Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Quote of the Day (Anne Tyler, on Luck and Sense)

“People always call it luck when you've acted more sensibly than they have.” —Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Anne Tyler, Celestial Navigation (1974)

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Song Lyric of the Day (Toad The Wet Sprocket, on Closing the Heart)

“Nothing's so cold
As closing the heart when all we need
Is to free the soul.”— “All I Want,” written by Todd Nichols, Glen Philips, Dean Dinning, and Randy Guss, from Toad The Wet Sprocket’s CD Fear (1991)

Monday, November 28, 2022

Quote of the Day (Jon Cryer, on How ‘Going Off the Rails’ Initially Worked for Charlie Sheen)

“In February [2010] I got a knock on my trailer door one day, and it was [producer] Chuck Lorre. I invited him in, and he said, ‘Jon, can you talk to Charlie? I hear he’s going off the rails’….

“The next day, though, Charlie went into rehab, so we never got to have that conversation. Charlie did, however, have a different kind of productive conversation — with Warner Bros. Despite falling off the wagon, a rocky marriage, looming felony charges and possible time behind bars, he managed to secure a massive raise [to $1.8 million an episode], fully three times what I was being paid. I immediately began contemplating a series of well-publicized drunken brawls in retirement homes or possibly leading cops on a destructive car chase just prior to my next contract negotiation.”—Two and a Half Men actor Jon Cryer, on his wild co-star Charlie Sheen, in So That Happened: A Memoir (2015)

The photo of Charlie Sheen that accompanies this post was taken in March 2009—when the actor was, evidently, still sober—by Angela George at Sharon Graphics.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Michael Gerson, on ‘The Wild Hope of a Living God’)

“Those who hold to the wild hope of a living God can say certain things:

“In our right minds – as our most sane and solid selves – we know that the appearance of a universe ruled by cruel chaos is a lie and that the cold void is actually a sheltering sky.

“In our right minds, we know that life is not a farce but a pilgrimage – or maybe a farce and a pilgrimage, depending on the day.

“In our right minds, we know that hope can grow within us – like a seed, like a child.

“In our right minds, we know that transcendence sparks and crackles around us – in a blinding light, and a child’s voice, and fire, and tears, and a warmed heart, and a sculpture just down the hill – if we open ourselves to seeing it.

“Fate may do what it wants. But this much is settled. In our right minds, we know that love is at the heart of all things.

“Many, understandably, pray for a strength they do not possess. But God’s promise is somewhat different: That even when strength fails, there is perseverance. And even when perseverance fails, there is hope. And even when hope fails, there is love. And love never fails.”— Washington Post columnist, PBS NewsHour political analyst, and former White House speechwriter Michael Gerson (1964-2022), Guest Sermon at Washington’s National Cathedral, February 19, 2019

The image accompanying this post was taken of Michael Gerson between 2001 and 2005, when he was director of speechwriting at the White House.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Quote of the Day (Somerset Maugham, on the Overwhelming Importance of Writing Clearly)

“Anything is better than not to write clearly. There is nothing to be said against lucidity, and against simplicity only the possibility of dryness. This is a risk that is well worth taking when you reflect how much better it is to be bald than to wear a curly wig.” — British man of letters W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), The Summing Up (1938)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Quote of the Day (Joe Queenan, on a Natural Offshoot of Self-Driving Vehicles)

Self-driving smartphones. People are constantly complaining about the growing size and bulkiness of smartphones—and about misplacing them. Self-driving will eliminate those problems for good. With autonomous cellular vehicular technology, there’s no reason that a smartphone can’t be the size of a suitcase. Great for the near-sighted and way more fun when watching YouTube videos of amusing cats. And you couldn’t lose it, because it would always be hot on your heels.”—Columnist Joe Queenan, “Moving Targets: We’ve Only Just Begun With Self-Driving Stuff,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27-28, 2018

Elon Musk might have an easier time inventing and marketing this from scratch than he's now with fixing Twitter—including his self-inflicted damage since taking over.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Quote of the Day (O. Henry, on a 'Super-Bountiful' Thanksgiving Feast)

“[Stuffy] Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. His breath came in short wheezes; a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a fashionable set to his upturned coat collar. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation fingers a week before flew like popcorn, strewing the earth around him. Ragged he was, with a split shirt front open to the wishbone; but the November breeze, carrying fine snowflakes, brought him only a grateful coolness. For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner, beginning with oysters and ending with plum pudding, and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Wherefore he sat, gorged, and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt.”—William Sidney Porter, aka O. Henry (1862-1910), “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen,” in The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories of the Four Million (1907)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Quote of the Day (Thomas Wolfe, on Selfishness and Greed)

“I think we know the forms and faces of the enemy, and in the knowledge that we know him, and shall meet him, and eventually must conquer him is also our living hope. I think the enemy is here before us with a thousand faces, but I think we know that all his faces wear one mask. I think the enemy is single selfishness and compulsive greed. I think the enemy is blind, but has the brutal power of his blind grab. I do not think the enemy was born yesterday, or … or that we began without the enemy, and that our vision faltered, that we lost the way, and suddenly were in his camp. I think the enemy is old as Time, and evil as Hell, and that he has been here with us from the beginning. I think he stole our earth from us, destroyed our wealth, and ravaged and despoiled our land. I think he took our people and enslaved them, that he polluted the fountains of our life, took unto himself the rarest treasures of our own possession, took our bread and left us with a crust, and, not content, for the nature of the enemy is insatiate—tried finally to take from us the crust.”—American novelist Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), You Can’t Go Home Again (1940)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Quote of the Day (Mark Twain, on Loyalty to Country Vs. Institutions or Officeholders)

“My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death."—American novelist Mark Twain (1835-1910), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

Beware of a leader wedded to a proprietary adjective: i.e., referring to "my generals," "my military," "my Kevin," even "my blacks" and "my Jews."  That is the type of leader that Twain warned against: one who expects loyalty to a country's "officeholders."

Monday, November 21, 2022

Tweet of the Day (Greg Schindler, Imagining ‘The Breakfast Club’ Remade)

“If The Breakfast Club were made today, it would be a silent film about five kids staring at their phones.”—Greg Schindler (twitter handle: schwindizzle), tweet of Jan. 9, 2015

Don't you forget about me. Unless, that is, you're thinking about how to respond to the latest text message  you got...

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Charlotte Bronte, on Forgiveness)

"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs." ― English novelist Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855), Jane Eyre (1847)

In her classic novel, Charlotte Bronte puts these words in the mouth of Helen Burns, a fellow student of Jane's at the abusive Lowood School, who not only stands for loyalty and friendship, but also the possibilities of Christianity for patience, acceptance and tolerance.

Those were excellent qualities to emulate in Bronte’s turbulent early Victorian Era, and they remain so in our equally disruptive if faster-passed time.

(The image accompanying this post shows a very young Elizabeth Taylor as Helen in the 1944 Hollywood adaptation of Jane Eyre.)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Quote of the Day (Tennessee Williams, on the Human Heart)

“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.” — Blanche DuBois to suitor Harold “Mitch” Mitchell in American playwright and fiction writer Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

The image accompanying this post comes from the 1951 film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Tennessee Williams, with Vivien Leigh as Blanche and Karl Malden as Mitch. Both won Oscars for their performances.

Friday, November 18, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘All in the Family,’ As Archie and Sammy Davis Jr. Discuss the Races and Slavery)

Archie Bunker [played by Carroll O’Connor]: “Now, no prejudice intended, but, you know, I always check with the Bible on these here things. I think that, I mean if God had meant for us to be together, he'da put us together. But look what he done. He put you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in all the white countries.”

Sammy Davis Jr.: “Well, he must’ve told him where we were, 'cause somebody came and got us.”— All in the Family, Season 2, Episode 21, “Sammy’s Visit,” original air date Feb. 19, 1972, teleplay by Bill Dana, directed by John Rich

This is easily one of the most memorable episodes of this ground-breaking comedy.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Quote of the Day (Poet Brenda Hillman, on ‘The Ones Who Love Us’)

“The ones who love us, how do they
break through our defenses?...
Their baffled voices melting our wax walls
with a candle, the ones who understand
what being is—the glowing, the broken,
the wheels, the brave ones—
        they have their courage,
you have yours,,,;
        when you meet the one you love,
it is so rare. When you meet
the one who loves you, it is extremely rare."— American poet, activist, editor, and teacher Brenda Hillman, from In a Few Minutes Before Later (2022)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Quote of the Day (Ray Davies, on Bands’ Creativity, Adrenaline and Downtimes)

“When ‘You Really Got Me’ dropped out of the Top 10, my record company said, ‘We need a follow-up.’ I wrote ‘All Day and All of the Night’ in a few minutes, and we recorded it in a day. Bands go through an adrenaline period where they have hits for a year or two, and then they have to assess things. It’s important to do that in any form of creativity. The secret is to know there’s going to be downtimes where you need to re-energize and refocus.”—English rock ‘n’ roll singer-songwriter and Kinks frontman Ray Davies, interviewed by Andy Greene, in “The Last Word: Ray Davies,” Rolling Stone, Apr. 6, 2017

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Quote of the Day (Roger Kimball, With Smug, Inaccurate Election Predictions)

“I write toward the end of September, when many pollsters are still treating their prognostications as a form of fan fiction. For example, one poll has star trooper Mark Kelly ahead of Blake Masters by 6.2 points in the Arizona race for US Senate. That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is ridiculous. Punditry isn’t prophecy, but mark my words: Blake Masters, absent some intervening catastrophe, is going to win that race and win convincingly.

“I am going to stick my neck out and say the same about John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz in the Senate race in Pennsylvania. ‘The polls’ have Fetterman ahead by 4.5 points. But… Dr. Oz, smooth, articulate, personable, is going to crush Fetterman.”— American art critic, editor and conservative social commentator Roger Kimball, “Poll Position,” The Spectator, November 2022

Want me to continue, Faithful Reader? Very well. In this same article, Electoral Nostradamus Kimball went on to say that Republicans probably “will increase their numbers by between thirty-five and fifty seats in the House and three to five seats in the Senate.”

The final results? As of this writing (a lot closer to the event than Kimball’s “end of September”!), with 98% of expected votes reporting, Kelly had 51.4% of the vote to Masters’ 46.5%. In Pennsylvania, also with 98% reporting, Fetterman had 51% to Oz’s 46.5%.

Nationwide, the Republicans will not gain control of the Senate, and though they are achingly close right now to taking the House, they will have nowhere near the thirty-five to fifty seats Kimball expected.

All  of this without "an intervening catastrophe" in the last month...unless you discount taking a good look at the catastrophic candidates put up in these cases by the GOP.

Smugness is hardly the province of one political party. You might recall that six years ago, Democrats were gobsmacked when Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton. They continued to be two years ago when their victory margins in the Presidential and Congressional races were nowhere near as sizable as they expected.

Given this history, Kimball would have been perfectly justified in cautioning not necessarily to believe pollsters. But his faith in his own fortunetelling skills was so flabbergasting that I burst out laughing when I read his piece over the weekend.

What he must be experiencing right now is a phrase that my college friend Rob brought to my attention: “face-plant,” meaning a case of someone falling face down or into something—a situation often found in sports, where “the thrill of victory—the agony of defeat” became a catchphrase years ago.

In the future, Kimball—and anyone else who bets on these contests—would be best advised to follow two courses of action:

*Don’t listen to partisan echo chambers on TV or Websites. Read newspapers outside from where you live. Take a look around at rallies and signs outside your immediate neighborhood.

*Don’t believe what you’re already inclined to believe. Just vote. Enough people acting like you can still make a difference.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Quote of the Day (Noel Coward, on an Actor Being Rejected for an Upcoming Tour)

Gary Essendine: “Beryl Willard is extremely competent. Beryl Willard has been extremely competent, man and boy, for forty years. In addition to her extreme competence, she has contrived, with uncanny skill, to sustain a spotless reputation for being the most paralysing, epoch-making, monumental, world-shattering, God-awful bore that ever drew breath...I will explain one thing further - it is this. No prayer, no bribe, no threat, no power, human or divine, would induce me to go to Africa with Beryl Willard. I wouldn't go as far as Wimbledon with Beryl Willard.”

Liz: “What he's trying to say is that he doesn't care for Beryl Willard.” —English playwright, actor, director, and singer-songwriter Noel Coward (1899-1973), Present Laughter (1939)

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Dorothy Day, on ‘The Sense of Our Small Effort’)

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”—American political and social activist—and Roman Catholic convert—Dorothy Day (1897-1980), The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day (1952)

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Henry Cardinal Newman, on Education as Preparation for the World)

“Why do we educate, except to prepare for the world? Why do we cultivate the intellect of the many beyond the first elements of knowledge, except for this world? Will it be much matter in the world to come whether our bodily health or whether our intellectual strength was more or less, except of course as this world is in all its circumstances a trial for the next? If then a University is a direct preparation for this world, let it be what it professes. It is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit men of the world for the world. We cannot possibly keep them from plunging into the world, with all its ways and principles and maxims, when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them.” —Roman Catholic theologian, educator, and essayist John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), “Duties of the Church towards Knowledge,” in The Idea of a University (1852)

Friday, November 11, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘30 Rock,’ on Elites That Screw Up)

“What do we elites do when we screw up? We pretend it never happened and give ourselves a giant bonus.” —Jack Donaghy [played by Alec Baldwin] to Liz Lemon [played by Tina Fey] in 30 Rock, Season 3, Episode 8, “Flu Shot,” original air date Jan. 15, 2009, teleplay by Jon Pollack, directed by Don Scardino

This past week witnessed some interesting corollaries to what I call Donaghy’s Law:

*One tech mogul (whose surname rhymes with “Dusk”) who laid staggering debt on the social-media company he acquired, terminated half its workforce, and toyed with the idea of declaring bankruptcy—all within two weeks of taking control; 

*A second tech guru (whose surname rhymes with “Wahlberg”) who decided his social media company would transition to the metaverse and bet heavily that e-commerce revenues would continue to climb, saw earnings drop, told the 11,000 employees he was laying off that he would “take accountability” for his disastrous corporate change in direction—and then did no such thing;

*A third billionaire (whose surname rhymes with “Dump”), anxious to return to a political job he held until a few years ago, who informed an interviewer a few days ago, with a straight face, about the slate of candidates he’d endorsed: “If they win, I should get all the credit, and if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” (“Did I really just hear that?” I thought to myself after the comment first aired.)

Whatever happened to the quaint notion of CEO responsibility?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Quote of the Day (Gore Vidal, on Public Opinion)

“At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.” —American novelist, essayist, and playwright Gore Vidal (1925-2012), “Sex and the Law,” originally published in Partisan Review (Summer 1965), republished in Homage to Daniel Shays: Collected Essays,1952-1972 (1972)

Vidal wrote the above not only when tracking public opinion was still in the early stages of being considered a “science,” but also when most people still accepted the word of official sources. It was also, critically, before the current sledge of digital disinformation.

The “chaos” Vidal referred to more than a half century ago certainly proved to be even more the case in 2016 and 2020. Why did we expect the 2022 midterms to be any different?

At this point, the disparity between voter surveys and the final election results is so wide that the entire polling industry should close up shop. Too many prospective voters won’t answer survey questions because they regard them as either an infringement of their privacy or a diabolical plot by the “progressive media.”

How can pollsters and the party handlers who feed off them claim any validity in their results, given these attitudes?

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Dickson Carr, on Clues and ‘The Fine Detective Story’)

“The fine detective story…does not consist of ‘a’ clue. It is a ladder of clues, a pattern of evidence, joined together with such cunning that even the experienced reader may be deceived: until, in the blaze of the surprise ending, he suddenly sees the whole design.”—American mystery writer John Dickson Carr (1906-1977), “The Grandest Game in the World,” originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March 1963, reprinted in The Door to Doom and Other Detections, edited by Douglas G. Greene (1991)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Quote of the Day (J. William Fulbright, on Abusive Public Men vs. Democracy)

“When public men indulge themselves in abuse, when they deny others a fair trial, when they resort to innuendo and insinuation, to libel, scandal, and suspicion, then our democratic society is outraged, and democracy is baffled. It has no apparatus to deal with the boor, the liar, the lout, and the antidemocrat in general.”— J. William Fulbright, U.S. Senator from Arkansas (1905-1995), speech in the Senate, Feb. 2, 1954

This is what is at stake this Election Day, all across the country. Remember this as you vote.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Quote of the Day (Robert Benchley, on Standing in Line)

“For a nation which has an almost evil reputation for bustle, bustle, bustle, and rush, rush, rush, we spend an enormous amount of time standing around in line in front of windows, just waiting.”— American humorist Robert Benchley (1889-1945), Benchley -- or Else! (1990)

Just wait till the Christmas season comes in earnest, people!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Photo of the Day: The Sport We Follow—and That Follows Us

“A baseball is a skin full of different yarns, wound so intricately that strangers with nothing in common save the game—economists and novelists, say—need never want for something to chaw over. Baseball diamonds have preserved more marriages than any other kind…. The game was codified by a man, Alexander Cartwright, whose middle name was Joy. I follow baseball, through the boredom, through the greed, and when I try to stop, it follows me.”—American author, critic, broadcaster, arts administrator, academic and nonprofit bilingual lending librarian David Kipen, “The Reluctant Fan,” The Atlantic Monthly, June 2003

And so it will follow me, too, even now that the din of the World Series fades to silence. The game begins in spring, has been called “The Summer Game,” and refers to its climactic event as “The Fall Classic.” I will think of the coming months as its Season of Hibernation.

(The photo accompanying this post shows, of course, Yankee Stadium, which I visited on a company outing six years ago. The Bronx Bombers’ disappearance from the postseason has, to borrow the wonderful phrase from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”)

Spiritual Quote of the Day (George Eliot, on ‘That Purest Heaven’)

“May I reach
That purest heaven, be to other souls 
The cup of strength in some great agony, 
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love, 
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffus'd, 
And in diffusion ever more intense! 
So shall I join the choir invisible 
Whose music is the gladness of the world.”—English novelist, poet, journalist and translator Mary Ann Evans, a.k.a. George Eliot (1819-1880), “O May I Join the Choir Invisible!” from O May I Join the Choir Invisible and Other Favorite Poems (1884)

I came across this poem through the “Scherzo” episode in Endeavour, the PBS mystery series filled with such literary allusions.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Quote of the Day (Amor Towles, on What’s Beautiful to an Author)

“There are few things more beautiful to an author's eye…than a well-read copy of one of his books.”— American novelist Amor Towles, The Lincoln Highway (2021)

The attached photo of Amor Towles was taken Aug. 9, 2018, by librairie mollat.

Friday, November 4, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘Yes, Prime Minister,’ As a Financial Crisis Convulses the British Cabinet)

[James Hacker asks Sir Humphrey Appleby about a financial crisis.]

Hacker [played by Paul Eddington]: “Why the sudden crisis? The Treasury must've seen it coming.”

Sir Humphrey [played by Nigel Hawthorne]: “Prime Minister, I'm not the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. You must ask Sir Frank.”

Hacker: “What would Sir Frank say?”

Sir Humphrey: “It is not for a humble mortal such as I to speculate on the complex and elevated deliberations of the mighty. But in general, I think Sir Frank believes that if the Treasury knows something has to be done, the Cabinet shouldn't have too much time to think about it.”

Hacker: “But that's an outrageous view!”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes, indeed. It's known as Treasury policy.”

Hacker: “Suppose the Cabinet has questions?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well, I think Sir Frank's view is that on the rare occasions when the Treasury understands the questions, the Cabinet doesn't understand the answers.”— Yes, Prime Minister, Season 1, Episode 5, “A Real Partnership,” original air date Feb 6, 1986, screenplay by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, directed by Sydney Lotterby

Surely at this point, the above dialogue makes for uncomfortable listening for the Conservative Party grandees in charge—sort of—at Downing Street these last few years—particularly now that the Bank of England, setting its biggest rate hike in 33 years, warns that the UK could experience its longest recession in 100 years.

And we Yanks think we have it bad..

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Ruskin, on How ‘There Is No Wealth But Life’)

“There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.” — English art critic and social commentator John Ruskin (1819-1900), Unto This Last (1860)

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Quote of the Day (Charles Dickens, on a Steady Source of Employment for Lawyers)

“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”— English novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870), The Old Curiosity Shop (1839)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Quote of the Day (Moliere, on ‘Artificial Style’)

"This artificial style, that's all the fashion,
Has neither taste, nor honesty, nor passion;
It's nothing but a sort of wordy play,
And nature never spoke in such a way."— French playwright, actor, and theater manager Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Moliere (1622-1673), The Misanthrope, translated by Richard Wilbur (1666)