Anselm Kiefer's Book with Wings (1992-94) Lead, tin, and steel

A few of my favorite terms and their definitions from Douglas Coupland’s “A Dictionary of the Near Future,” New York Times, September 12, 2010:

DENARRATION The process whereby one’s life stops feeling like a story.

DESELFING Willingly diluting one’s sense of self and ego by plastering the Internet with as much information as possible. (See also Omniscience Fatigue; Undeselfing)

FRANKENTIME What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and the Internet.

INSTANT REINCARNATION The fact that most adults, no matter how great their life is, wish for radical change in their life. The urge to reincarnate while still alive is near universal.

INTERNAL VOICE BLINDNESS The near universal inability of people to articulate the tone and personality of the voice that forms their interior monologue.

INTERRUPTION-DRIVEN MEMORY We remember only red traffic lights, never the green ones. The green ones keep us in the flow, the red ones interrupt and annoy us.

INTRAFFINITAL MELANCHOLY VS. EXTRAFFINITAL MELANCHOLY Which is lonelier: to be single and lonely, or to be lonely within a dead relationship?

ME GOGGLES The inability to accurately perceive oneself as others do.

OMNISCIENCE FATIGUE The burnout that comes with being able to know the answer to almost anything online.

ROSENWALD’S THEOREM The belief that all the wrong people have self-esteem.

SITUATIONAL DISINHIBITION Social contrivances within which one is allowed to become disinhibited, that is, moments of culturally approved disinhibition: when speaking with fortunetellers, to dogs and other pets, to strangers and bartenders in bars, or with Ouija boards.

STANDARD DEVIATION Feeling unique is no indication of uniqueness, and yet it is the feeling of uniqueness that convinces us we have souls.

STAR SHOCK The disproportionate way that meeting celebrities feels slightly like being told a piece of life-changing news.

UNDESELFING The attempt, usually frantic and futile, to reverse the deselfing process.

ZOOSOMNIAL BLURRING The notion that animals probably don’t see much difference between dreaming and being awake.

Read the complete list…


Creating a Portrait on the Cheap

From Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words by John Marciano:

Étienne de Silhouette sil·hou·ette n. A shape distinctly outlined by background.

While living in London, Étienne de Silhouette stumbled onto the black-magic secrets of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and fiscal responsibility. He returned to Paris spreading the dark gospel, no more popular on the Champs-Élysées in the mid-1700s than now. Silhouette, however, had the ear of the royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour, through whose devices he was elevated to be Contrôleur général des finances.

To pay down the crushing debt being incurred from the ongoing Seven Years’ War, Silhouette suggested what amounted to an import of the British Window Tax, although he wanted to tax doors too, and just about everything else he could think of. Silhouette also proposed slashing the pay of bureaucrats—again, never a way into the Gallic heart—and even ordered the king to melt down the royal plate.

The most amazing thing about Silhouette’s departure after nine months in the office was that he lasted so long. Parisian ridicule of the finance minister didn’t stop with his fall from grace, and anything made on the cheap was said to be done à la silhouette, including the then-popular method of producing a portrait without having to draw, in which the “artist” traced the subject’s shadow onto a piece of black paper, cut it out, and stuck it in a frame.


Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day:

equanimity • \ee-kwuh-NIM-uh-tee\ •  Audio Pronunciationnoun

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    *1 : evenness of mind especially under stress

     2 : right disposition : balance

Example Sentence

Carol's famous equanimity didn't desert her, even in the midst of the crisis.

See a map of "equanimity" in the Visual Thesaurus.

Did you know?

If you think "equanimity" looks like it has something to do with "equal," you've guessed correctly. Both "equanimity" and "equal" are derived from "aequus," a Latin adjective meaning "level" or "equal." "Equanimity" comes from the combination of "aequus" and "animus" ("soul" or "mind") in the Latin phrase "aequo animo," which means "with even mind."

English speakers began using "equanimity" early in the 17th century with the now obsolete sense "fairness or justness of judgment," which was in keeping with the meaning of the Latin phrase.

Equanimity quickly came to suggest keeping a cool head under any sort of pressure, not merely when presented with a problem, and eventually it developed an extended sense for general balance and harmony.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

[Thanks Krista!]


A ALEATORY means pertaining to luck, and derives from the Latin word alea, the rolling of dice. Aleatoric, indeterminate, or chance art is that which exploits the principle of randomness.

  • Leonardo da Vinci recommended looking at blotches on walls as a means of initiating artistic ideas.
  • Jean Arp made collages by dropping small pieces of paper onto a larger piece, then adhering them where they landed.
  • André Masson and Joan Miró allowed their pens to wander over sheets of paper in the belief that they would discover in those doodles the ghosts of their repressed imaginations.
  • Tristan Tzara created poetry by selecting sentences from newspapers entirely by chance.
  • In music, the major exponent of aleatory was John Cage, who sometimes composed by using dice, and also with a randomizing computer program." — ArtLex 

APOPHASIS refers, in general, to mentioning by not mentioning.

  • "Mr. Ayers. I don't care about an old washed-up terrorist. But as Senator Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship [with 1960s radical Bill Ayers]. . . Senator Obama chooses to associate with a guy who in 2001 said that he wished he had have bombed more, and he had a long association with him.” – Senator John McCain, Presidential Debate, October 16, 2008
  • "[Hilary Clinton] made an unfortunate remark about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson. I haven't remarked on it. And she offended some folks who thought she diminished the role about King and the civil rights movement. The notion that this is our doing is ludicrous." – Senator Barack Obama, January 13, 2008

APOPHENIA is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the unmotivated seeing of connections accompanied by a specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness.

  • Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the finding of images or sounds in random stimuli. For example, hearing a ringing phone whilst taking a shower. The noise produced by the running water gives a random background from which the patterned sound of a ringing phone might be produced.
  • “In statistics, apophenia is called a Type I error, seeing patterns where none, in fact, exist. It is highly probable that the apparent significance of many unusual experiences and phenomena are due to apophenia, e.g., ghosts and hauntings, EVP, numerology, the Bible code, anomalous cognition, ganzfeld hits, most forms of divination, the prophecies of Nostradamus, remote viewing, and a host of other paranormal and supernatural experiences and phenomena." – Robert Todd Carroll