The Isle of Remembrance

When I lived in the Jordaan (Amsterdam) the side streets were occupied by working men's businesses in ground floor warehouses.  Many of these men, I never met a woman among them, were older than me and had experienced World War II, the occupation and its aftermath.   The Jordaan is where Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father had his business:  Prinsengracht 263-267.

Anne Frank Huis, Prinsengracht, the Netherlands

Hence, the subject of the Germans, the War, the occupation, the United States were always a topic of conversation.

Rozenstrrat 72 (a small street off the Rozengracht Canal), Jordaan

One such man fixed my daughter's stroller without charge because the American's had liberated his family.  He talked to me about the War long after the stroller was fixed and the day had grown dark.

Now all these years later, it is difficult to understand how we are still immersed in the past, the Isle of Remembrance rather than Tunisia's Isle of Forgetfulness when it comes to War, active or cold.  Or how many stories are emerging about this War fought  70 years ago.

Another story in the WP about compensation to Holocaust survivor's from the French rail line that sent thousands to the death camps.   Will they identify those survivors?

Mijnheer Frederic Hanau did not survive.  

Irene N√©mirovsky did not survive.  Her posthumous book, "Suite Francaise", an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Heritage, and books by her two surviving children, are edifying as a body of work of one who has been accused and may have collaborated with the Vichy, and nonetheless was interned, transported on those controversial trains, concentrated and probably exterminated.

During 1942, officials sent 41,951 Jews to Germany, although the deportations came to a temporary halt when some religious leaders warned Vichy against possible public reaction. Afterwards, arrests were carried out more discreetly. In 1943 and 1944, the regime deported 31,899 people - the last train left in August 1944, as Allied troops entered Paris. Out of the total of 75,721 deportees, contained in a register drawn up by a Jewish organisation, fewer than 2,000 survived.

What is prompting the explosion of inquiry and potential reparation?   Is it because the numbers of survivors are so few?  Is it an awaking of guilt long buried?  What is it exactly?

During the war many could have been saved.  Before and during the war many could have been succored and saved with their property.   Yet with the exception of the Undergrounds, the Danes, the Righteous, little attempt was made by either the United States or Europe.

Survivors via New York Times

Boats were turned away.  Escape increasingly became impossible. Although I know my mentor escaped Vienna by way of Belgium; a good friend, now deceased walked from Poland to a port that gave him a chance to survive, and a former director of my Dutch workplace, who I admired and loved, fought for the US as a Jewish Belgian.  Somehow they survived, but the numbers who didn't still are unknown.  We won't know their stories.

And as for me and remembrance, and the Isle of Forgetfulness, I am going on hiatus.


Prescient Dystopia(s)

Margaret Atwood is among those writers who may not be a seer but certainly gets it right.  In the Handmaid's Tale, she neatly foresees the 2014 political landscape on the abridgement of women's rights.

In her MaddAdam trilogy, the first of the three novels, Oryx and Crake, addresses the food we eat.  Well, we sure know that much of the processed food is, yes, over processed and just recently we learned that even the corn on the cob is probably tainted by one chemical or another.

Kafka envisioned Amerika long before the country had built its apartment buildings with long, connecting corridors that brought us up short, and often frightened because we got lost in our own landscape.

Which novel or novels talked about a merger of commercial giants that would make the Internet fair game for a monopoly that couldn't be played on a board?

Award-winning Guardian journalist Luke Harding's commentary on Democracy Now was more chilling than the abysmal weather we are having.

Are we living a 1984 life in 2014?

Can an image inspire a story?

Gare d'ville, Nice (France)

Rather than a memory turned memoir how about a short story with a fictional character who was in Nice one summer many years ago!

Going to the Museum, Caran d'ache Style

Caran d'ache Supracolor & Museum Watercolour Pencils

I've always been a big fan of Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, but when Alberto at Lung Sketching Scrolls talked up the Caran d'ache Museum pencils and did a comparative write up of the two brands, I searched around and with Helen's help at Askew Taylor (Raleigh, NC) I was able to get the six start up colours Caran d'ache packaged early in its release of the new line.   Askew Taylor is now carrying open stock and sets and are most user friendly on or off line.

I already had a few handfuls of the Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils I had picked up over the last few years, and compared these to each other.  Unfortunately, or forunately, depending on your point of view, I didn't have colour for colour matches.   The closest are the two yellows, #250  and #240.

These were all tested on various papers, but the image above is on Fluid Hot Press paper, in their 140#, 8 x 8 inch block bought at Brushstrokes (Lewisburg, PA) with a Holbein water brush (Jet Pens).

The left side is washed;  the right left nude.

It is unlikely that I will switch from the Albrecht Durers to the Museums, but I do think they have a very nice feel, appear to be well made as Caran d'ache always does, and have a high pigment load.   If they get more popular and other shops start to sell them in open stock I'll probably add a few colours.

Caran d'ache has an excellent pdf of their wide range of colours on line as does Bromley in the UK. 


Arundhati Roy and the sub-Continent!

Perhaps I see the world in a different light than some because of my exposure for so many years to people from different countries.  While working in a medical school department devoted to tropical diseases, dozens upon dozens of strangers became close acquaintances and some good friends.  The Department Chair was thought to be one step away from a Nobel back in 1982 and the focus on malaria research brought eager postdoctoral aspirants to the laboratory to glean the import of the  magic sporozoite under a microscope.

But what often occurred was each of us examining and testing each other, peering not into the microscope but over it.

Who were we really?  What did the name on our lab coat mean in a less hierarchical environment, nearly egalitarian, or at least at the coffee machine.

The young scientists most often came from South America because the Chair was Brasilian, but nearly as often the trainees came from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Thailand, Japan, the Peoples Republic of China and Papua New Guinea.

Who we really were evolved over time as most of the trainees held two or even three year visas.   Two or three years, and in close daily contact made "knowing" more possible than even traditional living arrangements.   Research sounds like fun at a distance, but to dig deeply many hours may elapse and while watching and waiting for a machine to run its course, or a timer to go off, intimacy begins and grows.

Arundhati Roy, interviewed for a piece in this week's New York Times magazine section brought back those days and early evenings among team members from India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

Indian Empire, prior to 1947

While in the lab, or at a party, or sharing a meal in the library or even a restaurant, we were all the same, with similar goals--a vaccine, a cure, a breakthrough.

Divisions within the sub-continent after 1947

But even with intimacy, friendship and camaraderie, the land mass we came from separated us philosophically, pragmatically and even spiritually.

I am keen to see what Ms. Roy does write and who will publish it.  Times are getting more not less conservative, and global commerce has changed radically, both expanding and contracting possibilities. 

And in the intervening years since I worked among the many, malaria continues to infect millions while research scientists co-mingle at the coffee machine.


Book: Sketch your World! James Hobbs

A potentially exciting new publication on sketching from James Hobbs, a regular contributor to Urban Sketchers (in the UK).   I say"potentially" only because I haven't seen the book in my hand, but I hope to soon.

Fascinating inclusions are listed on Mr. Hobbs' website of many artists work I have never seen and many artists I hadn't heard of before--that in itself is the most exciting to me.    Thus far, I've opened and viewed about 1/3 - 1/2 of the websites and eager to see more.

Available at Northlight and Amazon.


Which country reads the most?

via Mental Floss

Fountain Pens, WWII and NCIS LA

You may wonder what do fountain pens, WWII and NCIS LA have in common.   Perhaps the only connection is that I am watching or watched two of the names in the title, at the same time seriously thinking about the past, the present and the future as Russia enters the Ukraine.

Sophie Scholl, teen years
Yesterday I started watching Sophie Scholl, The Final Days by way of Netflix.   Sophie, her brother Hans, and their friends were hung 70 years ago, most on February 22, 1943.  I was not yet born.  The young people, Sophie was 21 years old, were found guilty of propaganda after being caught distributing flyers at the University (Munich) that were believed to be anti-government.

Sophie Scholl as an artist

In the film, which is riveting, nearly everyone uses a fountain pen.  They always appear to be black, not very large, and to my eyes unrecognizable.   The attention to detail is exquisite.  Interestingly, all the pens have "nib creep," and appear to be using either black or a blue black ink.

Linda Hunt as Hetty Lange, NCIS LA
Then, NCIS LA.  If you've watched this spin off of NCIS, you may know Hetty [Henrietta Lange], the Los Angeles chief.  She is a unique character, probably as much as Linda Hurt is a unique and terrific actress.  She knows nearly everything there is to know about almost everything you can imagine or dream about but....she didn't use a fountain pen.  A woman of refinement, she selects her tea scrupulously, and has a sense of style and order.

Pilot Falcon (often has nib creep) ©

I find this a serious flaw for the Props Department.  So much so that I thought, for an instant, to send them a note about it.

Sophie Scholl's life story also resonates today.  She is now considered a heroine in Germany, has several stamps with her image (and one with both she and her brother), has a bust  prominently displayed and I believe several streets (strasse) named after her, or at least with the Scholl name.

What will we remember about our immediate historical events?   And most importantly will we ever look back and say, "that was a disaster, let's not repeat it."  And then, "not repeat it."


Oh, to be Hip Again

Like so many New Yorkers, I discovered Greenwich Village and its outpost the East Village from another borough, but it didn't take me long.  I was 14.

Now hidden in a low laying mountain retreat, I miss those places as much as I miss the sun, hidden under the haze, blighted by perpetual snowfall and often by early morning fog.  Darkness prevails and so do my choices.

Today what I miss is 8th Street, and in particular, the St. Mark's (8th Street Bookstore). Then it was small, now it has moved to a larger space but still carries the cachet of beat.

It carried me into books, pamphlets and journals not seen or known outside of the narrow shop between 2nd & 3rd Avenue.  In the middle section of the store were twirling wire shelves. It was on those shelves you might discover anyone or someone.  Someone like Ginsburg in mimeograph form, or a tattered but new copy of "On the Road."

Now, with yet the promise of another white out, I realize that since leaving New York in 2006, and after my one year sojourn in Taos,and a brief but delicious Guilford summer, I haven't seen N+1, or McSweeney's or the Paris Review in the Upper Delaware community.  I got a copy of the Review brought to me, but to me...there is nothing like feeling the crisp pages in my own hands and deciding where and how to plunk down those greens for a good read, or just a trendy one.

All this nostalgia emanates from a review of "MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures," in the New York Times.

I don't think I can weigh in on either side of the debate.  An MFA leads one;  NYC can also be a town that leads one, or permits one to decide on a course.   In the MFA program(s), you may learn of a new technique and certainly be exposed to new writers.  In NYC, you may discover these on your own.  But if booksellers continue to decline, those possibilities diminish.

Yet, with both MFAs flourishing, and the City changing, perhaps they are mirrors and not nearly as different.  Perhaps!


Will you get under your desk?

Although my school desk was not "exactly" like the one above, I couldn't find an exact match, and when I found a desk and chair that resembled mine from the 1950s Cold War era, I couldn't figure out how we got under them when those awful sirens rang throughout the school building.

With Putin asking and apparently receiving permission to use military force in the Ukraine and the US President making warnings, I remember those days, days I hoped and certainly thought were over.