Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Henry Miller's 11 Commandments

In the early-1930s, as he wrote what would become his first published novel — the hugely influential Tropic of Cancer — Henry Miller wrote a list of 11 commandments, to be followed by himself.

The list read as follows.

(Source: Henry Miller on Writing Image: Henry Miller, c.1950, courtesy of Answers.)

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to "Black Spring."
  3. Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can't create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don't be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Monday, 30 January 2012


As production on the movie adaptation of the novel D'entre les morts began in 1957, behind the scenes a tug-of-war developed between its director, Alfred Hitchcock, and studio, Paramount, due to its title. Hitchcock wanted Vertigo. The studio repeatedly shot it down. They offered a selection of alternatives that included "A Matter of Fact," "Tonight is Ours" and "The Mad Carlotta." Hitchcock refused to budge. Weeks later, on October 24th of 1957, Paramount executive Sam Frey tried one last time to change Hitchcock's mind, and sent him the following list of suggestions.

Yet again, Hitchcock stood firm. Paramount threw in the towel.

(Source: Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic; Image: Alfred Hitchcock, via CINEROOM.)

  1. Afraid to Love
  2. Alone in the Dark
  3. The Apparition
  4. Behind the Mask
  5. Carlotta
  6. Checkmate
  7. Conscience
  8. Cry from the Rooftop
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Deceit
  11. Deceitful
  12. Deception
  13. Don't Leave Me
  14. Dream Without Ending
  15. The Face Variations
  16. Footsteps
  17. For the Last Time
  18. The Hidden life
  19. In the Shadows
  20. The Investigator
  21. A Life Is Forever
  22. The Lure
  23. Malice
  24. The Mask and the Face
  25. The Mask Illusion
  26. My Madeleine
  27. A Matter of Fact
  28. Never Leave Me
  29. Night Shade
  30. Nothing Is Forever
  31. Past, Present and Future
  32. The Phantom
  33. The Second Chance
  34. The Shadow
  35. Shadow and Substance
  36. Shadow on the Stairs
  37. Shock
  38. Steps on the Stairs
  39. Terror
  40. To Live Again
  41. Tonight Is Ours
  42. Too Late My Love
  43. Two Kinds of Women
  44. The Unknown
  45. Wanted
  46. Without A Trace
  47. The Witness

Friday, 27 January 2012

Who killed JFK?

On November 22nd of 1963, US President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed as he travelled in an open-top car through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Also in the motorcade that fateful afternoon was his secretary of 10 years, Evelyn Lincoln. Hours after the assassination, as she flew back to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One, Evelyn penned the following list of suspects in the murder of her late-boss — a list that began with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and ended with "Communists."

Some years later, Evelyn added the note seen on the list's reverse.

(Transcript follows. This fascinating document can be found in the Lists of Note book, along with 124 other compelling lists from throughout history. For more info about that book, go here.)

Lyndon –
Dixiecrats –
Hoffa –
John Birch Society
CIA in Cuban fiasco

There is no end to the list of suspected conspirators to Pres. Kennedy murder. Many factions had their reasons for wanting the young president dead. That fact alone illustrates how the world suffers from a congenital proclivity to violence.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rescue Etiquette

From the great Mark Twain comes a typically humorous etiquette guide, written for the benefit of young gentlemen rescuing people from boarding house fires. Twain identifies 26 types of people (plus furniture) to be plucked from the inferno, all listed in order of importance.

(Source: Letters from the Earth: New Uncensored Writings By Mark Twain; Image: Mark Twain, courtesy of UKTV.)

In assisting at a fire in a boarding house, the true gentleman will always save the young ladies first—making no distinction in favor of personal attractions, or social eminence, or pecuniary predominance—but taking them as they come, and firing them out with as much celerity as shall be consistent with decorum. There are exceptions, of course, to all rules; the exceptions to this one are:

Partiality, in the matter of rescue, to be shown to:

1. Fiancées.
2. Persons toward whom the operator feels a tender sentiment, but has not yet declared himself.
3. Sisters.
4. Stepsisters.
5. Nieces.
6. First cousins.
7. Cripples.
8. Second cousins.
9. Invalids.
10. Young-lady relations by marriage.
11. Third cousins, and young-lady friends of the family.
12. The Unclassified.

Other material in boarding house is to be rescued in the following order:

13. Babies.
14. Children under 10 years of age.
15. Young widows.
16. Young married females.
17. Elderly married ditto.
18. Elderly widows.
19. Clergymen.
20. Boarders in general.
21. Female domestics.
22. Male ditto.
23. Landlady.
24. Landlord.
25. Firemen.
26. Furniture.
27. Mothers-in-law.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Basket Ball

In December of 1891, after being asked to invent a new indoor game for his students during the winter months, a Canadian teacher named James Naismith wrote the following 13-point list of rules and attached it to the wall of a gym at the Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The game he had invented was basketball. Over the years the list evolved to include rules for such things as dribbling and dunking; today, the official rules of basketball (PDF), as approved by FIBA, are 80 pages long.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of Sotheby's, who sold this original list for $4.3M in 2010.

Images: Sotheby's

Basket. Ball.

The ball to be an ordinary Association foot ball.

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball, the player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed.

4. The ball must be held in or between the hands, the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules 3 and 4, and such as described in rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges and the opponent moves the basket it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds it shall be thrown into the field, and played by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower in is allowed five seconds, if he holds it longer it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.

10. The umpire shall be judge of the men, and shall note the fouls, and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, and to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two fifteen minute halves, with five minutes rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winners. In case of a draw the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.

First draft of Basket Ball rules. Hung in the gym that the boys might learn the rules - Dec 1891

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

In 1958, Jack Kerouac wrote a letter to Don Allen. In closing, he included a 30-point list of "essentials" that he titled "Belief and Technique for Modern Prose." It read as follows.

(Source: Heaven and Other Poems; Image: Kerouac, courtesy of Beat is Back.)

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You're a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
As ever,

Monday, 23 January 2012

Edison's To-Do List

From the notebooks of Thomas Edison — the fourth most prolific inventor in history, and as such a ridiculously busy man — comes a five-page to-do list, handwritten in January of 1888 when Edison was still just 40 years of age. A few immediately notable entries (that is, notable to someone as unintelligent as me — I don't understand huge portions of it) include, "Electrical Piano," "Artificial Ivory," and "Ink for Blind."

(Source: The Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University; Top image: Thomas Edison in 1911. Source.)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Fumblerules of Grammar

Late-1979, New York Times columnist William Safire compiled a list of "Fumblerules of Grammar" — rules of writing, all of which are humorously self-contradictory — and published them in his popular column, "On Language." Those 36 fumblerules can be seen below, along with another 18 that later featured in Safire's book, Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage.

Trivia: Safire previously worked as a speechwriter and was, in 1969, responsible for penning Nixon's thankfully unused and incredibly chilling, "IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER" speech.

(Source: Maximum Awesome; Image: William Safire in 1968, courtesy of NYTimes.)

  1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  2. A preposition is something never to end a sentence with.
  3. The passive voice should never be used.
  4. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  5. Don't use no double negatives.
  6. Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.
  7. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.
  8. Do not put statements in the negative form.
  9. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  10. No sentence fragments.
  11. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  12. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  13. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  14. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  15. Eschew dialect, irregardless.
  16. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
  17. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!
  18. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  19. Hyphenate between sy-llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.
  20. Write all adverbial forms correct.
  21. Don't use contractions in formal writing.
  22. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  23. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.
  24. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  25. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
  26. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  27. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  28. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  29. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  30. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
  31. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  32. Don't string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
  33. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  34. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks."'"
  35. The adverb always follows the verb.
  36. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives.
  37. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  38. Employ the vernacular.
  39. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  40. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  41. Contractions aren't necessary.
  42. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  43. One should never generalize.
  44. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  45. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  46. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  47. Be more or less specific.
  48. Understatement is always best.
  49. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  50. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  51. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  52. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  53. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  54. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with a point

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Things to worry about

In 1933, renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald ended a letter to his 11-year-old daughter, Scottie, with a list of things to worry about, not worry about, and simply think about. It read as follows.

(Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald with his daughter, Scottie, in 1924.)

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,


Monday, 16 January 2012


The following gem of a list — variations of which circulated in a number of publications at the back-end of the 1800s — was printed in 1891 in the Taranaki Herald, a newspaper once published in New Plymouth, New Zealand. It's a brief, 13-point guide to the mysterious art of "Eye Flirtation."

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.


Winking the right eye—I love you.
Winking the left eye—I hate you.
Winking both eyes—Yes.
Winking both eyes at once—We are watched.
Winking right eye twice—I am engaged.
Winking left eye twice—I am married.
Dropping the eyelids—May I kiss you?
Raising the eyebrows—Kiss me.
Closing the left eye slowly—Try and love me.
Closing the right eye slowly—You are beautiful.
Placing right forefinger to right eye—Do you love me?
Placing right forefinger to left eye—You are handsome
Placing right little finger to the right eye—Aren't you ashamed?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Alias for trip to Paris? Helena?

Madonna is a busy woman, and by the looks of it she relies heavily on the trusty to-do list. Or at least she did at the tail-end of 1990, not long after her Blond Ambition World Tour had been completed, and mere weeks prior to the release of The Immaculate Collection. These otherwise mundane lists are lightly peppered with hints of her fame: Woody Allen; the FBI; Picasso ("better than sex"); interviews with numerous publications. Madonna's to-do list dated October 11th even begins with a reminder to choose an alias for a trip to Paris, in order to avoid unnecessary attention.

Apologies for the lack of a transcript. All pixelated parts are phone numbers.

Images courtesy of Gotta Have It, who sold the lists in 2010.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Decalogue of Canons

In 1825, the year before his death, Thomas Jefferson — the 3rd U.S. President and a Founding Father of the United States of America — was asked by a father to supply some words of wisdom to his young son, Thomas Jefferson Smith, who had recently been named after him. Jefferson graciously responded with a handwritten letter, at the end of which was the following 10-point list of advice for the youngster, titled, "A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life."

Each and every word still rings true.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life.

1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3. Never spend your money before you have it.
4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


On June 21st of 1895, the "Newark Sunday Advocate" ran an alarming story — syndicated from New York World — about a recent gathering of the Unique Cycling Club of Chicago; an event that saw two lady riders publicly punished/shamed for having the audacity to turn up wearing short skirts over their bloomers. That story can, and should, be read below.

Also of note is the amazing list that followed said piece, printed in an effort to better educate female cyclists in light of the bloomer fiasco. The list was titled, "Don'ts for Women Riders."

Transcript follows. Click here for a larger image. Huge thanks to the wonderful brainpicker for bringing it to my attention.

The Unique Cycling club of Chicago is all that its name implies. One of its laws is that on all runs bloomers and knickerbockers shall be worn, and two members who disobeyed this rule recently met with a punishment that they will not forget soon. Union park was the rendezvous for the last run, and 50 members turned out. The president, Miss Bunker, observed two women wearing short skirts over their bloomers.

"Take the skirts off," ordered Captain Bunker.

"Indeed we won't," was the reply.

A crowd of 200 had collected to see the start. The president and the captain held a consultation, and then, taking several strong armed members with them, fell on the skirt wearers and stripped them down to their bloomers.

"It was done in all seriousness," said Mrs. Langdon. "The club's rules are made to be kept and not to be broken. Why did we take off the skirts in public? For no other reason but to make examples of the offenders. They publicly defied our rules and were published accordingly."



Don't be a fright.
Don't faint on the road.
Don't wear a man's cap.
Don't wear tight garters.
Don't forget your toolbag
Don't attempt a "century."
Don't coast. It is dangerous.
Don't boast of your long rides.
Don't criticize people's "legs."
Don't wear loud hued leggings.
Don't cultivate a "bicycle face."
Don't refuse assistance up a hill.
Don't wear clothes that don't fit.
Don't neglect a "light's out" cry.
Don't wear jewelry while on a tour.
Don't race. Leave that to the scorchers.
Don't wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
Don't imagine everybody is looking at you.
Don't go to church in your bicycle costume.
Don't wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
Don't contest the right of way with cable cars.
Don't chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
Don't wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
Don't ask, "What do you think of my bloomers?"
Don't use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
Don't go out after dark without a male escort.
Don't without a needle, thread and thimble.
Don't try to have every article of your attire "match."
Don't let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
Don't allow dear little Fido to accompany you
Don't scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
Don't discuss bloomers with every man you know.
Don't appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
Don't overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
Don't ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
Don't try to ride in your brother's clothes "to see how it feels."
Don't scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
Don't cultivate everything that is up to date because you ride a wheel.
Don't emulate your brother's attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
Don't undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
Don't appear to be up on "records" and "record smashing." That is sporty.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Try to enjoy myself when I can

From one of Marilyn Monroe's address books comes a list of New Year's resolutions written late-1955. Monroe was 29-years-old at the time and had already filmed an impressive number of movies, including The Seven Year Itch, released that year. Just recently she had been accepted as a student at the Actors Studio, by Lee Strasberg, and judging by this list she was determined to make the most of her opportunities.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Marilyn Monroe: Fragments; Image via.)

Must make effort to do
Must have the dicipline to do the following –

z – go to class – my own always – without fail

x – go as often as possible to observe Strassberg's other private classes

g – never miss actor's studio sessions

v – work whenever possible – on class assignments – and always keep working on the acting exercises

u – start attending Clurman lectures – also Lee Strassberg's directors lectures at theater wing – enquire about both

l – keep looking around me – only much more so – observing – but not only myself but others and everything – take things (it) for what they (it's) are worth

y – must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen – making much much much more more more more more effort in my analisis. And be there always on time – no excuses for being ever late.

w – if possible – take at least one class at university – in literature –

o – follow RCA thing through.

p – try to find someone to take dancing from – body work (creative)

t – take care of my instrument – personally & bodily (exercise)

try to enjoy myself when I can – I'll be miserable enough as it is.