Commentary, narratives, and reviews of film, politics, philosophy, sailing, and photography. And other stuff.
<< current


Call me Zeph

Careers: I've done time at several colleges and universities on the east coast as philosophy teacher, film teacher, and resident curmudgeon. Last seven years, I've been a web worker and occasional traveler.

Politics: conceptual Leftist with a Freudo-Nietzschean reactionary streak; practical liberal. I think globally and act rarely.

Boat: C&C Landfall 35 cruising sailboat.

Home base: Maine

Enough for this space: you'll get to know me much too well, if you read my Blog from time to time.

And, yes, the halo is real.


Light and variable

NOTE: This web log (or "blog") is no longer being maintained--there have been no entries since February, 2003, and I don't intend to resume regular publication.

The text below is an edited version of the original blog. Much of what I wrote in the winter of 2002-2003 is no longer timely or illuminating. So I have retained only a few entries.


Saturday, January 04, 2003


It did not snow in Maine today as much as had been predicted, but, coming only nine days after a 19" white deluge, the 8" or so was quite enough for most of us. Indoors was peaceful, and the town was unusually quiet from being a weekend with parking bans in effect. Outside the winds were not "light and variable": gusts.over 50 mph were recorded, and sometimes the entire cityscape out the window disappeared in a rush of white.

I decided this morning to make a photographic "color poem" of sorts--a study of snow's color--that contains the whole color spectrum within it. As anyone knows who has ever tried to choose paint for a living-room wall, there are so many colors of white. I found plenty of white to photograph indoors, and, at least today, a great deal more of it outside. I made more than 30 digital images before lunch, and then assembled them for display here.this afternoon. The images are necessarily "minimalist", but there's a great deal of content in them, I think, for one who "loves to look,"--and knows how to look at the world with attention.

"Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling...."

--Billy Collins, Snow Day


Sunday, December 29, 2002


Younger, and more manipulated by ego-needs than I am now, I always tried to work into any conversation with a new person some allusion to my academic career--universities that employed me, courses I'd authored and taught, current philosophic obsessions (phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, or whatever), and articles not to miss, while simultaneously undercutting any impression of attempting to impress my listener by ridiculing my lack of professionalism, my refusal to publish, my sorry educational lacunae. The point was to say that yes, I taught philosophy, but was no philosopher, and that I valued the joys that accrued from my own private trajectory in academia more than I valued success in academia. After all, the money earned in tuition from my huge film classes surely paid the salary of a more serious and scholarly colleague who published regularly and taught only 12 students per term. It seemed to me to be a fair trade. Neither I nor professional philosophy were worth taking seriously, since I lived for intensity of experience. And my sort of intensity was to be found in art, travel, and romance, not in syllabi, monographs, festschrifts, nor anything "emeritus". You get the idea. My colleagues concluded that I'd taken the existentialists too much to heart. Besides, a several hundred page dissertation on Merleau-Ponty that netted me a Ph.D. had taught me that I didn't like typing in a room alone. And I liked even less the sense of having to feel responsible for written words long after their currency had expired, long after my enthusiasm had dissolved. Suppose I were successful, and wrote a work of substance? The payoff would be steak dinners with old bearded guys playing competitive word games at table after some boring paper at some academic conference in Michigan in January. Conversation with a witty woman after jazz club dinner and drinks in The Village or LA's West Washington Boulevard was much more to my taste. The rebel stance worked by and large--at least it got me access to some very lovely people's attention, none of whom valued my company for my curriculum vita..

Having dodged exclusive focus on academic publications by living a couple years in a tree house in southern California, and reading every European novelist sufficiently cool to make the short list, I eventually turned my reading to the emerging genre of round-the-world sailing adventures--the practical existentialists--working my way through the marvelous exploits of Chichester, Moitessier, the Hiscocks, and eventually the Roths and Pardeys, and the rest. I dreamt of owning a Westsail 32--the boat that created the craze that made dreamers like me take off by the dozens--and eventually by the thousands--to circumnavigate the globe by way of Panama and Suez, with the usual stops in the south Pacific, the Galapagos, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the Cocos, and so on. I knew in my gut that I'd never be one of them, but for a (somewhat suicidal) while, I tried to talk myself into the idea that one day I might try. Apprenticeship sailing on Hobie Cats in the Mediterranean, and later ownership of a couple daysailors in Long Island Sound were preparation for owning my first "real" boat, a Southern Cross 31--clearly capable of sailing around the world, since many skippers had already accomplished this feat in exactly this boat.

I never sailed around the world, and won't, but when I left the university in 1991 I knew that I wanted to sail SOMEwhere, and with my new partner, F, I began to plan. We decided to sail from Maine south---maybe to the Bahamas, maybe the Caribbean, wherever whim and wind led. F took courses in navigation and boat handling, and started working on boat-friendly menus. I learned all I could about alternators, diesel engines, pumps of staggering variety, anchoring techniques, sailing strategies, safety precautions, heavy weather handling, propane systems, and marine plumbing.

Well, we never made it to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, but for the past ten years or so, sailing has replaced philosophy as trope and facade of my "identity". Any new person at a dinner party would eventually hear how F and I sailed the entire eastern seaboard 5,000 miles round-trip from Maine to Florida's west coast and back, living aboard for over a year, and visiting every seafood restaurant up every river and tributary off every sound and harbor: crabs in the Chesapeake, shrimp in South Carolina, mahi-mahi in Florida, and cod in Massachusetts. I'd throw in a story or two (no sailor without a yarn!) about fog off Cape May with near collisions with giant ferries between the breakwaters, groundings in Georgia, F's first overnight sail watching the lights of Atlantic City compete with the lights of hundreds of working fishing boats farther to sea, and so on. There was usually mention of alligators in the Okeechobee Canal, and lyrical accounts of dolphins, great blue herons, egrets, and hilarious pelicans. Maybe I wasn't a professor any longer, but at least I was a sailor.

Unfortunately I was, and am, about as much of a sailor as I was a philosopher.

Most people's stories, and mine included, are set out as bait for admiration and/or predation. I hoped that the sailor gets the girl. Well, I had already gotten the girl, F, my navigator and mate, and we spent more effort shopping for ingredients for her marvelous onboard dinners, than we ever spent raising and lowering and trimming sail. Nevertheless, we anchored out 90% of the year, saw every seaside town in its best light and from its best perspective (no strip malls on the arteries into town--just twinkling lights ashore, lazy dinghy rides to small docks, and leisurely lunches on decks--with lazier afternoons in the vee berth as dessert). I told everyone, truthfully, that it was the best year of my life.

So, when F was granted a year's leave of absence from her teaching position for 2002-03, we started planning furiously for several travel adventures, the first of which was to have been a repeat cruise down the east coast. I spent months upgrading systems on the boat, and we motored out of our slip and out past Portland Head Light with the idea of sailing at least to Maryland and Virginia--and maybe farther--by way of the Blynman and Cape Cod Canals, Buzzard's Bay, Long Island Sound, along the Jersey coast, through the canal to the top of the Chesapeake Bay.

We started about a month too late--though, given the autumn weather of 2002, no time would have been really comfortable. It turned out that the 3-4 weeks we were underway from Maine to southern Massachusetts--and back--constituted an ugly little interlude of horrible weather. The month actually set records for the coast for the number of storms left over from tropical events. No hurricanes came our way. No massive northeasters. Just wave after wave of ugly, stormy, windy, rainy weather systems, blowing the wet directly out of the southwest on our nose three days of every five, with 6 - 8 foot waves, 30 knot "breezes", and one small disaster after another. We gave up. We quit. And as soon as we did, the weather turned just fine.

If you'd like the first-hand story of the "adventure", along with a purposely demythologizing account of the daily life of the cruising sailor, then I invite you to read the three rather detailed emails I sent en route to friends and family summing up each week of the journey:

Cruising Log 1
Cruising Log 2
Cruising Log 3

So much for the seafaring adventure genre!

Of course, we're already planning our cruises for the coming season. It doesn't make much sense, but as E. B. White famously noted, there's really not anything better. You know that already if you live the boating life. If you don't, then my account will do nothing to encourage you to give it a try. Fine--it will leave more room in our next anchorage.





Saturday, December 21, 2002
IF you want to send me email (unless it is spam), address it to


Friday, December 20, 2002
I think that Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols) should
have the first word in this new web log--as a kind of guiding
word to the wise reader:

"What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms--in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people; truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins."


"Whatever we have words for, that we have already got beyond. In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable. With language the speaker immediately vulgarizes himself. Out of a morality for deaf-mutes and other philosophers."

So let the games begin--that is, vulgar, contemptuous metaphors and anthropomorphisms. You've been warned.



This page is powered by Blogger.