Harold Scheub

'When you sit down in front of a television set, and watch a situation comedy, it’s the same thing…we pretty much react the same to the same stories. The more I experienced stories in southern Africa, the more I was aware of this. It wasn’t unique'

I love watching tv. Of course, only when there’s a good show to watch. Earlier this month I spent 8 hours watching the 2nd season of Narcos and 7 hours on Stranger Things. TV is still considered consumption that is anti-productive. Often I hear others who have also binge watched say that they feel like a chunk of their life disappeared.

The best tv shows are well constructed stories. I can’t say specifically how my last two binge watching experiences transformed me, but I remember moments when I was able to look at issues I was dealing with fresh eyes. Occasionally, I would re-watch a tv show and realize how different the frame of mind I was in when I first watched it. TV shows are like a mirror to how I see myself.

Masindi Senior Secondary School students, Uganda. 1961-1963. Photo by Harold Scheub via Sunu Journal.

Today I came across a photograph by Harold Scheub. He is most known as the guy who trekked across Africa recording storytellers and taking notes on the oral tradition.

"During four of the ten years that I spent in Africa, I walked up and down the southeastern coast 1,500 miles during each of those years, collecting stories, and in the end I had somewhere between nine and ten thousand oral stories."

Harold sees watching tv the same as listening to a storyteller in a rural village.

"it’s not unique. When you sit down in front of a television set, and watch a situation comedy, it’s the same thing…As different as it may seem on the surface, the fact is that we tell the same stories, and I think we pretty much react the same to the same stories. The more I experienced stories in southern Africa, the more I was aware of this. It wasn’t unique, it wasn’t exotic. So the sameness, the familiarity, seemed to me to be enormously important. And it broke down all the barriers. The fact is that we human beings speak the same language. And the language that we speak is the language of storytelling."

A photograph from Scheub’s travels through Africa. Photo by Harold Scheub via narrative.ly.

I assumed villagers, particularly in Africa, would have exotic stories to tell. But that idea, of Africa being exotic, has much more to do with the cultural brainwash I’ve gone through. Every human culture across the planet is concerned about the same things. Anxiety about change, fear of the unknown…

"Stories in all societies deal with change, transformation that takes place in human lives. Because these are scary parts of our lives. We’re moving from childhood to adulthood, from being unmarried to being married, from the pre-midlife crisis to the post-midlife crisis, all kinds of things. And so stories place a lot of emphasis on transformation."

In an interview with Harold, he states the uniqueness of a story is how it inspires. This is similar to the fresh perspective I come across: when I relate to a character and find answers to my own life through a close examination of theirs.

"Storytellers are constantly in the process of taking ancient images and casting them into contemporary kinds of forms. And so there’s no such thing as an original story. I don’t care where it is, whether it’s written or oral, the fact is that every story has been heard before. Every story has been told before. So if we’re looking for originality we’re going to find it, but in unique kinds of ways. We’re not going to find it in the way the story is told, we’re not going to find it in the story itself. It’s that connection, that’s the important thing. Connections are everything. Connecting the present and the past, connecting the storyteller and the audience."

I’m a huge fan of binge watching. While movies are only 2 to 3 hours long, watching an entire series uses up 7-8 hours. With the longer time, I can understand the nuances of different characters as they are revealed in different situations. Each character is less polarizing, no one is good or bad, it’s more about the circumstance. The main complaint I had in movies was that the characters are oversimplified. With an entire season available, each character can be made relatable in some way. Everyone is human.

In Narcos, I got to know multiple sides of Limón, Escobar’s sidekick, who is also a well-intentioned person.

"I remember hearing a story in 1975, a woman started telling a story one day, and it went on to the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and for twenty days she performed one story, so that in the end it was 120 hours long, and that was only one-third of the story. That was in July, she invited me to come back the following October for part two, and then the following November for part three, so that the three-part epic amounted to something like 400-450 hours. Magnificently told, and magnificently organized."

All Harold Scheub quotes from ’The Man With 10000 Tales’ on narrative.ly.


walk 2

Industrial zone.

My husband was wondering why they made half balconies than full rectangular balconies. I assume it was cheaper.

The fan was fully running.

There was an old factory that made some sort of cutting tool for metal. It was pretty neat to see the structure. I really like the glass blocks used in the front. It always looks like something shady is happening in these storage spaces.

An entrance to a section of old buildings off a very busy street

On our way towards the factory, we came across old buildings that had an exterior stripped of paint. I like the concrete and the decorative window detail. Crumbling shabby chic but totally functional at the same time.


Patriae Textiles

All natural, Slovakian hemp textiles.

Bags by @patriaetextiles. Photo by @reasonstoquit.

I’ve seen a ton of antique french linen, but Slovakian hemp? That’s entirely new.

"Historically each family in this region harvested their own hemp and flax, homespun them into threads, then wove them into fabrics that were hand sewn into clothes… towels, tablecloths, pillows, bedding, grain sacks, and wagon covers. In rural areas, this tradition continued into the middle of the 20th century, hence the textiles in the Patriæ collection were handwoven between the mid-19th and the mid-20th century. They are completely organic…"

Hemp textiles collected by @patriaetextiles

Patriae is line of bags and clothing made from antique hemp textiles. I didn’t know there was so much vintage stock left but from Barbara Pisch’s instagram, it seems she’s hoarding a ton of it. Which makes me jealous.

But what would I do with a pile of traditional textiles? I can only think of upholstering my furniture and making table runners. Most likely I’d be too lazy to make anything outside a couple pillow cases.

'Early-20th century Slovak women posing with their hemp harvest and scutching, spinning, and weaving tools.' - @patriaetextiles

Barbara transforms the vintage hemp textiles into stylish totes and tops. The totes highlight the colored lines that are characteristic to the cloth. Lines are placed in ways that divide bags and tops into flattering proportions. Not everyone has an eye for re-envisioning traditional textiles in such ways.

Contemporary lifestyles don’t have as many needs for grain sacks and wagon covers. Patriae’s collection is designed with today’s practicality in mind. The life of the textile is revived through the functional usage: it doesn’t become a museum piece frozen in time, too precious to touch.

Cute totebag by @patriaetextiles

If you’re a vintage enthusiast, then you probably understand the satisfying weight of materials—how good a wood button feels over one that’s plastic. My enthusiasm for vintage has a lot to do with the natural materials. Being able to be in touch with something that is real, less artificial.

In addition to quality, there’s the aspect of culture. Who made this cloth and where are the materials sourced? I don’t think textiles can be easily traced to a family of makers, it might be too long for that information to pass, but the unique lines on each textile are often indicators of the history. It’s a detail worth treasuring.


cream bun

Dessert for breakfast.

perfect for a mid-morning lull

It’s always fun to discover similarities across cuisine. This week I had a creamy bun in Poland for the first time. It was so similar to the custard creme chinese buns I’ve had. The bread dough is soft and airy in both. The cream tastes just about the same.


Christian Louboutin's Orangerie

Antique furniture in an indoor patio.

Photography by Alexandre Bailhache via wsj.com

I assume an orangerie is like an indoor patio, windows on all sides, a fancier greenhouse that allows you to enjoy just the right amount of being outdoors, especially in the colder months. It seems like a good idea to keep a place warm enough to enjoy foliage and fruit all year around.

‘I never entertain people here — it’s not in my nature. A good host is someone who really takes care of everyone… I can’t. If I’m in the country, my big idea is to do nothing.' - Christian Louboutin via standard.co.uk

Christian Louboutin’s 13th century chateau has an orangerie and in it he’s placed furniture from 1910 that came from Cairo. I didn’t know antique furniture could be used as patio furniture. But it looks great with the reliefs on the side.

You’d have to wear shoes since the flooring is made from clay tiles. It’s not as cozy as an indoor room with similar furniture and soft flooring, but it’s my favorite space on the estate. While the other rooms were luxurious, they weren’t really appealing. Just because I share preference in design, doesn’t mean I’d automatically overlap in preferences on other design.

Everything I liked about the style of the orangerie seemed no where present in the other rooms designed and inhabited by Louboutin.

Coming across this home, I was reminded of a time when friends proudly wore or were yearning to wear Louboutin's red heeled shoes. It was a huge fad back in the day, but now reminiscing that moment is oddly similar to reminiscing the beanie baby craze.


Bode Museum

A museum that contained miscellaneous antiques.

My favorite section in the museum, the coats of arms

Visiting the Bode Museum was an awkward experience. The galleries had an abnormal rhythm to the placement of objects and paintings. In other museums, it’s easy to browse one item after the next. I am clumsy, but not so clumsy that I’d trip three consecutive times.

I’m probably a bit spoiled thinking that the design of a museum should be centered around me, but I know for a fact that the curators of a museum take a lot of time considering what goes where. And also, they don’t want people tripping over precious items.

Nature inspired art.

The Bode Museum is lesser known than a few other Berlin museums, so perhaps it doesn’t get as much attention. Maybe I had much higher expectations after visiting the Neue Museum and the Pergamon. I don’t think I’ll ever visit again, but at least I found some cool details.



The British countryside.

'Teapot Flowerpot' by miltonmic and 'Broadway' by Rod & Di

Occassionally, I come across travel photos that make me want to visit a place. From the photo pool the British Countryside, bits of old Cotswold make it an attractive destination, along with the greenery that the area is known for.

'Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire' by DB*

'Newark Park House' by Mike Broome and 'Rococo Gardens' at Painswick House, Gloucestershire by jacquemart

Perhaps I collected the handful of images that reflect my imagination of the place. It's most likely different, the majority of images within the photo pool did not give off the cozy 'British country' feel that I believe the place to have. I think it's hard to visit a well-known place without a pre-imagined filter.

'Dry Stone: A beautiful dry stone wall on Leckhampton Hill' by Rod & Di


take two

Baking my first loaf.

The quest for tasty bread.

What happened after my first attempt at breadmaking?

After crying myself to sleep, I made a second attempt the next morning. This time I was able to get the dough into solid form. I could actually bake it. However, the dough did not rise much, even after many hours.

The resulting bread was super tasty, but rather dense. I will try again. The flavors were extraodorinary enough to inspire another fifteen hour round of dough fussing.

Tasty bread is so hard to come by. The fanciest of bread stores around me don't make bread that tastes like much. If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.


excessive self-esteem

Often finding myself on my high horse.

It's hard to be constantly grounded in reality.

"I thought I knew something about the business of hospitality, just because guests at a dinner party once said nice things about my panzanella." - The Thrill of Loosing Money in a Manhattan Restaurant

Anyone else hold themselves too high? If I receive the slightest positive response, I’m instantly convinced that I’m blessed with extraordinary potential. I also (unconsciously) behave as an expert on a topic right after reading a five minute article. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a topic I hadn’t had exposure to.

It makes no sense but this behavior happens repeatedly even if I rationalize down my beliefs. I rarely hear others turn down a chance to comment even if they admit they have little knowledge on a topic. Maybe bravado is one of those natural traits designed for survival.


historical eclectic

Unique pieces for the home.

A vase I found on francespalmerpottery.com

I always wonder why designs found in museums, pretty antique vases and sculptures, don’t make it into contemporary home design. Maybe it’s not practical? I can’t see why the pottery used in the past couldn’t be used in kitchens and homes today.

Frances Palmer is a trained art historian who makes ceramics in the style I’m looking for. The Doris C Double Handle vase reminds me of old vases I’ve seen in museums, ones that were pulled out of excavation sites from civilizations that lived millenia prior. It’s not terracotta and there aren’t any cultural adornments. The vase looks modern reinterpreted in plain white.

Luke Eastop ceramics via lukeeastop.co.uk

I thought I had covered the best ceramics but I keep finding tableware that looks better than I ever imagined. Luke Eastop makes cups and bowls that blend the old world and new. The curves and shapes of the bowls seem to reflect traditional shapes, but the colors and sublime minimalism—that’s a unique blend that takes a ton of design expertise. I wish I had knew about Luke’s work earlier. I wish I had a cabinet full of these ceramics.

A more abstract finding from this week is a sculptural brass side table that looks surprisingly upscale for being upcycled.