Link Likes: Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings

The internet is place that feels both infinite and finite, open and closed. While the strings of the world wide web could ostensibly stretch out for forever, most people actually experience the internet in a closed off way, heading to a handful of the same sites everyday, unaware of the buzz of millions of voices that surround them. I am a link lover, I click on link after link in a search (sometimes frenzied) of the new and the interesting. And that is how I happened upon Brain Pickings. The brainchild of Maria Popova, a write for The Atlantic and Wired UK, it is a site where you can spend hour discovering.

In Popova’s own words:

Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.

Because creativity, after all, is a combinatorial force. It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to culture, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these ideas and build new ideas — like LEGOs. The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our creations will become.

The internet is a well of information, and Brain Pickings is a useful bucket down the well, a source for rumination and creativity to fester. Go, read, learn.

The Paris Wife


So, I’m a little behind on my reading list but I just finished The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. It was published a couple of years ago, and from what I can glean from Barnes & Noble bookshelves, it was pretty popular. I didn’t know anything about it other than it focused on Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and that it was set in Paris in the 20s – the setting alone was enough for me to buy it.

I wouldn’t say it was a book I couldn’t put down. In fact, I could leave it for days on end, without rushing to its pages, but when I returned to the marriage of Ernest and Hadley, I easily slipped into their world. It was a fascinating read because it is based on real events, and McLain seems to meticulous follow letters and Hemingway’s own writing of the time (A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises capture those years) so that at times I almost felt as if I were reading the truth.

It’s a dangerous thing about novels based on real figures – people mistake fiction for fact and towards the end of the novel when (spoiler alert…except not really if you know anything about the man) Hadley and her darling Hem go their separate ways, I was convinced that that was how it must have happened. I don’t think I realized until it was done how much I had invested in these characters’ marriage, even though I knew from the get go that she was just his ‘first wife, his Paris wife.’ Even though Hadley’s perspective is McLain’s meticulously researched words, it is so absorbing because at its core it is about two people falling in and out of love, while Paris filled with its Zeldas and F. Scotts drunkenly spin around them.

Wondering about: Trends

Now here is a question that is almost as seminal as the chicken and the egg debacle – do I like certain trends because of my own intuitive leaning and environmental context or because I am told to through subliminal marketing? What I mean to say is, did I like something and then it just, coincidentally, happened to become a trend or was it already on its way to being a trend before and that caused me to like it? Wait. That doesn’t sound any clearer.  Am I just a pawn in fashion’s cyclical trend game? (Side note: Of course, there are certain trends that I knowingly buy into, such as animals-on-sweaters, but this is about other trends that often take me by surprise).

Let’s try an example: I like Native American print. As I type this I sit atop a Pendleton woven Native American blanket that was a Christmas gift circa 2010. I own a ring that depicts Kokopelli, a deity of several Southwestern tribes picked up on a trip to Maine in 2009. The jacket worn above was a Christmas 2011 gift, based on the fact that I like these things, but this time from a major high street player, Forever21.

I always have liked Americana and tribal aesthetics, linking it to the fact that my dad is from Colorado. I like what he liked. I grew up overseas and it seem to encapsulate ‘America’ so well- but then it began to show up on catwalks a few years ago, and now you can’t get away from ‘Aztec’ or ‘Navajo’ underwear, tshirts, iphone cases. Now, when I go out in my jacket, so directly a by-product of the trend machine, I feel guilty or self-conscious. Am I wearing this because it is trendy? Does it matter? Not really. I like it. Does it matter why I like it? No. Guess what? I like plaid too. Grunge came and went back, the lumberjack is in and then he’s out, but I will always like plaid. Same with wearing oversized men’s shirts. I still wear the same XL striped LL Bean shirt that I inherited from my dad when I was 15.

Trends are simultaneously fast-moving and lingering. The Southwest thing has been pervading since 2009 but didn’t really explode into fashion’s mainstream consciousness until Isabel Marant’s 2011-12 Autumn/Winter show. I own more Native American prints now because they have become more accessible – because they are on trend. But then that trend will fade, and I’ll still wear my jacket, still wear my ring and still wrap up in my blanket. Because whether or not fashion dictates something to be ‘on trend‘, I’m going to like what I like until I don’t. One day you’re in, the next day you’re out – and I’m just fine with that.

SHOP GHOST by Stevie Dance

Collage by SHOP GHOST

She burns incense and waters her plants. She dreams about road trips across America. She is a dreamer. She is Stevie Dance and she has a new website, Shop Ghost, a commerce e-zine, a labour of love, and the new best place on the internet to spend hours whiling away.

SHOP GHOST is about how subcultures create shopping trends, how we invest in ourselves, how we stalk ideas online, what we buy but never wear, what we want to recommend and why.

There are some people out there who you just want to be. Or at least know how they tick.  Dance, former editor of Russh, current contributing editor to Oyster, stylist extraordinaire and all around cool girl is someone I would like to know, and Shop Ghost feels like a more personal insight into the her mind. Dance identifies herself as a storyteller more than just a stylist, and with the homemade collages and interviews with other creatives, it shows. Go quick, and see what all the fuss is about.

Good Reads: Alexandra Shulman in the Observer

Finally managed to read the Observer – a day late – but hey ho. There was an excellent profile on the editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman.

Descriptive but not overbearingly so, the conversation meandering to the unexpected with great quotes (I’d be far too intimidated to ask anyone about vajazzling), Elizabeth Day really captures her subject.

I’d like to write something like this one day.

Some choice quotes below, read the rest here.

Alexandra Shulman…

On Panic Attacks: “I’m sort of aware of a vulnerability to it. I have Xanax which I take everywhere with me in case it happens – it’s like my lucky charm.”

On Success: “Um, I’m very happy. Yes, I’m sure I’m a success.” Pause. “But it doesn’t feel that way to me.”

On Vajazzling: “I’m just so pleased I’m not a young woman now. I feel very grateful that, at the time I started having sex with men, I didn’t even have a bikini wax and men were lovely. Now I just think: how terrifying to be a 20-year-old and feel that you’ve got to be perfect and hairless and immaculate and that it’s really awful. I just – eurgh – I would never have got undressed.”


Take a Walk

I’m a walker. It’s my last name, but also my mentality. I’d walk everywhere if I could. Bicycle? Too absent-minded. Car? Too absent-minded. Bus? Too crowded. Tube? Too claustrophobic. When weather permits, I take to the pavement. Part of it is because London is such a good town in which to jaunt. A friend who lives in New York City, when trying to convince me I should move there and London sucks, said her main reason was ‘the streets are too windy’. But the serpentine streets that intersect and intertwine through the little villages that make up London are precisely what I love about this city. These are recent shots from various wanderings around the town, all caught on film.

Diyarbakir: The Best Damn Turkish in Town

Green Lanes in North London is to Turkish food what Kingsland Road in Hoxton is to Vietnamese – an endless string of restaurants with very little discernable difference between them. But hunt and you shall find a diamond in the rough. This diamond is Diyarbakir, my favorite Turkish place in London, and not only because it’s 3 feet from my front door.

It’s my favourite because of the warm complimentary bread and cacik (a yogurt dip mixed with mint and cucumber) that are brought to your table swiftly. Often times I have to repeatedly slap my own hand away for fear of overconsumption before even ordering. It’s my favourite because anything that comes off their charcoal grill is particularly scrumptious, especially the adana kebab (minced lamb with spices) and the chicken shish kebab (cubed marinated chicken). And because the salad that comes with it is so fresh and clean, doused in lemon, pomegranate syrup and olive oil.

It’s number one in my book because everything is so simple, yet so flavourful and I don’t feel dirty after eating it, I actually feel healthy. Plus £5 for a take-away dinner that leaves me stuff to the brim? Yes, Diyarbakir, yes.

A Moment with the Cut Out Girls


Libby Chilton and Carla Bromhead are knitters. Sure, they have fancy B.F.A.s from Newcastle University but now they knit day in and day out. But not scarves or sweaters or cute little bobble hats, they knit bags – out of rope and twine, and are also adding canvas to their line-up. They are the Cut Out Girls (a moniker stemming from their uni days), their flat is their studio and knitting is their current raison d’etre.


I caught up with the girls at their latest outing at Backyard Market on Brick Lane to see why they do what they do and where they are going.

DW: You both have fine arts degrees, whereas your ethos for Cut Out Girls is much more craftsy – how did it begin?

LC: From doing really tedious – not meaningless jobs because they’re not – they’re just a good kick up the ass to make you realize you want to do more. It was just a hobby really, wasn’t it?

CB: It’s taken awhile since then to evolve to knitting bags, I think we both started off with this amazing energy and urge just to make. So we were making everything – knitting cup warmers, canvas bags, wooden rings – it was everything and anything.

DW: It started off as a hobby, did you ever think it would turn into a business?

CB: The novelty has worn off. It could have stayed as a hobby just because we flippin’ enjoy it, but because we like it so much we want it to stay viable. But you know when people say ‘let’s do this’ and half the time they don’t do it, it is amazing that we have done it. The novelty is gone, but now we are like ‘how much do we want this, and how can we make it happen.’ It’s already been a year of love.

DW:Right now you are selling at Backyard Market on Brick Lane and have an online webshop – where do you see the future of Cut Out Girls?

LC: The market has been great, market research and everything. But we need to make sure we are addressing the right audience, that we are making bespoke pieces, that people appreciate them as handmade. We want to keep selling there but also expand our online presence. We have a facebook page and a tumblr and are creating a new website.

CB: It is all we are. It’s quite sad. All our energies and references go into it.

LC: Yeah, I’m so happy for it, I really want it to work and for it to become something more than what it is now. I want it to keep growing.  05620014