Jungle

A maze.
The heat,
The jungle.
Insects,
Humidity.

A maze.
Lost thoughts,
Lost memories.
Found sorrows,
Found memories.

A maze.
Lost, Lost,
And never seen.
My own:
This labyrinth of memories.
This hunger,
And a fear for evermore.

Haunted

By a form, a shape,
A voice.
What are you?
Yes, you
Your color:
This pale melancholy
And these calls
Why?
Your white sounds
Of sorrow, of joy
Of a being.
My ruin, my future
Haunted now
Trapped
Where are you?
You are nowhere
But a feeling.
What happens now?
Your presence,
Your breath
The spells
And your gravity
Your strentgh,
Your fragility.
What –
What are you?
Yes:
You
Always you
You
You

When in Prague, visit Eska

Serendipity: some concept with an argument on reality. Yet, a fortunate set of circumstances made me believe in it for a moment. The time of a meal, the time to digest it, the time to travel through it.

When in Prague, and by accident in Karlin – the coming up neighborhood of the Czech Republic’s capital – and by chance hungry, and by some sort of crazy thought looking for a restaurant on Tripadvisor… Where “serendipity” is the title of a recent review of Eska.

Eska - Entrance

Lodged in a masterfully repurposed factory, high from its 6 months of age, the entrance shies away from view. Paradox: an outlet with a reimagined Flash logo, bright in red neon, and not a chance to stumble upon it by mistake.

Eska - Beef Tartar

The menu is as efficient as a group tour: 6 appetizers, 6 mains, 1 cheese and 2 desserts. Options are 5 or 8 courses tasting menu. All is inspired by what is available in the surroundings of Prague, with hints here and there of a chef who likes traveling and open wide his eyes and mouth. The bus driver takes you for a ride.

Eska - Chicken

He has a risk-taking attitude. Raw beef, chicken hearts, fermented cheese – not the obvious choices for a tasting menu and enough to put off the least adventurous.

Eska is not a restaurant, it’s a tour guide, it’s taking a bus through the countryside, through hills and fields, down a path made of soil, farms, grass. And they are all to be eaten.

Eska - Celeriac

Where can you go, travelling, and be inviting to eat the country itself – its hearts (chicken), its root (celeriac), its forest and pastures (mushrooms, garlic flowers, grass)?

Eska - Cheese

You cannot. Paradox: it’s in the renewed part of the city, the modern hotspot, that the old country is there to grasp.

As if you could bite the landscape through the train’s windows. I know I did.

Address: Pernerova 49, 186 00 Praha 8-Karlín, Czech Republic
Website: http://eska.ambi.cz/

Little World I

Little World is a series of photographs I take, which use Preiser characters at the Ho (1:87) scale. The “worlds” are other built with food and sometimes with other props.

The series is long due for expansion. Stay tuned for Little World II.

Mamie

Today, my grandmother would have been 91. She passed at 85.

Mamie and I always had a strange relationship. Perhaps because of the distance – we lived over a thousand kilometers away. This was a time when the Internet was not quite simple enough for our elders to handle. Besides, she probably had never used a computer, even if those were widely available in the 90’s. We did not call much either, although I cannot really explain why. We would see each other according to my parents holiday’s schedule, which was directly linked to their bank account gauge turning green: not so often. Once grown up, I visited when I was passing nearby, only once I made an effort to take a very long detour to see my family in that area.

I valued the few times I had with her. I listened. When we were young, my sister and I would make a little fun of her Northern idioms and onomatopoeias. There was this man-mère that kept coming back. Textually, it is the Ch’Ti word for mother; literally, it means “My God” or “Holy Cow”. We liked her for these moments: the links to our roots and the folklore we knew nothing of.

She was the only person willing to talk about two important persons: my dad and his father (he passed in 1979, before I was born). Little stories of a teenager, of a husband – who would doubled up as the postman, of a family. Somehow no one else, certainly not my dad, spoke of those times. She had a sort of exclusive right to the family’s collective memory.

After her husband passed, things changed. Her children were adults, and she was nearly alone, living on a little allowance from the postal services. No easy times. She had eight grandchildren, of which I am the 5th. I like to think that her grandchildren made her proud too.

This picture is about to be 10 years old. I looked young and dumb then. She hated photographic flashes, in the same way that she hated only very few things: they passed and get ignored or forgotten. She has some grudges but new to overcome them. Somehow, on every picture I can find of her, she looks the same. As if her smooth cruising attitude to life and her forged ideas about the world had made a physical imprint on her.

CIMG2238

She comes from a time of faith – Christian faith that is, of loyalty, including to her late husband, of principles and values, of introspection. She would not miss a weekly visit to the cemetery, and the traditional Toussaint.

Now in a time of stress, of lack of faith – in the world, in the future, if not in a God – a time also of constant anticipation, I can look back; see her in my memories. In many ways, she gives me strength.

Memories and a few pictures are not the only things I have to help me remembering her. There are the mugs, and they have their little stories. One of those things that as a kid seems odd or awkward. We made fun of these mugs, but when we visited her apartment, this was the one thing I asked the family if I could keep. There are memories in those two mugs. There is a little of her in them. They are well over 30 years old now, still being used, the prints still in good shape (she did not use a dishwasher – our mom had the same mugs, the prints passed out long before their 30th anniversary).

There are the mugs, and they have their little stories. One of those things that as a kid seems odd or awkward. We made fun of these mugs, but when we visited her apartment, all of us together, after her funeral, this was the one thing I asked the family if I could keep. There are memories in those two mugs. There is a little of her in them. They are well over 30 years old now, still being used, the prints still in good shape (she did not use a dishwasher – our mom had the same mugs, the prints passed out long before their 30th anniversary). Somehow it seems right that the company that made them is still around.

It took my grandmother’s passing for me to realize the force she was for the family, for me and for my future. It is strange to think that we need our ancestors to think better about our future. Strange, but reassuring. It took her to go, and a few years of insouciance, for me to stop being stupid. And now it feels egoistic.

I am very fond of my grandparents. They all passed now. There are the memories, and there are the regrets of not having built more of these memories, stories, anecdotes, all those little things that make me, in parts, who I am and where I am headed.

No matter the years I got since that picture, the kilos gained and the extra hair, no matter how much I change, grow, do or not do from here, one thing will remain:

Mamie, I miss you.

Frites Central (Restaurant Review Series)

New to the Restaurant Reviews Series? Have a look at the ReReM first.

What: Belgian
Where: 1/F The Wellington, Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong
Verdict: 10/20
Damages: HK$ 520.– per pax (mains and desserts as described below, 1 glass of wine).

Would I go back? While there is a lot to like about Frites’ ambiance and concept, the plates tend to leave an after-taste of missed opportunities. I might go back to it to catch up with friends and have Western mussels (not so evident to find in HK), but I would not make the trip solely for the food.

Visited & Reviewed: December 2015

I first met with Frites in 2010, when they still had the restaurant in Central near Crawford House (H&M at the time, now Zara) and at which a life-size plastic Trappist monk welcomed the dinners. Then there was (and still is) the Quarry Bay outlet. Now, Frites has four restaurants: in Quarry Bay as mentioned, in Wan Chai, the latest in Causeway Bay and in Central/Sheung Wan – the subject of this review.

 

frites-central-interior-1-730x500
Frites Central – Picture from the restaurant official website

 

Our order was: a 1/2 kg serving of Frites House Mussels, the duck à l’orange, finishing off with a Bailey’s Crème Brulée and a waffle.

The mussels were nice, cooked through and the sauce – a little bitter – called for saucing it with the (provided) garlic bread. Some of them molluscs were not cleaned enough or selected well, giving a taste and texture of sand from time to time. The Frites, after all, the eponym dish of the place, were good and served with homemade mayo. Each table had a little basket/cart with a choice of sauces: ketchup, Worcestershire, mustards, tabasco, etc.

The duck was confit overcooked and not crispy. The piece itself is certainly good duck, adding minutes to the cook does not help and made the meat chewy. The orange sauce was sweet and well done but its over-presence made the skin soaked and not so enjoyable. The dish remained edible and was not sent back.

Desserts were announced to take a little time, probably owing to the waffle being prepared on demand. Which is sort of disappointing because the waffle was spongy and warmish instead of crispy and hot as a Belgian waffle should be.

Throughout our meal the service was ok, nothing too bad worth mentioning. Re-orders of drinks were offered.

Frites failed to send me away to Belgium for the duration of the meal by un-exciting my taste buds. It remains a valuable option for gatherings and catch-up with friends owing to its ambiance. But not for the food and not at that price point.

New Year, New Napo

Today is the first year of the Lunar New Year. Gone with the Goat and in with the Monkey. The Fire Monkey, that is. Gone with the old and in with the new.

In many Asian countries, the Lunar New Year is seen as a fresh start, a new beginning. In very pragmatic fashion, this leads many to cleaning their home, decluttering, buying new clothes, getting flowers, etc.

Later this year, it will be 10 years that I live in Asia, and I cannot help but to take on some of the traditions on my own. Thus arrives a new Napo: the design of the blog has changed, the address is no longer on WordPress – yet WordPress still powers the whole site, and I am posting stuff with words again!

Stay tuned, and Happy New Year of the Monkey to everyone!

Merriment

merriment gaiety, fun, or mirth

This is a little fun word that I found in this Aeon article. Obviously it comes from the word merry which (less transparently) itself derives from agreeable.

Why fun? Perhaps because it is not so used, it is passé (according to Google Ngram, it is 5 times less common than early 19th Century) and there is an attraction for things of the past, even words.

So let’s add some merriment in our lives, some well-deserve joy and gaiety, and if we can, a little frivolity – another of these words from the past.

 

 

Bataclan

Many of us were shocked by the terrorists attacks on Paris a few days ago.

Reading an article in a French publication (this one), I then realized that this word does not deserve more than 3 words in the French dictionary (here), and is non-existent in English. Why not adding it in good form to the English dictionary, this global language, so that future generation, can associate positive things with the word?

bataclan n 1 a place for freedom, liberty and enjoyment, exempt from censorship. Associated with youth. Concert hall, theater. 2 a large assortment of unexpected objects, also: bits and pieces, bric-a-brac, bits and bobs, miscellanea.

Etymology: from contemporary French bataclan: ‘grand attirail insolite’ – odds and ends. 

The Collins website has a “submit a word”, and with your help, we can refine the definition proposed above and I shall submit it.

Pain

pain n the sensation of acute physical hurt or discomfort caused by injury, illness, etc 2 emotional suffering of mental distress on pain of: subject to the penalty of pain in the neck, or (taboo) pain in the arse (informal) a person or thing that is a nuisance

v (transitive) 5 to cause (a person) distress, hurt, grief, anxiety, etc(informal) to annoy; irritate

Etymology: C13: from Old French peine, from Latin poena punishment, grief, from Greek poinē penalty

When the notion of pain comes to my mind and I seriously think about it, I cannot help to wonder if the source of our humanity does not always link back to what aches us; further, pain is perhaps the most direct way to express what is it to being human. Under this interpretation, I propose a new definition of the sensation – the feeling, the expectation, the exaltation perhaps – of pain; reaching further than the Collins’ definition transcribed above.

Are we special because we can feel and interpret pain?
Are we special because we can feel and interpret pain?

Since mankind has taught itself the art of drawing and writing, we have hints and indications that pain was already a central issue for our ancestors – and I argue it continues up to modern days. Ancient Greeks created tragedies to record and replay painful moments. They also pioneered the emergence of great thinkers, who quickly moved away from questions of cosmogony (how the world as we know it was created) to asking this question about our humanity: what makes us different from the animal world? Although sentience and intelligence are what physiologically place humans on top of the food chain, these attributes must be used, else we would be intelligent primates and probably be living up on trees.

I mentioned the Ancient Greeks and their theatrical tragedies, a way of introducing the idea that the arts originate in the notion of pain, of its interpretations by audiences or its impacts on people’s (character’s) lives. But isn’t this equally true of religions? From the ‘old’ religions (in Ancient Egypt, the pre-Christian Roman Empire, paganism, etc.) to the religions of the holy ‘books’, the concept of salvation and of a godly judgement directly emerge from the idea of dealing with the pain encountered during our earthly existences. And what to say of Buddhism, which founding teachings revolve almost entirely on the notions of pain and suffering, and how to deal with these?

Therefore I wonder, is life is a miracle (in the pragmatic sense) as we intelligently walk the Earth, or is life such that elevating (exalting) ourselves above any pain the only true miracle?

MACM – Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins

Perhaps the motto of the MACM should say something about quality over size.

Niched in Mougins, a few minutes drive from the French Riviera town of Cannes, in itself a rather small village, the museum does not impress by its volume or square-footage. Instead, it inhabits a large house, and collection are presented on 3 levels.

IMG_2977

The main attractions at the MACM are the classic collections and the bridges built with modern art from and to the classic era. In practice, this means that Roman Emperors busts can be acting in the same way as a modern day drawing of the same emperor.

Across the rooms of the museum, these connections are set in motion to provoke a discussion and link us to our past. Here with a Picasso print, there with a Yves Klein sculpture, we are told that art builds on the shoulders of previous artists, in the way usually attributed to scientists. IMG_2982

The discussion continues with a number of conferences the MACM organizes, with archaeologists and collectors initiating a lecture or a debate.

IMG_3063

The MACM also owns a large collection of Roman and Greek eras war artifacts: shields, swords and the like. But its impressive display of warrior’s helmets steal the show on the floor and are given an excellent place, where the visitor is placed face-to-helmet. A great way to stimulate the imagination, perhaps even more than the relations to newer objects presented along these.IMG_5210

Other troves are pro-eminent fertility ‘stones’, mosaics, everyday life objects and coins.IMG_5211

Read more about the coin collection here.

Lastly, you can get the very well made book/catalogue of the museum (from which the above pages are excerpts) on Amazon or by paying a visit to the museum.

Luxury Toys: Classic Cars

CoverEditor teNeues knows a thing or two about coffee table books, and the series ‘Luxury Toys’ never fails to trigger dreams and object-lust.

One such book was on the coffee table of a place I recently stayed at. It is difficult to resist browsing, even if one is not an aficionado of the subjects. In this case, classic cars. I would love to have a classic car: a Mercedes-Benz coupé from the 60’s or the 70’s – but by no measure I am fond enough of these to become a geek about it.

Spread1

Through its pages, the ‘Classic Cars’ book explores a variety models: sports cars, limousine, racing machines, etc. –with a strong emphasis on Italian manufacturers. Models are given the spotlight, very little text and large pictures, often spread over 2 or 3 double pages.

Intermittently, essays try to transcribe on paper what it is like to be a collector or a driver of such machines. While of quality, the casual browser seating on the long side of a coffee table will continue to do one thing: marvel at the pictures.

And one day, maybe…

Spread2

Get a copy here.

Chez Patrick Deli (Restaurant Reviews Series)

New to the Restaurant Reviews Series? Have a look at the ReReM first.

What: French Café & Déli
Where: 3 Star Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Verdict: 13/20
Damages: HK$ 624.– for two pax (2 entrées, 1 main course, 2 soft drink and a large mineral water)

Would I go back? Definitely. It’s good food and good service, it’s casual but respectful of diners’ time. Perhaps a little pricey for dishes on the menus that are standards and not overly creative.

Visited & Reviewed: September 2015

One can describe Star Street in Wan Chai and its neighbor alleys and dead ends as the upmarket cousin of Sai Ying Pun: out with the vegan-cum-hipsters cookeries and artisans, in with top of the range furniture shops, a L’occitane Spa, super-hip fragrances store Le Labo and the Odd One Out gallery; the whole with something of a boutiquey feeling. Which of course comes with its lot of eateries of all sort: italian café, spanish restaurant, the odd Pizza Express, etc.

Among them is Chez Patrick Déli, one of the several venues in HK under the Patrick label. The Star Street Déli is more casual and approachable than its older brother in Sheung Wan. Designed to create a market food court feeling, the first sight being offered to diners is the long presentation of cheeses behind glass, all available for purchase, like any delicatessen (hence the name). The decorum is further enhanced by a very large – and tall! – array of shelves which serve as wine cellar. There are no doubts you are in French territory.

The menu would achieve to convince anyone who doubts of the French presence, with mussels, duck confit, foie gras and of course, cheese platters. We opted for an asparagus salad and a chef’s salad for starters, followed by a duck confit to share. Drinks chosen were as casual as possible: an Orangina and a Bitter Lime Soda. To our defence, the following day was an early workday.

Chez Patrick Deli 2

While the asparagus salad (above) was sophisticated, very fresh and tiny, the chef’s salad (below) was on the heavy side, lacked substance and is just a patchwork of good ingredients. While some of the tastes were match, this salad lacks a lot of cohesion – hence the patchwork.

Chez Patrick Deli 1

An invader made his way to the salad: there was a hair in it, and it was very obvious that it did not come from either of the diners. We pointed it to our waitress, who promptly reacted. Although she suddenly had a surprised face, she promptly took the plate away, apologizing. I felt she was sincere. A few minutes later she presented us with another plate, and a possible explication for the invader’s presence. All the way it was professionally dealt with.

In typical French fashion, the starters arrived at the same time, and only once cleared, the main course arrived. Good and right rhythm. The duck confit was excellent: cooked through, crispy skin, a sauce well done. The accompanying potatoes were excellent.

Chez Patrick Deli 2b

While we had not ordered it, we were each offered a dessert, an apology token for the hair found in the salad. It was a good dessert: a chocolate mousse topped with a (thick) whipped cream, it seemed homemade and felt fresh. The presentation is nice, in Le Parfait pots, but not really convenient.

We appreciate the gesture, even more so since we had not shown any sign of nervousness about the hair.

Chez Patrick Deli 3

Upon departure, (presumably) the manager greet us and engaged in conversation with us, he was nice and genuine, in line with the overall impression of confidence in what the food service is.

Việt (Restaurant Reviews Series)

New to the Restaurant Reviews Series? Have a look at the ReReM first.

What: Casual Vietnamese
Where: , Hong Kong (map below)
Verdict: 11/20
Damages: HK$ 120 + Service Charge for one person – set lunch one starter and one main course, plus optional drink.

Would I go back? Maybe. This is a difficult one. I know a fair bit of Vietnamese food and while Việt ticks all the ingredients points, there is still work to recreate what a bún or a phở really is, but perhaps that’s not the point. Extra point for the price. Because of the service, there are a few of points lost on service.

Visited & Reviewed: September 2015

Viet's Lunch Menu

The starter was rice paper rolls, 3 pieces per serving. They were nicely made and I can bet the rice paper is Made in Vietnam, however without a lot of sauce they were lacking taste.

The main course however could be described as ‘over tasty’. This may sound a little weird. Vietnamese food is generally very flavourful and scented, rarely one ingredients takes over the entire dish. The rice vermicelli with caramelized pork was good if you like pork. Its sweetness placed a lot of imbalance into a dish that is commonly mixed up altogether and topped with fish sauce and herbs. Here the pork took over the whole thing.

Throughout the meal, the waiting staff was rushing us out, not explicitly of course but expect to get the bill at the very moment you rest your chopsticks after the last bite in your plate. Sure enough there is a queue at the front and the restaurant needs to make money, and rents are high. Feeling rush and pushed out does not make me want to go back, so the investment in time-saving practices may not pay off.

Linguini Fini (Restaurant Reviews Series)

New to the Restaurant Reviews Series? Have a look at the ReReM first.

What: Italian – Homemade Pasta & Pizza
Where: 49, Elgin St, Central, Hong Kong (map below)
Verdict: 12/20
Damages: HK$ 690.– for two pax (antipasti and pizza as described, 1 beer, 1 cocktail). All prices on the menu include the service charge.

Would I go back? Sure, why not: Liguini Fini is casual, easy, its patchy service is made up for by massive and well-made pizzas. People smile and everyone’s happy with an 18-incher. While I was not transported into a surreal emotional state of mind brought forth by the flavours, all was good and well and pairings of dish was easy because well-balanced.

Visited & Reviewed: September 2015

Linguini Fini is making history (sic): the first of a hopefully long series of restaurant reviews on my little website. No pictures in this review, future reviews may or may not feature any.

The restaurant enjoys a great location, and a sort of reputation on its own. First, it is sitting right in front of your feet when you start believing you are done with the world’s longest (really?) escalator – second, a number of friends mentioned it to me recently. 1.5 good reasons to check it out.

Liguini Fini Location

It was a Thursday evening, no reservations, we walked in at about 8pm and were promptly delivered to a rather good table. Drinks ordered (a cocktail and a beer). Beer came first, then came two glasses and a bottle of still water.

We ordered 2 antipasti and 1 pizza, the first of which –a Caprese salad – arrived faster than a TaoBao delivery. Decent, easy to share, correct tomatoes which is nice and a good serving of basile, also nice. A little extra olive oil, perhaps on the side? There are extra virgin fanatics out there who have to fulfill their needs (yes, we are still talking about oil…)

Buddy: “Would you have some salt and pepper please?”
Waiter: “Sure, here it is” (delivering at the instant the pepper mill)
Buddy: “Thanks, could I also have salt?”
Waiter: “Hold on, I’ll find one.”
(delivered within a minute)

Then came the cocktail, and wait – where’s that bottle of water now? Someone sneaked it away to make room for the HUGE pizza. 18” worth of dough, cheese, tomato sauce, meatball, etc. Meet the “Bronx”, announced for 30 minutes of foreplay before consumption, delivered in 14. Later the waitress would nicely comment that the oven is not very busy tonight so they could make it a little prompter than announced.

The pizza was really good. With so much meat on it I had anticipated that it will be super salty. It turned out to be well balanced. Dough was thin enough and tasty, especially these slightly burned crusts that everyone seems to love. Tomato sauce was of quality and although the meat was overcooked, the sauce got the balance in check again. Really nothing wrong with that pizza; yet, nothing transcending either.

Buddy: (referring to the second antipasti) “Where’s my sausage?”
Me: “Let’s see, they might have forgot it.”
Buddy: “Yeah, someone did that before.”
Me: “We’re not talking about the same sausage I hope.”

Count 4 minutes and 6 slices of a giant pizza later, then here comes the homemade spicy sausage. And spicy it was, which I love but that may not be for everyone, the menu was not very clear on the spiciness level (in fairness it does say ‘spicy’) so watch out for it if you are sensitive. Either way, it came on a nice serving of fried bell peppers – which levelled the spiciness – and was cooked through, consistent and tasty.

A word on the cocktail: it was well prepared. The beer hardly needs a mention and there was no complaints there.

Apartamento #14

Ola!

A few quotes found in volume 14 – Autumn/Winter 2014-15 – of the magazine Apartamento (available via the official website).

apartamento_issue_14

I always want to live elsewhere, wherever I am, it’s like a sickness. I’m always missing a country that doesn’t exist, and every night, I dream of exotic cities invaded by the jungle, of endless towers, and of the ruins of the future.

– Interview with Koudlam, page 88

‘You have to be sensitive to everything around you. You have to be sensitive to the sun, to the light, to the shadows, to the water, the wind. Today, we are ignore these elements, we are inhuman, we violate nature. This worries me…’

– Quoted by designer Michael Anastassiades in his text on Cypriot architect Neoptolemos Michaelides, page 136

Lastly, from a short autobiographic essay from Kenneth Perdigón:

I’m attracted to city life and and civilisation, and I understand the vision of contemporary life. But after all this time, I have begun to miss nature: its values, its laws, the outdoors, the stars, and the sea. It would be great to be able to combine both worlds.

– Kenneth Perdigón, page 270

9

Food for thought.

Curtis Harding’s Soul Power

Perhaps this is not novel, because he is not novel, plus Napo’s long tradition of delaying things, this post arrives a little later than it should have. But perhaps you do not know of Curtis Harding, whose album ‘Soul Power’ loops again and again in my ears.

curtis_harding_-_soul_power_cover__sm

Strong of very serious accolades (YSL produced a video – here – as part of its ‘Saint Laurent Music Project‘ and Jack White picked him as an opening act this summer), a peerless combination of voice and groove in today’s dull musical landscape, he is making waves and relentlessly tours the gospel – his gospel.

Made of soul and funk, of warmth and controlled frenesy, tunes such as ‘Freedom’ or ‘Heaven’s on the Other Side’ send us back to the 70’s. He may have described his style as sloppin’ soul he is nonetheless paying high respect to his elders.

This is his most likable feature: while original in sound and character, Curtis Harding is also a worthy heir to these days, when the blues and soul were king and queen, an era we look back to with admiration.

Bonus link: an acoustic version of ‘Castaway’ found on a French blog.

A saber toothed tiger skull, cenozoic era

The web is full of weird stuff and weirdos. In this way the Web just merely reflects humanity. Quirks and foibles are just more visible and more public online.

I am an advocate of our imperfections. Perhaps an extension of this semi-militant perception of what we ought to be doing, against common currents, leads me to maintain a level of curiosity for curiosités.

And so it happens is my curiosity is further picked when Sotheby’s announced a sale for a whole cabinet of curiosités. Among them a XVIII AD crucifix, a rhino coral sculpture, this book of caricatured casino players, a piece of meteorite, or a cane sculpted in a narwhal’s tooth – yet Diego‘s skull stood out.

Unfortunately, it was not the clou of the sale, which honor goes to a full skeleton of fossilized dinosaurClou or not, with its estimate price of € 150,000 it found no acquirer.

Tiger Skull
Lot no. 75 at the 3/14 Sotheby’s “Curiosité: un regard moderne” sale

Diego’s skull is dated to be over 5 millions years old. This puts a few things in perspective. It appears to be one of the first animal species to be exterminated by mankind, when the tiger’s main prey aka the mammoth were also driven out of existence. The skull offered for sale has “two canine teeth well in place”.

The skull went to its new home at the hammer price of € 18,750 – one day perhaps…

More on the official page.

Exalt

exalt v (transitive) to raise or elevate in rank, position, dignity, etc 2 to praise highly; glorify; extol 3 to stimulate the mind or imagination of; excite to increase the intensity of (a colour, etc) 5 to fill with joy or delight; elate 6 (obsolete) to lift up physically

Etymology: C15: from Latin exaltāre to raise, from altus high

I came to this word while researching sublimation. For my purpose, exalt is a much better fit. In sublimation I was looking for a word that express an idea like elevation: the feeling, aspiration or drive to reach high above the crowds. For example, some philosophers hold that for Plato, the objective of the soul, and its role in our lives, is to sublimate itself above the earthly needs and impulses of the bodies. I will not discuss the existence of the soul, of its possible roles, or anything related to it in this short text. Instead, I am openly wondering if a certain sense of exaltation is not something we all ought to aim for: an ethical idea.

First of all the definition itself. In condensing the above 6 definitions we can arrive at a lingo of exaltation: a willingful increase of psychological, social, physical, artistic status. The notion expressed thus potentially affect our identities in broad terms.

Second, consider the following conditional: if by seeking for exaltation in a wide range of domains – and what is more interconnected than layers upon layers of human psychology concepts? – we can place ourselves above the commons, then aren’t we obliged to aim for such exaltation? By aiming to transform ourselves into better persons, we actively participate in the betterment (sic) of humanity. This is assuming that being elated (happy), extolled (recognized), stimulated (engaged) is good for us and makes us better beings, but I imagine this is not as controversial as to require expansion.

Therefore – third and last – we can draw a natural link between our own exaltation and the ethical framework we want to elaborate for ourselves. A personal model of ethics can be based on a constant and unending drive to be better.

In my view of ethics, we are responsible for developing our own system of oughts and oughts not. By using an attempt to exalt ourselves, we are indeed aiming for a higher level of personal ethics. As I strongly link ethics with happiness, perhaps we have a way to reach a higher level of happiness by continually reach higher levels in society.

There is an association with the physicality of the human being. If exaltation has a physical dimension, then the view I develop is also tending towards hedonism. Although it is often seen with a critical eye, physical intensity that hedonism imply is arguably a good thing: a healthy mind in a healthy body. As therefore along with a responsibility to be striving for social and psychological, an ethical outlook should include a physical element. So much for Socrates.

This is of course a very raw and approximate view, it needs refining. This is also something I am more and more inclined to believe: our responsibility to improve in every area possible, and hence our responsibility to derive rightness and happiness from it.

Two Months

The last post on this blog is dated for the 6th April: update is due.

Simply stated, the last 2 months have been heavy, busy, hectic, a little wild, somehow out of control and genuinely enriching. As I recall: I quit my job, sent my cat abroad, passed some exams (this and that), played quite a few hours of pool, move out of my apartment, lived in hotels, traveled to Cheng Du (to post postcards), relocated to France, and tried camping (bivouacking). More significant, I got my hands on two “Siu” – the first makes beautiful noises (meet her here) while the second makes life beautiful (glimpse of her here).

I feel that I have the hang of it – it being my life – again now.

And so I am back.