Robert L. Peters

17 August 2010

Nomade, A Man of Letters…

Antibes, French Riviera

“This sculpture is a creation by contemporary Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, who lives and works in Barcelona and Paris. Born in 1955, Plensa studied art at the Escola Llotja and in the Escola Superior de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi. He is currently one of the most important sculptors on the contemporary art scene. Plensa made his name in the 1980s with simple, large forms made from cast iron. His work then evolved into sculptural installations using light, sound and language…”

( From Yves Peters’ serendipitous encounter with Nomade during his vacation on the Côte d’Azur, from an article on The FontFeed).

I’ve only been to Antibes once, during the sweltering hot summer of 1979 — a bit of an abstecher on a road trip from Switzerland to Spain with my wife Beverly. I’ll admit, my most vivid memory is of the seemingly endless beaches populated with a preponderance of topless sunbathers — which I recall Bev found to be somewhat shocking (at first).

Thanks to Sal Randazzo for the link to Yves’ post (sorry, link no longer works).

16 August 2010

Glacier-melting energy!

Humble, Texas

This gasoline advertisement for Humble/Enco petroleum company (later Esso/Exxon [remember the “Put a tiger in your tankcampaign?]) ran in Life magazine in 1962… pretty much the exact opposite image of that which petroleum companies are trying to show today. Here’s the text from the advert:


This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies—if converted into heat—could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second! To meet the nation’s growing needs for energy, Humble has applied science to nature’s resources to become America’s Leading Energy Company. Working wonders with oil through research, Humble provides energy in many forms—to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals. Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the “Happy Motoring” sign is the World’s First Choice!

Click on the image above for an enlarged view. The hubris of Humble is really quite remarkable (Humble is the town in Texas that Exxon U.S.A. traces its roots to). Thanks to Gregor Brandt (via Ms. Marx).


15 August 2010

What you see is…


(more quotables by Mark Twain here)

13 August 2010

The Soapboxer: Nature is soulful again

(from Issue 19 of Geez magazine, by Nicholas Klassen)

I figure we human beings have always been hard on nature. I mean, cutting down trees and killing animals appear to be pretty fundamental to the human experience.

What’s striking about us Western Moderns, however, is the intentionality and aggressiveness of our antagonism towards nature. And it’s not just the fact that we’ve increased in number. No, more than that, the dominant Western worldview is deliberately anchored in a narrative that framed nature as a dangerous place that we needed to subdue and hold “dominion” over. At the same time, wilderness was stripped of its spiritual potency so it could become exploitable real estate to be mined for the purposes of accumulating wealth.

Consider: ancient people didn’t see themselves as distinct from nature, and they didn’t see nature as inanimate. Everything wild was “inspirited” or “ensouled.” Not just animals, but everything – mountains, rivers, forests. As a result, nature warranted a certain reverence, even a divine status.

As we began to farm and later industrialize, however, we created something new to worship: Progress. The corresponding demands for unfettered economic and technological growth meant that the wilderness needed to be “de-spiritualized” and human interests needed to be set up in opposition to nature’s interests. Simply put, we had to justify our assault on the Earth.

The architects of modernity were extremely bullish on this project – though it’s not really fair to single them out, given that they were merely putting a name to contemporary humanity’s urge to exploit. Regardless, Enlightenment thinkers rallied around the assessment of scientists like Galileo and Newton that nature operated as an interlocking series of pushing and pulling mechanisms, devoid of any mystical qualities. With that as the backdrop, philosophers like Thomas Hobbes famously described the State of Nature as a “war of all against all” where lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Coercive authority was the salve for that. Francis Bacon – throwing in a dose of sexism for good measure – framed nature as a woman who needed to be enslaved. For Bacon, glorious technical advancements “do not merely exert a gentle guidance over Nature’s courses, they have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations.” René Descartes considered animals non-sentient mechanical beings and proclaimed the need to “make ourselves masters and possessors of nature.”

By the same token, Christianity’s victory over paganism instilled a new worldview that nature in and of itself wasn’t sacred, but was rather the creation of a transcendent god – that is, a god apart from the world. Add to that a dualistic distinction between the spirit and the physical, and a divine commission in Genesis to exercise “dominion” over creation and “fill and subdue the Earth,” and, well, you can see how nature didn’t stand a chance.

With the weight of philosophy and religion behind it, the narrative of humanity’s transcendency of and mastery over nature was assured. And oh, how it has thrived. Today, many contemporary Christians have embraced it to the point where they are actively hostile to the idea that we should work to preserve the environment. Like the now-deceased but still influential reverend Jerry Falwell who insisted in a CNN interview that the “myth” of global warming was “created to destroy America’s free enterprise system and our economic stability.” His response to this supposed snow job? “I urge everyone to go out and buy an SUV today.”

Other Christians consider environmentalism a form of idolatry, because they fear the rights of an “inanimate” planet and its non-human creatures are held in higher esteem than God. Others still figure the plight of the Earth doesn’t matter because it’s not our permanent home. If, after all, the Rapture is coming, who cares if glaciers are looking spotty? There is, of course, a healthy contingent of Christians who reject this narrative and are building a new one. It’s a narrative that sees nature as full of divine spirit – a place that is just fine as it is and doesn’t need to be “improved” by humans. Sure, we’ve been tasked as caretakers by an immanent god, but that doesn’t mean we are to preside over nature. Rather, we are called to recognize that we are embedded in it.

This new narrative builds on an ancient one. It’s a reclamation of something our supposedly “primitive” forebears understood. It’s a re-reading of oft-cited Genesis verses with a new lens – this time with an emphasis on our divine appointment to tread lightly and humbly in a life-giving biosphere. It’s a re-alignment with the likes of Francis of Assisi, who understood the holiness of communing with God through the physical, material world – the sun, the trees, the birds. And it might just be the key to our survival as a species.

Nicholas Klassen is a principal at Biro Creative, a former senior editor at Adbusters magazine, and a contributing editor to Geez (which has a fresh new website with lots more great writing and thought-provoking online content here).


[Full disclosure: I have been an avid supporter of Geez magazine since before its launch, and I’m still listed on the masthead as an ‘advisor.’ The above photo is of sun-kissed apples in my garden.]


12 August 2010

Quotes regarding ethics…


“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.
Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

~ Thomas Alva Edison

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity”

~ Tom Peters

“The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.”

~ Albert Schweitzer

“Even the most rational approach to ethics is defenseless
if there isn’t the will to do what is right.”

~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others.
In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.”

~ Immanuel Kant

“No man can purchase his virtue too dear, for it is the only thing whose value must ever increase with the price it has cost us. Our integrity is never worth so much as when we have parted with our all to keep it.”

~ Ovid

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

~ Confucius

“It is curious—curious that physical courage should be
so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.”

~ Mark Twain

“Relativity applies to physics, not ethics.”

~ Albert Einstein

11 August 2010

Pencil sculptures…

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Brazilian-born Dalton Ghetti carefully crafts the tips of pencils into amazing miniature sculptures, a sideline project for the professional carpenter who has been perfecting this art for the last 25 years. Dalton uses a razor blade, sewing needle, a sculpting knife, a steady hand, and lots of patience to meticulously carve the graphite… he has never sold these tiny works of art; he’s only given them away to friends as gifts. View an online gallery of these remarkable miniatures here.

Thanks to Gregor Brandt… via

10 August 2010

I concur…

9 August 2010

[soiled reputation]

Spreading, worldwide…

A few months ago, Greepeace called for the design of a more appropriate logo for BP than a shiny green sunflower. Winner of the “Best Rebranded Logo—Popular Choice” is Laurent Hunziker of Paris, France. This “picture is worth a thousand words” image is now spreading virally…


8 August 2010

Found type…

here & there

I chanced upon a nice little collection at The Typographic Circle… more here.

7 August 2010

Dark Forces are Gathering

Vancouver, BC

Ominous clouds move swiftly upon an otherwise placid summer sky, blanketing it in darkness. A brief flash of light gives way to slow thunder that groans achingly in the distance. Our hero looks up past the brim of his dusty, worn hat—knowing and weary. An epic battle is afoot…  and this is how the movies begin.

The notion of a meritocracy

I was raised a capitalist. The child of immigrant parents, I came to believe that capitalism was fundamentally just and egalitarian, with the vast bulk of wealth largely shared amongst those who worked hardest for it. For my mom and dad, and many of their era, this steadfast belief turned out to be both necessary and at times quite accurate. They started with little, toiled deliberately to build a life for themselves, and saved (when I’m sure they would have preferred to do otherwise), all so their kids could have access to opportunities that weren’t available to them.

I have to admit that when I too held to this construct, most things seemed to make sense, and the world appeared infinity simpler: The people who “picked themselves up by the bootstraps” could prevail over anything; Those with the best ideas profited from them; I would have even reasoned that those less fortunate were likely so as a result of their own volition.

I oversimplify how I once pictured things, in part for the sake of this story (any more detail, and I fear you’d nod off). Nevertheless, I must admit that I looked at things in polarizing terms, seeing few other possibilities. Perhaps I was also a bit naïve, believing that most things must “balance out” in favor of the honest and decent.

 The world we’ve created

To think in those same terms today, I would either be a fool, or one of those great many, steadfastly determined to maintain a comfortable illusion (but an illusion nevertheless). This fantasy I speak of is one that persists regardless of its cost to our neighbors or future generations. It’s one that requires us to not ask questions.

In subscribing to it, we can’t allow ourselves to wonder how corporations afford us such (suspiciously) under-priced goods. We can never ask how all our trash magically disappears each day, and why we rarely find it in our own backyards. We must in no way challenge notions that masquerade as plain fact: perhaps best illustrated by the deluge of products brought to market using the words “eco” or “green” as prefixes, with little real consideration as to what such words should actually represent.

. . .

Read the rest of this great online article by Eric Karjaluoto on his blog ideasonideas here… (article re-posted with permission).


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