nature are reductionist. They generate a conclusion with very limited data. And that is a problem. It is a problem when we quote someone else. It can even be a problem for a writer trying to explore new ideas. What you put on paper tends to be about one-one-thousandth of what ping-pongs about in your mind while you are writing, and yet it is that product by which people will judge your writing skills and your intentions.

I don’t believe I would want to undertake a wholesale defense of H.L. Mencken. The term A-hole probably captures him fairly well. Certainly many of his contemporaries thought so, from Franklin Roosevelt to the Mormon Church.

What I might argue is that Mencken, like some of my other favorite curmudgeons (Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, George Carlin) were equal opportunity jerks. They spread their vitriol over the whole culture. They gored everyone’s oxen. They slaughtered many a sacred cow. And that is their value. I am reminded of Mencken’s critique of American democracy, “the worship of jackals by jackasses.”

While someone needs to speak truth to power, stereotyping and insulting half the human race is not defensible. Why did Mencken do it, and why did I highlight it? These are valid questions and I think you hit the nail right on the head. Mencken did it to get a laugh and I, at least to some degree, did the same. That is the part that deserves introspection. 

I believe all ideas should be openly explored. If someone out there has a legitimate argument supported by empirical evidence that “all men are idiots” I think they should be able to say their piece. That is one thing. The interesting thing about Mencken here is that he’s not doing that. I’m not even convinced that he was a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist. As evidence I would offer this piece from Wikipedia about his own marriage:

In 1930, Mencken married Sara Haardt, a German-American professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore and an author eighteen years his junior. Haardt had led an unsuccessful effort in Alabama to ratify the 19th Amendment …The marriage made national headlines, and many were surprised that Mencken, who once called marriage “the end of hope” and who was well known for mocking relations between the sexes, had gone to the altar… Haardt was in poor health from tuberculosis throughout their marriage and died in 1935 of meningitis, leaving Mencken grief-stricken. He had always championed her writing and, after her death, had a collection of her short stories published under the title Southern Album.

It seems clear to me that Mencken is not making a philosophical argument, but just “being funny.” After thinking it over, I have concluded that this is actually worse than an honestly proffered, but mistaken argument about sex relations. What to do?

I still want my favorite curmudgeons to use comedy and liberally-spread vitriol to cut the rich and the powerful down to size.  Having said that, I do not regard women as a category to be generalized, contrary to the Mencken quote I featured. So, I think, (drumroll please) that you are right. “Funny” does not justify “rudeness” in all cases, and particularly not this one. These things call for discernment. They call for human judgement, a thing which I need to work on constantly. To refine this argument into a rule is probably impossible but, after thinking it over, I believe my takeaway is that criticism and ridicule are useful and have their place. The “target” matters though, as does the imperative to kindness and to not stereotype.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #17 – MAY 2, 2020


 “And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes. 

People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun. This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.”

Kurt Vonnegut1


1. Slaughterhouse-Five (Delacorte, 1969)

My quote yesterday featured Joseph Heller on his birthday. His most famous book was Catch-22. That book, about fictional bomber pilots, got me to thinking about World War II. A subsequent discussion with my friend Dan about his father’s role in the war (very interesting, too) led me to reading about the fire bombing of Dresden and reminded me that one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, was actually a prisoner-of-war in Dresden when the bombing took place. That made me pick up and re-read parts of his book about Dresden, Slaughterhouse-Five. That led me to remember one of my favorite passages in all literature which is the one above. That’s how my mind works, I guess. 

For those of you who note that I have quoted Kurt Vonnegut twice already in 17 days, I will just say “sorry, but get ready for more.” Part of the advantage of starting your own quote newsletter is that you can feature your favorites. There will be more Vonnegut and more Hemingway and more Dorothy Parker and (sorry Misty) more Mark Twain. I am still offering a get-out-of-quote-purgatory card to anyone who wants it. Just send me an email and I’ll cut you from the list, no harm, no foul. Have a beautiful day. It sure looks nice so far.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #18 – MAY 3, 2020


“The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”1

“A lullaby is a propaganda song and any three-year-old knows it”2

“Shh. Listen to the sounds that surround you. Notice the pitches, the volume, the timbre, the many lines of counterpoint. As light taught Monet to paint, the earth may be teaching you music.”3

“The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.”3

“If singing were all that serious, frowning would make you sound better.”3

“Every time I read the paper those old feelings come on. 

We are waist deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says to push on.”4

“There’s no hope, but I may be wrong.”5


By featuring Pete Seeger on his birthday today I have completed a trifecta of anti-war activists, Heller, with Catch-22, Vonnegut, with Slaughterhouse-Five, and now Seeger, with practically everything he ever wrote. Although I am, philosophically Anti-war, this arrangement of political thought is sheer coincidence. Whether you love or hate his politics, Pete Seeger was a powerful influence on American music for longer than probably anyone else who ever lived. He wrote and recorded and performed music in every decade from the 1930’s up to his death in 2014, at the age of 94.

 1. New York Times – “Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94” (January 28, 2014)

2. Pop Chronicles – “Show 33 – American musicians respond to the British invaders.”  (February 14, 1968)

3. How Can I Keep from Singing: Pete Seeger  (Da Capo Press,1981)

4. Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger, 1967)

5. NPR: Weekend Edition (2 July 2005)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #19 – MAY 4, 2020


Deep philosophy

Han: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Luke: “You don’t believe in the Force, do you?”

Han: “Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. Anyway, it’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”1


Imperial Commander Motti: “Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe!”1

Excuses, excuses

Han Solo: “Hey, Jabba. Look, Jabba, I was just on my way to pay you back, and I got a little sidetracked. It’s not my fault…”

Jabba the Hutt: “It’s too late for that, Solo. You may have been a good smuggler in the business, but now you’re Bantha fodder!”2

Wisdom from the Little, Green Guy

“Judge me by my size, do you?”3 

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.”4

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”3

Wisdom? From the Tall, Evil Dude

“He’s as clumsy as he is stupid.”3

“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.”5

I find your lack of faith disturbing.”1


1. Star Wars (1977)

2. Return of the Jedi (1983)

3. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

4. The Phantom Menace (1999)

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #20 – MAY 5, 2020


“Salary is no object: I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.”1

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and then write it sentence by sentence—no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”2

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”3

“It’s not the tragedies that kill us; it’s the messes.”2

“Too f—king busy, and vice versa.”4

-Response to an editor pressuring her for overdue work

“The House Beautiful is, for me, the play lousy.”5

-Review of the Broadway play The House Beautiful

“They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.”6

“What fresh hell can this be?”7

-If the doorbell rang in her apartment

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”8

-From a review of The Elements of Style



Razors pain you,

Rivers are damp,

Acids stain you,

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful,

Nooses give,

Gas smells awful.

You might as well live.9

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you’re his,

Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is

Infinite, undying,

Lady, make a note of this —

One of you is lying.10


Some men tear your heart in two,

Some men flirt and flatter,

Some men never look at you,

And that clears up the matter.10


Four be the things I am wiser to know:

Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

Four be the things I’d been better without:

Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain:

Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die:

Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.11

Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning

It costs me never a stab nor squirm

To tread by chance upon a worm.

“Aha, my little dear,” I say,

“Your clan will pay me back some day.”12

To My Dog

I often wonder why on earth

You rate yourself so highly;

A shameless parasite, from birth

You’ve lived the life of Reilly.

No claims to fame distinguish you’

Your talents are not many;

You’re constantly unfaithful to

Your better self – if any.

Yet you believe, with faith profound,

The world revolves around you;

May I point out, it staggered ‘round

For centuries without you?12

The Flaw in Paganism

“Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)”13


“Katharine Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.”14

“Mr. Hodge plays with his accustomed ease, even carrying the thing so far as to repeat many of his lines with his eyes shut; and in a pretty spirit of reciprocity, many members of the audience sit through the play with their eyes shut.”14

“Anyone can do that—the stunt lies in not doing it.”14

“If you arrive late, you won’t know what anything is about, and if you are there all the way from the beginning, you won’t care.”14

“So seeing that there is nothing further to say, I shall go right on talking about The Circle, thus proving that I am a born reviewer of plays.”14

“Rockliffe Fellowes gives a likable performance of the secondary crook’s role, and there are some decidedly agreeable-looking doughnuts consumed in the first act. And that is about all one can say for Pot Luck.”14


“Excuse my dust.”15

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”16


I love Dorothy Parker, always have, always will. No further comment necessary.

1. The New Yorker (4 February 1928)

2. Interview, The Paris Review (Summer 1956)

3. Caption written for Vogue 1916

4. Interview, The Paris Review (Summer 1956)

5. The New Yorker (21 March 1931)

6. New York World (January 20, 1928)

7. You might as well live: the life and times of Dorothy Parker – John Keats (Simon Schuster, 1970)

8. Esquire (November 1959)

9. New York World (August 16, 1925)

10. Life (April 8, 1926)

11. Life, (November 11, 1926)

12. The New Yorker (April 9, 1927)

13. Death and Taxes (1931)

14. Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923 (2014)

15. Vanity Fair (June 1925)

16. The New Yorker (1929)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #21 – MAY 6, 2020



“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”1

“Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.”2

“We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.”2

“One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be ‘happy’ is not included in the plan of Creation.”2

“The first requisite of civilization, therefore, is that of justice—that is, the assurance that a law once made will not be broken in favour of an individual.”2

“Thinking is an experimental dealing with small quantities of energy, just as a general moves miniature figures over a map before setting his troops in action.”3

“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.”4


1. Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (October 15, 1897)

2. Civilization and it’s Discontents (Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag Wien, 1930)

3. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis “Anxiety and Instinctual Life – Lecture 32” (1933)

4. Letter to Ernest Jones (1933)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #22 – MAY 7, 2020


Note from the quote collector:

I have been in need of a little optimism lately as, I imagine, we all are. My usual method to reassure myself that the world is fundamentally good and that everything is going to be okay is to call my father, whose cheerfulness and optimism have carried me through many a rough patch. I love you, Dad. 

Another source of encouragement, and a reminder that pessimism is a form of weakness, is a little book, on my shelves, called The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller. It is difficult to wallow in self-pity or indulge a negative outlook while you are reading the story of a blind and deaf woman who not only learned to read, but to write, and write brilliantly. She graduated college and studied philosophy and gave inspirational speeches and worked for women’s rights and suffrage and campaigned for worker’s rights and was a voice for pacifism and, did I mention she was deaf and blind?

Recently I discovered an essay Keller wrote in 1903, while in college. It is called Optimism and it is about, you know, optimism. It is beautiful and well-written. I could not write anything half as good today, let alone when I was a senior in college. And, did I mention that she was deaf and blind? 

Below are some quotes from Keller’s essay. It is a good thing to read right now and if, like me, you are feeling just a little sorry for yourself, it will kick you in the ass (gently) and encourage you to put on your big boy pants and get back at it.


“I know what evil is. Once or twice I have wrestled with it, and for a time felt its chilling touch on my life; so I speak with knowledge when I say that evil is of no consequence, except as a sort of mental gymnastic. For the very reason that I have come in contact with it, am more truly an optimist. I can say with conviction that the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to coöperate with the good, that it may prevail.”

“Thus my optimism is grounded in two worlds, myself and what is about me. I demand that the world be good, and lo, it obeys. I proclaim the world good, and facts range themselves to prove my proclamation overwhelmingly true. To what is good I open the doors of my being, and jealously shut them against what is bad. Such is the force of this beautiful and willful conviction, it carries itself in the face of all opposition. I am never discouraged by absence of good. I never can be argued into hopelessness. Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.”

“I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all. I used to think I should be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless.”

“Thus from philosophy I learn that we see only shadows and know only in part, and that all things change; but the mind, the unconquerable mind, compasses all truth, embraces the universe as it is, converts the shadows to realities and makes tumultuous changes seem but moments in an eternal silence, or short lines in the infinite theme of perfection, and the evil but a halt on the way to good.”

“The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage,—the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think.”

“Thus in my outlook upon our times I find that I am glad to be a citizen of the world, and as I regard my country, I find that to be an American is to be an optimist.”

“The test of all beliefs is their a practical effect in life. If it be true that optimism compels the world forward, and pessimism retards it, then it is dangerous to propagate a pessimistic philosophy.” 

“Let pessimism once take hold of the mind, and life is all topsy-turvy, all vanity and vexation of spirit. There is no cure for individual or social disorder, except in forgetfulness and annihilation. “Let us eat, drink and be merry,” says the pessimist, “for tomorrow we die.” If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears.”

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”


Optimism (C. Y. Crowell and Company, 1903, by Helen Keller)

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, was made famous by Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, and its adaptations for film and stage, The Miracle Worker. Her birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, is now a museum[1] and sponsors an annual “Helen Keller Day”. Her June 27 birthday is commemorated as Helen Keller Day in Pennsylvania and, in the centenary year of her birth, was recognized by a presidential proclamation from US President Jimmy Carter.

A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, and other similar causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971 and was one of twelve inaugural inductees to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #23 – MAY 8, 2020


“Show business is my life. When I was a kid I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.”

“I used to play golf. I wanted to be a better player, but after a while I realized I’d always stink. And that’s when I really started to enjoy the game.”

“Eddie Fisher married to Elizabeth Taylor is like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with a bar of soap.”

“When you enter a room, you have to kiss his ring. I don’t mind, but he has it in his back pocket.”

-talking about Frank Sinatra

“I’m very shy so I became very outgoing to protect my shyness.”

“You throw your best punch, otherwise don’t do it.”

“Some people say funny things, but I say things funny.”

“An insult comic is the title I was given. What I do is exaggeration. I make fun of people, at life, of myself and my surroundings.”

“If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn’t be funny, there is a difference between an actual insult and just having fun.”

“I don’t care if the average guy on the street really knows what I’m like, as long as he knows I’m not really a mean, vicious guy. My friends and family know what I’m really like. That’s what’s important.”

“I want to be a dog, but I’m a pussycat.”

“After I graduated, I tried Broadway, which was difficult for me. It was tough to get a part on Broadway, so I just started talking to audiences at different social gatherings, and little by little I became Don Rickles – whatever that is.”


Helen Keller one day, Don Rickles the next. I don’t know if you guys like this quote project, but I sure do. Thanks for reading.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #24 – MAY 9, 2020




“Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact; not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights.”

“Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John’s, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it, … while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.

“How clever I am!” he crowed rapturously, “oh the cleverness of me!”

“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”

“I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”1


“Sergeant O’Leary is walkin’ the beat

At night he becomes a bartender

He works at Mister Cacciatore’s down

On Sullivan Street

Across from the medical center

Yeah he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac-ac-ac-ac

You oughta know by now

And if he can’t drive

With a broken back

At least he can polish the fenders”2

“Things are okay with me these days

Got a good job, got a good office

Got a new wife, got a new life

And the family’s fine

We lost touch long ago

You lost weight I did not know

You could ever look so nice after

So much time”3

“And the waitress is practicing politics

As the businessmen slowly get stoned

Yes they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness

But it’s better than drinking alone”4


“Just as youth is wasted on the young, money is wasted on the rich.” 

“Someone wisely told me once: the world always makes sense. When it doesn’t make sense, it just means we don’t have all the information yet.” 

“Political identities aren’t about tax cuts. They are about tribes… This is the result of the incredible rise in political polarization in recent decades. It used to be that both the Republican and Democratic parties included both liberals and conservatives. Since parties contained ideological multitudes, it was hard for them to be the basis of strong, personal identities.”

“Demythologizing our past is necessary if we are to clearly understand our present. But an honest survey of America’s past offends the story we tell ourselves…”

“And yet, we have not changed so much, have we? We still coach Little League and care for our parents, we cry at romantic comedies and mow our lawns, we laugh at our eccentricities and apologize for harsh words, we want to be loved and wish for a better world. That is not to absolve us of responsibility for our politics, but to trace a lament oft heard when we step away from politics: Aren’t we better than this?

I think we are, or we can be. But toxic systems compromise good individuals with ease. They do so not by demanding we betray our values but by enlisting our values such that we betray each other. What is rational and even moral for us to do individually becomes destructive when done collectively.”5 

1. (Hodder & Stoughton, 1911)

2. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (November 1, 1977)

3. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant (September 1977)

4. Piano Man (November 9, 1973)

5. Why We’re Polarized (Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster, January 28, 2020)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #25 – MAY 10, 2020


“The next suitable person you’re in light conversation with, you stop suddenly in the middle of the conversation and look at the person closely and say, “What’s wrong?” You say it in a concerned way. He’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “Something’s wrong. I can tell. What is it?” And he’ll look stunned and say, “How did you know?” He doesn’t realize something’s always wrong, with everybody. Often more than one thing. He doesn’t know everybody’s always going around all the time with something wrong and believing they’re exerting great willpower and control to keep other people, for whom they think nothing’s ever wrong, from seeing it.”1

“Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony, ephemeracy, inconsequence, abstraction, disorder, boredom, angst, ennui—these are the true hero’s enemies, and make no mistake, they are fearsome indeed. For they are real.”1

“And I submit that this is what the real, no-shit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about. How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.”2

Note: The following is from an article Wallace wrote for Harper’s magazine about a seven day Caribbean cruise he took on the M.S. Zenith. In true Wallace style he re-names the ship the M.S. Nadir and used that throughout the article.

“This is related to the phenomenon of the Professional Smile, a pandemic in the service industry, and no place in my experience have I been on the receiving end of as many Professional Smiles as I was on the Nadir: maitre d’s, chief stewards, hotel managers’ minions, cruise director-their P.S.’s all come on like switches at my approach. But also back on land: at banks, restaurants, airline ticket counters, and on and on. You know this smile-the one that doesn’t quite reach the smiler’s eyes and signifies nothing more than a calculated attempt to advance the smiler’s own interests by pretending to like the smilee. Why do employers and supervisors force professional service people to broadcast the Professional Smile? Am I the only person who’s sure that the growing number of cases in which normal-looking people open up with automatic weapons in shopping malls and insurance offices and medical complexes is somehow causally related to the fact that these venues are well-known dissemination-loci of the Professional Smile?3

1. The Pale King (Little, Brown and Company, 2011)

2. This Is Water (Kenyon College Commencement Speech, 2005)

3. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (Little, Brown and Company, 1997)


This is David Foster Wallace. His writing is sometimes difficult and requires effort – but it is worth it. He was, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant and best American writers. His understanding of human nature and his ability to analyze and explain the experience of everyday life are unrivaled. His book The Pale King, quoted above, is a 500 page novel about, among other things, boredom. He captures the experience in a way that any human could recognize and say “Oh yeah, that’s exactly what it’s like.”  Another of his essays, The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing, explores depression, the kind of depression he, himself suffered from, and takes the reader inside the mind of the sufferer – the internal battles and recriminations related to anti-depressant medications and their effect on a creative person.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #26 – MAY 11, 2020


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”1

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” 2

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.” 2

“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”3

“Physics is to mathematics what sex is to masturbation.”4

“Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad — but it does not carry instructions on how to use it.”5

“If an apple is magnified to the size of the earth, then the atoms in the apple are approximately the size of the original apple.”6


1. Lecture “What is and What Should be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society”, given at the Galileo Symposium in Italy (1964).

2. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character (W.W. Norton, 1985)

3. Quoted in Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992)

4. Quoted in Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed (1993)

5. Lecture, “The Value of Science” (1955)

6. Lecture, “Atoms in Motion”; section 1-2, “Matter is made of atoms.”

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics for which he proposed the Parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and became known to a wide public in the 1980s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Along with his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #27 – MAY 12, 2020


“Irony deals with opposites; it has nothing to do with coincidence. If two baseball players from the same hometown, on different teams, receive the same uniform number, it is not ironic. It is a coincidence. If Barry Bonds attains lifetime statistics identical to his father’s, it will not be ironic. It will be a coincidence. Irony is ‘a state of affairs that is the reverse of what was to be expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result.’ For instance: a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway truck. He is the victim of an accident. If the truck was delivering sugar, he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck was delivering insulin, ah! Then he is the victim of an irony.”1

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”1

“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”1

“Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”1

“I think I am, therefore I am. I think.”2

“So I say live and let live. That’s my motto. Live and let live. Anyone who can’t go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherf—er.”3

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”3

“Here’s some bumper stickers I’d like to see:

We are the proud parents of a child whose self esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.

We are the proud parents of a child who has resisted his teachers’ attempts to break his spirit and bend him to the will of his corporate masters.”4

1. Brain Droppings (Hyperion Books, 1998)

2. Napalm and Silly Putty (Hyperion Books, 2001)

3. HBO special Carlin on Campus (1984)

4. HBO Special Complaints and Grievances (2001)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #28 – MAY 13, 2020


“The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?”

-Henry David Thoreau1

“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

-Nelson Mandela2

“I’ve always said there’s no hope without endeavor. Hope has no meaning unless we are prepared to work to realize our hopes and dreams but in order to that we do need to have friends. We need those who believe in us. Friends are those who believe in us and who want to help us whatever it is that we are trying to achieve.”

-Aung San Suu Kyi3

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.”

-James Boswell4

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”


“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

-The Beatles6


1. Winter: From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1888)

2. From his unpublished autobiographical manuscript written in 1975. Source: From Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations © 2010 by Nelson R. Mandela and The Nelson Mandela Foundation

3. Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Acceptance Speech Strasbourg, Germany (22 October 22, 2013)

4. Life of Samuel Johnson – “September 19, 1777” (1791)

5. The Bible – John 15:13.

6. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – “With a Little Help from My Friends” (26 May 1967)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #29 – MAY 14, 2020


“When father and I started out, that late April morning, it was like the dawn of creation, so sweet and clean and crispy damp-cool. All along the first two miles south from town the blackbirds in the big cottonwoods ka-cheed among the jade-flake leaves, leaves no bigger that a ground squirrel’s ear. The blackbirds themselves were like gems, jet set with ruby and gold, the red-wings and the yellow-heads, all ka-cheeing in the sun not half an hour high. And in the roadside alfalfa silvery blue-green in new leaf and dew, was a jackrabbit in from the sandhills for breakfast, the sun making his long black-tipped ears pink as rose quartz. It was all spring and new beginnings, a morning to be alive and laughing.”1

May 14 – The Green Land

“We think of this as the time of Spring flowers, fruit blossoms, lilacs. Actually, it is the time of leaves, the time of the countless greens which have not yet settled and matured into the standard green of Summer. This is the time when there is a whole spectrum of green across the land, when the whole world is dappled and misted as with a gently drifting haze whose color ranges from greenish yellow to greenish blue.”2

“I shall never get over the feeling that bogs and swamps are primitive places, a vestige of prehistoric ages. Swamp muck has the feel and look, even the smell, of land and life evolving; and the life I find in the bogland both plant and animal, has an ancient and faraway look, like life from another age.”3


1. High, Wide, and Lonesome (G.K. Hall & Co., 1984)

2. Sundial of the Seasons – A Selection of Outdoor Editorials from The New York Times (Lippincott, 1964)

3. Beyond Your Doorstep (Alfred A. Knopf, 1962)

About 1995 I was given a book by my grandmother, who was a reader and a writer (she kept a daily journal from the 1940’s right up to the early 2000’s, an amazing feat in our modern age.) The book, by Hal Borland, was called High, Wide, and Lonesome and it captured my imagination. It was a book that my grandmother had read and enjoyed with my grandfather.

Both of them, born in eastern Nebraska (1919) and central Oklahoma (1917) respectively, possessed such an powerful affection for the great plains that it infected me, born nearly 50 years later and hundreds of miles east. Even after they moved to Illinois during World War II, a sort of reverse migration, they returned, time after time, to Nebraska and Kansas, and they shared their stories with me. I still consider myself to be an expatriate Nebraskan and I have read many of the books my grandmother loved, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz.

In 1910, when Borland was nine years old, his family homesteaded a piece of land on the plains of eastern Colorado. This was the end of the pioneer epic in the United States, but no less harrowing and no less romantic. The Borlands “proved up” their homestead (live 5 years on the land and make improvements in order to get title) but soon after, moved into town, Mr. Borland starting a newspaper in Flagler, Colorado. Like previous homesteaders in that region, they discovered that great plains land west of the 100th meridian is too arid for farming without the intervention of mechanized irrigation.

The newspaper business captured Borland’s imagination, also. He moved to New York City where he studied journalism and graduated from Columbia University in 1923. After graduating he wrote for the Brooklyn Times, United Press, and King Features Service. He worked for a variety of newspapers across the United States, including The Philadelphia Morning Sun, The Philadelphia Morning Ledger, and The New York Times, as a staff writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine andan editorial writer for The New York Sunday Times. Borland also wrote short stories, poetry, novels, non-fiction, and one play.

While researching for today I discovered that I had, on my shelves, no fewer than four Hal Borland books. Two, High, Wide, and Lonesome and Country Editor’s Boy were from my grandmother. Two were from the collection of my wife’s grandmother, who loved Borland, also. They are Sundial of the Seasons and Beyond Your Doorstep


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #30 – MAY 15, 2020


“Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. ‘Yes’ is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.

-Stephen Colbert1 


Knox College commencement address (June 3, 2006)



QUOTES OF THE DAY – #31 – MAY 16, 2020


“So the story in its essence is only this: in a world full of war and terrorism, capitalist industry and vanishing ecosystems, a world where all things set in time or place or motion will eventually dissolve, there are still moments wherein one human being shows a small kindness to another, however forgotten or unobserved. That’s it. That’s the story.”

-Misty Urban1

“When he leaned in, I thought, He looks like a bird. I thought, will he hit me with his glasses? I thought, this is my last first kiss.”

-Misty Urban2

“My mother is alone in her kitchen but somewhere upstairs, behind her, my father snores in warm oblivion.”

-Misty Urban3

“Liberation takes the form of a yoke, the boundaries of life formed by tethers to those we love, those we created, those who created us. Without origin, we are without vector.

Independence is a prison of the singular.”

-Robin Abbott4

“If the news was about a death in the family, the captain had the affected sailor and hospital corpsman come to his stateroom. In that sterile setting, the captain informed the unfortunate man that his mother, father, or heaven forbid his wife or child, had passed away. He would offer some comforting words, then leave him and the Doc there until the man regained his composure. In the submarine’s confines, this was as close to a sanctuary as could be provided. The sailor would be given a respite from standing watch for a day or so, until he got his wits back together.”

-Dan Moore5

“The open mic boomed, “Conn, sonar, torpedo in the water! Torpedo in the WATER!” 

Hearts pounded in the control room. Grampus had no way of knowing if the Echo II had aimed correctly. The team had to plot it to confirm it. If it were an exercise torpedo, then the torpedo’s sound would slowly merge with the target bearing. But, if it was an errant shot, a malfunction, or worse yet, a warshot and Grampus had been counterdetected, then the torpedo would go after any iron in the water, exactly what Grampus was.”

-Dan Moore5

“You can have Spring when Robins don’t sing.

You can have one without cleaning.

You can miss daffodils, and the flowers’ frills.

Without baseball, it’s demeaning.”

-Dan Moore6

“I wanted to touch the clouds

But one foggy day

They came down

And touched me

-Gesene Oak7

“Even grownups kick

at the fallen leaves.”

-Gesene Oak8

Waters stagnate in the pond

Sullen frogs plop and splash

Brown opens in the green

Lilies drop their glowing blooms

Rose petals, too, droop and curl

Growing rabbits eat the rest

Evening offers little hope

Of cooling air or rain

To ease the panting dog

These days they stretch too long

When all is still cicadas sing

Monotony of melody”

-Gesene Oak9


Being part of the Muscatine writers club, Writers on the Avenue, has been one of the most pleasant and rewarding experiences in my life. I love our group, I love the supportive, interactive feedback we offer each other, and I love the opportunity to read the work of really talented writers.

1. A Lesson in Manners “Sally” (Snake Nation Press, 2016)

2. Draft: A Journal of Process “Unified Field Theory”(Oct. 2017)

3. The Necessaries “The Necessaries”(Paradisiac Publishing, 2018)

4. Liberation (unpublished, though it should be)

5. From his upcoming novel

6. From River To River “You Know It’s Spring When” (Writers on the Avenue, 2018)

7. Climbing the Hill of Life “Cloudtouch”

 (Writers on the Avenue, 2017)

8. Climbing the Hill of Life “Walking the Discovery Center Trail in Autumn” (Writers on the Avenue, 2017)

9.  “Late Summer Song


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #32 – MAY 17, 2020


“It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.”1

“The strange thing about life is that though the nature of it must have been apparent to every one for hundreds of years, no one has left any adequate account of it.”1

“One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.”2

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners … These webs are not spun in midair by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to the grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.”3

“Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions — trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there”4

“What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”5

“Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes. Any help we can give you must be different from that you can give yourselves, and perhaps the value of that help may lie in the fact of that difference.”6

“I read the book of Job last night, I don’t think God comes out well in it.”7

“My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for?”7


There is a fundamental unfairness to the world; it manifests in myriad ways. There is unmerited good fortune and undeserved suffering. There is an unjust and arbitrary distribution of wealth and talent. And even when someone with proper humility and a commendable work ethic is rewarded with true genius, the combination often destroys that person. You can’t say God doesn’t enjoy irony.

Virginia Woolf was a genius. She explored so much of human nature, and did it so brilliantly and insightfully, that her work should be revered (and is). Her talent should have brought her great joy and pride. But, like other such geniuses (Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton, David Foster Wallace) whatever insights they gained through their genius was irreconcilable with the actual world they saw around them.  

Trying to find inspiring quotes in the work of Virginia Woolf is more a matter of sifting than mining. I ended up with twenty quotes (easily), that I wanted to share. I pared it down to ten, but it was a painful process. I hope they will inspire you to look deeper into her work. Don’t be afraid of Virginia Woolf.

1. Jacob’s Room (Hogarth Press, 1922)

2. Virginia Woolf’s Diary 1882-1941 (August 13, 1921)

3. A Room of One’s Own (Hogarth Press, 1929)

4. The Common Reader (1925)

5. To the Lighthouse (Hogarth Press, 1927)

6. Three Guineas (Hogarth Press, 1938)

7. These are awesome quotes and very widely attributed to Virginia Woolf. They sound like her, but I was unable to pin down their source. If they are hers they are likely from her diary or letters. 


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #33 – MAY 18, 2020



“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”1

“In the visible world, the Milky Way is a tiny fragment; within this fragment, the solar system is an infinitesimal speck, and of this speck our planet is a microscopic dot. On this dot, tiny lumps of impure carbon and water, of complicated structure, with somewhat unusual physical and chemical properties, crawl about for a few years, until they are dissolved again into the elements of which they are compounded. They divide their time between labour designed to postpone the moment of dissolution for themselves and frantic struggles to hasten it for others of their kind.”2

“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.”3

“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence.”4

“I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”5

“The old often envy the young; when they do, they are apt to treat them cruelly.”5


Bertrand Arthur William Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century’s premier logicians. With A. N. Whitehead he wrote Principia Mathematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics. Russell was a prominent anti-war activist and he championed anti-imperialism. He was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought. (Wikipedia)

1. Principles of Social Reconstruction [Originally titled Why Men Fight : A Method Of Abolishing The International Duel] (London, George Allen and Unwin., 1917)

2. Skeptical Essays “Dreams and Facts” (George Allen & Unwin, 1928)

3. The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (Capricorn, 1918)

4. Proposed Roads To Freedom (George Allen & Unwin, 1918)

5. What I Believe (Kegan Paul, Trench Trubner & Co Ltd, 1925)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #34 – MAY 19, 2020


“I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.”1

“It struck me that the movies had spent more than half a century saying, ‘They lived happily ever after’ and the following quarter century warning that they’ll be lucky to make it through the weekend. Possibly now we are entering a third era, in which the movies will be sounding a note of cautious optimism: You know, it just might work.”2

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”3 

“I moved into directing for a couple of reasons. … Most directors, I discovered, need to be convinced that the screenplay they’re going to direct has something to do with them. And this is a tricky thing if you write screenplays where women have parts that are equal to or greater than the male part. And I thought, ‘Why am I out there looking for directors?’ — because you look at a list of directors, it’s all boys. It certainly was when I started as a screenwriter. So I thought, ‘I’m just gonna become a director and that’ll make it easier.’”4

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”5

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”5

“I was so tired of seeing these stupid, cheerful books about aging. One of them even has this whole thing in it about how you are going to have the greatest sex of your life in your sixties and seventies. Which is just garbage. I thought about it and realized that there was one circumstance that you could have the best sex of your life in your sixties and seventies. That would be if you had never had sex until you were 60 or 70.”6

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”7 

“There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can’t tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he’s liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can’t adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”7 


Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, writer, and filmmaker. She is best known for her romantic comedy films and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally. She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award–winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore. In 2013, Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy.

1. Esquire (January 1976)

2. Interview in The Los Angeles Times (July 27, 1989)

3. Heartburn (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983)

4. Dreams on Spec (2007 documentary film)

5. Wellesley College Commencement (1996) 

6. London Times Online – “Get real – aging’s not all Helen Mirren” (March 4, 2007)

7. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman  (Knopf Publishing Group, August 1st 2006)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #35 – MAY 20, 2020


Inigo: “You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.”

The Man in Black: “You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.” 

-Inigo and Westley, The Princess Bride (1987)

“I’ve been in the revenge business for so long, now that it’s over I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride (1987)


”What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?” 

Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men (2007)


“There’s no crying in baseball!” 

-Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own (1992)


“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” 

-Benjamin Braddock, The Graduate (1967)


Dave: “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

HAL: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

-Dave and HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Norman: “You like that word, don’t you? Bullshit.”

Billy Ray: “Yeah”

Pause –

Norman: “It’s a good word.”

-Norman and Billy Ray, On Golden Pond (1981)

Chelsea: “It just seems like we’ve been mad at each other for so long…”

Norman: “I didn’t think we were mad; I just thought we didn’t like each other.”

-Norman and Chelsea, On Golden Pond (1981)


“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

Phil Connors, Groundhog Day (1993)

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

-Phil and Ralph, Groundhog Day (1993)


English Bob: “Well, actually, what I heard was that you fell off your horse — drunk, of course — and that you broke your bloody neck.”

Little Bill: “I heard that one myself, Bob. Hell, I even thought I was dead ’til I found out it was just that I was in Nebraska.”

-Little Bill and English Bob, Unforgiven (1992)

Kid: “Jesus Christ! It don’t seem real. Guy ain’t gonna never breathe again ever. Now he’s dead, and the other one too, all on account of pullin’ a trigger.”

Will: “It’s a hell of a thing, killin’ a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”

Kid: “Yeah. Well, I guess they had it comin’.”

Will: “We all have it comin’, kid.”

Will Munny and The Schofield Kid, Unforgiven (1992)


“Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes, with boats, and friends, and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story; good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.”

-Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets (1997)


“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him … Then nothing would ever happen to him.”

-Dory, Finding Nemo (2003)


“So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed.” 

― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It (1992)


Pete: “Who elected you leader of this outfit?”

Ulysses Everett McGill: “Well, Pete, I thought the leader should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought, but if that doesn’t seem to be the case, hell, we’ll put it to a vote.”

-Pete and Ulysses, Oh BrotherWhere Art Though (2000)


Miles Massey: [after ordering food for both of them]  “I assume you’re a carnivore.”

Marylin Rexroth: “Oh, Mr. Massey. You have no idea.”

-Miles and Marilyn, Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Waitress: “Yeah?”

Wrigley: “I’ll just have a salad, please – baby field greens”

Waitress: “What did you call me?”

Wrigley: “Uh, I didn’t call you anything.”

Waitress: “You want a salad?”

Wrigley: “Yeah. Do you… Do you have a… uh, green salad?”

Waitress: “What the f—k color would it be?”

Wrigley (turning to Miles): “Why are we eating here?”

Waitress: “What’s his problem?”

Miles: “Just bring him iceberg lettuce and a mealy tomato wedge smothered in french dressing.”

Waitress, Wrigley, and Miles, Intolerable Cruelty (2003)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #36 – MAY 21, 2020


“If there is to be any permanent improvement in man and any better social order, it must come mainly from the education and humanizing of man.”1

“I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure — that is all that agnosticism means.”2

“Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails.”3

“At times I felt that I stood alone in the world, and it is not a bad feeling.  And it is well enough for a man once in a while to feel that he stands alone and is ready to fight the world.  It is good for your courage; it is good for your character.”4 

“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom.  You can only be free if I am free.”5

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I’m beginning to believe it.”6

“History repeats itself. That’s one of the things wrong with history.”7

“I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.”8

“There is no logical consistency in what a man does with his life. I run on emotions, like everybody else.”9

“I wish some fellow like Henry Ford or Rockefeller or some other patron saint of America with great organizing ability would teach us how to be inefficient and happy.”9

“I am sure of very little, and I shouldn’t be surprised if those things were wrong.”9


I was a weird kid, I will admit. My heroes did not tend to be baseball players, rock stars, or captains of industry. I revered the men and women who spoke truth to power, iconoclasts who swam against the current and stood up for the little guy against the rich and powerful. In short, Clarence Darrow was my hero. It explains a lot about me today. I have never been brave enough to be a Darrow, but I aspire to be.

Clarence Seward Darrow (April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938) was an American lawyer who became famous in the early 20th century for his involvement in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial and the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. He was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a prominent advocate for Georgist economic reform.

Called a “sophisticated country lawyer”, Darrow’s wit and eloquence made him one of the most prominent attorneys and civil libertarians in the nation. He defended high-profile clients in many famous trials of the early 20th century, including teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb for murdering 14-year-old Robert “Bobby” Franks (1924); teacher John T. Scopes in the Scopes “Monkey” Trial (1925), in which he opposed statesman and orator William Jennings Bryan; and Ossian Sweet in a racially-charged self-defense case (1926).(Wikipedia)

1. Crime: Its Cause And Treatment (Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1922) 

2. Scopes Trial, Dayton, TN (July 13, 1925)

3. The Sign (May 1938)  

4. Quoted in Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned, (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011) 

5. Darrow’s argument in People v. Lloyd, 304 Ill. 23, 136 N.E. 505 (1922).

6. Quoted in Clarence Darrow for the Defense (Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1941)

7. Quoted in Peter’s Quotations: Ideas For Our Time (William Morrow & Co., 1977) 

8. Quoted in Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do by Peter McWilliams (Prelude Press, 1996)

9. Darrow’s Obiturary in The New York Times (March 14, 1938)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #37 – MAY 22, 2020


“The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time.”1

“I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one’s weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast. We can’t all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something.”1

“I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air — or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had, considerably more freely than I ought.”2

“While the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.”3

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”4

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”5

“Work is the best antidote to sorrow.”6

“To let the brain work without sufficient material is like racing an engine. It racks itself to pieces.”7


Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer and medical doctor. He created the character Sherlock Holmes in 1887 when he published A Study in Scarlet, the first of four novels and more than fifty short stories about Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Sherlock Holmes stories are generally considered milestones in the field of crime fiction.

Doyle was a prolific writer; other than Holmes stories, his works include fantasy and science fiction stories about Professor Challenger and humorous stories about the Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard, as well as plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels. One of Doyle’s early short stories, J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement (1884), helped to popularise the mystery of the Mary Celeste.

1. The Stark Munro Letters (Longmans, Green & Co., 1895)

2. A Study in Scarlet (Ward Lock & Company, 1887)

3. The Sign of the Four (Spencer Blackett, 1890)

4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes  “A Case of Identity” (George Newnes, 1892)

5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” (George Newnes, 1892)

6. The Return of Sherlock Holmes “The Adventure of the Empty House” (George Newnes, 1905)

7. His Last Bow (John Murray, 1917)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #38 – MAY 23, 2020


Note from the quote collector:

What follows is a true story. I understand that it is not quite kosher to quote yourself in a collection of this kind. I am only the straight man here, however, which I think is okay. To fully get the goody from this you must know what the show The Goldbergs is. If you haven’t watched it you have really missed out. The concept is that Adam Goldberg (the show runner) has made a comedy series out of the events of his life growing up in the 1980s. It is excellent!

Me crabbing at Owen: “Turn that TV down, shut off those lights, pick up that garbage, etc., etc.”

Owen: “Oh Dad, don’t be such a Murray Goldberg.” 

Me: “Well his kid has his own television show. Do you have your own television show?” 

Owen: “No, but I’m writing a book which may be adapted into a screenplay.”

Me: “Is it about what a good Dad you have?” 

Owen: “No, it’s non-fiction.” 


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #39 – MAY 24, 2020


You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (1967)1

“Clouds so swift

Rain won’t lift

Gate won’t close

Railings froze

Get your mind off wintertime

You ain’t goin nowhere

Whoo-ee ride me high

Tomorrow’s the day

My bride’s gonna come

Oh, Oh are we gonna fly

Down in the easy chair”

The Times They Are A-Changin’2

“Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin”

Shelter From the Storm3

“Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ there

With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair

She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns

‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’”

Positively Fourth Street4

“I wish that for just one time

You could stand inside my shoes

And just for that one moment

I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time

You could stand inside my shoes

You’d know what a drag it is

To see you”

Mr. Tambourine Man5

“Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind

Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves

The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach

Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow”

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall6

“And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’

Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’”

Like a Rolling Stone7

“How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?”

Buckets of Rain8

“I like your smile

And your fingertips

Like the way that you move your hips

I like the cool way you look at me

Everything about you is bringing me misery”

Blowin’ in the Wind6

“How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?

Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind”


Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than 50 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture…In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.(Wikipedia)

1. The Basement Tapes, 1967

2. The Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964

3. Blood on the Tracks, 1975

4. Single, 1965

5. Bringing It All Back Home, 1965

6. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963

7. Highway 61 Revisited, 1965

8. Blood on the Tracks, 1975


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #40 – MAY 25, 2020


“Never read any book that is not a year old.”1

“Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.”2

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.”3

“Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him.”4

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”5

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.”6

“We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”7

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”8

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”9

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”9

“The Religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide. It acknowledges that it is not equal to the whole of truth, that it legislates, tyrannizes over a village of God’s empires but is not the immutable universal law.”10

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”9 


Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism in his 1836 essay “Nature”.

Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for mankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Emerson’s “nature” was more philosophical than naturalistic: “Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.” Emerson is one of several figures who “took a more pantheist or pandeist approach by rejecting views of God as separate from the world.” … Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of Henry David Thoreau, a fellow transcendentalist. (Wikipedia)

1. The Conduct of Life, “In Praise of Books” (Ticknor & Fields 1861)

2. Parnassus, Preface (Houghton, Osgood and Company, 1880)

3. “Fortune of the Republic: Lecture Delivered at the Old South Church” (March 30, 1878)

4. As quoted in Think, Vol. 4-5 (1938)

5. The Conduct of Life, “Worship” (Ticknor & Fields 1861)

6. Emerson’s Journals (1822–1863) (December 20, 1822)

7. Emerson’s Journals (1822–1863) (April 12, 1834)

8. Emerson’s Journals (1822–1863) (November 11, 1842)

9. Essay “Self-Reliance” (1841)

10.  Emerson’s Journals (1822–1863) (March 4, 1831)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #41 – MAY 26, 2020


The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Lou: “You know what, you’ve got spunk!”

Mary: “Well, yes …”

Lou: “I hate spunk!”

“I came home the other day and everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I couldn’t believe it. I said to my roommate, ‘Look at this stuff, it’s all an exact replica.’ He said, ‘Do I know you?’”

-Steven Wright

“If you’ve ever had to haul a can of paint to the top of a water tower to defend your sister’s honor – you might be a redneck.”

-Jeff Foxworthy

“By the Way, If Anyone Here Is in Advertising or Marketing … Kill Yourself!”

-Bill Hicks

“I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’”

-Chris Rock, 

“I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for those who like country music, denigrate means to ‘put down.’”

-Bob Newhart

“The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.” 

-George Carlin

“I have low self-esteem; when we were in bed together, I would fantasize that I was someone else.” 

-Richard Lewis

“Do you ever get halfway through eating a horse and go ‘you know, I’m not as hungry as thought I was’?” 

– Tim Vine

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” 

– George Carlin

“The second I get shampoo in my eyes, I’m 100% sure there’s a murderer in my bathroom.” 

– Bill Murray

“What a kid I got; I told him about the birds and the bees and he told me about the butcher and my wife.”

 – Rodney Dangerfield

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

 – Groucho Marx


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #42 – MAY 27, 2020


“If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen.”1

“Who shot him? I asked.

The grey man scratched the back of his neck and said: “Somebody with a gun.”2

“The people who lie the most are nearly always the clumsiest at it, and they’re easier to fool with lies than most people, too. You’d think they’d be on the look-out for lies, but they seem to be the very ones that will believe almost anything at all.”3

“I haven’t laughed so much over anything since the hogs ate my kid brother.”2 

“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”4

“He felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him see the works.”4

“Play with murder enough and it gets you one of two ways. It makes you sick, or you get to like it.2

“Listen, Dundy, it’s been a long time since I burst into tears because a policeman didn’t like me.”4 

“…It’s probably polite to pretend you don’t see people coming out of pawnshops, anyhow.”3 

“Be still while I get up or I’ll make an opening in your head for brains to leak in.”2 

“I don’t want to brag about how dumb I am, but this job is plain as astronomy to me. I understand everything about it except what you have done and why, and what you’re trying to do and how.”5

“But where knowledge of trickery is evenly distributed, honesty not infrequently prevails.”6

“Did it ever occur to you that everybody is more or less afraid of nearly everything, and that courage isn’t a damn thing but a habit of not dodging things because you’re afraid of them?”7

“If a man says a thing often enough, he is very likely to acquire some sort of faith in it sooner or later.”8


1. (June, 1924 Interview, can’t pin down the publication)

2. Red Harvest (Alfred A. Knopf, 1929)

3. The Thin Man (Alfred A. Knopf, 1934)

4. The Maltese Falcon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1930)

5. The Novels of Dashiell Hammett

6. Nightmare Town (Argosy All-Story Weekly, December 27, 1924)

7. The Cure (unpublished story, first printed in The Hunter and Other Stories in 2013)

8. The Second Story Angel (Alfred A. Knopf, 1924)

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories. He was also a screenwriter and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

Hammett “is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time”. In his obituary in The New York Times, he was described as “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.” Time magazine included Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest on its list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. His novels and stories also had a significant influence on films, including the genres of private-eye/detective fiction, mystery thrillers, and film-noir. 

During the 1950s, Hammett was investigated by Congress. He testified on March 26, 1953, before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his own activities, but refused to cooperate with the committee. No official action was taken, but his stand led to him being blacklisted, along with others who were blacklisted as a result of McCarthyism. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #43 – MAY 28, 2020


CBC Interviewer: “Is it possible, one of these days, that we will read a James Bond novel in which the hero is killed in the end?”

Flemming (with a wry smile): “I couldn’t possibly afford it.”1

‘I’m wondering whose side I ought to be on. I’m getting very sorry for the Devil … The Devil has a rotten time and I always like to be on the side of the underdog. We don’t give the poor chap a chance.2

“He disagreed with something that ate him.”3

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes’, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”4

“Love of life is born of the awareness of death, of the dread of it.”5 

“It reads better than it lives”6 

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”7

“The gain to the winner is always less than the loss to the loser.”3 

“You can get far in North America with laconic grunts. “Huh,” “hun,” and “hi!” in their various modulations, together with “sure,” “guess so,” “that so?” and “nuts!” will meet almost any contingency.”8 

“The conventional parabola–sentiment, the touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the feel of the body, the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears and the final bitterness–was to him shameful and hypocritical.”2 

“When the odds are hopeless, when all seems to be lost, then is the time to be calm, to make a show of authority – at least of indifference”9 

“It was a room-shaped room with furniture-shaped furniture, and dainty curtains.”10


1. CBC interview(1953)

2. Casino Royale (Jonathan Cape, 1953)

3. Live and Let Die (Jonathan Cape, 1954)

4. Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car (Jonathan Cape, 1964)

5. The Spy Who Loved Me (Jonathan Cape, 1962)

6. Diamonds Are Forever (Jonathan Cape, 1956)

7. Goldfinger (Jonathan Cape, 1959)

8. For Your Eyes Only (Jonathan Cape, 1960)

9. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Jonathan Cape, 1963)

10. Thunderball (Jonathan Cape, 1961)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #44 – MAY 29, 2020


“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.”

-Alexandre Dumas1

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

-David Steindl-Rast2

“Happiness Makes Up In Height For What It Lacks In Length.”

-Robert Frost3

“It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty an’ wealth have both failed.”

-Kin Hubbard4

“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.”

-Nathaniel Hawthorne5

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.”

-Mark Twain6

“To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

-Bertrand Russell7

One thing I am convinced more and more is true and that is this: the only way to be truly happy is to make others happy. When you realize that and take advantage of the fact, everything is made perfect.”

-William Carlos Williams8

“There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their happinesses to the unhappy.”

-Mark Twain9

“Every man is a suffering-machine and a happiness-machine combined. The two functions work together harmoniously, with a fine and delicate precision, on the give-and-take principle. For every happiness turned out in the one department the other stands ready to modify it with a sorrow or a pain–maybe a dozen.”

-Mark Twain10


1. The Count of Monte Cristo (Pétion, 1844) 

2. Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness (Paulist Press 1984)

3. A Witness Tree (Henry Holt and Company,1942)

4. Short Furrows (The Bobbs Merrill Company, 1911)

5.  The American Notebooks (1851)

6. The $30,000 bequest and Other Stories, “The Enemy Conquered; or, Love Triumphant” (Harper and Brothers, 1906)

7. The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

8. Letters of William Carlos Williams “Letter to his mother, written from the University of Pennsylvania” (1957)

9. Following the Equator, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar” (The American Publishing Company, 1897)

10. The Mysterious Stranger (Harper and Brothers, 1916)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #45 – MAY 30, 2020


“Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.”1

“What do we know of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature.”2

“There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life.”3

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”4

“Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.”5

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”6


I really enjoy H.P. Lovecraft. Thankfully, most of the time I can’t really associate myself with his dark world view. There are times, though, when his brilliant, elegant prose is a pleasure to read or listen to. 

Lovecraft came upon his gloominess honestly. To quote his Wikipedia biography “Throughout his adult life, Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as an author and editor. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime and was almost exclusively published in pulp magazines before he died in poverty at the age of 46.” Write what you know, I guess?

1. “The Temple” – Weird Tales, 6 No. 3 (September 1925)

2. “From Beyond” – The Fantasy Fan (June 1934)

3. ”Celephaïs” – The Rainbow, No. 2 (May 1922)

4. “Supernatural Horror in Literature” – The Recluse (1927)

5. “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” – Pine Cones, Vol. 1, No. 6 (October 1919)

6. “The Call of Cthulhu” – Weird Tales (February, 1928)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #46 – MAY 31, 2020


Note from the collector:

Where do you start with Walt Whitman? Where do you finish with Walt Whitman? Indeed, if you love quotes and you love poetry, where do you finish with any of this? 

It occurred to me as I was preparing my favorite Walt Whitman quotes that those of you who signed up for my QOTD project (Oh yeah, that’s right, none of you did) or those of you who tolerate my QOTD project, were under the impression that there would be a “QUOTE” of the day. Like so many of my ideas, this one is getting out of hand.

All I can say is:

1. Thank you for your tolerance.

2. I will try to be less long-winded in future.

3. Read what you like and then trash the email.

4. You can opt out of this at any time.


5. I hope you like Walt Whitman. There are some gems here if you stick with it.


“It is a beautiful truth that all men contain something of the artist in them. And perhaps it is the case that the greatest artists live and die, the world and themselves alike ignorant what they possess.”1

“Some people are so much sunlight to the square inch. I am still bathing in the cheer he radiated. … Cheer! cheer! Is there anything better in this world anywhere than cheer — just cheer? Any religion better? — any art? Just cheer!”2


“In the faces of men and women I see God.”3

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self- contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,

They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,

Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?3

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”3

“You are also asking me questions and I hear you,

I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.”3

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you.”3


“When lilacs last in the door-yard bloomed,

And the great star early drooped in the western sky in the night,

I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.”4


“When I read the book, the biography famous,

And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?

And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?

(As if any man really knew aught of my life,

Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life, Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections I seek for my own use to trace out here.)”5


“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me?

And why should I not speak to you?”5


“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, Strong and content I travel the open road.”6


“Silent and amazed even when a little boy,

I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God in his statements, As contending against some being or influence.”7


“What am I after all but a child, pleas’d with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over;

I stand apart to hear—it never tires me.

To you your name also;

Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations in the sound of your name?”8


“Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,

As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,

Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,

The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.”9


“Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,

No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.

Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;

Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.

Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.

The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,

The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;

The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual; To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,

With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.”9


“Have you learn’d lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?

Have you not learn’d great lessons from those who reject you, and brace themselves against you? or who treat you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?”9


“After surmounting three-score and ten,

With all their chances, changes, losses, sorrows,

My parents’ deaths, the vagaries of my life, the many tearing passions of me, the war of ’63 and ‘4,

As some old broken soldier, after a long, hot, wearying march, or haply after battle,

To-day at twilight, hobbling, answering company roll-call, Here, with vital voice,

Reporting yet, saluting yet the Officer over all.”10


1. Lecture at the Brooklyn Art Union (31 March 1851)

2. As quoted in With Walt Whitman in Camden (Small, Maynard & Company, 1906)

3. Leaves of Grass “Song of Myself” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

4. Leaves of Grass “Memories of President Lincoln” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

5. Leaves of Grass “Inscriptions” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

6.  Leaves of Grass “Song of the Open Road” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

7. Leaves of Grass “By the Roadside” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

8. Leaves of Grass “Autumn Rivulets” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

9. Leaves of Grass “Sands at Seventy” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)

10. Leaves of Grass “Good-Bye My Fancy” (First Edition Self-Published, 1855)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #47 – JUNE 1, 2020



Exchange with two supporters at a McCain rally October 10, 2008 in Lakeville, MN.

Woman at rally:

“I do not believe in … I cannot trust Obama. I have read about him and he is, he is not, he’s an Arab.”


“No, M’aam, No M’aam, he’s a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

Man at rally:

“We’re scared of an Obama Presidency.”


“He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States.”


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #48 – JUNE 2, 2020


“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.”


“The only thing I can say about my career is that I wasn’t very good when I started and I got a little better.”

-Linda Ronstad2

“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else … This isn’t necessarily perverse.”

-David Foster Wallace3

“This, I should have known, was too much for his literal and sausage-like mind.”

-John Kennedy Toole4


1. Questions sur les miracles (1765) (Translation from Les Philosophes. The Philosophers of the Enlightenment and Modern Democracy. (Capricorn Books, 1961)

2. “CBS This Morning” interview (December 6, 2019)

3. Infinite Jest (Little, Brown, 2009)

4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Louisiana State University Press, 1980)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #49 – JUNE 3, 2020


As I watched the Spacex Falcon 9 launch from pad 39 A (the pad that saw Apollo 11 off to the moon) the other day I wondered if I was the only American with reservations about this development. It certainly seemed that I was alone, based on the lavish praise from all quarters, from Trump to Tribune

Firstly, I am a space junkie. I love all things related to space travel and exploration. I have been to the Kennedy Space Center. I have watched the Space Shuttle launch. I have heard the sonic boom as it prepared to land back in Florida. And I have spent a full day at the U.S. Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL mostly just staring, slack-jawed, at the Saturn V rocket. I believe in exploration and experimentation and pushing the envelope of our knowledge. Spacex is doing all of these things. I am glad of it. 

Secondly, I am not a flag waver. When I see a politician with a flag pin on his lapel I am immediately put on my guard. Patriotism is not measured by the kind of jewelry you can afford.

And yet, what troubled me about the Spacex launch was symbolism. What troubles me deeply is the who and the why of this. I feel like something has been slipped by us. We have acquiesced to something, a change of mission, a change of philosophy, without being asked. 

On July 16, 1969, when I was not quite one year old, NASA launched Apollo 11, carrying Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon. As the magnificent Saturn V rose on a pillar of flame, it rotated to reveal the words United States of America painted down the length of the mighty machine. Four days later, when Armstrong took those first amazing steps onto the moon, all Americans and indeed all the world, was there with him in spirit because this was a collective endeavor. This was something that we, as a society, did together. It was not a profit motive that lifted that rocket; it was the will of the American people. Even though Boeing and 

“Ideas, like men, can become dictators. We Americans have so far escaped regimentation by our rulers, but have we escaped regimentation by our own ideas? I doubt if there exists today a more complete regimentation of the human mind than that accomplished by our self-imposed doctrine of ruthless utilitarianism.”

“The Farmer as a Conservationist” [1939]; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 259.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #50 – JUNE 4, 2020


“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”

—Charlotte Bronte1

“The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.”2

—Sylvia Plath

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”3

—Jane Austen

“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

-Rebecca West4

“Once men realize that they are also deprived — not as much as women, just as whites are not as deprived as blacks — but there is a full circle of human qualities we all have a right to. And they’re confined to the “masculine” ones, which are seventy percent of all of them, and we’re confined to the “feminine” ones, which are thirty percent. We’re missing more, but they’re still missing a lot. If a man fights to be his whole self, to be creative, to express emotions men are not supposed to express, do jobs men are not supposed to do, take care of his own children — all of these things are part of the feminist movement.”

-Gloria Steinem5

“Men think that self-sacrifice is the most charming of all the cardinal virtues for women, and in order to keep it in healthy working order, they make opportunities for its illustration as often as possible. I would fain teach women that self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”

-Elizabeth Cady Stanton6

“In the criminal code we find no feminine pronouns, as “He,” “His,” “Him,” we are arrested, tried and hung, but singularly enough, we are denied the highest privileges of citizens, because the pronouns “She,” “Hers” and “Her,” are not found in the constitutions. It is a pertinent question, if women can pay the penalties of their crimes as “He,” why may they not enjoy the privileges of citizens as “He”?”

-Elizabeth Cady Stanton6


1. Jane Eyre (Smith, Elder & Co., 1847)

2. The Bell Jar (Heinemann, 1963)

3. Persuasion (John Murray, 1818)

4. The Clarion, “Mr. Chesterton in Hysterics” (November 14, 1913)

5.  Interview with Marianne Schnall (3 April 1995)

6. The Woman’s Bible (1898)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #51 – JUNE 5, 2020


“Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive but also something you can work on intellectually.”

-Tim Minchin1


Coincident with, or rather due to, my daughter’s commencement from high school and also the 30th (yes, 30th) anniversary of my own graduation from Knox College, I have found myself wandering the commencement address neighborhood of YouTube. Some are pretty good and some are, of course, rubbish. One that I was impressed with was an address by comedian and songwriter Tim Minchin. I have always enjoyed Minchin’s slightly off kilter and subversive comedy; maybe you will, too. He actually works the word orgasm into a commencement address and gets a broad smile from the College President.

1. University of Western Australia commencement (October 7, 2013)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #52 – JUNE 6, 2020


Note from the collector:

Almost without exception, we Americans are admirers of Abraham Lincoln. It seems to me that a person can’t truly call themselves an American if they are unable to recite the first paragraph of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and at least a few words from his Second Inaugural. I am more than an admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He is a personal hero and an inspiration. 

In no small part I revere Lincoln because he was a real person. He was a genius and an eloquent writer and an autodidact. He had empathy and compassion and, at the same time, a strong will. He had courage and a powerful sense of morality. 

But he was also a real, breathing person with feet of clay. Abraham Lincoln suffered from doubt and depression. He had a temper and was sometimes impatient. He went off on flights of fancy. In short, he was just like us. 

He was a calculating politician, a maker of big and small mistakes, and an imperfect husband. His position on slavery, the greatest moral question of his day, was nuanced and strategic and what you might call cynical (read the Emancipation Proclamation). Yet, in a very real way, his actions achieved what the firebrand abolitionists did not. 

Considering Lincoln, I am reminded of my Linda Ronstadt quote from the other day: “The only thing I can say about my career is that I wasn’t very good when I started and I got a little better.” Abraham Lincoln got a lot better. That is about all any of us can hope for (and that may be the first time in history Linda Ronstadt and Abraham Lincoln have been compared).

To honor a real hero who was also a real person I would like to feature some quotes of Abraham Lincoln which you may never have read. The last quote, from a letter to Lincoln’s recalcitrant wartime General, George McClellan, shows some of the complexity of Lincoln’s personality. It is effective and clear but, at the same time, reveals frustration and sarcasm. I recommend you read the whole letter if you can and, really, everything Lincoln ever wrote. I hope you find these quotes as fascinating as I do.


“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.”1

A Poem

“Whatever Spiteful fools may Say—

Each jealous, ranting yelper—

No woman ever played the whore

Unless she had a man to help her.”2

“I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason; I can never be satisfied with anyone who would be blockhead enough to have me.”3

“I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class. There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant and warm-blooded to fall into this vice.”4

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”5

“Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose.”6

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”7

“It has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.”8

“I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood; and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him.”9

“My dear Sir, 

You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim? … As I understand, you telegraph Gen. Halleck that you can not subsist your army at Winchester unless the Railroad from Harper’s Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named. …I certainly should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the Railroad …, but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you; and, in fact ignores the question of time, which can not, and must not be ignored. 

Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is “to operate upon the enemy’s communications as much as possible without exposing your own.” You seem to act as if this applies against you, but can not apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next twentyfour hours?… I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and, at least, try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track. … If he make a stand at Winchester, … I would fight him there, on the idea that if we can not beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In coming to us, he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere, or fail finally…I think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy; and it is unmanly to say they can not do it.

This letter is in no sense an order.

Yours truly


“Majr. Genl. McClellan,

I have just read your despatch about sore tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?



1. Speech to Illinois legislature (January 1837)

2. “a Kind of Poetical Society” in Illinois sometime between 1837-39. One neighbor, James Matheny, remembered the following worldly lines from a Lincoln poem called “On Seduction”:

3. Letter to Mrs. Orville H. Browning (1 April 1838)

4. Address to the Springfield Washingtonian Temperance Society (22 February 1842)

5. Letter to John T. Stuart (23 January 1841)

6. Letter, while US Congressman, to his friend and law-partner William H. Herndon, opposing the Mexican-American War (15 February 1848)

7. Notes for a Law Lecture (1 July 1850?), cited in Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works, Comprising his Speeches, Letters, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings, Vol. 2 (1894)

8. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, “Fragments of a Tariff Discussion” (1 December 1847)

9. Letter to Allen N. Ford (11 August 1846), reported in Roy Prentice Basler, ed., Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings (1990 [1946])

10. Letter to Major General George McClellan (Oct. 13, 1862)

11. Letter to Major General George McClellan (Oct. 24, 1862)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #53 – JUNE 7, 2020


“There are few things in this world which it is worthwhile to get angry about and they are just the things anger will not improve.”

-Henry Jarvis Raymond

1st editorial in the New York Times (September 18, 1851)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #54 – JUNE 8, 2020


“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”1

“I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of

wit broken on me because I have railed so long

against marriage, but doth not the appetite alter? A

man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot

endure in his age. Shall quips and sentences and

these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the

career of his humor? No! The world must be peopled.

When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.”2

“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”3

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”4  

“I think the devil will not have me damned, lest the oil that’s in me should set hell on fire.”5  

“Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd!

She was a vixen when she went to school.

And though she be but little, she is fierce.”6

“The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose”7


1. Sonnet 18

2. Much Ado About Nothing – Act 2, Scene 3

3. As You Like It – Act 3, Scene 5

4. The Merry Wives of Windsor – Act 2 Scene 2

5. Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor – Act 5 Scene 5

6. A Midsummer’s Dream – Act 3 Scene 2

7. The Merchant of Venice – Act 1, Scene 3


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #55 – JUNE 9, 2020


Note from the collector:

Some time ago I made a sort of reverse bucket list. It was titled something like “Cool things I have seen/done in my life.” On this list were items such as “Saw a space shuttle launch, looked into the morning glory pool at Yellowstone, stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and looked over New York City.” 

Number eight on the list was “Attended a lecture by Stephen Jay Gould.” Gould was a personal hero and one of my models for what a truly intellectual life should look like. He was a renowned evolutionary biologist and paleontologist, but also a compelling and excellent writer. He made science interesting and accessible, much as my other heroes Carl Sagan and Bill Nye have. Gould died in 2002 after a nearly 20 year off-and-on battle with cancer. Some of his most profound and interesting writing was about cancer and his attempt to confront and intellectualize it. 


“We build our personalities laboriously and through many years, and we cannot order fundamental changes just because we might value their utility; no button reading “positive attitude” protrudes from our hearts, and no finger can coerce positivity into immediate action by a single and painless pressing.”1

“Humans are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life, which, if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this twig again, or perhaps any twig with any property that we would care to call consciousness.”2

“Science is a method for testing claims about the natural world, not an immutable compendium of absolute truths. The fundamentalists, by “knowing” the answers before they start, and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie outside the domain of science—or of any honest intellectual inquiry.”3

“Bacteria represent the world’s greatest success story. They are today and have always been the modal organisms on earth; they cannot be nuked to oblivion and will outlive us all. This time is their time, not the “age of mammals” as our textbooks chauvinistically proclaim.”4 

“Yes, Shakespeare foremost and forever (Darwin too). But also teach about the excellence of pygmy bushcraft and Fuegian survival in the world’s harshest climate. Dignity and inspiration come in many guises. Would anyone choose the tinhorn patriotism of George Armstrong Custer over the eloquence of Chief Joseph in defeat?”5

“Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome.”6

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”7

“Why, then, have we been bamboozled into accepting the usual tale without questioning? I suspect two primary reasons: we love a sensible and satisfying story, and we are disinclined to challenge apparent authority. But do remember that most satisfying tales are false.”8

The oppressive weight of disaster and tragedy in our lives does not arise from a high percentage of evil among the summed total of all acts, but from the extraordinary power of exceedingly rare incidents of depravity to inflict catastrophic damage, especially in our technological age when airplanes can become powerful bombs.”9

“Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenuity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.”10

“Anton Chekhov wrote that “one must not put a loaded rifle on stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” Good drama requires spare and purposive action, sensible linking of potential causes with realized effects. Life is much messier; nothing happens most of the time. Millions of Americans (many hotheaded) own rifles (many loaded), but the great majority, thank God, do not go off most of the time. We spend most of real life waiting for Godot, not charging once more unto the breach.”11

“We live in a capitalist economy, and I have no particular objection to honorable self-interest. We cannot hope to make the needed, drastic improvement in primary and secondary education without a dramatic restructuring of salaries. In my opinion, you cannot pay a good teacher enough money to recompense the value of talent applied to the education of young children. I teach an hour or two a day to tolerably well-behaved near-adults—and I come home exhausted. By what possible argument are my services worth more in salary than those of a secondary-school teacher with six classes a day, little prestige, less support, massive problems of discipline, and a fundamental role in shaping minds.”12

“We should take comfort in two conjoined features of nature: first, that our world is incredibly strange and therefore supremely fascinating … second, that however bizarre and arcane our world might be, nature remains potentially comprehensible to the human mind.”13


1. Full House (Harmony Books, 1996)

2. Dinosaur in a Haystack – “Can We Complete Darwin’s Revolution?” (Harmony Books, 1995)

3. Bully for Brontosaurus – “An Essay on a Pig Roast” (W. W. Norton, 1991)

4. Eight Little Piggies – “An Earful of Jaw”(W. W. Norton, 1993)

5. Eight Little Piggies – “The Moral State of Tahiti—and of Darwin” (W. W. Norton, 1993)

6. Discover Magazine (May 1981)

7. New Scientist – “Wide hats and narrow minds” (March 8, 1979)

8. Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms – “The Tallest Tale” (Harmony Books, 1998)

9. The Globe and Mail -“The Good People of Halifax” (09/20/2001)

10. Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes – “Nonmoral Nature”(W. W. Norton, 1983)

11. Dinosaur in a Haystack – “Speaking of Snails and Scales”(Harmony Books, 1995)

12. Bully for Brontosaurus – “The Dinosaur Rip-off” (W. W. Norton, 1991)

13. Dinosaur in a Haystack – “A Special Fondness for Beetles” (Harmony Books, 1995)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #56 – JUNE 10, 2020


“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

-John Stuart Mill1


1. Inaugural Address delivered to the University of St. Andrews (February 1, 1867)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #57 – JUNE 11, 2020


“Babies are dying from cold and hunger; soldiers have died for lack of a woolen shirt. Might it not be that the men who have spent their lives thinking in terms of commercial profit find it hard to adjust themselves to thinking in terms of human needs? Might it not be that a great force that has always been thinking in terms of human needs, and that always will think in terms of human needs, has not been mobilized? Is it not possible that the women of the country have something of value to give the Nation at this time? It would be strange indeed if the women of the country through all these years had not developed an intelligence, a feeling, a spiritual force peculiar to themselves, which they hold in readiness to give to the world.”1

“The individual woman is required…a thousand times a day to choose either to accept her appointed role and thereby rescue her good disposition out of the wreckage of her self-respect, or else follow an independent line of behavior and rescue her self-respect out of the wreckage of her good disposition.”2

“We’re half the people; we should be half the Congress.”3

“As a woman, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”4

“If I had my life to live over, I would do it all again, but this time I would be nastier.”5

“At first glance it appears that money is a great essential, but the money is helpful only when it represents energy in disseminating ideas. If one had the energy to cover a district, it would not require money. No woman can be elected independently unless she has devoted at least two years on nothing else but working up an organization.”6

“I tell these young women that they must get to the people who don’t come to the meetings. It never did any good for all the suffragettes to come together and talk to each other. There will be no revolution unless we go out into the precincts. You have to be stubborn. Stubborn and ornery.”7

“Everybody knows the Electoral College is a sham. What we need is a participatory democracy through a preferential election.”8

“It is unconscionable that 10,000 boys have died in Vietnam…If 10,000 American women had mind enough they could end the war, if they were committed to the task, even if it meant going to jail.”9

“All over the country women are asking for the vote. . . . We are a force in life, a factor which must be considered in all problems. . . . While we Montana women have broader opportunities than the women of any other part of the world, we want the ballot in order to give opportunity to less fortunate women.”10

“What one decides to do in crisis depends on one’s philosophy of life, and that philosophy cannot be changed by an incident. If one hasn’t any philosophy in crises, others make the decision.”11

“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”11

“Men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn’t make sense not to use both.”11

“You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go.”11


Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was an American politician and women’s rights advocate, and the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916, and again in 1940.

Each of Rankin’s Congressional terms coincided with initiation of U.S. military intervention in the two World Wars. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of 50 House members who opposed the declaration of war on Germany in 1917. In 1941, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A suffragist during the Progressive Era, Rankin organized and lobbied for legislation enfranchising women in several states including Montana, New York, and North Dakota. While in Congress, she introduced legislation that eventually became the 19th Constitutional Amendment, granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. She championed a multitude of diverse women’s rights and civil rights causes throughout a career that spanned more than six decades. (Wikipedia)

1. “Woman Suffrage,” Congressional Record, (January 10, 1918)

2. Quoted in Hannah Josephson, Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress (1974)

3. Quoted in Linda R. Monk, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (Hachette Books, 2015)

4. Speech before the U.S. House of Representatives (1941)

5. Quoted in James J. Lopach and Jean A. Luckowski, Jeannette Rankin: A Political Woman (University Press of Colorado Press, 2005)

6. Letter to Miss Clara Park Oliver (June 6, 1936)

7. Life (March 3, 1972)

8. San Francisco Chronicle (May 9, 1972)

9. Quoted by Associated Press (April 1967)

10. Woman’s Day speech, Missoula, Montana (May 2,1914)

11. I could not definitively track down a source for these quotes but hey are almost assuredly Rankin and widely quoted in secondary sources.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #58 – JUNE 12, 2020


Note from the collector:

It is a useful exercise, when one is feeling angry or frustrated or full of self-pity to pick up Anne Frank’s diary and just read a date or two. It reminds us how small our problems truly are (I can’t get a haircut today?) and just how powerful is the spirit which lies in each one of us if we can summon it.


“Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?”

January 12, 1944

“I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop and to express all that’s inside me!”

April 5, 1944

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!”

July 15, 1944

“If I read a book that impresses me, I have to take myself firmly by the hand, before I mix with other people; otherwise they would think my mind rather queer.”

November 8, 1943

“We’re all alive, but we don’t know why or what for; we’re all searching for happiness; we’re all leading lives that are different and yet the same.”

July 6, 1944

“Because paper has more patience than people.”

June 20, 1942

“Forgive me, Kitty (her diary), they don’t call me a bundle of contradictions for nothing!”

July 21, 1944

“I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the greatest question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, for I can recapture everything when I write, my thoughts, my ideas and my fantasies.”

April 5, 1944

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is: ‘Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.’ My advice is: ‘Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy.’”

March 7, 1944

“I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments.”

3 May 1944

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but it doesn’t stop you having your own opinions. Even if people are still very young, they shouldn’t be prevented from saying what they think.”

2 March 1944

“I believe that in the course of the next century the notion that it’s a woman’s duty to have children will change and make way for the respect and admiration of all women, who bear their burdens without complaint or a lot of pompous words!”

13 June 1944

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

15 July 1944

“For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

June 20, 1942


All quotes are from:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Doubleday & Company, 1952). First published under the title Het Achterhuis. Dagboekbrieven 14 Juni 1942 – 1 Augustus 1944 (The Annex: Diary Notes 14 June 1942 – 1 August 1944) (Contact Publishing, 1947)

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank (12 June 1929 – February or March 1945) was a German-Dutch diarist of Jewish origin. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis in Dutch; English: The Secret Annex), in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world’s best known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, Netherlands, having moved there with her family at the age of four and a half when the Nazis gained control over Germany. Born a German national, she lost her citizenship in 1941 and thus became stateless. By May 1940, the Franks were trapped in Amsterdam by the German occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the Franks went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father, Otto Frank, worked. From then until the family’s arrest by the Gestapo in August 1944, she kept a diary she had received as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. In October or November 1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died (probably of typhus) a few months later. They were originally estimated by the Red Cross to have died in March, with Dutch authorities setting 31 March as their official date of death, but research by the Anne Frank House in 2015 suggests it is more likely that they died in February.

Otto, the only survivor of the Franks, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by his secretary, Miep Gies, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch version and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl, and has since been translated into over 70 languages. (Wikipedia)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #59 – JUNE 13, 2020


“If one by one we counted people out 

For the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long 

To get so we had no one left to live with. 

For to be social is to be forgiving.”

-Robert Frost1


  1. New Hampshire – “The Star Splitter” (Henry Holt and Company, 1923)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #60 – JUNE 14, 2020


Note from the collector:

Recently I was asked by a friend, in what I thought was a mildly accusatory tone, “do you really have all those quotes written down or do you just look them up every day?,” as if that possibility violated some solemn promise on my part about source materials. 

It’s a fair cop – I guess. Certainly coming up with 60+ days of decent quotes requires some mining activities. Even that is more difficult than you might think, however. There are dozens of quote sites out there, of course. But, I have to say, the bulk of them do more harm to the world than good. This is for the simple reason that they don’t bother with attribution. The worst is probably BrainyQuote which implies, by it’s name, a certain level of intellectual honesty, but which makes absolutely zero effort at authenticity. 

Some quotes, if clever enough, become fodder for the Pinterest perpetual motion machine and take on a life of their own (the supposedly profound words of Benjamin Disraeli superimposed on a lovely photo of a sunset over the Grand Canyon). No effort is put into verifying sources and so these quotes are inevitably mis-attributed to one of six people: Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, Ben Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., or Abraham Lincoln. 

I do make an effort to verify my quotes and I do take the bulk of what you see here from my computer file labeled “Cool Quotes” which I have accumulated over twenty years of reading, watching TV, listening to podcasts, etc. These will run out eventually and I will let this thing die “not with a bang but a whimper,” as T.S. Eliot (or somebody) once said. 

Today’s quotes are “Pure Dustin” which is not to say that I said them, but that I heard them on a book tape, podcast, TV, or radio (or a real paper book, I know, right?). I stopped the car and grabbed a McDonalds napkin out of the glove compartment and scribbled them down with a crappy, leaky pen stolen from a hotel room. This is where the magic happens. 

Without further ado, here are todays real, semi-authenticated, overheard stuff. And, to quote Confucius, “I never said all that shit.”


“As far as I’m concerned high school sucked when I went and probably sucks now. I tend to regard people who remember it as the best four years of their lives with caution and a degree of pity.”

-Stephen King1 

“The wife says the bomb musta  been why we never had no kids. She says it burned out my genetics. You never know. Truth is, bad genetics runs in the family. Dad never had no kids.”

-William Least-Heat Moon2

“Eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.”

-Michael Pollan3

“I’m going to hell according to someone’s doctrine (Moslem, Hindu, Christian). I may as well call them as I see them.”

-Dr. Robert M. Price4

“Instead of reducing ourselves to the binary opposition of identity politics, we need to do the exact opposite: multiply our attachments and affiliations.”

-Elif Shafak5

“My whole point of view was, no matter what, you’re going to respect me and love me the way I am, and I’m not gonna change. I’m not gonna get a nose job. I’m not going to pretend I’m the girl next door . . . I wanted to be ‘pretty,’ you know? I think there are always different times in your life when you go, ‘Oh, god. I wish I were traditionally pretty. My life would be so much easier.’ But then you get through that, and you go, ‘Well, I’m not!”

-Sandra Bernhard6

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”

-Anthony Bourdain7

“I’m getting played? You just gave a pornographic actor your apartment, same guy you hit in the head with a coffeepot. You just go from one train wreck to the next.”

‘That’s why I never listen to my own advice.’

As he drank from his bottle of Dixie Beer his green eyes filled with an innocent self-satisfaction.”

-James Lee Burke8

“Words are our servants, not our masters. For different purposes, we find it convenient to use words in different senses.”

— Richard Dawkins9

“Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.”

-Ernest Hemingway10


1. Guns – Kindle Single (Philtrum Press, February 11, 2013)

2. Blue Highways (Fawcett Crest, 1982) 

3. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Penguin Press, 2008)

4. The Bible Geek podcast. (Didn’t write down the episode but I swear I heard him say it.)

5. New Perspectives Quarterly – “The Urgency of a Cosmopolitan Ideal as Nationalism Surges” (April 14,  2014)

6. Interview Magazine (April 2, 2012)

7. A Cooks Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2010) 

8. Last Car to Elysian Fields (Simon and Schuster, 2003) 

9. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (W. W. Norton & Company, Sep 28, 2015)

10. Death in the Afternoon (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #61 – JUNE 15, 2020


“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”1

“Every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer. Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks him.”2

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”3

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”4

“Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world.”5 

“What is abnormal is that I am normal. That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life — that is what is abnormal.”4

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”6

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must at that moment become the center of the universe.”6 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”7

“Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.”7

“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.”7

“No human being is illegal.”7

“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.”8


1. US News & World Report (October 27, 1986)

2. Night (Hill & Wang, 1960)

3. Parade Magazine – “Have You Learned The Most Important Lesson Of All?” (May 24, 1992)

4. O : The Oprah Magazine (November 2000)

5. Elie Wiesel: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi, 2002)

6. Nobel acceptance speech (December 10, 1986)

7. Nobel Lecture – “Hope, Despair, and Memory” (December 11, 1986)

8. Courage To Care – Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust (NYU Press, 1986)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #62 – JUNE 16, 2020


Note from the collector:

I realized, the other day, that after 62 episodes (for lack of a better word) I had not given Oscar Wilde his own day. Unacceptable!

“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”1

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”2

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”3

“Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”4

“And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”5

“Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.”6

“Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”7

“The only thing that can console one for being poor is extravagance. The only thing that can console one for being rich is economy.”7

Oscar Wilde’s Plays

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune … to lose both seems like carelessness.” Act I

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” Act I

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” Act I

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.” Act II

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” Act II

Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” Act I

“I can resist everything except temptation.” Act I

“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” Act I

“Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.” Act I

“My own business always bores me to death. I prefer other people’s.” Act III

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Act III

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Act III

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Act III

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Act III

“What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are of no use to us.” Act IV


1. Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime – “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.” (Methuen and Co., 1913)

2. The Pall Mall Gazette (February 28, 1885)

3. The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, edited by Alvin Redman (Dover, 1959)

4. The Soul of Man Under Socialism (Fortnightly Review, February 1891)

5. The New-York Tribune – “The Philosophy of Dress” (1885) 

6. The Nineteenth Century – “The Critic as Artist” (July and September,1891)

7. A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated (1894)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #63 – JUNE 17, 2020


“When society requires to be rebuilt, there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan.”

-John Stuart Mill


Dissertations and Discussions vol. 1 – “Essay on Coleridge”

(J. W. Parker, 1859)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #64 – JUNE 18, 2020


“I wasn’t really dead.”1

“My mother died when I was about 14, and his died shortly after -about a year or so after, I think. So this was a great bond John and I always had. We both knew the pain of it, and we both knew that we had to put on a brave face, because we were sort of teenage guys, and you didn’t talk about that kind of thing where we came from.”2

“It’s like if you’re an astronaut and you’ve been to the moon, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”3

“But with writers, there’s nothing wrong with melancholy. It’s an important color in writing. It’s not too cool just for everything to be “Jolly, jolly, jolly, jolly, jolly, jolly, jolly.” It’s kind of nice to be able to put “Jolly, jolly, jolly… dark.”4

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”5

“Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Oh, I believe in yesterday.”6

“Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window

Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door

Who is it for?

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?”

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. 

I look around me and I see it isn’t so. 

Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs.

And what’s wrong with that?

I’d like to know.”8


1. Saturday Night Live – “The Chris Farley Show” (February 13, 1993)

2. NPR Interview (June 4, 2010)

3. Orange Coast Magazine (November 1989)

4.  AVClub.com – “Robert Siegel interview” (June 27, 2007)

5. Abbey Road – “The End” (September 26, 1969)

6. Help – “Yesterday” (August 6, 1965)

7. Revolver – “Eleanor Rigby” (August 5, 1966)

8. Wings at the Speed of Sound – “Silly Love Songs” (1 April 1976)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #65 – JUNE 19, 2020


Note from the collector:

Okay, I confess it, this whole 64 days of quotes thing was just a subterfuge to get you to try reading some poetry. My friend Pat, who is an excellent poet (I featured her work in post #31 under her pen name, Gesene Oak),  has really turned me on to poetry and it’s possibilities. Quoting a poem is still quoting, right? I won’t make a habit of it. 

These are two of my favorites from a couple of very different poets (both in time and space). Robert Burns dialect, from the 1700’s, is challenging, but worth it. To a Mouse has been “translated” for you here. If you are interested in the original “Scottish” I can email it to you. Enjoy!

To a Mouse (On Turning Up Her Nest With the Plough) 

By: Robert Burns1

Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,

Oh, what a panic is in your breast!

You need not start away so hasty

With bickering prattle!

I would be loath to run and chase you,

With murdering paddle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

And justifies that ill opinion

Which makes you startle

At me, your poor, earth-born companion

And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;

What then? Poor beast, you must live!

An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves

Is a small request;

I will get a blessing with what is left,

And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!

Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!

And nothing now, to build a new one,

Of coarse green foliage!

And bleak December’s winds ensuing,

Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,

And weary winter coming fast,

And cozy here, beneath the blast,

You thought to dwell,

Till crash! The cruel plough passed

Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,

Has cost you many a weary nibble!

Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,

Without house or holding,

To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,

And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!

The present only touches you:

But oh! I backward cast my eye,

On prospects dreary!

And forward, though I cannot see,

I guess and fear!


By: Paul Hostovsky2

Bear with me I

want to tell you

something about


it’s hard to get at

but the thing is

I wasn’t looking

I was looking

somewhere else

when my son found it

in the fruit section

and came running

holding it out

in his small hands

asking me what

it was and could we

keep it it only

cost 99 cents

hairy and brown

hard as a rock

and something swishing

around inside

and what on earth

and where on earth

and this was happiness

this little ball

of interest beating

inside his chest

this interestedness

beaming out

from his face pleading


and because I wasn’t

happy I said

to put it back

because I didn’t want it

because we didn’t need it

and because he was happy

he started to cry

right there in aisle

five so when we

got home we

put it in the middle

of the kitchen table

and sat on either

side of it and began

to consider how

to get inside of it


1. (November, 1785)

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets,[nb 1] was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest. (Wikipedia)

2. Bird in the Hand (Grayson Books, 2006)

Paul Hostovsky is the author of eight previous books of poetry: The Bad Guys (2015), Selected Poems (2014), Naming Names (2013), Hurt Into Beauty (2012), A Little in Love a Lot (2011), Dear Truth (2009), Bending the Notes (2008), and Sonnets from South Mountain (2001). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review, and five poetry chapbook contests. He has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac.(Google Books)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #66 – JUNE 20, 2020


“Don’t forget: music is God’s voice.”1

“I wanted to write joyful music that made other people feel good. That’s what I tried to do for the past 27 years.”1

“Being called a musical genius was a cross to bear. Genius is a big word. But if you have to live up to something, you might as well live up to that.”2

“I think because I felt so sad I had to bring out my feelings, and try to create music that would make me and all my friends feel better.”3

“It started out — my mom and dad took a little vacation to Mexico and they left $250 for food. But instead of food we went and bought some instruments.”4

“I may not always love you

But long as there are stars above you

You never need to doubt it

I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you”5

“You know it seems the more we talk about it

It only makes it worse to live without it

But lets talk about it

Wouldn’t it be nice”6

“I-I love the colorful clothes she wears

And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair

I hear the sound of a gentle word

On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations

She’s giving me excitations”7


Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer who co-founded the Beach Boys. After signing with Capitol Records in 1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group. In addition to his unorthodox approaches to pop composition and mastery of recording techniques, Wilson is known for his lifelong struggles with mental illness. He is often referred to as a genius and is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and significant songwriters of the late 20th century.

1. The Beach Boys induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (January, 1988)

2. Rolling Stone – “Brian Wilson: God Only Knows” (August 11, 1988)

3. marinarecords.com – “Caroline Now!” interview (20 April 2000)

4. Larry King Live (August 20, 2004)

5. Pet Sounds – “God Only Knows” (1966)

6. Pet Sounds – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (1966)

7. Smiley Smile – “Good Vibrations” (1967)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #67 – JUNE 21, 2020


“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June,” said Anne, as she came through the spice and bloom of the twilit orchard to the front door steps …” 

“You’d get tired of it,” said Marilla, with a sigh.

“I daresay; but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it, if it were all as charming as today.”

-Lucy Maude Montgomery1

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

-Henry James2

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 

-Sir John Lubbock3

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’

So hush, little baby, baby, don’t you cry”

-George and Ira Gershwin4

“Summer is considerably more than a solstice and the slow diminishing of daylight’s span in the annual march from Spring to Fall. Summer is misted dawns and searing afternoons, hot days, warm nights, thunderstorms cracking their writhing whips. Summer is shirt sleeves, sunburn, bathing suits, tall cold drinks, 

dazzling beaches and shimmering lakes. Summer is the green 

countryside, the cool fragrance of mountain pines. Summer is the house wren bubbling over with morning song. It is the long afternoon aquiver with the sibilance of the cicada. It is slow dusk freckled with fireflies- and prickly with mosquitoes. Summer is a meadowful of daisies, a field of corn reaching for the sun, a straw hat, a hoe and a garden. Summer is the fresh garden pea, new lettuce crisp in the salad bowl, snap beans, sun-ripe raspberries on the bush and chilled strawberries in a bowl of cream. Summer is the weed, the gnawing insect, the foraging woodchuck, the nibbling rabbit. Summer is sweat. Summer is April and May grown into June and July, the green world working almost eighteen hours a day. It is a lazy river and a languishing brook. It is a vacation dreamed of, realized, too soon over and done, too soon a memory. Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.” 

-Hal Borland5


1. Anne of the Island (L.C. Page, & Co., 1915)

2. Quoted in A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton, (D. Appleton-Century Company, 1934)

3. The Use of Life (1894)

4. Porgy and Bess – “Summertime” (1935)

5. Sundial of the Seasons (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1964)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #68 – JUNE 22, 2020


“I think the secret of longevity is to be happy. Every day a man wakes up, he has the choice whether he will be happy or unhappy. I have chosen to be happy.”

-Hannus Von Yannah (by way of Groucho Marx)(by way of Adam Selzer)

Note from the collector:

I have written, several times, about the difficulty of authenticating quotes. The crying shame is that sometimes I have to ditch a really nice quote because I simply cannot pin down the person who said it. Even when I do there is sometimes a lingering doubt. While I am not against using the good old “Anonymous” attribution, I try not to. 

This quote is a marvelous one which I wrote down years ago. It was attributed, nearly everywhere it was mentioned, to Groucho Marx. I just didn’t believe it. While some mis-attributed quotes “sound like” their supposed author, this one didn’t. It is just a little too optimistic for Groucho (Whose humor I love and whose actual quotes are excellent). So, I did a little looking around and discovered that someone else had done my work for me. A writer named Adam Selzer did a thorough investigation of this one and discovered that it falls very close to Groucho, but is not his. I will put the link to Selzer’s blogpost here. It is definitely worth a look. 


I intend to check out Selzer’s work, now. Who can pass up book titles like:

How to Get Suspended and Influence People,

Pirates of the Retail Wasteland

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It

Andrew North Blows Up the World

Extraordinary: The True Story of My Fairy Godparent, Who Almost Killed Me, and Certainly Never Made Me a Princess


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #69 – JUNE 23, 2020


“Looking foolish does the spirit good. The need not to look foolish is one of youth’s many burdens; as we get older we are exempted from more and more, and float upward in our heedlessness.”

-John Updike1


1. Self-consciousness: Memoirs (Knopf, 1989)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #70 – JUNE 24, 2020



Note from the collector:

It goes without saying that I like curmudgeons. Give me some Mark Twain, some H.L. Mencken, some Dorothy Parker, anyone who sticks it to the powers-that-be and points out the arrogant folly of the human race, and I am happy. Ambrose Bierce was a master of the art and had a most interesting biography to boot. Check out some entries from his masterpiece Devil’s Dictionary first published in 1906.


ABSTAINER, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.

ACCIDENT, n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.

ACQUAINTANCE, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.

AUCTIONEER, n. The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.

BIGOT, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.

BRANDY, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the grave and four parts clarified Satan. Dose, a headful all the time.

BRIDE, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

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

CHILDHOOD, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth—two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.

CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.

CLARINET, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarinet—two clarinets.

COMMERCE, n. A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.

CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

CONSOLATION, n. The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.

CONSULT, v.i. To seek another’s disapproval of a course already decided on.

CONTROVERSY, n. A battle in which spittle or ink replaces the injurious cannon-ball and the inconsiderate bayonet.

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

CYNIC, n.  A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, and not as they ought to be.

DAY, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper—the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort.

DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.

DELUGE, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.

DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.

DISTANCE, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.

DISTRESS, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.

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.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

EFFECT, n. The second of two phenomena which always occur together in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other—which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in the pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of a dog.

EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

EPITAPH, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect. Following is a touching example:

  Here lie the bones of Parson Platt,

  Wise, pious, humble and all that,

  Who showed us life as all should live it;

  Let that be said—and God forgive it!

EULOGY, n. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead.

EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly to assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.


A transient, horrible, fantastic dream,

Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem:

From which we’re wakened by a friendly nudge

Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: “O fudge!”

EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize, as an undesirable old acquaintance, the folly that we have already embraced.

FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge. 

FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.

FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.

HEAVEN, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.

HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another—the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.

HYPOCRITE, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.

IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but “pervades and regulates the whole.”

IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.

INTIMACY, n. A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction.

JEALOUS, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.

LABOR, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

LIBERTY, n. One of Imagination’s most precious possessions.

LITIGATION, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

LOGIC, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

OCEAN, n.  A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man – who has no gills.

MISFORTUNE, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.

MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it.

MORE, adj. The comparative degree of too much.

NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.

NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.

OMEN, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.

ONCE, adv. Enough.

OPERA, n. A play representing life in another world, whose inhabitants have no speech but song, no motions but gestures, and no postures but attitudes.

PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future.

PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

PERSEVERANCE, n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.

PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.

PIETY, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His supposed resemblance to man.

  The pig is taught by sermons and epistles

  To think the God of Swine has snout and bristles.

POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.”

POLITICS, n. 1. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. 2. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.

PREFERENCE, n. A sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.

PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them to be President.

QUOTATION, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.

“RADICALISM, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day.”

RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

RELIGION, n. A daughter of hope and fear, explaining to ignorance the nature of the unknowable.

ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.

SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.

SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.

SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.

SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.

TWICE, adv. Once too often.

VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and wreck his country.

ZEAL, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.


The Cynic’s Word Book (Arthur F. Bird, 1906)

Published as a more complete version called The Devil’s Dictionary in 1911.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #71 – JUNE 25, 2020


Note from the collector:

Since he is a personal hero, George Orwell was inevitably going to be featured in this series. He was a brilliant writer and an astute chronicler of his troubled time. He fought tyranny and injustice and advocated for freedom and social equality. What I was unprepared for, in researching these quotes, was just how aptly Orwell’s writing informs our world today.


“The thing that strikes me more and more … is the extraordinary viciousness and dishonesty of political controversy in our time.  I don’t mean merely that controversies are acrimonious.  They ought to be that when they are on serious subjects.  I mean that almost nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters as long as you can score a neat debating point … To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable.  It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like.”1

“By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism.”2

“This business of making people conscious of what is happening outside their own small circle is one of the major problems of our time, and a new literary technique will have to be evolved to meet it. Considering that the people of this country are not having a very comfortable time, you can’t perhaps, blame them for being somewhat callous about suffering elsewhere, but the remarkable thing is the extent to which they manage to be unaware of it. Tales of starvation, ruined cities, concentration camps, mass deportations, homeless refugees, persecuted Jews — all this is received with a sort of incurious surprise, as though such things had never been heard of but at the same time were not particularly interesting. The now-familiar photographs of skeleton-like children make very little impression. As time goes on and the horrors pile up, the mind seems to secrete a sort of self-protecting ignorance which needs a harder and harder shock to pierce it, just as the body will become immunized to a drug and require bigger and bigger doses.”3

“It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.”4

“The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils. You can let the Nazis rule the world: that is evil; or you can overthrow them by war, which is also evil. There is no other choice before you, and whichever you choose you will not come out with clean hands.”5

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognize it as such.”6

“The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.”7

“I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one’s intelligence.”8

“A world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.”9

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”10

“The whole question of evolution seems less momentous than it did, because, unlike the Victorians, we do not feel that to be descended from animals is degrading to human dignity.”11


1. Tribune – “As I Please” (December 8, 1944)

2. Magazine of Philosophy, Psychology, and Aesthetics – “Notes on Nationalism” (October 1945)

3. Tribune – “As I Please” (January 17, 1947)

4. New Leader – “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party” (June 24, 1939)

5. The Adelphi – “No, Not One” (October, 1941)

6. Poetry Quarterly – “Review of A Coat of Many Colours: Occasional Essays by Herbert Read” (Winter, 1945)

7. Tribune – “As I Please” (February 4, 1944)

8. Letter to Richard Rees (March 3, 1949)

9. Tribune – “As I Please” (December 31, 1943)

10. Original preface to Animal Farm as published in George Orwell: Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison

11. Tribune – “As I Please” (July 21, 1944)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #72 – JUNE 26, 2020


“I enjoy life because I am endlessly interested in people and their growth. My interest leads me to widen my knowledge of people, and this in turn compels me to believe in the common goodness of mankind. I believe that the normal human heart is born good. That is, it’s born sensitive and feeling, eager to be approved and to approve, hungry for simple happiness and the chance to live. It neither wishes to be killed, nor to kill. If through circumstances, it is overcome by evil, it never becomes entirely evil. There remain in it elements of good, however recessive, which continue to hold the possibility of restoration.

I believe in human beings, but my faith is without sentimentality. I know that in environments of uncertainty, fear, and hunger, the human being is dwarfed and shaped without his being aware of it, just as the plant struggling under a stone does not know its own condition. Only when the stone is removed can it spring up freely into the light. But the power to spring up is inherent, and only death puts an end to it. I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings.”1

“Race prejudice is not only a shadow over the colored — it is a shadow over all of us, and the shadow is darkest over those who feel it least and allow its evil effects to go on. It is not healthy when a nation lives inside a nation, as colored Americans are living inside America. A nation cannot live confident of its tomorrow if its refugees are among its own citizens. For it is never the one who suffers injustice who is the injured one, but the one who is unjust. Slavery bred a race of idle and shiftless white men, and race prejudice continues the evil work.”2 

“None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.”2

“An intelligent, energetic, educated woman cannot be kept in four walls — even satin-lined, diamond-studded walls — without discovering sooner or later that they are still a prison cell.”3

“There will be no real content among American women unless they are made and kept more ignorant or unless they are given equal opportunity with men to use what they have been taught. And American men will not be really happy until their women are.”3

“I love people. I love my family, my children … but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”4

“It is a shameful sign of our arrogance that our history departments have almost no Chinese history in them, our literature courses almost no Chinese literature, our philosophy departments almost none of the great Chinese systems of philosophy. And our religious schools have been the most arrogant of all. This ignorant arrogant mind has become fixed in its patterns. It is the pattern which considers anything not American to be inferior — unless it be English.”5

“Ah well, perhaps one has to be very old before one learns how to be amused rather than shocked.”6

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word — excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”7

“All things are possible until they are proved impossible — and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.”8


Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973; also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu) was an American writer and novelist. As the daughter of missionaries, Buck spent most of her life before 1934 in Zhenjiang, China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “ or her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.” She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Wikipedia)

1. This I Believe (1951) This I Believe was a five-minute CBS Radio Network program, originally hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. 

2. What America Means to Me (John Day, 1943)

3. Harper’s Magazine – “America’s Medieval Women,” (August, 1938)

4. The New York Post (April 26, 1959)

5. Address at the Federal Union organization, New York City – “China and the Federal Union” (April, 1942)

6. China, Past and Present (John Day, 1972)

7. The Joy of Children (John Day, 1964)

8. A Bridge for Passing (John Day, 1962)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #73 – JUNE 27, 2020


“The children should never be excluded from what I am doing and should never have the feeling of being part of an audience.”1

“We have respect for our audience. We operate on the conviction that it is composed of young children of potentially good taste, and that this taste should be developed.”1

“Back in the old days, when I was a child, we sat around the family table at dinner time and exchanged our daily experiences…. It wasn’t very organized, but everyone was recognized and all the news that had to be told was told by each family member. We listened to each other and the interest was not put on; it was real. … A child needs to be listened to and talked to at 3 and 4 and 5 years of age.”2

“Well, it’s [TV] a vacuum filler. Its not competition for a parent who wants to do something with a child. There isn’t a child I’ve ever met that wouldn’t rather do something with a parent – unless the parent happened to be very dull. Most parents are not. Most parents have a great advantage. They are the center of a child’s life – child wants to spend time with them. Trouble is, parents are very busy today.”3

[About latchkey kids] 

“I think we ought to, with the structure that we have with our school systems and everything else, be able to devise a means of taking care of kids for that period of time. Of course somebody was going to say to you ‘Well, that’s there problem, they had the kids and they could stay home and take care of them.’ That’s not gonna happen. These people are out there working because they have to work. They have no choice and if we don’t take care of them [kids], if we fail, we’re all gonna pay.”3

[To a question about the poor quality of children’s content on TV]

“It has to do with management. Management decided they can make money off kids. That’s why we have the kinds of programs we have today, and the government decided that they wouldn’t regulate broadcasters and that’s why today broadcasters go to the bottom line. That’s why we have the Turtles and why we have the Rambos and the monsters and everything else, because we make money – only country in the world who makes money off of kids.”3

“It is my contention that most people are not mugged every day, that most people in this world do not encounter violence every day. I think we prepare people for violence, and I think it’s just as important that we prepare people for the definition of being gentle. … for so many years gentle has been equated with weakness, but it requires more strength to be gentle. So it’s the every day encounters of life that I think we prepare children for and prepare them to be good to other people and to consider other people.”4

“Retirement is a punishment, really.”5


1. Quoted in Keeshan’s obituary in The New York Times – “Bob Keeshan, Creator and Star of TV’s Captain Kangaroo, Is Dead at 76″ (January 24, 2004)

2. Essay in The New York Times (1979)

3. YouTube video – “Captain Kangaroo Interview” (Jimmy Carter YouTube Channel, Posted April 1, 2008)

4. NPR interview with Carl Kasell (1984) partly rebroadcast in “‘Captain Kangaroo’ Dies at 76” on All Things Considered (January 23, 2004)

5.  Keeshan interviewed on WCBS-TV by Cindy Hsu (October 3, 1996)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #74 – JUNE 28, 2020


The Producers

“We got the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did we go right?”1

“I’M HYSTERICAL! I’M HYSTERICAL! (Bialystock splashes him with a glass of water) … I’M WET! I’M WET! I’M WET AND I’M HYSTERICAL! (Bialystock then slaps him) …I’M IN PAIN! I’M IN PAIN AND I’M WET AND I’M STILL HYSTERICAL!”1

Blazing Saddles

“It got so that every pissant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must’ve killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. Got pretty gritty. Started hearing the word “draw” in my sleep. Then one day, I was walking down the street when I heard someone shout, “Reach for it, mister!” I turned around to see who it was, and there I was, standing face-to-face…with a 6 year-old kid. I just put my guns down and walked away. — Little bastard shot me in the ass!”2

“What did you expect? … You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know — morons.”2

History of the World

Moses : God has given us these fifteen— (dropping one of the tablets) Oy! Ten — ten commandments!3


Dark Helmet : So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph — because good is dumb.4

The 2000 Year-old Man

To me, tragedy is if I cut my finger, that’s tragedy…Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.5


“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.”6

“Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.”7



1. The Producers (Universal Pictures, December 16, 2005)

2. Blazing Saddles (Warner Bros., February 7, 1974)

3. History of the World, Part I (20th Century Fox, June 12, 1981)

4. Spaceballs (MGM, June 24, 1987)

5. The 2000 Year Old Man comedy sketch, with Carl Reiner (1950s -1960s.)

6. www.hollywoodreporter.com – “Mel Brooks Honored With AFI Life Achievement Award” (June 7, 2013)

7. It’s Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks (John Wiley & Sons, February 1st 2007)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #75 – JUNE 29, 2020


“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. 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. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

-Douglas Adams1


1. The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (UK: William Heinemann Ltd., US: Pocket Books, 2002)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #76 – JUNE 30, 2020


Note from the collector:

If you can’t beat them, join them. Here are some fun quotes that I will never be able to properly attribute. Here’s to that eloquent old genius, Anonymous.


“Five out of four people have problems with fractions.”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

“The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.”

“You’re unique —just like everyone else.”

“My karma ran over my dogma.”

“Never say, ‘oops’. Always say, ‘Ah, interesting’.”    

“Bad spellers of the world, untie!”

“Nature is a hanging judge.”

“The best item to protect you from sasquatch attacks is a camera.”

“The plural of anecdote is not data.”

“A lethal dose is also a lifetime supply.”

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”

“Everyone talks about this or that food being better than sex. I’ve tried your double fudge chocolate cake. It’s pretty good,  but I’ve got to say, “Either you’re not doing something right or I’m not doing something right.”

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

“Courage is always greatest when blended with meekness; intellectual ability is most admired when it sparkles in the setting of modest self-distrust; and never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive any injury.”

“Last night my friend asked me to use my USB port to charge his cigarette, but I was using it to charge my book. The future is weird.”

“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving may not be for you!”

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“People need to learn that their actions do affect other people. So be careful what you say and do, it”s not always just about you.”

“Eschew Obfuscation!”


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #77 – JULY 1, 2020


Note from the collector:

This was a tough one for the old collector. I’ve had it in my queue for ages, but kept on pushing it back because, well, to be honest, because the collector is a dyed-in-the-wool pinko-commie. The first meaningful political act of my life was an impassioned speech I gave in Ms. Johnson’s American History class in defense of the doomed campaign of Walter Mondale. (And I still believe, in my soul, that the world would be a better place if Mondale had won.) Be that as it may, this is a great quote and, like many of the quotes I have featured lately, may inform what is going on in our country today.


“How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?”

-Ronald Reagan1


1. Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural Address (Written by Kenneth L. Khachigian) (January 20, 1981) 


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #78 – JULY 2, 2020


“At a time in our history when the streets of the Nation’s cities inspire fear and despair, rather than pride and hope, it is difficult to maintain objectivity and concern for our fellow citizens. But, the measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis. No nation in the recorded history of man has a greater tradition of revering justice and fair treatment for all its citizens in times of turmoil, confusion, and tension than ours. This is a country which stands tallest in troubled times, a country that clings to fundamental principles, cherishes its constitutional heritage, and rejects simple solutions that compromise the values that lie at the roots of our democratic system.”1

“The experience of Negroes in America has been different in kind, not just in degree, from that of other ethnic groups. It is not merely the history of slavery alone, but also that a whole people were marked as inferior by the law. And that mark has endured.”2

“I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.”3

“That goal is that a Negro child born to a black mother in a state like Mississippi … by merely drawing its first breath in the democracy has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true. It never will be true. But I challenge anybody to say it’s not a goal worth working for.”4


Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court’s first African-American justice. Prior to his judicial service, he successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Marshall graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1933. He established a private legal practice in Baltimore before founding the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he served as executive director. In that position, he argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Smith v. Allwright, Shelley v. Kraemer, and Brown v. Board of Education, the latter of which held that racial segregation in public education is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. (Wikipedia)

1. Furman v. Georgia, Concurring opinion (January 17, 1972)

2. Regents of University of California v. Bakke, Concurring in part and dissenting in part (1978)

3.. Remarks at The Annual Seminar of the San Francisco Patent and Trademark Law Association (May 6, 1987)

4. Annual meeting of the National Bar Assn. (Aug. 10, 1988)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #79 – JULY 3, 2020


Note from the collector:

I had a choice today between Dave Barry and Franz Kafka, both of whom share a birthday today. Sorry, Franz, 2020 has been dark enough already. 


“Winter’s here, and you feel lousy: You’re coughing and sneezing; your muscles ache; your nose is an active mucus volcano. These symptoms — so familiar at this time of year — can mean only one thing: Tiny fanged snails are eating your brain.”1

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.”2

“But Nebraska was not always a bed of roses. When the first settlers arrived, they found a harsh, unforgiving place, a vast treeless expanse of barren, drought-parched soil. And so, summoning up the dynamic pioneer spirit of hope and steely determination, they left. But a few of them remained and built sod houses, which are actually made of dirt. Think about that. You can’t clean a sod house, because it would be gone. The early settlers had a hell of a time getting this through to their children. ‘You kids stop tracking dirt out of the house!’ they’d yell.”3

“The best way to learn Japanese is to be born as a Japanese baby, in Japan, and raised by a Japanese family.”4

“Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet.”5


1. The Miami Herald, (November 16, 2003)

2. Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead (Rodale Press, 1985)

3. Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need (Ballantine Books, 1991)

4. Dave Barry Does Japan (Ballantine Books, 1992)

5. Davebarry.com


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #80 – JULY 4, 2020


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #81 – JULY 5, 2020


From the Show1

“The handyman’s secret weapon, duct tape.”

“If it ain’t broke, you’re not trying.”

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

“I’m a man, but I can change, If I have to, I guess.”

Red: I either have a plan, or I’m an idiot.

Harold: That’s good. ‘Cause usually you have a plan and you’re an idiot.

“If your wife’s having a good time and you’re not, you’re still having a better time than if you’re having a good time and she’s not.”

Steve Smith Interview2

“Comedy was always done by smart people, but they didn’t have a problem being silly. My show was a waste of intelligence, not a lack of intelligence.”

“Take the touring comedy acts, and the guys who are doing well now are either obscene or angry or both – and I’m neither. I don’t have a huge career but it’s big enough for my pets, you know, so I’m fine.”

“You can’t do anything about aging other than die – which is not really a better option.”


1.  The Red Green Show (S&S Productions, January 4, 1991 – April 7, 2006)

2. The Gate Entertainment Magazine – YouTube Video

(October 11, 2019)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #82 – JULY 6, 2020


“From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.”1 

“If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality.”2

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”3

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”3

“To study Buddhism and then use it as a weapon in order to criticize others’ theories or ideologies is wrong. The very purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticize others.”3

“I don’t want to convert people to Buddhism. All major religions, when understood properly, have the same potential for good. Fundamentalism is terrifying because it is based purely on emotion, rather than intelligence. It prevents followers from thinking as individuals and about the good of the world.”4

“Conflicts do not arise out of the blue. They occur as a result of causes and conditions, many of which are within the antagonists’ control. This is where leadership is important. Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force because it does not address the underlying problems. In fact the use of force may not only fail to solve the problems, it may exacerbate them, and frequently leaves destruction and suffering in its wake.”5

“Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways, that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities, and we must share the good fortune that we enjoy.”6


1. dalailama.com, “Compassion and Human Values – Compassion and the IndividualCompassion and the Individual”

2. The New York Times, “OpEd – Our Faith in Science” (November 12, 2005)

3. The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness (Snow Lion Publications, March 1, 1990)

4. Daily Telegraph – “Westerners are too self-absorbed” (March 1, 2006)

5. Speech – “Commemoration of the First Anniversary of September 11, 2001”

6. Nobel Prize Lecture (December 11, 1989)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #83 – JULY 7, 2020


“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.1


1. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (published 1958)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #84 – JULY 8, 2020


“‘The environment has to be balanced against the economy?’ This quote portrays environmental concerns as a luxury, views measures to solve environmental problems as incurring a net cost, and considers leaving environmental problems unsolved to be a money-saving device. This one-liner puts the truth exactly backwards. Environmental messes cost us huge sums of money both in the short run and in the long run; cleaning up or preventing those messes saves us huge sums in the long run, and often in the short run as well. In caring for the health of our surroundings, just as of our bodies, it is cheaper and preferable to avoid getting sick than to try to cure illnesses after they have developed.”

-Jared Diamond1


1. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, (Penguin Books, 2011)

Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American geographer, historian, anthropologist, and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee (1991); Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize); Collapse (2005), The World Until Yesterday (2012), and Upheaval (2019). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. He is a professor of geography at UCLA.

In 2005, Diamond was ranked ninth on a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #85 – JULY 9, 2020


Note from the collector:

As usual, with subjects I admire intensely, I do not know where to begin and where to stop. I hope these quotes will give you some small incentive to check out the writing of Oliver Sacks and read about his life. If you read nothing else, pick up his book Gratitude, which he wrote in the last year of his life as he was dying of cancer. I think you will be glad you did.


“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”1 

“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.”2 

“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.”3 

“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story–his real, inmost story?’–for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us–through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives–we are each of us unique.”2 

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings.”4

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”5 


1. Musicophilia: La musique, le cerveau et nous (Knopf, October 16, 2007)

2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Summit Books, 1985)

3. Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf (University of California Press, August 1989)

4. Hallucinations (Knopf, November 6, 2012)

5. Gratitude (Knopf, November 24, 2015)

Oliver Wolf Sacks, (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author. Born in Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe.” He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders and unusual experiences, with some of his books adapted for plays by major playwrights, feature films, animated short films, opera, dance, fine art, and musical works in the classical genre.

His books include a wealth of narrative detail about his experiences with his patients and his own experiences, and how patients and he coped with their conditions, often illuminating how the normal brain deals with perception, memory, and individuality. In addition to the information content, the beauty of his writing style is especially treasured by many of his readers.

Awakenings was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film in 1990, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. He and his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain were the subject of “Musical Minds”, an episode of the PBS series Nova. Sacks was awarded a CBE for services to medicine in the 2008 Birthday Honours.(Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #86 – JULY 10, 2020



“Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution? I suspect that it does; I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed to quick extinction. Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless.”

“Growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness.”

“We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may not ever need to go there.”

“But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it.”


All quotes from:

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (McGraw-Hill, 1968)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #87 – JULY 11, 2020



“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”1

“Americans are willing to go to enormous trouble and expense defending their principles with arms, very little trouble and expense advocating them with words.”2

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”3

Letters, Essays, and Collections:

“One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy.”4

“Life’s meaning has always eluded me and I guess it always will. But I love it just the same.”5

“When I get sick of what men do, I have only to walk a few steps in another direction to see what spiders do. Or what the weather does. This sustains me very well indeed.”6

“Once in everyone’s life there is apt to be a period when he is fully awake, instead of half asleep. I think of those five years in Maine as the time when this happened to me … I was suddenly seeing, feeling, and listening as a child sees, feels, and listens. It was one of those rare interludes that can never be repeated, a time of enchantment. I am fortunate indeed to have had the chance to get some of it down on paper.”7


Elements of Style

“Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent? These are high mysteries, and this chapter is a mystery story, thinly disguised. There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks 

the door, no inflexible rule by which the young writer may shape his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.”8

Charlotte’s Web

“The song sparrow, who knows how brief and lovely life is, says, ‘Sweet, sweet, sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.’”9


1. The New York Times – “E. B. White: Notes and Comment by Author” (July 11, 1969)

2. The New Yorker – “The Thud of Ideas” (September 23, 1950)

3. The New Yorker – “Coon Tree” (June 14, 1956) 

4. The Points of My Compass: Letters from the East, the West, the North, the South (Harper & Row, 1962)

5. Letter to Mary Virginia Parrish (August 29, 1969)

6. Letter to Carrie A. Wilson (May 1, 1951)

7. One Man’s Meat (Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1944)

8. The Elements of Style – Third Edition (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1979)

9. Charlotte’s Web (Harper & Brothers, October 15, 1952) 


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #88 – JULY 12, 2020


Note from the collector:

I am devoted to Thoreau. That seems to be the way it is with this writer; you love him or you hate him. He is an acquired taste and can certainly come across as arrogant or preachy. I am convinced that a portion of the discomfort one feels while reading Walden or Civil Disobedience, however,is the gnawing self-awareness, within the reader, that Thoreau is right about these things and that we have been living the “lives of quiet desperation” he describes. I feel I am in good company as a Thoreau fan. His works were admired by some of my other heroes. Thoreau inspired the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leo Tolstoy, and Aldo Leopold. Countless others have been inspired by them.

There have been moments in my life, especially during the pressure-cooker “timed-to-the-minute” moments at the airline, when I wanted to walk away and build a tar paper shack in the woods, to find my Walden Pond. Reading Thoreau has been a way to vent that pressure cooker and an opportunity, just occasionally, to move in a saner direction and, as Thoreau said “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”


“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”1

“To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.”2 

“A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong.”2

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”2

“If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”2

“That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”3

“You can hardly convince a man of an error in a lifetime, but must content yourself with the reflection that the progress of science is slow. If he is not convinced, his grandchildren may be.”4

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”1

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.”1

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”1

“A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made. Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”1

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”1 

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”1 

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” 1

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes . . .”1


1. Walden; or, Life in the Woods (Ticknor and Fields, August 9, 1854)

2. Civil Disobedience (Essay) (1849) 

3. The Journal of Henry David Thoreau – Journal VIII: November 1, 1855- August 15, 1856 (March 11, 1856)

4. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (Self-published,1849)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #89 – JULY 13, 2020

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

-George Bernard Shaw1


1. The Doctor’s Dilemma, Preface (1911)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #90 – JULY 14, 2020


“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

-Notorious d.e.b. @debihope1


I liked this one very much and wrote it down but could not, of course, believe the attribution, which was to Sigmund Freud. I did a little research and didn’t have to go far before I found this article from quoteinvestigator (which is a great resource, by the way). Rather that repeat the investigator’s work I will link you here to the webpage. It is worth a read.


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #91 – JULY 15, 2020


“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”1

“At crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over.”2 

“There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for-granted relationship.”3

“Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self. To be damned is for one’s ordinary everyday mode of consciousness to be unremitting agonizing preoccupation with self.”4

“I daresay anything can be made holy by being sincerely worshipped.”5

“Bereavement is a darkness impenetrable to the imagination of the unbereaved.”6

“Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one’s luck.”7

“Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality.”8

“Most artists understand their own weaknesses far better than the critics do”7

“You may know a truth, but [if it’s at all complicated] you must be either a poet or an artist not to utter it as a lie.”9


1. A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Chatto & Windus, 1970)

2. The Sovereignty of Good (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970)

3. A Severed Head (Chatto and Windus, 1961)

4. The Nice and the Good (Chatto & Windus, 1968)

5. The Message to the Planet (Chatto & Windus, 1989)

6. The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (Chatto & Windus, 1974) 

7. The Black Prince (Chatto & Windus, 1973)

8. Chicago Review – “The Sublime and the Good”, Vol. 13 Issue 3 (Autumn, 1959) 

9. An Accidental Man (Chatto & Windus, 1971)

Dame Jean Iris Murdoch DBE (July 15, 1919 – February 8, 1999) was an Irish and British novelist and philosopher. Murdoch is best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Her first published novel, Under the Net, was selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 1987, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her books include The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961), The Red and the Green (1965), The Nice and the Good (1968), The Black Prince (1973), Henry and Cato (1976), The Sea, the Sea (1978, Booker Prize), The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), The Message to the Planet (1989), and The Green Knight (1993). In 2008, The Times ranked Murdoch twelfth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. (Wikipedia)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #92 – JULY 16, 2020


“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”1

“To speak evil of any one, unless there is unequivocal proofs of their deserving it, is an injury for which there is no adequate reparation.”2

“There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”3 

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”4

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”5

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.”5

“It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.”6

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.”5

“Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable as, to a certain point, they may perhaps be necessary; but it is exceedingly to be regretted that subjects cannot be discussed with temper on the one hand, or decisions submitted to without having the motives, which led to them, improperly implicated on the other.”7

“As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.”8


1. Letter to Joshua Holmes (December 2, 1783)

2. Letter to George Washington Parke Custis (November 28, 1796)

3. First “State of the Union Address” (January 8, 1790)

4. Letter to Moses Seixas and the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (August 17, 1790)

5. Farewell Address (September 19, 1796)

6. Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (August 27, 1757)

7. Letter to Alexander Hamilton (August 26, 1792)

8. Letter to the Roman Catholics in America (15 March 1790)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #93 – JULY 17, 2020


“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

― J.M. Barrie


1. The Little Minister (R. H. RUSSELL, 1898)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #94 – JULY 18, 2020


“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”1

“It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”2

“But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”1

“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”3

“In my country we go to prison first and then become President.”1

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation.”1

“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”1

Mandela essay on Gandhi

“Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality. He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry.”4


1. Long Walk to Freedom (Little Brown & Co., 1995)

2. Address to Foreign Correspondent’s Association’s Annual Dinner, Johannesburg, South Africa (November 21, 1997)

3. Letter to Winnie Mandela (February 1, 1975)

4. Time Magazine – “Gandhi: The Sacred Warrior “ (January 3, 2000)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #95 – JULY 19, 2020


Note from the collector:

I love Van Gogh’s paintings and, having studied his biography, have always admired the loving relationship he had with his younger brother Theo. Theo supported Vincent financially and emotionally during his long years of struggle and depression, while he honed his craft and painted over 2,000 paintings. Theo and his wife are largely responsible for Van Gogh’s fame and reputation, through their activism on his behalf after Vincent’s suicide. Most known quotes of Vincent Van Gogh are gleaned from the lifetime of correspondence between the brothers.

Of the thousands he painted, Van Gogh is known to have sold only one work during his lifetime, The Red Vineyard, for 400 francs (approximately $2,000 in 2018 dollars). His Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold at auction in May 1990 for $82.5 million ($161.4 million today).


“Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.”1

“If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things.”2

“Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney and then go on their way.”3

“But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better.”4

“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”5 

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”5

“Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.”6

“I tell you, brother, I am not good from a clergyman’s point of view. I know full well that, frankly speaking, prostitutes are bad, but I feel something human in them which makes me feel not the least scruple to associate with them; I see nothing very wrong in them.”7


1. Letter to his brother Theo van Gogh (January, 1874)

2. Letter to Theo – Amsterdam (April 3, 1878)

3. Letter to Theo (June, 1880)

4. Letter to Theo – Cuesmes, Belgium (July, 1880)

5. Letter to Theo – The Hague (July 21, 1882)

6. Letter to Theo – The Hague (March 18, 1883)

7. Letter to Theo – Drenthe, The Netherlands (September 1883)

Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 came after years of mental illness, depression and poverty.(Wikipedia)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #96 – JULY 20, 2020


“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”


On this date, 51 years ago, the Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, landed on the moon. A lesser known fact is that Armstrong did not set foot on the moon until 6 hours and 39 minutes later, on July 21. Armstrong was a sober, serious, “quiet” man which some NASA administrators later revealed to be the reason he was chosen for the “first step” over his more boisterous teammate (Aldrin.) Yet, I have often wondered what those 6 hours were like for Armstrong. It seems to me that that time must have been like a kid trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve “times a million.” We all know the quote by heart. I have given it as Armstrong “thinks” he said it. To quote him, “As I have listened to it, it doesn’t sound like there was time there for the word to be there… certainly the ‘a’ was intended, because that’s the only way the statement makes any sense. So I would hope that history would grant me leeway for dropping the syllable and understand that it was certainly intended, even if it wasn’t said – although it actually might have been.”


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #97 – JULY 21, 2020


“‘What do you have to eat?’ the boy asked.

‘A pot of yellow rice with fish. Do you want some?’

‘No. I will eat at home. Do you want me to make the fire?’

‘No. I will make it later on. Or I may eat the rice cold.’

‘May I take the cast net?’

‘Of course.’

There was no cast net and the boy remembered when they had sold it. But they went through this fiction every day. There was no pot of yellow rice and fish and the boy knew this too.”1

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”2 

“The first draft of anything is shit.”1

“‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.

‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’”4

“You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.”5 

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”6 

“It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg Address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.”7

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you.”8

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”9


1. The Old Man and the Sea (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952)

2. A Farewell to Arms (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929)

3. Quoted in With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba by Arnold Samuelson (Random House Inc., 1984)

4. The Sun Also Rises (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926)

5. A Farewell to Arms (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929)

6. The Garden of Eden (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986)

7. Letter (July 23, 1945); published in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917–1961 (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1981)

8. Esquire – “Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba” (December, 1934)

9. Interviewed by George Plimpton Paris Review – Issue 18 (Spring 1958)


QUOTE OF THE DAY – #98 – JULY 22, 2020


“In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand of fear under men’s reasoning a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.”1

“Humanity has a strange fondness for following processions. Get four men following a banner down the street, and, if that banner is inscribed with rhymes of pleasant optimism, in an hour, all the town will be afoot, ready to march to whatever tune the leaders care to play.”2


1. The Ground We Stand On (Houghton Mifflin, 1941)

2. Harvard Monthly – “A Humble Protest” (June, 1916)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #99 – JULY 23, 2020


Note from the collector:

I began this little project 99 days ago with the goal of giving my days some structure and keeping my mind active during what I supposed would be a month of quarantine. I also thought, as so many parents mistakenly do, to share the wisdom of my favorite writers with my children and others. The truth is that people, including children I suppose, know what they like to read. They do not need advice. At some level all such projects are self-indulgent.

Still, I have enjoyed assembling these quotes, if for no other reason, because they have given me an excuse to read and re-read writers who have meant a lot to me, people who have unquestionably changed my life. I’m glad I did it.

I think it may be time to bring this thing in for a landing. I was concerned that I might run out of suitable topics. I have not found that to be the case. I have, however, spent a great deal of time assembling and editing these quotes on a daily basis. That time has come at the expense of a couple of other priorities, among them my own writing. And I have a few things I want to write about, on my blog and hopefully elsewhere (more self-indulgent activities). 

I want to thank all of you who endured these daily assaults on your inbox. I am particularly grateful to those of you who sent me thoughtful feedback and sometimes quotes of your own. They were a real inspiration to me. Thank you especially to Dan and Pat and my Dad (Who is always there for me.)

I think 100 days may be enough, for now. I might enjoy doing something like this in the future, once I get my house in order and complete some other goals. I will finish with two of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain, as much for their humanity as for their literature. Again, thank you for reading.


“I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead.”1

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”2

“If flying-saucer creatures or angels or whatever were to come here in a hundred years, say, and find us gone like the dinosaurs, what might be a good message for humanity to leave for them, maybe carved in great big letters on a Grand Canyon wall? Here is this old poop’s suggestion: WE PROBABLY COULD HAVE SAVED OURSELVES, BUT WERE TOO DAMNED LAZY TO TRY VERY HARD…AND TOO DAMNED CHEAP.”3

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”1

“I say of Jesus, as all humanists do. ‘If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?’”1

“It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can’t get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. There are people, particularly dumb people, who are in terrible trouble and never get out of it, because they’re not intelligent enough. It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry — or laugh.”4

“I’ve often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they’re on, why they don’t fall off it, how much time they’ve probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on. I tried to write one once. It was called Welcome to Earth. But I got stuck on explaining why we don’t fall off the planet. … I didn’t learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have learned that in the first grade. A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn’t a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It’s also a source of hope. It means we don’t have to continue this way if we don’t like it.”4

“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 … You are not alone.’”5

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”6

“But listen: If anyone here should wind up on a gurney in a lethal-injection facility, maybe the one at Terre Haute, here is what your last words should be: ‘This will certainly teach me a lesson.’”7

“We’re terrible animals. I think that the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.”8

“Where is home? I’ve wondered where home is, and I realized, it’s not Mars or someplace like that, it’s Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there’s no way I can get there again.”9

“So it goes.”10


1. A Man Without a Country (Seven Stories Press, 2005) 

2. Mother Night (Fawcett Publications/ Gold Medal Books, 1962)

3. Fates Worse than Death (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1991)

4. Playboy Magazine (July, 1973)

5. Timequake (Putnam Publishing Group, 1997)

6. In These Times.com – “Cold Turkey” (May 10, 2004)

7. Armageddon in Retrospect (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008)

8. Interviewed by Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (September 13,  2005)

9. The Toronto Globe and Mail – “The World according to Kurt” (October 11, 2005)

10. Slaughterhouse-Five (Delacourt, 1969)


QUOTES OF THE DAY – #100 – JULY 24, 2020



Thanks to all of you who read (and hopefully enjoyed) these quotes. Have a great Summer. Stay Safe. Keep in touch.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”1

“Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any.”2

“If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.”3

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.”4

“I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.”5

“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.”6

“No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those.”7

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”8

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”9

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”10

“After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.”11

“The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.”12

“The wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others’ advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously.”13

“There isn’t time–so brief is life–for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving–and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”14

“Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.”8

“What a hell of a heaven it will be when they get all these hypocrites assembled there!”15


1. The Innocents Abroad (American Publishing Company, 1869)

2. “Advice to Youth,” speech to The Saturday Morning Club of Boston (April 15, 1882)

3. Essay “Was the World Made for Man?” (April, 1903)

4. The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories (Harper and Bros., 1906)

5. Harper’s Magazine -“Concerning the Jews” (Sept. 1899)

6. Essay “Man’s Place in the Animal World” (1869)

7. The Mysterious Stranger (Harper and Bros., 1916)

8. Following the Equator – “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar” (American Publishing Company, 1897)

9. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Charles L. Webster and Co., 1889)

10. Letter to George Bainton, (October 15, 1888)

11. Extracts from Adam’s Diary: Translated from the Original Ms. (Harper & Brothers, 1904)

12. Quoted in Mark Twain, a Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Albert Bigelow Paine (Harper and Bros., 1912)

13. Essay “On the Decay of the Art of Lying” written by Mark Twain in 1880 for a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford, Connecticut.

14. Letter to Clara Spaulding (August 20, 1886)

15. The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (Harper Collins Publishers, September 1, 1987)

The Putnam

by: Dustin Joy

Kids run up and down

the plastic tree,

puppets on their hands,

a polyester squirrel, 

a rayon groundhog,

all made in China.

They stare at the bats

in the cave exhibit – Ewwww!

Look at the mummy – Ewwww!

A flathead catfish rolls

in the lazy current

of the big aquarium.

Try to get children to care,

about the amazing evolutionary

achievement of the Compass Plant,

roots twenty feet deep!

Try to get anyone to notice

a plexiglas box in the corner.

The passenger pigeon looks out 

with its oddly thyroid eyes,

its formerly vibrant plumage


Once five billion of us

surged through the skies


a living wind. 

Driven to extinction by greed and 

ignorance and apathy.

The bison nods from across

the room. 

“I feel your pain, Dude.”

God’s Scientist

by: Dustin Joy

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”

-George Washington Carver

I said it and I believe it.

All I have accomplished,

all I have been privileged to understand,

has been through His indulgence.

“Without God to draw aside the curtain, 

I would be helpless.”

With God’s help I became a prophet, 

a modest one. 

Tuskegee is not Mt. Sinai, after all, and

blackboards are not stone tablets.

But I told them what He told me. 

I told them about soil depletion,

and the virtue of crop rotation, 

and about the remarkable versatility 

of the peanut and the sweet potato 

and the soybean, 

as was vouchsafed to me 

by the almighty.

I told them, and they were nonplussed.

And lo, they sayeth, “cotton is king!”

But Jesus sayeth, in consolation,

“A prophet is not without honor, 

save in his own country and in his own house.”

Still, I reckon I fared better 

than John the Baptist.

I didn’t lose my head,

the stakes being less in peanuts.

Then came the weevil, 

sent by God, I suppose.

And then they believed,

and they rotated,

and they diversified,

and they were saved 

by peanuts.

Down in Enterprise they were moved

by their deliverance and the timeliness 

of the prophet’s prophesy,

my prophesy.

And they built a statue,

a statue to honor…

the weevil!

God’s ways are truly inscrutable. 



I hurt my back today, brushing my teeth.

 To tell the truth, it’s not a thing

I thought a person could do.

The mechanics are obscure.

It certainly never happened when I was


In the cockpit, my handsome


year-old co-pilot and my pretty


year-old flight attendant share an exuberant laugh. 

I say hello and smile. The laugh dissipates into the ether. 

I do the math. Twenty-three plus Twenty-one equals


They are properly solicitous of their old Captain.

They inquire about my day, and my wife, 

and the weather in Santa Fe.

 But they don’t tell me what was

 so funny.

I stop to to talk to my daughter’s roommate, 

to compliment her editorial in the college paper, 

the one about cultural appropriation. 

I sense a kindred spirit, her fight so like

the liberal causes I championed, when I was


My brilliant, fierce, and caustic essays beat down apartheid 

(at least in Galesburg, IL.)

But she was late, and on her way to class, 

and distracted by a major crisis, 

involving her Instagram feed.

Respectful and deferential, 

she held the door for me as we went out, 

as if I was an old man, and not a fellow warrior 

in the battle against injustice. 

I think I spent too much of my youth being


I followed the rules; I aimed to please.

I got good grades, and mostly abstained from


I kept my powder dry; I lay in wait. 

I built a nest egg, and I collected data. 

I awaited the hour when I could use my competence, 

my acumen, my knowledge, to awe, to amaze, to impress. 

I would grab the world by the lapels and shake it.  

And now I am really


with a larder fully stocked 

with wisdom and pertinent experience. 

And now that I am ready, 

it seems that the treasure I assiduously cached, 

a penny at a time, in the mattress of life, has been the victim of inflation. 

It is a Cabbage Patch Doll after 1985. 

And if you’re not also


you don’t even know what that means, 

just like I don’t know what LMFAO means. 

I should probably look that up,

or stop using it.

There is little call for what I have accumulated 

and its value seems to diminish day by day. 

I wish I had read Shakespeare again when I was 


and heeded Rosalind’s words to Phoebe:

“Sell when you can, you are not for all markets.”

Now I’m 


and even the god-damned toothbrush

has turned against me.


by: Dustin Joy

Every year, in July, at that point in the season when the compass plants are blooming and the hummingbirds are going at the feeder like a band of desperados, and I cannot imagine one more tedious, soul-withering, work-related conversation – I leave. It is not exactly a “damp, drizzly November in my soul” situation, but, like Ishmael, I certainly get the “grim about the mouth” thing. Unable to go to sea, I still make a concerted effort to visit “the watery part of the world.” I go to Lake Superior. I pack my Pequod, a kid-battered 2011 Honda Odyssey, with the people I love and I point my rig at Polaris.

I will stipulate here that there is a certain austere beauty to the miles and miles of corn we must traverse to get to the north woods of Minnesota. The gently rolling hills of Iowa, saturated with the green of midsummer, are not unlike waves on the ocean. Sea-sickness is a possibility. 

Iowa can be lovely and reassuringly monotonous. It is the emotional support animal of states. It calms you. As the Grant Wood landscapes ease by the windshield one at a time, you know what to expect. You are not, for example, going to top the next rise and find a fjord, or a pyramid, or a redwood tree. And yet, much as I admire constancy, were God to grant me telekinesis, I would slide Iowa out of my way and connect things thus that the west side of the Muscatine bridge would land me in St. Paul. 

North of the twin cities, Minnesota becomes a study in diversity. There is corn, surely, but along Interstate 35 it peters out, giving way to potato fields, then pastures lined with round bales of alfalfa, and then the first little lakes (10,000 I’m told.) These preliminary “lakes” are ponds, really, with reedy borders morphing into swampy little wastes of cat tails, red-winged blackbirds swaying atop many like 1920’s flag pole sitters. 

At this latitude the uplands, forming the pond’s catch basin, are covered in a wonderful mixture of birches and pines and aspens. White, paperish trunks alternate with blue/green boughs and the little green geisha fans which shimmer and quake in the wind. Below is the lovely orange duff of no longer green evergreen needles. In the interstices are ferns and mosses, yellow daisies, red columbines, purple lupines, blue harebelles, maybe a pink lady slipper. Lichens are not thick enough here to guide a lost hiker with the old “north side of the tree” technique but as you travel closer to Gitche Gumee they obtain a foothold and, on some Boundary Waters lakes it seems they are the dominant life form, inanimate though they be.

Superior is a sensory banquet and diversity is on the menu here, too. The “beaches” are fields of polished rocks: red rhyolite, grey/ brown basalt, blackish gabbro, green lintonite, and the elusive agates which every visitor cranes his neck to find.  Each one is rounded and shaped into a perfect skipping stone by the pounding, roaring waves. Driftwood logs are abraded, over and over, at the surf-line until they are as smooth as if turned on a lathe.

In a minute the lake is flat calm reflecting the blue sky like a great horizontal mirror. In the cove below the palisades, a coffee-brown river pours over the escarpment with a continuous pulsating roar. Children play in the waterfall, twittering randomly as they “rescue” crayfish from the little tide pools. Another minute passes and a gentle onshore breeze, air conditioned by eighty miles of fifty degree lake, rolls into the humid atmosphere in the cove and, suddenly, unbelievably, we are standing in a cloud. There is momentary silence, even from the waterfall it seems, as all the creatures thereabouts adjust to the sensation of floating in air. 

The breeze stiffens and the fog dissolves as quickly as it came. The giant lake reappears, riffled, not a mirror now, but maybe a broken mirror, reflecting nothing, or reflecting a million things. Behind and to the left there is a croaking sound, deep and guttural, from the boughs of a pine tree growing literally from the rock face itself. Upon the highest branch sits a raven the size of a pheasant and he cocks his great head and looks at me as if to say “what a curious creature you are, all pale an earthbound, and … those shorts are really not your best look.” A chipmunk crosses the bar, gingerly from one sun-hot stone to another, circumspect of me, and the raven, and the lapping wavelets. A mother loon and her two babies, the chicks riding high and dry upon her back, round the headland, crabbing into the breeze. She divides her attention between our world and the one below, ducking her head rhythmically, scanning for herring. When the trio is abeam me she emits a long, lonely cry which carries for miles and sounds more like “nevermore” than the raven’s sarcastic call. 

I am loathe to leave this place, ever. I will miss it for 358 days. I must go back to my my work-related conversations, though. I must drive through the miles and miles of Iowa. At the end of the day core competencies must be optimized, proven methodologies must be executed, synergy must be achieved, and we must monetize our assets… We must sit in our cubicles and file the paperwork and pull the same drill-press handle over and over and over and … why not? Aren’t our brains stimulated adequately when we consider best practices and seamless integration?

There is something missing, lest why the “need” for vacation? Why the Moby Dick ennui? I would like to say color, but that’s not it, exactly. A million acres of cornstalks certainly represent color in spades. And cornstalks can be pretty. And it’s not people, exactly. I work with some fine people and I live near some other fine people, even if they are mostly white, lumpy people who look a lot like me.

I contemplate these things from the mezzanine at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Our final stop is as different from Lake Superior as can be. But, there is something I like here. There is something intangible that Superior also has. It is something that satisfies a craving. As I sit and sip my root beer and watch the people moving in and out of frame I put it all together. 

A tall, slender woman passes, her skin the color of milk chocolate, and she smiles broadly and says “Haal-o” in an rich Somali accent. Opposite her a lady as white as a sheet of typing paper with lustrous, flowing auburn hair reads the Star-Tribune. A ruddy fat man, easily 350, in a Hawaiian print shirt, and carrying a bag from the Lego store, pauses below me on the landing to readjust his load. A Chinese lady plays Candy Crush on her cell phone as she waits for her husband and two sons to return from Sbarro. She sits back-to-back with a blonde twenty-something with an impressively braided pony tail and a shirt which says “On Wednesdays we smash the patriarchy!” A little girl in a pink pinafore licks a loosing battle with a giant ice cream cone. 

I get up and walk down the concourse and, on my right, two women in burkhas, one pushing a stroller, pass. I cannot see their faces but I know, somehow, that they are smiling. Next comes Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s doppelgänger and I wish, for the hundredth time, that I could pull a Freaky Friday switcheroo with him. Here is a young father in a grey pocket-tee and wearing a tie-dye backpack with the Build-a-Bear Workshop logo on it and an American Girl doll’s head and face protruding from the drawstring at the top. A 6’ 3” bald man, covered in tattoos, walks hand-in-hand with 5’ 2” woman, in what could be mistaken for a prom dress. It strikes me that if a Martian suddenly landed in the Mall of America parking lot one sunny day it would not be immediately clear to him or her or it that we were all of the same species.

And if our physical attributes aren’t interesting enough, our opinions and personalities offer glorious variety. People long to reveal themselves, and they do it. At the Mall of America tee-shirts are the chosen platform of expression. We have:

“Hold on a minute while I overthink this.”

I don’t snore, I dream I’m a motorcyle.”

It’s tough being a genius, but I manage.”

On a short, plump lady in line at Starbucks:

“I will not be forced to learn a foreign language to live in my own country.”


“I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.”

“I’m with stupid.” A map of Minnesota and Wisconsin with an arrow over Minnesota pointing to the left.

“Hey Babe!” Over a picture of Paul Bunyan’s companion animal.

“Your mom can party!”

“I bake because punching people is frowned upon.”

“Born to be mild.” With a picture of a three-toed sloth, in a leather jacket.

“I suck at apologies so, unfuck you, or whatever.”

“If you were in my novel I would have killed you off by now.”

“May the fetus you save be gay.”

“Spooning leads to forking.”

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

“God, Guns, and Guts. Made in the U.S.A.”

“Back in my day we had nine planets.”

“Poop jokes aren’t my favorite jokes, but they’re a solid number two.”

“Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.”

“I never said all that shit. – Confucius.”

And, finally, the profound ones:

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” (blue)

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” (red)

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” (green)

And, on a very pregnant woman:

“You’re kicking me, Smalls!”

And I feel reassured here, much like I do on the North Shore. I feel at home with these people. I feel welcome at the Mall of America, even with my weird opinions and cock-eyed view of the world. I feel a sense of belonging to this mass of humanity, this cacophony of culture, this menagerie. 

There is a place, in this world, for monoculture. It’s called a cornfield, and it serves it’s purpose and even bears a simple beauty. But, in my humble opinion, diversity is better. I don’t know what axiom of the universe makes it so, but I know it is true in my bones. William Cowper said variety is the spice of life. That rings true to me.

I like hamburgers, but I don’t want them every day. I want Mongolian Beef and Pad Thai and authentic tacos and Chicken Tikka Masala, too. I like Mark Twain, but I want to read Tolstoy, and Joyce, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, too. I like corn and hogs, but I want some lupines and columbines and loons and bears, too. I love America, but I don’t want everyone in our vast, beautiful, diverse country wearing the same t-shirt.

That Smile

That Smile


It was a fall day, one of those few and far between, pristine days that can only be described as crisp. The air possessed a clarity, a perfection of optics, that we pilots call “clear and a million.” For a few more minutes at least, I could see 93 million miles. The sun was setting, the color of an ember deep in the belly of a campfire, behind the bleachers of the football stadium.

I did not care for football nor about football. I did not usually watch the game nor, to be honest, did I share the devoted, patriotic hope that our Rockets would “Trounce the Tigers” or “Whomp the Warriors” or “Charge the Chargers” (not enough thought put into that last one by the cheerleading coach.) I might, if I scoured the entire varsity roster, have found a single name which didn’t inspire in me a visceral disgust. These were the beefy, bully sons of beefy, bully farmers who, by virtue of their great-great-grandfather’s covered wagon breaking an axle here, claimed pride of place in the community and in our school and on the football team. They were “the jocks” whom I hated with a white-hot passion when they singled me out for persecution and hated all the more when they ignored me. In my narrow world view, it seemed that they lived charmed lives, enjoying the adulation of the community, hero worship by the local WHBF sportscaster, and, I always imagined, the sexual attentions of any and all the girls in my class. 

Still, I attended the Rockridge home games religiously. I even came to enjoy the chilly autumn evenings with my breath visible in the air and the interesting contrast between the brilliance of the “Friday night lights” and the blackness of the cornfields beyond. I liked the unpredictable sounds generated by a crowd in the stands, the half-audible conversations of 500 people discussing soybean yields, PTA fundraisers, and, inevitably, the dickhead quarterback’s prowess on the field. I liked the occasional exuberant roar when our team scored, a bit like the flocks of red-winged blackbirds that twisted and turned in a synchronized ballet, as if a thousand organisms could share one brain. 

All of this modulated sound, was underlaid by the carrier wave drone of the big grain dryer at the nearby elevator, the sonorous, white-noise of continuous combustion. I came to enjoy these things – or tolerate them. But they were not, ultimately, the reason I was there. I came for the band. I came for the marching band and, particularly, a pretty, little dark-haired clarinetist who had stolen my heart and took my breath away. 

She was the loveliest thing my newly-pubescent eyes had alighted on. She was an angel – in every possible sense. She was beautiful and confident but with the demure shyness of the cherubs in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. And she was smart, the polar opposite of the redneck linebackers on the field. She thought interesting thoughts and said interesting things and knew about books, had read books, and despite being the daughter of a local farmer herself, whose grandfather’s father had broken an axle in Edgington Township, she was the opposite of whatever a beefy, bully was. She was decidedly different from the stuck-up, pageant-queen-wannabe cheerleaders sharing the field with her.

I watched her from the stands as she played the national anthem. I applauded wildly as they covered Wipeout, with accompanying full drum kit on a hayrack towed behind a lawn tractor. I gave the stink-eye to the football fans who talked through her performance.  I had, after all, offered their moron progeny the courtesy of tepid clapping at touchdown time. 

And I had contrived, when the band returned to their designated seats in the grandstand, to sit nearby, in a place that offered me a convenient view of the little black-haired girl and her clarinet.

She had other suiters, a fact which now makes me reflect on the unlikelihood of what happened. She had even accepted an invitation to the dance that night from a “friend.” Still, after the game, I waited in the grass practice field behind the stands, with happy people filing past to their cars (we won the game.) I was miserable. There is very little worse than being miserable in the presence of happy people. 

I had brought a pitiful little flower for her. Initially this struck me as a “smooth move” but, as the minutes ticked away, my droopy carnation seemed to grow more pitiful and less adequate to its purpose. I saw a couple of trumpet players pass on their way to the band room. When they saw me they pointed discreetly and emitted a joint titter that echoed across the lot. I felt small and cold and stupid, a nerdy boy shivering in a nerdy tan jacket and corduroys. I held out unreasonable hope that something might yet be salvaged of this pathetic catastrophe.

And then she appeared, disgorged with the streaming crowd, from the opening between the bleachers. She was with her best friend and she was laughing. And she was beautiful. She was wearing a black sweater with a panda knitted on the front. She was wearing black and white saddle shoes, and, oddly, a black bowler hat. Her cheeks were rosy from the cold, one of Raphael’s cherubs. She looked up from her clarinet and noticed me standing alone in the middle of the field and, to my ever-lasting gratitude, she smiled. She smiled genuinely, involuntarily, the kind of smile that a person hopes for, longs for, lives for, all his life. It was a smile that demonstrated, without the need for mere words, that she was happy to see me and my sad flower standing there. It was an honest smile, with no sign of irony, or artifice, or even charity.  She was happy to see me. She was actually happy to see me. My heart skipped a beat. 

She left her friend then, and she came to me, and she gave me a hug. I remember that hug as if it were here and now. I wanted to remember it. I concentrated on the moment to grasp it, to capture it, to file it away. I recall the chill air in my lungs from that first intake of breath. I remember her friend, over her shoulder, tittering as her bandmates had done. I remember the beep of a car horn in the parking lot behind, not a warning or a display of anger, but a friendly acknowledgement of one friend in a car to another in the crosswalk. I remember the smell of bratwurst and charcoal drifting from the concession stand. I remember the visiting team’s dejected bus idling nearby. But mostly I remember her, the feel of her sweater and the clean smell of her perfume and the unruly shock of her bangs protruding from beneath the brim of that bowler hat. Above all, I remember the enveloping warmth of her hug as if she exuded a supernatural energy that lit me up inside like a neon bulb. 

Skip forward thirty-four years.

The term long day doesn’t begin to describe the labyrinth I found my way out of. I woke up before dawn in the featureless frozen tundra that is Fargo, North Dakota. I mainlined caffeine in the form of an acrid-tasting, styrofoam-cupful of perfectly mediocre hotel room coffee. And I started the day.

My crew was crabby and the airplane was cold. Even the water bottles in the galley cart were frozen. We had to deice the hoar-frost-covered wings and it took forever. Ineptitude seemed epidemic, from gate agent to ground crew to air traffic control – to me. I signaled the ramper to disengage the ground power unit before deselecting the switch in the cockpit, precipitating a ten minute delay as I restarted the plane, reentered all of the flight plan data, and suffered the Flight Attendant’s caustic remarks when the plane went unexpectedly dark and quiet. We flew to Chicago. 

We swapped airplanes at O’Hare, from Gate B24 to gate F14 (about 1/4 mile of walking.) We had to repeat all the pre-flight steps we had accomplished, so laboriously, in Fargo. The new airplane was late and included its own catalog of maintenance deferrals, including one that limited our airspeed on the ensuing flights to 250 KTS (about 80 mph slower than our usual speed). 

The weather sucked. When we arrived overhead, Dayton, OH was suffering a runway closure, leaving only one plausible instrument approach, one which would allow us to descend to 450 feet above the ground. The solid cloud deck hovered 230 feet above the airport. Aside from the top third of a tall radio mast sticking up through the murk, we could see nothing. We entered a holding pattern. 

As you might imagine, people who buy an airline ticket to Dayton, OH would prefer to go to Dayton, OH. They are not well-pleased when you take them, after 3/4 of an hour of airborne holding, to Columbus.  They are less enthusiastic when you tell them the punch-line to the biggest joke of all;  Dayton’s weather will not improve until tomorrow night. We will be either: A. leaving them in Columbus, B. transporting them on a bus to Dayton, or C. taking them back with us to Chicago, from whence they had commenced. 

Every passenger was surly to the flight attendant, which translated into a general crabbiness on her part, which ultimately poisoned the congenial relationship the First Officer and I had built up over the course of four days. Oh, and the weather had deteriorated in Chicago. The windy city was windy as hell. We made it back to O’Hare four hours late, tired and disgusted. Then I had to drive home, three hours across frigid northern Illinois.

I pulled into our icy driveway, and, with relief, turned off the ignition. My hands were sore from clenching the steering wheel. My back hurt from leaning forward to peer out of the ice- obscured windshield. When I cracked the car door, I was greeted with a blast of arctic air that made me think, just for a moment, that I had gone full-circle and was back in god-forsaken North Dakota. 

I trudged to the house, dejected, exhausted, defeated, my thin leather wingtips filling with snow. I opened the back door of our crappy little house. The screen door, with it’s sticky latch, was frozen. I had to batter it with my fist to break it loose, which, of course, released a cascade of snow from the gutter down the back of my neck. The inner door, with the bad seal, was also frozen and required battering. All of these things should have been repaired long ago. Something about my door battering vibrated the filament of the motion detector light on the front of the house and it broke, leaving me standing in the cold, covered in snow, in total darkness. I stepped onto the cold porch, set down my flight case, and reached for the kitchen door. And the world changed.

The kitchen door swung open. The porch flooded with warmth and light and the aroma of something delightful. And there, in the glow of a new and different world, stood the little black-haired girl. She had waited up for me. She had, indeed, waited up for me for thirty-four years. And she had made me cookies. She took my wet jacket and hung it on its peg. She set my suitcase over by the furnace register. She reached up and took off my epaulets and put them in their place in the china cabinet. And, all this done, she gave me a hug, a warm,  enveloping, life-affirming hug. And then the little black-haired girl smiled. 

I am one lucky bastard.


By: Dustin Joy

His Barn

His Barn – a poem

by: Dustin Joy

The barn door creaks on ancient hinges,
like her knees, with aches and twinges.

She opens it with apprehension,
melancholy, belief suspension.

She came here just to get the spade,
to dig potatoes, while there’s shade.

To him it never was a chore,
scorning melons from the store.

He sowed these seeds with loving care,
pulled the weeds, ran off the mare.

Sweet corn might be nice for lunch,
bright green onions by the bunch.

A fresh tomato, one zucchini,
suitable for tonight’s linguini.

She turns to go, this barn is haunted.
She steels herself, she wont be daunted.

She takes the shovel, hard to heft it,
cleaned and oiled from where he left it.

These things were his, his pride and joy,
her husband’s bench, his tools, his toys.

His works of art, both wood and ferric,
colorful and esoteric.

Whirligigs, doo-dads, inventions,
moving sculptures, good intentions.

She picks one up, a clever what’s-it.
She smiles, she laughs, she cries, she hugs it.

Compassion, kindness, a touch of crazy,
serenity some took for lazy.

Whimsical, her dad thought feckless,
she loved him more when he was reckless.

His things still lie here, strewn about.
Others said to throw them out.

Sad memories, to best be rid.
They never knew him like she did.

Without his spark, his touch of dreamy,
she steps outside, the sky is creamy.

The setting sun, he loved the gloaming.
Across their lives her thoughts are roaming.

A widow’s world, can she adapt,
a sewing circle, perhaps a cat?

She locks his barn up, safe and true.
She smiles for him, he loved that, too.

Quotes, etc.

For most of my adult life I have been a collector of literary esoterica. I love clever turns of phrase (intentional or not), strange juxtapositions of images and words, and brilliant quotes, both funny and serious. To satisfy my habit I seek out these gems in the places I have long found them. Local newspapers (particularly police blotters) are a treasure trove of entertaining tidbits. I also search the ubiquitous local guide books found in hotel lobbies. Not every town can be New York City, open 24/7 and overflowing with culture. When you are a little burg in the middle of nowhere you may have to get creative to bring in tourist dollars. Superlatives may be hard to come by. A recent “facts” segment in the Eastern Washington State tourism guide states:

The Palouse region grows 18% of the country’s lentils. 

Yes, yes they do. You have to work with what you’ve got. 

You might even have to add a few qualifiers to your local claim to fame:

 COME AND SEE THE second LARGEST antique GUMBALL MACHINE IN southeastern McClean county MISSOURI!

I love these things, no matter how trumped up or qualified. I will happily drive 40 miles to see the largest ball of twine in Minnesota. I have. It is really big! – for Minnesota.

I plan to include more of my travel magazine finds in future posts as well as sundry items from small town newspapers. Here is a nice example from the Durango, CO Herald police blotter for Wednesday, August 22:

1:02 AM – Someone called to report that a man punched a car in the 900 block of Main Avenue.

1:26 PM – Someone’s tire was punctured in the 2700 block of Main Avenue. (This guy really has a problem with cars, I guess)

4:23 PM – Someone locked a bike to another person’s bike instead of the bike rack near Main Avenue and East Eight Street. (No crime too small)

10:54 pm – A man was in his underwear in the 500 block of Animas View Drive.

I think you see what I mean. This stuff is better than reality TV. 

I have been reticent, lately, about posting to my blog. I have been working on some other writing projects and, I must admit, have been a bit lazy. I hereby pledge to post more regularly. That may include my own essays, short stories, and poetry. It may also include some of the “stuff” I encounter in my travels around the country. It’s stuffiminterestedin, after all.


Today I want to feature the fruits of my other collecting hobby – Quotations. Everywhere I go and in everything I read I seek out really excellent quotes. I jot them down in my notebook and store them away for future inspiration. I look for profundity  and humor. Great quotes are often the product of great minds, but not always. One of my favorite quotes of all time is a quick piece of bluster from the boxer Mike Tyson:

“Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth” 

Quotes represent, to me, the perfect distillation of complex or confusing ideas into coherent, often beautiful, English. I love them and I collect them and I will share a bit of my collection with you. The quotes presented here will obviously reflect my own biases both politically and philosophically. Still, I am open to the well-crafted quote from people who represent other points of view and even some who I do not respect very much (Mr. Tyson, for example, or … Ronald Reagan). 

I will start today with a couple of gentlemen who recently passed away and whose voices will be greatly missed. Both of these men were brilliant and intelligent and funny. Both had principles and were, in the truest sense of the word, humanists, which is the greatest compliment I can give a person. 


Senator John McCain

The following quote was made by Senator McCain at a campaign rally on October 10, 2008 in response to one of his supporters who had called his opponent Barack Obama an “Arab” and said she was frightened of Obama being elected. This moment of political courage is unmatched in my lifetime. It shows definitively what a noble man John McCain was and why he will be missed so badly.

About Obama:

“No, M’aam, No M’aam, he’s a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States.”

More quotes by Senator McCain which reveal his humanity, brilliance, and logic:

“Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them.”

“Every day, people serve their neighbors and our nation in many different ways, from helping a child learn and easing the loneliness of those without a family to defending our freedom overseas. It is in this spirit of dedication to others and to our country that I believe service should be broadly and deeply encouraged.”

“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.”

“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

“War is wretched beyond description, and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.”

“Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.”


Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was not a politician. He was a sometime drug addict and directionless youth who became the Executive Chef at a well-regarded New York restaurant. His 2000 book Kitchen Confidential became a surprise best-seller and catapulted Bourdain to fame and other media opportunities. Chief among these were No Reservations on the Travel Channel and CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Both shows, focusing on food and travel, revealed Bourdain’s fundamental humanity, humility, decency, and integrity. He was intelligent, broad-minded, and generous.

“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet.”

“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying. … If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”

“I love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work; the ever-present smells of roasting bones, searing fish, and simmering liquids; the noise and clatter, the hiss and spray, the flames, the smoke, and the steam. Admittedly, it’s a life that grinds you down. Most of us who live and operate in the culinary underworld are in some fundamental way dysfunctional. We’ve all chosen to turn our backs on the nine-to-five, on ever having a Friday or Saturday night off, on ever having a normal relationship with a non-cook.”

“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”


Favorite Quotes from others

Kurt Vonnegut – American writer

“I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”

“If what Jesus said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?” 

“And 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.”

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.”

“Evolution can go to hell as far as I am concerned. What a mistake we are. We have mortally wounded this sweet life-supporting planet – the only one in the whole Milky Way – with a century of transportation whoopee.”

“Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.”

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” (Vonnegut credited this statement to his son, Mark)


Mark Twain – American writer

For those of you who think Mark Twain was some sort of comedian only, a humorist, try this on for size:

A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell, mouths mercy and invented hell, mouths golden rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him! . . . 

“What a helluva heaven it will be when they get all these hypocrites assembled there.”

“Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” 

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.” 

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” 

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” 

“Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.” 

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” 

“I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” 

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” 

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” 

“Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” 


Elie Wiesel – Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Prize Winner, and author of Night

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

“Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” 

“Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world.”

“That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life – that is what is abnormal.” 

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” 

“Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.” 

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”


Henry David Thoreau – American writer

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

“My greatest skill has been to want but little.”

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” 

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

When his aunt Louisa asked him in his last weeks if he had made his peace with God, Thoreau responded:

 “I did not know we had ever quarreled.”


Stephen Fry – Comedian, actor, intellectual, and atheist

To the question “What if you are wrong and find yourself standing before the Pearly Gates talking to God:

“I will basically say: Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It is utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who created a world which is so full of injustice and pain. I wouldn’t want to get in [to heaven] on his terms. The god who created this universe, if it was created by a god, is quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of god would do that? Yes, the world is very splendid, but it also has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind. They eat outwards from the eyes. Why? Why did you do that to us? You could easily have made a creation in which that didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable. So, atheism is not just about not believing theres a god. On the assumption that there is one what kind of god is he? It’s perfectly apparent he’s monstrous. Utterly, utterly monstrous and deserves no respect whatsoever. The moment you banish him your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living in my opinion.” 




Martin Amis – British novelist and essayist

“To say he is humorless I mean to deliberately impugn his seriousness.”

“If God existed, and if he cared for humankind, he would never have given us religion.”


Edith Sitwell – British poet and critic

“I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of catfish.” 

“I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it.” 


Dorothy Parker – American poet, writer, and critic

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” 

“Razors pain you,

Rivers are damp,

Acids stain you,

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful,

Nooses give,

Gas smells awful.

You might as well live.” 

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.” 

“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.” 

“I don’t know much about being a millionaire, but I’ll bet I’d be darling at it.” 

“Tell him I was too fucking busy– or vice versa.” 

“By the time you swear you’re his,

Shivering and sighing.

And he vows his passion is,

Infinite, undying.

Lady make note of this —

One of you is lying.” 

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.” 

“What fresh hell is this?” 

“They sicken of the calm who know the storm.” 

When asked by a friend to use the word horticulture in a senetence:

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” 

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” 

But now I know the things I know

And do the things I do,

And if you do not like me so,

To hell, my love, with you.” 

“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.” 

“Take me or leave me; or, as is the usual order of things, both.” 

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” 


John Cage – American Composer

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”


Bill Nye (the Science Guy) – Television presenter and science communicator

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”


Willa Cather – American writer

There are only one or two human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened.”

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”


Christopher Hitchens – British/American journalist, writer, and prominent atheist

“Our problem is this; our prefrontal lobes are too small and our adrenaline glands are too big and our thumb finger opposition isn’t all it might be, and we’re afraid of the dark and we’re afraid to die and we believe in the truths of holy books that are so stupid and so fabricated that a child can, and all children do, as you can tell by their questions, actually see through them.”


Robert M. Price – American theologian and writer

“I’m going to hell according to someone’s doctrine. (Islam, Christianity, etc). I may as well call them as I see them.”


Pete Docter – Director of animated movies UP, Monsters Inc., and Inside Out

Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering, there are days you’re gonna feel sad, you’re gonna feel angry, you’re gonna be scared. That’s nothing you can choose, but you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It’ll make a world of difference.”


H. L. Mencken – American journalist, essayist, and cultural critic

“A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. A theologian is the man who finds it.”

“On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

“Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.”

“It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.”

“The final test of truth is ridicule. Not the laws of the United States but the mother-in-law joke brought the Mormons to surrender. Not the horror of it but the absurdity of it killed the doctrine of infant damnation. But the razor edge of ridicule is turned by the tough hide of truth.”

“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”


Garrison Keillor – American writer and radio host

“People with plenty of work to do are less enamored of self-destruction.”

“One reads books in order to gain the privilege of living more than one life. People who don’t read are trapped in a mine shaft, even if they think the sun is shining.” 

“God writes a lot of comedy… the trouble is, he’s stuck with so many bad actors who don’t know how to play funny.” 

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known. ” 

“Intelligence is like four-wheel drive. It only allows you to get stuck in more remote places.” 

“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.” (I’m not too sure about that one)

“The most un-American thing you can say is, ‘You can’t say that.” 

“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.” 



“Saying Lincoln was a Republican is like saying Nicholas Cage won an Oscar. Technically it’s true, but a lot of shit has happened since then.”


Malcolm Gladwell – Canadian journalist and author

“You don’t want bureaucracies run by Marine Corps guys. The worst thing that can happen if you’re in a bureaucracy is if the bureaucracy gets really, really good. Our liberties are imperiled overly competent bureaucrats.”

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we really don’t have an explanation for.”

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”


Groucho Marx – American comedian, writer, and actor

“There is one way to find out if a man is honest: ask him; if he says yes, you know he’s crooked.”

“I dont want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

“A black cat crossing your path signifies…that the animal is going somewhere.”

“Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted.”


Ernest Hemingway – Nobel prize-winning writer

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

“I drink to make other people more interesting.”

“It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

“All thinking men are atheists.”

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” 

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

“If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.”

“All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.”


Joan Didion – American journalist and writer

“we tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

“I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right, but we were each the person the other trusted.”

“Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.”


Elif Shafak – Turkish novelist and essayist

“If we learn anything, we learn it from people who are different from us.”

“For extremism to work they need to dehumanize ‘the other.’ Fiction rehumanizes. Fiction tells us that the person you saw as ‘the other’ has a story. If you know that person’s story, you can connect with that person’s sorrow or hopes. In a world of so much conflict, we need the art of story-telling like never before.”


Iris Murdoch – British novelist

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

“I daresay anything can be made holy by being sincerely worshipped.”

“At crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over.”


Neil Pasricha – Canadian author, blogger, and podcaster

“None of your ancestors was a virgin”


Ronald Reagan – (Written by Reagan’s chief speech writer Ken Khachigian)

“How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?”


 Charles Dickens – English writer

“Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.”


Eleanor Roosevelt – First lady of the United States and diplomat

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”


Samuel Johnson – English writer and lexicographer

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”


Adam Smith – Scottish Economist

“Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.”


Richard Feynman – American Physicist 

“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.” 

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” 

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.”

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” 

“If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.”

“I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.” 

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” 

“All the time you’re saying to yourself, ‘I could do that, but I won’t,’ — which is just another way of saying that you can’t.” 

“Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation.” 

“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil – which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.” 


And, finally, some immortal wisdom from The Princess Bride

“A few more steps and we’ll be safe in the fire swamp.” 

“We’ll never survive.” 

“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”


by: Dustin Joy

If this isn’t nice…

If This Isn’t Nice…
by: Dustin Joy

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short, and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
time passages
Time Passages – Al Stewart

Kurt Vonnegut, in his later years, concluded many of his speeches with a simple lesson. He was scrupulous about crediting the idea to his uncle Alex. He felt that a simple mental exercise had made his life better. In Vonnegut’s words:
And 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.

I have been trying to take Vonnegut’s advice to heart. I think his mantra contributes to a better life. I think it works in the present tense but, I would like to suggest, it applies quite as well to events in the past.

Memories are our possessions. More than any other kind of property they belong, personally, intimately, to us. Only dementia can steal away the treasure we possess in our memories. They can be called on for strength in times of trouble. They can be a reservoir of hope, and they can serve, per Vonnegut’s suggestion, to uplift the spirit and remind the downtrodden that there once were good times and might be again.

Sometimes, when I am down or nursing a grievance, I go on a little mental journey. I am buoyed by a lovely memory, a piece of mental real-estate which has been mine for nearly 40 years. It never fails to offer me comfort. I close my eyes and relive an afternoon from my childhood and, no matter the present circumstances, I feel better.

A boy of 14 and a man of 65 are in a boat. They are not speeding down the channel but floating, drifting among tall trees, the trunks of which have been overtaken by a Spring flood. Here and there one can see little mounds of earth poking up through the floodwaters, but mostly it is a wet world. It is a wet world dappled with sunlight and filled with a the croaks of frogs, the plops of turtles, and the startled cries of wood ducks.
The boy guides the wooden boat with a pair of oars. He is a skinny boy with a notable awkwardness in his manner. He is no athlete and mostly lacks grace and coordination, that is, on land. Here he is smooth and efficient, propelling the narrow craft between the maples and the cottonwoods quietly. He executes long power strokes when he can but is compelled, frequently, to retract one or the other oar into the boat, dripping, to avoid bumping a branch.

The boat is a beauty, his Grandfather’s pride, and the boy takes pride in it, too. He takes pride in it’s lovely alternating oak and pine ribs. He loves it for the sleek, elegant curve of its transom and the v-shape of it’s bow. He loves the creaky brass oarlocks and the varnished gunwales. He loves this boat because he knows it’s history. He knows the story of how the boat was ordered from a catalog and arrived at the depot in town on the back of a railroad flatcar.

He can recite the outdoor sagas; this bow piled full of wild ducks and monster catfish whose length matched the boat’s beam. The boy loves this boat precisely because it is an anachronism. It is an oddity among the fleets of metal Jon Boats which ply the Mississippi. Other fishermen have been known to mock it at the boat ramp – impractical. At this point in his life the boy sees the boat as a proxy. He is coming to realize that he himself is, if not an oddity, then at least odd. His quirky pastimes (collecting coins, reading the encyclopedia, flying model airplanes) are symptoms of a congenital “un-coolness” which will be made painfully manifest in high school.

There is a fine line between quirky and weird, after all, between eccentric and crazy. He senses this already. He knows that the lovely cheerleader who sits next to him in English class, will not really be part of his life, his daydreams notwithstanding. If he has to be odd the boy wants, somehow, to be oddly beautiful, like his Grandpa’s boat. That afternoon, enjoying nature, soaking in the sounds, the smells, the warmth, and taking in the wonderful curiosity of floating on an island, the boy is transported. He is transported from the daily life where he is an awkward, bumbling nerd to a place where he is competent and impressive and beloved.

I still have my Grandpa’s boat, and… I am still odd. I retain the memory of that perfect day, and the flood, and the wood ducks, and my Grandpa, sitting in the bow seat, leaning back and resting his head on a boat cushion. I still remember how the narrow sunbeams burrowed through the canopy of branches above and exploded in the rivulets of water running down the oars. I remember the serenity and the solitude and the perfection of the day.

Neuroscientists have demonstrated that the “use” of a memory; recalling it and then storing it away again frequently alters or degrades it. Like the famous telephone game our memories undergo a loss of fidelity and can, in fact, begin to incorporate elements which were not present in the actual incident. But It may be that perfect fidelity is not what matters.

It may be that, as a crutch to mental health, a modified memory is just what the doctor ordered. My treasured afternoon with my Grandpa is sweet to me and though it is possible that it did not occur as I describe it to you here, let alone how I might describe it to you in five years, or ten, it is of great value to my sanity. I miss my Grandpa. I miss the way he cocked his head to listen for geese. I miss the rough feel of his five o’clock shadow when he would puff out his cheeks and I would run my little hand across the whiskers. I miss the way he would pretend to struggle with some simple mechanical device so that I could “help” him. And I miss the genuine and exuberant little whistle of appreciation he would give for some trifling achievement I had obtained. I have never had a better cheerleader, and I never shall.

And so I draw on this memory frequently. I open the rusty file drawer and I pull out the yellowing folder. Inside is a photograph as vivid and as clear and as powerful as it was the day I put it there. I pull it out and I look at it and I remember. I think to myself, and I exclaim, or murmur (as is appropriate) “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Charity Nebbe


Charity Nebbe
by: Dustin Joy

Note: In case you are wondering; yes, this post was approved by my dear wife. 


I am obsessed with Charity Nebbe. In case you don’t know who Charity Nebbe is, I will tell you. Charity is a public radio host and the on-air personality for the show Iowa Ingredient. She is smart and clever. She has a playful wit and an infectious laugh. She listens politely and says intelligent, insightful things. Charity is pretty. She might not be considered beautiful in a shallow, conventional, commercial sense. She has a generous, natural nose that is to me, superior to those rhinoplastied monstrosities we see so often on TV. She has short, pixyish hair, giving her a flirty, devil-may-care look. She is thin but with just the tiniest bulge of a belly as if to say, “sure, I go to the gym,” but I’m not one of those “I go to the gym people.”

Charity is a vegetarian, but not a preachy one. She’s written a children’s book, and…get this… she won an Emmy. Well, okay, a regional Emmy. Charity is an Iowa girl. She lives on a farm near Kalona, with her two kids and her … baker husband. He’s a baker. Not that there is anything wrong with that. God knows loaves must be baked and someone must bake them. So what if he wears an apron?

Charity was born in 1975 which makes her only five (or six …or seven) years younger than me. She grew up in Cedar Falls and attended Iowa State University majoring in Political Science and Biology. I majored in Biology with a concentration in Political Science. I know, right? Charity went on to a successful career in radio. With her undeniable good looks and irrepressible joie de vivre, the move to television was inevitable. Each week on IPTV she gives Iowa, finally, something to be proud of.

Now I know you are asking, “how does he know all these cool things about Charity Nebbe?” or, perhaps, “why does he know all these cool things about Charity Nebbe?” It’s not because I have stalked her. Parenthetically, that is really unfair of you to think that. I just did a little research on Wikipedia, that’s all. My interest is a healthy interest, literally. Ive learned a lot from Iowa Ingredient. I’ve learned about the merits of arugula, kale, and organic honey. I’m a better person for my obsession.

And here’s the thing. I am married. I am happily married and have been for 26 years. I love my wife with all my heart. I’m not at all suggesting that I would leave her and my beloved, beloved kids to run away with Charity Nebbe to a cabin in the high Sierras where we would hike and paddle around mountain lakes in kayaks and eat wild chanterelles which Charity would sauté up with a little garlic and thyme wearing that cute apron.… I would not do that.

But my wife and I have a deal. If, hypothetically, the rock star and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin shows up at our front door in Illinois City and asks my wife to come away with him to the south of France I, as a good husband, would step aside and … go back in and watch Iowa Ingredient. Likewise, and it’s only fair when you think about it, if Charity Nebbe someday recognizes that her glamorous life as a public television star is hollow and meaningless and that her …baker…husband does not adore her like…well, like his precious crescent rolls…then.

I think I have a perfectly acceptable, not-at-all weird obsession with Charity Nebbe. I watch her show. I know things about Charity that I do not know about Jaques Pepin or Mara Liasson. So what? I care, for some reason, that Charity raises chickens and that she once went sky-diving. I really don’t care how much marijuana Rick Steves smokes. Why is that? Is it okay to Google Charity Nebbe? Would it be okay to write her a fan letter? Does it matter that I am a middle-aged man? Why? If I were a teenage boy with a poster of Ariana Grande on my wall that would be okay. But if I’m an adult man with a life-size poster of Charity Nebbe on my wall (and I’m not saying such a poster exists) am I eccentric?

Maybe this obsession is like my infatuation with geocaching. Maybe it is a little stranger, like my brief devotion to the discography of Glen Campbell. Both were harmless and transitory. Charity Nebbe is a real, live person, though. It’s not that Glen Campbell wasn’t a real person. But a superstar is really more of an abstraction and, ultimately, it was just Wichita Lineman, Galveston, and By the Time I get to Phoenix that rattled around in my iPod for a time. I was really more obsessed with Jimmy Webb than Glen Campbell.

I could download episodes of Iowa Ingredient I suppose and study them like the Zapruder film. That is a tolerable eccentricity. If I drive past Charity’s house, though, that is a different thing, maybe? If I call her at work or write her a letter that is odd? Probably. If I meet her outside her office with a heart-shaped box of candy I’ve probably crossed some kind of line. Women, in our culture, have put up with this sort of bullshit in a way that most men never will.

The news today is full of men behaving badly, and stupidly, in the company of women. Certainly these things run on a continuum. There’s Jimmy Carter, who admitted to “lusting in his heart” and then there is Donald Trump who, you know, said all the things he said…and continues to say…and continues to say. There is normal, and then there is deviant. But where, exactly is that line?

I suspect every person becomes obsessed with another person at some point in their lives. These interests are usually controlled. You are a “fan” or you have a “man-crush” or you “really enjoy the company of” so-and-so. You might know that Mark in accounting is an avid cyclist. But a “normal” person doesn’t fish Mark’s discarded chewing gum out of the garbage can when he leaves the room.

I once had a co-worker who followed the Moody Blues around the world, spending, by her own estimate $50,000 on travel and concert tickets. She was clearly obsessed with Justin Hayward in a way that was unhealthy. Or was it? It appeared to make her life richer and, at worst, constituted an occasional nuisance to the Justin Hayward. Until it doesn’t. It is that “until it doesn’t” that is the problem.

I don’t think I’m crazy. I will never pursue a relationship of any kind with Charity Nebbe. I predict that my interest in her will fade like my devotion to Hemingway’s short stories, my crush on Pam Dawber, and geocaching.The only question that troubles me is this; does the unhealthy obsessive know when he crosses that line? Does the devoted fan recognize when he becomes a scary creep? I fear that, at some point, he does not. That is the scary part, scary to the obsessive, but scarier by far, to the target.

Distilled Arguments

Distilled Arguments

The world is a complicated place. Determining the facts, figuring out the truth, making the fine distinctions necessary to alight on the right course of action, these are difficult things. They call for free inquiry, diligent research, the application of logic, and a thorough challenge in the free market of ideas. At least that’s what I think.

Our President and his administration see things differently. Their world is a small, simple place where the opinion of every redneck in a pickup truck is equal to that of a PhD in physics. In their minds all political arguments can be formulated from a bible verse (mostly Leviticus), a twangy country song, or a Fox News ticker.

Not only have the President and his cronies done away with free inquiry and the thorough vetting of facts, he has even made a mockery of the need to explain and justify his positions. Our complicated world and all that is in it must now be distilled down to a nasty 140 character screed from the Chief Executive of our nation.

Question: Compared to other Presidents, how did Barak Obama carry out his duties during his first term? Was he an effective leader? Was he a good steward of our resources and talents as a nation? Did he advance our nation’s purposes on the world stage? Was he a steady and sane force for good? How did the economy perform under his leadership? What do the data and statistics say?

These are all great and necessary questions for determining the direction our democracy should take in the future. Here is what Mr. Trump reduced these questions to:

“Obama is, without question, the WORST EVER president. I predict he will now do something really bad and totally stupid to show manhood!”

The irony is so rich it makes Scrooge McDuck look like Mother Theresa.

Apparently those of us who value education and science and the pleasure of intellectual inquiry have lost. We who find beauty in a cleverly and subtly woven argument cannot compete with the President’s literal mind and lightning-fast thumb. SAD!!!!!!

I surrender. I concede that the American public will not sit still for complicated explanations. Our eyes glaze over at anything short of fireworks if it lasts longer than a YouTube video. But the problem is, I still like philosophical questions. I still believe in science and investigation and free inquiry. What is a boy to do?

Here is what I’m gonna try. Without much confidence I am going to take a swing at dumbing down some complicated political and scientific ideas I have spent years trying to understand. I have not been able to get them down to 140 characters but most of these will be shorter than a YouTube video of guys kicking each other in the balls. I call these DISTILLED ARGUMENTS. I’m thinking of making this an occasional series. I’ll start with a pair of contentious ones. Here goes:


This is an easy one, I think, the no-brainer which generated our enormous brains. Here is the argument for evolution in seven lines.

  1. Offspring tend to have a combination of the physical characteristics of their parents. (Well, Duh!)

2. In every generation fewer offspring survive than are born. (Duh, again)

3. The ones who survive are the ones who reproduce. (Duh, Duh, and Duh)

4. In limited environments (all known environments) some individuals will be more successful than others. Those are the ones who survive and reproduce.

5. The next generation will be made up of the offspring of these survivors.

6. Repeat this process for thousands or millions of generations and you have a population made up of individuals well adapted to their environment.

7. That is evolution in a nutshell and it is not complicated or unlikely. It is simple and it is inevitable.



Next, a political argument. Everyone I have ever met in Canada thinks this is a no-brainer (and I’ve met quite a few.) If you disagree I would love to hear your thoughtful, well-reasoned argument.



1. People should not die because they are poor. People should not be bankrupted because they get sick. If you cannot accept these two assertions as axiomatic I will acknowledge the intellectual consistency of your argument but I can never find common ground with you. I cannot teach you to care about other people and show empathy.

2. If you accept the above premises you have accepted, unambiguously, the proposition that providing the best health care possible to all Americans is somebody’s obligation.

3. It’s our obligation. There’s nobody here but us chickens. We Americans need health care. We are the ones who must provide it. That means taxes, or premiums, or whatever you want to call them.

4. The cost of doctors and nurses and hospitals may be “too much” but they contribute to the goal of using the resources available to provide healthcare to all Americans.

5. Insurance Companies, conversely, who must make a profit for shareholders, do nothing but take resources away from the system.

6. While for-profit insurance drains the system of resources the concept of “insurance,” spreading the risk over the entire American population, makes perfect sense.

7. An insurance pool of the entire population paid for by the entire population is, in fact, the most efficient possible model for providing healthcare to all citizens.

8. People who are healthy now but do not buy insurance are parasites on the system. There is nothing noble about them because every single person requires healthcare at some point in his life.

9. Finally, I have to address the boogie-man of rationing. Rationing will and currently does exist in every healthcare delivery model on the planet. In our current system for-profit insurance companies do the rationing and have, of course, the incentive to ration coverage aggressively. A government payer system would have to ration care, also, but without the incentive to make a profit could base such decisions on science and logic and compassion. And, if people were unhappy with the way the government was carrying out this responsibility, we could vote them out of office. Try voting the President of United Healthcare out of his office.

Nuff said.


I will have more distilled arguments in the future. If you think I’m off base or mistaken I’d love to hear from you. Give me a comment.


by: Dustin Joy


Since I was a little boy I have believed that showing off, tooting your own horn, or otherwise bragging was improper and unseemly. But …. Since a man as classy and esteemed as our President does this on a daily (minutely?) basis perhaps I can be forgiven one little lapse.

For the last three years I have entered the River City Reader Short Fiction contest. The real challenge is embodied by the word “short.” All pieces must be less than 300 words and incorporate a writing prompt from literature selected by the River City Reader editors. For most writers (who can’t shut up by their very nature) cutting a story to 300 words can be a real heartbreaker. Sometimes editing can feel like ripping the guts out of a beloved idea. It is good practice, though, and frequently results in a better product.

The first year I entered I got an honorable mention for my story A Hero – of a sort. Last year I did not place, but had my story Chicory printed on the Reader’s website. This year (drum roll please) …I WON! Amazing! Against obviously superior entries my little story called Checkmate got first place. I credit the clever title, suggested by my friend Gregg.

The story, I think, is about marriage. It is about the kind of loving, respectful, yet playful traditions that evolve in a long relationship. These little rituals become the cement which bond the couple together and strengthen both to allow them to weather life’s storms. This couple, both book lovers, obviously has a long history of arguing about literature and promoting their own favorite authors. This is one such episode.

2017 Short Fiction Contest Winners


Note: For those of you not familiar with the authors referenced, here is a little primer.

The first quote offered is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, Act 3. His retort that she is a “saucy minx” sounds a lot like Shakespeare and originates in that era but I couldn’t find any evidence that it was his. The most recent use of the term I know of is by Prime Minister Hugh Grant in one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, in reference to Margaret Thatcher.

The second quote is from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. The longer quote is better but I had to abbreviate it for the contest because 300 words is 300 words. It reads:

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

It killed Hemingway, of course, which is referenced later in the story. He shot himself in 1961 with his favorite pigeon gun.

The third quote, “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size,” is from the wonderful but troubled British writer Virginia Woolf. She authored Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Waves. This quote comes from her brilliant essay A Room of One’s Own which argues the need for “room” for women in our male-dominated literary canon.

After struggling for many years with depression Woolf killed herself in 1941 by filling her coat pockets with stones and walking into the Ouse River in Sussex, England.

The last two quotes are from my favorite author, Mark Twain. The first is from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  which was one of the writing prompts for the contest. The second is from Extracts from Adam’s Diary which was Twain’s humorous take on Genesis. In the book Adam is at first perplexed and annoyed by the arrival of the first woman, Eve, finding her difficult to live with. Ultimately, he finds he cannot live without her.



by: Dustin Joy

She ran her arthritic fingers through his wispy hair. The infusion pump clicked. There was a far-off rattling of a candy striper’s cart.

His breathing suddenly ceased to be metronomic, punctuated now with little clearings of the throat.

She laid her book down. “You awake?” Silence. “Are you okay?”

He spoke without opening his eyes. “A man can die but once; we owe God a death.”

“You’re not dying. It’s a hernia.”

He groaned.

She laughed. “You thought you’d trip me up with … Shakespeare?”

“All right, you saucy minx.” His eyes opened slowly. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

“Do you want some ice chips?”

“Ice chips? You’re stalling.”

“Please, you think I don’t recognize that old misogynist?”

“Papa Hemingway? Take that back or I swear I’ll relapse into my coma.”

She considered for a minute. “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

He smirked. “Well, Virginia Woolf says you’re not doing your job. And rocks in your pockets? A real man uses a shotgun”

“Your point being that Virginia Woolf wasn’t a real man?”

He stroked his chin. “Inherited ideas are a curious thing, and interesting to observe and examine.” He smiled wickedly. “Gotcha!”

“Nice try, but at least Twain was a feminist. He threw off inherited ideas and spoke for suffrage. How about you?”

She kissed him on the forehead and he sighed.

“Since I’m dying, do you want to hear my favorite Twain quote?” he asked. “It’s from Adam’s Diary.”

“Okay.” She looked intrigued, but wary.

“I see that I was mistaken about Eve; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.”

She smiled. “I like that one.”




Hamilton – A Review (of the soundtrack. I still can’t afford Broadway tickets.)


For the last few months I’ve been part of a local writers group and it has inspired me to explore different forms of writing. I’ve now written short stories, non-fiction essays, even poetry. This is my first try at a review. 



A few years ago we drilled a new water well at our house. When I say we, of course, I mean that we hired a crew of professional drillers to do it for us. While I did not turn even a spadeful of earth, I found that I could sit for hours and watch these masters of their craft at work.

As they emerged from the ground on steel cables, the heavy lengths of pipe would be casually tossed over the shoulder of the hoist operator and would arc around his back and be guided smoothly and apparently effortlessly into the rack by his assistant. Any one of these 1000 pound chunks could maim, cripple or kill in an instant. These men knew their business. They knew the physics involved in every step even if they had never drawn a vector diagram. They were masters of their art. Watching a master work is one of the great pleasures of life, as far as I’m concerned.

I have never considered myself a Broadway guy. I worked on the lighting crew for Godspell in high school but if more recently, I had won tickets to see Rent on Let’s Make a Deal I might have asked to trade it for curtain #2. Also, I seem to have a powerful curmudgeonly aversion to anything that is suddenly “must see.” When the crowd is surging one direction, I am usually lurching in the other. So it was with great skepticism and out of respect for her feelings that I let my daughter play and sing for me a few of the songs from the Broadway phenomenon called Hamilton. “Pffft! A rap version of the life of a more or less obscure founding father. Yeah, that must be great.”

I will grudgingly have to tell you: It is !@#$% GREAT!

Taking in Lin Manuel Miranda’s play is like watching a ballet, or in my vernacular, watching a couple of really talented guys drill a well. The music is masterful. He makes it look easy. But the songs are complex with layers of meaning and each interacts with and builds upon the preceding songs. Miranda’s songs draw you into the story. You find yourself suddenly invested in the lives of people who are dead two centuries. You catch yourself getting choked up about the plight of a former Secretary of the Treasury. You find yourself rooting for the ostensible villain, Aaron Burr. You are made to care about the women, Eliza, Angelica, Peggy, and Theodosia, who made these founding fathers what they were but never got the credit. I don’t know what you can say about someone who can take a Broadway skeptic and have him humming “talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for” as he walks through an airport. Lin Manuel Miranda drills a mean well.

The story of Alexander Hamilton’s life is compelling. It has been told before, of course, in history books and biographies. We look at his face nearly every day on the ten dollar bill, though most could not say what he did to earn that honor. Miranda’s genius, aside from songwriting of course, was to recognize a good story when he heard one and to retell it in a way which is fundamentally true but which also distills the battles of a lifetime into an understandable and digestible morality play.

An example is worth a thousand explanations:
Hamilton is blackmailed, at the height of his powers, by the husband of the woman he has had an affair with. Not one man in ten-thousand would do, in that circumstance, what Hamilton did: he openly published an account of the affair to undercut the blackmailer. This is a truly unique and fascinating episode which reveals a unique and fascinating personality. It requires some unpacking as to motivations and consequences. Hamilton stopped the blackmail at the expense of his wife, his children, and his career. The approach turns out to be consistent with his history, and his hard-headed principles, while it would be unthinkable for a modern celebrity, say Bill Clinton, to take this approach.

Miranda captures and distills this story masterfully into the song The Reynolds Pamphlet. He opens with whispered voices saying “Have you read this?” This sets the salacious tone. The song, two minutes and nine seconds long, progresses quickly to the taunting voices of Hamilton’s antagonists Thomas Jefferson and James Madison singing “never gonna be President now. Never gonna be President now. That’s one less thing to worry about.” In these lines Miranda speaks to the complexity of Hamilton’s relationship with his fellow founding fathers and invites the question: who has one less thing to worry about, Jefferson or Hamilton? The next heart-rending verse is sung by Hamilton’s sister-in-law and long-time confidant Angelica, as she dresses him down and leaves him twisting in the wind with the phrase “I’m not here for you” and “you can never be satisfied! God I hope you’re satisfied!” It ends with the powerful final phrase uttered again by the uncomprehending crowd “Have you ever seen somebody ruin his own life? His poor wife.”

Hamilton’s behavior would be incomprehensible to us here, except for the beautiful and haunting song Hurricane which precedes it. If past is prologue as Shakespeare says, Hurricane, explains Hamilton’s particular devotion to the idea that the truth will set him free and to his confidence that he could explain things, to the nation and to his wife, through his writing.

Hurricane is somber, opening with spare, low piano chords, accompanied by Miranda’s (Hamilton’s) pain-filled voice telling the story of his traumatic childhood on the small, poor Caribbean island of Nevis. His father had abandoned the family early in his life and his mother died when he was 12. Miranda’s powerful verse “She was holding me. We were sick and she was holding me,” encapsulates, in 12 words, much of what we need to know about the tragedies that shaped Hamilton’s view of the world and established his recurring insecurities which he confronted with hard work and “excellence.”

As in all his songs, Miranda’s metaphors are beautiful and poignant here. The hurricane which destroys his town when he is 17 offers him his first opportunity to “rise up” from his squalid condition and to show the world what he is capable of through writing. At that tender age, he wrote an account of the hurricane which was published in newspapers and brought him to the attention of community leaders on his home island. The song’s refrain “I wrote my way out,” begins a powerful momentum at this point which replaces the somber opening. One senses, as Hamilton must have, that his ability to “write it all down” was his salvation, from a real hurricane, and later from the metaphorical one that surrounded him when his enemies discovered the affair and subsequent blackmail. “I’ll write my way out, overwhelm them with honesty. This is the eye of the hurricane. This is the only way I can protect my legacy.”

Perhaps the saddest part of the song is the naiveté revealed by Hamilton’s confidence that other people hold and respect his principles as well. If not one in ten-thousand would respond to this crisis as Hamilton did, not one a thousand would understand and forgive his forthright confession. At the end of the song, as he contemplates writing the Reynold’s Pamphlet there is a swelling crowd of voices urging him to “Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it.” It is a foreshadowing, really, of the collision with Burr that costs him his life. He seems to be asking “How can anyone object to what I’m saying, controversial or not, as long as it is true?” His audience, the readers of the Reynold’s Pamphlet, obviously did object, as did Burr seven years later, about the “truths” Hamilton told about him.

If Hamilton is a morality play, as I have suggested, it is a hazy and troubling one. It would be facile here to sketch Burr as the Snidley Whiplash of the play; he is a killer, after all. But Miranda captures the reality that there is seldom a white hat and a black hat in human interactions. In the song The World Was Wide Enough Burr sings, not in his own defense, but resignedly “He may have been the first one to die, but I’m the one who paid for it. I survived but I paid for it. Now I’m the villain in your history. I was too young and blind to see. I should have known. I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.” Burr is not Snidley Whiplash and Hamilton was no Dudley Do-Right. They are friends, even admirers of each other in the beginning. As years go by and water passes under the bridge, their relationship is sabotaged by their own stubborn and disparate philosophies and by the magnitude of the dramas that envelope them.

Leslie Odom Jr.’s Burr is a complex character. He is a man of high ambition but a cautious nature. His trademark motto “Talk less, smile more” is reiterated in no fewer than four of the songs, by himself in Aaron Burr, Sir and The Election of 1800, by George Washington in One Last Time, and even by Hamilton himself, reluctantly in The Room Where it Happens. His personal philosophy, “work hard, keep your head down, and good things will happen to you,” seems to pay off for him early on. He is elected to the New York State Assembly, appointed New York Attorney General, and ultimately elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing Hamilton’s Father-in-law Philip Schuyler. The one and only time he embraces Hamilton’s hard-driving philosophy, in The Election of 1800, it leads to his downfall.

Hamilton’s philosophy is very different. If Burr’s is “keep your head down” Hamilton’s is “stick your neck out.” He is vociferous and bombastic. He says what he thinks always and frequently draws the ire of his rivals, and as we know, eventually his friends, notably Burr. Burr admires Hamilton’s work ethic but scorns his headstrong ways. He expresses both in the song Nonstop. He sings, “Why do you always say what you believe? Every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies.”

Hamilton retorts in the song The Room Where it Happens.
“When you got skin in the game, stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game. Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it. But you get nothin’ if you wait for it, wait for it.” The verse is a direct taunting challenge to Burr’s contemplative song Wait for It.

Wait for It, to me, is one of the most beautiful and enlightening pieces in the musical. It reads like a mantra that Burr repeats to himself, justifying his actions and inactions. Despite his ambition, Burr is afraid to take a chance and therefore passes up opportunities. He believes, honestly, that prudence is his way forward. His self-catechism carries him through the first few verses as his confidence in his own strategy augments with his successes:“I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable, I am an original. I am not falling behind or running late. I am not standing still, I am lying in wait.”

His confidence flags in the middle as he contemplates Hamilton’s success. “Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb. He has something to prove. He has nothing to lose.” That’s not me, he seems to say. I am a Senator. I have a successful law practice.

The repetition of his mantra in the chorus, “Wait for it! Wait for it! Wait for it!” doesn’t ultimately assuage his burning envy of Hamilton’s reckless, but successful, methods. He grudgingly acknowledges the method of Hamilton’s madness:

Hamilton doesn’t hesitate
He exhibits no restraint
He takes and he takes and he takes.
And he keeps winning anyway
He changes the game
He plays and he raises the stakes.
And if there’s a reason
He seems to thrive when so few survive, then Goddamnit, I’m willing to wait for it.

Miranda has spoken about writing Wait For It:
“I think we’ve all had moments where we’ve seen friends and colleagues zoom past us, either to success, or to marriage, or to homeownership, while we lingered where we were—broke, single, jobless. And you tell yourself, “Wait for it.”

Burr tells himself that, until, ultimately, he no longer believes it. It is a bitter revelation and he concludes the song confused, shaken, and uncertain of what he believes.

Life doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When so many have died
I’m willing to
wait for it.

There is comedy here as well as tragedy. Miranda is a master of both. His Message from the King monologs are extravagant tongue-in-cheek works of art. They provide the needed history lesson again in the form of an efficient metaphor, the breakup of a relationship. The talented Jonathan Groff portrays a flamboyant King George III. In the first of the monologs, called You’ll be Back he plays the part of the spurned boyfriend who is irked, but also heartbroken that his “loyal subjects” are no longer so loyal.

You say,
the price of my love’s not a price that your willing to pay.
You cry,
in your tea which you hurl in the sea when you see me go by.
Why so sad?
Remember we made an arrangement when you went away.
Now you’re making me mad.
Remember despite our estrangement, I’m your man.
You’ll be back, soon you’ll see,
You’ll remember you belong to me,
You’ll be back. Time will tell,
You’ll remember that I served you well.
Oceans rise, empires fall.
We have seen each other through it all,
And when push comes to shove,
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.

There are several clever little historical tidbits in these pieces in addition to the reference to the Boston Tea party. The final verse of You’ll be back includes a reference to George III’s mental illness in his later years.

When you’re gone, I’ll go mad.
So don’t throw away this thing we had,
Cause when push comes to shove,
I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.


From the follow up song I Know Him there is reference to George Washington’s precedent-setting refusal to run for a third term as President. “They say, George Washington’s yielding his power and stepping away. Is that true? I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do.”

And, finally, in the song What Comes Next King George nurses his wounds about losing the war:

They say,
The price of my war’s not a price that they’re willing to pay.
You cheat with the French, now I’m fighting with France and with Spain,
I’m so blue,
I thought that we made an arrangement when you went away.
You were mine to subdue.
Well, even despite our estrangement, I got a small query for you,
What comes next? You’ve been freed.
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own. Awesome! Wow!
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise, empires fall,
It’s much harder when it’s all your call.
All alone, across the sea,
When your people say they hate you, don’t come crawling back to me.

When I reflect on the importance of this musical, I come back again and again to Miranda’s metaphors. They are efficient and masterful. Each one provides a perfect brick in the edifice of Hamilton, building a complex and intriguing story of ambition and pride, of loss and sorrow, and, ultimately, a questionable redemption. The metaphors make this play and deserve a final review.

Hurricane – a literal hurricane, surely, but also representing the self-inflicted storms of Hamilton’s life.

The Room Where it Happens – A brilliant metaphor for Hamilton’s (and Burr’s) powerful ambition to play a role in the shaping of the new nation.

I am not Throwing Away My Shot – The expounding of Hamilton’s carpe diem philosophy which is cleverly integrated with the two duels central to the story – the one in which his son was killed and the one in which he was.

Wait for It – Previously explored above.

Quiet Uptown – A beautiful meditation on death and sorrow, and dealing with them.

If you like musicals, or perhaps even if you don’t, if you are a history buff, or even if you’re not, Hamilton is a pleasure and an education. Miranda, of course, has taken liberties with the historical record. The story is true to the spirit of the feud which led to Hamilton’s death at Burr’s hands, but alters slightly the details. He inserts Burr and Jefferson into the episode called We Know about Hamilton’s Democratic-Republican enemies confronting him about the Reynolds Affair. They probably weren’t there really, but it is a minor offense and certainly moves the narrative forward more smoothly.

Thanks to Hamilton many more Americans will know about their history than do now. Will that knowledge be perfect and comprehensive? – no. But neither is history perfect and comprehensive. Hamilton is a work of art, a well-drilled well, brought to us by a master at the top of his craft. I will still admit to being a Broadway skeptic, but I’m learning. Anyone got tickets to Kinky Boots?

By: Dustin Joy


In May my beautiful daughter graduated from high school. She is smart, talented, witty,  and clever. She is a hard worker who always got good grades and did as she was told. Just yesterday she was a tiny baby cuddled in my arms. Today she walked across the stage an impressive young woman. In the Fall she begins a new adventure at St. Olaf College. I could not resist, in such a moment, expressing to her how proud I was and to offer some small piece of advice for what it is worth. What I wrote is a tribute to her. It is also a tribute to my own parents who made me what I am today. I am fortunate to have such a family.



The Launchpad

Dear Chloe,

There are plenty of times in our lives when we have to do what we are supposed to do. As an adult you will be obliged to tow the line, to meet your obligations, to smile when you don’t feel like smiling, to laugh at jokes you don’t find funny. You will be asked to demonstrate your acumen, your diligence, your gumption, and your stick-to-it-iveness. You will be required to do the sensible thing, the rational thing, the thing calculated to achieve the maximum return on investment. In the words of Roger Hodgson:

They sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There will be ample time for all that. For four years and more you have done that. You have learned how to do that. You have done what you ought. You have done what you were told. You have gotten the straight A’s.

I believe life must amount to more than that. I think there is more to be gotten out of it. I think that stuff is a foundation for building a more impressive structure. Even the animals work day-to-day to make a living. The nobility that is within us, if it exists, is not simply an extension of the economy of animals – getting and consuming. Nor is it the natural extension of that economy – the accumulation of wealth and dross. The truly noble things that people have accomplished, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, Salk’s Polio vaccine, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Armstrong’s footprint on the moon, were not done for the money. They were not achieved by people obsessed with security or the accumulation of wealth.

Thoreau described what I’m talking about in Walden. He said about the average man:

He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance — which his growth requires — who has so often to use his knowledge?

At Cape Canaveral, in Florida, there is a place called complex 39A. Most days it is a quiet place. You can feel the salty breeze off the Atlantic here as it rustles the marsh grass. You can hear the squawk of the gulls and see the pelicans wheeling overhead. It is a place of beauty and silence. The manmade obtrusion into this place of nature is an industrial looking platform rising many stories into the air. Standing by it is a water tower. Beyond that are several smaller towers topped out with lightning rods. This complex stands on an earthen berm built up for the purpose many years ago. These skeleton-like structures, stark as they appear, have a purpose more noble and awe-inspiring than the pyramids. They are merely a foundation, sure, but a foundation assembled lovingly and with meticulous attention to detail. This is the place where thousands of individuals, dedicated to a dream, realized the aspirations of thousands of generations of humans who looked up at the night sky and thought “what if we could…” The summer your mommy was born this quiet place was the center of the world’s attention and imagination. The hard work of building the foundation was complete and from this little berm rose a rocket on a pillar of flame which carried with it the aspirations of those thousand generations.

On your graduation day this example may seem like hyperbole. It may seem a grandiose metaphor – the Saturn V launchpad and you, going off to St. Olaf. But I assure you it is an apt metaphor. All those visionaries I mention above, Thoreau, King, Twain, Salk, Armstrong, started from a firm foundation built up by their parents, and their parents, and their parents.

Mommy and I love you very much. Our aspiration is to be your foundation. We want to be your launchpad. We have worked every day and socked away money and planned and worried so that you can have this opportunity to be the rocket, to find your dream, to imagine a better world and do what you can to make it a reality. This is your chance to think big thoughts and explore the amazing worlds a place like St. Olaf can show you.

I know that everyone you meet today will ask you “so, what are you going to study in college?” This comes with the implication that you had better choose a major that “pays off.” I say “to hell with that!” Going to college is about building yourself as a human being starting with the foundation your parents laid for you. What if Martin Luther King had majored in accounting because there was a “good living” to be made? What if Mark Twain had become a plumber because there was a “lot of call” for that in Hannibal, MO?

You are smart. You are capable. You are a hard worker. You have good social skills. It would be a horrible waste for you to take on a mundane, work-a-day, “practical” profession that did not draw out and call upon your natural gifts. You may not know, right now, what will inspire you. You may not know, for awhile, what the world calls on you to do and to be. That is what education is for. That is what St. Olaf is for. That is what youth is for.

We are your launchpad but, more importantly, we are your safety net. Whatever I have accomplished, whatever chances I have been able to take to achieve my dreams, were made possible by the foundation laid down by my Mom and Dad and by the safety net they provided me while I was struggling to “figure things out.” My Mom and Dad lived in a mobile home when I was born. My Dad worked third shift in a machine shop to buy me toys to inspire my imagination. My Mom clipped coupons and made us beany-burger and skimped and saved. All of these things laid a foundation for me so that I could go to college, so that I could explore the world, so that I could find my place. They did not expect or ask me to pay it all back. They worked and saved and “did without” as a pure gift to me. It is an awesome responsibility.

The only way I have found to pay my parents back is to live by their example. Mommy and I have worked and saved and “done without” because we believe in the sacred obligation of building a foundation – a launchpad. I want you and your siblings to have the opportunity, the freedom, to be all that you can imagine. As my parents did for me we now do for you. Your only obligation is to do the same for your kids someday.


Your Daddy


A Noble Ditch

In my last travel related post I told you of my experience at the U.S. Rocket center in Huntsville, Alabama and of my infatuation with the Saturn V, the most powerful transportation machine ever built and certainly one of the fastest. Today I found myself, unexpectedly, spending the greater part of a day in downtown Syracuse, New York where I became, if not infatuated with, at least deeply fascinated by another museum dedicated to a much slower mode of transport.

After an amazing lunch at the Creole Soul Cafe (who knew Syracuse, NY would have absolutely amazing cajun food?) I walked up to the Erie Canal Museum which lies on the aptly named Erie Boulevard. It turns out that the boulevard, now blacktop instead of water, was the route the famous canal took through Syracuse. The museum is part of the original Weighlock building where passing canalboats were, quite literally, weighed to assess their toll for canal passage.

The Weighlock at Syracuse – Now the Erie Canal Museum.

Looking at a Saturn V rocket and the Apollo program in it’s entirety one can scarcely believe that this little ditch was its equivalent, perhaps it’s superior, in 1820. Considering the resources and technology of a still young nation this project was audacious. In fact, when asked to help with the financing of it Thomas Jefferson, no slouch in the visionary department, wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. “…little short of madness,” he is said to have commented.

It fell, instead to the Governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton, a bunch of progressive legislators, and some even more visionary but less celebrated thinkers and engineers to bring this crazy idea to life. And, like the Little Red Hen, when the wheat grew, was, harvested, ground into flour, and baked into a nice warm loaf, New York ate that loaf and became, well, New York.
Many big cities grow organically from a wide spot in a river. Clinton’s audacity was to build the river. Cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and, to a greater extent the Big Apple, grew from these seeds.

If going to the moon seems like one giant leap (to quote Neil Armstrong) the building of the Erie canal, in it’s day, was no less improbable. To understand the difficulty it is useful to assess the terrain of upstate New York.

Starting in Albany the canal follows the course of the Mohawk River west. This makes a lot of sense. The more your route can follow existing rivers the less you have to dig. Also, to New York’s great good fortune, the Mohawk possesses a unique characteristic unknown to other eastern rivers. It flows east into the Hudson, but it rises west of the Appalachian mountains. It’s valley transects the one insurmountable obstacle which stymied so many dreamers intent on building a water route to the Ohio or the Great Lakes.

Minimizing the digging is not the only consideration for a canal, though. The Mohawk route made sense from a hydrological point of view, also. A canal is not a static system. Moving water is what makes the locks work and allows boats to change elevation. That means that water must be added to the system continuously from the highest elevations. Having rivers nearby makes that possible. Only sea level canals like the Suez are not subject to this requirement.

The Erie Canal route across upstate New York is emphatically not a sea level affair. Even with the advantage of the Mohawk, the elevation changes from Albany to Buffalo were daunting. The net rise from tide level on the Hudson at Albany to Lake Erie at Buffalo is about 600 feet. That’s just a little less than the height of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The best locks that could be constructed in 1825 would raise a boat about 12 feet. That would require about fifty locks, a big job. However, kind of like your Grandpa’s old story about walking to school “uphill both ways” the Erie canal route doesn’t just slope from one side of the state to the other. From Albany it goes up to about 420’ at Rome, then back down to about 380’ near Montezuma, then back up again at the Niagara River to 565’. In between it crosses rivers, creeks, valleys, and hills. The original “Clinton’s Folly” had 83 locks, each hand dug, lined with clay and stone, and fitted with heavy gates and valve systems. This was not child’s play.

Not a sea-level affair. A contemporary profile view of the Erie Canal route. Click on image for enlargement.

Looking at the map of the canal and upstate New York one is struck immediately by a question. You slap your head and think, “these people couldn’t have been that stupid.” The question is; Why build a canal across 363 miles of forests and swamps when you could, near Oneida Lake, cut a few miles up to Lake Ontario, ship your goods on this vast natural waterway to Niagara Falls, and build a short canal to bypass the falls? It is a good question, but there was, indeed, a method to the madness.

Firstly, canal boats are a great deal different from the sailing vessels required to navigate big open bodies of water like Lake Ontario. They are long and shallow draft to fit their highways of water. They are not designed to take big waves or make top speed under sail. So it would have been necessary to swap one for the other at Lake Ontario, again at Niagara Falls, and again to proceed on Lake Erie. If these dreamers had wanted to load and unload cargo three or four times they would have just kept transporting goods the way they had for years; overland in horse drawn wagons. Secondly, building a canal around the Niagara Falls, while doable (Canada did it in the mid-1800’s near Welland), was not an easy task. There is a reason Niagara Falls is such a famous attraction. It’s a damn 167 foot tall waterfall.

The truth is this though; It was mostly politics. In those days Canada was not the benign little puffball that we know today. Canada, or as they were in actuality then, England, was a very real existential threat to the new nation. We had just fought two wars against them and a multitude of skirmishes. It is easy to forget now, but was undoubtedly vivid in the American imagination then, that only three years prior to the commencement of canal construction, a British force had occupied Washington, D.C. and set fire to the White House and the U.S. Capitol. Only in September 1813 had the U.S. won undisputed control of Lake Erie during the famous Battle of Lake Erie which we all remember, if we remember it at all, from Oliver Hazard Perry’s cable to Washington after the victory, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” The U.S. never did achieve decisive control of Lake Ontario.

To make a long story short we didn’t trust them, we didn’t like them, and we certainly didn’t want them to get the benefit and control of trade in the western Great Lakes. The New Yorkers spent extra time, extra money, and probably extra human lives to keep their new canal just out of reach of those dastardly Canadians. Thanks to their sacrifice we are not obliged to eat poutine three times a day.

Seriously though, building the Erie Canal was a matter of blood, sweat, toil, and tears. The claims of 1000 men dying of swamp fever (probably malaria) during the excavation through Montezuma Marsh in 1819 are probably exaggerated. Still, it is quite likely that many hundreds of men were crushed, drowned, lacerated, blown up with gunpowder, and killed by epidemics.

Consider, if you will, the difficulty of removing a single tree stump. Even today, with chain saws and tractors, and grinding equipment it is difficult, at best, to remove the stump of a large tree to below grade level. If you are digging a canal, grade level is not good enough. You must remove the entire stump including the tap roots. For a tree of considerable size, like the American Chestnuts comprising the primeval forest of upstate New York, these roots can go 20’ deep.

The engineers who met these challenges were clever men. The way they solved the tree stump problem tells you all you need to know about their resourcefulness. Below is a picture of their stump puller. It’s elegant use of simple mechanics and leverage is an inspiration.

Stump Puller – An elegant solution to a big problem.

The catalog of challenges faced by the Scots Irish immigrants who dug the canal, the German Stonemasons who built the locks, and the engineers who mapped out the route, were astounding. In building locks, bridges, aqueducts, and machines to do so, these men advanced science and technology in their age no less than did the NASA scientists who built the Saturn V.

Some of their achievements are truly astounding. There is, of course, the 363 mile long canal 40’ wide and 4’ deep. There are also the 83 locks. Beyond that are the marvelous creations that Pharaoh might have been proud of. There is the “Deep Cut,” a high spot in the bedrock near Pendleton where men, without the benefit of dynamite, chiseled a channel for the canal 40’ deep and 7 miles long. There is the “Flight of Five” locks climbing the Niagara Escarpment near Lockport. There is the giant aqueduct of stone crossing the Genessee River at Rochester. And, there is the “Great Embankment,” a mile long earth fill 76’ deep crossing the valley of Irondquoit Creek. These are all remarkable feats.

A river crosses a river – The Erie Canal/ Genesee River aqueduct at Rochester.

What makes them more mind-blowing is to consider the catalog of things these men did not have. In 1817 they did not have bulldozers (invented 1923), diesel excavators (1930’s), or even steam shovels (patented 1839). They didn’t have the aforementioned dynamite which Alfred Nobel did not perfect until 1867. There were no rubber boots (Wellingtons invented in 1852). There was no nylon rope (1940’s), no steel cable (1830’s), no really very good steel at all (Bessemer process 1855). Feeding huge numbers of men in a remote wilderness area was difficult too because there was not yet refrigeration (1856). There were no antibiotics (penicillin 1928), exactly one “sort-of” vaccine (smallpox, 1796), and no anesthetic (1842) for the inevitable amputation of infected limbs. These men made Chuck Norris look like Steve Urkel.

They worked 12-15 hour days in terrible conditions with inadequate equipment and, in most cases, for about $12 – $15 per month. The unluckiest, and there were many of these, had been lured to the United States by deceptive advertisements in Irish newspapers promising a good job with decent pay, three meals a day, and an allowance of whiskey. The workers, too poor to pay, were brought to the U.S. by the Erie canal contractors and their passage was charged against their future meager earnings, making them, immediately, indentured servants. They were basically slaves without chains.

Once the canal was completed, New York’s investment paid back, and the financiers made rich, the men who labored to build this canal did what laboring men have always done – they took a deep breath and went back to work. Because they had to. They built railroads, worked in dank mines, and dug more canals.

A canalboat (2016 recreation) in the weigh lock chamber at Syracuse. I am standing where the opening in the building is visible in the previous weigh lock building photo.

Sleeping quareters on a canalboat. Cramped but cozy.

The Erie canal changed the United States. It enriched the country, it sped up western settlement, it insured U.S. dominance of the Great Lakes, and it helped to make New York City the financial and cultural powerhouse it is today. All these things were bricks in the great edifice which became U.S.A. – the Superpower. In this way the Erie canal, “Clinton’s Folly,” the little ditch, changed the world.

As I walked back to my hotel through the streets of Syracuse I thought about these men. I thought about rockets and I thought about canal boats. My thoughts drifted to the pyramids, the cathedrals, the railroads, the highways, and to all these ostensibly “good” things brought forth by men and women who got very little out of the exercise but exercise. Others with money and capital and power got more money and capital and power. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “So it goes.” And yet.

There is nobility in hard work and in struggle and in the creation of things which make the world a better place even if such benefits do not accrue to those who build them. The thing which raises human beings above the animals is not that we have iPhones, but that we can make iPhones. The Gateway Arch is a magnificent thing, but so is the Niagara Falls. What ennobles the Gateway Arch is not that it is pretty and gleaming and very, very tall, but that some man imagined it and a few men developed a plan to make it a reality, and hundreds of men and women with their hands and their feet and their brains summoned it into existence.

The Erie Canal, no less than Michelangelo’s David, was a work of art. The sacrifice of those who built it is not dimmed because their masterpiece has been superseded by bigger, better, and faster modes of transport. The nobility is in the striving, made all the more noble by the difficulty of the task. As John Kennedy said about sending men to the moon (the Saturn V) so might we say about the Erie Canal. We do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Therein lies the nobility.

by: Dustin Joy