Author: Pao-Pei Alfonso

El Roi, The God Who Sees Me

I’m reading this book about the different names of God in the Bible. Today I learned about God’s name El Roi. I learned that it was only used once, by Hagar who had just fled from the mistreatment of her mistress, Sarai. As a servant, she must be so used to being invisible, virtually unseen and unimportant to the people around her. She called God “El Roi”, the God who sees who she is, who sees the circumstances of her life.

 

Marcel’s Letters

Marcel's Letters
Category:
Genres: ,
Published: June 6, 2017
While in search for an inspiration for her personal project of designing her own font, graphic designer Carolyn Porter stumbled across some letters from 1943-1944, written in French, by someone named Marcel. She couldn't understand the words but she fell in love with his handwriting. Years later, she had the letters translated and was suddenly wrapped up in Marcel's remarkable story.

Before I even read the summary of this book, the title and the font used on it, particularly the letter M, caught my attention. I love handwriting-style fonts, and this font is quite gorgeous. I delved into the book expecting to read about Marcel's letters (as in his written correspondences), but I was pleasantly surprised that the book is also about his letters (as in the letters he formed with his hands, his penmanship).

Carolyn Porter wrote about how she found the letters in a flea market, and even without being able to understand a word on it because it was written in French, she bought it because she found the penmanship beautiful. This penmanship would be the basis for her personal project, a handwriting-style font. I can appreciate this fascination, and I love how the author included a lot of technical details about font design without being overly technical about it. Somehow she managed to describe the long and arduous process of making a font without alienating readers like me, who don't really understand the technicalities. I enjoyed and appreciated how she shared her creative process. It was a lot of work, to be sure, but she didn't sound overly whiny or defeatist about it. I came away with a better understanding of how a personal passion project can really take years to complete. It's bittersweet, and if you're not careful, it can eat up a lot of your time and focus. The details of her passion project were interspersed with the story of Marcel, the man who wrote the letters that became the inspiration for her font.

Marcel's letters were dated between 1943 to 1944, and they had stamps that had Hitler's face on them. They were written during World War II and looked like they were sent from Germany. What was a Frenchman doing in Germany in 1943-44? Several years after working on her passion project, Porter decided to have the letters translated. Pretty soon, she found herself immersed in yet another project...that of unraveling the story of Marcel. She detailed all her efforts to trace Marcel's whereabouts in order to answer that nagging question--was Marcel able to make it home after the war?

This pursuit was itself filled with a lot of challenges and also took time and resources to work on. At times it was already beginning to sound like an obsession. After all, what did it matter if Marcel was able to go home or not, right? But it mattered to Carolyn Porter, and while reading the book and soaking in her thoughts, it began to matter to me too.

I really loved how she uncovered the historical context of Marcel's time in Germany. I can relate to how she felt. We know of the Holocaust, we know of World War II, Nazi Germany, Hitler, all the millions of people who suffered and died during those years, but we really actually don't know much to truly care. We don't have enough of a connection to it to let it inform the way that we live our lives today. The more you uncover the details and the more you are able to somehow put names and faces at a certain point in time during this dark corridor in history, the more it becomes vivid in your mind. It's like the dawning of understanding, when history stops being a vague collection of dates and events and personalities that we should know but we really don't grasp, and begins to be clearer and weightier.

Porter's journey of discovery was fascinating and engrossing. The details of her love for calligraphy, for type, and the birth of her first font was also fascinating. It resonated with me, and I feel like somehow we're kindred spirits, poring over and admiring written words on paper.

I was afraid at first that it would be a book about a handful of letters stretched and padded into a rambling account to force it into a book, but I loved how the author shared Marcel with the readers. She handled Marcel's story thoughtfully and respectfully. This is a very pleasant, memorable book. I enjoyed it from start to end.

30 Inks in 30 Days: (Day 2) Akkerman Hopjesbruin

Day 2’s ink for #30inks30days is Akkerman Hopjesbruin. It’s one of my favorite inks because it reminds me of the color of yummy caramel syrup. I use it only with my Kaweco Cognac, not just because the color suits perfectly, but because the ink flows best in this pen. I have never filled this pen with any other ink, I think they’re MFEO. ^_^ Here’s a review of the ink if you’re interested in reading more about it.

“I think love is caramel. Sweet and fragant; always welcome. It is the gentle golden colour of a setting harvest sun; the warmth of a squeezed embrace; the easy melting of two souls into one and a taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away. Once tasted it is never forgotten.” – Jenny Colgan

30 Inks in 30 Days: (Day 1) Organics Studio Foggy Bottom

Honestly, I’m no good at all with daily challenges. I can’t remember ever completing one of those before, but that never stopped me from joining. It is fun to try and see it through to the end. I liked the idea behind Ink Journal’s 30 Inks in 30 Days challenge. Being an ink hoarder, I often compulsively buy colors that I like and then forget about them after a few fills. I tend to gravitate towards my few favorites, only venturing out once in a while to dig around my ink stash. I thought I’d give this challenge a try.

Since it’s June 1st, I guess it’s a good time to start the challenge. For day 1, I am going to use Organics Studio’s Foggy Bottom.

This is my first (and only Organics Studio ink). It’s an interesting color of brown  because it starts out as watery and light, then it becomes darker and more opaque as it dries. It’s a little dry so I use it with my wet nibs. It’s a warm color of brown, but it tends to have a greenish tinge sometimes, in some spots.

For this #30inks30days challenge, I’m going to use my Franklin Christoph Model 02 with a medium nib.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
Category:
Publisher:
Published: October 23, 2011 (first published 1960)
William L. Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was a journalist and war correspondent. This book is a combination of Shirer's personal experiences as a correspondent in Nazi Germany, as well as a collection of memos, letters, and journal entries from the people involved in the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

It took me a couple of weeks to read through this book, the contents were just both riveting and at the same time so hard to stomach. It is a very engrossing book, and I will highly recommend it if you want to understand what the Third Reich was and what led to its rise and fall.

Shirer did a great job of documenting not just the events that he witnessed first hand as a journalist during that time, but also compiling memos, journal entries, letters, papers, and other documents that were not destroyed during the fall of the Third Reich. He also included portions of transcripts and other eyewitness accounts. This is a very robust book that is also quite easy to read, even for people who are not history buffs (like me). It's remarkable how Shirer was able to establish the historical and cultural context that led to the rise of Nazi Germany and Hitler.

Just a side note, it helped a lot that I purchased the Kindle version because the X-Ray feature came super handy for this book. There were a lot of names, dates, and places involved and it can be a bit challenging to keep track of them all.

The way that Shirer laid out the context in such an accessible language helped me understand how a nation as great and cultured as Germany could possibly come under the thrall of a madman such as Adolf Hitler. Shirer described the unfolding of events not just in terms of what happened in politics or the government, but also in terms of how society itself changed during this time. How it affected the academe, the church, the family. How it affected arts and culture. How it affected the economy. How the nation somehow found itself in a state of complicity to this gangster government's atrocities.

I had to stop reading the book once in a while because it really weighs on you. I got nightmares from reading it, and not just the parts about their atrocities but also the parts about how their propaganda machine was so destructively efficient.

The book is an authoritative account that takes the readers through the unfolding horrors of Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it. This wasn't required reading during my high school or college days, but I think it really should be.