Saturday, July 31, 2010

Faith and The Universal Dinner Lady

I have been listening to the night mass on disc 2 of ‘Into Great Silence’ (more to come on this great work) most nights before falling asleep. I don’t know whether it is that but it has been slowly born in on me that perhaps my problem derives from a lack of faith.
When I say my problem I mean a lack of motivation, a general indifference to attacking projects (including writing posts), a tendency to wish to escape into Patrick O’Brian novels. And when I say a lack of faith I don’t necessarily mean a religious faith but it does include the notion of lacking faith that God will provide if I have faith, or The Universal Dinner Lady will provide, if you prefer the Taoist view.
This I know already. ‘According to your faith shall it be it unto you’ and so on. ‘Anything you can believe you can achieve’, the power of the subconscious, and so on. But it just came more clearly into focus the other day. And then I read this quote from a book I recently bought, ‘1001 Pearls of Bible Wisdom’ and I had something like an epiphany and a confirmation I was onto something:

O man, believe in God with all your might, for hope rests on faith, love on hope, and victory on love.   – Mother Julian of Norwich

Of course, I said. Without faith – in God, in yourself, in others – hope is gone. Without hope you become indifferent, discouraged, even bitter: you have precious little love for yourself let alone others. And without love what can you have or accomplish? Nothing of meaning or lasting value, hence there can be no victory. I saw that faith is the foundation of a right attitude and I saw that it applied to me. I was in a vicious circle of demotivation and in order to break it I must begin to believe – in God, in myself and in The Universal Dinner Lady. It is all the same, for when you believe in yourself, you believe in the grace God has given you, you believe in God in you. And that is the definition of being inspired, innit?

Image: another shameless opportunistic posting of the lovely Aki Hoshino as the Universal Dinner Lady 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A real ship's log sells for £40,000

As I was looking for examples of Copperplate handwriting for my recent post about handwriting, I came across this beautiful, striking image of a ship’s log and this article: Bounty logbook sells for £40,000.

A naval logbook detailing the first glimpse of the Bounty mutineers on a remote Pacific island sold for £40,000 at auction.
The weighty, yellowing tome, painstakingly inscribed by midshipman J.B. Hoodthorp of the HMS Briton, also contains a watercolour sketch of Pitcairn Island.

Painstakingly inscribed. And illustrated too. Now tell me that log book is not a work of art as well as a piece of history. Is there such a thing as ‘painstakingly inscribed’ nowadays?

Hoodthorp, a junior officer, probably aged no more than 18, was responsible for compiling a daily account of the 44-gun ship's course and sailing conditions.
On Saturday September 17 1814, his curling script recorded: "Several canoes came onboard.
"Found the island inhabited by the descendants of Mr F Christian. Mutinous crew of the Bounty settled here AD 1788 (sic)."
Royal Navy warships spent 25 years scouring the ocean for any trace of the mutineers who set captain William Bligh adrift in an open boat after seizing control of HMS Bounty in 1789.
Led by Fletcher Christian they took refuge on Pitcairn Island, 1350 miles off the coast of Tahiti, and established a thriving community in 1790.

This is interesting enough, and then we read:

The HMS Briton, a fifth rate frigate commanded by Sir Thomas Stanley, was in the South Pacific to intercept an American frigate, the USS Essex, which had been attacking the British whaling fleet.
En route to Pitcairn the Briton also stopped in Peru and the Galapagos Islands.

Does that remind you of a Patrick O’Brian book and movie?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Importance of Good Handwriting

When I was at school in England, a long, long time ago, they taught us to write a modified form of Copperplate script. I didn’t know it was Copperplate at the time; it was simply ‘handwriting’ to me. The following image of a Copperplate script is not exactly what we wrote but not far from it neither.

This went on till I was about nine or ten. Then one day I noticed the handwriting of the boy next to me. He was, I remember, some fugitive latecomer from another school or town. He certainly did not learn how to write at my school. What was this writing? My eyes could hardly believe. No loops, no curls, no flourishes at all: capitals simplified to the extreme, as found in the newspaper, every letter reduced to its simplest expression. Here was the future! Here was progress! It was modern, efficient, avant-garde and a few other adjectives I did not know yet. It was simply ‘cool’. I adopted this knew way of handwriting in an instant. There was nothing to practice: just eliminate all this useless decoration. To give credit to my teachers, not a one made any comment to me that my handwriting had ‘changed’. Individuality was respected.

Fast forward a life time. A new respect for the old ways is quietly born of countless hours reading philosophy and history and realizing how shitty are the new ways. Comments about messages written in ‘a fine Copperplate hand’ keep cropping up in my beloved Patrick O’Brian historical novels. I begin to look at my own handwriting again. Sadly, it has not evolved since that day when I was 9 years old. What seemed to me then to be an excellent handwriting script, now appears to be lazy, superficial, without character. Strange how perceptions change so quickly, innit?

So I am here to tell you that I am absolutely relearning how to write in Copperplate script, just like they taught me at school a long, long time ago. Perhaps not entirely like. But not far from it neither.

Image 1 from scribblers

Image 2 from Wikipedia:  Detail of the log of HMS Victory kept by William Farquhar, 1854-55

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sacrifice - from the phlegmatic Michael Caine

I have often been called phlegmatic, calm, not easily angered. (I have been called a lot of other things too…)

Phlegmatic (definition from

1. not easily excited to action or display of emotion; apathetic; sluggish.
2. self-possessed, calm, or composed.
3. of the nature of or abounding in the humour phlegm.

1. stoical, cool, cold, uninterested, dull, torpid. 2.  cool, collected, unruffled, placid, quiet.

When they call me phlegmatic they usually also refer to my British background, a disposition for phlegm being seen as a typically British trait. I may have some claim to that quality (some would say particularly the cold, dull and torpid part) but I have nothing in comparison to the phlegm of one of my favourite actors: Sir Michael Caine.

I recently saw him in ‘The Weather Man’ (2005) starring Nicolas Cage. It’s a very honest movie, worth your while, even important, particularly for a few lines that Caine delivers with an armour-piercing phlegm.

To get anything of value you have to sacrifice. Do you know the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. Easy doesn’t enter into grown up life.

Easy doesn’t enter into grown up life. It’s as simple as that. Most of our problems arise from that one simple fact and our inability to face up to doing the hard thing, the right thing, the thing that takes courage. The minute we stop resisting and accept that, we will start to make progress. And that’s also when we will start to become men. And women.

Here’s the clip, I found it on Youtube. Your whole life has brought you to this moment with Michael Caine.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond