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Quotes - September 2017

Writing

Quotes - September 2017

Alexei Muravsky

The Fox and The Mask

A Fox was one day rummaging in the house of an actor, and came across a very beautiful Mask. Putting his paw on the forehead, he said, "What a handsome face we have here! It is a pity that it should want brains."

Beauty without brains nothing gains.

 - Aesop, Aesop’s Fables with Illustrations by Ernest Griset


“Every morning, the samurai of fifty or sixty years ago would bathe, shave their foreheads, put lotion in their hair, cut their fingernails and toenails, rubbing them with pumice and then with wood sorrel, and, without fail, pay attention to their personal appearance. It goes without saying that their armor in general was kept free from rust, that it was dusted, shined, and arranged. Although it seems that taking special care of one’s appearance is similar to showiness, it is nothing akin to elegance. Even if you are aware that you may be struck down today and are firmly resolved to an inevitable death, if you are slain with an unseemly appearance, you will show your lack of previous resolve, will be despised by your enemy, and will appear unclean. For this reason it is said that both old and young should take care of their appearance. Although you say that this is troublesome and time-consuming, a samurai’s work is in such things. It is neither busy-work nor time-consuming. In constantly hardening one’s resolution to die in battle, deliberately becoming as one already dead, and working at one’s job and dealing with military affairs, there should be no shame. But when the time comes, a person will be shamed if he is not conscious of these things even in his dreams, and rather passes his days in self-interest and self-indulgence. And if he thinks that this is not shameful, and feels that nothing else matters as long as he is comfortable, then his dissipate and discourteous actions will be repeatedly regrettable.”

- Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure


“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.”

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


“Colonists rapidly adopted the tools and equipment of Indian warfare. Moccasins became standard footwear for raiding parties and extra pairs were routinely carried for the benefit of any prisoners who might be brought home. In winter, Indian snowshoes and, in summer, Indian canoes allowed fighting men to move swiftly and quietly. Frontier soldiers adopted the mitasses or buckskin leggings as a sensible response to travelling through bush. The French went farther, often adopting the entire Indian costume from war paint to breech cloth. A few rivaled the incredible Indian skill with the tomahawk or throwing axe.”

- Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada: From Champlain to the Gulf War 3rd Edition


“I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time.”

- George Orwell, Why I Write


“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.”   

- Anais Nin


“If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right. If they tell you that that is all the story about, they are very definitely wrong.”

- Neil Gaiman, Fahrenheit 451, Introduction


“Everyone’s supposed to stay in their lines and be neat. You’re a rapper. You’re supposed to rap, carry a boom box, wear chains, and go to the club—that’s all you do. What are you doing collecting art? What are you talking about? Wait a minute, you’re getting out of the zone. People hate when people cross lines.” 

– Jay Z


“Rap, like other artistic forms, thrives on constraint as much as it does freedom. Every rap lyric must fulfill certain demands, the dominant ones being the listener’s expectation of rhyme and the rhythmic strictures of the beat. In unskilled hands, rap’s requirements can prove too much, leading to insipid lyrics that confuse meaning to find rhyme and strain syntax to satisfy rhythm. But in the hands of a skilled MC, rap’s formal limitations are a means to eloquence. As David Foster and Mark Costello observe in their offbeat but visionary 1990 book, Signifying Rappers, “The limitations [of rhythm and rhyme in rap] are the invaluable constraints of form that all good new art helps define itself by struggling against from inside them – the formal Other all ‘fresh’ speech needs.””

- Henry Louis Gates Jr., Edited by Adam Bradley & Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap, Forward


"Sometime a cigar is just a cigar."

- Freud


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