Interview with the Famously Departed
Ambrose Bierce Speaks
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born June 24, 1842, in Meigs County, Ohio, and was the tenth of thirteen children whose names all began with the letter A. He worked as a journalist and a poet and wrote short stories, mostly about the Civil War. His writings include the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and the lexicon “The Devil’s Dictionary.” He Left Washington, DC, in 1913 and was last heard from while he was working in Pancho Villa’s army in Mexico.
You had a lot of siblings whose name began with the letter A. Any chance to see who, in your family lineage, started this trend?
Genealogy is an account of one’s descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.
Speaking of family gatherings – What do relatives really think about Thanksgiving?
Happiness. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
Reaching for the extra slice of pie at a table of twenty?
Guilt. The condition of one who is known to have committed an indiscretion, as distinguished from the state of him who has covered his tracks.
The joy of Holiday presents.
Zeal. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced
How would you describe your friends when you were on Earth?
Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
Say, what really happened with Pancho Villa?
An Insurrection is an unsuccessful revolution.
We’re in the midst of a two-year political campaign. Let’s try a thousand questions on politics.
Let’s start with the basics. What’s your definition of politics?
Politics. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
A Circus is a place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women, and children acting the fool.
How do Republicans see Republicans?
Opposition, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amok by hamstringing it.
How do Republicans see Democrats?
Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
How do Democrats see Republicans?
While you have a future, do not live too much in contemplation of your past: unless you are content to walk backward the mirror is a poor guide. (Epigrams, p. 374)
And how do Democrats see the Tea Party?
We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect. (Epigrams, p. 354)
The real reason candidates run?
Ambition, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.
The real truth about Republicans and Democrats?
Conservative. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with new ones.
Those who say experience matters/experience is what got us into this mess?
The most intolerant advocate is he who is trying to convince himself. (Epigrams, p. 367)
The pros and cons of the media?
Happiness is lost by criticizing it; sorrow by accepting it. (Epigrams, p. 371)
The Republican view of President Obama
To the eye of failure success is an accident. (Epigrams, p. 373)
The Democratic view of President Obama?
Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection
Let’s try the topics everyone is talking about – well, everyone who was invited to the 9 p.m. debates.
Road, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
How about climate change?
Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills
How would you defeat the enemy?
The Clarionet is an instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet — two clarionets.
In’ards, The stomach, heart, soul, and other bowels.
The problem with the Iran Deal?
Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.
The ninth, tenth and hundredth investigation into Benghazi?
Logic? The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
What each candidate thinks of the other candidates?
Bore. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
What Senator Rubio thinks of philosophy?
A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
And the follow-up response to Senator Rubio? How would Senator Sanders or Larry David respond?
Cartesian, adj. Relating to Descarte, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum — whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum — “I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;” as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.
Being fact-checked by the press?
Apologize.To lay the foundation for a future offense
Why politicians with no shot keep running?
Egotist. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Let’s switch gears, what do you think of today’s reality TV?
Positive, adj. Mistaken at the top of one’s voice
How would you define success?
Success. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows.
Resigning is a good thing to do when you are going to be kicked out.
Now that you know there’s an afterlife, what’s your take on Religion?
To Pray is to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Is it true that the best thing about being immortal is you don’t have to keep track of time?
A Year is a period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
Any other thoughts on immortality?
A toy which people cry for,
And on their knees apply for,
Dispute, contend and lie for,
And if allowed
Would be right proud
Eternally to die for.
So pretty good interview, heh?
Optimist A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
The quotes are all from Devil’s Dictionary (First published in book form as The Cynic’s Word Book; 1906) and from Epigrams. The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol. 8 (1911), § “Epigrams” (p. 343 ff.). Individual epigrams first appeared elsewhere.
Joe practiced law in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for 14 years and designed large scale databases for AT&T for five years. He currently works for NextLevel Web Strategies, a legal marketing firm based in Princeton, NJ. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, received his J.D. from George Washington Law School and he has a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Drexel University.
Joe’s book, Philadelphia Originals, was released for publication by Schiffer Publishing in 2009. The book shows that the unique styles (how Philadelphians paint, sing, practice law, tell a joke, cook) of Philadelphia’s most notable professions can be traced back to the perfect complement of the spiritual William Penn and the practical Benjamin Franklin.
His second project. Philadelphia Before You Were Born, is a study of the last time Philadelphia newspapers used artists for all their illustrations. It was published in 2011.
Joe’s many other published writings include a humorous look at book clubs for the Bucks County Writer and the literary stages of a baseball season for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also writes the Interviews with the Famously Departed Column for the Wild River Review.
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