I love that the late Oliver Sacks tacked up a great big sign in his house to remind himself to decline invitations in order to preserve writing time. The neurologist would jot down thoughts and ideas as they occurred to him, sometimes scrawling on the backs of envelopes, menus and the pages of books when he didn’t have a journal to hand. 

The act of writing itself, helped him to come up with, and shape, his ideas. For Sacks, it was a special, indispensable form of talking to himself.

“The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place — irrespective of my subject — where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realise that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.”

Oliver Sacks

Here too, is Sacks talking about his desk, complete with metal touchstones from the periodic table, a rather awesome pencil sharpener, and images of platypi and lemurs.


Video Game Skies

Growl (Runark), Genesis, 1990

This blog of skies from video games is really soothing. There’s something about the simplicity and lack of detail that makes me nostalgic. Takaaki Ichijo manages to nail this feeling in Amr Al-Aaser’s article about lofi gaming: “The appeal is that it leaves room for the imagination of players. And for people of a specific age, it’s a time machine to take you back to feeling young for a moment.”

Later on, in the same article, video game developer, David Szymanski likens low fidelity visuals to impressionist paintings, saying: “They give a rough idea of a thing rather than outright portraying it, and I think that can ultimately be more immersive.” It’s this expressive quality that I like. Pixels can obscure details which adds to the atmosphere and makes things feel mysterious. Szymanski also notes that it is important for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. “I think that the idea of a thing in your head is more vivid than the thing sitting in front of you.  So showing the player a forest is cool, but giving them the idea of a forest is, I’d argue, even better.”

I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I find the push for high definition everything frustrating and limiting. Oftentimes it’s the games made by small teams, with limited resources, that are the most creative and therefore, the most interesting.

Asemic Writing

After @accidentalmystery posted this 19th century blotter page, I googled asemic writing. Turns out, it’s a form of illegible, wordless writing and better yet, there’s a whole art form based around it.

Influenced by cave paintings, doodles and children’s drawings, the meaning of asemic writing is deliberately left open so viewers can interpret it in their own way. It’s primal and works on an unconscious level, blurring the boundaries between writing and art.

Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-5 by Cy Twombly 1928-2011
Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-5 © Cy Twombly
Asemic Photograph © Rosalia Touchon

Asemic writing has its roots in the earliest forms of written communication and strangely, is thought to stem from the work of two drunk Chinese Tang Dynasty calligraphers: “Crazy” Zhang Xu and Huai “Drunk” Su. Legend has it that whenever Zhang Xu was inebriated, he would use his hair as a brush to perform his art, and upon his waking up, he would be amazed by the quality of those works but failed to produce them again in his sober state.

One of Huai Su’s surviving works
An example of Zhang Xu’s calligraphy

In the late 1800s, Japanese Zen calligraphers built on from Zhang Xu and Huai Su’s work, founding Hitsuzendō or The Way of the Zen Brush.

In Hitsuzendō, the whole body is used to push a large brush and ink, usually on newspaper roll. Often practised standing, the process results in expressive, spiritual works that aim to focus the mind.

Jiun Sonja (1718-1804), Nantendo (1839-1925) and Kasumi Bunsho (1905-1998)

More recently, poets, writers and artists have experimented with wordless mark-making to explore abstraction and express their ideas.

Man Ray’s poem, Paris, Mai 1924 consists of different sized black dashes, Henri Michaux‘s compulsive, calligraphic drawings expressed his “interior gestures” and Cy Twombly‘s paintings often incorporated frenetic scribbles and scrawls.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; it’s a fascinating subject. Go take a look at Tim Gaze’s magazine to see the breadth and scope of asemic art worldwide.

The Challenge of True Solitude

I am fascinated by people who live very solitary lives. Recently, I enjoyed Winter’s Watch, a short documentary about Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island, 10 miles off the coast of New England.

“You have to be at peace with the fact that something might happen, and you might not make it through,” says Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel, in Brian Bolster’s short documentary, Winter’s Watch. De Steiguer has spent the past 19 winters tending to the 43-acre grounds of the hotel, on Star Island, which sits 10 miles off the coast of New England. In the long, wintry off-season, she is the island’s sole inhabitant.” (via YouTube)

Thanks to CJ Chilvers‘ and his newsletter for the heads up. Subscribe to it here.

Welcome to Lumberton

via FilmGrab

Last night I watched Blue Velvet and found myself noticing the in-between moments like the guy that Jeffrey passes on the street, while walking to Detective John Williams’ house, that’s just kind of standing there with his dog. It’s a great movie, beautifully shot, and the attention to detail is insane. 

Another film I absolutely love that has a really offbeat vibe is Fargo. The bizarre events, odd characters and dark humour; I don’t know if the Coen brothers are inspired by David Lynch at all but it seems like they were with that movie.

via Film Grab
via Film Grab

Massive props to FilmGrab for the images.