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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

100 things about me

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Forty Years Lucky

I have been lucky since forty years ago, today.

I had parents who showed me how to love by loving me: a father who gave me every advantage, including his wisdom, and a mother who lived like experience was the only thing that mattered.

I have had friends who loved generously, forgave ungrudgingly, counseled gently, and often humoured a myopic fool.

I have had lovers who gave more than they asked for. Some, more than they should have. Some, giving up on me as a lover, still did not give up on me as a man.

In my lowest moments, I have had people who sat with me through the night, even when it was dark for weeks.

I have had mentors who invested in me selflessly.

I have traveled.

I have had new opportunities come at just the right time.

And I am lucky today.

I have my health and my hair (so far) and eyes that don't yet squint at the page.

I get to be in love every day.

My parents are both very much alive, and both very much in my life.

Friends from forever are still here with me: some, almost inexplicably.

I have work that challenges my brain, and bosses I respect.

People still take time to show me new things; I'm still learning.

I am a lucky man.

At forty, I can think of no greater fortune than to have been humbled by wonder so often, surrounded by so much love, and so seldom touched by tragedy.

* * *

Press play. With the sound up.


Monday, May 28, 2007

An astonishing, beautiful answer

Q: What does it mean to be a writer?

A: Constant self-monitoring to see if a thought is actually an idea.

Novelist Sebastian Faulks, in this Q&A interview in the Financial Times.


On the dialectics between morality, religion, and selective reading

"If you're going to draw your to-do list out of a book like Leviticus, you're going to make Mullah Omar, of the Taliban, look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. ... Even our fundamentalists have effectively edited the bible by their neglect of many of its pasages."

That's Sam Harris from a lecture posted at OneGoodMove. His point is one of the basic reasons I have such a problem with the "I know what's right because God wrote it down" crowd. Even fundamentalism requires selective reading. And once you've decided you can ignore one chapter or verse of God's word, what's to say you can't ignor other bits? At which point, are you really embracing it as God's command?

Also from the good folks at OneGoodMove, last month, this clip from The West Wing. It's the same basic point. It's been made with this particular angle before -- I remember the same kind of riff being thrown at radio talk-show host Laura Schlesinger a while back -- but it's rarely been done this well.

And it deserves to be done again and again.

I only wish the President, played by Martin Sheen, had mentioned that the word Leviticus uses to condemn homosexuality is the same word used to condemn eating shellfish: "abomination". So, in the eyes of the Lord, shrimp scampi = sodomy.


We are stardust

A beautiful, beautiful lecture.

Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson: "Soul of a Nerd". Watch here.

"It is quite literally true that we are stardust, in the highest exalted way one can use that phrase."

(Courtesy of OneGoodMove.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Help the Police

Just completely loving this, which has been running around the 'net for a while.

If you don't giggle, you're not my age. Or you completely avoided rap in college.

Yet another hat tip to Dooce.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Read my novel! ... Someday?

Why is it that prose proud pen-pushing prats like me yearn to novelize? Put me in a bookshop and I consistently have two reactions: (1) booklust in the form of wanting to buy hundreds of titles and lock myself away for a few years; (2) the desire to write a novel!

Momentarily, the latter seems so much more sensible. But I'm not sure. Why on earth do we want to write books? So few people read the damn things. The manuscript-laden writer chasing a publisher is the second most worn cliché among the peevish creative set, pipped only by acress-waitresses, and just beating out singer-songwriters pimping demo tapes. That these are clichés doesn't mean the quests they represent aren't noble. For all but those with great talent, however, it's a state that is, in the end, hopeful, but disillusioned.

Every time I read a great novel, I'm grateful the author fought beyond all the sane arguments not to write it. When I think of writing one, myself, I'm much more compelled by those arguments. Still, the desire is there. Give my writing - which, hell, I'm going to do anyway - some purpose, some structure, some direction. Challenge myself, just seeing if I can do it, and if the result will be any good. Get the idea - which has been festering there for several years - out of my head once and for all. And, let's face it, the desire to be published, to join the club of people who can call themselves authors, with their own Breakfast At Tiffany's, New York Public Library moment.

Libertarian, like my father was

The following courtesy of Lawrence Wilkinson:

From the Ends-Justify-the-Means Department:

The U.S. government has proposed offering telecom companies retroactive (and prospective) immunity for giving the government personal data on/about/of their users, "notwithstanding any other law." The proposed immunity would cover both the acts that telcos have denied committing, all the way back to September 11, 2001 (a growing body of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding :-), and anything going forward... so, beyond an end to any worries about past transgressions, a telco could simply (continue to ) hand over any data, despite clear contravention of the law, in the knowledge that they are immune from legal consequences...

Commentary and the relevant text from the administration's new appropriations request for intelligence agencies, wherein this beauty lies, are at this LINK.

On a technical level, here's the bit I don't get. Nevermind that BushCo's wiretapping program violates the Constitution. The Bush Administration has repeatedly claimed that it's legal on a statutory level, too.

But, if it's all so legal, why would they have to give the phone companies immunity?

On an emotional and philosophical level: Seething fury. Rage at the soiling of America's long history of aspiring to be the exemplar of government defined by its limits. I always thought that was a big part of what made America great in the mind of Americans.

At what point do you say the line has been crossed and we've gone from free society to police state? That's not a knee-jerk liberal asking, just someone who always thought folks in America liked their freedom.

When the government starts giving immunity to those complicit in institutionalized, warrantless domestic spying, the question of what freedom means getts pretty pointy.

Raised at my father's knee, I've always been a pretty solid libertarian. (Lower-case "l".) That was always his mold. As he's aged, however, he's become a down-the-line Republican. As the Republican party has moved away from its libertarian heritage, I've stuck with the principles. He's stuck with the party. He and I can't talk about politics anymore, because I can't understand why all the libertarian righteousness he raised me with has gone.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bernard Brought the Sexy Back...to Paris

We were lucky to get a visit from one of our best friends. Short, but waaay sweet. The visit, I mean. Bernard is normal height. But also sweet.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My favourite view in Paris

Happily, I see it all over the city. This one was taken on the Paris Metro (subway) last night on the way to dinner.