Helpless Child

Often a man can play the helpless child in front of a woman, but he can almost never bring it off when he feels most like an helpless child.

F. Scott Fitzgerald — Tender is the Night

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Hell is the incapacity to be other than the creature one finds oneself ordinarily behaving as.

Aldous Huxley — Eyeless in Gaza

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The whole and the part

Whoever reaches into a rosebush may seize a handful of flowers; but no matter how many one holds, it’s only a small portion of the whole. Nevertheless, a handful is enough to experience the nature of the flowers. Only if we refuse to reach into the bush, because we can’t possibly seize all the flowers at once, or if we spread out our handful of roses as if it were the whole of the bush itself—only then does it bloom apart from us, unknown to us, and we are left alone.

Lou Andreas-Salomé — Lebensrückblick

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To All You Newly Minted Gin Pedants


Up until not long ago, ordering a Gin & Tonic was a simple affair, as it consisted of saying: “I’ll have a Gin & Tonic, please”.

Much to my dismay, and since the other option would have been to stop drinking them altogether, this is how I have to order it these days:

“I’ll have a Gin & Tonic, please. Wait!

I’ll have it in a highball glass, with just ice, gin, tonic and a lime wedge. I do not want the coupe glass, or giant bucket, or whatever the crap you call that ice-filled thing. You can skip the straw (two, sometimes!), as well, seen that I’m not twelve and you’re not serving me a Tang.

Please avoid adding juniper berries, pepper corns, basil, cucumber, thyme, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lavender, or any other ingredient, even if it has been lovingly harvested under the full moon, on the altitudinal zones of the Swiss Alps, by a herd of enchanted unicorns.

You can skip the stupid pouring of the tonic over the twisted stir spoon, “to avoid bubbles”. You’re not “avoiding bubbles”, you’re just feeding your smugness. Remember that I’m the one paying for this drink, so go be a pompous fool on someone else’s money.

Actually, don’t pour the tonic at all, bring the opened bottle. You may have read the many opinions on gin-to-tonic ratios, and your bar even has a Gin & Tonic “menu” to indicate how confident you feel in your skills in treating the people you serve as ignorant nitwits, but since it is my drink, I’ll determine the ratio, thank you.

As to the gin itself, and keeping in mind that this is a cocktail with more tonic and ice than actual gin, any decent London dry gin will do. Stop with the endless discussions of the peculiarities of gin A, B and C, and how their bouquets, aroma and distillation process differ from each other in, oh, so subtle and magical ways. The truth of the matter is that in a mixture raped by too much ice, fancy tonics and herbal mixtures concocted by a self-important apothecary, the particulars of any gin are lost to the taste buds of most of your clientele, not to mention your own; you could probably replace the gin with vodka and they wouldn’t even notice. Those of us who truly care about gin differences drink proper dry martinis, anyway.”

I usually avoid ranting about how I’m not looking for the “truly premium experience” of enjoying “boutique gins that offer affordable luxury”.

One wouldn’t want to come across as rude, after all.


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Superior Persons

In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an ‘intellectual’ and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Literary Supplement and the Nancy Poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of ‘Marxism for Infants’–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.

George Orwell — The Road to Wigan Pier

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The Uses of Literacy

Most mass-entertainments are in the end what D.H. Lawrence described as ‘anti-life’. They are full of a corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions. To recall instances: they tend towards a view of the world in which progress is conceived as a seeking of material possessions, equality as a moral leveling, and freedom as the ground for endless irresponsible pleasure. These productions belong to a vicarious, spectators’ world; they offer nothing which can really grip the brain or heart. They assist a gradual drying-up of the more positive, the fuller, the more cooperative kinds of enjoyment, in which one gains by giving much. They have intolerable pretensions; and pander to the wish to have things both ways, to do as we want and accept no consequences.

Richard Hoggart — The Uses of Literacy (1957)

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