Moleskine notebooks

Posted by jerry on March 23rd, 2004 — Posted in Journal

I have preferred notebooks with squared paper, ever since I first encountered Clairefontaine notebooks in Brussels in 1990. I found that the paper was good for using a fountain pen and the squares made sketching designs easier. On my return to Australia, however, I found that I could no longer buy these handy notebooks – in fact it seemed an almost impossible quest to locate a pocket-sized notebook with squared paper! Rare visits in intervening years to London and Paris renewed my supply of these notebooks, but they were soon to run out.

Enter the Moleskine! After stumbling into a specialist paper store in Canberra I found the perfect notebook – it even had a handy elastic to keep it closed, and a stitched-in bookmark. Above all, it had squared paper 🙂 It has become my favourite hard-copy medium. It fits in a shirt pocket, takes fountain pen ink well (being left-handed, I find a fountain pen glides over the page, rather than digging in as ballpoints tend to) and has a sufficiently sturdy cover to allow writing while standing, and it opens flat – unlike most bound notebooks.

I carry my trusty moleskine now wherever I go to jot down ideas, thoughts, sketch designs to remind me of interesting ways of constructing things (like joints on a bench) or ideas on using mouldings for bookcases (see below). For me, it is the perfect format! – even though the small format notebook is not cheap at around AUS$25.00 each – they are well made and last for ages as the paper is really fine – so you get more pages for less bulk.

It seems that others are equally taken with these notebooks – such as the delightful Moleskinerie – a blog devoted to tales of this notebook 🙂 It is great to see good design recognised!

Moleskine notebook - Jerry Everard

Here is an entry from before the Great Fire of Canberra in which I began designing the built-in book cases for what was to become our new home.


Movies – The Passion of Christ and Last Samurai

Posted by jerry on March 21st, 2004 — Posted in Journal

Still catching up on my blogging… *sigh*

On 12 March I went to see the Mel Gibson movie: The Passion of Christ. It is one of those films one should have seen – rather than one to ‘enjoy’ (shallow word anyhow). It is certainly not light entertainment. But while it has been slammed as overly violent, I’d have to say that the violence is appropriate to the context of the story and the time and culture in which it is set. In many ways the violence depicted in the film is not much worse that that shown in footage of tribal fighting in the Pacific islands in which people are hacked to death with grass knives (machetes). (And by making that comparison I am not trying to perpetuate an image of islanders as in any sense backward, rather, I am trying to suggest that in areas where traditional pre-modern lifestyles are lived, life operates by different and sometimes quite brutal rules). Back to the movie. There are subtleties that are shown very well, such as the Roman guard whose ear is bitten off, being healed by Christ – and the moral ambiguity shown in that guard being torn then between duty and recognition of injustice. Similarly the doubts cast by the local Roman administrator in Gallilee are well depicted. And the makeup is very good, making this film difficult to watch in parts.

Moleskine notebook

…so much so that we had to go and see another movie: The Last Samurai. This film was slammed by the critics as shallow – and in my view unjustly so. The film is about a rapidly changing society and the tension between tradition and innovation. While Japan is rushing headlong into industrialisation, there is a generational issue between modern=good/tradition=bad and the struggle to keep what is good about traditions like honour and identity, as Japan seeks to shift its identity from that of a rural agrarian society into a modern western industrial state. In all this there is a struggle between the craft of the warrior and the mechanisation of the military – skill versus technology. It was surely only later that the Samurai were able to reinvent themselves as the new industrialists.


Alexandria library

Posted by jerry on March 21st, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Writing

On Thursday (18 March) I went to a Classics seminar at the Australian National University – Robert Barnes was talking on the old Library at Alexandria.

It was a revisit/work-in-progress of a paper he published in a collection to recognise the opening of the new Alexandria Library that opened about 18 months ago.

Barnes described the original, set up by Ptolemy I in terms that seemed a cross between a ‘salon’ and a think-tank devoted to the study of (primarily) Greek literature and writing.

The Library appeared to enjoy royal patronage for an extended period, covering at least the period of the first three Ptolemys. Barnes also spoke of the controversy over the library’s destruction, with varying claims of accidental or deliberate burning by Julius Caeser, by Augustus Caeser, or successive versions of destruction or sacking including by Caliph Omar’s Moslem invaders – the latter largely discounted. What is interesting in all this is two things: firstly that there was more than one campus of the Alexandrine library – with a ‘daughter’ library being located in the temple of Serapis. Moreover, when books were obtained (through copying, theft, gifting or purchase) they were first stored in warehouses by the docks – and so the destruction by fire story in which fire spread from the fleet to the surrounding buildings, may have destroyed the ‘new books section’ of the library. At any rate it seems unlikely that the library was totally destroyed all at once. Good commentarys along the lines of Barnes’ paper can be found at the following links:

* James Hannum
* Preston Chesser

The second thing that is interesting is that the location of the major Library remains unknown to this day, although the ‘daughter’ library at the Serapium has been well excavated.

Map of Alexandria

It is thought to be somewhere near the intersection between Rue El-Horreya and Rue Nebi Daniell. [I would like to acknowledge the source of this map, but after stumbling across it on the web I have been unable to relocate the site – so if you recognise it, could you let me know please and I’ll put in the appropriate acknowledgement and link – Cheers, Jerry]

Why a library of Greek writings? Perhaps it has something to do with the Ptolemys representing a ruling but essentially Greek minority being faced with a well established and longstanding Egyption civilisation. So they would have perhaps held a kind of ‘cultural cringe’ that drove them to be like many expatriates to become more Greek than the Greeks (in the same way that many English in Australia become more English than the English) – so they may have had an interest in building a name or reputation for themselves as sophisticated scholars of Greek culture. Moreover, the Library may have served to attract ‘star’ scholars to Alexandria to help keep up the standard of debate in this outpost on the margins of Greek civilisation. And finally, the library may have been a means to assert the dominance of Greek culture in the face of the well-establised Egyptian civilisation.

One questioner at the end of the seminar seemed concerned that the library may have been somewhat devalued by not necessarily having all the scrolls that make up any given ‘work’ – given that each work required multiple scrolls. But to make such an assertion implies that the same primacy of a whole work was assumed by the users of the Library. But perhaps it may have been the case that if all a great scholar’s work was considered worthwhile then it would be no shame to have even fragments of that scholar’s work – and that such fragments, perhaps single scrolls from a work of seven or more – would have been sufficient for many purposes. Certainly art galleries today typically only have a small selection of any given artist’s work, and that even one work might suffice to study elements of an artist’s style or brushwork. Could it not have been much the same in Ancient Egypt?


Apuleius’ “Metamorphoses”

Posted by jerry on March 21st, 2004 — Posted in History, Writing

I’ve just picked up a copy of Apuleius – The Golden Ass (or Metamorphoses) – Penguin classics edition translated by Robert Graves. A precursor to Kafka’s ‘metamorphosis, the Cinderella folk tale, and a host of other works through the ages, this book is a great read! It is a kind of magic realist tale of lust, loss and transformation. Although quite lyrical, Robert Graves does appear to have cleaned up some of the more earthy language found in earlier editions, such as the translation by Adlington in 1566. And for the purists there is also a complete latin edition online. If you are unfamiliar with this book it is worth checking out Benjamin Slade’s Review: “The best piece of asse in Ancient Rome”.

Apuleius himself appears to have been a roman living in North Africa, which possibly explains the down-to-earth lustiness of this set of tales. He was a platonist and some of the Platonic duality comes through in his latin writings, including the Metamorphoses. The “Metamorphoses” was one of the first complete Roman latin novels to come down to us and it provides satyrical descrptions of all walks of Roman life from Senators to shepherds.

I think it is also possible to apply a Lacanian psychoanalytic reading to this work as an allegory of the divided self in the process of individuation (see Lacan’s “The Mirror Stage” and “The Agency of the Letter” in Ecrits. In this case the protagonist, Lucius, becoming self aware through his sense of difference (expressed in his transformation into an ass – classic Mirror stage), then filling the ‘lack’ of unity with the world/m/Other with semiotic practice: language – the tales and adventures – until achieving mythic union in his retranformation back into a man. So Apuleius’ Metamorphoses can be seen as metaphoric of the emergence of the ego-self into language. What do you think?


St Patrick’s day

Posted by jerry on March 20th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Music

Yes I know it was on Wednesday 17th, but it’s about time I blogged it isn’t it? Now, you may recall that I play Irish music on a hardingfele (Hardanger fiddle – eight strings). We (the band Full Circle) played two shows at different Irish pubs in Canberra – 2.00pm-5.00pm at PJ O’Reilly’s and then 6.00pm-9.00pm at Filthy McFadden’s – both great Irish venues and each with a different appeciative audience.

PJ’s was a great place to warm-up because they also had Irish dancers and and got into the spirit of St Pat’s Day in a flamboyant way – green beer, green hats, green gas balloons – yeah I wound up with green hair too! Everyone was ready to party – even at 2.00pm on a weekday 🙂 So it was easy for us to get in the mood and party along with the crowd

And Liz Gregory’s Irish dancers (described as Canberra’s answer to Riverdance) were a treat – two of the dancers are currently first and second place holders in the Australian Irish Dancing Championships. We have played music for them before, and they got us playing jigs and reels for them to dance to – great fun all round!

Then there was Filthy’s! The set-up was a bit of a rush – but the pub has a great atmosphere with lots of dark timber and a good range of Irish beers – including my favourite Guinness! and, like PJ O’Reilly’s was well crowded. With the lights up and a quick sound check we grabbed a quick round of light beers (hey with six hours of playing, you don’t think we’d be drinking full strength stuff do you?) As soon as we launched into the first set the crowd were right into it, singing along and dancing wherever they could find a space. We debuted a couple of new (for us) songs – “New York Girls” and, after 20 years of requests, I finally did “Devil Went down to Georgia” – that great song about a fiddler who meets the devil in a small country to the south of Russia… It went down a treat fully justifying the work we’ve been putting into it for the last couple of months.

It was hot – musically and physically – and I was glad to have eaten a large lunch, because there was no time to eat from the start of the first show until after we’d packed down the gear at the end of the second show! – hence it was light beer the whole time aside from a soothing pint of guinness at the end :-p
I certainly won’t need to see a gym after a workout like that!

Full Circle Band in concert
(Full Circle in concert)