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Smith JournalSmith Journal

Smith Journal Autumn 2018

Smith Journal is a quarterly publication for discerning gents (and ladies who like reading about discerning gents). It’s heads-up and hands-on. A friendly guide to all things creative, intriguing, genuine and funny – full of stories, people, adventures, interesting conversations and gentlemanly style. The people behind Smith wanted to create something they’d be happy to read themselves. That smart, creative guys could peruse without shame, slap down on the coffee table, whack in their favourite old satchel or display proudly on the toilet reading rack. Something that looked good, but had substance, wit and inspiration. At a time when everything seems like it’s speeding up, Smith is a call to slow down. It’s about remembering, reviving and revamping forgotten traditions, skills and technologies. And backpedalling just enough to appreciate the good stuff in life. Like our readers, we’re not particularly obsessed with being the coolest, the biggest or the first in line. But we are interested in making things that last.

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4 Issues


access_time2 min.
for machines built on logic, computers can do some strangely illogical things.

Case in point: sometime last year I received an email from a reader – let’s call him Bob* – asking for advice. Bob was working a dead-end job, the letter explained, and wanted to do something more fulfilling with his time on this planet. Something like making a magazine. Did I have any words of wisdom I could offer about ‘making it’ as a writer? The letter needed a considered response. But with a deadline looming, consideration was in short supply. I closed Bob’s email, promising to return to it once I had my head screwed on properly. And so a week later, fewer bags under my eyes and the latest Smith Journal finally off to the printers, I returned to my inbox ready to write some thoughtful (and hopefully not…

access_time16 min.
smith stuff

MACHINE LEARNING Solomon King Benge would be thrilled if his organisation, Fundi Bots, didn’t exist. “My ultimate goal is to be irrelevant,” he says. “Our work is about transforming how science is taught in schools. If it’s taught well, that means we’re not needed.” Unfortunately, it looks as if Fundi Bots, founded in a spare room in Benge’s house in Kampala in 2011 and now working in more than 60 Ugandan schools, will be around for a while. The Ugandan science curriculum is deadly boring, Benge says, more about rote learning than tinkering around in the lab, and it’s been like that for years. To counteract this, Fundi Bots encourages Ugandan kids to develop skills in everything from computer programming to mechanics, communication and project management – all through building robots. (‘Fundi’…

access_time9 min.
follow the leader

IN NOVEMBER 1915, WHEN MUCH OF EUROPE WAS DOING ALL IT COULD TO END THE WAR THAT DIDN’T END ALL WARS, SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON AND 27 OF HIS MEN WERE MILLING ABOUT ON AN ANTARCTIC ICE FLOE, WATCHING THEIR SHIP, THE ENDURANCE, SLOWLY SINK. For the past 10 months, Shackleton and his crew had been living aboard the stricken vessel, which had become trapped in thick pack ice en route to the Weddell Sea coast. During this period of enforced ennui, Shackleton employed various strategies aimed at keeping his men’s morale buoyed. He sent his scientists out to collect specimens, scheduled evening social activities, and instructed his sailors to keep swabbing the decks so their vessel would be ship-shape for the coming summer thaw that – it was hoped – would…

access_time3 min.
in the bag

ARE YOU CHRONICALLY LOW ON CASH AND UNABLE TO HOLD DOWN A RELATIONSHIP? ACCORDING TO THE CHINESE TRADITION OF FENG SHUI, YOU NEED AN AQUARIUM. The belief that ornamental fish can be a magnet for wealth and companionship traces back to around 600 CE, when carp farmers noticed colourful scales on some of their stock. They encouraged the trait through selective breeding, and a variation of the common goldfish was born. Within a few hundred years, small indoor aquariums had become popular among China’s upper class. Today the sale of ornamental marine life remains a big business throughout China, as Dutch photographer Janus van den Eijnden discovered during a brief visit to Hong Kong in 2013. While exploring the city, he stumbled upon Tung Choi Street, a thoroughfare that has been filled…

access_time8 min.
10 things i believe

WE ARE ALL MEMBERS OF THE CLUB When I came into this world 98 years ago, it was quite different. My family came to the U.S. from Transylvania as paupers and refugees. We lived in a cellar, and my father got a job as a janitor. Of course, there was no such thing as human rights being taught back then. But there was a growing awareness that there were people around the world who were suffering. Finally you had the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted at the United Nations, and there was the beginning of a recognition that we are all members of one small planet, and we should share its resources so that everyone can live in peace and human dignity. Of course the world is still very rough…

access_time3 min.
taking shape

“AT A GLANCE THESE SHAPES SEEM SO FOREIGN TO ONE ANOTHER. BUT IN TRUTH THEY ARE SO CONNECTED.” THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE YOU MIGHT EXPECT A WOODCARVER TO LIST AS AN INFLUENCE. An encouraging teacher, perhaps, or a furniture designer whose work they admire. Plato, the Greek philosopher who died over two millennia ago without so much as picking up a handsaw, wouldn’t be at the top of most woodcarvers’ lists. But then, Aleph Geddis isn’t most woodcarvers. Geddis grew up on Orcas Island, north-west of Seattle. From a young age he apprenticed with his stepfather, master woodworker Walter Henderson, doing the fine detailing on realistic plants and animals. But as he began to develop his own practice, it was the father of philosophy who gave him his point of difference. Geddis’s ever-growing range…