Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Mechthild Van Magdeburg

November 4, 2017

GOD COMPARES THE SOUL TO FOUR THINGS

You taste like the grape; you are fragrant as balsam; you shine like the sun; you are an addition to my highest love.

THE SOUL PRAISES GOD IN FIVE THINGS

O you pouring God in your giving!  O you flowing God in your love!  O you burning God in your desire!  O you melting God in the union with your beloved!  O you resting God on my breasts, without whom I cannot be!

GOD SPEAKS ENDEARMENTS TO THE SOUL IN SIX THINGS

You are the pillow for my head, my bed of delight, my most secret rest, my deepest desire, my highest honor.  You are a pleasure of my divinity, a consolation of my humanity, a brook for my torch.

THE SOUL RETURNS GOD’S PRAISE IN SIX THINGS

You are my mountain of glass, the feast of my eyes, the loss of my self, the storm of my heart, the dissolution and ruin of my nature, my highest security.

~From Martin Buber’s Ecstatic Confessions, which is the long form version of the beloved meme #shitmysticssay

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Essays That No One Would Publish (Again)

October 1, 2017

Bored With Dressing a Baby Boy? Try Elf-Core

When I was pregnant, and people found out I didn’t know the sex of the baby, they’d often say, “Well, either one is great of course, but girls are just much more fun to dress.” It sounds weirdly gendered, and it is, but it’s also totally true. First, there’s just a much larger variety out there for girls (they can also dip into the boys’ stuff more often than the reverse is true, because the patriarchy lives!) With girls, for example, you can play with both hats and the little bows people insist on strapping to their newborns’ bald heads. You can buy sweet onesies and tiny dresses, mini-jeans and bloomers. With boys, well, most often well-wishers will resort to gifting you those awful message vests, with weirdly racy phrases like “Lock up your daughters” emblazoned across the front.

Of course, if you happen to be a woman, which I am, and you even slightly enjoy clothing, which I do, there’s the added pleasure of being able to dress your little girl in the outfits you wish you came in adult sizes. Smocked floral dresses with thick woolen tights and pointelle galore: not an easy look to pull off in your early thirties, but lucky for you, you have a human doll to vicariously dress through.

So when I had a son, which I had predicted I would, I was at first a little sad about sartorial opportunities lost, before I hit upon the look that made it all worthwhile, and that is elf-core.

When you hear the word “elf,” you might think of Will Ferrell in the eponymous film, or indeed, of any of Santa’s minions. Not a bad place to start, but not the best fashion template for our purposes. Whatever you do, don’t go by Google alone––that will just lead you to lots of Orlando Bloom fan sites and pictures of young woman who’ve undergone body modification to make their ears pointy. Instead, when dressing your child in elf-core, you should conjure up images of Elizabethan-era elves, and their kin, the elben of German Romanticism: these little guys were often seen as like fairies, in that they were tiny and mischievous, but with stocking caps.

So what is elf-core, you ask? It is earth tones, although you can play with the palette a bit, as I’ve found myself more in the gray and navy realm as of late. It is brown faux-leather booties that look like they belong on a fawn, if a fawn wore booties. As far as material goes, it’s anything you might wear while mucking about in the garden: twill, corduroy, or just plain ole comfy cotton. No jeans––elves don’t do denim. Occasionally, elf-core can benefit from an injection of hippie, with the odd tie-dyed piece, a dose of Sherpa, as fur-lined shoes blend nicely with most ensembles, or even a little lumberjack flannel. Remember, elves are mostly forest dwellers, so any other being, mythical or real-life, that loves a romp in nature can serve as appropriate inspiration.  (On that note, feel free to indulge in the delightful trend of babies wearing hoods with animal ears on them: I feel like elves would totally wear such pieces when going to parties with their creature friends.)

But there is one element of the elf-core look that is absolutely non-negotiable, and that is the pointy hood. My son has a number of items with pointy hoods: a gray cable knit hooded cardigan (which has a pom-pom on its point), a full body, striped sweat suit, and a little navy button-up jacket. I plan to invest in more of these staples soon, because if you’re going for elf-core, \, it’s the fastest route there. In fact, you can often phone in the rest of the outfit if this one element is in place, much like how one can wear pajamas and heels and still be fancy enough for a nightclub.

The true icon of elf-core dressing is David the Gnome. Here you might ask yourself: are gnomes and elves related? Like, as species? Answer: only in Tolkien’s mythology. But, that’s neither here nor there. Instead, what truly matters is that both species of otherworldly creature can dress. David the Gnome, for example, has nailed the pointy hat thing. It is at least fifteen centimeters high, which is how tall David is, and fire engine red. It is a real signature statement piece. On top, he wears a big blue tunic bisected by a thick belt, which is not a necessary accessory for a baby, or at least hasn’t been for mine yet. On the bottom, he wears blowsy khaki trousers and shoes that are either repurposed potato sacks or Uggs. Truly the fashion role model of our time.

Still feeling a little confused as to how to nail elf-core? A bit more elf-spo: think Frodo Baggins, think shearling (it’s kind of an autumn-winter specific look), think the verdant hills of Ireland. Sometimes when I see my son in his best elf-core get-up, I think, “If only he had a giant gnarled piece of wood to use as a walking stick. And could, you know, walk.”

If that still doesn’t set your mind racing with ideas, check out my elf-core picks, below:

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Knit hat from Latvia

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Reversible striped CAPE

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Knitted jumper with feet

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Peruvian booties

 

 

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Chunky sweater

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Waffle knit body suit

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Korean mushroom hat

Gifts

September 27, 2017

A while back, I compiled a list of gifts that Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith gave to one another in Just Kids.  I often find myself gravitating towards the gift described in memoirs or books; authors, I’ve noticed, tend to include them as details when they are particularly special or poignant.  Case in point: Jeannie Vanasco’s upcoming memoir The Glass Eye.  It’s not as long as the Smith-Mapplethorpe one, but I still love it (and admittedly it might be longer, as I didn’t do an exhaustive search).

Gifts Received by Jeannie Vanasco in The Glass Eye (different givers)

A small doll from Sicily

colorful barettes

old coins

hangers with illustrated wooden cat heads

vials of sand from Jerusalem

a pair of earrings that looked like pale orange pearls

Twenty books (in one package)

 

The All Souls Game

August 24, 2017

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Oxford for the day, and on our (excellent) two-hour free walking tour, the guide stopped us at the gate to All Souls College and explained a bit about it.  All Souls College is a graduate school, kind of.  The description of it actually sounds a bit more like an elitist club, where “fellows” are just distinguished people from their fields (in other words, how much studying is happening, I can’t really tell).  The entrance exam for All Souls famously used to be a single word that you had to free associate on in an essay.  You had three hours to write this essay, which goes to show you how deep the graders wanted you to go on the topic of “water” or “style” (both real prompts.)  Apparently, they scrapped the one word exam back in 2010––a very funny article about it is here––but they still do these very broad questions that are sometimes interesting, sometimes amusing, and sometimes sound like the kinds of queries stoned college kids pose to each other while sitting bleary-eyed beneath that poster where those naked girls have Pink Floyd album cover painted on their butts.

So of course my husband and I were like, “Shit, it would be kind of fun to just take the exam and see what happens!”  But obviously we will never get that chance.  However, I thought, perhaps we can all have the experience of taking what has often been called the hardest test in the world.  What if there were a cleverly designed pack of question cards, like the one The School of Life (which I hate, but their branding is good, I admit) makes about untranslatable words and confidence and shit like that, but instead of those things, it was some questions from All Souls exams, and you could break these out at your next dinner party before intoning, “THE GAME’S AFOOT”?  (That would be required.)  I mean, I’d do it.  Would you?

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Design example

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Second

Here is a link to some sample exams, and here are a few of the better questions I’ve picked out:

Is eugenics ever a good thing?

Is there anything to be said for astrology?

Should we preserve living creatures harmful to human interests, such as the tick, the locust and the tapeworm?

In the context of political speech, ‘[e]ven material which causes a significant degree of revulsion may be justified by the serious purpose of the context in which the material is broadcast’: Lord Walker in R. (ProLife Alliance) v. B.B.C. [2003] 2 WLR 1403. Do you agree?

Should parents be punished for the truancy of their children?

Should prisoners have the vote?

Where should the boundaries lie between a person’s private and public life?

Would you ban a book?

Is your belief in the theory of evolution based on faith or reason?

Should tigers be saved at the expense of Indian villagers?

Should there be a market in human organs?

Does the moral character of an orgy change when the participants wear Nazi uniforms?

(This last one isn’t in those sample tests, but was cited by Sarah Lyall––link above––as a past question.  And I think the answer is DUH.  Nazi uniforms change every single situation.  Also this would obviously be the first card I picked out when I had people over.)

 

 

Who Said It: Meat Loaf or Lao Tzu?

July 13, 2017

And wherever you are and wherever you go

there’s always going to be some light

 

If you don’t worry about the future, sooner or later it’s the past

 

The further you go, the less you know

 

Heaven can wait

And all I’ve got is time until the end of time

 

The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth

 

Some days it don’t come easy

Some days it don’t come hard

 

Sometimes you lead

Sometimes you follow

 

What about your gods?
They’re defective! They forgot the warranty

 

The beat is yours forever
The beat is always true

 

She cries all day without getting hoarse.

She is the ultimate in harmony.

 

Does it come with the darkness? Does it bring out the light?

 

How deep! How dark! In it there is an essence.

 

You were only killing time and it will kill you right back

 

Though you lose the body, you do not die.

 

And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car

 

PLEASE LET’S BE CLEAR

June 16, 2017

If I were more articulate, I’d find a way to describe my day yesterday other than “shittastic,” but because I dropped my phone down an elevator shaft, I don’t have access to my Thesaurus app, so I’m out of luck.  On my way home from an errand, I picked up the Evening Standard magazine, which I do on the regs even though I become full of rage when I see that once again, they are featuring the offspring of a celeb who is him/herself “on the brink of stardom.”  I honestly think the ES Mag goes this route 50 out of 52 issues a year, give or take.  These pieces all manage to peddle the same lies, and y’all know how I feel about a FORMULA.  So, while it shouldn’t bother me at all, below are a few statements you will inevitably see made in a profile about a celeb’s kid.  I call bullshit, and call on ES Mag to do same:

  1. The celeb’s kid is “not your average celebrity’s child” (Yes they are, because they are trying to become actors)
  2. Because they are totally “down to earth”
  3. Due to have “never really known” their parent(s) is (are) famous
  4. They never considered acting as a career (this one cracks me up)
  5. They’re totally not into the Hollywood scene (they say while sitting at the Chateau Marmont and musing on their first rehab stint, at sixteen)
  6. They don’t drink (DUI charges pending)
  7. They had to work as hard/harder than anyone else (HAHAHAH)

Life Lessons

May 14, 2017

Things children in Samoa must learn before the age of five:

To sit or crawl within the house

Never to stand upright unless absolutely necessary

Never to address an adult in a standing position

To stay out of the sun

Not to tangle the strands of the weaver

Not to scatter the cut up coconut which is spread out to dry

To keep their scant loin cloths at least nominally fastened to their person

To treat fire and knives with proper caution

Not to touch the kava bowl, or the kava cup

If their father is a chief, not to crawl on his bed-place when he is [near]by

~Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa

I <3 Experts

February 4, 2017

Michael Gove, British gnat, famously said back in the time during Brexit campaigning that Britons were “tired of experts.”  With the election of Donald Trump, the era of the average asshole has been officially heralded.  But I was thinking the other day: I bet there are plenty of instances in which even Gove himself would prefer an expert over an amateur.  Here are just a few:

Cardiovascular surgeon: who would you rather tinker with your ticker, a real doctor or a guy who just believes he has a feeling for it?

Airline pilot: or helicopter pilot.  Or submarine captain.  Okay, so basically any large vehicle operator.

Professor of Ancient Greek: if you need to learn it, why not learn from the best?

Criminal defense lawyer: Never know––he might be in need of one at some point.

Translator

Bomb detonator: this one feels *too close* yet undeniable

Lion tamer: I guess if you find yourself inexplicably dropped into a lion enclosure at the zoo…

Hit man

Skyscraper designer: would you be chill living in a penthouse built by a child, for example?

DON’T MAKE ME GO ON, GOVE.

Vocab

June 19, 2016

Isn’t it fun to get used books and see what the previous owners wrote in them?  This morning I finished Caroline Blackwood’s The Stepdaughter, which I have been wanting to read for ages (but found a little disappointing.)    A former owner underlined single words, perhaps ones he or she wanted to look up, throughout the text, which together comprise a very macabre description of Caroline Blackwood’s personality and her fiction.  Here goes:

psychotic

incomprehensible

discotheques

pariah

apt

abominable

lolls

sadistic

neurotic

inertia

matronly

ominous

magnanimous

foisting

blight

churlish

lobotomized

schizoid

invariably

fatuously

fanciful

unhinged

nymphomaniac

unprepossessing

recriminations

furtively

shiftiness

ludicrous

petard [pretty sure this is a typo and was supposed to be “retard”]

insoluble

vicarious

beleaguered

odious

dilettante

despondently

odious

fatuous

timorous

solicitude

histrionic

Also, sort of strange––this book was the property of St. Mary’s Library, and was taken out four times in 1978, and then not again until 1992.  And then once after that in 1999.  On my birthday!  What do these numbers mean?

Henry VIII’s Second Course

May 12, 2016

“Could” include: jelly, cream of almonds, pheasant, partridges, quails, cocks, gulls, kid, lamb or pigeon, larks or rabbits, chickens, venison in paste, tarts, fritters, fruit, butter and eggs.