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Carpe Diem

Censorship, Free Speech, and Propaganda

Chance, Probability, Gambling, and Luck

Change and Status Quo


Clothes, Fashion, and Appearance

Common Sense

Communication, Conversation, and Speaking



Conformity and Individuality



Crime and Criminals

Critics and Criticism


Carpe Diem


Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?
     Robert Browning, “Andrea del Sarto” (1855)


Hitch your wagon to a star.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude (1870)


Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part 1 (1808)
     "Prelude at the Theatre" (the Manager)


The eye that looks ahead to the safe course is closed forever.
     Paul Muad'Dib in Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)


Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero!
Seize the day! Put no trust in the morrow.
     Horace, Odes (23 BC)


To dare; progress comes at this price. ... That cry of boldness is a Fiat Lux! The onward march of the human race requires that the heights around it constantly blaze with noble lessons of courage. Deeds of daring dazzle history and form one of man's guiding lights. The dawn dares when it rises. To strive, to brave all risks, to persist, to persevere, to be faithful to oneself, to grapple hand to hand with destiny, to surprise defeat by the slight terror it inspires, at one time to confront unjust power, at another to defy drunken triumph, to hold fast, to hold hard — such is the example nations need, and the light that electrifies them.
     Victor Hugo, Les MisÚrables (1862)


"It's better to apologize than to ask permission," says Clarence, arguing for greater boldness in life.
     Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days (1985)


Now I'd like you to step forward over here. They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? — Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day, boys, make your lives extraordinary.
     John Keating (Robin Williams) in Tom Schulman,
     Dead Poets Society
(movie, 1989)


"I can't believe how much I got accomplished today! I totally carpe-d the snot out of this diem."
"Latin is already a dead language, man. Don't make it any deader."
     Jeremy and Hector in Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman, 
     "Zits" (comic strip, September 25, 2001)


     "My elbows are grass-stained, I've got sticks in my hair, I'm covered with bug bites and cuts and scratches, I've got sand in my socks and leaves in my shirt, my hands are sticky with sap, and my shoes are soaked! I'm hot, dirty, sweaty, itchy and tired."
     "I consider this day seized!"
     "Tomorrow we'll seize the day and throttle it!"
          Calvin and Hobbes in Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho 
          Jungle Cat
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1994)



Censorship, Free Speech, and Propaganda


All anyone knows about me is the dialogue I put in the mouths of rotund engineers, talking rats, megalomaniac dogs, and pointy-haired bosses. I might be dumb, but I'm not dumb enough to express my true opinion about anything important. The one thing I've learned about freedom of expression is that you really ought to keep that sort of thing to yourself.
     Scott Adams, I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot ("Dilbert," 1998)


The paper burns, but the words fly away.
     Ben Joseph Akiba


Everyone, I think, remembers Voltaire's famous line about freedom of speech. The version of it that you are familiar with is actually based on a faulty translation. What Voltaire actually said was this: "I do not agree with what you say, sir, though I will defend to the death your right to say it. But for now . . . shut up!"
     Steve Allen


Letting a maximum number of views be heard regularly is not just a nice philosophical notion. It is the best way any society has yet discovered to detect maladjustments quickly, to correct injustices, and to discover new ways to meet the continuing stream of novel problems that rise in a changing environment.
     Ben Bagdikian


Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions.
     Alan Barth, The Loyalty of Free Men (1951)


Eloquence, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that is appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Harangue, n. A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harangue-outang.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment.
     Hugo L. Black, New York Time Company v. Sullivan (1964)


Free speech is about as good a cause as the world has ever known. But, like the poor, it is always with us and gets shoved aside in favor of things which seem at a given moment more vital . . . everybody favors free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground.
     Heywood Broun, New York World (October 23, 1926)


Referring to the popularity of sensational, "sexy" books, which he felt was unwarranted, Broun made this observation: "Obscenity is such a tiny kingdom that a single tour covers it completely."
     Heywood Broun, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Propaganda, n. A despicable misuse of language practiced in other countries.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


The majority of us are for free speech when it deals with subjects concerning which we have no intense feelings.
     Edmund B. Chaffee


Everybody is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.
     Sir Winston Churchill, House of Commons (speech, 1943)


They keep telling us that in war truth is the first casualty, which is nonsense since it implies that in times of peace truth stays out of the sick bay or the graveyard.
     Alexander Cockburn, The Nation (04 February 1991)


This nation was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle — among others — that honest men may honestly disagree; that if they all say what they think, a majority of the people will be able to distinguish truth from error; that in the competition of the market place of ideas, the sounder ideas will in the long run win out.
     Elmer Davis, But We Were Born Free (1954)


The more he talked of his honor the faster we counted our spoons.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson


The three great strategies for obscuring an issue are to introduce irrelevancies, to arouse prejudice, and to excite ridicule …
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom.
     A. Whitney Griswold, Atlantic Monthly (November 1952)


"Mr. Hammett, if you were in our position, would you allow your book in the United States Information Service libraries?" [Senator Joseph McCarthy] If I were you, Senator, I would not allow any libraries.
     Dashiell Hammett, testifying before a Senate committee 
     chaired by McCarthy during the early 1950s, soon after 
     Hammett's popular 1930 crime novel The Maltese Falcon 
     had been removed from USIS libraries
     quoted in Leonard Roy Frank (ed.), Random House 
     Webster's Wit and Humor Quotationary (2000)


I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose.
     S. I. Hayakawa


Whenever books are burned men also in the end are burned.
     Heinrich Heine, Almansor: A Tragedy (1823)


Propaganda: their lies. Public information: our lies.
     Edward S. Herman


A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.
     Granville Hicks


You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Much of man's thinking is propaganda of his appetites.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.
     Hubert H. Humphrey


The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
     Aldous Huxley, The Olive Tree (1937)


At least one way of measuring the freedom of any society is the amount of comedy that is permitted, and clearly a healthy society permits more satirical comment than a repressive, so that if comedy is to function in some way as a safety release then it must obviously deal with these taboo areas. This is part of the responsibility we accord our licensed jesters, that nothing be excused the searching light of comedy. If anything can survive the probe of humour it is clearly of value, and conversely all groups who claim immunity from laughter are claiming special privileges which should not be granted.
     Eric Idle


The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.
     Robert Houghwout Jackson


The people are the only censors of their governors and even their errors will tend to keep them to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
     Thomas Jefferson, letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (January 16, 1787)


I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.
     Thomas Jefferson, Letter to N.G. Dufief, bookseller, concerning 
     civil authorities in Philadelphia who had prevented the sale of a book 
     on the origin of the world (19 April 1814)


People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
     S°ren Kierkegaard


I have no problem with that at all, if they take Cujo or 'Salem's Lot or The Shining out of a public school, or if they take Working out of the Pittsburgh system. I would just say to you as students who are supposed to be learning, that as soon as that book is gone from the library, do not walk — run to your nearest public library or bookseller and find out what your elders don't want you to know, because that's what you need to know!
     Stephen King, Secret Windows: Essays and
          Fiction on the Craft of Writing
     "Banned Books and Other Concerns:
          The Virginia Beach Lecture"


Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
     Rudyard Kipling


The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he.
     Karl Kraus


Freedom of speech only exists in proportion to indifference to the thing spoken of.
     Stephen Leacock


[Censorship:] an excuse to talk about sex.
     Fran Lebowitz


Intolerance is inclined to censor, and censorship promotes ignorance of the arguments of others and thus intolerance itself: a rigid, vicious circle that is hard to break.
     Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (1986)


The burning of an author's books, imprisonment for opinion's sake, has always been the tribute than an ignorant age pays to the genius of its time.
     Joseph Lewis


Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.
     Clare Booth Luce


Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.
     Archibald MacLeish, Saturday Review (May 12, 1979)


A demagogue is a person with whom we disagree as to which gang should mismanage the country.
     Don Marquis


If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.
     Thurgood Marshall

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.
     H. L. Mencken


If any opinion be compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.
     John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)


If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. . . . the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
     John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)


We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.
     John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)


You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.
     John Morley


The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with.
     Eleanor Holmes Norton, The New York Post (March 28, 1970)


If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
     George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)


In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.  It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later:  the logic of their position demanded it.  Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.  The heresy of heresies was common sense.  And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right.  For, after all, how do me know that two and two make four?  Or that the force of gravity works?  Or that the past is unchangeable?  If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable — what then? ...
     The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.  It was their final, most essential command.  His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer.  And yet he was in the right!  They were wrong and he was right.  The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended.  Truisms are true, hold on to that!  The solid world exists, its laws do not change.  Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth’s center.  With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:
     Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
George Orwell, Nineteen eighty-four (1949)


Examine what is said, not him who speaks.
     Arabian Proverb


Heretical views arise when the truth is uncertain, and it is only when the truth is uncertain that censorship is invoked.
     Bertrand Russell, The Value of Free Thought


To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
     Bertrand Russell, "Power" (Atlantic Monthly, October 1938)


The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinion, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.
     Baruch Spinoza, Religious and Political Philosophy (1670)


Laws which prescribe what everyone must believe, and forbid men to say or write anything against this or that opinion, are often passed to gratify, or rather to appease the anger of those who cannot abide independent minds.
     Baruch Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670)


The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions.
     Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Speech (August 28, 1952)


Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself.
     Potter Stewart


I agree with everything you say, but I would attack to the death your right to say it.
     Tom Stoppard


In oratory the greatest art is to hide art.
     Jonathan Swift, "A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind" (1707)


In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion: within these barriers, an author may write what he pleases; but woe to him if he goes beyond them.
     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)


That's basically my theory on mime: They've obviously waived their First Amendment rights by refusing to speak.
     Calvin Trillin


In America — as elsewhere — free speech is confined to the dead.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904


When Huck appeared, twenty-one years ago, the public library of Concord, Massachusetts, flung him out indignantly, partly because he was a liar and partly because after deep meditation and careful deliberation he made up his mind on a difficult point, and said that if he'd got to betray Jim or go to hell, he would go to hell — which was profanity, and those Concord purists couldn't stand it.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.
     Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)


The Boss knew all about the so-called fallacy of the Argumentum ad hominem. "It may be a fallacy," he said, "but it is shore-God useful. If you use the right kind of argumentum you can always scare the hominem into a laundry bill he didn't expect."
     Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men (1946; restored edition, 2001)


A despot doesn't fear eloquent writers preaching freedom — he fears a drunken poet who may crack a joke that will take hold.
     E. B. White


All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many are born upright. The beauty of the American free press is that the and the twists and the distortions come from so many directions, and the special interests are so numerous, the reader must sift and sort and check and countercheck in order to find out what the score is. This he does. It is only when a press gets its twist from a single source, a the case of government-controlled press systems, that the reader is licked.
     E. B. White, "Bedfellows" (1956)
     Essays of E. B. White (1977)


Damn all expurgated books; the dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.
     Walt Whitman


I have always been among those who believe that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.
     Woodrow Wilson, Address at the Institute of Paris (May 10, 1919)



Chance, Probability, Gambling, and Luck


The trouble with trying to make the right accident happen is that it won't. That is not what "accident" means.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


"I plan to open a gambling casino for people who have extraordinarily bad luck."
"How can you tell who has extraordinarily bad luck?"
"They would be the ones that go to my casino."
          Dogbert and Dilbert in Scott Adams, Don’t Stand Where the
               Comet is Assumed To Strike Oil
(“Dilbert,” 2004)


Sometimes to have a little good luck is the most brilliant plan.
     Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors (movie, 1989)


Men are rather beholdlen . . . generally to chance, or anything else, than to logic, for the invention of arts and sciences.
     Francis Bacon


... "slottery," a noun meaning "robbery by a coin-vending machine."
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


Accident, n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Calamity, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Misfortune, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Aren't I lucky, to have survived so much bad luck.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The world is a gambling-table so arranged that all who enter the casino must play and all must lose more or less heavily in the long run, though they win occasionally by the way.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)


Statistics are no substitute for judgment.
     Henry Clay


We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?
     Jean Cocteau


There’s something about probable truth that seems not quite scientific. “Probable” sound too much like “probably,” which slides all too easily into “perhaps,” which in turn can be interpreted as “who knows?” Yet probable truths are highly quantifiable. They can be calculated very precisely. In fact, in most of the so-called hard sciences, probable truths are the only kinds of truths possible.
     K. C. Cole, The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty (1998)


... you need more than luck to navigate successfully through a thousand sieves in succession.
     Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995)


Shallow men believe in luck.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life (1860)


The chances against almost anything's happening just the way it did are almost infinite, and it is very easy to see marvels if you are looking for them. ... Attempts to point this out, however, would probably be met with resentment, since they would detract from the importance of the individual concerned. He would prefer, most likely, to go on believing that the normal order of things had been suspended for his advantage. For the popular love of the marvelous is, at bottom, egotism.
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


Horse sense is what a horse has that keeps him from betting on people.
     W. C. Fields


Never try to walk across a river just because it has an average depth of four feet.
     Milton Friedman


The laws of probability, so true in general, so fallacious in particular.
     Edward Gibbon, Autobiography


I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
     Thomas Jefferson


Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.
     Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobebon Days (1985)


He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination.
     Andrew Lang


I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
     Stephen Leacock


I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.
     Fran Lebowitz


“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”
“Never tell me the odds.”
          C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in
               Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas (story),
               Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
(movie, 1980)


I was lucky. The more I practiced, the luckier I got.
     Jack Nicholson


Chance favors only those who know how to court her.
     Charles-Jean-Henri Nicolle


In the field of observation, chance only favours those minds which have been prepared.
     Louis Pasteur


Any probabilistic intuition by anyone not specifically tutored in probability calculus has a greater than 50 percent chance of being wrong.
     Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, Inevitable Illusions: 
     How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds


Scientists have calculated that the chance of anything so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.  But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.
     Terry Pratchett, Mort (1987)


One of these days in your travels a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you stand here, you are going to wind up with an earful of cider.
     Damon Runyan


He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.
     George Savile


The mathematical probabilities of rare events, in particular, often run counter to intuition, but it is the mathematics, not our intuition, that is correct.
     Barry Singer


Advice on gambling: Look around the table. If you don't see a sucker, get up, because you're the sucker.
     Amarillo Slim


"Random chance seems to have operated in our favor."
"In plain, non-Vulcan English, we've been lucky."
"I believe I said that, Doctor."
     Spock and McCoy, "The Doomsday Machine"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


"Captain, I'm beginning to understand why you Earthmen enjoy gambling. No matter how carefully one computes the odds of success, there is still a certain exhilaration in the risk."
"Very good, Spock, we may make a human of you yet."
"I hope not."
     Spock and Kirk, "Patterns of Force"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


May fortune favor the foolish.
     James T. Kirk, STAR TREK IV The Voyage Home


I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don’t trust coincidences.
     Garak, "Cardassians"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Just because one loses a bet doesn’t mean one gives up the game.
     Hanok, "Starship Down"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


There’s an old saying: “Fortune favors the bold.” Well, I guess we’re about to find out.
     Captain Sisko, "Favor the Bold"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


"A wise precaution. With any luck, we won't be needing it."
"I didn't think Vulcans believed in luck."
"As a rule we don't, but serving with Captain Janeway has taught me otherwise."
"She does seem to succeed more often than random chance would allow."
     Tuvok and Seven, "Juggernaut"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up, and the kind you make up.
     Rex Stout


The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable, for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
     Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects; from Miscellanies (1711)


I've come loaded with statistics, for I've noticed that a man can't prove anything without statistics.
     Mark Twain (speech, 1880)


Circumstances make man, not man circumstances.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


"Fortune knocks at every man's door once in a life," but in a good many cases the man is in a neighboring saloon and does not hear her.
     Mark Twain, quoted in Jon Winokur (ed.), Friendly Advice (1990)


People always call it luck when you've acted more sensibly than they have.
     Anne Tyler, Celestial Navigation


We blame fate for other accidents, but we feel personally responsible when we make a hole in one.


It was Willie's luck. But the best luck always happens to people who don't need it.
     Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men (1946; restored edition, 2001)


A great many men believe in providence until they get caught in a railroad accident.
     Lemuel K. Washburn


Archer had always been inclined to think that chance and circumstance played a small part in shaping people's lots compared with their innate tendency to have things happen to them.
     Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)


One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.
     Oscar Wilde


I called the Census Bureau to see why they hadn't sent me a form, and they said that I was too nondescript to influence the demographics one way or another.
     Steven Wright


I bought a million lottery tickets. I won a dollar.
     Steven Wright


I rented a lottery ticket. I won a million dollars. But I had to give it back.
     Steven Wright


I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.
     Steven Wright



Change and Status Quo
(The More Things Change)


Some changes are so slow, you don't notice them, others are so fast, they don't notice you.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo.
     Robert Byrne, The 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1988)


Everything is still the same. It's just a little different now.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before.
     Dwight David Eisenhower


If we were to express in a single word the principal liability of the prescientific philosophies of nature — if, to put it another way, we were to name the one among their shortcomings that science has done the most to repair — I think it would be that they presumed that the universe was static. Many thinkers dismissed change as an illusion. In this view, the manifestations of time — "the moving image of eternity," as Plato called it — are noise, while what matters, the signal, is the invariant hum of eternal stasis. Others admitted that change occurs, but regarded it as trivial. They held that time moves in cycles, so that events, though they may seem unique and important from our limited point of view, are in the long run destined to repeat themselves, tracing out endless orbits of fatalistic destiny. ... One reads in the ancient books of revolution, but almost never of evolution. Change occurs in the universe, but in the end amounts to nothing important, and the overall picture remains the same.
     Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang: 
     A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report


You cannot step into the same river twice.


The more things change, the more they remain the same.
     Alphonse Karr, Les Guepes/Les Femmes (1849)


There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
     Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom


Status quo. Latin for the mess we're in.
     Jeve Moorman


Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
     Chinese Proverb


To change and change for the better are two different things.
     German Proverb


The less things change, the more they remain the same.
     Sicilian Proverb


Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
     Will Rogers


Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves.
     Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)


Change is the essential process of all existence.
     Spock, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The Garden of Eden I now know was an unendurable solitude. I know that the advent of the serpent was a welcome change — anything for society.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)





Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?
     Phyllis Diller


I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?
     Jack Handey, "Deep Thoughts"


Nanny Ogg never did any housework herself, but she was the cause of housework in other people.
     Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies (1992)


A new broom sweeps clean, but the old brush knows the corners.


I don’t know if I want a fuzzy cover on my toilet seat, but I want to meet whoever invented them. Who lifted a toilet seat and thought, “That needs a hat”?
     Rita Rudner



Clothes, Fashion, and Appearance


She was what we used to call a suicide blonde — dyed by her own hand.
     Saul Bellow


Merely as an observer of natural phenomena, I am fascinated by my own personal appearance. This doesn't mean that I am pleased with it, mind you, or that I can even tolerate it. I simply have a morbid interest in it.
     Robert Benchley, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Fashion, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


If it requires a uniform it's a worthless endeavor.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


'Is that all?' Alice timidly asked.
     'That's all,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'Good-bye.'
     This was rather sudden, Alice thought: but, after such a very strong hint that she ought to be going, she felt that it would hardly be civil to stay. So she got up, and held out her hand. 'Good-bye, till we meet again!' she said as cheerfully as she could.
     'I shouldn't know you again if we did meet,' Humpty Dumpty replied in a discontented tone, giving her one of his fingers to shake; 'you're so exactly like other people.'
     'The face is what one goes by, generally,' Alice remarked in a thoughtful tone.
     'That's just what I complain of,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'Your face is the same as everybody has — the two eyes, so —' (marking their places in the air with this thumb) 'nose in the middle, mouth under. It's always the same. Now if you had the two eyes on the same side of the nose, for instance — or the mouth at the top — that would be some help.'
     'It wouldn't look nice,' Alice objected. But Humpty Dumpty only shut his eyes and said 'Wait till you've tried.'
     Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1872)


Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are.
     Quentin Crisp


A lady came up to me on the street and pointed at my suede jacket. 'You know a cow was murdered for that jacket?' she sneered. I replied in a psychotic tone, 'I didn't know there were any witnesses. Now I'll have to kill you too.
     Jake Johansen


Never wear anything that panics the cat.
     P. J. O'Rourke


Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch.
     Gilda Radner


For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old-fashioned.
     George Santayana, "Winds of Doctrine"


I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


It is said that once when Mr. Clemens, at the solicitation of his wife, called on Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe, he was so absent-minded as to put on neither collar nor necktie. On Mrs. Clemens remonstrating on his return, he said he would make it all right, and accordingly sent a collar and tie of his over to Mrs. Stowe in a box.
     Mark Twain, Will M. Clemens, Mark Twain His Life and Work (1892)


However, we must put up with our clothes as they are — they have their reason for existing. They are on us to expose us — to advertise what we wear them to conceal.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
     Oscar Wilde


I lost a button hole today. Where am I gonna find another one?
     Steven Wright


I wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear my liver on my pant leg.
     Steven Wright


My school colors were clear. We used to say, "I'm not naked, I'm in the band."
     Steven Wright


My socks do match. They're the same thickness.
     Steven Wright



Common Sense
(A Very Uncommon Property)


Common sense . . . has the very curious property of being more correct retrospectively than prospectively. It seems to me that one of the principal criteria to be applied to successful science is that its results are almost always obvious retrospectively; unfortunately, they seldom are prospectively. Common sense provides a kind of ultimate validation after science has completed its work; it seldom anticipates what science is going to discover.
     Russell Lincoln Ackoff, Decision-making 
     in National Science Policy


Common Sense, n. An extremely valuable commodity, as scarce in one's neighbors as it is abundant in oneself.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


Everybody thinks himself so well supplied with it [good sense] that even those most difficult to please ... never desire more of it than they already have.
     RenÚ Descartes, Le Discours de la MÚthode (1637)


Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
     Albert Einstein, quoted in Scientific American (February 1976)


Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


Logic is one thing and commonsense another.
     Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book (1927)


There are few things as uncommon as common sense.
     Kin Hubbard


Of the few innocent pleasures left to men past middle life, the jamming of common sense down the throats of fools is perhaps the keenest.
     Thomas Henry Huxley


There is a chalk outline slowly being drawn around common sense and most people can't identify the victim.
     Dennis Miller


Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius.
     George Bernard Shaw


Our prejudices are so deeply rooted that we never think of them as prejudices but call them common sense.
     George Bernard Shaw


Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
     Gertrude Stein


Someone has defined common sense as the human faculty that provides us with basic knowledge about the world, such as that the earth is flat.
     Victor J. Stenger, Physics and Psychics: The Search 
     for a World Beyond the Senses


A true account of the actual is the rarest poetry, for common sense always takes a hasty and superficial view.
     Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring. Sometimes we are inclined to class those who are once-and-a-half witted with the half-witted, because we appreciate only a third part of their wit.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Common sense is not so common.
     Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)


Common sense provides no more than some of the raw material required for scientific thinking.
     Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science (1993)


There is in general a preference for simple rather than complex explanations. ... But to do science it is necessary to be rigorous and to break out of many of the modes of thought imposed by the natural thinking associated with 'common sense'.
     Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science (1993)


I would almost contend that if something fits in with common sense it almost certainly isn't science. The reason, again, is that the way in which the universe works is not the way in which common sense works: the two are not congruent. Our brains — and hence our behaviour — have, in evolution, been selected for dealing with the immediate word around us.
     Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science (1993)



Communication, Conversation, and Speaking


Speeches are like steer horns — a point here, a point there, and a lot of bull in between.
     Evelyn Anderson


Conversation, n. A fair for the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


I don't care how much a man talks, if he only says it in a few words.
     Josh Billings, Josh Billings: His Sayings (1865)


Never express yourself more clearly than you think.
     Niels Bohr


There are few wild beasts more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate.
     Christian Nestell Bovee


I feel so strongly about the wrongness of reading a lecture that my language may seem immoderate. . . . The spoken word and the written word are quite different arts. . . . I feel that to collect an audience and then read one's material is like inviting a friend to go for a walk and asking him not to mind if you go alongside him in your car.
     Lawrence Bragg


Communication with the dead is only a little more difficult than communication with some of the living.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Repartee is what you wish you'd said.
     Heywood Broun


If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.
     Sir Winston Churchill


The most prominent requisite to a lecturer, though perhaps not really the most important, is a good delivery; for though to all true philosophers science and nature will have charms innumerable in every dress, yet I am sorry to say that the generality of mankind cannot accompany us one short hour unless the path is strewed with flowers.
. . . With respect to the action of the lecturer, it is requisite that he have some, . . . for though I know of no other species of delivery that requires less motion, yet I would by no means have a lecturer glued to the table or screwed to the floor. He must by all means appear as a body distinct and separate from the things around him, and must have some motion apart from that which they possess.
     Michael Faraday, "Advice to Lecturers"


Those two [Brutus and Cassius] speak the same language though they sometimes use different words.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Julius Caesar" (1942)


Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
     Robert Frost


A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years.
     Johan Hutzinga


I always think out carefully every word I am going to say. There is no greater danger than the so-called inspiration of the moment, which leads you to say something which is not exactly true or which you would regret afterwards.
     Thomas Henry [T. H.] Huxley


Many excellent words are ruined by too definite a knowledge of their meaning.
     Aline Kilmer


I will try to follow the advice that a university president once gave a prospective commencement speaker. "Think of yourself as the body at an Irish wake" he said. "They need you in order to have the party, but no one expects you to say very much."
     Anthony Lake, national security advisor, at University 
     of Massachusetts, Amhurst, Graduation (1995)


The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)


Below you will find the complete and unabridged record of the general conversation of the general public since time immemorial:
     a. Hi, how are you?
     b. I did not.
     c. Good. Now you know how I felt.
     d. Do you mind if I go ahead of you? I only have this one thing.
          Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)


The conversational overachiever is someone whose grasp exceeds his reach. This is possible but not attractive.
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)


I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up.
     Tom Lehrer


Catch-phrases are something we hide behind when we can't be bothered to analyze our reaction to something.
     Kathi Maio, "The Passivity of a Post-Feminist 50 Ft. Woman" 
     (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1994)


The defect that hinders communication betwixt them and us, why may it not be on our part as well as theirs?
     Michel de Montaigne


Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.
     Edward R. Murrow


Let no man deceive you with vain words.
     Biblical Proverb


Talk doesn't cook rice.
     Chinese Proverb


Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf.
     Native American Proverb


Words must be weighed, not counted.
     Polish Proverb


The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than about what others are saying.
     Franšois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld,
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


True eloquence means saying all that is necessary and only what is necessary.
     Franšois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


In this world if you do not say a thing in an irritating way you may just as well not say it at all, because people will not trouble themselves about anything that does not trouble them.
     George Bernard Shaw


Now the only thing standing between you and a degree is, well, me. And 18 minutes.
     S. Frederic Star, Wooster College Graduation (1995)


In our century, we've learned not to fear words.
     Uhura, "The Savage Curtain"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


In my experience, communication is a matter of patience . . . imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities we have in sufficient measure.
     Captain Picard, "Darmok"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


The techniques of opening conversation are universal. I knew long ago and rediscovered that the best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be lost.
     John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America (1962)


His air was so natural and so simple that one was always catching himself accepting his stately sentences as meaning something, when they really meant nothing in the world.
     Mark Twain


I cannot keep from talking, even at the risk of being instructive.
     Mark Twain, "London" (speech, 1872)


Mr. Chairman: I had intended to make an address of some length here tonight, and in fact wrote out an impromptu speech, but have had no time to memorize it. I cannot make a speech on the moment, and therefore being unprepared I am silent and undone.
     Mark Twain, "Nineteenth-Century Progress" (speech, 1878)


I have been warned to avoid all mention of international politics, and all criticisms, however mild, of countries with which we are at peace, lest such utterances embarrass our minister and our government in their dealings with foreign states. In a word, I have been cautioned to talk, but be careful not to say anything. I do not consider this a difficult task.
     Mark Twain, "Nineteenth-Century Progress" (speech, 1878)


... the average man likes to hear himself talk, when he is not under criticism.
     Mark Twain, "On After-Dinner Speaking" (speech, 1880)


There is no such thing as "the Queen's English." The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares!
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practised in the tricks and delusions of oratory.
     Mark Twain, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (1899)


I thoroughly believe that any man who's got anything worthwhile to say will be heard if he only says it often enough.
     Mark Twain, "A Humorist's Confession" (New York Times, 1905)


Terrible death to be talked to death.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


In Congress, drawn out dullness is more effective than paragraphic humor. A speaker on the floor should always know what to say, and then not say it.
     Mark Twain, Opie Read, Mark Twain and I (1940)


The first rule of public speaking is never apologize.
     Kurt Vonnegut, "How To Get A Job Like Mine" 
     (Lecture, Austin, March 26 1993)


... moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Bluebeard (1987)


There is but one pleasure in life equal to that of being called on to make an after-dinner speech, and that is not being called on to make one.
     Charles Dudley Warner


Good Listener: a good talker with a sore throat.
     Katherine Whitehorn


One should never listen. To listen is a sign of indifference to one's hearers.
     Oscar Wilde, "A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated"


It would have been hard to predict that Gettysburg, out of all this muddle, these missed chances, all the senseless deaths, would become a symbol of national purpose, pride, and ideals. Abraham Lincoln transformed the ugly reality into something rich and strange — and he did it with 272 words. The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration.
     Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: 
     The Words That Remade America


I will be brief. Not nearly so brief as Salvador Dali, who gave the world's shortest speech. He said "I will be so brief I have already finished," and he sat down.
     Edward O. Wilson, Penn State University Graduation (1995)





The advantage of doing one's praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places.
     Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903)


Some people pay a compliment as if they expected a receipt.
     Kin Hubbard


I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came out to a compliment.
     Bilbo's Farewell Speech, J. R. R. Tolkien, 
     The Fellowship of the Ring


Mr. President, gentlemen, and fellow-memberbs of the Lotos Club, — I have seldom in my lifetime listened to compliments so felicitously phrased or so well deserved.
     Mark Twain, "Lotos Club Dinner in Honor of Mark Twain" 
     (speech, November 11, 1893)


A dozen direct censures are easier to bear than one morganatic compliment.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


It does not embarrass me to hear my books praised so much. It only pleases and delights me. I have not gone beyond the age when embarrassment is possible, but I have reached the age when I know how to conceal it.
     Mark Twain, "Author's Club" (speech, June, 1899)


At the Press Club recently I thought that I had found him. He started in in the way that I knew I should be painted with all sincerity, and was leading to things that would not be to my credit. But when he said that he never read a book of mine I knew at once that he was a liar, because he never could have had all the wit and intelligence with which he was blessed unless he had read my works as a basis.
     Mark Twain, "My Real Self" (speech, 1900)


I would like to have one man come out flat-footed and say something harsh and disparaging of me, even if it were true.
     Mark Twain, "My Real Self" (speech, 1900)


Do not offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902


You must not pay a person a compliment and then straightway follow it with a criticism.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902


You cannot talk on compliments; that is not a text. No modest person, and I was born one, can talk on compliments. A man gets up and is filled to the eyes with happy emotions, but his tongue is tied; he has nothing to say; he is in the condition of Doctor Rice's friend who came home drunk and explained it to his wife, and his wife said to him, "John, when you have drunk all the whiskey you want, you ought to ask for sarsaparilla." He said, "Yes, but when I have drunk all the whiskey I want I can't say sarsaparilla."
     Mark Twain, "Sixty-Seventh Birthday" (speech, November 28, 1902)


I never admired him [Governor Warfield of Maryland] more than I did when he told my audience that they had with them the greatest man in the world. I believe that was his expression. I don't wish to undertake his sentiments, but I will go no further than that — at present. Why, it fairly warmed my heart. It almost made me glad to be there myself. I like good company.
     Mark Twain, "Dinner Speech at Annapolis" (speech, 1907)


There is nothing you can say in answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many times, and they always embarrass me — I always feel they have not said enough.
     Mark Twain, "Fulton Day, Jamestown" (speech, September 23, 1907)


It is very difficult to take compliments. I do not care whether you deserve the compliments or not, it is just as difficult to take them. ... They say that you cannot live by bread alone, but I can live on compliments.
     Mark Twain, "Compliments and Degrees" (speech, January 11, 1908)


Now here's the compliment of a little Montana girl which came to me indirectly. She was in a room in which there was a large photograph of me. After gazing at it steadily for a time, she said: "We've got a John the Baptist like that." She also said: "Only ours has more trimmings." I suppose she meant the halo.
     Mark Twain, "Compliments and Degrees" (speech, January 11, 1908)


I thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, for the compliment which you have paid me, and I am sure I would rather have made people laugh than cry, yet in my time I have made some of them cry; and before I stop entirely I hope to make some more of them cry. I like compliments. I deal in them myself.
     Mark Twain, "Rogers and Railroads" (speech, April 3, 1909)


I can live for two months on a good compliment.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography


To say a compliment well is a high art and few possess it.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Letters


Bless her gentle heart, she was trying to cheer me up, and her effort is entitled to the praise which the country journalist conferred upon the Essex band after he had praised the whole Fourth of July celebration in detail, and had exhausted his stock of compliments. But he was obliged to lay something in the nature of a complimentary egg, and with a final heroic effort he brought forth this, "The Essex band done the best they could."
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography


An author values a compliment even when it comes from a source of doubtful competency.
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959)


Nowadays we are all of us so hard up that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments. They're the only things we can pay.
     Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)





Richard continued, "What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your own mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that's really the essence of programming. By the time you've sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you've certainly learned something about it yourself. The teacher usually learns more than the pupil. Isn't that true?"
     "It would be hard to learn much less than my pupils," came a low growl from somewhere on the table, "without undergoing a prefrontal lobotomy."
     Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987)


"Ah," he said, wiping a glass sympathetically, "I expect it's the manual that'll be getting you down then, sir. I always tell my customers, 'there's nothing in life so difficult that a Microsoft manual can't make it completely incomprehensible.'"
     Douglas Adams, "Douglas Adams' Guide to the
     Macintosh" (MacUser, September 1987, p. 144)


As network administrator I can take down the network with one keystroke. It’s just like being a doctor but without getting gooky stuff on my paws.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, Journey To Cubeville ("Dilbert," 1998)


I calculated the total time that humans have waited for web pages to load. It cancels out all the productivity gains of the information age. Sometimes I think the web is a big plot to keep people like me away from normal society.
     Dilbert in Scott Adams, Journey To Cubeville ("Dilbert," 1998)


Computers are better than we are at arithmetic, not because computers are so good at it, but because we are so bad at it.
     Isaac Asimov


     BUG. A cute little humorous term used to explain why the computer had your Shipping Department send 150 highly sophisticated jet-fighter servo motors, worth over $26,000 apiece, to fishermen in the Ryuku Islands, who are using them as anchors.
     DATA BASE. The information you lose when your memory crashes.
     GRAPHICS. The ability to make pie charts and bar graphs, which are the universal business method for making abstract concepts, such as "three," comprehensible to morons like your boss (see page 44).
     HARDWARE. Where the people in your company's software section will tell you the problem is.
     SOFTWARE. Where the people in your company's hardware section will tell you the problem is.
     SPREADSHEET. A kind of program that lets you sit at your desk and ask all kinds of neat "what if ?" questions and generate thousands of numbers instead of actually working.
     USER. The word that computer professionals use when they mean "idiot."
          Dave Barry, Claw Your Way to the Top (1986)


I'm always on the lookout for a new computer to replace my current one when it becomes obsolete, which usually happens before I can get it all the way out of the box.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


"A Brief History of Computing From Cave Walls To Windows 95 — Not That This Is Necessarily Progress"
"How To Install Software — A 12-Step Program"
     chapter titles in Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


Experts agree that the type of computer for your individual needs is one that comes on the market about two days after you actually purchase some other computer.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


How much should my computer cost? About $350 less than you will actually pay.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


The computer world has a language all its own, just like Hungary, the difference being that if you hang around with Hungarians long enough, you eventually start to understand what they're talking about; whereas the language used in the computer world is specifically designed to prevent this from happening.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


I will tell you, from harsh personal experience, that back on the Planet Earth, a whole lot of computer products — I would say a majority — do not work properly the first time you try them; some products never work, or work so badly that you find yourself wishing you were a terrorist so that you could have access to the kind of explosives you'd need to convert these products into subatomic particles.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


Entire new continents can emerge from the ocean in the time it takes for a Web page to show up on your screen. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Internet does not operate at the speed of light; it operates at the speed of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


A common criticism of the Internet is that it is dominated by the crude, the uninformed, the immature, the smug, the untalented, the repetitious, the pathetic, the hostile, the deluded, the self-righteous, and the shrill. This criticism overlooks the fact that the Internet also offers — for the savvy individual who knows where to look — the tasteless and the borderline insane.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


I have referred many times in this book to the hugely popular Windows 95 operating system, but of course as soon as everybody has purchased and learned to actually use Windows 95, it will be replaced by something newer, something better, something totally different, and something that — above all — requires you to give more money to Microsoft.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry in Cyberspace (1996)


If you asked me to name the three scariest threats facing the human race, I'd give the same answer that most people would: nuclear war, global warming and Windows.
     Dave Barry, "Ultimate threat right there on the
     computer screen" ("Dave's World," July 5, 1998)


The federal government wouldn't dare take on the Postal Service, which is heavily armed and recently tested a thermonuclear device. So instead the government is going after software giant Microsoft (motto: "We Have Worked Out All The Buggs").
     Dave Barry, "Ultimate threat right there on the
     computer screen" ("Dave's World," July 5, 1998)


Microsoft's No. 1 product is Windows, which now comes automatically installed on every computer in the world and many kitchen appliances. Technically, Windows is an "operating system," which means that it supplies your computer with the basic commands that it needs to suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, stop operating.
     Dave Barry, "Ultimate threat right there on the
     computer screen" ("Dave's World," July 5, 1998)


The big dispute between the government and Microsoft concerns the Internet "browser," which is the piece of software that puts a message on your computer screen informing you that the Internet is currently busy and you should try again later. As you can imagine, the potential market for this service is huge, so Microsoft would like you to use its browser, and not somebody else's.
     Dave Barry, "Ultimate threat right there on the
     computer screen" ("Dave's World," July 5, 1998)


At least once a day, without fail, my computer, like every computer I have ever owned, has some kind of emotional breakdown.  It simply stops working — often when I’m not touching it — and it puts a message on the screen informing me that an error has occurred.  It does not say what the error is, nor where it occurred.  For all I know, it occurred in New Zealand, and my computer found out about it via the Internet, and became so upset that it could not go on.
     Dave Barry, Boogers Are My Beat (2003)
          “Learning to Love the Computer, Warts and All”


The best computer is a man, and it's the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.
     Wernher von Braun


My worst personal problem is that my computer doesn't understand me.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


One good thing about my computer: it never asks why.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Thanks to my computer, I have now achieved a much higher state of disorganization.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


For a long time it puzzled me how something so expensive, so leading edge, could be so useless, and then it occurred to me that a computer is a stupid machine with the ability to do incredibly smart things, while computer programmers are smart people with the ability to do incredibly stupid things.  They are, in short, a dangerously perfect match.
     Bill Bryson, I’m a Stranger Here Myself:  Notes on Returning
          To America After Twenty Years Away
               “Lost in Cyberland”


Power corrupts; PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.
     Vinton Cerf, quoted in PC Magazine (October 1, 2002; p. 61)


Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.
     Rich Cook


If you don't know anything about computers, just remember that they are machines that do exactly what you tell them but often surprise you in the result.
     Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1986)


"One thing I've learned about computers is that they make it possible for so many more people to get involved in every decision. Instant gridlock."
     Garrison Keillor, Wobegon Boy (1997)


The most important thing in the programming language is the name. A language will not succeed without a good name. I have recently invented a very good name and now I am looking for a suitable language.
     D. E. Knuth


It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.
     Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz


Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
     Pablo Picasso


The most overlooked advantage to owning a computer is that if they foul up, there's no law against whacking them around a little.
          (I found this quote somewhere else, and there
          wasn't more of an attribution than this.)


One of the universal rules of happiness is: always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.
     Terry Pratchett, Jingo (1997)


In theory ... absolutely everything was available to him, but that only meant that it was more or less impossible to find whatever it was you were looking for, which is the purpose of computers.
     Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent (1998)


Sometimes it pays to stay in bed in Monday, rather than spending the rest of the week debugging Monday's code.
     Dan Salomon


All a computer does is tell a consistent story: a consistent truth, or, if the programmer's guesses are unlikely, a consistent fiction.
     Paul A. Samuelson, Newsweek


The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
     Burrhus Frederic Skinner


"I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable."
"You'd make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock."
"That is very kind of you, Captain."
     Spock and Kirk, "The Return of the Archons"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


Computers make excellent and efficient servants. But I have no wish to serve under them. Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty — to one man, and nothing can replace it. Or him.
     Spock, "The Ultimate Computer"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


... humans have a compulsion to keep records and lists and files — so many, in fact, that they have to invent new ways to store them microscopically, otherwise their records would overrun all known civilization.
     Odo in "Necessary Evil"
     STAR TREK Deep Space Nine


A TV can insult your intelligence, but nothing rubs it in like a computer.
     Bob Thaves, "Frank and Ernest"


If you put garbage in a computer nothing comes out but garbage. But this garbage, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and none dare criticize it.


A computer and a cat are somewhat alike — they both purr, and like to be stroked, and spend a lot of the day motionless. They also have secrets they don't necessarily share.
     John Updike in The New Yorker


We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
     Robert Wilensky



Conformity and Individuality


Everyone says there's a lack of leadership in the world these days. I think we should all be thankful, because the only reason for leadership is to convince people to do things that are either dangerous (like invading another country) or stupid (working extra hard without extra pay). Obviously you don't need any leadership to lead you to, for example, eat a warm cookie. But you need a lot of leadership to convince you to march through a desert and shoot strangers. Generally speaking, whenever there is leadership, there is lots of hollering and very few warm cookies. Let's enjoy the lack of leadership while we have it.
     Scott Adams, Don't Step in the Leadership ("Dilbert," 1999)


Stupidity is nature's favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion.
     Walter Bagehot


You may talk of the tyranny of Nero and Tiberias, but the real tyranny is the tyranny of your next-door neighbour. What espionage of despotism comes to your door so effectively as the eye of the man who lives at your door? Public opinion is a permeating influence. It requires us to think other men's thoughts, to speak other men's words, to follow other men's habits.
     Walter Bagehot, The Works of Walter Bagehot (1889)


Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.
     Bernard Berenson


We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect.
     Ambrose Bierce


Abnormal, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward a straiter resemblance to the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


"I say, you," bawled a fat Ox in a stall to a lusty young Ass who was braying outside; "the like of that is not in good taste."
     "In whose good taste, my adipose censor?" inquired the Ass, not too respectfully.
     "Why — ah — h'm. I mean that it does not suit me. You should bellow."
     "May I ask how it concerns you whether I bellow or bray, or do both, or neither?"
"I cannot tell you," said the Ox, shaking his head despondingly — "I do not at all understand the matter. I can only say that I have been used to censure all discourse that differs from my own."
     "Exactly," said the Ass; "you have tried to make an art of impudence by calling preferences principles. In 'taste' you have invented a word incapable of definition to denote an idea impossible of expression, and by employing the word 'good' or 'bad' in connection with it you indicate a merely subjective process, in terms of an objective quality. Such presumption transcends the limits of mere effrontery and passes into the boundless empyrean of pure gall!"
     The bovine critic having no words to express his disapproval of this remarkable harangue, said it was in bad taste.
          Ambrose Bierce, "The Ox and The Ass" in Brian St. Pierre (ed.),
          The Devil's Advocate: An Ambrose Bierce Reader (1987)


      “You always say 'Do your best', but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?”
     “Because right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and fitting in means acting like everyone else.”
     “But dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.”
     “Everyone's special Dash.”
     “Which is another way of saying no one is.”
          Brad Bird, The Incredibles (movie, 2004)


That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.
     William J. H. Boetcker


I march to a different drummer, whose location, identity, and musical training haven't yet been established.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


If we all work together, we can totally disrupt the system.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


It would be easier for me to reject all established values, if I knew what they were.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The majority is never right, unless it includes me.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Hell is paved with great granite blocks hewn from the hearts of those who said, "I can do no other."
     Heywood Broun, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


I am not in compliance.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The reason the mainstream is thought of as a stream is because of its shallowness.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven't tried that for a while. Maybe this time it'll work.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


"It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do." "But suppose there are two mobs?" suggested Mr. Snodgrass. "Shout with the largest," replied Mr. Pickwick. Volumes could not have stated more.
     Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1837)


He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
     Albert Einstein


Hiding out is an art. But don't hide yourself so well that others like you can't find you. And don't follow the crowd so much that eventually you're not playing at it. Don't wind up doing it so well that the mask you've worn to perfection becomes your real face. Protect yourself, but don't get assimilated. And never wage a land war in Asia. I just thought I'd throw that in. You never know.
     Harlan Ellison, Troublemakers (2001)
     Introduction to "Deeper Than the Darkness"


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. ... The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


To live without duties is obscene.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883)


Some day there'll be a world without authority, without bureaucracy, without rules, where they'll be freedom and sharing and love — and I still won't fit in.
     Jules Feiffer


If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming "This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!" we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.
     Richard Feynman, "The Value of Science"
     (speech at NAS meeting, 1955)


It was a reaction I learned from my father: have no respect whatsoever for authority; forget who said it and instead look at what he starts with, where he ends up, and ask yourself, "Is it reasonable?"
     Richard Feynman, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?":
     Further Adventures of a Curious Character
     "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"


I have no mystic faith in the people. I have in the individual. He seems to me a divine achievement and I mistrust any view which belittles him. If anyone calls you a wretched little individual — and I've been called that — don't you take it lying down. You are important because everyone else is an individual too — including the person who criticises you. In asserting your personality you are playing for your side.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "The Challenge of our Time" (1946)


[I am] lord of myself, accountable to none.
     Benjamin Franklin


We must dare to think "unthinkable" thoughts. ... We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent. ... Because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.
     J. W. Fulbright, Speech, U. S. Senate (March 27, 1964)


I always voted at my party's call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
     W. S. Gilbert


I keep forgetting. Am I in the groove, or in a rut?
     Mal Hancock


In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy.
     Learned Hand, Speech, Harvard University (1958)


It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
     William Ernest Henley, "Invictus"


The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others.
     Eric Hoffer


Woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.
     Eric Hoffer


When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Dogma: a hard substance which forms in a soft brain.
     Elbert Hubbard


The only completely consistent people are the dead.
     Aldous Huxley


How fortunate it is for us all that it is somewhat unnatural for a human being to obey. Universal obedience is universal stagnation; disobedience is one of the conditions of progress.
     Robert Ingersoll, "Individuality"


Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
     Thomas Jefferson, motto


Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.
     Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love (1963)


The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you're playing by other people's rules, while quietly playing by your own.
     Michael Korda


Think for yourself and question authority.
     Timothy Leary


"There's a point, around age twenty . . . when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities."
     Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)


To do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.
     Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Aphorisms (1799)


The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
     Archibald MacLeish, "In Praise of Dissent" (New York
     Times Book Review
, December 16, 1956)


Frank: Don't you understand the man is not normal.
Hawkeye: What's normal, Frank?
Frank: Normal is everybody doing the same thing.
Trapper: What about individuality?
Frank: Well, individuality is fine, as long as we all do it together.
     MASH (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind.
     W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage (1915)


It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
     Herman Melville


Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called.
     John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)


You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.
     Olin Miller


The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.
     A. A. Milne


Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
     Christopher Morley


We will not walk in fear, one of another.
We are not descended from fearful men,
Not from men who feared to write, to speak,
To associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular.
This is no time... to keep silent.
     Edward R. Morrow


How glorious it is — and how painful also — to be an exception.
     Alfred de Musset


Some people march to a different drummer.  The drummer in question here must have been trained elsewhere, possibly by a different species on another planet.
     Terry Pratchett, Hogfather (1996)


Trumpet in a herd of elephants; crow in the company of cocks; bleat in a flock of goats.
     Malayan Proverb


Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.
     Eleanor Roosevelt


When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it's his duty.
     George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra (1898)


If you sincerely desire a truly well-rounded education, you must study the extremists, the obscure and "nutty". You need the balance! Your poor brain is already being impregnated with middle-of-the-road crap, twenty-four hours a day, no matter what. Network TV, newspapers, radio, magazines at the supermarket...even if you never watch, read, listen, or leave your house, even if you are deaf and blind, the telepathic pressure alone of the uncountable normals surrounding you will insure that you are automatically well-grounded in consensus reality.
     Rev. Ivan Stang, High Weirdness By Mail (1988)


No power in the universe can hope to stop the force of evolution. Be warned: the execution of Mr. Ramsey and his followers may elevate them to the status of martyrs. Martyrs cannot be silenced.
     William T. Riker, "Angel One"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders.
     Captain Picard, "The Offspring"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


The claim "I was only following orders" has been used to justify too many tragedies in our history. Starfleet doesn't want officers who will blindly follow orders without analyzing the situation.
     Captain Picard, "Redemption II"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion. I haven't the courage for that.
     Samuel Hamilton in John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)


I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and leave a trail.
     Muriel Strode


There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law which we may obey.
     Henry David Thoreau, Excursions, Poems and Familiar Letters


Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one already.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (1866)


I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (1866)


Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so the exclusion of my thinking for myself.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


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.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The paths of glory at least lead to the Grave, but the paths of duty may not get you Anywhere.
     James Thurber, Fables For Our Time & 
     Famous Poems Illustrated
     "The Patient Bloodhound"


"A body is always doing what he sees somebody else doing, though there may n't be no sense in it."
     Ed in Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year. It grows — it must grow; nothing can prevent it. It must grow downward or upward; it must grow smaller or larger, better or worse — it cannot stand still. In other words, we change — and must change, constantly, and keep on changing as long as we live. What, then, is the true Gospel of consistency? Change. Who is the really consistent man? The man who changes. Since change is the law of his being, he cannot be consistent if he stick in a rut.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


Which is the real and right consistency? To be consistent to a sham and an empty name, or consistent to the law of one's being, which is change, and in this case requires him to move forward and keep abreast of his best mental and moral progress, his highest convictions of the right and the true? Suppose this treason to the name of a church should carry him clear outside of all churches? Is that a blacker treason than to remain? So long as he is loyal to his best self, what should he care for other loyalties? It seems to me that a man should secure the Well done, faithful servant, of his own conscience first and foremost, and let all other loyalties go.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


There you have the just measure of that freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and action which we hear so much inflated foolishness about as being the precious possession of the republic. Whereas, in truth, the surest way for a man to make of himself a target for almost universal scorn, obloquy, slander, and insult is to stop twaddling about these priceless independencies and attempt to exercise one of them.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


This atrocious doctrine of allegiance to party plays directly into the hands of politicians of the baser sort — and doubtless for that it was borrowed — or stolen — from the monarchical system. It enables them to foist upon the country officials whom no self-respecting man would vote for, if he could but come to understand that loyalty to himself is his first and highest duty, not loyalty to any party name.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


I am persuaded — convinced — that this idea of consistency — unchanging allegiance to party — has lowered the manhood of the whole nation — pulled it down and dragged it in the mud. ...
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


This is a funny business all round. The same men who enthusiastically preach loyal consistency to church and party, are always ready and willing and anxious to persuade a Chinaman or an Indian or a Kanaka to desert his Church, or a fellow-American to desert his party. The man who deserts to them is all that is high and pure and beautiful — apparently; the man who deserts from them is all that is foul and despicable. This is Consistency — with a capital C.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.
     Mark Twain, "Consistency" (1887)


Loyalty is a word which has worked vast harm; for it has been made to trick men into being "loyal" to a thousand iniquities, whereas the true loyalty should have been to themselves — in which case there would have ensued a rebellion, and the throwing off of that deceptive yoke.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1888


The device of "loyalty" to King or Party should be a sheep. He is the counterpart and exactest twin and representative of the King's slave and the Party's slave. Follows his leader — to hell or heaven, it's all one to him, he hasn't got independence enough to think it any of his business.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1888


It seems to show that there isn't anything you can't stand, if you are only born and bred to it.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


You see, my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office-holders.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


It was the stubborn unreasoning of the time. It was useless to argue with her. Arguments have no chance against petrified training; they wear it as little as the waves wear a cliff.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


Training — training is everything; training is all there is to a person. We speak of nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by that misleading name is merely heredity and training. We have no thoughts of our own, no opinions of our own; they are transmitted to us, trained into us. All that is original in us, and therefore fairly creditable or discreditable to us, can be covered up and hidden by the point of a cambric needle, all the rest being atoms contributed by, and inherited from, a procession of ancestors that stretches back a billion years to the Adam-clam or grasshopper or monkey from whom our race has been so tediously and ostentatiously and unprofitably developed. And as for me, all that I think about in this plodding sad pilgrimage, this pathetic drift between the eternities, is to look out and humbly live a pure and high and blameless life, and save that one microscopic atom in me that is truly me: the rest may land in Sheol and welcome for all I care.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


If you can find something everyone agrees on, it's wrong.
     Mo Udall


Only dead fish swim with the stream.


If you do it the way you've always done it, you'll get what you've always gotten.
     Unknown, Sign on a wall at Westinghouse in Maryland


Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the beaten path always throw stones at those who teach a new path.


It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of obedience.
     Lemuel K. Washburn


The worst of doing one's duty was that is apparently unfitted one for doing anything else.
     Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
     Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1892)
     "Song of Myself"


Do I contradict myself?
Very well than I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes).
     Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1892)
     "Song of Myself"


Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Relation of Dress to Art"
     (Pall Mall Gazette, 28 February 1885)


Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing it is always from the noblest motive.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


Duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself.
     Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance (1893)





Do not that which thy conscience condemns, and say not that which does not agree with truth. Fulfill this, the most important duty, and thou wilt have fulfilled all the object of thy life.
     Marcus Aurelius


I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions.
     Lillian Hellman, letter to the House Committee 
     on Un-American Activities (May 19, 1952)


A conscience cannot prevent sin. It only prevents you from enjoying it.
     Harry Hershfield


Conscience is the inner voice which warns us somebody may be looking.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "SententiŠ — The Mind of Man"


Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
        H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "SententiŠ — This and That"


There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball.
And that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all.
     Ogden Nash, I'm a Stranger Here Myself (1938)


The man with a clear conscience probably has a poor memory.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.
     French Proverb


Conscience: A Barrier to Success
     Herbert Spencer, The Morals of Trade (subhead)


"It is my business — and my joy — to make you repent of everything you do. If I have fooled away any opportunities it was not intentional; I beg to assure you it was not intentional. ... But I am not an ass; I am only the saddle of an ass. But go on, go on. You entertain me more than I like to confess."
     The Narrator’s Conscience in Mark Twain, "The Facts Concerning
     the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut" (1876)


But that's always the way; it don't make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person's conscience ain't got no sense and just goes for him anyway. If I had a yaller dog that didn't know no more than a person's conscience does I would pison him. It takes up more room than all the rest of a person's insides and yet ain't no good, nohow.
     Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)


If I had the remaking of man, we wouldn't have any conscience. It is one of the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly does do a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort. Still, this is only my opinion, and I am only one man; others, with less experience, may thing differently. They have a right to their view. I only stand to this: I have noticed my conscience for many years, and I know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything else I started with.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


A guilty conscience is the mother of invention.
     Carolyn Wells





Common experience shows how much rarer is moral courage than physical bravery. A thousand men will march to the mouth of the cannon where one man will dare espouse an unpopular cause ... True courage and manhood come from the consciousness of the right attitude toward the world, the faith in one's own purpose, and the sufficiency of one's own approval as a justification for one's own acts.
     Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil


So long as you have courage and a sense of humor, it is never too late to start life afresh.
     Freeman Dyson, From Eros to Gaia (1992)


The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
     Robert Ingersoll


Can you buy back his respectability by making him a coward? I understand what Bert's going through. It's the loneliest feeling in the world-to find yourself standing up when everybody else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say, "What's the matter with him?" I know. I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your own footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren't sure whether you're walking toward something, or if you're just walking away.
     Henry Drummond in Jerome Lawrence and
     Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind (play, 1955)


"... 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 you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
     Atticus to Jem in Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)


Afraid? Me? A man who’s licked his weight in wild caterpillars? Afraid? You bet I’m afraid!
     Groucho (Groucho Marx) in The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


[Rincewind] always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry saber-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying “What a magnificent brute!” and “Here, pussy.”
     Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic (1986)


“But there are causes worth dying for,” said Butterfly.
     “No, there aren’t!  Because you’ve only got one life but you can pick up another five causes on any street corner!”
     “Goof grief, how can you live with a philosophy like that?”
     Rincewind took a deep breath.
          Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times (1994)


Any true wizard, faced with a sign like “Do not open this door.  Really.  We mean it.  We’re not kidding.  Opening this door will mean the end of the universe,” would automatically open the door in order to see what all the fuss was about.  This made signs rather a waste of time, but at least it meant that when you handed what was left of the wizard to his grieving relatives you could say, as they grasped the jar, “We told him not to.”
     Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent (1998)


A light supper, a good night's sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero out of the same man, who, by indiscretion, a restless night, and a rainy morning would have proved a coward.


A yuppie is someone who believes it's courageous to eat in a restaurant that hasn't been reviewed yet.
     Mort Sahl


Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
     William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word. Consider the flea! — incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage. Whether you are asleep or awake he will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and all days and nights in the very lap of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before. When we speak of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who 'didn't know what fear was,' we ought always to add the flea — and put him at the head of the procession.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


The timid man yearns for full value and demands a tenth. The bold man strikes for double value and compromises on par.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Nelson would have been afraid of ten thousand fleas, but a flea wouldn't be afraid of ten thousand Nelsons.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death.
     Earl Wilson


"Alright, I'll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I'll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I'm going in there. There's only one thing I want you fellows to do."
     "What's that?"
     "Talk me out of it."
          The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), The Tin Woodsman
          (Jack Haley) and The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger)
          Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf,
          The Wizard of Oz (movie, 1939)



Crime and Criminals


You can call me courageous if you want, but I am against crime.  I favor the death penalty for everything, including zoning violations.  In the case of really, really bad criminals — especially murders and whoever is responsible for putting Jerry Springer on television — I support a massive government project to develop a way to bring them back to life after we execute them, so we can execute them again.
     Dave Barry


We yearn for a law making temporary insanity a capital offense.
     Ambrose Bierce, "A Capital Crime" (News Letter, 1868)


A criminal is merely a fool who has had an opportunity.
     Ambrose Bierce, "Prosperous Penitents" (Wasp, 1882)


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.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Police, n. An armed force for protection and participation.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


I think the best home security system of all would be one that locks the burglar inside his own house.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.
     Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption
     (movie, 1994; based on the short story by Stephen King)


Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.
     Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) in Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein,
          Howard Koch and Casey Robinson (uncredited), Casablanca (movie, 1942)


Realizing the importance of the case, my men are rounding up twice the usual number of suspects.
     Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) in Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein,
          Howard Koch and Casey Robinson (uncredited), Casablanca (movie, 1942)


"Me and Andy never cared much to do business in New York. It was too much like pothunting. Catching suckers in that town, is like dynamiting a Texas lake for bass. All you have to do anywhere between the North and East rivers is to stand in the street with an open bag marked, 'Drop packages of money here. No checks or loose bills taken.'"
     O. Henry, "Innocents of Broadway"
     The Gentle Grafter (1908)


I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it.
     Alfred Hitchcock


I must apologize for the lack of bloodshed in tonight's program. We shall try to do better next time.
     Alfred Hitchcock


This man [Javert] was a compound of two sentiments, simple and good in themselves, but he made them almost evil by his exaggeration of them: respect for authority and hatred of rebellion; and in his eyes theft, murder, all crimes were merely forms of rebellion.
     Victor Hugo, Les MisÚrables (1862)


A murderer is only a extroverted suicide.
     Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974)


FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC (motto on the Watch House in Ankh-Morpork)
     Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards! (1989)


I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.
     Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather
(movie, 1972)


[On seeing a dead fish wrapped up in Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest] It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.
     Pete Clemenza (Richard Castellano)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather
(movie, 1972)


"My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator."
     "Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed."
     "Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?"
          Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Kay Adams (Diane Keaton)
          Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
          The Godfather
(movie, 1972)


I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.
     Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather
(movie, 1972)


I make him an offer he don't refuse.
     Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather, Part II
(movie, 1974)


If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.
     Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather, Part II
(movie, 1974)


We're bigger than U. S. Steel!
     Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather, Part II
(movie, 1974)


"Don Lucchesi, you are a man of finance and politics. These things I don't understand."
     "You understand guns?"
     "Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger."
          Vincent Mancini-Corleone (Andy Garcia) and Don Licio Lucchesi (Enzo Robutti)
          Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
          The Godfather, Part III
(movie, 1990)


Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.
     Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)
     Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola,
     The Godfather, Part III
(movie, 1990)


The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly, I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind" (1946)


Crime must have a logical purpose.
     Tuvok, "Meld"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


Murder is always a mistake. . . . One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.
     Oscar Wilde



Critics and Criticism


Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.
     Brendan Behan


Critic, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is simple: any criticism you give is constructive; any criticism you get is destructive.
     Jon Carroll


I can take any amount of criticism, so long as it is unqualified praise.
     Noel Coward


Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.
     Franklin P. Jones


I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the great masses.
     Johannes Kepler


A critic is one who goes along for deride.
     L. L. Levinson


Among the greatest discoveries that the human mind has made in recent times belongs the art of judging books without having read them.
     Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


I have never found, in a long experience of politics, that criticism is ever inhibited by ignorance.
     Harold Macmillan


People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.
     W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage (1915)


Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
     H. L. Mencken


Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.
     John Osborne


We go heroically to the theater, hoping always, with piteous faith, that maybe it won't be so bad, after all — yet ever dreading, with the bitter fear born of cruel experience, that probably it will be worse.
     Dorothy Parker, play review, "Edward Knoblock:
     Tiger! Tiger!" (Vanity Fair, January 1919)


I don't want to review books any more. It cuts in too much on my reading.
     Dorothy Parker, "Constant Reader" (The New Yorker, February 4, 1928)


Those who have free seats at a play hiss first.
     Chinese Proverb


A dramatic critic is a man who leaves no turn unstoned.
     George Bernard Shaw


No statue has ever been put up to a critic.
     Jean Sibelius


I remember one of my freshman English students at the University of Washington asking with genuine concern, "But I don't understand, Mr. Simon. What is wrong with being average?" There is nothing much wrong with being average, but there is considerably less wrong with being above average, and still less with being outstanding.
     John Simon


. . . the main purpose of criticism . . . is not to make its readers agree, nice as that is, but to make them, by whatever orthodox or unorthodox methods, think.
     John Simon


Last night's "Itchy and Scratchy Show" was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.
     Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons


Give a critic an inch, he'll write a play.
     John Steinbeck, "On Critics" (1977)


Time is the only critic without ambition.
     John Steinbeck, "On Critics" (1977)


Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.
     John Steinbeck, quoted in J. K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society, introduction (1977 ed.)


... one mustn't criticize other people on grounds where he can't stand perpendicular himself.
       Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


The critic assumes every time that if a book doesn't meet the cultivated-class standard it isn't valuable ... If a critic should start a religion it would not have any object but to convert angels, and they wouldn't need it.
     Mark Twain, letter to Andrew Lang (1889); Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Selected Letters of Mark Twain (1982)

The critic's symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else's dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904


Howells applauded, and was full of praises and endorsement, which was wise in him and judicious. If he had manifested a different spirit, I would have thrown him out of the window. I like criticism, but it must be my way.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades and that it has no real value — certainly no large value.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden. Meantime, I seem to have been drifting into criticism myself. But that is nothing. At the worst, criticism is nothing more than a crime, and I am not unused to that.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


A "critic" is a person who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative people. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally.


As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday (1981)


It has been my experience with literary critics and academics in this country that clarity looks a lot like laziness and ignorance and childishness and cheapness to them. Any idea which can be grasped immediately is for them, by definition, something they knew all the time.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday (1981)


Having the critics praise you is like having the hangman say you've got a pretty neck.
     Eli Wallach


Are the commentators on Hamlet really mad, or only pretending to be?
     Oscar Wilde