The Winged Victory Of Samothrace
On my visit to the Louvre last February; I saw this marvelous statue in person. Something about this broken figure is striking to nearly everyone who sees it. I don’t know what it is, maybe the way the wings and the folds of fabric suggest movement, or perhaps it is the mystery of the missing pieces. If they were present, perhaps this would not be such a moving piece of art.
Whatever the reason; it is truly marvelous to see. Age and history, and the timelessness of beauty made an impression on me. If can, I will go back to the Louvre next week, and see it again. This statue is the primary reason I want to return. I don’t think I saw enough of it last time.
I bought this Midori MD Paper Cotton letter pad from Jetpens a few weeks ago, and have been using it regularly ever since. I am quite impressed by the quality and feel of the paper, it has some tooth, but just enough to notice, not enough to be annoying when using a sharp nib.
It is very resistant to bleed through, and the color balance of the paper (somewhat off-white, but not quite ivory) shows off the brighter inks very well. The paper is thin, not quite Tomoe river thin, but still a thinner paper than you might expect given it’s wonderful performance.
The lines are more widely spaced than I would prefer, but they are grey which I like, and have good margin width, which makes the letter seem more substantial.
Which brings me to the size… This isn’t a standard size, it is about the height of an A5 paper, but has a width which is about the same as a B5 paper, so it is closer to a square than a tall rectangle. The size is pleasant, and I see why it was chosen, but it presents a problem: envelopes have to either be made to size (Which I have done), or the matching envelopes have to be purchased. (Which is very expensive), you can also use a regular long envelope and do a tri-fold, but I much much prefer a single fold, and so I have to use the matching envelopes despite their cost. I think that is an area that Midori can improve, the envelopes cost about $1 each!
The paper can take a light watercolor wash with no complaints, there is some ghosting and a bit of wrinkling, but no bleed-through and no sign of the paper weakening.
Overall; I really enjoy using this paper, and I will keep it on hand as long as Midori continues to produce it.
I think time is the greatest luxury of all. I took this weekend and took off for Ocala National Forest. I loaded up my bike and spent the second half of Friday out riding the back roads, and today (Saturday) I am still out here riding and exploring. In the morning, I woke up as the sun was coming up, I re-started the fire, and then slowly got breakfast ready, and some coffee going. There is a luxury in taking the time to do these small routines with no rush. To sit in my comfortable chair (Thank you Kermit Chair Company!!) and just stare into the fire as I make my coffee feels like the greatest of rewards.
Later in my life, I will sail around the world by sea, and either ride, or peal, or walk around it again on land. That will be my retirement. Slow travel to see every continent. I anticipate many such slow mornings. Watching the sun rise slowly and savoring each moment.
Think about a place that you remember. A place that you would like to go see again. Right now that place is as real as the place you are currently in right now. It is vibrant and people are there, or the wind is rustling in the trees at this moment. The small little section of the world that you inhabit is only a temporary frame, and can be changed easily for another.
I have some places that I found enchanting, and interesting, and I often think about what is going on there right now. Are there other people absorbing the moment and the feel of the place like I did when I was there? Are they then years later thinking about that small place in the wide world?
No matter where you go, there you are, but that also means that where you aren’t, the world still is.
The Sunrise over Cape Canaveral.
So much of this earth is unknown to me; yet I want to see each rocky coast; each shoreline and mountain and river and field and valley, and river and village. I want to look into the eyes of every human and remind them that this life is for living, and not for dying. Life is not meant to be slaved away in an office and spent one salaried hour at a time; dug out reluctantly as coins from a misers purse.
The best hours you have are being spent right now… Right now… Right now.
Today will never return. Tomorrow will soon be gone.
The Moonrise over Tunisia.
Life has marched onward in the 2 year interim between my last post and now. I won’t go into all the changes and struggles, but since I can not remain fixed while the currents of time rush forward; I must change with the times.
Travel, adventure, exploration. These are my goals.
My daughters are now old enough to begin to experience some of these things also; so I can take them with me and we can explore together. One of the things I am most grateful about my own childhood, is that I was able to travel and see things, and meet people. I didn’t live a small life even as a child, I lived in a number of places, and met new and interesting people. There was adventure to be had. I want to take my kids on those same kinds of adventures.
I carry my Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook with me every day, and by the time I am done filling the notebook and move on to the next, I have usually stuffed it full with clippings, curled pages, photos and other detritus of life. The binding is swollen from all that extra bulk, and the book is usually starting to come loose at the binding. I needed a way to keep my notebooks in better shape for the 6 to 8 months that they travel with me, as I fill them up. I have tried various covers and ways to protect the binding and the book itself, but so far nothing has been a perfect fix for my problem.
I have experimented with making my own covers, but this new cover from Gfeller is the best solution that I have found. I will tell you up front that they are not cheap. I debated buying mine for several years because of the price, but I finally decided to spend the $75 and buy one, and I am very happy with the slip cover. I admit, I was somewhat surprised at how thick my Moleskine became when I put the case on, it adds a certain bulk that wasn’t apparent from the photos that I looked at online before buying. The English kip leather that they use for these cases is very durable and though each layer is very thin, by the time you add up the outer casing, and the inner lining, that adds 4 layers of leather to the thickness of the notebook when closed. My Moleskines are usually quite stuffed already, and so they can get very chunky.
The construction of the cover is very detailed, I searched in vain to find where the stitching begins or ends, there are no sharp edges or rough places, it has been carefully made, and very well designed. The inner flaps extend beyond the outer edges so that there is no bump to write over, and the slot cut into the leather so that the elastic strap can still be functional is perfect.
The leather was very pale and almost cream colored when I first received it, but over the past few weeks I have noticed it turning steadily darker to a middle caramel color right now, and according to Gfeller, it will continue to darken with more exposure to UV light, which certainly won’t be a problem in Florida! I also expect the soft leather to conform to the edges of the Moleskine, and take on a distinct character.
I like objects that wear well, and take on a unique patina with use, much like how a good pair of leather boots become comfortable and well worn with use, I expect to have this cover for many many years. Who knows what adventures it will be a companion on? A Moleskine wrapped in leather like this seems like just the thing that Indiana Jones would carry with him on his journeys. Its rugged and functional -which are the attributes that I respect most in the things that I enjoy owning. EJH
The Kaweco Brass Sport Pen, is the first of the sport line of pens that Kaweco makes, that I have been interested in. As a rule I don’t consider plastic or resin a durable enough material for a pen that I would keep bouncing around in my pocket for years and years. Brass on the other hand is a nearly perfect material, it is durable, and takes a patina over time. It is dense and heavy which helps with a pen this small. It is nearly perfect for what I wanted, which was a pen that I could put in my pocket every day and not have to think about. When I need a pen, it will be ready for me.
I have carried a wide variety of pens over the years, but the one area where they all seem to fall short is durability. They are either made of flimsy materials, or they are long and prone to get bent or otherwise messed up due to rough treatment. I am very happy with this pen, it seems to meet all of my requirements well.
I have had this pen for about a month now, and have used it several times a day, it has never failed to start up and though I will often pause with the pen uncapped for several minutes at a stretch, it has yet to dry up on me while I was pondering. I chose the EF nib with some hesitation as I have read that some of the finer Kaweco nibs have misaligned tines, but I have examined this one very closely and it is cut very straight and clean. I am not convinced that it is a true EF, I would consider it more of an F, but I am not worried about it, I am happy with the line weight.
I also bought the small bronze clip that is supposed to clip on the body of the pen, but it doesn’t seem to want to stay; it slides off very easily, so I just leave it at home. The only thing that I see as a potential issue is that this pen has a plastic insert inside the cap, this seems to be meant to quiet the sound of the threads as you screw it on, but I worry that over time those plastic threads may be pulled out by the brass ones on the body of the pen, only time will tell…
Our modern western culture has lost its connection to the past, the rapid development of technology, and the global conflict during the world wars has drawn a bright line between 'before' and 'now'. Since time immemorial, individuals and cultures felt a direct connection -or a line of succession, to history and historical personalities.
The extremely rapid acceleration of knowledge during the 100 years between 1880 and 1980 caused this break. Humanity went from the infancy of technology, that was Steam and the Telegraph, to an insanity that was global computer communication, Television, Space Travel, and Nuclear War. Punctuating that century like great drum beats were the intensely destructive World Wars, which ripped apart the societies of Europe and shook the foundations of western culture to its core. While Europe was reeling from those double shocks, a country that was barely into its adolescence was pushing forward with youthful strength and vigor.
Our culture changed while no one was looking, events were too large to be understood at the time, and even now: some 30 years from the close of that century the dust is still settling, and it isn't yet apparent just how much has really changed. Like a rubber-band that has been stretched too fast and too far, western culture has broken and the link between the ancient world and current has irrevocably snapped.
We lose more than we realize by divorcing our current ideals and motives from the words of the past. Instead of maintaining the anchor to those writers of wisdom that stretch back into dim mists of time, we choose to throw off that link as if it were a chain to useless ideas. Far from useless those ideas and ideals have been a stabilizing connection to a store of built-up concepts and philosophy that shaped the world, built up brick by brick by mortals into a foundation of wisdom and reserve.
Before the century of destruction and change, it was not uncommon for any reasonably educated person to have read Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, Solomon, Plato, Socrates and have an understanding that history was a continuum. That civilization was a line that stretched back into time, and that they were still walking on that same road of thought as had their philosophical ancestors stretching back to the beginnings of what would eventually become western culture.
This isn't unique to western culture, other societies and cultures get their identities from their own founders and traditions, these links have also suffered from the rapid advances and the pressure to be more 'American' or just modern 'Consumer'. I think of a song called 'Amerika' by the German band Rammstein. It depicts people from all over the world and from every culture eating pizza from a delivery box and watching the moon landings on a TV, all while wearing american t-shirts and sneakers. Are we destined to all become mindless consumers and destroyers?
We have lost our connection to a common past and have jumped the divide and abandoned historical ideas as dusty, old, and not relevant to the modern world, while we are driven to distraction by small screens and short text messages. We have forgotten who we are, and why we are here.
It's time to realize that we are just little pups who have run away from mother into the wild woods and are unprepared and so very young.
Minerva or Athena (Depictions of Wisdom) were said to have a small pet Owl, also symbolizing wisdom. Owls can see in the night, they have large unblinking eyes and seem to stare into your soul. They are also quiet and grave looking, which makes them a perfect symbol for wisdom. I propose that we desire to be small owls, not yet ready to fly from the nest, but eager to be wise. Wisdom is its own reward, and can be equally bestowed on kings and servants alike. Be an owl and not a serpent, for both are intelligent, but the owl is wise, yet the serpent is cunning. The aged owl devours the cunning snake.
"The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk." -Hegel
Life is always full of things to do, places to go, and people to avoid. I never seem to have a moment to stop and to think, to pause and to reflect on the passage of time. I am constantly finding myself transported forward in time, as the days and weeks slip from my fingers while I am not looking. Someone wise once said: “Life is yours to waste”.
How much more time will go by before I next realize how much I have missed? When my life is over, and my breath is nearly gone; will I then understand the whole story? Will I look back upon my past -my life that I chose to live one small insignificant decision at a time, and understand that I did something meaningful? Did I raise good kids who became wise adults? Help my fellow man? Live my life well? Did I have a goal and a purpose? As the small grains of sand that are moments slip through my fingers; I wonder if they will add up to anything of value, or merely fall onto the dust pile of the ages?
A year ago, I lost my brother in a car crash, he was younger than I, and I have had the thought many times since: as my memories of him fade, and time crawls by that life and memory and time are temporary; that the powerful play goes on, and that I may contribute a verse.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
― Walt Whitman – Leaves Of Grass
I know that no matter what happens, I too will one day die as well…
I don’t fear death, I am indifferent to life and death, I was not consulted at the beginning of life, and I won’t be at the end, so I don’t feel particularly attached to either state, but I do not want to live so that I have regrets when it comes time to die. In all estimations of average lifespan, I have about half of my life left, so I wish to life like Marcus Aurelius.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
― Marcus Aurelius
I recently read the biography of Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson for the second time, Einstein has fascinated me ever since I went through a course on physics: his ideas captivated me then, and have stayed with me ever since. Einstein was more apt to use descriptions and visual imagery to show his ideas rather than just dumping his formulas bare and cold onto the world. He was a visual thinker and an amazing mind, someone who worked hard to solve problems but confronting them from many different angles, and worrying them to death until they gave up their secrets. He once said:
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
In the first 2/3rds of his life, he revolutionaized our concepts of time, gravity, and the very fabric of space and time. He was a simple patent examiner trying to knock Newton off his throne, and was at first ridiculed and ignored, then finally as fame and recognition came, he was lauded, and made into a reluctant public figure. He was unafraid to dabble in areas outside science where his opinions weren’t always welcomed, but over time many of his predictions and proclamations came true. Especially as WWI and WWII were brewing.
Einstein was a man of peace, he held radical pacifist views early in life, and though he was often accused of naiveté, he persisted in his desire to avoid military conflicts throughout his life. No doubt his views were heavily influenced by his experiences in Germany during the first World War, and the resignation of his professorship in the Prussian Academy as the Nazi Party took power in 1933.
When I first read the biography, I was interested most in the early part of his life, and the ideas that drove him to formulate his Special Theory Of Relativity, and the later the more broad General Theory, and his futile attempts to find a Universal Field Theory to unify the troubling randomness of Quantum Mechanics, and Relativity into one set of equations that could explain the sub-atomic level interactions of matter, all the way up to stars and whole galaxies. In the end Einstein never found his grand unifying theory, but equations found in the notebook beside his death bed show that he was still trying to figure it out right up to the end.
This time reading through the book though, I was most struck by his thoughts and ideas late in life, as the youthful fire of brilliance burned perhaps less hotly and mellowed down into great red burning coals of wisdom and pondering. Many of his more profound ideas don’t have anything specific to do with science at all, but with the condition of humanity. He was a pacifist, and yet his relationship with weaponry was complex: as he was instrumental in seeing that the US was the first to develop Atomic Weapons. This troubled him greatly in the ten years that he lived after the first atomic bomb was used against Japan in 1945. He wrote this explaining his motivations for the letter to Rosevelt, but throughout the rest of his life he was bothered by the idea that mankind now had the power to destroy itself. He said:
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Truly beautiful music is hard to find. I am always searching for new artists and sifting through popular media for the good stuff. One such artist that I have found is the Canadian Francophone singer Cœur De Pirate, (In English this translates to 'Pirate Heart') her music and poetic lyrics are amazing, I have been listening her songs nearly non-stop for about 2 months now. Not all of her music is in french, she also has english language music as well.
Some of my favorite songs are:
- Place de la République
- Comme Des Enfants
- La Petite Mort
- Tu Oublieras Mon Nom
I am in the process of learning to speak and write french, and as each new word or phrase comes into clarity, I will notice the word in one of the french artists music I have been listening to, it is like a little light comes on in my head when I recognize the word. What started out as a way to learn more french by trying to immerse myself in the music and culture, has become a new found love of French language music. I have been listening to Cœur De Pirate, Stanislas, and Jacques Brel for several months now.
The music of Coeur De Pirate is unique in its mix of heartfelt poetic expression and great piano work, this is the kind of music I love no matter what the language of choice is. This is what music should be.
The New Raspberry Pi Zero.
The Raspberry Pi foundation has released the new Pi Zero, which comes in at an absolutely amazing $5 price. They are of course totally sold out so I can’t get my paws on one yet, but even so I know this is going to be amazing. I was excited about the size and cost of the model A+ which was $25. Now the tiny size of this new one opens up new avenues of creativity. The size is what I am all exited about, the price is just a nice bonus.
I was planning to do a keyboard computer conversion using a model A on a Apple IIGS keyboard, but now I think I will wait and get my hands on a model Zero for the conversion. In some ways the Model Zero makes the project even a little less impressive since it is so small. I am glad they didn’t populate the GPIO pins on this one, I had to de-solder the pins on one of my last projects, and I like that I can wire directly to the header with this one.
The Pi foundation has been very successful in promoting their single-board computers as learning tools for kids (or really anyone) getting into computers. They are low-cost and have an easy learning curve, so people who might otherwise be intimidated can start making things and experiment with programming and making electronics.. I am very impressed with what they have done.
This little micro board computer is vastly more powerful than my first computer: The ATARI 1200XL and it is smaller than a credit-card.
Truly amazing, I can’t wait to get one and start playing!
Where do we go from here?
Anticlimax is the word I would use to describe the state of the world at the moment. As humanity as a whole we no longer really have a goal. The world has shrunken and become less interesting as more and more exploration and discovery have lessened the mystery around us, replacing full questions with half-answers.
In the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance: the intellectual pursuits were knowledge and discovery for their own sakes. In the industrial revolution that came after; thinkers were replaced with consumers, and nation-states with alliances of nations that span the globe. What used to be petty wars between small entities became global conflicts that pushed humanity to the edge of destruction, and spawned the construction of weapons that for the first time in history have the power to destroy completely their own creators.
Tell me, where do we go from here?
To the stars? Or do we turn inwards and lose ourselves in the process?
I would be happy to say we will someday have colonies on Mars and perhaps in the high cloud-tops of Venus, but I fear that we are so close to a tipping point, that a mere breath will push us over the brink into destruction. The ‘modern world’ has been saved from the edge of destruction before, can we save it from ourselves again?
Forget Me Not 1918
These pressed flowers were in a book I bought many years ago at a garage sale. I have kept the worm eaten book and these flowers for many years because they are special. I don’t know the story, I don’t know if this was a funeral bouquet for a fallen soldier, or an influenza victim, they may have been grown on the front and sent home to loved-ones, they may have nothing to do with the war: they might be a lovers bouquet, or just some flowers gathered in the springtime….
But I know that they have survived the years and were waiting for me to discover them. What years have passed into the dust of history, great men have risen through the ranks, to command despotic empires that have fallen crumbling into forgetfulness, and these small blooms have waited pressed between the mouldering leaves of a novel on a shelf.
Nations have risen in hope from the turmoil of revolution and then dissolved in chaos back again to rust and neglect, all while these little fragile spots of color waited for someone to notice them. What secrets could they tell us about the frailty of human lives and the short sharp pain of loss, if we would only listen? Someone picked these little springtime flowers and carefully tied them with string, and dated them. They pressed them between the pages of this book, and then time came swirling by and took all the meaning and memory away slowly and with gnawing blunt teeth.
No one knows now why they were picked and preserved, no one knows their story. What whispered lovers secrets were told in their presence? What fleeting kisses stolen on a secluded hillside awash with verdant springtime rainbows? These little flowers have a story to tell, but no lips to speak them with.
I will keep them so that they will outlive me, and their next discoverer can ponder the abyss of time also.
This is my Cuneiform Epitaph.
Scratches on clay the remnants of lives, tiny sparks that winked brightly and then went out; time consuming the present moment by moment, Langoliers following closely behind, watching for scraps and pouncing on wasted time.
When flesh grows cold, and entropy consumes blood, bones, and essence leaving nothing for the dusty shrines in the desert. Perhaps some would-be excavator will unearth or draw up from the bog and weedy rushes some ancient oxygen deprived preserved mystery. Some brine soaked encrusted memory devoid of identity. What sharpened flint points of logic and rhetoric will be discussed in papers of those learned and versed in the unknowable?
As Ötzi mulled over pre-stoic ideals and post-grazing utopias while munching roots and mushrooms, I am hunched before this scrap of plant fibers mashed down, boiled over and pressed out. I grasp my blunt tool and bleed dark Voynician prayers to the Old Ones still hidden in deep cold abysses of time and dark water.
Sawgrass riptide, silicate crystals smeared across my toes,
the pressed down deepened holes in the burning white,
where I run down to the harder pressed darker expanse of shallow sea.
There are gulls on the edges vision, screeching, diving, salty spray of feathers,
darting, running, scattering sandpipers leave tiny scratches on the hard-packed sandy horizon.
crushed bits of shell, tossed up to my cool twisting toes by the urgent surf, a gift of shattered pearlescent debris.
I put a poem in the inside of every new moleskine I buy. I put this poem from Tennyson in the moleskine I used for the most chaotic, upsetting and exciting year of my life. (4-2014 to 3-2015)
An incredible number of things happened to me and my family during that time, and this poem has been on the back inside page of my moleskine journal the whole time. I have read this poem a hundred times if I have read it once.
Summer is finally here now.
I saw an old red leather bound book in the .25 section of a local Book sellers’ rack. The published date was 1907, and the title: Little Rivers by Henry Van Dyke. It was in rough shape, the edges were torn, the cover was held on with a rubber band.
It was a small book, once bound in red leather, with gold gilt lettering. I thumbed the cover open, and found this inscription: “Essays on profitable idleness” That cinched it for me, and since $0.25 is not much to gamble on a good book; I bought it (along with a Latin reader, and one of Fredrick Nietzsche’s works.)
Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American clergyman, (Presbyterian) Ambassador and Author. Though much of his writings are related to his work, this little gem is not. It tells of his fishing trips in Europe and in New-England, and Canada. With a few pieces of outdoor poetry thrown in for good measure. I made the point of reading outdoors, it reminded me of my childhood, and it inspired in me a lust of the wild.The english is a bit dated, but that is due to it’s age. But that can be a shining point. Van Dyke uses the language to bring the reader down to the stream where he is casting his rod. But this is not just a book about fishing; no, there are many tid-bits of wisdom woven though the narrative. I particularly like this one:
There is such a thing as taking ourselves too seriously, or at any rate, too anxiously. Half the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order of things, or projecting some plan for it’s improvement.
I have a thing for old books, something about the idea that this book went though 100 years of history is intriguing to me. I wonder who held it, how many people read it, what influence it had on the lives of it’s owner..
I would recomend it for the outdoors person, it is worth the read.
That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.
The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.
Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.
You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.
Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?
Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.
I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?