Yesterday, at my parents’ house, I stumbled upon this old box of wax crayons:

It had been given to me some fifteen, maybe even twenty years ago by H., a long since deceased friend of the family who for many years was kind of like a grandfather to me. Before that, the crayons used to belong to H.’s own daughter way back when she was a little schoolgirl in the 1960s.

Apparently, though, she didn’t use them very much, and to this day they’re pretty much intact.

Another thing I received from H. is a set of loose watercolour pans that look just as aged and tattered, yet also just as pristine as the crayons:

I now keep them next to a heap of equally vintage Tempera colour tubes:

My grandma found these in her house a few years ago, though oddly enough no-one in my family seems to know where they originally came from or who they might have belonged to. Be that as it may, once they had mysteriously appeared out of nowhere my grandma decided that I should have them, seeing as I was into painting and might have had a use for them.

Believe it or not, I could even provide an appropriate painting support for those decades-old colours: A set of wooden painting panels, most of them already primed with an undercoat, that spent almost half a century gathering dust in the hallowed halls of the Austrian Association of Women Artists. As already mentioned by [m], we’re friends with the Association’s president who, a couple of years ago, kindly relinquished these panels to me.

So I now own a veritable collection of old painting materials but, as much as I treasure them, somehow I also feel bad about them. The reason for this is that all of these things were given to me under the assumption that I wouldn’t just store and keep them but that I would actually use them. But how could I? They have all been so perfectly preserved for years and years on end, and now they seem to be enwrapped in some fragile sort of time capsule that I wouldn’t dare to touch. They have rested unaltered and unchanged for so long that I’d consider it a sacrilege to change them now. They have, over the years, attained so much character and battered beauty that they have become pieces of art themselves.

And yet, in all this beauty there is also a deep sense of sadness. Only the tips of the crayons are worked off, the tubes of Tempera are still well filled, the watercolour pans still sealed in their original wrapping. No painter’s brush has touched the primed and gessoed panels, time and dust and dirt have turned their whiteness to a shoddy grey. So, in a way, all of these objects seem to speak of missed opportunities, of things left undone, of unfulfilled intentions, and I feel like I owe it to their previous owners to finally put them to use. Which probably I never will. But then, maybe I’m already doing just that – by writing about them…

Our blog has been up and running for almost a month now, and this feels like a good occasion (read: excuse) for some self reflection on how we’re faring so far. Don’t worry, I won’t be boring you with blog stats, view counts or anything else involving numbers. Luckily, there is this new website which offers a much more entertaining way of analysis…

The site in question is called “I Write Like” and was programmed by some Russian computer wizz. It works really simple: All you need to do is enter a piece of text you’ve written, hit a button, and then, by a set of complex algorithms, digital oompa loompas or whatever, the programme automatically compares your words with the works of over fifty famous writers. This is only a matter of seconds, and in the blink of an eye you’re told “You write like…” and given the name of a world-renowned author whose style your own writing resembles. Oh, and you’re also offered a free subscription of some publication that is supposed to help you increase your writing skills. Now, I have to admit I’m deeply suspicious of any website that lets you play some sort of game first and wants you to subscribe to whatever-it-is-they’re-offering afterwards, no matter how often they flash the word FREE in your face. On the other hand, I’m a sucker for weird online questionnaires and suchlike. You know, the Which Circle of Hell Would You Be in if You Were in Dante’s Inferno-kind of stuff. So I just had to have a go at this “I Write Like” thing and had all our previous blog entries analyzed.

According to the test results my first two posts were written in the style of H. P. Lovecraft. This is, in a certain sense, good news because the test states that two of [m]’s posts resemble Lovecraft’s work as well. So, despite the fact that there are two different authors writing here, there seems to be a certain similarity between our styles lending some much desired coherence to our blog. Unfortunately, though, there seems to be very little coherence in my own writing: After that initial run of Lovecraft-y posts my literary style apparently took a turn to the South and I produced a post in the vein of – wait for it – Margaret Mitchell. With my next entry I morphed into Mary Shelley, and, finally, my last post saw me following in the footsteps of one Cory Doctorow (whoever that might be – seriously, I’ve never heard of that guy before).

At first I found these results rather disturbing. Then, however, I took a look at the small print and learned that the analysis is not based on “stylistic” parameters (like length of sentences etc.) alone but also on a keyword search. So, big surprise: I sound like Lovecraft when I use words like “undercroft” and “cobwebs” but I become Margaret Mitchell as soon as I mention family dinners and my grandma! Wow, who’d have thought?!

The one thing that really bugs me, though, is that one of [m]’s posts is supposedly written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. Jeez, why does she always get to be the cool one?

P.S.: This time I decided to stick with the “every post needs a pic”-rule and included one of our old holiday photos. I could, of course, come up with a number of reasons why and how that particular image is related to the post, like: It shows the site of Sir Walter Scott’s grave at Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland, and can therefore be said to adhere to the general topic of famous writers. Also, it conveys as sort of Gothic atmosphere that seems to go well with the names of Shelley, Poe and Lovecraft. Still, all of these reasons are rather far-fetched and arbitrary. At the end of the day the photo is, strictly speaking, unrelated to the post. See, that’s what you get when you abide by the rules – utter randomness.

P.P.S.: According to “I Write Like…” this post itself is written in the style of H. P. Lovecraft. Well, I did mentions “undercrofts” again…