Category Archives: Philosophy
Wednesday Jan 27, 2021
I’ve just collected my 199th typewriter yesterday – a 1974 Adler J2. I am typing on it here, to give it a test and see how I like it. Despite how good many of my typewriters are, I generally go back to the same old ones after a while, because they seem to suit me best. This has a delightful typeface however, which is a bonus. This machine has a plastic shroud, which makes it somewhat less desirable. Metal seems to be preferable for some reason, probably because I associate it with my childhood, an era for which nostalgia rules my heart. The idea of collecting typewriters is wrapped in nostalgia, because of the fact that they are now a thing of the past, and were mostly all made of metal. Only the later models had plastic shells, and though many of those are great, I and others, seem to have this preference for metal. It is illogical, but so is collecting things, unless done for profit, and even then there is not much profit in this when you consider all the time and effort spent to find a typewriter, clean it up, and fix whatever may be wrong with it. Often there are plenty of problems, and the hours spent do not pay well for the cost or price received when selling. But we persist, for the joy of finding typewriters, like birdwatchers scouring the bushes for rare birds, we scour the thrift shops in search of the new and unusual models, yet still glad to find some old favourite thing, even as we decline to buy it, unless it is such a bargain…
I wonder if typewriters were all $5 each, and there were half a dozen in every thrift shop, would anyone bother to collect them? I think not. We tend to value things that are rare and or expensive. If every typewriter was $5, which one would I buy to use? Not some rare old thing, unless it worked so well that I preferred using it over a better made model. When one removes price and rarity from the equation, then we find an entirely different set of values. I think of this as something like a blind test. I find this to be true for guitars, especially.
People will pay thousands of dollars for a guitar that has some label on it that they imagine confers a great value to it, even if in a blind test there is no difference between that and a similar guitar that is practically free by comparison. If I were to offer someone any typewriter in the world, and they had no idea what any of them were worth on the market, I bet they would chose simply by how the machine felt, how good the typed page looked, and last, what the machine looked like. But if I had informed them that the Hermes 3000 was worth ten times the cost of the one they selected, I also wager they might well change their mind fast! This happens to me, I should admit, despite my trying to judge things solely on logical grounds.
I think this is a factor of knowledge versus ignorance. When I was young I had less knowledge, and hence more ignorance. The things that I liked then were selected on my youthful judgment, unclouded by the opinions of others and or what the thing cost. I liked things for what I perceived them to be, not for what others perceived. When judging the worth or something now, I always try to keep that thought in mind, and think like a child, rather than as a fan of this or that because everyone else is.
Today, January 23rd, 2021 is Django Reinhardt’s 111th birthday. On Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday he threw a big party and vanished. Having just finished editing my latest novel, which involves a fair amount of analysis, letters and discussion of The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coincidence of these two Eleventy-first birthdays. LOTR is a book about magic in some sense, as is the book I just wrote, A Year in the Life of a Poet, a sequel to its predecessor The Magic Typer.
Django Reinhardt was magic too, if you appreciate anything about the guitar. Where this magic came from is impossible to explain, but to accept that there are things we cannot understand.
I leave you with a paragraph excerpted from my latest novel – a few words from the renowned philosopher AF Schlitzenberger, author of The Wisdom of Gandalf:
It happened to me, so I’m telling you – there are things we do not know and powers we cannot understand at work here, right now, on this planet. If they are good or bad I cannot say, but I am sure they exist. And as sure as I am of that, I am also sure that The Lord of the Rings must have been influenced at the very least by some power that is trying to communicate with us.
What is my philosophy? Do I have one? I must. I just have not thought about it enough to be able to describe it. What indeed is a philosophy book? I’ve never read one, and barely comprehend anything about philosophy, or philosophers. Knowing what I have learned in life, would I be able to go back and change anything that happened to me, or do things differently? That indeed is the essential question here. I can look back at my life and see some mistakes, but were they really mistakes? Perhaps they were the only thing to do, the right thing to do, under the particular circumstances at the time. Perhaps it was my fate to make mistakes and then have to deal with it. Would I change my past mistakes, assuming they were mistakes, knowing that it would change my life and that I would now be in some other circumstances? Could my exploration of my philosophy conclude that my philosophy was wrong, or perhaps the correct one? Can one have the right philosophy and yet end up in the wrong place entirely? Can I espouse one philosophy and live by another? Can a philosopher be a hypocrite and yet have a valid point to make? When is truth invalid? Can a lie be valid under the right circumstances? That I believe is certain. Sometimes the whole truth is harmful, and must be hidden or forgotten in order to avoid harm to someone else. Motivation must be examined in that case. Motivation can be more authentic than ugly facts without context. Can there be contextual truth? What role does time play in any given philosophy? If life had a fixed length, how would that affect the decisions we make? How then does each of us think about our choices given our own personal conception of time? Do all people experience time at the same rate, or does the idea of time mean different things from one to the next? How does our understanding of time even develop? How does technological change affect our concept of time? In the absence of clocks and calendars, what would time mean? What if there was no mathematics or arithmetic? No counting. No writing, and only oral means of transferring information? What would the philosophy of cavemen be? It is almost beyond imagining. Without philosophical concepts of morality, can there be sin, right or wrong? Why were the Romans so immune to feeling the suffering of gladiators, and wild animals that died for their amusement? Did they have the feelings and emotions as I have? Could I have been a spectator at a battle between gladiators and not felt horrified? Had I been a Roman, what difference might there have been from who I am at this moment?
And now for a few photos of fire hydrants (film cameras only, caffenol development):
North America was “discovered”, in a manner of speaking, by Lief Erikson, about 1000 years ago.
Lief got here first, and yet Chris Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci got all the glory. This must be corrected! Here are some suggestions to correct the injustice.
First, the USA shall become the USE (United States of Erika) and Canada will become SUPER, (Somewhat United Provinces of ERikland). When referring to what was previously called America, the new term shall be USESUPER.
All references to the term Columbia will henceforth be replace with the word Erika, since Chris Columbus was not first, and therefore by all logic, second rate, explorer-wise.
The Columbia River will become the Erika, and the province of British Columbia will henceforth be known as Icelandic Erikland, i.e. IE. The District of Columbia will become the District of Erika, etc.
Washington DC will become Washington DE, or Duh for short.
Now is also the opportune moment to replace all those missing and soon to be melted statues with new ones, of Lief the Lucky. We can use the bronze in an environmentally sensitive manner by recycling it in electric furnaces powered by solar energy. Those bare and empty podiums need something! Fortunately, statues of Lief already exist in many cities throughout North Erika, such as Duluth and St. Paul, Minn., as well as Seattle, Boston, Milwaukee and Chicago. Cities that can’t afford new statues, shall replace the head of the offensive existing ones with Lief’s head, change the plaques and call it a day.
The man had guts, good looks and was a damned fine sailor. His name has a natural sound, like an electric car; environmentally friendly and zero pollution.
Apart from statues, the USE (United States of Erika) already has a national holiday for Lief; October 9th.
In these tough times, we need a new hero!
Onward, Lief the Lucky! Long live North Erika!
Photo Credit: Steven Pavlov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15950672
This is a real lighthouse, but I took some artistic license. There were no seagulls on logs, but the ones flying were in fact present, for a few moments. The actual scene when I photographed it was rather duller, the colours too hazy, so I livened it up with stronger shadows and highlights.
The thrift shops have opened here, but there have been no typewriters, luckily – otherwise I might have bought one! Eventually I hope to have maybe only a dozen typewriters, but it will take a long time to sell what I’ve got, unless I give them away. I could do that, but even so there doesn’t seem to be much demand these days. This is why I am trying not to buy any more typewriters, because I have nowhere to put them. I think there’s an inverse relationship between how much of a given thing one owns, and one’s desire to own more of the same. If I had three typewriters I might get excited about some that are available in my town right now. Varage seems to have lots of them these days. Same goes for old film cameras, of which I seem to have boxes and boxes full. Who needs it. Hence I’m more focused on doing art, which is easier to store. I work on 1/4″ thick panels, so a foot of shelf space can hold 30 or more paintings, compared to say 2 typewriters.
I do keep a typewriter close at hand, however, just so I can always admire it even if I have nothing to write at the moment. If I had to keep just one typewriter, it would probably be this one, 1958 Smith Corona Silent Super, aka Eaton’s Prestige. Or, maybe the Olympia Traveller…. or the H3K… or the Remington All New…
My novel The Magic Typer is now available in print and e-book from Amazon. Click on the image to go to the webpage.
The book is illustrated with my own watercolour drawings, but not in colour, since that would make the price about $20. However, you can colour the illustrations yourself with crayons or coloured pencils!
I’ve been at work on this for years, but after too many reviews to count, I can’t find any typos, although it is certain there are some lurking where I least expected. All this editing makes me wonder if it isn’t best to simply write and publish raw text. How much can you improve an idea? These are philosophical questions that I am tired of debating! Here’s one analogy: raw text is like a live concert, and edited text is like a studio recording. Submit your essays by next Thursday!
(English professors would say I use too many !!! But I don’t give a damn!!!)
Compare and contrast is the bane of every student who is given some subject with those instructions. Fortunately I no longer have to comply with such rubbish, and yet I am still thinking about this when it comes to painting. I often wonder when looking at paintings how long and hard the artist worked on them. I can only assume, but then I’ve never seen a painting that had the number of hours it took to create among the information given. There will generally be a title, and the name of the artist, but never the number of hours. I can understand why an artist wouldn’t provide this information, especially if they are trying to sell their work for a good price. In business you do not reveal your costs if you want to make as much profit as possible. What if stuff had the time it took to make it on the label? T- shirt, 5 minutes and 11 seconds; cost of production $1.29; price $9.99 – cheap! Oil painting, 3 hours, cost of materials $14.63, price $2500 – cheap!
How long did it take Vincent Van Gogh to paint some of his famous works? I’m speculating here, but I’d guess a couple of hours for some now worth fifty million bucks! Not that Vincent made any money. It’s just a shame his work is now so valuable, because otherwise I’d give him a hundred bucks an hour to paint something for me, as long as he didn’t waste time having dinner while the clock was running.
But back to the compare and contrast rubbish part – I often have a hard time deciding how long to spend on a painting. Sometimes it will take me a few days, and yet other times only a couple of hours to make something just as pleasing to my eye. So how can you compare those? I am at a loss, and lucky for me I don’t have to submit my paper to the professor tomorrow morning. So here are two recent paintings I’ve done. One took me a few days and many hours, the other took an hour and a half. Compare and contrast!
I am now in the black with my typewriter collection, after many years. Last week I sold two virtually identical late 50’s Underwoods within an hour. Oddly, both were bought as gifts. One went to a young English major, no, not in the army – at university. He tired of the usual digital overload and professed a desire to his girlfriend for a typewriter. The other went to a lady of 71, courtesy of an old friend. She likes writing poetry. I just love selling these machines to writers! Like many of us, I feel good about returning a typewriter to circulation, especially if it needed my attention to get it back on the road, so to speak. Many typewriters that I have bought have needed a fair bit of fiddling, cleaning and adjusting to work well, a job I really enjoy. So, of course I just picked up 2 more yesterday, both which needed some work. The work is minor, but necessary, and there aren’t any repairmen left here.
Meanwhile, in my haunts I sometimes come across old postcards, and here are a pair that tell a tale. The message on the Canadian one is courtesy of my imagination, and typeface thanks to RP! The other has notes that I can’t read. Hard to imagine what you could say on that one.
And then there was this:
“The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries”
“I Want You”, by Bob Dylan
As I noted here a month or two past, I spent an inordinate amount of time in deciding what sort of sketching media to take with me to Europe and the TMB hike. Once on the trail I soon discovered that there was no time for sketching. You hit the trail just after 8 o’clock, hike for an hour or three and then eat lunch in pleasant exhaustion while recovering for the afternoon. Maybe you eat a 2nd lunch at 2 p.m. No matter, it’s highly unlikely you are lunching and have energy or inspiration to pull out the sketchbook and paint box. At the end of the day when you get to the next refuge, you dump your stuff and if lucky, you get to sleep for an hour before dinner. Then you talk to folks, and write in the journal.
However, I did do some sketching before and after the hike, when I had plenty of time to sit and observe. My first stop was Dusseldorf, a beautiful city on the Rhine River. Among the attractions is the alt-stadt, where the streets are full of people, not cars. How ridiculous! Also there are some lovely beer gardens that dispense alt-beer, a dark and flavourful brew which, unlike most German beer, is top fermented. Unfortunately most German brew-masters who emigrated to North America brought with them lager beer, which in my opinion isn’t half as tasty. But you can still get alt-beer in Dusseldorf, a drink I enjoyed while sitting at a bar in the alt-stadt with sketchbook at hand.
While lolling on my stool I discerned a faint sound coming from down the street. Soon I realized I was hearing a hand cranked miniature pipe organ, from which pipes came a sweet folksy tune. Shortly, before my eyes appeared a real live organ grinder. He parked his organ beside me and took a seat at a table; then proceeded to smoke a full pipe, after which he shut his eyes and had a snooze. Refreshed, he got up after a half hour and returned the way he came, grinding out a new tune.
Stealthily, I managed to capture him on camera and in my sketchbook. Maybe this is so commonplace in Europe that organ grinders are taken for granted, but to me it was a magic moment. As for the question of whether or not he was lonesome; if you spent all day pushing an organ around, who could you talk to?