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meditation at gunpoint

June 2, 2014

“Biking is split-second fast and rock-climbing painstakingly slow, but both practices silence the noise of the mind and render self-consciousness blissfully impossible. You become the anonymous hero of that old story, Man versus the Universe. Your brain’s glad to finally have a real job to do, instead of all that trivial busywork. You are all action, no deliberation. You are forced, under pain of death, to quit all that silly ideation and pay attention. It’s meditation at gunpoint.

Cycle of Fear, by Tim Kreider (x)

a humbler, homelier kind of cake

May 1, 2014

More homely than sophisticated and dainty, this cake could keep you up all night and leave you running back and forth to the fridge for multiple midnight snacks.

There are two types of cake in the world: the rich, sophisticated gateaux best eaten in delicate slivers after dinner; and the homely, comforting kind that, if push came to shove, most of us really prefer. The latter are the sort of cakes your granny might have made (if she lived in Ambridge), the ones sold on paper plates wrapped messily in clingfilm at the village fete; in short, the cakes youimagine the sainted Mary Berry probably eats for breakfast. As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of this humbler, homelier kind of cake. The feather-light Victoria sponge, the nutty carrot and the sticky fruit cake all have a special place in my heart, but after much soul searching I’ve come down in favour of the coffee and walnut. It has got everything: the fluffy butteriness of the Victoria, the crunchy nuts of the carrot and the bittersweetness of a rich, dark fruit cake – all that, and buttercream too. No wonder the infallible Nigel Slater has chosen it as his last meal on earth.”

Felicity Cloake (x)

“The pie before us struck me as a tremendous act of friendship. It was genuinely life-affirming: soothing, flavourful, lavish, wholly unexpected. Why, to we seven gathered, it almost felt like a hymn of praise. We collectively grew an inch taller, more swagger crept into our anecdotes, more dew hovered over our brows. If we got a little above ourselves, how could we be blamed, for if we were worthy of such splendid fare, such efforts above and beyond, what else magnificent might we deserve? Fleets of ships, suits of clanking armour, suites of matching luggage (monogrammed), silver chafing dishes in descending sizes, portraits of our great-aunts by, I don’t know, John Singer Sargent maybe?”

Susie Boyt (x)

So at this kitchen table, there’s a lot of cake. There are babies on knees, there’s probably a dog or a cat skittling around underfoot. There’s likely some Nina Simone playing. There are blowsy flowers. There may be some flaws, chipped china, bruised hearts and conundrums. There’s also a roof beam raising sense of joy. Some slow cooked stew laced with a dirty laugh.”

Sophie Dahl (x)

pre-raphaelite brotherhood

May 1, 2014

Lady Godiva, John Collier

“Images from their stylised paintings of mythical and biblical subjects circulate endlessly on book jackets and biscuit tins and probably still get tacked up on the walls of high-minded teenagers. The kind of women the PRB liked to paint – all bruised mouth and waterfall hair – have become a visual shorthand for the movement as a whole.” (x)


Though united by their desire to place a whoopee cushion beneath the establishment’s complacent buttocks, the PRB’s association is underpinned by an intense mutual competitiveness.” (x)

in the vastness of space and the immensity of time

December 23, 2010

“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

Carl Sagan

“ When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful… . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.”

Ann Druyan, on her husband Carl Sagan

very slowly, deliberately, voluptuously

December 23, 2010

“And then one student said that happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although try to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns into cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back off into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm – whether it’s something or someone – toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being sad in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.”

Design Flaws of the Human Condition, Paul Schmidtberger

“It is shocking and profoundly regrettable, but, apparently, sales of oranges are falling steadily because people can no longer be bothered to peel them. As soon as I read this, I began buying oranges more frequently and eating them with greater pleasure. Now I peel an orange very slowly, deliberately, voluptuously, above all defiantly, as a riposte to an age that demands war without casualties, public services without taxes, rights without obligations, celebrity without achievement, sex without relationship, running shoes without running, coursework without work and sweet grapes without seeds.”

The Age of Absurdity : Why Modern Life Makes It Hard To Be Happy by Michael Foley

i want to tell you this story

December 5, 2010

I want to tell you this story without having to confess anything,
without having to say that I ran out into the street to prove something,
that he didn’t love me,
that I wanted to be thrown over, possessed.

I want to tell you this story without having to say that I ran out into the street
to prove something, that he chased after me
and threw me into the gravel.
And he knew it wasn’t going to be okay, and he told me
it wasn’t going to be okay.
And he wouldn’t kiss me, but he covered my body with his body
and held me down until I promised to run back out into the street again.

But the minutes don’t stop. The prayer of going nowhere.

The Torn-Up Road‘ by Richard Siken

physical movement

December 5, 2010

“I like reading descriptions of physical movement, be they remembered, imagined, or projected—like Beckett’s Act Without Words, they’re just these great, sometimes unintentional prose poems on the cusp of word and action.”

Maggie Nelson