Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant
(born December 9
in London, England
) is an author
and syndicated cartoonist
living in Santa Barbara, California
. He is best known for Pot-Shots
, a single-panel comic of illustrated one-liners
, which began syndication in the United States in 1975.
The Wall Street Journal described him in a 1992 profile as "history's only full time, professional published epigrammatist."
In a copyright infringement suit filed by Brilliant, a U.S. federal judge has ruled that, while short phrases are not eligible for copyright, Brilliant's writings were epigrams and, therefore, copyrightable
(Brilliant v. W.B. Productions Inc., 1979).
While Brilliant employs a self-imposed limit of 17 words per epigram--and has claimed that he did forget his own rule once, but will not reveal this one mistake; he's actually written and published 41 with at least 18 words, and has even published one containing 19 words (By the miracle of teaching, I can give you some of my ability, without losing any of it myself.)
In 1999 he authored the famed (and often-copied-without-credit) "Y1K Crisis" article which parodies the "Y2K Crisis" (Year 2000 Crisis) of 1999.
Brilliant is frequently asked about his last name, of which he says:
As far as I know, the name Brilliant is of Russian/Polish/Jewish origin, and is akin to other Jewish names related to precious metals and jewels, e.g. Gold, Silver, Diamond, Ruby, Pearl. (One meaning of brilliant is a kind of diamond.) These in turn relate to the kinds of trades in which many European Jews were engaged when, in the time of Napoleon, they were first required to take surnames.
- Here is a guaranteed way to get more of what you want: want less.
- Doing it wrong fast is at least better than doing it wrong slowly.
- I either want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it.
- Cheer up! The worst effects of what we're doing won't be felt until after we're all dead.
- Be kind to unkind people; they probably need it the most.
- Keep some souvenirs of your past, or how will you ever prove it wasn't all a dream?
- It's human to make mistakes and some of us are more human than others
- The difference between friendship and love is how much you can hurt each other
- I don't have any solution, but I certainly admire the problem
- Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can
- The closest we will ever come to an orderly universe is a good library
- As I get older my opinions may change but not the fact that I am right.
- Living on Earth may be expensive, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun.
- Let's not complicate our relationship by trying to communicate with each other.
- There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about.
- Hate me if you must, but please do not misunderstand me.
- But after you are gone I will still have PEANUT BUTTER!
- There may be no heaven, but somewhere there is a San Francisco.
- Let's put the blame where it belongs — on someone else.
- You may have a place in my life but I don't have time to help you find it.
- I will always love the false image I had of you.
- Appreciate me now, and avoid the rush.
- Due to circumstances beyond my control I am master of my fate and captain of my soul.
In an essay entitled Against intellectual property
, Brian Martin
cites Ashleigh Brilliant as a "professional epigrammatist" who has been known to threaten legal action in order to display his market precedence over legally owned fragments of human language, thus managing to reveal one of the many absurdities behind "intellectual property", namely its ability to limit the free use and dissemination of human expression. When Brilliant finds someone who has "used" one of his epigrams, he contacts them demanding a payment for breach of copyright.
For instance, television journalist David Brinkley wrote a book, Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion, the title of which he attributed to a friend of his daughter. Brilliant contacted Brinkley about copyright violation. Random House, Brinkley's publisher, paid Brilliant $1000 without contesting the issue.
In a separate 1979 case, a company copied two of Brilliant's phrases -- "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent" and "I have abandoned my search for truth and am now looking for a good fantasy" -- and altered a third phrase, all for sale on t-shirt transfers. The district court acknowledged that the phrases were distinguished by conciseness, cleverness, and a pointed observation, and ruled that they were protected by copyright.
All books published by Woodbridge Press
(Santa Barbara, California)
- I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent, and Other Brilliant Thoughts (1979), ISBN 0-912800-66-6, ISBN 0-912800-67-4
- I Have Abandoned My Search for Truth, and Am Now Looking for a Good Fantasy: More Brilliant Thoughts (1980), ISBN 0-912800-89-5, ISBN 0-912800-90-9 (paperback)
- Appreciate Me Now, and Avoid the Rush: Yet More Brilliant Thoughts (1981), ISBN 0-912800-97-6, ISBN 0-912800-94-1 (paperback)
- I Feel Much Better, Now That I've Given Up Hope: And Even More Brilliant Thoughts (1984), ISBN 0-88007-145-1, ISBN 0-88007-147-8 (paperback)
- All I Want Is a Warm Bed and a Kind Word and Unlimited Power: Even More Brilliant Thoughts (1985), ISBN 0-88007-155-9, ISBN 0-88007-156-7 (paperback)
- The Great Car Craze: How Southern California Collided with the Automobile in the 1920's (1989), ISBN 0-88007-172-9.
- Be a Good Neighbor, and Leave Me Alone: And Other Wry and Riotous Writings (1992), ISBN 0-88007-191-5, ISBN 0-88007-192-3 (paperback)
- I Try to Take One Day at a Time, but Sometimes Several Days Attack Me at Once: More Brilliant Thoughts Than Ever (1987), ISBN 0-88007-161-3, ISBN 0-88007-162-1 (paperback)
- We've Been Through So Much Together, and Most of It Was Your Fault: More and More Brilliant Thoughts (1990), ISBN 0-88007-182-6, ISBN 0-88007-183-4
- I Want to Reach Your Mind... Where Is It Currently Located?: More Incredibly Brilliant Thoughts (1994), ISBN 0-88007-203-2, ISBN 0-88007-204-0 (paperback)
- I'm Just Moving Clouds Today, Tomorrow I'll Try Mountains: And Other More or Less Blissfully Brilliant Thoughts (1998), ISBN 0-88007-221-0
- Strickler, Dave. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.