Thursday, 31 December 2009

Holly and Pohutukawa

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. 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

RIP Frank Davie

Thank you for being such a friend to all the Dalleys.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Natural History of Banks Peninsula

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

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

Where The Wild Things Are

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

They say of the acropolis....

With thanks to Emma Hart.

(I wish we had QI on tv!)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Clever octopuses

For anyone who hasn't seen it, check out this amazing footage of veined octopuses in Indonesia improvising shelters for themselves out of coconut shells. Interestingly, along with cuttlefish and squid, octopuses are coleoidean cephalopods, molluscs which do without an external shell of their own.

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

Singapore's bird conference

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

Landscapes of Mars

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

An excellent summary about climate change

The BBC has this excellent animated feature explaining the process of climate change.

And there's this excellent short video demonstrating the warming effect of carbon a bottle!

Sunday, 13 December 2009