Thursday, 31 December 2009
How could holly be any more spiky? Have a look at this wintry image by Jesper Grønne, here.
Here in New Zealand it's summer and the pohutukawas are in bloom. Known as "The New Zealand Christmas Tree", they have become something of a cliché in our visual media. However they are still jaw-droppingly magnificent! I snapped these two in Sumner, yesterday:
If you like pohutukawas, you may like to hear about the work of Project Crimson, which campaigns for the protection and propagation of pohutukawa and rata within their natural ranges.
A green mother by Ted Hughes
Why are you afraid?
In the house of the dead are many cradles.
The earth is a busy hive of heavens.
This is one lottery that cannot be lost.
Here is the heaven of the tree:
Angels will come to collect you.
And here are the heavens of the flowers:
These are an everliving bliss, a pulsing, a bliss in sleep.
....read the poem in its entirety here.
One of my all-time-favourite poems, A green mother is from Cave Birds, my all-time-favourite Hughes poetry collection. You can read the whole book here, although you can't see the amazing Leonard Baskin drawings which accompany the poems. Sadly, Cave Birds is out of print, but your library may have it.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Natural History of Banks Peninsula
Hugh Wilson is legendary on Banks Peninsula for his tireless work creating and maintaining the Ohinewai Reserve, which is being re-vegetated to resemble its original natural state. In addition to his work on Hinewai, Hugh has spent the last 5 years conducting a grid survey of the flora and fauna of the entire Peninsula. This book is a report of his findings, lovingly illustrated with his own drawings and the stunning photographs of a number of other contributors. It's a slim, attractive volume, which contains a huge amount of information, and also overflows with Hugh's infectious enthusiasm. It would make a lovely gift for lovers of Banks Peninsula.
Monday, 21 December 2009
Living with Natives: New Zealanders Talk About Their Love of Native Plants
The Canterbury University Press has put out this lovely book in which a wide range of enthusiastic New Zealanders talk about their experiences growing native plants. Their anecdotes and advice are fascinating and idiosyncratic. The people and their gardens have been lovingly photographed; my only complaint is that the colour and contrast rendition in the printing is poor.
Saturday, 19 December 2009
I think Spike Jonze's movie is amazing, although it's not at all what I expected, and not what you'd think from the trailer! It is joyful and whimsical, as you'd expect, but it's also moody and dark and confusing. When Max travels to the land of the Wild Things, where he can do as he likes, the Wild Things are doing just as they like, and the anarchic life is only happy some of the time. Like Max, the Wild Things are full of conflicting desires and emotions, and their life together veers from success to failure and back again.
It's no surprise that eccentric genius Dave Eggers co-wrote the movie with Spike Jonze. And Maurice Sendak himself was also involved in the project.
It's not really a movie for children, but it has a lot to say about being a child, and being a social creature.
There's a nice article discussing the making of the film here.
And if you've already seen the film, TV Tropes has some very interesting comments.
Oh, and best movie poster ever, here.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
More from the BBC:
"The shells provide important protection for the octopuses in a patch of seabed where there are few places to hide.
Dr Norman explained: "This is an incredibly dangerous habitat for these animals - soft sediment and mud couldn't be worse.
"If they are buried loose in mud without a shell, any predator coming along can just scoop them up. And they are pure rump steak, a terrific meat supply for any predator."
The researchers think that the creatures would initially have used large bivalve shells as their haven, but later swapped to coconuts after our insatiable appetite for them meant their discarded shells became a regular feature on the sea bed." -- read whole article
If you want to read more about octopuses, the Wikipedia page has lots of cool stuff.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The BBC has this wonderful story about a regular gathering of caged birds in Singapore:
"I asked how much the birds were selling for, to be told that this was less a marketplace and more... he thought about the words... a conference of birds.
Every Sunday morning, the birds were brought down from their tower-block eyries so that they could talk to one another.
I had never really thought of birds in that way, but looking again at the rows of cages with birds chatting animatedly, I realised they were doing just the same as their owners, relishing a respite from a solitary life."
read the whole story here.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Thanks to Andrew for pointing me to these astonishing photos of Mars, taken over the last 3 years by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They really are breathtaking, go have a look!
Monday, 14 December 2009
And there's this excellent short video demonstrating the warming effect of carbon dioxide...in a bottle!
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Friday, 6 November 2009
"We tend to think Earth can provide us with an endless bounty of food. But farming practices in most parts of the world can't work forever. Soil is constantly washing away, and what's left is gradually losing the nutrients it needs to sustain our crops.
"In the prairies of Kansas lives Wes Jackson, a man who has spent his long and rich career trying to invent a new kind of agriculture — one that will last indefinitely."
"To make progress on the biological problem, Jackson recruited a handful of young and ambitious Ph.D. plant breeders. Their mission: nothing less than to reinvent the world's most important crops.
"Jackson decided to figure out a way to breed grain crops so they can be planted once, actually replenish the soil, and be harvested year after year. One of the scientists Jackson brought to the Land Institute to work on this is a Minnesota farm boy turned plant breeder, Lee DeHaan.
"At the time I started here, they said, 'Let's put the youngest guy on wheat, because maybe he can see it through,' " DeHaan says. "We're not expecting it to be something that's real easy to do or something that we'll see the results of really soon."
A fascinating article on NPR, read the whole thing here. Thanks Jason for the link.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Sundogs are relatively common, but because of their proximity to the sun, they tend to go unnoticed, and often disappear within minutes. Usually they are relatively faint, but occasionally they may be bright. I photographed this sundog late last year, and to my great regret, it was brighter before I took the photographs!
In the middle image there is a faint vertical rainbow-coloured smudge near the power lines that is probably a fragment of a supralateral arc. You can read more about spotting and identifying these fascinating phenomena at Les Cowley's Atmospheric Optics site here.
If you're new to halo-spotting, read this page about the 22-degree halo first. Once you've found the 22-degree halo, finding other haloes becomes easier, and this page also has important information about protecting your eyes.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Swapping second-hand clothes is becoming highly fashionable! Some enterprising North Shore ladies have come up with iSwish, a brilliant clothes-swapping website which facilitates cashless trading with a system of credits. It has all sorts of clever features such as Mirror match, which tells you of other members with similar dress-size and proportions, so you're more likely to find items that fit perfectly.
A more low-tech forum for clothes-swapping and making new things from old ones is the Swap-O-Rama-Rama, brainchild of New York woman Wendy Tremayne. Participants turn up with a bag of unwanted clothes and $10. The clothes are sorted into piles and anyone can select anything to take home, or to modify onsite using sewing machines and materials provided.
There's a longer video here. And Wendy Tremayne has a website giving instructions for setting up your own Swap-O-Rama-Rama here.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Thanks to Lucy for the link.
Monday, 26 October 2009
"Let me no! it alters with his be edge of doom. If true marriage of doom. If though rosy lips and weeks, Or bending sickle's fool, the error and weeks, Or bends Admit is bends with his not with the star to remove alteration finds Admit although his thour"
- versions of Sonnet 116 via the Travesty Generator!
The Generator allows you to set the "travesty level" low, so there are only small changes, or high, so the words themselves are broken up. The second one was somewhere in the middle. I like the way the first one almost reads like dialect or archaic English - it looks like it makes sense if only you can figure it out! Like Robert Burns or Chaucer or something.
Rumour has it that They Might Be Giants and the Travesty Generator are jointly responsible for "Millennium hand and shrimp" in Terry Pratchett's Diskworld books.
Apologies to those who read this already when I posted it on Facebook!
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Christchurch printmaker and sculptor Sam Harrison seems determined to resurrect the art of portraiture, single-handedly if necessary! His dramatic, delicate woodcuts and his bold concrete busts demonstrate the strength of traditional media in skilled hands.
Have a look at his CoCA Artist Profile here.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
"I don’t know what it sounds like when a bullet explodes into a human being but some of those soldiers may well find out. The trauma of being involved in armed conflict is well documented as is the compassion of padres who stand alongside soldiers as bullets fly. For me there is no argument that all people caught in the insanity of war need a special form of care for the spirit, but is the current model of military chaplaincy the method for the church to pursue in the 21st century?
"My year as an army chaplain has changed me. My initial, perhaps naïve, enthusiasm for the job diminished into gnawing anxiety as I struggled to come to grips with issues of institutional power and violence and the apparent collusion of the church and state in maintaining the status quo."
So writes Sande Ramage, in her blog Spirited Crone. Read her whole post here. It's a highly personal account of the dilemmas she faced as an army padre, and her reflections on the place of spirituality and mythology in an institutional context. It's an amazing piece of writing.
Friday, 23 October 2009
It reminds me of an Improv Everywhere stunt.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
And if you liked that, you might also like the classic self-referential story This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself by David Moser.
And if you want something shorter, I love this limerick, courtesy of Wikipedia's Metajokes page:
There once was an X from place B,
That satisfied predicate P,
He or she did thing A,
In an adjective way,
Resulting in circumstance C.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Many of the winners of the recent Auckland Architecture Awards left me cold, but I LOVE this one! It's the Ironbank Development by RTA Studio. There are more views of it in The Architectural Review, and it looks amazing from all angles! It manages to be boxy and organic at the same time, quite an achievement.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
"Thomas Robert Malthus, the namesake of such terms as "Malthusian collapse" and "Malthusian curse," was a mild-mannered mathematician, a clergyman—and, his critics would say, the ultimate glass-half-empty kind of guy. When a few Enlightenment philosophers, giddy from the success of the French Revolution, began predicting the continued unfettered improvement of the human condition, Malthus cut them off at the knees. Human population, he observed, increases at a geometric rate, doubling about every 25 years if unchecked, while agricultural production increases arithmetically—much more slowly. Therein lay a biological trap that humanity could never escape."
"So what is a hot, crowded, and hungry world to do?"
"That's the question von Braun and his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research are wrestling with right now. This is the group of world-renowned agricultural research centers that helped more than double the world's average yields of corn, rice, and wheat between the mid-1950s and the mid-1990s, an achievement so staggering it was dubbed the green revolution. Yet with world population spiraling toward nine billion by mid-century, these experts now say we need a repeat performance, doubling current food production by 2030."
"In other words, we need another green revolution. And we need it in half the time."
Friday, 16 October 2009
Buckyballs are spherical carbon molecules in which the carbon atoms are arranged in a pattern that recalls a geodesic dome. You can read more about buckyballs here.
Only a few scientists get to play with real buckyballs, but ThinkGeek has a new toy which allows the rest of us to play with round magnets and pretend they are carbon atoms, if we so wish! Have a look at the magnets here. And make sure you watch the video, it's awesome!
And no, ThinkGeek is not paying me to say this. :-)
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Monday, 12 October 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
And yet between the book’s heavy covers, a very modern story unfolds. It goes as follows: Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again.
[A] well-known literary type who glimpsed it...deemed it both fascinating and worrisome, concluding that it was the work of a psychotic.
So for the better part of the past century, despite the fact that it is thought to be the pivotal work of one of the era’s great thinkers, the book has existed mostly just as a rumor, cosseted behind the skeins of its own legend — revered and puzzled over only from a great distance." [NYT]
The book in question is Carl Jung's Red Book, still unpublished almost 50 years after Jung's death, and almost 100 years since it was written, a private dream diary he kept during a particularly difficult time of his life.
The Red Book is about to be published, and The New York Times Magazine has this long but rewarding article discussing its arduous journey into publication.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
If I was asked to name athletic celebrities, Eddie Izzard's name wouldn't have made my list, but I would have been quite wrong. Izzard has morphed into a marathon runner, and not just of a single marathon! He's run the equivalent of 43 marathons in 51 days. Read all about it on the BBC.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Each week TVNZ 7 show New Artland provides a New Zealand artist with the resources to make a new artwork involving their local community, and follows them around watching how it goes.
New Artland has just started it's second series, Saturday night at 9.35pm, TVNZ 7, and repeated Tuesday night at 9.35pm. It's hosted by music legend and art commentator Chris Knox, who completed filming the series before being incapacitated by a stroke from which he is still recovering.
Saturday night's show featured Wayne Youle organising a mass tattooing event where participants were tattooed with a NZ map marked with their particular home place or places. That episode is available online here.
All the shows from the first series are also available through the TVNZ On Demand website, here. Do have a look if you haven't seen them, they're such an amazingly diverse set of projects. And because all the artists are pushing the boundaries of what they've done before and also collaborating with their communities, the results are excitingly unpredictable.
The award for single most surreal idea must go to Phil Dadson with his project to send a brass band flying in a fleet of hot-air balloons drifting on the breeze.
The single funniest episode features painter John Reynolds wanting to personally mark and number all the road arrows on State Highway 1, before coming up with another idea which was equally amazing but less labour-intensive. If he ever gets sick of being an artist, I'm sure he could have a career as a stand-up comic.
The episode which moved me the most was Lonnie Hutchinson's Anzac Day work featuring thousands of pansies and tens of schoolchildren.
Hardest-working artists in series one would have to be Wellington duo Raised By Wolves (Amy Howden-Chapman and Biddy Livesey) with their project Popping the Tent, featuring their own handmade tent, 3,000 balloons, and a lot of campers talking about camping!
Some of the most interesting works involve teaching art to young people. Ans Westra's project recruited local Petone schoolchildren to record things that were important to them with disposable cameras.
Judy Millar coached a roomful of initially reluctant high-school students in painting on a large scale, using mops, buckets, and other unlikely implements.
There's lots of other great stuff. Go have a look, the list of programmes is here.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Saturday, 22 August 2009
So writes Shamus Young, beginning his own epic hybrid of Lord of the Rings and D&D, DM of the Rings. It starts here, and has 144 pages, encompassing most of the major plot points from the LoTR movies, but in a way you've never seen them before! It starts well, and actually gets funnier as it goes along. If you're not sure you want to read the whole thing, these are a few of my favourite strips:
New Dimensions in Storage
Our Once and Future Party Leader
A Brief History of You
A Minor Omission
Hold Your Horses
There and Back Again
Thanks to Niels for pointing me to it. I haven't laughed so much in ages.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Photographer and mountaineer Alexandre Buisse has this page of breathtaking images taken while climbing in Peru. He says he takes about 300 shots a day while climbing! To me it sounds, and looks, quite impossible. Kudos to him for bringing back such amazing pictures for non-climbers to enjoy. :-) Thanks to Ben for the link.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
If you've ever worried that you might be on the sharp end of a meteorite strike, check out The Earth Impact Database, which catalogues all known impact craters. There are quite a few. The largest is a little dimple in South Africa 300km across!, and the smallest is a less-dramatic 15m-wide feature in Kansas. In between is the famous Chicxulub crater off the coast of Mexico, the impact of which is thought to have brought the end of the dinosaurs. The thumbnails pictured here are Manicouagan crater in Quebec, Canada, and the famous Barringer crater in Arizona.
You can search by continent: this is the map of Australia, with all the bullseyes marked. Click on any of the splat-marks and you will see more details. And each of the listings is linked through to Google Maps so you can look at the terrain directly. I love smart websites like this!
Monday, 10 August 2009
I took these pictures last summer. There was in fact no fire, just low, hazy clouds, lit by the setting sun.
[if it's real, scary exploding fire you want, try these pictures of Anak Krakatau (=son of Krakatoa). Thanks to Tom for the link]
The Moons of Jupiter
"Cousin Iris from Philadelphia. She was a nurse. Cousin Isabel from Des Moines. She owned a florist shop. Cousin Flora frm Winnipeg, a teacher; Cousin Winifred from Edmonton, a lady accountant. Maiden ladies, they were called. Old maids was too thin a term, it would not cover them. Their bosoms were heavy and intimidating -- a single, armored bundle -- and their stomachs and behinds full and corseted as those of any married woman. In those days it seemed to be the thing for women's bodies to swell and ripen ot a good size twenty, if they were getting anything out of life at all; then, according to class and aspirations, they would either sag and loosen, go wobbly as custard under pale print dresses and damp aprons, or be girded into shapes whose firm curves and proud slopes had nothing to do with sex, everything to do with rights and power."
-Canadian writer Alice Munro, from the story Chaddeleys and Flemings, in the collection The Moons of Jupiter. I've been a long time reading this book because it's so concentrated. Each short story is like a miniature novel.
You can buy it at Fishpond here.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Saturday, 8 August 2009
Nissan has unveiled its first mass-market fully-electric car, the Leaf. Cheap to run, and with zero emissions, the car will be available in late 2010. Read Wired's review here.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
"Three Christchurch artists who teach at the CPIT School of Art & Design, combine to explore different associations of the word drape. Manipulating traditional design formats and imagery, ranging from the overt to the enigmatic, Drape sets out to subvert any expectations of domestic comfort. While Sandra Thomson and Michael Reed comment on social and political issues, Katharina Jaeger takes a more cryptic approach."
-from the CoCA website.
Thomson, Reed, and Jaeger have all made their own "drapes", ceiling-to-floor lengths of fabric, each lavishly decorated with their own imagery and concerns. Visually seductive, Sandra Thomson's and Michael Reed's drapes' patterns on closer inspection are edgy and political, while Katharina Jaeger's are surreal and disquieting.
See images from Drape here.
Another New Zealand, Another United States
"An exchange portfolio of prints between eleven New Zealand artists and eleven American artists.
Offering alternative opinions on what informs NZ and the US, this exhibition will either confirm or deny or debunk a range of views, with a mix of artists from various cultures. The New Zealand participants are Barry Cleavin, Dee Copland, Anna Dalzell, Riki Manuel, Michael Reed, Karen Stevens, Glen Stringer, Kiri Te Wake, Sandra Thomson, Sheyne Tuffery and Wayne Youle.
The American participants are Emily Arthur Douglass, Betsey Garand, Catherine Chauvin, Jill Fitterer, John Hitchcock, Anita Jung, Andy Polk, Kathryn Polk, Curtis Readel, Melissa Schulenburg,
Sylvia Taylor and Melanie Yazzie. "
-from the CoCA website.
Twenty-two printmakers, half from the US, half from new Zealand, contribute one work each reflecting on where they come from, creating a lively dialogue of styles and content.
See selected images from Another New Zealand, Another United States here. The reproductions on the website don't really do them justice, though. Go spend time with them if you can.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
London's Victoria and Albert Museum has the furniture show Telling Tales: Fear and Fantasy in Contemporary Design. The Guardian has some highlights here. My favourite? The Robber Baron Table by Belgian designers Studio Job.
If you like that, there are some heroic utensils from Studio Job here.
Monday, 3 August 2009
If you've got some time, have a look through his portfolio here. His commentary which accompanies the images is equally quirky and interesting.
A few of my favourites:
The Henry Moore sculpture with the strange-looking real person.
The woman in the cathedral who seems to de-materialise.
The painter and his tools, seen from below the glass-brick pavement.
The shop-window dummy with ennui.
A view of the waiter from behind the folded napkin.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
I took these on Friday afternoon.
I took this one later on. As you can see, there was still a lot of iridescence in the sky.
More of my pictures of lenticular clouds here. More information about iridescence here. And there is a particularly good explanation of the origins of lenticular clouds and the iridescence that often accompanies them, here.
Monday, 25 May 2009
"A lot of my painting relates back to childhood memories," he adds, "that, and a lot of it are about places I know, certainly the vistas of Victorian villas and volcanic hills are just the sort of stereotype of Auckland that I remember from my childhood."
His paintings are noted for their lack of human interference no telephone poles, cars, pollution or graffiti mar his work. His art is a monument to the memories of his childhood, featuring significant images held by a young and inquisitive mind.
I really like what he says about painting:
Siddell sees painting as "an exercise in controlled disappointment you start off at the beginning with a brilliant idea and think `oh, this is going to be a great painting', but as soon as you make a few marks on the canvas then you find that what is planned is going to be affected by the initial brushstrokes and the painting ends up very different from its original conception.
Read the whole article here.
And you can enjoy a selection of Peter Siddell's paintings here. Many of the paintings in his image gallery are accompanied by his own illuminating commentary.
This is a very handsome view of the Carina Nebula. But tell me you don't see the mutant space jellyfish in this detail.
Friday, 1 May 2009
A full explanation, diagrams, and examples, can be found on Les Cowley's brilliant Atmospheric Optics site, here.
There was an amazing sunset here in Christchurch on January 17th. Clouds near the setting sun cast shadows across the sky that resulted in dramatic contrast between sunlit and shadowed air.
This was the view towards the sun:
This was the view to the north. You can see the rays' paths across the sky, travelling to the east...
At the anti-solar point in the east, the rays appear to converge. Around the anti-solar point these are known as 'anti-crepuscular' rays:
Crepuscular rays and anti-crepuscular rays are different ends of the same phenomenon, as can be seen in this wide-angle image taken of the same January 17 sunset at Birdlings Flat, some 50km from where I took my photographs.