Exploring the Future...until we get there

Category: Art of Memory

471 – Hadrian

Relating to post 470 – The Art of Memory, I chose Hadrian as my final historical figure to add to my memory list as I transition to an entirely different approach to my bizarre hobby.

Whereas before, I had decided to include no one who had been born after my own birth year (since they would be considered my contemporaries, not historical personalities), I will now flip flop that idea to include on my list, as well, persons who are alive or only recently deceased. Nor will they be ordered based on birth date, but, rather, in a manner that makes the most sense in terms of memorization.

470 – The Art of Memory

Several years ago, I began to dabble in a hobby that involves memorizing lists of items. There is an approach called Method of Loci that grabbed my attention (I won’t go into much explanation about it, since the method’s details can be readily found numerous places online). I realized quickly that I was pretty good at remembering lists of historical figures (you know…like Galileo, Einstein, Eleanor of Aquitaine), so I decided to really give it a go and see how many I could remember. When I got distracted by the busy-ness of life, as we all do, and stopped adding additional characters (you know…like Rembrandt, Kepler, Lincoln) I was up to 470.

It’s now some 15 months later, and I have caught the bug again. Having revisited my previous list, I was initially a bit discouraged by how many holes and gaps had replaced the people who used to reside there. Now, about two weeks after that first revisit, I’m quite encouraged by the fact that the entire list has been firmly re-established in my gray matter. I proved to myself just today (August 9, 2019) that I am once again able to recite all 470 personages with no external memory aids, whatsoever. So, it’s time to start expanding the list again, and it’s always fun to consider who that next person will be.

Hmm, maybe…

464 (Red Panda / Al-Jazari)

464 (Red Panda / Al Jazari)

To understand what in the world is going on here, please read my post A Remembrance of Personalities.

Red Panda

Red Panda

My youngest daughter, Gracie, drew this stylized version of the Red Panda, another of the unfortunates on the IUCN list of cute little cuddlies finding itself in trouble as it struggles to survive in the Anthropocene. I scanned in her mixed media, then enhanced its color a bit before adding my part to the composition. As we decided earlier between us, because it was a collaborative effort, we will both provide our signatures on the result.

If you look closely, you can see 464 separate one- or two-initial abbreviations (mostly just one now, since space is becoming a consideration) for the historical personalities I have memorized, each person separated from the next by a little dot. They start at the left ear, weave their way down the animal’s body, up the tree, then back down, up and around the bear’s body again, over to the other side of the tree, then repeating this trek going in the opposite direction before finally ending over by the uppermost leaf on the tree trunk.

We’ll be selling limited editions of these over on my Etsy art shop. Each one comes signed and numbered, along with a complete list of the personalities involved. We will be donating 10% of all profits gained in this manner to the World Wildlife Fund.


Red Panda


463 (Amur Leopard / Jeremy Rifkin)

Amur Leopard – Critically Endangered

To understand the premise of what we’re doing here, please read my post A Remembrance of Personalities.

The burgeoning artist in the family, my youngest daughter, drew this stylized version of these Amur Leopards displayed above and discussed very briefly below. I went over her mixed media rendering with black ink, then brightened things up a bit in some graphics software. As we decided earlier between us, because it was a collaborative effort, we will both provide our signatures on the result.

If you look closely, you can see 463 separate one- or two-initial abbreviations for the memorized figures names, each person separated from the next by a little dot. They start on the outside of the kittens, then spiral around the two in a tightening circle until the list is finally finished.

We’ll be selling limited editions of these over on my Etsy website. Each one comes signed and numbered, along with a complete list of the personalities involved. We will be donating 10% of all profits gained in this manner to the World Wildlife Fund.

Amur Leopard

It is only mere coincidence that my daughter and I discovered both a tiger and a leopard on the endangered list with the word ‘Amur’ prefacing their species name. They both roam about in the same general area of the world. The Amur River, like so many others in the world, forms a natural border between two neighboring countries–in this case, Russia and China. Although the tiger is in dire straits, the leopard is caught in some wild, white water rapids of those same dire straits. Between the two, the tiger stands the best chance at continued survival, at least in terms of sheer numbers left in the wild. In fact, when things get really hairy, and the times particularly lean, the tiger, fully capable as the largest of the big cats, has been shown to take the leopard out.

The leopard has the unenviable designation as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the last stop on this list of increasingly ominous designations before a species is considered extinct in the wild. With well less than a hundred known animals left to make their stand in a very small and fragmented swath of land, and with adverse health signs of inbreeding all about, things couldn’t get much worse for this incredibly beautiful animal.

Jeremy Rifkin

In my post Entropecology back in December of last year, I mentioned the personality of Jeremy Rifkin, a man who, after reading his book Entropy: A New World View, considerably influenced how I would perceive the world around me from then on.

Rifkin had already written several books prior to that one, and has continued writing prolifically since. All of them deal with very weighty subject matter, including many that either directly or indirectly overlap with the issues we’ve discussed ad nauseum in this evolving blog of mine. I’ve always greatly admired writers who can enlighten me, broaden my horizons, lift the veil from things I thought I understood but actually did not. This is classic Rifkin, consistently, over the years, shining penetrating lights down on incredibly controversial and important topics, including political, social, economic, scientific, and philosophical areas of conversation. As a globe-trotting economist with considerable reputation and clout, he continues to be an influential voice in the economic policies of other countries, including China and Germany. His current focus revolves around working with the world’s economies as they implement principles, such as sustainability and renewability, he outlines in his Third Industrial Revolution.


WWF’s Amur Leopard Facts

Connect the Dots? The obvious connections here between an endangered species, such as this leopard, and Mr. Rifkin would be his life’s efforts of bringing to light, through continuous authorship of prescient works of literature, the predicament the planet finds itself in as a result of humanity’s careless ways, and the animals that suffer the worst as a result of those ways. Rifkin’s subject matter draw a direct path into the fragmented habitats of the world, just like the one the leopard now struggles to survive in. Unfortunately, this direct path is also twisty and multifarious, with vines and thorns and dark shadowy places. You can basically plot your trek from any of a hundred different points and they’ll all lead you, one way or another, to the same undesirable spot…a troubled place we’ll call 21st Century Earth.

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!


462 (Amur Tiger / John Glenn)

To figure out what in the world I’m doing here, please read my post A Remembrance of Personalities.

My daughter, the youngest art talent in the family, drew this stylized and adorable version of the Amur Tiger (displayed above and discussed below). I went over her mixed media rendering with black ink, then added a little pep in PhotoShop. Because it was a collaborative effort, we decided that we will both provide our artistic autographs.

If you look closely, you can see 462 separate one or two initial abbreviations (hopefully, and you’re certainly welcome to count them out) of the memorized figures names, each person separated from the next by a little dot. They start up in the left corner by the tiger’s ear, then sort of spiral around the outside border of the tiger on the first pass, followed by the next line, which then jumps to the inside of the border. This pattern continues on until the list is finished. As I mentioned in the linked post, all 462 can be recited without memory aids of any kind, save for the picture of them all I carry in my brain.

We’ll be selling limited editions of these over on my Etsy website. Each one comes signed and numbered, along with a complete list of the personalities involved. More details can be found there, once we get things posted over the next few days. We will be donating 10% of all profits gained in this manner to the World Wildlife Fund.

Amur Tiger

If ever there was a species that perched precariously close to the extinction abyss before making a comeback, the Amur Tiger is it.  Some estimates from several decades ago had put its numbers at something less than fifty. Now, with the political will to save this beautiful big cat stronger than ever before, the tiger’s numbers are on the rise, with recent estimates ranging from the high-400s to the mid- 500s in number. Most of the animal’s range is in the far eastern part of Russia, and the bulk of the responsibility to save this precious resource has fallen squarely on that country’s shoulders.

Fortunately, the Soviets seem to have stepped up to the plate admirably in that regard, allocating money and labor power to the conservation of habitat, the criminalization of tiger poaching and trafficking of tiger parts, and the enforcement of current efforts to ensure that the tiger’s numbers continue to rise. But the race is surely not over, with other threats, like illegal logging, and the continued loss and fragmentation of remaining habitat (and hence, also the loss of the very prey it must have in order to survive) means that the fight to protect this big big cat will go on for many decades to come.


WWF’s Amur Tiger Facts

John Glenn represents number 462 on my memory list, the inestimable astronaut and U.S. Senator who passed away in December of last year and who was laid to rest just a few days ago with full military honors. I still remember in 1998 when, at the age of 77, he became the oldest man to fly on the Space Shuttle. His service to “God and Country” was, in my opinion, of incalculable benefit to this nation. His undying sense of adventure hopefully inspired others—those who may think that life has to become something fundamentally tamer just because of wrinkles and calendars—to keep their dreams alive, and to keep living life large. A true American Hero in my book.

As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.

~ John Glenn

Connect the Dots? The only connection between an Amur Tiger and John Glenn I can readily come up with would be that Glenn was probably one of the few people in history (and still is) to be able to visually witness, in real time and in living color, the entirety of the tiger’s range while seated happily in a spacecraft hurtling at crazy fast speed through the ether above. What an amazing life this man lived.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!


A Remembrance of Personalities

Right around the same time that Jacques Barzun wrote his amazing tome From Dawn to Decadence, I was teaching myself different memory techniques. One that caught my attention was Method of Loci: one sets up a familiar place (such as the rooms in one’s house) that they then use as the mental construct upon which to build their memories. Each memory is anchored at a certain spot within this mental locale. Remember the spot and the item mentally placed there is also easily remembered. The method is exceptionally good for items of a sequential nature…like lists, for instance.

At the time, I had the idea of committing to memory the historical figures that appear in Barzun’s index. Although I never got close (due to lack of time, I suppose) it was fun attempting to do so. The list, such that it was, has never really left my head, even though it’s some fifteen years later.

That was segue into my recent post suggesting that this blog is going to change. I don’t think that reporting the headlines surrounding Climate Change is adding much value to what many of you probably discover on your own, every day (if you are addicted to the headlines, as I admittedly am). You know about the fires burning outside of Boulder, Colorado very early in the season; the record hot temps being set out west that indicate what will probably amount to another record-breaking hot year on the whole; and the unraveling of long-standing policy regarding the environment by our new president’s cabinet members, whose ties to the fossil fuels industry apparently fog their vision and obligation to first do what’s right by the American public. As it is, we may be further down on their list, if we’re included at all.

Sometimes, it’s the personalities behind the headlines that are more interesting to me than the story, itself. That’s why I suppose I wanted to memorize all those characters from Barzun’s book – they fascinate me (rest assured, none of these politicians from the 2016 campaign will make the list). The idea that I could chance upon these personas at any time–simply by recalling them to memory from my list–made me happy in a simple sort of way.

At the same time, the relevance of most of those personalities has little, if anything, to do with what I’m currently doing with this blog… but they might.

In the posts to come, I will be expanding my memorized list in an earnest manner. The starting point will be 462, the number of people currently stored in my head, growing from there as we go along. The spin on this pursuit, and the thing that will hopefully make it interesting, and a little wacky for the both of us, me (the writer / artist) and you (the reader) is to tie the addition of more personalities together with the names of the beautiful animals that share our planet with us, many of which will be shared for the simple fact that they are already on, or heading there fast, the very undesirable list of “Endangered Species.” (More of course are disappearing all the time (read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Last Extinction) and I venture to guess that more than a few are going to be placed on this list, and later removed (because they didn’t make it) all within the span of a single human lifetime).

How am I going to do this? With the help of my artistically talented daughter. Each stylized, cutesified art illustration will have, as part of its composition, the initials of each historical figure on my list built right into the composition. We’ll be starting this adventure very soon, so be on the lookout for the first one.

These art pieces will be offered for sale over at my Etsy artshop, so visit there in the near future for more details about what I will include with each sale (type the words FloodedPlanet (no space between words) in the search field on Etsy’s home page to find me.

As always, thanks for stopping by!



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