Friday, September 07, 2012

Oh! Hello, there.

So much has changed since I first started this blog six years ago. Most significant among them is that my relationship to "an investigation of beauty" is so different. Now, when I remember this blog, I wonder who I must have been when I created and loved it so fervently.

In these several years that have passed, the very biggest shift in my life is that I am more deeply involved in the making of art now than I was during the heyday of Hundreds of Ways. This is a really sweet revelation, and upon first reflection I think we might conclude that this Beauty project was a sort of stepping stone to the place where I am now—a place I have wanted to be for so long.

But there's a bit more too.

Now, more comfortably seated at the studio table whirring away a some beloved something or another, I feel a new desire emerging—that of getting to write for a living as well.

Though my priorities look different now, (though I suspect they are just differently expressed in my life these days), this blog is such sweet indication of the fact that I have been writing publicly for some time already.

Amazing. And, frankly, quite a relief.

Thanks to all of you who have quietly been reading these words and considering these thoughts in my absence. I love you. Really. Thank you.

And thanks to Blogger for providing us such enticing blog-traffic infographics to peruse.

It's been a good six years.

More soon.


Monday, March 08, 2010

saw so much GREAT work yesterday

at the armory show 2010 and at lmcc's workspace works-in-progress: open studios i'm buzzing with the possibilities i saw actualized and the ones i am still hopeful for.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

by color

this is the third instance i've encountered of this system.
seems a very 21st century approach.
opposing evidence?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010



forgot i'd made homepage so spare.
gasped in delight as it loaded this morning.
it's pretty neat.

Saturday, February 20, 2010



from enticing new tumblr
of minimalist aesthetic

Friday, February 19, 2010

most beautiful thing of the week: digital aggretators

i spent some time with, got to know, and fell swiftly in love with google reader this week and also, consequently, the infinite internet.

(i was, as you might imagine, already host to serious crush on said 'net, but this is a different feeling--deeper, more reverent and likely more lasting.)

since about tuesday night, much of each evening and parts of my days have been spent scanning links and posts for as much information as i could possibly take in about what is possible as of today and what news of clever and/or significant events is circulating.

the best part comes during the day as the things i learned alone at night inform, augment and are further, more tangibly, transmitted by my interactions.

cultural capital is the most fun to spend.

and, too, it feels like starting to stretch my mind, hug-style, around and throughout the whole world.

it feels extraordinary, really

still, like finally getting around to reading some long-beloved novel and then finding, of course, that your very-personal-feeling praise is, for the most part, a sermon to the long-since converted, i am saddled with the silly, silly struggle of wanting to tell you--here on the internet, servicably deep into the 21st century--how cool it is to really, and finally, be hooked into what's happening here.

q: better late than never, eh?
a: well, yes--but just barely.

as there is not much to be done about that particular dilemma at the moment, i will end here tonight and say simply

i am happy to finally be using the internet right. *

* some months ago, i mentioned to DWK that i do not generally lose track of time searching internet's infinite (?) depths, to which he flatly replied, "you're not using it right."

thanks: kcg, jc, ja, ear, dwk, jt

most beautiful thing of the day: peace on the lower east

it has been going this way for me lately: i am removed and aloof (or am performing as such) servicably alive despite a dull ache; then i am brought in against my will and am uncomfortable; then in it and relieved to be so capable; then reflecting, inspired and happy and potent.

this evening walking to the train with friends, we all noticed two men in an argument at the corner of ludlow and rivington and it seemed we would do the usual head shaking and mental well-wishing and continue along. one of us strayed from our pack though and went up to the men to insert herself into the mix. a familiar and toxic, panic and impotence flooded my heart as i saw my radical, queer, feminist, hopeful, small, back-pack-and-glasses-wearing friend dwarfed by the big, dumb agression she wanted to stop. we joined her though asking that she step back, trying to reason her out of her grass-roots vision. she countered that she'd done this before, and that it works really well and feels AMAZING. but, noticing my distress, said she wouldn't this time. by this time the two men had gotten away from us, but in our travels and stops and starts at interrupting them, the louder of the two had noticed us noticing him. heading home all over again we ran into him and ended up hearing what had gone wrong, comiserating, hearing about his writing career and talking a little bit about the american penal system and in general having a pretty lovely chat considering.

and that's where the beauty was today--in the shift made possible by having to get involved. this kind of beauty is getting more and more familiar to me--i am really enjoying the way things have been going for me lately.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

most beautiful thing of the day

beyond the deep warmth and companionship from dear friends JSD, EL and DW we have two contenders today. in the transcendence department, we have being slowly but surely descended upon by santas and other sundry be-christmased folk on the train this evening and in the realm of the aesthetic we have brooklyn--the myth, and the meaning.

my santacon experience began sometime friday night when i saw a tweet that said "SantaCon" and thought nothing more of it. then around 4pm a noticed a girl getting book giftwrapped whose cute christmas elf outfit was a bit much for just hipness but not a full on costume either. it finally registered when around 630pm I saw 2 then 5 then 7 then 12 santas and associates converging in soho. and by the time i got on the R train up to astoria, queens, it was clear. santacon was all hurbling and burbling all around me and i had nothing to do but giggled and gape.

-Santa Khan, tall and lanky in a long, red regal cape with his name elegantly stitched in and a beautiful mongolian-lookin' crown on his pun-loving head.
-Santa on Stilts...rememeber... R train to Astoria--pretty great.
-Bacon Santa
-Santa whose fake eyebrows were as full and lustrous as his hair and beard (and who also turned out to be my friend EL!...w00t! oh should have seen the santas hoot n holler about that love connection--truly cinematic--flash bulbs, "awww"s from the crowd, heartfelt hugs...the whole deal.
-Regular Santa who decorated the train car in garland and candy canes and gift bows while they rode from prince street to times square.

then there was the very old woman i sat beside through all this who said things like "i guess new york city wasn't loud enough for them" and "i bet they're all from jersey...or maybe pennsylvania" and "if i went to where they lived and made noise like this, i'd get arrested" and finally "well merry christmas, anyway, my dear"

and at the very, very end all the way in queens there was the rambunctious little boy grabbing for candy canes, fairly leaping from subway seat to subway seat and then a bit later the reserved little girl who got up from where she was sitting with her grandma, but didn't go so far she'd get in trouble, and looked pensively and for a long, long time at the decorated train car properly bemused and entranced and wondering.

i'll get into the brooklyn myth another time. tonight, that santa-ed subway ride had it all: the beauty of transformation and chance and semi-earnest, semi-postmodern goofyness swept me up into itself and then faded just as quickly.

transformation is beautiful...however fleeting.

good night, all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

the audacity of supple control

i have never seen ANYONE move like this--stunning.

beautiful anthem

Load the car and write the note.
Grab your bag and grab your coat.
Tell the ones that need to know.
We are headed north.

One foot in and one foot back.
But it don’t pay to live like that.
So I cut the ties and I jumped the track.
For never to return.

Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

When at first I learned to speak.
I used all my words to fight.
With him and her and you and me.
Ahh, but it's just a waste of time.
Yeah it’s such a waste of time.

That woman she’s got eyes that shine.
Like a pair of stolen polished dimes.
She asked to dance I said it’s fine.
I’ll see you in the morning time.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Three words that became hard to say.
I and Love and You.
What you were than I am today.
Look at the things I do.

Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Dumbed down and numbed by time and age.
Your dreams that catch the world the cage.
The highway sets the traveler's stage.
All exits look the same.

Three words that became hard to say.
I and Love and You.
I and Love and You.
I and Love and You.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

finding the party again, two days later

In a basement by the beach, the Friday before Halloween, several young people—ears pummeled, minds stratospheric, hearts open, faces alive—witness a no-shit epic show of talent and power and noise, just below sea level. One of them is dressed as a drawing, and, if you look at her face, you know that she is having the time of her life—that her mind is flashing with thought, her heart is exploding again and again and again and her only concern is that she be able to write about this one day and let people who didn't get to be there know how perfect life felt perfect it is capable of feeling.

And that's what a great party does, you know? At its apex, you question nothing—life's good, you're so fucking lucky and you know it. I'd like to find a way back into that party-brain space because I know Everything in those moments. That's capital-E "everything"—like all there was and ever will be to know. Because often, two days later, rational brain at the wheel, it's hard to get back in there and touch the place where it all once made sense. Hard to say more than “You had to be there,” which I never say because, who needs more exclusion in this world? We should all just become better journalists—relentlessly detailed, sensitive and perceptive with photographic memories and wide open hearts.

I am drunk and high and dancing, dressed as a drawing beside a tall friend in face paint and a cowboy hat. To my right, is a girl dressed as a biker cat—sleek and tough, and electrically blasé. Behind me, a dapper friend and his charming, dancer companion who fits so well into our group it's confusing. The air is packed with sound and joy because before us two young men—one a bear, one a birch—are playing the shit out of an electric guitar and a set of drums. The stage is way too small for them and that is appropriate somehow—a visual clue that what's happening here is more than you usually get. More than should rationally be expected. The pair of faces on these two young musicians is just beautiful—the tension between trust and belief and nerves and grace is more than palpable. It is a feeling that goes right to your heart if your eyes are open wide enough.

The bear's right hand plays at hummingbird speeds with home run power. His face is wet with effort, his eyes--so shut, his mouth roaring, his body believing every moment of this. Behind him, in the forest of Eleanor's construction, the birch drums furiously with an earnestness and devotion that could break your heart if you let it. His face all “I'm not so sure about this” and his hands answering “What are you talking about? Look how easy it is to be amazing!” Together, the bear and the birch—Brendan and Pete—fill their stage with a vision of what it looks like to get to do what you want: it's fucking messy and beautiful and loud and when you strut out into the audience knowing exactly what the hell you did to make life feel so fucking beautiful right now, you can feel that they want to embrace you, but you can feel them hold back because they're not as brave as you...yet.

How many transcendent events are happening in the corners of this city at any given moment--a dizzily impossible question to answer. Still, every now and then you might find yourself in the middle of one, with a friend, or in a crowd or all alone and think “well, at the very least, this is happening to me right now, so let's start the count at one.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

oh, hi

it's been ages and ages since i've written--over a year. somewhere in there i got the idea that this project was all wrong, because i wasn't feeling drawn to beauty--or the search for it--in the same way i used to be.

i think it had something to do with falling in love.

the swooshy, ready-to-get-swept-up-up-up-and-away parts of myself were already so wildly engaged that this project lacked luster. c'est l'amour...

also, my love--he didn't get what i was doing here. or he got it but wished it was something else. i'm not sure.

and, finally, largely because of that relationship, i began to look at the parts of myself i'd been avoiding for so long and the effort of that work--the highs and the lows of it--also overshadowed the place this project had in my heart.

but that's only part of the story.

love, and insecurity and much-needed internal turmoil kept my right brain busy leaving 'ole lefty wondering how to make sense of this divergence. and you know what? i think the little guy did it:

stay tuned for a shift towards transcendence...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living
-Jules Henri Poincare

Found this gem at the end of a wonderful book called The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science by Robert P. Crease

I love, I love, I love this depiction of a scientist's passion: life proved valuable by the beauty of truth and the possibility of its discovery.

image creditUniversite Nancy 2 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Most Beautiful Song

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

beauty beauty everywhere! let's all have a drink.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."

When I read these words of Emerson I think of how there is beauty everywhere for everyone and that all we need to do is be aware of its presence.

Some questions are: How can we be more aware? Is it the same for everyone? What would be some differences? And precisely what do we gain and experience with this awareness?

citation for arctic image
citation for sunset image

Sunday, June 01, 2008


I am falling in love, and it is beautiful. 

I have connected to an exquisite soul in a darling man, and it is so so gloriously beautiful to see that the legends of love are true.

The sour fog of crushing and pining and wishing and doubting has cleared, and the words of love songs like these are so astonishingly real I feel they were written for us to sing to each other.

This clarifying quality is typical of certain beautiful, transcendent experiences. Different from those that overwhelm the mind enveloping us in vast, warm oceans of incomprehensible pleasures, these beauties are the sterling deluge of cold water from above that remind us - with physical irrefutability - of every nerve and every cell and every pulse of our being and leave us wondering how we could ever have walked and breathed and loved and learned without remembering at each instant the stuff we and everything are made of.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Without desire the world is beautiful

At the end of August 2002, This American Life did an episode about the effects of testosterone on the human body. In the first act, a man discusses how a medical condition that made his body stop producing testosterone made him see beauty in every single thing in the world.*

Everything that I identify as being me--my ambition, my interest in things, my sense of humor, the inflection in my voice--the quality of my speech even changed in the time that I was without a lot of the hormone. So, yes, the introduction of testosterone returned everything.

There were things that I find offensive about my own personality that were disconnected then, and it was nice to be without them: envy; the desire to judge itself. I approached people with a humility that I had never displayed before.

I grew up in a culture, like all of us, that divides the soul from the body and [says] that that is your singleness; that is your uniqueness; and nothing can touch that. And then I go through this experience where I have small amounts of a bodily chemical removed and then reintroduced, and it changes everything I know as my self; and it violates the sanctity of that understanding--that understanding that who you are exists independent of any other forces in the universe. And that's humbling. And it's terrifying.

When you have no testosterone, you have no desire, and when you have no desire, you don't have any content in your mind. You don't think about anything. ... I was, when I was awake, literally sitting in bed and staring at the wall with neither interest nor disinterest for three, four hours at a time. If you'd had a camera in the room, you would have thought I was comatose. I would go out, I would buy some groceries early in the morning and that would be it. My day had no content. I had no interest in even watching tv much less reading the newspaper or a book. Um, food: I didn't want my food to taste good or interesting, and when you're blessed with that lack of desire, you can eat a loaf of Wonder Bread with mayonnaise, and that will be your day. I only saw my girlfriend on weekends since she was living in New York, and I was living in Philly, so I could get away with it five days at a time. Needless to say, there was absolutely no desire.

People who are deprived of testosterone don't become Spock-like and incredibly rational. They become nonsensical because they're unable to distinguish between what is and isn't interesting and what's worth noting and what isn't.

It's very quiet at 530, 6 in the morning, and I would see a brick in a wall and I would think, "Brick in a wall," and I would see a pigeon, and I would think, "Pigeon." It's the most literal possible understanding of the world.

... Everything I saw I thought, "That is beautiful," which is odd-sounding, I know, because that sounds like the judgment of a person with passion, but it was the exact opposite. It was said--it was thought--and sometimes even said with complete dispassion--with objectivity. And you see, I was looking at absolutely everything--the most mundane sight in the world: a weed the sidewalk, and thinking, "Oh, that's beautiful." The surgery scars on peoples' knees? The bolts in the hubcaps of cars? all of it. It just seemed to have purpose, and I was like "Ah, that's beautiful."

When I think about that...the issue of God comes into the equation for me. In a way, being without testosterone brought me closer to God but not in the afternoon-talk-show sense of being, I don't know, more humane but actually thinking like God. Of course, I don't mean, thinking as God, but I mean thinking like God in an aping, superficial kind of way. He sees things as they really are. He sees you as you really are. I had this omniscient sense, when I was without testosterone, that I was seeing through the skin of things; that I was seeing things as they really were and that the objective conclusion--not the judgmental one but the objective conclusion--was, they are beautiful.

Everything is beautiful, from the bugs, to the cracks in the sidewalk, to the faces of other people, and it was automatic. Perhaps to see things objectively is to see them, all of them, as beautiful, [laughs] but in the most--you have to understand that the thought was expressed in the most flatline, boring way possible, "Oh yeah, that's beautiful, 's beautiful."

You would think that this would be a terrible thing, a terrible state to be in and for most people it is, but it was weirdly pleasant. There is a certain appeal, an impossible appeal, to that Rip Van Winkle existence of being without testosterone. You just have to remember that it doesn't matter if you have nothing if you want nothing. Very tricky to get inside that mindset, in some ways it's difficult for me to even remember it now, but it had its allure.

...all that wanting.

I love that the absence of desire yielded a zen-like understanding that the world is beautiful for this man. With judgment, things just were, and when they just were, they were beautiful.

That bit about seeing like God must is wonderful too. In God's eyes, as we imagine them, he is perfect and creates everything, so it is perfect too. He doesn't doubt his perfection like we do and so, must see the beauty in everything.

Hmmm, but perfection is problematic here. It's not perfection or imperfection that makes something beautiful in this context. It's the fact of its existence without judgment that does. There is so much in this.

*Because this particular program ran on NPR stations as a rerun this past weekend it is available to be heard for free from This American Life's website this week.

For maximum coherence I've edited out the words of Producer Alex Blumberg who conceived the idea for the episode, discovered this man's story in GQ magazine, and conducted the interview from which this passage originated. For the same reason, I've also removed a few of the subject's words as he responds to Alex's questions, as well as a transition spoken by Ira Glass between the prologue and first act of the episode.

I cannot thank Ira and the producers and funders of this program enough for its existence. It has shaped and supported my view of the world and the work I'd like to do here so thoroughly.

img credit: modified version of testosterone image file on wikipedia commons

Dave Strome

I'm cleaning house today, going through old papers at the moment. I just found a little scrap of paper from the night in November 2007 when I was at Freddy's talking to Dave Strome about beauty.

He said, "My experience of beauty in the world is theological as well as physical," then added, "Bach's music is the language of God." I wrote it all down and had some more wine.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This is for America

I'm watching the Oscars, and when Javier Bardem said "This is for Spain!" in his inevitable acceptance speech, I was struck by the beauty of his patriotism.

Being American in these dispiriting and alienating times fairly requires the dual armor of cynicism and scorn. And while world-weary disassociation promises absolution from the violence, mediocrity and arrogance carried out in your name, it never fully delivers. It's just another permutation of self-hatred that belies your lack of faith and interest in the power and presence of your homeland.

Patriotism, sweet I-am-We patriotism, is so beautiful.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The National

I'm at BAM listening to this wonderful wall of sound indie rock band loving them and most of all lovin

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Click Here

Thursday, January 03, 2008

From The Economist December 19th, 2007

The ugly are one of the few groups against whom it is still legal to discriminate. Unfortunately for them, there are good reasons why beauty and success go hand in hand

IMAGINE you have two candidates for a job. They are both of the same sex—and that sex is the one your own proclivities incline you to find attractive. Their CVs are equally good, and they both give good interview. You cannot help noticing, though, that one is pug-ugly and the other is handsome. Are you swayed by their appearance?
Perhaps not. But lesser, less-moral mortals might be. If appearance did not count, why would people dress up for such interviews—even if the job they are hoping to get is dressed down? And job interviews are turning points in life. If beauty sways interviewers, the beautiful will, by and large, have more successful careers than the ugly—even in careers for which beauty is not a necessary qualification.
If you were swayed by someone's looks, however, would that be wrong? In a society that eschews prejudice, favouring the beautiful seems about as shallow as you can get. But it was not always thus. In the past, people often equated beauty with virtue and ugliness with vice.

Even now, the expression “as ugly as sin” has not quite passed from the language. There is, of course, the equally famous expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, to counter it. But the subtext of that old saw, that beauty is arbitrary, is wrong. Most beholders agree what is beautiful—and modern biology suggests there is a good reason for that agreement. Biology also suggests that beauty may, indeed, be a good rule of thumb for assessing someone of either sex. Not an infallible one, and certainly no substitute for an in-depth investigation. But, nevertheless, an instinctive one, and one that is bound to redound to the advantage of the physically well endowed.

Fearful symmetry
The godfather of scientific study of beauty is Randy Thornhill, of the University of New Mexico. It was Dr Thornhill who, a little over a decade ago, took an observation he originally made about insects and dared to apply it to people.

The insects in question were scorpion flies, and the observation was that those flies whose wings were most symmetrical were the ones that did best in the mating stakes. Dr Thornhill thought this preference for symmetry might turn out to be universal in the animal kingdom (and it does indeed seem to be). In particular, he showed it is true of people. He started with faces, manipulating pictures to make them more and less symmetrical, and having volunteers of the opposite sex rank them for attractiveness. But he has gone on to show that all aspects of bodily symmetry contribute, down to the lengths of corresponding fingers, and that the assessment applies to those of the same sex, as well.

The reason seems to be that perfect symmetry is hard for a developing embryo to maintain. The embryo that can maintain it obviously has good genes (and also a certain amount of luck). It is, therefore, more than just coincidence that the words “health and beauty” trip so easily off the tongue as a single phrase.

Other aspects of beauty, too, are indicators of health. Skin and hair condition, in particular, are sensitive to illness, malnutrition and so on (or, perhaps it would be better to say that people's perceptions are exquisitely tuned to detect perfection and flaws in such things). And more recent work has demonstrated another association. Contrary to the old jokes about dumb blondes, beautiful people seem to be cleverer, too.

One of the most detailed studies on the link between beauty and intelligence was done by Mark Prokosch, Ronald Yeo and Geoffrey Miller, who also work at the University of New Mexico. These three researchers correlated people's bodily symmetry with their performance on intelligence tests. Such tests come in many varieties, of course, and have a controversial background. But most workers in the field agree that there is a quality, normally referred to as “general intelligence”, or “g”, that such tests can measure objectively along with specific abilities in such areas as spatial awareness and language. Dr Miller and his colleagues found that the more a test was designed to measure g, the more the results were correlated with bodily symmetry—particularly in the bottom half of the beauty-ugliness spectrum.

Faces, too, seem to carry information on intelligence. A few years ago, two of the world's face experts, Leslie Zebrowitz, of Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and Gillian Rhodes, of the University of Western Australia, got together to review the literature and conduct some fresh experiments. They found nine past studies (seven of them conducted before the second world war, an indication of how old interest in this subject is), and subjected them to what is known as a meta-analysis.

The studies in question had all used more or less the same methodology, namely photograph people and ask them to do IQ tests, then show the photographs to other people and ask the second lot to rank the intelligence of the first lot. The results suggested that people get such judgments right—by no means all the time, but often enough to be significant. The two researchers and their colleagues then carried out their own experiment, with the added twist of dividing their subjects up by age.

Bright blondes
The results of that were rather surprising. They found that the faces of children and adults of middling years did seem to give away intelligence, while those of teenagers and the elderly did not. That is surprising because face-reading of this sort must surely be important in mate selection, and the teenage years are the time when such selection is likely to be at its most intense—though, conversely, they are also the time when evolution will be working hardest to cover up any deficiencies, and the hormone-driven changes taking place during puberty might provide the material needed to do that.

Nevertheless, the accumulating evidence suggests that physical characteristics do give clues about intelligence, that such clues are picked up by other people, and that these clues are also associated with beauty. And other work also suggests that this really does matter.
One of the leading students of beauty and success is Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas. Dr Hamermesh is an economist rather than a biologist, and thus brings a somewhat different perspective to the field. He has collected evidence from more than one continent that beauty really is associated with success—at least, with financial success. He has also shown that, if all else is equal, it might be a perfectly legitimate business strategy to hire the more beautiful candidate.

Just over a decade ago Dr Hamermesh presided over a series of surveys in the United States and Canada which showed that when all other things are taken into account, ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average. The ugliness “penalty” for men was -9% while the beauty premium was +5%. For women, perhaps surprisingly considering popular prejudices about the sexes, the effect was less: the ugliness penalty was -6% while the beauty premium was +4%.
Since then, he has gone on to measure these effects in other places. In China, ugliness is penalised more in women, but beauty is more rewarded. The figures for men in Shanghai are –25% and +3%; for women they are –31% and +10%. In Britain, ugly men do worse than ugly women (-18% as against -11%) but the beauty premium is the same for both (and only +1%).
The difference also applies within professions. Dr Hamermesh looked at the careers of members of a particular (though discreetly anonymous) American law school. He found that those rated attractive on the basis of their graduation photographs went on to earn higher salaries than their less well-favoured colleagues. Moreover, lawyers in private practice tended to be better looking than those working in government departments.

Even more unfairly, Dr Hamermesh found evidence that beautiful people may bring more revenue to their employers than the less-favoured do. His study of Dutch advertising firms showed that those with the most beautiful executives had the largest size-adjusted revenues—a difference that exceeded the salary differentials of the firms in question. Finally, to add insult to injury, he found that even in his own cerebral and, one might have thought, beauty-blind profession, attractive candidates were more successful in elections for office in the American Economic Association.

That last distinction also applies to elections to public office, as was neatly demonstrated by Niclas Berggren, of the Ratio Institute in Stockholm, and his colleagues. Dr Berggren's team looked at almost 2,000 candidates in Finnish elections. They asked foreigners (mainly Americans and Swedes) to examine the candidates' campaign photographs and rank them for beauty. They then compared those rankings with the actual election results. They were able to eliminate the effects of party preference because Finland has a system of proportional representation that pits candidates of the same party against one another. Lo and behold, the more beautiful candidates, as ranked by people who knew nothing of Finland's internal politics, tended to have been the more successful—though in this case, unlike Dr Hamermesh's economic results, the effect was larger for women than for men.

If looks could kill
What these results suggest is a two-fold process, sadly reminiscent of the biblical quotation to which the title of this article refers. There is a feedback loop between biology and the social environment that gives to those who have, and takes from those who have not.
That happens because beauty is a real marker for other, underlying characteristics such as health, good genes and intelligence. It is what biologists call an unfakeable signal, like the deep roar of a big, rutting stag that smaller adolescents are physically incapable of producing. It therefore makes biological sense for people to prefer beautiful friends and lovers, since the first will make good allies, and the second, good mates.

That brings the beautiful opportunities denied to the ugly, which allows them to learn things and make connections that increase their value still further. If they are judged on that experience as well as their biological fitness, it makes them even more attractive. Even a small initial difference can thus be amplified into something that just ain't—viewed from the bottom—fair.
Given all this, it is hardly surprising that the cosmetics industry has global sales of $280 billion. But can you really fake the unfakeable signal?

Dr Hamermesh's research suggests that you can but, sadly, that it is not cost-effective—at least, not if your purpose is career advancement. Working in Shanghai, where the difference between the ugliness penalty and the beauty bonus was greatest, he looked at how women's spending on their cosmetics and clothes affected their income.

The answer was that it did, but not enough to pay for itself in a strictly financial sense. He estimates that the beauty premium generated by such primping is worth only 15% of the money expended. Of course, beauty pays off in spheres of life other than the workplace. But that, best beloved, would be the subject of a rather different article.

Article author TBD [Economist staff]
Illustration by Brett Ryder

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Do other animals experience beauty?

"...we want to be swept away. It's particular to our species."
-Michael Cunningham on Radio Lab's "Space Capsules" episode

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beauty isn't the Hand of God. It's much more exciting than that.

Just heard someone on a Studio 360 podcast describe jellyfish as thin layers of cells illuminated from within, and thought, "The world is too beautiful to have no Creator."

I'd just finished mining three recent issues of National Geographic for collage-worthy images, and was still reeling from the page-upon-page assault of obscenely and absurdly beautiful images of our world this magazine unfailingly provides.

Found I had to force myself to finish that glory-of-the-Creator's-hand sentence even though it was only a thought. Felt the drama of each word as if, though mental and private--not carved in stone and borne upon my back as I walked the streets, say--once complete, the sentence would doom me to a small and religious existence.

Happily, as I set these words in the the somewhat more forgiving stone of cyberspace and your eyes and your opinions, I've begun to unpack the idea a bit and have hit upon a far more palatable rational consequence of the overwhelming beauty in the world:

If it is not the hand of a benevolent creator that makes my eyes and brain sing out "Jackpot!" like the hymn of some drunken angel when I see antlers, deltas, jellyfish, sunsets, runners' legs and the like, then that can only mean that from the random fact of the Big Bang (That's still all we're working with origin-wise: God or Boom, right?) we lucked the fuck out and were born onto a stage so too our liking.

Ramifications of this line of thinking and other things to consider as I walk blissfully down the avenue of this hypothesis:
  • Perhaps (generous, I know) not every human experiences the beauty of the world as viscerally as I do despite our common Big Bang ancestry.

  • What is the neuroscience behind beauty and perception?

  • If, like every other thing that's happened since the Big Bang, perceivable beauty exists due to the will of nothing and has continued because it works to keep this Earth party going, then there is a purpose for the world being so appealing, an evolutionary purpose for joy and bliss. Awesome!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Posting from my phone?


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh Em Gee! ohemgeeohemgeeohemgeeohemgee

Monu #06: Beautiful Urbanism is a collection of contributions addressing beauty and the urban environment.

Editors Bernd Upmeyer and Thomas Soehl write, "And even though the concept beauty remains elusive we think our issue is successful in shining some spotlights on the issue. One of the themes from the articles is that beauty in urbanism is what one could call an emergent quality. It rarely is in the object itself. It exists in the way we perceive spaces and objects, our vantage point. It is while wandering though the city, resolving contradictions, when we see things that jolt our imaginations that we experience beauty."

Paulina handed the issue to me during a buying meeting at the SoHo offices of Phillip Galgiani, a distributer of European art, photo, and design books. I held it for a minute or two before I realized what I had: special little thing called Monu: magazine on urbanism that's black and white all over with a stern layout aesthetic that very nearly blinded me to its possibly luscious content.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cultivating a beautiful, cat-like, nonchalance

"I remember that I would wake up in morning and hear her saying things like, 'You are so beautiful! You are a princess! Look at you!' and as I'd open my eyes I'd realize that she's talking not to me but to the cat."

"You felt like the third wheel."

"Mmm hmm. You know, I know if there'd been another woman, I would have compared myself to her physically. Sort of what does she look like? What kinds of things is my girlfriend attracted to that that I could aspire to? You know, what personality traits? Is she funny? Ah, you know.... But there was just...I didn't know what it was about Sid. I mean I could see that she was a-attractive as a cat. I could see that...she had this nonchalance that was beautiful. She didn't seem to care, really, that she was loved. So those, those were things that I did think about, really--cultivating even."

"You thought about cultivating a nonchalance."

Laughing, "That I was this concerned about it shows you that it would've been a fake, but, yeah, I thought about cultivating -- that."

Since a pet can engage our affection, it also engages all the other feelings that can go with affection: jealousy, and dependence and anger, and all the others. And as soon as any one feeling kicks in, all of the complicated dynamics that happen between any people, any household, any family, inevitably kick in. As with Heather and Sid the cat.

"I felt sort of the same way I felt um you know how when you have a crush on someone and you're friends with their significant other? and all the awkardness as you pretend that, you know, you sort of don't have the feelings you do for this other person? I sort of felt that Sid was the significant other of the person for whom I had feelings. So I felt awkward around Sid. ... I felt like they were together before I was around, and I was an interloper. Y'know all the awkwardness surrounding that."

"And, so, what's it like to be in a love triangle with with, a-another woman and, and a -- cat?"

"Well it was pretty ah diminishing. I mean, it was a beautiful cat."

Excerpt from This American Life Episode #154.
Image from

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

With The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders gives us an hilarious, harrowing, and charming fable for these times. Within this small package are biomechanical creatures you will adore in a setting that raises your IQ to envision, facing the major personal and civic trials of our times. Saunders winks at us throughout, boiling the terrifying complexities of character and politics and ethics down to a cartoonish essence and when through winking, delivers an ending that may make you weep the sweetest tears.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justin Torres writes beautifully

I met Justin Torres earlier this year in New York working at McNally Robinson Booksellers. He is funny and real and quick and well-read and a dear, dear friend.

Though we have been friends for many months now (during which he'd been published, gotten an agent, gone to Bread Loaf, and received public praise from Dorothy Allison), I hadn't had a chance to read any of his work aside from his staff picks. These book reviews stood out in a I'm-reading-staff-picks-right?-Why-do-I-feel-breathless? kind of way, but I still hadn't experienced his talent left to its own devices.

He moved to Austin, Texas recently but was back in town reading two of his stories at Dixon's Place last week, and I got to hear him then. His simple, lush writing flows so easily and, unencumbered by language, we can be fully present to the stories of pain and intimacy and the complexity of redemption.

It is an exalting pleasure indeed to see skill presented so effortlessly. Witnessing such talent evokes the nonchalant magnificence of nature where eagles and leaves, lions and rivers, whales and orchids exist just as they were designed to and inspire you to do the same.

Most Beautiful Thing of the Day

Last night, looking for a midtown theater, I left a cold, wet, Gothamy street for the warmer, but puzzling interior of 314 West 54th Street. I was off to see Dancer for Money: An Evening of 10-Minute Plays one of which was written by a friend of mine. The address on my ticket lead me to a building bearing two banners: "The Midtown Community Court" and "The American Theater of Actors". What?

I ran into a friend outside and left him to go in and get seats for our group. "It's cool in there," I think he said. "You should check it out." Knowing I was going to a play but reading that I was entering a court, maybe I expected the baroque, wooden interior of an ancient courthouse lending itself easily to a home for the arts. I found nothing of the sort. What I found was much better.

The front door opens onto an oppressively civic hallway of cinder block walls painted white, illuminated by too much cold white fluorescent light with an elevator likely leading to administrative offices you hope you'll never know, bearing subway and neighborhood maps from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. At its end, there is an elevator with an awkward hallway to the right and a small area of many doors and another elevator to the left. The signposts at this crucial intersection? Computer paper framed by Scotch tape intending permanence affixed to various surfaces saying little about theater.

What to do what to do? Having just passed through that blinding cinder block tunnel, the awkward hallway was unappealing, so I headed to the left wondering when this place would start to make sense.

Moments later, the sour aesthetic of modern, public-sector architecture parted, and through a boring doorframe, this exquisite staircase beckoned me to it with silent ballads of public neglect and hymns of private love. My steps and breath slowed. My heart and mind raced. Where did this come from? Who built it? Where are they? Wish I could meet them. Who knows about this? I love this secretive city! Woah, it goes all the way up! Look at that part. And what's down there? Thank you. Thank you Thank you.

I floated in this underwater reverie of confusion, discovery and quiet for many minutes until others came my way, also looking for theater. I called them to me, and once they got there shared this vision with them. Coming up for air, and back in the ordinary world of men, I realized I'd forgotten long ago about finding the theater and made a note to tell you about all this.

Live Action Role Playing

Listening to this week's podcast of On the Media just now, I heard a segment about a LARP documentary called Darkon in which beauty was noted twice. Daniel McArthur, one of the game's participants mentioned, "I've actually got a relationship trying to go on in character with a certain nomad, and I've been following and helping this person more than anybody else, and it's cost me several things -- like my life on several occasions -- but it's beautiful." A few minutes later, Andrew Neel, the documentary's co-director with Luke Meyer said, "I think television, and online role-playing games, and video games, they're kind of the opposite of Darkon because they feed you the fantasy. They remove you from the process of creation and destruction, and that's one of the things that I think makes Darkon so warty and idiosyncratic and in that way beautiful. And so, while Darkon seems so weird, it's actually very human and makes perfect sense to me." It was such a pleasure to come across these words because, while I'm doing this work in part to open more people to the experiences of beauty possible in life, it is unnerving at this point to encounter and consider those that are closed off, and while they both used the word "beauty" to refer to different embodiments of it, these two men had an encouraging ease and familiarity with the concept.

Heart-warmed, and faith in humanity stable, I am left only with the intriguing work of sorting out what each man meant precisely. Neel's comment is easiest to tag as the beauty of imperfection and challenge and agency while McArthur's might be the beauty of giving oneself over to something greater.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Honor your interests, read the news and live beautifully. This is important work.

"What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? Beauty?? Am I kidding?!"

Horrified and violently ashamed, these thoughts raced through my heart, and mind, and gut as I watched The Kite Runner at a preview screening in Maryland Monday night. Khaled Hosseini's novel of loyalty, shame, and hard-won redemption has been made into a powerfully emotional film by director Marc Forster. Immaturity and weakness of character have life-and-death-consequences in this story, and the protagonist confronts internal and external demons at its climax set in the Taliban's fear-and-violence-ridden Afghanistan.

Stunned and weeping, I sat in the theater wondering how I could possibly have chosen to devote my life to beauty when the world is so ugly and violent. "Beauty?" I thought. "Really, Adjua? Beauty? What an irrelevant luxury. Grow up, and do your part. Fix this!" I shouted at the cacophonous volume of thoughts held in the mind.

As I write this, I am riding the train home from Baltimore and am calmer now – assured anew by a few thoughts:

One: Not everyone has to fight on the front lines. The most courageous generals need solace and peace and art and beauty to come home to after the most important battles. The reality of war need not mean the irrelevance of beauty.

Two: There is no sense in dishonoring your strengths straining to fill positions for which you are unfit but which you hold in higher esteem.

Three: With each of us in the role we are best suited to play our team is stronger as a whole.

Four: I have been born in a time and place that do not demand I struggle and fight for every aspect of my existence. This good fortune has allowed me to enjoy a good life including the intellectual awareness and emotional energy to address the problems I encounter and learn of in the world. Guilt at my good fortune is a form of ungratefulness. My day-to-day life is not hard. It is delightful. My responsibility is to enjoy this gift, remain aware of is rarity – its fragility – and fight for a better world for all of us through the work I love and am fortunate to do.

Five: The Indigo Girls sang "Shine my life like a light" and hearing those words at sixteen, I was inspired to live as I wished others did. This deeply challenging directive requires so much to take on but seems the most likely way to change the world.

While I am somewhat soothed by all this, I am not wholly convinced. Afghanistan's recent troubles were made real for me tonight in Forster's film, and I had to reevaluate how I'm choosing to live. Only a fraction of the world's problems will be given such a presentation. As I continue my research on beauty, I must remain aware of battles that need fighting at home and abroad. I don't want to be caught painting pictures of war when it is finally time to get in there and fight.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Darjeeling Limited

Off to see this movie with a bunch of friends from college and work tonight. I read recently that the problem with Wes Anderson's films is that "...they're all good, even when they're not."

Visually, they're so satisfying and emotionally so rich, yet understated, that I always feel I am hypnotized into loving them. Rushmore though, never resonated for me. Maybe because the kid's angst is so familiar in its tragedy - too close to home somehow. Or maybe cause that movie isn't gorgeous in the lush way that The Royal Tennenbaums or The Life Aquatic are.

I'm still wrestling with Life Aquatic. I own it now and watch it sometimes wondering, "Is it because this is good? or just visually (deeply) pleasing? or now familiar?"

I'm going to see Darjeeling Limited for wholly aesthetic reasons. Anderson's cinematographic palette and Adrian Brody's amazing face.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Neuroscience, Bio Class, Day Dreams, Imagination

At times, it is hard to know where to begin.

Should I tell you first that there is, in this exceptional city, a place called The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination? How long should I wait before adding that I recently attended an event there called "Daydreaming, Night-Dreaming, and Stimulus-Independent Thought." And how about that is was a roundtable discussion among five men and women whose work in neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry brought them there? Also, it was free. And open to the public. And simulcast on the web. Christ.

I have a crush on this place. If you are not already with me on this, take a look at their
events calendar and events archive, and see if you don't fall in love.


Sasha told me about this place and attended the roundtable with me. About fifty of us made up the audience. We surrounded the participants, listening for the first hour and asking questions for the second. Many in attendence were psychologists, and psychiatrists or students on their way to becoming such. Others were like Sasha and I -- credential-free and curious -- there to absorb this heavenly city-as-school experience.

As I sat there listening to scientists talk about the mind, and behavior and day-dreaming, I was taken back to the lecture halls of my early college career as a biology student. I'd attend lectures dutifully, and for a while took notes with the best of them. Some aspect of this did not agree with me though, and my notebooks became festooned with more and more elaborate drawings and less and less information about the biological sciences.

At the time, I thought, "I absorb this information better when I am not distracted by the task of note-taking." This may have been true, but to secure the grades I'd need to continue in the sciences, this plan needed a level of support on the bent-over-a-textbook-in-your-dorm-room end of things that I was unwilling to provide. I like listening to scientists, but do not care to do what it takes to be one. No matter. This frees me up to be a fan of the sciences, a role I happily found myself in last Saturday at the Philoctetes Center.

Oy - another surprisingly confessional post.

All I meant to say was that, hearing neuroscientists talk about what they do, and do not, know about the mind is exciting and humbling and beautiful because they don't know much. Just like the universe is right out there, and we know so little about it, the mind is right in here and just as alien.

During the Q&A, John Antrobus mentioned that there are 100,000,000,000 neurons in a human brain and 100,000,000,000,000 synapses amongst them. Here is a video showing how they work together -- a video which says, but does not show, that this neural collaboration is what creates new ideas.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Stalin was gorgeous. Discuss.

There's a new book out called Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The first photo you see here, of Stalin at 24 years old, graces the cover and caused an uproar of blushing and deep ambivalence among my fellow booksellers when we saw it last week. Even now, as fountain-haired young Joseph stares back at me, I search the nobly un-smitten crevices of my mind for words to tell you what I am feeling. Words don't come, but this image does.

The 20th century has morphed into a lush, primeval jungle swamp, and I stare, enchanted, at this face which is now the massive siren bloom of some bewitchingly decorative, flesh-fueled monster plant. My life-and-death encounter is scored by the chirping, whirring creature sounds of fellow swamp-dwellers. Their disinterested emissions become a horror film's tension-inflating string section and within me, the signal "Threat! Threat! Threat!" struggles to overpower my urge to gaze on with abandon. Beneath me, my froggy legs shudder and twitch as I summon the survival-loving restraint of my raw amphibian brain to keep from springing forth into the smug and gaping mouth of this gorgeous carnivore.

Back here, in the 21st century, I crave information about this man for the first time ever. Well-done Montefiore.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Eight hundred years ago, on September 30, 1207 CE, in what is now Afghanistan, the Persian philosopher Rumi was born. Upon his death in 1273, his followers founded the Mevlevi Order within Islam's mystical Sufi tradition. Its members are commonly known as the Whirling Dervishes. Deep reverence and affection for this man and his work can be found in religious and secular contexts all over the world.

Two lines from one of his
many poems inspired the name of this blog. My dear, dear high school friend Elizabeth once sent me a card including the words "Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. -Rumi" - a brief, yet potent introduction.

Here they are again in their original context:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.

Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

All day and night, music,
a quiet, bright
reedsong. If it
fades, we fade.

The lines "Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." are the perfect touchstone for the work I am doing here. They remind me to occupy myself with the pursuit of beauty through my intellect and my actions, and that the efforts and successes that come with this work are celebrations of the glory of existence.

Crime and Ornament

Found this gem of a book at The New York Art Book Fair Friday afternoon. I can't dive in just yet cause I've got to finish Crispin Sartwell's book Six Names of Beauty for my art and beauty book club, but I'm so ready for this one when the time comes. [link to Sartwell's website]

Walking around the city passing the old, stone structures that remain from an older New York I often sigh and lament the obvious temporal and financial constraints that keep us from living with such earthy grandeur.

What rarely finds a way into that lament is any notion that people might not build The Ansonia, The Dakota or The Metropolitan Museum of Art today - even if they could.

The book is an anthology of essays responding to a hundred-year old essay by Adolf Loos about the deep, societal problems ornament exposes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Email conversation October 2005

Do you know the word in Japanese for the feeling you get watching geese take off for flight or how I can look that up?

Well, which feeling do you mean? Like the small but enveloping sadness that comes from an ennobled moment of beauty? And do you want the noun form of it (like "beauty), or the adjective form (like"beautiful")?

Yes exactly. I don't know that I would have said sadness, but well said. I want to know how it's different and differently used if you have that information too.

Okay, so the words you're looking for are probably "wabi" and "sabi". They come as a coherent set, adjectives for the much vaunted Japanese aesthetic. Wabi means, essentially, simplicity. It is more loaded than that, but that's the best, and probably most accurate translation. Sabi is loneliness, and the character used here is actually the root for the basic word for "lonely" in Japanese: sabishii. Sabi can be translated as an elegant loneliness if need be, but loneliness is better. The same character can, according to my dictionary, indicate the death of a priest in the buddhist canon. Also, it is a homophone for rust, which I thought fitting. The real reason these words are difficult to describe is really just usage history.

The words, in the way I've described them to you, together, came to be used for the Japanese aesthetic about three hundred and fifty years ago, at the same time as the devolpment of what we now see as traditional Japanese art forms. That is, the art and the lexical means to describe them were developed together. These concepts are not as ancient as might be expected. Part of that has to do with our perception, as westerners, of the whole kanji system as unchanging and primitive and beautiful. Another part might have to do with the Japanese use of these terms. These words, indicating as they do an idea inevitably wrapped into Japaneseness, are political. This was more true during the end of the nineteenth century, and had more to do with the struggle between the old Japanese empire and its new nationhood, but is still true to a lesser extent now.

The terms are also highly commodified. The aesthetic they describe sells for a lot of money when well executed, and no one is willing to pay more than those Japanese desperate to buy into the myth of their own poignant, existential appreciation. That said, they do indicate an emotion that I think everybody feels, and I wish more people were aware of the simplicity and loneliness around them.

In use, by the way, things are said to have more or less wabi or sabi. For example, grey geese that fly with the moon on their wings (thank you Julie Andrews) have a whole hell of a lot of Sabi. While I was in Japan, I spent some time learning tea ceremony where these ideas are paramount.

Why do you ask anyways? Also, sorry to write all that shit. I had a minute to think about it today. By the way, if your feeling is less loneliness and more ecstatic upwelling, try something from the Sufi tradition. Read some Rumi, maybe.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Worrying about Emerson

At a lecture on Jack Kerouac earlier this month, I remembered how important the Transcendentalists were to me when we learned about them in high school and how this work I'm doing now emerged around that time.

So, I've been looking forward to reading their work again and said as much to a friend's roommate the other night at their Williamsburg apartment. She surprised me by asking why I liked them so much. When I told her because they tapped into the sublime, transcendent, life-affirming moments available to us, she pursed her lips and shook her head and held forth for a while on the limited relevance of their work due to their privilege of time, leisure, solitude and intellect.

Her question was: What good is this work? What good is wonder? What good beauty, awe, transcendence and all the rest if it can only be pondered by the privileged?
My question is: Is it even true these concepts are only pondered by the financially and socially privileged, or is it that they are the only ones whose intellectual work is documented and disseminated?

The biggest question is: Why let class guilt deter us from contemplating the human condition - ever? We ought to accept privilege, use privilege, do the work and be sure to take on the challenge of communicating and applying what we discover as broadly as we can. If the Transcendentalists were conceptually incestuous and insularly self-reflective in their privileged, intellectual pursuits, then it is the work of the rest of us - privileged and not - to get at what they discovered and unlock its worth.

At the Fishtank

A few hours ago, Dustin and I stood before this fishtank in a beloved Brooklyn dive bar at 4 something in the morning regarding the crudely-rudely moldy-grouted in-tank plexiglass divider whose purpose he will have to explain to me again at some point.

Encountering this shameful hack job of aquarium alteration with my aesthetic ally, I confessed somewhat conspiratorily, something like, "Uggchhh! You see this? This is what I originally thought my aesthetic revoultion was going to be: ridding the world of shit like this."

Bless his heart, he scoffed even as I hurriedly began alluding to how my work is happily about so much more than "good design" already, and offered up this gem of insight and recognition, "No. No. No. Somewhere, this is beautiful precisely because it looks like this. Your revolution is about the fact that this is beautiful in a way you're not seeing. Your revolution is about awakening people to all forms of awe and beauty."