Category Archives: Interesting People

The travels of knowledge

William Noel (curator, rare book scholar) makes this fascinating talk on TED about the recent discoveries lying under a byzantine manuscript. As we quickly understand from his speech, in the past it was quite common to re-use paper in order to make new manuscripts. In a byzantine manuscript which was re-discovered in 1906, its then owner found that on some pages, underneath the Christian prayers and illustrations, there was earlier text from… Archimedes! This manuscript was bought at the end of the 20th century by an, obviously wealthy, man whose ambition was to discover, preserve and share this barely surviving treasure.

So the travels of these binded pages in the millenia could be quickly described as various sheets of paper that carry ancient Greek texts by Archimedes and Hypereides, as well as Roman commentary on Aristotle, that manage to survive through the centuries to be reused (written over) and binded  into a prayer manuscript during the Byzantine times. In the 21st century this damaged by now book comes into the hands of scientists and scholars who photograph, x-ray, analyze, read through the layers and share the underlying ancient precious texts with the world through the website: Archimedes Palimpsest

William Noel: Revealing the lost codex of Archimedes

It is so beautiful hearing about a contemporary individual who buys a treasure not to store it away but to fund its conservation and its data distribution.

It is also beautiful to hear about such diverse people making up a team and use old & new technologies to bring to light parts of the archeology of human thought, knowledge and wit.

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David Bowie’s Changes

“Time may change me
But I can’t trace time”

                                     David Bowie, ‘Changes’

Changes (1971)

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste
was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the stranger)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the stranger)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

Continue reading

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On Imagination, Secret Worlds and the Explorer within us

'Silverback', by Jun Pierre Shiozawa (© 2012 junpierre)

I am startled by the power, creativity and freedom that imagination gives us access to. Startled not so much because through imagination we can escape reality, but mainly because it functions differently on all individuals but it gives us all the possibility to experience events and emotions, or to explore territories that are normally impossible (or just hard) to reach in our ‘real’ life.

In this sense I really liked Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris“. It had the same old Allen structure but it didn’t have a ‘punch’, therefore I wouldn’t say that it was a great Woody Allen film. But I loved how Allen used the possibilities that the film medium provides to follow his dream and ‘transport’ himself back in time so that he could enjoy ‘in vivo’ the company of his cultural heroes, people like Elliot, Hemingway, Picasso, Lautrec, etc. How liberating is that?

It is in this very same way I am amazed by all kinds of imaginative people, be they artists, scientists or whichever tag one may carry. I find it absolutely inspiring how they let themselves loose in their personal strands of thought to explore and hopefully communicate their interests and fascinations.
Sometimes, via their travels in their wonder-worlds, we get to understand some things or some people better. This is how I felt about a book I read a few years back, “The Paper House” by Carlos María Domínguez. This book was given to me by my dad, a true ‘bookophile’.

I’m not sure I remember the story correctly but what has stayed with me is that it is a short story Domínguez came up with about a book collector, named Carlos Brauer, who accidentally destroys the taxonomy index of his collection. Losing this key ‘navigation tool’ for his collection has a mirroring parallel effect on Brauer himself and his ability to keep an order in his life and to maintain a sense of self. By losing his taxonomy ‘manual’ Brauer therefore progressively loses his ability to keep his interests distinct from his actual self. The endless options of categorizing his interests now live only inside his head and inevitably he and his collection become one, they have a common and inseparable life.
To illustrate the inevitable collapse of any useful distinction between the person and his interests, the author makes his main character, Brauer, build a shelter out of his very own books to live in, as a last resort. In his delusion Brauer sees this solution as his only way to “protect” his collection and his sanity, which are ultimately one and the same thing. His books become the bricks and insulation material that make up his home. Weather and time give a physical appearance to the psychological conditions that now dictate their common fate.
The book I think suggests that a collection without a taxonomy system is to a collector  what life is to all of us without access to our thoughts and love(s). For anyone who has been close to a book lover can feel very touched by the struggles of this man to care, protect and keep control of his world. For anyone who has felt at any point that they are losing their references in life, this character’s misery is suffocatingly real. By no means do I think this book to be a masterpiece, but it is a short and sweet story.

Paper House, detail, by Matej Kren (via flavorpill)

My immediate response when I read it, if I remember correctly, was feeling for the condition of the books more than that of the man. It surprised me that the book ‘stayed with me’ till my emotions went out to the man. Which means, that my first reaction was to hold the man responsible of his own fate and see his books as victims. Only later, when I had finished with being a reader of the book and I had become a ‘carrier’ of the story, did I see the collection as a material manifestation of a person’s endless journeys in his inner precious wonderland.
Having been given this book by my ‘bookophile’ dad I have always wondered if this is how he feels. I could not remember the name of the author or the title of the book till now that I googled it, but I could remember this: an intimate, silent and secret relationship between a book lover and his books. Of a father and his children. A story that makes a collector’s feelings your own and hopes to make you see more of the man amidst his collection. Cunning….
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Ernesto Sabato

Ernesto Sabato - photo © Sophie Bassouls:Sygma:Corbis (via biblioteca ignoria)

I first heard of Ernesto Sabato on Gavdos island. I went to that earthly paradise for a ten day break some years ago and I left on a brilliant day almost two months later. There, in the community of free-campistas I dwelt in silence and in beautiful conversations that kept the same gentle rhythm of rising and passing away, as the sea, the days and the season’s imprints on nature at that dear beach that was our home. While there, we used to call that place the Epicurean Garden.

Just yesterday I found this interview Sabato gave at the ‘Unesco Courier‘ journal for the August 1990 issue. I have highlighted so many phrases in my personal copy, so I thought of sharing some here as quotes but to also include the entire interview at the bottom:

“Is Don Quixote “unreal”? If reality bears any relationship to durability, then this character born of Cervantes’ imagination is much more real than the objects that surround us, for he is immortal.”

“Art can no more progress than a dream can, and for the same reasons.”

“I must be a reactionary because I still believe in dull, mediocre democracy, the only regime which, after all, allows me to think freely and to prepare the way for a better reality.”

The Unesco Courier, cover, August 1990 issue

Ernesto Sabato’s full interview at the Unesco Courier

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“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”

Susan Sontag in ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’

Susan Sontag Quote

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TED 2008 Talk by Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion

TED is one of my favourite platforms / sites out there. I always try to be updated with its events and event uploads and most of the times I am amazed by the people, ideas and material there is! Creative minds from all sorts of walks of life and fields communicate their creative thinking, they get attention and hopefully further their funding options, while we get to have “shining eyes” out of excitement and wonder. TED has become super trendy and popular these days, but there are older talks that might get ‘lost’ on TED’s always expanding video bank. So I thought of sharing today a talk I love from Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor, that gave a presentatiom at TED 2008, on music and passion.

Zander uses this talk to communicate his sense of fulfillment when he shares his love of classical music and of empowering people.

At some point during his talk he says:

‘The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound, he depends of his power on his ability to make other people powerful…. I realised that my job is to awaken possibility to other people”

You know if you are doing it “if other people’s eyes are shining.”

Because the question is, “Who am I being that my players’ eyes are not shining?”

A fun and beautiful talk. Enjoy it!

TED 2008 talk: Benjamin Zander on music and passion

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‘Allegory reminds us that by necessity reality skids away from logic, and it is this gap, this apparent imperfection, that nourishes the sacred as the desire for and the impossibility of the union between truth and mean- ing.’

Michael Taussig

Michael Taussig Quote

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Paco de Lucia’s amazing interpretation of the Concierto de Aranjuez

Paco de Lucia, this amazing Spanish flamenco guitarist plays the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo, another spaniard. De Lucia cannot read music, so he interpets this piece following his unique sense of rhythm. Apparently Rodrigo thought that this was the best interpretation of his work.

This video (via youtube) includes all three movements, but my favorite ones are the second and third and they begin at 6:40mins into the video.

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Nietzsche Quote

Perhaps the entire evolution of the spirit is a question of the body… In the long run, it is not a question of man at all: he is to be overcome

F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power

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Martha Graham Quote

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.

Martha Graham

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