September 14, 2020

What “life is like” – from Forrest Gump and Leonard Nimoy to Tom Lehrer and Jawaharlal Nehru…


“My mama always said, life was like a box a chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
       Forrest Gump (actor Tom Hanks)
In the 1994 film Forrest Gump
       These lines are usually misquoted as “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”  And, both versions are different than what Forrest says in
the 1986 novel by Winston Groom that the film is based on. What Forrest says in the opening line of the novel is: Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.” He goes on to explain: “People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you — it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.”


       A sign on a 2020 Halloween installation in Medina, Ohio, which features a life-size doll version of Forrest Gump on a park bench. A photo of the installation was included in an article on the website posted in September 2020.


“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”   
       Leonard Nimoy
       American actor and author, especially known for his portrayal of the Vulcan character Spock in the Star Trek TV series and movies
       Nimoy posted these moving words on his popular Twitter feed the night of February 22, 2015. It was his last tweet. Early that morning he was rushed to the hospital. A few days later he died, at age 83, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The letters “LLAP” at the end of the tweet were his shorthand initials for “Live long and prosper,” the popular catchphrase he used in many Star Trek episodes and films. Nimoy first spoke the line in the “Amok Time” episode of the original Star Trek series, aired on September 15, 1967, as Episode 1 of Season 2.


“Life is not like a box of chocolates. A box of chocolates is all good. I mean, it would be like a box of chocolates if there was a occasional turd.”  
       Bill Maher 
       American comedian and talk show host 
       A comment Maher made on an episode of his first major TV show
Politically Incorrect. (I watched that ep and wrote down the quip, but I forgot to note the date. The show originally aired from 1997 to 2002.)


“Forrest Gump’s mother had a lot of catchy sayings. I never really understood any of them. Life is not like a box of chocolates. Life is more like a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your favorite pair of shoes. The more you try to clean up the mess, the stickier it becomes.”  
Ronda Thompson (1955-2007) 
American novelist
       In her novel Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel (2007)


“Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup, or an English Toffee. But they’re gone too fast. The taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is a — is an empty box, filled with useless brown paper wrappers.”
       The “Cigarette Smoking Man”
       The X-Files character played by actor William B. Davis
In a 1996 episode of the The X-Files TV series


Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”  
       Tom Lehrer
American songwriter and satirist 
       Part of his spoken introduction to the song “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer (1953). The lyrics of the song include the line:
Life is like a sewer / And I'm trying to wade through her.”


“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will.”
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
       Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964
       This popular quote appears to have first been attributed to Nehru by Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, in a 1967 issue of that venerable periodical.

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Related reading, viewing, listening and stuff…

July 12, 2020

“The rich are different”… The real story behind the famed “exchange” between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

If you’re a quotation buff, you’ve probably heard of a legendary exchange about “rich people” that supposedly took place between the American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).

Fitzgerald is usually quoted as saying either “The rich are different from you and me” or “The rich are different from us.”

Hemingway is quoted as responding: “Yes, they have more money."

In fact, this quote-counterquote repartee never actually occurred. But it is based on things written by Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Here’s how it became a legend…

In 1925, Fitzgerald wrote a short story titled “The Rich Boy.” In 1926, it was published in Red Book magazine and included what became a very popular collection of Fitzgerald's early short stories, titled All the Sad Young Men.

The third paragraph of the story says:

     "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

Clearly, that’s not a favorable view of rich people.

But years later, Ernest Hemingway, who had a sometimes-warm, sometimes-acrimonious relationship with Fitzgerald, decided to mock those lines from “The Rich Boy” in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Hemingway’s original version of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” was printed in the August 1936 issue of Esquire magazine. In a passage in that original version, Hemingway wrote:

     “The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren't it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”

Understandably, Fitzgerald was shocked and offended.

He expressed his dismay to Hemingway in a letter. He also complained to Maxwell Perkins, the editor who oversaw publication of both writers’ novels and story collections at the Charles Scribner’s Sons book company. Hemingway responded with what Fitzgerald described as a “crazy letter,” a rambling diatribe that offered no real explanation or apology.

Perkins tried to smooth things over between his two prized writers and used his editorial power to fix the source of the problem when Scribner’s reprinted “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in the 1938 anthology of Hemingway stories, The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.

In the version of the story in that book, the name “Scott Fitzgerald” was changed to “Julian.” It has appeared that way in most subsequent reprintings.

Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he made the mistake of writing a cryptic entry in a personal notebook that cemented the legendary version of his “exchange” with Hemingway into literary history.

The entry said simply: “They have more money. (Ernest’s wisecrack.)”

After Fitzgerald died in 1940, his friend, the noted critic and book reviewer Edmund Wilson, compiled a collection of his essays and unpublished writings in a book titled The Crack-Up. It was published in 1945. Wilson included various entries from Fitzgerald’s notebooks in the anthology.

One of them was the brief note about “Ernest’s wisecrack.”

Wilson decided to add an explanatory footnote for that entry in the book. He wrote:

     “Fitzgerald had said, ‘The rich are different from us.’ Hemingway had replied, ‘Yes, they have more money.’”

Then, the famous literary critic Lionel Trilling repeated what he called this “famous exchange” that “everyone knows” in a review and essay about The Crack-Up, published in The Nation.

After that, many other articles and books cited this “exchange” as if it were an actual conversation between Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

And thus a famous quote-counterquote myth was born.

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

Related reading and listening…


July 8, 2020

“I dream things that never were and say, why not?”


“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
lines from Part I of Shaw’s otherwise forgotten play Back to Methuselah (1921)
       These lines are said by The Serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden in the play, which is an amazingly odd science fiction fantasy that spans the ages from Adam and Eve to 31,000 A.D. and took three nights to perform in its entirety. Back to Methuselah was published in 1921 and first performed in 1922 at the Garrick Theatre in New York City.


“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
       American lawyer, politician and US Attorney General
       Lines frequently used by Kennedy at the close of his speeches
       Bobby Kennedy recited his version of what Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah so often that
many sources credit the words to him with no mention of Shaw, as if Kennedy coined the saying. Kennedy himself noted that he was quoting Shaw in his speeches, although his version was actually a paraphrase of Shaw, rather than an exact quote. (See, for example, Kennedy’s speech at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968.)


“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others see things that might be and ask: How much?” 
Carl Hiaasen
       American journalist and novelist
       From his
April 13, 1990 column in the Miami Herald, included in the book Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen (2001). This was Hiaasen’s commentary on revelations that the Mayor of Miami Beach had received payments from a corporation that wanted approval for a local beachfront construction project.


“Some people see things as they are and ask why? Others see things as they never were and claim mad cow [disease].”
James Spader, as the character Alan Shore on the TV series Boston Legal
       A comment about our litigious society said to William Shatner (playing Shore’s law partner Denny Crane), in the
“Stick It” episode of Boston Legal (Season 2, Ep. 19; first aired on March 14, 2006)


“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”
George Carlin (1937-2008)
       American comic genius
       Carlin used these lines in performances in the 1990s and included it in his book
Brain Droppings (1998). Contrary to what George would have wanted, it’s often quoted in censored form, without the word “shit.”

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Related reading, listening and viewing…

May 30, 2020

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


“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.


“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 about the fast food chain’s puzzling new advertising slogan



“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.”
in The American Society for Quality Control’s 49th Annual Quality Congress Proceedings (1995)


“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.


“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)


“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...


“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.


“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


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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 “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 Guthrie (1912-1967)
       American folk musician and social activist
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 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.”


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.”


       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.


       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


“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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