Thursday, August 22, 2013

Morning Surf

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Scott’s Morning Surf post makes me want to be in Montauk. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lashes

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I’ve worn false lashes a handful of times, and while I love them for night-time, I find they can look a little dramatic for daytime events.  I have smallish eyes too and sometimes, looking back on pictures, I think I look like a cat.  But how about these corner lashes?  The placement gives an eye-widening effect and I love the subtler result.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Do it for her

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For those of you who are not Simpsons fans (really?), Homer first worked at the Nuclear Plant to earn enough money to repay his debt. Once he had done that, he quit his job to work at the bowling alley: his dream job.  Then Marge got pregnant with Maggie and he realised his new gig couldn’t support them.  Depressed, he had to beg Mr. Burns for his old job back.  Mr.Burns granted him the position and put up a plaque that read “Don’t Forget: You’re Here Forever.”  In this episode, when Lisa asks Homer where all Maggie’s baby pictures went, Homer explains that he keeps them where he needs them the most.

This is The Simpsons, so why is my face wet?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I got a job!

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I’m enjoying my last few days of freedom.  Pretty soon, I’m sure I’ll be feeling like this.  But for now… yay!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

George Saunders on Being Kind

I don’t often post entire speeches on little t, but then it’s not often someone’s words touch me like George Saunders’ did in his convocation speech to the class of 2013 at Syracuse University. 

This is so beautiful.  Please read it.

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Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be Ellen. Ellen was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighbourhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it?  Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her.  I never said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still.  It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question:  What’s our problem?  Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian.  These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well,everything.

One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age.  It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really.  We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality.  We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be.  We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).  Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving.  I think this is true.  The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.   If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment.  You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.  That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today.  One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes.  Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition.  You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K.  If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.

via Sho & Tell

Monday, August 12, 2013

What You’re Having for Breakfast

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Can you trust me when I tell you that you’re going to love this?  I’ve never lied to you before.  To make this healthy breakfast platter for two, chop up a pineapple, empty a carton of blueberries in the middle, squeeze the fresh lime wedges over and top with Rachel Allen’s Coconut Greek Yogurt.  You didn’t need those instructions – it’s all there in the picture.  The combination is mouth-wateringly good.  You’ll see.  (Fiona made this for me… thanks Fi!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Young and Old

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I have a ton of photos in a ‘dump’ folder on my laptop.  Before the days of pinterest, it was where I saved any images I found online and loved… but didn’t really know what I was going to do with yet.  Sorting through that folder recently, I noticed these two separate photographs, saved side by side.  Although not related to each other, they seemed to depict, so perfectly, how love ages.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Languages

Do you speak more than one language?

Whenever I spend time abroad, I’m always struck by how encouraging the locals are of any effort to speak their language.  While eating out in Sicily earlier this year, for example,  I successfully asked for ‘burro’ (butter) in Italian.  There was actual applause from the waiting staff.  “You speak Italiano”, our server announced, as if I had just translated Ulysses. 

Still, I can’t help but feel crippled by my inability to speak any language but awkward, clumsy old English.

Here are three easy (and free) ways to start learning another language today:

BBC Languages offer free lessons and  courses online. 

Learn10 automatically generates ten new words every day, selected from the 1000 most common English words.

Live Mocha allows you to join an online learning community.  You earn points by helping others to learn English, which you then use to ‘buy’ lessons in another language.

To master the non-verbal communication, one of my Italian friends sent me this handy guide to Italian hand gestures from the New York Times.  He claims it’s completely accurate!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pink Flamingo

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The last thing I needed was another reason to visit Paris, but here it is anyway:  Pink Flamingo Pizza.  There are several locations dotted around the city and their exotic menu looks so good.

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You can eat in one of the trendy restaurants OR just stop in, place your order, take the cheerful pink balloon they hand you and wait by your picnic blanket for them to come find you.  That’s not even a choice, is it?  You’ll be waiting for their trademark pink delivery bicycle (!) somewhere along the Canal St-Martin, won’t you?  I’ll be right there with you.

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In case you missed it, see my full guide to Paris here and a photo diary from my last visit here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It is what it is

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It is what it is

via Modern Hepburn

Monday, August 5, 2013

Best of… July 2013

Throughout last month, there was no point in asking me what day of the week it was.  July was one long Saturday.

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While the sun shone in Ireland (shocker), I pretty much lived in this Zara skort, which I bought in two colours (black and a bright orange red).  No regrets. via Sincerely Jules

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This chic scooter is something I did not live in (on?), but wouldn’t that have been nice?  One day!  Scooters make normal(ish) outfits look really cool.  Here’s a tip:  if you want to sell me something, put it on a scooter.  via Facehunter

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via The Sartorialist and Coohuco

Prints, prints, prints… everywhere.  We talked about how to mix them last month, but even I’m not so concerned now.  Rules seem more bendy as the Summer sets in.

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via Hey Pretty Thing and Coohuco

Faded leopard print will always be my ‘go to’.  I’ve wanted these leopard print Vans for the longest time.

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Jules, flaunting those jeans shorts in my face (I’m still looking!).

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Pretty bags, via Where Did You Get That? and Village

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Monochrome works for Summer too, via Trop Rouge and Where Did You Get That?

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via The Sartorialist

And a handsome man.  Oh, I’m so predictable!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Downside to Your Sleeping Style

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via Mashable

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thing #5: Buy a good camera

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Photos taken at The Ewe Sculpture Gardens, Glengarriff, Co. Cork

My new toy is a Panasonic Lumix FZ62.

I’m not about to pretend I know camera talk and do a fancy tech review.  Instead, I’ll just tell you what I like about it.  No jargon.

The FZ62 is a bridge camera, which is sort of a cross-between a compact digital camera and a ‘professional’ SLR.  It does lots of the things a bigger SLR camera can do, with both manual and automatic settings.  The ‘intelligent auto’ setting is there for inexperienced and lazy photographers like me – it works incredibly well and is one of the camera’s main selling points.  The other selling point is it’s wide-angle 24x super-zoom lens.  I promised no jargon.  Sorry.  It’s super-zoomy.  Video recording is more intuitive than most cameras I’ve seen with a simple start/stop button at the top of the camera, enabling immediate recording without having to switch to ‘movie mode’.   The continuous shooting setting operates on the same principle, with a separate button for  ‘burst’ shooting beside the shutter button. There is a ‘scene mode’ on the camera with predetermined settings for 18 different shooting scenes including portrait, scenery, panoramic, food (this one has been particularly useful)(!), sunset, night etc.  I’ve had a lot of fun using the creative control setting, which allows you to apply different filters (similar to those on instagram) before you take the photo.  You can also edit photos on the camera afterwards.  

I bought this camera direct from Amazon and I am so pleased with it. I ordered this bag too.  It fits the camera perfectly, with a little space left for lens cleaner, memory cards or other small accessories.

€5 has been donated to UNICEF Ireland for the completion of this ‘thing’.  Click here if you too would like to donate online.