Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy (Slightly Belated) New Year

Even though the holiday season is quickly fading in the face of a presidential election and economic worries, I feel a parting shot is warranted, especially an optimistic one. I'm sure that many of you got holiday cards from business associates this year, as did I, some from people you can't remember ever meeting and other from people you'd frankly rather not hear from during the joyous season, like your tax attorney or oncologist. I naturally get them from boatbuilders, some of whom I recognize (the name of the company if not the person signing the card).

This year my all-time favorite came from Pershing, maker of those ultra-fast, super-sexy, Italian express boats. Like a lot of stuff that comes from Italy (especially catalogs), it's oversized. It's actually a hardbound book that I would guess measures 14" x 14". Open it up and it's a calendar, a not very practical calendar given its size. Each spread has the days of the month on one side in very small type and a quote from a famous person on the other. The quotes are frankly priceless, and I'd like to share them with you without comment. I hope they'll both inspire you and reinforce a notion—that might be somewhat comforting in these worrisome economic times: that predicting the future is a risky enterprise. Happy New Year.

January: "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad." The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company

February: "A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere." The New York Times, 1936

March: "Man will not fly for 50 years." Wilbur Wright in 1903, the same year as his and his brother's famous inaugural flight

April: "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946

May: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

June: "The Suez Canal? A useless attempt and impossible to build." Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1858

July: "With regard to the electric light, I think I may say without contradiction that no more will be heard of it." Erasmus Wilson, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, 1879

August: "The theory of relativity is just as unacceptable to me as, say, the existence of the atom or other such dogmas. Ernst Mach, German scientist, 1838-1916

September: "Photography will not last long as painting is so clearly superior." Le Journal des Savants, 1829

October: "Radio has no future." Lord Kelvin, mathematician and scinetist and president of the Royal Society, 1897

November: "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" H. M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1927

December: "Today it is practically impossible to find undiscovered lands." Queen Isabel of Spain's Advisory Council

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