May 30, 2020

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” from Bert Lance and basketball to Burger King and Dilbert – and beyond…



THE PROVERBIAL AXIOM:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
      
Bert Lance (1931-2013)
       American banker and political advisor to President Jimmy Carter
       This was
already a proverbial saying in the Southern U.S. and maybe elsewhere before Lance adopted it as one of his own favorite quips. But Lance is widely credited with popularizing the saying and making it a national catchphrase. It’s a pithy way of expressing the belief that if some thing or policy is working adequately, it makes no sense — and may be unwise — to try to change or improve it. Lance was a top advisor to Jimmy Carter during the 1976 presidential campaign and served as Carter’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget from January 1977 until he was forced to resign in September 1977, due to allegations of past banking improprieties. During that time, Lance’s use of the “If it ain’t broke…” saying was quoted in many news stories and articles and is still cited in many books about politics and quotations.

                       
JOHN WALL’S VIEW:          

“I understand how quickly this game can be taken away from you. I try to play through all injuries, because I feel like, ‘If it ain’t broke, go play.’ For me, if you take all the money away, I’m still going to play the game the same way I do, because that's how much I love it.”
        John Wall
        Washington Wizards basketball team point guard
        In an interview on May 27, 2020, commenting on his desire to get to playing basketball after being sidelined for nearly two years by surgeries for bone spurs and a tear in his Achilles tendon.

                       
THE BURGER KING EXAMPLE:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Right? Well, Burger King didn’t get the memo. They’ve decided to flip their 40-year-old slogan. The days of ‘Have It Your Way’ will soon be a thing of the past. Their new slogan ‘Be Your Way’ kicks off this month. What the heck does that even mean?”
       A May 23, 2014 article on NewsFixNow.com about the fast food chain’s puzzling new advertising slogan

 



ADVICE FOR REAL WORLD DILBERTS:

“Remember: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!" But if it is ‘broke’ or if the current operation is not optimum, make changes and additions for an improved operation that complies with ISO 9000 standards.”
       Quoted
in The American Society for Quality Control’s 49th Annual Quality Congress Proceedings (1995)

                       
THE “MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON” VERSION:

“If it is broke, you’ve got nothing to lose from trying.”
      
William Langewiesche
       American journalist and book author 
       In his book Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson (2009)
      
Langewiesche cited this as the philosophy adopted by pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey Skiles, who saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew members by successfully “landing” U.S. Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 after it was disabled in a collision with flying geese.

                       
THE SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE VERSION:

“There are still many, many people who aren’t willing to listen to mounting evidence about environmental dysfunction. Their mantra is, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but mine is, ‘If it ain’t fixable, don’t break it.’”
      
David Wann
       American author, filmmaker and advocate of “sustainable lifestyles”              
      
In his book Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle (2007)

                       
ADVICE FOR HUSBANDS WILLING TO RISK THEIR WIFE’S WRATH:

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and if it is broke wiggle your way out of fixing it.”
      
Quoted in the book Never Hang Wallpaper With Your Wife (2006) 
       A guide to “decorating and renovating from a guy’s point of view,” written by William S. Peckham and Michael C. Hammar

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading: books of quotations about politics and government…

February 12, 2020

God’s mysterious ways...



THE USUALLY MISQUOTED ORIGIN:

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”

        William Cowper (1731-1800)
        British poet and hymn writer
        From his Hymn No. 35, “Light Shining Out of Darkness”
        These are the opening lyrics of the hymn, which was first published in Olney Hymns (1779). The first two lines are usually misquoted as “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform” and often wrongly assumed to be a Bible quote.



THE INSURANCE COMPANY ANALOGY

“Insurance companies move in mysterious ways. Much like God...only far less generous.”
        The character Standish, played by actor Dan Duryea
        In the 1965 movie The Flight of the Phoenix



T.S. ELIOT’S HIPPO ANALOGY

“The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way
The Church can feed and sleep at once.”

        T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
        American-born British poet and playwright
        In his poem “The Hippopotamus” (1919)



MURPHY’S REVELATION:

“Life is mysterious to some, but God does not work in mysterious ways. The things which some consider as mysteries, others consider as revelations.”
        Zuriel Ann Murphy
        Nigerian-born UK inspirational author and speaker
        In her book The Spoken Word (2013)



RACHEL’S REVELATION:

“God doesn’t work in mysterious ways. He doesn’t give a shit. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Shit happens. Having faith doesn't make any difference. It’s just something to do while you go from point A to point B.”
        John Rachel
        American novelist and non-fiction book author
        The inner thoughts of a character in his novel The Man Who Loved Too Much, Book 1: Archipelago (2015)



ALTERNATIVES TO THE PLATITUDE:

“When people are in the middle of the darkest storm imaginable, the last thing they want to be told is that God is working everything together for good, and to trust in God's mysterious ways. It is not helpful. It is not comforting. It does not bring healing...The implication that God has predestined pain and suffering is unloving and can drive people away from the church. Making them a sandwich would be a better plan. Or cleaning their house. Or taking their children for an afternoon. Or just listening to them or sitting with them in silence.”
        Natalie Toon Patton
        American essayist, blogger and author
        In her essay “8 Sayings Christians Use to Let Ourselves off the Hook”
        Posted on the Sojo.net “faith in action” website, August 29, 2017

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Related reading…

January 24, 2020

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” – Woody Guthrie’s enduring words…


WOODY’S FAMED ANTI-FASCIST SLOGAN:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS”
      
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
       American folk musician and social activist
       The
legendary words he put on guitars he played
      
Some sources say Guthrie got his famous slogan from inscriptions painted on the sides of planes used by leftist Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), in their ultimately doomed attempt to prevent General Francisco Franco from imposing a Fascist dictatorship in Spain.
       Guthrie was a committed leftist himself (even an avowed Communist at one time), so that claim may be true. However, I was unable to find any authoritative history books or sites about the Spanish Civil War or any historic photos confirming the presence of the slogan on Republican airplanes, either in English or in the Spanish form “ESTA MÁQUINA MATA FASCISTAS.”
       Woody owned many acoustic guitars during his musical career. Photographs of him show that he played at least two adorned with the slogan “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.” In the best-known, now-iconic photo, the words are hand-written in large letters on the body of a guitar Guthrie has in front of him, hanging by a strap around his neck. In other photos, the words are on what appears to a hand-lettered sticker at the top of a guitar he is playing.
       Guthrie was certainly sypmpatico with the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. But unsurprisingly, in light of his strong pro-union and anti-racist activism, his definition of “Fascists” was broader than the political term applied to 20th Century political regimes in Europe. 
       The lyrics of his song
“All You Fascists” (which Guthrie once performed with the great African-American folk blues musician Sonny Terry on a radio show in 1944) say, in part:
          “
Race hatred cannot stop us
          This one thing we know
          Your poll tax and Jim Crow
          And greed has got to go... 
          I’m going into this battle
          And take my union gun
          We’ll end this world of slavery
          Before this battle’s won
          You’re bound to lose
          You fascists bound to lose!”


PETE’S PEACENIK VERSION:

“THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER”
      
Pete Seeger (1919-2014)
       American folk musician
       Words written on Seeger’s favorite banjo 
       Seeger was a close friend of Guthrie. He was also an equally committed social activist. But he was always a strong believer in pursuing change through non-violent means and preferred to avoid even a metaphorical reference to the use of violence to achieve social change in America. In
a 2009 CBS News article, Seeger explained: “He [Woody Guthrie] had a sign on his guitar saying, ‘This machine kills fascists.’ I wanted something a little more peaceful.”


AN UPDATED VERSION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:

“THIS MACHINE DRIVES NEOCON, HOMOPHOBIC, WAR-MONGERING, CORPORATIST, ANTI-INTELLECTUAL, POLLUTING, IMPERIALISTIC, CRYPTO-FASCIST, HATE-SPEAK, FAUX-POPULIST, THEOCRATIC, CHICKENHAWK PRIVATEERS FROM THE ROOM” 
      
Roy Zimmerman 
       American musician and humorist
       Slogan written in a spiral on Zimmerman’s banjo
       One of the witty songs on Zimmerman’s 2010 album
Real American is “This Machine,” which ends with this funny final chorus: “This machine drives neocon, jingoistic, war-mongering, theocratic, faux-populist, anti-intellectual, drill-a-holic, social Darwinist, racist, sexist, isolationist, derivative insecurities, tax-cheating, C Street, hard line, strip mine, tea-bag, confederate flag, Birthers, Flat-earthers, hate-speak, crypto-fascists — and Brit Hume — screaming from the room.”


THE ROMNEY APPROPRIATION PLAN VARIATION:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS MUPPETS”
       A witty photoshopped version I saw
on the Democratic Underground site
       It’s a satiric poke at the infamous remark Romney made about the Muppet character Big Bird during his first presidential debate with President Barack Obama. Romney claimed to love Big Bird but said he would cut federal funding for PBS, which airs the hugely popular children's show that features the Muppets, Sesame Street.


AN APPROPRIATION OF THE SLOGAN BY THE ANTI-GUN CONTROL SIDE:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS”
       Sign held by a protester opposing a renewed ban on assault rifles in the US 
       The protester and his sign, which juxtaposed the slogan with a drawing of an assault rifle, were featured in a January 2013 story about the gun control debate
on Reuters.com.


A COUNTERQUOTE BY THE PRO-GUN CONTROL SIDE:

“This machine kills people.”
       Caption on a photo of an assault rifle I saw posted on the now defunct “Social Polemics” website


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January 12, 2020

“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.”


THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATION FOR THE SIXTIES SLOGAN:

“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”
      
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
       American poet and writer
       A line from Sandburg’s epic prose poem The People, Yes (1936)
       In the 1960s, several variations of an anti-war slogan began appearing on posters, in print and in songs. The version that became most common (as shown by the
comparatively huge number of Google hits it gets) is “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” Other variations include “Suppose they gave a war and no one came” and “What if they gave a war and nobody came.” It’s not certain who coined the most familiar version, but this much is clear: all of the various iterations of the saying are ultimately descended from a line in Carl Sandburg’s book-length ode to America and it’s citizens, The People, Yes, first published in 1936.
       In the poem, the line is said by a little girl who sees a group of soldiers marching in a parade. It’s from a part of the poem in which Sandburg seems to foresee the potential devastation of a second and possibly a third world war:
       “
The first world war came and its cost was laid on the people.
       The second world war — the third — what will be the cost.
       And will it repay the people for what they pay?...
       The little girl saw her first troop parade and asked, 
       ‘What are those?’
       ‘Soldiers.’
       ‘What are soldiers?’
       ‘They are for war. They fight and each tries to kill as many of the other side as he can.’
       The girl held still and studied. 
       ‘Do you know ... I know something?’
       ‘Yes, what is it you know?’
       ‘Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.’


THE EVOLUTION OF THE SIXTIES SLOGAN:

“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” 
       Possibly coined by
James R. Newman 
       American mathematician, writer and editor of Scientific American magazine
 
       In the 1960s, several updated versions of Carl Sandburg’s line became popular. They were often used in the context of opposition to the Vietnam War. The most common version, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came,” was used as a slogan on posters that were sold in Hippie shops in the late Sixties (like the blacklight poster shown at left). It was also used as the title of
a comedy movie in 1970, giving it even broader recognition. Some posts on the Internet claim the now familiar words were first written by Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. However, they give no source and I couldn’t find one, so I deem that claim doubtful. (As Abraham Lincoln said, “The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”) 
       In contrast, the origin of the variation “Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came” is well documented. It was used as
the title of a widely-read article written by the American poet and author Charlotte E. Keyes (1914-1980). The article, about her growing admiration for the anti-war activism of her son Gene, was published in the October 1966 issue of McCall’s magazine. Charlotte’s other son happens to be the quote and phrase maven Ralph Keyes. He noted in his excellent book The Quote Verifier (2006) that his mother saw the phrase “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came” in a 1961 letter to the editor in The Washington Post, written by James R. Newman. Newman was referencing, but apparently misremembering, Sandburg’s line. Charlotte cut out and kept the letter for future reference and later adapted the title of her article from it. Newman may or may not have coined “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” That paraphrase of Sandburg may already have been floating around at the time. However, I found no use of those words dated earlier than Newman’s 1961 letter in any newspaper archive or anywhere else online. So, he may deserve credit for creating the Sixties slogan (though perhaps inadvertently.) 
       Another variation, “What If They Gave a War and No One Came,” surfaced in 1968 as the title of a song by the now forgotten "Symphonopop" composer and musician
Jonna Gault. And, in 1972, poet Allen Ginsberg echoed her version in his 1972 poem “Graffiti,” which included the lines “What if someone gave a war & Nobody came? / Life would ring the bells of Ecstasy and Forever be Itself again.”


A VARIATION ABOUT A DONALD TRUMP DEBATE NOBODY REMEMBERS:

“What if they gave a debate and nobody came?”
       Brad Knickerbocker
       Staff writer and editor for the Christian Science Monitor 
       His humorous question
in an article about the December 2011 Republican “debate” hosted by Donald Trump, which all but two Republican presidential candidates declined to participate in. (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were the only candidates who agreed to appear.)


THE VIAGRA VARIATION:

“What if You Took Viagra and Nobody Came?” 
       Double entendre title of
an article in the Jan.-Feb. 1999 issue of Mother Jones magazine
       The tongue-in-cheek article discussed some non-drug alternatives to Viagra, such as an artificial nylon-polypropylene penis, penile implant surgery — or a Corvette.

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