The Optimist's Handbook: A Companion to Hope / The Pessimist's Handbook: A Companion to Despair

Overview

The mere sense of living is joy enough.
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, American poet

Humanity's story is one long testimony to the truth that life is as rewarding and beautiful as you make it. As pioneers, inventors, and dreamers have always known, you can do anything if only you persevere. Ever since we hauled ourselves out of the swamp, our history has been one of extraordinary cultural and technological progress, of mind-boggling discoveries ...

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Overview

The mere sense of living is joy enough.
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, American poet

Humanity's story is one long testimony to the truth that life is as rewarding and beautiful as you make it. As pioneers, inventors, and dreamers have always known, you can do anything if only you persevere. Ever since we hauled ourselves out of the swamp, our history has been one of extraordinary cultural and technological progress, of mind-boggling discoveries and remarkable achievements, often against the odds. It's no coincidence that you see no statues of pessimists in city squares.

Still, cynical and doubting voices are heard all too loudly and frequently in public discourse. A potent antidote to their gloom and doom, The Optimist's Handbook is a joyful explosion of wit and wisdom from our past and present that celebrates the art of greeting life with the excitement it deserves. This handbook will inspire, enchant, and entertain you as you go forward into all your wonderful tomorrows. Even if, after reading it, you are not moved to feats of glory for the greater good, the fact is that optimists are healthier, happier, and richer than their gloomy counterparts. Hear that, killjoys?

The world is a grindstone and life is your nose.
Fred Allen, 1894-1956, American humorist

Why beat around the bush? The truth is that life is a never-ending cycle of toil and pain with nothing but death to reward all our suffering. Furthermore, what solace is there in blind optimism or fanciful daydreaming when it is perfectly clear that the world is heading toward a complete meltdown whether we live in it or not? Resigning yourself to life's grim treadmill, and thereby avoiding more disappointments, is the best way to trudge forward.

The Pessimist's Handbook is an indispensable companion on your journey through this vale of tears. A clear-sighted, realistic look at life's obstacles, this guidebook is stocked with the pearls of wisdom you need to counter the irritating voices of those who trumpet futile positivity and inane confidence in a brighter future. Feel reassured that scores of people share your sense of impending doom...and have done so for centuries. After all, misery loves company, but not when it's a horde of perky utopians.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439159538
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 11/10/2009
  • Edition description: Omnibus Edition
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Niall Edworthy is an author and journalist. He is the author of The Curious Gardender’s Almanac and over a dozen other books under a variety of guises and noms de plume, covering military history, biography, sport, general humor, and gardening. He lives in West Sussex with his wife and two children.

The following are the author's biographical blurbs as they appear in The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook:

The Optimist's Handbook:
Niall Edworthy is the celebrated author of twenty books, making him a hero to many around the globe. Commentators say it is just a matter of time before he sweeps the board of literary awards, turns down a seat in the House of Lords and retires from his estate in the Home Counties to a tropical island, a robust, over-sexed, eight-figure-millionaire philanthropist.

The Pessimist's Handbook:
Over the past decade Niall Edworthy has made a poor to modest living as a jobbing hack. An ongoing disappointment to his dysfunctional family and both his friends, Niall spends his days in a cold garage in the middle of nowhere typing nonsense into an old computer with the one finger not yet afflicted by RSI. His magnum opus, Life Is a Bowl of Toenail Clippings, remains unfinished.

Petra Cramsie worked as an editor for puzzle magazines, then as a writer/researcher for a production company making television documentaries, and then as an editor at Allison and Busby. After leaving London, she studied for degrees in human ecology and philosophy. She lives in Herefordshire with her family.

The following are the author's biographical blurbs as they appear in The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook:

The Optimist's Handbook:
In her dazzling early career launching exhibitions, publishing magazines, editing books and writing for television, Petra Cramsie added considerably to the gaiety of nations. She now lives in a rural idyll above Herefordshire’s Golden Valley, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow will be even better than today. Blessed with children, Petra often reminds those citizens of a brighter future that a day without a smile is like a day without sunshine.

The Pessimist's Handbook:
After years spent toiling at various unrewarding employments, Petra Cramsie left London to face the vicissitudes of middle age. She and her dependants live in a godforsaken, wind-tormented spot opposite the Black Mountains. When she is not up to her eyeballs in relentless domestic drudgery, she spends her time contemplating the exact size, shape and texture of the hand-basket in which the world is going to hell.

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LIFE

There is no wealth but life.

John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English author and poet

There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?

George Borrow, 1803-1881, English author, Lavengro (1851)

Life is:

...a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.

Sir Thomas Browne, 1605-1682, English author

...the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

Samuel Butler, 1835-1902, English novelist

...colour and warmth and light

And a striving evermore for these...

Julian Grenfell, 1888-1915, English poet, "Into Battle"

The mere sense of living is joy enough.

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, American poet

December 22, 1912

Palaeontology has its comfortable words too. I have revelled in my littleness and irresponsibility. It has relieved me of the harassing desire to live, I feel content to live dangerously, indifferent to my fate; I have discovered I am a fly, that we are all flies, that nothing matters. It's a great load off my life, for I don't mind being such a microorganism — to me the honour is sufficient of belonging to the universe — such a great universe, so grand a scheme of things. Not even Death can rob me of that honour. For nothing can alter the fact that I have lived; I have been I, if for ever so short a time.

W. N. P. Barbellion, 1889-1919, British naturalist, Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919)

I slept and dreamed that life was joy,

I awoke and saw that life was duty,

I acted, and behold duty wasjoy.

Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature

Pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life.

Epicurus, 341-270 BC, Greek philosopher

Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun,

To have lived light in the spring,

To have loved,

To have thought,

To have done?

Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888, "The Hymn of Empedocles" (1852)

If you feel that life is one of God's jokes, there is still no reason why we shouldn't make it a good joke.

Kenneth Williams, 1926-1988, British actor

LOVE

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

George Sand, 1804-1876, French author

Love

...is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997, Catholic missionary

...is one soul inhabiting two bodies.

Aristotle, 384-322 BC

...is someone you can be silly with.

Cecil Beaton, 1904-1980, photographer

I shall show you a love philtre compounded without drug or herb or witches' spell. It is this: if you wish to be loved, love.

Hecato, c. 100 BC, Stoic philosopher

The Meaning of Love

Those four letters, L-O-V-E, contain multitudes. The Ancient Greeks used three different words in place of our catch-all one: Agape, the love that people have for God, duty, or family; Philia, which denoted the love we feel for friends; and Eros, love for a lover.

The simple act of falling in love is as beneficial as it is astonishing.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894, Scottish writer

Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king.

Emma Goldman, 1869-1940, anarchist, "Marriage and Love," in Anarchism and Other Essays (1911)

If I can't love Hitler, I can't love at all.

Rev. A. J. Muste, 1885-1967, American pacifist, at a Quaker meeting in 1940

According to proverbial wisdom from all around the world, Love:

makes the world go round; will find a way; teaches even donkeys to dance; sees roses without thorns; pays no attention to dignity; makes the impossible possible; rules without rules; makes labor light; laughs at locksmiths; can be neither bought nor sold; rules his kingdom without a sword; understands all languages; conquers all; is as strong as death.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I Love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806-1861, English poet, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)

MARRIAGE
It Must Be Love

The Harian Metro newspaper in Malaysia recently reported that a thirty-three-year-old man from the north of the country has married a 104-year-old woman. It is the man's first marriage and the bride's twenty-first. Muhamad, an ex-army serviceman, declared that he had found peace and a strong sense of belonging after meeting Wook Kundor. The groom went on to say that he couldn't be accused of going after his wife's money as she had none.

Who said Iranian women were oppressed? A wife in Iran has managed to have her husband condemned for his avarice in a court of law. The stingy husband was ordered to buy 124,000 red roses for his wife. The court seized the man's apartment until all the roses appeared.

As reported in the Iranian daily, Etemad.

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Martin Luther, 1483-1546, German theologian

Marriage Is Good For You

According to Professor Andrew Oswald, of Warwick University, "the singleton life is seriously bad for your health and can be almost as bad as smoking," while the wedded life actually boosts the immune system. If that's a bit too vague, research presented to the American Psychosomatic Society shows that, if you're happily married, cuts and grazes are likely to heal more quickly. Researchers monitored forty-two couples and found that their (medically induced) minor wounds healed almost twice as fast among those happily married than among those less so.

Marriage is the result of the longing for the deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell, 1865-1940, British stage actress

...In what stupid age or nation

Was marriage ever out of fashion?

Samuel Butler, 1612-1680, English poet

Man's best possession is a sympathetic wife.

Euripides, 484-406 BC, Antigone

The Virgin Islands, ironically, is the place with the highest marriage rate in the world.

There was an old man from Orissa...Eighty-year-old Udaynath Dakshiniray, from India, has had ninety wives and twenty-nine children. All his ninety wives were from impoverished families and, before tying the knot, he presented each one with at least five acres of land. The Asian Age reports that when asked why he had married so often, Dakshiniray said he was on a social mission to help women overcome social stigma and harassment. He had started out in life with over four hundred acres of land and others weren't as fortunate as he. Udaynath Dakshiniray intends to carry on marrying. In fact, he claims to have recently received nine offers of marriage from abroad, from the United States, Japan, Hungary, and Germany. Serial monogamy as social service — could it catch on?

Marriage, it has been proven, makes men more successful and richer. The 10 to 40 percent wage premium married men receive compared to their unmarried counterparts is in fact "one of the most well-documented phenomena in social science."

Sir Temulji Bhicaji Nariman and Lady Nariman, from India, and Lazarus Rowe and Molly Webber, from the United States, share the world record for the longest marriage: eighty-six years. According to records, the oldest couple ever to wed was François Fernandez, aged ninety-six, and Madeleine Francineau, aged ninety-four, in 2002.
MEDIA

I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.

Bill Gates, b. 1955, American businessman

Let me make the newspapers, and I care not what is preached in the pulpit or what is enacted in Congress.

Wendell Phillips, 1811-1862, American abolitionist and orator

The BBC World Service is perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world this century.

Kofi Annan, b. 1938, UN secretary-general, in 1999

The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander.

T. E. Lawrence, 1888-1935, British soldier and writer

It's not that the world has got much worse, just that the news coverage has got so much better.

Often attributed to G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936

In these times we fight for ideas, and newspapers are our fortresses.

Heinrich Heine, 1797-1856, German poet and writer

Here is the living disproof of the old adage that nothing is as dead as yesterday's newspaper...This is what really happened, reported by a free press to a free people. It is the raw material of history; it is the story of our own times.

Henry Steele Commager, 1902-1998, historian

Most of us probably feel we couldn't be free without newspapers, and that is the real reason we want the newspapers to be free.

Edward R. Murrow, 1908-1965, broadcast journalist

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1803-1873, English writer and politician

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826

Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism; when a great one goes, like the New York Herald Tribune, history itself is denied a devoted witness.

Richard Kluger, b. 1934, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

MEN

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.

Elbert Hubbard, 1856-1915, American writer and philosopher

Men are like wine. Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.

Pope John XXIII, "The Good Pope," 1881-1963

In 1974, Janet Saltzman Chafetz, a sociology professor at the University of Houston, pinpointed the following Seven Areas of Masculinity:

1 Physical — virile, athletic, strong, brave. Unconcerned about appearance and aging

2 Functional — breadwinner, provider for family as much as mate

3 Sexual — sexually aggressive, experienced. Single status acceptable

4 Emotional — unemotional, stoic, the proverb says Boys don't cry

5 Intellectual — logical, intellectual, rational, objective, practical

6 Interpersonal — leader, dominating; disciplinarian; independent, free, individualistic; demanding

7 Other personal characteristics — success-oriented, ambitious, aggressive, proud, egotistical; moral, trustworthy; decisive, competitive, uninhibited, adventurous

Men build bridges and throw railroads across deserts, and yet they contend successfully that the job of sewing on a button is beyond them. Accordingly, they don't have to sew buttons.

Heywood Broun, 1888-1939, American journalist, Seeing Things at Night (1921)

We're more proficient than women at arm wrestling, fresco-painting, ice hockey and particle physics. We make better cabinets, sun decks and booster rockets. We know how to read a map. In the movies, most Westerns and martial arts films would be poorer without our presence. ...So let's renew our male mission and wear our antlers high on our heads. Let's stand up straight, aim well, and exercise our prerogative to leave the seat up. After all, we're MEN, and we hold a proud heritage in our hands.

Rick Bayan, b. 1950, at the Cynic's Sanctuary, January 1999

The ManKind Project

For those who have lost or are still looking for their masculinity, the ManKind Project promotes "accountability and integrity; connection to feelings; leadership, fatherhood; and the blessing of elders". Join more than forty thousand men worldwide who have participated in its primary training, the New Warrior Training Adventure, at www.mkp.org.

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?

Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German-born physicist

MIDDLE AGE

You don't understand life any better at forty than twenty, but you know it and you admit it. That's youth.

Jules Renard, 1864-1910, French author

Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age.

Victor Hugo, 1802-1885, French poet

At twenty years of age, the will reigns, at thirty, the wit; at forty, the judgment.

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790, Poor Richard's Almanac (1758)

At fifty you have the choice of keeping your face or your figure and it's much better to keep your face.

Dame Barbara Cartland, 1901-2000, Daily Mail (1981)

I want to retire at fifty. I want to play cricket in the summer and geriatric football in the winter, and sing in the choir.

Neil Kinnock, b. 1942, The London Times, July 28, 1980

Lady Bracknell: Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

Women are most fascinating between the ages of thirty-five and forty, after they have won a few races and know how to pace themselves. Since few women ever pass forty, maximum fascination can continue indefinitely.

Attributed to Christian Dior, 1905-1957, Collier's Magazine, June 10, 1955

Copyright © 2008 by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie

LIFE

You fall out of your mother's womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and you drop into your grave.

Quentin Crisp, 1908-1999, from An Evening with Quentin Crisp

There are only three events in a man's life; birth, life and death; he is unaware of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live.
Jean de La Bruyere, 1645-1696, French essayist

What do baths bring to your mind? Oil, sweat, dirt, greasy water and everything that is disgusting. Such, then, is life in all its parts and such is every material thing in it.
Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Roman Emperor, Meditations

The world is a grindstone and life is your nose.
Fred Allen, 1894-1956, American humorist

Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.
George Orwell, 1903-1950, "Shooting an Elephant" (1950)

Life is

...a cheap table d'hote in a rather dirty restaurant, with time changing the plates before you've had enough of anything.
Thomas Kettle, 1880-1916, Irish poet

...everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed.
Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, Rasselas (1759)

...just one damned thing after another.
Elbert Hubbard, 1856-1915, American writer and philosopher

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another — it is one damn thing over and over.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892-1950, American poet

Time is a great teacher, they say. Unfortunately, it kills all its pupils.
Hector Berlioz, 1803-1869, French composer

O2

All day, every day, we breathe in a highly toxic substance which leads to the production of free radicals in our systems. These, in turn, sometimes cause damage to our DNA which may, occasionally, result in the formation of a tumor. This chain of events is statistically likely to happen over a long period of time, so, as we live for longer and longer lifespans, more and more of us will get cancer. Already, it's one in three. But it's no use trying to avoid inhaling the noxious stuff that will get us in the end: it's called oxygen.

Who would venture on the journey of life if compelled to begin it at the end?
Mme de Maintenon, 1635-1719, wife of Louis XIV

Life can then little else supply
But a few good fucks and then we die.
Thomas Potter, An Essay on Woman (1755)

LOVE

I can understand companionship. I can understand bought sex in the afternoon. What I cannot understand is the love affair.
Gore Vidal, b. 1925, American writer, in The Sunday Times (London), 1973

What is love, anyway?

...the desire to prostitute oneself. There is, indeed, no exalted pleasure that cannot be related to prostitution.
Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867, French poet, Intimate Journals (1887)

...the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate white human flesh.
Henry Fielding, 1707-1754, Tom Jones (1749)

...a sin in theology, a forbidden intercourse in jurisprudence, a mechanical insult in medicine, and a subject philosophy has no time for.
Karl Kraus, 1874-1936, Austrian satirist

Ten Country-Western Songs

• I Liked You Better Before I Got to Know You So Well

• How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

• It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chewed Your Ass Out All Day Long

• She Got The Ring and I Got the Finger

• You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly

• If I Can't Be Number One in Your Life, Then Number Two on You

• I'm So Miserable Without You, It's Like You're Still Here

• If The Phone Don't Ring, You'll Know It's Me

• I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better

• If I Had Shot You When I First Wanted To, I'd Be Out of Prison by Now

We all know that romantic, passionate love doesn't last, but surely the "companionate" love it turns into is the real thing — a long-term emotion that only grows as couples stay together through thick and thin? Not so, according to psychology professor Elaine Hatfield at the University of Hawaii. After a series of interviews with nearly 1,000 couples, she and her fellow social psychologist Jane Traupmann presented their findings that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, companionate love declines as precipitously as romantic love, and never stops declining.

Love is the fart

Of every heart:

It pains a man when 'tis kept close,

And others doth offend, when 'tis let loose.

John Suckling, 1609-1642, English poet, "Love's Offence"

Love seeketh only Self to please,

To bind another to its delight,

Joys in another's loss of ease,

And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite.

William Blake, 1757-1827, "The Clod and the Pebble" (1794)

Greeting an ex-lover after several years:

I thought I told you to wait in the car.

Tallulah Bankhead, 1902-1968, American actress

MARRIAGE

• A man without a wife is a man without a master.

• Neither marriage nor war will go away once begun.

• He who has a wife has pain.

Italian proverbs

I know nothing about sex because I was always married.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, b. 1917, Hungarian-born American actress

The most happy marriage I can picture or imagine to myself would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834, English poet

The widow/widower effect is the term coined to describe the trend whereby healthy spouses die soon after their wives or husbands. New findings from the University of Pennsylvania, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, prove that this is very real.
I NEVER KNEW WHAT REAL HAPPINESS WAS UNTIL I GOT MARRIED; AND THEN IT WAS TOO LATE

LOVE MAY BE BLIND, BUT MARRIAGE IS A REAL EYE-OPENER

MY OTHER WIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

NO HUSBAND HAS EVER BEEN SHOT WHILE DOING THE DISHES

Bumper stickers

Vienna, Austria, has a phenomenally high divorce rate: 69 percent. The city, therefore, has decided to hold a first Divorce Fair to enable people to meet the right lawyers, estate agents, travel agents, counselors, and so on. Sunday's fair is open to women and Saturday's to men.

Shortest Celebrity Marriages

How short can a Hollywood or celebrity marriage be? Some are chasing annulment just a few hours after getting hitched.

Elizabeth Taylor and Nicky Hilton — 8 months

Lisa Marie Presley and Nicolas Cage — 3 months, 15 days

Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas — 30 days

Cher and Gregg Allman — 9 days

Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker — 6 hours

• He that has a wife, has strife.

• A dead wife's the best goods in a man's house.

According to Charles L. Nunn of the Department of Biology at the University of Virginia, mammals that are monogamous or have small harem groups are more prone to extinction. Several duiker species which are monogamous died out around ten years after reserves had been set up for them in Ghana. The African buffalo, however, which has harems of about fifteen females, is still thriving in those reserves: "The most sexually active species...may have evolved elevated immune systems as a defense mechanism against disease. ...We looked at animal species with a range of mating behaviors and found a strong relationship between high white blood cell counts and high promiscuity in healthy animals."

In Kebbi State, northern Nigeria, the average age of marriage for girls is just over eleven years, against a national average of seventeen.

When a man opens the car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife.

Attributed to Prince Philip, b. 1921, Duke of Edinburgh

MEDIA

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

Ben Hecht, 1894-1964, American playwright and screenwriter

Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility — a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.

Lee de Forest, 1873-1961, inventor of the cathode ray tube

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.

Terry Pratchett, b. 1948, English author

A newspaper consists of the same number of words whether there be any news in it or not.

Henry Fielding, 1707-1754, author

You can't take something off the Internet — it's like taking piss out of a swimming pool.

Author unknown

Television? No good will come of this device. The word is half Greek and half Latin.

C. P. Scott, 1846-1932, editor

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: President Can't Swim.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 1908-1973, U.S. president

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?

Response of colleagues to a call from DAVID SARNOFF, American pioneer of broadcast media, to invest in commercial radio in the 1920s

My work is being destroyed almost as soon as it is printed. One day it is being read; the next day someone's wrapping fish in it.

Al Capp, 1909-1979, American cartoonist

There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.

T. Craven, U.S. Federal Communications commissioner, in 1961; the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965

It's estimated that about 1.4 blogs are created every second of every day. Since online sources of information on every subject under the sun can be constantly updated, our daily papers risk being out-of-date in more ways than one. Will newsprint survive the onslaught of the digital age?

MEN

There are two good men: one dead, the other unborn.

Chinese proverb

Men first feel necessity, then look for utility, next attend to comfort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad and waste their substance.

Giambattista Vico, 1668-1744, Italian philosopher

What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?

Isak Dinesen, 1885-1962, Danish writer, "The Dreamers" (1935)

A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.

Albert Camus, 1913-1960

Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, with the onset of the "testosterone storm," males are nearly five times more likely to die than females. It comes as no surprise to find that most of these deaths are from car accidents followed by homicide, suicide, cancer, and death by drowning. The difference between men and women then narrows until after fifty-five when, again, more men than women die, thanks to heart disease (five in a thousand), suicide, car accidents, and smoking and drinking. And, finally, when male and female get old, men will, on average, die five years younger than women do. Is that all? No. Men are about five times more likely than women to be struck by lightning.

He is the most ridiculous beast on earth and the reason is his mind and his pudendum.

Edward Dahlberg, 1900-1977, American novelist

A man is two people, himself and his cock. A man always takes his friend to the party. Of the two, the friend is the nicer, being more able to show his feelings.

Beryl Bainbridge, b. 1934, British author

There is, of course, no reason for the existence of the male sex except that one sometimes needs help with moving the piano.

Rebecca West, 1892-1983, Irish writer, Sunday Telegraph, 1970

In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.

First Lady Abigail Adams, 1797-1801, letter to her husband John Adams, 1776

Men plant the seeds of their own obsolescence

Until recently, men (not just male scientists) were the only ones who could make spermatozoa. But, in 2007, scientists discovered a way of making sperm cells from bone marrow, thereby opening up the possibility of a woman making sperm from her own bone marrow and fertilizing another woman's egg — or vice versa — and leaving men neatly out of the equation. Redundancy beckons, and probably no severance package.

The man who has cured himself of BO and halitosis, has learned French to surprise the waiter, and the saxophone to amuse the company, may find that people still avoid him because they do not like him.

Heywood Broun, 1888-1939, American journalist

The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.

Attributed to various French women of the 18th century

MIDDLE AGE

Fair, fat and forty.

Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832, St. Ronan's Well (1823)

In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself in a dark wood

Where the straight path was lost.

Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia, Inferno, Canto 1 (c.1320)

Faced with the collapse of his marriage, a forty-four-year-old Australian from Perth is planning to auction his life (his house, his job, his clothes, his friends) on eBay. By throwing out everything from his car to his friends, Ian Usher is planning to get rid of the chaos and the midlife blues that have beset his life and start again.

Everybody has a talent at twenty-five. The difficult thing is to have it at fifty.

Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, French artist

Forty is a terrible age. It is the age in which we become what we are.

Charles Péguy, 1873-1914, French writer

Nature gives you the face you have when you are twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But it is up to you to earn the face you have at fifty.

Attributed to Coco Chanel, 1883-1971, fashion designer

The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

Muhammad Ali, b. 1942, American boxer

The man who is a pessimist before forty-eight knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.

Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American humorist, Notebook, December 1902

A team of economists, who published their results in the journal Social Science and Medicine, have shown that people's levels of happiness are definitely a curved shape. It would appear that we are happiest at the start and the end of our lives, making us pretty grumpy and depressed in the middle years between forty and fifty. This was a pattern that appeared not only in Europe and America, but in countries across the globe in Asia and Africa.

Copyright © 2008 by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie

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