There Is a Hopeful Symbolism in the Fact That Flags Will Not Wave in a Vacuum

Arthur C. Clarke? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous science fiction (SF) author was fearful that nationalistic and jingoistic impulses were driving conflict on Earth and endangering the future of humankind. The author hoped that space exploration would redirect and lessen those passions.

A flag flapping in the breeze is a traditional signifier of allegiance, but there are no gusts of wind in outer space. Also, there is no atmosphere on the moon. The SF author said something like:

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In July 1969 emissaries from Earth were poised to land on the moon for the first time. To mark the occasion the editors of “Time” magazine requested an essay from SF author Arthur C. Clarke who described his dreams and predictions. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is always the fear, of course, that men will carry the curse of their animosities into space. But it is more likely that in the long run, those who go out to the stars will leave behind the barriers of nation and race that divide them now. There is a hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags will not wave in a vacuum; our present tribal conflicts cannot be sustained in the hostile environment of space.

The NASA picture above shows Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin together with the U.S. flag at Tranquility Base. A metal rod sewn inside the top edge of the flag prevented it from drooping. Perhaps Clarke underestimated the desire to retain symbols.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is a Hopeful Symbolism in the Fact That Flags Will Not Wave in a Vacuum

Notes:

  1. 1969 July 18, Time, To the Moon: Special Supplement, Beyond the Moon: No End by Arthur C. Clarke, Start Page 31, Quote Page 31, Column 3, Time Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

That’s the Trouble, a Sex Symbol Becomes a Thing. I Just Hate To Be a Thing

Marilyn Monroe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Glamourous movie icon Marilyn Monroe apparently expressed misgivings about her sex symbol status because she did not wish to be viewed simply as a thing. Would you please help me to find a citation for her remarks on this topic?

Quote Investigator: “LIFE” magazine Associate Editor Richard Meryman and Marilyn Monroe engaged in a series of conversations, and the transcripts were edited into the form of a lengthy monologue which was published in “LIFE” in August 1962 shortly before the death of Monroe. The following passage includes a pun on cymbals versus symbols. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

I never quite understood it — this sex symbol — I always thought symbols were those things you clash together! That’s the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. But if I’m going to be a symbol of something I’d rather have it sex than some other things they’ve got symbols of!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading That’s the Trouble, a Sex Symbol Becomes a Thing. I Just Hate To Be a Thing

Notes:

  1. 1962 August 3, LIFE, Volume 53, Number 5, Marilyn Monroe lets her hair down about being famous: “Fame will go by and—so long, I’ve had you”, (Monroe spoke with LIFE Associate Editor Richard Meryman in a series of conversations), Start Page 31, Quote Page 36, Column 3, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

Novelty is Mistaken for Progress

Frank Lloyd Wright? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright was critical of the new buildings he saw in cities. Apparently, he said:

Novelty is mistaken for Progress.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1955 Frank Lloyd Wright published an essay titled “The Future of the City” in “The Saturday Review”. He felt that the existing configurations of cities were constraining the visions of planners and architects: 1

But sponsors of the modern city, first founded by Cain (the murderer of his brother), refuse to consider fundamental and human alteration in the city’s structure because of our gigantic “investment” in the city as it is. And so the Machine Age has not liberated us.

The phrase about novelty and progress was posed as a rhetorical question. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

We are imprisoned: witness the new buildings on our city streets. Isn’t it true to say that—in these buildings—Novelty is mistaken for Progress? Of steel and glass we have aplenty; but what of the imaginative and creative powers which make of these glittering materials structures responsive to the needs of the Human Individual? What of Real Sun, Real Air, Real Leisure?

This article ends with one more citation.

Continue reading Novelty is Mistaken for Progress

Notes:

  1. 1955 May 21, The Saturday Review, The Future of the City by Frank Lloyd Wright, Start Page 10, Quote Page 10, Column 1 and 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)