July 16, 2019

“The past is a foreign country...”


“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
Leslie P. Hartley (1895-1972)
       British novelist and short story writer
       The first sentence in his novel
The Go-Between (1953)
       This is one of the most famous opening lines in modern literary history. It sets the stage for a story about class differences, sexual mores and love in England during the early Twentieth Century. The novel is written as the reminiscence of Leo Colston, a British man in his sixties. In looking through some of his old possessions, Colston comes across a diary he wrote in 1900 when he was thirteen. This sparks memories of the role he played as a fairly clueless “go-between” who carried messages back and forth for an older, upper class girl who was having a socially taboo affair with a “lower class” tenant farmer.
       The opening words of the novel have essentially become a modern proverbial saying.


“To young progressives, Biden is a voice of the past. The English novelist L.P. Hartley once wrote, ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ Like bipartisanship and compromise. And collaboration with outright racists. To older Democrats, however, the past is when things used to work — before Trump came along to cause chaos and disruption. They’re counting on Biden to restore that past.”
        Bill Schneider
        Political journalist, Professor at George Mason University and author of Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable
        In an opinion piece published on The Hill website, July 7, 2019


“The past may be a foreign country where they do things differently as the L. P. Hartley line has it, but it is one to which many would readily immigrate given the opportunity.”
Michael Sacasas
       American writer and theologian
       In a post about the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris (2011)
on his blog “The Fairest Thing”


“It’s easy to get washed along in nostalgia, to end up overshadowed by the past, because the past is a perfect country, a place we’ve made better in our heads through selective amnesia.”               
       Emily Todd VanDerWerff
       American TV reviewer and critic 
       Reflecting on the HBO series about mobsters, The Sopranos, in a post on the AV Club website         


“If the past is a foreign country, it is a shockingly violent one. It is easy to forget how dangerous life used to be, how deeply brutality was once woven into the fabric of daily existence. Cultural memory pacifies the past, leaving us with pale souvenirs whose bloody origins have been bleached away. A woman donning a cross seldom reflects that this instrument of torture was a common punishment in the ancient world; nor does a person who speaks of a whipping boy ponder the old practice of flogging an innocent child in place of a misbehaving prince. We are surrounded by signs of the depravity of our ancestors’ way of life, but we are barely aware of them. Just as travel broadens the mind, a literal-minded tour of our cultural heritage can awaken us to how differently they did things in the past.”
       Steven Pinker
       Canadian-born Harvard psychologist and author
       From his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2013)       


“All of life is a foreign country.”
       Jack Kerouac (1922–1969)
       American writer and founding father of the Beat movement in literature
       In a letter he wrote on June 24, 1949, cited in the book The Beat Vision: A Primary Sourcebook

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July 2, 2019

“Houston, we have a problem.”


“Houston, we have a problem”
        Tom Hanks (as astronaut James Lovell) in the movie Apollo 13

        This famous line from the 1995 movie Apollo 13 is spoken by Hanks, playing the role of astronaut James Lovell, when an oxygen tank on the space craft explodes. That explosion, on April 13, 1970, forced Apollo 13’s lunar landing mission to be scrubbed and the crew came close to being suffocated or frozen to death before they managed to land safely back on Earth four days later.
       The movie line is close to what Lovell actually said, but it’s a misquote. What he actually said was, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
       For more on the backstory about this quotation and the other famous quote from the movie Apollo 13 —  “Failure is not an option” — see the post on my ThisDayinQuotes.com site at this link.


“Humor, We Have a Problem.”
       Headline for a review of the 2019 movie Men in Black: International by Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2019
       Morgenstern said (with little apparent sense of humor himself): “No need to huff and puff about the idiocy of ‘Men in Black: International.’ It is what it is, an industrial product recycled from the remnants of an exhausted franchise and aimed at a young audience that may not know or care what a joy the original was.”


“‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem”
        Headline for a 2018 review of Netflix’s reboot of the series Lost in Space
by Matthew Gilbert on the Boston Globe website
        Like other fans of the original Lost in Space series, Gilbert was dismayed by the new versions robot, saying he “resembles the fish-man in ‘The Shape of Water,’ but he’s got a headlight for a face, a digitally processed voice, and bluish metal outfitting. He’s sleek and shiny and boring.” Gilbert concluded: “And that’s the deal with the whole “Lost in Space” reboot: sleek, shiny, and boring.”


“Houston, She’s Got Some Problems”
       Headline for a story about former astronaut Lisa Nowak
in Time magazine, February 2007, after Nowak was arrested for assault on a woman who was having an affair with a male astronaut Nowak was enamored with.
        Nowak had driven 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, Florida, carrying a knife, a BB gun, pepper spray, latex gloves and rubber tubing — and wearing a diaper as she drove so she wouldn’t have to stop on the way.


“America, We Have a Problem...The status quo — our foreign policy, our economic health, our exceptionalism — is fraying before our very eyes.”
        Headline for an April 2019 opinion piece by Conservative political pundit Robert W. Merry
on RepublicanMatters.com website
        In the piece, Merry notes that our country’s Social Security system is running out of money, America has looming debt crisis, illegal immigration is out of control, and the entire American geopolitical grand strategy, especially its policy with regard to Russia and Iran, is “unsustainable.” Naturally, most readers of RepublicanMatters.com believe liberal Democrats are to blame.


“America, We Have a Problem”
        Headline for an opinion piece about President Donald Trump by Connecticut 8th Grade student Finnegan Courtney
on his school’s scholastic newspaper website in March 2019
        Courtney says: “We have a problem as a country. No, it isn’t overpopulation, it isn’t middle school mold issues, it isn’t lead in waters, it isn’t the New York Mets. It’s a problem with the President of the United States. Donald Trump is slowly, but surely ruining our country through no fault of the common folk but of himself.”


“Houston, we have a problem. We are out of toilet paper.”
        Cartoon by Justin Vestal
published on the Gunaxin.com website in February 2010


“Houston, we may have a problem.”
        Caption for a photo on the “Twisted Truckers” Facebook page
, showing a big tractor-trailer rig stuck in a tunnel, somewhere in New York in 2018

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