There is no first world luxury I enjoy less than flying, but I was unusually productive on my flights to and from California.

Select quotes from essays I liked from The Best American Essays 2009.

Portrait of a Masked Man
by John Berger

Contrary to what is actually assumed, a true writer’s voice is seldom (perhaps never) her or his own; it’s a voice born of the writer’s intimacy and identification with others, who know their own ways blindfolded and who wordlessly guide the writer. It comes not from the writer’s temperament but from trust.

I’ve changed from drawing him with ink to drawing with charcoal, because it’s more tentative, more frayed, more worn. Ink, from the start, knows what it wants to say; charcoal listens.

Broken promises, broken premises, broken propositions, broken laws.

‘It’s better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.’

Faustian Economics
by Wendell Berry

The entire contraption of “Unbridled Energy” is supported only by a rote optimism: “The United States has 250 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves — enough to last 100 years even at double the current rate of consumption.” We humans have inhabited the earth for many thousands of years, and now we can look forward to surviving for another hundred by doubling our consumption of coal? This is national security?

The idea of a limitless economy implies and require a doctrine of general human limitlessness: all are entitled to pursue without limit whatever they conceive as desirable — a license that classifies the most exalted Christian capitalist with the lowliest pornographer.

Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine.

If the idea of appropriate limitation seems unacceptable to us, that may be because, like Marlowe’s Faustus and Milton’s Satan, we confuse limits with confinement.

The Greatest Nature Essay Ever
by Brian Doyle

Read the entire thing.

The Mansion: A Subprime Parable
by Michael Lewis

Inside, it was even more awesome than outside. It was as if the architect had set out to show just how much space he could persuade a rich man to waste.

A trek up the Himalayan staircases quickly became the subject of an elaborate cost-benefit analysis. How badly do I really want to find my six-year-old daughter? How much does my one-year-old son’s diaper really need to be changed?

When we moved in, she’d been trying to sell it for the $10 million or so she had put into it. Characteristically, the house was refusing to give her the money back. It resented people trying to sell it, just as it was beginning to resent people who can’t afford it.

Faint Music
by James Marcus

What kind of concern? To me it suggested epilepsy, brain fever, neural damage. It confirmed my long-standing suspicion of my own body, which I always saw as ripe for malfunction, unreliable, with hidden glitches and snarls in its system. Think of all those moving parts, those liquids and gels, all the miles of tubing and nervous circuitry. Think of the heart, which is hollow, or the paper-thin membrane of the eardrums. Everything inside us is fragile, treacherous, accident-prone. It’s a wonder we don’t all die sooner.

– – – – – –

I also watched a movie!

And listened to 53 random songs on shuffle! Gotta say, when you have an iPod with limited capacity, five years into owning it, there will not exist a single song you won’t like listening to because space issues have forced you to remove all songs you dislike. And that’s nice.

  • pincoil

    It’s nice to see California and travel around the state from a non-native’s perspective. I think I saw things anew through your instagrams.  Let’s hang if you’re ever in my neck of the woods for a kpop event.

    • Amy


    • Amy