Wandering off…

October 2020

This is not the place I would like to start
but this is where I am.
Here are hats and horns and names of states on sticks.
The speaker is spreading out the syllables
of blessings, curses, lies and incantations.
Only the lies are what they pretend to be.

— Miller Williams, “Logos”, Poetry, February 1982, p. 286

September 2020

That baddies are baddies
is only too true
however one studies
the things that they do.
But what I find sad is
how painfully few
have noticed that goodies
are too.

— Piet Hein, Grooks 2, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1968, p. 20


The collective mentality of nations…is that of a delinquent boy of fourteen, at once cunning and childish, malevolent and silly, maniacally egotistical, touchy, and acquisitive, and at the same time ludicrously boastful and vain.”

— Aldous Huxley, quoted in Nicholas Murray, Aldous Huxley: A Biography, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002, p. 330.

JULY 2020

And yet sooner or later there has to be some indication from the outside, to prevent self-confidence from turning into the delusion of grandeur, which it must do to keep itself from crumbling altogether.”

— Galway Kinnell, interview with Albert Goldbarth and Virginia Gilbert, Iowa City, November 1970. In Walking Down the Stairs: Selections from Interviews by Galway Kinnell, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1978, p. 10.

JUNE 2020

“This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice. As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege.”

— Tim Cook, memo to Apple employees, in response to the murder of George Floyd. Quoted at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-31/apple-s-cook-says-painful-past-is-still-present-today-in-memo.

May 2020

“The world don’t need any more songs… The world don’t need any more poems, it’s got Shakespeare. There’s enough of everything. You name it, there’s enough of it.”

— Bob Dylan, in “Bob Dylan: The SongTalk Interview,” by Paul Zollo, SongTalk, Winter 1991. Quoted in Younger Than That Now: The Collected Interviews with Bob Dylan, Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York, 2004, pp. 255 & 257.

April 2020

“In the artist of all kinds I think one can detect an inherent dilemma, which belongs to the co-existence of two trends, the urgent need to communicate and the still more urgent need not to be found.”

— D. W. Winnicott, “Communicating and Not Communicating Leading to a Study of Certain Opposites” (1963), in Reading Winnicott, edited by Lesley Caldwell and Angela Joyce, Routledge, London and New York, 2011, p. 189.

March 2020

“At the end of your life, you are the only one who knows how far short you fell from what you intended. And that doesn’t help, because at the end of your life you don’t always know what you intended.”

— Joseph Mitchell, quoted in Thomas Kunkel, Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker, Random House, 2015, p. 317.

February 2020

“Technology forges on, not from any need of the species, but from the need of certain of its more brilliant members for interesting games to play.”

— Kenneth Brower, The Starship and the Canoe, Harper & Row, 1983, p. 175.

January 2020

“If you want to be a legend, God help you, it’s so easy. You just do one thing. You can be the master of suspense, say. But if you want to be as invisible as is practical, then it’s fun to do a lot of different things.”

— Mike Nichols, quoted in “Mike Nichols, Master of Invisibility”, The New York Times, April 10, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/movies/12mcgr.html?_r=1&8dpc

December 2019


— Ian Hamilton Finlay, in Selections, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2012, p. 217

November 2019

“Today I am no longer, as I once was, the prisoner of interminable tasks, which so often prevented me from leaping into the unknown, mathematical or otherwise. The time of tasks for me is over. If age has brought me anything, it is lightness.”

— Alexandre Grothendieck, Esquisse d’un Programme, quoted in
http://www.ams.org/notices/200410/fea-grothendieck-part2.pdf, pp. 1209-1210

October 2019

“I always think fatigue is a great Saver from Ambition and worldly values, when all else fails!”

— Stevie Smith, letter to J. C. Powys, 11 July 1952. Quoted in Frances Spalding, Stevie Smith: A Biography, W. W. Norton 1988, p. 203.

September 2019

“I too had said…that teaching ‘was a process trying to look like a result.’ As a careful and consequential thinker, or teacher, I was only twelve years or so in producing the corollary: ‘yes, but isn’t everything?’ like history, I meant, and life and the world entire.”

— Howard Nemerov, “In Conclusion,” from The Oak in the Acorn (1987), in A Howard Nemerov Reader, University of Missouri Press, 1991, p. 308.

August 2019

“Years later, Edith [Carow Roosevelt] explained that her aloofness was simply ‘a trick of manner’ to obscure her own perceived defects. While it may have deprived her of camaraderie, her tactic succeeded in establishing the distance and mystery that prevented humiliation.”

—Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Simon & Schuster, 2013, p. 117.

July 2019

“However, the experts at Western Union can tell, and I suppose that is all that matters. If I knew what it was they did, and how they were able to tell time by the stars, I should be an expert at the Western Union. That is, of course, provided that I was socially acceptable to the present experts.”

—Robert Benchley, “What Time Is It? And What Of It” in Chips Off the Old Benchley, Harper and Brothers, 1949, p. 114.