Author spotlight: Ashleigh Brilliant

Born London, 1933. Mother Canadian. Father a British civil servant. World War II childhood spent mostly in Toronto and Washington, D.C. Berkeley PhD. in American History, 1964. Living in Santa Barbara since 1973. No children. Best-known for his illustrated epigrams, called “Pot-Shots”, now a series of 10,000. Email or visit

No Hard Feelings
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 11, 2024

If we’re talking about hardness and softness – which we will be here – the classic example in literature is a fairy tale attributed to Hans Christian Andersen. In this story, a woman is taking refuge in a castle from a terrible storm which has ruined all her garments and left her looking very bedraggled. […]

Give Me a Break
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 4, 2024

Only once has my heart been broken – but don’t ask me for details – not here, anyway – and in any case, it’s only a metaphor. The human heart is a very strong organ. When it fails, the cause is rarely disappointed love. Ask any cardiologist. Bones are another matter. They can withstand any […]

Mark My Words
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 28, 2024

As we know from cave paintings, humans from earliest times seem to have always had an innate urge to make marks with whatever materials, and on whatever surfaces, were available. Outside of caves, it was stones, trees, or bones which presented themselves as the most “natural” surfaces. After writing was invented, it was possible to […]

Living Will
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 21, 2024

No, it’s not an oxymoron – though it almost sounds like it. We tend to associate the making of a will with thoughts about what is to happen after we are no longer around – i.e. when we are not living. But the “living will” is apparently a new concept in jurisprudence and in medicine. […]

Mentality And Reality
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 14, 2024

Recently a lady whose opinions I respect happened to see one of my epigrams, which says, “Just when I nearly had the answer – I forgot the question.” To me, this was simply a short, funny thought – but to her, it immediately brought to mind some of her “patients” or “clients,” who are afflicted […]

How Conflicts Get Resolved
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 7, 2024

What’s remarkable about human conflicts – even very nasty ones – is that they usually do get settled, one way or another. Here are some ways this can happen:  By overwhelming force (war).By negotiation and compromise.By some kind of payment or reparations.By legal process, i.e., “going to court.”By persuasion.By agreed-upon arbitration.By intervention on the part […]

It Figures
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 30, 2024

Considering that we have only ten numerical digits and twenty-six alphabetical letters, it’s remarkable that so much use can be made of them without our having to invent any more. Actually, the trend seems to be in the other direction, with more and more of the numerical work being done by ones and zeros, and […]

Wishy Washy
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 23, 2024

The ancient activity of laundering has woven itself into our culture in many ways. As an example, there was once a popular catchphrase “no tickee, no washee” which derived from the time when most of the laundry businesses in the U.S., were owned and operated by immigrants from China. Originally it meant that, in order […]

Getting Settled
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 16, 2024

One piece of advice I’ve given myself (after some unhappy experiences) is this: “Try to avoid situations in which all you have is a good legal case.” Of course, it’s desirable to have the Law on your side – but it’s even better to be able to negotiate an “out of court settlement,” sometimes through […]

School Scars
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 9, 2024

From the ages 13 to 18, I went to school in Hendon, a London suburb. It was just after World War II, and in the field behind the school were several surface air-raid shelters; recent wartime relics which were now being used for storage. They were not locked. Once, when during a holiday I had […]

The Merry Middle
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 2, 2024

At a certain point between “Some Of” and “Too Much Of,” there comes a magic amount called “Just Enough.” You may remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. If any part of it has stayed in your mind, it’s probably where Goldilocks tastes the Bears’ porridge and finds the Papa Bear’s “too hot” […]

Going Back
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 26, 2024

Most of us have probably had the experience of re-visiting a place we once knew well, and finding it changed in such a way as to tell us we don’t belong there anymore. Thomas Wolfe said it in the title of one of his novels – You Can’t Go Home Again. There is a word […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 19, 2024

In size and extent, the British Empire (even without the American colonies which it lost in 1776) was the greatest the world has ever known. It was usually colored red on world maps, and you could easily see, by looking at a globe, the truth of the expression, “The sun never sets on the British […]

Please Attract Me
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 12, 2024

Much of this system called Nature is apparently based on attraction and repulsion. The repulsion serves to protect – and to keep at least certain members of a species intact – until they have time to reproduce. The attraction is also part of that reproduction process. Most plants can’t physically get together, so some have […]

Sun and Suspension
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 5, 2024

So much depends on that big bright ball in the sky. And, in the cosmic scheme of things, our sun in turn depends on many other things. Truly, in the long run, everything depends on everything else. But where does that leave us? – Back where we started, with a burning ball up there, out […]

The Wonder of Under
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 27, 2024

You may have heard about the crazy theory some people have – that the entire Universe rests on the back of a gigantic turtle. A skeptical interviewer supposedly asked one such believer, “Then what is the turtle standing on – another turtle?” Back came the reply, “You can’t catch me there – It’s turtles all […]

Blessings On You
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 20, 2024

The idea of blessing – that is, asking God to have some favorable influence on someone or something, is probably as old as religion itself. In some religions, only certain people are authorized to pronounce certain blessings – but in general, in our culture, anybody may, without any special permission, bless any other person, or […]

Crossing Over
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 13, 2024

The River Jordan is celebrated in many “spiritual” songs. Most of us have heard lines like: Jordan river blessed but cold – Chills the body, but not the soul.  “Crossing Jordan” has long been seen as a metaphor for going to Heaven. It all goes back to the Biblical account of that River having to be […]

Cut It Out
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 6, 2024

One of the most famous of all historical events was the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. The killers were a group of men whom Caesar had considered his friends and supporters. The leader of this conspiracy, whose name was Brutus, is said to have been the last to deliver the fatal blow. And […]

Women and War
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 30, 2024

Although I have officially been a Doctor of Philosophy in American History for many years, it was only recently that I got interested in reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This came about through reading another book, Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, which makes a big point about how important the Uncle Tom book […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 23, 2024

Although various religions teach that there is some kind of life after this one, a life in which there is more justice than prevails on Earth, we still like to feel that, even here, people tend to get what they deserve. In our legal codes, this is usually spelled out much less precisely in terms […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 16, 2024

There is a wonderful expression you can use when you feel a friend is asking for an unwarranted amount of help from you: “WHAT DID YOUR LAST SERVANT DIE OF?” Unhappily, this humorous form of complaint was based on the true fact that at one time, a large portion of the population made their living […]

Radio and Me
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 9, 2024

In all the history of Technology, I know of no more exciting story than that of Guglielmo Marconi, the young Italian who discovered how to send messages, not by sight or sound, and not through wires, but through empty air. At first – i.e. from about 1895, and for many years after – the messages […]

Ins and Outs
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 2, 2024

As a general rule, it is always better to be In than Out. Of course, there are many obvious exceptions – Trouble, for example. But in most games, and certainly in politics, one would certainly prefer the status of “in.” One of the best places to be in is the mind, heart, or at least […]

Water works
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 26, 2023

I have always been surprised by how many people are willing to pay for bottled water when perfectly drinkable water, certified by local inspectors, is available from their own home faucets (which of course they already pay for as a public utility). Somehow, a very good selling job has been done by the bottled water industry […]

Last Things First
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 19, 2023

One of the saddest songs I know is called “The Last Time I saw Paris.” It came out in 1940, after France had been defeated, and Paris occupied, by the Nazis. Paris had been a favorite haunt of Americans. But the war was still going on (although the U.S. had not yet entered it) and […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 12, 2023

There are many different kinds of duty, but one thing they all have in common is a sense of obligation, which often attaches to a particular role or job. It can also be an amount owed to a government, or to some other authority, especially as a form of tax, in connection with imports and […]

The Ignorance Industry
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 5, 2023

In the mental economics of our species, there is a slow but steady demand for Information – but the market for Ignorance has become increasingly busy. The plain fact is that most people do not want the Truth. Why? Because it’s too inaccessible, too incomprehensible, and too likely to be unpleasant. Of course, you and […]

Stressed or Blessed
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 28, 2023

It used to be called “worry” or “anxiety.” Now, I gather, the fashionable term is “stress” – and I seem to have lately been gathering plenty of it. But what is there really in life worth having such feelings about? It’s all in the mind, I think. That’s what keeps psychiatrists in business. Those professional […]

Machines Make the Scene
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 21, 2023

In this age of ever-advancing technology, we have become accustomed to non-human contrivances doing things which used to be done by humans (if they were done at all). Along with this, there has been the process of seeing everything in mechanical terms. Our bodies are machines; our homes (as Le Corbusier called them) are “machines […]

On the Job
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 14, 2023

For most of human history, the people who did the hardest physical work were at the bottom of the social scale. These were jobs that went to people called peasants, villeins, or slaves, working in the fields alongside horses and oxen. Women and their traditional roles of housekeeping and child-rearing were always in a class […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 7, 2023

One of the books that most influenced me when I was growing up was written by a man whose career had been based on helping people to sell things. His name was Dale Carnegie, and the book (a best-seller) was How to Win Friends and Influence People. One good thing about it was that its […]

Wetness for the Prosecution
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 31, 2023

Although I have done my share of things I regret, sometimes my misdeeds have brought their own penalty. Two of those occasions involved the theft of books, which, at the time, I justified to myself because, being a poor college student, I couldn’t always buy the books I wanted. One episode took place in the […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 24, 2023

One of the strangest sights I ever saw was something I discovered one day when bicycling in the English countryside. In what might otherwise have been open farmland, a new business had apparently opened up. It might just possibly have been a used-car lot – but no, this was a place where what they were […]

Wear and Tear
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 17, 2023

Over time, it seems that everything wears out, even – or especially – our own bodies and minds. But many things that once seemed irreparable or irreplaceable – can now indeed be repaired or replaced. With regard to ourselves, the whole concept is relatively recent – not counting the story that Eve was made from […]

Taking Place
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 10, 2023

In the normal functioning of our society, many situations arise in which one person has to take the place of another. The details, of course, can vary widely. It may be temporary, as when somebody has to “call in sick” and their part of a job must be done by somebody else. Or it may […]

The Way it Was
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 3, 2023

In the now-almost-forgotten days when many of us regularly watched an early evening network newscast, Walter Cronkite, who was then recognized as the Dean of American Newsmen (there were very few newswomen), used to sign off his report with the words, “And that’s the way it is…” To me, and perhaps to many other members […]

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 26, 2023

One of Irving Berlin’s best-known songs begins with the words: “I’ll be loving you, always.” And it goes on to assure the “you” to whom it’s addressed, that this is really a very special pledge, with no terminal date. It’s “not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year […]

Ode to What’s Owed
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 19, 2023

In Hamlet, Shakespeare gives to one of the play’s less exciting characters, whom he is about to kill off anyway, one of the most quoted passages in the entire drama. It is spoken by Polonius, as a father, giving advice to his son, Laertes, as the son is about to depart for school in another […]

Falling in Like
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 12, 2023

Yes, let’s leave Love out of it. The word is too loaded. Saying “Like” is, in most cases, much easier and safer, and probably more accurate. There are too many songs about Love, and too few about Like. But aren’t we really talking about Friendship? True, there aren’t many songs about that either. But it […]