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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1252 days, 3 hours, 29 minutes, 9 seconds ago

Daybreak Separations et Al.

I’m a little upset that it was not until today that I read Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” which pretty much sums up my feelings – the fears and angers and anguishes – toward death.  I present the poem here in its entirety, along with other snippets and variations on themes of life, death, learning and literature.  (An ‘aubade’, by the way, is traditionally a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn.)


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   
Till then I see what’s really always there:   
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   
Making all thought impossible but how   
And where and when I shall myself die.   
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   
—The good not done, the love not given, time   
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   
That slows each impulse down to indecision.   
Most things may never happen: this one will,   
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without   
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave   
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

~ Philip Larkin



If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

~ Mary Oliver


To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.

~ A. C. Grayling


With reasonable care and a hell of a lot of luck you might last another ten years, or five years, or two years, or six months, but then of course again on the other hand as I’m sure you’ll appreciate trying to be completely objective about the matter you might not. So in future, if there is any, every birthday is going to have a lot of things about it that make it feel like your last one, and the same with every evening out, and after four of your five years or five of your six months the same with most things, up to and including getting into bed and waking up and the rest of it. So whichever way it turns out…it’s going to be difficult to feel you’ve won, and I don’t know which is worse, but I do know there’s enough about either of them to make you wish you could switch to the other for a bit. And it’s knowing that every day it’s more and more likely that one or the other of them will start tomorrow morning that makes the whole business so riveting.

~ Kingsley Amis, from The Green Man


The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.

~ Albert Einstein


The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.

~ Malcolm X


When you meet a master swordsman, show him your sword.
When you meet a man who is not a poet, do not show him your poem.

~ Linji Yixuan


Today I’m defeated, as if I’d learned the truth.
Today I’m lucid, as if I were about to die
And had no greater kinship with things
Than to say farewell, this building and this side of the street becoming
A row of train cars, with the whistle for departure
Blowing in my head
And my nerves jolting and bones creaking as we pull out.

Today I’m bewildered, like a man who wondered and discovered and forgot.
Today I’m torn between the loyalty I owe
To the outward reality of the Tobacco Shop across the street
And to the inward reality of my feeling that everything’s a dream.

~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Tobacco Shop


We read to know we’re not alone.

~ C. S. Lewis


Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment. 

~ Og Mandino

Week In Review: Apr 14-20, 2014

Portfolio Additions

Fontane Danzanti | ISO 2500, 1/160, f/4.0, 70mm | Nikon D800, Sigma APO 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro | Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 4, 2014 18:33 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

So this week I wrapped up posting the only other interesting photograph from my Las Vegas getaway – the view of the dancing fountains from my hotel room balcony.  Some light Darktable processing was able to enhance the shot just enough to lift if above mere snapshot material.  That Sigma lens is a piece of equipment that I probably do not utilize often enough, although I hope to replace it soon with Tamron’s new 150-​600mm f/5-​6.3 which, aside from doubling my focal range, is supposed to have fairly exceptional image quality for a third-party lens.

Other posts this week included a short remembrance of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez and collections of some favorite photographs and projects that have been hanging out in my “saved” list.

Work is sending me to what I can only assume is flat, boring, redneck Plano, Texas this week.  Here’s hoping it surprises me.  Thanks for reading, readers!

Poignant Photography Projects

It’s easy to fall in love with photographs for their intrinsic beauty – the quality of light, detail, focus, color, mood, etc. – but there are photographers out there making art that says something meaningful about our world, takes a stand, strives to make a difference.  These are five projects I’ve found that are not just beautiful, but are important and should be appreciated as such.

Braden Summers’ All Love Is Equal – a series that highlights LGBT relationships across different cultures and around the world.  It is projects like this – images and stories that show the global, human, personal side of same-sex love, that will eventually turn the tide in favor of equal rights and an end to bigotry.


James and Karla Murray have been photographing New York City’s storefronts for over ten years, and have now collected them in a book called Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York.  A lot of these are iconic neighborhood landmarks that are now empty or closed/re-opened as soulless commercial chains.  Sad, in a way; a microcosm of the changes in what we value as a society.


The prolific and admired Steve McCurry has an upcoming exhibition including scenes from Afghanistan’s Civil War at the Beetles & Huxley Gallery in London.  It is scheduled to run from May 12 to June 7, 2014.


Continuing with a Middle Eastern theme, photographer Hossein Fatemi presents a side of daily life in Iran that we in the West are largely unacquainted with.  With media soundbites often the only window into that region, especially for us in the US, most citizens are apt to lose sight of the fact that there are ordinary human beings, like us, going about their lives.  Anything that fosters a little more empathy in the world is a good thing in my book.


Finally, Julia Fullerton-Batten has created a series entitled Blind – featuring portraits of the visually-impaired.  This is one of those projects that is less about social advocacy and more about just making you think about people in a new way.  I like that.  And the photographs are gorgeous too.



Spring Cleaning: Pleasing Techniques (NSFW)

A collection of photographs I have come across in the internet’s vast expanse.  As always, mouse over the picture for the artist’s name and click to check out their portfolios or other source/presence on the web.  Enjoy.



There is always something left to love.

Yesterday we lost Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, the prolific, Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author and a vibrant, revolutionary mind.  Today, the world is bleaker and poorer.  I, for one, have already endeavored to read the rest of his impressive catalog.  But for those who are unfamiliar with his work, start with One Hundred Years of Solitude and go from there.  Check out this Mental Floss article for some of the more interesting tidbits about his life.  

And I can’t not share this vignette from The Telegraph’s obituary – which leads off with a story from one of my other all-time favorite Spanish-language novelists:

The Colombian novelist Alvaro Mutis used to tell a story about his close friend and compatriot Gabriel García Márquez, who has died aged 87. In the mid-Sixties, when the latter was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), they met every evening for a drink. García Márquez would tell Mutis about the scenes he’d written that day, and Mutis would listen, waiting avidly for the next installment. He started telling their friends that “Gabo” – as García Márquez was affectionately known – was writing a book in which a man called X did Y, and so on. When the novel was published, however, it bore no relation to the story García Márquez had told over tequila – not the characters or the plot or any aspect at all. Mutis was left with the feeling of having been brilliantly duped, and he mourned the unwritten novel of the bar, that ephemeral fiction no one else would ever hear.

You will be missed, amigo.  Rest in peace.

Week In Review: Apr 4 - 13, 2014

Portfolio Additions


Artomat (Yellow) | ISO 2500, 1/160, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 5, 2014 13:56 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Pliable in Pink I | ISO 100, 1/2500, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 5, 2014 15:53 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Pliable in Pink II | ISO 100, 1/3200, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 5, 2014 15:52 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Pliable in Pink III | ISO 100, 1/1000, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 5, 2014 15:53 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Pliable in Pink IV | ISO 100, 1/1600, f/2.2, 85mm | Nikon D800, New Petzval Lomography x Zenit Art Lens | Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV USA | Apr 5, 2014 15:52 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

The week(ish… plus three days… I haven’t been good at keeping this updated lately) was dominated by the three day solo trip to Las Vegas.  I mostly people-watched, went to see the world premier of Teller’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, finally gave the Petzval lens a semi-proper workout, and won nearly $600 at blackjack.  All in all, a nice vacation.  Those little art-dispensing cigarette machines were scattered around The Cosmopolitan, all in different colors.  The only other photos that turned out all right were these of the street performers Saturday afternoon – a father and daughter acrobat-type team.  Impressive, of course, but what caught me was the expression on the girl’s face.  Really engaging and made for some great shots.  I tipped well.

The Tempest is running at The Smith Center until the end of the month before moving on to Cambridge, Mass., I think.  But if you’re in the area and are a fan of Shakespeare, I heartily recommend it.  All of the actors were top notch, the illusions were spectacular, and the music of Tom Waits permeating the whole performance really lent to the haunting, ethereal mood of the production.  Nicely done – and in Vegas of all places!

And $600 at blackjack.