Category Archives: quotes

A Mark of Sanity

“Teach classes that are meaningful to you and that engage that portion of your students that are reachable. Ignore, in other words, the very idea of professional wisdom. Only write what you want to write. Once you have job security (which I know is a huge barrier) don’t write if you don’t want to. Write for media directed at non-historians, whether that be the local newspaper or fancy national magazines. Write for other academic disciplines. Explore other media than the printed word. Ignoring what the profession rewards might very well be a mark of sanity at the close of the 20th century.”

Ken Cmiel, “History Against Itself” (1994)

Let the Half-Wit Out for a Walk

“Baseball is for watching. From April to October I watch the Red Sox every night. (Other sports fill the darker months.) I do not write; I do not work at all. After supper I become the American male — but I think I do something else. Try to forgive my comparisons, but before Yeats went to sleep every night he read an American Western. When Eliot was done with poetry and editing, he read a mystery book. Everyone who concentrates all day, in the evening needs to let the half-wit out for a walk. Sometimes it is Zane Grey, sometimes Agatha Christie, sometimes the Red Sox.”

—Donald Hall, Essays After Eighty

Things and Their Meanings

“The trouble with him was that he was not able to imagine. He was quick and ready in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in their meanings. Fifty degrees below zero meant 80 degrees of frost. Such facts told him that it was cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to consider his weaknesses as a creature affected by temperature. Nor did he think about man’s general weakness, able to live only within narrow limits of heat and cold. From there, it did not lead him to thoughts of heaven and the meaning of a man’s life. 50 degrees below zero meant a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear coverings, warm moccasins, and thick socks. 50 degrees below zero was to him nothing more than 50 degrees below zero. That it should be more important than that was a thought that never entered his head.”

—Jack London, “To Build a Fire” (1908)

Yellow Legal Pads

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“I’ve been using yellow legal pads since coming to the United States with Honda in 1986. I found my favorite brand, Tops Docket Gold legal pads, in 2001. I’ve used two every month to write action items and ideas. I still have every one, stored in my office, all with dates so I can look up any history.”

Michimasa Fujino

Related reading: Suzanne Snider, “Old Yeller: The Illustrious History of the Yellow Legal Pad,” Legal Affairs, May/June 2005.

On Not Fitting In

“I used to try to fit in. I remember doing a thing on stock car racing. I went down to North Wilkesboro, N.C., … and I wore a green tweed suit and a blue button down shirt and a black neck tie and some brown suede shoes and a brown Borsalino hat. I figured that was really casual. After about five days, Junior Johnson, whom I was writing about, came to me and he says, ‘I don’t mean to be rude or anything … but people I’ve known all my life down here … they keep asking me, “Junior, who is that little green man following you around?”’ It was then that it dawned on me that … nobody for 50 miles in any direction was wearing a suit of any color, or a tie for that matter, or a hat, and the less said about brown suede shoes the better. … I was also depriving myself of the ability to ask some very obvious questions … if you’re pretending to fit in, you can’t ask these obvious questions.

Tom Wolfe

Good Advice

Kanye West recently returned to Twitter and tweeted this:
Kanye West Tweet

Michael Sacasas made a similar suggestion in 2013:

Don’t wake up with the Internet. Have breakfast, walk the dog, read a book, whatever … do something before getting online. Think of it as a way of preparing – physically, mentally, emotional, morally, etc. – for all that follows.

This is advice I must keep in mind.

Kanye, in his own way, like many artists, is a moral theologist and philosopher of technology.

Creative Idleness

Brunello Cucinelli, billionaire sweater maker/philosopher, on the importance of creative idleness in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Esquire.

Brunello Cucinelli