Millennium Pearls

 Here’s a set of quotations I started collecting as we approached the new millennium we now reside in—hence the name. Touch them, roll them between your fingers, admire the luster:

How could this not be the first one?

Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.
– Despair, Inc., de-motivational poster on Blogging.

Mark Twain, in a class of his own:

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
— Mark Twain

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
— Mark Twain

History shows us that the Moral Sense enables us to perceive morality and how to avoid it, and that the Immoral Sense enables us to perceive immorality and how to enjoy it.
– Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar”

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
— Mark Twain

Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.
— Mark Twain

More from Despair, Inc. also in a class of its own. These are like swords so sharp they cleave you clean in two before you even know what happened. See their insanely de-motivational website. Deliciously cynical!

Let’s agree to respect each other’s views, no matter how wrong yours might be.
– Despair, Inc., de-motivational poster on Compromise.

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.
– Despair, Inc.

A company that will go to the ends of the earth for its people will find that it can hire them for about 10% of the cost of Americans.
– Despair, Inc., de-motivational poster on Discovery.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
– Despair, Inc., de-motivational poster on Idiocy.

More of the deliciously cynical:

Death is life’s way of telling you you’ve been fired.
— R. Geis, author.

History teaches us that men behave wisely—once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
– Abba Soloman Eban, diplomat, scholar.

The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.
– Horace Walpole.

 For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
– H.L. Mencken

Truth (also known as Reality):

What convinces is not necessarily true – it is merely convincing: a note for asses.
– Nietzsche

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
– Schopenhauer

Reality … is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays.
– Aldous Huxley

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
— Robert Frost

 God and religion:

God created you the way you were, but then you were supposed to spend your life perpetually apologizing to him.
– Daniel Kehlmann, “Measuring the World”


 I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

A pretty girl is like a malady.
— Found in Esquire magazine

 Life is over, life was gay: We have come the primrose way.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.
– Benjamin Franklin. (“bacteria”? Probably a mis-quote.)

 So true, so true …

Some people stay longer in an hour than others do in a month.
— Mark Russell

Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.
— Freud

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
— Napoleon Bonaparte.

Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Vision works and plans don’t.
— James Flanigan: L.A. Times

 If it isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well.
— Donald Hebb, psychologist.

 When your cart reaches the foot of the mountain, a path will appear.
— Chinese peasant saying (found in a Fortune cookie).

 It is good to be strong,
but it is better to be smart.
— Mark Bowden, journalist, OpEd Pasadena Star-News on Iran.
(I would add: “It’s best to be both strong and smart”)

 Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.
— Victor Hugo

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
— Benjamin Franklin

 A man’s duty is to soar in the heavens,
And a woman’s is to bind him to Earth.
— The Author

 Our perceptions are narrow, and our span is brief.
– James Irwin, Slate, on criticism of the movie “Interstellar”

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge

Just funny:

MacDonald has the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thoughts.
— Winston Churchill

 It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man.
— Prof. Scott Elledge on his retirement from Cornell

Endless Loop: n., see Loop, Endless.
Loop, Endless: n., see Endless Loop.
— Random Shack Data Processing Dictionary

Always remember: Wherever you go …. there you are!
—Buckaroo Banzaii (movie)

Ninety-Ninety Rule of Project Schedules:
The first ninety percent of the task takes ninety percent of the time, and the last ten percent takes the other ninety percent.
— Arthur Bloch, writer, Murphy’s Law books.

The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.
— Clarence Darrow

 My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
– Jack Nicholson

When you’re a kid, you don’t GET to do anything;
When you’re a grownup, you don’t WANT to do anything.
— The Author

The incomparable Robert Heinlein. Most of (or maybe all) of these are from Time Enough for Love with which I was so enamored in my 20s that I read it four or five times.

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.
— Robert Heinlein (also attributed to Mark Twain)

 Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.
— Robert Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love”

… stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.
— Robert Heinlein

 Always store beer in a dark place.
— 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

On holding firm beliefs:

 An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you.
– Morris Berman

An obstinate man does not hold opinions; they hold him.
– Samuel Butler

I try to believe what I have to believe, not what I want to believe . . .
— Matt Young, physicist

… the specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.
— Marshall McLuhan

They must find it difficult … those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.
– Gerald Massey, Egyptologist (Found in “Zeitgeist, The Movie”)

You don’t have to believe everything you think.
– Erykah Badu, The Healer (Seen on a bumper sticker in Flagstaff, Arizona).

On corporations, which are neither inherently good or evil—they just look out for their own interests:

“il corporativismo è la pietra angolare dello Stato fascista, anzi lo Stato fascista o è corporativo o non è fascista”
 “Corporatism is the corner stone of the Fascist nation, or better still, the Fascist nation is corporative or it is not fascist”
– Benito Mussolini

Corporations are people, my friend.
– Mitt Romney

Greg Evans, creator of the LuAnn comic strip, e.g. here, who comes out with some surprisingly nice quotes:

Ask the unasked,
Try the untried,
Do the undone,
Set your sails!
Cut the ropes!
And . . .
Take off the bands!
— Greg Evans (Bernice’s high school valedictorian speech, 2014/06/14)

Wherever I am
that’s where I’ll be.
Life is a swim
in a turbulent sea.
— Greg Evans (Crystal, in the Luann strip of Sunday, 14 Sep 2003).

Yes, Abraham actually said this:

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
— Abraham Lincoln

Books and Writing:

Once I put it down I couldn’t pick it back up.
— Groucho Marx

I do not like to write. I like to have written.
— Gloria Steinem

Science fiction should pay homage to science, but its first responsibility is to its audience and to the art of storytelling itself.
— James Irwin, Slate, about criticism of “Interstellar”.

Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!
— P. T. Barnum


If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless.
—Ernest Hemmingway

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
—Ernest Hemmingway

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
—Ernest Hemmingway

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
—Ernest Hemmingway

The good ole’ days:

If you want to go back to the good ole’ days, turn off the air conditioner.
— Heard on Cowboy Corner streaming radio.

On stupidity:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
— Robert J. Hanlon (but also attributed to William James, Napoleon Bonaparte, Richard Feynman, Goethe, Heinlein, and others, take your pick).

I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.
–Edith Sitwell, poet.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and …

Frontiers of any type, physical or mental are but a challenge to our breed; nothing can stop the questing of man, not even men and if we will it, not only the wonders of space but the very stars are ours.
— Andre Norton

The future is all we have to look forward to.
— The Author

There’s something wonderful about the thought that a piece of ourselves is somewhere out there on a winding journey between the stars on its way to eternity. It’s like having immortal children.
— The Author (OpEd, LA Times, on the Voyager spacecraft after encountering Neptune)

I am from the planet Earth. I am of the human race. We are small and insignificant, but our souls are large because we have set out on a journey to know the universe.
— The Author (OpEd, LA Times, speaking as Voyager after encountering Neptune).

Everything else:

There is no lower form of human being than a man who would advocate for a war he has not the courage to fight in.
— Robert V. Rying

She hasn’t a humble bone in her body, nor has she need for one.
— The Author (said of his daughter)

We know who
Made the birds
to fly.
We know who
Made the food
to buy.
We know who
Made the weeds
to grow.
We know who
Made the stars
to show.
We know
We know…
— Unknown: Witte Museum, Children’s Exhibit, San Antonio, circa 1967

A million eyes, a million boots in line without expression, waiting for a sign.
— W. H. Auden, The Shield of Achilles.

Finally, two extraordinary poems:

Chidiock Tichborne’s My Prime of Youth is but a Frost of Cares, written on the eve of his execution, is one of the most poignant of the English language. He was caught in a British intrigue in 1583 and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Because it resonates with one of the themes in my Darkest Side of Saturn, I include the full poem.

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

— Chidiock Tichborne, conspirator.

Mary Frye’s extraordinarily powerful and moving Don’t Stand by My Grave and Weep is almost the opposite of Tichborne’s masterpiece above. Tichborne laments the past, while Fry embraces all that is, and is yet to be. Like Tichborne’s poem, this one also illuminates one of my themes, so I include it in its entirety. (Contrary to the title, if this poem doesn’t make you weep, you have no soul.)

Don’t stand by my grave and weep
For I’m not there, I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond’s glint on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn’s rain
When you awake in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circle flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.

– Mary Frye, housewife.







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