In Memoriam: Jim Hart

I was going through some old emails after the recent death of Jim Hart, a dear friend and - among many other things, Flyguides publisher.

I met Jim at the 1992 Frankfurt Book Fair. He was sitting at the Lonely Planet booth when I wandered up and gave him a copy of a guidebook I’d written on St Petersburg, Russia, and he said, “Ah, yeah, let me have a look at it. Why don’t you come back tomorrow?”

And the next day I came back, and to my utter astonishment, he’d not only taken the time to read it, but he was actually happy to see me return so he could talk about it. Our rambling conversation - from Europe to Russia to publishing to post-soviet politics - was really fun and went on for quite a while.

Ten years after we met we - both pilots - started Flyguides. It was an online travel site for pilots, doomed from the start by an advertising model without hope of supporting it. But we did good stuff.

Here we are from right: Kees de Jong, Jim, and me, circa 2000, in (I think) Louisiana

Kees de Jong, Jim Hart (center), me

Jim (Center), Kees de Jong (R), me

Jim and I lost touch for a few years, and then regained it recently and it was just so wonderful to hear him. In what I thought was the first of a lot of hour-and-a-half-long chinwags, but which turned out to be the last, we chatted about everything that mattered.

History of the Electric Mixer Part 1: the Incredible Lightness of Beating, from the Museum of Electrical Philosophy

Egg beater, from the Museum

I recently heard from some other old colleagues, some friends, some not, reminders of why I loved him so much - he hated computers but loved technology; he ran a totally bizarre little meta museum called the Museum of Electrical Philosophy down in Melbourne, and would collect stories and samples about any odd old machine. The image is an exhibit called, “History of the Electric Mixer Part 1: the Incredible Lightness of Beating”.

I also loved his charity work. The fact that he was two decades ahead of the market, investing in a company to do environmental impact ranking that still runs today.

Jim in Central Park, NYC, wearing the t-shirt

Jim in The Shirt, 2002

My favorite shirt of his was the one with an illustration of a pompous old coot named Lord Kelvin, with his quote, “Heavier than air flight is impossible.” Jim would wear that when we flew together.

And I love the fact that above all, he was the quintessential book publisher - curious, delighted by new knowledge, fascinated by process and logistics and human nature. I don’t think I ever heard him utter a negative word about anyone - even when he got screwed in a deal, he took the long and measured approach.

Jim died last month of pancreatic cancer and the world is a worse place for it.

Vale, Jim!

PS: As I was perusing old emails, I came across one of the monthly newsletters we made for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.