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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

  • 1155 days, 1 hour, 30 minutes, 17 seconds ago

Every Field is a Battlefield (Quotations)

Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.

~ John Green

I finally managed to try to do away with myself, as neatly and concisely as possible…

~ Francesca Woodman

The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.

~ Andy Warhol

I am going to try speaking some reckless words, and I want you to listen to them recklessly. How will that be?

~ Chuang Tzu

Reality demands
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica.

There’s a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint
on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Chaeronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
cannot escape
the approaching atmospheric front.

There is so much Everything
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
Music pours
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on the sunlit decks.

So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.
Where not a stone still stands,
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.
This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice’s fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don’t cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only that blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can’t help
laughing at that.

Wisława Szymborska

I’m lonely so I do lonely things.

~ Warsan Shire

Jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.

~ Ray Bradbury

I believe that it is bracing and vital to live in a world in which we do not know all the answers. I believe that we are inspired and goaded on by what we don’t understand. And I hope that there will always be an edge between the known and the unknown, beyond which lies strangeness and unpredictability and life.

~ Alan Lightman

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

~ Ansel Adams

I never wanted to be well-rounded, and I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work. So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design.

~ Harry Crews

System Reboot

I always start with such lofty intentions, but over the past year or so I’ve allowed myself in almost imperceptibly incremental stages to slide back into fuck-it mode.  And it’s so easy when your mind can identify all kinds of excuses for your actions – some genuinely traumatic, some just elevated to a critical state due to your closeness to the situation.  Skewed reality.  Selfishness.  Then I look back to when I first relocated back to Birmingham and all the positive changes I’d implemented – I was exercising every day, for example, with lungs capable of processing a full, beautiful breath of oxygen.  I liked where I was.  And now I examine that me and wonder how I got back to this reckless slob mentality.  

I was reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters this week when I earmarked this quote:

Fuck me. I’m so tired of being me. Me beautiful. Me ugly. Blonde. Brunette. A million fucking fashion makeovers that only leave me trapped being me. … Everything before now, before now, before now, is just a story I carry around. I guess that would apply to anybody in the world. What I need is a new story about who I am. … What I need to do is fuck up so bad I can’t save myself.

 “Well, shit.”  That’s the path I was heading down.  Luckily I’m a compulsive collector of quotes.

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

~ Gautama Buddha

And

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Which, if you’re paying attention, is very similar to Bear Bryant’s daily devotional that he carried in his wallet:

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not loss – good, not evil,
success, not failure – in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.

And finally, from this Thursday’s “Tip of the fucking day

Every new day is another chance to change your life.

So there you have it.  I’ve been wallowing – poor me, my life isn’t what I envisioned for it.  I’ve been angry at life, at death, at my past, at injustice.  No more.  Yesterday is the official day I’ve implemented new rules for the system.  You will now see one new element in the Grammaticaster.com sidebar: a timer counting up from the implementation date.  Not a pat on the back, but an accountability tool.  If I break a rule, it reverts to zero.  I will not break a rule.  And those things that bother me will probably still bother me.  My insecurities will be there.  My rage at the inevitable will be there.  My dissatisfaction will be there.  But my responses to any of those things will be positive.  And that is all I am going to say about that.  Except that for those who love me, know that you are loved also – and that your opinions count.  

Much much more to come, ladies, gentlemens, readers, lurkers.  Stay tuned.

15 Inspi-F*cking-Rational Tips

I think I’ve shared a quote or two from The Fucking Homepage before, but here’s a list dedicated to the best “tips of the fucking day” of 2014.  The daily posts in their entirety are a great way to start off each and every morning.  Essential reading.  To the life tips!

NEVER BE THE SAME PERSON YOU WERE YESTERDAY.  (1/6/14)

TIME IS THE ONLY CURRENCY THAT MATTERS.  (1/19/14)

IMAGINE EACH PERSON YOU MEET IS YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND.  (1/27/14)

DO TODAY WHAT OTHERS WON’T SO YOU CAN DO TOMORROW WHAT OTHERS CAN’T.  (2/24/14)

DON’T PRACTICE UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT. PRACTICE UNTIL YOU CAN’T GET IT WRONG.  (3/11/14)

ALWAYS WALK AS IF YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE YOU HAVE TO BE.  (3/19/14)

PEOPLE WHO TRY TO BRING YOU DOWN ARE ALREADY BELOW YOU.  (3/24/14)

THERE IS NEVER A PERFECT TIME FOR ANYTHING. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING AND HAVE THE MEANS, DO IT.  (3/26/14)

FAKE CONFIDENCE AND REAL CONFIDENCE ARE THE SAME THING.  (4/1/14)

AVOID “ZERO” DAYS. DO AT LEAST ONE THING PRODUCTIVE EVERY DAY.  (4/6/14)

JUST SAYING HELLO CAN LEAD TO A MILLION THINGS.  (4/8/14)

BE SOMEONE WHO OTHERS LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING TOMORROW.  (4/11/14)

THOSE TEN EXTRA MINUTES IN BED NEVER MAKE YOU LESS TIRED. THEY JUST MAKE YOU LATE.  (4/12/14)

YOU HAVE TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH YOURSELF, SO YOU BETTER MAKE YOURSELF AS INTERESTING AS POSSIBLE.  (4/30/14)

DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY ANYONE. EVERYONE IS FILLING A ROLE AND WEARING A MASK.  (5/2/14)

I heartily recommend following the blog feed… but, NSFW language, obviously.

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.)

“Aubade”

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

Monday Meditations

Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.

~ Jack Kerouac

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

~ T.S. Eliot

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

~ Diane Arbus

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.

~ Dorothea Lange

It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.

~ Paul Caponigro

I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art.

~ Vladimir Nabokov, from Lolita

Personally of course I regret everything. Not a word, not a deed, not a thought, not a need, not a grief, not a joy, not a girl, not a boy, not a doubt, not a trust, not a scorn, not a lust, not a hope, not a fear, not a smile, not a tear, not a name, not a face, no time, no place, that I do not regret, exceedingly. An ordure, from beginning to end.

~ Samuel Beckett, from Watt

Love slipped through your fingers
and dropped
into a glass of blood
rolled
into a darkened mirror
a terrible rain
beat down on it
then it vanished into a forest
full
of shadows
of songs
of birds

~ Miltos Sachtouris

there’s always a little joy, and even beauty
lies close at hand, beneath the bark
of every hour, in the quiet heart of concentration,
and another person hides in each of us—
universal, strong, invisible.

~ Adam Zagajewski, from Three Angels

The sadness of the world
has different ways of
getting to people,
but it seems to succeed
almost every time.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Illuminating the Shadows (NSFW)

In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.

~ August Sander

         

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.

~ Alfred Stieglitz