Books: This journalist died, but his words linger on...beautifully

Anthony Shadid died on 16 February (2012), but his words, his gentle but persistent passion lingers, resonates and pulls at the strings of my heart and tugs at my writer's fingers.

Anthony Shadid, via the Nation

The NYRB published an excerpt of Shadid's book, "Night Draws Near " a captivating example of the subtlety he brought to his reporting and the love he had for the Middle East, including the war zones and in this book, Iraq.

He is missed.


Rodin was my first artist love, and a book of his work was the first I bought with my own money, thousands of years ago.

via Gurney Journey


Review: Real Life Journals: designing and using handmade books, Gwen Diehn

Many of us don’t think about the kind of journal or sketchbook we want to use and just grab a commercially made one off a shelf. After we start, we may discover the book doesn’t perform well with our favorite pen or take water media.  It may fall short in terms of size, orientation or paper surface.

Real Life Journals talks us through the process of selecting a journal that we tailor to our individual needs.   In the front inside cover is a mini-book that asks questions that help to make an informed decision about what kind of book you really want. 

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another book that not only provides such detailed information among bookbinding books but also is as thorough, well organized and attractive.

And while there is nothing wrong with commercial sketchbooks, I use and enjoy many, including the new Stillman and Birn series, the Exaclair sketchbook, among others, with a specific project I’ve been mulling over, none suited.    So I went off to a quiet corner and read Real Life Journals, and discovered that every element, beginning with the front cover, was helping me sort out the very book that would serve my purposes.  It was there on page 24-26, the “Project Book.”  This construction looks easy to handle on the go, and even easy to bind. More importantly, this reporter style was perfect for the project I had conceived but had far more pizzazz than a stocked version.

I checked the chapter on tools and while most are in my toolbox, the list and chart on the back cover assured me I was going to be able to take on the project book and perhaps more.

Satisfied, I turned to other chapters and found that like other Diehn books, history past and present were featured, as are galleries of modern day journals and techniques.

I own many bookbinding books and while several are books I consider essentials, Gwen Diehn's books stand out for her clarity and eloquence.  A perfect example of her clarity is her inclusion that addresses board warping.  While this subject will often come up in a workshop, it is rarely covered in a book.  In fact, Real Life Journals is a workshop in book form as only Gwen Diehn, an artist I admire, could have conceived and executed so finely.  

Thanks to Lark Books for supporting and publishing Gwen Diehn’s work and providing me the opportunity to view it almost first hand.  

I could wax poetic about the book, but my highest praise is to recommend buying this book and enjoying a real life journal.

 Gwen Diehn's blog here.


Exhibition: A Room of One's Own

A review of Shakespeare's Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700 exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library caught my eye this morning, especially as I haven't always had a "room of my own."

Zoe Hecht © 2002
The above collage is one I did for a project entitled, "Under-represented Women in the Arts" and which was featured in an article I wrote for "Artitude" a zine, no longer published, in their #8 issue, Spring 2003.   The project was a collaboration with several other familiar and unfamiliar names, like Lani Kyea and Sarah Fishburn, Sharon Watson and Jennifer Swansen. All of us belonged to an online artist group, also now defunct.  Although now that I recall, Lani wasn't a member, but a friend, and I invited her to join us when I was visiting Taos (NM) that summer.

For about 2 years we exchanged altered books about women in all fields of the creative arts.  While many of those women had name recognition, few had garnered the reputation of their male counterparts.  It is not a room we lack, but equality in ball game jargon "of a level playing field."

We may have jobs, careers, full lives and rooms of our own, but we still don't have equality.

Interview: The Art of Urban Sketching




Left: Remi Ochlik, Rightt: Marie Colvin via Washington Post

Its been in the news for two days, two more journalists die as they try to report the news.  An opinion piece here, also from the WP.


Science and Humanity: A most remarkable man

What a remarkable gift is Michel Sidibé, executive director of United Nations AIDS program,

Michel Sidibe, Wikapedia

who is changing the African mind-set, one step at a time, about several major issues, AIDS among the most sterling, with his personality, drive and directness.  Of course it doesn't hurt that he is an accepted member of the African family.

Books: Science and the Cosmos

A new book from the pen of Lawrence M. Krauss, cosmologist,  discussed in this article today in the New York Times today.

Sky over Death Valley, courtesy Harper's

What stunned me was that at break-brunch today, LH and I were talking about this very subject.

And I am a dreamer!


Interviews: Seth Apter with Rice Zachery Freeman

Rice Zachary Freeman had a pre-release interview with Seth Apter of The Altered Page  about his book, "The Pulse of Mixed Media " and other updates this month. Like all of Rice Zachary Freeman interviews listen for the subtleties.


A Weekend of Music

I was once married to a Disc Jockey.  The music he played on air was contemporary.   We didn't listen to that music at home, but his voice was as good as any recording I've ever heard then or now.  In fact it was his voice that drew me to him.

After that relationship ended, I became involved with a Sicilian molecular biologist who only loved classical music.  He had one room that was filled floor to ceiling with recordings and a central island with a sound system.   When I visited that room, he was buried under vinyl and couldn't hear me enter because he was wearing head-phones.

This weekend I listened to the Cd's and tapes each of these incredible men gave me.  I believe I have all of Mahler's symphonies and various versions of the Fifth.

The disc jockey is now retired and returned to his home town of San Francisco (CA);  the molecular biologist also returned home to Catania (Sicily) and continues to explore and splice genes.

They both still listen to the same music they did then.


Is art too about fads, the famous or infamous or the latest rage

Folks are talking more and more about Dan Colley, a very good, and very prolific Chicago sketcher.  Apparently among his artistic talents is the way in which he so brilliantly uses and layers Faber Castell Pitt Pens.

I saw a vim about Dan Colley recently and  another with a fellow named Justin Klein who is beginning to get some play.

But when I entered the art fray, late in life admittedly, the sketching craze and talk was about that lanky loner Dan Price, creator of Moonlight Chronicles.  With a modest price tag anyone could send a fiver in the mail to Dan and get his first and foremost sketchbook, "How to Make a Journal of Your Life (now $6.00) and any number of his other zines (each for five dollars plus a nominal postage rate of your own choosing).

I had the good fortune to be at a zine symposium in Portland (OR) several years ago and met the scribbler.   He is as natural as he appears in print.

Sometime later, how much I don't recall, the art journal yahoo group changed hands a few times, and during that change over Danny Gregory joined.  Before too long Danny started the everyday matters yahoo group and most members of artist journal seemed to creep off to what matters most, "every day," and the earlier and possibly earliest yahoo group slipped nearly into oblivion.  It still exists,  but the number of posts is way down, and the action, enthusiasm and exchanges are way off.

Danny's books took off and his name became and remains synonymous with sketchers and the freedom to sketch anywhere, everyday.   His books are huge sellers.

Somewhere in between Dan and Danny, and others I can't name now, Richard Bell's work was considered par excellent.  It still is, but I rarely hear his name anymore, although his work remains superb and he has updated his online blog here.

Gabi Campanario started Urban Sketchers, and Enrico Casarosa started Sketchcrawl, both huge successes from the sketchers perspective, little remuneration for either man, but books are beginning to spin off the sketching phenomenon, and today I received, "Urban Sketching," not the first book from the group, but thus far the most accessible.  Other books on the market, mainly from Asia and Europe are more dear to purchase because of postal costs.

Just ruminating on this grey day after having finished writing a piece for our art alliance.

Books: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”

Englander, Nathan that is, was interviewed on the New York Times book review podcast this weekend, and a full review of his latest book of short stories was featured in the Book Section.

The interview was great, and Stacy Schiff's review so engrossing and full bodied that I've moved this book to the top of my wish list, something I rarely do.  But when a book sounds this good and the author is compared to Raymond Carver, how can the book be passed up.

Camp Stories is the title of the review, but the book really is named "What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank."

"What do any of us really know about love?" Raymond Carver


Books: Atypical Science Fiction, written by Women

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer; Children of God and the Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and Doris Lessing's 5 part series, Canopus in Argos, which began with Shikasta all come to mind.

I read Shikasta when it was first available in 1979.  Now so many years later, much of the story remains alive in my memory.  The four other books in the series did not capture my attention as much, and as the series went on, it got more and more diffuse and dense.  But the Doris Lessing who won a Nobel Prize is evident in nearly every page of Shikasta and in some unexplainable way is related to the last of her Children of Violence series, The Four Gated City- an escape North to an unnamed place of sanctuary.

Haushofer's book was hard to find, but I did with the help of a book dealer friend.  It appears to be more accessible these days, yet it was only four years ago that I read it as part of an online book club.  A German friend and group member recommended it, and we later compared the Wall to Cormac McCarthy's The Road as two uniquely original dystopias.  Haushofer's is a cliff hanger.

Russell's series was riveting when I read it in Vermont during my long sojourn just over four-and a half years ago.  It was recommended by my closest friend, and a person I share many books with now and over the nearly 40 years of our friendship.  I learned just last week that there is a third in the series, and I'll have to catch up with the conclusion.  The story is both religious and inventive.  A quick read, and exceptionally well drawn.

Pens: Fickle Finger of Fate: The Morriset

Ages ago I bought two Morriset ink wells with dip pens.  I quickly sold one, and held off selling the second one.

Now as fate would have it, I find that I use it often, and nearly always to test inks because it is the most reliable of all dip pens, has a large reservoir and is less time consuming to ink than an ordinary fountain pen.   Also testing in a proper pen, fountain or dip, is more reliable than swab tests to test colour(s).

And today I received a rare replacement nib, and guess what, enclosed inside the small cylinder is a wee tattered piece of paper with the following instructions:

Before using this point, thoroughly rinse your set with cold water.  Use fresh ink supply.  Genuine Morriset ink is recommended.  Insure long life for your point.

Original packaging for  Morriset set © 1950s

Morriset Inkwell with Dip Pen

I don't recall the history of this particular brand, but several manufacturers made similar inkwells with pens, most notably Esterbrook.

Eagle Nesting: Living Streaming

Live broadcasting by Ustream

Grand Prize Winner of the Philips "Tell it your way" competition


Books: Atwood and Gaiman

Our power went out in August from a Sunday until it returned on the following Wednesday, and although dark at half past seven, I was able to finish "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood and revive interest in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods."  I say revive interest because remarkably I own this book but had rented it from Booksfree, having neglected and forgotten my own copy.

These are not uplifting books, and certainly reading them during a hurricane probably made them, not more sinister, but more credible.

Yes, The Year of the Flood is a sequel to Oryx and Crake, and somewhere it appears a third volume is in the hopper as the word trilogy is mentioned on the flyleaf.

It wasn't until page 306 or was it 308 that it became clear that where Oryx and Crake ended the human race with the exception of the Snowman did not.  But what will become of the survivors of a scientist's gone mad experiment is unclear at the books conclusion.  Unlike "The Road," another dystopia, the reader, or this reader finished the book with a sense of a potential tomorrow, Atwood's book left me questioning if this last lot of humans would possess the fortitude to reproduce.

I closed the book with doubts and questions, and although there is enormous humour and much satire in Atwood's novel, it is still a book about the calamity of man's foolishness, and our foolishness is unparalleled these days.

Gaiman was introduced to me by way of Dave McKean and I soon found myself reading or rather devouring  Neverwhere, one of my favourite books filled with creative imagination.  Neverwhere is about an underground world in London;  American Gods is naturally about the States.   The two books however have a certain symmetry and so clearly come from the same pen (yes, Neil Gaiman is a fountain pen user).

What Gaiman and Atwood have in common is a unique genre in literature: neither true science fiction or magical realism, they imagine our world, often in the present, differently.  To some degree, Gaiman reminds me of Robertson Davies and his Deptford Trilogy--filled with myth and magic and some Jung thrown in.

If Atwood's book is about an experiment gone wrong, Gaiman's book is about an experiment of birth.  His principal character and the unlikeliest of characters, Shadow, is we learn at the book's near conclusion the son of a God, but not an American God.

Like Neverwhere, we encounter some of the strangest characters in some of the most outrageous places with often unpronounceable names.  The book is often a riddle, but things do get sorted out and the conclusion ends on a positive note.

As Gaiman dedicates the book to Roger Zelazny, another of my all time favourites (The Amber series, in particular) I reckon he wouldn't mind having his book(s) described as science fiction.  Ms. Atwood, however, blanches or did once, at the notion that her work was of that ilk.   I understand her reaction if one thinks of science fiction as a series of outer space novels, but as I've explored the genre in the last dozen or more years, I've come to truly appreciate some of the better writers and novels that easily fall into this category as on par with any work of fiction, including classic literature.

If anyone enjoys the unusual, with a message, both authors are well worth reading.


The Six Day War, Revisited

It's took me two days, on and off, off and on to read this magazine piece in the New York Times.  It is not always easy to read on line, and the Times doesn't deliver to my house, but it is the title itself, its implications and history that had me hesitating over each page and leaving the article altogether to read about cheap cosmetics, or other banal subjects.

War is not banal?  The Middle East is not banal?  This headline is frightening and too close to the reality of 1967.

In 1967 I was a starry-eyed women (or girl) headed from Amsterdam, first to the South of France, and onward South.  In Lugano (Ticino, Switzerland) where I was meeting some retired friends (escapees from Nazi Germany), I met a fleeing man from Aden.  In 1967, Aden was still a country.  Today it is a region of Yemen.

Aden and Yemen (Middle East overview)

The young man, barely older than me, held his passport firmly in his hand.  It read, "Landlord."  Now he was landless, alone and on his way North as I headed into the fray South.  He had friends in Lugano and together we visited them for tea.  I thought I was already in the Middle East when we arrived.  Their living room was festooned with draped swaggers, and the low upholstered furnishings were mounds of carpets and huge pillows, the cups tiny silver goblets, the pastry fresh from a local downtown bakery, the very spot where I had met this young man hours earlier.

Shoreline of Lake Lugano, Switzerland
How this young man and I took up an acquaintanceship is quite a different and more Italian story, so I won't digress, but we did meet downtown at a pastry shop.
Porto di Brindisi (Wikipedia)

I learned a great deal that afternoon, enough to know that my trip South would probably end short of Brindisi, and perhaps only take me as far as Rome.

The Middle East was on fire.  This young man, let's call him Aaron, was Jewish, a landowner's son, and escaping the war that surrounded his land and his country.  Living in a country that was (and remains) predominantly Arab, it was no longer safe for him to remain, as Israel fought its neighbours on all sides and Jews would not be very welcome.  The Jewish Diaspora in Arab countries is little known, but this war certainly aided in its expansion and the expulsion of the remaining Arab Jewish people.

 Lago Lugano (Switzerland)
 Aaron and his friends were gracious and spoke impeccable English.

What I learned is about war first hand, not in a history book. Moreover what they shared contrasted and diverged sharply from the imaginative mind of  the 20-odd year old I was who thought that fighting a war was a grand adventure.  These Arab Jews from Aden and/or Yemen were retreating from mayhem.   What had earlier influenced my idea of war was the shared experiences of the brave men and women I knew in Holland who had fought in the underground, and although many were visibly scarred,  continued to espouse the virtue of the fight as if we all had and were living in Leon Uris ' "Exodus."  My principal role model was James, who at the start of World War II  was 17-1/2 and less than five feet, six inches tall.  Although a Belgian national and Jewish, he volunteered and was accepted into the US Army, survived the war on many fronts, and proceeded to go on to become the director of a prestigious medical publishing foundation.  During these years James was my primary mentor and father figure.

Now a day doesn't go by without an article about the Middle East, and it does unnerve me.

Then this in at the Washington Post: a bleary headline to chill me on this already chilly day.

Poinsettias and the holiday season

Euphorbia pulcherrima,Wikipedia

I've always loved the cheerfulness of poinsettias and this year for the holidays I managed to find white and red versions in two sizes.  The two larger ones are still in bloom, but the smaller ones that I had in the bedroom had faded and lost their blooms.

I put one of them in the kitchen window and it seems to be recovering and growing a new bud.  Wonder of wonders.

What a terrific boost to a women's day: Wendy Hale Davis & Rice Zachery Freeman

The other day Roz (of Roz Wound Up) alerted her readers that Rice was interviewing Wendy.

While I generally go over to Notes from the Voodoo Lounge podcasts often, I hadn't done so until Roz' morning alert.
It made my day.  So much so that when I went to hear the Upper Delaware Writers Collective poets read on Saturday afternoon last, I took out my wee, wee sketch journal from Aquabee and swiftly sketched, in general form not content, all of  the poets.

What a terrific interview between friends who are in the same State of the Union and of a similar state of artistic mind.


Review: Pelle Journal

Some things are so luxurious you only have to say their name and you can almost taste, feel or smell them.  Leather is one of those luxuries, and the Pelle Journal is a luxury but also very practical.  

I haven't owned a beautiful leather journal since my daughter bought me one for my birthday in 1991, or I bought myself the Charing Cross with pencil (pencil now lost) in 1990.

Bottom to top: leather journal 5x7; Charing Cross; Pelle Burnt Cognac 3x5

I still have the Charing Cross in the right hand drawer of my desk. It contains several notes I've not wanted to transfer elsewhere.  It feels as decadently wonderful today as it did the day I bought it in Wayland Square, Providence, Rhode Island twenty years ago.

It is my hope that the Pelle journal in Burnt Cognac will prove as memorable.  It already seems like a small treasure to both touch and admire.

Pelle Burnt Cognac journal 3x5

Not since I received the Canteo journal has the packaging itself been something to rave about.  In cello, in a linen or muslin bag and in a flip carton with some simple instructions, and two elastics--one in a beautiful shade of lime and the second in a dark, but matching brown.  Then voila:  the journal.

I tested four pens, three fountain pens and one roller ball.  The three fountain pens are a Reform with a narrow fine and Noodler's Violet Vote ink; Noodler's Ahab with Rohrer & Klingman Bordeaux ink; the Namiki Falcon Resin housing a soft fine with Noodler's Kung Te Cheng ink, and finally one of my favourite on the go roller balls, the Rotring Tikky (available at Jet Pens).

All of the pens were used normally, and there was only a trace of a shadow on the plain paper.  Refill inserts are available in plain, lined, grid and drawing at Pelle or Jet Pens.

Jet Pens has been carrying the Pelle for quite sometime, and recently had an exclusive interview with Andy Park , founder of Pelle Inc.  And Office Supply Geek did a great job posting photographs, something I am struggling with now as my camera appears to be more and more uncooperative.

Disclosure: This small Burnt Cognac Pelle was supplied by the manufacturer; however, the review is as unbiased as a user can be.

Poetry is made in bed like love and Emily Dickinson

Last weekend several members of the Upper Delaware Writers Collective read at the Sanctuary of Oils on Commercial Street in Honesdale (PA).  It was one of the more memorable readings, and at the end one of the group asked, "what is poetry?"

Charles Simic's piece in the Review reminded me of the question, and how I feel about poetry, where I write and how, and Emily Dickinson.  While Simic writes in bed, I write on buses, tramways, at cafe tables, in cemeteries, in the garden and in fact at Dickinson's house in Amherst (MA).  I don't often write poetry at a desk or on my bed.  I don't chose to write poetry.  Rather poetry calls to me unbidden, infrequently, and often in sudden bursts.

I can write long passages of non-fiction, and even write thousands of words in a morning of fiction, but poetry grips me like a vise or fondles me like a lover, but either good or bad, I have no apparent control over the impulse.

A young Emily Dickinson

A Dickinson poem:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

It's that impulse that made me think of Dickinson.  Did she think about all those poems that streamed and streamed and floated on her pages?  Did she have control over the words, the subject matter?  Did she, too, walk into her garden, sit on a stone and write with her fountain pen?

Knopf sent this poem out today for Valentine's Day, by Leonard Cohen:

When I Uncovered Your Body

When I uncovered your body
I thought shadows fell deceptively,
urging memories of perfect rhyme.
I thought I could bestow beauty
like a benediction and that your half-dark flesh
would answer to the prayer.
I thought I understood your face
because I had seen it painted twice
or a hundred times, or kissed it
when it was carved in stone.
With only a breath, a vague turning,
you uncovered shadows
more deftly than I had flesh,
and the real and violent proportions of your body
made obsolete old treaties of excellence,
measures and poems,
and clamoured with a single challenge of personal beauty,
which cannot be interpreted or praised:
it must be met.


Shirley made me do it!

Shirley of Paper and Threads recently posted a tutorial on retrofitting a book into a sketchbook.  Well, I have instructions for this in 5 other places and nearly took Diana Trout's online class to do it, but something about Shirley's tutorial set me on the course and on that course I am.

I had a rather badly treated Moleskine diary calendar in red that I bought in Catania (Sicily) in 2003, a year long gone and decided this would be the trial by fire test of whether I have the patience to meet this task head on.

It's not as if I haven't made a book, from scratch.  I've even made books that some bookbinders consider "too difficult," like the Belgium Secret Binding journal with Emily Martin.  And the summer of 2003, I traveled up to Easthampton, MA and spent an entire week with Daniel Kelm at the Wide Awake Garage making the most complicated  book you'd ever encounter except of course in the Smithsonian.  I was the laughing stock of the class, with good humour, with lots of chuckles from my workshop mates who took all this far more seriously than I apparently did.   Least you think I am lame, and occasionally I am, I was a member, in good standing, of the Center for Book Arts in New York for many years and took several workshops there, leaving with book in hand.

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox edition, via Wikipedia

But, but, but, my books never looked like the Gutenberg bible or one from the hands of Wendy Hale Davis, or Roz Stendahl.  

Moleskine Diary with exacto knife

Moleskine Diary cover (in good shape)

Empty Binding (not in great shape, especially the pocket)

As this is a 3-1/2 x 5-1/2 book, it took nearly a milli-second (read 15 minutes or less) to eviscerate the old calendar pages from the body without harming myself or the covers.

Presently distracted by making a living or rather writing an article, this project will take me some time.  The next step I believe will require much patience: making the folios.  It is the cutting them that may get me in the end.


He said, "life is a circle."

It was 1986.

We were in Denver at a conference.

I never forgot his insistence that people, and life itself always comes full circle.

And today as I finished, or nearly finished organising all my books, with an emphasis on art books, I found I had Martha McEvoy's first two issues of Trumpetvine.  These were made in 2002.   We were all active in the artists journals group then, and Martha was among the first to do a zine within the group.  Later, but not much later I created, "Art on the Loose," with a totally different focus.

So imagine my surprise in reading through Issue 2 even more than her first issue the amount of information she shared about "fountain pens."

It includes some of the very pens folks are talking, now, and several of the issues that come up, time and again, about waterproof, archival, fading and bleeding.   She had a wee diagram (page 14 of zine 2) of several pen line variations.  The pens she used were the Rotring, a Pelikan 600, a Reform, Parker Sonnet and what I assume may be the Ackerman Pump pen.

It's a pity the zine is out of print, Martha no longer doing it, and that the circle is so elastic.


Map of the Caribbean

Those that know me, and that number is small, know I hate the heat, so when I told my closest friend I wanted to go to the Dominican Republic, she laughed. But as it turns out the temperature is rather mild and the hurricane season appears to hit the other side of the Island, poor Haiti.

So, I am thinking more and more about the Urban Sketchers symposium.