Truth is stranger

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic article from the TLS about a little-known Russian author who (more than likely) forged an account of the ‘lost years’ of Jesus’ life.  While this sounds utterly sacrilegious–and in a way, is–it is also an attempt at an exoneration of the Jews’ part in Jesus’ crucifixion–by a converted Jew.

The man who wrote this account, Russian-born Nicolas Notovich, had been living in Paris for many years and had encountered great discrimination and seen great evil done, both by and to the Jews.  The author of the article, Marcel Theroux, writes with great clarity and turns a side-note of history into a very compelling read. Thus, I spent about 20 minutes this morning utterly engaged in another world and viewpoint on humanity.




Better than Vogue

From a blog I follow called THE FRENCH YAM.  Here’s their YouTube page. Unfortunately, the link to their blog page is banned by our inane service provider (one of the corporate giants whose name contains two letters, one repeated twice), and so by copy-and-pasting here I do not mean to pass of its content as my own, simply to provide a glimpse into French Yam Territory.



Many of us enjoy seeing the latest trends off the runway – oversized coats, statement accessories, etc. We all secretly dream of having a closet full of designer labels and couture gowns.

Hélas ? The realities of being human get in the way.

To stay fashionable without the headache, one needs to cultivate a sense of personal style.

What is personal style ?

Personal style is your best uniform designed to always make you look chic regardless of the trends. In a way it is like your personal brand except that you are not particularly interested in any buyers.

To develop personal style you need to follow these steps:

#1 Define your best face

Stand in the mirror and identify your 3 best features from the neck up. Is it your hair, eyes, lips, skin, neck, etc ?

Yes, you can have more than 3 but the point is not to overwhelm people with your beauty but to cultivate style – now focus.

Once you’ve identified these 3 features, you will want to highlight them. This means that everyday, these are the 3 features that will stand out when people see you. These will be your calling card.

Of course, the secret trick to all of this is balance. When highlighting your triple threat areas, decide which one will play lead and which two will play supporting roles.

This harmony is called your best face.

For example, my best 3 features are: hair, eyes and lips.

To define my best face every morning, i start first with grooming my statement hair. Once my hair is complete, i move to my 2 supporting features: eyes and lips.

And on days where my hair is cast to a supporting role, I can choose between the other two characters depending on the look (re: mood) of the day.


Melanie Laurent serves her best face: Hair, Eyes & Lips

#2 Accept your body and dress accordingly

Stop dieting right now and accept that this is who you are… Seriously, stop !

Yes, we can all agree that our stomach, hips or thighs could be one way or the other. But for that we would probably need to stop actually enjoying life, which ultimately defeats the purpose of the entire exercise.

So instead of watching the scale, let us work with what mother nature has provided: 5 Gorgeous Body Types for us all to play with. Each one of these shapes celebrates the human form in its own unique way. Identify your shape from the one below and start dressing accordingly.

Dress For Body Type

Classic Body Types (l-r): Hourglass, Apple, Rectangle, Pear and the V.

Keep in mind that each shape will need to adhere to its own rules in order to bring out its unique aesthetic. This is the true beauty of being human. No one shape is better than the other.

#3  Assemble the package

Now that you have identified your best face and how to dress for your body. It is time to package it all together into your unique personal style.

Remember, this is not about anyone else but you.

Once you understand what works for face & body, ONLY shop for items that continue to enhance your uniqueness.

If the latest trend does not flatter you, ignore it like it doesn’t even exist. When friends rave about fashions that you can’t wear, frown as if you are bored by the conversation.

Inversely, when the trends turn in your favour. By all means, spin around like an over excited puppy looking forward to a walk. And of course, when your friends make a face, smile quietly on the inside and keep it moving !

Et voilà, you have now cultivated your unique personal style.

French model Jeanne Damas demonstrates why staying true to your personal style is ultimately more interesting than following any fashion trend.

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Many of us enjoy seeing the latest trends off the runway – oversized coats, statement accessories, etc. We all secretly dream of having a closet full of designer labels and couture gowns. Hélas ? The realities of being human get in the way. To stay fashionable without the headache, one needs to cultivate a sense […]

via How To Stay Fashionable Without Becoming a Victim ? — THE FRENCH YAM

Born on Christmas, 1642

“Isaac Newton said he had seen farther by standing on the shoulders of giants, but he did not believe it. He was born into a world of darkness, obscurity, and magic; led a strangely pure and obsessive life, lacking parents, lovers, and friends; quarreled bitterly with great men who crossed his path; veered at least once to the brink of madness; cloaked his work in secrecy; and yet discovered more of the essential core of human knowledge than anyone before or after. He was chief architect of the modern world. He answered the ancient philosophical riddles of light and motion, and he effectively discovered gravity.  He showed how to predict the courses of heavenly bodies and so established our place in the cosmos.  He made knowledge a thing of substance: quantitative and exact.  He established principles, and they are called his laws.”

These are the opening lines of James Gleick’s Isaac Newton and they are words I wish I had written, for they convey, at least to me, a real sense of the human Isaac, the man and also genius who stood not merely above the world, he also struggled within it.

But here is another version of Isaac, from the Twitter feed of Neil deGrasse Tyson Christmas 2014:

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642

It has, of course, been re-Tweeted over the past years. In fact, in this Facebook note deGrasse Tyson himself remarks on the magnitude of this phenomenon.  And yet, if Tyson’s intention was to truly honor Sir Isaac, who was indeed born on Christmas (according to Julian the calendar kept by England at the time) and whose anuus mirabilis or years of wonder, did occur prior to his 30th birthday, then why does it ring so differently in tone to Glieck’s opening lines?  I grant that this is a Tweet, an easily and often intentionally misconstrued bit of writing, not something more full or complete such as not a tome, manifesto or credo.  Gleick’s contains more words and is not constructed in Tweet-ese, but to compress it would look something like this:

Inventor of calculus, Newtonian laws, born into darkness and obscurity on Christmas 1642: Happy Birthday Sir Isaac!

Or something similar. Tyson’s, on the other hand, initially conjures or implies–certainly by design?–the birth of Christ, only to effectively mock that birth in the final line.

But Tyson makes no secret of his disbelief in God and because of this disbelief, has no one else to recommend on Christmas but Isaac Newton.  Scientific giant that he was, Newton is not, nor ever will be, able to offer salvation, forgiveness of sins, or eternal life.  Newton did, however, and to a great extent still does, grant us scope for the imagination, confidence in experimentation and discovery, and not least the persistent struggle or effort that a life of worthwhile work cannot hope to disregard.

Newton himself never divorced his discoveries or ideas from his understanding of and reverence for God, and even though he dabbled in the darker arts of alchemy and failed to fully comprehend or accept the Trinity (ironic he attended Trinity College Cambridge), at no point did Newton disavow God and hand over Creation to something impersonal, entirely scientific, or cold.  Despite all of Tyson’s love for Newton (and he has some good love), the comparison Tyson draws in his Tweet cannot be made beyond those he mentions, for it remains true that Newton is dead, buried at Westminster Abbey (interesting link here), a feature he may share with scores of poets and statesmen, but not with Christ.

Into the snowy bank: The first day of Christmas

To invoke the Twelve Days of Christmas is to begin the season on the thirteenth of December, which was yesterday.  Yesterday we woke up in Manitowoc to snow–the first of the season and light, powdery, blanketing snow it was, too.  And so began the climb, the season of shoveling into the snowy bank.

In Alaska we shoveled a bit of show but as we lived in a remote village with no paved roads it was really only porches and steps that received such consideration.  Everything else just got packed down with boot-wear or by the snowmachine track.  And in Seattle, where I grew up, snow meant a duality of emotions and responses: glee, at least initially, at the novelty of this white stuff; then panic forever after as the realization of what snow in a supremely hilly and densely-packed city means to daily life.  Which is why everything shuts down and the rest of the country points to us and laughs.  If only they knew.

But in Wisconsin, as I was telling my sister the other day via text message, snow falls on gently rolling hills or level roads and is ploughed or swept within hours, if not sooner.  They are prepared for snowfall here, just the way Seattle is prepared for the millions of coffee-drinkers who enter the city every morning. Call it priorities, but in each case it’s a system that works.

le divin Enfant for the seventh day

This has got to be my favorite Christmas carol, or chanson Noël, as it is in French.

The lyrics are beautiful, particularly the French, and even if you don’t understand the French, they’re lovely.  It is a lively song with a joyful-serious subject at its heart: the birth of Christ.  Strange to me just how much is pushed into this four-stanza carol.  Awe-inspiring, really.

Also delightful is this version of the carol sung by (one of my faves) Annie Lennox.  Here’s the link.  The intro is rather contemporary but, no matter what one does to this song, it remains traditional.  That’s the French for you.  That’s the Christ-child for you.

The lyrics to this song are provided here, courtesy of Wikipedia.  Thanks, open source.  Stay net-neutral, everyone, and Merry Christmas!

Days 4 & 5, meandering falls the day

Ugh. So lazy today.  And yesterday.  So in tribute, here is a previously-penned bit of advice.  It isn’t even mine.  I swiped it from a manual on how to write your PhD thesis. Psht.  I’m not going to justify any of this, just going to paste it here along with a link to one of my favorite websites, The Newton Papers. 

Write on.

Advice from Dr. Jeffrey S. Brooks, University of Missouri

Every time you sit down to work, every time—whether you are reading an article or working on your methodology section—you should have something you can hold in your hand to show for that time.

If you haven’t produced something—a paragraph, three pages, a set of notes that correspond to the article you just read, a rough draft, some free writing, and so on— then you wasted your time.

(If you find you spend your time in an unproductive manner, change your routine, get new friends, write longhand instead of typing—you are in a rut! Do something to get out of it.)

You must make time to read throughout the dissertation-writing phase and approach that reading with a critical eye. This must be critical reading both of new literature and your own work. Pay attention to content and the way other authors construct their arguments, support their claims, and make their recommendations. You will learn something and be able to put it to good use!

Write! Use an outline, write a topic sentence and support it with evidence, write something in several ways, use synonyms and antonyms, vary your sentence structure, set deadlines to complete parts of the work and hit them.

In part, a scholar’s life is a writer’s life, and there’s no better way to improve as a writer than by writing.


Day the third, thoughts of Woolsthorpe, Isaac Newton

“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”
– Sir Isaac Newton

So much of Newton I do not understand: his Principia, much of the Opticks, his thoughts on the Trinity.  But many things of him I do understand and know instinctively, such as the slant and intensity of his penmanship and the sublimity of his mind.  He continues to bewitch and enthrall me and I cannot be quit of him.  Humphrey Davy must have understood this when he wrote the passage below. It is from ‘The Sons of Genius’:

To scan the laws of Nature, to explore
The tranquil reign of mild Philosophy;
Or on Newtonian wings sublime to soar
Through the bright regions of the starry sky.

Newton attended Trinity College, Cambridge.  Coincidentally (or not so very?), so did my other intellectual crush, Ralph Vaughan Williams.  More on him in a future post.

“The 1600s had no ‘scientists’, only Natural Philosophers.  Newton studied nature and the physical universe.  When he investigated a subject like creation it was in the light of the Christian beliefs of the day.” – From an informational poster at Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton’s birthplace

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night
God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was Light.”
– Alexander Pope

Outside Woolsthorpe: Observations from 9 September, 2016:
Outside the manor house where Newton tamed his light the courtyard and the stable block are quiet; the visitors, those from near and far, are dissipating; the Flower of Kent is quit, stands indifferent to its view and its viewers: the company it keeps, however, looks on with pleasure.