May 7, 2017

“Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna Karenina quote, Leo Tolstoy (1878) 02a


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
       Russian novelist, playwright and essayist
first line of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina (1878)
       This sentence—one of the most famous opening lines in literature—is also sometimes translated as “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
       The character Anna Karenina is an aristocratic Russian woman who leaves her husband for a rich count named Alexei Vronsky. Their affair has tragic consequences for Anna. In a contrasting subplot, a country landowner named Konstantin Levin finds happiness in his marriage to Kitty, the sister-in-law of Anna’s brother.
       Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina during a period when his own life with his long-suffering
wife Sophia (who he nicknamed Sonya) was becoming increasingly unhappy for both of them. The story was initially published in installments in the journal Russkii Vestrik (The Russian Herald, a.k.a. The Russian Messenger) from January 1875 to April 1877. The first complete book version, in Russian, was published in 1878. The first English translation was published in 1918. Since then, Anna Karenina has often been cited as one of the greatest novels of all time, though some modern readers find it a bit boring (in its own classic way). 
       Nearly twenty film and TV adaptations of the novel have been made. Actresses who have played Anna Karenina in those adaptations include Great Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Nicola Paget, Jacqueline Bissett, Sophie Marceau, Helen McCrory and Keira Knightley.
       I'm hoping Carol Peletier from The Walking Dead TV series will play Anna in the zombie adaptation, which is bound to come sooner or later.

Vladimir Nabokov


“All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike.”
       Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
       Russian-born American novelist and entomologist 
       His response to Tolstoy’s famous line in the novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969)

Robert Fulford photo-8x6


“It may be the silliest damn sentence ever set down by a great author, Leo Tolstoy’s opening of Anna Karenina...He got things backwards. Experience and literature both demonstrate that happy families come in all shapes and sizes, but the burdens of unhappy families (emotional indifference, poverty, alcoholism, irresponsibility) are painfully predictable.”
Robert Fulford
       Canadian journalist, broadcaster and editor
Comment in his weekly column for The National Post, August 2, 2005

John Pitcher

“To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy musicians are all the same. For the Taylor Swifts of this world, life is one big frosted cupcake. Wretched artists, however, are godforsaken each in their own way.”
       John Pitcher
       American classical music and dance critic
a 2013 article about the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in on



“To paraphrase the great fashion critic Leo Tolstoy, each of the terrible red carpet looks from the 2012 Grammy Awards were terrible in their own way. Sacrilegiously terrible: Nicki Minaj, who showed up in a blood red wimple and studded cloak with her own personal confessor. Turns out that was just a prelude to her performance art piece later in the night, ‘The Exorcism of Roman.’”
       Vicki Hyman
       American celebrity news journalist
a post in her column on the The Star-Ledger website

Molly Ball-8x6


“All winning campaigns are brilliant in hindsight — it’s Tolstoy’s First Rule of Politics (corollary: every losing campaign is dysfunctional in its own way).”
       Molly Ball 
       American journalist who writes regularly for The Atlantic and  
       Her astute observation in
a February 1, 2012 post on The Atlantic website about the Presidential primary election



“I believe it was Tolstoy who once wrote, ‘Tasty fast food items are all alike; every crappy fast food item is crappy in its own way.’ To this principle I must add a corollary which shall forevermore be known as the Stuffed Breadsticks Corollary: …but some crappy fast food items are crappy IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.” 
“Jasper,” the online fast food critic and impulse buy reviewer 
       In his
April 11, 2011 review of the Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks (Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger) on The Impulsive Buy website (known for “Putting the ‘ew’ in product reviews”)

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April 19, 2017

“Hell is other people” – and their taste in music…

Hell is quiz quotes FINAL


“Hell is other people.” (“L’enfer, c’est les Autres.”)
       Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
       French existential philosopher and writer and Marxist social activist
       This is the oft-quoted line from Sartre’s play No Exit (titled Huis Clos in French), spoken by the character Joseph Garcin. The play was first performed in French at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier theatre in Paris in May 1944. It was first performed in English at the Biltmore Theatre in New York City in 1946, using the translation by the renowned Beat writer and translator, Paul Bowles.  
       Bowles was a bit creative in his translation. “Huis clos” is a French idiomatic expression that’s similar to the English legal term “in camera,” meaning a judicial proceeding or discussion held in private. In fact, the play has sometimes been performed and filmed in English under the title In Camera.
       A more literal translation of “Huis Clos” would be “behind closed doors.” However, the play is best known by the title Bowles came up with. Apparently, it was a hellish translation challenge for him. In the biography Paul Bowles: A Life, he is quoted as saying: “I’m not very good at titles. It took me six weeks to get No Exit out of Huis Clos.”
       No Exit/Huis Clos is about the three doomed souls: a man, Joseph Garcin, and two women, Inès Serrano and Estelle Rigault. They are condemned to Hell for their sins. But instead of facing flames and torture, they are locked together in a room furnished in the Second French Empire style. (Hellish in itself!) There’s not much for them to do except talk about themselves and eventually deal with Estelle’s attempt to seduce Joseph.

French Church of Satan


“Have you heard the expression ‘Hell is other people’? This is true, especially if the other people are French.”
       Satan (as quoted by writer David Katz)
       In a humorous “interview” with the Lord of Hell, “What I’ve Learned: Satan,” published in Esquire magazine, January 2007.

T.S. Eliot Cocktail Party play poster


“What is hell? Hell is oneself,
  Hell is alone, the other figures in it
  Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
  And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.”
       T.S. Eliot
       British poet and playwright
       Said by the character Edward Chamberlayne in Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party, first performed in 1949. In the play, Edward makes amends with his wife Lavinia at a party, after they’d split due to his infidelity. It was the most popular of Eliot’s seven plays in his lifetime.

The Heming Way book


“Hell isn’t other people; it’s other people when you’re sober.”
       Marty Beckerman

       American author
       In his very funny book The Heming Way, which spoofs Ernest Hemingway’s uber-manly attitudes and behavior. The subtitle is How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested Retro-Sexual Legend Within, Just Like Papa!

Wilson movie


“Hell may be other people, but they’re all we’ve got.”
       Stephanie Zacharek
       Film critic for Time magazine
       Her encapsulation of the point of the movie Wilson (starring Woody Harrelson as the title character), in her review in Time, April 3, 2017. The film is based on the graphic novel by American cartoonist Daniel Clowes.

Li'l Bastard by David McGimpsey


“Hell is other people’s taste in music.”
       David McGimpsey

       Canadian poet and novelist
       In his book of sonnets, Li’l Bastard (2011)

john guzlowski on Twitter


“Hell is other people’s politics.”
       John Guzlowski
       Polish-born American writer and poet
       His response on Twitter to a tweet by Quaint Magazine that said: “Throughout the next few days, we'll be reposting links to work we've published that speaks to the current political climate.”

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April 12, 2017

In space no one can hear you scream (or retch, or sigh, or…)

Alien movie poster


“In space no one can hear you scream.”
       The memorable marketing slogan used for the 1979 movie Alien 
       This famous tagline and the image of the alien egg used for posters and ads promoting Alien were created by Steve Frankfurt and Philip Gips, partners of the graphic design firm Frankfurt Gips Balkind (now In Sync Bemis Balkind). It has been repurposed, copied and parodied countless times ever since.

PASSENGERS movie poster 2016


“In space, no one can hear you retch.”
       Barry Hertz
       Film critic for the UK Globe and Mail
       This is the pointed headline of his review of the 2016 science fiction movie Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, published in the Globe and Mail, December 20, 2016.
       “It’s Stockholm Syndrome masked as true love, and it is sickening,” Hertz said of the film’s plot. Most critics and women’s rights activists agreed. The film was widely-criticized as being cluelessly sexist. Why? In a nutshell, Pratt’s character finds himself to be the only crew member who’s awakened from cryogenic sleep on a spaceship taking a long voyage. He gets lonely, fixates Lawrence’s still-hibernating body and wakes her up. He lies to her by saying her revival was a pod malfunction, then woos her. In the minds of the spaced-out producers who greenlit Passengers, this was supposed to be a romantic storyline.

LIFE movie poster, 2017


“Don’t let the very good cast fool you, this outer space adventure is just another Alien clone...In space, no one can hear you sigh with resignation.”
       Adam Graham
       Film critic at the Detroit News
       In his review of the science fiction movie Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds, published in the Detroit News, March 23, 2017.

Alien Covenant movie poster 2017


“In space, no-one can hear you scream...except whatever it is that’s about to rip your chest apart.”
       Susan Arendt
       US Executive Editor for GamesRadar and Co-founder of
       In her article on the GamesRadar site previewing the sixth movie in the Alien series, Alien Covenant (2017).  

Space Above and Beyond Boot Camp scene


“In space, no one can hear you scream – unless it is the battle cry of the United States Marines!”
       Line yelled at a group of rookie marines by Drill Sergeant Frank Bougus (played by actor R. Lee Ermey) in the boot camp scene in the first episode of the TV series Space: Above and Beyond, first aired on September 24, 1995. (One of my favorite science fiction TV shows, gone too soon after only one season.)

Danny Charnley tweet


“in space, no one can hear your political views”
       Danny Charnley 
       American writer and comedian
In a Twitter tweet about the overabundance of idiotic political posts on sites like Twitter and Facebook. (A modern phenomenon that is scarier than most science fiction horror movies.)

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March 28, 2017

“The pen is mightier than the sword”


“Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword.”

       Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)
       British politician and playwright
       In his play Richelieu (1839) 
       Although Bulwer-Lytton’s line “The pen is mightier than the sword” is the most famous use and is often cited as the first, the basic concept was already proverbial and has many predecessors.

Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart


“Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.” 
       Adrian Carton de Wiart (1880-1963)
       British Army officer and war hero 
       In his autobiography, Happy Odyssey, first published in 1950 
       De Wiart’s comment undoubtedly reflects his experiences as a soldier in the Boer War, World War I and World War I. In the course of those conflicts, he lost his left eye, part of an ear, and his left hand. He is considered one of the bravest badasses in military history.

Matthew Russell


“If the pen is mightier than the sword, what does that say about the tweet?”
       Matthew A. Russell
       American computer scientist and author
       An observation he made in his 2011 book Mining the Social Web. It seems even more prescient in view of the role Twitter has played in the rise and presidency of Donald Trump.

Steve Lonegan-8x6


“We cannot allow the pen to be mightier than the sword!”
       Steve Lonegan 
       Republican politician who became Senior Policy Director for “Americans for Prosperity”
       Speaking against the Democrats’ proposed “Affordable Health Care Act” (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) at a December 15, 2009 “Tea Party” protest

Jon Stewart with Lonegan-8x6


“And, that is why, today, I’ve written my speech with my sword, and...We can’t let the pen be mightier than the sword [!?!] — because that’s ONLY THE BASIS OF OUR CIVILIZATION!
       Jon Stewart 
       American comedian and political satirist
       Making fun of Steve Lonegan’s quote on The Daily Show on December 16, 2009

Get Thee To a Punnery, Richard Lederer-8x6


“The pun is mightier than the sword.” 
       Richard Lederer 
       American word and phrase maven, author, speaker, and teacher 
       One of the puns in his book Get Thee to a Punnery (1988)

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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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