Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

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Quote of the Day

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Cleverness is a certain knack or aptitude at doing certain things, which depend more on a particular adroitness and off-hand readiness than on force or perseverance, such as making puns, making epigrams, making extempore verses, mimicking the company, mimicking a style…Talent is the capacity of doing any thing that depends on application and industry, such as writing a criticism, making a speech, studying the law. Talent differs from genius, as voluntary differs from involuntary power. Ingenuity is genius in trifles, greatness is genius in undertakings of much pith and moment. A clever or ingenious man is one who can do any thing well, whether it is worth doing or not: a great man is one who can do that which when done is of the highest importance. Themistocles said he could not play on the flute, but that he could make of a small city a great one. This gives one a pretty good idea of the distinction in question.

William Hazlitt, “The Indian Jugglers”

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May 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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If you know that you’ve got to be somewhere in half an hour, there’s no way you can achieve [a work of art]. So the art life means a freedom to have time for the good things to happen. There’s not always a lot of time for other things.

David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish

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May 22, 2017 at 7:30 am

“It is so, it is so!”

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No man should dream of solving a great problem unless he is so thoroughly saturated with his subject that everything else sinks into comparative insignificance. During a hurried meeting with [Julius von] Mayer in Heidelberg once, [Philipp von] Jolly remarked, with a rather dubious implication, that if Mayer’s theory were correct water could be warmed by shaking. Mayer went away without a word of reply.

Several weeks later, and now unrecognised by Jolly, he rushed into the latter’s presence exclaiming: “Es ist so! Es ist so!” (It is so, it is so!). It was only after considerable explanation that Jolly found out what Mayer wanted to say.

Ernst Mach, “On the Part Played by Accident in Invention and Discovery”

Listing to starboard

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It would be nice to claim that the clinky xylophone-like accompaniment of “Little Things” is meant to reflect the brittle hollowness of Joanne and her fellow sophisticates, but in fact it’s the result of where I wrote it: on the Queen Mary during my one transatlantic boat trip. I was en route to deliver the first few songs to Hal Prince, who was shooting a movie in Bavaria, and since ocean liners, like the plays and musicals I had grown up with, were on the way out, I decided to travel in the old glamorous fashion. The purser arranged for me to have a small salon room, complete with piano, so that I could work while I traveled, assuaging my guilt over such luxurious time-wasting. But the ship kept listing to starboard and I unwittingly kept sliding toward it on the piano bench, resulting in a preponderance of treble plinks. Thus is insightful art produced.

Stephen Sondheim, Finishing the Hat

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May 20, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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May 19, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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May 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

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Quote of the Day

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May 17, 2017 at 7:30 am

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