The same overflowing fishbowl of agencies traveled from one disaster to another. It felt oddly similar to the Greek system in college—there were the "good" agencies, the "exclusive" agencies, the agencies that kept to themselves, and the ones that threw big parties; the rich agencies with their fancy compounds, air-conditioned bedrooms, regular Internet access, and dozens of white Land Cruisers parked in their lots. Each agency had a reputation and a place somewhere in the industry hierarchy. But the pecking order varied from country to country. Just as SigEp could be cool at WashU but lame at Michigan, so, too, could Save the Children be great in Darfur, but terrible in Aceh. It really just depended on who was there.Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 105.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Sunday, June 26, 2016
The primary languages spoken in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, are French and the local language, Kinyarwanda. Although English was made the third official language in 1996, most people didn't speak it. My French vocabulary consisted of "merci," "merci beaucoup," and "voulez-vous coucher avec moi." The French phrase book I brought was of no help either. I ruffled through it on the flight, but "I'll have the fondue" was meant for someone going on a glamorous Swiss holiday. There was no translation for "The goat stew is full of gristle. I am unable to eat it." The index unhelpfully had no entry for "explosive diarrhea" or "convulsive vomiting."Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 23.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
For all of Auntie Mame's talk about her book, I'd never read a word of Buffalo Gal, subtitled The Personal History of a Modern George Sand, nor had anyone else. But around November a thick bundle of manuscript arrived. . . . No one could deny that Auntie Mame's was a big book. It ran just shy of nine hundred typewritten pages, but no matter how much you loved her you could never say it was good. Although Auntie Mame was a fascinating talker, knew a lot of interesting people, and had excellent taste in her own reading, her prose style was that of a gifted amateur—a bit too florid, a bit too irresponsible, and often unconsciously funny. She had also been too scrupulous a reporter and told much more than was absolutely necessary about some of her dearest friends.
Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (New York: Broadway Books, 2001), p. 100 (orig. pub. 1955)
Friday, June 24, 2016
As with so many other things that are plainly obvious to most people, I had to be told that annoyances were to be expected and tolerated in any relationship, and especially so in a marriage. Though I may not have realized that on my own, once it was explained to me, I understood exactly what it meant. Kristen put it this way: "You hog the blankets, Dave. You take months deciding which computer to buy. The instant we all pile into the car and shut the doors, you fart. That stuff is so annoying, and so not a problem."David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (New York: Scribner, 2012), pp. 218-19.
What was a problem, she explained, was beating myself up over every little thing and creating drama that nobody needed. . . .
"So, let me get this straight," I said. "Even if I'm not flawless and I annoy you sometimes, you can still love me and be happy?"
"Yes! Exactly, Dave! That's what love is. That's what marriage is. That's what we have! Isn't that great news?"
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Then she asked me if I knew why I was perfect for her, and I drew a blank. "Is it because you have to tell me how to function like a normal person?" I asked. What girl doesn't love that?David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (New York: Scribner, 2012), p. 139.
"No. It's because I know you'd do anything for me, you get me, and you make me laugh, which makes me happy."
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
[W]hile our experience of death was unique, the experience of grieving, of living with grief, of living with death, was universal. I was isolated by my grief for many reasons—my age, the circumstances, the mystery—but I had come to see how everyone is isolated by grief; how grief sends you spiraling inside yourself and how only you can find a way out. And the way out, as my parents discovered, was by finding support and community in other people.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 33.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Among the perils of city life that birds and other animals share, the most uniformly serious one is the domestic cat that ventures out-of-doors. . . . [I]n the United States . . . cats kill 6.9 to 20.7 billion small mammals each year. Suddenly the slaughter of more than three hundred million vertebrates—birds, herps, and mammals—on U.S. roads seems tiny. Cats eat at least an order of magnitude more animals than we run over with our cars each year. And it is mostly a different set of animals that cats eat; Fluffy doesn't eat many deer or salamanders, but she really tears up the mice, birds, and small reptiles.John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), p.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.J.K. Rowling, commencement address, "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination," Harvard University, June 2008
Friday, June 17, 2016
I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.
I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.J.K. Rowling, commencement address, "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination," Harvard University, June 2008
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Wings allow birds to avoid massive road mortality that culls the urban herd of mammals and herps. . . . The full magnitude of roadkill is difficult to estimate, but collisions with large animals are certainly on the rise. In a 2008 report to Congress, the Western Transportation Institute noted that in 2004, one in twenty reported vehicle collisions in the United States—some three hundred thousand—involved wildlife, most likely deer. These collisions annually kill two hundred Americans and injure twenty-six thousand, at an estimated cost of more than $8 billion. The cost to wildlife is also extreme. In the United States, between half a million and one million deer are killed each year, and twenty-one species of vertebrates are federally endangered in part because of road mortality; only three are birds. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than three hundred million vertebrates die annually in vehicle collisions. Worldwide, the annual death toll is staggering . . . .John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), pp. 170-71.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Jackson could remember when he was a kid and retired men were the old guys who tottered between the allotment and the corner of the pub. They had seemed like really old guys but maybe they weren't much older than he was now. Jackson was forty-five but felt much, much older. He was at that dangerous age when men suddenly notice that they're going to die eventually, inevitably, and there isn't a damn thing they can do about it, but that doesn't stop them from trying, whether it's shagging anything that moves or listening to early Bruce Springsteen and buying a top-of-the-range motorbike (a BMW K 1200 LT usually, thus considerably upping their chances of meeting death even earlier than anticipated). Then there were the guys who found themselves in the rut of routine alcoholic tedium—the lost and lonesome highway of your average beta male (his father's way). And then there was Jackson's own chosen path that led to the everyday Zen of a French house with its white stucco walls, geraniums in pots on the windowsills, a blue door, the paint peeling because who gives a damn about house maintenance in rural France?Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 75.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Despite signs that the middle-class youth had benefited in critical ways from the social class position of their parents, these young adults appeared largely unaware of the advantages that had been bestowed upon them. Instead, they stressed how hard they had worked, implying that they thought they had earned on their own the position of privilege they held. Also, they were very focused on their own neighborhood or school. They seemed unaware that there were youth living less than an hour away who had very different lives. Although the degree to which the middle-class youths' life paths had been structured by their class position was not clear to them, in contrast, the working-class and poor youth and their families were keenly aware of neighborhoods where life was different.
. . .Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13
Although they were vaguely aware of their resource-rich family backgrounds, the middle-class young adults in theis study did not attribute any of their success to the pure luck of having been born into an advantaged class. Instead, they focused on their own hard work and individual achievement. They could not see the social class privileges that were facilitating their success, every step of the way. Not surprisingly, they mistakenly thought that what was hidden did not exist.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Jackson was forty-seven and in good health, but he had seen a lot of people die when they weren't planning to and had no reason to think it wouldn't happen to him. There were some things you could control and some things you couldn't. The paperwork, as they said, you could control.Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 36.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
We were riding the wild carousel of early parenthood: the donkey rides and cotton candy, the face painting and sand art. . . . Life had transformed from dive bars and Dead shows to Chuck E. Cheese's and the Wiggles.
. . . [W]e embraced the joyful chaos. As we pushed our overstuffed strollers around the suburban fair, sticky sippy cups and ragged baby dolls spilling from our arms, we did so with the harried insanity and good-humored amazement that every new parent knows.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 28.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Gloria's parents led drab, listless lives that the wearing of pearl-and-gilt earrings and the reading of detective novels did little to enliven. Gloria presumed her life would be quite different–that glorious things would happen to her (as her name implied), that she would be illuminated within and without and her path would scorch like a comet's. This did not happen!Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 24.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Language does this to our memories—simplified, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces to moment it was meant to capture.Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group): 2013), p. 48.
Friday, June 3, 2016
She seemed very distracted, even mildly deranged, but, living in Cambridge, Jackson had got used to university types, although she said she lived in "Oxford, not Cambridge. It's a completely different place," and Jackson had though, "Yeah, right," but said nothing.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 64.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Swimming timelessly, without fear or fret, relaxed me and got my brain going. Thoughts and images, sometimes whole paragraphs, would start to swim through my mind, and I had to land every so often to pour them onto a yellow pad I kept on a picnic table by the side of the lake. I had such a sense of urgency sometimes that I did not have time to dry myself but rushed wet and dripping to the pad.Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Instead of being dusk, six o'clock had the look of mid-afternoon in these fabulously long days of early northern summer when it stayed light until eleven. Staying out as the day pushed toward midnight was like playing hooky from the regular rules of clocks.
Carol Anshaw, Carry the One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p. 102. (This scene is in Amsterdam.)
Carol Anshaw, Carry the One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p. 102. (This scene is in Amsterdam.)