September 12, 2018

Different drummers, from Thoreau, Flo, Snow and more...


“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 (1817-1862)
       American essayist, poet, philosopher and social activist
       A famous passage in the concluding chapter of his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods (published in 1854)
       This quotation from Thoreau’s Walden became famous within a few decades after the book was published and used to describe someone who is somehow special, different or iconoclastic. It also came to be used as words of encouragement urging people to pursue their own paths. Eventually, Thoreau’s quote morphed into the modern idiomatic sayings “march to a different drummer” and “march to the beat of a different drummer,” now often used without reference to him.
       Those sayings are often applied to people who are leaders in their fields or on a higher level than most people in some way. But, ironically, Thoreau’s quotation, when read in the context of the sentences before and after it, seems to have almost the opposite meaning. It seems to suggest that it’s OK to accept having a humble status as long as you find satisfaction in the path you decide you want to follow.
     “Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men. But what is that to the purpose?” Thoreau wrote. “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. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple tree or an oak...However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.”

“I find that few men of imagination are not worth my attention. Their ideas may be wrong, even foolish, but their methods often repay a close study. Few honest passions are not based on some valid perception of unity or some anomaly worthy of note. The different drummer often beats a fruitful tempo.”
       Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2001)

       American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and science historian
       Commenting on past theories of pioneering scientists that are now viewed as wrong, in his book The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1980).

“Even my different drummer had a different drummer.”
Florence King (1936-2016)

       American journalist, novelist and columnist             
       I first saw
versions of this quip attributed to King as a description she gave of herself in one of her books and it does seem apt. Florence was a conservative, bisexual feminist who was critical of both the “rubes” in the Southern U.S. culture she grew up in and of liberal Democrats. Some sources suggest the line is in her most popular book Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (1985), but I her original use may have been something she wrote about someone else in another book. In With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look At Misanthropy (1992) she says of the 18th Century American Puritan Jonathan O’Dell: “even his different drummer heard a different drummer.” I suspect she did say “even my different drummer had a different drummer” when describing herself to interviewers and others, but I’m not sure it’s in one of her books. If you can confirm that she is, please send me an email

“Small town residents march to a different drummer. Their lives are slower paced. They seem to be slower to anger, quicker to forgive, more at peace with the deck of cards that life has dealt them.”
A.C. Snow

        American journalist, newspaper columnist and editor
        This positive view of small town residents comes from
Snow’s May 9, 2018 column in the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer. Some people who grew up or spent some time in small towns may not agree with it. (Florence King, for example.)

“When you think of the ‘drummer’ type, you think of someone like Ringo Starr, or Charlie Watts, or Alex Van Halen. Guys who are not the flashiest or most attractive, or even the most talented, but nonetheless are ‘part of the band.’ If you are attracted to ‘drummers,’ it is because you are insecure and don't think you deserve any better. You want a man to ‘set the pace’ for you, but you can’t commit and are always looking to ‘march to a different drummer.’ Your choosing a drummer is unfortunately a ‘cymbal’ of your unwillingness to ‘get on the stick’ and make your own choices!”
Cathryn Michon

       American writer, actress, filmmaker and stand-up comic
       Self-help advice, of a sort, in her book
The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (With Other People): A Self-Help Novel (2005)
“I Don’t March to the Beat of a Different Drummer, I’m the Whole Band: Perceptions of a Bipolar Life ”
       Leslie Jay (born Leslie Jay Lytton)

       This is the witty sardonic title of the short book Jay wrote about the struggles he faced from being, and a life spent in and out of psychiatric facilities. It was published in 2004. Leslie died on 2016.

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June 30, 2018

“Early to bed and early to rise…”

Early to Bed Ben Franklin poster


“Early to bed and early to rise,               
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

       Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
       American author, publisher, scientist, diplomat and Founding Father
       One of the proverbial sayings Franklin included in Poor Richard's Almanack, which he published from 1732 to 1758 under the pseudonym Richard Saunders.
       Franklin is sometimes wrongly credited with coining this familiar poetic adage. But, like most of the sayings he used in various editions of his popular almanac, he borrowed it from other sources. He wrote in the 1746 edition: “I know as well as thee, that I am no poet born; and it is a trade I never learnt, nor indeed could learn…Why then should I give my readers bad lines of my own, when good ones of other people’s are so plenty?”
       The “Early to bed...” saying is an old English proverb dating back to at least 1486. Franklin first used it in the 1735 edition of Poor Richard's Almanack.
       (The image at left is the “‘Early To Bed And Early To Rise’ motivational poster” offered on Amazon.)

James Thurber


“Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.”
       James Thurber (1894-1961)
       American writer, cartoonist and playwright             
       The moral of his story “The Shrike and the Chipmunks,” originally published in the February 18, 1939 issue of New Yorker magazine, then included in his book Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940).             
       Thurber’s fables were humorous versions of Aesop’s Fables. “The Shrike and the Chipmunks” features a male and female chipmunk. The male is a slob who likes to sleep all day and doesn’t go out of their cave until after dark. One evening when the male chipmunk goes outside, a shrike decides to swoop down and try to catch him. But the bird, unnoticed by the chipmunks, “could not see very well on account of the dark, so he batted his head against an alder branch and was killed.” Not long afterward, the female chipmunk berates the male for being lazy. She makes him go outside with her for a walk in the sun to get some exercise — and they are both caught and killed by a different shrike. The story ends with the Aesop-like line: “Moral: Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy and wealthy and dead.”



“Remember what Pappy used to say: ‘Early to bed and early to rise is the curse of the working classes.’”
       Bret Maverick (played by actor James Garner)
       Recalling one of the many sayings of his father Beau Maverick, in “The Rivals” episode of the Western TV series Maverick. (First aired January 25, 1959)
       Sayings by Beau "Pappy" Maverick are mentioned many times during the course of the series by Bret and his brothers Bart, played by Jack Garner, and Beau (named after his father), played by Roger Moore. He is finally seen in the September 19, 1959 episode titled “Pappy,” in which he is played by James Garner.

Laurence J. Peter


“Early to bed and early to rise — till you get enough money to do otherwise.”
       Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990)
       Canadian author, educator and hierarchiologist best known to the general public for the formulation of the “Peter Principle” (“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to the level of his incompetence.”)
       This “early to bed…” variation is one of the sayings included in his book Peter's Almanac (1924)

Early to bed - Garfield, June 25, 2018 color


JON: “I like this saying by Benjamin Franklin. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’
GARFIELD: “And lonely, dateless and boring.”             
       The June 25, 2018 edition of the Garfield comic strip, created by Jim Davis

Early to Bed... From Earl Moran calendar Aug 1950 REV2


“Early to bed
May make you wise,
But staying out late
Will get you more guys.”

       The caption of artist Earl Moran’s “good girl art” illustration for the August page in the 1950 Paramount Oilless Bearing Co. calendar

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May 8, 2018

“I have seen the future and it works.” (But not in the future.)


“I have seen the future and it works.”
       Lincoln Steffens
       American “muckraking” journalist and social activist 
       Remark in
a letter to Marie Howe, dated April 3, 1919, about his visit to Soviet Russia. Russia had recently become the first major Communist nation, adopting a political system based (theoretically) on the doctrines of Karl Marx. At the time, many liberal activists like Steffens believed that such a Socialist system would be good for the majority of citizens and should be adopted by other countries.
       Steffens used several versions of his famous controversial prediction over the years. One of the most cited variations comes from
his 1931 autobiography. In that, Steffens wrote that American businessman Bernard Baruch once said to him, “So you’ve been over into Russia?, and he replied: “I have been over into the future and it works.” Steffens also noted in his autobiography that, by the time he wrote it, he had become disillusioned with Communism.

I have seen the future at Amazon


“Amazon’s new idea goes to extremes to treat employees like fleshy robots. The Seattle-based company was just granted two patents for employee wristbands that look like something from dystopian science fiction...wristbands that track where a given warehouse workers’ hands are at all times. You read that correctly. I have seen the future, and it’s just rows and rows of low-paid workers in endless warehouses being told to stop picking their noses. Or to get back from their bathroom break, as it were.”
       Matt Novak
       Editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog
       In a blog post on January 31, 2018



        A classic Grumpy Cat meme


“I have seen the future and it doesn’t work.”
       Zardoz (1974 film)
       Tagline used as sequential words on screen
in the trailer for this campy science fiction movie, starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling.


“I have seen the future, and it sucks...Movie posters suck these days. They’re going to suck even more tomorrow. And as we shuck and jive (and text and Facebook) ever onward into the digital future, movie posters will just keep doggedly and willfully sucking all the more. It’s a headlong progression of suckage, a symptom of the mass-produced everything-by-committee mindset of our culture.”
Frank Darabont
       Hungarian-born American movie director, producer and screenwriter
       Comments in the introduction he wrote for the book The Art of Drew Struzan, a lushly illustrated book about the man Time magazine called "the Last Movie Poster Artist."


“I have seen the future and it is just like the present, only longer.”
       The Profit by “Kehlog Albran”  
       This 1973 book, actually written by Martin A. Cohen and Sheldon Shacket, is a spoof of Khalil Gibran’s popular mystical philosophy book The Prophet (1923).


“I have seen the future of the web and it looks like bad public access television.” 
      Robert P. Libbon
      American writer and “Director of Covert Activities” for the magicians Penn and Teller   
      A quip his computer book parody Byte Me! Computing for the Terminally Frustrated (1996)

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April 19, 2018

“The wages of sin”


Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna

“For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
       Saint Paul (c. 5 A.D - 64 A.D.)             
       One of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and key founder of the Christian Church
       The King James Bible version of Romans 6:23 
       Romans is the sixth book of the Bible. It’s one of the “Pauline epistles” (or letters), written by Paul around 55 A.D. His Epistles, sent to members of early Christian churches, were incorporated into the New Testament and became foundational texts for the Christian religion. In Chapter 6 of Romans, Paul discusses a fundamental part of his vision for the Christian faith: the belief that sinners can be forgiven, redeemed and go to heaven if they accept Jesus and become faithful Christians.      
       Verse 23 is the origin of the cautionary saying “the wages of sin is death,” which is sometimes used literally. Indeed, there are many risky “sins” that increase your odds of dying. But most Biblical scholars say that in Romans 6:23 Paul was not talking about the literal death of the body. He was suggesting that the spirit, or soul, of unrepentant sinners would be “dead,” and they would not go to Heaven. However, Paul explained, there is hope for sinners. If they stop sinning and accept Jesus Christ as their savior, they will be rewarded with the “gift” of eternal life in Heaven, where — according to legend — Saint Paul is stationed at the “the Pearly Gates” to admit the worthy and send the unworthy to Hell.           

Sin tax cartoon

“It is somewhat ironic that the first tax revenues that were imposed were those on the consumption of whiskey, which sparked the Whiskey Rebellion. But this rebellion was put down and provided legislators the opportunity to impose taxes and collect on them. It also established the custom of taxing 'sin' and enshrining the adage ‘The wages of sin is a tax.’”
       Richard McGowan
       Associate Professor at Boston College
       In his 1994 book State Lotteries and Legalized Gambling: Painless Revenue or Painful Mirage. (Cartoon by J.D. Crowe.)

<<enter caption here>> at The Ice House Comedy Club on July 12, 2012 in Pasadena, California.

“The wages of sin are death, but after taxes are taken out, it’s just kind of a tired feeling.”
       Paula Poundstone
       American comedienne and author             
       One of my favorite jokes from her stand-up comedy routines

Jonathan Davis

“The wages of sin is outperformance for investors...investors often do well by investing in companies operating in ‘sin industries’ and countries where corruption is most developed. Doing bad, in other words, can often mean doing good for investor returns.”
       Jonathan Davis
       British author, editor and journalist specializing in finance
       In an article in the Financial Times, February 22, 2015. Davis suggests that “sin industries” may now not only include tobacco, alcohol, and gambling but, arguably, scandal-ridden banks.


“The wages of sin is when people do unta you what ya did unta them.”
       Rodman Philbrick
       American writer of novels for adults and children             
       A bit of folk wisdom spoken to the character Zane Dupree by his grandmother, in the novel Zane and the Hurricane (2014)
       The book is about Zane’s recollections of Hurricane Katrina. His grandma’s comment relates to a local drug dealer, though it certainly has wider application. Kane recalls:
       “Dylan Toomey...was killed by one of the underage kids who worked for him selling drugs. It's awful and all, but Grammy said it best when she heard the news. She said, ‘The wages of sin is when people do unta you what ya did unta them.’ Amen to that. To be honest there’s a lot I don’t understand about what happened after the storm, and why some people were so good and full of love and others so mean and hateful.

Deranged 1974 movie

“Remember, Ezra, the wages of sin are syphilis, gonorrhea and death.”             
       Ma Cobb (played by actress Cosette Lee), in the cult horror movie Deranged (1974).
       Ma Cobb is a religious fanatic who teaches her son Ezra to fear and hate women. Ezra overcomes his fear, but not his hate, becoming a serial killer who prefers female victims. But he loves Ma and after she’s dead and buried, he digs her up and brings her corpse home to keep him company. It’s a nice, family-oriented horror flick. (NOT!)


“The wages of sin is alimony.”
       Carolyn Wells (1862-1942)
       American writer and poet.             
       A line from her book of verse, Folly for the Wise (1904)             
       It comes from a section called “Maxioms,” which includes a litany of humorous twists on old sayings, including:
             “Reward is its own virtue.
              The wages of sin is alimony.
              A penny saved spoils the broth.
              Of two evils, choose the prettier.
             Nonsense makes the heart grow fonder.
             A word to the wise is a dangerous thing.”

Ron Jeffries

“The wages of sin is debugging.”
       Ron Jeffries
       American software developer and writer
       A saying Jeffries coined that is widely quoted by and well known to computer coding geeks

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April 2, 2018

Can a leopard change his spots?

Jeremiah the Biblical Prophet


“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”
Jeremiah, 13:23
       This question is posed by the gloomy
prophet Jeremiah in the book of the Bible named for and allegedly written by him. It comes from one of his many long rants (which gave rise to the term jeremiad). In this particular rant, he was warning the people of Judah (Jerusalem) that God was going to destroy them for becoming idolaters and sinners and “scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.”               
       Jeremiah’s question seems rhetorical on the surface. It’s the source of the proverbial sayings used to imply that people, animals or things cannot change or overcome their basic character or characteristics. One common idiomatic formula is a query based on, but shorter than, Jeremiah’s: “Can a leopard change his spots?” The other popular formulation is an affirmative statement, like “A leopard can’t change its spots.”   
       Jeremiah included an ambiguous twist to his famous question. The full quotation from Chapter 13, Verse 23 is: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”               
       Some Christian commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that hard-core sinners cannot become good people and will not be saved by God; they are doomed to be punished. But others have suggested that, while it may be difficult for a long-standing sinner to change and be saved, Jeremiah was saying it’s not impossible; those who strive hard to embrace the teachings of the Bible and become good can be saved by the grace of God.
       Of course, Jeremiah’s famous quote was recorded in a Biblical text written around 700 B.C. Modern events and science have provided some new information. For example,
Michael Jackson proved that with the help of certain chemical treatments a black man can indeed change his skin color. And, as noted in the book Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?: Answers to Rhetorical Questions (2011), scientists who study evolution have determined that, in fact, the patterns of spots on some subspecies of leopards have changed over time. 

James C. Hunter-8x6


“I find many people have deep-seated beliefs that people really cannot change all that much, if at all. Our culture even has clichés to support this lie like ‘A leopard can't change its spots’...If you do not believe that people can really change, I suggest you go to your local library and check out a few of the thousands of books you will find there about how people have changed their lives for good and become something quite different from what they once were.”
       James C. Hunter

       American author and inspirational speaker
From Chapter 7 of his book The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle (2004)

Al Gore angry


“A zebra does not change its spots.”
       Attributed to Al Gore
       American politician and environmental activist
       This purported “quote” by Gore shows up in thousands of posts on the internet and various books, such as the popular book The Stupidest Things Ever Said by Politicians (1999), edited by Ross and Kathryn Petras (who provide no source). In many posts it is claimed to be something Gore said while attacking George W. Bush's environmental record in 1992. In a discussion thread on, one person claims it was in the Congressional Record and another cites a 1995 column by Jerry Gladman in the Toronto Sun. I searched various newspaper archives and the Congressional Record and could not find it, except as a quote that is simply attributed to Gore. I've concluded that he probably didn't actually say it. After someone claimed he did and it was included in the popular Stupidest Things book, it took on a life of its own, as faux quotes often do. Gore may have said some stupid things, but I’m skeptical that the zebra “quote” is one of them.

Ben Carson talking


“For someone to wake up and think that they belong to a different sex because they feel different that day is the same as if you woke up and said, ‘I’m Afghani today’...Can a leopard change its spots? No.”  
       Ben Carson  
       American neurosurgeon-turned-Republican politician    
       From comments he made to reporters in July 2016, explaining why he thinks being transgender doesn’t make sense and apparently doesn’t accept the reality of modern transgender surgery. Some observers think Carson’s notoriously harsh views on transgender and homosexual people and his comment about the leopard are stupid. And, Ben knows about being stupid. As he explained in 2015, “people are not as stupid as [the media] think they are. Many of them are stupid, OK. But I'm talking about overall.” On that much, most of us might agree with him, though opinions vary on about which people are among the “many.” 



“You may change the leopard’s spots, but you will never change the different qualities of races which God has created…The Indian of one hundred and twenty-five years ago is the Indian of to-day—ameliorated, to a certain extent civilized, and yet the wisdom of our forefathers, when, in the Constitution, they set them apart as one people, separate and distinct from the great dominant race which had come to take this land and inhabit it, is indicated in what we are still doing and must forever do with them so long as they maintain their tribal relations and so long as they are Indians.”  
John Daniel (1842-1910) 
       Virginia lawyer, author and politician  
       In a February 1899 address to Congress while serving as U.S. Senator for Virginia. Quoted in the book
Shadowing the White Man's Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (2010) by Gretchen Murphy.

William Shakespeare-8x6[1]


King Richard: “Rage must be withstood...lions make leopards tame.”
Thomas Mowbray: “Yea, but not change his spots.”
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
       English playwright and poet 
from Act 1, Scene 1 of his play Richard II

        LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem-8x6


“1-2-3 to the 4
I’m dancin’ with as many super freaks as possible
You can’t change the spots on a leopard
In the club, the homies call me redfoo hefner.” 
       American electropop music duo  
       Lyrics from the song
“What Happens At The Party,” on their Party Rock album (2009) 
       Sorry, folks. I only have a dim understanding of WTF these LMFAO lyrics mean. You’ll have to figure them out for yourself.

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