September 1st, 2014
The tagline from a recent ad for the ubiquitous Beats by Dre headphones is “Hear What You Want.” This is quietly revolutionary. Today, for the first time in human history, we are not only able to break down the components of what makes a noise noisy; we’re also able to control sonic inputs at the level of the individual human. We’re able to customize our lives with music and podcasts and videos that stream to our ears alone. These playlists are often so intimately calibrated to our desires that even the errant sight of someone else’s soundtrack displayed on a screen—that guy on the bus clicking on to Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait”—can seem like a fairly extreme violation of privacy. Earbuds and headphones, though, don’t simply give us access to personalized soundtracks; they also filter out external noises, transforming sound waves from something implicitly communal to something stubbornly personal. As Trevor Pinch, a professor of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell, put it to me: “Sound has become more thing-like—it’s become more mediated by technology.” We may not have earlids; earbuds, however, get us pretty close.

Exactly a century and a half after Charles Dickens and Charles Babbage waged a war on noise, The Atlantic's Megan Garber explores how digital technology is transforming our relationship with sound in a gorgeous feature article.

(Also: Hurray for the reinvestment in long-form journalism!)

(Source: explore-blog)

People still think of critics only as those writers who are telling you whether or not you should read a book or see a film or purchase an album.

Bullshit. The role of the critic is, for me, about connection. How many books have you read that no one else you know has read? It happens to me all the time. There are simply too many books, too many authors, for any two people to have read the same exact list of works. How sad to let all your thoughts and feelings about a given text languish. Well, that’s where critics come in. Through them, I can finally have an enlightened conversation about literature. The critic becomes a stand-in friend so that I can contrast my response to a book against theirs.

In reviewing Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of the Creative Life (one of 2013’s best books on writing and creativity) and Wendy Lesser’s Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of BooksThe Rumpus's Jonathan Russell Clark offers a beautiful meditation on criticism itself.

Relatedly, some time ago I wrote about the role of the critic as a celebrator for Harvard’s Nieman Reports.

(via explore-blog)

(Source: explore-blog)

When I kiss you in all the folding places
of your body, you make that noise like a dog
dreaming, dreaming of the long runs he makes
in answer to some jolt to his hormones,
running across landfills, running, running
by tips and shorelines from the scent of too much,
but still going with head up and snout
in the air because he loves it all
and has to get away. I have to kiss deeper
and more slowly – your neck, your inner arm,
the neat creases under your toes, the shadow
behind your knee, the white angles of your groin -
until you fall quiet because only then
can I get the damned words to come into my mouth.
Jo Shapcott, “Muse” (via fables-of-the-reconstruction)
What holds us upright, once we have faced
immeasurable darkness, the black point
at our eyes’ center? Were we suspended
museum butterflies, by a filament, from a hidden nail?
Has it broken when we begin to
fall, slowly, without desire?
(But we don’t fall. The floor is flat, the round earth
is flat, and we stand on it, and though we lie down
and fill our lungs with choking dust
and spread our arms to make a cross
after a while we rise and creep away,
walk from one room to another
‘on our feet again’.)
Denise Levertov, from “A Ring of Changes,” Poetry (July 1959)

(Source: a-pair-of-ragged-claws, via fables-of-the-reconstruction)

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
making all thought impossible but how
and where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
of dying, and being dead,
flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
From Aubade by Philip Larkin (via hush-syrup)

(via fables-of-the-reconstruction)

We waited and waited. All of us. Didn’t the shrink know that waiting was one of the things that drove people crazy? People waited all their lives. They waited to live, they waited to die. They waited in line to buy toilet paper. They waited in line for money. And if they didn’t have any money they waited in longer lines. You waited to go to sleep and then you waited to awaken. You waited to get married and you waited to get divorced. You waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop. You waited to eat and then you waited to eat again. You waited in a shrink’s office with a bunch of psychos and you wondered if you were one.
Charles Bukowski, Pulp (via fables-of-the-reconstruction)
August 31st, 2014
In every culture, the sky and the religious impulse are intertwined. I lie back in an open field and the sky surrounds me. I’m overpowered by its scale. It’s so vast and so far away that my own insignificance becomes palpable. But I don’t feel rejected by the sky. I’m part of it, tiny, to be sure, but everything is tiny compared to that overwhelming immensity. And when I concentrate on the stars, the planets, and their motions, I have an irresistible sense of machinery, clockwork, elegant precision working on a scale that, however lofty our aspirations, dwarfs and humbles us.
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (1994)

(Source: fables-of-the-reconstruction)

It seems to me quite reasonable to think that the death of the fly is entirely insignificant and that it is at the same time a kind of catastrophe. To entertain such contradictions is always uncomfortable, but in this case the dissonance echoes far and wide, bouncing off countless other decisions about what to buy, what to eat – what to kill; highlighting the inconsistencies in our philosophies, our attempts to make sense of our place in the world and our relations to our co‑inhabitants on Earth. The reality is that we do not know what to think about death: not that of a fly, or of a dog or a pig, or of ourselves.


That tadpoles are fodder for pond-life is as natural as the leaves falling on the water in autumn; that flies get squidged is as ordinary as apples rotting in the orchard. One’s own death, on the other hand, seems most unnatural. It seems rather an error and an outrage; a cosmic crime; a reason to raise one’s fist and rebel against the regime that ordered this slaughter of innocents… But here we are – guests at the party of life and death. We know we must exit along with the flies and the tadpoles. But we would rather not think about it.


We cannot do away with death without doing away with life.

Philosopher Stephen Cave, author of Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, echoes Alan Watts in a beautiful essay on death in Aeon Magazine.

Or, as C.S. Lewis put it“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”

(via explore-blog)

(Source: explore-blog)

August 27th, 2014



I can’t write anything new for you,
reader, I can’t tell you anything
you don’t already know, but you’re still
here so I must have gotten something right
or, at least, you can tell I’m not lying.

I know the colors of your bruise,
and that’s not it, I know the way
you feel about…



Before sleep
peels itself from my body
and goes off to hide in the corner by the hamper
until the sun sets again.

Before my breath is completely back to normal
and I think of all the things I have to do today,
of the twitching eyelid which may come
after the cups of…



All year, crawling home from bars—through snow, rain and sweat-stinging summer nights. But in August peonies began to beckon me from the kept yards of houses we’d never own because we couldn’t keep money in our pockets, because we were always going to bars, because we never cared for…


for H.

The woods were filling with the deep amethysts
of October and the windows of Stone Hall flashed
with sunlight that morning you stopped me
to ask how I liked my classes. Your bones hurt
me with their keen angles, and your long
blue tie hung down the front of your shirt
August 26th, 2014


The second day of autumn is strangely

damp, green: a starfish pulling in weather
and clinging to its desire for things
to fall. I miss the deciduous. I miss
knowing frailer things outside the bound-
arilessness of this primordial soup.
There used to be Time and now there is only

Home Are the Sailors by Samuel Hazo

Like those who sail away and then come back,
we keep returning to a port we’ve never left.
A life we used to live await us there as
shores await all sailors home from sea.
So much is differently the same.
And yet what is the present but a future that the past made possible? There is no older story.
And what are we but random pilgrims stopped in progress to remember?
It now seems more like then, why care?
As long as home means where
we most belong—for just that long—we’re there.