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15 Gene Hackman Quotes for His 85th Birthday

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Gene Hackman hasn’t made a movie in more than a decade, but the former actor—who turns 85 today (and definitely isn't dead, despite what you might have read on the internet)—is still keeping busy, writing novels from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here are some bon mots he’s said over the years, on everything from how he chose his projects to the joys of writing.

1. ON WANTING TO ACT:

"My mother and I were at a film once, and we came out through the lobby and she said, 'I want to see you do that someday.' And that was all that was needed. Because I already wanted to do it. But you have to have somebody tell you, or you need to be pushed a bit. And that's the only thing she's ever said to me about acting. Was she wanted to see me do that."

— From a 2004 interview with Larry King

2. ON DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES:

"Dysfunctional families have sired a number of pretty good actors."

— From a 2002 interview with The Guardian

3. ON THE WORST JOB HE’S EVER HAD:

"[W]orking nights in the Chrysler Building. I was part of a team of about five guys, and we polished the leather furniture. We had to work all night because people needed their chairs during the day. I wasn't very good at it."

— From a 2011 interview with Time

4. ON CHOOSING TO BE AN ACTOR:

"You go through stages in your career that you feel very good about yourself. Then you feel awful, like, Why didn't I choose something else? But overall I'm pretty satisfied that I made the right choice when I decided to be an actor."

— From a 2011 interview with GQ

5. ON HOW HE CHOSE PROJECTS:

"The overall screenplay first, then the character proposed to me, and after that the director and other actors—almost always in that order. Of course, in the Seventies I took a couple of pictures because of the locale…."

— From an interview with Film Comment

6. ON CELEBRITY:

"If you look at yourself as a star you've already lost something in the portrayal of any human being. ... I need to keep myself on the edge and keep as pure as possible. You need something to bring you down to a sense of who you are and who you're portraying. You need to remember you're not a movie star and that you shouldn't be too happy. You should never take anything for granted."

— From a 1989 interview with the New York Times

7. ON PLAYING VILLAINS:

"I always try to find in these bad guys, something that's human that makes them even more diabolical. If you see someone that's all bad, you kind of just put them in the monster category. But if you see someone who is really bad, but is also a father and a grandfather and all of that, that's even worse, I think."

— From an interview with About Entertainment

8. ON HIS ACTING TECHNIQUE:

"I do the same thing now was when I was just starting, I ask myself a few questions: How is this character like me? How is he unlike me? In the difference between these two, what is important? What choices can I make which will further the author’s intent? I ask myself where, when, why—real simple questions. I do an atmospheric kind of thing by dealing with objects such as where I’ve been when I come into a room, where I’m going when I leave it. Before every scene, I still do the same relaxation exercises [acting teacher George Morrison] taught me 20-odd years ago. First-year acting tasks. Those work for me.

"Of course, you can’t do just that. You have to make good choices and do a lot of technical things, too. It took ten years for me to fill up as a person, but once I became mature all of that kicked in in a simple, direct way."

— From an interview with Film Comment

9. ON COMMITTING TO A ROLE, NO MATTER HOW TERRIBLE THE MOVIE IS:

"I think all good actors do that. That you have to commit. Otherwise, you're going to see that film down the line and it's going to bite you right in the butt."

— From a 2004 interview with Larry King

10. ON WINNING HIS FIRST OSCAR FOR THE FRENCH CONNECTION:

"That night was like a dream. It was like I was standing in back of the theater and watching it through a lot of smoke. I just floated from my seat."

— From a 1989 interview with the New York Times

11. ON BEING VIOLENT IN MOVIES:

"It’s always hard for me, perhaps because there’s such a contradiction between fighting and the craft of acting. If you really fight somebody in a scene, it negates your craft. And since I’m only interested in my craft, it has to be resolved anew each time."

— From an interview with Film Comment

12. ON WATCHING HIMSELF IN MOVIES:

"I don't watch my films unless I absolutely have to. I get very nervous. It's more my perception of myself, or my desire of what I would like to look like. All I see are the double chins and the bags under the eyes and the receding hairline. ... I feel like when I'm actually doing the work, I know what I'm doing and I feel good about most of the stuff that I do. But when I see it on the screen, I have no idea if it's good, bad or indifferent. I can't be objective. I leave it up to other people to tell me."

— From a 2000 interview with Cigar Aficionado

13. ON RETIRING FROM ACTING:

"I miss the actual acting part of it, as it's what I did for almost 60 years, and I really loved that. But the business for me is very stressful. The compromises that you have to make in films are just part of the beast, and it had gotten to a point where I just didn't feel like I wanted to do it anymore."

— From a 2008 interview with Reuters

14. ON HIS WRITING PROCESS:

"Always in the morning. I can't write past two o'clock in the afternoon. If I do, then I'm up all night. I have a little office, you might call it. It's just a writing desk and a pretty comfortable chair. I write longhand and I go back and I go over it I don't know how many times and I hand it to the professor and she types it up. Then we go over it a number of times and get a little bit of a critique from the wife and like that."

— From a 2014 interview with Yahoo

15. ON WHAT ADVICE HE’D GIVE TO NEW WRITERS:

"Write what's in your heart. To be fulfilled as a writer, you have to write something that you care about."

— From a 2008 interview with Reuters

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

Buy on Amazon.

12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

Buy on Amazon.

14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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