Friday, December 8, 2017

My Giant List of Quotes, Part 3 (Terry Pratchett to Robin Williams)

NOTE: There is a lot of Terry Pratchett in this section.  This is because he was both eminently quotable and incredibly prolific.

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“In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” --Terry Pratchett


“The pen is mightier than the sword ... if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.” --Terry Pratchett


“It wasn't blood in general he couldn't stand the sight of, it was just his blood in particular that was so upsetting.” --Terry Pratchett


“Death isn't cruel – merely terribly, terribly good at his job.” --Terry Pratchett


“The reason that clichés become clichés is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.” --Terry Pratchett


“There was no difference at all between the richest man and the poorest beggar, apart from the fact that the former had lots of money, food, power, fine clothes, and good health. But at least he wasn’t any better. Just richer, fatter, more powerful, better dressed and healthier.” --Terry Pratchett


“[W]hile it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions.”--Terry Pratchett


“Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.” --Terry Pratchett


“It is always useful to have an enemy who is prepared to die for his country, this means that both you and he have exactly the same aim in mind.” --Terry Pratchett


“One of the most basic rules for survival on any planet is never to upset someone wearing black leather.” --Terry Pratchett


“I believe in freedom, Mr. Lipwig. Not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.” --Terry Pratchett


“They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully; unfortunately what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”-- Terry Pratchett


“I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.” --Theodore Roosevelt, on his daughter


“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” --Theodore Roosevelt


“No greater friend, no worse enemy” --Lucius Cornelius Sulla (epitaph)


“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” --John Steinbeck (disputed)


“Anti-social behavior is a trait of intelligence in world full of conformists.” --Nikola Tesla


“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
--Dylan Thomas


“I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by 'arisch'. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. … But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. … I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.” --J.R.R. Tolkien

“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) … the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” --J.R.R. Tolkien

“It was like discovering a complete wine-filled cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavor never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me….” --J.R.R. Tolkien, on his discovery of the Finnish language


“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.” --Leon Trotsky


“I never gave anybody hell. I just told the truth and they think it's hell.” --Harry Truman


“It's an old political trick: ‘If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em.’” --Harry Truman


“I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the president. That's the answer to that. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.” --Harry Truman, on Douglas MacArthur


“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” --Mark Twain


“I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: ‘O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!’ God granted it.” --Voltaire


“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” --Voltaire


“The best is the enemy of the good.” --Voltaire


“I don't know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.” --Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington


“I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.” --Oscar Wilde


“You're only given a little spark of madness and if you lose that, you're nothing.” --Robin Williams


“And that's when you realize that God gave you a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.” --Robin Williams

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My Giant List Of Quotes, Part 2 (W.C. Fields to Edgar Allan Poe)

“I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm so indebted to her for.” --W.C. Fields


“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” --John Kenneth Galbraith


“In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals.” --Mohandas K. Gandhi


“Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.” --Mohandas K. Gandhi


“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” --Mohandas K. Gandhi (disputed)


“Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.” --Robert Heinlein


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” --Robert Heinlein


“Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny.” --Robert Heinlein


“Waking a person unnecessarily should not be considered a capital crime. For a first offense, that is.” --Robert Heinlein


“Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other ‘sins’ are invented nonsense.” --Robert Heinlein


“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? But when I am for myself, then what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” --Hillel the Elder


“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the commentary. Go and study it.” --Hillel the Elder


“Basically, the Germans came to us and said, ‘We don't have a sense of humour.’" --Eric Idle


“Many people did not care for Pat Buchanan's speech; it probably sounded better in the original German.” --Molly Ivins


“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” --Samuel Johnson


“LEXICOGRAPHER — A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.“ --Samuel Johnson, Dictionary


“OATS — A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” --Samuel Johnson, Dictionary


“You can't get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” --C.S. Lewis

“If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” --Alice Roosevelt Longworth


“[T]he world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.” --H.P. Lovecraft


“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” --H.P. Lovecraft


“The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.” --Niccolo Machiavelli


“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.” --Nelson Mandela


“I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.” --Groucho Marx


“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” --H.L. Mencken


“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” --James Nicoll


“Religion is not familiar ground for me, and as I have grown older, I have definitely drifted away from it. I have something else in its place, something older than just intellect and reason, which gives me strength and hope.” --Jawaharlal Nehru


“History is almost always written by the victors and conquerors and gives their view.” --Jawaharlal Nehru


“Freedom and power bring responsibility.” --Jawaharlal Nehru


“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.” --Samuel Pepys


“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” --Edgar Allan Poe


“Not my circus, not my monkeys.” --Polish proverb

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My Giant List of Quotes, Part 1 (Douglas Adams to Benjamin Franklin)

A Facebook discussion about favorite quotes yesterday resulted in me starting to make a list of those people whom I have quoted or enjoyed what they have had to say or write.  So I've decided to share it.  And me being me, it's not a small list either so I am splitting it up over three posts.

The quotes reflect those things I am interested in so it mainly comes from the worlds of politics, military history, comedy and science fiction & fantasy.  For the most part I have avoided quotes that are person or event specific, though there are exceptions.

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“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” --Douglas Adams

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” --Douglas Adams

“A learning experience is one of those things that say, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.’" --Douglas Adams


“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” --John Adams


“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” --David Ben-Gurion


“If an expert says it can't be done, get another expert.” --David Ben-Gurion


“Preventive war is like committing suicide for fear of death.” --Otto von Bismarck


“Politics is the art of the possible.” --Otto von Bismarck


"Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake." --Napoleon Bonaparte


“Courage cannot be counterfeited. It is one virtue that escapes hypocrisy.“ --Napoleon Bonaparte


“From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.” --Napoleon Bonaparte


“What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon.--Napoleon Bonaparte


“You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it.” --Art Buchwald


“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” --Winston Churchill


“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” --Winston Churchill


“A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” --Winston Churchill


“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” --Winston Churchill


“Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.” --Winston Churchill


“Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” --Winston Churchill


“He who laughs most, learns best.” --John Cleese


“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” --John Cleese


“I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that you call a Gentleman and is nothing else.” --Oliver Cromwell


“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” --Oliver Cromwell, Address to the Rump Parliament.


“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  --Marcus Tullius Cicero


“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” --Benjamin Disraeli


“Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” --Benjamin Disraeli


“If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune; and if anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity.” --Benjamin Disraeli


“Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.” --Benjamin Disraeli


“I don’t drink these days. I’m allergic to alcohol and narcotics. I break out in handcuffs.”  --Robert Downey, Jr.


“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” --Albert Einstein


“If I were to remain silent, I would be guilty of complicity.” --Albert Einstein


“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” --Albert Einstein


“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” --Dwight D. Eisenhower


“You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the fucking game.” --Harlan Ellison


“I won't eat anything that has intelligent life, but I'd gladly eat a network executive or a politician.” --Marty Feldman

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” --Benjamin Franklin


Monday, November 13, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express

Last night I went to see the new film version of Agatha Christie's Murder On The Orient Express and several of my friends have asked for my thoughts.  So this is my non-spoilery (for the three people in the English-speaking world who don't know the solution) review.

I've seen and enjoyed both previous versions, the 1974 Albert Finney movie as well as the more recent Poirot television version with the inimitable David Suchet.  And I have read the book several times so all of this colors anything I say.  Also, I should state from the start that the Finney version is still my favorite.  With that out of the way I've got to say that overall I liked Kenneth Branagh's take on both the book and the role.

Firstly, visually it is stunning.  The cinematography is very lush and Branagh experimented with some very interesting camera angles.  The costuming is gorgeous and hope the costumer gets an Oscar nomination.  All other considerations of story or acting aside, if you enjoy film as a visual art form you will like this film.

As for the story, Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green have made some unusual changes from the book.  While the bones of the story remain the same - while traveling by train in the Balkans, a man who is not who he claims to be is murdered and Poirot must determine who did it and why - several of the character details were changed.  The biggest is turning the very proper English Colonel Arbuthnot into the black Dr. Arbuthnot without in the end changing his motivations but still making him an interesting and unique.

Indeed the result of making Agatha Christie's lily white cast of characters more diverse by switching some out for a black and two Hispanic characters adds an element of modern race relations that is good commentary without getting highhanded or preachy with several characters betraying their own prejudices as they are interrogated by Poirot.  Ironically from my point of view, where this element falls down is fairly late in the film where - since this is Europe in the mid 1930s - some anti-Semitism is added to the race relations.  This felt both forced and unnecessary.

Branagh's interpretation of Hercule Poirot fascinating.  Early in the film he admits outright to being what we would call obsessive-compulsive without using those words and explains the way he interprets sensory input as something we would call high-functioning Asperger's.  But he also has something of a sense of humor about it and himself, at least until the situation turns serious.  His motivation in a desire to seek justice at all costs because crime is taint on his obsessive-compulsive worldview is better than some other portrayals of Poirot as a fussy, funny Belgian man who just happens to solve mysteries.

The rest of the cast does a very good job, in some cases rising to excellent in both Leslie Odom as Arbuthnot and Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham.  Of course, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi can do no wrong in their roles, as usual. As a director Branagh manages to keep a tight enough leash on Johnny Depp as the vile Ratchett that Depp provides an emotive performance without falling over into self-parody.  I've said before that when he's working with a strong director, Depp is a very good actor.  It's only when he's let loose that he goes off the tracks.

I do have a couple issues with some characterizations though.  The conductor, Pierre Michel, is turned into a very minor character in this version where he is far more important in both the book and previous adaptations.  I can live with that though as it is a sometimes necessary evil of screen adaptation that some characters get slighted.  But the one change I do not get and straight out do not like is turning Count Andrenyi from a Hungarian diplomat to a ballet dancer!  And a hyper-violent ninja ballet dancer at that.  Firstly the idea of a pre-war noble Hungarian family allowing one of its members to become a dancer instead of doing something respectable is absurd on the face of it.  Secondly, it creates a plot hole in that if Andrenyi is not a diplomat why are he and his wife traveling on diplomatic passports, a key element of the story?  Overall most of the changes I either liked or can accept, this one is just stupid and pointless.

The film has added a couple action sequences because apparently Hollywood feels modern audiences need some in their mystery movies rather than just people talking on a train as Poirot tries to put together all the pieces of the puzzle.  That said, they weren't overdone or overly intrusive and in the case of the fight between Poirot and Arbuthnot provides some good characterization too.

Overall this version of Murder is less typical crime procedural in which we follow the sleuth as he discovers every minor clue to put together a whole and more of a character study in which we look at the motivations of both the suspects and Poirot himself.  If you prefer the former type of murder mystery stick with the 1974 Finney adaptation.  Otherwise it is a very enjoyable film.

One final note: The film opens with Poirot in Mandatory Jerusalem solving a case of the theft of a relic from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The main clue is a crack in a "well-maintained fresco".  I've been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and there is nothing in that building that was been well-maintained since the Crusades!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On Porgs

I am, not surprisingly, a huge Star Wars fan.  Like most right thinking Star Wars fans I was disappointed by the prequels and hate the remade Greedo shot first scene.  But I save my particular ire for the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.  I think they are too cute by half and really detest the idea that a bunch of teddy bears managed to dispatch a legion of stormtroopers with only stone age technology.

That said, I just don't get all the hate for the porgs that has been endemic on the interwebz since the new trailer for The Last Jedi dropped on Monday.  Okay, I get it.  Folks are worried about excessively cutesy critters again.  But really what are they basing this hatred on?

We've known for months that porgs would be in the new film.  There have been pictures of them, usually in the background of other shots taking place on Ahch-To.  In the trailer we see exactly one porg for maybe a second in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and all it does is scream.  On this basis there are fanboys* who are already declaring the film a failure.  Guys, wait and see.  Please. 

First of all, Lucas has nothing to do with the films any more and excessive cuteness is one of his particular obsessions.  Secondly we really don't know what part, if any, porgs play in the actual plot.  If this one particular one is just there as a sort of pet/mascot that's fine.  If the whole plot revolves around it saving the heroes ("What's that girl? Chewbacca has fallen down the well?") then that is a point of complaint.  If they somehow manage to single-handedly defeat a First Order army, that is a large problem.

My point, guys, is give it a chance.  Nothing else we have seen or heard so far gives the impression that porgs are a major plot element.  Both extant trailers look too dark for that to be the case.  I'm willing to bet porgs are nothing more than a minor adjunct to the story and a great chance to sell more merchandise to those fans who don't mind cute.  Heck, right now I wouldn't mind having a plush porg.


* Used as an inclusive non-sexist term of derision.  I am sure there are women who don't like porgs either.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In which I am internet famous

I have just returned from a trip back to Ohio to see family and friends.  While I was there I had a chance to visit Leeman Kessler and record an episode of his web series Ask Lovecraft.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gaming Quotes V

During last night's Pathfinder game we had encounters with a "helpful" dragon, magic yetis from beyond space and time, and a ginormous crab.

"It tastes like Wednesday." --Me

"I know we're playing but stop playing." --Candice

Regarding the miniature of the dragon:
"It's not a toy." --Eric
"Well it  is actually a toy." --Stephen
"No! No! No!" -- Everyone else

"A freckled yeti?" --Ashley
"That's a good name for a pub." --Me

After Susan kills the second yeti of the combat:
"You're the closer." --Fred
"New player is supposed to die, not do all the kill steals." --Candice

Val's half-orc barbarian bites the head off the last yeti:
"So the head is in one hand and the body is in the other and blood is spurting all over the place." --Candice
"Tastes good." --Val

After Val bites the head off a second yeti and holds it up:
"I name thee Maude Yetibiter." --Me
"Mine!" --Val

During the fight with the giant crab:
"It's spiky and hard." --Candice
"That's what she said." --Me

After killing the giant crab:
"We feast tonight" --Eric and me

"Ford [Eric's character] got the crab."  --Candice
"There's medicine for that now.  --Fred