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 ashleigh@west.net or visit www.ashleighbrilliant.com

Purely Passionate
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 25, 2022

Congratulations! You have won a lifetime supply of Life! But what to do with that supply? For some people, what makes life worth living is something they are passionate about. “Passion” has many connotations – religious, sexual, psychological, even culinary. But the essence of it is very strong positive feeling and interest. (Despite our culture’s […]

Regrets
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 18, 2022

Life would be very empty, if we had nothing to regret. The most celebrated song of Edith Piaf, France’s most famous singer-songwriter, was “Non, je ne regrette rien” (“No, I regret nothing”). But sadly, she had plenty to regret, dying in 1963 aged only 47, after many years of alcohol and drug abuse. Does the […]

Of Space…
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 11, 2022

“Blasting off” is an expression which, only in recent years, has come to have a very special meaning. We are no longer talking about fireworks or even firearms, but about sending live human beings into what were once called “The Heavens” (as if there were more than one Heaven) but have now been relegated to […]

What’s Old?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 4, 2022

One personal favorite of my epigrams says: “There’s nothing wrong with growing older – but where does it lead?” There are more answers to that than you might think. To my friends in the “antiques” trade, older usually means more valuable. “Antiques,” which used to require an age of at least a century, is now […]

What’s New?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 28, 2021

We’ve all heard that “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But that was written (in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes) long before cameras or computers, and any number of other modern marvels, which have already enabled man to reach the moon. Still, we hunger for novelty. Just think of all the geographical names, starting […]

There’s Treasure Everywhere
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 21, 2021

The first place to look for treasure is within yourself. Don’t dismiss me as some kind of inspirational motivator if I start blathering about your internal riches. It’s a simple fact that unused, unexploited, almost unknown resources lie inside every one of us.  Sometimes it takes a crisis or catastrophe to reveal our hidden strengths. […]

Who Really is Who?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 14, 2021

The identity question has bedeviled mankind from the beginning of civilization. And, although we now have fingerprints, DNA, and many other methods of distinguishing individuals, it continues to be a problem today – as evidenced by the fact that, at your bank, pharmacy, or airline ticket-counter, and other places you regularly deal with, you will […]

Are We Really Free?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 7, 2021

None of us is really free — nor would any thinking person really want to be. We are captives in our bodies and our minds. We are victims of all kinds of circumstances we cannot control – the weather — world events — the whims of natural catastrophes, and the mysterious fact of our own […]

Prime Times
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 30, 2021

There are people who believe that, after they die, they’ll be reunited with all the people to whom they were closest in life. It’s a beautiful vision – but what condition will we all be in, and at what age?  Few of us would prefer to meet our loved ones again as they may have […]

Holding On
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 23, 2021

I’ve long been aware that a potholder I use very frequently was provided, many years ago, free of charge, by a popular local politician, in connection with one of his campaigns for Congress. I couldn’t help being aware of this, since his name, with a brief political message, is emblazoned very prominently on it. He’s […]

In Good Faith
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 16, 2021

One of the wonderful things about people, is that, in general, we trust each other.  Betrayal is a violation of trust – but it is the exception, not the rule. Formal marriage is a solemnization of trust, particularly in terms of sexual fidelity. Divorce is common but getting married is still very popular. We even […]

Reaching Out
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 9, 2021

Of all the commands which our electronic devices miraculously, unquestioningly, and instantaneously obey, none seems more wonderful to me than the single word “send.” Wrapped up in that word are my strict instructions to deliver to whomever I specify, this cargo of words and images. Transmissions of this kind have already been around so long […]

Arrivals and Departures
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   November 2, 2021

When newspapers regularly carried a page reporting the latest births, marriages, and deaths, they were sometimes jokingly referred to as the “hatches, matches, and dispatches.” But that’s how it is, in many aspects of our lives. Things and people pass through our awareness, almost as if each one of us were a train station or […]

Good Taste
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 26, 2021

Surely it can’t be merely coincidence that, in our language, “taste” has two separate meanings which however are somehow in sync with each other. One kind of taste relates to the tongue and the palate. The other, on an entirely different level, has to do with culture, esthetics, and educated appreciation. But they are both […]

Fruitful Thoughts
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 19, 2021

Several years ago, when I was on icy, unfamiliar ground (if you must know, it happened in Upstate New York, in the hills, near a resort called Mohonk, where I’d just given a speech about my work) I slipped and fell, breaking my right shoulder. One result was that, although I recovered pretty well, I’m […]

The Case Against Death
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 12, 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: My learned colleague has told you quite eloquently about all the benefits we derive from death – making room for more people, lest the planet become over-populated, putting an end to suffering, rounding out the natural cycle of life, and, because we know our earthly existence is not endless, […]

Hats Off to You
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   October 5, 2021

Since usually we each have only one head, it’s amazing how many different types of headgear there are, for such purposes as protection, decoration, and identification. It’s also remarkable how much you can tell about a person, in terms, for example, of their occupation, status, gender, even their beliefs. One hat I remember was on […]

Ad Hoc
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 28, 2021

Back in the virtually prehistoric days before there were personal computers — (actually, it was 1964) a Canadian professor named Marshall McLuhan published a book called Understanding Media. I didn’t even understand the book itself – though I tried – but one thing I got out of it was a new view of the concept […]

Risen Again?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 21, 2021

Recently, when writing elsewhere about some apparently endless troubles, I concluded with the words “How long, O Lord, how long?” I didn’t realize, until somebody informed me, that I was quoting the Bible, where that expression appears several times. I only remembered it from the last line of George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan (first […]

Time to go Bananas
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 14, 2021

When I was six years old, I received a consolation prize of 25 cents for not knowing the answer on a Toronto radio station kids’ program called “Snappy Answers.” But only twice in my life since then have I ever won anything substantial – and the first time was pure luck. In the early days […]

Funny You Should Say That
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 7, 2021

The Library of Congress categorizes all published books which are submitted for registration, according to their contents. When my first book, I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent, was published, I had no idea how they would classify it. I had thought I was writing a new kind of one-line […]

Where Does it Hurt?
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 31, 2021

There are good things to be said about pain, along the consoling lines that it’s an important message, telling us that something needs attention. But we know that’s all rubbish. Any decently designed body wouldn’t need such attention or would at least have more acceptable methods of communicating with its manager. Besides, many of the […]

Believing is Seeing
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 25, 2021

As far as believing goes, it’s hard to know what to call myself. I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist, or even an Agnostic. But, to some extent, I admire and envy people who do have strong beliefs — so long as they don’t try to impose them on other people. But there’s […]

Train of Thought
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 19, 2021

Many people seem to forget that the automobile was not the first “horseless carriage.” For most of the 100 years before motor cars began to appear on our roads, self-propelled vehicles originally powered by steam, had been crisscrossing the world’s continents. The main difference was that “locomotives,” as they were called, required a very special […]

Feeling Cornered
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 12, 2021

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,Eating a Christmas pie;He put in his thumb,And pulled out a plum,And said, “What a good boy am I!” Your childhood probably included this “nursery rhyme.” But it provokes many questions: If Jack Horner really was a “good boy,” why was he sitting in a corner, which even today […]

Idle Pleasantrees
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 5, 2021

A man named Joyce Kilmer managed to publish five books and have five children before being killed in World War I. But he is remembered only for one imperishable poem, called “Trees,” which concludes with the modest words: “Poems are made by fools like me,But only God can make a tree.” True enough, I suppose, […]

High, Neighbor
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 29, 2021

Until my early 30s, I had never smoked anything. In fact, the practice of smoking appalled me. Sometimes I’d be with a group of friends, and they would start smoking a cigarette of some kind, which they passed from hand to hand. They would invite me to join in, but I made it plain that […]

Order in Court
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 22, 2021

I’ve only been in court twice in my life, and the first time, in 1956, resulted in a jail sentence. I was 21, recently immigrated from England, and eager for new American experiences. Driving my first car, I had received a ticket for going over an occupied pedestrian crossing. (Since then, I’ve mostly been a […]

Then and When,“Instead of Past, Present and Future, I’d prefer Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry.”
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 15, 2021

I am often asked (in my dreams) how I ever got to be so smart, so wise, so good-looking, so popular and successful. Then I wake up, and the only question in my mind is, how can I get through one more day, with this aging mind and failing body? Here I am, on an […]

Of Humans and Their Obsession with Heads
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 8, 2021

The practice of making an “either/or” type of decision by flipping a coin has a surprisingly long history. The Romans had coins with a ship on one side and the emperor’s head on the other, so their equivalent of “heads or tails” was “ship or head” – in Latin, “navia aut caput.”  It has always […]

The History of Complaining
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 1, 2021

Many large businesses have or used to have “Complaint Departments,” where a specially trained employee deals soothingly with dissatisfied customers. To my knowledge, there is never a corresponding “Compliments Department.” The only approach I’ve ever seen to that idea has been an occasional jar labelled “TIPS.” In this online age, it can be much more […]

A Lifelong Intrigue When it Comes to Toys
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 24, 2021

There was a time when the very word “toys” was magic to me, and the idea of a big department store, with a whole section devoted to them, was probably as close as I’ll ever come in this life to conceiving Heaven. Of course, there have always been children at play — and children must […]

How to be a Saint
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 17, 2021

Being brought up Jewish, I never learned much about being a Saint. At least one Hebrew prophet (Isaiah) made a mockery of the whole idea of any human claiming to be “holier than thou.” Of course, besides people, virtually every religion — even Judaism — has its holy places and holy objects, to say nothing […]

Go With the Flow
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 10, 2021

In one of my favorite movies, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the Commander of a U.S. Air Force base is so crazy that he not only orders an atomic attack on Russia, but he believes that Fluoridation is an enemy attempt to poison our “precious bodily fluids.”  […]

Stick With Me
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 3, 2021

One of the expressions I remember from childhood playground banter would arise when somebody said something nasty to you, and you wanted to get back at them, with something equally derogatory. So, you would say: “I’m rubber, and you’re glue –Everything you saySticks back to you!” Or, if you wanted to be even more vicious, […]

Not My Kind
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 27, 2021

It is no accident that the words “kin” and “kind” are related — quite apart from the fact that Hamlet’s first words, “A little more than kin, a little less than kind,” refer to his ambiguous relationship with the man who has murdered his father and taken his place. Even today, there is understood to […]

Vital Signs
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 20, 2021

Many of the signs we see throughout our lives are telling us not to do certain things (whether we might want to do them or not). One of the most common says, “NO TRESPASSING” – although this might confuse some people, especially children, who are taught (as I was in public school in Toronto) to […]

Hook, Line, and Stinker
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 13, 2021

One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies is the scene in Citizen Kane in which Susan Alexander, Charles Foster Kane’s “discovery,” is making her debut as a singer in the grand opera house he has built for her in Chicago. (Incidentally, I always wondered just what that opera is, and learned […]

Weighty Matters
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 6, 2021

For some reason, our language associates heaviness with seriousness and importance. The very word “gravity” can convey both of those feelings. On the other hand, things that are relatively trivial are considered “light,” in the sense of having less weight. To make these matters even more convoluted, we now have the designation “lite,” – no […]

It’s the Law
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 29, 2021

Quite apart from our legal system, there are so many laws in Science and Economics and other disciplines that it must have been inevitable for satirical “laws” to appear, usually commenting on the perversity of life as we experience it. Probably the most famous of these “laws” states (in various versions) that “If anything can […]