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This Much I Know
September 21, 2009 11:33 AM   Subscribe

In The Guardian's This Much I Know, celebrities share the lessons they have learned in life.

Sometimes they get a bit silly or self-absorbed, but among them are a few insightful -- or at least amusing -- nuggets. It's worth trawling the archives; but as it spans 21 pages, here's a taste:

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Every child born on this earth starts by being interested in the natural world. You have only got to turn over a stone and see a worm or earwig underneath and the child is fascinated.
Sir David Attenborough, Naturalist, 81, Surrey

When I hear really fabulous music by somebody else, I can feel as small as the dot in the 'i' in nit.
Brian Wilson, musician, 66, London

As a joke I asked my four-year-old daughter Martha, 'What do you want to do with your life?' She thought for a moment and said: 'Keep it.' That stopped me in my tracks.
Jeremy Vine, broadcaster, 45, London

My earliest memory is slipping out of my mother's thighs and looking at surgical instruments on a table in an operating theatre. Many people do remember their births, but they deny it.
Yoko Ono, artist, 76, London

I'm out of the restaurant business now, but the secret, apart from your choice of chef, is having great bread and coffee. The bread's the first thing they taste and the coffee the last.
Michael Caine, actor, 76, London

What makes me laugh? I like people falling over. Never fails.
Matt Lucas, comedian, 35, London

I spent 10 days in a pathology lab at a medical examiner's office. I thought it would allow me to accept my own mortality, but it taught me was that everyone I love is going to die.
David Sedaris, humourist, 51, London

Paradigms change one funeral at a time.
Deepak Chopra, guru, 61, Dublin

I'm not going to space. No way, are you crazy? One little tile burns and you drop to your death?
William Shatner, Actor, 75, Los Angeles

A lot of guys say that they have to treat a woman like shit in order to get her to like them. I don't know if that's so true. It has served me to try and understand men rather than try to kill them. They're a little more complicated than I would have given them credit for!
Alanis Morissette, musician, 31, London

The US-British relationship resembles a divorced couple who still fancy each other. America's gone off and married Latino and Britain's gone off and married Europe, but they still recognise a fantastic connection. Then there are the post-divorce custody battles: who owns freedom, who owns Shakespeare, who owns culture?
Simon Schama, historian, 60, London

One of the great con tricks that life can pull on the conventional and the obedient is that rewards so often seem to go to those who choose other paths than those which are laid down.
Stephen Fry, writer and actor, 47, London

When you're given yak-butter tea - or, as our cameraman called it, liquid gorgonzola - take little sips and smile a lot.
Michael Palin, broadcaster, 61, London

I'm not what you call superstitious. I'm not worried about ladders or umbrellas or any of that shit. But I know you should never get a blowjob before you go on stage.
Slash, guitarist, 38, Los Angeles

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Ages given are at the time of original publication.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (52 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The US-British relationship resembles a divorced couple who still fancy each other. America's gone off and married Latino rented a bachelor pad filled with empty pizza boxes and Budweiser cans, plays it's music too loud and gets in monthly squabbles with other tenants in the building.

Obligatory ftfy snark.

Some decent things, but overall I enjoyed NPR's "This I Believe" series much better... much lighter on the celebrity "pearls of wisdom".
posted by edgeways at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2009


I'm not what you call superstitious. I'm not worried about ladders or umbrellas or any of that shit. But I know you should never get a blowjob before you go on stage.

Pearls of wisdom.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Between My Head and the Sky by Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band is out on 21 September

Is Anybody There?, starring Michael Caine, is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 14 September

Jamie's America is published by Penguin, £26

Chalcot Crescent is published by Atlantic on 1 September, £16.99


This Much I Know: When celebrities stoop to share with you what they have learned about life they are trying to sell you something.
posted by TimTypeZed at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


STFU, Yoko.
posted by cmoj at 12:10 PM on September 21, 2009 [14 favorites]


Promotional Press Tours?? What! On my watch?!
posted by cavalier at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2009


Thanks, Yoko Ono. (shudder)
posted by Auden at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many people do remember their births, but they deny it.

Yes, Yoko, it is everyone else who is in denial.
posted by bondcliff at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


If I had a coffee, it would have spewed when I read this:


I recently retraced on foot a famous journey that William Hazlitt made from Shropshire to Somerset to visit Wordsworth and Coleridge. I spent two weeks slogging through nettle beds before I realised the bastard had taken the coach.


AC Grayling, Philosopher

posted by Hardcore Poser at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


What John Lennon saw in Yoko Ono is one thing no one will ever know.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 12:22 PM on September 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Be glad that Yoko Ono didn't decide to record a single, long caterwaul. "I am Yoko Ono and I have decided to share this pearl of wisdom: eeeeeeeAAAAAAUEEEiiiiiOIIOIOIOeeeeOIOEIEEIEIEiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaa." It's a sound, but not a pearl, more like a seed which gestates, then consumes the souls of all of the listeners, replaced by some alien operating system which can only produce bad art, the occasional lawsuit, and more copies of itself.
posted by adipocere at 12:22 PM on September 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Rebelling against your parents and Grandparents and hating on Yoko Ono is... ironic.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:22 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase Chris Crocker, "Leave Yoko alone".

She's an excellent singer and she has done some decent art. Her main problem is that getting involved with John Lennon got her exposed to the wrong audience.
posted by idiopath at 12:26 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


She's an excellent singer and she has done some decent art.

Do you know who else was an excellent singer and did some decent art?
posted by explosion at 12:29 PM on September 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Off the top of my head, Bjork, Massonna, Phil Minton, Sainkho Namtchylak I think, for starters? Not that this has anything to do with the post.
posted by idiopath at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2009


got her exposed to the wrong audience.

There's a wrong audience for excellent singing and decent art?
posted by fire&wings at 12:36 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I used to be an illustrator for the Glasgow Parks Department. I drew chaffinches and squirrels and moorhens for park leaflets. I'd take kids from Glasgow's East End around the nature trail. They'd say, 'Are youse a punk sir?' and I'd say, 'Yes, I'm a nature punk.'
Edwyn Collins, singer, 48, London

Loved this - thanks.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


fire&wings: "There's a wrong audience for excellent singing and decent art?"

Yes. For example, Nirvana (and the surrounding alternative scene) is pretty much the wrong audience for Frank Sinatra. Beatles (and the surrounding rock scene) was the wrong audience for Ono.
posted by idiopath at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2009


The book I return to is Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. My first daughter was named after its heroine, Dominique Francon.

Oh, Michael Caine. :(
posted by maxwelton at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you know who else was an excellent singer and did some decent art?

Bob Ross?

Not that I know he sang or not, but I just like to imagine that when he'd be done shooting an episode of "The Joy of Painting," he'd to a corner of the studio that had a dusty, moth-eaten couch that was a set piece for some long forgotten episode of "Masterpiece Theater," grab a guitar, lie down, and just sort of riff and jam and adlib a song (I don't know, maybe just messing with some word play on "wet on wet painting" with a chorus that went "happy little cloud, happy little tree; we don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents") with that silky soothing voice of his until he came down from the high he got from the massive bong rip he took to get ready for the shoot.
posted by kkokkodalk at 12:49 PM on September 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


This much I know
13 Sep 2009:
Michael Caine, actor, 76, London


"When shooting tigers, I use a machine gun."
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:00 PM on September 21, 2009


Most murderers are staggeringly mundane people. I've attended many trials - Jeremy Bamber, Ian Huntley ... These people are polished up, hair cut, in their suits and ties, but they're little men mouthing feeble lies. I'm certainly not fascinated by them.
Lynda La Plante, writer, 60, London

I've always liked that one.
posted by robself at 1:01 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's the organizing principle here? What Joan Rivers knows is that she doesn't like Michelle Obama's arms, and what Jamie Oliver knows is that there aren't enough decent chip-shops around. So, is it basically just "This Much I Have On My Mind Right Now and Am Willing To Spout Off About"?
posted by albrecht at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2009


"This Much I Am Distracted By"
posted by ardgedee at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's the organizing principle here? What Joan Rivers knows is that she doesn't like Michelle Obama's arms, and what Jamie Oliver knows is that there aren't enough decent chip-shops around. So, is it basically just "This Much I Have On My Mind Right Now and Am Willing To Spout Off About"?

"This much is my Facebook status update right now"
posted by availablelight at 1:14 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


nature punk

That's pretty much my favorite thing on the Internet this year.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:15 PM on September 21, 2009


Rebelling against your parents and Grandparents and hating on Yoko Ono is... ironic.

No, this is ironic:

A lot of guys say that they have to treat a woman like shit in order to get her to like them. I don't know if that's so true. It has served me to try and understand men rather than try to kill them. They're a little more complicated than I would have given them credit for!
Alanis Morissette, musician, 31, London

... don' t you think?
posted by Kabanos at 1:18 PM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Slash is right.
posted by chillmost at 1:23 PM on September 21, 2009


"Meat shouldn't be cheap - it's a life." - Oh, Oliver, I can't hate you.
posted by dabitch at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Bjork...Yoko....Bjork....Yoko...I am so confused.
posted by mrmojoflying at 1:56 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


got her exposed to the wrong audience.

Those with eyesight and hearing?
posted by xmutex at 2:49 PM on September 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


this started out as fun, amusing. and then went quickly downhill.
posted by Postroad at 2:51 PM on September 21, 2009


While it is definitely possible for some people to exercise control over their intake of crack cocaine, that fact is not a good justification to take up smoking the stuff.

This much I know.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:54 PM on September 21, 2009


While Deepak Chopra may have said paradigms change one funeral at a time, the thought was not original to him.

This much I know.
posted by Maias at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2009


I need Yoko Ono's "wisdom" like I need to be shot in the back four times.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:17 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll try not to drink water at all. There's no alcohol in it.

Aahh, the refreshing wisdom of a milkman...
posted by pompomtom at 4:29 PM on September 21, 2009


Yoko hate is petty and mindless. I've been having to listen to it my whole life, and I was sick of it long before now. I don't know what she's done to inspire such contempt, and I'm sorry to see that Mefi is not immune to taking pot shots and some woman who had the audacity to be a working conceptual artist and marry well.

And if I hear another person offhandedly describing Bjork as crazy or insane, I will taunt you a second time.
posted by jokeefe at 5:16 PM on September 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


I can't wait to pass Paolo Nutini, Jamie Oliver and Dannniiii Minogue's wisdom to my own grandkids.
posted by fire&wings at 6:47 PM on September 21, 2009


Yoko hate is petty and mindless. I've been having to listen to it my whole life, and I was sick of it long before now. I don't know what she's done to inspire such contempt,

I don't know what she's done in any of her work to inspire such a defence, but feel free to educate me. Especially on her art.
posted by fire&wings at 6:49 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yoko Ono is probably best known (other than the whole marrying a rock star thing) for her Fluxus instruction pieces, and her musical work, including collaborations with John Coltrane and John Cage, the two biggest names in American art music in the '60s. Instruction pieces are conceptual scripts for performance art, more often read than performed. It is especially ironic that she married a member of a band that symbolizes the pop ideal of music that would be universally likable, because Fluxus related conceptual work is probably one of the least appealing and hardest to listen to kinds of music there is (and no, unappealing and hard to listen to does not equate automatically to bad).

Ono gets talked about more and is better documented than probably any other participant in the Fluxus movement, except maybe John Cage. There is no difficulty in finding her work or information about her online.
posted by idiopath at 7:06 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't presume, fire&wings; I've only seen a few of her pieces at a Fluxus retrospective at the Met and they struck me as slight but charming (in a good way, not a kitschy way). I haven't seen any of her performances, though I've read about them. I think it's stating the obvious to note that her artistic reputation would be very different had she not married Lennon, and that she'd likely be recognized instead both as a minor member of the New York avant garde (maybe not such a minor member; who knows what she would have gone on to do) and as a pioneering female artist of the 60s. But the amount of viciousness directed her way seems all out of proportion. Lennon himself tried to quell the "Yoko broke up the Beatles" nonsense, but even he was ignored. It seemed pretty obvious at the time-- I was a kid in the 60s-- that a lot of the venom was directed at her just for being perceived as a woman (and a woman of colour, don't forget; it's relevant) with a decisive, unsmiling public persona who had somehow stolen Lennon's affection away from his audience. Yeah, she's said a lot of stupid and/or flaky things over the years, but she's hardly alone in that, and artists generally get a break on that sort of thing as far as I can tell.

So I don't really know why the venom rises to the surface when her name is mentioned-- why the STFU and so on. It's kind of ugly, and there are lots of people out there worthier of contempt. IMO, as always.
posted by jokeefe at 7:10 PM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am a fan of instruction pieces, here is one of hers from the collection Grapefruit (the most acclaimed collection of instruction pieces, even before she met Lennon):

Hide and seek Piece: Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies.

I look at instruction pieces as a kind of poetry, with the constraints that it should be simple enough for a fresh reader to hold in their mind at once, and it should describe a hypothetically possible action (though, as the example makes clear, not necessarily all that possible).
posted by idiopath at 7:22 PM on September 21, 2009


David Icke:
How many turquoise tracksuits do I own? We've descended from the nature of reality, mate, haven't we? After 16 years of seeing what's going on in the world and meeting the victims of it ... when I pick up the mainstream media every day I could vomit. I'm trying to share information with you. I don't want to talk about tracksuits. End of bloody story.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:28 PM on September 21, 2009


Metafilter: this started out as fun, amusing. and then went quickly downhill.
posted by edgeways at 8:37 PM on September 21, 2009


More David Icke: "The nature of reality that the first Matrix movie shows is as near a visual representation of this world as I've come across so far."

Yah Teh Matrix wuz totily awesum
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2009


Give Yoko credit. She turned an inevitable and likely dumb series of events (the break up of the Beatles) and made it darned interesting.

But she's a lousy singer.
posted by philip-random at 10:53 PM on September 21, 2009


So...Yoko Ono is the Sarah Palin of rock star widows. Hmmm. The More You Know.
posted by weirdoactor at 11:34 PM on September 21, 2009


This much I know
13 Sep 1969:
Michael Caine, actor, 39, Italy

"You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
posted by MuffinMan at 12:59 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, she's said a lot of stupid and/or flaky things over the years, but she's hardly alone in that, and artists generally get a break on that sort of thing as far as I can tell.

I honestly know very little about Yoko Ono, besides what she looks like, that she was married to John Lennon, and that she has had some (in my opinion, of course) catastrophically bad music made. She may be a brilliant artist in other respects. But when she says things like what is quoted above, she doesn't exactly engender warm fuzzy feelings in people. It's just a seriously odd thing to say, and will make people feel uncomfortable, which might lead to some ill-will, especially given her controversial nature (even by herself, ignoring Mr. Lennon entirely).
posted by This Guy at 6:35 AM on September 22, 2009


Maybe I'm understanding it incorrectly, but I'm confused by Stephen Fry's little gem of wisdom:

One of the great con tricks that life can pull on the conventional and the obedient is that rewards so often seem to go to those who choose other paths than those which are laid down.

He seems to be saying that you don't need to be remarkable in order reap life's rewards, but is he not himself a polymath actor/director/comedian/tv presenter/writer/novelist/voiceover artist/etc? Perhaps to him that's not remarkable, but it's a bit more than I or anyone else I know has managed...
posted by Lucien Dark at 7:17 AM on September 23, 2009


I understand Fry as saying something else entirely. By my reading he doesn't reference the innate qualities of the person receiving the rewards. Rather, that people who follow obvious paths rarely see great rewards. I suppose one could come to the conclusion that choosing not to follow obvious paths requires some exceptional qualities. However, I think he is saying that whatever your capabilities, following a rote path is not likely to lead to great things. To my mind this is a hopeful statement as it suggests that even if I have only average capabilities, I may find compelling outcomes come from exploiting them in unusual ways.
posted by Babblesort at 7:41 AM on September 23, 2009


Babblesort, I get the feeling that your interpretation is probably what he meant; the bit that had me stuck was where he says that 'rewards so often seem to go to those who choose other paths than those which are laid down.' As if to say that it seems as though people who go down the road less travelled get the most out of life when in fact you can be totally ordinary and still do well, which struck me as a weird sentiment for someone like him to be making.
posted by Lucien Dark at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2009


why the STFU

Because there is no content in her "pearl." Yoko Ono DOES NOT remember her birth, whether she thinks she does or not, and even if she did, that fact imparts absolutely no wisdom to the reader. This is not unique to her, or on this list, but what gets me about her is that (it's my perception that) she thinks that this is profound, intelligent and important. Like she's doing us a favor. This is also what I can't stand about any of her work. Maybe it was revolutionary in the 60's, but I wasn't there, and it doesn't hold up any more.
posted by cmoj at 1:47 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


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