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It took 529 years to take teen-artist portraiture from

Albrecht Durer self-portrait 1484
Albrecht Dürer teen self-portrait, 1484
to    Portrait drawn in 2013
Anonymous teen artist, 2013

and it took 220 years to take world-leader penmanship from

George Washington writes Representatives in 1789
President George Washington writes "Representatives" in 1789
to Prime Minister Gordon Brown tries to write the word contribution
Prime Minister Gordon Brown writes "contribution" in 2009

but the progress was worth the wait, saboteurs of education would have us believe.

by Luby Prytulak
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First posted 25 May 2013 03:30pm PST, last edited 04 Jul 2013 09:33pm PST

When cursive writing has been practically abandoned in the United States, why bother teaching penmanship at all?

Hardly anyone writes in longhand anymore.  Even when students put pen or pencil to paper, they're not necessarily writing in cursive.  According to data released in 2007 by the College Board, a national college-preparatory nonprofit, only 15 percent of students used cursive in the essay section of the SAT — 85 percent used printing.

The excerpts from a CNN article below touch on some of the arguments surrounding the abandonment of cursive.

Cursive vs. typing: Which should schools teach?
By Rachel Rodriguez, CNN,  August 24, 2011

Mary Hudnall's perfect cursive script
Mary Hudnall's perfect script comes from years of teaching handwriting to third graders.

Forty out of 50 states in the United States have adopted the Common Core curriculum, which phases out cursive writing in the classroom, for their public schools.  According to its mission statement, Common Core seeks to teach skills that are "robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers."  In Common Core, the time formerly devoted to teaching cursive is spent on learning to type and other digital skills.  [...]

The waning focus on handwriting comes as a welcome change to some who disliked handwriting lessons as students or felt they were a waste of time.

"I didn't particularly like (learning cursive) at the time, and honestly, I'm still wondering when all that practice will actually produce something," says Kelsie McWilliams, a student in Castle Rock, Colorado.  But educators like McGrann feel cursive is more than a traditional style of writing.  They believe it has intrinsic value for learning and self-expression.

"For struggling writers, cursive allows them to be more fluent and thus lets their ideas flow on the page more readily ... some students have more ideas in their heads than they can (print) on paper," says McGrann.  "If you integrate penmanship with other literacy activities, the formation of letters really does make a difference in the way kids retain information."

"The discipline of cursive is excellent for developing fine motor skills, especially in young children," agrees Mary Brennan, who has her own handwriting business in New York.  "It's part art training, part everyday work skill."  [...]

Besides the intrinsic value of cursive writing, some are worried that phasing it out may make texts written in cursive go the way of hieroglyphics, as McGrann pointed out.

"I rarely use it now.  Still, it should be taught so that students are able to read it — think historical documents," says Danici Conlon of Victorville, California.

And McGrann, whose private school has no plans to stop teaching cursive, says it doesn't take much extra time to teach if teachers plan well.

"I think teachers need to figure out how to integrate whatever they're teaching together.  So if you're teaching cursive, the words you're teaching the kids to write should be their spelling words.  Same with typing," he explains.

Still, with 80% of states in the country phasing out cursive and so much of today's communication being digital, the discussion may be purely academic.

Kristi Peck teaches English and theater at a Tipton, Iowa, high school.  She was taught cursive as a child, but finds herself printing more and more — mostly because of her students.

"Many students can't comfortably read cursive," she says.  [...]

Although many, like Vivica Sparks of Grayson, Kentucky, point out one relevant skill:

"Yes, cursive should be taught in school," she said.  "How else would a person learn how to sign a signature?"

The TwelveByTwelve view is that cursive writing is immensely valuable and its teaching should not only be retained, but intensified.  The CNN title above presenting a choice of "cursive vs typing" is misleading, as the best answer is that students need to know both.  And they also need more intensive training in printing, as my impression is that their printing is being neglected too, and that the legibility of student printing is also on the decline.

The fundamental and obvious justification for teaching printing and cursive is that despite computerization, we continue to need to print and write both rapidly and legibly.  And a further reason, mentioned in the CNN report above but more usually overlooked, is that penmanship is a first step toward building a manual dexterity which is useful in many everyday situations, but also is indispensable in many professional tasks.

The teacher whose students complain that they are being made to learn cursive when their friends in other schools have been relieved of this burden has it within his power to convince the complainers of the advantages that flow from penmanship training by providing them with such information, and projecting for them such hypothetical scenarios, as the following.

Some Professions Depend Upon Good Handwriting

Doctors need good handwriting

Physician illegibility is legendary ...

Medical errors in Fumblefinger society

Doctor's penmanship, Fumblefinger society

Typeface designed for doctors in Fumblefinger society

Destined to be a doctor in Fumblefinger society

Doctor handwriting illegibility, Saboteurs of education create fumblefinger society

Doctor's strike holding up illegible placards, Saboteurs of education create fumblefinger society

... because it sometimes causes schoolchildren to be given a heroin substitute ...

FDA title Metadate ER prescription

This illustration is an example of a hand-written prescription for Metadate ER 10 mg tablets.  Metadate is a drug used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Due to the similarity in name, poor penmanship and the omission of the modifier "ER", the pharmacy filling the prescription incorrectly dispensed methadone 10 mg tablets.  Methadone is a morphine-based product used as a heroin substitution therapy and analgesic.  Methadone is not used for the treatment of ADHD.

... and at other times causes brain damage ...

World Health Organization logo
  Don't write like this
An example of an illegible prescription appearing on the WHO web page, but unconnected with the Amoxil case.

Legal obligation to write clearly

Doctors are legally obliged to write clearly, as emphasized in the UK Court of Appeal ruling in the following case.  A doctor had written a prescription for Amoxil tablets (amoxicillin).  The pharmacist misread this and dispensed Daonil (glibenclamide) instead.  The patient was not a diabetic and suffered permanent brain damage as a result of taking the drug.

The court indicated that a doctor owed a duty of care to a patient to write a prescription clearly and with sufficient legibility to allow for possible mistakes by a busy pharmacist.  The court concluded that the word Amoxil on the prescription could have been read as Daonil.  It found that the doctor had been in breach of his duty to write clearly and had been negligent.

... and of course causes a vast number of other injuries, the chief among them being death:

Time Health & Family
Cause of Death: Sloppy Doctors

By Jeremy Caplan    Monday, Jan. 15, 2007

Doctors' sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually.  It's a shocking statistic, and, according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually.  [...]

Some physicians try to make up in adulthood what their teachers neglected to teach them in Grade 1:

Los Angeles Times logo Rx for Physicians' Unhealthy Handwriting
January 21, 1991  |  BETH ANN KRIER  |  TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hold onto your prescriptions.  It looks as if some doctors are serious about improving their notoriously horrendous penmanship.

Since last year, more than 1,200 physicians — and counting — have sent away for a self-study program in italic handwriting.  [...]

"These doctors really cared and wanted to talk about their handwriting problems.  I personally never thought they cared. I thought they were just careless," she adds.  [...]

The flood of physicians requesting the self-taught penmanship program occurred after a publication of the American Medical Assn. ran an article about the life-and-death consequences of doctor scribbling.  The American Medical News article observed that there are "chilling stories" of delays in treatment, incorrect dosages and even fatalities, all because of rushed, illegible chicken tracks dashed off by physicians.  [...]

"We don't even try to read some of the handwriting of our physicians," Reagan admits.  "In some cases, all we know comes from the notes the nurse puts in the chart and the typed summaries that are dictated....  Obviously mistakes can get made.  Nurses can take orders off wrong and do things that weren't supposed to be done.  There are major legal problems because some doctors can't read their own notes from years earlier."  [...]

"The most bizarre case I know of was a case where a pharmacist gave a woman a potassium supplement instead of birth control pills," says Reagan.  "It was a very sobering experience for the people involved."

The 98,000 patient deaths in the cartoon above was not fantasy, although it should be understood to refer to "a range of medical errors", of which "written miscommunication" is only one variety:

Washington Post logo
For Doctors' Scrawl, Handwriting's on the Wall
By Rene Sanchez   Washington Post Staff Writer   May 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES — The class began with a gentle but humbling plea: "Pretend like you're in first grade."

For the next three hours, dozens of doctors who work at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center here spent a grueling night last week confronting one of the most notorious problems in medicine: Horrible penmanship.

Their own.

Shamed into attending by the hospital's chief of staff, fingered by nurses for having an undecipherable scrawl, they all trudged into an auditorium with paper and pencil [...] to hear two experts coddle and coach them to forget everything they know about handwriting and start from scratch.  [...]

"My kids think it's very funny that I'm stuck here tonight doing this," he said.  "But most of us are trying to take this idea in the right spirit and give the lessons a chance.  I admit it: I have terrible handwriting."  [...]

Across the medical profession, there is growing concern that serious errors in both patient prescriptions and treatment are often rooted in the age-old habit of harried physicians scribbling off requests that pharmacists and nurses later have a difficult, if not impossible, time understanding.

Just six months ago, a Texas jury blamed a physician's illegible handwriting in the accidental death of a 42-year-old man who had a heart attack after receiving the wrong prescription.  In a handwritten note, his doctor had prescribed 80 milligrams a day of "Isordil," a medication for heart pain.  But a pharmacist misread the order as "Plendil," which is used to treat high blood pressure, and gave him the same dosage.  The maximum recommended daily intake of that drug is 10 milligrams.  The jury in the extraordinary case ordered the doctor to pay the victim's family several hundred thousand dollars.

A scathing report by the Institute of Medicine late last year also concluded that a range of medical errors that include written miscommunication between doctors and other providers in the nation's health care system may claim as many as 98,000 lives each year.  [...]

Surgeons need good handwriting

Surgeons particularly need manual dexterity in handling scalpels, as what needs to be cut often lies dangerously close to what mustn't be cut, and the opinion sometimes is that every variety of manual dexterity serves to strengthen scalpel-handling:

Hobbies of Great Surgeons Aid in Life-Saving Marvels
Modern Mechanix   Nov 1933

Almost all surgeons are constantly seeking to increase the skill of their hands and their ability to coordinate brain and muscle.  One surgeon of my acquaintance took up etching as an aid to developing more delicate control over his fingers.  Several whom I know learned to play the violin in order to increase the nimbleness of their hands.  Again, Dr. Forbes Hawkes, noted for his remarkable operations upon the kidney, learned to play the piano as training for his fingers although he did not care for it as a musical instrument.

In fact, so far as the hands are concerned, there are many points in common between the pianist and the surgeon.  The active hands of a Paderewski would have no difficulty in tying a row of stitches rapidly and unerringly.

Although penmanship is not mentioned above as an exercise supportive of surgical skill, etching is mentioned, which seems reasonable — the action of drawing an etching needle over a metal surface, whether in a straight line or a curve, at the correct orientation and with the correct pressure seems very much like the action of drawing a scalpel over the surface of the human skin, or over the surface of a bodily organ, also in a straight line or a curve, at the correct angle and at the correct depth.  And of course drawing with an etching needle on metal is very similar to penmanship with a pencil or pen on paper

And, as mentioned above, there are demands on a surgeon's manual dexterity in addition to cutting, prominent among them being the tying of surgical knots, eight of which are pictured immediately below, followed by steps 12-14 out of the 15 required to complete what is called the "Surgeon's Knot Square 2=1" — reproduced here to show what a high degree of manual dexterity a surgeon needs to have:

Eight surgical knots

Steps 12-14 out of the 15 needed to tie one of the knots:

Surgeon's Knot Square 2=1 Surgeon's Knot Square 2=1
Richard F. Edlich, M.D., Ph.D. Surgical Knot Tying Manual Third Edition, Covidien, undated and uncopyrighted.

Dentists need good handwriting

Dentists need good handwriting not only because they, like doctors, write prescriptions, but also because their work requires manual dexterity, and as in the case of surgeons, diverse manual-dexterity exercises help strengthen that manual dexterity:

  Dentists can acquire manual dexterity by playing piano
Indiana University Bloomington

Manual Dexterity

A dentist must have superior manual dexterity skills.  Stop and consider for a moment the size of the average person's mouth.  In order to perform dental procedures, a dentist must be able to work with precision on an extremely small scale.  A dentist must be able to exercise very fine motor control and possess excellent hand-eye coordination.  If you aspire to a career as a dentist you should engage in deliberate activities through which you can develop manual dexterity skills that are transferable to the practice of dentistry.

Dental school admissions committees expect that applicants have worked to develop these skills prior to admission.  When you apply to dental school, you must be able to do more than say, "I'm good with my hands."  You must be able to demonstrate to an admissions committee that you have systematically engaged in activities through which you have developed the necessary manual dexterity skills.  [...]

You should choose an activity that you will enjoy and participate in it on a consistent basis over an extended period of time, preferably throughout your college years.  It is helpful if you can find a way to document the level of skill you have developed for an admissions committee, such as taking courses for college credit, performing in a concert, providing samples of your artwork, or obtaining a letter of recommendation from your teacher in an art or music class, or your supervisor in a lab.

Teachers need good handwriting

The quality of teacher handwriting varies:

Teacher's perfect cursive script
Leaves comments on your paper in illegible handwriting

However, it should be mandatory for every teacher to have good handwriting, so that whatever he/she writes on the board, or by way of feedback on essays or examinations, should be legible, and not leave the student frustrated at being unable to tell what it is that his teacher is trying to say:

Teacher's bad handwriting


Of course teachers also need to be able to write legibly so that they can show their students how to do the same.

Politicians need good handwriting

Fallen soldier Jamie Janes
Fallen soldier Jamie Janes


Even politicians need good handwriting because occasion may demand that they project the image of not merely signing a form letter, but of actually giving their letter their personal attention, and of spending time to compose it, as for example British Prime Minister Gordon Brown writing a letter of condolence to Mrs Jacqui Janes upon the loss of her son, soldier Jamie Janes, killed in Afghanistan.

The Daily Mail article covering Gordon Brown's letter circles what may be errors, though the legibility is so abysmal that one can't be sure: Mrs Janes seems to be incorrectly rendered as Mrs James, greatest as greatst, your as you, condolences as condolencs, Jamie ends in a scribble, colleagues as colleagus, and security as securiity.  But it is the letter's suffocating illegibility that is the letter's salient feature.  It may be wondered whether Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be able to decipher his own attempt to write the word "contribution":

Prime Minister Gordon Brown tries to write the word contribution

And Mrs Janes's reaction:

"The letter was scrawled so quickly I could hardly even read it and some of the words were half-finished," Mrs Janes said.
"It's just disrespectful."
She added: "In the days after Jamie's death I got letters from Prince Philip, Buckingham Palace, the Defence Secretary and his regiment.
"They were all written from the heart and made me feel Jamie's death was important to them.
"Then I got Gordon Brown's.  I only got through the first four [lines] before I threw it across the room in disgust."

Mrs Jacqui Janes Grief-stricken mother, Mrs Jacqui Janes
Gordon Brown letter of condolence to Mrs Jacqui Janes
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's letter of condolence

Computer history might have been different had Steve Jobs and Sumner Stone not studied calligraphy

In days of yore, penmanship training had not only been strong, but actually flourished in its higher manifestation as calligraphy.

Steve Jobs discovers calligraphy

And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.  Let me give you one example:  Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country.  Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed.  Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this.  I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.  It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life.  But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.  And we designed it all into the Mac.  It was the first computer with beautiful typography.  If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally-spaced fonts.  And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.  If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

Steve Jobs delivering Stanford commencement address.  Source

And Sumner Stone, the influential type designer for Adobe, had also studied calligraphy at Reed College:

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Shown drawn in pencil is Arepo Italic, one of many Sumner Stone fonts:

Pencil drawing for Sumner Stone font Arepo Italic

Hypothetical Scenarios Relating to Manual Dexterity

In addition to documented events which demonstrate the value of good handwriting, a teacher is able to describe for his penmanship students imaginary scenarios, such as the following, which are supportive of the notion that the manual dexterity that good penmanship creates can prove advantageous in many situations.

Pickpocket nabbed within minutes

Yes, it must have been that guy coming out of the hotel elevator who asked me for a light, and then brushed past me, who made off with my wallet.  Since I had my pencilbox and sketchbook with me, I was finishing his portrait just as the police arrived.  The hotel made photocopies which were quickly distributed, and the pickpocket was nabbed within minutes.

Being an artist means not only that I can place the lines on my paper exactly where they are needed, at the right orientation and with the right curvature and pressure, it more importantly means that I've learned to really see things — like faces — in a way that ordinary people can't, and once I've really seen something, I find it hard to forget.

That's the uplifting message that I tried to convey to Arnie Zilch when he went into a depression and started talking about dropping out of the Fine Arts program, but he wouldn't listen.  He said his Grade 1 teacher had scoffed at worrying about handwriting because he could think of better ways to spend his time, and so now he, Arnie, felt inclined to follow that teacher's example by scoffing at trying to place lines accurately on paper because he too could think of better ways to spend his time.

Barye Phillips by Paul Calle
With apologies to Barye Phillips as drawn by Paul Calle in The Pencil, North Light Publishers, Cincinnati Ohio, 1974, p. 44.

Xuru Curse removal permits extraction of Peruvian Moonstone

Cursive International Phonetic Alphabet-1949 needed to remove Xuru Curse  

  Anthropological linguist needs the International Phonetic Alphabet to remove Xuru Curse

So far, so good — the ruins are where the map said they'd be — but now I need to befriend the local natives, and piece together whatever fragments of information they might be able to tell me about the Xuru Curse.

That the natives have been isolated for three thousand years, and speak a language unrelated to any other on earth, is no problem because my PhD in Anthropological Linguistics enables me to throw together a dictionary and a grammar of their language in no time.  I've done exactly that for more newly-discovered languages than I can remember; I can practically do it in my sleep.  Of course I write any new language using the International Phonetic Alphabet.  There's no other way.

Now that the Peruvean Moonstone seems almost within my grasp, I can be really thankful I'm not like that Arnie Zilch who found the International Phonetic Alphabet impossible to write legibly, and as a result dropped out of Linquistics.  No one had been surprised — Arnie's English handwriting was laborious and illegible, and the first time he looked at that IPA chart, his eyes bugged out of their sockets, and he began to tremble.  His education seemed to have entirely excluded manual dexterity.

Jungle journalism

Jungle journalism

They were sure right in Journalism School about keeping up your shorthand!  My voice recorder got crushed in my saddlebag, and Arnie's laptop gave up the ghost when it got immersed crossing the Swamishi.  And if they had survived, we would have run out of batteries long ago.  And I had noticed earlier that my audios were largely unintelligible — the background noise that my mind is able to filter out when I hear people live, can't be filtered out listening to a recording, and so I often can't make out what is being said.  Also, when I'm on the spot, I know who is speaking, but when I listen to the recording, the voices are often impossible to distinguish.

With my shorthand, though, I am able to get down an accurate and complete record of what the rebel leadership has been saying.  Lucky for me, their top three commanders in the Southern region are women who graduated from the London School of Economics — a hotbed of third-world revolution, it would seem — and for my sake confine themselves to English in my presence.  Their political and economic objectives strike me as surprisingly mature and even sophisticated, and I think when I return to civilization, I'll be able to tip world opinion in their favor by no more than quoting their exact words.

Truth to tell, I wouldn't have been able to pull off my massive transcription had I forgotten to bring my Pitman's Shorthand textbook, which allowed me to quickly brush up my stenographic skills when the voice recorders failed.  Not always easy writing on my lap or on my knee, but my hours of youthful drill have left me with the ability to write a legible product even under difficult conditions.  Some of my most revealing transcripts have been created riding elephant-back, which for some reason happens to be when the leadership is most talkative.  Arnie has been of little help since his laptop got dunked.  He tells me that he dropped out of shorthand class because he couldn't draw the weird symbols.  "I'm a keyboard person," he says by way of explanation.

Pitman's Shorthand

Summer holidays can be boring

What a strange family those Zilches are!  Within an hour of arriving at the cottage, their kids start whining that there's nothing to do, and so every afternoon they drive into town to buy some new toy — inevitably something big, spectacular, and preferrably noisy.  Within half an hour of getting back to the cottage, the toy is discovered to be boring and is tossed aside, and then the kids start whining to go back home to the city so they can watch their favorite TV shows.  So different from me!  Give me a pencil and a pad of paper, and I'm happy for the rest of the summer.

Old Ford by Gene Franks
Old Ford by Gene Franks, Pencil Drawing, Walter Foster Art Books, Tustin California, undated, p. 58

I tried to persuade Arnie to join me on one of my drawing expeditions, and for a moment I thought I detected a spark of interest, but when I saw that he gripped a pencil like a dagger, I knew his interest would evaporate in two minutes, and I was right.  The Zilches suddenly up and returned to the city after only four days.  I had been out sketching the haunted farmhouse (as it is known locally), and didn't learn of their departure until I got back.  Arnie had left me a note, which from the three exclamation marks at the end seemed to be important, but from the few words that were legible, I couldn't begin to guess what he was trying to tell me.  I didn't get to show him my sketch of the truck that sits beside that haunted farmhouse, and whose lights, locals say, have been known to come on at night, and its horn to honk, as if someone was trying to drive away, and yet failing.

The blessing of labor-saving machinery

Mr Mudrock was telling us in Social Studies how grateful we should be for the modern machinery which lifts sore labor from our backs.  "Look and think!" he said, showing us, on the one hand, six portraits drawn by 16-17 year olds in 2013 (one of whom was considered by his classmates to be a great artist) and comparing these six to a single self-portrait drawn by 13-year-old Albrecht Dürer in 1484.  The six contemporary portraits, Mr Mudrock told us, testified to our advanced civilization.  Modern man, he said, no longer needs to put in the long apprenticeship of learning to draw because he can use a camera instead.  And as a result of dropping art from the curriculum, students today have more time to devote to things that are really important, things that cannot be done for them by a machine.

American high-schoolers draw faces at the age of 16-17

Albrecht Durer self-portrait at age 13
German Albrecht Dürer draws self-portrait at the age of 13

Immediately, Bo Kozak shot up his hand and said, "And we no longer need the long apprenticeship of learning how to play musical instruments, because machines — electronic ones — provide us with continuous music of a quality higher than we would be able to play ourselves."

"You understand me perfectly!  Thank you very much!" said Mr Mudrock, beaming with satisfaction at how rapidly the class, at least one member anyway, had grasped his message.  But Bo continued, "And modern man can also dispense with running, since he gets where he wants to go much faster by car," to which Mr Mudrock nodded agreement, but silently and without the alacrity that he had been exhibiting just a moment earlier.  And to everyone's surprise, Bo just kept right on, "And modern man can also dispense with trying to be witty or entertaining, as he can listen to all the professional comedians he wants on radio and television and over the Internet."  Strangely, Mr Mudrock did not smile or nod or anything, he just stared at Bo as if stunned, as if he had been betrayed.  And just as Bo seemed about to go on, Mr Mudrock said, somewhat coldly it seemed, "We don't need any more examples!"

"Quite right!" answered Bo, as if he himself had begun to tire of their accumulation, but nevertheless continued, "But may I ask just one question before your excellent insight is entirely dropped?"

Slowly and warily, Mr Mudrock answered, "Of course."

"Isn't drawing one of the few things that can be taught in school that builds manual dexterity, and isn't manual dexterity a prerequisite for many diverse careers that a student might follow?"

"You're thinking of a bygone age, my boy", exclaimed Mr Mudrock.  We're preparing you for higher work than on an assembly line.  In the Information Age, you will be working not with your hands, but with your brain.  Believe you me, struggling to put better chicken scratches on paper today than you did yesterday is an unworthy pursuit."

Bo made a movement as if he was bursting to speak yet again, but Mr Mudrock turned away from him, and picking up the Dürer self-portrait said, "Let's get this sad reminder of the mind-destroying labor endured by our ancestors out of our sight," and as he rolled it up into a tight cylinder began telling us about our homework assignment, which was to categorize all our friends and relatives, and all the famous people we could think of, into Normals and Workaholics, starting with Albrecht Dürer.

And then the strangest thing happened.  Bo Kozak shot out a question without first raising his hand and being given permission to speak: "Would it be OK if we sorted into Normals, Workaholics, and Slothaholics?"

Mr Mudrock glared at him, and grabbed a piece of chalk and slapped down a giant "NO!" on the board, followed by three other words and another exclamation mark, but which additional words I was unable to read, and so I leaned over to Penny who sat in front of me, and whispered "What's that?", to which she shook her head and hunched up her shoulders indicating she couldn't tell either.

Arnie drops out of our sketching tour of Europe

What a great idea the sketching tour of Europe was!  I've never had so much fun in my life.  And the summer after first year Architecture is exactly when it does the most good — we've already learned some architecture, and so know what to look for, and the variety of what is to be found in Europe really stretches our imaginations.

Arnie Zilch dropped out of our group early — before we had left Spain — and caught a plane home.  The few sketches he had entered in his portfolio were really embarrassing, and everybody knew they weren't going to improve.  He's not dropping out of Architecture, though — he says that whenever anybody wants a house, he'll show them books with hundreds of plans.  What's the point of re-inventing the wheel?

Nobody missed Arnie.  "Mr Kvetching couldn't do the sketching" is how Donna summed him up.

Here's the church I took a liking to the day Arnie left:

European Sketch Tour

Designing the new Science Pavilion

When the competition was announced to design a new Science Pavilion, I immediately began sketching out ideas, some of them admittedly far out.  Arnie just laughed, and said the chances of winning were one in a million, and while I was wasting my life chasing rainbows, he was raking in a bundle supplying developers with designs for tract housing.  When he saw my preliminary sketches, he said "Everything that is practical is already being done, and curves are definitely not practical, which is why I avoided drawing any in our Architecture classes — a smart move, businesswise, don't you agree?"

Futuristic architectural design

When I showed him a photo of the Pod Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur, Arnie said that a box would have provided the same volume of usable space at one tenth the cost.  When I asked, "What about aesthetics?" Arnie answered, "Of course aesthetics is important.  That's why you always put a statue in the foyer."

Pod Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Leonardo da Vinci's engineering sketches

Taped to the inside of the cover of my idea book is a page of Leonardo da Vinci engineering sketches with notations that had been brought to class attention in Professor Gerard's mechanical engineering class with the recommendation that we all develop the habit of sketching out our ideas in a notebook whenever they occurred to us, and so be able to return to them and elaborate them.  "Every machine", Professor Gerard said, "starts as a rough sketch on paper.  If you don't capture the idea in a sketch as soon as it flits into your head, it might vanish forever."

That's why I carry my idea book around with me, and every day add a page or two to it.

Arnie Zilch laughs whenever he sees me opening my idea book.  "As Leonardo never actually propelled anyone off the ground," he once sneered, "what were his wing drawings but a waste of time?  I'm making good money servicing machines already in existence, and don't see much cash coming in from dreaming up new ones."

I'll never be able to stop thinking of Arnie as the C student that he always was at Cal State, and who whenever I sat beside him in class, I could see doodling, as many students tended to do, but who demonstrated how different he was from other engineering students by restricting his creations to happy-face icons, like   :-)

Leonardo da Vinci wings

Svitlana's Farewell Note to Marko

When Svitlana returned to Kiev, she headed directly for my dorm room, but I was out visiting the caves in Feofaniya, so she wrote a farewell note in my journal, just under the map that Oksana had sketched giving me directions to the Opera House.

Svitlana returns to Kiev and writes Marko a farewell note in Ukrainian

Svitlana's note ends by asking me to write.  No problem!  Having filled a dozen exercise books with Ukrainian of all kinds makes it a simple matter for me to flip into Ukrainian mode.  The best parts in all that practice were passages that I knew by heart from hearing them sung by Kvitka, passages which never failed to transport me into her magical realm.

Kvitka Cicyk
  Колись дівчино мила       
То був чудовий час,
Як ще любов носила
Ген попід хмари нас.
Ми мріяли, зітхали,
Кохання присягали,
А соловейко тьохкав
Все тьох, тьох, тьох.

Й був би я дівчину
До віку так кохав.
Й був би я єдину
До серця пригортав.
Та десь війна взялася,
Дівчина віддалася,
А соловейко тьохкав,
Все тьох, тьох, тьох.

Й зорі мерехтіли,
Соловейко щебетав.
В очах сльози тремтіли
Як я її прощав.
Давно те все минуло,
Кохання позабулось,
А в серденьку осталось
Все ох, ох, ох!

Marko Ukrainian exercise #1

Marko Ukrainian exercise #2

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