Letter H

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"Those who cannot travel abroad without behaving badly should stay home," warns one of the many signs posted throughout the hotel. Messages printed on the drink coasters in the restaurant make it clear that louts and degenerates are not welcome. Miscreants and catamites will be tossed out.

Martha Ann Overland

Taken from No Room for the Wicked (about the Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok, run by Charles Henn) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 March 2007.

What I am suggesting, then, is a less powerful, more ignominious beginning for our species. Consider this alternate image: smallish beings (adult females maybe weighing 60 pounds, with males a bit heavier), not overly analytical because their brain-to-body ratio was rather small, possessing the ability to stand and move upright, who basically spent millions of years as meat walking around on two legs. Rather than Man the Hunter, we may need to visualize ourselves as more like Giant Hyena Chow, or Protein on the Go.

Donna Hart

A lecturer in anthropology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Taken from Humans as Prey, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 April 2006.

I never hesitated to promote someone I didn't like. The comfortable assistant, the nice guy you like to go on fishing trips with, is a great pitfall. Instead, I looked for those sharp, scratchy, harsh, almost unpleasant guys who see and tell you about things as they really are.

TJ Watson, Jr.

The son of IBM's initial main man. Though it's a lesson IBM seems to have forgotten! One day, I shall have to remember to track down exactly which Management Briefing this little gem appeared in. Almost unbelievably, I have a book that collects 30 years of the things from 1958 onward.

The secret to managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.

Casey Stengel

The ex-dentist, baseball player and latterly (of course) manager of the New York Yankees.
A lesson passed on to me by one of the growing number of my ex-colleagues, (but not, I hope, ex-friends) Geoff Robinson.

I think there is a world market for about five computers.

Thomas Watson (Sr.)

In 1943. One of those beautifully wrong predictions. Mind you, when I went for a job interview at digital computers (who remembers the PDP10?) in 1976 their business plan already included the point at which they would be overtaking IBM. I didn't take the job, incidentally, because rather than allow me to arrive ten minutes late each day at their Reading office, courtesy of what was then a speedy InterCity 125 train service, they insisted I would have to arrive fifty minutes early by catching one at an ungodly hour. They also warned me I would be sacked for even attempting to find out the salaries of any of my colleagues. Wonder what they had to hide... Anyway, their loss.

The public weal requires that men should betray, and lie, and massacre.


In "Of profit and honesty (1580s)". Well, well, well... I was most recently reminded of this when hearing Bill Deedes in 2004 telling (and justifying, if you please!) on BBC TV the story of Churchill's signature being forged while he was Prime Minister during the months after the stroke that incapacitated him (but news of which was kept from the UK public). I think "weal" in this case means something like "scar of the whip".

He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest1 penis.

Desmond Morris

In "The Naked Ape"
I don't know. First, we stand proudly at the centre of the known Universe. Cue Copernicus.
Then, at least, 50% of us stand erect, as it were, among our hairier relatives. Cue de Waal. (See the footnote!)
Whatever next?
Answer: Natalie Angier, writing in her Woman. An Intimate Geography... "Queen among the clitoral nobility is the bonobo, sometimes called the pygmy chimpanzee ... as a young adolescent, a female bonobo is maybe half the weight of a human teenager, but her clitoris is three times bigger, and visible enough to waggle unmistakably as she walks ... [it] is drafted into service by its owner several times an hour."

Horse sense
Guardian Women investigates
why girls find horses and ponies
a useful way to fill the gap
between toys and boys.

The Guardian

My friend Lesley, when this topic came up at a coffee break, pithily suggested as the reason: "Sex." (As did Joan Bakewell, [the thinking man's crumpet, according to Frank Muir (and not Clive James, as I originally thought — thanks, Ian)] not very obliquely, in her 2003 autobiography "The Centre of the Bed".)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert Anson Heinlein

And, from horses, back to Heinlein's definition of a fully-actualised human being, in "Time Enough for Love". I note that Heinlein has undergone a post-mortem droop in popularity somewhat akin to that of Philip Larkin. Oh well, never mind.


1  The bonobo male's genitals are among the largest in the primate world. Certainly relative to body size (and probably absolutely as well), this ape's testicle size and erect penis length surpass those of the average human male, until recently believed to be the champion.
Frans de Waal, in "Peacemaking among Primates".