From Thomas West’s Thinking Like Einstein:
Long ago, Socrates described some second thoughts he had about the new and questionable technology called a “book”. He thought it had several weaknesses. A book could not adjust what it was saying, as a living person would, to what would be appropriate for certain listeners or specific times or places. In addition, a book could not be interactive, as in a conversation or dialogue between persons. And finally, according to Socrates, in a book the written words “seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever.”
[Socrates then went on to say, “It’s been five weeks since the book was introduced, and I don’t see that many people using it – books are so over.”]
Quote of the week, Bonus Edition: Socrates on the “book”
In both his art and his life, the sculptor Gaston Lachaise was famously devoted to his muse, Isabel.
Lachaise was working in Paris in 1901 when he first saw Isabel Nagle, a married woman on vacation from the United States. He later recalled that the moment he laid eyes on her, Isabel “immediately became the primary inspiration which awakened my vision….“
The sincere young artist appeared at her door every day until she agreed to let him draw her portrait. By the time she returned home to the U.S., Isabel loved Gaston too.
Lachaise could not bear to lose Isabel so he gave up his friends and family, learned to speak English and followed her to the U.S. with $30 in his pocket. There, he ultimately persuaded her to divorce her husband and marry him.
Gaston and Isabel seem to have had a grand time together. Isabel’s first husband was a conservative businessman in strict Boston society. Gaston took her away from Boston to romp nude in the remote woods of Maine. They swam and frolicked in the phosphorescent sea at night. They wrote bad love poetry to each other (as is every couple’s right). A sample from Gaston:
I sing my hymn to you, Mostly, Isabel inspired Lachaise to sculpt an endless stream of monuments to muliebrity. His statues gloried in her ample belly, powerful haunches and pendulous breasts.
You the goddess for whom I searched,
Whom I express in my every work,
Have made me a God,
You inspire my every moment.
Years later he wrote, “through her the splendor of life was uncovered for me and the road of wonder began widening….” It must have been somewhere along that wider road that he started sculpting Isabel opened like some giant fecund orchid.
I used to think Lachaise’s art was pretty uncomplicated. Then I read that Isabel was in reality just five feet, two inches tall and weighed a mere 110 pounds. Whoa.
Oliver Sacks once wrote, "the world isn’t given to us– we make it with our nervous systems.” In art as in love, what we bring to and invest in the object of our affection plays a significant role in the reality we perceive.
Lachaise did not simply copy Isabel as nature created her. She was his focal object for distilling the abstract shapes and contours of eros. Isabel seems to have transported Lachaise to something much bigger than himself. Willa Cather defined happiness as “being dissolved into something complete and great.” As far as I can tell, Lachaise was a very happy guy.
ARTISTS IN LOVE, part ten
Financial blog Wise Bread has come up with a practical way to make your flight experience a little less crazymaking - just fly out of a smaller airport:
This isn’t an option for everyone, but when it is, take it. It’s worth the extra $20, $20, or $50 to fly from an airport with shorter security lines and more accessible airline agents. Think of it as paying youself for the time you save because you don’t have to arrive as early or stand in line as long. Plus, flights from smaller airports are more likely to be on time than flights from major airports.
Actually, the one time I did this I had the most awesome flight of my life, I kid you not. What are some other ways you’ve found to ease the irritants of air travel these days? Thoughts in the comments.Headaches, Begone!: 5 Tips for Making Airline Travel Easier [Wise Bread]
Travel: Choose a smaller airport to make your flight more pleasant
Don’t watch this documentary unless you are ready to quit your job. It’s about the joys and woes of long-term traveling. It’s impossible to watch this fun film and not confront the fact that you are here instead of there, out on the road, soaking up the mysteries of the world, with all-you-can-eat $3 dinners and $5 rooms, backpacking around the world for a year, as the filmmaker himself did. This kind of vagabonding is more a state of mind than a state of motion. Something weird happens when you travel longer than 10 days, and that wonderful transformation (which no one can explain to their family when they return) is what this superbly written, fabulously edited, deeply personal and wonderfully likeable documentary is all about.
This film explores the mellow subculture of (mostly) young people who trek along an invisible international traveler’s circuit. There’s a kind of endless distributed global party going on every day of the year (plainly visible here), and to join it all you need is a ticket to any country and the address of the local hostel. I was part of this mind-set for many years and boy, does this film nail the peculiar delights of perpetual cheap travel. Not just the highs (everyday is Saturday, each new person an instant best friend), but also the lows (always saying goodbye, and loss of connection).
This DVD won’t give you the how-to specifics of vagabonding. For that I recommend First-Time Around the World. A Map for Saturday works best as an orientation course, offering inspiration on why to tackle this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It’s the next best thing to having a good friend come back and tell you what really happens when you find yourself at the other end of the road.
A Map for Saturday
2006, 90 min.
$15 ($20 with shipping), DVD
Available from the filmmakers’ website
Filmmaker Brook keeps track of his expenses for one day in Laos. He starts out with his $5 room shared with fellow traveler Kym.
You have to get used to the squatty potties in Asia. The bucket of water on the side is used to flush the toilet.
A game of beach volley ball on the sands in Thailand. Hanging around for weeks sipping cold beers at sunset is part of the plan.
A Map for Saturday