Sunday, 6 December 2009

I'm moving to See you there!

Lewis Carroll

'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'

'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'

'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'

... 'For instance, now,' she went on, ... 'there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn't even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.'

'Suppose he never commits the crime?' said Alice.

'That would be all the better, wouldn't it?' the Queen said.
- Through the Looking Glass

T. S. Eliot

And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
Burnt Norton
No. 1 of 'Four Quartets'

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Robert Browning

Escape me?
While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth,
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
My life is a fault at last, I fear:
It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.
But what if I fail of my purpose here?
It is but to keep the nerves at strain,
To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,
And, baffled, get up and begin again,—
So the chase takes up one's life, that's all.
While, look but once from your farthest bound
At me so deep in the dust and dark,
No sooner the old hope goes to ground
Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark,
I shape me—
Life in a Love

John Donne

Twice or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,
Angels affect us oft, and worshipped be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see,
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too,
And therefore what thou wert, and who
I bid love ask, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw, I had love's pinnace overfraught,
Every thy hair for love to work upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere;
Then as an angel, face and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,
So thy love may be my love's sphere;
Just such disparity
As is 'twixt air and angels' purity,
'Twixt women's love, and men's will ever be.
Air and Angels

Monday, 23 November 2009

Jorge Luis Borges

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

An American Life

(via Graham Linehan)

Lucy Suchman

...a change in our view of objects from passive and outside the social could help to undo the subject-object binary and all of its attendant orderings, including, for example, male-female, mental-manual, us-them.
'Agencies at the Interface' in Human-Machine Reconfigurations

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Julio Cortázar

‘What I remember best is the grimace that twisted his mouth askew, it covered his face with wrinkles, changed somewhat both in location and shape because his lips trembled and the grimace went from one side of his mouth to the other as though it were on wheels, independent and involuntary. But the rest stayed fixed, a flour-powdered clown or bloodless man, dull dry skin, eyes deepset, the nostrils black and prominently visible, blacker than the eyebrows or hair or the black necktie. Walking cautiously as though the pavement hurt his feet; I saw patent-leather shoes with such thin soles that he must have felt every roughness in the pavement.’
Las Babas del Diablo ('Blow Up')

Friday, 25 September 2009

Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Brian Massumi

“When I think of my body and ask what it does to earn that name, two things stand out. It moves. It feels. In fact it does both at the same time.”

Parables for the Virtual

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Theodor Adorno

We can tell whether we are happy by the sound of the wind. It warns the unhappy man of the fragility of his house, hounding him from shallow sleep and violent dreams. To the happy man it is the song of his protectedness: its furious howling concedes that it has power over him no longer.

Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, 1974

Friday, 4 September 2009

Mary Gaitskill

She was deliberately morbid in all her gestures, sensitive, arrogant, vulnerable to flattery. She veered between extravagant outbursts of opinion and sudden, uncertain halts, during which she seemed to look to him for approval. She was in love with the idea of intelligence, and she overestimated her own. Her sense of the world, though she presented it aggressively, could be, he sensed, snatched out from under her with little or no trouble. She said, 'I hope you are a savage.'

A Romantic Weekend

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, - no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintences, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.


Emily Dickinson

Good Morning -- Midnight --
I'm coming Home --
Day -- got tired of Me --
How could I -- of Him?

Sunshine was a sweet place --
I liked to stay --
But Morn -- didn't want me -- now --
So -- Goodnight -- Day!

I can look -- can't I --
When the East is Red?
The Hills -- have a way -- then --
That puts the Heart -- abroad --

You -- are not so fair -- Midnight --
I chose -- Day --
But -- please take a little Girl --
He turned away!
Poem 425 

Edward Thomas

I have come to the borders of sleep, 
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight, 
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose. 

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink, 
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink. 

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter, 
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter 
Than tasks most noble. 

There is not any book 
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now 
To go into the unknown
I must enter, and leave, alone, 
I know not how. 

The tall forest towers; 
Its cloudy foliage lowers 
Ahead, shelf above shelf; 
Its silence I hear and obey 
That I may lose my way 
And myself.
Lights Out, 1916 

George Bernard Shaw

'So let us have no more nonsense about the Prussian wolf and the British lamb...we cannot shout for years that we are boys of the bulldog breed and then suddenly pose as gazelles.'

Common Sense About the War, 1914

James Ellroy

'You musta caught too many in the ring, sonny, 'cause your seabag's leaky. Einstein couldn't remember the names of all Betty's boyfriends, and my name ain't Albert.'

The Black Dahlia

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Michael Sheen

In the supermarket today I thought I saw Michael Sheen browsing the yoghurt drinks. He had on a business suit and dark glasses.

'Nice one, Michael,' I thought. 'Executive disguise. Nice.'

Later when I walked past him again I realised that he had a debilitating limp on one side. Either it wasn't actually Michael Sheen, or he is going to pretty horrific lengths to travel incognito.

As I was standing in the queue to pay with two jars of chutney in my hands ('made', one boasted, 'with genuine apple cider!') the man behind me said, 'that's a lot of chutney for someone so small.'

'Never underestimate the importance of chutney,' I replied.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

This is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams, 1934

Sunday, 5 April 2009

A Short Story


'No,' said Ishmael.

'Keep it. I've enough goats as it is.'


A Short Story

John Wayne was sitting under the desert sun.

'Why am I sitting under the desert fucking sun?' he snapped at the lackey holding his sunshade.
'That shade's about as useful as an ice sculpture of my ass.'

Blushing, the lackey -- who had been transfixed by the sight of John Wayne shucking slivers of skin from the soles of his feet with a fruit knife -- re-angled the parasol.

'Actually,' mused John Wayne, 'an ice sculpture of my ass could be interesting.'

'CLAUDITA!' he screamed.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Identity crisis?

Disclaimer: sorry if you're not interested in this guff.

Recently I've been getting dressed in the morning and feeling pretty weird about the clothes I wear. The most frequent reason I leave the house is to go to college three times a week, and after thinking about Style Salvage's appropriation of the idea of a personal uniform, I would definitely agree that I have a personal College Uniform. Perhaps I overthink things, but there are a few things I've noticed about myself and other people when it comes to dressing for college. Firstly, when I get up at 7 or 8 in the morning, I look out of the window and more often than not observe that it's a pretty shitty looking day. I open my wardrobe, and look at my clothes, and I'll maybe look at a skirt; and then a voice in my head says you don't want to wear a skirt, it's freezing outside. Cold legs. Too cold for tights. The same thing goes for a dress - too short. You have to walk through not one but two dodgy neighbourhoods to get to college. Don't want any unwanted attention. Okay, I think, what about going with safety in jeans, but a nice pair of heels? You know your feet will hurt, says my voice. You'll be walking a lot today. You don't want to inflict unneccessary pain on yourself. Plus, heels click on the pavement, and you like to pad along quietly in your scabby old daps. Okay then, what about my nice new blazer? Too cold. You need a coat. Wear your duffle coat, it's warm. Fine. something nice underneath. The arms on your duffle coat, like all your coats, are too short for your lanky arms. You need something underneath. Wear your hoodie.

At that point (I promise, or at least I hope it's clear, that I'm not a nutty schizophrenic and that voice is just my Voice of Reason) I look in the mirror and hey, would you look at that? I'm wearing the same tomboy College Uniform that I always wear from October to April. Daps, jeans, jersey layers, and a duffle coat. And that's not the only thing which frustrates me. I get in to college, and apparently reams and reams of girls have got up that morning and they have NO VOICE OF REASON in their heads. They've arrived in flimsy skirts and thigh high socks, regardless of the 5 degree gale blowing outside; they clickety click along in their artfully bashed-up vintage heels, hips swinging, hair tousled by the pissing rain outside, while I stand gaping, bundled up, dripping onto the doormat with soggy feet and streaming mascara.

Leaving aside what I fully acknowledge as shallow JEALOUSY, plain and simple, of these girls who look so great, what I think I'm more jealous of is the fact that they know what they want. They know how they want to look; they know when they buy something that they will wear it, they'll make it look fabulous in with the rest of their clothes, and they know what they like. I don't know what clothes I like any more, and I don't think I have a personal style. My Uniform stems from practicality and an unwillingness to feel uncomfortable. I don't think I have any idea what I like. I mean, I know THINGS I like doing - if somebody asked me, "what are your hobbies?" or "what do you like doing in your free time?" I could answer - what I do is an easy question. But what does that say about the kind of person I am?

As a rule, I'm not much of a navel-gazer, but recently I'm starting to feel like perhaps I should know these things by now? Because it doesn't just come down to an aesthetic style crisis, but lots of other little things as well. I've talked before on the blog about my uncertain job future, but haven't really voiced my secret inner feeling that my job insecurity is compounded fully by the fact that I have no idea what I want to do. As it stands, I love my degree; but it's not like John, the nature of whose degree pretty much funnels you into a particular world of work, or Jeffrey, who, once he's graduated, is so well rounded and experienced that his skills and knowledge can carry him anywhere. My best friend Lucy floated around for two or three years after she finished school, trying out a few courses here and there, before she suddenly had a lightbulb moment and realised that if she doesn't try going to drama school she's going to have missed out on one of the one things she really loves doing.

I don't have skills, per se. I can't sew, I can't act, I can't design a building. I can think, but everyone can think. The more I worry about it the more I notice how much I have no idea about myself. Things which should be simple have become a challenge. What's my voice like - tone, pronounciation, accent? The more I think about it the more words seem sticky coming out of my mouth. Since when did talking become difficult? And for that matter, how do I walk? I'm not sure where to put the weight on my legs. Did I put my heel down first or my toe? I can't remember. Do I swing my hips? How do I eat? Do I favour one side to chew on over the other? What tastes do I like? And how do my friends see me? Is there anything about me that makes me, individually, me? Essentially, what kind of person am I? I feel like if I knew the answer to that I'd know what to do next, or what I even want to do next, or know at least how to go back to being the kind of person who knows what they want to do next. For now, I wish I knew where the fuck to start, and what to do with myself.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Ode to Beard Hair

It feels funny when I put my contact lenses
and there is something in my eye but
I can't work out what it is
I take out my contact lens and realise that it is
beard hair.
And not my own.


Sunday, 8 February 2009

Writing Prospects, Cajun Squirrel, Tropical Fish

This term I'm taking a writing course for university. It's supposed to funnel me into a mindset from which I can write mind-bogglingly fantastic, original, witty and yet audience-friendly screenplays, radio plays and short stories. Of course I shall send them to the Beeb and have them commissioned, produced and broadcast (on BBC4 don't you know), become brilliantly well known, and be able to pick and choose ace stuff for the rest of my writing career.

Only I won't, because our tutor recently brought my (small - there are only seven of us) writing group's attention to the rough statistics over in the Commissions office at the BBC. Apparently, of every 100 projects that get commissioned - i.e., the writers have already got through that first rat race of having their scripts read and chosen - ONE gets made.

This makes me want to crawl into a hole somewhere. I wish I'd been good at science. Or pursued a career in maths. I have to admit it doesn't really help matters to constantly be reminded of The Crunch being felt by jobless graduates nationwide, manifested particularly in this depressing article in the Guardian warning that although it might be bad now, things are only going to 'get worse for the classes of 2009 and 2010'. According to the advice that article gives, rather than setting my sights on a mid-range graduate entry job when I finish next year, I should think myself lucky if I manage to find a job stacking shelves at Aldi. Super! That's just what I imagined doing when I signed up for a £30k debt-inducing education.

Anyway. The writing class. As part of some research I'm doing for my piece, me, John, Jeffrey and Li found ourselves walking down Great Portland Street searching for London's Best Aquarium and Tropical Fish Shop whilst munching on two of Walkers' 'they're mental!' new crisps flavours. (Chilli and chocolate was a unanimous disappointment, especially after looking at the ingredients list and finding that there was more garlic and paprika in the flavouring than chilli or chocolate; but Cajun Squirrel - which contains NO squirrel (!?) was a bit tastier.)

The shop was like walking into a parallel universe, so it wasn't hard for the others to humour me and stay there for half an hour while I had a good look. It turns out fish-sellers' rules are surprisingly stringent. I overheard lots of funny conversations, including one between a couple and a shop assistant who was solemnly instructing them to bring in a water sample from their (empty) tank so that he could check it was suitable for aqua-habitation. There's also a million and one products ranging from bubble tanks and oxygenating filters to 'spider's web' rocks for the bottom and 'ceramic noodles' (no idea). The best product I saw was 'Feng Shui Pebbles'. To zen your fish out.

Upstairs was all trickling water and steamy windows with tanks lining the walls, full of tiny breeds of fish; but downstairs there were about a billion different species of sea-plant and coral, and some very bizarre sea creatures including the ugliest turtle I've ever seen.

All in all a good, if unusual, way to try and forget about the nightmare that is my fiscal future. Followed up with a more traditional Saturday-shopping pilgrimage to the behemoth that is the Shepherd's Bush Westfield mall. Which was mostly uneventful (except for a sale Tod Lynn tuxedo jacket and socks in rainbow shades to go with John's new saliva-inducing Grenson Stanleys) until we walked out past the ridiculously overpriced Reiss and delicious, entirely reasonably priced Cos. John and I get the pick of the sales since he grabs the L (S and M seem to go so quickly in men's sizes! No sadomasochistic pun intended) and I get the puny size sixes (there are two reasons my twitter profile describes me as a 'pancake prodigy', and only one of them is related to cooking) which nobody seems to want either. Needless to say, some excellent bargains were snapped up...I'm looking forward to the debut of John's desert boots and woolly jumpigan, and racking my brains trying to think of a posh-ish event to wear my new Reiss dress to.

On a side note, we think that Bamboo Basket is a better instant/inappropriately timed dim sum stop than Ping Pong, plus they do lychee and guava juice by the glass, even if the service at Westfield is a bit chaotic - but that's understandable really, since the food court there is pretty traumatic at the best of times.