Mar 2 2009

From the Afghan archives…

Profound regret that I couldn’t toddle off to this exhibit. Thank you BBC for the lovely slideshow!

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Feb 22 2009

From Petrarcha’s Trionfo del Tempo

Your triumphs and your pomp transpire,
The nobility passes and kingdoms crumble,
Time brings low all mortal things;
And what he reaps from those less good, he does not pass to those more worthy:
And not only the superficial things are laid waste by time,
But also your eloquence and works of genius.
Thus sped along, the world moves with him;
He takes no time to rest; neither does he stop nor turn from his appointed course,
Until in the end he has transformed you back to your essence: a bit of dust.

–Francesco Petrarca, Trionfo del Tempo (The Triumph of Time), v. 112-120 (S.H. transl.) (ca. 1352)

Swiped from Harper’s - visit and see the wonderful detail from a tapestry illustrating the poem

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Dec 31 2008

More on Swedish Xmas Traditions

The recent article I did on the Swedish Christmas goat got me reading up a little on the subject. In the process I learned about shape-shifting Santa and the Xmas goat’s relationship to Thor. That’s one connected goat.

Although now either confused with, or replaced by, the more mainstream image of Santa Claus, Tomte is actually a gnome, a figure harking back to Norse paganism.

Tomte has been described in many different guises; indeed some believe he has the ability to shape-shift at will. However, he is usually depicted as a bearded old man with a tall, pointy red hat.

Living under the floorboards of the house or barn, Tomte is fabled to protect the family and livestock. Since the late nineteenth century, Tomte has come to be associated with Christmas, appearing with the Christmas goat (julbock) who gives out presents to children.

The julbock is most probably descended from the Norse mythology of Thor, God of thunder, whose chariot was pulled by goats.”

This quotation humbly nicked from here.

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Dec 29 2008

Before Santa, there was… a goat.

And not just one, by the sound of it. Whole herds of them. Well, it’s logical: lot’s of stops, only one night, etc…

“Goats have a special place in Swedish tradition. According to folklore, they delivered festive gifts before Father Christmas took over.

So it’s sad to see that despite their past generosity — or perhaps because of it? people sometimes don’t like feeling beholden — a certain three-ton goat has become a repeated target of ill-will. Personally, I’d like to know what possible grudge the American tourist had against him.


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Nov 24 2008

Underwater cities

We’ve heard a lot about towns, archaeological sites and whole areas of land forced underwater by the creation of dams or nature shifting about on her own. There’s the Aswan dam in the 1960s in Egypt (which included the original location of Abu Simbel), the Kush sites in the Nile Valley, the village of Hasankeyf (great photos here) in Turkey, the list goes on…

Last spring, it worked the other way around when a drought revealed a medieval village in the Sau water reservoir in the mountains above Barcelona.