I spent the weekend just gone in Napier, New Zealand – where I went to the annual Art Deco weekend, a light-hearted celebration of Hollywood 1930s fantasy lifestyles. Apt in a city that was rebuilt to those styles during the 1930s.
Every other person is dressed in period costume. The celebration captures not just the way we’d like to imagine the period might have been – but the aspirations of those who lived through it. And I think that’s inspiring on so many levels.
There are an awful lot of small boats in New Zealand. I suppose it’s predictable, when you think about the size of the coastline.
Boat harbour, Oriental Bay, Wellington.
I photographed these in the harbour at Oriental Bay, Wellington. And as always there is inspiration there. Who owns these boats? Where have they travelled? What plans, what dreams, do those who sail in them have? Fertile ground for speculation – and for writers.
I re-discovered my slide rule a while back, the one I used in school maths lessons, way back when. I didn’t know just how utterly classic such things were, even then.
Aha – now I can stop the Plorg Monsters from taking Earth’s water! Maybe with an app on my Surface Pro 3, but surely via my old slide rule!
These things mostly worked because of a quirk of mathematics – the logarithm, which means you can add logs, as a linear measure, to multiply. And there’s more. In the photo, I’ve set my slip-stick to do the pi times table – and believe me, it’ll calculate that to about two decimal places (which is OK for a quick estimate) faster than you can punch the same thing into a calculator. All you have to do is slide the centre piece to the right point and look along the ruler. Cool.
Time was when no self-respecting space adventurer set off without one of these. They were a staple in Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi, among others. With them you could not only defeat the squidgy aliens who were trying to make off with all Earth’s water – you could go on to conquer the entire universe.
And, just to nail how fast the world changes, NASA actually did conquer the Moon with slide rules. Apollo-era engineers carried them the same way we carry phones.
My slide rule’s linear, but they were also available as circular calculators – disks – often optimised for other functions such as electrical calculation. My father had one.
I have to admit that I’m using computers to do the maths for a hard sci-fi story I’m writing just now for an upcoming anthology. But still, the slide rule’s there as a standby. And the idea of it – well, I find that pretty inspiring. Do you?
I often find inspiration comes with quick glances of some scene or view; it unfolds before me and – as suddenly – is gone, leaving an impression of itself that spurs the imagination, because it is so incomplete.
Azure seas silhouetted against pohutukawa. A snapshot I took a few weeks back.
There is a corner in Wellington, New Zealand, that could almost be Gotham city – two art deco buildings in close proximity with newer structures around.
Shades of Gotham in central Wellington, a bit.
The full Gotham illusion disappeared several years ago when one of the buildings was raised by several floors, in distinctly modern style. Which means that today a photo of the buildings and some of their neighbours captures not just the styles of the 1930s, but the abstract shapes of architectural styles spanning nearly eighty years. I find that pretty inspiring. Do you?
A tree I found on the foreshore in Hawke’s Bay seems somehow brave and yet also fragile in a place where there are few other trees.
Brave and yet incongruous…
When I think about it, this sole tree – standing there with the slender protection of that fence – somehow encapsulates what it is to be a writer – standing out there where you’re likely to be weathered by the elements, largely alone. And yet not. I find that inspiring. Do you?