While Bird


Annie Dillard on presence over productivity

(Source: )


The essential thing in theater is that what happens onstage very obviously both is and isn’t at the same time. The play demands that the audience extend its empathic imagination. But simultaneously, the audience—both the individual audience member and the collective animal—is skeptical. It says, But that man isn’t dead. He’s still breathing. And, That isn’t an angel crashing through the ceiling. It’s got these big wires hooking it up. It’s just a woman in a dress and cardboard wings. That disbelief is engaged in a dialectic with the surrender of skepticism. The theater requires an essential gullibility that you can’t get through life without having. If all you can feel is skepticism—well, you meet people like this. Run away from them. They’re not good people.

Tony Kushner in the Paris Review.

I love the idea that drama is a form of literature, and I love the fact that plays are published and can be read. But this can create a problem or a conflict. For example, it might be perfectly appropriate for a character in a play to say something like, “Edwin, I’ve always believed that there are tuna-salad men, and there are hamburger men, and I’ve always been a bit of a tuna-salad man myself, so I think I’ll sit this one out.” But it might actually be more effective and better for the actor onstage to say, “No! I won’t do that.” Given the right actor, those words might ring out, they might fly across the stage and devastate everyone. The sound of those words, the rhythm of them, might perfectly and beautifully convey the character’s hopes, needs, and beliefs. To the spectator sitting in the audience, “No! I won’t do that!” might be the most exciting moment in the whole play, even though for the reader sitting at home it might seem like a very flat and uninteresting line.

Wallace Shawn, in the Paris Review.

Why do we dream? (If Google breaks, we will be OK.)

As at 1 December, 2012.


  • To find out you probably have to scour your list of followers, or search for people you suspect might have done so. Alternatively, you could wait until you come across the answer incidentally. On Twitter, I think people follow and un-follow quite freely, so it might not be such a big deal.
  • Did you hit enter prematurely? ‘Who’s’ is a contraction of ‘who is’; ‘Whose’ indicates possession.
  • I’m not sure, but perhaps the fictional alter-ego of a prominent pop-star? 
  • You’re best to make that decision independently. If you take a look, you’ll probably find that one candidate appeals to you more than another. 
  • I’m not sure. Perhaps a TV character (like ‘Smoking Man’) or an informant in a political scandal (like ‘Deep Throat’)? 
  • I’m not sure. Perhaps an avant-garde musician, or a ‘union crony’? 
  • This always gets me: I look it up and then forget. To some extent, for better or worse, I think ‘whom’ is becoming seen as old-fashioned, and ‘who’ can go anywhere, but for correct use of ‘whom’…use if it is a kind of secondary referent: ‘by whom,’ ‘to whom,’ ‘from whom,’ ‘with whom.’ This is probably ill-advised, but I rely a lot on my intuition for these things, in part because at school my generation was taught little beyond the very basics of grammar. 
  • It’s a TV game show. 
  • I don’t know this song, I’m afraid. 
  • The recent US Presidential debates? I think the consensus was that Barack Obama lost the first one, and then didn’t necessarily lose the second or third. Of more consequence with these debates is if the incumbent loses, rather than if the challenger wins. To turn the occasions to his advantage, Mitt Romney needed to emphatically defeat Obama in all three debates.


  • Umm. I think it’s pretty easy to look up. Maybe search your computer’s Help menu, or look in a headline section of your computer, like ‘My Computer’ or ‘About This Mac.’ 
  • A Korean pop-song that has become a popular phenomenon across the world. Maybe it is the first time the Western world has really paid attention to the massive popular-cultural scene (force? Potential? Market?) of a major Asian nation. Also, it is significant because the West is embracing a cultural product made in Korea, instead of the usual one-way traffic where Lady Gaga or Kylie Minogue are also ‘big in Asia.’ 
  • Yolo… I’m not sure. Is it a portmanteau word derived from two parent words ‘yo-something’ and ‘lo-something’? 
  • A fundamental component of many foods prominent in modern diets, the most common being wheat in bread. Some bodies have an allergic response to gluten resulting in malabsorption, and other bodies, I think, gain weight when gluten dominates the diet. The concern with foods high in gluten, I think, is that they in fact offer little real nutritional content - that they are essentially ‘empty’ items you can chew, and which will sate your hunger, but will give you little in the way of protein or essential vitamins. I think gluten dominates in modern diets because mass-production of grains like wheat is very cheap, though this was never necessarily the food best suited for humans to eat. I could be confusing a number of different things here. 
  • It’s origin or literal original meaning? Or are you interested in a more esoteric interpretation, like numerology? I was having a conversation recently about the way in which your name, and, in particular, your regard for your own name, shapes, to some extent, how you act and are received in the world. 
  • It is a concept. It could be a feeling, which could be attributable to brain chemistry and pheromones. It could be a belief. Conceptually, there are different types of love: the unmitigated exclusive romantic love for another; or the love of a colour; a gift; an idea; or for a very broad category, like a love of nature.
  • I think this is either a popular fashion blog, or a sub-set of types of fashion blogs. It could also be the trade-marked name of a fashion TV show compèred by two posh middle-aged British women with names like ‘Trixie’ who give their advice in a peremptory fashion. 
  • Sydney Morning Herald? But I suspect there must be a more broadly popular meaning. Is it an acronym for particular use in online communication, like ‘lol’? 
  • It’s a social photo-sharing web application, often described as a ‘Twitter for images.’ It’s most effective use requires a smart-phone, I think. Users take photos throughout their days and post them to their profiles. Much like Twitter, all of the photos posted by people whose accounts you follow are compiled together in a single ‘feed’ of one image after another after another. Facebook recently bought the company for, I think, $US 9 billion. 
  • Many things, potentially. In the long-term, I think things like sincerity, self-esteem, good thoughts and a degree of boldness do, while vanity and corrosive, cynical thinking do the opposite.


  • As in an effective schedule? For example, maybe early in the morning is better than late at night? Or are you trying to develop a good ‘work-life balance’? Considering there is only ever the present, you probably should either be working now, or not working now: if you pay attention, you can probably tell yourself whether or not you need to be doing more work to achieve your goals. 
  • These days I don’t really pay attention to Easter until the holiday is immanent. Isn’t it usually the first or second Sunday in April? I can’t recall its customary scheduling on the Christian calendar. 
  • We just had one a few nights ago, so probably in about three-and-a-half weeks time? 
  • It varies from place to place. Most commonly, though, I think it is on the 1st or the 5th of May, with the public holiday given on the closest Monday. In Australia, some states have the public holiday much later in the year, though I’m not sure why. 
  • I know that it comes around the end of October, shortly before Halloween (which I think is the 31st of October). 
  • The 31st of October, I believe. 
  • I’m not sure (I can’t remember). I think not for a few months. I know that one year is a bench-mark for speech and walking. 
  • The next US Presidential debates won’t be until September-October 2016, but with many Primary debates going on earlier in 2016. 
  • The 1st of May? 
  • Each month, one or two weeks before getting your period, I think.


  • Is Chuck Norris the name of the actor or of a character, or even of a TV show? My friend says he is in Poland, fronting an advertising campaign for a bank. He must be getting quite old nowadays, and perhaps he is unable to execute his martial arts skills as impressively as he was once could. 
  • I cannot say. Is she, or he, a cartoon character, or an emerging US pop-star who is a first-generation immigrant? 
  • You should check with the local electoral commission, but schools, local-government offices, community halls and churches are the types of spaces often used. 
  • An immensely popular children’s book, recently adapted into a film, and frequently referred to in popular culture. 
  • Most likely you are somewhere on Earth, at a specific co-ordinate of latitude and longitude, and probably very close to a physical address. If you have a mobile phone, you can be located by GPS or by triangulation of home-wireless signals. If your question is existential, you could talk with friends or with a counsellor of some kind, or you could explore the works of great scientists and thinkers in fields like astronomy, neuroscience, psychology, critical theory and philosophy, and you could find solace in the questions of artists. 
  • In Paris, France, on the Right Bank of the River Seine close to the Île de la Cité, I think. 
  • I think it sits approximately 10cm above and to one side (the left?) of your pubic bone, though I am not certain. 
  • Perhaps this is the name of a popular book? A modern work of literary fiction that possibly incorporates historical fiction, and spans generations and different cultural contexts? 
  • "People killing, people dying. The children hurting, we hear them crying. Would you practice what you preach? Won’t you turn the other cheek? Father, Father, Father, help us. We need some guidance from above. People got me, got me questioning: Where is the Love?" 
  • I don’t think the Olympics are scheduled again until 2016, and then I think they are somewhere in the Americas. Perhaps in South America? Perhaps Rio de Janeiro?


  • I believe it is a reflection of the oceans that cover most of the earth’s surface. I think the oceans are blue because microscopic plant and animal life in the water reflect this colour under sunlight. In central Australia, and at the heart of the Central Asian landmass, I believe the clear sky is still a vivid blue because the vastness of the world’s blue oceans dominate a curved sky. Having said that, it has been my experience that the quality of light and the particular intensity of blue seems to change significantly in different parts of the world. 
  • I cannot say exactly why; I can say in response to what: affectionate attention, etc.. It seems fitting that a notoriously taciturn animal should possess such a distinct and discrete indicator of its pleasure. 
  • If you are getting enough hours of sleep, it could be the quality of your sleep: is it restive? Do you wake often in the night? Diet, exercise, circadian rhythm, cigarettes and alcohol, and use of audio-visual devices close to bed time all have consequences for quality of sleep and fatigue, as do some chronic diseases or medical conditions. 
  • I believe a yawn is triggered when, for whatever reason, the brain finds itself momentarily lacking in oxygen. 
  • I really don’t know why. Perhaps their vastness has something to do with it: such large bodies of water inevitably encompass salt mineral deposits along the way? The larger the body of water, the more diverse its animal, plant and mineral composition? I know that in my experience the Pacific Ocean seems saltier than the Southern Ocean, which seems saltier than the Mediterranean Sea, which seems saltier than the Baltic Sea. 
  • Perhaps because they want everything. Or perhaps because they want to undermine the relationships they find themselves in. For some men, it may be to undermine their ‘happiness’. Many people argue that monogamy is a post-Neolithic Revolution confection that contradicts human nature. 
  • I don’t know this song. 
  • It might have something to do with the geometry of the circle that ensures the cover can never fall into its hole (a square cover could be held vertically and dropped through a square hole on the diagonal plane). Otherwise, this is the name of a popular non-fiction book about human behaviour, or unusual facts, etc.. 
  • So our brains can process the day’s thoughts and experiences: separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. To propel hope, and to remind us of our fears. To reflect ourselves to ourselves without the dishonesty of the rational conscious brain. 
  • Because you felt as though you were in love. Because you felt internal pressure, or pressure from your partner, family, friends or greater culture or religion. For expedient purposes around money or visas or security. Many people argue that monogamy is a post-Neolithic Revolution confection that contradicts human nature. Your question, though, is probably your answer.


  • The name of a popular US sitcom. 
  • There are two ways I know, one more complex than the other. They are called a ‘Windsor,’ I think, and a ‘double-Windsor’: something very British like that. It’s best for somebody who knows how to show you. 
  • Command+Shift+3. 
  • Beat eggs and milk in a bowl, pour into a large shallow plate, soak good thick bread in the mixture, and then fry the soggy bread on both sides on a low heat. Traditionally, it is a sweet meal, served with sugar, cream, jam and the like, but it can also be very nice as a savoury meal. 
  • I don’t know. Again, it is probably best for somebody who knows how to show you. 
  • I think this is a popular children’s fiction series of books that is also a series of cartoons or movies, targeted particularly at boys? 
  • See below, only leave them in the water for longer. More than five minutes in boiling water and the eggs should definitely be hard. 
  • Place a saucepan of water on the boil. You can either submerge the eggs when the water is straight from the tap, or you can wait until it has started boiling and drop the eggs in then (if you do this, the boiling water may force you to drop the eggs too suddenly, cracking their shells). You then keep an eye on the time, and remove the eggs from the boil when you anticipate they have firmed to taste: I think three minutes is the most commonly advised length of time for yolks that are soft but not runny. 
  • I think you simply multiply the top numbers of each fraction and the bottom numbers of each fraction, and so, with ‘a’/’b’ multiplied by ‘x’/’y,’ the answer is ‘ax’/’by’. One-half multiplied by one-quarter equals one-eighth (1/2 x 1/4 = 1/8). 
  • Keep it relatively brief, directing the reader to further information about yourself in a résumé, for example. Speak confidently about your credentials. Research your addressee, and tailor your letter specifically to this person/organisation.
[Obama’s path to re-election] followed a pattern that has been an arc to his political career: faltering when he seemed to be at his strongest — the period before his first debate with Mr. Romney — before he redoubled his efforts to lift himself and his supporters to victory.

Vermibus: “Process”

Joanna Newsom interview with Pitchfork 

Tamy Ben Tor, “Time and Space” 2011.

"My work is about tables as a place to put your laptop on, coffee shops, sitting in them, writing emails, applying for grants and drinking coffee, and, in fact, I think it has a close relation to architecture and space, because in history there has been a movement which is a source of nothingness for me."

Photos of the Kowloon Walled City. 

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