"DodO iS noT dEAd"

A punk Naturalist

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Ancient Greece at the British Museum

Black-figured amphora with frieze of dancing satyrs and maenads.
Black-figured amphora with frieze of dancing satyrs and maenads. Athens, 540-510 BC.

Terracotta female figurine with bird-like face and pierced ears.Stuck in London for almost three days – it is fortunate that the Eurostar terminal is not located in Reading - I decided would do some tourism. Very conveniently the British Museum had placed itself within walking distance of St Pancras Station.

Taking the tube costs four pounds, and you have to pay to enter a famous cathedral, but in London, all public museums are free. Like, free. The British Museum even offers various workshops and discovery tours of sections of the Museums for free, every day at fixed hours. Apparently you can also borrow art materials to make sketches for a small caution.

Terracotta female figurine with bird-like face and pierced ears.
Cyprus, 1450-1200 BC. Tomb 93, Enkomi.

Pottery crater with bull and egret. Mycenaean 1300-1200 BC, Cyprus.
Pottery crater with bull and egret.

Jug with sprout in the form of a griffin’s head.Given the sheer vastness of the place, in two days I was only able to scratch the surface of the Greek collection (in a manner of speaking), and visit the following rooms:

11Greece: Cycladic Islands
12a Greece: Minoans
12b Greece: Mycenaeans
13 Greece 1050-520 BC
14 Greek vases
15 Athens and Lycia
17 Nereid Monument.

Jug with sprout in the form of a griffin’s head.
Cyclades, 675-650 BC.

Bronze figure of a running satyr.

Terracotta scent bottle in the form of a squatting man.
Terracotta scent bottle in the form of a squatting man, perhaps a comic actor.
Corinthian, 600-575 BC, Rhodes.

Bronze figure of a running satyr. Greek, 6th century BC.

Vase. Athena with a symbol of naval victory. 5th century BC.

Vase. Athena with a symbol of naval victory.Nereid Monument Nereid Monument 390 – 380 BC
Vase. Rhapsode.
Vase. Rhapsode. Athens, 490-480 BC, Kleophrades. “Once upon a time in Tyrias”

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Life, the Universe, and Doctor Who.

Being an account of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Trilogy in Five Parts.

It’s a Thursday, Arthur Dent’s house is poised to be demolished for the building of a new motorway. That does not matter much, however, as within minutes earth itself is going to be destroyed to make way for an interplanetary bypass. By a strike of luck Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect, turns out to be an alien from Betelgeuse writing articles for the bestselling Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They escape, only to be intercepted by the Vogons, the terrifying race of Galactic civil servants who engineered the Earth’s demise. Arthur and Ford are dumped into hyperspace, but not before they could be submitted to a torture session of Vogon poetry reading. Against (almost) all odds they are rescued in the nick of time by a stolen ship powered by an Infinite Improbability Hyperdrive, which allows it to reach the most improbable places improbably fast. On board, three equally improbable characters: Zaphod Beeblebox, ex Galactic President and conman, who has an ego the size of a small supernova; Trillian, an earth woman who tagged along after they met in a party in Brighton; and Marvin, a very clever, very depressed and extremely depressing robot.

In the course of their most enlightening adventures the reader gets to revise its appraisal of mice; witnesses the disappearance of God defeated by a logical paradox; and, about halfway through the book, learns at the answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. That is, if he can survive the deadly combination of absurd situations, relentless puns, clever paradoxes and utter irreverence that makes the book a compendium of British humour. An absolute must.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had an editorial history at least as tortuous as Arthur Dent’s odyssey. Initially broadcasted in 1978 on BBC Radio 4, it underwent many cuts and additions throughout its subsequent publications, before being turned into a film in 2005. The latest book version of the “trilogy” comprises five parts, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979); The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980); Life, the Universe and Everything (1982); So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and finally Mostly Harmless, published in 1992. Fans of the cult TV series Doctor Who will note that the author, Douglas Adams, also worked on the show during Tom Baker’s tenancy as the Doctor, in the late 70s, most noticeably City of Death. In this episode, one of my favourite, the Doctor and his companion Romana, on holidays in Paris, must foil a dastardly plot involving the the theft of the Mona Lisa, and incidentally the destruction of Earth. More to come about City of Death in my very own guide to Doctor Who’s universe, if I ever find the courage to write it.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Don’t panic – the Eurostar guide to London

Last Saturday I departed, seemingly for France - o naïve traveller! - only to remain stuck at the end of the universe, located – interestingly enough – at St Pancras Station, London, more exactly at the Eurostar terminal. Fortunately I had had the wits to borrow a copy of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Trilogy in Four Parts. Unfortunately I had not read it beforehand, and so failed to follow the most basic precaution – always have a towel on you.

Monday, 7 December 2009

And now for something completely similar ...

Some three years ago I started to nurture one of these little fashionable animals of the virtual kind known as blogs. I called it Return of the Dodo, for the reason that it featured no articles about dodos - who made no return, having never appeared in the first place.

The poor thing was abandoned less than a year later. Chancing upon it recently, I realized that the endeavour had not been entirely without success; and that perhaps I could try to see if like the phoenix, the dodo could be born anew from his ashes.

This Dodo2.0 will start with of a re-utterance of some interesting articles of the previous version; it is indeed a well-documented fact that by nature, dodos have a tendency to stammer. Like its predecessor, it will deal little with biology, and hugely with films, series, books, illustration and the sort. If I am courageous I may even make it bilingual. But that is unlikely.

Being a very sociable animal, the dodo thrives with comments and attention; and pine away from lack of interaction. I therefore will be most grateful for all your remarks, reviews and reservations.