Sunday, 26 September 2010


Yangtze, The Long River

Saturday's Guardian Weekend magazine featured Nadav Kander's latest work following the Yangtze river in China.

Yangtze, The Long River documents the people and landscape along the banks of the river, and captures the changes that are happening in China at the moment: the large scale development, the tearing down and building up, migration, the way that history and progression is seen.

In Kander's own words:
After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I was responding to and how I felt whilst being in china was permeating into my pictures; a formalness and unease, a country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself. China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving “forward” at such an astounding and unnatural pace. A people scarring their country and a country scarring its people.
Although it was never my intention to make documentary pictures, the sociological context of this project is very important and ever-present. Do we have to destroy to develop? The scale of development in China has left most places unrecognisable. Many Chinese will never be able to visit the places where they grew up, because they no longer exist. China is progressing rapidly, and the landscape—both economically and physically—is changing daily. These are the photographs that can never be taken again.”
Many, many more pictures can be found on his website, and they are well worth a look.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


A blast from the past:

Oh, his back.

Friday, 17 September 2010


The person sitting next to me on the train this morning smelt exactly like him; the drawback of perfumes. God, it made my head spin.

Things that are good:
  • I watched a man hoovering the road outside my office. Why? How? No one knows.
  • I saw a man standing on a station platform holding one of those spools of wire that look like huge cotton reels. It made him look like he was actually really tiny, a Borrower, and this pleased me.
  • I went to a farmers' market yesterday and bought lots of english apples and plums. Even better, my boss has a plum tree and is bringing me in bagfuls of surplus plums. I am going to make a crumble tonight, I think.
  • I made the tastiest butternut squash and sage soup; I love autumn food. For anyone interested, the recipe is here.
  • I'm suddenly responsible for updating the news section of UK Feminista. It is a good responsibility but I'm worried I'm going to post up something controversial or wrong. Eep.

I am stuck in a music rut. I keep listening the the music I love most, and whilst I am definitely not bored of it, it would be nice to love something new. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, 12 September 2010


I love Yelena Bryksenkova's sketchbooks.

yes, yes I do.

Friday, 10 September 2010


"I think I just like seeing the best in humanity. If you believe in the inherent dignity of people, in justice and human rights, then feminism is for you. It says that rape isn't natural for men, that men aren't inherently violent, and that women aren't just naturally insecure about their bodies and other issues. The best of us is to be found in feminism. I find that hugely inspiring."
The wonderful and inspiring Kat Banyard, on what drives her activism. From The Guardian.


The Royal Observatory is currently showcasing the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010.

A Perfect Circle by Dhruv Arvind Paranjpye

Paranjpye's photograph shows an annular eclipse, which occurs when the moon is too far from the earth to completely cover the sun (as happens in a total eclipse).

This is such an amazing image. I love how the wispy, formless clouds - lit like they were painted by Turner - obscure the bright, hard circle of the sun.

Like many of the other astronomical photographs, I find this simultaneously compelling and unsettling. I can hardly believe that that pale ring is our sun - and then, that something so bizarre as the sun actually exists. I like being encouraged to see something to which I had grown (too) accustomed - the sun, space, stars and planets - as novel and weird and amazing again.

It is easy for the world to become a habit.

I am also reminded of a particular Rodchenko painting, Composition no. 61:

Rodchenko was inspired by images from old science books, and this one certainly has the feel of the moon and the sun, of eclipses.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


For over a decade, leading cellist Beatrice Harrison dueted with nightingales.

In 1922, she had moved to the Surrey countryside, to an isolated house surrounded by woodland. Practising in the garden one afternoon, she was amazed when a bird joined in with her song: it followed her own trills, staying in tune with the cello.

She persuaded Lord Reith, the director of the BBC, to send a crew to her garden to record this duet. It was to be the very first live outdoor broadcast and Reith - despite his objections of cost - could not resist.

A million people listened to this first recording, and Harrison was almost smothered with fan mail; the duet became an annual event, carrying on for twelve years until Harrison moved house. After that, the broadcasts featured the nightingales alone. The pieces are lovely and ethereal, marrying human music and bird song in a strange partnership.

The transmission from 1942, however, is more chilling: the live broadcast was pulled when duty engineer realised he could hear the hum of approaching aircraft - not what the BBC wanted to be broadcasting in wartime.

And that distant burring of engines records the British airforce on their way to raid Mannheim, part of the 'Thousand Bomber' policy that would see German towns - most notably Cologne - devastated.

Some of the recordings, including the one made in 1942, can be heard here.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Apples I Have Eaten, by Jonathan Gerken
Jonathan Gerken chronicles 47 different varieties of apple gathered one autumn in California. Each apple was locally sourced, photographed and then eaten by Gerken - and he made an effort to find those apples not readily available in shops, like the Goldrush, Prarie Spry and Hidden Rose (good names).

This reminds me that it's nearly apple season. I cannot wait.

Monday, 6 September 2010


New (totally beautiful) glasses!

It feels so good to be able to see clearly again; I had forgotten that the world is not made of fuzzy edges and blurred pink ovals for faces.

I do worry that come the apocalypse I will be utterly useless: my glasses will break and I'll get eaten by a radioactive rat or something. I would probably have been equally useless living at any other point in history - tripping over people in a pleasure garden, messing up my needlework, misplaying the piano, accidently snubbing prospective suitors as I blundered past them in the street, half-blind... (for some reason I can only think of eighteenth century situations. The supervisors who taught me medieval history would be ashamed).

The earliest written record of using magnification to aid reading dates to the first century AD (Seneca the Younger writes, 'Letter, however small and indistinct, are seen enlarged and more clearly through a globe or glass filled with water'), my weak-eyeling ancestors had to wait a few hundred years for wearable glasses. A portrait of Cardinal Hugh de Provence, painted in 1352 by Tommaso da Modena, is the first pictorial evidence for eyeglasses:

Hey medieval dude, nice hat and specs. (And that is the cutting historical analysis that got me my degree in history.)

Friday, 3 September 2010


Yesterday my manager and I carried out a risk assement of our conference venue.

Our venue is attached to a church. Just outside the main hall, a tall, arched doorway opens onto stoneclad aisles and rows of pews, and framed icons decorate the walls.

There are three floors, serviced by a small, shaky-looking lift; standing inside it, my manager remarked that she pitied anyone stuck in this particular lift.

When I asked why, she pointed at a hatch. Every lift has one: a square door in the wall, with the red outline of a telephone drawn on it. A pretty important feature, you would think. I know I would like to be able to call for help if trapped in a lift.

She opened the hatch with a raised eyebrow. There was no emergency phone.

There was, however, a small icon of the Virgin Mary where the phone should have been.

I guess the venue owners have a different idea of who you can rely on for help in emergency situations.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


danse macabre

From the 1493 Nuremburg Chronicle

Now waggles the leg, and now wriggles the thigh,

As the troop with strange gestures advance,

And a rattle and clatter anon rises high,

As of one beating time to the dance. - Goethe, Totentanz

My brain has been in my bones of late - maybe it is because it is already getting colder at night, and a chill has crept in past my flesh and settled in them. I've been drawn to all things skeletal, these lovely intricate illustrations in particular: they depict the dance of death, a popular motif in medieval Europe that reminded people of their mortality and the folly of human ambition; humans may construct social hierarchies, but we are all equal in death.

Book of Hours, Paris, c.1507

Dance of Death, Paris, 1486

Also, I love woodcuts. I wish books still had them.