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Favorite Quotations

“The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.”
The opening line of Annals of the Former World (1998), by John McPhee

“Ready when you are, C.B.”
The punchline to a joke, probably apocryphal, about the legendary film director Cecil B. (C.B.) DeMille

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked (1935), by Upton Sinclair

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone. . . . It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.”
from The Green Fields of the Mind (1977), by A. Bartlett Giamatti

“I shall not cause harm to any vehicle nor the personal contents thereof, nor through inaction let that vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm. It’s what I call the repo code, kid. Don’t forget it — etch it in your brain. Not many people got a code to live by anymore.”
Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), in Repo Man (Anchor Bay Entertainment 1984)

“First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”
Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Disney 2003)

“C.K. Dexter Haven, you have unsuspected depth!”
Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), in The Philadelphia Story (Warner Brothers 1940)

“My boy’s wicked smart.”
Morgan (Casey Affleck), in Good Will Hunting (Miramax 1997)

“‘Once the rockets go up, Who cares where they come down?  That’s not my department,’ Says Werner Von Braun!”
Tom Lehrer, from That Was The Year That Was (1965)

“If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”
Scoop Nisker (aka source of “The only news you can dance to.”)

“Personally, I liked the University. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything. You’ve never been out of college, you don’t know what it’s like out there. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”
Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), in Ghostbusters (Columbia Tri-Star 1984)

“Democracy is buying a big house you can’t afford with money you don’t have to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective political party; it means having two ineffective political parties. … Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto — usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money. … Democracy means free television, not good television, but free. … And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head — this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle. I thank you.”
Johnny Carson

“Don’t panic.”
from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), by Douglas Adams

“Don’t think.  It can only hurt the ball club.”
Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), in Bull Durham (MGM 1988)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
the opening line of Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen

“I think well of all skepticism to which I may reply: ‘Let us try it.’ But I no longer want to hear anything of all those things and questions which do not  permit experiments. This is the limit of my ‘sense of truth’…”
Frederich Nietzsche

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
attributed to Coco Chanel

“You’re so analytical. Sometimes you just have to let art… flow… over you.”
Nick (William Hurt), in The Big Chill (Columbia 1983)

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”
Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Universal 1982)

“Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le desir de la mer grande et large.”
[trans.: “If you want to build a ship, don’t begin by gathering wood, cutting the boards, and dividing the work; rather awaken in the men the desire for the vast and endless sea.”]
attributed (perhaps incorrectly) to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Don’t do anything that someone else can do. Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
Edwin Land

“Shut up and deal.”
Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), in The Apartment (The Mirisch Company 1960)

“We have not got any money, so we have got to think.”
attributed to Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson

“To change the rules, change the tools.”
Lee Felsenstein

–“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. . . . An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.” (Often paraphrased: “Science advances one funeral at a time,” which is sometimes known as Planck’s principle.)
–Max Planck

“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), in Some Like It Hot (The Mirisch Company 1959)

“‘People!’ I ain’t ‘people.’ I am a ‘shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament.'”
Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), in Singin’ in the Rain (MGM 1952)

“There’s hope for you yet, Russell.”
Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand), in Almost Famous (Columbia Pictures 2000)

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”
from Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), by E. O. Wilson