I’m always ransoming one piece of jumped-up middlebrow shit for one highbrow masterpiece that’s probably lost forever, and one lowbrow experience from a place so doltish, so far down the evolutionary table, that only I and certain neanderthals with opposed thumbs can laugh at them. Kinda joking. The essence of life eh. We’re committed to adventure, to pleasure, to quality, to optimism, to seriousness, to good humor, and to the general raising of spirits – but distilled it would seem. After highbrow comes lowbrow, and thought provoking nuggets for the browser amongst us. Lengthier and more sustained? That’s weathered gravitas roaming free. Some things still come with a jolt across seas and continents; like unexpected subjects and a wealth of arcane information and unusual facts. My recent favorite? How to Make a Mermaid.

The term “highbrow” was popularized in 1902 by Will Irvin, a reporter for the New York newspaper The Sun, who “adhered to the phrenological notion of more intelligent people having high foreheads.” “Highbrow” spawned “lowbrow” and “middlebrow,” the last of these standing for something blandly conventional, lacking either refined distinction or raw energy. Something like: ‘I know people can change their lives. Look at Yusif Islam, or Sammy Davis Jnr., or Shirley Temple.’ Or. Cary Grant started out life as a a stilt-walker at Coney Island. Jackson Pollock was a lumberjack. And Bertrand Russell used to run a seafood stall outside a pub in Leytonstone. In short, give me the ends of the spectrum but, for G-d’s sake, spare me the soggy centre.

Have a read of ‘The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America’, Lawrence Levine’s unusually wide-ranging study, spanning more than a century and covering such diverse forms of expressive culture as Shakespeare, Central Park, symphonies, jazz, art museums, the Marx Brothers, opera, and vaudeville. You’ll see just how variable and dynamic cultural boundaries have been and how fragile and recent the cultural categories we have learned to accept as natural and eternal are. Oh, and you may want to remember this: Speed is imperative, and rumination is out. The brow that’s really in danger of disappearing is the furrowed one.


source: David Lynch Typographic Portrait by Peter Strain | peterstrain.co.uk



There comes a time when, more than anything else in your entire life, you want to kiss a certain someone for the first time. And that moment scratches a line across your life path, dividing it into the time before you kissed them and the time after you kissed.

One of my favourite historical accounts of kissing comes from the 1864 book Savage Africa. The British explorer William Winwood Reade described falling in love with the beautiful daughter of an African king. After pursuing her for many months, he dared to steal a kiss. Unfortunately things didn’t go so well. The girl, having never encountered this before, screamed before running away in tears. Only later did Reade find out that this princess had interpreted his kiss as an intention to eat her.

There’s a lot riding on a kiss. When it works, it shatters the habitual, making us forget the trivial things that permeate everyday life—intoxicating elixirs that make every act that follows much more meaningful, much more intimate

Who hasn’t been stirred up by a kiss? Writing about it can be scary, in that we must be as vulnerable on the page as we are in person when revealing ourselves to someone.

“Two spirits, greeting, trying to carry it further.”

What a kiss is depends on where you are in relation to it. I think sameness is easy. It’s difference that’s the real challenge. I think we can all be brash and bold one minute, vulnerable and introspective the next. What makes us compelling? Perhaps the belief that free from the tawdry will of an individual, lips can convey real truth. There is a moment of unusual vigour and clarity before that moment of poetry, and writing, for me anyway, can get down to the embers of that emotion.

I was listening to a song today, all shivering strings and chords that crystallize the perfect moment in a relationship—the one before you learn each other’s name, the one before you’ve kissed. It’s nature’s ultimate litmus test, nudging us towards craving, desire and genetics. Kisses come in many varieties and are inherently tied to the most meaningful and significant moments of our lives by providing a means to communicate beyond what words can convey. And that’s why I love them so much. For this writer, it’s nice to completely and utterly get out the way of my head, and down into my lips.


source: Sadamasa Motonaga






We’ve been talking a lot in the office about what it means to be a woman, what sisterhood is, why our vaginas have stories to tell, and how we can speak to the true creative enchantment that resides within us. Enchantment—it keeps on being bandied about with the same prolificacy as intoxication. And why? Well for starters, when we delve, it’s enchanting! That tingly light of the golden hour, falling under your own beautiful spell, making friends with all your senses or foreseeing magic? ENCHANTING!

This time of the year feels magical. The impending darkness, comforting not scary; the twinkling absolutely nostalgic. I feel stirrings of wanting to wear layers and layers of tactile fabric, wanting to lie by a fire for hours (ok, days) on end. Oh and socks! With apologies to the sun, prime sleeping time, otherworldly light and the implication of intimacy and camaraderie is an objective fact that’s deliciously thrilling. I’m not sure anyone puts the case more compellingly than Herman Melville, in an early passage from Moby-Dick that finds the narrator keeping warm overnight at a boarding-house on the Massachusetts coast:

To enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more… the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

As I often lament on this blog, I don’t live in the midst of nature. Because if I did, I would stroke the spines of leaves, bow down to the aristocrats of the woodlands—them old oaks—and maybe even roll around in dense foliage. As Robert Browning wrote: “Autumn wins you best by this, its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.” A period of memories and melancholy calls for candles and chestnuts, stoicism and fragility.

I feel like I’m burning bright in an oasis of calm which is comforting and terrifying all at once. The music I’m hearing is completely spellbinding and very powerful. It really affects me. Hopefully my voice will float just above it.


source: bt-images



“Beware of the man who says he has twenty years’ experience when what he should be saying is he has one years experience tested twenty times.”

Someone once said to me that “fish are the last to recognize water.” I pondered on those words quite bit as I’m a Pisces, self-proclaimed fishy of note, deep-sea swimmer, aspirational scuba-diver, surfer of disrepute, channel triathlon hopeful, down with dogma and all that jazz. That much abused phrase “paradigm shift,” is the litmus test in discussions of organizational change and intellectual progress.

The post-Einstein physics of the cold war, was also the period of the Cuban missile crisis. Since then, biotechnology and the marriage of computer science with genetics and even neurology have become the cutting edge of scientific research. But to challenge the long-standing linear notions of scientific progress and arguments that transformative ideas do not spring from a gradual process of experimentation, but from eureka moments that disrupt conventional wisdom and offer unanticipated breakthroughs, are themselves a revolution.

Paradigms are more interesting than their plagiarism. Why? Because thumbs up are better than thumbs down. It’s like the bias that operates between East and West.

“History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed.”

My rudimentary description of learning is a proximity to tolerating that the average weight of temptation is 25 to 30 lbs. Thomas S. Kuhn. historian of science, turned his business upside down with a radical idea of what makes a scientific revolution – and created one of the foremost cliches of our time. Wildly prolific and prolifically wild?

Break me off some of that, because a strange thing happens when we encounter something we used to love and suddenly find it charmless; the feeling is one of puzzled dissociation. Was it really me who once cherished this (insert whatever you want here)? When imagination circles around the wheel of faith, the mind bends reality to fit the paradigm and I think I’m made rapturous by current proceedings.

As Albert Camus said:

“We are all a product of the choices we make.”

Take my writing for example: it very well could be intended as a parody, but could also be “successful” because it can be enjoyed as heart-rending stuff. Or a sense that animates my sometimes-world of early-hours diners and fanciful passions. Not an uncommon condition. At all.


source: Louis Kahn | Wallpaper







Aren’t we all genetically programmed to like racing? I’m talking about horses, cars, boats, (definitely no hounds or hunting mind) and human roars, you know, the thrill of the chase, the misguided selections from the race to improve chances of finding the winner, the assiduously studied form, versus those other days when you just stick a pin in a haystack and choose a name you like (the pin-sticking generally works better than the close analysis).

We identify with racing because it conjures up words like ‘big’, ‘brave’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘relentless’. The narrative of a great chaser is an edge-of-the-seat one, a true and striking sensation, and its wonder of diversity and the thrill of discovery lasts a lifetime. It can seem a pretty opaque notion to people who have never experienced the joys of turning a bend at an obscene speed baying blur across fields of farms, over hedges, into and out of the valleys of the…mountain?

Pumping adrenaline and good, sweaty fun rarely spark the kill; it just isn’t the point. It’s more that they speak to experiences we’ve all known. As children let’s say, we revelled in games where we hid from other people. And of course, if somebody is hiding, it usually means that somebody else is seeking. In the crucible of the chase, with the psychological strains going both ways, it is sometimes unclear if a fevered pursuit is more than a prelude to a remarkable tale that follows.  In the words of the Deliverance (James Dickey’s masterpiece) narrator Ed Gentry, “I had never lived sheerly on nerves before.”

Maybe we’re all just trying our hands at futile mythmaking, and dealing with the emotional impact of what it takes to survive.


source: Tour de France 1975 | flickr.com



Being a Jew is largely an inherited condition, so much so that it seems perfectly adapted to being an “–ish”. There aren’t many other things you can be born into where you can choose to live the “–ish” version. Jew-ish is a bit like being the Larry, Larry David, plays in Curb Your Enthusiasm – he enjoys the culture, the humor, the hypochondria, the Yiddish-isms, the argumentativeness.

One of my granny’s friends told me recently that, ‘‘you have the soul of my yiddishe bubbe.” Clearly my Orthodox roots are not straying too prodigally far. I think that might be called ‘sustainable schmaltz’ and is hands down, my favorite new expression. It turns out that my ancestors really knew what they were doing. Have you ever read Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth? It’s about a young Jewish man’s onanistic habits, and throbs with desire for guiltless shikses in a world of crumpled Kleenex, slabs of liver and inherited angst. Oooh la la.

Preservation followed by improvisation? The settings of these subtexts in my head range from successor, to sexual, Jewish, Catholic, post-colonial, existential, suppressed, sublimated and so forth: when it comes to “–ish’es”, there’s a variety for everyone. Guilt unzipped I’d call it, and compelling enough to turn off those quiet Jew-ish voices in my head.


source: magnumphotos.com

583b3b6877241d91ba7f7e1720de7205Women can do many things. In the pursuit of beauty, we will even endure baring all in front of a stranger to have the hair ripped out of our most sensitive spots. Women also have an innate desire to please those to whom they are closest. Hopefully, in this case that’s..whoever you want it to be.

“Fool” and “cruel” is of course a perfectly good rhyme, though not a brilliant one like those in women at work Down Under. Amy Schumer did a hilarious sketch on waxing in which she said (and I’m paraphrasing):

Most egregiously, one person objects to the wax on the grounds that they are really an astrophysicist from Thailand (and not a waxer), and the thought that anyone can fail to see the genius of that is enough to make you weep.

These things are, of course, subjective, which gives me the excuse to offer my interest in hairlessness; ah the exquisite agony of a wax. Like controversial yoga, it’s made me realise the extent to which Brazilians have been normalized.  Those of us who choose to curate our own body hair know that the world moves on our hips. By going bald like Samson, are we losing our power?

Throughout history, a shorn head has been heavy with meaning. The bare-headed Christian or Buddhist monks told of their devotion or a renunciation of worldly pleasures. And more commonly, shaven heads have been associated with trauma, brutality and the loss of individuality or…and back to Samson, strength…just not down there.

It’s not a self inflicted madness à la Britney Spears days is it? It’s ‘clean’, it’s ‘validatory’, it’s about ‘control’. Or, is it about dystopian futures? A sign of people who are in some way untouchable, but begging to be touched? Maybe it’s only just hair. And for the most part, it grows back.


source: missplunkett.com









I’m not talking about anosmia, or people who don’t get pleasure from their nose, I’m talking about a man who wore no scent, smelt of nothing and wasn’t influenced one bit by his beak. It was an odd conundrum for me mind, because he also said he just wasn’t interested in it. The thing is, two New York researchers, Daniel Wesson and Donald Wilson, were confronted with this fact when they began investigating an “enigmatic” area of the brain known as the olfactory tubercle.

Originally, they only intended to measure how olfactory tubercle cells in mice responded to smell. But during testing, Wesson noticed that every time he plonked his coffee mug down next to the experiment, the mouse cells jumped in activity. In fact, the olfactory tubercle is physiologically well-placed to receive both smell and sound information from the outside world.

Of course, mice are not people. But if research found that listening to different sounds can alter your perceptions, well then how can we be so one dimensional when understanding our senses. Clichés are the fastest way to express something because I can’t really think of anything else that carries the same emotional charge. Except cliché and Alain de Botton who said that they do nothing more than “inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while they’re merely grazing its surface.’

Talking about surfaces and experimental camouflage, the man with no smell reminds me of this Jenny Holzer quote. ‘When you’ve been somewhere for a while, you acquire the ability to be practically invisible. This lets you operate with a minimum of interference.’

I much prefer to dazzle and razzle with life and all that jazz, because I’m intrigued to know let’s say, why, wherever I may go in the world, mosquitoes always know where to bite me in the same three places. And exactly the three same places.

I’ll leave the last words to that prolific man, John Wayne.

‘Mister – you’d better find another line of work  – this one sure doesn’t fit your pistol.’