Hangin’ with Hitchens

I don’t have a lot of ‘favourites’ – I usually find such rankings to be overly reductive. I like many different kinds of things for different reasons, and any single one that I rank as #1 will be an inaccurate label. From the list of writers that I most admire and try to emulate, however, Christopher Hitchens sits among the upper echelon (so too, incidentally, does Greta Christina). He has a talent for wielding the English language the way an artist does a paintbrush – making the rendering of ideas into words beautiful and evocative far beyond mere semantics. He is the kind of writer who could use his words to so utterly excoriate you that you undergo an existential crisis, but to whom you would be grateful afterward for the experience. So, it was with great joy that I picked up my latest treasure from the framing store today:

I purchased this brilliant portrait from a San Francisco artist called Adrian Covert. Here is the description of the piece:

Hitchens is depicted making a point, while toasting his Johnny Walker Black & Perrier. He has what appears to be a halo behind his head, but that’s just superstition. His suit is designed using collage from the writings of Albert Einstein, Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, David Hume, Mark Twain, and John Updike. The background is designed using collage from the King James Bible and the Holy Koran. For reasons both ethical and artistic, no books were harmed in the creation of this painting, or of these prints.

Hitch now proof-reads all my posts as I sit in my living room chair, looking over my shoulder and exhorting me to find ever-better ways of putting my thoughts into the language he loves so dear. Here’s a version without me in it:

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.” - Christopher Hitchens

h/t – Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist


  1. John Morales says


    Man, have a heart!

    (Not all of us have unlimited, high-speed internet)

    Your first image:
    3,000px × 4,000px (scaled to 311px × 414px)
    628.59 kB (643,678 bytes)

    Your second:
    2,400px × 3,200px (scaled to 312px × 416px)
    724.8 kB (742,193 bytes)

    You could encode that in less than 1/10th of that without any loss of size or visual quality with a few clicks of your mouse, and have that link to the full image.

    (If nothing else, consider FTB’s bandwidth requirements)

  2. Dean Buchanan says

    Man, I really like that. Great artist and great quote.

    Hitchens has the most visceral critique of religion I have ever read or heard.
    Don’t bow down, stand up! And his weapons are words, and they are fierce.

  3. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    Part of my wedding anniversary present today was “Arguably Essays.” Woot!

    Stephen Fry, talking about the appeal of Hitchens, mentioned that Hitchens can extemporaneously speak in fully formed, multiple paragraph points, without hitches or hesitation or fragmentation– a gift possessed by very few people.

  4. John Morales says

    First, my thanks for listening, and for trying.

    That sais, it’s better, but not not by much:

    534.65 kB (547,484 bytes)
    3,000px × 4,000px (scaled to 300px × 400px)


    548.53 kB (561,690 bytes)
    3,000px × 4,000px (scaled to 300px × 400px)

    The “scaled to” indicates you’re resizing without really compressing; the JPEG format can do much better in terms of compression for your final pixel dimensions.

    Look at this 300×400 pixel image, for example (wikipaintings):

    94.42 kB (96,683 bytes)
    300px × 400px

    That image is 94.42 kB (96,683 bytes), but is compressed, not just resized — and I think your images could be similarly compressed and look as good.

  5. Crommunist says

    They’re already JPG images – I have tried saving them in the lowest image quality possible to reduce the file size, but 500k is the smallest I could get. I don’t have any photo software capable of anything fancier than that, unless someone using Mac OSX wants to chime in on how I can le fix.

  6. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    When I just pulled y60hi.jpg, its dimensions were still 3000×4000. The html of the page limits the viewed size of the image to 300×400, but behind the scenes there is on-the-fly manipulation of the larger image.

    To fix with OS X, right click on the image and select “Get Info,” the “More Info” section will tell you the dimensions of the file.

    To make the file much, much smaller, open the image in Preview. Select “Tools,” then “Adjust Size.” Change Width to 300 (height should, by default, go to 400) then click “Ok.” This changes the image file size from 547 KB to a 31 KB completely suitable for web use.

    If you aren’t doing this operation in the folder from which your web files are served, make sure that the new, smaller image replaces the older one.

  7. John Morales says

    I do believe you’ve gotten the knack of it — that’s most excellent!

    29.78 kB (30,490 bytes)
    36.19 kB (37,055 bytes)
    each at 300px × 400px

    I notice they link to themselves; if you want, you can link them to full-size images for those who like such.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *