“The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, ‘Is there a meaning to music?’ My answer would be, ‘Yes.’ And ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be, ‘No.'” — Aaron Copland, What to Listen for in Music, 1939


“A machine is a great moral educator. If a horse or a donkey won’t go, men lose their tempers and beat it; if a machine won’t go, there is no use beating it. You have to think and try till you find what is wrong. That is real education.” — Gilbert Murray

United Nations

“England’s not a bad country — it’s just a mean, cold, ugly, divided, tired, clapped-out, post-imperial, post-industrial slag heap covered in polystyrene hamburger cartons.” — Margaret Drabble

“Belgium is a country invented by the British to annoy the French.” — Charles de Gaulle

“In India, ‘cold weather’ is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass doorknob and weather which only makes it mushy.” — Mark Twain

“The Americans … have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment’s reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.” — Somerset Maugham

“In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations — it’s cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.” — Stuart Keate


“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it. It’s rather like getting tenure.” — Daniel Dennett

From the Notebooks


More aphorisms of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

  • “A man who has once stolen his hundred thousand dollars can live honestly ever after.”
  • “In the world we live in, one fool makes many fools, but one sage only a few sages.”
  • “A double louis d’or certainly counts more than two singles.”
  • Non cogitant, ergo non sunt.” (They do not think, therefore they do not exist.)
  • “Health is infectious.”
  • “A donkey appears to me like a horse translated into Dutch.”
  • “A man can never really know whether he isn’t sitting in a madhouse.”
  • “Isn’t it strange? We always consider that those who praise us are competent critics, but as soon as they blame us, we declare them incapable of judging creations of the intellect.”
  • “When sitting in a shabby carriage, one can actually put on such airs that the whole carriage looks good, and the horse too.”
  • “Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.”

“Is it really so absolutely certain that our reason can know nothing metaphysical? Might man not be able to weave his ideas of God with just as much purpose as the spider weaves his net to catch flies? Or, in other words: might not beings exist who admire us as much for our ideas of God and immortality as we admire the spider and the silkworm?”


“While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.” — Samuel Johnson


  • A pound of dimes has the same value as a pound of quarters.
  • The French word hétérogénéité has five accents.
  • 32768 = (3 – 2 + 7)6 / 8
  • Can you deceive yourself deliberately?
  • “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” — Thomas Paine

In 2000, Guatemalan police asked Christmas revelers not to fire pistols into the air. “Lots of people die when bullets fall on their heads,” National Civilian Police spokesman Faustino Sanchez told Reuters. He said that five to ten Guatemalans are killed or injured each Christmas by falling bullets.


“Love ceases to be a pleasure, when it ceases to be a secret.” — Aphra Behn


“I have never yet met anyone who did not think it was an agreeable sensation to cut tinfoil with scissors.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


“Men are not hang’d for stealing Horses, but that Horses may not be stolen.” — George Savile, Marquess of Halifax


  • Will Rogers died at the northernmost point in the United States.
  • 94122 + 23532 = 94122353
  • TO BE OR NOT TO BE contains two Bs.
  • If you stop me being mute, what sound do I make?
  • “Better to ask twice than to lose your way once.” — Danish proverb


“The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction.” — Bertrand Russell



“I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.” — Francis Bacon


“It is wonderful, when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of any profession.” — Samuel Johnson


There’s really nothing an agnostic can’t do if he really doesn’t know whether he believes in anything or not.” — Graham Chapman

A General Maxim

“Nothing is so useless as a general maxim.” — Thomas Macaulay


“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” — George Jean Nathan



“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” — G.K. Chesterton, “On Running After One’s Hat,” 1908



I think, therefore I am is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches.” — Milan Kundera


  • A TOYOTA’S A TOYOTA is a palindrome.
  • Lee Trevino was struck by lightning in 1975.
  • 39343 = 39 + 343
  • “Money often costs too much.” — Emerson

Guy Debord’s 1957 autobiography, Mémoires, was bound in a sandpaper cover so that it would destroy any book placed next to it.

(Thanks, Vinny.)



“Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oaks.” — Thomas Browne

Second Thoughts

n. a change of mind

“To change your mind and to follow him who sets you right is to be nonetheless the free agent that you were before.” — Marcus Aurelius

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” — John Maynard Keynes

“Why should you mind being wrong if someone can show you that you are?” — A.J. Ayer (attributed)


“Never cry over spilt milk, because it may have been poisoned.” — W.C. Fields


  • Dorothy Parker left her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr.
  • SOUTH CAMBRIDGE, NY contains 16 different letters.
  • 45927 = ((4 + 5) × 9)2 × 7
  • “You cannot be both fashionable and first-rate.” — Logan Pearsall Smith