For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

- Bukowski

At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.


1.6 billion people don’t have access to mains electricity. Little Sun is designed to replace dangerous kerosene lamps with solar power. Designer Olafur Eliasson, engineer Frederik Ottesen.



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The Paris Time Capsule Apartment



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Why do so many poets settle for so little? I don’t understand why they’re not greedy for what’s inside them. The heart has the ability to experience so much—and we don’t have much time.

Jack Gilbert via

Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over other organisms. It’s by talking nonsense that one gets to the truth! I talk nonsense, therefore I’m human. Not one single truth has ever been arrived at without people first having talked a dozen reams of nonsense.

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime And Punishment

Art is the big door, but real life is a lot of small doors that you must pass through to create something new

- Moebius

If you are a man of learning, read something classic, a history of the human struggle, and don’t settle for mediocre verse.


All that matters is that you believe what you write is special. And that you dare to write great stuff, and accept that half of it will be horse shit, every single day. Write something self-pitying and outrageous and unhinged. Write something melancholy and defeated. Write about a novelist who thought he was special, and then some bad reviews almost killed him. Because ultimately, even if you’re anointed the greatest living author, no one else cares nearly as much as you do. You’re the only one who really, really gives a fuck. So please yourself. Write what you love.

Heather Havrilesky

Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.

Immanuel Kant

If you’re not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you’re not interested or even involved.

Happy birthday Jack Kerouac

All extremes of feeling are allied with madness.

— Virginia Woolf, Orlando

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

- This Is Water. David Foster Wallace

We can fight for science by being cool with the idea that it’s not our jobs to be an encyclopaedia, and it’s not our job to present a balanced view. Artists are supposed to be intuitive and feeling, so they should be encouraged to find things that make them feel strong emotions and try to channel that without worrying about coming across as biased or filtering it through a rational mindset. The instinct to qualify what you’re saying is characteristic of scientists, and those sections of the media with any integrity, because they don’t want to be proven wrong. But most media outlets have financial interests outside of presenting an even or scientific view, so impartiality isn’t on the cards – it’s up to the arts to do what it can to balance that out. The arts has always been the best way to communicate the beauty and the terror of science, so we just need to play to people’s emotions on topics we feel strongly about. And we do that by yelling as loud as we can.

Ben Lerner: Leaving the Atocha Station

We shook hands and I said I liked your reading and he thanked me but didn’t say anything back, I guess because he didn’t like my poetry and because Tomás couldn’t lie for the sake of politeness when it came to the most sacrosanct of arts. I was surprised how furious I became and how fast, but I didn’t say anything; I just smiled slightly in a way intended to communicate that my own compliment had been mere graciousness and that I in fact believed his writing constituted a new low for his or any language, his or any art.

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Beckett on language

“Since we cannot dismiss it all at once, at least we do not want to leave anything undone that can contribute to its disrepute. To drill one hole after another into it until that which lurks behind it, be it something or nothing, starts seeping through – I cannot imagine a higher goal for today’s writer.”

Letter to Axel Kaun, july 9, 1937

Sound familiar? Hapsburg Spain and the development of capitalism

Credit emerged as a widespread tool of Spanish business in the 17th century. The city of Antwerp, in the Spanish Netherlands, lay at the heart of European commerce and its bankers financed most of Charles V’s and Philip II’s wars on credit. The use of “notes of exchange” became common as Antwerp’s banks became increasingly powerful and led to extensive speculation that helped to exaggerate price shifts. Although these trends laid the foundation for the development of capitalism in Spain and Europe as a whole, the total lack of regulation and pervasive corruption meant that small landowners often lost everything with a single stroke of misfortune. Estates in Spain, and especially in Castile, grew progressively larger and the economy became increasingly uncompetitive, particularly during the reigns of Philip III and IV when repeated speculative crises shook Spain.

Each new fact or experience is assimilated into a living web of understanding that already exists in that person’s mind.


“As scientists study the processes of learning they are realizing that learning reflects their best understanding of the brain’s natural way of making sense of the world. Constructivism holds that learning is essentially active. A person learning something new brings to that experience all of their previous knowledge and present mental patterns. Each new fact or experience is assimilated into a living web of understanding that already exists in that person’s mind. As a result, learning is neither passive nor simply objective”

John Abbott & Terence Ryan

Growing inequality = shrinking opportunity.

As put by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, “growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible.


David Simon: “What I have found myself writing about is the end of empire: what happens when the affluent decide not to pay their share.”

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that David Simon has transformed the way many of us think about the interconnectedness of the social issues that plague our cities and communities in the C 21st. The Wire zoomed out, from the street corner to city hall, weaving an epic narrative on the political and economic pressures fracturing labor rights, hollowing-out education and crippling policing.

At the very least, he changed writing for television, and raised the bar for all comers.

So of course I was stupidly excited to hear that he’d be speaking at the BMW Guggenheim Lab on the LES. Simon took the mic and spoke honestly, angrily and informally, without notes, for two hours straight. I found myself agreeing with almost every point he raised. I stood on the edge of the crowd and took notes till my thumbs hurt.

Here’s all the quotes I managed to capture. They’re a bit random and disconnected, but you’ll get the general idea of the tone of his talk.

David Simon, NYC. August 31, 2011.

What I have found myself writing about is the end of empire: what happens when the affluent decide not to pay their share.

What we’re looking at now is the moral equivalent of a gated community…. I’ve got mine, so fuck him.

What we are looking at is the triumph of capital. I would date it to 1980: there has been a class war, and my class is winning.

Capitalism is the only way to build mass wealth: it is not a meaningful blueprint for a just society.

It’s a casino: if you mistake it for a mechanism that will build a just society, you do that at your peril. We’ve been doing that for 30 years.

The good news is that it’s going to get worse… It won’t be in NY, it’ll be in St Louis or another place like that… It’ll happen in places where the game is so rigged, where the crumbs that fall from the table are so small, that people will rise up.

The thing that made America great is organized labor… If you look at what labor gave us, it didn’t just give us a living wage. It created a consumer class, people who were willing to buy shit, that is the engine that drives the American economy.

If you come to NY you feel like the center of the universe, everything happens first here… It’s the triumph of NY that the rest of the world doesn’t matter that much. The problem is that whatever cancer the rest of the country is experiences, you don’t feel it here.

People are being thrown away, people that we dont need, people being trained for the corner. When you just don’t need 15-20% of your population anymore, economically, all you can do is make them chow for the system. It makes economic sense to make money off human misery.

Our prisons are publicly traded companies. How do you get 6 or 8% profits when you’re running prisons? You have to make it a growth industry: you have to send more people to jail.

We have more people in jail in America by sheer number and percentage than China, than any other state in the world…. Criminal justice is the largest growing lobbying group. The core chow is people trying to move to a better life, and low-level drug offenders.

Capital has not only achieved this for itself, it has also purchased the government that you might want to use to do something about it.

Two things: opt out for drug wars, acquit low level offenders.

Question time: usually 50% of questions about Omar

Question on the response to Obama’s healthcare plan: this is about the upper middle class, the middle class, and even the working class saying: if someone is below me, fuck em. What do you think the concept of group healthcare is? It’s socialistic. What they’re saying is I want socialism for me, for people who look like me, who work where I work. When people who are affluent do this, that’s a society in decline.

I’m not looking for moustache twirlers: I just think money routes itself. I think the collapse of high end media isn’t a conspiracy, I think that it’s just good luck for capital.

I took my buyout (from The Baltimore Sun) before the Internet, with 100 other reporters, when the Sun was making a 37% profit. This wasn’t a technological issue: only one thing makes society and people that stupid: money. They could make more money putting out a shittier product. All we have left is Barnum, putting our hand in the next guy’s pocket. If they can make money now, they don’t care if the industry survives the next three months.

I think things can change: I think the first good sign is the Times charging for content.

Question on whether is is better to make these points through art, than journalism: I get more attention: I get to do nice things like talk to you about cities tonight because I made a television show… I wouldn’t have been invited here if I was the police reporter for the Balitmore Sun.

It doesn’t work because it’s more expensive than journalism: it costs HBO $30 or 40 million to make a
season of the Wire or Treme… That’s too much money and it takes too long.

Question about filmmaking: I dont know anything about making a film. I have a general studies degree from the University of Maryland.

I can’t tell a story in a medium where you have to stop every 12 minutes to sell people shit. You need to keep eyeballs…. And you can’t tell a story that is dark, much less something that is tragic, because no one wants to watch that shit and then go out and buy iPads and Lincoln Continentals… Premium cable has taken that dynamic and shattered it…. Now that it’s about DVDs and on demand, the ratings mean even less. That economic model makes possible storytelling that is plausible.

I tend not to hire TV writers: I think it’s easier to bring journalists and novelists through the keyhole  into TV. If they make tv I don’t want them: I’m scared that it’ll end up too much like TV.

Next show: We can’t find anyone who is willing to do anything on organized labor. I’d love to do mini-series on key moments in organized labor, but no one is interested. It’s like talking about a museum piece for most people.

I see the American middle class as a person at a casino with the hand on a machine, not noticing everyone around them going bust. All they can see is the guy two rows over who is winning, and all the bells and whistles are going off… There is the secret notion among all these people who are getting creamed that one day I might be the guy on the machine that wins. It’s that level of perfect greed that our political demagoguery takes advantage of to get people to vote against their own interests.

What people forget when they bitch about welfare is that 99% of that money goes straight back into the economy. When rich people make money is goes into the bank.

Stephanie Coontz: “women’s issues” vs labor rights

I think that at this point it’s extremely important for us to start talking more about how to answer this campaign, and not to divide things into a “woman’s issue” over here and a “unions issue” over there. It’s a full-scale attack on all the progress we made right after the Depression and then built upon in the ’60s, toward actually creating a social safety net and improving the security of all Americans. I get upset when I hear women’s groups taking about women’s poverty without linking that issue to the problem of declining real wages and increasing economic insecurity for less-educated men. And I also think liberals have to stop talking so much about “compassion” for blacks or women and should pay equal attention to the crisis of working people who do have jobs. It’s a sad day when the main people talking about defending the working class are right-wing ideologues whose social programs are destroying the security of working Americans and fostering the concentration of wealth among the richest 10 percent of the population.

- from