News 02.27.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.27.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.27.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.27.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In my 20s, like many others who find that their mind is poisoning their life, I discovered meditation. Though for a long time I found it impossible, I liked all the encouragements to stop paying attention to my thoughts, because I feared and loathed many of my thoughts. I was less impressed by the suggestion that – to quote the teacher at a retreat I attended – my breath was ‘the most powerful force in the Universe’ or that ‘all wisdom starts with proper breathing’. Breathing? I thought. That is how I will escape this flirtation with what feels like madness? By breathing? Sat stiffly, failing to follow the most powerful force in the Universe as it moved through my nostrils, I inwardly scoffed, warming myself with my own incredulity.

Five years later, like the once-foolish novice in many a spiritual parable, my annoyance has given way to a degree of understanding. I’m no yogi, and my practice is scattered, improvised and private. But I consider my breathing constantly. In doing this, I flirt with the madness less brazenly, and less often.

Cut out of the chest and held up to the light, the human heart is shiny as a ripe, purple grape. The lungs are shaped like a pair of heavy wings. It all looks very damp, very vivid, and very strong. From the day that we are abandoned by the umbilical, until the day when the last fires will wave to us, this fleshy equipment stands between us and nonexistence. And yet: unless (until) it malfunctions, we tend to barely consider it.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

Have Dark Forces Been Messing With the Cosmos?

There was, you might say, a disturbance in the Force.

Long, long ago, when the universe was only about 100,000 years old — a buzzing, expanding mass of particles and radiation — a strange new energy field switched on. That energy suffused space with a kind of cosmic antigravity, delivering a not-so-gentle boost to the expansion of the universe.

Then, after another 100,000 years or so, the new field simply winked off, leaving no trace other than a speeded-up universe.

So goes the strange-sounding story being promulgated by a handful of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In a bold and speculative leap into the past, the team has posited the existence of this field to explain an astronomical puzzle: the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be.

The cosmos is expanding only about 9 percent more quickly than theory prescribes. But this slight-sounding discrepancy has intrigued astronomers, who think it might be revealing something new about the universe.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times


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Age Of Anxiety

Authors have many images to describe distorted mental states, but that of a glass enclosure, which warps vision and sound, is among the most common. In his searing essay on the loss of his daughter, Aleksandar Hemon uses the metaphor of an aquarium to describe the detached sensations caused by profound grief. Sylvia Plath’s titular bell jar is her symbol for the airless perceptions of suicidal depression. The intercession of glass between human sight and the world is present even in the New Testament, when, in 1 Corinthians, we are told that earthly life is seen “through a glass, darkly.” In a heavenly future, no glazier’s hand will intercede before the face of God.

Anxiety, too, can have this distorting, glassy quality. When I had my first panic attack, in Russia in the summer of 2010, the entire world shrank to the size of my frantically pulsing aorta. I could feel nothing beyond the hammering in my wrists and neck, the freezing sweat that burst out on my forehead, the swishing thrum in my ears. I called emergency services from my host family’s couch in Kazan. Russian EMTs pronounced that an impromptu EKG had shown me to be in perfect condition, and gave me a decoction of “herbs” to drink. At dawn I nodded into uneasy sleep. For the next week, smoke from forest fires igniting all around Russia descended on the city, and my heart intermittently skittered in my chest like a rat. Each time it did I thought I was going to die, although death, unaccountably, never came.

Read the rest of this article at: New Republic

Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis: 2019 Is Full Of The Motes He Isn’t Playing

“It’s all about the notes I’m not playing,” is a laughable jazz cliché when falling from most musician’s lips; but when Mark Hollis became the only person ever to enthuse about the spaces between his sounds to me in an interview ahead of his minimalist self-titled solo album in 1998, he was one of very few artists worthy of a free pass. And ‘artist’ is very much the apposite word – as chief adventurer at the heart of Talk Talk, Hollis – who died yesterday (February 25) aged 64, provided a brave and uncompromising lesson in elevating pop music to the realms of true art, placing him alongside the likes of David Bowie, Brian Wilson, Scott Walker, Kate Bush and The Velvet Underground in the high-culture arena and, by turn, inspiring Low, Mogwai, Radiohead and their new wave of 21st Century post-pop.

Born in Tottenham in 1955 and moving to Muswell Hill at the age of 18, Hollis had intended to become a child psychologist on leaving university, but instead finding work as a laboratory technician. His evenings were spent constructing songs, however, encouraged by watching his DJ brother Ed manage punk-era bands such as Eddie And The Hot Rods. His first public foray into music was with a band called The Reaction, whose 1977 demo tape for Island records included the Hollis composition ‘Talk Talk Talk Talk’ and who disbanded after releasing just one single, 1978’s ‘I Can’t Resist’.

The first of Hollis’s lengthy wilderness periods ended three years later, when he formed Talk Talk in 1981 with Paul Webb, Lee Harris and Simon Brenner, acquaintances of his brother. Inspired by Roxy Music and likened to new romantic acts such as Duran Duran (whom the band supported) Talk Talk landed early synthpop hits with their self-titled second single in 1982 and the infectious title track from their second album ‘It’s My Life’ in 1984.

Read the rest of this article at: NME

Concrete: The Most Destructive Material On Earth

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, the global building industry will have poured more than 19,000 bathtubs of concrete. By the time you are halfway through this article, the volume would fill the Albert Hall and spill out into Hyde Park. In a day it would be almost the size of China’s Three Gorges Dam. In a single year, there is enough to patio over every hill, dale, nook and cranny in England.

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with up to 2.8bn tonnes, surpassed only by China and the US.

The material is the foundation of modern development, putting roofs over the heads of billions, fortifying our defences against natural disaster and providing a structure for healthcare, education, transport, energy and industry.

Concrete is how we try to tame nature. Our slabs protect us from the elements. They keep the rain from our heads, the cold from our bones and the mud from our feet. But they also entomb vast tracts of fertile soil, constipate rivers, choke habitats and – acting as a rock-hard second skin – desensitise us from what is happening outside our urban fortresses.

Our blue and green world is becoming greyer by the second. By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet. Our built environment is, in these terms, outgrowing the natural one. Unlike the natural world, however, it does not actually grow. Instead, its chief quality is to harden and then degrade, extremely slowly.

All the plastic produced over the past 60 years amounts to 8bn tonnes. The cement industry pumps out more than that every two years. But though the problem is bigger than plastic, it is generally seen as less severe. Concrete is not derived from fossil fuels. It is not being found in the stomachs of whales and seagulls. Doctors aren’t discovering traces of it in our blood. Nor do we see it tangled in oak trees or contributing to subterranean fatbergs. We know where we are with concrete. Or to be more precise, we know where it is going: nowhere. Which is exactly why we have come to rely on it.

This solidity, of course, is what humankind yearns for. Concrete is beloved for its weight and endurance. That is why it serves as the foundation of modern life, holding time, nature, the elements and entropy at bay. When combined with steel, it is the material that ensures our dams don’t burst, our tower blocks don’t fall, our roads don’t buckle and our electricity grid remains connected.

Solidity is a particularly attractive quality at a time of disorientating change. But – like any good thing in excess – it can create more problems than it solves.

At times an unyielding ally, at times a false friend, concrete can resist nature for decades and then suddenly amplify its impact. Take the floods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Houston after Harvey, which were more severe because urban and suburban streets could not soak up the rain like a floodplain, and storm drains proved woefully inadequate for the new extremes of a disrupted climate.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.