The 小蝌蚪找爸爸 part. The journey is harrowing at times but ends sweetly and fittingly.
  • but I thought I could safely point out more abstruse errors of fact, and this would be the type of thing I could sign Steven aged 11. It was hard to know how simply I should put the selfish gene theory: since he hadn’t understood it I didn’t want to make the explanation complicated, but I thought it would sound obnoxious if I stuck to words of one syllable.
  • I said I liked Amundsen and Scott and I liked King Solomon’s Mines and I liked everything by Dumas and I liked The Bad Seed and The Hound of the Baskervilles and I liked The Name of the Rose but the Italian was rather difficult.
  • Though of course the Icelandic words don’t really have the same register as English words of Anglo-Saxon derivation because they’re not in opposition to a register of Latinate vocabulary. He said: You know Icelandic?
  • It was not hard to imagine a world where my body stood in this room with something else inside it. If I said something he would see that other world.
  • All right, said Sib. Just remember that you are perfect, whatever your father may be. It may be that other people need a sensible father more. We’re not talking about an exhaustible resource, I said.
  • the term originally fixed in the undertaker’s mind. He that runs against Time, has an antagonist not subject to casualities.
  • abstract nouns would have to be turned into clauses, she digressed to explain that Lytton Strachey on Johnson on the Poets, on the other hand, was the type of thing that was very easy to turn into Latin,
  • HC had none of the Socratic scruples that plagued RD, but he carried sportsmanship to so fanatical an extreme that it had a very similar effect
  • He said: You don’t actually ARGUE all the way THROUGH you decide the endgame you want to play you incorporate an opening which might lead to it by REFERENCE as it might be Black played an unusual version of the Queen’s Indian you incorporate the middle game largely by REFERENCE
  • Now Fraenkel once said in a class that a scholar should be able to look at any word in a passage and instantly think of another passage where it occurred; HC was unperturbed by this remark, but RD took it to heart, and the longer he worked the more any text was like a pack of icebergs each word a snowy peak with a huge frozen mass of cross-references beneath the surface. So that now in addition to Socratic reservations on answering any question was added a conviction that in any linguistic analysis a real scholar would haul up the whole iceberg.
  • RD said: I can’t do this any more. I can’t do this to PHILOSOPHY. I can’t write some piece of rubbish in half an hour and say they MADE me do it. HC said: Opening middle game endgame.
  • English as a foreign language. RD was rather tired. Everyone can imagine a life’s regret for a moment of cowardice, but you could just as easily regret a moment’s courage;
  • The written language was constructed of ideograms compatible with many spoken realisations of the words & he felt that people spoke here any way they liked, while the written language flew on kites overhead. He felt at last free of philology.
  • The sky had cleared above, as if a solution of air and fine rain had separated until the heavier of the two had silted the valley in thick white mist leaving the clear pure air above.
  • HC would never back down. He was a linguist, and therefore he had pushed the bounds of obstinacy well beyond anything that is conceivable to other men.
  • Anything will have lift if its front edge is higher than its back, and it will have more if the top surface area is greater than the bottom. His idea was that if you made a pair of silk wings open at the front and cut the bottom shorter than the top the air rushing in would inflate them and the resultant taut surface would produce lift.
  • There was light in the upper air, but as soon as he reached the ground the light was gone. The sun was a bloody ball on the horizon.
  • he would find that if he asked a question of a man, no matter how slim or even non-existent the knowledge might be on which an answer might be given, it would always be given as a statement of fact—whereas you might ask a woman whether it was raining outside and she would commit herself only to saying that it might be so.
  • I was surprised by the shining wooden floors and thick rugs and stuffed sofas. An interesting form of the subjunctive is not something you can bring back as a trophy but still this was not what I had expected.
  • I plan to learn to work as a member of a team when the other members of the team are out of their teens.
  • I stumbled down the street. He had not killed to learn those moodless verbs and uninflected nouns, but he had brought a slave into existence for their sake.
Arch:  mischievous, teasing, knowing, playful, roguish, impish, cheeky, tongue-in-cheek;
  • Sorabji always liked to say that the unfortunate consul had travelled hundreds of miles into the interior to rescue a British citizen, only to find Gunga Din. It was true that the loincloth had come from Gieves & Hawkes, but this was not something you’d notice on a casual inspection.
  • That boy, said Sorabji very gravely, can add all the numbers between 1 and 500 in 20 seconds. The consul said: Hm. Sorabji was a Zoroastrian but he was not much of a believer, and he had been to chapel a lot at school but he believed even less in that, and yet he found himself saying Please Please Please Please. Please let him not know about Gauss please please please please please.
  • Her brother’s other friends were unfailingly charming, so that she could not talk to one without instantly afterwards taking out a horse and setting it at a six-foot fence. She had never met a man who could open his mouth without imperilling the life of a horse.
  • The first time he ran away was at night. He looked up at the Northern sky; it was like going from a Bond Street jeweller to a street trader hawking chips of glass on cheap velvet.
  • The whole time he was saying it, even though he was saying it seriously, he would suddenly break into a smile as if he had been saving the smile for the son he had always wanted and never had.
  • when you get right down to it you can’t beat the religious for sheer wanton contempt for Creator and Creation alike
  • It seemed to me that things were easier in the days when I just had Val Peters to worry about. He had his faults. Mixing up DNA and RNA. Dabbling in sexual tourism. One could go on. But no one would ever blame me for having a father like that - he just came that way.
  • I thought suddenly that it was stupid to be so sentimental. What we needed was not a hero to worship but money. If we had money we could go anywhere. Give us the money and we would be the heroes.
  • Journey into Danger! was out so I got Half Mile Down instead.
  • It was of an indefinable translucent blue quite unlike anything I have ever seen in the upper world, and it excited our optic nerves in a most confusing manner. We kept thinking and calling it brilliant, and again and again I picked up a book to read the type, only to find that I could not tell the difference between a blank page and a coloured plate. I brought all my logic to bear, I put out of mind the excitement of our position in watery space and tried to think sanely of comparative colour, and I failed utterly. I flashed on the search-light, which seemed the yellowest thing I have ever seen, and let it soak into my eyes, yet the moment it was switched off, it was like the long vanished sunlight—it was as though it had never been—and the blueness of the blue, both outside and inside our sphere, seemed to pass materially through the eye into our very beings. This is all very unscientific; quite worthy of being jeered at by optician or physicist; but there it was … I think we both experienced a wholly new kind of mental reception of colour impression.
  • that might be true up to a point. But in the capsule you were inside a pocket of air. What it felt like was being in a pocket of blue light—light that was blue the way water is wet.
  • Looking for a father had turned out to be an unexpectedly high-risk activity. Stand behind the door, Kambei tells Katsushiro. Bring down the stick as hard as you can, it will be good training for you. Any more training and I might not live to see 12.
  • I knew what she was thinking anyway. The silence stretched out, for my mother was debating inwardly the right of one rational being to exercise arbitrary authority over another rational being on the ground of seniority.
  • You could say it to me because it wasn’t true? he said. I see! He saw it in a single second. He laughed suddenly. But this is marvellous!
  • Life is such a chancy business, you may lose everything you have at any moment—if a stroke of luck can rob you of whatever it is you live by, where does that leave you?
  • We’re such cowards in front of a piece of paper these days—my mother was an Egyptian, and my father was from Hungary, both countries with a particularly impressive tradition of bureaucracy, and it gave me an indescribable frisson to cock a snook at the official channels.
  • (At a movie:) suitable moment at which to place your arm around the shoulders of your companion and kiss her. You cannot? No more could I. After half an hour, no suitable moment presenting itself, I chose an unsuitable moment—I was rebuked. With nothing to distract me, my mind returned with ever greater foreboding to my partner, at that very moment imbibing pernicious heresy from the lips of our fellow club members.
  • She’s not really pretty, I said. She’s beautiful. When she’s excited. When she’s bored she looks like someone who’s got two weeks to live.
  • would have liked to hear him talk this way about anything, as if you could be impervious to sorrow just by being a man.
  • When you play bridge with beginners—when you try to help them out—you give them some general rules to go by. Then they follow the rule and something goes wrong. But if you’d had their hand you wouldn’t have played the thing you told them to play, because you’d have seen all the reasons the rule did not apply... People who generalise about people are dismissed as superficial. It’s only when you’ve known large numbers of people that you can spot the unusual ones—when you look at each one as if you’d never seen one before, they all look alike.
  • I thought that I was beginning to get the hang of this. I had started by picking the wrong kind of father, but now I knew what to look for I could build up a collection of 20 or so. I felt ashamed, really ashamed of all the years I’d spent trying to identify the father who happened to be mine, instead of simply claiming the best on offer.
  • He said even if you weren’t interested in music wouldn’t the idea that things could be different— He stopped by the piano. He said But actually people don’t really like a piece of music until they’re used to it.
  • But we don’t live in a society where every schoolchild has Korner’s The Pleasures of Counting, or Steiner’s The Chemistry Maths Book, where every library has a copy of Lang’s Astrophysical Formulae
It's always thrilling to read about boy geniuses - sadly and unjustly girl geniuses don't appear in novels as much.
  • Brain left school at six while body did time: Well that wasn’t very nice now was it? L: If someone’s about to eat you you don't have to be nice.
  • Excellent idea as Greek so helpful for reading New Testament, camel through eye of needle for example mistranslation of very similar word for rope:
  • L is up to the pentekaipentekontapus under the admiring & indulgent eyes of people who get on and are able to get off again after a few stops.
  • so may salve conscience by just touching on highlights like Sound of Music cutting from Doe A Deer to seven-part harmony or heptaphony as some people (naming no names) would probably call it.
  • I said politely but firmly I think if you see the film again you will find that the samurai are not, in fact, an elite band. Lesser directors have of course succumbed to the glamour of the eliteness of a band, with predictable results; not Kurosawa. She said there was no need to take that tone
  • & I said politely Essentially the film is about the importance of rational thought. We should draw our conclusions from the evidence available rather than from hearsay and try not to be influenced by our preconceptions. We should strive to see what we can see for ourselves rather than what we would like to see.
  • smiling pleasantly through 273 verses (10 + 0 + –262) of the green bottles song. Could I be sure that he would not start up again at –263 or rather would anyone familiar with the child offer even straight odds that he would not? No.
  • there’s a stomach-turning swerve into another key and you’re in the middle of Over the Rainbow, swerve, Climb Every Mountain, swerve, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, swerve, swerve, swerve. Well then, you have only to imagine Liberace, hands, mouth, penis now here, now there, no sooner here than there, no sooner there than here again, starting something only to stop and start something else instead, and you will have a pretty accurate picture of the Drunken Medley.
  • how cruel that we must wake each time to answer to the same name, revive the same memories, take up the same habits and stupidities that we shouldered the day before and lay down to sleep.
  • All I would have to do was write down a short passage of Greek, as if for this interested sceptic, with translation transliteration vocabulary and grammatical comments—taking pains, of course, to write the latter as if for the type of person who can’t get enough of things like the middle voice, dual number, aorist and tmesis. I am usually not very good at dealing with social dilemmas, but this seemed a stroke of genius. It would take about an hour (comparing favourably with the five-hour unwritable note)
  • By the looks of things I have about three days’ grace before I start teaching Japanese to a child with no sense of proportion whatsoever.
  • And DON’T YOU DARE colour in ANY OTHER BOOK without ASKING ME FIRST. That was all I said, & it was too much. A chittering Alien bursts from the breast to devour your child before your eyes. He looked down at the page
  • Drums over Africa was written by an Australian named Peter McPherson
  • Once you saw that you saw that you could potentially have dozens of fragments that could not be part of the finished work, and what you saw was that it was perceiving these fragments as fragments that made it possible to have a real conception of what wholeness might be in a work
  • It was as if after the illusion that you could have a thing 500 ways without giving up one he said No, there is only one chance at life once gone it is gone for good you must seize the moment before it goes, tears were streaming down my face as I heard these three pieces each with just one chance of being heard if there was a mistake then the piece was played just once with a mistake if there was some other way to play the piece you heard what you heard and it was time to go home.
  • I said Well do you want me to show you some kanji? He said I think I can probably do it myself. I knew what this meant, it meant for all my good intentions I had been a monster.
L takes over:
  • I said so are you picking four, and Sibylla said yes because she could not wait four days for the term jinsai which was obviously an indispensable euphemism for small child.
  • I have read Kon Tiki, Into the Heart of Borneo, Arabian Sands, Journey into Danger!, Quest for Adventure!, The Snow Leopard, In Patagonia, Amazon Nights, To Caucasus, Tents on the Steppe, Igloo Winter, With Camel and Compass, Among Pygmies and After Alexander.
  • Sibylla put the magazine on the floor. She said, You will not be ready to know your father until you can see what’s wrong with these things... I said, It’s not fair, nobody else has to wait until they’re old enough to know who their father is. She said, We should not elevate the fortuitous to the desirable.
  • I said, ‘Let’s take two people about to undergo 10 years of horrible excruciating boredom at school, A dies at the age of 6 from falling out a window and B dies at the age of 6 + n where n is a number less than 10, I think we would all agree that B’s life was not improved by the additional n years.
  • The hero is a man actively engaged in becoming himself—never a very reassuring sight. The villain, on the other hand, has already become something.
  • I said: According to one reviewer this writer I am supposed to regard from a state of grace beyond pity
  • I said: Well just tell me this. He didn’t rape you did he? (Everything I know about delicacy I learned at my mother’s knee.)
  • There is a strange taboo in our society against ending something merely because it is not pleasant—life, love, a conversation, you name it, the etiquette is that you must begin in ignorance & persevere in the face of knowledge,
  • thought you thought disenfranchisement on grounds of age the hallmark of a BARBARIC SOCIETY. I thought of saying, How do you know something I don’t know is something I don’t want to know?
  • the problem is that they are classicistic rather than classic, pursuing both truth and beauty not for themselves but because manifested in these forms in the great works of the past. It would be harder, of course, to seem as though I saw these faults from a state of grace, but maybe she would overlook that.
  • You can tell just from the names of the mathematicians. Bernoulli’s equation—Euler’s equation—Gauss’s divergence theorem—I have no idea what these actually ARE, but essentially the mathematics at the heart of the subject seems to be post-Newtonian developments in calculus, 18th 19th century stuff. How hard can it be?
  • could try the hunchbacked midget costume I had to wear when we went to see The Crying Game—but I thought I might have trouble getting into a bar even as a midget sensitive about his height.
I've wanted to read Helen DeWitt's book for ages and it didn't let me down. Sib's voice is instantly eccentric and captivating:
  • The children could all play five or six instruments with flair but they hated to practice: They emerged from each piece either bloody but unbowed or miraculously unscathed, and they had all assumed they would be musicians. Buddy was the first to find they would not.
  • My father stood by the piano and he suddenly thought What would be the odds against going to a seminary and going to synagogue and learning to play pool, just suppose he fell in love with a Jewish girl from Philadelphia and made a fortune in motels and lived happily ever after, say the odds were a billion to one that was still not the same as impossible so it was not actually impossible that his father had not, in fact— Linda plunged down
  • There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation. In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark.
  • It took five to ten minutes to read a sentence—an hour a page. Slowly the outlines of the argument loomed out of the mist, like Debussy’s drowned cathedral sortant peu à peu de la brume.
  • they loved scenes in which people who had gone berserk raved in strange, fractured speeches studded with unjustly neglected vocabulary; they loved to focus on some trivial element of a myth and spin it out and skip the myth—they could make a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of any Hamlet. As scholars, as scientists, as mathematicians, as poets who led the flower of Roman youth astray, they crowd their way into books not mainly about them; given a book to themselves they burst out at once into a whole separate volume of footnotes—I speak of course of Fraser’s Ptolemaic Alexandria
  • Having settled on stupidity as the criterion of inauthenticity he went on to discard one stupid remark after another as really by Zenodotus or Aristophanes
  • Each bedside table, he explains, has a copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species in the top drawer. In fact it’s a really good day because that very morning one of the guests stole the Origin of Species instead of a towel.
  • Surely Oxford would not insist on mindless enthusiasm just to prove you can be enthusiastic about something. Surely Oxford would not accept hearsay as evidence. Surely Oxford wouldn’t hold a reference against you without knowing anything about the writer.
  • I had spent 46+ hours on this bizarre piece of logic at a time when I had read not a word of Musil, or Rilke, or Zweig. But I did not have a scholarship to read things that were merely good; I had a scholarship to make a contribution to knowledge.
  • But I suddenly thought that this was exactly the problem, this was the diabolical thing about life: one minute of a Carling Black Label ad to two hours of Ghostbusters XXXV that you didn’t even want to see in the first place.
  • I thought suddenly: Rilke was the secretary of Rodin.
  • How is it possible to argue this, you say, AND to know that a brother and sister may have no genes in common, without being committed to the unlikely theory that any man could be a Mozart with similar training? You say it, and I thought it; but the fact is that a clever man so seldom needs to think
  • The Alien has a long eel-like neck and little reptilian eyes. I put both hands around its throat & I said: Rot in hell. It coughed & said sweetly: So sorry to intrude. Admirable maternity! All time devoted to infant amelioration. Selflessly devoted!
  • Emma was really the next worst thing to the States. She loved America in the way that the Victorians loved Scotland, French Impressionists Japan.
  • The fact is that though things were better than when I had been reading things people had thrown their lives away on seventy years before at any moment a passion would fling itself on the first idea standing by and gallop off ventre à terre—how quietly and calmly some people argue.
  • it was depressing in a literature to see all the languages fading into English which in America was the language of forgetfulness.
  • it was preposterous that people who were by and large the most interesting the most heroic the most villainous the newest immigrants could appear in the literature of the country only as character actors speaking bad English or italics & by & large both they & their descendants’ ignorance of their language & customs could not be represented at all in the new language, which had forgotten that there was anything to forget.
  • In the same way a composer does not for the most part think that he would like to imitate this or that sound—he thinks that he wants the texture of a piano with a violin, or a piano with a cello, or four stringed instruments or six, or a symphony orchestra; he thinks of relations of notes... but if a book just used them so that the English spoke English & the Italians Italian that would be as stupid as saying use yellow for the sun because the sun is yellow.
  • Perhaps a writer would think of the monosyllables and lack of grammatical inflection in Chinese, and of how this would sound next to lovely long Finnish words all double letters & long vowels in 14 cases or lovely Hungarian all prefixes suffixes, & having first thought of that would then think of some story about Hungarians or Finns with Chinese.
  • that compromise which we call the tempered system, which amounts to an indefinitely extended truce
  • & in my mind I would hear languages related like a circle of fifths, I would see languages with shades of each other,
  • I realised that, faced with coming up with a reply, I had thought of the question and not the questioner.
  • No one had ever asked me if he was boring me who wasn't.
  • Lord Leighton (the painter of Greek Girls Playing at Ball) specialised in scenes of antiquity in which marvellous perplexities of drapery roamed the canvas, tarrying only in their travels to protect the modesty of a recruit from the Tyrone Power school of acting. His fault was not a lack of skill: it is the faultlessness of his skill which makes the paintings embarrassing to watch, so bare do they strip the mind of their creator.
  • so did Lord Leighton (the writer) bring the most agitated emotions to an airless to a hushed to an unhurried while each word took on because there was all the time in the world for each word to take on the bloom which only a great Master can give to a word using his time to allow all unseemly energy to become aware of its nakedness and snatch gratefully at the fig leaf provided until all passion in the airlessness in the hush in the absence of hurry sank decently down in the slow death of motion to perpetual stasis
  • he is like a man who plays Yesterday on the piano with Brahmsian amplitude & lushness and so casually kicks aside the very thing which is the essence of the song.
  • In a less barbarous society children would not be in absolute economic subjection to the irrational beings into whose keeping fate has consigned them: they would be paid a decent hourly wage for attending school.
  • is a tiresome feature of piano music that (since 10 or more notes may be played simultaneously) it involves anything up to 10 times the amount of sight reading of any other instrument.
  • She said: What about the violin? Is there anything you’d like me to do on the violin? The homely man started to laugh & said No I don’t think so. He said he also had no advice to offer on the viola, the mandolin or the flute.
  • But even after just three weeks of the exercise she thought that she would never again be able to walk innocently into a room to show what she could do.
  • But after the audition my mother thought it might work some other way. If there was this desert of technical work to be crossed before you could play the piano, maybe every other instrument and maybe the voice was also surrounded by a desert.
  • If I could read anything I wanted I would read The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap.
There's much moral urgency in Paul Kalanithi's book.
  • He had reached some compromise in his mind that fatherhood could be distilled; short, concentrated (but sincere) bursts of high intensity could equal…whatever it was that other fathers did. All I knew was, if that was the price of medicine, it was simply too high.
  • For every country fact that seemed preposterous, there was one that felt solid and true. Always check your shoes for scorpions.
  • Books became my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world.
  • Meaning, while a slippery concept, seemed inextricable from human relationships and moral values. T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land resonated profoundly, relating meaninglessness and isolation, and the desperate quest for human connection.
  • If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?
  • And then we would sit and watch as the first hint of sunlight, a light tinge of day blue, would leak out of the eastern horizon, slowly erasing the stars. The day sky would spread wide and high, until the first ray of the sun made an appearance. The morning commuters began to animate the distant South Lake Tahoe roads. But craning your head back, you could see the day’s blue darken halfway across the sky, and to the west, the night remained yet unconquered—pitch-black, stars in full glimmer, the full moon still pinned in the sky. To the east, the full light of day beamed toward you; to the west, night reigned with no hint of surrender. No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night. It was as if this were the moment God said, “Let there be light!” You could not help but feel your specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe, and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus, reaffirming your presence amid the grandeur.
  • "I don’t believe in the wisdom of children, nor in the wisdom of the old. There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment."
  • (Then I learned that Virginia Woolf once boarded a battleship dressed as Abyssinian royalty, and, duly chastened
  • A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form. It was the relational aspect of humans—i.e., “human relationality”—that undergirded meaning.
  • Everything teeters between pathos and bathos: here you are, violating society’s most fundamental taboos, and yet formaldehyde is a powerful appetite stimulant, so you also crave a burrito.
  • Cadavers reverse the polarity. The mannequins you pretend are real; the cadavers you pretend are fake.
  • Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici: “With what strife and pains we come into the world we know not, but ’tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.”
  • And as I sat there, I realized that the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in a medical context. In the actual situations where one encounters these questions, it becomes a necessarily philosophical and biological exercise. Humans are organisms, subject to physical laws, including, alas, the one that says entropy always increases. Diseases are molecules misbehaving; the basic requirement of life is metabolism, and death its cessation.
  • While all doctors treat diseases, neurosurgeons work in the crucible of identity: every operation on the brain is, by necessity, a manipulation of the substance of our selves
  • Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?
  • Still, when you work in a hospital, the papers you file aren’t just papers: they are fragments of narratives filled with risks and triumphs.
  • Some days, this is how it felt when I was in the hospital: trapped in an endless jungle summer, wet with sweat, the rain of tears of the families of the dying pouring down.
  • As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives—everyone dies eventually—but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness...  In these moments, I acted not, as I most often did, as death’s enemy, but as its ambassador.
  • The call to protect life—and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul—was obvious in its sacredness.
  • Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.
  • During our final weekly chat, he turned to me and said, “You know, today is the first day it all seems worth it. I mean, obviously, I would’ve gone through anything for my kids, but today is the first day that all the suffering seems worth it.” How little do doctors understand the hells through which we put patients.
  • If boredom is, as Heidegger argued, the awareness of time passing, then surgery felt like the opposite: the intense focus made the arms of the clock seem arbitrarily placed.
  • Most lives are lived with passivity toward death—it’s something that happens to you and those around you. But Jeff and I had trained for years to actively engage with death, to grapple with it, like Jacob with the angel, and, in so doing, to confront the meaning of a life. We had assumed an onerous yoke, that of mortal responsibility.
  • Is that what hope was? Could we divide the curve into existential sections, from “defeated” to “pessimistic” to “realistic” to “hopeful” to “delusional”? Weren’t the numbers just the numbers? Had we all just given in to the “hope” that every patient was above average? It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.
  • What patients seek is not scientific knowledge that doctors hide but existential authenticity each person must find on her own. Getting too deeply into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.
  • My body was frail and weak—the person who could run half marathons was a distant memory—and that, too, shapes your identity.
  • Day after day I kept at it, and every tiny increase in strength broadened the possible worlds, the possible versions of me.
  • Years ago, it had occurred to me that Darwin and Nietzsche agreed on one thing: the defining characteristic of the organism is striving. Describing life otherwise was like painting a tiger without stripes.
  • Hemingway described his process in similar terms: acquiring rich experiences, then retreating to cogitate and write about them. I needed words to go forward.
  • The monolithic uncertainty of my future was deadening; everywhere I turned, the shadow of death obscured the meaning of any action.
  • decision: I would push myself to return to the OR. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.
  • The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church.
  • Death maybe be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.
  • the physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.
  • Emma hadn’t given me back my old identity. She’d protected my ability to forge a new one.
  • --to make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning—to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in... It is to say, though, that if you believe that science provides no basis for God, then you are almost obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life itself doesn’t have any. {Um, where do I start...}
  • My life up until my illness could be understood as the linear sum of my choices. As in most modern narratives, a character’s fate depended on human actions, his and others... From the Enlightenment onward, the individual occupied center stage. But now I lived in a different world, a more ancient one, where human action paled against superhuman forces, a world that was more Greek tragedy than Shakespeare.
  • Graham Greene once said that life was lived in the first twenty years and the remainder was just reflection. So what tense am I living in now? Have I proceeded beyond the present tense and into the past perfect? The future tense seems vacant and, on others’ lips, jarring.
Maria Semple's prose certainly hasn't lost its screwball energy or its penchant for lists, but the hasty reveal and resolution in the last 20 pages is a letdown. In contrast, her previous book stuck the landing and left a much stronger impression.
  • ”I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness. The world will be hostile, it will be suspicious of your intent, it will misinterpret you, it will inject you with doubt, it will flatter you into self-sabotage. My God, I’m making it sound so glamorous and personal! What the world is, more than anything? It’s indifferent.”  “Say amen to that,” Spencer said.  “But you have a vision. You put a frame around it. You sign your name anyway. That’s the risk. That’s the leap. That’s the madness:thinking anyone’s going to care.”
  • That was happiness. Not the framed greatest hits, but the moments between. At the time, I hadn't pegged them as being particularly happy. But now, looking back at those phantom snapshots, I'm struck by my calm, my ease, the evident comfort with my life. I'm happy in retrospect.
  • Every person has it in him to be either the Competent Traveler or the Helpless Traveler. Because Joe is so clearheaded and sharp, I’ve been able to go through life as the Helpless Traveler.
  • The world isn’t your friend,” Joe told Eleanor. “It’s not designed to go your way. All you can do is make the decision to muscle through and fight the trend.
  • “Smell the soup, cool the soup,” Timby said. “Huh?” “It’s what they teach us in school when we’re upset. Smell the soup.” He took a deep breath in. “Cool the soup.” He blew out.
  • As far as I’m concerned, the only thing sweeter than seeing a friend is that friend canceling on me.
  • “Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.”
  • One thing that happens when you have an alcoholic for a parent is you grow up the child of an alcoholic. ... For a quick trip around the bases, it means you blame yourself for everything, you avoid reality, you can't trust people, you're hungry to please. Which isn't all bad: perfectionism makes the straight-A student; lack of trust begets self-sufficiency; low self-esteem can be a terrific motivator; if everyone were so gung-ho on reality, there'd be no art.
  • A live concert needs to be listened to live. Otherwise, it’s like eating day-old salad.
  • Because the other way wasn’t working. The waking up just to get the day over with until it was time for bed. The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all.
  • As everybody knows, being raised Catholic with half a brain means becoming an atheist.
  • Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people. Or at least people who are crazy in an interesting way.
  • Violet once told me, "Change is the goal. Insight is the booby prize." She was right, of course.
__________________________________________

Christopher Healy reminds me of Robert Asprin, down to the affable cover art.
  • When facing unbeatable odds, just think of yourself as unbeatably odd. (The Hero's Guide to Being a Hero)
  • No one is defined by a single act," Frederic said. "Whether it was years ago or weeks ago. We're all given chances to change, to make up for things we've done wrong. It's how we handle those opportunities that really matters.
  • When writing down a plan, I suggest numbering the steps. But just in case your plan falls into enemy hands, make sure you number them in the wrong order.
  • It's still a cowl," Frederic grumbled (few things could cause him to summon up his inner courage like improper word usage).
  • a shish kabob of kingdoms
  • Gustav kicked the table. “Never mind, I’m out,” he grumbled. “But, Gustav,” Ella said. “You might still get the chance to punch someone.” “All right, I’m back in.”
There's a lot more clammy heat in this book than in Edmund de Waal's previous one on netsuke. It's more about making than possessing.
  • Pinch a walnut-sized piece between thumb and forefingers until it is as thin as paper until the whorls of your fingers emerge. Keep pinching. It feels endless. You feel it will get thinner and thinner until it is as thin as a gold leaf and lifts into the air. And it feels clean. Your hands feel cleaner after you have used it. It feels white.
  • I want poems that compare white porcelains to smoke coiling up from a chimney, or from incense on an alter, or mist from a valley, or, at the very least, an egret in a paddy field poised.
  • There are the pleasures of being envied and the pleasures of being feared and the pleasures of looking down on a sea of new possessions but of all the pleasures. More is the only thing that works.
  • The connoisseurs sniff, categorise, rank, price, demote.
  • Celadons, the colour caught between green and blue, get sky after rain, and kingfishers, and iced water, all of which are lyrical.
  • “In many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls,” Herman Melville wrote.
  • “The Auroras of Autumn” by Wallace Stevens: being visible is being white, / Is being of the solid white, the accomplishment / Of an extremist in an exercise….
  • If you make God in your own image, then William's God is an interested God. Not kind, perhaps, too many bereavements have knocked away that pietism, but good on detail, and definitely good on surprise.
  • All emperors look like Dorothy L. Sayers, legs planted firmly apart, hands on lap, solid, unknowable.
Of a necessity, there's a lot about doings of autocratic rulers:
  • Augustus II, elector of Saxony, an omnivorous collector of both mistresses and china, wrote, “The same is true for oranges as for porcelain, that once one has the sickness of one or the other, one can never get enough of the things and wishes to have more and more.”
  • The tale here comes very close to fairy story. There are tests, kilns, firing, failures. The boy is imprisoned, and then freed on condition he keep good his promise to transmute clay. Tschirnhaus invents large lenses capable of concentrating enough heat to melt Chinese porcelain. Between them, after years of error, they manage to produce one white translucent cup, whereupon Tschirnhaus dies.
  • Louis XIV built a porcelain pavillion for his mistress. In it, they made love: "in a Chinese bed below a ceiling painted with Chinese birds."
  • In 1909, someone writing on behalf of the boy emperor, then five years old, requests “one white porcelain vase, four white porcelain ju vessels, one white porcelain bowl, and twelve large white porcelain dishes. The vessels will be placed in front of the portrait of the late Empress Xiao Qin Xian for ritual purposes.” A response to another request arrives two years later, and it is the last imperial correspondence regarding porcelain—a staggering detail, when one realizes that such letters were exchanged for more than a millennium. Here, de Waal paraphrases: “It says that we received your letter, but we cannot fulfill a demand for one hundred seven-inch dishes glazed in sacrificial red. We no longer have the skills. So we are sending a hundred white dishes with red dragons on them.” <> “A thousand years of imperial porcelain ends on this,” De Waal writes. “For the first time in decades I feel like a cigarette.”
  • The emperor Zhu Di, who seized the imperial throne in a bloody act of usurpation in 1402, slaughtering hundreds of relatives in the process, was so fascinated by its purity he commissioned a towering pagoda of white porcelain brick that rose nine storeys and was celebrated as one of the wonders of the world.
  • The last section in which the author's pilgrimage to the lands and people who make porcelain takes him to Dachau where he uncovers the dark history of Allach porcelain.
Reviews are respectful but mixed, which align with my takeaways from this book:
  • He applies it to delicious effect in the strongest section of “The White Road,” which describes the travails of Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus — student of Spinoza, friend of Newton and Leibniz — as he rattled around Europe seeking an aristocrat to fund his research: “If you are interested in optics or mineralogy or funding a dictionary of philosophy, you are lucky to get two minutes of the attention of a margrave who lives for killing stags or boar in inventive ways.”
  • De Waal juxtaposes Cookworthy’s small-time ­efforts to fire the stuff with the enterprises of Josiah Wedgwood, the potentate of English pottery, who sent a factotum all the way to a mountain in the Cherokee Nation in the Carolinas to retrieve five tons of white clay.
  • De Waal is concerned also with ownership; and the undertow is one of misery and forced labour on the part of those who will never own anything much.
  • De Waal can tease a lot of atmosphere out of the most unprepossessing archival research — an imperial order for “hundreds of shallow dishes for narcissi” leads him to “imagine walking down one of those endless corridors in the Forbidden City, a paced rhythm of steps and scent.” He’s not, however, a natural travel writer, and the many places he visits flicker past without making much of an impression, backdrops to his perpetual agitation.
  • There was something almost holy in his earnestness: any holier and The Hare with Amber Eyes would have lost its poise and toppled into piety.
  • There emerged a robust market of export ware: porcelain exclusively made in China for Europe. Today, one can still marvel at the strange game of decorative, Orientalist telephone that this development created. A porcelain ewer has the seal of Portugal painted across its bulbous body in mild blue brushstrokes—except the seal is upside down.
马克李维的短小说,让我想起《解忧杂货店》 —— 同样有精巧的脑洞,同样写小人物的悲欢离合,同样温情治愈。
  • 他的问题让我陷入沉思,我徒劳无功地在脑中把问题翻来覆去,想了又想,还是想不出我有任何一点儿天分。然后我突然明白,为何爸妈在我早读六个月这件事上这么执著:因为我没有其他可以让他们为儿子骄傲的地方啊!
  • “自然老师快急疯了,他已经准备要展开大规模搜索,我跟他说我一定会找到你。打猎时,我爸总是不停地说我天生只会找到劣等猎物,我终于相信他说对了。喂,快点啦,你真该看看自己的蠢样,我确定我要是再等一会儿才出现,铁定会看到你像个爱哭鬼一样挂着两行眼泪!”
  • 爱情,莫非像影子一样,有人踩中了,就带着离去?还是因为爱情跟影子一样怕光,又或者,情况正好相反,没有了光,爱情的影子就被拭去,最终黯然 .

  • “人们连他人都不会关心了,更何况他人的影子……而且,我生来就懂得隐身暗处,只要靠着一点练习和一点默契,我们一定能成功的。“
  • 能看穿对方跟你说违心话,这才是朋友,不是吗?
  • 我把衣服换下,把领带放回衣柜,希望自己接下来的几个月不要长得太快,这样的话,爸爸来接我时,我的漂亮衣服还是可以穿得上。
  • 想想看,要捏造一封未曾谋面的妈妈写的信,他的心里隐藏着多少悲伤啊。妈妈的存在就像一口深不见底的井,一口无法被填满的悲伤之井,而伊凡只能以杜撰出来的信,为这口井封上盖子。
  • “正是如此,”影子接着说,仿佛已读出我的心思,“为每一个你所偷来的影子找到点亮生命的小小光芒,为它们找回隐匿的记忆拼图,这便是我们对你的全部请托。”
  • 清晨,当我睁开眼睛,看到妈妈的信放在床头柜上,而爸爸的照片则放在床头灯下,这是六个月来第一次,我们三个聚集在我的房间里。<> 妈妈的这封信是全世界最美的信,它属于我并且永远为我所有。但我还有一项重要的任务要完成,为了这个原因,我得把这封信与他人分享。虽然妈妈被我蒙在鼓里,但我相信她一定会谅解我的。
  • 新的信和原来那封看起来简直一模一样,一封几可乱真的信,就像妈妈的信和信的影子。我自己留了妈妈的原信正本。
  • 每次都一样,一部分的自我遗落在离开的人身上,就像爱情的忧愁,这是友谊的愁绪。千万不要跟别人产生牵绊,风险太大了。
  • 克蕾儿会在空中写字、写诗,伊丽莎白根本一点儿都比不上她。爸爸常说永远不要把人拿来比较,每个人都与众不同,重要的是要找到最适合自己的差异性。克蕾儿就是我的差异性。
  • 克蕾儿会以左腕的细微波动来刻画波浪,再以起伏的右手来呈现大型帆船在海面上来回穿梭的情景。当夕阳西斜,她用两手的拇指和食指圈成虚拟的太阳,从我背后滑下,然后她大提琴般的笑声就占据了整个空间。
  • 规则能让那些没有想象力的人安心,这实在很蠢!
  • “我是班代表,即使这个班已经四散,我们还是持续关注着你,影子老去的方式和人不同。
  • 一天晚上,我们偶然同时出现在艾丽斯家,她向我们提出了一个颇为惊人的论点:“与其生孩子,再尽全力把他们养大,还不如领养成年的大人,至少知道自己在跟谁打交道。像你们两个,我立刻就会选择领养你们。”
  • 谢谢你带我去看海,谢谢你给了我这意外的两天。我知道如果我骗你,告诉你我很幸福,你会相信。但我做不到。最难过的是看到你和我在一起,你却显得如此孤单。我不怪你,但我认为我并没有做错什么而需要遭受这样的惩罚,成为隐身在门后的女人。我觉得我们还是普通朋友时你更有吸引力,我不想失去最好的朋友,我太需要他的温柔和真诚。我必须找回从前的你。
  • “我明天不上班,我会到医院拿一些抗生素,然后帮你拿去给音乐学院的警卫,我会趁机试试看能不能探听到更多消息。”吕克承诺。

  • 苏菲每次都会把其中提及我的几行给我看,吕克总是致歉说没有时间写信给我,但我知道这是他的方式,好让我知道他和苏菲的书信往来。
  • “我昨天失去了妈妈,她从来没向我提过她的病情,而今晚,我在阁楼里找到她之前藏起来的我爸爸写给我的信。人们一旦开始说谎,就再也不知如何停止。”
  • “一个拒绝长大的男人,一个被你解放自由的学校警卫,又或是在你需要朋友时虚构出来的影子,全都取决于你的定义。
  • 在城市的天空里,她用纸老鹰画出大大的S和无数个完美的8。克蕾儿向来擅长在空中写诗,当我终于看懂她写的句子时,我读出:“我想你。”
It's beyond dizzying, when the zoom is pulled waaaaay back like this.
  • It is not unknown for a geological textbook to include snatches of the poem. It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind). That each by observation Might satisfy his mind. {盲人摸象~}
  • the science seems for the moment more imaginative than descriptive. Where it is solid, it is imaginative enough. Geologists are famous for picking up two or three bones and sketching an entire and previously unheard-of creature into a landscape long established in the Picture. They look at mud and see mountains, in mountains oceans, in oceans mountains to be.
  • “If you go down into the earth here to a depth that about equals the width of one of these fault blocks, the temperature is halfway between absolute zero and the melting point of the rock. The crust is brittle above that point and plastic below it. Where the brittleness ends is the bottom of the tilting fault block, which rests—floats, if you like—in the hot and plastic, slowly flowing lower crust and upper mantle. I think this is why the ranges are so rhythmic. The spacing between them seems to be governed by their depth—the depth of the cold brittle part of the crust.
  • The Humboldt River, blue and full, was flowing toward us, with panes of white ice at its edges, sage and green meadow beside it, and dry russet uplands rising behind. I said I thought that was lovely. He said yes, it was lovely indeed, it was one of the loveliest angular unconformities I was ever likely to see.
  • To make the rock of that lower formation and then tilt it up and wear it down and deposit sediment on it to form the rock above would require an immense quantity of time, an amount that was expressed in the clean, sharp line that divided the formations—the angular unconformity itself. You could place a finger on that line and touch forty million years.
  • Black is regarded as the discoverer of carbon dioxide. He is one of the great figures in the history of chemistry. Hutton and Black were among the founders of an institution called the Oyster Club, where they whiled away an evening a week with their preferred companions—Adam Smith, David Hume, John Playfair, John Clerk, Robert Adam, Adam Ferguson, and, when they were in town, visitors from near and far such as James Watt and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Some creatures, on the other hand, had appeared suddenly, had evolved quickly, had become both abundant and geographically widespread, and then had died out, or died down, abruptly. Geologists canonized them as “index fossils” and studied them in groups. Experience proved that the surest method of working out relative ages of rock was not through individual creatures but through the relating of successive strata to whole collections of creatures whose fossils were contained therein—a painstaking comparison of arrivals and extinctions that helped to characterize the divisions of the time scale and define its boundaries with precision.
  • the Paleozoic era. It was a unit—well below the surface but far above the bottom—just hanging there suspended in the formless pelagics of time.
  • Like the general run of meteorites, an Apollo Object could be expected to contain a percentage of iridium and other platinum-like metals at least a thousand times greater than the concentration of the same metals in the crust of the earth. In widely separated parts of the world—Italy, Denmark, New Zealand—the Berkeley researchers found a thin depositional band, often just a centimetre thick, that contains unearthly concentrations of iridium. Below that sharp line are abundant Cretaceous fossils, and above it they are gone.
  • the Mesozoic, an era of burgeoning creation within deadly brackets of time.
  • The opossum may be Cretaceous, certain clams Devonian, and oysters Triassic, but for each and every oyster in the sea, it seems, there is a species gone forever.
  • “This stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.
  • It was at some moment in the Pleistocene that humanity crossed what the geologist-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the Threshold of Reflection,
  • Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.
  • “A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems. You begin tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planet’s time scale. For me, it is almost unconscious now and is a kind of companionship with the earth.”
  • “If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.”
  • the “early late-middle Mississippian.” To say “middle Mississippian” might do, but with millions of years in the middle Mississippian there is an evident compunction to be more precise.
  • I put two nickels in a slot machine and got two nickels back. The result was a certain radiance of mood.
  • “Silver is our most depleted resource, because it gave itself away,” said Deffeyes, looking mournful. “You didn’t need a Ph.D. in geology to find a supergene enrichment.”
  • he appeared to be the Gnome of Princeton, with evident ambition to escalate to Zurich.
  • And so he had invented and machined a corer that would tap clear-plastic tubing gingerly into the earth with a micropiledriver made of nonmagnetic {洛阳铲?}
  • So by looking at the paleomagnetic compasses in rock you can tell not only whether the magnetic pole was in the north or south when the rock formed but also—from the more subtle positions of the needles—the latitude of the rock at the time it formed.”
  • Curves based on Paleozoic and Triassic rock in North America and in Europe looked much alike but, oddly, stood separate in the way that a single line will appear to be double in inebriate vision. The gap corresponds to the present width of the Atlantic Ocean. The opening of the Atlantic began in the Triassic.
  • Eurasian Plate, a large part of which used to be known as the (heaven help us) China Plate.
  • much to help lift it twenty thousand feet. Seafloor—ocean crust—is dense enough to go down a trench, but continents are too light, too buoyant.
  • The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat.
  • If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
  • The huge body of sediment would one day be lifted far above sea level and dissected by weather and wrinkled into mountains in the way that the skin of an apple wrinkles as the apple grows old and dry.
  • The whole of plate tectonics, a story of steady-state violence along boundaries, was being brought to light largely as a result of the development of instruments of war. Earthquakes “focus” where earth begins to move,
  • The profile of the spreading center in the ocean bottom off Oregon seemed remarkably familiar to someone who had done his thesis field work in Nevada. It appeared to be, in miniature, a cross section of the Basin and Range. The new crust, spreading out, had broken into fault blocks and had become a microcosm of the Basin and Range, because both were expressions of the same cause.
John McPhee's love of unusual words is on ample display here.
  • The mantle below the crust—exciting and excited by these events—would send up fillings of fluid rock, and with such pressure behind them that they could intrude between horizontal layers of, say, shale and sandstone and lift the country a thousand feet. The intrusion could spread laterally through hundreds of square miles, becoming a broad new layer—a sill—within the country rock.
  • she says, turning the sample in her hand. With a smaller hammer, she tidies it up, like a butcher trimming a roast. With a felt-tip pen, she marks it “1.” Moving along the cut, she points out xenoliths—blobs of the country rock that fell into the magma and became encased there like raisins in bread.
  • The sea is not all that responds to the moon. Twice a day the solid earth bobs up and down, as much as a foot. That kind of force and that kind of distance are more than enough to break hard rock. Wells will flow faster during lunar high tides.
  • “Roadcuts can be a godsend. There’s a series of roadcuts near Pikeville, Kentucky—very big ones—where you can see distributary channels in a riverdelta system, with natural levees, and with splay deposits going out from the levees into overbank deposits of shales and coal. It’s a face-on view of the fingers of a delta, coming at you—
  • “We as geologists are fortunate to live in a period of great road building.”
  • In no manner would one wish to mitigate the importance of the Eastern scene. Undeniably, though, the West is where the rocks are—the vastnesses of exposed rock—
  • There are mountains now behind you, mountains before you, mountains that are set on top of mountains, a complex score of underthrust, upthrust, overthrust mountains, at the conclusion of which, through another canyon, you come into the Basin and Range.
  • Triassic rock is not exclusively red, but much of it is red all over the world—red in the shales of New Jersey, red in the sandstones of Yunan, red in the banks of the Volga, red by the Sol-way Firth. Triassic redbeds, as they are called, are in the dry valleys of Antarctica, the red marls of Worcestershire,.. not merely weathered red on the surface, like the great Red-wall Limestone of the Grand Canyon, which is actually gray.
  • All over the world, so much carbon was buried in Pennsylvanian time that the oxygen pressure in the atmosphere quite possibly doubled... but what could the oxygen do? Where could it go? After carbon, the one other thing it could oxidize in great quantity was iron—abundant, pale-green ferrous iron, which exists everywhere
  • mountains rammed into thin air, with snow banners flying off the matterhorns, ridges, crests, and spurs.
  • There was fatigued rock and incompetent rock and inequigranular fabric in rock.
  • The inclination of a slope on which boulders would stay put was the angle of repose.
  • The far-out stuff was in the Far West of the country—wild, weirdsma, a leather-jacket geology in mirrored shades, with its welded tuffs and Franciscan mélange (internally deformed, complex beyond analysis), its strike-slip faults and falling buildings, its boiling springs and fresh volcanics, its extensional disassembling of the earth.
  • Meteoric water, with study, turned out to be rain. It ran downhill in consequent, subsequent, obsequent, resequent, and not a few insequent streams.
  • They say granodiorite when they are in church and granite the rest of the week.
  • Deffeyes is a big man with a tenured waistline.
  • he appears to be less attached to any one part of the story than to the entire narrative of geology in its four-dimensional recapitulations of space and time.
  • It is geologically shrewd. It was the route of animal migrations, and of human history that followed. It avoids melodrama, avoids the Grand Canyons, the Jackson Holes, the geologic operas of the country, but it would surely be a sound experience of the big picture, of the history, the construction, the components of the continent. And in all likelihood it would display in its roadcuts rock from every epoch and era.
  • The whole region, very evidently, was the bottom of a lake, for a lake itself is by definition a sign of poor drainage, an aneurysm in a river, a highly temporary feature on the land.
  • ‘Zeolite’ means ‘the stone that boils.’ If you take one small zeolite crystal, of scarcely more than a pinhead’s diameter, and heat it until the water has come out, the crystal will have an internal surface area equivalent to a bedspread. Zeolites are often used to separate one kind of molecule from another. They can, for example, sort out molecules for detergents, choosing the ones that are biodegradable. They love water. In refrigerators, they are used to adsorb water that accidently gets into the Freon.
  • When William Wyler made The Big Country, there was a climactic chase scene in which the bad guy was shot and came clattering down a canyon wall in what appeared to be a shower of clinoptilolite. Geologists were on the phone to Wyler at once. ‘Loved your movie. Where was that canyon?’
  • What we are looking at here in New Jersey is not just some little geologic feature, like a zeolite crystal. This is the opening of the Atlantic. If you want to see happening right now what happened here two hundred million years ago, you can see it all in Nevada.”
  • Deffeyes remarks. “The faunas in the high ranges here are quite distinct from one to another. Animals are isolated like Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos. These ranges are truly islands.”
  • Mountains are not somehow created whole and subsequently worn away. They wear down as they come up, and these mountains have been rising and eroding in fairly even ratio for millions of years—rising and shedding sediment steadily through time, always the same, never the same, like row upon row of fountains.
  • So in the mountains’ contest with erosion they gained in one moment about twenty thousand years. These mountains do not rise like bread. They sit still for a long time and build up tension, and then suddenly jump.
  • This Nevada topography is what you see during mountain building. There are no foothills. It is all too young. It is live country. This is the tectonic, active, spreading, mountain-building world. To a nongeologist, it’s just ranges, ranges, ranges.”
  • The crust of the Great Basin has broken into blocks. The blocks are not, except for simplicity’s sake, analogous to dominoes. They are irregular in shape. They more truly suggest stretch marks.
  • As the developing Sierra made its skyward climb—as it went on up past ten and twelve and fourteen thousand feet—it became so predominant that it cut off the incoming Pacific rain, cast a rain shadow (as the phenomenon is called) over lush, warm, Floridian and verdant Nevada. Cut it off and kept it dry.
  • happens to find there—silver, tungsten, copper, gold. An ore-deposit map and a hot-springs map will look much the same. Seismic waves move slowly through hot rock. The hotter the rock, the slower the waves. Nowhere in the continental United States do seismic waves move more slowly than they do beneath the Basin and Range.
  • The heat and the pressure are so great down there that the silt is turning into siltstone, the sand into sandstone, the mud into shale.
  • Piano wire. Look under the hood of a well-tuned Steinway and you are looking at strings that could float a small continent. They are rigid, but ever so slowly they will sag, will slacken, will deform and give way, with the exact viscosity of the earth’s mantle.
  • There is an entire nation in Europe that is upside down. It is not a superpower, but it is a whole country nonetheless—San Marino, overturned.
  • randomly exposed former seafloors and basaltic dikes, entombed rivers and veins of gold, volcanic spewings and dunal sands—chaotic, concatenated shards of time.
  • It was so thick—as much as three hundred metres thick—that crystals formed slowly in the cooling glass. “When you bury a countryside in that much rock so hot it welds, that is the ultimate environmental catastrophe,”
  • the water shrank back past Erie size and kept on shrinking and turning more and more chemical and getting smaller and shallower and shallower and smaller and near the end of its days became the Great Salt Lake.
  • In a sense, there was no beach. The basin flatness just ran to the lake and kept on going, wet. The angle formed at the shoreline appeared to be about 179.9 degrees.
  • It was sand that had formed in the lake. Just as raindrops are created around motes of dust, oolites form around bits of rock so tiny that in wave-tossed water they will stir up and move. They move, and settle, move, and settle. And while they are up in the water calcium carbonate forms around them in layer after layer, building something like a pearl.
  • And now in the autumn snow, Deffeyes and I could see shoreline terraces of Lake Bonneville a thousand feet above us on mountain slopes. That a lake so deep had been brought down to a present average depth of thirteen feet was food for melancholia.
  • Under a wind, playa lakes move like puddles of mercury in motion on a floor—two or three hundred square miles of water on the move, here today, there tomorrow
  • Salt gets into fence posts and explodes them at the base.
  • When the drivers of jet cars move at Mach .8 over the Bonneville Salt Flats, they feel that they are always about to crest a hill.
  • Enter the strange companionship of oil and salt. Oil also moves after it forms. You never find it where God put it. It moves great distances through permeable rock. ... If, however, the oil moves upward through inclined sandstone and then hits a wall of salt, it stops, and stays—trapped. Run a little drill down the side of a salt dome and when you hit “sand” it may be full of oil.
__ 山王庄的小香瓜很精巧,象古代武将用的铜锤。金黄瓜皮上,一牙一楞凹进去,用一只芦苇子顺着小格楞划下去,可均匀分成数等份。瓤子如同香蜜,可以直接喝进去。
__ 列位看官!不知道你们吃过撑瓜没有?长条形,金黄色,成熟后摘回来。一切两半,放在饭锅上蒸,蒸熟后把一双筷子伸进去搅,故名“搅瓜”。搅出来的丝象粉丝或者米线一样,透明的。然后再放盐、蒜泥、熬好的香油,是夏季很好的一味凉拌菜。 {spagetti squash!!}
__ 这种一震即破的瓜最好吃,瓜瓤极嫩,入口就化了,没有一点絮的感觉。也没有一般西瓜那种入口的丝络感。

__ 水面有鱼的泼刺声,新生的香蒲散发着脉脉的香气。荷叶从水里钻出来,绿中带点暗红。叶子卷得很玲珑。
__ 山被一层黛色裹住了,云从山脚下蒸腾起来,山被一层一层抬高了。远处的山象云端的大城,巍然峨然。山脚下农舍屋顶上冒出了炊烟。这些烟直直升上来,在高处遇上了风,就和其它人家烟囱冒出的烟纠缠到一起。然后又决然分开。最后越来越薄,和远处黛色混合到一起

__ 自己舍不得吃也要给孩子带上,穷家富路。
__ 长缸豆泡了最下饭,一碗饭一根长缸豆搭在饭上,两边各长出一截。以后再偷,我就喊:知青!偷菜了——
__ 牛爱干净,把腿叉开。做个势子。扑通!扑通!在地上做个宝塔。牧童儿翻身从牛背上下来,趁着滚热的,撮将起来。过去太行山那边放牛的牧童,冬天没有鞋。看牛一拉,赶紧把脚踩进去,能得一会暖乎劲。

__ 他跟我们比力气时,只伸出两只胳膊由我们攀上,一边一个转圈,一扔就把我们扔出去了。大家把舌头都晾在空气中,倒吸一口凉气,心想哥哥啊,你该不是李元霸托生的吧?
__ 打到第六回时,张为民的怒火像火山一样爆发了。他把谢老师的手一下子拧到后面,屈起他那捣蒜小擂子一样的手指头,在谢老师头上像敲木鱼一样狂敲起来。谢老师负痛不过,嘴里喊:“张为民!你放不放手?不放手开除你!”张为民只一个劲地擂,擂痛快了才放手。这就叫卷堂大乱,跟鲁智深闹了五台山的禅林一样。

__ 等了好长时间没看到人来,心里恨得毒毒的,
__ 虽然有小驴,拉沙也是一件很重的活儿。特别是从江堤下把一车重载的沙拖上来,人畜合力要用到极致。可怜的小驴把头快勾到地上了,人把背车的挽带绷得笔直,人驴俱俯。后背上衣服早已泛出盐花,小腿上青筋凸出,簌簌地抖动。
__ 星星一颗一颗地在天上跳出来,像一个个小人,喊到一声就往外一跳。只觉得天好大,船好小,人更小。人在江上,反而话少。看着船舷外汤汤的流水,风如夜游的哨兵轻轻卷动着船上的三角形旗子,甩打甩打的。
__ 秋天,长江水浅下去,许多地方露出了河床。轮船靠近江边时像一只找不到鸡窝的鸡,在曲折的航道中穿来穿去才能靠岸。
__ 长江和县这边一到秋天麻雀特别多,麻雀像云一样从江南移到江北。麻雀知道哪里有吃的,江北的田里刚割完稻谷,麻雀像一阵急雨,从这块地倾泻到另外一块地里。

__ 他说我在故宫博物院看到一架宋琴就那么平放着,很心疼。陈列文物的人一定是个外行,古琴一定要挂起来,还要常常抚,越抚琴音越好听。
__ 他说过去在南通小城里都有个画会、诗社、琴社或者春秋雅集什么的,后来都慢慢消失了。一种社会结构没有了,伴生着的文化自然也就消亡了。自清人入关一次浩劫,然后就一路紧锣密鼓地下来,每一劫毁坏一些东西。

__ 这位画家是蒙马特高地出名的美男子,鬈发,高鼻梁。母亲是意大利人,父亲是犹太人。而且他本人还是结核病患者,尤其美,到了下午,会双腮发红,眼睛灼灼发光。这是一种垂死的美,女人最迷这个了。
__ 一个社会闲人多了或者少了,起来都不像一个正常的社会。记得我小时,夏天时候长街上晚饭后有弹月琴的,也有拉二胡的,孩子们在凉床间追打游戏。那时中国人有很多悠闲的时光,虽然穷,但不像现在这么火上房似的,现在是没来由地急。贫穷的时光中,如果米桶里还能刮出一碗米来,也不妨在夜深人静时铺张一回爱情。
__ 她就隔着窗子把花一枝一枝地扔进去了,后来碰到莫迪利亚尼,他很惊讶,他说:“你摆的花可真美,怎么进去的,有钥匙吗?”阿赫玛托娃真不愧诗人本色,偶然间扔一扔都是诗。

__ 世界之大,哪儿没有死皮赖脸的人,比如说:“齐老先生添条虾吧!”“齐先生您受累!多画条鱼吧,我内人最喜欢鱼了!”齐先生也不话,只是斜着看来客一眼,又不好当场驳人的面子,慢慢把笔墨,沉吟半晌,一笔、两笔,鱼、虾、蟹自画面跃然而出,但都不大精神,看着好像离水好几天,要翻肚子的样子。客人不解地问:这虾怎么看着像死虾?”齐老先生坐在圈椅中说:“活虾子市面上多贵啊!”主客心到神知,一拍两散。
__ 给我印象比较深的是一张包鞋纸上,有“内联升”的红色印记,齐老先生在上面画了一个持弓搭箭的人,旁边注明画时执弓的手要下移一寸还是多少,我忘记了。
__ 后来还是徐悲鸿去做工作,他才勉强强从画台的“消息”里掏出几卷画出来。他是细木匠出身,在画台里做几个暗格或者小抽斗之类的“消息”那还不是驾轻就熟。
__ 黄永玉、李可染他们老问齐白石先生如何把画画好。这个问题真是让人很烦哎!这问题真没办法能用语言说明白。齐老先生画了一辈子,就知道怎么把画画好,因为他画不坏!这问题真是要人亲命了,他们还死问,又不能直接跟他们说:“我就是天纵之才!”话不能这么说啊!齐老先生只好把笔举到空中,拿眼睛死盯着看了一会儿,慢慢说:“笔不要掉下来!”这话如同一偈,你怎么理解都行。于是两人笔不掉下来地死画,各有各造化。

__ 他的学生也学他,牙齿、舌头全黑糊糊的,像孔煤窑似的。有一次我跟其中的一个人吃饭,我就他的理想,假如发达了你怎么办?他说花钱雇个人站旁边,画画的时候把毛笔伸他嘴里舔笔,比如:“哎!张嘴!”但到目前为止,他还在自己嘴里舔笔。我本人也只有画非常工细的草虫翅膀的时候,把毛笔伸到嘴里去。否则画的墨线在生宣上极易洇开。
__ 明代的董其昌只用砚中心新磨的一点墨,笔要新发的。
__ 这种墨法他本人称之为“宿墨法”。不过天气热的时候墨中的骨胶会发酵,散发出一股恶臭。现在有许多画画的人也喜欢用宿墨法,渐成一种流行。画展上只好掩鼻而过,如入鲍鱼之肆。自从黄老先生用宿墨法以后,算是开了先河。

__ 刚有电视机那会儿,萧老喜欢瞧京戏,家人就给买了一台。开戏了!老人家高兴极了,把全家人喊来看,看到唱得精彩的地方就鼓掌叫好,跟在现场瞧戏一样。承霭、承震他们白天要工作,就先去睡了。老人家早上起来脸色就不好,说他们不懂规矩,说人家演员在台上演多累呀!你们不等人家谢幕就走了真是不懂礼数!原来他在为这个跟家人生闷气。

__ 有个弄考古的朋友,她说汉唐石狮子的头是昂昂然的,然后一步一步向低向下,到了清代机巧百出,石狮子精巧得如同趴儿狗一般,这且不说,还要让它爪子里弄着球,早前那种仰天而歌、浑然天成的气势丧失殆尽。所有伟大的时代都有一个小宇宙在烈烈燃烧。中国历史长,杀伐也多,小宇宙比较旺的人就比较容易死,剩下一批元气不大旺的或者弱萎的人群,繁殖后代,散枝开叶,然后就比较容易存活!
__ 罗梭说了几句拉斐尔的画不好,他的学生就要组团来杀他,吓得罗梭赶紧跑路了。瓦萨里喜欢留长指甲,加上喜欢男风,跟徒弟玛诺同睡,夜里身上痒就用手挠,结果挠到玛诺的腿上,玛诺就天天拿着刀追着师傅要捅死他。
我在天柱山三祖祠的大殿前曾看过一树杜鹃,花期时开得连大殿的粉墙也映红了,地上的花瓣落了厚厚一层,丝毫不知道吝惜。而且时当春末,游人稀少,不知道这花开给谁看。天才就如同一树好花。他管你呢!要开就开了,谢就谢了。卡拉瓦乔这朵花太大了,开在文艺兴的末期,连半边天都映红了。

__ 画家莫迪利亚尼穷得连雕塑的材料也买不起,夜里偷偷跑到铁路工地偷人家的枕木。枕木太重,莫迪利亚尼是个结核病患者,黄皮寡瘦,他也扛不动,只好坐在枕木上雕,挥一刀,咳几声,吐半口血。天亮了,筑路工人来了,莫迪利亚尼被惊跑了。筑路工人看着歪七扭八的枕木,心疼!看看还能用,也就将就着给埋在地下了。现在这枕木如果从地下起出来,该多值钱呀!

__ 学佛、学禅第一要义是学做人,与人为善。悟不悟的还看各人缘法,被打得鼻青眼肿的都不是好和尚。

__ 王朔在小说《看上去很美》中曾说:这种拳一般流行于幼儿园中,打这种拳,讲究的是打拳的小朋友眼睛紧闭,双拳握紧,两条胳膊以肩为圆心,向前乱抡圆圈,远看就像乌龟爬坡爬不上去乱蹬的那个样子。这种拳一般不以击中目标为目的,主要是以一种盲目的抡拳动作在气势上威吓对你有攻击企图的小朋友。如果打拳者在使出这种拳法的时候伴以大声哭叫,更可以极大地增加威吓对方的力量。
__ 左宗棠有一次闹待遇,在征伊犁的路上,忽然给皇上呈一表,说要回去参加秋闱。皇上没办法,给他一个赐同进士出身。这个事情后来被一班正途出身的人差点没挖苦死。

__ 觉睡不好,就会悲观,想打架,想咬人,想跳墙,一会儿嗒然如丧,一会儿沸反盈天。

__ 老头说做斋菜难,唱戏的腔,厨子的汤。做素菜最难是吊汤。他给我说过斋菜要用黄豆芽和菇子煨汤,煨的时候把砂罐放在最小的火头上,保持一息之火,似有似无地炖上一两天。他显过一手艺,做过一道素鱼,紫菜做的鱼皮,确实鲜嫩无比。
__ 齐如山先生说过去讲究的大馆子,厨子要知道客人坐的位置,然后以此来判定每道菜的火头大小。

__ 其实读书也要有一种机缘,小的时候如果缘好,一下子读进一本与自己性情相符的书,会养成一种口味。也不要太多太滥,一两本就好了。因为这个时候读书像庙里哑和尚撞钟,一杵是一杵,声音受用一生。
__ 躺在床上,看到窗外天上一朵云,也是孤独寂寞,云就停在窗外不动,看着看着,就在原地消散了,状如一个人的死亡。这时没来由地怕死,把毛巾毯子拉到自己下巴的地方,眼睛四下看,身上汗如浆。中午外面的蝉叫成一片,叫累了歇下来,静得能听到家里座钟一格一格地走针。
__ 一个人如果到图书馆去看看,是根本不想写书的。那里是书的国,一座迷宫,是文字的火葬场。坐拥书城,会把真实的人生丧尽。
__ 好的文字是浑成的,没办法去分析它,比如李后主的劈空一句:“春花秋月何时了,往事知多少?”动也动不得。“砌下落梅如雪乱,拂了一身还满。”明知道还要落,为什么还要拂?此便是人世。
__ 不在读书上附加什么意义,就是读书的所有意义。书店里写发财术的书全是穷鬼写的。读书就是一种爱好,像抽烟喝酒叉麻将。爱好有什么办法呢?只好愿赌服输,只求不要满盘皆输就好了。

__ 旧文人写字,笔不是全发开的,只开一半,这样笔头有支撑,写起来很得力。
高军在豆瓣上是风行水上。老早小柯就推荐过他,很中肯的评论

电风扇
  • “我那良人啊!你躺在竹椅上,如同狐狸盘在香草山上。”小秦收回他那一双毒眼,心里暗自叹道。
  • 她们都长得两个奶奶亚塞岳云的一对雷鼓翁金锤。人胖就都怕热,在没有顾客的时候就把衣服下摆撩开,拿大蒲扇往里面鼓两把风。梨园行的人都知道“武扇肚,文扇胸。媒婆扇后脖梗子”。
  • 小孩捧着碗在旁边看。他们对我们扬扬板手,让我们走远点!别把小零件踢找不到了。我们都怀着一种非常敬畏心情看着他们,心里默默念道:做人当做这样的人!
  • 这架风扇发出了巨大的轰鸣,一阵强风迎面扑来。飞砂走石,连地上的猫狗都被吹得斜飞起来。当时就把陈老六他爹的小炕桌给吹翻了。糊了一脸辣椒丝,正往下抓的时候,刚想骂娘。一看不好,妈的,这风扇不是要起飞了!这架风扇挣扎着要甩开身后的大石头,摇摇摆摆的往右边栽。似乎坐在眼前的陈老六的爹就是它不共戴天的仇人。陈老六他爹慌了神,双拐又捞摸不到,只好连滚带爬闪避这个妖物。这架风扇一看一击不中,又转向左边。左边坐着冯歪嘴家一家老少,一看风扇显灵了。端着绿豆汤就跑。坐在后面的马妮娜的布拉吉被吹起来了,两条大白腿一览无余,马妮娜半屈着身子,拼命用手往下掩,可怎么也掩不住。这个姿态后来在梦露的电影中才得以旧梦重温。全院的人以各种姿态在半空中飞行,跟夏加尔的油画似的。凡手边能抱的东西抱住,能拽的拽住,实在腾不出手的,拿嘴叼个晾衣服绳子也成。所有的人跟东洋国鲤鱼旗一样横着飞起来了。
  • 它被缚在两棵法梧之间,如同普鲁米修司缚在高加索山上。它咆哮着,摇摆着,时时想挣脱身上的束缚,时而向前,时而向后。服务着院内百来号人家。
__ 后来我工作了,经常还会遇见何老师。她早已退休了。她的个子更矮了,一头银发。她喜欢一边说话,一边用手摘我身上的线头,我就感觉自己象个永远摘不干净的毛线团子。

__ 夜里他扛一根竹竿到山坡下,不知从谁家的屋檐下挑了一只火腿回来。捡了一只绿毛长得最长的。半夜里他抱着半截猪腿当琵琶弹来弹去的撒疯,我没有理他。我说明天人家不骂死你。果然,第二天早晨一个农妇捧了一块砧板,一边走一边斩。且斩且骂:那个烂肚肠的偷了我家火腿呀,吃了害烂肠瘟啊!我斩你祖宗十八代呀!
__ 我在家里把被子泡上洗衣粉,泡透了。然后到桃花溪上游,把被子在溪水里展平。被子就象被激活了似的,乘风破浪而下。我赶紧跑到下游接着被子。拎上来一抖,干净了。

__ 我在彩衣巷茅房被一个大妈拿自来水冲了出来,努力提着裤子露着半个屁股仓皇而逃。打扫男厕所也不喊一声,真是民风淳朴,不辨雌雄。
__ 他惜命得很,树叶掉下来都怕打了头。不过命是穷人唯一的宝贝了,你不惜难道还要人家帮你惜不成?所以吃好、喝好、睡好就显得格外重要。

__ 每天晚上下班后他站在自己那辆标致 607轿车门边准备拉开车门之前,总是习惯性在锃亮的车身上端详一下自己,用手或左或右弄几下头上已经救济不过来的头发,抿一下嘴唇,心里寻思所谓成功人士也就是这样子吧。他感觉自己像站在一个山坡上,可以定心定意看看山下的景色了。

__ 新郎上下其手,就把新娘的乳房给打掉了,假发也打掉了,没想到是个秃小子,身手之矫健不亚于新郎,真是惊出一身冷汗。家里父母一听这不是传宗接代的动静,一齐冲进去,擒住男新娘送往乡政府去。乡政府也没办法断这么离奇的案子,只好把该新娘拴在电线杆上,等派出所来处理。新郎官牙还被新娘打淌血了,一路走,一路往地上吐口水。呸!呸!

__ 后来有人建议搞个体育学校,我真他妈的拍案叫绝:妙啊!在这里训练出来的运动员,个个都能在奥运赛场上拿金夺银的,会跑得更快,跳得更高,小鬼附体一般!夏天晚上这里的草地上会飞出一大群磷火,美不死你!因为火葬场烧不掉或者烧不透的骨头渣就深埋在后面的草地里,骨灰盒里给你拣细的撮一把就行了。夏天起风,把骨头中的磷点着了,李贺不说:鬼灯如漆点松花。冷冷的火,东一点,西一点。人一跑起来,磷火随着手脚舞蹈。
 吊唁大厅里一个女的在剥毛豆,准备晚上的小菜。孝子贤孙进去后,哭声动地。那个女的一边剥毛豆一边喊:“快一点啊!后面人还在等着呢。”我把写好的挽联拴在一根绳子上,然后在下面抽动绳子,挽联渐升渐高。这一回响器班奏哀乐,终于奏准了。天天演奏几十回,不可能不熟。全家亲友尽情一哭,人就被推走了。响器班子也急急地走了,赶下一场去了。外面又响起咚咚开玩笑似的鼓声。殡仪馆像个死亡流水线一样,守吊唁厅的那个女的剥了有小半碗毛豆米了,够晚饭的菜了。

__ 我跟一个福建仔坐对面,夜里睡不着,两人互相敬烟,抽得嘴不能要了。
__ 他感叹鼓浪屿真乃要饭之一方宝地,冬天不冷,夏天不热。真是人生充满了选择,
__ 二十年前,我离开厦门时,把口袋里的钱花个精光,口袋比砂纸打的还干净。

__ 冬天的荷塘像一场盛宴之后的曲终人散,杯盘狼藉;像两军对阵后的战场,断戈荒烟,战马无主,闲啃初春发出的草芽;像夜游人的晚归,举火烧天,越走越黯然了。雪落下来,断梗残叶,不依不饶,像铁像墨,七个不服,八个不忿的。我以前写字爱看个书法理论,画画爱看个画论,其实看字看画就行了,其他究竟属于多余。我不画荷花,画不到苍凉处,真正的此身如寄。
__ 疯子买了一辆凤凰牌自行车,他对这车很爱惜,在前后轮上都扎了一撮鸡毛,车子一跑起来,自动刷前后轮的钢圈。他的车子前后轮总是锃亮的。

__ 也就是很多年前一个初夏季节,孙老头养的白兰花开了。街坊邻居闻到花香,都耸耸鼻子说好香。傍晚的时候,孙老头的老伴切了两牙咸鸭蛋,蛋黄红得淌油,二两酒放在小桌上,然后喊老孙出来喝酒。
__ 国庆兄说到这里长叹一口气:“你说说这人的死活可由得了你!你就说这回日本大地震。这死的人哪个不是过得兴兴头头的,马上樱花就要开了,
__ 米歇尔?图尔尼埃《礼拜五或太平洋上的灵薄狱》里就说过一个很另类的造人方法:闲极无聊的鲁宾逊,要在一个无人岛上解决性苦闷。
__ 我说就你这样的还想做人类始祖呢!你真应了鲁迅先生所说的:他但愿世界上的人全死绝了,就剩一个女的和一个卖烧饼的。
__ 古诗十九首《从军行》中不是说:兔从狗窦入,雉从梁上飞。中庭生旅谷,井上生旅葵。再说就算是找到吃的,做得了,一个人吃着也不香,后面不是有一句:羹饭一时熟,不知贻阿谁。大约就是这种光景。亲友故交一个也没得了,

__ 医者意也!不就那么一个意思,哪有那么较真。比如李时珍《本草纲目》上说:“男子失眠需寡妇枕头席子,煎水炖服。”这不是狗戴嚼子 胡勒嘛!失眠跟寡妇有什么必然关系?真是想不通。
__ 但明清之际的傅山是个异数,他老人家是个很好的妇科大夫,写字画画倒是余事。民间传说他治疗妇人难产,一针炙下,小儿抓住母亲心的手松开了,呱呱坠地了。
__ 那天晚上他喝多了酒,风摆杨柳似的回家,没想到小区的窨井盖让人给偷走了,他立刻像土遁一样掉到井里去了,
__ 但他那个破字,实在不敢恭维,就是拿着毛笔在纸上绞。有时一天能绞一刀纸。

__ 他说你看有那写字单薄的,他举赵佶为例子,你看他写的那个瘦金书,蛇摇蛋晃的,一看就知道是个颓丧气。亡国之君!这种字千万学不得!他说你要学颜体字,颜真卿气息正!大马金刀,往那儿一坐,凛然不敢犯的样子。字肥,看了解馋。我就努力学颜体字,尽量往肥里写。

__ 迟迟钟鼓初长夜,耿耿星河欲曙天,夏天燠热,夜里在床上贴烧饼,翻来翻去睡不着,心里暗念谭嗣同的诗:“有心杀贼,无力回天。”过去那些热烈追求她的爱情猾贼怎么一个残余的也没有了?哪怕剩下个把也好呀,也好让老娘消遣一下则个?  刘清她妈对她这个宝贝女儿很伤脑筋。她妈就像个孤独而焦虑的老臣,看着这个任性的昏君昏天黑地地败坏江山社稷,忧心忡忡地看着刘清向着岁月的黑洞滑下去-滑下去,却又不敢进谏,
__ 相遇的理由是打麻将,谁都想挣对方几个。老陈嘴里叼着烟,香烟熏得老陈微微眯着眼睛,两只手哗哗啦啦洗牌,烟灰长长的一截,险拎拎地挂着。刘清一见之下,惊为天人,心里惊呼道:蓦然回首,那人却在灯火阑珊处 -就他了!奶奶的,太潇洒了!心脏受不了了!看老陈打牌真是享受,自有一段“手挥五弦,目送归鸿”的风流。刘清就拿眼睛电他。老陈可是好相与的?也是冰雪聪明,虚眯了眼睛回电她。牌桌上,电流在空中相击,铮然有声。

__ 我无来由的喜欢猫头鹰。喜欢它的大眼睛,蓬松的毛,落拓的样子。松鼠就差点事,虽然它毛也长,尾巴也蓬松。终究有点鬼头鬼脑的形迹。松鼠吃东西时,有点馋痨。不从容,左右看,
__ 秋天,山里有虫子万千繁响。猫头鹰始终沉默着。后来月亮决定果断的一跳,升到山头上。草尖,岩石,竹叶上便是一片清晖。红月亮变成黄月亮啦!一片经霜的红叶在月光闪烁的溪水中不能自持。随着流水急急地回旋,水上如同撒了一地的碎银子,难收难管。
Becky Chambers offers a most comfortable read with well sketched, endearing characters. Medic techie Kizzy reminds me of Kaylee from Firefly so much, in the best way. 'Specist' is a great epithet.
  • Ashby doesn't care much for gravity that can't be turned off.
  • We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.
  • Humans’ preoccupation with ‘being happy’ was something he had never been able to figure out. No sapient could sustain happiness all of the time, just as no one could live permanently within anger, or boredom, or grief.
  • She would never, ever understand the idea that a child, especially an infant, was of more value than an adult who had already gained all the skills needed to benefit the community. The death of a new hatchling was so common as to be expected. The death of a child about to feather, yes, that was sad. But a real tragedy was the loss of an adult with friends and lovers and family. The idea that a loss of potential was somehow worse than a loss of achievement and knowledge was something she had never been able to wrap her brain around.
  • The people we remember are the ones who decided how our maps should be drawn. Nobody remembers who built the roads.
  • That’s such an incredibly organic bias, the idea that your squishy physical existence is some sort of pinnacle that all programs aspire to.
  • "Want and intelligence,’ the historian had written, ‘is a dangerous combination.
  • Such a quintessentially Human thing, to express sorrow through apology.
  • Behold, my wonderboots! All the kick-ass of an Aeluon assault squad, combined with total ergonomic perfection! It’s podiatric madness! What are they? Are they big tough stompers? Are they comfy kick-arounds? No one knows! There are feats of science happening right over my socks as we speak!
  • Harmagians had money. Aeluons had firepower. Aandrisks had diplomacy. Humans had arguments.
  • So we travel to one end – whoosh – and all the people seeing us fly by are like, oh my stars, look at that totally amazing ship, what genius tech patched together such a thing, and I’m like, oh, that’s me, Kizzy Shao, you can all name your babies after me – whooosh – and then we get to our start point.
  • Perhaps the most crucial stage is that of ‘intraspecies chaos.’ This is the proving ground, the awkward adolescence when a species either learns to come together on a global scale, or dissolves into squabbling factions doomed to extinction, whether through war or ecological disasters too great to tackle divided.
  • In the space beyond was Hedra Ka. A cracking scab of a planet, choked with storms and veins of lava. A mist of rocks floated in orbit, a reminder of its recent formation. It was a young world, unwelcoming, resentful of its existence. ‘That is the angriest looking thing I’ve ever seen,’ Ashby said.
  • We are all made from chromosomes and DNA, which themselves are made from a select handful of key elements. We all require a steady intake of water and oxygen to survive (though in varying quantities). We all need food. We all buckle under atmospheres too thick or gravitational fields too strong. We all die in freezing cold or burning heat. We all die, full stop. <so convenient!>
"The Race for a Zika Vaccine" / Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Tried-and-true doesn’t mean straightforward. The inactivation of a virus is as much a culinary exercise as a chemical one. If you “overcook the virus,” Michael says, “you can damage it to the point that there’s no resemblance to the original, and the immune response becomes useless to combat the native virus.” The “cooking” process consists of growing the virus in cells using enormous roller bottles.
  • The liquid containing the virus—more than five gallons of it—is then purified on long glass columns packed with filtering resin. Formaldehyde—the mortuary chemical—is added to preserve the virus’s structural components but destroy its capacity to infect cells and reproduce. (Heat or radiation can also be used.) The formaldehyde is then removed, and the inactivated virus is packaged in rubber- topped glass vials, ready for inoculation. Every batch must be tested and retested to confirm complete inactivation: even the barest trace of an active virus in a vaccine might unleash an infection in a vaccine recipient.
  • Vaccines that look promising in lab experiments can certainly fail in the field. The inoculum may not stimulate enough immunity to resist the viral challenge. The virus may mutate and become resistant. Or the vaccine can turn out to have unexpected side effects. For Zika, that’s a particularly ominous consideration. In the case of dengue, Zika’s distant cousin, there’s some evidence—debated among virologists—that immunization against one strain might increase the severity of disease with another strain. Other studies have suggested that antibodies to some strains of dengue might cross-react with Zika proteins, promoting Zika immunity in dengue-exposed patients. How a Zika vaccine might perform in areas with endemic dengue, or chikungunya, remains an open question.
  • There’s a strange quandary, then, for the development of certain vaccines. Too fast an epidemic, and a vaccine may become untestable (prospective trial subjects are already exposed and therefore immune, obviating the need for a vaccine). Too slow an epidemic, and the vaccine becomes untestable again (prospective trial subjects aren’t exposed to the viral infection at a significant rate, so a vaccine’s benefits can’t be demonstrated).
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"The Country Restaurant" / Nick Paumgarten
__ He worked through the items on display. Lily tuber, cattail stems, milkweed, bull thistle. By watching deer in the woods, he had discovered that the inner barks of certain trees have a salty taste. While chopping wood, he found that a particular lichen takes on an oniony flavor for three weeks a year. He made a cooked powder from it. “You’re gonna love it!” Baehrel relies heavily on starch and stock made from rutabagas. He uses wild-violet stems as a thickener. He inoculates fallen logs with mushroom spores. He’ll spend seven hours gathering three-quarters of a pound of clover—enough to fill a steamer trunk. “I do it at night, with a headlamp,” he said.

"The Earth Mover" / Dana Goodyear
__ The use of valueless materials is strategic, a hedge against what he sees as inevitable future social unrest. “My good friend Richard Serra is building out of military-grade steel,” he says. “That stuff will all get melted down. Why do I think that? Incans, Olmecs, Aztecs—their finest works of art were all pillaged, razed, broken apart, and their gold was melted down."

"Learning from the Slaughter in Attica" / Adam Gopnik
__ There are sins of omission but there are also virtues of patience. Many of the wisest things we do, in life and in politics, are the things we don’t. Affairs not started, advice not given, distant lands left uninvaded—the null class of non-events is often more blessed than the enumerated class of actions, though less dramatic.

"The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face" / Patrick Radden Keefe
  • He speaks about his team members with the dainty protectiveness of an orchid keeper. He describes Porritt as “an artist.”
  • One quirk of facial recognition is that, from infancy, we tend to be better at recognizing faces of the ethnicity that we are most frequently exposed to: white people are generally better at recognizing white faces, black people tend to be better at recognizing black faces.
  • “People don’t want to believe that humans could be better than a machine,” he told me. “And the sad truth in this wicked world we live in is that people don’t want to pay a human. They want to buy a machine.”
James Wood on Joy Williams:  It’s a tale at once filled with apparently irrelevant details and about the fraught status of apparently irrelevant details.
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"Yuja Wang and the Art of Performance" / Janet Malcolm
  • More crucial, the tiny dresses and spiky heels draw your focus to how petite Ms. Wang is, how stark the contrast between her body and the forcefulness she achieves at her instrument. That contrast creates drama. It turns a recital into a performance.” When Yuja played the “Jeunehomme” in the girlish pink dress, that contrast was absent. The sense of a body set in urgent motion by musical imperatives requires that the body not be distractingly clothed. With her usually bared thighs, chest, and back demurely covered by the black-splotched pink fabric, this sense was lost.
  • Yuja’s customary self-presentation as a kind of stripped-down car is, of course, only one way of appearing onstage to artistic advantage.
  • She spoke of leaving Earl Blackburn not regretfully, exactly, but with a kind of cold wisdom about the possible pointlessness of the gesture that people three times her age don’t often achieve. “There was nothing wrong with the old manager. He really built my career. He was really caring. But I was, like, if I don’t make a change, I’ll never make a change. I’m bad at confrontation. So I just did it out of the blue. But nothing much has changed. It’s a little better here and there. But it’s still the same circus.”
Adam Kirsch: Modern life, which we tend to think of as an accelerating series of gains in knowledge, wealth, and power over nature, is predicated on a loss: the loss of contact with the past. Depending on your point of view, this can be seen as either a disinheritance or an emancipation; much of modern politics is determined by which side you take on this question. But it is always disorienting.
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"Keeping it Off" / Rivka Galchen
__ The umbilical incision was used to inflate the abdomen by pumping in carbon dioxide, providing a vaulted internal space for the surgeons to work in.
__ Paul Mason, a British man who went from nine hundred and eighty pounds to three hundred and fifty, following a gastric bypass, needed to have some seventy pounds of excess skin removed.

"Street Cred" / Adam Gopnik
  • She was one of three people I have met in a lifetime of meeting people who had an aura of sainthood about them, the others being Iona Opie, the British folklorist who collected children’s rhymes, and I. F. Stone, the independent American journalist. What they had in common was a sort of radiant self-reliance. They could say an obvious thing—that children are citizens of another country, that all governments lie—with the conviction that comes from having really found it out. They spoke for many, because they thought for themselves. Iona Opie made hanging around schoolyards to find small variants in jumping-rope rhymes seem essential to understanding humanity, and Izzy Stone made you feel unpatriotic for not printing your own biweekly page of political commentary. The ability to radiate certainty without condescension, to be both very sure and very simple, is a potent one, and witnessing it in life explains a lot in history that might otherwise be inexplicable—for instance, how a sixteen-year-old girl could lead the French Army to victory. <> Jane Jacobs’s aura was so powerful that it made her, precisely, the St. Joan of the small scale.
  • The sad truth is that the saints we revere for thinking for themselves almost always end up thinking by themselves. We are disappointed to find that the self-taught are also self-centered, although a moment’s reflection should tell us that you have to be self-centered to become self-taught. (The more easily instructed are busy brushing their teeth, as pledged.)
  • The small ballet of the street depends on the liberty of people to buy where they like, open stores as they choose, live as they please, have the neighbors they like; the demand to have decent housing, and cities that are open to all, means that city governments must build where they can, spend as they have to, zone as they think they ought to, and cut corners where they must. Some basic differences in what’s desirable in human affairs can never be resolved, only reconciled on an episodic and empirical basis, as best we can manage. <> That’s where planning matters and politics counts. Jacobs seldom gives a good account of the place of politics in city-making. Politics for her is Robert Moses telling moms where the expressway should run. Politics is the planners, and exists as an afterthought to the natural order of cities. And it’s true: politics isn’t a self-organizing system. It’s not a ballet. It’s a battle. But it remains essential to reconcile goods, like free streets and fair housing, that will never reconcile themselves.
Jennifer Senior drafted many memorable phrases in this non-guide on parenting.
  • "Ego depletion" - the idea that self-control or willpower draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up.
  • Avg of 6.8 hr of sleep for parents of children under 10.
  • One of the most difficult things about being a parent is that you have to bear the fact that you have to frustrate your child.
  • No graph in the world can do full justice to these unexpected moments, these sweet little bursts of grace, and they leave sense memory on the skin - the smell of the child's shampoo, the smoothness of his arms, that's why we are here leading this life, isn't it, to know this kind of enchantment? The question is why such moments, at least with small children, feel so hard won, so shatterable and so fleeting, as if located between parentheses.
  • (Flow: balanced between boredom and anxiety.) Yet parents of young children often describe the sensation of lurching back and forth between these two poles, boredom and anxiety.
  • (Children) are the last binding obligations in a culture that asks for almost no other permanent commitment.
  • Women... cannot afford the luxury of unambivalent love for their husbands. Many women carry into their marriage the distasteful and the unwieldy burden of resenting their husbands. (due to chore division)
  • Compliance requests are usually associated with time-sensitive matters, (which leads to stress.)
  • Edmund Burke: “Law sharpens the mind by narrowing it."
  • energetic details / an aria of conflict and over-commitment
  • "the accomplishment of natural growth" vs "concerted cultivation"
  • Children became 'economically worthless and emotionally priceless"
  • In early 19th century, first high chair made its appearance, literally signifying children's new found elevated role; they'd earned themselves a place at the table.
  • Modern childhood was invented 70 years ago, the length of a cat nap in historical terms.
  • The moment children stopped working for adults, everybody became confused about who's in charge.
  • (The way things were:) Behind the ignorance and ineptness of any individual laid the sureness of folkways. .. (yet in America, there are no folkways to rely on.) The whole promise of America.. was that its citizen are not hidebound by tradition or immutable social structures.
  • The word Mead uses to describe American father's relationship with his son is "'autumnal".. he's preparing his son to surpass him.
  • Uncertainty make (parents) vulnerable.
  • (Overscheduling): it's the problematic logic behind any arms race.
  • In adolescence, ingratitude is seasoned with contempt.
  • It's a dicey business, being someon'es prefrontal cortex by proxy
  • the painful art of self control / flood of dopamine during teenage years

  • Both more parents survived and more children survived early childhood (in forming the new demographic)
  • (Through mass media) children's aspirant age has risen while their parents' has fallen.
  • Adulthood is about an overcoming, "disciplining developmentally inappropriate insanity".
  • Helplessness born of experience for adults, and the lack of for teenagers.
  • C.S. Lewis: Love must work towards its own abdication.
  • (Parental joy tends to be passive, grounded in attachment, and leads to slower heart beat.)
  • constant pressure to maximize one's emotional returns
  • a self that happiness would be a fitting response to
  • Therapists helping despairing parents should not be afraid of creating a sound amount of tension through reorientation towards meaning towards one's life. Choosing parenthood gives strength and structural integrity of one's life through meaningful tension.
  • the experiencing self (how we live) loses out to the remembering self, (which is who we are)
  • Children as our superegos
The last chapters come as a downer.
  • how songbirds have “speech defects” just as we do (they stutter, for instance) and the way song learning in a bird literally crystallizes brain structure, teaching us about the neurological nature of our own learning.
  • But songbirds go through the same process of vocal learning that people do—they listen to adult exemplars, they experiment, and they practice, honing their skills like children learning a musical instrument.
  • Close to half the birds on the planet are songbirds, some four thousand species, with songs ranging from the mumbled melancholy chortle of the bluebird to the forty-note aria of the cowbird, the long, byzantine song of the sedge warbler, the flutelike tune of the hermit thrush, and the amazing seamless duets of male and female plain-tailed wren.
  • In the open, sound travels best a few feet or so above the vegetation, so birds sing from perches to reduce interference. Those singing on the forest floor use tonal sounds and lower frequencies than those singing in the canopy. Some use frequencies that avoid the noise from insects and traffic. Birds living near airports sing their dawn chorus earlier than normal to reduce overlap with the roar of airplanes.
  • Certain songbirds, such as European starlings and zebra finches, can contract and relax these tiny vocal muscles with submillisecond precision—more than a hundred times faster than the blink of a human eye.
  • You can tell where a mockingbird lives by the songs he sings. So particular is a song to its bird that individual birds within a population may share only 10 percent of their song patterns.
  • The ideal model organism for studying any kind of learning is a rare beast, says biologist Chip Quinn: It “should have no more than three genes, be able to play the cello or at least recite classical Greek, and learn these tasks with a nervous system containing only ten large, differently colored, and therefore easily recognizable neurons.”
  • This discovery—that some young birds are capable of learning almost any song they hear yet possess a genetic template that predisposes them to their species’ song—has a human parallel.
  • This, says Jarvis, may be one reason vocal learning is rare. “All the varied vocalizations an animal learns make it an easy target.”
  • Extravagance in nature is so often found in proximity to sex.
  • “It’s like a superstimulus,” he says. “Like the allure of a big egg to a chicken.” (As ethologist Niko Tinbergen learned, hens like big eggs: Give a hen a giant egg to sit on, even an artificial one, and she will prefer it to a small egg. In her mind, bigger is better, even if it’s not natural.)
  • It’s what’s known as vocal consistency, the ability to perfectly replicate the acoustic features of a song—the notes, the rhythms, the pauses—from one rendition to the next. To a bird, these subtleties make all the difference.
  • To make the walls symmetrical, he uses a mental tool called templating. “In templating, a male picks up a stick and positions himself along the midline of the bower avenue,” explains Borgia. He puts the stick in or against one wall and, still holding on to it, pulls it away from the wall—then, using a precise reversal of his movements, he places the stick in an identical position in the opposite wall.
  • Great bowerbirds apparently do just the opposite: They put smaller objects closer to the bower entrance and bigger stones and bones farther away. To the female looking out from her cozy enclosure, the researchers speculate, this creates the illusion that the court is smaller than it is. The foreshortened stage may make the parading male himself and his colored objects look bigger and more vibrant.
  • The painter and colorist Raoul Dufy reportedly said that “blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones . . . it will always stay blue.”
  • In nature blue is unusual in part because vertebrates never evolved the ability to make or use blue pigments. The deep electric blue an eastern bluebird carries on its back is an example of what scientists call a structural color: It’s generated by light interacting with the three-dimensional arrangement of keratin in the bird’s feathers.
  • In other words, says Patricelli, sexual selection seems to favor both the evolution of elaborate display traits and also the ability to use them appropriately. And this may be where our hero fell short. He lacked social grace.
  • When a young male visits the bower of a mature male, he often plays the female’s part while he closely observes the older male. He may be a bit more fidgety than his feminine counterpart, but the older bird tolerates his presence because the mentor, too, benefits from practicing with a live audience. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Borgia; “otherwise you can bet it wouldn’t happen.”
  • In the case of the bowerbird, the beauty of the bower is shaped by the perception of the female. In other words, her mind shapes male display; she is the architect of the male bird’s artistic creation and the brains required to achieve it, just as the female songbird is the architect of the male’s elaborate song and the fancy neural networks that produce it.
  • I think I could distinguish a bad ballet dancer from a good one. But could I tell a 3.7-second grand jeté from a 3.8-second one? Somehow, the female golden-collared manakin registers these whiskers of temporal difference.
  • The Arctic tern, a bird who lives by his love of long daylight and bent for high mileage, circles the world in orbit with the seasons, flying from its nesting grounds in Greenland and Iceland to its wintering grounds off the coast of Antarctica—a round-trip of almost forty-four thousand miles. In an average thirty-year lifetime, then, a tern may fly the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.
  • In fact, pigeons are better than most people—and even better than some mathematicians—at solving certain statistical problems: the Monty Hall Dilemma
  • In 2014, Mouritsen and his team reported in Nature that even extremely weak electromagnetic “noise” generated by human electronic devices in urban environments may disrupt the magnetic compasses of migrating European robins. We’re not talking cell towers or high-voltage transmission lines here; more like the background buzz of everything run by electrical currents.
  • To fuel their air derbies, they have to harvest hundreds of flowers per day; they don’t want to waste a dime visiting blossoms they’ve already sucked dry. So they keep track. And they do it, apparently, not on the basis of color or shape or other visual tips offered by the flowers themselves, but rather through spatial cues,
  • “A honeyguide has to find a suitable nest to drop her eggs into at just the right time. If she puts them in a nest where chicks will be hatching the next day, her babies will be bumped off as runts; if she drops it in too early, the host bird may not be ready to lay or incubate. So she has to monitor the position of nests and the stages they’re in.”
  • After Sandy passed, the whole eastern edge of the continent was swarming with vagrants. It’s an interesting term, commonly used for someone who travels idly with no means of support.
  • the polarized light cues available at sunset. (Twilight is a rich source of information for navigating animals of all types. It’s the only period in the day when birds and other animals can combine light-polarization patterns, stars, and magnetic cues.)
  • Zebra finches, whose bulbs are tiny indeed, use their sense of smell to spot their relatives, just as mammals do, to avoid inbreeding and facilitate cooperation with their kin.
  • Shanahan sees in the similarity what he calls a common blueprint for high-level cognition. In simplified terms: The human brain is thought to be a so-called small-world network, not unlike Facebook. Different modules—or regions—of the brain are connected by a relatively small number of neurons known as hub nodes.
  • In 1889, just a few decades after the house sparrow’s introduction, sparrow clubs were formed with the sole objective of destroying the birds, and county and state officials were offering two cents a head for each sparrow killed.
  • Big brains are costly in terms of development and maintenance. But they’re thought to enhance a bird’s survival by allowing it to rapidly adjust to unusual, novel, or complex ecological challenges such as finding new food or avoiding unfamiliar predators. It’s called the cognitive buffer hypothesis. A big brain “buffers” an animal from environmental change by allowing it to adapt to novel resources—
  • two ecologists watched house sparrows working their way along a line of parked cars in a parking lot, gleaning insects trapped in the radiators.
  • In some cities, you can find smoked cigarette butts in sparrow nests, which effectively function as a parasite repellent.
  • On Mount Karimui, an extinct volcano on the main island, the range of the magnificent bird-of-paradise had ascended more than three hundred feet as a result of warming of just 0.7 degree Fahrenheit. “Because a mountain is like a pyramid,” says Freeman, “there’s less area for habitat available as they move up the mountain. They’re being squeezed both by temperatures and for space.”
  • “A long reproductive life can increase the productivity of these slow-living species—but they will never achieve the high productivity of fast-living species that prioritize reproduction over survival.”
Corvids are the star of the show.
  • In fact, as far as we know, only four groups of animals on the planet craft their own complex tools: humans, chimps, orangutans, and New Caledonian crows. And even fewer make tools they keep and reuse.
  • Especially when you look at the catalog of, say, orangutan tools, which range from toothpicks and teeth cleaners to autoerotic tools and missiles aimed at predators, from leaf napkins and moss sponges to leafy branch fans and scoops, chisels, hooks, nail cleaners, and bee covers—branches or leaves used as a hat to protect against stinging bees.Green-backed herons are expert bait fishers, known to entice their prey with bread, popcorn, seeds, flowers, live insects, spiders, feathers, even pellets of fish food. Dung is the decoy of choice for the burrowing owl.
  • It takes many complex moves conducted in a very precise manner to complete the tool—snipping at one spot and tearing along that edge, then snipping at another spot and tearing from there, several times in a row. The final version looks a lot like a miniature saw but is used as a probe to wheedle out grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, slugs, spiders, and other invertebrates from otherwise inaccessible nooks and crannies.
  • On the island of Mare, just adjacent to New Caledonia, says Hunt, the crows make only wide tools. In other words, it seems there may be local styles or traditions of toolmaking that are passed down over generations. Faithful transmission of local tool designs: If it’s true, that fairly well defines the term culture.
  • Islands are castles of experiment surrounded by moats. Competition is less fierce and predators less abundant than on continents, so evolutionary experimentation is not so quickly or ruthlessly punished. That includes behavioral experimentation, like tooling around with tools.
  • suggests that the two traits may be causally related. It’s called the early learning hypothesis. Perhaps possessing learning-intensive tool skills plays a role in lengthening the juvenile period. In this way, New Caledonian crows may provide a good model for investigating the evolutionary effect of tool use on life history, not just for birds but for people.
  • This suggests that the crows understand water displacement, a fairly sophisticated physical concept, on par with the comprehension of a child five to seven years old. It also suggests that they’re able to grasp the basic physical properties of objects and make inferences about them.
  • In fact, we owe the expression “pecking order” to studies of the social relations among chickens by the Norwegian zoologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe, who found that pecking orders are ladderlike
  • The idea that a demanding social life might drive the evolution of brainpower was developed by Nicholas Humphrey, a psychologist at the London School of Economics received. “Leaving gifts suggests that crows understand the benefit of reciprocating past acts that have benefited them and also that they anticipate future reward,”
  • Corvids and cockatoos can delay gratification if they think a reward is worth waiting for—a form of emotional intelligence involving self-control, persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself.
  • A colorful member of the intelligent crow family, the male Eurasian jay appears to intuit his mate’s state of mind—or at least her appetite—and responds by giving her what she most desires.
  • The team also found that different species of tits—great, blue, and marsh—share news of food with one another. “The marsh tits are the best information providers,”

  • Nine years later, the masked scientists returned to the scene of the crime. The crows in these neighborhoods—including those that weren’t even hatched at the time of the capture—reacted to the people with the dangerous masks as if they were a threat, dive-bombing, scolding, and mobbing them.
  • Scientists have observed experienced tandem-running ants modifying their journeys when trailed by a naïve follower, pausing en route to let a follower-pupil explore landmarks and resuming the journey only when the follower taps them with an antenna.
  • Highly intelligent, accomplished mimics, they sound false alarm calls of babblers and other species, which make the babblers drop their mealworms and run for cover. Drongos then steal in to seize the dropped food even if it’s abandoned only for an instant, right beside the unwitting victim. Ridley and her team recently found that drongos fool the babblers by varying the type of alarm calls they produce, making it harder for the babblers to detect the deception.
  • the young birds use at least two clever social strategies to boost the amount of food they get. First, they’re picky about whom they follow, choosing to tag along with adults who are especially proficient at capturing prey. Second, when they’re hungry, they “blackmail” adults into feeding them at higher rates by venturing into riskier open locations.
  • Nancy Burley of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues who study the budgerigar suspect that this may be the evolutionary reason for the ability of parrots to parrot—to quickly learn and mimic new sounds: “It could also explain why parrot enthusiasts suggest that the ‘best talkers’ among pet budgerigars are typically males that were obtained when very young and kept in isolation from other budgerigars,”
  • New research shows that food sharing in chimps raises oxytocin levels more than grooming does. This is evidence, perhaps, for the truth of the maxim “The way to your lover’s heart is through her stomach”
  • Birds have their own versions of these neurohormones, called mesotocin and vasotocin.
  • The highly social, flocking zebra finches and spice finches had far more mesotocin receptors in the dorsal lateral septum—a key part of the brain involved in social behavior—than did their more solitary relatives.
  • West proposes that it’s not just the challenges of maintaining pair-bonds in birds that have boosted their brainpower. Rather, she says, it’s “the complexity of achieving a successful pair bond and extra-pair copulations that is simultaneously driving the increase.” It’s what she calls an “intersexual arms race.”
  • DNA analysis has revealed that extra-pair copulations occur in about 90 percent of bird species. In any given nest, up to 70 percent of chicks are not sired by the male caring for them.
  • In essence, by not putting all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, females are pumping up the public good, encouraging safer and more productive neighborhoods. “Where maternity certainty makes females care for offspring at home, paternity uncertainty and a potential for offspring in several broods make males invest in communal benefits and public goods,” say the Norwegian scientists.
  • A scrub jay will think to do this—to resort to these clever cache-protection tactics—only if he’s had his own piratical experience. Birds that have never pilfered themselves hardly ever recache. In other words, say the researchers, “it takes a thief to know a thief.”
  • Asian elephants were lately added to the list with a study showing that they may console a distraught individual with their trunks, gently touching its face or putting their trunk in its mouth—akin to an elephant hug.
Jennifer Ackerman's book reminds me of "The Sports Gene" quite a bit. Biology as destiny.
  • Among the published studies tumbling from scientific journals are some with titles that lift the brows: “Have we met before? Pigeons recognize familiar human faces”; “The syntax of gargles in the chickadee”; “Language discrimination by Java sparrows”; “Chicks like consonant music”; “Personality differences explain leadership in barnacle geese”; and “Pigeons on par with primates in numerical competence.”
  • the dawn chorus, that mysterious moment when birds sing with a thousand voices in “A Music numerous as space— / But neighboring as Noon,” as Emily Dickinson wrote.
  • a friend saw perched just above a nest of tent caterpillars: The cuckoo waited as the caterpillars climbed out of the nest to scale the tree, then plucked them off one at a time, like sushi from a conveyor belt.
  • Perhaps it’s because they’re so unlike people that it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities. Birds are dinosaurs, descended from the lucky, flexible few that survived whatever cataclysm did in their cousins. We are mammals, related to the timid, diminutive shrewlike creatures that emerged from the dinosaurs’ shadows only after most of those beasts died off. While our mammal relatives were busy growing, birds, by the same process of natural selection, were busy shrinking.
  • More recently, genius has been defined as “nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.”
  • We also share with birds similar ways of meeting nature’s challenges, which we’ve arrived at through very different evolutionary paths. It’s called convergent evolution... To meet the challenges of filter feeding, creatures as far apart on the tree of life as baleen whales and flamingos show striking parallels in behavior, body form (large tongues and hairy tissues known as lamellae), even body orientation during feeding.
  • startlingly similar gene activity in the brains of humans learning to speak and birds learning to sing, suggesting that there may be a kind of core pattern of gene expression for learning shared by birds and humans alike and arrived at through convergent evolution.
  • New Caledonia, a remote tropical finger of land in the southwest Pacific, halfway between Australia and Fiji. The Parc des Grandes Fougères is named for the giant tree ferns that grow to seven stories
  • For Darwin, even earthworms “show some degree of intelligence” in their manner of dragging pine needles and vegetable matter to plug up their burrows, protection from the proverbial “early bird.”
  • “Those who are in anthropodenial,” says de Waal, “try to build a brick wall to separate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.”
  • I watched the whole shimmering sheet of them dark against the sky, wheeling, twisting, eddying in intricate movements with the cohesion of a single organism—
  • The great naturalist Edmund Selous, who loved birds passionately and observed them with scientific fervor, attributed this flocking phenomenon to telepathic thought transference from one bird to the next. “They circle; now dense like a polished roof, now disseminated like the meshes of some vast all-heaven-sweeping net, now darkening, now flashing out a million rays of light . . . a madness in the sky,”..  Instead, each bird is interacting with up to seven close neighbors, making individual movement decisions based on maintaining velocity and distance from fellow flock members and copying how sharply a neighbor turns, so that a group of, say, four hundred birds can veer in another direction in a little over half a second. What emerges is almost instantaneous ripples of movement in what appears to be one living curtain of bird.
  • Maybe a good way to measure bird cognition, Lefebvre thought, would be to look at these sorts of occurrences—birds doing unusual new things in the wild... Among the more inventive examples: bald eagles ice fishing in northern Arizona.
  • One of Lefebvre’s favorites was the report of vultures in Zimbabwe that perched on barbed-wire fences near minefields during the war of liberation, waiting for gazelles and other grazers to wander in and detonate the explosives. It gave the birds a ready-made meal already pulverized.
  • Chickadees are also possessed of a prodigious memory. They stash seeds and other food in thousands of different hiding places to eat later and can remember where they put a single food item for up to six months.
  • To meet the constraints of flight, nature has in fact considerably lightened a bird’s load with a skeleton that blends strength and airiness. Some bones have been fused or eliminated. A light beak made largely of keratin has replaced a heavier, toothy jaw. Other bones, such as wing bones, are pneumatic, almost hollow but reinforced with strutlike trabeculae to keep them from buckling. A bird’s bones are dense only where needed—even denser than the bones of their mammal counterparts—in the legs and in the deep solid breastbone that anchors the wings.
  • that birds possess more than twice as many genes for bone remodeling and resorption than mammals do. Most bird bones are hollow and thin walled, yet surprisingly stiff and strong. The paradoxical result sometimes boggles the mind: A frigate bird with a seven-foot wingspan has a skeleton that weighs less than its feathers.
  • A bird’s wild knot of a heart is four-chambered and double-barreled like our own, but tiny, with a beat far more rapid (between 500 and 1,000 times a minute for black-capped chickadees; 78 for humans). Its respiratory system is quite extraordinary, proportionately larger than in mammals (one fifth of its body volume, compared with one twentieth in mammals), but much more efficient. Its “flow-through” lung, encased in a rigid trunk, maintains a constant volume (in contrast with mammalian lungs, which expand and contract in a flexible body) and is connected to an intricate web of balloonlike sacs that store air outside the lungs.
  • The condensed genomes of birds may also be an adaptation to powered flight. Birds have the smallest genomes
  • Dinosaurs gave rise to chickadees and herons in part through a process of relentless shrinking, a kind of Alice in Wonderland phenomenon known as sustained miniaturization.
  • As it happens, we humans may have pulled just such a Peter Pan–like move. As adults, we share the big head, flat face, small jaw, and patchy body hair of baby primates. Paedomorphosis may have enabled us to develop bigger brains, just as it did in birds.
  • In other words, nest sitters end up with bigger brains than nest quitters.
  • “Overall, the parallels between mammalian and avian sleep raise the intriguing possibility that their independent evolution may be related to the function served by this pattern of sleep: the evolution of large, complex brains in both birds and mammals.”
  • MIGRATION IS ANOTHER TRADE-OFF. Birds that migrate have smaller brains than their sedentary relatives.
  • elephant brains have three times the number of neurons found in the human brain (257 billion to our average 86 billion). But 98 percent of them are in the elephant cerebellum, she says, where they may be involved in control of the trunk, a two-hundred-pound appendage with fine sensory and motor capabilities.
  • this suggests that what determines cognitive abilities is not the number of neurons in the whole brain but in the cerebral cortex—or its equivalent in birds.
  • Whereas the nerve cells in a mammal’s neocortex are stacked in six distinct layers like plywood, those in the bird’s cortexlike structure cluster like cloves in a garlic bulb. But the cells themselves are basically the same, capable of rapid and repetitive firing, and the way they function is equally sophisticated, flexible, and inventive.
The survey of the digital revolution calls for a cast of thousands, and Walter Isaacson didn't quite do them justice with at most a brief chapter or two on the most fascinating of characters -- and that's not even the part I wanted to learn most.

__ RFC: request for comment, and other attempts at keeping a low profile
__ Robert Noyce
__ "The Mother of All Demos"

_______________________________
作者:魏香音 书名:戏骨
  • 别人行色匆匆,他却慢悠悠地在校园里踱步。从主楼转到食堂,再从食堂踱到体育场,然后穿过种满了泡桐树的小路,经过电影博物馆往西走。表演系和导演系共用的小楼就隐藏在林翳深处。深灰色的砖墙上爬满了落了叶的爬山虎,纵横如同铁线,交织出这幢小楼里每个学生错综复杂的前途。
  • 两位漂亮的学姐走过来,开始分发卸妆湿巾。收到湿巾的大多都是女生。然而走到陆离跟前的时候,一位学姐盯着他左看右看,居然抬手也送上了一张。  陆离接过来就往脸上抹,抹完再摊开让学姐检查。当然结果并不重要,重要的是这是一个好兆头——当年他和同学们也做过类似的考务工作,搭讪长得好看的小学妹是他们的“特权”
  • 陆离依旧一个人在街头游荡,累了就坐在长椅上看人在后海溜冰。他忽然发现溜冰居然是一件如此富于哲理的事:你越是急于朝一个人靠拢,那人就越是会被你撞飞出去。除非彼此间伸出手臂,才能互相扶持。
  • “电影的事儿咱们先不提,你可知道中国每年生产多少电视剧?一万八千集,差不多六百部!每部六个主角,就算不重复也才一千八百个坑。可光这北京城里头就有四五十万号人等着吃演员这口饭。兄弟,这可比中影入学难得多了。
  • 据她的分析,徐如林如此频繁地更换生活助理,必然给生活制片惹了不少麻烦。所以这一次,生活制片故意不告诉徐如林,陆离是沈星择介绍进来工作的——否则,就算徐如林吃了熊心豹子胆,也不敢对沈星择的关系户吆五喝六。    根据徐如林的尿性,过不了多久就会辞退陆离,生活制片就以此来挑起沈星择的不满,从而达到借刀杀人的目的。
  • 毕竟剧组表面上看起来关系融洽,实际却是等第森严。身在高位者可以与人为善,却不能坐视低位者的挑衅。因为每一次挑衅都是一种试探;多容忍一次,就会有成双成倍的人妄想着要骑到你的脖子上来。

  • 沈星择是个念旧的人,又或者说,是个在时间面前都不肯轻易服输的固执者。
  • 都说坐地日行八万里,一年半五百多天,差不多就是从地球到金星的一半距离。其实我们早就远离了过去、远离了记忆里的那些人和事。
  • 沈星择将陆离给的冰桔子放进嘴里。甘甜的冰渣降低了口腔的温度。这样,说台词的时候就不会吐出白汽,出现季节上的穿帮。
  • 娱乐圈有点像这件事的放大版本:过程(程序)不重要,结果才重要。
  • 陆离是程序正义的支持者。但显然,在这个逐渐失序的世界观里,程序正义已经被结果正义踩在了脚下。
  • 拓扑图像的用处还远不止这些——通过对于前后两张传播范围图的比较,可以直观地得到二者之间的差集。那些对于艺考舞弊谣言的传播起到了重要推动作用,却对辟谣无动于衷的微博账号,立刻如退潮之后裸泳的小丑,暴露在了星择公关们的眼前。
  • 爆炸一般突然膨胀起来的学业,彻底充填了他的二十四小时。满溢到容不下片刻的胡思乱想。他觉得自己好像被无数个安全气囊紧紧地挤压,尽管无法动弹,却也有着非同一般的安心感觉。

"Nutshell"

Mar. 7th, 2017 04:39 pm
An aficionado of podcasts is a baby after my own heart. His yen for vin? Amusing but less endearing.
  • beautiful beyond realism’s reach / What’s said hangs in the air, like a Beijing smog.
  • “Ice cream being out of the question.” Plain sense. Worth saying. Who would or could make ice cream out of antifreeze?
  • To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things. And even this universe may be a speck in a multitude of actual and possible universes. So why not be an owl poet?
  • No child, still less a foetus, has ever mastered the art of small talk, or would ever want to. It’s an adult device, a covenant with boredom and deceit.
  • When love dies and a marriage lies in ruins, the first casualty is honest memory, decent, impartial recall of the past.
  • Our love was so fine and grand, it seemed to us a universal principle. It was a system of ethics, a means of relating to
  • Boredom, said this Monsieur Barthes, is not far from bliss; one regards boredom from the shores of pleasure... This was my patrimony, until my mother wished my father dead. Now I live inside a story and fret about its outcome. Where’s boredom or bliss in that?
  • To them the untied plastic bags rise like shining residential towers with rooftop gardens. The flies go there to graze and vomit at their ease. Their general bloated laziness invokes a society of mellow recreation, communal purpose, mutual tolerance. This somnolent, non-chordate crew is at one with the world, it loves rich life in all its putrefaction.
  • Sex, I begin to understand, is its own mountain kingdom, secret and intact. In the valley below we know only rumours.
  • But lately, don’t ask why, I’ve no taste for comedy, no inclination to exercise, even if I had the space, no delight in fire or earth, in words that once revealed a golden world of majestical stars, the beauty of poetic apprehension, the infinite joy of reason.
  • Hours of scheming have accidentally delivered the conspirators into the art of deliberative lovemaking.
  • slumbering Claude, a hump, a bell-curve of sound baffled by bedclothes. On the exhalation, a long, constipated groan, its approaching terminus frilled with electric sibilants. Then an extended pause which, if you loved him, might alarm you. Has he breathed his last? If you don’t, there’s hope he has. But finally, a shorter, greedy intake, scarred with the rattle of wind-dried mucus and, at the breezy summit, the soft palate’s triumphant purr.
  • Blood-borne well-being sweeps through me and I’m instantly high, thrown forwards by a surfer’s perfect breaking wave of forgiveness and love. A tall, sloping, smoothly tubular wave that could carry me to where I might start to think fondly of Claude. But I resist it. How diminishing, to accept at second hand my mother’s every rush of feeling and be bound tighter to her crime.
  • The crime, once a sequence of plans and their enactment, now in memory resembles an object, unmoveable, accusing, a cold stone statue in a clearing in a wood. A midwinter’s bitter midnight, a waning moon, and Trudy is hurrying away down a frosty woodland path. She turns to look back at the distant figure, partly obscured by bare boughs and skeins of mist, and she sees that the crime, the object of her thoughts, is not a crime at all. It’s a mistake. It always was.
  • the exercise yard of dumb existence
  • But the raised hand, the actual violent enactment, is cursed. The maths says so. There’ll be no reversion to the status quo ante, no balm, no sweet relief, or none that lasts. Only a second crime. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches a civilisation.
  • How wearying, on top of all else (a hangover, a murder, enervating sex, advanced pregnancy), for my mother to be obliged to exert her will and extend fulsome hatred to a guest.
  • It’s an accusation, a rejection, a cold withdrawal bundled into a hospitable gesture.
  • I note at this point that my father has receded. Like a particle in physics, he escapes definition in his flight from us: the assertive, successful poet-teacher-publisher, calmly intent on repossessing his house, his father’s house; or the hapless, put-upon cuckold, the unworldly fool cramped by debt and misery and lack of talent. The more we hear of one, the less we believe of the other.
  • I’ll feel, therefore I’ll be. Let poverty go begging and climate change braise in hell. Social justice can drown in ink. I’ll be an activist of the emotions, a loud, campaigning spirit fighting with tears and sighs to shape institutions around my vulnerable self.
  • Her status as a murderer is a fact, an item in the world outside herself. But that’s old thinking. She affirms, she identifies as innocent.
  • Auden’s ‘Autumn Song.’ ‘Now the leaves are falling fast, / Nurse’s flowers will not last.’ Why is the missing syllable at the end of the line so
  • Long ago, someone pronounced groundless certainty a virtue. Now, the politest people say it is.
  • It’s already clear to me how much of life is forgotten even as it happens. Most of it. The unregarded present spooling away from us, the soft tumble of unremarkable thoughts, the long-neglected miracle of existence.
  • The effective lie, like the masterly golf swing, is free of self-awareness. I’ve listened to the sports commentaries.
  • the chief inspector. I wonder if she has a gun. Too grand. Like the queen not carrying money. Shooting people is for sergeants and below.
  • I wonder what disorder tells suspicious eyes. It can’t be morally neutral. A contempt for things, for order, cleanliness, must lie on a spectrum with scorn for laws, values, for life itself.
  • I’m not troubled. What was in his day a vagina is now proudly a birth canal, my Panama, and I’m greater than he was, a stately ship of genes, dignified by unhurried progress, freighted with my cargo of ancient information.

"Nutshell"

Mar. 6th, 2017 04:31 pm
Bravo, Mr. Ian McEwan. Once I got over the "Look Who's Talking" gimmick, this adaptation makes a lot of sense. Who's better to muse on to be or not to be than the unborn?
  • My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow-motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise. That was in my careless youth. Now, fully inverted, not an inch of space to myself, knees crammed against belly, my thoughts as well as my head are fully engaged. I’ve no choice, my ear is pressed all day and night against the bloody walls.
  • I’m immersed in abstractions, and only the proliferating relations between them create the illusion of a known world. When I hear “blue,” which I’ve never seen, I imagine some kind of mental event that’s fairly close to “green”—which I’ve never seen.
  • No one to contradict or reprimand me, no name or previous address, no religion, no debts, no enemies. My appointment diary, if it existed, notes only my forthcoming birthday.
  • Long ago, many weeks ago, my neural groove closed upon itself to become my spine and my many million young neurons, busy as silkworms, spun and wove from their trailing axons the gorgeous golden fabric of my first idea, a notion so simple it partly eludes me now. Was it me? Too self-loving. Was it now? Overly dramatic. Then something antecedent to both, containing both, a single word mediated by a mental sigh or swoon of acceptance, of pure being, something like—this? Too precious. So, getting closer, my idea was To be.
  • The beginning of conscious life was the end of illusion, the illusion of non-being, and the eruption of the real. The triumph of realism over magic, of is over seems.
  • palmy Norway—my first choice on account of its gigantic sovereign fund and generous social provision; nor my second, Italy, on grounds of regional cuisine and sun-blessed decay; and not even my third, France, for its Pinot Noir and jaunty self-regard.
  • He lingers on “pan-fried.” What is pan but a deceitful benediction on the vulgar and unhealthy fried?
  • I know that alcohol will lower my intelligence. It lowers everybody’s intelligence. But oh, a joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon, sets me turning and tumbling across my secret sea, reeling off the walls of my castle, the bouncy castle that is my home. Or so it did when I had more space. Now I take my pleasures sedately, and by the second glass my speculations bloom with that licence whose name is poetry. My thoughts unspool in well-sprung pentameters, end-stopped and run-on lines in pleasing variation. But she never takes a third, and it wounds me.
  • Who cares? Besides, she told him out loud, whatever power she was supposed to have was only what men conferred in their fantasies.
  • I also blend John and Trudy in my daydreams—like every child of estranged parents, I long to remarry them, this base pair, and so unite my circumstances to my genome.
  • Whenever she and I listen, I sense in her slowing heart a retinal crust of boredom that blinds her to the pathos of the scene
  • like those famed creations of bank employees The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Waste Land
  • But as warm as the embrace of brothers are John Keats and Wilfred Owen. I feel their breath upon my lips. Their kiss. Who would not wish to have written Candied apple, quince, and plum and gourd, or The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall?
  • one exposed foot, its line of diminishing, innocent toes like children in a family photo
  • In my mother’s usage, space, her need for it, is a misshapen metaphor, if not a synonym. For being selfish, devious, cruel. But wait, I love her, she’s my divinity and I need her. I take it back! I spoke in anguish. I’m as deluded as my father. And it’s true. Her beauty and remoteness and resolve are one.
  • paper plates with loathsome wounds of ketchup, teetering teabags like tiny sacks of grain that mice or elves might hoard.
  • Not everyone knows what it is to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose.
  • On each occasion, on every piston stroke, I dread that he’ll break through and shaft my soft-boned skull and seed my thoughts with his essence, with the teeming cream of his banality.
  • I’ve heard it all. Maggot farming in Utah. Hiking across The Burren. Hitler’s last-chance offensive in the Ardennes. Sexual etiquette among the Yanomami. How Poggio Bracciolini rescued Lucretius from oblivion. The physics of tennis.
  • She considered two common states of mind: self-pity and aggression. Each one a poor choice for individuals. In combination, for groups or nations, a noxious brew.
  • And foe-of-convenience, the United States, barely the hope of the world, guilty of torture, helpless before its sacred text conceived in an age of powdered wigs, a constitution as unchallengeable as the Koran. Its nervous population obese, fearful, tormented by inarticulate anger, contemptuous of governance, murdering sleep with every new handgun.
  • We’ve built a world too complicated and dangerous for our quarrelsome natures to manage. In such hopelessness, the general vote will be for the supernatural. It’s dusk in the second Age of Reason. We were wonderful, but now we are doomed.
  • We’ll always be troubled by how things are—that’s how it stands with the difficult gift of consciousness.
  • Nature, a mother herself, ordains a struggle for resources that may be needed to nurture my future sibling rivals.
  • Among much else, people are sociable and kind. Ripeness isn’t everything.
  • But here’s life’s most limiting truth—it’s always now, always here, never then and there. And now we are frying in a London heatwave
  • If hypocrisy’s the only price, I’ll buy the bourgeois life and consider it cheap.
  • Adversity forced awareness on us, and it works, it bites us when we go too near the fire, when we love too hard. Those felt sensations are the beginning of the invention of the self.
  • God said, Let there be pain. And there was poetry. Eventually.
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