A sketch from the sketchbook – thoughts about creating, crayons and dishwashing

I try to write at least three pages each day – and likewise I try to make at least one drawing every day too. The picture of the swimmer (below) is one of such drawings. Creating is very fulfilling. Only through practice, practice, practice can perfection be achieved. Productiveness is a great way to stay motivated within the creative process. The relaxation moment is crucial. By getting out the pen and paper or the crayons and the sketchbook, and sitting down, switching off the mind and focusing 100% on the task at hand, thoughts dwindling by like little sparks that die out above the campfire, the author or painter gets into a flow that is quiet yet unstoppable. Yes, I know my sentences may be too long, yet the creative process is not controlled by everyday rules. You have to love what you do.

Dishwashing and Creating

Hard cut to dishwashing. “Oh, what this sudden change of topic? ” you will wonder. Many years ago, our dishwasher broke down. Buy a new one, or look at alternatives? Which alternatives are there to a dishwasher?! Doing the dishes by hand. We got rid of the dishwasher, and now I wash the dishes by hand two to three times a day. Dishwashing is an interesting occupation. It may not sound very creative at first, but through practice, you can become really good at it. The dishes have to be spotless in the end, but you also will want to be as economical as possible with detergent, hot water and spent time. Dishwashing is a creative process, but interestingly with a single outcome: clean dishes. It has a strong Buddhist experience to it. I couldn’t live without it, yet I also dislike it at times, especially in the evening. It is a bit like art.

And art is the only way to survive the apocalypse 😎

Sportsman

Crayon sketch of a swimmer

The swimmer

This is a very simple sketch, I don’t want to exaggerate its importance. I do like the dynamics of this tanned body, as it jumps into to sea and at a perfect angle. It reminds me of summer, my favorite time of year. Will I turn this into an oil painting, as I often do with sketches? Nope.

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More newspudding: Moguls, Magnates and Sexual Harassment

The  unlucky episode around Harvey Weinstein. When it started to develop, my initial reaction was something like: no surprise here, after all, the man is a movie-mogul – and isn’t harassment exactly what moguls are supposed to do? But on second thought I wondered: what is a mogul actually? And is obnoxious behavior a perk of a Mogul’s job, or, even worse, part of the essential job profile? (“Our studio is seeking a motivated, experienced individual to fill the role of Senior Movie Mogul. A proven track record in lewd behavior towards junior employees and subordinates (both sexes) is a requirement. We look forward to your meaningful application. Please provide photographic evidence.“).

Time for some research 

According to the dictionary, a mogul is also defined as a magnate, either a business magnate (a prominent person in a particular industry, kinda what William Randolph Hearst was for newspapers), or a media mogul, a “person who controls, either through personal ownership or a dominant position, any media enterprise”. I like the phrase “who controls […] through personal ownership or a dominant position”: both fuzzy and threatening, like the silhouette of a shark in the murky depths of an ocean.

The phrase Mogul smoothly associates with Kings of Exotic Countries: it has a dark, foreign resonance (how different from “Trump,” a name that sounds like a blown musical instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles). Indeed, the Mughal Empire, from which the word Mogul originates, has its history in India, and was founded in 1526. It was ruled by a Muslim dynasty with Turco-Mongol Chagatai roots from Central Asia. Interestingly, the Mughal Empire did intervene in local societies during most of its existence, but balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices. The rulers of this dynasty had a highly relevant positive influence on science, trade (mostly with Europe), governmental policies, and architecture. Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, gave the world the beautiful Taj Mahal.

Further (admittedly highly superficial) investigation

This seems to indicate that like in any other dynasty, kings had varied characters and quirks; yet the word “Mogul” seems to refer mostly to the unifying character and resulting vastness of the kingdom, and less to the embarrassing behavior of the rulers.

No mention that a typical King of the Mughal Empire or, for that matter, a Movie Mogul, must embark on lecherous, randy, lewd, degraded, embarrassing, harassing, disgraceful or shameful behavior.

It simply isn’t part of the job description.

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Give money to homeless street beggars ? What do you think?

We visited Paris a few months ago. As soon as we left the train and the station, we met a beggar, and a few streets on the next one… and then the next one. How to deal with this as a tourist? Emotionally, we wanted to give money, rationally we hesitated: would the Parisians be pleased if millions of tourists start funding beggars, potentially increasing their numbers ? What will an individual beggar do with the donation? Buy food, finance a roof for the night, or god forbid buy drugs? Or is the beggar part of a commercial enterprise? Shockingly, there were couples getting ready for a night on the street with small babies. Should that be supported that?

Just like tipping and charity, giving money to homeless people has a bad side to it. It crowds out community and state involvement. A minimum existence should not be left to the whims of tourists. Shouldn’t it be something that we collectively decide to guarantee for everyone? In the perfect society, there ought to be no need to beg, there shouldn’t be a need to rely on the irregular kindness of passing people.

A dilemma. In the end we think we found a way out of this. We started counting the number of beggars that we met. We tripled that number and after we returned home we searched and found a charity in Paris that supports homeless people. We donated the calculated sum to that organization. Not the best solution, but workable.

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CELETERRA. An Adventure Novel set on Earth & in Heaven. 100+ Pages of High Speed Adventure.

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Shocking secrets hide within a simple cover

Vance descended into the cellar. He found the light switch. They entered the space where the Biedermeier desk had stood. Quickly, he walked into to the wine cellar. He passed by the empty barrels. His hand searched for the handle behind the paintings. He pulled it and the hidden door opened with a click. Fumbling in the semidarkness, he made sure that the lever remained hidden behind the old paintings. He switched on the light in the secret room. He retraced his steps and made sure that he hadn’t left any footprints in the dirt of the wine cellar. He turned off the basement light, reentered the room, and pushed the door shut behind him. After hastily opening the cans of food, he switched off the light in this room too, as he was afraid that it might spill into the night through some hidden shaft. Vance drank first and then allowed the hound to drink. They ate their food in the darkness, the dog wolfing it down hurriedly. Vance ate a can of cold peas, which was not very tasty but at least rich in calories.

After that, they stretched out on the damp sand. Vance was exhausted and he shivered uncontrollably. Obviously his body was trying to get rid of some substance, some poison – a drug. He tried to recall how to combat withdrawal symptoms, but under the circumstances, he could only think of drinking a lot of water. In a way, he had been lucky. His stomach had been upset the last few days and due to that, he hadn’t eaten much and had mostly turned to drinking plain tap water. The amount of drugs in his bloodstream must have gone down and as a result, his head had slowly cleared.

The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. He began to realize that the occurrences of the last weeks were all interconnected. The rococo table, Darwin’s letter, this mansion, the religious sect, Enrique and the fake heaven – they were all interrelated like threads that stick out of a ball of wool. He felt that if he would follow just one of those threads, he would arrive at the core of the ball. Again he imagined that an instigator was waiting there, waiting for him. An individual, pulling all the ropes, manipulating the lives of many people, the perpetrator that had organized Vance’s ordeal.

Who had been in the car that had driven away as he had arrived at the house? What had this visitor been up to at this mansion? He was almost certain that this person had seen him, possibly even recognized him. Had this been the mastermind behind the entire affair?

With that question in his mind, he fell asleep, exhausted.

His sleep was filled with nightmares. He was hunted by wild animals, lions, and tigers. He tried to escape by climbing up a tree, but its bark was wet and slippery and his hands could not get a hold. A male lion came closer and closer, staring at him, both evilly and indifferent.

Eugene woke him up. The dog trembled and growled softly and Vance quickly put his hand on the animal’s snout. They listened. After a while, Vance could hear sounds. As he had suspected there was a shaft or a pipe leading from the ground level down into the cellar. It ensured that fresh air could reach this hideout, even when the door was closed. Now, that shaft transported the sounds from the outside world down to him. A car approached slowly, its wheels grinding on the gravel of the driveway. The engine was almost inaudible. Vance imagined that it was a big vehicle.

Was this the same car that he had seen departing earlier? The car stopped and the engine was switched off. Absolute silence followed, only interrupted by the ticking sounds of the cooling motor. Then several doors opened. Feet stepped onto the small stones. After a few seconds, three doors closed softly. Vance strained his ears. Slow footsteps approached, toiling on the gravel.

With his eyes closed, Vance imagined three, perhaps four men. He imagined that they were going towards the back door. Suddenly it was silent again. Eugene stirred. Vance stroked the animal’s head and went sssh. They waited. It remained silent for a long time. Vance thought that half the world must be able to hear his breathing. He opened his mouth wide to reduce the sound as much as possible.

A man’s voice could be heard, whispering, but unexpectedly clear. They must have stopped very close to the exit of the shaft.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been a refugee in the Embassy of Ecuador in London for 5 years. The country is looking for ways to change this.

Turning off the heating, water leaks, loud music, or putting a blaring baby in the guest room: we all have our own favorite way to get rid of unwanted guests. As the international press has reported, Julian Assange is becoming a bit of a nuisance. How can Perdí Miscanicas, the current Ecuadorian Ambassador to London be helped? Should he…

  • Pack everything into cardboard boxes, and move the embassy to a new building, without telling Julian Assange?
  • It is no secret that Julian Assange loves frozen yoghurt. Julian will come running out of the building if a dairy van parks in front of the embassy and starts advertising a new flavor, for instance strawberry, vanilla, chia and goji berry.
  • Change the diet of all embassy personnel to include copious amounts of onions, beans, cabbage and other flatulent foodstuffs, topped with garlic, at the same time closing all the windows.

I continuously confuse Julian Assange with Nigel Farrage (in fact, the former was visited by the British Donald not too long ago), initially I thought this was because of the (slight) similarity in their names. But now I know that it is the dystopian gleam in their eyes that causes my nomenclature confusion.

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Tokyo, Japan. The ideal backdrop for a #postapocalyptic novel #postapo #lastmanonearth #twojourneys

Arguably, Tokyo is the largest city in the world, with 36 million inhabitants (daytime numbers, 22 million at night). It is impressive how this city runs so smoothly with that many inhabitants. What would happen should it come to a standstill? The opening chapters of Two Journeys describe how this mega city comes to a shocking standstill.

Below some pictures that I took in Tokyo during past visits and that have inspired me to place my postapocalyptic work in Japan.

Highrises in Tokyo. The sheer bulk of these buildings is overwhelming.

Alan, the hero of Two Journeys visits Tokyo around Christmas time.Should an epidemic of the proportions described in Two Journeys strike, the lights (above) would extinguish rapidly, the trains such as the one below (famously overfilled) would halt.

Deep dive into the marvelous world of amazing creatures #newspudding

At university, I was most impressed by one professor for molecular genetics, who not only was extremely knowledgeable in his field of study, but also suffered from the worst case of dandruff I’ve ever encountered. The shoulders of his black jackets were covered with powdery skin residue, to such an extend that his scientific credence was somewhat overtoned by student jest. I have moved on since, and this dermally challenged professor dropped from sight. But science has progressed, so that now we know that dandruff is caused by yeast: and in fact, these Malassezia species cause most skin disease in humans. M. globosa and M. restricta seem to be the worst culprits when it comes to dandruff. Read more in Wikipedia… and better use a shampoo that effectively combats these yeasts.

Readers will know that I enjoy Wikipedia and that I thumb through the articles almost on a daily basis. However, and slightly disappointing, if it comes to bagpipes, Wikipedia only tells half the story. Little mention about the long term hazardous effects of blowing the bagpipe on the health of the musician. Bagpipe lung can be added to the list of alternative monikers for hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is already known as “bird fancier’s lung”, “farmer’s lung” and  “hot tub lung,” after the wide range of activities to which it has previously been linked. Instruments can become infested with mould and this can be related to potentially fatal lung disease. Next time you see (or hear) a bagpipe playing, or even think of giving the old bag a squeeze yourself – consider that !

Finally to one of my favorite creatures! My youngest son told me a weird story that humans eat dozens of spiders each night… a tale that I found slightly disturbing, and mostly unbelievable. I advice you to do a quick internet search for “demodex” and look at the images and read the articles. These creatures dwell in the hair follicles of your eyebrows, come out at night to roam your face and live of the oil on your skin. Next time you look your loved one in the face, try not to think of this intriguing organism… and better not bring it up in pleasant conversation. I did, it kinda ruined the mood of the evening.