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Monday, 30 January 2006
Just fallen

Oxted Master Park

I was taking photographs on Master Park about 17 months ago when this mother, daughter and baby came walking by.  I was waiting for them to pass when the daughter tripped, burst into tears and was soothed by her mother. I caught most of the soothing, and then managed a final shot as they walked past. The girl sported one of those all-better-now smiles.  For full-size picture click here.

Today I found some links to some more Flickr tools at Pam Blackstone’s blog.  If nothing else you should look at this beautiful fibonacci spiral.

I also found the Jane Austen jokes page. Here’s a sample:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single chicken, being possessed of a good fortune and presented with a good road, must be desirous of crossing.

This is a subpage of the Jane Austen Info Page.

Posted by bigblue on 30/01/2006 at 09:34 PM
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Sunday, 29 January 2006
Frenetic longeurs


I took the above photograph at a service station on the M40, near Lighthorne.  I liked the orange light in the phone booths, the fact that they were deserted, and was struck how rapidly they are starting to become relics of our recent past. There are already more mobile telephones in the world today than there are fixed ones. China alone has 270 million mobile phone subscribers.

I recently read two interesting articles on the effects of information technology on the human condition.  The first, Why the world went mobile by Dan Schiller, was in Le Monde Diplomatic. The English version is behind a subscribers-only wall but the French version is available in full.  In the article Schiller argues

Frenetic market development efforts are evident in every niche in the emerging mobile economy. There is hothouse innovation in wireless technology. The stakes could hardly be higher: wireless grows ever larger within the telecommunications sector, and worldwide mobiles in use already outnumber landline telephones. It seems likely that wireless has not yet achieved its full potential.

The huge promotional effort has led to a major social transformation. The marvel of mobility is the outcome of years of corporate-led neoliberalism, but it has within it deep-rooted predatory and chaotic tendencies.

He talks about a global wireless market [that] has been balkanised by incompatible networking standards developed by rival corporate consortia and the locking-in of subscribers and how the competitive market, beholden to neoliberal policymakers, has created overcapacity across the telecommunications industry, yet inadequate network investment by individual carriers.  Yet Shiller stresses how the demand for ubiquitous communication is socially created:

There is no innate human need for perpetual contact. Economic players decide whether a particular technology will develop. The need for constant connectivity signifies a transition into a new phase of mobile privatisation - a term coined 30 years ago by the great cultural critic and theorist Raymond Williams.

The second article is On the Way to Life, published by the Catholic Education Service.  This is a longer and more wide-ranging article but it has a section called Frenetic Longeurs which talks about the distortion of time as a feature of contemporary cultures:

At one level, this can be seen in the way in which the technology which promised to convert time to leisure produces the sensation of a time-space compression: there seems to be less time than there used to be. To take two ordinary examples: the speed of communication by email and the internet have both transformed our access to information but both have increased the demand upon us to respond. Indeed, it may be that the ubiquity of the humble mobile telephone is the enduring icon of this experience. We cannot believe that it is necessary to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but advertisers seek to persuade us that, without it, we are non-persons: no telephone, no significance; we are cut off from our network, adrift in the silent cosmos, lost in a black hole of non-identity, no longer able to order our take-away or impose the trivia of our life upon others in the train, underground, or street. The irony is that this very symbol of in-touchness only serves to show the poverty of our communication and loss of our private space.

I do not agree with all the arguments raised, nor am I sure which ones I do agree with, but the articles provide plenty of food for thought.

Posted by bigblue on 29/01/2006 at 11:13 PM
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Thursday, 26 January 2006


Found via Annie Mole: the Flickr logo maker.  Fun, but not as much as FD’s Flickr Toys.

Posted by bigblue on 26/01/2006 at 08:22 PM
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But do they know it’s Robbie Burns Night?  I noted Robert Burns last year on this day.

He was an interesting character, and a contemporary of Mozart, Heydn and the French Revolution (which he supported).  The Robert Burns Encyclopedia has some detailed information about him.  The Horsecross in Perth is having a Mozart & Burns 2006 concert this Sunday:

his day of music and words explores their world and art, and ponders what might have happened if Rabbie had met Wolfgang.

2006 is a major year for Mozart lovers - the 250th anniversary of his birth. By way of celebration, Horsecross presents an array of Mozart related events over the coming year, including our Mozart Journeys series, and this day of Mozart+Burns. Why bring together these two great men? Pause for a moment and consider how much they had in common. They were born and died within a few years of each other. Both died tragically young, but left an impressive body of works and both enjoy an enduring status as two of the most influential artists of all time. And there is more: in the Age of Enlightenment, they shared a passionate belief in the dignity of humanity, an egalitarianism at odds with the aristocratic society they depended upon for patronage.

Some twenty years after Burns’ death Beethoven was commissioned to compose folk songs to the words of Robert Burns.  There is a story from last year in the Scotsman as well as the Independent about this.

Posted by bigblue on 26/01/2006 at 12:20 AM
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Tuesday, 24 January 2006


I took this photograph along the Muttrah Corniche in Muscat, Oman, last November. Cousin Ruth and I were catching a taxi back to our hotel after an evening at a local restaurant and the Muttrah Souq.  There were these fairy lights along the corniche, and I pointed my camera out the window of the taxi and took a few shots. This was the first, and best.

Recently I discovered a similar photo on Flickr called The wavelength of A174, taken on the road of that number in Teeside, England.

Posted by bigblue on 24/01/2006 at 08:54 PM
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Friday, 20 January 2006
The Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree

This is the famous 200 year old Elephant Tree on the Berea of Durban, or what is left of it.  The tree stood on the corner of Havelock and Ferndale Roads until it collapsed in March last year despite a 30 year effort to preserve and prop it up.  The species of tree is known locally as an umkhuhlu tree (forest mahogany or Trichelia dregena), and most local wood carvings bought at the side of the road are made from it.

This specific tree is apparently called the elephant tree because

it was one of the last remnants of the dense indigenous forests on Durban’s Berea that were once inhabited by elephant herds, lions and other wild animals.

... It’s very likely that elephants used to rub themselves against that tree as they wandered down to the Umgeni River for a drink.

According to an article in the local rag the tree was supposed to come back to life when a local academic, Pitika Ntuli, decided to carve the fallen tree into an art exhibition which could tour the country. Ntuli is quoted as saying:

my project also embodies the spirits of some of the animals which are inextricably linked to the history of Nguni people. Each and every one of us have animal totems. I have two clan names: Sompisi (the mark of the hyena) and Inhloko yemamba (head of the mamba).

If you are expecting only typically African sculptures to be produced from this you might be disappointed:

Ntuli’s idea is to transform the logs into a time-linked series of sculptures which depict historical happenings and eras between 1805 and 2005.

For example, he has chosen a uniquely shaped configuration of branches to depict the 1870s and the Berlin Conference, where major European powers carved up Africa into preferred colonies.

One log has been specially chosen to depict the Industrial Revolution because it contains remnants of the metal bolts and steel cables which were placed around some of the branches of the ageing elephant tree by the Parks Department to prevent it collapsing.

According to the article Ntuli was hoping to complete his ambitious project by the end of 2005. Unfortunately there was no sign of this when we were there at the end of December.

The local suburb of Essenwood is presumably named after the umkhulu tree, as its Afrikaans name is rooi essenhout (red essenwood).  The leaves of the tree are used in traditional medicine to treat backache, stomach problems, and as an enema.

Anne, of Routes and Roots has blogged about the tree falling down here.

Posted by bigblue on 20/01/2006 at 07:52 AM
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Thursday, 19 January 2006
Crocokraal Restaurant

Crocokraal Restaurant

This is the Crocokraal Restaurant at PheZulu Safari Park.

The house seems to be the old colonial farm house, replete with wrap-around Victorian verandah, broekie lace cast iron trimmings, and corrogated iron roof.  Strangely a tree has been left to grow through the one end of the verandah.  More strangely to me however, the restaurant serves such delicacies as crocodile steak. It reminded me of the Thai zoo that put exotic animals on the zoo restaurant menu, but took them off again under pressure. Except nobody seems to see any problem in this case. Perhaps Nile crocodiles are not sexy as lion, buffalo, elephant and giraffe?

We visited two reptile parks in South Africa, and a private house who seemed to have their own private reptile park in their back garden. I am not very into snakes and monitors and leguvaans and at the private house we saw the stacks of rat cages (for breeding their food), which was off-putting for squeamish types like me.  Therefore I was interested to read yesterday via Rebecca Blood about the snake and hamster that are friends.  Hollywood couldn’t make it up.  Actually they could.

Posted by bigblue on 19/01/2006 at 06:16 PM
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RSS updated

I have updated the RSS feed for this site to combine the entries from bluemeanie’s blog (Scarlett) and my own into a single feed.  For those (few) of us using the RSS feed, I hope this works.  If you have any problems, let me know.

Posted by bigblue on 19/01/2006 at 06:00 AM
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