Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Level Vessel

And this is a message to the people
If you see or hear goodness from me
Then that goodness is from The Creator
You should be thankful to The Creator for all of that
'Cause I'm not the architect of that
I'm only the...the recipient
If you see weakness or shortcoming in me
It's from my own weakness or shortcoming
And I ask The Creator and the people to forgive me for that

[excerpt from]
Champion Requiem
Track 18
The New Danger
Mos Def

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Codra Wing

The Walk

As the moonlight emerged it cast a watchful eye on the park and the strollers, ambling behind white breath as they advanced in the crisp night air. Hand in hand, and more often arm in arm, they lumbered along the dark path, sometimes their pace quickening, or their step less assured, as recently crystallized ice creaked uneasily underfoot. The promenade spanned nearly an hour now: often in silence but in awe of the evening and the spaces between them. Emblematic of the systems by which they understood one another, the destination was known but their paths found new direction: bilaterally, by shared reflection and at whim given the current of the moment. Like a game they once played, seeing where they might finish when alternating turns: first right, then left, right, left. That night they finished along a darkened country road, bathed again in moonlight and the sight of residential developments glistening on a distant, darker horizon. This time, though, was geographically different -- now on foot, roaming in the snow-encrusted dog park in her neighbourhood (he knew of it too, but this was her arena) -- but turning questions in their mind was the same activity as driving in patterns unknown. Together, balance was key. Not only was the path newly iced-over, unsalted and unstable, but their shared language had become uneven too: he, stabilizing his body for support as she lost grip; she, reassuring her words when his sighs implied doubt. Yes, and as time meandered and constellations coyly identified themselves one after another, their words opened rhythmically, wandering the essing path, connecting and mapping the private labyrinths of their hearts.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Organic Design

Our capacity to go beyond the machine rests in our power to assimilate the machine. Until we have absorbed the lessons of objectivity, impersonality, neutrality, the lessons of the mechanical realm, we cannot go further in our development toward the more richly organic, the more profoundly human. The economic: the objective: and finally the integration of these principles in a new conception of the organic -- these are the marks, already discernible, of our assimilation of the machine not merely as an instrument of action but as a valuable mode of life.

Dynamic equilibrium, not indefinite progress, is the mark of the opening age: balance, not rapid one-sided advance: conservation, not reckless pillage.

Lewis Mumford
Technics and Civilization

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


The following is an excerpt from Alain de Botton's book on architecture, aesthetics, and our thoroughly intertwined social psychology with respect to the former.

While a common reaction to seeing a thing of beauty is to want to buy it, our real desire may be not so much to own what we find beautiful as to lay permanent claim to the inner qualities it embodies.

Owning such an object may help us realise our ambition of absorbing the virtues to which it alludes, but we ought not to presume that those virtues will automatically or effortlessly begin to rub off on us through tenure. Endeavouring to purchase something we think beautiful may in fact be the most unimaginative way of dealing with the longing it excites in us, just as trying to sleep with someone may be the bluntest response to a feeling of love.

What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.


de Botton, Alain. "Ideals." The Architecture of Happiness. McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2006. 150-152.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lasting Forever

A bolt of cloth
A reel of line
A hank of rope
A ball of twine
A keg of nails
A bushel of apples
A ream of paper
A box of chalk
A cord of wood

--- Quoted from Charles Eames


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Swallowing Dictionaries

I sometimes wonder if the fact that as a young student, my Mother's insistence on the use of a thesaurus in equal or greater volume than a dictionary has anything to do with my persistent neutrality? I am much more comfortable in highlighting the likenesses in life than in pinpointing and isolating their definitions. Somehow, the faster, essed outside of the stream -- with its variability and current --proves more reassuring that the inner banks, catching the fertility of sediment and the comfort of solidifying ground.

Or perhaps I am looking at it inversely: are synonyms not definitions in and of themselves when using one idea or word as a point of reference? Is a thesaurus not a more extensive dictionary of sorts? Assuming one understands the initial definition of the idea for which one is seeking alternative names, does one then not exponentially expand one's use of a single meaning into myriad others?

Though possibly quite true, we must nonetheless remind ourselves when debating such hypotheses, that the first manuals of words were dictionaries whose goal was not only to establish then perpetuate the use of "the right word" but to make it known to other languages and those of all caste. Only once concreted could the thesaurus even be pondered, and itself created, defined.

From here to there,


Sunday, February 03, 2008

"On Single Men"

The following is an excerpt from a brief but pertinent collection of short essays.


There are no greater romantics than those who don't have anyone to be romantic with. It is when we are in the depths of loneliness, without the distraction of work or friends, that we are in a position to grasp the nature and necessity of love. It is after a weekend in which the phone has not stirred, in which every meal was prised from a can and consumed in the unconsoling presence of a gravel-voiced BBC narrator -- outlining the mating habits of the Kenyan antelope -- that we can appreciate why Plato should have declared (The Symposium, 416 BC) that a man without love is like a creature with only half its limbs.

Daydreams that arise in such deserted moments could hardly be termed mature, in so far as one associates the word with an awareness of the dangers of idealization and romantic excess. On a train to Edinburgh, I am assigned a seat across from a young woman reading what may be a company report, sucking her way through a carton of apple juice. As we shuttle northwards, I feign a concern for the scenery (parched fields, industrial debris), while remaining glued to the angel. Short brown hair, pale skin, blue-grey eyes, a set of freckles on the nose, a striped sailor top with a small but undeniable splash of what might have been lunch's macaroni. After Manchester, Juliet puts away the company report and takes out a cookbook. The Food of the Middle East. Concentration across her brow. Stuffed aubergines. Also, falafel, tabouleh and something that looks like guruko, which requires much spinach. Notes taken in curled, concentrated handwriting.

How little is takes to fall in love. Or at least to fall into the kind of heightened enthusiasm for another person that might be called love, but also crush, sickness or illusion, depending on temperament. By the time the train is past Newcastle, I have though of marriage, a house in a cherry-tree-lined street, Sunday evenings where she will lay her head beside me and my hand will comb her chestnut strands and we will quietly digest the middle-eastern something-or-other that she made and I will at long last, and for ever more and with infinite gratitude, feel that I have a place in the world.

Such moments punctuate the life of the single male, unfolding without any outward sign, in the presence of faces glimpsed on the Edinburgh train, the lunchtime sandwich line or airport concourse. Pathetic, no doubt, but vital to the institution of the couple. Women should be grateful for the despair of unattached men, for it is the foundation of future loyalty and selflessness -- another reason, perhaps, to be suspicious of the romantically successful types, whose charms have left them unacquainted with the tragicomic process of aching for days for a woman they were too shy to address and who stepped off at the next station leaving behind a carton of apple juice and plans for marriage.


de Botton, Alain. "On Single Men." On Seeing and Noticing. Penguin Books, 2005. 38-39.

Design Education and the Teen-agers Fair

The following is a passage in a book I'm current enjoying:

All design is an education of a sort. it may be education by studying or teaching at a school or university, or it may be education through design. In the latter case the designer attempts to educate his manufacturer-client and the people at the market place. Because in most cases the designer has been relegated (or, more often, relegated himself) to the production of "toys for adults" and a whole potpourri of gleaming, glistening, useless gadgets, the question of responsibility is a difficult one to raise. Young people, teenagers, and pre-pubescents have been propagandized into buying, collecting, and soon discarding useless, expensive trash. It is only rarely that young people overcome this indoctrination.

One notable rebellion against it, however, did occur in Sweden a few years ago when a 10-day "Teen-agers' Fair" attempting to promote products for a teen-age market was boycotted so thoroughly it nearly got put out of business. According to a report in Sweden NOW (Vol. 2, No. 12, 1968), a good number of youths resisted what they considered over-consumption by holding their own "Anti-Fair," where the slogan of the day was "Hell, no, we won't buy!" On the big day, buses collected teens from all over Stockholm and drove them to the experimental theatres where special programs of politically engagé films and plays were scheduled and such subjects as world hunger, pollution, and drugs were discussed in workshop sessions. In the kids' opinion, the "Teen-agers' Fair" was just the beginning of a systematic plan to exploit young Europeans by enticing them to want more clothes, cars and "status junk."

But Sweden (once again) is the exception rather than the rule.


Papanek, Victor. "Snake Oil and Thalomide: Mass Leisure, and Phony Fads in the Abundant Society." Design For The Real World. Pantheon Books, 1970. 87.