March 21, 2017

“Familiarity breeds contempt” – and various other things…

Aesop Fox and the Lion


“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
       Aesop (c. 620-564 B.C.)
       The moral of
“The Fox and the Lion” story in Aesop’s Fables
       In traditional English translations of Aesop’s Fables, there’s a phrase at the end of each brief tale that summarizes “the moral of the story.” The origin of the proverbial saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” is widely credited to the traditional translation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Lion,” which reads:
When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.
       “Familiarity Breeds Contempt”

Daniel Katz CUNY


“Just as unfamiliarity breeds fear, an intimate introduction to multiple cultures breeds trust.”
       Daniel Katz 
       Professor of History and labor history expert, City University of New York (CUNY)
       In his 2012 book Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America (co-edited with Richard A. Greenwald)

The Affluent Society-8x6


“Familiarity may breed contempt in some areas of human behavior, but in the field of social ideas it is the touchstone of acceptability. Because familiarity is such an important test of acceptability, the acceptable ideas have great stability.”
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
       American economist
In Chapter 2 of his pioneering book about social economics, The Affluent Society (1958)

Aldous Huxley quote 1000


“Familiarity breeds indifference. We have seen too much pure, bright color at Woolworth’s to find it intrinsically transporting. And here we may note that, by its amazing capacity to give us too much of the best things, modern technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials.”
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
       British author and social critic
       In his book length essay Heaven and Hell (1956), often published together with his earlier essays extolling the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs, The Doors of Perception (1954)



Melissa Hastings (actress Torrey DeVitto): “I was hoping you'd be happy for me.”
Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario):
“Well, you know what they say about hope: it breeds eternal misery.”
       Some repartee from
the pilot episode of the TV show Pretty Little Liars (2010)



“The undue familiarity usually existing between husband and wife is a feeder of psycho-sexual aberrations. Once the halo of sex mystery is dispelled, romance often fails completely... Familiarity breeds satiety. Satiety is the parent of sexual discontent. The satiated, discontented man often browses in queer pastures in search of new thrills for his exhausted psycho-sexual centers.”
George Frank Lydston (1858–1923)
       An American urologist who had some unusual theories (and issues)
       The quote above is from Lydston’s book
Impotence and Sterility: with Aberrations of the Sexual Function and Sex-Gland Implantation (1917).
       In addition to coming up with the odd theory that men who became too “familiar” with their wives would turn gay, Lydston experimented with the transplantation of testicular tissue from animals into humans, as a form of
“androgen therapy” for older men. The donors included dogs, goats, monkeys and even guinea pigs. (Really. I’m not making this stuff up.)

Mark Twain familiarity breeds children quote QC


“Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.” 
       Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens; 1835-1910) 
       A quip Twain recorded in his journal in 1894; included in his posthumously published Notebooks (1935)

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Related and recommended reading…

March 5, 2017

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”

Peter O'Toole - My Favorite Year-8x6

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” 
Peter O’Toole, playing the washed-up actor Alan Swann
       In the 1982 movie
My Favorite Year  
       Precursors of this widely-quoted line in the movie
have been attributed to English actors Edmund Kean and Edmund Gwenn (among others)

Tony Blair

“Outrage is easy; strategy is hard…The emotional response to the rightist populism sweeping the West is one of protest and dismay. But if there is to be an effective fightback, there has to be a cool analysis of what is happening, why and what can be done...The politics of the progressive center has not died, but it needs reinventing and re-energizing. For liberal democracy to survive and thrive, we must build a new coalition that is popular, not populist.”
       Tony Blair
       Former leader of the British Labour Party; Prime Minister of Britain from 1997 to 2007
In an op-ed in the New York Times, March 3, 2017

Art Buchwald-8x6

“Dying is easy. Parking is hard.”

Art Buchwald(1925-2007)
       American humorist and journalist 
       A quip he made while dying from kidney failure 
Quoted in Time magazine, shortly after his death

Donald Cook - First Marine Captured in Vietnam-8x6

“Cook said POWs must realize simple truths: dying is easy, living is hard, and surviving the day is always in doubt. Thus, he said, to awaken each morning to a new day is a victory.”   
       Donald L. Price  
       Retired Marine Colonel and author 
In his book The First Marine Captured in Vietnam (2007)
       Referring to Medal of Honor recipient,
U.S. Marine Col. Donald G. Cook, who died in a Viet Cong prison camp in 1967

Christopher Reeve - Nothing is Impossible-8x6

“I've slipped into that ‘numb zone’ many times. That’s when creating humor and appreciating it becomes very difficult, but even more necessary....If you get stuck in it for a long period of time you may end up going back to square one, when life after a catastrophe has no meaning....I agree with the dying comedian; sometimes humor is hard but it’s worth it.”
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
       American actor and patient advocate
       In his inspiring book
Nothing is Impossible (2004)

Dennis Lehane-8x6

“Sympathy is easy. It's always given from a position of power...But when you have empathy, you empathize with the person. You put yourself on equal footing. Sympathy is easy. Empathy is hard.” 
       Dennis Lehane 
       American novelist
       In a commencement speech he gave at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2004
       Quoted in
Here We Stand: 600 Inspiring Messages the World’s Best Commencement Addresses (2009)

Carl Reiner-8x6

“Lust is easy. Love is hard. Like is most important.”
Carl Reiner (b. 1922)
       American comedian, actor, director and producer   
       A comment he made in an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2005
that is still widely quoted

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Related viewing and reading…

February 14, 2017

A government — and a nation — of laws…

John Adams government of laws quote WM


A government of laws and not of men.”
John Adams (1735-1826) 
       American lawyer, politician and 2nd President of the United States
       Although the basic concept of “a government of laws, and not of men” reflects a political philosophy dating back to the ancient Greeks, Adams gave it lasting fame in those exact words, initially by using it in his
7th “Novanglus” letter published in the Boston Gazette in 1775, then more famously by including it in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.
The “Novanglus Letters” were a series of essays Adams wrote for the Boston Gazette under the pseudonym Novanglus (meaning “New Englander”). In them, he argued that Great Britain’s treatment of American colonists violated their rights under British law.
       In the seventh Novanglus letter, Adams said:
“If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire. They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men. If this definition is just, the British constitution is nothing more nor less than a republic, in which the king is first magistrate. This office being hereditary, and being possessed of such ample and splendid prerogatives, is no objection to the government's being a republic, as long as it is bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend.” 
       Five years later after he wrote the Novanglus letters, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Adams was primary author of that historic document. In it, he again used the phrase “a government of laws and not of men.” In the section outlining the crucial principle of the separation of powers, he wrote:
       “In the government of this Commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: The judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.” 
       “A government of laws” and the variation “a nation of laws” came to be commonly used in commentaries on legal issues, political disputes and court decisions. They are sometimes
used almost simultaneously by people on both sides of such issues, who believe their interpretation of the law is the correct one — often regardless of what the courts decide.



“We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws.  As a sovereign country, America has the right to control its border.”
Sen. John Neely Kennedy 
       Republican politician now serving as U.S. Senator for Louisiana
a press statement he released on January 30, 2016 in support of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order. The order, designed to bar the entry of travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations into the U.S., was soon blocked by a federal judge whose decision was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 
       Presumably, Sen. Kennedy respects that outcome as an example of how the separation of powers works in our nation of laws. (But somehow I doubt it.)




“We are a nation of laws. And, as I have said, as we have said, from day one, that those laws apply to everybody in our country, and that includes the President of the United States.”
Bob Ferguson
      Washington State Attorney General
      In a
press conference on February 9, 2017 after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the state’s favor in a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s “travel ban” executive order. As I write this, it’s unclear whether President Trump will appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
       It also remains to be seen whether supporters or opponents of the ban will be happily (or grumpily) using “a nation of laws” when the legal dust finally settles.

Archibald Cox


“Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.”
Archibald Cox (1912-2004)
      American lawyer and law professor who served as a Special Prosecutor during the investigation of the Watergate scandal
Comment to the press on October 20, 1973 after President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox from his Special Prosecutor position for zealously pursuing access to the then still-secret Watergate Tapes.
       Richardson refused to fire Cox and resigned in protest. Deputy Attorney General
William Ruckelshaus also refused to carry out the president’s order and resigned. Nixon then succeeded in getting Robert Bork, who’d been tapped as acting head of the Justice Department, to fire Cox on Saturday, October 20, 1973. 
      This so-called
“The Saturday Night Massacre” didn’t help Nixon. It simply generated negative press, public outrage and even more intense Congressional investigations. Ultimately, Nixon was forced to release the tapes. On August 9, 1974, he became the first American president to resign, knowing he’d be impeached if he didn’t.



“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” 
       Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)
       American politician who served as 38th President of the United States
       Lines from
his speech on August 9, 1974, the day he ascended from being Richard Nixon’s Vice President to be inaugurated as President of the United States after Nixon resigned.
       One month later, President Ford gave Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon” for any crimes he committed while president. Whether “the people” agreed with that decision didn’t matter. In our nation of laws, the president has the legal power to grant such pardons under the powers given to him by the U.S. Constitution.

Philip K. Howard


“In our obsessive effort to perfect a government of laws, not of men, we have invented a government of laws against men.”
Philip K. Howard (b. 1948)
       American lawyer and conservative political commentator and author 
       A quote from his 1994 book The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America
       In the book, Howard argues that the increasing number of laws and regulations in the United States have reached a point of absurdity that stifles our economy, personal freedom and our quality of life.



“The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.”
Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
       American rock musician, provocateur and entrepreneur     
       A famous quotation
widely attributed to Zappa, though it’s unclear if and when he said it 
his excellent Big Apple language history site, Barry Popik notes that in a 1992 interview journalist Jon Winokur reminded Zappa that he “once said” the line.
      Zappa didn’t actually confirm that he’d said those words in the interview. But the quote does seem consistent with his typically critical view of the American political and legal system.

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Related reading and viewing…

February 8, 2017

“We don’t need no stinking badges!” (Or badgers!)


“Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” 
       Alfonso Bedoya, as the Mexican bandit “Gold Hat”
       In the classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
       Contrary to what many people think, the famous quote about “stinking badges” in the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is not “We don’t need no stinking badges!” That’s a comic paraphrase of the words spoken in the film.
       The movie’s famous lines are from a tense scene in which three American gold prospectors, played by Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt, are confronted by a group of heavily-armed Mexicans in a remote area of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. The character who is the leader of the Mexicans, called “Gold Hat” in the credits, is played by Alfonso Bedoya.
       He tells the prospectors: “We are federales. You know, the mounted police.”
       Bogart says skeptically: “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

       Bedoya sneeringly responds
: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” 
In the 1927 book by B. Traven that inspired the film, Gold Hat’s answer is: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre.”


“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
Mickey Dolenz 
       In a 1967 episode of The Monkees TV show (Season 2, Episode 1)
       “We don’t need no stinking badges!” was made world famous when it was used in the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles. But that was not the first use.
      In the Monkees episode
“It’s A Nice Place To Visit,” originally aired on September 11, 1967, Mickey and two of his Monkees bandmates, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, dress up as Mexican bandits to save their singer Davy Jones from a “real” Mexican bandit. Before they leave to find Davy, Michael Nesmith says: “Wait a minute, don’t you think maybe we oughtta take something out with us, like a club card or some badges?”
      Mickey replies with a heavy Mexican accent: “Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!”


“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” 
Rick Garcia, playing a Mexican bandit 
       In the movie Blazing Saddles (1974)
       This is the use that popularized those famed words and made it common for people to say “we don’t need no stinking [whatever]” as a joking comment about almost anything. The lines come in a scene in which the corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman, gives a sheriff’s badge to one of his Mexican bandit henchmen, played by Rick Garcia. Hedley says: “Be ready to attack Rock Ridge at noon tomorrow. Here’s your badge.”

       Garcia throws the badge away and sneers
: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”


“Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers.”  
Trinidad Silva, playing TV show host Raul Hernandez
       In the 1989 “Weird Al” Yankovic movie UHF 
       The character Raul Hernandez is the host of a low-budget show about animals called “Raul’s Wild Kingdom” in this gonzo movie.
During one scene, a truck pulls up outside his house to deliver some new animals. The driver reads Raul a list of the animals in the shipment — which include three badgers.
       Bogart says skeptically: Raul responds with an homage to the Monkees/Blazing Saddles quote by saying: “Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers.”


       In a cartoon about Noah and the ark by Alex Barker, on his
Cake or Death site

Lucinda Williams DUST album

“I don’t have what Tom Petty has. I don’t have catering, I don’t have limousines. I’ve got Buick 6! I don’t need no stinking limo!”
       Lucinda Williams
       American rock, blues and country music singer and songwriter 
       A funny comment she made in a January 2017 interview about her latest concert tour. Her backup band includes three musicians who play together under the name “Buick 6.” They are bass player David Sutton, drummer Butch Norton and guitarist Stuart Mathis.

We Don t Need No Stinkin Leashes tshirt

“We Don’t Need No Stinkin Leashes!”
      The slogan on a T-shirt I bought on Amazon, which features an image of dog dressed like Alfonso Bedoya’s Mexican bandit “Gold Hat” in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

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Related reading, viewing and stinkin’ fashionwear…


January 25, 2017

“I think, therefore I am” — and some variations I think are funny (therefore they are)…

Rene Descartes cogito ergo sum quote 3a

Cogito ergo sum.” (“I think, therefore I am.”)
       René Descartes (1596-1650)
       French mathematician and philosopher  
       Famous axiom in his book
Principia Philosophiae (Principles of Philosophy, 1644)
       Descartes first recorded the axiom in French, as “Je pense, donc je suis,” in his philosophical and mathematical treatise, Le Discours de la Méthode (A Discourse on Method, 1637). However, the Latin version from Principia Philosophiae —
“Cogito ergo sum”is better known.
       The French and Latin versions of the quote have traditionally been translated in English as “I think, therefore I am.”
       Alternate translations include “I am thinking, therefore I am” and “I am thinking, therefore I exist.”


“He tweets, therefore he is. Twitter gives him a platform to say whatever he wants completely unfiltered. The media can’t and won’t do that for him.”
John Feehery
       Republican political consultant
in an article media writer James Warren posted on the Vanity Fair website on December 6, 2016
       (Cartoon by
Kim Warp.)

We Eat Therefore We Hunt poster-8x6

“We eat, therefore we hunt.”
       Sarah Palin
       Conservative American politician, celebrity and avid hunter 
       This comes from the
rambling speech Palin gave on July 26, 2009, announcing her resignation as Governor of Alaska. The full quote is: “Stand strong, and remind them patriots will protect our guaranteed, individual right to bear arms, and by the way, Hollywood needs to know, we eat, therefore we hunt.”

I Suck Therefore I am-8x6

“I Suck Therefore I Am” 
       Agus Suwage  
       Indonesian artist
       This is the title of the 2004 painting by Suwage shown at left. At the time, it was estimated to be worth up to 207,000 Malaysian Ringgits (over $61,975 in U.S. currency). Other works by Suwage have
sold for even more, so I guess some people don’t think he sucks.

I Shop Therefore I am-8x6

“I Shop Therefore I Am”
Barbara Kruger
       American multimedia artist  
       These words on the artwork by Kruger shown at left are seemingly a send-up of consumerism. But ironically, the image was
later used on tote bags and t-shirts sold by Bloomingdale’s. 


I Teach Therefore I Drink-8x6

“I Teach Therefore I Drink”  
       A slogan on t-shirts
sold on Amazon and other sites. They seem to be quite popular. I’m not sure what that says about the teaching profession. 

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook group.

Some books with a title or subtitle based on Descartes’ quote (there are even more)…

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