Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Artists

1. Sophie Calle is a bit difficult to describe. Clicking on 'Sophie' will get you her take on what she does (you need to ignore the warnings and click away happily when you get to the site); clicking on 'Calle' will get you a slightly less personal view.

2. Candida Höfer is easier to get a handle on ('Candida' is very basic; 'Höfer' slightly better, but in German).

More images here and here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Current Favourite Sentence

'Since only half the population has vaginas we were looking for a more universal platform.'

One of the Insectivora

Of course, the star-nosed mole would have got a look-in (or a snout-in) yesterday if I hadn't been informed that, technically, moles aren't rodents. So, it has to have its own entry.

Monday, June 25, 2007


To celebrate the 200th entry on this blog, here are some rodents.

The mighty capybara.

The disarming pygmy jerboa.

The glabrous naked mole rat.

Icadyptes salasi

Or, the giant Peruvian penguin.

The one on the right is Icadyptes salasi (150cm tall). The one on the left is Perudyptes devriesi (a mere 90cm). These are both from the Eocene period. The one in the middle is a real Peruvian penguin, Spheniscus humbolti, for scale.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Kitschy Lladró porcelain has cropped up here before, because our friend Javi works selling it. But, if you really need a slap in the jaw, I suggest you go here and have a look. I recommend turning on 3D mode and giving him a spin.

Thursday, June 21, 2007



We went back to Vejer, and they finally let us into the castle. The last time I was in the castle was with my parents last summer. Then, there were a lot of Girl Guides earning their guiding badges, and we were shown around by a seven-year-old who had a sketchy idea of how tourism should be a service industry. This time we were allowed to walk around alone. The dressage ground where they kept the horses if pirates attacked:

The staircase down to the overgrown arboretum:

The strategically important view:


This was the preferred method of execution in the Spanish colonies, and in Spain itself, for a few centuries. It wasn't abolished in Spain until the 1978 constitution, and even that allows for special circumstances in which it can be brought back. This is a fascinating rundown on which countries are still allowed to kill their citizens. In Mauritania you can be executed for apostasy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Torre Tavira

I took some friends up the Torre Tavira yesterday. We went to the camera obscura at the top and were forbidden from taking photographs. However, while looking in the bowl-screen of the camera obscura we saw this dostoprimechatel'nost', a watchtower which has become almost completely hidden by houses over the past two hundred or so years. They call it 'La Bella Escondida', or 'The Hidden Beauty'.


This is Roberto Raviola, the most famous Italian comic book artist. His pen name was Magnus, after a Latin tag he once saw, Magnus pintor fecit. He is the creator of Necron, a pornographic strip about a robot zombie (or zombie robot), which is rather less interesting than that description makes it sound. Its most intriguing aspect is perhaps the effort to which Magnus went to avoid plagiarism charges: in one episode of blessed memory, Necron battles against (and seduces? I can't quite remember) a giant gorilla with the subtly altered name of Kring-Krong. This is a well-designed tribute site.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Top Manta

This is some enjoyable footage of the first giant manta ray to be born in captivity. In fact, footage of the first giant manta ray to be born in captivity being born in captivity. This happened at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Ben and I went to Gibraltar for the day. I had never visited a theme park before.

It was a fairly attractive pinnace at the edge of Europe trying its hardest to be like Eastbourne.

The castle is the castle of Castile. The key represents Gibraltar's status as a major trading point between Europe and Africa ('Gibraltar' comes from 'Gibel Tariq', or 'Tariq's Rock'). There is currently a push to have the coat of arms replaced by a stylised image of a bottle of whisky and a horse, representing Gibraltar's status as a tax haven and betting sink.

There were lots of plaques commemorating various events (I use the word loosely) in Gibraltar's recent history. The best ones were on houses and streets which had been opened by the UK Minister of Tourism, J.J. Holliday. I spent a few happy minutes enjoying the forced laugh he must put on when people make the connection, 'Yes, that is funny, ha ha ha...'

It is in Spain, by the way.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lucien Clergue

There are also pictures of gypsies, nudes, men dressed as horses, Picasso, bullfights, children dressed as harlequins, water and Jean Cocteau here, here (with intrusive music), and here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Journey (Ninth and Final Part)

And then we went to Barcelona, and I flew back to the UK for a job interview and Marian took the train down south. Barcelona has Catalans and scenery and churches and our friend Javi, who works marketing Lladro porcelain.

Journey (Part Eight)

This is really the reason we were travelling. The 24th and 25th of May are the festival days of, respectively, Saint Sara and Saints Marie-Jacobe and Marie-Salome. Saint Sara is the handmaiden of Saints Marie-Jacobe and Marie-Salome, and is widely venerated by gypsies as 'the gypsy saint'. The cult of all three saints has centred on the town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which is the capital of the Camargue. (The church in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer dates from 400BC, so there must, to be fair, have been religious reasons to like the place before the arrival of the saints). We were able to get the last room in the last hotel in town. The church is a weird building, 'l’église fortifiée', with thick walls and deep foundations and battlements and a spring of fresh water in the crypt. The Camargue used to be under regular attack from pirates.

The festival is organised around two processions. On the first day, the image of Sara is taken down to the beach, and then the two Maries are led into the sea and back on to dry land, to recreate their arrival two thousand years ago. In the evening between the two processions, the relics of the Maries are displayed in the church and people visit them.

Gypsies came from all over Europe, and scholars and tourists came from all over the world. Spanish gypsies:

Hungarian gypsies:

French gypsies:

Some people were obviously using the fact of being gypsies as a way to make some money:

But most people were just keen to participate, although it was at times unclear if this was because it was what was done, or what they wanted to do, or what they were moved to do.

The church was on constant mass duty.

The two processions were broadly similar, except for the fact that Saint Sara's was a little smaller. The image was taken from the church, preceded by a large amount of recognisable parish regalia:

The next day, people were more dressed up, usually in Arlesienne costume. The image of the two Maries was carried with an honour guard of horses to break a way through the crowd. There had been horses the day before, but not so many.

The image of the two Maries was accompanied by two small children.

We went slowly down to the sea, and then into the sea. And then slowly out of the sea, crowding in all the time.

And then the image was carried in great ceremony back to the church, to re-enter in triumph and be enthroned until next year.

And the town was empty again by the afternoon - a few slightly disconsolate accordionists trying to drum up some custom.