Archive for the 'quotes' Category

Quoted #1

16 November 2013

I often see quotes which are worth sharing. So, a new feature here, with a shameless nod in the direction of Public Strategist, and his long-running series of Aphorisms.

All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics. (August Wilson)


Good men die like dogs, revisited

29 September 2013

Men die like dogs.001I first came across this quote at the tail end of my career in the (British) television business, uncredited, on a scrap of paper left by a photocopier, long before it was simple to share things on the internet. I was disillusioned with television at the time, which was being casualised and commoditised around me, so it struck a chord. Since then, I’ve seen it reappear from time to time, sometimes referring to the music industry instead.

Well, there’s always someone on the internet who’s more obsessive than you are, and it turns out that most of the quote comes from an article by the gonzo writer and critic Hunter S. Thompson originally in the San Francisco Examiner in 1985, republished in 1988 in his collection Generation of Swine.

But the last line – “there’s also a negative side”  (set-up, pay-off) – was added later by someone else. But it’s a good joke which also captures well the egoism and the vanity of the television business.

Not understanding

15 May 2010

A couple of quotes which seem to share a heritage – and both re-quoted in articles about the financial crisis and politics.

First up, Gary Younge quotes Upton Sinclair, in a piece on the unelected financial markets:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

Second, the quote from Tolstoy which Michael Lewis used at the front of his latest book, The Big Short.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”

Incidentally, Gary Younge also has a great analogy about the behaviour of the banks, and bankers, after being saved from bankruptcy by the taxpayer (on both sides of the Atlantic):

It’s as though you borrowed money against your home to save a wayward relative from penury only to have them roll up a week later in a brand new Porsche and tell you to cut your food bill or they’ll repossess the property.

The cartoon {click to enlarge) is from the topical cartoon site, and is used with thanks.

Love and power

17 January 2010

When I visited the eco-village at Kew Bridge, I noticed this quote painted by the gate. For the past six months the protestors have been occupying land by the river which the property company St George PLC would like to turn into gated apartments for the rich, despite the community credentials which they claim (yes, the company sponsors Brentford Football Club) on the hoardings outside (see below).Eco-village activists talk on youtube about their reasons for occupying the site, and there’s a facebook group as well.

I took the pictures, and they’re published here under a Creative Commons licence.

Politicians and bridges

21 December 2009

There’s a cafe under Tower Bridge in London which has a couple of quotes painted outside of it. One of them – the irony – is this line from the one-time Soviet leader Khruschev, that politicians, everywhere, “promise to build a bridge even where there is no river”.

Horses and bridges

24 April 2009


I was cycling through Hyde Park this week and was halted as a couple of Army horses were escorted out of Knightsbridge Barracks, manuring the road as they went.

For some reason this brought to mind Jan Masaryk, the Czech foreign minster during and immediately after the second world war, before Czechoslovakia became communist. It was suggested that the country might become a bridge between the communist east of Europe and the social democratic west.

It may have gained (or lost) something in translation, but Masaryk’s response was that:

“The trouble with being a bridge is that horses gallop across and crap all over you.”

Good men die like dogs

29 January 2009


I’ve been tidying today, and came across a photocopy of something someone sent me just after I left the TV business. I can’t replicate the typography, but I think you’ll get the drift:

The TV business is a cruel and shallow monkey trench, a long plastic hallway, where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.

There’s also a negative side.

[Update: Later on I investigated the history of this quote.]

Swimming against the stream

25 January 2009
Terry Fontaine, Against The Flow

Terry Fontaine, Against The Flow

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I kept coming across scraps of paper with quotes I’d scribbled on them, and I thought it might be a good way to be able to find them more easily. I’ve just come across a few more:

“We must always swim against the current towards the source of the river, because even if you never reach the source, you will at least train your muscles.” (Zbigniew Herbert)

“The matter for the artist is not to describe what he sees but what he feels” (Baudelaire)

“It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee house for the voice of a kingdom” (Jonathan  Swift)

The painting at the top of thos post is by the representative abstract expressionist artist Terry Fontaine. More on his website.

Those Bush years

17 January 2009


The Guardian has a little supplement today in which various writers reflect on the main characters and themes of the Bush years. The novelist Richard Ford gets the big one, and claims to have learnt three things from the 43rd President. (He also earns his billing with a fantastic quote from Wallace Stevens: “We gulp down evil, choke at good.”)

We must not elect a stubborn man again. Stubbornness is the eighth deadly sin (or it ought to be), since it so easily disguises itself as firm, even admirable, resolve…  Second, many Americans love to fantasise that it’s smart to elect a rich guy, since (the thinking goes) a rich guy won’t need to steal from us. But that’s just wrong. He just steals different things. … Third – and last – we have to quit electing these guys (and gals) who say they hate government, but then can’t wait to get into the government so they can “fix” it.

Donald Rumsfeld gets it, deservedly, for his role in manipulating 9/11 to use it to implement the PNAC ambition in the Middle East:

The highest indictment to be made against the Bush administration is that it used America’s greatest national tragedy as an excuse to accomplish a long-held neoconservative geopolitical aim. That was a venal lie, and Rummy was in the thick of it.

There’s a depressing  list of his other crimes and foolishness, but space precludes mention of Rumsfeld’s role in creating the culture of torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and other unidentifed detention centre.

Condoleezza Rice comes across as someone whose “real ideology was succeeding.” (I hadn’t known before – maybe I wasn’t paying attention – that her father opposed the collective activism of Martin Luther King, believing in self-advancement through individual excellence.) But there’s a touch of sadness at the wasted talent:

For all her culpability, there’s an element of pathos to her story as well. Had she attached herself to a better person than Bush, her knowledge, drive and poise might have been put to good use. She might have bettered the world along with herself.

The most surprising thing in the piece about Cheney is that he’s been going on the radio telling people how nice he is (definitely a hard sell): ‘He told a radio interviewer: “I think all of that’s been pretty dramatically overdone. I’m actually a warm, lovable sort.”‘ More to the point though, he seems to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing from his days in the Nixon Administration:

When in late 2005 the Bush administration’s wiretapping programme was revealed, the vice-president pointed immediately back to that dark time: “Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area.”

Finally, and this is a genuine surprise, the supplement ends with one huge positive achievement; the substantial impact of the President’s PEPFAR programme against AIDS in Africa, apparently partly a legacy of Colin Powell’s time in the State Department (“a shining moment in George Bush’s rule, but he rarely talks about it’).

Dr Francois Venter, head of the HIV Clinicians Society in South Africa, is one of a number of Aids doctors who is almost disbelieving in his praise of Bush. He said: “I look at all the blood this man has on his hands in Iraq and I can’t quite believe myself but I would say it’s a bold experiment from the last people in the world I would expect to do it, and it is saving a lot of lives. You give these tablets to people and they resurrect themselves. To intervene on such a scale and make such a difference is huge.”

The picture is in the public domain.

Pigs – in there

6 January 2009


A shocking article today on the conditions in which pigs are reared in most of Western Europe, where most of our bacon comes from, reminded me of Robert Wyatt’s song Pigs – in there. (If you haven’t heard it there’s an MP3 at Leaky Sparrow’s blog, scroll down to the bottom of the post).

The article was by Jon Henley, who seems to have been transformed from jaunty/jokey Diarist into campaigning reporter. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but in summary, Britain has introduced decent welfare standards for pigs, which are more complied with than not, but most of Europe hasn’t, and we don’t ensure that people exporting pork to the UK comply with our standards. The result is every bit as bad as battery farming for hens, with pigs – who are clean, intelligent and playful animals – kept in the dark inside in conditions which reduce them to boredom and fighting with each other.

A Dutch pig farmer he interviews blames market conditions:

“We’re supplying what the market wants,” he insists. “And where are we, the farmers, in the chain? The retailers tell the slaughterhouses what they’ll pay, the slaughterhouses set their prices for us. Everyone takes their margin, and right at the bottom it’s the farmer. People, consumers, just aren’t being realistic; they want cheap meat, then they’re worried about welfare. Buy organic, then! Pay twice the price. But no one will do that.”

Another Dutch couple are more reflective – it will take laws and more effort in the food chain:

The Kerstens are a charming, and plainly thoughtful, couple in their 50s. … “It’s all a compromise,” says Lowie. “Everyone would like to see better conditions for pigs, but change demands time, good laws, an effort from everyone in the chain and responsibility, from the producer, the retailer, the consumer and the politician. The cold fact is that better welfare means more expensive meat. We’d love to produce it; are people ready to buy it?”

Meanwhile, a British farmer – who was losing £26 per animal when feed prices rocketed last summer, says the problem is the supermarkets’ assumptions about what consumers want:

“The retailers always say the customer likes the cheapest,” she says. “We say we think the customer would actually like the choice. But the bottom line is, if people don’t want to pay for higher welfare, farmers will stop doing it.”

I would like the choice, certainly. Henley also quotes Churchill’s memorable line about pigs:

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to you; cats look down on you; pigs treat you as equal.”

Update, 9th January: A letter from Professor JT Winkler of London Metropolitan University’s Nutrition Policy Unit points the fingers firmly at the supermarkets, and at the margins they gouge on organics and fairly traded food:

The real problem does not lie with the farmers. The devils in this saga are the supermarkets and national meat inspection services. The organic farm you studied produces its pigs at double the cost of conventional animals. But Sainsbury’s sells that farm’s bacon at six-and-half times the price of its basic range. This is an extreme example of the extra margin (the “health premium”) that retailers commonly load on to better products. If humanely produced pig meat costs more in the shops, most of the difference comes from supermarkets’ exploiting their customers’ principles.

The picture is of a Croatian pig farm, from Animal Friends Croatia.